Wednesday, February 28, 2018

From a Diety to a Demon

The change in media attitudes toward Russia on or about November 2016 is quite amazing given their cheerleading of the Obama administration "reset" with Russia:

Given the media dismissal of Donald Trump and its eagerness to canonize Barack Obama’s eight years with another eight of Hillary Clinton, Russia by late 2016 went from a deity to a demon. It was reinvented as Mitt Romney’s enemy of liberal democracy, and, after the election, served as Hillary Clinton’s excuse for losing the election — and Putin became the new ally and collaborator of Donald Trump!

But the change in media attitudes is fully explained by the change in Democratic attitudes that tracked the sudden 180 degree turn that the Obama administration took regarding Russia.

Did the Obama administration collude with Russia, then? Well, not really. Such parallel courses came naturally. Birds of a feather flock together.

Will Democratic resolve to oppose Russia endure after their resolve to resist Trump fades?

Premature But Correct Prediction?

Predictions--especially about the future--are hard, as George Friedman admits:

Last year at the SIC, I said the United States would likely launch a pre-emptive attack on North Korea. I failed to anticipate the level of opposition from South Korea, which would bear the brunt of the casualties in such an attack. Without South Korea’s support, the US reconsidered its position. No attack came.

I'm not here to condemn him for being wrong. I appreciate an analyst willing to use their best judgment and information to make a prediction.

But what strikes me is that he implies his information says we were going to strike last year but South Korea forced us to reconsider.

As I've noted before, sometime in the fall I got the impression that America had settled on carrying out a strike sometime this year on North Korea's nuclear infrastructure (and not a regime change effort--which would require heavy Chinese reassurances to North Korea--in an effort to give North Korea an incentive not to retaliate, lest we escalate to regime change efforts), before North Korea has a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead at the United States, if China doesn't act in some way to end North Korea's nuclear threat.

One reason I thought the strike would be this year rather than last year was that we needed time to prepare our forces with deploying needed units, training, equipping, and maintenance.

Indeed, until later last year I was impressed by how cooperative South Korea had been considering they are on the frontline of North Korean retaliation should we lead a strike campaign.

At some point, we might have to strike whether or not South Korea cooperates. That would certainly take more time so that no needed assets are in South Korea where they'd be grounded by South Korea.

So the logic that led to a prediction of an American attack in 2017 was sound. I think my guess (with far less information than Friedman has) has a basis in logic, too.

Which means that either prediction could be right even if timing is off. Or could be wrong if the facts change as Friedman says happened with his prediction. That happens too.

Of course, taking the time to prepare for a strike doesn't mean we strike. China might take action.

And I would never say that the strike option is free of problems. All options have potential problems.

UPDATE: Delays in making a decision may be relying on shifting estimates of when North Korea will have a nuclear missile capable of reaching the United States. Past estimates seemed to indicate sometime early this year. I recently heard that the intelligence people estimate a year or more, now.

So we have a bit more time and it is understandable that we hope the horse will sing given all the bad things that can happen regardless of what we do or don't do.

Define "Controlling" a City

I'm late to this article, but it is relevant. While it is an interesting article on urbanization and warfare, I don't get this argument about the uniqueness of fighting in a modern city:

Quinlivan demonstrated that two parameters determine force requirements to hold a city: population size and contention level. Comparing peaceful and conflict areas around the world, he shows that—depending on the level of contention—force requirements per thousand of population range from two lightly armed police officers in a patrol car to twenty heavily equipped and adequately supported members of the armed forces. In megacities, this rule completely changes the character of urban warfare. That force requirements for urban combat are proportionate to population size rather than enemy fighter strength puts the urban individual in the center of strategy development.

If an enemy army is holding the city, the population attitude will be irrelevant to our Army for the purpose of taking the city. And the population attitude will be a problem for the defending army, no? They will have the problems of defending against our Army and controlling the population.

And if no enemy army holds the city or in the situation following the defeat of the enemy army holding the city, what is new about the Quinlivan demonstration? How is controlling a city's population different than controlling a population generally based on size and resistance? The "rule" of 0.2% lower end security forces for a friendly population to 2% soldiers for a hostile population in a city is simply COIN 101.

And interesting enough, the author says--rightly I think--that high enemy kinetic resistance is a self-correcting problem as the violence pushes civilians to flee the city, making the city easier to control.

The author's description of the battles for Grozny in 1996 and 2000 demonstrate the difference between attacking a city with people and a city without them. Without them, Russian firepower could kill the defenders more easily and the enemy in the sealed off and mostly depopulated city could not replace losses from the population.

Of course, that simply shifts the COIN population control problem from the  particular city to the rural areas, other cities, or displaced persons camps, doesn't it?

But the result is that you do control the city.

And for a conventional war where the campaign continues against the enemy army in the field, "controlling" a captured enemy city in the short run only requires controlling the militarily significant features of a city rather than pacifying the entire city.

Yes, a city makes it easier for insurgents to mobilize resources from the concentrated people in a city.

But if the occupying power fighting to control the city has their finger on the food, energy, and transportation switches which the author says sways people more than other factors, doesn't the concentration of people who need those services just provide advantages to the occupying power, too? Is the balance between these really such that mega-cities provide a unique and new advantage for insurgents?

But more importantly, why would you waste effort pacifying a city when the enemy army in the field still fights and limited "military" control is sufficient to carry on that central campaign?

And if the enemy limits their insurgency efforts inside the city to avoid driving the people out, that simply makes it easier for the occupying army to control the militarily significant portions to continue the campaign, doesn't it?

Further, if insurgents fighting in a city too much can depopulate a city to the advantage of the attacker, the attacking army can do the same either through bombardment (see also Syria where Assad and his allies have done this on a massive scale) or by forcing or allowing evacuation of the city's civilians to clear the way for a more firepower intensive effort to to kill the enemy fighters holding the now-isolated city (see the fall 2004 Fallujah, Iraq campaign where we allowed people to flee the city before assaulting it).

In the end, whether you have a major problem fighting in a city depends on whether you need to control the key territory of the city or the people who live in the city.

Rather than seeing mega-cities as a trend to follow, I'm just not a fan of willingly entering the meat grinder of mega-city warfare except when absolutely necessary.

As an aside, I don't think the digression into Russia's Crimea campaign is relevant to the article's point of urban warfare and population mobilization. Seriously, how important was the AstroTurf "popular rebellion" when Ukraine "effectively had no military," except to fool gullible Westerners (or Westerners who wanted an excuse not to oppose Russia) that Russia hadn't just conquered Crimea?

Those Not Allowed to Do Have to Teach

Russia eventually learned in Syria that they needed to send advisors down to battalion headquarters to get Syrian units (SAA, the Syrian Arab Army) to exploit the firepower Russia was supplying directly or by enabling Syrian firepower (with equipment and logistics support):

Despite heavy bombardments, the local forces seemed reluctant to engage the opposition. These problems, according to Gerasimov, have been corrected by embedding Russian advisors with SAA units and supplying new weapons. Russian military advisors are present in SAA units down to battalion level: “They gather intelligence, plan and command operations under orders coming from the headquarters in Hmeymim,” Gerasimov said.

I'd forgotten, but this isn't the first time Russia learned this lesson. In the aftermath of Iranian offensives that inflicted serious defeats on the Iraqi army in 1986, the Soviets sent to their then-ally thousands of new advisors to frontline Iraqi units:

In the aftermath of [the offensive named] Dawn Eight, Moscow dispatched thousands of advisors, may of whom were sent to frontline units, to prop up Iraq.

