Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Most Difficult Period for Russia or the West?

Is Putin determined to continue the pointless confrontation with NATO and the West?

Is this true?

No one knows if the next six years of Vladimir Putin’s reign will be his last, but signs suggest they will be the most difficult for Washington to navigate in what is now widely acknowledged on both sides as a long-term confrontation between Russia and the West.

If this is true, it makes sense that Russia is sucking up to China to secure their rear while they continue to pressure NATO in the west.

But sucking up to China now also makes sense if the purpose is to buy time to shift Russian forces east while trying to disengage from the pointless confrontation with NATO.

Lord knows what Putin thinks makes more sense.

I'll note that the author relies on the strategic concept of raids to describe Russian strategy, which I relied on for my recent article on potential Army operations in the Asia-Pacific region when opening the possibility for Army operations on the Chinese mainland, as opposed to operations with allies around the periphery of China. I figured we could achieve limited objectives along the coast of China (following on the Marines) but couldn't hope to occupy China. I expanded on that in the end note:

Archer Jones, The Art of War in the Western World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 54–57. Archer Jones contrasts a raiding strategy with a persisting strategy. His definitions work for both offensive and defensive warfare. A persisting strategy of taking or holding terrain requires a high troop-to-area ratio to exert a strong physical presence to own the land. With a low troop-to-area ratio, attempting to occupy the entire area is futile. A raiding strategy is the alternative. On the defensive, a raiding strategy does not attempt to hold a front to stop an enemy but conducts a mobile defense to defeat the invader by waiting for opportunities for military victories or just seeks to avoid battle in the hope of tiring the invaders out. On the offensive, a raiding strategy involves maneuver to inflict military defeats or seize critical terrain to inflict pain and does not seek to take and hold terrain except for short periods to gain local successes. Despite advances in weaponry and surveillance, neither virtual occupation with aircraft flying overhead nor Third Offset-enhanced troops spread thinly are a substitute for troop density.

Interestingly, the author thinks that Russia didn't intend to conquer Crimea or Donbas. In both Putin just wanted to pressure Ukraine to federalize their government structure to allow Russia to exert more influence in the more decentralized periphery of Ukraine, with Russia withdrawing from their "raids" after that. And withdrawing in Crimea meant withdrawing back to the bases that Russia already had.

In the former (me opining) Putin could put pressure on whatever government emerged in Ukraine to keep their bases in Crimea (which perhaps explains my confusion over why he'd take Crimea when he had the bases). Perhaps the complete inability to resist in the chaotic first days of the revolution encouraged Russia to just take the place.

But I do think that Russia could afford to take and occupy the low-population Baltic NATO states. Russia would link up with their Kaliningrad exclave and Russia's border with NATO would actually shrink.

(In theory, mind you, on the assumption that NATO doesn't fight for them--and I think NATO would fight to liberate them if Russia overruns them.)

And the author doesn't seek to think much of the Western worship of so-called Russian "hybrid warfare." You know my opinion.

So do read it all.

Anyway, the next six years will be the most difficult for someone. But it might be for Russia rather than for the West.

Sail Into the SOUTHCOM Gray Zone Littorals

The SOUTHCOM commander stated that there are threats in his command that require serious attention:

The U.S. is facing the “latest evolution of warfare” in its own backyard, threats to international security that are bubbling up from Latin America’s criminal networks, corrupt governments and “state actors with global ambitions,” the chief of U.S. Southern Command says.

Challenges arising in Latin America and the Caribbean fall into a “gray zone” rather than being widely understood traditional military threats, and there are consequences for regional and international security, said Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd in remarks at a Rogers Strategic Issues Forum hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army’s Institute of Land Warfare. The region, he said, merits greater focus.

As I've mentioned before, SOUTHCOM isn't likely to get major naval assets. So just as I recommended for AFRICOM, Admiral Tidd should consider a modularized auxiliary cruiser.

The SOUTHCOM Queen would be just fine.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Continue the Farce Without America, Thank You

The UN Human Rights body is a joke dominated by despots. American withdrawal is justified. China's reaction is priceless:

China expressed regret on Wednesday over a U.S. decision to withdraw from the U.N. Human Rights Council, with state media saying the image of the United States as a defender of rights was "on the verge of collapse".

