Friday, December 31, 2010

Core Intentions?

Concern in Asia is raised by China's plans to conquer disputed islands in the South China Sea:

Under the tactical plan, the Chinese Air Force, working in tandem with air combat units of the Navy, would stage surprise bombing runs over military ports and ships based at targeted islands.

The plan calls for eliminating the enemy's combat capability over the course of about an hour and then begin landing troops using amphibious assault ships, such as the Kunlunshan, the biggest such vessel in the Chinese naval fleet. It has a displacement of 18,000 tons and can accommodate four helicopters on its deck.

While the invasion was under way, the main units of the North China Sea Fleet and the East China Sea Fleet would take up positions to block U.S. aircraft carriers from approaching the island.

Taiwan should take note of that outline: Achieve surprise, strike hard and fast to stun defenders, land troops, slow down our carriers.

The bigger lesson--one that really keeps China's neighbors nervous--is that China's plans to take these islands are fairly new and follow on the new declaration that these South China Sea islands are a "core interest" of China. While China has long claimed them and taken some in the past, in doplomatic circles that designation had been reserved for Taiwan and Tibet.

But as Chinese military capabilities have increased, so too has their scope of core interests. Neighbors have to wonder what core interest related to them could be discovered in the future as Chinese military capabilities expand to put them within reach. When Chinese intentions can change overnight, neighbors have to react to Chinese capabilities, just in case a "peaceful rise" of China turns into a "core interest" at their expense.

Fighting Them Over There

Huh. Our Homeland Security Secretary is in Afghanistan:

US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has arrived in Afghanistan for talks with Afghan officials and to spend the New Year's holiday with American troops.

A statement issued from her office in Washington said Napolitano arrived early Friday in Kabul with US customs and border security officials to help provide civilian assistance to local officials.

While in Afghanistan, she will meet with senior US and Afghan officials on border security issues.

It's almost like we need to fight them over there lest we be compelled to cope with them over here. I'm just a tad concerned, since she might be taking notes about our troops over there in light of her earlier worries about just who "them" really are.

I'd be happier if our secretary would visit the US-Mexican border more often to assist securing that border.

I'm From the Government, I'm Here to Help

Well, help the smelt. The people? Not so much.

One must have priorities, mustn't one?

Power Protection

The United States is unhappy with the state of Egypt's military, preferring that Egypt clean up the corruption and reorient the military away from large-scale conventional operations to power projection and counter-terror missions. Egypt is uninterested, as our diplomats reported:

"The United States has sought to interest the Egyptian military into expanding their mission in ways that reflect new regional and transnational security threats, such as piracy, border security, and counterterrorism," said a memo dated Dec. 21, 2008, released by WikiLeaks.

"But the aging leadership, however, has resisted our efforts and remained satisfied with continuing to do what they have done for years: train for force-on-force warfare with a premium on grounds forces and armor."

They are satisfied because the rulers of Egypt have completely different objectives for their military than we do. It's all about power protection and not power projection. Egypt's government wants happy generals who aren't a threat to the government; a military that looks like it could take on Israel to make their people feel good; make Egypt look like the natural leader of the Arab world against Israel; and still have enough mass to steamroller weaker militaries in Libya and Sudan.

Although I'd think that Egypt could shake some ground forces loose for a counter-pirate operation ashore in Somalia since they have a number of light infantry brigades like paratroopers, air mobile, special forces, and commandos (I'm surprised they don't actually have a marine component, after checking my IISS The Military Balance 2008). Egypt did commit tens of thousands of troops to a long fight in Yemen in the 1960s, after all.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Stronger--But Not Stronger Than Everyone

China's defense minister has raised some alarms with these comments:

"In the coming five years, our military will push forward preparations for military conflict in every strategic direction," said Liang Guanglie in an interview published by several state-backed newspapers in China. "We may be living in peaceful times, but we can never forget war, never send the horses south or put the bayonets and guns away," Mr Liang added.

China repeatedly says it is planning a "peaceful rise" but the recent pace and scale of its military modernisation has alarmed many of its neighbours in the Asia-Pacific, including Japan which described China's military build-up as a "global concern" this month.

China is getting stronger. There is no doubt that they are translating their growing economic power into military power. The problem from China's point of view is that they have potential enemies all around their borders. Heck, from a purely practical point of view, China has to prepare for conflicts in every strategic direction. But doing so with an attitude won't make you friends. And the rise of China's capabilities combined with a more forceful approach to getting what they want makes neighbors nervous.

By preparing to face all those potential enemies, China dilutes their power by stretching to cover many theaters.

Of course, China also gains the central position. If they can defend in many areas with minimal forces while they rapidly concentrate power in one area, they can pick apart a widely dispersed array of foes around their border with successive offensives. Naval power isn't interchangeable with ground power, so this type of redeployment can't work in all cases, but redeploying what they can could allow China to defeat threats in succession if everyone not in China's primary theater doesn't jump in to intervene and just hopes to be the last victim.

That's where we come in. As long as our deployable power remains decisive within the Asian balance of power, we can hold widely separated countries together in an alliance if China's peaceful rise turns out less peaceful than claimed. Further, the potential that we could throw some of our power into any of the quiet sectors would deny China the ability to really thin the quiet sectors too much out of fear that our forces could generate local superiority by one neighbor who might jump into the fight.

It's been a long time since China has been the Middle Kingdom, so they may be getting a bit cocky, forgetting that they are in the middle with countries that just don't trust them all around.

Or maybe China's rise will be peaceful. Maybe China won't be hasty and burn out in a bright flame trying to get what they want right now, consequences be damned. Maybe they'll be happy with the major accomplishment of rising so far so quickly the last several decades, and take their place as a status quo power.

China has benefited from the current international system, after all. That would be the smart way to play it. I wish I could say I was confident that China will play it the smart way.

Kill Sack

I've long worried about the decision by the United States to pull back outposts from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in the east:

In Afghanistan, the enemy brings in weapons and men for large attacks from Pakistan--whether recruited there or just trained there. If we abandon the border, won't we just invite those large groups of Taliban to penetrate further into Afghanistan to attack our outposts in Afghan cities and towns? Afghanistan is much more rural so our troops will have to spread out quite a bit to protect all those small villages unlike Iraq with large urban areas to focus on.

Wouldn't it be better to put a network of interlocked US/Coalition/Afghan outposts along the crucial border areas that make sure no outpost is beyond help from nearby forces? That way we keep the threat in the interior to smaller levels where Afghan forces with Western advisors and a more limited number of US and NATO units can provide security to population centers (See here).

We recognize that our battle spans both sides of the Afghan-Palistan border (AfPak), but let's not pretend that the border isn't important. If we abandon the border, the enemy will follow us to wherever we stand. And the enemy may be able to make those border areas inside Afghanistan their sanctuary rather than Pakistan, just as Pakistan seems poised to wrest control of border areas from their own jihadis.

But reports that we have organized anti-Taliban Afghans near the border and our operations on the other side of the border with UAVs in cooperation with the Pakistanis have made me feel better, by showing that we hadn't abandoned the border. We can't seal the border, as this 101st AB brigade commander stated. But it is important to try.

As long as we can maintain good intelligence on Taliban movement with surveillance assets, our (American and allied) special forces and intelligence people on the ground in the border regions, and locals who fight with our support, this isn't so much abandoning the borders as it is pulling back US outposts vulnerable to surprise attacks from enemies massing inside Pakistan first. If we can hit the enemy in this network of surveillance and strikes, we can keep the enemy from penetrating in strength to more densely populated areas.

Strategypage makes me feel better about the border strategy:

Eastern Afghanistan is alive with the sound of the Pakistani Taliban dying. Several Islamic terrorist groups across the border in Waziristan are trying to escape the Pakistani Army, CIA missiles and fed-up tribesmen, by fleeing across the border. But these heavily armed refugees find more armed and angry tribesmen, plus Afghan and NATO troops. For an Afghan, this is no way to spend the Winter. It's too cold to be chased through the snow filled mountain passes. ...

NATO forces are also using some ancient tactics. Instead of trying to halt hostile gunmen from sneaking across the border, they are carefully watching the towns and villages the enemy needs to visit for food and other supplies (like batteries for radios and news of the local situation). The locals are fed up with the Taliban and drug gangs, who act like thugs and bullies and have been at it for over a decade. The government and NATO has encouraged the formation of self-defense militias and put more checkpoints on the few roads, to prevent the Taliban and gangsters from rapidly moving gunmen around via pickups and SUVs (which the drug gangs can afford, and many of these vehicles are usually a sure sign the gangs are around).

