Sunday, November 30, 2008

You May Fire When Ready, Fallon?

Retired Admiral Fallon says that back in 2005 when he was in charge of Pacific Command, he had to resist White House attempts to get him to prepare to fight China:

"There were people who warned me that you'd better get ready for the shoot 'em up here because sooner or later we're going be at war with China," retired Navy Admiral William J. Fallon recalled. "I don't think that's where we want to go. And so I set about challenging all the assumptions."

Hmm. That doesn't sound like the implication of the lead paragraph that hawks were pushing for war preparations.

In fact, it sounds like Fallon was told to prepare his command for war with China just in case.

Recall that Fallon was commander of Pacific Command. It was his duty to ensure that the forces under his command were prepared to fight and win. And China was and is the primary potential enemy in the theater. Connect the dots people. There are only three and certain conclusions can safely be drawn from them.

Far be it for me to challenge the assumptions of a former CINC (or whatever they're called now to avoid confusion with the CINC in the White House), but explain to me again why it was outrageous for the White House to remind him to be ready to fight China? And to expect him to keep his forces ready for such a fight. Our Pacific Command darned well be ready right now.

And excuse me for detecting just a little bit of superiority complex there. He didn't think we should "want to go" there in regard to war with China? Well, yeah. But Fallon wasn't Secretary of State for the Pacific region. He was commander of Pacific Command. If he didn't understand that his primary job was to prepare his command to fight and defeat potential enemies in his theater, how on Earth did he even get the job in the first place?

Look, the man was not ordered to prepare to launch World War III. He was told to be ready for war with China just in case. If he couldn't do that, why was he an admiral and not a member of Code Pink for Pete's sake?

I'm starting to wonder how Fallon became CENTCOM commander and not how he got fired from that position.

The Lexicon of Mass Death

The Iranians have a thousand more centrifuges than they did in August according to the Iranians:

"At this point, more than 5,000 centrifuges are operating in Natanz and enriching uranium," said Aghazadeh, who is head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. He spoke to reporters during an exhibition of Iranian nuclear achievements at Tehran University.

Flaunting Iran's defiance of international demands, Aghazadeh said the Islamic Republic will never suspend enrichment.

"Suspension has not been defined in our lexicon," he said.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in a report last month that Iran was installing, or preparing to install, thousands more of the machines that spin uranium gas to enrich it — with the target of 9,000 centrifuges by next year.

IAEA officials could not be immediately reached for a comment Wednesday, but Iran has previously said it plans to move toward large-scale uranium enrichment that will ultimately involve 54,000 centrifuges.

I suspect the IAEA considers it their job to run interference for Iran until the mullahs have their nuclear weapons.

While world opinion and the opinion of over loyal opposition prevented President Bush from taking action to stop Iran, I suspect that he has given President-elect Obama the tools he will need when only the willfully blind will refuse to see that the Iranians are busy adding "The Second Holocaust of 2010" to Wikipedia. That concept is in their lexicon.

The Maestro

Mister decided to continue his cello career in middle school. A couple weeks ago he had his first concert along with the students from the 7th and 8th grade.

His class is still learning to tune their instruments, of course, so I didn't expect a lot.

One thing I didn't expect was a last minute rush to get Mister properly uniformed. A week before the concert, remembering that Mister's white shirt and pants in the spring looked to be about a week from becoming too small, I asked his mom if he was all set for his clothes. No problem, I was assured.

Then the night before the concert I asked again. Absolutely, I was assured. And she brought out his clothes. Mister couldn�t even button the pants and the shirt sleeves weren.t even close to reaching his wrists. Oops.

So my job became to get home early to pick up Mister and go get clothes. Go to TJ Maxx, which is close by, my Ex told me. Sounds like a plan, I thought.

So I made it back to Ann Arbor by 5:20 , a full 55 minutes before Mister was supposed to be at the auditorium for the 7:00 concert and ten minutes ahead of what I had planned for. Lamb wanted to go with us, but I told her she had to stay with her grandpa until her mom came home. Lamb would have slowed us down enough to make a difference in a tight schedule. No offense sweetie, but we'll be back. That took half a minute and I figured I passed the main obstacle to finishing this within the time limit.

We pulled into the first parking spot I found and started searching. Sadly, it took ten minutes to confirm from a scarce employee that the fact that I could not find children's dress clothing was because they don't carry it. Great.

Mister was worried. We hurried off, with me still limping from a gimpy mystery foot injury that I'd woken up with earlier in the week. (I assume that is what happens when you get older--things just break down for no apparent reason.) I reassure him that as long as we made it back to his mom's by 6:00 , we'd have time to get his instrument and cut off all the tags, and still make it on time.

We headed for Target. Meijer was nearby as a back up. If both failed, we were hosed. We were too far away from my place to let him borrow some over-sized but appropriate clothing.

So we rushed into Target, focused on black pants and a white shirt. I was guessing that a size 16 would be the best since 14 fits now and it would be good to have something that would last until spring, if I could manage it.

After 30 seconds of looking in the boys section, I nabbed an employee who helpfully got us in the right place. Pickings were sparse, I have to say. But I did find one pair of size 16 black pants and one size 16 white button-down collared shirt. They had nothing in 14 and no other 16s! But on the other hand, if these fit, all we needed were one of each.

So we quickly strode/limped back to the changing room and Mister tried them on. All fit although the pants were a bit loose in the waist. So it was back to boys for a belt. All of the belts were way too small for Mister. This was astounding. Mister is thin, but no boys belts fit him?

So we went back to the men's section and we got him the smallest men's belt I could find. By going to the last notch, it fit.

The lines were not long, and I will note that the time stamp on the credit card slip recorded 5:53 PM .

We made it back to his mom's just shy of 6:00 , and I snipped off the tags as Mister undressed. He got everything on, put his cello in my car, and headed off to the school. Lamb stayed with her mom since we figured Lamb would fidget too much with an official start time of 7:00 .

And we walked into the auditorium by 6:15 . Mister, apparently recalling my stories of how I'd tell his mom back in the day that we had to be places a half hour earlier than we really had to be in order to stand a chance of arriving on time, informed me that he really had to be there by 6:20. Hey, I protested, this is dad you're talking about! I got you here on time! Oh well. His future girl friends and wife can thank me for this habit, I suppose. It lessens conflict, trust me.

I saved a couple seats for Lamb and her mom, and watched the kids tune up their instruments, avoiding just staring at Mister out of sheer boredom. A mom nearby had brought a book. She�s done this before, I assume. Live and learn.

The concert was very nice. The sixth graders managed to carry a tune, actually, though it was hardly what you'd call "good." The seventh graders and eighth graders, all clad in black, were actually far better. And they were far more female dominated. The sixth grade orchestra has lots of boys. But they were few and far between in the higher grades. Sports take their toll, I suppose.

Trying to make pleasant conversation, I asked my Ex if it was a big deal to graduate from white shirts to black shirts. I actually know that all-black is the uniform of real orchestras so I assumed it must be considered a bid deal to go all-black. My Ex treated my question like a raving of a lunatic, so I just dropped it. Lamb had not been terribly cooperative prior to reaching the concert, I take it (though she seemed to me within the bounds of her age during the concert), so her mom didn't seem receptive at that moment to polite small talk. Oh well. We get along just fine, actually. But we are divorced, after all. I later asked someone who would know and who lacks the same reflex response to me, and she told me that yes, it is a fairly big deal to graduate to the black shirts. Thank you for that, it's nice to know I'm not dimwitted.

The orchestra teacher finished up with his own cello solo and boy was he good, to my untrained ears. I just wish the accompanying recorded music hadn't drowned him out so much.

So we had a success. Mister did a great job, as far as I could tell. Although my part was really restricted to getting my young musician properly attired and to the event on time, under the circumstances I felt like I should have wielded a baton (or whatever they call the stick thingy--maybe I am dimwitted). Really, I was in my element in this situation. Classical music? I know little. Early in my career I wrote a tribute to a conductor upon his retirement from the local symphony orchestra that apparently brought the man near to tears and prompted the legislator who read it to him on stage to interrupt himself and say "this is really good." But I knew nothing of classical music. I even bought a book that I started to read on the subject, but I never did finish it (Obviously, that was female-related, which is why I stopped reading the book ...). So my classical music knowledge is all Bugs Bunny-related, for the most part.

But put me in a time crunch situation with limited options? I'm there. Work the problem until there are no options left, is my motto. We solved the problem. And Mister and his classmates did a fine job on stage that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Maybe I'll have a chance to use my tuxedo in the near future after all.

A Pity About That Fireball Photograph

The Indian navy's recent victory over the pirates is a bit tarnished:

The pirate "mother ship" sunk last week by the Indian navy was actually a Thai fishing trawler seized hours earlier by pirates, a maritime agency said Wednesday. The Indian navy defended its actions, saying it fired in self-defense.

