Monday, December 10, 2018

Northern Sword?

Okay, I've been connecting dots in a picture of Israel mounting a large ground raid deep into Lebanon to seriously rip apart Hezbollah and its infrastructure while so many Hezbollah fighters are still in Syria. Add a dot and an asterisk to that picture.

Israel had built a wall on the Lebanon border and is going after tunnels that Hezbollah has built. To me these could be necessary defensive preparations for a mission north of the border. Is that what Israel is planning?

In that light, this is interesting:

Senior Israeli military officers are flying to Moscow to update their Russian counterparts about an operation launched last week to "expose and thwart" Hezbollah tunnels burrowed under Israel's border with Lebanon.

The Israeli military issued a statement Monday saying the officers would depart Tuesday "to provide an update regarding Operation Northern Shield and other operational issues."

Israelis have talked about moving north to take out the starting point of tunnels as their Northern Shield mission proceeds inside Israel to take out the tunnels. I wonder if that is the way to ease Israeli troops over the border before the real strike north begins.

That would provide a reasonable excuse for clearing lanes for crossing the border without telegraphing an invasion if that engineering preparation work was done without a good cover story.

And I have to ask if a mere tunnel operation in southern Lebanon is sufficiently kinetic to bring the Russians into for a briefing? To me, the Israelis would only brief the Russians on the scope of an operation that would get near to Russian red lines--like crossing into Syria.

And there is this complication:

The Lebanese army has strengthened its troops’ presence on the country’s southern border town of Meiss Ej Jabal in light of Israel’s recent actions near the United Nations-demarcated Blue Line between the two countries, Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) reported yesterday.

I criticized Israel's 2006 air campaign for needlessly inflicting losses on Lebanon when the real mission is to harm the sub-state actor Hezbollah. The idea that hitting Lebanese targets could pressure the weak Lebanese government into going after Hezbollah was ludicrous and counterproductive.

But if Lebanon throws forces to the border to act as a tripwire defense for Hezbollah which controls southern Lebanon, Israel will have no choice but to destroy those forces if they truly get in the way.

Unless Israel can bypass such forces the way they will need to bypass the United Nations UNIFUTILE forces in southern Lebanon, this will be uglier than it needs to be.

Or I'm wrong on this issue. Again.

Pretext

When does the offensive to destroy the last rebel stronghold in Syria begin?

The United States has "credible information" that Russia and Assad used tear gas on civilians as part of misinformation to blame rebels:

The United States and Britain accused Russia on Friday of fabricating a story about chemical weapons use by Syrian rebels and warned Moscow against undermining a shaky truce.

Well, I suspected the Russian charge was justification for a final offensive into Idlib notwithstanding the truce.

And at this point I have to wonder if the offensive on behalf of Assad in Idlib that Hezbollah may have a role in spearheading (but I'm not sure if the casualties Hezbollah has endured make them wary of continuing that role to the end) will be the signal for Israel to strike Hezbollah with a serious multi-division ground campaign that essentially will be a deep raid.

Communist Delusions Persist

America won the Cold War. The USSR lost the Cold War.

Clearly, former Soviet ruler Gorbachev is smoking something recently legalized in several American states:

Mikhail Gorbachev: George H.W. Bush and I Ended a War Together. But Peace Is Now in Jeopardy

There was no ending the war together. Gorbachev tried to loosen up economic and political controls to perpetuate the USSR and failed. And so the Soviet empire in eastern Europe and then the Soviet empire of old imperial Russia collapsed. The American-led West won, taking communist China along for the ride.

You're welcome China.

What Gorbachev and Bush did together was prevent the collapsing Soviet empire from lashing out with a nuclear spasm in fear of the future and paranoia about what role the West had in the collapse.

Which is good. Thanks to Gorbachev for that. Really.

Note that China learned a lesson from the Soviet defeat and operated the last three decades only on loosened up economic controls--seemingly reversed lately--and continued tight political control (which was demonstrated brutally at Tienanmen Square in 1989).

We'll see how that works out.

Oh, and now the oddly praised Putin is making nuclear threats again, is violating arms control, has invaded two European countries, and is generally effing things up royally.

Gorbachev should be talking to Putin and not to Americans if he truly thinks peace is in jeopardy.

But if Gorbachev believes he helped "end" the Cold War, what are the odds of that happening?

Inspiring Strategic Autonomy

What would Europe (as a political entity) become without American influence?

Given that ejecting American influence in military matters by making an EU army to marginalize NATO where America is dominant will be part of the means to that political goal, you have to consider whether Europe will reject the American influence that made freedom and democracy on the continent something we--wrongly--assume is the natural order in Europe:

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

I was referencing this author's thoughts. I think the EU and their fans promote a European military in order to replace--not help--NATO and forge a pan-European identity and state (an empire, really) eventually. Getting rid of American influence is a necessary task to reach that objective.

The argument that talk by pro-EU politicians about a "European army" doesn't mean a European army is just nonsense:

“European army” is a term that is designed to be ambiguous. It is meant to inspire. The idea behind terms of this kind – “European strategic autonomy” is another – is to deliberately leave room for interpretation so that potential supporters can project their ideas into it and lend support to the concept, despite there being no agreement as to its actual meaning.

Oh good grief. Who wrote this unsigned condescending bullshit?*

Yes, EU apparatchiki want autonomy--from America. If they wanted autonomy from Russia they'd strongly back NATO, which actually defends them now. So they want an actual European "army"--well, security apparatus, including an army, navy, air force, coast guard, gendarme, and secret police--to get autonomy from America.

The America that rescued them from the Kaiser, Hitler, and Soviet Communism, and instilled democracy across the continent. Yeah, you're welcome.

Say, about that European "autonomy" that inspires Eurocrats:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brought the Trump administration's voice to a gathering of European leaders, offering a stinging criticism of the European order's capitulation to rogue nations such as Iran, China, and Russia.