China is building Dystopian State 1.0 in its Xinjiang west:

I've mentioned that China is hard at work building the Beta version of Dystopian Surveillance Police State 1.0 in restive Xinjiang province (somewhere in that data dump). But the features are being built everywhere in China. Not even jaywalking or how much toilet paper you use is beneath notice. This should scare the Hell out of people. Remember that even here almost all of us voluntarily carry around devices that can record what we say and where we go 24/7. No way that would be used against us by companies or our government, right? Right?? Tips to Instapundit.

And if leaving that farcical UN body really did tarnish the image of America as a defender of rights, China would be very happy indeed to have that happen.

Because China is happy to have a neutered human rights body that retains credibility by the continued presence of America on it.

UPDATE: Hahahaha! The Russians are moaning about our decision, too:

Russia says that the U.S. exit from the United Nations' Human Rights Council reflects Washington's unilateralist approach to global affairs. ...

The Russian mission described the council as a "key international platform for cooperation in protecting human rights."

Never say the Russians don't have a sense of humor.

Russia likes the council because it is not a body for protecting human rights. And until now, America's presence on the flawed dictator-protection council gave it some undeserved credibility.

Airlifting Right for the Jugular

China is introducing their equivalent of the C-17:

Two years after the Chinese Air Force received its first production model Y-20 air transport seven are now in service. Earlier in 2018 the Y-20 was used, for the first time, for dropping paratroopers as well as cargo by parachute. The Y-20 is similar to the American four engine C-17 heavy jet transport. But the Y-20 was developed and put into production much more quickly and apparently going to be built in much larger number.

In large numbers, it will be useful for dropping and airlifting troops and equipment in or near Taipei, in an invasion of Taiwan that goes right for the jugular.

Prophecy of Warfare: Theme Ten

This is a really good article on planning for future wars by a talented retired Army major general.

Let me review, at his challenge, the ten themes Scales set forth about future war in 1999. Mind you, it speaks well of him to predict the future and then stand by them when the future approaches. As he notes, predictions about future war shouldn't be about getting the future right, it is about not getting it too wrong to win.

I'll do them one at a time in separate posts. This is the tenth and final post. Let me preface this effort with my warning from my 2002 Military Review article (starting on p. 28) about the projected FCS that was the primary weapons system envisioned by those planning efforts:

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.

The tenth theme from 1999 is:

10. Move Beyond Jointness to True Interdependence of Services
Combat functions such as operational maneuver and precision firepower — functions provided principally by one service yet vital to the warfighting effectiveness of another — should be removed from the constrictive rules of joint warfare and elevated to a new dimension of interdependent command and control.

That's an interesting theme. Is it possible to train senior staff to think about true joint command, with officers mastering all services the way senior service personnel are now expected to master all branches of their own service to employ that service to its full potential?

I don't know. I can't say I've ever addressed this.

The only aspect is that I've often said that when someone calls in fire support, they shouldn't care who provides it, and the fire support system should be able to determine if a 60mm mortar half a mile away, a plane flying high or low with precision bombs or streams of bullets, or a ballistic missile at sea is called for the effect needed. I noted that in the 2002 article:

Communications will allow the FCS to direct distant firepower if it does not use its own cannon. An FCS will identify a target, and the appropriate missile module, helicopter, aircraft, or artillery asset will destroy the target. The source of the warhead will not matter.

As to the joint command and control, I suspect that we'd have to allow either older senior "true purple" commanders or accelerate the career paths of promising service commanders to be "true purple" commanders who are fully capable of conceptualizing the contributions of all services and their assets into a single campaign and war plan.

And we wouldn't need many of these senior "true purple" commanders.

Do we risk older commanders who may be less flexible in thought? Do we augment such older commanders with drugs or gene editing to make them more youthful in mind and physical endurance despite age?

Wouldn't we want to extend the career of any officers reaching that "true purple" level of command abilities? So would "up or out" be set aside for them?

