Sunday, February 25, 2018

Chinese Naval Infantry

Strategypage discusses the expansion of the Chinese marine forces (to 40,000 with 8 brigades and a special forces brigade).

Note that America has about 200,000 active Marines with about the same number of brigade-like regimental combat teams. The United States Marines are a fighting force with depth while the Chinese force is more like shock troops.

While the Chinese marines aren't necessary for amphibious invasions (they have army divisions trained for amphibious warfare, like America used in Europe during World War II for all the landings, recall, as well as in the southern Pacific offensive), the additional Chinese marines could be used for spearheading a joint invasion force (of Taiwan, for example) in addition to independent smaller operations in the South China Sea or East China Sea--or abroad in peacetime missions.

So yeah, they should be tracked when they move around.

Ukraine's Outer Perimeter is the Euphrates River

Remember when Russia "withdrew" from Syria after accomplishing their mission? Yep, Heroes of the Soviet Union medals all around! Not so fast. Which brings me to Ukraine. Really.

The Russians are still fighting in Syria and their problems are preventing them from kicking back and enjoying their glorious new stature:

Many of the problems Russia has in Syria are self-inflicted. For example Russia declared victory there in December 2017 to bolster morale back home. With that came the announcement that a gradual withdrawal of most Russian forces was to occur in 2018. That meant the only Russian ground forces left in Syria were to be contractors who are, of course, not members of the military. That victory claim and withdrawal plans are now on hold as Russia has to deal with heavy losses of Russians in northeast Syria (because of the Americans) and heavy losses to their Iranian allies in the south (because of Israel).

There is much more, so read it all.

As I've noted, Russia is fairly weak despite being more aggressive and threatening. They have a lot to defend and they have an insufficient military to defend it all even on paper--and only a small portion of Russia's military is good or even adequate.

So added problems in Syria for Russia limit Russian opportunities elsewhere to mischief on Twitter and Facebook, really.

So when Russia has to pay more attention to Syria, Ukraine catches a break. Ukraine should probably be complicating Russia's task in Syria, if they aren't already.

And really, we all catch a break when Russia is too busy to work against us with all their resources. As I said back when Russia intervened in Syria, arguably in part to gain leverage against the West in Ukraine, we should let Russia wallow in their war rather than do anything to make their war easier. I'd rather oppose a weakened and busy Russia as much as Ukraine would prefer that.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Burnished Good and Hard

One author thinks that a war between Israel and Hezbollah is probably inevitable. But that neither side wants a war right now. Perhaps Israel really doesn't. And Hezbollah shouldn't want a war. But then the author says that Hezbollah might actually welcome war. The reasoning is wrong although Hezbollah leaders might think it is true.

So Hezbollah might want a new war soon despite heavy losses fighting for Assad in Syria?

Hezbollah, for its part, would also probably like time to recover from a long and hard conflict in Syria. Yet the group’s regional popularity has plummeted, and its anti-Israel credentials, which have been tarnished by years of killing Syrians, need burnishing.

What bothers me about this is the assumption that a little bit of pounding by Israel would not really harm Hezbollah.

This is all part of the notion that using force is counter-productive when used against fanatics. My view is that ineffective use of force against fanatics is ineffective.

Recall that some deep thinkers figured Osama bin Laden suckered us into invading his Taliban sanctuary of Afghanistan where the Taliban shielded him. But we hit hard, destroyed his Taliban patron; sent him into the Pakistani witness protection program; and ultimately killed him, dumping his body into the sea like so much refuse. He planned that?

Saddam, too, seemed to welcome a conflict with America, assuming we'd bomb him or just send troops in but recoil from entering Baghdad for a giant "Blackhawk Down" battle that we couldn't endure. But American forces punched into Baghdad, Saddam was overthrown and hunted down, and ultimately tried and executed by his former victims.

And in both Iraq and Afghanistan, despite their problems today, Iraqis and Afghans fight at our side against common jihadi enemies rather than being state havens for jihadis.

So if a bloodied Hezbollah welcomes a fight with Israel to burnish their credentials, they clearly hope that Israel will cooperate by using ineffective force against Hezbollah.

My hunch is that Israel learned the lesson of doing exactly that in 2006 and will go for the throat in the next war with Hezbollah.

