Sunday, March 31, 2019

Weekend Data Dump

Strategypage looks at the Syrian armored forces as they evolved during the multi-war to emphasize heavy forces backed by firepower to support assaults that ended up defeating the bulk of its enemies; and how it may end up after the war is finally concluded. I noted early that Assad needed a whole new war to win that abandoned much of Syria and began the long road of recovering territory as their military capacity increased--and he got it. I never suspected he could get a foreign army to gain that capacity to defeat the biggest threats, but he did via Iran and its Shia foreign legion, Hezbollah, and Russia in the west and via the American coalition in the east that fought a parallel campaign against ISIL that effectively helped Assad. Also, the discussion of the armor-led effort reflects how the Syrian army became a zombie army because of casualties that looked more like an advise and assist force with a lot of firepower helping the new militias and irregulars that were the cannon fodder.

A further look at Syria where the Iranian militias are being incorporated into the Syrian army. I don't know if that means Iran is entrenching or whether Syria is trying to regain control of those militia troops. The casualty count is given at 400,000. Of those, 11,000 are SDF, About 130,000 were Assad's forces, about 140,000 were rebels (including 70,000 dead ISIL and al Qaeda jihadis), and about 120,000 dead civilians--mostly rebel sympathizers. That's quite a toll since 2011 when protests evolved into rebellion, civil war, and then multi-war. A third of Syria is still outside of Assad's control, in the northwest where jihadis still hold ground and in the east where American-backed Kurds and Arabs in the SDF hold the ground.

Riot over French "fun fair" plans. It's all just going to Hell over there, isn't it?

Boko Haram has a leadership shuffle and Nigerian Christians wonder if they should go medieval on the jihadis.

New blackouts across Venezuela. Ah, socialism. The Russian troops who arrived there, likely to advise and possibly command Maduro's response to unrest that threatens Maduro's rule, had better have brought generators to power their lights and computers.

Things seem to be heating up between Hamas and Israel. Is Hamas rocket firing linked to Hezbollah or is it a stand-alone confrontation? I always suspect tensions with Hamas in Gaza can be a convenient excuse to mobilize resources to actually go after Hezbollah. And any troops sent to watch Hamas would be a needed shield if Israel unleashes a sword against Hezbollah. Which makes me ask, just what "certain particular issues" could Russia help Israel deal with? Note too that Hamas has quite the rocket arsenal despite the mythical Israeli "blockade" of Gaza.

After raising Mueller to god status, Democratic true believers now refuse to believe his gospel. Like the faithful waiting on a mountain top for the mothership to rescue them only to find that day passed without salvation, the true believers set out to recalculate the coming. Truly, Democrats did the heavy lifting in Putin's plan to sow divisions in America via his low-cost and amusingly crude propaganda campaign here attacking (mostly) Hillary Clinton. That damage will continue to reverberate through our country. So Putin can take satisfaction in that. But on the other hand, the collateral damage of Operation Chaos that turned the once-allies of going easy on Russia into extremist anti-Russians will do damage to Russia, too. Will there be a counterattack against the Democratic-media collusion that was necessary to make Russia's 2016 interference more than a minor (and amateurish) detail of the campaign? And if, as the first link says, there will be inquiries into "a lot of activity with the Russians that ranges from unsavory to treacherous," how far back will that investigation go? Will we just look at contemporary weak Russia or include activity involving the USSR which was a serious threat to America and the West?

If Russia is going to go all-in on Maduro the way they did with Assad, how can Democrats oppose a forceful American response? Not that I'd use force to get the 100 Russian special forces and cyber troops out.

While I have strong objections to the idea that weapons can be categorized as "offensive" or "defensive," equipping Japan's helicopter carriers with F-35Bs does not give Japan any more of an offensive capability than Japan already has with surface ships, subs, and aircraft with anti-ship weapons.

A new focus on the China threat. With the most worrisome point being that nobody really knows how many nuclear warheads that China has.

Why don't we ever read about men like this in China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, or--Inshallah--jihadi groups?

Woke privilege. Apparently Cook County has established the price of slandering an entire class of people as $10,000.

I suspected General Flynn got a raw deal but I did not know anything about him so I did not want to say for sure. Now it seems like he truly did get framed for nothing. The Logan Act accusations flying about the last couple years are BS. That ancient act was never meant to do what any incoming administration does--talk to their future counterparts. Clearly the act was intended to prevent people in the age of horse- and sailing boat-speed communications from pretending to be actual government officials who could make deals in the name of their country.

