Thursday, August 31, 2017

Marco ... Polo

You can't make a ship stealthy enough if it tells an enemy where it is.

This author describes how to hack a warship. These are theoretical and not based on close knowledge of a warships actual systems. But I worry that he has a point that simply saying it isn't possible is dangerously narrow minded.

Is my longstanding fear about self-targeting warships really so off base when you consider that a hack might get one of a systems on a warship to broadcast the location of the ship to those who know what to look for?

We spend a lot of time wondering about how to defend our ships by breaking a long and complicated enemy kill chain from detection to impact.

What if an enemy doesn't play that game?

Sweet Merciful God, Nooooo!!!!!!

Are seventies fashions coming back?

An otherwise pleasant stroll up Madison Avenue one recent Sunday turned into a 1970s flashback for Ralph Auriemma, the creative director of classic-suit purveyor Paul Stuart. Gazing into the windows at Prada’s New York store, Mr. Auriemma saw male mannequins clad in bell-bottom corduroys, fur belts and fuzzy angora sweaters, all hallmarks of that stylistically divisive decade. [horrified emphasis added]

I avoided the shame of the 1970s by being a child in that decade. I will not relive it now.

Not that I'm particularly proud of the very short cut-off jeans I wore in the 1980s, mind you ...

Pre-Defeated

If China can throw an army ashore on Taiwan, I suspect the Taiwanese army will not have the ability to throw the Chinese army back into the sea--if it doesn't collapse.

Oh good Lord:

The budgetary volte-face put forth last week comes as the Taiwanese military confronts a host of maladies, most prominent being lowered morale, faltering recruitment drives, and lackluster training.

I think China can put an army on Taiwan.

If Taiwan wants to preserve their democratic nation they need to pay a lot more money to pay for it and build a military with quality people that have high levels of training and good morale.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the way Taiwan is unserious about defending themselves, I would not risk selling them our most advanced weapons (like the F-35) because I think that China will simply capture lots of undamaged Taiwanese weapons when they conquer Taiwan.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Two Pillars Short of a Trinity

The military will do its best, of course, despite the insanity at home:

In a video that has recently surfaced on social media, Mattis is seen speaking to U.S. troops in an unknown location. In his remarks to the troops, Mattis said the U.S. is facing “problems.”

“Our country right now, it’s got problems we don’t have in the military,” Mattis said. “You just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it.”

Mattis said the U.S. has “two powers” - “inspiration” and “intimidation.”

“We’ve got the power of intimidation, and that’s you, if someone wants to screw with our families, our country and our allies,” Mattis said. “The power of inspiration - [and] we’ll get the power of inspiration back.”

Our military quite literally defends to the death the right of people to speak their minds. But the "problems" we face are an assault on free speech and rule of law by far-left agitators who claim to speak for liberals, and who liberals do not police or disavow as they should out of fear of being considered part of the NKR2GCTVPMD (Nazi, Ku Klux Klan, Racist or Republican, Gun-owning, Confederate, Trump-voter, Veteran, Privileged, Male, Deplorable) community that the Left considers a continuum of hate.

And the Left conveniently gets to label people who disagree with liberal views as members of a hate group or two.

I don't understand how people can have that much hatred as we have seen over the last year. I've never treated a liberal with anything but respect, as an individual. If I don't like one it is because of the person and not because of their politics. It's a free country. But now it is okay to think of anyone on the right as a horrible evil person, against whom any outrage is justified? This is how we play this?

I know that social media greatly magnifies the hatred out there, making it seem more intense and widespread. But the Left's storm troopers exert a lot of influence on those not inclined to share the hatred (these days a majority of people feel they can't speak freely) because none of them want to be targeted for the Twitter-storm of outrage for failing to signal outrage against the right people. And the hatred even in that small slice of society represented by the perpetually outraged online people (POOP, to add another acronym) is clearly much more visible in the last year.

People need to get a grip. We need to understand and respect each other--and show it--despite political differences. The military can hold the line for a bit. But if the Clausewitzian trinity rests on one solid military pillar and two fractured people and government pillars that are at war with themselves, the country will not hold in the face of a serious threat.

I've long said that the federal government is way too important in our lives if it inspires 24/7 political warfare to control it during and even between elections with no pause. How good a decision was it to let this happen?

On the bright side, we still have the vast oceans to shield us from the worst consequences of such a failure. But the march back would be long, bloody, and expensive.

September 10th Thinking

I see some critics of Trump's decision to fight the Afghanistan campaign reflect this author and don't see clear victory conditions in the plan. Isn't the very clear result of defeat clear enough?

I'm not sure what is unclear about denying the Taliban a victory in Afghanistan. When the Taliban ran Afghanistan, it was a haven for al Qaeda which used the sanctuary to plan and execute the September 11, 2001 attack on our shores.

Consider that the Indonesians broke up a dirty bomb plan that would have scattered nuclear material in a conventional explosive. This is a terror weapon and not really a nuclear weapon, of course.

Yet I'm not comforted that "experts cast doubt on their expertise, equipment and chances of success."

They wanted to kill. I'm relieved this bunch of haters weren't good enough. Eventually someone will get the equipment and expertise, raising their chance of success.

And a sanctuary is always helpful to improve your access to equipment and development of expertise.

Come on people, we wouldn't care much about Afghanistan if it didn't have the potential to be a place where enemies can harm us. Don't let enemies take control of the place. And don't let their persistence be a reason to let them win.

Killing terrorists isn't the totality of winning the Long War. But it has to be the first thing we do--and do it well--to protect our people while the Islamic forces (governmental, societal, and military) that can win this Islamic Civil War are bolstered.

Let's not go back to September 10, 2001.

Does China Trust Trump Won't Risk War?

I think the only diplomatic way of ending the North Korean threat is to put Chinese troops into the North Korean nuclear arsenal as a dual-key launch process with Chinese troops there to protect the Chinese key-holders.

Do that and the North Koreans could not launch a strike on another country that did not invade or nuke North Korea first.

The Chinese would also need to supervise North Korean missile and nuclear facilities, with Chinese troops protecting the Chinese scientists and technicians who monitor the facilities, to keep North Korea from building weapons outside of Chinese-North Korean dual control.

China would have an incentive to keep the North Koreans under control because China would be held responsibility for any nuclear launch or proliferation.

America, Japan, and South Korea would need the power to direct the Chinese to accompany those nations' inspectors to any facility believed to be threatening that dual control, with failure to confirm lack of nuclear or missile potential authorizing military action to destroy those facilities.

Of course, a problem is that North Korea could potentially seize all those Chinese troops and civilians and use them as human shields to deter an American-led attack because China would naturally oppose the potential death of so many of their people in an attack.

And we would have to finalize the existing border--on sea and land--between North Korea and South Korea, in order to define what isn't aggression against North Korea.

So the idea is far from fool proof. But this approach is the only possible way--aside from overthrowing the mullah regime in Iran to deny North Korea their most likely customer for nuclear missiles or technology--of avoiding a war over North Korea's nukes.

Is China confident it is relieved of the responsibility to control their little pet psycho regime because America won't attack North Korea to keep Kim Jung-un from getting nuclear missiles?

If North Korea won't give up their nukes, we can either make sure the nukes can't go anywhere else (on missiles or in shipping containers) or make sure there is no dangerous customer for the nukes.

China has time before America has to make the call on a strike campaign. But not a lot of time.

