Thursday, October 31, 2019

British Rule of Law Hangs in the Balance

Brexit is again delayed. This time to the end of January.

What is the point of establishing deadlines that are put off? It has been over three years since the British people voted to leave the European Union. Yet Britain remains locked in the EU.

The EU has punished Britain for daring to want to leave. And Parliament has refused to leave.

And Parliament had refused to hold a new election through the normal procedure. Thus hoping stalemate and the perception of chaos will get a clear majority of the people to clamor for salvation from Brexit. Even though Brexit isn't the problem--the opposition to Brexit is the cause of the delays and perception of chaos.

Now there will be a new election to get a Parliament that will actually leave:

After three failed attempts to pass a normal election motion, which requires the support of two-thirds of MPs, Johnson on Tuesday took an alternative path.

He introduced a bill to legislate for an election -- a method which required only a simple majority, and passed by 438 votes to 20.

"We are left with no choice but to go to the country to break free from this impasse," he had told MPs.

A newly elected parliament would have a "new mandate to deliver on the will of people and get Brexit done", he said.

Or, if the Remainers and EU get their way, a Parliament that will kill rule of law by reversing the Brexit vote--which Britain's rulers said would settle the issue once and for all. Until the people voted to leave the EU.

Now the Remainers conspire with the imperial lords from the continent. Which will be a nice warning to any other smaller country that wants to escape the crushing embrace of the proto-empire before Brussels can erase that prefix and forever forbid exit by theoretically sovereign countries.

I wish the British good luck. On Brexit and their rule of law.

UPDATE: Yes, the difficulty of achieving Brexit should be all you need to know to support Brexit.

Russia's Soft Underbelly

If Russians aren't looking rather pale these days, they aren't paying attention to Central Asia.

Russia lost their Central Asian imperial holdings when the USSR collapsed. China will use this development to move in and supplant lingering Russian influence:

Officials from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan met at the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Energy Ministers’ Dialogue in late September to discuss how Central Asia’s energy export potential could be harnessed to bring electricity to markets in Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and others, as well as opening up trade arteries to Europe.

This is on top of other factors drawing China inland.

China's growing economy needs energy. If this latest initiative harnesses energy for China, China's flag will follow, I dare say, whether deliberately or in a fit of absentmindedness.

And Russia should worry that China's ability to take Russia's Far East rests not on a direct attack that seizes the territory (and risks Russian nuclear retaliation) but a interim step of secession from Russia, the way Central Asia is now vulnerable to Chinese penetration and domination without a credible Russian nuclear threat.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Breaking Down Extended Deterrence

Why might South Korea decide to go nuclear?

There are two major variables that factor into South Korea’s calculus on starting a nuclear weapons program: the feasibility of North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons voluntarily, and the guarantee of America’s extended deterrence in the event of the nuclear crisis on the peninsula. Both are trending in the wrong direction. [emphasis added]


North Korea's nukes don't necessarily prompt South Korea to go nuclear given that North Korea has long had the power to destroy Seoul (with a quarter of South Korea's population) with conventional means.

The invasion and capture option has dwindled since the collapse of the USSR dried up military support to North Korea. But bombardment is still an option, if more limited than in the past when North Korean armies could advance on Seoul and allow shorter-range artillery to join in on the barrage. North Korea has chemical weapons, recall.

The second part is more important. This issue of extended deterrence is a calculation I've discussed for a long time.

As long as North Korea lacks the means to fire a nuke at American cities, America will absolutely nuke North Korea if North Korea nukes South Korea.

But would America risk a nuclear strike on Seattle by responding with our nuclear strikes in the north to North Korea's nuking of Pusan, South Korea?

South Korea might not want to risk that we are confident enough in our thin missile defenses to hit North Korea in retaliation.

Remember that nukes are for defending core interests. South Korea already experienced one implicit declaration that South Korea was outside of our Asian defense perimeter. Is South Korea confident that has changed despite the decades of fighting and resisting North Korea?

So yeah, South Korea could decide to build nuclear weapons. And we could help South Korea to avoid putting ourselves in that extended deterrence dilemma.

And then the question is whether Japan or Vietnam is next.

And then Taiwan.

And the Philippines and Australia probably join the crowd at that point.

How many of those countries will point at least some of their nukes at China? Yeah, all of them--including North Korea.

Bravo China.

All because the Pillsbury Nuke Boy Kim Jong-Un won't take the opportunity Trump has given him to come in from the cold by peacefully denuclearizing and China won't control their little pet psycho.

Have a super sparkly day.

The B Team Steps Up

Navy full-deck amphibious warfare ships can be used as light carriers. But that does not mean we should build light carriers.

I hope this works, because it is a useful capability:

The Navy and Marine Corps recently tested out the “Lightning Carrier” concept of packing an amphibious assault ship with F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter jets, and they will likely continue to expand and exercise this capability.

On Oct. 8, USS America (LHA-8) was photographed with 13 F-35Bs from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122 on its deck. America is one of two aviation-centric amphibious assault ships in the fleet, eliminating a well deck from its design and instead using that vast space for aviation maintenance areas, greater jet fuel storage and more.

But remember, she is not a carrier. So don't think the testing proves we should build light carriers.

I've long discussed this secondary capability.

Of course, it is nice that the Marines are ready to fly given that the Navy still doesn't fly their F-35s.

And God help us but the new Ford-class carrier is still working on their freaking ammo elevators. And shock testing is apparently not taking place (as if nobody will ever shoot at one of them?).

Lord knows what the catapult issue is these days. Although there seems to be progress. But did they fix the need to take them all down if just one fails?

It scares the Hell out of me that just when even fully functional and well-built carriers are questionable in their ability to survive in a sea-control fight against persistent surveillance and large numbers of precision weapons, that Ford is apparently neither.

These are just teething problems for a new class, right?

Anyway, at least the B Team is up and running. So we've got that going for us. Which is nice.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The State of the Army

Per this CSIS report, the Army is looking like this in the near term:

The regular Army maintains 31 Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) and 11 Combat Aviation Brigades (CABs), with no net change from FY 2019 to FY 2020. The Army National Guard will maintain its current force of 27 BCTs and 8 Combat Aviation Brigades (CABs). This is a change from the previous plan to deactivate a BCT and go down to 26 BCTs. The Army Reserve, which consists mostly of support units (“enablers”), retains two Theater Aviation Brigades (TABS).

The Army continues its reorganization of BCTs begun in 2014. Under the reorganization, the infantry and armored brigades add a third maneuver battalion. (Stryker brigades already had three maneuver battalions.) This reorganization makes brigades larger and more flexible but requires more soldiers.

The Army also continues implementing its plan to convert two infantry BCTs into armored BCTs, resulting in a total of 13 IBCTs, 11 ABCTs, and 7 SBCTs in the regular force and 19, 5, and 2, respectively, in the Guard.

I think this is one fewer brigade than before 9/11. But the units won't be understrength.

Also, during the Cold War the active Army was evenly split between leg infantry and heavy forces.

The situation is not completely parallel because now the Army has light mechanized brigades with the Stryker brigades.

Personally, I'd shift three infantry brigade combat teams to armored brigades.

Or as an alternative, assign a tank battalion to each Stryker brigade; and a company to each infantry brigade--including the airborne and airmobile brigades (odds are they will move into a theater like any other unit--by ship).

And remember that during the Iraq War we reduced the non-Stryker brigades to two battalions each with 4 companies each. I assume that the battalions now have 3 maneuver companies, restoring the triangular structure all the way down.

I do want to protest this statement that minimizes the need for Army brigades:

The Pacific theater consists mainly of ocean and long distances.

Well, if you truncate the theater at the shore, sure. But the many populous countries in Asia that border the Pacific (and Indian) Oceans--hence INDOPACOM for our command out there--surely change that calculation, no? That's what I argued in Military Review.

Be Careful What You Wish For

The United States doesn't have the power to fully police the world. And the American people want more restraint in America's troop commitments. But threats are growing.

The world we built after World War II that does benefit America. And rising Chinese power plus rising Russian hostility means that America can't react to their threats and police the world (well, we never could, truth be told, even in the post-Cold War era). Is a solution to popular demands for more restraint abroad and the need to resist China a policy that enables American allies in the Asia-Pacific region to carry more of the burden?

By passing some responsibilities to formal and tacit allies who already have an interest in opposing Beijing -- Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and India, for example -- the United States could feasibly scale back its own overseas commitments while still meeting its objective of limiting China’s international ambitions.

I'd almost say "nice work if you can get it," but be careful what you wish for. Really, this is an updated version of "leading from behind," no?

The fact is that in the post-Cold War world America accepted a larger defense role than our allies in order to restrain our allies from dragging us into wars that they start. Our war reserve stocks freed allies of the need to maintain similar stocks, knowing we could resupply them in war (assuming we agree with fighting that war).