Trump orders efforts to plan for surviving an EMP attack. That's good. I don't know how vulnerable we are, how likely it is to happen, or who might risk a nuclear attack in response, but the potential damage is worth the effort. And the expense is worth it to harden the electrical system, for example, which could take many years to repair if knocked out this way. And I suspect improving its resilience would pay off in natural disasters, too. Tip to Instapundit.

India is getting less and less willing to accept the casualties that Pakistan's support for terrorism in India result in. It is interesting--in a place your head between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye sort of way--that while Pakistan may think its nukes shield them from an Indian response, that India seems to be getting upset that their own nukes don't shield them from Pakistani terrorism. What happens when India's one-off military responses don't inflict enough pain on Pakistan to stop the terror campaign? Also, it appears that India's smart bombs missed their targets in the Indian air raid because the GPS coordinates were entered incorrectly. So user error.

I like to think that if Mueller had come out with evidence justifying prosecutions for conspiring with Russia to win the 2016 election that I'd have accepted that despite thinking it made no sense from either Russia's position or Trump's. Basically I don't think either thought Hillary would lose. And despite wondering if Obama or the Clinton family could survive that kind of political colonoscopy,  my main worry with Mueller was not that he couldn't look into the specific issue but that he would expand out into a fishing expedition for unrelated issues when he couldn't find anything on topic. He did not do that. So that is a comfort. Still, the process was the punishment for Trump, and the loss of the House in 2018 and his stagnant poll ratings can be counted as a success for the Democrats who have pushed the narrative.

The case for American naval power really shouldn't require much thinking unless you think Canada and Mexico aren't friendly and unless you don't see any problems we might have to reach to combat outside of North America. Of course, if we have a pointless carrier debate instead of a seapower debate, that's a problem.

Is the Arab Spring reviving in Algeria and Sudan?  The 2011 version improved Tunisia but led to bloodshed in Libya and Syria. I don't know if the pressure to seek democracy instead of autocracy or Islamist rule is reviving. But I do know I said that this process is by necessity a long-term change that could take decades and even centuries. And I do know that Asian and Latin American countries have moved toward democracy despite many claims they culturally could not handle it. So perhaps the gears will be ratcheted forward in Algeria or Sudan. That would be nice.

This analysis says that American pressure will unify Iran's fractured ruling class. Well, I haven't been impressed with the results of a fractured Iranian mullah class. In my view Iranian ruling class "moderates" are just the nutballs who don't scream "Death to America!" in English--while on camera. So I'd rather try defeating them whether they are fractured or unified.

Continue teaching American college students after openly advocating communism? Hell, it's practically a job requirement.

I have no idea if the original investigation of Trump had bad motives. But finding out if this was a political hit using national security as an excuse warrants attention given the amount of effort expended on a failed effort to find collusion to rig our 2016 presidential election for Trump, no?

Assuming that the plane carrying the plywood supply drone isn't shot down, this will help with logistics. It sounds like a bigger and more stable version of the paraglider GPS-guided supply systems.

Exercise is good, but I'm reasonably sure the risk of death is still 100%. Although I will concede that since I have not died yet I have no proof I'm not immortal.

No good deed goes unpunished, I guess. The Maltese recaptured the ship and some "aid groups" claimed the hijacking was "self defense." Was the crew attacking them? No. The crew probably would have returned the people they rescued from death in the seas to Libya. That is not self defense.

India successfully tested an anti-satellite weapon but we are worried there might be orbital debris.

The US expects joint actions with NATO allies soon to "push back" against Russia's war on Ukraine.

The military seems to be making progress in restoring readiness. I must say that I was wrong many years ago to say sequestration wasn't a bad idea. I thought that in exchange for basically freezing military spending that it would be worth it to freeze certain civilian spending. What were the odds that the military budget would go up without sequestration in that era, I thought. It was a good price pay to have a shot at restraining spending overall. But what I didn't realize was that it was worse than a freeze in defense spending. It was also a freeze on moving money around to where it is needed under a spending cap. So readiness was worse than a simple cap with flexibility. I guess I didn't imagine something so stupid could be dreamed up. Although my concern for the deficit is great enough that I still thought sequestration was acceptable despite discovering the inflexibility. But even that deal didn't slow down spending, did it? Is it too much to hope we won't screw up that way again if defense spending has to take a hit in an effort to reduce the deficit?

