Saturday, February 29, 2020

Armored Cavalry at 73 Easting

The battle of 73 Easting in the 1991 Persian Gulf War demonstrates the power of armored cavalry. I want our armored cavalry regiments back in the Army.



The Bradley is actually the M3 cavalry version, FYI.

I've gone on about our ersatz cavalry regiment that the 2nd Cavalry Regiment is becoming. Feh. In an era of great power competition, give me our armored cavalry regiments back.

And here's my essay on the value of heavy armor in general that the Persian Gulf War should have taught us. Stand-To! even linked to it (but TDD? It's TDR, thank you). But the lesson has trouble sticking.

Although now that conventional warfare is back center stage for the Army, that eternal hope of defeating the iron triangle of choosing 2 out of 3 of lethality, survivability, and strategic mobility will end--for a while.

While the 73 Easing episode speculates that pressing for regime change in 1991 would have prevented the 2003 war, I'm not so sure about that.

At best in 1991 we would have had an insurgency against Iran-sponsored Shias without the Sunni jihadi terrorists that developed--and which Saddam encouraged in Iraq between those wars--over the next decade.

But maybe jihadis would have flocked to Iraq in 1991 just as they did in 2003. Still, maybe a counter-terrorist war in Iraq starting in 1991 would have meant al Qaeda didn't seek refuge in Afghanistan and we wouldn't have endured 9/11.

And it is hard to say how the Iraqi Shias exposed to Iranian influence would have reacted to our troops moving in force into Iraq to stay in 1991 as we did in 2003.

And would Americans have stayed in Iraq to defeat jihadis and Saddam dead-enders without the shock of 9/11? Would a retreat have inspired al Qaeda even more than our retreat from Somalia a few years after the Persian Gulf War?

Hard to say.

But there are unintended consequences. Always. But a good one is that by waiting for regime change until 2003 we gained the advantage of making sure our troops didn't face chemical weapons attacks as I'm sure we would have endured in 1991; and in 2003 we had the advantage of 12 years of our military advancing while the Iraqi military rotted under sanctions.

Also, the battle may be the most examined battle in history with actual data culled from the battlefield and fully simulated. I wonder if we regret that post-Cold War decision a bit given that in an age of  great power competition our potential battlefield enemies have probably gained access to that ability to game our conventional combat capabilities.

All I can say about my history with the war is that my unit was scheduled to go to the Middle East. But those orders vaporized. And as a signal soldier, I never would have seen an enemy let alone get shot at in that war. Coming down with some exotic Middle Eastern ailment would have been the only risk I would have faced. Which is serious enough for those who suffered that in the nearly three decades since that war, of course.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Nuts. Meet Vice.

Erdogan alienated America, Israel, and NATO to cozy up to Islamists and Russia. But discovered that his only achievement was to put his nuts in a vice. And now he wants the NATO he has alienated to get them out.



Turkey under "Sultan" Ergodan seems like it wants to rebuild the Ottoman caliphate at least in terms of influence. But the use of his military power to achieve that is problematic.

Does Erdogan think this will work?

In its approach to Syria, Cyprus, and Libya, as well as the United States and perhaps even Russia, Ankara has gambled on assertive policies to advance a range of interests in concrete ways. So far, this strategy has achieved some important short-term results, but it carries serious long-term risks. Specifically, it risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, whereby Turkey’s aggressive response to perceived enemies and threats turns them into a reality.

One reality is that Turks don't want to die for a new caliphate:

In the northwest (Idlib province) two more Turkish soldiers were killed, and two others wounded, by a Russian air strike. So far this month about twenty Turkish troops have died in Syria. The Turks seek to avoid these casualties because they are very unpopular with Turkish voters who, in general, do not support getting involved in Arab civil wars or rebellions. For centuries, before the Turkish Ottoman Empire was dissolved in 1918, the Turks tried to use local forces to keep the peace in the many Arab provinces of their empire.

This is a recent severe blow to that preference:

Turkish officials said at least 33 of its military personnel were killed in the attack on Thursday night, and more than 30 others injured.

The strike could have been by the Syrians or the Russians, but that is a distinction without a difference at this point.

And this precision strike is just one part of a trend that puts Turkey in a real bind:

Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, said, “Ankara is in a bind. They have to do something, but doing something means tangling with a more powerful adversary, Russia.” Aaron told Al-Monitor, “They must be thinking they can try and calibrate a response to try and keep Russia out of it. They also must be thinking this many not be possible, so we are going to need help from our allies.”

Yet Erdogan picks on an easier target to drag NATO into the fight against Russia:

NATO envoys held emergency talks at the request of Turkey, a NATO member, and scores of migrants began converging on Turkey's border with Greece seeking entry into Europe after Turkey said it was “no longer able to hold refugees.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country already hosts more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees, has long threatened to “open the gates” for millions of refugees eager to flee to Europe unless more international support was provided.

How neighborly. And ally-like.This is going to work just swell for Erdogan, no doubt.

Without NATO help to perform the delicate task of removing Erdogan's crown jewels from the vice he built and tightened, if the Turks have any hope of limiting their casualties in their foreign imperial ventures, proxies are necessary:

Turkey has already used Syrian proxies to fight in northwest Syria in Idlib and for their Kurdish incursion in the east. But at least those Syrians are fighting in their own country. Being sent abroad to Libya as some sort of Turkish Janissary Corps to fight for the GNA against the LNA in that civil war is rather new.

Can Turkey really mimic Iran's policy of fighting its enemies to the last dead Arab?

Not if Turkey keeps doing this:

Turkish reprisals killed 20 Syrian soldiers in the battleground northwestern province of Idlib on Friday after a bombardment Ankara blamed on Damascus killed 33 Turkish soldiers, a monitor said.

Refusing to respond would cause problems, too. But why would Syria restrict its retaliation to Turkish proxies?

Turkey may be counting on a quick UN declaration to freeze the conflict for now:

The U.N. Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting on the escalating conflict in Syria’s northwest Idlib region, the last major opposition stronghold in the conflict-torn country.

This is all pretty amazing. With the enemies Erdogan is creating with a militarized foreign policy, can Turkey really afford to alienate America and NATO?

As I noted in a January data dump:

Erdogan is alienating NATO ally America in favor of promoting friendship with long-time enemy Russia. And outside of Erdogan's fantasy world, Russia backs Syria's attacks in northwest Syria over Turkish objections--which continues to make progress in Idlib province--while Russia and Turkey are on opposite sides in the Libyan civil war. Brilliant!

I wonder if Turkey will find it needs the good will of its NATO allies that Erdogan is peeing on by cozying up to Putin's Russia?

Yeah, Turkey finds it has that need.

The whole foreign policy is kind of confusing. If Erdogan worries about a coup by his much-purged military, having it fight abroad against an easy target to keep it too busy to overthrow him makes sense. But Erdogan isn't doing that. He's trying to fight by proxies. And taking on Russia at the same time. Again:



Erdogan hasn't earned our help to salvage his imperial ambitions. All we owe our Turkish NATO ally is help to deter a Russian attack on Turkey itself.