If we don't allow (and enable) older commanders, how would we accelerate the education and experience of selected officers (and enlisted for senior enlisted spots, too, I imagine) within the traditional time frame that is the path of service officers reaching the highest levels? Would a faster rate of "checking boxes" for promotion harm our officer corps rather than create "true purple" commanders?

And how do we identify the qualities of such an officer candidate early on to focus resources on preparing that officer for "true purple" command slots? What if we are wrong? Again, few will be needed at that level so how do we do it? Are we in Ender's Game territory? The Air Force is starting down that path, it seems.

An excellent theme question, however.

Theme nine is here.

Next Time For Sure?

Is there a way to renegotiate a deal with Iran over their nuclear missile program when Iran doesn't even admit it had a nuclear weapon program?

It is good that Iran is facing economic hardship:

Mounting economic hardship is fueling persistent unrest in Iran, now characterized by labor strikes across the country and anti-regime sentiment. New sanctions stemming from President Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal may well exacerbate already difficult economic conditions.

Now may be the right time to exert maximum pressure on the regime in an effort to bring Tehran back to the negotiating table.

But the simply atrocious 2015 deal that Trump withdrew from this year did nothing to reverse or even slow down Iranian support for terrorism and violence in the region; nor did it stop Iran from pursuing long-range ballistic missiles that really need nuclear warheads to make sense.

And we have no way of knowing if the flimsy and limited inspections by the IAEA under the 2015 deal have slowed down Iranian nuclear weapons work even as the deal itself strengthens basic Iranian nuclear technology and engineering skills.

So why would we seek another deal expecting it to work better on nukes and have a different effect on other issues with Iran?

It would be better to let Iran sink under the weight of their economic hardships and expanded spending on foreign adventures that run counter to American interests.

Maybe if a deal with North Korea is rapidly concluded, it would be possible to negotiate a new agreement with Iran. But that deal with North Korea would have to include coming clean with America on all the nuclear and missile cooperation between Iran and North Korea up to now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Make India's Navy Great

The best thing America could do to help India's navy resist Chinese ambitions to stretch its reach across the Indian Ocean to Africa and the Middle East would be to help India reform their completely inadequate naval shipbuilding:

India has long had problems designing and building larger warships (frigates, carriers, subs). For decades India blamed colonialism for the decline of the Indian shipbuilding industry. But after other nations, with even less history of shipbuilding (China, South Korea), became world leaders in the industry Indians began to accept that the problems were Indian and not the fault of British colonialism (which brought the industrial revolution to India, where that industrialization process declined after the British left). By the 1990s the Indian government agreed that internal reforms were needed and since then India has made a lot of progress but is still way behind countries like China, Taiwan and South Korea in ship building and new tech in general.

Although we have enough problems to fix ourselves, we could help.

Deadly and Serious Threats

A RAND analyst writes that China is a serious threat to Taiwan.

Well, I've long felt China could invade if it is willing to take the casualties to do so.

The main question is whether America and Japan could intervene quickly enough to help Taiwan hold off and then eject the invaders.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Soft Duty for Now

No wonder the Russians want the Donbas front quiet during the World Cup:

Russian paramilitary units providing security for the soccer World Cup included among their members Cossack fighters who took part in clandestine campaigns in Ukraine and Syria that Kiev and Washington condemn as backed by Moscow.

More than 800 members of at least six local Cossack organizations will patrol the streets, fan zones and team bases during the five-week tournament starting on Thursday, according to Cossack leaders and regional officials.

I assume that when the soccer event is over, those paramilitary units will get on trucks and head to the front to kill Ukrainians.

The Manbij Deal

This was the deal that is supposed to reduce US-Turkey tensions over Manbij to balance American defense of the Kurds west of the Euphrates River in Syria against Turkey's goal of building a buffer zone from the Euphrates River west to the Mediterranean Sea to keep jihadis (and Kurdish terrorists) from flowing from Syria to Turkey:

In the northwest the Kurds have agreed to withdraw the town of Manbij while leaving it under the control of Kurdish and American troops and government and foverened by a local council representing the ethnic population of the town. This eliminates the risk of a clash between American and Turkish forces over Manbij.

