Monday, July 31, 2017

Disaggregate the Marines

The August issue of the United States Naval Institute Proceedings has an article of mine, "Bring Back the Dragon Swarms," in the August issue (membership required), which advocates breaking down the MEU into company teams moved by vessels designed to carry a single company-sized element.

The model is the APD of World War II.

I'm pleased to finally make it in to Proceedings. They bought a couple of my articles about twenty years ago but they never made it to print.

Kill the Iran Deal

Kill the Iran deal. There is no silk purse in this sow's ear of a deal.

The Iran deal is horrible. And it was sold based on lies fed to a compliant media. Which is why I went right to the source instead to see how horrible the Iran deal is.

Kill the Iran deal. Anything is better than trying to pretend we have a real solution to the Iran nuclear problem.

Getting to Know You. Getting to Know All About You

Russian and Chinese ships exercised together in the Baltic Sea. The Russians say this represents no threat. I beg to differ.

It was a big deal for China to sail all the way to the Baltic Sea to participate in Sea Cooperation 2017. Russia says the joint exercise are no threat to others:

"The actions of our sailors will be monitored by our numerous neighbors in the region," Russian Vice Admiral Alexander Fedotenkov was quoted as saying in a statement released by the Russian Defence Ministry.

"Holding such an exercise is in no way a threat to other nations," he said.

He has a point. I'm not worried that China's ships pose a threat or that training with the Russians will hone the Russian edge to be more of a threat. But Russia should be worried. The threat is to Russia.

We aren't far away from when China can renew their land claims in the Russian Far East.

Exercising in the Baltic where the Russians have to protect St. Petersburg is useful for China to do.

I think China has an interest in seeing how the Russians operate in a closed sea in defense of a major port city. Like Vladivostok, to pick a city at random.

Of course, watching the Russians in the Baltic Sea is no substitute for exercises near Russian Pacific ports. For that you'd have to exercise in the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk.

Wait. What?

The exercise, called "Sea Cooperation-2017," follows similar ones held last year. More exercises of the same kind will be held in mid-September in the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk, China's state news agency Xinhua reported last month.

Oh. Well as Fedotenkov might say, those drills will in no way be a threat to others.

Ah the things China is learning about Russia day by day!

Bloody Peasants! Out of the Way!

The European Union entangles their subject states in a web of regulations that will create an ever closer union until the EU is an imperial state.

The EU dismissed the British Brexit team as amateurs, basically. Which is odd:

The British team consists of well-educated and experienced civil servants. In claiming that this team is not up to the task of understanding the complexities of EU processes and regulations, the EU has made the strongest case possible against itself. If these people can’t readily grasp the principles binding Britain to the EU, then how can mere citizens understand them? And if the principles are beyond the grasp of the public, how can the public trust the institutions?

The public can' trust the institution:

The EU has become an authoritarian regime insisting that it is the defender of liberal democracy. There are many ways to strip people and governments of their self-determination. The way the EU has chosen is to create institutions whose mode of operation is opaque and whose authority cannot be easily understood. Under those circumstances, the claim to undefined authority exercised in an opaque manner becomes de facto authoritarianism – an authoritarianism built on complexity. It is a complexity so powerful that the British negotiating team is deemed to be unable to grasp the rules.

They are singing to the choir on the authoritarian nature of the European Union. I have long been opposed to this proto-imperial order as heading toward an anti-American empire that crushes liberty.

I recently noted that the Soviets must be kicking themselves that they built an empire on tanks and secret police that the imperial subject threw off in short order rather than building an empire based on 10,000 cheese regulations.

America must oppose the EU as a political entity for our national interests. Europeans should oppose the EU for their freedom and liberty.

Britain, as the author notes, shouldn't fear European threats to trade with Britain.

Europe caves in to Iran to get trade with that small but evil state. Will Europe really stiff-arm advanced Britain with 6-1/2 times the GDP and which also provides a good chunk of European military power?

UPDATE: Doomsday didn't arrive as predicted after the Brexit vote; and Britain will do just fine after the EU given that it is in the interests of the EU to have a viable British trading partner even outside the EU.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

When a Problem is Too Big, Reduce It

It would be good if more young Americans could physically qualify for military service:

In 1991, when I retired from active duty, only 50 percent of our nation’s young people—ages 17 to 24—were considered eligible for military service as officers or enlisted.

This was based on enlistment standards set by the military to ensure recruits would be competent to serve in our increasingly sophisticated military environment. Reasons for this lack of eligibility ranged from academic achievement to physical ability, to medical problems, drug use, and criminal records.

Today, eligibility to enlist has dropped to 25 percent, mostly because of an emergent condition among young people called obesity!

While a national effort to encourage better lifestyles would be good, even if it works it will be a long time to get results. You don't turn that ship on a dime.

And honestly I have my doubts that such a broad societal effort will have much of an effect. It's not like the government doesn't encourage better eating and more exercise.

I think a better approach would be to establish pre-basic training lifestyle camps for new recruits designed to get recruits otherwise qualified into shape with lower weight, more strength, and better eating habits.

When I was in basic training (in 1988) I know the Army had pre-basic strengthening camps that lasted 3 (if memory serves me) weeks.

The Army already has a plan to deal with overweight active duty troops. How much more effective would it be with the "total control" that trainees are under?

Like the Army was able to do with lower standards at the height of the Iraq War, perhaps the Army (and the rest of the military) should study different types and scales of obesity and figure out which potential recruits in those categories could benefit from such pre-basic camps. I don't know how long they should last, but I assume months rather than weeks.

This could be contracted out to civilian companies with Army Reserve drill sergeants rotated in for oversight to remind the new recruits they are in the Army.

Of course, if only 25% of X number of potential recruits are eligible, increasing the eligibility rate is only part of the equation. Increasing X also increases the number of recruits.

Another problem is that the military doesn't recruit well in all parts of the country. If 75% of potential recruits aren't eligible, the military can't afford to fail in effectively recruiting in large parts of the country where a lot of the 25% eligible live.

I had a suggestion on that front, recently, with "Course Could Be a Lifesaver for Recruiting." (And just discovered it is online. See pages 14-15.)

We need quality people as the foundation of the military.

The Real North Korea Problem

This is not unreasonable:

One of the United States' most senior Navy commanders has acknowledged that accepting North Korea as a fully fledged nuclear power is "part of the dialogue" about how to deal with the rogue state.

I've long felt that in a bilateral framework, we could deter North Korea's nuclear weapons.

I really don't think North Korea is irrational. They have long had the ability to attack South Korea with some chance of success, but did not. In the post-Cold War era North Korea has lost both their Soviet backer and the ability to launch a conventional invasion, but the ability to hammer Seoul with high explosives and chemical weapons has remained. Yet North Korea has not attacked.

Maintaining their power is the ultimate goal of North Korea's ruling class. So a nuclear armed North Korea is admittedly far more dangerous on a wider front (including America eventually), but can be deterred.

As a bilateral issue.

The problem with accepting North Korea's nuclear power status is that Iran could purchase nuclear weapons from North Korea.

And even if Iran can be deterred from using nukes (I think there is enough doubt about that to make the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran unacceptable), Iran will use nukes as a shield to be even more aggressive below the nuclear level. Is that something we want to encourage?

And you can't rule out that even if Iran's rulers won't use nukes that somebody in Iran who would love to use nukes could get access to one of them to do something horrific for the glory of Islam that the corrupt Iranian rulers are unwilling to do--most likely because they are a tool of the Great Satan or the Zionist Entity. (As they may tell themselves to justify mass murder.)

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: This article is certainly reasonable in its discussion of coping with North Korea as a nuclear power rather than risking the uncertainties of war.

And if this was a problem restricted to North Korean nukes, I'd say the author has a strong argument. But the issue of broke North Korea selling nukes to a state like Iran is not raised.

I'm far more worried about North Korea selling nukes than I am of North Korea firing nukes at an American city.

Afghans Need Every Advantage They Can Get

Afghanistan needs effective air power. Our premature withdrawal of that capability before Afghanistan could even begin to replace Western air power is one reason the Taliban have made gains the last several years.

This is needed:

As the U.S. administration prepares its new strategy for Afghanistan, the Kabul government and its Western allies are working hard to develop an air force that gives government forces the advantage in their war against Taliban militants.

Effective air power to provide recon and surveillance, logistics, transport, medical, strike, and close air support is needed to defeat the Taliban.

One of the effects of effective air power is that it limits the ability of the Taliban to mass troops against small outposts and limits the time Taliban can afford to attack a target before they have to retreat and scatter to avoid air power intervening decisively in the battle.

Like this Taliban assault at Khakrez:

The Taliban attacked the base overnight and killed 26 Afghan soldiers and wounded 13 more, the Ministry of Defense confirmed, according to TOLONews. Additionally, eight more soldiers are reported as missing and presumably captured by the Taliban. Fifty-seven of the 82 soldiers stationed at the base were killed, wounded or captured during the fighting.

