Saturday, May 25, 2019

A Fascinating Contrast

So the Iranians won't talk to Trump the way they did to Obama? Fascinating.

Really?

Some Iranians expect [American] pressure to lead to negotiations, as when former President Barack Obama tightened sanctions that crippled the Iranian economy and led to the 2015 deal.

But others believe their leaders will never go back down that road following Trump's reimposition of sanctions.

So Obama imposed sanctions yet the mullahs talked. But Trump imposing sanctions could mean the mullahs won't talk?

What does that tell you about the mullah beliefs about who they might talk to?

I'd say the mullahs were sure that any toughness Obama displayed was mere box checking on the way to caving in to Iran for the sake of a lousy nuclear deal that only people who "literally know nothing" could support.

Trump is trying to win. Unfortunately there are those here whose firm belief that Orange Man Bad leads them to side with the mullahs despite their atrocious human rights record in all things big and small.

Expand the Twenty-Nine Percent

Given that 71% of potential recruits are incapable of enlisting, because of weight, lack of a high school diploma, or a criminal record, the military needs to do something other than looking in more places (like cities) among the 29%. Maybe that something is establishing military community boarding colleges for physical, moral, and educational shortfalls.

From that first article:

The numbers are staggering: Seventy-one percent of young people are ineligible to join the military, according to 2017 Pentagon data. The reasons: obesity, no high school diploma or a criminal record.

The problem isn't just a military one, though: It's an issue for businesses as well because the vast majority of that age group isn't eligible for many jobs either, said retired Rear Admiral Thomas Wilson.

That's why Wilson recently raised the issue at a gathering of business and community leaders in York County, Pennsylvania. The 29 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds who are qualified become prime targets for all recruiting: military, college and jobs.

In Army magazine I proposed courses in life saving and military familiarization to expand the awareness in unrecruited portions of that 29%. Perhaps I'm thinking too small.

When I went to basic training, new recruits unable to pass the initial physical test to see if you were even capable of starting basic training went to a conditioning class (for a few weeks, I think) before being put into basic training. This is clearly insufficient for the new problems. But it is an example of coping with a problem from the civilian world.

Perhaps the military should jointly create a Purple Community College that takes new recruits and puts them into a military college boarding school. It would require campuses across the United States, but it could be done.

Depending on the student needs, the school--with the recruit-students under supervision by drill sergeants--would address the lack of a diploma, get recruit students in reasonable weight ranges and in better shape in general, and isolate recruit-students from a criminal environment to evaluate whether the recruit-students with criminal records can be salvaged. Graduates would be liable for a longer term of service to make up for the added cost and risk that is giving them a second chance in life.

Weight problems might require a couple years to resolve, as criminal background might. Educational shortfalls could be solved more quickly. And the school would certainly prepare recruits for basic training.

Still, with anywhere from a semester to a full two years to improve the recruit-students, the military could make recruits ineligible to enlist into recruits with an actual edge in graduating.

Indeed, could such PCCs be established abroad to add English language instruction to better prepare foreign recruits to join the military? Graduating from such a school and entering the military could add to the recruits ability to gain American citizenship.

If the recruit-students learned much of the classroom instruction and military familiarization that takes place in basic training, maybe graduates of PCC could attend special shortened basic training that focuses on physical and weapons training.

Or perhaps the services will find that the PCC graduates should be put into regular initial training classes where their experience might make them candidates for standard bearers, squad leaders, and platoon guides.

The military certainly needs to expand efforts to reach all of the 29% who could join the military. But the military can't count on society to eventually expand that 29%.

The military services need to jointly expand the 29% right now.

Friday, May 24, 2019

The Great Contraction Continues

Afghan forces continue to pull back their vulnerable outposts in favor of concentrating in large bases. I have a very bad feeling about this. At some point the government needs to attack and defeat the Taliban.

On one level it is understandable that Taliban attacks would prompt this sort of response:

Taliban raids like the one on a small outpost in Wardak province that killed 11 of his soldiers earlier this month are a vexing problem for Brig. Gen. Abdul Raziq Safi.

But soon the remote, often undermanned checkpoints will be shuttered in favor of larger bases.

Safi, who heads a brigade in the army’s 203rd Corps, commands troops who guard two highways into the Afghan capital from Wardak and Logar provinces south of Kabul. Some of his checkpoints, vulnerable to attack, are difficult to supply and reinforce, he said.

The general closed several such outposts in Logar over the winter and plans to do the same in Wardak this spring, with the aim of forming bands of larger bases, each with about 40 troops, along the key highways.

