Monday, October 23, 2017

Won't Somebody Rid Me of This Meddlesome Mullah?

The Iraqis took land that Kurds occupied across a broader swath of northern Iraq than just Kirkuk. And Iran was involved as I suspected. Overthrowing the mullah regime would ease a lot of our problems in the area.

Iraqi forces had clashes with Iraqi Kurds in a number of places in the largely quiet military operation that Iraq carried out:

Iraqi forces say they have now wrested control of all areas of Kirkuk province from Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, following fierce fighting.

They say they have retaken Alton Kupri, the last Kurdish-held area. There has been no Kurdish confirmation.

A BBC correspondent at the scene witnessed rocket, artillery and machine-gun fire.

Iraqi forces have this week taken over swathes of territory held by the Kurds since 2014.

This is a militarized dispute rather than a war. But it is dangerous.

And the Iranians were hip deep in pushing the Kurds back from their (unwise, in my opinion) push for formal independence:

A senior Iranian military commander repeatedly warned Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq to withdraw from the oil city of Kirkuk or face an onslaught by Iraqi forces and allied Iranian-backed fighters, Kurdish officials briefed on the meetings said.

We need to reduce Iran's influence in Iraq. And taking down the mullah regime in Iran would improve our ability to do that.

The mullah regime in Iran is a Gordian Knot for many problems. Rather than running around putting out fires that Iran's rulers set, we should destroy the people with the matches and gasoline.

Go Big or Go Home

A RAND study reports what I'd thought was already established: if you build a carrier it is more cost-effective to build it big. But that is only half the story.

Carriers need to be big or we lose capabilities:

After soaring costs and years of delays with the Navy’s new Ford class of supercarrier, Congress wants the service to pursue lower-cost carrier options for the future fleet.

But a new Rand Corp. report commissioned by the service and published this month concludes the Navy cannot build cheaper, more modest carriers without significantly limiting capability or overhauling its current air acquisition plan.

And when you throw having to switch types of aircraft that are big carriers use but which can't be used on significantly smaller carriers, the argument in favor of big grows.

Honestly, I thought the size advantage was well established.

But that isn't the end of the carrier debate. So don't drop the mic, yet.

Big carriers are clearly more effective for power projection roles, being floating air fields to bomb enemies without the ability to shoot back at the carriers.

But the value of any type of carrier is called into question for sea control roles when battling enemy navies and air forces equipped with cheap precision long-range weapons.

Unfortunately, as I've complained, we argue apples and oranges over the value of carriers without clearly distinguishing between the two missions:

Power projection is what we've done with our carriers since world War II. Sail them off the coast of some country that doesn't possess a potent navy or air force, and use it as a floating air base. Without the need to fight for control of the sea, we exercise that control of the sea from the start of a conflict. We've done this a lot. And the carriers have performed superbly.

This history of power projection is what the defenders of carriers point to.

But what the anti-carrier side points to is usually the sea control mission. In this mission, by definition we face a nation with a navy and air force capable of fighting us for control of the seas--or at least denying us full control.

And for nations without carriers, advances in persistent surveillance and guided missiles give them a potent weapon to use against our big carriers.

Further, while defenders of carriers like to call them sovereign pieces of American real estate that can host our planes, unlike actual real estate, our carriers float and therefore can sink. Or just burn and become mission kills. Really.

We don't like to admit it and rarely practice what we do if a carrier goes down, but they can be sunk. They can be sunk by relatively cheap missiles. They can be sunk by relatively cheap missiles guided by relatively cheap surveillance assets.

Having an accurate carrier debate is better than what we have now.

But we need a sea power debate and not a carrier debate, which is almost as pointless as having a battleship debate or a ship-of-the-line debate.

NOTE: Pre-publication update.

Of course, if you can't afford the big carriers, you can't afford them. This is an interesting review of major carrier fleets.

I'll note that the importance of the carrier as a symbol of national power is a two-edged sword if the big ships go up in flames and sink on camera.

Note too the review fails to explicitly distinguish between the two carrier roles in the arguments over carrier utility.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

The Mexican people noticed that the death toll of their recent earthquake was elevated because of corruption that made central Mexico where the quake hit less resilient to damage. Will Puerto Rico demand similar reforms because of what the hurricanes revealed?

Speaking truth to power is one thing when "power" won't retaliate because of decency, freedom, and rule of law; but tolerating speaking truth to a power that is willing to kill you in the most gruesome way imaginable is quite another. Well, the university wouldn't want to catch the attention of some jihadi for tolerating that kind of statement of fact, eh? The Soviets defined opposition to communism as a mental health issue and locked dissidents away to be "treated." American colleges clearly think opposition to their approved views requires mental health intervention (with a "behavior intervention team"), too. I thought we won the damned Cold War. Tip to Instapundit.

Strategypage discusses the Chinese stealth program and the fact that the newly deployed J-20 is a frontal only stealth plane (as I noted recently) that is more of a development to true stealth in the future.

Some murderous sickos slaughtered at least 200 300 in Mogadishu with truck bombs. By the time this is published I'm sure jihadis will be found responsible. Al Shabab is suspected, but the real news is that the original target was the new Turkish base in Somalia. Huh.

The Philippines is nearing the end of the reconquest of the city of Marawi which jihadis had oddly taken.

A tour of Mali and the surrounding territory where jihadis are a problem. The French do a lot in this area where they used to be a colonial power. The jihadi problem a bit to the east is why America's AFRICOM is more active.

Ukraine has found that cheaper and less advanced tanks work better against the AstroTurf rebels in the Donbas. A willingness to fight is more important there. But Ukraine should learn a lesson from Iraq which evolved their tank force in the long Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) to focus on simple and cheaper tanks suitable to fighting Iranian light infantry only to find that those simple tanks were no match for the advanced American and British tanks that led the offensive to free Kuwait from Iraqi control in 1991. Cheaper tanks weren't the only problem Iraq had, of course, but Russia looms behind the Donbas and would be a different type of foe altogether.