Even if India didn't have the sympathy of the world for the Mumbai terrorist assault, India would have gotten a pass for this mistake.

And remember, the pirates did shoot at the Indians. It was a pirate ship at that moment. The pirates may even have mistakenly thought their human shields would protect them from the Indian warship. The Indians proudly showed the pirate ship engulfed in "a fireball" in what would normally be a nice lesson for the pirates.

Good grief, though, imagine the cries for war crimes trials if we had done this. The Daily Kos crown would be having wet dream fantasies (again) about Cheney being frogmarched out to a Belgian court room.

At least the pirates will have trouble exploiting this error in the current environment.

I cannot fault the Indians for this mistake. Their instinct was good--kill the pirates and keep killing them. But not too many of these mistakes, eh?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Limits of Patience

When Ethiopia intervened in Somalia two years ago to break up the Islamic Courts Union to prevent jihadis from setting up their own little fiefdom, I expected the Ethiopians to withdraw in short order. I figured it was a punitive expedition. Perhaps we convinced the Ethiopians to stay until we could get other countries to send in peacekeepers to hold the gains.

Well, after two years of trying to get an African Union force and failing to get anywhere near the promised amount, the Ethiopians are going:

The United States worries that Somalia could be a terrorist breeding ground, particularly since Osama bin Laden declared his support for the Islamists. It accuses a faction known as al-Shabab — "The Youth" — of harboring the al-Qaida-linked terrorists who allegedly blew up the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

Ethiopian forces have remained almost entirely in the capital, along with a small African Union force that has just 2,600 of the intended 8,000 troops and has largely been confined to urban bases.

The militants, meanwhile, have taken control of towns within miles of the capital and move freely inside Mogadishu. ...

Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Wahide Bellay said Ethiopia would wait no longer [for the UN to send peacekeepers].

"Regardless of what happens, we have decided to withdraw our troops from Somalia at the end of year," Bellay said in a telephone interview from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Somebody will have to return to Somalia. If the pressure in Pakistan's frontier area pushes al Qaeda out of that region, these jihadis might see Somalia as a haven. It does have the advantage of being near Yemen and Saudi Arabia where many potential recruits live.

Perhaps this increases the chance we will lead our own punitive expedition to scatter the jihadis enough to convince countries to send peacekeepers to hold the place.

Or maybe the Ethiopians are just prodding the world to take action while Ethiopia is willing to keep troops there. The Ethiopians surely know they'll have to return if the jihadis take control of large tracts of land. Maybe the Ethiopians don't want out--they just want real help.

Head Fake

The new Russian RPG-30 hand-held anti-tank rocket seems intended as a counter to our Future Combat Systems despite being touted as a weapon to knock out our Abrams main battle tanks:

What is interesting is that the Russians have pushed so far ahead with a weapon to tackle a threat which doesn't even exist yet. One of the big selling points of the new multi-billion-dollar Future Combat System family of vehicles is that active technology will give 30-ton vehicles the same level of protection as 60-ton heavy armor like the Abrams. But if active protection can really be faked out by the RPG-30 and its successors, then the designers might have to do some re-thinking. Given the amount of pressure already being brought to bear on the FCS in these cash-strapped times, this might be significant.

Which tracks well with what I argued in this post about our theory about active protection systems (APS) planned to protect our new light armored vehicles to replace our massive and heavy Abrams tanks:

Nice theory. I don't buy it. No more than I buy that electric armor can't be beaten with simple kinetic penetrators. No, with all these expensive defensive systems, I suspect the enemy can keep it simple and make our high-tech devices look stupid.

So what if the enemy just volley fires cannon shells, missiles, or rockets at single vehicles? The old Soviet army trained their units to volley fire rather than engage individually. Can APS handle multiple, nearly simultaneous rounds coming in?

Heck, what if the enemy sprays our lightly-armored, APS-equipped vehicles with 25mm or 30mm armor piercing rounds? Rounds big enough to penetrate thin armor and numerous enough to swamp the capabilities of an APS? Even infantry could carry around these with ease. Heck, large tank rounds might dispense sub-munitions like a high velocity shot gun, giving a single tank round effective volley capacity.

I'm still skeptical that we can build the wonder tank.

I'm not saying that APS can't be useful to protect our armored vehicles. Mounting it on an Abrams, for example, would be a nice addition to countering the expanding anti-tank weapon capabilities that our enemies might have.

Wouldn't it be nice if our APS could have the luxury of letting a 30mm round impact the passive armor protection of a tank knowing that the hit won't harm the vehicle, saving the APS round for a real threat?

Pressure Over the Frontier Areas

We are pressuring Pakistan to hammer the jihadis in their frontier areas, after years of worrying that Pakistan couldn't withstand internal pressures if they did so:

But now, in one sense, it's September 11, 2001 all over again. The U.S. has told Pakistan that it is fed up with getting screwed around by the ISI, and if Pakistan doesn't clean out the ISI, and shut down Islamic terrorists along the Afghan border, NATO, U.S. and Afghan troops will cross the border and do it.

Pakistan wants continued U.S. military aid to bolster its defenses against India. But if it suddenly has a hostile U.S. in Afghanistan, and less (or no) military aid, it's general military situation will be, well, not good. While Afghanistan, and the foreign troops there, are dependent on Pakistani ports and trucking companies for supplies, Pakistan is also dependent on the U.S. Navy for access to the sea. Pakistan does not want to go to war with the United States in order to defend Islamic terrorists it openly says it is at war with. Pakistan is being forced to destroy the Islamic radical movement it has nurtured over the last three decades, although it's still questionable if there's enough political will in Pakistan to actually do the deed.

When I've spoken of the Pakistani threat to our supply lines that makes me extremely wary of putting too many of our troops in this potential Stalingrad in the mountains, I recognize that a rational calculation on the part of Pakistan's rulers would mean they would never dare risk our loss of support by failing to protect our supply lines.

The problem is the source of that political will problem. Too many Pakistanis have either sympathies toward the jihadis or get all excitable that we are killing jihadis in Pakistan.

I don't know if the Pakistani government will always make a rational calculation when it comes to our supply lines. Will it be rational for Pakistani rulers to fight jihadis in the frontier when their own people are clamoring for their heads on a platter for waging such a war and there are other Pakistani politicians willing to ride that wave of anger to power? "Waging war" against America might be a far better alternative to their own loss of power, wealth, or even lives at the hands of excitable Pakistanis hopped up on indignation and jihad.

Oh, and how rational will the Pakistani government be if the Indians conclude (rightly or wrongly) that the Mumbai attackers came from Pakistan and received support from the Pakistani government? We are certainly worried about this aspect:

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir. U.S. officials are concerned about a flare-up in animosity similar to one that occurred after Pakistani militants attacked the Indian parliament in December 2001, the officials said.

Underscoring those fears, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called the foreign minister of India twice, along with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, since the crisis began.

"There were very worrying tensions in the region," said Gordon Duguid, a State Department spokesman. "She was calling the president of Pakistan to get his read on how those tensions might be affected."

As U.S. officials worked to ease hard feelings between India and Pakistan, a tentative rapprochement between the two nuclear-armed rivals could hang in the balance.

The Pakistanis might conclude that they need to switch patrons and flip to the Chinese for diplomatic and military support against a common enemy India, and to heck with America and our war on the Taliban and al Qaeda. The Pakistanis might come to think that it is too difficult to rein in their jihadis who hate India and fight their jihadis who hate America. China will be fine with a Pakistan that supports jihadis who hate India and America.

And seriously, will Pakistani rulers really believe cutting off our supplies to forces in Afghanistan would mean actual war with the next administration? Cheney on a visit to lay down the law might inspire fear. But Biden? Fear of the mob outside the palace will outweigh Pakistani fear of distant America--an America that they believe might be forced to make concessions to Pakistan just to withdraw our forces from landlocked Afghanistan.

Like so many decisions, what is rational from our point of view isn't what could be rational in their environment. And the environment we thought we knew was shot to hell over the last three days in Mumbai. If Pakistan can't control all their jihadis, eventually the tensions could well lead Pakistan to rethink their alliance structure. It is a race against time, public opinion, and American and Indian actions.

Don't bet the supply lines for 40,000 or more American troops (and 30,000 NATO allies) on the rationality of a Pakistani government under pressure from their own people, foreign and domestic jihadis, America, and India. Our military planners might want to read up on the Anabasis.

And Now the Real Crisis Begins

The Indians seem to have hunted down the last of the Mumbai attackers:

A 60-hour terror rampage that killed at least 195 people across India's financial capital ended Saturday when commandos killed the last three gunmen inside a luxury hotel while it was engulfed in flames.

Authorities searched for any remaining captives hiding in their rooms and began to shift their focus to who was behind the attacks, which killed 18 foreigners including six Americans.

A previously unknown Muslim group with a name suggesting origins inside India claimed responsibility for the attack, but Indian officials said the sole surviving gunman was from Pakistan and pointed a finger of blame at their neighbor and rival.

