Saturday, November 30, 2019

Expensive and Vulnerable is a Bad Combination

American carriers are a symbol of American power. And that's a problem.

The Economist notes that American carriers are a symbol of American military power. But that the ships are vulnerable:

Aircraft-carriers are the largest and most expensive machines in the history of warfare. A new American Ford-class ship costs $13bn—more than the annual defence budget of Poland or Pakistan. However, as precision missiles become faster, more accurate and more numerous, these beasts look increasingly like giant floating targets.

I've been on this issue even before The Dignified Rant:

The question of whether large aircraft carriers deserve to be the center of our future naval strategy is a fundamental question that has not been adequately explored. Network-centric warfare signals the beginning of the end for the United States Navy's large aircraft carriers. They will lose their value as an instrument of forward presence and become valuable targets that, if struck, will encourage an enemy at the outset of war by apparently demonstrating that American technological prowess can be nullified and beaten. In the long run, large aircraft carriers will add little to most offensive missions and will absorb scarce resources and assets simply evading attack rather than striking the enemy and contributing to victory.

And I've long noted that the carriers are too big to lose given their symbolism:

I've worried that the loss of a carrier (or more) in the western Pacific should we come to blows with China would be a major psychological blow to America given how much our super carriers are seen as a symbol of our power. Even though our Navy could fight and win without our super carriers, the image of a big carrier in flames and going down would be potent.

Carriers were useful when they exclusively had the role of power projection. Against powers without anti-ship weapons or the ability to even find and track our carriers, as floating air fields they were great. The problem comes with the sea control role against powers with robust anti-ship capabilities.

Those two mission are very different. What kind of Navy should we build in an era of great power competition?

To Serve Uighurs

The Chinese Communist Party bureaucracy naturally has a manual on how to oppress people, as another leaked document dump indicates:

Some of the newly-revealed documents are from an internment camp instruction manual issued by Xinjiang security authorities. One order in them is for staff to “strictly manage door locks and keys – dormitory doors, corridors doors and floor doors must be double locked, and must be locked immediately after being opened and closed.”

According to Beijing the venues were set up as part of a crackdown on separatist terrorism stemming from Xinjiang, which is home to around 11 million members of the mainly Muslim Uighur ethnic group. Internees undergo indoctrination to denounce religion and show loyalty to the CCP and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Escapees have reported torture and rape occurring in the camps.

Yeah, I've been on this.

The release of information highlights a weakness of China despite their cyber-prowess in espionage and controlling information flows:

If “mutually assured cyber destruction" were to occur, one Marine Corps leader said, authoritarian nations such as China might have more to lose than the United States.

Top national security experts have warned that despite the United States’ cyber prowess, the country is vulnerable to cyberattacks because of how interconnected society is with essential services and the internet. But in the case of a cyber catastrophe, “we’ll still be America. We’ll be a little beaten up, a little dirty, but China won’t be China anymore because they will not maintain control,” said Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, head of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command and the deputy commandant for combat development and integration. Smith spoke at an AFCEA Northern Virginia chapter lunch Nov. 15.

I have to wonder if we or our allies had anything to do with getting that information out of China.

Whether or not we or our allies had a hand in it, the release does highlight that China has vulnerabilities in cyber.

On the Uighur issue itself, I know people say that the mass incarceration and indoctrination shows that China is insecure, but that isn't the issue. The CCP naturally sees every threat as a threat to their rule. And they worry any small protest could snowball into lots of CCP members hanging from lamp posts.

The issue is whether the mass oppression works. And given that Manchuria was once a border region that now seems pretty secure as a part of core China, I don't assume that China's extreme measures won't work if China is allowed to keep at it for generations. I mean, how's Tibet doing these days? And can Hong Kongers actually win?

Friday, November 29, 2019

Not Every Raggedy Fighter is a Guerrilla

The Department of Defense put out its report on Iranian military power. I'm planning on reading that but I have to comment on this nonsense on page 4:

The IRGC and Basij, a volunteer paramilitary reserve force, relied on guerrilla-warfare tactics and later used extremely costly human wave attacks along the front. [emphasis added]

While it is true that the Basij were used for human wave assaults, the IRGC (Pasdaran, or Revolutionary Guards) initially fought not as guerrillas but as light infantry, relying on the army for tanks, heavy weapons, and logistics.

As the war went on the IRGC got heavier weapons to duplicate the capabilities of the often mistrusted army. But the Basij always remained the lightly armed and ill-trained cannon fodder.

Also, there was a very defined and often static front line.

The idea that this represented guerrilla warfare is nonsense. You'd do better to consult this long post of a paper summarizing the war.

The Lebanon Front

Lebanon is another front in the war against Iran. Unfortunately Democrats see it as another front in the war against Trump.

Oh good grief, Democrats are complaining that it is a scandal that America is holding back military aid to Lebanon.

Given Iran's influence in Lebanon--through their proxy Hezbollah--it is fully in our interests to make sure that aid isn't going to Iran in practice rather than to a government and military that can resist Iran. The military aid is only useful if the Lebanese government resists Hezbollah, as this story from March makes clear.

U.S. sanctions on Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah are working, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday on a visit to Beirut, calling on Lebanon to stand up to the Shi'ite group which he accused of "criminality, terror and threats".

Lebanese politicians who met Pompeo, including President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil -- all political allies of Hezbollah -- said they had told him the group was part and parcel of Lebanese politics. ...

The United States would continue to use "all peaceful means" to choke off financing that "feeds Iran and Hezbollah terror operations", he said, pointing to "smuggling, criminal networks and the misuse of government positions".

"Lebanon faces a choice: bravely move forward as an independent and proud nation, or allow the dark ambitions of Iran and Hezbollah to dictate your future," he said.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun earlier told Pompeo that Hezbollah was a Lebanese party with popular support, the Lebanese presidency said.

I have been worried about Lebanon's subservience to Iran as I wrote in this February data dump:

American funding for the Lebanese army might be a really bad idea. Yeah, I once thought it was a good thing to do to hope for a future where their army might take back southern Lebanon from Hezbollah (and hence Iranian) control. But that's no longer a hope.

That article linked in that first link in the quote above stated:

American policymakers must revisit the recent decision to spend over $100 million of taxpayer money on advanced weapons for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). Conceivably these armaments could reinforce Hezbollah against Israel or other Iranian proxies threatening the United States and its allies around the Middle East.

This fake "scandal" is nothing but partisan Democratic domestic politics in action. In that sense, and only in that sense, it is another Ukraine Aid Kerfuffle.

If Democrats truly cared about Lebanon they wouldn't want it to be controlled by Iran. Shame on the Democrats.

UPDATE: Amazingly, the protests over there have nothing to do with the status of our military aid:

The protests were initially sparked by new taxes but quickly evolved into calls for the entire political elite to step aside. ...

Politicians, meanwhile, have failed to agree on the shape and form of a new government. Hariri had insisted on heading a government of technocrats, while his opponents, including the militant Hezbollah, want a Cabinet made up of both experts and politicians.