Fingers crossed. But I'm still not satisfied that Turkey is reliable enough to be trusted with the F-35, as it seems they will be.

When My Enemy's Enemy Disappears

Is the friendship between Iran and Russia going to return to the natural state of opposition?

Now that the tide in the Syrian civil war appears to have definitely turned in favor of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, one of the key factors that will shape Syria’s future is the precise nature and durability of the relationship between the two countries that saved Assad from collapse: Iran and Russia.

Tehran and Moscow worked together to bolster Assad, but the character of their ad hoc alliance has always remained a bit of a mystery. They each, for their own purposes, wanted the regime in Damascus to survive. Beyond that, it has never been clear just how committed Russian President Vladimir Putin has been to his links with the Islamic Republic.

Indeed, the Russians have stoked a little tension with Hezbollah, Iran's favorite Arab cannon fodder to fight Israel:

A Russian force deployment on the Syria-Lebanon border this week in a Hezbollah stronghold sparked protests by the Lebanese militant group, prompting the force to withdraw from its positions only a day later in a rare sign of tension between the allies.

Strategypage addresses the growing tension:

The alliance between Russia, Iran and Turkey is coming apart because all three nations have different goals even though the three have been cooperating with the Assad government since 2015 to end the civil war. But with the rebels no longer a major threat to the Assad government each of these three allies are more interested in their own objectives in Syria. For Russia it is to maintain its two bases their and that is only possible if the Assad government (which granted the use of an airbase and port facilities) survives. Iran is in Syria to keep the Assads in power so Iran can mass forces there to attack and destroy Israel. Turkey is mainly there to destroy Turkish and Syrian Kurdish separatist groups, as well as any Islamic terrorists that are seen as a threat to Turkey. To accomplish this Turkey wants to clear all Kurdish separatists and from the Syrian side of the border and turn that “security zone” over to the FSA (a Syrian rebel group that not works for the Turks).

Yes, long-term rivals and sometimes enemies Russia and Iran have lost a lot of their reason to cooperate closely in Syria. And you can add Russia and Turkey and Turkey and Iran, for that matter.

Heck, Assad has every reason to want Iran out of Syria now, well aware of what Iran could do to Syria given the Iranian record in Lebanon.

Will Turkey begin to remember the value of being an ally of America and friend of Israel? Or will Erdogan simply push away all potential allies in his dream of a new (non-territorial) Ottoman Empire?

But more immediately, how will the growing Russia-Iran split affect Israeli ambitions to take down Iran's Hezbollah ally in Lebanon (and now in Syria, too)?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

CliffsNote Version of the JCPOA

That's it, basically:

The Iran deal was born in deceit, sold through deception, and kept alive by willful blindness.

There was no way that horrendous deal was going to stop Iran from going nuclear or make Iran a responsible regional power whose possession of nukes was irrelevant.

We already know the brain trust that gave us the 2015 Iran nuclear deal also gave us the failed 2013 chemical weapons deal with Syria that did not eliminate Syria's chemical weapons or prevent Assad from using chemical weapons.

I'm skeptical about whether North Korea is sincere about giving up nukes. But I'm more willing to trust Trump's team will do a better job than the Obama team did.

And note that Obama tarnished the "Libya model" of denuclearizing by killing Khadaffi after he gave up his nuclear program.

So I don't want to hear the horrified utterances of Obama's fanboys (and girls) over the Trump-Kim meeting.

This is Multi-Domain Synergy I Can Fully Back

The Army wants long range fires both to hit enemy targets that threaten the Army and to clear lanes for the Air Force to strike targets that threaten the Army:

“This is why long-range precision fires is number one for the Army. So, if I need to, for example, suppress enemy air defenses using long-range artillery, I have the means to do that, reaching deep into the enemy’s rear. What that does, if I can suppress enemy air defenses, either the guns, missiles, radars…ect.. it helps clear the way for the Air Force to do what they do – and do well,” [Army Secretary Mike] Esper said.

That's what I got out of the Army call for long-range fires when I wrote about it last month. This makes the linkage absolutely clear.

