Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Potemkin Carrier Operations

Russia is operating their carrier planes from the Kuznetsov out of a land base in Syria:

Many of the fast jets that were embarked on the Russia aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov have been flown to the main Russian air base in Syria, Airbus Defence and Space satellite imagery obtained by IHS Jane's shows.

The imagery shows eight Russian Federation Navy Su-33 and one MiG-29KR jets alongside various Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) aircraft at Humaymim Air Base in Latakia province on 20 November.

This isn't to say that nothing is operating off of the carrier. But the Russians clearly aren't confident in the carrier to do a whole lot.

Well, the Russian carrier didn't get off to a good start for carrier flight operations.

And I did mention that the Russians might be better off sending their carrier planes to a land base.

UPDATE: Of course, this begs the question of why we can't deploy carrier air wings without a carrier when land bases are present.

Three Sources of Russian Weakness?

I ran across an interesting early 19th century assessment of Russian power by Lord Durham:

Russia has ... three sources of weakness, inherent and irremediable--Poland, the Caucasus, and the Fleet. All these deprive her of immense sums of money and large masses of men.

So what about those three sources of weakness today?

The fleet surely hurts. I've mentioned more than once that for such a large country, building a fleet capable of fighting for control of the oceans is foolish.

And Russia has fought three wars in the Caucasus (two against the Chechens--that is still kind of active, really; and one against Georgia) since the fall of the Soviet Union; and must deal with terrorism coming from Moslem subjects there who don't like being controlled by Russia.

The Poland comment is interesting even though Russia doesn't control Poland as it did when the comment was made nearly two centuries ago (and as it did during the Cold War). So Russia doesn't have to devote money and masses of men to control Poland--from the Poles or from a modern Western European state that might contest Russian control of Poland.

But with Russia determined to pose as the enemy of NATO, Russia would need to build an army capable of advancing through Poland to the German border to pose a real threat to NATO (and link up with Russia's Kaliningrad exclave).

So if Russia builds an army (and air force) capable of driving all that distance, Russia will indeed have to spend immense sums of money and gather large masses of men.

So Lord Durham is still right, it seems.

Strike and Hold?

America and Japan are worried that China is preparing to grab the Senkaku Islands that Japan administers but which China claims as their territory.

If Secretary of State Kerry hadn't assured me that mere issues of owning territory had no place in the 21st century, I'd be worried:

China is escalating a campaign of military maritime coercion against Japan’s Senkaku Islands, according to Japanese intelligence data disclosed as part of a joint Pentagon-Japan research program. ...

“You get the sense that the PRC is preparing its military forces for the ‘short, sharp war’ that they have written about,” Fanell [a retired Navy captain and former Pacific Fleet intelligence director] said.

While many analysts dismiss the Chinese threat by correctly noting that American military power is far greater than China's--even before adding in our allies' to the equation--dismissing the threat fails to consider that at the point of contact, China can mass superior power for some period of time before we can mobilize and move our superior power to resist China.

Japan in 1941, recall, judged that they could use a temporary advantage in power over the Americans, British, Dutch, and French to grab enough terrain to deter America from mobilizing power for retaking that territory.

And that judgment was made despite America having a GDP 8-10 times greater than Japan.

China would not be attempting to push out a perimeter nearly as big as Japan did; and China's GDP isn't nearly as inferior. So China wouldn't be as stretched but wouldn't hold so much that the thought of retaking it would be too daunting (and it wasn't for America in 1941, anyway).

China may believe that their possession of nuclear weapons is the ultimate deterrent against an American and Japanese counter-attack rather than a deep buffer that failed to deter America in 1941.

But nuclear deterrence really doesn't work below the level of ensuring national survival. Does China really believe that a threat to destroy Japan and America's cities from Hawaii to the West Coast is a serious threat to hold a bunch of small islands when America would surely destroy a lot of Chinese cities and assets in a nuclear counter-strike? Would China really ensure their national destruction to hold the Senkaku Islands?

The problem is that in any fight between nuclear powers, the pressure to end the fighting regardless of who controls what because of the threat of irrational escalation to nuclear weapons use will tend to restrict the campaign.

But does America have to get involved directly?

And as I've written, I think a fight on a narrow front over the Senkaku Islands where quality is more important than quantity favors Japan--especially if we are helping Japan even short of actively shooting at the Chinese.

Would lack of direct American involvement give Japan more time to defeat China and retain control the islands?

Yet China's plans to quickly take the islands and then hold them do give the Chinese an advantage if China can pull that off, leaving China in possession of some or all of the disputed islands before pressure to end the conflict builds up.

And if the war expands to American and allied sea blockade of Chinese trade, at what point does this broader fight seem like an actual threat to Chinese national survival, which would justify using nukes in the minds of Chinese rulers? Would we recognize that shift in thinking?

And what if the Chinese try to muddy the waters between peace and war by pulling off a subliminal invasion with "civilian fisherman" landing on the islands who are willing to use baseball bats to attack Japanese troops landing there in response, providing China with an excuse to escalate? Which China will magically be ready to do quickly. Would Japan even try to do more than the Philippines have managed to do in the face of similar tactics by China?

Which is why I'd be happier if Japan actually defended the islands rather than counting on a seaborne version of the British-French Dyle plan to rush in defenders just ahead of the Chinese attackers

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Fragile Sword of Damocles

Russia's deployment of advanced anti-ship, anti-aircraft, and surface-to-surface missiles in their Kaliningrad exclave does indeed give Russia the ability to block NATO reinforcements by sea, land, and air going into eastern NATO countries. Until we pound the exposed outpost into submission.


However much of a threat Kaliningrad can pose to NATO, it can only ever have a temporary impact. Russia has no plausible means of long-term defense of the enclave beyond an offensive that would open a corridor through NATO territory. While Russian forces might enjoy temporary superiority in the Baltics and eastern Poland, NATO forces would undoubtedly concentrate on overrunning Kaliningrad as quickly as possible. NATO would also subject the enclave to consistent and overwhelming electronic and PGM attacks at the initiation of hostilities, hoping to destroy or disrupt any offensive capabilities before they could do the same to NATO.

Russian leverage is highest in peacetime. It will drop as ammunition is used up and nor replaced, as NATO inflicts losses on Russian weapons and infrastructure in Kaliningrad, and as NATO troop defeat the Russian defenders (three brigades, I believe, plus whatever paramilitary forces are available as light infantry) and take the exclave.

Preventing a Russian link up with Kaliningrad should Russia use force against NATO is why I want a robust defense of the Suwalki Gap.

And why I want a NATO offensive to defeat the Russian ground forces in Kaliningrad.

Apart from nukes, Russia is not a formidable military power except when faced with far weaker opposition.

And honestly, part of Russia's nuclear potential relies on believing that weaknesses in the rest of their military aren't present in their nuclear forces, too. We kind of have to assume that Russian nuclear weapons are a serious threat in case they are. And even in the worst case of Russia having only a fraction of their nuclear forces capable of launching would mean Russia could devastate Western cities.

But in the conventional sphere? Russia would lose a land war if confronted by real enemies willing to fight them.

UPDATE: On the nuclear factor:

Any American president faces the same basic dilemma. Russia is a country in decline, but it remains a potential threat to the United States and others because it is the one country with enough missiles and nuclear warheads to destroy the United States.

The nuclear-armed sick man of Europe which we don't want gobbling up weaker friends or propping up dictators and fomenting death and destruction; but which we don't want to fall apart and leave large pieces to be picked up by China, leave smaller pieces to become jihadi havens, or put lots of nuclear missiles, material, and know-how on the black market.

Can't live with them. Can't live without them.

UPDATE: More on Russia's reliance on nukes to make up for their weak conventional ability to stop a serious invasion.