Iran is not mentioned. But "politicians" means people Iran can dominate. Like Iran's proxy army/political force Hezbollah, but not exclusively, unfortunately.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Struggle for Democracy and Rule of Law Continues in Iraq

Protests in Iraq over corruption and Iranian influence, and government violence against the protests, have been going on for nearly two months now. I hope that 13 dead on Sunday means that there is just a lag between Pence's visit to Iraq that included a call for not killing protesters:

Iraqi officials say 13 anti-government protesters have been wounded by security forces amid ongoing clashes in central Baghdad. In the country’s oil-rich south, demonstrators were seen burning tires, and have cut main roads.

Early on I read that the killers were Iranian-backed militias. I am not sure if that means 100% or something over 50% of the deaths have been caused by the Iranians, essentially. And maybe even that isn't accurate. The news mostly doesn't say. Given the anti-Iran feelings of many of the protesters, that would be important news to lock down. Although that percentage may be irrelevant if the government is ordering the killings on behalf of Iran.

Although with some protesters calling for a revolution, Iran's hand seems clear:

Whatever reasons protesters in Iraq originally took to the streets to express their frustration with the government [have] now been tossed aside and outright revolution has become their goal.

The demonstrations all across Iraq began last month, triggered by the graft and corruption of the political class. But as many of their number were gunned down in the streets by snipers believed to be a part of the Iranian-controlled Shia militias, the crowds are now demanding nothing less than an overturning of the entire political system, starting with election laws that perpetrate the corruption.

It's hard not to blame the Shias for being angry. Saddam's Sunni Arab minority oppressed them. The insurgencies and then the fight against ISIL muffled the desire for improvements as wars were fought. But the failure of the Shia-dominated government--seen as too friendly to Iran--is too much to bear now. Yet still the government ignores them, preferring to enrich themselves.

I've wanted Iraq to defang those Iranian militias for a while now. Stop them before it is too late, I begged. I wasn't happy they were created after the rise of ISIL. But even if necessary to battle ISIL, they need to go now. Before the body count of Iraqis gets much higher.

Will the people risking their lives for better governance and jobs decide revolution is the way to change their government rather than the elections they can use now? The death toll shows a certain dedication, you must admit (and do read the whole, wide-ranging post which provides far more information and context than the news stories are providing):

The anti-corruption demonstrations have, since October 1st, left nearly 400 dead and over 18,000 injured. The protest is not just about corruption but also the Iranian efforts to control Iraq and exploit the corruption to do so. Protestors consider the current government crippled by politicians who are pro-Iran or have been bribed to do what Iran wants. Both the Iraqi and Iranian governments were caught by surprise at the size, ferocity and persistence of the protests. This eventually included the most senior Iraqi Shia clerics backing the protestors, which was a major embarrassment for the senior Iranian Shia clerics, who have been running Iran since the 1980s and had hoped to persuade their Iraqi colleagues to adopt the same system. The Iraqi Shia clerics considered the idea after the Sunni dictatorship and Saddam Hussein were overthrown in 2003, but gradually realized that this form of religious dictatorship wasn’t working in Iran and was definitely not going to work in Iraq. The Iraqi Shia clerics tried to explain to their Iranian peers that Iraqi Shia were eager to worship together with other Shia, including Iranians, but were generally opposed to Iranian politics or political control.

If this pressure on the government leads to a government in the existing system that rejects Iranian influence and reduces corruption, or if there is a revolution that provides that, Iraq may yet set a good example for democracy and rule of law in the Middle East.

Remember, the fight is not only about Iraq's future, it is a fight against Iran in Iraq.

But while the hopes vocalized by some of the protesters are a hopeful sign, I don't assume that Iran can't exploit unrest and a weak Iraqi government to completely take over. For a while anyway.* Who knows if Iran can afford the added expense of running Iraq under American sanctions?

I'm hoping that Pence did more than argue against killing protesters. I hope he put some spine (and backing) for rejecting Iran's horrible and deadly influence in Iraq.

In a vital way, the Iraq War continues. Which is an angle I've droned on about for a long time. Corruption in Iraq is an invitation to Iranian bribery and influence.

PRE-PUBLICATION UPDATE: Protesters burned an Iranian consulate, prompting Iraq to create special "crisis cells" to combat the protests; and security forces have killed 20 protesters in the last 24 hours. We should side with the government only as far as getting them to address the protesters' concerns. Otherwise the protesters are the good guys in this struggle. And continue to pressure Iran across the board.

UPDATE: This is a start:

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said Friday he would submit his resignation to parliament, a day after more than 40 people were killed by security forces and following calls by Iraq’s top Shiite cleric for lawmakers to withdraw support.

It should have been obvious that taking bribes--and from the Iranians, too, of all people--does not justify shooting people angry at your bribe-taking and general disregard for the welfare of the people.

*And the Iraqi media is bravely reporting on the protests and violence. The government is trying to silence the media. If you want a place where the self-important slogan adopted here of "democracy dies in darkness" applies, it is Iraq.  

Today I'm Thankful Certain "Experts" Aren't in Charge

I'm not up on the Navy SEAL kerfuffle. But what bunch of idiot "experts" said this?

But experts say the constitutional arrangement of civilian control over the military can become strained when a president disregards the counsel of generals and admirals, or never seeks it in the first place.

So these "experts" are saying that the only way to preserve our tradition of civilian control over the military is if the civilians do what the military says should be done? Civilian "control" is "strained" when the military doesn't get what it wants? Excuse me? I think I'd rather have a straightforward military dictatorship that gets rid of the middle man, so we know what we have, than define civilian control over the military the way those experts do now.

And if this is the way civilian dominance is to work, where were these experts when Obama ordered American troops out of Iraq in 2011 over the objections of the military that wanted to defend our hard-won gains?

Where were these experts when Obama ordered the draw down of American troops in Afghanistan before our military could conduct the second part of the two-phase offensive they planned with the surges of troops Obama ordered in 2009--all to claim the war was over before his reelection campaign?

And are you really going to tell me that our military didn't want to run to the sound of the guns on September 11, 2012 when our ambassador to Libya was killed (and three others) and our people were under siege in Benghazi?

But no expert opinions back then, huh?

As for the Navy SEAL issue, I'm actually sympathetic to the Navy secretary who in his resignation letter said he was trying to keep "good order and discipline" in the service. Keep in mind that military law,  the UCMJ, is about creating an effective military and not providing justice to individual members of the military who go through military "justice" proceedings.

So I will not judge the issue based on whether this whole thing is fair to the SEAL. So just on that alone I lean toward the Navy which wants to remove the man from the SEALs despite Trump saying the SEAL should remain in service.

But the fact is that the military was obligated to obey Obama just as they are obligated to obey Trump. That is what civilian control of the military means. Those so-called experts need to rethink their expertise.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Death or Glory?

The Hong Kong protesters won 17 of 18 districts in the hundreds of councillor seats up for a vote. Is this the trigger for Chinese Communist Party violence on a massive scale?

Hong Kong's district councillors have little political power and mainly deal with local issues such as bus routes and rubbish collection, so the district elections don't normally generate such interest.

But these polls were the first time people could express at the ballot box their opinion on embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam's handling of the crisis, which was sparked by a now withdrawn extradition law.

Will China allow all of them to take their seats, or will China find excuses to keep the protest candidates in the minority? Will the municipal office holders be more than symbolic or will they be able to do their jobs? And what are the limits of their public statements? Will China tolerate them only as a friendly face of getting protesters to declare victory and go home?