So now the Indians will count their losses, comfort the survivors, repair the physical damage, and analyze how to defeat a similar attack the next time.

Oh, and then there will be the growing anger after the shock wears off. Pakistan is the usual suspect for these sort of things. And even if Pakistan's security forces have no ties at all to the attackers, Pakistan's past support for such thugs will make it difficult for Pakistan to prove to India that Islamabad had no role in the attack.

India may well want revenge. And if India strikes Pakistan in retaliation, Pakistan's frontier offensive against the Taliban and al Qaeda will come to an end for at least a while, allowing the jihadis to recover and resume their level of support for jihadis inside Afghanistan.

Fighting the Long War has never been simple, with competing interests and allies with interests that diverge from ours in important ways. Keeping all these competing interests focused on fighting jihadis and not each other is like herding cats--cats who claw each other if provoked.

So now the real crisis on the subcontinent begins.

One If By Land?

We could have a North Korea crisis looming.

South Korea and China have a hotline which, as Strategypage reports, is intended to reduce chances of incidents at sea and in the air:

China and South Korea have set up a military hotline, to avoid accidental clashes between their sea and air forces. At each end, military personnel are on duty 24/7, prepared to quickly defuse any encounters.

I can only assume that clashes between land forces isn't mentioned because the only place their land forces might want to avoid accidental clashes is inside North Korea.

Which doesn't mean that there is no need to avoid clashes between Chinese forces going south and South Korean forces heading north should North Korea experience state collapse instead of just regime collapse.

But it does mean that nobody considers it wise to mention that possibility while the excitable types in Pyongyang still exercise control over their still-deadly but rusting military capabilities.

I wonder where the line of division has been set? I assume the Chinese want the line far enough south to encompass the nuclear facilities lest Western experts learn too much about Chinese support for Kim Jong-Il's nuclear project.

Friday, November 28, 2008

If the PLA Wants War, They'll Get It

If the Chinese try to capture Taiwan, I could see us fighting a defensive war without attacking Chinese positions on the mainland. With our aircraft carriers in the fight, this might be not be too much of a handicap.

The Chinese can't match our carriers and are desperate to find a way to sink them that doesn't involve building a navy capable of fighting us in a conventional fight. They think they may have a short cut:

China appears to be developing an over-the-horizon (OTH) radar that can spot large ships (like American aircraft carriers) as far as 3,000 kilometers away, and use this information to guide ballistic missiles to the area,. Such radars have long been used to detect ballistic missile launches, and approaching heavy bombers. Some OTH radars have been modified to take advantage of the flat surface of an ocean, to pick up large objects, like ships. Cheaper and more powerful computers enable such OTH radars to more accurately identify ships thousands of kilometers away.

Missiles that can detect the target when close have long been possible. The problem for China has been figuring out the general area to fire the missiles so the missile's homing system can take over.

We could shoot some down. We could use electronic warfare against them. Hopefully we'd get all of them.

But I guarantee that if the Chinese fire missiles at our carriers from Chinese soil using radars based on Chinese soil, we will recognize no territorial sanctuaries. Our carriers are major national assets. If attacked from Chinese soil, American planes and missiles will hammer Chinese missile sites, radar sites, and airfields in China even if they are in the suburbs of Peking.

The Chinese may think they might have found a clever way to target our carriers. That may or may not work. But it will mean that we will target those assets inside China. That is not clever, in my view.

The Obama Option

Given the latest tentative hints of worry from that tentative watchdog the IAEA about Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions, what can we make of this meeting? (Tip to No Clever Pseudonym)

President Bush is to hold White House talks with the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday after publication of a nuclear watchdog’s report this week showing that Iran may have stockpiled enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb.

When the country most likely to be hit by an Iranian bomb but which has the second-best ability to strike Iran meets the country next in line for a mullah bomb but with the best ability to strike, people are bound to talk.

Look, after thinking we'd strike any time from about December 2004, I've long since given up trying to read the tea leaves about a potential American strike.

We have the best ability to take out the Iranian nuclear infrastructure and blunt their counter-strike assets.

But after being pilloried for liberating Iraqis from that brutal thug Saddam who was clearly prepared to cover his bluff about having WMD once sanctions collapsed, Bush was not about to go after Iran prior to their unveiling of a nuclear weapon. And even though I joke that Obama would get the Nobel Peace Prize for nuking Iran, he won't launch a preemptive strike based on Iraq-level evidence, no matter how justified we were under the circumstances.

The dilemma is that Israel has the motive to strike even if we won't strike. And we'll be blamed regardless. So we need to strike just to make sure the job is done right.

To cover all the basic problems, I think we are getting ready to strike Iran once they boast of their atomic weapons.

The various defensive systems we are putting together aren't, I believe, for the purpose of trying to deter or passively defend against an Iranian nuclear attack:

We won't rely on the mythical ability to deter crazed religious fanatics. But we won't try to defang Iran with a preemptive aerial campaign.

We will hope for a revolution inside Iran (do I hope too much to think we are actively working on this?) and in case we don't get that lucky, prepare for the moment that Iran's mullahs show their first nuclear missiles to the world.

Then we'll strike hard using advance penetrating precision weapons with a layer of defenses backstopping our effort to kill leakers, stretching from the Iranian target site back to our assets that might be struck. We'll use modified Sidewinders and AMRAAM on fighters over the enemy target to hit missiles in their boost phase, airborne PAC-3 missiles to strike missiles in flight once we know where the enemy missiles are headed, and ground-based point defense PAC-3s and area missile defenses based on land and sea. Add in airborne lasers later. Hopefully, we nail the missiles on the ground and if not, somebody on the ballistic arc manages a hit before detonation over the Iranians' target.

So after getting the Europeans to accept that they have to back us if their diplomacy fails, we'll use our shield to cover our strike against Iran's atomic arsenal and infrastructure. Our defensive systems will perform better when the Iranians are losing systems to our strikes and they must launch as fast as they can prepare them before losing them. This will make it more likely that Iran fires off missiles (whether armed with nukes, chemicals, bugs, or just HE to absorb our defensive missiles) one at a time rather than in salvoes.

That's my theory, anyway.

Remember, only Obama can go to China.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

When Rationality is in Short Supply

We are making great efforts to apply decisive pressure on the jihadis in the Pakistan border areas in order to win the war in Afghanistan.

We are pressuring Pakistan to hammer the jihadis in their frontier areas:

But now, in one sense, it's September 11, 2001 all over again. The U.S. has told Pakistan that it is fed up with getting screwed around by the ISI, and if Pakistan doesn't clean out the ISI, and shut down Islamic terrorists along the Afghan border, NATO, U.S. and Afghan troops will cross the border and do it.

Pakistan wants continued U.S. military aid to bolster its defenses against India. But if it suddenly has a hostile U.S. in Afghanistan, and less (or no) military aid, it's general military situation will be, well, not good. While Afghanistan, and the foreign troops there, are dependent on Pakistani ports and trucking companies for supplies, Pakistan is also dependent on the U.S. Navy for access to the sea. Pakistan does not want to go to war with the United States in order to defend Islamic terrorists it openly says it is at war with. Pakistan is being forced to destroy the Islamic radical movement it has nurtured over the last three decades, although it's still questionable if there's enough political will in Pakistan to actually do the deed.

When I've spoken of the Pakistani threat to our supply lines that makes me extremely wary of putting too many of our troops in this potential Stalingrad in the mountains, I recognize that a rational calculation on the part of Pakistan's rulers would mean they would never dare risk our loss of support by failing to protect our supply lines.

The problem is the source of that political will problem. Too many Pakistanis have either sympathies toward the jihadis or get all excitable that we are killing jihadis in Pakistan.

I don't know if the Pakistani government will always make a rational calculation when it comes to our supply lines. Will it be rational for Pakistani rulers to fight jihadis in the frontier when their own people are clamoring for their heads on a platter for waging such a war and there are other Pakistani politicians willing to ride that wave of anger to power? "Waging war" against America might be a far better alternative to their own loss of power, wealth, or even lives at the hands of excitable Pakistanis hopped up on indignation and jihad.

The Pakistanis might conclude that they need to switch patrons and flip to the Chinese for diplomatic and military support against a common enemy India, and to heck with America and our war on the Taliban and al Qaeda.

And seriously, will Pakistani rulers really believe cutting off our supplies to forces in Afghanistan would mean actual war with the next administration? Cheney on a visit to lay down the law might inspire fear. But Biden? Fear of the mob outside the palace will outweigh Pakistani fear of distant America--an America that they believe might be forced to make concessions to Pakistan just to withdraw our forces from landlocked Afghanistan.

Like so many decisions, what is rational from our point of view isn't what could be rational in their environment. Don't bet the supply lines for 40,000 or more American troops (and 30,000 NATO allies) on the rationality of a Pakistani government under pressure from their own people.

