Sunday, June 30, 2019

Weekend Data Dump

FFS, if you can't tell the difference between detaining people who enter our country illegally until they can be processed on the one hand and detaining people contrary their constitutional rights despite living here legally or even being citizens on the other hand, I don't even want to talk to you.

China, jihadis, and commies, oh my!

I'm not on board the totality of this piece, but the author is correct that the relentless turn-the-dial-to-11 fantasy-level Resistance to Trump since 2016 has pushed him to the right. Despite some post-election worries, I've been satisfied with his policies since then. As I've said, I've always been suspicious of Trump given his history as a liberal Democrat. While I have no problem with that in personal relations, that isn't something I want in elected officials. And I've been puzzled that the Democrats in Congress didn't exploit that history to work with Trump on big government programs. And really, a number of Trump supporters are too close to Pat Buchanan's post-Cold War version for my tastes. So it's not like I wasn't potentially fertile ground for rejecting Trump. As a so-called RINO cuck I might have sat out the 2020 election even if I could never vote for a Democrat. But instead, the Resistance made it easier for me to support Trump's reelection rather than validate the insane socialist-loving Left that now steers the Democratic Party. Although I will be happy to go to a post-Trump world that allows Republicans to abandon the Trump-era idea that big government is okay if your guy runs the big government. Feh. Tip to Instapundit.

A new bomb worthy of the new plane.

Yeah, I don't really pay attention to polls at this stage of the campaign. It's a case of looking where the light is best and the horse race angle is much easier to emphasize.

This is what I've been saying. For me to reject Trump the Democrats have to give me a sane alternative. They aren't even close. And we've seen this Democratic show before.

Canceling student debt is a massive wealth transfer to the upper middle class; and is a slap in the face to people who--like me--didn't take on significant debt for themselves and who sacrificed to put away money for their children's college. Why should my retirement investments suffer to pay for people whose families made more money than me and who will make more money than me? A tax cut that allows people with debt to repay those debts easier would be more fair because people who avoided debt or didn't go go college would not be screwed by that unfair subsidy for people who borrowed to go to expensive colleges. Seriously, their poor individual choices are not my--or the country's--problem. Good luck with that.

Ah, the deep reverence for the integrity of science!

Is the Arab Moslem world losing interest in religion? It is a small trend but it is real. And it would help to give Arab Moslem countries the option of democracy rather than autocracy or mullah rule, which is the long-term hope of the 2011 Arab Spring thus far thwarted. Of course, the real issue is not rejecting religion but rejecting the monolithic religion-government view of life. Religious Moslems who did not insist on their religion ruling in governance--a division between church and state--is the real issue. But less religious Moslems would have an easier time doing the same thing. Still, as Yemen demonstrates, the trend can go the other way. But maybe the civil war within Islam over whether moderates or jihadis get to define what Islam is--which inflicts collateral damage on the rest of the world (like 9/11, most obviously) as they fight it out--will be made moot if most Moslems lose interest in religion.

Isn't it rather xenophobic to argue that an American can't even talk to a foreigner (oh, sorry, "undocumented conversation partner")?

Sometimes a picture requires a thousand words to understand.

From the "Well, Duh" files.

Iraq still struggles to fully staff its department heads. On the bright side, a dictator would have had the ministries fully staffed on day one. On the other hand, Iraqi corruption is more than just "perceived."

A group of American billionaires called for higher taxes. Trump should send every member of that group letters asking for donations, open an office staffed by a Treasury employee, and live stream the office and employee sitting at the desk for a week seeing if any billionaire will send a check to make good on their demand that they pay more taxes.

Our alliance with Japan is the cornerstone of our security in northeast Asia. So Trump should not publicly raise questions about its existence even if he would like terms of that alliance updated for the current reality.

Hiftar (or Haftar, if you prefer) is winning in Libya. Good. Recall that Turkey under Erdogan supports the jihadi-friendly UN-recognized government in Tripoli. Although winning does not mean his enemies can't mount a counter-attack that screws up his line of supply. And Hiftar blames the Turks for his setback.

So if we've been waging a war on poverty for 60 years now, or so, it is fair to say that the progress occurred in the first decade and it has been a stalemate since then at high cost. I strongly suspect that "poverty" has been defined upward since then, otherwise the spending has been criminally wasted, no? And probably much has been regardless of how poverty is defined.

Crossing our porous southern border isn't just for Latin Americans any more. Wonderful.

Face palm.

President Obama built those "cages" for illegal immigrant children. Not so hopey or changy any more, apparently. Hope and change did amazing things to events that are now Nazi-like. But now the properly woke can weep for cars in cages.

I'm sorry, but how is this different from what al-Righter white supremacists would do if they ran the university? I have no problem with shunning racist conservatives. Why don't liberals shun their people who support such racist policies? Tip to Instapundit.

I signed this petition.

The "military-industrial complex" that Eisenhower warned about is broader and "vastly bigger" now?  That's fine to know. But it does frustrate me that nobody who raises that concern ever mentions that Eisenhower said that we absolutely needed that military-industrial complex despite his warnings about its potential power. And is the "industrial" part of the complex healthy enough?

NATO warns that it will take action if Russia does not dismantle SSC-8 missiles that violate the INF treaty.

So you can ask about citizenship on the census form but only if the stated reason is acceptable? A hint would be nice, at this point.

Are there really Georgians who would essentially turn their country over to Russia just 11 years after Russia invaded Georgia?

Yeah, redistricting didn't become a Democratic thing until they started losing the battles to be able to do the redistricting. That's what really annoys me about all the "fairness" crap that didn't come up when they had the power.

I'm sorry, but Democrats have absolutely no credibility with me on their sudden conversion to opposing Russia. Russia is a real problem we have to oppose, but let's keep it in perspective and look for opportunities against China rather than pushing Russia into China's arms. Rabid and unthinking opposition to all things Russia gets in the way of that.

Trends in international merchant shipping since the Great Recession.

Pakistan's president is covering for the jihadi campaign waged from inside Pakistan, and India is increasingly angry at that. Have a super sparkly day.


American Airbase 201 in Niger was finally completed. It is the second American base in Africa (see Djibouti), although don't expect many people here to call it a base. But African sensitivities to allowing American bases are clearly fading in the face of threats and need. It will have armed drones and will work with Niger and neighboring countries to battle jihadis that threaten the stability of the region. It is not yet in use.

Opponents of Trump often claim he is waging trade wars. I'm not protectionist and believe open trade is the best policy. If I thought Trump was protectionist I would oppose his policies. But attempting to adjust trade terms that are unbalanced against America (as they have been in general since World War II when we chose to do that for political reasons to help restore strength in allies devastated by the war and vulnerable to USSR appeals in the Cold War) is completely different. And China has advanced enough economically and become too hostile to justify favorable terms long granted to Peking--including looking the other way at intellectual property theft and espionage. If these attempts adjust the terms to be less bad for America long after the effects of World War II ravaged economies abroad, that's good. If the attempts lead to trade wars and protectionism, that's bad. So far I don't see evidence of the latter.

Iranian-backed Iraqi militias protested at Bahrain's embassy and said storming the embassy is a "natural right?" Well that figures.