The Afghans have to spread out to control and protect territory and the people to deny their use to the Taliban.

But the Afghan security forces can hardly afford to put a full battalion into every outpost needed for this mission.

Effective air power is an important tool to allow company-sized elements to hold off attacks until reinforcements arrive; and ultimately to make it more difficult for the Taliban to mass enough forces to overrun company outposts; and beyond that to allow Afghan forces to seize the initiative and go after the enemy to further atomize them.

We were winning the war and had the enemy on their heels. We needed to help Afghans keep the pressure on without American combat brigades in the lead.

I wanted America to provide this air power function until Afghans could provide the services. But we didn't, and I worried about what would happen if we walked away (quoting a linked article here):

No longer pinned down by U.S. air cover, Taliban fighters are attacking Afghan military posts in larger numbers with the aim of taking and holding ground, a shift from the hit-and-run strikes with posses of gunmen, explosives and suicide bombers.

And we lost the initiative and then the ground.

Although I wonder if we do Afghans a disservice by setting up a separate air force to support ground forces rather than making the air service part of their army.

We've paid the price of walking away with the job undone. Let's work the problem.

This was once the "good" war, remember?

UPDATED: Related:

According to Gen. Andrew Croft, the highest ranking U.S. Air Force officer in Iraq, the jihadists are struggling to regroup with their fragmented forces, due to coalition air power restricting one of their past battlefield strengths, the ability to move rapidly and amass fighters.

Yes. That's a nice thing to inflict on an enemy. It would be nice to do that in Afghanistan.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

What do you call a handful of suspended college radicals who violently suppress freedom of speech? A good start. Tip to Instapundit.

U.S. Army Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, the top Army officer in Europe, said that NATO is making progress in improving the logistics infrastructure to support eastern NATO, but that it would really help if Germany increased defense spending to improve transportation and air/missile defense networks to bolster the logistics capacity. Personally, I'd like it if the Germans also had plans to lead a NATO offensive into Kaliningrad to remove the source of problem missiles (of the ground-to-ground and air defense varieties).

President Trump spoke of defending the West in a speech in Poland. Note to Poles: Gutting rule of law by undermining the judiciary is not defending the West.

The Army and Marines have cheaper guided artillery rounds via the PGK fuse and guidance kit now. Is this applicable to the Navy, too?

Socialism is failing in Venezuela, a lake of oil underneath them notwithstanding. So what do the socialists think will cure them? More socialism, of course.

Zimbabwe's president-for-life of the country he impoverished is calling on true supporters to attack people committing violence while "pretending" to be his supporters. That could get ugly.

Drug violence in Mexico is spiking up and is spreading out to more of Mexico. If we want to keep the active armed forces free for crises, I can totally see National Guard units mobilized again for duty on the Mexican border as they were a century ago.

The State Department will block Americans from going to North Korea. I'm shocked (and disgusted that people would pay money to that horrible gulag with a UN seat) that this is necessary. But it won't work, as many Americans who traveled to Cuba from Canada for decades can attest. We should have any American planning to go to North Korea sign a document acknowledging that America will risk no members of the military trying to rescue them for being stupid.

Background on our "problem child" kind-of-ally Pakistan. We put up with Pakistan. But we also have little reason to seriously back Pakistan if things get really bad for them. The generals there may think nukes solve all their problems, but they don't. Nukes only prevent India from invading and occupying Pakistan--as if India wants to do that, of course. Rule of law would benefit Pakistan much more.

Even Belgium is buying for their army because of the Russian threat.

Sure, one problem Ukraine had in resisting Russia's near-bloodless conquest of Crimea was that there were leaders in Ukraine's military in Crimea who were pro-Russian. But that wasn't the key. So the fact that Russia recruits ethnic Russians in other former regions of the USSR doesn't mean Russia can repeat the Crimea conquest. Two additional factors were important in the Crimea outcome. One, the only combat unit was a marine battalion. The rest were rear echelon troops who at best could defend their own positions if attacked. Second, Ukrainians had just overthrown the pro-Russian government and the new government had not yet established authority to order troops ill-prepared to fight (which is how the former pro-Russian government wanted the military) into action to resist the Russians. It is also true that more people in Crimea were pro-Russian than in the rest of Ukraine, but I don't think that was really a factor in the short run. The article does mention these other factors, but doesn't flesh them out like it does the leadership issue (which is fine, this is a newspaper article on that aspect and not an intelligence evaluation). Russia's special forces did a good job in Crimea. But don't overstate what they achieved in unique circumstances as if the Russian special forces can repeat the achievement anywhere in the ex-Soviet sphere.

The Supreme Court infamously ruled the Obamacare penalty is a tax and not the government compelling a person to buy a product (insurance), thus upholding the core of the law. Could there be a lawsuit against the federal government demanding that fines and court fees for parking and vehicle moving violations be deductible on federal taxes because they are a (local) tax, too, and not a penalty? Just a thought. I'm not an attorney, of course.

The idea that Trump won because of a racial "backlash" against Obama would be more persuasive if those voters hadn't elected and reelected Obama and if there had actually been an African American candidate up against Trump. And this article that "gets" why Trump lost is just some clueless Democrat coming down on the "stupid" side of the continual debate in liberal circles about whether conservatives are evil or just too stupid to know better. Tip to Instapundit.

With Virginia-class SSNs getting better vertical launch tubes to hold more Tomahawk missiles, we see that the replacement for the Ohio-class SSGNs will be done by spreading out these missiles throughout the submarine fleet rather than in 4 boats.

Destroying a 150-year-old scientific consensus. Kind of neat that an individual can still fight the tide. Although this tide doesn't have large amounts of money reliant on its continued flow. Tip to Instapundit.

Buying T-90s is basically to hold off the Chinese army.

I think somebody needs a COEXIST bumper sticker.

Democrats have a new slogan! "A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future." Given that Schumer, Hillary, Warren, and Sanders are their annoying leaders, I suggest "Make America Grate Again."

The Russians are building up troops on the border with Ukraine. The location is not specified. As Syria settles down a bit, Russia could be getting ready to reignite the simmering war in the Donbas. If timed with a larger-than-advertised Zapad 2017 military exercise, the Russians could both threaten the northern border of Ukraine to tie down Ukrainian troops and serve as a shield or sword against NATO in the Baltic region. Which argues for keeping the pressure on Assad so financially shaky Russia has to choose which adventure to finance.

A single brigade equipped with surveillance cameras tasked with controlling the border to me does not look like China is getting ready for something big in North Korea.

In a sane political world, I would heartily agree that injecting politics into a speech before the Boy Scouts was a breach of presidential protocol and an offense again politicizing every damn aspect of our lives. But no, the left has to turn the "Resistance" dial to 11 and compare the president's speech to Hitler speaking to the Hitler Youth, inflicting collateral damage on a valuable boys' organization in their eagerness to portray Trump as a national socialist dictator. So again, I back away from both the left and the president on this issue. Reducing my television news consumption has been a blessing. And I never have visited the most hyperbolic sources on the Internet. Serenity now.

Just a reminder that Hillary Clinton isn't the only Democrat with an IT problem. Just what have the Democrats in the House been doing? Stepping out of the falling building at the last minute only works in Road Runner cartoons.

The burning sensation means it's working!

I'm not sure how you fix this to balance civil liberties and appropriate intelligence gathering, but I do know that liberals would be up in arms if these violations of civil liberties had been taken by Trump rather than Obama.

I was just recalling that both my children, when they were little, liked me to sleep on the floor next to their beds while they fell asleep at night. I'd have to think fast for why I wasn't really trying to leave if one of them hadn't fallen asleep when I started to crawl out of the room!

Next year, Britain will send a warship to conduct freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea. Thank you, Britain. Sadly, I imagine the small size of the British fleet makes it difficult to do much on short notice so far from home. But the diplomatic support will be welcome. I'm sure the British won't forget this, after all.

Libyans have decided to bring Hiftar in from the cold. Good. Next get rid of the Islamist influence.

I'm sure many will have done exactly this by the time this post publishes, but what the heck:

Chapter 1: The Russians Trick Me Into Using a Private Server
Chapter 2: The Russians Trick Me Into Clinton Foundation Corruption
Chapter 3: Russians Trick Me Into Bland Robotic Policy-Avoiding Personality
Chapter 4: Russians Teach Me How to Rig a Primary Election
Chapter 5: The Russians Trick Me Into Running on My Gender
Chapter 6: The Russians Trick Me Into Ignoring Wisconsin
Chapter 7: The Russians Trick Me Into Ignoring Michigan
Chapter 8: The Russians Trick Me Into Ignoring Pennsylvania
Chapter 9: Russians Teach Me About Maskirova and I Blame the Russians
Chapter 10: I Endured Bill for This, You Ungrateful SOBs!
Chapter 11: You Will Be Forced to Love Me in 2020

The U.S. military has a new air- and now sea-launched (for the Navy) Long Range Anti-Ship Missile. It is a slower but stealthy missile. I noted the competing models here and the start of development for the ship-launched missile here.

