Friday, June 30, 2017

One Question

Do you really want to insist the media isn't biased?

Ponder this diatribe masquerading as a question to the Australians at a joint US-Australia press briefing earlier in the month:

QUESTION: Gardiner Harris from The New York Times. Secretary Tillerson, the Australians have spent years of diplomatic effort negotiating pacts to address their deep concerns over trade and climate, but the Trump administration tossed those pacts aside. Now, after rejecting their priorities and work, you’re here asking Australians to make specific and concrete sacrifices for your priorities in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and North Korea. What specific promises have you brought on trade and climate to ensure that Australians do not interpret “America first” to mean America the selfish, America the boorish, or America the go-it-alone?

And for the Australians, Mr. Trump yelled at Prime Minister Turnbull in their first conversation. He pushed aside the Montenegrin prime minister at a NATO meeting. He launched a Twitter attack on Germany, one of the U.S.’s closest allies. He just insulted the mayor of London after a terror attack on that city. Do these tactics give you pause in your efforts to improve relations with the U.S., or do the President’s words and behavior not matter in international relations?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Are you sure you don’t have more? (Laughter.)


Why would the Russians even bother to launch a major effort to divide America from our allies when our press corps is already fully on the job?

Do you really wonder why I mistrust our press corps?

Am I Missing Something?

Even if America has too few carriers to deploy forward without gaps, that shouldn't automatically mean carrier air wings can't be made available, does it?

In 2014, Navy leaders told the Pentagon and lawmakers that unless they accepted carrier gaps, they were going to break the force. The brass has scrambled since then to make a modified deployment schedule work, trying to keep flattops at sea for no longer than seven months per deployment.

I'll ask again, why can't we deploy carrier air wings to land bases to fill carrier gaps?

Japan and South Korea are close to North Korea; and we have allies close to Syria and Iraq.

We could avoid stressing carriers and ship crews and have naval air forward.

Am I missing something?

I Guess We've Gotten to the Mansploding Problem

I guess this is what you get when you cross Kathy Griffin with lady Ghostbusters:

For nearly three years, the role of women in ISIS has been marginalized or trivialized by the press and public.

In both Western and Arab media, women frequently are portrayed as “victims” who have been “brain-washed” by influential men. More salacious claims, particularly in the Arab press, are that many women join ISIS to marry and have sexual relations with fighters in so-called jihad al nikah, or sexual jihad.

Yet experts say the true reason behind women’s allegiance to ISIS is much simpler – and darker: They are true believers in ISIS’s cause.

This is well beyond mansplaining, I guess. All hail these victims of the patriarchy--men don't give them the credit they deserve. They are women. Hear them explode.

Feminist hero that I am, I'd JDAM the Lady Infidelbusters.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Iran Wants All the Choke Points

Don't neglect Iran's efforts to create the ability to choke off Gulf Arab oil exports. Fracking hasn't made Middle Eastern oil any less crucial to the world.

Iran's friends in Yemen would make Iran stronger if the Houthi win the war there:

The Shia rebels are again threatening commercial shipping entering or leaving the Red Sea. The latest tactic appears to involve putting several heavily armed rebel fighters on one of the many local cargo or fishing boats that operate along the coast and then have the Shia fighters fire RPGs at seagoing tankers or cargo ships. In late 2015 government forces regained control the Bab Al Mandab strait, in the Gulf of Aden, between Yemen and Djibouti and astride the shipping lanes leading to the Red Sea. This included the peninsula that extends into the Bab Al Mandab strait. This made it easier to monitor ships coming through, especially those that might be carrying Iran arms shipments. More important to the Arabs (and Egypt) was the fact that rebel control of the Bab Al Mandab strait was a potential threat to Suez Canal traffic. The canal fees are a major source of income for the Egyptian government. Saudi Arabia also exports oil and imports many other goods via that narrow (40 kilometers max) strait. Government forces also seized control of Perim Island, which is in middle of the straits and normally contains a coast guard base. The small Shia garrison fought to the death in a battle that lasted a few hours.

Because Iran has the ability to exert pressure in the Strait of Hormuz to throttle oil exports from the Gulf, the Saudis made alternate oil export routes to the Red Sea.

I've long noted this opportunity for Iranian pressure on that alternative route.

And keep in mind that Iran's influence in Syria, Lebanon (through Hezbollah), and Gaza opens up opportunities to interdict the Suez Canal at the northern end of the Red Sea and to hamper any oil exports from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea.

There are Two Types of Caliphate to Defeat

In the war on Islamist jihadi threats, America has focused on defeating the states that give jihadis greater resources and reach. That must continue to be the focus.

The Taliban regime in Afghanistan was a Sunni caliphate that hosted al Qaeda which struck America on 9/11 (and earlier, of course) was destroyed in our first offensive of the War on Terror in 2001.

While some grow tired of this long war, it is simply a fact that our defeat in Afghanistan will embolden our enemies and give them back their sanctuary to use local resources to kill us in our homes again. Indeed, their victory after such a long fight will encourage future jihadis to endure long fights with the confidence that they can win eventually with Allah's blessings on their side.

The Saddam regime in Iraq had a history of both backing terrorists and being a direct threat to our allies and interests. And given Saddam's increasing reliance on Islamic ideology to bolster his authority, destroying the Saddam regime in 2003 was a campaign in the war against terror in both taking a piece of the board for our enemy and making Iraq an ally in the War on Terror.

Indeed, the Obama administration's initiation of Iraq War 2.0 against the ISIL caliphate that had exploded across Iraq in early 2014 after rising in Syria validated the original war in its belated recognition that we had something good to defend in Iraq. Iraqis have been the bleeding edge of this war, fighting our common jihadi enemies with our support.

Unfortunately, Iran took the opening America left between leaving Iraq in 2011 and the late 2014 start of Iraq War 2.0 to burrow into Iraq. And Iran has enhanced their role in Iraq by sponsoring Hezbollah-like militias in Iraq that on the surface are to fight ISIL but which are in fact for expanding Iranian influence and military options within Iraq.

Fighting to defeat the ISIL caliphate in Syria expanded while the fight in Iraq advanced. This fight against ISIL supplanted the original fight against Assad (which is a terror-supporting state with a lot of Iraqi, Lebanese, American, and Israeli blood on its hands) that took the form of tentative and sporadic help for anti-Assad rebels.

But in the face of Iranian help for Assad (money, advice, and Shia militias recruited from Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan) and direct Russian intervention since late 2015, Assad has endured in a core Syria of western Syria.

America has skirmished with Iran in Syria and this will increase as ISIL is defeated in Syria, and as Iran attempts to lead the Syrian government back into the regions ISIL is pushed out of because of the American-led offensive against ISIL in the east.

In Libya, in the space opened by the destruction of the Khadaffi regime in 2011, ISIL opened a branch of the caliphate. In time, our firepower support helped local allies end that sanctuary based around Sirte and scatter the jihadis to southern Libya away from most forces capable of taking them on (although not out of range of a B-2 strike in the waning days of the Obama administration).

America helps in other places, of course. But in those areas local forces are able to fight jihadis on their own with either military or police and intelligence assets in lower profile struggles.

Really, our main efforts have focused on the sanctuaries and caliphates that allow jihadis to move from terror to state status. That must continue.

We must defeat ISIL and prevent the rise of caliphates in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

We must still defeat the Alawite (sort of Shia) terror-supporting regime that is represented by Syria's Assad and his Iranian allies (Russia is involved but is no friend of jihadis, focusing narrowly on their foothold on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea). We must transition from defeating ISIL in Syria to defeating Assad.

The biggest caliphate to be defeated is the sponsor of so much chaos in the greater Middle East region (and if they get their way, in our region)--Iran.

We have lived with this Shia Persian caliphate for so long that we forget that this is what a Sunni caliphate could look like if left intact for decades on end--a hate-filled state with state resources on the cusp of getting nuclear weapons and able to use the shield of UN membership to sow death and destruction in the caliphate's interests.

So while we must surely prevent the rebirth of caliphates in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria (and keep one from rising in other areas in the first place by supporting allied governments); we must take on the Shia caliphate of Iran that we should not accept as a fact of life just because it has endured for so many decades now.

President Trump seems to have made the decision to take on Iran, which has made many of our Gulf Arab allies breathe a sigh of relief.

