Thursday, February 28, 2019

Victory, Indeed

Eric at Learning Curve noted that he is in a debate with James Fallows on whether the Iraq War was an "enormous strategic blunder." Eric has done tremendous work in documenting that the war was legal, among other issues like discussing whether Bush lied us into war (spoiler alert: no he didn't, you morons still clinging to that nonsense).

What amazed me is that Fallows cited to Eric a 2002 article and a 2004 article he wrote to defend his view that the war was an "enormous strategic error." (And I should note that was the extent of sharing the email.)

So in 2019 Fallows relies on arguments he made before the war even started in one case and in the other long before we actually won the war--which might be relevant to consider before concluding the war was an error of such alleged magnitude.

I honestly don't follow Fallows. But I did look at the two articles Fallows cites to justify his current view.

The first was published in the November issue of The Atlantic. Despite being cited as an example of why the war was a big error, it was actually just a collection of people discussing all the ways things could go horribly wrong. If you throw up enough potential problems it sounds bad. But that pre-war laundry list is not an argument for error.

And two things stand out that highlight the problem of relying on a pre-war article of this type.

One, the US did get international support. Our Arab allies did support us by allowing access to bases. Britain committed a division while Australia and Poland committed special forces (and others supplied forces quietly). We had a large coalition backing us and many committed troops for the post-major combat operations missions.

The size of the coalition force was smaller than the Persian Gulf coalition but the American invasion force was much smaller and the Iraqi military was much reduced in capabilities since their 1991 defeat. Every army involved was smaller.

And we learned from that 1991 war that most troop contributions were merely a logistical burden. The Egyptian corps and the Syrian division simply lined up behind the 1991 invasion forces and occasionally rolled forward in the desert in the wake of the invasion without seeing any combat. We didn't need that in 1991 and we clearly didn't in 2003.

We lost Turkey--although Turkey did nothing in 1991, to be fair--which refused access for our 4th Infantry Division to attack from the north, but as the time since then shows, this is part of Erdogan's destruction of Turkey as a NATO ally rather than being because of our failures in 2003.

The only major coalition loss was France, but that was likely due to that country being hip-deep in the Oil-for-Food corruption scandal that had subverted the sanctions and the attempt to feed Iraqis affected by sanctions. Also, the UN did get involved on the ground in Iraq after the war--until the terrorists bombed the UN into fleeing Iraq.

Further, the contribution of allies to Iraq compares rather well to the contributions to Afghanistan where only the British, Canadians, Australians, and Dutch actually fought. The rest of our allies would not (or could not) fight--even for the "good war." The idea that Afghanistan was a "quasi-international" war while Iraq would be a "U.S.-only" fight turned out to be wrong.

Two, and this is funny, Fallows writes of an advantage we had in Afghanistan because "a natural leader, Karzai, was available" as a local ally for the post-regime change rebuilding. That did not age well although at the time it was a valid point. But times change.

Again, the basic flaw is that relying on an article written many months before the war began to judge the war lacked the knowledge of the changes in those months before the invasion--let alone the knowledge of the war itself that we won handily and the post-war insurgency and terrorism that despite the problems, we actually won.

The second article, in October 2004, focuses on comparing the reality of Iraq to the fantasy world of all the other problems America would have solved without being involved in Iraq:

By deciding to invade Iraq, the Bush Administration decided not to do many other things: not to reconstruct Afghanistan, not to deal with the threats posed by North Korea and Iran, and not to wage an effective war on terror. An inventory of opportunities lost[.]

Hah! Without needing to fight in Iraq which was won by the time he took office (until Iraq War 2.0 near the end of 2014), Obama proved he was unable to deal with North Korea, Iran, and the war on terror--which is odd given that al Qaeda essentially invaded Iraq after the fall of Saddam making the war in Iraq inconveniently the major combat theater in the war on terror. Indeed, Obama's temporary crusade in Afghanistan clearly distracted us from keeping Iraq in the win column--without giving us lasting results in Afghanistan.

Again, it is way too early to base your 2019 judgment of an enormous strategic error on 2002 and 2004 speculation and results! Look at Europe in November 1946 if you want to see why you need time to judge a victory or defeat. In my lifetime I've gone from seeing the Korean War as a draw to seeing it as a victory because as time passed South Korea moved from an autocracy to a democratic and prosperous state.

Indeed, it is hilarious that one of the things that Fallows says could go wrong in his 2002 article is that Iraq might use chemical weapons; while in the 2004 article he seemingly mocks the lack of discovered chemical weapons.

To his credit, Fallows in his 2004 article seems to recognize the time issue:

It is obviously too early to know the full historical effect of the Iraq campaign. The biggest question about post-Saddam Iraq—whether it is headed toward stability or toward new tyranny and chaos—may not be answered for years.

But in 2019 he sees no reason to re-examine his views of 2002 and 2004? Odd, that is.

Iraq was enough of a victory that Obama boasted that we had left a sovereign, stable, and self reliant-Iraq, while Biden boasted that Iraq would be one of the administration's great achievements.

And when the Obama withdrawal in 2011 led to disaster with the rise of ISIL, Obama embarked on Iraq War 2.0 to reclaim what we had achieved. Why would Obama, of all people, double down on Iraq if it was such a mistake?

It was certainly morally just for America to get rid of an evil and murderous dictator. But America also won the Iraq War on the results.

--Iraq no longer is run by a minority Sunni Arab faction for the narrow benefit of that faction while impoverishing, terrorizing, and killing its own people (including most Sunni Arabs). Iraq is now dominated by the Shia majority in an imperfect democracy that needs our help to develop rule of law. But at least imperfect ballots rather than lethal bullets are settling the question of who runs Iraq.

--Iraq no longer uses, produces, or seeks weapons of mass destruction.

--Iraq no longer a major threat to its own Kurds, where once Saddam gassed them on a large scale.

--Iraq is no longer a threat to neighbors as it was under Saddam to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and even Iran. While Iran under the mullahs was and is no friend of America, the war with Iran in the 1980s raised tensions in a vital part of the world that could have interrupted the world's oil supplies. And Saddam's power bent Jordan to be a client of Iraq in many ways. All that is negated.

--Iraq no longer supports terrorism in the region, and is in fact an ally who has killed far more jihadis than many of our most capable NATO allies. Somehow that obvious sign of victory is overlooked all too easily.

Iraq is not perfect. Far from it. But it is far better than it was under Saddam. America--and the region--is far better off because of our much-maligned victory over Saddam and the jihadis and Iranian who waged war against America in Iraq after Saddam was chased from his palaces.

Iraq was a victory. And if we can help Iraq get closer to being a functioning democracy with better rule of law, Iraq will finally stand as an example of how a majority Islamic state can be run without autocrats or Islamists running the place. If Islam is to win its Civil War over who gets to define Islam, and thus deny jihadis religious justification for their terror--which is where the real war on terror will be won or lost--Iraq must stand as an example.

In For a Pound, in for a Penny

Reading new treatments of familiar subjects is always a good idea. I've been reading Antony Beevor's The Second World War. It is good.

Wait. What?

