Saturday, October 20, 2018

America Really is the Land of Opportunity!

"Beto" O'Rourke is Hispanic. Rachel Dolezal is African American. Elizabeth Warren is Native American. Bruce Jenner is a woman. Cory Booker is Spartacus. And Trump is president.

You really can grow up to be anything in America no matter what your origin is! Are we a great country, or what?

Arbeit Macht Frei!

The Chinese are rounding up Moslems in Xinjiang, but there is no reason to worry!

Huh (tip to Instapundit):

China on Tuesday characterized its mass internment of Muslims as a push to bring into the "modern, civilized" world a destitute people who are easily led astray — a depiction that analysts said bore troubling colonial overtones. ...

In the Xinhua report, Zakir said authorities provide free vocational training in skills geared toward manufacturing, food and service industries. Zakir said "trainees" are paid a basic income during the training, in which free food and accommodations are provided.

Vocational training. Salt of the Earth, those Chinese Communists. Saints, even.

Thank goodness those rulers are reasonably enlightened, otherwise it might be worrisome.

Work will set them free, apparently.

It's Dead, Jim

The Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty is dead.

This only makes sense:

John Bolton, US national security adviser, will meet Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, on Saturday in Moscow, amid reports that Washington will tell Russia it plans to quit a landmark nuclear weapons treaty.

Russia continues to violate it and the verification provisions expired long ago. It's a treaty in name only and if Russia wants to act like the treaty doesn't exist, we should just pronounce it formally dead.

The original treaty prevented America from stationing very effective nukes in Europe that would have played havoc with deep Soviet military targets. And now just as Russia acts like an aggressive nutjob against NATO, Russia provokes America into abandoning the treaty.

Let it go.


Friday, October 19, 2018

The Words are English Yet They Make No Sense

"Why is Germany beefing up its military?" Seriously? That's the story the BBC wants to convey?

Germany's economy is very big and fluffy. Germany has a long way to go before the military beef peeks out around the edges. [Link added, which I intended to include.]

Perhaps it makes more sense in the original German.

2025 is Getting Darned Close

Long age, when the Future Combat System (FCS) was the rage, in the pages of Military Review (pages 28-33) I warned against the urge to build the wonder tank that combines lethality, protection, and strategic mobility:

Barring successfully fielding exotic technologies to make the FCS work, the Army must consider how it will defeat future heavy systems if fighting actual enemies and not merely suppressing disorder becomes its mission once again. The tentative assumptions of 2001 will change by 2025. When they do, the Army will rue its failure today to accept that the wonder tank will not be built.

Apparently, we've made great advances in expanding the capabilities of the wonder tank we would like to field:

Could there be a lightweight armored attack vehicle able to speed across bridges, deploy quickly from the air, detect enemies at very long ranges, control nearby robots and fire the most advanced weapons in the world - all while maintaining the unprecedented protection and survivability of an Abrams tank?

That ... would ... be ... friggin' ... AWESOME!

And back in the real world, the still-awesome Abrams tank gets older and older, approaching the time when updates just aren't possible on the old girls.

And as an aside, if the wonder tank is in reach, why are we looking for a "light tank" as a separate program? The wonder tank will be able to do everything for everyone! Even the Marines will want some.

But even in the cited article it is admitted that the lethality and protection of the Abrams can't be replicated by a wonder tank:

[The] combat-tested Abrams weapons, armor and attack technology will be extremely difficult to replicate or match in a new platform.

Yes, there is no such thing as the wonder tank. So just what is the point of the project's more fanciful desires?

Just build a new damn tank.

Collective Defense in Cyber-space

The United States essentially committed itself to a cyber Article 5 commitment to NATO:

Acting to counter Russia’s aggressive use of cyberattacks across Europe and around the world, the U.S. is expected to announce that, if asked, it will use its formidable cyberwarfare capabilities on NATO’s behalf, according to a senior U.S. official.

The announcement is expected in the coming days as U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis attends a meeting of NATO defense ministers on Wednesday and Thursday.

