Thursday, January 31, 2013

Just Skip to Step 7, Eh?

The Department of Homeland Security has helpful advice about reacting to a shooter in the workplace. Sadly, it doesn't include anything about shooting back if you are armed. Lots of running and hiding advice (but do it quietly so as not to disturb the first responders if they happen to be running an exercise on site and so get there quickly).

Oh, and heave stuff at the attacker, or otherwise magically "incapacitate" them. Yeah, a firearm might accomplish that. If you didn't obey the "weapons free zone" that the shooter clearly doesn't care about. Oh well, that high-capacity stapler will work just swell.

Absent a firearm, why not just go right to the heart of the advice?

Wow, that is old. Cigarettes and neckties in a bar?

Civilization Survives

Thankfully, the al Qaeda attempt to destroy the physical history records of Mali failed (tip to Instapundit):

Once again civilization survives barbarism: Timbuktu’s ancient literary treasures were not destroyed after all. In a classic example of how the uncertainty of war can make bad reporters of us all, local accounts apparently vastly exaggerated the damage done to the city’s legendary library. Not only was the place not burned to the ground—as the city’s mayor claimed—but the manuscripts themselves were removed from the library by Malians last year.

France didn't give the jihadis the time they needed to wreck everything at their leisure. So they didn't get around to that job do to being busy with hand lopping and girl-whipping. One must have priorities, mustn't one?

One more reason to be sure that the only good jihadi is a dead jihadi.

Too Late to Play the Jewish Card?

Assad famously asserted that regime and public shared hatred of Israel would keep the people in line. He was wrong. But will Assad attempt to provoke a war with Israel to try to rally his army to fight for the regime?

Syria and Iran are saying Israel bombed a target in Damascus despite rebel claims that they attacked the facility. But because Israel did attack a convoy of arms heading for Hezbollah in Lebanon, Assad is claiming Israel attacked Syria--and promises a response:

Damascus could take "a surprise decision to respond to the aggression of the Israeli warplanes", Syrian ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul-Karim Ali said a day after Israel struck against Syria.

"Syria is engaged in defending its sovereignty and its land," Ali told a website of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Iran and Russia are voicing support for Syria. Iran already pledged that an attack on Syria is an attack on Iran. Were these guys waiting for a pretense to do something?

The revolt is too far along for Assad to rally the Sunni Arabs to his side. Sixty thousand dead will do that.

But with much of the army sitting out the fight because they aren't trustworthy enough to fight Sunni Arab rebels, might Assad try to get the army fighting on his side against Israel? Get them fighting for Assad for something acceptable, and maybe he can commit them to secondary tasks that support the loyal troops who fight the rebels.

Would this work? Could Assad order the army to engage Israeli troops along the Golan Heights in a limited engagement in order to rekindle a fighting spirit among his dispirited and questionable Sunni Arab troops?

Unless Syria simply plans to lob missiles at Israel in the hope that the threat of wider war will get everyone to demand a ceasefire now, while it isn't too late to save Assad's regime.

This would be risky since Israeli air power could tear up Syrian air bases and command-and-control facilities.

And Israel might strike chemical depots in an escalation. Which might prompt a Turkish-led intervention to secure them and prevent Syria from turning its sights on Turkey.

Perhaps the Russians will announce the deployment of marines and paratroopers to Syria.

Assad can't win the way he is fighting. That's for sure. But what might Assad do to change the game to one he can win? And what are the Russians and Iranians prepared to do to save Assad?

Fine, I'll Ask the Obvious

North Korea has turned the psycho dial to "11":

North Korea has been placed under martial law and Kim Jong-un has told his front-line troops to "be ready for a war," according to South Korean media reports.

Which begs the obvious question: how can you tell it is martial law? What difference does it make at this point, compared to what the usual situation is? To borrow a turn of phrase.

To be fair to the nutballs, this is part of a preparation for a nuclear test, apparently.

It's funny that a leadership that thinks nuclear weapons will protect them indicates that they fear the development of nuclear weapons will trigger an attack on them.

No Margin of Reassurance

I don't want Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense because I don't think he is committed to a strong American military. Period.

I am not reassured by Senator Hagel's protest that he is not weak on defense. Given our history, promising to maintain the strongest military in the world is a retreat from the world in practice:

"My overall world view has never changed: that America has and must maintain the strongest military in the world."

That is not as comforting as the administration wants you to think.

The fact is, we have a dominant military right now. We've done this on purpose because it provides us with many advantages that we will lose if we merely have the strongest military in the world.

Most obviously, we have to let enemies get away with evil when we decide we can't afford to commit our military to that fight lest we be occupied when a greater threat arises. All you Responsibility to Protect fans out there will be out of luck.

We also will have to endure and inflict greater casualties to win a war we do fight--and take longer to win. Remember, with little margin of error, we couldn't afford to risk operations that might win quickly because our military could not afford to lose enough to drop below an enemy in strength.

Take Taiwan, for example. Right now, we could probably reach the theater in time with sufficient strength to help Taiwan defeat a Chinese invasion. But if we are merely the strongest nation in the world, it will take us so much time to gather our strength to defeat China that we will need to amphibiously assault Taiwan to liberate the conquered island. We could still win with the "strongest military in the world," but I hope it is obvious that we would pay a price for that. Not to mention the Chinese and Taiwanese added deaths.

A war that drags on results in more casualties than a war won quickly, remember. It's the difference between the First and Second Gulf Wars, no? We had dominant power compared to Iraq in 1991 and took 100 hours to smash their military after a month of aerial bombardment. Our losses were trivial and Iraq's severe but not nearly as great as they endured in eight years of war needed to defeat Iran in the 1980s. With Iran losing many more than Iraq in that war.

Assuming China's nuclear arsenal doesn't deter us from liberating Taiwan.

And that's also assuming we don't take a pass on that liberation option because we think North Korea might lash out or if Iran times some adventure to take advantage of our Pacific concerns.

And for real strategic fun, if we are merely stronger than an enemy, that enemy has an incentive to launch a surprise attack on our forces to shift the balance of power in their favor right off the bat. When our power is dominant, an enemy first strike just risks pissing us off without harming our ability to smash them up in turn.

I also noted in that post that we risk losing allies who are no longer confident that we can help them in time to matter:

Once we reduce our sights to just being stronger than our enemies rather than far ahead, we risk being unable to keep allies in our camp. Lose allies and our combined power declines, which then feeds on itself as even loyal allies are forced to recalculate the balance of power.

And even being equal in power compared to a potential foe does not mean balance. Consider what it would mean if America and China were equally balanced in power. In theory, that would mean that in a battle fought in the middle of the Pacific, the outcome would be in balance. Fight closer to our shores, and we'd have more power since we'd be closer to our bases and reinforcements.

But fighting closer to China would give China the advantage. And you know what is closer to China? Our allies who give us a collective power advantage over China. If we lack the power to fight China in the western Pacific, South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Australia would all have to reconsider which camp they align themselves with.

If that happens, more alliance power is peeled away as states adopt neutral policies. Or worse, power is added to our potential foe if these former allies side with China.

I noted back when we had a 2 (ground)-war standard (that assumed we'd have to hold in one theater while we won in the other theater and then shifted forces to the holding theater in order to win that one) that being second in line for our military help wasn't as comforting as you might hope.

And if we fail to defend an ally, not even being second on our list of nations we will defend will be a worry for allies.

How much worse will it be when we are simply stronger than the second-strongest power? Here's Victor Hanson on that question:

Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan all have the wealth and expertise to become nuclear to deter Chinese aggression, but so far they have not — only because of their reliance on a previously engaged and militarily omnipotent United States.

Not only do we risk losing allies who may go neutral or switch sides, but we risk nuclear proliferation because even friends lose faith that we can prevail on a conventional battlefield and--with our own nuclear arsenal--deter the losing aggressor from escalating to nuclear war. Our allies have trusted that we would use nuclear weapons in response to an enemy use of nukes on our allies. Will they trust us to escalate to nuclear weapons--and risk a nuclear response on our shores--should we lose a conventional fight with an enemy?

How much more money will it cost us to fight a single major war we can win at great cost over a long period of time than it costs to deter anyone from thinking they might win?

But what the Hell. Under Barack "Von Clausewitz" Obama, our global strategy has brilliantly neutralized Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and al Qaeda so much that we can actually see the tide of war receding. Why would we possibly need the most powerful military in the world let alone the dominant military?

