Friday, November 30, 2018

The Enemy Within

Russia's seizure of Ukrainian naval vessels attempting to lawfully enter the Sea of Azov raises questions about the course of the war.

One, did Ukraine's President Poroshenko spark the crisis to increase his low favorability ratings ahead of 2019 elections?

Or maybe Putin is worried about his approval ratings and that is why he escalated the war by attacking the vessels openly after his subliminal campaigns to seize Crimea and parts of the Donbas in the east where to this day Putin denies Russia did anything at all.

But there are military reasons for these actions. Russia's economy and Putin's popularity are threatened by a not-so-frozen conflict that Russians don't want to die for. And Ukraine seems to be making very slow progress in grinding away at Russian control.

So Russia may feel they need to escalate to win and escape Western sanctions and the war of attrition. And escalating at sea by imposing a stealth blockade of Ukraine's Sea of Azov coast escalates in an area of clear Russian superiority--naval and air power--rather than on land where Russia would suffer significant losses if the war escalates or broadens on land.

Although if Russia does escalate on land, my thoughts from early 2014 are still relevant.

And Ukraine knows it will suffer if they quietly go along with the blockade. They need to break it and they need Western help to do it. So a confrontation makes sense from their point of view.

Of course, Ukraine wants an escalation only to highlight Russian actions because an escalation to an open war at sea will expose all of Ukraine's coastline to potential blockade. Ukraine just wants an escalation to gain Western help for non-military means to break the Russian blockade of the Sea of Azov.

But there is a bigger and more important aspect of the war here. If Poroshenko isn't thinking strategy and is just thinking politically, Ukraine's parliament isn't going along:

So when Mr. Poroshenko asked Parliament on Nov. 26 for far-reaching powers under martial law, he got plenty of push-back. Instead of circling the wagons against Russia, lawmakers rushed to defend their democracy.

In the end, martial law was granted only in selected regions bordering on Russia and only for 30 days. Poroshenko was forced to assert that constitutional freedoms would not be limited and that daily life, such as banking, would not be disrupted. And yes, the election would proceed.

Unless Poroshenko is planning a significant escalation on land--or perhaps beginning rocket and missile barrages against the prize of of Putin's Ukraine adventure, his Crimean military bases, to pressure Russia on the Sea of Azov--I'd worry that the corruption-abiding president had non-military goals in mind.

Right now, Ukraine faces more problems internally than from Russia:

The problem is that Ukraine isn’t doing much to help itself. The 2014 Russian invasion helped unite Ukrainians — even Russian–speaking ones — behind a genuine sense of nationhood. National day rallies in Russo-phone Kharkov and Dnipropetrovsk have attracted record turnouts, their squares filled with a sea of yellow and blue Ukrainian flags. Without Crimea or the pro-Moscow populations of the separatist Donbass, the electoral maths of Ukraine has swung unequivocally westward. But instead of implementing the pro-European, reformist hopes of Maidan, the country remains an economic basket case whose economy, media and politics are dominated by a tiny group of warring oligarchs.

This does not diminish the crimes of Putin in invading and dismembering Ukraine. But to win the war Ukraine needs to get its own house in order. It has not.

Because as I've warned, if Ukraine fails to tackle corruption to really join the West in practice rather than just have a common anti-Russian policy, Ukraine is doomed to defeat as just a smaller and weaker version of Russia:

Ukraine needs to do more to fight corruption and the West needs to help/push Ukraine to build rule of law.

As I've mentioned more than once, if Ukraine remains just a smaller version of Russia, Ukraine will lose their struggle to remain independent of Russian domination or outright control.

Only by becoming more like the West can Ukraine build the economic and military power to remain a free country, just as a free West built on rule of law defeated the USSR.

Remember, Russia is fine with a corrupt Ukraine. It allowed Russia to weaken and dominate Ukraine's government before 2014, and it will allow Russia to buy influence and control in Ukraine once again.

Stalemate, even tilted toward Ukraine as I noted in this post, in the Donbas won't matter if the real fight for Ukraine takes place in the secret bank accounts of Ukrainian officials and business people.

This February it will be 5 years since Russian special forces appeared in Crimea as the famous "little green men" who nearly bloodlessly seized Crimea from a revolution-wracked Ukraine unable to resist. If another 5 years go by without Ukraine making progress in achieving rule of law, we might be speaking about "the Ukraine" again.

It may be a race between whether Russia tires of the subliminal war first or whether Ukraine breaks down first. But the consequences for losing this contest are far more dire for Ukraine. Ukraine needs to break their corruption's hold on Ukraine before they can break Russia's hold on the Sea of Azov--or regain their lost territory.

UPDATE: Martial law in border regions so far doesn't seem to be doing much to increase Ukrainian warfighting capacity:

Martial law came into effect in 10 Ukrainian oblasts on Nov. 28, but the Ministry of Defense and General Staff have so far reported very few changes to the nation’s defenses as parts of the country go to full war footing.

Although it is early yet, the purpose eludes me given the war will be 5 years old in February and there hasn't been a need for martial law yet.

We'll see if there is an actual Ukrainian military action that needed this or whether it was all about an election battle.

Army to Buy 500 Future Burned-Out Hulks

How sporting of the Army! They want to give enemies a fighting chance on the battlefield by giving them potential targets easy to kill. Will nobody in the infantry reject those flaming coffins?

God, will the stupidity never end?

The Army plans to arm its force with more than 500 medium-weight Mobile Protected Firepower combat vehicles engineered to bring heavy fire support, high-speed mobility and warzone protection for fast-maneuvering infantry.

Current Abrams tanks, while armed with 120mm cannons and fortified by heavy armor, are challenged to support infantry in some scenarios due to weight and mobility constraints - such as deploying rapidly by air or crossing bridges in a heavy firefight.

"Some scenarios" are a BS justification for this project. The times when we will need to rapidly airlift light tanks are rare. And the times that the situation is so bad to require that will not end well for the few light tanks that make it to the front rapidly with American heavy forces weeks or months behind loading on ships in US ports.

And for any sizable light tank force, given shortages of airlift you quickly reach the point where sealift is actually faster. And really, let's see a show of Army hands for those who believe the Air Force will free up the cargo planes and fighter escorts and all the other supporting assets needed to move the light armor in numbers that could make a difference?

Face it, if we need to cross a bridge in a "heavy firefight," the enemy capable of mounting that kind of resistance will have the hand-held anti-tank weapons needed to blow up the lightly armored light tanks that are spearheading the frontal assault right in the middle of the damn bridge.

Further, explain to me just what scenarios do we anticipate that has an enemy without heavy tanks to support their infantry?

Finally, in what alternate world are leg infantry "fast-maneuvering"? That description is absolutely insane.

Light tanks are stupid. New light tanks are a waste of money. Just call them FBOHs (which I suggest be pronounced "Fu-bohs" to be similar to FUBAR).

Lord, people, has nobody noticed we have a lot of surplus heavily armed, well protected, tracked Abrams tanks not in the force structure that could be given to infantry brigades?

Nelson is Spinning in His Grave

Military leadership is not a technology issue.

So much for a captain going down with his ship:

Royal Navy ships could in future be controlled remotely by captains on land using new augmented reality headsets and artificial intelligence technologies being developed by a UK defence company.

The technology could pave the way for semi-autonomous naval vessels with much smaller crews, according to BAE Systems.

Transferring naval command rooms that are currenttly always on-board vessels onto land could reduce the risks to sailors and improve safety during combat, according to the British defence company.