America went through this early in the Cold War and we found out that a strategy of massive retaliation threatened against an invasion of the NATO West through West Germany was not credible against lower-level threats that threatened less than vital interests. Russia will find the same thing: that threatening mutual nuclear annihilation makes no sense when the stakes are small.

Good Lord, under what cloud of medically sanctioned marijuana is it really credible to threaten nuclear war in order to save Assad in Syria?

The Russians are Hacking! The Russians are Hacking!

So Jill Stein, the Green party candidate, backed by Hillary Clinton, is challenging the votes in three states (but missed the recount request deadline for Pennsylvania, if I understand the situation correctly, making this absolutely futile) on the theory that Russia could have hacked the systems and changed the results.

Will these recent converts to standing up to Moscow demand we declare war on Russia if the inquiry demonstrates that charge of Russia's attack on our democracy is true?

Jill Stein, it should be noted, was a welcome guest on  Moscow's propaganda arm, RT. Talk about fake news.

There Will Be Another Battle for Aleppo

Yes indeed, rebel defenders in Aleppo seem to be breaking under the strain of Assad's Russian- and Iranian-supported offensive. How will Assad hold the ground taken?

After holding their ground for more than four years, Aleppo's rebel defenders seem to be cracking:

Syrian government forces captured more than a third of opposition-held eastern Aleppo on Monday, touching off a wave of panic and flight from the besieged enclave as rebel defenses in the country's largest city rapidly collapsed.

I've long felt that Aleppo is a bridge too far for Assad's forces to take and hold.

Four years after that assessment, Assad will finally take the city, it seems, unless Assad's ground troops are so thin on the ground that the rebels bring in forces to counter-attack.

And then there is the question of whether Assad can hold the city once taken.

Four years ago I doubted Assad had the manpower to control the city. After four more years of the Syrian army bleeding out and essentially becoming a skeleton of firepower and logistics around which militias can rally, how will Assad defend the city and control whoever remains in the city?

Assad seems desperate for men:

The announcement this week by Syria's embattled military that it will form an all-volunteer unit is an indication that the government is struggling in its fight against rebels and the Islamic State group, analysts say.

"The Syrian regime is running low on manpower," said Syrian researcher Khorshid Alika, who closely observes the dynamics of Syria's civil war. "They need additional reinforcements on so many fronts, particularly in Aleppo, Damascus and Hama."

This "The Fifth Attack Troops Corps of Volunteers" is no way to defend and pacify a city unless you are fine with killing and brutalizing your way to victory. Which Assad has no problem with and which could possibly work if carried out ruthlessly enough.

But a militia is likely to be too ill-trained and too ill-disciplined to be an effective force even in this kind of war.

But it is even more unlikely that Syrian people will be happy if the foreign assault troops like Hezbollah and the Iranian Shia foreign legion stick around to hold the city.

Unless rebel morale in general cracks, this Assad victory does not win the war for him. Even taking Aleppo is just the start of a long road back to controlling Syria (map from Wall Street Journal):


We'll see if Assad can complete the conquest of Aleppo and then hold it without losing too many men in the process.

And if Assad can take and hold Aleppo, we'll see how many volunteers he can get to reconquer the vast stretches of Syria still lost to Assad's forces.

UPDATE: I don't know why the map above is lacking text, because when I added it there was text on the map. Pink is Assad; yellow is non-ISIL rebels; green is Kurds mostly in the north;  dark blue is ISI; and that olive drab green is mixed. The blue areas is sea where the Russian squadron is sailing. White is just sparsely settled territory where control colors are pointless. See here for map original.

Strategypage has more. Assad wants the looming capture of Aleppo to be seen as a turning point in the war. Of course he does.

But capturing Aleppo (the left-most of the three top dots (cities) still leaves Assad with very little territory under his control with so many losses that absent a general collapse of rebel morale and the end of foreign support for the rebels, I don't see how this is the decisive turning point.

Also the Kurdish dominated SDF that we are helping move on Raqqa (the middle of the three top dots) is attracting more Arab rebels who see this group as successful.

Which is what I said a long time ago about arming acceptable rebels. People like the strong horse and if we help acceptable rebels succeed, the recruits will flow to "our" guys.

UPDATE: Looking bad for the rebels in Aleppo. A UN envoys pleas to rescue the civilians in Aleppo will fall on deaf ears--as they have for the last 4+ years.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Blunder Siege

Yeeesssssss! Putin falls for our ploy!

Russian President Vladimir Putin presented a Russian passport to U.S. actor Steven Seagal on Friday and said he hoped it would serve as a symbol of how the fractious ties between Moscow and Washington are starting to improve.

One, who does Seagal think he is? An American leftist celebrity who can embrace any left wing nutball anti-American communist or socialist leader and escape with their career intact?

And two, Putin is doomed. The bad guys never suspect the cook:

This All Seems So Familiar

I'm worried about Afghanistan already. Will the defeat of ISIL in Iraq and Syria send ISIL jihadis to Afghanistan?

Like I wrote, I'm not happy about trends in Afghanistan. Unless there is a robust Afghan-coalition winter offensive that really knocks the Taliban back before the traditional warm weather fighting season returns, we are going to have serious problems in 2017.

And with ISIL facing defeat in Iraq and then Syria, where will ISIL choose to flee?

They can't flee to Libya since that fall-back bastion has been wrecked by ISIL's loss of Sirte.

Will ISIL try to fade into the population to wage a terrorist and insurgent campaign in Iraq and/or Syria?

Or will ISIL flee to Afghanistan where the mountains and less effective opposition than in Iraq and Syria will allow them to survive and rebuild?

Remember that Afghanistan didn't become a real problem for us after 9/11 and our initial invasion until after al Qaeda's main effort in Iraq was defeated. Between that victory and Pakistan's decision to bolster support for "friendly" jihadis in the region, America's low-level effort to hold Afghanistan began to falter. President Bush had started to reinforce Afghanistan as Iraq was being won, and President Obama dramatically escalated the fight in Afghanistan after he assumed office.

So now, with a weaker position in Afghanistan, will another jihadi retreat from Iraq (and Syria) destabilize Afghanistan even more?

Will Pakistan behave better this time and make it harder for jihadis to seek a safe haven in the region?

I'd pay good money for Moslems to win their civil war against jihadis trying to define Islam in the sick and bloody way that jihadis want Islam to be.

The Return of the Most Core of Core Interests?

 Despite the attention paid to islands in the South China Sea and East China Sea, should we be thinking more about Taiwan?

Given that Taiwan is backing away from soft reunion with China, given that Taiwan is updating their military and even plans to build their own subs, and given that China doesn't even seem to be willing to pretend to allow Hong Kong significant local autonomy until the 50-year deal with Britain which returned Hong Kong to China expires, I am starting to think more about the chances of China invading Taiwan to bring that "core interest" of China into the loving embrace of the mainland.

So when I read that China wants helicopters, I say "huh:"

China has ordered 18 more helicopters from Russia. This includes eight Ansats (a three ton transport similar to the UH-1 and used as an ambulance), four Ka-32s (the civilian version of the 12 ton Ka-27 naval helicopter that can carry up to four tons).and six Mi-17s. Despite having their own helicopter industry (including licensed manufacture of some European and Russian designs) China continues to buy Mi-17s from Russia because China needs more military transport helicopters right now and still needs other types of Russian helicopters in such small quantities that producing them in China is not practical.

One example is for high altitude choppers that could operate in China-occupied Tibet, which is certainly a valid Chinese need given that India is finally starting to respond to Chinese power by building up their forces and infrastructure on India's side of that border.

But given China's shortage of specialist amphibious warfare ships (which I think would be supplemented by civilian ships for an invasion), having a lot of helicopters that could be used on the relatively short hop across the Taiwan Strait seems like a reason China "cannot build or buy enough helicopters," as the headline says.