And after all, slashing our defense and avoiding blame are the only reasons Hagel is the nominee for Defense Department. Yes, we are truly and royally bucked.

On the bright side, many enemies will be greatly reassured by our new policy of superiority. It's strategery at its best.

Ya Gotta Admire His Spirit

The NATO chief is futilely urging NATO members to avoid slashing defense spending.

Rasmussen will give it the good old college try, but prodding hasn't done much good in the past:

The global financial crisis has forced many NATO allies into drastic measures to reduce their budget deficits, leading to sometimes sharp cuts in defense spending.

Only a handful of the 28 NATO allies - the United States, Britain and Greece - last year spent more on defense than the two percent of Gross Domestic Product target set by NATO.

Some could look to make further cuts once the NATO-led force ends combat operations in Afghanistan at the end of 2014.

Rasmussen will say in the report that NATO remains the world's most important military power, with NATO countries still accounting for more than half of global defense spending.

But NATO is losing ground as others spend more. And don't forget that most of the Europeans have mostly useless militaries. I guess they can defend Europe from the unlikely event of an invasion, but projecting power is not something that they can easily do now. And spending will go down.

Our capabilities are large enough to still have significant forces even with cuts. But the Europeans are on the edge. France is getting worn out with a deployment of about 4,000 to Mali. And Britain, one of the few to spend above the NATO effort goal, will soon be down to being able to deploy a large brigade-sized expedition for an extended period. Greece spends their money to watch Turkey, of course, so it was never available for alliance tasks. And the financial crisis they are experiencing will end that luxury spending anyway.

So only America in NATO will have significant forces. I guess Rasmussen hasn't heard that Europe is the new super power.

Really, What's In It For Us?

This essay argues for lifting the embargo on Cuba. I fail to see what we gain by doing so. And this essay is not persuasive to me:

America’s post-Cold War embargo on Cuba is a clear example of failed international interventionism. Making sanctions work, Henry Kissinger wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “depends on the ability to define an achievable objective.” Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States has not had such an objective in its policy toward Cuba. Our policy, intended to isolate Cuba, has isolated the United States.

The author argues that the attempt to compel democracy in Cuba has failed, much of the world and many dissidents would like us to end the embargo, and we fail to support reform by sticking with the embargo.

So what if UN votes go against us in regard to Cuba? Our so-called isolation consists of states voting in non-binding UN resolutions that we should end our embargo. In what way does this isolate us? We're on the losing end of a lot of good fights in the sainted international community.

If the isolation our embargo imposes on Cuba is so pointless, why is it harming Cuba? Why isn't the embrace of the rest of the world allowing Cuba to reform with enthusiasm and vigor?

As long as Cuba has a thug dictatorship that supports thugs in power in Nicaragua and Venezuela (and tried to subvert Honduras), why should we help them improve their economy when it will likely just make Cuba a more effective thorn in our side?

Will Cuba's communist elites really think well of us and then reform to be more free if we lift the embargo?

Will all of Cuba's dissidents really welcome our change or will they feel betrayed after all these decades of resisting the Castros and counting on our pressure to at least prevent repression from getting a lot worse all at once?

And in what world do we think that the Cuban government wouldn't have other excuses that blame America should the embargo excuse be removed?

Further, what does it say to enemies about outlasting us if we lift the embargo while the Castros run the island? Cuba has been an enemy for many decades, harming our interests in Latin America and Africa in the service of the Soviet Union. And only because of their post-soviet Union weakness are they merely a thorn in our side today. I say keep the embargo on until we break the Cuban dictatorship. Let every thug around the world that seeks to harm us understand that we will patiently work against them even if it takes decades.

Finally, Cuba represents a potential base for attacks on America and our sea lines of communication through the Caribbean Sea. Cuba is now weak but hostile--and unable to carry out threats to our homeland or our lines of communication. Don't we risk these national security objectives by allowing the dictatorship opportunities to get stronger?

The embargo may have failed--thus far--to allow democracy by defeating Castro's elites, but the embargo certainly has kept Cuba from being a strong enemy.

If we end the embargo and Cuba gets stronger, will they become a threat again? Why do we think they will reform if the embargo is gone? Even if some dissidents, who sadly must live in a poor Cuba and who would surely live better materially without the embargo, say they want the embargo ended, isn't our foreign policy for our interests?

End the embargo when Cuba takes real steps to ending the dictatorship that has impoverished Cuba. End the embargo when the Cuban regime is defeated.

I am not persuaded that lifting the embargo on Cuba is in our national security interests. In what way is China less of a threat today because of our enthusiastic trade with that communist dictatorship? But Cuba will be different? Asserting great things will happen in Cuba if we do seems like an unattainable dream.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Let's Hope They Are Ready

We're in a hurry to responsibly end the Afghanistan campaign, let's hope that the Afghan security forces are capable of letting us believe the war is really ending.

Our top general in Afghanistan thinks the Afghan military is ready to start taking the lead in the fight:

Marine Gen. John Allen told The Associated Press that the main job over the next two years for the International Assistance Force — as the NATO-led troops in Afghanistan are called — will be to advise, train and build the capabilities needed for Afghan forces to go it completely alone.

They will face their first test when the fighting season gets under way in the late spring and summer. During the harsh Afghan winter, snow often blocks roads and fighting dies down.

Hopefully the general has been paying more attention to Afghanistan than to the Florida CENTCOM social circuit to make this assessment with a clear head.

Don't get your hopes up too high for the Afghans to "go it completely alone." France, as we've seen all too clearly, couldn't do it alone with 3,500 troops in Mali without allied logistics and intelligence support. The Afghans, with an army a hundred times larger than the French expedition, won't be self sufficient ever, unless the threat level goes down dramatically to make Afghan security force capabilities gaps relatively unimportant.

Small Area Denial

Taiwan can't control the Taiwan Strait. But they can aspire to denying control of the strait to China long enough to mobilize and deploy their own forces to resist invasion, and to call on Japan and America to intervene.

The Taiwanese, as I've mentioned before, are looking to build a large force of smaller craft to fight China's fleet in the Taiwan Strait:

The Hsiung-feng 3 is being installed on destroyers and frigates and now the new 500 ton stealth corvettes. For these ships the designers are being asked to get as many of the large (for a 500 ton ship) Hsiung-feng 3s on it as possible (up to eight). In addition there will be eight of the smaller Hsiung-feng 2. These new corvettes are the continuation of a trend in the Taiwanese Navy, which sees small ships carrying lots of anti-ship missiles as the key to success against the Chinese navy.

Taiwanese missiles for these ships will complement land-based anti-ship missiles and missiles that can reach inland to strike Chinese bases. Anti-access and area denial--the approach China seeks to keep the United States Navy at bay long enough to achieve objectives close to China--could work against the Chinese, too, in the Taiwan Strait.

And if we back the Taiwanese up with long-range anti-ship missiles, smart bombs, aircraft-delivered anti-ship mines, even longer-ranged anti-ship missiles, and even submarine-launched missiles (especially these) we might deny the Taiwan Strait to China for long enough to deny the Chinese a quick win.

I am heartened that Taiwan is trying to buy time. China needs a fast win to prevent bad things from unfolding over time. Don't give the Chinese confidence that they can achieve a fast win.

Reporting for Doodie

Oh, fudge.

Here we go:

The Senate on Tuesday easily confirmed one of its own—Democrat John Kerry of Massachusetts—to be the next secretary of state, ending a largely noncontroversial process and kicking off what is expected to be a hotly contested special election for the seat Kerry has held since 1985.

Not that I doubt that President Obama has the authority to nominate someone as awful as Kerry. If the president wants flexibility, certainly he got Mister Flexibility, all right. Soon we'll be restoring our flexibility abroad!

Now the only question is where in the world will the flexibility hit the fan first?

Green Haze

Thank goodness China has reasonably enlightened green elites, as Thomas Friedman called the guys who managed to achieve this:

Thick, off-the-scale smog shrouded eastern China for the second time in about two weeks Tuesday, forcing airlines to cancel flights because of poor visibility and prompting Beijing to temporarily shut factories and curtail fleets of government cars.

The capital was a colorless scene. Street lamps and the outlines of buildings receded into a white haze as pedestrians donned face masks to guard against the caustic air. The flight cancellations stranded passengers during the first week of the country's peak, six-week period for travel surrounding the Chinese New Year on Feb. 10.