I noted that Pakistan started a war with India in 1965 by using American ammunition intended for training to build up a war reserve stock. I recently noted the Suez Crisis of 1956 in a different context.

But that's what can happen when you pass on responsibilities (and capabilities) to oppose another country:

Welcome to the flip side of "leading from behind."

When we want allies who can fight without us taking the lead--wait for it--we get allies who can fight without us in the lead.

So they might fight in Vietnam. Or invade Egypt.

Do we really want to put allies in the position of being able to drag us into war by allowing them to begin a war they may think will be short and glorious?

Maybe we do. Maybe the risk is worth taking given the scale of China's economic, scientific, and military rise. But it is a risk to consider.

This really is a balancing act to get allies to spend enough on defense to help both of us win a war; yet not have them spend so much that they can independently start a war that drags us in.

Monday, October 28, 2019

We Should Have Two Fleets Again

In the post-Cold War world, the United States Coast Guard lost its nascent ability to fight warships and submarines. In this era, we need to correct that.

It's about damn time:

When you mention the U.S. Coast Guard to someone, usually patrolling near America's territorial waters, drug interdiction, and rescuing boaters come to mind, but the reality is that the Coastie's mission ranges far from home and into some pretty nasty neighborhoods. At one time, this reality, combined with a very serious foe, resulted in some of the service's most capable cutters being outfitted with RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles. Fast forward to today, and we may be on the precipice of another similar sea-change for the service in terms of how heavily armed some of its ships become.

The Coast Guard deploys its ships forward into war zones despite lacking the punch to face potential enemies.

With enemy fleets rising and even small states or terror groups able to pose a sea-based missile threat to our homeland, why would the Coast Guard not join in the parade of anti-ship capabilities we are restoring (from the initial article)?

From American nuclear fast attack submarines being reequipped with Harpoons after decades without them, as well as the new Tactical Tomahawk that has anti-ship capabilities, and even more exotic classified anti-ship missiles, to the USAF working to master the delivery of a new generation of standoff naval mines, to the Navy fielding the stealthy Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), to the F-35 being slated to receive the Joint Strike Missile, to the Army even looking to get into the ship-killing business, a new era of anti-ship missile capabilities is rapidly emerging.

The Coast Guard is an armed service--not (just) a sea-going police force. Arm it up to match the threats it will face.

Mission's Creep

What is Putin up to in Syria? I don't see the advantage of getting involved in the Kurdish Imbroglio. It's almost as if he believes "I interfere, therefore I am."


Russia and Turkey announced an agreement Tuesday to jointly patrol almost the entire northeastern Syrian border after the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters, cementing the two countries' power in Syria in the wake of President Donald Trump's abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Let's move past the false assertions that the move "cements" their power in that part of Syria, rather than putting them in a hornet's nest; and that Trump's long-held desire to get out of the region is an "abrupt" decision.

I want to know why Russia is stretching their forces to virtually the entire Syria-Turkey border east of the Euphrates River.

I've long noted that Russia had little interest in what happens in eastern Syria because all the Russians need to do to keep their air and naval bases is secure western Syria.

Indeed, Russia has an interest in preventing Syrian authority from being restored in the east to block Iran's overland line of supply to the Mediterranean Sea. The last thing Russia wants is to drag Israel into active fighting around Russia's shiny new bases.

Getting involved in that border region just costs Russia money, and possibly casualties. And it will inevitably anger the Turks and the Syrian Kurds who can't possibly both be happy with Russia's actions--as we discovered in dealing with both. And Putin's move will possibly annoy Assad if Assad thinks Russia is enabling a Turkish occupation of more Syrian territory.

This will strain Russia's military capabilities, as one Russian analyst states:

“[There’s a risk] of being pulled into a potentially large-scale ground operation, which we have managed to avoid in the previous four years,” he outlined in his first concern.

“The operation is formally that of peacekeeping and counterterrorism, but in order to implement it, Russia would need to deploy larger forces and more equipment far away from our military bases in Hmeimim and Tartus. This will make the air force support for the troops more difficult,” Murakhovsky explained.

“Objectively speaking, the Russian engagement [in the] ground operation plays [an] American card. The air space east of the Euphrates is [still] the zone of control of the Americans, and we’ll have to deal with this issue,” Murakhovsky said, describing the second concern.

Regarding the third concern, he argued, “Russian troops become a target for radical and terrorist elements of various Syrian National Army factions as well as the Kurds. Russians may fall prey to 'side attacks' on Turkish forces."

Russia's military will have to cash the check that Putin wrote. This could just be the first check cashed if everybody doesn't cooperate:

Russia sent about 300 more military police and more than 20 armored vehicles to Syria on Friday under an accord between Ankara and Moscow that has halted Turkey’s military incursion into northeast Syria.[*]

So to the Russians:

Really, what are the odds of this being a brilliant Putin scheme given the evidence that the Fuck-Up Fairy lives in Russia now?

And this is good news for Ukraine, because broke Russia can't afford too many active fronts. Which means that Syria is effectively Ukraine's forward defense line.

I swear to God that Putin measures his power by how much he can poke the West and get media coverage. He'd rather be feared than liked--or, God forbid, ignored. His escalating intervention in Syria is like some bizarre form of click bait.

UPDATE: In related news, American troops are returning to eastern Syria to help deny eastern oil fields to ISIL, Assad, or Iran:

A convoy of about 18 US military vehicles departed northern Iraq and headed into Syria on Saturday morning, rumbling through Rmeilan town, past Qamishli and toward the interior of the war-torn country.

CNN video shows a group of American armored vehicles and trucks on the road near Rmeilan. Syrian Democratic Forces fighters and a KRG border official confirmed the US military crossing earlier in the day.

As I said early in the imbroglio, a US withdrawal doesn't have to be permanent. So this was rapid. And it is in addition to the Tanf garrison we are maintaining. We aren't so much abandoning the Syrian Kurds as we were avoiding a war with Turkey over the Kurds--which would have been the real blunder.

*And those MPs were taken from Chechnya. If Chechens who don't want to be ruled by Moscow take advantage, Russia could find itself with a revived resistance there.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Weekend Data Dump

The stateless--by choice or order.

I don't know why Gabbard enjoys respect from Republicans. She may be against Hillary, but she backed Bernie and is otherwise a leftist. Thanks for her military service, but let's halt her government service right there.

Squad cohesion is very important to the Army. This effort to improve tactical skills will be especially important as smart rifles that the Army wants spread to even militias and terrorists. Which I wrote about on the USNI Blog in regard to the Marines.

Socialism effed up an oil-wet dream in Venezuela. Even clean drinking water is becoming a thing of the past.

I just don't see Trump's Ukrainegate accusation as impeachable. I hope that he didn't seek help against Biden for political reasons (and I doubt Biden can win the nomination anyway, so why focus on Biden politically?). He shouldn't do that. But there are reasons relating to the whole 2016 collusion folly for making the request. Further, I think this is common. I figure the Obama administration had the sophistication to use cutouts, and lacked partisan leakers. And it had a media willing to minimize anything if it came out. As I've noted, foreign aid is obviously intended to shape recipient actions in exchange for that aid. Less obvious, we are so big economically that decisions we make can have major if unintended effects on smaller states. So smaller states seek favor with us. Censure Trump and save it for the election campaign if you want (and if you can make the clear case Trump tried to trade aid for help against Biden for political purposes). Put requirements in the foreign aid appropriations for reporting requirements on aid to Ukraine to make sure it goes where Congress intends on time. But impeach? Over this? Give me a break.

Christopher Columbus haters have no use for nuance. But you don't believe Howard Zinn wrote history rather than political propaganda, did you?

Lately with China building big carriers I've heard people say that the carrier must still be important and not vulnerable to precision missiles because why would China be building them if they are too expensive and vulnerable? I noticed I addressed that back in 2011. No individual lemming in a herd heading over a cliff has superior knowledge to justify the direction of the herd.

Seriously, Master Beto is running for a MSNBC time slot and not the Democratic presidential nomination--or even a cabinet position.

Save the Russian red sports cars battlecruisers! And while they're at it build those carriers!

From sexist, homophobic (and, naturally, racist), plutocrat who hates dogs to hero of the people! The not-so-strange case of new Democratic respect for Romney (tip to Instapundit).

I'm seriously considering throwing out a half dozen single socks I keep in the hope that their mates will show up one day, perhaps stuck to some little-used shirt in a drawer somewhere that is finally brought out to use.