China has quite the dilemma after voters defied the threat of massive force that looms behind the police campaign thus far:

For a week, [Chinese Communist Party] commentators wrote brassy pieces saying the Hong Kong public would go to the polls to “end social chaos and violence,” a vote against what they saw as rogues and radicals. Editors at state-run news outlets prepared stories that predicted withering losses for the protest movement.

When it became clear early Monday that democracy advocates in the semiautonomous territory had won in a landslide, Beijing turned silent. The news media, for the most part, did not even report the election results. And Chinese officials directed their ire at a familiar foe: the United States.

China counted on months of portraying the protesters as thugs and still the people voted--for people in politically meaningless jobs--just to send a message of opposition to China. Will China decide brutality on a wide scale is the only answer after this failure?

And what would the effects of a big military and police operation be on the mainland, assuming mainlanders hear of the results of the vote? And how will Lech Walesa's visit to Hong Kong in support of the protesters play out?

Lech Walesa faced down an “evil empire” and freed his country from the yoke of Communist domination. Now, three decades later, the former Solidarity leader, Polish president and Nobel Peace Prize winner says he is ready to go to Hong Kong and stand with protesters there who are trying win a similar victory for freedom.

Of course, the USSR had a problem in that when they contemplated sending in the Red Army to crush the Poles, the Soviets figured they had to keep their best forces in East Germany facing NATO as a shield. And when they looked at the problems of mobilizing lower category divisions in the western USSR, they found that the need to mobilize civilian assets to support the invasion would seriously hurt their economy.

Keep in mind that the whole USSR collapsed anyway. So maybe China takes the lesson that no economic hit is too great to risk to avoid going down the USSR path.

Sometimes I think the only way for Hong Kongers to win is if China collapses and splinters, as I wrote a dozen years ago (with bonus hopes expressed that Hong Kong could have a real democracy in that event).

My hopes for that exceed the evidence for it. But it isn't impossible.

UPDATE: China is unhappy:

China threatened retaliation against Washington on Thursday after US President Donald Trump signed legislation supporting Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters, just as the world's top two economies edge towards a trade truce.

China isn't ready to take America and our allies on in a war. But they are close enough that they might not realize that.

UPDATE: Via Instapundit, Hong Kongers celebrate US law signed in support of the protests. I say we offer to trade our pro-socialism students so eager for the joys of that system for the protesters on a 1:1 basis. Okay fine, we'll give up our people 2:1. But not much more than that!

UPDATE: The support for the protesters has expanded despite the effort by the Chinese government to discredit them:

Hundreds of silver-haired activists joined young Hong Kong protesters for a unity rally Saturday, vowing that their monthslong movement will not fade away until there is greater democracy in the Chinese territory.

What will China do now?

The French are Super Annoying

No matter how often you accuse Trump of saying something that upsets an ally, he will never match the French. We are not disengaging from the Middle East.

Well she can just bite me:

France’s defense minister criticized the U.S. on Saturday over what she described as “unanswered” attacks in recent months threatening the Persian Gulf, warning that the decades-long American deterrence in the oil-rich region appeared to be losing its power. ...

“We’ve seen deliberate, gradual U.S. disengagement,” she said at the summit organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “It had been in the cards for a while but it became clear when fighter jets remained on the tarmac in 2013 after the Syrian chemical attacks or later, after the downing of a U.S. UAV and the bombing Saudi oil facilities.”

Let's see. In 2013 Obama was president. And pray tell, what prevented France from launching missiles on their own without Obama holding their effing hand? Further, Trump did hit Assad for using chemical weapons.

And keep in mind that Obama launched Iraq War 2.0 in the late summer of 2014 after the rise of ISIL's caliphate that spanned portions of Syria and Iraq. That intervention was part of a gradual U.S. disengagement?

This year, after Iran shot down our drone, we did respond with a cyber attack. We can debate whether cyber was more or less effective than kinetic, but we did respond by hurting Iran. As are our sanctions, in general.

And the Iranian attack on Saudi oil facilities didn't prompt the Saudis to retaliate. Why is America on the line for that response? Isn't it Saudi Arabia's primary responsibility? And if a non-Saudi actor should have responded, why didn't France send their effing carrier and drop some of their effing bombs on the effing Iranians?

Macron already said that without America, Europe has no brain. Now his defense minister says without America that Europe has no brawn.

She thinks the US is disengaging from the region? At one level she is correct. We no longer have either 180,000 troops fighting in Iraq or 100,000 fighting in Afghanistan. Are those commitments now the steady state normal to judge engagement rather than the pre-2001 level? That seems to be what is going on as I noted not too long ago after the Persian Gulf War first sucked in large numbers of American ground forces, and expanding after 9/11:

So as time went on, the need for American military power in the region went up. Our peak commitments in Iraq reached about 180,000 while in Afghanistan it reached 100,000.

And don't forget that the collapse of the Soviet Union and the still-future Chinese military rise allowed America to commit force to the region without risking higher priority theaters.

Still, we eventually beat this Iran/al Qaeda effort in Iraq. And even our surge in Afghanistan left Afghan forces that could carry on the fight. In Iraq War 2.0 against ISIL and in current Afghanistan, we can see that we don't need 100,000+ troops in direct combat. Locals with our support and special forces can carry on the day-to-day fighting.

So it is possible for America to reduce our combat role and rely on local allies and on our proven ability to rapidly deploy forces if they are needed. The problem is that in the visuals the world has gotten used to seeing a lot of American forces in combat as a concrete demonstration of our commitment.

But a reduction in our military power doesn't mean our commitment is lower. It means the need for our military power in the region to back our commitment is going down after spiking from about 1973 to 2009 (although the surges in Afghanistan extended that to 2011 or so). Eventually locals will get used to our lower footprint and lower level of direct combat without thinking it means less commitment.

Aren't we allowed to step back after knocking down our enemies and enabling local allies to continue the fight against our common enemies with our help? Doesn't the French defense minister see that? Just where is that famed European nuance anyway?

But pray tell, how many troops does France have in he greater Middle East? Let's see, 1,500 in Afghanistan (and thanks for that), 1,100 in Lebanon where they fail to control Hezbollah, and 650 in the UAE. I assume there is a small contingent of special forces in Syria. So thanks for that, too.

And while I'm at it, where the ef were the French when we were engaged in Iraq from 2003 to 2011? Oh, right, they were still counting their money from participating in UN-brokered "oil for food" corruption. Now that's engaging.

By comparison, despite the charge of disengaging, we have close to 30,000 in the region. And I don't think that includes forces afloat, that would fluctuate depending on whether we have a carrier task force present.

And while I'm at it, America organized a coalition to protect Gulf shipping from Iranian attacks. And now, a European-organized coalition to do the same thing will be based at the French base in the UAE. Seriously, France complains we don't do enough and competes with us where we act!

The chief of the U.S. Central Command and France’s defense minister, whose countries have taken divergent approaches to Iran, also touted rival versions of maritime missions to protect Gulf waters at a Bahrain security forum on Saturday.

So what is it to be, France? Can Europe take action without America or is it more fun to falsely complain America does not take action--and undermine us by competing with us?