Oh, and this is the good part prior to being battered about the head and shoulders by the clue bat:

The concept is likely to take time to be adopted because it runs strongly against naval traditions which dictate that a ship's captain needs to be on board but was already technically feasible, he added.

“I think the Navy would be very suspicious of the idea at first."

Ya think? You are Goddamn right the Royal Navy will be suspicious of this stupid idea that flies in the face of freaking centuries of experience. Technical feasibility is not a reason to do something counter to that hard-won experience.

I don't think commanders and leadership should ever be based ashore. It's hard enough to maintain good leadership in person.

If basic seamen and supporting jobs can be done from shore, that's great. But not commanders. Leadership is not a technology issue.

I must admit however that I was thinking small with my reachback for the squad idea.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Long March South

The 2nd Infantry Division has dedicated its new headquarters at Pyeongtaek, 40 miles south of Seoul:

The 2nd Infantry Division dedicated its new headquarters building on Camp Humphreys Tuesday, officially opening a new chapter after moving from its decades-old home north of Seoul.

The ceremony took place at the entrance of the new Freeman Hall, which retains the name of the previous headquarters on Camp Red Cloud in Uijeongbu.

The division--with but a single maneuver brigade in South Korea today--won't stand guard on the DMZ has it has since the armistice.

What amazes me is how long it is taking to move the unit away from the DMZ, which I noted in 2007 when the planned move was in 2012.

SOUTHCOM Needs an Auxiliary Cruiser

A Navy hospital ship is busy in South America treating people in need of medical care because Venezuela is imploding and exploding to destabilize the region. We only have two.

This is a good form of military intervention under the circumstances:

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the outgoing commander of U.S. Southern Command on Monday praised the recent decision to send a U.S. Navy hospital ship to aid Venezuelan refugees, warning that moves by China and Russia in the hemisphere should not be trusted.

"There is nothing more indicative of U.S. commitment to regional stability and bolstering of people-to-people ties than the USNS Comfort's mission to aid Venezuelan refugees fleeing their crisis-racked nation," Mattis said at the Southern Command ceremony.

It also pushes back against Chinese and Russian influence.

But with only two hospital ships, Comfort won't be there long.

And given the many things that South American countries could use to cope with Venezuela, I think that a modularized auxiliary cruiser based on a container ship that I described in "The AFRICOM Queen" (May-June 2016 Military Review) could be fitted out by SOUTHCOM for a long cruise in the region.

She would have hospital, Coast Guard, special forces, aerial, law enforcement, DEA, judicial, State Department, and civilian aid group elements that would provide a whole-of-government/NGO "mall" for local governments to cope with Venezuela.

Health is a good start but medical care is not the only problem down there.

Making Oil Great Again

American oil production is continuing to rise. This is excellent news but don't overstate it as a development that allows America to ignore the Middle East.

This energy news is great. Full stop:

An infestation of dots, thousands of them, represent oil wells in the Permian basin of West Texas and a slice of New Mexico. In less than a decade, U.S. companies have drilled 114,000. Many of them would turn a profit even with crude prices as low as $30 a barrel.

OPEC’s bad dream only deepens next year, when Permian producers expect to iron out distribution snags that will add three pipelines and as much as 2 million barrels of oil a day.

But it is great in a narrow military sense.

American energy independence simply means that America could continue to function and fuel our military no matter what happens abroad in a war. Which is good. Very good. No doubt.

But as long as other countries who are our trading partners--especially in Europe and Asia--need Middle East oil we have a large interest in maintaining the flow of oil to our trading partners to avoid economic calamity at home from a collapse in trade.

Sure, our trading partners will suffer more because they rely on trade more than we do. But is that much comfort when our economy slows to a measurably less slow crawl?

And some of our foes and enemies will love much higher energy prices that fuel their malign (which is the Pentagon term of art, I believe) activities.

When you hear about American energy "independence" check the definitions section. As you should always do.

And also, no. You didn't build that. To re-use a phrase.

UPDATE: Thanks to Instapundit for the link.

UPDATE: And thanks to The View Through the Windshield for the link (who seems not to have individual post hyperlinks as the early pre-Blogger version of TDR lacked).

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

We're Right Behind You!

Iran has supported Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis, as well as backing Assad in his bloody campaign to remain in power. For all the world it seems like Iran is willing to fight to the last Arab to harm Israel and increase Iranian power. The Iranians are upping the ante:

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on Muslims worldwide on Saturday to unite against the United States, instead of "rolling out red carpets for criminals".

Iran is unwilling to take on America directly. But Rouhani wants all Moslems to battle America.

American information operations should ask Moslems worldwide why they should be Iran's cannon fodder.

This is What a Boot Stomping on Your Face Forever Looks Like

China has weaponized microaggressions to bolster Chinese Communist Party rule:

China’s plan to judge each of its 1.3 billion people based on their social behavior is moving a step closer to reality, with Beijing set to adopt a lifelong points program by 2021 that assigns personalized ratings for each resident.

The capital city will pool data from several departments to reward and punish some 22 million citizens based on their actions and reputations by the end of 2020, according to a plan posted on the Beijing municipal government’s website on Monday. Those with better so-called social credit will get “green channel” benefits while those who violate laws will find life more difficult.

Social credit will be defined as bowing to the government's demands for loyalty in all matters, of course. Whatever you do that the government doesn't like, no matter how small, will cost you.

American Twitter mobs sigh with envy.

UPDATE: Friends with benefits notebooks:

According to the ruling Communist Party's official newspaper, as of the end of September, 1.1 million local government workers have been deployed to ethnic minorities' living rooms, dining areas and Muslim prayer spaces, not to mention at weddings, funerals and other occasions once considered intimate and private.

All this is taking place in China's far west region of Xinjiang, home to the predominantly Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uighurs, who have long reported discrimination at the hands of the country's majority Han Chinese.

While government notices about the "Pair Up and Become Family" program portray it as an affectionate cultural exchange, Uighurs living in exile in Turkey said their loved ones saw the campaign as a chilling intrusion into the only place that they once felt safe.

Just when you thought it couldn't get creepier.

Building Spree

China continues to build in the South China Sea:

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies said the images showed a “modest new structure” on Bombay Reef, topped by a radome and solar panels. ...

“The reef is directly adjacent to the major shipping lanes that run between the Paracels and the Spratly Islands to the south, making it an attractive location for a sensor array to extend Chinese radar or signals intelligence collection over that important sea lane,” the group said.

The Marines and our Australian friends could be quite busy in the South China Sea in wartime.

Which would make this type of amphibious warfare vessel useful (membership required).

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Iran's Path to Nuclear Weapons is Paved by the IAEA and the JCPOA

The IAEA is not capable of preventing Iran from going nuclear.

This is incorrect:

"Iran is implementing its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action," International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Yukiya Amano told a quarterly meeting of his agency's 35-nation Board of Governors.

As I recently wrote, the IAEA has no way to know if Iran is abiding by the Iran deal (the JCPOA). All the IAEA can say is that under the narrow range of places the IAEA can inspect, under the limited means of inspecting allowed by the deal, and with the limited means of addressing suspected violations of the deal, that the IAEA can detect no violations.

Which is different. I actually read the deal and I could poke holes in the enforcement provisions on a quick read through. And that was without knowing the further restrictions on foreign inspections part of the secret side deal between the IAEA and the parties about enforcement.

The deal was so bad that Ben Rhodes had to unleash the echo chamber through a compliant and ignorant press corps to get it.