I remain upset that our budget deficits continue to go up during the Trump era.
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That is a major failure on his part. Although the rise began from 2015 to 2016, and the effects of the Trump tax cut can't be blamed for the continued rise in the deficit despite the claim by some that it was the cause. As I've said before, whether we raise or reduce taxes, the one constant seems to be that the deficit continues to rise. The exceptions were after the Cold War (and tech bubble) and after the Iraq and Afghan campaigns were wound down, thus reducing military expenditures.

I was skeptical of the notion of the "deep state." Even before Trump was sworn in I noted that the logic of bureaucracies meant that any really out-of-bounds ideas would face push back. But honestly, the push back has gone beyond that to unethically opposing a duly elected president. The deep state became self aware and created itself over the last three years--and boasts that for the good of the people it is a good thing.  One might say they consider themselves the "vanguard" of the people, I suppose. Civil servants need to be fired and their pensions taken away to nip this in the bud.

China concluded a secret 75-year lease deal with the Solomon Islands. Not that it could remain secret for long, of course. I used the Guadalcanal campaign as an example of multidomain synergy when the services focus on their core competencies. But maybe we should update our ancient plans for taking the Solomon islands. Never mind, a little light led to the cancellation of the Tulagi deal. Good.

I hate to have to state the obvious, but the State Department works for the president.

Full-rate production of the F-35 is being put off again. We really need to get this plane right. It's basically the only game in town.

I think Hillary likes stuff like this floated purely to bring in money from people who hope to gain favor if the ancien regime is restored that gives her influence (that can be bought) again.

Democrats, a lot of Republicans, and the Russians all agree on this. It's way more nuanced than that, if you'll excuse the term.

False woke feminism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

I should have brought this up amidst the Giuliani Ukrainegate Kerfuffle, but it was such an obvious reality that I didn't even think of bringing it up: shadow diplomacy with private individuals is a common thing.

Pulling our troops out of Syria where they were scattered among the Kurdish troops will harm our intelligence which drives counter-terror strikes on ISIL in Syria. I mentioned that key relationship between ground intelligence and killing jihadis in the long debates over counter-insurgency versus counter-terrorism in Afghanistan.

American F-35s will soon begin to flow to Europe to deter Russia. NATO F-35s will outnumber the American jets.

We're from the (California) government. And we're here to help. Tip to Instapundit.

Sadly, all too true. I know because I'm a heretic. And more sadly, ACK! didn't recognize her worth as a human being until she heard of Bernie Sanders. The state does not have the power to grant or deny worth as a human being. Why would any "liberal" take that position?

The CPFB should be struck down as an unconstitutional body that lacks oversight.

Russia has more strategic nuclear weapons than they should have had under the New START treaty. And they are expanding their arsenal. I wonder if Russia can afford this--despite needing more bang for the ruble in defending Russia--and wonder how many of Russia's nukes actually work. Really, why would a country confident of its nuclear arsenal send nuclear bombers to visit South Africa?

So ... what? Beware of what you long wished for?  Tip to Instapundit.

Despite rising prosperity in Chile, riots have broken out--apparently over the belief that opportunities are not equal.

Catalan separatists are still a threat to Spanish territorial integrity. Personally, I think the European Union likes these separatist movements.

Donor fatigue in corrupt and violent Somalia. The sainted international community--after nearly three years of pretending that having a UN seat means the place is a country--should formally break up that geographic area called "Somalia" and sell it for parts.

There is more clarity on the Syria situation. In addition to withdrawing our troops from the border strip across from Turkey, we pulled out our troops from the rest of eastern Syria except the al Tanf garrison in the southeast. And we could reinforce that outpost. Reinforcements could include armor, which after the refusal to send armor to American forces in Somalia prior to the Battle of Mogadishu, I doubt will be refused by the White House if the Pentagon requests that asset. I remain unclear if any American special forces remain in or will return to the non-border areas of Syria in support of the Kurds (and to provide intelligence), given that we usually don't count them in with discussions of troops numbers or movements. Also, we shall certainly give all due considerations to and file Russia's objections.

Iraq's struggle to build a democracy with economic growth is running into a problem of a growing population of young people who lack opportunity. Young people with opportunity are an asset. Young people without opportunity are a threat to democracy--by making the government willing to clamp down to stop the protests and by making the young people more vulnerable to recruitment by radicals. Strategypage has more on the failed battle against corruption--with the important detail that the pro-Iran militias (PMF) are the units shooting at protesters. Now whether the government told them to do what is necessary to suppress them is another question. Also, the anti-corruption protests have an anti-Iran angle. Which the shootings won't nullify.

You absolutely knew the latest frenzy of outrage against Trump would show him to be no different than Democrats who didn't inspire outrage, right?

South Korea is having success exporting its K9 self-propelled artillery.

Personal feuds among the Arab monarchs get in the way of policies to resist Iran. There are no deep states to rein in that kind of power.

Woke privilege: Justin Trudeau won reelection in Canada (despite winning fewer votes than the Conservatives, so I assume Democrats here will declare him illegitimate--don't be silly, I kid!), as Canadians forgave a left-wing politician of repeated acts that would have led to a witch hunt had the black face incidents been by a conservative. Of course, Democratic privilege is a thing, more generally.

More on the Kongsberg innovations to build smaller warships more cheaply using containerized system modules and civilian construction standards and automation. The company has a good history of innovation. I noted that innovation earlier and related it to my "The AFRICOM Queen" article in Military Review.

Brexit delayed (again) is Brexit denied (as Remainers want).

It is taking longer for the Europeans to get over Russia's invasion of Ukraine than it did for them to get over Russia's invasion of Georgia and get back to business, but of course (political) Europe is getting over the whole Ukraine inconvenience.

This is a totally legit inquiry, no doubt. "If they’re not telling you things it’s because they don’t want you to know them. And if they don’t want you to know them, it’s because they know you’d be angry if you did." I honestly think House Democrats believe they can put Trump on double secret probation (I'm not sure what representative that is. I just know that the eyes don't bug out enough to be Schiff):

They'll finally kick those punks off campus! Animal House, indeed.

Is America's trade war responsible for China's slowing economic growth? Not really. Which is no surprise given China's labor problem. I think our "trade war" is simply well-timed to exacerbate China's predictable labor issue.

Ten African countries have agreed to work together to combat Ebola. Good.

I'm honestly shocked that Bernie's support hasn't cratered after his heart attack. Maybe people really aren't paying a lot of attention this far out? Is it partly name recognition and a re-upping of support from the last campaign?

Peak Stupid recedes to the horizon.

Note that Europeans hated our Guantanamo Bay detention facility. But with the risk of ISIL jihadis from Europe in custody in Syria escaping back to Europe, European countries are suddenly willing to pay Iraq to try, convict, and execute "their" ISIL members. Getting hit with the clue bat sometimes works.

Hong Hong protesters continue to defy authorities, with protests edging to resistance.

If older white males had a major say on who can entertain us, let me just say that (tip to Instapundit) keeping Kathy Griffin off the air would be way down the list on changes. I'd go with hula hoops.

While I certainly want America to exercise leadership in the world to promote our interests, I don't think that Trump is abandoning our leadership as much as he is retrenching our military commitments. I do have differences with him on this issue, but the details are certainly debatable. The idea that every other president until Trump sought to provide leadership founders on the whole Obama "leading from behind" philosophy, doesn't it? And what about Carter? Trump is warping a lot of judgments out there. And I don't think I'm part of that problem.

Egypt still worries about Ethiopia controlling the flow--implying the flow could be cut off--of the vital Nile River.

The Army is worried about its reliance on a wifi network. It had best be secure if we are to reach back for the squad, as I argued for in Infantry magazine.

Hey! I just noticed that my OSAC subscription went back to email links rather than requiring users to log in!

Trump is asking his 2016 supporters if they are still with him. This is important given the latest media question of whether voters are tired of the drama of the Trump presidency. But both questions are off the mark. I did not vote for Trump in 2016 (in the belief that my vote was meaningless to the outcome and given my long history of despising Trump as a blow hard and a liberal Democrat). I was nonetheless ecstatic that Hillary lost. And I was outraged at the demonization of Trump supporters by Democrats and their media allies. The question of being tired of the drama mistakenly assumes that Trump is at fault. Yes, I'm tired of the drama. But it is drama that the turn-it-to-11 nonstop resistance to Trump has caused. On policy, Trump is fairly normal. Including on foreign policy--although obviously details can be debated. And without the drama of the resistance--as opposed to mere loyal opposition--his Tweets and off-the-cuff remarks would be occasional eye roll moments and not Constitutional crises. So I don't have to be with Trump in 2020. I simply cannot reward what the Democrats and media have done the last three years (and by election time four years) to create the kind of internal divisions that Putin could only dream of achieving with his amateurish and low-cost interference in our election campaign in 2016--interference that Obama failed to stop, recall. I will figuratively crawl across broken glass to vote for Trump this time. And I have no need to like him or "still" be with him. So bravo, Democrats. Thank you for clarifying my choice.