China insists they must have Taiwan. China's military is improving fast and until Taiwan can react, will continue to outpace Taiwan's defense efforts. So the chance of China deciding to invade Taiwan has to be going up.

One more thing to worry about in a new untested administration.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Weekend Data Dump

The Russians have adapted a former nuclear missile submarine for intelligence and "research" purposes. Podmoskovye, a former Delta IV SSBN, can carry special forces along with mini-subs, Strategypage implies.

Yeah, pretty much: "Academia should consider how it contributed to, and reflects Americans’ judgments pertinent to, Donald Trump’s election."

I mentioned that the hostility of Democrats to the concerns of Trump voters contrasts greatly with their urge to understand what we did to make jihadis strike us on September 11, 2001 ("Why do they hate us?"). Little did I know how good my comparison is.

The Royal Navy will soon lack an anti-ship missile in their arsenal. No word on the truth of rumors that anti-ship capabilities will be generated by issuing grappling hooks and cutlasses to their ship crews.

India's shrinking air force has failed to create a sense of urgency in India's procurement bureaucracy. What I figured was the most important defense question for India this decade will also be the next decade's most important defense question. When even ammo is in short supply, India has potentially fatal procurement problems.

It is interesting that the UAE has based jets in Eritrea across from Yemen to support the Sunnis there against Iran-backed Shias. It wasn't so long ago that Iran seemed to be cultivating ties with Eritrea to have a presence on the Red Sea.

The emperor of the Ottoman Empire takes shape. This is not good for NATO. Although Russia getting clear access through the Turkish straits is even less good. Is Turkey seriously flirting with a policy that turns to Russia and China? Or is this blackmail to get the West to back off on human rights questions and bid for Erdogan's loyalty? Yet even if Turkey doesn't leap to the Russia and/or China side (history with Russia makes that less likely to be lasting--but could China alone be the partner of choice?), Turkey seems to be turning away from Europe that doesn't like what Turkey is becoming. Does that distancing lead Turkey to turn away from NATO, too? Just what do you do with a problem like Erdogan?

Democrats spent the election attacking Trump voters as stupid (and evil), and in the aftermath of Trump's victory, have doubled down on the stupidity part by claiming that his supporters were swayed by "fake news." That's the way to win Trump voters back! The claim is questionable. And also, big talk from the side that got their "news" from The Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Note that this story on liberals deciding to seek out alternatives to standard news that lulled liberals into believing Clinton had the election in the bag ends by using as an example that the New York Times has gotten 41,000 new subscribers since the election! Yeah, that source of fake news will get you out of your bubble! Face it, seeking out the Times for your news just shows that more people are buying apartments in The Bubble.

So the EmDrive actually works in theory? And the drive built--while tiny, did work! But I'll wait for a lot more inquiry before I start speculating on star-faring--or interplanetary--missions.

I will never understand why the left considers the protection of legal immigrants and/or citizens by enforcing the rule of law on illegal immigration is somehow discriminatory in a bad way rather than a defense of rule of law. And if the Left goes all out to defend "sanctuary cities" that protects illegal immigrants (where criminals can exploit the decision to look away), perhaps general sanctuary legislation should be passed by Congress to allow local governments to declare themselves sanctuaries against immigration laws--and a host of other federal laws like EPA regulations, firearms restrictions, and health insurance laws, to pick a few out at random. The price would be that the local government would lose certain federal funding in exchange for the freedom to ignore federal law. Perhaps this could be a way to reduce federal power in favor of local control?

I don't think that America should torture prisoners. While I admit that there could be a "ticking nuclear bomb" scenario that would justify such a practice to get information fast from a suspect known to have the information, the need is so great that I have no doubt it would be done regardless of the law on the books. Aside from that, torture as a routine practice doesn't work, because people who know nothing will confess to anything. It is also perfectly reasonable to decide we are willing to pay the price to refuse to waterboard prisoners to get information, as Senator McCain stated. What I don't like is conflating waterboarding with torture. Waterboarding is extremely scary--by simulating the deep fear of drowning. But it does not permanently cripple a person the way McCain is crippled from his actual torture. We are free to decide how we get information and how nice or harsh we want to be consistent with our needs and values--and within the law--without diluting the idea of torture by including waterboarding as a type of torture. I suspect that few in our intelligence community want waterboarding now because we are not in the position we were in immediately after 9/11 of not knowing what al Qaeda was planning and not even knowing what we didn't know.

I really don't like military analyses that ranks our services as weak or marginal, when in fact they are still outstanding forces despite numbers, readiness, training, and equipment issues. Sure, looking closely shows that what is really being ranked is their ability to meet stated goals around the globe. So yeah, we would have problems fighting China, North Korea, ISIL, Russia, and Iran all at once. Yet in any individual fight our military can dominate. Really, how many militaries around the world could be rated at more than marginal or weak under those standards. Good Lord, I tremble how Russia's army would be rated on its abilities to hold off Finland, Sweden, NATO, Iran, China, South Korea, and Japan. Is "laughable" on the rating scale?

The idea that Democrats will reject ultra-liberal Pelosi as minority leader in the House ignores that surviving House Democrats are mostly liberal and in no danger of losing their seats as less liberal Democrats in flyover country could suffer if Democrats double down by choosing Pelosi. So no, I doubt Democrats will choose wisely.

If Republicans are waging a war on science, it isn't working; and Republicans could use a Democratic training and advisory mission from their far more successful efforts. For the Left: "There’s always an apocalypse requiring the expansion of state power."

Hmm. So Iran rejected UNSC Resolution 2231 which is the basis of saying the Iran nuclear deal is a multilateral agreement? Fascinating. I had a class on international law. But other than instilling a lack of respect for it, I didn't learn enough to comment on the implications.

A lot of Democratic operatives pretend to be honest journalists, so why shouldn't Russia Today RT propagandists be denied the right to play that role, too?

Japanese troops sent as peacekeepers to South Sudan will be allowed to fight if necessary. That's a first for overseas Japanese troops since 1945.

Venezuela hated America under Bush 43 after the nutjob Chavez took power. Now the tinpot nutjob, Maduro, in charge down there hopes that after the anti-Bush, Obama, leaves office that relations with America under Trump might improve. If I may be so bold to suggest, if you can't get along with Bush 43 and you can't get along with Obama, the problem just might be with you, Maduro.

Russia is moving Iskander surface-to-surface missiles and S-400 air defense missiles to Kaliningrad, their Kaliningrad exclave bordering Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea. They could interfere with reinforcements being sent to Poland and the Baltic states. Russia rejects our complaints. Which is why in case of war with Russia, taking Kaliningrad should be NATO's first mission.

Yes, the Cult of Hillary was rejected this year. And yes, sometimes Kevin Williamson is pretty funny.

Oh good grief: "The new, high-tech destroyer Zumwalt suffered an engineering casualty Monday evening while passing through the Panama Canal and had to be towed to a berth, the Navy said." Is there a serious problem in quality control these days? Because talk of a 350-ship fleet isn't impressive if that's the case. Or will stealthy tug boats count, too? To be fair, it is a new kind of engine.

The Russian T-80 didn't work out as a replacement tank for the T-72 (an upgraded T-72, the T-90, became the top tank). But thousands were made and apparently 550 are still in important units. The Russians plan an upgrade to the T-80 to bring it up to T-90 standards. Which means I can justify painting some T-80 miniatures that I bought a long time ago, thinking I was getting the newest Russian tank.

In an incident that remains unclear (there may have been an exchange of fire), the Pakistanis say India killed a number of civilians by firing on a civilian bus near the border. As long as Pakistan wages a low-level war on India along the border, civilians intermingled in the area will be at risk. India may have made an error, but Pakistan is not without responsibility.

So Somalia could be a problem for Trump by 2019, it the peacekeeping plans don't change.