So we do have a network, as I wanted. But it relies far less on regular infantry as I mentioned. This works as long as there aren't important objectives in the forward kill zone inside the border belt where we are using this approach, since it is a network for attriting the enemy in the area and not protecting the area from the enemy (although we help locals defend themselves, and attriting the enemy keeps them atomized to pose less of a threat to local defense forces). We can afford to give ground, let the enemy move forward, find them and strike them, and still protect the critical population centers deeper inside Afghanistan.

At some point we'll have to control the border on the Afghan side to keep Afghanistan from being the rear area safe haven for Pakistan's Taliban. We have to beat both groups of Taliban before we can really say we've achieved a real victory with the potential to last past our future draw down.

Tell It To Troy Middleton

Via Instapundit comes this idiocy:

ROTC and its warrior ethic taint the intellectual purity of a school, if by purity we mean trying to rise above the foul idea that nations can kill and destroy their way to peace. If a school such as Harvard does sell out to the military, let it at least be honest and add a sign at its Cambridge front portal: Harvard, a Pentagon Annex.

Yeah, the warrior ethic is completely incompatible with education.

The author of the anti-ROTC piece, Colman McCarthy, is an idiot, if by idiot you mean completely clueless about the reality of the world.

But what do you expect? McCarthy directs the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington. 

War is a tool, and like any tool it can be misused or do great good (such as preventing a greater evil). Is a hammer evil? It can be used to build a home or school; or it can be used to bash a person's skull in. A sharp knife can be used to mug a woman late at night or carry out surgery to save a life. McCarthy's lack of nuance is disturbing for a man who poses as pro-education purist. He is purely idiotic. If we could actually ban war, his ideas would be fine. But in the end, that effort fails and people like McCarthy are content to simply ban Western nations from waging war. Aggressors aren't generally impressed with peace studies. McCarthy would disarm us, leave us a desert, and call it peace.

I have nothing but contempt for people like McCarthy. You don't teach peace--you defend it. If there was justice in this world, CENTCOM would be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

UPDATE: A more thorough fisking of the drivel. McCarthy may think highly of the Taliban, but our soldiers are better than their gunmen.

UPDATE: More reactions to the idiocy. Lord, McCarthy's bit about learning all he needed to know about ROTC in lefty kindergarten (the 1960s) is priceless by itself.

Army Wins!

Army beat SMU in their bowl game--the first Army bowl victory in 25 years--by a score of 16 to 14. Army blocked a long SMU field goal try and then was able to get the first downs to run the clock out.


Recon By Fire

Our jihadi enemies are truly bastards. Their depravity is so routine that it is sometimes easy to forget that basic fact. What else can you expect of them, eh? That's easy to believe and so our outrage dims.

Rekindle that outrage. Our Taliban enemies injure their own children to gain access to our military system to carry out recon missions:

“It’s a tactic we see the enemy using, injuring these children or female civilians,” said Sgt. Billy Raines, an experienced medic and father of three girls. “They bring them to the local combat outpost, and at that point they gain access to a U.S. military facility. Then they get a flight on our helicopter so they understand how we fly.”

“But their vehicle to get to and fro is that injured person.”

A 2007 report written by a Provincial Reconstruction Team based out of Sharana in Afghanistan’s Pashtun-majority southeast, and published as part of the most-recent WikiLeaks cache, tells of an incident where villagers were “very upset” when local male escorts were not permitted to accompany injured women to the hospital. Their recommendation: “If at all possible, procedures must be emplaced to permit a male escort of injured females during MEDEVAC in respect of Pashtun culture and customs.”

It’s an essential concession to a deeply traditional society. But if some escorts are using this license to gather intelligence — such as details about the security on military bases, methods of flying and timing of medevac flights — then they become yet another danger facing the air ambulance teams as they criss-cross Marja to bring soldiers and civilians the care they need.

That's who we fight. That is our enemy. Do you doubt that they'd kill you and your family even though you voted Democrat the last 5 elections, still hate Cheney, live in a blue state, have a freaking "Coexist" bumper sticker on your freaking Prius, believe WikiLeaks showed how awful we are in Afghanistan (and Iraq), and earnestly discuss the problems of "Islamophobia" in America?

And because we are who we are, our troops treat those deliberately wounded children and women. They do it despite the knowledge that the male escort is scouting us in order to kill our troops.

The only good jihadi is a dead jihadi. This is just another reason I believe that.

An Enemy, Now

Recent news that the Israelis believe Iran is perhaps 3 years from an atomic weapon, based on recent difficulties, is at some level comforting--if true (and assuming Iran doesn't buy a warhead or six to bridge the gap).

But don't forget that Iran doesn't need atomic weapons to act like an enemy despite our own nuclear arsenal. Iran under the mullahs is a threat right now.

Iran fights us in Iraq.

And Iran fights us in Afghanistan.

None of this is new news, of course. Iran has helped our enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan for a long time. But perhaps our media will be more willing to report on this since it can't be explained as a Bush (or more likely, Cheney) plot to start a war with Iran.

Imagine what Iran will do when they have the shield of nuclear weapons--assuming they don't have plans to use them for goals that seem irrational to us?

And remember that our problem with Iran isn't whatever weapon they have or do not have. The problem is the regime that has been waging war on us relentlessly ever since the mullahs came to power. Pray that nuclear weapons don't become another weapon to use in that war.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Austin Bay explains that other countries have to base their preparations on China's military capabilities and not on their stated intentions, because intentions can change overnight.

He notes that China has no intention of launching a war right now:

A war in Asia, with Japan, the U.S. or India, even one with Taiwan, puts the Chinese economy at risk. China's leaders claim their biggest problem is creating 25 million new jobs a year. China's economy depends on global trade. Which leads to another line of analysis: China does not seek a war, but it wants to guarantee its own maritime trade security and does not want to rely on the U.S. Navy to protect it. Hence, the increase in capabilities.

But it is worse than Bay's commentary on intentions. Yes, intentions can change what China wants, and if their capabilities allow for it, they may try to achieve that objective. But the people whose intentions count could change, too. The people in charge now may not want war. But there are others in China who may think their intentions should follow their capabilities. That's another way intentions could change overnight.

There's yet another way things could go bad. China can want to avoid war and still provoke a war as they pursue their goals. Did Hitler want a world war when he invaded Poland in September 1939? Of course not. He wanted half of Poland. He thought that was all that was happening. But he got World War II and the utter destruction of his Third Reich.

China has many wants that it probably doesn't think would result in war:

China's high-profile feuds with the United States, along with territorial spats with Southeast Asian neighbors and Japan, showed a more muscular foreign policy in 2010 that called into question Beijing's promise of a "peaceful rise."

China would be more than happy if their peaceful rise led their neighbors and America to simply give in to China's objectives that are the center of these territorial spats. Which one might China pursue in the belief that it is natural for them to want it, and nobody--especially America or Japan--would want to fight them over it?

Capabilities take years or decades to develop. Intentions can change overnight. Mistakes can happen in a split second.

You can't always gets what you want--or what you need, either--when others don't think you should have it.

Preparing for War

Iran continues to send weapons to Hamas to ready them for the next round of fighting:

Egyptian authorities said dynamite, anti-aircraft missiles, cannon parts and rounds of ammunition and grenades were found by security forces.

The weapons were slated to be smuggled into Gaza through tunnels, the report said. It did not say when the weapons were discovered.

We'll find out how much wasn't intercepted, at some point.

Poor, poor, starving Gaza. Forced to import anti-aircraft weapons to distract them from the lack of food and medicine.

The Basis for a Real Reset

All our efforts to engineer a "reset" in relations with Russia to get them to think of us as a friend and not a foe miss the point. Russia has no real reason to fear us. And they won't learn to stop fearing us until they have something worse to fear--like a rising China:

Nevertheless, there are strong reasons to believe that Russia can play the wildcard role in Asia's future balance of power.

First, the common wisdom that Russia is moving closer to China in order to counterbalance America and its European and Asian allies and partners is incorrect, meaning that the Russian wild card is still very much in play.

While Russia is preoccupied with regaining its influence in parts of eastern Europe, Moscow is also warily watching China's unauthorised movements into Siberia and the Far East.

Beijing is about six times closer to the port city of Vladivostok than is Moscow, which has very weak administrative control over its eastern territories.

Already, an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 Chinese nationals have illegally settled in these oil, gas and timber-rich areas.

Beijing is also tempted by Siberia's freshwater supply, given that China already has severe shortages throughout the country.