The U.S. Embassy reported an hourly peak level of PM2.5 — tiny particulate matter that can penetrate deep into the lungs — at 526 micrograms per cubic meter, or "beyond index," and more than 20 times higher than World Health Organization safety levels over a 24-hour period.

Just imagine what we could achieve if we could be China for even a single day, eh?

One-Two Punch

If Israel has to fight Hezbollah, they would rather not face whatever it is they shot up coming into Lebanon from Syria.

I wonder what was in this convoy that the Israeli air force struck?

Israeli forces attacked a convoy on the Syrian-Lebanese border overnight, a Western diplomat and regional security sources said on Wednesday, as concern has grown in the Jewish state over the fate of Syrian chemical and advanced conventional weapons.

The sources, four in total, all of whom declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, had no further information about what the vehicles may have been carrying, what forces were used or where precisely the attack happened.

The convoy wouldn't even need to have chemical weapons to draw Israeli attention. Longer-range rockets or anti-tank or anti-aircraft weapons would also be something the Israelis would prefer to deny Hezbollah.

I'll guess that the Israelis wouldn't want to strike Hezbollah while Assad is still viable to reduce the chance that Assad might do something really nuts in response.

But once Assad's forces break and run, I wouldn't be shocked to see the Israelis drive on Baalbek to really tear up Hezbollah while they are reeling from the loss of their Syrian rear area before they can adapt to the loss of Syrian support.

UPDATE: Another good reason for Israel to strike Hezbollah when Assad falls:

Militarily and politically, Hezbollah has much at stake in the Syrian conflict, but it is risking even more by attempting to save a pariah regime that may not be savable. The group has incurred hundreds of losses against Syrian rebels, including its valued special forces. Hezbollah cannot outmatch rebel manpower, and will need to commit its best fighters and most sophisticated equipment to cut rebel supply lines in the hopes of hindering a Damascus invasion force from gaining traction.

Hezbollah's best fighters may be left dead in Syria. Which means that the rockets that Hezbollah counts on to wage war on Israel can be overrun by an Israeli invasion that faces less effective opposition.

Mission Accomplished?

The French, without actually killing many Mali jihadis, is already preparing to hand off post-major combat operations responsibilities to the demonstrably brittle Mali army and the polyglot ECOWAS contingent. This was no blitzkrieg. It was a phony war.

The French rolled into the airport at Kidal, and then entered the city:

French troops took control on Wednesday of the airport of Mali's northeast town of Kidal, the last urban stronghold held by Islamist rebels, as they moved to wrap up the first phase of a military operation to wrest northern Mali from rebel hands.

A three-week ground and air offensive by French forces aimed at initially ending a 10-month Islamist rebel occupation of major towns is expected to eventually hand over to a larger African force.

The Africans' task will be rooting out insurgents hiding in the desert and mountains near Algeria's border.

"Eventually" won't be that long, it seems:

"Now it's up to African countries to take over," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Le Parisien newspaper. "We decided to put the means — in men and supplies — to make the mission succeed and hit hard. But the French aspect was never expected to be maintained. We will leave quickly."

So ECOWAS troops will be asked to do this job? Good luck with that.

What about the Tuaregs? The non-jihadi Tuareg secessionists have moved into Kidal. Are they a target, too, of the French-supported African military effort?

If not for the number of jihadis who flocked to Mali over the last year and who escaped the French road march north, I'd say that the French plan could have worked. ECOWAS forces, with Mali troops tagging along, could have held the cities and kept the roads open and done as good a job as Mali had done in controlling the north before the coup and collapse of their army.

But if the Tuaregs again decide on an alliance of convenience with the jihadis who were pushed out of the cities without being defeated, garrisoning the towns and patrolling the roads won't be good enough. The jihadis will be able to bide their time and strike again. Can Mali and ECOWAS garrisons hold?

Can these African troops really go out into the field to chase down the jihadis?

This is the problem with leading from behind. At any moment you might find yourself in front despite your best efforts to avoid point:

Plans to base unarmed American surveillance drones in the African nation of Niger highlight the Obama administration's growing concern about extremist influences in the volatile region. They also raise tough questions about how to contain al-Qaida and other militant groups without committing U.S. ground forces in yet another war.

Those African troops are going to need armed drones, have no doubt. When I heard this news, I was fine with it. I've said that it is appropriate for us to help with logistics, intelligence, and special forces (including drones). If the French wanted to take the lead in their sphere of influence, I'd even help them with air power in emergencies to keep them in the fight so we don't have to take the lead to kill jihadis.

But the French are bugging out--after declaring victory. Behold the nuance of their exit strategy!

Unless the Tuaregs are brought on board to lead the fight outside the cities against al Qaeda, at best the jihadis will simply be too busy gnawing away at Mali and ECOWAS forces to focus on terrorist attacks in the region or beyond. The real war has not begun yet.

UPDATE: This is encouraging:

Mali's president offered Tuareg rebels talks on Thursday in a bid for national reconciliation after a French-led offensive drove their Islamist former allies into mountain hideaways.

What is not encouraging is the picture accompanying the article of French troops with their wheeled armored personnel carriers with a caption calling them "tanks." No tracks. Not even a turret. But it is big and green. So they must be "tanks."

Fashion reporters would never be so ill-informed about their subject.

But I digress.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Still Forward

I recently mentioned that we are redeploying our troops holding the DMZ to positions further south in South Korea. But that task isn't done yet.

This is an interesting piece most useful to remind me we are still at the DMZ:

The tanks and their crews, from Dragon Company of the 1st Battalion’s 72nd Armor Regiment (1-72 AR), are a small but lethal component of the U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry Division stationed close to the tense border separating North and South Korea.

We only have a brigade of the division in South Korea. And the article implies that only a portion of that brigade is on the DMZ.

I'm not sure when all our troops will finally be off the line, but we aren't there yet.

UPDATE: Ah, I found an old post that said we'd be off the DMZ within 5 years. Since that was a November 2007 post, we're overdue.

When Being the Least Screwed Up Counts

I keep saying I'm an optimist about the prospects of American power in the long run--notwithstanding our current administration's apparent determination to gut the sources of our national strength. This article offers some hope that my view that however much our absolute power is harmed, our relative power will make sure we are the major force on the globe for a long time.

Pining for a new Europe superpower should at least wait for the current one to die, shouldn't it?

We're not dead yet, as that article starts:

In a report to clients, analysts at Goldman Sachs argue that the United States still has the world's strongest economy -- and will for years. There is a growing "awareness of the key economic, institutional, human capital and geopolitical advantages the U.S. enjoys over other economies," contend Goldman's analysts.

The writer citing this report says we shouldn't rejoice too much since the Western world is teetering even if you can't say America is uniquely stumbling.

So mind you, our relative dominance requires other sources of potential power to screw the pooch even more than we do. But that is happening. And we have sources of power that cushion policy idiocy.

Fifty Shades of Hillary

The sado-masochist orgy of BS that the Clinton hearings on Benghazi represented was truly a privilege to watch unfold:

A lot of people in Washington apparently forgot how good Hillary Clinton is at not telling the truth.

Wednesday, in her testimony before the Senate and, later, the House, Clinton brilliantly fudged, dodged, and filibustered. Of course, she’s a pro. Clinton was slow-walking depositions, lawyering up, and shifting blame when many of her questioners were still civilians down on the farm.

Aided by a ridiculous format, she outfoxed most of the Republicans with ease.

Meanwhile, the Democrats, almost uniformly, seemed singularly interested in celebrating Mrs. Clinton as a global diva who somehow manages to carry the burden of her awesomeness with humility and grace. If smoking were still allowed in the Capitol, one could easily imagine her removing a cigarette from a gold case and tapping it nonchalantly on the witness table, and the entire Democratic caucus leaping over their desks for the chance to light it for her.

Do read it all. Hillary's performance was masterful. The supporting dancers high-kicked in a stunning choreography that was nearly flawless.

Hillary Clinton, and President Obama, have gotten away with their lies about Benghazi.

Our press used to care about such things. Now they just want to throw their panties at the president and Hillary. It's almost as if they believe they deserve what they get.

Truly, this will be taught in crisis management classes for decades to come. The manly tears of sadness over the death of a man who apparently couldn't get her to read his requests for better security because of the many messages that come addressed to her were icing on the cake.