It’s part of a larger move by the Afghan Defense Ministry to preserve its shrinking military by pulling troops from far-flung checkpoints, sometimes manned by as few as four soldiers in areas where the population is sympathetic to the Taliban, and massing them at larger camps in government-held territory.

“If there is Taliban territory and people are against the government, we will not want to make checkpoints there, because it may be risky,” Safi said.

Indeed, I noted this new policy back at the end of 2016:

If--and it is a big if--Afghan forces truly are contracting their area of control in order to move on the offensive, this is good.

Otherwise, the Afghan security forces are simply abandoning the countryside and allowing the Taliban to eventually put the urban areas under siege, perhaps reliant on aerial resupply or heavily guarded ground convoys to sustain their resistance. If that happens and Afghan security forces collapse even for a moment under constant Taliban attacks as the security forces hunker down and just take attack after attack with no end in sight, there will be no place to withdraw to and we will have a massacre of Afghan security forces and a Taliban victory that might shake the foundation of the Afghan security forces in general.

I guess we know why we are no longer releasing information on government versus Taliban control in Afghanistan. The data would reflect the contraction and look bad. And more important, it is bad.

The original intent of the contraction was to scrape up reserves to go on offense. But more than two years later, the Afghan forces are still pulling back and allowing the Taliban to advance and control more territory. Where is the offensive?

As I discuss in my post above, the Afghan outposts have been vulnerable because the Afghan government forces don't have the initiative and so haven't atomized the Taliban to make them unable to routinely mass forces to overrun those isolated outposts or patrols.

And if the government wants to take territory from the Taliban and keep the people from being mobilized as voluntary or involuntary assets for the Taliban, the government has to be able to spread out troops in outposts and patrols.

And until there is an offensive to actually atomize the Taliban and then control territory and the people who live in it, jihadis will be able to operate and possibly carve out a sanctuary like they had prior to 9/11:

“We have seen al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Yes, in different parts of Afghanistan,” [the American commander in Afghanistan, General Austin] Miller said, according to TOLONews. “In different parts of Afghanistan, we can find them, so it’s not one particular region, it’s across the country.”

Do you think al Qaeda hates us less now?

Is that Afghanistan offensive still in the plan? Maybe it still is. After all the Mosul offensive in Iraq seemed to take forever to organize and carry out. On the other hand, we planned an offensive for the Afghanistan surge that never took place.

Which might be what the Taliban are counting on to get a peace settlement that allows them to take on Afghan forces without our presence.

Failing Upward

Wow, Army risk aversion really is getting attention these days:

In a recent essay, retired Col. Kevin Benson calls on the Army to evolve its collective thinking on tactical risk assessment. As he points out, commanders must not be content to avoid risk. Instead, they must deliberately accept tactical risk to create and exploit relative advantages over the enemy. Col. Benson is correct that the Army must revisit how it doctrinally defines tactical risk. However, the chief obstacle to tactical risk taking is not doctrine; it is risk aversion.

From a military perspective, this propensity to avoid risk is most problematic in situations where taking risk is advantageous. There are three main reasons Army commanders tend avoid risk: loss aversion, institutional risk norms, and senior leaders’ lack of comfort with risk.

Losing troops in operations other than war and COIN is verboten under our force protection priority. That creates a culture of caution (you fight the way you train). Career prospects of officers are also harmed for violating that culture or suffering too many losses. Which is related to the difference between characteristics of a successful peacetime (defined as non-conventional war against a peer threat) officer and a wartime officer.

Personally, I'd make our major exercises tests of commanders for how they react to things going wrong rather than aiming at orchestrating a perfect battle. OPFOR should keep throwing things at a brigade making a rotation at the NTC--type training grounds until the Army unit is destroyed. [In a pre-publication addition, this author argues that NTC-style training should be multi-domain, unpredictable, and include non-military factors.*]

The Army National Guard already faces severe problems when its brigades go to the NTC:

The training scenario here is designed to expose a unit's weaknesses but, for some Army Reserve units, it's a sobering reminder of just how difficult the National Training Center is to prepare for at home station.

Good. Yes, the Guard is at a disadvantage compared to active units going to this ultimate test. Given that Guard units can and do go to war, they should relish this.

It should be hard enough that active units have the same sobering reminder of how difficult the NTC is for everybody. Enemies will kill you and not grade you poorly.

"Failure" should be the norm to strip losing of its stigma. Learn from adversity in peacetime and not war. Command post exercises should do the same for more senior commanders. Test them with hidden forces or defy the friggin' laws of physics if we have to if facing a really talented commander.

For the purpose of exercises to test the systems rather than the commanders, just use the staff officers so we see if logistics and communications and all that work when things are going reasonably well. But commanders should be stressed in peacetime.