To be fair, Jimmy Kimmel is handicapped in condemning Hollywood's predatory culture given that whole "women jumping on trampolines" thing.

A fascinating debate on free speech. The one woman on the panel threw the victim card really early and tried to make the debate about her (no doubt genuine) painful past. It was really sad to witness. Although it didn't prevent her from being in her current position, I'll say. It strikes me that the pro-censorship side is claiming that free speech is great--eventually. But until then, wise leaders must limit free speech until we are all capable of equally exercising free speech. Which sounds suspiciously like communism where the vanguard of the people must build socialism without allowing a shred of freedom until true communism blooms and the dictatorial state that suppresses freedom on that path magically fades away.

This reflects what I've felt about doctors treating the patient's data rather than the patient. I too had borderline high bad cholesterol. Which is quite an improvement over a decade ago, I should add. But I'm not sure what the drama was in the story. I simply told my doctor that rather than take statins I'd work on making sure I had more fruits and vegetables in my diet. And I've lost some weight and made sure I exercise. My doctor did tell me I was in amazingly good health notwithstanding my age. So I figured why take medication when anything can have side effects? Besides, does taking statins really fight the problem or mask it by lowering the data marker? Anyway, I treated the recommendation as a suggestion and I turned it down. Without any drama. Now if he had said, "We really need to do something about that dangling limb hanging by a thread," I'd do whatever he said I should do!

A French intelligence agent accidentally texted the Islamist target of his surveillance, revealing that French intelligence was on to the man and his comrades. Oops. On the bright side, the Islamist was too eager to reply in order to gloat rather than remaining silent to let the agent think his surveillance wasn't blown a little longer.

Is it really true that the first 100-200 F-35s won't be updated and so will be incapable of being more than training aircraft with no ability to participate in combat? That harms our ability to mount a stealth-only campaign over North Korea in the early hours of a fight. In one sense it might not matter because one way or the other we will need F-35s in training units and so the planes will be unavailable for combat regardless of the planes' capabilities. But still, this seems wrong. Maybe I'm wrong to worry.

I guess there is a multi-step theory of getting Hillary Clinton into the White House. This insanity masquerading as thinking strikes me as likely as the gnome profit plan:

US-backed militias have largely secured Raqqa in Syria by defeating ISIL there. The really big question is whether those forces--and not only the Syrian Kurds--continue to resist Assad and whether they continue to be US-backed in that case.

Democrats have been so eager to find collusion and corruption involving Russia and American politicians that they will surely be ecstatic that it has been found.

Jihadis will remain a problem despite the defeat of ISIL's caliphate until the Moslem world resolves their civil war on who gets to define Islam--the nutballs or the reformers. Defeating the Islamic State caliphate and killing jihadis is essential to shield the West but as a war winner it just buys time for Islam to win the civil war in a way that stops the killing of heretics as jihadis see nearly everyone.

As for state threats to the West, China is the long-term threat because it is growing. States like Russia and North Korea are aggressive but faltering threats that must be stopped before they carry out their threats. There is hope that Russia and North Korea will be self-correcting problems given internal weaknesses. But we can't count on being spared the risk of directly dealing with them--especially North Korea.

God help us all: Could our Navy focus on ship handling a little more and fight "climate change" less? Ships float on the water regardless of the level, you know.

It isn't totally fair to say that Trump defeated ISIL in months while Obama failed over 2-1/2 years to do the job. But it is fair to say that Obama went way too slow. You may recall my repeated complaints that the war was taking way too long to defeat what was a weak Islamic State in Iraq.

Feminists knew about the open secret of Hollywood's treatment of women, including sexual assault. This just demonstrates my long-expressed view that feminists are nothing more than the women's auxiliary of liberalism, willing to tolerate any indignity or crime for the sake of other political goals.

Yes, the practice by the previous administration of encouraging people you like to sue the government so the government can settle the case to do what the government couldn't do without a court order was a terrible abuse of power. Tip to Instapundit.

The Philippines won't attempt to enforce its legally recognized claims in the South China Sea because it figures accepting Chinese gifts is safer. What could possibly go wrong with that strategy?

Useful idiots. Although at this point I think the entire free "Resistance" movement has most of the useful idiots. After all this time, it still seems fairly clear that the intent of Russia was to sow discord, damage the appeal of American democracy, and damage Hillary Clinton who the Russians assumed would win just like virtually every political observer in America--including me, your humble blogger who consumed all that analysis.

It bears repeating that we have Trump in part because Democrats loudly tarred McCain as a senile fascist (neatly book-ended between celebrations of his wise dissent from Republicans Bush and Trump) and damned thoroughly decent Romney as a mean-spirited one percenter. It has been the standard operating procedure all my adult life, really. Is it really so incomprehensible that Trump supporters often defend their support of Trump by saying, "He fights," After unfair attacks on decent politicians that went unanswered, someone who doesn't take that crap is appealing. So enjoy!

Yes, communism (and socialism--remember that the USSR was a socialist state building true communism under their theory) is an inherently evil governing theory and it is impossible for anyone at the top with "pure" motives to make it work right. Tip to Instapundit. I recall a test at Michigan that had the question of whether economic reforms in the USSR meant that the country was less of a totalitarian state. I vigorously denied any such transformation. My basic point was that the state allowing peasants to own a few chickens did nothing to eliminate the fact that the chicken ownership was made possible by a state granting a favor while retaining the power to take them away again and kill or imprison you for resisting--and perhaps even for succeeding with that little bit of "freedom." Why Bernie Sanders has any support at all remains a mystery to me.