Russia continues their subliminal annexation of Georgia's Abkhazia region.

I'm honestly amazed that Zimbabwe has staggered on as long as it has.

Venezuela at least has oil to delay the day of reckoning--which could be next year. How wise is it for China to get nearly half of Venezuela's oil as repayment for loans? Won't desperate Venezuelans learn to hate China as they go hungry and lack medicine even as their sole source of revenue is shipped off to China for long-gone money?

Iraq is working to regularize their militias. This is good. Bring them in the tent, pay them, review them, and begin to pare down the pro-Iranian elements over time.

Russian information war sites? I'm more than happy to have this type of effort given the firehose of falsehood that Russia directs a the West--although I wish that people had been more attentive before the Russians waged war on the Clintons (and Soviets before them) and our mainstream media parroted Soviet lies and propped up the illusion of communist compassion and economic success! But some seem like they might have been included under criteria that would ensnare the New York Times if they were subjected to the same criteria over a long enough period of time. (Let me know when Drudge gets a Pulitzer for their coverage of Russia.) If it makes you feel better, your much admired (and dare I say ruggedly handsome) host does not use those sites, although I have followed links to a literal hand full of them on occasion. Fear not, I can read through a lot of BS from such sites, too.

It is funny that Trump was condemned for refusing ahead of time to accept election results as valid because he wanted to see if he had justification for challenging the vote; but today the Greens with support from Hillary are challenging the election results despite no evidence for a problem. On the bright side, I say Republicans ram through legislation to ensure valid voting based on the sudden interest by Democrats in preventing potential voting fraud.

Rebel forces inside Aleppo seem to be losing ground rapidly. Of course, Assad has to hold what he takes against any insurgency and counter-attack that could develop.

I worry my Weekend Data Dumps are getting out of hand and almost becoming a blog in itself! I find myself unable to simply provide a descriptive link. On this path lies madness, I fear, even though I think it really is a useful overflow bin.

Ever More Permanent Union

In an article filled with scorn at how wrong the Brexit voters are to want to leave political Europe, the author writes something that should be on the lips of every Euroskeptic who doesn't want to submit to a Brussels proto-empire eager to erase the "proto" part:

At the end of the day, whether we have a hard or soft Brexit will depend more on others than on us. Let’s be absolutely clear: a negotiating position where you have a specified two years to reach a deal (even if the clock can be stopped for a time) and you need 27 other states to agree to it (even if the last leg is theoretically by qualified majority voting) is a very weak one for Britain.

If it is so difficult to leave the European Union now--for even powerful Britain--will anybody be able to leave in the future who isn't as strong as Britain?

Assuming Britain manages to leave the EU despite the longstanding EU habit of defying democracy to forge an "ever closer union?"

Note too the cheap tarring of Euroskepticism by association with Trump. I was against the EU long before I was for whoever could beat the corrupt Clinton.

And I still can't stand Trump, though I hope he does well for America and I reject liberal claims that fascism is descending on America because of the election.

Good God, people of Europe, get out of the EU now while you can!

America spent the Cold War protecting Europeans from a dictatorial multi-ethnic empire (the Soviet Union) that wished to rule you, and now you are eager to create your own? Seriously?

UPDATE: Remainers haven't given up. Their persistence in trying to undermine the democratic vote to leave should be a reminder of why absorption into the non-democratic EU is a mistake if you value freedom and liberty.


That's interesting:

In a series of experiments this year, units from 2nd Marine Division will be silencing every element of an infantry battalion -- from M4 rifles to .50 caliber machine guns. ...

"What we've found so far is it revolutionizes the way we fight," [Marine Major General] Love told "It used to be a squad would be dispersed out over maybe 100 yards, so the squad leader couldn't really communicate with the members at the far end because of all the noise of the weapons. Now they can actually just communicate, and be able to command and control and effectively direct those fires."

As someone who's limited military experience (non-war) has left me with a bit of near-trivial hearing loss in my left ear from firing a rifle, that's good on that level, too.

Still, I suspect Inspector Hammer would disapprove:

While it is interesting that the lower sound levels allow better command and control at the squad level, doesn't fully exploiting this noise reduction require the cooperation of an equally quiet enemy and supporting big rounds that are just as quiet?

But even the big rounds aren't producing as much noise because precision reduces the number of big, loud bangs, as the Strategypage link in this post indicates.

Perhaps Nitrowhisperin is nearing perfection.

UPDATE: One advantage even without Nitrowhisperein or the suppression of noise from the large caliber weapons is that reducing the noise signature makes it more difficult for the enemy to tell where firing is coming from. I didn't think that would make much of a difference, but it does and the troops seem to like this. The cost is about a million dollars per battalion.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Threat from Curacao

Venezuela's two-decade experience with socialism has effed up an oil-wet dream for Venezuelans who are now taking to boats to escape their Bolivarian Paradise. Curacao officials fear they will be stuck with the bill for the refugees. Those officials should be worried that they will be stuck with the blame for attracting the refugees. The Netherlands should be nervous.

Hoo boy:

Venezuela was once one of Latin America’s richest countries, flush with oil wealth that attracted immigrants from places as varied as Europe and the Middle East.

But after President Hugo Chávez vowed to break the country’s economic elite and redistribute wealth to the poor, the rich and middle class fled to more welcoming countries in droves, creating what demographers describe as Venezuela’s first diaspora.

Now a second diaspora is underway — much less wealthy and not nearly as welcome.

Well over 150,000 Venezuelans have fled the country in the last year alone, the highest in more than a decade, according to scholars studying the exodus. [Emphasis added. To translate, that means "socialism."]

And one of the destinations for flight is the Dutch-owned territory to the north, Curacao:

The journey to Curaçao takes them on a 60-mile crossing filled with backbreaking swells, gangs of armed boatmen and coast guard vessels looking to capture migrants and send them home.

With talk of imminent collapse of Venezuela's economy, would that nutball Maduro order his forces to invade Curacao citing weak and distant Netherlands as a threat to Venezuela by merely existing as a destination to flee?

This would not be the first time that Curacao has been in Venezuela's sights as a "threat" to the Bolivarian Paradise.

The Dutch should really keep their powder dry and have the phone number to America's SOUTHCOM on speed dial.

Don't count the Dutch out. They actually fought at our side in Afghanistan and the Venezuelan military is no doubt in as bad shape as their oil industry and economy in general.

There are Bigger Problems

Yes, NATO's northern flank is vulnerable to Russia--as it always was during the Cold War. Norway is understandably nervous, but this is not a deadly threat to NATO as it was in the Cold War.


Officials in Finland, Sweden and Norway are concerned about what have become almost routine acts of Russian aggression, how they can respond, and whether they could prevent an incident, or even an accident, from spiraling out of control. So now, quietly, they're preparing for a confrontation.

Only Norway is a NATO country, I will add. So for Finland and Sweden, the question is will they rebuild their once formidable militaries that were capable of giving a good showing against the Soviets. Russia is far weaker than the Soviet Union, so it is doable, especially with growing ties to NATO.

As for Norway, while they are weaker than they were during the Cold War, so too is Russia far weaker than the Soviet Union.

And Norway can be reinforced from the rest of the alliance unlike during the low point of the Cold War in the 1970s when Norway was basically considered outside of our naval line of defens in the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom gap. One reason we have so much Marine Corps equipment in Norway was to reassure the Norwegians that some Americans could be flown in to fight with them even is sea lines of communication were cut in the opening weeks of a war.

That latter is really the key. Norway just doesn't represent the valuable target to the Russians that Norway was for the Soviets. In the Cold War, the Soviets needed to cut the North Atlantic sea lines of communication between North America and Europe to isolate West Germany from support and reinforcements while Soviet armies tried to drive to the Rhine River (and basically destroy NATO).