One lesson of the Iraqi experience in its war against Iran (1980-1988) that I wrote about in this 1997 paper was that Iraq underestimated the Iranian defenders:

Unfounded assumptions about potential threats to U.S. interests can throw off our calculations today. In 1991, the Iraqis fought as we projected they would fight. We cannot count on that again, even in a rematch with Saddam Hussein.

We got lucky enough that in the 2003 rematch we were able to smash Iraq's army again. Although the light infantry jihadis that Saddam used came as a complete surprise to our military. We did overcome that threat to win the invasion (and eventually in the COIN that followed). But we must remember that we had to cope with surprise even when we had the clear advantage on the battlefield. As the author of the Modern War Institute article stated:

Col. Benson is correct when he writes that defining tactical risk sets the conditions for action. This step is necessary but not sufficient. Creating risk-adaptive commanders requires deliberate and repeated training just as any other battlefield skill. If the Army gets this right, it can turn tactical risk from a liability into a relative advantage.

The Army got used to fighting the Iraqi army since 1991. We did get lucky enough in 2003 not to face war-changing curve balls. We won't be so fortunate in the skill and capabilities of a major power adversary in Eurasia.

We must train our officers to be willing to take calculated risks. Make every combat exercise the Kobayashi Maru scenario.

*I didn't want to rewrite this post to include this article, but it is certainly relevant. It would be appropriate for COIN scenarios or even low-level confrontations--don't make me use the term "hybrid war"--that fall short of direct combat. Although for high-intensity combat I don't think the political aspect should be included. And my proposal goes beyond making trips to "the box" hard to making it impossible.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Future Empire Will Do Real Damage Before it Falls

Empires suppress people. That's what the European Union aspires to be and that is what it is doing already:

[An empire] requires the crushing of natural nationalist feelings through violence. Which is why the wisest thinkers of the past, from Plato and Aristotle to Niccolò Machiavelli and Montesquieu, were all anti-imperialist (even if the latter two aren’t always recognized as such).

Let’s start with the Greeks, with Xenophon’s Cyropaedia, his highly didactic and not very accurate biography of Cyrus the Great. Xenophon depicts in great detail how, in transforming the small homogenous city-state of Persia into a vast multiethnic empire, Cyrus created a polity that was far larger, mightier, richer, and more technologically advanced than its forerunner. But Xenophon also takes pain to emphasize the costs of this project, which included a decline in good government, the loss of liberty for Persia’s citizens, and an erasure of the individual characters of the empire’s formerly independent but now subservient nations. Since the free spirit of captured nations never entirely dies, their peoples always remain potential threats, so Cyrus had to maintain a massive internal spying and security apparatus, which further curtailed liberty. And if all that weren’t bad enough, on Cyrus’s death the whole system collapsed—illustrating imperialism’s inherent instability. ...

The European Union provides the most illustrative example. Every member state consented to join through some formal mechanism—typically, a legislative vote or a referendum. But further consolidation was often highly contested, with parliamentary votes or referendums frequently coming very close—as in France’s “petit oui” to the Maastricht Treaty creating the EU in 1992—or else rejected—as in the case of Denmark that same year, when the government then resubmitted the question to the electorate after making cosmetic changes to ensure its wanted result. This doesn’t end up sounding like consent in the meaningful sense of the word.

Opposition within Europe is apparent already even as the EU remains a proto-imperial body, and not just with the British who are struggling to carry out Brexit as voters requested and as the government promised to obey (although the elites assumed the vote would be to remain in the EU).

And if the EU elites are to create an "ever closer union" as they say, it will require ever more repression of member nations and their people. We'll see if the EU and their supporters in Britain repress the will of the British people (however narrowly it was expressed, that was the deal preceding the referendum).

An imperial EU that suppresses its people will have more in common with Russia; and the need to hold the EU empire together will lead the EU to focus more on internal threats than external threats from Russia. Russia and the EU might even be natural imperial allies who each fear their own people more than each other.

Or both might think a non-aggression pact is the best course of action in the belief that the other empire will falter from other threats. Europe might think China will crush Russia while Russia might think that unassimilated minorities that grow in numbers in Europe will cripple the EU.

And honestly, the Russians have far more experience running an empire. After the collapses from 1989 to 1991, Russia might have shrunk enough to keep their rump empire longer than the new EU empire with that experience still fresh in Russian minds and with so many unhappy people now out of that empire.

And when the EU collapses as the Persian Empire did, the weakened nation-states that once made up Europe will be unable to stand on their own. The empire might not be able to govern, but it can kill the habits and structure of state governance. And then Russia will have the opportunity to move west again. It has always been ludicrous to argue that Russia would fear the supposed might of a united EU as if that would be more dangerous to Russian ambitions for conquest that the American-led NATO.