It is disappointing that Congress has not repealed and replaced Obamacare. But the complaint that Republicans didn't craft a replacement while President Obama was in office is ridiculous. Why on Earth would Republicans draft a detailed plan that had no chance of passing but which would open up Republicans to nonstop Democratic-Media Complex savage attacks for "killing" Group X? And are you seriously claiming that this bill should have been written during the campaign? Who expected Trump to win? It only made sense to actually write a bill in January 2017 with the new Congress in office. Mind you, I'd like the Republicans to have a sense of urgency. But repeal soon with an effective date at the end of 2018 so there is a deadline and window to replace would be better, I think.

This is why I've long said it is a fool's game to try to control the ever-expanding federal government. Far better to shrink the power and scope of the federal government's reach. Of course, you have to control the federal government to do that ... If Republicans won't act when voters give them the chance to roll back the leviathan, their voters won't bother to vote. I know there is still time to pass something, but with Senator McCain voting that way (to make sure he isn't the target for a Democrat with better aim?), it will be difficult.

American liberals have found a new target for their panty-throwing obsession. (Sorry, Bernie.) Liberals aren't fleeing to Canada--despite their promises--so they now want to bring the face of Canada here. So Hillary has lost to Trump and now to someone who can't even legally be our president? What happened, indeed.

One of my frustrations with the American left has been their new inability to distinguish between illegal immigration and legal immigration set at levels that allow immigrants to integrate (and yes, assimilate, as generations of immigrants have done) into America. As a nation of ideas and not of blood and soil, anyone can be an American by adopting our ideas. If we can dramatically reduce illegal immigration by controlling our borders and fixing the visa system that counts on "visitors" voluntarily leaving when it is time, I would have no problem with legalizing rather than deporting illegals who have jobs and no crimes other than crossing the border on their record. But reversing the order is just a recipe for more illegal immigration.

Truly, this Russian navy planning document is sheer fantasy. But it is silly to claim that because it declines to challenge the US Navy that it is aimed at China when that was the status in the Cold War and when the bulk of the Russian fleet is in the west and would require a long trip to the east to rescue the Pacific Fleet yet just meet a new Tsushima fate.  We can only hope that Russia devotes scarce money to this source of Russian weakness.

I saw Dunkirk. It may be heresy to say that I think it was adequate. As a movie of various soda straw views of the epic evacuation, it was excellent. But you never really had the flow of the evacuation based on constant sinking of ships that gave the impression that the evacuation was failing miserably. Only a single line by a British officer near the end of the movie, saying that Churchill got over 300,000 troops away from the perimeter, finally tells you that the evacuation worked. Up until then you'd think from the movie that every soldier was being bombed and/or drowned. I enjoyed the movie. But was it history?

The biggest problem with self-driving cars is people. Tip to Instapundit. And they mostly talk about uncertainty and exploiting the cars in ways that inconvenience others. But don't under-estimate the ability of people to screw with the robots. I guarantee that it will be a sport for children and child-like adults to toss empty boxes in front of self-driving cars (or fly drones in front of, if you prefer) to watch them screech to a halt or carry out evasive maneuvers. Bank on that.

Are we using an "electricity bomb" that "screws with the enemy’s electronics, disabling them or making them catch fire or even explode, becoming little bombs in of themselves" against ISIL in Syria? (tip to Instapundit) I wonder if it is an F-22 or F-15 with an AESA radar focused on the enemy? The energy would fry unshielded civilian electronics, wouldn't it? And it would heat up metal from the sheer energy, right? Could the effects include exploding electronics or something that seems like that? The first article mentions the AESA radar without using the term.

The Hamburg mystery-motive attacker was a known Islamist. Why are so many "known wolves" allowed to walk free and have the opportunity to kill?

Families of American embassy staff in Venezuela were ordered to leave the country as the crisis there threatens to explode. The death toll has surpassed 100. It must be bad because I can't recall the last time Sean Penn praised the socialist country for its great success. Please, let him explain that President Obama undermined the socialist paradise for 8 years to get Venezuela to this point.

Ukraine has cut off electricity to Russian-occupied Donetsk. It's about time! Make Russia support their conquest. Why wasn't this done before?

This article notes that China would face a nationalist backlash if it backs down in the Doka La Pass stand-off, especially since Xi could use a victory before a fall Communist Party conference.  As I noted, China has experienced a number of losses in foreign policy and another one with India could be problematic for Xi.

Will attempting to isolate the aggressive Iran that is setting fires all around the Middle East and which never even admitted it had a nuclear program  isolate America in the "international community" instead of isolating Iran? If, as the author of this article argues, canceling the Iran "deal" on top of backing out of the pointless Paris climate deal and abandoning the Pacific trade deal that wouldn't have been passed even if Hillary Clinton had won the election will isolate America, the "international community" is a sad joke and should take a long walk on a short pier. The weight of the "international community" is stopping Iran. It won't be much of a speed bump for America.

The Imran Awan Democratic IT issue is starting to look, to me, like possible collusion with potential Pakistani intelligence leaks that could have flowed to jihadis and the Chinese (and maybe to the Russians if the Chinese wanted to share that bonanza with their little sidekick). And obstruction of justice, of course. We even have more cases of smashed hard drives (what is it with Democrats, they seem to seriously hate these cans hard drives). I've noted this odd issue before, puzzled that it was not getting more attention. The best case is that this is just ordinary Democratic corruption and sloppiness. The worst case is why I don't trust most Democrats on national security issues.

California secession backers to the rest of Trump-occupied Amerika:  We're taking the entire margin of Hillary's popular vote majority and leaving you suckers to fend for yourselves. Not that I want California to secede, mind you. China would love it, of course, notwithstanding the loss of the best targets within range of their nuclear missiles. Tip to Instapundit.

Democrats: We were just kidding about a full and comprehensive investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election! Tip to Instapundit.

This isn't just about the state preying on people for revenue in a legal shakedown. It's also a case of unequal treatment under the law for those with the money to pay for the better treatment. Tip, again, to Instapundit.

We think there are still 4,000 fighters and 3,000 paid supporters in ISIL's Iraq branch. One, that's not as high of a tooth-to-tail ratio that I'd think a terror group--even one with a proto-state--would have at this point. ISIL might want to hand out some guns to those ISIL desk jockeys. Two, that's a lot fewer than the 25,000 full-time insurgents we fought during the Iraq War counter-insurgency. This is not an insurmountable problem given the anger most Iraqis who live under ISIL rule have for the thugs. And three, some are still massed trying to hold territory. That opportunity to kill terrorists on a wholesale scale should be seized before they scatter and go underground which will lead to a slower-paced killing campaign against them.

Let me say that I am really happy with my massive reduction in watching TV news that is dominated by lefties turning the dial to 11 to attack Trump for every piddly thing; and fanboys (and girls) of Trump defending whatever he does. I can't help that TV encourages this kind of discourse. I can control whether I consume that product. I choose not to. It's liberating, really.

What End State Do We Want in Syria?

I have no clue about whether American policy is to defeat or cope with Assad in Syria.

Is this what we are seeing in Syria?

President Trump's reported suspension of a covert CIA program to fund, arm, and train Syrian rebels is seen as signaling the end of US efforts to pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the battlefield.

Perhaps it is what we are seeing.

But I don't think we can trust an Assad we've done a small harm to if he survives this multi-war--and that's if Iran, who we can't trust, isn't effectively in control of Syria now.

And I don't think we can trust Russian forces based in Syria.

I don't rule out that cutting off aid to CIA-backed rebels in northern Syria is more of a reflection of Trump administration mistrust of the CIA and confidence in our military which supports other rebels in the south and rebels our military is directly supporting in the east in the fight against ISIL.

But in the end, I don't really know what this means. And it won't be clear from events on the ground until after ISIL is crushed in Syria.

Return the Thousand Cuts

Is Ukraine dying from a thousand cuts in a struggle that cannot regain the Donbas let alone Crimea? Does this mean Ukraine must negotiate to surrender their eastern territory to de facto Russian control and concede Russia's formal annexation of Crimea?


Although the Ukrainian army is far stronger than in 2014, in the past the Kremlin has repeatedly shown itself willing to pour in Russian special forces and regular troops whenever the battlefield situation has tilted against the rebels. Since Ukraine cannot defeat Russia and Russia has no intention of occupying Ukraine the only way to break the political stalemate and incessant skirmishing on the ground is through a new round of political negotiations.

"Negotiations" that start with Russia unwilling to leave Ukraine are only meant to ratify Russia's conquest.

I personally think Ukraine needs to make Russia die from a thousand cuts. Ukraine's efforts need to focus on killing Russian soldiers in the Donbas until Russia tires of the bleeding ulcer and withdraws from the Donbas unwilling to suffer ongoing losses to keep that scrap of territory.

Irregulars need to infiltrate Russian-dominated territory and plant mines around Russian units. Long-range artillery needs to target Russian positions with fire or scatterable mines. Intelligence people need to get locals to kill Russians.