A war on a free press in Portland. That city's leaders increasingly seems like they view Antifa as a friendly communist militia that intimidates badthinkers, while the police are ordered to stand down and not protect citizens from the assaults. Will Trump send in federal assets to protect people when the city administration won't? Can Washington, D.C. federalize the local police or Oregon's state police if the state won't defend the Constitutional and civil rights of people in that city? Tip to Instapundit.

Individuals are free to be as stupid as they want. But when our institutions go along with and cater to that stupidity rather than allow the individuals to face the consequences of stupidity, our society itself is endangered by the habit of lying to ourselves. Tip to Instapundit.

Salute this man.

It is too inconvenient for the Western Left to care--or even acknowledge--the humanitarian disaster in Venezuela after praising its socialist rulers and policies for so long.

This liberal writer recognizes liberal intolerance. As I've often written and said, it is a crime against language to think that "liberal minded" is the same as "open minded." Not that I am arguing that conservatives are uniquely open minded.  But Kristof is wrong to blame Trump for the liberal intolerance. I've long noted it and if I had to put a date on it I'd say 2004 when Democrats went from supporting the war on Saddam and recognizing the justification to claiming we'd all been "lied into war." It has only gotten worse since then. Trump is the result of suffering that intolerance for so long. If Kristof is only noticing it since Trump won the 2016 election, it is only because the Left has gotten so extreme and influential that it no longer tolerates even liberals who stray from the far left orthodoxy. That is, it seems new to Kristof because it is new to him. Still, baby steps people. Welcome the baby steps.

The "Last Resort" Gets Closer

Trump and South Korea's Moon briefly entered North Korea at the DMZ--a first for an American president--where Trump talked to North Korea's Kim, trying to restart nuclear disarmament talk:

South Koreans watched the historic meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sunday with a mixture of hope and skepticism, wondering whether it will be enough to relieve their biggest security concern — North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

The impromptu get-together at the inter-Korean border, where an armistice was signed 66 years ago to stop the fighting of a war that killed or injured millions, was Trump and Kim's third overall meeting and first since their summit in February in Hanoi, Vietnam, collapsed over disagreements over sanctions relief.

Some South Koreans said Sunday's meeting — which saw Trump briefly step into North Korean territory to become the first U.S. president to cross into the country — would help resolve a deadlock in nuclear negotiations and revive a positive atmosphere for peace.

We'll see. I'm skeptical that North Korea will agree to give up their nuclear weapons programs. We have a lot of history demonstrating that.

But we haven't seen this level of economic pressure on North Korea before.

Hopefully our military and our allies (and China?) have used all this time to really refine strike plans and defensive capabilities based on more intensive intelligence efforts, should the personal diplomacy falter.

If we do strike North Korea, nobody will be able to say we didn't try the peaceful route. Well, they won't be able to say that with any credibility.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Master of None

The French ambition to be a Jacques of all trades in military matters founders on its increasing military poverty:

Such relatively low number of troops and materiel constitutes an obvious shortcoming for a state with global ambitions, territory, and interests to protect in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia-Oceania.[17] Low numbers, combined with lasting budgetary cuts, resulted in the French Armed Forces becoming a force designed to win short wars and earn tactical success.[18] France does not have the necessary personnel to be a decisive actor in a major conventional conflict, a direct contradiction to the sacrosanct French principle of strategic autonomy. In a coalition, France would likely have only limited effect and strategic influence.[19] France is over-reliant on nuclear deterrence to ensure its security and protect its interests to face conventional threats.

France has some good troops. But like Russia with its vast continental empire that stretches its relatively small effective forces, France's global interests mean that France can either nuke you or inflict a small amount of conventional pain for a short time.

And if the enemy is too weak to nuke and too strong to defeat quickly, that's a problem for France if it wishes to be seen as a global player of consequence.

The French advantage over Russia is that they haven't angered America with pointless hostility and threats (rudeness doesn't count, and honestly under Trump we  are now better at that, too) and they aren't in possession of Chinese territory the way Russia has done (in the 19th century).

What does France want, what are they willing to pay to build an army big enough to achieve that, and what are they willing to accept?

Colluding With a Foreign Power

So Iranian-European-Democrat collusion to save the simply horrible Iran nuclear deal is okay with our media-Democratic complex?

That does explain my persistent confusion about the hysterical war scare that has gone on over Iran's provocations in the Gulf region.

Despite the war scare talk--and even failed faux legislation to "stop" a war Trump doesn't want--designed to weaken American resolve to isolate terror-supporting Iran, America has little interest in the war option as long as the economic warfare is working. And it is:
Trump-induced decline in [oil] exports has probably cost Iran $120 million a day from oil alone — almost the cost of the US's pricey drone.

For the US, losing a drone is costly and destabilizing but not really a big deal for a country with a $718 billion annual defense budget. In Iran, the currency has crashed, and the country has become gripped by protests and strikes. And it has felt a crackdown on the financial freedom for all of its citizens.

And while American defenders of the Iran nuclear deal are right that Iran's response to sanctions that include hitting tankers is "predictable" (I've long said the same), their lobbying to undermine sanctions and return to the Iran deal makes it seem as if that "predictable" response is actually "justifiable."

We may reach the point where preventing Iran from going nuclear will require a war (and I doubt a war would include an invasion of Iran). But we aren't anywhere near that point given the  advantage that sanctions are providing us right now.

If there is to be war (or rather, an escalation of war given that Iran has been at war with America--killing close to a thousand Americans in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq) since seizing our embassy in Tehran in their Shia Islamist revolution), in the foreseeable future it will be the result of Iranian decisions to escape the economic grip around Iran's throat that we have tightened.

It really is amazing that Iran wants to remain non-nuclear so much that it is willing to go to such lengths in cooperation with Democrats in the Great Satan and Europeans to revive the nuclear deal that supposedly keeps Iran from getting nuclear weapons. The deal is a farce that enables Iranian aggression and is really a shield for Iran to go nuclear.

And I would really like to see our government try to use the "snapback" sanctions provision in the deal, given that I think there is no way Russia or China will accept that provision--which essentially amends the UN Charter on Security Council powers--as a legitimate measure not subject to their UNSC veto, if actually confronted with its use.

The Subliminal War at Sea

Secret navy, cannon fodder, human shields:

These large, modern [Chinese "fishing"] vessels represent a stunning level of sunk capital costs but do not engage in much commercial activity. Frequent satellite imagery shows that the vessels spend nearly all of their time anchored, often in large clusters. This is true whether they are inside the lagoons at Subi and Mischief Reefs or loitering elsewhere in the Spratlys. Operating in such close quarters is highly unusual and certainly not the way commercial fishing vessels usually operate.

Whatever you call it, China uses their maritime militia to bully South China Sea competitors.

And it really isn't a militia--it is really a force of ships with no civilian purpose. Militias are civilians called up from their civilian duties to fight.

This Chinese civilian "militia" is simply a poorly armed military force designed to overwhelm true civilian ships while daring foreign militaries to stop them.

UPDATE: RAND looked at China's "gray zone" warfare:

Examples of the grey zone tactics used by Beijing included the expansion of artificial islands, the use of coastguard vessels and maritime militia and “a group of civilian fishermen who receive military training and coordinate their actions under state and military guidance” to assert control over disputed islands and reefs.

The report said it had stepped up its use of such tactics in recent years against rival claimants such as Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. ...

China was also accused of using non-military vessels nominally manned by civilian personnel as “maritime militia”. “These operators are in reality, naval reservists trained in naval operations,” the report said.