Defend, Disperse, and Deploy

This author notes that in addition to the vulnerability of our aircraft carriers to Chinese (well, and to other powers) missiles and aircraft, our few land air bases out there are just as vulnerable:

“From a USAF standpoint, we are organized for efficiency, and in the high intensity conflict that we might find ourselves in, in the Pacific, that efficiency might be actually our Achilles heel, because it requires us to put massive amounts of equipment on a few bases. Those bases, as we most know, are within the weapons engagement zone of potential adversaries,” Wilsbach said.

“So, the United States Air Force, along with the Australian Air Force, has been working on a concept called Agile Combat Employment, which seeks to disperse the force, and make it difficult for the enemy to know where are you at, when are you going to be there, and how long are you are going to be there.

I've noted the vulnerability before.

So yeah, we need to figure out how to disperse our land-based air assets. In contrast to how we plan to defend our carriers that have equally concentrated air power, isn't it interesting that the Air Force solution isn't just to add more and more missile defenses to the few air bases it uses so it can continue business as usual?

Not that air bases don't need air defenses, rapid runway repair, and hardened aircraft shelters. But we need a lot more bases with those things--and the ability to set up new bases quickly.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Forgetting the Success Achieved

Yemen wants to rapidly capture the port of Hodeidah to deny the Houthi a major source of smuggled Iranian weapons and to keep relief supplies flowing to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.

This is a major offensive against a tough target. No doubt.

But this is nonsense:

The coalition of Arab states has battled with little success for three years to defeat the Houthis, who control the capital Sanaa, the Hodeidah port and most of Yemen's populated areas. The assault on Hodeidah is the alliance's first attempt to capture such a well-defended major city.

"We are at the edges of the airport and are working to secure it now," the Arab coalition said in a statement to Reuters. "Operational priority is to avoid civilian casualties, maintain the flow of humanitarian aid, and allow for the UN to press the Houthis to evacuate the city." [emphasis added]

The Arab coalition's intervention reversed the rebel tide and has slowly ground down and pushed back the rebels. There is a lot more to do in order to win the war, but it is definitely untrue to say that the coalition has had little success in the war.

Weekend Data Dump

I don't understand how those on the Left can insist that Trump is a racist bent on enabling overt racism in America. Where is it? I don't see any form of government discrimination or government toleration of discrimination going on around me. Bizarrely, the Left insists that Trump keeps sending "dog whistle" racist comments to his deplorable backers. This is perplexing. If Trump is the dictator who can do what he wants, why would he bother with mere "dog whistles" to give his supporters a giggle? And if Trump is capable of putting a racist government in place, why would his so-called racist supporters be satisfied with mere "dog whistles?" I'm honestly perplexed.

All things considered, Iran should probably focus less on nuclear missile technology and more on water desalinization technology.

Ethiopia says it will withdraw from territory (around Badme) granted to Eritrea by an arbitrator some 20 years after Eritrea went to war with Ethiopia over territorial disputes. At some point, struggling for small scraps of land aren't worth the price even if you win it.

I'm not sure what is going on with the Brexit talks, but the British need to formally get out of the EU even if the terms aren't ideal, and work on fixing it from the outside. Don't let pursuit of a good exit be the enemy of an exit. Because of this effort fails, no British government will be foolish enough to ask the British their opinion on the issue ever again.

The 2018 Ramadan spike in the murder count by jihadis. I'm so old I remember when liberals said that out of respect for Islam, America should suspend offensive operations during Ramadan in the campaign against the Taliban following the 9/11 attacks.

It indeed appears as if Iran is backing the Taliban in western Afghanistan where Taliban from all around Afghanistan massed 2,800 fighters in the failed attempt to take Farah. But the reports of how bad the government's position there are confusing given that the Taliban assault on Farah did actually fail. And the Taliban did apparently have to draw in forces far from Farah. I admit I'm worried. I just don't know if I have a reason to worry.

A brief tour of China-related issues, including Dystopian State 1.0, North Korea's growing fear of China that may be outweighing North Korea's desire for China's protection, and the state of the Philippines' project to get resources from the competing Chinese and Americans.

