Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Who Chose Not to Fight?

Now it is coming out that there were American special forces troops in range of Benghazi to intervene in the annex battle.

According to a source who professes to know:

“I know for a fact that C110 was doing a training exercise not in the region of northern Africa but in Europe and they have the ability to react and respond,” the special ops member told FNC.

The C110 is a 40-man special operations commanders and extremists force. They are capable of rapid response and deployment and are specifically trained for Benghazi attack-like incidents. The night of the attack, according to the special op, they were training 3-1/2 hours away in Croatia.

From the beginning, I've wondered why European-based forces weren't sent to Behghazi. I had doubts about a military response, but as time has passed, it seems more likely that we did have a military option. After all, fewer than a dozen para-military security forces did leap into the maelstrom and made a difference.

Yes, the ambassador's location was a goner, but the annex held out much longer. And we had no idea that the crisis wouldn't play out over a much longer time than it did. Yet we refused to send troops as if it was all over and as if we'd written off those on the ground as acceptable losses.

I don't think we needed special forces to intervene. Our regular infantry have spent a decade kicking jihadi butts all over battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our troops could have handled the militias that struck us that day.

I still can't believe we couldn't have quickly put a platoon of Army infantry, military police, or even Air Force base security forces based in Europe on a plane and flown them to Benghazi just in case.

Who decided we would not fight the jihadis in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, and just let our people stuck on the ground fend for themselves that day and night against jihadi attackers?

To Tweet? Or Not to Tweet?

Preach it, brother!

I'm just uninterested in the Slings and Arrows of outrageous Tweets, or in taking up Arms against a Sea of 140-character flame wars.

Just About Ready to Go Full Bounty Hunter on Gloria

[UPDATE 4: Wow, less than a day after my tremendous act of patience and forgiveness, today--31 JUL 13--some stupid law firm calls me to tell me they are calling about Gloria D. and that they are a collection agency. They want me to call them at 866-599-6068. So the name goes back up. Gloria D. has wrongly given me as a credit reference and if I ever find her ...]

[UPDATE: It has been a while since I've gotten any calls or mail for this woman, so in the spirit of generosity and I don't want to hear her name again, I'm getting rid of her name on this post.]

I am so close to becoming obsessed enough with a woman to track her down.

I've been getting phone calls for years from debt collectors searching for [Name Redacted]. I don't feel bad putting her name out there because according to the state education loan agency and a private loan collection company, Ms. Dunn listed me--with my phone number--as her primary contact person just in case the agencies need to get in touch with her about her loan.

Up until now, I haven't wanted to mention her name when I've noted this situation. What if she is the wronged party, I thought. But I did talk to one collection agent who explained that [Name Redacted] listed me as her related contact person. And another agent just left a message explaining the same thing.

And what really angers me is that I can't return the call to tell the agency to stop bothering me because to talk to a person I need to have information about the account to get through the phone tree. Oddly enough, I don't have any account or SSN information about a complete stranger. Quite the lacuna in their procedures, I'd say. Hitting zero for the operator did nothing. I didn't bother trying the Spanish language option for kicks.

Apparently, these collection agencies have reason to make lots and lots of calls to my house assuming I can get dear [Name Redacted] to contact these collection agencies to make sure whatever issues they have with [Name Redacted] are resolved. Why multiple collection agencies would be so eager to contact Ms. [Name Redacted]--perhaps Little Miss Stellar Credit Rating has overpaid her monthly loan statement and the agencies urgently need to send a refund check--I don't know. But I'm starting to think that if [Name Redacted] is counting on me to put these two star-crossed people together, that I should step up and do my duty as [Name Redacted] intended.

I have some time to spare. I might try to track her down since dear [Name Redacted] hasn't updated me with her most recent location information.

Perhaps I'll check the statutes to see if it is a crime to falsify information on loan papers with the state of Michigan.

Perhaps the Attorney General should be told about [Name Redacted]'s problem.

Perhaps I can suggest to a state legislator that the statutes need to be amended to make it a crime to provide false information on a loan application, if it is not already.

Perhaps a small claims action is in order once I find her. I could probably get the next collection agent to give me [Name Redacted]'s SSN and other information, couldn't I? If Dear [Name Redacted] trusts me enough to hold her credit life, surely a little private information is sharable? Well, it can't hurt to ask.

Or is this a case of stalking if [Name Redacted] has caused others to repeatedly call me in a harassing manner? I used to know a lot about that law. (Hey! It was my job to know it.) Perhaps I need to re-familiarize myself with the law.

I'll let you know just how pissed off I get about this.

And if [Name Redacted] is Googling her own name, she should know that I am so close to making sure that the authorities find out exactly where she lives.

To get this post higher on the search engines:

[Five lines of Name Redacted]

I'm a pretty laid back guy. But I am perfectly capable of latching on to a leg when I get really pissed off. I am so close to being seriously pissed off at [Name Redacted].

Can India's Army Sink the Chinese Fleet?

A rising India-American friendship holds the promise of diverting Chinese resources from sea power to land power.

Can an Indian build-up of their land forces (and more importantly, from my view, air power) on China's border force China to redirect resources away from their naval power that faces America? That's what this article argues:

While India has traditionally been a continental power focused on threats along its land borders, the same is true of China. For example, it is surrounded by fourteen different countries, including major powers and nuclear-armed nations. It previously fought a series of border wars and conflicts, not only with India but also against the Soviet Union and Vietnam. Its outlying territories are populated by minority groups that pose a continuous threat of internal unrest. And its access to the sea is limited by island barriers and maritime chokepoints. In fact, the main reason that China has been able to scale back the size of its ground forces and invest in naval and aerospace capabilities over the past two decades is that it hasn’t been distracted by serious land-based threats for the first time in a long time. Nevertheless, China remains extremely sensitive about the security of its borders.

Washington has a strong incentive to slow this trend if possible. As Beijing’s need to spend money on ground units and internal security forces declines, and as the bureaucratic clout of these organizations diminishes, then China’s naval, air, and missile forces are likely to get a growing slice of the resource pie. Yet these are precisely the forces that pose the biggest danger to the United States, its allies, and its interests abroad. Unfortunately, there is little that the U.S. can do, at least by itself. This is where India enters the equation. History tells us that in competitions between “whales” (maritime great powers like the United States) and “elephants” (rising continental powers like China), the former often need continental allies to counterbalance the latter. Today, India is the only plausible candidate that might be able to distract China from its growing focus on naval and aerospace modernization and reinforce Beijing’s traditional focus on territorial defense.

The author is preaching to the choir on this issue of pointing China away from the sea.

Go west, young Han, as I've said.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Signaling and Knowing What the Game Even Is

We want to defend our allies. But we don't want to go to war with China over trivial (to us) matters. So making sure we and the Chinese understand each other in a crisis is vital to avoiding a war during a crisis. That's tough enough. But will we even know for sure what the nature of the crisis will be when our forces are in contact?

This is an interesting monograph on signaling in a crisis with China:

Since its founding in 1949, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has employed military force in pursuit of its national interests in security and territorial integrity. In many such instances, Beijing has deployed a calculus of threat and retaliation signals, first to deter an adversary from taking actions contrary to Beijing’s interests by threatening use of Chinese military force, and then, once deterrence has failed, to explain and justify Beijing’s resort to military force. Beijing has carefully sustained this calibrated hierarchy of official protests, authoritative press comment, and leadership statements despite the sweeping changes in the PRC’s place in the international order, the proliferation of foreign policy instruments at its disposal, and the dramatic evolution in the Chinese media over the decades.

That's surely important. But is it wise to assume that the Chinese will allow us the time to react by incorrectly believing that a signal is step 2 of the 8-step path to actually using major force? Might not the Chinese use our apparent understanding of their past escalation signaling patterns in order to achieve surprise? After all, as I've repeated many times, achieving surprise isn't so much a matter of hiding what you are doing as it is a matter of convincing your foe that the reason for your actions that they can see are harmless--at least for the moment. Intentions are difficult to assess--especially in a crisis. At some level we have to react to mobilized capabilities rather than hope that presumed safe intent makes those capabilities harmless.

Further, does China's dramatic increase in power projection capacity over the last decade nullify that past pattern of signaling and mean that surprise offensive action could replace even signaling that we fully understand and which we correctly interpret in nature of the actual crisis? At some point, the signal will simply be "we wish to crush you in battle right now" rather than a means to an end. There isn't a lot of nuance in that and we need to be prepared to shift gears quickly from looking for nuanced meanings to fighting hammer and tong to withstand the first blows. And know when not to make that switch, of course.