UPDATE: Japan wants better anti-missile radars:

Japan is worried the United States has so far declined to arm it with a powerful new radar, arguing the decision makes the U.S. missile defense system it plans to install much less capable of countering a growing North Korean threat, three sources said.

Japan wants to have a land-based version of the Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) system operational by 2023 as a new layer of defense to help counter North Korea's missile advances.

And a better anti-missile radar will degrade China's missile arsenal aimed at Japan.

China might really want to get a sense of urgency about putting down their snarling rabid dog.

UPDATE: Ah, by the time the North Korean missile reached Japanese air space it was too high for an intercept. Tip to Instapundit.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Pursue and Kill the Jihadis

The ISIL defenders of Tal Afar retreated northwest and Iraqi troops have attacked them:

Iraqi forces said they faced tough resistance on Monday from Islamic State fighters driven out of the city of Tal Afar to a small town where they had "nothing to lose" by fighting to the end.

An advance by the Iraqi army and Shi'ite paramilitary groups into al-'Ayadiya was being slowed by snipers, booby-traps and roadside bombs, military officials told Reuters.

If the terrorists were ready to fight to the death, why not in Tal Afar where they'd dug in?

And how did the terrorists escape if Iraqi militias had the city surrounded?

Will the jihadis fight in al Ayadiya or will they keep heading west, trying to reach Syria where ISIL is a bit stronger?

ISIL resistance collapsed quickly in Tal Afar. The Iraqis need to take advantage of the apparent collapse of ISIL morale to hit them in other strongholds.

UPDATE: Iraqi forces are going after these ISIL gunmen:

Hundreds of battle-hardened IS militants are defending al-Ayadiya, a small town outside Tal Afar which itself is about 80 km (50 miles) west of Mosul, the former de facto IS capital in northern Iraq that was recaptured in July, army officers said.

"Our soldiers now are engaging in a street fight with the militant group in al-Ayadiya,” Lieutenant General Qasim Nazzal told state television, adding that fighters in groups of three were barricaded inside "every single house and building".

How many hundreds? I thought a couple thousand were holding in Tal Afar. If hundreds took refuge in al-Ayadiya, where are the rest? Dead? Wearing women's clothing heading for Syria? Underground prepared to fight as insurgents and terrorists?

UPDATE: Iraq says they have taken Tal Afar:

Iraq declared on Thursday that its forces had retaken the northern city of Tal Afar and the surrounding region in another major victory over Islamic State group jihadists.

This fight took 12 days. Those are some broken ISIL gunmen. Pursue them and kill them while we can.

UPDATE: Ah, we estimate 1,100 to 1,300 ISIL killed in Tal Afar and the retreat from the city. So that's a chunk.

Check Your Six and Deploy Counter-Measures

Unleashing firepower on our jihadi enemies will activate the best air defense system in the world.

The so-called human rights community is already demonstrating that it prefers innocent people to languish under jihadi control (and prefers jihadis to survive longer and for the good guys die in larger numbers by denying the good guys firepower) than to let troops to quite legally fight the jihadis even when civilians die:

Calls by United Nations officials to halt the coalition air campaign in Raqqa, Syria, will only reinforce the Islamic State’s tactic of using human shields and put more civilians in harm’s way, U.S. military officials said.

Be prepared because we will see a lot more of this talk in Afghanistan in the years ahead.

The Taliban wield the best air defense system in the world--powered by idiot Westerners who revel in their so-called morality of protesting American air strikes while practically speaking counting on American success in these strikes to live their lives without too much unpleasantness at home.

Jihadis no less than Nazis should not be allowed to thrive because of false compassion:

That civilians are also killed is nothing new. During the allied invasion of France in 1944, the several months of fighting required to destroy the German armies in France also left 15,000 French civilians dead in the invasion area and more than that in the rest of France. The Germans did not normally try and hide among civilians, while Islamic terrorists do. The Germans knew they would be attacked no matter where they were. Islamic terrorists do sometimes get away because of the successful use of human shields (and because the order to fire is not given). This attitude ignores the civilians who die because terrorists escape to keep killing. Thus, in war, you can avoid killing civilians, but you do so at the cost of giving enemy personnel immunity that just gets more people killed down the road.

Indeed.

When in a Hole, Stop Digging

A retired American admiral says that North Korea will never give up their nukes.

Well, the world's weak response to Russia's occupation of Ukrainian territory after Ukraine gave up its nukes voluntarily is a lesson in trusting paper agreements, you must admit.

Note also this comment:

Comparing the situation the U.S. face with North Korea to Iran, [Admiral] Bird said Iran would be “more aggressive” if it acquires nuclear weapons. He argued that Iran poses a greater threat to the U.S. than North Korea.

This is why I've said I'd be willing to deter a nuclear North Korea if it was just a bilateral issue, rather than risk the potential for escalation by resorting to force. North Korea may be wrong about anyone wanting to take over the Hell-on-Earth that the country is, but I don't doubt they are sincere in just wanting to survive.

Although there is the issue of whether one day North Korea might consider the very existence of a prosperous South Korea that North Koreans can see a threat to even a nuclear-armed North Korea.

But the more immediate threat of North Korea selling nuclear technology or even weapons to Iran makes it too dangerous to accept North Korea as a nuclear power.

I swear I never believed America would cut a deal with Iran that accepts their nuclear path the way the Obama/Kerry Iran deal did. But then I never believed our Congress would go along with the president's awful deal by surrendering Senate approval powers for what is clearly a treaty.

Take down the mullah regime in Iran and this North Korea problem would be mostly solved.

Actually, taking down the mullah regime in Iran would make a lot of problems in the greater Middle East region easier to deal with.

UPDATE: No. Way!

Two North Korean shipments to a Syrian government agency responsible for the country’s chemical weapons program were intercepted in the past six months, according to a confidential United Nations report on North Korea sanctions violations.

Sure, the North Koreans are willing to supply Syria--Iran's near-colony--with chemical weapons capability.

But North Korea would never supply Iran itself with nuclear weapons capacity, either directly or through Syria. Right?

Because we all know North Korea's rulers have their limits, right?

UPDATE: Another reason to blockade North Korea, no?

Monday, August 28, 2017

Escalation

North Korea fired a missile over Japan:

The missile broke into three pieces and fell into the waters off Japan's northern Hokkaido island.

The Japanese government's J-Alert warning system advised people in the area to take precautions.

The Japanese military did not attempt to shoot down the missile, which passed over Japanese territory around 6:06 a.m. time[.]

Why didn't Japan try to shoot it down?

North Korea launched a missile over Japan in 1998, but there were no missile defenses then.

UPDATE: The Japanese should fire a missile at the North Korean launch site. With America and South Korea backing the Japanese.

Were there other Japan-crossing missile shots? Seem to recall a more recent one.

UPDATE: President Trump says all options on table in response.

UPDATE: So Trump's "subdued" response isn't because a kinetic response is being prepared or at least considered?

I wonder if we would blockade North Korea? To avoid a strike campaign.

UPDATE: I hope Trump doesn't think he alone can talk North Korea into a deal that works.

The Great White* North

I spent some time in Canada this summer. Here is my proof.

A bar I like with music. It seems to require more muscular security than in years past, so I may have to rethink its place in my itinerary.

Poutine. God help me but I love it.

No caption needed.


My hotel accommodations were nice but because of my poor timing were hideously expensive. What can you do?