The deal is so bad that John Kerry thinks it is working.

I always knew that a deal would be based on a simple deal: Iran pretends not to have a nuclear weapons program. And America pretends to believe them. I never wavered in my assessment. And that's how it worked out.

What Iran is doing is sticking to the deal, which is their shield to finally reach nuclear weapons status. Our withdrawal gives us a chance to stop nutball Iran from going nuclear.

All Our Power are Belong to Me

Well that's just effing great:

President Putin would have the power to launch nuclear first strikes under plans approved by the Russian parliament.

Senators in the Federation Council, the upper house, have recommended tearing up the military doctrine that forbids initial use of weapons of mass destruction. It comes after Mr Putin said that Moscow would retaliate if the United States withdrew from a landmark Cold War missile treaty.

The revision would allow the president to order nuclear strikes in response to enemy use of conventional weapons, a significant departure from the military doctrine that prohibits first use unless Russia is threatened by weapons of mass destruction or if its “very existence is in jeopardy”.

Not that I believed any no-first use policy was genuine, mind you. Russia needs nukes to defend their vast land border. A shrinking population will make it even harder to mount a conventional defense against invasion.

And I assumed Putin already has that power. But perhaps there were residual powers outside his full control.

A personally loyal army and now all the nukes are his. Forever.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: Stalin was a fine man! So what if he broke tens of millions of human eggs to get the delicious omelet we have today! So you know the next omelet will be great, too!

Weakening NATO is a Feature and Not a Bug

The head of NATO warns against the effects of a European Union military:

The U.S.-led NATO alliance warned Tuesday that the European Union should avoid competing with NATO as the key security pact on the Continent, after leaders in Germany and France raised the possibility of setting up a European army.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is absolutely correct to worry that an EU army would weaken NATO. Because that is the intent of a European "army" (that is, a European military).

Remember, NATO--which includes America and Canada in addition to the European members--already defends the continent from the Russian threat and only now are European NATO states starting to rebuild defenses in the face of Russian hostility and open aggression.

The only purpose of a European Union military is to weaken NATO and exclude America from Europe's defense so that America cannot stop the EU from building an "ever closer union" that creates an imperial state spanning the continent that rivals America.

Which weakens European defenses. But the Brussels apparatchiki are willing to take risks in the defense area if it furthers their political goals.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Constabulary Would Create Problems

This isn't a post. This is something of mine that addresses a pre-9/11 issue in the post-Cold War era that isn't worth your time. 

I wrote and submitted this article more than twenty years ago, but it did not make it into Army Magazine. It did get an airing in the September 1998 online "More Letters" segment (the link is now dead) of the magazine ( 

It was not on the Wayback Machine. But I did put it on my old Geocities portfolio site that evolved into this blog. And that was saved at Which is where I pulled it from. Which is good because I was not going to retype the printed version I had or try to find the old Word document and see if I could open it. Although funny enough I reproduced the article in full in this 2006 post. So maybe it still is relevant!

Twenty years ago I only considered something on dead trees as a real publication. But as I was going through old files to get rid of piles of stored paper from older publications, I was reminded that it was a full-blown article attempt. And now I don't dismiss online-only as not really a publication. So it is going on my publications list and I'm putting it in a TDR post so it lives on despite the death of the online Army Magazine site.


A constabulary force within the U.S. Army as proposed by Col. Don M. Snider, USA Ret. ("Let the Debate Begin: The Case for a Constabulary Force," "Front & Center," June), is the wrong way to respond to the impact of operations other than war on the combat readiness of the Army. An Army Constabulary Force (ACF) would not solve the Army's dilemma; instead, it would create problems worse than those the Army copes with today.

It is presumptuous to assert, as Col. Snider did, that defending the Army's purpose of fighting and winning the nation's wars simply repeats "a tired slogan irrelevant to the completed debate and counterproductive to the Army's needs." I do not believe Col. Snider acknowledges that the debate has been resolved in favor of operations other than war. In his support of the ACF concept, he claimed the ACF will allow the Army to refocus "on the high end of the spectrum [of conflict] where it belongs [and] limit the pernicious impact of [operations other than war] on the Army's major role as America's landpower for the 21st century." If the focus belongs at the high end (as I believe it does) and real-world operations emphasize the lower end to the detriment of the Army's combat mission, clearly a debate is needed over these conflicting strains on the Army. I am pleased that two readers took up the challenge ("Constabulary Force: Home Remedy?" by Col. David A. Fastabend and "Raising More Issues than It Solves" by Lt. Col. Pedro L. Arbona, USA Ret., "Front & Center," August), but I am not entirely satisfied with their conclusions.

The concept of the ACF fails when assessed by the type of force it would be and the effect it would have on American involvement in operations other than war. The author proposes to create the ACF -- equivalent to three military police brigades (15,000 personnel) -- with a mission of maintaining the peace. It would be kept in high readiness, trained in minimum use of force and committed to seeking "viable international relations rather than victory because it has incorporated a protective military posture." Instead of tapping the Army's recruiting pool, the ACF would supposedly appeal to young people opposed to enlisting in the military but interested in promoting peace in exchange for a college education.

I have serious doubts about such a force's ability to coerce or maintain peace and the appeal of service in the ACF to the "tie-dye and granola" crowd. If that is the recruiting base, how will the Army bring about the high level of readiness and capability to instill fear that will keep potential belligerents at peace? These volunteers will be worthless unless they are willing to accept discipline, carry a weapon, learn to kill and control unruly crowds. If willing to do so, they will not be part of the cohort of young people supposedly willing to work for peace in exchange for a college education. An additional issue that Lt. Col. Arbona raised is the fairness (or effectiveness for that matter) of foisting such enlisted personnel on those staff sergeants and above who have devoted their lives to an Army career. They deserve better than that sort of career speed bump.

If the constabulary force simply takes away 15,000 slots from an Army already too small to fully man its current structure, why would the Army want to give up 15,000 real soldiers? If the ACF is to be composed of new personnel, why not create three new MP brigades if Congress is willing to expand the Army by 15,000? Assuming the Army recruits, arms and deploys volunteers committed to minimum force in pursuit of peace, these constabulary troops will become hostages to warriors with no scruples against slaughtering civilians, let alone sheep in wolves' clothing. In addition to the combat support and combat service support units necessary to deploy with the ACF, as Lt. Col. Arbona noted, Regular Army forces will need to be close at hand at all times to intervene and protect the pseudo-military constabulary force.

As for relieving the burden of operations other than war on the Regular Army's combat forces, the ACF is a false solution. Col. Snider made several arguments that are clearly incorrect concerning the positive effects such a force would have on policies regarding operations other than war. He stated that the existence of the ACF as distinct from the Army would, "if political agreement could be reached between the executive branch and Congress," set the upper limit of involvement in operations other than war by having only a limited pool of constabulary troops that all would agree are the only forces suitable for operations other than war. If further missions arose, the author reasoned, the nation would debate the need to end an existing mission in order to take on a new mission. Why? If this political agreement limiting American commitment to operations other than war cannot be reached now, what would the existence of the ACF do to create it? If agreement can be reached, the Army would not need the ACF to limit the strain on its combat forces.

Col. Snider further claimed that mission creep will be averted if the United States sends in the ACF because everyone would accept that the ACF only carries out milder forms of operations other than war. I doubt that civilian leadership will fathom the differences between two organizations with identical uniforms but different orientations if it does not understand current capabilities. Did not our forces in Somalia attempt a more demanding mission even after civilian leadership denied a request for a handful of heavy armor? Where was the policy debate between famine relief and 18 dead soldiers in Mogadishu? Absent political consensus, the ACF would not in itself limit mission creep. Instead of placing a brake on escalation, the ACF would simply be at greater risk of failing when ordered to escalate.

