Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Resistance is Not Futile

The new American national defense strategy focus on great power competition gives Australia a reason to focus their military on keeping great powers away from Australia's shores. Well, yeah.


All of this suggests to me that Australia needs to refocus on its own region of primary strategic concern, building the military capability to ensure that we can deny our vulnerable approaches to any potential adversary—including China.

Nine years ago I wrote the same thing when noting Australia's move to fielding F-35s, submarines, and frigates:

This all makes perfect sense. Australia needs to defend at sea, for if any enemy intent on waging war makes it to shore, Australia would need a huge army to defend their nation/continent. That's not going to happen, although it wouldn't hurt the Australians to organize light infantry local defense forces to fight until the good but tiny army arrives to fight any enemy force that does make it ashore.

But the basic defense will be aircraft and submarines that could attack enemy ships on the way to assault Australia. Even if the enemy had a couple carriers, the F-35s with their stealth abilities would be a good weapon to sink them and shoot down any aircraft they carry. The submarines would be able to operate against the invasion fleet, too, even in the face of enemy naval superiority.

The frigates would be best for leveraging allied help to sail with either American or possibly Indian ships to fight a common foe. Alone against a major enemy fleet they'd be fairly worthless.

Australia stands at a crucial pivot point that allows American power to shift between the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean.

When I wrote that I still had hopes that Russia wouldn't revert to total jerk status. But that development doesn't change the need for America to shift naval power to the Asia-Pacific region. Russia's fleet is withering and if NATO navies can carry the burden against a more hostile but still weak Russia at sea, we have bigger problems than carrying out a pivot.

And if Indonesia can be brought on board based on shared worries about Chinese ambitions and capabilities, that same Australian air-naval capability that could deny a potential adversary access to the seas and air space near Australia can be used to project power into the South China Sea.

It's nice to see voices in Australia that want Australia to have a relevant military. Australia is far smaller than China but resistance is not futile if it leverages help from America, India, and other regional allies.

Only giving up and hoping China will be merciful in victory is futile.

Defeat Would Be Very Bad

Work the problem in Afghanistan rather than looking for excuses to retreat and make things worse.

A BBC report says that the Taliban control 4% of Afghanistan and have a presence in another 66%:

The Taliban are openly active in 70 percent of Afghanistan's districts, fully controlling 4 percent of the country and demonstrating an open physical presence in another 66 percent, according to a BBC study published on Tuesday.

I dare say criminals have a presence in 100% of American counties.

That Afghanistan report doesn't sound so bad to me and doesn't justify the despair that so much of the Afghanistan debate takes on. I keep reading that the majority of violence is in a very small number of districts.

Consider that the recent spate of high-profile terror attacks in Afghanistan are called by some pundits a reason the fight is futile (but why isn't the failure of the Taliban to win over the same period a sign that their struggle is futile?) .

But one major attack has the fingerprints of Pakistan all over it:

In Afghanistan ISIL took credit for an attack on Afghan Military Academy in Kabul. Some of the attackers were using British night vision goggles used by the Pakistani military and not available to the public. Moreover other Islamic terror groups operating in Afghanistan have been caught with these night vision devices as have Pakistan based Islamic terror groups that carry out attacks in India and are known to work for the Pakistani military and enjoy sanctuary in Pakistan. It isn’t just the night vision goggles. India and Afghanistan have been comparing notes and finding many similarities like that. Pakistan, as usual, denies any involvement.

The Pakistan problem is a long-known obstacle. So a big part of the problem isn't the strength of jihadis but the support of outsiders like Pakistan to continue the violence. I'm not sure how we pressure Pakistan into being a positive force rather than a mixed bag as long as our supply lines to Afghanistan run through Pakistan. But we certainly have to try.

The bright side is that Afghans don't need America to take the lead--just provide enough support to allow them to fight the jihadis. It's the difference between the Iraq War where America had to provide the decisive combat force and Iraq War 2.0 where even the depleted Iraqi security forces the coalition built during the Iraq War were strong enough to defeat ISIL with American support.

I know the war is long. But is the fact that our enemies there are particularly vicious and tenacious a reason to give up and let them rebuild a sanctuary where they control 100% of the districts (or 90%, which is more like the pre-9/11 situation) to strike us again at home?

Or is it a reason to seriously fight them until we win to shield our home?

Remember, if we walk away from Afghanistan and the Taliban win, Afghanistan becomes a problem requiring America to take the lead rather than a theater where American support to locals can eventually prevail.

Work the problem and don't panic. Or believe America makes things worse. Things can always be worse. Especially without America fighting the bad guys.

UPDATE: Afghanistan presents proof that Pakistan's hand is clear in the recent terror attacks:

Afghanistan has given neighboring Pakistan confessions and other proof showing that the militants who carried out a recent series of attacks were trained in Pakistan and that Taliban leaders there are allowed to roam freely, Afghan officials said Thursday.

It's as if Pakistan is trying to show how bad they could be if they choose.

But don't forget that high profile terror attacks are a poor alternative to controlling people, which is the real measure of the war if victory, unless the effect on Western journalists who still have little knowledge of war is the objective.

Mind you, if terror attacks convince people that the government can't protect them, the Taliban could exploit that to gain support from fear if not from love. Grab 'em by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow is the Taliban plan for victory.

The failure of the Taliban to actually target cities for control is significant. They would if they could, but they apparently can't. But that failure doesn't mean that is a static condition.

UPDATE: A worrisome note. Although it is a bit much to expect improvements so soon after changing the older strategy of slowly walking away.

I do think that we should not look the other way when Afghan troops rape children, cultural tradition or not. I've noted that.

Yet I disagree that an increase in civilian deaths from increased American bombing is actually America's fault. If the enemy uses civilians as human shields, the responsibility for the dead civilians lies with the enemy and not with America that dropped the bombs.

But I don't think Americans don't care after over 16 years of war. I think that caring was muted for 8 years by the usual anti-war types protecting their man.

Obviously, caring has resumed. Dust off the giant puppets and spray paint them orange!

And remember, defeat would be very bad even if we get a decent interval following defeat before the bad things happen to disguise the cause and effect.

A Dutch Rescue?

A combination of socialism, autocracy, and stupidity completely nullified the massive oil wealth of Venezuela and has brought Venezuela to the brink of collapse. Maduro has little time left if he wishes to embark of a short and glorious war against an easy and distant target if he hopes to distract his people and rally them around the flag to his benefit.

It is hard to over-state how bad it is getting in Venezuela:

President Nicolas Maduro survives by the graces of military support, Cuban advisers, a shrinking base of socialists and communist diehards in the Chavismo movement, help from criminal organizations, a base of voters dependent on food from the state, and external support from China and Russia. The regime is active in suppressing dissent, using institutions that have been coerced and, when necessary, willing to use lethal force as exemplified by the January killing of the charismatic rebel leader, Oscar Perez, a former police officer and movie actor. Last year more than one hundred people were killed in popular opposition to the regime. Maduro is also helped by an opposition that has been unable to unify on a lasting basis.

A classic move to distract people is a short and glorious foreign war. Ideally against an enemy too weak, irresolute, and distant to really fight back.

I think that Maduro might think that the Netherlands which owns several nearby but poorly defended islands hits all his requirements.

But Maduro is running out of time. You can't rally people around the flag once the people hang your corpse feet first from a lamp post.

The Dutch are certainly far. And they have few military assets. But they have good quality forces--especially compared to what the Venezuelans have now--and I wouldn't count out their ability to mount an offensive to retake their islands if somebody can help with the logistics of an expedition.