Will rivals send out their own "militias" to engage China in low-level warfare of ramming, fire hoses, and cudgel-armed boardings?

Friday, June 28, 2019

Hope Amidst the Ottoman Ruins

Is it too much to hope that the result of the Istanbul election re-do is the first step to removing Erdogan and restoring Turkey as a democracy and solid NATO ally?

Austin Bay writes:

I think it's quite fair to conclude that an election that sends Sultan Recep into retirement would ensure Turkish membership in NATO. As a bonus, the Turkish Air Force would get to fly the F- 35 with pride. (Good rumor has it the Turkish pilots who've flown it like it.)

Turkey brings a lot to NATO. Full Turkish partnership damages several international bad actors, first and foremost Vladimir Putin's crooked Russian regime. The overt record shows that since 2008, Czar Vlad has made disrupting and damaging NATO a Kremlin priority. Robust Turkish NATO membership also stymies Iran's robed Islamist dictators.

In late June 2019, Turkish voters in Istanbul began unwinding the source of the F-35/S-400 controversy, Sultan Recep.

As I've said, we have an Erdogan crisis and not an S-400 crisis.

I hope the Istanbul election is the first step. But I don't think the sultan will go willingly or easily.

UPDATE: Erdogan may have hoped to persuade Trump to green light the F-35 and S-400, but that's a no go:

Turkey's purchase of a major Russian missile defence system is "a problem", US President Donald Trump told his Turkish counterpart at a Saturday meeting on the sidelines of the G20.

Washington has made clear it opposes the purchase of the Russian S-400 system, giving Turkey until July 31 to give up the deal, which it considers incompatible with Ankara's participation in the F-35 fighter jet programme.

Of course, the real problem is that Erdogan's Turkey is incompatible with full participation in NATO.

11 Bulletstoppers are Not Tank Stoppers

Our infantry is at a severe disadvantage if it must fight heavy enemy formations.

This is a serious problem for our infantry in an age of great power competition, especially in Europe:

As it stands presently, one of the biggest threats to an infantry brigade combat team is a near-peer armored force. This is, in part, because IBCTs manning their anti-armor roles with 11Bs that were arbitrarily assigned to fill them are not able to employ those weapons to maximum effect, producing a significant gap in organic anti-armor capability. Nonmechanized formations cannot consistently rely on the support of mechanized attachments to provide a counter to an enemy armor threat.

Infantry units have two basic problems--lack of their own anti-tank capabilities and a lack of tanks.

Infantry units need more and better organic anti-armor weapons.

But infantry brigades could consistently rely on Abrams-based mechanized attachments--as I argued in Army magazine that we should do rather than build light tanks for that purpose--if the Army made it a priority to create tank battalions or mechanized task forces available to infantry units to train with in case they must face mechanized enemies in war.

I've been worried about the lack of tank-killing power in our units. I just don't think that our infantry can rely on indirect or air-delivered fires as a replacement for direct fire anti-tank capabilities.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

To the Shores of the South China Sea

Since the Obama administration the Marines have been rotating larger and larger forces, aiming for a full battalion-sized MEU, in Darwin, Australia. Australia might build a separate base for that.

This is interesting:

Secret planning has begun for a new port facility just outside Darwin which could eventually help US Marines operate more readily in the Indo-Pacific.

Precise details remain tightly guarded but senior defence and federal government figures concede the proposal may risk angering China even though it's a commercial port, not a new military base.

Multiple officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have confirmed to the ABC the multi-use development would be in the Glyde Point area, roughly 40 kilometres north-east of Darwin's existing port.

That would be good. It allows projection of Marine power north to the South China Sea region, and can host forces coming from CENTCOM or American territory further east.

China can build small islands in the South China Sea. But can they hold them?

The War is Dead, Long Live the War

Is the Syrian multi-war going to evolve again and flare up?

This development in Syria is interesting:

The Assad government has rebuilt its military but not its national police and ability to administer local affairs. Local security and administration has been left to “local councils” that are elected locals or, increasingly, officials selected by local militia leaders. The local militias [and] councils are legal but only loosely monitored and supervised by the central government.

These are essentially local fiefdoms. How far does Assad's direct control extend? Is it just the Damascus region or does his authority also encompass the areas extending to the sea that were not challenged by rebels?

I've noted the rebuilding of the military, which is greatly reduced from a pre-civil war 450,000 to just 100,000 bolstered by local militias and foreign fighters, many controlled by Iran. The formal Syrian military seems more like an advise and assist force, as I note in the post.

And the rise of the local security and civilian administration apart from the state was also visible several years ago:

Basically, the Syrian army's army divisions had--prior to the war--evolved into virtual feudal realms that exercised political and economic power in regions they were responsible for. As the infantry died in the civil war and was replaced by militias as the infantry component, the divisions became the technical backbone (firepower, armor, combat support, and air power) of military efforts that suffered fewer casualties. The lines of economic, military, and social power that extended throughout the region that existed parallel to the chain of command up to Damascus allowed the Assad regime to essentially subcontract control to regional power centers that are more allied to Assad than they are subordinate to Assad.

Interestingly, Russia provides support through the formal military channels while the Iranians directly support the militias.

As virtual fiefdoms, these regionally based sub-state powers rely on local resources extracted from the population that lives there rather than relying on Damascus for support. Assad is transitioning from an autocrat who rules to a figurehead who reigns over the locals he cannot control with the relative power.

The funny thing is that while Assad has defeated the rebellion (which evolved into a civil war and then a multi-war of various powers--the global jihad, Turkey, Iran, Russia, and the American-led Coalition, using Syria as a battleground), excepting those in Idlib who are contained and somewhat protected by Turkey, he has nonetheless lost much of his country. Not only Idlib and the Kurdish-controlled areas in the east, but much of what is considered "pro-government" territory.

At high cost.

Will the fiefdoms abandon their powers and their ability to loot their territory by submitting to direct control by Assad? Or will a new war to bring the fiefdoms under Assad's control begin once Assad regains Idlib and cuts a deal with the Kurds for their autonomy within Syria?

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Escalating to Organized Violence is Always an Option

This author thinks the American cyber-retaliation was a good idea and that it represents a new form of warfare. Oh, so close.

Sure, this was a good idea in response to Iran's shoot-down of our drone in international airspace:

The future of warfare is now and the Pentagon knows it. How Iran responds will determine if greater cyber attacks might be employed. This was the right attack, it is the right threat to emphasize, and it is the dawn of a new kind of war that will shape the course of international relations.

Well, except that when a cyber attack is really effective, a target might just bomb in retaliation--as the Israelis did.

Of course, this is similar to the issue of economic warfare being effective--a target might decide that kinetics are little different than the pain from enduring economic warfare and respond with their own traditional military (including terrorism) means.

But we aren't likely to make that call because I think the status quo of non-kinetic pressure on Iran is working:

Yeah, the more I think about it, rather than hit Iran with our military I think we should exploit the Iranian attack to seriously increase the economic pressure on Iran. ...

We have a firm grip on Iran's throat and for now that is working just fine. So Iran has an interest in changing that, not us.

War will always mean death and destruction at some level depending on the stakes. Thinking we have new ways to avoid death and destruction is folly.

But I'm certainly grateful that our non-war options are--for now--the best option for opposing Iran.