A good take on the Harvey Weinstein revelations (tip to Instapundit) about how Hollywood treats women (and some men, it seems) as a sexual buffet. The basic point is that this was all well known in that world but oddly not considered that bad. This is spot on: "The blind eye turned to sexual harassment did (and does) tell us that many people don’t think it’s that wrong. Presumably, companies would not have said 'Well, I don’t like the way Bill kidnaps young children and dismembers them in his basement, but we might lose Acme Pharmaceuticals if we let him go.'" You wondered by Whoopi Goldberg would defend Roman Polanski's drugging and raping of a child by saying it wasn't "rape-rape."? Rape-rape is a stranger--perhaps one who drinks Budweiser--attacking you. What Polanski and Weinstein did was only sort of technically rape but not really. Obviously that kind of thinking went on. And to be honest, while I firmly believed what Polanski did was actual rape, I kind of assumed that the "casting couch" culture was more of a free exchange of sex for advantage. I didn't realize how it was very far from that and more like rape-rape. But I'm not in the industry. And who knew that such rabid feminists as exist in that industry--and we know they are because they loudly condemn Republicans for waging a "war on women"--would refuse to call it rape-rape and let the rest of the country know what was going on? But as I've said, feminists are just the women's auxiliary of liberalism, which trumps all other issues.

Saying a soldier died knowing what they signed up for is an ordinary thing for those in the business to think. I was just a reservist, and as I've said before, that service just gave me faint hints of what soldiers who are sent to war experience. I make no claims to having sacrificed for our country. On this subject, when I started my career just after the Persian Gulf War--when I was still in the Army National Guard--a new colleague asked me if I would have gone to war if mobilized. In some puzzlement, I replied, "Of course. That's what I signed up for." "Well good for you," she replied. She clearly didn't understand that attitude (and as I got to know her I realized she expected me to say I'd have gone to Canada, or something). A nice woman, but the concept of obligation to serve was clearly alien to her. The concept is alien to a lot of people. But not to soldiers.

The Left is sinking into serious Trump Hysteria Condition over the Niger ambush. I haven't gone into the Florida congresswoman kerfuffle sideshow out of respect to the pain that a death in combat unleashes on a family. I can't imagine what that must be like. But I will say that because of that congresswoman, the Left has finally been cured from their belief that anybody who wears a cowboy hat is automatically assumed to be a drooling moron.

New York Times columnist Charlie Blow spoke in Ann Arbor this last week. I don't much like him. Perhaps I only see the really bad stuff because I only see him when I catch a "you'll never believe what this guy wrote" link. But I took my daughter who got extra credit for her AP history class. What his diatribe against Trump had to do with history escapes me. What surprised me was how poorly the man made his case. Selective evidence, mockery, and failure to see that the alleged wrongdoing applied more broadly and even to his own side was amazing. The idea that freedom of the press is under threat is nonsense. He spoke and no secret police broke it up. And no conservative students disrupted the speech. What really got me was his mockery of the idea that many people believe the media makes up bad stories about Trump. This after describing one of the three types of "lies" that Trump uses as the "they say" or "I've heard" [insert lie here] variety. But isn't that exactly what the flood of anti-Trump stories based on a single "unnamed source" (probably a Democrat "Resistance" member in the government) without any corroboration that evaporate after a news cycle are? "They say," indeed. In the end, the speech had more of the feel of a religious sermon delivered to the faithful. As I said, the strength of the reasoning was low. I started out annoyed to sit through his drivel but finished kind of amused, thinking, "That's all you've got?" And I don't even like Trump (although I remain grateful he beat Clinton)! But the poor quality of the arguments put me off. And God help us, but he probably thought he was bravely going into "flyover country" to make his case to the rubes.

In the last data dump, I wondered if we weren't selling Abrams tanks to Taiwan because we decided we needed them to replace war losses or if we didn't want to offend China at this delicate time with North Korea. Well, we're selling tanks to Kuwait. So the latter explanation is more likely.

I find it hilarious that Democrats are reduced to claiming that enforcing the Obamacare law undermines it. It's. the. law, they used to say.

A briefing on disaster relief in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Post ISIL, which isn't quite there in Syria despite the capture of Raqqa, the Syrian Arab and Kurdish militias we support in the east want to be free of Assad's control even if they don't push for formal independence.

Good luck:

Raqqa will be part of a decentralized federal Syria now the city has been freed from Islamic State, the U.S.-backed militias that captured it said on Friday, tying its future to Kurdish-led plans to set up autonomous regions in the north.

Will Assad and his Iranian (which supplies Hezbollah and Shia foreign legion shock troops) and Russian partners go along?

Russia might to distance themselves from Iran and in recognition of the need only to protect Russian bases in western Syria.

But Iran wants a land corridor from Lebanon to Iran through eastern Syria and Iraq.

And is Hezbollah, which has already lost 1,500 dead in what the leaders justified to their war weary public as an effort in western Syria to shield their own Lebanon base, really willing to bleed some more for eastern Syria?

The war is heating up in the Syrian region of Deir ez-Zor, where the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and forces loyal to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad are competing for Islamic State (IS) territory with threats of clashes increasing. There in the Badia region, which connects Syria with Iraq, Hezbollah is playing a prominent role alongside regime forces, according to a Hezbollah commander who spoke to Al-Monitor.

The US-backed SDF doesn't seem like it is going to stand aside as Syria seeks to extend control east:

U.S.-backed militias said they captured Syria's largest [al-Omar] oil field on Sunday, pressing their assault against Islamic State in the east of the country.

Is Assad tired of the bloodshed and willing to call it a day with what he has already?

Will Assad's base of support which has suffered enormous casualties and financial losses to hang on in western Syria really support more war and more sacrifice for that objective?

