Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Not Beaten Yet

The enemy is still fighting hard in Iraq:

Insurgent attacks and resulting coalition and Iraqi deaths peaked in the three months following February’s bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, according to a Iraq progress report issued Tuesday by the Pentagon.

Average weekly attacks on coalition forces, Iraqi security forces (ISF) and Iraqi civilians climbed to 620 in the period between Feb. 11 and May 12, 2006, according to the latest security and stability report the Defense Department is required to send congressional lawmakers every quarter.

Only two other periods in Iraq’s post-Saddam history approach the recent numbers for violence, according to the report: the sovereignty period between June 29 to Nov. 26, 2004, which included the battle for Fallujah and major clashes with Shiite insurgents belonging to Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army; and the referendum/vote period between Aug. 29, 2005 to Feb. 10, 2006.

Each of those periods averaged about 550 weekly attacks, the report said.

Average daily casualties for coalition, ISF and Iraqi civilians also soared during the “government transition” period covered by the new report, reaching about 78 per day.

Until now, the highest number of daily casualties reported had been 59 per day, during Iraq’s pre-constitution period between Feb. 12 and Aug. 28, 2005, the report said.

They haven't stopped the progress that is creating an Iraqi state that will destroy them in the end. But they aren't driven from the field yet. That much is clear.

Still, I don't get how some on the Left can believe we will lose this war. The idea that 80% of the population can't defeat an insurgency that draws support from 20% when that same 20% was able to suppress the 80% majority under Saddam is just ridiculous. The Iraqi government will win this war. Our job is to give them the tools to do so.


Some time back I wrote that I worried about how our troops would fight under a microscope when all sorts of surveillance systems track their every move:

When we have a battlefield where we see all of our troops and record all that they do, how will we treat our soldiers? Even in "good" wars that are universally agreed to be justified, such as World War II, we had our share of criminal actions and mistakes that cost lives. Civilians were killed or abused. Prisoners were shot or robbed or abused. Americans died from incompetent commanders or shoddy equipment or just bad luck.

Our military fights very clean based on any combat standards you want to apply--from a historical basis to a contemporary comparison. But war will never be completely clean. Even police commit crimes and abuse prisoners or detainees. Combat is far more stressful and so our troops will commit crimes or simply make
lethal mistakes on occasion. How will we react to this? How will we make sure our troops fight even cleaner and how will we protect out troops from unfair prosecution?

We may be seeing an example of this in the Haditha incident:

As Tom Ricks has reported in the Washington Post, individuals familiar with the investigation have indicated that message traffic and video from an unmanned drone may affect the outcome of the investigation.

I would never suggest that our troops should not be held accountable for crimes. They should. That isn't the question. But will this result in troops being judged guilty for simply fighting?

This ability to scrutinize every action, let alone every crime, in the midst of battle is a very new development. Where every battlefield action could be seen and recorded, how do we address this and prepare our troops to operate successfully in this environment? How do we prepare our officers who see such possible violations of the rules of war?

I still don't have any answers. But the need to get them is growing more urgent every day. We want a military that fights clean--but we need a military that fights and wins even more.

It's the Regime, Stupid

Michael Barone puts it well:

To learn lessons from history, including recent history, it's essential to get the history right. That's why, in order to understand what to do about the mullahs' regime in Iran, it's worth revisiting the debate over the intelligence in Iraq.

For large swathes of the mainstream media, the debate is over. In their view, George W. Bush misled the nation about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, his officials manipulated the intelligence and cherry-picked items that supported their views and there was an "intelligence failure" on the issue of whether Iraq had WMD programs.

But all these points are false. Bush accurately reported what the intelligence agencies, not just our own but those of other countries, reported. Neither Bush nor his leading officials manipulated the intelligence, according to both the bipartisan report of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the bipartisan Silberman-Robb Commission on intelligence. And the so-called "intelligence failure," I would argue, was not a failure at all -- and if the conclusions of the intelligence agencies were wrong (and remember that we don't know for sure whether Saddam spirited WMDs out of the country), that only reflected the inherent limits on the intelligence craft.

In the end, we shouldn't need to make a prosecutor's case against nutball regimes. Act like a dangerous nut, talk like a dangerous nut, and we should treat you like a dangerous nut without needing a formal guilty verdict with trial rules. A dangerous nut is a dangerous nut regardless of whether he has the means at the moment to act on the nuttery. In time, such dangerous nuts will get the means to make their words real.

Saddam acted like a dangerous nut. We rightly took him down.

The mullah regime in Iran is nutworthy as well. We must destroy the regime without worrying that we may not have an airtight case to take to court. The stakes are too high.

A, B, C, or D: None of the Above?

We have offered to talk to Iran on one condition:

"To underscore our commitment to a diplomatic solution and to enhance prospects for success, as soon as Iran fully and verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities, the United States will come to the table," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at the State Department.

But Iran will not negotiate with us and give up their nuclear weapons. Talk can only be for the sake of talk and not for results.

So what are we doing?

A) Are we really going to just talk to them? Is this another surrender for the appearance of progress?

B) Are we expecting that the Iranians will refuse our conditions and the Russians and/or Chinese will shoot down sanctions, leaving us the war/regime change option?

C) Are we just muddling along seeing what happens with each step, hoping for a peaceful resolution while readying ourselves for war if it comes to that?

D) Or something else completely?

Given the press conference by Bush and Blair and the president's commencement address at our Military Academy, I guess "B." But I can't rule out "C."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mobile Offshore Base

The mystery of what the Chinese are doing with the ex-Varyag, the former Russian aircraft carrier that in theory could be turned into a floating casino, continues:

Thus the Varyag is a huge depository of useful information on how to build an aircraft carrier. And that's apparently how the Chinese are using it. At the same time, the Chinese are spending a lot of time, and money, installing new equipment on the Varyag (which arrived in China without engines.) So far, China has been silent on their plans for the Varyag, but judging from what has been going on with the ship in the Dalian harbor, something substantial is happening.

Interesting. The Chinese are not just conducting research and reverse engineering, but are actually doing work on the hull. Why? A single carrier does not make much sense other than for long-range planning. They couldn't expect a single carrier battlegroup to survive long at sea for long against us. Heck, the Japanese could destroy it. And it would take years just to get a Varyag battle group ready. It makes no sense to spend a lot of time and effort for an operational carrier when the PLAN hardly seems ready to graduate to distant power projection. This seems like a waste of resources when the Chinese are fairly frugal on military spending--except when it comes to spending for the specific mission of conquering Taiwan.

So what could it be used for if not a carrier and in light of China's focus on Taiwan? Mind you, this is just pure speculation on my part, but it could make sense. So here goes.

Well, if we assume the Chinese are not willing to waste a perfectly good hull, how about the Wal-Mart version of the Mobile Offshore Base? This is how we envision such a facility:

In concept, a Mobile Offshore Base (MOB) is a modular floating base that can be deployed to an area of national defense interest to provide flight, maintenance, supply and other forward logistics support operations for U.S. and Allied forces. MOB modules will most likely be semisubmersibles which have significantly smaller wave-induced motions compared to conventional hulls. This modularity supports the widest possible range of air support, ranging from vertical/short takeoff and landing (VSTOL) aircraft using a single module to conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) aircraft using several serially aligned modules approaching 6,000 feet in length. In addition, a MOB accepts ship-borne cargo, provides nominally 3 million square feet for equipment storage and maintenance, stores 10 million gallons of fuel, houses up to 3,000 troops (an Army heavy brigade), and discharges resources to the shore via a variety of landing craft.

If China is truly interested in conquering Taiwan in the near future, might not the Varyag be useful as a staging base--a cheap MOB--that could be towed close to Taiwan? Load it with troops, SAMs, supplies, and helicopters, and tow it close to Taiwan where it will ferry troops to the beachheads? Ship in troops to the floating base using civilian vessels and then load them on military helicopters or smaller amphibious warfare vessels based on the jury-rigged MOB and get them ashore.

A cheap, made-in-China MOB could be one of many items that slip past our radar as we look for conventional amphibious warfare developments. The Varyag may be in play for a large Chinese throw of the dice, but it probably won't be a floating casino that emerges from Dalian.

I'd Be Tired of Rice Pilaf by Now, Too

The lovelies we hold at Guantanamo want to die:

The number of Guantanamo Bay detainees participating in a hunger strike has ballooned from three to around 75, the U.S. military said Monday, revealing growing defiance among prisoners held for up to 4 1/2 years with no end in sight.