Pompeo, addressing a gathering of NATO leaders on Tuesday, offered a sobering rebuke of the international treaty group, telling the crowd the Trump administration will not stand down in the face of rising threats from a host of rogue regimes.

And that's what they do now with America still strongly in Europe through a strong NATO. We'll get a lot more of that if Europe truly gets "autonomy" from America and our military power.

It has been a century-long American policy to keep a hostile power from gaining control of the vast economic, demographic, scientific, and military power of the continent, I don't see how turning the continent over to the EU's anti-American elites can possibly be good for America.

I continue to long for the days of the European Economic Community. That should have been the objective rather than a stepping stone to ever closer union that becomes an empire. 

*But don't become confused and think France would ever subordinate their nuclear weapons to the EU, as that article whitewashing the European army plan randomly puts in as a straw man. That is a bridge too far in the EU imperial project that France would like.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Don't Sell China the Rope to Hang Us

As the U.S. contemplates creating a Space Force we shouldn't also be helping create missions for it to achieve in space (tip to Instapundit):

Workers at a Boeing Co. plant in Los Angeles are nearing completion of a new satellite, which uses restricted technology relied on by the U.S. military. It was ordered by a local startup that seeks to improve web access in Africa.

In reality, the satellite is being funded by Chinese state money, according to corporate records, court documents and people close to the project.

That satellite should never make it to China. Obviously.

That's obviously right, isn't it?

UPDATE: And don't sell the rope-making factory to China, either:

Germans this week increased their focus on questions regarding a company called KUKA Robotics, which has become the poster child for the perils of high tech sales to the Chinese. With its industrial robotics production, KUKA was one of the nation’s greatest innovators for the 21st century economy until it was taken over by the Chinese company Midea in 2016.

Just last month, Midea was reversing previous assurances that it would not remove KUKA’s highly respected and long-time CEO, underscoring China’s ultimate control over cutting-edge robotics technology.

Good grief. Barn door. Horse.

Pre-Robots

Britain has demonstrated a remotely controlled Warrior infantry fighting vehicle:



I was thinking small two years ago when I envisioned remotely manned weapons stations on a manned infantry fighting vehicle.

On the bright side, for those who don't want to go too far on the robot war, weapons stations operated by soldiers not on the vehicle is clearly possible.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

Is Mueller getting close to issuing a report on President Trump? Well, it's been going on for a long time so one could at least say it must be getting closer. I really doubt there is any collusion with the Russians on the election to find. Which is the justification for--if not the purpose of--the inquiry. But if Trump did something illegal, he should certainly pay in proportion to the crime/violation. We'll see if there is any "there" there.

The GPS jamming game.

French people protesting higher taxes (on top of other measures to suck money from them) are torching cars in Paris. I stand corrected--France has assimilated their Moslem minority into French culture. Although it is unclear if protesters or unrelated thugs started the violence. The protesters/rioters claim to want to spread the action to 1968 levels (via Instapundit). How nuanced. Seriously, people, our Twitter-based divisions are fairly mild by contrast.

The Air Force has exported Red Flag to Britain with Point Blank exercises designed to provide the Red Flag experience in Europe without the cost of deploying back to the continental United States. Good. The Air Force is expected to do more than bomb jihadis and provide air logistics these days.

Putin likes making nuclear war threats. And the article notes that any claims that Russia wouldn't strike first are lies. I agree. That nuke talk is probably designed to nullify the false no-first-use words. Personally, I don't think this means Russia is planning to nuke countries as a first option. I think Putin does this to increase the credibility of the only weapon Russia has that can defend Russia's vast land border. Russia's border is too long for their mostly poor military to defend. So Russia needs a survivable nuclear deterrent. Bonus comment by me wondering whether the Chinese DF-21 "carrier killer" missile is really intended to go after Russian mobile land-based nukes. Although I admit that aligning nukes with theology scares the Hell out of me (coughIrancough).

Iran continues to test longer range missiles. If Iran had nuclear warheads--which Iran denies ever trying to get--that would be really convenient for Iran's nutballs.

A reminder that if a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, it doesn't make a sound.  Media bias takes many forms. Which is normal. Even with a data dump I don't link to every foreign policy and defense story I read. I choose what to mention and what to discuss. Nor am I aware of more than a fraction of such stories.What is not normal is thinking that covering or not covering a story is just solid journalism school judgment being applied. It can be. But the more personally important the issue is to the media organization or reporter, the less likely that is to be true.

Well that's disturbing and odd. No foul play is suspected. And I have no reason to connect any dots. But Iran has reach into Shia-majority Bahrain. Tension with Iran is high now, sanctions are biting Iran, and perhaps this is a different way to attack our Navy in somebody's mind. Investigate carefully, I say.

I agree that Britain shouldn't fear Brexit without a deal, when they can rely on general trade rules and the ability of their negotiators to cut deals after a Brexit. But if May's deal is not accepted, will Parliament really leave the EU without any deal? And if they don't leave on schedule, Britain will never again have the opportunity to exit. Even under entangling terms agreed to by May and the EU, Britain can eventually renegotiate the terms, no? I just don't know if the Brexit side is letting pursuit of a good deal  kill an adequate exit--forever.

Mexico has a left-wing president for the first time since 1940. So obviously Mexico actually will pay for a border wall--to keep  envious Americans out of the economic and social paradise that will shortly develop south of the border.

Chinese drones "dominate" both the civilian and military markets these days. Theft played a role, as you might imagine.

Coalition planes created a good jihadi in Syria.

About those enemies, foreign and domestic: the Antifa State in Portland and Seattle (ASPS) (Tip to Instapundit). We already know what happens when a violent armed group gets a territorial base (ant that's hyperbole, people--not a direct comparison). Seriously, WTF is going on out there? What are the city governments doing and why are their governors letting it happen?  Are we at the point where  federalizing those states' National Guard or even sending in the regular Army is needed to protect the civil rights of the people of those cities?