And if India attacks Pakistan because they believe Pakistan is guilty of supporting the Mumbai terror attacks, don't even speak to me of rational Pakistani decision-making abilities.

Giving Thanks

Remember that even as we face ruthless enemies, we have much to be thankful for. I know I give thanks, personally. Problems should never be an excuse to neglect blessings.

And blemishes on our history should never be an excuse to forget that we can be proud of our American history and nation. Too many people think that history should be teaching about these blemishes--real and imagined:

The big lies about America all work to undermine the sense of honor and gratitude that ought to inspire every citizen, particularly in this Thanksgiving season.

We've done well and we've accomplished good around the world. The world is a better place because we are who we are.

And be grateful that we have young men and woman worthy of our thanks who fight our enemies in far off places so we may enjoy our holidays back home. The Marines at Shewan in Afghanistan are just the latest to make us all proud of our military:

After calling for close-air support, the small group of Marines pushed forward and broke the enemies’ spirit as many of them dropped their weapons and fled the battlefield. At the end of the battle, the Marines had reduced an enemy stronghold, killed more than 50 insurgents and wounded several more.

“I didn’t realize how many bad guys there were until we had broken through the enemies’ lines and forced them to retreat. It was roughly 250 insurgents against 30 of us,” the corporal said. “It was a good day for the Marine Corps. We killed a lot of bad guys, and none of our guys were seriously injured.”

That corporal is a sniper who killed 20 of the enemy on his own.

Give thanks. We are truly blessed. All of us.

Mark This Date

The Iraqi parliament approved status of forces agreements by a comfortable margin, even though Sunni Arabs did not get their demands of ending de-Baathification and disbanding special courts used to try Saddam-era crimes against the Kurds and Shias:

The Shiite bloc agreed to a Sunni demand that the pact be put to a referendum by July 30, meaning the deal must undergo an additional hurdle next year. It took nine months of difficult talks for U.S. and Iraqi negotiators to craft the agreement.

Under the agreement, U.S. forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30 and the entire country by Jan. 1, 2012. Iraq will have strict oversight over U.S. forces.

Lawmakers voted with a show of hands, and an exact breakdown of the parliamentary vote was not immediately available. But parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani said an "overwhelming majority" of lawmakers who attended the session voted in favor. Parliament's secretariat, which counted lawmakers as they entered the chamber, said 220 out of 275 legislators attended.

The Presidential Council (of a Sunni Arab, a Kurd, and a Shia) must approve the law and the referendum, of course, must approve the deals.

I know many bloggers have declared VI Day already. But that was an arbitrary date picked as we defeated the two biggest threats--al Qaeda and the Sadrists and their Iranian pals. I think we are still too close to the war to say for certain if this victory over these two segments is the final victory. Should fighting flare up because Iran directly intervenes or some unknown threat arises, we will simply say that this was a lull between phases of the war.

But if the fighting truly is winding down as we help the Iraqis defeat the jihadis in the Mosul region and no other threat arises, when we look back to write the history of the war, this date will be a good marker for Victory in Iraq Day.

My guess is that the Iraqis will negotiate a new agreement to keep Americans in Iraq even after 2011. Iraq still needs us to guarantee that external threats are kept at bay while the Iraqis build up their conventional military power. Remember, Iraq's military is almost purely a counter-insurgency force now and cannot fight conventional enemy forces.

And even if some miracle of events leads to the overthrow of the Iranian mullahs and the neutering of the Syrian Baathist regime, Iraq will still need our armed presence to set parameters for resolving political disagreements inside Iraq. Remember, it isn't the factionalism that is a problem as far as I'm concerned. The question is whether the Iraqis settle their disputes through rule of law and accept election results (unlike the Thai losers of the last election who demand power despite their loss) as a mandate to govern and not to plunder--and if the losers understand that the winners won't use 50% plus one as a mandate to oppress the losers, the losers will gear up for the next election and to oppose the majority through the legal system and media rather than stockpiling arms.

So mark November 27, 2008 on your calendars. History may well record this as Victory in Iraq Day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Some Damn Fool Thing in Mumbai

Jihadis have struck in Mumbai (Bombay) India, killing at least 82 already with many more wounded and a hostage situation still ongoing:

Teams of gunmen stormed luxury hotels, a popular restaurant, hospitals and a crowded train station in coordinated attacks across India's financial capital Wednesday night, killing at least 82 people and taking Westerners hostage, police said. A group of suspected Muslim militants claimed responsibility.

Parts of the city remained under siege as dawn approached Thursday, with police and gunmen exchanging occasional gunfire at two hotels and an unknown number of people still held hostage, said A.N. Roy, a top police official. Soldiers also took up positions across the city.

I offer my deepest sympathies to the people of India. They've been fighting these bastards for a long time. I know they want far more help from us. India helps with Afghanistan reconstruction. I assume we've helped with shutting down Pakistani support for jihadi terrorism in India. We need to do much more together to fight these murderers.

While I suspect these are local characters (even if affiliated with al Qaeda) with objectives related to India, if these had been sent from Pakistan we might be in a pre-war situation if India were to seek revenge.

Remember I said that I expected Taliban and al Qaeda attacks on Pakistani cities to apply pressure on the Pakistani government to end the Pakistani military campaign in the tribal areas adjacent to Afghanistan.

But what would happen if al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan decide to target India in order to spark an Indian-Pakistani crisis or war? Pakistan is so weak relative to India that Pakistan would pull every soldier out of the frontier areas and rush them east.

And what would happen to our supply lines through Pakistan should another Indian-Pakistani war break out? We surely wouldn't aid Pakistan in fighting our budding ally India. And Pakistan might very well abandon our line of supply to pressure us into helping them.

This is more than just an ugly terrorist attack. This has implications if it extends beyond India-based terrorists and into Pakistan. And even if it doesn't have any foreign ties, the lesson may not be lost on the Taliban and al Qaeda about where a fruitful attack might be directed in the future to relieve the pressure they face in the frontier areas from Pakistan's military.

I guess this is one of those rare jihadi groups that hasn't been all caught up with that hope and change since our election. It's almost as if jihadi hatred hasn't been caused by George W. Bush.

UPDATE (Thursday): Indian commandos have attempted to rescue hostages:

Black-clad Indian commandoes raided two luxury hotels to try to free hostages Thursday, and explosions and gunshots shook India's financial capital a day after suspected Muslim militants killed 104 people.

Rescue efforts continued throughout the day amid sporadic gunfire, with some hostages escaping and others rescued by police. Several bodies were carried out of the five-star Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, one of 10 sites seized by gunmen on Wednesday night.

More than 300 were also wounded in the highly coordinated attacks by bands of gunmen armed with assault rifles, hand grenades and explosives.

Flames burst from the hotel's top floors and dome shortly after the attack began Wednesday night, and erupted again after commandoes raided the building Thursday.

After dusk Thursday, the soldiers ushered several dozen captives out of the Oberoi hotel, another Mumbai landmark.

Good for them. It is odd that the hostage-takers didn't kill their hostages. But it is odd that some of the attackers have been captured, too. This is not the hallmark of Arab al Qaeda terrorists.

And there is speculation that these terrorists do have ties to Pakistan:

It is too early to tell with any precision who is behind these attacks. The smart money is on the multi-headed hydra of terrorist and extremist groups based in Pakistan and Kashmir. Indeed, Pakistan’s intelligence service has waged a proxy war against India using terrorists for decades. The two nuclear powers have avoided a large-scale exchange, but the Pakistani ISI has repeatedly sponsored or aided terrorist groups targeting civilians in India.

If true, the ISI is insane. But that is by my Western perspective, of course. What they consider rational is what counts. And they may consider it rational to provoke a war with India--even a nuclear exchange.

Perhaps the pro-jihadi types in the ISI and their jihadi friends in the Pakistan Taliban and al Qaeda think that their best hope for a victory is to destabilize Pakistan by provoking India to attack Pakistan and destroy the Pakistani military and wreck the credibility of the civilian government. Death by India, so to speak.

And al Qaeda does seem to have decided that Pakistan is their main target:

"Iraq is now a rear-guard action on the part of al Qaeda," said Gen. James Conway, the head of the Marine Corps and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in an interview. "They've changed their strategic focus not to Afghanistan but to Pakistan, because Pakistan is the closest place where you have the nexus of terrorism and nuclear weapons."

I thought this was the case last summer and noted al Qaeda's declaration of war and set out the case in the fall. Remember, the jihadis in Paksitan, including al Qaeda, have bombed Pakistani civilian targets to pressure the Pakistanin government to call off their offensives in the tribal areas aimed at the jihadis. I expected more of that strategy only two days ago. Perhaps I underestimated them and they want to leverage India into applying force far beyond al Qaeda's power to inflict on Pakistan.

After all, India won't occupy Pakistan. And if tens of millions of Pakistanis die as the price for the jihadis to seize control of Pakistan, I'd bet they consider it worth it.

The jihadi version of "hope and change" could be starting in Mumbai right now.