Russia's navy doesn't stand a chance of winning a battle for the North Atlantic. So there is no point to expending limited Russian resources to do more than occupy Norwegian borderlands to provide a buffer for Russian territory on the Barents Sea.

Sure, before Russia started getting all Russia-like and aggressive again along their western frontiers, I thought that NATO should react more to Russia's ambitions in the Arctic.

Even though I thought Russia's invasion of Georgia required more NATO efforts in Poland, I still didn't see that as more than a precautionary step.

But Russia's invasion of Ukraine and continued occupation of Crimea and parts of the Donbas--and repeated Russian threats to NATO in the east--has ended that Arctic emphasis option.

Right now, Lithuania and Poland are the main line of resistance in case of war with Russia. Estonia and Latvia are in a far worse position than Norway is or even was during the Cold War.

Finland and Sweden need to bolster their own forces first before they look for NATO help.

Rot in Hell, Commie Wanker

Fidel Castro is dead.

No word if Jill Stein will demand a recount.

UPDATE: This is who leftists are crying about.

And about Cuba's supposed health paradise.

UPDATE: Can you imagine Cubans getting away with this?

Hundreds of thousands rallied in central Seoul on Saturday for a fifth week of protests against President Park Geun-hye, in the largest ongoing series of demonstrations in the country since the 1987 movement to democratize South Korea.

Castro overthrew a pro-America autocracy, much like South Korea was a pro-America autocracy at the same time.

South Korea evolved into a prosperous and free nation where protests like this are not a death sentence at the hands of regime enforcers.

Cuba remains a thug communist dictatorship whose only claim to fame is that Cuba overthrew a pro-America autocracy.

Pity we didn't see what Cuba could have evolved into if Castro had failed to overthrow Batista.

UPDATE: So let me get this straight. Lefties everywhere who have spent the last 2-1/2 weeks crying over the coming Trump dictatorship are now mourning the death of an actual monstrous dictator.

UPDATE: Unlike the mass-murdering dictatorial Nazis, mass-murdering dictatorial communists are treated like failed heroes at worst for their purported love of the poor--perhaps that's why communist countries like Cuba make so many more poor people.

So of course the Green candidate Jill Stein (Greens are socialists who like to recycle) figuratively weeps on the grave of the monster Fidel Castro.

Lefties don't hate dictators--they just hate non-lefty dictators. Their own dictators are just fine--even if "just for a day" as one leftist famously daydreamed.

And let's recall that Fidel was gung ho during the Cuban Missile Crisis for nuking America, as Krushchev referenced when he wrote to Castro:

In your cable of October 27 you proposed that we be the first to carry out a nuclear strike against the enemy's territory. Naturally you understand where that would lead us. It would not be a simple strike, but the start of a thermonuclear world war.

Dear Comrade Fidel Castro, I find your proposal to be wrong, even though I understand your reasons.

It was nice to find this, given that I've mentioned this before based on memory without having a source. At best I had this inference to justify my statement.

Now I have the PBS-housed letter with the smoking missile. It would be nice to have the Castro letter. Perhaps when that hideous regime falls.

Who knows? Perhaps the death of Fidel will prove that Raul does not have the charisma to hold the people in line for long.

I'm glad that monster Fidel is dead. I'm sorry he died peacefully in his bed.

UPDATE: Some are much more equal than others under socialist economiesFor all that Castro succeeded brilliantly for himself, he utterly failed the Cuban people.

For Want of a Nail, the Kingdom was Saved

Good Lord, please stop the stupidity. Right now, if you would.


Defense News, quoting an unnamed Navy official, broke the story that the long-range shells for the newest U.S. Navy destroyer, named after Vietnam-era Chief of Naval Operations Elmo R. Zumwalt, are too expensive at $800,000 each, and no more will be purchased.

That makes the stealthy ship, still more than a year from deployment as a weapons system, unable to do some of its primary missions: softening up beachheads for Marine landings and taking out inland terror-training camps.

I'm sorry, but the notion that a $7+ billion dollar ship is going to get close to an enemy shore to bombard enemy targets is nonsense. I don't care how stealthy the ship is, explosions on shore are big, loud, and as non-stealthy as you can imagine. The enemy can trace a radius around the impact points and look for the offending target.

"Stealthy" does not mean "invisible," recall.

Truly, if the threat environment for non-stealthy amphibious warfare ships bringing in the Marines is low enough, we won't need stealthy Zumwalts (we will have just 3, remember) to bombard the enemy.

And cruise missiles will do just fine for inland terror-training camps.

Seriously, thinking that this ship is intended for shore bombardment is just so mind numbingly stupid that I cannot fathom any Navy planner actually drawing up plans to do that with this ship.

If planners did that anyway, assuming plentiful shells, thank God for expensive shells. Their absence will save the even more expensive ships.

And if they are still intended for that mission if we can get around the shell costs, we have bigger problems than $800,000 shells.

Or bigger problems than defense topic writers who don't seem to understand that when 3 Zumwalt "destroyers" are the only ships in our fleet with this caliber cannon, that this reality will automatically make the ammo for them more expensive.

But hey, with 3-D printing, unique products like plane-specific toilet seats or screws will one day no longer suffer from the per-unit cost problems of small production runs. What will writers with shallow knowledge bases write about then?

UPDATE: After seeing nothing of note in the article above, Strategypage writes about the gun and ammo issue. Yes, there are program problems too, in addition to the small production run to drive up costs.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Mosul Status

Iraqi forces are in control of 40% of Mosul on the east bank of the Tigris River; have cut off Mosul from Syria; are poised to assault Tal Afar; and are "closing in" on the Mosul airport on the west bank.

This map of Mosul battle lines is interesting:

Per my earlier post on what I guess is the coming Iraqi offensive from the south and west, Iraqi forces are poised near the airport; only the center bridge across the Tigris linking the west and east banks of Mosul is still standing; and--most interesting--the map highlights the stadium that I noted could serve as an airhead for an Iraqi assault into western Mosul by the Iraqi troops south of the city who have been remarkably quiet while Shia militias marched on Tal Afar to the west where they cut off Mosul and while Counter-Terrorism Service forces make a very well covered advance through eastern Mosul.

So when does the Iraqi army with its America-trained brigades south of the city and supported by our forces from the logistics base at Qayyara (including attack helicopters and artillery) launch the main effort into western Mosul?

Perhaps the Iraqi advance will be more from the west to bypass that ISIL "city defense line" even as some Iraqi force capture the airport south of Mosul fixing ISIL attention, while an airmobile assault takes the Stadium and links up with a CTS thrust to the "old bridge" in the center still standing.

I just don't belief the eastern front is the main effort that will carry out an assault river crossing to liberate the western part of Mosul.

As I Stare Blankly, Unable to Comprehend the Stupidity

Good God, sometimes the most highly educated people among us are just friggin' stupid:

An article published last week on called "The Very Hungry Caterpillar Lied to You As a Child" highlights the frustration some people are having with the fact that children’s books aren’t “accurate.”Yes, you heard me right. Some biologists are apparently very concerned that, in books geared toward children, animals do things like talk, wear clothes, and live in homes made for people. That would never happen in real life. So why is it happening in a book?

A caterpillar can't wear clothes but it can "lie." Got it.

Apparently, some biologists have never touched a member of the opposite sex let alone raised children.

Really, Bluto has the only correct response to the Very Clueless Biologists.

We have too many biologists if this is one of their worries.

Doing Jobs Americans Won't Do?

The idea that helping allies and friends fight common enemies is a new strategy by President Obama that is being put on display is nonsense. What is being put on display is relying on allies to fight our enemies.

Suck up much?

As Iraqi forces launch their long-awaited campaign to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State, President Obama’s doctrine of aiding other countries militarily rather than leading every fight is facing its greatest test yet. ...