Our policy should be to cauterize the Erdogan wound that harms American-Turkish relations until Turkey recovers.

UPDATE: More:
One of the more threadbare aphorisms in foreign-policy circles is that Pakistan negotiates with the West by pointing a gun at its own head. Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has updated this unique bargaining technique by contriving to aim one pistol at the West even as it presses another to its own temple.

Ultimately we do need to stand with our problem-child Erdogan-run NATO ally if the Russians go after Turkey.

UPDATE: The Turks are at the Gates of Vienna again:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that his country's borders with Europe were open, as thousands of refugees gathered at the frontier with Greece.

Migrants played a cat-and-mouse game with Greek border patrols throughout the night and into Saturday, with some cutting holes in the fence only to be turned back by tear gas and stun grenades. Greek authorities also fired tear gas to repulse attempts by the crowd to push through the border.

The move by Turkey to open its border, first announced Thursday, was seen in Greece as a deliberate attempt to pressure European countries.

Remember that the NATO alliance doesn't have to help Turkey with a full armed response. The alliance is only obligated to provide help to a member under attack as each nation in the alliance sees fit to provide.

So how will this Erdogan decision affect that assessment if the Turks need help?

UPDATE: Will Russia and Turkey go to war over Syria?

Over the days before the strikes, Russian military circles and associated pundits have discussed various quasi-military scenarios vis-à-vis Turkey, a menacing signal of where the situation may be heading.

“Should there be a massive military incursion of the Turkish army into Syria, things may spin out of control. The risk of a large-scale military regional conflict is high,” Ret. Col. Mikhail Khodarenok wrote on Feb. 21.

Well, it would be an air and naval war, with Turkey blocking air and sea shipments from Russia to Syria. Turkey has the edge. So if there is a war I don't see Russia starting it. Unless you think Russia would use nukes against Turkey to win.

When Can You See the Light at the End of the Tunnel?

When do we decide when we've won a war?

CATO is pretty isolationist so I don't have much use for them. So you know where I stand. So when they start out their case against regime change by noting "high‐​profile failures in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya" I have to shake my head.

You know my opinions that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are already victories we need to defend.

And Libya is an example of regime elimination and not change--and our participation was an American favor to NATO rather than being in our interests, as far as I'm concerned.

Yet even if you decide wars aren't enough of a victory to justify them, when you decide on judging victory or defeat is an aspect of correctly deciding that question, as I noted about Iraq in this post.

One thing that strikes me is how short-sighted the CATO argument is. Victory can take time. More victory can take more time. And defending victory can take even more time.

Some here look with envy at China's supposed long-range thinking abilities. Wrongly in my view. I think the Chinese just keep at things patiently without knowing where it will go according to some detailed holy plan. Without thinking we can plan for every contingency over years, we should have the patience to work the problems to bend events to our advantage.

But when you consider that the Germans sometimes excuse their lack of a real military for their latent and barely restrained Nazi impulses even after 75 years within the American-forged NATO community of democracies, maybe CATO has a point about the futility.

Or maybe we haven't had enough time to cure Germans of their latent goose-stepping urges.

And as to the CATO argument itself that few regime changes lead to democracy, who says regime change is only successful if it achieves a lasting democracy? Don't set the bar that high for every operation.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Covid19 Update

The PLA is sitting out the Wuhan Flu coronavirus (officially "covid19" now). Strategypage looks at that and an overview of the virus:

Treatments have now been developed to handle those infected and keep down the death rate everywhere but Hubei. The death rate is now about one percent worldwide because the genetic makeup of East Asians makes them more susceptible to dying from covid19. So the death rate in China is still over two percent. Actually the situation is worse than that. Outside of Hubei province the death rate is less than one percent. The death rate is much higher (nearly three percent) in Hubei. No one can officially explain that. Hubei residents believe the high death rate is the result of the government underreporting the number of cases, but not being able to fake data on how many died.

The military is considered too valuable to risk in epidemic response.

I wonder why East Asians are more vulnerable? I assume this is something that holds true with other viruses regarding other races and ethnicities.

Interestingly enough, the highly publicized rapid construction by the PLA of a hospital (with another that followed) had no effect because the PLA realized it could not staff either and the civilian health facilities were already busy, considering the infection of health workers.

And the economic effects depend on how quickly this virus is in the rear view mirror.

To be clear, I do not wish the coronavirus on anyone--not even China, Russia, North Korea, or Iran. Commenting on potential effects is just accepting what is and speculating on repercussions. People will die and celebrating their problems is only a cutout away from supporting biological warfare that does the same thing, isn't it?

And even if I was cruel enough to wish that on ordinary people living under hostile rulers, it would be unwise since we want this contained and defeated before it can take off at home, no? Morality and national interest align on this issue.

Fingers crossed. For everyone.

UPDATE: The word from Wuhan.

UPDATE: Actual real information from the CDC.

UPDATE: Now this State Department communication is what I'm talking about when I say morality and national interest coincide:

The United States stands with the people of Iran during the public health crisis caused by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The U.S. Government is prepared to assist the Iranian people in their response efforts. This offer of support to the Iranian people, which has been formally conveyed to Iran through the Government of Switzerland, underscores our ongoing commitment to address health crises and prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

The United States calls on Iran to cooperate fully and transparently with international aid and health organizations. We will continue to work closely with countries in the region to help address unmet needs in response to the virus.

Persons interested in providing support to the Iranian people should note that certain donations to Iran intended to relieve human suffering, including the donation of medicine, are exempt from U.S. sanctions. In addition, the United States maintains broad exceptions and authorizations to its sanctions for the commercial export of food, medicine, medical devices, and agricultural products to Iran. In support of those exceptions and authorizations, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Government of Switzerland recently announced the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA). For more information about the SHTA, see https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm919.

Supporting the Iranian people is and will remain among our top priorities.

This is a nice gesture. And even better, it is smart.

UPDATE: Iran rejected the offer. Good luck with that.

For Some, No American Victory is REALLY a Victory

The War on Terror no longer rages at levels we saw from 2004 to 2011. Let's not act as if that level of war is still raging with no end in sight.

So we lost the "good" war in Afghanistan that went "bad?"

Although the al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is dead and no major attack on the U.S. homeland has been carried out by a terrorist group based in Afghanistan since 9/11, the United States has been unable to end the violence or hand off the war to the Afghan authorities, and the Afghan government cannot survive without U.S. military backing.

Bin Laden is dead and no major foreign attacks on US soil but Afghanistan can't defend itself without our help?

Let me add that allied Afghan government forces are killing jihadis every day instead of  shielding jihadis so they can attack America at home:

In Afghanistan we defeated the Taliban government that hosted al Qaeda and wrecked the terror sanctuary that bred 9/11. And we built an imperfect ally that is out there every day killing jihadis so we don't have to. It is a success that our role is far more limited to supporting these allies on the ground than it was when we had 100,000 Americans on the ground in direct combat.

And that is a defeat? Please spare me. And cut the BS about that BS "Afghanistan Papers" nonsense from the Washington Post.

