Saturday, December 31, 2016

Jihadi New Year Resolution

Baby 2017 better grow up fast, because it is going to be a rude awakening in the world we live in:

Boko Haram's leader urges his fighters to "kill, slaughter and abduct ... and detonate bombs everywhere," in a new video that denies Nigerian government claims that his Islamic extremist group has been crushed.

Although to be fair, that's the to-do list every day for jihadis everywhere.


Why didn't the Russians try to get democratic (wink, wink) socialist Bernie Sanders elected president of the United States?

Perhaps it is just the booze really kicking in this New Year's Ever, but if the Russians truly wanted to prevent Hillary Clinton from being president, why didn't the Russians intervene during the Democratic primary when they could have gotten Comrade Bernie Sanders--he who honeymooned in the Soviet Union!--as the Democratic nominee by working a little earlier on their Democratic Party leaks?

Seriously. The Russians were so afraid of Hillary Clinton becoming president--as Hillary backers like to claim--because of her monumental "experience" that Putin passed by the chance to have Bernie and instead decided that they'd let it all ride on the KGB's FSB's Trump Gambit?


The SJWs Hate These Cans!

Steve Martin's heartfelt tweet about the death of Carrie Fisher led to such a social justice warrior hatefest against him that he pulled the tweet down.

Clearly, the SJW's hate these tweets.

For a certain type of bully, you can never express an opinion or feeling in exactly the correct way.

Tip to Instapundit.

The Plasma Donation Center Bowl Game

God God, stop the college football bowl game proliferation before it is too late!

College football bowl season is upon us. Michigan lost a close one to Florida State that was a nail biter that began with despair yet gathered traction as Michigan clawed back and took the lead late in the game--for a bit. So I may be down on the whole thing, but haven't we gotten way too carried away with bowl game proliferation?

I joked with my son, Mister, that given that there are more bowl games than willing sponsors, could we see the Plasma Donation Center Bowl Game soon?

Despite being a college football fanatic who has a seemingly endless appetite for watching teams he normally cares nothing about if they appear in a bowl game, he laughed.

Ah youth and the knowledge that he isn't paying for his college. Smart lad.

But then I noticed that there is a Motel 6 Bowl. As I commented to me son, that's the motel where people who sell their plasma at plasma donation centers stay.

We're one step away.

UPDATE: I wouldn't have thought that liberals ruined bowl games, but I guess I'll keep an open mind about the whole thing. There are too many, regardless of why. And yeah, I'd go back to the polls to determine the national champion.

The polls gave us the best of both worlds, an AP poll of select sports writers for the national vote; and a coaches poll for the electoral college winner. Or maybe reverse that. Either way, it continued the arguments.

Which isn't a horrible thing given that this is a college sport issue, eh?

The Critics Have Shined Their Rays of Adulation

I'm blushing at this evaluation of my humble site:

We found that Thedignifiedrant.blogspot is safe for children and does not look fraudulent. We would describe it as legit.

Legitasivity is a wonderful thing!

The KISS Principle

Via Instapundit, "People still trying to figure out why Talking Points Memo editor tweeted link to lesbian porn."

I'm going to step out on a ledge here and guess because it is lesbian porn.

Look Out for the Nutjobs

There are heavy security measures at Time Square in New York City today to deter terrorist attacks.

Although I'm not sure whether this is aimed at potential jihadi terrorists or despondent liberal Trump haters still upset that Trump won the election.

Mind you, I still don't like Trump. But I will be eternally grateful that he defeated Hillary Clinton.

And I retain hope that he will be an adequate president, given the people he hires and the constraints on any president that our system provides, as I've mentioned before.

So when is it socially acceptable to start drinking on New Year's Eve, anyway?


I know I've blown my monthly quota of posts by grossly exceeding 100, so screw it. Let me pile on now and have a chance in January of not seeming like a compulsive blogging bot.

Behold Dave Barry's year in review. Just a sample from July:

On the Democratic side, the month gets off to a rocky start when FBI Director James Comey, announcing the results of the bureau’s investigation, reveals that when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, her official emails, some including classified material, were basically as secure from prying eyes as a neon beer sign. Nevertheless, Comey says he is recommending that no criminal charges be brought against Clinton, because, quote, “I don’t want to die.”

Tip to Mad Minerva, who has sadly dropped from the radar screens for being an interesting window on Taiwan affairs.

But hey, she (assuming that impression is accurate!) may have a life.

Perhaps This is a Sign We Should Have a Sea Power Debate

So we have a gap in big deck carrier deployments:

For the next week, not only will there be no U.S. Navy aircraft carrier in the Middle East, but there will be no American aircraft carriers deployed at sea anywhere else in the world, despite a host of worldwide threats facing the United States.

I know as a conservative I should be upset at this sign of President Obama's lack of seriousness on defense matters.

But I'm not, even though I agree he is not serious on defense matters.

As our defense establishment notes:

In the meantime, the Navy tells Fox News the U.S. military has other jets available to make up for the aircraft carrier gap in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. The Navy can also “surge” a carrier now in port to deploy if necessary. But the absence of a deployed U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, long seen as a symbol of American power projection, is noteworthy. It is believed to be the first time since World War II that at least one U.S. aircraft carrier has not been deployed.

I'll go one step further. Even if we don't have a carrier up and running with maintenance scheduling, surely we have a carrier air wing capable of fighting. Given that in the Middle East in particular we have allies with airfields we can use, why not deploy a carrier air wing or elements of one to land bases in the region?

If the Air Force can't handle the job, that is. Which they can.

Really, land-based naval air power is not some mysterious new concept.

And I'm just not upset that this gap is new thing. It's been a while since we had a battleship at sea. Or a wooden-hulled ship of the line. As time goes on, the primary weapon fades in importance.

As I've long noted, aircraft carriers--while very useful in power projection roles against enemies without navies or air forces--are too much firepower in one basket for my tastes in a sea control mission to battle for control of the seas against enemies with potent navies and air forces.

So maybe we need to have a sea power debate before we aim for a 350-ship Navy under the Trump administration.

UPDATE: Related. I don't think it is safe to assume that our enemies can't be as skillful as our allies.

Hold Your Applause for Putin

President Obama has retaliated against Russia for becoming an actor in our election campaign. I'm not so sure we should applaud Russia's "restraint" as much as we should be wary.

I'm willing to wait and see if President Trump will "speak nicely but carry a big stick" in regard to Russia, so I won't react so early on to President-elect Trump's praise of Putin in the election imbroglio:

Moscow is hoping Donald Trump will reconsider the sanctions the U.S. is levying in response to its finding of election hacking, a wait-and-see strategy bolstered by the American president-elect's own approving words for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin has essentially put relations with the U.S. on hold until Trump replaces President Barack Obama on Jan. 20. Though his foreign minister encouraged him to slap back at Washington for the sanctions imposed by Obama, Putin decided that Russia wouldn't immediately retaliate.

"Great move on delay (by V. Putin)," Trump wrote Friday on Twitter. "I always knew he was very smart!"

One, there was no "hacking" of our election. The election computers across the country seem to have been just fine. Russia tried to hurt Hillary Clinton, no doubt. But I think the most likely explanation is that Russia wanted a damaged Hillary Clinton as president (remember her private poorly secured server while she was Secretary of State? Yeah, Russia no doubt has those deleted "personal" emails that Clinton did not turn over to American officials after hiding and stalling compliance after her illegal action) rather than a President Trump. The Russians could read our polls as well as we could. Nor do I think the Russians are so ham-fisted as to be so obvious in doing things to help Trump if they really wanted Trump in office.

Not that we should ignore Russian interference. We should resist any such interference. Especially from the Russians, who are--to use a technical term--bastards with a heaping dollop of paranoia to make them oh so pleasant.

Two, Russia probably is smart to hold back to see what Trump will do. Although I reject the notion that Russia would be "retaliating" given that our action was the retaliation for Russia's actions.

I personally hope that the weight of evidence about what Russia is doing across a whole range of actions hostile to America will prevent Putin ego stroking by Trump from keeping us from stopping Russia.

But what I really get annoyed about is the notion that Russia is being all warm and cuddly to reject efforts to expel American diplomats from Russia in response.