Intent of China's leaders can also be a difficult thing to understand when we might be trying to understand a militarized dispute that we believe is a foreign policy signaling game when in fact it is a Chinese domestic policy crisis being played out beyond China's borders. While this article focuses on the problems that China's military has beneath the veneer of advanced technology, this is truly scary:

Politics have always played a key role and the PLA retains a Soviet-style dual command structure. A powerful political department sits at the centre of the organisation, while political minders shadow commanders at every level of the enormous hierarchy. The PLA is one of the world's largest bureaucracies - and behaves accordingly. ''They have a meeting now for everything,'' says Nan Li, associate professor at the US Naval War College's China maritime studies institute.

As an aside, it is good that the Chinese command structure is poor and force quality not as good as ours. I've assumed that. This is one of the major advantages that our military spending gives us that isn't easily quantifiable. I will note that those shortcomings might not be crippling in the first weeks of a Chinese offensive when they strike at a time and place of their own choosing. What might they gain in that time of advantage when they hold the initiative? Would we continue the fight that would expose Chinese weaknesses (and our own, which I assume will be fewer) and allow us to roll back Chinese gains?

But more to the point, is our leadership--both civilian and military--capable of reading signals when we are trained to think of our military as a non-political actor with politics ending at our shores, but when China's military is at its core a political tool of the communist party of China? Let's go back to the Sydney Morning Herald article:

Claims that Xi [Jinping, China's president] has exploited or even orchestrated the brinkmanship with Japan might seem preposterous to outside observers, given that a miscalculation could lead to war. But the logic is compelling for those who have grown up near the centre of China's endless and unforgiving internal struggles.

But the spectre of war is not the only possible explanation for Xi's saber rattling and demands for combat readiness. For even as Japanese leaders and US officials were publicising their concerns about a region on the brink of naval conflict, it became clearer that Xi and his close military confidants remained squarely focused on domestic politics. Indeed, Liu Yuan counseled that war with Japan would be disastrous.

At the same time, another top-level document emerged: a speech in December by Xi, in which he gave thundering confirmation that the PLA's primary function was to defend the regime, not China. This was the lesson learned from the Soviet Union's collapse, he said. ''In the Soviet Union, where the military was depoliticised, separated from the party, and nationalised, the party was disarmed,'' Xi warned, according to an extract of his speech that was published by journalist Gao Yu and broadly corroborated by other sources.

So any military crisis could simply be a political crisis played out by an arm of China's political system, the PLA. Are we prepared to interpret military signals that are not actually being sent to us but to internal actors within China?

And let's up the difficulty level a bit more. Not only is it possible for us to mistake an internal political crisis for a foreign crisis, but what if a foreign crisis becomes an internal crisis and we don't catch the switch?

There is always the threat of [China] encountering credible resistance (from the United States or a really angry Japan, South Korea or India). At this point the Chinese have to be careful to accurately calculate how far they can push their victims before Chinese forces must be withdrawn. Such a pull-back can have serious repercussions at home because Chinese leaders have been pushing nationalism to divert public attention from police state tactics and corruption inside China. A nationalistic atmosphere in China makes it very unpopular to back down and that could trigger widespread unrest by people who are now reminded that their leaders are not only cowards but corrupt and police state bullies as well.

Oh, and what if a purely political crisis that involves the Chinese military deploying military capabilities that outstrip our regional capabilities (because of our muted reaction to avoid a needless war) then tempts the Chinese leaders--perhaps after resolving the political crisis that started military signaling and mobilization--to resolve a foreign policy problem with force as long as the capability is there at the moment and China has a temporary edge?

China's rise in military power projection capabilities is creating a situation where a crisis can escalate to war because of the close proximity of the powers apart from China's intent. Back when China was a simple mass of proletarian fury that had limited power projection capabilities, it was easier to control a response to Chinese actions and signals. The consequences of not reacting to Chinese actions weren't going to be that great since China couldn't exploit an edge with their limited forces to achieve a crippling blow against a foe. China's power was basically being able to absorb an enemy attack on China itself.

But now failure to react could give China the chance to mobilize forces for a strike that can really hurt a neighbor--perhaps critically. Under those circumstances, there will be an incentive for China's neighbors to shoot first just in case. That incentive to strike will be greater if these neighbors of China doubt our ability to come to their rescue if the Chinese really hurt them in a first strike.

So we have another complication in signal reading to avoid escalating to war: Even if we are playing the right crisis scenario, if we are reading the signals accurately for the correct crisis, if China isn't sending fake signals to deceive us in order to simply launch a presumed limited war, if China is accurately reading our counter-signals, and if the crisis doesn't change in the middle of the crisis, this isn't going to be just a bilateral America-China crisis. Remember, we are a western Pacific power by choice (and need, of course) and not from our location. Other powers in the Western Pacific will automatically be part of the crisis. In all this signal analysis we are supposed to make, there will be plenty of "stray" signals criss-crossing the region. Are we really capable of reading all that noise and figuring out--on the fly--how everyone else is reading them?

I guess I'm just saying that we shouldn't try to be so clever and so confident that we can accurately read signals. Never, ever forget that intent is difficult to figure out and can change without notice, while capabilities are more constant and subject to calculation. We might be able to draw some comfort that China's military isn't as good as China's leaders think it is if we read the signals wrong and find ourselves at war with China; but even if we win, we will still have had to fight a war with all the blood and treasure that event will cost.

Now the Jihadi Threat is Real

The Boston Marathon bombing may force the Obama administration to admit that we are at war.

Is the Boston bombing really going to shake the administration out of its liberal belief that only George W. Bush angered jihadis enough to kill us?

The underlying assumption of those narratives [of past jihadi plots] is that the counterterrorism strategy pursued by President George W. Bush in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, was self-destructive. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan mobilized the Islamic world against America. The existence of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, the scandal at Abu Ghraib, and the reports of harsh interrogation of detainees eroded our moral high ground. Bush betrayed our values. He exploited fear for political gain.

The appropriate response, it was said, was to do the opposite of Bush.

After four years of hope and change, nothing about jihadi rage has changed. As I predicted nearly four years ago, the administration may be forced to raise the national threat level to Code Pink:

The highest level, Code Pink, is true emergency status meaning "Holy Cr*p, Not Even These Code Pink Hags Will Believe Us If We Say It Isn't Our Fault." This means we've been attacked again and remember that yes, we really are still at war with jihadis.

So let's act like the jihad threat is real. Their goals may seem ridiculous, but the deaths they inflict in pursuit of that goal are very real:

Their ideology frames matters as Dar al-Islam versus Dar al-Harb: the realm of Islam in a fight to the death against the realm of war — which is everyone and everyplace else.

The fact that you think this is nuts, or that I’m nuts for saying it out loud, has nothing to do with whether they believe it. They do — and they don’t care, even a little, what you think.

You do not defeat an ideology by hoping it will change or disappear. You have to challenge it, to make it defend its baleful tenets in the light of day. You cannot protect yourself from its violent outbursts absent understanding its teaching, reluctantly accepting that its teaching will inevitably lead some Muslims to strike out savagely, and committing to a pro-active, intelligence-based counterterrorism strategy — one that scraps political correctness and ferrets out the jihadists before they strike.

As I've long said, our military fight to kill jihadis and their sponsors is just one--if necessary--part of the effort to help Islamic society purge itself of the jihadi urges that spring so readily into bloody action.

We had a good run with Code Green and Code Yellow. Now the threat is real--people might expect the president to protect us from bloodthirsty enemies who make a mockery of our question "why do they hate us?"

Authority First, Territory Second

The Syrian government is finally withdrawing to a core Syria as I figured they had to.

Strategypage writes:

The government appears to have accepted the fact that it cannot hold most of the country and is concentrating on the defense of Damascus and roads that connect the capital with the small Syrian coast (where pro-government Alawites are the majority). The government has organized more local militias in these areas, arming and equipping Alawites and Christians who fear retribution from victorious Sunni rebels. Iran has been particularly helpful in equipping and training the militias. The Iranian Quds Force has long experience in this sort of thing, having organized Hezbollah in Lebanon 30 years ago.

Quds is now busy in Syria as well. Rebels accuse the government of adopting savage new tactics in the fighting around Damascus. These new methods involve mass killings of civilians, especially military age men, during daytime raids into pro-rebel villages. This development is believed to be the work of the Iranians and their military advisors. This would be the Quds Force that specializes in this sort of thing.