As its members discuss the passing of Bush 41, the media continues to demonstrate that it believes the only good Republican is a dead Republican. Don't forget how they smeared him when it mattered.

On the bright side, now we can combat voting fraud.

The idea put forth by the EU that Brexit makes it vital for the European Union to gain a defense establishment to defend Europe is ridiculous given that Britain is not exiting from NATO, the defense establishment that actually defends Europe today. Wankers. The lot of them.

Good grief, I know Ukraine wants support, but Germany has no business sending ships to the Black Sea until it can build a presence in the Baltic Sea.

I'm all for selling Taiwan F-16Vs, or even selling them production rights as we phase the planes out of our inventory. I absolutely would not sell Taiwan F-35s out of fear that Taiwan couldn't defend the island in the face of a full-blown invasion and that China would capture the planes intact. Taiwan simply does not spend enough on their own defense. Would we really want to mount an air campaign around the Chinese invaders to destroy surviving Taiwanese stealth planes on the ground at Taiwanese bases?

In the wake of Ethiopia and Eritrea improving relations, notwithstanding its awful domestic government (I've heard Eritrea referred to as an army with a country, which has also been used to describe Pakistan or old Prussia), the U.S. wants better relations with Eritrea. Good. If we manage to defeat Iran in Yemen notwithstanding Iran's stealth propaganda machine, we don't want Iran setting up shop in Eritrea to have a position to interdict Red Sea oil traffic. We don't need to be friends. We just need to keep them from being friends with Iran.

A closer look at how Venezuela effed up an oil wet dream.

I see the T-800 is still trying to enable Skynet by crippling humanity.

Does Erdogan seek to join the Axis of El Vil?

The Taliban dominate Ghazni province and are able to strike at will. This despite the dramatic increase in American air strikes. Seriously, this should be a military mission within the means of our forces, and our Afghan and Coalition allies. Air power is good. But it is best when supporting troops on the ground. Air power does not replace troops on the ground. Why isn't this COIN 101 being applied?

"God yes, I beg you to please seize the means of production!" At least now we know for sure that you need to be a sadist to espouse socialism and a masochist to believe it.

Strategypage explores just how effed Venezuela is under Maduro, including how almost all of Venezuela's remaining oil exports go to China to repay a crushing debt. And the best-case scenario is that after the dust of the collapse settles, China puts Venezuela into a collar, leash, and ball gag. Unless Venezuela denounces their China debt and begs America to enforce the Monroe Doctrine against Chinese collection efforts. More on China, with--conveniently enough given my Monroe Doctrine mention--a note that if Venezuela collapses and defaults on their debt their hope is to get a UN peacekeeping force authorized that they then dominate to do what it takes to enforce their claims on Venezuelan assets, thus sidestepping the Monroe Doctrine.

I'm not happy that Iraqi political talks to form a government are deadlocked between three-time insurrectionist Sadr's  Shia faction and the pro-Iran Shia faction. But on the bright side, this is a political deadlock and not one being resolved by bullets and bombs. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

I scored 6, you pathetic losers. My mere MA and income hampered my goal of zero (but aren't those results of my so-called privilege rather than factors in creating it? I think methodology might be suspect). So just send me checks and be in awe of my privilege. We just can't seem to reach Peak Stupid, can we?

The Air Force practices navigation without GPS in Montana, as part of a general trend to do that. Army troops are even practicing the skill of land navigation with a compass and map. I remember that! In basic training you had to know your pace count (how many steps you take to walk 100 yards) to help calculate your distance.

Don't be science deniers.

Peace talks for Yemen factions are taking place in Sweden. Yemen, as I've mentioned many times, is just a clusterf*ck. The best we can hope for is a ceasefire that ejects Iran and allows Yemen to recover and re-start the fighting in a few years.

Yes, I've been confused about the vehement unfounded opposition to vaping by anti-"smoking" groups given that there is no smoke involved with this nicotine delivery system. I can accept a role for regulations of the devices on the basis of fire hazard risks, but how on Earth can vaping be grafted on to smoking regulations? Tip to Instapundit.

Iran remains in the hostage-taking business. I know. Shocking.

I (again) highlighted the simple fact that we won the Iraq War. That doesn't mean we don't need to defend our victory--especially the threat that corruption poses. Corruption can undermine the country's potential prosperity and democracy; and invite Iran (or jihadis) in to dominate Iraq. Rule of law has always been the war we need to help Iraqis win after the shooting war.

Thoughts on a European army and who would fund it, who would join it, and what would it fight for? Well, each European state that wants it thinks somebody else will fund it and join it. As for what it will fight? Well, it will become like a lot of armies and be capable of fighting its own people only rather than being capable of fighting other armies.

Mexico's new president has a lot of problems to confront. Honestly, I thought Mexico might have been one of President Obama's first problems. The problems persist but didn't rise to crisis levels that attract our interest. We'll see. Can AMLO fight "impunity" culture that perpetuates corruption, and give his citizens rule of law?

The French government is worried that the "yellow vest" protests and riots will escalate despite the delay in the diesel fuel tax increase. As much as I sympathize with the protesters on the tax issue, the rioting is beyond what is acceptable. And the rest of their agenda is hardly one to support (tip to the PJM live blog). I'm not sure what the division is between the tax protesters and the usual extremist suspects who seem to enjoy rioting.

Too big to fail succeed? I'm worried based on the track record. On the issue, that is well outside my lane.

HMS Queen Elizabeth embarks on secretive Arctic mission. Heh. I see the Brits don't want NORAD to get all the attention.

The Navy conducted a freedom of navigation mission in Peter the Great Bay to defy illegal Russian claims to the entire sea area off of Vladivostok. FONOPs aren't just for China.

The Littoral Combat Ship is finally getting its anti-submarine mission module. These packages of shipping containers with equipment are necessary to make the LCS something more than an under-armed and ill-protected warship with a large hollow space for those containers.

