Sunday, March 31, 2019

Weekend Data Dump

Strategypage looks at the Syrian armored forces as they evolved during the multi-war to emphasize heavy forces backed by firepower to support assaults that ended up defeating the bulk of its enemies; and how it may end up after the war is finally concluded. I noted early that Assad needed a whole new war to win that abandoned much of Syria and began the long road of recovering territory as their military capacity increased--and he got it. I never suspected he could get a foreign army to gain that capacity to defeat the biggest threats, but he did via Iran and its Shia foreign legion, Hezbollah, and Russia in the west and via the American coalition in the east that fought a parallel campaign against ISIL that effectively helped Assad. Also, the discussion of the armor-led effort reflects how the Syrian army became a zombie army because of casualties that looked more like an advise and assist force with a lot of firepower helping the new militias and irregulars that were the cannon fodder.

A further look at Syria where the Iranian militias are being incorporated into the Syrian army. I don't know if that means Iran is entrenching or whether Syria is trying to regain control of those militia troops. The casualty count is given at 400,000. Of those, 11,000 are SDF, About 130,000 were Assad's forces, about 140,000 were rebels (including 70,000 dead ISIL and al Qaeda jihadis), and about 120,000 dead civilians--mostly rebel sympathizers. That's quite a toll since 2011 when protests evolved into rebellion, civil war, and then multi-war. A third of Syria is still outside of Assad's control, in the northwest where jihadis still hold ground and in the east where American-backed Kurds and Arabs in the SDF hold the ground.

Riot over French "fun fair" plans. It's all just going to Hell over there, isn't it?

Boko Haram has a leadership shuffle and Nigerian Christians wonder if they should go medieval on the jihadis.

New blackouts across Venezuela. Ah, socialism. The Russian troops who arrived there, likely to advise and possibly command Maduro's response to unrest that threatens Maduro's rule, had better have brought generators to power their lights and computers.

Things seem to be heating up between Hamas and Israel. Is Hamas rocket firing linked to Hezbollah or is it a stand-alone confrontation? I always suspect tensions with Hamas in Gaza can be a convenient excuse to mobilize resources to actually go after Hezbollah. And any troops sent to watch Hamas would be a needed shield if Israel unleashes a sword against Hezbollah. Which makes me ask, just what "certain particular issues" could Russia help Israel deal with? Note too that Hamas has quite the rocket arsenal despite the mythical Israeli "blockade" of Gaza.

After raising Mueller to god status, Democratic true believers now refuse to believe his gospel. Like the faithful waiting on a mountain top for the mothership to rescue them only to find that day passed without salvation, the true believers set out to recalculate the coming. Truly, Democrats did the heavy lifting in Putin's plan to sow divisions in America via his low-cost and amusingly crude propaganda campaign here attacking (mostly) Hillary Clinton. That damage will continue to reverberate through our country. So Putin can take satisfaction in that. But on the other hand, the collateral damage of Operation Chaos that turned the once-allies of going easy on Russia into extremist anti-Russians will do damage to Russia, too. Will there be a counterattack against the Democratic-media collusion that was necessary to make Russia's 2016 interference more than a minor (and amateurish) detail of the campaign? And if, as the first link says, there will be inquiries into "a lot of activity with the Russians that ranges from unsavory to treacherous," how far back will that investigation go? Will we just look at contemporary weak Russia or include activity involving the USSR which was a serious threat to America and the West?

If Russia is going to go all-in on Maduro the way they did with Assad, how can Democrats oppose a forceful American response? Not that I'd use force to get the 100 Russian special forces and cyber troops out.

While I have strong objections to the idea that weapons can be categorized as "offensive" or "defensive," equipping Japan's helicopter carriers with F-35Bs does not give Japan any more of an offensive capability than Japan already has with surface ships, subs, and aircraft with anti-ship weapons.

A new focus on the China threat. With the most worrisome point being that nobody really knows how many nuclear warheads that China has.

Why don't we ever read about men like this in China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, or--Inshallah--jihadi groups?

Woke privilege. Apparently Cook County has established the price of slandering an entire class of people as $10,000.

I suspected General Flynn got a raw deal but I did not know anything about him so I did not want to say for sure. Now it seems like he truly did get framed for nothing. The Logan Act accusations flying about the last couple years are BS. That ancient act was never meant to do what any incoming administration does--talk to their future counterparts. Clearly the act was intended to prevent people in the age of horse- and sailing boat-speed communications from pretending to be actual government officials who could make deals in the name of their country.

Trump orders efforts to plan for surviving an EMP attack. That's good. I don't know how vulnerable we are, how likely it is to happen, or who might risk a nuclear attack in response, but the potential damage is worth the effort. And the expense is worth it to harden the electrical system, for example, which could take many years to repair if knocked out this way. And I suspect improving its resilience would pay off in natural disasters, too. Tip to Instapundit.

India is getting less and less willing to accept the casualties that Pakistan's support for terrorism in India result in. It is interesting--in a place your head between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye sort of way--that while Pakistan may think its nukes shield them from an Indian response, that India seems to be getting upset that their own nukes don't shield them from Pakistani terrorism. What happens when India's one-off military responses don't inflict enough pain on Pakistan to stop the terror campaign? Also, it appears that India's smart bombs missed their targets in the Indian air raid because the GPS coordinates were entered incorrectly. So user error.

I like to think that if Mueller had come out with evidence justifying prosecutions for conspiring with Russia to win the 2016 election that I'd have accepted that despite thinking it made no sense from either Russia's position or Trump's. Basically I don't think either thought Hillary would lose. And despite wondering if Obama or the Clinton family could survive that kind of political colonoscopy,  my main worry with Mueller was not that he couldn't look into the specific issue but that he would expand out into a fishing expedition for unrelated issues when he couldn't find anything on topic. He did not do that. So that is a comfort. Still, the process was the punishment for Trump, and the loss of the House in 2018 and his stagnant poll ratings can be counted as a success for the Democrats who have pushed the narrative.

The case for American naval power really shouldn't require much thinking unless you think Canada and Mexico aren't friendly and unless you don't see any problems we might have to reach to combat outside of North America. Of course, if we have a pointless carrier debate instead of a seapower debate, that's a problem.

Is the Arab Spring reviving in Algeria and Sudan?  The 2011 version improved Tunisia but led to bloodshed in Libya and Syria. I don't know if the pressure to seek democracy instead of autocracy or Islamist rule is reviving. But I do know I said that this process is by necessity a long-term change that could take decades and even centuries. And I do know that Asian and Latin American countries have moved toward democracy despite many claims they culturally could not handle it. So perhaps the gears will be ratcheted forward in Algeria or Sudan. That would be nice.

This analysis says that American pressure will unify Iran's fractured ruling class. Well, I haven't been impressed with the results of a fractured Iranian mullah class. In my view Iranian ruling class "moderates" are just the nutballs who don't scream "Death to America!" in English--while on camera. So I'd rather try defeating them whether they are fractured or unified.

Continue teaching American college students after openly advocating communism? Hell, it's practically a job requirement.

I have no idea if the original investigation of Trump had bad motives. But finding out if this was a political hit using national security as an excuse warrants attention given the amount of effort expended on a failed effort to find collusion to rig our 2016 presidential election for Trump, no?

Assuming that the plane carrying the plywood supply drone isn't shot down, this will help with logistics. It sounds like a bigger and more stable version of the paraglider GPS-guided supply systems.

Exercise is good, but I'm reasonably sure the risk of death is still 100%. Although I will concede that since I have not died yet I have no proof I'm not immortal.

No good deed goes unpunished, I guess. The Maltese recaptured the ship and some "aid groups" claimed the hijacking was "self defense." Was the crew attacking them? No. The crew probably would have returned the people they rescued from death in the seas to Libya. That is not self defense.

India successfully tested an anti-satellite weapon but we are worried there might be orbital debris.

The US expects joint actions with NATO allies soon to "push back" against Russia's war on Ukraine.