The article is mostly about Trump's view of nationalism as the best way to organize the world and his foreign policy based on that. Perhaps that is all true, although describing a doctrine may be premature and simply creating a framework around a few data points of Trump's actions and views.

I found the article's contrast with an imperial mindset that the EU elites clearly have is more grounded in the actions of those people.

The Wrong War at the Wrong Time in the Wrong Place

Russian air defenses are inadequate against both NATO and China. Russia could choose to have an adequate air defense against China.

One of the benefits of Russia ending its pointless and counterproductive hostility toward NATO (although there was a point before it became counterproductive) is that Russia could shift air defense systems needed to make good on Russia's hostility to NATO with its excellent air power that will only get better as the F-35 inventory in NATO expands to the Far East to face China where Russian air defenses are inadequate:

“Given the size of the district, the extremely underdeveloped ground communications on its territory and the presence of the most serious threats from the United States, Japan, China, the grouping of ground defense in the Far East is completely inadequate and requires repeated amplification. At the same time, there are no prospects for such an increase, unfortunately.

Worse, while Russia places emphasis on air defenses in the west, that emphasis does not erase the fact that NATO can overwhelm those air defenses even as air defenses in the east are inadequate against the lesser Chinese air power.

If Putin's hostility actually does lead to a war with NATO, Russia will need to threaten nuclear escalation very quickly before Russia's air defenses are crushed, allowing NATO to savage Russian ground and naval power in the west.

European Russia should be a safe rear area for Russia where air defense needs are minimal.

There are no prospects for Russia to fix the eastern air defense problem because Putin has created a threat from NATO where none existed before. The persistent idea that Putin is a strategic genius rather than Russia's own worst enemy puzzles me immensely.

Putin had best pray that Russia's elites and people don't notice how badly Putin effed up royally.

This tumble could be symbolic, no?

Have a super sparkly day.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Take the Core Bandaid Off Fast

China needs to defeat Taiwan's military before America can intervene. Slowing down our potential intervention by building anti-access/area denial capabilities to require time-consuming mobilization of American resources is one method of doing that. Speeding up the conquest of Taiwan is the other way. China's airborne forces could be the key.

Naturally, China's marines get some attention when the issue of Taiwan comes up. China has expanded their marine force but not enough to be a threat to Taiwan and with insufficient amphibious lift to be a real threat.:

“This expansion and upgrade has been part of the broader military overhaul taking place in recent years,” said Li Jie, a naval expert based in Beijing.

“It has nothing to do with the American structure but has grown out of the military’s own needs. There are more and more maritime interests to defend, especially islands and reefs.”

Li said a much stronger amphibious combat force was needed given rising tensions over the South China Sea, and Beijing’s goal for reunification with Taiwan – to be achieved by force if necessary.

The idea that a lack of American-style amphibious assets means China can't cross the Taiwan Strait is wrong. No "million-man swim" is needed.

And while some see the marines China has as intended to attack Taiwan, I think the whole issue of marine-led amphibious invasion like D-Day is a red herring. I think the Chinese marines are largely intended to directly support the Chinese navy in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The Chinese airborne forces are another matter. These have also been strengthened:

The 15th Airborne Corps, based in Xiaogan, Hubei province, was made directly subordinate to the Central Military Commission (CMC), serving as rapid a reaction force and part of the strategic reserve. With the modernization of the PLA in recent years, the 15th Airborne Corps also acquired stronger fire power and higher mobility. Following the military reforms initiated in 2016, the term “airborne brigade” started to appear in Chinese media. After the restructuring of the military in 2017, the four-tier commanding system (corps-division-regiment-battalion) has been flattened to three tiers (corps-brigade-battalion). At the same time, the 15th Airborne Corps was renamed simply the Airborne Corps.

This airborne force represents another way to defeat Taiwan before America intervenes by shortening the time it takes to land a force on Taiwan and defeat the Taiwanese. I think the reforms to brigade-based forces makes their use as the spearhead of an invasion of Taiwan more effective.

I think the amphibious aspect of an invasion will see the Chinese going right for the jugular with army units hitting the navigable Tamshui River to land close to and possibly right at the capital Taipei. Maybe a couple Chinese marine brigades will spearhead this effort, but it probably isn't necessary if the airborne corps is the main effort dropping around the capital where it can seize an airport to airlift in reinforcements. I don't know if that unit still exists. But if it doesn't, others could surely be used in its place.

Take Taipei and the follow-on Chinese army units arriving by sea that I once thought of as a key element to reinforce the airborne landings can more easily move into ports when Taiwan's leadership is in chaos as broken remnants of Taiwan's military struggle to hold the capital from the main sea and airborne first wave.