I assume that killing bin Laden and preventing Afghanistan from being a 9/11 threat isn't counted as defeat. So we're left with Afghanistan not able to fight our common enemies alone.

But as I said, Afghan forces are killing jihadis every day backed by small numbers of American troops. The same is true for Iraq, for that matter.

And pray tell, what American ally is able to defeat its enemies all by itself without American military support? NATO was unable to take on civil war-wracked Libya in 2011 without American help!

When has a European power projected significant military power in recent decades without the assistance of America's logistics machine? Even pounding on civil war-wracked Libya was embarrassingly reliant on America despite pretensions of showing that Europe could lead the show.

Over 18 years the cost of fighting in Afghanistan in lives and money is relatively small. And more importantly, we passed the peak costs and now have to defend what we achieved with our sacrifice.

The BS comparison of spending on the campaign in Afghanistan to federal spending on education is simply stupid and misleading when you consider that defense is a sole federal government responsibility while education is overwhelmingly a state and local government responsibility.

But yeah, I was way ahead of the curve on predicting the "good" war in Afghanistan would become "bad."  Although it is sad that this holds for a lot of conservatives in addition to liberals.

For some people no definition of victory can include anything that America achieves.

For the War on Terror that began with our offensive into Afghanistan, we might be better off thinking of the post-Iraq War and post-Afghanistan War situation as the Global Troubles.

So read that initially linked article at your own risk. But if you want to waste your time on it rather than letting me take the spear for the team, that's your business.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Is the Asian Century Over?

Is the Asian Century over before it got going? Define your terms.

This author thinks that Asia is not going to dominate the next century and that America can continue to shape Asia (and the world) as a leader:

In the long run, Asia will see ups and downs in growth and periods of cooperation alternating with crisis—just like everywhere else. Far from being the only global leaders, Asian governments and businesses will eagerly look for new ideas and reforms from more successful regions around the world. However, by sailing against the prevailing winds, the United States can play a major role in shaping Asia’s future toward further openness and stability, working with willing partners and the millions of people who long for a freer and more prosperous region.

If you mean will China lead a submissive Asia to dominate the world, no. I never thought that was a given. But of course, with the people, industry, and science it has, Asia will be the largest concentration of GDP in the world. But it is too divided by conflicting goals to unify easily. Which is good for Asia and the world because that means China won't rule the continent.

I thought China had a window of opportunity to be the most powerful country, and thought it could easily fail to hold the lead, concluding:

China wants to pass us by. They could do it. We shouldn't want them to, however. And unless we shoot ourselves in the foot and cripple our own economy to essentially throw the race (and God help me, I go to sleep every night trying to convince myself that our leaders aren't doing just that), there is no reason we have to give up our lead. Or if we do drop to the number two spot, no reason we can't regain the lead.

And never forget that when our relative power is in the balance, our geography gives us one heck of an advantage over China. In the future, when people speak of the "American century," we should be able to respond, "be more specific."

In that linked post about our geography I said:

I don't lose sleep at night over China's rise in power and wouldn't change places with them. Oh, if China is able to focus their power on a localized area, like Taiwan, they can generate local superiority for a short time--perhaps long enough to win that battle--but if we are able to mobilize and deploy our power, we can beat China on any battlefield. And we'd likely have powerful local allies to help us. China is a threat to our interests even now, but only if they catch us off guard.

Remember that geography (and our completely dominant Navy) means our power is free to deploy worldwide while China is hemmed in by hostile or potentially hostile neighbors. It's the Expeditionary Kingdom versus the Trapped in the Middle Kingdom.

More than a decade later our naval power is superior but not dominant. But we are finally reacting and we do have powerful naval allies who can contribute to the defeat of China's fleet.

And if China has just about peaked already, the American Century may continue with no gap.

Still, does the author of that initial article overstate things when he implies that Asia nearly came to blows as Russian, Chinese, South Korean, and Japanese aircraft kind of faced off in the summer of 2019?  There could have been an air clash but that does not mean war would follow. Three hundred rounds sounds like a lot of warning fire but that is just 3 seconds of shooting. Sure, it demonstrates the divisions in Asia. But leading off with that seems ... off. Or maybe not.

Lack of vulnerable land borders between powerful Asian states helps reduce the chance of full war. Only Russia and China have that factor that contributes to war, but as long as Russia is appeasing China, there won't be a great power war in Asia.

Building the Black Box of Effects Support

All-Domain Operations is in many ways War 101 combined operations on a grander scale, yet has a slipper slope. But it has an angle I am fully on board with:

Hence the crucial importance of a key effort launched last year by the senior leadership, coordinated by the Joint Staff, and led by the Air Force: Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2). Breaking D readers know more about this because we’ve covered as much of its evolution as possible. It is a concrete effort to build sensors, communications systems, and data fusion engines designed to make it possible for, say, a submarine, a Marine Corps infantry squad, an F-35, an Apache gunship, a P-8 patrol plane, an orbiting satellite or a Navy ship to feed targeting data to any other weapon to ensure the most efficient and lethal response to a threat.

That's my ideal world of fire effects support:

In my ideal world, fire support is a black box where a call to destroy or suppress a target automatically calls in the appropriate weapon capable of taking out the target in a timely manner without the soldier making the support request even knowing what asset provided the support.

It could be a plane or space system out of sight, an attack helicopter, a ship or submarine offshore, a distant ground force missile or artillery asset, or even an 81mm mortar back at the company level.

If cyber weapons can suppress the target or add to the fires mission success--perhaps by negating point defenses against fires missions or information operations highlighting a path of retreat open to the enemy before the rounds hit to get them to retreat, for example--it is automatically plugged in to the mission.

Indeed, if the target is close to civilians, perhaps the call for fire support triggers automatic telephone warnings to civilian numbers near the target if there is time before the rounds need to hit.

And if there is automatic deconfliction between aerial assets and artillery to avoid the former being hit by the latter by being in the same air space, that would be great, too.

We want to get to that ideal world.

Ideally for deterrence effect and not war-winning effect, of course.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Overcharged*

How's that Turkish "reset" with Russia going? Is Turkey paying too much for the fake alliance?

Wait. What?

Turkey has asked the U.S. to deploy two Patriot missile-defense batteries on its southern border to free it to punish any future attacks by Russian-backed Syrian troops, according to a senior Turkish official in Ankara. ...

Turkey doesn’t see the Patriot request -- made to a NATO ally at a difficult time for the country -- as requiring any concessions on its part, the official said.

Naturally Erdogan doesn't see any need for concessions. Nice work if you can get it. But as Erdogan has found Russia has overcharged for Russia's limited cooperation, Erdogan will find he has overloaded our patience with his behavior.

And Turkey doesn't want to wait for their S-400 system bought from Russia that they tested at the end of last year to be set up? Spring deployment isn't far away. Would NATO really decide to help and deploy before then?

It's almost as if Turkey doesn't trust that the S-400 isn't compromised by Russia. Fancy that.