And will America and our anti-ISIL coalition support such a federal Syria in the northeast that defends its border as the SDF militias pledged to do? Was that pledge made with knowledge of American support?

If we do, it will help us regain influence in Iraq which will have an excuse to resist Iranian pressure to allow supplies through Iraq to reach Lebanon. If the route is blocked in Syria, the line of supply through Iraq is pointless.

The end of one problem is always the entry ticket to the next problem.

But we seem to have failed to plan for the next fourth phase, which I had hoped we would accept when President Obama launched the (overly cautious) war on ISIL.

A Paler Shade of Red

Russia has been more aggressive for the last decade but Russia is still a faint version of the Soviet threat to NATO. A Norwegian military decision highlights both aspects of modern Russia.

Norway reacts to Russia's threat level:

Norway said on Friday it planned to send an armored battalion near its arctic border with Russia and buy more tanks and artillery to respond to growing threats.

It's actually a "cavalry"--an old name that covers reconnaissance units composed of tanks and armored infantry vehicles--unit. In theory it would screen the border region against small threats and fall back and delay an enemy advance in case of a big threat.

The Norwegians also plan to buy more tanks and artillery, in response to the higher threat levels, as part of the plan:

It also includes more investment in tanks, artillery and long-range precision weapons in the area and other locations further south, together with an extension of the time people have to spend in some national service positions to 16 from 12 months.

Russia is more aggressive. So Norway is responding.

But putting a significant portion of Norway's armor (in 2012 Norway had about 50 tanks) up there is also a symbol of Russia's weakness compared to the Soviet threat.

In the Cold War, America put equipment in Norway to help Norway defend southern Norway. We did that because for a long time NATO planned to defend the seas at the Greenland--Iceland--United Kingdom gap, which would leave Norway isolated from sea reinforcements and supply.

There was no hope of defending too far north in Norway because the Soviets could use their (hopefully temporary) naval superiority to land naval infantry to outflank any force put too far north.

And a large force of paratroopers could be used, too.

But now the Russians have little hope of staging a major amphibious or airborne operation in Norway. The Norwegians could fight and fall back with the support of NATO air and naval forces.

Russia is a threat because of weak foes on their western borders. But Russia--despite bellicose rhetoric--is a far cry from the Soviet Union and the threat it posed to NATO.

Indeed, did the realization of their weakness compared to the Soviet days lead the Russians to declare victory against NATO and (figuratively) go home?

The Left Just Broke the Dial on Niger

Four American soldiers were killed in Niger by jihadis. People unclear on the concept of what goes on during a war have twisted the volume dial way past 11.

If a United States senator is unaware of what America's military is doing in Niger, he hasn't been paying attention. Just reading this blog would get you back to the Obama and Bush administrations (with bonus drone base news here and here!).

Liberals seem to be trying to make the ambush in Niger that killed four of our special forces soldiers (along with Nigerien troops) a scandal on par with Benghazi. But while there may have been some failings in the mission that we can learn from, the fact that troops die during war is hardly a scandal.

And inconveniently, I heard on CNN that low-flying planes unable to drop ordnance because of Niger policy did scare off the jihadi attackers. I do believe I (and others) wondered why we didn't try that tactic at Benghazi.

We're waging a war, nimrods, to keep problems from growing to Boko Haram or ISIL scale. Indeed, one reason I promoted modularized auxiliary cruisers for AFRICOM was to provide off-shore back-up for deployed forces. That capability wouldn't have helped so far inland in this case, of course, unless a force based on such a ship forward deployed to an inland base. But the need is there.

As I noted in the "Obama" link, if what AFRICOM does work we'd never know about it. A small portion went wrong in Niger, and so all of a sudden a lot of people are aware of what has been going on in plain sight. But just because it is new to them doesn't mean it is new.

Apparently, because of this ambush, leftists have gone from the butterfly effect to the Trump effect--anything bad anywhere traces its cause back to Donald Trump.

Noted military strategist and geography major Rachel Maddow drew a connecting line from Chad being on our travel ban, to Chad's withdrawal of troops from Niger, to the ISIL attack that killed four American four special forces soldiers there.

Yet there is no relationship between America withdrawing from Iraq in 2011 and the rise of ISIL to take over northwest Iraq in 2014. Got it.

Look at a map, people. Chad withdrew troops from eastern Niger and the attack took place in western Niger. And Trump is the magical link between places as far apart as Detroit, Michigan and Jacksonville, Florida? Get a grip people. Turning the dial to 11 every damn day hasn't been enough?

Actually, if Maddow would focus the power of her ginormous and nuanced brain, there is a link: jihadis.

Chad is on the travel ban list because it can't reliably verify that people coming to America from there aren't jihadis; and American troops along with Nigerien troops were killed in Niger because of jihadis.

So the link is jihadis who live to kill. Perhaps Maddow and her ilk will get right on examining that problem. There are effects all over the world because of Islamist killers.

[As a side note, sometimes my weekend data dump is an incubator for ideas I promote up to an individual post. This started as three different notes in that category.]

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Keep Our Perry Hulls!

Don't give away our old Perry-class frigates! Give them to our Marines.

I recently argued in Proceedings for building new APDs--armed amphibious transports--for company-sized Marine units.

And before building special-purpose ships, I suggested converting our old Perry frigates just as America converted old destroyers (and destroyer escorts) for use as armed amphibious transports.

This could put the capability at sea faster and gain experience on what is needed for new designs built from the keel up.

So the idea that we should give away our reserve Perry frigates is a non-starter for me:

In the Navy’s full-court press to build its fleet out to the 355 ships that recent service structure assessments demand, one idea that has gained traction among leadership is the possibility of pulling old Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates out of mothballs and readying them for present-day missions.

