Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Bad Guests

The Chinese abused our freedoms to steal from America. We are finally taking some steps to stop that.

Good:

The U.S. is imposing more restrictions on Chinese officials who come to the U.S. and have contact, for whatever reason, with American academics, researchers and local (state, country) government officials. These Chinese will have to notify the U.S. government of such contacts. Based on recent FBI investigations and prosecutions, this will make it more difficult to operate their massive espionage program that seeks details of how American patents are implemented as well as trade secrets (items that are not patented but are essential for operating a business or factory).

The post looks at China's Confucius Institutes as bases for espionage (and thought control). They have been on my radar screen for a while.

China doesn't allow the same freedoms that the Chinese exploited to spy on America. Um, duh? So their threats of retaliation in kind don't seem terribly worrisome. They'll do more?

Let's see if three decades of looking the other way as China robbed the West blind, in the hopes that economic  progress would lead to democracy and rule of law in China rather than strengthening a thug communist state, is truly coming to an end.

Distracted?

America is a global power and the idea that the Middle East can be a hole in our area of interests just isn't going to happen.

Really?

Barely four months into his tenure, Defense Secretary Mark Esper is making his second trek across the Pacific. And yet it is the Middle East - most recently a near-war with Iran and an actual war in Syria - that in Washington commands more attention and demands more American troops.

I have a lot of respect for Robert Burns, but American military deployments of 65,000 in Europe, 133,000 in the Asia-Pacific, and 13,000 in the Middle East do not indicate that American power is being sucked back to the Middle East instead of going to INDOPACOM.

Really, this is just another example of the inability of America to pivot away from the Middle East that began under Obama.

Although to be clear, the pivot to Asia began at the end of the Cold War when the Soviet threat evaporated.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Most Important Country Nobody's Heard Of?

Will Belarus choose the West? Who knows? If the country does choose the West, will Russia choose to reverse that choice?

That's interesting given the balancing act Lukashenko has conducted between Russia and the West:

The democratic world just celebrated the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. How far east was it considered a historic victory and how much longer will it take for its shadow to disappear in Belarus? Opening doors to token opposition representation in parliament, more frequent overtures to the West, and the promotion of national symbols may seem like the early spring of Belarusian rebirth after more than 25 years of Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s dictatorship. But are these signs of a thaw and a repetition of the events of 1989?

It may just be Belarus maneuvering for a better financial deal with Russia:

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko on Sunday threatened to pull out of signing an integration deal with Russia next month if Moscow failed to resolve their dispute over energy subsidies.

Russia has propped up its traditional ally with loans and subsidies to keep Belarus in its political orbit but now plans to phase these out to lessen the burden on its economy.

Given that the government kept the only two opposition members out of their parliament, I imagine we can rule out Lukashenko turning to the West.

But we should very much enable Belarus to resist turning to Russia. We should be very interested in the fate of what may be the most important territory in modern Europe.

My view is that Putin's National Guard would be the natural force to invade and pacify Belarus if it tries to choose the West.

And Putin could have a more personal goal for taking control of Belarus.

Russian control of Belarus puts Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine in a tough position.

Battles for Iran

Lingering unhappiness with Iran's mullah-run government erupted:

Protests over gasoline prices have swept across some 100 cities and towns in Iran, turning violent faster than widespread economic protests in 2017 and rallies over the country’s disputed 2009 presidential election.

The scale of the unrest that began on Friday remains unclear as authorities have shut down the internet across this nation of 80 million people.

Gas prices on top of corruption and now renewed sanctions triggered this rather unexpected explosion of anger.

Iran's government said that riots had been reduced by Monday:

Iran said it still faces "riots" even though the situation was calmer Monday after days of violent protests sparked by a shock decision to hike petrol prices in the sanctions-hit country.

Major roads have been blocked, banks torched and shops looted in the nationwide unrest that has left at least two dead -- a civilian and a policeman.

Footage of the violence showing masked young men on debris-strewn streets s
setting buildings ablaze has been aired on state television, which rarely shows any signs of dissent.

The government ordered effective rationing of gasoline with tiered price increases. You may recall news that Iran had captured vessels smuggling gasoline out of Iran. With the distortions caused by heavily subsidized gasoline, smugglers had the incentive to take that cheap domestically sold gasoline and sell it abroad--as the first article notes.

The situation is unclear because the government shut down much of the Internet in Iran in response. Organizing without communications apps is more difficult. Or is the Internet just cut off to the outside world?

We shall see if the government unleashes their goons:

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made a point to refer to “thugs” in comments he made Sunday to try to calm the public.

Iranian authorities have had much experience in dealing with public unrest, whether in student protests that swept Iran in 1999, the Green Movement demonstrations that followed widespread allegations of vote rigging in Iran’s 2009 presidential election or the economic protests that began at the end of 2017.

The battle against Iran is being fought inside Iraq, as I've noted and have advocated we fight ever since the Iraq War. And that resistance to Iranian influence is raging:

Anti-government demonstrators in southern Iraq blocked roads leading to the country’s main port on Monday, while the country’s central bank reduced working hours because of ongoing demonstrations, security officials said. ...