Overtaking Russia

While Russia's submarine capabilities remain better than China's, China's naval power has likely surpassed the Russian fleet:

The PLA Navy now boasts a larger fleet of over 300 vessels while Russia has about 233 warships.

Also, most Russian naval power is in Europe and not the Pacific.

And the Chinese vessels are far more likely to be new and seaworthy, I imagine.

This transition could be relevant if China wants to stomp an inferior power that still has a reputation of great power status to signal their rise to power.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Fighting Iran in Iraq

Iranian assets in Iraq have harassed American forces. Iran has long had assets in Iraq and our presence can help Iraq reduce those assets.

Iran activated their assets in Iraq to target Americans:

For three days in a row this week, rockets have been fired at areas where U.S. forces or U.S. interests are located in Iraq. On Monday, rockets targeted Camp Taji, where the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS is training Iraqi security forces. On Tuesday, more rockets were fired at a compound in Mosul where U.S. troops are based. Then, another attack on Wednesday struck an oil facility near where ExxonMobil has employees.

Shia Iran has had influence in mostly Shia Iraq for a long time. Saddam's minority Sunni Arab regime naturally led oppressed Iraqi Arab Shias to look to Shia Iran for support. Saddam ordered the invasion of revolution-wracked Iran because of that influence, believing the chaos in Iran gave Iraq an opportunity to knock Iran down.

The 1991 Persian Gulf War weakened Saddam and gave Iran an opportunity to expand influence, but Saddam put down Shia uprisings in the south following the war.

And in 2003 when the U.S.-led invasion overthrew Saddam, the now dominant majority Shias were freed from Sunni oppression. By linking up with jihadis funneled in from Syria, Iran began the process of alienating Iraqi Arab Shias from Shia--but Persian--Iran; and also getting the Sunni Arabs to rethink their insurgency and terrorism because of the proxy invasion of Iraq orchestrated by Iran.

That post foreshadowed the Awakening that flipped the Sunni Arabs and also the fight against the pro-Iran Shia death squads. The Iraqi Kurds were already--since 1991--with America. So we had a solid base of support in Iraq by 2011.

Unfortunately, following our battlefield victory, our troops were ordered out of Iraq at the end of 2011. In our absence, Iranian influence increased in the vacuum, and the quality of Iraq's officer corps declined greatly as Iraq's leaders selected officers for loyalty--to resist that Iranian influence and the threat of coups--rather than competence. And the Iraqi government alienated the Sunni Arabs to fight for influence in the majority Shias who (rightly, it must be admitted) resented the Sunni Arab history of oppression and the more recent terror campaign under al Qaeda.

As a result, the revival of al Qaeda as ISIL took place, and the 2014 uprisings in the north and west succeeded as the enfeebled Iraqi security forces--because of lack of leadership--collapsed in the face of the widespread attacks in June.

Iranian influence was further expanded as Iran stepped into the gap to form militias to replace the army and police forces that disappeared in the blink of an eye.

America at least reacted to this mistake of leaving by entering Iraq War 2.0 in late 2014. It took several years, but the ISIL caliphate that spanned Iraq and Syria was finally broken up, with the Battle for Mosul the epic campaign that signaled the destruction of the caliphate in Iraq.

American forces have remained in Iraq to continue the training of Iraqi forces and to bolster Iraq's ability to claw back control of the Iranian-controlled or influenced militias; and, yes, to watch Iran from our positions in Iraq.

Unfortunately, that Iranian influence is still strong enough to get local forces to launch rockets at American targets in Iraq.

It will take time and effort to allow Iraqi Shias to more fully feel like Arabs despite the fact that most of the Arab world is Sunni rather than  identify as Shias who need fellow Shia--but Persian--Iran for support.

America must remain in Iraq to provide that support and to provide the assurance that leadership in Iraq will be decided by ballots and not bullets, which allows the leadership the luxury of supporting a competent officer corps rather than one selected for loyalty.

That outcome will be a serious defeat for Iran.

UPDATE: Iran needs ISIL to justify Iran's presence in Iraq; and ISIL needs Iran to piss off Shias enough to support the remnants of ISIL in Iraq

The Future Ship of Research Past

The Navy's next major surface warfare warship is already shaping up:

The Navy’s next large surface combatant will probably look more like the futuristic Zumwalt class of guided-missile destroyers than fleet’s current workhorse class of Arleigh Burke destroyers, the program executive officer said.

Of course it will. I did say that Zumwalt would live on in future ships:

By canceling the ship class, it looks fiscally responsible but it really isn't. It's just accounting, since the next ship built using the exact same technology that by the rules has to be counted against the cost of the ship the research was done for will use Zumwalt technology that is now already paid for. Voila! A cheaper warship.

So here we go. Waste not, want not.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Boom-less Fire Support

Will fire support become effects support?

This is interesting:

Tactical commanders should have the power to unleash cyber attacks on an enemy in exactly the same way they can currently unleash an artillery barrage, says retired French Army Lt. Gen. Alain Bouquin.

I've mentioned that:

In my ideal world, fire support is a black box where a call to destroy or suppress a target automatically calls in the appropriate weapon capable of taking out the target in a timely manner without the soldier making the support request even knowing what asset provided the support.

It could be a plane or space system out of sight, an attack helicopter, a ship or submarine offshore, a distant ground force missile or artillery asset, or even an 81mm mortar back at the company level.

If cyber weapons can suppress the target or add to the fires mission success--perhaps by negating point defenses against fires missions or information operations highlighting a path of retreat open to the enemy before the rounds hit to get them to retreat, for example--it is automatically plugged in to the mission.

We'll get there.

Of Course Taiwan Needs an Army

The idea that Taiwan should only try to stop a Chinese invasion force before it reaches Taiwan rather than improving the Taiwanese ground forces to defeat the PLA troops that land on Taiwan is dangerously laughable.

Taiwan will buy more weapons and ammunition from America. Seriously?

The proposed arms package includes 108 main battle tanks, 250 Stinger anti-air missiles, as well as 409 Javelin and 1,240 TOW anti-tank missiles. This would be fine if Taiwan were preparing for a ground war, but the real conflict if China invades will be at sea and in the air. Taiwan should focus on acquiring the most cost-effective methods of stopping a Chinese invading force before it lands.

I don’t believe a crust defense can stop China off of Taiwan. Sizable forces will make it ashore through any gauntlet given the overwhelming Chinese naval, air, and economic advantage. Combined with the ability to choose the timing of invasion, Taiwan must defend in depth.

And if Taiwan’s ground forces can’t quickly crush the bridgeheads and airheads before the PLA gets organized, China will defeat Taiwan and crush their island democracy.

Witness Hong Kong where China is trying to crush freedom 32 years ahead of schedule. Do the Taiwanese think China will be squeamish about ending freedom fast on Taiwan where no agreement to let the local system exist for fifty years?

So yeah, Taiwan had best prepare for a ground war like their lives and freedom depend on it.

UPDATE: And of course, in addition to having capabilities across all the domains, Taiwan needs the ability to fight in the time domain: for as long as it takes to win.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Weekend Data Dump

The Army is getting heavier. When the latest round of two brigades upgrading, the active Army will have 11 armored, 7 Stryker, and 13 infantry brigades; while the National Guard will have 5, 2, and 20. I like to note brigade counts when I see them for future reference.