The detail isn't in that summary of a book-length manuscript that languishes waiting for me to self-publish after almost [if you dim the lights and squint, I admit] getting it published years ago), but my memory is that it was down to battalion level. Which is why the article's wording triggered my memory of that event.

And this reality is why it sometimes frustrated me that there has been resistance to sending American advisors down to battalion levels to help our allies fight.

It's kind of funny that more than 30 years later after that Soviet effort in Iraq that Russia is (uneasily) aligned with Iran in Syria while Iraq is an American ally (albeit with unfortunate Iranian influence, which is nothing new and was in fact one of the reasons Iraq invaded Iran in 1980).

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Shattered, In Tatters, and Our Friend are So Alarming

I am fully on board the idea that attacking North Korea might turn out badly. But any option could turn out badly.

I don't buy this tale of disaster if America strikes North Korea:

But a true accounting of those costs would also include the likelihood that the U.S.-South Korea alliance would be shattered, along with the regional stability the United States spent 70 years trying to build. The global economy would be thrown into disarray; America would be on the hook for untold billions in reconstruction and refugee assistance. China would then move to replace the United States as the responsible regional leader.

Assuming America either gets South Korea to cooperate with a strike campaign or that the strike goes well and removes the nuclear threat against South Korea, why would the act of striking North Korea "shatter" the US-South Korea alliance?

Why would a strike campaign that doesn't escalate to war shatter the regional stability we've tried to build? Wouldn't removing North Korea's nuclear option stabilize things? Is the author saying that a North Korea pursuing nukes and a China staking out the South China Sea, claiming the East China Sea islands, and threatening to invade Taiwan doesn't destabilize the situation already?

And why would the global economy be thrown into disarray? North Korea has a negligible place in the global economy and the only thing we might miss is their cyber-thievery and ability to sell nuclear weapons to buyers. The only way the global economy gets hammered is if the strike escalates to a US-China fight.

As for untold billions to deal with refugees and help rebuild North Korea from decades of communist economic ineptitude and political cruelty, that assumes North Korea collapses due to the strike. If so, that's a price worth paying over several decades (and others have motive to spend for that, too) to end the North Korean nuclear threat, I say.

Pray tell, just how does an American-led war against North Korea allow China--which would have proved incapable of either reining in their little pet nuclear psycho or of stopping the American demonstration of power--become the "responsible" regional leader? Just who follows China in those circumstances?

And if China intervenes to defend that gulag with a UN seat and nukes, and doesn't get slammed around in the process, that is what will build Chinese regional leadership? Really?

Is continued America leadership in the region really going to thrive if North Korea goes nuclear?

Look, I'm not arguing that striking North Korea is risk-free. Things can go wrong--under any of the options. I freely admit I don't know what the best course is. And I don't even know what the least bad option is.

I sure don't know what the heck that author is talking about, however.

Our Time on Fantasy Island Ends

Let me note that the new national defense strategy along with the new defense budget that escapes the damaging constraints of sequestration are the functional end of the "10-year rule" the Obama administration adopted in early 2009 that assumed America would not need to fight any wars and so didn't need to waste money on keeping the military ready for any major fight.

The depths that our military reached in readiness is truly sobering.

Leading from behind didn't save us from needing to spend on defense; and the Russians, Chinese, Iranians, and North Koreans did not respond to our assumption about not needing to fight a war as  an invitation to peace but as an opening to seize advantage.

Let's hope we restore our ability to deter aggression and prevent war rather than look at this as a late step in an inter-war period that at best was done in time to avert disaster in a war.

Drafting the RFP for the Wonder Tank

The Army will need to replace the good but aging Abrams and Bradley armored vehicles. I'm worried about asking too much of new armored vehicle designs.

The Army has a vision for its next armored vehicles:

Soldiers must have a next generation combat vehicle that provides increased survivability, mobility and lethality at a reduced weight, to close with and destroy peer threats through maneuver, firepower, and shock-effect.

Once again, the Army wished to pretend that you don't need to have tradeoffs among survivability, mobility, and lethality. You can have it all--and at reduced weight to have strategic mobility, too.

So I will ask, let's say we get a tank with the same survivability as the Abrams--and with tactical mobility and needed lethality--on a machine that weighs just 35 tons, for example. That's better than the Abrams and strategically more mobile. In theory. If the Air Force has enough large transports. And no other missions for their transports.

But what if an enemy takes the same technology we used to get a 35-ton tank and, because they don't need to send the tank around the world, just uses a 70-ton hull. Won't that heavier tank have more lethality and more passive armor to increase survivability?

Don't we just make it more likely that the tank we hope to airlift over quickly just dies quickly against behemoths that ride the rails to battle?

I said the wonder tank can't be built back in 2002 (starting on page 15). I stand by my warning. Cut the crap about "reduced weight" and accept that our heavy armor will be either shipped by sea or prepositioned overseas.

China Aims High

China sent a message to India:

The Chinese military has published photos of recent air force drills that at least one expert quoted in ruling party media identified Tuesday as a direct message to neighboring India.

It was a message because the J-10 and J-11 planes were deployed to Chinese bases in Tibet.

China considers large chunks of Indian territory as "southern Tibet," essentially, viewing even visits by India's prime minister to that region as unacceptable.

India has been slow in fixing their weakness in air power. At the beginning of the decade I said that buying new planes was the most important defense decision India had this decade.

That decision still isn't finalized and really started.

Will India make and implement this decision this decade? Even as China continues to put actual hardware in play?

UPDATE: Jane's describes how declining budgets, procurement bureaucracy, and internal organizational shortcomings are harming India's efforts to modernize their military in the face of China's growing capabilities.

I suppose India could afford their horrible bureaucracy when smaller Pakistan was the threat that could be overwhelmed regardless of inefficiencies. China is a different matter altogether that requires a little sense of urgency in India.

Monday, February 26, 2018

A Gas Field Too Far

Just because somebody in Russia may have signed off on the attack that prompted American aircraft to smash up a mercenary battalion with a sizable Russian contingent does not mean Putin approved of it.

While this "permission" is interesting, it doesn't mean Putin approved it:

A Russian tycoon believed to control Russian mercenaries who attacked US troops and Kurd allies in Deir Ezzor told Syrian officials he would give Bashar al-Assad a "good surprise" days ahead of the assault, the Washington Post has reported.

Yevgeniy Prigozhin was also in close contact with Russian officials before the attack and told a Syrian official that he had "secure permission" from a Russian minister for a "fast and strong" action that would happen in early February, according to intercepted communications seen by the Post.

On 7 February, pro-Assad troops, including Russian military contractors, advanced on a gas field in the northern Syrian village of Tabiya under the control of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, and were attacked by US-led coalition forces.

The fact that Russia has downplayed the incident shows that the highest levels of Russian leadership didn't approve of the mission--or are so cynical that they approved it to see if they could get away with it while fully willing to abandon the people involved if America resisted.

I prefer the explanation that counts on Russia being a developing autocracy, but with centers of power that aren't always in full compliance with Putin's orders or wishes of the moment.

Really, somebody lower level might have thought they could gain Putin's favor by presenting him with a glorious victory, and when they managed this debacle were disavowed to avoid giving America a glorious victory over Putin.

One Must Have Priorities

The European Union isn't happy about Britain's post-Brexit plans for relations with the EU:

Prime Minister Theresa May will outline her wishes for Britain's post-Brexit ties with the European Union next week after winning support from key ministers, although European Council President Donald Tusk on Friday called the ideas floated so far "pure illusion".