The defeat of Iran will weaken Hezbollah in Lebanon which is a mini-Shia caliphate and the weaken Hamas in Gaza, which is a little Sunni caliphate backed by Iran.

With the defeat of Iran, unrest in Afghanistan, the Gulf, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon will be reduced.

Will this lead to peace and stability in the region? No. Iran isn't the only problem. But consider that in the time Iran has become a major threat to peace in the region, Arab states have come to accept Israel as a neighbor who can be of help in economic and security areas. So even that source of tension and wars will remain low at least in the mid-term.

If this path to the defeat of the caliphates waging war on the West is successful, there will still be caliphates, namely Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. But they are at least partial allies who, while they are sources of jihadi rage, also fight jihadis for self-protection and to satisfy our demands for action.

We can continue to push (carefully, given Pakistan's nukes and Saudi Arabia's oil production) these two caliphates to rein in and reduce jihadi influences that leak out and spread the hateful impulses to murder little girls in concerts.

The War on Terror was a long war before 9/11. It still is and still will be after ISIL is defeated and scattered.

You Fight Like You Train

I know the Army is still "rebalancing" it's units to restore conventional combat capabilities after a long period of counterinsurgency and fighting terrorists.

But this report of company-level shortcomings of units arriving for OPFOR training is disturbing.

Do read it. We have experienced troops from the long war. But unless our troops are trained thoroughly in conventional combat skills, they'll lose or perhaps win but endure heavy casualties to do so.

A sense of urgency in correcting this would be nice.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Force Pool for Coalitions of the Willing

NATO remains valuable to America despite this assessment:

NATO heads of state met to inaugurate the alliance’s new headquarters in Brussels on May 25, and the two main topics of conversation were defense spending and the alliance’s role in fighting terrorism. Both issues indicate that NATO is increasing its political role while diminishing its military function.

The alliance’s link to the national interests of its member states is breaking, meaning that discussions on strategy rarely take place within the alliance. Its military function is declining because alliance members no longer share a common interest as they once did.

One, common interests were always beyond the alliance.

In the Cold War, despite the mission of stopping the Soviet Union, Greece feared Turkey more than it feared the Soviet Union; Portugal and Spain were never going to send troops to defend West Germany; Norway needed help just to hold its own territory; and the French even pulled out of the military command despite the narrow buffer West Germany provided against the Soviet threat.

And two, just by promoting interoperability of member military forces, NATO is worth keeping.

NATO provides a common framework for maintaining separate militaries which can fight together with less friction should an emergency arise that inspires NATO nations to work together. This capacity applies whether the campaign takes place in Libya, in Afghanistan, in Poland, in Norway, or in Romania.

Remember, NATO has never required any specific action by member nations if one member is attacked. It still doesn't. And as long as America is a strong member of NATO able to pull together various nations willing to confront a specific threat, NATO will be just fine and worth the effort to maintain.

Heck, we could adapt to sweep up even dribs and drabs if we had to, couldn't we?

UPDATE: The willing (and in need) sort of join the ranks:

Sweden and Finland have joined a British-led military rapid reaction force that can either operate alone or jointly with the United Nations, NATO or the European Union.

That will come in handy in the Baltic Sea.

Don't Throw Out the Modular Baby with the LCS Bathwater

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) failed. It will be replaced with a frigate:

The Navy expects to field its new frigate in 2024 while it sustains the small combatant industrial base with an additional littoral combat ship (LCS) order in 2018.

Which is a shame because the LCS concept had promise.

The idea of a basic hull with a lot of room that could be reconfigured with system modules in shipping containers to turn the ship alternately into mine warfare, anti-ship, anti-air, anti-sub, or special forces missions was innovative.

It inspired my modularized auxiliary cruiser idea that finally so the light of day as "The AFRICOM Queen."

What sank the LCS was cost overruns on the basic hulls (there were two types of LCS).

What sank the LCS was a failure to build the modules quickly enough and at an affordable price.

What sank the LCS was a combination of poor protection in case of being hit and a bizarre notion that the ship would fight in the littoral green or--god forbid--brown waters close to shore (where all manner of nasty things normally useless against ships in the blue waters far from shore could shoot at the ill-protected ship).

We will still have a number of LCS in the fleet. I hope we can make them work for the simple fact that we can't afford to count any hulls out of the fight.

Pulling the LCS from the littorals will make them more survivable. Perhaps the ships can be upgraded with better armor and redundancies to improve survivability.

Perhaps more anti-ship weapons can be added to the basic hull.

And most important, perhaps a commitment to making systems in boxes that can be put on modularized auxiliary cruisers, shore bases, or the LCS will drive down the costs of the system modules and give the Navy more experience in how to quickly adapt the LCS by swapping out the modules.

Hopefully the expensive lessons of building the hulls that can accept mission modules won't be forgotten if the concept is resurrected. 

Maybe then, the next ship class we build with the concept of a basic hull that can be reconfigured for different missions will work better and be done more inexpensively.

It's always good to learn from mistakes. But don't learn that a good idea is bad.

A Mission Accomplished--Again

Iraq is a victory. Let's defend it.

I'm not sure what to make of this writer's analysis about post-ISIL Iraq:

Will the defeat of Islamic State in Iraq be a foreign policy victory for Donald Trump? With the fall of Mosul imminent, what happens next?

There will be winners, like the Kurds. There will be losers, like Iraq’s Sunni minority. There will be gains for Iran, which backs the Shi’ite militias drafted to fight Sunni-dominated IS. And there may be a silver lining for the Trump administration - specifically in the form of Kurdish independence and permanent American bases in a Shi’ite-ruled Iraq. But any declaration of “victory” on the part of the United States depends on how the measure of those results is taken.

Of course the defeat of ISIL will be a victory for Trump. He shares it with Obama who initiated Iraq War 2.0 after wrongly leaving Iraq in 2011. But because Obama took way too long to wage this Iraq War 2.0, Trump gets to conclude it and share the credit. Why that is even a question is puzzling. Just what is the dark cloud of this victory over ISIL if you have to call Kurdish independence and a base in Iraq silver linings?

Will the Kurds win? Yes, if you count the defeat of ISIL that had threatened the Kurds and stressed their ability to hold their border against the terrorist proto-state threat.

But the author says "yes" because the Kurds will declare independence. I think that declaring independence could be the source of losing if either Iraq, Turkey, or Iran decide that an independent Iraqi Kurdistan is too much of a threat to tolerate.

And Iraq's Sunnis are losers? They will be rid of murderous religious thugs who oppressed and abused Sunni Arabs in the name of protecting them. That isn't a victory? Really?

The defeat of ISIL is a win for the Sunni Arabs. And maybe the Iraqi Shia realization that alienating Iraqi Sunni Arabs gave ISIL the opening to ravage Iraq will make for better future relations between the two groups.

An American base in Iraq will be a victory for America--to defend what Bush gained and what Obama/Trump have regained: a friendly Iraq with jihadis defeated within its territory.

So it will be a victory for America, Iraqis of all sects (including Sunni Arabs who with America remaining will have a referee to appeal to if the Shias forget the lesson of 2014), and anybody else that doesn't want a jihadi proto-state in the region.

Actually, this settles what to make of the author:

While the fight against Islamic State in Iraq isn’t over, an ending of sorts is clear enough to allow for some reasonable predictions. But whatever happens will leave an unanswered, and sadly, perhaps unasked, question: was the outcome worth to Americans the cost of some 4,500 dead, and trillions of taxpayer dollars spent, over the last 14 years?

I don't think much of the author's analysis.

I think the financial cost is way over-stated as a measure of what has been spent over the last 14 years. That cited tally includes spending in the future over the entire lifetimes of Iraq War veterans. So no, we did not spend trillions "over the last 14 years."

But what really gets me is the notion that the cost of the war's outcome has not been questioned. The left has done nothing but question the outcome and cost since about November 2003.

I think the cost of the war was worth defending. An Iraq that fights terrorists at our side rather than unleashing terrorism on their own people and our allies--and doesn't threaten to invade our other allies--is a victory.

And you must admit that since the vast majority of the costs in lives and money were expended during the Bush administration. So the Obama administration's decision to wage Iraq War 2.0 in September 2014 after the ISIL offensive in Iraq captured western and northern Iraq earlier in that year answers that question with a definite "yes." So the question of whether the war was worth it was answered "yes" by both Bush and Obama.