Pakistan won't be able to hold off paying a financial price for their support of terrorism

Nothing says "Please help us, our good hosts" like rioting and burning cars.

For those worried that our decision not to fight Turkey over the Syrian Kurds means we are abandoning eastern Syria, fear not: "'We've secured the oil, and, therefore, a small number of U.S. troops will remain in the area where they have the oil,' Trump said Wednesday while discussing the pullout of all but 200 to 300 U.S. troops in Syria. 'And we're going to be protecting it, and we'll be deciding what we're going to do with it in the future.'" Obviously we will continue to work with local allies in the region. And don't get your panties in a twist, this isn't "blood for oil." This is about depriving ISIL, Assad, and Iran oil revenue to fund their activities. And remember that the Russians and Turks are just in a border strip less than 20 miles deep along the Syria-Turkey border. I'm not sure about where Syrian forces are allowed under the Kurd-Assad deal.

Are we having fun yet? Syria said its forces clashed with both Turkish (and local allied militia) forces and Kurdish forces in the northeast border region. Neither Russia, Turkey, nor Syria are eager to suffer casualties. This might be a target-rich environment for the Syrian Kurds.

Freeze-dried blood saves lives in combat zones. Thank you France, for that innovation.

While this list of questions intended to defend Trump's pull out from northeastern Syria is justified (without endorsing all of them), I totally disagree with the idea that elections in Iraq were destined to put anti-American leaders in charge of Iraq. Iraq is corrupt--as it was before we got involved--but does have a highly imperfect democracy. Our help can improve that over time. How easily our victory is overlooked as Iraqis host American troops, resist Iran with our backing, and kill jihadis every day.

Vice President Pence condemned China's actions in Hong Kong and praised Taiwan as a true model for China rather than the autocratic "surveillance state" that China has built. Taiwan should get on my League of Democracies idea, and America should help build it.

I really tire of liberals saying Trump is dividing the country when they have spent so many years calling Republicans Nazis who hate women and want grandma to die, calling Republicans "deplorables," and even calling Democratic primary voters bitter bigoted clingers (to God and guns).

China likes people who ask "How high?" when China tells them to jump, so working on the NBA's loyalty to Peking makes total sense. Tip to Instapundit.

As Democrats go to full panic mode about the possibility that actual ISIL terrorists escaped in the Syria border region, they ignore 100 criminals a day being released in Los Angeles. And don't forget that Democrats were keen on closing Guantanamo Bay and releasing al Qaeda terrorists held there.

Only CNN could suggest that Trump was "not immediately clear" about whether the Kurds should move forces or masses of people to the desert oil fields in eastern Syria. In the context of the Kurds removing fighters from the border zone with Turkey and our decision to help defend those fields, obviously he is referring to their fighters. CNN really can't distinguish between apples and bananas anymore, can they?

It isn't that our alliance with Turkey is untenable, it is that our alliance with Turkey run by Erdogan is untenable. Don't be so eager to expel Turkey from NATO when Turkey controls the Turkish Straits that block Russian movements into the Mediterranean Sea and allow our movements into the Black Sea. I'm hoping we can wait out Erdogan without too much damage in the meantime. Hanson doesn't think much of waiting for Erdogan to leave office so that democracy will be restored. But I don't know what choice we have other than to rule out a change for the better and force a crisis with a full break. I'd cauterize the wound and isolate Turkey quietly within NATO while hoping for better days (without Erdogan).  Let's take one step at a time and hope for democracy after Erdogan is gone. And we should be looking for other basing options as a backup to Incirlik air base, of course. Oh, and somehow remove or disable the nukes there.

Biden apologized for his past use of the word "lynching" to complain about an impeachment effort against Bill Clinton, while claiming Trump's use of the word is a "dog whistle" to racists. I'm confused. Trump used the term lynching like it's a bad thing to complain about Democratic efforts against him. So Trump is the one figuratively being lynched (well that alone might explain Biden's confusion). But somehow that context is a "dog whistle" to racists that lynching is something they should do to people of color? I'm going to need a dose of nuance, stat.

Remember, if you are worried about Russia in Syria, that Russia was able to get into Syria because Obama checked the tide of resistance against Assad with the 2013 chemical weapons deal; and then watched as Russia intervened directly in 2015, assisted by the Obama decision to fight ISIL in Syria while walking away from supporting opposition to Assad.

Why would Harry and Meghan try to claim the victim mantle when they are fabulously wealthy and privileged? I mean, isn't it a bad idea to give the peasants the notion that royalty can be victimized?

Russia's SSNs have a new lease on life with an anti-ship missile that finally works.

"They" don't want to save the planet, "they" want to punish you for existing. And also so "they" want to feel morally superior to you.

A battle for geographic data used to fight World War II and the Cold War. Would any modern Ivy League academic help our country the same way?

Well that's embarrassing.

I remain disappointed with liberals in the Trump era. I had hoped that Trump in the White House would convince liberals that it is a bad idea to have a powerful president. But no, instead liberals have launched an assault on rule of law (proposing packing the court, proposing eliminating the Electoral College, killing the idea of a neutral civil service, using security services against political opponents--off the top of my head) to get rid of Trump and regain their own control of a powerful presidency directing a powerful federal government. I think our political divisions would be reduced greatly if the power and reach of the federal government was scaled back to true national issues and leave other things to states and local governments.

One of the unintended side effects of the whole sex-confusion movement will be to reduce the disparity of male-initiated violent crimes, no? Bad violent arsonist woman! Related humor.

The idea that the Obama administration had that it could turn a murderous Iranian regime into a responsible regional power was and always will be nonsense as long as fanatical murderous mullahs run the place. And the idea that the EU will recognize the murderous nature of the Iranian regime is even more far-fetched.

The only mystery about this secret, super Russian stealth bomber is why anybody thinks Russia can design and build it, let alone put it into production. The Russians are getting as bad as the Iranians who regularly report the development of a super weapon that will kill us all and restore the glories of Persia.

Unlike the author, I have no problem with North Macedonia joining NATO. It's not like it has a border with a hostile country intent on invading it, thus committing NATO to a higher risk of war. And it gives NATO territory to project power into the Aegean Sea as a backup location. And membership prevents a hostile power from one day using the territory as an outpost. So I really don't see the downside here. As an aside to a major complaint in the article, NATO really doesn't have an open door policy in practice, as the status of Georgia after Russia invaded (raided) it in 2008 demonstrates.

I'll be shocked if the Air Force actually equips any of its units with these light attack planes. The slow pace of buying a simple prop plane speaks volumes, no?

This is parody, but how long before California decides that their burning forests require their government to periodically shut down electricity (for other people--not for them, of course) not for safety but as carbon offsets to make up for the fires?

Financing your city by fining your poorest people really just pisses me off. It sounds more like a version of medieval tax farmers who grab money from the easiest targets.

One thing that continues to crack me up given the left-leaning media's relentless campaign against Trump is that during the Republican primaries that same media bolstered Trump relentlessly in the apparent belief that they were playing a clever game by getting Trump as Hillary's opponent. Oops.

Who does he think he is? Ted Kennedy?

North Korea is trying to build a conventional ballistic missile submarine. It might get there eventually.

How can we blame the NBA for sucking up to Communist-ruled China when our friggin' Smithsonian Institution can't help but publish loving words for a murdering communist bastard?  Tip to Instapundit.

Banning straws is one thing, but if global warming panic played a role in the safety failures of the Boeing 737 MAX it is high time we told those eco-scolds to take a long walk off a short pier. Although it might be something floated by Boeing to reduce their liability. Stay tuned, I guess.

Contrary to what Turkey says, switching from Western weapons to Russian or Chinese weapons would disrupt their military to some degree as it transitions, trying to mesh different concepts and multiplying logistics headaches. Not that it can't be done. But it isn't just switching your brand of coffee.

Another Good Jihadi

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the scumbag leader of ISIL, apparently killed himself with an explosive as America special forces attacked his position in the northwestern Idlib province in Syria:

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi , the shadowy leader of the Islamic State group who presided over its global jihad and became arguably the world's most wanted man, was killed in a U.S. military raid in Syria, President Donald Trump said Sunday. He provided graphic details of al-Baghdadi's final moments as American forces pursued and cornered him and his children in a tunnel.

"Last night, the United States brought the world's number one terrorist leader to justice," Trump announced at the White House. "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead."

We had to deconflict with Syria, Russia, and Turkey, of course. Iraqi intelligence aided us. The Syrian Kurds helped us, too.

Apparently, from television reporting, about 100 American special forces flew by helicopter from northern Iraq to try to capture him, but he detonated explosives that killed himself, his wifetwo of his wives, and children.