To avoid encouraging others in the EU who might think leaving is a good idea, I often get the impression that the EU leadership is far more willing to be harsh with Britain out of anger over their Brexit vote than they are willing to be harsh with Russia over their invasion of Ukraine.

The Good Old Tank-Heavy Model

Russia is not confused about "hybrid" warfare's potential to overturn the history of warfare:

After decades of reforms and transformations, and all the hype about hybrid warfare, it seems the Russian military is increasingly falling back on the good old tank-heavy model of the Soviet military created during the Cold War. The overall pattern of operations in Syria and the Donbas region of Ukraine has been principally based on the concept of infantry assault with tanks in the front, artillery behind and attached aircraft overhead. Of course, there were variations, apparently enforced on the military commanders by overruling political considerations.

In the Donbas, the Russians pretended and continue to pretend they are not involved in the fray, while servicemen that are spotted in the region or occasionally taken prisoner are claimed to be “volunteers” that do not represent the Russian state. [emphasis added]

On the first part, I've wondered if our brigade-based Army was made for the ease of rotating units through Iraq (and later Afghanistan).

Years ago I advised a two-brigade division to ease deployments but urged retaining the division for the firepower and other support it can give component brigades (and for expansion to a 3-brigade division for high intensity combat). See "The Path of the Future Army."

Is the Russian focus on heavy forces--with large units, too--a sign America should rebuild our divisions with subordinate combat brigades using divisional support units and end reliance on the independent brigade combat teams with their own support units? (Mind you, we could still have some independent brigade combat teams as part of a division-centric force.)

I've long been wary of the impulse to lighten the Army for strategic mobility.

And of course, on the second part, I'm always happy to see the demotion of the "hybrid war" craze that annoyed me.


Seriously, what is Russia thinking?

[The] current Russian government has accused NATO of plotting to destroy Russia. This fantasy is a ploy by the current (since 1999) Russian leaders to justify reviving police state rule. To get away with this Russia needs a scary foe that will not actually become a threat. China won’t do because China has claims on much of the Russian Far East while there is no such claims by any Western nation.

I've noted this odd Russian focus on NATO while the threat in the east rises. But it actually makes sense:

So Russia sells weapons designed to point China's modernizing military out to see against America, Taiwan, and Japan rather than against Russia.

This isn't just clever politics. This is a form of appeasement.

Which, as it was before World War II, a reasonable reaction to a stronger power that has gotten a bad name from World War II as a means to delude yourself into thinking you've stopped an aggressor with pieces of paper.

As I've written, appeasement properly done can make sense if it allows you to avoid war with a stronger power and then use that time to build up your strength to reverse that imbalance.

In many ways, that is what Russia is doing. They have been appeasing China until they can rebuild their strength. One sign of their rebuilding is their massive slow down in weapons sales to China that allowed China to steal military technology from Russia.

But appeasing a stronger power is humiliating. Especially for a former superpower suddenly turned into a near-Third World, alcohol-addled country losing population every day.

So what are you to do when you must appease China?

Pretend the real threat is something that is actually no threat at all--NATO and behind that alliance, America.

Poke at us and what are we going to do? Invade Russia? Hah! European NATO countries struggled to put a division's worth of real troops in Afghanistan.

So NATO is a safe threat for Russia to highlight. NATO isn't going to make Russia pay much a price for treating us as an enemy. And the lack of threat can be put down to the vigilance of Russia in holding back the next Hitler or Napoleon who dreams of sweeping all the way to Moscow and owning that Jewel of the Steppe.

The problem for Russia is that by the time they feel secure enough to recognize that China is the real threat to Mother Russia, NATO and the West will be so disgusted with Russia that Moscow won't be able to even hope for our help should China decide that Russia's Far East is really a Core Interest of China that should return to the loving embrace of the Han Empire.

I have to believe that Russia really thought they'd be stronger and able to face China by now without pretending to be focused on NATO. Because really the key to railing against NATO to justify rearmament that doesn't provoke China is to be strong enough to end the pretense before NATO reacts to the hostility by arming and becoming a potential threat to Russia--in addition to the threat China poses.

Russia's strategic position sucks, as I've noted. But they make it worse by making America pay attention to them again when without Russian threats we'd be perfectly happy to ignore them--notwithstanding their nuclear arsenal--to deal with more immediate threats.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

For whatever reason, stupid things really seemed to annoy me more than usual in last week's data dump. I'm not sure this week will be any better.

Russians after the 2016 election promoted demonstrations both to support Trump and resist him (see point 57). On the latter protests organized by Russians, are liberals going to agree that their resistance is tainted by the fact that the Russians had the same goal as them?  Because I've been told that if anyone for horrible motivations does anything the way I do that my motivation must match their evil motive and so compel me to change what I do because "I'm better than that."

The Russian online intervention--that began in May 2014--in our election wasn't actually effective (as opposed to Democrats ripping open divisions in our country very successfully to excuse Clinton's loss--talk about a force multiplier). Do read all of that article (and tip to Instapundit) which notes what I have written--that the Russian effort was trivial in the big picture and clearly aimed at harming Clinton who was assumed to be the inevitable victor. Which at least legitimately explains the lack of Obama administration response to the lengthy Russian effort until after Trump won. But the FBI sure has been working overtime on the Russia Collusion issue even as they failed on other less important responsibilities. What do we have to do to get them to do their jobs? I'm not saying we (including the FBI) shouldn't stop the Russians. But don't inflate their reputation by giving them too much credit. Russia isn't the crack cyber-marksman we make them out to be. We formed a circular firing squad. Good Lord people, unless the Japanese persuaded the Army Air Corps to bomb Battleship Row and persuaded the Navy to shell the airfields, Russian meddling was nothing at all like Pearl Harbor as one overwrought and historically illiterate journalist (coughJonathanAltercough) tweeted.

It would be nice if the Army could own prop-driven combat planes, which are cheap and effective providers of close air support. While not likely to survive in high-threat air defense environments, they would be good for the fights we've been in since September 11, 2001. Really, wouldn't the Air Force be relieved to shed the job of low-level ground support?

America is selling coal to Ukraine. Which helps Ukraine reduce reliance on Russian energy and helps Ukraine keep American good will. When Ukraine can survive a winter without Russian energy, would we finally see a Ukrainian counterattack into the Donbas?

Lebanon's army looks the other way at Hezbollah's violation of Lebanon's sovereignty yet pledges to resist Israel no matter the cost if Israel enters Lebanon to fight Hezbollah. They keep using that word "sovereignty." I don't think it means what they think it means.

Can the German navy be saved? Well, I think it looks bad. And as I noted there and in a recent data dump, the Germans need to rebuild their navy to fight in the Baltic Sea and North Sea.

Michael Moore attended an anti-Trump rally organized by Russia. Did you attend? Did you cheer them on? Do you care if you did and question your motives?

The events surrounding the downing of an Iranian UAV and subsequent downing of an Israeli F-16 remain confusing to me. So Israel didn't respond to the loss of their plane by hitting Syrian air defenses, as Strategypage writes? I've gone back and forth on whether there was a second wave of Israeli strikes and now I am just confused. One interesting detail is that the Israeli airplane had a mechanical issue which prevented it from maneuvering to avoid the older Syrian SA-5 (S-200) missile, that was fired by the Syrians in a barrage to make up for their age.