That seemed to be what was happening and now it seems more certain.

Abandoning as much of Syria as possible to hold critical assets seemed the only route Assad could go when the rebellion got going.

And with more light infantry paramilitaries organized with Iranian help, the government is going postal on the areas within the core Syria boundaries to terrorize the rebels and their supporters. That's going to result in some pretty horrific casualties for the ill-trained and poorly disciplined militias. Whether these militias can hold up under this kind of use is a good question.

So I'm not sure if--15 months after I figured the Syrian government had to contract their territory--the Syrians have the numbers or morale to hold core Syria that includes Damascus. Assad wants the capital to retain the UN seat so that no matter how little of Syria he controls, he is still officially the president of Syria.

But if holding Damascus isn't possible, I'd think that Assad would transfer his capital to the Alawite region in the west and still be considered formal Syria's ruler.

We Did Not Hear the Fat Lady Sing

The Red Wings won their last regular season game on Saturday night against Dallas, to reach the playoffs for the 22nd consecutive year. The odds were in our favor to make the playoffs even though we could have failed by losing. It came down to the end, but at least we didn't have to count on other teams losing to make it in. Mister and I did not see that game.

Sadly, Mister and I were at the season end of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra (AASO). We had great seats. And it isn't that I don't like classical music--in moderate dosages--but the timing wasn't the best. Mister pleaded to not go even though I checked with him before buying the tickets (when it wasn't at all clear that the last game would be critical). The tickets were non-refundable.

And he did need one more concert for his orchestra class, in order to write a report on it. Last year we scrambled at the end of the year to find one and almost missed it because of a rain postponement. This year, I said we aren't waiting until the last moment.

We listened to the first period on the way to the concert and while sitting in the parking structure before the concert started. We heard Detroit go up 1-0, so we had that going for us.

The concert was fine. Mister updated me when the Wings scored. We avoided high fiving and yelling in joy. Nobody seems to do that at classical concerts, so I'm reasonably sure that would be frowned on. It would be less annoying than the constant coughing and throat clearing coming from the seats behind us, but that's the way it is.

And we did not repeat the horror of some years ago of sitting through an opera by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Not hearing the fat lady sing was a bonus, here, at least.

So we won and Mister got his report done. And I got a small dosage of culture.

And as I like to tell Mister, a couple decades ago--when I knew even less about classical music than I do now (if that is possible)--I wrote a retirement tribute to the departing conductor of the AASO for our local state representative that he read aloud on stage. It apparently caused the conductor to well up with tears and for the rep to interrupt and comment, "wow, this is really good." This according to a colleague from another division who was there and stopped by the next day to find out who wrote it.

I mostly like to tell Mister that to impress upon him the need to learn to write well. Learn that and opportunities open up. If a near-Philistine (with apologies to the much maligned Philistine community) like myself can drive someone who knows his business to tears with my low-information words of thanks and congratulations, that is a neat trick to do.

You do what you need to do. And we all did.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Forward Hinge of the Pivot

Singapore is well positioned to hold the southern edge of the kill sack that the South China Sea could potentially be for Chinese naval vessels.

We are deploying a small number of Littoral Combat Ships to Singapore. The first recently arrived for its rotation. Up to four could eventually be based there. Ships need air cover, of course, and Singapore is better off than I thought in that area:

Eight years ago Singapore decided to order a dozen two-seater F-15SG fighter-bombers and then 12 more to complement the 74 F-16s it already had. The last of the F-15SGs arrived last year. The F-15SG variant was a configuration that was unique to Singapore and was the most advanced variant of the F-15. The two-seat F-15SG had high-end electronics comparable to the F-15E it was based on.

I had no idea (or forgot) that Singapore had F-15s. Not many countries have them. Israel, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and South Korea were the only other countries that flew them, I thought. They are based on an old design but are still potent aircraft when using modern air-to-air missiles and with well-trained pilots. Singapore has ordered those missiles, too.

With these planes, Singapore is a tough target for distant Chinese air power to overwhelm. They can support naval forces in the South China Sea as well as interdict Chinese sea lines of communication from the Indian Ocean. Which means Singapore can surely count on help from India as well as from us.

Plus, it makes it easier for our Air Force to deploy F-16s and F-15s to reinforce Singapore since support facilities will exist for the same planes. That's a powerful air force for the southern end of a kill sack that China is determined to poke their head into.

China may want to bully their way to control of the South China Sea, but they need to be very careful not to push so hard that they provoke a prolonged fight for control.

UPDATE: Thanks to Stones Cry Out for the link.

The White House's Correspondents Dinner

If there was ever a time when people should ask "why do they hate us?", this is the group that should be doing it. Tip to Instapundit.

And no, I didn't put the apostrophe in the wrong place.


If the Obama administration hoped that refusing to sell Taiwan new F-16s would be a signal to China to restrain their aggressiveness based on newly felt national military power, China is not cooperating.

This news says that the Obama administration is thinking about selling Taiwan new F-16 fighters:

Steve Chabot, chair of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the US House of Representatives, reportedly said Thursday that Washington is mulling whether to sell F-16C/Ds to Taipei and that Congress will very likely approve the sale, local media said yesterday.

The Taiwanese haven't been formally notified of anything. But the Obama administration actually has to decide to allow the sale of the planes to Taiwan rather than just mull the move. And Taiwan actually has to decide to buy the F-16s, of course. They failed to do that more than a decade ago when they had the chance.

That the Taiwanese really need to beef up their air power should be without a doubt. If the Taiwanese can't keep the Chinese air force at bay, Taiwan's fleet can't sail let alone fight; and the army will have to move under air attack to throw back Chinese forces that land (by sea or air) on Taiwan.

China is pushing where there is no resistance, so there needs to be more capacity to resist the Chinese.

Ah, It's To Be an Old Fashioned Kidnapping Shakedown

North Korea's plan to scare goodies out of their neighbors and American isn't working. The North Korean criminal enterprise with a UN seat decided to go old school on us.

While no note using letters cut out from magazines was used, Pyongyang couldn't be clearer with this:

North Korea announced Saturday that an American detained for nearly six months is being tried in the Supreme Court on charges of plotting to overthrow the government, a crime that could draw the death penalty if he is convicted.

The case involving Kenneth Bae, who has been in North Korean custody since early November, further complicates already fraught relations between Pyongyang and Washington following weeks of heightened rhetoric and tensions.

Kim Jong-un needs to be careful. President Obama isn't doing too well in domestic politics. He might need a foreign policy victory to avoid his approval ratings falling below George W. Bush's ratings. And a clear-cut comic book-level evil regime of North Korea would be just the ticket if that Canada ploy doesn't work out.

Just wait for Jay Carney to tell the White House press corps that President Obama told his national security staff that "the government wants Ken Bae alive or Kim Jong-un dead."

Remember, it's the little booms that matter--especially when their are a lot of them.

If Kim Jong-un goes through with this, he shouldn't take any strolls in the garden. Our targeting will be simplified since we just have to look for the chubby guy surrounded by skinny people.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Limits of Cairo

Good grief, President Obama's outreach to the Moslem world can't even keep a formal NATO ally that is currently receiving alliance air defense protection from wandering out of camp:

NATO member Turkey signed up on Friday to became a "dialogue partner" of a security bloc dominated by China and Russia, and declared that its destiny is in Asia.

"This is really a historic day for us," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in Kazakhstan's commercial capital Almaty after signing a memorandum of understanding with Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Secretary General Dmitry Mezentsev.

"Now, with this choice, Turkey is declaring that our destiny is the same as the destiny of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) countries."

Maybe the Israelis can intervene to repair our relations with Turkey. Surely there is something we can apologize for to Turkey.

I don't think that "hegemony" word means what they think it means.

Science Lesson

So, questioning the global warming science's data, models, predictions, and anti-free market solutions means I deny science. But you can be a global warming believer yet think fracking and vaccines are bad, and be considered pro-science.

Got it.

Hate and Fear Canadians

Wake up and smell the snow, people! The Canadians won't walk among us on President Obama's watch!

With the tide of war receding right into Boston Harbor (sadly, with no Boston Tea Party to blame), we are worried about border security (well, northern border security and not southern border security). But if the Obama administration gets is way, Americans won't have time to worry about inflation, jobs, and our dwindling savings accounts. We will finally (tip to Real Clear World) strike back at the Canadians:

Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano is musing about imposing a “land border crossing fee” on people arriving from Canada and Mexico. Perfect. We get to pay for the pleasure of being aggravated. Muchas gracias, amiga.