The military seems to be making progress in restoring readiness. I must say that I was wrong many years ago to say sequestration wasn't a bad idea. I thought that in exchange for basically freezing military spending that it would be worth it to freeze certain civilian spending. What were the odds that the military budget would go up without sequestration in that era, I thought. It was a good price pay to have a shot at restraining spending overall. But what I didn't realize was that it was worse than a freeze in defense spending. It was also a freeze on moving money around to where it is needed under a spending cap. So readiness was worse than a simple cap with flexibility. I guess I didn't imagine something so stupid could be dreamed up. Although my concern for the deficit is great enough that I still thought sequestration was acceptable despite discovering the inflexibility. But even that deal didn't slow down spending, did it? Is it too much to hope we won't screw up that way again if defense spending has to take a hit in an effort to reduce the deficit?

President Bolsonaro says the Brazilian military has no interest in intervening in Venezuela. Well, there goes that theory I had. Venezuela may be on its own to resolve the Maduro problem, apart from sanctions and diplomatic support to support Guaido over Maduro.

Thailand's military has their thumb firmly on the scale in new elections. Can the democrats win enough of a super-majority in the rigged system to nullify that influence? The military oddly leans pro-Chinese while civilians prefer America, Japan, and India as partners.

The US is moving on active protection systems (APS) for armored vehicles.  We're behind Israel on this. The Soviets pioneered it although I suspect it didn't work well. I'm relieved we are finally moving because I've long been worried that even our Abrams with all their heavy armor are vulnerable to top-attack missiles that bypass the heavy armor protection. APS can't replace heavy armor, but it is a needed addition to protection.

What protests? Gazans not on the Hamas payroll don't seem to think Israel is mostly at fault for their misery. But the media here calls Hamas border assaults "protests."

How the Little Ice Age changed history. Our climate has varied dramatically over the ages without human interference. Mind blowingly, one reason put forward for the cooling is the mass deaths of Native Americans caused by Old World disease brought over post-Columbus. Land in large amount went out of cultivation and reduced CO2 in the air.  I'm a "denier" because while I don't doubt humans affect our climate, I have no idea if it is significant in the face of natural factors that have wildly changed our climate in the past. Nor do I think handing over powers to the state--or a globe-straddling authority--is the way to combat the problem if we can affect the climate in the face of natural factors. If human efforts to combat climate change are figuratively just spitting in the ocean, maybe we should save our money to cope with the changes instead if they turn out to be bad.

Representative AOC displays no apparent benefits of higher education, so adding one more thing she doesn't understand may be bouncing the rubble of her mind, but climate change is not the same thing as pollution. One can support reducing pollution without embracing her climate change agenda. And on the former, the prosperous capitalist West has done a far better job than socialist states. And really, if climate change is the problem causing children in the South Bronx to suffer "from the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country" as she states, why is it localized? Shouldn't global warming affect all of America--and indeed the world--in similar fashion, allowing for reasonable regional deviation?

Is Israel preparing for a broad military campaign against Hamas in Gaza if necessary? Or is it cover for a move to strike Hezbollah?

Jussie Smollett's attorney said that the Nigerian-American "attackers" may have worn whiteface. Totally plausible. They may also have read a whole bunch of Hallmark cards.

I noticed an interesting change in my views on one issue. For a long time I assumed that our ambassador to Iraq "greenlighted" Saddam's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Oh, not an approving green light but a failure to make sure our disapproval was known. That was conventional wisdom and I thought it was the settled story. As time went on I eventually read other things and reassessed it in light of that and our experience with Saddam before the Iraq War, finally rejecting it. That latter take is my current view.

Because of China.Well that didn't take much analysis at all!

I assume Saudi Arabia's purchase of THAAD missile defenses indicates that the Saudis don't expect the Trump administration to actually attack Iran because it will take some time to get and absorb the missile system.

The super expensive Zumwalt is late in joining the fleet. But remember that the high cost per ship is partly the result of accounting rules that place the research and development costs into just three hulls. The technology developed will live on in future ships that will be cheaper because development work was already allocated to Zumwalt.  Also, while that article notes the original mission of the ship was providing gunfire support to ground forces, that mission was always nonsense. Tip to Instapundit.

I hope Turkey enjoys their Russian S-400 air defense missiles. Perhaps their pilots who hoped to fly the F-35 can switch to flying the missiles.

The Air Force needs to know what its missions are today. I've had thoughts on that for some time.

There's a colloquial usage for "recuse?" As in, when you are with friends trying to figure out what move to see and you don't care, so you tell them "I recuse myself from this decision." But you really do care but don't want to seem bossy. Or when you want to dump your girlfriend and you text her "I'm recusing myself from this relationship." But you still want to be friends with benefits. Something like that?

The F-35 is its own electronic countermeasures platform complete with towed decoys.

The military is downgrading its use of big drones given the focus on great power competition. Not that they don't have very useful missions in conventional warfare. But it is true that their use in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the broader anti-terrorist missions rely on permissive air environments without enemy air defenses.

Wow! Has it been an entire year already of Hamas assaulting Israel's border with human shields and getting the media to keep calling the attacks mere "protests?"

The Chinese ZBL-11, which provides large-calibre direct fire support to Chinese infantry. I don't know why it is called an "assault gun." Historically that was a large gun mounted on  the hull of a tracked armored vehicle to avoid the added complexity of a turret. Isn't the Chinese weapon a heavy armored car?

AFRICOM is extending its reach to help Mozambique ravaged by a cyclone. Reaction and recovery would be a mission for The AFRICOM Queen.

Is the end of the election collusion story's credibility a sign that Democrats will go back to Trump's tax returns? I don't understand the fixation. It is a recent custom and not a requirement to run for president. Our Constitution is rather specific on qualifications. And also, Trump did submit his tax returns--to the IRS. Presumably if something was amiss the IRS would have addressed it. Sure, it might have something embarrassing on it. But that is not that important to me. I was never a birther purist who had to see Obama's birth certificate which Obama kept secret for a long time. I had no doubt that Obama was a native-born, Christian, American. At worse I thought there was something embarrassing on it. And even that wasn't the case when the certificate was finally released. So get a better plastic turkey issue than that, eh? Although I admit there is a certain karma issue given Trump clung to the birth certificate issue for so long. But it would be nice if that karma visited the Clintons given her campaign started the whole birther issue in the 2008 primary contest.

Venezuelans continue to take huge strides in slashing their planet-killing carbon footprints.

Right now there is no way the Afghan state can continue without American support. Right now a lot of Afghan troops are killing jihadis with that help. That is hardly ideal. But just bugging out is hardly the answer. Do we really want to abandon the people doing the killing and enable the people being killed to restore their sanctuary for jihadi terrorists who can strike the West?

I'm sorry, but Russian paranoia shouldn't guide our policies. No matter what NATO does Russia will see a threat, with nothing short of Hadrian's Wall reassuring those nutballs enough to relax. Come on people, in 2013 we pulled our last tanks from Europe! That gesture that Russia's war on Ukraine spit on wasn't reassuring? Most frustratingly, there are Americans who go along with that Russian nonsense.

This article discusses China's plans to build a city in the South China Sea. Nowhere does it mention that the legal administrative basis for a sea-spanning "city" within Chinese law was established in 2012. And duh, of course it will have overtly military facilities.

Yeah, NATO is fine. Trump's calls for more allied spending is nothing past presidents haven't asked for. The difference is that today's Democrats finally noticed NATO and its value, and probably had no idea of past complaints. So relax you new NATO fans. Welcome to the club.

Zero-notice Army deployments from CONUS to Europe just like in Cold War days are back. Although honestly I don't remember that. News wasn't the krill flow back then that it is today. But I may have simply forgotten.

And aircraft carrier surge practice. I find this far superior to forward deployment of carriers where they are dangled way too close to our potential enemies who could be tempted to sink one in a first strike.

French "yellow vest" protests continue into their 20th week, although at lower levels of attendance.

The Army study of the Iraq War (volumes one and two) writes that the multi-national division established south of Baghdad and north of the British sector was a mistake because the odds and sods of the coalition gathered there lacked combat capabilities and reconstruction capabilities. It would have been better to place those individual national units within American or British division sectors to be able to make better use of their capabilities within their limits.

