Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Happy as Spit to Pay the Price for Persian Glory!

We have options to fight back against Iran's efforts to dominate the Middle East. Paying the price for empire just isn't popular in Iran.

Iran may be run by jihadi nutballs, but people there aren't eager to die for the nutballs' goals:

[Iranian] Government boasts of victories in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, alliances with Turkey, China and Russia to oppose the West plus the end of sanctions has not had the desired effect on most Iranians. Opinion surveys showed that 90 percent of Iranians backed the Syrian operations in 2015 but that dropped to 73 percent in 2016 and is now less than 30 percent. There were similar declines regarding Iranian support for Hezbollah and Shia militias in Lebanon, Syria. Yemen and Iraq. Most Iranians are more concerned with own circumstances, which have not improved much despite all the government boasting of victories elsewhere.

Why we can't wage information war on the mullahs by setting up efforts to praise the price Iranians are paying to achieve their glorious destiny is beyond me.

But I don't understand why we don't do something similar to praise all the non-Iranian Shias who are dying for the glory of Iran's imperial ambitions.

On the bright side, Trump appears to be increasing support for Syrian rebels:

The U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State has supplied its Syrian allies with armored vehicles for the first time, expanding support since U.S. President Donald Trump came to office, a spokesman for the Syrian groups told Reuters on Tuesday.

So more can die for the glory of Iran.

Unless this initial small shipment of a handful is just an opening bargaining warning in order to cut a deal with Russia. I hope not. Russia is not to be trusted.

There's a lot of good related stuff at that Strategypage link, too.

UPDATE: Iran appears upset that even though Iran is sowing chaos in the Middle East and advancing their missile program that is necessary for the day Iran has nuclear warheads, that the Trump administration is going to punish them for these non-nuclear deal Iranian policies.

The Iranians probably thought they were clever to keep so many issues outside of the nuclear deal--already pretty darned sweet for Iran--expecting America to go along with those non-deal problems in order to keep the nuclear deal alive.

Yemen Strike

This information on Yemen was in my last Weekend Data Dump but with updates seemed like it should have its own post, given further updates.

American special forces conducted a ground raid on al Qaeda targets in Yemen, backed by attack helicopters. We lost one operator. The raid is odd. Why not an air strike? Were we trying to capture someone?

For real yucks, we got a "fake news" Gordie Howe hat trick: "A provincial official said the helicopters targeted a hospital, school and mosque." What? No puppy and kitten shelter targeted, too?

Subsequent news said we were seeking information and we got it. I assume we grabbed laptops and whatnot. No word on the type of special forces. Was there a carrier large or small nearby or was the base in Djibouti the source of the aircraft?

This was a SEAL raid and the aircraft lost was an Osprey. We did grab electronic devices.

The Makin Island amphibious group is in 5th fleet. So it could have been sea-based. But the target site is also close to our special operations base in Djibouti.The Makin Island and their Marine contingent were recently at Djibouti practicing a raid on an enemy communications facility, which sounds an awful lot like a rehearsal for the Yemen mission.

The group has V-22s and gunships (early reports could be wrong on saying Apache helicopter gunships rather than Marine Cobras were involved). So I suspect this was a mission carried out by the Makin Island group from the sea.

And we resumed our usual programming with a drone strike in Yemen. I suspect that was a rapid intel evaluation from material seized in the raid. That's standard operating procedure for such intel raids.

The casualty notice confirms that this was a SEAL raid. They weren't mentioned in the article on the training exercise, but SEALs are a natural complement for a Marine unit aboard Navy vessels.

Other news I heard said that the wounded were from a hard landing by a V-22, which led to the destruction of the aircraft in place by our forces.

Also, you have to love jihadi views on women. Driving cars? No. Letting sunlight hit your exposed skin? No. Have a civilian job? No. Fight American SEALs? You go, girl!

That story says that 3 personnel were wounded in combat plus 3 wounded in the hard landing.

Perhaps in response to the raid, Iranian-backed Houthis have hit a Saudi warship, although the means are under dispute:

Saudi Arabia confirmed a Houthi militant attack that killed two Saudi sailors on Monday.

"A Saudi frigate on patrol west of the port city of Hodeida was hit by a terrorist attack from three suicide boats belonging to the Houthi militias," Saudi state media said, according to Reuters.

However, the Saudis and Iranian media disagree on whether a missile or bomb-laden boat carried out the attack.

While we hit Houthi radars in response to anti-ship missiles fired by them at our Navy (unsuccessfully) recently, since the attack was filmed by a small boat the attack could have been from another small boat firing an anti-tank missile with direct line of sight. So the Houthis would not need a targeting radar, I suppose, for a bigger anti-ship missile. I honestly don't know what an anti-tank missile explosion would look like. Or a radar could be back online.

I suspect a missile of some type since jihadis tend to boast about suicide attacks.

Which then begs the question of whether the Saudi ship has point defenses like Phalanx.

UPDATE: A news report on TV says the attack was a suicide attack. Was the attack intended for an American ship? I did hear the narrator of the attack video mention America, but he also cried death to Israel and Jews in general, so I don't believe that cry indicates the attackers mistakenly believed they were hitting an American ship.

UPDATE: I'm going to want more evidence than a routine jihadi chant to believe the attackers thought they were attacking an American warship. The Houthis and Iranians see Saudi Arabia as an enemy, too. And we don't need to know whether those guys intended to attack an American or Saudi ship to deal with them directly or indirectly.

UPDATE: The Saudis say that the frigate suffered 2 dead and 3 wounded in the attack, and that the ship continued its duties after the attack. They further say they "dealt with" the attackers (there were three boats that approached the ship). That had to have been a small explosion, no? Or one that was somewhat near but not in contact with the ship?

UPDATE: This was a difficult and risky mission and a lot of things went wrong. It was a joint American/UAE mission planned well before this year (and see the link above on what was clearly a training dry run in Djibouti for this mission) but requiring a dark night that wouldn't happen until the night the raid was launched. There were civilian casualties but the al Qaeda terrorists used civilians as shields as they took up positions to fight the raiders who lost the element of surprise. For a lot of militaries this would have been a debacle. We got out with the information we sought at the cost of 1 KIA, 6 WIA, and a destroyed Osprey. If that's the worst debacle our military has we're good to go.

UPDATE: So we have been bombarding jihadis in Yemen for 5 days now with cannons and rockets fired by our warships?

If so, that began at about the time of the raid. So while some of the strikes since the raid were no doubt enabled by intelligence gathered from the electronic devices we captured in the raid, some had to be from pre-raid intelligence and surveillance.

UPDATE: Now there is sniping that the planning was lousy and Trump is to blame?

As I wrote above, if this is the worse we achieve we'll be just fine. Casualty-free combat is a rare thing indeed even for special operators carrying out a dangerous mission.

The mission was planned under the Obama administration and approved by Trump on recommendation by the military brass. The commander on the ground felt the mission could continue despite loss of surprise. And we did grab the information we went in to get, it seems. We lost a SEAL sailor which is unfortunate, but that does not mean the mission failed.

I'm not sitting here blaming Obama for bad planning. It would be easy to assert--without evidence--that Obama set Trump up for failure with this administration-spanning mission. But that would be as wrong as blame-gaming Trump.

By all means, look at what went wrong to lose the element of surprise in this raid. But stop turning partisanship to 11 for everything.

UPDATE: Ah, I see a former Obama official is condemning the raid and says President Obama refused to order the raid because it was too poorly planned. Which contradicts earlier stories cited above that said the delay to the next administration was because the raiders needed a moonless night.