The entire Democratic caucus signed a nondisclosure statement for Hillary, and she had her way with them. The Republicans just closed their eyes and thought of England, or something.

Sadly, none of them earned any love from Madame Secretary. Or even respect. She spanked them. One can only hope they can remove the ball gag as she walks off into the sunset, basking in the praises of her submissives who have no idea they aren't even compatible.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Not Enough Good Jihadis

It's great that the French have moved so quickly to help secure Gao and Timbuktu. I'd rather have jihadis scrambling around in the desert than sitting in the urban areas. And the people who had to endure the jihadi rule are surely pleased. But I'd rather have dead jihadis. If the French can't do that, al Qaeda might yet have some impressive advances of their own to boast as they counter-attack.

One thing lacking from the reports of rapid French advances is any sign that the French are killing jihadis:

French Col. Thierry Burkhard, the chief military spokesman in Paris, said that there had been no combat with the Islamists who have ruled Timbuktu for nearly 10 months, but that the forces did not yet control the town as of Monday afternoon.

Nor were there any reports of dead jihadis at Gao. This is a problem, because the Mali army isn't going to be able to hold if the jihadis counter-attack any more than they could hold pre-intervention when the jihadis started chasing the Mali army toward Bamako:

The French said Mali's weak military must finish the job of securing Timbuktu. But they have generally fared poorly in combat, often retreating in panic in the face of well-armed and battle-hardened Islamists.

The French-led military operation against the Islamists, who seized the northern half of Mali last year, began 17 days ago when the insurgents encroached further toward the south.

It has scored several successes, but hard questions remain about how the Mali government will hold the cities that have been wrested from the Islamists, and whether there is the will and the ability to chase them into the Sahara which is home to many of these desert fighters.

With so few troops and so much territory, winning must use urban objectives as opportunities to kill and disperse the enemy. Especially since the Mali troops have not demonstrated that they can withstand a sudden enemy attack.

I did say the jihadis' best option was to avoid defending locations and instead evade and then strike the hapless defenders left to hold whatever is taken from them. The French need a variation of this option by killing jihadis so that the remnants are unable to easily overwhelm the garrisons that hold the urban centers:

Relatively small forces are contesting a very large area. Under those circumstances, standing on defense to hold so many fixed locations will use up available forces. Both sides need to go on offense to keep the enemy reacting and unable to hit those fixed locations.

The French and Mali government also cannot afford to make this a counter-insurgency fight against the local Tuaregs. Remember, foreign Islamists won't be waging an insurgency if the local Tuaregs don't support the jihadis. Al Qaeda will just be roving bands of killers fighting as irregulars. That's different. As long as the Tuaregs can be brought sufficiently on board, small French forces can hunt and kill the jihadis. ECOWAS forces could offer some help but mostly garrison the urban centers.

The Mali government may hope that French intervention means they don't have to grant the Tuaregs any autonomy to restore the pre-secession status quo, but they are wrong. France has not committed an army to pacify the Tuaregs. The French have committed an expedition capable of defeating the jihadis in any stand up battle.

And Mali forces are there for window dressing until the political situation in Bamako is addressed and the army can regain enough cohesion to take over garrison jobs from the ECOWAS forces and eventually take over the job of hunting dramatically weakened jihadis roving the desert, desperate for food and water let alone the means to fight.

But the French, who are fully capable of smashing up the jihadis, need to start actually killing jihadis rather than just pushing them around.

UPDATE: Well this is interesting:

A third town in Mali's vast desert north, Kidal, had remained in Islamist militant hands. But Malian Tuareg MNLA rebels, who are seeking autonomy for their northern region, said on Monday they had taken charge in Kidal after Islamist fighters abandoned it. ...

The MNLA Tuareg rebels who say they now hold Kidal have offered to help the French-led offensive against the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamists. It was not clear, however, whether the French and Malians would steer their offensive further towards Kidal, or hold negotiations with the MNLA.

So the jihadis seem to have lost any urban sanctuary. They need support from the Tuaregs if they are to survive and attempt to wage war.

Are the French going to declare war on the Tuaregs and return them into alliance with the jihadis? That's a far more complicated war than the one the French have waged so far.

Or do the French pressure the Mali government to cut a deal with the Tuaregs so everyone can get on with the mission of making more good jihadis?

If the Mali army was capable of fighting, the option of screwing the Tuaregs and returning to the pre-secession days when the Mali army held the northern urban centers and kept the road open would be possible. I just don't think the Mali army can step back in as if the last 9 months hadn't happened. And the ECOWAS forces are unlikely to want that thankless task.

The New Pharaoh Same As the Old Pharaoh

I'm actually a bit comforted that Egyptians are rioting against their Islamist government.

Egyptians aren't happy with arbitrary rule by their government:

A man was shot dead on Monday in a fifth day of violence in Egypt that has killed 50 people and prompted the Islamist president to declare a state of emergency in an attempt to end a wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world's biggest nation.

Emergency rule announced by President Mohamed Mursi on Sunday covers the cities of Port Said, Ismailia and Suez. The army has already been deployed in two of those cities and cabinet approved a measure to let soldiers arrest civilians.

Will the troops fire on protesters? When Mubarak was in power, the generals were unwilling to issue those orders, in part because they weren't sure if their young soldiers would obey. What about now in defense of an Islamist government?

If the alternative is a quiet "stability" of sullen acceptance of Islamist rule, I'm fine with unrest in Egypt.

The Islamists may yet win this fight, but it is good to know that not everyone is content to be misruled by a different set of thugs.

If even resistance that fails means that there will be future resistance, one day the hopes of the Arab Spring might be realized even in Egypt.

UPDATE: Egypt's hopes for a post-autocratic life closer to democracy than despotism may be dashed. But it is too soon to simply write them off:

Egypt's Arab Spring revolution abounds with destructive ambitions and cruel ironies. But to label Egypt's revolution a failure, just two short years into a process involving drastic political change, is an act of extraordinary haste.

I think it is folly to say we should have stood by Mubarak to crush the opposition. His poor health alone would have made that a bad choice. And siding with him would have made us complicit in his autocracy. When he lost, our position would have been worse than it is now.

The outcome is still uncertain. Which means we must work the problem. That's the way the world works. You just hope your solution to the last problem makes the problems that flow from it less problematic.

I haven't jumped on the delivery of Abrams tanks and F-16s to Egypt. We're trying to maintain influence with an institution that might hold off collapse. And which should be a block to Islamist totalitarian rule. So I wouldn't halt our Camp David aid package. That has always been a bribe to not make war on Israel. They are keeping that pledge so keep spending that money. It is well worth the cost.

We can certainly use our influence on other sources of money to pressure Egypt into establishing a reasonably free system that allows reasonably free elections. If that is good enough for Chicago it should be good enough for Egypt.

Plus, we have time. It would take a decade of intense effort for Egypt to train their military to the point where it could take on Israel. Those new tanks and planes would be destroyed in a conventional war with Israel. The Egyptian military knows that. I doubt we even provide Egypt with enough ammunition to wage a large war for very long. I suspect we've provided ammunition sufficient to have taken on Khadaffi's Libya or Sudan.

And just who would pay for that decade of intense rearmament? If the Egyptians, who are still rearming with Western weapons after breaking ties with the Soviet Union 35 years ago, how long would it take to reequip with non-US weapons if we don't cooperate with spare parts and ammunition?

Given the Islamist tendencies, I just don't count it as a defeat that Egypt hasn't slumped into quiet acceptance of Morsi's rule. I know there is a tendency to equate "quiet" with "stability" but that just isn't so. Nostalgia for Mubarak makes exactly that mistake. His country was anything but stable even if it didn't make our evening news.

They've Still Got That "From Each" Part, Anyway

That "to each according to their need" bit never seems to work out that well, does it?

No. It never does:

Karl Marx summed up Communism as “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” This is a good, pithy saying, which, in practice, has succeeded in bringing, upon those under its sway, misery, poverty, rape, torture, slavery, and death.

Pakistanis were reportedly prepared to "eat grass" to get nuclear weapons. As North Korean rulers devote their money to nukes and imported luxury goods for the elites, their people can only dream of such a feast, apparently:

News out of North Korean in notorious unreliable, but food shortages in the country have gotten so bad and people so desperate that there are now reports of men murdering their own children for food. These startling reports were compiled by independent reporters commissioned by Asia Press, a independent press agency focusing on Asia, and were published by the Sunday Times.