Protesters also cut roads to the airport with burning tires in the holy city of Najaf.

This article doesn't mention it, but the protests over corruption and lack of government services in Shia areas so long after the fall of Saddam's minority Sunni regime is outrageous. And the protesters see Iran's hand in Iraq which keeps the corruption rolling to Iran's advantage.

Iran's efforts are extensive:

They say the unprecedented leak of 700 pages of Iranian intelligence cables shows Tehran’s efforts to embed itself in Iraq, including paying Iraqi agents working for the United States to switch sides.

Iran's efforts go back a long time, and were part of Iraq's reasoning for invading revolution-wracked Iran in 1980. Iraq's Shias abused by the Sunni-minority government naturally looked to Shia Iran to help them.

Since the American-led Coalition destroyed the Saddam regime that appeal has been lessened and Arab Iraqi Shias are far more suspicious of Persian Shias. Suspicious enough to riot. And much of the (Most? All?) killing of protesters has been done by Iranian-paid militias.

We--as expressed by a Canadian general--are not happy with the scale of the killings:

The violence surrounding waves of anti-government protests across Iraq has been "an absolute tragedy", NATO's Iraq chief told AFP on Sunday at the close of his year-long mandate.

More than 330 people have died since October 1 in rallies in Baghdad and cities across the south calling for an overhaul of the current government, making them Iraq's deadliest demonstrations in decades.

But we aren't doing much other than condemning the violence. We need to promote rule of law in Iraq, which will help with services and help with legitimacy and help with reducing Iranian influence.

Indeed, I have called for fighting this battle before even the Surge/Awakening. I wanted a post-war surge of experts to clean up corruption in the government, legislature, and judiciary. Until we do that we are fighting Iran there with a grave handicap.

America can battle Iranian influence in Iraq if we remain there and if we continue to squeeze Iranian financial resources. And if we actively promote Iraqi rule of law.

Who knows? Perhaps the Battle for Iran will solve the battles for Iran in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere--and the nuclear problem, of course.

A lot of problems would be easier to solve without mullah-run Iran spreading mayhem and Iranian influence.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Oh! So Close

Why on God's green Earth is the Army willing to give smart rifles to support troops but not to combat troops?

Army infantry officials at Fort Benning, Georgia, are testing a handful of advanced fire control optics in an effort to one day help non-combat arms soldiers shoot more accurately against close-quarter and long-range enemy targets.

The effort is part of the Army Expeditionary Warfighting Experiments (AEWE) 2020 and will involve soldiers live-firing M4A1 carbines with fire control systems from three companies to see whether they can improve a shooter's probability of hitting targets faster than current Army-issue optics.

My view, as I explored in an article on the USNI Blog, is that combat troops should have smart rifles in order to use training time devoted to marksmanship to tactical training:

The U.S. Marine Corps proudly says every Marine is a rifleman. But what happens if even enemy insurgents and militia fighters are just as accurate? New technologies are hastening that day of reckoning. Marines must cope by developing new training priorities, technology, and tactics to maintain their competitive advantage. ...

The pairing of simple bullets with smart sights and automatic firing protocols must change the way Marines prepare for infantry combat. Dumb-but-controlled (DBC) firing employed by even ill-trained forces will revolutionize infantry combat.

Because eventually enemy militias and terrorists--not to mention enemy combat troops--will have smart rifles that will match the skills of our well-trained infantry.

The Return of History

One of the things that most annoys me about the whole Russia collusion/hacking/stealing-the-election nonsense is that Democrats seem to have discovered that this is what Russians (and the Soviets before them) do:

For social media sites like Facebook, 2019 is turning into the year of the history lesson. This is all about the resurgence of Cold War era media campaigns that Russia used to wage internationally using pre-Internet media. In the last few months alone Facebook has announced the discovery and banishment of hundreds of accounts owned and operated by Russian firms that specialize in this sort of thing. The largest Russian disinformation operation is the IRA (Internet Research Agency). During the Cold War something like the IRA would be a top-secret subsidiary of the KGB (secret police).

In the Cold War, those on the left often picked up the Soviet propaganda and amplified it.

In my view, in addition to historical amnesia, Democrats today are simply shocked that the Russians employed propaganda against a Democrat rather than the Republicans who were usually the targets.

Also, don't forget the Chinese, who are a rising (for now) and not a faltering power.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Weekend Data Dump

I guess the communist scum in Bolivia failed in their effort to steal an election. In last week's data dump I wondered what was going on. I honestly don't follow Bolivian politics too closely.

Needless to say, if a federal bureaucracy and judges had thwarted President Obama, there would be no praises of the "democratic" Deep State protecting our Constitution. Bureaucrats can serve or they can resign in protest. Carrying out an independent foreign policy that conflicts with the elected president is not an option. I'll say it again, some people in the civil service need to be fired and have their pensions revoked to rein this in. Tip to Instapundit.