By the time America is capable of intervening, the invasion could be all over except for the executions of Taiwanese counter-revolutionaries, mass deportations to Xinjiang, the deployment of People's Armed Police to control the island's remaining people, and Han colonists moving in.

Where Freedom of Clothing Choice is Crushed

Why feminists aren't the most vocal critics of Islamism is beyond me.

So there's this:

Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards force has raided three underground modeling agencies, accusing the companies and their aspiring models of flouting strict Islamic dress codes for women, Iranian news agencies reported on Saturday.

Iran has "underground modeling agencies." And police who raid them. That, dear readers, is Resistance to tyranny.

This is just the Shia branch of anti-women Islamists, and the larger Sunni branch's nutballs are even worse, if only in scale.

Why feminists don't compete to write their names on JDAMs when our planes fly off to kill those murderous and oppressive jihadis is beyond me.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Advantage: America?

So what is our trade dispute with China?

There seems to be a mismatch in perceptions. President Donald Trump, in comments to reporters on Tuesday, characterized the trade disagreement this way: “We’re having a little squabble with China.”

Trump was calming jittery markets. The [Chinese communist] party, on the other hand, was inflaming passions. The stoking of emotions—“people’s war” suggests America is an enemy of all Chinese—suggests a trade agreement between the planet’s two largest economies is not in the cards anytime soon.

Does the US statement that we are in a "squabble" while China says this is a "people's war" indicate how much more the dispute is hurting China than it is hurting America?

Those favorable terms perhaps made some sense when China was poor and weak and when the prevailing theory (which I did not hold) that economic progress would lead to Chinese democracy.  They don't make sense for America--or the rest of the advanced West--as China advances economically and militarily.

Is Xi under economic pressure at home because of the trade dispute that has not yet been resolved? Does he need a "bad" deal that removes much of the terms of current trade that have favored China? Or is Xi weak politically weak despite his tremendous advances in centralizing power under his control, making him appear as a new emperor in all but name? Is a declaration of a people's war his effort to rally people to his side in a nationalistic appeal?

If the former, that would go a long way to ending the dispute on good terms for America and making the Great Trade War the trade war to end all Chinese-American trade disputes.

UPDATE: More on stemming China's rise.

UPDATE: Do the rival tariff lists show America has the edge in this trade terms dispute?

China increasingly realizes that it’s playing a losing hand in the trade war, and its counter-moves have been made mainly for public consumption in China.

Tip to Instapundit.

The One-Man Insurrection Machine

The United States and Saudi Arabia warned Iran against war. And that dangerous man Moqtada al-Sadr speaks.

Iran's acts of sabotage (four damaged ships and a damaged oil pumping station) in retaliation for sanctions have sparked warnings to behave:

U.S. President Donald Trump issued a new threat to Tehran on Sunday, tweeting that a conflict would be the "official end" of Iran, as Saudi Arabia warned it stood ready to respond with "all strength" and said it was up to Iran to avoid war.

In Iraq, two Shia leaders appear ready to carry water for Iran:

Leading Iraqi Shiite figures warned Monday against attempts to pull their country into a war between the U.S. and Iran, saying it would turn Iraq into a battlefield yet again, just as it is on the path to recovery.

The warning came hours after a rocket slammed into Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, landing less than a mile from the sprawling U.S. Embassy. No injuries were reported and no group immediately claimed the Sunday night attack.

The one politician, Qais al-Khazali, is part of an Iranian-backed group.

The other is Moqtada al-Sadr, who has supposedly broken from Iran which gave him his start as a three-time insurrectionist who fought our troops during the Iraq War.

They already got their marching orders from Tehran.

I've long said Iraqis would rue the day that they let that man live. He continues to be a threat to Iraq.

You'd think our information operations could make more of Iraqis willing to die for Iran's objectives. Which is another example of Iran being willing to fight to the last Arab.

UPDATE: Related information on Iran in Iraq.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Alert the Cannon Fodder!

Tehran tells its proxies to prepare to fight and die for Iran:

Iran’s most prominent military leader has recently met Iraqi militias in Baghdad and told them to “prepare for proxy war”, the Guardian has learned.

Two senior intelligence sources said that Qassem Suleimani, leader of Iran’s powerful Quds force, summoned the militias under Tehran’s influence three weeks ago, amid a heightened state of tension in the region. The move to mobilise Iran’s regional allies is understood to have triggered fears in the US that Washington’s interests in the Middle East are facing a pressing threat. The UK raised its threat levels for British troops in Iraq on Thursday.

Why our information operations don't highlight Iran's willingness to fight its enemies to the last Arab by using non-Iranians as cannon fodder is beyond me.