The head of the House Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee agrees the ships should be refurbished but says he has a better idea for their use: Transfer them to allied nations to improve global defenses and expand the Navy’s network of knowledge around the globe.

I don't even know what expanding the Navy's "network of knowledge around the globe" could possibly mean.

I'd rather expand our network of knowledge on dispersing Marines in smaller ships for both smaller operations and for larger but dis-aggregated missions.

And expanding our knowledge about how such ships should be designed to deploy and provide fire support for Marine landings.

Victory, Comrades! Sweet, Sweet Victory!

I don't know whether corruption, lower oil prices, or Western sanctions deserve the bulk of the credit for Russia's economic and financial difficulties, but Russia has both of those difficulties. So Russia declared victory over NATO.

Aggressive Russian talk backed by capabilities is worrisome. But the talk isn't as worrisome without the capabilities:

The [Russian] government declared, quietly but in several ways, that its effort to revive the military has reached the point where military spending can be reduced and more spent on reviving the economy. The government points out that because of additional military spending since 2011 the NATO threat has been blocked and that, not another Cold War, was the real objective of all the military spending and accusations that NATO was scheming to surround and destroy Russia.

It's easy to declare victory over a threat that was never a real military threat. So bravo, Russia, you "blocked" NATO. Shots of vodka, all around.

Maybe Russia's leaders might like to look east where the real threat to Russia grows.

Mind you, Russia even with capabilities no greater than they have now is capable of overwhelming weaker neighbors in a smaller theater adjacent to Russia yet far from NATO's centers of power.

And Strategypage notes that if Russia can settle Syria down, Russia will put their limited resources back to targeting Ukraine. So it isn't all peace and harmony after declaring mission accomplished.

Defeating Russia will always rely on mobilizing force for a longer war to eject Russia from easy initial gains.

Geography and Faith

I have no doubt that in the long run, geo-politics is a force that pushes America and Iran together. But as long as Iran is run by nutball theocrats, the counter-forces driving us apart are too strong to overcome.

Sure, geography is a major factor in the long run:

[Iranian President Rouhani] and his contemporaries have the heft of geopolitics on their side. Though Iran's rhetoric has traditionally targeted the United States, it is Turkey and Russia that may be more likely to threaten Tehran's security interests, especially as Washington withdraws from the region. Iran is deeply concerned about Turkey's resurgence in the lands it previously controlled during the Ottoman Empire, including Iraq and the Levant. And Russia — a country with which Iran has fought numerous wars — has similarly increased its involvement in Tehran's backyard over the past decade. Detente with an external powerhouse like the United States would certainly improve Iran's position against both threats.

This is a country whose national motto is "Death to America!" Well, not officially, of course. And a lot of people are against the rulers who make them chant that. But the national rulers to think that and do act as if they believe it.

As long as nutball mullah rulers act as if America is their enemy rather than the long-standing security threats from Turkey and Russia, the forces of geography--and distance makes America a safer ally--will be held at bay in thrall to religious fanaticism.

A Very Bad Day in Giza

This is unbelievable:

Egyptian security officials say at least 55 policemen, including 20 officers and 34 conscripts, have been killed in a shootout during a raid on a militant hideout near Cairo.

No word on the armed opposition's casualties or what they used to kill so many officers. Was the casualty toll weighted to KIAs or are there also a couple hundred wounded.

If so, just how many police were in this operation? Was it huge? Was there a kill sack that basically got all the officers (or most) involved?

That's a bad day in Egypt. And the casualty count could go up.

Also, we need a better word than "militant" to describe these armed killers.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Are You Seriously Surprised?

The 2015 Iran deal is horrible. At best it will delay Iran's nuclear weapons status while requiring Western help to achieve "peaceful" technical skills that will be transferred to the nuclear weapons program and clearing the Russians to sell arms to Iran. And Iran has not stopped their nuclear weapons drive despite the deal.

I know, you're shocked:

German security officials have accused the Iranian regime of pursuing its goal to build missiles armed with nuclear warheads, the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel reported.

“Despite the nuclear agreement [reached with world powers in July 2015], Iran has not given up its illegal activities in Germany. The mullah regime also made efforts this year to obtain material from [German] firms for its nuclear program and the construction of missiles, said security sources,” Der Tagesspiegel wrote on Friday.

The paper added, “Iran has [according to the security sources] clearly not given up its long-term goal to become an nuclear power that can mount nuclear weapons on rockets.”

This continued work on their goal is why the chief nutball in Iran can make this kind of threat:

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday Tehran would stick to its 2015 nuclear accord with world powers as long as the other signatories respected it, but would "shred" the deal if Washington pulled out, state TV reported.

Khamenei spoke five days after U.S. President Donald Trump adopted a harsh new approach to Iran by refusing to certify its compliance with the deal, reached under Trump's predecessor Barack Obama, and saying he might ultimately terminate it.

Why wouldn't Iran want to stay in the deal? Economic benefits and nukes? That's a no-brainer (cue Secretary of State Kerry!).

And "shredding" the deal is easy for Iran when they got so many benefits up front and they are still working toward their long-term goal. Or are you going to tell me that Iran fired all their technicians and scientists working on nuclear weapons once the deal was completed?

Remember, Iran did not agree to stop their nuclear weapons program. Iran denies that they even had a nuclear weapons program! Their reasoning is that since they didn't have a nuclear program to begin with, they could hardly pledge to end it.

So we are to trust the Iranians that they aren't working on nukes now?

How gullible are you?

Peace For Every Time, it Seems

Europe doesn't want to resist Iranian aggression by reimposing sanctions over their aggression and to potentially re-do our efforts to stop Iran's nuclear drive by walking away from the horrible Iran deal.