Is this the “greater convergence” of Canada/U.S. security and trade that President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper like to talk about when they get together? Or is it a bureaucratic pile-on that threatens to further depress the nearly $700 billion in trade our two countries do, on which 10 million jobs ride? What’s next? A saliva test? For you, just $20 (U.S.)?

While cash-strapped Washington may be tempted to dip into Canuck pockets to help pay for an endless, paranoid “thickening” of the border, officials should think again. Granted, the U.S. government has the right to squeeze whomever it chooses at the border. But inevitably, a fee on top of every other hassle will only encourage more Canadians to stay home, as we’re already doing in droves.

Why on Earth would we punish innocent Canadians to stop actual terrorists? Justin Beiber may be annoying, but he's no underwear bomber. If we wanted to make the potential pool of actual terrorists pay for our border security, we'd add an entry security fee to those traveling from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, and Chechnya, no?

We're free to pay for more security. And maybe if we weren't spending obscene amounts of our own money by borrowing we wouldn't have to think about extending our tax powers abroad.

But this is the way of our administration: Punish the law abiding to appear to fight the bad guys who just violate whatever rules we put in place. Polite Canadians are the perfect target, this administration thought. Just whisper the charge of "racism" if they protest and they'll put down their loonies at the border rather than appear to be loony clingers bitter over the lack of respect for Canadian football, or something.

Just think, just as we have to suffer under defense sequestration while facing opponents abroad from Iran to North Korea, Canada has massed their military power within striking distance of our vulnerable northern border by withdrawing their forces from Afghanistan and Europe. Coincidence? Napolitano thinks not!

What's really funny is that Michael Moore's vision of bully America is taking place under the administration of hope and change. That's gotta hurt.

Why, Indeed

Since the Boston bombers are Moslem rather than Tea Partiers, it is time for all Sensitive Americans to engage in another round of "why do they hate us?"

Let's go to the parents, shall we?

The parents of the two main suspects in the Boston bombings said on Thursday their sons had been framed and accused U.S. authorities of killing the older brother to put on a display.

Right away they are in trouble. In the age of George W. Bush, history professors across our country would be wondering the same thing. But now under the new hopey era of change? How can it be that President Obama appears more evil than Dick Cheney?

I'd give a grieving mother a little slack, but she took it all the slack I have and then hung herself. Let's just listen to the mom:

Why did we need to kill him? America failed to protect her sons? America took her kids away from her?

Her kids cruelly killed four Americans. Why? Her religion radicalized her kids despite the warm embrace her children received here, where they went to good schools, got scholarships, attended college, played sports, started a family, and received welfare support. Why? How's that for protecting her kids? Her religion gave her kids a twisted version of Islam that led them to kill our people. Our people were the ones not safe around her boys. Only in Islamo-fascism.

The mother is a piece of work. I'll say I agree that I regret her family came to America.

Oh, and guess what? The mom is on a terrorist watch list, too! Fancy that.

But this is a very good illustration of the futility of the self-flagellating question of "why do they hate us?" as if we did something to deserve their murderous rage. We gave her family asylum. We gave them public money. We allowed them opportunities to succeed. And what did they do? They bombed us. Yet despite all that, the parents still manage to blame us for their children's crime and their one son's death.

Oh, and we get into the bonus points round by noting that Russia has brutalized Chechnya--not America. And the Russians don't seem to like America much. Yet somehow the bombers decided to kill Americans rather than Russians? If you can't kill the ones you hate, hate the ones you can kill?

That parental performance, my friends, is as good an illustration as anything about why this is a long war. Until the Moslem world can clean up its society so that what we did for this family and those bombers in particular is seen as a kindness and a gift to take advantage of the opportunities of our society rather than an excuse to kill us, we need to hunt the jihadis and kill them like dogs.

So don't talk to me about drone strikes "causing" Moslems to become jihadis. Giving them scholarships and cash does the same thing, it seems. Whatever we do or don't do is a reason to kill us, and the sooner we realize that killing jihadis and otherwise taking them off the streets is the only response to their sickness, the better. Why do they hate us? Give me a break. No, why do they hate?

And more to the point, why do we hate us? Why are we so eager to justify their murderous rages?

I'm not playing this guilt game of "understanding" their rage:

As long as our jihadi enemies are trying to kill us my desire to "understand" them extends only as far as understanding where they are so we can kill them faster. The only good jihadi is a dead jihadi, to borrow a concept, and any jihadi left living this year is just one more to kill next year.

Screw 'em.

I Guess I Missed That Part

This is an interesting Stratfor essay on hegemony and stability, marred only by the confusion of not remembering one kind of critical part of the narrative.

If one power is dominant in a system and that dominance is accepted, I can appreciate that the system will be stable. Ponder this:

Indeed, from the end of World War II until very recently, the United States has performed the role of a hegemon in world politics. America may be democratic at home, but abroad it has been hegemonic. That is, by some rough measure of international consent, it is America that has the responsibility to lead. America formed NATO in Europe, even as its Navy and Air Force exercise preponderant power in the Pacific Basin. And whenever there is a humanitarian catastrophe somewhere in the developing world, it is the United States that has been expected to organize the response. Periodically, America has failed. But in general, it would be a different, much more anarchic world without American hegemony.

Wait. What? America was the hegemon after World War II?

The Soviet Union didn't accept our hegemony.

China didn't accept our hegemony.

The parts of the world that aligned themselves with the Soviets and Chinese communists didn't accept our hegemony.

India didn't accept our hegemony.

France didn't accept our hegemony.

Even the British didn't accept our hegemony when they sailed off to Suez in 1956 with the French; and in 1982 (although we did the right thing to support Britain, in the end) when their war to recover the Falklands threatened to foul our attempts to reach out to Latin America.

And for much of the period, we projected very little power into the Middle East, preferring to let the British handle the region east of Suez and later hoping that the Shah's Iran could be our proxy. And when we did project our power into the Middle East's Persian Gulf region it was to fight tooth and nail against threats rather than reigning over those who accepted our hegemony.

In what possible sense of the word was the United States--indisputably the strongest economic and military power, I concede--a "hegemon" that produced stability, or at least less anarchy (a hard claim to disprove)--as the end result? I think things were better because we stood between the Soviets and other bad actors on one side and the world of potential victims on the other. But at best, we were herding cats.

Indeed, the end of Soviet support for various bad actors has made the world better and quieter. But that is a different cause than being from our dominant position that has not risen to the level of hegemon.

At best you can say we were the hegemon within the Western world. That's to our credit. Friends and allies trusted us to help them.And even after the end of the Cold War, our allies didn't scramble to balance us in the absence of the Soviet Union as balance-of-power thinking might have predicted. Again, that is to our credit. We just didn't appear threatening to them.

Note in contrast the Chinese assumption that they should be the hegemon in east Asia and their apparent frustration that their neighbors don't seem to want to accept the many benefits of stability that Chinese hegemony would supposedly provide.

Like I said, an interesting article. But I can't recall that glorious period of American hegemony--as the term is defined in the article--that the author notes. At best, there was a period of maximum American influence in the 1990s. But hegemony? I wish.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Cannon Fodder?

In light of Assad's recruitment of poorly trained but loyal light infantry para-militaries, it seems as if Assad is engaging in combat more lately rather than simple bombardments. How long can the militias endure their role?

Assad is relying more on para-militaries as his regular army is reduced by infantry casualties to what appears to me to be a specialist force of command-and-control, logistics, and firepower, with only limited infantry forces part of the formal army.

Assad seems to be using this force now, with reports of actual attacks to gain territory taking place:

Syrian government troops pushed into two northern Damascus neighborhoods on Friday, triggering heavy fighting with rebels as they tried to advance under air and artillery support, activists said.

The drive was the latest in a days-long offensive by government forces in and around the capital, an apparent bid to secure President Bashar Assad's main stronghold against rebel challenges.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting between rebels and soldiers backed by pro-government militiamen was concentrated in the Jobar and Barzeh areas.

I'll guess that government army heavy forces (armor and mechanized infantry) backed by artillery plus secret police are leading, but relying on the National Defense Force militia units for the numbers needed to advance, engage, and push out rebels.