Sweden is again worrying about Russian invasion. This is the first time I've read about a Swedish-Danish agreement to enable cooperation of their armed forces. Things like this create a grey area of NATO protections by enabling NATO countries to help non-NATO countries outside of NATO decisions. I'll note that I'm unwilling to accept Sweden into NATO before they take steps to rebuild their defenses.

France fails the global test. I thought they invented nuance?

The Army plans a new rifle (the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System, or SASS), which would be useful for the squad designated marksman (SDM). Although the rifle may be unrelated to the SDM plan. One appeal of the rifle is that it isn't obviously a sniper rifle.

The Navy and Marines are training for high intensity warfare in accordance with real world operational plans.

Good Lord: Canada welcomes "reformed" jihadis but will eject North Korean refugees? Is this how "love trumps hate" works?  Tip to Instapundit.

Good Lord: Wisconsin liberals weaponized a willing federal government to wage their political battle. Tip to Instapundit. Rule of law is a fragile thing. Foreigners obviously need it. Less obvious is that we need to defend it at home. And I'll note again that a federal government with less power over state issues would not be willingly used in this manner.

Islamist jihadis may pose the biggest threat to other Moslems, but they wouldn't be an international security issue if they didn't idealize the slaughter of non-Moslems, as jihadi murderers of the Fulani strain recently did in Nigeria with virtually no notice: "According to the Express, 'armed men stormed through 15 villages to massacre Christians and destroy their churches in a violent crackdown against the [Christian] religion in Nigeria … Dozens of people have been killed after the gangs ransacked towns and villages to clear them of all aspects of the Christian faith.'" No Western hashtag campaigns or Hollywood awards show speeches for these victims. I've mentioned these guys over the years. Tip to Instapundit.

Bastards! They know our weakness. I really hope that our most vital secrets are recorded on 3 x 5 cards kept in a safe rather than linked to the Internet behind whatever cyber-security we believe is sufficient.

Idiot; useful--1 ea. Honestly, I wasn't aware she was distinct from Joy Behar until recently. So 2 ea.

Ground zero in the war on women. They lecture us on how to be better people, recall. Granted, the definition is extremely broad. But that never mattered before to feminists who attacked men for the crimes of a few, so why should it be a defense for Hollywood's now?

Aside from not predicting the breadth and depth of "turn it to 11" resistance (because a Trump victory seemed inconceivable), my August 2016 prediction of the potential aftermath of a Trump victory holds up pretty well. I remain relieved Clinton is not president, notwithstanding regrettable presidential antics.

I started getting my "crumbs" from the 2017 tax cut. It is better than I thought it would be from online estimates. Unless the reduction in taxes is exaggerated by being accounted for in a shortened period because it took until February to be implemented.

From the War of Women: Nigerian Front: "More than 90 Nigerian schoolgirls are feared missing after Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram attacked a village in the northeastern state of Yobe, two sources told Reuters on Wednesday." Time to bring back #BringBackOurGirls, I guess. Luckily, most were rescued by non-Twitter hashtag means.

Ukraine is restoring their tank industry. Yes, as the author states, Ukraine would be outclassed by Russian armor in an expanded war. But every neighbor of Russia other than China would be in a similar position. And that doesn't mean that Russia could afford to fight such an expanded war. Consider that Russia didn't choose to wage an expanded war with their superior conventional forces since they attacked Ukraine four years ago.

Merchant ships are basically unable to arm themselves to defend their ships against pirate attack. So an enterprising crew threw boiling oil and water on the attackers. Very old school.  So would a ballista machine count as arming a merchant ship? Or maybe a harpoon gun, eh?

This article is another example of stupidity. Tip to Instapundit. I don't know why I don't drink more.

Strategypage looks at Thailand. It is a generally pro-American state with a too-powerful military and monarch that tests American support by crippling democracy when it is convenient. I don't pay attention too much to Thailand. Which doesn't mean it is unimportant. One can't pay attention to everything all the time. I hope my ability to not pay much attention continues.

Russians, especially when they were Soviets, have long interfered in American politics and have long been boosted by the American media. But it isn't collusion. Birds of a feather flock together.

America created three more good jihadis in Somalia.

While I find Representative Pelosi a revolting specimen of a politician, she's not totally insane to make her grass mowing comment. Anybody setting up a defensive belt would want to remove such concealment  along the perimeter if they can to clear lines of sight. While not superior to a wall, mowing grass along the border would help as long as there are border personnel there to see illegal crossers and stop or arrest them. Like I've said, any physical barrier that isn't defended can be penetrated. Ultimately, a barrier just slows crossers down and helps identify who is crossing and where, buying time for the defenders to get to the crossing location.

The Russian effort to sow divisions was just really singing to the choir and swayed nobody. (Tip to Instapundit) This is a variation of my system immunity theory. Funny enough, the New York Times uses my analogy, writing "Russian interference was a drop in the ocean." At this point, as much as I think we should of course stop the Russians (and return the favor), the issue isn't even mostly about Russia--they did what they do and I'm shocked this behavior is news to anybody. It's about rule of law. Weaken that in America and in addition to the problems it causes here, Russia benefits.

Yes, as much as people think Americans are dangerously divided believing their foes are dangerous enemies, our current situation pales in comparison to past divisions. I've said as much before, I believe. Social media just amplifies the smaller section of the population that earnestly believes that the other side in politics is composed of dangerous enemies. Trump is no fascist despite very real personal flaws that are ... unfortunate ... but not a threat to democracy. And the "deep state" worries are overblown despite very real violations of our norms of rule of law that should be fixed--and prosecuted in some cases. So I really hope that Trump and the overreaction to Trump don't become norms for our politics, but I'm not panicking. Tip to Instapundit. Come on people, those who disagree with you can be simply wrong without being evil or ignorant. And they might be right. Or are you really going to say that in your own life you've made the best decisions when you have the most information on yourself in order to make those decisions? Nothing at all that makes you say "well, it seemed like a good idea at the time?" You are wealthy and happy with a wonderful spouse, and your great decisions are the reason for all that? Huh. Yet somehow you think that you alone know what is right about a complex question without any humility that you might be wrong about key parts if not all of it? I like to think that I admit when I am unsure about things when I write on this blog. And I like to think that I admit that I am fully capable of being wrong even if I think my reasons and reasoning that led me to being wrong are valid. And I certainly don't think political foes are dangerous enemies. I know you come here for perspective.

Banana! Banana! Banana!

Those gradifi commercials that urge employers, out of gratitude for finding that employee, to pay off student loans of their employees really annoy me. Why is that student debt the company's problem? Maybe somebody should run commercials telling students not to borrow money they'll be paying off for 30 years in order to pay for graduation dresses, late-night pizza, and all the other expenses that are not tuition and fees that seem to pile up. Because maybe a company might like to hire somebody not quite that short-sighted and ignorant.

I am deeply suspicious of any "infrastructure' spending plan. But if we do, national security at least would be improved by hardening our electricity grid to be resilient.

Just a trip down memory lane when I wondered if unrest in Syria could be exploited by Iraqi Baathists and Sunni jihadis who might be a source of resistance to Assad. That's the team that created ISIL and they did just that.

I'm just not a "protest" or "rally" kind of man. Crowds at such things always seem to be far dumber than any individual participating and I want no part of them.

China is running the Beta Version of Dystopian Police State 2.0 in Xinjiang province. Let's hope it fails miserably before it spreads to the rest of China, including Hong Kong. Taiwan should take notice of China's attitude toward control the next time they consider their dangerously inadequate defense spending plans.

"See something, say something" is all well and good (but don't dare be wrong about what you see or social media will crucify you!), but government needs to follow "if you are told something, do something."