Timing wise, Israel would want to attack before Hezbollah's battered forces can redeploy from Syria and recover from the more than 2,000 KIA they suffered fighting to save Assad.

Will Israel take the shot? The dots paint that picture. But that's the picture I already have in mind, so I might be imagining a few pixels are really a vibrant and textured picture.

Foggy Strategery

Given that I've written that America had choices to make about Syria post-ISIL, I thought this article asking what America wants in Syria would be interesting. Then I got to the fifth paragraph:

Just six months ago, there were two clear trends in the conflict: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with the support of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, was well on his way to victory; and the Islamic State (ISIS) was about to be soundly defeated by a US-led coalition. Today, the successful campaign against ISIS seems pyrrhic, at best. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, and a resolution of the larger conflict is nowhere in sight. [emphasis added]

Six months ago I did not think Assad was on his way to victory. Oh, he was winning. But victory was far away even with ISIL going down.

And the successful American-led campaign was a "Pyrrhic" victory? At best?

A Pyrrhic victory "is a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. Someone who wins a Pyrrhic victory has been victorious in some way, though the heavy toll negates a true sense of achievement or profit."

In what way was the victory over ISIL in Syria a victory with such a devastating toll on America or the coalition that it is really a defeat?

Now, you can say that the toll in the war in Syria is high. But that is not an American cost.

Nor is the cost in lives solely--or even mostly--the responsibility of the coalition's fight against ISIL.

And the defeat of ISIL will reduce the casualties in Syria going forward that had been caused by ISIL depravity--not to mention ending the sheer misery of living under their cruel rule.

While the author is right that the conflict is not over, this kind of undermines his credibility of thinking 6 months ago that Assad's victory was clearly coming.

And if the author wanted to toss the term "Pyrrhic victory" around in regard to Syria, he could have applied that to Assad if anyone, whose forces have endured massive casualties to get even this far in his war.

So I stopped reading the author. Who was once an American diplomat. God help us.

Bloody Giveaway, No?

Iran has threatened Israel:

"Tel Aviv would be razed to the ground if the Israeli regime took any military action against the Islamic Republic," Iran's Expediency Council secretary Mohsen Rezaie said Monday, according to Iran's state-run Tasnim news.

Rezaie also said he will "not give any opportunity for Netanyahu to flee" if an "unwise move" is made against Iran, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported.

Rezaie's reaction came a day after Netanyahu spoke at the Munich Security Conference and outlined what he said was an Iran seeking to dominate the region with aggression and terror.

Question: How would Iran "raze" Tel Aviv without nuclear weapons?

I'll guess that for now this is just chest thumping and flinging poo.

But how long under the shield of the horrible Iran nuclear deal will it take for Iran to have the capability to carry out that threat?

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Mother of All Bankers

America is hoping to resolve Afghanistan by finally removing Pakistan's support for the Taliban that has kept the Taliban stronger than they'd be otherwise.

We just MOABed Pakistan:

A global money-laundering watchdog has decided to place Pakistan back on its terrorist financing watchlist, a government official and a diplomat said on Friday, in a likely blow to Pakistan's economy and its strained relations with the United States.

The move is part of a broader U.S. strategy to pressure Pakistan to cut alleged links to Islamist militants unleashing chaos in neighboring Afghanistan and backing attacks in India.

Yeah, supplying allied jihadis who strike India and who fight us in Afghanistan with one hand while taking American aid for killing rogue jihadis with the other is all fun and games until your banking access is blocked.

Britain, France and Germany backed America in this action.

Is Cyber-War "War" or Not?

It's been a while since I could mock backward North Korea's cyber-war abilities:

North Korea is quietly expanding both the scope and sophistication of its cyberweaponry, laying the groundwork for more devastating attacks, according to a report published Tuesday. ...

Although the North Korean regime bans the Internet for ordinary citizens and is decidedly behind the times with most technology, it has funneled a huge amount of time and money into building a cyber-army capable of outsmarting more technologically advanced countries such as South Korea.

But I'll ask the question again, if North Korea "attacks" somebody via the Internet, why do we assume that a response to such an attack has to take place in that domain?

It is necessary to prepare for war in cyber-space with sophisticated cyber-weapons as have been deployed against Iran. But in the rush to fight in cyber-space, don't forget that a physical smart bomb can simply blow up a room full of enemy cyber-warriors if they have an office park and we know the address.