Say, the Netherlands is a NATO member, now that you ask. The NATO Response Force might even get a chance to show what it can do out-of-area. Heck, the EU might step up to compete with NATO as a source of collective defense.

If Maduro wants to take this route, he has little time left to make it.

UPDATE: Time is almost out if Maduro's base of support is driven to looting just to eat:

Sporadic looting, food riots and protests driven by the hungry poor have surged in Venezuela, a country that’s no stranger to unrest. But the uprisings playing out recently have a different face than the mostly middle-class protesters who took to the streets for months last year in political demonstrations trying to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro has run out of other people's money--which is always the key to funding socialist delusions.

Could Maduro think that rather than rallying hungry people around him that he could hold Dutch islands and their people hostage until food is sent to Venezuela?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

They Should Always Come from the Last Place You Look

In order to make sure enemies can't count on America only being able to launch strikes from bases capable of handling F-22s, the Air Force is working on a special package of enablers:

The Air Force is strengthening its “Rapid Raptor” program designed to fast-track four F-22s to war - anywhere in the world - within 24 hours, on a moments notice, should there be an immediate need for attacks in today’s pressured, fast-moving global threat environment , service officials said.

The program, in existence for several years, prepares four F-22s with the requisite crew members, C-17 support, fuel, maintenance and weapons necessary to execute a fast-attack “first-strike” ability in remote or austere parts of the world, Air Force officials say.

Of course, this is nothing new. Only the branding is new.

And we have something like this for the B-2, deploying special shelters to Diego Garcia and Guam so that B-2 bombers can be launched and supported away from Missouri.

The F-22 mission package is more free-ranging, of course.

Peak China

Having experienced incorrect predictions that the USSR, Japan, and the EU would supplant America, I never panicked over China's rise.

This is interesting:

The Rise of China is over.

Note, by the way, that in saying the rise of China is over, I am not saying that China is on the verge of a collapse—I am not even certain what a collapse would look like. There are many people outside of China, portentously predicting a collapse, who evidently have in mind something like the disintegration of the Soviet Union—which, given the multiethnic, empire-like nature of the PRC, one could never rule out completely. But after poring over interviews, books, “internal circulation only” (neibu) policy analyses, and open source journals concerning what Chinese elites think the future holds, I found no suggestion that anyone of influence in the PRC expects a collapse—they do however, express anxiety over an impending “leveling off”.

I never predicted collapse, although I did say that fragmentation is possible.

But I never believed that China's admittedly impressive rise (although have been suspicious of official statistics about the pace of the rise) was incapable of slowing down before passing America by. There are only so many peasants you can put into factories. And if you still have a lot of peasants when you reach that limit, you've got a problem.

And if--not when--China did pass America by mid-century, I thought there was a good chance America would re-gain the lead by the end of this century.

Still, it is a bit surprising that China's leaders don't really think China could face some level of disintegration given that it is hardly unheard of in China's long history. The year 1989 isn't ancient history and rather recently the Chinese seemed to be very worried indeed.

How much does the author consider that in a top-down party dictatorship that Chinese elites may find it even more important than Westerners in free societies to predict the future in ways that fit their leaders' desires.

In China it may be career or literal suicide to be right when the communist party leaders are wrong and safer to be wrong in the same way as the leaders are wrong.

That's a risk in relying on Chinese sources, eh?

Also, this is disturbing:

While the majority—the overwhelming majority—of Chinese economists and demographers have been deeply concerned about the PRC’s future prospects since at least 2005, most Chinese international relations experts, especially those in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), are super-optimistic, with a surprisingly large proportion evidently entirely unaware of the economists’ urgent warnings and the reasons they issue those warnings.

Long ago (in blog years) I asked whether China's rulers or military could send China to war. So even if we could define what is or is not rational for "China," who in China decides that issue? The split between those with the guns and those with the calculators is worrisome.

The book is on my wish list, now, if for no other reason than the author describing China as having "the most polluted environments in all of human history[.]" Please alert that revolting autocrat-loving Tom Friedman.

The Times They Are a Changing

On the North Korean nuclear question, I've long noted that America is willing to go along with South Korean worries about a conventional assault on Seoul as long as America can't be targeted by North Korean nukes. South Korea no longer has a veto.

That's all fine but America may not agree:

South Korea's foreign minister said on Thursday the standoff over North Korea's nuclear programme must be resolved diplomatically, and she was certain Washington would consult her government first if a military option were to be considered.

"The nuclear issue has to be solved through negotiations and diplomatic endeavours. This idea of a military solution is unacceptable," Kang Kyung-wha said at a news briefing on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Honestly, I've been impressed that this type of statement has been rather muted for the last year given the obvious divergence of our worries. South Korea has seemed pretty solid despite the threats to Seoul.

The thing is, America finds the idea of a nuclear threat from North Korea unacceptable. I am certain Washington will consult South Korea first prior to striking North Korea so our ally can prepare to defend Seoul, but consulting is not the same as asking permission.

And Japan seems more willing to hit North Korea alongside America if it diminishes the chance of also being the second country in history to be nuked.

So the changing situation may mean that America plans with Japan to strike North Korea while merely consulting with South Korea to give them a chance to cope with the North Korean response.

Or will China act against North Korea to make any type of American consultation moot?

My gut feeling is that our military has been told to gear up for a major strike campaign sometime in 2018, before we think North Korea can build nuclear missiles that can reach American territory.

And I think we've let the Chinese know that we will support them if they act forcefully to stop the North Koreans on this nuclear path--with trade deals favorable to China to follow.

So what do American consultations with China look like these days?

NOTE: A few saw this Saturday morning when my attempt to schedule this for today failed. Sometimes clicking on a date doesn't work and this time I didn't wait to make sure the date selected held before hitting publish. I also added a bit to the post in the interim.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Identification to Friend and Foe

I'm no expert, but this seems really bad:

Some of the military’s most advanced aircraft could be tracked by adversaries, with greater precision than radar, if security flaws in the latest signal technology aren’t addressed.

The risk is associated with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out transponder technology. According to a Government Accountability Office report released this month, a 2010 Federal Aviation Administration rule requires all military aircraft to be equipped with ADS-B Out transponders by Jan. 1, 2020, as part of its program to modernize the air transportation system, but neither the Department of Defense nor the FAA has taken significant steps to mitigate security risks.

It's so sporting our our country to lift the burden on enemy research and development people tasked with overcoming our stealth advantage by requiring our F-22 stealth planes to broadcast their location in ways an enemy might be able to use.

Tell me again that when I worry about our carriers being self-targeting that I'm being ridiculous.

Ready to Go

From the Well, Duh files: Senator Duckworth thinks the American military is far closer to being able to strike North Korea than people at home think:

When Senator Tammy Duckworth returned from a recent trip to South Korea and Japan, she brought back a sobering message: “Americans simply are not in touch with just how close we are to war on the Korean peninsula.” In a speech at Georgetown University, she laid out the U.S. military maneuvers over the past several months—including a nuclear-powered submarine heading to South Korea, the movement of three aircraft carriers to the Western Pacific, and the Army testing out “mobilization centers” for deploying troops and training soldiers to fight in tunnels like those beneath North Korea—that inform this worry. In an interview with me, she said the U.S. military seems to be operating with the attitude that a conflict “‘will probably happen, and we better be ready to go.’” ...

The U.S. military, she said, is “beyond the training stage. They’re at the getting ready for operational readiness state, with—and I heard this time and time again—hope that they never have to” fight.