As Col. Fastabend explained, the ACF would simply compete with the Army for scarce resources. The Marine Corps' influential lobbyists are bad enough, without creating another drain on the Regular Army. If policymakers want to participate in several operations other than war requiring 20,000 troops and the Army says it cannot because its 15,000 constabularies are already committed to ongoing operations, Congress will create 5,000 more ACF personnel. Anyone who does not believe that these 5,000 will come out of the hide of the Regular Army is badly deluded. To keep these slots, the Army will have to bite the bullet and send in the regulars -- just as it does now -- or see the regular force shrink in favor of a "more relevant" constabulary force.

Although Col. Fastabend and Lt. Col. Arbona rightly reject the concept of an ACF, they effectively argue for diverting the few combat units the Army has to the plethora of missions that operations other than war represent. While these are missions the Army must master, the world is not so benign and the Army not so dominant that the Service can slash its heavy forces to carry out every operation that compassion can conceive. Unfortunately, all three authors, coming from different perspectives, would reduce the Army's deployable combat forces by design or effect.

The United States does not need a Peace Corps in battle dress uniforms. The proposed constabulary will not only fail to alleviate the high operational tempo U.S. forces are committed to in operations other than war, it will threaten the Regular Army by creating another force that will compete with the Army for people and resources. The ACF will look like soldiers, but they will not be soldiers. Ultimately, they will be called upon to fight as if they were soldiers. If they are recruited and trained on the basis of their nonviolent mission, the shock of combat will be all the greater.

Our enemies will not care that these are peaceful kids, only that they are wearing American uniforms. We may get lucky and never have to face the body bags coming home, but why risk the pitfalls of the Army Constabulary Force when its benefits are illusory? Raising three new brigades of military police would be a better solution than the ACF. Indeed, the status quo would be better than the ACF "solution." In any case, the debate over the Army's future is hardly settled.

For what it is worth, I advocate an Army focused on fighting and winning our nation's wars -- tired slogan though it may be.

Brian J. Dunn
Ann Arbor, Mich.

Staying Together for the Nuclear Kids

Yes, Pakistan is our bride from Hell:

In light of the historical record and the obvious current disjuncture in American and Pakistani objectives in Afghanistan and vis-à-vis India, which Washington considers a strategic partner in the Indo-Pacific region, it is very surprising that Islamabad and Washington have until now maintained a façade of alliance just as estranged couples preserve the pretense of married life in public. However, the current open spat between Trump and Imran Khan may be the much-awaited signal that divorce is around the corner.

I've called them our Black Sheep ally for a long time.

But I don't see a divorce as long as we rely on Pakistani territory to supply our forces (and those of our allies) in landlocked Afghanistan. Just how would we do that with a clean break with nuclear-armed, nutball-supporting, frenemy Pakistan?

Having a friendly non-nutball Iran for a supply line to Afghanistan would sure help us deal with Pakistan, wouldn't it?

Pre-Ukraine invasion, it was possible to use Russia as an alternate supply route. But that was never more than a means to gain bargaining leverage over Pakistani supply lines. Trusting Putin's Russia is worse than trusting Pakistan.

And a bunch of other problems without nutball Iran around would be less difficult, for that matter.

Not that we want a complete break with Pakistan. We'd consider our Iran relations a roaring success if Iran was as good a friend as Pakistan. Pakistan has nukes and we have an incentive to maintain ties if only to keep the total Islamist nutballs from getting their hands on the nukes.

But it would be great if we needed relations with Pakistan for little more than securing their nukes.

Look West for that Regional Solution

Trump's regional strategy for Afghanistan seeks to address sources of problems abroad that prevent us from defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been the focus of this approach.* Iran should be the focus.

I've long recognized that our military efforts in Afghanistan can only have a limited effect because the Taliban effectively have a sanctuary in Pakistan (which is why Osama bin Laden was hiding in Abbotbad until Obama ordered the raid that killed him there) that we can't fully address as long as Pakistan can cut our supply lines to landlocked Afghanistan if our pressure to behave gets too tough.

I kept hoping that Pakistan would come to its senses and stop supporting jihadis who are a threat to Pakistan, too. But that isn't happening. They are riding the tiger and can't/won't get off.

While there are military objectives in Afghanistan that we can achieve without a regional approach, if we want to stop the foreign accelerants that fuel the war we should look to Iran before we focus on Pakistan.

If we can get a friendly Iran that can be a supply line to Afghanistan and our forces there, we can afford to be tougher on Pakistan's support for jihadis who fuel the war in Afghanistan.

The line of supply exists and needs only a friendly Iran to be a secure line for our forces.

The freedom to pressure Pakistan to fight rather than support jihadis would finally be an option.

Solving Iran helps us solve Afghanistan which helps us solve Pakistan.

*And drawing Pakistan's arch rival India in for civilian development both helps Afghanistan and puts pressure on Pakistan to behave better to avoid the need for Indian aid.

From the "Well, Duh" Files

Russia admits they invaded the Donbas:

Earlier in November a Russian military journal (“Military Review”) ran an article in which the Russian author admitted that Russia was indeed controlling the Donbas Ukrainian “rebels.” This has been an open secret since Russia instigated the Donbas fighting in 2014. The main theme of the article was the difficulty in controlling the paramilitary forces Russia has organized to play the role of “rebels” in Donbas.

“Military Review” tends to reflect the views of the Ministry of Defense and often criticizes GRU (Russian Military Intelligence) an organization somewhat independent of Defense Ministry control so that it can serve to provide alternatives to Defense Ministry plans. GRU is more into special operations techniques, which were heavily used in Donbas.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has always frustrated me--both Russia's lies and Western reactions to them.

Russia's invasion was elevated to some near magical level of sophisticated "hybrid warfare" that only extensive study with new organizations could penetrate.

But in reality hybrid warfare is very simple. Russia invades a country. Russia denies invading a country. And the West goes along with the lie.

Trying to tie those three elements together led to the hybrid war nonsense that took hold in the West. This Russian admission is another blow against the collapsing triad of Russian deceit.

Remember, Crimea was made possible by unique circumstances in Ukraine at that time that are not generally exportable to other targets. The Russians carried out an impressive operation but the target was paralyzed.

In the Donbas, Ukraine was able to rally and now--as I've wanted from the beginning--the war is a bleeding ulcer for Russia that costs them financially and their public doesn't want to die for it. And even the Russian military doesn't fully support the war.

Less studying. More stopping. We didn't need a Russian admission that they invaded Ukraine to help Ukraine send Russian body bags home.

UPDATE: It is odd that it took Russia attacking and capturing Ukrainian vessels in Russia's escalation of the war to a subliminal blockade in the Sea of Azov to get the media's attention when ongoing land fighting has not.

But Ukraine will take any port in a storm, eh?

A Military Solution to a Military Problem in Afghanistan

Afghan cities remain vulnerable to enemy attacks:

Though a 1,000-fighter strong Taliban takeover of Ghazni City was repelled by a combination of U.S. and Afghan forces earlier this year, conditions remain for the insurgent group to take other vulnerable urban centers, according to a recent report.

One urban center cited in particular is Farah City, which faced Taliban control as recently as May.