And if the North Koreans hackers are operating from offices in China, doesn't international law about providing a sanctuary for combatants leave victims of North Korea recourse under international law?

And isn't China at risk from direct retaliation to take out those combatants?

Too Little and Too Late?

Does it matter if North Korea knows they're screwed?

So North Korea now realizes they're screwed?

In short, at the end of 2017 North Korea got a look at South Korean and American war plans and were alarmed at what they found. The northerners had every reason to believe this information was accurate because in late 2017 South Korean military networks were hacked and a large quantity of secret documents appear to have been copied. ...

Once the North Korean hackers delivered the stolen OPLANs documents in September 2017 it took a few months for the military and other security agencies up north to digest all this information and conclude that the north was screwed. Supreme leader Kim Jong Un was briefed, followed by him firing another few senior advisors who were apparently on the wrong side of this new reality. Kim then told South Korea that he wanted to improve relations, send a delegation to the Winter Olympics and get together with South Korea leaders to have friendly discussions about matters of mutual interest.

I noted that hack.

That's nice in the sense that the North Korean may now with that information not start a war in the mistaken belief they'd win. (But maybe not, even with very rational decision-making.)

But this is only good news if North Korea doesn't accelerate their nuclear weapons plans in the belief that this is the only path to salvation.

Really, if as I've long believed it is a race between nation or regime collapse on the one hand and getting nukes on the other, isn't it better for the North Koreans to be unaware they are in a race at all?

If North Korea decides the China option of economic reform can keep the North Korean elites in the lifestyle they've become accustomed to, and is willing to give up nukes to do that, we win.

North Korean are left in a police state, of course. But at least they'd stop starving. From where I sit, I'm willing to abandon them to get rid of North Korea's nuclear weapons. Sorry.

I'd hate to refuse to accept victory when it is staring us in the face, but practically speaking does this really lift the burden of figuring out what we should do to cope with North Korea's looming nuclear threat to America?

Is this the solution?

President Trump plans to unveil a “massive” new set of sanctions against North Korea on Friday, an administration official told Fox News.

Could North Korean knowledge of  their bad position really be reinforced with "massive" sanctions to make them climb down verifiably from their nuclear path before we must choose a course of action? Is there really enough time for that path?

Or is this just a nod to world opinion that we've explored all options short of war before striking North Korea?

I just worry that the North Koreans took a healthy blow to the head with the clue bat too late to make changes in their nuclear plans at this late stage; or to lift the burden on America, Japan, and South Korea for having to make a hard choice soon about what we should do.


The Germans are seriously getting on my nerves over their unwillingness to contribute to NATO common defense. I don't even know what planet they live on these days.

Just stop it!

Top German leaders here have managed to put a damper on the expectation that Berlin would radically ramp up its defense spending, as Washington would have it, stressing instead that gradual boosts and integration with foreign development would yield better results than military might alone.

A commitment by Germany to meet the NATO goal of spending 2% of GDP on defense is not complicated! It's simple! Germany either meets the goal of spending on commonly agreed categories that count as defense, or they don't.

Germany doesn't meet that standard and doesn't want to, and they're trying to muddy the standard.

Of course you also try to spend more efficiently. Of course spending more inefficiently isn't a way to get security. Spend more and work to reduce inefficiencies. Do both you slacker morons! It isn't complicated!

Just where the Hell is that vaunted grim Prussian efficiency these days? It's not a worry. Really.

Oh, and the first article covers an issue that really gets me into a state of mind where I seek the glorious relief of pounding my head into a wall until I am dizzy with pain:

But there is another component to the case of Germany, [German foreign minister] Gabriel said, and it has to do with post-World War II sensitivities.

“Imagine that Germany for 10 years would spend 2 percent of GDP on defense. That would mean more than €70 billion every year,” he said. “I’m not so sure that all partners within Europe would appreciate this after 10 years.”

Stop us before we rampage across Europe again? Are you effing kidding me? That's your excuse? After over 70 years of not being Nazis you are claiming that under the veneer of democracy you are just a bunch of barely restrained thugs eager to rampage around Europe? Really?

When West Germany built a powerful army during the Cold War, nobody in NATO was worried more about West Germany than the Soviet Union!