And now Turkey finds it has to define the re-reset:

The Turkey-Russia relationship is in the midst of a major reset. The outbreak of hostilities in Syria's Idlib province has left 13 Turkish soldiers dead and seven Turkish military posts under siege by Russian-backed Syrian government forces. Prior policy convergences between Turkey and Russia had raised speculation about the prospect of a Turkish-Russian strategic partnership dominating the security architecture on Europe's southern borders. However, Ankara seems to have overplayed its hand in what is fundamentally a transactional relationship with Moscow. A total rupture in Turkish-Russian cooperation is unlikely, even in the event of a Turkish counter-offensive.

And hey, why does Russia need Turkey now? Turkey is reliant on Russian energy exports, Russia defended their client Assad in Syria, Russia got Turkey to take the Trojan Horse S-400 which killed F-35's in Turkish hands on Russia's southern flank, and Crimea is annexed and safely in the rear view mirror.

Mission accomplished as far as Putin is concerned. Does Turkey provide Russia with any advantage now that is worth the price Russia would need to pay? Perhaps not.

So here we are with Erdogan setting a red line in Syria with Assad, the Russians, and Iran on the other side of that line and edging across every day.

We should try to get NATO to help Turkey. A problem child ally is better than an enemy. And given the long history of Russian-Turkish wars, it shouldn't be terribly hard to pull Turkey back--even before Erdogan is gone.

But there should be Erdogan concessions. Does Erdogan really believe that Trump of all people will hand Ergodan a gift under the circumstances?

Like Turkey looking the other way while we evacuate our nuclear bombs from Incirlik air base. And other things that stop the increasing authoritarianism that is crushing rule of law to make up for Erdogan's failed alliance with Russia.

We do have leverage for good behavior.

*In case you've forgotten that gem of Smart Diplomacy.

UPDATE: Frenemy Mine:

The current Turkish government is Islamic and backs Islamic political movements like the Moslem Brotherhood and will tolerate some Islamic terror groups. The Russians don’t agree with this tolerance towards Islamic political and militant groups. Historically the Turks and Russians were always rivals and often at war with each other. Although the Russian and Turk empires dissolved a century ago, the ancient animosities did not. Now Turkish and Russian forces are fight[ing] each other in Syria and Libya. ...

Undeterred the Turks are openly calling on the Russians to decide if they are a friend of Turkey or not. The Russians don’t want to make an open declaration, at least not yet.

A match made in Hell.

Also, Turkey is sending normal and not jihadi Syrian fighters to fight for Turkey's side in Libya. I had earlier speculated that Turkey might want to kill off jihadis from Syria in Libya while fighting Turkey's enemies there. I guess not.

Out of the Frying Pan

Taiwan abandoned conscription. Which was good to get rid of less-than-enthusiastic draftees. But volunteers have to be sufficient and rewarded for taking the toughest jobs.

This isn't good:

Even as the military refits itself with flashy U.S. arms purchases, such as M1 Abrams tanks and F-16V fighter jets, its front-line units are hollowed out, and the entire reserve system is so dysfunctional that few experts or serving military personnel believe it can make a real military contribution in the event of a war. These problems are well documented but continue to be downplayed, if not outright ignored, by Taiwan’s political leadership—and there is no clear plan to solve the crisis.

Taiwanese combat units are drained as career soldiers move to easier but equally compensated rear echelon jobs.

And the reserves are a joke.

For all I know, the new army is better than the old army.

And it is easier to see our ally's problems than it is to see China's problems behind their own flashy arms. But don't tell me that China can't throw an army across the Taiwan Strait.

If the Taiwanese are as bad as that article portrays and lack the will to fight and die to keep the PLA off the island, getting ashore will be more than half the job of the PLA.

Let's hope that somebody over here is prodding the Taiwanese to fix these problems from the botched transition from conscription to volunteer troops.

Monday, February 24, 2020

All-Domain Warfare is Nothing New

So All-Domain Operations is the new American way of war? Or is is just the Air Force way of war?

Update your terminology, we're up to All-Domain Operations:

So when [Air Force General John Hyten, the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs] told me that All-Domain Operations is “the biggest key to the future of the entire budget,” I had to ask him to repeat what he said. He explained its importance this way.

“Because if we figure that out, we’ll have a significant advantage over everybody in the world for a long time, because it’s the ability to integrate and effectively command and control all domains in a conflict or in a crisis seamlessly — and we don’t know how to do that,” Hyten told me. “Nobody knows how to do that.”

All-Domain Operations, he went on, combines “space, cyber, deterrent, transportation, electromagnetic spectrum operations, missile defense — all of these global capabilities together … to compete with a global competitor and at all levels of conflict.”

Armies control land--but they can shoot at planes and ships or just operate in those domains for recon purposes, and can even cross the littorals.

Marines cross the littorals--but once ashore they can control land and can shoot at planes and ships or conduct recon in those domains.

Air forces can control the skies--but they can (and are supposed to) support ground forces with bombs, recon, and transport; bombard enemies not in contact with our ground forces; and can shoot at ships and submarines.

Navies can control the seas, but they can land ground forces and can shoot at planes and ground forces or conduct recon over the land.

I don't want to sound all stodgy, old, and stuck in tradition. But while using all elements of power is necessary, this is not new. It is combined arms on a grander scale. Bigger, yes. But nothing new.

What is also not new is the bureaucratic urge to expand your capabilities at the expense of your rivals. The military services are not exempt from that feature of bureaucracies.

And I worry that the concept of All-Domain Operations (so we forget Multi-Domain Operations which replaced Multi-Domain Battle?) is simply about air power advocates or sea-power advocates essentially trying to get the Army to be their auxiliaries for achieving their primary missions.

In a Land Warfare Paper on the Guadalcanal Campaign, I argued that the synergy of each service achieving its core competency in its own domain led to multi-domain (or all-domain, if you insist now) dominance and that the Army must be allowed to contribute its core competency in INDOPACOM (then PACOM, or USPACOM):

A true joint force in USPACOM requires land forces to carry out their core competencies. Marines bring sea-based early-entry capabilities. The army is the principal land force for “sustained campaign-level ground combat” which, among other things, can “preserve joint force freedom of action.”

The Army accepts that it is part of a joint, interagency and frequently multinational effort that includes nongovernmental entities. The army’s multidomain operating concept states that the various domains in which the military operates are interconnected. The Guadalcanal campaign of World War II amply demonstrates this multidomain synergy and demonstrates the centrality of the land and the importance of landpower in creating this effect.

Effective ground forces that are part of a joint force can compel enemy ground forces, if the enemy wishes to possess key terrain, to expose themselves to joint fires rather than remain dispersed and hidden. If they do not engage in ground combat they may lose that terrain. This capability for sustained operations is unique and distinct from the ability to punish with fires. Its presence in USPACOM will reassure allies and partners of American commitment by demonstrating the capacity to aid them in war. ...