As microaggressions proliferate, my microcaring is dissipated across a broader scope. Seriously, they're just making stuff up for the humor value at this point, right? Tip to Instapundit.

Apparently our Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles with their current hardware are unable to use add-on active protection systems without degrading their performance. Well that sucks.

Romania wants to build 3 submarines. Which would give the Russians, who are very possessive about the Black Sea, fits.

The Assad-Iran-Russia alliance continues to assault and bombard the anti-Assad fighters and people on the outskirts of Damascus.

Chinese Naval Infantry

Strategypage discusses the expansion of the Chinese marine forces (to 40,000 with 7 brigades and a special forces brigade).

Note that America has about 200,000 active Marines with about the same number of brigade-like regimental combat teams. The United States Marines are a fighting force with depth while the Chinese force is more like shock troops.

While the Chinese marines aren't necessary for amphibious invasions (they have army divisions trained for amphibious warfare, like America used in Europe during World War II for all the landings, recall, as well as in the southern Pacific offensive), the additional Chinese marines could be used for spearheading a joint invasion force (of Taiwan, for example) in addition to independent smaller operations in the South China Sea or East China Sea--or abroad in peacetime missions.

So yeah, they should be tracked when they move around.

UPDATE: I corrected the text to note 7 brigades. I misread the post.

Ukraine's Outer Perimeter is the Euphrates River

Remember when Russia "withdrew" from Syria after accomplishing their mission? Yep, Heroes of the Soviet Union medals all around! Not so fast. Which brings me to Ukraine. Really.

The Russians are still fighting in Syria and their problems are preventing them from kicking back and enjoying their glorious new stature:

Many of the problems Russia has in Syria are self-inflicted. For example Russia declared victory there in December 2017 to bolster morale back home. With that came the announcement that a gradual withdrawal of most Russian forces was to occur in 2018. That meant the only Russian ground forces left in Syria were to be contractors who are, of course, not members of the military. That victory claim and withdrawal plans are now on hold as Russia has to deal with heavy losses of Russians in northeast Syria (because of the Americans) and heavy losses to their Iranian allies in the south (because of Israel).

There is much more, so read it all.

As I've noted, Russia is fairly weak despite being more aggressive and threatening. They have a lot to defend and they have an insufficient military to defend it all even on paper--and only a small portion of Russia's military is good or even adequate.

So added problems in Syria for Russia limit Russian opportunities elsewhere to mischief on Twitter and Facebook, really.

So when Russia has to pay more attention to Syria, Ukraine catches a break. Ukraine should probably be complicating Russia's task in Syria, if they aren't already.

And really, we all catch a break when Russia is too busy to work against us with all their resources. As I said back when Russia intervened in Syria, arguably in part to gain leverage against the West in Ukraine, we should let Russia wallow in their war rather than do anything to make their war easier.

I'd rather oppose a weakened and busy Russia as much as Ukraine would prefer that.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Burnished Good and Hard

One author thinks that a war between Israel and Hezbollah is probably inevitable. But that neither side wants a war right now. Perhaps Israel really doesn't. And Hezbollah shouldn't want a war. But then the author says that Hezbollah might actually welcome war. The reasoning is wrong although Hezbollah leaders might think it is true.

So Hezbollah might want a new war soon despite heavy losses fighting for Assad in Syria?

Hezbollah, for its part, would also probably like time to recover from a long and hard conflict in Syria. Yet the group’s regional popularity has plummeted, and its anti-Israel credentials, which have been tarnished by years of killing Syrians, need burnishing.

What bothers me about this is the assumption that a little bit of pounding by Israel would not really harm Hezbollah.

This is all part of the notion that using force is counter-productive when used against fanatics. My view is that ineffective use of force against fanatics is ineffective.

Recall that some deep thinkers figured Osama bin Laden suckered us into invading his Taliban sanctuary of Afghanistan where the Taliban shielded him. But we hit hard, destroyed his Taliban patron; sent him into the Pakistani witness protection program; and ultimately killed him, dumping his body into the sea like so much refuse. He planned that?

Saddam, too, seemed to welcome a conflict with America, assuming we'd bomb him or just send troops in but recoil from entering Baghdad for a giant "Blackhawk Down" battle that we couldn't endure. But American forces punched into Baghdad, Saddam was overthrown and hunted down, and ultimately tried and executed by his former victims.

And in both Iraq and Afghanistan, despite their problems today, Iraqis and Afghans fight at our side against common jihadi enemies rather than being state havens for jihadis.

So if a bloodied Hezbollah welcomes a fight with Israel to burnish their credentials, they clearly hope that Israel will cooperate by using ineffective force against Hezbollah.

My hunch is that Israel learned the lesson of doing exactly that in 2006 and will go for the throat in the next war with Hezbollah.

Timing wise, Israel would want to attack before Hezbollah's battered forces can redeploy from Syria and recover from the more than 2,000 KIA they suffered fighting to save Assad.

Will Israel take the shot? The dots paint that picture. But that's the picture I already have in mind, so I might be imagining a few pixels are really a vibrant and textured picture.

Foggy Strategery

Given that I've written that America had choices to make about Syria post-ISIL, I thought this article asking what America wants in Syria would be interesting. Then I got to the fifth paragraph:

Just six months ago, there were two clear trends in the conflict: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with the support of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, was well on his way to victory; and the Islamic State (ISIS) was about to be soundly defeated by a US-led coalition. Today, the successful campaign against ISIS seems pyrrhic, at best. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, and a resolution of the larger conflict is nowhere in sight. [emphasis added]

Six months ago I did not think Assad was on his way to victory. Oh, he was winning. But victory was far away even with ISIL going down.

And the successful American-led campaign was a "Pyrrhic" victory? At best?

A Pyrrhic victory "is a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. Someone who wins a Pyrrhic victory has been victorious in some way, though the heavy toll negates a true sense of achievement or profit."

In what way was the victory over ISIL in Syria a victory with such a devastating toll on America or the coalition that it is really a defeat?

Now, you can say that the toll in the war in Syria is high. But that is not an American cost.

Nor is the cost in lives solely--or even mostly--the responsibility of the coalition's fight against ISIL.

And the defeat of ISIL will reduce the casualties in Syria going forward that had been caused by ISIL depravity--not to mention ending the sheer misery of living under their cruel rule.

While the author is right that the conflict is not over, this kind of undermines his credibility of thinking 6 months ago that Assad's victory was clearly coming.

And if the author wanted to toss the term "Pyrrhic victory" around in regard to Syria, he could have applied that to Assad if anyone, whose forces have endured massive casualties to get even this far in his war.

So I stopped reading the author. Who was once an American diplomat. God help us.

Bloody Giveaway, No?

Iran has threatened Israel:

"Tel Aviv would be razed to the ground if the Israeli regime took any military action against the Islamic Republic," Iran's Expediency Council secretary Mohsen Rezaie said Monday, according to Iran's state-run Tasnim news.

Rezaie also said he will "not give any opportunity for Netanyahu to flee" if an "unwise move" is made against Iran, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported.

Rezaie's reaction came a day after Netanyahu spoke at the Munich Security Conference and outlined what he said was an Iran seeking to dominate the region with aggression and terror.

Question: How would Iran "raze" Tel Aviv without nuclear weapons?

I'll guess that for now this is just chest thumping and flinging poo.

But how long under the shield of the horrible Iran nuclear deal will it take for Iran to have the capability to carry out that threat?