[A] meeting of the Politburo in 1944 had decided to order the Stavka to plan for the invasion of France and Italy, as General Shtemenko later told Beria's son. The Red Army offensive was to be combined with with a seizure of power by the local Communist Parties. In addition, Shtemenko explained, "a landing in Norway was provided for, as well as the seizure of the Straits [with Denmark.] A substantial budget was allocated for the realisation of these plans. It was expected that the Americans would abandon a Europe fallen into chaos, while Britain and France would be paralyzed by their colonial problems. The Soviet Union possessed 400 experienced divisions, ready to bound forward like tigers. It was calculated that the whole operation would take no more than a month ... All those plans were aborted when Stalin learned from [Beria] that the Americans had the atom bomb and were putting it into mass production." Stalin apparently told Beria "that if Roosevelt had still been alive, we would have succeeded." This, it seems, was the main reason why Stalin suspected that Roosevelt had been secretly assassinated. (765) ...

Stalin had achieved everything he wanted at Potsdam, even though he had been forced to cancel the invasion of western Europe out of fear of the atom bomb. (767)

After enduring perhaps 30 million casualties the Russians figured they might as well keep going.

After double majoring in history and political science I had never heard anything of the sort during or since the Cold War. Sure, I read that the USSR really did start the Korean War after all. And I read that the Soviets had plans to try the same thing using East Germany if that had worked out.

But never did I read that Stalin was thinking about going that big.

I don't want to hear another Goddamn word about how NATO provoked the Soviet Union into a Cold War when those poor exhausted Nazi killers just wanted peace.

And I don't want to hear another word about how NATO expansion into the former Soviet vassal states of eastern Europe and the Baltics alienated post-communist Russia and caused their current hostility.

These are paranoid, dangerous people and I don't know if anything we can do will change that.

Really, Russia's friendship with China is more like the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact that Russia used to aim Germany at France and Britain--but now Russia is trying to aim China at America--as it succeeded in doing with Japan in 1941.

Maybe China won't fall for that ploy.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Where the Century of Humiliation Continues

China spends a lot of time nursing their grudge for a "century of humiliation" when the rising West met a weak China. Isn't Russia rather than America and Europe the true target of that simmering anger?

China's communists take pride in restoring China from their nadir of humiliation at the hands of the Europeans. Western enclaves in China's ports where Western law was supreme and actual formal loss of territory to Europeans like at Macao and Hong Kong added to the pain.

But China has regained control of their coasts, including the former colonies. China has no actual territorial disputes with America or Europe.

That is not the case with Russia, the last European state to control territory seized from China when it was weak. China isn't shy about claiming other land. Why would Russia be the exception?

Is it really out of line for me to speculate--especially after their military redistrict reorganization--that China might really think of Russia as their prime military target?

UPDATE: The Russians really need to end their pointless provocations aimed at the West:

Military strength is now less than two million [Chinese troops]. This has not gone unnoticed in Russia, although there the state controlled mass media maintains a strict silence about how the Chinese military is not only twice the size of Russian forces, but has far more modern equipment, both in terms of quality and quantity. China also had a defense budget that is more double what Russia can afford. This also means that the in the Russian-Chinese relationship China is now the senior partner, in both economic and military terms. Russia is no longer an ally of China but a client state, dependent on Chinese goodwill and financial aid. China has also not mentioned the claims on most Russian territory bordering the Pacific and Mongolia. China never renounced these claims and occasionally mentions them (quite bluntly in the 1940s, 50s and 70s and more frequently but discreetly since the 1980s.)

Although honestly, I think Russia's bluster aimed at NATO, Sweden, and Finland--plus actual violence aimed at Georgia and Ukraine--is all about concealing Russian appeasement of China.

The Pakistanis Have Crossed into Serious Moron Territory

India struck Pakistan in response to Pakistan's deadly terror attack:

India said its warplanes killed "a very large number" of fighters when they struck a militant training camp inside Pakistan on Tuesday, raising the risk of conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbours, although Pakistan officials denied there had been casualties.

Pakistan said it would respond at a time and place of its choice, with a military spokesman even alluding to its nuclear arsenal, highlighting the escalation in hostile rhetoric from both two sides since a suicide bombing in Kashmir this month.

India had to respond to Pakistan's terror attack.

And Pakistan's rattling of the nuclear sabre over India's air strike is--to use a technical term--moronic.

Nuclear threats are only credible when you are defending a vital national interest--like national survival.

Unless Pakistan wants to develop a reputation of a nutball state willing to use nukes for looking at them the wrong way, all Pakistan has done is weaken the value of future nuclear threats.

Why will India believe future Pakistani nuclear threats to deter India if Pakistan doesn't use nukes now? Which is a problem if India actually crosses a threshold of threatening a vital Pakistani national interest--which this Indian air strike isn't.

And in another aspect of idiocy, does Pakistan really want to validate nuclear threats for smaller threats--like for sponsoring deadly terrorism, in a completely random example?

Pakistan is lucky India restricted its response to an air strike. But the Pakistanis are apparently too moronic to appreciate that.

UPDATE: There are claims of aircraft losses on both sides.

But at least Pakistan doesn't seem to be making more nuclear threats when their foe has nukes, too.

And India seems like it would prefer to deescalate. Does Pakistan really feel it must respond to India's attack which was obviously a response to Pakistan's policy of supporting and fueling terrorism inside Indian territory?

UPDATE: We can't cut Pakistan loose as Pakistan deserves as long as we need to base troops in landlocked Afghanistan. We don't rely on Pakistan for supply routes because of routes developed through Iran and Russia that can serve as an alternative. But we don't want to place reliance on either of those, now do we? In theory we can thread a route (Black Sea-Georgia-Azerbaijan-Caspian Sea-Turkmenistan) that avoids Pakistan, Iran, and Russia, but it is tenuous and it would be really expensive. Of course, if Iran's government is friendly to America, the situation changes incredibly.

UPDATE: More details and context.

UPDATE: Oh, Hell: "Indian PM Modi reportedly gives 'free hand' to military".

A blank check to the Indian military is a path to nuclear war if the Indian military believes, as their Cold Start doctrine appears to hold, that achieving a major victory over Pakistan's army is the objective with their "free hand" from the government.

And again, the Pakistanis have been poking a nuclear-armed state that has superior military power with Pakistani-backed terrorists. That is DEFCON 5 level of moronic.

UPDATE: Things seem to be settling down.

For the purpose of not risking a nuclear war, things may work out well. India had to openly respond to the Pakistani terror attack, and the air strike was a visible retaliation that was not as insulting as a major ground operation. And Pakistan has a visible trophy--a captured Indian pilot from a plane shot down--to show that they resisted India successfully.

So maybe both sides did enough to walk back from the brink.

Unless this is just a pause as forces are mobilized, moved, and readied.

I assume our government has information to say which of those things is true.

UPDATE: I may have been hasty in my hope:

The Pakistani Army Thursday heavily shelled forward posts along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch and Rajauri districts, committing repeated ceasefire violations but drawing "strong" retaliation from the Indian Army, an official said.

This is the seventh consecutive day that Pakistan breached the ceasefire, targeting forward posts along the LoC.

There have been fresh ceasefire violations in Nowshera and Krishna Ghati sectors, officials said.

Unless border shelling is just the "Dead Enemy Theater" that both sides accept as the price of not going to general war.