Cheese-eating surrender monkeys gotta be cheese-eating surrender monkeys. The French try to be this annoying, right? I mean, it can't just come naturally, can it?

NOTE: And as always, my ire is directed at the French government, for the most part. I do have respect for the French military, which has some capable units and broad capabilities on a smaller scale.

UPDATE: It isn't just me:

Emmanuel Macron was left isolated by the leaders of other Nato countries on Thursday after he defended his claim that the organisation was “brain dead”.

Somebody needs to brush up on their nuance.

UPDATE: The Europeans need to realize that France doesn't just want the proto-imperial European Union to be a major power. France wants to be in charge of that empire. That has to be annoying even to the European apparatchiki who agree on the empire part, eh?

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Zombie Stalking

The undead stalk me.

Over the years I know I've written about a woman who shares my last name who told lenders I was her son (as one collector told me--maybe two?) who would always know her location. She did not pay a number of debts, if the calls and letters are any indication. So starting over 15 years ago I started getting calls from debt collectors looking for her. They were polite when they called because I did not owe money.

But repeated explanations to them did not stop the calls. So on advice of an attorney I simply stopped responding so they wouldn't think they had a good number and pass it on when they give up and sell the account to another collector. Eventually I wondered if I'd have to outlive her. Given that at one point I found out she was only about 12 or so years older than me, that seemed like slim hope since women live longer.

Perhaps I should have pursued legal action against her. But I had a life to live and the occasional letter and letting my machine take those calls was not much worse than all the other telemarketers and scams that added to my mail box and answering machine every day.

And at some level I guess I figured I didn't know what personal demons she endured. Maybe she was being punished enough by her life of evading debt collectors.

But she did finally die last year. To my (mostly) unashamed relief. I knew that she passed away because the state of Michigan came after me for a post-death payment to her until I got them to understand I didn't even know her let alone have responsibility for her finances.

That exchange was all so bizarre. On the phone the otherwise polite and sympathetic employee could not access the file because I did not--of course--have her social security number! So I had to send them a copy of the letter they sent to me along with my letter explaining their mistake! Arggghhh! But at least they quickly corrected their records and even sent a letter confirming that, at my request.

I thought I was finally free.

Sadly, I've started getting polite calls from a debt collector again. I know I still don't owe anybody any money. The politeness alone tells me that. I assume it is about dear Gloria again. I hope she is rotting in Hell. Or that God gives her withering glares of disapproval whenever He sees her, at least.

The B Team Steps Up

The Navy and Marines demonstrated that our aviation-optimized big amphibious ships can be used as small aircraft carriers.

This is good news:

The U.S. Navy recently conducted more extensive tests of operating F-35B vertical take-off and landing aircraft from amphibious ships that normally operate helicopters from their flight decks. This test included the navy’s first (of at least three) 45,000 ton LHA amphibious ships. These are the largest amphibs the navy has ever built and can handle up to twenty F-35Bs. For this test the LHA-6 America had 13 F-35Bs on board. Currently the marines only have 70 of the 340 F-35Bs they will eventually get so obtaining 20 of them for a test was not possible. The two week test at sea was mainly to determine if the LHA and F-35Bs could operate together as a unique type of light aircraft carrier. Operating this intensively from a smaller carrier was something new for the pilots, maintainers and 1,050 crew of the ship.

Everything worked although, as expected, the exercise produced a list of proposed changes and additions to the LHA’s equipment. This was mostly about electronics and communications capabilities. In some ways the individual F-35Bs have better comm gear than the LHA. The two week exercise did prove that you can operate a large number of F-35Bs from the LHA and carry out a lot of sorties.

It is important to remember that even though the test was a success, the ships are not aircraft carriers. We simply couldn't build the same capabilities using smaller hulls with the same amount of money. Size matters.

But the F-35B and precision weapons do make these ships a good supplement to the big ships (or substitute in case of losses of the big ships) for providing sea-based aviation. As I've written about for quite a long time. Although the fighter complement is not as large as envisioned back then.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Useful Idiots in Action

It really made no sense to argue that Russia actually feared Clinton's victory in 2016. And it is equally silly to think that Trump was a victory for Russia. Yet these loons persist in doing Putin's work for him.

Is it just me or did Fiona Hill before Schiff's committee tell us that the impeachment hearings are essentially amplifying Russia's efforts to discredit our democracy and hamstring whoever won the 2016 election?  

“The Russians’ interest is frankly to delegitimize our entire presidency,” noting that her point would likely resonate with Republicans. “The goal of the Russians was really to put whoever became president, by trying to tip their hands on one side of the scale, under a cloud,” she said. “We need to be very careful as we discuss all of these issues not to give them more fodder than they can use in 2020.”

Huh. I knew this before the 2016 election.

I so very much wanted Democrats to get a grip. But no. They amplified Putin's pathetically small election interference effort:

Remember that Russian Facebook ads represented 0.0015% of campaign spending in 2016, 56% of the ads were "shown" after the election, 25% were never even displayed, only 9% of the ads targeted swing states, including Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Hampshire, and "closer analysis of the actual content of the Russian ad buys shows a mix of content, not strongly biased in any particular direction." So influencing the election was a failure--if it was ever an objective, which I doubt (you think Russians couldn't read polls, too?). At best there is no way to prove the Russians had a any effect. But sowing chaos worked wonders as the Resistance sprouted in fertile fields. Yeah, a lot of Russians got bonuses after that operation. Russia remains Russia.

It has been weary listening to idiots who never paid attention to Russian/Soviet actions until 2016.

Welcome to the party, pal.

The Tsar Has No Clothes

Russia is dangerous because of their short-term conventional advantage on their western border and because of their large nuclear stockpile. And the paranoia, of course. But on the bright side, Putin is a moron.

As I asked recently, what has Russia really won in Syria?

The Russians bought a pile of trouble to get bases in the Mediterranean Sea region. I don't understand the point of Russia expending effort to get a foothold in Syria. I don't think that it does them any good other than to remind them of their Soviet glory days. And I really don't see the point of Russia's escalating role in eastern Syria.

Russia got a sugar rush from their Syria intervention that will wear off as the grind of dealing with that Hell Hole continues to suck resources from Russia. Putin will need another short and glorious war to restore the rush. And one day the short and glorious war will turn out very obviously badly for Russia.

More broadly, I am totally committed to the idea that Russia is actually effing up their foreign policy royally, as I've addressed again and again and again and again and again and again and again.

And that's not an exhaustive list. I just stopped at the first search page and didn't follow any links! Seriously people, the Fuck-up Fair lives in Russia now year round.

And don't even get me started on the over-hyped "hybrid warfare" salute to Russian so-called genius.

This author has my six on this issue:

In the West, liberals and conservatives alike seem to agree that Russia has reemerged as a great power with a global reach. And in Russia itself, well-known foreign-policy experts assert that the West had best get used to their country’s resurgence. ...

Of course, Russia matters. A country with 144 million people, thousands of nuclear warheads, a million active troops, vast oil and gas reserves, and a U.N. Security Council seat will always matter, and observers shouldn’t be surprised when it vigorously pursues its interests abroad and in ways that challenge the West.

That said, Moscow’s strategic acumen and tangible gains aren’t nearly as dazzling as the consensus suggests. Understanding that requires a clear-eyed look at both sides of the ledger.