Prime Minister May's future is trivial. I seriously worry that if Britain doesn't leave right now on schedule even without a deal that the EU will win, crushing once and for all the idea that mere voters in one of the EU provinces can ever hope to escape ever closer union.

It is a good thing that voters in Ukraine are deeply concerned about corruption. The should be. With corruption unchecked they are just a smaller version of Russia, and so doomed.

The revolution in drones that gave infantry in contact with the enemy their own timely aerial reconnaissance.

The surge of migrants hitting our southern border is threatening to overwhelm our border processing system. Trump may close the border to focus resources on illegal immigrants.  It would be kind of hilarious to simply dump the migrants in "sanctuary cities" and make the local government financially liable for their upkeep and their return for any court dates. Let's see what price tag the sanctuary residents put on virtue signaling.

Representative AOC thinks that she represents America's most woke nation-wide--when she doesn't think she represents the planet itself. People in her district don't like that. A rookie mistake to forget the constituents who sent you to Congress. Anecdotes can eventually add up to bad polling. But she has time until 2020.

Where Endless War is Necessary

Assad could have problems if enough peace endures in Syria:

Syrians who remained loyal to President Bashar al-Assad throughout the past eight years of war are increasingly expressing discontent with his government as living standards in the country continue to deteriorate even as the conflict winds down.

Corruption on an "unprecedented scale" during the war makes everything harder when bribes up and down the line are needed to get scarce resources or services. Having backed Assad through massive casualties and hardships to prevent ISIL and other jihadis from winning, what will Assad do to keep his backers in line?

And when 3-4% of the people who thrived during the war have "the vast majority of the wealth," the rest might greatly resent that they are living it up in victory.

So far Assad seems to be benefiting from the "if only the emperor knew" syndrome. If the suffering people conclude he knows and won't help, things could get dicey.

As I wrote in a recent data dump:

Assad warns that the war is not over. He has a point. There are still rebels and terrorists in Syria. The Kurds in the northeast are outside of the state, backed by American and other foreign forces. Turkey and Iran occupy portions of Syria. And Israel attacks Iranian assets at will. The only people Assad welcomes are the Russians who gained bases during the war. But more important, after surviving by telling his backers that the choice was Assad or death at the hands of his enemies, Assad has to be careful about peace. At peace, his backers may relax as the threat dries up and start to react to the brutal casualties and hardships they endured to keep Assad in power. So peace could be just as dangerous to Assad.

How will Assad maintain the illusion of war to keep loyalists in line without the threat to his rule that a real war would risk?

And if he can't do that, what outside power will provide the aid needed as long as Iran is entrenched inside Syria?

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Did Socialism Make Them Dumb for Generations to Come?

Honest to God, if the Russians had the common sense God gave mossy rocks they'd make peace with Japan and Ukraine, cut a deal with Georgia, end their pointless confrontation with NATO, stop propping up Maduro of all people, and focus on preventing China from taking back Russia's 19th century conquests in the Far East.

Sure, the USSR made a deal with Hitler hoping that Germany and Western Europe would destroy each other, and found that when Hitler turned on the Russians that the West sided with Stalin anyway.

But does that mean that Putin can try to get cozy with Xi's China yet expect the West to side with Russia if China decides to retake its Far East territory? If the Russians had a few more ergs of brain power they'd at least start making up with NATO now.

Certainly, a NATO unwilling to devote much to defending Estonia wouldn't formally help Russia in a war in Asia, but both America and Russia could afford to devote more forces and attention to the Asia-Pacific region rather than facing each other in Europe, which only makes China smile.

Seriously, China is a threat to America but our exposure pales in comparison to Russia's risks.

But Putin may not be the ruler who can pivot east given how deeply he is committed to confrontation with America.

Still, if Russians really start noticing how badly Putin has effed things up by alienating potential allies in Europe and America, perhaps Putin won't be the one making the call.

I had hoped that after the collapse of the Soviet Union that Russians would have enough sense to join the West. They have not. But better late than never.

Can Russia learn?

Allied Force at Twenty

Air power is much more effective today because of precision and persistent surveillance. But it still must partner with ground forces to direct it and exploit the destruction of ground forces that air power allows.

Twenty years ago I was worried that the American intervention in the Kosovo rebellion against Serbia was unduly shaped by the mistaken belief that the 1995 limited aerial intervention on behalf of Bosnian Moslems was the decisive factor in defeating the Serbs. I quickly wrote an analysis of the 1995 campaign but failed to get it accepted during the 1999 war. So it just sat.

I posted the manuscript here at the start of our aerial campaign in Libya in 2011.

I still don't think air power alone is decisive in ground war despite its greater ability to punish even though the nascent ability to mesh Army, Marine, and Navy precision fires with air power expands the precision firepower available as a force multiplier to make ground forces more effective.

Ideally with such a meshed ability, some soldier or Marine who calls for a mission to destroy or nullify a threat in front of him shouldn't care what form the destruction is or who provides it. It simply happens in the time needed.

Air power is obviously more important alone in an anti-ship role and has a more sizable role compared to ground-based systems in air superiority missions. But for ground missions, you can only control the ground--including the air bases--with ground forces.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Thinking Inside the Box

The Chinese are creating the capability to rapidly deploy auxiliary cruisers and coastal defense outposts with long-range missiles in standard shipping containers. Which is something I've wanted the United States to do for some time now.

Oh good:

China is building a long-range cruise missile fired from a shipping container that could turn Beijing's large fleet of freighters into potential warships and commercial ports into future missile bases.

The new missile is in flight testing and is a land-attack variant of an advanced anti-ship missile called the YJ-18C, according to American defense officials.

The missile will be deployed in launchers that appear from the outside to be standard international shipping containers used throughout the world for moving millions of tons of goods, often on the deck of large freighters.

The YJ-18C is China's version of the Club-K cruise missile built by Russia that also uses a launcher disguised as a shipping container. Israel also is working on a container-launched missile called the Lora.

I know I've noted the Russian and Israeli weapons. For about a dozen years I've wanted our Navy to do something like this. I put up a post based on an article I submitted to Proceedings arguing for the Navy to do this.

I was aware of the historic use of auxiliary cruisers and at some point it occurred to me that the new LCS concept of having weapons and systems in removable shipping containers so the LCS could be repurposed in their capabilities could apply to container ships. And I knew that the British in the Falklands War had used a container ship to carry and launch Harriers and helicopters (as a transport and not a mini-carrier), showing that VTOL planes could take off from such a conversion.

Eventually Military Review published my concept ("The AFRICOM Queen") a few years ago when I adapted it to power projection platforms for use around the Africa littorals by AFRICOM. I included the ability to drop off contingents with their container-housed equipment around the continent as the ship carried out its missions.

And now China is moving toward the capability. Will the Navy (or Army) exploit this capability?

And will China gain--perhaps enabled by their Huawei 5G global communications technology (and that's apart from its potential to compromise our systems)--the ability to carry out a global Pearl Harbor the way I worried Russia might get with this same capability?

About Those Things Called Tanks

American light infantry will get slaughtered in conventional combat against enemy forces backed by armor. What to do?

This author recognizes that American light infantry are at a severe disadvantage against enemy armor:

By design, light infantry forces sacrifice certain capabilities in order to maximize flexibility and mobility. But when the capabilities sacrificed leave American light infantry forces particularly vulnerable to a potential adversary, change is required. Army light infantry brigades currently have a critical anti-armor gap. However, by combining solutions across the DOTMLPF spectrum—doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities—the Army can maximize the anti-armor lethality, standoff, and capability within the light infantry brigade.

Appreciating the problem is welcome. By all means increase training and organic equipment within light infantry for anti-armor capabilities. But it isn't enough.

On the other hand, this seems too much:

If the Army is serious about focusing on defeating mechanized peer threats, then it must give equally serious consideration to mechanizing and mounting the entire active-duty component. Infantry brigade combat teams (IBCTs) would undergo a total motorized makeover, while armored and Stryker BCTs would remain unchanged. While this would be a tremendous organizational undertaking, it would only match our Russian counterparts, who have mechanized their entire Army, fielding no true dismounted elements. IBCTs, while able to rapidly deploy to a combat theater, have no inherent offensive capability against mechanized forces, and a highly insufficient capability to successfully defend against an enemy mechanized assault.