UPDATE: Pakistan tries to deflect the reality that they support Islamic terrorism by saying they suffer from Islamic terrorism. I really find it offensive that they want us to feel sorry for them for suffering collateral damage from their weapon of choice.

Pakistan has up to 150 nuclear warheads while India has a bit fewer.

China would rather not get dragged by Pakistan into a nuclear war. Or push India into a closer alliance with America. Well, yeah.

UPDATE: How much longer will Pakistan merely suffer "collateral" damage from their support of jihadis to become the primary victim? They might want to ask Assad about that issue.

UPDATE: Pakistan released the Indian pilot. That's a good sign Pakistan has no interest in a wider war.

UPDATE: It seems like the potential for a major war is receding. Good. On the bad side, I doubt that Pakistan has been deterred from continuing to support Islamic terrorism.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Best Missile Defense is a Good Offense

The F-35 will be able to shoot down ICBMs at the point of launch:

The Pentagon is working with industry to explore the possibility that bomb, missile or laser-armed F-35s could destroy an attacking nuclear-armed Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) targeting the US, potentially bringing a new dimension to existing defenses.

The idea would be to use F-35 weapons and sensors to detect or destroy an ICBM launch during its initial “boost” phase of upward flight toward the boundary of the earth’s atmosphere.

I've noted the F-35 could do that, and I've long recognized the possibility of this approach:

And while the F-35 does provide, because of its stealth, a theoretical option to loiter above a hostile nuclear power without sophisticated air defense detection systems, the work-around to the limited patrol time over the target is that the F-35 provides that shoot-down capability during a preemptive strike on the nuclear missile launch sites.

The purpose of the F-35s would be to provide an early line of defense in a defense-in-depth against leakers that survive the preemptive attack or to be able to attack missiles from launch sites we didn't know about.

This F-35 capability isn't really a defensive system. It is a capability only useful in a preemptive strike. Or do you really think we'd have patrols over a launch site 24/7, 365 days per year?

Not that that is a bad thing necessarily. But that's the reality. Although the capability might encourage a state with a small one-dimensional land-based nuclear force to launch quickly in a crisis out of fear that unseen F-35s will soon thicken up over their silos.

UPDATE: Pretty much:

“You would need to be very close to the launch site, within North Korea itself, said physicist Laura Grego, who studies missile defense at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Amusingly, the article doesn't then make the obvious conclusion that one could use the F-35 in this role only during an attack on North Korea's nuclear facilities, stating instead:

That suggests that by using the F-35 made by Lockheed Martin, the U.S. could secretly monitor for ballistic missile launches with jets flying inside North Korean airspace.

Just. Wow.

The Army Aims for the Future

The Army CFT wants new tanks, robot wing men vehicles, and infantry fighting vehicles.

The Army wants the IFV to be capable of being remotely manned. Which would be a long-term change. In the medium term I imagine my idea in Infantry magazine of using reachback for remote weapon stations on the IFV would be a good goal.

I noted the robot partners as an aside in this (failed) entry to an Army future warfare contest. I called the system Main Battle Tandems, moving away from the platform of the main battle tank to one of a manned-unmanned team. The future MBT would really be a platoon of vehicles with only one manned.

As for the new tank that could replace the Abrams, according to the Next Generation Combat Vehicles Cross Functional Team (CFT)?

This may be the CFT’s most difficult task. As one senior CFT official observed, a complete replacement for the Abrams would only make sense if a breakthrough is achieved in one of three critical technologies: lightweight armor materials, active protection against solid shot anti-tank rounds or AI good enough to take humans out of the vehicle.

The Army still wants to break the iron triangle of lethality, protection, and (strategic) mobility. You just can't have them all and get the wonder tank, as I wrote long ago in Military Review (starting on page 28). We would like to make it easier to deploy our tanks from North America to Eurasia to face enemies who have the advantage of being right there and who can use roads and rails to move their armor without the same need to restrict weight that we would like in our wildest dreams.

Unless lightweight armor is so good that no increase in firepower can kill it, continental enemies will just use more of the lightweight armor than our tanks. So the weight of our tank will creep up as we counter the enemy increase in killing power.

And unless active protection systems can't be overwhelmed, we will need passive armor to backstop the APS. So again, the weight or our tank will creep up.

There is also the issue that if the Army solves the protection problem against solid shot anti-tank rounds, there may be more than one way to skin a cat, eh?

Of course, if there is AI (artificial intelligence) and no crew, perhaps the system can be lethal and strategically mobile because there is no need to protect the crew. But then we'd need to replace lots of losses and so our industrial capacity to mass produce and mass ship the new tank overseas as we did with Sherman tanks in World War II becomes key. If we can't do that, then we'd still need to protect the system with protection. Because lack of protection on a modern battlefield is suicide. And so weight goes up.

And speaking of which, the Army is improving artillery to do to the enemy what we must guard against. Which is vital.

The Army is also upgrading the Stryker for conventional combat in Europe. That's nice but I'm of the opinion that when you start to build an armored cavalry regiment, build an armored cavalry regiment.

Anyway, in an age of great power competition, Army heavy systems become more important to pursue. I'm really keeping my fingers crossed on the tank issue.

Monday, February 25, 2019

At the Intersection of the Monroe Doctrine and Responsibility to Protect?

The last thing that works in a socialist state is always the security apparatus. Does this justify intervention?

Being hungry and sick is a crime against the Venezuelan state now:

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro faced growing regional pressure on Sunday after his troops repelled foreign aid convoys, with the United States threatening new sanctions and Brazil urging allies to join a “liberation effort”.

Violent clashes with security forces over the opposition’s U.S.-backed attempt on Saturday to bring aid into the economically devastated country left almost 300 wounded and at least three protesters dead near the Brazilian border. ...

The Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, a local crime monitoring group, said it had confirmed three deaths on Saturday, all in Santa Elena, and at least 295 injured across the country.

Would Brazil stage a military intervention citing the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine used to justify the 2011 NATO war against Khadaffi's Libya?

Brazil could move forces across the border in the south to establish a humanitarian access zone inside Venezuela so aid can enter Venezuela despite the forceful opposition to aid by the Maduro government.

But that is far from the population centers so would not make sense in isolation. 

If the talk of American military intervention is real, it would be part of a regional coalition that would have Brazil in the lead moving from the south and perhaps Colombia involved from the west.

If that happened, would 5,000 American troops (as Bolton famously revealed on his note pad) occupy a Venezuelan port and airport to push in humanitarian aid from the north, too? Five thousand troops would essentially be a brigade or regimental combat team.

And then would American aircraft airlift Brazilian troops to the north to take the lead from our troops that establish a perimeter?

Russia and China continue to diplomatically back Maduro.

Also, if we do this Kim Jong-un's eyes might bug out a bit as he is out of town in Vietnam for a nuclear summit.

Sheer speculation, of course.

UPDATE: And remember no good deed goes unpunished.

UPDATE: Huh:

The US military has flown an increased number of reconnaissance flights in international airspace off the coast of Venezuela during the last several days to gather classified intelligence about the embattled government of President Nicholas Maduro, according to two US defense officials.

Well, more information is good if we are deciding what to do.

UPDATE: Strategypage notes that Russian transport planes are oddly sitting on the ground at Caribbean airports, apparently in case they are needed to fly Maduro and his closest cronies out of Venezuela.