So why don't we let them die? Unless, some of these 75 have information we think we need, why are we struggling to keep them alive at all? I am personally relieved that their so-called defiance has led them to attempt a slow suicide that doesn't kill any innocents in the process. This is real progress over suicide bombings that kill dozens, hundred, or thousands along with them.

We should dress these thugs in culturally sensitive burial garb and see how fast they reach for the rice pilaf when they realize we just don't care if they die.

We're trying our best to kill them, after all. If they want to cooperate all of a sudden, so be it.

Bring on the defiance, I say.

Marine on Rampage

A Marine, under the intense pressure of the war, has gone on a rampage, endangering our image and the safety of other Marines fighting in Iraq.

No, not the Marines who may have killed innocent civilians at Haditha. Our military will take care of this problem. We will investigate and punish any who are guilty of murder or a cover-up under our laws and in accordance with our values. Such crimes cannot be tolerated and we will not tolerate it. General Pace makes that clear enough. We and 99.9% of the Marines are shamed by such actions; and in contrast to our enemies, we won't be using film of the crime to recruit more Marines.

No, I'm referring to the Honorable John Murtha, who can't seem to wait to make a crime of a few a logical result of fighting the war, and thus turn it into a disaster for our war in Iraq:

"Who covered it up, why did they cover it up, why did they wait so long?" Murtha said Sunday on "This Week" on ABC. "We don't know how far it goes. It goes right up the chain of command."

Representative Murtha believes, it seems, that this isolated crime (if the investigation shows that a crime took place, as it seems now) is just a common result of the war, with guilt all the way to the top. Murtha's enthusiasm for stoking anger over this alleged crime is disgusting. Could he possibly hide his glee a little better, stay off of television, and let our military justice system run its course?

I once believed there is no such person as an ex-Marine. I was wrong.

UPDATE: This post seems pretty clear, to me. It is even brief. I wrote that I think we must expect our troops to fight honorably and must punish any who don't. I contrasted our expectations with that of our enemies who delight in atrocities. Further, it seemed wrong for a Marine to attack Marines with such a broad brush when almost all fight with skill and honor in our defense even as we speak. And I expressed my view that Rep. Murtha should not act so bloody happy that his accusation seems to be right. Not did I insult the congressman with language. I think one could understand this if you read it even while busy making hand puppets.

So I was amused and disheartened to read this comment at some Atrios-related site about this post:

How are wingnut blogs dealing with the fact that it looks like Murtha was right about Haditha? Are they apologizing to him? Admitting they were wrong? Of course not! If this war ends badly, goes the wingnut meme, it will be because America-haters like Murtha stabbed us in the back.


Where did I say this was a cause for losing? I think we are winning so I am not looking for excuses. And I never even commented on Haditha to the best of my knowledge. I did not attack Murtha for the accusation. Atrocities happen. Even in World War II--the good war. Our conduct in this war has been pretty damn good. Yet crimes will happen and I was content to let our people investigate, confident that we would do the right thing. That makes me a "wingnut." How nice.

And we will do the right thing. That's why we are better than our enemies who routinely kill innocents and boast of it.

Funny who the Left insists must apologize and who they "understand."

UPDATE: In an effort to improve the level of understanding on the Haditha issue for new visitors here, I suggest this article and this one.


Joschka Fischer is a very understanding German. He has a solution for the Iran problem. He knows the problem is that we just won't negotiate with the Iranians. Really, we must understand them and reach out to the misunderstood mullahs.

His Washington Post op-ed seems so oddly familiar. Where have I heard this reasoning before?

Perhaps it is simply a little out of time. Let's fix it, shall we?

The German crisis is moving fast in an alarming direction. There can no longer be any reasonable doubt that Germany's ambition is to obtain offensive capabilities. At the heart of the issue lies the German regime's aspiration to become a hegemonic Aryan and regional power and thereby position itself at eye level with the world's most powerful nations. It is precisely this ambition that sets Germany apart from Italy: Whereas Italy seeks power to entrench its own African empire, Germany is aiming for regional dominance and more.

Germany is betting on revolutionary changes within the power structure of Europe to help it achieve its strategic goal. To this end, it makes use of Russia and the Russo-Polish conflict, as well as Sudetenland, Danzig, its influence in the Balkans and, above all, Austria. This combination of hegemonic aspirations, questioning of the regional status quo and panzer and luftwaffe programs is extremely dangerous.

Germany's acquisition of a panzer divisions and a tactical air force -- or even its ability to equip them -- would be interpreted by Poland as a fundamental threat to its existence, thereby compelling the Europeans, and France in particular, to take sides. Europe has not only historical moral obligations to Poland but also security interests that link it to the strategically vital Central Europe. Moreover, a panzer divison-equipped Germany would be perceived as a threat by its other neighbors, which would probably provoke a regional arms race and fuel regional volatility further. In short, a re-armed Germany would call Europe's fundamental security into question. To believe that Western Europe could keep out of this conflict is a dangerous illusion.

In this crisis, the stakes are high, which is why Britain and France began negotiations with Germany two years ago with the goal of persuading it to abandon its efforts to close the Versailles Treaty limitations. This initiative failed for two reasons. First, the European offer to open up technology and trade, including the peaceful use of panzer divisions, was disproportionate to Germany's fundamental fear of regime change on the one hand and its regional hegemonic aspirations and quest for global prestige on the other. Second, the disastrous Spanish Civil War has caused Germany's leaders to
conclude that the leading Western powers have been weakened to the point that they are dependent on Germany's goodwill and that high coal prices have made the West Europeans all the more wary of a serious confrontation.

The German regime's analysis may prove to be a dangerous miscalculation, because it is likely to lead sooner rather than later to a "hot" confrontation that Germany simply cannot win. After all, the issue at the heart of this conflict is this: Who dominates Central Europe -- Germany or the West? Germany's leaders underestimate the explosive nature of this issue for the West as a global alliance and thus for its own future.

Nor is the debate about the military option -- destruction of Germany's rearmament program through occupation of the Rhineland -- conducive to resolving the issue. Rather, it rings of a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is no guarantee that attempts to destroy Germany's blitzkrieg potential and thus its capability for an offensive breakout would succeed. Moreover, as a victim of foreign aggression, Germany's panzer division ambitions would be fully legitimized. Finally, a military attack on Germany would mark the beginning of a regional, and possibly global, military and terrorist escalation -- a nightmare for all concerned.

So what should be done? There remains a serious chance for a diplomatic solution if the United States, in cooperation with the Europeans and with the support of the League of Nations and the non-aligned states of the Little Entente, offers Germany a "grand bargain." In exchange for long-term suspension of panzer division formation, Germany and other states would gain access to research and technology within an internationally defined framework and under comprehensive supervision by the League. Full normalization of political and economic relations would follow, including binding security guarantees upon agreement of a regional security design.

The high price for refusing such a proposal has to be made absolutely clear to the German leadership: Should no agreement be reached, the West would do everything in its power to isolate Germany economically, financially, technologically and diplomatically, with the full support of the international community. Germany's alternatives should be no less than recognition and security or total isolation.

Presenting Germany with these alternatives presupposes that the West does not fear rising coal and beer prices. Indeed, the two other options -- Germany's emergence as a panzer and luftwaffe-equipped power or the use of military force to prevent this -- would, in addition to all the other horrible consequences, increase coal and beer prices. Everything speaks in favor of playing the economic-financial and technology card vis-à-vis Germany.

Knowledge of the potentially horrible consequences of a military confrontation and of the equally horrific consequences of German possession of the air-supported panzer division must force the United States to abandon their policy of no direct negotiations and its hope for regime change. It is not enough for the Europeans to act while the Americans continue to look on as the diplomatic initiatives unfold, partaking in discussion only behind the scenes and ultimately letting the Europeans do what they will. The Roosevelt administration must lead the Western initiative in harmonized, direct negotiations with Germany, and, if these negotiations succeed, the United States must also be willing to agree to appropriate guarantees. In this confrontation, international credibility and legitimacy will be the deciding factors, and ensuring them will require farsighted and cool, calculated American leadership.

An offer of a "grand bargain" would unite the international community and present Germany with a convincing alternative. Were Germany to accept, its suspension of panzer divisions and warplanes in its Krupp factories while negotiations are ongoing would be the litmus test of its sincerity. Were Germany to refuse the offer or fail to honor its obligations, it would totally isolate itself internationally and provide emphatic legitimization to further measures. Neither France nor Britain could avoid showing solidarity within the League.