The thought of having to do something about stopping mullah-run Iran rather than looking away, making some trade deals, and counting on America (or Israel) to fix the problem when it goes off the rails in the future Europe pushes them to defend the Iran nuclear deal:

The European Union on Monday reaffirmed its support for a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers despite sharp criticism of the accord by President Donald Trump, and it urged U.S. lawmakers not to reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

Trump defied both U.S. allies and adversaries on Friday by refusing to formally certify that Tehran is complying with the accord, even though international inspectors say it is, and said he might ultimately terminate the agreement.

I must protest that the IAEA can't say Iran is abiding by the deal. All the IAEA can say is that in the limited areas the IAEA can examine, the IAEA doesn't see any evidence of violations. That's way different.

But let's recall the Russia problem. The Europeans have had to be pushed and prodded to deal with the Russian threat to Europe in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2014, which is ongoing.

Back in 2008, when Russia was much weaker, the Europeans wanted to avoid dealing with Russia and instead drafted a report on the Russian invasion of Georgia that cemented Russian control of portions of Georgian territory by essentially blaming Georgia for the war while only blaming Russia for over-reacting.

As I noted in that post, the fear of losing heat in the winter if Russia cut off gas supplies was no doubt a factor in obscuring Russian guilt.

And then we got the Ukraine War and continued Russian threats to NATO and Ukrainian independence. What goal was out of reach if Europe would not resist?

In response to that problem of Europe worrying about Russian energy blackmail, our natural gas fracking is providing a solution. And Russia knows it:

President Vladimir Putin accused the United States on Thursday of trying to squeeze Russia out of European energy markets, saying the latest round of U.S. sanctions was designed to force Europe to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas instead.

I see Putin reached into the "Well, Duh" files for that insight.

But we can only do so much.

We will get a bigger and more dangerous Iranian threat if we continue to follow European instincts to ignore gathering threats and declare peace for our time until the threats rub our noses in their aggressive intent and capabilities.

UPDATE: Europe has an ally to maintain the Iran deal--China:

China is expected to step up cooperation with European countries to preserve the Iran nuclear deal reached two years ago after US President Donald Trump indicated that he might decertify the agreement, analysts said.

China, as their long history with North Korea amply demonstrates, has already proven that it has no problem encouraging an anti-American country get nuclear weapons.

But if China has to go along with stopping North Korea before that approach unleashes a backlash on China by pushing South Korea, Japan, and perhaps Taiwan go nuclear in response, no doubt China would like a Plan B nuclear-armed nutball state to occupy America's attention.

The Europeans should be ashamed to step up cooperation with China to keep Iran on the path to nuclear weapons.

We Are Not Amused

The proto-emperor would punish Britain for failing to bend the knee:

Britain must commit to paying what it owes to the European Union before talks can begin about a future relationship with the bloc after Brexit, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Friday.

"The British are discovering, as we are, day after day new problems. That's the reason why this process will take longer than initially thought," Juncker said in a speech to students in his native Luxembourg.

Yes. We are not amused.

New problems are discovered every day. The British are finding it tougher to escape the European Union than Eastern Europe faced escaping the Soviet Union.

Hopefully, these obstacles increase the resolve of the British to get out while they still can and warn others in the EU that their "ever closer union" will smother them and make them mere provinces in the multi-ethnic empire that Brussels seeks to rule--democracy be damned.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Taiwan is China's Primary Core Interest, Recall

China's capability to invade Taiwan isn't new. But their ability to do so under the maximum limit of acceptable casualties may be new.

This assessment of China's threat to invade Taiwan isn't quite wrong but it isn't quite right:

One should not forget that in 2013, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense reported that China’s leaders had recommitted themselves to “continue the 2020 Plan,” whereby they would be able to “build and deploy a complete operational capability to use force against Taiwan by that year.” By implication, these leaders believe that by 2020, the PLA also will be able to fend off U.S. forces and thus be able to successfully invade Taiwan.

As such, President Xi’s Zhurihe speech can and should be interpreted as certifying that the PLA (all Chinese military forces) has achieved the capability to “safeguard China’s national sovereignty”—two years ahead of schedule.

The call to be on guard to the threat China poses to Taiwan is spot on.

But I don't believe that China has a new capacity to invade Taiwan. I think they've had it for some time now.

The question has been the number of dead Chinese troops as the acceptable price of capturing Taiwan.

My guess is that increases in Chinese capabilities announced by Xi represent the ability to achieve the military objective with acceptable losses.

Further, China's arrival at this stage does not mean that China has concluded by implication that they can fed off US forces. It just means that China thinks it can stall American intervention and conclude the invasion of Taiwan before America can effectively intervene.

Really, how long would it take America to make the political decision to risk war with China and then put forces and supplies in motion to overcome potential Chinese opposition?

Would the war be effectively over by the time American forces arrive in numbers sufficient to defeat China?

The author thinks that the conquest of Taiwan by 2030 would be soon enough for the world to get over the aggression in plenty of time to celebrate a century of the People's Republic of China in 2049, and so this is a period of maximum danger.

Of course, the question of whether China thinks the balance of power by then would require China to deign to worry about the world's reaction is another variable altogether.

Launch-on-Warning is a Murder-Suicide Pact

Would hyper-sonic missiles make war between India and Pakistan more likely because each side would need to use launch-on-warning to avoid an enemy disarming strike? Existing weapons already brought us to that point, which means survivable systems are the key to deterrence.

Is this the point we need to worry?

The extremely high speeds hypersonic weapons travel at reduce an adversary's ability to react to them. Suppose two nuclear-armed countries—let's call them India and Pakistan—have hypersonic weapons and nuclear weapons. Both weapons are located in each country's capital. A hypersonic missile launched from Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, will reach the Indian capital of New Delhi in just over six minutes.