Really, the way Russia abuses our diplomats in their low-level war on our State Department, I assume Russia just wants to keep more targets conveniently nearby (quoting the Washington Post):

Russian intelligence and security services have been waging a campaign of harassment and intimidation against U.S. diplomats, embassy staff and their families in Moscow and several other European capitals that has rattled ambassadors and prompted Secretary of State John F. Kerry to ask Vladimir Putin to put a stop to it. ...

There was a debate inside the Obama administration about how to respond, and ultimately President Obama made the decision not to respond with similar measures against Russian diplomats, [former ambassador to Russia Michael] McFaul said.

Keep in mind that acting against Russian diplomats now is in retaliation not for the outrageous pattern of attacks on our diplomats, but done after the Russians are alleged to have hurt Hillary Clinton and President Obama's legacy.

And again, I think Russia went after Hillary--but it was to hurt Hillary, and there is no evidence that Russia's efforts actually affected the vote.

But the newly forged Cold War Warrior Democrats seem to believe Russia threw the election to Trump, so the president's newly gung ho attitude to go toe-to-toe with the Russkies has nothing to do with protecting our diplomats who have suffered in the service of our country.

Check the Expiration Date of This Special Relationship

This is an interesting overview of Russian-Chinese cooperation. Do the "headwinds" that interfere with cooperation reach gale force in 2021?

China’s and Russia’s strategies for international expansion, in each of their respective areas of policy specialization, are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Arguably, both countries’ intensified involvement on the world stage is not only complementary but to a growing extent directly and indirectly supportive of each other’s increasingly commonly-defined interests.

The growing international significance of China and Russia’s key political and economic partnership must be considered a major factor in global policymaking going forward.

I thought much of the post-Crimea deals were more impressive on paper than in reality, but perhaps that is old information.

My worry is that China and Russia have a deal, where China bolsters Russia in the face of Western condemnation of the takeover of Ukraine's Crimea and parts of the Donbas; in exchange for future Russian support to bolster China in the face of opposition to a Chinese takeover of Taiwan (or maybe some lesser objective in the South China Sea or East China Sea).

There are potential "headwinds":

Possibly the most serious undermining of the China-Russia relationship could come from its very success. As both countries integrate more quickly and as migration flows expand, there is likely to be mounting concern in Russia of a “Chinese takeover” of the sparsely-populated Russian Far East and other regions of Siberia.

Did Russia and China really settle all outstanding border issues in 2005, as the article states, given the above "headwind?"

Is Russia really interested in bolstering China too much given the fear of a "Chinese takeover" that simmers in the background?

Because my understanding is that a 2001 agreement merely suspended border issues for the length of that treaty--20 years.

Huh. I recently looked at the treaty on a Chinese foreign ministry site ( that the Wikipedia article cited, but the link is now dead and searching for the treaty on the Chinese foreign ministry got me nothing. (Really nothing if my Windows Defender scan after visiting that site is to be trusted.)

Ah, only the address changed. So I can suspend my naturally suspicious mind:

The contracting parties point out with satisfaction that each has no territorial claim on the other and both are resolved to make active efforts in building the border between the two countries into one where ever-lasting peace and friendship prevail. The contracting parties will adhere to the principles of non-encroachment upon territories and national boundaries as stipulated in international laws and strictly observe the national boundary between the two countries.

The contracting parties shall continue to hold talks on the pending boundary alignment of the sectors which China and Russia have not yet arrived at an agreement through consultations. Prior to the settlement of these issues, the two sides will maintain the status quo in such boundary sectors.

That sounds all nice. But:

The term of validity of the present treaty is twenty years. If neither side of the contracting parties notify the other in writing of its desire to terminate the treaty one year before the treaty expires, the treaty shall automatically be extended for another five years and shall thereafter be continued in force in accordance with this provision.

So does that nice sounding satisfaction with the border go away with the end of the term of validity? That's what I assume.

There may be no outstanding border issues right now, but what about when the 2001 treaty expires and those border claims are no longer suspended?

Doesn't the mere fact of a 2005 agreement that adjusts the border admit that there are indeed territorial claims notwithstanding the 20-year suspension?

And as for my worries regarding Chinese territorial ambitions, note this provision of the 2001 treaty:

The Chinese side supports the Russian side in its policies on the issue of defending the national unity and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.

The Russian side supports the Chinese side in its policies on the issue of defending the national unity and territorial integrity of the People's Republic of China.

China has an expansive and ever-expanding definition of what their territorial integrity includes.

What happens when China insists that large chunks of Russia's Far East taken from China are part of China's national unity and territorial integrity?

I mean, what happens other than Russia regretting their pointless stoking of tensions with NATO that had been content to leave Russia alone.

Make It So

I am open to the argument that the Littoral Combat Ship isn't as awful as problems would indicate and that the ship class will work.

As I've written, this is a new design and ship philosophy (with changeable mission modules capable of putting different capabilities on the hull). So there will be a learning curve with teething problems to resolve that mature designs don't have.

My main issue with the ship class--once the learning curve is traversed and the ship is working--is the idea that the ship should operate in littoral waters closer to shore in "green" or even "brown" waters.

Given the ship's inability to take a significant hit and keep going, intending to put the ship into coastal waters where any shore-based system can take shots at the ship is mind boggling.

We need a cheaper ship to get numbers in the fleet to supplement the higher end ships that dominate our smaller Navy, now. The LCS may be able to do that job.

But for God's sake, keep the ship in the deep "blue" waters in wartime.

If you want to get close to an enemy shore, send in the patrol boats, drones, and helicopters.

Friday, December 30, 2016

How Leading from Behind Ends

I've long said that the Syrian Kurds will not be the assault troops for a war against Assad. For all that they oppose Assad, they were never going to bleed to put the Sunni majority in charge of Syria when that majority would be more capable of suppressing Kurds than the Alawite minority fighting to keep Assad in power.

Syria's Kurds would rather have a bloodied Assad content to reign over rather than rule their northern territories:

Syrian Kurdish groups and their allies said on Thursday they approved a blueprint for a system of federal government in northern Syria, reaffirming their plans for autonomy in areas they have controlled during the civil war.

The blueprint amounts to a constitution, known as the social contract, an official told Reuters this week.

It aims to cement the autonomy of areas of northern Syria where Kurdish groups have already carved out self-governing regions since the start of the war in 2011, though Kurdish leaders say an independent state is not the goal.

This is the problem with leading from behind. Allies we back--without sharing the risks--are willing to take our support to gain their objectives rather than die for our objectives.

I was willing to consider a federal Syria that saved--but weakened--Assad in the short run if other objectives were so important that they surpassed the removal of Assad. But I wanted a follow-up effort to defeat Assad.

Have no doubt that the Russian-Iranian-Turkish proposal for a federal Syria is just the first step to a follow-up effort to regain all of Syria for Assad:

Syria would be divided into informal zones of regional power influence and Bashar al-Assad would remain president for at least a few years under an outline deal between Russia, Turkey and Iran, sources say.

Such a deal, which would allow regional autonomy within a federal structure controlled by Assad's Alawite sect, is in its infancy, subject to change and would need the buy-in of Assad and the rebels and, eventually, the Gulf states and the United States, sources familiar with Russia's thinking say.

Yeah, in a few years Assad will become indispensable. There will be no comfy exile in Crimea.

But in the short run, if Russia and Iran have firm control of northwestern Syria, they will be happy to have bases to project power into the eastern Mediterranean Sea and Lebanon, respectively, as I noted right before Russia directly intervened.

And if the new friend of Iran and Russia, Turkey, gets a free hand in northern Syria to take on the Kurds (which helps in the follow-up efforts to defeat Assad opponents), the Turks will be happy.

And remember that through all of this, we weren't even invited to the conference that divided up Syria. Because leading from behind isn't any kind of leading at all.

Red Line Fever

It is amazing that our administration is more resolute about setting red lines for our allies than stopping enemies. And working through others, the Obama administration "stabs in the back from behind," to complement that "leading from behind" theory of foreign policy.

Supporting allies and opposing enemies as a basic diplomatic concept continues to elude our administration as it prepares to exit the stage:

United States Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a speech Wednesday addressing the United States somewhat controversial decision to abstain from a United Nations vote last week that condemned Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. It was considered controversial by critics who felt the U.S. had the obligation to support its ally Israel.

And with Castro dead, Kerry felt free to pick up the mantle of overly long speeches to hear his own voice condemn Israel for not wanting to settle for less than peace with Palestinians who seem more interested in killing Jews than making peace for less than 100% of what they demand publicly (and the destruction of Israel is the real objective of many).