Well, I admit that I pay attention more than most people. But I think it has been obvious. And honestly, I'd bet that most Americans (wrongly) think that of course we have long had the capability to strike North Korea.

The real story is that it is taking so much effort to restore the ability to take action. Eight years of military readiness neglect created this particular problem.

On a point of order, the senator of course blames Trump for the risk of war. Given that North Korea has claimed America has been preparing to invade and conquer that Pearl of Northeast Asia for 50 years should disabuse her of the notion that we send dangerous signals with our preparations. North Koreans hear "dog whistle" signals of war regardless of what we do or who is president.

And the reason that we have this problem is that North Korea is aggressive and pursuing nuclear weapons in defiance of the sainted international community's opinion. If Duckworth is unhappy that it has fallen to Trump to enforce the international consensus that North Korea must not have nukes, perhaps she should ask why Obama didn't deal with the problem when his superior nuance could have been applied.

Of course, it may be that the Obama administration tried but that the North Koreans were unwilling to pretend to give up WMD ambitions as the Syrians (chemical weapons) and Iranians (nuclear weapons) were when they signed deals that in no way prevent them from gaining (and in Syria's case, using) WMD.

Mind you, I'm not seeking to blame Obama for this situation. This is a problem that goes back through Bush 43 and Bill Clinton, so it is a bipartisan failure.

Further, I'm not even saying that it was a bad idea to hope that North Korea could collapse before going nuclear. It didn't work out, but it was not the worst bet to make given the problems of taking action that could prompt the conventional destruction of Seoul.

But that gamble failed and here we are with a nuclear-armed North Korea soon to have weapons that can reach the United States.

The bright side is that the delay in doing something means the North Korean conventional options are far more limited due to the massive degradation of their military power. So if we can knock out the small North Korean nuclear force and industrial base, the price North Korea might be able to impose for America taking action could be far less than what it would have been 5, 15, or 25 years ago.

So yeah, right now we are getting ready to go to war. What other option do we have if China won't deal with the problem before we are ready to go?

Remember, the only reason we are getting ready to go is that North Korea is going nuclear. Where the world will go with that capability should scare the Hell out of everyone.

Have a super sparkly day.

And Now, Iran?

We're running out of non-Iranian problems to deal with in the Middle East.

Strategypage looks at Iraq, with a short look at Syrian Kurds:

The government has a hard time getting everyone to agree on who the most urgent future threat is. Iran is the most frequently mentioned threat, the one that even many Shia Iraqis regard as a neighbor more interested in subjugating than supporting Iraq. But Iran is also the neighbor with the most armed and organized local support inside Iraq. One side effect of this is that Iraqi leaders still support links with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Turkey, Jordan and the United States.

On the issue of Iranian influence in Iraq, yes it is there. But most Iraqi Shias reject Iran. Add in the Sunni Arabs and Sunni Kurds and that is a potentially decisive coalition. But those who support Iran are armed and dangerous. And the anti-Iran coalition is shaky and vulnerable to Iranian measures to divide and conquer.

But America's defeat of Saddam in 2003 did not cause the Iranian influence as so many Americans like to claim. One reason Saddam invaded Iran in 1980 was the worry about the growing and dangerous influence of revolutionary Iran among Iraq's Shia population.

What America's defeat of Saddam did was replace the anti-American and anti-Iranian Iraqi government with a pro-American but less hostile to fellow Shia Iran government that fights terrorists as our ally rather than supporting terrorists who like to kill us.

This change that was positive for America left room for Iran to expand influence in Iraq, but only because we did not manage to support the new pro-American government and couldn't get Arab states to focus on supporting the Arab side of Shia-Arab Iraqis against Shia Persians rather than worry about the Shia side allying with the non-Arab Shia Persians.

The recent problem of Iran backing the PMF Shia militias was caused by the opportunity that the rise of ISIL gave Iran--which was enabled by the withdrawal of American troops form Iraq in 2011.

President Obama to his credit did order Iraq War 2.0 to reverse that self-inflicted wound. Although the war seemed designed to be slow enough to allow Obama's term to end before needing to confront their nuclear deal "partner" Iran post-ISIL caliphate while "doing something" to avoid blame for defeat.

And now we face the problem of reversing the expanded revolutionary Iranian influence in Iraq (and the entire region). Not that this will solve all the problems. But it sure will help.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

It is too soon to say that Trump's foreign policy has been a triumph. Certainly, it is fine to say that it hasn't been a disaster as critics charged he would create by abandoning long-standing leadership in the world. And it is fair to say that he has put our foreign policy on a sounder foundation for future success. But that is obviously in the future. And given that enemies get a vote, too, as well as plain bad luck, even a superior American foreign policy than we've had doesn't guarantee success. Just saying.

I still find it amusing that liberals say that "if not for the Electoral College, Trump wouldn't have won." Sadly, the Electoral College is the way we elect our president.  That's the contest Trump waged and won. Why wasn't Clinton playing the same game rather than running up her irrelevant popular vote tally in California?

On a related matter, I never argued or believed that people who voted for Obama were stupid or evil. I explicitly said that Republican failure to make the case for McCain or Romney better than Obama made his case was the reason for Obama's victories. So Democrats need to stop trying to persuade voters to side with them by accusing those who didn't back Clinton of being deplorable people.

So the HBO documentary is a comedy? Regrets. She's had a few. But too few to mention. She did it Obama's way. With apologies to Frank Sinatra and a hat tip to Instapundit. I'm guessing that documentary will be popular on the right.

Drill, baby, drill. This was the result of fracking which went around the government's road blocks. Imagine what we could have done if President Obama hadn't stood in the way of conventional drilling. Recall that Obama said this couldn't be done; and note too that Obama lied in ways the media didn't mind, as opposed to Trump's lying which offends them. And let's not even get into the Clintons' way of lying, which taught us about "parsing" language ("it depends on what the meaning of  the word 'is' is").

If a speculated Chinese laser designed to destroy space junk in orbit can't also be used as a weapon to create more space junk, they're doing it wrong.

Why can't America be more like France? Tip to Instapundit.

It disturbs me that some people can't understand that Mark Steyn isn't defending white supremacists but pointing out the obvious fact that while we can't do anything about white supremacists who, as American citizens, have the right to be here despite being completely awful people; we can do something about illegal aliens who can be legally ejected. Any group of odious American citizens--including HuffPost writers--have a superior right to be in America than any illegal alien, no matter what their status in the process of granting sainthood. And this basic fact doesn't dispute that the vast majority of illegal aliens are no doubt far better people than the white supremacists. What part of "You're stuck with them" is unclear? That obvious observation is "going off the rails?" Is Mazza unhappy that the federal government doesn't have the power to eject citizens deemed odious? Add into this comparison that there are a lot of illegal aliens but very few actual white supremacists. Bias really does block the path from ears to brain.

I've noticed that I'm putting a lot more domestic policy rants in the weekend data dump. Yes, they are reactions to what I consider to be unfair portrayals in the media and so are really about media bias in my mind, which I've long commented on. It is now a target-rich environment now. But still, I'm not trying to be an all-purpose blogger so I think I'm going to try to stop. The one-year mark of the Trump presidency is here and I think I've explained enough that I don't like Trump personally, despair that he can pivot to being presidential, and don't trust that he won't stray to his liberal roots; but I'm not worried he is a budding tyrant, am pleased about his appointments and policies, and still pleased that he isn't the corrupt Hillary Clinton; and that I am frustrated by the "turning the dial to 11" full opposition mode of Democrats and our very partisan press that largely considers itself the public relations arm of the Democratic Party. Okay? Perhaps this is a good commentary to end what I feel was my defensive and reactive foray into domestic politics.