After all the talk of Trump abandoning the Kurds in Syria, the American military presence won't be much less than it was before that so-called withdrawal. We get benefits for remaining in eastern Syria; although there is a risk of escalation by enemies without an increase in our willingness to fight for those benefits. So I do worry about a mismatch between our troop presence and our willingness to fight to keep them there and defend our interests. The issue is complicated and reasonable people can disagree on policy. I just protest the simplistic Orange Man Bad analysis.  But no, the presence of Americans in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf is not an indication of "endless war."

I've long thought that if you compare the full life cycle of electric cars versus internal combustion engine cars that the former wouldn't come out looking very good. So yeah, what about the batteries? Help save the planet, indeed.

Yes, Democrats who control the House of Representatives can set up whatever rules they like for the impeachment-like inquiry regardless of the limited precedents. But it still doesn't look good for respect for rule of law and fairness if it's a Calvinball Impeachment, does it?

So are the Russians positioning themselves in the Libya civil war to aim refugees/migrants at Europe as a weapon? Well, they did the same in Syria, so probably yes.

Thank Goodness, the Brexit Party won't run against Johnson's people in the coming British election and risk splitting the pro-Brexit vote. Labour promised a new Brexit vote. Given that the one more than three years ago was supposed to settle the question, the pledge is clearly one of having votes until Remain wins. Which is standard EU imperial policy, to be fair.

You people seriously believe this?
Peak Stupid's summit grows ever higher. Tip to Instapundit.

That's horrifying. But this sounds more like a problem of overly aggressive county officials rather than the law. I was working for the legislature in 1999 and remember well that the law streamlined Depression-era statutes designed to make it very difficult for the government to foreclose on tax-delinquent property. The change was needed. But the locals really screwed that man who seems to have made a simple math error.

"Gangs" of unknown membership in Malmo have been violent--including a car bomb. Swedish authorities are creating a task force to combat the mysterious problem. Well they should given that it is a totally new thing to have 100 explosions in a yearThe Danes are tightening border controls to avoid spill-over. I'm so old I remember when the problem was mere "youths." Now they're organized. I stand by my prediction at the end of this post. Am I wrong?

What's up with China ordering their students out of Taiwan by Taiwan's January 2020 national election? Normally I'd expect clearing the decks for an invasion as an explanation. But perhaps the Chinese authorities simply don't want their students to get dangerous ideas about Asian democracy in action lest the Chinese students start to think the Hong Kong protesters have a point.

What is ACK!'s major malfunction? ACK approvingly cited Canadian activist Naomi Kline. Which makes sense given that Canada has a prime minister personally trying hard to bridge that white-persons of color gap.

I'm not happy with China making such a major investment in a Greek port. Let's hope Greece stays financially solvent lest China just try to buy the country. Let's hope the EU can manage that problem.

Strategypage looks at the multi-war in Syria--including the al-Baghdadi raid--as well as the persistence of jihadi impulses in Islam that are currently tearing Syria apart. Apparently in the first month of Turkey's operation about 150 civilians have been killed and 850 combatants have been killed. Note that Turkey does not have their full security buffer zone because Kurds and Syrian government forces are resisting. On the jihadi issue, my view is that the only good jihadi is a dead jihadi--but rules of engagement need to be strict enough so that nobody responsible for making good jihadis adopts the view that "a Moslem running away is a jihadi and a Moslem standing still is a well-disciplined jihadi." And note that Assad tried to play the game of aiming jihadis at his enemies--in Iraq--and ultimately that weapon turned against him big time. May Pakistan's short-sighted, India-obsessed military rulers take note.

I find it bizarre to read articles that the White House has "overruled" this or that staffer on foreign policy. The president runs our foreign policy--not staffers. Staffers offer advice and then carry out orders or resign in protest. And while Democrats are praising Colonel Vindman for opposing Trump's Ukraine policy, it isn't up to him. I've long been clear on presidential control of the military. And Vindman isn't the hill for Democrats to die on for this issue, it seems. Vindman has the right--and duty--to resist unlawful orders. Beyond that, neither he nor his colleagues make policy. The president does not "subvert"--as Vindman stated--the policy preferences of staff--the president makes our foreign policy. Do you really think our military wanted to abandon Iraq in 2011 as Obama ordered? But never did I hint that our military should resist or obstruct that decision. The military has a duty to obey even bad decisions, if lawful. Vindman seems more like an infiltrator than a whistleblower. Also, keep in mind that basically Vindman was concerned that if the phone call at the center of this melodrama became public--which his actions may very well have helped happen--the Democrats on Congress would throw Ukraine under the Russian bus in order to protect Biden. Their sudden Russia outrage has limits, I guess.

I was going to complain that San Francisco voters elected Chesa Boudin, a socialist, terrorist-friendly person who worked for the thug Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, to be their district attorney. But as I've said, people have the right to local self rule. So I say San Francisco should fully enjoy the fruits of their judgment--good and hard. I'm cruel, I know, but the voters deserve to live with their choice. Tips to Instapundit.