The Army must be included in American defense strategy in USPACOM planning in ways that allow it to bring its core competency—winning large-scale land campaigns—to the joint multidomain effort as the core force for dominating the land domain in support of a campaign to operate freely in the global commons. The Army must promote and defend its role as a pillar of operations in the Asia–Pacific region, founded on the solid example of what joint forces achieved in the hard-fought Guadalcanal campaign 75 years ago.

I expanded on the Army role in INDOPACOM in Military Review not long after.

There is naturally "leakage" of any service being directly useful to other services in their primary domains, as I listed above. But this doesn't mean that any service should cripple their ability to achieve their primary competencies in their own domain in order to help other services achieve their core competencies.

We have separate services for a reason--specific domains require specific skill sets with specific weapons. Don't screw that up by letting bureaucracy empire building twist that reason for self-serving (and likely subconscious) purposes.

Integrate all the domains into one effort, but don't go overboard.

Trade Follows the Flu?

The Wuhan Flu coronavirus could really destroy any hope of expanding China's soft power via their so-called New Silk Road infrastructure project. China hoped that trade will follow their flag, but trade will not follow the flu.

With Italy oddly seeing a lot of the coronavirus hitting them, it actually isn't that odd since the Chinese One Belt One Road project (the current name for the New Silk Road) goes into the Mediterranean Sea.


Italy is on that route. Is this why Italy has been hit hard? And I wouldn't be surprised if Greece is being hit hard but we don't know it yet. If so, those migrant camps like the Lesbos entry point could become deadly if the virus reaches them.

A lot of poor countries have accepted China's offer of loans and construction to be part of China's ambitious project to build Chinese-controlled trade routes. They are extremely vulnerable to the virus raging out of control once it hits them. Will China be the one to help them cope with this epidemic?

I hope this is contained--and soon. But if it isn't how many countries will be eager to invite China into their country going forward? Or even allow them to stay? This would be a convenient excuse for countries having second thoughts about the wisdom of the debt trap they signed up for.

China is going to have to rebrand their One Belt One Road trade infrastructure/loan capture project to the One Virus One Epidemic project.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Weekend Data Dump

Collusion. And the Russians, as thoroughly annoying as they are, haven't launched ballistic missiles at our troops trying to kill our people.

Big--although not surprising to me--if true. But I'm going to want to see the evidence.

Russia will not--contrary to this story--have a nuclear aircraft carrier. I wish Russia could build an aircraft carrier--Hell, build a bunch! A powerful fleet for broke Russia is one of the three sources of Russian weakness, after all. Russia likes to float stories about future carrier plans--and they always will.

I'm not sure where I should stand on this:

All I ask is that we don't match on our online dating profiles.

Well, reporting news about attacks on people the media hate might discourage people the media likes from attacking the people they both hate.

New Zealand will build amphibious power projection capabilities. I'm not impressed by their motive of reacting to climate change, but in the real world they might be part of an Australian task force operating against Chinese-held islands in the South China Sea.

I find it fascinating that the Democratic Party may nominate a socialist who doesn't consider himself a Democrat or a former Republican who was an independent and a Democrat before. I find this amusing:"Bernie Sanders has never registered as a Democrat. Bloomberg has been a Democrat, a Republican, an independent, and, since 2018, a Democrat again." Which is fair considering Trump is a former Democrat who hung out with the Clintons. Modern parties are institutionally weak brand names that anybody can capture, apparently. Why bother to start a third party when you can so easily take over an existing one?

The West is winning but the Europeans doubt that American claim is true. But perhaps we have to better define "the West" given autocratic tendencies visible on the continent.

"Emmanuel Macron, the French president, arrived to declare that allies were wrongheaded about Russia, and that Europeans needed to deal with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, on their own, not just through the lens of a growing cold war with America." I await the Democratic Party's condemnation of Macron for gazing all googly-eyed at Putin. The reason we are increasingly opposing Russia is Russia's increasing threats to Europe. I really don't get that whole nuance thing, I guess.

The appeal of the Iranian nutball mullahs is becoming more ... selective.

Extinction Rebellion nutjobs should really face arrest and prosecution for their crimes. Why are they getting away with their lawlessness?

A review of South Asia.

The 9-year war in Libya with no end in sight has "incalculable" bad effects on civilians according to a UN guy. Even discounting a UN guy as prone to exaggeration, you have to admit that all the people who thought knocking off Saddam and then getting out of the way while the locals sorted out their differences peacefully without the bad effects of America's military presence is a rather laughable claim about Iraq given the experience with that strategy in Libya.

I've mentioned the role of the aging Shia cleric Sistani in keeping Iraq intact-ish (despite being under assault by Iran and Sunni Islamist jihadis for decades now, even before Saddam was overthrown). He is 90. What Mookie will do when Sistani passes away worries me.

Good grief, did the Iowa Democratic Party organize the Afghan presidential election?

Germany wants to command the EU naval mission in the Persian Gulf. First let's see if their ships float. And honestly, I'm not sure the EU naval mission under German control would be to deter Iran or protect Iran.

VDH: China is dangerous.

France's own long war against jihadis.

America's flying "satellites." And the improved U-2 should be included in that category.

While I won't say vaping is good--or not bad--for you, it is likely far better than smoking despite long-term unknowns about vaping effects. As a fairly new product how could we know that?  Givent the panic, I'm shocked a study was retracted because of possibly misleading data. The panic always seemed to be social snobbery-based more than health-based. If you vape to quit smoking, that is good, it seems to me. Otherwise don't start.

The Wuhan Flu coronavirus will have economic effects even if it doesn't crush the global economy.

It is good that America is finally cracking down on Chinese fake news appearing in the United States media.

France is closing the barn door after the strong horses fled. But trying to suppress Islamist education late is better than never, I suppose.

Please, the Resistance understand that Grenell's appointment as acting DNI is in order to deploy his "gaydar" to round up the proper people for the LGBTQ concentration camps that I was assured would be set up all over America by Trump by now.

John Bolton doesn't think his information would have changed minds in the impeachment. Not very bombshelly, I guess, despite the breathless speculation.

Air power doesn't deter nearly as well as heavy land power. My view is that air power is a very important force multiplier for land power (the post has two links that describe Allied Force air campaign against Serbian forces in 1995 and my simplistic air power theory). But you should consider whether we send just air power to deter threats we don't consider vital while we send ground forces to deter threats we consider vital. If that is the key, sending ground power to deter threats to less vital interests wouldn't work better. And while it is nice to lighten up the heavy forces to make them more strategically mobile as the author asks, it is the heavy part that makes the ground forces survivable--so don't try to achieve a worthless and counter-productive goal of making such forces air transportable on a large scale. Ship them by sea or preposition them.

Good. I know I noted by displeasure that the usual Islamist apologist suspects had apparently succeeded in stopping the Army War College from hearing that author's views on the Islamist threat.I subscribe to the USAHEC podcasts, so I'll have a chance to hear it.

Iran's pre-screening of candidates for elections was always a simulation of democracy. America finally decided to punish Iran for that facade.

I have no problem helping Russia stop an Islamist terror plot. I do not wish such horrors on anyone--not even the people Putin rules.