Katie Wheelbarger, the principal deputy assistant defense secretary for international security affairs, said the U.S. is committing to use offensive and defensive cyber operations for NATO allies, but America will maintain control over its own personnel and capabilities.

The article is from October 3rd, and I assume this offer took place since then.

It is kind of funny that when some people oddly question America's commitment to NATO under Trump against an armed attack on a NATO state, the United States is willing to fight for NATO in cyber-space, too.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Coming Slap Fight Along the DCL?

Assad said that after defeating the rebels in Idlib that the Kurdish-dominated east under American protection is the next target. Are either Assad or Trump up for that fight?

Do tell:

“After Idlib our target is east of the Euphrates,” said [Syrian foreign minister] Walid al-Moualem, adding that the area, like all parts of Syria, had to return to Syrian sovereignty.

I'm not sure if Assad has enough supporters to wage war in the east.

But I'm not sure if America is willing to fight very hard for the east.

The Kurds will fight. Will they have the weapons and numbers to do so?

And Iran will fight with their Shia foreign legion. Can Iran afford that?

It is possible that there might be a lot of chest thumping and poo flinging along the Euphrates River deconfliction line (DCL), but little actual serious fighting.

Plus, is the war in the west over even after Idlib falls? 

Thirty Tons is Puny in a World of Giants

The Army is getting heavier to cope with conventional enemies.

As a result of the heavy commitments to counter-insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2011, our Army's force structure shifted to more infantry brigades.

That shift has been reversed. One effort to heavy up applies to those infantry brigades:

One of the service’s priority acquisition programs is Mobile Protected Firepower. This is essentially a light tank weighing 25 to 30 tons, a number of which will be added to the Infantry Brigade Combat Teams.

Light tanks won't be enough unless our potential enemies are sporting enough to only use light tanks against our light tank-supported infantry.

Remember, American Sherman tanks weighed in at a little more than 30 tons in their basic model and proved wholly inadequate as our main battle tank one-on-one against German tanks of 1944. How much worse will a 30-ton light tank be tomorrow against modern tanks?

Those infantry brigades should get tank or heavy combined arms supplements, as I argued in Army Magazine earlier in the year.

The Magic BB is Arriving

An Israeli company has built a device to attach to any rifle to make it easier to hit the target. A future of ill-trained marksmen will force our infantry training to dramatically change to cope.

Here we go. Precision is reaching the infantry:

The system works by tracking potential ground and aerial drone targets using a day or night mode with a traditional red dot sight picture. Once found, it works out a firing solution even as a soldier’s natural breathing and fatigue draws his aim off target. All a soldier has to do is hold the trigger down.

When the solution is calibrated, the round is let loose, hitting the target and nothing else, Smart Shooter officials told Army Times at the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., this week.

The problem is when this technology (which I have dubbed Dumb But Controlled, or DBC) reaches even enemy insurgents, our training edge that emphasizes accurate shooting will be nullified. As I recently wrote on the Naval Institute blog:

The May 1972 “Battle of the Bridges” in which U.S. aircraft destroyed targets that had long resisted dumb munitions announced the arrival of a new precision method of waging war that promised “If you can see it, you can hit it. If you can hit it, you can destroy it.” That was described as the first phase of a revolutionary change in the nature of warfare.[22] That battle won with expensive but effective “remotely piloted munitions” fired from expensive planes by expensively and extensively trained air crews has filtered down to the level of rifles carried by even ill-trained individual fighters. Will U.S. Marines be prepared to win on such a battlefield of tomorrow?

This applies to the Army, too, of course. And to any Navy or Air Force people who carry rifles for a living.

I argued that marksmanship training time in basic training will have to give way to tactical training pushed down to basic training; and that leadership, tactics, and non-weapon technology must be improved to overcome enemies with marksman created by putting a rifle in their hands.

UPDATE: Enlisted leadership has to be chosen carefully to make the most of our infantry.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Thanks Russia!

Russia is not about to help America. Please keep Russia away from anything important to America.