Now the real question is whether Trump says "yes" and makes sure we stay in Iraq to support democracy and rule of law; and to hunt down Sunni Arab jihadis and reduce Iranian influence in Iraq.

Victory is just the entry ticket to the next problems. Work the problems.

UPDATE: Iraq makes it official. Now keep going.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Life is Funny That Way

It's the funniest thing. When President Obama promised the Russians "flexibility," the Russians acted like America is flexible enough to retreat when pushed.

America Can't Care More About Taiwan than the Taiwanese Care

Taiwan still isn't taking its own defense seriously.

The 2017 Defense Department report on Chinese military power assesses Taiwan's defense trend:

Although Taiwan is taking important steps to build its war reserve stocks, grow its defense-industrial base, improve joint operations and crisis response capabilities, and strengthen its officer and noncommissioned officer corps, these improvements only partially address Taiwan’s declining defensive advantages. ...

In addition, Taiwan’s military spending remains at approximately two percent of its gross domestic product. Meanwhile, China’s official defense budget has grown to roughly
14 times that of Taiwan. Recognizing China’s continued growth in military spending, Taiwan is working to integrate innovative and asymmetric measures into its defense planning to counterbalance China’s growing capabilities.

Good God, are the Taiwanese suicidal?

Whatever the Taiwanese are doing to make up for past shortfalls, it isn't enough to prevent China from gaining ground on Taiwan.

And while innovative and asymmetric measures are certainly called for, when Taiwan spends just 2% of its GDP on defense, I think a simple input of spending would work wonders.

How can Taiwan spend but 2% of their GDP on defense given the threat they face? Do they value their independence and freedom so lightly?

Saying that 2% is the NATO goal ignores that the NATO goal is arbitrary and low, making sense only as a common effort across a vast economy of Europe (and Canada) to supplement American power.

What alliance bolsters Taiwan and allows 2% to be considered enough?

Seriously, if those Taiwanese defense advantages decline much further, I couldn't advocate selling Taiwan advanced weapons that might simply be captured by China in a successful invasion.

If Taiwan won't take their defenses seriously, America has to adjust to that reality.

The De-Nazified-Formerly Soviet Pact

The Europeans are working with Russia to make Europe more dependent on Russian natural gas and to hurt Ukraine's finances and make Ukraine more vulnerable to Russian energy blackmail without collateral damage to Europe. Naturally, Europe doesn't like America's efforts via sanctions on the Europeans building the Nordstream 2 pipeline to punish that collusion:

While many capitals in Europe are protesting the pipeline through the lens of checking Russian aggression and as a means of showing solidarity with Ukraine, the arguments ginned up by the pipeline’s supporters—Germany and Austria, for example, are accusing the U.S. of using these sanctions to aid its own LNG sales in the European market—underscore just how badly fractured Europe’s supposed consensus on energy policy has become. After all, many other European leaders have publicly clamored for U.S. LNG imports as a way to ease their dependence on Gazprom.

Germany is weak militarily. America is moving forces east to shield Europe--with Germany safely behind us--from Russian aggression.

And yet Germany is working to strengthen Russia and make Europe more vulnerable to Russian economic pressure. Oh, and the Germans throw Ukraine under the bus for a bonus.

Note that European states aren't all in line with this pro-Russian approach.

Now tell me whether a European Union that suppresses national sovereignty to create a European imperial autocracy superpower will follow the policies of powerful Germany (and France, also involved in pipeline construction) or smaller states worried about Russian aggression?

Like I've said, we have friends in Europe; but Europe as a political entity will not be America's friend.

This dispute should be a lesson about the dangers of the European Union proto-imperial project if it manages to erase that "proto" part.

The Sounds of Crazy

I see The Resistance has new, enthusiastic member:

North Korea accused the United States of deploying a U.S. warship into North Korea's maritime economic zone, the same day it called U.S. President Donald Trump a "psychopath" whose policy of "military pressure will lead to ruin."

Soon The Resistance will have nukes.

Fleet Problems to Avoid a Fleet Defeat Problem

Yes, we need to stop assuming control of the seas at our convenience is an American birthright.

Hear, hear:

With the urgent need to rebuild the fleet’s capability and competence in sea control, a gap in the fleet’s operational repertoire has become increasingly apparent. Simply, there are few, arguably no, venues where operational-level naval formations are permitted to rehearse their wartime tasks free from the constraints of the formal training process or the distraction of technological experimentation. The fleet is overdue for a re-introduction of the Fleet Problem.

Our small fleet has apparently gotten so focused on meeting overseas presence and power projection missions that it has forgotten its basic mission is to fight for control of the seas.

Fleet Problems were a key factor after World War I for preparing our Navy for World War II.

It is true that America's need for naval presence and power projection missions means the Navy can't focus on those exercises as it did in the inter-war period.

Still, let's start doing Fleet Problems again.

With no sacred cows that impose a script on the exercises. As I've mentioned, I'd love an exercise that unexpectedly denies the Navy commander their carriers.

Set up a wargame assuming a three-carrier armada to support Okinawa-based American and Japanese forces.

A week before the exercise, tell the Americans one of the carriers has a reactor problem and must remain in port.

Wow! Out of nowhere! The fleet commander has to adapt at that late date. But carry on.

On the day the fleet sails, a salvo of Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles (we didn't know that they had that range!) cripples the second carrier.

Egad! Respond to rescuing the crews. Regroup. But carry on.

Then, as the fleet down to one carrier approaches the theater, a Chinese submarine sinks the last carrier.

Will the fleet carry on? Can it fight with its anti-ship missiles and land-based air power? (And will anyone remember the air wing of the carrier with the reactor problem sitting in port?)

I don't like the notion that our carriers seem to be permanent fixtures in our plans. Even if they can't be sunk--and I have trouble with that--they can be mission killed.

Who knows if we are again in an inter-war period that is edging toward a pre-war period?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Useful Credentialed Idiots

Putin didn't need Trump to undermine America and make America admire Russia. Our journalists do it willingly.

I despair when I read a Western reporter unable to recognize democracy:

Since becoming Russia's top leader almost two decades ago, Vladimir Putin has developed various methods of talking to the Russian public over the heads of other institutions and authorities, with the aim of establishing a problem-solving dialogue directly with the people.

Best known of these is his annual “Direct Line” telethon, the latest iteration of which happens Thursday. In the event, Mr. Putin answers questions from linked studio audiences around the country, as well as emailed and SMS queries. He often directly addresses acute social problems such as inter-ethnic relations, solves peoples' personal problems on-the-spot, and even discloses intimate details of his personal life.

But the TV spectacle is only the tip of the iceberg – one that the Kremlin is hoping to grow into a wired-up, ultra-modern open society in which citizens will be able to deliver their grievances, petitions, and legislative initiatives in person to their leaders without having to depend on the mediation of 20th century institutions like legislatures, opinion polls, or the media.

The journalist calls this cyber-democracy. Are you kidding me?

Rather than count on lower level officials to do their jobs, governance will be centralized?

Last month Putin moved to apply that approach beyond the telethon, by mandating the presidential service to collect and analyze all citizens' appeals and petitions, and then redistribute them downward with orders for lower levels of government to deal with them.

All flows from the center. Putin is the center. And I'm sorry if I'm drawing too much from word choice, but the identified appeals get pushed down to "deal with them" sounds awfully ominous.

And in an age when Internet trolls are large-scale operations designed to AstroTurf movements and popularity, how difficult would it be for Putin to simulate adoration from the cyber-masses.

This is not cyber-democracy. This is cyber-totalitarianism!

This is strongman rule reaching out more effectively to the people to put a yoke directly on them so the tyrant doesn't have to trust lower level minions to do the tyrants work of persuasion!

And if the direct line tells Putin to resign? You think he will or use the cyber-tools he builds to identify precisely who to arrest, who to bribe, and who to kill?

Oh, they'll be dealt with, all right.

How is it possible to see this is an exercise in democracy and not tyranny?

How can I urge people to defend the West when seemingly so many Westerners can't even recognize the distinctions that make the West free and worthy of defending?