We can still use light infantry for a lot of missions that fall short of full-scale all-out conventional warfare in Europe or Asia. I'd like to keep light infantry even if I think they could be a smaller proportion of the force. I'd be happy if our non-heavy forces were restricted to the airborne and Stryker brigades while the rest are heavy brigades. Right now only a third of our brigades are to be armored. The rest are Stryker light mechanized units or leg infantry. That was fine for a COIN-centric force.

Even during the Cold War, with a much larger Army, we had about a 50-50 balance between heavy forces and infantry to keep our options open. I'd rather have the Stryker brigades come at the expense of the leg infantry rather than the armored forces. And a case can be made that we need a a larger proportion of heavy forces in today's precision firepower environment that makes unarmored forces vulnerable to destruction.

But if the light infantry unit--whether mountain, airborne, or whatever--we do maintain (add in Stryker units, too) faces enemy armor, it is no longer a place leg infantry should be with just organic anti-tank weapons. This is a whole new ball game. Screw the "flexibility and mobility." At that point surviving is the issue.

I think that the basic solution to the problem of leg infantry facing enemy tanks is to attach a tank battalion (or combined arms task force) to any light infantry brigade being sent into a theater where it will fight tanks. I wrote about this recently in Army magazine.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Are We Missing the Real Threat to the F-35?

Perhaps I'm overly worried because of the Cylon destruction of the Colonial fleet in Battlestar Galactica, but how secure are the networks that make the F-35 such a good fighter plane?

The pilots still love the F-35:

In my interviews with F-35 pilots, one word repeatedly came up: “survivability.” Surviving the Lockheed Martin F-35’s primary mission—to penetrate sophisticated enemy air defenses and find and disable threats—requires what the fifth-generation jet offers: stealth and a stunning array of passive and active sensors bringing information to the pilot. The F-35 can see trouble coming—ahead, behind, or below the aircraft—far enough in advance to avoid a threat or kill it. Faced with multiple threats, the sensor suite recommends the order in which they should be dispatched.

That pilot confidence seems justifiable. And it is a relief when you consider that the Russian propaganda tried to derail the production of the plane.  But what I really want to know now is what the computer programmers think of the plane and the networks built around it. As I noted in a past data dump:

Pilots love the F-35. Will hackers love it, too? I worried about the software vulnerability despite pilot raves in exercises before Israeli pilots had a chance to fly the plane in a combat environment. And I worried about the ALIS system before the plane could even be flown in exercises. But at least I'm no longer worried about the plane and its fighting concept itself--which Russia really tried to kill with information operations.

But what do the cyber-people think of the F-35? As one pilot in the initial article explained when extolling its survivability:

Fighter aircraft all have to have a level of performance and maneuverability: speed, Gs, turn rate, turn radius, acceleration, climb—all of those things. In the F-35, there’s not a massive change in those performance metrics. The F-35 is better [than legacy aircraft], but not a lot better. But those ways to measure an airplane are not nearly as relevant now as they used to be. They’re not irrelevant, but they are not as important as all the other qualities that you should be measuring an airplane by.

I'm worried that one of those more relevant qualities is security against hacking. How is that measured with the F-35? Did the plane get survivability against kinetic threats only to lose it to hackers?

Nested Russian Lies?

Is Russia really prepared for a big war? That's what the Russians say, but consider that they are moving their lips.


In the last several years, the Russian military has drastically increased its battle readiness in apparent preparation for a possible major conflict with an opposing massive ground force. ...

In September 2018, while promoting the massive Vostok 2018 war games, Gerasimov proudly announced, “There are 126 permanently battle-ready BTGs in the army and the VDV, manned by contract soldiers,” with two or three BTGs in each regiment or brigade.

The reliance on Battalion Tactical Groups doesn't seem like an organization designed for a big war. We went from divisions to brigade combat teams for the Iraq War and now are rethinking the role of the division as we contemplate big wars again. Are the Russians really sticking with a battalion-based system that hasn't been around for centuries?

This organization may support a rapidly begun campaign to overrun the small and weakly defended Baltic states, but it is not an organization designed to hold the conquests in a longer campaign when higher echelons are needed for logistics, repair, additional firepower, and command and control.

Also, does Russia really have all of their regiments and brigades capable of fielding 2 or 3 BTGs?

Since Russia went into the Donbas in 2014 they seem to use BTGs as the only usable part of their brigades. So a BTG is really just their brigades minus the men and equipment not ready to deploy.

Is Russia today after sanctions and oil prices crippling their defense spending really in a better position today with virtually all of their brigades and regiments nearly fully capable rather than only being able to scrape up single BTGs to send into battle?

Because from where I sit, the Russian army looks like it is continuing its slow death.

Sadly, with enough decent troops, nukes, and weak targets, Russia remains a threat to NATO. But don't overstate Russia's war-making capacity and believe we can't hope to overcome their initial advantages.

One thing we could do to counter the Russian BTG approach is to add tank or combined arms heavy battalions to each of our non-armored brigade combat teams, as I raised in Army magazine.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019


Equipment for an American heavy brigade will go to Poland. REFORPOL begins.

This is sadly needed given Russia's decade of aggression:

NATO on Saturday confirmed it plans a storage facility for US military equipment in Poland, as the alliance steps up its defences in the face of increased Russian assertiveness.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the $260 million facility will be located in Powidz, some 200 km (120 miles) west of Warsaw, and will house armoured vehicles, ammunition and weapons for a brigade.

It will take a couple years to establish.

More than a decade ago after Russia went medieval on Georgia, I called for such a program modeled on the REturn of FORces to GERmany (REFORGER) storage program that covered the withdrawal of some units back to the United States. I suggested REFORPOL:

In addition to maintaining sufficient forces deployed in Europe able to move east to reinforce the eastern European NATO frontline states, we should establish American, British, and German equipment depots for additional heavy brigades in southern Poland. If we can fly in troops to man these forces, in a return of forces to Poland (REFORPOL) concept, we'd enhance deterrence without forward deploying powerful NATO offensive units that would scare the Russians in reality instead of their faux fear of Georgians and Latvians. Those units could swing north or south or stay put once manned and fielded.

Now I won't count on the Germans. But the British could join us. I assume ultimately we'll build up to 3 American armored brigades plus supporting units.

Obviously no "return" of forces is part of this. Maybe "REaction FORces to POLand keeps the acronym.

Oh, and as the Army returns its focus to Europe, recall that long before even Russia's invasion of Georgia that I called for the Army, in Military Review (pages 15-20), to retain the framework for a corps in Europe in order to maintain a credible warfighting option in case Russia went bad again.

UPDATE: NATO's common fund is paying for this and the site will be one of five:

U.S. defense sources cautioned that the Powidz storage site should not be taken to mean that the Trump administration is considering any kind of permanent troop footprint in Poland. For now, Washington is simply treating the facility as one of five sites across Europe capable of scrambling together the equipment to make up an armored division when needed.

Note that an armored division is made up of three maneuver brigades plus supporting units.

Watching Iran in Iraq

Iraq is increasingly able to reject Iranian influence. I don't understand why the Army study of the Iraq War concluded that Iran was the only winner.

For a short time Iran naturally gained some points in Iraq among the Shias because Saddam Hussein oppressed Shias in Iraq, and Shia (but Persian) Iran also bitterly opposed Saddam. And while post-Saddam Iraq has been weak, Iran has been able to project power and influence into Iran.

But that is changing:

Iraq, which Iran hoped to annex or at least turn into a compliant client state, is not cooperating. In part because Arab Shia have always disliked the Iranian (Indo-European) Shia and vice versa. Iraqi Shia get regular reports of how badly Iran still (after thousands of years) treats its Arab minority. So while the Shia dominated government of Iraq pretends to be friendly and grateful towards Iran it is becoming obvious to Iran that this is all for show and not real. Opinion polls in Iraq make it clear that most Iraqis are hostile to Iran and Iranian intentions. These suspicious attitudes are on the rise. This does not mean the Iraqis are above making some cash in somewhat questionable transactions. But bending the knee to Iran is not on the menu.