But such an initiative can succeed only if the American administration assumes leadership among the Western nations and sits down at the negotiating table with Germany. Even then, the international community would not have long to act. As all sides must be aware, time is running out for a diplomatic solution.

Ah, now it sounds more appropriate! Far more in tune with the time for which it was written.

And Fischer was the German foreign minister and vice chancellor! Of a nation that once shook the world, but which now shakes in fear at a third-rate nutcase who wants nuclear weapons--and to finish the work of Fischer's grandfathers, to top it off. How in the world did we tame the Germans so thoroughly?

Time is indeed running out for a diplomatic solution with Iran. But not, as history records, for a try at a final solution.

Too bad nobody tried Fischer's approach back in 1939. Might have stopped that Nazi threat cold, eh?

Monday, May 29, 2006

From Lexington to Anbar

Many soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen have died in war throughout our history to defend the nation and life we have today. We rightly honor them on Memorial Day.

When so few of us are required to sacrifice anything at all to enjoy our freedom and prosperity, it is difficult for me to convey the thanks and respect that I have for those who are fighting and dying today, carrying out this relentless duty.

It is painful to read every notice of someone who had died in this long war. Somebody who had plans for life and a family anxious to see them home again becomes a memory alone in the hearts of others.

I can only hope that for the families who must go forward without a son or daughter, or a brother or sister, or a father or mother who has died in uniform, that the sincere gratitude of a nation can carry them through the grief of losing so much.

Remember them always. They rely on us to make their deaths mean something.

We must not squander what they have given us.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Second Front

I suspect that the willingness of the President and British Prime Minister to admit to mistakes in Iraq at their joint press conference is not from second thoughts or uncertainty over Iraq, but due to confidence that we will win in Iraq and the fact that they have decided to go on to defeating Iran. This war is not over and we must move out again on the offensive. Sitting on our asses is a luxury we do not have.

Much like May 1945, when we prepared to shift victorious forces from Germany--even as we had to prepare to occupy that defeat country--in order to mass sufficient ground forces to invade Japan, we will scrape up the brigades to deal with Iran. Even though our Army was stretched in 1945 with absolutely no rotation base at all, we prepared to occupy a third nation of the original Axis. Those who won in Europe would have no rest and would be sent to the Pacific to win there, too. We had to win with the Army we had and not the Army we wish we had.

And the President reminded us that this Long War is much like the long Cold War in some ways.

The President's commencement speech to Army gradutates of West Point seems to me to show that we are still on offense in this war.

Listen to some of what he said:

While there are real differences between today's war and the Cold War, there are also many important similarities. Like the Cold War, we are fighting the followers of a murderous ideology that despises freedom, crushes all dissent, has territorial ambitions, and pursues totalitarian aims. Like the Cold War, our enemies are dismissive of free peoples, claiming that men and women who live in liberty are weak and lack the resolve to defend our way of life. Like the Cold War, our enemies believe that the innocent can be murdered to serve a political vision. And like the Cold War, they're seeking weapons of mass murder that would allow them to deliver catastrophic destruction to our country. If our enemies succeed in acquiring such weapons, they will not hesitate to use them, which means they would pose a threat to America as great as the Soviet Union.

Against such an enemy, there is only one effective response: We will never back down, we will never give in, and we will never accept anything less than complete victory. (Applause.)

Like previous generations, history has once again called America to great responsibilities, and we're answering history's call with confidence. We're confronting new dangers with new determination, and laying the foundations for victory in the war on terror.

In this new war, we have set a clear doctrine. After the attacks of September the 11th, I told a joint session of Congress: America makes no distinction between the terrorists and the countries that harbor them. If you harbor a terrorist, you are just as guilty as the terrorists and you're an enemy of the United States of America. (Applause.) In the months that followed, I also made clear the principles that will guide us in this new war: America will not wait to be attacked again. We will confront threats before they fully materialize. We will stay on the offense against the terrorists, fighting them abroad so we do not have to face them here at home. (Applause.)

In this new war, we have acted boldly to confront new adversaries. When the Taliban regime in Afghanistan tested America's resolve, refusing our just demands to turn over the terrorists who attacked America, we responded with determination. Coalition forces drove the Taliban from power, liberated Afghanistan, and brought freedom to 25 million people. (Applause.) In Iraq, another tyrant chose to test America's resolve. Saddam Hussein was a dictator who had pursued and used weapons of mass destruction, he sponsored terrorists, invaded his neighbors, abused his people, deceived international inspectors, and refused to comply with more than a dozen United Nations resolutions. (Applause.) When the United Nations Security Council gave him one final chance to disclose and disarm, or face serious consequences, he refused to take that final opportunity. So coalition forces went into Iraq and removed his cruel regime. And today, Iraq's former dictator is on trial for his crimes -- and America and the world are better off because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. (Applause.)

In this new war, we have helped transform old adversaries into democratic allies. Just as an earlier generation of Americans helped change Germany and Japan from conquered adversaries into democratic allies, today a new generation of Americans is helping Iraq and Afghanistan recover from the ruins of tyranny. In Afghanistan, the terror camps have been shut down, women are working, boys and girls are going to school, and Afghans have chosen a president and a new parliament in free elections. In Iraq, the people defied the terrorists and cast their ballots in three free elections last year. And last week, Iraqis made history when they inaugurated the leaders of a new government of their choosing, under a constitution that they drafted and they approved. When the formation of this unity -- with the formation of this unity government, the world has seen the beginning of something new: a constitutional democracy in the heart of the Middle East. (Applause.) Difficult challenges remain in both Afghanistan and Iraq. But America is safer, and the world is more secure,
because these two countries are now democracies -- and they are allies in the cause of freedom and peace. (Applause.)

The President has declared that we cannot live with the threats arrayed against us. He declared that our enemies seek nothing less than our total defeat. He said that we will remain on the offensive against our terrorist enemies given the new technology of WMD that they seek. He declared that the policy announced after September 11 that nations that harbor terrorists will be treated like terrorists is still our policy.

The President noted that when the Taliban refused to turn over bin Laden and his minions, we destroyed them. When Saddam refused to demonstrate he had disarmed and given up his ambitions of nuclear weapons, we destroyed his regime.

The President noted that our operations against Afghanistan and Iraq turned tyrannical enemies into democratic allies who are fighting terrorists at our side.

The President did not mention Iran by name. But this speech seems to me to be all about Iran. To me, this speech tells me that we will not sit on the defensive and count on the good will of Iran's mullahs to keep us safe. We will attack. And more than attack--we will change the mullah regime and turn a despotic enemy that oppresses its people into a democratic ally.

We will not wait for after the 2008 elections. We will not wait for Tony Blair to be removed from his leadership position by his party. These two stood together recently and I think a momentous decision was made.

We're getting ready for war. Regime change and the destruction of the regime's nuclear facilities and military assets should be the goal. I've been going back and forth on what we should do, what is possible, and what we will do. Lately, and with this speech reinforcing my feeling, I think we will pursue regime change as our strategy. How our air and ground power will figure in to this, I don't know--but they will, I think.

The war against the mullahs will begin soon, I think.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Horns of a Dilemma

China is splitting its resources between efforts to secure sea imports and land imports for their energy needs. They will end up having insufficient resources to protect both sources.

As background, I'm upset that Russia has successfully pointed China south at America by selling arms useful for a naval war over Taiwan. China also sees this naval power as a way to secure their oil imports by sea.

I argued that we need to point China inland to avoid a fight with China over Taiwan rather than prepare to beat China over Taiwan. In part, I wanted China to import energy via overland pipelines to get China looking to the interior of Asia instead of the sea.

And then I noted here that China was indeed building energy supply lines to central Asia to reduce their high dependence on sea imports that we will be able to inderdict with ease. I concluded:

And as I note, if it comes to the worst case and war, China will never be freed from the need to import oil by sea. Our naval power will have Chinese supply lines to interdict. We will also be able to hit the land routes with our air power, too, I think. The advantage to us will be that China will have to split their resources between an eastern sea threat and a western land threat. Like the Kaiser's Germany trying to be both a sea and naval power, China will fail at both.