Allow me to pull out the clue bat before I'm too woozy to wield it:

I keep reading that the Germans hate their militaristic past so much that they don't want to fight.

Let's try applying the clue bat to Germany's collective skull on this issue.

Conquering and setting up death camps under the shield of a powerful military? That's bad. By all means, don't do that.

Having a military capable of fighting death cult enemies or stopping the Russians from moving west? Well, that's a good thing. Try doing that.

Not that there isn't some hope for responsibility:

Germany risks losing international credibility if it retreats from its commitment to increase military spending towards the NATO target, a key member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives said on Wednesday.

But I fear this is a lonely voice. And a tepid one, calling for going from 1.2% of GDP to perhaps 1.5% by the end of the next legislative 4-year period. Nobody is talking about meeting the 2% goal by 2024.

And perhaps the Germans should have a little more sense of responsibility the way Slovenia has demonstrated:

Slovenia's government has sacked the army chief of staff after the military's poor performance at a NATO combat readiness test.

Seriously, is German unwillingness to pay for common defense in line with their economic status so strong that the Germans are willing to argue that they are barely suppressed Nazis at heart despite 70+ years of being part of the West with freedom and democracy?

If the Germans say they aren't to be trusted with sharp knives and actually believe it is true, maybe NATO and Russia should just pull back a safe distance and nuke the place just to be sure.

Is what deep dark motives Germany might have behind the facade of their modern democracy really going to be the form of the debate that Germany wants to have?

West Germany was a good ally in the Cold War. What happened to them?

NOTE: I added clarification to indicate West Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany) during the Cold War, pre-reunification.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The X-War Rages

So just what should the war raging in Syria be called these days?

The war rages on in Syria, even in the outskirts of Damascus:

Residents of Syria's eastern Ghouta district said they were waiting their "turn to die" on Wednesday, amid one of the most intense bombardments of the war by pro-government forces on the besieged, rebel-held enclave near Damascus.

At least 10 people died in one village and more than 200 were injured early on Wednesday. At least 296 people have been killed in the district in the last three days, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said.

The government has besieged the 400,000 people living there for years now.

If Assad has won the war in the aftermath of the defeat of ISIL (through the American-organized campaign) you can't prove it by the resistance and the intensity of the Syrian effort to kill their way to victory in Ghouta.

That's just one place where Assad's regime has no control.

And then you have to consider that even in "Syrian"-controlled territory, it is actually Iran that runs the show with their money and leadership of so many local and foreign militias, including Hezbollah (as I noted in this post).

No, the multi-war is not over. Not even close.

The question is, what is it?  It started as a civil war. But then it got complicated. Without ISIL as a major factor as a caliphate, I thought maybe it was no longer what I eventually called a "multi-war" of different factions fighting their own wars kind of unrelated to other wars, although participants might overlap.

Is the new post-caliphate phase back to a civil war? Is it still a multi-war?

We might be in an internationalized civil war with the American-led coalition, Russia, Turkey, Iran, and Israel as outside states (add in al Qaeda which still fights there rebranded to avoid American JDAMs) with clear military roles in the fight.

Think of it as the modern-day Spanish Civil War, as I've noted it resembles a couple times over the years. As foreign actors expand their roles, it strengthens the resemblance.

If this goes on, the Kurds who seem to want to stay out of the civil war to just hold their own ground may find that they have to commit to either the defeat of Assad or the defense of Assad to make a Syria they can live in through concessions over autonomy. Separatists who think they don't have a dog in the fight have a difficult position.

All I know is that I'm so grateful we didn't further militarize the conflict 6 years ago by helping the rebels win. Gosh, civilian bloodshed might have been worsened!

And if this is more like the Spanish Civil War, let's take precautions that the X-war isn't a dress rehearsal for a wider war of far more consequence and bloodshed.


Don't treat the Russian mercenaries killed in Syria by American air power as less than human.

I'm pleased we enforced the new Deconfliction Line (DCL, as I term it) by helping local Syrian forces smash an attacking battalion that was largely composed of Russian mercenaries.

One, this may not have been a Russian operation but a mercenary company operation for Assad.

There is speculation that Russia may even have let the unit get smashed as a warning to Assad and Iran not to go beyond Russian interests. This fits my belief that Russia only cares about core western Syria where Russia's bases are.