The Russian Far East is inhabited by only six million people, while the three provinces in northeast China have about 110 million Chinese inhabitants. By 2020, more than 100 million Chinese will live less than 100km to the south of these Russian territories, whose population will then number between five million and 10 million.

As Medvedev recently admitted, if Russia does not secure its presence in the Far East, it could eventually "lose everything" to the Chinese.

That threat exists and will become more obvious as time goes on. Russia raises the threat of NATO when NATO has no ability to attack Russia (and for now relies more on Russian weakness to protect the newest NATO members in the east rather than our own defenses), and ignores the negative correlation of forces on their Far Eastern borders.

The Russians will reset their relations with the West as the Chinese threat perception rises higher in their minds. Don't worry about what we do or don't do to bolster a reset. And when that happens, we can factor in Russia in the Asian balance of power.

Taking in a Stray

Well, it happened. I had to remove Car Seat from my trunk to make room for Christmas presents. So I took it inside my home, planning to return it to its storage place in a couple days.

Lamb saw it first, and took to it as her gaming chair for the Wii. Or for her stuffed animals when she isn't using it.

Sigh. I just took in a stray. Oh well, Game Seat does serve a function, I guess.

Something, Indeed

Watch Tunisia:

Watching events in Tunisia over the past few days, I have been increasingly reminded of an event in 1989: the fall of the Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu. Is the Tunisian dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, about to meet a similar fate?

After 22 years in power, Ceausescu's end came suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly. It began when the government harassed an ethnic Hungarian priest over something he had said. Demonstrations broke out but the priest was soon forgotten: they rapidly turned into generalised protests against the Ceausescu regime. The Romanian public, to put it mildly, had had enough.

The riots and demonstrations that have swept through Tunisia during the past 10 days also began with a small incident. Twenty-six-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi, living in the provincial town of Sidi Bouzid, had a university degree but no work. To earn some money he took to selling fruit and vegetables in the street without a licence. When the authorities stopped him and confiscated his produce, he was so angry that he set himself on fire.

Rioting followed and security forces sealed off the town. On Wednesday, another jobless young man in Sidi Bouzid climbed an electricity pole, shouted "no for misery, no for unemployment", then touched the wires and electrocuted himself.

I did wonder about this self-immolation incident evolving into something bigger. It has. Not that I'm boasting of any particular prescience. I wondered about Belorus and Iran in the same post. I wonder about a lot of things, truth be told. I scan the news and wonder about things that seem significant--and then blog about it.

The government could, in the end, suppress this anger. But that is something, too, I suppose.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Next Agreement

Prime Minister Maliki says that our troops will leave Iraq at the end of 2011--period:

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ruled out the presence of any U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of 2011, saying his new government and the country's security forces were capable of confronting any remaining threats to Iraq's security, sovereignty and unity.

Mr. Maliki spoke with The Wall Street Journal in a two-hour interview, his first since Iraq ended nine months of stalemate and seated a new government after an inconclusive election, allowing Mr. Maliki to begin a second term as premier.

He seemed firm:

"This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration. It is sealed."

I don't buy that statement. Well, I buy it--he means it now because he needs anti-American and pro-Iranian people in his coalition who absolutely insist on it--but while the current agreement is sealed, there could be another that keeps us in Iraq after 2011. We are needed for too many critical functions that Iraqis cannot yet take over for the issue to be sealed. Maliki even raised this possibility:

But Mr. Maliki said the only way for any of the remaining 50,000 or so American soldiers to stay beyond 2011 would be for the two nations to negotiate—with the approval of Iraq's Parliament—a new Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA, similar to the one concluded in 2008.

That deal took a year of protracted negotiations in the face of vehement opposition from many among Mr. Maliki's own Shiite constituency, and no repeat is expected.

Mr. Maliki and U.S. officials have refrained for the most part from raising the issue publicly during the months of political wrangling in Baghdad, as Mr. Maliki negotiated with potential coalition partners, many of whom have adamantly opposed an extended U.S. stay.

No repeat can be expected any time soon. But the logic is clear that we are needed. Maliki will need to fully sideline the Sadrists, but with those troublemakers apparently kept out of key security posts, I'd guess that is more likely than watching all our forces leave in one year.

Bet on Optimism

Why I just don't get worked up about predictions of scarcity.

Really. I don't think of myself as an optimist on this issue. I'm just comforted by history.

UPDATE: Victor Hanson describes that comforting history. One can certainly be upset with certain current policies. And work to change them to better policies. But don't lose sight of our strengths that bode well for us in the long run.

And don't forget that our competitors have deeper problems than we do.

Well This is Just Stupid

This author wonders if China is a paper tiger. This is just silly. It takes the question of whether China is a super power (they aren't) and uses it to imply they are a paper tiger (they aren't).

Exhibit A: The Chinese can't build a modern jet engine and it may take years or decades for them to master the technology.

That failure means they are not a military threat? Before the Russo-Japanese War, Japan imported their ships from abroad. Was Japan not a threat to Russia, which could build their own ships? And consider that China is making progress in building their own advanced jet engines. They aren't as good as ours--or even the Russian models they are copied from--but they are getting better and the Chinese will master the technology.

Exhibit B: The Chinese DF-21 may not work. Our carrier could move before a missile could reach the area it was aimed at, it is explained.

The DF-21 system may not work yet, it is true. But the pieces are in place. Now the Chinese need to get the pieces to work together. The missile would likely have its own radar to guide the missile as it approached the initial target area identified by satellites. We'd have to move a targeted carrier a lot to avoid that kind of area radar that scans the region around the initial target point. If China can get the parts to work, China could easily fire a volley of such missiles to cover the radius of our carrier's potential evasive movement. Would they waste a number of ballistic missiles doing that? Sure. Would they care if one of twenty slammed into the carrier, sinking or crippling it? No, they would not care. Would even getting our carriers to spend more time worrying about survival and less time stopping a Chinese invasion fleet off of Taiwan be good enough? You bet. Even if the missile system doesn't work as well as the Chinese hope and we fear, would we act more cautiously in moving within range of such a system? Darned straight, we would.

The real problem with the DF-21, as far as I'm concerned, is that it compels us to strike deep into China to knock out the missiles before they launch and attack in space to knock down the Chinese satellites to prevent the Chinese from getting the initial target point. Our carriers are too much of a prestige target to risk losing them. China immediately forces us to expand a local war over Taiwan, for example, into a fight that includes a lot of Chinese territory--which could compel escalation into a general war.

The basic failure of those who minimize Chinese power is their search for evidence that China is emerging as a peer competitor; and when finding evidence that rightly shows they are not a peer competitor, concluding that China really isn't a threat.

China is a threat to us even if they have a short punch in the medium term. Just being able to project power 500 miles in Asia, given the rising importance of Asia, is significant. Recall that the Soviet Union just had to advance a couple hundred miles in Western Europe to defeat the West during the Cold War, given the importance of Europe in that struggle. Recall further that Germany was not a peer competitor of us at any time during 1941 to 1945. Neither was Japan. Being powerful overseas in an area important to us is threat enough, eh?

China is a rising power that casts an increasingly lengthy shadow over their own neighborhood. We remain supreme outside of that looming shadow because of our global power; but inside that shadow, China can increasingly compete with the amount of power we can project there in support of our allies who live under that shadow of Chinese power.

China is not a paper tiger. They can't leap very far, but you wouldn't want to get close to their claws.

UPDATE: The commander of our Pacifice forces, Admiral Robert Willard, gives a good inverview covering this topic in a far more rational manner than the musings of whether China is a paper tiger.

The Qesem Cave Massacre!

Israelis admitted to unearthing human remains!

A Tel Aviv University team excavating a cave in central Israel said teeth found in the cave are about 400,000 years old and resemble those of other remains of modern man, known scientifically as Homo sapiens, found in Israel. The earliest Homo sapiens remains found until now are half as old.

Pro-Palestinian activists in Europe were quick to accuse the Israelis of responsibility for the dead humanoids. They further highlighted the apparent fact that the Israelis had brutally pulled the teeth of the dead in some type of bizarre Jewish torture ritual before executing them.

Representatives of Hamas said this may represent the earliest known mass grave of Zionist victims, and demanded a United Nations investigation. The Human Rights Commission is likely to agree to this request, and charter a humanitarian flotilla to take relief supplies of anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank missiles, and surface-to-surface rockets to the descendants of the victims.

Monday, December 27, 2010

It Measures 'Travel' Problems

For those looking for an excuse to run from Afghanistan, this is timely:

Confidential UN maps show a clear deterioration in security in parts of Afghanistan over the course of this year, despite White House claims its strategy is working, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

The paper compared two UN maps, one showing the situation at the start of this year's fighting season in March and the other towards its end in October.