I'm not on board the notion that we are actually living in a simulation. Although it is a fascinating thought experiment. It occurred to me that Groundhog Day could be a story not about a time loop but of a simulation where the player keeps saving at the same point to try different strategies and when they don't work, restarts the simulation at the save point. Just a thought.

I never saw any of the fake news that Russians generated through Facebook. Because I rarely used Facebook and never used it as a news source (and finally deleted my account last year). Which leads to the question of why you would even rely on Facebook for your news if you are worried about fake news? Just get off the Hamster wheel, people.

I agree that focus on the southern border wall ignores visa overstays. I've noted before that a "wall" (more accurately border barriers that can include walls)--properly defended because any unguarded barrier can be defeated by determined people (which is why I really hate that 10-foot wall versus 11-foot ladder nonsense)--must be accompanied by efforts to stop people who come in legally but stay longer than they are allowed . So E-verify for employers is a good idea and consistent with an active defense. And while it might very well be more relevant as a solution for job-seeking immigrants, "the wall" is still important for border security (national security and law enforcement) as well as restricting illegal immigration. I'm just not sure why it has to be a choice. And if we find employers can't hire workers even offering higher wages without illegal immigrants to hire? Well, Congress can debate how to allow legal immigration in numbers necessary to provide employees. People who favor unrestricted immigration like to say that America was built by immigrants. I basically agree (and believe as a nation of ideas that anybody can become an American). Isn't being able to control immigration a way to make sure the immigrants who arrive do build something, including building a new life as an American?

A border wall? Islamophobic, racist haters. I've been told that's the explanation, anyway.

I've noticed a major change in my blogging over the last nearly 16 years. I once used to routinely critique in detail foreign policy or defense pieces by analysts I have no respect for: Korb, Friedman, Zakaria, Carpenter, and Krugman, for example. Now I hardly ever bother with them. I think it reflects growing confidence in my own analysis rather than relying on picking apart what I saw as the errors of others. Or maybe I got bored with them. It is quite possible that the urgency of winning the Iraq War was my motive and that after we won on the battlefield my motivation to refute voices arguing for defeat dissipated. Or maybe I'm wrong to have more confidence. I'm biased on that issue, I admit.

Rats might not have been the cause of the spread of the Plague, based on models of various causes compared to death rates. One historian says it is plausible but expresses concern that the study focused on Europe rather than including Asia and Africa. Good grief, was this study a micro-aggression, or something?

This article argues against the West (that is, America) intervening in Yemen. I'm on board with that. I'm fine with backing the Saudi effort and a parallel effort to kill jihadis when we identify them. But as I've said before, Yemen is a clusterfuck of problems that I'd rather avoid directly entering.

It should go without saying that a college professor shouldn't have their own brown shirt street thug gang. Local defense forces can be useful tools when needed to defeat a threat to peace and security, although they must be disbanded when the threat passes lest they become a threat to peace and security. In America there is no need to justify such a risky scheme in the first place. Tip to Instapundit.

It's a relief to have our government understand that North Korea could sell nuclear missile technology to Iran. Yes, that could spark a Middle Eastern nuclear arms race if not a global race in response. I've long worried that any deal with Iran would fail to stop Iran's paths to nuclear weapons outside of Iran. (And that was before Israel destroyed a secret North Korean nuclear reactor under construction in Iran's client Syria.) Indeed, I worry that North Korea could even sell Iran complete nuclear weapons. It's weird. It's almost as if they are part of some, oh I don't know, axis of evil, or something. Understanding the problem is not solving it, but it is a start.

You know, I'm sympathetic to letting DACA people stay in America legally. They were brought here as children illegally but it wasn't their fault. But if they want my support to stay, they should ask me and not demand it like it is their effing right. Tip to Instapundit.

The world discovers that Trump's economic policies aren't so bad after all. I have worries about his protectionist instincts but didn't believe he would really unravel free trade deals. Some will be renegotiated but the basic reality is that trade is good for us and our trading partners. That will not change.

Mali remains in bad shape although thanks to the French it is better than when jihadis controlled the north.

"Green" Europe in order to meet (on paper) their renewable energy mandates now allows their energy companies to burn wood grown and harvested for that purpose rather than wood scraps. Which is worse than even coal as far as the carbon footprint is concerned. But that's okay. On paper they will look good on renewable energy. And remember too that Europe established baselines for measuring their carbon emission goals that include East European inefficient heavy industry that would have been shut down anyway after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact.

A lot of things look bad in regard to government actions during the 2016 campaign, but I don't assume they are as bad as they seem. Heck in high school the Coalition Against Fascism that I set up as a joke organization (those eligible to join the National Honor Society but who refused to join the elitist group) was viewed as an actual subversive group, or something. I used Nazi and Fascist symbols combined with Communist slogans. I put flyers in the NHS case and booby-trapped the computer room to spit out CAF propaganda. It was a joke. Sadly someone cracked the glass on the NHS case and suspicions fell on the CAF. So that brief mention of a FBI "secret society" resistance group in text messages could be humor. It is likely that it is. But if things are as bad as they are described (by admittedly partisan people), rule of law in our own country is endangered if this is not corrected. I go on about rule of law fairly often as an important factor in reducing conflict in other countries. We should prioritize it at home and not assume factions can undermine it to their own advantage without destroying it.

Critics complain that the Taliban are demonized in the movie 12 Strong. The "good war." The war that Iraq distracted us from waging. The war President Obama escalated dramatically, sending American troop levels to 100,000 and driving up casualties. The war what has enemies of cartoon-level black and white levels of evil brutality. But we've always had Americans who admire scum. Hitler had his per-Holocaust admirers as did Mussolini. Stalin had admirers who simply ignored the known gulags. Mao had admirers despite his body count. And there were those even when the ruins of the 9/11 attacks were still smoldering who blamed America for provoking the terror mass murder, asking "why do they hate us?" as if we deserved the rage. Even Putin has his admirers today. That is all shameful. So it is no shock that there are movie reviewers who might think the Taliban were demonized. To Hell with those people. I always knew they would change their mind about the good war.

The argument that Trump will dump the horrible Iran deal because of rampant American "Islamophobia" is so breathtakingly stupid that it boggles the mind that someone with a PhD could espouse it. Iran has institutionalized "Death to America!" as their national motto. America remains friends and allies with virtually every Moslem-majority state on the planet but for revolutionary Iran (and we were allies when the Shah ran Iran recall) and Syria, yet somehow "Islamophobia" is rampant and the reason America could want to ditch the horrible Iran deal sold to the American people with deception. Jesus, some people are just dumb as rocks. Many thousands of Americans died to save Moslems in Iraq and Afghanistan. Note too that the author talks about virtually everything but Iran's behavior. He'd have to, eh? So he can take that Islamophobia charge and shove it up his tenure.

Heads should roll over the MSU criminal sexual conduct scandal. But I too was struck by the judge's horrific notion that prisoner justice should kill the man found guilty and that her narcissistic speech was all about her. I'll add that I worry that the judge's speech and comments will offer defense attorneys ample opportunity to appeal and overturn the conviction or get a mistrial declared.

Britain needs to get out of the European Union with whatever deal they can put together and figure out how to fix problems later once safely out. Pro-Brexit quibbles over details play into the hands of Remainers who would love nothing more than to cause chaos to foment public regret that will be seized upon to slow down and cancel Brexit. There will be no more referenda on the issue if that happens.