There was a leak of an intelligence briefing--I assume by 5 briefed Democratic legislators--that Russia plans to interfere in our 2020 election. Duh. That firehose of falsehood is standard Russian/Soviet practice. And after 2016 when Putin's ham-fisted efforts spawned the Resistance that sowed more division than Putin could have hoped for, why wouldn't he do it again? And by signaling support for Trump, you can be sure Putin prefers any of the leadership midgets that will face Trump in the fall. And of course, the intelligence isn't quite what it seems, apparently. In related news that may be true and too convenient to the Democratic Party not to leak.

An apparent self-radicalized, right-wing lone wolf terrorist massacred 9 Moslems in Germany before killing his mother and committing suicide.

Am I wrong that the Democratic Las Vegas debate of socialist-friendly/curious presidential candidates had a billionaire and three envious multi-millionaires participating?

I don't want to hear another damn word about Canada's moral superiority in international affairs.

The coronavirus has reached Iran. If the mullahs count on China to ride out American-pushed sanctions, better go to Plan B. Let's hope this isn't it.

There is a certain amount of elbow throwing between American and Russian forces inside Syria. We really need to decide if we are willing to risk war for our presence in Syria. We have useful objectives to achieve in Syria. But the check for payment is not blank. The Russians, too, have limits on what they will pay to be in eastern Syria. What the Heck are they risking?

The Turks lost a couple more troops in Syria, quite possibly due to a Russian air strike. Well.

The New York Times so-called 1619 Project is anti-American propaganda divorced from our reality as a source of individual freedom that we have advanced ever since 1776. And remember our bloodiest war was to end slavery here. If you want to discuss slavery of Africans, try this angle. And let me just say that Morgan Freeman should get every movie God role for the rest of his life.

I'm not mistaken that there is a lot of vitriol directed at so-called "Bernie Bros" male supporters of Bernie Sanders, am I? Are they one Tweet away from being #deplorables?  Welcome to the party, bros.

The Russians explained how their fancy Pantsir-S1 air defense system failed in Syria and blowed up real good:


The Army Raider X attack recon helicopter prototype. I have serious doubts whether this is better than armed recon drones. I'm not confident that a new version of the last failed armed recon helicopter program will succeed. We'll see. I still think it would be interesting to see where the Army would put its air dollars if it could operate fixed wing close air support planes. After 25 years I wonder what the mix of helicopters, manned planes, and drones would be? Heck, maybe air defenses would be so lethal by then that everything that supports the Army from the air is ground launched, even disposable recon rockets and shells.

Yeah, I'm not seeing a system of "justice" in action with these contrasts.

The air support system that supports Afghan troops in the field. Our role cannot be replaced.

How nice of the New York Times to print enemy propaganda. There is no way we can trust any peace deal with these thugs, liars, and murderers.

When I first heard of Turkish reinforcements going into Syria's Idlib province that Turkey thought was a buffer zone, I didn't think it amounted to much if the objective was to stop the Syrian-Russian offensive. But this article says that Turkey has 9,000 heavily armed troops there now. Perhaps Erdogan is willing to enforce his red line. I think the article cited grossly over-states Russia's ability to "summarily remove" Turkey's troops in northern Syria if Turkey makes a major effort.

The Navy is looking at medium amphibious assault vessels in order to move more but smaller ground units around the littorals. But so far not armed, as I want (USNI membership required for access).

I really don't understand how people who call themselves a  Republican or conservative can let their (understandable) distaste for Trump lead them to vote for socialist (communist?) Bernie Sanders--or any of the leftist loons that the far left but tiny Twitterverse has anointed as contenders for leadership of the Democratic Party. Tip to Instapundit.

So you're saying there's hope.

So the Wuhan Flu coronavirus didn't jump from animals to people at that Huanan "wet" animal market, but was spread from human to humans at the market while starting somewhere else? That does not bode well for containment, does it?

I think there is something to the idea that a lot of Americans follow politics as if it was sports and their team must win, for the entertainment and perhaps self esteem values. Naturally, there are soccer hooligans involved.

It sucked to be in that Japanese cruise ship "petri dish" quarantine, but it was better to screw up a small controlled population than to screw up on a wider basis. Let's hope we learned from the screw up.

A protest "jihad" is a good sign in Iraq. May it help fight corruption and Iranian influence. America wants a peaceful and prosperous Iraq that doesn't need our troops to defend itself.

It's nice to see NATO practicing ASW again. I don't worry too much about the Russians cutting off Europe from North America, but it is best to put that effort down quickly and efficiently.

I never ever hoped for disaster to help defeat Democrats in elections. I may have expected Democrats to create disasters with their policies but I hoped we'd avoid that result. How many on the left share this view of financial crisis lust?  But to be fair, I'm a far better person than those people. Tip to Instapundit.

LOL!


With all the talk of Russia interfering in 2020 to help Trump and to help Bernie, let me ask again what I asked about the last election interference: If Russia feared Hillary Clinton so much in 2016--as Hillary's campaign liked to say--why did the Russians bank on Trump (!) to defeat her in the election when they could have tilted the close Democratic primary race to Bernie in 2016? Just stop this "who does Putin want" nonsense. Russia doesn't want Trump reelected. And I doubt the Russians really want Bernie elected. Russia has enough problems with Chinese communists to want American communists to turn America viciously against a Russia that (as American far leftists think) betrayed the legacy and hopes of the USSR.  Face it, Russia wants chaos and division here, and we're giving it to them at bargain basement prices.

The appeal of oikophobia to the educated Westerner is alien to me. Perhaps because I'm first generation college educated. May enough Americans be willing to enlist to defend our experiment in democracy until sanity breaks out among our self-styled elites. If this is because of the decline of the West, I'm hoping a new space frontier can revive the West's will to win just as the New World did 500 years ago. Or will we choose to enjoy #decline?

On the other side. Conveniently close to Chinese Confucius Institutes spy nests on our college campuses.

Brexit is not just--or even mostly--about economic growth. It's about British freedom from continental autocracy. And while it is too soon to say if Britain will prosper economically, we sure aren't seeing the disaster that Remainers claimed would result.

The Eisenhower carrier strike group deployed. But was it really a surprise deployment immediately after group certification that foes couldn't detect with their intelligence and surveillance capabilities? I also assume one or two SSNs sail with the group.

So Bernie wants to legalize any illegal immigrant who has been here for 5 years? I assume that a companion bill will be introduced by someone to allow any American who has had their money for 5 years--no matter how it was obtained--to keep it. And surely if you've had your illegally acquired firearm for 5 years you should be able to keep it. The precedent could go many ways, no?

So why didn't this jihadi murderer in Florida get any attention? I sure never heard of this. Unless I forgot, of course.

This is odd, but a leftist will use the experiment to argue that people shouldn't have any freedom to choose at all when a caring government can decide what is best for them. Or maybe what is rational for the people who turned down the tax credit isn't the same as the rational of the designers of the experiment. Tip to Instapundit.

And here's the Defiant potential replacement for the Black Hawk. So we're done with American Indian tribe names for Army helicopters? Or is that just the development name?