And now via Winds of Change is this description of Chinese investments in land power to be able to secure these Asian supply sources:

By the end of the decade, Kazakhstan will become vital to China's energy security. China is buying up Kazakh oilfields and companies. If there were to be a problem with the flow of oil to China, its doctrinal philosophy of "active defense" means that the Chinese government will launch a pre-emptive strike to ensure the security of the state and its assets. The PLA is mechanizing much of its army and is creating at least two powerful armor heavy mechanized corps modeled after the 1980s Soviet Operational Maneuver Groups, which are designed for both breakthrough and exploitation roles in an offensive operation. Too heavy for amphibious deployment against Taiwan or for operations in China's tropical areas, the corps is designed to ensure China's future energy security. The force, using Xinjiang province as its springboard, would quickly overrun the defenses of any Central Asian state and would then be able to secure relevant oilfields. The PLA has already announced its readiness to go to the next stage of its development and "forge a strong military force powerful enough to take on important missions on the basis of China's economic development".

Surrounded by potential enemies around nearly their entire perimeter with America in the background supporting most of these threats to China, Peking is forced to build land and sea power. And as China builds this armored offensive capability, Russia may be forced to reconsider their decision to sell arms to China.

I would never trade places with China. Their strategic situation purely sucks.

Couldn't happen to a nicer group of dictatorial thugs, in my opinion.

A Little Nuance, If You Please, Mr. Kaplan.

There is so much to object to in Fred Kaplan's article that minimizes the threat China poses to us.

First of all, this is just offensive:

Every day and night, hundreds of Air Force generals and Navy admirals must thank their lucky stars for China. Without the specter of a rising Chinese military, there would be no rationale for such a large fleet of American nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, or for a new generation of stealth combat fighters—no rationale for about a quarter of the Pentagon's budget.

So America's military commanders wouldn't be happy if we had no threats and as a result our military was smaller?

Yeah, and doctors love people dying of AIDS because they get more work. And environmentalists must love carbon dioxide since they can get research money. And of course, the Left must love poor people because then they can create bureaucracies to spend money. We could go on in this offensive nature, but few will. But malign our officer corps by saying they want a mortal threat to justify weapons? Kaplan has no problem with that.

But most fundamentally, Kaplan is just wrong in his conclusions that China cannot pose a threat to us. What was Japan's economic strength compared to us in December 1941? An eighth? One-ninth of ours? The proper question is what can China do with their quite clearly inferior military to win in specific scenarios. Let me just point to three of my past posts to answer Kaplan:

Short Punch. Long Reach.

Neither Midgets Nor Giants.

And Don't Underestimate the Threat.

I am further perplexed by his statement that somehow the Pentagon is dishonest in saying the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait is shifting in China's favor lately:

More to the point, let's look at what the Chinese have bought. It's a surprise to read that the balance of power with Taiwan is now "shifting in the mainland's favor." For decades, the widespread calculation has been that China could overwhelm Taiwan if it wanted to—just as the Soviet Union could have overwhelmed West Berlin or North Korea could have captured Seoul—but that it's been deterred from doing so out of a reluctance to spark a large-scale war.

I certainly do not recall the widespread opinion that China could have conquered Taiwan whenever it wanted to. Recall the "million-man swim" insult. I had assumed that given China's weaknesses, our forward-deployed forces prevented China from even trying an invasion. But the fact is, China's growing strength means that China might be able to overcome our forward forces long enough to conquer Taiwan at some point in the very near future.

We are stronger than China. But the proper comparison isn't whether we could invade China or China could invade America. Neither country could accomplish the conquest of the other. So are we equal despite our power superiority? Certainly not.

We must compare our capabilities in individual scenarios. And most of those scenarios are close to China where China can mass their inferior power for local superiority for a short time period. The question then becomes can we or we and our allies rush enough of our superior power to the region to reverse a temporary Chinese advantage. And what can China do with their temporary advantage?

So a little nuance should be in order when assessing Chinese power.

And perhaps an apology to the flag officers of our military who have sworn an oath to defend our country.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Topped Off

A few weeks ago I speculated that if we were going to hit Iran, we should have been stockpiling oil in anticipation of war:

I must be drinking the speculation kool-aid or something. But one aspect of blogging for me is looking at what we should be doing if we are going to carry out a specific mission.

And if we are going to hit Iran, the major threat that can't be dealt with by our military is the oil weapon. Iran probably counts on the threat of cutting off oil exports to stay our hand. So with that in mind, I'd want to prepare for the complete loss of Iranian oil exports for the time needed to take down Iran. My question is, have we been doing exactly this for the last couple years or so?

Consider that despite high prices that are supposedly the result of insufficient supply to meet demand that our total oil stocks are at a 8-year high. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve and private stockpiles in the United States have about 118 days of oil imports. By international agreement, signatories are supposed to have 90 days of imports on hand, so other leading countries should have similar reserves.

Well, perhaps I wasn't speculating so wildly (via Winds of Change):

An impressive number of offensive and defensive weapons are also deployed in the region. For instance, since March ,Gulf refineries and vital oil installations are protected by batteries of Patriot missiles. Furthermore, according to the Kuwaiti daily Al Seyassah, the US has built a massive stock of oil and could ask the temporary stop of Gulf refineries in order to prevent heavy damage in case of an Iranian attack.

Missiles to defend the oil facilities and, more to the point, we've built up "a massive stock of oil" for a crisis.

Could be soon, eh?

Unrest in Iran

Iranians seem upset with their mullahs. (via Instapundit)

This section quoted from the New York Sun seems rather significant:

In Qom, the theocracy was absorbing the aftershocks of a candid interview from Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, who told an Iraqi news agency that the current Islamic Republic has failed to deliver the democracy it promised in the 1979 revolution.

The stirrings inside Iran are the most serious challenge to befall the mullahs since the protests that accompanied the 2003 commemorations of the July 9, 1999, Tehran University student rebellions. They also suggest the regime that America and Europe are now hoping to cajole into suspending its nuclear program may be more fragile than intelligence agencies recognize.

And there are other incidents listed.

Given that our press has been horrible in reporting on any unrest in Iran, I don't know whether this listing of incidents inside Iran lately is a recent surge or just me noticing what is common.

We may soon see whether Iran is fertile ground for regime change.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Once More in to the Breach, Dear Friends

The President and Tony Blair had a press conference tonight.

They talked about Iraq and lots of questions were asked about Iraq.

I just don't believe that Tony Blair went to Iraq in order to come back here and give the President his opinion on Iraq. And then have a press conference to discuss how we will win there.

I think Blair went to Iraq to talk to the elected leaders of Iraq to set the stage for military action against Iran. I think that is what Bush and Blair discussed--not the increasingly obvious victory in Iraq.

And watching the press conference made me convinced that something is up.

The President answered far more than asked when Iran came up. He put the blame on Iran for walking away from talks and refused to accept that we have any obligation to explore any other talking options:

"Of course, we'll look at all options. But it's their choice right now — they're the ones who walked away from the table," Bush said. "I think we ought to be continuing to work on ways to make it clear to them that they will be isolated."

Bush was dismissive of recent back-channel overtures from Tehran, including a letter to him from Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Bush said he read the letter, and "I thought it was interesting."

But he added: "He didn't address the issues of whether or not they're going to continue to press for a nuclear weapon. That's the issue at hand."

And the looks of grim determination on the faces of both Bush and Blair during the President's response to the "back channel" question, when otherwise they were capable of light banter and joviality, spoke volumes to me.

This was not about Iraq and assessing the past. Major leaders don't waste time on such trivial matters, I think. These two made a momentous decision to proceed on to taking care of the next problem we face. I may have worries about Tony Blair's Labor Party, but I am glad Blair leads Britain right now.

It will be a Tehran spring, I think.

This is necessary, I believe. But God help us all. This will be ugly.

UPDATE: Here is the exchange in the press conference that prompted this post:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. How close are you to an agreement on a package of incentives for Iran? And what does Iran stand to gain if it were to give up its enrichment program? And why are you ignoring these recent back-channel overtures from Iran?

PRESIDENT BUSH: We spent a great deal of time talking about the Iranian issue, and one of the goals that Tony and I had was to convince others in the world that Iran, with a nuclear weapon, would be very dangerous, and therefore, we do have a common goal. And the fundamental question is, how do you achieve that goal, obviously. We want to do it diplomatically.

Right now, we, as a matter of fact, spent a lot of time upstairs talking about how to convince the Iranians that this coalition we put together is very serious. One option, of course, is through the United Nations Security Council. And we strategized about how do we convince other partners that the Security Council is the way to go if the Iranians won't suspend like the EU3 has asked them to do. The Iranians walked away from the table. They're the ones who made the decision, and the choice is theirs. Now, if they would like to see an enhanced package, the first thing they've got to do is suspend their operations, for the good of the world. It's incredibly dangerous to think of an Iran with a nuclear weapon.