As I get older I believe less and less that people are basically good. I think it is easy to think people are basically good when you live in a good country. But that is because a good country reinforces the impulses to be good and reduces the desire to be evil through both societal pressure and legal sanction. And more and more I fear that we don't value the structures in our country that allow us the luxury to believe people are basically good. If those structures weaken, we'll miss them.

So what's up with political Europe's effort to replace geographic Europe? In my view, the European Union technocratic ruling class--supposedly "a disinterested class committed to efficiency and governance"--is not only not competent enough to trust to govern without proper oversight, but they are far from "disinterested" in how they rule. They--as human beings--have an interest in themselves and don't ever forget that. I think it is America's interests to have a geographic Europe and not a political Europe.

The story is neat, but shouldn’t the Asian cultures be hauled off to Woke Court for cultural appropriation? Isn’t that how this whole borrowing from other cultures thing works, according to The woke crowd?

It's not even a Grenada-level crisis let alone our generation's World War II, so calm the ef down.

Seriously, Russia thought they could "trade" Venezuela to America in exchange for America abandoning Ukraine?  I guess Putin thinks that Hillary's "reset" button is still working, or something. Honestly, sometimes I think the funniest thing (although not for the suffering Venezuelan people, of course) that could happen would be for Russia to "win" Venezuela and be responsible for propping up that inept tyrant Maduro. As if modern Russian security interests would be enhanced by having a dependent vassal state in South America. As if Russia is made of money they can dump on such a pointless objective.

See? Not everything has to be a political battle to the death. If even most states ban abortion, volunteer private actions can provide an answer.

Maybe something odd is going on with our tourists' health in the Dominican Republic, but it seems to me that this is kind of a normal death rate that is simply getting a lot of media attention.

In stark contrast, celebrities wouldn't even tell jokes about Obama, recall. Tip to Instapundit.

China's economy has unquestionably greatly expanded and improved over the last 30 years or so. But their statistics are still suspect and other measures may be needed to get more accurate estimates in the short term apart from the broad long-term changes.

More (anecdotal) evidence that the supply of hate crimes is insufficient to meet the demands of activists and their media partners.

The British are finally thinking about upgrading their old tanks and infantry fighting vehicles

It is interesting that so many on the left insist we must focus on doing things now for future generations. Which is fine, as far as it goes (that is, it shouldn't go so far as to support doing stupid things for future generations). But the left has very little concern for doing things now that reflect the experience of past generations, even if we don't understand their reasons for what they left to us.

France gave notice that their military presence in West Africa to fight jihadis isn't open ended.

Democrats like to complain that Republicans don’t “own” the American flag. As I’ve quipped, that charge would work better if they didn’t react to it the way vampires react to sunlight and Holy Water. Democrats only haul out the flag during election season. But the flag isn’t wrapping paper for any country they wish to give us. The flag represents our constitutional republic under our Constitution. And it is distressing that our First and Second Amendments are becoming Republican-only values. Are Democrats going through our bill of rights in numerical order to abandon them?

Oh good, a government—the British one this time—has the power to say what is it is not a “harmful” gender stereotype.

European governments used to comfort themselves by insisting that the Iraq War caused their jihadi problem. I always thought that 9/11 was a glaring hole in that theory. Regardless, Europeans seem to know better now.

How the enemy became the most lethal threat to our troops in combat.

Because they both hate the West and democratic freedom?

If the majority of drug addicts on the West Coast are addicts, housing subsidies or zoning changes are worthless for helping people who will buy drugs before shelter.

I’ve often said our war on terror is really a holding action while the Islamic world resolves its civil war over whether jihadis get to define Islam for all Moslems. Well, here’s a dose of “that’s going to take a while.

The Russians are still trying to build an NCO corps to make their army more effective.

The Iranian attack on a Japanese tanker was a big "eff you" to Japan who hoped to use diplomacy on resolving the low-level crisis (no, I'm not worried we want war because sanctions are clearly hurting the now over-extended Iranian efforts around the Middle East; and I think even the Iranians recognize war would make a bad situation worse). And while we may need to strike back at Iran when they hit us, our lack of direct oil imports from the region means we can insist on taking on only a supporting role--because general economic prosperity is needed to encourage our trade--to local allies and their well-armed friendly customers if they feel the need to protect the tanker traffic.

Even if Trump is as bad as those who hate Trump say he is, it is horrible that Democrats are trying to destroy our institutions--undermining a lawfully elected president with fantasy accusations of Russian collusion, ending the Electoral College, packing the Supreme Court, ending the ideal of nonpartisan news reporting, allowing non-citizens or imprisoned felons or minors to vote, to name just those that come to mind--in the name of ... wait for it ... their charge that Trump is destroying our institutions. In Roman history I recall a warning that it was better to endure bad emperors than to wage civil war to remove them because Rome could endure a bad emperor but that accepting that civil war is a legitimate tool to change emperors would destroy the empire. Democrats should understand that destroying the institutions that allowed Trump to win (perhaps look harder in the mirror to deal with the fact that you selected a horrible candidate who managed to lose to Trump!) will harm them in the future, even if they don't care about the harm to America. And note that I never rejected Obama as our legitimately elected president. Not one damn time. If Democrats weren't acting so much worse than Trump, who I've disliked for a long time as TDR records, I'd have qualms--guilt even--about voting for Trump in 2020. Right now I'm fine with it. That situation is clearly unlikely to change between now and then.

This discussion of China's power and influence is interesting. China doesn't seem to be getting much for their financial investment. But is using UN General Assembly votes a real measure of influence when GA votes are meaningless and can be a cheap way to curry favor in a cost-free display without any real consequences? I just don't know if that data is used because it is available rather than because it is a good measure.

Well thanks you bastards. I'd suggest that we respond by helping their main threats get nuclear weapons, but both countries already have nukes to threaten the other.

Okay, this is kind of funny. If Russia provokes the West out of a self esteem issue to prove to themselves that they matter, a chart using this site showing the frequency of the word "Soviet" in the New York Times from 1970 to 1991 and another chart showing the frequency of the word "Russia" from 1992 to 2017 has to be humbling for Putin. Even at its peak in 2017 (the last year available), use of "Russia" doesn't even get close to matching the nadir of the mention "Soviet" in 1977.  This is imperfect, of course. Perhaps a search of "soviet" and "USSR" would be more accurate in the earlier period. But I'm hoping editorial practice would at least require spelling out the first use. And the site does not generate links to each which is why I describe them instead of linking charts I generated.

Socialism operates on "from each according to their ability and to each according to their need." Sadly for that theory, only the latter part is compatible with humans as we exist in the real world. Still, in Venezuela you have to admit that stealing from the dead is fine under their theory because the dead need so little. Hoarders! And ultimately more dead can be created to steal from. That also works under their theory of governance.

In your dreams, nutballs. I don't think the Iranians are anywhere near completing the kill chain to make that claim believable.

I noted Ukraine's new jager unit. Strategypage has more on the unit.

Wow, has the unjustified panic over GMO in America really broken? If so, what other panics might fade in the absence of actual disaster?

Recognizing valor--by the numbers.

Is China's effort to push a Hong Kong extradition bill a sign of Chinese political weakness? One can hope. Because we can't make China a better place with friendly policies. I've long said that China's economic rise had a large component of moving peasants into factories, and that simple input is fading in importance. These may be interesting times.