I keep hearing our military leaders say there is no military solution to ending the war. And perhaps the Taliban are too deeply embedded in Pakistan with government support to really wrap up a battlefield victory in Afghanistan for long.

I once thought Pakistan had to come to their senses regarding the jihadis. They have not.

But there is one thing that has a military solution--securing the Goddamn cities by going on the offensive and atomizing the enemy so they can't mass to attack cities, as I wrote not too long ago:

We need to seize the initiative from the enemy and by relentless pursuit on the ground and with air and fire support make the Taliban think more about what we will do them than about what they will do to us.

Do that and we atomize the enemy--that is, force them into smaller and smaller combat formations out of the need to survive--and deprive them of the ability to even freely attack--let alone defeat--even small friendly outposts.

Once the enemy is atomized, small platoon-sized friendly outposts and patrols are safer and can extend a net to deprive the enemy of the ability to use the people and resources of areas now untouched by friendly government forces. This will extend a zone of defense around cities and big bases that deny the enemy the ability to approach unseen and attack in force.

Friendly forces must also have reaction forces all over the place (mobile by ground and air assets) along with responsive fire power, resupply, and medical evacuation. This will allow the government to react to enemy attacks quickly to hold those outposts that come under attack.

Atomizing the enemy makes friendly security forces in small outposts more likely to fight. They will know that the enemy can't mass much and can't mass for long because friendly forces will be on their way. Right now, Afghan forces manning those outposts have real reason to think they are on their own and that surrender or retreat are better options than fighting off an attack.

And yes, with such a low level of skills, Afghans need outside help to maintain weapons and equipment and to advise them on how to use the equipment. The government troops' jobs are far harder than what the Taliban do, who rely on simple techniques of killing and inspiring fear.

We can talk about statistics of control and opinion polls to divine whether we are in a stalemate, but the simple fact is that the enemy's clear ability to mass troops to attack cities and overrun smaller outposts indicates we are not winning this war.

And that kind of battlefield success will do wonders in the conference rooms.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Knock-Out Punch?

I certainly can't rule out that vile jihadis used chemical shells on Syrian civilians, but the accusation seems like a pretext to end the pretend ceasefire in Idlib after it has run its course in dividing and weakening the remaining rebel stronghold in that Syrian province:

The Russian Defence Ministry said on Sunday its warplanes had carried out air strikes against militants it held responsible for firing shells filled with chlorine gas at the city of Aleppo, Russian news agencies reported.

Perhaps this is a one-off. But maybe it signals what the Russians hope is the final offensive in the west.

Are the rebels capable of abandoning a civil war objective of holding territory and going down the escalation ladder to an insurgency?

The Ugly Front Line to Prevent Iraq War 3.0

The United States is setting up border outposts in Syria along the border with Turkey in order to help find and kill the remnants of ISIL in eastern Syria. Turkey is unhappy because it could impede Turkish attacks on Kurds. America says the presence is required to keep ISIL from regenerating after being defeated:

President Donald Trump's administration hopes that the U.S.-backed fight against Islamic State in its last foothold in northeastern Syria will end within months. But a top U.S. diplomat recently said American forces will remain to ensure the "enduring defeat" of the militant group.

While we have an interest in remaining in eastern Syria after defeating ISIL to push Iran out of Syria, remaining to keep ISIL defeated is a legitimate objective, too.

Syria was part of a jihadi pipeline flowing from the wider Islamice world into Iraq both before and during the Iraq War. And Assad encouraged jihadi growth in Syria during the civil war to de-legitimize the rebellion and scare the Hell out of his backers to stick with him despite the heavy casualties to keep him in power.

So Assad would clearly allow jihadis to head back to eastern Syria either through passivity by allowing a vacuum that jihadis would fill or as an active policy to get revenge on Turks, Kurds, Jordanians, and Iraqis (and America and the West).

And after walking away from the Iraq War in 2011 after defeating al Qaeda in Iraq by 2008, we actually did have to engage in Iraq War 2.0 to re-defeat jihadis in the form of ISIL which established a caliphate spanning Syrian and Iraqi territory, and then branched out into other areas like Libya, the Sahel, Sinai, and Afghanistan.

Iraq War 2.0 was initiated by President Obama in 2014 despite his vehement opposition to the Iraq War initiated (with bipartisan Congressional approval, if you've forgotten) and won by President Bush 43 despite growing opposition at home.

I'm hoping our memories are good enough that we will decide we don't want to risk an Iraq War 3.0 to defeat a regenerated jihadi force in the Iraq-Syria region.

Fighting for Iraq

One arguments that opponents of the Iraq War hauled out was that destroying the Saddam regime just turned Iraq over to the Iranians.* That argument was wrong and now we can see evidence.

Saying it was wrong to destroy the Saddam regime because it turned over Iraq to Iran is like arguing that destroying the Hitler regime was wrong because it turned large chunks of Europe over to the USSR. One job done does not mean there are no more jobs to do. So Cold War followed hot World War II.

My view was that Iran long had influence in Iraq (that's one reason Saddam invaded Iran in 1980) and that our influence after the war would be key in fighting against that influence. But we left in 2011 and ISIL rose up. And Iran increased their influence in Iraq by sponsoring militias to fight ISIL after many Iraqi security forces collapsed in mid-2014.

After ISIL was defeated in Iraq War 2.0 we decided to stay. And our influence worries Iran a great deal:

Reports have been circulating about Iran’s reduced influence and popularity in Iraq. According to a study that Alustakilla research group conducted and The Washington Post published Nov. 16 that involved 2,500 to 3,500 national interviews, Iraqi Shiites favoring Iran dropped from 88% in 2015 to 47% in the fall of 2018. During that same period, the percentage of Shiites who do not favor Iran rose from 6% to 51%.

The percentage of Shiites who believe Iran is a reliable partner of Iraq plunged from 76% to 43% during the same period. Those who believe Iran is not a reliable partner increased from 24% to 55%. More Iraqi Shiites now see Iran as a real threat to Iraq’s sovereignty, with a rise from 25% in 2016 to 58% in 2018.

Iran is desperate to maintain their friendly Popular Mobilization militia units that are a proto-Hezbollah answering to Tehran. We need to keep up our pressure and support for the Iraqi government to bring those militias under central government authority and to disband those that resist.

Fighting for Iraq is not futile. Iran has problems persuading Iraqis if the Iraqis have an alternative. We need to be that alternative.

Strategypage's tour of Iraq discusses ISIL's lingering presence, divisions among the Iraqi Kurds, continued problems of Iraqi leadership in Mosul, and Iran's efforts to retain influence in Iraq. And more. There is much to do still.

We forget we won the Iraq War all too easily.

*I originally wrote "Iraqis"--which is what we did. I hope the context made my slip clear!

A Favor to Putin

As Belarus dances between NATO and Russia, favors like this to Russia can't hurt Lukashenko's grip on power:

Vietnam and Belarus have signed a new agreement to collaborate on military technologies to boost defence industrial capability in the Southeast Asian country.

As Russia pivots to Asia, Russia wants China busy anywhere but on its land border with Russia. So strengthening Vietnam, a longtime foe and target of China, is a good idea.

And it is great without Russian fingerprints on the effort.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

The French insist that a new fighter plane to be developed with Germany be capable of operating from a carrier and carrying nuclear weapons, because the French believe those capabilities "deeply connected" with maintaining their "national sovereignty." Funny, didn't French President Macron just reject that kind of nationalism? I really don't get nuance, it is clear.