The Navy claims to be puzzled about why the Iranians are no longer harassing American warships in the Gulf. Politeness may require that claim. Strategypage notes that many decades ago when the Soviets played "chicken of the sea" with our forces, we quietly told them we'd shoot if that continued. It scaled way back after that. But who knows what happened between Iranian harassment and Iranian non-harassment in August.

America won't chase the Palestinians to beg them to consider a peace deal short of killing every Jew on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Indeed, we are willing to cut the subsidy that long allowed the Palestinians to hold the title of most stupid, self destructive people on the Earth despite a real run for their money by Iraqi Sunni Arabs during the Iraq War. America's ambassador to the UN Haley isn't impressed with Palestinian outrage (Abbas damned our money--your wish is granted?) which probably stems from their sudden and very recent dethroning as queen of the victim prom.

I'm just going to say that if false rumors of an affair with a woman started up that I'd appreciate it if the woman simply denied the rumor rather than saying the rumor is "disgusting." Not that my ego is fragile. Just saying.

After the fruitless search for presidential candidate collusion with dangerous foreigners in 2017, it is nice to finally see credible accusations of actual collusion--with terrorists, no less! I guess somebody didn't hear about the queen of the prom dethroning, eh?

Let them eat Nutella. American liberal disdain for fly-over country "deplorables" is nothing compared to French elite views of their non-"successful people."

I'm skeptical that he's an "ex-communist."

Does Poland really want America's commitment to their defense to be that they are in NATO--like Belgium is--by throwing away their status of an outpost of the free West under threat from Russia?

So these State Department employees claim that they are being punished for being pro-Obama? Really? That's their claim? Aren't they supposed to be nonpartisan servants of whoever is president? Isn't complaining about that bias grounds for dismissal?

Build, Claim, Repeat, Marines

If China is going to build island bases in the South China Sea by literally building islands out of land features that rise above the sea level, a new island hopping campaign by American and allied marines could be the result should there be a war.

China appears to have very ambitious plans for creating and fortifying bases in the South China Sea:

Nextbigfuture makes the obvious observation that China will modernize its dregger fleet and triple dredging capacity again over the next 15 years. China will spend $2 to 4 billion per year on better ships and on operations to build islands.

The Paracel Islands are a chain of some 130 tiny features. China will likely building up dozens into islands with airports, missile facilities and ports.

Mind you, that's Nextbigfuture's prediction based on dredging capabilities and interpretations of Chinese statements, and not a Chinese announcement.

But it is not a far-fetched conclusion. China has proven that building and fortifying islands is possible and may have the ambition to do far more.

Which means that the United States Marine Corps could face a smaller-scale version of their Pacific island hopping campaign in World War II.

But rather than infrequent major assaults on heavily defended islands, the Marines might face lots of small island garrison requiring smaller forces to assault.

Which means that the Marines might need smaller armed transports (that's behind a firewall--basically I call for smaller armed transports to carry company-sized Marine elements) to take and garrison the smallest islands (and to swarm the larger--but still small--bases).

Remember too that just like the World War II campaign, the Marines (and allied contingents from Australia and Japan, for example) won't need to take over 50 fortified islands in the South China Sea to deny China control. Select islands will need to be taken and turned into allied bases while the rest can be bombed into ineffectiveness and left isolated to die--as long as American-led naval and air power can control the seas, of course.

Still, the skills and equipment needed to storm the beaches and drive inland won't apply when there is no beach to hit and no inland to reach. The Navy and Marines will need to practice how to suppress the defenses of such bases in order to land troops right into the teeth of shooting defenders who have no room to retreat.

That excessive Chinese claim for control of the South China Sea is why China's apparent ambition is a problem. I honestly wouldn't care--for purposes of peacetime usage of the region--if China purchased every island and land feature from every other claimant in honestly voluntary negotiations if China didn't illegally use that control to claim control of nearly all of the South China Sea and end its status as an international waterway.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Colossus of Rhodes

Arrogance and naïvety were the defining features of Obama foreign policy:

The Final Year, though, is chiefly a study of Obama-administration foreign policy as overseen by Secretary of State John Kerry, Power, and Rhodes, who at the time of filming had become (in)famous for telling The New York Times Magazine that he had set up an “echo chamber” in Washington of Obama sycophants in order to mislead the American people about expert opinion on the Iran deal, and for pouring contempt on D.C. reporters, who he said were typically 27 and “literally know nothing.”

I was completely flabbergasted by the uniform accolades given the Iran nuclear deal in the media given that I actually read the published deal and found it unbelievably bad--even without seeing the secret side deals that multiplied the badness.

Ah memories! Back when "fake news" wasn't something to be resisted. If the media said something was an apple, then by God it was an apple even if it had a strange yellow tinge and odd shape!

Who was I to believe? My lying eyes or the combined wisdom of all those experts who unknown to me had been orchestrated by Rhodes to parrot Obama administration talking points.

Indeed, President Obama claimed near-uniformity of praise for the deal exceeding even the claim of  support for the consensus of the global warming peril. And if President Obama heard no good argument against the deal, it was because he didn't want to hear them.

Being a simple unfrozen caveman blogger, I trusted my lying eyes, it goes without saying.

But I am frightened and confused by the willingness of the media to function as an echo chamber.

Then. Not now, of course.

You Have to Spend Money to Make Allies

America needs to spend a lot of money on defense to attract allies.

America spends a lot of money on defense. There are reasons for that (and I didn't even mention that we maintain reserve stocks of ammo and spare parts that allies rely on), which mean that our military capacity isn't as large as a simple money comparison with potential foes implies. If so, South Vietnam would exist, for example.

But one thing thing that really bugs me is that opponents of military spending like to point out the top X defense spenders and say that the overwhelming number of them are our allies. So why do we spend so much money on defense?

The summary of the new national defense strategy gets at why this is so:

Mutually beneficial alliances and partnerships are crucial to our strategy, providing a durable, asymmetric strategic advantage that no competitor or rival can match. This approach has served the United States well, in peace and war, for the past 75 years.

The existence of all those allies willing to fight with us or at least cooperate with us magnifies our defense capacity while denying potential foes allies.

I've noted this explicitly in regard to China's rising power and regional allies in the western Pacific, but it applies generally.

If we don't spend on defense to create decisive military power capable of reaching distant regions where our allies are, over time--despite common interests in democracy that you'd wrongly think bind us forever--those allies would drift to neutrality and some would even become allies of our nearby foes who can defeat our allies because America can't provide the margin of victory needed to win.

Knowledge that America is a friend and can extend our power to help defend them keeps allies with us.

Spending enough on defense to keep our alliance network intact is a wise investment. If we ever fail to do that, we will find that having Eurasia and Africa dominated by foes and their allies or clients would require America to spend a lot more to defend the Western Hemisphere. Each ally that goes neutral would require America to make up for that spending loss; and every ally that joins our foes would require America to make up for the loss of spending and counter the addition of spending to our foe's side.

The loss of overseas bases would also add to our military costs if we hoped to fight over there rather than over here.

And we would likely not be able to afford that because the world economy would be organized in ways that favor those who dominate the Old World rather than America and our allies.

Turkey Still Needs America

Will Turkey roll all the way east to the Iraq border or be content with an operation west of the Euphrates River?

This is ominous:

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday Turkish forces would sweep Kurdish fighters from the Syrian border and could push all the way east to the frontier with Iraq -- a move which risks a possible confrontation with U.S. forces allied to the Kurds.