As long as pro-Russian Ukrainians are dying to hold this gain for Russia, Russia will play the game all day long.

Start killing Russians and the question of staying is put back in play. Without the Russians to prop them up, the Donbas AstroTurf rebels won't be able to hold the ground.

America has reason to help Ukraine, of course.

Ukraine needs to do more than fight Russians. Reducing corruption and increasing rule of law in Ukraine will create more prosperity and freedom that will strengthen Ukraine's ability to fight and appeal to poverty-stricken Russian-occupied Donbas residents who only have the alternative of joining dictatorial and economically weak Russia.

And unless Russia leaves Donbas because they are chased out, the Russians will keep clawing for more territory the way they do at Georgia's expense since 2008.

Until Russia is strong enough to take even more in larger chunks, of course.

Crimea is a tougher problem. But ultimately, after Donbas is regained, long-range missiles to bombard Sevastopol base complex and mining Crimean waters could be a threat that gets Russia to negotiate for a return to the status quo ante on the peninsula.

And I'll repeat that I think in the interim Ukraine should sue Russia for rent for Crimea. The monthly bill for holding the entire region has to be pretty high considering the facilities and natural resources.

And get a cleaning deposit, too.

UPDATE: Annoyingly, Russia continues to pretend that they aren't involved:

The German government says Germany, France, Russia, and Ukraine have agreed on a number of "immediate measures" to push forward with a peace deal brokered in 2015 to end the bloody fighting in eastern Ukraine.

If Russia stopped waging war on Ukraine, the fighting would dwindle to nothing. The idea that Russia is trying to end the fighting is ludicrous and I don't know why anybody goes along with this pretend position.

Friday, July 28, 2017

A Real But Limited Tool

American special forces are more active in Africa to combat jihadis and other forms of disorder that could create terrorist havens if not combated.

Most allocated American military power is focused in the Horn of Africa and along the Mediterranean coast, leaving large portions of Africa with little real attention:

Although the U.S. wants to protect itself and its European allies from terror attacks from Africa, the problem is that the United States has “real, but limited, interests in a lot of places around the world, and especially in a lot of parts of sub-Saharan Africa,” Biddle told The Cipher Brief.

While the United States does not want African countries to become terrorist safe havens, “it’s not a big enough interest that we’re willing to send 100,000 troops to any of these countries to stabilize their real estate,” Biddle said, which is why the Administration is using more special operators who can both aid operations and train and advise African militaries.

I think that The AFRICOM Queen modularized auxiliary cruiser (see page 50) would be a good tool to extend the military's reach to sub-Sahara Africa to reduce the need to send 100,000 troops to such a distant place.

Since America can hardly afford to send that many troops to a region way down the priority list, it would be good to prevent the disorder in the first place and bolster local capacity to intervene if such disorder breaks out.

Of course, reducing corruption and bolstering rule of law in African countries would raise capacity to resist disorder and roll it back if it breaks out more effectively than special forces. But that is a task beyond the skill set of our special forces troops.

Increasing the ability of the military to operate in the south without a footprint ashore would be helpful.

Stating the Obvious

It is a strange world when stating the obvious is welcome news. Russia denies involvement in Ukraine but our envoy on the issue is having none of that denial:

Russian aggression is to blame for violence in eastern Ukraine, where people are dying in what should be seen as a "hot war" rather than a "frozen conflict", the U.S. special envoy to the Ukraine peace talks said on a visit to Ukraine on Sunday.

Yes, Russia is to blame for this war. Somebody finally is willing to state what our lying eyes have been telling us for 3-1/2 years now.

And you know what would encourage diplomacy to end Russian aggression? More body bags going home to Russia, that's what.

Pray Tell, Who Do We Leave to the Tender Mercies of Our Enemies?

Arguing that America spends as much as the next X countries below us and therefore spends enough to defend our country is a simplistic measure that ignores our geographic constraints and alliance responsibilities as well as little things like using firepower to reduce our casualties and precision to reduce civilian casualties. All these things cost money. And how much can we even trust the figures our foes publish?

I welcome this addition to the debate on defense spending.

I've gone on about this issue many times over the years.

If national defense began at the 12-mile limit off our coasts, our defense spending needs would be far lower.

If it did, we'd have far few allies willing to fight with us rather than at the side of enemies.

And then our defense needs would shoot right back up, of course.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

It Lives!

Lamb is in charge of watering the plants. One has made it to the top of the stairwell.

If it takes a turn and enters my bedroom, I'm getting an axe.

Or at least a pair of scissors.

Is Zeleny Yar a Core Interest?

The Russians are researching an old civilization that existed in Siberia.

This is interesting:

The mummified remains of a baby and an adult have been discovered in a medieval necropolis in remote Siberia. The adult was covered in copper from head to toe, while small fragments of copper boiler were placed on the baby.

Archaeologists have yet to find out what exactly these funerary rituals meant. It is also unclear what mysterious ancient civilisation these two individuals belonged to.

The Russians had best hope the DNA tests on the mummies don't point to Chinese connections, lest the Chinese add the arctic region to their serious injury list that Russia inflicted on China when China was weak.

Not that I seriously think Zeleny Yar is on China's wish list. I kid.

But a lot of land is on the wish list and more can be added at any time China sees fit to do that.

Innovation for Future War

I don't have a lot to add to this article on military innovation. But it is an important topic that I've certainly touched on without really going into theory.

On the issue of whether the last 16 years of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism (ignoring the semi-conventional Afghan campaign to overthrow the Taliban and the very conventional campaign to destroy the Saddam regime) harms innovation for future conventional warfare, I have to ask how?

The implication seems to be that without the COIN and CT campaigns we'd have conventional wars to test weapons, systems, and doctrine.

But isn't the more likely alternative to preparing for conventional war while fighting COIN and CT preparing for conventional war while at peace? Without a way to test weapons, systems, and doctrine in the real world?

Mind you, it is very true that we have a generation of troops with little experience in conventional warfare. But we are working to fix that, and when we do we will have a military with combat experience and appropriate training.

The question of whether we are innovating in a war or peacetime environment is interesting. Testing in a war environment is much more rapid.

Basically, we really aren't in a war environment for the purpose of developing weapons, systems, and doctrines. Surely you've heard the expression that "the military is at war, the nation is at the mall."

I'm not sure we will ever see anything different absent a lengthy war against a major regional or global power that requires national mobilization on the scale of the Civil War or World War II.

And then there is the problem of banking on predicting the enemy and type of war a couple decades out. I'd rather not put all my money on that kind of bet.

I'd rather make sure we have high quality personnel (as I noted for the Army) and an officer corps that in training is faced with unexpected situations rather than scripted scenarios (not that there isn't value in scripted scenarios to practice the logistics and command and control systems).

I think we really need to make sure our opposition force training formations for the Army and Air Force are fully exploited; and make sure the Marines and Navy have similar options for testing weapons, systems, and doctrines.

The Army troops who went through both the National Training Center and the Persian Gulf War noted that the American OpFor was far tougher to fight than the Iraqi army.

Anyway, it is an interesting article.

Here is a related article. The officer was a great combat soldier and he has made good points in the past. And in the article. But too often he just seems to needlessly turn his outrage dial to 11.

Getting There First With the Most

This article discusses why Russia's looming Zapad 2017 military exercise with Belarus and in areas near the Baltic states.

It's all very interesting in a discussion of drones and tactics (and you know my opinion on "hybrid" warfare) and whatnot (yet don't neglect the maskirova aspect of the exercise, which Russia knows NATO will closely watch), but misses the point that the exercise is dangerous for just one basic reason.

The reason is that Russia is close to--and America and the majority of European powers are far from--the potential theater of war in Poland and the Baltic states.

And an exercise can shift into an actual invasion of NATO in the blink of an eye.

That's it.

Russia is weaker overall than NATO, but Russia can send in overwhelming force to grab territory in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania before NATO can react.

Part of this problem is that if Russia uses the large-scale military exercise to move significant numbers of troops into Belarus and just leaves them there in new permanent bases, the threats to Lithuania and Ukraine are expanded and a new threat to Poland is created.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Reaching Into the Memory Hole to Yank Out the Plan

I get sick of people saying that America had no post-war plan for Iraq and authors that start with that nonsense don't encourage me to stick around for the rest of their argument.


Imagine if, in 2003, the United States had invaded Iraq without a realistic, implementable plan for governance after the fall of Baghdad and Saddam Hussein. ... In fact, no imagination at all is required for the cases of Iraq and Libya. Both operations were undertaken with no serious regard to what would follow. Both produced disaster.

There was no plan for Libya, but the idea that there was no plan for Iraq is nonsense.

Allow me to again quote the New York Times on this issue:

President Bush's national security team is assembling final plans for administering and democratizing Iraq after the expected ouster of Saddam Hussein. Those plans call for a heavy American military presence in the country for at least 18 months, military trials of only the most senior Iraqi leaders and quick takeover of the country's oil fields to pay for reconstruction.