While the situation in the south -- the fiercest battleground between US-led troops and the Taliban -- remained virtually unchanged at "very high risk", it worsened in 16 districts in the north and east, the paper said.

We are making gains in the south where the Taliban recruit and draw money from to wage war. And yes, the Taliban are making efforts to look for weaknesses in the north and east. But in the north at least, there are few supporters of the Taliban around to allow the Taliban to gain a foothold. They are raiders and not insurgents, and if we take care of the problem and don't ignore it, we'll hunt them down and kill or scatter them. In the east, support from Pakistan can still feed the enemy, and we are working on this problem, too.

If you read the article carefully, you can see that it should not be used to assess progress in the war:

The United Nations uses the maps to assess the dangers of travelling and running schemes across Afghanistan, the Wall Street Journal said.

There you go. This is for the purpose of letting UN people know how safe it is to drive around. The UN would have deemed the Normandy, France region safe to travel in if they assessed the situation in May 1944. The next month? Definitely deteriorating, for the purposes of traveling.

We are winning this war. Is our progress fragile and reversible? Darned straight, when you consider how eager some people here are to reverse that progress and lose the war.

One Problem at a Time, 'K?

This article looks past the success of battling the Taliban in Pakistan to worrying about one of the tools used to beat down the Taliban:

Tribal militias allied with the government helped block a Taliban advance in this corner of northwest Pakistan close to the Afghan border, but their success has come at a price: the empowerment of untrained, unaccountable private armies that could yet emerge as a threat of their own.

Fine. Point taken. The Taliban are a threat right now. The militias are being used to defeat the Taliban threat. One day, the militias could become a threat.

But that kind of problem is true in any conflict where you arm the people to resist an enemy. And that includes enlisting lots of your people into an army that suddenly loses a former enemy to occupy the attention of those soldiers. That was one of the problems Saddam had after the First Gulf War (Iran-Iraq War). He couldn't afford to keep his army on the payroll yet couldn't afford to demobilize it both because Iran could surge across the border if it wanted to restart the war they lost, and because putting lots of (partially) trained (especially Shia) soldiers back on the block wasn't necessarily the smartest thing to do.

So, yeah, this is a potential problem. But it is no reason to fail to mobilize this resource to defeat the current threat of the Taliban since the government's other resources aren't sufficient to battle the Taliban.

And really, what problem would you rather face--internationalist Taliban who love suicide bombings and bring down foreign interest in your land with no regard for the damage the area they are in endures? Or local tribal forces tied to their location that they want to defend? The Pakistanis, in one form or another, have been dealing with those mountain tribes for a long time, and can manage that local problem far easier than fighting hopped up jihadis intent on.

I don't ask that every solution solve every foreseeable problem ten steps down the line along with the problem to be solved. I just want solutions that solve the immediate serious problem without obviously crippling me for the next step.

Will Taiwan Close the Gaps?

An article on Taiwan procurement efforts (mixed though that effort has been over the last decade).

Fighter aircraft and submarines remain key shortcomings in Taiwan's efforts to be too tough to conquer.

Third-Party Talks

So, is China reconsidering their little pet psycho's future?

This is interesting:

South Korean and Chinese defence ministers are to meet in Beijing in February amid rising tension on the Korean peninsula, Seoul has said.

It provided no details of the talks, but the two sides are expected to discuss what Seoul describes as North Korea's hostile acts in recent months.

It is to discuss regional security. Given that China actually seems comfortable with South Korea controlling North Korea's territory should there be a nation collapse north of the DMZ, it could be that the two might touch on how that might take place.  You know--for regional security. And in light of how an unnamed third party is threatening said regional security.

While partition may not be necessary to prevent a great power war over who governs what on the peninsula, as a guide of what is allowed closer to China, this post might still offer a guide, in part, since I'm sure China would still like to limit what type of weapons even South Korea deploys north of the DMZ, at least until more trust is established.

Really, from China's point of view, is getting dragged into a war over Pyongyang's fate terribly wise? Or even just watching a war ravage the peninsula, with bad economic consequences that would reach Peking?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Quiet Front

This is an active front, to be sure, but it is being fought quietly (from the perspective of our media attention):

For most of this month, some 4,000 soldiers and police have been searching areas east of the capital, killing or capturing nearly a hundred al Qaeda members and finding over 20 hideouts and camps. The security forces believe they have destroyed a major part of the al Qaeda network, and gathered information leading to the surviving members of al Qaeda in North Africa. A key factor in the success of this sweep has been the American EP-3 electronic monitoring aircraft (based in Rota, Spain), which have been flying patrols over suspected terrorist base areas for months. The EP-3s can intercept terrorist communications in rural areas, and this provided data, including locations, of the terrorist hideouts and rural camps. These aerial patrols were kept secret, so the terrorists would not limit the use of their radios and cell phones.
This is part of a regional effort. There are many ways to kill jihadis. Direct combat on a large scale is the least desirable way, of course. Helping others kill jihadis is the best. We need to use them all.

Keeping Their SLOC Open

Despite strides in power projection, the Chinese navy still has limited ability to operate east of Taiwan and survive the experience should the United States Navy and/or the Japanese fleet contest China's forces out there. So I expect that the main force that China would use east of Taiwan would be mostly older (and expendable--sorry crew) submarines that would lay mines to complicate our efforts to resupply Taiwan in case of war and screw up Taiwan's foreign civilian trade. (Although if I was in charge, I'd sacrifice a Shi Lang task force out there to slow down our response.)

Taiwan will soon have a very useful tool in keeping their sea lines of communication open:

The first of a dozen anti-submarine aircraft are set to go into service in Taiwan next year, local media reported Sunday, as east Asian governments look to counter an increasingly assertive China.

Washington agreed in 2007 to sell the refurbished P-3C Orion patrol aircraft, along with three non-operational machines for spares, and "the first ones will be delivered beginning next year," the Taipei-based China Times said.

"The surveillance range of Taiwan's anti-submarine fleet will expand tenfold after the P-3Cs join the navy," it quoted an unnamed military source as saying.

Anything that buys us the time to get to Taiwan will help deter China from starting a war--or win it if China starts one anyway.

Pretending to Be an Ally

I'm sure that you were all excited about France rejoining NATO's military arm last year after formally pulling out in 1966 (although secretly, they'd fight with NATO in case of war). Recent talk has been of Russia buying French amphibous warships, which would have been especially useful for Russia's Black Sea fleet given inadequacies demonstrated in the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. We protested especially over this arming of a potential foe of a potential NATO member.

Well, newly ally-like France has taken care of that problem!

A Mistral-class ship is capable of transporting and deploying 16 helicopters, four landing vessels, up to 70 armored vehicles including 13 battle tanks, and 450 personnel.

The Russian military has said it plans to use Mistral ships in its Northern and Pacific fleets.

See? Russia pretends that it won't deploy them in the Black Sea! And France pretends to believe them! Now that's nuanced foreign policy!

Plans change, eh? Have no doubt, at least one of those Mistrals will be based in the Black Sea, and France won't say a word about it.

UPDATE: Background on the Mistral class and the deal.

Performance Review

General Petraeus said some nice things about Pakistan's future efforts to stomp the Taliban on their side of the border:

The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan said there will be more coordinated military operations on either side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and commended Pakistan on its "impressive" counterinsurgency efforts.

The Taliban in Afghanistan and other extremist groups use safe havens across the border in Pakistan, and the U.S. has been pushing Islamabad to clear the lawless tribal belt that runs along the frontier. The pressure has often strained U.S.-Pakistani relations, with Islamabad bristling at suggestions it should do more. ...

"We want to do more hammer and anvil operations," Petraeus said late Saturday, in an interview aboard a military transport aircraft as he flew around the country on Christmas visits to bases and combat outposts dotted across north, west, south and east Afghanistan.

You have to wonder if these reports of unilateral US operations were part of the negotiating that got Pakistan to agree to actions that Petraeus finds commendable. I've mentioned the hammer and anvil concept in regard to the border region.

And the general makes a good point that Pakistan has actually done a lot, even as we need them to do more.

All in all, a good sign. Another good sign that people really shouldn't go all wobbly on the war formerly known by our left side of the aisle as "good."

UPDATE: Strategypage describes the good things Pakistan has done--even as we would like them to do more:

The Taliban in Pakistan are in a panic. The American surveillance and UAV missile attacks are becoming increasingly effective. Taliban and al Qaeda groups have been unable to come up with an effective way to shut down the American intelligence effort that finds more and more targets (there have been about ten attacks a month this year).