Funny, Arab states seem far more worried about Iran who we have strengthened both economically and militarily--including nuclear potential (and thank you Kerry, for that nuclear nonsense)--than the fate of the uncooperative Palestinians:

Oman, which has traditionally resisted Gulf Arab states' efforts to close ranks against Iran, has joined a Saudi-led coalition of Muslim countries to fight terrorism, Saudi and Gulf sources said on Wednesday.

And many Arabs work with Israel against their common enemy, Iran.

Meanwhile in Syria where last Kerry tried to enforce a red line against Assad:

Turkey and Russia will act as guarantors of a nationwide ceasefire in Syria that is due to go into effect at midnight, Turkey's foreign ministry said on Thursday.

If there is a ceasefire, Assad is sitting in his palace undisturbed. And Turkey, which once issued an ultimatum to Assad to stop killing his people, has joined with Russia to save Assad.

So Turkey has taken a big step to eventually flip to alliance with Russia. I guess we are seeing the impact of Erdogan's purge, which has clearly destroyed the pro-Western elements of the Turkish military which would have been expected to resist such a walk away from NATO and into the arms of Putin and Assad.

Instead of trying to keep Turkey in our camp, or helping our Arab friends and Israel oppose Iran's campaign to dominate the region, or ... do much of anything to advance American interests, really, Kerry set a red line for Israel over the Palestinian issue.

One Way or Another, Hezbollah Could Be at War in 2017

If the Israelis don't think there will be a war with Hezbollah in 2017, it must be because Israel doesn't think the Syrian civil war will end in 2017 with either an Assad or rebel victory. Because if the civil war did end, that's when I'd hit Hezbollah in Lebanon really hard.

Israel doesn't think 2017 will be a year for war with Hezbollah or Hamas:

The Middle East regional chaos has weakened Israel's enemies and created a low probability of war involving the country in 2017, a senior Israeli military officer said on Wednesday.

The official said the army has concluded that neither Hezbollah militants in Lebanon nor Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip are interested in sparking a new conflict with Israel.

As long as Hezbollah is taking casualties in a fight in Syria, why not let a circular firing squad rage on its own?

But if the civil war in Syria starts to wrap up, that's when Israel should hit Hezbollah hard.

If Hezbollah and Hamas aren't interested in starting a new conflict now, that only means they would prefer to wait for a better time. Should Israel really cooperate with their timetables?

And the Trump administration might be more eager to demonstrate support for Israel to demonstrate a contrast to the Obama administration's simmering hostility to Israel.

America Changed and Our Enemies Got Hope

Good grief, the season of peace on Earth and good will toward men is pretty busy with conflict this year. I guess the soothing balms of hope and change really don't work.

Relations with Russia--which Secretary of State Clinton "reset" and President Obama pledged "flexibility" in giving Russia concessions and Secretary of State Kerry earned Russian approval for setting a new "tone"--have gotten so bad that President Obama answered that call from the 1980s and gave us our Cold War foreign policy back:

The U.S. government released the proof that Russia was behind the hacking of networks of the Democratic Party in 2016 and the subsequent release of documents showing bad behavior by Democrat politicians and party officials. The U.S. proof consisted of a 13 page NCCIC document that did not deliver. There was a summary and disclaimer page that contained assertions but no proof of Russian involvement. This was followed by nine pages of useful but standard advice on how to protect yourself from the kind of hack (spearfishing) that caused most of the damage. There was a page diagraming the Russian groups believed responsible but not with any evidence that would stand up in court. Finally there were two pages of diagrams and a some computer code showing how the attack was carried but again, no evidence of who did it much less any links to Russia. Worse, the report makes no mention of Wikileaks, which admitted releasing the documents in question and denying that Russia was the source. There was nothing like what recently leaked NSA documents presented. These described American hacks used against foreign governments and Americans at home. No matter, the outgoing U.S. government had promised retaliation and this was it.

The Russians say they won't retaliate for now. Which is rich considering we are retaliating for what Russia did.

I have little doubt that the Russians are involved. This is what they do. Heck, the Russians sided with the reelection of President Obama over Mitt Romney in 2012. Really, they opposed Romney. Granted, as far as we know the Russians didn't do any more than express their opinion, so I'm not saying that it is the same thing. But Democrats did not get worked up, did they?

Even if Russian involvement in 2016 was winks and nods level that let the friendly hackers know that Russian agents would not be coming after them, this is Russia at work.

But note the speed of the so-called investigation and action to expel Russian diplomats. And new sanctions are involved. The speed of action is noteworthy, is it not?

And the fact that this is the Russian action that got our president angry.

Mind you, I'm fine with penalizing the Russians for this action. For this and many other hostile actions they deserve our efforts to send more body bags back to Russia from Ukraine and Syria.

But the sudden steely resolve of Democrats, of all people, to face down the Russian threat is hard to take without comment on what finally got the Democrats angry with Russia--standing (inadvertently, I believe) in the path of Hillary's coronation.

China Online

For all the attention on Russian hacking, let's not forget that China is a major factor in attacking our systems online:

The FBI is investigating how hackers infiltrated computers at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for several years beginning in 2010 in a breach senior FDIC officials believe was sponsored by China's military, people with knowledge of the matter said. ...

The FDIC is one of three federal agencies that regulate commercial banks in the United States. It oversees confidential plans for how big banks would handle bankruptcy and has access to records on millions of individual American deposits.

As a rule, we should be better at stopping intruders, identifying and tracking the attackers, and responding without exposing our best cyber-weapons withheld in case of all-out war.

You'd think we have enough lawyers to tie up such hacking foes in lawfare counter-attacks.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

What Will the Cost of Restoring Our Reputation Be?

Early in the Obama era, I worried that our retreats under the president would be mistaken for peace as our enemies geared up to pursue into the vacuum and make gains at our expense. It is even worse than I thought. I fear the price of restoring our reputation.

As I wrote in 2009, when you retreat you momentarily leave your enemy behind. It is easy to mistake that quiet for "peace"--until the enemy catches up:

Understand that when you retreat, it takes a while for an enemy to pursue you and fill the vacuum. And that time it takes for the enemy to re-engage will surely be much quieter.

And if you want to, you can argue that the period of quiet while the enemy approaches is actually "peace." It isn't peace, but you can pretend for a while that it is so you can focus on domestic issues.

Note the "good luck" that an author I quote says we've had with Russia, China, and Iran, as the president's timidity avoided conflict with them.

And our retreat from Russia, China, Iran (and jihadis) as the Obama administration tried to pretend that their are no differences that a little concession here and there can't cure has indeed been met with crises with all of them rather than true peace.

As it turns out, the situation is worse than I thought. It isn't just that our foes think that they can make gains at our expense in the face of feeble resistance.

No, now our foes don't even consider our impact on their advances:

One of President Barack Obama's most important legacies is a sense that the U.S. is no longer the dominant global power: It can be ignored. It's a new reality that became apparent this year as various authoritarian regimes and populist movements have tested it out.

The president likes to remind us that we are still the most powerful country on the planet. He is correct, of course. But influence is the product of physical power times reputation for action. Right now, our still-dominant military power is nullified by a reputation among allies and allies that is so low that weaker foes gain ground in the world, not even thinking America is much of a factor to consider.

Of course, America can regain our influence by regaining our reputation even without more physical power. But I fear that we will need to fight a war to regain that reputation thrown away in a thousand small retreats.

The Mosul Offensive Resumes

With all of the bridges across the Tigris River down (as I note in an update here), Iraqi forces are advancing along three routes against ISIL forces in eastern Mosul. Just what are the troops south of Mosul doing?

The Iraqi offensive has resumed in eastern Mosul:

"At 0700 this morning the three fronts began advancing towards the city centre. The operation is ongoing today and tomorrow and until we liberate the eastern side of the city completely," Lieutenant General Ali Freiji, who was overseeing army operations in the north, told Reuters.

If I was Lord of the Mosul Offensive, this would be the effort to pin the ISIL forces in place in eastern Mosul before launching the main effort into western Mosul from the southwest.

I am not Lord of the Mosul Offensive, of course.

UPDATE: Here's a map of the front as the offensive resumes:

So the Iraqis have a forward salient aimed right at the center of western Mosul, yet the main effort is in the east? I don't think so.