Maybe these guys, who I noted in the February 24th data dump, were part of the Russian security force to snatch Maduro out of a collapsing Venezuela.

UPDATE: It is interesting that Guaido is meeting with the Brazilian president, no?

UPDATE: Well of course they did:

The proposed US text [of a UN Security Council resolution] -- which called for new presidential elections in Venezuela and unimpeded deliveries of humanitarian aid -- won the required nine votes at the 15-member council, but Moscow and Beijing joined forces to block it.

Actually I'm surprised both countries blocked it. I'd have fully expected just one to do the deed so the other can look a bit better in the big picture record like a good cop/bad cop routine.

The Secondary Theater is Demoted

When you have limited assets you have to make choices that reflect your priorities. The need to face threats from a rising China and a stubbornly hostile but declining Russia means places like Africa lose priority for American military assets.

AFRICOM is losing more American forces to the pivot to great power competition:

U.S. Africa Command has begun cutting up to 10 percent of its forces from the continent in response to U.S. security challenges elsewhere, the top U.S. commander for Africa told reporters at the Munich Security Conference.

There are approximately 6,000 U.S. troops and 1,000 DoD civilians or contractors based throughout Africa, who are primarily tasked with training and exercising with partner African forces, said AFRICOM commander U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser.

AFRICOM has been chronically under resourced despite a host of terror groups on the continent. ...

But AFRICOM will not be growing. Instead it has been tasked to cut its forces in order to shift resources to prepare for potential future conflicts against Russia or China.

I've noted this order before. And now it is taking place.

Africa was already low on the priority list in the age of terror because the main threats were in CENTCOM ("Thank God for SOUTHCOM" is probably a saying in AFRICOM). Now Africa is even lower on the priority list. So making more efficient use of what is available is even more important.

I still think that a modularized auxiliary cruiser as I described in Military Review (calling the ship The AFRICOM Queen in honor of the Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn movie The African Queen) would help American forces by providing persistent off-shore presence that can move around to many areas in the littorals of Africa.

Sure, this land-based hub serves the same function but it is of course stationary and distant from a lot of Africa:

U.S. Africa Command plans to begin routing flights to Accra, Ghana, as the hub of a new logistics network to ferry supplies and weapons to the patches of U.S. troops operating across the continent’s increasingly turbulent western region.

Mind you, places like Niger where AFRICOM is active against jihadis are too far from the littorals to benefit from The AFRICOM Queen. But Africa is huge with a lot of littoral regions. And making use of America's fewer forces in that large area make it easier to put forces in the interior.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Weekend Data Dump

When Trump was elected in 2016, I was thrilled that Trump unexpectedly won over the thoroughly corrupt Clinton. But I wondered--and telegraphed my worry before the election--how long my elation of avoiding that train wreck would last given that I have a long history of disliking Trump (who was long a liberal and a jerk). Amazingly, the Democrats have behaved so much worse than Trump--in sharp contrast to my behavior after two (2008 and 2012) Obama wins--that my lingering relief that Clinton is not president is transitioning to thinking Trump will be better than any of the Democrats likely to emerge from the progressive knife fight primary system. Trump is a jerk. And I have never bought the idea that he is playing 3D chess above our ability to appreciate. But he remains a better alternative than the Democrats are likely to offer. Amazing. I don't understand the current Trump worship by his fervent backers any more than I could understand the Obama worship by his supporters (amplified by the media that worshiped him, too). But more and more I think Democrats will drive enough people like me who think Trump is a jerk--but at least not a practicing liberal for the moment--into pulling the lever for him in a successful 2020 reelection bid in what will become a textbook case of preferring the Devil you know to the Devil you don't know.

Universal basic income might be a good idea if it replaces all of the welfare programs and the bureaucracies that run the various programs. If the government needs employees simply for processing payments to verified people we would not need the overhead we have now of massive bureaucracies to implement, and that would save a lot of money. Although if focused just on those who qualify for welfare, you's still need bureaucracies to judge qualifications like a welfare block grant program. So expanding the payment to everyone would eliminate much of even that reduced bureaucracy. Perhaps this could be coupled with tax changes so that above a certain income level the UBI payment is effectively negated by tax changes. I still worry that such a program could the starting point for both parties to bid for the support of voters by increasing the UBI payment. So it might be a horrible idea. And I fear we'd just get UBI and all the other support programs and bureaucrats would remain intact. But it is enough outside of my lane that I'm open to arguments.

The F-35 will be a really good anti-ship platform. I noted that pending capability which as a Navy plane (the F-35C) would of course be part of the plane's capabilities. Of course, the carrier has to survive enemy anti-ship weapons to give the F-35C a chance as a sea-based anti-ship platform.

American funding for the Lebanese army might be a really bad idea. Yeah, I once thought it was a good thing to do to hope for a future where their army might take back southern Lebanon from Hezbollah (and hence Iranian) control. But that's no longer a hope.

This article notes that the Air Force cancellation of a light attack plane could cause it to lose credibility in the defense industry which pumped their own money into developing that aircraft. Personally, I worry more about the Air Force losing credibility with the Army which has to rely on the Air Force for timely close air support. So another case of friendly fire, I guess. The two-step shuffle continues. There will be no A-X2.

This is what presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spent her money on rather than campaigning in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.  This sure does seem like an attempted coup. Luckily they weren't very good at it and our military is too honorable to participate--contrary to the expressed wishes of many on the Left. Tip to the PJ Media Live Blog.

In related interest, the author of the above post I tipped my hat to wrote: "Or as I noted back around the time of Obama’s ascension, if Eisenhower were alive today, instead of the Military-Industrial Complex, he’d warn us against the Democrat-Media Complex." Of course, in that warning Eisenhower said we absolutely had to have the military-industrial complex. That part is always left off. I doubt Eisenhower would have expressed a similar need for the D-M Complex, eh?

Those history-illiterate GW students are aware that the "colonial" mascot reflects that we were the colonial subjects, right? Tip to Instapundit.

I have long yawned when told of an impending shortage of something important. So this is not news to me. I suppose you all remember the looming shortage of copper that would doom us ... cue the fiber optic cables.

Russian meddling knows no boundaries.  Have I called them effing bastards, lately?

Germany announces that post-Brexit they will be a sanctuary for criminals who target the British people. Lovely people, the Germans. Seventy-four years of nation-building isn't working out like I hoped. Tip to Instapundit.

Wait. What?! Tip to Instapundit.

It really is hard to see what the difference between a coup plot and what our FBI and intelligence agencies tried to do to Trump. Perhaps they truly believed extraordinary times required extraordinary means. But they persisted long after it should have been obvious that it was ridiculous (as it was to me from the beginning). Shame on them--if they have any. And seriously, given what we've seen about how the FBI leadership works (I'd forgotten this, but excuse me if I don't have a thorough catalog of Trump Hysteria Condition plots readily at hand), should we all be having panic attacks that this organization is our lead counter-intelligence agency?

Well that explains a lot (but perhaps I've shared too much). AOC is cute (for a much younger me, let me be clear) but painfully ill-informed with little evidence that higher education had any effect on her whatsoever. Actually, I have no cynicism and malaise to be rescued from. And again, perhaps I've shared too much.