These are not reasons to withdraw to avoid defeat. Victory is taking time, but unless you want to construct speculative scenarios about how the Taliban won't really be a threat to us if we abandon the region to them, what choice do we have?

At this point, people prone to being anti-war are looking for excuses to do what they naturally prefer to do--retreat.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Last Duties

Well, pre-Christmas is about to wrap up. I bought the converter to make the 16-pin printer plug fit into the USB port on the new computer--at a cost that could have got me a new printer--but somehow that seems like I'm surrendering to "them."

Lamb and I baked cookies for Santa, and Lamb piled on the sugary stars like it was a coat of paint. I get to eat those later ... . And only one batch was a tad too crispy, after Mister called me for a computer mystery (no, I have no idea why your game won't save, giving the excuse of lack of memory, since you clearly still have a gagillion gigawhatevers of storage left on said new computer) and I spent just a tad too long pondering the problem before racing to the oven--2 minutes past the max time. (Agghh, cookies!--uninstall the game and reload it!) Oh well, those got slathered in frosting. Not burnt, but definitely not soft and chewy. Frosting is the spackle of cookie world, eh? Only one batch came out soft and chewy--the final and smallest batch.

And I'll leave carrot residue on the floor by the fireplace, since reindeer are kind of messy, right? Oh, and I must leave a residue of milk and chocolate syrup in the mug, and still need to write the note of thanks from Santa on the Santa stationery I made. Then put out Santa's presents under the tree.

We also got in some sledding late in the day, and Lamb had a blast. Last year, sledding was ruined for the season by the first day out in wet snow that made for awful sledding if you didn't have the patience to keep going until a nice path was broken through the snow. Today was cold and dry, and Lamb flew down the hill right from the start. By the end, she was flinging her hat off on the way down as if she was going so fast it just blew off! And then she started bailing out on purpose as the sled raced down, just for the thrill of sliding sled-less through the snow. Hot chocolate with marshmallows once back at home was, of course, the final cap to sledding.

Lamb is so anxious for tomorrow morning she can hardly stand it. Mister plays along to avoid spoiling Lamb's belief. This could be her last year.

Which is fine with me, no more Santa subterfuge with the big guy getting the credit for all the best presents!

Oh, and a late night mug of egg nog when all the duties are done.

Merry Chistmas! I love this time of year.

Merry Christmas

This is a touching story for the Christmas season:

Fred Hargesheimer, a World War II Army pilot whose rescue by Pacific islanders led to a life of giving back as a builder of schools and teacher of children, died Thursday morning. He was 94. Richard Hargesheimer said his father had been suffering from poor health and passed away in Lincoln.

A P-38 recon pilot shot down by the Japanese and rescued and hidden for many months until rescued, Mr. Hargesheimer eventually decided to pay back the gift of his life:

After returning to the U.S. following the war, Hargesheimer got married and began a sales career with a Minnesota forerunner of computer maker Sperry Rand, his lifelong employer. But he said he couldn't forget the Nakanai people, who he considered his saviors.

The more he thought about it, he later said, "the more I realized what a debt I had to try to repay."

After revisiting the village of Ea Ea in 1960, he came home, raised $15,000 over three years, "most of it $5 and $10 gifts," and then returned with 17-year-old son Richard in 1963 to contract for the building of the villagers' first school.

In the decades to come, Hargesheimer's U.S. fundraising and determination built a clinic, another school and libraries in Ea Ea, renamed Nantabu, and surrounding villages.

In 1970, their three children grown, Hargesheimer and his late wife, Dorothy, moved to New Britain, today an out-island of the nation of Papua New Guinea, and taught the village children themselves for four years. The Nantabu school's experimental plot of oil palm even helped create a local economy, a large plantation with jobs for impoverished villagers.

War is Hell. But the reason we (should) fight them anyway, sometimes, is for a greater good (or to prevent a greater Hell on Earth). And sometimes, that good comes in unexpected ways decades down the line.

Merry Christmas.

Their Spirit of the Season

Authorities in Mumbai, India, are looking for attackers who may want to repeat their slaughter of two years ago:

Police have received credible information that at least four men belonging to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group have entered the city and were planning to strike during the holiday season, said Himanshu Roy, joint police commissioner of Mumbai Police. India blames Lashkar for the 2008 assaults.

"The four men are planning violent attacks that are going to cause destruction," Roy said. "The four have recently arrived in Mumbai. We believe the threat is serious."

'Tis the season.

Still Disputing Missile Defense

There doesn't seem to be much of a question that the Russian parliament will vote for New START. I suppose some members might be suspicious that it couldn't possibly be as good as I think it is for Russia, and so it must be some deep American trap. But other than that level of opposition, it will sail through (and that doesn't even consider that a rubber stamp parliament will do as it is told).

Still, the Russians won't let our Senate's assertion on missile defense stand unanswered:

Kosachev and other lawmakers said that the Duma will likely counter the Senate legislation with legislation of its own.

"We don't have the right to leave their interpretations unanswered," Kosachev told reporters on Friday. "Otherwise it may give additional advantages to our American partners — or, possibly, opponents. We need to balance those advantages."

The treaty also needs to be ratified by the upper house, the Federation Council, which like the Duma is controlled by the Kremlin.

Addressing legislators in both houses of parliament, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that the legislation accompanying the treaty doesn't change it and made it extremely clear that the Kremlin wants the pact ratified.

Indeed, the Russians don't even think the separate Senate actions outside of the treaty even matter at all.

Either way, the Russians sure seem to believe our missile defense options are limited by the New START pact. Reset!

A Tragic Sign of Progress

One of the most distressing things about Islamo-fascism is the joy that some Moslem parents have publicly displayed over their suicide-bomber child. So this decision by an Iraqi father--if the reason he gave is true--is encouraging in the big picture even as it is heart-breaking at a personal level for the father:

An Iraqi man killed his 19-year-old daughter after he discovered al-Qaida had recruited her as a suicide bomber in an area north of Baghdad, a police spokesman said on Friday.

I can't imagine being faced with the dilemma of stopping your own child from killing scores of innocent strangers, as a suicide bomber. It's a messed up world when killing your own child is the least bad decision you can make. But that is less messed up than it used to be--and still is in some communities.

Hemispheric Defense

Watch Hugo Chavez very closely. He is going from plain buffoon dangerous only to his own people to dangerous buffoon who threatens the peace of the region with his de facto alliance with Iran:

Recent revelations about hostile incursions into South America have raised alarm in those who care about U.S. interests and security, particularly in America’s hemisphere. They have also raised questions about whether the Monroe Doctrine — America will tolerate no hostile incursions in her own hemisphere — is dead. These revelations have been, for the most part, ignored by those who care little for American sovereignty and security, such as the MSM and apparently the Obama administration.

Among the two most alarming revelations is the already completed sale and delivery, to Venezuela by Russia, of nearly 2,000 advanced, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles capable of hitting aircraft as high as 19,000 feet. Equally and perhaps more alarming is an October agreement between Iran and Venezuela. The agreement establishes a joint ground-to-ground missile base on Venezuelan soil and calls for the sharing of missile technology and the training of technicians and officers. In addition, Venezuela may use the missiles as it chooses for “national needs” and in case of “emergency.” Several types of missiles will be deployed, giving Venezuela the ability to strike targets throughout South and Central America and throughout the U.S.

Yes indeed. I was serious when I mentioned Monroe Doctrine implications a couple months ago. While we are focused on North Korea and Iran, with Afghanistan and Iraq trailing the pack, Venezuela could become the surprise crisis that calls for our immediate attention in the next several years.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Festivus Miracle!

I had to double check that this wasn't an Onion satire. The Washington Post editorializes about Iraq, titling it "A Good Year in Iraq," and concludes:

It's still too early to draw conclusions about Iraq, though many opponents of the war did so long ago. Mr. Maliki's government could easily go wrong; the coming year, which could end with the withdrawal of all remaining U.S. troops, will likely be just as challenging as this one. But the country's political class has repeatedly chosen democracy over dictatorship and accommodation over violence. If that keeps up, a rough version of Mr. Bush's dream may yet come true.

Well I'll be.

I could have sworn that the Post editors were one such group that drew conclusions about Iraq (that we were doomed) long ago, but never mind. This is amazing progress for them, I think.

I would like to protest that it may be too early to draw a conclusion about the ultimate success of Iraqi democracy, but it is not too early to draw conclusions about the war.

One, we ended the cruel Saddam regime.

Two, we liberated the Shias and Kurds from the threat of Saddam's regime.