The article also reports this:

“We are facing a very limited resistance compared to the early days of the operation,” [Brig. Gen. Walid Khalifa, deputy commander of the 9th Iraqi Army Division] said. “The enemy is collapsing, and it’s only a matter of days to control the whole eastern part.”

Is resistance light because it is feeble? Is ISIL just sucking the advance into kill zones behind the thin front?

Or did ISIL withdraw forces to the west side of the Tigris River to make a stand in western Mosul? Is that why the last bridge was finally taken out?

Or was the bridge taken out to trap ISIL in the east when the offensive into western Mosul kicks off?

I just don't believe the early message that the eastern offensive is the main effort that will eventually launch a river-crossing operation to enter western Mosul.

UPDATE: Could Iraq have used the 2-week lull to move some of the Counter Terrorism Service units to the south and west?

UPDATE: Resistance in the east is still tough, those Iraqis fighting in the southeast report.  Iraqi forces to the north are active. The southern forces are conspicuously absent in the reporting other than saying they were slow and had "stagnated."

Russia Works the Problems

Russia has seized Crimea and portions of the Donbas from Ukraine. The Russian subliminal war continues to rage, turned up and down in intensity at the discretion of Moscow. How long will Ukraine lean toward the West if the West is content to let this war drag on with Ukraine always on the defensive?

How is it possible that Ukraine under attack by Russia could lose faith in joining the West?

Two years ago, many had hopes for a closer association with Europe, seen then as a beacon of rule of law and better prospects, in contrast to the corruption and proizvol (arbitrariness) of Putin’s Russia. Yet there is now a post-Maidan disenchantment with Europe. Rightly or wrongly, the perception is that key member states have dragged their feet and failed to honour their promises to Ukraine. There is also a logical concern about the rise of anti-migration and Putin-friendly forces on both sides of the Atlantic, and questions about the future of the EU. These add to tensions resulting from war against Russia and its proxies in the East, with its human toll and polarizing political impact.

Oligarch-run media outlets and populist leaders increasingly promote anti-EU messages that would not look out of place in Brexit Britain. And pro EU Maidan actors and government officials, weary after years of hard work in a deteriorated political context, complain that “the EU is not delivering” – critiques amplified by their political opponents.

Well, one problem is defining "the West" as synonymous with the European Union proto-empire that is anti-Western, in my view. Blaming flagging Ukrainian faith in the West on the EU's failures and problems that Britain is successfully escaping seems wrong-headed to me.

If America and NATO states backed Ukraine more in an effort to wage war on Russia's hand puppet separatists in the Donbas and supported Ukrainian efforts to build up forces to attack Russia's Crimean jewels of bases around Sevastopol, maybe Ukrainians would have more faith in the West.

But Russia did not give up on pulling Ukraine into their orbit despite the initial handicap of invading Ukraine. You have to admire Russian willingness to work a problem no matter how bad it looks.

See Syria for example, where Russia sided with the apparently doomed Assad and now looks to exploit the Aleppo victory by assuring Assad's continued rule.

America, by contrast, always held back from working the Assad problem in a vain search for a "silver bullet" perfect rebel faction.

Russia is willing to start small with imperfect allies and work the problem. Like in Hungary:

That Russia, a nation intensely proud of its huge role in the defeat of Hitler’s Germany in World War II, would want anything to do with marginal, anti-Semitic crackpots who revere Hitler’s wartime allies in Hungary might, at first glance, seem beyond comprehension.

But Andras Racz, a Russia expert at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, said it fit into a scattershot strategy of placing small bets, directly or through proxies, on ready-made fringe groups in an effort to destabilize or simply disorient the European Union.

Talk about an imperfect ally! But that does not deter the Russians. They work the problem.

Good Lord, in a sea of NATO, Russia is still making a play for Serbia, where Russia intervened in 1999 following the NATO air campaign against Serbia over the fate of Kosovo, by donating big-ticket weapons:

The main part of the donation is for six surplus MiG-29 'Fulcrum' fighter aircraft, a long-standing requirement for the Serbian Air Force. Also included in the deal was a donation of 30 T-72 tanks and 30 BRDM-2 armoured reconnaissance vehicles.

And note Libya, as well. The Obama administration twisted an Arab League and UN Security Council mandate to establish a no-fly zone over Libya to protect people from Khadaffi's loyalists--that's why Russia didn't veto the resolution--into a regime change air war.

Russia has responded to the chaos by stepping into that mess to gain influence by offering support to Haftar (a former Khadaffi general who our CIA once had ties to):

Flush with success in supporting his ally in Syria, Vladimir Putin has a new ambition: supporting another one, this time in Libya. The effort is beginning to undermine the UN-backed government there.

Russian President Putin’s government is befriending a powerful military leader, Khalifa Haftar, who now controls more territory than any other faction in the tumultuous, oil-rich North African state. In two visits to Moscow in the past half-year, Haftar met the defense and foreign ministers, plus the national-security chief, to seek support. A top ally also visited last week and Russia is supplying funds and military expertise to Haftar’s base in the east.

I don't understand why we didn't back Haftar (or Hiftar), who Egypt and the UAE have supported, in joining the UN-recognized government rather than stiff-arm him.

The French had linked up with Hiftar, once. What happened? Why is there room for Russia to work the problem?

So now Putin has taken another step toward a stronger presence in the Mediterranean Sea that will add to Russia's gain in Crimea, which allows power projection into the Mediterranean Sea; and Syria, which provides a base in the eastern Mediterranean Sea for Russian ships and planes.

I did mention this Libya potential as part of a Russian Mediterranean gambit.

When enemies don't resist, a small start just means the journey takes longer--not that it is impossible to get there.

So don't assume that Ukraine is forever in the western camp despite the Russian handicap of invading and dismembering Ukraine. Russia, nation of paranoid nutballs though they are, works the problems.

UPDATE: Russia works the problem in Afghanistan, too, with the help of their Iranian friends.

Why we aren't working hard with rebels in Syria and with Ukraine to send Russian troops back home in body bags is beyond me.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Clarity That Would Have Been Useful in 2008

After 8 years of being beaten with a clue bat, Richard Cohen finally gets a clue about America's diminished reputation in the world:

That coolness, that no-drama Obama, cost lives in Syria. Instead of rallying the United States to a worthy cause — intervening to save lives and avoid a refugee crisis that is still destabilizing Europe — he threw in the towel. The banner he flew was one of American diminishment. One could agree. One could not be proud.

Since the end of World War II, American leadership has been essential to maintain world peace. Whether we liked it or not, we were the world’s policeman. There was no other cop on the beat. Now that leadership is gone. So, increasingly, will be peace.
Holy cow, a bit late to the dance, eh Mr. Cohen? Now he notices?! Was he in a coma for the last 7+ years?

But I should be grateful rather than disdainful. It is good to see that the "reality-based community" may be highly resistant to reality--but it is not immune to it finally penetrating their hopey/changy defenses.

Yes, while embracing the judgment of "no-drama Obama," our president was in fact better described by a failure to react to defend our interests. Call it "Drama? No Obama."

Amazingly, President Obama only got upset when his legacy rather than the interests of America were threatened.

I hope President Trump can restore our reputation among our allies and foes.

But I fear that the price of rebuilding our reputation will be a war that breaks out when a foe doesn't believe we will, after years of shrinking from threats, stop them.

Wrong Way Putin Strikes Again

Russia's Putin boasted of Russian military strength and said that Russia was stronger than any potential aggressor (in the West):

Russia's military today can overpower any potential foe but should strengthen its nuclear arsenal, President Vladimir Putin told an annual end-of-year meeting Thursday with defense chiefs.

"We can say with certainty: We are stronger now than any potential aggressor," he told the meeting. "Anyone!"

His comments come at the end of a year when tensions between Russia and the West have remained on edge over the civil war in Syria.

Russia is far weaker than America alone or the West in general. Putin's advantage is that Russia is stronger than those who border on Russia. Most Western strength is far from Russia's borders.

I will dissent from the view expressed that Russia is stronger because he controls the military and can send it into combat without legislative approval.

That doesn't make Russia stronger. It makes Russia capable of acting more quickly.

Russia's lack of legislative backing actually makes Russian commitment of their troops rather fragile. Russia is no longer the nation that can absorb 30 million dead to win a war, as they did in World War II. Russia is highly sensitive to casualties and maintains secrecy over death reports and tries to minimize military body bags coming home with the use of contract soldiers (mercenaries) and reliance on firepower.