But just as the regular infantry was burned up in combat--which has led to the need to recruit NDP light infantry--the NDP will be used up. And at a faster rate than the already gruesome pace the regulars suffered, I'd guess, given the even poorer state of training and discipline in the militia force.

Assad's forces are giving better than they are taking lately, after scraping up existing troops by abandoning the northern, southern, and eastern parts of Syria and recruiting a government-paid militia.

But I don't think Assad's forces can sustain this surge. Unless Assad is buying time for an outside force to intervene at his side, I don't think his forces can achieve enough to make the losses worth it.

Chu Tzpah

China has been throwing its new weight around its borders, claiming nearly the entire South China and even declaring it one of their cities, in defiance of international law. They've illegally pushed the Philippines out of Scarborough Shoal.

And now the Chinese are berating the Philippines for--wait for it!--"The Philippine side is trying to use this [UN tribunal] to negate China's territorial sovereignty and attach a veneer of 'legality' to its illegal occupation of Chinese islands and reefs."

The issue is that the Philippines is hoping the sainted international community can save them from China's power:

Frustrated with the slow pace of regional diplomacy, the Philippines in January angered China by asking a U.N. tribunal to order a halt to Beijing's activities that it said violated Philippine sovereignty over the islands, surrounded by potentially energy-rich waters.

Claims by an increasingly powerful China over most of the South China Sea have set it directly against U.S. allies Vietnam and the Philippines. Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also claim parts of the waters and China has a separate dispute with Japan in the East China Sea.

Manila said on Thursday that a U.N. arbitration court had set up the tribunal which would hear Manila's complaint, but China said this was an attempt to steal Chinese territory.

You can get along with China--for a while.

You might even think you are a "special" case and that China will--uniquely--be considerate of your interests.

As long as China has other targets they might actually leave you alone. For a while. Until the Chinese discover you are holding a newly discovered core interest of China.

China wants what it wants. Peking doesn't even care how it looks. As long as they get what they want. And the belief that mere paper can stop China's aggressive acts is sorely mistaken.


I've regaled you with the fascinating tale of my plumbing woes. And this adventure in beat the clock. Basically, since my plumbing is old and the main shut-off valve is in an area I don't have access to and which shuts off water to my side of the building, I accept less-than-perfection in my plumbing out of fear that attempting to fix a problem can make it worse. Even my minimalist approach has reached the end.

A slow leak from the tank of my bedroom bathroom toilet had been intermittent. When it stopped being intermittent, I put a small plastic container under it and emptied out the little bit of water every few days. But lately the volume increased and I emptied the container every day. I was starting to worry that the leak would widen and flood the floor while I was asleep our gone for the day. So I decided to tackle the problem.

In a perfect world, I'd have replaced the rusting bolt and put a new rubber seal in the tank, or something. But prior to my ownership, someone had covered the bolt head on the inside with some compound. I'd have to chisel off whatever that is to get to the bolt. That level of effort seemed to violate my rule of doing the least I can to avoid making the problem worse.

So I decided to use various caulks to cover the old seal with a new barrier. I turned off the water successfully and emptied the tank. I then covered knob of whatever. I even covered the other undamaged and non-leaking knob on the other side. Then I left the stuff to dry.

That was my mistake. (Actually, I should have tried to apply the seal patch through the standing water to avoid having to turn off the water. But my Wayback Machine is in the shop.) In the end, I turned the water back on yesterday evening so I'd have several hours of seeing if the expected slow drip would stop. But after hours of the seal being compressed because I'd turned off the water, it did not expand out to keep the seal with the water back on. Water just poured out. It filled a small plastic container in 5 minutes.

This, as the expression goes, was not good.

So for an hour I kept going back every five minutes to empty the cup, hoping it would slow down as it always had in the past. It did not. So I then took some of the caulk and wrapped it around the threads of the knob. That did slow the leak, but not by enough to make me feel better. But I could go ten minutes between emptying the container. That's how I watched the Red Wings game. I missed a couple goals that way.

By 10:00 p.m, the water seemed to be slowing down. With a larger metal container, I could go an hour. And it seemed to actually drip fast at some points rather than flow.

Yet sleeping could be a problem. So I set my alarm for an hour ahead and emptied the container 5 more times. I hoped that each time I awoke that the container would be lower and that I could sleep a bit more until the next emptying. That did not happen. The seal was not re-expanding to keep the water in.

So at 4:00 a.m., I gave up. I couldn't live with the need to get to the bathroom every hour. I turned the water off. The water stopped dripping so at least I had that going for me. Then I got 2-1/2 hours of glorious uninterrupted sleep.

Yes, I can technically flush the toilet by dumping in a bucket of water, but that is well below my 70% solution threshold.

Obviously, I've had lots of coffee this morning. I feel like I'd gone back to the days of having infants. A different form of a leak, I suppose.

So now I have to resort to the checkbook solution. I need to coordinate with my association to shut off the water and have a plumber come in and replace three toilet valves, at least two sink valves where I have slow faucet valves that I fear to address, and probably should have two other sink valves replaced and two shower water valves replaced while I'm at it. The water heater can wait until I replace that and to heck with the dishwasher that I don't even use.

This will no doubt cost me some decently sized bucks, but what can I do? Risk catastrophic failure somewhere? So I have a project for next week. If I had a PayPal link, this is the point where I'd beg for reader assistance. But fear not, this blog is a labor of love (or duty) and not my means of support.

Funny enough, my patch job actually fixed the leak I originally set out to fix. It remained dry as a bone throughout the valve drip ordeal. That has to count for something, doesn't it?

Thank You, France!

Start your countdown clock on when France announces an arms deal with China.

Ah, our friends the French:

China's President Xi Jinping and France's President Francois Hollande pledged to push for a world free of domination by any superpower Thursday as the French leader visited the Chinese capital in hopes of boosting trade amid his country's worsening economic woes.

Both leaders stressed their desire for a "multipolar" world that would dilute Washington's influence — though they did not mention the U.S. in their comments.

That's nice. We let France back into the military structure of the NATO alliance for this?

Remember, France sold amphibious warfare ships to Russia that would be handy for operations against Baltic states, Georgia in the Black Sea, and against Japan in the north.

If France is seeking to reduce their trade deficit with China, it won't be by selling more soft cheeses to China's growing middle class. No, it will be by selling French weapons and technology to China--cut off after Tiananmen Square. That's how France will get that desired "multi-polar" world--by strengthening China as an alternate pole.

Oh, and of course, let's send out a heartfelt "you're welcome" to France for our help in their fights with Libya and Mali. Because a stronger China is clearly all the thanks we will get from France for helping them--again.

The Plan Isn't Working

North Korea's plan to emerge from the wreckage of the post-Cold War world with a fat and happy ruling class isn't working out.

After weeks of threats that included nuclear explosions and long-range missiles, the North Koreans have ... bupkis.

Too broke to have an army capable of marching on Seoul, the North Koreans decided on a strategy of "kooks, spooks, and nukes" where the armed forces would be put on starvation rations while nuclear weapons were built to keep out foreign invasion and shake down foreign governments for free stuff; and the spies were funded to watch the people and keep the weakened armed forces loyal.

Starving the army didn't work and the North Korean regime announced a return of the "military first" policy, although how Pyongyang would afford that I had no idea. Unless you trim the army and reform the economy to afford that army, what on Earth are you really doing? Just getting the army's hopes up long enough to really disappoint them?

Nor only didn't playing the nuclear card get the foreigners to soil their underwear and respond with money, the North Koreans seem to be thinking that the nukes won't even deter an invasion:

In the last few days North Korean troops have been seen building fortifications near border crossings. This is unusual because for decades it was assumed any war between north and south would begin with a North Korean invasion of the south. The new fortifications indicate that the north is recognizing the power balance shift and that it is more likely South Korean troops will be moving north if it comes to war.


The North Koreans are having to face the annoying fact that even after all the expense of building nuclear weapons, nukes do not protect you from all threats. As I've noted before here, nukes deter attempts to destroy your nation or regime. Nukes aren't good enough to deter more limited conflicts. If you use a nuke to retaliate after losing a frigate in a naval clash, you invite a nuclear retaliation that could destroy your nation or regime.

So the North Koreans seem to understand that if they want to maintain a credible conventional capability and hold their artillery firing positions within range of Seoul, the North Koreans need to prepare to defend their home territory rather than carry the war to the south.

