Saturday, August 31, 2019

More Please

INDOPACOM is our priority theater and we need more bases in the Pacific:

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper today called for expanding base locations in the Pacific while continuing regular freedom of navigation operations in the region, as part of a broader attempt to stymie China’s influence.

I'm all in favor of avoiding having too many eggs in too few baskets:

When China had difficulty even knowing what we were doing over the horizon, it didn't matter that we had concentrated assets near China. Now that China can strike throughout the western Pacific, that matters a lot.

To reduce the impact of being hit by a theater-wide Pearl Harbor (and to reduce the temptations for China to try that) we are dispersing our assets (especially away from Okinawa) in the western Pacific, from Japan to Australia, with the Philippines, and Singapore in between.

More please. We need places to put intermediate range conventional missiles.

The Cure May Be Worse Than the Disease

Is China's military capable of using its shiny new gear as a result of their "peace disease?" Russia had best double the watch and check their ammo.

China lacks combat experience and training may be insufficient to approach that level of learning:

The [Chinese Communist Party] is concerned that the PLA [People's Liberation Army] doesn’t understand the intensity of modern combat. ...

Better training alone is unlikely to cure the PLA’s peace disease. Timothy Heath from the RAND Corporation notes that even ‘combat experience does not automatically translate into military advantage’; militaries must go further and internalise the lessons from combat operations and training exercises. Dennis J. Blasko has shown that the PLA does have a record of providing self-assessments of training performance, which may institutionalise good practice in preparation for modern conflict. Though some of these measures might be accurate, the PLA also suffers from inaccurate assessments of its own performance during basic training and combat exercises.

Russia should worry that the CCP will decide that a short and glorious war against weakened Russia is the sort of war that could give the PLA needed combat experience and focus future training and weapons development.

But China should worry that Russia won't play its role of getting stomped and accepting it.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Recalculating

Does Hezbollah really want to give Israel an excuse to rip their hearts out?

Okay:

Iran-backed Hezbollah is preparing a "calculated strike" against Israel in response to two drones that crashed in Beirut at the weekend, two sources close to Hezbollah told Reuters on Tuesday.

Israel is hammering Iran in Syria and now in Iraq. So naturally Iran would like their sock puppet Hezbollah to distract Israel. Because Iran is willing to fight Israel to the last Arab, don't you know?

And Israel fights back despite Iran using Arab countries as proxy warriors who get to take the casualties:

The long shadow war between Israel and Iran has burst into the open in recent days, with Israel allegedly striking Iran-linked targets as far away as Iraq and crash-landing two drones in Hezbollah-dominated southern Beirut.

Although I say again, despite what the article states, that Iran's campaign against Israel is what raises tensions and not Israel fighting back.

Speaking of that campaign:

[Israeli] Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said Thursday that Israel has detected an "intensified" effort by Iran and Hezbollah to establish missile-production facilities in Lebanon. He released the names of four officials, led by an Iranian brigadier general, allegedly leading the effort.

"Iran and Hezbollah are endangering Lebanon," he said.

Huh. So striking Hezbollah would help an endangered Lebanon, right?

But if Hezbollah does indeed attempt a big strike on Israel--or just builds up the ability to do so--Israel might take that opportunity to do what I've long suspected Israel would attempt--launch what is essentially a multi-division ground raid (with air support, of course) into Lebanon all the way to Baalbek to tear up Hezbollah's infrastructure and kill as many Hezbollah trained rear echelon types as possible. Grabbing files and computers plus grabbing leaders who don't run fast enough.

Hezbollah has already lost a lot of fighters in Syria fighting other Arabs to keep Assad in power on orders from Iran.

Does Hezbollah really want to invite an Israeli campaign that really hammers Hezbollah and cripples them for a generation (or longer if a weak Lebanon can reassert territorial control over the resistance of a crippled Hezbollah)?

UPDATE: Yeah, keep poking the giant:

The Israeli military on Sunday said an anti-tank missile had been fired from Lebanon toward Israel, while the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah claimed it had scored a direct hit on an Israeli military vehicle.

One of these days, a small thing like that will be the justification to hammer Hezbollah.

UPDATE: Israel responded with artillery fire:

No one was hurt by the Israeli artillery fire, which lasted about two hours and hit fields near the border village of Maroun el-Ras and the nearby village of Yaroun.

The UN cruised through the area after to inspect. Pity the UN presence does nothing to interfere with Hezbollah.

For an organization of states the UN sure doesn't seem to care that a sub-state actor sponsored by Iran defies the state of Lebanon with impunity.

UPDATE: Interesting news from the August 24th post:

In Lebanon Israeli warplanes, including F-35s, hit several Hezbollah targets. There was to be a second wave of attacks but the Israelis noted that after the first attacks the Russians put several of their Su-35 fighters into the air off the Lebanese coast as if to confront any second wave of Israeli airstrikes. Those missions were canceled until the situation with Russian could be sorted out.

The Israelis would have won any clash, but their working relationship over Iran would have been severely stressed. Israel did not want to do that.

Conversely, Russia was willing to lose some planes and wreck their working relationship with Israel to essentially defend Iran?

Erdogan ... Chose Poorly

So how is Sultan Erdogan's plan to ditch their NATO ally America in favor of actual thug autocrat Putin's Russia going?

About like this:

The seizure by the Syrian government forces of Khan Sheikhun in the northwestern province of Idlib may change the agenda of Turkey-Russia relations.

Turkey thought Russia sided with Turkey in northwest Syria. But Russia does not, and backed a Syrian air strike on a Turkish convoy.

Turkey thinks it is getting a Russian friend by stiff-arming America.

But Russia doesn't need Turkey as a friend. Surely the Russians know that even if Turkey let Russia's Black Sea warships enter the Mediterranean Sea freely in war, that NATO would sink them all after a short but exciting life.

All Russia needs is for Turkey to be hostile enough to NATO to keep NATO out of the Black Sea.

Erdogan chose poorly.



The Syrian offensive backed by Russia continues:

Syrian government forces pressed ahead with their military offensive in Idlib, seizing a cluster of villages on the southeastern edges of the province on Thursday as the overall civilian death toll from the campaign rose further.

Perhaps Erdogan's replacement will choose wisely.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Lest the Chinese People Think the Republic is Really Theirs

China wants their companies to be instruments of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) repression. To be fair, the CCP wants everyone to be instruments of their oppression.

Enjoy your rising China:

Not too long ago, China “taking your job” meant its wages were far lower than Western alternatives, thus allowing it to “steal” blue-jean and iPhone factories.

But what if it meant getting you fired for what you believe? That’s apparently what happened last week to Rebecca Sy, a long-serving flight attendant at a subsidiary of the Hong Kong–based airline Cathay Pacific. Her crime: supporting the pro-democracy protests engulfing Hong Kong on her Facebook page.

Sy’s dismissal is just the most glaring example of a new stage in Beijing’s clampdown on widespread protests in the former British colony—arm-twisting Hong Kong companies to do the dirty work to ensure that their staff don’t take part in the demonstrations that have gripped the city through the summer. By threatening shareholder returns and employees’ livelihoods, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders seem to believe that they can finally quell Hong Kong’s demands for civil liberties.

This is all part of China's global effort to restrict criticism of China and to compel a good portrayal of China. That includes those Confucius Institutes around the world and funding think tanks here.

Ratchet up your worry when your Starbucks barrista  wants to have a conversation with you on respecting China.

Remember, China seriously worries accurate reports are a threat to CCP control of China.

UPDATE: China's missing millions:

Human rights groups estimate that between one and three million [Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities] are being detained right now in a dystopian network of “re-education” camps.

Sure, the estimates may be too high. But is it no less horrible if it is "just" 100,000?

Can China do the same in the heart of China to tens or hundreds of millions?

UPDATE: The Chinese are getting the ball rolling with just a few:

Activist Joshua Wong from the Demosisto party has been arrested in Hong Kong, along with fellow [protesters Agnes Chow and Andy Chan]. The arrests come ahead of a rally planned for this weekend.

What does this indicate?

UPDATE: Well, it seems to have worked:

The event organizer, the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), accepted the decision and called off the demonstration, but said it would continue to apply for permits to hold rallies and marches.

Will a largely leaderless movement show up anyway?

At some point when you are protesting oppression, you can't let the lack of a permit get in the way of your protests.

UPDATE: The Hong Kong police may arrest even more people that China wants arrested.

UPDATE: The first American resistance to the British in 1775 was an effort by American colonists to claim their rights as Englishmen within the British empire. It took a year of escalating conflict for Americans to declare independence.