Launching your own missiles upon detecting incoming missiles--regardless of whether the missiles are nuclear or even real (it could be a mistake in the detection gear or a decision by someone in the chain of command to claim missiles are inbound)--might be the only solution.

But the situation of short decision times is already here between Pakistan and India. There is no need to wait for hypersonic weapons.

And the key is to have survivable nuclear weapons that allow each side to ride out an enemy disarming strike and still have surviving weapons capable of launching a counter-strike after it is clear the enemy has used nuclear weapons:

We really need to get Indian and Pakistani nuclear policy people to study our long history of thought on this subject from the Cold War.

The sooner India and Pakistan focus on smaller but survivable nuclear deterrents rather than starting an offensive arms race (to make sure something survives a disarming strike) that drags in China--which then might pull in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and then Australia and Indonesia--the better.

Nuclear-armed subs are survivable--if command and control can be assured and if nobody thinks a sub sinking from an accident is a preemptive strike. But I wonder if either could have enough to really make a survivable deterrent. Britain and France have enough of a problem deploying a sub with their tiny sea-based nuclear deterrents.

India could probably increase their survivability by putting some ballistic missiles on their Andaman or Nicobar Islands.

But where could Pakistan put land-based missiles with some strategic depth from Indian land-based missiles? Could Pakistan lease Socotra from Yemen for 50 years? Perhaps Pakistan pays for this with ground troops deployed in Yemen as a sort of peacekeeping force once the civil war their is settled.

And of course, well-protected silos would help. But mobile missiles are an invitation to theft, I think.

Inputs and Outputs of the Alliance

The idea that NATO states not meeting the 2% of GDP defense spending minimum objective should be able to count alliance activity as a substitute for defense spending is so mind boggling in its stupidity that I can't believe it continues to be raised by serious people.

Are you effing kidding me?

Take a glance at NATO’s defense spending statistics, and Denmark looks like a mediocre member. Last year, the Scandinavian country spent 1.17 percent of GDP on defense, far below NATO’s 2-percent benchmark. But a closer look at the country’s military deployments reveals a rather different picture: Denmark is, in fact, a NATO starlet. Members’ contributions to alliance missions matter as much as their defense spending. We should encourage them to be more like Denmark.

Here we go again. If all this article is designed to do is to encourage spending and activity, that's great. Greece meets the alliance spending goal but isn't exactly a strong alliance participant because their spending is actually directed at nominal NATO ally Turkey.

But some want to be able to count activity in place of defense spending. This is insane. And if this article is part of that nonsense, the stupidity just won't die.

Of freaking course alliance members are expected to contribute to common defense by participating in alliance actions. And Denmark's willingness to do that is great. Kudos, really.

But the NATO 2% spending goal is--open up the Duh Files for this one--a spending goal and not a combined Alliance Goodness Scale. If we could focus on minimum defense capabilities, great. But we can't so spending minimums are necessary to define.

As if defense spending is irrelevant to being able to participate effectively in NATO missions!

Are we to consider geography to give Portugal and Belgium monetary credit for being safely behind the lines while requiring Estonia, Latvia, and Norway to pony up a lot more in spending because they border Russia and require more help? (Although countries like that should be for their own self interest higher spenders than Portugal or Belgium, regardless of alliance goals.)

Being prepared to carry out collective defense as part of NATO through minimally adequate spending levels is a separate issue from contributing to collective defense missions and should not be conflated.

So stop that talk of substituting activity for defense spending. It's a really stupid argument and anyone making it should be embarrassed.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

System Immunity

Democrats like to say they want money out of politics. I think that is a free speech issue and should be out of bounds, but there is another reason to support money in politics.

Consider that Trump spent about a billion dollars directly and Clinton spent about 1.4 billion (and these are from memory and since it is just for illustrative purposes I don't feel like spending 30 seconds to find out for sure).

And Russia spent a pittance--did it even reach a million dollars?--on online political advertisements (most apparently after the election!).

So the flood of money in our political process made Russian money about as effective as peeing in the ocean for raising sea levels.

Which means that our large spending on political campaigns (and more when you throw in other actors spending money and in-kind donations of labor and whatnot) is a kind of defense against foreign intervention in our elections. Who can afford to spend enough to be effective?

Which also means that campaign finance "reform" (which never works because people with lawyers always find a new way to spend money outside of the latest restrictions) designed to reduce money in our political campaigns just plays into Russian hands. That's the logic, I believe.

The Rump Axis of Evil

If we are to have any hope of being able to contain North Korea after they get nuclear weapons, denying North Korea a chance to profit by selling nukes to Iran is necessary.

Is this new strategy on Iran our real anti-North Korea strategy?

But if we fail to defeat Iran in Syria and Iraq, is it an effective strategy?

It would be best to deny Iran and North Korea nuclear weapons. But it is possible that war with North Korea is too dangerous now (thanks Obama!).

We might have missed that whole "imminent" window when liberals said preemptive military action is justified to deny a state WMD. I always said that standard relied on intelligence precision we could never reach. So here we are.

So we may have to deter North Korea while doing all we can to contain and roll back Iranian aggression until there is a revolution there that ends the mullah regime.

And is this strategy a response to Saudi Arabia's hedging by looking to Russia for possible help in containing Iran?

[Saudi Arabian King] Salman’s visit to Moscow could kick-start Russian mediation efforts to reconcile Yemeni differences, potentially in a way that benefits Saudi Arabia over Iran — the Saudis’ bitter enemy and rival proxy in Yemen’s civil war.

Remember that the Saudis were initially overjoyed that Trump seemed ready to reject Obama's Middle East policy of resetting relations with mullah-run Iran. But the long delay in actually changing our policy started to worry them that nothing would change.

Although in theory, in addition to being a warning shot across the bow to America, a Saudi outreach to Russia could benefit America if it pries Russia apart from Iran. But given common (enough) goals in Syria, is that likely?