And therefore, Steve, to answer your questions, of course, we'll look at all options, but it's their choice right now. They're the folks who walked away from the table. They're the ones who said that, your demands don't mean anything to us.

Now, in terms of -- you said back channels --

Q Back-channel overtures.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I read the letter of the President and I thought it was interesting. It was, like, 16 or 17 single-spaced typed pages of -- but he didn't address the issue of whether or not they're going to continue to press for a nuclear weapon. That's the issue at hand.

And so it's -- we have no beef with the Iranian people. As a matter of fact, the United States respects the culture and history of Iran, and we want there to be an Iran that's confident, and an Iran that answers to the needs of the -- we want women in Iran to be free. At the same time, we're going to continue to work with a government that is intransigent, that won't budge. And so we've got to continue to work to convince them that we're serious; that if they want to be isolated from the world, we will work to achieve that.

Q Should this enhanced package include a light-water reactor and a security guarantee?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Steve, you're responding to press speculation. I've just explained to you that the Iranians walked away from the table, and that I think we ought to be continuing to work on ways to make it clear to them that they will be isolated. And one way to do that is to continue to work together through the United Nations Security -- if they suspend and have the IAEA in there making sure that the suspension is real, then, of course, we'll talk about ways forward, incentives.

It sounds pretty clear to me that talking is over. Really, the president gave a rather full answer to the reporter's question, don't you think? The press is all over the admissions of errors the two leaders made concerning Iraq, but I think they miss the point. Admitting mistakes is all about the past and these two talked about what is next. With Iran looming as the next test, admitting piddly mistakes in a fight largely won is no big deal.

We still think the Iranian people are not our enemy. And that only a clear decision by Iran to halt enrichment is acceptable. But as far as President Bush (and I'm assuming Prime Minister Blair, too) is concerned, the Iranians walked away from talk and now we will go on to the next steps. The EU-3 had that job and it didn't go anywhere.

Now CENTCOM will do our talking for us, I think.

Or I could be wrong. Again. I still think President Bush will deal with Iran before his term is over, but my past two predictions of action (after 2004 elections in the new year and last fall after the Strategic Petroleum Reserve was filled) were clearly wrong. So take my gut feeling based on how the President answered the question and how both Bush and Blair looked during the answer for what it is worth.

Listen Up, Ya Nattering Nimrods

Pay attention. I am going to describe the bleeding obvious to ya.

Since spring 2004, those who would like us to lose in Iraq have insisted that President Bush is about to order the big skedaddle in order to win the next election, or increase his popularity rating, or prompt a nice editorial in the New York Times, or something.

The speculation continued with news stories denying that a major announcement on this topic is imminent:

The White House dampened expectations that US President George W. Bush and Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair would announce a troop withdrawal from Iraq after a summit. ...

The Bush administration has repeatedly stressed that US troops can only leave Iraq when the country's forces can assure security unaided.

Expectations? By who?

Get over it, you redeployment/retreat/surrender advocates. This president is in Iraq to win. And continued insistence that some political goal will take priority over winning is simply being dense and stubborn in the face of what should be an obvious determination to win.

The Great Wall of Anti-China

I've said it before, I wouldn't want to trade places with China. Their strategic position is very bad.

And it keeps getting worse for Peking:

India and Japan pledged to step up military cooperation, as Tokyo tries to move closer to the South Asian nation which is seeking to modernize its armed forces.

Indian Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee was at the start of a visit to Japan and China, which have seen growing friction with each other and are both seeking to improve ties with New Delhi.

Mukherjee and Japanese Defense Agency Director-General Fukushiro Nukaga signed an agreement to "promote wide-range cooperation in the defense and security field" including in technical areas and training.

The two democracies share the goals of promoting "peace and stability in Asia and at the global level" and of countering terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction, a joint statement said.

They called for greater military coordination including meetings between defense chiefs at regular intervals and the holding of a "defense policy dialogue" between the two countries.

While the agreement was short on details, the Indian delegation was also meeting companies in hopes that "Japanese defense industries will play a niche role in India's defense modernization," as an Indian defense ministry statement put it earlier.

Look at who our respective friends are in the area.

We have India, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan as major players who are friends. Vietnam is not in this category but is no friend of China's. Add Singapore and good relations with others like Thailand, Malaya, and Indonesia. Even Pakistan is more with us than with China. Even Mongolia is friendly. And add in Afghanistan on China's border.

China's friends in the region include Burma and North Korea. Oh, and Russia sells arms to China. And let's not forget some Maoist terrorists in Nepal.

I may worry about China, but they are not ten feet tall. I wouldn't want to trade places with them for all the tea in--oh, never mind, you get the idea.

Objective: Taiwan

China continues to improve its ability to invade Taiwan (from the latest DOD Chinese Military Power report):

PLA expeditionary forces include three airborne divisions, two amphibious infantry divisions, two marine brigades, about seven special operations groups, and one regimental-size reconnaissance element in the Second Artillery. The capabilities of these units are steadily improving with the introduction of new equipment, improved unit-level tactics, and greater coordination of joint operations.

More transport aircraft and amphibious warfare ships, too.

The specialized amphibious warfare ships are too few for an invasion, but not the whole picture:

The PLA has increased amphibious ship production to address its lift deficiencies; however, the Intelligence Community believes these increases alone will be inadequate to meet requirements. The PLA is also organizing its civilian merchant fleet and militia, which, given adequate notification, could augment organic lift in amphibious operations. Transport increases were accompanied by an increase of 25,000 troops, 200 tanks and 2,300 artillery pieces in the military regions opposite Taiwan, according to the latest fi gures from DIA. The increased troops and equipment in these military regions all appear capable of participating in expeditionary operations.

And of course, there was a major exercise to practice capturing Taiwan (as I noted here and here):

In August 2005, China and Russia held a combined forces exercise, “PEACE MISSION 2005.” The scenario was a UN-sanctioned intervention to separate combatants and restore order following ethnic disagreements in an imaginary country. Participants conducted off-shore blockades, paradrops, airfi eld seizures, and amphibious landings – all components of a Taiwan invasion plan.

At some point in the past, China had no chance of invading Taiwan successfully. Given current trends, at some point in the future China will have the ability to invade and win.

The question is when this point is reached. Could it be the summer of 2008?

Tainting Dissidents

Our Left always says that we should never ever support dissidents in foreign countries out of fear that we will taint them with our support. And then the people of that country will just rally around the government in reaction to our support of dissidents.

So why didn't Cindy Sheehan and Harry Belefonte clue in Hugo Chavez on this fact before he said this?

President Hugo Chavez dismissed U.S. concerns over democracy in Venezuela, saying President Bush is "demolishing" his own country's democracy by spying on fellow Americans and violating the rights of immigrants in the war on terror.

Speaking a day after Bush said he was "concerned about the erosion of "democracy" in Venezuela and Bolivia, Chavez also accused Bush on Tuesday of posing a threat to world peace.

"Democracy and the fundamental principles of that country, which were held up by Abraham Lincoln among others, are being demolished," said Chavez, citing a domestic spying program that many Americans have criticized as a violation of civil liberties.

"We'll have to tell the U.S. president that we are very worried because his imperialist, war-mongering government is dangerously eroding the possibility of peace and life on this planet," he added.

Wow! What a faux pas! Even using the terms of our own loyal opposition! Tainted, tainted, tainted!

I guess Jesse Jackson will be rallying to President Bush's side after this blatant interference in our internal affairs by Senor Hugo.

I mean, that's the rule right?

Where Are Our Brigades?

Max Boot says that we need more troops in Baghdad to gain control of the city:

The pacification of Tall Afar, a town of at least 150,000, required 3,800 American and 5,000 Iraqi soldiers. That's a ratio of one American per 40 civilians. In Baghdad, there are currently three American combat brigades, or about 8,600 troops. That's a ratio of one American per 698 civilians. No wonder the capital is so unsafe.

Even if you add in Iraqi security forces — about 9,000 Iraqi soldiers and 12,000 national police officers are deployed in Baghdad — there is still a woeful shortage of security. The problem is compounded by the fact that many of the uniformed Iraqis belong to political militias, criminal gangs or insurgent groups. Residents don't know whom to trust.

Given that the capital seems to be the focus of the enemy I can't argue against this conclusion. And the numbers Boot gives as present in Iraq are inadequate for the task of securing the capital city, no doubt.