I wonder how far along that path Hong Kongers are after trying to assert their rights as Hong Hong citizens of China under the agreement that transferred Hong Kong from Britain to China?

Do Hong Kongers feel like mere subjects without real rights? Has the course of human events there reached this stage?

Be Afraid of What is Routine in China

China rotated its Hong Kong garrison troops. China says this is routine. Apparently so. But it can still be done to their advantage in the struggle against protesters demanding their freedoms.

Okay:

China rotated troops in its People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong on Thursday, days before protesters planned to hold a march calling for full democracy for the Chinese-ruled city after three months of sometimes violent demonstrations.

Chinese state media described the troop movement as routine and Asian and Western diplomats watching PLA movements in the former British colony had been expecting it.

A rotation can basically double your troop strength for a short time as incoming and outgoing troops are very close.

China could send in troops more suitable--by training and equipment--to crushing protesters.

China could quietly send in more troops than are leaving.

China could reduce the air and naval component in order to have more ground forces under the normal garrison size.

So the rotation is surely routine. But the details of the rotation may not be.

If I was a Hong Konger I would not sleep easily knowing the PLA rotation is "routine." After all, this is pretty routine by now in China's Xinjiang province.

Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts

China's offer of large cheap loans through the Belt and Road Initiative (aka the New Silk Road or One Belt One Road (OBOR)) are a threat to sovereignty of the countries that take them. But I don't know if the local rulers who take their cut to allow the loans will care very much about their country's fate.

Perhaps we won't take the yummy looking cheese that seems to be sitting on that spring-loaded hammer:

Some African countries are canceling Chinese development projects and licenses as governments wake up to the potential risks of such deals.

Over the past few years, the regime in Beijing has played a huge part in African development projects. At the same time, there have been concerns about how it carries out those projects, often luring African countries into so-called debt traps with the potential to put national assets at risk in the event of a default on repaying their loans.

The infrastructure built with these loans will benefit China. But the locals?

“The Centre for Global Development has estimated that of the 68 countries currently hosting the BRI-funded projects, 23 countries are at risk of debt distress, and in eight of those countries future BRI-related financing raises serious concerns about sovereign debt sustainability,” the letter [that 16 U.S. senators wrote Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Secretary of State Pompeo] states. ...

As financially strapped countries negotiate with China to free themselves of mounting debt, Beijing has extracted onerous concessions, including equity in strategically important assets. Further, Beijing has repeatedly used economic pressure to affect foreign policy decisions.”

America has a role in getting those countries out of the debt trap before it springs:

Under the leadership of Administrator Mark Green, USAID recently pulled together a high-octane team of interagency technical specialists to help the government of Burma review plans for a multibillion-dollar Chinese-funded deep water port and industrial zone. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the team included USAID and State Department economists, diplomats and lawyers working as a public investment planning SWAT team of sorts. UK and Australian expertise also worked on the effort.

This is especially important to avoid the problem of the American-supported IMF getting calls to bail out the countries that can't repay the huge debts owed to China.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Watch the Assumptions

I missed this article although I probably noted the issue back in the spring when the China report was released. China wants to capture Taiwan, the report said:

However, China does not appear to be currently investing in the equipment likely required for a direct assault on Taiwan, such as large amphibious assault ships and medium landing craft necessary for a large beach assault, according to the report. The bulk of China’s recently created marine corps forces currently lack proper equipment or operational training.

“There is also no indication China is significantly expanding its landing ship force at this time – suggesting a direct beach-assault operation requiring extensive lift is less likely in planning,” the report states.

If China really wants Taiwan--and it is the most core of China's core territorial interests--and yet doesn't build up a marine and amphibious ship force to take the island, I think that the correct conclusion is not that China can't invade but that China sees an invasion looking way different than Saving Private Ryan.

And obviously my assumption on timing was way off. 

The Iran War: Iraqi Front

Iran continues to wreck whatever they touch in the region. Which is fine by Iran. They'll gladly fight Israel to the last Arab. Iraq is the latest front. And Israel has reacted. America needs to keep fighting Iran.

Israel has opened a new theater against Iran inside Iraq:

An Israeli airstrike on an Iranian weapons depot in Iraq, confirmed by U.S. officials, is threatening to destabilize security in the volatile country that has struggled to remain neutral in the conflict between Washington and Tehran.

I'm going to protest that Iran's presence in Iraq is the destabilizing factor and not Israel's reaction to it. Much the same could be said for Lebanon, Gaza, and Syria which are blessed by Iran's anti-Midas touch in an effort to target Israel. Israel's strikes on Iranian targets in those countries are not the factor that destabilizes them.

This Iraq situation is a consequence of the 2011 departure of American forces from Iraq. Iraq's military leadership rotted, ISIL gained strength, and Iran gained an opportunity to enter Iraq to respond to ISIL. I was worried about Iran inside Iraq the moment we left Iraq (and long before that, of course).

America reentered Iraq, too, in 2014 in response to ISIL.

And now we battle Iran for influence inside Iraq. Which is a consequence of not defeating Iran itself.

The battle is better than the article makes it sound by saying Iran is struggling to remain "neutral" in the long struggle between America and revolutionary Iran.

Most Iraqis reject Iranian dominance. But they fear Iran next door. They saw us leave once and so aren't sure if we can be counted on. To be fair, they asked us to leave in 2011. But to be more fair, Obama was leaving no matter what the Iraqis said.

Regardless of that history, Trump today occasionally indicates his preference to get out, too. Which would be a mistake.

And Iran has struck inside Iraq, too, in their own way:

A leading Shiite Muslim cleric followed by some Iraqi militants has issued a public religious edict forbidding the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq.

The fatwa issued Friday by Iran-based Grand Ayatollah Kazim al-Haeri comes after Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq accused the United States of being behind recent attacks on their bases and weapons depots in Iraq.

The Iraqi government will need to get their own fatwa from friendly clerics to stop the pro-Iran bloc from inciting enough support to eject American forces from Iraq. Which is what allowed Iran to openly set up shop in the first place after we left in 2011.

We have issued a response to the attack on the pro-Iranian base.

In a perfect world, the Iraqi government with American, coalition, and regional Arab support manage to reduce Iran's influence and suppress the pro-Iran militias. Then Israel will have no need to attack Iranian threats to Israel growing inside Iraq.  Israel and Iraq should be unofficial allies on this issue--as Israel quietly cooperates with Arab states against Iran.

Still, remember that Iraq under Saddam was once itself the threat to regional stability. Now Iraq is a target of those Sunni jihadis and Iran who would use Iraq as a launching pad to destabilize the region. And we have the Iraqi government (mostly) on our side to fight such threats. That is a victory most people so easily overlook.

With a few more decades of American (and coalition) help, Iraq will be a more stable ally in fighting those threats at their sources.

And in a few more decades after that, Iraq might be a secure democracy like Germany and shirk all its allied defense obligations. But first things first.

Regardless, American and coalition troops helping Iraq will need to be extra careful now that the pro-Iran nutballs have their license to kill.

UPDATE: Why has Trump lowered our opening bargaining position on addressing an aggressive and nuclear-seeking Iran?

I'm fine with a slightly changed but rebranded NAFTA. Whatever. But doing the same for the awful Iran nuclear deal? What the Hell?

Like many conservatives, I'm tired of The Tweets. But what choice do I have with the turn-it-to-11 Resistance nuts who are the alternative? But if Trump goes Obama 2.0 on things like this, I think I'd rather have Democrats do them and get the blame.

UPDATE: Strategypage has a lot on the dispute and the PMF militias.

Basically, Iranian influence is being reduced but Iran is still poses a danger from its ability to initiate civil unrest or even a civil war. Iran of course wants Iraq to eject American forces, but that is unlikely because the Iraqis know they need us there to block Iran.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Red, White, and Blue--Despite the Orange

For all you people out there obsessed that Orange Man Bad, remember that Red Man Worse and adjust your reasoning on the narrow issue of the US-China dispute:

The trade dispute, though, is now about much more than economics—it’s testing whether a democratically elected government can prevail in the face of the authoritarian government of the world’s most populous country. And everyone who values democracy or human rights should hope that, one way or another, the United States ultimately prevails in that struggle.

Look, I like free trade. But for security reasons and with our dominant economic position after World War II, we accepted trade terms tilted against us.

And we did the same with China decades after that, hoping prosperity would make China less hostile.

It is natural to revise those deals as our relative economic position has worsened with the rise of other countries. And while China may yet moderate its behavior with prosperity, in the short term prosperity has simply enabled Chinese territorial ambitions.

All Americans should want America to win this struggle even if Trump gets the credit.