And when Putin says he is stronger than any potential aggressor from the West, he is technically absolutely correct because there is no potential aggressor in the West that Russia needs to worry about.

The West is only making small but significant adjustments to defense postures in response to Russian aggression and hostile rhetoric that paints the West as a major threat to Russia--except when Putin wants to boast of his military strength, I guess.

Russia goes on about Western threats while in the east, a potential military threat to Russian territorial integrity, China, grows more powerful.

Russia might want to consider that the treaty that suspended Chinese land claims on large chunks of Russia's Far East that Russia took from China in the 19th century will expire in 2021.

We'll see if that "anyone!" boast survives that year.

Helping Those Who Help Themselves

Why are Europeans worried about Russian aggressiveness?

Because Europeans worry about being targets of Russian aggression. Duh.

Although to be fair, perhaps CNN's usual audience needs this reminder. The article actually does take a nice tour of European countries fearful of Russian aggression.

Although I dispute the argument that part of the worry in Europe stems from Donald Trump's "public admiration" for  Russia's Putin. Well, it might stem from Trump if the Europeans believe reporting like that.

My take is that rather than admiring Putin and his policies, Trump admires Putin's willingness to project an image of strength to pursue Russian interests. That's more of a contrast to President Obama than a love note to Herr Putin.

And perhaps I missed the Obama administration's repudiation of the "reset" initiative under Secretary of State Clinton.

As for Trump's statements about potentially not defending NATO allies who don't pay enough for defense?

Well, I strongly defend the value of NATO so do not want this to be our policy. But we have long cajoled NATO allies to spend more money on defense. We had little effect until Russia started acting all Russia-like, but progress is slow and uneven. The new statements by Trump may just be a more forceful effort to get these allies to spend more.

And in some sense, the threat by Trump is merely a statement of fact. If Russia can quickly overrun a NATO ally because it is so weak, how can NATO mobilize to defend the ally, regardless of what we are willing to do?

Stronger NATO frontline allies can resist longer and compel Russia to visibly mobilize forces prior to an invasion. Both factors buy time for NATO to mobilize and react to deter a Russian attack; and if Russia attacks anyway, to contain the Russian attack before they reach the Suwalki Gap and prepare to counter-attack into the Baltic states and to conquer Russia's Kaliningrad exclave.

As long as Trump's rhetoric doesn't encourage Russia to think America won't resist their aggression and that they could get away with a land grab against a NATO state in an effort to demonstrate NATO's inability to resist Russia, there is value in alarming low-spending allies.

But it is nice to see CNN admitting that European states have reason to fear Russian intentions. I welcome the "reality-based" community to the ranks. Given the evolution in thinking of CNN's audience, this was inevitable.

The Turkey Realignment?

Turkey is working with Russia on a ceasefire for Syria:

Turkey and Russia have reportedly agreed on a draft nationwide ceasefire in Syria, the Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu said Wednesday.

Which serves to save Assad. Which grants Russia and Iran (who are allies at the moment) influence and bases in Syria. Which is bad for a Turkey that opposes historical foes Russia and Iran. Which means Turkey is essentially submitting to Russian power and turning against Europe (and NATO and the EU).

Which potentially secures the Turkish straits for Russian use to project power from their Crimea base complexes into the eastern Mediterranean Sea where Russia has bases.

Let's hope the Spanish, French, Italian, and Greek NATO navies are in decent shape.

Ah, the joys of "tame" Islamist governance that the Obama administration thought Turkey could demonstrate with the right American support.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Blame? Thanks? Whatever

Bill Clinton blames white men and FBI for Hillary's defeat?

Former President Bill Clinton mocked President-elect Donald Trump’s intelligence, said “angry, white men” helped secure his victory and blamed FBI Director James Comey for Hillary Clinton’s November defeat during a spontaneous Q-and-A at a New York bookstore earlier this month.

Oh yeah, Hillary isn't the one who ignored the concerns of the white working class in favor of those who advocate bizarre pronouns; and the FBI forced Hillary to use and then try to hide a leaky personal email system while she was Secretary of State.

But more to the point, what's this "blame" act he is putting on? Did you see him on stage when Hillary lost the election?

Hillary? Stunned. Kaine? Perhaps physically in shock.

Bill? Obviously delighted that he will remain the only president in the Clinton family. Those are happy eyes. That's not a frown but a relieved smile trying not to burst out.

At least this is a retreat from the nonsensical notion that Putin wanted Trump to be president.

Bill Clinton will forever be grateful to white men and the FBI. Now move on and trouble us no longer.

Tub is Great?

The notion popular on the Left--which our president has repeated--that we shouldn't get so worked up over Islamist terrorism because so many more Americans die from bathtub accidents is ludicrous and insulting.

Bathtub accidents are accidents that can happen in any bathtub. Are Democrats really claiming that jihadi terrorism can erupt from any Moslem? Really? It's just a random thing? Any Moslem can be just fine and then they slip and fall into terrorist thinking that ends in death and carnage? Seriously? Because that is what the comparison implies.

We are fully justified in trying to identity, stop, and kill the small minority of Moslems who want to wage a jihad on Infidels (who are anyone, including Moslems, who don't adhere to the jihadi version of Islam). The small minority of bathtubs that end up injuring Americans didn't decide to attack their users.

Nor do we arrest or otherwise retaliate against bathtubs that kill.

We don't do that because bathtub "killers" aren't killing quite literally "dirty" Americans as part of an international Bathtubist movement to convert all bathtubs into believers in the killer tub ideology.

Nor are those in favor of stricter bathtub safety standards considered Tubophobic.

Heck, it is even expected that our government can--and should--ban or recall dangerous designs.

So stop making that really stupid and insulting comparison of bathtubs and Islamist terrorism to justify just accepting and absorbing terrorism deaths without fighting back.

It's tough enough debating the bigger issues when stupidity like that is thrown out on a regular basis.

UPDATE: Huh, killer tubs may have allies from the depths. Tip to the Instapundit Borg.

UPDATE: Funny enough, any problems we have with our shower heads in our tubs come from our own government:

It’s a pretty astonishing fact, if you think about it. The government ruined our showers by truncating our personal rights to have a great shower even when we are willing to pay for one. Sure, you can hack your showerhead but each year this gets more difficult to do. Today it requires drills and hammers, whereas it used to just require a screwdriver.

The same government that tells us that tubs are a bigger threat than terrorists is complicit in making our time in the tub worse than it was.

Oh, but it is all for the glory of conservation, right? About that:

But wait: what about the need to conserve water? Well, the Department of the Interior says that domestic water use, which includes even the water you use on your lawn and flower beds, constitutes a mere 2% of the total, so this unrelenting misery spread by government regulations makes hardly a dent in the whole.

Ah yes, I'm from the government and I'm here to help. I do believe President Reagan said those were the most frightening words ever.

So this post belatedly gets tagged as an annoying thing.

Do read it all. Tip to Instapundit.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Houston, We Have Several Problems

I've long worried about the survival rate of drones against enemies with better air defenses. But I'm rather surprised that our drones can be easily hacked. That's what Ukraine discovered.

Oh good Lord:

Millions of dollars' worth of U.S.-supplied drones that Kiev had hoped would help in its war against Russian-backed separatists have proven ineffective against jamming and hacking, Ukrainian officials say.

The 72 Raven RQ-11B Analog mini-drones were so disappointing following their arrival this summer that Natan Chazin, an advisor to Ukraine's military with deep knowledge of the country's drone program, said if it were up to him, he would return them.

One, how nice that we sent useless weapons to Ukraine in their hour of need. Less than worthless, actually, because they kept Ukrainian troops from using something that can actually fight the Russian hand puppets in the Donbas.

Not that the Ukrainians don't have a problem with their troops being hacked and Russians hacking Ukraine's electrical grid. (Tips for both to Instapundit)

Given that Russia is attacking Ukraine outside of the Donbas front, just why is Ukraine refraining from attacking Russia's Sevastopol base in Crimea? Is Ukraine just allowed to sit and take it?

But I digress.

And two, why didn't we know that the drones are vulnerable to hacks? We've been using them for some time--and the versions we sent were older analog versions. How did we fail to be aware that they are vulnerable to enemy hacking?

Given that the Russian hand puppets are escalating their actions, this is worrisome. See what is happening in the east these days:

Ceasefire monitors from the OSCE security organisation confirmed "heavy fighting" in the Debaltseve-Svitlodarsk area.