It is possible that the reports are not true. But the fact remains that the situation is so bad in North Korea that they could be true. How many North Koreans would react to these reports by saying, "Oh, that's just not possible!"

If enough North Koreans believe this is true--whether it is or not--might that despair remove enough fear to storm the palaces? Remember, the army's soldiers aren't that far away from that desperate step and are already hungry. They do have guns and are organized.

UPDATE: Mind you, reports like this have come out before. So some skepticism is in order. These reports could be false. Mind you, the lack of actual cannibalism is hardly a defense of the regime. Life there is bad enough without cannibalism, eh? Life there with full stomachs--just the misery, poverty, rape, torture, slavery, and death--would be bad enough.

The Red Sea Choke Point

There was a recent seizure of the Eritrean state television station. I didn't know what to make of it. Is Eritrea's dictatorship on the ropes?

Explanations of the events at the Information Ministry differ wildly, but “whatever you believed happened, this has been a significant development,” says Tronvoll. “This is huge defiance of Isaias’ power, a message that went around the world instantly, a great boost for the diaspora, and a clear signal that divisions are emerging in the military, the power of Afewerki is withering and it is one step closer to his downfall.” At least, that’s what the exiles, dissidents and victims of the regime are hoping.

That would be nice. Eritrea is an Iran-friendly outpost on an oil chokepoint, after all.

Oh, I'm Laughing

Europe is not a superpower--period.

Everyone has a bad day. This is a bad day for this writer:

The United States can step back from international conflicts, but that won’t make them disappear.

Fortunately, there is another power that shares America’s economic and political values, that possesses sophisticated military technology and is also very interested in stopping the progress of fanatical movements, especially in North Africa and the Middle East. That power is Europe.

Don’t laugh! I realize that even a year ago, that statement would have seemed absurd.

What changed her mind? Mali. The sight of France requiring American and NATO aircraft to move a force smaller than one of our brigade combat teams into Mali has inspired this salute to a Great West Hope.

France is shipping in dribs and drabs from separate units. I dare say that a single American Marine Expeditionary Unit--a small force that we sail around (2 or 3 at a time, I believe) just in case we need them--has as much combat power as the French intervention force that has inspired such hope for France's leading role.

Mind you, I'm pleased the French are acting. Good for them. They'll do well. But this is no epic stand at Verdun.

In truth, Europe has very little fighting power. Most of their military is composed of civil servants in uniform.

What little real military power that they can deploy needs outside help to move far from Europe.

Or to fight for very long after insufficient ammunition stocks are depleted.

Don't comfort yourself by saying that Europe can take up the slack if we try to turn away from the world. They can't. Believing they can is absolutely absurd.

And France isn't going to lead them. What's left, Britain? Good luck with that.

At best, Europe's pockets of military excellence can be plugged into our military like tribal auxiliaries of old. But without us, this European "superpower" will be limited to short fights with forces that barely match one of our Marine Expeditionary Units in combat power.

Shields Up

NATO's Patriot missile batteries are going on line in Turkey.

At long last, the missiles designed to protect Turkey's cities from Syrian missile attack are going on line:

NATO says the first of six missile defense batteries sent to Turkey to intercept possible rockets fired from Syria is operational.

The alliance says the Patriot missile battery went "under command and control" in the southern city of Adana Saturday. The first battery was a Dutch unit.

The missiles are far enough back from the border that they could not stop Syrian air and missile units from striking targets inside Syria.

They could be moved forward, of course, if needed. Remember, the Syrians have said that they'd only use chemical weapons against invaders--that is, if Syria has any chemical weapons, which they deny having--and that the Turks would need to take the lead in sending in conventional forces if Assad's army collapses and chemical depots and production facilities are left open to theft. That would qualify as an invasion, I assume.

So Arunachal Pradesh Won't Be a Core Interest

India is beefing up their forces along their border with China. This will tend to preempt Chinese decisions to actively claim more Indian territory.

China has had a run of improving their forces and infrastructure on their side of the India-China border. India is finally responding:

The Indian Army wants $3.5 billion in order to create three more brigades (two infantry and one armored) to defend the Chinese border. Actually, this new force is in addition to the new mountain corps (of 80,000 troops) nearing approval (at a cost of $11.5 billion). The mountain corps is to be complete in four years. The three proposed brigades would be ready in 4-5 years. By the end of the decade India will have spent nearly five billion dollars on new roads, rail lines and air fields near the 4,057 kilometer long Chinese border.

As China's power grows, they have a tendency to "discover" border disputes and even notice that some of them are a "core Interest" of China.

India can see how China treats rivals over claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea. It would be better to keep the Chinese from getting confident enough to be too expansive in their claims against India.

What's That? Speak Up.

Russia has spent some time bashing American and NATO for building up thin missile defenses. Their spittle-flecked outrage is in inverse proportion to the actual threat NATO and American poses to Russia. Which makes it safer to denounce our plots, of course.

So what happens when somebody else builds a missile defense system that would actually like to shoot down Russia's only means of resisting that someone in a military clash?

We'll find out:

China tested emerging military technology aimed at destroying missiles in mid-air after an initial test in 2010, state media said on Sunday, in a move that will unnerve its neighbors.

A brief report by the official Xinhua news agency said the military carried out a "land-based mid-course missile interception test within its territory".

"The test has reached the pre-set goal," the report quoted an unnamed Defence Ministry official as saying. "The test is defensive in nature and targets no other country."

Oh, it's only "defensive in nature." I'm sure Moscow will just shut the Hell up, then.

It's one thing to bitterly threaten countries who don't really even think much about you, let alone plot your destruction. Quite another to pipe up when a country that considers much of your territory illegally stolen from them builds missile defenses, eh?

I smell another core interest developing.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Stop Feeling So Sorry for Iraq's Sunni Arabs

I have no doubt that Iraqi Sunnis have grievances against the Shia-dominated Iraqi government, but let's not get carried away with the victim stoking. Shias have their own grievances against the Sunnis and you don't need to go back many years to find them.

The Shias of Iraq, for centuries under minority Sunni domination and decades of particular abuse under Saddam Hussein, are viewed with suspicion by the Sunni Arabs (and Sunni Kurds, who are not Arab but are Sunni Moslems--but the Kurds are more secure in their mountains):

The scale of the ongoing demonstrations reveals the widespread sense of alienation that Sunnis feel in the new Iraq. Prior to 2003, Sunnis rarely identified as members of a religious sect and instead called themselves Iraqi or Arab nationalists. It was the country's Shia population that claimed to be victims, on account of their persecution by Saddam Hussein.

Today, the roles are reversed. Shia Islamists consolidated power in Baghdad after the toppling of Saddam's regime, and some -- particularly those who were exiled during Baathist rule -- now view all Sunnis with suspicion. In turn, many Sunnis take issue with the new political system, which was largely shaped by Shia and Kurdish parties. Today, the Sunni population is mobilizing against the status quo and making sect-specific demands, such as the release of Sunni detainees, an end to the torture of Sunni suspects, and humane treatment of Sunni women in jails. Moreover, demonstrators are calling for the overthrow of the regime, using slogans made popular during the Arab Spring.

The Iraqi Sunni Arabs weren't less sectarian than Shia because the Sunni Arabs thought of themselves as "Iraqis." After all, they defined being "Iraqi" as being Sunni Arab. And the Baath party that Saddam ran was all about pan-Arab solidarity--which was useful to justify their minority rule. The system was organized around Sunni Arabs and benefited them--especially those from Saddam's home town of Tikrit. Shias were just useful bumpkins--especially when the Sunni Arabs needed soldiers to die in the long war against Iran from 1980 to 1988.

Today the Shias have reason enough to be suspicious of the Sunni Arabs. Al Qaeda is regaining strength and it can do so because the terrorists have help from the Sunni Arab community in Iraq. Yes, not all of it is enthusiastic. Some support the jihadis out of fear. Others just look the other way when they see jihadis. But some are very enthusiastic seeing the jihadis as a tool to regain power. The end result is that the jihadis can kill Shias and Sunni Arabs who work in the democratic Iraq. It is a fragile democracy, but it is a democracy.