I also saw a Second City comedy show. It had a significant portion directed against Trump, for a Canadian audience. They really do think too much about us. Some of that was amusing. Some of what was amusing was funny to me for reasons that the cast and writers did not intend (good grief, you really believe that?). Indeed, at one point in the show I was a prop for my whiteness. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course

Anyway, my thanks to Canada for a lovely visit.

*It refers to the snow, people. Just stop the hysteria.

No War On the Doklam Plateau Today

The confrontation between India and China has eased off with an agreement to pull troops back from the confrontation over Chinese road building in territory in or near Bhutan (depending on where you draw the line):

India and China have agreed to an "expeditious disengagement" of troops in a disputed border area where their soldiers have been locked in a stand-off for more than two months, India's foreign ministry said on Monday.

That's a relief. Although the basic problem persists, of course.

No word on whether it was simultaneous or whether one side pulled back first. Which might be brought up later to prove which side "won."

And at some point when attention is elsewhere, China can resume road building and perhaps essentially win the dispute while India is far away.

UPDATE: More. China decided not to escalate to shooting to resolve the territorial dispute in their favor.

I don't think this means small countries can't win territorial disputes with China by having enough military power on the scene of a dispute to force China to risk a battle despite having insufficient forces to win a war with China.

By forcing a battle, even one it will lose, a smaller country with a dispute with China forces China to risk wider repercussions to trade and perhaps a risk of war if other states, especially America, intervene.

And it could spur more military moves by other potential targets.

UPDATE: China claims victory, with an interesting announcement that India withdrew troops, strongly implying that India pulled back first.

Perhaps India did, but the agreement was for mutual disengagement.

China had the advantage if the fight escalated to general war. But apparently China didn't even want a significant border clash.

A Feature and Not a Bug

The UN force in southern Lebanon defends itself from accusations it is ineffective. But that is its mission.

Really?

The head of U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon [UNIFIL] is pushing back after U.S. and Israeli criticism of the mission, saying Wednesday that his force has no evidence that weapons are being illegally transferred and stockpiled in the Hezbollah-dominated south.

Despite the lack of evidence in UNIFIL's hands of weapons smuggling, Hezbollah does have quite the arsenal, including perhaps 150,000 (smaller) rockets and some (larger) missiles (heavily weighted to the former, of course).

Hezbollah boasts that it is strong enough to defeat Israel.

And the very existence of the non-state actor Hezbollah occupying the territory of a UN member state is not something that requires much more evidence.*

Our UN representative called out the general "in charge:"

Speaking to reporters, Haley also leveled harsh criticism at Irish Major General Michael Beary, the commander of United Nations forces in Lebanon, accusing him of turning a blind eye to Iran's covert arming of the Hezbollah militant group.

"General Beary says there are no Hezbollah weapons," she said. "That’s an embarrassing lack of understanding on what’s going on around him.”

“Hezbollah openly brags about their weapons. They parade them before TV cameras. The secretary general’s reports have confirmed this. For the UNIFIL commander to deny it ... has any proof, shows that we need to have changes in UNIFIL," Haley said.

But the failure of these UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon was obvious from the beginning:

But ever hopeful, the international community wants a ceasefire to send a larger and of course far more effective UN force into southern Lebanon. To do what I don't know. I mean other than protect Hizbollah and allow the UN to generate press coverage about doing "something" to preserve peace. I'm sure the stout fellows of this new and improved UN force will take on the killers of Hizbollah and send them packing if they even think of nosing around their old rocket-launching sites.

You scoff at the idea that the international community will stop Hizbollah? You simpleton!

The international community must be angry with Hizbollah. I mean, the UN didn't authorize Hizbollah to attack Israel. So there was no international test, right? Hizbollah launched an illegal war, right?

Given the history and capabilities of the UN, I suggest the new UN force in Lebanon be called UNIFAIL. Or possibly UNIFUTILE.

Or am I being too cynical?

The problem is that there is no peace to keep and peacekeepers are ill-suited to compelling peace.

So a terrorist organization with limited conventional military capabilities and a social services office controls large portions of a sovereign state and has virtual veto power over anything the formal state does.

Thank goodness UNIFAIL has no evidence of anything disturbing going on. Otherwise I'd worry.

*To be fair to the Irish general who sees nothing, he is painfully aware of how weak his forces are compared to Hezbollah. He and his troops are more hostages than anything else; and if he says something Hezbollah doesn't like, he gets to write the letters of condolence for his dead troops who have about as much capacity to take on Hezbollah as a Boy Scout Troop.

UPDATE: Yeah, let's continue this record of success:

Lebanon's foreign minister said on Tuesday he supported renewing the mandate of U.N. peacekeeping forces in the country for another year, U.S. and Israeli criticism that the peacekeepers should do more to stop Hezbollah gaining arms. ...

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrols Lebanon's southern border with Israel.

Its annually renewed mandate was expanded from the original 1978 mission following a 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah group.

This tasked UNIFIL with making sure southern Lebanon was "free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons" other than those belonging to the Lebanese government or UNIFIL. [emphasis added]

Heckuva job, UNIFIL!

UNIFIL's sole practical function is to shield Hezbollah from Israeli military action. And no UN-approved mandate there will make UNIFIL more effective in its formal role.

UNIFIL should be withdrawn from Lebanon.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Russia is Back in Action

Russia, after seeming like it was backing off in its support of Syrian offensives toward the east to fill the vacuum left by the American-led effort to defeat ISIL, is back in action there.

Russia is back in the Assad support business:

On Friday, the Russian military said its air force is now focusing on supporting the Syrian army's offensive in Deir el-Zour. Syrian government forces control around half the city and a nearby air base, both of which are besieged by the IS militants.

For a while it seemed like Russia was refusing to help Syria's Assad advance to the east in order to thwart Iranian ambitions to strengthen its position in the region by building a land line of supply from Hezbollah in Lebanon back to Iran.

Has Russia abandoned its opposition to Iran's goals for the supply line and for domination in Syria?

Or does Russia figure that America and Saudi Arabia will ultimately block the land line of supply by pulling Iraq away from Iranian influence?

Quantity Time

Lamb wanted to take a walk to get ice cream the other day. Summer is winding down and school approaches.

So we walked a couple miles to an ice cream parlor and had huge scoops. Then we walked downtown and looked around. By the time we got back home we had walked about 6 miles and the afternoon was largely spent, without any electronics.

One of her friends spotted us walking and yelled to Lamb from a car, but we didn't realize it until Lamb got a message from her friend a bit later.

The best part was the time to just chat about different topics. These are the things that a parent values as memories when a child is grown and living their life.

Hopefully, Lamb has good memories of days like that, too.

The Wall of Prosperity

Will Mexico have an energy boom from privatized initiatives?

Mexico’s energy prospects brightened considerably after an international consortium of private companies hit it big with a “world-class” find in a shallow water region in the Gulf of Mexico that they had won the right to explore through a government auction. Premier Oil, Talos Energy, and Sierra Oil & Gas estimate that the Zama field they discovered may contain between 1.4 billion and 2 billion barrels of oil.

With a declining birth rate, economic growth in Mexico fueled by oil (if it can avoid Venezuela's socialist dystopia) could not only reduce emigration from Mexico but intercept Central American migrants heading for America.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

God help us, but Peak Stupid is not here: the eclipse was racist. Make Eclipses Great Again!

Conservatives are repulsed by so-called right wing radicals. Liberals admire their left-wing radicals.

Actual resistance: the Venezuelan legislature refuses to accept Maduro usurpers of their law-making powers.