Remember that Xi runs a police state that puts Moslems in concentration camps, represses Tibetans, is crushing the remaining freedoms of Hong Kongers ahead of time, sees Falun Gong as a threat, enables North Korea's nuclear threats, wants to absorb and crush a free Taiwan, and wants to control large swathes of international waters in the South China Sea--and that's before I've checked their latest edition of their official map, which one day will look like this:


Xi wants your support to defeat Trump's "trade war" with China. Are you really cool with siding with dictatorial China against Trump?

UPDATE: The Defense Department called out China on its "coercive interference in Vietnam's longstanding oil and gas activities in the South China Sea (SCS)[.]"

UPDATE: China's growth has been impressive. And it isn't just moving peasants from fields into factories, which is what I've largely credited for their economic rise. But at some point the problems that have arisen during the rise won't be overcome. Are we there yet?

UPDATE: Efforts to redress the trade terms imbalance predate Trump. As the article notes, Trump is more willing to do battle and unlike the prior issue with Japan, China is not an American ally that provides security benefits that restrain our use of pressure to redress the terms of trade. Still, this is not comforting: "[The] U.S. is unlikely to back down without concessions that China cannot make."

What the Venezuelan People are Up Against

Meanwhile in Venezuela:

The Maduro dictatorship has admitted it has been negotiating with the United States for several months. The U.S. wants free elections while Maduro wants immunity for himself and everyone who works for him. The U.S. supports Juan Guaidó, the last legally elected Venezuelan official who qualifies as the legitimate leaderof Venezuela. But Maduro controls the security forces, thanks to a secret police force trained and reinforced with Cuban security specialists. The Cubans are experts at monitoring the loyalty of the army and police. This is one achievement of Russian communism; a police state operation that relies on informants and reliable secret police monitoring army units, down to the company level, at all times. Telephones and other communications of senior officers are constantly monitored. Any indication of disloyalty leads to arrest and horrific torture. The effects of that torture is not hidden. In one recent example a senior officer who had undergone it was allowed to appear in a public court hearing. He was in a wheel chair and showed visible signs of physical torture. He was heard pleading for help from his lawyer, but the officer died the next day. He was meant to demonstrate to all others in the armed forces, and Venezuela, what they were up against.

Venezuela is dying. With little coverage of the failed socialist regime. The only thing the government does well is control the security forces.

The question is whether there will be only pain and suffering before recovery, or whether there will be a lot of bloodshed before the recovery can begin.

Let's hope those negotiations get Maduro out of there.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Control the Baltic Sea

The smaller US Navy is stretched thin. Our NATO allies are fare worse, and while it is most obvious in the Persian Gulf, that is a problem in the Baltic Sea:

[The United States] Navy stands ready to deploy a second carrier to the region, as it did earlier this year. In so doing, it is stretching the Navy to the breaking point, given its commitments in the Western Pacific and the Mediterranean. ...

The shortfall in both American and British warships is especially worrying with regard to the eastern Baltic Sea, where Russian forces loom large, and whose littoral includes five NATO allies. While the Baltic states are too small to field major navies, Poland and Germany likewise have allowed their naval forces to atrophy. The German Navy is barely operational; most of its ships are tied up in port. The Polish Navy is hardly better; the Polish fleet is desperately in need of modernization.

Although the Mediterranean Sea really doesn't stress us because other than the committed ABM destroyers and a command ship stationed in Europe, most of our Mediterranean Sea presence is done by ships transiting the sea to and from the Arabian Sea. It is a phantom fleet whose influence is mainly the memories of when it was a Cold War armada.

The Baltic states should focus more on coastal defense artillery and missiles. Poland has an excuse in that it needs to focus on ground and air power. Yet Poland is still planning a major upgrade by purchasing submarines.

Germany, the European economic powerhouse, should be a leading Baltic Sea naval power, with Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Britain, and France reinforcing their leading presence. Sweden could have a role as an associated power.

Have no doubt that if NATO doesn't shape up in the Baltic that even Russia's limited fleet may be able to carry out its missions in the Baltic Sea against NATO.

Sadly, the German navy is "barely operational." As I've noted.

Forever Troubles

Reacting to "endless wars" is natural but unless you want to let enemies who won't stop fighting win the war you are "ending" that's a bad reaction to our problems.

Yeah, nobody wants endless wars:

On the other hand, the “end the endless wars” construct is leading us toward simplicity — just pull back, and all will be well — where there is none. It is short-circuiting the kind of scrutiny any consequential national security choice deserves.

Decisions about what to do in any country where the U.S. has committed forces should develop from a sober accounting of our interests, threat assessments and the risks involved with the status quo, a change in approach or a withdrawal.

Americans must aim for a difficult but necessary debate rather than adopting a strategy-by-slogan that promises an easy way out. How can we begin that dialogue?

We need a new way to frame the issue. We are not in fact fighting an endless war. Perhaps we need to call what we are against persistent jihadi killers is the Global Troubles.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Weekend Data Dump

The Philippines figured out that being nice to China won't get China to let up on their expansive and illegal territorial claims against the Philippines in the South China Sea. How about a South China Sea Airlift?

Recruiting the Army.

I'll give credit where credit is due. I am shocked.

I despair that we will ever reach Peak Stupid. What is wrong with these people? Seriously, what is their major malfunction? Tip to Instapundit.

Yes, the people constantly dividing us by race (and hearing racist dog whistles) are the ones stoking racial division. I've long said that the liberals have a vocal (and media amplified) segment as ludicrous as the birthers on the right. Birthers thought Obama was literally born in Kenya and was a secret Moslem. Today the sophisticated types think Trump was figuratively born in Russia and is a secret Nazi. Of course, the birthers were mocked and ridiculed by the media. So that's different.

The problem is that Palestinians are great as abstract victims. But in real life they are often awful people and are ruled by corrupt and evil scum. The Intersectional Civil War could be spectacular.

In related news, I wonder how the actual American people in their districts feel about these representatives acting as if they represent Palestinians? We shall see in 2020. And if the voters return them to office? Well, enjoy your gift to foreigners of representation in Congress.

Well if Putin says that their nuclear accident poses no radiation leak threat, what more do we need to sleep well at night?

When given the option to pay their fair share in taxes, people who say taxes should be higher don't actually take advantage of that. I guess they haven't reached the point where they've made enough money.

"Caring" had unintended harmful consequences for our poor. But are rich liberal Americans not only returning to that era of errors and upping their harm by abandoning even the pretense of caring by basically wrecking America with an embrace of status beliefs? If you recall the leftist outrage over the advice of "graduate, work, marry, have children (if you want them)--in that order" (and the advice isn't bad even if people prone to success cause that sequence rather than the sequence causing success) that wealthy people actually follow, it seems all too plausible.

Green is the color of hate. If I understand the rules correctly, if any hater holds any view of a wider movement, the wider movement must immediately reject that view or be complicit in the hate. What? One of the rules says that rule only apply to conservatives? Well, never mind. Move along. Nothing to see here. Besides, it has always been clear that greens hate people in general rather than certain people, even if the effects of their policies hurt some groups more than others. Tip to Instapundit.

A tour of Syria. With the hilarious description of how Turkey's embrace of Russia isn't working out very well in Syria (Russia led a strike on a Turkish convoy bringing ammunition to Turkey's jihadi allies). Alienating America really wasn't Erdogan's best idea.

Russia's aircraft industry is running on fumes. Russia is becoming a regional power despite having transcontinental defense needs. If Russia would make up with the West, Russia could revive their economy and buy Western aircraft to hold off an increasingly powerful China that has territorial claims on Russian Far East territory.

Work the No-Deal Brexit problems and carry on. No need to panic. Just a need to anticipate and act. That traditional British stiff upper lip isn't just useful for eating avocado toast, you know.

China will take what it can in the South China Sea until somebody with something to lose fights to hold what they have. No small power can defeat China in war. But small powers can win battles with international support for their legal position, forcing China to decide on whether to escalate to war to reverse defeat in battle and risk the collateral damage that escalation could impose on China.

The problem with pardoning all people in prison because of marijuana (or more broadly, drug) possession is that we don't know how many formally in jail for possession were prosecuted and sentenced for that lesser charge despite having committed a much worse crime.

There is no Amagun.com.

The Chinese, not satisfied with our colleges being anti-American, want them to be pro-Chinese. But I guess this collusion for money to host Confucius Institutes is okay. Tip to Instapundit.

Peak Throwing-up-a-little-bit-in-my-mouth hasn't arrived yet. To be fair, they go well with man-buns.

That is certainly a fascinating question. But the more relevant question is can The Resistance lie America into a recession? Tip to Instapundit.