And for the Middle East, this author is on board the Putin skeptic train, too:

The collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago meant that its once-formidable presence in the Middle East collapsed as well. Today, however, as the United States has withdrawn from the region, Russia has rushed to recapture the Soviet Union’s position there, through a combination of military force, arms deals, strategic partnerships and the deployment of soft power. But its success is being significantly overestimated.

Although I disagree with the idea that America has withdrawn from the region (although the author correctly caveats that). Oddly, there is an idea floating out there that America is unbalanced toward the region.

Of course, the idea that Russia is surging in the Middle East is tied to the false notion that America is in retreat in the region. The fact that we no longer need hundreds of thousands of troops to defend our interests isn't a sign of weakness--it's a sign we achieved things with our military commitments.

The Russians strut about beating their nuclear chest and flinging hybrid poo. They are dangerous. But keep some perspective. Russia is a regional military power with plenty of internal problems.

And despite their intensely annoying nature that requires us to guard against them doing something dangerously stupid in Europe, we do have an interest in splitting Russia from China. And so do the Russians. Only China would be happy with a US-Russia war.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Weekend Data Dump

Luxury beliefs as status symbol (and problem for the rest of us). What fresh Hell is this? I'd read that modern art had served that purpose of separating the wealthy from the masses who couldn't appreciate the insights into the nature of life that smears of paint put on canvas by an artist's left butt cheek provide. But that was annoying and otherwise harmless. Luxury beliefs screw the rest of the country. Tip to Instapundit.

Thailand. I'm really not happy with the king and military there. But we have had a long relationship with Thailand. The insincere moves to restore democracy were enough for us to have a new military relationship agreement. I hope for the best.

"Yellow vest" protests continue in France, although the media is largely bored of the contest of wills. A little more violence now is what it takes to make the news over here, anyway. One wonders if the Chinese Communist Party will try to pull back from violence and let the democracy protests in Hong Kong--and interest in reporting on it--peter out on their own, until the then-smaller protests can be crushed with less notice. Of course, China's rulers have to think not only of the Hong Kong situation but how it will look to their subjects on the mainland if defiance is allowed to continue.

Russia staged a made-for-television "takeover" of a small abandoned American base in northern Syria. It makes little sense (to me) for Russia to expand their military presence there, once the footage is in the can. I hope the Russians enjoy the job of restraining the Turks.

I don't know enough about the cases in question to say if Trump's pardons undermine discipline in the military or serve justice, but I do know that I don't like some of Obama's pardons.

Prince Andrew conducted an interview with the BBC that ended up being an amazing display of multiple shots to his own foot:“That was a plane crashing into an oil tanker, causing a tsunami, triggering a nuclear explosion level bad.” Thank God royalty doesn't govern over there. Could we make Hillary Clinton a royal? Could the British do us a solid and do it? It would be great to have an excuse to completely ignore her on anything related to politics.

The Resistance is what is crippling our rule of law. As I've said, they are why I will vote for Trump. Trump may be a poor champion of conservatism. But he is who we have at this moment. Rule of law demands nothing less than voting for his re-election. And for Democrats, you will not like the ability of conservative judges who play by the new rules you established for nationwide court injunctions against a Democratic administration.

And yes, from the link above, the Boumediene decision is an abomination on war-making powers. It was a slow-motion train wreck that I watched as it approached with horror. And for the record, I did not get bent out of shape over Obama's drone "kill list." But I'm a knuckle-dragger, allegedly.

Actual resistance in Hong Kong to Chinese communist tyranny is getting more firebomby. Although they are mostly used for optics and to deter police charges, it seems, rather than dropping them from windows into the middle of police formations in the streets.

Just a reminder that since 9/11, America has focused on killing and capturing actual jihadis on the battlefield and gets slammed for being "anti-Islamic." That despite the help we get from Moslem countries to kill jihadis, in part because non-jihadi Moslems are the main target of jihadi terrorists. China on the other hand imprisons a million Moslems, calling them a terrorist threat, and the sound of crickets is deafening in the world reaction. And sure, the Chinese say all those Moslems are in "vocational training centers," but when China's communist rulers consider job one of any of their subjects to be shutting the ef up and obeying orders, don't the Chinese thug rulers have a point?

More American weapons for Ukraine--ex Coast Guard cutters.

A story about the US detaining mostly migrant children was a big deal until the reporters discovered that the numbers were actually from when Obama was in office. So the story was removed rather than corrected. If it doesn't slam Trump, putting kids in cages in 2015 didn't happen, I guess. This is as clear as you can get in seeing that politics play a role both in what stories are covered and what stories are not covered. Tips to Instapundit.

After serial efforts to find an actual crime to impeach or remove Trump through other farcically applied legal means (and the related question of what the Heck happened to Max Boot?), and after expressing hopes of a military coup or assassination, the Resistance is reduced to hoping the president gets too sick to remain president. Sad.

JEDI data fusion for a true networked and joint force. Fingers crossed.

As of mid-week, Amnesty International says at least 106 Iranians have died in protests sparked by gasoline price increases. Protesters seem to have turned against the rulers more broadly rather rapidly.

What happened in Bolivia, whose deposed leftist thuggish president who tried to remain in office contrary to their constitution went into exile in Mexico where he likely plots to return to office by hook or crook.

Yeah, I have little respect for Vindman. He hid behind his uniform to be a partisan in a political battle over policy. Only people who don't appreciate the duties of being a soldier under civilian command swooned at his testimony, in my opinion.Tip to Instapundit.

We are bombing the Taliban a lot in Afghanistan, but the enemy still believes we will abandon our allies. So our enemies persist. We need to convince our enemies we will help our allies no matter our presence level. And we need to get our allies on the offensive and not just help them hold on to existing territory while it is whittled away by ceding the initiative to the Taliban. I've been waiting quite a while for our guys to scrape up an offensive force and seize the initiative.

It does seem obvious that a lot of religious fervor is poured into political and environmental issues, letting people wail that the "end is nigh" without the distasteful God part.

Trump was right to want an investigation into what happened in Ukraine in 2016 given Democratic-Ukrainian collusion to influence our 2016 election in favor of Hillary Clinton. And keep in mind that Trump has armed Ukraine--which Obama did not do--despite their government's efforts to defeat him in 2016.

The Navy is finally getting its LCS deployed to Singapore for South China Sea missions that deny that China controls the sea. Good. That version of the LCS looks cool as Hell yet if lost in a bolt-from-the-blue Chinese attack isn't a major hit to our naval capabilities. Sorry to be callous about the crew--I'm not--but the reality is we can choose to risk an LCS or a carrier or destroyer ,and I choose the former.

We are having problems designing and building new surface warships, but at least we are still capable of upgrading our proven Burke hulls. But that option will end eventually if we want state-of-the-art ships capable of controlling the seas against opposition.

But I've been told that socialism means "caring."  Or, government is just the crimes we are complicit in together, I suppose. A monstrous system compels people to do monstrous things. Young people truly have no idea what they claim to like. Let's hope their ignorance is just stupidity that will pass with age. Tip to Instapundit.