Keep this Russian effort to bypass American sanctions on Iran in mind when Russia offers to "help" on any issue:*


How much more Russian "help" can we endure?

I keep hoping the Soviet-era rulers of Russia will fade away and allow Russia to become a normal country. But I keep fearing that the problem isn't lingering Soviet influence but deep-seated Russian habits of paranoia and self destruction.

And because this never gets old:


*I've never heard of the organization and publication. But the effort reported would be fully consistent with Putin's Russia.

You Can't Get There from Here?

The Army's future-oriented armored vehicle organization that is looking at the replacement for the Bradley is getting the job of looking at near-term vehicle objectives too.

In theory I'm good with this because it avoids stovepiping near-term developments from longer-term projects:

The Army’s new Next-Generation Combat Vehicle’s modernization arm is expanding its scope from prototyping next-generation vehicles and ground robots to also guiding more near-term programs through the procurement process.

The NGCV cross-functional team — which serves under the new Army Futures Command — is taking on the Army’s Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, which is being manufactured by BAE Systems and just finished its limited user test, as well as the Mobile Protected Firepower capability.

That will help make sure future developments can be rolled into the vehicles built in the near term, eh?

One thing I'd like to see done for the infantry carrier is the capability to use reachback for the squad in some Army missions by replacing onboard infantry with remotely controlled weapon stations on the infantry fighting vehicle.

Why not bridge the gap between near- and long-term vehicle development with an experiment with mounting remote weapon stations on the Bradley that are controlled by soldiers in the rear?

Please note that I don't want to get rid of infantry. I want to prevent them from becoming casualties while mounted before they can be used for dismounted combat. And with the greater emphasis on training and equipping our infantry, preserving those investments is even more important.

I explored that in Infantry Magazine and envisioned that in an essay that didn't make the cut for the Army Mad Scientist initiative.

Preparing to Fight a Ground War in Asia

The Army in INDOPACOM is ditching previous emphasis on humanitarian missions to train for potential wars, reflecting the new national focus on potential conventional enemies.

The threats require this kind of shift:

U.S. Army forces in the Pacific spent most of their training time preparing for humanitarian relief missions, evacuations from natural disasters, and efforts to build up allied security forces.

Not anymore. Since President Donald Trump has come to office, the administration has issued a new National Security Strategy focused on the persistent potential for military conflict with China and North Korea. The Army has shifted gears accordingly. ...

Volesky’s I Corps is unique; the Army has never before assigned an entire corps to one geographic region. The assignment shows the Pentagon’s seriousness about being ready to fight a major war in the Pacific.

Another data point: 20 percent of the Army is currently assigned to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Flynn said.

“They’re committed because we do have multiple treaty allies out there, we do have multiple war plans out there,” he said. “That is a big difference from where we were some 15 years ago.

This fits well with my call for the Army to prepare to fight--with allies--in the Asia mainland if necessary. It isn't enough to be coastal artillery and air defense for the Navy anymore. The Army's core competency is large-scale land combat.

I Corps has a lot of scenarios to prepare for in a vast theater.

And remember that 20% means just three brigades. One in South Korea, one in Alaska, and one in Hawaii. So nobody is contemplating a march on Peking.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Midnight Express?

A lot of the Khashoggi murder information--including the most sensational--seems to be coming from Turkey which is a rival of Saudi Arabia for influence in the Arabian peninsula region. Is Turkey about to cash in their chips in the Khashoggi Affair?

The Khashoggi killing is a difficult problem. See here for my thoughts after the affair went beyond my data dump mentions.

Saudi Arabia is an important ally in the region, central to opposing Iran and for much else, including efforts to modernize Saudi Arabia and countering jihadi ideology somewhat; and Saudi oil is crucial for the global economy.

Saudi Arabia is hardly the worst human rights violator in the world. The primary accuser Turkey is no prize these days under Erdogan. Saudi Arabia was worse in the past, pre-9/11. And if Saudi Arabia is destabilized Saudi Arabia could be far worse. De facto Saudi ruler Mohammed Bin Salman is no saint, but others who oppose him in Saudi Arabia would prefer to have MBS gone.