So the Left says Russia had such deep knowledge of American society that they could swing an election with paltry sums of money spent on propaganda--but American Google could not do that with far more resources at its disposal. I have no means to judge the latter claims, but I do find it fascinating to note the contradictions on the Left over what is possible and what is not.

If we are ever to get to Peak Stupid, people have to stop doing things like this.

Well, that seems wise given Iran's recent actions. But is this a tanker thing or an Achille Lauro thing? Just what prompted this training?

Australia will join the effort to protect Persian Gulf shipping from Iranian interference.

What is wrong with the UAE? Are the Houthis defeated? Is Iran less of a threat? This is why I don't pay close attention to Yemen. The musical chairs-style civil war waxes and wanes but never really goes away.

How fake news is made. So the NYT basically admits it focused on the Russia collusion story, but that now it has proven to be a fantasy made by Trump's enemies. Instead of continuing that story to see how the collusion narrative was created (tip to Instapundit), the NYT will move on to another story to hurt Trump: the equally fantasy-level story of how America is all slavery all the time and for all time in perpetuity.

Oh, and the so-called 1619 project focus will be for the next two years. This intense focus wasn't considered important before. And the editors will exhaust the stories of the issue in two years. The project will end the day the major Democratic legislative agenda has been passed and signed into law in mid-2021, I assume. May the editors rot in Hell. Wait. What? No! Way! Tip to Instapundit.

Singapore is serious about having a navy with new submarines and aviation-capable ships. I hope they remember that the last time the island was conquered it was from the land side, making all their coastal defenses worthless.

Seriously, if America is as horrible as the 1619 project says, and if slavery was so central to building America (it wasn't), America would never have given up slavery. I mean, duh. Slavery was stunningly horrible. It hurts to see what slave owners did to the people they owned. But slavery has existed around the world throughout history--making slavery a world sin and not just an American sin--and still exists quietly in other parts of the world. America violently ended slavery (losing 365,000 soldiers to do it) and has worked to make up for that legacy. That, at least, we can be proud of.

Let's hope that Erdogan's visions of neo-Ottoman Empire glory gives him a bloody nose in Libya, where he has intervened on the side of the jihadi-friendly, UN-recognized government that still holds northwest Libya.

The Rohingya and Myanmar.

I don't know what the heck Trump is thinking when he mentions letting Russia back into the G-7 group of advanced industrial nations. Trump should not welcome Russia back. Obama Clinton erred in letting Russia in and Obama made up for that by working to expel Russia after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. Russia annexed Crimea and still sits in Russian-occupied Donbas in the east. If Russia ever wants to do the smart thing and join the West in order to have the hope of holding off a rising China with territorial claims on Russia's Far East, we can talk about the G-7 again.

The media doesn't like to mention that the Half Squad trip to "Palestine" was sponsored by a group that supports jihadis and repeats Nazi propaganda about Jews. Tip to Instapundit.

Thoughts on Hong Kong and China's disinformation to justify killing people.

China's carrier plans. In some sense it is confusing. China itself is a giant "carrier" for operations in the western Pacific. Carriers are most useful for power projection and not for sea control against opposition. So where does China plan to project power against less capable enemies?

It is insane to argue that Trump is using an anti-semitic trope of "dual loyalty" for wondering why American Jews largely vote for Democrats. People, Trump wants their votes! In what alternate universe does a politician--one who says he is a nationalist--try to get the votes of a group of people by saying those voters are more loyal to a country other than America? If American Jews hope to keep Israel as a sanctuary so "never again" means something, it's hard to argue Trump is wrong to wonder why American Jews favor Democrats. It wasn't anywhere nearly as true in the past although there was a glimmer of truth. But it was easy to vote with other priorities knowing that the anti-Semites were unlikely to wield influence. But the current "progressive" surge in the Democratic Party makes it bloody obviously true at this moment (tip to Instapundit). Maybe the surge of anti-Israel sentiment in the Democratic Party will peak and fade in the future. But now? Come on.

I assumed Kamala Harris had the winds of the media under her wings to carry her to victory in the Democratic presidential contest. Well, they'd best start blowing harder. That's one poll, of course. We'll see.

If Palestinians didn't support killing Jews with suicide bombs or whatever they can get, Tlaib might have a point. But they do and so she doesn't. Gosh, why would Israel keep her out except for the narrow purpose of visiting her grandmother--which she declined to do.

The US will sell Taiwan 66 late-model F-16s. This is in addition to an army package. And recall that an earlier package will update the 150 early-model F-16s that Taiwan has.

Budget deficits will be even worse than earlier forecasts. Duh. Spending money we don't have is the only lasting bipartisan consensus that has endured our bitter partisan divide.

It makes some sense for America to buy Greenland. Trump was a little too thin skinned in his reaction to Denmark's dismissive refusal to sell. Keep in mind that China has seemed to have their eye on Greenland--perhaps to make their "near-Arctic" status claim more based on geography--as I noted that article in this September 2018 data dump post.

Michael Yon continues to cover Hong Kong protests for freedom (or at least freedom until the agreed upon end date of 2047 when China is legally allowed to crush lingering freedom).

Why the Navy is getting rid of touch screens for manual Ship Control Console controls on ship driving.

Once again, Iran announces a totally awesome weapon system that will force the Pentagon into a thumb-sucking fetal position. Honestly, with all the high tech that Iran develops, I have to believe them when they say they aren't seeking nuclear weapons. Why would they need them, eh?

A look at China's People's Armed Police, the army with the people as their designated enemy. This is relevant given the months-long protests in Hong Kong that oppose China's attempts to impose a dictatorship ahead of schedule in 2047. The PLA Army, the executioners at Tienanmen Square in 1989, get all the attention. But "the other guys" have a role in combat whether against external or internal enemies.

What is the major malfunction in South Korea these days? Are they so secure that they can afford to alienate Japan, which might be needed if North Korea or China attacks South Korea? But hey, at least South Korea made China smile.

Here are some suggestions for conditions on readmitting Russia to the G-7. Essentially it amounts to Russia not being a Putin-led self-destructive country. So that's not happening.

Ah, our friend Erdogan: "The Iranian oil tanker that the U.S. sought to seize in Gibraltar has changed its heading to southern Turkey, raising concern that its cargo will end up in Syria." Ya think?

I"m so old that I remember when violence was justified as God's will (well, for Allah's will that sentiment is still thriving). Now the justification for punching someone is that it is "for the children." Sure, technically that's just rhetorical. But I'm also old enough to remember when Democrats charged that rhetoric or symbols incite actual violence.

To be fair, the Left has a history only liking American veterans who lie about committing atrocities and who aren't even veterans. Heh. Guess what happened to him. Shocking, I know.

Before Deplorables there were Stupid People. I just randomly ran across that post.

Michael Mann has lost big time his libel suit against Dr. Ball in Canada. Because Mann wouldn't reveal his data that led to his now-discredited "hockey stick" graph of global warming. Nothing screams "settled science" like hiding your data, eh? Mark Steyn, who in America is enduring his own lengthy lawsuit from Mann, comments on the consensus enforcement that continues despite the win for the good guys. You may recall the post that started Mann's suit.

Explain to me again how this isn't exactly what racists want. Tip to Instapundit.

A yak corps for bad terrain.

Iran's Zarif flew into the G-7 meeting in France at Macron's invitation. Thanks a heap France! Our quasi-ally in action. Iran must be desperate to participate in this stunt. Not that Zarif will be admitted to the talks, but he's there.

I sometimes despair of ever reaching Peak Stupid.

America tested a ground-launched cruise missile with a range greater than the now-dead INF treaty. Perhaps Russia will regret trying to get an edge by cheating on the treaty. More here.

American airlift and tanker support is insufficient for the tyranny of distance in INDOPACOM. Although to be fair, demand will always exceed supply. And we are the best at long-range logistics. But other countries don't have the distance to cover that America does.

In a country well north of 300 million, it isn't hard to find a handful of haters. They represent nobody but themselves.

Climate mission accomplished as temperatures in the US lower 48 plateaued in 2005. To be fair that isn't relevant to global warming. Which if I understand it has leveled off since 1997 or so.

With the renamed INDOPACOM, America's military sees a unified command across the Pacific and Indian Oceans. So increased American defense industry cooperation with India and Australia is important.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

We Should Hope Hong Kong Protesters Win

Actual Resistance against actual tyranny is going on in Hong Kong right now.

Michael Yon is still recording the resistance live. Right now.

The odds are against Hong Kongers.

But who knows? Maybe the mainlanders will see the Hong Kong resistance as an opportunity to leverage their own freedom.