The proposals, according to administration officials who have been developing them for several months, have been discussed informally with Mr. Bush in considerable detail. They would amount to the most ambitious American effort to administer a country since the occupations of Japan and Germany at the end of World War II. With Mr. Bush's return here this afternoon, his principal foreign policy advisers are expected to shape the final details in White House meetings and then formally present them to the president.

But as I noted:

Boy were there problems. Chiefly Syria, Iran, and al Qaeda, who made sure that there would be people shooting at us and our Iraqi allies after Saddam was defeated.

And we did beat those many threats that erupted, you must admit, even before the slaughter that peaked in the latter half of 2006 that prompted our surge offensive to exploit the Awakening that flipped the bulk of Iraq's Sunni Arabs. We won the war.

The main problem is that Syria and Iran essentially invaded Iraq and we let them get away with it without punishing them directly for waging war on Iraq and our forces. Yet still we won in 5 years. Which is actually pretty amazing.

As for disaster? The Obama administration boasted of the Iraq success as it pulled out, and Vice President Biden boasted that Iraq would be one of their great successes.

And the fact that Obama initiated Iraq War 2.0 to save what we had achieved puts his stamp of approval on what we achieved.

So I didn't bother to read the rest of the article. If the author has to genuflect to stupid conventional wisdom, I can't bother with him.

But by all means, let's remain in Iraq this time after the jihadis are beaten down and scattered.

And work to expel Iranian influence, too, of course. They are the biggest external threat, denying Iraq full access to the Arab world for support because Arab states fear Iraq will be an Iranian puppet.

Sadly that can be a self-fulfilling prophecy if Iraqis turn to Iran in desperation because fellow Arab (but largely Sunni) states freeze Iraq out. Our State Department can help there, I hope.

We have a big job ahead:

Yet radical Sunnis, separatist Kurds and meddling Iranians will remain a problem, along with corruption and unstable neighbors.

Work the problems.

Punch Back Twice as Hard

Explain to me again why we aren't doing everything we can to help Ukraine and Syrian rebels send Russian body bags back to Russia?

The Taliban have received improved weaponry in Afghanistan that appears to have been supplied by the Russian government, according to exclusive videos obtained by CNN, adding weight to accusations by Afghan and American officials that Moscow is arming their one-time foe in the war-torn country.

America may supply weapons to Ukraine. I've long said that Ukraine can handle the big stuff (with help updating them from our new NATO allies who have experience with this) but that Ukraine could use help filling the gaps. Ukraine would like Javelin anti-tank missiles for their infantry. Ukraine should get them.

Don't make it easy for Russia to commit aggression in Europe and prop up a bloody dictator.

Unsmart Russian Diplomacy

The first deployment of an American armored brigade combat team is a learning experience:

With a large portion of the first ABCT positioned in the middle of Romania, the U.S. Army has been able to show “that we can have a heavy brigade presence here,” Walters said. “This is the first time heavy brigades have been operating in Eastern Europe … on a continuous basis.”

And while amassing a large amount of firepower in a complex scenario will be the Super Bowl for the brigade, just getting to Romania and around Eastern Europe and Germany has been an invaluable experience for units within the brigade, soldiers in the field told Defense News on Thursday.

The U.S. Army faced one of its biggest challenges in January as it relearned to rapidly deploy large units and all of its resident equipment back to Europe through seaports and by road and rail.

As I say, it is good practice.

If the Russians hadn't started acting like complete jackwads, the Army never would have bothered to relearn this stuff.

Paranoid Russians might want to consider the possibility that if America really is out to get Russia, that putting Putin in charge of Russia fits into that ambition nicely.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

It's Good to Be the King

Yes, it benefits America to defend the global system we established after World War II.

This RAND study doesn't shock me:

On a crisp January day in 1949, President Harry Truman stood before an inauguration crowd still recovering from want and war and envisioned a “world fabric of international security and growing prosperity.”

That idea, that America has an economic interest in promoting a stable and secure world order, has helped guide nearly seven decades of U.S. foreign policy. But a growing debate over America's role in the world has called into question that basic assumption. Are America's international security commitments really worth the cost?

Researchers at RAND used decades of economic data and new numbers on U.S. troops and treaties to test that question. They found strong evidence that the economic value of those overseas commitments likely exceeds their costs by billions of dollars every year.

“We wanted to know, Is this a good investment for the United States?” said Daniel Egel, an economist at RAND and lead author of the study. “Are these overseas commitments really benefiting the U.S. economy?”

This doesn't even consider the losses we'd experience if America retrenched and a major war was the result of the security vacuums that would be created in a number of dangerous places.

If the methodology is appropriate, of course. But it seems self evident that the prosperity and great powers truce we have experienced since 1945 is reliant on the system we established after World War II and which we have defended ever since.

The problem is that people have grown so used to the system we built that they think its rules are intrinsic to the global system and so our prosperity doesn't rely on our defense of the system.

Break the Iran Deal Up for Parts and Start Over

Kill the Iran deal.

I've been willing to give the Trump administration the benefit of the doubt on whether it can enforce the Iran nuclear deal so strictly that the Iranians howl. So far I see no indication that we can do that.

And given that the up-front benefits to Iran have been squandered by Iran and their economy is still in rough shape even as Iran continues their reign of terror in the Middle East, I'd count those pallets of cash as an expensive lesson to America and start squeezing Iran again.

I'd rather junk the bad deal and start over working the problem without the delusion that we have s solution already.

Of all the reasons to keep the deal (from the American perspective), this is 100% non-persuasive:

Within the Trump administration, JCPOA supporters contend that rejecting the deal would harm the United States by calling into question our commitment to international agreements generally. There is ominous talk of America “not living up to its word.”

"America" did not give its word on this deal. Indeed, nobody did as the Obama administration admits!

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document.

President Obama gave his word. Or maybe not, really. The JCPOA is just a document that a bunch of people in the same room took home and filed away.

If America had given its word, the Senate would have ratified it as the Constitution provides for committing America to a deal with a foreign state.

We can break a wink and a nod with a rogue state with limitless zeal to harm our interests in the Middle East.

UPDATE: I'm sure deal defenders think this advance is no big deal:

Iran launched a rocket carrying a satellite on Thursday, a U.S. official confirmed to Fox News -- but it's unclear if the Islamic Republic achieved its ultimate objective of putting the satellite into orbit.

If this didn't work, perhaps the next one will work.

A rocket that can put a satellite into orbit could be used for long-range ballistic missiles. I'm sure Iran would never dream of putting nukes on it.

Have a super sparkly day.

Are Carriers Obsolete?

RUSI argues carriers may be obsolete.

I agree. The United States Naval Institute bought an article of mine 20 years ago arguing that position in the light of network-centric warfare, but never published it.

Mind you, the "may" in the RUSI study may reflect the difference between the continued usefulness of carriers as a power projection platform versus their rapidly growing obsolescence as a sea control platform.

Say, isn't this a cool weapon we are developing?

Both the US and Australia have confirmed that they recently completed a series of mysterious hypersonic missile tests. ...

A hypersonic missile would fulfill the US military's goal of building a conventional weapon that can strike anywhere within an hour, and it would be virtually impossible to stop using existing missile defenses.

Is it still cool if our enemies get these missiles that can't be stopped? Is it cool that we have the biggest targets to shoot at?

Mass effects, not platforms, I say. The big carrier is the queen of platform-centric warfare that is rapidly fading.

China is welcome to build big carriers; and I'm sorry Russia won't even try because of the cost.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Hunger Games

North Korea's army is likely more eager to sign up for the all-you-can-eat buffet than invading South Korea:

Malnutrition is soaring in the North Korean military, and the parents of troops are stepping in to supply their children with food provisions, according to a Japanese press report.

I was not unserious when I wrote:

North Korea's army is in no condition to invade South Korea. Even if it managed to push into South Korea in the initial shock of invasion, the advance would probably fall apart at the first shopping mall the spearheads encountered, as the troops looted Heaven on Earth.

South Korea should probably subsidize massive numbers of Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in the Uijongbu Corridor.

Heck, we might want to fatten up the "invaders" and send them back north. And that option is why I worry that North Korea might send their potentially dangerous army into South Korea for the purpose of being killed by South Korea and America--doing damage in the process--confident that nobody will want to invade and occupy the hollow husk of impoverished North Korea.

UPDATE: Now this is what I'm talking about!

A half-hour's drive north of Seoul, along a highway lined with barbed wire, lie two shopping malls the size of several football stadiums, a stone's throw from the world's most militarised border.

The malls are in the city of Paju, gateway to the U.N. truce village of Panmunjom, where military officers from the combatants of the 1950-53 Korean war discuss armistice matters - when the two sides are on speaking terms, which they aren't these days.

"Fairy tales come true in Paju", is the advertising lure from the Korean Tourism Board.