I will add my question of whether Assad chose Russian mercenaries for the job in an effort to drag Russia into the eastern front.

But I've noticed a bit of conservative attitude that the Russian mercenaries are somehow less than legitimate, with one author saying they should be treated like terrorists to discourage the use of them.

That sounds just a little too much like "screw them" as one leftist writer said of American mercenaries killed and strung up on a bridge in Fallujah in 2004 wrote.

But we call our mercenaries "contractors." But it is the same thing.

In the volunteer military era America has used mercenaries more and more for support jobs like outer layer base security, transportation, training, maintenance, and even some missions that require ground combat.

Sure, mostly we use them to free up American troops for combat missions rather than replacing American combat troops. But that isn't iron clad.

Mind you, in Syria the Russians use them for combat roles because the Syrian military isn't up to the task:

Syrian forces reportedly proved ineffective even with the help of Russian advisors and special forces. Kremlin-linked contractors allowed Moscow to run a covert land operation while denying it had boots on the ground.

“The big battles, the intense battles with casualties, that's all Russian mercenaries,” said Ruslan Leviev of the Conflict Intelligence Team, a research group who track Russian military activity abroad.

That overstates their role given the relatively low level of casualties and because Iran's Shia foreign legion is a major source of offensive cannon fodder (Hezbollah seems war weary but they are still there, although I'm not sure they are still shock troops).

But I have noted that the Syrian army can't really carry out infantry combat because of losses. They came to rely on Iranian-supplied irregular forces for shock troops and the Russians discovered that, too.

I already noted that liberals who once hated mercenaries learned to ignore them in 2009.

I hope that conservatives don't learn to hate them just because our foes use them, too.

As long as they fight strictly according to regulations, they should not be sentenced to death. I don't see anything to indicate the Russians fought contrary to the laws of war.

I'm glad we decisively defeated them. But they were not terrorists, from what I've read.

Use of mercenaries is kind of a common thing in this era, recall.

And yes, as the article notes, the war is hardly over after ISIL has been largely defeated.

Distant Early Warning System

China raised a stink because the Indian prime minister visited Indian territory. While India should of course worry about this Chinese attitude, Russia should worry a lot more.

Don't ever say the Chinese aren't bold:

China on Thursday expressed anger over a visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the remote Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China also claims, and said India should stop any action that might complicate the dispute.

Yes, not acting like China is the actual owner "complicates" the issue.

Mark my words, China basically thinks anything it wants is a "core interest."

China's anger against India should be ringing alarm bells in Moscow.

Rather than worry about a still very weak NATO offensive power on their western border, Russia should really worry that the day when China could protest Putin's visits to Russian territory is coming soon.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Prom is Over, and the Real World Beckons

The US ambassador to the UN wonders why the Palestinians were elected Queen of the Victim Prom (as I've termed their status) to monopolize the body's time on the Palestine issue while other worse problems are allowed to fester.

Haley verbalized the frustration, but it is widespread:

Since 2005 the Arab donors have become increasingly disenchanted with the Palestinians. Even by Middle Eastern standards the corruption, ineffective government, ingratitude and double dealing of the Palestinians had become intolerable. ... It used to be said that the Palestinian situation could not get worse but Palestinian leaders regularly defied that prediction and found a way to make things worse in ways no one expected.

Yes, the Palestinians continue to make things worse, refusing to accept anything short of the destruction of Israel.

The prom is over. The magical moment has ended. Now the Palestinians need to enter the real world, as all high school queens find they must do.

People that need the help of the UN outside of the Middle East might like a fraction of the time that the Palestinians got in the world body.

Tip to Victory Girls via Instapundit.

Iraq Could Use the Wisdom of America's Founders

Are the Iraqis determined to undermine their victory over ISIL?


After just a few hours moving on foot across farmland and orchards to a cluster of modest houses, [First Lieutenant] Hagerty realized the families he thought were returnees to the area were in fact newly displaced. Their homes in Qaim had been confiscated by the government-affiliated Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, made up mainly of Shiite paramilitary fighters backed by Iran.

"Our end goal is a stable Iraq, right?" Hagerty said later, back at the base. "But when you see stuff like that, it makes you wonder if they are ever going to be able to do it themselves."