Is the new Iran strategy in part designed to keep Saudi Arabia withing the fold? Is it enough?

The Empires Strike Back

With the West's temporary advantage in economic power because of the industrial revolution ending as productivity expands in the non-Western world, sheer population begins to weigh power balances back to pre-industrial times. And the old empires--with critical weaknesses that threaten their cohesion--endure to contest for the world.

This long article is quite interesting. I've touched on its aspects of geography and empires over the years. So it appeals to me on that basis alone. But it is pointless to try to pull out points and quote them.

Although being a product of the Center for No American Security makes me suspicious of it, for any policy recommendations that flow from it.

One thing I really contest is the idea that America can deny a single power or grouping of allied powers from controlling the Eurasian land mass with only American air and naval power.

Ultimately, local allies who might resist the dominance of a power or group of powers will not accept as an ally a power that provides sea and air power alone while expecting the local ally to die in combat in muddy countrysides or urban slums.

Balancing continental powers will require the ability to project significant ground power ashore to bolster local allies in holding or taking ground.

Independent American land operations on the continent could only be in the form of large raids, in essence.

But in either case, land power backed by air and sea power will be necessary to keep America from being shoved into a Western Hemisphere defensive crouch, waiting for an enemy to project power to the Americas.

And other means of picking apart the cohesion of the opposing continental empires to contract them to their cores will be the main efforts that military strength buys time to achieve.

Also, I hope the author isn't being too optimistic in assuming that America is immune to the cohesion problems of the empires.

Anyway, it is worth your time to read.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Thanks Captain Obvious

"Crimea Isn't the End of Russia's Black Sea Ambitions[.]" Well, sure.

Crimea is a power projection platform to project Russian military power around the Black Sea and into the Aegean Sea and eastern Mediterranean Sea to exploit Russian bases in Syria.

But yeah, NATO should definitely work to resist Russian ambitions made possible by their aggression against Ukraine. No argument there.

And one way to help resist the Russians is to encourage Ukraine to build long-range ballistic missiles capable of striking military targets in Crimea.

And we should have such missiles too, in southeast NATO, as well as minelaying capabilities to shut down Sevastopol in time of war.

The Long Red Line?

Is West Point just an east coast version of Berkeley but with a more formal uniform and shorter hair?

Of course West Point let their communist cadet Rapone graduate and commission him to go on to infect the Army with that disgrace of an officer. He is a symptom and not the cause of the academy's problems.

After all, Newsweek informed America that "we're all socialists now" in early 2009.

Gosh, why might the academy have thought Rapone had a defender in high places?

In all seriousness, it is a disgrace that West Point didn't defy apparent command influence and discharge that pathetic excuse of a soldier.

And that failure is just the tip of the iceberg, it seems:

I firmly believe West Point is a national treasure and that it can and should remain a vitally important source of well trained, disciplined, highly educated Army officers and civilian leaders. However, during my time on the West Point faculty (2006-2009 and again from 2013-2017), I personally witnessed a series of fundamental changes at West Point that have eroded it to the point where I question whether the institution should even remain open. The recent coverage of 2LT Spenser Rapone – an avowed Communist and sworn enemy of the United States – dramatically highlighted this disturbing trend. Given my recent tenure on the West Point faculty and my direct interactions with Rapone, his “mentors,” and with the Academy’s leadership, I believe I can shed light on how someone like Rapone could possibly graduate.

We need officers who can lead soldiers into combat and win. We aren't getting that from our elite service academy.

The Army is focused on restoring conventional capabilities like better artillery. There are bigger problems.

Experts Are Worried About What?

So would North Korea wage an insurgency following their defeat in a war? Well, there'd have to be somebody in control to wage an insurgency against, and I don't see any reason anybody would fight to control that worthless land.

Fine. Should there be a war with North Korea and if America, South Korea, and Japan beat North Korea, I stipulate that North Korea is likely to wage an insurgency. And maybe China and Russia would support an insurgency.

So what?

The only reason to wage war on North Korea is to remove their nuclear weapons capabilities.

Good grief people, you couldn't pay America, Japan, or even South Korea to take over that black hole of despair.

If we decisively defeat North Korea and roll into the north, our armies should stay exactly long enough to wreck their military capacity (tanks, artillery, chemical weapons); destroy the prisons and camps; arrest and imprison whatever leaders are slow-witted enough to be captured; dig out their nuclear infrastructure; remove their nuclear scientists and technicians; and distribute cell phones, seeds, and farm hand tools.

And then we leave. Maybe we push South Korean territory north around Seoul to make a better buffer zone. But maybe we just bug out completely south of the existing DMZ to avoid legal problems with moving the ceasefire line without Russian or Chinese consent. I assume that would be a problem.

Let the Chinese and Russian enjoy supporting the regime remnants rebuild their gulag with a UN seat.

Park recon drones over the country and bomb anything that looks like WMD rebuilding. Or any overweight man with an attitude and a bad haircut, of course.

Hell, for real yucks, pass out AKs from North Korea's stocks to every North Korean as we leave. Surely not all will meekly fall in line with the regime elements now brought down to their level.

Remember, South Korea has this nice DMZ and associated border defenses to control the remnants of North Korean armed might and contain it in the north.

UPDATE: I'm wary of predicting North Koreans collapse because the regime seems to be able to control their people no matter how badly the regime does economically.

But the North Korean economy and regime authority  do continue to get worse as China actually has started to squeeze North Korea, and there are visible signs of weakening state control. Do read it all.

Ideally, I'd like to contain even a nuclear North Korea and work for their collapse. I don't think they are actually insane.

Only the possibility of Iran purchasing nuclear technology or even working nuclear weapons from North Korea gives me reason to consider military action against North Korea.