Friday, January 31, 2020

The China Dream Exposed?

Will the Chinese people conclude that the only people the Chinese Communist Party values in the "People's" Republic of China are CCP members?


China’s recent deadly coronavirus outbreak, commencing in Wuhan in early December 2019 and rapidly spreading throughout the country and world, demonstrates that dictatorship can exacerbate a disaster, whether it is naturally occurring or manmade, such as the Soviet Sverdlovsk anthrax outbreak in 1979.

The pandemic is China’s Chernobyl. While the Chinese authorities initially reported about 800 cases and 25 deaths, that death toll in China has risen to 80 and the number of confirmed cases is growing by the thousands. Videos, texts and other information sent out from the epicenter through various outlets indicate the number of people exposed to the virus may be as high as 100,000. Videos show Wuhan hospitals packed with patients, people collapsing on the streets, and medical staff breaking down. ...

China’s actions compel damning conclusions about the behavior of the CCP. Local party officials could not contain the disease and evidently chose to lie about its scope and severity until the truth was exposed. These actions likely worsened the impact of the virus far beyond China’s borders.

And here's another analyst wondering about the political effect:

The coronavirus and its potential consequences of mass death expose the dictatorship's brittleness. If you prefer, substitute "incompetence masked by police intimidation and lack of free expression" for "brittleness."

Well, I mentioned something related to this recently:

China has confirmed the spread of a SARS-like coronavirus. This is potentially a world health problem. China has to be worried for more than the health angle, because you never know what will end the Mandate of Heaven.

Is it significant that (and this is a repeat of the "brittleness" source) Xi called the virus a "demon?"

While meeting with a World Health Organization official in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping conceded that the coronavirus epidemic presented "the Chinese people" with a struggle. "The epidemic is a demon, and we cannot let this demon hide," Xi said. Xi added that the Beijing communist government would "release information on the virus in a 'timely' manner."

How fragile is the popular--whether actively supportive or resentfully passive--consent in China to being ruled by the Chinese Communist Party?

And as an aside, is this possibility what Russia is relying on to avoid vassal status?

UPDATE: Secrecy kills:

A reconstruction of the crucial seven weeks between the appearance of the first symptoms in early December and the government’s decision to lock down the city, based on two dozen interviews with Wuhan residents, doctors and officials, on government statements and on Chinese media reports, points to decisions that delayed a concerted public health offensive.

In those weeks, the authorities silenced doctors and others for raising red flags. They played down the dangers to the public, leaving the city’s 11 million residents unaware they should protect themselves. They closed a food market where the virus was believed to have started, but didn’t broadly curb the wildlife trade.

Can it kill the CCP?

The Pact of Kneel

So what about a Russian-Chinese alliance? Is a third period of defense cooperation going to benefit China's military capability just as the Soviet Union provided China in the 1950s and as Russia did after 1991?

The Moscow-Beijing collaborative relations have already yielded major shifts in the military balance in the Asia-Pacific two times. Will the third time be a global transformation?

No. The third time won't be a global transformation. I don't think there will even be a third time.

Russia has exhausted their Cold War stocks of military technology that the rapidly advancing China might find useful. All Russia has left to offer China are lots of nukes and obedience. And I'm not so sure about the former. Russia will be China's junior partner if they stick together.

I tend to think that Russia is a mixed bag for China as an ally, akin to what Fascist Italy's "Pact of Steel" with Nazi Germany was for Germany: a source of peacetime diplomatic heft but potential military distractions in wartime to save their weak ally.

Russia's appeasement of second period of defense cooperation with China after the Cold War failed to buy enough time for Russia to recover. Any Russian alliance with China would simply formalize Russia's subservience.

Indeed, although this analysis speaks of a strengthening Russian-Chinese "alliance," Russia is not blind:

Moscow, however, still sees China as a potential long-term threat. ...

Russia worries that if its 3,485-kilometer (2,165-mile) border with Mongolia falls under Chinese control, its Siberian underbelly would be exposed.

Apart from the horror of a general war against such an axis, it would be fascinating to see what price China will demand to bail out their over-extended junior partner.

And it gets worse for Russia, China's centuries-long ethnic cleansing of border lands to bring them into China continue, and Central Asia former Soviet provinces are looking to Russia for protection from the "flag follows trade" process that could plant China firmly in control of the region. Does Russia want their vulnerable Asian front with China to be even longer?

If Russia wants to retain influence in Central Asia and keep the China threat potential at bay, Russia will have to oppose China's long-term threat to "the Stans."

UPDATE: Russia should be cc'd for this warning:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday pressed Kazakhstan to be wary of Chinese investment and influence, urging the Central Asian nation and others to join calls demanding an end to China's repression of minorities.

Bringing a message similar to the one he has delivered repeatedly to other countries, Pompeo told senior Kazakh officials that the attractiveness of Chinese investment comes with a cost to sovereignty and may hurt, instead of help, the country's long-term development.

Russia could use our friendship. Maybe Putin will stop effing up royally.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Germans Better Pray We Don't Agree With Them

I'm not on board the full condemnation of the Western alliance that this author levels, but this observation is accurate:

Germany possesses the economy and talent to be the third-most powerful country in the world, but lacks the will. Horrified still by the enormities it committed in plunging the world into two world wars and the unspeakable wickedness of Nazi genocide and military barbarity, it recoils from the role that beckons it.

Let me take this opportunity to swing the clue bat at the thick skulls of the Germans who believe that:

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

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

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

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

Germany needs to get over their excuses and stand up for the West before we take them at their word that they can't be trusted with a functioning military:

Seriously, is German unwillingness to pay for common defense in line with their economic status so strong that the Germans are willing to argue that they are barely suppressed Nazis at heart despite 70+ years of being part of the West with freedom and democracy?

If the Germans say they aren't to be trusted with sharp knives and actually believe it is true, maybe NATO and Russia should just pull back a safe distance and nuke the place just to be sure.

I mean, if Germans are still "horrified" by their potential for evil nearly 75 years after Nazi Germany was crushed, who are we to doubt them?

The Quasi-Janissary Corps Emerges

Turkey has joined the "fight-my-enemies-to-the-last-dead-Arab"  club in Libya:

Currently the Turkish contribution has been over 2,000 Syrian mercenaries and a few hundred Turkish troops serving in non-combat jobs. Turkey has also provided dozens of missile armed UAVs that provide air support for the GNA forces.

Although Turkey has already used Syrian proxies to fight in northwest Syria in Idlib and for their Kurdish incursion in the east. But at least those Syrians are fighting in their own country. Being sent abroad to Libya as some sort of Turkish Janissary Corps to fight for the GNA against the LNA in that civil war is rather new.

I did wonder if Turkey's intervention in the Libya civil war would include direct combat troops, as I asked in this data dump:

Turkey says it has begun sending troops to Libya. They already had support personnel there. So what does this mean? More trainers and support people or actual combat troops? I'd be shocked if it's the latter, but who knows what Sultan Erdogan wants as he makes his move. Once the Soviet threat of invading Turkey from the east and west plus from the Black Sea evaporated in 1991, Turkey has had room to revive quasi-imperial ambitions.