Yes, the "administrative state" at least was a better term than the "deep state" to describe how the permanent bureaucracy can act as a virtual fourth branch of government that undermines the formal branches in our Constitution. That arcane topic was one of my areas when I worked in the state legislature. The administrative rules process has legitimate uses--as long as the legislature makes sure that the technical rules drafted by the executive follow the intent of the statutes the legislature passed. Sadly, in Michigan, that oversight was crippled by the courts that decided that the old process constituted a legislative veto on the executive.  Anyway, as useful as it is, it has gone too far. And the fervor of Trump opponents in that administrative state over the last three years may actually have created a "deep state." It became self aware, so to speak, of its power to obstruct and do damage. And it lost its inhibitions about using that power to undermine our lawful election of 2016, simply because they didn't like the result and talked themselves into the fantasy that they are "saving" the republic. This would be the right point to note that false patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel--which I recognized early on. A lot of people from the bureaucracy need to be fired and lose their pensions, in my opinion, to nip this in the bud. And shrink the federal government by returning powers to the states so the federal administrative state can be greatly reduced, of course.

Japan is seriously upgrading its fighter aircraft fleet

Alert the mirror-gazing prima donna Jim Acosta: actual assault on freedom of the press. But hey, at least the Chinese thug rulers didn't order all CCP functionaries to cancel their subscription to The Epoch Times!

More and more our highly educated elites look like idiots who simply let their hatred of America warp their brains. Sure, these morons with credentials are a minority, I'm reasonably (hopefully) sure. But the morons don't even need to use "dog whistles" for their prattle. Rather than get push-back from colleagues, these morons seem to thrive.

Strategypage looks at Iran's problems waging war on Israel. Related there is this: "The 'Pay for Slay' program is very popular among Palestinians because it makes the losses they suffer for carrying out these attacks easier to tolerate." This refers to payments to families of killed or imprisoned terrorists. I'm so old that I remember when leftists condemned America for paying bonuses to soldiers as if money meant that the troops were "mercenaries" who don't believe in the cause the way our enemies do. Uh huh. I await the leftist outrage at pay for slay.

Maybe a real "bombshell" will come out of the impeachment-like inquiry, but after being promised smoking guns for over 3 years I'm starting to think these people are leading with their fantasies and not facts.

Russian troops will get their first Armata tank. The Armata will never be the main tank of the Russian army. Even if they work out likely teething problems, the Russians can't afford it.

Is "Emperor" Xi facing serious internal opposition in China for mishandling important policies?

I wonder if the number of Democrats believing this fantasy has increased or decreased in the last year?

Hey, is this post-2016 trend getting fun yet for the left now that conservatives are using it? Democrats are truly dolts to have normalized the "sanctuary" movement of defying federal law on the issue of illegal immigration. After all, Democrats are the party of big federal government and so rely more on a habit of accepting that authority. Tip to Instapundit.

Not news. Why report and obsess on it when the right people can't be blamed?

Wow. For some strange reason powerful people and nations lost interest in fighting intestinal illness in the Third World once Hillary lost all hope of being in a position of power. Odd, no?

China has a full plate what with terrorizing the Uighers in Xinjiang, battering Hong Kongers, and a trade war-ish thing with America just as China's economy is ending its growth phase. But their communist rulers aren't too busy dealing with multiple internal problems to hold back from threatening Taiwan over their dangerous tendencies to be free and democratic outside of Peking's loving embrace. I'll say it again, Taiwan should host a League of Democracies.

So ... if those State Department officials in the impeachment-ish inquiry were so concerned about Ukraine, why were they silent during the Obama administration when our policy was far less helpful to Ukraine than it is under Trump?

Bernie Sanders would make a perfectly efficient gulag commissar, wouldn't he? Tip to Instapundit.

Sanity prevailed in South Korea as it decided to keep an intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan. This whole thing astounded me. Score one for American diplomacy.

Russia is moving into an area that risks conflict with American troops in Syria. Why would Russia want to do that? Seriously, that just doesn't make sense.

I'm not hoping for pro-democracy Russians to move into positions of power. But I am hoping that Russians who lack the paranoid focus on the non-existent Western threat will replace the people like Putin who fixate on NATO while ignoring real threats from China on their Asian borders.

Grant me that this is funny.

Russia is having more success building small surface warships. But I'll be shocked if any of them are actually equipped with a working scramjet hyper-sonic missile, as the Russians claim.

Is the impeachment inquiry designed to fail? The process does seem ridiculous. Maybe Speaker Pelosi didn't give in to her woke caucus by approving this odd little spectacle. Maybe she set them up to fail by letting them dress up as orange dragon slayers and have their little impeachment play date in the House intelligence committee. And once they fail, Pelosi can return to her business.

NATO took an important step in creating multi-national networked missile defense at sea. There was also a simulated shore-based Aegis missile system involved. This will aid NATO ships operating in the Baltic Sea and off of Russia's Kola Peninsula base area on the Barents Sea.

BTW, what the Hell happened to Jennifer Rubin? 

You can certainly say that Ukrainian efforts to interfere in our 2016 election pale in comparison to Russia's, but simply denying it happened is memory-holing already published stories about that interference. And clicking over to one of the Twitter feeds and reading some of the Trump Hysteria Condition-addled commenters is just depressing, and makes me glad I an not on that rollercoaster of ignorance and certitude. Tip to Instapundit.

Well yeah there was a risk of war with the nuclear-armed USSR when the Berlin Wall collapsed. Which is why I've always given great credit to Bush 41 for skillfully navigating that threat while unifying Germany within NATO.

The Navy's 4 Ohio-class SSGNs converted from SSBNs were designed to be more than Tomahawk trucks and special forces delivery platforms. They could gather and manage situational awareness and intelligence to carry out their missions. I always assumed our subs had these kinds of resources given that in Red Storm Rising I recall that the American subs in Clancy's novel had cruise missiles fitted out as ECM drones to mess with the Soviet weapons and sensors. We are adding launch tubes to new blocks of the Virginia-class SSN to replace the Tomahawk arsenal we will lose with the eventual retirement of those 4 SSGNs. But what will replace their other capabilities? Perhaps, as the article suggest, the Navy will build a version of the new SSBN it is designing to be an SSGN from the start.

This (recycled) article notes that the Chinese J-20 has air-to-air missiles with a far longer reach than our missiles. Is this decisive?  The Chinese plane is designed with frontal stealth so it can dash in, fire missiles at our support planes (AWACS and refueling planes) and then dash away from our fully stealthed fighters. I don't know whether China's approach is a fight-winning combination. But if we put long-range air-to-air missiles on an AABONE, that would throw a monkey into their wrench, I think.

From the "big if true" files, I suppose. I'll be generous and assume insufficiently militarized auto-correct.

This is an interesting take on the direction of China, noting that the Chinese Communist Party tries to control the narrative of the past, the present, and even what is possible in the future--plus information that comes from outside China, as I've noted--in order to secure CCP control of China. Of course, I've also noted that when it comes to a country that is as large as China, all directions are possible at once in China.

Endorsed (via Power Line Blog):

Lenin said the West would sell Russians the rope to hang the West with. While in theory that was correct, the USSR lacked the ability to make enough money to buy enough rope. China figured out how to do that. So let's stop doing that.