President Bolsonaro says the Brazilian military has no interest in intervening in Venezuela. Well, there goes that theory I had. Venezuela may be on its own to resolve the Maduro problem, apart from sanctions and diplomatic support to support Guaido over Maduro.

Thailand's military has their thumb firmly on the scale in new elections. Can the democrats win enough of a super-majority in the rigged system to nullify that influence? The military oddly leans pro-Chinese while civilians prefer America, Japan, and India as partners.

The US is moving on active protection systems (APS) for armored vehicles.  We're behind Israel on this. The Soviets pioneered it although I suspect it didn't work well. I'm relieved we are finally moving because I've long been worried that even our Abrams with all their heavy armor are vulnerable to top-attack missiles that bypass the heavy armor protection. APS can't replace heavy armor, but it is a needed addition to protection.

What protests? Gazans not on the Hamas payroll don't seem to think Israel is mostly at fault for their misery. But the media here calls Hamas border assaults "protests."

How the Little Ice Age changed history. Our climate has varied dramatically over the ages without human interference. Mind blowingly, one reason put forward for the cooling is the mass deaths of Native Americans caused by Old World disease brought over post-Columbus. Land in large amount went out of cultivation and reduced CO2 in the air.  I'm a "denier" because while I don't doubt humans affect our climate, I have no idea if it is significant in the face of natural factors that have wildly changed our climate in the past. Nor do I think handing over powers to the state--or a globe-straddling authority--is the way to combat the problem if we can affect the climate in the face of natural factors. If human efforts to combat climate change are figuratively just spitting in the ocean, maybe we should save our money to cope with the changes instead if they turn out to be bad.

Representative AOC displays no apparent benefits of higher education, so adding one more thing she doesn't understand may be bouncing the rubble of her mind, but climate change is not the same thing as pollution. One can support reducing pollution without embracing her climate change agenda. And on the former, the prosperous capitalist West has done a far better job than socialist states. And really, if climate change is the problem causing children in the South Bronx to suffer "from the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country" as she states, why is it localized? Shouldn't global warming affect all of America--and indeed the world--in similar fashion, allowing for reasonable regional deviation?

Is Israel preparing for a broad military campaign against Hamas in Gaza if necessary? Or is it cover for a move to strike Hezbollah?

Jussie Smollett's attorney said that the Nigerian-American "attackers" may have worn whiteface. Totally plausible. They may also have read a whole bunch of Hallmark cards.

I noticed an interesting change in my views on one issue. For a long time I assumed that our ambassador to Iraq "greenlighted" Saddam's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Oh, not an approving green light but a failure to make sure our disapproval was known. That was conventional wisdom and I thought it was the settled story. As time went on I eventually read other things and reassessed it in light of that and our experience with Saddam before the Iraq War, finally rejecting it. That latter take is my current view.

Because of China.Well that didn't take much analysis at all!

I assume Saudi Arabia's purchase of THAAD missile defenses indicates that the Saudis don't expect the Trump administration to actually attack Iran because it will take some time to get and absorb the missile system.

The super expensive Zumwalt is late in joining the fleet. But remember that the high cost per ship is partly the result of accounting rules that place the research and development costs into just three hulls. The technology developed will live on in future ships that will be cheaper because development work was already allocated to Zumwalt.  Also, while that article notes the original mission of the ship was providing gunfire support to ground forces, that mission was always nonsense. Tip to Instapundit.

I hope Turkey enjoys their Russian S-400 air defense missiles. Perhaps their pilots who hoped to fly the F-35 can switch to flying the missiles.

The Air Force needs to know what its missions are today. I've had thoughts on that for some time.

There's a colloquial usage for "recuse?" As in, when you are with friends trying to figure out what move to see and you don't care, so you tell them "I recuse myself from this decision." But you really do care but don't want to seem bossy. Or when you want to dump your girlfriend and you text her "I'm recusing myself from this relationship." But you still want to be friends with benefits. Something like that?

The F-35 is its own electronic countermeasures platform complete with towed decoys.

The military is downgrading its use of big drones given the focus on great power competition. Not that they don't have very useful missions in conventional warfare. But it is true that their use in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the broader anti-terrorist missions rely on permissive air environments without enemy air defenses.