The Democrats' "green on blue" problem. Heh.

Finally! A universal statue that nobody can find offensive and everyone can love!
Let a hundred statues bloom!

We elected a clown for president (which is still better than having the corrupt Clinton in charge) and the media has self-clowned in response. This is exactly why it is easy to side against the media in their jihad against the president (and more importantly, the president's "deplorable" supporters). yeah, I miss journalism, too. But I've missed it for more than three decades now. And I bet people older than me have missed it even longer. Tip to Instapundit.

I don't trust the Internet of Things.

I respect Graham Allison from my time as a political science major (half of my bachelor's degree). And while his article on brinksmanship is useful, I don't see Trump as practicing that art and I certainly don't see Trump, as Allison begins his essay, as "desperate, erratic and even irrational[.]" I don't see any of that in what the president has done or said. Zero. I see seriousness. What gives?

I eagerly await the expansion of the scope of the unproductive Russia investigation to include Confederate hacking of the 2016 election. If you wonder how the Salem Witch trial hysteria developed, take notes now.

On this blog, I have a most complete record on the Obama presidency. Trump has just begun and I started during the Bush 43 presidency. My sum total of complaints about Obama's victory is in this post. Policies I would complain about (and some I supported). Of course. But they were in the context of an America-born, Christian, legitimately elected leader. Contrast that to the seething hatred of Trump, his election, all he does, how he looks, what he eats, and all his supporters, that the most vocal Trump haters on the left have displayed 24/7 and dialed to "11.". Yet they are open minded and I'm a close-minded conservative--possibly with special dog hearing to discern all those awful "Ist"-y messages Trump sends out.

Huh. What's with that "Canada is a country of laws" stuff that distinguishes between legal and illegal immigration? Oddly, Canada didn't inscribe their immigration statutes on the CN Tower. I suspect racism until proven otherwise. Keep this up and Trump backers will be wondering if Trudeau can be our president.

Is the House IT indictment designed to fail?

A pro-Trump assassination attempt on Democratic legislators would be talked about constantly by our media even years after the fact (as the Giffords murder attempt is still wrongly assigned to Republicans many years after the fact). But two months later, the Bernie-fan attempted murder of Republican Congressmen is already down the media memory hole.

Talk about outrageous fact-challenged presidential Tweets!

Democratic Representative Ellison stepped in it by rolling his eyes over a Native American complaining about him saying America is a "nation of immigrants." Far be it for me to get in the way of blue on blue conflict, but technically, even "Native" Americans fall into this category--just beating the Mayflower types by a whole lot.

Russia says that support for a new ceasefire in the Donbas is "decisive." Why a new and improved ceasefire will work when Russia could have made the old one work by, you know--ceasing their fire--is beyond my un-nuanced mind. My view is that not enough Russian troops are dying to really motivate Russia to stop attacking Ukraine.

I weep when evidence piles up that we have yet to reach Peak Stupid: "Announcer Named Robert Lee Off UVa Game To Avoid Offending Idiots." I truly hope to God this can't be true. In one sense it seems "too good to be true," but given the stupid that has been swirling around our country, I can totally buy it. Even if ESPN simply thought audiences would be reminded of slavery with that announcer, that is still stupid. And if ESPN thought that Lee was at risk from stupid people who couldn't distinguish between an Asian Lee 21st century broadcaster and a 19th century Confederate general, well, that's really sad. No justification makes ESPN look good. In case the best-case scenario is true, as a service to media people everywhere, The Dignified Rant suggests you check your name against this list and change your name if necessary, to avoid the baying hounds of the stupidity pack roaming our lands.

A Strategypage tour of the Philippines.

Stratfor gives India the air advantage in the border disputes on display recently, because of India's superior air base infrastructure; and gives China the edge in missiles, air defenses, command and control, and artillery. India's edge in air power would be fragile since China can replace losses more easily. And oddly no mention was made of the balance in ground forces. I understand why naval forces aren't mentioned because I doubt China would try to project naval power into the Indian Ocean. But land power will be what stands on the ground in dispute.

So we can believe predictions of A because predictions of completely unrelated B are accurate? Ah, the scientific mind! I assume predictions of C-Z are also accurate because of B, too, by that logic.

I know liberals like to point to the Crusades as evidence of Western hate equivalent to Islamist terror today. One, the Crusades ended many centuries ago when everyone was pretty brutal, while terror is going on right now. Two, that moral equivalence crap ignores that the Crusades were a two-century counterattack that recaptured areas taken by force by Islamic armies. And three, doesn't that incorrect liberal interpretation mean that the jihadi slaughters in Spain are as fully justified as Islamic resistance to the Crusader states? After all, the Crusader states lasted two centuries. Is the fact that the Spanish ejected the Moslem states from their territory five centuries ago just mean they are merely (so far!) more successful crusaders?

On Wednesday I listened to CNN journalists without the slightest sense of their nonstop effort turned to 11 since the November election to paint Trump as too stupid, racist, and dangerous to continue in office complain that Trump's Tuesday condemnation of the press could incite violence against journalists. No word about why "antifa" thugs are assaulting reporters.

I find it kind of funny that liberals mocked religious fans of Tim Tebow in the NFL despite Tebow's failure to make it in the league; yet liberals are rallying around Colin Kaepernick despite his inability to make it in the NFL on his abilities.

When irrational hatred is something you boast about. I've said it before and I'll say it again: it is a crime against language that "liberal minded" is considered a synonym for "open minded." For far too many liberals, it is quite literally the opposite. But some are finally standing up to the mobs. These words are good. Let's see the actions that put the words into practice.

Just in time to remind me why I was ecstatic that Trump defeated Clinton: "This is not OK, I thought. It was the second presidential debate and Donald Trump was looming behind me. Two days before, the world heard him brag about groping women. Now we were on a small stage and no matter where I walked, he followed me closely, staring at me, making faces." So decades of being married to a man who fell somewhere in the spectrum between serial groper and serial rapist didn't prepare her for Trump standing close? And now we know where she got her idea for a "reset" button for Russia: "It was one of those moments where you wish you could hit pause and ask everyone watching, well, what would you do?" Oh yeah, Putin feared that woman in the Oval Office.

Lyft is worried about racist customers. When a short haircut can get you stabbed because someone perceives you as a Nazi, why would anyone use Lyft and risk being seen as a racist? Lyft: Official Transportation of the Thousand-Year Reich! Talk about brand suicide.

Republicans control all the branches of the federal government and have record levels of control at the state and local level. Yet somehow activist leftists think that government suppression of free speech is good? Nice to see how much the Left trusts Republicans to use that terrible power wisely, eh?The alternative explanation is that we are seeing weapons-grade stupid on the Left.

It is true that South Korea is a brake on American action against North Korea. That has been a fact of life with Seoul so close to North Korean conventional forces across the DMZ. But that brake can only be fully engaged when American cities are not under threat by North Korean nukes. Once North Korea can reliably threaten an American city, South Korea will no longer have a brake on American actions that put the survival of Seoul above the survival of Seattle.

The Left likes to believe that all deplorables are working class. Ahem. Send the Paddy Wagon, I say.

I recently saw the we are not Moslems Sikhs commercial. Nicely done, I'll say. Although it almost seems like throwing Moslems under the bus.

Ultimately, forward deployed Army units in Europe are better than rotating units in. I agree. But in the short run, the practice moving units from the continental United States is useful to relearn that Cold War skill.