On Sunday, their report said, OSCE monitors heard 680 artillery rounds and 20 tank rounds in a six-hour period. There was also a temporary power cut in Svitlodarsk.

Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko, quoted by the news website, said the loss of five soldiers was the heaviest toll in five months of sporadic clashes on the front line.

There is more:

An international monitoring group documented almost 3,000 explosions in the region Sunday — up from 700 on Saturday and 100 on Friday. The majority of Sunday’s detonations were recorded around Svitlodarsk. Despite multiple cease-fire attempts and efforts to remove heavy weapons from the front lines, the day-long bombardment, which included tanks, rocket artillery and howitzers, laid bare the shortcomings of international efforts to quell the conflict.

This is a problem, too. Is escalation against Ukraine a Russian effort to suppress a potential clash between the two Russian hand puppets in the Donbas?

The Kremlin has deliberately obscured the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), in eastern Ukraine, under a fog of confusion. As such, on a single day last week, a Russian analyst argued that the two self-styled republics are about to unite into one entity (Novorossiya), while at the same time a Ukrainian analyst saw signs that the two Moscow-sponsored statelets are almost at the point of declaring war on each other even though their Russian curators are reportedly purging the most radical Russian nationalists in each.

This would explain the killings of some separatist leaders considered too independent-minded by Russia, and whose deaths the Russians blamed on Ukrainian actors.

The Mosul Pause to End

Iraqi forces fighting to take Mosul have paused to refit. The offensive is to begin again within days. But what direction will the new main effort come from?

It has been quiet in Mosul, with Iraqi forces led by the Counter-Terrorism Service on the line in eastern Mosul where ISIL has been pushed part way to the Tigris River to their rear. These CTS forces have been reported as refitting as well as receiving reinforcements from para-military police units.

ISIL does not seem to be doing much during this pause. I certainly haven't seen news of anything significant. Which is good, because it likely means that ISIL is ground down and grateful to have a period not under attack rather than seeing an Iraqi pause as an opportunity to counter-attack.

Okay, as I write that I see that ISIL lost a bunch yesterday in efforts to attack Iraqi forces on the east bank of the Tigris River.

The only big news--until yesterday's events--was that American advisors are now integrated into more Iraqi units where they can provide advice and better fire support.

But now it seems that with refits, reinforcements in the east, and new embeds, the offensive will resume:

"Right now we're staging really for the next phase of the attack as we start the penetration into the interior of east Mosul," Lieutenant Colonel Stuart James, commander of a combat arms battalion assisting Iraqi security forces on the southeastern front, said in a Reuters interview late on Sunday.

"So right now, positioning forces and positioning men and equipment into the interior of east Mosul... it's going to happen in the next several days."

No doubt that the push into eastern Mosul will resume.

The question is whether this is the main effort for what could be the final push; or whether it has been weakening ISIL's best forces by drawing them into a potential kill sack across the river and distracting ISIL away (and yesterday's losses back that) from a main effort into western Mosul from the southwest, which could include an air assault into Al-Idara Al-Mahalia Stadium fairly close to the last bridge over the Tigris River, which divides Mosul, still functioning.

While the article has a picture of an American artillery piece located east of Mosul, I still suspect that most of our supporting arms are south of Mosul where we had established with great fanfare many months ago a major logistics hub complete with American artillery units that we haven't heard from since then.

The forces in eastern Mosul would be more designed to pin the ISIL forces on the east bank in place while the big effort in the west kicks off, and to be ready to pursue them and kill them (with embedded Americans now) if the ISIL forces try to break contact and escape across the river to run or join the battle on the west bank of the river.

And what of this story about the British planning in the spring to focus their air effort on Raqqa in Syria? Does this news deflect from a near-term effort over Mosul to support Iraqi troops that Britain has trained?

Forgive me. I'm looking for dots to connect to reinforce a picture of what I'd do if Lord of the Offensive. Which I'm not, obviously.

We shall see. I've been waiting for this new phase for a while now. I freely admit it is based on few details based on what I'd do if I was Lord of the Offensive, including interpreting news allowed out in light of a deception operation to support an assault from the southwest.

UPDATE: On Wednesday I read that the last bridge over the Tigris River in Mosul has had the central part dropped

So ISIL forces that have rushed to the main front to face the Counter-Terrorism Service offensive can neither be reinforced nor sent back to the west bank in any condition to rapidly join the fight should the Iraqis strike western Mosul from the southwest.

Does this invalidate the purpose of an air assault into the Al-Idara Al-Mahalia Stadium in western Mosul? I speculated that this would be part of an operation to seize western Mosul by isolating the ISIL forces in eastern Mosul.

I do wonder how quickly Iraqi engineers could span the gaps in the bridges and put them back in service. During the Iran-Iraq War, Iraqi engineers were quite competent.

Dam and Damner

Strategypage writes that the Taliban didn't achieve much in 2016 despite all the loud noises and whatnot:

The Taliban was very active in 2016 as their drug gang patrons demanded greater efforts to protect core areas used to produce and export the opium and heroin that pays for all this mayhem. While there was a lot more Taliban violence (and drug gang bribery) this year at the end of 2016 the government still controls two-thirds of the population and the Taliban/drug gangs less than ten percent. Despite the small gains the drug gangs are largely satisfied because nearly all the gains have been in areas they value most.

Read it all.

I hope the situation is that bad for the Taliban and that the pro-government people see that, because I was getting a very bad feel for the war after the 2016 campaign.

I had no doubt that the Taliban suffered heavily in the campaign year, but I remained worried that the government forces were under so much pressure that we risked catastrophic failure somewhere if the government did not seize the initiative and go after the Taliban in their territory.

The Taliban are quiet in the winter. So should I draw hope from Strategypage's assessment and the lull or should I worry about what happened last year and what might happen this spring if we don't use the winter to get ready to go after the enemy in the spring?

On another aspect of the counter-insurgency, this article discusses the advantages that working dams give the government in Afghanistan. So we've got that going for us.

All I can add to the dam issue is that I've worried that the only really effective ISIL response to the Iraqi government offensive on Mosul is to attack a major dam upriver from Baghdad that could require every soldier in uniform to cope with in disaster response mode.

Anyway, perhaps my questions and worries regarding the Afghanistan campaign will be answered in the spring.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Baby It's Cold Outside

Aside from what I'd expect to be a general rise in global temperatures since 1850 when the Little Ice Age is deemed to have ended, and given that the small human portion of greenhouse gasses began to affect the climate after 1950, the fluctuations we've seen since 1950 are especially noteworthy for showing that human impact on the climate is not as decisive as global warmers claim.

This is fun:

For example, temperatures dropped steadily from the late 1940s to the late 1970s. The popular press was even talking about a coming ice age. Ice ages have cyclically occurred roughly every 10,000 years, with a new one actually due around now.

In the late 1970s, the natural cycles turned warm and temperatures rose until the late 1990s, a trend that political and economic interests have tried to milk mercilessly to their advantage. The incorruptible satellite measured global atmospheric temperatures show less warming during this period than the heavily manipulated land surface temperatures.

If the science discussed in that article is correct, we can expect a couple more decades of cooling.

There are natural forces that change our climate which overwhelm human activity. So sure, when natural factors--like the long-term retreat from the Little Ice Age and the periodic changes in ocean effects on climate--warm the climate, human addition of CO2 to the atmosphere adds to the warming.

But when natural forces cool the Earth, human factors are negated. If not, we wouldn't see these fluctuations since the late 1940s, eh? It would all be warming with perhaps just variations in the speed of warming.

We are in an ocean cooling trend--and reduced sunspot phase--that has nullified the warming due to the exit from the Little Ice Age and significant human factors new since 1950.

This effect of numerous factors is separate from the question of whether warming is good or bad for life on Earth, on balance.

And that question is separate from whether the left-wing government power grab solutions that the global warming Left claims must be our response to warming is the smart way to go, if global warming will take place to a degree that will actually harm people.

I am a climate "denier" because while I don't deny that CO2 warms the atmosphere, that people put CO2 into the atmosphere, and that this addition has some impact on warming the atmosphere; I don't think that the science has proven that human action is decisive compared to all the natural factors that warm the atmosphere, I don't think we have a handle on how all the natural factors affect the climate one way or the other, I don't think the science has determined that warming is absolutely bad and at what level it can actually harm life on our planet, and I sure as Hell don't think that the left-wing policies that kill economic growth and expand government and international powers over our lives are the proper answer to any problems identified.