I thought that Turkish combat troops were unlikely but didn't consider the possibility that Turkey would send Syrians to die for Turkey's ambitions.

But hey, if you have quasi-imperial ambitions quasi-Janissaries make perfect sense.

UPDATE: Italy and Cyprus reject the sea border and economic concession deal that Turkey concluded with the rump but UN-recognized government of Libya.

And France is also upset that Turkey is sending forces to Libya:

Following a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Macron also described a maritime deal between Turkey and Libya's U.N.-backed government as a “void document" with no legal or political standing.

“These past few days we have seen Turkish warships accompanied by Syrian mercenaries arrive on Libyan soil. This is a serious and explicit infringement of what was agreed upon in Berlin," Macron said, referring to an international summit in the German capital earlier this month.

Four Turkish frigates are off the coast of Libya in international waters.

UPDATE: Strategypage has more on the Libya situation where Russia and Turkey back opposite sides. Turkey has to do a lot more intervening to help its side win. And Turkey is having regrets over siding with Russia over Syria, too.

As I noted in the last data dump:

>Erdogan is alienating NATO ally America in favor of promoting friendship with long-time enemy Russia. And outside of Erdogan's fantasy world, Russia backs Syria's attacks in northwest Syria over Turkish objections--which continues to make progress in Idlib province--while Russia and Turkey are on opposite sides in the Libyan civil war. Brilliant!

Ah, what are the odds Turkey will need the good will of formal NATO allies?

UPDATE: That would definitely put a crimp in the Russia-Turkey budding friendship:

Turkey may launch a military operation into Syria's northwestern Idlib province if the situation is not resolved immediately, President Tayyip Erdogan said Friday as attacks by Russia-backed Syrian government forces risked a new wave of refugees.

Who knew centuries-long enemies would have trouble being best autocratic buddies?

UPDATE: Our AFRICOM commander isn't pleased with Turkey's intervention:

Turkey’s deployment of troops to war-torn Libya to head off the threat of private Russian military contractors threatens a significant escalation in the months-long conflict, the top US military officer in Africa said today.

How high will Turkey escalate?

UPDATE: Related thoughts.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

America Distracted?

No organization that calls itself The Strategist should print dreck like this. Oh, please:

The US no longer has vital interests at stake in the Middle East. Shale oil and gas have made the US energy-independent, so safeguarding Middle Eastern oil supplies is no longer a strategic imperative. In fact, the US has been supplanting Iran as an important source of crude oil and petroleum products for India, the world’s third-largest oil consumer after America and China. Moreover, Israel, which has become the region’s leading military power (and its only nuclear-armed state), no longer depends on vigilant US protection.

The US does, however, have a vital interest in resisting China’s efforts to challenge international norms, including through territorial and maritime revisionism. That is why Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, promised a ‘pivot to Asia’ early in his presidency.

One, of course we have a vital interest in resisting China.

But two, killing Soleimani wasn't "interfering" in the Middle East. It was defending our interests and our allies.

And three, of course we have vital interests in the Middle East despite not importing much oil from the region.

The area still breeds and exports terrorism. And vital allies outside of the Middle East who we trade with as a pillar for our prosperity import lots of oil from the Middle East. Preventing hostile powers, whether local or foreign, from holding or dominating that region is a vital American interest.

And of course Israel still relies on America. Israel can win a short war, but it is a tiny country and can't long fight a war at the level of mobilization Israel needs to win wars against larger regional enemies.

Not that I'm fully defending Obama's "pivot" which simply reflected an ongoing (correct) process of shifting the allocation of resources to Asia from Europe since the collapse of the USSR threat to Europe; and which was really a disguised retreat from the Middle East, in my opinion.

But more to the point, defending our interests in the Middle East is not an  "addiction" for interfering that is distracting America with dealing with China.

America defeated the Soviet Union in the Cold War despite multi-year "distractions" in Asia in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and despite fluctuating commitments in the Middle East that culminated in the 1991 Persian Gulf War before the USSR collapsed late that year.

American troops strength in the Middle East has waxed and waned from 1950 to 2015 as this paper shows (see especially figure 4, although the 1990 and 1991 figures seem lower because the numbers are annualized and the deployments for the brief Persian Gulf War span short periods of 1990 when we deployed and 1991 when we fought).

And I'll answer one question from that paper about why US deployments abroad have declined in general over the decades. One, wars in Korea and Vietnam ended; two, we won the Cold War; and three, the American military has been reduced in size a great deal over that time. So the ability and need to deploy overseas went down.

But I digress.

Right now American troop strength is more--but still lower than in the recent past:

Despite Donald Trump's pledge to bring troops home, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East on Thursday said the most recent forces to enter the region could be there for "quite a while." ...

The Bataan and two other U.S. warships moved into the Middle East on Jan. 11. By Thursday, they were in the north Red Sea, roughly 50 miles south of the Sinai Peninsula. They are the latest additions to America's troop presence in the region. Since May, their numbers have grown from about 60,000 to more than 80,000.

Keep in mind that few of the 80,000 are on the ground in combat rather than supporting local allies in combat because we fought our common enemies and trained our local allies to largely replace our direct ground combat role.

Unfortunately the demand for American military involvement and attention rose enormously in the last three decades. It is down from its peak and I would certainly like the need for troops to go down even more. Ending the Iran threat would go a long way to achieving that.

One more thing about the "pivot" should be explained. Facing China comes from our fleet and positions off the coast of Asia for the most part. So facing China doesn't mean major increases in troops strength in Asia. Indeed, as our fleet shrank, the pivot was about increasing the percent of the smaller fleet in Asia. Much of the pivot was actually seen as qualitative--putting our best naval and air forces into the same footprint. And being able to reinforce, of course, in wartime.

I hope our Middle Eastern presence can go down in the future. It already has from our peak involvement. Hopefully our surge in forces over the 2000s held the line while local forces could be mobilized to hold the line in place of our own troops. So far that is happening. And as long as we don't cut and run requiring a new effort--as our departure from Iraq in 2011 led to since 2014--the downward trend of direct American involvement in the Middle East can safely continue despite fluctuations for specific threats.

So America can focus on China as the biggest threat despite the need to address lesser but annoyingly pointless threats from Russia in Europe and persistent bad actors in the Middle East. America doesn't have the luxury of having just one problem.

Letting small threats grow from inattention into large threats is not strategic thinking.

If this is Australia's idea of strategic thinking, no wonder Australia doesn't appreciate the value of Darwin.

Add Two More and Voila!

So the North Korea nuclear issue can be solved by an agreement by six states?

The essence of the Korean story—how it originated and evolved since World War II—has been utterly distorted. Ironically enough, among the six key parties—the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan—it’s the U.S., the perennial ‘fall guy’ on this issue, that has by far the most positive story to tell. ...