A Six-Point Pretend Plan to Defeat Iran

As America looks like it is getting serious about stopping the mullah-run Shia caliphate that Iran is, it would be useful to go back to a Brookings plan presented to the Senate a few months back to "resist" Iran.

This is seriously delusional. The plan has six elements:

1) Rigorous enforcement of the Iran nuclear deal.

2) Support for the Iraqi Abadi government and the war on ISIL.

3) Promote a political resolution of the Yemen civil war.

4) Reduce Iran's influence in Syria.

5) Gather our regional allies to resist Iran in a "burden-sharing effort."

6) Lay the foundation for talks on Iran's ambitions and behaviors.

So what of the elements?

We should be rigorously enforcing the nuclear deal now! Is this plan implying we haven't been?

And that's aside from the horrible nature of the enforcement mechanism of the 2015 deal already two years through the 10-year period. And aside from the fact that as envisioned, the deal frees Iran to go nuclear in 8 years. And aside from whether North Korea is an avenue for Iran to get nuclear weapons.

I'm seriously supposed to believe that the nuclear deal is a brilliant opportunity to tame Iran in the time the Obama-Kerry deal bought? Let's hope it is better than the absolute failure of the Syrian chemical deal, eh?

As for Iraq, of course we support the war on ISIL. But if that victory isn't an opportunity to suppress Iranian influence in Iraq bolstered by the support of Shia militias that Iran hopes will be a version of Hezbollah on the Tigris and Euphrates, we are truly foolish.

In regard to supporting Abadi--no!!! Don't support a person. Support the system of elections and rule of law. Support the suppression of pro-Iran (and other) militias that threaten rule of law and honest elections. That is how we get a stronger Iraq capable of resisting Iranian malign influence and more willing to work with America and the West.

Blaming the previous Iraqi prime minister, Maliki, for being pro-Iran is missing the point because Maliki had no alternative to leaning on Iran given that America had walked away from Iraq in 2011, having gloriously "responsibly ended" that war.

The element on a political settlement in Yemen risks cementing Iran's role in Yemen and simply paving the way for the next round of violence when Iran is better prepared. Diplomacy may well settle this, but no settlement should envision an Iranian role in Yemen. And given that Saudi Arabia is leading the effort on the ground, how is American indirect support getting us dragged into a quagmire? Isn't this the fruits of leading from behind? Shouldn't we be happy allies are willing to fight our common enemies without our forces taking the lead? Why run from this development rather than support it?

Reducing Iran's influence in Syria is not "difficult and complicated." It is difficult and simple--defeat the Assad regime which enables Iran's entrenchment in Syria as the head of a Syrian version of Hezbollah represented by various domestic and foreign militias ("5,000 IRGC, Basij, and Iranian Army elements; some 3,000 to 5,000 highly trained Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon; and some 20,000 Shiite militiamen recruited from Afghanistan and Pakistan") that Iran organizes and pays for (thanks Iran nuclear deal with its lifted sanctions and pallets of cash!).

Brilliantly, we're supposed to get Russia to make sure Assad denies Iran port facilities in Syria--as if that is the key issue!--when you know Russia will demand concessions for that non-help.

Will Russia want their presence in Syria validated? Their conquest of Crimea accepted? Their views on opposing NATO missile defenses implemented? Their role in the Donbas conceded? The lifting of Ukraine-related sanctions? Yeah, it really is complicated and difficult when you avoid the direct solution of defeating Assad.

Given Iran's high interest in remaining in Syria to reach Lebanon and the prototypical Hezbollah there, how do you persuade Iran to leave Syria? Without defeating Assad, it would have to be a difficult, complicated--and doomed--effort.

The gathering of allies (a "concert!"--it's a French term, so yay! Instant, intrinsic nuance!) is the one element that makes sense. But if allies are gathered to pretend to resist Iran as this plan does, America gets the worst of both worlds--an Iran annoyed but not stopped in any meaningful way and allies disgusted with our leadership that refuses to try to win and simply accepts our allies on the front lines of an increasing powerful--and eventually nuclear--Iranian threat.

Kudos. Bravo. Simply brilliant. Huzzah. Awards all around!

As for the talks proposed with Iran, since it relies on the premise that the nuclear deal was the successful result of a commitment to talks, what can I say? The Iran nuclear deal was a pretend deal. Iran pretended that it had no nuclear weapons ambitions; we pretended to believe Iran; and we pretended that the deal is actually a meaningful solution to solving the problem of Iran going nuclear.

And now I find that Iran could escape a lot of limits earlier than we were told based on the totally inadequate mechanisms of the deal for "confirming" that Iran is not working on nuclear weapons.

So I'm sure Iran will be fully on board the talks. They aren't stupid even if they are fanatics. Oh the possibilities! Will talks get Iran to abandon Yemen while recognizing Iran's role in Syria? Give a little to get a little, eh?

Of course, then Iran shifts to bolstering influence in Eritrea to threaten Red Sea oil shipments rather than rely on a Yemen bastion--if Iran even abides by a deal.

And good luck with curtailing Iran's missile work given that they throw us the middle finger now when the nuclear deal is in effect. Why would Iran be more willing to limit their missiles after the nuclear deal goes away?

Face it, any talks require the West and our Arab allies to agree to a prominent mullah-run Iranian role in the Middle East. Easing back Iran's malign influence rather than defeating Iran's malign influence (and imposing a higher cost when we cannot stop them) is no plan to defeat Iran.

Oh, and any deal with Iran requires America to support the continued existence of the Iranian mullah-run government in order to keep the deal in place. The deal could be 100 pages of "Blah, blah, blah" in English, French, and Farsi for all the mullahs care if the American-led "concert" (so much better than a mere "coalition!") is on record as effectively backing their continued rule.

So there you go. I assume the people who came up with this are brilliant. You'd have to be brilliant to paint a picture of glorious victory from the pallet of defeats and retreats that make up the whole.

The plan focuses on American limits. We can't stop Iran from going nuclear. We can't eliminate Iran's influence in Iraq. We can't beat Iran in Yemen. We can't eject Iran from Syria. We can't take action without consensus from allies. We can't halt Iran's ambitions and behaviors.

With all those self-imposed limits, how on Earth is Iran defeated? Is it all an exercise in translating "please" into Farsi?

This is a six-point plan to pretend to resist Iran that has no hope of defeating Iran before it can get nuclear weapons even with Iran's adherence to the nuclear deal.

God save us from the echelon above reality.

Getting Their Wish. Good and Hard?

The Obama administration (and Democrats generally) didn't complain about Russian actions until it hurt Hillary Clinton.

There might be collateral damage from their new-found Russia obsession:

Months of harping on President Trump’s purported ties to Russia may end up backfiring on Democrats as the White House turns the focus to former President Barack Obama’s failure to address Russian hacking, operatives from both sides said.

Grant me that a look at President "tell Putin I'll have more flexibility" Obama would be a hilarious result of this new Democratic Russia obsession.

The New Euro Royalty Smile

Catalonia will vote on the question of secession from Spain in October. This will please the European Union elites who understand that ever closer union is easier with ever more fragmented members.

Well that's interesting (and I'd quote the story but while the web site is viewable the article is not in any of my browsers or in print set up).

Anyway, if that works, more in Spain will want to split and others in Europe will want to split from their parent countries.

Which suits the Euro elites just fine who would rather have little statelets that can't resist the power of Brussels.

Larger states can at least resist Brussels or try to escape if they wish (although I worry for Britain's Brexit in the aftermath of the Prime Minister May electoral debacle).

So best to keep the member states small and weak for the parasitic Euro bureaucrats to solidify their emerging royal status.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

The X-37B seems pretty awesome. The X-37C will be better. And if the latter could carry 6 passengers, isn't that a small squad? Ah, the options with manned space stations, eh?

I have really enjoyed the exploding heads on the left over Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement signed by Obama and ratified by the Senate. The gift just won't stop giving.  (But liberals have lots of gifts in the faux outrage department--and while I am uncomfortable calling conservatives "normals" in contrast to liberals, given "deplorable" and a hundred other insults by liberals against conservatives, I'm not going to complain too much.) The not-treaty, even if it worked as promised, would have reduced the global temperature by 2100 by almost 0.05 degrees centigrade. That is not a misprint. So even if America's withdrawal from the agreement wrecks the impact of the agreement, the temperature will be 0.05 degrees higher in 2100. Based on models. Which have been horribly wrong and haven't predicted the "pause" in temperature growth the last two decades. This supposed impact is a rounding error. Tell me the reaction is based on science rather than religious fervor. I fully expect many rounds of international conferences so The Concerned can jet off to dine on expensive foods and condemn carbon emissions. Now go and emit no more.