Contra Perez, yes there actually is a problem with being a democratic socialist and supporting the capitalist free market system. This is why I've noted that socialism--state ownership of the economic assets of a country--is actually different from an expanded welfare system; and why I've said that I think what many people on the left who say they are democratic socialists mean is that they are really, really liberal and want more of a welfare state (broadly defined as including state intrusion into things like rent control and high minimum wages). But we might get socialism because those who claim the label don't know enough to separate the socialist proposals from the welfare state proposals. Mind you, the latter can be really bad in their long-term effects, too, but they aren't socialism--the gulags in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics were work (you to death) camps and not playing video game camps.

If we can't get border security because of new-found Democratic distaste for border barriers, perhaps the best way for Republicans to halt illegal immigration would be to support higher minimum wages and more state power to prevent businesses from paying lower wages off the books. Remember, minimum wages were originally about preventing immigrants from undercutting American citizens in the job market. If jobs are scarcer and if employers can't cheat, immigrants won't be lured north my job opportunities, eh? This is not a serious proposal, of course. Although the logic is quite valid.

Should we work to disengage our economy from China's large role in our supply chain because China will never negotiate revisions to trade terms tilted heavily to China? Well, USMCA will give Mexico a leg up in taking up part of that role; and I've read that China is already losing low-cost manufacturing to Vietnam and other states. We really shouldn't sell the China the rope if they are determined to hang us with one.

Controlling guns is verboten if it might control illegal immigrants. Huh.

About the only good news in Algeria is that they still have jihadis on the run (after the 1990s bloodletting).

Knitting hate. What is wrong with these people? Intolerance takes many forms.

Clearly, proto-Skynet is trying to throw humans off the track of promising science that might stop the AI takeover. Tip to Instapundit.

Well that's odd: armed Americans, a Russian, and a Serb were arrested in Haiti. I don't know why I suspect they were heading for Venezuela on the payroll of Maduro.

Haven't they suffered enough? It isn't like they own MAGA hats or anything really harmful like that.

Strategypage looks at Afghanistan, Pakistan, (and India's post-bombing anger).  The Pakistanis really are a gem of an ally, eh? Oh well, better barely an ally than an enemy, I say. Well, until we have a secure supply line to Afghanistan through a non-nutball Iran, anyway. A man can hope.

It's good that the Navy has discovered that work in the littorals is no place for Littoral Combat Ships, but is the domain of small combatants.

By this amazing logic, any discussion of a foreign threat is a lie. And on the direct issue of Iraq let me repeat, we were justified in destroying Saddam's regime; and yes, we won the war. Heck, we won it twice after winning it the first time. But many people can't seem to recognize victory. But the author is against "another preventive war in the Middle East" notwithstanding his admission that Iran has already done a lot to deserve our worry: "Tehran’s transgressions are well-known. Iranian leaders have enabled the killing of hundreds of thousands of Syrians, invested in the Houthi effort to bleed Saudi Arabia in Yemen, and threatened the stability of Bahrain. Then there is Hezbollah, which, according to the U.S. government, receives $700 million a year from Iran and has become an expeditionary force for Iran in Syria, Yemen, and reportedly Afghanistan. The Iranians have also repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction and provided support to groups such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad." It would be a preventive war after that record? I'm not in favor of waging a conventional war against Iran. But if the Iran debate really is like the Iraq debate, I'm almost persuaded we should invade Iran.

For all those on the far left warning Trump not to invade Venezuela, didn't Obama establish the Responsibility to Protect doctrine for humanitarian intervention in Libya in 2011? Just wondering. How quickly the Hope dies.

Seriously people, Trump's emergency declaration for the border is not the start of martial law. It is just one more of many declared and still in existence. Honestly, "emergency" is just the magic word required in statute to trigger allowable executive powers. If the statute required the president to declare a "concern" or a "problem" or a "stalemate," the executive authority would be the same.

Russia denies they are violating the INF treaty that limits the range of certain missiles. And to prove our allegations are wrong the Russians displayed a missile that is not the missile we say violates the treaty. Their firehose of falsehood continues.

Cambridge is falling well short of its 2020 goal for reducing car ownership. Which is odd considering the polling that shows overwhelming support for other people using public transportation. That latter link never gets old.

I can overlook Australians being largely the descendants of criminals. But now they are just criminally stupid, it seems. Tip to Instapundit.

I see that Pakistanis are broadening their suicide bombing target list. Who don't they hate?

It has always amused me that people argued that legalization of drugs would eliminate the problem of criminals profiting from the drug trade: "As much as 80% of the marijuana sold in California comes from the black market, according to an estimate by New Frontier Data, a firm that tracks cannabis sales and trends."

I don't pay a lot of attention to Myanmar (Burma), although I'm sure India does.

This is the most deviously clever "dog whistle" to homophobes everywhere.

Putin "sternly warned" America not to put theater-range nuclear missiles in Europe. Like I've said, I'm not saying there won't be a nuclear arms race if America withdraws from the INF treaty. I'm just saying broke Russia won't be in the race.

In addition to concerns that ALIS could be hacked by enemies, it just isn't working and foreign (allied) customers are concerned about how much information we can get on their usage of F-35s from the new but not quite ready for prime time automated maintenance and mission planning software. Should we break it up and sell it for parts?

American (?) ISIL jihadi "wife" says "I hope America doesn't think I'm a threat to them and I hope they can accept me." Them? So Americans are a set she isn't part of? I'm glad that's settled. Now she can spend a lifetime abroad regretting her stupidity and criminality. If she sneaks back in to America, we should send her to Guantanamo Bay and let her gain weight on the free food provided. Oh, and let me point out that this jihadi believes that it is perfectly safe to return to Trump's allegedly Islamophobic, hate-filled, dog-whistling America. Grant me that that aspect is funny.

If you really want to prevent Russia (or China or anyone else) from hacking our elections, go to paper ballots with voter ID required (which covers domestic voter fraud, too).

Does Putin's lower poll approval mean he will really focus on improving the living standards of Russians rather than seeking short and glorious wars to bolster his popularity?

Lockheed Martin (I own a tiny amount of their stock, I should note) is offering India an updated F-16 with a marketing spin by calling it the F-21. In 2011 I called a fighter choice the most important defense decision India will make this decade. We're running out of this decade.

Speaking of updated classics, the Air Force will buy some F-15X planes. I did mention they'd be a useful supplement appropriate for both continental air defense and as a missile truck.

Yes, democracy is failing in Libya. But they don't need a strong man. They need rule of law. Almost uniformly when people speak of democracy they only mean voting, which ignores the vital role of rule of law in preventing voting from being the tyranny of the majority. Remember, democracy did not cause chaos and terrorism. Libya hasn't had the chance to try democracy yet.

I continue to suspect Netanyahu is consulting with Putin to establish the parameters of an Israeli multi-division ground raid into Lebanon to seriously crush Hezbollah's infrastructure.

Let's just send this terrorist (alleged thus far, so after conviction of course) thug to Guantanamo Bay for the rest of of his scummy life. Although perhaps we can just execute him under the UCMJ. But I'm speculating. Although I'm not sure how he is a white supremacist since he wanted to kill everyone including specific white people.

The EU is taking policy and spending advice from children. I don't want to hear another damned word about supposed European sophistication and nuance. Even in California we're not that bad yet.