Of course Trump will want to destroy the civil service. He should. Have you seen what they're doing? The civil service was created to replace the spoils system in which the victor of elections staffed the bureaucracy. The civil service was supposed to create a nonpartisan permanent group of experts in operating the government. It has clearly failed so of course it has to be destroyed and replaced with something else. What, I don't know. But rules have to change, and people need to be fired and some of those should lose their pensions as a warning to others. Tip to Instapundit.

Vice President Pence went to Iraq to see our troops and support Iraqi independence from Iranian influence. Good. I don't think the situation is bad enough to park him there permanently the way I wanted Obama to send Biden there six months before the June 2014 catastrophe. But it is good enough for now.

Well, the Australians are going to be busy digging out Chinese spies with this "trove of information." I assume the rest of the Five Eyes will eagerly help. I know America is more busy on this front lately. A lot of countries need to be more busy on this front.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Tip to Instapundit.

For all the outrageous charges that Republicans are racists and bigots (and everything else up to and including Nazis--without the good environmental impulses of the Nazis),remember that Yang is complaining about left-wing Democrat-supporting reporters. At this point Yang must be wishing he only faced "dog whistles."

I don't really follow Israeli politics, but Netanyahu looks to be in deep doo doo over corruption charges. I will maintain my position on Middle Eastern politics that support for rule of law is more important than support for any individual politician.

South Korea is already facing a labor shortage from a birth rate seemingly in free fall. It will get much worse. Is immigration the answer? Surely it is one answer. I'm assuming raising the birth rate is probably a futile effort that would provide only marginal results--and take time to achieve that. But would immigration take the form of bringing in people from the region and even around the world? Or would it best be done by bringing in North Koreans in a unified Korean state? Or would robotics or even human cloning be the route South Korea must follow? Or all of the above, I suppose.

Hong Kong voter turnout in their local election appears to be huge. How will that look to the Chinese people on the mainland who are being told by their thug rulers that the protesters are the thugs and sponsored by America?

In related news, Iran's thug rulers claim the recent protests were the result of "mercenaries" and not real public anger at the ruling class that has screwed up their country.

This sounds about right. Honestly, we'd be letting down the children if we listened to the panicked rantings of a troubled teenager horribly exploited by adults who would ruin her life and the future she could have.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Charge of the Schiff Brigade

Well this whole impeachment inquiry in the House committee on intelligence is working out swell for Democrats (tip to Instapundit):

House impeachment proceedings have helped — not hurt — President Trump’s approval in the eyes of voters, and in the latest survey, his rating has turned positive thanks to a massive revolt against impeachment by independents.

The just-released Emerson Poll found that 48% approve of Trump, and 47% do not.

What’s more, support for impeachment is now negative, a finding that backs up other recent polling.

It's been a while since I mined this poem for mockery. So let's have another go, eh?

The Charge of the Schiff Brigade

Fake outrage, fake outrage,
Fake outrage onward,
All in the valley of Impeachment
Showed that Schiff blundered.
“Forward, the Schiff Brigade!
Charge quid pro quo!” he said.
Into the valley of Impeachment
Showed that Schiff blundered.

“Forward, the Schiff Brigade!”
Was Pelosi dismayed?
Not though the committee knew
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to inquire and try.
Into the valley of Impeachment
Showed that Schiff blundered.

Bombshells to right of them,
Game changers to left of them,
Cameras in front of them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at by Nunes and Jordan,
Boldly they goad and bore in,
Into the witnesses of Intel,
Into the tweets of Trump
Showed that Schiff blundered.

Flashed all Deep Staters' glare,
Flashed as they're live on air
Savoring the camera's stare,
Charging high crimes, while
All the world wondered.
Applauded by their bubble's woke
Trump's plight was their masterstroke;
Fox News and Russian
Reeled from inquiry stroke
Shattered and sundered.
Then they looked back, but not
Not that Schiff blundered.

Bombshells to right of them,
Game changers to left of them,
Cameras in front of them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at by Nunes and Jordan,
While source and hero fell.
They that had inquired so well
Came through the tweets of Trump,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
After Schiff blundered.

When can their anger fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Schiff Brigade,
Futile. Schiff blundered!

Much could change in time. Perhaps the horse will sing. But for now the inquiry looks like a blunder.

With thanks to this site for the original.

UPDATE: Is polling a warning sign to Democrats that Schiff blundered?

UPDATE: If you change "washing machine" to "search for a crime" and "cat" to "Schiff" I think this Gif is spot on.

She's a Victim of Circumstances: Just Leave the Poor Ship Alone

The Zumwalt saga is a sad tale of poor design and acquisition multiplied by changing strategic problems:

The Navy told Congress in a recent hearing that the Advanced Gun System on the Zumwalt-class destroyer is a dead letter for the foreseeable future, despite the long-range gun designed for shore bombardment being one of the cornerstones of the troubled stealth destroyer.

Even as the second-in-class USS Michael Monsoor departs from Guantanamo Bay for San Diego to receive commissioning and combat testing, the Navy is only starting to figure out what they will do with the troubled multi-billion dollar Zumwalt-class destroyer.

Zumwalt is going to sea without its design capabilities. I don't care. The design capabilities were dumb and not relevant to today's problems.

Part of the cost issue is that instead of building more than thirty we have three. So design costs are concentrated on three hulls. And as I've said, I think the mission of stealthy shore support with gunfire was ill advised. So pouring money into the three ships put in the water to make the new gun system work is a waste.

But don't worry, eventually the costs that accounting rules put on Zumwalt will be used on other ships.

Friday, November 22, 2019

An Economy-of-Force Front for NATO.

Honestly, it isn't shocking that Russia has a strategy to dominate the Black Sea:

Russia’s Black Sea Dominance Strategy—A Blend of Military and Civilian Assets

What is significant is that Russia needs to have a strategy to dominate what under the USSR was a Russian lake. This is progress, people.

The Russian strategy becomes downright hilarious when you consider that NATO didn't even pay that much attention to the Black Sea until Russia invaded Ukraine and took over Crimea, in particular.

And talk of Russian anti-access/area denial weapons shouldn't frighten us too much. I don't see why NATO would want to fight to control the Black Sea. Littoral objectives are too remote from critical fronts in the north. And we have overland supply lines to Ukraine.

All I want to do is use regional NATO assets to tie down Russian forces in the Black Sea away from more at risk areas around the Baltic Sea.

Really, the fact that Russia can use AA/AD weapons just highlights that NATO AA/AD weapons based in the Balkans and possibly Turkey (the Erdogan crisis could affect that) could deny Russia free use of the Black Sea in wartime. Let the Russians batter their forces trying to break free of our restraints on their use of the Black Sea.

Denying Russia free use of the Black Sea and access to the Mediterranean Sea is more than sufficient to hamper Russian aggression in the region.

From the EU "Well, Duh" Files

The European Union is working on its own defense capacity. America isn't happy with how this might play out. Well, yeah. Of course America should be unhappy. As should every European that values their freedom.

The Europeans know exactly what they are doing:

Speaking at a NATO defense industry summit, Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist warned that if the EU continued to fund projects with the $14 billion it has earmarked for defense spending, that “lack of cooperation could lead to duplication of NATO efforts and undermine Trans-Atlantic security.”
The EU proto-imperial state wants its own defense industry and the EU wants its own military force that is separate from NATO. So don't think our warning is something that has shocked the Europeans into realizing the collateral damage they could do to NATO with their defense industry and defense policies.