I'm going to guess this was the Army Delta Force rather than Navy SEALS. Plus some Rangers. But I'm guessing.

For the Confused-American community, that's a good thing. May he rot in Hell. Remember, the only good jihadi is a dead jihadi.

Baghdadi may have been lulled by our withdrawal from northeast Syria, I'll guess.

Let's hope that we can exploit any intelligence we gained from being on the ground.

Question: Did the Turks help us? Or were they merely notified so they could let us know where their forces nearby were to avoid an incident?

UPDATE: The Washington Post describes al-Baghdadi as "an austere religious scholar" in headline (tip to Instapundit).

Wait. What?

Is the WP saying that this jihadi terrorist was an authentic Islamic voice?

My understanding from past mainstream media coverage is that jihadis in no way represent "real Islam." I guess Orange Man Bad means Green Man Good.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Threat Perception Run Amok

A galactic near miss over Japan should make us worry about deterring a nuclear-armed North Korea.

This is a reminder of a long-term planetary worry (tip to Instapundit):

In the early morning of April 28, 2017, a small fireball crept across the sky over Kyoto, Japan. And now, thanks to data collected by the SonotaCo meteor survey, researchers have determined that the fiery space rock was a shard of a much larger asteroid that might (far down the road) threaten Earth.

But what if that fireball crept across North Korean skies? What if if actually impacted inside North Korea?

The 2017 fireball should also be a reminder of a closer more near-term disaster looming if North Korea gets nuclear missiles:

Just how good will North Korea's early warning system be? If they have any? Just what would trigger a North Korean launch, anyway? Who in that North Korean launch chain will be the one to say "I'm not sure if nukes are heading our way. Let's wait."

Long ago I used to think that we could deter North Korea because they aren't nutball Islamists. But when I thought about it more, their paranoia and lack of technology could make deterrence something that cannot last long.

Will any North Korean technician analyzing the data who knows that nobody is attacking North Korea be brave enough to tell Kim Jong-Un that America isn't behind the fireball and/or impact?

Have a super sparkly day.

Inflicting Pain at the Division Level

I've noted both of these exercises but they bear repeating, especially in the Indo-Pacific. Preparing for "big war" is unfortunately necessary for the Army:

The Army intends to train at the division level in its next major exercises in Europe and the Indo-Pacific, testing the movement of a large force from fort to port, across the ocean and then making its way to multi-national sites where partner forces will train with the Americans.

I think we should be building to multi-division corps-level capabilities in the Indo-Pacific in order to support allied armies, as I argued in Military Review not too long ago.

And have I mentioned recently that I'd have paid good money to name our Asia-Pacific theater PAINCOM (Pacific-Indian Command)?  INDOPACOM just doesn't trip off the tongue the same way.

Friday, October 25, 2019

This is Bad. Really Bad

Mexican forces captured two of El Chapo's sons recently. And then the stuff hit the fan.

Oh Holy Ef (tip to Instapundit):

The forces [of El Chapo's drug gang] that emerged were in the literal sense awesome and awful. Heavy weaponry that would be familiar on any Iraqi, Syrian, or Yemeni battlefield was brought to bear. More and worse: custom-built armored vehicles, designed and built to make a Sahel-warfare technical look like an amateur’s weekend kit job, were rolled out for their combat debut. Most critically, all this hardware was manned by men with qualities the Mexican Army largely lacks: training, tactical proficiency, and motivation.

Then the coup de grace: as the Chapo sons’ forces engaged in direct combat with their own national military, kill squads went into action across Culiacán, slaughtering the families of soldiers engaged in the streets.

Cowed and overmatched—most crucially in the moral arena—the hapless band of soldiers still holding the second son finally received word from Mexico City, direct from President AMLO himself: surrender. Surrender and release the prisoner.

Ten years ago I was worried that Mexico might be one of the first foreign crises that the new President Obama would face.

I was wrong. But only in timing.

Mexico's authority doesn't seem to extend much north of the capital region, does it?

Will the government bite the bullet and embark on a full counterinsurgency response (podcast at the link)?

If the escalating drug gang violence keeps up and Mexican federal control keeps eroding, a wall on America's southern border will need to be replaced with minefields, cleared fields of fire, and bunkers.

And plenty of armed troops and paramilitary police manning the defenses. I'll note again that my grandfather in the New York National Guard was sent to the border before World War I when Mexico was in chaos.

We'll see if the only border Democrats want to defend is the Syrian Kurdish border with Turkey.

Getting There

The 2nd armored brigade of 1st Cavalry Division is rotating to Europe and using a different port in the Netherlands to make sure we can get there by different routes:

[The] unit is the first "in recent memory" to use the port of Vlissingen in the Netherlands, where soldiers, Army civilians, and local workers started unloading the first of three shipments of equipment early on October 11. ...

Armored units deployed for Atlantic Resolve rotations are typically stationed in Germany or elsewhere in Eastern Europe and have in the past arrived at ports closer to their bases. ...

There was a need to "to reestablish capabilities in all these ports" and "to demonstrate that we could come [into Europe] at a variety of different places," Hodges, who is a retired lieutenant general, told Business Insider in 2018.

Moving the brigade involves getting "3,500 soldiers, 85 tanks, 120 Bradley fighting vehicles, 15 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, 500 tracked vehicles, 1,200 wheeled vehicles and pieces of equipment, and 300 trailers" from Texas to Europe.

The Paladin count seems rather low for a brigade.

In Europe, the brigade will be moved by different methods, as well.

In related news we are practicing the sea part in the face of mines and submarine opposition:

Running dark and nearly silent, last month a convoy of Military Sealift Command ships practiced delivering people and gear to the fight as part of a large U.S. Transportation Command surge sealift capability stress test.

As part of TRANSCOM’s September turbo activation – an exercise activating a fleet of reserve cargo and transport with little notice – five MSC ships assembled at a designated location in the North Atlantic on Sep. 24, sailing in a simulated contested environment, according to a release from MSC.

While the Russian ability to interdict Atlantic traffic is much lower than during the Cold War, our ability to move forces and supplies while escorting them is also much lower. And let's not discuss the Pacific if the Chinese can break through the first island barrier.

UPDATE: Strategypage has more:

The activation order was issued on September 16th and the ships had to ready to depart by the 21st. The six MSC (Military Sealift Command) and 22 RRF (Ready Reserve Fleet) ships included four LMSRs (Large Medium Speed Roll-on/Roll-off) ships, eight FSS (Fast Sealift Ships), two former MPS (Maritime Prepositioning Ships), fifteen Ro/Ros (Roll on/Roll Off ships), a barge carrier, two crane ships and an aviation logistics support ship. ...

Five of the ships missed the deadline to be at sea by the 21st. These included a FSS that departed a day late. Four others were not fit to depart, including three in Texas that had suffered some damage from a recent hurricane.

Of course, as noted, actually making across the ocean without breaking down is another issue altogether.

There is more on logistics in general, and an aside that only China has a major reserve transportation fleet (to support an invasion of Taiwan).

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Shoot and Scoot is Back

The Army is practicing rapid movement of artillery to avoid counter-battery fire:

Russia's invasion of Ukraine was a wake-up call of sorts, with Russia using advanced artillery and drones as spotters to create devastating long-range effects.

The Army now is racing to increase the range of its artillery -- and have the ability to move it in a hurry so that enemy systems can't hit back.

For the first time, the 25th Infantry Division last week practiced moving two M777 howitzers, which each weigh nearly 10,000 pounds, by air using a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, setting up the big guns as fast as possible and firing at a target during the rapid artillery raid, officials said. The artillery also was flown out by air.

This is good, because the video I embedded in this post about that Ukraine wake-up call by Doctor Karber scared the Hell out of me.

I remember in the Persian Gulf War before the invasion that our artillery conducted artillery raids on Iraqi forces by rolling up within range, shooting, and getting out. Iraq's Soviet-supplied artillery outranged our guns, I believe.

This isn't just for large-scale armored warfare in Europe. Dropping artillery on islands in the Pacific for brief missions to strike enemy warships is also an objective.

Holding the Line

China doesn't like it when we sell weapons to Taiwan (but what doesn't displease them)? But our weapons sales are crucial to our western Pacific position.


There are multiple reasons for Washington’s willingness to arm Taiwan despite Beijing’s anger over what it sees as meddling in Chinese internal affairs. From a military perspective, though, the most important reason is that without Taiwan, the Pentagon’s strategy for containing China would be severely weakened and might come completely unraveled. To understand why, all you have to do is look at a map.

I've noted that the Taiwan issue is more than a Taiwan issue, given the free democracy's position as a cork in the bottle penning in China's fleet.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

In Search of a Blunder

I just don't see the "blunder" of the Turkish Imbroglio that so many pundits claim Trump made.