Now all we need to do is get South Korea to agree that US-Japanese-ROK cooperation against common threats is a good thing. South Korea seems to want a triangular firing squad lately, which surely makes North Korea, China, and Russia smile.

I feel sorry for the obviously troubled Greta Thunberg. I'm mad at the extremists exploiting her for their own goals. I'm horrified that so-called adults treat her every utterance like some Oracle of Delphi (as I commented on in this data dump). And I'm outraged that these activists are trying to terrify our children over their fantasy's of doom. The end of the world is not in fact nigh.

The short answer is that why would Iran want to change the sloppy wet kiss the Obama administration gave Iran with this gift of nuclear weapons?

The San Francisco airport therapy pig is all cute and stuff--right until a Moslem group expresses offense. Then the city district attorney will order the pig arrested, tried, and executed (but not eaten), in that order.

Huh. Ballsy to subvert the Trump administration and beg for money to fund it. If GoFundMe had existed in the 1980s as a means to fund initiatives (perhaps by laundering money), the CIA could have avoided that whole Iran-Contra scandal.

Example 1,348 of why I don't trust the media--with particular disdain for the self-described "fact checkers." Tip to Instapundit.

In what alternate world of idiocy was Australia's decision to buy the F-35 a "problematic purchase?" Yes, Australia needs strike capabilities. And with stealth and precision, Australia gets that. And if what the F-35 can carry without killing stealth is insufficient, Australia can field long range anti-ship missiles from ships, non-stealthy planes, and ground launchers that the F-35 can aim and fire. And if the complaint is that Australia won't also commit funding to protect bases the F-35 will use, that's a whole other kind of problematic and can be addressed by committing sufficient funding to defense. Australia spends a decent amount but is around 2% of GDP. If the threat is rising, spending more than that is not out of line to defend their freedom and democracy, is it?

Israel creates a good jihadi. And don't even bother to tell me that this risks jihadi "retaliation." Gaza jihadis will kill Israeli civilians with or without the pretext of "retaliation."

Hahahaha! Quite accurate.

Another example of #liberalprivilege--control group edition.

She's clearly gone quite mad. Tip to Instapundit.

The Turks are deporting ISIL members to European countries who don't want them back--the countries that condemned America for holding jihadis at Guantanamo Bay.

No! Way! "The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has found uranium particles at a site in Iran that had not been declared by the Iranian authorities." One of the basic problems of the Iran nuclear deal was that the IAEA could only inspect facilities that the Iranians let them inspect. The mystery is why Iran let the IAEA into that facility. One assumes somebody on the Iranian side is in deep trouble for clearing the site for inspection.

Libya.

Believe in climate change as though it is a religion?  It's a religion. I even wrote a song of faith for it!

Yes, the impeachment drama is really about policy differences--which should be resolved by elections and not impeachment. I differ a bit on the Russia issue. Yes, Russia is a foe and we need to prepare to fight Russia to deter them. And at the very least the large number of nukes we have justify some reductions in acute tensions. But in the long run we should want to split Russia from China to avoid being distracted by a pointless Russia front when facing a rising China. This probably requires post-Putin leadership. And I wouldn't throw Ukraine under the bus in an effort to achieve it (remember Russia needs America more than we need Russia).

I firmly believe that looking into whether there was corruption in the Biden-Ukraine issue in 2016 is a legitimate question--especially given the precedent provided by the insane Democratic efforts to keep the Trump-Russia 2016 "collusion" alive so long--and not an issue of "digging up dirt." What was going on in Kiev back then? The summer 2019 phone request was too specific to 2016 to be something similar to the Steele dossier that Democrats in and out of the Obama administration flogged.

Yeah, Spain (and the West by association) has no reason to feel guilty about destroying the Aztec empire. Remember that Cortes had plenty of local allies who didn't like being ritually sacrificed in massive numbers.

Piracy off the coast of Nigeria.

The New York Times notes that Ukraine would like some stability in the United States in order to get more support against Russia. Ukraine is trying to negotiate with Russia. The NYT thinks this is a damning indictment of the Trump administration. But in my view the chaos is at this point is almost exclusively the fault of the Democrats with their Ahab-like obsession with impeaching the Bad Orange Man. For the record, I don't think Democrats care about Ukraine one bit. Their sudden concern is suspicious, no? I have long been on board democracy in Ukraine. And I wasn't willing to sacrifice that in order to keep Ukrainian troops in Iraq.

Please God, let "Hearsay can be much better evidence than direct [evidence]" be Peak Stupid for 2019, at least.

Iraqi protesters bravely battle corruption and Iranian influence despite their casualties. This is a long-term problem to solve (with related "what the Hell happened to Max Boot" questions).

That is an excellent question. Perhaps it is related to how Hillary Clinton evaded record-keeping, FOIA, and communications security requirements by setting up a private server to conduct official State Department business on a private email account. Consequences are for the conservative little people.