Until you can tell me what the mission for the carrier is, I don't even want to discuss whether America should have super carriers, medium carriers (or small carriers), or some mix of them. Show me the research that demonstrates that medium carriers are cheaper than super carriers by an amount that would allow us to buy with the same amount of money enough medium carriers and escorts to be as effective in whatever mission you are talking about as the smaller number of super carriers. But I'd rather have a sea power debate than have another fruitless carrier debate.

FYI, news fit to print: "The New York Times on Friday published the name of what is believed to be an undercover CIA agent leading U.S. operations related to Iran, and defended the move by saying the agent's name had been published before." Liberals may have belatedly joined the resistance to Russia, but Iran is still peachy keen as far as they are concerned. It's older news. But not much came of this in the outrage arena, did it?

I'm but one man and there are limits to my efforts.

I do find it incredible that people claiming an immigration pause for a small number of Moslem-majority countries representing a small fraction of all Moslems is a "Moslem ban" also argue that Saudi Arabia and Qatar should be included. Huh? So it would be better to expand the list? The list is for countries with an inability to provide America with information about migrants from their country because the country is dysfunctional. Despite Saudi and Qatari issues with extremism, both do have state apparatus sufficient to provide information on people who want to come here. That is the issue.

I know some will use the fact that ISIL blew up the Mosul Great Mosque of al-Nuri to argue ISIL isn't really Islamic, but that misses the point. If ISIL (or other jihadis) wins what is a civil war within Islam, what ISIL does will define Islamic practice.

Of course, in a related aspect, the appeals on the "travel pause" from specific problematic countries has dragged on so long that the point of the original Trump order is gone. The administration should have put a new process in place by now given that the original pause if upheld would be over by now. The lower court decisions are an assault on rule of law and appealing on that basis alone must be done, but the security aspect is obsolete. Or should be by now.

I really can't stand listening to John Kerry give his opinion on anything other than why he is spewing more CO2 into the air with his lavish lifestyle in a week than an African village does in a year while the planet burns. Worst secretary of state ever.

It is amazing that Democrats cling to the fiction that the American voters who flipped three states in the electoral college battle by voting for Trump after having voted for Obama are deplorable racists. Trump earned those votes by listening to them and acting like he gave a damn about their problems. That explanation doesn't stroke Democratic egos and reinforce existing bias, but there you go.

It looks more like a Speak and Spell, but I still would have bet on calling it the iKim.

Like I've said, feminism is the Democratic women's auxiliary.

Yes, as I've noted many times on this blog, our enemies aren't as potent overall as it is often stated in the media. Strategypage notes that fact. I differ in that I don't mind spending more to defeat them with a comfortable margin of error given that they do pose real threats in specific areas, as long as American defense spending isn't a high burden on our economy. Given that our spending as percent of GDP is far lower than Cold War levels, I'm not worried about the burden.

The A-10 isn't going anywhere for now. Thank goodness the Air Force plan to eliminate the plane was thwarted until the Air Force grasped their usefulness.

I guess we can all be grateful that the media isn't blaming Senator Sanders, MSNBC, and Democrats in general 24/7 for the Republican Congressional baseball shooting. Clearly, the media has learned the lesson from the last time when they wrongly but relentlessly blamed Palin and Republicans for the attempted murder of Representative Giffords. This lesson only lasts until a killing can be pinned on Republicans, of course.

It is true that from a power perspective, Russia has incentive to build a buffer zone in the west. But don't forget that this means that Russia has incentive to push their borders west regardless of whether former Soviet vassals are now in NATO. NATO expansion did not create the incentive for Russia to expand influence and control west once their power recovered from the post-Soviet nadir. NATO expansion simply put real power in the way of Russia's march west. From a power and moral perspective, the West has no reason to go along with Russia's goals, of course. Also, yes, I worry about Russia's threat to Estonia, in particular. On the bright side, as time goes on I assume the number of Russian-speakers will fade away in Estonia and reduce Russian leverage inside Estonia.

Any gatekeeping system for elite colleges that diverges from testing with actual scores is nothing but an elite protection racket. With test scores, anybody from any economic status can begin the path to prosperity. Anybody who professes to care about inequality should fight "holistic" evaluations by any means necessary, as those who purport to have more compassion than I have are wont to say. Tip to Instapundit.

I understand that new equipment has teething problems. But an electromagnetic carrier catapult system that knocks out all catapults when one fails is ridiculous.

Conservatives should avoid paranoid "deep state" thinking. Yes, bureaucracies can thwart the elected officials' wishes with their control of the paperwork process if the elected official and appointed loyalists don't continuously push for the policy changes. I noted that when Trump won the election as a reason I wasn't worried about Trump going off the rails--as long as he appointed Republicans. But this obstruction we see is far from a unified anti-democratic (although the permanent professional bureaucracy was viewed by Progressives as a check on democracy, truth be told) conspiracy with a unified plan. (Although this effort shows some would like it to be a unified plan.) And yes, Obama appointees still in government are making trouble. So replace them already! Trump hatred is simply making existing trends more noticeable--and acceptable in the eyes of the media. Trump needs to tame the bureaucracy. Absolutely. But this is not Illuminati territory. So don't act like it is. Work the problem.

Democrats in and out of the media are seriously deranged over Trump. I blogged more on the Obama presidency than either Bush 43 or Trump, given the timing of starting TDR nearly 15 years ago. I never got even remotely close to the Trump Hysteria Condition that afflicts the Democratic Party. My opinions are all on the record. But in the short time Trump has been president, the craziness from the left has been just astounding. At least the Obama "birther" nonsense was restricted to the fringe of the right (and yes, Trump was in that for a while--and I have been clear I was never a fan of Trump). But the entire Democratic Party is seemingly committed to the nonsense idea that the Trump presidency was essentially born in Russia. Democratic refusal to accept the outcome of a fully constitutional election must end for the good of our country. Next time (and yes, there will be a next time in four years, your fantasy dictatorship notions notwithstanding) maybe nominate a candidate who can more fully emulate a human being, okay? And definitely try to nominate a candidate who isn't corrupt and who doesn't mislead just to stay in practice. Remember, for all that Democrats despise Trump, your candidate failed to defeat him!

And again, what happened in Europe with EUCOM and AFRICOM during the 2012 Benghazi attack? I'm not convinced there must have been a "stand down" order to explain why American forces in Europe did not try to reach the Americans under attack in Libya that day. I think that it could easily have flowed from unstated command influence from the president about how he had engineered the "receding tides of war" as his reelection campaign boasted. Could American commanders have dragged their feet rather than undermine the president's election message by promptly putting forces in motion just in case? That's bad enough without a "stand down" affirmative order. Not criminal, of course, just damning. So why didn't American forces rush to the sound of the guns that day?

I'm not even sure what to say. Good Lord some people are just too stupid and fragile to reproduce.

The London high-rise apartment building that flamed up so fast, killing people well into the double digits, was in part enabled by Green regulations that created fire-enhancing conditions based on highly flammable insulation tacked on to the building without regard to the effect on safety. Although to fair, I'm sure the Grenfell Tower Green rating was improved by the assumption that every couple years a couple dozen CO2-emitting human viruses will be expunged from Mother Earth in a nice cleansing fire. Tip to Instapundit.

Why don't feminists celebrate the success of right-wing women? This is a mystery? As I've long noted, modern feminism is just the women's auxiliary of modern leftism. The article argues that feminism isn't about women's success--it's about leftism's success. So there you go.

I wouldn't call our media "treasonous." But it does seem like it collectively doesn't feel it has any particular stake in the success of the West that has driven personal freedom and prosperity to unheard of heights. For a time our security apparatus can defend the West despite this, but ultimately the base of civilian institutions and people have to believe the West is worthy of defending for the defense to last.

The Navy is working on breaking the kill chain for China's anti-ship ballistic missiles. I worry that China might manage to shorten the kill chain by making a carrier self-targeting. News like this feeds my worry (although I realize it is not a direct threat when at sea away from Internet connections, I don't assume there isn't a way around that).