I suppose in 1946 with the same logic that the Army might have concluded that the only party to have won World War II was the USSR.

Although to be fair, if we'd left Europe soon after 1945 we might have gotten the same kind of defeat in Europe that we faced in Iraq after we left too soon in 2011. Although defeating a major military power would have been a far harder war than defeating the ISIL proto-state in Iraq and Syria at our leisure.

With our enduring presence in Iraq following the defeat of ISIL, we will be able to help Iraq push Iranian influence out of Iraq. And our presence in Iraq will finally get Arab states to work with Iraq in pan-Arab solidarity rather than let Sunni-Shia divisions keep them apart.

UPDATE: Iraqis appreciate the need for American troops in Iraq to watch Iran--and Turkey and Saudi Arabia:

Most Iraqis understand that without the presence of those Americans Iraqi would be even more threatened by most of their neighbors (Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia). Even many Iraqis who are not particularly pro-American recognize this use of American troops as a “protection force.” The Americans aren’t there to fight Iraqis but to keep the neighbors from making life difficult for an independent Iraq.

And hopefully we watch the Iraqi government and military to make sure they don't deteriorate the way they did between our 2011 departure and the 2014 ISIL uprising that collapsed large parts of the security forces. We should be able to spot problems and advise the Iraqis in a timely manner.

That presence to prevent the rot from spreading again is necessary because ISIL survives underground and could regenerate if Iranian pressure succeeds in alienating Iraqi Sunni Arabs again.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The North Russia Sea?

I missed this Russian territorial grab and threat:

Last week, reports emerged that a new Kremlin policy will require all international naval ships to give Russia 45 days’ notice before entering the Northern Sea Route, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans via the Arctic waters north of Siberia. Every vessel on the route, where Russia has invested heavily in sophisticated military infrastructure, will also be required to have a Russian maritime pilot on board. Ships found in violation of these restrictions may be forcibly halted, detained, or—in unspecified “extreme” circumstances—“eliminated.”

For quite some time it was obvious this was coming. I guess Russia doesn't want China to have all the glory that comes from claiming the South China Sea (well, technically about 80% of it).

It is long overdue that we set up POLARCOM to contest threats in this region (and I link to my 2008 post saying we should do this).

Or maybe NORADSANTA is about to get some heavier firepower?

And maybe Canada could get serious about their defense budget and posture. The Russian threat to NATO isn't just in Europe. And politeness doesn't count for much in Moscow.

Big, Scary, and Inevitable?

I'm not saying that Chinese 5G technology isn't a threat to the rest of the world if China builds the infrastructure; I'm just saying I don't see it as evidence of China's alleged long-range thinking.

Okay, first we have this:

The Chinese economic model is only a souped-up, bigger and more ruthless version of the Asian model that began with Japan’s restoration of the Emperor Meiji in 1868, and was replicated by South Korea and Taiwan: Move subsistence farmers to the cities and build factories for them to work in. While its per capita GDP rose 35 times, China moved 550 million people from the countryside to the cities, and it built the equivalent of all of the cities of Europe to house them.

Which is fine. I bring it up to bolster my credibility since I argued exactly the same thing for their "miracle" which has been impressive but hardly unique:

Until now, much of China's growth has been based on the "Lewis turning point" that reflects direct inputs of new workers rather than more efficient use of existing workers. Once the direct input slows, wages rise and the comparative production advantage erodes. As I liked to say, take the most efficient peasant and take him from a farm and put him in the most inefficient factory and the GDP he produces goes up.

Back to the article which says China is trying to export its model to the developing world with the catch that the 5G tech will allow dictatorships to more effectively control their people (and allow China access to the information flows where they build the infrastructure). Yes, that is a threat to us and a threat to freedom in those developing regions. But is this true?

In making such offers, Chinese planners are thinking a generation ahead. The scarcest resource in the world is labor, specifically workers who can read an instruction manual, learn skilled or semi-skilled jobs, and show up for work on time. Virtually all of the world’s population growth during the 21st century will take place in sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian subcontinent—this last mostly in Pakistan, where the average female has four children compared with 2.2 in India.

Is it really thinking ahead to follow the skilled and semi-skilled workers if robotics can replace a lot of those jobs?

I ask because I absolutely do not think that the Chinese have some inbred ability to plan ahead as so many people in America claim out of envy that America can't even be China "for a day" at least. In this post I joyously quote a passage from China's Futures which looked at Chinese publications meant for the Chinese to assess China's future:

The market mechanism does not function comprehensively to allocate resources, most notably for land, energy, and financial capital. ... Gao [Shangquan, Director of the China Society for Economic Reform] notes that local government officeholders will be in power for only a few years but will auction off land to be used over many decades. The incumbent government will want to see results from land auctions now, even if this means the land will be abused or polluted and therefore lose future value. The same is true for minerals, whose artificially low prices encourage overexploitation. At the same time, the shortsighted governments refuse to make investments in education, public health, or sustainable agriculture because the payoffs from such projects can come only many years into the future, by which time today's officeholders will have moved onto other jobs, in other locales.

The Chinese are a military and economic threat. And possibly a threat to freedom itself if their example is followed. But their alleged long-range planning ability didn't lead them to dominate the 20th century the way America did in a much shorter time frame with our so called "next quarter" planning ability.

The Chinese are betting on 5G telecommunications technology and developing-world labor to dominate the world a generation down the line? Maybe.

If 5G technology and not something we haven't thought of yet is the wave of the future.

If labor is the key to future economic growth.

If the Chinese communist party can ride the tiger of popular will through Dystopian State thought control without being thrown to their political death.

And if the rest of the world can't follow the technology path China is blazing (without the Dystopian State oppression) the way China followed a path blazed by others to get to 2019.

Seriously, I don't think the problem is that the West of today "chronically underestimates Asians." Do you not see the China worship prevalent today? Do you not remember how Japan was going to pass us by in economic dominance? Pointing out mistakes made in 1905 or 1941-1942 about Japan just isn't going to cut it any more.

Work the problem. Don't panic and despair of competing with the ancient Chinese secret of prosperity.

UPDATE: An interesting take that aside from active malice on behalf of China, China's Huawei 5G network is riddled with "deeply problematic flaws in its product code that create security risks" that make intrusion rather than Chinese control the real problem.

Interesting. That flawed technology is the basis for China's diabolically clever long-range plan to dominate the world?


Monday, March 25, 2019

The Last Election?

Erdogan is being ruthless in the campaign leading up to the March 31st election:

The campaign of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government for the March 31 local elections will go down in history as the most polarizing campaign with the most virulent and offensive rhetoric that Turkey has seen under the Justice and Development Party (AKP). In no election before has the government employed religion and religion-based polarization so blatantly. The campaign has been marked also by unprecedented threats to opposition leaders and candidates as well as an apparent intent to not accept election results. Government spokesmen have virtually competed to delegitimize the opposition, seeking to keep their base intact by scaring voters with a demonized portrait of political opponents. The main cause of this extraordinary political syndrome is Turkey’s plunge into economic recession, which, coupled with a rising cost of living and growing unemployment, has raised the specter of the AKP losing the elections in big cities.

Erdogan actually played parts of the Christchurch murderer's video at one of his rallies to whip up religious fervor in his favor; and then took an opposition leader out of context to claim he blamed Moslems for the violence rather than saying that in addition to needing the West to protect Moslems here that "We need to acknowledge how people are slaughtering each other over Islam. The terrorism originating from the Muslim world."

And it is worse:

Erdogan has used also threatening language against leading opposition figures while dropping strong hints that he is inclined to not recognize election results that are not to his liking.

I worry that this election is proving so difficult despite Erdogan's "undisputed control over the media, public funds and the entire state establishment, especially the judiciary," that it will be the last semi-free election in Turkey. If Erdogan loses he may nullify it. And if he wins he may not take a chance that he might lose another election that isn't rigged 100%.