And in a bonus double-standard detail, Human Rights Watch demands America compensate families who lost lives in the raid. If al Qaeda used those dead civilians as human shields as reports above say, al Qaeda is the party legally respsonsible for civilian deaths.

And more broadly, has HRW ever demanded that jihadis pay compensation to the deliberately killed victims of jihadi terror?

UPDATE: The USS Cole is patrolling off of Yemen. Struck by a jihadi suicide boat in 2000 while in a Yemen port, the captain of this ship will not be the second commander to let a suicide boat get anywhere near this ship. I'm guessing "asking questions" will happen much later in the after-action review following the "shoot first" part of any reaction to potential danger.

UPDATE: America denies our Navy is carrying out the bombardment from the sea.

When You Start to Take Vienna, Take--and Occupy--Vienna

Yes, the battle for the peace that follows is as important as the war to defend what the war achieved. But I do not buy the idea that the World War I Treaty of Versailles failed because it was too harsh.

Sure, peace deals are important. But I'm not sure I want to trust this author's take given his view on Versailles for causing a future war because it was too harsh.

One major part of his reasoning is that reparations were so harsh that they caused hyper-inflation that led to support for Hitler and divisions among the victors.

On the contrary, hyper-inflation was a strategy to nullify reparations by making it easy for repaying with debased money. And Germany used the reparations in an information war effort that roused Germans against the Allies and split Western opinion by successfully portraying Germans as victims to a subset of the Western populace who forgot that the Allies were the good guy in the war, amplifying the anti-war people's concerns that World War I was so costly that it should never be repeated--and that concessions to the "wronged" Germany was the way to make sure the war was not repeated.

Indeed, this defense of his view seems to support my view more:

Although the Allies satisfied their shortsighted vengeance at Versailles, they failed to anticipate these impacts of the treaty on German economic, political, and social policy and ideology. English Economist John Maynard Keynes, who attended the post-war dialog at Versailles, predicted in 1919 the peace treaty imposed on Germany would lead to catastrophic consequences because it “includes no provisions of the economic rehabilitation of Europe, nothing to make the defeated nations into good neighbors, and nothing to stabilize the new States of Europe.”

Consider that the World War II settlement led to the occupation of Germany with the de-Nazification of the country, which did in fact compel the Germans to be a good neighbor integrated economically and militarily with the victors. The World War II settlement was far more punitive than the World War I settlement that allowed Germany to refuse to abide by the terms of the World War I settlement and instead attempt to reverse the 1918 losses.

So yes, Versailles was flawed and led to World War II in Europe. But no, Versailles did not fail because it was too harsh. And the harshness of the World War II settlement that physically dismembered Germany and allowed the victors to permanently occupy and shape the German leadership (and Western victory in the Cold War merely changed the "occupying" powers--who in the West went from occupiers to defenders during the Cold War) should demonstrate that very clearly.

There is more of the article's evidence to quibble with.

The division of Korea after World War II wasn't by itself the cause of the Korean War. Our departure and the weakness of the South Korean military that was more of a police force than an army created the vacuum that allowed Soviet- and Chinese-supported North Korea to invade.

The part on Vietnam is off, too. One, the author takes Ho Chi Minh's declaration of independence at face value, essentially blaming America for refusing to accept a Southeast Asian Thomas Jefferson and instead turning him into a harsh communist.

That's an odd Thomas Jefferson, was he not, to be turned from proto-democrat to brutal communist by our limited role in what was a French war?

And two, when we refused to allow a vote that the communists would win and instead sided with France, was France's cooperation in the far more important theater of Europe insignificant when Euro-Communists friendly to the USSR and the direct Soviet threat to peace in Europe were so high?

Further, you have to consider the effect of the time we bought in a losing war. Losing Vietnam in 1975 was better than losing it in 1965, 1955, or 1945. As in Europe, communists were pressuring weak states from India to Southeast Asia after World War II. The non-communist states were able to use the time blunting the spread of communism to build up their societies, governments, and economies to resist the appeal of communism.

So yeah, the post-war peace settlement is an important component of securing a victory won on the battlefield. I'm fully on board that cautionary tale by the author.

But I think the evidence used to make that point shows the importance of getting the right kind of peace settlement. I don't think the solutions offered to the so-called problems would have solved the post-war failures cited.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Yeah, That Hillary "Reset" Button Wasn't Real Either

People worried about this understand the "doomsday clock" isn't an actual measuring device, right?

Yes, the people at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists turned the clock to 11 (plus :57:30). Please head to your designated fallout shelters in an orderly manner. No running or pushing.

Wait. What? The clock prop hasn't been this close to midnight since 1953 when it was 11:58? We've had a 64-year-long two-minutes to live?

It didn't get closer during the Cuban Missile Crisis? Well, Saint Kennedy and all that.

Nothing else during the Cold War was more dangerous nuclear-wise than Trump being the president?

Their forebears assumed Reagan would get us into a nuclear war.  It wasn't closer to midnight then? No?

And isn't it the Democrats all suddenly worried that we aren't standing up to the dreaded Russkies?

Seriously, haven't the Democrats been accusing Trump of being too cozy with Putin?

Well, that was like totally 30 seconds ago.

The people at the bulletin know the "nuclear button" is as symbolic as their "clock," right? President Trump won't trigger nuclear war while trying to turn on the TV. They know that, right?

And bonus hysteria in the actual article. Apparently the "clock" no longer only indicates the danger of nuclear war but also the danger of climate change.

Even though dangerous climate change is nothing to worry about until the end of the century if the models--also not actual measuring devices--somehow are actually right.

But you go where the money is as Willy Sutton (might have?) said. Set the opportunist clock to 11:59.

And set the stupid clock right up their, too. Please let us be close to Peak Stupid.

UPDATE: The clock measures liberal angst. And did you know that the "clock" went from 6 minutes to midnight to 3 minutes to midnight during the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Obama administration? Me neither. I guess it wasn't news then.

They'll Not Wreck Europe With Our Help Any More

I could get used to Trump as president if he keeps this up:

Asked on Thursday during the BBC’s political talk show This Week why he wanted to be the US ambassador to the EU when he was clearly not a fan, Ted Malloch said: “I had in a previous career a diplomatic post where I helped to bring down the Soviet Union, so maybe there’s another union that needs a little taming.”

During the course of the programme, Malloch, who is currently a professor at Henley Business School, said Trump was pro-Brexit and had no enthusiasm for EU integration: “He doesn’t like an organisation that is supranational, that is unelected, where the bureaucrats run amok, and is not frankly a proper democracy,” the would-be ambassador said.

Finally, we have an envoy who wants the European Union to die with festering boils:

I am no fan of the European Union proto-dictatorship project. I think it will be a disaster for the United States and lead to the loss of democracy in Europe. Europe will become a Soviet Union Lite that will be neutral at best, selling arms to our enemies; or hostile, ending a century of our policy that has prevented an opponent from organizing the continent's resources against us.

The proto-empire European Union is indeed a Soviet Union Lite in the making. The ambassador is absolutely right.

And while I could understand at some level a Cold War reason to get a stronger EU under the pressure of a looming USSR threat to western Europe, I do not understand why it has been our policy since 1989--under Democrats and Republicans--to support the formation of an ever closer union of European states under the EU banner.

We can have friends in geographic Europe. We cannot have a political Europe as a friend.

Thankfully, if we just stand out of the way rather than propping it up, the EU will collapse on its own.

UPDATE: Tusk was fine as a Pole but lousy as a European:

European Council President Donald Tusk said on Tuesday that U.S. President Donald Trump has joined Russia, China and radical Islam among threats to Europe and called on Europeans to stick together to avoid domination by three other continental powers.

Tusk is mixing up political Europe of a single governing entity (the EU) and geographic Europe describing a region of many free nations.

America threatens political Europe. Tusk's statement actually defends my point. America in fact defends geographic Europe through NATO.

Russia and political Islam (Islamist jihadis) threaten geographic Europe.

I'm unclear on China's threat to either Europe, unless Tusk has a perception of economic power threatening them.

Give Us Back Our Damned Armored Cavalry

Yes! Tell 'em Major Jennings!

The Army should consider reconstituting armored cavalry regiments with 21st-century enhancements. By combining proven tactical strengths with emergent functions, it can create agile combined arms teams with the capacity to conduct forceful reconnaissance and security operations across theater depth.

Whether enabling joint forces commands with entire regiments or supporting divisions with detached squadrons, the re-creation of modular regiments would, as argued by VII Corps after Operation Desert Storm, fulfill the timeless requirement to employ “armed and armored recce at every level … battalion through corps.”

Here at The Dignified Rant, the major is singing to the choir, of course:

In the past, recon units in peacetime tend to lighten up in armor and firepower, on the theory that scout vehicles should be "agile" and able to scoot in, have a look, and get out. Force-on-force combat tends to undermine that theory and lead to recon units adding firepower and armor until they look suspiciously like line combat units because it turns out that recon units usually have to fight to get close enough to have a look and survive that mission.

And that's just my most recent complaint that we don't have armored cavalry units. I complained during our reorganization period when we moved to brigade combat teams that the "recon" element was too light, and hoped it would eventually be heavied up.

Update these units as Jennings argues. But the core of them should be combined arms combat units able to fight for information and able to deny enemy scouts information.

We are resetting the Army for conventional war as our counter-insurgency emphasis has ended. Armored cavalry should be part of that.

It would be nice to have this capability in case we have to slow down and blunt an armored attack or screen a counter-offensive or offensive.

Although curse the author, too. An article arguing for the return of the ACR had been on my writing to-do list.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

Turkey has aligned itself with Russia--newly entrenched in bases on the coast--and Iran on Syria, saying Assad could stay in a deal. After years of trying and failing to get the Obama administration to back Turkey's efforts to defeat Assad, Turkey has decided to go with what they perceive as the strong horse. Sadly, President Trump who seems inclined to increase cooperation with Putin to fight ISIL, probably isn't seen as more amenable to resisting Assad. We shall see.

It is likely that the Trump administration will face a North Korean Missile Crisis during his term of office as the Pillsbury Nuke Boy gets ICBMs and nuclear warheads for them. I remain grateful that President Obama didn't bookend his horrible nuclear deal with Iran by forging another farcical agreement with North Korea.

I don't understand why liberals are in full Nazi fear mode over Trump. Other than this is what they do for any Republican, obviously. I have problems with Trump over his liberalism and statism on so many things--but otherwise he is not outside a standard deviation from the norm policy-wise. It's not like the Democrats didn't give us a similar man before. But no, liberals turn it up to "11" every time, which explains why leftists tend to be the ones rioting and otherwise disturbing the peace (the post-inauguration "women's" march of liberal women and their men's auxiliary was peaceful, I should note). But the anarchists and their communist brethren have discovered one big change--the authorities aren't handling the crimes committed while flinging flaming "democracy" through windows with kid gloves any more. Good. Pity every journalist won't take every opportunity to ask Democratic officials if they reject this kind of violence. Tips to Instapundit.

Heh. I admit I was convinced that this was a parody by the end of the first paragraph. But I read on just in case. Tip to Instapundit.

So the media is upset that Trump didn't offer pledges to unity at his inauguration address? No doubt. It worked so well when President Obama appealed for unity. Of course, Democratic appeals for unity after the 2008 election were just an ill-disguised offer to Republicans for their surrender.

When American men went off to fight real fascism in World War II, they went off for the duration plus one year. When American women went off to fight faux fascism in Washington, D.C. a week ago, they went for the weekend. So no Tommy the Typist counter-parts to Rosie the Riveter from last weekend? Tip to Instapundit. (One of the problems of posting a week ahead is that others can beat me to a good idea. But this is arguably better! Also tip to Instapundit.)

Yes, as I've written repeatedly here, the federal government is just too damn big. Who controls it should not matter so much.

China is claiming success for the end of their one-child policy. But is this a success of the two-child policy or just people no longer bribing officials to ignore the birth of girls under the one-child policy? Scroll down to the "Beneficial Corruption" part.

Yemen forces took the port of Mokha from Shia rebels aligned with Iran. Not only will this help to stop Iranian weapons from flowing to the rebels, it will reduce the ability of Iran's friends to launch missiles at our ships again.

"Maduro’s government will reach its breaking point this year." Where will the collateral damage flow?

I am horrified that Fox News hired Marie Harf as a contributor. Maybe after taking her integrity out of the blind trust she had to put it in to be a State Department spokeswoman, I'll be surprised. But after the first time I watched her during which she acted like she is still a spokesperson for the Obama administration, I don't think there will be any surprises.

The whole Inauguration-gate attendance thing is silly. The first time I saw the press secretary's initial comments it was clear to me that he was speaking about a combined worldwide audience. Yes, he also defended the on-site audience size, which was stupid, but he absolutely asserted a combined record. Are Trump critics unable to listen to actual words? Does their rage turn their brains off? The press is driving me nuts. I'm not a Trump fan. But the press is just wrong. And so are liberal critics who join them on this issue. They took an issue that made me wonder why Spicer was bothering to vent and instead made me wonder if the critics can even process information. Stop turning everything to 11! If they really think we are reliving the rise of Hitler--as if they have any clue about the history--just stop this petty nonsense.

Strategypage notes that India's state-owned armaments body is essentially Pakistan's (and China's) secret weapon to undermine India's military.

Austin Bay writes that we need to help friends and allies oppose Chinese efforts to turn the South China Sea into a Chinese lake (or city, actually). But he says our Navy has been carrying out freedom of navigation operations in the region. But are we really doing that? Or are these just innocent passage missions dressed up as freedom of navigation operations?  If we do an actual, unambiguous FONOP, it should be well supported just in case.

I have no doubt that North Korea is going downhill. They've been rotting away for a long time. They should collapse. At some point. But they've gone so low that I can't tell what the bottom is. Is the regime's time really numbered? More from Strategypage.

Jihadis have pounded FSA rebels in Syria. Why we don't support friendly rebels in the western part of Syria more is beyond me. Do we want Assad to win this war and get back to the business of killing Americans and Israelis?

I see we now have an alternative to being an "asshat." Ah, progress. Tip to Instapundit.

President Obama said we should not be out of step with advanced democracies by requiring voter identification. To be in step with our fellow democracies, we'd actually need to require voter ID. Whether that statement by the president qualifies as "fake news" I leave to you. While fraud is not a factor at the presidential level (thank you electoral college fraud firewalls), we can't know the effect on lower levels because we just don't know what we don't know. That's my take on that article via RCI.

Russia's economic and financial problems are growing. So far military operations in Syria and Ukraine are distracting the Russian people. Will growing Russian domestic problems be met with growing Russian aggression to cope? Libya seems like the safest place to gain headlines without risking a real war, while bolstering Russian efforts in both Crimea and Syria.

Turkey is waiting to see if their long-desired goal of safe zones for Syrians inside Syria is something President Trump really wants. Here's a good SSI discussion of the issue. Potentially this could derail the unnatural Turkish friendship with long-time foes in Russia, Iran, and Syria (scroll to the "Syria" section). Although I wonder if Turkey's increasingly autocratic and Islamist-friendly Erdogan would see a Russia no longer bordering Turkey as a more natural ally.

The Left and their media allies don't like Trump's attitude toward the press corps? They can thank their savior, The One, for setting the precedent. Without a leg tingle, it's way different, I guess. Tip to Instapundit.

Step away from the ladder arguments. There will be renewed arguing about building a wall on the southern border. If some lefty with a self-congratulatory smirk says that the answer to a 20-foot wall is a 21-foot ladder as if that settles the argument, I will resort to interpretive dance in retaliation. That response is stupid. Any physical barrier that is not defended by people can be penetrated by people. The Great Wall of China, for example, was not designed to keep people out. It was designed to identify raider intrusions and then slow down the raiders while escaping with their loot long enough for friendly forces to respond to the incursion. Barriers on the Mexican border can only slow down determined illegal crossers to buy time for border patrol personnel to intercept them. Okay, I'm done now.

Holy Dissent is BACK, baby! If federal employees had done this for the prior 8 years, they would have been labeled racists. If Hillary had won the last election, they'd be misogynists. But because orange will not be considered the new black, the media will not raise any objections at all.

President Trump seems to have inherited a self-purging State Department. Stop, don't, come back. Although the scope is actually pretty small. So this is more outrage theater than anything.

President Obama was only more popular than Carter, Ford, and Truman, of post-war presidents. Digest that, eh? Tip to Instapundit, who always said that another Carter administration was the best case scenario for President Obama.

Here's a story of Iraqi troops exchanging fire with ISIL across the Tigris River dividing line between Iraq-held eastern Mosul and ISIL-held western Mosul. It sure seems like the theme of the news is that the Iraqis will storm across the river to liberate western Mosul. Why the assault won't come from the south and west (with an air assault to support it at some point) is beyond me.

Huh: "The Women’s March on Washington last week featured as a speaker convicted felon Donna Hylton who, along with several others, kidnapped a man and then tortured him to death." If a Tea Party rally had a participant with a parking ticket the whole thing was condemned by the media as a fascist enterprise. But this is just empowering, I guess. How does this fit into the fake-real news divide? Tip to Instapundit.

Iran is complaining that America is pausing entry from certain countries and says they will ban Americans from going to Iran. Good! Since this has been an easy method for Iran to seize American hostages, I'm all in favor of having no Americans in Iran.

So Trump might be right about anger management issues in the countries selected for the pause in entry: "Arabs and Iranians planning U.S. trips reacted with fury on Saturday to new American travel curbs they said were insulting and discriminatory, as five Iraqis and a Yemeni were stopped from boarding a New York-bound flight in Cairo." Reacting with fury? Nothing like proving a point so quickly.

This American military briefing reveals that the Iraqis will hold eastern Mosul with multiple brigades under their 16th division. Does this mean that the Iraqis are thinning out the line with a good defensive line--the river--to help them defend against any ISIL counter-attacks, allowing the spearhead forces to move to the west side of the Tigris to attack from the south and west? Or will the Iraqis build up behind that shield to launch an assault across a defended river line?

The JLTV replacement for the HMMWV, which replaced the jeep, is coming into service. It is designed from the ground up for survivability rather than being a "soft" vehicle poorly suited to protect occupants under fire.  And when I say soft, I mean soft. The vehicle I drove had vinyl doors on a metal frame with cloudy vinyl windows. It didn't keep out the cold let alone anything more lethal. But I did like it more than the 2-1/2 ton truck I drove before that.

American special forces conducted a ground raid on al Qaeda targets in Yemen, backed by attack helicopters. We lost one operator. The raid is odd. Why not an air strike? Were we trying to capture someone? For real yucks, we got a "fake news" Gordie Howe hat trick: "A provincial official said the helicopters targeted a hospital, school and mosque." What? No puppy and kitten shelter targeted, too?

We were seeking information and we say we got it. I assume we grabbed laptops and whatnot. No word on the type of special forces. Was there a carrier large or small nearby or was the base in Djibouti the source of the aircraft? UPDATE: This was a SEAL raid and the aircraft lost was an Osprey. We did grab electronic devices. The Makin Island amphibious group is in 5th fleet. So it could have been sea-based. But it is also close to our special operations base in Djibouti. UPDATE: The Makin Island and their Marine contingent were recently at Djibouti practicing a raid on an enemy communications facility, which sounds an awful lot like a rehearsal for the Yemen mission. The group has V-22s and gunships (early reports could be wrong on saying Apache helicopter gunships rather than Marine Cobras were involved). So I suspect this was a mission carried out by the Makin Island group from the sea. And we resumed our usual programming with a drone strike in Yemen. I suspect that was a rapid intel evaluation from material seized in the raid. UPDATE: In a first for my data dumps, I promoted this series of stories and updates into a regular post, with further information.

Well, It Is Basically a Real Estate Deal

I speculated that an American move of our embassy to Jerusalem might be paved by a renewed American effort to organize Arab states and Israel in a coalition to roll back Iran's gains.

Some Arab states are happy to see President Obama go given the importance of the Iran threat to them:

Gulf Arab states are quietly applauding the arrival in the White House of a hawkish leader opposed to their adversary Iran, even if they suspect Donald Trump's short temper and abrasive Tweets may at times heighten tensions in the combustible Middle East.

The article says that a possible move of America's embassy to Jerusalem could put off Arab states eager for help against Iran.

This issue, after all, was not even mentioned in this assessment of Saudi hopes and concerns for the Trump administration.

We shall see how much those Arab states want help against Iran more than they want to support Palestinians who seem happy to take help from Iran.

As an aside, Moslem anger at the Crusades is meaningless to me given that the Crusades tried to liberate Christian lands that had been conquered by Islamic armies. This is not an early version of Western colonialism as so many liberals with little sense of history claim. If it is colonialism, it was successful Islamic conquest, colonialism, and ethnic cleansing. So deny the attempted guilt trip about that,

Anyway, we shall see what kind of deal there is when the Israeli prime minister comes to America. Will Israel offer enough to Gulf Arab states to get their silence on an embassy move?

Maybe Trump can build a hotel in Jersualem and then rent space to the American embassy! (I'm joking, of course.)

UPDATE: The Saudis are on board pressuring Iran through the flawed deal that unwisely front-loaded benefits to Iran:

President Donald Trump and Saudi King Salman want to "rigorously" enforce the Iran nuclear deal, the White House said Sunday, despite the US leader's long opposition to the agreement.

The pair, in a phone conversation, also spoke of the need to address Iran's "destabilizing regional activities," fight the spread of "radical Islamic terrorism" and establish safe zones in war-ravaged Syria and Yemen, the White House statement read.

I'm willing to see if Trump can make Iran howl through the deal.

If this doesn't work, the deal should be canceled.

UPDATE: One of the reasons I'm willing to see if we can enforce the deal to death is that I believe the Obama administration worked to set up a deal where it would be easy not to notice problems if they didn't want to see them.

Crime or Kindness?

I'm asking this question in all seriousness.

If Trump is turning America into a Hitlerian nightmare of anti-foreigner pogroms and internment camps, as those on the Left assert; why is the American Left throwing a fit over a (temporary) ban on foreigners coming from certain countries?

Seriously, many on the Left famously said they'd flee America rather than endure the fascist gulag that would descend on America under Trump.

Isn't the temporary ban a kindness to people that will be rounded up and abused as the Left asserts? Shouldn't the Left actually be urging a permanent ban to save these foreigners?

Or is the Left really so cruel as to welcome victims into the nightmare nation the Left claims is being built before our very eyes.

Or maybe, perhaps, the Left is talking out of their vagina hats and knows damn well that our country is not descending into a Trumptatorship.

UPDATE: Here's an explanation of what the order does and not what the media is screaming about inaccurately.

And I'm experiencing further whiplash as critics complain that we are awful to temporarily ban people from 7 countries--and then the same people complain that we didn't make the ban include several other countries.

UPDATE: Isn't the Left's insistence that "Islamophobic" Trump open the borders to Moslem refugees just paving the way for abuse like this here in America?

Myanmar's security forces have committed mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya Muslims and burned their villages since October in a campaign that probably amounts to crimes against humanity and possibly "ethnic cleansing", the U.N. human rights office said on Friday.

That puts the Trump executive order in context a bit more doesn't it, threat-wise to Moslems?

No Effort Was Made to Secure a Victory

Lessons from the Iraq surge for President Trump.

Lesson 5 is "Securing the peace demands continued effort." That we are in Iraq War 2.0 since mid-2014 tells you that we didn't do that.

I know, President Obama's defenders say that the Iraqis wouldn't let America keep troops there and so are to blame for our absence.

I find that excuse nonsense given that we have troops there now and still don't have an agreement approved by their parliament on the legal status of our forces.

Face it, President Obama campaigned for president on the promise of getting out of Iraq and boasted about getting us out of Iraq in his reelection campaign. Are you really going to claim that in between he tried really, really hard to stay?

And even if there is an actual defense of the failure of the Obama administration to keep troops in Iraq after 2011 to secure the peace, why didn't the Obama administration carry out the State Department surge that was supposed to replace the military effort?

That was Plan B, I thought. But no, we just left.

I even gave the administration the benefit of the doubt on this issue as we headed out the door.

But we screwed it up.

And without our people working with the Iraqi army and government we did not know that the Iraqi military was in such bad condition from poor officers (due to corruption that led the Iraqi government to value loyalty over competence) that it collapsed across large swathes of Iraq when faced with an ISIL-supported and ISIL-led Sunni Arab uprising (with Saddam's old boys playing a role).

So Iraq War 2.0 rages. Perhaps we will secure the peace with continued efforts when this war is won.

That would be nice.

UPDATE: Eric at Learning Curve has a good post on exiting from Iraq in 2011.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Eastern NATO Logistics Desert

Yes, the movement of an American heavy brigade to Poland highlights the logistical problems of moving to let alone sustaining units in combat that far east.

That's what I noted early in the Ukraine crisis:

Of course, the biggest job will be to improve the logistics network of NATO to support the movement of western NATO forces into eastern NATO countries to come to the aid of NATO states under threat from Russia. That's the biggest brake on meeting a Russian threat.

Which is the basic reason why Putin's complaint that NATO has loomed over Holy Mother Russia was always a load of crap.

Not only didn't NATO move troops into the new NATO states until Russia invaded Ukraine, NATO didn't even create the logistics network to support pushing forces into eastern NATO.

We're out of practice moving troops to Europe, but we will learn.

UPDATE: Yes, Poland will become the new center of gravity for the United States Army.

The Army will need to hold the Suwalki Gap, conduct an offensive into Kaliningrad, reinforce Lithuania to hold the line there, and prepare for a counter-offensive into Latvia and Estonia to restore the NATO alliance's territorial integrity.

Which means we really need to get a move on the logistics issue.

UPDATE: With Poland as a center of gravity for our Army, it will help that Poland is serious about defense issues including reaching out to neighbors to the north, south, and east to bolster resistance to actual and potential Russian aggression.

Unclear on the Concept

I saw my first "Resist" bumper sticker last week, by a voter clearly far more unhappy than I am about a Trump presidency. President Trump was literally my last choice in the Republican field. But I'm fine.

Mind you, I'm still relieved that President Obama has departed and ecstatic that Hillary Clinton was not sworn in. So my apprehension of having a new convert to conservatism in office will kick in, I assume, as those events disappear in the rear view mirror.

Still, the "Resist" bumper sticker amused me. My first thought was, "Hey, how convenient for the Trump Storm Troopers! Now they can easily identify Le Resistance members at the Trump Checkpoints set up around the organic food markets and folk music concerts!"

The bumper sticker is all you need to know about the supposed threat that Trump poses to their freedom.

This is What They Called Smart Diplomacy

The Obama administration claimed the war on al Qaeda was the real war when they entered office, and tried to pivot away from the Middle East and treat Iran like a friend until they reciprocated. And in the meantime Iran has been a major supporter of al Qaeda--as Osama bin Laden admitted.

And this they called Smart Diplomacy.

Friday, January 27, 2017

After Finals Week

On a cold day off from school, Lamb and I went downtown this afternoon so she could buy a gourmet cupcake. I'm in the "quantity" school regarding quality for such things, but to each her own.

We also went to the comic book store so she could get a present for a friend; and I introduced her to a used book store where she completed her Harry Potter book collection. She was quite happy with that.

I mentioned that this would be much more fun in the spring. She thought today was just fine.

Me too, all things considered. But spring would be better.

Why Don't Marines Team Up With Army Mariners?

The Marines don't have as many amphibious platforms that they'd like to operate around Africa. Why not team up with the Army that has similar needs?

This is a problem for the Marines:

Marine Corps leaders badly want their troops aboard an amphibious ship patrolling the African coast -- even if that ship isn't American.

Senior officials are in talks with multiple NATO nations about the logistics of putting a company-sized element of Marines aboard an allied ship to provide presence, patrol hot spots and conduct theater security cooperation missions with African militaries, Military.com has learned.

That's fine. But just because the United States Navy won't provide the hulls for Africa missions doesn't mean that the hull can't be American.

If the Marines feel they are low on priority for Africa missions, imagine how the Army feels?

Which is why I proposed Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers based on container ships--which happily sail all around Africa routinely.

The AFRICOM Queen doesn't have to be an Army ship. It could be a Marine ship.

Heck, the Army and Marines could share the costs and learning curve by doing it jointly.

How to Manage a MAD a Trois

India is modernizing their tank force facing Pakistan. Nuclear war now looms over every confrontation. This is perhaps where Cold Start comes in.

India's new and modernized tank corps would be the heart of any war with Pakistan along their long border. The nuclear angle shapes what India can do:

The Indian Army already maintains a sizeable tank force along the India-Pakistan border. However, the recent news that New Delhi intends to modernize its tanks formations along the border could indicate that India continues to methodically implement its so-called Cold Start Doctrine of limited conventional war with Pakistan.

This doctrine, which as The Diplomat reported has never been officially acknowledged until recently, calls for swift and decisive conventional offensive operations into Pakistani territory before the international community can intercede, and before Pakistan would feel compelled to launch tactical nuclear retaliatory strikes in the event of an invasion.

I think that the Kargil War shapes this thinking. Pakistan fought a narrow war that placed India at a disadvantage and India wants the ability to turn the tables.

I've discussed Cold Start a bit, and the lack of official acknowledgement perhaps explains the differing interpretations of the "doctrine."

It could be to lock in gains before the threat of nuclear war compels a ceasefire under pressure form both sides and the world.

Or it could be a plan to rapidly crush Pakistan in a general war as an automatic development apart from civilian control. That possibility seriously alarmed me.

Especially since Pakistan has opted to choose "tactical" nukes to cope with India's superior armed forces. What does "tactical" even mean when the battlefields are both of their countries?

The term meant something to America and the USSR during the Cold War, but you can excuse the Germans for not seeing the nuance when "battlefield" nukes would be going off on their territory like popcorn popping.

But this article that describes the breaking down of India's three "Strike Corps" (each with two mobile tank and one infantry formations) into division-sized combined arms units called "integrated battle groups" makes me feel better.

This is a reorganization away from the "crushing" concept and toward the bargaining chip option that grabs terrain while inflicting a military blow before the threat of nuclear escalation compels a ceasefire with India in an unfavorable position.

America could probably help the situation out by sending officials who still remember (or who can research) how America and the USSR competed under similar constraints when confronting each other during the Cold War.

Oddly, I found a relevant post scheduled for July 28, 2014 that did not post. Let me insert it here:

India is debating how their nuclear weapons fit into national defense strategy. Reading our 70-year-old debates should be part of their homework.

This is familiar ground:

This debate has been catalysed by a variety of factors. These include Indian disquiet at Pakistan's development of tactical nuclear weapons, a widespread sense that India's nuclear deterrence has failed in the face of state-sponsored terrorism, concern that India's ability to project deterrence against China remains inadequate, and a general sense that India has been slow to translate its national power into usable capabilities.

It is really a shock that nuclear weapons don't deter terrorist attacks?

Nuclear weapons deter threats to national existence--either major nuclear attack or conquest. Responding to attacks that don't threaten national existence with nuclear weapons just invites nuclear attack.

Do you really respond to terror attacks by launching nuclear attacks? Against even a state sponsor of the terrorists?

Anyway, India would probably do well to review our debates.

And remember we had the advantage of distance with the USSR. We had 20 whole minutes from enemy lay.change to impact. How long is ballistic flight time from Pakistan or China?

That fit in nicely. I knew I'd mentioned Pakistani tactical nuke stuff in this context. I just didn't mention it to readers ...

India and Pakistan should definitely understand that any lessons from our Cold War included a luxury that neighboring India and Pakistan can never have: a buffer zone of allies between us and the luxury of a whole 20-minute flight time of ICBMs launched by one superpower against the other before they hit.

Even a terrorist attack has the seeds to start a path to nuclear war.

Of course, India and Pakistan still have relatively small arsenals. So discussions of Mutual Assured Destruction can perhaps be put off to the second briefing.

And India has the problem of a third nuclear power growing near them--China. Which America did not face. The Soviets had the issue of British, French, and later Chinese nuclear weapons to consider. So maybe India should get Russia's view, too.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: Related discussion.

UPDATE: The Economist notes Cold Start after India officially admitted the doctrine.

I'd have thought the Kargil War would have highlighted India's problem and need for something like Cold Start. But no matter. The Economist sets out Cold Start as I think it makes sense. But is this what all of India's military thinks?

I've read that some think Cold Start is a way to clobber Pakistan without civilian interference until Pakistan is smashed.

But Indian moves make my impression (and The Economist impression) that the doctrine is to gain ground before nuclear escalation threats force a ceasefire seem more accurate. Of course, a doctrine and a military capable of carrying out the doctrine are two different things.

Still, what India wants to do (I think) fits with American experience during the Cold War that limited the time for conventional military action to achieve results.

India would be advised to review our well-documented history operating under that limitation.

Stop the Nonsense

We are thinking way too much about Russian so-called new age or new war or hybrid war or whatever actions as a doctrine. Just stop the nimrods.

The Russians have pushed against weakness using the tools they have available. That's it. It's a subliminal war that relies on the West going along with Russia's denial that they are doing anything at all let alone anything wrong.

There is no limit to this approach if we go along.

Anything other than recognizing that Russia is simply pushing against weakness is just PowerPoint fodder and pointless articles about the subtle genius of Putin and his security apparatus that amounts to analysis paralysis.

Seriously, would the West have done better in the 1930s by defining some "hybrid war" doctrine Germany's actions to inflate their currency to make reparations payments nothing and impoverishing Germans to gain sympathy for Germany in the West; re-militarizing the Rhineland without war; an information war/bloodless takeover of Austria; ethnic appeals to take the German-populated Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia; and a bullshit diplomatic offensive for a "reset" agreement between the West and Germany that didn't stop the subsequent German takeover of the rest of Czechoslovakia?

That got us a bloody World War II.

Or would the West have been better off just getting off their comfortable war-weary asses and actually stopping Germany while Germany was still weak from defeat in World War I?

Not that I'm saying Putin is a Hitler who is dead set on war with the West. Although this age does have an eerie inter-war vibe about it, I say.

And nukes change the calculations a lot, of course.

But there are people willing to fight Russia right now. Help them stop the Russians and stop trying to define what Russia is doing in some grand strategic concept as the alternative to friggin' action.

UPDATE: I don't give nonsense like 4th generation warfare much attention:

“War has changed” has become a common refrain in modern pop culture. Defence analysts and armchair generals alike tell us that the character of modern war is unlike that of any previous era. Where once the primary form of warfare was counterforce, with armies fighting armies, the primary form of modern war is that of armies fighting insurgencies, or so the theory goes.

I'd rather study the Boer War or the pacification of Wales than listen to any theorists drone on about 4th generation, or hybrid war, or whatever (remember that netwar nonsense?).

Russian "hybrid" war consists of Russia denying they are committing aggression and the West going along with that fiction.

Ultimately, it is a war of one nation taking the land of another. A "subliminal" war, as I called it early on, but a war.

Fourth generation warfare is any insurgent or terrorist with an internet connection, built up by outsiders divining deep and sophisticated reasoning behind their ordinary actions. Once an internet connection meant email and now it means social networks.

Is all that junk spun up in the past still believed when the so-called practitioners of this "flat" warfare actually considered it necessary and desirable to create a state--the proto-caliphate of the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, and other regions?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Just Stop

I hate the expressions "take back our country" and calls for people to "wake up."

The former implies someone unjustly took what is yours, rather than you losing an election.

The latter denies someone else can have a different view than you without deeming their view illegitimate because they are not fully awake to reason.

People can be wrong, you know. And they can win elections. That makes them no less legitimate.

And this complaint applies to both parties (and others, of course).

UPDATE: I thought this went without saying, but of course people with a different view can be right about issues when you (and that includes me) are wrong.

Nuance or Unclear on the Concept: You Decide

I find it amusing that the charge that America is ceding global "leadership" to China is based on the idea that Trump does not want to follow what a number of other nations want to do.

Please review the definitions section of this unit before discussing.

One Source of Weakness Down

Despite the imagery of a vibrant blue water Navy that Russia tried to advance with the farcical deployment of their smoke-belching, floating tenement of an aircraft carrier called Kuznetsov that only managed to lose two aircraft in flight operations while supposedly bombing Syrian rebels, the Russians aren't really focused on a blue water navy. Sad.

Russia has different objectives than anything even close to new aircraft carriers that some Russian admirals would love to have--and which got publicity when proposed. No, the Russians are thinking smaller:

The Russian navy still has a lot of Cold War era ships and aircraft in need of replacement or upgrades. The most urgently needed new ships are nuclear subs and coastal and harbor patrol craft. These are being delivered in greater numbers but the need remains urgent. Many coastal areas and naval bases are poorly guarded because of the shortage of modern (or just functioning) patrol ships.

The Russians are being smart. They need smaller combatants for coastal defense and operations in closed waters like the Barents, Baltic, Black, Caspian, and Okhotsk Seas; and the Russians need nuclear submarines, of both the ballistic missile (SSBN) and attack (SSN) varieties.

The SSBNs give Russia a survivable element of their nuclear deterrent force. Which is crucial for such a large country as Russia which has ground forces too small to protect their entire border. Russia relies on nuclear threats more than America, China, India, France, or Britain need to protect core territorial interests.

And Russia needs SSNs and smaller surface combatants to protect the SSBNs in nuclear bastions against enemy SSNs trying to sink Russian SSBNs.

Other smaller combatants are needed to protect ports and operate outside of them in enclosed seas against enemy power projection missions.

Russia could use some amphibious stuff to project ground power around those enclosed seas, too.

But beyond that, a navy is a luxury for Russia. Which is why I was all in favor of Russia spending scarce resources on a blue water navy. By all means, build ships to show the flag in Cuba and Venezuela if it makes the Russians happy!

Sadly, the Russians aren't that foolish, apparently.

If only Russia would be aware that an army and air force capable of taking Poland is also a source of Russian weakness, Russia and the West would be a lot better off.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

I Stand Corrected

I've mocked the apparent flood of PowerPoint presentations in our military.

I now stand corrected after having it pointed out that I and many others ignored this briefing for all these many decades.

The exhaust port trench is vertical. It is not the equatorial trench. Pay attention! Or were you distracted by womp rat killing boasts?

I stand corrected. Click away eager O-4s.

Bravo Mr. Vaziri. Bravo.

Tip to these guys via Instapundit.

The Silk Ties That Bind

China's ambitious efforts to build land and sea trade routes to Europe and points between Europe and China--sometimes called the New Silk Road--could really cause a lot of unease along those routes:

OBOR [One Belt, One Road] is supposed to create multiple economic corridors that would cover almost two-thirds of the world’s population and a third of global GDP. The One Belt portion refers to overland corridors; One Road refers to maritime routes. This is a herculean undertaking, and $240 billion barely makes a dent in the total amount of required funding. The infrastructure necessary to link Eurasia will require construction of roads, railways, ports and other elements across vast distances in some of the harshest geography and least populated areas in the world. (Not to mention some of the most lawless and insecure parts of the world.) The fact that over 4.4 billion people only account for a third of the world’s GDP is often skirted over when OBOR’s impressive goals are espoused. But it is an indicator of just how poor many of these areas are. HSBC has projected that OBOR will require at least $4-6 trillion dollars over the next 15 years if it is to take form. That estimate is probably too conservative. Even if accurate, from where and whom this money will come remain open questions.

As the article notes, rather than a foreign policy initiative, the main purpose is to spread out the wealth in China that has been concentrated in coastal provinces geared toward sea trade that kicked off China's growth spurt.

I'll point out right now that it is a mistake to think of policies as foreign or domestic as Westerners conveniently divide them. For China's communist rulers, all threats are on a continuum of threats to Communist Party control of China.

And a policy meant to make more people happy with Communist Party rule by spreading the wealth sends China into regions where they will face opposition or gain vital interests that could put China in conflict with those states that have their finger on this vital component of keeping China's people happy with the communist monopoly of power in China:

Now consider the kind of interests China gains by putting trillions of dollars into this OBOR project.

The northern route goes through Russia. In particular it goes through Russian territory that Russia took from China in the 19th century.

The middle route goes through ex-Soviet republics that Russia still wants to dominate.

The southern land route seems the most problematic given that it must have the cooperation of India, Pakistan, Iran, and then Turkey, to reach European destinations. And if any part is not cooperative, a whole lot of land and air power would be needed to compel cooperation.

The sea route has to make it through the South China Sea, first, and then through the Malacca Straits, and then past Indian air and sea power plus whatever America throws in their path. And then it has to make it through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea. Any type of opposition is too much for China to secure militarily, if opposed.

Chinese national interests will follow trade (the flag follows trade). Russia will have the biggest problem from this natural sequence.

But Indonesia, India, and other smaller powers will have to cope as well.

And if the article is correct, China simply can't make these land trade routes into what they hope they will be, so there will be more friction than benefit to the regions that the routes pass through.

And if the land portion of the trade route initiative doesn't work the way China's rulers want because so much trade goes by sea for good reasons--it is cheaper--doesn't that just mean that China will be even more eager to sustain the relatively meager gains for their interior provinces that such a OBOR policy provides?

And would force seem the best way to ensure that domestic tranquility is not disrupted by opposition to Chinese trade inland?

So much of America's new interests as a Pacific power lie in the opposite direction of China's roads west. So getting China to look to the interior of Asia just gets me to bade them to go west, young Han superpower.

UPDATE: The Russians know darned well that China--and not America and NATO--is the real threat with those missiles and economic growth:

China has ancient claims on much of the Russian Far East and is openly replacing Russia as the primary economic, military and political force in Central Asia. This is made worse by the post-Cold War decline of the Russian economy.

Although Strategypage's assessment of China's GDP relies on purchasing power parity to elevate it. But their point stands.

Russia's behavior of quiet fear about a looming China combined with open hostility to a non-threat from NATO is best understood as Moscow's rulers concealing Russian appeasement of China.

UPDATE: It is a good point that China's long-range missiles in their far west are better suited to targeting America given that being closer to Russia gives Russia an opportunity to hit the missiles first.  But China's arsenal is mostly shorter range stuff and that is what I had in mind on missile threats.

UPDATE: On the other hand, Strategypage says that the Chinese missile deployment of the DF-41 makes them more suitable to hit Russian missiles in western Russia.

Of course, they can be safer from sea-based American attack, more vulnerable to Russian attack, and more capable of hitting Russian missiles, without nullifying the other characteristics.

A Country Here, A Country There, and Pretty Soon It Adds Up

Russia is offering to help Hiftar (or Haftar) who controls eastern Libya. Does Russia intend to arm him enough to march west and capture Tripoli to control the entire country?

Russia continues to press its advantage while it can:

Russia could choose to back Hifter and authorities in eastern Libya and help tip the balance of power in favor of the LNA to capture Tripoli and control most of Libya's territory and energy sources. The Admiral Kuznetsov’s visit to the Libyan coast and hosting of Hifter onboard — which did not go unnoticed by Libyans or international media outlets — is a hint that Moscow is edging toward this option. This would mean greater involvement by Russia and require a significant amount of resources, which Moscow might not have given its heavy involvement in Syria and its suffering economy.

If Russia has such ambitions, recall that Libya once hosted Soviet military assets. Having bases there again would bolster Russian efforts to control the eastern Mediterranean--already improved with the seizure of Crimea which serves as a power projection platform, bases in Syria, port access in Cyprus, and improved relations with Turkey which controls the Turkish straits between the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea entry to the Mediterranean Sea.

Recall too that Putin would see this outcome as revenge against America which took a 2011 no-fly UN resolution about Libya (that Russia did not veto) and twisted it into regime change. Russia resents that bit of sleight of hand.

Sadly, we led from behind so far back that all we did was destroy the old regime rather than change the regime into something better. The continued factional division and warfare in Libya has left room for Putin to enter yet another conflict zone to gain advantage.

This is all the more reason not to ease Russia's financial burdens in short-sighted deals over Ukraine or Syria.

UPDATE: Italy? Will you be happy with a Libya in chaos under Russia's gentle embrace? Or would Russian bases there be even better?

An Interesting Situation, All Around

Is the Western Sahara region the site of the next war in North Africa?

I suppose the limitations on that sentence reduces its significance.

And it neglects that low-level fighting has been going on for many decades now.

Really, the conflict is interesting although it has never risen to a level to attract foreign powers.

It began with a large civilian "invasion" march by Morocco in 1975 (that made an impression on me back then as an innovative method of invasion) that the Spanish colonial power would not shoot at.

Well, it began before that with rebels fighting the Spanish. But the pattern was set by that march of Morocco versus the rebels who wanted independence from Spain and now from Morocco.

Another interesting aspect is that Morocco took what was valuable, built a sand wall between that to protect the region from the wall to the coast, and let the rebels have the wastelands beyond. The author of the initial article writes:

I recently traveled to the free zone. There is no phone service, no GPS and not a single paved road. To navigate, drivers rely on memories of where rocky outcroppings and dried riverbeds stand in relation to one another. The ground is mainly granitic, with waves of petrified forests, meteorites and land mines.

And that's where we remain, after all these years.

Except that Morocco has sent troops across the wall, to build a road that would extend Moroccan control. And the Polisario Front rebels are giving up on the long hope of a UN-sponsored referendum to resolve the conflict.

It doesn't seem likely that the rebels can do much more given their long failure to mount a challenge sufficient to shake Morocco's hold. Unless Morocco's government itself falters in internal unrest, it seems futile. The only leverage the rebels really have is that neighbors are worried about one more war in a region already reeling from jihadi-inspired chaos.

I'm highlighting this mostly because it is so odd. And you can't blame it on Bush 43, Trump, or even Obama.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Now With the Liberal Stamp of Approval!

One thing that really scorches my buns about the sudden Democratic fixation on stopping the dread Russkies who threaten our precious bodily fluids is that until last year Democrats dripped with contempt at conservative worries about Russian intentions.

Prior to our last election campaign, Democrats cast Republicans with worries about Russia as awful people "nostalgic" for the Cold War when nuclear war hung over every crisis. I thought that was insulting and outrageous.

I was eager to stop the Soviets. That's why I enlisted. Heck, behold one of the shirts I wore around campus back in the day!

Hair style from the 1980s redacted to protect the innocent.

And mind you, I didn't mean that as a literal policy proposal. I was well aware of the nuclear arsenals of the West versus the Soviets, unlike the people who were horrified at the shirt.

I wore that on campus, I repeat. Lord knows if you could get away with that now--even with the sudden rage Democrats have discovered for all things Russian.

Back then, of course, I was out of step with the Left which admired Soviet communism despite some unfortunate and totally regrettable broken eggs that would all be worth it once they got a taste of that yummy omelet.

But when we won the Cold War, I was relieved that hair-trigger nuclear deterrence was taken down several notches. I did not miss that. Not one bit.

Especially given that my unit was earmarked for Europe in case of war with the USSR.

Indeed, I hoped Russia would join the West even as I worried that rhetoric coming out of post-Soviet Russia could derail that hope.

And since Russia invaded Georgia, I lost hope that Russia would join the West. Maybe when the last Soviet generation passed the scene, we could revisit that hope. But not now. And it has gotten worse with Russia's invasion of Ukraine, intervention in Syria, and threats to our Baltic NATO allies and friendly but non-allied Finland and Sweden.

But Democrats belittled and insulted any worries about Russia, most famously by President Obama in a debate with Romney in 2012 when our president mocked Romney by saying the 1980s called and wanted their foreign policy back.

Yeah, that was quite a display of presidential wisdom, eh? And our president's fanboys (and girls) loved it to death.

That sense of superiority the Left displayed based on no qualifications that I could see annoyed me far more than Democratic attempts to claim co-authorship in the Western victory in the Cold War given that late-Cold War Democrats had turned against containing the Soviets and accused America of being worse than the communists. The Left loved their Russian-inspired fake news back then (and here's a pre-election Russian version of what the USSR did).

Much as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could be anti-same sex marriage without provoking the Left to demonize them, only to demonize conservatives who until just moments earlier held positions identical to Clinton and Obama; Democrats can declare that they have always been at war with Eastasia--and if you don't see the Russian threat as the Democrats paint it, you must be a Putin dupe.

But hey, I'm an optimist. I welcome my Democratic brethren into the anti-Russian camp. You are late, but I welcome you. I bet if I still had that shirt I could safely wear it again.

I'm sure Democrats will still be there when the going gets rough, right?

The Limits of Reset

While President Trump may want to improve relations with Russia and China, policies to defend us and our allies from the likes of Iran and North Korea will undermine such a hope.

I like this, and so will allies under threat when these states go fully nuclear:

The Trump administration intends to develop a "state of the art" missile defense system to protect against attacks from Iran and North Korea, the White House said in a policy position posted on its website on Friday.

Sadly, Russia is already deeply upset at our thin defenses in Europe and China is deeply upset at South Korea's planned deployment of American-made anti-missile defenses (THAAD).

Both prefer to have America's allies vulnerable to their nuclear missiles.

And not just vulnerable to destruction since even planned improvements in missile defenses won't do more than defend against a small attack.

No, the Russians and Chinese want to be able to efficiently nuke our allies without the cost of some of the warheads they launch getting shot down.

So enjoy any happy "reset" dreams while you can. Russia and China won't go along if it involves anything that lessens their ability to nuke people.

UPDATE: Oh, and I should note that the Russians and Chinese really don't like powerful American-built radars peering into their territory. So there is that aspect, too.

Did Putin Really Go There?

Russia has been messing with Moldova, that is shifting to Russia under their new ruler, complete with their puppet break-away region of Transnistria hosting a rump Russian garrison to keep it a frozen territorial dispute. And now the Russians mess with NATO ally Romania:

Politicians in Bucharest have reacted with dismay and in some cases with anger after Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday presented his Moldovan counterpart Igor Dodon with an ancient map of Moldova that includes parts of modern Romania.

The map presented in the Kremlin includes today’s Republic of Moldova, the Romanian province of the same name, northern Bukovina - once part of Romania but now in Ukraine - and a part of the Dobrogea region, also in Romania.

It's to be a war of old maps, is it?

Look at all that former Chinese territory, from the major Russian city and base at Vladivostok up through the entire Far Eastern border area and the island of Sakhalin!

All territory taken from China by Russia in the 19th century.

And while China does not actively claim this territory now, an agreement that suspended China's claims ends in 2021.

Note too that while the Chinese claims have been suspended, China got an interesting concession from Russia a decade ago:

And an interesting little tidbit in the article states that in May 2005, Putin agreed to give 120 square kilometers of land back to China. The long-standing border dispute is settled according to the article. But I doubt it. China established two things by this small transaction. One, if this small chunk of land is really Chinese territory, in theory the rest of the Far Eastern territory that Russia took from China is no less Chinese. Second, the Chinese established that Russia can be forced to cede territory to them. This will not be the last time that land changes hands along the Russian-Chinese border. Count on that.

So if China exercises its option to exit that treaty with Russia, all of a sudden China's claims are back in play--and Russia admitted that China has a point.

I wonder what Peking thinks of Russia's map diplomacy?

UPDATE: This is relevant:

Earlier this week Chinese and Hong Kong media, including state-run Beijing tabloid, the Global Times, reported that China was deploying the intercontinental ballistic missile Dongfeng-41to its northernmost Heilongjiang province, bordering Russia.

The Russians say this deployment of a nuclear-capable missile is nothing to worry about given how they are all friendly like.

Say, this is relevant, too, now that you mention it:

Russia’s deadliest new nuclear weapon currently under development, the new super-heavy thermonuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) RS-28 Sarmat may be in trouble, the Russian Nuclear Forces Project (RNFP) reports.

Chinese nukes putting more of Russia within range and Russia's new nuke not working that well.

Thank goodness China is Russia's close friend, eh?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Hoo Boy

Those who once counted on the state to bear arms to protect them are apparently discovering the joys of the Second Amendment:

This is a story about a group of big government liberals who have taken steps to defend themselves and become self-sufficient in the face of a Trump presidency. The irony probably escapes them.
Here's Colin Waugh a newly minted gun-owner (Welcome Colin!):
An unapologetic liberal, he was no fan of firearms. He had never owned one before. But Waugh, a 31-year-old from Independence, Missouri, couldn’t shake his fears of a Donald Trump presidency — and all of the chaos it could bring. He imagined hate crimes and violence waged by extremists emboldened by the Republican nominee’s brash, divisive rhetoric. He pictured state-sanctioned roundups of Muslims, gays, and outspoken critics.

I suspect we will see an upsurge of firearms accidents.

I wish Waugh would start with something easier, like "running with scissors," first.