The search, according to the Turks, provided damning evidence:

Police searching the Saudi Consulate found evidence that Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi was killed there, a high-level Turkish official said Tuesday, and authorities appeared ready to also search the nearby residence of the consul general after the diplomat left the country.

But other than Khashoggi being missing and seemingly dead, what evidence floated by Turkey has proven to be true?

But murdering a journalist--even one with odd ties to intelligence and jihadi groups who is far from the democracy dissident he is portrayed as--should be out of bounds.

So what do we do if, as seems likely, Saudis killed Khashoggi?

We need to punish for the act but not destroy or weaken the country to lessen its aid to us.

Again, do we brutally punish every country that has killed a writer?

And what if punishing Saudi Arabia helps enemies who are no less brutal to domestic enemies?

This isn't an easy problem.

And then there is the question of who to punish?

It seems as if Khashoggi is truly dead and that Saudis did it.

Did MBS order the murder? Did he order the capture and interrogation that went awry and led to Khashoggi's death?

Did an ally of MBS do either without orders from MBS, believing Khashoggi's death was in the interests of MBS and Saudi Arabia?

Did an enemy of MBS do either without orders from MBS, believing the backlash orchestrated by Turkey is in the interest of moving Saudi Arabia post-MBS (and restoring comfortable corruption in MBS's opponents)?

If we punish MBS if he isn't guilty we are helping his enemies inside Saudi Arabia. But if MBS ordered the hit, he must be punished. To some extent.

And there is still some small doubt about Khashoggi's death. Could he have been smuggled out? That seems unlikely at this point, but if Turkey is working to harm rival Saudi Arabia, could a bribed Saudi official have sent Khashoggi out a side door without a camera? That seems unlikely to me at this point, but the possibility exists.

Yet given that this seems like something that would greatly benefit Turkey if it weakens Saudi Arabia as a rival by weakening the US-Saudi alliance, what if this is a Turkish set up even if MBS ordered it?

I did say in my "Leverage" post linked above that I said the Saudis needed to make a plausible case for rogue elements doing the hit.

Remember, this is a joint Turkish-Saudi investigation. What if Turkey makes a deal with Saudi Arabia for Saudi concessions on some issue of importance to Turkey--like abandoning support for America's backing of Syrian Kurds--and the joint investigation concludes that rogue Saudi agents killed Khashoggi during interrogation? It might even be true.

But that might be irrelevant. It would be difficult to disbelieve Turkey after their more colorful charges have been reported in the West as fact--or at least without any questions.

And consider that the Saudis might have bought a UN Security Council veto to shield this kind of barely plausible (or possibly true) conclusion:

A Frenchman held captive in war-torn Yemen for over four months after his boat ran into trouble near the port of Hodeida has been released, the French presidency announced Tuesday. ...

In a statement President Emmanuel Macron thanked authorities in Oman and Saudi Arabia for helping obtain his release.

And we have a precedent for sanctioning just the identified bad elements, this time the Basij portion of the Revolutionary Guards:
The US Treasury Department on Tuesday slapped sanctions on an Iranian paramilitary group along with a network of businesses that were providing it financing, as part of Washington's campaign of maximum economic pressure against Tehran.

How many times have Westerners excused Iran's mullah rulers for terrorism by saying it was the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) at fault and that they are beyond the control of the mullah government?

Remember, too, that Turkey wants Saudi Arabia weakened to make room for Turkish influence and not destroyed to allow Turkey's other rival Iran to make serious gains in the region.

I wouldn't be shocked if Turkey proves to be the key that "resolves" this affair.

Obviously, this is a lot of speculation. The murder of Khashoggi could just be as evil and stupid as it seems to be.

UPDATE: Exactly:

President Trump is facing his trickiest diplomatic dilemma to date: how to punish a wayward ally, Saudi Arabia, without strengthening its regional foes — particularly American enemies, like Iran.

There is more.