Tip to Instapundit.

A Christmas Day Accident?

A Russian military flight--a Tu-154--mostly carrying members of the Red Army Choir went down over the Black Sea, with the loss of all lives:

A Russian military plane carrying 92 people, including dozens of Red Army Choir singers, dancers and orchestra members, crashed into the Black Sea on its way to Syria on Sunday, killing everyone on board, Russian authorities said.

The Russians say it was due to a technical malfunction or pilot error rather than a terror attack.

That seems a fast judgment. On Christmas day, no less.

Given that the plane had just refueled in Sochi, which the Russians went to great efforts for the 2014 Winter Olympics to secure from Islamist terror threats present in the region, I wouldn't be too shocked if security had gotten lax since that large security operation.

UPDATE: I don't think Russia is immune to this type of threat:

Federal authorities warned law enforcement agencies across the nation Friday that Islamic State sympathizers are continuing to call for attacks on churches and other holiday gathering sites.

The warning was issued after a publicly available list of U.S. churches was posted on a militants' social media site.

There was the Berlin, Germany, terror attack at a Christmas market and a Christmas Day plot interrupted in Melbourne, Australia, recall.

Accidents do happen, of course.

UPDATE: Let's not be hasty on that malfunction or pilot cause:

Earlier, a Russian official had downplayed any suggestion of a terror attack. But on Sunday afternoon, after being asked if investigators are looking into a possible terror attack, minister Maxim Sokolov said an "entire spectrum" of possible reasons is being considered.

An accident is only one portion of the spectrum of causes.

UPDATE: The line seems to be there are no indications to point to terrorism.

Life is Good, Don't Forget That

Merry Christmas!

And I say this to those of any Christian denomination of any level of faith intensity, and to those who are Jewish, Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist, pagan, atheist, animist, or whatever your belief system is, with equal warmth and best wishes in the spirit of this season.*

Life is good. This season, which begins at Thanksgiving to formally give thanks and ends with New Years Day when we look to a new year with hope and optimism, is my favorite time of year--when you correct for weather factors, naturally. I hate winter weather.

When I was a scruffy little kid running around the streets of Detroit--in a day when running around until the street lights went on while carrying a small knife, firecrackers, and matches as your basic load as a kid without risking being put on a no-fly list--I never could have imagined that my life would be as good and rewarding as it has become. I could never have followed my path in another country, with the exception of Canada, I imagine. But even then it would require the existence of America to make that possible.

May my children, Mister and Lamb, cherish their opportunities, and may they achieve dreams beyond their capacity to picture. The spirit of the season and the greatness of our nation (which I have never judged based on who holds the presidency)  make me optimistic that the American dream is alive and well, and that my children will be able to live in awe of what they are free to achieve and experience.

Why 95% of Americans aren't grateful to have been born in America and able to live here to make the best of what they have available is beyond me.

*Remember, accepting my greeting and sentiment in no way reflects a conversion attempt or ceremony that obligates you to adopt my religious views.

The Charge of the Flight Brigade

If I was Lord of China's military and was trying to figure out what to do with the single carrier that China has now, I'd sacrifice it to take Taiwan.

The Chinese are setting sail into the "western Pacific" with their carrier to train:

China's first aircraft carrier has set off for the Western Pacific for an open-sea training exercise, the Defense Ministry said. ...

The statement said a navy formation including the Liaoning set off Saturday for training in the Western Pacific, without elaborating on the location, as part of an annual training plan.

Operating in the western Pacific between the American fleet and Taiwan during a Chinese invasion would slow down our response time to reach Taiwan.

I think that would be a worthwhile sacrifice to achieve that objective:

To win a war to buttress their territorial interests, China does not need to defeat our military. The Chinese just need to delay our military's intervention while they achieve their territorial objective.

So if China wants to pick up territory in the East China Sea, the South China Sea, or the big prize at the top of China's growing list of core interests--Taiwan--the Chinese just have to delay our military response long enough to achieve their military goals.

So if I was thinking of what to do with my shiny new carriers, I'd put them east of my objective to slow down an American charge west to stop the real Chinese military mission of conquest. ...

And the presence of Chinese carriers sailing east of Taiwan could be an irresistible lure for our Navy, whose modern legacy is built on the carrier clashes of the Pacific in World War II. We could easily take our eye off the ball of preventing China from conquering Taiwan while we took the time to relive the glory days of 1942-1945 and smash China's carriers.

That's what I'd do with a single carrier. Or even two. I wouldn't hope to beat the more numerous and more proficient American naval aviation.

But I would hope to distract the Americans by giving up my carriers if it slowed down any American (and Japanese) effort to stop the Chinese invasion fleet and aerial armada from landing an army on Taiwan.

Saturday, December 24, 2016


Russia will rebuild older T-80 main battle tanks in storage rather than build the high tech T-14 Armata as their army's new standard tank:

As exciting as T-14 looks on paper and the few parades a T-14 prototype appeared in, prudence prevailed. The T-14 is a new design which has not been in action and current estimates put the cost per tank at $4 million. Upgrading a T-80U to something similar (in performance) to the T-90 costs less than a million dollars per tank. In the end it’s what you can afford, and rely on, that gets built. While the T-80 entered service in the late 1970s it turned out to be an effective vehicle to upgrade. No one is building anything like the T-14 so for the money an upgraded T-80 is competitive.

When the T-14 was unveiled with Russian glee and something akin to panic in the West, I doubted that the Russians could afford it.

And I noted reports that the T-80 would be upgraded (buried in that Weekend Data Dump, I'm afraid).

Still, it is interesting that talk of the extinction of heavy tanks has once again disappeared as major powers look for new heavy tanks.

Weekend Data Dump

Russian special forces were key to the Assad Aleppo victory, it seems. Hezbollah sent in their special force, too, recall. Also, more on Russian mercenaries in Syria, who seem to be more like seconded troops to technically minimize Russian deaths in the wars.

I know it isn't original to me,  but I've long thought that the intensity of the battles to control Washington, D.C.--and the apparent threat to the mental health of those on the left when they fail in that contest--argues for the federal government being too damned big. And Republicans, rather than simply battling harder to control an ever-more powerful federal government, should use their time in control to pare down the power and scope of federal authority to allow individuals and the states to be more powerful. I'd much rather have divisive battles for control of Iowa and Florida than continued battles of the intensity we've had the last quarter century at the federal level continue, which makes us weaker on the world stage and invites foreign intervention in our affairs--whether Russian hacking or British calls to Ohio voters to urge them to vote Democratic. Lord, I'm old enough to remember when the cry of "don't make a federal case out this!" assumed that the federal government only got involved in the biggest of issues. Since when is bathroom policing (and that's just one example of expansive federal interest these days) a big issue?

Speaking of a Third World Hell Hole. Pity the doddering fool Mugabe isn't demoted to minority leader after all these years in power. He may not be fully evil, but he surely makes a case for being in the Axis of El Vil.

I have to quibble with this article that says that the battle for Mosul is leaving a legacy of environmental damage. No, the jihadis are doing that damage in an effort that has no effect on the course of the battle: "Iraqis have already paid the initial price from burning oil wells and a sulphur factory that IS set alight south of Mosul, Iraq's last jihadist-held city which is the target of a major military operation launched two months ago. [new paragraph] The fires, combined with water pollution and the potentially toxic remains of destroyed buildings, military equipment and munitions, will also present longer-term threats to people in areas around and inside Mosul." That's way different than blaming the government attempt to liberate the city for the damage.

The Chinese quickly agreed to return the Navy drone they seized in the South China Sea where it was mapping the waters of the region in a lawful manner. So it was a shot across the bow. Strategypage has more on the incident and the drone mission.

Remember that Clinton's popular vote margin of 2.8 million over Trump came exclusively from the  4.3 million vote edge in California. California is the near-one-party state where Republicans had no US senators to vote for in a race between two Democrats, no US representatives to vote for in 9 districts, no state legislators to vote for in many districts, and an awareness by Republicans that there was no way their vote could possibly matter in a winner-take-all state election for president. If these eligible but absent voters weren't Republicans, our media would be talking about voter suppression. One reason for the electoral college was to force a nationwide election and not let a candidate rely on a single region. The system worked.