Blackface and a screeching fanboy of a murderous communist? Justin Trudeau is really hurting that polite Canadian brand.

Without arguing the merits of the case, two decades and counting to get justice from our court system is outrageous. How do you get on with repairing your life when you spend this long just trying to do get the compensation to do that?

I am horrified that the Democrats could nominate as their presidential candidate a communist-loving socialist--if not actual communist given his honeymoon in the USSR and admiration for Cuba's Castro. I want the opposition party to nominate the sanest candidate in case the nutso candidate wins. Sure, Trump has worked out despite the predictions of depression, nuclear war, concentration camps, mass deportations, and general dictatorship--and for decency's sake he eats steak well done!--but I'd rather not risk Bernie even being in the general election race.

This cracks me up: "Without that ugly suppression of democracy[in the EU], and the millions of continental Europeans fleeing to a UK economy that had been re-floated by the Bank of England, the Brexit referendum would have gone the other way." [emphasis added] So it was an error for a majority of British voters to think domestic prosperity, a dilution of British culture, and the sight of continental autocracy were bad reasons to get out of the European Union? The author bemoans the failure of the EU to "consolidate" the union. Yeah, pity the proto-imperial EU didn't do more to remove that prefix before Britain escaped in what may be their finest hour of the 21st century.

"Pluto was discovered 90 years ago this week. Controversy about its identity rages on." If cis-planet Pluto would just self-identify as a planet despite "scientists" saying it is really a dwarf planet we could end this whole identity controversy. #LGBTQP

The Eastern Question has taken an interesting twist: "Libya’s security chief called on the U.S. to set up a base in the North African country to counterbalance Russia’s expanding influence in Africa." Khadaffi's takeover coincided with America's withdrawal from Wheelus Air Base. And a decade after we helped rebels kill Khadaffi we are invited back. I would not back the jihadi-friendly Tripoli government by accepting that offer.

I want a prescription for a McMansion with a pool and wood-paneled den with a Pacific view and beach access. I have a fever. But more cow bell won't cure it. Mockery isn't nearly enough in response to this rank stupidity. Because this path leads to everyone being a millionaire. Now, if this is just basically involuntary commitment for the mentally ill, just say that. That is defensible. Otherwise, the way it is phrased leaves the door open to "prescribing" better housing. And who wouldn't want a McMansion if they can get one for "free?"

A blip in the quiet Yemen war as the Saudi coalition bombs a Houthi missile and drone depot. A lot of Iranian money just went up in flames.

So it has been "fair" to the Palestinians to leave them languishing in Arab refugee towns for more than half a century while holding open the prospect of more than they can get absent the destruction of Israel? Perhaps the Pope could handle things closer to his core responsibilities.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Never Let Interesting Times Go to Waste

If China isn't exploiting the Wuhan Flu coronavirus for some gains amidst the pain they are enduring, I'll be shocked.

Yeah, that sounds ominously plausible for the awful communists running China:

The spread of the new coronavirus has captured the attention of the world, making it essential that we not abandon the millions of imprisoned Chinese Uighurs [in concentration camps masquerading as job training centers] who have limited access to hospitals, nutrition and quarantine areas. ...

These camps, where as many as 3 million people are detained, are at risk of becoming death chambers.

The virus has already spread to regular prisons (tip to Instapundit):

Hundreds of Chinese inmates have been infected with the novel coronavirus as the outbreak spreads to prisons across China.

He Ping, an official at China's Ministry of Justice, told reporters at a daily briefing Friday that officials have been fired after more than 500 cases of the newly discovered virus were diagnosed in five prisons across three Chinese provinces, including Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak. No deaths have been reported, he said.

I've taken pains in the past to note that concentration camps are different than death camps. If the coronavirus just happens to sweep through those remote camps, you'll see the difference. Eventually.

The Chinese officials in charge will get promoted and not fired.

UPDATE: I'm not sure if this article saying the coronavirus may have started in the Xinjiang concentration camps is simply a twisting of the reports about fears it might spread to the camps or actual evidence of a different origin.

UPDATE: And I don't know what to make of this claim about the virus escaping from a lab (tip to Instapundit).

The problem is that the Chinese Communist Party hasn't earned any trust for their claims about how the virus started.

UPDATE: The Iranians blame the virus for recent low voter turnout and one cleric claims America inflicted the virus on Iran.

UPDATE: Heck, maybe the Chinese Communist Party sees the opportunity as a threat:

The Maoist totalitarian state is being reborn in China under Xi Jinping, who is constructing a personality cult akin to that which surrounded the late “Great Helmsman.” Xi is determined to strengthen his and the Chinese Communist Party’s authority. However, the response of the Chinese government to the COVID-19 virus has undermined the CCP’s credibility—and ultimately may threaten the party’s hold on power.

Probably not. But who knows?

Friday, February 21, 2020

The Question is the Types of a Threat Russia Poses

Estonia judges that the Russian conventional threat to itself is low, with a caveat. Let me expand the threat scenario range.

A bolt-from-the-blue invasion may be unlikely but that isn't the last word on the Russian threat:

Estonia's foreign intelligence agency says the likelihood of a military attack from neighboring Russia remains low, but that any confrontation between Russia and the West could quickly turn into “a threat situation for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Director General Mikk Marran of the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service said Wednesday that while Moscow wants to refrain from a conflict with NATO, it may opt for "a preventive military offensive" in the Baltic region if it anticipates an escalation of a conflict "even if this occurs in another region".

The Estonians have a point that Russia may worry that a crisis could pose a threat to St. Petersburg.

That's just one reason I don't want a major NATO peacetime deployment to Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania:

Basically I think that NATO can't really put enough ground combat power in the Baltic states to stop Russia; and if NATO could it would both be seen as a threat to St. Petersburg, prompting even more Russian power threatening NATO there, and be an opportunity to simply attack through Belarus to link up with Russia's Kaliningrad and cut off the best NATO combat units in a Baltic pocket to be reduced at will.

And I'm glad that the Crimea "little green men" takeover scenario has apparently been discarded. I thought it a poor template for Estonia.

But I do worry about the Kargil scenario for Estonia:

Could Russia seek to use their relatively few quality troops on a narrow front rather than try their "little green men" astro-turf revolt tactic again that we will be more attuned to reacting to if applied to Estonia, a member of NATO, with its relatively large (a quarter of the population) ethnic Russian minority?

What if Russia attempts a page out of Pakistan's long territorial struggle against militarily superior India in the 1999 Kargil War?

What if Russia sends in their regular troops--while denying they are their troops--to seize the Estonian ethnic-Russian city of Narva on the northeast border and dares NATO to counter-attack, which would devastate NATO's reputation if we did nothing?

Not long ago, another writer considered that very option.

Russia has options to threaten Estonia. Consider all of them.

Iran is a Multi-Front Threat

Israel didn't already have a military command dedicated to fighting Iran?

It's long overdue to establish this:

Israel's military will set up a special branch in its general staff dedicated to threats from Iran, it said Tuesday. ...