I have a couple questions about this argument that go beyond securing Baghdad. One, given that the overall security force numbers in Iraq seem far more than adequate if you count all the forces, why aren't more troops inside Baghdad? Is Boot's number really the whole story?

Second, given that there are 570,000+ security forces in Iraq, where are they and what are they doing if not securing Baghdad? More to the point, if only three American combat brigades are in Baghdad, just what are the other twelve combat brigades doing? We don't have any in the south where 8 million Shias live. We don't have any in the Kurdish north where 3 million live. We have only three in Baghdad where 6 million live. Do we really have twelve brigades in the surrounding Sunni Triangle regions where the remaining 8 million Iraqis live?

Or have we pulled some of our brigades back from combat missions inside Iraq (though how to explain our casualties of late is the problem under this line of thought) to prepare them for Iran operations? (But a little later as I write here?)

Where are our brigades and what are they doing?

Awards All Around!

The media patted themselves on the back for their Katrina coverage.

Apparently, they weren't patting themselves over the accuracy of the coverage.

The media has the excuse of sitting in the Green Zone for failing to get Iraq right. What excuse do they have for Katrina?

Stuck in the green room, I guess.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Much like I doubt that the Chinese created an airmobile mechanized division for putting down internal urban riots (hey, it's for Taiwan if I have to spell it out), I sincerely doubt that the Chinese purchase of Be-200 amphibious aircraft is really for ASW work as Strategypage says:

China is buying a submarine-hunter version of Russia's Be-200 jet powered amphibian aircraft. The Be-200 was developed in the 1990s, using a combination of Russian and Western technology. It first flew in 1998, and over a dozen are on order configured as fire-fighting aircraft. This model can carry twelve tons of water. The 43 ton aircraft can carry seven tons of cargo, giving it plenty of capacity for anti-sub sensors and weapons. Built to fly low and slow (it cruises at 500 kilometers an hour), this is ideal for anti-submarine warfare.

Raise your hand if you think a long-range Chinese ASW plane will survive for long against American, Japanese, or Taiwanese fighter aircraft if it strays far from Chinese waters?

When you can't hide what you have, hide what you really want it for. So what can the Be-200 do?

The multirole aircraft can be configured as a freighter, a passenger aircraft (Be-210) or as an amphibious water drop fire-fighting aircraft. The aircraft can also be equipped for special missions, such as an air ambulance for 30 stretcher patients and seven seated patients or medical crew. ...

The cabin can be arranged in a passenger, freight or both freight and passenger layout. The passenger cabin can be configured for up to 66 tourist class seats or between ten and 32 first and business class seats. In the cargo configuration the aircraft has a capacity for up to 7,500kg of cargo. In the mixed passenger/cargo configuration, 19 passengers and up to 3,000kg of cargo can be transported. The cargo door, 1.70m high by 2.00m wide, allows easy access for large loads. The cabin can accommodate up to nine freight containers.

Troops don't need even coach leg room, so let's call it close to 100 troops--so a company of infantry (or worse, elite commandos)--per load. And it can carry supplies across the Taiwan Strait.

I seriously doubt these planes are really for ASW work. No matter what Peking claims.

Flash Point

The Turks and Greeks each lost a plane when they collided with one another in disputed air space.

I would not seriously be surprised if the Iranians and Syrians looked to get Greece's help based on shared hatred of America and Turkey.

Even without this potential enhancement, we sure don't need a war between two of our at least nominal allies right now.

Shoulder to the Boulder Again

I am so weary about the endless debate over whether we should invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam. You'd think the opposition could at least get their facts straight.

But they do not so time to push the rock up the hill again, dear friends:

These, then, are the urban legends we must counter, else falsehoods become conventional wisdom. And what a strange world it is: For many antiwar critics, the president is faulted for the war, and he, not the former dictator of Iraq, inspires rage. The liberator rather than the oppressor provokes hatred. It is as if we have stepped through the political looking glass, into a world turned upside down and inside out.

Another debunking of the Left's cherished myths about Iraq. We'll do it again. And again. And quite possibly again.

Psycho Ex-Boyfriend

This article on our proposal to defend Europe with anti-missile systems included this gem about Russia's reaction:

The establishment of an antimissile base in Eastern Europe would have enormous political implications. The deployment of interceptors in Poland, for example, would create the first permanent American military presence on that nation's soil and further solidify the close ties between the defense establishments of the two nations.

While the plan has been described in Congressional testimony and in published reports, it has received relatively little attention in the United States. But it is a subject of lively discussion in Poland and has also prompted Russian charges that Washington's hidden agenda is to expand the American presence in the former Warsaw Pact nation.

Gen. Yuri N. Baluyevsky, the chief of the Russian military's general staff, has sought to stir up Polish opposition to the plan.

Just what part of "former Warsaw Pact nation" is unclear to Russia? Do they not realize that Poland is a NATO country now? Isn't that a pretty solidified relationship, by definition? Just how hidden can our agenda for Poland be? They are our ally and friend!

They are a free and independent nation that does not need to get permission from Moscow to see other countries. Poland might want to change their phone number and take out a personal protection order against Putin the way the Russkis are acting. Get over it, Moscow. You've been dumped.

Live the Life of Sex and Danger?

This guy is sad. He certainly was never a Ranger. He can't even master the Army's more difficult sleeve-rolling style and goes for the, erm, simpler, Marine look. So I doubt he has any military background at all.

What is even sadder is the eagerness of the Left to believe his tales of atrocities. A happy kite-flying paradise under Saddam was sadly transformed into a killing ground by the likes of this so-called Ranger.

Only slightly less saddening is the total ignorance of the Left about our military that makes them fail to see through the deception (if they care, that is. If not, see above).

This is one reason why I have little patience for calls to close Gitmo or do this or do that to deprive our enemies of "sources" for their hate-filled screeds. Sure, these perhaps well-meaning people will say that we may not have actually done anything wrong, but the place/issue is a symbol that we should eliminate.

Our enemies just make it up anyway, so why bother halting useful things or shutting down necessary prisons just for the purpose of polishing our image?

There will always be people who will claim we are evil and people who will believe it--even here in America.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Plan Versus PLAN

Taiwan has published a defense document for their future defense (tip to Mad Minerva):

In describing Taiwan's security environment, Chen's government compared the Chinese military to the Nazi war machine in World War II and asserted that China is bent on long-term military expansion that requires it to control Taiwan and the 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait. In a recent interview, Chen said Taiwanese intelligence had information that China has a plan to attack the island within 10 years, but this assertion was not repeated in the strategy declaration.

Only by building up its own military and economic strength, the document declared, can Taiwan preserve its de facto independence and democratic system. To make that possible, it said, the government will boost military spending from 2.5 to 3 percent of gross domestic product.

It is nice that the Taiwanese plan to defend themselves. But the ten-year time frame seems to ignore that the Chinese may wish to settle the Taiwan issue eight years before that conveniently distant date. Taiwanese intelligence was able to pry that critically important information out of the mainland, eh? What a coup!

Just one question, why is China in a crash-building program for their PLA Navy?

Far be it from me to lecture the Taiwanese on Sun Tzu, but might not Peking have gained the services of converted spies in Sun Tzu's description? Could the Chinese have fed this convenient information to the Taiwanese to lull them? After all, a ten-year Taiwanese defense plan that creates a good defense at the end of that time will just waste resources if the PLAN attack is conducted before the Taiwanese defense plan is completed.

If the attack is coming sooner than expected, rather than conduct a long-range plan alone, the Taiwanese would be better off if they did things that can bear fruit in the next couple years--like actually buying ammunition for example.

Because after all, again noting Sun Tzu:

All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believes we are far away.

China seems far away. Ten years away, in fact, according the that crack Taiwanese intelligence.

I suspect that the Chinese are closer, more able, and more capable of hiding their activity than we give them credit for. Unless Peking is unaware of Sun Tzu's writings.

China is getting ready to invade. And it won't be ten years from now. Consider, even if Taiwan's spies are right about the ten-year time frame, wouldn't the Chinese accelerate their own plans if they think Taiwan will be secure at the end of Taiwan's ten-year defense plan?

Two years. That's what I think. And Taiwanese thinking isn't making this any less likely in my view. Although to be fair to the Taiwanese spies, 2008 falls inside that "within ten years" time frame.