While you can't rule out stupidity or premature delusions of grandeur, Turkey isn't capable of standing on its own as a regional power yet. So moving east of the Euphrates River to hit the focus of America's efforts in Syria--the Kurds with some Arabs to broaden the coalition beyond the Kurds--would be a major break with America.

And as much as America needs to keep the Kurds happy-ish, I doubt America would do more than try to limit the collateral damage (that's dead people) and duration of the Turkish ground operation so far confined to the west.

But Turkish statements that they might push east make it look like a compromise if they stop after gaining a buffer in the west.

And since the Turkish operation really is anti-Assad and Russia backs Assad, Turkey can't totally anger the counter-weight to long-time enemy Russia.

I can't help but think that there is some acting going on here when everyone knows the Turkish operation will be limited to the west.

Just a hunch and I could be wrong, of course. Just in case I'll repeat that I would quietly withdraw our nuclear bombs stored in Turkey so Erdogan doesn't get the idea he could get an instant nuclear deterrent by sending in special forces to take our nukes. Yes, there are probably safeguards to prevent use. But Erdogan could claim to have bypassed them. And given time he might. Or maybe just getting the nuclear material is enough of a head start on nukes for him.

As I think about it, it would be funny if our bombs in Turkey are actually inert and just a placebo stockpile.

UPDATE: This might be the olive branch that restricts Turkish operations  to west of the Euphrates:

The United States has told Turkey it will not provide any more weapons to the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, the Turkish presidency said on Saturday, as Turkey's offensive against the U.S.-backed YPG in Syria entered its eighth day.

We probably gave them enough anyway. And the unstated "we can add to their arsenal if needed" if Turkey goes too far is likely understood. We have recognized that Turkey has legitimate security concerns. Does Turkey also recognize American security concerns?

UPDATE: More, including a discussion of why the Kurds under assault in northwest Syria are outside of the American defense umbrella.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Alligator Arms at the Collective Defense Dinner

An inquiry by an independent commissioner into Germany's large group of people wearing similar clothing has revealed it is not capable of fighting:

He has now reached the conclusion that the German military is virtually “not deployable for collective defense.” Independent commissioner Hans-Peter Bartels also indicated in an interview that Germany was unprepared for the possibility of a larger conflict even though smaller operations abroad may still be possible.
A couple years ago when reporting on weaknesses in Germany's military, I was astounded to discover that Germany had a military.

That Washington Post article hauls this out:

In a history-burdened nation that has been among the most war-weary since reunification in 1990, the military is still viewed with more skepticism than elsewhere.

So how many guilt-ridden former concentration camp guards are still standing in the way of a real German military?

This is a bullshit excuse when you remember that during the Cold War the West Germans had the best armored force in NATO, bar none. And East Germany had the best quality army in the Soviet Union's Warsaw Pact. What? no guilt then?

And Trump is too new to be a believable excuse. So just stop that right now.

It is symbolic that the Post article on military weakness prominently highlights a transgender German officer who should be more upset at the state of Germany's army than of Trump's enlistment policies. That's the editor's decision and not the article author, mind you. But maybe the German military has misplaced priorities is all I'm saying.

Germany's excuse is growing tiresome as I wrote in my post that I cited above:

I keep reading that the Germans hate their militaristic past so much that they don't want to fight.

Let's try applying the clue bat to Germany's collective skull on this issue.

Conquering and setting up death camps under the shield of a powerful military? That's bad. By all means, don't do that.

Having a military capable of fighting death cult enemies or stopping the Russians from moving west? Well, that's a good thing. Try doing that.

Europe's wealthiest country is a cheapskate. This is embarrassing. Or should be.

Russia, recall, excuses their belligerence and aggression as a justified response to their dark fantasies that the Germans will roll east a third time if Russia doesn't gain a buffer zone.

UPDATE: The U.S. Army secretary called on Germany to chip in for dinner:

"It's important for all of our NATO allies to live up to their commitments," Esper said during a teleconference on Monday. "If not, it weakens the alliance, clearly, and Germany is such a critical member of NATO."

Germany isn't even close to spending 2% of their GDP on defense. In 2017 it is expected to spend 1.13%.

The Nuclear Wall

In the past I've noted that given American conventional military power that having a nuclear weapons-free world is to America's advantage. Russia by contrast must have nuclear weapons because of their conventional weakness. So obviously they oppose the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Russia has too few trained troops and warplanes to defend their long land border. Really, despite chest thumping and flinging poo, Russia's strategic position is difficult (especially when they make things worse by provoking hostility in neighbors, so make that "because of" rather than "despite," I suppose).

Russia can't afford to build an army that can defend their border because China is becoming a major military threat to Russia.

That factor alone could make it impossible for Russia to afford a conventional defense of their territory. Add to China the traditional three sources of Russian weakness identified in the 19th century: Poland, the fleet, and the Caucasus.

Russia doesn't control Poland but Russia is trying to pose a threat to Poland, which requires offensive land and air power. Russia is provoking NATO to see Russia as a threat to NATO members Poland and the Baltic states. Which requires even more Russian land and air power to overcome.

And keep in mind that in large measure the Russian war against Ukraine is related to Poland by controlling a route into Russia (or a route into Poland from Russia).

Yet consider that since the Cold War the NATO military capacity in Europe had dwindled to the point where few European NATO countries can field even a small conventional force to fight outside their borders. Russian hostility is erasing the quiet western border--and the ability to spend little to defend that border--that Russia has enjoyed.

The fleet--if Russia truly wants to rebuild their Soviet glory days of a globe-spanning navy--is another source of weakness when every ruble spent on a blue water navy is better spent to build up land border defenses and air power to support it.

As for the Caucasus? Post-Soviet Russia has fought three wars there--two in Chechnya and one against Georgia. It is a wound that won't heal that sucks up Russian resources far from Russia's core regions that need to be defended. Maybe there is an argument for paying so much to hold Chechnya (I don't know what it is), but are Abkhazia and South Ossetia really important enough

So Russia will never give up nuclear weapons. Although they are hardly the silver bullet that solves all territorial defense problems.

So Russian security would be better secured with peace with NATO, refusing endless wars in the Caucasus, and a navy built for coastal defense and protecting nuclear ballistic missile submarines in coastal bastions.

And yes, if there were no nuclear weapons (and I mean no nuclear weapons, since a cheater with a couple dozen would have leverage in a crisis--so I don't actually think a total nuclear ban could work given verification problems), America would have an advantage (I mentioned this as an aside near the end of the post) and Russia would have a disadvantage. And China would likely gain an advantage, too, because their military is far better and because they potentially face a lot of nuclear-armed foes if nuclear proliferation spreads to weaker neighbors of China.

Anyway, Russia is hardly about to give up nukes. A rising China adds a fourth source of Russian weakness, a new reality that arrived after Russia seized large chunks of their Far East in the 19th century from a weakened China that the Russians can't change, on top of the three self-inflicted Russian sources of weakness

Enough Neutrality to Be Safe?

Belarus seems to be stiff-arming Russia while reassuring Russia that no Western country will gain bases closer to Russia:

The government of Belarus has announced that it will not permit more than two foreign military bases on its territory. There are now two Russian military bases in Belarus, and it is unlikely that any other country has suggested placing bases there. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the Russians have asked Belarus for additional facilities and that the Belarusians have turned them down.

Belarus has seen in Crimea 2014 what Russia can do if they have a base inside your country to stage an invasion from. Belarus is much bigger than Crimea so they may figure that just two Russian bases isn't enough to stage a complete takeover rapidly.