The offering of security assurances would provide an opportunity to refresh and develop an important piece of the puzzle. Such assurances would offer every state directly associated with security on the Korean peninsula to make a substantive contribution to the sort of positive atmosphere needed to find a way into the core issue: opening up the path that leads to a peninsula that is both reliably stable and not a focus of major-power competition.

I'm just a simple unfrozen caveman blogger, but four-party assurances on the nuclear issue by America, Britain, Ukraine, and Russia to get rid of Ukraine's nukes in exchange for security guarantees (the 1994 Budapest Memorandum) did not prevent Russia from changing their mind once Ukraine had no nukes and invading Ukraine in 2014 to take control of Crimea and the eastern Donbas.

Sure, that older failure is not guarantee that a new deal will fail. Although who could blame North Korea if they don't want to be involved in a reboot of the Ukraine role?

Adding two more states--including one that proved untrustworthy on the very formula we are supposed to try--seems unlikely to be the path to success.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Let the Punishment Fit the Crime

Even if the House Democrats are right about their impeachment charge, so what?

A writer I respect, Jonah Goldberg, thinks that the Trump phone call with Ukraine's new president was awful and focused on a political rival, and so worthy of House impeachment. Which is apart from the question of whether he should be convicted by the Senate and removed.

To be fair, he thinks a broad range of presidential actions have been technically worthy of House impeachment by both Bush 43 and Obama. Again, whether you should impeach and whether the Senate should convict are separate questions apart from the foundation of an expansive list of proper grounds for impeachment. On that I think he is probably technically correct, but that requires political restraint from our politicians not to abuse that expansive power. I think House Democrats have abandoned that restraint and that this is a bad precedent to set as a threshold for impeachment.

While I don't like the phone call--it is not a "perfect" call as Trump claims--I think things like that are routine although more experienced presidents and staff would have known to have someone else make the request quietly.

FDR asked General Marshall to advance the date of Operation Torch to take place prior to the 1942 Congressional election as a favor to his administration, for example (see Rick Atkinson, An Army at Dawn, p. 29). That didn't happen as the need for preparations pushed the date back, but the request was made.

And practically speaking, other presidents didn't have staff and the media willing to leak such ugly details of real world horse trading the way Trump faces. FDR saw no need to have a proxy make that request.

Nor do I think that there is only a political reason for the call. We have real foreign policy and domestic objectives parallel to the president's political goals and that can't be dismissed. We don't want to waste foreign aid; we want to find out how the BS Russian collusion charge that Obama investigated started, roiling our nation since 2016; and we don't want a corrupt president should Biden win the 2020 election. Trump can be wrong about any or all of those things without being a criminal for believing them or thinking they could be true.

Even though Trump is wrong about the extent of 2016 Ukrainian interference--as far as I can tell it was real but far smaller and far less orchestrated from the top than Russia's project chaos* (and boy are the secondary explosions caused by the Democrats since then--which is one reason the Russian interference was so much more effective--making Putin squeal like a school girl at a boy band concert)--so what?

That presumed truth refuting the president's belief would come out and benefit the Democrats, no? Do you think the media wouldn't blare out the most flimsy but plausible exoneration even if the charge was true?

And Biden doesn't get a pass on corruption charges just because he is a candidate for president. Again, if it is ridiculous to claim Biden corruption, let that come out (or let the media pretend that is the result) and embarrass Trump for pursuing it.

Even if the mind readers are correct that Trump only wanted political gains from his call--and nobody can confirm that with solid evidence--so what? Slap his hand, use it as an argument made to the voters to defeat him in 2020, and let's get on with our lives.

I'm consistent across the Obama and Trump administration on distasteful presidential actions, such as that ugly pre-2012 election Russian "space" for post-election American "flexibility" that President Obama offered:

Seriously, how many of Obama's policies, both in domestic and foreign areas, were adopted in pursuit of his Holy "Legacy" rather than for the good of America?* [Clarification in update at this post]

"Obama did not just want to be president. His mission was to leave a legacy as a president of consequence, the liberal counter to Reagan."

And how many of our presidents could pass the new standard?

It never even occurred to me that Obama should be impeached for that outrageous bargain. It was a political question in my mind. And so is the issue of Trump's phone call to the new Ukrainian president.

God help us if the Senate adopts the standard that the House Democrats have proposed. How will we conduct foreign policy at all?

I never even considered the option of impeaching Obama for a number of things he did that I thought were shady as Hell and contrary to American interests and rule of law. Heck, what about before Obama was president?

The idea that now we would operate on an expansive definition of what is technically impeachable is an outrage, and surely far more politically motivated and damaging to America than Trump's phone call.

Democrats claim they are saving our country. But false patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. And I think that is what is going on here.

I'm sure this entry will annoy Trump supporters without giving me any credit from Resistance types, but God help me but I can't help myself. That's how I roll.

Welcome to my world.

*I continue to believe Putin full expected he'd face a damaged Clinton in the White House because of his disinformation campaign. But back then I did not imagine that Democrats would still be useful idiots for Russia three years later.

Putin Fu

Yes, Russia is appeasing China by sending military assets to put pressure on China's enemies:

In light of Putin’s desire to develop deeper ties with Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea, and the ASEAN states, both in response to Russia’s continuing isolation from the West and to diversify away from China, Moscow’s willingness to join Beijing in bullying its neighbors appears quite short-sighted indeed. In fact, this decision underscores that Russia’s role in East Asia is not entirely “normal,” and is becoming less so as Beijing is ever more in the driver’s seat. Not only do these cases demonstrate Russia’s eagerness to act as China’s sidekick, they also show that Putin is willing to take actions, at least in Asia, on China’s behalf, even when they harm Russia’s own bottom line.

That's long been clear. And I think Russia's hostility to a non-threatening NATO is intended to conceal Russian appeasement of China behind a veil of pointless hostility toward the West:

Russia complains loudly about American and NATO plots against Mother Russia when in fact NATO in Europe has mostly disarmed while America was happy to not think about Russia much.

From our point of view, this makes no sense. Can't Russia see that the West is no threat while China is the threat? Why not work with us?

Well, from the Russian point of view, Russia is acting very logical.

Russian power collapsed in 1991, leaving their Far East vulnerable to China whose power soon began to rise even as Russia's power continued to erode.

Was it logical for Russia to openly treat China as a threat and cozy up to the West that was disarming and never going to help Russia defend the Amur River line?

Not really, when you think about it. Yes, in the end, Russia will have to recognize that China is a threat and not NATO. But we're far from whenever "the end" is and until then Russia can't afford to anger China.

So Russia sells weapons designed to point China's modernizing military out to see against America, Taiwan, and Japan rather than against Russia.

This isn't just clever politics. This is a form of appeasement.

Which, as it was before World War II, a reasonable reaction to a stronger power that has gotten a bad name from World War II as a means to delude yourself into thinking you've stopped an aggressor with pieces of paper.

As I've written, appeasement properly done can make sense if it allows you to avoid war with a stronger power and then use that time to build up your strength to reverse that imbalance.