Fake news. Tip to Instapundit. But if the purpose is to advance a political party rather than inform, it's all good.

Not just inept, corrupt, and willing to risk our national security with her security violations, she's also just plain awful. If Trump did nothing other than preventing her from leading America, he'd have my eternal gratitude.

I enjoyed my now-annual trip to the middle of nowhere which allows me to test my ability to go a couple weeks without beer. Success!

The Navy has enough of a problem with efficiently building warships without Congress bouncing the cost-overun rubble.

I still care about the dangerously high national debt, but I've grown weary of caring when any reduced spending or increased taxation (or just increased revenue from growth) is swamped by increased spending in other areas. I'm in the class that will be hammered. The rich can ride out high inflation and the poor have little to lose while the government will still provide a safety net. People in my position will find they need that safety net as our modest assets are made worthless by inflation. Every president and Congress does worse than the earlier ones. Have a super sparkly day. Tip to Instapundit.

I fully support this idiocy.

Venezuela teeters on the edge of collapse, barely sustained only by an invasion of American dollars. Maduro clings to power amidst the exploding poverty. Does Hollywood still applaud Venezuelan socialism?

Russia's government: not only a bunch of bastards abroad!

I'm getting a bad feeling about this summer. I'm seeing more "shark summer" stories that seem to rise in the absence of actual news. That can't last.

So is the purpose of this visit to lay down the law on de-nuclearizing or to collude in keeping China's pet psycho properly aimed at China's foes?

I find it humorous that Democrats claimed Trump would wreck our economy when he was elected, but when the economy took off after his election and policies took effect, Democrats claimed that the good news is because of Obama.

To be fair, she's also comfortable being ignorant.

Erdogan says Turkey will take delivery of Russian S-400 air defense missiles next month. So consequences will rain down on Turkey. Which is good, because we have an Erdogan crisis and not an S-400 crisis. This re-vote in Istanbul smacks of tyranny, although I should be happy Erdogan can't--yet--just order the results he wants ahead of time. And (tip to Instapundit) a late whoa: Erdogan lost the do-over election in Istanbul big time. If Erdogan lets this vote stand, of course.

Hiftar's (or Haftar) offensive to take Tripoli continues to crawl, meaning he's having trouble bringing up reinforcements without stripping areas he holds of troops that might risk losing those areas to a counter-attack.

Good grief, we can't actually trust business links found on Google maps.

A century ago the defeated Germans scuttled their fleet in British harbors.  I've read, long ago, that those ships remained a source of high quality steel uncontaminated by radioactivity (from above-ground nuclear tests) during the Cold War. I assume that is still true.

China deployed J-10 fighters to Woody Island in the South China Sea--a first. If China uses those fighters to try to enforce their illegal territorial claims in the region, American and allied aircraft that defy those claims will be under threat.

While I am in general in support of general purpose troops rather than specializing in one type of combat, this author is right that the Army has gone too far in consolidating MOS types for the infantry.

I've noted that complaints about Trump exploitation of "emergency" provisions to divert money for border barriers because the situation is not a true emergency is nonsensical. The provision is just a word and the word is defined in the statute. If the statutes allowed the power for a "crisis" or a "problem" or a mere "inconvenience" the power would be exactly the same. Note that in Oregon legislation can become law upon the governor's signature if the bill has an "emergency" statement added to it. Do Oregonians really battle over what is an "emergency" or not? In Michigan, we simply call that giving a bill "immediate effect" without any loaded words. But they are the same thing. So just stop.

I remain conflicted over whether the charge that America operates "concentration camps" on our southern border is more ignorant than it is offensive.

The Senate vote to deny arms sales to Saudi Arabia continues to reflect the success of Iran's propaganda effort.

Seeking a "stable" Iran now while nutball mullahs run the country simply locks in place the nutball rulers. So, no.

Our friends the Chinese.

The Navy is sending the hospital ship Comfort back south to help Venezuelan refugees fleeing Maduro's socialist paradise.

American communists praise the policies of the Democratic Party. If I was as partisan as Democrats who claim that tiny alt-Right support for Trump means that all people who support Trump are deplorable alt-Righters, I'd ask why do genocidal and dictatorial communists find the Democratic Party so appealing? Doesn't that support by a small number of beyond-deplorable communists bitterly clinging to Marx and guns mean that all Democrats are supporters of genocide and tyranny? Why does the concept of "tainting" only apply to Republicans? The fact is that people extend support for various reasons, and so the support of scum can be based on factors that don't motivate the vast majority of people who support the same people or organizations. See how easy it is not to be a judgmental partisan hack?

F**k you! F**k me. Fascinating. Tip to Instapundit.

Okay, at this point Skynet is just playing with us the way cats toy with mice, right? My stockpile of incandescent bulbs doesn't torment me. Tip to Instapundit.

Those noting that Iran backed down after a 1988 naval clash with America in the Persian Gulf should note that Iran was at war with Iraq at that time, and getting their ass handed to them and losing the will to fight after nearly 8 years of stalemated attrition. We were a secondary enemy. Indeed, the Ayatollah Khomeini tried--and failed--to use the clash with America to rally Iranians to renew their support for the war with Iraq. Iran soon accepted a ceasefire with Iraq. So the situation now in any potential clash with Iran in the Persian Gulf is way different and I wouldn't draw parallels between then and now too closely.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Forever War--But That's Not Our Fault

Strategypage looks at Afghanistan.

The place is a failed state--or perhaps more accurately a never-was-a-state--for a number of reasons.

Islam cripples the geographic location as it does in other places because it is a unified theory of religion-state; and a violent fanatical minority likes it that way and will kill to achieve it--or at least stop any other method, like democracy and rule of law.

Iran and Pakistan find a weaker Afghanistan useful.

And peace talks are really just another way that the Taliban are trying to win--which the talks hopefully expose so more people will oppose the Taliban.

Do read it all. And have a super sparkly day.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Getting What They Wanted?

So about that alleged Russian-Trump election collusion.


The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said. ...

The intent of the operations was described in different ways by several current and former national security officials. Some called it “signaling” Russia, a sort of digital shot across the bow. Others said the moves were intended to position the United States to respond if Mr. Putin became more aggressive. ...

After Mr. Trump’s inauguration, Russian hackers kept escalating attacks.

Mr. Trump’s initial cyberteam decided to be far more public in calling out Russian activity. [emphasis added]

One, Trump is not letting Russia get away with Russian cyber-warfare, which Obama failed to do with equal vigor.

But not only has Trump ramped up our cyber-offensive efforts against Russia in response to Russia's long record if hitting us and our friends, Russia escalated their own efforts against America after their so-called colluding puppet won the presidency.

Huh. It's almost as if the whole charge is BS.


The idea that Russia welcomes a "frozen" conflict in Ukraine is nonsense.

Like most decisions to start a war, the Russians thought Ukraine would be over fast:

The Russian government is furious and frustrated at the stalemate in Donbas because instead of collapsing in 2014 the Ukrainians mobilized nationwide to confront the Russian threat. Russia has no easy solution for this problem and it just seems to get worse. Russian opinion polls (which remain relatively free of corruption and manipulation) show declining popular support for the Ukrainian “operation.” The government tried to hide the extent of its involvement in Donbas and the number of Russian casualties. While the Syrian War still has popular support the Ukraine is seen as a disaster and embarrassment.