With South Korea's need to carve out a no-launch zone in an arc north of Seoul and America's recognition of a need to march north, the North Koreans seem to be aware that their armed forces truly are junk and unable to attack South Korea. Who knew the North Koreans aren't stupid despite being completely evil and nuts?

But with an obvious need to keep their ruling class fat and happy, what will North Korea's next plan to achieve that be?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

In Dire Need of a Beating With the Clue Bat

India has spotted a recent Chinese incursion into Indian territory. The Chinese are still camped there, but at least India spotted them a little quicker than in the past.

China wonders why countries near them fear them and want American friendship? Hey, here's a clue:

Surprisingly, in a deep incursion, Chinese troops have entered the Indian Territory in Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) sector in eastern Ladakh and erected a tented post without digging any trenches, setting the stage for a face-off with Indian troops.

A Platoon-strength contingent (50 men) of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China came 10 km inside the Indian Territory in Burthe in DBO sector at an altitude of about 17,000 feet, on the night of April 14/15 and established a tented post there. Troops from Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) have also established camp approximately 300 metres opposite the location, the sources said.

While this might be an error, it might be deliberate based on Chinese actions all around their periphery. And even if it is an error, the Chinese government might feel compelled to back it because of their increasingly bellicose rhetoric about defending core interests.

The linked article proposes a better strategy than raising regular army forces to line the border and prevent every incursion. The author proposes regular counter-attack forces (with a fourth proposal to correct junior officer shortages) able to use an improved transportation network on India's side of the border to seize bargaining chip territory within China, and rely on less expensive local force battalions raised to defend their local areas in place of regular forces.

That's probably a good idea financially. But it does risk local forces acting more aggressively to defend their homes rather than the current situation where better-disciplined regulars without a local bias can be counted on to avoid escalating a crisis without orders to do so.

One thing is clear based on China's expanding active disputes with neighbors: India will keep facing these border incursions.

At least India is doing better at border surveillance and response than this incident demonstrated.

Two-Edged Scimitar

I will say that the Obama administration has proven quite willing to use drones and special forces to kill jihadi terrorists. Our ability to kill bad guys is having an interesting effect on the bad guys--they're scared of us and scared of their own fanboys.

I may have qualms with the lack of intelligence by refusing to catch and hold terrorists; and I may be horrified that the administration is trying to conduct drone strikes within a domestic law enforcement template (that erodes our domestic law enforcement civil liberties), but killing jihadis is not a problem for President Obama.

Our success across two administrations in killing jihadi leaders is scaring jihadi leaders who probably have the "German glance" by now. The Boston Marathon bombing highlighted this issue:

One of the curious after-effects of the April 15th terrorist bombing in the United States (Boston) was the number of terrorist organizations that announced that they had nothing to do with it. These disclaimers were done out of fear, because the American tactics of using powerful intelligence collecting and analyzing tools with the ability to then attack specific terrorists with a laser-guided missile has made the terrorist leadership very afraid. This is not just paranoia but recognition of the growing list of terrorist leaders killed in this way. The manner in which the U.S. pursued and eventually got Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein has been noticed. All this literally terrorizes those leaders who are still out there.

This is interesting. One, I have to give credit to President Obama for continuing the targeting of our enemies. Osama bin Laden's killing (with a bonus ignominious end with the dumping of his carcass at sea--in full accordance with Islamic traditions, naturally) followed the killing of Zarqawi, Saddam Hussein's evil spawn sons, and Saddam himself after a trial by his former victims in Iraq during the Bush administration. And accelerated drone strikes have created many holes in the corporate table of organization in Jihad World.

So nobody in the jihadi ecosystem is jumping up to claim the Boston bombers as their own? When they struck the Great Satan itself? Say what you will about the Obama administration, but the jihadis fear even a president who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia and has the missle name "Hussein." Give the man full credit for this. I've worried that our failure to strike the jihadis who hit us in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 would erode fear of America, but apparently that isn't a problem.

This is interesting in another fashion. We worry that our success in frustrating the grander plans of al Qaeda for bigger body counts in spectacular plans will lead to jihadis taking on smaller jobs such as the Boston attacks, or even simpler forms of attack. This could be true.

But the failure of anybody in the jihad to take even a small bit of credit for the Boston bombers shows a weakness in the idea that self-radicalized jihadis can carry on the war: jihadi leaders can wake up any day to find that somebody they once chatted with for a few minutes in a Karachi espresso shop about the evil United States might be implicated in some small-scale attack on an American city.

And then the drones might be looking for that jihadi leader just a little more intensely--which might create a job opening for some up-and-coming young jihadi.

If we play our cards right and seek out (and kill or capture) any jihadi connected to the Boston bombers, we might actually compel jihadi leaders to restrain some of these self-radicalized jihadis before they attack. How many jihadi leaders with delusions of living up to the memory of Osama want to head off to Paradise after being connected to some local dimwit who kills one American and wounds seven in an attack on a women's underwear store? Is that worth dying for in a drone strike? Is it worth the indignity of hitting the deck every time you hear a lanw mower engine in the distance?

Red Line Crossed?

Secretary of Defense Hagel said that Syrian government forces used sarin gas against rebels.

The statement goes out of the way to say it was a small-scale use. Does that mean that the red line was not crossed in a way meaningful to President Obama's position on the use of poison gas?

Or are we about to go to war time-limited, scope limited military action with a minority Baathist government over weapons of mass destruction? Is our southern front ready?

I Thought Fear Was the Beginning of Wisdom

The Sunni Arabs of Iraq escaped the full consequences of being a pillar of Saddam's terror state by belatedly flipping to the government side during our surge offensive. I'd long been frustrated by the failure of the Sunni Arabs to set aside the stupidity that courted disaster to take that step (the Sunni Awakening was not yet apparent when I wrote that). Have the Sunni Arabs forgotten the consequences of losing a full-on sectarian war that they narrowly avoided?

This development in Iraq is disturbing:

Scores of Iraqis have been killed in two days of sectarian fighting in central Iraq, raising concerns about a new Sunni uprising against the Shiite central government.

Agence France-Presse reports that 128 people have been killed and 269 wounded since Tuesday in fighting between security forces and anti-government protesters in Sunni-majority regions of the mostly Shiite country. The protesters have been calling for the resignation of Shiite Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki, whose government they say has been targeting Sunnis.

Are the Sunni Arabs really willing to renew the civil war that only our presence kept from being a full ethnic cleansing of the Sunni Arabs?

Or is this the work of Syrian-based Sunnis--perhaps Saddam exiles from the Iraq War or even al Qaeda--trying to expand their space into Iraq and spark a Sunni Arab uprising abnd civil war?

I just don't know which it is. Are Sunni Arabs so upset that they are poised to revolt? Or are the Sunni Arabs simply agitated enough to be led into a revolt by a small cadre committed to starting a revolt?

I do know I wish we still had troops in Iraq to provide a safety net so all the factions understood that their opponents wouldn't resolve disputes in anything but the political and legal spheres. Sadly, factions might feel the need to use violence because of the fear that the other sides will use violence to settle a dispute. Is fear the beginning of stupidity here?

A Simple Matter of Erasing the "Belo" Part

The anschluss continues:

Russia plans to deploy fighter jets in Belarus this year and eventually establish an air base in the former Soviet republic, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday.

The moves would increase Russia's military presence in Belarus, viewed by Moscow as a buffer between Russia and NATO, and could unnerve neighbouring members of the Western alliance.

By 2015 a regiment of 60 planes is supposed to be in place in the place once called Belorussia when it was a part of the Soviet Union (and oddly had its own UN seat).

Yeah, western NATO members are confident that Russia is far enough east not to be a threat. But the new NATO states in eastern Europe don't have that luxury. Belorus is flat so both Poland and Russia would prefer Belorus to remain outside the orbit of the other.

We haven't taken the Russian potential to advance west seriously (because they haven't had a serious military option), but that can change. And the absorption of Belarus into the Russian military network is a signal to take the defense of eastern NATO seriously before Russia has a military option.

Baltic states in NATO who already border Russia surely like the presence of other NATO troops on their soil. Poland will feel the need for American forces even more now.

This is one more step in Russia's creeping reconquest of Belarus. Is Belarus one financial crisis away from Russia taking over in fact if not name?

And in the year when the last American tank has left Europe, I still think we should put brigade sets of equipment--including heavy brigades--in Poland. If the British and Germans would join us, that would be nice. This is all the more important since we will have only two light brigades in Europe (one Stryker brigade and one parachute brigade).