UPDATE: One aspect of the Hong Kong protests I do not like is the practice by protesters of shining laser pointer lights at the police. That is no little thing because it can damage eyes. Do the protesters want to anger the police or get them on their side?

Shining them on objects is fine, of course. But the protesters had a symbol of resistance when a protester had an eye put out by a police non-lethal round. The protesters should not give the Chinese Communist Party a symbol of their own by destroying or damaging the eye of a police officer confronting the protesters.

UPDATE: It seems like bags of marbles scattered in front of protesters when the police charge and the protesters flee "like water" would be a more effective protest tactic.

UPDATE: My riot control training was limited. But it never involved raggedy charges as the Hong Kong police do in the video. Everything was phalanx-like or moving-diamond walking formations for blocking or moving protesters or for capturing protesters.

But tactics may have changed a lot since the late 1980s!

UPDATE: Related thoughts:

Will the demonstrations in Hong Kong come to be seen as the end of a 30-year period, beginning with the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, of the American-Chinese economic engagement and entanglement christened "Chimerica" by historian Niall Ferguson?

American pressure at a time of Chinese economic weakness and political opposition is well timed.

UPDATE: Is Peking setting the stage for a brutal crackdown?

A Serious and Imminent Threat

One question I have had about North Korea's nuclear program is whether they have nuclear devices or nuclear weapons. I'm still not sure.

This is from Japanese assessment of North Korea's nuclear program:

Japan has upgraded its estimate of North Korea’s nuclear weapons capability in an upcoming annual Defence White Paper, saying it seems Pyongyang has achieved the miniaturization of warheads, the Yomiuri newspaper said in an unsourced report on Wednesday. ...

The report, to be approved at a Cabinet meeting in mid-September, will maintain the assessment that North Korea’s military activities pose a “serious and imminent threat”, the Yomiuri said.

The story says that for years America has believed North Korea "likely produced miniaturized nuclear warheads."

But even if true now or then, that isn't quite the same as saying North Korea has been able to put those miniaturized warheads on a reliable missile with confidence the warhead will explode.

So I still don't know if North Korea actually has nuclear weapons or nuclear devices that require thousands of technicians and hundreds of scientists to detonate after months of preparation.

I will say that our strategy of reaching out to North Korea to talk kind of requires that North Korea does not have actual nuclear weapons. Because the threat of attacking North Korea is one aspect of our pressure campaign. Once North Korea has actual nuclear weapons, the strike option gets "problematic," as the kids like to say these days.

Still, the report will say the threat is "imminent" rather than actual, making it sound like North Korea has not achieved a nuclear-armed reliable missile. Not yet, anyway.

UPDATE: North Korea announced a "newly developed super-large multiple rocket launcher."

I assume the size implies greater range. If so, this is about a conventional or gas threat to Seoul.

All the talk of North Korea's artillery threat to Seoul neglects that the vast majority can't bombard Seoul unless the North Korean army--which has rotted since the collapse of the USSR--advances across the DMZ and brings their shorter-range pieces within range--which are easier to target on the move and emplaced in the open. North Korea has relatively few types of artillery that can reach Seoul from where they are dug in now.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Enabling the Combat REMF

Comprehensive camera coverage from the outside of armored vehicles will allow VR-equipped troops inside to see "through" the armor in any direction:

If the Carmel is successfully implemented in existing armored vehicles, new vehicles, including crewless (remotely controlled/autonomous) ones would follow. The Carmel concept already envisions a third crew member sitting behind the two vehicle operators to control nearby crewless vehicles.

This capability--along with a resilient battlefield internet--would go a long way to making it possible to use reachback technology to have a virtual squad operating remote weapon stations in an infantry fighting vehicle under certain circumstances, as I described in Infantry magazine.

Note that the Russians claim to have developed an unmanned T-72. Russia has quite the dilemma: they can't afford to lose troops and they can't afford to build unmanned or robotic vehicles.

UPDATE: More on Carmel.

Search and Destroy

Flying and some limited combat experience is winning fans for the F-35:

What the F-35 flight management software and situational awareness demonstrate is that the usual measures of a superior fighter aircraft (speed, maneuverability) no longer matter as much. An F-35 is more likely to see the other aircraft first, fire first and be more aware of the changing battle situation than enemy pilots in, on paper, faster and more maneuverable aircraft. ...

The U.S. found that stealth was useful but was not as important as aircraft ease of use and situational awareness. The F-22 had stealth and ease of use but it was still believed that enhanced situational awareness was the most important of the three and that was what was added to the F-35. That assessment turned out to be correct.

Do read it all.

Early on I worried if it would be possible to "fight with the tray table down."

But as the plane has gotten into the hands of pilots, the F-35 has won me over.

As long as it can't be hacked, of course.

There's always a worry somewhere to bother my sleep.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Can Bitcoin and Virtual Replace Blood and Soil?

Could Facebook (or Google) be a sovereign political entity to avoid regulation that threatens them?

One option available to them is to become a country, by partnering with a sovereign state like Canada. Such an undertaking, obviously, would be fiendishly difficult to execute. No one has ever sat down and written the legal code for a corporate-sovereign national partnership. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

The basis for their power would be artificial intelligence research.

True, a virtual state needs cooperation with the traditional governments that control the physical realm where people live. But perhaps the lure of being the physical home to that kind of power would tempt a traditional state to host the virtual power.

I've raised the possibility of e-states to resolve disputes over territory that don't seem to allow for two people in one state:

I've mentioned this e-state notion both for Israel as a Plan B in the nuclear age and for Palestinians who would have a hybrid-land/digital state to encompass "refugees" (actually the descendants of refugees) in Arab states.

Could this be an option for the Kurds and others who lack a state in the modern state-centric system?

Could "states" that have nothing but embassies in traditional territory-based countries as their sovereign territory provide a true national experience and benefit as an alternative to long fights to wrest control of land from somebody else as the basis for declaring a state?

Of course, one problem with a virtual state is that it is going to be thuggishly ugly:

Halfway through a 16-state backroads trip across the country, I've had many people — both conservative and liberal — tell me that if they use Twitter, they don’t use the social media platform in the way we assume they do.

They mostly observe. And what they see often makes them not want to jump into the discussion.

They also worry about how Twitter is used as a blunt force weapon to punish those with unpopular views, diminishing a healthy discourse to debate differences. They are not wrong.

The Twitter experience gives people pause about expressing their views on anything, because anything these days, even a cat video, is just one keystroke from becoming a political hot potato.

Will people really want to live in a virtual state of constant Cultural Revolution and reeducation by online Red Guards?

And will traditional states have a responsibility to protect the virtual citizens who happen to live in their territory from the virtual world predators?

But if so, will they be able to fight against an AI power intertwined with their physical state? Will Skynet Wokenet be unstoppable? Will some traditional political entities be fine with empowering the mobs whether virtual or not?

Perhaps online citizens will be able to e-flee to more open virtual states. But is the online social culture unable to have anything other than Red Guard-style social control mobs? Will virtual states that espouse tolerance and don't send the e-mobs to crush dissent be allowed to exist? Or will the Red Guard e-states wage war in an endless woke jihad against the blaspheming virtual states?

Maybe such a virtual power can't coexist with a state. Maybe the social media powers need to move into space to gain their own sovereignty away from Earth powers and regulation. Maybe they need their own real estate to rule.

Perhaps we'll see the Facebook East Mars Company (or the Google North Ganymede Company) as the logical outcome of this new form of power that may not be able to coexist in a Westphalian system. Why not someplace closer like our own moon? Well.

Of course, I'm assuming the Westphalian state-centric system doesn't collapse under assault by this new phenomenon. I could be wrong. Maybe the Westphalian system will be the one that needs to flee to space to survive.

A Dragon Run to Make China Howl

I want to expand a bit on my advocacy for the idea that the Army should be prepared to carry out a core function of large-scale combat when it comes to Asia, rather than being a naval auxiliary.

As I've said, I think the Army should plan for major operations in Asia to oppose China (as I outlined in Military Review):

In any future emerging confrontation in the Asia Pacific, the U.S. Army eventually will have to take a pivotal role in order for the United States to prevail. Therefore, the U.S. Army must consider and prepare for a role in the Asia-Pacific region that goes beyond merely fighting anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) threats to the Navy to one that better accounts for the value of large-scale land operations in support of a joint campaign.

The main thrust is that the Army could operate alongside allied Asian armies around China that are opposing China--not that we should invade China to conquer it. India, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan come to mind.

And Russia comes into this, too, given that its territory reaches the Pacific. Either as an enemy or even (if the Russians get their collective head out of their collective butt) as a potential ally against Chinese aggression.