Seizing homes doesn't win hearts and minds.

This bit of advice from our Constitution might be of help to the Iraqis:

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Never believe the largely Iran-backed militias want the Iraqi government to be successful. Or want to act under rule of law.

Last on the List

If any American unified command is lower on the priority list for high end military assets than SOUTHCOM, I don't know what it is.

SOUTHCOM want help:

The Southern Command’s top officer told the Senate Armed Services Committee he is receiving only a fraction of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance resources he needs to stem the flow of illegal rugs, people and money into the United States.

Adm. Kurt Tidd, testifying Thursday, added that lack of ISR translates into interdicting only 25 percent of the known movement of narcotics.

Admiral Tidd needs The SOUTHCOM Queen for his ISR and interdiction needs.

Because his problem isn't going to change and the response for assets isn't likely to change, either.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

JDAMs are the Ultimate Cyber Weapon

Russia carried out the most destructive cyber-attack in history. Explain to me again why Ukraine isn't justified in blowing things up in Russia.

So we have a record, it seems:

The Office of the [White House] Press Secretary's statement echoes the conclusion of British intelligence, as the U.K. earlier on Thursday declared Russia responsible for the attack, the BBC reported. The 2017 attack was known as "NotPetya" and targeted companies conducting business with Ukraine, a country with which Russia has been in conflict since its 2014 annexation of Crimea.

"In June 2017, the Russian military launched the most destructive and costly cyber attack in history," the White House statement reads.

The statement goes on to say that the economic damage—which resulted from attacks on shipping giant FedEx, drugmaker Merck, and others—has reached billions of dollars. The White House maintains the attack was part of the Kremlin’s campaign against Ukraine.

Let me just say as I long have argued that while cyber warfare takes place on the Internet, until virtual Artificial Intelligence lives online, the equipment and people waging it live in the real world:

It is necessary to prepare for war in cyber-space with sophisticated cyber-weapons as have been deployed against Iran. But in the rush to fight in cyber-space, don't forget that a physical smart bomb can simply blow up a room full of enemy cyber-warriors if they have an office park and we know the address.

Isn't Ukraine fully justified in attacking Russia with actual explosives that cause the same level of damage?

(I'll say that is one objection I have to past cyber war against Iran. Aren't they justified in using more kinetic means to counter-attack? Cyber isn't a substitute for war. It is one way of waging it and we shouldn't pretend it isn't really war.)

And we should remember that our enemies can do the same thing.

Given that conventional forces are multi-purpose forces, it could be that strategic offensive cyber warfare is a waste of resources.

And really, just what did the record-setting Russian attack actually achieve in their war against Ukraine other than setting a record for such attacks?

The Lone Ranger?

Zumwalt will get long-range anti-ship missiles. Be still my heart.

I won't say this is a bad development:

The [Navy's] 2019 budget request includes a request for $89.7 million to transform its Zumwalt-class destroyers by integrating Raytheon’s long-range SM-6 missile, which can dual hat as both an anti-air and anti-surface missile, as well as its Maritime Strike variant of the Tomahawk missile.

Converting DDG-1000 into a hunter-killer is a win for the surface warfare community’s years-long drive to beef up the force’s offensive capabilities. It also answers the bell for U.S. Pacific Command, which has been pushing for the Navy to add longer range weapons to offset the increasing threat from Chinese long-range missile technology.

I noted this plan when it came out in December. I was happy enough that the land attack mission fantasy had been abandoned. But there was still a problem:

Of course, the ship is too stealthy to risk sailing with other ships and being detected because of them; yet too weakly armed and equipped to defend itself sailing alone if detected.

Remember, the ship is stealthy and not invisible.

Add to the problem of thinking the ship is a savior for surface warfare is that the ship class is just 3. So assume only one is deployed at any one time during peacetime--2 if the Navy really push the ships for a while without major maintenance or upgrades.

So I still say that Zumwalt isn't a combat vessel. It is a test platform best suited to hosting new weapons and systems before spinning them out to the rest of the fleet or to a new class of ships.

That new ship will be affordable because all of the development costs will be written off as part of the "cancelled"  DDG-1000 class (and operating costs of a commissioned warship):

By canceling the ship class, it looks fiscally responsible but it really isn't. It's just accounting, since the next ship built using the exact same technology that by the rules has to be counted against the cost of the ship the research was done for will use Zumwalt technology that is now already paid for. Voila! A cheaper warship.