Iran has forces based in Syria, Israel’s northern neighbor, and supports Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. In Gaza, it supplies Islamic Jihad with cash, weapons and training, and also supports Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules the coastal territory. Israel also accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons — a charge Iran denies.

If Israel finally goes for the throat in a serious war against Iran's proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iran will have other assets to fight back with outside of Lebanon.

So it is best not to think of Lebanon as an isolated front.

And of course this command will make Israel a more appealing ally to Arab states that want to resist and defeat Iran.

And America has a role in knitting those tentative co-belligerents against a common foe:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Thursday in a visit focused primarily on discussing shared security concerns about regional rival Iran.

Hopefully the loose coalition is strong enough to deter Iran from doing something spectacularly stupid and kinetic on the way to being defeated by the coalition.

It's always better to win without things and people blowing up around us.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

The Frenemy of My Frenemy

Greeks bearing gifts of friendship is a good thing:

The Eastern Mediterranean, and particularly Greece, were pivotal in America’s decisions to defend freedom and contain communism after World War II. The region largely receded from view once the Cold War ended, however, and Washington declared a peace dividend.

Now geopolitics and geology are bringing security competition back to this strategic crossroads, with Greece at the nexus.

The primary driver has been Turkey’s transformation under its president, Recep Erdogan. ...

These major developments help explain Greece’s aspirations to replace Turkey as a regional diplomatic and economic hub and a key NATO bulwark. Indeed, Athens is doing exactly what American policymakers ask of allies, namely taking on larger duties of collective defense. Greece already spends a greater share of GDP on defense than any NATO member save the United States.

This reflects how, after decades of cool relations at best, there is a growing national consensus that partnership with the United States should form the bedrock of Greek security.

It is indeed a bit odd to see this given Greece's past dabbling in anti-Americanism. Although Greece's military spending is distorted by how they count military spending, if my memory is correct. I don't think Greece's military is anywhere nearly as ready as that GDP share to "defense" indicates.

But the hostility of Turkey to America is pushing Greece and America together, as I've noted:

The article says Greece is getting good at geopolitics. I'd say it is just a case of deciding that if their hated enemy Turkey hates NATO and America, perhaps Greece has been hasty in not liking NATO and America. Enemy of my enemy, and all that.

Either way, Greece's attitude is helpful to America and NATO.

I've been saying we need alternatives to Turkey given Erdogan's increasingly hostile attitude toward NATO. If Turkey is moving away from NATO, Greece no doubt feels more need to engage with America and NATO to deter their enduring foe.

And I've been worried about China's inroads into Greece.

So more cooperation with Greece addresses two American concerns.

The article also notes Cyprus base options as I've suggested along with Greek options.

The 21st Century Eastern Question is evolving in unexpected ways. Let's take advantage of our good options as long as Turkey wishes to be a problem child ally.

Yes, Gambling Really is Going on Upstairs

Iran would like America to continue to pretend Iran doesn't want nuclear weapons.

Really?

Iran's government on Wednesday rejected US allegations that the Islamic republic's satellite programme has a military dimension, days after the failed launch of its latest satellite.

"The subject of satellite launch vehicles and satellites is a civilian matter," Defence Minister Amir Hatami was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

"We could use a satellite for defence purposes, but the satellite launcher is a completely non-defensive subject and it's the definite and absolute right of the Iranian nation.



Of course Iran would like satellites. But these missiles are most useful to fling nuclear weapons at various "Satans."

And our Smart Diplomacy gave Iran the right to pretend these missiles they test have nothing to do with nuclear missiles:

But [even though missile limits aren't part of the Iran nuclear deal] the UN resolution on missile limits is part of the interlocking package that supporters use to defend the sham arms control agreement.

Amazingly, Iran simply denies that the UN resolution which restricts nuclear-capable missiles is applicable to this test because "Iran says none of its missiles are designed for that purpose."

Iran's position is as long as the missile can't have a nuclear warhead put on it right now, it isn't in violation of the UN resolution.

Never mind that the Iranians will quickly alter a successful long-range missile to hold a nuclear warhead.

Have a super sparkly day.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Polar Command is Needed

Should we have an Arctic-based unified command? Threats do come from there. I think we should have a POLARCOM.

Yes:

"The Arctic is the new frontline of our homeland defense," the commander of the U.S. Northern Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

Air Force General Terrence O’Shaughnessy said that both China and Russia are "investing heavily" in the Arctic, "determined to exploit the region’s economic and strategic potential."

The threats from the north are clear and given our need to operate there we should consider a regional unified command that prepares for fighting, operating, and just existing in that unique environment that doesn't even compare to operating in the more southern portions of NORTHCOM.

We can't rely on Canada alone to protect northern attack avenues against us. Which is worrisome because formerly rear area Canada might be on NATO's front line.

Call it Polar Command.

Can America Hold the Line in Asia?

China's military is rising and American allies and friends near China have to balance between American military power and Chinese economic ties:

CFR’s Mira Rapp-Hooper points out that many governments face the same challenge of having to respond to China’s military modernization while preserving close economic ties with Beijing. “They’re grappling with the reality that China is their closest trading partner, and the United States is their closest defense ally,” she says. “Most likely, U.S. allies will not make a single choice between the two, but they may shift toward China if they come to doubt American staying power in the Pacific.”

I addressed this issue nearly a decade ago:

China wants those countries to believe that [America is too far away to defend countries close to a rising China]. But China is not destined to surpass us in power. Which means that China won't grow so powerful that countries can't arm up to balance China's power.

But for all those neighbors to be willing to stand up to China's power, they have to be confident that we have the power and determination to use it against China and to be confident that other potential partners won't stop absorbing some of China's power by making deals with China to ally with Peking. If these countries don't have confidence that we will help them, they'll cut a deal with China to protect themselves and turn away from us.

So we have to be careful about maintaining our power in the Pacific and maintaining our reputation for supporting allies and fighting until we win. If any nation, like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, or Vietnam think that they can't count on us for effective military support, they'll withdraw from the potential balancing coalition against China. And once one country defects, the power potential arrayed against China will drop enough to perhaps push another country to defect and align with China rather than with us.

Thus, even a reduction in our military power that may seem marginal to us could be what tips the system against us in a cascade of defections, causing a dramatic drop in coalition power arrayed against China, and denying us the capability of operating in the western Pacific.

This is one reason I want the Army to have a bigger role in our INDOPACOM plans, as I wrote in Military Review.

We do remind allies that China should be resisted:

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Saturday cast China as a rising threat to world order — saying the world's most populous nation steals Western know-how, intimidates smaller neighbors and seeks an “advantage by any means and at any cost.” ...

"The Chinese Communist Party is heading even faster and further in the wrong direction – more internal repression, more predatory economic practices, more heavy-handedness, and most concerning for me, a more aggressive military posture,” he said.

So far so good, as far as I can see. And maybe China's rise will self destruct. Or maybe a reduction in China's place in the global supply chain will reduce China's economic pull.

But don't get cocky. China as a regional power is still a potentially serious problem.