The foundation of the dilemma is do we want Saudi Arabia and the region to be better or worse after our punishment?

UPDATE: Don't forget that Russia would consider it a major victory to drive a wedge between America and Saudi Arabia.

UPDATE: A lot of people here and abroad would see $400 per barrel oil acceptable collateral damage, I imagine. Tip to Instapundit.

UPDATE: Don't ditch Saudi Arabia:

There are two things the U.S. should not do. One is sweep Mr. Khashoggi’s murder under the rug. His disappearance has damaged Saudi Arabia’s standing, including in Congress. ...

But to do what the Iran-deal chorus and the Erdogan and Muslim Brotherhood apologists want—to dissolve the U.S.-Saudi alliance in a frenzy of righteousness—would be an absurd overreaction that plays into the hands of America’s enemies. It could also stampede the Saudis into even more recklessness.

Honestly, Saudi Arabia is a better ally than Pakistan and we put up with them.

And yes, I corrected every mention of "MSB" ...

UPDATE: Seriously, what do we know? With a bonus mention of Pakistan.

Don't Panic About China's Rise

Work the problem of China's rise because China has plenty:

China’s economy is beset by excessive debt accumulation and other maladies, but the main factor inhibiting economic potential is not a systemic debt crisis—a concern to be sure—but the abandonment of reformist policies. Xi Jinping, the Chinese ruler, has turned his back on Deng Xiaoping’s “reform and opening up” program that is credited with sparking Chinese growth for almost four decades. Instead, Xi for a half decade has been reinstituting the Stalinist state model that Mao Zedong embraced in the early 1950s. ...

China, as a result, is moving from authoritarianism back to totalitarianism, readopting a model that brought the People’s Republic to the brink of economic failure twice, once during the Great Leap Forward of the late 1950s and early 1960s and again during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution of the mid-1960s to mid-1970s. China’s economy cannot be expected to do well in an increasingly intolerant political atmosphere, as the country’s own history suggests.

You never saw on this blog the type of China panic that assumed China would surpass America as the top economic power. I've seen the same talk about the USSR, Japan, and Germany only to watch them fall away.

As for China? Maybe 2050 will see China surpass America. But by then, 2100 isn't far off and things could be very different.

On the bright side, allowing distance to obscure the problems of others while closeness allows us to see our own (and make some up) problems has the effect of spurring us to action.

American dominance isn't something I assume will last forever. But I suspect we are in another "American century."

UPDATE: How Xi is killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Get a Freaking Room Why Don't You?

I am really getting tired of the hype about Russian so-called "hybrid" warfare.

Just stop:

In 2014 Russia-backed separatists used a blend of digital and traditional fighting during their takeover of Crimea, and the Pentagon took note.

As the Russians blitzed the contested eastern region of Ukraine with cyberattacks, electromagnetic jamming and unmanned aerial systems, the U.S. military closely monitored the battle tactics, according to officials speaking Oct. 8 at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting. ...

How the Russians embraced hybrid warfare showed just how effective overlapping these tactics could be. [emphasis added]

So what makes Russia's invasion "hybrid" warfare? The article notes cyber-warfare, electromagnetic jamming, and drones. These helped demoralize Ukrainian troops and helped Russian artillery find targets.

Meh. That's warfare. Plain and simple.

Russia has long--since it was the Soviet Union--had potent electronic warfare capabilities. Those have been improved and cyber-warfare has been added to it. And drones are just a more persistent and capable version of spotter planes.

Yes, Russia put those things together to demoralize troops--which was done by radio or pamphlets in the past.

And Russia put those things together to bombard enemy troops that unwisely massed without digging in when they stayed too long in one place.

And Russia had the huge advantage of going to war against a country whose armed forces were in bad shape from deliberate pro-Russian policies by pro-Russia leaders; and those armed forces were in chaos from the revolution that overthrew the pro-Russia leadership.

Honest to God, the Crimea takeover was impressive but it had unique circumstances that prevent it from being Exhibit A in the hybrid warfare craze sweeping Western defense circles.