Everybody thinks that if they are careful enough the crocodile will eat them last. So these people can now enjoy being on the menu. Tip to Instapundit.

The Army is testing anti-drone weapons but they are vehicle-mounted. I worry about how infantry units can be defended without lugging around ground-based anti-drone weapons or using vehicles that make the unit road bound to stay under the protective envelope, ending the point of having leg infantry capable of going where vehicles can't go.

Israel's Netanyahu has some serious self-inflicted problems of the corruption variety that could sink his personal fortunes and his party.

The Air Force chief of staff discusses deepening NATO military relations with Ukraine, which has ambitions to join NATO as it continues to battle Russian and Russian-backed forces that occupy Ukrainian territory.

I'm late to this, but what the Hell is NATO member Spain thinking by refueling Russian warships in their ports? That's seriously effed up thinking.

The US voted against a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution on Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights--for the first time--seized from Syria by Israel in the 1967 war. This is a tough issue. I'm against the annexation. But I also think Israel is fully justified occupying it given that in Syrian control it was used to threaten an invasion of Israel. Only true peace should see Israel return it. With Iran growing stronger inside Syria this issue is no less important. But we shouldn't support annexation as Russia has done with Crimea at Ukraine's expense. Yet Israel is unique in getting this kind of attention--Morocco does not catch much grief for annexation of portions of Western Sahara.

Yes, global cooling was a thing. It filtered into my middle school science class, so you know it was the consensus at the time.

Yeah, the Fuck-up Fairy visited the White House last Veterans Day. Next year I trust the overseas travel schedule will be adjusted. This kind of adjustment will help.

I think it is immensely silly to argue that America would not come to the aid of a NATO country that Russia attacks. The treaty commits America and America will stand with our allies. And it is in America's interest to preserve a free Europe even apart from the treaty obligation. Applebaum is a fine writer suffering from Trump Hysteria Condition, I think. Tossing in a retrospective worry about Obama (and I did not worry about Obama defending NATO--just the ability to do so under his European draw down and general military downgrade) is mere window dressing to conceal the THC.

What fresh Hell is this? Tip to the PJM live blog.

Trump and Khan feuded on Twitter. Pakistan is no friend given that they support the jihadis (including hiding bin Laden until we killed him in a raid) that they also fight--meaning Pakistan bears responsibility for much of the body count inside Pakistan. And let's not forget Pakistan's low level war on India. Our aid was actually significant. And yes, the implied threat the Pakistani ruler made to our supply line to Afghanistan is the major reason we put up with Pakistan.

So Venezuela is about to make the jump from Axis of El Vil to Axis of Evil? Has Maduro really done enough to join the ranks of such scum countries as Iran, North Korea, Syria and Sudan?

I fear that the requirement Germany has for their future fighter plane (FCAS, and you do NOT want to know how that acronym is pronounced) is the ability to sit out in the open for long periods in inclement weather without noticeably rusting. Given German problems with production and readiness, the new plane should just be a hollow hull with none of the expensive guts that won't be maintained anyway.

Grant me that this is funny.

Boko Haram struck 3 Nigerian security bases recently, and one base was briefly taken after the defenders were "dislodged." I've read that the jihadis have taken to encouraging defenders to retreat by leaving an escape path in order to raid the base to capture equipment.

For 11 months out of the year I am treated to stories about how Americans are so obese. Yet from Thanksgiving to Christmas I am told I must give to help those going hungry in America. I don't get it.

The US has donated some boats and trucks to Chad, which will be useful in fighting jihadis around and on Lake Chad.

Duty, honor, country.

I'm not sure how this anti-drone full-court press will work for Russia, but given that the Russians in World War II considered an entire infantry company lying on its back firing into the air to be a reasonable anti-aircraft practice, it isn't surprising.

The US 2nd Infantry Division has but a brigade in South Korea, but it is the only division based abroad. And it is a joint division with a South Korean mechanized brigade part of it.

The Army has a new command post system. It had best be secure against cyber-attacks and it had best be pretty mobile to avoid precision fires strikes. Setting up tents and antenna farms is pretty much assisted suicide these days against a conventional enemy. And with a secure battlefield internet, maybe we could try reachback for the squad.

Good, couldn't happen to a more vile proto-imperial body.

Strategypage looks at North Korea, where a shrinking economy has to provide foreign luxury goods to the governing class to keep them loyal--which the masses are starting to notice.

While Russia's economy has suffered since Putin invaded Ukraine in 2014 because of sanctions and lower oil prices, corruption and government management failures have been more important than believed for the economic problems. If Russia truly wants to pivot to Asia and the Pacific Putin really needs to stop needlessly pissing off NATO and the rest of Europe.

The US offered Ukraine two recently retired Perry frigates. Ukraine would like them but is figuring out if they can afford them. I hate seeing these given away because I want to use them to build APDs for amphibious warfare uses (sorry, membership required).

What's really funny about this LA voter fraud story is that California Democrats felt they had to cheat to ... what? Bounce the rubble in an assured Democratic victory there?

The Germany of North America: Canada is buying used Australian F-18s that Canada can't afford to upgrade, maintain, or provide pilots to fly.  But other than that, it will work out swell. Canada manned up and bled with us in Afghanistan on the ground when many allied countries caveated their soldiers into permanent barracks defense. So I don't intend to be mean. But good Lord.

Um, the CIA provides information. It does not set policy.  Hearing Democrats vigorously defend the CIA is almost as shocking as hearing them vigorously attack Russia. Seriously, isn't the choice we have clear?

China's cyber espionage has advanced their jet engine technology a good deal; plus more on China's cyber militia.

Secretary Mattis said that the Army could be used for crowd control on the border. He specifically mentioned MPs with crowd control skills (and no firearms). My signal unit went through riot control training once when I was in it and it featured taking away all our firearms and issuing face shields, batons, and  body armor. Only a few of our best shooters had weapons and they were kept to the rear in case of a sniper. The emphasis was on moving protesters away from a location. "Our job is to get them to go home--not kill them" was the message. So I've gone from assuming MPs going to the border were for crowd control of a mass caravan, to correcting myself when I read they were for protecting engineers and other enablers, and now back to what I assumed was their mission based on training. Of course, the healing powers of "and" are appropriate here, I suppose.

And don't forget that a show of force on the border in the face of a mass caravan is important to stop the surge of potential illegal border crossers and to deter future attempts with a visible image of potential force. The tizzy people are getting in over this very basic concept is amazing.

Now this is a clever statue protest:

The Russians are all upset and urging the statues of the baddies be defended. (Via Power Line blog with a tip to Instapundit.)

When stupidity is fatal.

I recently read an article that noted that Taiwan's "fleet" of submarines along with shore-based anti-ship missiles and mines would inflict casualties on an invading Chinese force. Sure. But the question is whether China can invade and conquer despite that attrition. And the notion that Taiwan's 2 1980s-era submarines and 2 World War II-era training boats constitute a "fleet" is ludicrous.

The effect of America's halting of aerial refueling for Saudi coalition aircraft in the Yemen war has been minor. In part, we are helping them design missions so they don't need refueling. Not mentioned is what I noted, that the Saudis could contract with private refueling companies for what they need above their own refueling capability.

During the height of the Iraq War, plenty of people were upset that we were trying to "impose" democracy on a country they said was not ready for it. They argued for a "realpolitik" approach that simply left the dictator in place for "stability"; and rather than changing the regime we should make deals with them. Today we have a president willing to make such deals with a Saudi dictatorship openly, and the same people who complained about the democracy project say that dealing with the Saudis stains America's reputation. The problem is, I'm old enough to remember these evolving standards. And say, how about that Pakistan?