India hopes to add 56 warships and 6 subs to their fleet over the next decade. With their dysfunctional procurement system? Good luck with that. But seriously, good luck. China's expanding naval reach means India really has to do something. And India really needs to pay attention to this Chinese threat which might hammer the Indian fleet and erode the edge India believes it has in the Indian Ocean before the Chinese navy even reaches the Indian Ocean.

It was a long but direct journey from being run by the "international darling of the leftist movement" who was an inept fool to the collapsing Hell hole it is today under an inept monster. Sadly, there is no time travel to go back and stop the disaster at the start. And if we had stopped Hugo back then, we'd have experienced two decades of angry leftists charging that America "stole" Venezuela's for-sure delicious omelet made without any broken eggs at all. It is bad enough that Venezuelans had to endure this painful lesson. Can't more Americans learn from other people's mistakes?

An American (recon?) aircraft  flew over Ukraine in a show of support for Ukraine following the Sea of Azov incident, apparently using a provision in the nuclear arsenal-verifying Open Skies Treaty that I assume Ukraine is still a part of following the break up of the USSR. Interesting. Be careful out there.

People who weren't crowned Queen of the Victims Prom will have to wait until next year for more talks on their long-occupied territory.

Our SDF allies in eastern Syria broke into the ISIL stronghold of Hajin, and are backed by Coalition firepower. Kill them all so they don't live to kill another day.

Okay, I understand that the Ford's new catapult system will require fixing bugs as it is rolled out. I'm not happy but new stuff is buggy. But the freaking bomb elevators, too? What did the design do to them? I honestly don't understand the need for high-speed bomb elevators on carriers when the universal switchover to precision weapons has greatly reduced the need for volume that dumb bombs required.

You. Already. Have. Them. What is their major malfunction? #WhyRussiaCan'tHaveNiceThings

Aw, Hell.

I don't remember seeing this news at all. I guess there is less coverage without an echo chamber in support.

Anti-war activists often said that if only Iraq didn't have the terrible effects of American troops there mucking things up that the locals could have sat down and worked out their differences. In Libya, where America led from behind in the war and post-war, Libyans still struggle to work out their differences in that fractured and jihadi-filled territory more than 7 years after the West ended its intervention to defeat Khadaffi. Huh.

The Philippines will buy American instead of Russian helicopters. I suppose our sanctions prevent Taiwan from exploring the Russian option for getting submarines at this point, as I've long suggested. I've been hoping Taiwan would get subs from some of the earliest days on this blog. And only now have the Taiwanese given up on finding a willing buyer (because of Chinese pressure) and embarked on a project to learn how to eventually build their own subs. No sense of urgency, it seems.

Despite periodic panics among some that we will run out of this or that natural resource, I've never worried we would. That from the simple fact that we haven't. Somehow we find some other crucial resource when the ones we have run low. Remember the copper crisis before fiber optics lines? Anyway, if this measure isn't flawed it shows that resource availability continues to increase rather than decrease. So we've got that going for us.

One interesting statement in the paper I cite above is that "a growing population produces more ideas.10" That makes sense. But does that literally mean that the factor is growth and not raw numbers of people? That is, would a small country with a growing population produce more ideas than a large country with a stagnant or shrinking population? Are the people of a growing population confident and those of a declining or stagnant population more inclined to cling to the past rather than look to the future? Or do both aspects affect the production of ideas? Or perhaps a growing population provides ideas but sheer size provides opportunities to exploit the ideas? And what is the point of measure? An individual country? The planet? Something in between? Something smaller like the most productive cohort within the proper population to measure? The paper cited is not linked so I couldn't read that and honestly I don't have the interest to make the effort to get it. But it is interesting.

Yesterday was Pearl Harbor day. Let's remember that vigilance is required to prevent a future surprise attack that knocks us back in the opening months of a war.

They're doing rule of law wrong in Chicago.

Unrest in Cameroon would be a great reason to station The AFRICOM Queen in the Gulf of Guinea just in case our embassy or citizens in general need reinforcement, rescue, or evacuation.

I'm not happy with the Saudi Arabia-Qatar feud given we have a major base in Qatar. But when Qatar basically funds Iran's ally Hamas I begin to hope that Saudi-led pressure on Qatar works. Unless I'm missing some angle, the Qataris screwed us over on this one.

Syria has gotten out of the hostage business--by killing an American held for nearly three years.  Pity Layla Shwekani didn't write for an American newspaper. She might get some attention.

A glossary of cyber war terms and a brief tour of the players.

"Yellow vest" protests have spread from France to Belgium and the Netherlands. Now that's resistance. The Dutch mocked the French a bit in the article.

A billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real oil. Tip to Instapundit.

I'm not sure what to make of our trade policies. I don't want trade wars. But it is absolutely appropriate to fight to balance terms of trade that are tilted away from us. That tilt made sense decades ago, especially after World War II. But the tilt is no longer justified unless we get some other advantage to compensate. So I wait and watch.

Captain Obvious Lectures the Oblivious About Leading from the Front

I know this is obvious, but thank God our Secretary of State stated the obvious to the oblivious Europeans:

"The first two years of the Trump administration demonstrate that President Trump is not undermining these institutions, nor is he abandoning American leadership," Pompeo said, addressing criticism from some European allies that view Trump's policies as abrasive. "Quite the opposite. In the finest traditions of our great democracy, we are rallying the noble nations to build a new liberal order that prevents war and achieves greater prosperity."

It has hurt my brain to hear people constantly say America is walking away from Europe despite obviously strong efforts to defend Europe from the Russian threat to peace on the continent.

But perhaps after years of America letting Europe drift via the fantasy of "leading them from behind" the Europeans don't know what actual leadership looks like.

Sadly, we must now cope with the damage I foresaw with the false peace of retreat strategy we had for 8 years.