The United States military is rebuilding its war reserve ammunition stocks. That's prudent. Letting the stocks run down was not.

This guy sounded reasonable on Iran until he lost me at the end: "Non-kinetic, economic weapons helped force the regime to negotiate an end to the nuclear program ..." Oh! So close. The nuclear deal did not end Iran's nuclear program. The deal validated Iran's nuclear program and allows it to grow in sophistication. At best the deal suspends nuclear weapons applications. And even if that works out, that suspension ends after a decade. If that is the author's assumption for his ideas, I'm not on board.

Just a reminder that when, in 5-10 years somebody says we go to war with the Army we have and not the Army we wish we had, that today we are making decisions for what Army we will have in 5-10 years. Will that be the Army we wish we had?

If you are still unclear of how the media approaches politically related stories, remember the basic rule. If a Republican does something wrong, the story is about what the Republican (identified in the title and first paragraph as such) did and why it reflects the sins of all Republicans. If a Democrat does something wrong, the story is about how Republicans will unfairly exploit the wrongdoing for political gain (and the offending Democrat is just a government official--could be any party--until late in the story, if mentioned at all).

This crack in the wall of elite Venezuelan solidarity is surely far more significant than street protests by unarmed people in toppling the Maduro regime.

The obsession with national politics that consumed the mid-June Congressional baseball shooter who targeted Republicans should be a warning that our federal government is just too large a force in our daily lives. It just shouldn't matter so much to ordinary people who runs Washington, D.C., at the moment. The contest for control of the federal government has become so bitter because the stakes are so high! Reduce the depth and breadth of the federal government's regulatory and financial reach, and the national derangement and hysteria will decline.

How bad is Illinois' fiscal status? Inter-state lotteries don't trust the state to make payouts to winners. Tip to Instapundit.

Trump has a point.

I was perhaps hasty in celebrating the Air Force commitment to keeping the A-10.

Lawyers must represent terrorists, rapists, and Democrats who commit crimes; but representing the Trump family is out of bounds. Tip to Instapundit.

It is interesting that India is worried that Trump won't value them as Trump seeks China's help for North Korea. Funny, 8 years ago I worried Obama would reject Bush 43's outreach to India.

Ah! Science! (The data said RoundUp doesn't cause cancer; but the scientist didn't care about evidence.) Scientists are people and the idea that we should just salute and march off the cliff whenever one of the offers their view is just odd to me. Just put holy robes on them and burn incense in their presence if that is your attitude. But don't pretend your faith is in actual science. Via Instapundit.

Defense in Depth Starts at Launch Sites

This article notes that it is easier to shoot down a ballistic missile when it is on its way up and going much slower:

Our Missile Defense Agency is currently working on a boost-phase-intercept system using unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with high-energy lasers — but that plan is years away, since the lasers it would need to succeed don’t yet exist. That said, a UAV stationed at an altitude of 50,000–55,000 feet, 350 miles outside North Korean air space, carrying infra-red sensors and a conventional high-speed interceptor missile of 500 lbs. would still have the range, firepower, and time needed to bring down even a large North Korean ICBM in its boost phase.

Yes, a boost-phase kill should be the first layer of defense (well, air/missile offensive strikes and cyber-attacks would technically be the first line of defense) going all the way back to point defenses as the last line.

I described what I'd read would be the elements of the layered defense quite some time ago. That was in relation to Iran, but the layers apply to North Korea, too.

Here We Go

The post-ISIL fight in Syria isn't waiting for the defeat of ISIL:

As the Islamic State is slowly being driven out of Syria, its enemies are scrabbling to pick up the territory it leaves behind. Syrian rebels, supported by the U.S.-led coalition, are facing off against the government of President Bashar al Assad, backed by Iran and Russia, to wrest control of the extremist group's remaining positions from its weakened grasp.

Iran has the highest motivation to take the territory on their side. Although how much of an excuse does Iran want to give America to go after Iran harder?

That's a tough balance to navigate.

Syria has long-term ambitions, as indicated by Syria's retention of two isolated eastern outposts.

But I think if not under Iranian dominance Assad would prefer to focus on the still-uncontrolled west before extending east.

Russia only wants the west where it has naval and air bases. It would prefer not to fight at all--let alone America--for eastern Syria.

Hezbollah as a beneficiary of an overland rote to Iran, will back Iran.

On the allied side, the Kurds have little stomach for fighting for southeastern Syria.

America and our allies have little stomach for direct large-scale combat. Can our fire support be enough for Sunni Syrian allies to replace ISIL and keep Iran out?

It is interesting, as I've noted.

UPDATE: Related thoughts.

UPDATE: Say, when did we get nuanced?

US President Donald Trump and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron agreed Tuesday on a joint response in the event of another chemical attack in Syria, as Washington warned Damascus would pay a "heavy price" for such a move.

America and France on the same page? This is going to hurt The Resistance. A lot.

The Toronto Victory Parade

I missed this news, but at last year's gay Pride Parade in Toronto, the parade evolved from a pride parade to a victory parade:

On Sunday, Black Lives Matter activists pulled off the sort of victory that right-wing hooligans could only hope to achieve: They stopped a gay pride parade.

“We are calling you out!” Alexandria Williams, co-founder of the group’s Toronto chapter, shouted through a megaphone as the Black Lives Matter float came to a halt and marchers sat down. Amid rainbow-colored smoke bombs, she accused event organizers of harboring “a historical and current culture of anti-blackness” -- a curious claim considering how the festival welcomed Black Lives Matter as “guests of honor.”

Black Lives Matter refused to budge unless pride organizers acquiesced to a list of demands[.]

The parade organizers caved in 30 minutes.

Consider what happened. The gay pride parade was supposed to highlight the bravery of people coming out in defiance of historical oppression and suppression.

And then the parade organizers were promoted to the ranks of the oppressors by the BLM "guests."

Mission accomplished. You guys (and/or gals) are the generation that won the war. You have been deemed insufficiently victimized to be in the coalition of the "victims."

Allow me to extend a belated congratulations to the LGBT community! You've clearly made it to the ranks of privilege! Welcome!

Oh, and note the inability of the LA Times reporter to simply report the facts and instead insert a leftist fantasy world where "right-wing hooligans" would have halted the parade if they could--and if left-wing BLM bullies hadn't done it in reality.

Will there even be a Pride Parade this year in Toronto? Wouldn't it be like having a white pride parade (what with their own historical and current culture of anti-blackness tarnishing their motives), now, under the circumstances?

The Usual Suspect

The Saudis nailed terrorists who planned to strike Mecca's Grand Mosque.

The article speculates it was ISIL.

But given that Iran-Saudi tensions are high, and given Iran's desire to run the holy sites in Saudi Arabia for all Moslems, I wouldn't be shocked if Iran was behind this. Even if the attackers are Sunni Arabs, Iran has worked with these types.

And the attackers might not even know their true backers.

Pure speculation on my part, of course. But Iran has in the past tried to sow chaos in Mecca.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

... From the Small Sea

Russian aggression has turned the Baltic Sea from a post-Cold War sleepy backwater into a renewed potential theater of war. NATO exercises in the first half of the month show the change.

NATO forces in the Baltic Sea have returned to preparing for major fighting:

[Russia-NATO friction] has brought the BALTOPS exercise back to preparing Alliance navies for high-end maritime warfighting. And while fighting off small boats is still part of the exercise, the fifty ships, roughly fifty aircraft, and 4,000 personnel from twelve NATO nations, are really in the Baltic to sharpen their skills in anti-submarine warfare, air defense, amphibious landings, mine hunting, and the integration of air and maritime power.

Those skills would be useful to contain and crush Russia's Kaliningrad exclave and to support NATO forces in the Baltic states--whether in falling back, in defended enclaves, in irregular warfare, or in a counter-attack--should Russia invade.

In related news about the Marine gear stored in Norwegian caves, this would be a good idea:

As the world changes and more attention shifts to Europe, planners are exploring the possibility of expanding the gear cache stored in the caves — possibly even doubling or tripling its capacity.

A Marine Expeditionary Brigade's worth of equipment and supplies to sustain them until supply lines can catch up would be very useful for Baltic scenarios.