In many ways, that is what Russia is doing. They have been appeasing China until they can rebuild their strength.

I'm pretty sure Russia hoped that by now they would no longer have to appease China. Russia has to snatch the pebble from China's hand.

But that isn't working out, as Russia has helped to build a NATO focused on the Russian threat while still being too weak to hold of China in the east.

So Russia continues to bend the knee to China by sending forces against countries that Russia should want to trade with.

I've mentioned that Putin is effing up royally, haven't I? Without American help, Russia can't snatch the pebble from China's hand.

Monday, January 27, 2020

More Please

This is good and must be sustained if it is to lead to lasting victory over the Taliban:

Afghan forces used ground attacks and air strikes in multiple operations against the Taliban during the last 24 hours, killing 51 fighters in an escalation that signaled renewed deadlock in peace talks.

Afghanistan's Defense Ministry said on Sunday that government forces had conducted 13 ground offensives and 12 air strikes in nine provinces, adding that 51 "terrorists" had been killed, 13 wounded and six arrested.

I've been waiting a long time for the Afghan security forces to seize the initiative from the enemy after contracting security force footprints to reduce exposed outposts.

Is this a signal that things are changing?

A Race Continues

Israel's defenses against shorter range rockets would take a quantum leap if their laser system works. But it is not the last word in the battle. The attack-defense race never ends. Although a different race might commence.

This new Israeli defensive laser is good if it can be fielded:

Laser system like this have been in development elsewhere for a long time but so far no one has been able to develop a laser with the range and destructive power to perform like the new Israeli system. This new weapon is already being called “Laser Dome” because it would complement the existing Iron Dome system that uses missiles and an innovative radar/software system that ignores ballistic, rockets or mortar shell whose trajectory would mean hitting unoccupied land where there will be no injuries or serious damage. Most objects fired at Israel end up landing in unoccupied areas and the few objects that are dangerous are intercepted by missiles. This has proved very effective.

Hezbollah and Gaza-based jihadis bombard Israel with unguided rockets.

Israel adds Iron Dome that only shoots at the rockets that will hit something of value.

The terrorists add a lot more rockets and add longer-range and some precision rockets to stretch and overwhelm the defenses.

And now Israel will add lasers that solve the ammunition limit problem as long as the electricity flows.

The next terrorist response might be to arm the rockets that will fall "harmlessly"--and so aren't targeted by Israeli defenses--with mobile warheads that will then crawl to the target, as I imagined in this entry for an Army contest:

Within seconds the first circular eRobot-made M-980 Mobile Variable Yield Smart Mines—“Boomba” was a Slug nickname that had stuck—would be fired by a distant Legion MBT and infest that KarmÄ—lava street. They had the advantage of being able to follow the POE and avoid harming Civilians. They freaked out the enemy for some reason as they scurried about, all predator-like.

The race will continue. Until somebody decides to run a different race to break the constraints of the current race. Hezbollah may think they won that particular race in 2006, but maybe Israel disagrees.

And that first article discusses American efforts in the defensive laser effort.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Weekend Data Dump

Gosh, I hate how Trump is alienating our traditional allies.

Sailors and Marines can be proud to sail on a ship--a carrier no less!--named to honor an actual hero. I'm still disgusted with the Navy for this decision. "Dorie" Miller previously had a frigate (originally a "destroyer escort"--a less capable version of a "destroyer") named in his honor. For those who say he just did his duty that day, recall that the Navy said his "duties" were limited to serving food. That man served his country that had yet to make good on its promise of equality for all. Give him credit for seeing that our country's founding demanded freedom and equality for people like him.

Jihadis and Iranian proxies at war with Israel--and Egypt. We tend only to notice when it flares up in a more obvious way to make the news.

Russia interfered in our 2016 election--as they have long done even when they were the USSR, to disrupt our country--and some Ukrainians did that, as well. It's not that complicated. I assume that Putin is still handing out bonuses for the crew that worked on America, given the House impeachment that resulted. Democrats essentially claim that Trump's denial of their baseless overwrought charges proves he's an agent of Putin. Nadler has actually circled back to the original fantasy long debunked. Good grief people, the Mueller inquiry had the time, budget, and anti-Trump staffers to manufacture evidence if they wanted to. Yet they came up with bupkis. Those Democrats have gone quite mad. One might say they are deplorable. Useful idiots, indeed.

In regard to this article's broaching of secession as a cure for our polarization, let me suggest an alternative: All states can have a soft secession from the federal government that has grown far more powerful and all-encompassing than our founders could have imagined. Reduce the federal government to truly national issues and otherwise use block grants to help the poorer states gain ground on the average. And let the states handle the issues that the federal government has stolen. Twitter is not the pulse of the nation. It's the pulse of the crazily intense political groupies. But I say if you are worried that the country could split into 2 countries, why not instead go back toward the time when we were numerous countries based on the states? Be 50 "countries" as we were intended to be. We can't go back to the era when Washington, D.C. was a sleepy seasonal swamp (literally) town. But we can restore a lot of the authority of the states that the federal government has taken over since the Civil War, which accelerated a lot after World War II. Restrict the federal government to truly national issues. On state-level issues I don't care if California wants to be California as long as they don't insist every other state be like California.

The US-monitored talks over the Nile River by Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan continue.

Rabid violence-prone and probably racist haters concluded a large gun rights rally in Virginia without hate or violence. Despite a probable plant trying to instigate violence. Go figure. The media and the Virginia governor are probably deeply disappointed. Tip to Instapundit.


This is just another form of dictator worship. Actually, Putin is effing up royally.

Democrats have dialed their frothy Resistance up to 11 since before the 2016 election. Impeachment puts it to 12. What will they be like in October?

It is a good point that changing how we elect a president from a majority of the Electoral College to a majority of the votes cast still wouldn't have given Clinton the win in 2016. Surely, nobody wants a voting plurality to be sufficient given how that could promote multiple regional candidates resulting in one who could win with some ridiculously low percentage of the vote concentrated in one region.

The 70mm APKWS can hit small drones.

Russia is trying to leverage their role in Libya's civil war to pressure Europe by posing as the power with its hand on the migrant spigot. A couple weeks ago I mentioned that Turkey and Russia could use their roles in Libya for exactly that.

China has confirmed the spread of a SARS-like coronavirus. This is potentially a world health problem. China has to be worried for more than the health angle, because you never know what will end the Mandate of Heaven.

I don't care what Greta Thunberg thinks about the climate. As a father, I do feel sorry for her. I am concerned that she will end up an 80-year-old high school dropout still droning on about the imminent end of the world.

Jihadis smashed up a key humanitarian aid facility in northern Nigeria. Because, obviously, helping people eat and stuff like that is contrary to Mohammed's teachings. Remember, we victims of the jihadis don't deserve the hate that the jihadis embrace. Seriously, stop the self-hate.