I may not like how abrasive our president often is (I'd prefer a little more velvet glove with the necessary iron fist bluntness he has used), but you'd think that a continent that prides itself in understanding nuance could separate the public crudity and, yes, jerkiness, from the validity of his uncomfortable pressure to increase defense spending that is helping Europe and America.

Go Army! Beat Navy!

The ranked Black Knights could make it three in a row today!

Army won, but didn't beat the point spread.

This is one rivalry that I can't manage to work up any sort of animosity for the other side.

Friday, December 07, 2018

A Whole of Communist Party Effort

You'd think that it is nonsense to argue that it is racist to target Chinese nationals to stop China's massive intelligence effort against America, but you'd be wrong.

Good grief, people, are we supposed to round up the usual Canadian suspects to stop Chinese espionage? Of course we need to closely examine Chinese nationals.

As you may have read here, Strategypage calls it a "thousand grains of sand" approach that recruits or coerces Chinese coming to America or even Americans with family in China to report back to China or bring even small bits of information used to fill in a picture they build with many means.

China is doing a lot, most obviously online, but including those Confucius Institutes on our campuses.

And China works hard to prevent Americans from getting information unapproved by China about China.

So yeah, we should scrutinize Chinese citizens in America. Such scrutiny would help protect Chinese-Americans from being coerced by Peking into espionage, it should be noted.

So yeah, it really is a whole of society effort by China. An authoritarian government coerces much of that full court press, but it is a massive threat nonetheless.

Checking the Last Box

I don't think the Iranian chief nutball thought this statement through sufficiently:

The United States has made 11 attempts to begin negotiations with Iran in the last two years, all rejected by Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

So America has been trying a lot under Trump to talk to Iran?

Huh.

Recall that American liberals like to say that military action has to be the last resort.

I'm thinking that 11 attempts to talk to Iran in two years checks that particular box before justifying military action.

I mean, just in case.

China Will Crush Hong Kong

This article asks if the terms of the 1997 agreement that provides that Hong Kong would retain a democratic and capitalist system even while becoming part of Communist-run China is under threat.

I don't blame Britain for turning over Hong Kong to China in 1997. There was no way Britain could hold the rump island and peninsula portions of the city that had expanded quite a bit to the mainland when the leases for the additional territory expired. But I hope nobody expected "one country, two systems" would last.

And China's massive economic growth since 1997 means that there is less of a "killing the goose that lays the golden egg" problem with bringing Hong Kong under full Chinese control (from the linked FT article):

Hong Kong is much less important to Beijing in terms of economic output than it was in 1997, with its gross domestic product equivalent to just 3 per cent of China’s, compared to nearly 20 per cent at the handover. But it remains a key financial centre, for foreign money coming in to China and, increasingly, for Chinese capital going out.

So yeah, Hong Kong is under threat. If by "under threat" you mean doomed to full submission to China. If necessary, Hong Kong will get the Xinjiang treatment and the 1997 treaty be damned.

Perhaps in 1997 there was some hope that the example of Hong Kong would "infect" Communist China with the democracy "disease" and preserve Hong Kong's democracy that way. Perhaps it was hoped that 50 years was enough time for that evolution--or revolution--to take place.

And perhaps that could still happen. I can't see the future. But right now while the Communists still fully control China, the slow crushing of rule of law and freedom in Hong Kong should shock nobody.

Taiwan should take note about what awaits them if their will to defend their hard-won democracy falters.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Am I Connecting Unrelated Dots?

Israel is destroying Hezbollah tunnels reaching into Israel from Lebanon. Is this a dot that should be connected?

This is interesting:

Israel said on Tuesday it had launched an operation to "expose and thwart" cross-border attack tunnels from Lebanon dug by the Iran-backed movement Hezbollah and that their purpose was to send militants to attack Israel.

The Israeli military said its operations were currently confined to Israel and did not extend into Lebanon, where it said the tunnels originated.

Above ground, Israel has already bolstered their defenses against ground incursions from Lebanon, which as I write in that post would be a useful shield before launching a large ground invasion of Lebanon to really tear up Hezbollah's rocket arsenal and armed forces, including their logistics and command and control assets deep inside Lebanon.

Remember, Israel's Iron Dome doesn't have enough ammo to protect Israel from Hezbollah's massive rocket arsenal. Offensive action is the only way to stop the rockets. And once inside Lebanon, driving to the rear areas to destroy those key logistics and command assets and people would inflict lasting damage.

Preventing Hezbollah from sending terrorist teams into Israel as the Israeli ground forces drive north would be useful. And securing the border would be good after the giant Israeli raid pulls south of the border again after achieving its limited mission of crippling Hezbollah.

I've long figured the end of the Syria multi-war would be a good time for Israel to strike after Hezbollah endures maximum damage but before it can recover and redeploy back to Lebanon. It's overdue if that timing is the driving factor.

And now, with Netanyahu in growing legal trouble in Israel, the factors holding Israel back might not seem as important right now in that context.

This wouldn't be the first time a foreign adventure serves as a useful distraction for domestic troubles. Not that Netanyahu would consciously make that calculation, necessarily. As I said, under legal threat the reasons not to invade might simply seem less important with no linkage at all.

I've been wrong for a long time on this issue. So there's that.

UPDATE: Oh good grief:

Lebanon's parliament speaker said Israel provided no evidence of the existence of cross-border attack tunnels, a day after it launched a military operation to "neutralise" them.

Yeah, digging tunnels to attack Israel is sooo out of character for Hezbollah.

The speaker is pro-Hezbollah. Although to be fair, admitting the damn obvious could be a death sentence.

UPDATE: The UN confirms what the Israelis claim:

In a statement on Thursday, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said it "visited a location near Metula in northern Israel" and "can confirm the existence of a tunnel at the location".

And there is this:

Israel’s military said earlier this week that it had found a number of passages dug across the Israel-Lebanon border to be used in carrying out attacks inside Israel. The Israeli military sent mechanical diggers, troops and anti-tunneling equipment to the border to shut them down.