Three, we ended the threat of Saddam's regime to its neighbors.

Four, we ended the threat of the Saddam regime supporting terrorism.

Five, we ended the threat of Saddam or his evil spawn getting weapons of mass destruction.

Six, we turned Iraq from an enemy into a friend and partner in the war on terror.

Seven, we defeated al Qaeda in battle inside Iraq, delivering a devastating blow to their organization and reputation.

Eight, we defeated Iran inside Iraq, turning back Tehran's attempts to spark civil war or deliver Iraq to Iran via their proxies.

Nine, we've set Iraq on the path to rule of law and democracy.

I probably could think of more if I took the time, but I'm blogging so time ran out when I typed "democracy."

Yes, we have a way to go on the ninth point to make sure that this is entrenched. So in that sense it is too early to draw conclusions. But if we stay engaged in Iraq and keep a robust military and civilian presence in Iraq to achieve this, the full version of President Bush's dream for Iraq--setting a revolutionary example of real democracy for the region in Iraq that rejects autocracy and Islamism as the current choices offered the Moslem world in the Middle East.

Not a bad record at all.

Show and Tell

Egypt has a large and well equipped military plagued by corruption that makes it far less effective than it appears on paper. It lives on its outward appearance and the glories of their Suez Canal crossing operation back in October 1973 that initially pushed the Israelis back by crossing what was assumed to be an impenetrable obstacle. But it works just fine for Egypt's objectives.

Strategypage explains:

Egyptian leaders aren't really worried about their corrupted military. Egypt is still more powerful than neighboring Libya and Sudan (who both have similar problems, and no American weapons). As for Israel, most Egyptians take it for granted that there is very little likelihood of another war with Israel. As things stand now, the Israelis would still win, as they have so many times before.

So allowing corruption helps buy the loyalty of the military to keep it from being motivated to overthrow the government; doesn't stop the Egyptians from steamrolling over the equally corrupt but far smaller and poorly equipped Libyan and Sudanese militaries; and appears outwardly capable of taking on the Israelis to make their public feel good and justify Egyptian ambitions to lead the Arab world that would never trust that role to a state unable to confront Israel if need be in a war. And the American alliance ultimately is a better guarantee against losing to Israel than their military.

So the Egyptian military can show the numbers and hardware to look good; and tell Libya and Sudan that they can still stomp on them, if they need to.

Sink the Bismarck!

The Chinese are getting close to launching the Shi Lang (ex-Varyag) as their first aircraft carrier:

China may be ready to launch its first aircraft carrier in 2011, Chinese military and political sources said on Thursday, a year ahead of U.S. military analysts' expectations.

Analysts expect China to use its first operational aircraft carrier to ensure the security of its oil supply route through the Indian Ocean and near the disputed Spratly Islands, but full capability is still some years away.

"The period around July 1 next year to celebrate the (Chinese Communist) Party's birthday is one window (for launch)," one source with ties to the leadership told Reuters, requesting anonymity because the carrier programme is one of China's most closely guarded secrets.

One, "operational" is the key word here. Shi Lang will be used as a training platform for naval aviators not yet fully trained.

Second, a single Chinese carrier operating in the Indian Ocean would lead a brief and exciting life if it actually had to defend their sea oil import routes back to China. In peacetime, it would look impressive to the locals, but it would burn and sink in a war with America or even India. And that assessment assumes such a clash took place after the Chinese have the decade or so of experience they'd need to really exploit the platform.

To me, the most logical mission for a single Chinese aircraft carrier task force would be to park itself east of Taiwan, out of range of Taiwan's air force, in order to pose a threat to any American or Japanese naval forces trying to reach Taiwan to help them hold off a Chinese invasion. The carrier's fighters would also be useful in complicating our use of Guam- or Japan-based air assets to hit a Chinese invasion fleet in the Taiwan Strait. B-52s flying out of Guam carrying long range anti-ship cruise missiles would need fighter escorts to guard against being shot down by Chinese carrier-based fighters.

Finally, what does a commitment to building aircraft carriers say about China's faith in their DF-21 carrier killer ballistic missiles? Surely, if they think they have an Assassin's mace to nullify our carrier advanatage, they must assume we could do the same to their carriers?

So in the end, we'll have to watch for how many carrier hulls the Chinese lay down. If it is just two or three, we can be sure that the Chinese do not think it is so much a weapon for war but a peacetime presence platform to show others that China can build big deck carriers carrying catapult-assisted planes just like the Americans (well, probably not like our super carriers but more like the British planned carriers or the French carrier).

Or it could be all of that. Nobody says that China has to have a monolithic official position on carriers. Some may view them as primary, decisive weapons in war. Others as symbols of power to impress other countries. And others may see them as just expensive targets that would be smashed by American carriers or long-range missiles of our own.

Strategypage has more on the background, here.

Unclear on the Concept

North Korea issued a threat to South Korea (again):

"To counter the enemy's intentional drive to push the situation to the brink of war, our revolutionary forces are making preparations to begin a sacred war at any moment necessary based on nuclear deterrent," North Korea's KCNA news agency quoted Minister of Armed Forces Kim Yong-chun telling a rally.

South Korea went ahead with some live-fire artillery and air exercises north of Seoul despite North Korea's warning not to carry them out.

It isn't the threat that interests me--that's routine. What I want to complain about is the word use. Perhaps it is a translation issue. But if it isn't, someone needs to sit down with the North Koreans and explain that you do not begin a war using your "sacred" (not that has to be a translation problem. Sacred? In a communist state?) nuclear "deterrent".

"Deterrent" is the problem word. Clearly, in this context, the North Koreans should have said "weapon." Yes, I know, they don't have their nuclear devices weaponized yet, so regardless of the word use the threat is empty right now. Still. Could the Chinese explain to the North Koreans that "deterrent" means something that "deters"--that is, stops someone else from doing something? After all, this would fit in well with North Korean claims that for the last 60 years or so, the US has been planning to unleash war on North Korea to destroy them and the only hope Pyongyang has of stopping us is by having nuclear weapons that can hit the South Koreans, Japanese, and us. You know, it would "deter" us from attacking them.

To get to the point, a nuclear "deterrent" is not meant to be used. It is meant to prevent war from escalating to a nuclear level. Further, it is meant to prevent war at a lower conventional level from escalating to regime destruction. That is, if we know North Korea values their continued reign of terror (and luxury goods--don't forget that) over their people, we won't risk occupying Pyongyang and hanging that twisted,maniac Kim Jong-Il and his equally sick spawn from a gallows erected in the central square.

That is the purpose of a nuclear "deterrent." And if gives neighbors a nice warm feeling that you won't go all North Korea on them and use them short of protecting the existence of your regime or replying to our use of nuclear weapons.

But if you start threatening the use of nukes even before you have them, it just might worry your neighbors (including China) enough for them to blast your little criminal enterprise with a UN seat before you actually get the means to carry out your repeated threats to use atomic weapons. Got it? It's not a difficult concept. Look into it.

Oh, and if it makes you feel better, once you have an actual nuclear deterrent, you can ramp up terrorism to levels you never dreamed you could get away with since our side's retaliation would have to consider your potential use of nukes in response to a conventional retaliation on North Korean targets. See? It may not be wise to use that nuclear "deterrent" you are building, but it does have advantages.

So there. My English as a second language class is concluded.

One-Night Pass

Those who watch and guard our skies, the North American Aerospace Command (NORAD), will be tracking Santa as he delivers presents this Christmas. I highly recommend it to parents with young children.

UPDATE: I did not know how this tradition got started:

NORAD Tracks Santa, the official name of the program, began in 1955 when a Colorado Springs newspaper ad invited kids to talk to Santa on a hotline. The phone number had a typo, and dozens of kids wound up dialing the Continental Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado Springs, the predecessor to NORAD.

The officers on duty played along and began passing along reports on Santa's progress. It's now a cherished ritual at NORAD, a joint U.S.-Canada command that monitors the North American skies and seas from a control center at Peterson.

"It's really ingrained in the NORAD psyche and culture," said Canadian Forces Lt. Gen. Marcel Duval, the deputy commander of NORAD, who pitches in to field French-language calls on Christmas Eve. "It's a goodwill gesture from all of us, on our time off, to all the kids on the planet."

Very cool. Oh, and the First Lady fielded calls Christmas Eve. That's pretty cool, too.