The idea that Trump cared more about investigating the Biden family for their 2016 activities than he cared about Ukraine seems to be refuted by the facts that the Javelin missiles were sent and that Ukraine did not launch an investigation. I guess mind reading isn't an exact science yet. Also, on that delay in the missile shipment, this makes total sense.

You can't say we didn't give Erdogan a chance to reverse his S-400 purchase decision. I'm relieved Erdogan didn't take his opportunity. We have an Erdogan crisis and not a S-400 crisis. And we've taken steps to keep production going without Turkey. I wonder where the regional maintenance hub will go?

What worries me the most about China's naval power is the industrial capability behind it apparently capable of rapidly building warships. In contrast to our yards that have trouble with new designs, cost overruns, and quality control. Have a super sparkly day. As for their carrier force, which defenders of the American carrier fleet cite as proof that carriers are still the primary asset for sea control, thus far China seems to just want "just a few to intimidate its neighbors." Which fits well with my distinction between useful and burning hulks. (Lord, I've been doing this a long time).

More on the new Japanese submarines I mentioned last week.

Eleven years after bombing Khadaffi's forces until rebels killed the dictator--and then staying out of the country so locals can work out their differences without our "harmful presence" (and what about Russia's less-than-helpful intervention?)--Libya's civil war still rolls along and American forces still have to bomb ISIL there to create more "good jihadis."

China has more concentration camps to "reeducate" Uighers than is thought. It's bad enough with what we thought we knew. Oh, and may the UN rot in Hell for officially commending China's "remarkable achievements in the field of human rights." The UN serves a useful function. That function is not as the conscience of the "sainted international community." I'm sure the Chinese authorities could find room in those camps for quite a few Hong Kong protesters, if need be.

I guess you have to break a few eggs to enjoy your Trump-free omelet. Is strident impeachment fervor the last refuge of a scoundrel?

The Arab Spring largely failed. But the impulse for democracy as an alternative to autocrats or Islamists as rulers lives on. And the people who want that alternative have learned from past failures. This will take a long time and will be a big part of the good guys winning the Islamic Civil War over who defines Islam--murderous jihadis or normal people. But it is important to achieve regardless of how long it takes. One day, Islamists will have little legitimacy in a world where the Arab Spring finally triumphs. Syrians are probably too shell shocked and battered to be a part of this, after their effort in Arab Spring I was crushed by Assad and betrayed by jihadis. But Sudan, Algeria, Lebanon and Iraq may yet score a clear success. Iraq is already much better than it was under Saddam, and is an enemy of jihadis. With some rule of law, Iraq can be a fully functioning democracy. But will Iran try to crush these impulses in Lebanon and Iraq? With Hezbollah, Iran's chances are much greater in Lebanon than in Iraq. At least Iran's finances are stretched taut with American sanctions--see Iran's gas rationing and retail price increase--no doubt intended to prevent smugglers from exporting subsidized gasoline, which that article mentions. We'll see.

I keep worrying about reaching Peak Stupid. But Representative Swalwell is competing in a whole new category of Peak Moron.

Big if true, no doubt. Oddly, a lot of Iran's fans seem to hear one of those "dog whistles" I hear so much about here.

Is it just me or does the Left trot out every big-spending plan and slap "Green" on it, regardless of the subject of the plan? These people are nuts. And worse, they think the rest of us are, too.

Short of being used as a cure for pending blindness, I never trusted this procedure. It always seemed cosmetic in nature. Glasses will be fine, thank you.

Actual bribery.

This is a BS study--claiming 70% of Americans are "struggling financially"--that really requires an examination of the "definitions" section. One, it is a survey rather than being based on actual statistical measures. Two, the study says you are struggling financially if you report one of five different measures of struggling: being middle class and spending more than you earn; having trouble saving money; struggling to pay for groceries or housing; something related to debt, and being stressed by money issues. The article was amazingly vague about those factors. If you fail just one, you are struggling. And again, this is all self-reporting "data" with nothing objective in it. As one problem, let me note that if you save money for your child's college and now you are spending that money, you will most likely be spending more than your income. This just sounds like a political hit piece to convince you that our economy isn't in good shape (well, apart from the national debt and budget deficits--which nobody even pretends to care about these days).

Yes, America needs to know "whether [CIA director] Brennan’s actions and faulty information amounted to incompetence or something considerably worse."

Counter-terrorism up close and personal.

So it is horrifying that the Russians might have a transcript of a particular call between Trump and and our ambassador to the EUwho was in Ukraine because it was made on an unsecured phone? Maybe. But one, having an ambassador to the EU is annoying. But I digress. Two, we have no idea if we wanted the Russians to hear that conversation. And more to the point, so it is bad to communicate on unsecured communications systems? Okay. Now do Hillary Clinton and here private server that bypassed government security equipment and procedures for her entire tenure as secretary of state.