California may have to severely limit how much water people can use. But don't worry! The progressive government that cares so much about the poor will allow those with swimming pools, spas, and "other water features" to use what they need to maintain them. Woe to those who want to fill a tiny inflatable pool for their over-heated tots on a summer day. Physical inspections  ("site visits") will ferret them out! But the wealthy with even vague "water features" will be just fine. I'm sure they'll invite the sweating tots of the California underclass to cool off in whatever those are. But I'm sure the left-wing fully woke tech oligarchs will be more than happy to pay the bills that their open virtue and compassion require.

Maybe it is just me, but I never watched mafia mob movies and thought, "We really need to keep those dirty Italians out of America." Apparently for the fully woke, you can't hate Hispanic animal killers and criminals. Even in a work of fiction. Perhaps we are running out of upper class English villains. Well, perhaps not.

Apparently, we are no longer allowed to look at Miss America contestants, with the death of the swimsuit competition. The purpose of the competition is now: "To prepare great women for the world, and to prepare the world for great women." Apparently that involves making sure nobody in the world wants to tune in to watch those women who bother to "compete" (is that still allowed?).

Is California large enough that the declining Republicans and growing independents could form a new party to provide an alternative to the increasingly left-wing progressivism of California Democrats who dominate the "jungle" primary system California has? Normally you'd figure they couldn't avoid being absorbed into the national Republican party. But California has the population and donation base to perhaps support a long-speculated viable third party within their state's borders alone. Could it be a power broker in leadership elections in Congress, pulling both parties to the center? Such a California regional party would forfeit roles in presidential debates, but how much of a role does California have now? Republicans write it off and Democrats run up the vote there. And would a California Democratic Party free to be as left wing as it wants forfeit its role in pulling the national party left by being just too far left? Or would that enable more pulling? Would a new center-right (and even moderate liberals with a working relationship with reality, really) party with a strong base in California then spread to other states? Remember, our two-party system has been pretty stable. But there is nothing that enshrines either the Republicans or Democrats as one of the two parties. Could one or both die if a California center-right party that succeeds in their home state expands to other states to eventually become a national party? Just speculating.

Surely, this is Peak Stupid. Can't we start with banning assault straws so people can still have the right to home hydration?

Remember that despite the hyper-ventilating about Trump starting "trade wars," that Trump wants an even playing field--at a lower level--and not barriers that prevent trading partners from exporting to America. On average, I've read, our tariffs are lower on imports than our exports face abroad. That was acceptable when our economy dominated the world and our allies needed to export to America in order to recover from World War II. But times change and just because our allies have had the advantage for so long doesn't mean it has to remain that way. Naturally they defend the status quo. We don't have to. I expect the end of this path viewed with panic by some will be a more even playing field at lower levels of tariffs, and not recession-inducing trade barriers.

Have they moved too far to the what? I don't think that word "center" means what they seem to think it means. Tip to Instapundit.

Just go and sign to make PAINCOM a reality!

Some Basques are agitating for independence from Spain. And the European Union smiles.

Unless Egypt plans to bomb the dams, they don't really have much of a choice but to accept Ethiopia's pledge not to screw with Egypt's Nile River water flow. Now what Sudan, which is between those two, might do is another question, I suppose.

Unless Romanians are happy to lag behind the prosperous West they joined, corruption really has to be stamped out to bolster rule of law. And being strong enough to resist Russia would be another benefit of defeating corruption. I don't have the background to judge the anti-corruption protesters versus the government sponsored anti-corruption judge protests, but I suspect the former are the good guys here.

So is Trump the price liberals paid for supporting Bill Clinton's sexual appetites?

It was a bit over 9 years ago that President Obama went to Cairo, Egypt, and gave his much anticipated and much cheered (by the media) "outreach" speech to the Moslem world. Is anybody really surprised that the soaring words that moved liberal pundits so much had no effect on the Islamists fighting the West in the Long War on terror?

Michigan's public universities have a level of autonomy unique in the country, sometimes being called the "fourth branch" of state government. But that doesn't make them immune to obeying the United States Constitution's First Amendment. Good. Because nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition University of Michigan’s bias response team.