If the South Korean army completely collapses in the face of a North Korean ground invasion, the North Korean advance will grind to a halt as 13th-century poverty-stricken peasant soldiers of the North Korean army stumble into the ruins of a 21st century fairy tale stocked with consumer goods and Choco-pies that will still be more appealing than a new gray apartment building back home.

Ready to Rumble?

I get the impression that China is ready to to battle with India over the confrontation at the Doka La Pass which is now a war waiting a spark to set it off.

The Chinese seem eager to demonstrate resolve:

"Shaking a mountain is easy but shaking the People's Liberation Army is hard," ministry spokesman Wu Qian told a briefing, adding that its ability to defend China's territory and sovereignty had "constantly strengthened".

Early in June, according to the Chinese interpretation of events, Indian guards crossed into China's Donglang region and obstructed work on a road on the plateau.

Seven years ago I wrote that India had decided to redress the imbalance in their northeast.

My guess is that the work is far from done.

I guess this because India's defense bureaucracy is awful and because the Chinese seem awfully confident.

And consider that China has experienced several losses lately:

--Myanmar doesn't act like the proper tributary state it once was.

--Taiwan is buying arms from America and shows no sign of succumbing to China's charm offensive to accept voluntary reunification.

--Hong Kong residents continue to embarrass China by refusing to be happy to have Peking as the landlord.

--America has resumed true freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea to reject Chinese claims to control the region.

--The Philippines flirted but ultimately spurned Chinese diplomatic advances.

--And that after China lost an international court ruling on a dispute with Manila in the South China Sea.

--Japan is rearming to defend its islands (that China claims) in the East China Sea.

--South Korea put in place THAAD missile defenses.

--North Korea has thumbed its nose at China, showing China to be powerless to influence Kim Jong-Un.

And now India is giving China grief neat Tibet?

India may find that China giving in to India over this border issue is one setback too many for China's leaders to bear right now. Bad luck, that.

I don't expect full-scale war. But I would not be surprised if China gives Indian forces a bloody nose in the area and then pulls into a defensive posture in full control of the disputed border area and road.

Does India then attempt to escalate with more ground troops when I bet China has superior ability to reinforce the region and supply the forces?

Or does India attempt to strike back elsewhere on the border to get a bargaining chip?

Does India block Chinese ships traveling the Indian Ocean?

Does India focus on the Doka La area but attempt to use air power to hurt China's logistics capacity in the region?

What does China do if there is that kind of escalation? Try out their ship-killing ballistic missiles on Indian navy vessels in the Bay of Bengal?

By the way, India and China are nuclear-armed powers.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: From Strategypage:

China and India had signed an agreement in 2012 to respect the existing Bhutan border. But like most Chinese territorial claims revived recently incidents like this serve to make the Chinese government look like it is “serving the people” and are carried out at little cost in lives or money. So thousands of Chinese and Indian troops have been moved to this inhospitable part of the world because the Chinese government wants some good publicity inside China.

That's a dangerous way to get good publicity.

UPDATE: More here and here. You wouldn't think it is worth it to fight over that small piece of land. But it may happen yet because each side considers a Chinese advance the first small step to gain much more, and it could escalate.

India doesn't want to retreat and encourage the Chinese to take far more by setting this precedent.

China may want a victory somewhere. And even if they aren't that ambitious, at this point they may not want another setback. Which gets to the same point.

We may be at the point of "if you want war, let it start here and now."

Tweet Softly and Carry a Big Stick

If I thought Trump was going easy on Russia at America's expense, I'd be furious. But let's not go full-on Democratic Red Scare over Russia at the expense of other threats.

America is not exactly going easy on Russia under Trump notwithstanding the surprising anti-Russian rhetoric coming out of the Democratic Party that accuses Trump of going easy on the Russians.

Sure, in isolation I might be worried about this:

President Donald Trump's persistent overtures toward Russia are placing him increasingly at odds with his national security and foreign policy advisers, who have long urged a more cautious approach to dealing with the foreign adversary.

One, I find it tough to take from Democrats, of all people.

Two, our actions don't match the soft words. We are continuing to build up forces in eastern NATO; Trump continues to push NATO--whose basic purpose is to contain Russia--to spend more on defense; we have sold advanced air defense missiles to Poland and Romania; Trump, in Poland, explicitly endorsed NATO's common defense provision; and America is back on track to halt and reverse our military decline.

Do you really think the Russians are comforted by the Tweets when the actions are concrete?

I'm hoping it might push Russia to some sense. They are relatively weak overall and strong only when confronting the vacuum of NATO power in the east. And the Russians are no doubt cheering Democrats here:

The Russians are delighted that they have convinced some that they control Donald Trump. Not only does this breed instability in the United States, but it gives a sense of overwhelming, if covert, Russian power.

I don't always agree with Stratfor (I think Syria serves to extend Russia's buffer zone to the eastern Mediterranean Sea; and I don't see why the West has to go along with Russia's perceived need for buffers to the west), but they are a valuable source of analysis.

Perhaps when we help fill that void, Russia will stop threatening NATO because there might be consequences.

And then the soft words might have an effect on getting America and Russia to cooperate in ways that benefit America.

Remember, I've long been in favor of resisting Russian aggression. But let's not forget--the way Russia is forgetting--that the major growing threat is China in Asia. We should not overreact to Russia's threats at the expense of Asian defenses.

And there is the American role in the Islamic Civil War to minimize the collateral damage until the jihadis can be defeated, suppressed, and discredited.

Where Do They Sail and Fight?

China's second carrier is afloat. So what does China intend for these carriers?

As things now stand, the Liaoning and the new carrier can launch strikes with their J-15s operating at less than maximum range and with less than maximum payloads. They can accommodate antisubmarine helicopters. Their defensive capacity is limited by the lack of fixed-wing early warning aircraft, though in time they presumably will operate Ka-31s or their equivalents. They certainly will impress the smaller countries around the South China Sea. In a game of appearances, the presence of two or three impressive-looking Chinese carriers ought to carry considerable weight. It remains to be seen whether China’s neighbors (especially Vietnam) consider their submarine forces and land-based aircraft adequate counters.

Probably the most important role of the Liaoning and her new sister is that they will provide the Chinese Navy with experience operating carriers and air wings. A lesson of previous carrier navies is that without experience aircraft carriers can impress unsophisticated neighbors but will not provide combat power. With experience, the Chinese Navy can make good on its claim that its role is to protect Chinese vital interests abroad, beyond the first island chain to the east and to the Middle East.

In light of the distinction between power projection and sea control, the question of what the Chinese intend for the limited-capability carriers is important.

They are clearly outclassed by America's carriers and their well-trained crews. They seem unlikely to be the decisive factor in defeating the United States Navy to control the seas. They seem unlikely to be decisive for defeating the Japanese navy, for that matter.

And these carriers face their own anti-access/aerial denial threat approaching the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea that our carriers face approaching China--missiles and planes from land bases.

In theory the carriers could provide fleet air defense. But again, they are inferior for that purpose and Chinese ships would be better served relying on land-based combat air patrol.

I will say that if supported by submarines and land-based Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles, the Chinese carriers could have a shot at challenging India's fleet if the Chinese avoid Indian land-based aircraft as much as possible.

Yet even if successful, unless Indonesia cooperates, China still can't exploit the victory to control the sea lines of communication back to China. So nice effort and all that, but what of it?

So sea control seems generally pointless as a carrier mission. China's better option is their missile-armed surface ships and submarines plus land-based anti-ship assets.

Then there is power projection. The small carriers could play a decisive role in taking small islands in the South China Sea from smaller neighbors with competing claims. As long as America doesn't intervene.

The carriers could play a role in anti-piracy patrols off of Somalia. China just sent its first troops to their new base in Djibouti.

And in general, they would be useful in show-the-flag missions up and down the west side of the Indian Ocean from South Africa to the Arabian peninsula. They would be powerful in any dispute with an African coastal state.

The carrier and its task force could also sail up the Red Sea and beyond into the Mediterranean Sea to show Chinese power at the end of their New Silk Road.

And a carrier would be useful in all of these areas to help evacuate Chinese citizens in case of a local crisis. China would probably be happy to have more options than they had in Libya in 2011 when their citizens had to get out of Dodge in a hurry.

So the new limited capacity Chinese carriers have little role in sea control, a minor but real role in power projection, and a major role in diplomacy and crisis management.

Of course, I can't ignore the possibility that the purpose of these Chinese carriers--which will be second line once China starts to build carriers with catapults and more capable air wings--is to distract the United States Navy with a chance to relive the glory years of smashing Japanese World War II carriers while the Chinese conquer Taiwan.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Iran Survey

Strategypage has a good piece surveying all things Iran.

Let me pick out some bits that I found particularly interesting.

Iran at least hasn't been able to really exploit the Iran deal to fix their economy yet.

Rebuilding the Persian empire isn't a high priority for most Iranians.

Despite Iran's hatred of Israel, all Iran is doing is pushing Israel and Arab states closer to resist Iran.