I remain unsure of the Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) concept. If it is really just ultra-"purple" combined arms across all domains, that's good. I worry that it will mean abandoning the idea that each service has a core competency for its own primary domain and that each service will instead dissipate its command of its core competency by expanding capabilities into all domains. The synergy of different services commanding their own domain was the point of this Land Warfare Paper that I wrote about the World War II Guadalcanal campaign.

Is Russia thinking about a base in northeast Syria at Qamishli? For God's sake, why would they want to do that? The Russians deny that intent, for what that's worth.

While I will vote for Trump in 2020 against the Democrats' unhinged 24/7 Resistance, I don't agree with defining being conservative as being aligned with Trump. As I've said many times, Trump started as a liberal Democrat and if the Democrats weren't borderline insane, he'd be free to go that way in policy (my prime example is his support for a massive spending program on infrastructure, which I absolutely oppose as a left-wing spending bonanza--see the 2009 "stimulus" spend-a-palooza). In many ways Democrats have actually created the Trump who does conservative things that are worth supporting. My support for Trump is tactical and not strategic.

Before the Michigan-MSU game on Saturday:
When you know the habits of your foe, this is how a flak trap is set.

Iranians aren't happy at all with gasoline price increases. Greta Thunberg is no doubt annoyed at their lack of commitment to Green energy. But with the mullah rulers shutting down the Internet in response to the protests, I guess the Oracle of Stockholm won't be able to communicate her ire.

Let's examine the degree of difficulty America has faced waging the war on Islamist terrorism: America was condemned as monstrous for holding hundreds of actual Islamic terrorists at Guantanamo Bay. China has imprisoned at least a million for the crime of being Moslem and perhaps prone to terrorist inclinations.

PLA troops were used in Hong Kong to clean up streets after clashes. They are being used as labor and are in civilian clothes. But consider this a recon mission for the troops and consider it a way to ease the acceptance of PLA troops in the streets in uniform eventually.

The Russians continue to have problems with their sea-based nuclear deterrent. Fracking, aggression, and corruption are taking their toll. Seriously, do the Russians even have many working long-range nuclear weapons?

A reminder that the so-called lack of advanced planning for the withdrawal of American troops from northeast Syria was not Trump's fault. The military had advance warning going back nearly a year but did nothing to carry out that order--until the recent order to just do it. With no ambiguity to exploit, the military saluted and carried out its orders--as it does (and should). You may recall me writing about it. This has been building for a while. And we still haven't left Syria.

Our military exercises in South Korea are important to maintaining combat skills. I'm not comfortable delaying more to induce North Korea to negotiate seriously. I concede I don't know what else is happening quietly. Maybe economic and financial sanctions really are squeezing North Korea hard enough to justify suspending military training. Maybe we are closer to getting real talks than is apparent. But maybe we are going to accept a nuclear North Korea. Have a super sparkly day.

A kind of battle seems to be raging at a Hong Kong university campus.

Why do I get the feeling that Obama's recent warning to Democrats isn't so much about getting rid of the "crazy stuff" but rather is a warning not to let the voters "see" the crazy stuff. Tip to Instapundit.

So doesn't the result of the quantum physics experiment call into question the validity or even the very existence of the experiment? Tip to Instapundit.

Not so fast, those racists and sexists aren't merely "Americans," they're Democrats. This is the primary season, remember.

Ooooh. Burn!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

"Elections Have Consequences" As Guideline Rather than Rule

With the increasing evidence that the permanent bureaucracy has a lot of people who think they should make American foreign policy, McCarthy writes:

There is a lot of that thinking going around in the policy community, such that my aversion to scandalizing it as the 'deep state' is getting harder to justify.

My take is that three years ago it was a bit overwrought to talk about a "deep state." We had the banal issue of a bureaucracy defending its turf through the usual ability to exploit inertia against undesired (by them) change. At some level I used that reality and other factors to try to reassure Democrats that their turn-it-to-11 panic was really unjustified.

Although despite my worries about the partisanship of the bureaucracy I didn't expect the shameful extent and duration that has rejected the once-deeply held notion that who won has consequences. The injection of politics from the Democrats in the bureaucracy has since then begun to create a Deep State as the partisans married the power of the bureaucracies to their partisan politics. The Deep State became self aware, so to speak, sometime in the last three years.

And by February I was already getting alarmed at that development:

The federal bureaucracy won't let a little thing like an election tell them what to do. Liberalism today . . . liberalism tomorrow . . . liberalism forever. Trump, perhaps with the help of Congress, needs a vertical chop of entire uncooperative sections of some departments that avoids civil service protections by eliminating the funding for an entire entity. Eliminating the position is different than firing someone, right? A Roman decimation was always intended to affect the 90% who remain standing, after all. I expect that bureaucracies will drag their feet on policies they don't like. But there should be limits to how brazen it can be given that they are supposed to be nonpartisan employees of all Americans and not just Democrats.

This change has grown enough that some Democrats are starting to celebrate the Deep State they once denied existed. Some people in that new Deep State need to be fired and lose their pensions to nip this in the bud.