Wow! Has it been an entire year already of Hamas assaulting Israel's border with human shields and getting the media to keep calling the attacks mere "protests?"

The Chinese ZBL-11, which provides large-calibre direct fire support to Chinese infantry. I don't know why it is called an "assault gun." Historically that was a large gun mounted on  the hull of a tracked armored vehicle to avoid the added complexity of a turret. Isn't the Chinese weapon a heavy armored car?

AFRICOM is extending its reach to help Mozambique ravaged by a cyclone. Reaction and recovery would be a mission for The AFRICOM Queen.

Is the end of the election collusion story's credibility a sign that Democrats will go back to Trump's tax returns? I don't understand the fixation. It is a recent custom and not a requirement to run for president. Our Constitution is rather specific on qualifications. And also, Trump did submit his tax returns--to the IRS. Presumably if something was amiss the IRS would have addressed it. Sure, it might have something embarrassing on it. But that is not that important to me. I was never a birther purist who had to see Obama's birth certificate which Obama kept secret for a long time. I had no doubt that Obama was a native-born, Christian, American. At worse I thought there was something embarrassing on it. And even that wasn't the case when the certificate was finally released. So get a better plastic turkey issue than that, eh? Although I admit there is a certain karma issue given Trump clung to the birth certificate issue for so long. But it would be nice if that karma visited the Clintons given her campaign started the whole birther issue in the 2008 primary contest.

Venezuelans continue to take huge strides in slashing their planet-killing carbon footprints.

Right now there is no way the Afghan state can continue without American support. Right now a lot of Afghan troops are killing jihadis with that help. That is hardly ideal. But just bugging out is hardly the answer. Do we really want to abandon the people doing the killing and enable the people being killed to restore their sanctuary for jihadi terrorists who can strike the West?

I'm sorry, but Russian paranoia shouldn't guide our policies. No matter what NATO does Russia will see a threat, with nothing short of Hadrian's Wall reassuring those nutballs enough to relax. Come on people, in 2013 we pulled our last tanks from Europe! That gesture that Russia's war on Ukraine spit on wasn't reassuring? Most frustratingly, there are Americans who go along with that Russian nonsense.

This article discusses China's plans to build a city in the South China Sea. Nowhere does it mention that the legal administrative basis for a sea-spanning "city" within Chinese law was established in 2012. And duh, of course it will have overtly military facilities.

Yeah, NATO is fine. Trump's calls for more allied spending is nothing past presidents haven't asked for. The difference is that today's Democrats finally noticed NATO and its value, and probably had no idea of past complaints. So relax you new NATO fans. Welcome to the club.

Zero-notice Army deployments from CONUS to Europe just like in Cold War days are back. Although honestly I don't remember that. News wasn't the krill flow back then that it is today. But I may have simply forgotten.

And aircraft carrier surge practice. I find this far superior to forward deployment of carriers where they are dangled way too close to our potential enemies who could be tempted to sink one in a first strike.

French "yellow vest" protests continue into their 20th week, although at lower levels of attendance.

The Army study of the Iraq War (volumes one and two) writes that the multi-national division established south of Baghdad and north of the British sector was a mistake because the odds and sods of the coalition gathered there lacked combat capabilities and reconstruction capabilities. It would have been better to place those individual national units within American or British division sectors to be able to make better use of their capabilities within their limits.

Prime Minister May's future is trivial. I seriously worry that if Britain doesn't leave right now on schedule even without a deal that the EU will win, crushing once and for all the idea that mere voters in one of the EU provinces can ever hope to escape ever closer union.

It is a good thing that voters in Ukraine are deeply concerned about corruption. The should be. With corruption unchecked they are just a smaller version of Russia, and so doomed.

The revolution in drones that gave infantry in contact with the enemy their own timely aerial reconnaissance.

The surge of migrants hitting our southern border is threatening to overwhelm our border processing system. Trump may close the border to focus resources on illegal immigrants.  It would be kind of hilarious to simply dump the migrants in "sanctuary cities" and make the local government financially liable for their upkeep and their return for any court dates. Let's see what price tag the sanctuary residents put on virtue signaling.

Representative AOC thinks that she represents America's most woke nation-wide--when she doesn't think she represents the planet itself. People in her district don't like that. A rookie mistake to forget the constituents who sent you to Congress. Anecdotes can eventually add up to bad polling. But she has time until 2020.