Hezbollah, which has 8,000 fighters in Syria, has suffered 2,000 KIA and 6,000 WIA as the spearhead of Assad's offensives. Iran continues to fight "Israel" to the last Arab.

Assad has turned over an air base in central Syria to Iran, which wants 5,000 Shia mercenaries to staff and protect it as a new Hezbollah in Syria.

Including Hezbollah, Iran has 24,000 mercenaries fighting in Syria, mostly from Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Assad has 200,000 troops, mostly suitable only for garrison duty. I assume this includes Syrian militias.

Iran is abiding by the nuclear deal to end their nuclear programs, they say. I don't think the narrow issue of abiding by the nuclear agreement is true. And the deal is so bad that even rigorous and successful enforcement of the deal terms won't stop Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons in facilities off limits to the provisions of the deal.

Saudi Arabia has lost their dispute with Qatar. (I still think Qatar will be moved somewhat off the fence toward the Gulf Arabs and America).

One of Iran's S-300 batteries is missing. So where is it?

Many Iraqis--even in the militias--are wary of Iran.

Iranian Kurds seem to be back in the armed resistance stage.

When Iran fired 6 ballistic missiles at ISIL in Syria in retaliation for terror attacks inside Iran, 4 of the missiles missed Syria and struck Iraqi territory according to the Israelis who pay close attention to these things.

There is more. That stuck out.

Basically, Iran under the mullahs is no friend and I don't think they can be.

University Echelon Above Reality

America is the leader of the West. Period.

I laughed when I read this:

Europe faces messier world as it takes its fate into own hands[.]

Oh please. I see Australian academics can live in fantasy world as easily as American academics.

The idea that Europe is stepping into a void left by Trump is ludicrous. And basing it on the then-failure of Trump to explicitly endorse NATO's common defense position is just dumb. As I've said, America is in NATO--not Trump. The Article V provision is binding on America which ratified the treaty under our Constitution. It does not depend on the whim of one man. I guess some got used to pen-and-phone rules under Obama.

Also, Article V isn't as iron-clad as this criticism would lead you to believe. It just requires a formal response and not full mobilization and sending in every swinging dick (or flapping ...) you have in uniform to the front. After Europe's World War I experience, no European state was going to commit to automatic responses to a threat.

More basically, Europe doesn't have the military capability to take its fate into their own hands. Their spending on defense is low--although rising in response to Russia. And they get little for what they do spend because most of their militaries are composed of civil servants in uniforms. Pockets of excellence demonstrate they have the potential. But the siren song of the welfare state will keep Europe from having a serious military required to back a serious independent policy.

And that assumes that "Europe" can act with one voice as a political Europe under to proto-imperial order of the European Union.

It also assumes that Europe would collectively decide to act more decisively than the America of their imaginary fears of America's retreat. Are we going to pretend that Europe has been uniformly solid in resisting Russian aggression against Ukraine and Putin's general aggressiveness? Seriously?

And Merkel (who I don't dismiss given the alternatives to her imperfect governance) is simply bashing Trump for domestic political purposes.Who seriously expects militarily weak Germany to provide leadership? Merkel is leading her reelection campaign.

Europe can't take their fate into its own hands. Won't spend what it needs to do that. Hopefully won't be politically unified to try to do that. And will need America to avoid being a victim of foreign powers.

And for the nervous types who think American treaty obligations are only good if it gets repeated endorsement by every president, President Trump actually did that since the article was written.

So never mind, I guess.

America still leads the West. In Asia and Europe. For those this year who fret America won't lead, put your defense money where your complaining mouths are and follow, eh?

The Russia Slider?

So the newly proclaimed "Malorussia" (Little Russia) has the same tyranny, dysfunction, and poverty as the big Russia, only smaller?

“We, the representatives of the former regions of Ukraine, with the exception of Crimea, declare the establishment of the new state, which is the successor of Ukraine,” [the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), Alexander Zakharchenko] said in a statement on the rebel-aligned Donetsk News Agency. “Ukraine has proved to be a failed state and demonstrated a failure to provide its citizens a peaceful and prosperous present and future.”

The Russians deny an collusion with this announcement:

The proposal for Malorossiya was nothing more than a “personal initiative” of the rebel leaders, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Russians might wince at that proclamation given that failing to provide citizens a peaceful and prosperous present and future hits a little too close to Moscow for comfort, don't you think?

With those standards, if the West can push Ukraine to suppress corruption, Ukraine could have a claim on Russia if Russia looks more like a failed state, eh?

I'd like to think the CIA had a hand in crafting that statement from the Russian handpuppets. I wonder if a Russian assassination team makes him pay for going off-script?

In related Russian expansionist projects:

Russia has been slowly taking land from neighboring Georgia for years, and Moscow appears to have done it again in early July, moving its borders about 2,300 feet into the former satellite state, according to Yahoo News UK.

On July 3, Russia troops simply picked up a border sign and moved it farther into Georgian territory, Yahoo reported.

Georgia's security agency said the land grab was "illegal," according to The Independent.

I've noted this Russian aggression before.

Perhaps the West can belatedly use the continued land grabs to sanction Russia further and make up for looking the other way in 2008.

UPDATE: Is this Russia's way of opening up a bigger and wider struggle? (Plan C) If so, Ukraine needs to respond with Plan D--Dead Russian soldiers going back to the Motherland.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

Ukraine's trade deal with the European Union begins in September. I think little of the EU, especially its likely evolution into an imperial state if left unchecked. But right now it is part of the West and is far superior to Russia. So this is progress in making Ukraine a Western state. And the EU is right: corruption holds back Ukraine. Both economically and militarily. Which should make rule of law a higher priority given that Russia occupies Ukrainian territory and continues to wage war on Ukraine.

Law enforcement is a core function of government. And government is screwing up forensic science that is the basis of convictions. Maybe if government didn't expand into so many areas to show how much it "cares," it wouldn't screw up basic functions. Also. The government said it was science. But it wasn't. And guilty people went free while innocent people went to jail. Heck of a job!

Collusion with Russia. Tip to Instapundit.

At a time when many conservatives continue to turn against the Iraq War, I shall restate that America was right to fight and win the war.  Victory was an opportunity we squandered. President Obama validated the war by initiating Iraq War 2.0 to defend what Bush achieved. May Trump stay to defend what Bush--and ultimately though belatedly Obama--achieved. We still have a great interest in a prosperous democratic Iraq that provides an alternative to autocracy or Islamism for governance in the Moslem Arab world.

Haiti's government wants an army. Haiti does not need an army. Anyone dumb enough to want to invade is too dumb to succeed in holding Haiti. Seriously, add to the national police if Haiti authorities want to patrol the border and help with natural disasters. Heck, most armies are nothing more than police capable only of defeating poorly armed civilians anyway. Why pretend?

When even Snopes is willing to defend the president against outrageous charges ... (while noting many are true, of course).

Yet another case where the well-meaning cure was worse than the disease. On the bright side, proponents can congratulate themselves for being such wise supporters of "good government."

I am sick of the media's jihad on President Trump based on standards they never enforced on Democrats via their newfound hatred of Russia. Or did I miss the collusionpalooza about Obama's "flexibiliy" in exchange for Russian "space" offer conveyed to Putin through Medvedev? I am also sick of Trump feeding them ammunition. Not that feeding my preexisting disdain for Trump personally will get me to switch support to the Democrats who are the only alternative and who have zero credibility to govern given their decent into left-wing insanity and street violence. I'm not sure what this situation pushes me to, but supporting Democrats isn't going to be it. Perhaps there is hope if the media gets tired of their personal struggle for self improvement. Actually, I might be pushed to just not watching television news. I'm tired of the attacks with little substance and I'm tired of the exasperated defenses. It's exhausting. My life isn't following this circus orchestrated by the media. Although it might not officially be coordinated as it was in the past as much as it is just the herd instinctively running the same way--off a cliff if my exhaustion is not unique. LATER: Since I wrote this, I've cut the cord. I turn on the news in the morning for any overnight breaking news and then news at 6:00. Other than that, silence or music. Rot in ratings Hell for all I care.

If the ability to see problems in anything isn't a super power, I don't know what is. Woke-Man? Wonder Woken? To Hell with those people. Why does anybody pay any attention at all to them? Tip to Instapundit.

This is what it is like to live under a 1984 regime that seeks out and punishes thought crime and bad thoughts. And these idiots voluntarily live in this environment! Worse, they want all of us to live under an actual government (that they run) with those powers. To Hell with them.

Democrats who hate Trump are looking forward to the 2018 and 2020 elections. Why? They loudly and constantly shriek that Trump is a fascist who is imposing a dictatorship on America. Under the circumstances, why do Democrats believe there will be honest elections? Or any elections at all? And I'm the one lacking nuance?

Yes, China's new base in Djibouti changes things, symbolizing a China that wants to extend its influence beyond the range of shore-based aircraft. But you have to be able to hold the base. America had bases in the Philippines and Britain had bases in Hong Kong and Singapore. But neither country could hold them in the face of Japanese power in war time. Don't panic. Work the problem.