I have long been aware that Trump wanted our troops out of Syria. Clearly the military and our foreign policy establishment have been dragging their feet and pushing back. It isn't fair to say there was no planning done if the commander-in-chief was being thwarted by the bureaucracies.

Nor is it fair to say we should have come to a diplomatic deal first. What do you think we've been doing?

I've noted repeatedly our efforts to come to a deal with the Turks over the border region and the Kurds there. Those efforts failed. And the Turks seem to have made it clear to us that they were coming. Our fewer than 100 troops weren't going to deter them.

And as much as I dislike Erdogan and like the Kurds who fought at our side, America has no interest in fighting our NATO ally Turkey--as shaky of an ally it is--over the Kurds.

Just how does our reputation for standing by allies get bolstered by turning against a formal treaty ally to favor a co-belligerent of convenience?

Remember, the Kurds didn't do us a favor fighting ISIL. We had common interests in defeating ISIL. That common fight did not obligate us to then fight for Kurdish independence.

And while we have interests in supporting friends in eastern Syria, I don't want our military presence to drag on without a discussion of means and ends. That kind of autopilot path after the completion of the initial mission leads to a Beirut barracks bombing (Lebanon) or a "Blackhawk Down" Battle of Mogadishu (Somalia).

Look, I didn't categorically claim that Obama's decision in 2011 to pull our troops out of Iraq would be a disaster. I disagreed strongly with the decision. But all I would claim is that it lessened the chance of a good outcome and increased the chance of a bad outcome.

We got the bad outcome in 2014 that took great effort to reverse--including contributing to the rise of ISIL in Syria that we are still dealing with.

Let's wait and see how we work the problem of reacting to a really bad situation that the Turks forced on us. The struggle for eastern Syria will continue. I don't assume the outcome will be bad. I don't assume it will be good.

And even if it is bad, it is probably just another form of bad that would happen given the conflicting goals of the many actors involved in the Syria multi-war and our limited interests in the face of competing actors with greater interests. Face it, without an objective like overthrowing Assad, we've been spinning a lot of plates in Syria and trying to keep them all from crashing down.

I've been trying out different names for the crisis. I think I'll stick with Turkish Imbroglio.

LIGHT TANK (laɪt tæŋk) n. 1. Easily Destroyed


Remember that the Army wants light tanks to support our infantry. And they could face infantry with the ability to kill our light tanks.

That dispersal of light anti-tank power is in addition to moves like this to upgrade the weapons of infantry fighting vehicles or armored cars (video at the link):

The Army is looking for more range, more punch, and more options for its Next Generation Combat Vehicle, and is turning to Northrop Grumman to provide the 50mm gun that can rip through armor, or reach out and touch targets that current infantry vehicles can’t.

Other countries will follow suit.

The Army truly is being sporting by committing to light tanks (or whatever name is chosen to disguise the fact that they are light tanks) in support of our infantry just when just about anybody on the battlefield will be able to kill them.

Even our heavy tanks need added protection with the proliferation of threats out there (although at least the bullets don't add to the threat level to them--except to the tracks for mobility kills).

Those new army light tanks should be called Future Burned-Out Hulks (FBOHs).

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Banality of "Disaster"

Despite the talk of how violent and hopeless Afghanistan is, this year the monthly death toll was under 250 civilians killed per month:

So far this year Taliban and Islamic terrorist violence has killed about 240 civilians a month, and wounded nearly twice as many. About 20 percent of these casualties were caused by roadside bombs and landmines. The rest were usually the result of RPG, mortar or gunfire. The Taliban prefer to kill from a distance, the better to deny they were responsible or for the attackers to be identified by name. ...

Compared to Western nations Afghanistan has always been a much more violent place. Tribal cultures usually are, especially when so many of the tribes have a long (thousands of years) tradition of organized and disorganized violence. American Special Forces troops, who began operating in the countryside regularly after late 2001, were somewhat surprised at the number of old wounds found on women and children, as well as men. Violence and homicide had never been measured in Afghanistan but after 2001 Special Forces medics and foreign medical aid groups saw more evidence to the violence and realized this was normal for Afghanistan and the addition of foreign invasion, rebellion and warlord activity (like the Taliban), while less frequent, were also a traditional aspect of life in Afghanistan.

Compared to the Iraq War where monthly civilian casualties were far greater--sometimes more than ten times in the worst months of Iranian- and Syrian-supported Iraq violence--at 250 per month, Afghanistan is almost peaceful now.

Afghanistan is a place where violence and death are common. So the casualty level isn't something to panic about and head for the exits in defeatist exit strategy mentality.

We can win the Global Troubles that don't rise to the level of warfare:

Americans aren't war weary. Or war apathetic. Americans are perhaps realizing that we've joined the rest of the world whose people long faced endless violence. Travel and media got good enough that our long isolation in the New World has shrunk the distance that once kept us safe from global troubles.

And it is an adjustment Americans have to make if we are to carry on until a victory that might not come for many decades.

Work the problem and help our allies fight our common enemies. They are willing and the death toll really isn't a disaster as we think it is. They're used to this.

They Welcome Their New Insect Overlords

Hollywood doesn't mind insulting half of America, but doesn't want to offend the Chinese Communist Party. This has been coming for some time.

In Hollywood, there's no speaking truth to power when it comes to China (because it is much safer to verbally assault Trump):

From Mulan actress Crystal Liu to the Lakers’ LeBron James, most top stars are taking no chances and are lining up to either side with the Chinese regime or denounce any criticism of its authoritarian tactics. Similarly, companies like ESPN (which used a controversial map on SportsCenter that indicated the self ruled island of Taiwan was part of China) and Apple (which removed from its online stores the so-called Hong Kong protest app and quietly dropped the Gere series Bastards, despite picking it up straight to series late last year) appear to be toeing the party line.

All the while, observers say an overt self-censorship has begun to creep into the entertainment industry. Inside Hollywood, the film industry faces the greatest risk in rocking the China boat.

I've long noted China's reach to enforce "respect" for China

I've noted that China goes to great efforts to shape international views of China or China's positions. Hollywood movies that wish to enter the China market have been altered to make them compliant with China's positions. There's even more involved. ...

It's like the first line of defense to reduce the work load on China's vast army of censors who work hard to keep Chinese Internet users from seeing information that runs counter to the official party line.

Hollywood is willing to bend the knee to China's communist oppressors. It just doesn't want to be seen as doing it.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Interesting Times

Broke North Korea has a small ruling elite and a huge military. But they have little money since the USSR gravy train stopped. They thought they had a plan. But it isn't working.

Without the money to support a huge military capable of invading South Korea, long ago the North Koreans decided to save money by almost literally starving the military. The rulers decided to rely on nuclear weapons to deter invasion and rely on secret police to control the people and the now-downgraded army that has become mostly a slave labor force.

I called the strategy "kooks, spooks, and nukes."

North Korea doesn't have nukes yet to deter exactly nobody who wants to invade that black hole of poverty.

The strategy makes sense from a regime survival point of view--from Pyongyang's point of view that thinks North Korea is sponge-worthy.

Yet still nobody invades. Odd, that is.

Unfortunately for the loony tunes running the concentration camp with a UN seat, the secret police pillar is weakening:

[North Korea's] secret police like ... their bribe income ... . The secret police have become more tolerant of their personnel taking bribes, especially if that leads to foiling spies, especially spies with any connection of South Korea. However, any secret police found to have taken a bribe from someone connected with South Korea, the repercussions are severe and losing your job is one of the milder punishments.

The secret police have been told that finding “spies” is now a high priority mission. So conversations in coffee shops can be very useful. The government is most concerned about gossip and “chatter” getting out of North Korea on a regular basis and informing the rest of the world what is really going on. The government has been trying harder to stem this flow of bad, or just interesting data to China and the rest of the world. There is a lesser problem with news of the outside world getting in.

And more and more people are escaping reliance on the government for food, fuel, and shelter. As the secret police join that growing cadre of people, things could get interesting.

Which way does the demoted military go in that scenario?

The Struggle for Eastern Syria Continues

Turkey is only building a presence--mostly with local proxy forces, as in the northwest--in a border strip in the northeast. That limited presence doesn't change everything. It is a complicated theater with many actors with competing and/or overlapping objectives.

A thousand American troops in Syria--not just the 50 in the Kurdish border region--are going to the border inside Iraq in order to be in the position to hit ISIL in eastern Syria. Our secretary of defense said another mission is to protect Iraq:

Esper said the troops going into Iraq will have two missions.

"One is to help defend Iraq and two is to perform a counter-ISIS mission as we sort through the next steps," he said. "Things could change between now and whenever we complete the withdrawal, but that's the game plan right now." ...

Esper said he will talk with other allies at a NATO meeting in the coming week to discuss the way ahead for the counter-IS mission.