No VI Day Yet

Michael Yon is ready to declare victory in Iraq:

Focusing on a few "Iraqi trees," one could make the argument that the war is ongoing and perilous. But to step back and look at "the forest," one cannot escape the fact that Iraq's long winter is over, and the branches are budding.

With all due respect, we could have argued we won the war in Vietnam in 1973 when our last troops left, with the Viet Cong destroyed. The fact that a North Vietnamese conventional invasion and not a Viet Cong uprising destroyed the Saigon government made the loss of South Vietnam no less real and our loss no less real. We still feel the impact of that defeat today, with the idiotic chants of "what's our exit strategy?" as if that is deep strategic thinking.

The trees in Iraq are clearing budding. But there are bulldozers sitting across the border in Iran and Syria, with others parked around Iraq idling with Sadrists and unknowns ready to roll. We are winning in Iraq. Iraq is not yet won and we need to persist for many more years in nailing this down.

We get no credit if only a decent interval separates our victory over our enemy from our enemy's victory over our ally.

No Carbon Copy

The talk of repeating our surge success in Iraq by carrying out a surge in Afghanistan misses the obvious points that the situation in Afghanistan is different than Iraq, requiring a different approach; and misses the point that we don't have the same objective in Afghanistan as we do in Iraq.

Former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld point this out and also points out that those who want a "repeat surge" in Afghanistan don't even understand what the surge in Iraq was or why it worked when it did:

I believe that while the surge has been effective in Iraq, we must also recognize the conditions that made it successful. President Bush’s bold decision to deploy additional troops to support a broader counterinsurgency strategy of securing and protecting the Iraqi people was clearly the right decision. More important, though, it was the right decision at the right time.

Rumsfeld points out that the 2007 surge was actually the third surge of US forces. And he points out that by the time the third surge began, the Iraqi Sunnis had gotten tired of war; that we had killed large numbers of jihadis and Baathists; that the Iraqi security forces increased in quantity and quality; and that Sadr was neutralized as a major force.

I wrote about this timing aspect just as our surge kicked into high geat in July 2007:

Consider that the success we are having relies on the government having sufficient trained forces to help us, relies on the Sunni Arabs knowing they can't win and getting sick of the jihadis and their death threats, and relies on the Shias getting sick of the violence and not supporting Sadr and his Iranian sponsors in numbers sufficient to be a threat.

If we had surged troops and changed to a strategy of directly protecting the people of Iraq rather than trying to be the spearhead, could this have worked a year ago? Or two years ago? ...

We've gone through many phases of this war. We are in another phase which calls for new approaches and we have embarked upon a new course to fit the new situation. Just because this phase now calls for the methods we have adopted doesn't mean those methods were right for the past.

If a surge wouldn't work in Iraq except when conditions were right, why do you think that a surge is appropriate for Afghanistan now?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bare Our Necks to the Blade?

The Chinese have expressed their negative opinion on American and allied missile defenses (tip to Weekly Standard blog):

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin Gang said China "always believes that setting up a global missile defense system, including deploying such a system in some regions of the world or conducting cooperation in this field, is detrimental to global strategic balance and stability, undermines mutual trust among countries and affects regional stability."

I mean, really. If we and the Japanese can't trust the Chinese to never use or threaten to use the nukes they have aimed at us, who can we trust?

And those boy scouts in Pyongyang and Tehran are just victims of circumstances given a bum rap by the man.

I can just hear the bonds of mutual trust breaking asunder at our rash acts of defending ourselves.

I think the correct Department of State response to this Chinese criticism is "nice doggie."

Border Issues

This last summer, I went to Toronto for my vacation again. It was a two-part vacation this year with part on my
Before my part of the vacation, the kids enjoyed the trip to the amusement park in the harbor, with Lamb old enough to go on more of the rides this year. I admit to hanging on to Lamb for dear life on the ski-lift ride over the park, fearful that somehow she'd slip off and fall. Mister and I made it on the bumper cars this year.

Last year, I took Mister to visit his grandpa up near Sudbury and spent some time at a cabin there suffering in nature's splendor before returning to Toronto for a few days. Mister then stayed a week or so until his mom took Lamb up for several days and the big trip home. Mister didn't like that arrangement so asked for the former schedule of the four of us going to Toronto first and then me sending them on their way up north while I remain for my own down time.

I really like the Entertainment District in Toronto. This year, with my two favorite museums still under construction there, I needed afternoon alternatives to recovering from bar trips the night before. So I saw both the Dark Knight and Iron Man on vacation. I had fun. It's getting to the point that I probably should find where the somewhat older types like myself go for nightlife, but so far my age hasn't been fatal!

Anyway, I've begun to dread the border crossing at the end of these trips. For some reason, they don't like my story and this time I got a border agent with some personal issues that she really shouldn't have taken out on me. So even though I always remove my sun glasses so I can look directly at the agent when responding and always give a cheery "hi," that moment is always the high point of my Customs experience coming home.

Like I said, the basic concept is that me, my Ex, Mister, and Lamb travel by car to Windsor where we board a train for Toronto. After a couple days in Toronto, I get Lamb, Mister, and my Ex to the train station for the trip north to Sudbury where they meet my Ex's dad. They spend several days enjoying boating and whatnot while I enjoy the complete absence of responsibilities with healthy doses of Canadian beer. I take the train back to Windsor where I get my car and drive home. The rest drive back home through the UP. Simple, right?

Well, perhaps not simple. Life is surely more complicated than I'd like. But it is true and I prefer to stick to the bare bones truth since it is easier to remember and I figure trying to make up a lie that sounds simpler could just end up getting me grilled by Homeland Security types for several hours. As it is, I've had long inquiries as I've sat in my car about my job, origins, travel plans, the "suspiciously" empty child seat in the back, and even had my trunk searched.

This year, I assume my female agent was divorced and perhaps hasn't had a magical experience with that whole legal process. Because when I laid out the above facts (minus the beer part), the agent clearly stopped listening to what I actually said. "So you went on vacation with your ex-wife?" she asked, with some disbelief in her voice. "Well, only partly, I explained patiently. "Like I said, I sent them up north to meet her dad and their grandpa."

Much more animated now, having clearly abandoned the script before she could ask me about bringing over live plants or anything like chemical warheads, she began to fixate on the ex-wife part of the story, completely ignoring the basic narrative of who went where. I'll admit that I was starting to get a little annoyed. Three days of hangovers will do that to you, in my own defense. At one point, she asked, "So you're telling me that you all went to Canada and you now have no idea (at this point she looked off into the sky as if the strange explanation for this would pop out ot thin air) how your ex-wife and children will get back home?" My clearly sequenced narrative was being ignored. "No, " I said, "As I told you, they met my Ex's dad and they are all coming back home together." This was really getting bothersome.

"So you are telling me that you get along with your ex-wife well enough to get on vacation with her?" She clearly had trouble with that concept. Hey, a lot of my friends and family have trouble with that. But my first impulse is that children shouldn't pay for the mistakes of adults. I try very hard to live by that. Look, I don't want too much of that togetherness. Which is why I've never accepted the invitation for all four of us to go meet my Ex's dad up at Sudbury. The trip to Toronto isn't all that much fun for me and increases my stress levels. The kids having fun makes it worth it. I've pushed off offers of other longer vacations, but this one allows me to help out and head off on a vacation of my own. It works for me. It works for my Ex. And it works for the children. Why United States Customs would have an issue with this is beyond me. And why the agent's apparent personal issues should affect me was beginning to grate. So that's about when I snapped and replied to the agent, "Yeah." I should have just stopped right there. But no. "You sound a lot like my mom on this," I added. (Sorry, mom.) And I wasn't smiling or being cheerfully patient anymore.

That's when her personal issues merged with statutory authority. "Alright," the agent snapped as she emerged from the booth. "Turn off your car, give me the keys, and pop your trunk." So I did that. My luggage was in the back seat and she didn't even want to look through that for plants or whatever contraband one might bring back from our northern neighbor. She just had interest in the trunk. Based on past trunk interest, I get the feeling that they half expect to find bodies there. To make room for luggage for four, I had cleaned out my trunk of the extra clothes and stuff that I keep in case I break down on the highway in sub-zero temperatures, and with no luggage at all, it was pretty clear. What I could not remember was whether I had taken the big shovel out before the trip. Nor could I remember if I'd used it in the garden recently (I have no garage so leave my shovel in my trunk, where it can double digging me out of a snow bank or whatever) and so did it have dirt caked on it? Good grief, they'd have DNA testing and sniffer dogs out any moment, the way this was going.

But the agent spent only about 5 seconds determining that I had not--in fact--been trying to sneak "evidence" across the border before she closed the trunk, returned to my car and handed me my keys, and told me I was free to go. I thanked her, put my sun glasses back on, and drove off, thus ending another eventful Customs experience.

I really need to reconsider the whole truthfulness philosophy that I bring into the world of border crossings.