This wouldn't be so worrisome if the Russians didn't bizarrely talk like NATO is their main enemy.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

An Actual Hockey Stick Graph

Rule of law is the key to prosperity. This helps more people than all the good-intentioned compassion in the world to lift people from poverty.

This is instructive:

I know this doesn't provide opportunities to demonstrate that you care, but this is the way to improve more people's lives:

Governments seeking to unlock long-term growth should eschew command-and-control policies. Instead, they should craft economic institutions that reward all types of investment in physical and human capital, and that help markets function securely and inexpensively. For instance, an impartial judicial system that defines and enforces clear property rights gives firms and individuals the right incentives for work and investment; they know the courts will adjudicate property claims and contract disputes fairly, and uphold the rule of law.

Other key institutions include a stable, relatively corruption-free government, one that is able to provide for national defense and other public goods; a market system for the production and distribution of most goods and services, to provide monetary incentives for efficient allocation of resources and creation of jobs and incomes without need of government control or subsidy; and a financial system, modestly regulated for safety and economic growth paired with a sound currency, to encourage savings and to channel those savings into loans for large and small firms.

This is one reason why I keep droning on about the importance of rule of law in Iraq (and even in Afghanistan, which is so bad that even a little bit of improvement in this area would be helpful), as well as in the Arab world.

It matters here, too, for that matter. It's frightening to even have to mention that. But there are plenty of deniers out there who can't see the evidence and think global socialism is the answer to current problems rather than continuing a process that got us to our prosperity.

UPDATE: Thanks to Pseudo-Polymath for the link.

But Not to the Shores of Benghazi

The House of Representatives has issued a report on the Benghazi attack. I still want to know why US military forces weren't sent to assist our people in the two Benghazi facilities.

Remember, we sent para-military security forces very quickly despite how few were available and despite the lack of information on what was happening. Why didn't our military respond the same way? With tens of thousands of troops in Europe, we really couldn't scrape up a platoon or a company to fly out to Benghazi without preparing them with a week of rehearsals and a PowerPoint briefing about what to expect?

What happened to going to the sounds of the guns with whatever you have right now? What happened to a sense of wartime urgency?

Oh, I know--it wasn't there. Two days before this attack, our national security people couldn't seem to come up with any relevant real world threat to convince people to stay prepared for emergencies, and ginned up a zombie threat to encourage preparedness. That speaks to a government that just doesn't think we are at war.

We clearly didn't have time to rescue the ambassador at his location. We certainly had time to reach the annex in time. And remember that we didn't know that the annex defenders would hold and evacuate survivors successfully in the morning when we did not act overnight. We appeared to have written off the people on the ground rather than react as if they might need help.

Were White House speech writers already working up a moving tribute to the nearly three dozen assumed to be dead or doomed to die when they found out that the survivors were holding out in the annex? It's almost as if the survival of most of our people was an inconvenience that highlighted a failure to fight rather than being an unfortunate opportunity for a somber, serious, and presidential tribute to dead props and an appeal to film makers around the world to be sensitive to Islam.

But no such speech could be given. In the morning, our annex was still there. What if the annex had been assaulted again the next day? Troops and aircraft dispatched quickly that could not reach the annex before the defenders evacuated our people in the morning would have been able to arrive in time to help defend the annex if our people there had instead been trapped and under siege.

Or perhaps if the annex had been overrun by jihadis, our forces could have arrived in time to retake the annex and rescue our people; or pursue the attackers if they started moving our people out of the annex deep inland for a hostage situation.

But we didn't move. And only the failure of the attackers to lay siege to the annex in the face of the tenacity of the few annex defenders and some friendly Libyan militias who did not abandon us kept our failure to move whatever we had available from ending in several dozen dead Americans or a new hostage crisis with our people held hostage.

This is no way to fight a war.

(UPDATE: Thanks to Mad Minerva for the link.)

Report timeline is as follows:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

All times are Eastern European Time (EET, Benghazi)

~9:42 p.m. The attack begins at the TMF in Benghazi. Dozens of lightly armed men approached the TMF, quickly and deliberately breached the front gate, and set fire to the guard house and main diplomatic building. The attackers included members of Libya-based Ansar al-Sharia (AAS) and al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), among other groups. A State Department officer in the TMF’sTactical Operations Center immediately put out calls for help to the TMF Annex -- another facility for U.S. officials -- the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, and State Department Headquarters in Washington, DC. At the time of the attack,Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, the information management officer, and one of the five Diplomatic Security (DS) officers were located in Villa C, the main building of the TMF. (DoD timeline/pg. 11)

9:59 p.m. An unarmed, unmanned, surveillance aircraft is directed to reposition overhead the Benghazi facility. (DoD timeline)

~10:02 p.m. Within 20-minutes of the attack, Stevens, Smith, and the DS officer suffered effects from smoke inhalation inside the main diplomatic building and tried to escape by crawling along the floor towards a window. The DS officer unknowingly lost touch with Ambassador Stevens and Mr. Smith somewhere along the smoke-filled escape route. After crawling out of a window and realizing that Ambassador Stevens and Mr. Smith were not with him, the DS officer, under gunfire, repeatedly re-entered the burning building to search for them. The DS officer used his radio to call for help. Security officers from other parts of the TMF complex responded and supported the DS officer’s search for the missing individuals. (pg. 11)

10:05 p.m. In an “Ops Alert” issued shortly after the attack began, the State Department Operations Center notified senior Department Officials, the White House Situation Room, and others, that the Benghazi compound was under attack and that “approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well.”

~10:07 p.m. A U.S. security team departed the Annex for the TMF. The security team tried to secure heavy weapons from militia members encountered along the route, and faced some resistance in getting to the TMF. Even in the face of those obstacles,the Annex security team arrived, under enemy fire, within 25 minutes of the beginning of the initial assault. Over the course of the following hour, the Annex security team joined the TMF security officers in searching for Ambassador Stevens and Mr. Smith. Together, they repelled sporadic gunfire and RPG fire and assembled all other U.S. personnel at the facility. Officers retrieved the body of Mr. Smith, but did not find Ambassador Stevens.

10:32 p.m. The National Military Command Center at the Pentagon, after receiving initial reports of the incident from the State Department, notifies the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff. The information is quickly passed to Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey. (DoD timeline)

11:00 p.m. Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey attend a previously scheduled meeting with the President at the White House. The leaders discuss potential responses to the emerging situation. (DoD timeline)

11:10 p.m. The diverted surveillance aircraft arrives on station over the Benghazi facility.(DoD timeline)

~11:15 p.m. After about 90 minutes of repeated attempts to go into the burning building to search for the Ambassador, the Annex security team assessed that the security situation was deteriorating and they could not continue their search. The Annex security team loaded all U.S. personnel into two vehicles and departed the TMF for the Annex. The exiting vehicles left under heavy gunfire and faced at least one roadblock in their route to the Annex. The first vehicle left around 11:15 p.m. and the second vehicle departed at about 11:30 p.m. All surviving American personnel departed the facility by 11:30 p.m.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

12:06 a.m. In a second “Ops Alert” the State Department Operations Center reported that al-Qaeda linked Ansar al-Sharia claimed responsibility for the attack and had called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli12:00-2:00 a.m. Secretary Panetta convenes a series of meetings in the Pentagon with senior officials including General Dempsey and General Ham. They discuss additional response options for Benghazi and for the potential outbreak of further violence throughout the region, particularly in Tunis, Tripoli, Cairo, and Sana’a.During these meetings, Secretary Panetta authorizes:

--A Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) platoon, stationed in Rota,Spain, to prepare to deploy to Benghazi, and a second FAST platoon, also stationed in Rota, Spain, to prepare to deploy to the Embassy in Tripoli.

--A EUCOM special operations force, which is training in Central Europe,to prepare to deploy to an intermediate staging base in southern Europe.

--A special operations force based in the United States to prepare to deploy to an intermediate staging base in southern Europe.

During this period, actions are verbally conveyed from the Pentagon to the affected Combatant Commands in order to expedite movement of forces upon receipt of formal authorization.

12:30 a.m. A seven-man security team from U.S. Embassy Tripoli, including two DoD personnel, departs for Benghazi.

~1:15 a.m. The American security team from Tripoli lands in Benghazi. (DoD timeline)

2:30 a.m. The National Military Command Center conducts a Benghazi Conference Call with representatives from AFRICOM, EUCOM, CENTCOM, TRANSCOM, SOCOM, and the four services.