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Mother of All Bankers

America is hoping to resolve Afghanistan by finally removing Pakistan's support for the Taliban that has kept the Taliban stronger than they'd be otherwise.

We just MOABed Pakistan:

A global money-laundering watchdog has decided to place Pakistan back on its terrorist financing watchlist, a government official and a diplomat said on Friday, in a likely blow to Pakistan's economy and its strained relations with the United States.

The move is part of a broader U.S. strategy to pressure Pakistan to cut alleged links to Islamist militants unleashing chaos in neighboring Afghanistan and backing attacks in India.

Yeah, supplying allied jihadis who strike India and who fight us in Afghanistan with one hand while taking American aid for killing rogue jihadis with the other is all fun and games until your banking access is blocked.

Britain, France and Germany backed America in this action.

UPDATE: Strategypage notes that Pakistan got a break by being given 3 months to prove they shouldn't suffer these consequences.

Is Cyber-War "War" or Not?

It's been a while since I could mock backward North Korea's cyber-war abilities:

North Korea is quietly expanding both the scope and sophistication of its cyberweaponry, laying the groundwork for more devastating attacks, according to a report published Tuesday. ...

Although the North Korean regime bans the Internet for ordinary citizens and is decidedly behind the times with most technology, it has funneled a huge amount of time and money into building a cyber-army capable of outsmarting more technologically advanced countries such as South Korea.

But I'll ask the question again, if North Korea "attacks" somebody via the Internet, why do we assume that a response to such an attack has to take place in that domain?

It is necessary to prepare for war in cyber-space with sophisticated cyber-weapons as have been deployed against Iran. But in the rush to fight in cyber-space, don't forget that a physical smart bomb can simply blow up a room full of enemy cyber-warriors if they have an office park and we know the address.

And if the North Koreans hackers are operating from offices in China, doesn't international law about providing a sanctuary for combatants leave victims of North Korea recourse under international law?

And isn't China at risk from direct retaliation to take out those combatants?

Too Little and Too Late?

Does it matter if North Korea knows they're screwed?

So North Korea now realizes they're screwed?

In short, at the end of 2017 North Korea got a look at South Korean and American war plans and were alarmed at what they found. The northerners had every reason to believe this information was accurate because in late 2017 South Korean military networks were hacked and a large quantity of secret documents appear to have been copied. ...

Once the North Korean hackers delivered the stolen OPLANs documents in September 2017 it took a few months for the military and other security agencies up north to digest all this information and conclude that the north was screwed. Supreme leader Kim Jong Un was briefed, followed by him firing another few senior advisors who were apparently on the wrong side of this new reality. Kim then told South Korea that he wanted to improve relations, send a delegation to the Winter Olympics and get together with South Korea leaders to have friendly discussions about matters of mutual interest.

I noted that hack.

That's nice in the sense that the North Korean may now with that information not start a war in the mistaken belief they'd win. (But maybe not, even with very rational decision-making.)

But this is only good news if North Korea doesn't accelerate their nuclear weapons plans in the belief that this is the only path to salvation.

Really, if as I've long believed it is a race between nation or regime collapse on the one hand and getting nukes on the other, isn't it better for the North Koreans to be unaware they are in a race at all?

If North Korea decides the China option of economic reform can keep the North Korean elites in the lifestyle they've become accustomed to, and is willing to give up nukes to do that, we win.

North Korean are left in a police state, of course. But at least they'd stop starving. From where I sit, I'm willing to abandon them to get rid of North Korea's nuclear weapons. Sorry.

I'd hate to refuse to accept victory when it is staring us in the face, but practically speaking does this really lift the burden of figuring out what we should do to cope with North Korea's looming nuclear threat to America?

Is this the solution?

President Trump plans to unveil a “massive” new set of sanctions against North Korea on Friday, an administration official told Fox News.

Could North Korean knowledge of  their bad position really be reinforced with "massive" sanctions to make them climb down verifiably from their nuclear path before we must choose a course of action? Is there really enough time for that path?

Or is this just a nod to world opinion that we've explored all options short of war before striking North Korea?

I just worry that the North Koreans took a healthy blow to the head with the clue bat too late to make changes in their nuclear plans at this late stage; or to lift the burden on America, Japan, and South Korea for having to make a hard choice soon about what we should do.


The Germans are seriously getting on my nerves over their unwillingness to contribute to NATO common defense. I don't even know what planet they live on these days.

Just stop it!

Top German leaders here have managed to put a damper on the expectation that Berlin would radically ramp up its defense spending, as Washington would have it, stressing instead that gradual boosts and integration with foreign development would yield better results than military might alone.

A commitment by Germany to meet the NATO goal of spending 2% of GDP on defense is not complicated! It's simple! Germany either meets the goal of spending on commonly agreed categories that count as defense, or they don't.

Germany doesn't meet that standard and doesn't want to, and they're trying to muddy the standard.

Of course you also try to spend more efficiently. Of course spending more inefficiently isn't a way to get security. Spend more and work to reduce inefficiencies. Do both you slacker morons! It isn't complicated!

Just where the Hell is that vaunted grim Prussian efficiency these days? It's not a worry. Really.

Oh, and the first article covers an issue that really gets me into a state of mind where I seek the glorious relief of pounding my head into a wall until I am dizzy with pain:

But there is another component to the case of Germany, [German foreign minister] Gabriel said, and it has to do with post-World War II sensitivities.

“Imagine that Germany for 10 years would spend 2 percent of GDP on defense. That would mean more than €70 billion every year,” he said. “I’m not so sure that all partners within Europe would appreciate this after 10 years.”

Stop us before we rampage across Europe again? Are you effing kidding me? That's your excuse? After over 70 years of not being Nazis you are claiming that under the veneer of democracy you are just a bunch of barely restrained thugs eager to rampage around Europe? Really?

When West Germany built a powerful army during the Cold War, nobody in NATO was worried more about West Germany than the Soviet Union!

Allow me to pull out the clue bat before I'm too woozy to wield it:

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.

Not that there isn't some hope for responsibility:

Germany risks losing international credibility if it retreats from its commitment to increase military spending towards the NATO target, a key member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives said on Wednesday.

But I fear this is a lonely voice. And a tepid one, calling for going from 1.2% of GDP to perhaps 1.5% by the end of the next legislative 4-year period. Nobody is talking about meeting the 2% goal by 2024.

And perhaps the Germans should have a little more sense of responsibility the way Slovenia has demonstrated:

Slovenia's government has sacked the army chief of staff after the military's poor performance at a NATO combat readiness test.

Seriously, is German unwillingness to pay for common defense in line with their economic status so strong that the Germans are willing to argue that they are barely suppressed Nazis at heart despite 70+ years of being part of the West with freedom and democracy?

If the Germans say they aren't to be trusted with sharp knives and actually believe it is true, maybe NATO and Russia should just pull back a safe distance and nuke the place just to be sure.

Is what deep dark motives Germany might have behind the facade of their modern democracy really going to be the form of the debate that Germany wants to have?

West Germany was a good ally in the Cold War. What happened to them?

NOTE: I added clarification to indicate West Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany) during the Cold War, pre-reunification.

UPDATE: Indeed, what the heck happened to Germany's military? Tip to Instapundit.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The X-War Rages

So just what should the war raging in Syria be called these days?

The war rages on in Syria, even in the outskirts of Damascus:

Residents of Syria's eastern Ghouta district said they were waiting their "turn to die" on Wednesday, amid one of the most intense bombardments of the war by pro-government forces on the besieged, rebel-held enclave near Damascus.