Asked if U.S. special operations forces will conduct unilateral military operations into Syria to go after IS, Esper said that is an option that will be discussed with allies over time.

Several hundred Americans in Tanf in the southeast will remain. Unless I read otherwise, I assume our coalition partners like Britain, France, and Arab allies will keep troops in eastern Syria.

I also assume our thousand doesn't include our own special forces which we usually don't discuss along with regular forces. But I could be wrong.

And I assume we might send troops back in to Syria when things on the Turkish border settle down.

We do have interests in maintaining a position in eastern Syria. And defending Iraq is one of the interests I laid out.

But I've long said we have to decide why we are fighting in eastern Syria post-ISIL caliphate. If not, we risk having troops in a region with escalating hostilities without any debate here about whether our objectives are worth fighting for in the changing environment and whether we need more troops or different approaches. I do not want a Beirut Barracks bombing or Battle of Mogadishu taking place as our enemies escalated without our politicians and people back home noticing the change.

Although fighting for a Kurdish state and redrawing borders in the Middle East is not one of those interests.

This is not a domestic political issue. This is a foreign policy issue. Work the problem.

UPDATE: Are the Iraqis this blind?

U.S. troops leaving Syria and heading to neighboring Iraq do not have permission to stay in the country, Iraq's military said Tuesday as American forces continued to pull out of northern Syria after Turkey's invasion of the border region.

Does Iraq's military not understand that American forces moved from Syria to Iraq can help protect Iraq?

Let's wait to see what their prime minister says.

UPDATE: Strategypage notes that the Iraqis simply recognize this as an opportunity to get money from Iran and America. Most Iraqis do understand that Iraq needs America to block Iran. We have 4 weeks before those troops have to leave Iraq--or get a deal with Iraq, of course.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Weekend Data Dump

The Philippines has been able to greatly reduce Moslem-based violence in their south. But the China threat looms despite a slight pause to deal with Hong Kong and economic problems.

A Navy destroyer deployed to the Black Sea. Russia is the focus, of course. Our deployments there are limited by treaty provisions governing non-Black Sea navies in those waters, in regard to tonnage and time.

The Scorpene saga highlights India's military-industrial complex ineptitude. This lingering problem caused problems when Pakistan was the primary threat. But India's power superiority made up for that. But now China is India's primary threat. The lingering problem could be fatal in that contest.

How the "fake" gets into "fake news" to twist reality to suit political purposes. That video should have been a minor fleeting story.

I hope that the Chinese students using American freedom to safely demonstrate in favor of a monstrous dictatorship over Hong Kong protesters will one day return home and contemplate their brief interlude of freedom as they live in Dystopian State 2.0 that China is building every day.

Yes, America should support Ukraine against Russia but also prod Ukraine to build rule of law. Without rule of law Ukraine is just a weaker version of corrupt Russia that will lose their war with Putin.

This is an interesting assessment of the American strategic environment in 2040. It assumes a more post-Cold War era of American power advantages based on a couple assumptions that seem dubious. Namely that Russia will be weaker and focused internally; and China will gain ground (especially in controlling the South China Sea) but will be focused internally from domestic unrest. Why would either focus internally from problems or success, leaving the global playing field to America? Why wouldn't they resort to force against weaker neighbors to bolster domestic support? I suppose I find it interesting because I have an older look at 2040. We have a couple decades to go.

The Germans still annoy me with their declared defense attitudes.

The funny thing about the Democratic obsession with killing the Electoral College presidential election system is that the Democrats actually do have an edge in this system. Hillary really did have a Blue Wall. But because the monumentally inept Clinton managed to lose that wall in 2016 with Trump essentially drawing to an inside straight, Democrats want to kill the system. At some level I assume Democratic leaders know better and are just using the desire to change the system as a club to bash their political opponents and make their rabid supporters happy.

Three countries that tried and then rejected socialism. Real socialists know that democracy is an impediment to retaining socialism when other people's money runs out.

Grant me that this is funny. It really isn't easy being green, I guess.

Pelosi's quasi-impeachment behind closed doors is a repeat of her Obamacare strategy: Congress will have to pass the impeachment in order to see it.

China's economic and military rise was fueled by massive espionage efforts. Now we are cracking down on that. Can we succeed and will China's economy falter without the input of our research?

I may be totally unfair to say this, but somehow I think that the people who extol the virtues of pink salt totally think global warming is an existential and immediate crisis.

In this last week's Democratic debate did not even bring up the whole Russia collusion hoax. If Trump is a Putin puppet, you'd think the issue would have come up, no?

I've been skeptical that sanctions are an effective alternative to war. Sure, they show our position clearly. And they weaken an enemy if war results anyway. But the enemy may endure sanctions without changing their policy that we object to. And if they can't endure them, they may decide sanctions are no different than war in their effects and respond with military action. There are hints in the Iran sanctions of both my skepticism (Iranian military action) and the view I've read lately that sanctions in the modern connected world are more effective because of America's economic strength. Austin Bay adds to the argument that sanctions can now be effective.

I couldn't watch more than 15 seconds of the Democratic debate. But I was trying to give Biden the benefit of the doubt when I heard his "people who clip coupons in the stock market" comment. I thought maybe he was saying that regular people "who clip [grocery] coupons" but are in the stock market shouldn't be punished in the zeal to get the billionaires. But no, when I read his full statement I had no idea what he was talking about.

Remember that Turkey joined NATO because Russia is a long-time enemy. The Soviet Union bordered Turkey not only in the east but, as a result of World War II, from its Bulgaria vassal state in the west. Erdogan wants a more independent foreign policy that recreates Ottoman glory days (with the haze that distance from the reality provides) because he knows a weakened and more distant Russia can't really hurt him short of nuking him. So he doesn't value NATO or American friendship nearly as much as Turkey did in the Cold War. After Erdogan perhaps our relations can be repaired. Now I'm just trying to ride out Erdogan and hope for better days in the future.

Navy UUVs.

So ... California is saying that if RUSSIANS illegally slip into California that they'll be able to serve on state boards and commissions.

Obama endorses Justin Trudeau in spite of Trudeau's history of blackface. To be fair to Obama, if Obama had a son he'd look like Justin--well, at certain costume parties, anyway. Tip to Instapundit.

Hiftar, in charge of the forces originating in eastern Libya, has halted the effort to take Tripoli. So Turkey's intervention on the side of the forces holding Tripolit worked. But that may not matter because Hiftar controls most of the rest of Libya. Mucking around in former colonial holdings is the way to make friends with Arabs, eh?

Those scumball POS Antifa thugs are resuming their violent ways for the Left, without much media notice. According to the media, violent right winger gangs are always a Tweet away--but the Leftist street goons are the only ones to arrive.

Our Virginia-class attack subs have a problem with their stealth coating coming off (that reduces the effectiveness of enemy active sonar). Our allies and foes have problems with this issue, too. We've been struggling with the issue for a decade without success.

Yeah, I find it amazing--and shocking--that so many on the Left think that the military should call the shots instead of the elected Trump, and that the military should resist lawful orders from Trump that it does not like. We haven't heard from the looniest and least thoughtful of the left advocating a military coup to "cure" Trump in a while, but this line of thinking is not much better.

The United States retaliated with cyber attacks on Iran following Iran's attack on Saudi oil export infrastructure.

One model predicts a Trump victory next year, absent a dramatic change that could harm him. Who knows if it will work? He defied the models in 2016. But this aside bugged me: "But recent history would suggest a majority of voters have stopped believing the press -- devastating for democracy but good for Trump." I think that the way this should have been written is that "the press has forfeited its credibility for a majority of voters." And yeah, that is bad for democracy. But the press is at fault for deciding to be partisan stenographers rather than reporters. That's why so many voters have stopped believing the press.

Sixty-three years ago Britain and France invaded Egypt in cooperation with Israel. Notwithstanding Egypt's budding hostility to the West and the fact that Britain and France were NATO and World War II allies, America turned against Britain and France with financial and oil supply pressure. So put the hyperventilating about "betraying" the Syrian Kurds (who helped us fight ISIL) by not going to war with our formal NATO ally Turkey in perspective.

While there is no mechanism to expel a member of NATO, that does not mean that NATO could not expel a member. NATO would have to wing it and make the mechanism, but nothing precludes it. And international law on treaties provides a reason. In regard to Turkey under Erdogan, my view is that we need to cauterize the wound rather than amputate the problem. One day Erdogan will be gone and we can reintegrate a hopefully better Turkey into NATO.

If the facts are so bad for Trump, why does Schiff try to bend reality to his objective? Remember, he said there was clear evidence of Russia collusion that we now know was a fantasy. Tip to Instapundit.

The Army is seeking to restore the ability lost in 2015 to be able to airlift by helicopter one complete brigade.