Mosul is the largest example of a counterterrorism model that the Obama administration has put in place from Afghanistan to Libya. In Somalia, Special Forces troops are training Somali and other African troops to combat the militants of the Shabab. In Syria, about 300 Special Forces troops are aiding Syrian Kurdish and Arab militias with training and air support in the battle against the Islamic State.

“We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us,” Mr. Obama said at West Point in 2014, when he laid out the counterterrorism strategy to cadets graduating from the United States Military Academy.

First, while ISIL is certainly a terrorist organization, it is also a proto-state spanning Syria and Iraq as its core that is defending terrain. So fighting ISIL in Mosul is not in any way an example of a counterterrorism strategy.

Second, we have long done things that helped allies. And since 9/11 it has been our policy to help allies do the job on their own as much as possible. That's how we routed the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, recall. And it is what Bush did in Afghanistan until Obama ordered two large escalations there. Our post-9/11 fights during the Bush administration against jihadis in the Philippines and Somalis followed that pattern.

So the idea that helping partners fight common enemies is somehow new is ludicrous.

To their credit, the authors note that this isn't working out in Afghanistan lately.

But to their debit, the claim that 2014 shows that America's extensive training effort in Iraq before we left was a waste is false. We left a good counter-insurgency army in place when we left. Our departure just allowed that training to degrade. Training is an ongoing process--not a product you buy and put on the shelf until needed.

What is new (well, it isn't new--the Nixon Doctrine was a similar reaction in regard to the Vietnam War) is refusing to take the lead in fighting our enemy when our allies are not up to the task.

That's not a doctrine. That's an aversion.

And keep in mind that for all that the left likes the ideals of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) that obliges us to protect innocent civilians, letting a war drag on simply means that for every American life saved, hundreds if not thousands of foreign civilians are allowed to die at the hands of undefeated enemies.

Mind you, I'm not inherently against that kind of math. Our military is supposed to defend America. But I'm not the sensitive caring sort that so many on the left pride themselves as uniquely being.

If protecting Iraqi lives (and preventing deaths in America and France, truth be told) was important, we could have committed a few combat brigades to Iraq to spearhead the offensives to clear Anbar and Mosul of ISIL forces long before Iraqi forces could be trained to do it with coalition air power in support.

Apart from Iraqi interests in liberating their terrain, we had an interest in defeating ISIL quickly. Given time, ISIL has expanded across the globe, planning or inspiring attacks around the globe--most infamously in France and America.

And oh yeah, with a proto-caliphate and Saddam's boys to help, ISIL has developed chemical weapons:

The Islamic State has used chemical weapons, including chlorine and sulfur mustard agents, at least 52 times on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq since it swept to power in 2014, according to a new independent analysis.

See the article for a map of attack sites.

Even after the caliphate is smashed, ISIL will have the knowledge of chemical weapons production and usage which might come in handy in terror attacks in other countries.

That is what happens when you give an enemy time. They use it. We spent nearly as much time preparing for the march north to Mosul as we did in preparing to launch the D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied France following the Pearl Harbor attack by Japan that brought America into World War II.

Perhaps this will all work out well and the damage of giving ISIL so much time won't be as much as the damage to America of directly intervening.

But even if this works out fine, the lesson isn't that we can always find allies willing to fight and die for our objectives--and do it in a timely manner.

I mentioned this not long ago, and the article above is more than a month old, but the warning justifies repeating. 

Iran Estimates it Wants it All

Iran is violating the Iran deal that the IAEA enforces for America, and Iran couldn't care less.

Alone, this problem with Iran's stockpile of heavy water may not be a big deal:

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is policing the deal, said Iran's overstepping of the limit on its stock of a sensitive material for the second time this year risked undermining countries' support for the agreement. [emphasis added]

But the highlighted portion highlights a problem with America's ability to enforce the deal. America doesn't enforce the deal, the IAEA does and we don't control the IAEA.

And Iran is basking in the glory of disputing what the meaning of the word "is" "estimated" is:

"Where is (the) limit?" Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Reza Najafi, told reporters on the sidelines of the board meeting, adding that the country was preparing to export more than the 5 tonnes of heavy water it originally informed the IAEA of.

"The JCPOA is very clear," he added. "It says that the needs of Iran are estimated (to be) 130 tonnes. Who is the native English speaker to tell me what estimated means?"

Yeah, this will work out great.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

And the Pie, of Course

My Thanksgiving tradition continues:

Good times.

Happy Thanksgiving.

UPDATE: And I'm just going to say that the people who don't like Thanksgiving because it is a holiday that represents one people and culture moving in to defeat an existing people and culture are the same people who are totally opposed to restricting immigration to America in any way.

No Starvation Zone

The Assad siege and assault on Aleppo is both gaining ground and choking the civilians left in the rebel-held portions of the city. Assad and Russia don't seem to feel any urgency to prevent starvation:

Syrian rebels in besieged east Aleppo have agreed to a U.N. plan for aid delivery and medical evacuations, but the United Nations is awaiting a green light from Russia and the Syrian government, humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland said on Thursday.

With freezing winter conditions setting in, about 275,000 people are trapped in east Aleppo, where the last U.N. food rations were distributed on Nov. 13.

Russia and Assad sent a message to Turkey to back off:

The Turkish army blamed the Syrian regime for an air strike on Thursday in northern Syria that killed three soldiers, the first time it has accused Damascus of killing its soldiers since launching its three-month military incursion.

The incident came on the first anniversary of the shooting down of a Russian military jet over the Syrian border by the Turkish air force.

The timing was unlikely to be random. Nor was the target likely random or an error.

I'm guessing the purge-wracked Turkish army is in no position to carry out large-scale operations to save Aleppo.

I still think a no-fly zone over Syria when Russia is in the mix is too risky.

But why not start air dropping humanitarian supplies to civilians in eastern Aleppo with longer ranged GPS-guided parachute systems?

A no starvation zone that openly helps Aleppo's besieged civilians might buy some time and give besieged Syrians everywhere hope--if not yet a reason to give thanks--that they can continue to resist Assad.

Mind you, I still think that controlling Aleppo is likely a bridge too far in the long run, but it would be better for rebels to continue to hold the city.

Seriously, These Fools Shouldn't Let the Door Hit Them in the Butt on the Way Out

Just two more months for the Obama administration to damage our national security and rule of law.

You will recall that the Obama administration defended the delivery of $1.7 billion in small unmarked bills to Iran as unavoidable because of a court case from the days of the Iran Revolution and their seizure of the American embassy and subsequent hostage crisis slowly wending through our courts.

But the administration fails to note that by American law that money was supposed to be held here until cases by Americans who suffered from Iranian terrorism made it through the courts:

[The Obama] administration has asserted that these were satisfied “by securing a favorable resolution on the interest owed to Iran.” What favorable resolution? In effect, the settlement cost the United States $2.7 billion—the $1.7 billion in cash plus about $1 billion in forgiven court judgments—to pay a claim that was not yet due, may not in fact have been owed, and may have been more than offset by the U.S. counterclaim that exceeded Iran’s own claim.

Or are you confused enough to believe that a newly responsible and friendly mullah-run Iran magically reset by the Iran deal will ship pallets of cash to America once those cases by Americans aimed at Iran are settled?

All hail Smart Diplomacy!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

So Just Quality, Then

The Pacific century could be an American century as much as an Asia-centric century.

Holy cow:

Findings from a 2015 government census show that the average Chinese woman has 1.05 children — a legacy of the one-child policy that changed on Jan. 1 to a two-child policy. It is the lowest fertility rate in the world, according to People’s Daily, the main newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party.