The Israeli military, which launched the operation on Tuesday, has said its activity would, for now, stop on the Israeli side of the border.

But Israeli news media on Thursday quoted a unnamed senior official saying that Israel could extend its activity into Lebanon, and on Friday Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz reiterated that messages.

Is this how Israel disguises the transition from Northern Shield to destroy tunnels inside Israel to a deep and large ground raid into Lebanon to tear up Hezbollah as I've long suspected?

UPDATE: Somebody is thinking the way I am:

Before Israel can contemplate a serious offensive against the precision-missile industry that Iran is helping Hezbollah build in Lebanon, the tunnels must be neutralized. Israel would not want to launch an operation while terrorists were running rampant in the Galilee.

Another factor that could point to a substantial Israeli operation is that Hezbollah -- despite the constant military buildup -- is currently not in good shape to fight Israel. Most of its 40,000 or so fighters are still slugging it out in Syria, and thousands of them have been killed or wounded there. “Today,” reports Israel Hayom, “less than 15% of the organization’s fighting force is ready and available for a military conflict with Israel."

Remember, Israel's Iron Dome can only work--for a little while because of limited ammunition--because the vast majority of the unguided rockets will land in empty territory. The defensive software only fires if the rocket is calculated to land somewhere that could cause damage. If Hezbollah has guided weapons, Iron Dome is doomed and doomed early.

Even without precision Hezbollah rockets Israel would need to take out the launching sites. Almost certainly with ground forces. The urgency to move in on the ground is far higher with precision Hezbollah rockets.

And, which I did not know, Hezbollah is still heavily committed to Syria. Ideally Israel could kill a lot of Hezbollah from the air as they rush to Lebanon from Syria to defend their home territory.

UPDATE: Interesting:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu briefed Russian President Vladimir Putin on Israel's crackdown along its border with Lebanon on tunnels it said were dug by Hezbollah, the Kremlin said on Saturday.

So the prime minister of Israel directly briefed Putin on an operation taking place solely within Israeli territory?

Maybe. But if I was about to order the invasion of Lebanon to go after Hezbollah, I'd want to give Russia heads up and an outline of the scope of the attack so Russia knows it can live with what Israel does.

Hybrid Lawfare

Russia's subliminal blockade of Ukraine's Sea of Azov coast is hurting Ukraine. Why can't Ukraine use international law to squeeze ports in Russian-occupied Crimea?

I'm just speculating here. But Russia's capture and annexation of Crimea is blatantly illegal.

Why can't Ukraine enact a regulation or law imposing a large fee on every civilian ship that enters a Crimean port?

And if the ship owners don't pay for the privilege of using a Ukrainian port, file suit against the ship owners for failing to follow Ukrainian law for using what international law calls a Ukrainian port?

Perhaps ending this bizarrely active "wide ranging treaty of friendship" will pave the way:

The [Ukrainian] Supreme Rada overwhelmingly supported a motion by President Petro Poroshenko not to prolong the treaty when it comes up for renewal in April.

Of course, I think Ukraine should charge Russia rent for the entire peninsula.

I'm just wondering if there is a non-military alternative to an escalating war in Europe.

And a cleaning deposit, of course. It could get messy.

Iran Poses a Non-Nuclear Threat to the World, Too

A victory for Iran in Yemen would put Iran in the position to interdict Red Sea oil traffic (tip to the PJM live blog):

There is much discussion about the current war in Yemen which pits Iran-backed Houthis against US allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. There is a vital US interest at stake here: ensuring the free flow of shipping through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. Iran already sits astride the Straits of Hormuz and has claimed recently they control traffic through it. Iranian proxy forces firing Iranian missiles are seeking to control this second vital piece of terrain on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Such control could give Iran the ability to use anti-ship missiles to threaten or shut down both major routes for oil to leave the region.

I've long warned about this issue.

Arab Gulf states have worked to make their reliance on access through the Strait of Hormuz less than it has been to avoid Iranian closure of the oil export route.

So Iran would like to have the ability to interdict the alternative oil export routes that use the Red Sea.

And Iran has explicitly mentioned a naval base in Yemen:

The chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces said in 2016 that Iran may seek to set up naval bases in Yemen or Syria in the future, raising the prospect of distant footholds perhaps being more valuable militarily to Tehran than nuclear technology.

Iran doesn't need to nuke anybody to harm the world. Although nukes would help Iran deter countermeasures against Iranian threats to the world's oil supplies, notwithstanding our own energy "independence" these days.

Iran has been our enemy since the Shia Islamist nutballs took control of Iran and took our diplomats hostage for well over 14 months.

The previous administration was foolish to believe it could nudge Iran under the nutballs with the atrocious Iran nuclear deal to be an international norm-respecting regional power.

Luckily, the current administration understands that defeating Iran in Yemen is important:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed Saturday that the United States would continue supporting Saudi Arabia's military campaign in Yemen, despite rising outrage over the kingdom.

Selective outrage that always ignores our enemies shouldn't sway our policies.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Rumblings in Ukraine

Ukraine is mobilizing some forces and claims Russia is massing forces along the border.

Ukraine's limited martial law is being matched by mobilization:

Ukraine's president announced a partial call-up of reservists for training amid tensions with Russia, saying Monday that the country needs to beef up its defenses to counter the threat of a Russian invasion.

Not that this is outrageous given that Ukraine has been at war with Russia since February 2014 when Russian forces began their subliminal invasion of Crimea.

The commander of Ukraine's military said that the Russian threat is the greatest it has been since 2014, pointing to tank deployments as a piece of evidence:

General Viktor Muzhenko gestured to a series of satellite images which he said showed the presence of Russian T-62 M tanks stationed 18 km (11 miles) from the Ukrainian border.

They had more than doubled to 250 from 93 machines within the space of two weeks from mid September to Oct 1.