Kill the Rain

No anti-missile umbrella can stop all the missiles from hitting the ground. All it can do is protect little footprints under their dome. The Israeli Iron Dome system is no exception:

The Israeli military revealed that its new Iron Dome anti-rocket system was not meant for defending towns and villages, but military bases. For years, politicians touted Iron Dome as a means of defending civilians living close to rockets fired from Gaza in the south and Lebanon in the north. But it turns out that it takes about 15 seconds for Iron Dome to detect, identify and fire its missiles. But most of the civilian targets currently under fire from Gaza are so close to the border (within 13 kilometers) that the rockets are fired and land in less than 15 seconds.

This explains why, after Iron Dome was declared ready for action six months ago, it was surprisingly placed in storage. The air force said they would prefer to save money and put the Iron Dome batteries in storage, to be deployed only for regular tests (and for training) and for an actual emergency (an expected large scale attack on southern or northern Israel.)

And even the military targets to be protected can be hit by overwhelming the umbrella. And Hezbollah is planning to do that:
Meanwhile, up north in Lebanon, Hezbollah have stockpiled over 40,000 factory-made rockets, mainly BM-21s brought in from Iran via Syria. This is three times as many rockets as they had in the Summer of 2006, when over 4,000 rockets were fired into northern Israel, killing about fifty people, most of them civilians. Over a thousand Lebanese died from Israeli counterattacks. Hezbollah and Hamas plan to launch a joint rocket attack on Israel eventually. The Israelis have been planning more effective countermeasures, which they have not been discussing openly. There is also the option of installing Iron Dome in the north, but that has not been assured yet.

An aerial solution (perhaps to compel the weak Lebanese government to do something, as foolish as that hope was) did not work in 2006. So ultimate defense requires the Israelis to control the launch sites. That will require an aggressive invasion that moves fast and moves deep to crush the Hezbollah light infantry formations and, for some period of time, occupy southern Lebanon (and maybe more).

Sometimes the only defense is a good offense.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Follow the Money

I'm not a fan of the European Union, to say the least. I think it is bad for America and bad for Europe. The current EU-wide financial crisis over the fate of the Euro does not make me feel any better.

Europe's various financial crises logically need force behind any solutions. Sure, it needs to be the power to coerce financial sanity. But that kind of power ultimately rests on military and police powers. The choice on this solution is drawing near, as Stratfor writes:

Europe is on the cusp of change. An EU heads-of-state summit Dec. 16 launched a process aimed to save the common European currency. If successful, this process would be the most significant step toward creating a singular European power since the creation of the European Union itself in 1992 — that is, if it doesn’t destroy the euro first.

Once a singular European power is created, in fact, getting out of that union will be problematic. Stratfor notes the bloody American civil war and the wars of German unification in the same century, as battles between local control and central power, and does not make the comparisons lightly:

Europe simply isn’t to the point of willing conglomeration just yet, and we do not use the American Civil War or German unification wars as comparisons lightly. STRATFOR sees the peacetime creation of a unified European political authority as impossible, since Europe’s component parts are far more varied than those of mid-19th century America or Germany.

Indeed. Whatever the Europeans cobble together on a voluntary basis to resolve the current crises will not last. They cannot, if based on voluntary agreements. At some point, some country will want out of the deal--either because they don't want to repay the loans they took or don't want to pay the loans of others that they guaranteed--risking a lot of loans going bad and sending ripples of bad economic effects across the continent (and perhaps the world). As we've been reminded since 2008, financial-induced recessions are not easy to cope with.

At some point, to safeguard everyone in the EU and keep the money moving, the European Union will send in the cops or send in the troops to enforce a BrezhnEU Doctrine that denies any once-sovereign country from pulling out of the EU and sending the banking stack of cards tumbling to the ground.

On such pretty little stacks of paper currency, is empire built. Look out for a Brussels document entitled, "Sovereignty and the European Obligations of EU Countries." Once that is published, it's too late.

Now Let's Find Out What's In It

Well, our Senate passed the START nuclear agreement signed with Russia.

I have significant concerns over provisions of the deal--especially missile defense--and the Obama administration continues to portray the START pact as something we are giving to Russia in exchange for help on other matters:

The Obama administration has argued that the United States must show credibility in its improved relations with its former Cold War foe, and the treaty was critical to any rapprochement. The White House is counting on Russia to help pressure Iran over its nuclear ambitions.
This does not fill me with confidence that the actual treaty is in our interests in regard to the nuclear missile issues it is focused on. Gaining things outside the treaty from Russia implies we are giving something to Russia in the treaty.

This treaty did not need to be passed right now. Maybe my worries are for nothing, but now I guess I'll find out after the fact.

Basic Training

Can our military get the quality of recruits it needs, given this failing of the education system overall?

The report by The Education Trust found that 23 percent of recent high school graduates don't get the minimum score needed on the enlistment test to join any branch of the military. Questions are often basic, such as: "If 2 plus x equals 4, what is the value of x?"

The military exam results are also worrisome because the test is given to a limited pool of people: Pentagon data shows that 75 percent of those aged 17 to 24 don't even qualify to take the test because they are physically unfit, have a criminal record or didn't graduate high school.

Educators expressed dismay that so many high school graduates are unable to pass a test of basic skills.

Educators will no doubt push for shoveling federal money at the problem. But we've been doing that, and this is what we have. I'm happy with my local schools and teachers, having had good experiences so far with my kids (but I was lucky that my parents paid to send me to Catholic schools for everything but kindergarten, thus avoiding the Detroit public school system), but clearly the overall system has problems if these study results are an accurate reflection of reality.

Given that 75% of the pool of young peopl can't join for reasons other than test results, it seems a stretch to say that funneling money broadly at the problem so that we can decrease the 23% failure rate of the portion of the remaining 25% that takes the military's entry exam is the wisest use of our money.

I'd say that the best way to fight it is to do what the military does for those who can't quite muster the initial PT test in basic training--they are sent to a physical conditioning pre-basic training program. I remember one big, strong guy who couldn't do the minimum number of push-ups, and he was sent off to that unit instead of going with the rest of us to basic.

Why couldn't the military offer skills courses that put the best prospects of the failed test takers into a setting of military discipline to learn the basics they should have learned in high school? Isn't this getting more bang for the buck?

I worry about the effects of a large federal program given that we now worry about school lunches being too fattening and some complain this is hurting these kids' chances of getting into the military by encouraging weight gain. This school lunch program following World War II, you'll recall, was initially touted as a national security measure!

The legislation was identified as the "National School Lunch Act," and Section 2 of the Act defines its purposes: "It is hereby declared to be the policy of Congress, as a measure of national security, to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation's children and to encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities and other food, by assisting the States, through grants-in aid and other means, in providing an adequate supply of food and other facilities for the establishment, maintenance, operation and expansion of nonprofit school lunch programs.”
I'm sure it did good things initially. But like many things, evolving reality passed the solution by and created new problems. So no, I'm not automatically moved by the appeal to military readiness for broad efforts to fix the problem.

UPDATE: Now I understand why our public schools fail to educate so many children well enough to pass the military's entry exams--they teach our kids that 2-inch candy canes are weapons. Why are they weapons?

 "They said the candy canes are weapons because you can sharpen them with your mouth and stab people with them."

Although I have to admit that the soldier is the real weapon, and a good soldier will use whaterver is at hand as a weapon, I'm not sure even a bad ass special forces operator could kill with a sharpened mini candy cane.

Excuse me. I'm going to go bang my head into a wall. Repeatedly.

Figurately Huge

South Korea appears to be rubbing North Korea's nose in their failure to respond militarily to the island firing drill earlier this week by staging exercises north of Seoul. But the headline that this is a "huge drill" is only a relative comparison:

The land drill, involving three dozen mobile artillery guns, six fighter jets, multiple launch rocket systems and 800 troops, the largest number of personnel in a single peace-time exercise, will take place on Thursday and is likely irritate the North.

An artillery battalion is not that large, in the big picture. It is just relative to what the South Koreans usually field for live-fire exercises.

The article says it is a political decision. Sure, with the South Koreans upset at their government for a couple dozen dead sailor, Marines, and civilians this year at the hands of the North Koreans, the leaders of South Korea need to reassure the people that they are ready to protect them.

But it also helps to demonstrate that South Korea will defend their capital city even if the North Koreans escalate their provocations to the main DMZ front for shock value.

And if the North Koreans truly understand that their military is inferior to South Korea's and that even China won't back them in a war, as Strategypage writes, then Pyongyang will let this slide with no action and maybe no comment at all that will only highlight their lack of a military response. Now that would be huge, in the scheme of things.