Obviously, we need to react to Russian capabilities. But stop the analysis paralysis.

I don't know if the hybrid war craze flows from me being on crazy pills or everybody else gulping them down like M & Ms. Hybrid warfare is simple. It consists of Russia invading a country, Russia denying it, and the West going along with the fiction.

Baby Steps

Iraq is beginning to build a new government after their last election. We can lament the time but we should celebrate the lack of political violence to achieve a government.

Yes, there are miles to go before we sleep:

After four months of vote recounts and bitter negotiations following May's indecisive election, in September Iraq's strife-ridden Council of Representatives voted to form the nucleus of a stable government when its parliamentarians agreed to select Barham Salih as president.

In early October, Salih chose Adel Abdul-Mahdi to be prime minister and charged him with forming a new national government. Abdul-Mahdi must accomplish this feat in 30 days. ...

Abdu-Mahdi's frail nucleus confronts huge challenges. Creating a stable and functioning governmental entity will take a decade or two of focused effort by the Iraqi people and the staunch support of key allies like the U.S.

This alone is a victory flowing from the 2003 war. A victory that flipped Iraq from terror-supporting aggressor to terrorist-killing ally that is bizarrely not recognized even as we stare right at it.

Yes, Iran has influence in Iraq. As a more powerful neighbor with shared religious ties, that's hard to avoid in the near-term. That influence is one reason Saddam invaded Iran in 1980. The problem continues. As that author argues, that's a reason to help Iraq resist Iran and not throw up our hands and walk away--again--to our regret:

Between the election in May and the recent protests in Basra, Iraqis are making it clear that they don’t want to be a vassal state of Iran. This presents an opportunity. The new Iraqi government will have to show its independence. With a little skill and luck, the U.S. can quietly give Abdul-Mahdi the support he needs to push back against Iran and address the economic misery in places like Basra.

More can be achieved if we stay to support Iraq against Iranian efforts to keep Iraq weak and help Iraq gain a stretch of peace to rebuild their country and society after decades of destruction caused by Saddam's cruel rule; Baathist, jihadi, and Iranian Shia proxy insurgencies and terror; ISIL conquest and terror; and Iranian-backed militias.

It is totally frustrating that some would walk away, claiming we've failed.

America's invasion of Iraq to overthrow Iraq didn't cause Iraq's many problems--our invasion gave Iraq an opportunity to overcome and correct them.

Let's hope we stay for the long haul to help Iraqis build a much better Iraq, resistant to corruption and Iranian influence.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Middle Threat

Nobody has any excuse not to act to defend the West:

The five nations in the world's leading intelligence-sharing network have been exchanging classified information on China's foreign activities with other like-minded countries since the start of the year, seven officials in four capitals said.

The increased cooperation by the Five Eyes alliance - grouping Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States - with countries such as Germany and Japan is a sign of a broadening international front against Chinese influence operations and investments.

I imagine China enjoys quietly gaining power while the aggressive Russians figuratively yell "Squirrel!" by threatening NATO to attract attention. But a quiet Western world response to China works despite the high-profile Putin Show.

And I just don't get this angst:

In a little-noticed pivot, the Administration set up China as the major geopolitical opponent of the United States in no uncertain terms, led by a speech from Vice President Mike Pence. This change in position — not to be confused with the far more benign “Pacific Pivot” of the Obama Administration — has set off alarm bells ringing from Tokyo to Melbourne.

Our allies are worried that America will stand up to Chinese pressure and aggression? I don't think so:

When asked if it would be better for the world to have the US or China as the leading global power, 73 per cent of Asian respondents – represented by polls taken in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia – favoured the United States, versus 12 per cent for China, the new research showed.

I think those who fear China could pick them off one by one see the advantage to having America provide a shield:

China has a growing problem with the Americans waging a trade war (because of decades of economic scams). China is at a disadvantage in this trade dispute because China exports nearly four times as much (in dollar value) to the U.S. than the Americans export to China. This trade dispute is escalating and that is bad for Chinese businesses in general because China has tended to treat all its trading partners badly. Now those countries see a chance to get back at China.