I am fine with the status quo for Belarus that prevents Russia from fully using Belarus as a staging area to attack west or south. Belarus is a friendly buffer for Russia but not a corridor for Russia to invade NATO or Ukraine.

As I've noted, Belarus may be the most important territory in Europe today.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Base of Dreams

What is Turkey doing building a naval base in Sudan by leasing Suakin Island? Is it all an appeal to China?

A base in Sudan gives Turkey the option to either protect or interfere with Red Sea shipping lanes; and as a staging base to reach their bases in Somalia and Qatar (noted in the 10th paragraph).

Egypt and Saudi Arabia oppose the Turkish base (from the first Strategypage link). Since the Saudis already bankrolled Egypt's purchase of two French Mistral helicopter carriers that France denied Russia in the wake of Russia's invasion of Crimea, those two probably figure they have the Arab forces needed for any operation in the Red Sea and don't need the Turks mucking around there.

A mobile base that Turkey will equip will be able to move between these bases to support them and project power beyond them to extend Turkish influence.

One possibility that Turkey may have in mind is making themselves useful to China by protecting the sea portion of China's One Belt One Road (aka New Silk Road) project heading to Europe to expand trade.

Turkey needs a patron until (in their mind) they are a fully capable (nuclear-armed?) regional power. Islamist ideology may make America (and NATO) unsuited to that role for Erdogan; and Russia is a long-time enemy of Turkey that is no more than a fleeting ally for dealing with immediate problems of a multi-war on Turkey's southern border.

Does Turkey see China as that patron to balance America and Russia? And if Turkey builds this security string of pearls network, will China come?

Turkey isn't going to rebuild their Ottoman Empire. Arabs don't have fond memories of Turkish rule.

But the Turks could be trying to extend their influence in much the same way that France has extended influence in former colonial holdings in west Africa.

Just as France relies on America to support their efforts when the going gets rough (and this isn't an attempt to insult France who I am glad makes the effort; it is a statement on capabilities) the Turks will find that they need at least American sufferance to operate this quasi empire.

Heck, if Egypt blocked the Suez Canal, the Turks are cut off from their new far-flung outposts.

So the question asked about whether Trump's anti-Iran strategy in Syria can survive Turkey's anti-Kurd operation in Syria is "yes." While we don't like what Turkey is doing, as long as it is largely restricted to west of the Euphrates River and doesn't have too many pictures of dead toddlers, America will grit our teeth and hope the Turkish operation ends soon.

The real question is whether Turkey's quasi empire strategy can survive American opposition if Turkey completely breaks with America (which I don't think makes sense for Turkey unless they have serious imperial delusions that include making Egypt their vassal state). I guess that is where China could come in.

Sure, we want to keep Turkey as an ally rather than drive them away. But that question isn't all on America. Turkey gets a vote on this, too, and they need to act like they want to keep America as an ally. Are they acting that way?

If alliance with America is what they ultimately want (and "they" is a unitary shorthand for Turkey, even though they surely have a variety of opinions within Turkey as to the value of America as an ally). I just don't know. But they are pulling away from both Europe and America.

So America should try to keep Turkey as an ally. My contrast of having Pakistan as an imperfect ally rather than an imperfect enemy applies here, too.

Oh, and I'll say again that I'd withdraw our nuclear bombs from Turkish soil. Turkey is still an ally. And could be a better one post-Erdogan. But they aren't that good of an ally lately.

As a process note, this post started as a data dump item of a couple sentences about the Sudan base, but it got promoted since I figured I had more to say about it as more news flowed by (yeah, lucky you, I know) and the China angle occurred to me.

UPDATE: Turkey is leveraging the Saudi-Qatar dispute to plan for air, naval, and ground forces in their Qatar base.

Moving the Front Line North

If America is to have a regional strategy of bolstering nations in Asia to resist Chinese ambitions, gaining the cooperation of Indonesia is important to knit together the Indian Ocean and the Pacific:

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says the Trump administration wants to help Indonesia play a central role in maritime security in the Asia-Pacific region. ...

Mattis told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. wants to help Indonesia realize its ambition to become a “maritime fulcrum” in the region.

The stated focus is combating terrorism. Okaaay. Let's go with that.

Longstanding ally Australia is an important piece of this as well, of course. A complementary fulcrum.

Australia will no doubt support this, preferring to be the rear area of the link between the Indian and Pacific oceans rather than the front line they were in the early part of World War II in the Pacific.

UPDATE: Wanting to impress our secretary of defense, Indonesian special forces troops smashed flaming bricks and drank snake blood.

Because our secretary of defense has a reputation as a serious warrior.

By contrast, if the German defense minister visited, Indonesia would have had their clerk-typists (and I say that with affection as a former fellow REMF) serve cherries flambe and would have drank a Zima or perhaps a lovely mineral water.

Big Fish in a Small Pond

China is building a surveillance network covering the South China Sea that will make it easier to target any warships or submarines operating there.

While this doesn't stop American (and allied) freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, this surveillance net will make operating there in wartime for any Chinese enemy difficult:

China has begun building a multi-sensor system for obtaining constant data on the precise location of surface and submarine vessels in the South China Sea. Surface surveillance would be carried out by a constellation of ten remote sensing satellites so that the South China Sea is under constant surveillance. ...

To make this surveillance system work China is using or adapting a lot of existing technologies. For underwater surveillance China is installing a network of underwater sensors similar to the American Cold War era American SOSUS (SOund Surveillance System).

Strategypage notes that by 2030 the Chinese will have 30 percent more warships than the American Navy.

America will have allies with good navies to help us. China will be able to concentrate their own navy with nearby shore-based air and missile support while America's navy is scattered across the globe.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

There is No Guarantee of American Victory

This simple statement in the summary of the national defense strategy is something I've wanted America to recognize in the post-Cold War world:

America’s military has no preordained right to victory on the battlefield.

Stating that peer competitors are now the main threat rather than smaller rogue states makes it imperative to abandon the notion that victory is our birthright.

It's the Task Force Smith syndrome that assumes that the presence of Americans on a battlefield will cause our foes to run away.

So the only real task we have is getting forces to the battlefield as fast as we can to get that benefit.

One of my early publications pre-TDR addressed lessons for the Army that could be gained from examining the Iraqi invasion of Iran in 1980. The idea that victory is not preordained was the big picture lesson:

We must not underestimate our potential foes as the Iraqis did in 1980. They will be clever just as we are. They will believe in the cause for which they are fighting. And they, too, will fight to win. We cannot assume that the sight of an American soldier will panic our enemy and induce retreat and surrender in the same manner that Iraq thought the Iranians would collapse when confronted with Iraq's over1whelming invasion force. That Iran fought even when the experts said they should give up is a lesson that must not be overlooked. We will need to fight, bleed and struggle for victory. To assume that any lesser effort will suffice is courting disaster in our hubris.

The thinking gaining traction at the time was that we could lighten up or shrink our Army as much as we wanted as long as we could rapidly get Americans on the ground to collect the victory.

In 2005 I wrote (commenting on a pre-TDR publication):

Victory in battle is not our birthright. We cannot simply assume that whatever we send to war will trounce the enemy in a networked blur of killing and so all we need to do is make our military vehicles easier to transport long distances. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. We need tanks--or something an awful lot like them--to defeat our enemies.

In 2006 I wrote:

Transitioning cleanly from war to stability operations is a fine concept. But we must not fail to use fast and intense violence to destroy our enemies when the balloon goes up. We should never ever assume victory and look to the post-war phase four stabilization mission as if battlefield victory is our birthright.