So some Sunni Arabs are mobilizing against the status quo? No doubt. They liked the old status quo. Indeed, many Sunni Arabs don't even believe they are a minority. Heck, everyone they know is Sunni Arab, right? So of course some are calling for the overthrow of the government. Some truly believe the Sunni Arabs--by numbers if not by basic superiority--should run Iraq.

Iraq's Shias are not pure in this fight. But maybe they wouldn't need to be so harsh if we were still there with ground troops to help them find the jihadis and to provide reassurance to all that rule of law is the way the political game is played now.

But the Shias can remember recent history as well as ancient history, and will do what it takes to prevent the Sunni Arabs from ruling Iraq again. The Shias didn't just claim to be victims--they were victims. Now they aren't victims. They don't want to go back. The Kurds, who suffered from Sunni Arab brutality (gassing civilians), should be equally wary of the Sunni Arabs even if joining with them can check Shia numbers.

Our influence shouldn't just be focused on getting the Shias to accept a certain level of Sunni Arab complicity in al Qaeda terrorism without responding. We need to pressure the Sunni Arabs to fully carry out that Awakening and destroy al Qaeda in Iraq. And we need to pressure the Kurds into not believing they can be secure in a landlocked Kurdish region if they abandon commitment to a unified Iraq. Autonomy to some level is great, but they need a way out. Who do they trust more to provide that outlet? Iraqis, Iranians, or Turks? At least with Iraqis they have ample access to levers of power within the system. And being within the system restrains the Shias from using force (which might not work anyway, given Kurdish short-term advantages over the central government in military power deployable to fight for Kurdish regions).

This is why we should have stayed in Iraq. Iraqis may yet work this out without the system blowing up into sectarian warfare, and achieve a reasonable democracy. But we risk much after so much blood and treasure for the trivial political objective of being able to say we "responsibly ended" the war in Iraq.

Making Excuses for China

I really trust nothing out of the Cato Institute on foreign policy. This critique of our pivot to Asia is ridiculous.

Get real:

At the same time, Washington is ringing China with an array of bilateral alliances and partnerships, all of which are more or less anti-China. It is not paranoid for Chinese to view this as a policy of military containment. When pressed on the containment question, U.S. policy officials offer absurd responses like that from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in June of last year. According to Panetta, the pivot “is not about containment of China.” Rather, Panetta stated, "it is about the challenge of humanitarian assistance and needs; the challenge of dealing with weapons of mass destruction that are proliferating throughout the world; and dealing with narco-trafficking, and dealing with piracy; and dealing with issues that relate to trade and how do we improve trade and how do we improve lines of communication."

Would any American accept such a rationale for China deploying 60 percent of PLAN assets to the Western Hemisphere? Dealing with humanitarian assistance and needs, stifling nuclear proliferation, suppressing narco-traffickers, and dispatching pirates do not require more than half the U.S. Navy. Even Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state, knows this is nonsense: “When the administration says it’s not about China, it’s all about China. China knows this.” If the success of America’s Asia policy relies on Chinese elites believing our official rationale, the policy is in trouble.

Yes, the pivot is obviously about China. We know it and China knows is, and everyone else knows it. We just aren't rubbing their noses in it. It's called "diplomacy." So no, our success doesn't require China to believe the polite fiction we put out there.

Second, the "pivot" is more rhetorical than real. The shift of forces to the Pacific has been going on since the Cold War ended and the shift some years down the line will mean that 60% of our Navy will be in the Pacific rather than half during the Cold War. And our fleet is far smaller now than it was in the Cold War.

Third, that ring of bilateral alliances and partnerships have largely existed for the entire post-World War II period until today. This is nothing new. And our fleet has been out there for well over a century. Is it possible to ask what we'd do if China shifted 60% of their fleet to the Western hemisphere without acknowledging that China has never based any of their fleet here, so a similar decision is something entirely different?

He complains that our economic relations that boost China hinder an effort to contain China. Is he seriously saying we should wage economic warfare too rather than hope China will evolve as their economy grows, with our military pivot just an insurance policy in case they simply get more aggressive as they get more powerful?

Actually, since he is from Cato, I'm sure he just wants us to redeploy to Hawaii, Alaska, and American Samoa, and hope for the best. In twenty years Cato will explain how those territories aren't really ours and we should retreat to the 48 and hope for the best.

Oh, and this is a hoot:

The second major problem with the pivot is that instead of playing the role of offshore balancer, monitoring the balance in Asia and ensuring that no power militarily dominates the region, Washington insists on making China’s rise primarily about U.S.-China competition.

In what world does the author believe our pivot is about projecting a major American army ashore in Asia rather than remaining off shore? My complaint has been that Air-Sea Battle leaves out the Army. And adding "Land" to that strategy's name doesn't seem to have changed the basic assumptions.

The pivot is all about being an off-shore balancer, and the reality is that rising Chinese power is what is throwing the balance off--against the interests of our allies and against our interests. Who on God's Green Asia does this man think we should be balancing if not China? Laos? Didn't he just belittle Japan's efforts on defense?

Cato's strategy for every potential foe is to do nothing, fall back, leave them alone to do what they will, and hope that all turns out well in the end. Good God, they give me a headache.


Remember when even the fight in Afghanistan was being reduced to just some scheme to secure oil for America? Times sure have changed for those who want to complain.

How long will it take for our left to complain that we aren't going to profit from the war?

China, long a bystander to the conflict in Afghanistan, is stepping up its involvement as U.S.-led forces prepare to withdraw, attracted by the country's vast mineral resources but concerned that any post-2014 chaos could embolden Islamist insurgents in its own territory.

Cheered on by the U.S. and other Western governments, which see Asia's giant as a potentially stabilizing force, China could prove the ultimate winner in Afghanistan — having shed no blood and not much aid.

At some point, people may have to accept that we went into Afghanistan to prevent jihadis from using it as a base to kill our people.

Well, at first it was for that reason. Now I have no idea what the administration's goal is other than to "responsibly" leave.

Restoring Our Relations Abroad

Man, it must be rough when even France can't pass that "international test" before intervening to fight jihadis.

France and American are experiencing some friction over Mali:

France's military intervention in Mali has revived trans-Atlantic tensions over security issues, this time involving a key counterterrorism battlefield, along with dismay from critics who see U.S. President Barack Obama as too reluctant to use military force.

According to interviews with officials from both sides, the French have privately complained about what they see as paltry and belated American military support for their troop deployment, aimed at stopping the advance of militants allied with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

The Americans question whether French President Francois Hollande's armed intervention, which is entering its third week, was coupled with a thought-through exit strategy.

With both countries run by social democrat presidents, what's the excuse for the lack of agreement?

Let me start out with a defense of our assistance to France. France shares our interest in defeating jihadis there, but France will reap the benefits of upholding the status quo in Mali and the region. So the French should step to the lead. I've long argued that. No Blood for Whatever the Hell They've Got, eh?

And this is priceless French outrage:

U.S. support has been "minimal" in practice, one U.S. official acknowledged on condition of anonymity. Washington, this official said, gave France a "hard time" when they asked for increased support, and the French will "remember us for that."

I'm sorry. Didn't we repay France for their selfless commitment to fighting Saddam and al Qaeda in Iraq? Or perhaps--as we watch French troops setting land-speed records in Mali by advancing on Gao and Timbuktu--we failed to appreciate the caveat-laden French contingent in Afghanistan that suffered more casualties from gout than from the Taliban?

Ah, memories!

But we are providing help as I long thought appropriate: logistics (transport and aerial refueling) and intelligence. I'd also help with special forces and armed drones, but that status isn't clear from my figurative basement.

Lafayette, you are there!

But I digress (as I can).

But I will stand with the French as we complain about the French plan. I swear to God, this is rich coming from the administration that gave us the Libya War. Remember that grand plan with its carefully thought-through exit strategy? Me neither.

Unless we planned for ungoverned spaces in Libya that led to a jihadi assault on our Benghazi diplomatic staff, the blowback of Tuareg mercenaries fleeing Libya with their arms to destabilize Mali, and a lovely bloodbath at an Algerian natural gas plant. You mean that plan?

The French at least seem committed to killng jihadis as job one. That's not the only job, but anything after that requires lots of dead jihadis and the survivors too frightened to do anything but flee.