Or is it proof God is trying to get us drunk to trick us?

Oh great. Given how broadly the F-35 is being exported, this is rather inevitable given enough time. I really hope America keeps a lot back in the export models.

I do find it frustrating that Obama claims he had a scandal-free administration. That isn't true and we aren't done discovering what was done. Tip to Instapundit. (Although I'm not sure there is a Benghazi criminal "scandal" as much as there was a shameless political lie told by the Obama administration to benefit his reelection campaign--and the public did not punish Obama for the political deceit in the 2012 election when it had the chance. My interest has always been in knowing why no American forces in Europe began to move toward Benghazi during the crisis given that we had no idea how long it would last at the time.) What is true is that the media ignored, explained away, and moved on from any revelations in solidarity with the administration. And our government didn't investigate itself. Rule of law matters. We should all value it, and it shouldn't require a change of party control in WDC to get it.

As I recently revealed, I didn't vote for Trump in 2016. I remain eternally grateful that he defeated Clinton--whose epic corruption would have been deeply destructive to American rule of law. Not that I expected Road Warrior ruin--but beneath the facade of normality, corruption would have been strengthened to our long-term detriment in the world and in regard to our democracy at the federal level. But Republicans should draw the line on supporting Congressional candidates just because they claim superior loyalty to Trump regardless of their sometimes awful shortcomings on policy or as people. Yes, I wish the Congress we had would have used its control to pass legislation while it had the majority. I complained bitterly about the idea that it was safe to wait after the 2018 elections and do more after. One result is that control of Congress is so much more vital that too many Republicans are willing to tolerate flawed candidates to maintain that control. But no Democrat at the Congressional level is as bad for our future as Hillary would have been. We should risk loss of control of one or both houses of Congress to reject some of those candidates who shield their nature with pledges of loyalty. And damn Congressional Republicans for failing to exploit their control while they had it. Democrats are going nuts by driving hard to the left where antifa, communists, and anarchists thrive. Republicans should not try to trump that level of power hunger.

May Daniel Ortega finally pay a price for being a communist SOB.

Apparently, North Korea will "destroy" an ICBM engine test facility. This wasn't included in the statements of intent signed at Singapore.

This is why so many Americans have contempt for the professor class rather than respect for their education and advice.

News From 325 BC

I see 27 years of stupidity have been resolved:

Macedonia reached an agreement with Greece to change its name on Tuesday, ending a 27-year dispute between the two countries.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev reached an agreement with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to change the country's name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia in acknowledgement of the Greek region of Macedonia across the border.

I assume West Macedonia was ruled out to avoid objections from everybody from Turkey to India.

I assume Macedonians Northern Macedonians walk around like the biggest bad asses in the region because of the fear that they'll suit up and conquer all who stand in their way.

Honestly, the Greeks embarrassed themselves over this, I think.

Friday, June 15, 2018

The State of the Nuclear Threat

I've heard people bitterly complaining that Trump tweeted that the North Korean nuclear threat to America is over when it is not. I didn't like that statement, either, but it is complicated.

The tweet in question:

Just landed - a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!

Right now, I don't believe that North Korea has the ability to strike American cities with nuclear missiles. My understanding is that North Korea has nuclear devices but hasn't perfected the long-range missile to hit and hasn't miniaturized and hardened the warheads enough to survive the trip and explode. As I heard one expert say (or read it, I forget)--if he's right--North Korea would have to emplace a nuclear device on their side of the border to detonate it and damage anything in the south; or put it in a ship and sail it somewhere.

So if the question is whether North Korea's threat to strike has ended, that threat actually isn't here yet--that's why I've figured we're on a deadline of North Korea taking real steps to reverse course before we have to strike to stop North Korea's nuclear program before they can hit us.* So on that measure, the complaint about the tweet is wrong.

So the question is on whether the claim is on the intent of North Korea. Is the president right? Is North Korea really no more of a threat than France with nuclear weapons? France has nukes. We don't worry that France will hit us any more than France worries about America.

I doubt that. And on that basis I don't think that statement should have been made. It is wrong.