During major combat operations, grab the enemy by the balls. Their hearts and minds will follow.

A bit later in 2006 I reproduced an essay I'd written for a contest on the 10th anniversary of the Persian Gulf War (sadly, the contest disappeared with a new editor):

Technologically superior heavy forces and air power decisively prevailed in Desert Storm after a laborious deployment to the Gulf. With lighter and fewer but technologically superior troops, we expect to deploy globally from CONUS and smash any enemy rapidly and with few casualties. Desert Storm, updated to Information Storm, will become a Global Storm. Our Information Storm cannot become global without tradeoffs. If we lighten the Army too much and optimize it for stability operations, our troops will be shocked if we must fight even a single MTW, let alone something worse. Training to beat the Soviet first team provided tremendous benefits when we faced a lesser opponent such as Iraq. Now we train for lesser threats and too many question whether that is overpreparing.

In 2008 I wrote:

Don't start believing that crud that nobody would dare to take on our conventional forces in a straight-up conventional war based on our prowess in past fights. We've been down that path before.

In 2009 I wrote:

I'm not saying we shouldn't take our enemies seriously. We need to treat them as actors intent on victory and work to beat them. Victory is not our birthright.

In 2012 I wrote:

I hope that we don't create a military able to move a small force fast right into the jaws of defeat, like British troops disembarking from their transport ships at Singapore in 1942 only to march straight into Japanese captivity.

In 2015 I wrote:

We can lose a war. Victory is not our birthright. Let's build our Army so it is capable of smashing a resolute and effective enemy.

Yet it got worse than even assuming our Army could smash any foe no matter how small and light if it had enough technology.

In 2009 we assumed that in the "medium term" we faced no peer threat and could afford to slight defense preparation:

We've just instituted the Medium Term Rule on our defense spending. The problems that will flow from this plan won't show themselves in the near term. We can coast on our past progress in building the best military in the world. But have no doubt that our military strength will erode, and this means we are accepting risks in case we have to fight a conventional war in the medium term despite our assumption that we can still win such a war.

We won't cancel the Medium Term Rule until it's too late to do any good.

In 2017, the effects were apparent:

We aren't even involved in high-intensity conventional warfare against a peer-ish military. Yet we are emptying warehouses earmarked for other potential theater of war to bomb one ragged group holding ground in Syria and Iraq?


And this is even worse because America maintains stocks of ammunition that serve as the reserve for our allies who as a rule do not maintain such stocks. We had to replenish allies in the Libya War in 2011 despite the weakness of Khadaffi's surviving military in that civil war.

And ammunition is just one measure of our lack of readiness that is finally catching up with our military. (Tip to Instapundti.)

But don't say we weren't warned. This poor readiness is just one effect of the modern ten year rule we launched in 2009[.]

So two fatal assumptions--that victory is our birthright but we don't need to worry about waging a war against a tough enemy--are at least in the rear view mirror with this new military strategy.

Now we need to correct the past actions that flowed from those decisions to give us the military we now have rather than the military we now wish to have.

Mind you, this kind of warning about taking an enemy seriously is no excuse to fixate on what an enemy might do to us. Mattis has that covered, too:

Mattis was speaking to reporters at the Pentagon in the afternoon when one of them asked what Mattis' top concern for the year would be. Mattis, however, turned the question around.

"I don't have concerns. I create them," Mattis said, according to multiple reports.

Our enemies need to have concerns. Let's get on with it.

The Red Line Was Redrawn Last Year

Given that Trump already ordered a 2017 strike against a Syrian airfield in response to Syrian chemical warfare use, the Syrians should probably head for their bunkers:

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday the Syrian government may still be using chemical weapons against its own people following a suspected chlorine attack in a rebel enclave, and he said Russia bore ultimate responsibility.

Especially since Tillerson recently announced that America would remain involved in Syria post-ISIL in order to get rid of Assad.

Although maintaining the Obama red line on chemical weapons use is likely the only way America will use offensive power against Assad. This is a diplomatic effort as Tillerson's lead makes clear. As I noted before, the Kurds who provided the core anti-ISIL force could never be the force to overthrow Assad.

The only thing delaying a response could be the "may" modifier on the chemical attack source. If that changes, the missiles will fly again.

Assad agreed to get rid of his chemical weapons in 2013 with the help of the Russians backing the diplomatic effort. At the time it was called "Smart Diplomacy."

UPDATE: Tillerson gains says that Russia is responsible for preventing Assad from using chemical weapons.

Which is fair considering the Russians tricked Kerry (not a high degree of difficulty, I admit) into signing off on the 2013 chemical "disarmament" deal.

I imagine this is a warning to Russia that if they don't deal with Assad we will strike Assad's chemical delivery arsenal again.

Kill Them All

Good Lord, I didn't realize how brutal the Chinese government was at Tiananman Square on June 4, 1989:

The British estimate (declassified in 2017) agreed with the American intelligence estimate (over 10,000 dead and 40,000 wounded) that was released in 2014.

The British released a lot of details on how the attack was carried out, including the use of promises (quickly broken) to allow demonstrators (including survivors of the first round of killing) to leave. The troops apparently had orders to kill all civilians in the square and destroy the bodies where they fell. This included crushing the dead using armored vehicles, burning those remains and flushing those remains down storm drains. The area was sealed off for over a month so the cleanup could be thorough.

The Chinese government publicly says 300 died. Privately they say over 10,000 died, apparently.

But it worked. The shock of mass slaughter killed the impulse for democracy in China for the last 30 years. Or at least killed the potential leaders who might argue for democracy and organize the discontented Chinese who see the lack of freedom and the corruption that allows party members to live very well indeed.

The Chinese followed up with arrests and to this day still clamp down censorship on the anniversary.

Eventually the effects of such a mass killing wear off. The Elder Assad slaughtered civilians with an army assault on Hama in 1982 that kept their rule in Syria intact. Twenty-nine years later, in 2011, protests erupted that developed into a rebellion and then a multi-war as factions multiplied and foreign states and non-state entities entered the fray.

This June will be the 29th anniversary of Tiananman Square, coincidentally enough.

Obviously, I'm not saying Syria provides a template or timeline to predict China. But eventually the effects of a mass killing wear off.

And China's rulers do worry that they sit on top a mass of potentially revolutionary people who could be set off by a spark nobody sees coming.

Let's just hope China doesn't see a short and glorious foreign war as the tool to rally Chinese around the government. (Unless the target is North Korea. Hmmm.)

Nobody Expects the Islamist Inquisition

Christians are most under threat from Moslems. To be fair, even Moslems are most under threat from other Moslems.

No. Way!*

Open Doors USA released its 2018 World Watch List this month, and out of the 50 worst countries for Christian persecution, "Islamic Oppression" inspires persecution in 33. Worse, it drives oppression in eight of the eleven countries where Christians face "extreme" persecution, according to the list.

North Korea basically prevents Islam from getting the hat trick. Or to be fair, the jihadis within Islam bear responsibility--although non-jihadi governments fail to protect Christians even if the jihadis do the killing.

Of course, a report on Hindu, Buddhist, and animist persecution would have similar results.

Heck, a report on Moslem persecution would have the same Islamist source.

The Islamic world needs to resolve their civil war over who defines Islam by defeating the fanatics who fuel jihadi terrorism before the technology of nuclear weapons reaches sub-state levels of ease.

NOTE: I changed that introduction from "Get. Out!" to avoid the misinterpretation that I might be calling for the expulsion of Moslems. It's a Seinfeld thing.