Before the last election I noted that while Trump is a crude jerk, Obama is a condescending jerk. Tell me I'm wrong. Am I happy our current president is a crude jerk? Of course not. I have a longstanding history of disliking the man. But we have a different kind of jerk and not something new. As I've mentioned before, when I was in the Legislative Service Bureau, I actually found the new legislator briefings refreshing. Even when the legislators stood for things I did not, their enthusiasm for coming to Lansing to make things better was always refreshing. Of course there were jerks and losers as any large group of people will have. But I did not develop any of the absolute contempt for the people that Obama so easily dismissed as unworthy of working with him. And note too the audience just loved the contempt Obama shared with them.

Will the morons stop this nonsense? America is strongly in NATO and Britain is attempting to leave the EU--not leave NATO where they will remain one of the stronger European members. European feigned panic about American reliability stoked to pursue their longstanding goal of an independent military should be clear. The author at least had the sense to conclude that no pan-European military is coming any time soon because of the need for America. Which rather undercuts his starting point, no?

China's new UAV, which is the launching point for discussing American UAV development.

Russia lost their effort to get their own man into Interpol. Good. The US and UK had a role in getting support for the South Korean candidate. Also good. Sometimes the sainted international community can surprise me.

Nobody ever speaks of Christianophobia.

I remain grateful that America has a winner-take-all approach to our legislature rather than a parliamentary system. The rise of tyranny-friendly parties in Europe in response to uncontrolled immigration is a case in point. It is absolutely true that a refusal by the major parties to address very real concerns about immigration leads people to turn to less reputable parties who promise to address the real concerns. In Europe, those parties can gain office and then gain strength in a fragmented parliamentary system and gain power out of proportion to their numbers. In America, one of the two major parties will eventually absorb the people who want something done and express a willingness to go to a third party, and incorporate that bloc of voters--but in the process mellow the response to a real problem (in this case to immigration) to reputable means. I find our process superior for preventing extremists from arising. Which is good for stability.

The new government of the Maldives that is less willing to facilitate Chinese penetration-by-loans of their country doesn't even know how much money the prior government borrowed from China.

This is a wise approach by the Marines for a worst-case electronic environment.

This month I had an article published in Army magazine, for the December issue about low-level air defense drones for forward Army infantry, which put me at my goal of surpassing my first wave of defense publications a couple decades ago. Which may explain my lack of motivation to work on articles the last few months. Although I do have several that I want to re-work because I really like what I wrote. And a book manuscript needs to be pitched. And I really want to head out into a different direction in writing. But as I tell my children, if my mortgage payment required a sale I'd be more diligent, I'm sure!

The French are certainly willing to kill jihadis in their sphere of influence.

The Army and Air Force are practicing flying in rocket launchers to quickly deploy, fire, and fly away. Which is part of the growing usage of precision rocket fire. Although in practice I doubt that the Air Force will be in the position where they don't have F-35s available to provide fire support but do have transport planes available to enable Army fire support.

In the last data dump I noted that the Army hadn't had its current problem recruiting since the Iraq War. This article discusses that. In 2005 the Army lowered standards--which basically worked out as I understand it, but with a lot more demanded of leadership to cope with selective category 4 recruiting. And today, in addition to needing more troops for an expanded Army the Army is working to discharge troops who aren't deployable and replace them with troops who can go to war.

If she dyes her hair orange next week don't say you weren't warned.

I worry that the pursuit of the good Brexit will kill an adequate Brexit--forever.

Israel is thinking about buying advanced F-15s. I think the United States Air Force should have advanced semi-stealthy air superiority F-15s as an insurance policy for the new F-35.

At the Choke Points

This seems wise for India:

In a further sign of increasingly cordial ties between the two services, the Indian Navy's Rajput (Kashin II)-class destroyer IS Rana (D 52) has arrived in Surabaya for a bilateral naval exercise with the Indonesian Navy (Tentara Nasional Indonesia - Angkatan Laut, or TNI-AL).

The drills, which have been named Exercise 'Samudra Shakti', is seeing its inaugural edition, and is taking place from 12 to 18 November in Surabaya for the harbour phase, and waters off Java for sea phase.

Acting East keeps China's fleet from breaking out into the Indian Ocean. Friendship with Indonesia helps prevent that so India isn't defending their Andaman and Nicobar Islands line short of India proper.

Although ideally for India and Indonesia, the first line of defense is the northern part of the South China Sea.

UPDATE: Although China would love to bypass the Malacca problem by building a canal through Thailand's territory.

Thailand should refuse just to deny China incentive to control Thailand.

The Iranian Nutballs Have a Point

The Iranians have a point about their ability to strike at targets close to Iran:

Iran has said that U.S. bases in Afghanistan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and American aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf are within range of its missiles, according to a report.

Citing the Tasnim news agency, Reuters reports that the comments were made Wednesday by an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander. “They are within our reach and we can hit them if they (Americans) make a move,” said Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards’ airspace division.

The commander said that the missiles have improved precision and could hit the Kandahar base in Afghanistan, Al Udeid Airbase in Qatar and Al Dhafra base in the UAE.

Now that the heavy lifting for defeating ISIL is over, it doesn't seem like our big deck carriers are sitting around in the Persian Gulf any more to contribute air strikes. Which is good. I have no idea why we put big ships in the Gulf given the threat potential.

Seriously, I just don't get it.

Anyway, I'm grateful that Iran isn't shy about their intentions. We should listen more carefully.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Build an Armed Doorbell Camera

Japan does not occupy the small Senkaku Islands and plans to rush troops to them if China starts an operation to take them. I'm not sure who came up with that plan for defeat. Only robots can save the islands.

If I was China, I'd foment the kind of resistance that caused Japan to delay deployment of V-22 Ospreys to Saga airport in southwest Japan for Senkaku Island scenarios:

Unable to win local support for deployment of V-22 Ospreys to Saga airport in southwestern Japan, the Japanese government is delaying delivery of the trouble-prone aircraft.

Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said Friday the government is postponing delivery of the first batch of US-made Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft, initially planned for this fall, to a yet-to-be confirmed later date.

Of course, I have problems with the entire way Japan is approaching Senkaku Island scenarios. Planning to race China to the islands is idiotic.

Japan's new defense focus is well suited both to a declining and aging population and for the defense of the Senkaku Islands:

Japan’s new defence policy, which will be introduced before the end of the year, is expected to put emphasis on the development of military capabilities in cyber, artificial intelligence (AI), and autonomous systems, it has been reported.

As I've suggested, rather than planning to race China to the islands or planning on retaking the islands from China, Japan should defend the islands with robots.

Japan's new defense focus could enable that.

Cautiously Outraged

For a brief interlude the European Union will have to pretend to be more upset with Iran than they are with Britain or Trump:

European Union foreign ministers showed cautious support on Monday for possible new economic sanctions on Iran in a shift of policy after accusations of Iranian attack plots in France and Denmark, diplomats said.

Denmark and France briefed their EU counterparts at a meeting in Brussels on the alleged plots and ministers agreed to consider targeted sanctions on Iranians in response, although no details or names were discussed, five diplomats told Reuters. ...

Until now, the EU has been straining to uphold the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers that U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of in May. It has been less willing to consider sanctions, instead seeking talks with Tehran.

That cautious support for new sanctions won't last long.