That damage is a feature and not a bug. Have no doubt that duplicating NATO efforts and undermining the trans-Atlantic alliance (NATO) are the objective:

The European Union wants America out of Europe more than it wants to keep the Russians out. We'll see whether the EU wants Germany up or down, in whatever the EU variation of NATO's purpose is.

Don't even try to tell me that a united Europe under the EU Empire is Russia's greatest fear. In fact it is Russia's best hope to dominate Europe--either militarily or from professional courtesy as one autocratic empire to another.

Which means that for America to remain in Europe, we should realize that the EU is our foe. We must oppose the European Union's political and military ambitions and bolster NATO.

We must defend the primacy of NATO in European defense strategy. Duplicating NATO structures allows the EU to more safely undermine NATO so that the EU proto-empire can ease America out of its dominant influence in European defenses within NATO and even political structure, which America has influenced a great deal since the end of World War II:

I've noted that the Western tradition did not fully embrace democracy until after America entrenched in Europe following World War II and spread our influence. As I wrote in this post about the threat to America that could arise in Europe[.]

If the Europeans succeed in ejecting America's military from the continent, who will protect the freedom and democracy that America implanted more widely through Europe?

The European Union is no friend of America and no friend of European freedom and democracy. The EU is just the latest entity to want to conquer Europe and rule it. The difference is that the EU has decided that instead of using tanks and secret police to create their empire, they'll use 10,000 cheese regulations to bind the states to the EU state.

A common EU flag and a common Euro currency haven't made proper Europeans out of all those nationalities in Europe. The EU rulers will settle for a military force that--while it won't be able to fight the Russians terribly effectively--will be perfectly adequate to kill and intimidate civilian subjects of the empire.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Risk Management

Perhaps the fall of the North Korean regime or collapse of the state is certain over time, but if North Korea has nukes the added question of who do they take down with them arises.

The stalemate over talks with North Korea are actually an improvement in that in the past the North Koreans extracted financial concessions and then did not respond with actual talks. We've at least broken that pattern to keep squeezing North Korea:

In the last few days North Korea has announced it is no longer interested in negotiating with the United States over denuclearization and sanctions. At least not until there is first some reduction in the economic sanctions. The Americans refuse to consider that because in the past the North Koreans have used such threats to get some relief and then refused to do anything about reducing their military threats to South Korea, the U.S. and Japan and allowing that to be verified.

The only bright side to our suspension of military training is that our (the UN coalition) edge is growing despite that because North Korea's military is rotting away.

I worry that my old advocacy of a "talk, talk, die, die" strategy becomes incredibly risky once North Korea has a deliverable nuclear arsenal.

Syria Policy: Come On and Let Me Know

We did not actually abandon the Syrian Kurds by refusing to fight Turkey over the border region. We have apparently decided to stay to protect the Kurdish oil revenue against the possibility that Assad (or the Iranians) will take the oil fields in the east:

Although Trump has been widely criticized for abandoning the Kurds, on the plane ride over Esper told reporters the latest plan is to leave “about 500 to 600-ish” troops there — in collaboration with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, whom we are no longer abandoning. Their mission is to stop the Islamic State from taking over the Kurdish-held oil fields in Deir ez-Zor province, he said.

“If [the Islamic State] can generate revenue, then they can pay fighters, they can buy arms, they can conduct operations. They can do all those things because the revenue enables them,” Esper said. “So that’s how the mission relates.”

His explanation makes a certain degree of sense, but it ignores the larger context. It’s much likelier that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iran — not the Islamic State — will take over the oil fields if U.S. troops depart. Invoking the Islamic State is a way to put forth a semi-plausible legal justification for putting U.S. combat troops there.

The pretense that the American troop deployment is to prevent ISIL from capturing the oil fields is a flimsy legal rationale. But one the Democrats will not be able to challenge given their sudden embrace of the Syrian Kurdish cause. But this disconnect between our willingness to fight ISIL for the oil fields and the actual Syrian/Iranian/Hezbollah/Russian threat to those oil fields means we still have not come to grips with deciding why we are willing to fight and die to remain in eastern Syria:

The Obama administration ignored the logical consequences of saying Assad had to step down by waging a parallel war as a de facto ally of Assad against the common enemy of ISIL that put off enforcing that declaration. The defeat of the ISIL caliphate has exposed the wide gap between the stated preference for Assad to leave and the focus of military action on ISIL only. So what do we do now?

Because have no doubt, if we stay we will be forced to do that eventually:

If we try to hold a new DMZ at the DCL, eventually Syria will rebuild their army and come after the lightly armed militias that hold the east with the help of a small contingent of American troops (and other coalition troops, I assume) on the ground and a lot of air power that can be called in.

What will we do then? Abandon our local allies and withdraw from Syria or decide to fight Assad after failing to do so when he is weakest? We do have an interest in holding eastern Syria (protecting our local allies and keeping a buffer to protect Iraq from threats that build up in Syria, as they did in 2014). But at some point the cost of supporting those interests will exceed what we should or are willing to bear. Again, what do we do then, as I noted as an aside in this post?

The indecision is bugging me. If we go, there will be trouble; and if we stay it will be double. There will be a clash.

Will it be a Mogadishu or Beirut Barracks shock that compels America to rapidly decide what we are willing to fight and die to achieve in eastern Syria?

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Bad Guests

The Chinese abused our freedoms to steal from America. We are finally taking some steps to stop that.


The U.S. is imposing more restrictions on Chinese officials who come to the U.S. and have contact, for whatever reason, with American academics, researchers and local (state, country) government officials. These Chinese will have to notify the U.S. government of such contacts. Based on recent FBI investigations and prosecutions, this will make it more difficult to operate their massive espionage program that seeks details of how American patents are implemented as well as trade secrets (items that are not patented but are essential for operating a business or factory).

The post looks at China's Confucius Institutes as bases for espionage (and thought control). They have been on my radar screen for a while.

China doesn't allow the same freedoms that the Chinese exploited to spy on America. Um, duh? So their threats of retaliation in kind don't seem terribly worrisome. They'll do more?

Let's see if three decades of looking the other way as China robbed the West blind, in the hopes that economic  progress would lead to democracy and rule of law in China rather than strengthening a thug communist state, is truly coming to an end.


America is a global power and the idea that the Middle East can be a hole in our area of interests just isn't going to happen.


Barely four months into his tenure, Defense Secretary Mark Esper is making his second trek across the Pacific. And yet it is the Middle East - most recently a near-war with Iran and an actual war in Syria - that in Washington commands more attention and demands more American troops.

I have a lot of respect for Robert Burns, but American military deployments of 65,000 in Europe, 133,000 in the Asia-Pacific, and 13,000 in the Middle East (plus about 15,000 in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan) do not indicate that American power is being sucked back to the Middle East instead of going to INDOPACOM.

Really, this is just another example of the inability of America to pivot away from the Middle East that began under Obama.

Although to be clear, the pivot to Asia began at the end of the Cold War when the Soviet threat evaporated.

NOTE: I added our troops in combat theaters of Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. I had just scanned the list and checked the bottom line. But later that number seemed too low and I noticed why.