Will Turkey be compatible with modern NATO at that point? In the Cold War, being a democracy wasn't a requirement for membership. But Turkey under military rule was at least secular. Can Turkey that is an autocracy and Islamist remain?

UPDATE: Well that's a take I never expected:

The Islamic party that has ruled Turkey for nearly two decades is increasingly unpopular in Turkey and is liable to be out of power soon.

It was an aside in a discussion of Syria noting that Turkey could get focused internally instead of worrying about Syria. But the idea that mere voters could unseat Erdogan was rather a shock.

Is Turkey not that far gone yet? That would be nice.

The Empty Battlefield

Yes, battlefields will get emptier as troops disperse to avoid and reduce the effects of massed precision artillery fire guided by persistent surveillance systems. But that doesn't mean there won't be a front line. But how do troops endure the isolation they will feel on the empty battlefield?

Robert Scales asks the Army to pay attention to the small unit forces and their tactics as the multi-domain operations theory gets rolling in Army circles:

The battlefield is a lonely place and will only become more emotionally terrifying as it continues to empty. Twitter and Facebook keep people connected virtually. Similarly, a post-adolescent soldier could be able to connect with his buddies, leaders and the outside world by carrying Twitter-like communication technologies on to the battlefield. Such a network would share information up as well as sideways. Commanders connected to the soldier network would be able to keep track of their physiological and emotional condition by monitoring such data as pulse, breathing patterns, galvanic skin response, and brain wave activity.

This is a natural progression in lower density on the battlefield as the range and accuracy of weapons available to small units (both organic direct fire and indirect fire from outside sources) has increased.

From my 2002 article in Military Review on the Future Combat System (pages 28-33), I addressed this issue:

A two-man crew is a goal.6 Crew maintenance and logistics should be minimized to avoid overwhelming the small crew with nonfighting duties. Even combat endurance will be difficult for a small crew. Automatic self defense is needed to protect a sleeping crew or one that is otherwise incapable of fighting.

I also covered the infantry:

A variant carrying three or four infantry soldiers is necessary. The infantry version should have an autocannon and allow the troops to fight mounted. The squad is small for dismounted fighting, but the Bradley already put U.S. infantry on the road to smaller squads. Compensating for reduced numbers, Land Warrior project-derived systems will digitize even walking infantry. Individual soldiers will be lethal, in constant  communication, and exploit realtime intelligence. Each soldier will have more survivability than current equipment allows. Infantry soldiers may even look forward to personal electronic shields that disarm incoming rounds by disabling their proximity fuses. Dismounts may fight with flying or crawling robots that will see and kill for the soldiers. Small numbers compensated by greater lethality at longer ranges will, however, make such hyperinfantry less appropriate for peace operations where restraint and face-to-face policing are necessary. Situational awareness and long-range personal firepower will be largely useless when soldiers patrol streets that allow civilians to approachwithin arm’s length. Low-tech knives can kill even hypersoldiers under such circumstances.

And I covered the ability to wield indirect fires from distant or close fires units, rotary and fixed wing aircraft, (or even ships, in theory):

Communications will allow the FCS to direct distant firepower if it does not use its own cannon. An FCS will identify a target, and the appropriate missile module, helicopter, aircraft, or artillery asset will destroy the target. The source of the warhead will not matter.

But the ability to wield such firepower will be matched by enemies, which will force our troops to disperse even more. That's a problem.

And then there is the problem of  carrying out COIN (or peace operations as I noted) which will contrast even more with conventional combat than it does now.

Will today's enlistment cohort with their reliance on nearly virtual friends who make physically gathering with friends less important be better able to cope with this physical isolation better than pre-smart phone soldiers?

Compared with their predecessors, teens today spend less time with their friends in person and more time communicating electronically, which study after study has found is associated with mental health issues.

This is a serious problem for our young people in the civilian world for mental health. But is it a factor that will help soldiers survive on an empty battlefield?

Once the herding instincts of people made lining up in actual or near contact the norm for sustaining morale and fighting effectively, whether in phalanxes, legions, or musket-armed 2- or 3-rank lines.

I tried to evoke that isolation and exposure by comparing it to the nightmare of leaving a trench in World War I to enter no-man's land swept by fire in an entry for an Army science fiction contest (I lost, but reproduce it here):

HOOAH noted Washington’s response, which correlated with positive morale in past actions. The judgment was supported by physical indicators of heart rate and oxygen consumption, among other vital signs monitored by the MESLAS Net-Medicine suite. ...

Washington heard the alert from the track commander as A-10 slowed to a halt: “I’m popping the rear door seals and initiating positive over-pressure.” Richmond always sounded like he was speaking from another world forward in the crew compartment. With his retro moustache and odd obsession with old board games like Catan, he was kind of alien-like, really! Funny what you thought about before going “over the top.” Sitting in the rear compartment within your MESLAS was an isolated place. Dismounting was worse. And it would remain that way until the mission was over and everyone was back at headquarters.

I asked our ground forces, in this USNI Blog post, to enable our small infantry units to fight with more skill because even if you discount all the long-range indirect fire small units can direct, the infantry weapons themselves are getting so much better that the weapons themselves will be accurate without extensive training--an edge we have counted on in recent decades.

The battlefield will be a lonely place. Our soldiers will need to survive and fight in that alien technology-rich lethal environment to win.

UPDATE: Oh, and I forgot the issue of the linear battlefield. I honestly don't think that the frontlines of conventional warfare will disappear with new technology. I read that occasionally. I don't get it.

As I started out, we are witnessing a natural progression of thinning out the battlefield. Yes, future frontlines will have fewer troops per mile but the gaps in troops will be filled with firepower making it no less a frontline than the past when you had to have continuous lines of troops in trenches. Then there were platoon strongpoints with gaps covered my longer range machine guns and mortars--and eventually accurate and timely indirect artillery.

So I feel confident in saying that a future empty battlefield will still have frontlines.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Weekend Data Dump

Senator Paul thinks we should leave Afghanistan because we can't "enable the Afghan people to rebuild their own nation or stabilize the central government." Well there's his problem right off the bat. Our objective is to prevent Afghanistan from being a sanctuary for Islamist terrorists who can (again--remember 9/11?) plot to strike us at home and kill large numbers of our people. More than ten years ago I wanted our coming surges to abandon the pretense that Afghanistan is a nation with a central government. Oh, and remember that talk of a "counter-terrorism" strategy instead of remaining on the ground to help Afghan forces fight jihadis just means ineffective air strikes. Declaring an end to a noble effort won't achieve our objective. Remember, it isn't our fault we have an "endless war" when our enemies have endless hate and desire to kill us at home.

The Marines will field an anti-drone air defense system. I'm not terribly confident that ground-based systems will be able to defend against future networked massed drone attacks.

Do people still blame jihadi anger at the West on the Crusades? That's just stupid and completely ignores that the Crusades were defensible as "just war." Remember that the Crusaders liberated the Holy Land territory from Islamic conquest. It was not in any way colonialism.Or do you also want to argue that much of the Balkans, Spain, and Portugal are rightfully Islamic territory, and cause for hate?

Representative AOC said the world would (eventually) end if we didn't act to stop global warming in the next 12 years. Which is tremendous progress when you consider that in 1989 we had only 11 years. Woo hoo! We gained an entire year to act! I wonder what the deadline will be in another 30 years?

Hopefully the prosecutions in the college admissions scandal nip this corruption in the bud. I actually have nor problem with people with money tilting the playing field legally. That seems normal. Of course you do what you can for your child within the rules the colleges set up. I blame the colleges that want "well rounded" applicants. Strangely it seems that activities that cost a lot of money are what "round" you. Colleges should have simpler conditions for admission that level the field more than it is now. Rule of law is undermined with complicated rules that benefit those who can afford to game the complicated system.

Colleges apparently don't like scrutiny about Confucius Institutes, the Chinese propaganda arms set up in Western universities.  You'd think these would be shunned as easily as Aryan Institutes would be. If they existed.