Back when Chinese fertility was rated at around 1.5, I figured that even if China passed us in total economic power by 2050, that we could regain the lead by 2100 given our fertility edge (and I'm quoting an earlier post):

With all the caveats about projecting that far into the future, we could have from 60% of China's population to more people than China! Will China have twice the GDP per-capita as America then? With a population older than our population? Because if not, China's lead in gross GDP will not last and we will regain that title well before 2100 rolls around (unless India is the one to surpass us in gross GDP).

Since then, America's fertility rate has apparently dropped below replacement (which I think is 2.1). Whether that is a fleeting remnant of the deep recession and slow recovery after 2008 or a new trend is a question. But we have immigration. As long as America assimilates immigrants, that factor will strengthen us, relative to China.

And China has dropped well below our lower rate, so the trends to 2100 are more in our favor. Could the new Chinese rates erase even China's ability to pass us by mid-century?

Here's a related post on power shifts and war danger that fits with the demographic question.

We Learn!

We can learn from the Iraq War.

Will wonders never cease?

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter suggested US forces are unlikely to drawdown their presence in Iraq if Mosul is recaptured, as any security gains may be fragile.

"We have discussed that with the Iraqi government, and I only start there because it will, in the end, be a decision that we make with the Iraqi government," Carter said during a 22 October meeting with US troops in Baghdad.

And so after learning the lesson of withdrawing from Iraq in 2011 only to return in 2014 after the Iraqis screwed up and allowed ISIL (or ISIS or Islamic State) to gain strength, we have decided to learn the lessons of Italy, Germany, Japan, and South Korea, where our long-term military presence in states without democratic traditions following wars created strong democratic allies.

And yeah, part of this change of heart is the realization by the Iraqis that they screwed up by being eager to show they could get along without us.

So the Obama administration, after rejecting the notion that we achieved anything in Iraq and which left Iraq in 2011, belatedly realized that it needed to begin Iraq War 2.0 to restore what we had gained; and after achieving that by defeating ISIL (well, only partly achieving that because Iran's increased penetration of Iraq is also a casualty of our 2011 pull out as much as ISIL's rise was) we will this time--inshallah--remain in Iraq to defend the (re-)gains of Iraq War 2.0.

And it is at this moment that Republicans are supposed to reject the war?

To move beyond the Iraq War, Republican foreign-policy elites must begin by overcoming their decade-long discomfort with it. Learning from the war should not mean re-litigating it or in­dulg­ing in breast-beating self-flagellation that cheapens the sacrifices of thousands who deserve our gratitude. But they should accept what the war looks like to most Americans.

In a word, it looks like a disaster. The war, by any measure, proved extraordinarily costly in blood and treasure. The 2007 troop surge rescued hope for political reconciliation in Baghdad, only for sectarianism to return and the Obama administration to squander what gains remained. By 2014, ISIS had stormed forth. Surveying the wreckage, most Americans have consistently considered Iraq a failure.

What to make of this?

On the surface,  I have no problem saying we must learn from the war. But if "moving beyond" the war (and how do we do that when we will remain to defend what we achieved?) means going along with the Democrats on Iraq War 1.0, I say no thank you.

Re-litigating it is in a sense pointless--it was 100% legal and justified. Given that Democrats constantly tried to re-debate the decision to go to war throughout the war after about autumn 2003 rather than debate how to win the war they once supported in concept and law, I don't like the idea of opening up the question of going to war in 2003.

That legal issue is not in my lane these days, but fortunately Learning Curve has done sound work in reminding us--not re-litigating strictly speaking--of the war's legality (among other issues) which Democrats have obscured despite their past support for the war.

And given the self-flagellation that the Democrats engage in, going along with the Democrats to "move beyond" the war does indeed cheapen the sacrifice of thousands of Americans (as well as those of our allies). I personally think these Americans (and allies) and their families deserve our gratitude for fighting and winning a war for a good cause rather than thanking them for going off to die in a Third World Hell Hole for no particular good reason other than that they were ordered to do so.

If the war looks like a disaster to most Americans, I think those who wish to defend what Americans died for in Iraq should defend the war rather than go along with a view that does in fact cheapen what Americans died to achieve.

And how do you strengthen our willingness to fight for American interests by "moving beyond" the war under Democratic party terms when any future suggestion to fight an enemy will be stuck right in the middle of your surrender of the rightness of the Iraq War's need and legality? Do you really think that the people who opposed the Iraq War earlier than you do won't throw your more recent support of the war in your face while ignoring their own past support?

So let me focus on the second paragraph above.

The war was not a disaster. It was so not a disaster that even President Obama was willing to restart the war with Iraq War 2.0 and is now willing to remain in Iraq when they were not willing in 2011.

Was it really extraordinarily costly in money? The direct costs of waging the war (about $760 billion) approximated the amount of money that we committed to expend at the stroke of a pen with the 2009 stimulus spending bill (about $790 billion, in the initial estimate).

And the Army used the war spending to upgrade weapons that the Army would have wanted to upgrade anyway. So at least part of the direct cost is an accounting issue.

Now, many say the true cost of the war is many multiples beyond the direct cost. Yet if we are going to count the costs of war as all future spending resulting from it, could we do that for scoring all domestic programs? Have we ever even pretended to declare "mission accomplished" in the war on poverty, for example? Do any federal spending programs ever end?

And recall that even total defense spending during the Iraq War did not match Cold War spending as a percent of GDP when we weren't fighting (see 1975-1990, but also note 1954 to 1964). So how extraordinarily costly of a financial burden was the Iraq War really?

See here for the data by year.

Recall too that we spent money to avoid spending lives (both ours and innocent civilians historically caught in the crossfire). So if you are going to claim our loss of life was extraordinarily costly, please tone down the money aspect of your complaints. Saving money costs lives. Spending money saved lives.

As for the actual casualties, first compare Iraq and Afghanistan. We have lost about 4,500 killed in Iraq and about 2,000 have been killed in Afghanistan. The "good" war cost us 44% of the once-"bad" war (I assume it is now "good" given that President Obama is fighting Iraq War 2.0).

Then consider our historical losses at war. Of the top ten costly wars in American history, the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns combined rank 9th in total, and last in casualties per day and casualties per capita.

And recall that we managed to recruit troops for our volunteer Army for an increasingly unpopular wars even though the argument is that the war was extraordinarily costly in American lives.

Don't get me wrong, the casualties are tragedies. I'm not dismissing them as trivial. But the judgment that the casualties were extraordinarily costly rests on the amount of deaths and not the pain from individuals who were killed or terribly wounded.

So our losses were not high by historical comparisons. Indeed, given the resources of our enemies, you could make the case that our casualties were extraordinarily low. That's a testament to our troops' skill and equipment--both made possible by spending money.

And how do we get allies to fight with us in the future if we don't defend what we've done in Iraq and what we asked them to do with us?

Finally, don't think that "moving beyond" the Iraq War (will there be a on the right?) won't give Republicans any credit. Remember, for Democrats you get no credit for "evolving" on an issue after they do. No matter what, Republicans will forever be blamed for Iraq despite the pre-war bipartisan consensus on Iraq's beastly domestic record, Saddam's record of aggression and terrorism, his pursuit of WMD, the need to replace Saddam with democracy, and the need to invade Iraq to finally destroy the Saddam regime.

So no, I have no interest in "moving beyond" the Iraq War. We did a good thing that was good for America, Iraqis, and the world. I hope we defend what we achieved by remaining.

I truly fear that just as President Obama belatedly at the end of his second term learned this lesson, that a new President Trump will pull out again and be forced to relearn the lesson one more time (or refuse to learn as President Obama apparently has learned at this late date).

So shove your "moving beyond" retreat from the Iraq War notion. That's the last thing (dare I say extraordinarily bad) we need to learn from the war.

Unleash the Southwest Hounds!

We could have dropped every bridge over the Tigris River splitting Mosul on day one. We have not. Why not? Is the main Iraqi effort from the south and west to hit western Mosul about to begin?