Is Shia (and Persian) Iran winning their battle with the Sunni Arabs on the fronts of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen? In Lebanon, that's been a static division with Hezbollah--admittedly the most powerful single faction--bloodied by war in Syria and long balanced by Israel and other Lebanese factions. In Syria, Iran is winning locally but is far from winning the war given the heavy casualties and time it has taken to achieve what limited gains they've made. In Iraq, Iran's influence is higher but at least America is a player again after our 2012-2014 hiatus, and we plan to stay after ISIL is defeated--so that is reversible given hostility to Iranian domination in Iraq. And in Yemen, the Shias were denied victory and pushed back, although it is stalemated now--indeed, this Strategypage post fits my view more. I just don't see Iran on a victory lap as opposed to being stretched on many fronts that we can exploit if we fight back rather than believe Iran is our soon-to-be bestest buddy.

President Obama is right about the danger in our world of being so politically divided here at home. But like he is in so much else, this grain of truth is accompanied by an absolute failure to draw accurate conclusions. Isn't it bizarre that President Obama said that Republicans--who accepted his two elections without the hysteria that Democrats are displaying since the election to nullify the legitimacy if not the fact of the election of Trump--are uniquely endangering our nation with partisanship?

Let's review the Budapest Memorandum given that there are some even in America who still think Russia was justified in invading Ukraine because former Soviet colonies were eager to join NATO to get protection from post-Soviet Russia. As Strategypage notes, "This expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe annoyed Russia because they could not accept the fact that these new NATO members were seeking protection from future Russian aggression. Russians see themselves as benefactors to their neighbors, while the neighbors see Russia as a cruel bully. Russians have a hard time dealing with how their neighbors really feel." In the end, Russia's invasion is a killer for efforts at nuclear non-proliferation when you consider that Ukraine gave up their sizable nuclear arsenal in exchange for a Russian pledge not to invade them.

Let's also review the American effort to deny Russia a victory in Georgia when Russia invaded Georgia. For a bonus fact for those who believe Bush 43 failed to react, remember that at the end of the war Russia had no more territory than they held before the war--the occupied Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

You know,  I really don't understand why Iran has any success in recruiting a Shia foreign legion of Iraqi Shias to fight for Assad when Assad funneled Sunni jihadis into Iraq both before and after the Iraq War where they slaughtered--and continue to slaughter--Iraqi Shias. Why we can't exploit Iran's intent to fight to the last Arab in our information war efforts is beyond me.

I've long been worried about the survivability of our big carriers in the modern threat environment. While very useful in power projection missions against small states without much anti-ship capability, in a sea control mission against real powers, how is their cost worth the risk? I took heart in the fact that Harpoon cruise missiles throughout the fleet provided a back-up anti-ship capacity apart from the carrier air wing. After we won the Cold War, that missile capacity faded. Thank God the Pentagon is working hard to spread anti-ship missiles throughout the fleet and Air Force again.

I've read some Trump supporters vehemently deny that Russia hacked Democratic emails. While I think this is consistent with their practices, I admit it is possible it was not Russia. Unlikely--but possible. Is this a slip of the tongue revealing the truth (via Instapundit)? Maybe. Maybe not. And it could easily be technically not "Russia" because the Russian government commonly uses non-state hacker entities to do their dirty work. And if Brazille's slip of the tongue is real, it makes it shameful that Democrats are whipping up anti-Russian sentiment over a falsehood. But like I have said, I think it likely Russia did it; and I find it bizarre that Democrats are suddenly born again Cold Warriors.

I haven't  written about mass atrocities during the fall of eastern Aleppo because  I haven't heard of any. So while this story isn't a rebuke to anything I've written, it is a good reminder that reports from rebel-held Aleppo were eventually tainted by jihadi power. Assad is evil. He is not responsible for all evil in Syria. Tip to the Instapundit Borg.

It cracks me up that Democrats claiming released Democratic emails unfairly affected the election refuse to say whether the emails released are false. I listened to one Democratic Party official say that they've seen no American government report on the accuracy. Huh? Can't the Democrats who (allegedly?) wrote those emails say whether they are accurate? Mind you, if--as I assume for now--the Russians were behind the theft, I suspect they would have mixed in false and altered emails in with the vast majority of true emails. The problem for Democrats is that if they haul out proof that some individual email is totally made up, they admit they can review all of the emails and say which ones are absolutely accurate.

Oh good grief: President Obama didn't fail America--Americans failed America (and our president?) I don't think that term "fake news" means what they think it means.

I  do not find this type of holiday "fun" one bit amusing given that the potential (and authority) to shoot the target of the "fun" is ever present in the encounter.

It is interesting that the Iraqi forces leading the assault into eastern Mosul heavily use snipers to fight ISIL. It is interesting that when American forces fought heavily in Iraq, you could tell the difference by noting who was firing single shots and who was praying and spraying on full auto. The latter would be the (dead and defeated) enemy. Eventually American troops designated a sizable number of infantry in combat as snipers. (I think 10%?? Going by memory. I probably have an old post on it if I really need to verify that memory.) Now Iraqi forces follow our lead. Mind you, these are the Counter-Terrorism Service forces who are the best. It will be interesting to see if this focus on accurate shooting is evident in other non-militia Iraqi forces that are in the offensive. Also interesting is that ISIL has their own cadre of snipers (some from Chechnya likely trained by Russia).

The quick use of the accusation of "fascism" by America's left continues a tradition begun by Stalinist Communists who termed any opposition to them as "fascist." But really, people can disagree with you without being motivated by fascism--or any other "Ism" in that basket of deplorable views so popular with Democrats these days. I know this is difficult for many on the left to to appreciate. Which is odd given their supposed embrace of nuance. Sorry, but this is personal for me, having been called a "fascist" in my town. My crime? Wearing an American Army uniform on the University of Michigan campus. Why "liberal minded" is considered a synonym for "open minded" has long been a mystery to me.

Stratfor notes South China Sea developments, noting Vietnamese efforts to fortify their claims in the face of China's subliminal long march at sea.

Russia's foreign ministry version of Marie Harf (with an oddly similar name: Maria Zakharova) is outraged at the Netherlands for accepting American heavy armor in their country and for deciding to return items from Crimea loaned to one of their museums to Ukraine rather than to Russia. Apparently, these actions are destroying Russian-Dutch relations rather than being a casualty of Russian aggression (and then there's that 198 dead Dutch citizens on that Malaysian airliner that Russia's hand puppets in the Donbas shot down). The Dutch foreign minister said her comments are "hard to understand." That's an understatement, eh?

International attention for Somalia is fading, as peacekeepers start heading for the exits and as anti-piracy patrols disappear. So expect Somalia to grow into a jihadi and pirate haven in a couple years.

And no, that post-election incident where a Trump-supporter ripped off the hijab of a young college woman in downtown Ann Arbor didn't happen. Why the name of the alleged criminal who falsely reported a crime isn't published is beyond me. Can we say that America is a pretty damned good place when those who seek hate have to rely on fake hate crimes so much?

America put Putin's chef under sanctions. Unlike Russia, we don't overlook the cook when searching for danger.

So does a new Iraqi assault on ISIL-held western Mosul from the southwest--complete with helicopter assault on a stadium in the western bank of the Tigris River--take place today to get that Christmas Eve element of surprise?

I'm all for keeping the Russians from interfering in our elections and domestic politics, but to argue that Russia effectively interfered in our election to get Trump elected seems completely wrong given that the Russians couldn't even manage to deny Hillary Clinton a record--for a losing candidate--popular vote advantage. You'd think an election hack would think of that small thing.

If China is fully on board this global warming theory, why is China even building a polar icebreaker? Sure, it could be used at the South Pole, but this is how the article assesses this news: "It is fair to assess that China’s interest in the fast-thawing Arctic Ocean is bound to increase in the future." Haven't we been told that the sea ice will all disappear? So why bother with an icebreaker? Maybe the Chinese are on board this prediction of a new ice age. I can't speak to the science of the article, but it does fit with my bias for natural factors overwhelming human factors. And if correct, scientists from the 1970s can feel vindicated, I guess. I wonder if our government will subsidize SUV purchases?

To be fair, that's what spies for Russia do.

A "supervolcano" in Italy is looking erupty, it seems. Via Instapundit.

Contrary to the image some on the left seem to have, Nazis weren't Christian extremists. Hitler tried to warp Christmas into a pagan and Aryan celebration in place of a Christian celebration. Again, from Instapundit.