I often advise checking the definitions section in a debate. For example if you hear "the rich" will pay for some program you may be horrified to find you are considered "rich." And sometimes the definitions section is itself corrupted. Tip to Instapundit.

Algeria's political future remains uncertain with discontent bubbling to the surface.

It's official, the Russia collusion nonsense is over. Democrats rediscovered the homeless issue. Usually that disappears when a Democrat is in the White House only to become a soul-damning crisis of government compassion when a Republican is president. But I guess the Russia obsession crowded out that transition until now.

The media would not suppress distressing news about a Republican before an election the way it did for Mr. Jazz Hands.

The Army will build up stocks of ammunition. Good. War doesn't stop when ammo runs low--it just gets more bloody for us and not the enemy, risking our defeat in the process. The problem was very real and the result of failure to maintain the ammunition stocks. It is too easy to skimp on readiness (ammo, training, maintenance) because it isn't really visible until troops are in combat. Then lots of dead American troops highlight the once-unseen (to the public) problem.

NATO and the EU condemned Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea. Russia denies invading Ukraine but somehow Russia ended up with Crimea declared part of Russia. Funny how that worked out.

The Navy says it will continue to conduct Freedom of Navigation Operations in the South China Sea that deny China's illegal claims to the region. China is clearly working up to a forceful response to these FONOPS and we'd best be prepared for a ramming attempt one of these days. Just after writing that I see (via Instapundit) that China is increasingly violent against other claimants to the SCS. One of our ships will be rammed. Will we have forces in position to rescue a stranded ship and prevent the Chinese from "rescuing" it and towing it to a Chinese port?

The French are allowing protesters to rampage rather than risk killing protesters. On the one hand this is proper. You don't kill someone to defend a piece of plate glass. That was the foundation of my riot control training years decades ago. On the other hand, there is a medium ground between killing protesters and letting rioters destroy property. It is possible French authorities are letting the rioters run free to de-legitimize the entire protest movement that opposes Macron.

I might have to see Captain Marvel in the theater despite my concerns, given that lots of people are seeing it.

I don't believe that is a fair criticism at all. Where should we have not dropped bombs during the Obama years and so allowed Moslems to be victimized by jihadis? And so what if drone strikes expanded a lot? The platform is irrelevant, no more or less justified than if a manned plane or artillery dropped the payload; and given that the armed drone was new would of course see more use. And really, simply because we dropped a lot of bombs on European-majority countries from 1942-1945 doesn't mean we were anti-European, now does it? Last week I defended Chelsea Clinton and this week President Obama. The Left is off the rails.

At least they didn't fling poo. That was hilarious. Could Maduro really have put that out to scare us?
 If so, they are well shy of this World War II effort.

In Yemen, despite the Iranian propaganda picked up and amplified by Western media that says Saudi Arabia is responsible for the humanitarian crisis, even the UN admits that the Iran-backed Shia rebels are the main source of aid distribution problems. The rebels and their Iranian patron are losing but they can always hope that Westerners (and our Congress in particular) will help snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Amazingly, I have to note my defense of the electoral college system again. Idiots can always make problems worse or make new problems. Popular vote presidential elections is one of them. Also, any scheme that seeks to bypass the Electoral College with a compact of states to cast their state electoral votes for the candidate with the most votes nationwide will be a problem if any state's voters didn't vote with the national majority. How could that negation of popular will in a state pass constitutional scrutiny? Wait, here's something of use:

And really, despite Democratic claims that they are the future and that Republicans will die out, this amount of institution-tampering doesn't speak to a lot of confidence in their future appeal to voters, does it?

This Israeli "Rocks" capability in enemy hands would really blow through our missile defense systems designed for shorter-range (and so slower) ballistic missiles.

Body counts of dead terrorists (or of civilians accidentally killed during the war on terrorists) is truly a bad metric for judging success in the war on terror. But enemy body counts kept internally by the military is certainly a good metric for judging success in the battles against Islamist terrorists as a holding action while the war is fought within the Islamic world over who gets to defines Islam--the minority of radical killers and their supporters who support jihad or the majority of normal Moslems who would rather live in peace. Oh, and I was nearly delirious with joy that the author of the initial link accurately described "proportionality" in combat!

Sansha, the only "city" in the world that is intended to be solely a "strategic service and logistics base."

Is President Trump seriously planning on walking away from Afghanistan and just seeing what happens? (And hoping what happens takes place after his reelection?) Isn't that exactly what Obama did with Iraq before his 2012 reelection campaign? Get ready for a defeat and Afghanistan War 2.0 if that faux "peace" plan is agreed to.

The issue of Crimea is no closer to resolution than it was five years ago when Russia captured and annexed it? Huh? I'd say that the capture and annexation resolved the issue exactly as Russia intended. Resolution is not going to take place with Russia's voluntary relinquishment of the region. And the only reason that Crimea is still a point of contention with the West is that Putin effed up by thinking he could add the Donbas as easily as added Crimea, leaving an open conflict in the Donbas between Russia and Ukraine that the West couldn't just get used to and move on, restoring relations with Russia as it did after the "Goons of August War" against Georgia in 2008.

Pretty much. Decades ago when the World Wide Web took off, I argued that the research office I was in would not be harmed by the ability of our customers to directly look for information because they--as a group and not including all of them, of course--didn't know how to conduct research. We did. What online access did was free us from our once mundane document retrieval portion of our job when our customers knew precisely what they wanted (or simply thought they knew, of course).

Huh. Someone unclear on the "president-for-life" concept. Is this a good sign of transfer of power as this article optimistically framed the resignation? Or is stepping down from the office but keeping the power nothing to boast about and just an example for Putin? Please, I described that path for Putin long ago.

Yes, rule of law is the best way to protect the minority.

The "yellow vest" protesters in France are "rebels without a cause." Yeah, I've noted that the protesters have no real concrete objective and that the battle between them and Macron seems to be a figurative fight to the death.

This is not an article about what an American invasion of Venezuela would like. It is an article warning against invading. Not that I'm in favor of invasion--even if it is the morally right thing to do. But I thought the article might actually be about how an invasion might take place.

Making Russia Grate Again. The subliminal war that Russia unleashed in Crimea in February 2014 continues to be waged in the Donbas and across Europe in a different non-lethal form.

Election "reforms" are really about preventing Republicans from winning. There is insight in this humor. Note to Snopes: humor.

Are Moslems really asking whether it is safe to live in the West? I imagine statistics would show Moslems are quite safer in the West than in Islamic countries, notwithstanding the Christchurch massacre. Not that we in the West shouldn't protect everyone from such threats, whether jihadi or anti-Moslem. Even small relative threats of this type and scale terrorize people out of proportion to the numbers. It is not right to compare the death toll to bathtub accidents, for example. The terror inflicted goes beyond the victims and immediate families and friends. On the issue of Moslems living in in non-Moslem states, that is apparently a lacuna in Islamic teachings, as I recently discovered and mentioned in this post: "As an aside, that's a potential gap in Islamist thinking that could be decisive in reform. Islam has rules on how Moslems are to behave in Moslem societies and even in Moslem societies conquered by non-Moslems. But given the long stretch of early Islamic conquests, nobody setting down doctrine thought about the duties of Moslems who choose to live in a non-Western society, as so many have chosen in the modern era. It is a lacuna in Islamic thinking that damages the idea of Islam as an organizing template for every facet of life." Not that one is a cause of the other. The article question just brought the issue to mind.

Oh Lord, I missed the news that Mozambique was hammered, with hundreds killed, by a cyclone and the floods it caused. Zimbabwe was hurt, too, although the force was much spent by the time it reached that country, as well as Malawi. The DOD will offer assistance.

I'll be more impressed when Guaido supporters take control of government buildings in Venezuela.

Brazil and America will sign a deal to let the U.S. launch space payloads from Brazilian territory. Closer to the equator is better. So it may be good for us and definitely good for Brazil. And good for closer relations.

Pretty much nailed it. All Democrats had to do was not act crazy.

Media bias, by one particular number. Tip to Instapundit. Although I would have liked to see the statistics for Fox News Channel for some context. Even Ted Koppel can see merit in the charge.