Oh, and while I'm working up a caffeine-enhanced outrage about strategic stupidity, let me tackle the related complaint bound up with that "plan" bitching: our complaint that France has no "exit strategy." Grr.

This is what I'd do to anyone associated with our foreign or defense policies who spout about the need for an "exit strategy."

I don't want one damn epaulet or ribbon left. But talk of "innocence" is misplaced unless you are using it as a synonym for "naive."

This is a long-held complaint of mine. Let me quote myself from a 1997 publication magically on the Internet because some old server hasn't been wiped clean after I stopped using their services many years ago:

Not wanting to repeat our experience in Vietnam, many speak of needing an "exit strategy" before committing troops. Such an approach seeks to minimize our losses under the assumption that we will at some point lose, so we had better know when to cut our losses and get out. It also assumes that the situation allows for an exit and that our enemy will allow it. The Iraqis desperately waned out of the war they initiated in 1980 but were locked by Iran in a death grip that allowed for no easy exit. While planning for a tough resilient enemy is prudent, we must never become paralyzed by concentrating on how that enemy can hurt us. We need to keep our focus on achieving victory.

The French, at least, seem to want to focus on defeating the jihadis. If you mean "how do we win?" when you speak of wanting an exit strategy, just ask "how do we win?" If you can't do that, I don't want to talk to you. Our troops deserve better than that.

As we boast of "responsibly ending" wars and plan to cut our military (coughHagelcough), let us remember that these plans count on our enemies allowing us to exit and avoid wars. If the jihadis are willing to set up camp in northern Mali--which lies at the intersection of No and Where, for God's sake (pun intended)--why would we think they are equally tired of war?

I guess my 16-year-old essay is still relevant.

But heck, I suppose our most French-looking senator is just the man to restore our reputation with France and explain to them why they didn't pass that international test that France used to figure so high in the scoring.

Patient Ex

Because ice floes might not be available due to dread global warming, modern man has devised a new way to get rid of those expensive old and sick people: state-run health care.

But don't call it a "death panel:"

WHEN IT COMES TO END-OF-LIFE DECISIONS, The State Does Not Love You.“First, socialist states invariably run out of money once they finally destroy their productive class; and second, the state has neither heart nor soul. To you, Patient X is your beloved mother, or brother, or child. To the state, Patient X is an unnecessary cost to an already strained system.”

Don't say we weren't warned. But at least we aren't at the cracker stage--you know, to be more efficient with our resources. Waste not, want not!

UPDATE: Yep, just a step shy of crackering them:

Faced with the high cost of caring for smokers and overeaters, experts say society must grapple with a blunt question: Instead of trying to penalize them and change their ways, why not just let these health sinners die?

Unless Michelle Obama blocks the cracker stage because they'd have too high a fat content and contain nicotine, we're looking at Soylent Green territory, no?

As a bonus, we could devote even more corn production to filling yuppy fuel tanks rather than feeding poor people!

And with a name like that, you can be sure that Al Gore will cash in.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sailing to a Virtual Navy

We are finding that our virtual 6th Fleet isn't sufficient to watch the troubled Mediterranean region. The problem is that we don't have enough ships and our Navy doesn't want to face the fact that we can't afford the types of ships the Navy wants.

We don't have enough ships to pivot to Asia and to restore strength in the Mediterranean:

"The assumption that the Mediterranean would become a purely Western sphere of influence appears to have been premature," says Nikolas Gvosdev, professor of national security studies at the United States Naval War College in Rhode Island. ...

The U.S. had hoped it could pull back from the area, helping transfer military resources to the Pacific and South China Sea as part of a pivot to Asia aimed heavily at containing a rising China. But last year's Libya conflict provided stark warning that European states had distinctly limited capacity, and as the financial crisis bites defense budgets have been further cut.

I've noted that 6th Fleet is a virtual fleet, where we've maintained the illusion of our Cold War levels by using ships in transit. But we can't go back. We've tried to run our sailors and ships at the edge to make up for lack of numbers, but that isn't working any more:

The U.S. Navy is running out of money and is having a hard time avoiding the consequences. Thanks to all the new information systems added in the last two decades, the navy has been finding out quickly and in great detail how its current policies are running the ships and sailors ragged. The problem is that the navy has less money (because of budget cuts) and is unable to cope with high costs of replacing carriers and submarines that are dying of old age. The leadership has been unwilling to accept a small enough navy, especially one with fewer carriers, to match the current budgets. So ships are going to sea longer, with more broken or borderline equipment and crews that are fed up with all the time at sea. This problem has been growing for over a decade as more Cold War era ships got older and more difficult to maintain.

Regarding the Mediterranean, I don't think we need to shake loose a carrier for routine deployments there. Virtually the entire northern shore of the sea is a NATO air base, after all. We did get by in the Libya War without dispatching a big deck carrier task force there. Cold War-era carriers in the Mediterranean were more about posing a threat to the Soviet Union of launching nuclear-armed carrier aircraft at targets in southern USSR or Warsaw Pact targets.

Besides, if our NATO allies of Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and Turkey can't deploy sufficient naval assets to combat problems on the south shore, well--good grief.

But the Navy needs to pick a number of the ships it must have to carry out missions and then do what it takes to get that number with the money appropriated. This isn't complicated math. Do that and we can afford to dispatch vessels to the Mediterranean to support our NATO allies in a crisis without stretching our Navy to the breaking point.

If our Navy leadership refuses to accept the numbers, the Navy will be the first hollow service we have. A virtual Navy, anyone?

The Progressive Mind Meld

I ghost wrote for a couple decades for Michigan legislators. Rule one is never take credit from your bosses even when everyone knows your boss didn't write it. I got my recognition every two weeks. One of the president's speech writers is begging for a lot of time off.

The left absolutely swooned over the president's inauguration speech. The writer wants you to know that he crafted every knee-weakening moment:

A BINDER FULL OF SPEECHES: Jon Favreau takes credit for Obama’s inaugural speech.

To be fair, it's not like that speech isn't 100% Obama. President Obama did say that Favreau was his "mind reader."

I'm not wise in the ways of New Age practices, but if the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, I guess I can accept this is the route to the mind.

Seriously, what is Favreau thinking by trying to grab the glory? I wrote a lot of things I was very proud of. But there was no credit. There was rarely any thanks involved. Other than every two weeks, as I said.

I scored it a success to be in committee when a veterans group leader testifying on a defense-related matter commended the legislator for how well written the document on the agenda was. I could lip read the legislator make an aside to his colleague, "As if I could have written that."

That was about the height of recognition a ghost writer can expect and Favreau treads on dangerous ground if he thinks he is uniquely able to spew out words that enthrall the left. Shoot, he could be replaced by a computer program if this is any indication.

NOTE: Ah, now it makes more sense. I read the article in full and Favreau says that he is done writing speeches "inside the White House." If you are going out anyway ...

Gorilla Warfare

What does Iran even mean when they say that an attack on Syria is an attack on them? What are they going to do? Bleed on us?

I know Iran periodically boasts some wonderful weapon that they've built or they hold some exercise with a scary name and notable more for poor use of PhotoShop to illustrate the maneuvers. But we really could be in for a war if Iran's leaders are starting to believe their propaganda:

Iran considers any attack against Syria an attack on itself, an advisor to the Islamic Republic's supreme leader was quoted as saying Saturday, the strongest warning to date by a top Iranian official that Tehran will use any available means to keep the regime of President Bashar Assad in power.

Unless they already have nukes or want to provoke the West by interrupting the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz into a war that could destroy Iran, what does it even mean to say an attack on Syria is an attack on Iran?

I mean, if they are saying that the fall of Assad hurts Iran, I agree. Syria has been Iran West for a while now.

But there is little Iran can do to reverse the loss they are experiencing in Syria. I think their only hope of salvaging something is if Assad retreats to a core Syria that doesn't exceed his shrinking army's ability to hold.

But for now, Iran is just chest thumping and flinging poo.

UPDATE: Strategypage, too, doesn't see much point to the Iranian statement other than admitting the relationship:

Iran has declared that any country that attacks Syria is attacking Iran. That is an unusually frank admission of the relationship between Iran and Syria, but it will not have much impact. Iran has been at war with the rest of the world for decades. Because the Iranian military never recovered from its disastrous 1980s war with Iraq, Iran has used Islamic terrorism as their primary weapon. Their threat to fight would, at worst mean fewer restraints on Iranian sponsored Islamic terrorists.