Decades ago, there was a joke about a statue in Poland for a Pole who served in Stalin's USSR. The Poles were happy with the statue because no Pole killed more Russians than him. So why aren't the communists leading the charge on Confederate statues (while recognizing that the vast majority of those opposed to the statues are not communists and have legitimate reasons to want them gone) celebrating the soldiers who killed so many white Americans?

The victims of the jihadi Barcelona terror attacks are still being mourned and already some jackass is claiming the "real victims" of the terror attacks are Moslems who are very much alive. For some, the real crime is always the potential backlash and never the actual killing lash.

Will Turkey abandon their old ultimatum that Assad had to step down and abandon support for Syrian rebels in order to cut a deal with Iran to combat Kurds in Iraq our of fear of Kurds in Turkey and Iran rising up? (And what would Syria's Kurds do in those circumstances? Cut a deal with Assad and Turkey to stand aside as Kurds in northern Iraq are pummeled?)

Now that liberals have learned to love federalism, it is so nice that "states' rights" is no longer a dog whistle for racism!

This author says that the problems of Britain exiting the EU argue for remaining in the EU. I think the problems of exiting the EU argue for getting out now before the power of the EU is so entrenched that Britain will never be more than a remote frontier province of the empire.

What was the sonic device that seriously injured our diplomats (and Canada's) in Cuba? I assume it was a surveillance device of some sort, actually. It makes no sense to attack them. And while it might not have been Cuba doing this, they are responsible at the least for not protecting our diplomats there.

Ambulances take longer to arrive under Obamacare. Yeah, I remember the claim that emergency room visits would decline under the law. I doubted that would be true because I figured usage was based on convenience (and jobs that don't give time off for a doctor visit)  rather than lack of insurance. Ambulance time and emergency room visits aren't the same, of course. But they are surely related.

Ambassador Haley wants UN inspectors to have access to Iranian military bases to spot Iranian nuclear activities.  This points out that America doesn't inspect Iran despite the importance. The more easily intimidated UN does that. And the UN has different objectives than America has (although America has different motives than it did when Obama was president). The complaint also highlights that the deal allows Iran the ability to stop inspectors from visiting Iranian military bases. The section on inspecting nuclear facilities starts out by saying access shall be requested "in good faith, with due observation of the sovereign rights of Iran, and kept to the minimum necessary to effectively implement the verification responsibilities" under the deal. Under the terms of the deal, Iran can easily oppose the access that Haley wants.

As I understand it, short-range missile firings like these are all about propaganda and some useful training as North Korea lights up missiles getting too old even for them to consider part of the arsenal. Rather than throw them away, fire them off.

Condemning our announced strategy to win in Afghanistan by pointing to Vietnam and Iraq neglects that we won in both wars on the ground, losing Vietnam in the post-war by walking away and winning twice in Iraq after walking away in the post-war following the first win. Trump is simply refusing to walk away from Afghanistan after the gains we made during the Obama administration (and then partially lost as Obama began the long walk away). And I find it hilarious that the author seems particularly steamed by Trump seeing India as a better ally than Pakistan if Pakistan makes us choose between them.

Yawn. More terror attacks in London and Brussels. But not enough blood to get a Twitter hashtag or Facebook logo. At this point the only real question is whether they are "known wolves" already known to police authorities for their Islamist leanings.

I always assumed the answer to the question "is the pope Catholic" is "yes." I assume too much, clearly. If the Catholic Church won't be Catholic, how can its leaders expect members to be Catholic?

Yes, China has the edge in ground force transportation and logistics structure along the border compared to India. I've long noted India's effort to redress this deficiency. Which is a major reason I think India would be beaten if this escalates to a border war rather than a border incident level of fighting that India could conceivably win.

The Perfect Storm

I hear MSNBC is charting the path of destruction from Hurricane Harvey after it made landfall in Texas by marking the Confederate statues destroyed by the storm.

Bad News and Good News

Iran is making gains in Syria to gain a land corridor to their Hezbollah proxy force in Lebanon (that is dying in large numbers to save Assad for Iran):

Thousands of Iranian-backed fighters in Syria's central desert region are advancing east, bringing Tehran closer to its goal of securing a corridor from its border, through Iraq and all the way to the Mediterranean and providing it unhindered land access to its allies in Syria and Lebanon for the first time.

The land-route would be the biggest prize yet for Iran in its involvement in Syria's six-year-old civil war.

If Saudi Arabia's belated effort to pull Arab fully into the Arab fold works, Iran's efforts in Syria will come up a country short in a land bridge.

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Stick By Any Other Name

Is this a carrot or a case of whittling the stick to a sharper point?

Strategic assets of the U.S. military, including an aircraft carrier and a nuclear-powered submarine, may not be deployed during the upcoming joint exercises on the Korean peninsula.

South Korean television network SBS reported Friday the United States canceled plans to deploy the strategic assets during the drill set to begin next week, and the move is taking place a week after tensions spiked between Washington and Pyongyang.

On the one hand, it looks like we are deliberately trying to be less threatening to North Korea. Which is good if we want to appear reasonable to the rest of the world and if we hope China can strong-arm North Korea into a real deal to end the nuclear threat.

On the other hand, if you want to maximize availability, you stand down from routine operations in order to get maintenance and air crew rest. So it is a quiet stick as well that provides a more effective stick if the carrot is not accepted.

Once more the healing power of "and" is evident.

I'm Having Trouble Figuring Out Why This is Bad

Bold climate dissenters are fleeing the federal government, no doubt hoping they'll get time on friendly TV to fight the power:

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said many federal employees are leaving the Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration over “fear” that the Trump administration is going to “suppress their viewpoints” or move them to irrelevant positions.

There is but one response to this exodus:



Yeah, don't let the door knob hit you in the ass on the way out.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Give Us Your People Yearning to Breathe Free

Russia has a problem with talent leaving a Russia that Putin is turning into an authoritarian state where rule-of-whim threatens the fruits of hard work (or fleeting connections to the state). We are making Russia's order to slash our embassy staff work for us rather than for Russia.

Russia is repelling foreign workers and scaring their own away, as well as watching a birth crisis cripple their work force. I wondered when Putin would order a new wall to stop the brain (and wealth) drain.

America has reacted reasonably well to Russia's order to slash embassy workers in Russia under these circumstances:

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow says that "all nonimmigrant visa operations" at U.S. missions across Russia will be suspended as of August 23 due to a Kremlin-imposed cap on staff at U.S. diplomatic facilities.

In an August 21 statement, the embassy said that visa operations will resume "on a greatly reduced scale" on September 1, with nonimmigrant visa interviews conducted "only in Moscow."

So visas for Russian visitors to America will be greatly reduced. Courtesy of Putin's order.

I'd be happier if we pushed immigration of screened Russian applicants to even higher levels to promote the brain drain while drastically reducing opportunities for Russians loyal to Putin to visit America for espionage, business, or vacation purposes.

The Other Dictator's Threat

The Dutch have a small but good military and they've been a good ally willing to fight with America. They are now a little more focused on Russia. Don't forget that idiot Maduro in his crumbling socialist paradise.

This is necessary as Russia reverts to Classic Russia (paranoid and expansionist):

Dutch pilots will focus more on air-to-air combat skills, which have grown rusty because of the emphasis over the past several years in supporting ground missions, says the head of the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

Let's hope the Dutch reset includes dusting off plans to defend or recapture their Caribbean territory if Maduro thinks the Netherlands is an easy foreign Devil to rally his people around fighting.