I've argued against the idea that stalemate is playing into Russia's hands:

The idea that Russia wants "frozen conflicts" as a matter of policy to maintain influence rather than representing a Plan B because Russia is still weak and can't simply conquer places seems obviously ridiculous. Did Russia seek a frozen conflict in Crimea? Hell no, Russia took it and annexed it. Case closed. Move along, nothing to see. And if Russia had the opportunity to win in other frozen conflicts they'd take it.

Russia wages limited war because their means are limited:

So Russia is developing a strategy of limited actions that codifies their recent history? Meh. They can dress it up all they like but it is still a reflection of weakness. Russia would roll in with mass armor and carpet bombing if they thought they could do that and wrap up a crisis in a month.

Keep in mind that "freezing" the war is not just a Russian decision:

The Trump administration will deploy $250 million worth of military aid and equipment – some of it lethal – to Ukraine's armed forces as it seeks to deter Russian aggression amid a recent spike in hostile acts, the Defense Department confirmed Tuesday. ...

The new equipment the U.S. will provide includes sniper rifles for Ukraine's special operations forces, as well as grenade launchers, counter-artillery radars and equipment to detect and protect against electronic warfare. The Obama administration and initially President Donald Trump balked at sending lethal weapons to Ukraine reportedly for fear of provoking Moscow, despite pressure from Congress. Trump authorized sending Javelin anti-tank missiles in 2017.

The U.S. will also increase its support to the Ukrainian navy and maritime troops, following last year's crisis at the Kerch Strait resulting in Russia's capturing 24 Ukrainian seamen, who remain in detention under the auspices of criminal proceedings.

There is quite an industry that takes anything Russia does and then dresses it up as a deep chess move that is outsmarting the world.

Chimps with nukes, I say.

Thursday, June 20, 2019


Will something Iranian blow up after this attack on Thursday in international airspace?

The [Iranian Revolutionary] Guard said it shot down the [American] drone over Iranian airspace, while two U.S. officials told The Associated Press that the downing happened over international airspace in the Strait of Hormuz. The different accounts could not be immediately reconciled.

Assuming our drone really was in international airspace and that the differing accounts can be reconciled by assuming the Iranians are lying (or mistaken--or we could be mistaken in theory, although it is unlikely the drone deliberately crossed into Iranian territorial airspace), Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces will suffer for this.

Given that we designated the group as a terrorist organization, there shouldn't be a legal problem striking back. Will it be done quietly or openly?

If we have a military response, I'd hit Revolutionary Guard anti-ship missile assets. And we should openly make it known that our problem is with the Guards and not the regular military to encourage the regulars to stay out of the way. Iran's Revolutionary Guards say they are "ready for war," but even if that is true, Iran is not ready. Will Iranians be happy to let the Guard nutballs drag Iran into war?

I don't think we should wage a war against Iran, but letting the Revolutionary Guards get away with this would be a mistake.

Still, it was an unmanned asset. Since we suffered no casualties, one option would be to tighten sanctions tighter than we could otherwise do. How could European countries like Germany cave in to Iranian demands over salvaging the horrible Iran nuclear deal that is nothing but a shield to let Iran go nuclear? I mean, with that American restraint in the face of Iranian escalation, how could Europeans reach out to Iran?

If Iranians in general blame the Guards for this worsening of Iran's economy as a result, the blowback on the Guards could be convenient.

Yeah, the more I think about it, rather than hit Iran with our military I think we should exploit the Iranian attack to seriously increase the economic pressure on Iran.

UPDATE: I'm hearing talk of how bad a war with Iran would be. It assumes we invade Iran with a multi-division force. We wouldn't do that in a war. We'd use air and naval power, with ground power--if used--limited to offshore islands that Iran controls in the Hormuz Strait and Persian Gulf.

Iran doesn't want even a war limited to the seas and the air. Their preferred strategy is to beat their chest and fling poo, hoping we are scared away.

Which works on some people.

UPDATE: Well that's interesting:

The United States abruptly called off preparations for a military strike against Iran over the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone, a U.S. official said, while Iran claimed Friday it had issued several warnings before shooting down the drone over what it said was Iranian territory.

Is this the worst of both worlds? We prepare to strike which worries Europeans, but change our minds which emboldens Iran?

Or did the threat of attacks get the Europeans to move on their pro-Iranian positions?

We clearly intend to do something in response. What will that be?

UPDATE: This is pure speculation, but was the attack called off because of contacts between the Iranian government and our government to avoid a war that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards may want to start?

UPDATE: Although it is not clear that the Revolutionary Guards really act without government approval even if they act without specific orders.

And even if the Guards are dangerously autonomous, would America's government be given the benefit of the doubt if we claimed we had no real control over what our Air Force bombs?

UPDATE: Television news says we sent a message to Iran via Oman that we want to talk, but the Iranians rejected the offer. So perhaps the planned strike goes through tonight.

The American offer to talk may at least nullify European reactions against a strike by showing we will try to avoid it.

If we strike, I hope we also tighten economic screws. And get our allies ready to escort tanker traffic in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea.

UPDATE: That's interesting:

The Federal Aviation Administration has prohibited "all U.S. carriers and commercial operators" from flying over the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, near Iran, in the wake of the country shooting down an unmanned drone early Thursday.

I'll point out that one of our ships accidentally shot down an Iranian airliner in 1988 when the plane flew through an area where American and Iranian forces were in combat in the Persian Gulf.

If even a small number of Iranians in the Revolutionary Guards or the government in general believe the 1988 attack was deliberate, three decades later they might think they have a chance at revenge. So best to be careful out there.

UPDATE: Yeah. We have a firm grip on Iran's throat and for now that is working just fine. So Iran has an interest in changing that, not us.

UPDATE: We deny reaching out to Iran via Oman.

UPDATE: Tighten those screws:

A multinational task force said Friday it is keeping Iran on a financial blacklist for failing to take action to head off funds flowing to terrorists.

The 38-nation Financial Action Task Force (FATF) said it will require more onerous financial oversight if Tehran fails to meet an October deadline for improving its controls.



President Donald Trump said Saturday that the United States would impose "major" new sanctions on Iran in two days -- a move sure to exacerbate tensions with the Islamic republic inflamed by the downing of a US spy plane.

Although note that what "inflames" the situation is not the fact that Iran shot down one of our drones over international waters but that we will put sanctions on Iran rather than strike Iran in retaliation.

UPDATE: And we retaliated with a cyber attack.

A High-Tech World War I Western Front

The ability to reduce the work load at the pointy end of the stick in calling in fires and effects is an important capability to gain. It will speed up battle tempo. Until it doesn't.

This is what I'm talking about:

The days are coming when a squad leader on a battlefield, far from headquarters and large supporting units, will pull out something that looks like a smartphone, open an app and push a button and something in front of his squad will explode.

That’s one piece of a large vision that is emerging from work being done by the Pentagon’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force, said one of its originators, retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales.

A long time ago I noted the effect of the beginnings of that precision ability on speeding up battle tempo:

Coupled with recon assets that now roam the battlefield, precision strike capability will continue this speeding up effect. Our ground forces can look to the day in conventional combat where we kick off attacks and count on our forces to spot enemies during the advance and then destroy them with precision weapons when identified. The speed of reaction may very well allow us to fight in damn near march order in non-urban areas without having to pause to deploy against resistance unless it is a major force well dug in and concealed.