Of course, T-62s are ancient vehicles. The latest Military Balance in my possession (the 2012 edition) doesn't credit Russia with having T-62s in active service. Would Russia really pull them out of storage for mobilized reserve units?

Here's all you probably want to know about the T-62.

Or that reported fact is simply wrong. If I had to guess I'd say this refers to T-72s.

If the war is going to heat up on the land, it shouldn't be that shocking for a war approaching 5 years in duration. Ukraine naturally wants its territory back.

And if Ukraine faces slow strangulation at sea, why should Ukraine go along with Russia's desire to limit Russian casualties on the land front?

On the other hand, why would Ukraine escalate the war before the winter begins which gives Russia the chance to shut off energy exports to Ukraine?

Does Ukraine have a stockpile to last to spring? Alternative sources from America?

Or does Ukraine want to take advantage of the fact that  Russia would have to shut off the gas to Europe as collateral damage to shutting down the pipelines that go to and through Ukraine to Europe? Might Ukraine prefer trying this gambit before Russia can bypass Ukraine to send energy to Germany?

And is Ukraine's seemingly odd request to Germany to send naval forces to the Black Sea related to this thinking?

Just in case I should link my old invasion speculation post that has gotten some hits lately.

Irony Alert: EU Edition

The European Union has seemed like it is punishing Britain for voting to leave the EU as a warning to other member states not to even think about exiting the EU. But Italy is increasingly a member state that the EU probably doesn't want inside the EU. Those are conflicting problems before the EU has an army to enforce a Brussels Brezhnev Doctrine against leaving the EU and enforcing Brussels' orders.

Grant me that this is funny:

For those who believe in the European project, Brexit is a headache. Italy, on the other hand, is a bloody nightmare. Its new anti-elite populist coalition government of the alt-left Five Star Movement and the radical-right League is currently set on a collision course with the EU. This could easily start a chain reaction that destroys the single currency.

How does the EU deal with a member that doesn't like EU rules but which doesn't want to leave, as Britain is attempting to do?

And if the EU ejects Italy to protect the rest of the EU, what does that do to the lesson the EU is trying to apply to other states by making Britain's Brexit process a living Hell?

The EU is not, right now, a softer version of the Soviet Union. I freely admit that for former Soviet imperial provinces that want to join the West that meeting EU standards to join that body is a good path to be on. Contrasts are everything, no?

But if the EU gains political power at the expense of its nation-state members, it will inevitably destroy freedoms at the national and individual level to prevent member nations from leaving the EU and in keep them in compliance with EU rules.

I long for the days of the European Economic Community. That should have been the objective rather than a stepping stone to union and then empire.

So Now a Blockade is Hybrid War, Too?

The Russian conflict with Ukraine in the Sea of Azov is "hybrid war" too?

At this point, "hybrid war" is simply anything Russia does to another country that doesn't involve using 1,000 tanks.

Just stop the nonsense and stop swooning over what in essence is a Western ability to pretend Russia isn't committing real aggression.

The claim in the initial article that the Sea of Azov incident "marks the first time that the Russian military has been undeniably responsible for an armed attack against Ukrainian forces" highlights the ability to ignore obvious Russian aggression since February 2014.

Although other than that odd ability to deny Russia's direct--if denied--role in taking Ukrainian territory and the title (which isn't in control of the author as I know--I've lost some brilliantly clever titles) it is a fine article and worth your time.

UPDATE: And the description of the Russian military effort to stop the small Ukrainian flotilla from entering the Sea of Azov in this article does not indicate any sophisticated "new" Russian hybrid war at sea.

The article notes that Ukraine can't get warships into the Sea of Azov to defend their rights as Russia can do.

What if Ukraine buys smaller container ships that make it into their ports and converts the container ships into auxiliary cruisers?

UPDATE: Russia has eased the subliminal blockade:

Mr Omelyan, Ukraine's infrastructure minister, said on Tuesday that ships were "navigating through the Kerch Strait to and from Ukrainian ports". "They are stopped and inspected by Russia as before, but the traffic has been partially restored."

Interesting. Is Russia worried this could escalate beyond the range that benefits Russia?

UPDATE: Russia did engage in disinformation long before the incident. Who believes that BS?

But disinformation isn't new, even if it is put on social media.

Fortunately, we have an ironclad method of determining when Russia lies--their lips move.

The New Normal in Iraq

Saddam's regime imported and produced jihadis in Iraq. A free Iraq kills jihadis.

Here is a summary of recent Iraqi efforts to fight and kill jihadi terrorists:

Along the Syrian/Iraqi border, the 8th Iraqi Army Division continues to reinforce border security by engaging and repelling ISIS militants as they try to flee the offensive in the Middle Euphrates River Valley.

Iraqi units continue to conduct coordinated strikes, even as ISIS elements probe border positions with vehicle-borne IEDs, motorcycles, small arms fires and mortars.

On 20 November, the Iraqi air force launched two air strikes targeting an ISIS weapons facility in a building that housed 30 ISIS fighters. This operation also signifies the ability of the Iraqi Security Forces to protect its borders and to uproot cells.

In Mosul, Iraqi SWAT forces, backed by coalition air support, carried out a security operation in the al-Menkar village that resulted in five enemies killed. More importantly, this operation demonstrated ISF are strengthening their intelligence-gathering to disrupt enemy operations and to protect the Iraqi citizens from bombings and kidnappings.

Another example of a successful ISF operation which resulted in the death of an ISIS senior leader code-named Katkut, who is known to have planned and conducted attacks in Al Hadr southwest of Mosul. He was killed in Saladin province after fleeing from the scene of an attack earlier in the week.

This should be another reminder to those who overlook the simple fact that we won the Iraq War.

In bonus territory, no chemical weapons are used even against such vile scum as ISIL killers.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Will the Mattis Clue Bat Have an Effect on Putin?