And no, extending the presence of American Marines in Norway won't harm Norwegian-Russian relations:

Norway's decision to extend the presence of U.S. Marines on its soil will worsen relations with neighboring Russia and could escalate tensions on NATO's northern flank, the Russian embassy in Oslo told Reuters on Saturday.

The Russians being aggressive a-holes already soured relations. The Marines are a reaction to those poorer relations.

We're no longer in the placeholder "post-Cold War" era. I hope historians won't name it some type of "pre-war" era.

And no, I don't assume Putin--for all his bluster--will drive the naming of this era.

An Idea is Stupid Even if China Adopts It

3. 2. 1. ... Let the China worshipping commence!

The Chinese navy is taking arsenal ships in a new direction—as giant submersibles. Post-Cold War naval theorists have long dreamed of recreating the old battleships' power through massive "arsenal ships," or warships carrying hundreds of guided missiles that could fire at land and sea targets. Now it looks like China wants to make that dream a reality.

Have a ball, Peking. I couldn't care less.

In an age of network-centric warfare, why spend the effort to make a platform-centric queen of the sea?

In a network-centric world, [America] can't afford to have so much of our offensive firepower in a sea control mission concentrated on so few aircraft carrier hulls.

But what comes up? Let's build different platforms--arsenal ships--to concentrate our missiles on a few high value targets.

Mind you, if not for the possibility of these ships being sunk with all their missiles aboard going down with them, I'd say sure, these are great. After all, those converted ballistic missile subs are basically arsenal subs--and are great.

But we had already built the hulls, so converting them was a relatively cheap additional cost. If the choice was building even less vulnerable (than surface ships) new arsenal subs or putting the same amount of missiles across our fleet, I'd go with the latter.

We need an Arsenal Navy with anti-ship and land-attack missiles (and eventually rail guns on our surface ships) scattered across the surface and subsurface fleet and carried in planes and helicopters above them.

And if during war we find we do need to cram some offensive missiles on a hull, why not make a Modularized Auxiliary Cruiser (Arsenal Ship) [NOTE: see p. 50 here for my article on the concept, albeit for an Army audience]?

Mass effect--not platforms.

I wish China all the best on this. But do not under any circumstances use their dream to argue for an American counterpart. I just don't care if a dread Arsenal Ship Gap develops.

Islamophobia Alert

I'm sure that the Western COEXIST brigades will get right on condemning this government outrage:

In the northwest Xinjiang province the [Chinese provincial] government announced more new laws intended to curb separatist attitudes among the Moslems who dominate this region. The new rules mandate that all Moslem children (those under age 16) have their names changed if local government officials determine that the name is “too Moslem.” That would include names like Islam, Quran, Mecca, Jihad, Imam, Saddam, Hajj, Medina or Arafat. Children receive their national ID cards at age 16 and must now have “non-threatening” name. The government is also collecting DNA samples from all non-Han residents of Xinjiang.

And recall that the Han Chinese "immigrated" to Xinjiang and are smothering the local people's culture through Han-imposed comformity and demographic changes.

UPDATE: To keep jihadis out, Libya has banned people from Yemen, Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, Bangladesh, and Syria; and threw in Palestinians, too.

More COEXIST bumper stickers, stat!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Don't Blame the Tank Models


Europe dreams of a common military but has too many types of tanks[.]

America has but one type, by contrast. Yeah, that's why America is stronger? Give me a break.

The article says that European Union (EU) states have 17 different main battle tanks (MBTs) and that this is symbolic of why the EU doesn't have a single military.

Well, the main reason is that the EU is not an actual political entity despite its proto-imperial status and ambitions for being an empire that suppresses nation-states currently members of the EU.

And it is not a surprise that European states have multiple tanks because the tanks largely predate the EU. States design or buy them--not the EU.

Further, the number 17 is BS.

In my 2012 The Military Balance, I count 14. The EU paper cited probably (it does not list the tanks) counted variations that I ignored as separate MBTs.

And the number shrinks when you subtract different (albeit better) versions of the basic version of the tanks that I initially included in my count. So cut the number to 9.

Then you can subtract American and Russian models in European service. Now we are down to 5 different tanks that Europe makes.

I'd subtract one more because otherwise you penalize Germany for building a newer and better model.

So really, Europe has 4 indigenous tanks made by Britain, France, Germany, and Italy. With other European states having German, American, or Russian tanks--or variations of those tanks.

Ten thousand types of officially recognized cheeses? Good. Four tank models? Bad. Got it.

If European armies are weak, it is not because of too many tank designs. Russia has three in service with 3 more types in storage. Russia has many more tanks than the Europeans.

If the question is why the EU doesn't have a military, it is because only the new Euro royalty want that.

If the question is why Europe doesn't have much of a combined military, it is because Europe disarmed  (and much of what is left is often civil servants in uniforms) and spends too much time trying to unify shrinking national assets rather than just build more combat units that fight.

(Strategypage has more, but comparing Germany's effort to absorb smaller allied militaries to the all-powerful science fiction Borg is misleading.)

By EU logic, if 17 types of MBT is a bad thing and just one is great, having no MBTs at all must be superpower status!

And really, that's all the EU wants. Status from having a monopoly on military power--the ultimate definition of modern sovereignty:

Essentially, the new defense hype is about abandoning and redefining sovereignty at the EU level, such as when states are called on to synchronize national defense-planning cycles. It is about giving up the little sovereignty states have left in defense for a greater good: jointly building a larger European capacity to act, to successfully manage real-world problems.

But if the EU is actually the empire their apparatchiki desire it to be, they won't care if that military provides actual defense capacity as NATO does. Ditching NATO and the inconveniently necessary Americans who provide actual capacity to manage real-world problems in favor of a "pure" EU military is the goal.

An EU military is just the means to the imperial end.

The Master Something or Another

The Germans have a long history of not liking America very much.

The Germans seem to have gone from proclaiming themselves the master race to pretending to be the master moralists.

Germany is certainly our ally. But they continually make it hard to think well of them--and I'm not even harboring grudges over two world wars.

UPDATE: Related thoughts.

As I've asked before, why do Europeans who resisted attempts by the Kaiser, the Nazis, and the communists to rule them so eager to be absorbed by the proto-imperial European Union that Germany dominates?

The Germans have been our allies, but perhaps that is because a strong US-dominated NATO gives them no choice.

Zombie Army

This FMSO short paper addresses the dramatic shift of the Syrian army (Syrian Arab Army: SyAA) from an army to a hybrid army-militia force:

The SyAA is itself held together by a diffuse network of volunteer militias that are plugged into its chain of command and patronage system at different nodes of the system, making the SyAA all the more resilient.

The SyAA remains the single strongest force in the country in terms of weaponry and reach. Its impending demise has been a constant of Syrian conflict analyses ever since 2012. This prediction, often based on decontextualized analysis of shifts in territorial control, has overlooked the important ways in which the SyAA has adapted to the ongoing conflict. Barring direct intervention by hostile foreign powers, the SyAA’s main battlefield threat will remain its own ineptitude and corruption, rather than the rebel forces.

I admit I kept looking for the Syrian army to collapse. But I based it on casualties and not territory.

Indeed, early on I assumed Assad had to give up territory to survive.

The monograph also says that the Alawites grew tired of dying for Assad and wanted someone else to step up. That too was part of my repeated question of how much more could the army endure in defense of the minority Alawite government.

I termed the transformation as one of the Syrian army becoming fiefdoms that in many ways resembled an advise and assist force with a backbone of logistics and heavy weapons fleshed out by militias--both domestic and foreign:

The Syrian army has collapsed. In a way it is like an advise and support force of firepower, armor, and logistics backed by air power sent in to help poorly trained local forces fight their war. And without local forces--whether Syrian or imported militias--the Syrian army would be unable to fight the war.

Without an army as we understand it, Assad does not truly control Syria. Regional entities based on the army divisions run their areas as sub-state sovereigns.

I've stopped asking whether the army will collapse. But I wouldn't be shocked if portions of it did collapse or quietly (or not so quietly) pull out of Assad's war effort.

The Syrian army really has suffered heavy casualties. Perhaps it can't die. But it does not live.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Healing Powers of "And"

Seriously? The amount of money spent on NATO defense is not important?