UPDATE: the 2006 Department of Defense report on Chinese military power notes:

In recent decades there has been a resurgence in the study of ancient Chinese statescraft within the PLA. Whole departments of military academies teach moulue, or strategic deception, derived from Chinese experience through the millennia. Authoritative contemporary doctrinal materials define the goals of strategic deception as "to lure the other side into developing micperceptions ... and to [establish for oneself] a strategically advantageous position by producing various kinds of false phenomena in an organized and planned manner with the smallest cost in manpower and materials.

So I guess they do read Sun Tzu. Could one example perhaps be misrepresenting what you are buying certain platforms for?

Stability Over-Rated

Michael Barone (via Instapundit) writes of the good times we are living in. It is an assessment that seems odd given the media gloom over the economy. But the international scene was more interesting for me.

Of note is this trend:

The Human Security Centre of the University of British Columbia has been keeping track of armed conflicts since World War II. It reports that the number of genocides and violent conflicts dropped rapidly after the end of the Cold War and that in 2005 the number of armed conflicts was down 40 percent from 1992. Wars have also become less deadly: The average number of people killed per conflict per year in 1950 was 38,000; in 2002 it was just 600. The conflict in Iraq has not significantly changed that picture. American casualties are orders of magnitude lower than in the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, and precision weapons have enabled us to vastly reduce the civilian death toll.

Given that many now yearn for the joys of stability in the Middle East rather than trying to change the dysfunctional region, it would be good to remember that when the Cold War ended, the loss of that stability was lamented, too. A number of people complained that the stability that America and Soviet Russia imposed kept clients in check and that the end of the Cold War would unleash long-checked anger. Never mind the constant threat of nuclear war that went with it, too.

Perhaps the end of the Cold War did unleash a short surge of anger. But perhaps forced to accept the consequences of acting on that anger rather than counting on their superpower patrons to drag them back from the brink ("Hey! You're damned lucky Washington/Moscow won't let me kick your ass!"), nations have eased off on their own. So now, armed conflict is down. Casualties are down. And all without the "stability" that the Cold War enforced.

So remember this global trend as people extol the virtues of deadening stability in the Middle East. And ignore the nuclear angle with this struggle, too.

Sticker Shock?

The United States is pushing both Europeans and Gulf Arab states to address the issue of defending themselves against Iranian ballistic missiles possibly tipped with nuclear warheads.

So, I have to ask, is this really a sign that we are getting ready to just accept Iranian nuclear missiles? Are we just going to set up passive defenses and hope deterrence and anti-missile defenses will be sufficient?

Or are we forcing the Gulf Arab states and Europe to confront the price of inactivity in real dollars and political terms? Are we more interested in convincing them to go the far cheaper route of simply keeping their mouths shut while we destroy Iran's nuclear capabilities and quite possibly the regime itself?

And what will President Bush and Prime Minister Blair discuss after Blair arrives from his trip to Iraq?

You know, in my personal life, I'm not nearly this suspicuous. But are we getting our ducks in a row?

Cold Start. Hot Stop

Nuclear weapons completely distort strategy in war. India is reacting to this new fact of life.

It seems like Americans are having trouble getting used to our new fact of life that there are no longer real external constraints to achieving total victory over enemies. During the Cold War, every crisis or war was a potential spark to trigger a general nuclear war between America and the Soviet Union. So the primary goal was always to end the conflict rather than press for victory. Few goals were worth risking nuclear war.

In Desert Storm, we still seemed to operate under the Cold War mindset and terminated that war after achieving the narrow goal of ejecting Saddam from Kuwait.

In 2001 and 2003, we pursued regime change freed from the external constraints once provided by the Soviet Union and the internal constraints bred from decades of living with the constraints provided by the Soviet Union.

So it is of interest to see India adapting to our old mindset:

The Indians have been doing a lot of investment in modernizing their command and control systems. They're working on what they call a "Cold Start" capability, that is, to be able to go to war immediately, with minimal preliminary fuss. At least one corps, II Corps, which is near the Pakistani border, is currently testing Cold Start capabilities in a major exercise.

The Pakistanis are nervous:

India going Cold Start makes its neighbor Pakistan nervous. The two nations are each others chief adversaries, most likely opponent in a future war, and both have nuclear weapons. Pakistan fears that India is preparing a first strike capability, a strategy that involves attempting to destroy Pakistan's nuclear forces before they can be used. Now, with Cold Start, the Indians could also rush in, defeat Pakistan's conventional forces, and settle half a century of disputes once and for all.

I think this conclusion is in error, though it is perhaps natural for the Pakistanis to worry about it. Cold Start is not, I think, a doctrine for conquering Pakistan. It is a doctrine designed to cope with the constraints against achieving victory that we faced during the long Cold War. It is designed to allow India to quickly gain a military advantage in a limited conflict before pressure to end the war out of fear of nuclear escalation kicks in.

Think Kargil in 1999. Pakistan's nuclear weapons capability kept India from escalating a localized battle into general war. And India was not, I think, happy with the situation that kept them battling on a narrow front without applying their full superior military capabilities. India in essence had to fight a Pakistani regiment that invaded Indian-claimed territory on terrain of Pakistan's choosing.

Still, India won that local fight and drove the Pakistanis back. Yet India lost over 500 troops dead in this short fight over a small chunk of real estate.

Indian naval actions threatened to choke off Pakistan's oil supplies, so the Pakistanis eventually accepted a local defeat at Kargil rather than escalate. A decision undoubtedly made more necessary by India's nuclear weapons, which made it too risky for Pakistan to escalate at this point.

India would rather be able to win these little battles quickly and at lower cost, and therefore deter them. I think this is what Cold Start is about--not conquering Pakistan and ending a half century of disputes once and for all.

UPDATE: Further thoughts on Cold Start. It is worse than even Strategypage describes it. This is totally screwed up strategic thinking by India.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Kooks, Spooks and Nukes

The Pillsbury Nuke Boy and his demented minions are in a quite difficult situation. Strategypage notes the new North Korean defense priorities:

North Korea appears to have decided to allow its conventional forces to deteriorate. The amount of money required to rebuild the aging weapons and equipment is far more than the north can expect to extort from its neighbors or the United States. What resources that are available are going into the secret police, ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. The North Korea leadership is intent on keeping their tyranny going, because the alternative is death at the hands of an angry population, or war crimes trails for a long list of atrocities.

Secret police and nuclear weapons are the new leading instruments to keep Kim Jong Il and his merry band of murderers in power. Interesting priorities given that the North Koreans like to insist they fear we will invade them at any moment.

And more interesting in how it limits North Korea's crisis options and opens up our options.

I've long thought that as long as North Korea retained the ability to invade the south, the ability through conventional arms to destroy Seoul made nukes pretty irrelevant as a deterrent.

Consider that North Korean threats to invade can increasingly be ignored. As long as North Korea could invade South Korea and threaten to actually win, Pyongyang could hold nukes in reserve to keep the fight conventional where they might have an advantage. But without that conventional ability, North Korea would have to immediately go nuclear to have even a chance for their crippled army to road march south and occupy a devastated South Korea. And if they did that, American nuclear retaliation would be swift and sure.

And from our point of view, without North Korean armies able to seriously threaten South Korea, it is easier for us to strike at North Korea's nuclear and missile assets. If North Korea could invade, we'd have to consult with South Korea before striking with air power to avoid the North Koreans just attacking south in response and conquering the south. This would always be a brake on our action. But with the North Korean army rotting, we could afford to strike North Korea out of the blue if we had to without worrying that North Korea could conquer the South and so without consulting too much with South Korea--and more importantly without giving Seoul a veto over our action.

And with a weaker North Korea, the South Koreans might in fact want to attack north in the Seoul area just to drive back North Korean artillery and rockets. That would be an interesting development for North Korean stability, I should think.

And if the regime in Pyongyang is demoting the army, even if it is unable to take on the South Korean and American armies, it will still be strong enough to fight the regime secret police. Downgrading the army will likely set in a spiral of mistrust and resentment on the part of the North Korean leaders and the army. The North Korean army might begin to identify more with the oppressed people who along with them will be stuck with the lowest priority in resources. And with the South Korean army quite good, the North Koreans cannot afford to disband significant chunks of their army and visibly appear weaker. This will prevent the North Koreans from concentrating the fewer resources into keeping a smaller army happy.

It would make sense for a North Korea relying on nukes for protecting the regime against invasion to try to negotiate a reduction in ground forces in South Korea and North Korea to reduce the coup threat in the North and reduce the invasion threat from the South Koreans. It would of course be portrayed as a measure of good faith when in fact it would be a desperate act.

If Pyongyang offers such a mutual troop reduction, we should debate the shape of the table for about three years.