The second Trump-Kim summit is close. Lord knows if it can lead to real progress. I'm not hopeful. But I'm encouraged that talks are coupled with squeezing North Korea harder rather than shoveling aid at them. I've long been on board that approach. So even if the talks fail, North Korea is in rougher shape after.

I would like it if America and China are close to a trade deal that corrects the imbalance in favor of China. I had no problem with the minimally reformed NAFTA because I had no problem with NAFTA.

You wonder why I oppose the Internet of Things?

A former legal counsel at the FBI believed Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted for her email scandal, until "pretty late" in the investigation. Why? because he ultimately decided her intent couldn't be proven. Which would be significant if "intent" was a factor in defining the crime. The server itself was the smoking gun, remember.

How dare you? Never mind. I bet Al Franken continues to have headaches about how easily he rolled over to the Twitter mob that called for his scalp. Well, Franken's timing wasn't nearly as good as it could have been.

The "most transparent administration" continues. As a history and political science major, I must register my protest.

I'm not sure why her stupidity should be my financial problem.

False victimhood is the last refuge of a scoundrel. As it turns out, the real hate crime was conducted by the left and the media who used the fake crime (what, you can't find real ones?) to eagerly demonize tens of millions of Americans. Also, just what do those layers and layers of editors and fact checkers do, anyway? Let's be grateful that the battle against racism and hate crimes has been so successful in America that "activists" and the media had to jump on a fake allegation because real hate crimes are relatively rare in our large country. Indeed, so rare that the search for "micro-aggressions" has replaced the search for actual aggression.

Well, Snopes just jumped the shark bee. This bee. And you wonder why Smollett was believed so easily by so many?

“This one is a four.” I laughed out loud at that point.

The Jussie Smollett hate crime hoax is disturbing. The media always falls for them and the media always immediately draws conclusions about the supposed broader population "represented" by the alleged attacker in ways that would never be done for a killer shouting "allahu ahkbar" while they commit their evil deeds. Can't we all just agree that racists and jihadis are evil? And can't we all be happy that there wasn't a horrible hate crime committed? I know it is a natural thing for people to think that the crime of one of their own is an aberration while the crimes of the other side reflects what "they" all really think, but this just highlights how biased the media is, eh? 

Oh, and sure every Democratic candidate jumped on the hoax despite problems with the story without waiting a bit to see how it unfolded.  But the remarks of a character in a book I read in the mid-1970s has always stuck with me. An American was chastising a French intelligence counterpart for feeding obviously wrong information to his eager bosses in Paris who believed every word. The French officer defended his actions despite knowing better, saying, "It is better to be wrong in the same way as your boss than it is to be right when he is wrong." The left-activist media and Democratic primary voters are the bosses of those candidates right now. So don't expect a chorus of politicians "condemning this behavior and every person who enables or normalizes" such hoaxes. Pity layers and layers of fact-checkers and editors didn't help the media do a better job. Tip to Instapundit.

That actually happened to me. Although I did not actually apologize. I simply asked, "You are aware that it wasn't actually me, right?"

Remember that Iran's control of some Shia Popular Mobilization Force militia units that are based in Sunni Arab areas essentially alienate Iraqi Sunni Arabs from the Iraqi government. Which pushes Sunni Arabs to look to jihadis as a counter-weight to the PMF forces. Essentially Iran is stoking sectarian unrest in Iraq as they have since even before the Iranian revolution. Today it helps justify Iranian influence in Iraq to "protect" the government from Sunni Arab threats. Amazingly, the Saudis and Jordanians still seem to be taking baby steps (because they mistrust the Shia-dominated Iraqi government) to bringing Iraq back firmly into the Arab fold to counter Shia but Persian Iran.

The French are mobilizing against anti-Semitism. That's good, of course. But why do I suspect this is just something convenient for tainting the "yellow jacket" protests? After the short shelf life of the whole Charlie thing, I guess I'll really believe the effort is serious when the protests take place in the French immigrant suburbs that are rife with anti-Semitism.

I don't mean to be overly rude, but his threats just don't scare me. But what's with this? "President Vladimir Putin has said ... that his country currently has the edge when it comes to a first nuclear strike." (Oddly that quote disappeared in the article but it is all over the search results.) So New START wasn't the brilliant diplomatic success that Kerry said it was?

You don't have to be stupid to be woke, but it helps. Tip to Instapundit.

Iran does face opposition to staying in Syria: "Iran has a major problem in that no one wants them in Syria much less acting as an occupying military force in Syria dedicated to starting a war with Israel." What I don't get is why we don't sponsor an information war campaign to the Arab world that Iran wants to fight Israel to the last Arab. Wouldn't it be good to highlight that Iran wants Arabs to die for Iran's obsession with destroying Israel?

I asked if Guyana could avoid the oil curse in this weekend data dump. This author asks that question and explores answers.

If the British delay Brexit to avoid a "no deal" exit, doesn't this just give the EU an incentive to avoid working with Britain in the hope that ultimately Brexit will be canceled?

The IAEA says Iran is abiding by the Obama nuclear deal. That's not the problem. The problem is that the deal is so bad that at best it delays Iran a decade while it shields Iran from military action. The IAEA can say they can't detect Iranian violations of the deal through the weak deal mechanisms to discover Iranian work on nukes. The IAEA can't say Iran isn't working on nuclear weapons technology. So of course Iran abides by the deal despite our withdrawal from it. The Iranians would be fools to violate it openly as long as they can trick Europeans into trying to avoid our sanctions.

I once thought of post-Apartheid South Africa as the bright spot of southern Africa that might be the locomotive of progress for the region. No more. Although why you need to compare South Africa to Venezuela when neighboring Zimbabwe already went down that path is beyond me.

Well, North Korea knows what it needs to do to solve the hunger issue. We simply can't be held hostage by caring more for the North Korean people than Kim does.

I do hope I have a change of underwear handy: "Pakistan's prime minister on Thursday authorized the armed forces to 'respond decisively and comprehensively to any aggression or misadventure' by neighboring India, as tensions soared between the nuclear-armed rivals.India has vowed a 'jaw-breaking response' to a suicide bombing in the disputed Kashmir region last week that killed 40 Indian soldiers" Pakistan deserves whatever it gets from India (shy of nukes, of course). But the world doesn't deserve the worst that could happen if Pakistan goes fully nutball.

Humanitarian aid intended for Venezuela is literally burned at the border, providing a fitting symbol of how Maduro and his cronies have figuratively burned Venezuela to the ground the past couple decades.

If we are truly "gravely concerned" about the actions Ergodan is taking to undermine democracy we should absolutely make sure Turkey does not get the F-35. Domestic actions reflect that they aren't good enough of an ally to trust with this advanced technology.

I'm fully onboard a bipartisan effort to end the ability of a president to declare an "emergency" and bypass Congress. I assume this would apply going forward after the border emergency, of course, because retroactive legislation is also problematic, to say the least. But then I've long believed that failure of Congress to do something the president wants is not an excuse for the president to do it anyway, but a form of a decision not to do something.

I assume the French paid for her release from Iran.

A Russian fighter buzzed a Swedish recon plane in international air space. #WhyRussiaCan'tHaveNiceThings

Understand the Human Terrain

The  Army study of the Iraq War (volumes one and two) notes one problem I didn't realize: we didn't draw our unit borders to coincide with the human terrain of the insurgency.