Indeed, if alarm bells are ringing in Tokyo, it is the sound for general quarters:

Warfare exercises in the disputed South China Sea over the past two months reveal a sustained, long-term escalation of Japanese activity in a region where Tokyo has strategic interests that include keeping Beijing in check.

In September a Japanese submarine, helicopter carrier and two destroyers explored the sea contested by six governments, with China the most militarily powerful. The exercise is part of a two-month initiative called Indo Southeast Asia Deployment 2018, designed to promote “interoperability with our partner navies,” the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force says on its website.

Then, on Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to work with Vietnam on security in the South China Sea. Two days earlier his forces had held a beach-storming drill with their counterparts in the Philippines.

Is the Trump focus on China less "benign" that Obama's pivot to the Pacific? Sure. But that's because the Obama pivot was really a pivot away from the Middle East. Between leaving Iraq in 2011 after winning the Iraq War and reentering Iraq in 2014 to wage Iraq War 2.0, the Obama administration needed a reason for trying to flee the Middle East.

Further, the claim that the original pivot (which was just the continuation of a post-Cold War trend, anyway) was some definition of "benign" ignores that China claimed to be outraged that we'd even need to pivot to the Pacific.

And as an aside, contra the angst-ridden author, that I find the assumption that the Chinese have an amazing long-range planning ability to be just silly.

Remember But Don't Obsess

As the Army and Marines reset to conventional combat, the skills in counter-insurgency (COIN) are fading. That's okay as long as the officer corps retains the knowledge to reorient the troops to that mission if needed.

Sure. What of it?

The U.S. military’s “new” doctrine on COIN (FM 3-24) was lauded as a revolutionary moment. With the “new” doctrine in hand, the U.S. military could now effectively win its unconventional wars. However, comparison reveals the new COIN doctrine is strikingly similar to that developed during the Vietnam War. Why does the U.S. Military forget how to conduct the types of conflict it is more often engaged in?

We’re witnessing it happen right now. The military finds itself in a nonconventional conflict, adjusts on the fly haphazardly, eventually gets some systematic doctrine written down, and once the war is over it goes right back to preparing for near-peer competition. With troops still stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan actively engaged in combat, the Pentagon is already shifting focus back to near-peer competition with the new 2018 National Defense Strategy. [emphasis added]

The article asks why we forget COIN when most of our post-World War II missions have been irregular rather than conventional.

I'll tell you why, and it isn't something that needs to be corrected. An Army trained for COIN pushed into a high-speed intense conventional war will be destroyed; while an Army trained for conventional warfare will likely be unable to win--yet have the time to reorient without being destroyed to eventually win.

I argued, when the Iraq War surge was still going on, that any good soldier makes a good counter-insurgent--as long as the officer corps has the knowledge to use them in a good campaign.

Mind you, the author seems mostly on the same page as I am, but you need to get to the end:

Thus, the problem lies less with the military’s forgetfulness of how to conduct low-intensity operations, but with the nation that asks them to perform such operations whilst remaining ready for a near-peer war. States shouldn’t demand a military that can do everything somewhat well, but instead a military that can execute operations that serve vital interests incredibly well. Civilian leaders shouldn’t expect their militaries to be “jack of all trades” organizations. If American leaders ask the military to be good at stability operations they risk them being bad at countering existential threats.

The question is whether the Army and Marines are making sure that the officer corps retains the institutional knowledge of COIN even as they necessarily refocus on conventional combat.

Just Build a New Damned Tank

Oh. My. God. We keep finding out how useful tanks are in actual combat yet the urge to build anything but a new tank seems to be embedded in the DNA of some parts of the Army.

Here we go again:

While the M1 Abrams tank still has life in it yet, the Army is starting to begin the thinking and planning process for a future tank, “which is really exciting because it might not be a tank,” Coffman said. “It is decisive lethality and what that decisive lethality is will be determined by academia, our science and technology community within the Army and industry.”