I don't care why she went away. I'm just happy she went away. No loss to the university, I say.

I still don't see any issue with all the Russia stuff. But with so many Republican pundits saying there could be something, I remain unsure despite not seeing what the problem is with listening to someone as any campaign would do when given an opportunity for dirt on their opponent. That's a sad but real fact of life in politics. Funny enough, the Republican pundits in their new angle haven't persuaded Republican voters that there might be something to the Russia stuff. Which is kind of funny when you remember that Democrats claim that Russian "fake news" persuaded enough Democrats to vote for Trump in 2016 to swing the election to him.

Me thinks the man has been partaking of the medical marijuana too much.Tip to Instapundit.

Iran is not following the Iran nuclear deal--and this is just what we can see. Why pretend they are following it by certifying them as compliant? Doesn't that just set the standard that sort of following the agreement is fine? Doesn't certifying Iran as compliant when they are not just encourage them to see what other line they can cross? Of course, if we just plan to hit Iran hard then the look of surprise on the mullahs' faces will be all the more special.

About that Constitution-flouting president. That's okay, a pen and phone are much better protection for our liberties.

I think I'd pay good money if navies would establish a surface ship classification largely based on displacement (carriers and amphibs are different, of course) rather than seemingly randomly defining ships. Frigate, indeed.

Actual collusion between Americans and Russians.

And collusion between an American administration and the Chinese. The media yawned.

So does the threat of being called a stooge of Trump's pro-Russian so-called collusion push people to be overly focused on calling Russia our primary enemy? Perhaps. But you won't notice that here. I think I've been pretty balanced in assessing the threats.

What is "feminist geography?" That's easy! It means Florida can use whatever bathroom it wants.

So Democrats are getting the vapors over the thought of Senator Kid Rock? I have sympathy, of course. But the Democrats have former SNL star Senator Al Franken, so they're up by one with clowns in the Senate, you must admit.

The Russia connection hysteria wouldn't even be possible if Hillary Clinton hadn't had a private server outside of government control while Secretary of State and then deleted 30,000 emails she claimed were personal in nature rather than let the State Department make the decision of what was an official document and what was a yoga scheduling email. Who wouldn't have wanted that information if they thought it was out there, "unbleached?" And remember, President Obama knew that Hillary was using an unofficial email server that bypassed government security systems and procedures but did nothing. So President Obama did nothing to stop Russian cyber interference and did nothing to stop our secretary of state from being vulnerable to Russian hacking. That's not collusion, but it is a whole lot of incompetence that is good enough for Russian government work.

It's nice to see Afghan forces with the initiative around Lashkar Gah.

Mercenaries are perfectly valid to supplement our armed forces but not a substitute. 

It annoys and offends me when people say the Republican Congress must prove it can "govern." No! Legislative bodies legislate. They write the legislation that becomes statutes which guides the executive branch in executing the laws as written, or governing--like governors at the state level, for example. Legislative bodies do not govern. We don't want executive branches legislating, after all. Why talk of legislators as the executive branch?

I still don't understand why it was collusion for Trump's people to listen to the Russians who might have evidence of Clinton crimes or collusion. Which actually existed, you must admit, even if we don't have those 30,000 Hillary emails from her time as secretary of state scrubbed from her personal server rather than turned over to the State Department for review.

A nice overview of Russia's enemy-producing foreign policy. Short version: Russia is corrupt and broke, too weak to compel Ukraine to submit, scaring even Finland and Sweden to work with a strengthening NATO to resist Russia, losing ground to China in former Central Asian Soviet republics, and too weak to stand up to China short of nuking them. Oh, and their sub-based nuclear arsenal is having problems, too. If the Russians keep up their brilliant diplomacy, Belarus will petition for NATO membership within a decade.

After a relentless media frontal assault on Trump 24/7, Trump is still more popular than Hillary Clinton. Is there nothing America can do to compel that awful politician to just go away? Tip to Instapundit.

Oh, this isn't "useless." How do you put a value on demonstrating your moral superiority over the rest of us? Tip to Instapundit.

Huzzah! The end of the (relevant) world predicted at the latest for 2018 has been cancelled! Reset your doomsday plans for 2168. Which is smart because by then the scientist making the prediction will be long dead unlike today when he has to face the error of his earlier prediction.

The Trump administration may sanction Venezuela if that moron Maduro goes ahead with dictatorial plans that keep the socialist Hell hole in place. As Colombia emerges from long insurrection to prosper, Venezuela prepares to descend into chaos and violence. I remain concerned that Maduro will target the Netherlands in a desperate attempt to rally his people around his failing regime. The Dutch should check their ammo.

Britain is gathering the crumbs into a full loaf of bread, with the Joint Expeditionary Force of Baltic state nations that now includes Sweden and Finland. I noted this development.

Apparently Iran needs more pallets of cash given that it is essentially kidnapping Americans again.

Senator Schumer calls on Republicans to work with Democrats to pass a health fill that "lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our health care system." Wait. What? Obamacare didn't do that already? And here I thought they cared. Failure to repeal Obamacare doesn't mean Obamacare continues. It just means it collapses without a replacement.

George Friedman's (of Stratfor) view on Trump six months into his presidency and why he has difficulty pushing his agenda.  For those who think the Trump dictatorship is charging onward and upward, this may be hard to digest.

I'd like to think that draconian executions for minor offenses is a sign that North Korea is unstable enough to implode. Do strong rulers really execute people for watching the wrong TV shows? If the reports are reliable, of course. Are we lucky enough to escape the choice of attacking North Korea or accepting them as a nuclear state (with Iran a customer)?

So many female Western politicians and wives of male politicians cover up when visiting Moslem countries to be "sensitive." But Moslem women are pointing to the First Lady and daughter visiting Saudi Arabia as Western women uncovered to defend Saudi women being picked on by religious police over dress. Discuss.

The Left is nuts and intrinsically pushed to even more nuttery.  I will always cherish a CNN report about an anti-meat protest some years ago. You could see the young woman who claimed "meat is murder" to the camera subsequently struggling to control her inner nut yet finally blurted out "milk is murder!" CNN subsequently edited that out for future airings.

American, NATO, and other European forces are exercising in eastern Europe. Putin will soon have "3,000 Russian troops and 800 tank" in Belarus for Zapad 17 exercises. The figures are confusing. Just crews for 800 Russian tanks would be 2,400 men; and consider that 800 tanks is darned close to our entire inventory of tanks in all of our active Army brigades. If Russia is putting 800 tanks into Belarus, a whole lot more troops than 3,000 will be involved and it is disturbing that Russia is claiming such a small troop number. Something on the order of 70,000 is more likely. It isn't the exercise that is the problem. The problem is that invasion preparations could be made under the cover of exercises done on a large scale. Let me just note that the CBS article goes out of the way to highlight Trump's campaign questioning of NATO without also noting that Trump sold advanced Patriot missiles to Poland while in that country to give a speech in defense of the West. Why imply American commitment is less than solid?

Why does San Francisco hate women so much?

History is hard: Leftists oddly think slavery was uniquely American (and neglect how many Union soldiers died to end it) rather than a widespread crime.

I hope the movie Dunkirk prompts the British to relearn the lesson of getting off the continent to save themselves as Brexit talks bog down.

"Americans are feeling better about their own lives than they have in over a decade." So not since the Bush administration, they're saying? Huh. I'm not sure why this is shocking. Since Trump was elected, half the population is happy to have a government more willing to leave them the eff alone; and the other half can safely pretend they are resisting a dictatorship (safe because the government aims to leave them alone), thus fluffing their egos.

Iran is again mucking around in Kuwait.

I assume colluding with a communist military threat to undermine the American government's policy is okay in this case.

The Charge of the Fright Brigade. Why have Filipino jihadis decided to fight to the death in Marawi?  Have the jihadis experienced Mosul Envy and decided to get the glory of dying for the caliphate?

Senator John McCain has brain cancer. He says he will be back soon. I hope so and wish him well. But this situation highlights my refrain that the Republicans need a sense of urgency about passing legislation given their narrow edge in the Senate that could evaporate at any moment. Does anybody remember the Scott Brown special election that threw Democratic plans into chaos?

Hezbollah, which has lost 2,000 KIA and 6,000 WIA in service to Assad under Iran's orders, is still spearheading Assad's offensives in the core of western Syria.

Here's the Mad Scientist tag at Small Wars Journal, which includes the top 8 entries in the science fiction contest. My entry didn't make the cut. I think it might still be published online but I'm not sure if that will happen, or when it will happen if it does happen.

While I remain ecstatic that Trump continues not to be Hillary Clinton, and though good things continue to be done that wouldn't have been done under Clinton, Trump has yet to make me like or respect him. Extremist attackers and defenders of Trump are really just off-putting. So cutting the cord of the media continues to be refreshing. I don't rule out that Trump could be more than just non-Hillary by the end of this term. I worry the unhinged resistance could be more than slightly violent.