Secretary Mattis explains that Putin is effing up royally:

Mr. Putin is clearly a slow learner. He is not recognizing that what he is doing is actually creating the animosity against his people. He's not acting in the best interest of the Russian people, and he is actually causing NATO to rearm and to strengthen the democracy stance, the unified stance of all the democracies together.

Will Putin listen to Mattis? Or does Putin need high-ranking Russian advisors to tell him he is effing up royally?

[What about] all the talk of how Putin is so clever to play a bad hand so well? Get real.

Russia has alienated the West which was not a military threat to Russia by pointless threats to the West given weight by Russian invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, even though the West was willing to help Russia upgrade their defense industry until 2014; while China stole and then surpassed Russian military technology and production methods.

And recall that China has dormant claims on Russian Far Eastern territory with a treaty keeping those claims dormant up for cancellation in 2021.

Putin isn't brilliant. He is weakening Russia's economy, failing to arrest the decline of Russia's defense industries, alienating potential allies, and strengthening potential enemies all for the "glory" of Abhkazia, South Ossetia, Crimea, parts of the Donbas, and bases in Assad's Syria.

And he's not that impressive riding a horse bare-chested, truth be told.

Chimps with nukes.

What Western plot could be as effective at wrecking Russia than Putin himself? Seriously, why isn't there a conspiracy theory floating around Russia on that possibility?

I assume a Russian advisor would revise the Mattis clue bat. But somebody in Moscow needs to swing it. Hard.

Best Frenemies Forever!

Reading the Putin advisor Karaganov spout nonsense about their glorious future with fraternal China is just another addition to #WhyRussiaCan'tHaveNiceThings.

Good luck with that Asia focus, Russia. Although it is quite possible that Russia is talking nicely about Russia's future partnership with China to conceal an effort to rebuild military power in Asia to cope with the China threat.

This fallback theory from that article might telegraph the misdirection:

The Chinese, Karaganov believes, will be clever and will not act as hegemon, at least not towards Russia. "And if they do, we'll quickly get together a coalition that will balance China."

Who will help balance China if Russia can't point Chinese hegemonic instincts away from Russia? Their pal Venezuela? Iran? Syria? Good luck with that, too.

So Russia alienates NATO and then thinks that NATO states will ride to their rescue when they get their nuts in a vice when China squeezes?

Seriously, somebody needs to explain to Putin that he's effing things up royally.

Check Ammo and Double the Watch

Iran considers the oil war a part of a real war against Iran. Let's check the record on this.

Iran's oil minister isn't happy about American efforts to deprive Iran of oil income:

Zanganeh, in comments reported by SHANA, the oil ministry's news agency, did not specify who he saw as the enemy but Iran is locked in confrontation with the United States, which has applied sanctions and has said that its goal is to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero.

"The oil, gas and petrochemical sectors are the frontline in the battle against the enemy," Zanganeh said.

As I've said, while economic sanctions are considered an alternative to war, if sanctions are really effective the target of the sanctions will see them as little different than kinetic attacks and may consider kinetics in response.

During the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, as Iraq waged a military campaign against Iranian oil exports, the Saudis (aided by America's Alaska oil coming online, I believe) waged a price war:

More damaging to Iran's economy was the rapid decline of oil prices. While Iraq could borrow money to make up for lower oil prices, Iran relied on oil revenue for weapons and munitions. Iran's President Khamenei recognized this insurmountable fact of life stating "the price war is no less important to us than the military war." Indeed, in a July 1986 address to 8,000 Iranian commanders, Iran's rulers broke disturbing news that Iran's crumbling economy required a military victory by March 1987.

The Iranians waged war on Gulf shipping in an effort to make the Arab states pay a price for trying to block Iran's oil exports, and loudly practiced military maneuvers in the Strait of Hormuz to demonstrate the ability to close the strait.

It wasn't too long before frustrations on other fronts of the war seems to have led Iran to expand the war at sea to include America:

The frustration of failing to crush Iraq, of witnessing America lead the West into the Gulf in force, of enduring air attacks against her oil lifeline, and of seeing the militarily weak but wealth Arab Gulf states funnel money to prop up Iraq's military pushed Iran to the brink of irrationality. When Iraq was the country that had invaded Iran in the first place back in 1980 this seemed too unjust and proof that the world was against their revolution. On top of this, Iran received no sympathy when, in July, Saudi security forces bloodily suppressed Iranian "pilgrims" after they tried to mobilize a pro-Iranian demonstration in the heart of Saudi Arabia. On October 3, 1987, Iran crossed the line into irrationality. Unable to defeat her one enemy Iraq, Iran massed between 30 and 50 speedboats for an attack on Saudi Arabia's off-shore oil terminal at Khafji--the one used by the Kuwaitis and Saudis to sell oil in Iraq's name. Saudi Arabia responded by deploying warships and fighter aircraft. Iran pulled back but five days later in another confrontation the Saudis sank three speedboats.

Iran, apparently not satisfied with defeat at the hands of Iraq and then Saudi Arabia, even struck an American flagged tanker, Sea Isle City, with a Silkworm missile while it lay in Kuwaiti waters. The United States retaliated with Operation Nimble Archer on October 19, 1987, during which three Iranian oil platform bases were attacked. Many Iranians knew that a course of confrontation with America was foolish but the short term satisfaction of striking out at those who helped Iraq--even the United States--was beginning to win out over reason.

Iran has said if they can't benefit from Hormuz oil shipping routes that nobody should be able to. If our oil sanctions really do start to bite deep without Iran able to significantly evade the sanctions, Iran will consider military/terrorist options in response.

Does Iran know that they can't beat America any more or less than they knew in 1988?

I'd keep our capital ships out of the Persian Gulf for now and carefully investigate the death of our 5th Fleet commander in Bahrain.

UPDATE: Iran's chief nutball Rouhani repeats the longstanding Iranian threat:

"If one day they want to prevent the export of Iran's oil, then no oil will be exported from the Persian Gulf," he said.

Be careful out there.