And precision fire support means that line units won't need to fire as much because supporting units to the rear and in the air will take out the targets. And those supporting units won't need to resupply as often, too. So pauses to resupply will dwindle.

Given that night vision gear and land navigation abilities based on GPS allow us to operate 24/7, the limits of human endurance will be the next brake on the speed of combat tempo. We're working on that, too.

I know I blogged about 3rd Infantry Division's cavalry squadron in the 2003 invasion of Iraq reflecting this speed/precision link, but it must be on the mostly dead Yahoo!Geocities version of The Dignified Rant pre-December 2004.

And I recently noted my wish for the days described in that article at the top:

In my ideal world, fire support is a black box where a call to destroy or suppress a target automatically calls in the appropriate weapon capable of taking out the target in a timely manner without the soldier making the support request even knowing what asset provided the support.

It could be a plane or space system out of sight, an attack helicopter, a ship or submarine offshore, a distant ground force missile or artillery asset, or even an 81mm mortar back at the company level.

If cyber weapons can suppress the target or add to the fires mission success--perhaps by negating point defenses against fires missions or information operations highlighting a path of retreat open to the enemy before the rounds hit to get them to retreat, for example--it is automatically plugged in to the mission.

Indeed, if the target is close to civilians, perhaps the call for fire support triggers automatic telephone warnings to civilian numbers near the target if there is time before the rounds need to hit.

And if there is automatic deconfliction between aerial assets and artillery to avoid the former being hit by the latter by being in the same air space, that would be great, too.

Of course, that speeding up of battle tempo will only help us as long as we alone have the capability. Once both sides have it, stalemate and attrition will rule the battlefield. Dispersal does not mean the lack of front lines any more than the lack of soldiers standing shoulder-to-shoulder means there isn't  front line.

When anything that emits--including the act of moving under surveillance--can be attacked and killed, a war of movement becomes nearly impossible while the enemy capability to see and shoot across the battlefield seamlessly as  the Combat Lethality Task Force is pursuing remains intact.

It's just that firepower will define the front more and more as the troop dispersal trend continues.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Math that Argues for a Ground War

The recent spasm of rockets from Gaza* highlights why Israel would need a ground invasion into southern Lebanon to stop a much larger Hezbollah barrage.

Israel faced the weakness of their Iron Dome defensive system:

While the Israeli Iron Dome anti-rocket system has been successful since it entered service in 2011, a May 2019 attack with 700 rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza demonstrated a known weakness. Although Iron Dome has handled 2,1oo interceptions since 2011 the recent May attack was the first time the Islamic terrorists deliberately tried to exploit the one known weakness; you can overwhelm an Iron Dome battery if you fire too many projectiles in a short period of time. The 2019 attack killed four Israelis and wounded 130. The concentrated rocket fire meant 14 percent of rockets headed for populated areas were not stopped. Worse, the Palestinians were using larger rockets fired at more distant (and densely populated) targets. In previous attacks Iron Dome had intercepted 90 percent of rockets headed for populated areas.

I've noted the weakness before. Which is why I think that if the Israelis face a sustained rocket barrage--as Hezbollah in southern Lebanon can initiate--the only way to defend against them is to occupy the rocket-launching sites with ground troops:

While I keep reading that Israel has greatly improved their ability to hit targets from the air, this continues the basic error of 2006. I think the aerial focus was the problem in the 2006 war and turning the aerial campaign to 11 is the wrong lesson.

I think the Israelis need to send in the ground troops to occupy the rocket launching areas and drive north into Hezbollah's rear areas to really tear up Hezbollah.

I just don't believe that an air campaign can stop the rockets. Keep in mind that the system was really just designed to protect a small number of military targets in war and only popular outcry has led to its use to protect civilians.

Although the Hezbollah arsenal of larger and longer range rockets is a greater threat, Israel's Iron Dome can at least identify those more dangerous rockets and focus on destroying them rather than the smaller rockets that will be part of the barrage aimed at Israeli civilians.

But is Hezbollah so broke because American sanctions are squeezing their Iranian paymasters (after suffering so many casualties fighting for Assad in Syria) that it will keep its head down and avoid fighting Israel? Will Israel consider that faux peace good enough to resist the chance to hit Hezbollah while they are down, as I have long expected?

One thing that the initial Strategypage post notes is that Israel faces 10,000 rockets in Gaza and 30,000 in southern Lebanon. Just a few years ago the Hezbollah arsenal was pegged at 100,000. Is this a revision or a mistake?

*Keep in mind that deliberately trying to kill civilians the way Palestinians in Gaza did is a war crime. You don't even need to get into the rules of war that consider the factors of whether a military objective is involved in a strike that kills civilians by accident or whether the target uses civilian human shields. (And yes, from that first link, Hezbollah does the latter: "Hezbollah has built homes, hospitals, Mosques and schools over these [rocket] stockpiles.")

And let's not get into the "proportionality" nonsense that often raises its ugly head.

The Shangri-La of Subs

This author argues that Taiwan really needs submarines to stop a Chinese invasion:

Taiwan’s surface navy is no position to contest the South China Sea in any kind of pitched conflict with the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Taiwan’s political leadership has only recently begun to come to grips with the reality that sea-control is no longer a viable military strategy. Instead, Taiwan’s only recourse against a qualitatively and quantitatively stronger Chinese navy lies in Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) tactics. A sizeable fleet of modernized Taiwanese attack submarines could impose serious costs on Chinese vessels operating in the Taiwan Strait, ambushing their target with close-distance torpedo or anti-ship missile saturation strikes.

I've been all over that for years. Although I think the traditional Taiwanese surface navy has a role in trying to keep Taiwan's sea lines of communication open east of the island.

One advantage is that America can (now that we have returned Harpoon to our subs) intervene quietly before we are overtly ready to confront China.

If Taiwan has Harpoon missiles on their subs, we can all marvel at how effective those scrappy little boats are sinking Chinese ships left and right.

And if you doubt that, prove those were American boats doing the shooting! My guess is they could be launched from Shangri-La.

Unable to buy the boats from other suppliers due to pressure from China (and America does not build them), Taiwan has belatedly embarked on a program to build their own. Let's hope it isn't too late.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Bouncing the Reaction Rubble

So permanently stationing a small number of American forces in Poland will cause Russia to react?

For more than a year, the United States and Poland have been in talks over such an agreement, which Polish officials have indicated could be finalized by as soon as Sept. 1. However, such a fixed U.S. presence near Russia will undoubtedly spur Moscow to ramp up its own military presence near Poland's borders — placing Warsaw squarely in the middle of Moscow and Washington's increasingly heated great power competition.

For more than two decades Poland has been exposed to Russia. Being in the middle is an improvement for Warsaw, no?

As for causing Russia to threaten NATO, Russia has been doing that even as NATO has lacked the forces, logistics, or even plans to defend new eastern NATO members.

The main reason we are looking at permanent forces is to counter Russia’s ability to attack NATO reinforcements to Poland by using air defense and surface-to-surface missiles located in Kaliningrad.

Further, are you seriously going to argue that the Russians see our post-2014 constant rotation of an armored brigade into Poland as less than “fixed?”

The great power competition is purely the result of Russian hostility even when NATO was content to demilitarize and ignore Russia.

So don’t even talk to me about provoking Russia.