What ... is Your Quest?

Is fighting in mega-cities really inevitable?

I still believe that urban combat poses some of the most difficult challenges a military can face. Nevertheless, as this current urban combat juggernaut picks up momentum, it is time to ask several fundamental questions: Why would you fight in cities? Who will you fight in cities? Which cities are possible combat sites in the future?

Why, who, and where (which cities) are good questions to answer before we go charging into a meat grinder of urban warfare in a mega-city or anything smaller.

I'd add, after you answer those questions: What objectives do you need to capture in the city to advance the objectives of the overall operation?

But sure, we need to be good at this mission. So it is good that the Marines are training for urban warfare:

Marines are headed to the state of Indiana in August as part of a restart of the Corps’ long-running interest in urban warfare.

A rifle company worth of grunts will prowl the mock-city terrain of the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville, Indiana, while testing out a new formation, new positions and new technology the Corps is asking to bring to the fight.

Which I've long wanted the Marines to do as part of a transition from amphibious warfare because of the growing threat of precision weapons to large-scale amphibious operations to expeditionary warfare that doesn't assume Marines have to hit the beaches in large numbers as I mentioned in an article in this old Joint Force Quarterly:

The Marine Corps is already light and has more flexibility to adapt to new strategic realities. It must abandon amphibious warfare as a core capability and embrace an expeditionary role based on urban warfare and air mobility to complement the role of the Army to fight heavy forces.

Doesn't urban warfare complement the traditional forcible entry role? Isn't assaulting a defended city an amphibious operation against a defended shore--but without the intervening water barrier?

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Weekend Data Dump

I dismiss conspiracy theories because I deny that people are skilled enough to direct any type of deep well-planned plot that they can push to conclusion. I wish we were that capable! (Well, not really--freedom and all that.) So while I am sympathetic to the view that nobody is really running the show in Washington, I think it is clear that people actually are in charge in Washington and they do have the ability to affect all of us with their power. It's just that the people in charge don't have the ability to affect us in the way they plan to do because they lack the knowledge and ability to treat the world like a finely tuned machine that gives predictable outputs. Which means it is a huge mistake for Republicans to think that putting different people in charge in Washington is the way to fix things. Make Washington less important to running the entire country outside of true national responsibilities when states could do the job is the smart thing to do in the long run. I know I'm being picky and that Jonah would probably agree with my quibble. But if I can't quibble why even blog at all?

Speaking of the illusion of control, Peak Stupid never seems to reach its apex, does it?

I never believed bitcoins are immune to theft. People secured them and people can steal them.

After working to protect the 2018 election from cyber-attacks, the military's cyber assets will be used to protect the 2020 election. Good.

Russia stood with Iran over Iran's nuclear ambitions while the Iranians say that rolling back their commitments to the nuclear deal are perfectly legal. Well of course that is legal. As the Obama State Department admitted, the nuclear deal is not legally binding.

If Islam is to win its civil war over who gets to define Islam, these nutball training centers need to be banned.

Congo's Ebola epidemic is hanging on because of violence, mistrust of the government, and faith in non-scientific "healing," But it isn't a "global emergency," so we've got that going for us. Which is nice.

Skyrocketing attacks on Jews in New York City have nothing to do with white nationalists. So it is ignored by the media. Jews are another group clearly losing the Intersectional Olympics victim ranking contest. Tip to Instapundit.

Well it would certainly be nice if this was truly the time for Venezuela's military to rise up against Maduro, but I doubt it. And if this survives to Sunday night without being promoted to a regular post because it is the time, the time has not come yet.

Sometimes stuff happens.

I fear for our Navy officers when I read this absolute nonsense from a national security professor at the Naval War College. I don't even know how to respond to what is clearly a fantasy view of the world. No administration chaos. No self-destruction by the administration. No adversaries thanking their lucky stars at their great fortune to be alive at this moment.

To be fair, mandatory Earth Hour-style blackouts lasting a long time will reduce carbon emissions a good deal. So you go, California! Tip to Instapundit.

So is this the sort of sophisticated and nuanced European policies that America should adopt?

My, that is a riddle wrapped in an enigma. Tip to Instapundit.

Washington, D.C., may allow citizens to issue parking tickets. Aside from the issue of those people getting beaten up, if this goes through San Francisco will say "Hold my soy latte'" and pass an ordinance allowing citizens to impeach a sitting president. Tip to Instapundit. And a "heh" for this suggestion from Green on what to name the program: "Standardized Ticketing and Safety Inducement program, or'“STASI.'"

It is hard to celebrate Assad victories, but at least Assad's forces are killing al Qaeda jihadis in Syria rather than supporting jihadis as Assad did during the Iraq War when he funneled them through Syria to infiltrate Iraq and kill our troops and our friends and allies there.