The American Disease

When I see American Moslem women driving mini vans with head scarves and even long flowing coverings, I know that the jihadis don't stand a chance here.

And if we can, by al Qaeda's logic, "subvert" Islam this way, how will the jihadis ever stop hating us? Their deepest fear must be that like other cultural exports, this kinder and gentler version of Islam will flow back to the heart of Islam and undermine the vicious, death-loving version that the jihadis embrace.

My guess is that one day the weekend prior to Ramadan will see commercials for furniture blow out sales with prices slashed to unbelievable lows. And no interest payments until the new year!

State Secrets

The Iranians say they broke up an Israeli spy ring that was revealing the secrets of Iran's secret quest for cheap, reliable, and eco-friendly nuclear-generated electricity:

Iran executed an electronics salesman convicted of relaying information on the country's nuclear program and other sensitive data to Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, a judiciary spokesman said Saturday.

Ali Ashtari was hanged Nov. 17 after being sentenced to death on June 30 by a revolutionary court in Tehran, spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi said. It was the country's first known conviction for espionage linked to Israel in almost a decade.

If you allow someone to steal your nuclear energy plans, you really cripple you ability to compete against wind and solar. Clearly the Iranians take their nuclear electricity security seriously. Why else execute someone for stuff like this? I mean, it isn't like they have nuclear weapons secrets to hide, right?

I suspect the Iranians got the pigeons to talk (or maybe the squirrels).

Monday, November 24, 2008

Original Sin

Iran is supporting al Qaeda. We have a letter that indicates Iranian support is continuing:

The letter, which was signed by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's second in command, was written after the American embassy in Yemen was attacked by simultaneous suicide car bombs in September.

Western security officials said the missive thanked the leadership of Iran's Revolutionary Guards for providing assistance to al-Qaeda to set up its terrorist network in Yemen, which has suffered ten al-Qaeda-related terror attacks in the past year, including two bomb attacks against the American embassy.

In the letter al-Qaeda's leadership pays tribute to Iran's generosity, stating that without its "monetary and infrastructure assistance" it would have not been possible for the group to carry out the terror attacks. It also thanked Iran for having the "vision" to help the terror organisation establish new bases in Yemen after al-Qaeda was forced to abandon much of its terrorist infrastructure in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

There has been intense speculation about the level of Iranian support for al-Qaeda since the 9/11 Commission report into al-Qaeda's terror attacks against the U.S. in 2001 concluded that Iran had provided safe passage for many of the 9/11 hijackers travelling between Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia prior to the attacks.

Scores of senior al Qaeda activists - including Saad bin Laden - sought sanctuary in Iran following the overthrow of the Taliban, and have remained in Tehran ever since. The activities of Saad bin Laden, 29, have been a source of Western concern despite Tehran's assurances that he is under official confinement.

When our Left has spent so much time denying we had any reason to fight Saddam's Iraq (because Saddam didn't directly help with the 9/11 attacks) and refusing to recognize the al Qaeda invasion of Iraq after the liberation, how will our Left wiggle out of their logic that would argue that we have every reason to target Iran?

I'm kidding when I write that. Our Left will manage just fine. Our Left refused to ever admit that Iran supports our enemies inside Iraq who kill Americans.

Heck, the Code Pink Hags are already in Iran pledging their support for the feminist-friendly progressives in Tehran!

Their Hammer, Our Anvil, Our Nails

To win in Afghanistan we need to defeat the Taliban in Pakistan who shelter al Qaeda. Both contribute to attacks inside Afghanistan.

I'd thought that a hammer and anvil approach that bypassed an uncooperative Pakistan would be necessary to carry out this strategy. We'd beef up our border presence and mobilize friendly Paksitani border tribes to drive the jihadis out of Pakistan to where we could kill them.

But it seems like the Pakistanis are taking on the role of hammer (and quietly enjoying our Predator missile strikes nailing jihadi leadership inside Pakistan) to our anvil. Two American brigade commanders in Afghanistan describe higher levels of coordination between our forces and Pakistani forces:

Both attributed the changes to increased activity by Pakistan's army and other border security forces. In Spiszer's view, increased effort by Pakistan's army in the Bajaur tribal area "might actually be pushing some guys back this way, which might account for some of the rise." Pakistani operations, he said, are "having an impact, both good and bad."

For Johnson, the decline in enemy activity in his area can also be attributed to new operations across the border by the Pakistani military, which he said have led to a "marked decrease" in the number of improvised explosive devices used against coalition and Afghan forces.

Both officers praised a sharp increase in cross-border coordination among themselves, the Afghans and the Pakistanis. Spiszer said he frequently goes to strategy sessions at a "border coordination center" at one of his forward operating bases near the Khyber Pass, where there are representatives of the United States, the Afghan National Army and the Border Police, along with Pakistani army and Frontier Corps personnel. We "figure out what's going on and coordinate our activities," he said.

This cooperation could make this Taliban Campaign centered on Pakistan the last jihad.

Which means we could see al Qaeda really step up their attacks on Pakistani cities to compel a public outcry against the government to get the Pakistani military called off.

Second Life

What do you do when your dear leader is drooling in his wine glass and showing no interest in his Joy Brigade gals?

Why, create an avatar of said despot and pretend all is peachy!

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is apparently alive, and apparently incapacitated. Various factions in the government are maneuvering to grab power. The Chinese are involved, backing at least one faction. Chinese and South Korean businessmen who still get into North Korea indicate that there are lot of nervous and scared people up north at the moment. The North Korean government has released photos of Kim Jong Il out and about. But some of these photos are obvious fakes, and none of them is conclusive "proof of life".

Is the long collapse of North Korea getting close to actually happening? And if so, will it be regime collapse or state collapse?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Brain Dead

In this day and age, after all we have witnessed our jihadi enemies in action, it is astounding that a writer can actually believe this analysis is true. Zawahari lets loose with a racial insult and what does the writer believe this mean? Behold:

While it’s a bit irritating to have an atavistic mass murderer presume to dictate appropriate politics for a black American, Zawahiri’s diatribe is good news. In fact, it may be the best news we’ve gotten in the struggle against al-Qaida since the so-called Sunni awakening in Iraq.

Zawahiri and his fellow jihadists are clearly worried both about the symbolic power of an Obama presidency and about the smarter strategy against terrorism that Obama has laid out.

The hamfisted tactics favored by George W. Bush, including his ill-fated invasion of Iraq, were a gift to al-Qaida and its recruiting efforts. They allowed bin Laden and Zawahiri to paint the U.S. government as an imperial power bent on a 21st-century crusade against Islam.

However, that’s a more difficult argument to make when the Oval Office is occupied by a black man whose Kenyan grandfather was Muslim and who played with Muslim friends during his childhood years in Indonesia.

“Obama’s election has taken the wind out of al-Qaida’s sails in much of the Islamic world because it demonstrates America’s renewed commitment to multiculturalism, human rights and international law,” former National Security Council staffer Richard Clarke said. “It also proves to many that democracy can work and overcome ethnic, sectarian or racial barriers.”

I'm stunned. Tucker seriously believes that Obama's strategy (whatever it is, other than attacking Pakistan and unleashing prosecutors) has al Qaeda up late at nights after Bush's strategy has killed them on battlefield after battlefield? After al Qaeda has lost their reputation for invincibility? After the jihadis have lost support among Moslem governments and people who reject bombings of innocents and the whole jihad thing in far greater numbers today?

Is Tucker seriously arguing that the jihadis couldn't work up a reason to hate us and kill us prior to our liberation of Iraq? There was that one thing back in September of what, 2001? And there were the East African embassy bombings in 1998. And the Cole bombing in 2000. Lip-biting Clinton sensitivity didn't save us back then.

Can anybody with a functioning brain stem really believe that we caused jihadi hatred by liberating Iraqis from Saddam's tender mercies? The idea that until Iraq the Moslem world had no issues about so-called imperialism is just nonsense.

And when jihadis have slaughtered Moslems with enthusiasm, including the bombing in Bali, Indonesia, how rock-pounding blind to reality do you have to be to think that the jihadis are going to think that President Obama is OK and they shouldn't fight him and kill Americans? Good grief, Tucker, hush about that playing with Moslem friends bit. Don't you know that jihadis are more likely to kill those Moslems for associating with a Christian?

And don't rely on Richard Clarke, for God's sake. The man is an idiot. The idea that the Islamic world thinks we are now a bunch of multi-culturalists (as if the jihadis even like multi-culturalism!) is farcical. San Fransisco liberals don't believe we are no longer a racist nation despite electing Obama. You really think the jihadis are going to say, "Oh never mind. The Great Satan is just peachy fine now." The jihadis hate democracy. Why would they be impressed with democracy in action even if we elected Obama?

And Tucker's idiocy goes on. It is truly depressing that reality has not touched her existence. Guantanamo Bay is regularly visited by the human rights industry and our press corps. This is a well-run prison that is not any type of gulag. Honestly, read it all. My head hurts from the concentrated ignorance that she represents.