We dropped another bridge in Mosul:

Five bridges span the Tigris that runs through Mosul. They have all been mined and boobytrapped by militants who took over the city two years ago as they swept through northern Iraq and declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Despite planting the mines, Islamic State fighters have so far been able to continue using those bridges which have not yet been destroyed by air strikes.

Air Force Colonel John Dorrian, a Baghdad-based spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, said on Tuesday an air strike hit the number four bridge, the southernmost, in the past 48 hours.

"This effort impedes Daesh's freedom of movement in Mosul. It inhibits their ability to resupply or reinforce their fighters throughout the city," he said using an Arabic acronym for the militant group.

A month ago, a U.S. air strike destroyed the No. 2 bridge in the center of the city and two weeks later another strike took out the No. 5 bridge to the north.

So we have knocked out 3 of 5 bridges: No. 4 at the south, no. 2 in the center, and no. 5 to the north of no. 2 (or does that mean the northernmost?)

If the main offensive was through eastern Mosul, we'd probably want to seize at least one bridge to continue the offensive across the river.

But we didn't drop all the bridges at once.

This month, I've speculated that the main Iraqi effort would be from the southwest into western Mosul on the west side of the Tigris River.

To do that, we'd want to get ISIL to commit forces to the eastern side of the river. Using the high profile Counter-Terrorism Service troops to spearhead the offensive as they've spearheaded other Iraqi offensives definitely gets the jihadis' attention.

So if ISIL thinks the east bank is the main front, they would funnel troops and car bombs into the east. Starting to knock out the bridges constricts the jihadis without preventing them from moving forces to the east bank.

We have not really seen the brigades we and our allies have trained in this offensive. I assume that many are in the southern front and that at some point, they will make a dramatic appearance.

So we could drop the remaining two bridges, interdict other river crossing attempts with air and artillery power, and then launch the main effort from the southwest with trained regular Iraqi army brigades, with the best ISIL troops trapped on the east side of the river unable to run or reinforce the western part of Mosul.

Early in the spring I speculated that with an objective as obvious as Mosul, gaining surprise is only possible by changing your expected timing or your expected route of advance.

We did not strike earlier than we could have. So that option was lost.

But we still could gain surprise by unleashing the main effort from the south and west while ISIL is focused on the CTS offensive on the west bank of Mosul.

Heck, we might yet see an airmobile element helicopter into positions to aid the southwest offensive, which is something we haven't seen since the 2014 CTS air assault on Tikrit, if memory serves me.

In 2014, the Iraqi CTS landed in a Tikrit stadium to use as an airhead.

Well what do you know? There is a big stadium on the west bank of Mosul. But where is the stadium? This map says the stadium is on the east bank more toward the northernmost bridge.

I guess a landing could be made elsewhere in the western part of Mosul at a large traffic circle or park if the stadium is not on the west bank. But pity, the initial description of the location sure fit nicely with past practice and my expectations.

Wait! As I look at satellite photos I see Al-Idara Al-Mahalia Stadium on the west side that is near the road to the center bridge. But that was dropped.

Still, I might be on to something.

So the bridge nearest to that west bank stadium--the one north of the southernmost bridge--was knocked out. But the one south of that, on the Al Jamhuriya Road, is standing and still pretty close to that stadium.

Could that bridge be left standing in order to seize it?

Arggh. This article says the only bridge still standing is the center bridge (the "old bridge")! Which is the bridge I initially thought could be the target if the landing was made at that west bank stadium!

For yucks, when we took the Remagen Ludendorff Bridge in World War II, it was the American 9th Armored Division that did the job. Iraq's 9th Armored Division is participating in the Mosul offensive.

Anyway, in this scenario, the Shia militias heading out to Tal Afar serves as much as a western flank guard for this new main effort rather than only an effort to keep jihadis from running from Mosul to live to fight another day.

Do this and ISIL fighters die with their backs to the Tigris River under assault from the east and west, and from the middle.

Which is nice, because the only good jihadi is a dead jihadi.

UPDATE: So yeah, there is just one bridge left standing. And this is an interesting statement:

The destruction of the bridges means that the Iraqi military and its allies — the Kurdish peshmerga forces and Sunni tribesmen — would have to use military pontoon bridges to cross the river when they arrive at the banks of the river.

Sure, the Iraqis might try to build bridges with enemies potentially on both banks to interfere with that operation.

But that assumes that the offensive has to cross the river to take the whole city.

If the southern front Iraqi forces--who seem to have been very, very quiet lately--are part of the plan to seize Mosul and not just bystanders for the CTS in eastern Mosul and PMF militias to the west by Tal Afar, these trained army brigades could be coiling up to thrust north into western Mosul from the south and west.

And we'll see if an airmobile assault is part of the mission to actually seize that final bridge left standing.

UPDATE: The last bridge standing inside Mosul is the "old bridge" that had been built by the British and which is unable to hold heavy traffic.

But so what if it can't hold heavy armor? If the main thrust to liberate the west bank of Mosul comes from the south and west rather than relying on a river assault with pontoon bridges being built, we only need a bridge capable of handling lighter traffic, no?

UPDATE: On November 15, Iraqi troops and federal police reached a village fewer than 2 miles from the Mosul airport south of the city on the west bank of the Tigris River:

Abbar [a member of the Nineveh municipal council] added that federal police forces and the army’s 15th division have become 3 kilometers away from the Mosul airport at the center of the city, having liberated the village of Bo Youssef.

That's from a Bahrain-based news organization. Otherwise news from sources I usually use have been unusually quiet. Which strikes me as odd.

Iraqi forces surely must be within range of striking the west bank of Mosul.

UPDATE: Hey, here's news from south of Mosul:

U.S. troops celebrated Thanksgiving at an Iraqi army base in Qayyara, some 60 km (38 miles) south of Mosul, where a U.S.-led coalition is helping Iraqi forces battle Islamic State.

Nothing to see. A feel good story about a touch of home. Just American troops eating dinner far from Mosul.

American troops at the logistics base we went to pains to set up to support the offensive into Mosul that has been very very quiet lately.

Yes, I'm looking for information to support my guess. Blogging is always a mess of what I'd do, what I think we will do, and what I think will happen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Join Me and I Will Complete Your Training!

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer offers to work with Donald Trump on issues the left has traditionally backed.

Come with me. It is the only way!

Haven't we seen this story play out before?


Virtue Signals--To the End

Here is what is wrong with America's foreign policy under President Obama:

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, named 13 Syrian military commanders she said had been involved in killing and injuring civilians since 2011 through air and ground assaults, and detaining and torturing civilians.

"The United States will not let those who have commanded units involved in these actions hide anonymously behind the facade of the Assad regime," Power told the council.

"Those behind such attacks must know that we and the international community are watching their actions, documenting their abuses, and one day, they will be held accountable," she said.

So these 13 Syrian military commanders have been slaughtering, torturing, and starving civilians for 6 years without having a worry in the world about doing what they believe is their job to prop up Assad's continued rule.

But being publicly named by the Obama administration that has done nothing to enforce the president's early demand that Assad step down (and which is effectively helping Assad by fighting Assad's enemy ISIL without also effectively supporting other rebels) is really going to hurt this Dirty Baker's Dozen and get them to stop slaughtering people on an industrial scale.

And this is called Smart Diplomacy.


UPDATE: This is what Assad's killer thugs think of our warning:

Containers of a chemical suspected to be chlorine were dropped by helicopters on rebel-held east Aleppo on Tuesday, causing breathing difficulties in some people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the local health authority said.

That didn't take long, now did it?

But don't worry, the Global Left's "anti-war" cohort will begin the marches and human shield recruitment to hammer Russia, Iran, and their pet Assad for their mass murder spree--any day now, for sure.

Stop laughing.