First Line of Missile Defense

F-35s could probably shoot down North Korean nuclear missiles as they are launched and the North Koreans would never know the planes are there.

This is an interesting evaluation of the F-35(quoting Aviation Week):

Without assistance from China or Russia, North Korea would stand no chance of defending against a wave of low-observable Joint Strike Fighters, which would be used to clear the air of opposing jets, hunt down rogue missiles, and protect advancing ground troops. The stealth jets would be virtually unopposed by Pyongyang's outdated inventory of former Soviet and independently developed radars and surface-to-air missiles.

That could make the F-35 the first line of defense in case North Korea launches nuclear missiles.

I mentioned fighter aircraft over the launch site as the first line of a layered defense for shooting down a missile. With stealth aircraft, the North Koreans apparently won't even know we are there.

Of course, that's expensive and difficult to maintain 24/7. But it could be useful in a crisis.

And it would be very useful as part of an attack campaign that bombs North Korea's nuclear missiles and facilities, in order to deal with any missiles we miss or didn't know about.

Better to bomb a ballistic missile on the ground, but if it launches we'd have a shot at dropping the nuclear mess back down on their heads.

UPDATE: The Air Force says the F-35A is ready to deploy. It should appear in the Pacific soon.

The Marine F-35B is already based in Japan.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Faith No More

Iraq has begun the drive to liberate Tal Afar from the jihadis:

U.S.-backed Iraqi security forces on Sunday began a multi-pronged military operation to retake the town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, from the Islamic State group, Iraq’s prime minister announced.

Getting their asses handed to them repeatedly has had an effect on ISIL gunmen in Iraq:

Prisoners and deserters report low morale and panic among many of the less resolute ISIL members.

I have argued again and again and again that it is not futile to fight jihadis because they love death and denied that fighting jihadis only recruits more jihadis. Liberals love that argument.

It is true that ineffectively fighting jihadis creates more jihadis. But the fact is that only a small fraction of the jihadis are the true believers unaffected by anything short of flatlining their brain activity.

Most jihadis can be discouraged from dying for a losing cause rather than thinking they'll get a statue in the new caliphate they are building one dead Infidel at a time.

And many who haven't signed the jihadi recruiting document rediscover the value of that associate training program at Macy's that their moms have been pushing.

I just worry that the long gap since the victory at Mosul will provide time--that precious commodity in war--for jihadi morale to recover to prolong the fight and raise casualties needlessly.

It is always best to pursue a broken enemy and kill and scatter the survivors while you can.

You don't take your military advice from liberals, do you?

UPDATE: Iraqi forces are making gains.

Apparently ISIL isn't putting up much resistance on the outskirts. I assume they have some smaller area they plan to fight to the death to hold.

We'll see how many are that determined to die for their losing cause.

UPDATE: The Iraqis are making pretty good gains, actually:

Iraqi forces have dislodged Islamic State from 70 percent of Tal Afar, a stronghold of the militants in northwestern Iraq, including its central citadel neighborhood, officials and military commanders said on Saturday.

We shall see if the ISIL gunmen have pulled into a tight fortified perimeter within a small part of the city to fight to the death.

So far it doesn't seem like ISIL is trying to slow the Iraqis down with suicide car bombs forward of whatever main line of resistance ISIL plans.

UPDATE: Now the Iraqis claim to hold 90% of the city, including the city center.

Where is ISIL making its stand? Or did they flee already and make it through the cordon the popular militias supposedly established?

UPDATE: Sunday morning I see that Iraq appears to have largely captured the city.  Morale was seriously bad if this is true.

Where did the estimated 2,000 ISIL defenders go? The failure to fix and kill them--assuming they weren't killed and aren't trapped right now somewhere--will give the terrorists the chance to live and kill another day.

Different President. Same Objective

Let me review my objectives for Afghanistan when an Obama surge looked likely:

The end result in Afghanistan, if all goes well, will be a nominal national government that controls the capital region and reigns but does not rule local tribes and which actually helps the locals a bit rather than sucking resources from the locals, who in turn do not make trouble for the central government or allow their areas to be used by jihadis to plan attacks on the West. We press for reasonable economic opportunities, with bribes all around (I mean, foreign aid), to keep a fragile peace.

And we stick around this time, unlike after the Soviets left Afghanistan when we ignored the place, for a generation or two to see if we can move Afghanistan into the 19th century (hey, let's not get ahead of ourselves).

Hopefully our military surge recedes by the end of 2011 and we can get down to a single combat brigade plus air power that function as a fire brigade and a hammer for the central government should a local difficulty exceed Afghan military capabilities.

But my caveat was that the Pakistan problem had to be solved:

Remember, at this point our real "Afghanistan problem" lies in Pakistan. Even a successful surge in Afghanistan means a post-surge Afghanistan will face the Pakistan problem once again. Like I've argued, in these circumstances I think we can do well enough in Afghanistan without a surge. Which doesn't mean that a surge can't accomplish our minimal objectives a bit faster or even achieve more. But it also means that we risk more--lives, treasure, and national prestige--by trying to achieve more results with more effort.

We'll see if we can pressure Pakistan to deal with the real Afghanistan problem and whether the threat of pivoting to India at Pakistan's expense and supporting Indian efforts in Afghanistan will scare Pakistan enough to finally behave in regard to thinking they can support "good" jihadis.

And in what should be an encouraging sign for liberals, Trump passed that all-important global test:

"France recognizes the importance of this undertaking and remains resolutely engaged in the struggle against terrorism," a foreign ministry statement said.

So we've got that going for us.

UPDATE: Bringing India into the Afghanistan problem is the really interesting part:

From Islamabad's viewpoint, India represents an existential threat vastly superseding any danger posed by al Qaeda, or any other jihadist outfit that targets the Pakistani state, including the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and the Islamic State's Khorasan chapter. Islamabad's goal in Afghanistan, then, is to deny India a foothold by supporting the Taliban to extend its strategic depth as a means of hedging against a potential Indian military thrust.

By inviting Pakistan to turn against the jihadis that Pakistan supports in Afghanistan out of a fear that India will make gains in Afghanistan that threaten Pakistan, but holding open the alternative of using India to help pacify the Taliban, Trump has told Pakistan their worst fear will come true if Pakistan does not help in Afghanistan at long last by turning against the jihadis that kill Pakistanis as happily as they kill Afghans and coalition military forces in Afghanistan.

Does Pakistan really want to push America to more fully and more rapidly embrace India as our ally at the expense of Pakistan? Seriously?

Really, if India ever wanted to conquer Pakistan (and I doubt it), India has a bigger problem on their northern border--China--that makes it unlikely that India could scrape up the forces to conquer Pakistan now.

UPDATE: Really?

Trump's call for India to play a greater role in Afghanistan, in particular, will ring alarm bells for Pakistan's generals, analysts said.

"Trump's policy of engaging India and threatening action may actually constrain Pakistan and lead to the opposite of what he wants," said Zahid Hussain, a Pakistani security analyst.

So Pakistan will reject the call by Trump to work with America and Afghanistan because of the so-called threat from India, and will therefore get more of the India threat in Afghanistan?

Well, that's stupid. Perhaps the Pakistanis think that way. But it is self-defeating. And stupid.

UPDATE: Twelve ways the president's strategy is different from Obama's.

UPDATE: Thoughts on the war. If jihadis in Afghanistan aren't tired of trying to kill us at home, the fact that we are tired of fighting in Afghanistan is rather irrelevant, no?