Losing Hope About Winning in Iraq

The exodus of a portion of Iraq's population is a sign of defeat. The media wants you to think this means we are losing. But this is not the case.

The Sunni middle class is leaving Baghdad, it seems. The New York Times concludes this is a sign of things going to Hell in Iraq.

Me, I figured that the exodus probably consisted of Sunnis who used to benefit from the Saddam regime. The Christian minority, too, benefitted from Saddam who offered them some protection from Moslem hatred:

Yet throughout the article there is no hint other than identifying one man is a Sunni about who is leaving. Given all the ink spilled by the press on the subject of civil war, you'd think that they might say which portion is going. Could it be Sunnis? The article hints this might be so given that it mentions that Shia anger after the Samarra bombing is fueling the fear that propels leaving Iraq. So just how "ordinary" are these people? The fact that the family portrayed looks pretty well off might clue you into the fact that they had benefitted from Saddam's rule. Some might actually be former oppressers who deserve to worry after decades of face stomping orgies against the Shia and Kurds. But the Times wasn't curious enough to explore this angle.

And Strategypage does confirm that Sunnis are taking off:

Sunni Arabs are only 15-20 percent of the population. They used to be closer to 20 percent, but increasing numbers of Sunni Arabs have been fleeing the violence, and Iraq. Most missed are the middle and upper class Sunni Arabs who form the backbone of the Sunni Arab community, and the Iraqi economy and business community. Harassed by gangsters and terrorists, these Iraqis are giving up on the new Iraq, at least for now, and heading to nearby Arab nations or, for the most disenchanted, the West.

Like I wrote, it is important to recognize who is unhappy with Iraq' future. Well-off Sunnis are leaving or contemplating leaving Iraq. Given that the new Iraqi government is incorporating Sunnis into the government and not going on organized pogroms to get revenge for five centuries of abuse at the hands of the Sunnis, just who would flee now? Is violence in Baghdad new this year? Shouldn't Sunnis have been fleeing all along? Why is this a more recent trend?

The reason these Sunnis flee now is that these backers of the former regime of Saddam are probably losing hope that their killers can sweep them back into power with their campaign of terror and intimidation.

The fact that backers of the Baathists are now leaving Iraq is not a sign that we are losing. It is a sign that the enemy is losing. They see little hope of running things any time soon and are getting out of town before the new cops come around with war crimes and human rights violation charges in hand. They see that even Saddam is in the witness stand with his own life on the line and have no desire to follow him to the gallows.

So don't transform the fleeing Sunnis into poor oppressed victims. They are former neck-stompers who have given up on their dreams of continuing their neck-stomping. This is a good thing.

UPDATE: Instapundit, commenting on this post, rightly notes that those fleeing Iraq shouldn't all be lumped into the guilty category:

That's no doubt true for some. Others, though, are probably feeling pinched between pressure from the remaining holdouts (who, like guerrillas in general, put the most pressure on their own people) and fear of Shia retribution on a fairly undiscriminating basis. True, that hasn't happened yet, and probably won't, but I can understand why people wouldn't want to take their chances.

But still, the other two categories of those under pressure from the enemy to back the resistance and those who fear Shia retribution against all Sunnis show that these groups consider the Baathist and Sunni enemy are losing, too.

Consider the innocent Sunnis who are afraid of enemy pressure to support the insurgency. Surely they were afraid before, but they reacted to this fear by supporting the enemy--even if just passively. But now with the Baathists and Sunnis losing, it is no longer nearly as safe for these Sunnis to just give in to insurgent and terrorist demands for money, sanctuary, manpower, or information. So they leave in larger numbers.

And then there are those who simply fear Shia retribution. These people likely always feared Shia retribution. But as long as the insurgents looked like they might win, retribution would not happen. With the Sunnis and Baathists losing, these fearful Sunnis think they will lose all that stands between them and the official revenge campaign--however unlikely that may be. As Instapundit notes, it is not irrational to fear that. But the fact is, they do fear it now and are acting on the fear when in the past they did not.

For whatever of these three reasons the Sunnis are leaving, each certainly can be interpreted to mean that it is because the insurgency is losing and the Sunnis increasingly believe the insurgents are losing.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Working for the Clampdown

Naming Iran as part of an Axis of Evil was no overheated rhetoric as critics of the President still like to insist.

Their latest, but not their last until we stop them:

Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.

"This is reminiscent of the Holocaust," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. "Iran is moving closer and closer to the ideology of the Nazis."

Iranian expatriates living in Canada yesterday confirmed reports that the Iranian parliament, called the Islamic Majlis, passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical "standard Islamic garments."

The law, which must still be approved by Iran's "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims.

Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth.

"There's no reason to believe they won't pass this," said Rabbi Hier. "It will certainly pass unless there's some sort of international outcry over this."

The Iranians under the mullahs make no secret of who they wish to kill and how they wish to kill, yet too many in the West pretend they just don't mean it.

The clash is coming.

UPDATE: Arthur K. emails a couple of articles that are interesting in different ways. First, CBS mocks the blogs for running with the yellow cloth story above, saying it does not identify Jews and non-Moslems:

Instead, the draft law is aimed at encouraging more traditional dress among Muslims, particularly women. An attempt at reigning in some of the more liberal, Western-leaning changes in Iran’s society is newsworthy in and of itself. But it’s not quite the rise of some Fourth Reich that it seemed for a time in the wake of the initial story.

First of all, if the story was completely false, one could say that evil enemies aren't always, uniformly, and in every matter, evil. But this story isn't quite completely false. Just a national dress code.

You know, given that the Left already thinks Bush is Hitler, one shudders to think what they'd say of him if he proposed a law to encourage more traditional dress, particularly for women. Really, just how low are our standards for Iranian behavior that "just" a national dress code is considered merely newsworthy but not worthy of even mild condemnation?

Of course, it isn't this simple either. The source for the story, Amir Taheri, defends it even though the text of the law itself is more like what CBS states:

As far as my article is concerned I stand by it. The law has been passed by the Islamic Majlis and will now be submitted to the Council of Guardians. A committee has been appointed to work out the modalities of implementation.

Many ideas are being discussed with regard to implementation, including special markers, known as zonnars, for followers of Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism, the only faiths other than Islam that are recognized as such.

Ah, not quite just the dress code. As with many things, the details are in the administrative rules that implement the law.

UPDATE: The Canadian paper that broke the story is apologizing for the mistake. Until we see how the law is implemented, aren't they jumping the gun a little?

Still, I am jealous. Would that our papers were so willing to apologize for their reporting ...

No Million-Man Swim Needed

My Jane's email news states:

Significant quantities of the China North Industries Corporation Type 63A amphibious light tank have become operational in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and marines.

Fancy that. Why significant quantities? Why now? The Chinese must anticipate a lot of river crossings in their future. No? Then what about Taiwan?

No, not swimming the Taiwan Strait. That's a bit far. But if the Chinese take the Pescadores Islands as a stepping stone to Taiwan, a lot of amphibious tanks would be very useful for the PLA.

Landing all along the coast, they would stretch out the Taiwanese defenders and perhaps overload the Taiwanese ability to react coherently.

And the Peking Olympics are coming up. Is this another step in getting ready to go? Taiwan better keep their powder dry. You don't get anything for coming in second in the Taiwan Strait Vault.

Don't Talk About the Whether Either

The small talk the West is having with Iran is pointless. There is no substance.

Why do some people insist on believing that if only we can somehow come up with the right words and bribes we can convince the mullahs to give up their ambitions for nuclear weapons? And why do we think that the Russians and Chinese share our desire to stop Iran from going nuclear?

The Euros keep trying:

World powers are considering dropping U.N. Security Council discussion of Iran's nuclear program if Tehran agrees to suspend uranium enrichment, but could push for sanctions backed by the threat of force if the Islamic state refuses, diplomats said Saturday.

But the Iranians refused this latest attempt to bridge the gap between our desire to stop them from gaining nuclear weapons and Iran's desire to nuke us (or at least to use nukes to gain a shield to just use regular old high explosive bombs against us):

Later Saturday, Iran's foreign minister rejected that possible approach to resolving its standoff with the international community, saying that Tehran would not give up uranium enrichment.

The mullahs are uninterested in anything but our complete surrender to their desire for nuclear missiles. Whether we talk to them or not, the Iranians will push toward their goal. They talk to us only to buy time. My only question is why are we talking to them?

And you thought religion was a touchy topic with them.