That is, if two regions have social and economic connections that make them essentially a single region, we shouldn't have split that functional single region among different units responsible for fighting the insurgency there. But we did split them.

Which was an aspect of human terrain I did not appreciate. In conventional war it is basic knowledge that you attack at the seams of enemy units for maximum effect. Push there and create a gap, and both enemy units are less able to react at the edge of their frontage when they have other things to worry about and they might think the problem is for the adjacent unit to deal with. If both think that, we are golden. It did not occur to me that this would apply to counter-insurgency. And when I read it, it seemed like that should have been obvious to me.

We got better at it in Iraq; and we started mapping it for future possible conflicts.

It is good that this is a lesson of the war the Army has highlighted. I hope we are good enough at this to prevent that problem in the future. But if we are it will need to come from within the military because apparently the academics who might help simply won't help.

We won the Cold War but our campuses became sanctuaries for those people right here at home. I think our human terrain teams might want to consider whether our campuses are support zones for enemies abroad. Seriously (tip to Instapundit).

And as an aside, how are our victims studies departments any different from the madrasa "schools" that churn out economically useless jihadi fanboys?

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Kurdish Question

Pulling American forces out of eastern Syria causes a Kurdish problem that flows from our many decisions against supporting rebels who wanted to overthrow Assad before they were defeated by Assad and his Russian, Iranian, and Hezbollah allies.

What will happen to Syria's Kurds once American forces pull out of eastern Syria? Actors involved don't agree:

There is no agreement (between the major powers with forces in Syria) about what to do with the Syrian Kurds and their SDF militia, which was largely responsible for destroying ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) in Syria, including capturing their capital city Raqqa. There is a conundrum about how to handle the Kurds/SDF. It goes like this;

The Syrian Kurds want an autonomous Kurdish region in the northeast, similar to what the Iraqi Kurds have had (for 25 years) next door in Iraq. The Assads are inclined to allow that (as the Assads have been able to work with the SDF for years even though the SDF are technically Syrian rebels). The Turks and Iranians oppose the Kurdish autonomous region while the Russians and Americans support it.

In one sense, America's withdrawal only accelerates rather than causes this issue. Even if 2,000 American troops stayed in eastern Syria, eventually Syria will recover enough military power to attempt to retake eastern Syria. Or Assad's forces would recover enough to inflict a Beirut Barracks-style terror attack on our forces there.

I once thought we might have gotten a de facto autonomous zone we could patrol along the deconfliction line (the DCL, as I eventually called it). But without Assad's cooperation, we'd need a major force to defend it. Assad would probably agree to this as would the Kurds. But Iran and Turkey--who both have restive Kurdish minorities--are opposed. Remember that in 2017 Iraq's Kurds got slapped down by Iranian-inspired Iraqi attacks that rolled back Kurdish controlled territory in Iraq.

That's why I said we had to decide what our objective for being in Syria was before some Beirut-style mass-casualty attack took place. Remember, Iran was behind that terror attack. Do you really think Iran wouldn't try to do the same thing to American troops in eastern Syria? We really haven't decided on an objective we can achieve and what the American people would support at the price of significant casualties; and so yes, it makes sense to pull our troops out of Syria. But we really need to do something to bolster the Kurds who helped us defeat ISIL even though in the long run we can't save them from Assad's wrath if he chooses to strike back.

Nobody has any stomach left to continue to oppose Assad to the point of overthrowing his minority Alawite regime even though his military power is largely spent from the multi-war, and he relies on Iran's power (money, expertise, Hezbollah, and a Shia foreign legion) and Russia. The British and French will pull their troops out of eastern Syria, too (as that initial Strategypage post reports--unless our decision to keep 200 troops there "for a period of time" convinces them to remain a bit longer), despite the fact that they have more interest in Syria than we do because of Syria's role in pushing so many refugees/migrants into Europe over the last half decade.

And it would be very hard to reconstitute armed rebellion after letting the non-jihadi rebels wither on the vine and finally die. Remember, the Kurds were never going to be the core of an anti-Assad force willing to march on Damascus.

This is why I wanted a focus on Assad in Syria before going after ISIL in Syria. My idea was "win, build, win" of defeating ISIL in Iraq while building up non-jihadi and non-Kurdish rebels in Syria; then after defeating ISIL in Iraq turn to winning against ISIL in Syria.

After that, because we had built up new rebels in the east and continued to support rebels in the west, we could go after Assad.

Of course, Russian intervention in 2015 to bolster Assad ended the hope of that kind of plan. The very length of time it took America to help Iraq defeat ISIL combined with our effort against ISIL in Syria which was essentially a gift to Assad may have given Russia the opportunity to intervene.

So here we are with Assad still in the throne after we struck weak blows against him; the Syrian Kurds who helped us defeat the ISIL caliphate are exposed to Assad and Turkey; and no objective we could achieve with a small force absent an agreement that recognizes the situation on the ground. Even a small American contingent with allies in support only buys time to figure out what exactly we want to do in Syria.

And Iran thwarts an effort to resolve this Kurdish problem. Iran really is a Gordian Knot for resolving a lot of problems in the Middle East.

UPDATE: The small American presence in the north and south could very well encourage European allies to retain troops there.

Indeed, it makes little sense for us to keep that small number of troops in Syria unless our allies remain, too, backed by our air power.

Orange is the New Black

Germany continues to refrain from even debating their national security needs. They prefer to ignore the issue and hate America for even bringing the issue up.

Is the German public ready to debate their post-Cold War rejection of a real military force?

In the same way that in 2014 the German political leadership realized that it was time to question its automatic fall-back policy of international restraint, in 2019, the German public needs to realize that hiding behind a mix of deliberate ignorance and automatic rejection of anything military can no longer be an option. It is Sicherheitshalber’s aim to help inform the public and create a general debate on the basis of which a better, more strategic German foreign policy can take root.

What isn't mentioned at all is the oft-cited reason to justify rejecting an actual military, which really annoys me:

I keep reading that the Germans hate their militaristic past so much that they don't want to fight.

Let's try applying the clue bat to Germany's collective skull on this issue.

Conquering and setting up death camps under the shield of a powerful military? That's bad. By all means, don't do that.

Having a military capable of fighting death cult enemies or stopping the Russians from moving west? Well, that's a good thing. Try doing that.

But no debate. Just an Orange Man Bad attitude that cuts off debate. And apparently thinking.

If so many Germans are correct that they can't build--let alone use--a real military lest they become raging, homicidal conquers dressed in Gestapo black, maybe to be on the safe side we should pull back and nuke the site from orbit.

Is that the only way to be sure?

Friday, February 22, 2019

What a Bloody Giveaway

Do you wonder why I say that the European Union is essentially an anti-American body that we should not want to strengthen and gain control of Europe?

Ah, our EU friends!

Amidst all the defeats and setbacks Iran is suffering at home and overseas there is one notable victory. Iran was able to persuade the EU (European Union) to assist Iran in getting around the sanctions the Americans restored because of Iran violating the 2015 treaty that lifted most of the sanctions. Iran offered EU nations lucrative economic opportunities in return for cooperation in getting around the American sanctions. The EU created the SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) which is basically an EU approved barter system that makes it easy for Iran to sell trade with the EU via barter rather than use dollars. Iran uses a similar system with Russia and China.