Remember, China has modernized its country--especially the coastal regions where the Army might operate--and is modernizing the PLA:

Many of the focus areas of the current (11th) round of reforms, such as strengthening the PLA’s ability to conduct joint operations and rebalancing the military’s composition from the ground forces to the naval, air, and missile forces, were conceived in the 1980s and 1990s. This agenda followed changes to Chinese military strategy to focus less on preparing for a general war with the Soviet Union or the United States—which had driven China’s defense planning during the Cold War—and more on a smaller scale conflict around China’s borders. Key events signaling the need for reform included the 1990–1991 Gulf War, which showcased the U.S. military’s advantages in doctrine and technology, and the 1995–1996 Taiwan Strait crisis, which exposed the PLA’s inability to deter Taiwan independence forces or counter U.S. intervention on Taipei’s behalf.

The Chinese army is no longer a mass infantry force that can fight conventionally and as irregulars and guerrillas that acts like a sponge to absorb and entangle an invading force. This change makes the Chinese army more formidable in battle. But it also can provide opportunities. If China thinks it only has to fight smaller wars around their periphery, 10-20 American maneuver brigades/regiments (Army and Marine Corps) will complicate their options, no?

So I do not rule out operations on the mainland of China. One opportunity would be if the Army was supporting a major force inside China. This is most like my basic notion that supporting another country's army could be a mission.

But in that case, it would be a Chinese army in a "China" that has become a geographic term rather than a unified state/empire.

But there are other possibilities, too. American troops participated in the multi-national mission to Peking in the Boxer Rebellion. Although in this case the mission was enabled by China not being a fully functioning state even though it was formally unified.

Along those lines, maybe that situation is replicated on Hainan Island. Perhaps a multi-national force built around an American Army-Marine force is used to capture that physically separated base area in order to reduce the ability of China to project power into the South China Sea.Looming over Vietnam, Hanoi might contribute ground forces to that mission if we--or allies with shipping--help lift them.

In the MR article linked I mentioned the possibility of operations on the mainland for short periods to achieve specific missions. Perhaps a Marine-Army operation to establish missile and air bases on the mainland is needed to help the Navy and Air Force establish control in the waters off of China for a mission they need to achieve.

Another mission could be raids. They could be small and of short duration, like the "shoot and scoot" artillery raids we conducted against Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait before we liberated the country in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War (noted here). But depending on busy the Chinese army is with other threats around their periphery (and how busy the People's Armed Police semi-army is), a very large Thunder Run by Task Force 1-64 (which tested my pre-war desire to "bounce" Baghdad on the run rather than besiege the city) on a corps level--a Dragon Run--might be carried out to replicate Sherman's march to the sea in the American Civil War:

Sherman's March to the Sea (also known as the Savannah Campaign or simply Sherman's March) was a military campaign of the American Civil War conducted through Georgia from November 15 until December 21, 1864, by Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman of the Union Army. The campaign began with Sherman's troops leaving the captured city of Atlanta on November 15 and ended with the capture of the port of Savannah on December 21. His forces followed a "scorched earth" policy, destroying military targets as well as industry, infrastructure, and civilian property and disrupting the Confederacy's economy and transportation networks. The operation broke the back of the Confederacy and helped lead to its eventual surrender. Sherman's bold move of operating deep within enemy territory and without supply lines is considered to be one of the major achievements of the war and is also considered to be an early example of modern total war.

If the Marines land and allow an Army corps built around 6 maneuver brigades (plus the usual supporting units including engineers) to rampage through the more prosperous part of China, real damage to China's civilian and military infrastructure could be inflicted. And Chinese morale could take a hit.

As the Army corps marches off inland, the Marines could--while providing air support and aerial logistics support along with the Air Force while they remain ashore--prepare to debark and/or move along the coast to capture a port on the coast where the Army force will eventually reach and disembark behind a shield of Marines holding the perimeter.

Obviously, the point of embarkation should be taken based on opportunities for avoiding Chinese opposition during the Dragon Run. Telegraphing the end point by selecting and seizing a port early will simplify Chinese reactions that could trap the force. Unless an early port seizure is designed to provide one option while also having a staging area to seize the actual port to be used.

Of course, such a mission takes place after the Navy has achieved control of the seas off of a portion of China where the Dragon Run takes place. Navy air support and logistics missions for key items would be needed during the Dragon Run.

Mind you, a Dragon Run might never make sense in the real world should we and the Chinese ef up and go to war with each other.

But I throw it out as an idea to get people thinking about how the Army can contribute a core competency to a war in Asia, rather than thinking all the Army can do is be a naval auxiliary supplying anti-ship and anti-aircraft weapons to support the Navy battle for control of the seas.

Hopefully, if the Chinese see that more of America's military power can be focused on China, deterrence will be improved and nobody will ef up and go to war.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Does Information Dominance Mean War?

This attitude raises my pucker factor:

"[I]nformation is how China plans to dominate in the future. That is their strategy," [Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency] said during a keynote address at a conference in Tampa, Florida, on Monday. ...

To confront the challenges posed by China, Ashley said it is crucial for the U.S. to be able to solve problems with speed and at scale. He pointed to interoperability across the defense community as a major challenge toward this goal and emphasized the responsibility defense officials have in today's environment.

"[I]n great power competition, you gotta bring your 'A' game on day 1, because if you don't, you may not get a day 2," he said.

If our networked forces really are vulnerable to superior enemy information capabilities, he may have a point. This article notes that the Turkish S-400/F-35 issue is broader than just Turkey. It is interesting--in a butt-clenching sort of way--that with networked weapons, having the equipment of a potential enemy plugged into your network represents a Trojan Horse that could  undermine the network. This fragility worries me both for our weapons and more broadly our security that depends on them if competition goes hot.

It has been argued that the Pre-World War I situation resulted in a reality that "mobilization means war." Germany relied on Russia taking longer to mobilize their army than either France or Germany could. So Germany planned to smash France while Russia was still gathering its army. This would avoid a two-front war by allowing Germany to defeat France and then Russia sequentially.

The problem was that Germany could not afford a crisis that involved Russia beginning mobilization while Germany did nothing. Germany would lose its strategy if Russia completed mobilizing before Germany defeated France. Which was a real problem if France was not involved in the crisis.

So that was one factor that led to World War I.

I raise this because if competition for information dominance is that vital--or if people believe it is vital--will either China or America believe that they have to strike first when they get an information advantage? Will the fear of losing your "A" game advantage lead to starting war while you have the edge?

The temptation to do so will be enormous, especially if you believe the advantage means you win on day 1 and your enemy may be doomed on day 2 because you exploited your day 1 edge. See? Short and glorious victory, even with nukes involved because your fleeting information dominance will nullify those weapons. With the alternative being short and disastrous defeat if you wait.

It's like a hyper-Thucydides Trap with no time to think. I think distance reduces that problem for America and China. But if Ashley is right, distance may disappear. And so the danger is worse.

I really want as much research on what having a day 1 edge means for day 2 as I do for having the day 1 edge. It is important to know if losing that edge is as disastrous as Ashley worries about.

If America and China can't afford--or believe they can't afford--to be second in the information dominance competition, we'll be on a hair-trigger situation with each side constantly looking to measure their position in this race.

Have a super sparkly day.

It's Dead, Jim

Russia will not have a blue water navy. And they will have problems getting the navy they need.

Russia's fleet is not coming back:

On July 28, 2019, at the national Navy Day parade in St. Petersburg, Vladimir Putin announced that Russia is planning to upgrade its surface fleet in terms of both quantity and quality. But this bold declaration is unlikely to become a reality – the state of the Russian arms industry simply doesn’t allow for it. What is more, in the state armaments program for 2018-2027, a key point was to develop strategic nuclear forces and ground forces by compensating with a reduction in the cost of conventional naval forces.

Most of the ships received will be small vessels or non-combat auxiliaries.

This should be obvious but bears stating:

It is also worth considering that Russian naval forces are divided into 4 fleets: the North, Pacific, Baltic, and Black Seas, as well as a separate Caspian flotilla. This greatly reduces the possibilities of concentrating them together and objectively limits Russia’s combat potential at sea.

And worse for Russia:

Moscow needs to build at least 3 more strategic submarines, 7 cruise missile submarines and one special-purpose submarine over the next decade – a total of 11 nuclear submarines. In contrast, in the previous decade – in much more favorable economic and political conditions – Russia only built 8 such submarines, including those still in testing stages before being incorporated into the fleet. And in addition to these current plans, there is also the maintenance and re-armament of existing nuclear submarines deemed fit for an extension of their service lives. In all likelihood, Russia will not be able to fully implement these plans, so by the end of the 2020s the number of cruise missile submarines will not exceed 12-14, while the number of ballistic missile submarines will be no more than 8 units.