Trump may very well be an assault on language and decorum. I have not learned to like him. But the Democrats are an assault on rule of law. I have learned to fear them. We can survive the former while the latter is very serious, indeed.

Missing the Point

I won't dismiss the need to compete with Russia in the political sphere. But this description of Russia's invasion of Ukraine's Crimea as an example of covert political action (see page 8 of the embedded speech) is just wrong:

The Ukraine Crisis in 2014 was an example of this [covert political action].

We saw masked Russian Special forces—the “little green men”—and Russian-backed para-military groups seize buildings and infrastructure in Crimea.

This “masked warfare” was a nod to Soviet-style disruption.

But it was also accompanied by computer attacks, manipulation of social and mass media, collapse of the national financial system, and other deceptive operations.

Together, they paralysed the Ukrainian government, and the international community.

No effective action could be taken.

It was obvious at the time that Russia was invading. The reason for the failure to react was that Ukraine was in the middle of a revolution and the new government was being formed. So nobody existed who could order the largely ineffective military into action, the military hardly new who represented legitimate authority, and nobody had recognized authority to ask for foreign help--and who could have rushed in to help?

As I've long said, Russia's new style of warfare--and calling it "hybrid warfare" doesn't make it new--is nothing terribly innovative. It is actually quite simple:

Good Lord people, Russian "hybrid warfare" is just Russian aggression that we pretend isn't happening. Sadly, there's nothing new or novel about that.

Russia invaded Ukraine. Russia denied that they invaded Ukraine. And the West went along with that fiction.

Come on people, by all means counter Russian propaganda and covert influence operations (and Chinese efforts behind a more powerful communist China). We understood this in the Cold War, after all. But let's not study Russia's subliminal invasions to death.

Friday, November 15, 2019

But What Happens After Decades?

So Russia shouldn't worry about Chinese economic penetration of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia?

Chinese influence in Central Asia has increased markedly in recent years. For Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and even the relatively more closed-off Turkmenistan, China is becoming not only a major supplier of loans and investment but also a key trading partner. Some may interpret this as an indication that the influence of Central Asia’s historical benefactor, Russia, is diminishing. It seems, however, that Russia isn’t too alarmed by China’s growing influence in the region. That’s because, unlike China, Moscow’s interests in Central Asia are not just economic. Indeed, Russia has historical links to the region and security and political interests there, which will ensure that Moscow will be the dominant player in the region for years to come. [emphasis added]

Okay. So how many years will Russia remain dominant there? Really, nothing in that article should soothe Russian concerns over Chinese influence other than the reassurance that for some unstated number of years the Russians don't need to worry.

If the Russians aren't too alarmed about China's growing influence, it may be that they still feel required to conceal their appeasement of China.

My view is that the flag will follow trade in Central Asia, even if it takes more than years to happen.

Russians may be able to sleep soundly tonight without worrying about China. But the correlation of forces is going against them in Asia.

UPDATE: Pay attention Russia:

China’s advanced surveillance regime is taking root along the length of the Belt and Road—especially the Belt, the overland Eurasian routes that were the origin of the government’s ambitious investment project. Recently, Kyrgyzstan opened a new police command center in its capital, Bishkek, putting its new facial recognition cameras to work. The equipment was supplied—reportedly free of charge—by the China National Electronics Import and Export Corporation, a defense company currently sanctioned by the United States.

But no worries, Russia, you'll remain dominant there for years to come.

Options Expand When Shooter and Sensor are Separate

The Air Force is thinking about a lumbering "arsenal plane" that can fire all types of weapons, including air-to-air weapons, at the direction of other combat assets:

The Air Force is planning experiments and briefing senior leaders on progress toward its “arsenal plane” idea, looking at multiple aircraft options to fly with a large weapons cache to back up strike assets.

An arsenal plane would be a multi-engine platform that accompanies remotely piloted aircraft and fighter jets in combat and totes “network-enabled, semi-autonomous weapons,” according to a 2016 Air Force video. The concept has been around for years under the Defense Department’s Strategic Capabilities Office.

The idea “takes one of our oldest aircraft platform[s] and turns it into a flying launchpad for all sorts of different conventional payloads,” then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in 2016. “In practice, the arsenal plane will function as a very large airborne magazine, [and] network to fifth-generation aircraft that act as forward sensor and targeting nodes.”

I've noted the idea of an arsenal plane for bombs. And long ago I added the idea of an air-to-air arsenal plane:

Taiwan is struggling to afford modern warplanes to prevent China from invading Taiwan. They are modernizing their older F-16s, but so far haven't been able to develop their own adequate aircraft or buy newer planes from us.

It occurred to me that we have gunships that turn large transport planes into ground support aircraft. They work very well. Couldn't Taiwan use the same concept for air defense?

Taiwan has AWACS-type planes to watch the Taiwan Strait and Chinese air bases near their coast.

Would it be possible for Taiwan to pair up air-to-air missile-planes consisting of a large transport plane carrying lots of long-range radar-guided missiles?