They hate us all, people. I've been expecting the most extreme supporters of Obama to be quickly disappointed, but some truly are so far out in their hopes that reality is going to send them into a coma to escape the reality of our enemies' hatred.

Our enemies will continue to try to kill us. How long before such idiocy as this article displays is set aside and we get down to work to destroy our jihadi enemies?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Don't Panic

We are going to add troops to Afghanistan over the next year. This is not, as I've argued many times, because we are losing in Afghanistan. People here have been claiming that our defeat is imminent for about 7 years now, ever since the prospect of the first dreaded Afghan winter was raised. We are not losing.

Secretary Gates tries to add a little perspective:

"Everyone knows we face significant challenges in Afghanistan, as does the Afghan government," Gates said. "By the same token, the Taliban do not hold any land," and lose every real engagement with NATO or U.S. forces. "So the notion that things are out of control in Afghanistan or that we're sliding toward a disaster, I think, is far too pessimistic."

We don't face disaster there. We face a problem with the Pakistan sanctuaries feeding the violence in Afghanistan. Which means we have to rely on the Pakistanis to control the frontier areas that are now a sanctuary for the enemy. And we need to control the border, which is the most useful job for more troops (but not too many more!).

The basic situation is that we can fight on defense inside Afghanistan to parry the enemy. But we need to win the war inside Pakistan.

Would anybody really want to trade positions with the Taliban and al Qaeda?

I shudder to think how our people would react with a real defeat in war. Work the problem. Don't inflate the problem. The latter just encourages those predisposed to declare Afghanistan unwinnable to surrender and come home--just like they tried to do in Iraq.

Red Star Writhing

The stated goals of restoring the Red Army (and navy and air force) to its former status are just hype, as I've noted many times. The Weekly Standard agrees:

This is all just so much chest-thumping. The immense sums required to support these lavish promises will not materialize. You can't get there from here, as the old aphorism goes. The price of oil (which Russia depends on for a great deal of its state revenues) has dropped to less than half its value from this past summer, the Russian stock market is in free fall, and foreign investment has fled Russia.

The article also reports that Russia lost twelve aircraft in the war with Georgia and, amazingly, that Russian pilots refused to fly missions. The latter is simply shocking. The days of advancing Russian troops with KGB troops following behind firing away to discourage army retreat are long gone, I guess, but apparently still needed.

I don't completely dismiss the Russian performance in the Russian-Georgian War since, despite heavier Russian ground and air losses than we would have suffered in a comparable fight, the Russians did achieve their objective. I remain puzzled that their objective did not include going all the way to Tbilisi and installing a friendly regime, but the Russians achieved their apparent battlefield goals. Moscow may not get style points but if they don't mind the casualties, a win is a win.

And the Russian army victory was not because of Russian numbers, as the article states. Russia had a division's worth of troops to throw at the Georgians, plus local militias. While the Russians surely had the numerical advantage at the point of attack, overall the Russians did not outnumber the total Georgian troop strength. But Russian troops who trained for that war beat Georgian troops who practiced for peacekeeping.

The Russian military is not about to hold Western Europe hostage again any time soon with the ability to drive to the Rhine. But they can achieve limited objectives if they are willing to endure the casualties.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Temporary Measure

The Pakistanis don't like our missile strikes on their territory to kill jihadis, but they seem willing to endure them for now. In the long run, such a strategy is not sustainable in my view since the enemy will adapt and the Pakistani public will pressure their government to resist these attacks.

I speculated that the attacks are a short-term measure to knock the jihadis back so they cannot attack us during the presidential transition period.

Pakistan's prime minister bolsters my thought with these comments:

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani sought to placate Pakistani lawmakers by telling them he expected the raids to stop when President-elect Barack Obama takes office.

"I think these things are happening because of this transition period," he said. "I am sure when the government of Sen. Obama is formed, attacks like these will be controlled."

Obama has not directly commented on the raids. But his comments on Pakistan before the election were more hawkish than his Republican rival, suggesting Gilani's hopes may be misplaced.

Gilani also denied speculation that the Pakistan government — which relies heavily on U.S. aid — may have agreed to the missile strikes privately while publicly condemning them.

I think Gilani has agreed to the strikes over the short term in order to get us past the transition period. The attacks will decrease in a few months not because Obama will end them but because they are not a long-term strategy to beat the jihadis inside Pakistan, but a short-term strategy to knock the jihadis off balance.

To the Shores of Somalia

The Russians (!) want a land operation in Somalia to clear out the pirate bases:

On Wednesday, Russia's ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, called on the international community to launch a joint amphibious operation against pirate strongholds in Somalia.

However, any such operation would likely require the approval of the U.N. Security Council, whose resolutions on anti-piracy operations are vague, Choong said.

On Thursday, representatives of six Arab countries met in an attempt to forge a strategy against the hijackings. Representatives from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, Sudan and Somalia met in Cairo.

Egyptian diplomat Wafaa Bassem, who was chairing the meeting, said options include setting up a piracy monitoring center, joint maneuvers by Arab navies and a warning systems for ships navigating the Red Sea.

India's recent naval action is great, but ultimately just a defensive success.

Calls for a land operation are being heard here, too:

History teaches that the only way to destroy pirates is from the land, not the sea - by wiping out their bases.

... [We need] a Marine Expeditionary Brigade that can wipe out the pirate bases once and for all.

I've written for several years that I'd like to see a big effort, perhaps a multi-brigade operation in Somalia to strangle the growing jihadi presence there.

The Ethiopian foray that we supported two years ago is still clamping down in the Mogadishu area, but vast expanses of territory outside of effective control provide space for al Qaeda and their friends to regroup and plan. The impact of that intervention (backed by our special forces) is starting to wear off.

So why not get the Arab grouping to sign off on an Egyptian contingent of a marine or paratrooper brigade to go in with an American Marine brigade and an American paratrooper brigade, perhaps augmented by one or two EU infantry battalions, as the conventional hammer of an intervention force? Aircraft, ships, and special operations forces as needed would be part of this as well.

The idea wouldn't be for this force to be a permanent force but one that disperses and kills the pirates and jihadis who can--if they don't already--latch on to the piracy effort. Our going in with ground forces would be contingent on the African Union and UN scraping up a force that could then be brought in to crucial port areas to keep the weakened piracy and jihadi elements from coming back in once we leave after several months of operations.

This would be both a valuable contribution to winning the Long War and a blow against piracy.

Too Much Inertia to Lose

Right after Barack Obama won the election, I wrote that war supporters shouldn't panic. I wrote that things wouldn't be as bad as we feared:

I think we've gone far enough toward winning that it would take a stupendous feat of idiocy to undo what we've accomplished. I don't put it beyond some of the loyal former opposition, but I doubt it.

Mind you, if we still saw violence in Iraq at July 2007 levels, I'd have panicked, too. But we are clearly winning and we are clearly on a glide path out of routine combat and out of Iraq completely. President Obama will have little reason to interfere with a path set by a Republican president. Doing so will only raise the risk of being blamed for a defeat if Iraq should falter and our enemies regroup enough to sustain a counter-attack.

And if you still don't sleep a little better at night, consider the reaction of the pro-defeat crowd that pinned their hopes on Obama leading the headlong flight from Iraq as they ponder Obama's apparent security-related appointments:

Antiwar groups and other liberal activists are increasingly concerned at signs that Barack Obama's national security team will be dominated by appointees who favored the Iraq invasion and hold hawkish views on other important foreign policy issues.

The anti-war side won't fixate on Iraq too much in the new year, I'm sure. They still have a war in Afghanistan to lose. What? You really believe they won't turn on the "good war" too?

The Journey

Iran has enough nuclear raw materials for an atomic bomb:

Iran has now produced roughly enough nuclear material to make, with added purification, a single atom bomb, according to nuclear experts analyzing the latest report from global atomic inspectors.

The figures detailing Iran's progress were contained in a routine update on Wednesday from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been conducting inspections of the country's main nuclear plant at Natanz. The report concluded that as of early this month, Iran had made 630 kilograms, or about 1,390 pounds, of low-enriched uranium.

But don't worry, this is just "a symbolic step" to getting nuclear-tipped missiles:

Several experts said that was enough for a bomb, but they cautioned that the milestone was mostly symbolic, because Iran would have to take additional steps.

Like the step of learning how to make that material. And the step to get the Uranium to reach this step. And the step that provided them the ability to create the infrastructure to reach this step. And the step of running their enrichment long enough to reach this step.

What's the saying? A journey begins with the first step? And this isn't even their first step.

Don't be fools arguing over the significance of this step or that step. Focus on the progress made on the journey and just exactly what the destination of that journey is.