Wait. What?

The Taliban lobbied America to get out of Afghanistan? I thought they loved death and eagerly welcomed the chance to kill our people?

Huh:

The Taliban vowed to create "a graveyard for the American Empire" with "lofty spirits" after President Trump didn't heed their lobbying for a withdrawal from Afghanistan.

I expect tough talk from them. But they had tough talk when our forces withdrew from combat and left the fighting to our allied Afghan allies. The Taliban said that they'd smash the Afghan security forces without our forces in the battle.

The Taliban have made worrisome progress. But they did not smash the government forces. And now that window is closing as more American and coalition support will flow to the Afghan security forces and more effort will be made to choke off Pakistani support for the jihadis.

Our new approach is at least realistic.

So let's hold off on discussing their lofty spirits until next year at this time.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Because There Are No Missiles in a Subliminal War?

I've mentioned the Ukrainian factory that might have been the source of North Korea's new rocket engines either via Ukrainian corruption or Russian hostility. I don't understand this status:

The wall around the Yuzhmash rocket factory in east Ukraine is in places overgrown with weeds, a sign of hard times at a plant which a new study says could be the source of engines that power North Korean missiles.

Workers at the plant have had their hours cut and wages are in arrears, but Yuzhmash denies the study's finding that unhappy employees could have been induced to steal engine technology and sell it to illicit arms dealers who passed it on to Pyongyang.

Russia took Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and wages war in the Donbas right now, in that part of Russian-occupied Ukraine.

Why isn't the Yuzhmash rocket factory mass producing ballistic missiles capable of hitting Russian ships in Sevastopol harbor and every military installation the Russians have built in Crimea?

How can Ukraine be at war with Russia and leave this asset out of the fight, overgrown with weeds?

If Numbers Matter to the Navy

The Navy could get to a 355-ship Navy by 2030:

The Navy could reach a 355-ship fleet by 2030 if it both extended the service life of most of its current ships and built more than two dozen new ships beyond current shipbuilding plans, two admirals said this week.

We could get to the plateau earlier if the Navy resorted to auxiliary cruisers--modularized auxiliary cruisers, in particular (although I'd want more of the warship type rather than power projection versions)--to get numbers before the new builds hit the water.

And it would help in whatever plan we have to get to a larger fleet if our ships would stop having accidents that take them off the line:

Ten sailors are missing and five injured after the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker east of Singapore and the Strait of Malacca, the U.S. Navy said late Sunday.

This after Fitzgerald collided with a civilian ship in the Sea of Japan. Oh:

Aside from the USS McCain and USS Fitgerald incidents, the Navy crusier USS Antietam ran aground dumping over 1,000 gallons of oil in Tokyo Bay in Februray. In May, another cruiser, USS Lake Champlain, hit a South Korean fishing vessel.

I suppose we could just define these broken ships as still in the battle force. Voila!

Is this a training issue? Or is this kind of record that is normal and only seems alarming because it is put together in one article? Is it just bad luck, and sometimes that clusters in time?

An "operational pause" to look things over and answer some questions is prudent.

If it is a training issue, don't take the superiority of our Navy for granted. As China gains in quality of ships and quantity of those better ships (and subs and planes), we comfort ourselves that we have better trained crews to make up for those factors. Can we count on that supposed training edge?

And what about the quality of our leadership? Is that good given that they may have failed to make sure the sailors who staff our warships are capable?

I'm obviously concerned about the fate of sailors in these incidents. But if they are a symptom of a bigger problem that is what we should really be worried about.

UPDATE: Oddly, the possibility that the collision was intentional or was from radar interference or cyber warfare isn't ruled out yet.

UPDATE: Hacking is ruled out.

UPDATE: The Navy sacked the commander of 7th Fleet. Too many bad things were happening to his ships and sailors.

The Prick Man of Europe

I'm really not sure how much longer Turkey is going to be in NATO.

Pulling away from America. Partnering with Russia. Crushing democracy and rule of law. And now this:

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats were enemies of Turkey and called on Turks in Germany to vote against major parties in next month's elections.

Stoking tensions to try to create a 5th column within Germany (or to convince Germans that there is a 5th column, which leads to the same thing) is not something an ally does.

But Erdogan is not much of an ally.

I've long said an imperfect ally is better than an enemy. Erdogan has not tipped Turkey over that point. But he sure is trying. I wonder if he'd like NATO to make the break to avoid repercussions from the Turks who are still pro-Western and pro-NATO.

Can we pull Turkey back from the brink and influence Turkish society to reject Erdogan's creeping dictatorship that could reject collective NATO defense in favor of restoring the Ottoman Empire (in influence if not in fact)?

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Next Tank

America's next tank is an updated version of the old tank:

In mid-2017 the U.S. Army ordered $270 million worth of components for upgrading M1A2 tanks to the new SEP3 standard as well as upgrading more M1A2SEPs to the SEP2 level. These upgrades keep the M1, or at least some of them, competitive with more recently designed and built tanks. The U.S. (mainly the army) has about a thousand of the SEP2 upgrade M1A2s and wants to up to half of that upgraded to SEP3 by 2020, the earliest date for the [M1A3] upgrade will show up. That one will have major upgrades to the tank software and whatever upgrades are available for the engine, armor and electronics. A major upgrade is adding the capability to use advanced (some guided missiles) from the 120mm smooth bore gun. There may also be an ADS (Active Defense System) added as well. The specifics of M1A3 are vague because much of the tech is still in development or getting its first combat experience. What isn’t ready in the early 2020s can be added with the M1A3SEP.

An ADS should be in the standard package given the top-attack missile threat.

At the beginning of the century I did say that the wonder tank (lethal, survivable, and only 19 tons) would not be built (see "Equipping the Objective Force").

The M1A3 will be the new main battle tank.

Is Opportunity Knocking One Last Time?

Russian forces are entering Belarus for the major Zapad 2017 military exercises. Most articles minimize the risk of Russia using the operation as a cover to invade the Baltics or to take over Belarus. Are we whistling past the graveyard?

I tend to agree that Russia wouldn't risk invading the Baltics and starting a war with NATO, especially while Russian troops are bogged down in Ukraine and in Syria to a lesser extent.

But no Russian anschluss?

A post-operation occupation of Belarus is unlikely, Alessin said, because "occupying [Russia's] only ally would undermine faith in the Kremlin, including with its potential partners." It would also undermine Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's credibility - at home and abroad, which is in neither side's interest. Alessin cited Belarus' denial of Russia's 2013 request to maintain airbases there.

Belarus is Russia's only ally? Really? That's nonsense. What rogue friend of Russia will do anything but applaud Putin?

What Russian partner would, after Georgia, Crimea, and the Donbas, suddenly think that adding Belarus to the list of aggression is a deal breaker? For many potential partners that might seem like a feature rather than a bug.

And who cares if Lukashenko is undermined? That would be the bloody point of taking over Belarus, no?

Seriously, isn't the denial of a Russian air base a motivation for Russia to just take the whole country over?

Maybe Putin has concluded that 20 years of carrot to persuade Belarus to more closely integrate with Russia has been a failure. Now he'll try the stick that got him prestige and bases in Syria and bases in Crimea.

Lukashenko would just disappear, his departure covered by the AstroTurfed pro-Russian militias and political parties who will welcome Russia's "fraternal assistance" to "liberate" Belarus from the dictator (and he is) Lukashenko.