Before Erdogan began consolidating authoritarian power in Turkey, Israel and Turkey--as two non-Arab powers--had close diplomatic and military relations. Erdogan destroyed that relationship. So voting in the UN to condemn Turkey for invading Syria's Kurdish region had to give Israel just a little satisfaction.

Note that the Democrats suddenly think they have to defend the Syrian Kurds from Trump's decision not to fight Turkey. Yet Pelosi and Schumer walked out of a White House meeting on that issue because they felt insulted (and those two haven't insulted Trump publicly and often?). Their level of caring for the Kurds is epic. It reminds me of Democrats' sudden worry about Russia--which will end the moment a Democrat holds the White House. But for the Kurds, Democrats couldn't even pretend for more than a week.

The difference between condemning sports entities for entering domestic politics and condemning the NBA for rebuking a criticism of China is that the China dictatorship issue is not a domestic political issue. Politics stops at the water's edge, right? We should be proud to stand up for American values of freedom and liberty that all Americans should support.

The Chinese Communist Party might not be able to survive backing down or cracking down in the face of Hong Kong protests. But what about the option of continuing what they are doing and outlasting the protests? And continue the ethnic cleansing of mainland immigration along with quiet subversion of the police and legal basis of Hong Kong's government. Oh, and with targeted violence against identified protest leaders (tip to Instapundit), possibly subcontracted to gangs for the wet work.

One thing that drives me nuts about the whole Ukrainegate junk is that the left especially argues that foreign aid is money well spent. I agree with them over America First types who see foreign aid as foreign welfare programs. And why do we send aid to other countries? To get them to act as we want. If not, why send them money--except for certain humanitarian aid. And that aid is still going to improve our image, so it benefits us as well as being the right thing to do. So the idea that our leaders might make that implicit bargain more explicit--and I don't think the Ukraine "transcript" shows anything explicit--on occasion is perplexing to me. If you opened up our entire foreign aid record from World War II on, I'm sure Trump would look like an amateur in quid pro quo.

If I thought end times were coming, I'd be out there having one Hell of a time, I think. Thank God these were sophisticated Europeans living in a cellar and not red state Americans. Otherwise it would be really big news here. That man surely is committed. He should have applied that skill to one of those "last one to maintain their touch on the car wins the car" contests.

And another thing, being lectured for abandoning our Syrian Kurdish allies (which I don't think we are doing, and as our military people explained--we're just refusing to go to war with Turkey to defend the Kurds in northern Syria) by people who insist we have an "exit strategy" for any war is a bit much for me to take. An exit strategy--which as a concept I despise--is just an excuse to abandon allies when the going gets tough with a specific threshold of pain that we establish before the war. Plenty of Democrats were fine with abandoning the Iraqis, the Afghans, or the South Vietnamese if you want to go back to Exit Strategy Prime. And if a fight to save the Syrian Kurds got too tough, those Democrats would be arguing for retreat and defeat. You know that is true.

I know I linked to a story about the horrors of Spongebob last week, but this take on the issue bears highlighting: "One of the more ridiculous aspects of life in early 21st-century America is that we spend a fortune to send our kids to schools to be educated by people who are complete morons." Peak Stupid can't come a moment too soon for my sanity and liver.

Hopefully this new reporting requirement will slow down Chinese espionage in America down a bit. Who knows if the Chinese officials will obey it or if we can monitor the Chinese.

Yeah, after four years of being told by Democrats they are racist, hateful people for supporting Trump, I think there will be a lot of "ef you" votes for Trump in 2020. I know I'm far more sick of the hysterical Democratic attacks than I am of Trump--and I have a long history of despising the man--and will register my ef-you vote in 2020. I will not reward the behavior of the Democrats. They should be ashamed. Tip to Instapundit.

Uh oh.

As I often say, always check the definitions section. I don't know why colleges that do this aren't sued--based on the assumption that those statistics are as accurate as the colleges claim--for failing to maintain a safe environment for their female students.

The idea that western aid for reconstruction will provide leverage over Assad who destroyed his country in order to save it for him is nonsense. I say that simply spares Russia and Iran from paying the price to rebuild their prize. I say our leverage is improved by letting our foes pay for Assad's spoils--if they can. When you strike a king, kill him--not strike him and then pay him to recover.

I'm not sure how refusing to fight for Syrian Kurdish independence against our NATO Turkish ally harms are reputation as a reliable ally. Would fighting for the Kurds have bolstered our reputation for standing by allies? The author wants America to recommit to the Indo-Pacific region. I have no idea why the author uses the Kurdish Incident as a hook for that completely separate issue. Nor am I aware of any diminishment of our post-Cold War slow pivot to the Pacific. But sure, focus on China.

I wasn't happy with diverting Department of Defense money to building the "wall" on our southern border to control immigration on our terms, what can you do when Congress won't live up to such a basic responsibility of our government and legislature?

Ah, glorious memories of past quid pro quo:

With Russia, no less! I must have missed the impeachment frenzy that followed.

No. Way! "The Washington Post reports that a career State Department officer tried to warn officials in the Obama administration about the conflict of interest that Hunter Biden’s work created in Ukraine and with efforts to target corruption. When those warnings reached the Vice President’s office in early 2015, Biden’s team shut them down[.]" Tip to Instapundit.

Democracy dies in darkness, to coin a phrase.

In America, being in favor of killing jihadis is "Islamophobic." In Afghanistan, murdering more than 60 in a mosque is somehow "authentic" Islam.

Japan isn't going to join the US-sponsored coalition to protect oil tankers in the Gulf region, but will send their own warships to protect their oil imports. I'm sure the latter is easier to justify as purely self defense.

Sod off, bug lover--I'm not happy with cauliflower crust. These people might not be push-overs in that effort to get us to welcome our new insect oven loaves.

If China isn't in a strategic arms limitation treaty, there is little point to negotiating a new one between America and Russia that leaves China free of constraints. Lack of a bilateral US-Russia treaty should push Russia to side with us on this issue lest America and China build more weapons than broke Russia can handle. I dsagree with the idea put forth that it makes sense for America and Russia to cut a deal and later bring in China. I disagree. I think China has more incentive to deal now to get Russia and America to reduce nukes, allowing China to avoid the expense of building more, than when China has built up a lot of nukes and won't want to give up any.

I'm reading that Americans think our reputation for supporting allies took a hit by failing to stop Turkey's incursion into Syria to go after the Kurds. Pray tell, how would fighting our NATO ally Turkey have shown us to be stand-up guys ally-wise? I know Turkey under Erdogan isn't the best NATO ally. But Turkey is a formal ally and Erdogan won't last forever.

In the last data dump I noted the French police terror attack by a radicalized jihadi policeman seemed like a case of "better dead than rude." That's what happened. And has been happening.

I always thought a bucket list was for things you should do before you die--not things that would be the cause of your death. What planet does that publication live on?

With its military strength and backing by Iran, the sub-state actor Hezbollah is trying to veto government decisions.

Pakistan is our black-sheep ally whose problems are starting to outweigh their benefits. Luckily, Pakistan is too broke to sustain their military as is. Pakistan's problems will increase as they peg their military needs to the potential threat of far larger India (which doesn't want to invaded Pakistan), which in turn pegs their military needs to the large Chinese threat.

The Army wants to use AI to revolutionize tank warfare. Which is interesting enough. And I am on board the black box idea of fire+ support. But I am stunned by the complaint in that article that the 2003 Battle for Baghdad took the Army (and Marines) a whole week, which is too long for the wars of the future. Are we forgetting the 9-month Battle of Mosul more recently or the bloody, lengthy history of urban warfare in general? WTF? At some level an enemy willing to die in place is immune to the technology we want to apply to that problem, as I noted in 1997 (p. 17) in this Land Warfare Paper.

Yeah, Trump didn't do anything wrong on policy in the Turkish Incursion Crisis, but he needs to be more deliberate and serious in his public words. What apparently works domestically to inspire supporters and knock back political opponents doesn't work abroad.

The clue bat had an effect on Merkel. Now how do you go from "utterly failed" multiculturalism to assimilation? I assume the American left won't consider her the leader of the West any more.

It is clear that Master Beto is running for an MSNBC show and not the presidential nomination. Tip to Instapundit.

From popular demand, the 2.75" laser-guided APKWS (Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System) has gone into mass production. It is small, cheap, and precise.

One thing odd about the frenzy of the Turkey Crisis is that I have not heard any reports of casualty numbers in the Syrian border region as the result of Turkey's move into the region.

We are worried that China's investments in key ports globally will interfere with our use of those ports in wartime. I've been worried about the military applications of China's port investments for a long time.

Yeah, I don't remember the 24/7 obsession with this quid pro quo, either. Tip to Instapundit.