Iran's mullahs are gleefully walking toward the gates of Hell and I see precious little will to stop them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Marching on Our Stomach

The United States is seeking alternate supply routes for the 75% of supplies that cross through Pakistan to our forces in Afghanistan:

NATO and U.S. military officials have said raids on the supply line from Pakistan to Afghanistan have not significantly affected their operations. "This is nothing new," said Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, a U.S. military spokeswoman in Afghanistan. "Bandits and insurgents have long proclaimed that they will attack our supply lines, though nothing they have done has caused any real impact to the military operations here."

Yet the scramble to find new routes appears to indicate the attacks have had some effect. The United States has already begun negotiations with countries along what the Pentagon has called a new northern route. An agreement with Georgia has been reached and talks are ongoing with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, according to an Oct. 31 Pentagon document. "We do not expect transit agreements with Iran or Uzbekistan," the Transportation Command told potential contractors.

The enemy attacks are operationally insignificant, we say. The article states that because we are seeking alternate routes, the attacks must be having an impact. This logic is faulty. The problem isn't the Taliban attacks. We can get supplies through despite attacks.

The problem is not knowing whether Pakistan's government will always support our supply line defenses. That higher level vulnerability and not tactical successes by the Taliban against individual convoys is what could kill a US/NATO army in landlocked Afghanistan.

Mind our limits of action out there.

Oh, and pity we can't arrange for an alternate supply line through Iran. Our freedom of action would be greatly enhanced.

Ah, Hope!

Our jihadi enemies haven't gotten that hope and change memo:

Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader used a racial epithet to insult Barack Obama in a message posted Wednesday, describing the president-elect in demeaning terms that imply he does the bidding of whites. ...

Al-Zawahri did not threaten specific attacks, but warned Obama that he was "facing a Jihadi (holy war) awakening and renaissance which is shaking the pillars of the entire Islamic world; and this is the fact which you and your government and country refuse to recognize and pretend not to see."

He said Obama's victory showed Americans acknowledged that President George W. Bush's policies were a failure and that the result was an "admission of defeat in Iraq."

Whoa, al Qaeda defeated us in Iraq? Our New Nuanced Overlords don't even admit we were fighting al Qaeda in Iraq. And now Zawahri is claiming victory there?

And wait, the jihad is still on? I don't know, I think the awakening going on in the Islamic world is a bit different than the one Zawahri sees from his cave.

It's almost as if al Qaeda hates us for who we are! A lot of our new president's supporters will be truly shocked when this fact sinks in.

MIddle Muddle

What appears to be a fairly serious incident took place in Longnan between armed Chinese and security forces:

Security forces in northwest China used tear gas to quell two days of violent protests by thousands of people who used axes, chains and iron bars to attack police, witnesses and officials said on Wednesday.

At least 60 people, including police and officials, were injured during the riots, according to a statement on the government website of Longnan city in Gansu province, where the violence occurred.

I don't have much to add about the incident. It seems like violent clashes like this happen all the time in China yet none of it counts as an insurrection. The government worries these incidents will grow into a revolt. But they haven't yet and I have no idea what the tipping point is. I assume the problem from Peking's point of view is that neither do they.

What I want to note is the reporting on the geography. Click through to the map in the article. Note the article says the city is in northwest China. Check the map again. I'm just an amateur map reader and lowly blogger and not a trained journalist, but Longnan looks to be as close as humanly possible to being located smack dab in the geographic center of China.

Why say it is in "northwest" China when it is not? Does saying that it is "in the center" of China make it sound too close to home?

What's with the middle muddle?

Freedom of Action

Score one for the Indian navy against modern pirates:

An Indian naval vessel sank a suspected pirate "mother ship" in the Gulf of Aden and chased two attack boats into the night, officials said Wednesday, yet more violence in the lawless seas where brigands are becoming bolder and more violent.

Not being burdened by fashionable Western guilt, India can get away with being far more aggressive than a Western--especially an American--ship could.

Come on India, hang a couple pirates as a lesson. You'll get the Nobel Peace Prize for doing what we'd get an International Criminal Court indictment for doing.

Mind the Border

Talk of translating our Iraq success to Afghanistan misses the differences between the two countries. I don't think we need to put 150,000 (or 100,000. Or 50,000) troops into Afghanistan to try and match the troop density in general that we had in Iraq. And this issue is aside from the wisdom of putting so many of our troops at the end of a shaky supply line.

We need to deal with the Afghan tribes to subcontract much of the security task in a feudal version of federalism, and we need to control the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan until the Pakistan sanctuary for the Taliban and al Qaeda can be destroyed.

An American colonel leading a brigade in Afghanistan speaks of what additional forces will allow him to do:

For us here, I definitely anticipate being able to do much more along the border. Most of where we have problems now is further inland in the Konar Province and in Nuristan Province. What we haven't done -- what we have a challenge with is working to interdict along the border. And that's put a stretch on us as we work with the Pakistan military as well, but we're doing a lot more there now. But I anticipate when we have some additional forces from the 10th Mountain that we're going to do a much better job, both with our partners across the border and also interdicting and lessening, ultimately, the conflict that we have further inland in our AO.

As I've thought, more troops will help seal the border a bit more and reduce the enemy ability to resupply the Taliban in Afghanistan and send cannon fodder and bombers into Afghanistan from the Pakistan training and recruiting areas.

Disabling the threat from the border is the key, I think, and not classic pacification tactics that spread American forces throughout Afghanistan.

Those Nuanced Europeans!

Apparently, the sophisticated and nuanced deep thinkers in the Old Country will be distracted by the bright, shiny object and not notice our foreign policy continuity (From my Jane's email alerts):

Barack Obama's 4 November election to the US presidency will prefigure both change and continuity in American foreign policy. The most significant difference between the Obama administration and that of his predecessor, George W Bush, will lie in image and presentation[.]

The world will love us again, but the most significant difference leading to that will be "image and presentation." Ah, nuance! Tis a wonderful thing to have.

KISS of Death

Our lighter armored vehicles are vulnerable to shaped-charge warheads on simple rockets in the hands of infantry. Even our heavy armor is vulnerable from the rear or flanks and from top-attack shaped-charge warheads.

Since our light armor can't be armored up enough to withstand this range of attacks and even our heavy armor can't be strong everywhere, we have looked to active protection systems (APS) that destroy incoming rounds before they hit. With active protection, we don't need heavy armor. Our new Future Combat Systems, weighing in at less than half the tonnage of our Abrams main battle tanks, need this active protection to meet weight restrictions and still be survivable.

This is surely impressive technology in the struggle to balance weight and protection:

"Think of [it] as Star Wars for Soldiers," said Time magazine in its Nov. 10 edition. The APS "will automatically detect an incoming round and then launch a missile to destroy it, all within a split second."

That's a lovely theory. The battle between offense and defense has swung to and fro with thicker and more complex armor competing over the decades with bigger cannons and more lethal missiles and hand-held rockets.

We have decided to think outside the box and simply make thicker armor irrelevant to those bigger cannons and more lethal shaped-charge warheads on missiles and rockets. The enemy can improve their warheads and increase cannon size all they want and our active system will make it unnecessary to increase our passive armor protection. And to meet strategic mobility needs, we can get rid of all but the most basic armor protection to guard against small arms and shell fragments.

Nice theory. I don't buy it. No more than I buy that electric armor can't be beaten with simple kinetic penetrators. No, with all these expensive defensive systems, I suspect the enemy can keep it simple and make our high-tech devices look stupid.

So what if the enemy just volley fires cannon shells, missiles, or rockets at single vehicles? The old Soviet army trained their units to volley fire rather than engage individually. Can APS handle multiple, nearly simultaneous rounds coming in?

Heck, what if the enemy sprays our lightly-armored, APS-equipped vehicles with 25mm or 30mm armor piercing rounds? Rounds big enough to penetrate thin armor and numerous enough to swamp the capabilities of an APS? Even infantry could carry around these with ease. Heck, large tank rounds might dispense sub-munitions like a high velocity shot gun, giving a single tank round effective volley capacity.

I'm still skeptical that we can build the wonder tank.

UPDATE: The Russians have developed (tip to Strategypage emails, I think) a new anti-tank rocket, the RPG-30, that appears to tackle the problem of APS by firing two rounds at the target vehicle. This is a variant of my idea of swamping the defense with too many incoming rounds to stop. The RPG-30 appears to fire a smaller decoy round that reaches the target before the primary armor-piercing round reaches the target, triggering the APS to fire at the decoy. This certainly assumes that an APS cannot handle multiple rounds fired at it with small time intervals. Of course, this raises the issue of whether raking a target armored vehicle with machine gun fire will trigger the APS to empty its magazine trying to intercept rounds that can't even penetrate the vehicle, but paving the way for a clean shot by a weapon that can destroy the target. And I still worry, as I did to the linked article I wrote for Military Review, about friendly dismounts nearby when our own tanks are firing off explosive defensive systems left and right. How far away from our own "tanks" do our crunchies have to be to avoid being casualties from friendly defensive fire?