Oh sure, if there is a war it will be sent into combat. But that isn't the primary mission.

Air Power Theory

Let me describe my simplistic model of air power in support of ground power.

My view is that ground power is the vital factor and that air power is a force multiplier. I argue this based on the simple observation that ground forces have controlled territory for many millennia before air power was invented.

But air power can make ground power far more effective. Lord knows I'm grateful that American ground forces haven't had to operate under enemy air power or without ample air support since about 1944.

So let me look at four scenarios of friendly power, each assuming that in a mathematical equation, each factor can range from 0 (actually making the situation worse) to perfection of 10. A rating of 1 would basically be neutral, neither helping or hurting as a factor.

The best is when American air power and ground power have factors of 10. They are each the best on the planet and capable of working with each other. As a multiple we have 10 X 10 = 100. Unless the enemy also has the best of each (and more of each as well as better leadership and strategy), things should look pretty good for America in battle.

The worst is when both factors are zero. That is pretty much automatic defeat as the end result of 0 X 0 = 0. But we can still get zero as the result if only one factor is 0.

What if air power is 10 and ground power is 0? Obviously, the ground power makes the effects of air power worse than if it could operate on its own. The ground power is unable to accurately call in air strikes--calling it in on civilian targets or on itself; is unable to exploit air power to go on offense; is unable to even hold its ground long enough for air power to ride to the rescue on defense; is unable to exploit aerial recon; and in fact cannot even protect the air bases that house the air power. The end result is that even excellent air power is unable to control the ground in the absence of ground power.

Even if you simply told the ground power not to get involved in the fight and leave it to the air power, it still would not work because the ground power simply sitting on defense would eventually be defeated and the air bases would eventually be captured. I don't believe an independent air campaign could defeat enemy ground power before friendly ground power collapses.

The only possible way this might work is if the ground factor is truly 1 because the air campaign is conducted from an absolutely secure sanctuary. Air power enthusiasts may believe this scenario subset is possible, but I have never seen an example of this pure air power approach to victory.

Finally, what if air power is 0 and ground power is 10? This scenario makes for a zero result because the air power is counter-productive. Even excellent troops find that horrible air power can't find enemies, can't hit enemies accurately and in a timely fashion, does more damage to friendly troops and civilians, and soaks up resources that would have been better spent on the ground forces.

Yet even in this scenario, if the air power is grounded so it can't do a lot of harm, you at least get the air power closer to 1 as a factor (but not all the way to 1 because resources are still uselessly spent on the air power). But the ground power can be close to 10.

If the enemy doesn't have air power and even a slightly worse ground power; or has a combination of relatively poor quality air power and poor quality ground power; your ground power alone could win the war.

And again, I say this because ground power alone has won wars. There is a long history of that.

Is that it? Mind you, I'm fully on board the possibility that no army alone no matter how excellent (or with poor air power in support) can win a war against enemy ground power with excellent air power supporting it. The math allows this.

And indeed, it seems like the Russians simply want to nullify Western air power with ground-based air defenses to make air power a non-factor for both sides; but actually get an edge over NATO by expending resources not on nullified air power but on superior artillery and targeting capabilities to make their ground factor superior.

Anyway, that's my simplified model of air power.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Last Resort

While there is no indication that Venezuela is massing troops on their border, Guyana is worried about Maduro's intentions:

The Guyana government has been paying close attention to options available to Venezuela, following United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Antonio Guterres’ referral of the border controversy to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), a senior government official said.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon told Demerara Waves Online News that reports that Venezuela had been planning an incursion into Guyana’s territory was being factored into government’s analysis. “Of course, as a nation, we have to take all of these things into consideration. We cannot disregard any reports like that,” said Harmon, a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the Guyana Defence Force and current member of the Defence Board.

That author cites Stratfor analysis (huh, I missed that) for why Guyana might be a target.

With Venezuela accelerating toward starvation and chaos, my longstanding worry that Venezuela's thug socialist rulers might think a short and glorious foreign war might rally the people around them has heightened.

But as I noted in this post about potential targets, going after Guyana automatically gets the Organization of American States to rally around Guyana against Venezuela.