Little Fockers

Oh wait, I already mentioned the movie. Moving right along (tip to Instapundit):

The Federal Communications Commission's new "net neutrality" rules, passed on a partisan 3-2 vote yesterday, represent a huge win for a slick lobbying campaign run by liberal activist groups and foundations. The losers are likely to be consumers who will see innovation and investment chilled by regulations that treat the Internet like a public utility.

There's little evidence the public is demanding these rules, which purport to stop the non-problem of phone and cable companies blocking access to websites and interfering with Internet traffic. Over 300 House and Senate members have signed a letter opposing FCC Internet regulation, and there will undoubtedly be even less support in the next Congress.

If protecting us with regulations for our own good is such a great thing, why disguise it as a fairness issue?

Sigh. The government is here and wants to help us. This just reeks of a solution in seek of a problem. And by golly, they'll create a problem. On the bright side, once the government gets fully engaged in protecting us, one day we will all have unfettered, equal access to 56K dial-up Internet service and no company will be able to mess with it!

Just How Bad Is It?

Yikes, how bad can Little Fockers be to inspire this line?

So bad that this bland, pointless sequel features a gratuitous scene where the stunning Jessica Alba - one of many new faces added to an already overstuffed ensemble - strips down to her lacy undergarments, belly-flops into a backyard pit, rolls around in the mud, and I still can't recommend you pay to see it.

Yikes. That is a powerful damning statement, all things considered.

My son is a big fan of the franchise, and has been mentioning the movie. It is rare for him to even mention a movie he wants to see, so I don't know how I will avoid it. Maybe I'll get lucky and it will move on to the dollar theater before Mister prods me to take him.

Still, worst case? Lacy undergarments and a belly flop. All my disasters should have this kind of downer.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Green Dregs and Ham

I do not like
you saying "ham."
I do not like it, Islam-I-am.

The jihadis, of course, make Islam look bad what with their killing and threats of killing over the most ridiculous offenses that they see in our very existence outside of Islam. What doesn't set them off into a killing frenzy?

But it isn't just the murderous types who wreck Islam's image. Even those who won't kill over their sensitivity, yet display a ridiculously thin skin over anything that touches their religion, do Islam a dis-service.

Cue the idiots who represent the least desirable part of Islam:

It’s hard to keep track these days of what ¨shows disregard to the feelings of Muslims.” Consider the case of the student at the Menéndez Tolosa school in Cadiz who this week asked his geography teacher to stop discussing ham in class because it was disrespctful to him as a Muslim. It should be noted that the teacher, José Reyes Fernández, was not mocking the Koran’s prohibition against eating ham. What was so offensive to the student was Fernández’s use of the Granada town of Trevélez as an example of a cold moutain climate conducive to the curings of hams.

Fernández’s explanation to the student that he did not consider his pupils’ religious beliefs when creating his lesson plans apparently did not pass muster. The student’s parents immediately filed a complaint against the teacher with the National Police for psychological ill-treatment due to xenophobia and racism.

Fernández is a well-respected teacher with 20 years of experience and no history of problems with students. In a note to the media, he wrote that the incident has damaged “his honor [and] image.” Fortunately it appears that the complaint will not also hurt his professional career: a local prosectuor on Tuesday announced plans to close the case.

While it is a relief that the teacher won't be prosecuted for this ridiculous complaint, the fact that the student's parents filed a complaint demonstrates that Islam needs to cure this attitude. It should not be possible for the most sensitive Moslem to stand up and claim that what offends them, offends Islam, and then demand we change to avoid offending their view of Islam.

Islam is not our enemy. Just as true, the fanatics--whether jihadis or just overly sensitive--are not just the enemies of the non-Moslem world. We'll all--Moslems and non-Moslems--be better off when the dregs of Islam are denied the status of defenders of Islam.

UPDATE: The jihadis need to be killed or captured to stop the immediate threats to our lives. But don't forget that the people upset over the use of the word "ham" need to be stopped to drain the swamp that breeds jihadis. So get used to your holiday season terror worries:

I know that al-Qaida hates you because in 1492 the Spaniards completed the Reconquista and in 1924 Turkey's Kemal Ataturk ended the caliphate. I know Osama bin Laden declared war on America in 1998, and in 2001 he proved he meant it.

What an enemy says matters -- what he does matters even more. What he does matters more than the fact you didn't ask for war or don't like TSA examining your pants.

What does this enemy do? He tries to kill you. Have we damaged al-Qaida? Yes. Predator strikes have ripped al-Qaida and Taliban leadership in Afghanistan. It'll take the American left 30 years to admit it, but Iraq has been a huge defeat for al-Qaida.

Is it over? No. We're engaged in a struggle for the terms of modernity, which means there is a cultural war beyond the shooting war. If it sounds daunting, it is -- and it's going to be too real for many New Years to come.

I just doesn't matter if you are tired of being at war, because our enemies aren't tired of trying to kill us.

While we may worry about Christmas threats, for the most part we can enjoy the season with loved ones because our troops and lots of other people (including our allies) stand guard and fight the dregs who seek to kill us.

Mutual Respect

The Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan have in many ways joined forces in a fight against Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the American-led coalition that ignores the legal border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. This has been a problem that we have not solved, even with intensified Predator strikes and some improvement in Pakistani military activity on their side of the border. Even as we make progress in defeating the Taliban in southern Afghanistan where we put our surge troops, we don't want the enemy to regenerate in Pakistan and string out the war longer than our public's will to win can hold.

The United States military would like to strike Taliban targets inside Pakistan with ground forces:

Senior American military commanders in Afghanistan are pushing for an expanded campaign of Special Operations ground raids across the border into Pakistan’s tribal areas, a risky strategy reflecting the growing frustration with Pakistan’s efforts to root out militants there.

The proposal, described by American officials in Washington and Afghanistan, would escalate military activities inside Pakistan, where the movement of American forces has been largely prohibited because of fears of provoking a backlash. ...

In announcing the results of a review of the strategy in Afghanistan, Obama administration officials said they were considering expanded American operations to deal with threats inside Pakistan. They offered no specifics.

In interviews in Washington and Kabul, American officials said that officers were drawing up plans to begin ground operations to capture or kill leaders from the Taliban and the Haqqani network. American officers say they are particularly eager to capture, as opposed to kill, militant leaders, who they say can offer intelligence to guide future operations. ...

In interviews, the officials offered a more detailed description of two operations since 2008 in which Afghans working under the direction of the C.I.A. — a militia called the Paktika Defense Force — crossed the border into Pakistan.

These militias have also been used closer to the border inside Afghanistan to interdict Taliban coming across to shoot at our side.

Pushing a buffer zone into Pakistan--with or without Pakistan's cooperation--has long seemed like an option to me:

[We] may have an opportunity to use a post-Westphalian Lexington Rule to fight al Qaeda in Pakistan.

If we can't get Islamabad to control the frontier area, it is time to bypass Islamabad and deal directly with the tribes who don't recognize the control of Islamabad in the first place. We cannot allow the fictions of sovereignty to keep us from defending ourselves from fanatics who straddle the gray boundary that lies between reality and international law.

Using limited military assets such as special forces and drones to back civilian armed assets such as the CIA or contract personnel (with either former or seconded special forces from Western countries, or perhaps even hiring security companies to provide the personnel) or even Arab special forces that would live and work inside the frontier areas, we may be able to turn the frontier tribes against the jihadis who target us.

We should be able to start at the Afghan-Pakistan border and extend the network of anti-al Qaeda tribes toward the interior of Pakistan.

I hope we can limit the use of our regular forces inside Pakistan to avoid confrontations with Pakistani border forces. Special forces from America and allied nations to bolster, support, and lead irregulars from Afghanistan that operate inside Pakistan would be better. Even better would be to get support from Pakistani tribes to use their own militias and private armies to help us fight al Qaeda and the Taliban whether or not the Pakistani government will cooperate.

We shall see if we can pressure Pakistan into letting us operate even a bit on the ground inside their own country. This is sensitive and we haven't done much in the past despite the need, in recognition of that sensitivity. But when our enemies don't respect the border, we have to weigh whether we can win by unilaterally respecting the border. We managed this in Iraq, for the most part, but the Pakistan Taliban represent a much bigger source of support for our enemies inside Afghanistan than we faced in Iraq. And we had more capable local forces in Iraq, from the military to the government (however inadequate they seemed at many times in the war, they were good enough).

There are risks either way. Whose patience is more important to maintain right now? Pakistan's public or America's public?

UPDATE: NATO denies that America is pushing for special forces raids inside Pakistan. Could be narrowly true. But that still leaves a lot we could do short of sending our special forces into Pakistan. The need is there. How we meet the need could be up in the air.