The Army will choose a path in 2023 on how it plans to replace the Abrams and some of the ideas cropping up in discussions have been “everything from a ray gun to a Star Wars-like four-legged creature that shoots lasers,” Coffman said, “but the reality is that everything is on the table.

Same old stuff again.

Not that we might not settle on a tank after looking at the laser-armed crawler option.

And not that we aren't modernizing our actual tanks in the arsenal right now.

But while past efforts to build a wonder tank failed, this time our academia, science, and technology communities just might do it! This time it will be different!

I railed against the effort prior to the Iraq War to build the Future Combat System--not a tank (the article starts on page 28). While I accepted some sort of light armor that could be airlifted to try to bridge the gap between foot infantry and heavy armor, I argued it would not replace a tank.

Desert Storm showed the value of heavy armor:

Technologically superior heavy forces and air power decisively prevailed in Desert Storm after a laborious deployment to the Gulf. With lighter and fewer but technologically superior troops, we expect to deploy globally from CONUS and smash any enemy rapidly and with few casualties. Desert Storm, updated to Information Storm, will become a Global Storm. Our Information Storm cannot become global without tradeoffs. If we lighten the Army too much and optimize it for stability operations, our troops will be shocked if we must fight even a single MTW, let alone something worse.

But that was forgotten.

And the Iraq War--both in the conventional phase and in the counter-insurgency phases--proved the value of armor again. Can we not remember that?

And we've had other examples of how heavy armor still has a vital role on the battlefield despite the claims that the little furry mammals were about to make them extinct.

The Army needs mobile protected firepower. If not a tank, what will provide that requirement in numbers we need?

I have no doubt that the heavy main battle tank will one day be replaced by something. No weapon systems dominates forever. But we keep trying to leap ahead to that day and falling on our faces. Why are we tempted to say "This time for sure!"

And if once again the faith in technology to solve the problem of being lethal, protected, and strategically mobile fails as it has thus far, falling back on the mature Abrams tank will falter too as that old platform is unable to handle updates to keep it abreast of potential threats.

Just design and build a heavy tank.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Well That's Just Excessive

The Army is aware that we have an Air Force, right?

It is the Army’s No. 1 priority to develop long-range precision fires that ultimately can exceed 10,000 nautical miles. And while enhanced projectiles can get a munition well out beyond the line of sight, ensuring accuracy and effective targeting will depend on other technologies and operational tactics.

Long-range artillery is a great thing to have. That's good.

But I don't understand the need for an intercontinental fire support capability. Isn't the solution to the accuracy and targeting problems to put the projectile on a plane?

A Love-Hate Relationship

The new report on America's manufacturing and defense industrial base vulnerabilities hasn't yet provoked cries against a "military-industrial complex," but I imagine it will. So let me get ahead of it.

Eisenhower's warning about it is always truncated. Here's what Eisenhower also said:

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction. Our military organization today bears little relation to that known of any of my predecessors in peacetime, or, indeed, by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.

Eisenhower experienced the normality of America without that arms industry of his presidency which was the new normal. It was natural to regret that and warn about the new development--even as he knew it was vital to have.

It would be nice if we didn't need so much of a military and defense industry. But we are a long way from being an isolated nation apart from and insulated from the major players in world politics.

Survival is the Measurement

The national defense strategy renews focus on great power competition and conventional warfare. Casualty evacuation and treatment needs to focus on great power confrontation, too.

Can casualty evacuation honed to a high degree of success through American counter-insurgency campaigns (although Afghanistan lagged Iraq) succeed in getting casualties to medical care in a conventional war environment without a permissive evacuation environment and with a volume of patients we haven't seen in a long time?

That may require extending the "Golden hour" to medical care to a period our system can handle rather than trying to make the system meet that time standard.

Seriously, if patients are moved to medical care to meet the time standard when they should be stabilized first even if they make it to medical care in longer than an hour, that's the right thing to do.

So I hope we use good data on what the Golden hour actually means.