Networking all of of a Navy's ships into a single air defense network able to allocate anti-missiles efficiently and in time is great. The Navy has been working on this Cooperative Engagement Capability for a long time. But even when fully in the fleet we still need more but smaller ships and we still need to be careful about approaching China where masses of anti-ship missiles could overwhelm our networked air defenses.

Damn that Trump for spoiling our alliances to the point where allies won't help us!

Iraqi Sunni Arabs are worried about how a potential conflict between America and Iran could affect them. I'm not sure what they should do, but I think supporting our enemies like Saddam, al Qaeda, and ISIL as they did in the past when they got worried is not the answer. 

I think it is a mistake to let new documents be entered into the impeachment trial in the Senate. If allowed, it encourages fishing-expedition impeachments with no evidence being passed by the House to tie up the Senate in an endless examination of new documents. The House should have done its job and not passed on that job to the Senate.

I know we're supposed to be totally impressed with the media savvy of Representative ACK! But can we just admit she's dumb as a rock?

Sod off swampy, we'll not rescue you from your problems on the theory that we caused your economic collapse rather than your own stupid dictatorial socialist policies.

"The media are devoted to not covering the Biden family’s financial … shenanigans." I long for the simpler days of simpler exploitation of family politicians. That seems almost quaint, doesn't it?

How? Because it was too convenient to disbelieve the stories.

My view of this episode isn't that Sanders doesn't want to be president, but that he doesn't want to alienate the rabid early primary base by going after Democratic rivals for the nomination when those leftists expect 24/7 devotion to attacking the Orange Bad Man. Letting a subordinate stick the shiv into Biden while Sanders gets to loudly disavow the attack is just a safe way of watching Biden bleed out in the primary contest without leaving Bernie's fingerprints on the (figurative) murder weapon. 

Is she as dumb as she apparently thinks we are? Get real. Tips to Instapundit.

People like Weissgerber make lousy revolutionaries. But they do make perfectly adequate gulag guards when all they have to face are unarmed prisoners. So don't laugh at that example of evil. 

Trump can do anything! I began following defense and foreign affairs as a national issue in the early 1970s. I swear I never thought I'd hear Democrats, as Schiff did in the impeachment trial last week, earnestly claiming that they had to impeach Trump to defend America's core national security interests. I wasn't aware that Democrats even knew America had core national security interests let alone that they were determined to defend them!

ANSWER: Because you think it is okay to use children as human shields for your policy choices. We don't let minors sign legally binding contracts so I don't think I'll be taking advice from one over energy policy.

Blue check hack

Starving zoo lions in Sudan "spark global concern." Hundreds of thousand killed there in ethnic cleansing and civil war over the last couple decades spark ... nothing, for the most part.

I realize that Democrats are likely to disagree with my view that Schiff's opening statement in the impeachment speech was like fingernails on a chalk board, but their superlative praise of The Amazing Adam's speech could have been boiled down to "I loved it. It was much better than Cats."

Erdogan is alienating NATO ally America in favor of promoting friendship with long-time enemy Russia. And outside of Erdogan's fantasy world, Russia backs Syria's attacks in northwest Syria over Turkish objections--which continues to make progress in Idlib province--while Russia and Turkey are on opposite sides in the Libyan civil war. Brilliant!

This isn't satire, it's sociology. Now go and emit no more.

I did not know this. Ukraine isn't allowed to use US-supplied Javelin missiles in the Donbas confrontation. If Congress is so upset about a delay by Trump in shipping the missiles, why did they include that provision in the law providing that aid? But at some level it makes sense. It is a weapon best used against Russian tank attacks. And right now the fighting is low level on a static front. I think the front is largely unchanged since late in 2014. Really, that's why I just wasn't upset that the missiles were delayed despite knowing they fill a capabilities gap. If freed for use they'd be used by Ukrainian troops to smash bunkers and buildings, wasting Ukraine's supply of the missiles on targets that could be destroyed by other weapons rather than for the best anti-tank use in case Russia escalates the war to more overt attacks on Ukraine. But rather interesting. Both that fact itself and the fact that this was not revealed until now.

An ally of Soleimani, a local Basij commander in Iran's southwestern Khuzestan province named Abdolhossein Mojaddami, was gunned down in his home town. Good. Who did it? Was it America? Israel? Saudi Arabia? Local Arabs unhappy with rule by Tehran? Regardless, there is one less Shia jihadi out there.

People like Berlatsky are revolting specimens of the human race. They should be shunned as the tyrant-loving fanatics they are.

Their mental health issues and delusions shouldn't be my problem.

Is the Democratic impeachment effort actually going to kill the Biden presidential bid in some hilarious collateral damage?

The Army will try out Spike NLOS missiles.

The silence of the lambs media fact checkers. Tip to Instapundit.

Is it really satire about how the left thinks when the left also claims you are Alt-right if you give the "okay" gesture or if you like the Betsy Ross flag? These unhinged people are (tip to Instapundit) simply seeing things that aren't there. So now Bernie Sanders must be a racist and anybody who supports him must be, too. Are we having fun yet? I know I finally am!

Those are exactly the questions I want answered from Warren and her ilk about student loan "forgiveness" and "free" college. And her answer isn't good for America. Does she want to encourage people to simply rely on the government and the politicians who decide who gets what? That was a rhetorical question, by the way. Screwing the people who plan ahead and try to stand on their own is all part of her plan. She does say she is the candidate of plans.

In his second term, Trump could do a lot of good for conservatism if he refuses to carry out policies by administrative rule--even if the policy enjoys broad bipartisan support--if it can be achieved by legislation. Make the legislative body legislate and tell Congress he'll sign what they pass.

After speaking with Iraq's president, Trump said Iraq is happy with America's troop presence. I did not think it was likely that Iraq would eject American troops.

Thirty-four American troops suffered from the concussions caused by the Iranian missile strikes on our two bases in Iraq. While the concussion of explosions is far better than maiming, it is a wound. And if that results in traumatic brain injury, that's a potentially serious wound. It is more than a headache. Still, the initial reports of no injuries is hardly a "lie" as some Democrats charge. Sometimes you just find out more information.

Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko, after Russia ended cheap energy exports to Belarus at the end of 2019, accused Russia of trying to absorb Belarus and rejected that outcome: "'We have our own country, we're sovereign and independent. With our brains and hands, we earn what we can, we're building our own country. And we can't be a part of some other country,' Lukashenko said. 'I can't betray you and dissolve Belarus, even in the brotherly Russia.'" He's an unpleasant man, but we do not want Russia controlling Belarus.

Nadler and his ilk are just nuts. It's hard to argue with this observation: "If Trump were a dictator, all the people calling him one would be in unmarked graves. Or, more likely, sucking up to him." You don't have to like Trump to recognize that a dictator wouldn't have allowed leaks from his own administration (because he'd disappear the staff and their families), he wouldn't have allowed impeachments that fed on those leaks (because he'd suspend Congress or arrest the leaders), and he would not have allowed Democrats to take control of the House in the 2018 elections (because he'd have rigged that election the way he's accused of planning to rig the 2020 election). Seriously, these people are delusional.