It sounds like Turkey wants to halt the Russian-backed Syrian offensive against jihadi rebels still holding out in Idlib.

I didn't see how Obama didn't know about Hillary's off-the-books unsecured email server, thinking the only way he might not know is that he completely cut Hillary off from communicating with him because he didn't trust her. Well, it's the former. But I still find it hard to believe that the knowledge was gained in December 2012. Did nobody in the White House notice the previous four years? Really? I kind of wish it was the latter.

Yemen's rebels backed by Iran continue to slowly lose the war against the Saudi coalition-backed government. The rebels don't seem too sincere about letting the port at Hodeidah open for humanitarian aid. The last time the rebels turned over the port to the "coast guard" it was packed with rebels.

Post-Bouteflika Algeria is still sorting out. Who knows if they will be part of an Arab Spring 2.0.

Wise Guy returns from the bone yard.

After decades of procurement nightmare India has bought American MH-60s for anti-submarine and anti-ship missions. In wartime between India and China I assume China's main naval effort in the Indian Ocean would be with nuclear submarines and anti-ship ballistic missiles launched from China.

Well of course we have a range of military options against Iran and of course the president will review them. But a ground invasion of Iran is highly unlikely given the amount of troops it would need. We could put 6 combat brigades in Kuwait to defend that country and to deter an Iranian invasion of Iraq.  And we might seize or raze Iranian islands--with Kharg's oil export facilities being the highest value target--and oil platform bases in the Persian Gulf. And we may hit Iranian missile and naval targets in Iran itself. But an invasion is almost completely off the table, in my opinion.

This author thinks the China-Russia alliance is real and based on mutual interests. I put this here just for contrary information. I think they are allies of convenience with each hoping America will fight the other half of the pairing and so kill two birds with one stone. And I think Russia is essentially conducting a policy of appeasement toward a stronger and growing China out of weakness, with Russian hostility toward the West concealing that appeasement. But I could be wrong.

Modi has failed to really combat corruption in India. India needs to reduce corruption to have a hope of surpassing China in the long run. It was easier when the point of comparison was Pakistan.

Post-Cold War NATO expansion was a good thing. (And congratulations to the author for getting the required shot in at Trump so he doesn't risk seeming pro-Trump.) The idea that we caused Russian aggression--as if it is a new thing that sprung into existence after NATO expansion--is disgusting. We were supposed to avoid collecting the hard-fought victory in the Cold War? We were to leave a gray zone of conflicting territorial claims and post-communist regimes that could have played NATO off against Russia or becomes despotic and aggressive to neighbors out of fear of the return of Russia--as Russia has often charged west? It amazes me that "realists" argue NATO expansion caused Russian aggression. In the Cold War, I certainly considered myself a foreign policy realist. When did they abandon realism?

Did Israel just encourage Hezbollah to be more forceful against Israel by not stomping on Hamas following a rocket barrage? Or did Israel deflect Iran's attempt to sacrifice Hamas in Gaza in order to save a more valuable Hezbollah in Lebanon from a day of reckoning?

No, they get to be criticized just like any other politicians. This complaint is more about de-legitimizing complaints about them. Or does her logic apply to criticism of Trump, too?

The failure of the last Trump-Kim summit has increased the internal pressure on Kim Jong-un. Also, Russians continue to help North Korea in defiance of international sanctions. Naturally.

In the last data dump where I highlighted NATO's return to Norway, I noted that Soviet Arctic units weren't that good, specifically mentioning "over-snow" vehicles that were no such thing. Strategypage looks at Norway and notes that the Russians were able to buy actual Arctic-capable equipment for their 8,000-strong Arctic Brigade before sanctions kicked in after Russia's 2014 invasion of Ukraine.

I'll note that I've long blogged about the threat of a rising China to America.

I don't know if democracy is dead in Turkey, but it is certainly pining for the fjords--or resting. But who can blame Erdogan when even the British who have a long tradition of democracy and rule of law insist on a re-vote on Brexit because it went the "wrong" way?

The United States declares war on Huawei.

I've noted the Iranian propaganda that has demonized Saudi Arabia's role in the Yemen civil war. Let's look at how Iran carries out their propaganda war, shall we?

Suspicions were first raised when Putin won it a record 37 times in a row. With this ice dancing routine. He did stick the landing, you must admit.