2:39 a.m. As ordered by Secretary Panetta, the National Military Command Center transmits formal authorization for the two FAST platoons, and associated equipment, to prepare to deploy and for the EUCOM special operations force, and associated equipment, to move to an intermediate staging base in southern Europe.

2:53 a.m. As ordered by Secretary Panetta, the National Military Command Center transmits formal authorization to deploy a special operations force, and associated equipment, from the United States to an intermediate staging base in southern Europe.

5:00 a.m. A second, unmanned, unarmed surveillance aircraft is directed to relieve the initial asset still over Benghazi.

5:15 a.m. At around 5:15 a.m., within 15 minutes of the Tripoli team’s arrival at the Annex from the airport, a short but deadly coordinated terrorist attack began at the Annex. The attack, which included small arms, rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), and well-aimed mortar fire, killed two American security officers, and severely wounded two others.

6:05 a.m. AFRICOM orders a C-17 aircraft in Germany to prepare to deploy to Libya to evacuate Americans.

7:40 a.m. The first wave of American personnel depart Benghazi for Tripoli via airplane.(DoD timeline)

10:00 a.m. The second wave of Americans, including the fallen, depart Benghazi for Tripoli via airplane.

2:15 p.m. The C-17 departs Germany en route to Tripoli to evacuate Americans.

7:17 p.m. The C-17 departs Tripoli en route Ramstein, Germany with the American personnel and the remains of Mr. Sean Smith, Mr. Tyrone Woods, and Mr. Glen Doherty.

7:57 p.m. The EUCOM special operations force, and associated equipment, arrives at an intermediate staging base in southern Europe.

8:56 p.m. The FAST platoon, and associated equipment, arrives in Tripoli.

9:28 p.m. The special operations force deployed from the United States, and associated equipment, arrives at an intermediate staging base in southern Europe.

10:19 p.m. The C-17 arrives in Ramstein, Germany


This Isn't Worrisome At All


Russia will help Egypt develop its nuclear power programme, Trade and Industry Minister Hatem Saleh said on Monday, signalling that the Islamist-led state will press ahead with its quest for atomic energy.

Thank you, Russia. That's a lovely "reset" we've got going.

What could possibly go wrong?

For the "Well, This Sucks" Tag

It's snowing right now.

Accepting Reality?

Assad seems to finally realize what was apparent from the beginning--he can't hold Syria with what he has to fight for it with.

I'm not sure if Assad has the forces to hold terrain all the way down to Damascus, but this seems to be the strategy:

After watching much of Syria's territory slip into rebel hands, President Bashar Assad's regime is focusing on the basics: shoring up its hold on Damascus and the strip of land connecting the capital with the Mediterranean coast.

In the past week, government troops have overrun villages near the Lebanese border and suburbs of Damascus, including two districts west of the capital where activists say regime forces killed more than 100 people. The advances have improved the regime's footing in strategic areas that are seen as crucial to its survival.

In many ways, Assad's government has little choice at this point in the civil war, analysts say. Rebels have captured much of northern and eastern Syria, seizing control of military bases, hydroelectric dams, border crossings and even a provincial capital. Those areas are home to most of the country's oil fields, and the losses have deprived the regime of badly needed cash and fuel for its war machine.

If Assad had cut his losses back in January 2012 and abandoned northern and eastern Syria, I think Assad could have held an arc from the Turkish border along the coast, down through Damascus and then down to the Israeli and Jordanian borders.

But he's lost too many troops trying to hold more than that--especially the futile effort to secure Aleppo in the north. The replacement army that Assad is building out of loyal Alawites might be enough to hold this new smaller realm. But their inability to do more than conduct static defenses means that the rest of Syria will become bastions for rebels who can continue the war.

And Assad's loss of the provinces means that Assad will need outsight financial assistance to continue the fight. He's somebody's b*tch, now.

It is unclear if Assad has the manpower to fight for the shrunken Syria that he has apparently decided to hold. If even this smaller territory can't be held, will Assad transfer the capital from Damascus to the coast so Assad can claim to be the leader of formal Syria after abandoning Damascus?

We are certainly getting closer to facing a post-Syria Assad period rather than the long-anticipated post-Assad Syria phase. Do our objectives of keeping chemical weapons unused and secured, preventing blowback into Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, and keeping jihadis from gaining from the fall of Assad; and our desire to limit civilian casualties, mean we should be focused on the former problem rather than solving the latter problem?

UPDATE: The Syrian government had a success in their campaign to hold Damascus:

After five weeks of battle, Syrian government troops captured a strategic town near Damascus, cutting an arms route for rebels trying to topple President Bashar Assad's regime, state media and activists said Thursday.

By taking the town of Otaybah, east of the capital, the army has dealt a major setback to opposition forces, who in the past months have made gains near the city they eventually hope to storm.

I don't think that the Assad forces can endure the strain of their burn rate on their ground forces, even though they are recruiting para-military light infantry forces to supplement their eroding army. But this isn't an argument for my assessment. Had Assad retreated to this boundary 16 months ago, I figured he could hold his ground. Now, I don't think so. Although abandoning large portions of Syria does free up military capabilities to put off the day of collapse or retreat to the Alawite core.

UPDATE: Rebels seek to distract the Assad forces from their recent gains around Damascus and near Aleppo by engaging Assad's troops in Hama:

Heavy clashes erupted for the first time in months in Syria's central city of Hama on Thursday as rebels tried to relieve pressure on comrades under attack from President Bashar al-Assad's forces elsewhere, activists said.

The body count continues to mount without us.

You'd Think This is Fairly Clear

China should not think that they could get away with seizing the Senkaku Islands. Japan has provided fair warning.

The Japanese are determined to hold their islands despite Chinese pressure and claims. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe couldn't have been clearer:

"Since it has become the Abe government, we have made sure that if there is an instance where there is an intrusion into our territory or it seems that there could be landing on the islands then we will deal will it strongly," he said.

The warning came as eight Chinese ships sailed around the islands - called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

The Japanese coast guard said it was the highest number of Chinese boats in the area since Tokyo nationalised part of the island chain in September 2012.

The Japanese wouldn't wait for the Chinese to land before using force. If the Japanese think the Chinese are moving forces into position to land on the islands, Japan reserves the right to use force.

The Japanese don't want to repeat the Philippines experience:

"I lost my livelihood when we lost the Scarborough Shoal to the Chinese," said Mario Forones, a 53-year-old who owns three fishing boats that worked the reef for about a dozen years before armed Chinese vessels arrived in force last April.

Reuters interviews with fishermen in two coastal Philippine towns - some of whom tried to fish the shoal as recently as this month - show how the Philippines has effectively ceded sovereignty of the reef about 124 nautical miles off its coast after a naval stand-off last year.

The Philippines lacked the military power to contest the Chinese aggression. And we weren't going to go to war for the Philippines over the islands.

But we will surely help the Philippines build up their forces to compel China to use what would hopefully be a politically untenable amount of force to beat down the weaker Philippines.

But does China think that Japan is too weak to do more? Is the war still "accidental" if the Chinese simply don't believe the Japanese would use force if China attempts to occupy the islands?

UPDATE: The Chinese really don't like this practical expression of Japan's ability to follow through with their warning:

China said on Wednesday that "provocative actions" would not sway it from defending its territory, after Japan confirmed it would conduct military drills with the United States amid tension between Beijing and Tokyo over disputed islands.

Japan said on Tuesday that the joint drill, scheduled for June off California, involved the recapture of an isolated island but was not aimed at scenarios involving a specific country, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.

The Japanese don't want to be in the position of the Philippines:

More and more Filipino fishermen are complaining to the government that they are being chased away from their traditional fishing areas off the Filipino coast by Chinese coast guard ships. This is particularly bad at Scarborough Shoal. This is in violation of a deal made last June with the Chinese. Not only did Chinese patrol boats soon return to Scarborough Shoal but Chinese fishing boats are again operating there and even erected a flimsy barrier (with rowboats, rope and fishing nets) across the entrance to the lagoon and forcibly preventing Filipino fishing boats from entering. Scarborough Shoal is in waters the Philippines claims (according to international law). The shoal is only 250 kilometers from the Philippines, and 1,200 kilometers from China.

The Philippines can't build a military strong enough to win a war with China. But the Philippines can build a military capable of defeating a small Chinese force at Scarborough Shoal and force China to decide whether to lose that battle or escalate to a level of force that could compel America to take notice and intervene.