Strategypage notes that Assad can't win. I assume they mean he can't win the way he is fighting. I never assume any war is unwinnable. But Assad shows no indication he is going to change his approach to fighting this war.

Assad seems to just hope the horse will sing.

UPDATE: Iran takes poo flinging to new heights:

Iran has successfully launched a live monkey into space, the state news agency IRNA said on Monday, touting it as an advance in a missile and space program that has alarmed the West and Israel.

Don't be distracted by the monkey.

It's all about the missile. Even though they have no license permitting nuclear weapons. Sometimes we seem blind to that.

Once Again, Huh

So the same people (coughleftistsstillupsetabout2000cough) who want to go around the Electoral College are against proposals to legally change the Electoral College vote-allocation procedure (tip to Instapundit)? To one already in use? Huh.

If changing the system is "partisan" why isn't keeping the system as is also "partisan."

Mind you, I like the Electoral College. I think state-level winner-take-all reduces the incentive to cheat and reduces the effect of cheating. Win by enough (and at the state level, really close results aren't that common) and a little cheating doesn't affect the electoral vote, right?

The huffing and puffing and "have you no decency" reaction is what gets me.

Pray Tell, What Will They Discuss?

This writer says threats of force won't work on North Korea and that only diplomacy can solve the problem. In a way, he is right. But not the way he believes.

Even though sanctions are a form of "stick" that the author says won't work, he has faith in diplomacy to tame North Korea:

The United States and the United Nations have little choice but to impose sanctions in response to North Korea’s actions, which clearly violate earlier sanction conditions. But it is hard to see how such sanctions can deter a determined and defiant North Korea, especially if the sanctions are not rigorously enforced. The best we can hope for is that the latest confrontation will finally bring all sides together – including both Koreas, the United States, China, Russia, and Japan – to solve this issue.

Diplomacy, not threats or sanctions – and certainly not military action – is the only viable path to resolution.

Let's get this straight. North Korea wants nuclear weapons and western aid; South Korea doesn't want North Korea to have nuclear weapons; Japan doesn't want North Korea to have nuclear weapons; and America doesn't want North Korea to have nuclear weapons.

Even Russia, which won't be a target of such nuclear missiles, doesn't want North Korea to have nuclear weapons, I'd say, since nukes are Russia's only credible defense. And North Korea crossing the threshold could trigger Japan, South Korea, and maybe Taiwan to follow suit to avoid being the only one left standing by the wall alone.

I have no idea if China doesn't want North Korea to have nuclear weapons. They sure seem to enjoy having a dangerous little pit bull to snarl at South Korea, Japan, and America. Perhaps they don't want North Korea to actually get the weapons, but the Chinese don't care enough to do anything serious to stop North Korea. Not yet, anyway.

So what is this magical diplomacy going to discuss to solve the issue and put us on a viable path to resolution?

Seriously, if you believe we have to make a real effort to address North Korea's professed fear of American attack, you have to accept that it is possible to allay North Korean fear.

And you must accept we can do something else to allay their fears after not invading or attacking North Korea for five decades.

You must accept we can do something more to reassure North Korea after reducing our Army in South Korea over the last several decades from two divisions to a single combat brigade today.

You must believe we can talk the North Koreans into security despite the fact that we've pulled our few troops back from their forward positions along the DMZ to less threatening (and less vulnerable to sudden attack from the north) positions south.

You must believe that the North Koreans aren't even reassured by our replacement of George W. Bush with the Nobel Peace Prize-winning President Obama.

North Korea wants nuclear weapons and America, Japan, and South Korea don't want that. Just how to we forge a viable path to resolution via diplomacy? It only works, as the Clinton administration accords did, by having both sides pretend North Korea has halted nuclear works. That wasn't a viable path then and it sure isn't today.

That said, I am in favor of diplomacy to help solve the problem as long as we don't shovel money north:

So let the talks drag on. I don't care. We can't let the North Koreans succeed in holding their own people hostage confident that we will care more for their welfare and so give in to save them.

In time, we will have missile defenses. In time, our Army won't be busy in Iraq. In time, even the South Koreans may start to worry about Pyongyang if the North rattles sabres to get our attention.

So when the Pillsbury Nuke Boy issues more threats, we and the Japanese should just smile and nod--and keep on talking. We have no business guaranteeing the survival of such a beastly regime as North Korea demands we do. If North Korea wants to survive, they need to start addressing our security worries.

In the end, starving people may well rise up because they'll have no fears of consequences. At worst, they will be too weak to be much of a threat to South Korea.

If we talk to offer the North Koreans hope that they don't have to resort to force to break out of their death spiral, talks can string the North Koreans along until they collapse. Now that's a viable path.

The French Move North

The French didn't need a month to build up sufficient logistics to extend their forces out to Gao, nor did they need that bridge the jihadis blew so they could bring Chadian troops north for a second pincer to capture Gao.

The French could fly in supplies direct to Gao now:

French forces in Mali have seized the airport and the bridge over the Niger River at the Islamist rebel-held stronghold of Gao, the French Defence Ministry said on Saturday.

Now we're getting somewhere. As long as the jihadis won't stand and fight, the French might as well pursue. Will the jihadis make a stand there or flee north and west?

They will likely pull back once the jihadis decide to dig in somewhere, in order to bring up African and Mali troops to go in after the French soften up the jihadis with smart bombs. That would fit with the very cautious approach to Diabaly that the French employed in their first ground mission.

UPDATE: The jihadis did not fight for Gao:

French officials say French-backed Malian forces have recaptured the strategic city of Gao, an Islamist militant stronghold in the country's north.

The French defense ministry said Saturday that a contingent of troops from Nigeria and Chad was moving into the city to help maintain stability.

Blowing the bridge didn't stop the Chad troops from moving north. I wonder whether "Nigerian" (from Nigeria) should be "Nigerien" (from Niger), since the Chad forces were paired with Niger troops? Or is it accurate and the Nigerian troops are following the main French/Mali advance up from Mopti?

So where did the jihadis go?

UPDATE: Never mind:

[In] Paris, a defense ministry official clarified that the city had not been fully liberated, and that the process of freeing Gao was continuing.

The jihadis are still there, it seems. There could still be a fight.

UPDATE: French and Mali troops are also outside of Timbuktu:

The French and Malians had not so far encountered any resistance from the rebels at Timbuktu.

The source said the advancing troops had paused outside to prepare a strategy for entering the town[.]

I can't imagine the French have even a full battalion in each column. Nor can I imagine the Mali troops are that effective. But if the jihadis are shaky from recent reverses, push them out of the cities while you can. Jihadis wandering around the semi-deserts are less of a problem, no>

UPDATE: The French are leading the Mali troops into Timbuktu, it seems:

French and Malian troops were on Sunday restoring government control over the fabled Saharan trading town of Timbuktu, the latest gain in a fast-moving French-led offensive against al Qaeda-allied fighters occupying northern Mali.

It would help if Niger, Algeria, and Mauritania are vigilant about watching their borders in case the jihadis try to avoid a last stand in Kidal and want to live to jihad another day--perhaps back in Libya where government control is weak.

The French are moving as fast as they can, as I wanted. Is there also an outreach to the Tuaregs to get a majority to accept autonomy as the price for joining the fight against the jihadis (foreign and local)?

UPDATE: As at Gao, the French grabbed the airport and approaches to the city. They are waiting for Mali troops to enter Timbuktu:

Ground forces backed by French paratroopers and helicopters took control of Timbuktu's airport and the roads leading to the town in an overnight operation, a French military official said Monday. It marked the latest success in the two-week-old French mission to oust radical Islamists from the northern half of Mali, which they seized more than nine months ago.

French Col. Thierry Burkhard, the chief military spokesman in Paris, said Monday that the town's airport was taken without firing a shot.

"There was an operation on Timbuktu last night that allowed us to control access to the town," he said Monday. "It's up to Malian forces to retake the town."

Jihadis have proven they are ready to fight the enemy without mercy, as the city's mayor related:

"They torched all the important ancient manuscripts. The ancient books of geography and science. It is the history of Timbuktu, of its people."

Death to history.

These are barbarians we fight. Kill them where we find them. Or should we be discussing compromise so they only burn some ancient texts? Or lop off only a couple digits rather than an entire hand? Or use softer whips to punish the crime of a girl talking to a male in public?