You know, I never saw impeachment "fact checks" pop up on the Yahoo! news page until the Republicans started to make their defense case. Because the Democrats didn't misrepresent any facts, of course ... In related news, the networks reduced their live impeachment coverage. Of course they did. The Democrats made their case and the media sees no need to cover the Republican defense.


Fighting continues in Libya.

The American CENTCOM commander visited American troops deployed in Syria helping to train and protect the rebel SDF, letting them know that America's mission against ISIL there remains important.

And this funny for everyone (but keep Harry and Meghan away!):

The virus that began in Wuhan, China and which has infected Hong Kong, is mighty convenient for shutting down protests by limiting gatherings and travel. Schools in Hong Kong are shut down for two weeks. If I was the paranoid type I'd totally think China started this to smother the Hong Kong protests. But given the inability to control the virus and aim it at Hong Kong, I have to go with natural causes. Still, one can't overlook the possibility that the Chinese communists thought they could aim it and effed it up ...

How the B-52 lives on.

Israel retaliated for jihadis launching fire balloons from Gaza.

American forces in Syria defending oil fields for use by the SDF turned back without incident a Russian convoy heading that way. Had the Russian convoy gotten there they'd have dug in and dared us to eject them, no doubt. It's always better to hold the ground.

Lebanese anti-corruption protesters were out in force protesting the new cabinet as just the usual suspects returning to power.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Mookie is Tanned, Rested, and Ready to Revolt

I've long said that Iraq would rue the day we let that three-time insurrectionist Moqtada al-Sadr live. He looks like he's angling for a fourth.

Sadr led marchers against American troops in Iraq, although he seems to have fallen well short of his million-marcher goal:

Thousands of Iraqis rallied at two central Baghdad intersections on Friday after a prominent cleric called for a "million strong" protest against the American military presence, following the U.S. killing of an Iranian general and an Iraqi militia chief.

The march called by Moqtada al-Sadr aims to pressure Washington to pull out its troops, but many anti-government protesters fear it could overshadow their separate, months-long demonstrations that have challenged Iran-backed Shi'ite groups' grip on power.

But Sadr has decided to punish the existing anti-corruption protesters who have Iran in their sights as well:

Thousands of Iraqis rallied at two central Baghdad intersections on Friday after a prominent cleric called for a "million strong" protest against the American military presence, following the U.S. killing of an Iranian general and an Iraqi militia chief.

The march called by Moqtada al-Sadr aims to pressure Washington to pull out its troops, but many anti-government protesters fear it could overshadow their separate, months-long demonstrations that have challenged Iran-backed Shi'ite groups' grip on power. ...

In a tweet Friday evening, al-Sadr indicated his “disappointment” toward anti-government protesters in Baghdad's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the anti-government protests. ...

“I am expressing my disappointment and my regret toward all those who doubted me among the Tahrir Square protesters,” said the tweet. “I thought they were supporters of me and of Iraq.” He also accused protesters of being “foreign paid tools.”

Sadr's march fell well short of his goal. And the genuine protesters who resent Iranian influence that fuels rampant corruption in Iraq would not join him. So Sadr unleashed the pro-Iran Iraqi forces that have killed the protesters for the last several months.

Sadr has clearly signaled that he sides with Iran. And he could easily be the public local face of Iranian control of Iraq.

I'd follow Sadr as closely as we followed the movements of Iran's al Quds leader Soleimani. Just in case.

UPDATE: The anti-corruption protesters defied Sadr:

Hundreds of anti-government protesters flooded the streets of Iraq's capital and southern provinces on Sunday, defying a powerful Iraqi religious leader who recently withdrew his support from the popular movement.

Security forces fired tear gas and live rounds to disperse the crowds from the capital's Khilani Square, medical and security officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

At least 22 demonstrators were reported wounded by Iraqi security forces, as the street rallies continued to grow in size. ...

Many demonstrators chanted slogans against the populist preacher. The movement opposes Iraq's sectarian system and both U.S. and Iranian influence in Iraqi affairs.

I think anyone can see America is as eager to leave as Iran is to control Iraq. We stay to oppose Iran at this point as much as we stay to keep ISIL from rising up again.

Fire Up the Impeachment Wayback Machine

If carrying out an otherwise legal action is transformed into an abuse of power because there is also a political benefit, now do this one:

I know, I know. That's different. Because reasons.

But face it, there is more evidence for Obama rather than Trump being a toady of Putin.

Say, how about this Putin endorsement of Obama after trading Russian "space" for Obama "flexibility" (quoting an article)?

Putin turned to the issue of missile defense and declared that if Mitt Romney became president, "the (U.S. and NATO) missile defense system will definitely be directed against Russia."

Putin then slipped in a plug for President Barack Obama's re-election, saying that "in principle" he and Obama could resolve U.S.-Russian missile defense (MD) disagreements. However, he opined that American militarists and "State Department" conservatives would limit Obama's ability to strike a deal.

Wait. What? State Department "conservatives?" Who knew?

Seriously, how many of Obama's policies, both in domestic and foreign areas, were adopted in pursuit of his Holy "Legacy" rather than for the good of America?*

"Obama did not just want to be president. His mission was to leave a legacy as a president of consequence, the liberal counter to Reagan."

And how many of our presidents could pass the new standard?

It never even occurred to me that Obama should be impeached for that outrageous bargain. It was a political question in my mind. And so is the issue of Trump's phone call to the new Ukrainian president.

God help us if the Senate adopts the standard that the House Democrats have proposed. How will we conduct foreign policy at all?

UPDATE: *That is, rather than adopted only for the good of America (as Obama perceived it, whether right or wrong).

Friday, January 24, 2020

Lather, Rinse, Repeat--Not So Fast

Iran's president issued a statement that adds a third to the two greatest lies ever told (the check is in the mail, and I won't--er, never mind on the second one):

"We have never sought nuclear weapons ... With or without the nuclear deal we will never seek nuclear weapon ... The European powers will be responsible for the consequences of violating the pact," said Rouhani, according to his website President.Ir.

So Iran is back to vocal pretending about their nuclear weapons program?

Well before the Iran nuclear deal was (kinda, sorta, not really "signed"), I knew exactly what the deal would be:

I don't bother speculating on the potential details. The big picture has always been clear to me.

The Iranians will pretend not to have a nuclear weapons program; and we will pretend to believe them.

Iran is trying the first part of that deal again. While Europeans may still believe Iran's mullah nutballs, I like to think that the current American administration is in no mood to pretend to believe Iran.

The Russians and Chinese count on Iran lying, of course. Like either one of them would be on Iran's target list!

Resist the Siren Song of the Cities

This author notes his experience with gangs providing security in Baghdad during the Iraq War Surge/Awakening. Understanding such urban power structures is important he says:

Guerrillas, revolutionaries, and terrorists increasingly choose to hide in urban terrain, where population density provides sanctuary from government observation and technology, access to millions for easy recruitment and use as human shields, and freedom to foment political dissent (often violently) against governments that struggle to provide even rudimentary services.