It doesn't matter that Iran is an aggressive, terror-supporting mullahcracy seeking nukes. No, the chance to stick it to America by implementing a "European" policy independent of America is more important to them.

When the EU is relentless in trying to destroy NATO by strengthening the EU European-only military arm and letting European low defense spending erode NATO (where America is the major power) by robbing it of resources to feed a European military, how can you be an American and favor the EU?

Don't forget that today's Europe is the way it is because American post-World War II influence suppressed a European tradition of autocracy--or worse (as I note in an update in this post):

It is easy to forget--and this was a useful reminder to me--that Europe with its autocracies and monarchies was not fully part of a free West (although obviously part of the Western tradition) until we rebuilt Western Europe in that template after World War II. And NATO expansion after defeating the Soviet Union was more explicit in demanding democracy and rule of law for new members.

We can have friends in Europe. Europe as a political entity cannot be our friend. The Iran issue is just a peek at what a more powerful EU would do to undermine America.

And really, given the effect we've had on Europe since 1945,  it is pro-European to save Europeans from the European Union.

UPDATE: Don't ever forget we have friends, like Tony Foulds, in Europe. Tip to Instapundit.

So What Does the Army Do When Marksmanship is Issued?

Army rifles will eventually be very accurate using technology no longer too bulky, heavy, and expensive for just armored fighting vehicles. What will the next generation training for infantry look like when that arrives?

This is cool:

The U.S. Army’s next assault rifle and machine gun will have built-in computers to give soldiers unparalleled firing accuracy. The so-called Next Generation Squad Weapons will feature a digital fire control system borrowing many features from today’s main battle tanks, allowing shooters to engage targets faster and with greater precision than their opponents can muster. ...

The new ballistic computers allowed tanks to automatically intake information such as target range, wind speed, barrel life, and the number of shots fired and make instantaneous corrections, allowing for dramatically improved first round accuracy.

That capability is in sight for infantry weapons.

Of course, just as drones aren't just for major power armies, opponents will eventually get such weapons--even militias, insurgents, and terrorists.

As I argued in this Naval Institute article, we will need to spend far more time--and earlier in training--drilling soldiers and their leaders in superior tactics to maintain our infantry edge that in large measure has been based on intensive training in individual aimed fire.

When I was in basic training, the only two things the Army really cared about--because they were scored--were marksmanship and physical fitness. Sure, chemical warfare defense and first aid were hammered home, too, but the testing was not as rigorous.

With rifles using the capabilities shown with the TrackingPoint weapon. the Army will have a lot of extra training time not needed for basic marksmanship. Will the Army use that time to provide more drill and ceremony or more extensive tactical skills for maneuvering, surviving, and winning on a more lethal battlefield?

If the Army of the 2020s is more lethal than today's, it will not be because our troops are better shots--a lot of its opponents will be too because of tech, thus matching our troops when today our troops are superior marksmen--but because they are much better soldiers because of next generation training.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

None Shall Pass?

Will Maduro order his troops to stop food from reaching Venezuelans?

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido plans to head to the Colombian border in a convoy of vehicles on Thursday to receive humanitarian aid for his crisis-stricken nation, despite the objection of increasingly isolated President Nicolas Maduro.

And will Venezuela's military obey any Maduro order to do that?

Venezuelan National Assembly leader Juan Guaido on Wednesday gave the country's armed forces a three-day ultimatum to stop supporting President Nicolas Maduro before humanitarian aid arrives.

Seriously, what is wrong with Maduro?

Venezuela has shut a key maritime border and grounded flights as the opposition party seeks to import foreign aid to the crisis-hit South American country.

A government representative confirmed Venezuela has closed its maritime border with Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire and, in the Western state of Falcon, prevented flights leaving from or departing to those islands.

Can't risk his people not starving for even a moment, eh?

Our SOUTHCOM commander warned the Venezuelan military:

The head of the U.S. Southern Command warned Venezuela's military that it will be held accountable for any harm it causes civilians during the ongoing humanitarian crisis its country is experiencing.

I bet he wishes he had The SOUTHCOM Queen right now. It could have medical facilities, helicopters, and lots of humanitarian aid in shipping containers. And it wouldn't provide Maduro with optics of an American warship offshore.

UPDATE: The "keep out" signs proliferate:

President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of Venezuela's border with Brazil on Thursday in an increasingly fraught power struggle with Juan Guaido, the opposition leader spearheading efforts to bring humanitarian aid into the country despite a military blockade.

Just who in Venezuela is cool with this self-blockade?

UPDATE: The situation develops:

Venezuelan troops fired tear gas at angry protesters unable to cross into Colombia on Saturday after President Nicolas Maduro closed the border to stop the opposition bringing U.S. humanitarian aid into the South American nation.

Demonstrators set up barricades and burned tires in the Venezuelan border town of Urena, as attention turned to whether National Guard troops stationed at the border crossing would fulfill Maduro's orders to block humanitarian aid from reaching a sick and hungry population.

Four National Guard troops at the frontier disavowed Maduro's socialist government on Saturday, following an appeal from Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to let aid through.

Let's hope we and our regional friends can get a soft landing on this crisis.

Could China's Learning Curve Go Through Russia?

I've noted that China's shiny new weapons need the training and skills of soldiers and commanders to make them as effective as they look. And I've hoped that the problems we can see on our side in readiness is more than matched by readiness problems in the military forces of potential enemies.

So this is comforting:

A large body of evidence in China’s official military and party media indicates the nation’s senior civilian and uniformed leaders recognize significant shortcomings in the warfighting and command capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). However, most of this evidence is not translated into English for public consumption and is not considered in much of the foreign analysis of China’s growing military capabilities. This situation is not new, but goes back for decades.

Yet, the increasing scope and frequency of these self-critiques during the tenure of Xi Jinping as chairman of the Central Military Commission casts doubt over the senior party and military leadership’s confidence in the PLA’s ability to prevail in battle against a modern enemy. Furthermore, the limitations illustrated by these internal assessments will likely moderate China’s near- and mid-term national security objectives and the manner in which they are pursued. This lack of confidence in PLA capabilities contributes to Beijing’s preference to achieve China’s national objectives through deterrence and actions short of war.

This is especially comforting given that I've worried that China's rulers might wrongly believe they have a military ready for war.

Unless this is a case of appearing far (from ready for war) when near(ly ready for war).

Even if this report about Chinese problems is not disinformation, what if the Chinese think they are in a rare period of unreadiness parity with America that will evaporate as we take care of our evident problems?

But even if the Chinese weaknesses are real and America isn't at risk because of them, if China wants to demonstrate its power to the world (to America?) so China doesn't have to fight to achieve objectives,* how does China overcome their recognized "peace disease" (China's term) of lacking combat experience without a war against their primary potential foe, America?

Could Russia be the potential target to demonstrate China's power to America without fighting America? And getting combat experience at the same time?

Have a super sparkly day.

*As the initial article writes, "By raising its warfighting capabilities and demonstrating them to the world, the PLA seeks to enhance its deterrence posture directed at a variety of threats to China’s national interests and to achieve China’s political objectives without fighting."