Resist, by any means necessary. Effing bastard. Of course, he started spying for China in 2014 under Obama, so his Trump justification is just bullshit.

Welcome a new citizen in America!

I don't know why Trump is vilifying McCain who has been dead for a while. It is a small thing to do. Yes, McCain colluded in the effort to delegitimize Trump's presidency. So point that action out. But then stop. But on the other hand, what is with the treatment of McCain as a secular saint? I honor his military service and deeply respect that he endured crippling torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese communists. But McCain was a mixed senator and a horrible presidential candidate in 2008 (although I voted for him). Republican enthusiasm should be a little more nuanced than McCain's family's view which naturally loves him, no? Why is that man who was really quite the jerk  lionized but the Trump jerkiness is a threat to the republic? Nor can I take the Democrats going to bat for McCain when they honored him as a Republican "maverick," vilified him as the old and possibly crazy (because of said torture while a POW) opponent of Obama, and returned to praising him as he strayed from Republican policies, using his funeral for one more jab from the grave at Trump.

If someone said all Moslems are guilty for the death count racked up by jihadis, that someone would rightly be called a bigot and shunned. Tip to Instapundit.

Bananas, brides, and bad neighbors. I added the Oxford comma. You're welcome.

Strategypage looks at the DF-26C anti-ship IRBM that China recently moved inland (I'm not sure since SP says they were placed in the Gobi Desert near Tibet but that desert is near Mongolia) to make it less vulnerable to being hit in the launch phase if near the coast. The purpose was to threaten American FONOPs in the South China Sea. We still don't know if the Chinese weapon can work as a carrier killer but we should certainly work on breaking the kill chain.

It scares the Hell out of me that court rulings in polarizing issues vary depending on the political views of the judges reading the law. I don't care which way you want to read it for blame, but it does worry me a great deal for the durability of rule of law here.

Well, I think the models predicted a Romney win in 2012. The models then didn't factor in the massive media bias for Obama. And I don't think the models factor in the even more massive media bias that has been and will focus on defeating Trump no matter who the Democratic candidate is. I know the bias didn't work in 2016 (in the Electoral College, anyway), but the media has turned it up to eleven since then. And I'm fully expecting "twelve."

Syria is upset that Trump talked about recognizing Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights. Assad's anger doesn't bother me, but Trump should not recognize the annexation. It sets a bad precedent for Russia and China. And who knows who else. Not that we should pressure Israel to return it absent a dramatic change in Syria so the key terrain can no longer be used as a launching point for attacks on Israel. But is Trump's statement a gift to Netanyahu to help him win reelection and so, after the election, allow Israel to hammer Hezbollah in Lebanon? Is that military action considered a necessary part of a Trump peace plan that needs the Palestinians in Gaza to lose their Hezbollah ally and Iranian patron (which is under American economic pressure) so they and the West Bank Palestinians are more likely to talk peace with Israel? Oh, and our secretary of state was in Lebanon on Friday urging Lebanon to stand up to Hezbollah. Which would be easier if Israel tears apart Hezbollah. Although the Lebanese seem too far gone to do that, or at least too weak to openly acknowledge the threat.  And the Iranians--who created Hezbollah--say they will dig in inside Lebanon. Perhaps we made a last-ditch effort to get Lebanon to do something and the public refusal checks a box for the invasion that would be a large ground raid, essentially. But why talk of the Golan Heights now? Would be quietly suspend recognition of the annexation if Syria mutes its reaction to an Israeli operation in Lebanon? I know, I know. I'm connecting just a couple dots to paint a detailed picture. And I've been wrong for a long time on this issue. So there's that.

If you are upset that Trump with a pen Twitter app and phone has the power to move money to build "a wall" on the border with Mexico, complain to Congress which long ago granted presidents that authority. As I've said many times, the scandal isn't what presidents do illegally, it is what they do that is well within their Congressionally ceded authority. Welcome to the checks and balances party, pal.

Russia is apparently moving more air and naval strike assets to Syria, where Russia earned the right to bases with their intervention on behalf of Assad. For a while I was worried about the potential for Russia to build up forces in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. But some of the worst things didn't happen and so now I figure more Russian power in the Mediterranean just gives NATO fleets in the sea something to do. Of course, should Turkey under Erdogan join up with traditional enemy Russia, that changes things quite a bit.

The Army intends to expand its rotations in the Asia-Pacific region to work with allies. Well, that's a start to real plans, as I wrote in Military Review, to use the Army in Asia for its core competency. Working on interoperability with regional armies is a necessary small-scale start to such an option. Not that I'm eager to have an American army in battle on the Asian continent. But I think China should have to worry about that possibility to complicate their war planning.

Is Libya about to heat up? Of course, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. A battlefield victory by someone who isn't a jihadi is at least a chance for the splintered state to rebuild. Stalemate just allows the misery to roll along with periodic outbreaks of violence followed by UN-supported talks that don't solve anything.

The US may freeze preparations to transfer F-35s to Turkey over the Turkish S-400 purchase. That's semi-good news. I worry that this is the rationale given that I think we have an Erdogan crisis and not an S-400 crisis. Will we really transfer the F-35s to Turkey if Erdogan cancels the S-400 purchase under pressure when he could presumably restore the purchase after getting his hands on some F-35s?

So the man is saying that the Italians wouldn't let him return to Africa and that is why he kidnapped a bus load of school children?

The media has hyped the nonsense that most Americans didn't get a tax cut from 2017 legislation. Most did. This story says few Americans expect to pay lower taxes this year because of the tax cut notwithstanding that the Treasury Department "insists" most did. The reporter could have simply said that most people did--or even did their job to refute that. But no, they just slant the report by implying Treasury has no basis for the claim and comparing that to what people believe from biased news. Not a biased way to report that information at all. And yeah, I got a tax cut.

Let's hope Guaido is correct that Maduro is in his "final phase." It will take a long time to recover from the damage Maduro (and his predecessor Chavez) inflicted on Venezuela, cheered on by delusional Westerners who believed they were compassionate geniuses. The sooner that recovery can start the better.

Destroying the last bastion of the Islamic State caliphate is good. With sanctuary and resources jihadis can do a lot more harm than they can underground and on the run. But don't forget that sanctuaries can be in other states with the cooperation of the government or can be in ungoverned spaces on the map. Never stop looking for them and killing them. It's a necessary holding action until the Islamic world wins their civil war over who gets to define Islam--the murderous jihadi minority or the more reasonable majority.

It could have been her finest hour.

Just ... wow. Some gods require child sacrifice, I guess. Tip to Instapundit.

I'm reasonably sure Democrats will move to impeach Trump at some point in the hope that perhaps the horse will sing. This would be wrong on the facts and for our country. Look, I was against impeaching Bill Clinton at the time. That was pre-blog so you'll have to take my word for it. A resolution of condemnation (without diluting it to condemn all presidential misconduct everywhere) would have been appropriate. And on the September 11, 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack, I have never been a conspiracy theorist as some focused on. My main concerns were the underlying failure to act like we were at war before the attack and the failure to send American forces while the outcome was in doubt. Indeed, as I've noted, that question would have made Hillary Clinton look pretty good given that her State Department security forces did march to the sound of the guns. The other issues of changing administration stories and media cooperation were, as I noted in this post, political factors--however disgusting--that voters decided they didn't care about in November 2012. Anyway, I do have some credibility on hoping the Mueller report settles the whole collusion tantrum.

Despite its honorable beginnings battle the KKK, the SPLC degenerated into a hoax machine that raised money by smearing innocent people over political differences.

Syrian Kurds say all the jihadis they captured are ticking time bombs. They want help. Pity we don't have a secure and isolated detention facility that could hold the worst of the worst until they did of old age.

And let me mention something that bugs me. Stop saying Democrats who now control the House have to prove they can "govern." The Congress does not govern. The executive branch governs. The legislative branch legislates as its primary function (with oversight of the executive a related function). The legislative branch does not govern. Why do people say that when nobody ever says the Supreme Court must prove it can govern? I complained about this when Democrats said this of Republican control in Congress and it annoyed me then, too.