I don't assume that if push comes to shove with Iran that Britain won't back us. We are close allies. But that doesn't mean our policies are 100% in harmony. If the Iranians interfere with oil shipments, you can be sure it will get the attention of Europeans. Keep in mind that Britain is rather consumed with the Brexit issue. The last thing they need is a military confrontation mucking up that process. And in 1987 when we needed help against Iran to safeguard friendly gulf shipping, Britain's Thatcher who faced an election didn't want to look like Reagan's "poodle." Britain and other Europeans rejected our requests for minesweepers until Iranian actions got scary enough to convince them to join America in the Gulf. Remember too that broadly speaking Britain shares our threat assessment of Iran.

As China's navy expands in numbers and sophistication, we console ourselves that our personnel quality is superior. Ship handling accidents call that into question. And China's quality is getting better.

The American government cut off all passenger and cargo flights between the United States and Venezuela. I'm not sure how much of either is going on, so I don't know if it is more than symbolic.

Pro-Maduro American brain-dead evil morons activists were finally ejected from their occupation of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, D.C. Guaido staff were able to take possession.

I'm glad my admission to Michigan wasn't tainted by something like this. Although in the long run, I do favor putting the resources and attention into lower income area schools to reduce disparities once those kids are taking the test. But that attention aspect has to include getting rid of the troublemakers and actual criminals who sabotage the ability of the good kids to learn. And say, will the work ethic of high school students with high "adversity scores" go up or down with that knowledge?

Obama's head of the CIA and head of the FBI were "once" communists? Well what a shock. I guess we can fill in a couple slots if Bernie wins in 2020. Well, and Maduro gets to be his Secretary of Energy, I suppose. Tip to Instapundit. UPDATE: Never mind about the head of the FBI being communist. While he said that, in context he was clearly joking about once voting for Carter and then voting for Reagan.

I don't like paying Taliban travel expenses. They can use their drug profits.

That whole Iranian missiles on boats report apparently refers to Iran putting cruise missiles on sailing vessels easily lost in civilian traffic. The missiles could be fired from the boats. This and more will be released to the public, presumably when it can be scrubbed to avoid revealing sources and methods we don't want known. Of course, the question will remain about whether we are connecting dots that paint a coherent picture or not. Iranian hostility to America is a constant, of course.

Is Russia's passport offer to Ukrainians designed to encourage Ukrainians in Russian-occupied Donbas to move to Russia to alleviate a looming labor shortage?

More and more it looks like Remainers in Britain will defeat the 2016 vote of the British people for exiting the European Union. The vote was supposed to settle the question. But Remainers unexpectedly narrowly lost the vote and they did not accept it. Perhaps I'm too much of a pessimist in believing the proto-empire will crush Britain. Maybe Britain will get out while they can with no deal and then negotiate terms at least as good as the EU is willing to give to rogue state Iran, eh? Will the EU be less interested in a trade deal with prosperous Britain which actually contributes to European defense than with an evil Iran that seeks nuclear weapons to threaten European interests?

Somebody unclear on the concept of how to punish 25 old white men. Tip to Instapundit.

We can't care more about North Korea's people than North Korea's rulers do. If we do, we allow Kim Jong-Un to hold his own people hostage for our good behavior. So no, don't feed those hungry people. Let Kim divert military spending to buying food. When North Korea has no nuclear infrastructure and no weapons, then we can talk.

I sincerely doubt Maduro is going to negotiate an end to his rule in these talks in Norway. At best it is an open channel Maduro can use if things start to go really badly for him on the ground in Venezuela.

Contrary to polling, Australia's conservative Liberal party won reelection. This is lesson in tolerance and free speech. Australia's media, like ours, told the people that certain conservative views are deplorable. People with those views reacted by not revealing their opinions that were deemed bad. The left was then unaware that their political positions were not backed by the majority. And when the people voted, they voted their concealed opinions and defeated the left in a surprise result. Maybe when the left gets hurt enough by undermining freedom of speech and tolerance it will embrace those features of public debate.

In the last data dump I noted news from the Holy Roman Empire. Now we know the deaths by crossbow were because "a German sex guru specializing in medieval bondage directed lesbian sex slaves in bizarre murder-suicide[]" as part of a "medieval sex cult." I suppose this is better than rampaging across Europe, but Germans really need to focus their energy a little better.

Speaking of medieval sex cults, people upset over the last season of Game of Thrones and demanding a remake need to get an effing life.

Alyssa Milano's sex strike to oppose restrictions on abortion seems to have failed. I imagine that most people figured a Hollywood sex strike would be followed as much as Hollywood stars who rage against poverty, global warming, guns, and sexual harassment yet still fly around in jets and live in mansions, play in bloody gun-filled movies while protected by armed guards, and never said a word despite the sexual predators in their business.

In response to Iranian low-level attacks on oil exports in the Gulf region, Arab states increased patrols in the Gulf while America exercised in the Arabian Sea.