And yet, the US military knows little about alternative power structures in cities and undertakes little planning for how they can be leveraged, despite our recent history in Iraq of—let’s call it what it is—working with gangs.

Using the gangs (the "Sons of Iraq") made sense especially given that Saddam subcontracted them for controlling Baghdad, as I noted in this post about how secured and unified Iraq really was under Saddam:

Under Saddam, the Shia south was kept under sullen control after mass killings and continuous oppression. Western Anbar was subcontracted to the Sunni Arab tribes and not under control of Saddam. The Kurdish north was de facto independent under American and British protection. And even the center was largely subcontracted out to criminal gangs. The Iraqi state was really Saddam's family and favored Tikriti Sunni Arabs plus the security apparatus and a UN seat. It lived off of the people of Iraq but was not a country at all. No unity and no stability except the quiet calm of a corpse, and surely not even Korb believed Saddam was winning those elections at 99+%.

Our failure to realize that gangs were the real power led us to assume the actual cops could stay on the job and provide local security even though they were more mall and traffic cops than actual security. We learned. But knowing that and the tribal political networks ahead of time would have helped.

I'm all on board mapping the Human Terrain of potential conflict zones, including in cities.

But I'm against embracing the mission of fighting in such mega-cities as opposed to being capable of operating within them to achieve narrow objectives when we must to gain the objective of the broader campaign. Cities are army sponges that could suck in more and more of our Army, distracting it from achieving the campaign objective. Germany's Sixth Army learned all about that.

I'm worried we'll gain the ability to pacify cities and be drawn into such meat grinders--they have massive underground terrain, too, you know--simply because we can do the job rather than because we should.

Don't be mesmerized by the bright lights of the big cities. Be capable of fighting within cities rather than assuming that means being capable of fighting for the cities.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

America is Awful! How Bad Are We?

It annoys me that Westerners are constantly complaining that American forces commit war crimes. Not even our enemies believe that.

We removed the minority Sunni Arabs who backed Saddam Hussein from power and waged war against them during the Iraq War insurgency phase until they saw no choice but to switch to our side in the Awakening.

And now they worry we'll (again) leave Iraq:

Sunni Iraqi leaders who spearheaded a bloody insurgency against the 2003 US-led invasion are now the most nervous about a possible withdrawal of American troops, considered a counterweight to Iran.

Fancy that. Yet Western leftists insist America is horrible in how we wage war.

And it isn't like our past enemies tend to hold burning grudges against America.

We revolted against Britain and fought them again in the War of 1812. Now? NATO ally.
Toss in Canada who we invaded in the War of 1812. Now? NATO ally and USMC trade deal partner.
We fought the Quasi-War against France. Now? NATO ally.
We fought Mexico. Now? Friendly with major USMC trade deal.
We fought Spain. Now? NATO ally.
We fought Germany (twice). Now? NATO ally.
We fought (and nuked) Japan. Now? Major-non-NATO ally.
We fought Italy. Now? NATO ally.
We fought North Vietnam. Now? Partners in resisting Chinese expansionism.
And yes, we fought Iraq twice and yet now they are an unrecognized ally against jihadis.

North Korea remains an outlier.

The article is wrong that Iraq's parliament voted to oust America from Iraq. It was symbolic only, and the Iraqi government is quietly working to keep America in Iraq, as I noted in this data dump:

Iraq's prime minister is quietly working to keep American troops in Iraq despite his public call to talk about the details of withdrawal. He knows Iraq needs to balance Iran's influence. I did say that Iraq is unlikely to choose poorly on this issue. At the most cynical level, corrupt Iraqi politicians know they get a better price when they play one outsider off against another to start a bidding war.

Which is the best course of action to defend our interests in the region.

A Stitch in Time

Members of Congress are expressing concerns about a potential draw down of our already small footprint in Africa. Such concerns are well founded.

Yes, let's watch the unintended but totally predictable consequences:

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) wrote in a Jan. 15 letter that they are particularly concerned about the reduction in the Sahel.

“These personnel and installations are critical in combatting the ever-increasing number of violent extremist groups throughout the region that pose an immediate threat to our partners and allies in the region,” the lawmakers wrote.

Additionally, pulling out of Africa would give China and Russia a chance to fill the void, they wrote.

So I hope the concerns affect the review. Or reflect concerns our government already has as the review is completed:

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has ordered a “zero-based” review of US forces deployed globally, with the intent to shift the bulk of the attention to the Indo-Pacific. As a result, the US mission in Africa will be an “economy of force,” meaning the least amount of personnel and resources to meet mission objectives, Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a meeting with his French counterpart in Brussels.

The review will be completed in six weeks to two months, according to the Pentagon.

America deploys few forces across a large African continent. It's already an economy-of-force front. Really.

I recently warned about this urge to withdraw:

The United States is thinking about reducing our small military commitment in West Africa. Be careful. Yes, this is an economy of force front. We have bigger problems elsewhere in Europe and Asia. But AFRICOM is trying to prevent potential big problems from developing. And keeping the French actively killing jihadis there is a good mission to keep. We have a small footprint to do that. Don't risk bigger problems in a shortsighted move to deploy relatively small forces to higher priority fronts.

The American footprint in Africa is so small that I find it hard to believe that even completely evacuating Africa would add significant forces to either Europe to guard against Russia or to Asia to face China.

I mean, if we face a major war in Europe or Asia, by all means evacuate our forces from Africa to win the actual hot war.

But in peacetime lets try to keep Africa from generating more problems that could end Africa's status as an economy-of-force front.


Islamic extremists are already exploiting possible U.S. military cuts in Africa that have caused a rare bipartisan outcry in Washington, with lawmakers stressing the need to counter China and Russia and contain a growing threat from Islamic State group affiliates.

France was blunt in speaking of the need for American help in the Sahel region.

The "bipartisan" outcry is kind of funny given how just 27 months ago the left was outraged at America's activities in Africa.

UPDATE: France ordered more troops to reinforce their 4,500-strong anti-terrorist effort in the Sahel:

France will further bolster its anti-jihadist force in the Sahel, on top of 220 reinforcement soldiers already sent recently to try to stem a spiral of violence in the region, the country's top general said Wednesday.

God knows the French are annoying. But they are willing to kill jihadis and we should support them.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

In the Sad Fantasy World of "Resistance"

In the Trump era it has amazed me that people who generally don't pay any more attention to foreign policy than can be displayed on a bumper sticker (or single Tweet) were horrified at what they think Trump will do to harm American foreign interests.

So yeah:

Remember how Trump was going to start global economic war with China, withdraw from NATO, start a wider war in Syria by bombing Russian bases, start World War III with North Korea, sell out the U.S. to get peace with North Korea, start World War III because he is Hitler, start a war over Venezuela, start a genocide of Kurds with Turkey…

And don't forget start World War III with Iran.

The media whipped the Resistance into a frothy frenzy over every damn thing. But Frenzied Americans learned nothing about the world or their "news" sources after each disaster failed to materialize.