No, a safer target for Maduro in consideration of South American sensitivities is the distant Netherlands with enticingly close island possessions.

We've Been Down This Road Before

The Long World Journal published a map of Taliban control and influence. Sorry, you'll have to jump over to look at it because I can't save the map to reproduce it. It provides a benchmark to judge results of future campaigns with a more active American-led coalition effort to support the Afghan security forces.

One thing I'll say is that the old focus on controlling the ring road would be a good first stage for a renewed effort to roll back Taliban control.

As I wrote 7 years ago in regard to the map above about our plans:

The green and yellow shaded areas are the overall focus while the yellow in the south is our main effort right now.

I outlined this broad picture back in January 2009 when I guessed what we would do. Close to a year ago, I noted that the ring road that provided the basis of my guess was indeed the geographic feature of focus for the surge. I also think that just in terms of numbers, we have enough to win.

But there is a reason we are saying we need a regional effort to win. A map of just Afghanistan fails to note the Pakistan sanctuaries that Pakistan policy support. So we need to operate inside Pakistan:

Yet even major success in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban and other "international" jihadis runs into the jihadi safety net that sanctuary in Pakistan provides.

In light of the idea of options in the broader South Asia region, I will revive my suggestion that our efforts to win should include a major effort to create friendly forces on the ground inside Pakistan the way we have done inside Syria[.]

Add to another effort inside Afghanistan--this time relying on the Afghan security forces built (and which we are still building) since the Obama era surges that ultimately put 100,000 American troops on the ground--an effort inside Pakistan to make it a regional effort, and we'll have a better chance to make enduring gains with a reduced presence.

From the "Well, Duh" Files

Iran will continue to defend the Iran nuclear deal:

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday it would adhere to commitments under its 2015 international nuclear agreement, signed with six world powers to limit its disputed nuclear program.

The Iranian nutballs like the deal because it gives them what they want: nukes and money.

Really, one reason Iran wanted nukes was to escape sanctions and isolation. With nukes, Iran could hope that the prestige and threat of owning nukes would erode the willingness of states to sanction and shun Iran, thus providing money.

The Iran deal's only significance is that it reversed the order of success. Iran got the pallets of cash and abandonment of sanctions to get money first, with the nukes coming later.

The nukes are achieved under cover of the deal that should prevent anybody from attacking them while the Iranians continue research away from prying eyes restricted to safe sites under the deal (and let's not even begin to talk about the North Korea route for Iran to buy nukes with the money the deal provided Iran).

So, duh, of course Iran defends the deal. They're Shia Islamist nutballs--not stupid.

The Forever War

NATO will participate in training Iraqi security forces. Good. Which brings me to an annoying comment that never seems to die.

This is good:

NATO's chief says the alliance plans to expand its military training mission in Iraq and help the conflict-ravaged country develop new academies and schools for its armed forces.

Keep in mind that there will be idiots who will say, "We've been training Iraqis since 2003! How long does it take?! This is all futile. Get out now!"

The short answer to how long does it take is "forever."

Training an army is not like building a widget and putting it on a shelf until you need it.

An army is an organic changing thing with people coming and going, and people losing skills as time goes on.

Training an army is an ongoing process that trains new people, keeps the people in the army once trained current on their skills, and removes those who prove unable to meet standards of honesty and competence.

Once you stop training an army, it starts to deteriorate.

And worse, it takes time for people not involved with the military to realize they no longer have a competent military.

Even before ISIL grabbed territory in Iraq, I called for re-engaging in Iraq to reverse al Qaeda momentum. But I did not know how far Iraqi training had fallen in our absence.

Even when jihadis started taking ground I expressed confidence that the Iraqis were capable--if supported--of liberating the territory. I was wrong. It took a bit before I even suspected the decline (by mentioning the need for training in addition to providing other help) because of the failure to drive the jihadis out of Ramadi and Fallujah.

When America left Iraq at the end of 2011, we had trained a competent Iraqi military. And in just 2 years without our oversight it deteriorated enough to allow jihadis to rise up in Anbar to take territory from the Iraqi government in January 2014; and less than 6 months later to seize Mosul and the north from the Iraqi security forces that simply collapsed with the lack of competent leadership.

So yeah, it takes forever to train a good--or even just adequate--military.