My view is that Russia is a land power and needs ground forces and supporting air power to defend its huge border.

Russia's need for a navy is limited to a coastal defense force plus strategic ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) and attack submarines both nuclear and conventional.

The coastal defense force protects the coast from invasion and attack plus it defends sea bastions where the SSBNs roam in protected regions to maintain a secure nuclear deterrent. The attack submarines defend the bastions.

This is vital because even with ideal defense spending Russia has problems defending its long border without the threat of using nuclear weapons. Russia probably needs to use "tactical" nukes to hold off a serious invasion. And Russia needs safe strategic nuclear weapons to deter an invader escalation to city destruction in response.

The good news for Russia is that despite periodic announcements of grand fleet plans--including, be still my heart, aircraft carriers--Russia seems to understand that a blue water fleet weakens Russia.

Do read the article. It is interesting.

The Private and Foreign Armies of Iraq

As long as Iraq allows militias that don't follow central government orders, Iraq risks Sunni Arab insurrection, civil war, or--more likely--an Iran-sponsored coup.

The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militias were arguably needed to hold off ISIL in 2014 when much of Iraq's corrupt armed forces in the north collapsed.

Unfortunately, Iran was too involved in organizing the militias. And now they are a threat to rather than saviors of Iraq:

Until the territorial defeat of ISIS, the Iraqi government needed the PMF and allowed their operational independence. Now, without a common enemy, these militias have no explicit purpose, yet most refuse to disband and relinquish control over areas they control. The future of these militias is unclear, and the Iraqi government needs to take control of them or risk losing authority to militia leaders who act as Iranian proxies and regional warlords with personal armies.

This sounds about right:

The Iraqi regime has a couple of options for how to deal with the militias operating within its borders now that collusion is no longer an effective strategy: integration, containment, or suppression.[1] All willing militias should be integrated into the Iraqi military following the example of the Peace Brigades. Those that do not cooperate tend to be militias that resemble criminal gangs and answer to Iran like Kata’ib Hezbullah, which has publicly rejected the decree. These groups should be contained, economically deprived, and shut down like the scrap metal militias operating in Nineveh. Because these militias are well funded and trained by Iran and the Iraqi military is comparatively weaker, they should not be violently suppressed especially because it could lead to escalation and war with Iran, which would be destructive to Iraq and its citizens. Iraqi forces should instead work to contain them.

I've written about the need to bring the militias under control or ultimately disband them. The weak Iraqi government has to be careful but the job must be started before the militias are as entrenched in Iraq as Hezbollah is in Lebanon.

UPDATE: And while a militia loyal to Sistani and reporting to the prime minister is better than a pro-Iran militia, it is still a bad thing to have.

Mind you, this is probably the last militia that would need to be disbanded.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Collateral Damage

Invading Ukraine just caused Russia to lose a very important submarine.

That's going to leave a mark:

Russia has another naval disaster on its hands. Details have been slowly emerging, mainly because the submarine in question is a one-of-a-kind deep (6,000 meters) nuclear powered (AC-31 Losharik) vessel that can investigate items on the ocean floor. ...

The July 1st Losharik accident was caused by the lithium batteries overheating, causing a fire and then exploding. This killed fourteen of the 19 men abroad the submerged sub. The four surviving crew, and one civilian specialist, managed to surface the sub, shut down the nuclear reactor and get off onto the modified SSBN that serves as its mothership. Before the surviving crew left they were ordered to flood all compartments, to ensure that there was not another fire or explosion.

Russia may not be able to afford to repair the vessel.

And why did the sub go boom?

The sub was originally designed to use Ukrainian made silver zinc batteries but since 2014 Ukrainian military imports have been less “available” and Losharik switched to Russian made lithium batteries, which behave differently than silver zinc ones. Lithum batteries will catch fire and explode if they are short circuited.

So Ukraine, at war with Russia since early 2014 when Russia captured and annexed Crimea and then fought to take part of Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, sank a Russian sub in 2019.

Bask in the brilliance of Putin's "frozen conflicts!"

Still Better Than Pakistan

Ah, Germany:

Germany expects a No Deal Brexit and is not prepared to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement, according to leaked details of an internal briefing paper for Angela Merkel’s government.

This is how Germany treats their NATO ally Britain. A NATO ally important to defending Germany given Germany's refusal to pull its weight in alliance defense.

And contrast this treatment of a treaty ally with Germany's eagerness to cut deals with Putin's Russia on energy; and Germany's eagerness to salvage the nuclear deal with Iran that does nothing but protect Iran until it can break out and build nukes.

Pakistan is looking better every day as an ally.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Leaving Caracas

This is how a people's paradise works:

A staggering 15 to 19 percent of Venezuela’s total population has left the country amid an economic and political crisis with no clear end in sight, a new survey estimates. And those numbers are likely to increase in coming months and years if there are not profound changes in the South American country.

Socialism can eff up an oil-wet dream, it is clear.

Tried But Failed

Oh holy crap:

In a Cosmopolitan hotel suite 16 stories above the Def Con cybersecurity conference this weekend, a team of highly vetted hackers tried to sabotage a vital flight system for a U.S. military fighter jet. And they succeeded.

It was the first time outside researchers were allowed physical access to the critical F-15 system to search for weaknesses. And after two long days, the seven hackers found a mother lode of vulnerabilities that — if exploited in real life — could have completely shut down the Trusted Aircraft Information Download Station, which collects reams of data from video cameras and sensors while the jet is in flight.

They even found bugs that the Air Force had tried but failed to fix after the same group of hackers performed similar tests in November without actually touching the device.

But I'm sure the far more networked F-35 is much better protected. Right?

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Weekend Data Dump

After getting some funding, the Army now has 25 combat brigades (out of 31, if memory serves me) fully ready.

Algeria's rulers don't want to risk Islamist rule by allowing democracy, which protesters want. It seems to me there is a middle ground of democracy with Islamist parties banned.

Well that's a damn shame she has been hurt by the rules her side wrote. To be clear, I don't think she is racist. But a lot of people she intensely dislikes have been accused of racism for less. And heck, a governor she probably likes got away with the exact same thing. Tip to Instapundit.

As I've said, the only bipartisanship in Congress is about spending more.

Yes, Iran and the Houthi are the winners of the Saudi-UAE split on Yemen, which has seen UAE-backed faction capture Aden, splintering the government side even as the government side had been slowly defeating the Iran-backed Houthi.

The quick answer to the question is "not nearly enough." Of course, if the Navy won't escort the ships, anything we do to correct the logistics problem will be sent to the bottom of the seas rather quickly.

At some point haven't they made enough money?

Even if China adds patrols in the Persian Gulf region on top of their base in Djibouti to secure their oil imports, I don't think China can run the gauntlet from the Persian Gulf all the way back to Chinese ports.

Iran's foreign minister nutball complained that America is selling too many weapons to Arab states in the Gulf region. Well, given the many astounding technologically advanced wonder weapons Iran has developed, can you blame us?  Storming Area 51? If you want to find advanced tech, storm Iran's military research centers! We're just trying to help foes of Iran catch up, eh?

When speaking of China's determination to control Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang, one shouldn't forget Macao. Although I thought it was thoroughly dominated by Peking. But perhaps I'm wrong.

Huh. Good to know.

As if Africa doesn't have enough problems.

Really? Apparently Chris Cuomo is offended on behalf of all morons everywhere. It wasn't enough to be rightly annoyed by someone being rude to him, as an individual. And Heaven help us, but CNN backed Cuomo on the idiocy. "Fredo" is not the same as the "n-word." Maybe the "c-word." Maybe. Sure, the man who called Cuomo "Fredo" was a jerk. But again, hasn't the Left set the rules that one should publicly confront your political opponents? Is it wrong now? Can't we all just get along? Moron Americans aren't a dangerous "other." They are our family. They are our friends. Tolerate them. Help them.

I was listening to Jonah Goldberg on his Remnant podcast. He noted--in relation to the conspiracy theories rising up around the Epstein suicide-that fewer people would believe in conspiracy theories if they were in government at some level and could see how government actually works. Those people are not engaged in some deep conspiracy. Not to insult them. They are like us. My experience in "government" was a couple decades working for the Michigan state legislature. I worked with these people and with people in the executive and judicial branches to a lesser extent. They're just doing their jobs. They have political leanings that affect their work of course. But that's different. Indeed, I always enjoyed the new legislator orientations. Oh, they were a pain in the butt. But I was always impressed about the eagerness of new legislators to come to Lansing and do something good. Whether I agreed with them or not, they mostly wanted to make a difference. That was refreshing. Or maybe I was just there to explain the situation and give them their Illuminati pin. Maybe.