I suppose if I was so deluded, I might believe "President Trump must be removed from office 'immediately,' Democratic impeachment managers argue in a new brief, because he poses 'an immediate threat to the nation and the rule of law.'"

Perhaps in their magical thinking there are Democrats who believe baying at the moon prevented disasters.

But I'm no so deluded. Nor frothy. And I don't scream at the sky. So I don't live in a daily world of panic attacks.

America's place in the world is just fine.

Tips to Instapundit.

Can Assad Survive Victory?

Assad still needs help to regain control of all his territory. What then?

But if Assad realizes these minimalist aims—survival and the restoration of Syria’s territory—his victory will be a Pyrrhic one. He will sit atop a hollow state with weak institutions, beset with war profiteers, and subservient to external powers.

I've not been impressed with Assad's win. But it is a win given that defeat would have left Assad obviously dead or exiled:

Assad reigns over the destroyed remnants of Syria but does not rule, because his position behind the big desk relies on Iranian cash, advisors, special forces, the Shia foreign legion Iran recruited, and Iran's Hezbollah shock troops; as well as Russian air power, special forces, intelligence, diplomatic support, weapons, and logistics.

But Assad does sit behind the big desk. Despite President Obama telling him he had to step down.

So any type of win is an improvement over defeat. Surely he'll take the challenge of recovering from this victory than a defeat. Yet part of Assad's victory was his calculated destruction of Syria.

And his shattered military power is increasingly independent of Assad like fiefdoms that pledge loyalty.

So have no doubt, Assad has challenges even after the battlefield victory:

Will Assad's supporters continue to back Assad for presiding over this death and destruction to get the nominal win when the threat of jihadi victory in Damascus no longer keeps his supporters in line? ...

I won't say Assad has won. He is winning. And winning more clearly now. But I don't assume that can't change in some unexpected way, I don't assume Syria (or even just the core Syria Assad's side controls now) will be politically united again any time soon, I don't assume Assad can regain control from Iran and escape Lebanon's fate where Iran-controlled Hezbollah prevents the formal government from being in charge, and I don't assume Assad personally survives the win.

On the other hand, Assad reached this point despite teetering on the edge of defeat early in the fighting. It was so bad for Assad that President Obama felt safe to jump in front of the parade to declare Assad had to step down, confident that a mere statement would allow America to share in the glory of Assad's defeat.

Assad won the war by surviving. But Syria has lost. And Assad could yet fall in the bloody "peace" he is yet to win.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Survival of the Fittest

Australia doesn't appreciate the value of northern Australia?

It has been painfully obvious for years that our major ally, the U.S., major regional partner, Japan, and major market, China, all see more strategic value in northern Australia than successive federal governments and much of our defence establishment. ...

In Darwin, the strategic need will be to invest in bigger and more capable defence basing. We should work with the U.S. to grow its Marine Corps presence.

A larger defence presence in the north would position Darwin as a security hub, lending confidence in the region and counteracting China’s attempts to dominate and demoralise the neighbourhood.

I thought Australia understood the value given that they let America use facilities in Darwin for our Marines.

Australia is at a pivot point between the Pacific and Indian Oceans in what is a single theater in regard to containing China (as the new name of our command, INDOPACOM, indicates clearly):

Australia is a pivot point between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, providing access to the coastal regions of much of Asia. America and Australia will jointly man this pivot point. We will be able to project power from this central position to a region from the Arabian Sea to the South China Sea. Australia gains greater confidence of American support, in turn.

I will disagree with the author's statement that 2,500 American Marines rotating through Darwin are no threat to China. In the South China Sea, a few will do:

You might think that the attention to the deployment is a little much given that China has an army of 18 corps-sized land commands plus extras, and includes three full divisions of amphibious trained army units and 10,000 of their own marines. The Marines are a drop in the bucket, aren't they?

They would be if they planned to land at Dagu and march on Peking.

But in the context of the South China Sea where very small islands could be the battlefields, a small and well trained amphibious force capable of projecting platoons, companies, or the entire battalion to seize control of those small islands will have big effects.

Australia should see the strategic value of their northern coast and not pretend it is the dark side of the moon, strategically--which China went to, by the way.

UPDATE: Speaking of the far side of the moon, China released photographs from one of their landers over there.

Don't say I haven't warned you:

What are the limits of China's line-drawing ambitions?

The China Challege May Be China's Challenge and Not America's

Worry about China's rise but don't panic.

China's birth rate is continuing to decline:

China’s birth rate has fallen to its lowest since the founding of the communist People’s Republic 70 years ago.

Last year there were 14.6 million births, a drop of 580,000 from the year before, according to a report from the National Bureau of Statistics released on Friday.

The birth rate of 10.48 per 1,000 people marked the third consecutive year to see a decline in the overall number of births.

Despite abandoning its long-standing one-child policy in 2016, China has seen little success in reversing its declining birth rate.

This is data about why China is not destined to supplant America as the top global power:

Many Americans, of course, understand that China is on the rise and are anxious about it. Yet I also returned from my trip thinking that this American anxiety tends to be misplaced in one crucial way: China is not preordained to supplant or even match the United States as the world’s leading power. China’s challenges are real, not just the protests in Hong Kong but also the dissent in Xinjiang and Tibet, the bloat in its state-run companies and the looming decline in its working-age population.

Add in the fact that China's "social credit" monitoring system shows that the ruling Chinese Communist Party fears dissent from everyone and not just small minorities in the west.

The author notes the tremendous growth in the 2010s and spends a lot of time blaming Trump for America's problems--despite admitting that Trump actually views China as a strategic threat that it is--that have aided China's relative rise without a single mention of Obama. Trump is literally named 12 times in the article while Obama is named approximately zero times.

And I just don't see, as that author claims, Trump alienating our allies who are nicely rallying to block China, knowing we are there, too. Don't believe me? Try this:

Key U.S. allies, security partners, and diplomatic interlocutors in the Indo-Pacific have been establishing or deepening their defense ties by branching out, engaging with each other on high-level security consultations, selling or transferring defense articles, engaging in joint defense industrial development, carrying out bilateral training and exercises, and signing defense-related agreements. Today, these nations — Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea — are also cooperating with such non–U.S.-treaty countries as India, Indonesia, and Vietnam, which have aligned themselves more closely with the United States as China has grown both more powerful and more assertive in recent years. As a consequence, a set of important new linkages and security commitments among regional actors is forming, with substantial consequences for the United States, China, and the Indo-Pacific region.

That's a 2019 RAND report and not something from the Obama era.

But I digress (as I can!).

My basic point is that it is nice to see some skeptical takes on China's rise after reading so much about how this time for sure (with the USSR, Japan, and Europe failing to supplant us as the top power) China will surpass our economic power. Seriously people, stop droning on about China's mythical superior long-range planning abilities.

I have been pointing out China's demographic issues and questioning whether China will pass us by as the largest economy. And even if they do pass us by, we have geographic advantages that will give us more free hard power to block them.