At least 10 people died in one village and more than 200 were injured early on Wednesday. At least 296 people have been killed in the district in the last three days, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said.

The government has besieged the 400,000 people living there for years now.

If Assad has won the war in the aftermath of the defeat of ISIL (through the American-organized campaign) you can't prove it by the resistance and the intensity of the Syrian effort to kill their way to victory in Ghouta.

That's just one place where Assad's regime has no control.

And then you have to consider that even in "Syrian"-controlled territory, it is actually Iran that runs the show with their money and leadership of so many local and foreign militias, including Hezbollah (as I noted in this post).

No, the multi-war is not over. Not even close.

The question is, what is it?  It started as a civil war. But then it got complicated. Without ISIL as a major factor as a caliphate, I thought maybe it was no longer what I eventually called a "multi-war" of different factions fighting their own wars kind of unrelated to other wars, although participants might overlap.

Is the new post-caliphate phase back to a civil war? Is it still a multi-war?

We might be in an internationalized civil war with the American-led coalition, Russia, Turkey, Iran, and Israel as outside states (add in al Qaeda which still fights there rebranded to avoid American JDAMs) with clear military roles in the fight.

Think of it as the modern-day Spanish Civil War, as I've noted it resembles a couple times over the years. As foreign actors expand their roles, it strengthens the resemblance.

If this goes on, the Kurds who seem to want to stay out of the civil war to just hold their own ground may find that they have to commit to either the defeat of Assad or the defense of Assad to make a Syria they can live in through concessions over autonomy. Separatists who think they don't have a dog in the fight have a difficult position.

All I know is that I'm so grateful we didn't further militarize the conflict 6 years ago by helping the rebels win. Gosh, civilian bloodshed might have been worsened!

And if this is more like the Spanish Civil War, let's take precautions that the X-war isn't a dress rehearsal for a wider war of far more consequence and bloodshed.


Don't treat the Russian mercenaries killed in Syria by American air power as less than human.

I'm pleased we enforced the new Deconfliction Line (DCL, as I term it) by helping local Syrian forces smash an attacking battalion that was largely composed of Russian mercenaries.

One, this may not have been a Russian operation but a mercenary company operation for Assad.

There is speculation that Russia may even have let the unit get smashed as a warning to Assad and Iran not to go beyond Russian interests. This fits my belief that Russia only cares about core western Syria where Russia's bases are.

I will add my question of whether Assad chose Russian mercenaries for the job in an effort to drag Russia into the eastern front.

But I've noticed a bit of conservative attitude that the Russian mercenaries are somehow less than legitimate, with one author saying they should be treated like terrorists to discourage the use of them.

That sounds just a little too much like "screw them" as one leftist writer said of American mercenaries killed and strung up on a bridge in Fallujah in 2004 wrote.

But we call our mercenaries "contractors." But it is the same thing.

In the volunteer military era America has used mercenaries more and more for support jobs like outer layer base security, transportation, training, maintenance, and even some missions that require ground combat.

Sure, mostly we use them to free up American troops for combat missions rather than replacing American combat troops. But that isn't iron clad.

Mind you, in Syria the Russians use them for combat roles because the Syrian military isn't up to the task:

Syrian forces reportedly proved ineffective even with the help of Russian advisors and special forces. Kremlin-linked contractors allowed Moscow to run a covert land operation while denying it had boots on the ground.

“The big battles, the intense battles with casualties, that's all Russian mercenaries,” said Ruslan Leviev of the Conflict Intelligence Team, a research group who track Russian military activity abroad.

That overstates their role given the relatively low level of casualties and because Iran's Shia foreign legion is a major source of offensive cannon fodder (Hezbollah seems war weary but they are still there, although I'm not sure they are still shock troops).

But I have noted that the Syrian army can't really carry out infantry combat because of losses. They came to rely on Iranian-supplied irregular forces for shock troops and the Russians discovered that, too.

I already noted that liberals who once hated mercenaries learned to ignore them in 2009.

I hope that conservatives don't learn to hate them just because our foes use them, too.

As long as they fight strictly according to regulations, they should not be sentenced to death. I don't see anything to indicate the Russians fought contrary to the laws of war.

I'm glad we decisively defeated them. But they were not terrorists, from what I've read.

Use of mercenaries is kind of a common thing in this era, recall.

And yes, as the article notes, the war is hardly over after ISIL has been largely defeated.

Distant Early Warning System

China raised a stink because the Indian prime minister visited Indian territory. While India should of course worry about this Chinese attitude, Russia should worry a lot more.

Don't ever say the Chinese aren't bold:

China on Thursday expressed anger over a visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the remote Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China also claims, and said India should stop any action that might complicate the dispute.

Yes, not acting like China is the actual owner "complicates" the issue.

Mark my words, China basically thinks anything it wants is a "core interest."

China's anger against India should be ringing alarm bells in Moscow.

Rather than worry about a still very weak NATO offensive power on their western border, Russia should really worry that the day when China could protest Putin's visits to Russian territory is coming soon.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Prom is Over, and the Real World Beckons

The US ambassador to the UN wonders why the Palestinians were elected Queen of the Victim Prom (as I've termed their status) to monopolize the body's time on the Palestine issue while other worse problems are allowed to fester.

Haley verbalized the frustration, but it is widespread:

Since 2005 the Arab donors have become increasingly disenchanted with the Palestinians. Even by Middle Eastern standards the corruption, ineffective government, ingratitude and double dealing of the Palestinians had become intolerable. ... It used to be said that the Palestinian situation could not get worse but Palestinian leaders regularly defied that prediction and found a way to make things worse in ways no one expected.

Yes, the Palestinians continue to make things worse, refusing to accept anything short of the destruction of Israel.

The prom is over. The magical moment has ended. Now the Palestinians need to enter the real world, as all high school queens find they must do.

People that need the help of the UN outside of the Middle East might like a fraction of the time that the Palestinians got in the world body.

Tip to Victory Girls via Instapundit.

Iraq Could Use the Wisdom of America's Founders

Are the Iraqis determined to undermine their victory over ISIL?


After just a few hours moving on foot across farmland and orchards to a cluster of modest houses, [First Lieutenant] Hagerty realized the families he thought were returnees to the area were in fact newly displaced. Their homes in Qaim had been confiscated by the government-affiliated Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, made up mainly of Shiite paramilitary fighters backed by Iran.

"Our end goal is a stable Iraq, right?" Hagerty said later, back at the base. "But when you see stuff like that, it makes you wonder if they are ever going to be able to do it themselves."

Seizing homes doesn't win hearts and minds.

This bit of advice from our Constitution might be of help to the Iraqis:

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Never believe the largely Iran-backed militias want the Iraqi government to be successful. Or want to act under rule of law.

Last on the List

If any American unified command is lower on the priority list for high end military assets than SOUTHCOM, I don't know what it is.

SOUTHCOM want help:

The Southern Command’s top officer told the Senate Armed Services Committee he is receiving only a fraction of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance resources he needs to stem the flow of illegal rugs, people and money into the United States.

Adm. Kurt Tidd, testifying Thursday, added that lack of ISR translates into interdicting only 25 percent of the known movement of narcotics.

Admiral Tidd needs The SOUTHCOM Queen for his ISR and interdiction needs.

Because his problem isn't going to change and the response for assets isn't likely to change, either.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

JDAMs are the Ultimate Cyber Weapon

Russia carried out the most destructive cyber-attack in history. Explain to me again why Ukraine isn't justified in blowing things up in Russia.