On the other hand, I don't think anybody, including the president, actually believes that the nuclear threat--whether the impending North Korean capability to strike or the desire to strike--is literally over based on signing a vague statement of intent in Singapore. Obviously this is a process that will take time, as our secretary of state confirmed:

Speaking the day after an unprecedented summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Pompeo told reporters negotiations on Pyongyang's atomic arsenal could move forward quickly and would take place "most certainly in the president's first term."

"Major disarmament... We're hopeful that we can achieve that in the two and half years," he said, adding that there is "a lot of work left to do".

(And as an aside, I was wrong to expect a more fleshed out agreement to be ready for signing at the Singapore meeting, as normal practice dictates.)

If the president stating that the threat is "over" helps North Korea continue on the path of making the threat truly over in both senses, the hyperbole is acceptable. Believe me, nobody in the American military involved in fighting the nuclear threat heaved a sigh of relief and said, "Well, my job is done!"

We will see if this outreach works or if North Korea is trying to buy time to get nukes and make an American military option too dangerous to consider. And we will need to see reversal quickly--even if the process of course takes time to complete--before we are faced with the decision to strike or risk allowing North Korea to cross the nuclear weapon threshold.

*And maybe I'm just not noticing it, but the media used to be filled with speculation about when North Korea would get the ability to strike an American city. Last year the guess was sometime early this year, if memory serves me. But I don't recall reading or hearing any such estimate this year. I'm hoping that we just got better on not leaking that information and don't want the North Koreans to know the state of our knowledge. And hopefully our intelligence people accurately think we have more time than I thought we had.

Feel the Bern

Venezuela continues to provide its citizens the benefits of wise and compassionate socialism:

Venezuela's sky-high inflation soared to 24,571 percent in the past 12 months, lawmakers said Monday.

President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government controls most of the country's economy and is in the midst of an ever-deepening crisis with food and medicine in short supply.

On the bright side, fewer Venezuelans have to endure that hyper-inflation--because they are increasingly fleeing the collapsing economy.

About the only other insane "remedy" for this socialist disaster would be to drum up a foreign enemy in hopes that the remaining people will rally around the flag.

But it would have been "wrong" if America had actually supported a coup in 2002 to stop this madness in its tracks.

UPDATE: Democrats pulled left. Thanks Bernie!

UPDATE: And the water supply is kaput. Is air to breathe the next thing to go?

Socialism is all about making sure everyone equally lack the means to survive. Well, the rulers will be just fine, of course. They'll be wealthy and hydrated wherever they flee eventually.

Blending In

NATO special forces, including America's special operations command in Europe, practiced in the Baltic states:

SOCEUR’s growing mission in Europe was reflected in the just-completed Trojan Footprint 18 exercise, which took place on the ground, in the air and in the Baltic Sea over a two-week span.

The war games involved the rapid deployment of special operators into the Baltics and Poland for a crisis-response mission. U.S. warplanes also took part, including F-16s and a B-1 bomber that conducted its first-ever live drop in Estonia.

The mission involved "2,000 NATO and partner nation Special Operations Forces from 13 nations to the Baltic region[.]"

This will be useful to build a stay-behind capability in case the Russians overrun the Baltic states in war. They could fight the Russians (including calling in air strikes) and support local irregulars until the NATO counterattack begins.

This mission is more clear from this article:

The Baltic states are tiny, and could be overrun by Russian forces within hours. That’s why NATO special forces rehearsed the next steps: how to conduct reconnaissance, how to bring irregular troops into the region, how they might meet up once they got there, what they might do.

Because the real next step would involve popular resistance, civic organizations were part of the exercise, too. Lt. Gen. Leonids Kalnins, the chief of national defense in Latvia, told me that his country’s national guard, which includes civilians who identify as both Latvian and ethnic Russian, is a critical part of the country’s military[.]

The special forces also operated in the littorals, which would be useful as well to help control the Baltic Sea islands and assist local resistance to prepare for the counteroffensive.

That counteroffensive must be the next step, because popular resistance in the face of brutal Russian oppression can only last so long.