RIP John Collins

John Collins passed away at the age of 97 after a long career in defense of our country in and out of uniform.

I was introduced to him in 1980 when I purchased his U.S.-Soviet Military Balance: Concepts and Capabilities 1960-1980. This despite being a very poor college student with few coins to rub together. It was that good and it was my well-worn (literally held together with masking tape) "Bible" in college. It is still on my shelf.

This was sad news.

Inflicting Pain

America is a Pacific power that wants to reassure friends and allies (and states that would like to be friends or allies) we are in their corner:

Indo-Pacific Command Commander Adm. Philip Davidson said the United States will continue to challenge China over its claims in the disputed South China Sea region with both military and economic means.

Davidson came to the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada Nov. 17 and delivered a message similar to one the Trump administration gave on the other side of the world the day before: The United States intends to beat back China’s influence over its smaller, less wealthy neighbors.

The economic means hit export-reliant China where it hurts. And apparently the low-level tariff war actually benefits America (tip to Instapundit):

The EconPol Europe study calculates that Chinese exporters are bearing approximately 75 percent of the costs, meaning that eventually a net gain of $18.4 billion will be added to the US economy.

And lest you think friends and allies in Asia will shudder as this battle over tilted trade policies continues:

According to research done by Japanese financial services company Nomura Holdings, the search by companies based in the US and China for suitable substitution for certain tariff-affected goods is benefiting Malaysia in particular, but Japan, Pakistan, Thailand and the Philippines are also among the beneficiaries.

Also in Asia, Vietnam has been gaining the most from firms relocating their production away from China. Malaysia, Singapore and India have also been profiting from this development.

China looks strong and it certainly has strength after decades of growth. But China has a lack of rule of law and the problems China has could cause a major economic crisis.

And since downgrading communist ideology as a pillar of the legitimacy of the ruling class in favor of growing richer as the justification for the Communist Party's monopoly of political power, an economic crisis could shake the party's control.

And yes, for those smaller neighbors of China our visible military power is a reassuring factor in Asia. In that realm, two more American B-52s asserted our stand that the South China Sea is an international body of water that China cannot fence off with dashed lines.

The notion that America is retreating from Asia and the Pacific remains nonsense.

And I'll add as I often do that I remain sad that INDOPACOM was not named PAINCOM (Pacific-Indian Command).

UPDATE: America's campaign against the giant Huawei adds to the pressure:

The U.S. government is trying to persuade wireless and internet providers in allied countries to avoid telecommunications equipment from China’s Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL], the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The move would further pile pressure on the world’s biggest telecom gear maker, which is under scrutiny from Western intelligence agencies for its perceived ties to China’s government and the possibility its equipment could be used for espionage.

This really is looking like a full-court press. Will China cut a deal under this pressure? Or do they think they can endure it and outlast the Trump administration?

If the latter, in 2020 we should probably be looking more at China (again, as they did in the 1990s) rather than Russia for election interference:

China is spreading "fake news" via social media to swing Taiwanese voters away from President Tsai Ing-wen's party and behind candidates more sympathetic to Beijing ahead of elections, Taiwanese officials said.

Beijing is test-driving its techniques in Taiwan, where it has a big stake in the politics and understands the language and culture, but deployed its cyber-capacities in the United States, Australia and other democracies, the officials said.

I'm so old I remember when social media was viewed as a means to topple dictators rather than one more tool in the tyranny toolkit.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

A Ritual Animal Sacrifice--With Pie

I continue my Thanksgiving Day ritual of watching the Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Pangs" episode.

Ah, Buffy. And Anya, too. Thin, pretty, and emotionally crippled.

But perhaps I've shared too much.

And a beer or two to wrap up the day, of course.

Mindless adherence to tradition and opposable thumbs are all that separate us from the beasts. So I do my part to maintain civilization.

UPDATE: Good grief, leave the woman alone. Tip to Instapundit.

The Signal for a True Pivot

Russia really needs Japan in its corner of Asia and Japan really wants at least some of its territory that the USSR took from Japan in 1945. Could a peace treaty after so many false starts to signing one finally take place in the next couple years?

Europe has been nothing but a disaster for Putin who has effed up the west royally, and so Putin needs a helping hand in Asia that doesn't come from the rising power of China:

Putin’s interest is both economic and geopolitical. A deal with Japan would potentially open the flow of Japanese investment to Russia’s Far East, a vast, underdeveloped region where Russia needs to counterbalance a growing Chinese influence. Improving relations with Japan would also help Putin in his search for alternatives to cooperation with the West. He knows by now that U.S. economic sanctions and weaker European restrictions are here to stay, so he’s working feverishly to buttress other partnerships in the Middle East and Asia.
There are Russians who complain that Russia loudly took Crimea but quietly plans to cede territory to Japan. The quietly ceding land part was already established in May 2005 as I note in this post, which is a problem should China refuse to continue a 2001 treaty that muted China's large land claims against Russia in the Far East.

I recently noted that I wouldn't believe Russia is truly pivoting to the Pacific until they agree to a peace treaty with Japan.

A Russian pivot to Asia after alienating NATO and America would be futile if Russia is sticking its head in the meat grinder of a rising China with territorial claims in addition to a hostile Japan and America.

A deal with Japan effectively nullifies America in Asia as a force to fight Russia there, the Bering Strait being an inhospitable region to wage war.

And that would provide Russia with a rear area if China decides to signal their rise to world power status by striking Russia.

But a treaty with Japan ends the pretext that Russian military improvements in the Far East is directed at Japan and not China. And how much can Russia give back to Japan and still retain the Sea of Okhotsk as a SSBN bastion for a survivable nuclear deterrent in the Pacific?

So who knows? Maybe this time for sure. Or maybe not. It makes sense but that never stopped Putin from effing up royally.

One Belt, One Road, One Ruler

The Chinese project to extend trade lines west with their One Belt, One Road (OBOR, a.k.a. the New Silk Road. or Belt and Road Initiative) comes with Internet censorship, which a lot of the host countries like a lot:

Many of the nations Obor projects pass through are run by corrupt or dictatorial governments that are always seeking new methods to keep them in power. China has something for that as well. Part of the Obor package is the construction of fiber optic lines to carry communications, especially Internet, traffic. China also offers a wide variety of tested (in China) tools for controlling what locals can use their Internet access for. For many nations Obor is being built in this Internet control option is a very attractive feature. The fiber optic cables are easily built as part of new pipelines, roads or railroads. Chinese firms are major worldwide providers of cell phones and all manner of Internet related hardware and software. Many of the Chinese censorship tools are unwelcome or even illegal in the West but most of the nations in Central Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa that are part of the Obor network have rulers who are eager to gain more control over what local phone and Internet users are up to. China has lots of apps for that. China will also help install and manage these new “content controlled” networks and give local rulers the benefit of Chinese experience and new developments. One of those new developments is particularly popular; reliable facial recognition systems. Another dictator-friendly new app measures and tracks enough Internet and other activity by locals to come up with a “Social Credit” ranking for every person and enterprise in the country. For dictators this is an easy way to monitor emerging threats (widespread lower social credit scores) and determine how best to deal with these problems. This, coupled with the more effective Chinese Internet monitoring, eavesdropping and censorship tools makes unelected governments more confident about their ability to stay in power.

And there is more on how China manipulates the Internet and punishes those who contradict the party line.

From China's point of view, those governments accepting Chinese help (and bribes) will be reliant on China to survive and will become satraps bowing toward Peking in the growing Chinese empire.