If Taiwan's E-2s spot a Chinese air armada heading across the strait, the "air gunship" could fire off volleys of air-to-air missiles even as Taiwanese fighters were scrambling. Given that the Chinese aircraft would be closing with Taiwan at high speeds, the air gunships could fire while well out of range of Chinese missiles, counting on the Chinese aircraft to close within the missile range even if the missiles are fired while the Chinese planes are out of range.

Which was earlier than RAND's proposal that I mentioned.

More recently I've worried about the survivability of a slow lumbering arsenal plane and wondered if we could turn the B-1 air frame into an air-to-air arsenal plane--an AABONE:

Given the ability of the F-35 to fire anti-aircraft weapons on other platforms, could we equip the B-1 bomber with long-range air-to-air missiles (an Air-to-Air B-1, or AABONE)?

The B-1 could hang well back and let the closer stealthy F-35 fire a barrage from the B-1, without even disclosing the location of the F-35.

I suggest a B-1 for this mission rather than a bomb truck using a converted commercial plane for this threat environment because the B-1 could skedaddle at high speed away from the threat after firing the missiles.

Of course, the air-to-air missiles should ideally have a longer range than our standard AMRAAMs in order to keep threats out of visual range of our F-35s that are spotting and aiming the arsenal plane missiles fired from well to the rear of the F-35 (or whatever sensor is aiming the missiles).

And really, this is a great solution to the problem of the F-35s limited internal (to remain within the air frame's stealth protection) missile storage capacity. Ideally, the internal missiles never need to be fired, thus giving away the location of the F-35.

Note that the initial article raises the idea of the B-1 as the platform.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Who Has Better Combat Experience?

Does Russia have more conventional combat experience than American Army troops?

“Russia has rotated over 30 Brigades and regiments through the Donbas in the last few years, and they have gained valuable combat experience,” retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, the former commander of U.S. Army Europe, told Military Times in an emailed statement.

“And that is a different kind of experience than the US Army’s 31 Brigades have learned rotating through Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two decades,” he explained.

I'm not so sure about that assessment. Although I agree with the scarily effective artillery skills the Russians have displayed in the Donbas--seriously "I need to change my underwear" scary (do watch the embedded video at the link).

Russia has rotated elements of brigades through the Donbas--not full brigades but only battalion tactical groups scraped up from the brigades and regiments. And their experience has been as a firepower provider to a shell of militias around the BTGs.

And the last few years have seen static low-level fighting along the so-called ceasefire line.

So I don't think that more than 30 Russian brigades and regiments have conventional combat experience. It is experience. Which is valuable, no doubt. But is it really an edge over us?

While it is true that the Army's experience since the 2003 conventional invasion of Iraq has been in counter-insurgency, the combat experience of individual soldiers is very valuable as long as the units are refocused on conventional combat.

And honestly, I think our National Training Center brigade rotations do a far better job of preparing our brigades for conventional combat than the actual Russian rotations through Russian-occupied Donbas have provided the Russians. As I noted in this post about training for conventional combat, NTC rotations had been so good that our own OPFOR was far tougher than actual Iraqi ground forces we fought in the 2003 invasion.

Mind you, I'm not saying that the Russians lack the ability to seize and hold lightly defended NATO territory. They clearly do have that ability. And the Russians will have the time to dig in and prepare for a NATO counterattack.

But that's a different issue, as I've argued.

UPDATE: And don't discount the experience NATO gained in Afghanistan that transfers to great power competition.

We're Talking About the Russians, Remember

Would America risk a nuclear war to defend our NATO Baltic state allies?

Would the U.S. fight a nuclear war to save Estonia? The question would probably strike most Americans as absurd. Certainly, almost no one was thinking about such a prospect when NATO expanded to include the Baltic states back in 2004.

Good question. But would Russia really risk a nuclear war to take and hold those Baltic state countries?

And the author seems to be hazy on the Cold War when plenty of questions were raised about the willingness of America to trade (in a nuclear exchange) New York for West Berlin or even Bonn if the USSR started to overrun West Germany.

I don't think the option of putting a significant number of troops into that kill sack that would be cut off by a Russian thrust through Belarus and the Suwalki Gap is the solution.

I say let the Russians come in while hitting them with air and missile attacks plus special forces and irregular militia harrassment every step, extend their supply lines, and then hit the Russian army hard in a counter-attack. Destroying the Russian army in the theater is the only safe way to enter the Baltic states in force.

Also, the idea floated by the author to defend putting 30,000 NATO troops with up to 8 brigades on Russia's border that the deployment couldn't possibly be considered an offensive threat ignores that the Russians claimed NATO was a threat when we had nothing in the region, no logistics network, and no plans to even defend new NATO states.

I worry more about Russia using nukes in a preemptive strike on NATO brigades in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania than I worry Russia will use nukes if we counter-attack to free those countries.

Counting on limits to Russian paranoia and dishonestly seems like a bad call.