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently renewed the Trump administration’s calls for 2% defense spending commitments by European members of the alliance; but as German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel asserted, “more money doesn’t mean more security.”[1] Instead of simply meeting budgetary recommendations, an analysis of small state security potential and funding of smarter, more cost-effective contributions to the alliance is needed.

If I may be so bold, when America calls for more money in NATO defense budgets, we assume it isn't all spent on hookers, booze, and photocopier ink. We assume you analyze your defense needs within the NATO alliance and make appropriate decisions on how to spend more money.

As for saying that instead of more money the Baltic states should focus on intelligence and special forces to combat "hybrid" warfare, you know my feelings about that buzz word.

"Hybrid" warfare is simply Russia invading a country and denying they are invading a country--and we go along with the fiction.

I feel like I'm on crazy pills every time the subject comes up.

Stop basing our defense policies on the unique situation of Russia invading Ukraine's Crimea and eastern Donbas while denying it during a period when the new Ukrainian government lacked the legitimacy and command and control to order resistance to the invasion.

Special forces and intelligence are absolutely useful for the Baltic NATO states to fight a guerrilla war as Russian forces roll over them. I want our special forces to help with that, too.

And special forces surely would be useful to fight "little green men" Russian special forces posing as locals.

But well trained infantry with armor and firepower support would also be useful against little green men if ordered by the legitimate Baltic governments to go after the little green men.

And if Baltic states focus on so-called "hybrid" war, the Russians can simply invade with armor and rapidly roll over the Baltic special forces.

Face it, Baltic anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons backed by engineers who can slow down a Russian conventional invasion are useful and would buy time for special forces to link up with mobilized reservists trained to act as irregulars and guerrillas to resist the Russians.

To their credit, the authors argue for that Baltic state capability. But they say that the Baltic states can't match the conventional capabilities of larger NATO states. With all due respect, duh. Of course the small Baltic states can't rely on their own militaries to provide the ability to defeat the Russians in battle. If that's all they are saying, I'm fine with it. But in the context of focusing on hybrid warfare, I think they go down a false path.

Spend more money on defense. And spend it with some sense of reality about the threat.

And stop acting like "hybrid" warfare is a new and significant thing.

Paging Buffy Summers

This is ominous:

It might sound like science fiction, or a recent episode of "Silicon Valley," but a start-up called Ambrosia is charging $8,000 for blood transfusions from young people.

About 100 people have signed up to receive an infusion, founder Dr. Jesse Karmazin said Wednesday at the Code Conference.

With this kind of thinking, aren't we a couple pointy teeth from a vampire problem?

And won't liberals demand sharp stick control to prevent a backlash against the Persons of Pallor community?

I'm stocking up on Mister Pointy, just in case.

Tip to Instapundit.

Aiming to Fight "Over There"

The latest Department of Defense China military report confirms my impressions a year ago of China's new military district commands.

I wrote of the new Chinese military district commands:

The new map seems to be one not of facing threats to be absorbed and defeated as the old regions were designed (although the southern Cold War region certainly saw China's forces on offense against India and Vietnam).

Chinese power is strong enough to merge all of the west into a single district.

The Russian threat from Mongolia and the Pacific region is so low that this can be merged.

A larger region faces South Korea and Japan which have greater power projection capabilities that China can now meet at sea.

Another faces Taiwan as it did before, but now with a greater chance of actually invading Taiwan rather than resisting an American-assisted Taiwan invasion to renew the Chinese Civil War.

And the last one faces the South China Sea which China is trying to absorb into "historical" Chinese territory.

To me, this new design of Chinese military districts demonstrates increased Chinese confidence and a commitment to taking a war outside of China's borders.

In regard to China's new commands, the latest Department of Defense report on China's military states:

Taiwan remains the PLA’s main “strategic direction,” one of the geographic areas the leadership identifies as endowed with strategic importance. Other focus areas include the East China Sea, the South China Sea, and China’s borders with India and North Korea. PLA reforms appear to have oriented each new theater command toward a specific set of contingencies.

The strategic direction named as focusing on North Korea is true enough. But it could easily be focused on Russia's Far East if ending a "century of humiliation" includes restoring Chinese control of territory taken from China by Russia in the 19th century. That's what I had in mind for the command I noted second, although North Korea implicitly is folded in there.

And the first district I mention encompassed India and, to a lesser degree, Central Asia as the focus in my mind.

Growing capabilities are increasing Chinese ambitions.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

To Emit or Not to Emit, That is the Question

Is this the future of the Army?

“If we don’t win the cyber/EW fight, then the maneuver fight may not matter because we may not get to it,” Maj. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, director of operations, Army Rapid Capabilities Office, said during a presentation at the beginning of June, noting that the decisive fight may well be the electromagnetic spectrum as opposed to maneuver. ...

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work discussed how this new paradigm will affect future conflict, explaining last October that the “old adage was … if you can be seen you can be hit, and if you can be hit, you can be killed. The new adage is if you emit, you die.”

So to survive the Army has to have the electronic emission profile of an 18th century army?

That's a lot to ask of an army that has to find an enemy and fight it. At some point, you have to emit in order to kill.

Yes, we have to suppress a lot of our troop electromagnetic emissions to avoid enemy massed firepower. But it can't be just that unless you want to field 18th century armies.

Part of suppressing emissions has to be converting 360 emissions that can be detected with point-to-point emissions hugging the earth that can't be detected. You may need to string short-ranged directional emissions or even wires again once you enter the enemy firing envelope.

You may need mobile 360-burst emissions that send and receive accumulated transmissions and then shut down emissions to displace before the enemy can shoot at it. There might be large numbers of these mobile, perhaps robotic, communications systems.

And where we need to have continuously emitting systems, make them autonomous drones cheap enough to be considered expendable. Use them like ammunition or any other consumable, providing information to manned systems with line-of-site or wired links. The enemy will destroy them, but with enough put into action continuously, we will retain continuous necessary emissions and allow our units to find enemies and shoot.

For the manned systems, we will need active defenses that can buy time for the unit under fire to displace out of the target zone by taking out incoming rounds. Maybe the autonomous drones get the active defense role to emit and shoot at incoming rounds while they can in order to let the manned systems escape.

I just don't think that we can totally suppress emissions if we want the Army to fight rather than just evade attack.

Trying to Win, I Hope

It looks like America will send 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan, mostly to help our Afghan allies fight the Taliban jihadis:

The Pentagon will send almost 4,000 additional American forces to Afghanistan, a Trump administration official said Thursday, hoping to break a stalemate in a war that has now passed to a third U.S. commander in chief. The deployment will be the largest of American manpower under Donald Trump’s young presidency.

That's the floated number, anyway. I assume NATO will send some number lower than what we send.

Oh, and this is puzzling:

In 2009, Obama authorized a surge of 30,000 troops into Afghanistan, bringing the total there to more than 100,000, before drawing down over the rest of his presidency.

Obama implemented two surges in 2009. Look at the troop numbers.

This chart shows the changes before the final Obama surge of 30,000 troops that brought our commitment to 100,000.

President Obama nearly tripled American troops in Afghanistan from the level under Bush in January 2009 when Bush left office. Why minimize what Obama ordered?

It's like the media wants to reduce Obama's role in the fight by minimizing his escalations that still left us with a losing war effort. Baldor and Burns should know better.

The excuse may be that the first surge of 2009 was "authorized" before Obama took office, following battlefield victory in Iraq. But have no doubt that if Obama did not agree with this surge, it would not have happened. The Bush plans were coordinated with the incoming Obama administration.

Remember, Bush fully intended to remain in Iraq after 2011. Obama reversed that goal.

Don't start the "quagmire" wailing with a small increase. I'm sorry that our jihadi enemies are persistent. Yet it is better to support hundreds of thousands of allied Afghan soldiers and police who fight and kill jihadis over there than it is to let the Afghan government fail or fall and claim the sole role in fighting jihadis who will have a big sanctuary to plot attacks on the West.

We really did reduce our presence far below what was necessary to support the Afghan forces, and they have lost ground to the Taliban and other jihadis.

And it would really help if our problem child Pakistan didn't work both sides of the war, undermining our effort to fight jihadis over there.

UPDATE: Related thoughts. With a reminder, as I've long noted, that Pakistan is where a large part of our Afghanistan problem lies.