So we have a record, it seems:

The Office of the [White House] Press Secretary's statement echoes the conclusion of British intelligence, as the U.K. earlier on Thursday declared Russia responsible for the attack, the BBC reported. The 2017 attack was known as "NotPetya" and targeted companies conducting business with Ukraine, a country with which Russia has been in conflict since its 2014 annexation of Crimea.

"In June 2017, the Russian military launched the most destructive and costly cyber attack in history," the White House statement reads.

The statement goes on to say that the economic damage—which resulted from attacks on shipping giant FedEx, drugmaker Merck, and others—has reached billions of dollars. The White House maintains the attack was part of the Kremlin’s campaign against Ukraine.

Let me just say as I long have argued that while cyber warfare takes place on the Internet, until virtual Artificial Intelligence lives online, the equipment and people waging it live in the real world:

It is necessary to prepare for war in cyber-space with sophisticated cyber-weapons as have been deployed against Iran. But in the rush to fight in cyber-space, don't forget that a physical smart bomb can simply blow up a room full of enemy cyber-warriors if they have an office park and we know the address.

Isn't Ukraine fully justified in attacking Russia with actual explosives that cause the same level of damage?

(I'll say that is one objection I have to past cyber war against Iran. Aren't they justified in using more kinetic means to counter-attack? Cyber isn't a substitute for war. It is one way of waging it and we shouldn't pretend it isn't really war.)

And we should remember that our enemies can do the same thing.

Given that conventional forces are multi-purpose forces, it could be that strategic offensive cyber warfare is a waste of resources.

And really, just what did the record-setting Russian attack actually achieve in their war against Ukraine other than setting a record for such attacks?

The Lone Ranger?

Zumwalt will get long-range anti-ship missiles. Be still my heart.

I won't say this is a bad development:

The [Navy's] 2019 budget request includes a request for $89.7 million to transform its Zumwalt-class destroyers by integrating Raytheon’s long-range SM-6 missile, which can dual hat as both an anti-air and anti-surface missile, as well as its Maritime Strike variant of the Tomahawk missile.

Converting DDG-1000 into a hunter-killer is a win for the surface warfare community’s years-long drive to beef up the force’s offensive capabilities. It also answers the bell for U.S. Pacific Command, which has been pushing for the Navy to add longer range weapons to offset the increasing threat from Chinese long-range missile technology.

I noted this plan when it came out in December. I was happy enough that the land attack mission fantasy had been abandoned. But there was still a problem:

Of course, the ship is too stealthy to risk sailing with other ships and being detected because of them; yet too weakly armed and equipped to defend itself sailing alone if detected.

Remember, the ship is stealthy and not invisible.

Add to the problem of thinking the ship is a savior for surface warfare is that the ship class is just 3. So assume only one is deployed at any one time during peacetime--2 if the Navy really push the ships for a while without major maintenance or upgrades.

So I still say that Zumwalt isn't a combat vessel. It is a test platform best suited to hosting new weapons and systems before spinning them out to the rest of the fleet or to a new class of ships.

That new ship will be affordable because all of the development costs will be written off as part of the "cancelled"  DDG-1000 class (and operating costs of a commissioned warship):

By canceling the ship class, it looks fiscally responsible but it really isn't. It's just accounting, since the next ship built using the exact same technology that by the rules has to be counted against the cost of the ship the research was done for will use Zumwalt technology that is now already paid for. Voila! A cheaper warship.

Oh sure, if there is a war it will be sent into combat. But that isn't the primary mission.

Air Power Theory

Let me describe my simplistic model of air power in support of ground power.

My view is that ground power is the vital factor and that air power is a force multiplier. I argue this based on the simple observation that ground forces have controlled territory for many millennia before air power was invented.

But air power can make ground power far more effective. Lord knows I'm grateful that American ground forces haven't had to operate under enemy air power or without ample air support since about 1944.

So let me look at four scenarios of friendly power, each assuming that in a mathematical equation, each factor can range from 0 (actually making the situation worse) to perfection of 10. A rating of 1 would basically be neutral, neither helping or hurting as a factor.

The best is when American air power and ground power have factors of 10. They are each the best on the planet and capable of working with each other. As a multiple we have 10 X 10 = 100. Unless the enemy also has the best of each (and more of each as well as better leadership and strategy), things should look pretty good for America in battle.

The worst is when both factors are zero. That is pretty much automatic defeat as the end result of 0 X 0 = 0. But we can still get zero as the result if only one factor is 0.

What if air power is 10 and ground power is 0? Obviously, the ground power makes the effects of air power worse than if it could operate on its own. The ground power is unable to accurately call in air strikes--calling it in on civilian targets or on itself; is unable to exploit air power to go on offense; is unable to even hold its ground long enough for air power to ride to the rescue on defense; is unable to exploit aerial recon; and in fact cannot even protect the air bases that house the air power. The end result is that even excellent air power is unable to control the ground in the absence of ground power.

Even if you simply told the ground power not to get involved in the fight and leave it to the air power, it still would not work because the ground power simply sitting on defense would eventually be defeated and the air bases would eventually be captured. I don't believe an independent air campaign could defeat enemy ground power before friendly ground power collapses.

The only possible way this might work is if the ground factor is truly 1 because the air campaign is conducted from an absolutely secure sanctuary. Air power enthusiasts may believe this scenario subset is possible, but I have never seen an example of this pure air power approach to victory.

Finally, what if air power is 0 and ground power is 10? This scenario makes for a zero result because the air power is counter-productive. Even excellent troops find that horrible air power can't find enemies, can't hit enemies accurately and in a timely fashion, does more damage to friendly troops and civilians, and soaks up resources that would have been better spent on the ground forces.

Yet even in this scenario, if the air power is grounded so it can't do a lot of harm, you at least get the air power closer to 1 as a factor (but not all the way to 1 because resources are still uselessly spent on the air power). But the ground power can be close to 10.

If the enemy doesn't have air power and even a slightly worse ground power; or has a combination of relatively poor quality air power and poor quality ground power; your ground power alone could win the war.

And again, I say this because ground power alone has won wars. There is a long history of that.

Is that it? Mind you, I'm fully on board the possibility that no army alone no matter how excellent (or with poor air power in support) can win a war against enemy ground power with excellent air power supporting it. The math allows this.

And indeed, it seems like the Russians simply want to nullify Western air power with ground-based air defenses to make air power a non-factor for both sides; but actually get an edge over NATO by expending resources not on nullified air power but on superior artillery and targeting capabilities to make their ground factor superior.

Anyway, that's my simplified model of air power.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Last Resort

While there is no indication that Venezuela is massing troops on their border, Guyana is worried about Maduro's intentions:

The Guyana government has been paying close attention to options available to Venezuela, following United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Antonio Guterres’ referral of the border controversy to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), a senior government official said.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon told Demerara Waves Online News that reports that Venezuela had been planning an incursion into Guyana’s territory was being factored into government’s analysis. “Of course, as a nation, we have to take all of these things into consideration. We cannot disregard any reports like that,” said Harmon, a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the Guyana Defence Force and current member of the Defence Board.

That author cites Stratfor analysis (huh, I missed that) for why Guyana might be a target.

With Venezuela accelerating toward starvation and chaos, my longstanding worry that Venezuela's thug socialist rulers might think a short and glorious foreign war might rally the people around them has heightened.

But as I noted in this post about potential targets, going after Guyana automatically gets the Organization of American States to rally around Guyana against Venezuela.

No, a safer target for Maduro in consideration of South American sensitivities is the distant Netherlands with enticingly close island possessions.