Is it just me, or are those reasons why Putin won't take over Belarus while he has troops there actually reasons that Putin just might take over Belarus?

And let's add to the reasons.

Wouldn't Putin love to extend the Russian threat to Ukraine across that country's Belarus-Ukraine border to finally pressure those stubborn Ukrainians to concede the loss of Crimea and the Donbas to Russia?

Wouldn't Russia love to have forces able to hit Poland, link up with Kaliningrad, and cut off the Baltic NATO states?

Heck, wouldn't Putin love to add some Slavs to his empire to make up for Russia's declining population?

Perhaps Putin thinks that gathering resistance to his aggression and a belated NATO effort to bolster defenses in the east mean that the window for Russia to cheaply grab Belarus is closing.

Perhaps Putin thinks that the next major Zapad exercise in four years will be too late to cover an invasion.

Remember, Belarus may very well be the most important territory in Europe today.

My pucker factor is going to be high during September.

UPDATE: This article addresses Polish worries about Russia, and highlights Zapad 1981 that was intended to threaten Poland then witnessing unrest against Soviet control.

I don't know when I read this--certainly not in 1981 or the remainder of the decade--but the Zapad 1981 exercise was apparently a shock to the Soviets who discovered that they could not mobilize an invasion of Poland from the western Soviet Union. All their best Red Army eggs were in East Germany facing west.

UPDATED: Thoughts on Zapad 2017.

Democracy Dies in Eclipse Darkness?

Am I being overly worried to wonder if jihadis might think blows against Americans in the path of eclipse totality might make a great propaganda campaign?

UPDATE: Less disturbing than terrorism is this essay that essentially says today is about Making Eclipses Great Again.

Some people have too much time on their hands.

UPDATE: Clouds didn't roll in until just after peak eclipse (around 80%, I think, in Michigan). But pictures on camera didn't turn out. My best was an early one:


Later ones of a crescent on top just looked like a full disk in the photo. I don't know what I did on the early one to catch the edge of the moon so clearly.

But it looked pretty cool. I never saw one before.

UPDATE: I was overly worried. The only crying came from overwrought observers of the eclipse.

Pakistani Democratic Forces?

The Trump administration is deciding what to do about Afghanistan. It might help to remember that a good portion of the Afghanistan problem is in Pakistan.

Let me start off by saying I don't have the same sense of foreboding during the current fighting season as I had last year. I don't sense major gains by the Afghan side in the news flow. But I don't sense a losing effort. So whatever we did over last winter had an effect even though the situation is not good yet.

The Trump administration is still pondering options:

President Donald Trump is “studying and considering his options” for a new approach to Afghanistan and the broader South Asia region, the White House said Friday after the president huddled with his top national security aides at Camp David.

We still need to help Afghanistan make gains to win the war, mind you--although my objectives are not high. Failing to make the incremental effort to defend what we've achieved so far would be monumentally stupid. Was Iraq after 2011 not a lesson enough?

Yet even major success in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban and other "international" jihadis runs into the jihadi safety net that sanctuary in Pakistan provides.

In light of the idea of options in the broader South Asia region, I will revive my suggestion that our efforts to win should include a major effort to create friendly forces on the ground inside Pakistan the way we have done inside Syria:

[America] may have an opportunity to use a post-Westphalian Lexington Rule to fight al Qaeda in Pakistan.

If we can't get Islamabad to control the frontier area, it is time to bypass Islamabad and deal directly with the tribes who don't recognize the control of Islamabad in the first place. We cannot allow the fictions of sovereignty to keep us from defending ourselves from fanatics who straddle the gray boundary that lies between reality and international law.

Using limited military assets such as special forces and drones to back civilian armed assets such as the CIA or contract personnel (with either former or seconded special forces from Western countries, or perhaps even hiring security companies to provide the personnel) or even Arab special forces that would live and work inside the frontier areas, we may be able to turn the frontier tribes against the jihadis who target us.

We should be able to start at the Afghan-Pakistan border and extend the network of anti-al Qaeda tribes toward the interior of Pakistan.

With the Syria example in mind, our own special forces should not be ruled out, as I ruled out 9 years ago.

If Pakistan won't help us, let's see if some Pakistanis are willing to help us.

Heck, in a decade or so, Pakistan working with American-backed Pakistani actors inside the frontier territories might seem as normal as this:

The Lebanese army launched an offensive on Saturday against an Islamic State enclave on the northeastern border with Syria, as the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah announced an assault on the militants from the Syrian side of the frontier.

I don't like these sub-state actors with so much autonomy. But Iran has set a precedent and I don't know why we can't try to use it.

Is that a new enough approach?

UPDATE: The president will give a speech tonight to set out the plan for Afghanistan. 

I will be most interested in hearing what he says about Pakistan--and Iran and Russia to a lesser extent. President Obama, as a candidate, famously vowed he'd invade Pakistan if he had to in order to win, recall.

UPDATE: I don't understand people who say what we've done the last 16 years in Afghanistan hasn't "worked."

I'm really quite sorry that our enemies are persistent killers who won't go home.

And I'm not saying that we can't change what we are doing going forward. As I've suggested.

But we did achieve a lot by the time President Obama drew down our troop levels and scaled back our missions.

And do recall what Afghanistan was on the morning of September 11, 2001: Run by the Taliban which gave the al Qaeda killers a haven to attack us at home that day and inflict close to 3,000 dead.

Now Afghanistan has a government that doesn't destroy old statues (I realize our Left isn't as upset at that as they once were) or suppress girls or provide terrorists a home; and which in fact fights at our side every day to kill jihadis. If that isn't "working" its darned close to it, it some level.

We have not won. That is clear. And a year ago I sad the trajectory was bad. Now? Stalemate seems about right.

So let's win the war. Not everything has worked. But let's not forget a lot of what we did sure as Hell worked.

UPDATE: So the plan is 4,000 more US troops and allied forces (I assume 2,000 more) to help the Afghan security forces fight. Plus more of a focus on Pakistan's role in sustaining the Taliban inside Afghanistan.

This is welcome.

I don't understand the complaints that since the surge to 100,000 US and 40,000 allied forces didn't win the war, what can 4,000 more do?

This neglects the example of the US war in Iraq. Obama could send 5-6,000 US troops to Iraq in fall 2014 for Iraq War 2.0 and successfully help Iraq beat ISIL because unlike during the surge where 170,000 US forces fought, the Iraqis had enough troops to fight ISIL. Iraq needed our support but not our direct shooters.

Afghanistan now has 350,000 (I assume less than the authorized are in the field) unlike the situation in early 2009 there were 200,000 Afghan security forces. And the Afghans have been fighting.

So the Afghans can use more support but don't need American trigger pullers to fight the jihadis. But I assume we will have special forces taking on international jihadis more of a direct threat to America and our allies.

And the focus on Pakistan, with India thrown in as a threat to Pakistani influence in Afghanistan if Pakistan isn't more cooperative is welcome. Before Obama's two surges (prematurely ended for his reelection campaign), I worried about committing too many troops to Afghanistan because without dealing with the Pakistan sanctuary any gains in Afghanistan are under threat.

We'll see if this approach can move Pakistan enough even though we need Pakistan for our supply lines.

I wonder if we will work directly with the Pakistani tribes in the frontier area?

I do wish we had a supply line to Afghanistan through a post-mullah friendly Iran rather than through Pakistan or through the "Stans" that are more difficult and vulnerable to Russian blockage or influence.

UPDATE: NATO backs the Trump plan.