The bubble around Pyongyang that North Korea built to keep out the effects of their idiotic economic policies in breaking down. And the secret police are corrupt. Which has been a fact of life for a while that undermines that pillar of the regime. But North Korea is getting nukes to protect them from an invasion that nobody wants to carry out. Bravo. The long collapse is taking way too long.

China has denied American requests for port visits by a couple Navy ships this month and next month to Hong Kong. To be fair to China, symbols of freedom's top defender are not welcome when people are protesting for freedom in Hong Kong.

Boom! "[Secretary of State Pompeo at the Arctic Council] scorned China's claim to be a near-Arctic state, saying, 'There are only arctic states and non-arctic states. No third category exists, and claiming otherwise entitles China to exactly nothing.'" Yeah, legally it means nothing. But as an early indicator of ultimate ambitions? It means a lot. America should claim to be a "near-Hong Kong state" and see how China likes that. Russia didn't escape attention, either.

Vietnam wants a better navy to resist Chinese claims in the South China Sea. Alone, Vietnam would have little hope of exercising any control of areas they claim--area denial is a different question. But if a lot of countries resist China in the South China Sea that's a contribution to the total. That's where America comes in.

I've mentioned that France is involved in combating jihadis in Mali and the rest of the Sahel. Good for them. We help. But while the original French intervention blunted the jihadi offensive, France is barely holding the line these days. For France as well as America, holding the line is necessary while the Islamic Civil War over who defines Islam is resolved in favor of the normal folks and not the killer jihadis.

Yeah (although I strongly disagree about there being no actual news right now--just gaze around the world), they "really do believe that Trump is a colorful amalgam of Satan, Hitler, the KKK Grand Wizard, and some hysterical television evangelist who wants to kill gays." One result is that they are dividing our country with incessant charges along those lines, amplified by the media who are part of "they." It's insane. Trump is surely a jerk. Period. I long for the days when the unhinged on the right thought Obama was a secret Moslem literally born in Kenya. At least the media ridiculed and dismissed such charges. Now the unhinged on the left think Trump is a secret Nazi figuratively born in Russia. But the media amplifies that charge. And so here we are.

Strategypage looks at the Army navy. I noted my relief at its survival.

The idea that you have to really understand the culture of your enemy to truly win rather than just win on the battlefield is off the mark in my view. Sure, you do want to understand your enemy to come to grips with what is logical for them, rather than mirror-imaging them with our own rationality. But if such empathy is so important, explain the victory over Japan in 1945 and the subsequent events. Did we really understand the Japanese in World War II? Please. We crushed them and then turned them into a democracy. I doubt if we understand the Japanese after more than sixty years of being allies.

The fakiest of fake news. I've long mistrusted the competence of the news to report accurately.  Silly me. I thought the news industry wanted to report accurately. Ironically enough, our news people have more in common with the European elites who labeled those poor people yearning to be free "wretched" except that today those people are called "deplorable" by the elites. Can't have those sorts living free, eh? Tip to Instapundit.

The federal government is too big and does too much that states should do. It is clear when a member of the House of Representatives sees herself not as the representative of her formal district but the representative of Progressives wherever they live. But how will her actual constituents who are the only ones who can vote--as opposed to contribute--think of that job description?

With an eye on Iran, the U.S. has increased military aid to Azerbaijan to better control their borders. Israel has also reached out to Azerbiajan with an eye on Iran.

That's not racism. Because reasons. Tip to Instapundit.

Seriously, when did Max Boot go completely nuts (Remember, TDR is not a licensed psychologist. Nor even a psych major. I've just noticed Boot used to be lucid. Now it is The Savage Wars of Trump 24/7)?

My how the flighty have fallen. I'm trying to look away from the sad spectacle. He just can't seem to get out of the Beta testing stage.

There is no way this art program will cure jihadis--but it might be a violation of their Geneva Convention rights. How long before the jihadis dream of waterboarding for some relief? Of course, there is one way to get some enthusiastic participation in the program.

Yeah, I'm suspicious when I hear the media call European parties "far right." It is wrong to assume that only in America is the false "Nazi" charge flung so easily. It is wrong to call decent people "Nazis" just because they disagree with you. It is also wrong because if you call decent people "Nazis," a lot of people will start to think that actual Nazis are just as wrongly tarred with that label. When everyone is a Nazi, nobody is.

So where is all the analysis of dog whistles and common language for these violent attacks?

This is a reason why, when push comes to shove, I favor "bake the cake" laws. I'd rather we settled these things without laws. If a baker doesn't want to make a specific cake for a gay wedding or if a Moslem taxi driver doesn't want a service dog in his cab, accommodation can be made by having another baker eager for the business or another taxi driver who doesn't care about a dog provide the service. But we don't live in that world. So yeah, if we're such a-holes that we won't go to someone else and insist that everybody has to do everything for everybody, make it a law. But why do I think that if the first cake controversy had been about a Moslem baker rather than a Christian baker that the Democrats and Republicans might have reversed positions on the issue?

State-run cradle-to-grave health care has an incentive to hasten the grave part.

"Green" energy's most holy relic. Grant me that this is funny. Somebody better go back an recalculate their indulgences carbon credits.

Actual war on women: Inconvenient Edition.

One can't rule out the possibility that Syria shot down an inbound missile.

Yes, you morons, military exercises are by definition a "rehearsal for war."  North Korea just hopes that sending their troops out to collect grubs and berries is a rehearsal for war. South Korea may be "impudent" but North Kore is just sad.

If boat people flee Hong Kong when China begins to seriously crush the protests, we should provide refuge for those next victims of communism. Hong Kongers are absolutely on the "right side" of history. But China has the guns, the willingness to use them, and the determination and economic power to stare down foreign critics until they get over their short-term outrage. Unless the protester demands help inspire a revolution in China itself, the protesters are doomed. The poor dumb bastards. My heart is breaking over what will happen.

Her faith in expert planning would almost be cute if such faith didn't lead to concentration camps because forcing people to act as the experts want is often the only way to make their expert projections "work." Tip to Instapundit.

It certainly is a mystery.

The Army Futures Command should not repeat the errors of the Army After Next venture that tried to build science fiction weaponry. Yeah, I was all over the folly of thinking the Future Combat System could build the "wonder tank" (in Military Review, starting on page 28).

If you can get by the idiocy of saying Russia was trying to put a puppet Trump into the White House (rather than trying to harm the hated but presumed winner Clinton, in addition to generally sowing division), the author is right that Russia is effing up by siding with China rather than the West. And the brief discussion of how the West tried to bring post-Soviet Russia into the West with a lot of money and advice refutes the idea that the West was out to destroy post-Soviet Russia.

Ah, the "myth" of American military dominance. Yes, Russia defeated the bulk of the German and Japanese armies in World War II. But the former would not have been possible without American aid and diversion of Germany's air force; and the defeat of the latter was irrelevant. Ultimately, the author says our record of victories is too tarnished to claim dominance in battle. I call BS on that claim.

Well, it would certainly be a nice balance with Alaska, you have to admit. Sadly, the Danes aren't selling. Despite the mockery from the left, it isn't an outlandish idea given the importance of the large island to our defense. Fortunately Denmark is a NATO ally. Tip to Instapundit.

As I understand it, some group has to be responsible for this man's hate. So who would that be? Tip to Instapundit.

No. Way! Tip to Instapundit.

Does Trump lie? Sure. But that doesn't distinguish him from other politicians. The difference is that instead of being reporters our media people are mostly liberal partisans who will provide enough "context" (although to be fair, a number of fact checkers did call the Democratic politicians on their statements as the first link shows) so that nobody on their side actually "lies" when they say something that is not true. Still, when statements aren't so obviously wrong, more are willing to provide the "context" needed to clear Democrats.

Why are there so many shootings in Chicago? I don't know. But what I do know is that the editors who ask should be condemned as racist for using the dog whistle word "thugs." Tip to Instapundit.

China brought out a pro-China rally in Hong Kong to rival the anti-government protests going on. Although the article's description of the protests as "often violent" misrepresents the protests where the violence is almost entirely started by pro-government thugs or the police.

HAHAHA:

Tip to Powerline Blog.

Iraq has ordered the grounding of all aircraft, suggesting anything airborne will be shot down. Odd, that is. ISIL will be glad to have a little peace, I suppose.

Sure, that's nice (tip to Instapundit). But the best way for Marines to protect Navy warships in the Persian Gulf is to take Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf.