Sunday, April 30, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

A while back I wondered why so many French fled to Britain to find work when the reason given for allowing so much immigration to France is that the lack of workers (from low birth rates) requires importing workers. In a fascinating essay, the reason proposed for the situation is that working class French can't afford to live in the elite cities where the jobs are located. The French have a solution of course. They ban criticism of society for the plight of the working class. I guess the first rule of Plight Club is don't talk about Plight Club. For America's left which seems to take sick delight in higher death rates of middle aged white working class males, the same thing is happening in their beloved and nuanced France. Thank God nobody wants to suppress freedom of speech here to discuss our problems.

My daughter was selected to go to a girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) event (why yes, I am a proud dad, since you ask). What cracks me up is that a local organic market provided food for the event. Which is nice. But nothing says "science" like extolling low-yield, hippie-grown food while reflexively rejecting modern farming methods and GMOs, eh? Related thoughts on never letting a made-up crisis go to waste.

Yes, we need to be vigilant in reminding China that an air defense identification zone is fine but is not an expression of territorial sovereignty. And in an example of why I don't enable comments, some troll wrongly claimed in a comment that we ordered the Russians who recently flew near Alaska to get our of our air defense identification zone. No, we politely escorted the Russians in international air space to let them know we are aware of them. Seriously, we only observed them in international air space.

Reducing corruption strengthens rule of law, which makes governments better, which improves people's lives. And yes, crony capitalism which exists here (some companies and industries are favored over others) counts as corruption.

If the French conventional political parties had addressed societal and economic problems rather than say that even discussing them are out of bounds, the French wouldn't have their election problem. Remember, we have had the same unwillingness to discuss the problems--just saying the people with concerns are "deplorable"--that it nearly gave us Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee and did give us Donald Trump as the Republican nominee and president. So the "shut up" Democrats and the "deaf" Republican leadership share the responsibility for our election outcome. Mind you I'm still thrilled that Clinton was denied the presidency by Trump, who will have my gratitude forever just for that. But you have to admit that the shakiness of our political parties comes from failure to address the problems of people not part of the coastal elites.

I think the March for Science was an embarrassment for the participants. Science is about discovering the truth of how our world works. Politics is about who gets what. Those marching for "science" believe they and they alone have arrived at and perfected truth; and those marchers believe that science--even if they are absolutely right on the problem, the solution, and the trade-offs involved in the solution, can be translated into effective government policy without politics making the science just another tool to determine who gets what. So the marchers for science show they understand neither science nor politics. Mind you, I think the organizers understand that quite well. The image of "science" they sell is just one way to support their left-wing policy proposals. Of course, if you think of the marchers as going on a pilgrimage, it all makes sense. Much more here if you really want to think about Earth Day.

At the intersection of Cultural Appropriation and White Supremacy: "American race-faker Rachel Dolezal has returned to the limelight with her first ever visit to Africa on a lecture tour about race – a move which has been met with outrage, calls for a boycott and a string of scathing memes." So a white woman goes to Africa to lecture actual Africans about being black? So she thinks white people understand Black people more than actual Africans? That's got to be problematic.

Should pain and shame be restored to state punishment for crimes? Funny enough, the Twitter mobs use these tactics (yes, putting out location information is potentially dangerous) against the hate-target of the day. But the government can't do it under rule of law. Tip to Instapundit. Let me say that the one argument against shame is that in the past the shame could teach you a lesson and in small communities, people could more easily forgive you. And if not, you could move elsewhere where people don't know your shame and fear of repeating your experience can shape a better life. How do you escape the Internet once shamed?

The French two-step election process is designed to let voter vote with their hearts in the first round and then vote against their fears in the second. This is supposed to ensure the victory of the centrists (who won't rock the boat even if a giant squid jumps in the boat). So Macron is favored. But will fear inspire more French voters in their second round to vote for or against Le Pen? I don't like Le Pen. But she is the only one who even admitted there is a giant squid in the boat. And even if Macron wins, the fear will remain and grow stronger.

Iraqi forces will fight carefully to erase ISIL's toe hold in Mosul. Troops and families of troops are voters, too. That is a victory alone for the long-suffering people of Iraq who have endured Saddam, Sunni jihadis, and Iranian plots to dominate Iraq.

Remember when Sally Field said "You like me! Right now, you like me!" Yeah, this is the opposite. (And yeah, the people who didn't vote last time will vote this time for sure.) That's gotta hurt. Democrats will likely perform triage and apply the coup de grâce to Hillary (and Chelsea while they are at it).

American and Egyptian forces have resumed military exercises, in this case Eagle Salute 2017,  which increases the ability to operate against Iranian smuggling in the Red Sea to ship weapons to the Yemen Houthis and Hamas in Gaza, as well as potential action against pirates.

The cause of this development will forever remain a mystery.

The Obama administration was clearly willing to do anything to get Iran's agreement to a deal.  My abysmally low level of nuance clearly makes me unable to appreciate the Smart Diplomacy.

Bill Nye, what guy?  I'd say I'm disappointed in him, but my expectations are now so low that I didn't even blink. I think I almost feel sorry for Nye. Tip to the PJ Media Borg.

It is possible that Trump only wants the UN to slap harsher sanctions on North Korea and made that job easier by convincing the UN Security Council that sanctions are way better than a war that is likely without harsher sanctions.

I really hope that liberals are just a little embarrassed by now that their fantasies of Trump as a Russian puppet and as a fascist are so wrong. Don't like his policies? Fine. That is normal to do. Lord knows he wasn't my first--or tenth--choice. It's not my fault your choice was worse than Trump. But honestly, don't liberals feel silly given that Russian guards aren't staffing detention camps outside of LA with Hollywood actors as inmates?

Yes, for all their supposed European nuance, the French concept of "left" and "right" doesn't really translate well for America. It really would be better to have a spectrum that goes from individual liberty to state control--which would put communists, socialists, and national socialists on the same part of the political spectrum. Really, our media tends to call anyone they don't like "conservatives" or "right-wing."

I suspect we're coming closer to sinking an Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessel the way the Iranians keep harassing our Navy.

I don't write much about EMP attacks, but they are on my radar screen. We should definitely harden our national electricity grid to withstand such a strike, including stockpiling critical equipment that takes a long time to build in order rebuild the critical grid backbone to repair damage more quickly.

Personally, I like the idea of an inheritance tax to prevent a hereditary upper class from forming. There should be an exempt amount for most Americans and to allow family businesses to be passed down easily. I know that puts me apart from Republicans, but in my view such second generation wealthy tend to be very liberal, so there is a practical objective on top of my general objective.

Liberals who look the other way while communists and anarchists pretend to speak for them should not remain silent in the face of far left threats of violence. Targets will organize and fight back if the authorities--who should be doing their jobs--don't stop the leftist thugs. The communists and anarchists want blood in the streets. Do liberals? You guys are paying for the protests (and I was amused to read one site where communists complained that Democrats created a front organization--the Direct Action Alliance--involved in the "protest" in Portland in the first link). Anybody on the left who doesn't oppose those far left thugs should scrape off that COEXIST bumper sticker from their car. Tip to Instapundit. Seriously, why do liberals love the French for everything but their willingness to restore order?

I don't know about this. I think that prior to 1989 Russia was (when it was the Soviet Union) an Asian power. Since then Russia has been a European power with an extended valuable but vulnerable Asian appendage. And the puzzlement of why Russia hasn't diversified relations in Asia to balance reliance on China answers itself: Russia is so weak in Asia that it can't balance China and so appeases China.

You can't see me, but I have on my "I honestly don't care what you think" face. Tip to Instapundit.

Well that's a damned shame.  The Russians will wonder if the Turks (despite the ramming ship being Togo-flagged, it was apparently that ship's fault) had a hand in deliberately sinking that spy ship. Perhaps the Turks learned from the Chinese on using a naval militia to do the dirty work.

To be fair, some men are so wealthy and liberal that they think they can do anything to a woman. Consequences are for the little deplorable people.

One reason I wasn't worried about Trump on foreign policy is that I assumed that by appointing Republicans, President Trump would bend to realities to forge a foreign policy more in line with our interests. Trump isn't an ideologue the way Obama was (is) in forging policy based on his vision of what foreign policy should be (regardless of the reality of the world). Trump has bent to realities. And he is doing it early; unlike President Obama who in many ways persisted in trying to impose his fantasy world beliefs on the world as it exists until the moment he left office.

Our cruise missile submarine Michigan is in Korean waters. We have four of those. If we are seriously going to go after North Korea, I imagine we'd have 3 of them on station. Which we can do. Although we couldn't know they are there, of course. If we didn't want North Korea and China to see Michigan, we wouldn't have seen her.

It is interesting that the Saudis stopped a robotic explosives boat.  It wasn't long ago that a Saudi ship was hit by one. Is this a sign of how long the war has been raging that I am encouraged that the Shia Houthis don't have a ready supply of suicide bombers as Sunni jihadis do?

Of course the Iran deal is even worse than we thought. And that's saying something considering how bad I think it is.

Iraqis who aren't Iranian hand puppets seem to want American troops to stay in Iraq post-Mosul.

Does the Navy have an innovation crisis? Defense of the super carrier as the center of our fleet for sea control and determination to carry out large-scale amphibious warfare in the face of cheap, effective precision weapons guided by cheap, pervasive surveillance networks makes me think the answer could be "yes."

I'd like to note that I wouldn't value Nancy Pelosi's opinion on whether I should have fries with that burger I order, let alone any public policy question. I'm starting to think she's performance art, or something.

Whatever else you may want to say about Saudi Arabia, President Trump's complaint that Saudi Arabia doesn't do enough for their defense is wrong given that the Saudis rank 4th in defense spending and spend 10% of their GDP on defense. And the Saudis took the lead in blunting Iran's drive to expand influence in civil war-wracked Yemen. I'm not sure what the point of Trump's statement is.

I really have no use for the Center for No American Security. Their paper on the view from Russia seems to validate Russian complaints that American efforts to support Ukraine and Georgia are efforts to get proxies in Russia's "near abroad" (former territories) when they are simply helping nations that escaped Russian imperial control; and wrongly terms Syria as part of that "near abroad." Further, painting America as Russia's main threat when we are far from them (and supposedly distracted by fighting jihadis) totally ignores bordering and growing China which has actual territorial claims on Russian territory that Russia took from China (which kind of makes a "century of humiliation" by Western nations pale in comparison, eh?). Yes, Russia relies on nukes to provide the ultimate defense of their massive border. But let's not dignify Russia's fantasy Western threat by going along with it. Also, I think this is nonsense: "Traditional notions of the front and the rear, strong points, flanks and junctions, and combat-contact lines will be largely outmoded." Technology changes but those longstanding notions of warfare are not going away. I have to wonder how much of the Russian information cited is disinformation.

I haven't gone from relief that Hillary Clinton lost to horror that Donald Trump won the 2016 election, as I thought I might. Of course, I was never seriously worried that Trump would result in a worst case scenario from either my perspective or the fantasy fascist dystopia  that liberals conjured up. I figured the office, our vast government, and reality would shape him in better directions. So far so good. So while I am also someone who was not (and still isn't) fond of Trump it isn't accurate to say I'm "pleasantly surprised" at how Trump is doing. It would be more accurate to say that I harbored some fear that I could be wrong on Trump being shaped by outside forces. That fear has not arisen in the first 100 days. Also, when the grading of Trump is so wildly different, you know that the grades are based on ideology and not on simply being president. So no dystopian future. Just politics.

There is no irony in Berkeley starting the "free speech movment" and suppressing free speech today. It was always the "our (left wing) speech movement."

A French amphibious warfare carrier and hundreds of marines (and I assume escorting and support ships) have arrived in the Pacific. While it is a drop in the bucket fleet-wise, it is a significant capability when you note that so much of the tension there involves Chinese threats to small islands. So, welcome France!

There is unrest in the provinces of Russia. Whether this amounts to something more significant is unknown. Putin does have his personally loyal (but is it in practice?) national guard to put down unrest that becomes more significant--or to start a "small" war to make their protests look unpatriotic. I still wonder if the Russian empire, after fragmenting in 1989 and 1991, is done fragmenting.

Poland is working with Ukraine on updating helicopters. Ukraine uses them and Poland while in NATO has a lot of experience with Soviet-made stuff. I assume that former Soviet vassals now in NATO work with Ukraine on armored vehicles and other weapons to upgrade Soviet-era stuff with Western technology to help Ukraine fight the ongoing Russian occupation of Ukrainian territory.

Sadly, hateful eliminationist rhetoric is still part of politics. Tip to Instapundit.

American natural gas to Europe could be as important for defending Europe from Russia as (but not a substitute for, I should add) a full American heavy division sitting in southern Poland.

While I am worried that our Army (and military in general) needs to rebalance for conventional warfare after so many years fighting insurgents, let me note that I was fully on board the need to unbalance the Army (and Marines) for COIN to win on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. I can't forget that our Army didn't want to fully adapt to the Vietnam War to avoid "wrecking" our Army needed to defend NATO, yet got both defeat and a wrecked Army for a decade anyway.

Seriously, this isn't a defense of "science" but of religious fanaticism on a jihad against unbelievers. Tip to Instapundit.

If the Russians are ready to "cooperate" with America on Syria, it means either that the Russians expect America to cooperate with a Russian/Assad win; or it means that the Russians have their nuts in a vice and want help extricating themselves. They grew used to both of those things the prior 8 years.

And a North Korean missile failed on Saturday.  Was this a new KN-17 missile failing or an older Scud missiles fired just because they are getting old and if they work, it's a nice propaganda stunt as valuable training? The article says the former, but the latter is fairly common.

Erdogan's purge continues. If the coup had this many backers, the coup would have worked.

The noose around ISIL-held Raqqa continues to tighten as American-backed militias claw away at the Tabqa region.  I continue to wonder what Assad will do. He has incentive to erase the stain of that Dien Bien Phu moment. Would American firepower try to stop Assad if his troops try to exploit the defeat of ISIL at Tabqa? UPDATE: On Monday, that SDF militia claims to have taken Tabqa.

I mentioned that I dropped Facebook. And I won't go on Twitter. It's just a larger-than-bumper sticker style of communication that rewards mean Tweets and 5-minute hates on the target of the day. As newspaper editors might say, "Democracy dies in snarkness."

I don't know what President Trump was thinking telling the South Koreans they have to pay for the THAAD missile defense system we are installing there and that our trade relations must change. Unless our president is trying to scare South Korean voters away from the left in their upcoming election by raising the possibility that South Korea might face North Korea without our full support, this was dumb. And it probably wasn't wise even if my speculation is near the target.

So ... last year Hillary Clinton was under criminal investigation for her email violations rather than just being peripheral to some vague security review. She damaged national security with her off-the-books email server while Secretary of State--and is apparently getting away with it. Rule of law doesn't look so good when it only applies to the weak and powerless.

Yes, Venezuela's socialist government effed up an oil-wet dream despite the world's fourth largest petroleum reserves. Or are you suggesting that President Obama spent 8 years undermining the glorious socialist experiment there? After all, the only other alternative to admitting the bankruptcy of socialism is to suggest that President Trump is so super competent that he managed this level of sabotage in just 100 days! God help them down there. The ugly is just beginning.

The United Arab Emirates is certainly willing to punch above its weight class. Being useful attracts larger allies, of course.

China's Pivot to Asia

China's investment in Djibouti which includes a military base is part of China's naval power projection across the Indian Ocean to defend sea lines of trade with Europe. I sigh in relief.

The traditional land power China has gone to sea and plans to stay there:

The military base is part of Beijing's plan to continue with its "maritime military struggle," and to overcome conventional thinking that "land outweighs sea," according to its 2015 defense white paper.

But really, a focus to the west all the way to Europe really means a focus on land through the interior of Asia at the expense of the Pacific littorals and sea where America and our traditional allies are located.

And extending Chinese naval power all the way to the Horn of Africa runs into Indian aero-naval power, which may eat up the improvements in Chinese naval power that allows China to reach Djibouti.

We are not out of the game in China's new theater, mind you, where Kazakhstan is an American friend that would be happy to have our help to keep Russia and China at bay.

And we are still in Afghanistan, of course.

Basically, I love it when a plan comes together.

UPDATE: Here is a small taste of how focusing inland sparks some resistance and makes China spend more effort there:

China's plan to blast open more of the Mekong River for bigger cargo ships could founder on a remote outcrop of half-submerged rocks that Thai protesters have vowed to protect against Beijing's economic expansion in Southeast Asia.

Dynamiting the Pi Long rapids and other sections of the Mekong between Thailand and Laos will harm the environment and bring trade advantages only to China, the protesters say....

Such opposition reflects a wider challenge to China's ambitious "One Belt, One Road" project to build a modern-day Silk Road through Asia to Europe.

Yes, it is an engineering and local protest challenge. But more of China's attention will have to focus inland to overcome them.

Resentment will build along with economic growth. And more important, as value flows to China, China will need to spend more to defend that avenue of trade and investment at the expense of forces pointed east toward America's allies and our forces in the western Pacific littorals.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

How Bad Are They?

Palestinian sympathizers incorrectly claim Israel "blockades" Gaza. But guess who is doing their best to do exactly that?

With the prospect looming of a Middle East peace initiative by a new U.S. administration more sympathetic to Israel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has decided to turn the screw on the Hamas group that has kept Gaza out of his control for a decade.

Abbas's Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) on Thursday told Israel it would no longer pay for the electricity Israel supplies to Gaza, a move that could lead to a complete power shutdown in the territory, whose 2 million people already endure blackouts for much of the day.

Even Palestinians understand that Gaza is run by terrorists rather than by pastoral poetry-writing victims of unjustified aggression.

Good News and Bad News

The Germans stopped a "xenophobic" German from carrying out a terror attack:

A German soldier who pretended to be a Syrian refugee and was allegedly planning a gun attack has been arrested in southern Germany.

Prosecutors in Frankfurt said the 28-year-old suspect was motivated by a "xenophobic background".

A student, 22, said to be a co-conspirator, has also been arrested.

He may have planned to kill Moslem migrants or perhaps pose as a Moslem migrant killer. Or something else, I suppose.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that the man registered as a refugee in December 2015:

No concerns were raised at the time, despite the man speaking no Arabic. German media report that he even received monthly payments and accommodation.

If the German--those of the "papers, please" Teutonic grim efficiency--screening process for refugees/migrants couldn't ferret out an actual German, how are we to expect that jihadis were screened and identified?

One shudders to think about the Italian screening process.

But hey, it's not like entering one European Union country allows you to move anywhere within the EU, right? So how bad can the problem be?

This will work out swell.

Don't Be Sheepish About Your Trades

In honor of game night at Casa TDR.

It's a Catan thing. Not everything is a joke.

And yes, I made that.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Long-Telegraphed Southern Front

Are we about to open a southern front inside Syria?

As coalition forces inch closer toward the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, increased U.S. military activity on Jordan’s northern border suggests that the fight against ISIS will soon expand to southern Syria.

Well, we've been preparing for a southern front for 4 years, at least.

If we were serious about fighting Assad, I figured this was a likely place to do it. But that was 430,000 dead ago.

Instead we went to the eastern part of Syria--to fight ISIL and avoid the question of what to do about Assad.

Does a southern front mean that we will help Syrian enemies of Assad?

Or is this just taking the fight against jihadis to its logical conclusion?

And is it an effort to put pressure on Iran inside Syria?

UPDATE: You know, this would complement an Israeli offensive into Lebanon to hammer Hezbollah.

It would help protect Israel's Golan flank and would benefit from Israel making Hezbollah too busy to be Assad's shock troops.

Not in His Name

Well, this could just be odd news but I think it shows that God both has a sense of humor and doesn't like what the jihadis are doing in His name:

Three Islamic State militants setting up an ambush in a bitterly contested area of northern Iraq were killed by a herd of stampeding boars, local leaders say.

To be clear, wild pigs killed wild Moslem fanatics.

Is there anything bacon can't do?

Meanwhile, Iraqi soldiers continue to kill jihadis the terrestrial way:

Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service spokesman Sabah al-Nuaman said security forces killed about 500 Islamic State militants and captured the Islamic State's "core" when it seized the al-Tenek district. Nuaman said forces need to capture four more Mosul neighborhoods before completely capturing Iraq's second-largest city.

Trained troops are still the best way to kill jihadis, of course.

But God's help is always welcome.

UPDATE: In more earthly news, Iraqis expect to fully defeat ISIL in Mosul in May.

Two Out of Three Isn't Bad

The Navy has another "expeditionary fast transport." The 8th of 12 planned:

EPFs are shallow draft, all aluminum, commercial-based catamarans capable of intra-theater personnel and cargo transport that provide combatant commanders high-speed sealift mobility. EPFs enable rapid projection and agile maneuver and transport of personnel, equipment and supplies over operational distances and offer access to harsh and degraded offload points. ...

As versatile, non-combatant vessels, EPFs provide increased operational flexibility for a wide range of activities including maneuver and sustainment, relief operations, and flexible logistics support.

One, why "EPF" stands for "expeditionary fast transport" is beyond my comprehension.

Two, these used to be Army assets. I hate to think that these vessels might be counted when tallying up our fleet numbers.

Three, and this is related to their original status, what is "expeditionary" about a non-combatant vessel based on a civilian ship's construction standards?

Don't expect this ship to deposit Marines on any hostile shore. At best an EPF can transport forces between secured locations. And it is fast for a surface vessel.

So two out of three isn't bad.

Who is Ready for What?

Over the years, I've noted that indicators of readiness that show a high proportion of our forces as unready for combat are not what people may think they are. I think it is important to provide context given that we spend so much on defense that people can rightly wonder what we are spending money on if only X percent of service Y is capable of going to war.

The fact is, "unready" forces can fight. The Army certainly understands this:

[The] readiness of the Army is key to the security of the Nation. Unfortunately, less than one-third of Army forces are at acceptable readiness levels to conduct sustained ground combat in a full spectrum environment against a highly lethal hybrid threat or near-peer adversary. The risk of deploying unready forces into combat is higher U.S. casualty rates and increased risk to mission success. [emphasis added]

The Army rightly has high standards for measuring readiness. Our soldiers are not cannon fodder and have a right to expect that the goal is to make them ready to fight, survive, and win if sent into battle.

But even our "unready" units are better than the the vast majority of units that a potential foe might deploy to fight us.

Heck, our National Guard combat brigades mobilized without additional training would probably be better than the majority of units that a potential foe might deploy.

But as the Army notes, there is a higher chance of defeat using units that don't match readiness standards. And there is a risk of higher casualties even in a victory.

I'd like to match the Army standards of readiness. You can bet the Russians wish they had our Army standards as they complete 3 years of ground warfare in the Ukrainian Donbas region.

So that's your daily dose of perspective.

Clean-Up in the Uijongbu Corridor

I should add another disturbing factor that could be significant in North Korea's calculations for war or peace.

As I've noted, I think North Korea would likely lose a war with South Korea and her allies quite badly. North Korean success would rely on massive use of chemical weapons, a ROK army collapse, and a failure of America to strike back against North Korea with either a massive conventional campaign or nukes.

Yet North Korea might choose war even if they believe they have but a 5% chance of victory--and so regime survival--if they believe a choice for peace has a 100% chance of regime collapse and defeat.

There is another disturbing factor. North Korea is so broke that North Korea can't afford to even feed their very large army let alone equip and train if for combat.

The North Koreans tried a strategy I called Kooks, Spooks, and Nukes to spend scarce resources on nuclear weapons to deter foreign enemies and the spies and secret police to control internal enemies from the people and armed forces.

The problem is that the North Korean elites are outnumbered and the army, even if incapable of defeating South Korea's army, is capable of defeating the loyal forces of the elites if the army decides it has more in common with the people who are also being starved of resources than they have in common with the elites who live well by spending on people and programs the elites really value--the nukes and spooks.

But the North Korean government can hardly afford to demobilize the army to save the money. Could North Korea really afford to abandon what is a large slave labor force that has young men with military training? Better to have a foe inside the tent peeing out than outside the tent peeing in, as the expression goes.

But what if the North Korean regime assumes that the destruction of their army in a futile war is the objective? What if Kim Jong-Un decides that America and our allies would do him a favor by destroying his army while hoping that the survivors and their relatives blame America?

The surviving army would have more resources per person available in theory.

Mind you, the surviving North Korean army might turn on Kim anyway. Or America and our allies might not be content to survive the war. We might exploit the destruction of North Korea's army and move north. So I'm not saying this would be a good idea.

But Kim Jong-Un might think it is a good idea. Or he might just think it is part of the least bad idea available to win.

Have a super sparkly day.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Where is the Gasoline?

It seems clear that despite military moves that President Trump wants to put pressure on North Korea to get a diplomatic solution rather than go to war. Does North Korea appreciate that limit on our potential actions?

Because this makes me worry:

An acute shortage of gasoline in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang that has sparked price hikes and hoarding is raising fears of potentially crippling pain at the pumps if things don’t get better soon - and driving rumors that China is to blame.

Could China have squeezed the petroleum supply? Sure, China might be behind this. And it would hurt North Korea if China cut them off:

"If China cuts off oil supply, North Korea would not survive on its own for three months and everything in North Korea would be paralysed," said Cho Bong-hyun, who heads research on North Korea's economy at IBK Bank in Seoul.

But North Korea might also be diverting every drop of imported fuel to their war reserve stock.

Perhaps North Korea believes that after more than 60 years of predicting an American invasion of North Korea, America's plans finally came together this year.

Perhaps North Korea doesn't think there is any point to diplomacy because they will never agree to give up nukes, and so a super-mighty pre-emptive strike would do the trick.

So perhaps North Korea believes a military campaign against South Korea that doesn't require a lot of fuel--like bombarding Seoul--could be sustained with what they already have stockpiled and what they are diverting now (if they are) for several months without collapsing the civilian economy; and that China, even if it cuts off oil when North Korea starts a war, wouldn't dare let North Korea fall.

And so in time (within 3 months) would start up the oil supplies, and a whole lot more to keep North Korea afloat and fighting.

Always remember, our rational isn't their rational.

UPDATE: In case it isn't clear:

"There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea," Trump said in an interview at the Oval Office.

"We'd love to solve things diplomatically but it's very difficult," he said, describing North Korea as his biggest global challenge.

If North Korea knows they will never give up nukes, they could be jumping right to the major conflict part of that statement as the logical conclusion of Trump's position.

Not that there is much we can do about that other than accepting a nuclear North Korea.

And while in isolation it would probably be possible to deter a nuclear North Korea (possibly with the addition of nuclear South Korea and Japan, which would alarm China), with the threat of North Korea proliferating nukes to mullah-run Iran, that's not an option.

I know that China doesn't have control of North Korea. But China might be the only one that can do the job at an acceptable price, as tough (and costly) as it may be for China to pull off.

UPDATE: More on the petroleum issue. And yes, the military (and transportation--which would supply the military) is a major user of gasoline that has become scarce in Pyongyang.

Risky Business

I'm in favor of close ties to Taiwan so they can defend their island democracy and keep China boxed inside the first island chain. But I would not sell Taiwan F-35s now.


Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) yesterday told a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the ministry would formally declare its intention to procure Lockheed Martin F-35 jets to US officials in July when Washington is expected to finalize its appointment of Taiwan affairs officials.

What will Taiwan fail to buy in order to purchase F-35B aircraft?

Sure, Taiwan is finally reacting to the threat from the mainland:

Military expenditures are targeted to rise to 3 percent of gross domestic product next year, up from about 2 percent this year, Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan said Thursday while presenting a report outlining Tsai’s first major security review since becoming president. Taiwan plans to develop indigenous ships, airplanes, weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles, he told lawmakers in Taipei.

While the one-year increase planned is impressive (going from 2% of GDP to 3%, putting Europeans to shame for their difficulty getting to 2%), this does not make up for many years of deficient spending.

I'd like to see the baseline spending north of 3% for a long time with any purchase of F-35s done with appropriations above that level.

My main reason for opposing the sale of our advanced F-35 is that I'm not sure that Taiwan could hold off a serious Chinese invasion. And I don't want the Chinese to capture intact Taiwanese F-35s when Taiwan goes down.

Keep defense spending higher for a while to reassure me that Taiwan takes their defense seriously without counting on American forces running the gauntlet to save Taiwan.

Then I'd consider a sale of F-35s.

Let's Wage Afghan War 1.45 Before it Becomes Afghan War 2.0

Yes, focusing on ISIL and al Qaeda in Afghanistan is an overly narrow view of the problem when the Taliban are the big threat to Afghanistan's stability:

To Afghan and other critics of President Donald Trump's apparent indecision over how to win a seemingly intractable war, Friday's assault - the worse of its kind since the Taliban were ousted in 2001 - was evidence he was getting it wrong.

"The biggest threat to the security and stability of this country is the Taliban insurgents, not Daesh forces," said Mirwais Yasini, an influential Afghan member of parliament from Nangarhar province, using an Arabic term for Islamic State.

"You drop your biggest bomb on Daesh, but what about the Taliban who kill dozens of our people every day?"

I agree. And I agreed a year ago when I noted President Obama's decision to avoid winning a seemingly intractable war by focusing on "counter-terrorism" as if that was the whole universe of Afghanistan's security problems was a problem.

This policy confusion didn't originate with the current administration.

Mind you, eventually the article author gets to the origins of "Trump's" indecision three months into his administration:

In the final years of former U.S. President Barack Obama's administration, American troops in Afghanistan were discouraged from directly targeting the Taliban, amid hopes the group could be brought to the negotiating table for peace talks.

"The Obama administration was very much existing in a parallel universe where if you don't call the Taliban terrorists then there's a chance you can reconcile with them," said Ioannis Koskinas, senior fellow with think-tank New America.

Narrowing the scope of the Afghanistan campaign (no "mission accomplished" moment--just a "honey, I shrunk the mission" slight of hand) justified for the Obama administration a dramatic reduction in the American effort in Afghanistan. Only the enemy rise Phoenix-like in Iraq after we pulled out interrupted a similar trajectory in Afghanistan.

America defined away the majority of our enemies in Afghanistan and they didn't go along. It would be nice to help Afghans defeat the threats while Afghans are capable of fighting the threats.

Or was 2014 in Iraq which led to Iraq War 2.0 so much fun that we want to go on that ride again?

UPDATE: Yeah, I'm worried about the current fighting season in Afghanistan.

The Return of History

I'm not afraid to say that this scared the Hell out of me about how prepared our Army is to fight the Russian army.

Stick with it. The audio gets better.

The bad news is that the Russians have gotten good at armored warfare while we were fighting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan the last 15 years. The 2003 American blitz to Baghdad is but a memory.

The good news is that the Russians can't afford to field a large army equipped to fight the way the Russians have been fighting with their small force in the Donbas. Objectively speaking, Russia is a weak power only able to overwhelm even weaker neighbors--or a small NATO force that opposes them initially.

So let's hope that Russia's planning, finances, and recruiting don't recover enough to do that any time soon.

But tell me how we went from training to fight and win outnumbered to counting on the Russians having too few units to really defeat us?

This talk reinforced a number of my worries about the Army:

--Heavy armor is vital and not obsolete. I've gone on about that in many ways whether it is about tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, recon vehicles, or the amount of heavy armor units we have as opposed to light infantry that has proliferated since we won the Cold War.

Yes, the pursuit of strategic mobility pulls us to lighten our armor, but sacrificing survivability to get lower weight is a losing game.

--Light armor is worthless in high-intensity combat and Ukrainian troops learned to ride on top of the light stuff rather than die inside the thin-skinned armor. Which is a lesson we learned in Vietnam when our troops rode on top of M-113s rather than burn and die inside. But I guess we forgot that.

--We need to put fewer people in each vehicle to reduce casualties.

--We need cluster munitions for artillery, both for direct attack and as scatterable minefields.

--Heavy armor is useful in defense and infantry need organic capabilities to fight heavy armor.

And it added to my worries:

--We need thermobaric weapons for artillery.

--And much more artillery. Precision rounds aimed at point targets are no replacement for precision targeting combined with massed area fire or massed precision strikes. I was wrong to think that precision eliminated the need for volume of fire. Grant me that I concluded that pre-Ukraine.

--Troops need to disperse and dig in to survive enemy firepower.

--Russian electronic warfare is dangerous.

--We desperately need low altitude air defenses for the frontline units. This could have gone in my first column but I don't think I truly appreciated how unlikely it is that the Army can count on the Air Force to reliably provide fire support or keep the skies cleared of enemies.

We need to learn from Ukraine's fight with Russia. In many ways this is Russia's Spanish Civil War intervention to hammer out the details of how to wage modern armored warfare--against America.

And let's support Ukraine in their fight against Russia's ongoing invasion and provide the weapons--like long-range infantry anti-tank weapons as I've long wanted us to provide--to fill in Ukrainian capability gaps.

Now excuse me while I go change my underwear.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Combined Arts

I've had those prints for years. They came with the matting but no standard frames worked.

A few years ago I was in a store that sold frame mats made from old maps. I thought, that's brilliant!

So I finally did it myself after picking up a couple frames on Tuesday.

Oddly, I couldn't find the maps that I know I set aside for this purpose.

But I found another old map that worked. Notwithstanding Putin's desires, I don't think the USSR is coming back. So I could safely ditch that map.

Now. Where to hang them?

Hezbollah Won't Welcome What Will Hit Them

Hezbollah seems to think that in a new war with Israel that Israel will hunker down behind border fortifications:

Lebanon's Hezbollah sought Thursday to show that Israel is building up defences in anticipation of another conflict, after a string of statements from Israeli officials warning of a potential confrontation. ...

"This tour is to show the defensive measures that the enemy is taking," said Hezbollah spokesman Mohamed Afif, on a hilltop along the so-called Blue Line.

A military commander identified as Haj Imad, dressed in digital camouflage and sunglasses, said the Israeli army was erecting earth berms up to 10 metres (30 feet) high, as well as reinforcing a military position near the Israeli border town of Hanita.

"Because their position is directly by the border and the enemy fears that the resistance will advance on it, they have constructed a cliff and additional earth berms and put up concrete blocks," he said.

"The Israeli enemy is undertaking these fortifications and building these obstacles in fear of an advance" by Hezbollah, he said.

So ... the message of the day is not that Israel will attack Hezbollah but that Israel is worried about Hezbollah attacking Israel? Okaaay.

The fact is, the Israeli defenses are not inconsistent with an Israeli offensive.

Perhaps it is purely defensive for the purpose of holding the border while Israeli air power goes after Hezbollah's massive numbers of rockets and missiles capable of being fired at Israeli civilians defended by a limited Iron Dome shield.

But I think that would be a big mistake. Is the lesson from the 2006 war that the Israelis need to do the same thing but turn it to eleven?

I think that border defenses allow Israeli ground troops to penetrate the border in select locations while the rest of the border is defended against Hezbollah ground attack.

The Israelis will occupy the Hezbollah rocket launching sites in southern Lebanon (built up despite the UN presence) to end the Hezbollah threat to Israeli civilians.

And then the Israelis will launch a deep drive that doesn't end until the Israeli troops reach Baalbek.

When done tearing up Hezbollah's infrastructure and killing as many Hezbollah troops as they can, the Israelis will withdraw back into Israel behind those fortifications.

The best timing would be when the Syrian civil war is winding down, whether in Assad's victory or defeat while Hezbollah is committed to that war.

UPDATE: That's interesting:

The possibility of pursuing this option might very well be on the table if a new war erupts between Lebanon and Israel next summer, as many in the region expect.

If it does, it would be a doomsday war in which Israel would strive to eliminate Hezbollah once and for all, as it has failed to do since the early 1980s, even if that means de­stroying Lebanon and parts of Syria.

The claim is that the Israelis would really bombard Lebanon this time. But I don't think that turning the bombardment dial to 11 will do more harm to Hezbollah at an acceptable price.

A really big bombardment that kills Lebanese civilians and damages Lebanese civilian infrastructure will just alienate new Arab allies of Israel against Iran; and give Iran more propaganda opportunities.

I have to believe that Israeli boasts that they will bomb even harder than they did in 2006 are just designed to mislead Hezbollah.

UPDATE: Compatible with being related:

A loud explosion hit close to the Damascus International Airport in Syria Thursday, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. ...

Israel's Intelligence Minister Israel Katz appeared to back up claims that Israel was responsible for the explosion in an interview with Army Radio Thursday.

"I can confirm that the incident in Syria is completely compatible with the Israeli policy of operating to prevent the smuggling advanced weaponry from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon by Iran," Katz said in response to a question on the incident.

Summer isn't far off. Tip to Instapundit.

UPDATE: I truly believe that Israeli hints that they'd turn the bombardment dial to 11 in a new war with Hezbollah is a red herring to make the shock of a deep ground invasion of Lebanon to seriously dig out Hezbollah forces there all the more crippling.

Obviously, I can't know this. This is purely in the realm of "what I'd do" analysis.

And I can't imagine the Israelis would really believe that this time for sure, an aerial campaign will deliver victory.

The Enemy Votes, Too

So how would North Korea strike South Korea? We think that China might take care of the problem and say America will if China won't. But North Korea gets a vote, too.

Rather than comment on that article, let me spout off on my views. But do read the article.

My view is that North Korea has a few basic options.

North Korea has a lot of artillery and chemical weapons which are their major asset. I'm still assuming they don't have functional nuclear weapons as opposed to devices babied by armies of technicians and scientists. They have lots of troops with old equipment, poor training, and nutrition deficiencies that make them small as people. They have no large-scale combat experience since 1953.

The South Koreans have good troops that fought well in the Korean War and in the Vietnam War, and their equipment is modern they certainly have adequate training.

The balance favors South Korea with North Korea having only the advantage of initiating war before South Korea is ready or America and Japan can commit forces to the fight.

As to North Korean options.

One, North Korea could try to limit the risk of a ground war along the DMZ by initiating fighting along the sea border to the west. Send in subs, naval infantry, commandos, and surface ships to sink and kill as many troops and civilians as possible. Meanwhile the North Koreans dare South Korea to expand the war and risk the destruction of Seoul by artillery barrage.

Two, North Korea could unleash commandos in the south to sow disorder while their army makes a limited grab for territory north of Seoul and digs in south of the DMZ to hold the terrain and dare the South Koreans to kick them out and risk the destruction of Seoul that is now within reach of more of North Korea's artillery.

Three, North Korea could go for broke. They'd use option 1 plus the commando portion of option 2, and they'd add a massive offensive on the west side of the DMZ aimed for Seoul that, given the poor quality of the troops and equipment flung south would rely on an even more massive chemical weapons barrage to break the South Korean army and allow the North Koreans to conduct what is essentially a road march to Seoul and perhaps points south.

If the South Korean army breaks under the chemical barrage, it could be game over for Seoul unless the North Korean conscripts break ranks in the advance to plunder South Koran grocery stores and malls--and I'm partially serious, here. Armies have gotten confused about their priorities in history.

I suspect the South Koreans would reform their lines further south and hold. But with Seoul enemy occupied the war gets much more awful.

And we might have to nuke some North Korean bases as a retaliation for massed chemical weapons use, if we want to maintain deterrence. Without chemical weapons, in the past we relied on the threat of nukes to deter chemical use against our troops and our allies. But precision weapons mean we might unleash them as a substitute for nukes because precision means we can destroy targets that once needed nukes to take out.

Odds are the North Koreans suffer a major defeat trying to invade South Korea and that South Korean forces counter-attack to occupy an arc of territory north of the DMZ to push North Korean artillery out of range of Seoul.

And then the air-ground campaign by America, South Korea, and Japan against North Korea kicks into high gear to hunt leadership and WMD targets.

UPDATE: And yes, I am aware that discussion of Seoul being within range of North Korean artillery (tip to Instapundit) mostly means northern suburbs for the usual artillery and that hitting the heart of Seoul requires missiles, planes, and a limited number of larger caliber pieces.

Still, the damage will be heavy and given how a single errant round by America leads to massive complaints, I assume the damage to Seoul will be blamed on America to an even greater degree.

I also assume that predictions that America and South Korea can knock out North Korean artillery quickly underestimate North Korea's ingenuity. So I think the fewer assets that hit the heart of Seoul will fire far longer than optimistic assumptions.

If I May Be So Bold to Suggest, Sinking a Carrier Isn't Necessary

Even if our big aircraft carriers can't be sunk, a mission-kill is just as good during the time the carrier is out of action. The war might be long over before that ship sets sail again.

Sure, we have counter-measures to have a chance of defeating enemy capacity to strike our carriers.

But really?

But the observation that the enemy has a missile or torpedo that can kill a carrier only begins a conversation about carrier vulnerability. Shooting anything at an aircraft carrier is a costly, difficult operation.

And beyond the monetary cost, launching an open attack against an American carrier strike group, with its own cruisers, destroyers, and submarines, is almost certainly a suicide mission.

So there are two questions that remain for anyone who thinks they even have a shot at taking down one of these enormous steel behemoths.

Can you do it? And even if you can, is it worth it?

I think the notion that something that floats can't be sunk is ludicrous. Some believe that. At least the above defense doesn't go that far. But it fails anyway because even if a carrier truly is unsinkable, that's not the metric to judge carriers by.

In any likely scenario, a mission kill is 99% as good as a sinking. And given the importance of the carrier and the psychological impact of taking one out, you are absofreakinglutely darned right an enemy will make the effort.

Especially if we go out of our way to place them in really stupid positions within easy reach of enemy attack assets. But no worries if the ship can't be sunk, of course.

Also, I would be remiss if I failed to note that carrier defenders and critics too often argue apples and oranges about two separate and distinct missions.

Why spend so much for half of the reason we have carriers by pretending the carrier is vital for all of the missions?

UPDATE: In related news:

China has launched its first aircraft carrier built entirely on its own, in a demonstration of the growing technical sophistication of its defense industries and determination to safeguard its maritime territorial claims and crucial trade routes.

I suspect China is building a carrier fleet just as carriers are becoming less relevant to sea control missions given the rise of networked surveillance and cheap precision weapons.

Big carriers look good in peacetime and are useful for war against non-naval/air powers. But in war they will be put out of action just like ours can be.

My main worry in war is that our Navy could be distracted by the shiny object while the Chinese sacrifice their carriers to achieve their objective.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ukraine Really is a Forgotten Crisis

 Let's not forget that Ukraine gave up a lot of nukes and for their faith in paper guarantees got invaded and partially dismembered by Russia.

In a pessimistic article about avoiding war over North Korea's nuclear program, the author notes the problem from North Korea's view of the negotiated end of Iraq's and Libya's WMD programs followed by Western attacks for regime change:

What’re the odds that a revived dialogue, of however many parties, is going to lead to complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of the North Korean nuclear program? They’re brutally long. The North Korean regime has made clear, citing the cases of Libya and Iraq, that WMD dismantlement has previously been an invitation to intervention by external powers.

In the case of Iraq, Saddam's regime wasn't attacked because it gave up WMD. It was attacked because it refused to stop pursuing WMD.

As for Libya, the Khadaffi regime wasn't attacked because it gave up WMD. It was attacked because during a civil war the regime looked like it was about to go postal on rebellious civilians.

If North Korea agrees to give up nukes, does North Korea plan to cheat on the deal or massively oppress their people?

Oh wait, North Korea has done both. So for completely different reasons than the author intends to convey, negotiations with North Korea really are futile.

But on the terms of the author, there is a very good example that isn't being made: Ukraine.

Ukraine actually did give up nuclear weapons (inherited during the break up of the USSR) in an explicit exchange for safety from invasion by a neighbor--Russia--and guaranteed by America and Britain.

Ukraine gave up their nukes and a decade or so later Russia invaded Ukraine, taking over Crimea and continuing to fight for the eastern Donbas region.

One wonders if Russia would have invaded if Ukraine still had nukes.

Honestly, while the Crimea operation with an obvious Russian invasion might have been considered risky, the Donbas method of an atro-turfed insurrection would have been plausible.

Nobody would have speculated about Russia trying to take over large chunks of Ukraine, however, as that would have prompted a small nuclear strike by Kiev perhaps on Ukraine's own territory against a Russian-occupied target. But it is hard to say because Russian nukes might have deterred Ukrainian use of nukes.

Or maybe nukes just deter use of nukes in any scenario short of national extinction.

Anyway, I guess that obvious example of WMD disarmament gone wrong didn't come to mind despite being exactly relevant to the issue in question.

I'm Still Critical of Air Power Purists

Huh, while searching around I ran across a letter to the editor that the Washington Post published that I'd completely forgotten about. My basic concern was the unlimited faith some had (and still have) in what air power can accomplish on its own.

By the end of that year, America and Britain led a brief strike campaign on Iraq in Operation Desert Fox; and in response China, Russia, and France took the lead in the dissipation of international sanctions designed to compel Iraq to comply with the Persian Gulf War ceasefire provisions on proving Saddam Hussein had eliminated his WMD programs.

Air power didn't work to stop Saddam from aiming for WMD, the ability to turn the screws on him without war was eroded as Saddam evaded sanctions and eroded the willingness of the world to enforce them with the threat of Western aerial punishment behind them, and 5 years later America did actually gather a coalition to deal with the problem on the ground in Iraq.

Funny, too, is that al Qaeda's air power strategy on 9/11 failed to terrorize America as much as piss us off, and we put a coalition on the ground to defeat them in their sanctuary in Afghanistan, too.

The struggles go in in different ways, but at least neither is the threat to America that they were in 1998. Which is no sign of failure as we continue to deal with evolving security threats on the ground in Europe and against South Korea so many decades after those wars put Americans on the ground in Europe and South Korea.

I completely forgot about writing that letter. And it doesn't even occur to me to write letters to the editor.

Is There a Realistic Threat Aircraft (and Tactics) Already Out There?

Via Instapundit, this is good news for American airpower:

The F-35 Lightning II strike fighter is easily able to counter the adversary services aircraft thrown at it in numbers, said an official of an adversary services contractor, who added that the industry is facing challenges in coming up with a realistic threat aircraft for training for high-end combat.

And the F-35 isn't even optimized as a fighter--it is a fighter bomber--the way the F-22 is.

I was concerned about the design philosophy of the F-35, while admitting I lack the knowledge to say it is wrong. Yet I've been comforted about the plane as it is being put into service.

But I sure hope that our enemies have the same assumptions about fighting the F-35 as our Navy, Marines, Air Force, and adversary services companies have.

Monday, April 24, 2017

We Came, We Saw, We Forgot

I don't know why we support the problematic GNA faction in Libya. Is the West truly too stupid to learn from experience?

The basic problem [in Libya] is that the UN and most Western nations continue to back the GNA despite the fact that the GNA relies too much on Islamic conservative militias and senior Libyan Islamic clerics who favor imposing Islamic law on Libya, something most Libyans don’t want.

Sure, let's support "moderate" Islamists! It worked so well with Erdogan in Turkey and the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt, eh? So what on Earth are the Italians thinking?

Italy tried to get the new U.S. government interested in providing military support for the GNA in its fight with HoR. The Americans declined but will continue helping with efforts to destroy surviving ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) groups in Libya.

The West is aware that Islamists are either hostile to or at war with the democratic and liberal (in the classical sense) West, right?

Democracy Dies in a Coma

In Russia, Putin doesn't bother that much with planting fake news at home given that he has compliant journalists who do it willingly with the threat of dead journalists to remind the rest:

A prominent Russian journalist known for articles criticizing Russia’s government and President Vladimir Putin has died at a hospital in St. Petersburg after being severely beaten by unknown assailants.

Nikolai Andrushchenko, a 73-year-old co-founder of the weekly newspaper Novy Petersburg, had been unconscious since he was attacked on March 9.

Yeah, note to America's liberals, this is what a real resistance to tyranny by speaking truth to power looks like.

In America, liberal journalism is encouraged by threats of killing your social life if you don't go along with the left-wing herd.

Our way of slanting news is way better, of course, even if it gets to the same general place.

UPDATE: I was prescient on the social life angle

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Houston, We Have a Problem

The chance that the people of North Korea will spare the world the problem of a nuclear-armed North Korea is disappearing.

I don't think it is right to say that North Korea is a particularly difficult problem because while Iraq under Saddam was a prison, North Korea under the Kim dynasty is an "ant colony."

North Korea's prison camp system is so large because North Koreans do resist. Sadly, the smallest resistance is punishable by massive force. North Korea is a particularly harsh prison.

Although resistance in the face of even that exists.

Which is why I never complained about the Obama administration "strategic patience" with North Korea. I truly hoped that a policy of "talk, talk; die, die" could allow North Korea to implode before it could explode a nuclear warhead, while offering reasons for North Korea not to use their eroding conventional power to strike South Korea.

Heck, I was less concerned that Obama would try to cut a faux deal (as Clinton did in 1994) than I was worried Bush 43 would because Obama didn't face any public liberal outcry to use diplomacy the way the Bush administration was vulnerable to faux outrage on that issue. Perhaps we are lucky that the left had Iraq to focus their ire on.

Anyway, we may have lost that race as North Korea's tests of nuclear devices and long-range missiles continues. It is common to say that North Korea has 10-16 nuclear weapons, but I don't know if that is truly accurate. I'm not aware that the intelligence consensus has concluded that North Korea has perfected the nuclear devices they've tested down to rugged nuclear warheads small enough to mount on missiles. Perhaps I'm wrong, of course. And even if I'm right, North Korea is on the path to nuclear weapons sooner rather than later.

If' we've lost that race, another of my assumptions that we could deter a nuclear-armed North Korea is no longer true. I assumed that America would seek regime change in Iran both to protect freed Iraq and to remove the people in Iran who want nuclear weapons.

So one pillar of my patience that we could wait for North Korea's people--even if it was up to the army or a faction of the ruling elite to fight that battle for the beaten down people--was that North Korea would be unable to sell their nuclear weapons technology to Iran, because Iran without mullahs wouldn't want them.

Sadly, the Obama nuclear deal has saved the Iranian mullahcracy just as the Obama chemical deal with Syria saved Assad's dictatorship. I assume that the Iran deal will prevent Iran from having nukes just as poorly as the Syrian deal prevented Assad from having chemical weapons.

So North Korea's prime nuclear weapons customer, Iran--who I have doubts can be deterred--will be willing to pay for nukes (and because of the Iran deal will have the money).

Which means that we may not be able to risk a policy of deterrence with North Korea for the simple reason that it is no longer a case of deterring North Korea.

Perhaps China will deal with their problem child from Hell. It was all fun and games for Peking when their pet psycho just scared America, Japan, and South Korea. But now China has reason to be scared as potential targets of North Korea arm up to deal with the threat and who may decide that they need nuclear weapons. Krauthammer is right about that motivation.

Remember, South Korea and Japan could count on American pledges to use our nukes to defend them with confidence as long as North Korea could only threaten Japan and South Korea. What happens when North Korea can deter American nukes after nuking Japan or South Korea by threatening to nuke American cities?

What happens is that Japan and South Korea decide they need their own nukes. Having fun yet, China?

North Korea could yet collapse--because their people finally rise up in desperation--before Kim Jong-Un is a real nuclear threat if China seriously clamps down on North Korean trade and criminal enterprises.

Or maybe China takes direct action against North Korea, with America's blessing.

Or maybe because the multiple assumptions that allowed patience with North Korea have collapsed, America has to hammer North Korea in cooperation with Japan and South Korea to end the threat of North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapons.

And have no doubt that South Korea is prepared to participate in the hammering:

Back in 2012 the South Korean military also called for over $2 billion to be spent on missiles during the next five years and this plan was largely approved. This was part of an effort to develop the capability to quickly weaken the North Korean artillery and missile forces in any future war. The South Korean plan included the purchase of over a thousand new ballistic and cruise missiles. These are aimed at specific North Korean missile launchers and artillery positions. In the event of a war, the South Korean missiles can be quickly launched and most North Korean missile and artillery weapons destroyed.

Since 2012, America agreed that South Korea could build and deploy longer-ranged missiles. South Korea is fielding them. (And yes, that's a good thing the Obama administration did.)

Although I remain doubtful that missiles and smart bombs alone can knock out the North Korean artillery threatening Seoul as easily as it appears we think. I think troops will have to stand on that ground to protect Seoul.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: I honestly think that Americans who voluntarily go to North Korea where at best they give hard currency to an odious regime; and at worst become hostages to restrain American policy, should be told that they are on their own if they go there and not to expect help from the American government.

UPDATE: Austin Bay also sees the need to supplement a strike on North Korea's nuclear and delivery assets with a ground operation to protect Seoul from North Korean artillery.

Which looks a lot like a war rather than a "simple" air and missile campaign to defang North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Move the Springboard East

The supplies have to roll:

The 16th Sustainment Brigade is based in Germany, but soldiers with the only large logistics unit in Europe aren’t home very often.

The brigade is the logistical springboard for Operation Atlantic Resolve, U.S. Army Europe’s efforts to expand east to counter Russian assertiveness without more permanent basing of U.S. troops.

It's a big job in a NATO logistics desert.

Guess Who's Coming to Deir ez-Zur?

Under American-orchestrated pressure at Raqqa, ISIL has moved its capital in Syria southeast:

In the wake of increased airstrikes and pressure applied from three directions by U.S.-backed Syrian forces, the Islamic State has essentially moved its so-called capital in Syria, U.S. defense officials told Fox News.

ISIS is now centered in Deir ez-Zur, roughly 90 miles southeast of Raqqa, the officials said.

Which is interesting when you consider that Assad has forces there under siege.

Will ISIL launch an assault to wipe out those defenders to cleanse their new capital?

Or is this just an interim move to just going underground as a terrorist organization?

Here's a CRS overview of the civil war+.

UPDATE: US-backed forces advancing around Tabqa may accelerate the ISIL shift east:

A US-backed alliance of Arab-Kurdish forces entered the key jihadist-held town of Tabqa on Monday as they pursued their campaign against the Islamic State group in northern Syria.

The really interesting part comes when Russia- and Iran-supported Assad decides that he should move into the area that ISIL is being pushed out of.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

This is an interesting article on the French Foreign Legion. If it is a death cult, it is not very good considering the low casualty rate of the modern era. Or it is a virtual death cult. Tough mind you, but not exactly a death wish to join.

Will opening up to trade with Cuba unravel the communist dictatorship? I'd be happy if it does. So far the Chinese communists seem to have managed to maintain power while allowing trade. I'd be happy if that unraveled the communist dictatorship, too.

Is Bleeding Kansas Berkeley what we want in America? While it is no shock that the communist/anarchist "Antifa" (anti-"fascist") storm troopers have motivated opposition street fighters, I take no pleasure in this. The end of this road is bad. Is this what we want our politics to become? If the damn local authorities (under sympathetic leftists--and I mean really sympathetic leftists) had dealt with the black-clad violent communists and anarchists in the first place, we wouldn't see people taking their own protection into their own hands. Tips to Instapundit.

You go, dead girls! Yeah, I'd forgotten about that weird conference call. Oddly, the media didn't remind us last year. And again, tip to Instapundit.

American airpower is mostly grounded these days. That has to change, if that understatement suffices. Our potential foes are likely worse off. But if one of them initiates hostilities they will work to bring their availability rates up before they strike while we will still be in a low state initially. But is the real problem--which is less likely to be solved with an infusion of money--a tolerance for bad leadership?

The Saudi-led coalition backing the Sunni-dominated government of Yemen continues to make slow progress. It's a slowly developing victory, but it is progress for defeating Iran on that front, at least.

America is now battling Iran for influence in Iraq. The Obama administration abandoned the field to the Iranians when we left Iraq in 2011. If we are serious, we have the advantage over Iran despite Iran's operations that go back to the 1979 Iran revolution. Despite the common Shia ties, Iraq's Shias are Arab and not Persian like the Iranian Shias who run Iran (as a rump empire, Iran has sizable and diverse minorities). So most Shias don't want Iran to dominate Iraq. The Arab Sunnis who sided with us in 2008 (the Awakening) despite our role in overthrowing their minority rule of Iraq in 2003 will back us against Iran. And the Kurds have long been pro-American since we stood with them following the 1991 war against Iraq. Let's hope the Iraqi government and American government are on the same page about continuing America's role in Iraq after ISIL's caliphate is dispersed.

Marine helicopters are now using drop tanks to extend their range, which is useful for the distances encountered in the Pacific.

Since last year's campaign season, I've been worried about Afghanistan's ability to hold in the face of Taliban encroachment that is inflicting heavy casualties. With ISIL's caliphate going down in Iraq and Syria (and Libya), the role of Afghanistan as a sanctuary for terrorists will resume, making it a pre-9/11 threat as a launching point for attacks on the West. So yes, we need a new strategy for the region that defeats the jihadis there. America led the West into Afghanistan because of 9/11. We need to remain to win to prevent another 9/11. I continue to think that focusing on strengthening the artificial central state is problematic as the bulwark against the jihadis, but I will defer to the experts. Oh, and for real yucks, the Russians and Iranians who the last administration banked on becoming our best friends are involved up to their denials in Afghanistan now (and unless I am sorely mistaken, the weapon in that picture is an automatic grenade launcher and not a heavy machine gun).

Apparently frustrated that he can't bamboozle American secretaries of state like Clinton and Kerry, after meeting with Tillerson the Russian foreign minister Lavrov decided to pick on an American journalist. Well, sh*t rolls downhill, as the expression goes.

Liberal fake news is rising. But liberals will still look down on stupid conservatives. Personally, my experience has been that fake liberal news has been a problem for a long time. Tip to Instapundit.

As they are everywhere (outside Russia), the Russians are involved in secession movements in America. Remember, little green men aren't just for Ukraine. Never say the Russians don't think big. When you consider the record of pro-Russian decisions by the last administration, it all makes sense. Born in Kenya? Hah! Try Kolyma! (And good God, yes I'm kidding.)

Heh. The Navy wouldn't think of anything like that.

Marijuana doesn't make you a better mom. It makes you not care if you are or not. And Doritos.

In 2008, Democratic voters denied Hillary Clinton the presidency. In 2016 all voters denied Hillary Clinton the presidency. But only the latter election is a symptom of voter misogyny.  I sometimes find it easier to plumb the motivations of Kim Jong-Un than of our leftist brethren here.

Leftist protesters fixated on President Trump's unreleased tax returns, wondering if they reveal any wrongdoing, are a danger to the liberals. Seriously, does anybody believe the IRS wouldn't have taken action long ago if there was suspicious activity? The Leftist activist are an eye tick away from claiming that Trump's taxes were prepared in Kenya. So drive on activists!

This is odd. Why was there such a disconnect between public statements on the Carl Vinson battlegroup and its actual sailing away from the peninsula? It could be a way of preventing expectations of action by showing up earlier than wanted while raising the threat of the carrier group. It may be that other assets--like subs and anti-missile defenses--need to move in and so the presence of the carrier wasn't needed yet. Or it could be that diplomatic moves delayed the need for the carrier presence. Or it could be a screw up. I don't actually suspect the latter as the explanation, but you never know. It would be illuminating to see the Vinson group commander's face when he says, "POTUS thinks we're where?"

The Great Liberal Hope Jon Ossoff failed to top 50% in the special Congressional election in Georgia. So he will face likely defeat against Republican Karen Handel who led the crowded Republican pack in the second phase. I assume Handel will win because, as Madeleine Albright has explained to women, "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other."

I'm sure liberals will cheer at claiming the scalp of Bill O'Reilly (whether he is guilty or innocent), but I honestly couldn't care less about him. I tend not to watch talking head shows like his. Other than The Five and the Greg Gutfeld Show, which have good entertainment value, I find the partisans of Fox News Channel no more illuminating--and only somewhat less annoying--than the partisans on CNN or MSNBC (or on the main networks, for that matter). So the Left can enjoy their scalp. If he did wrong he should be punished. But say, about your superiority dance. Tip to Instapundit.

I thought maybe my phone charging cord was going bad, with intermittent connection for recharging. But then I used a toothpick to gently remove a build up of lint in the charging port, and all is well. Your results may differ.

I'm perplexed at the statement that North Korea has 10-25 nuclear weapons. I thought North Korea hadn't yet miniaturized and ruggedized nuclear devices sufficiently to be called warheads. How did I miss that evolution? The key to using force to stop a state from getting nukes is to strike before they get nukes--not after. Isn't this concept from Pre-emptive Strike 101?

I'm unhappy that President Trump congratulated Turkey's Ergodan for engineering via referendum a legal autocracy. This development is not good for the West any way you look at it. But then again, President Obama elevated Erdogan as a favored "tame" Islamist in the Moslem world; and I'm not a liberal Democrat upset with the Bush freedom agenda that sought to support democracy in Moslem countries. So I assume Democrats are saluting this display of pro-Erdogan realpolitik in action.

"If you see something say something" doesn't apply to potential Islamist terror because if you are wrong the outrage mobs will tag you as "Islamophobic." But by all means let your imagination run wild if you see a father with their child. Yeah, I had experiences with my toddler son and daughter that follow that thinking. My small son had swollen eyes from yellow jacket stings and I got dagger stares in line at a pharmacy from one woman until I raised up the antibiotics I was waiting to pay for while holding my son. The woman changed totally, saying that happened to her grandchild. With my daughter at a theater, I let her go into a women's room unattended (she was more interested in running off to the bathroom than in seeing the movie, so that wasn't our first trip and I decided that rather than taking her into the men's room with me, I'd try this) while I stood outside close to the door to hear if she had any problems--or if the bathroom wasn't empty as it sounded. That was fine until a bunch of tweens trooped in looking at me in horror standing there. I avoided eye contact and said nothing until some moms came along with the same look and I explained that my very young daughter was in there. Again, things changed with an explanation and various girls checked on my daughter and gave me status updates. Thankfully my experience involved people capable of adjusting their notions when a reasonable explanation was given. But there is no social stigma for failing to adjust, it seems. Tip to Instapundit.

I vote that we retire "shock and awe" to describe a bad-ass blitz with the new North Korean expression "super-mighty preemptive strike." If we have to go after the Kim regime, I hope it is called Operation SMIPS.

It occurs to me that if we make North Korea worry enough that China is considering intervening in North Korea to end the problem that President Trump says is China's responsibility, then North Korea might do something against China that provokes China to do exactly that.

The idea that a threat of violence by protesters justifies canceling the speech of someone the proto-fascist "protesters" don't like is 100% wrong. Imagine if in the Civil Rights era segregationist governments had cancelled civil rights speakers "for their safety" because masked and hooded "protesters" (in Klan white rather than the anarchist black today) threatened violence. Would that have been acceptable logic or would have state troopers, National Guard, or even active Army troops have been sent in to protect the people exercising their rights? Tip to Instapundit.

Just when you think we've reached Peak Stupid, something else comes along. The "tiny house" movement "appropriates" poverty? I just thought the movement was stupid. Say, is being thin actually appropriating starvation? Now this is getting fun! Of course, now I hate the tiny house people seeming more rational than the utterly stupid "appropriation" nutjobs.

I'm really not worried about a couple Russian "nuclear capable" aircraft flying near Alaska. It's Superpower Theater for the Russians.

Russia is expanding the use of military contractors and is using them in Syria and Ukraine, in particular. Strategypage has more and looks at the wider picture. If you like, you can see a collection of posts from The Dignified Rant on private warfare, with commentary, for only 99 cents!

Turkey may buy Russian S-400 air defense missiles. Other than possibly a sign of Turkey's drift to autocracy and Russian friendship, I don't know whether I should be worried that Russia will know the weaknesses of Turkish air defenses or whether I should be happy NATO could get a really close look at Russia's S-400 system.

Romania, by contrast, will buy Patriot air defense missiles. Which should reliably shoot down Russian aircraft if necessary.

I didn't realize how many drugs I must have been using at the time, because I totally missed the Apocalypse that experts predicted on the first Earth Day. The end is always nigh, for some people. Tip to Instapundit.

Is anyone really shocked that Palestinians tried to smuggle explosives into Israel labeled as medical supplies? No good deed goes unpunished.

One year ago, my dad died. /NOTHING FOLLOWS/