Sunday, July 23, 2017

Iran Survey

Strategypage has a good piece surveying all things Iran.

Let me pick out some bits that I found particularly interesting.

Iran at least hasn't been able to really exploit the Iran deal to fix their economy yet.

Rebuilding the Persian empire isn't a high priority for most Iranians.

Despite Iran's hatred of Israel, all Iran is doing is pushing Israel and Arab states closer to resist Iran.

Hezbollah, which has 8,000 fighters in Syria, has suffered 2,000 KIA and 6,000 WIA as the spearhead of Assad's offensives. Iran continues to fight "Israel" to the last Arab.

Assad has turned over an air base in central Syria to Iran, which wants 5,000 Shia mercenaries to staff and protect it as a new Hezbollah in Syria.

Including Hezbollah, Iran has 24,000 mercenaries fighting in Syria, mostly from Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Assad has 200,000 troops, mostly suitable only for garrison duty. I assume this includes Syrian militias.

Iran is abiding by the nuclear deal to end their nuclear programs, they say. I don't think the narrow issue of abiding by the nuclear agreement is true. And the deal is so bad that even rigorous and successful enforcement of the deal terms won't stop Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons in facilities off limits to the provisions of the deal.

Saudi Arabia has lost their dispute with Qatar. (I still think Qatar will be moved somewhat off the fence toward the Gulf Arabs and America).

One of Iran's S-300 batteries is missing. So where is it?

Many Iraqis--even in the militias--are wary of Iran.

Iranian Kurds seem to be back in the armed resistance stage.

When Iran fired 6 ballistic missiles at ISIL in Syria in retaliation for terror attacks inside Iran, 4 of the missiles missed Syria and struck Iraqi territory according to the Israelis who pay close attention to these things.

There is more. That stuck out.

Basically, Iran under the mullahs is no friend and I don't think they can be.


University Echelon Above Reality

America is the leader of the West. Period.

I laughed when I read this:

Europe faces messier world as it takes its fate into own hands[.]

Oh please. I see Australian academics can live in fantasy world as easily as American academics.

The idea that Europe is stepping into a void left by Trump is ludicrous. And basing it on the then-failure of Trump to explicitly endorse NATO's common defense position is just dumb. As I've said, America is in NATO--not Trump. The Article V provision is binding on America which ratified the treaty under our Constitution. It does not depend on the whim of one man. I guess some got used to pen-and-phone rules under Obama.

Also, Article V isn't as iron-clad as this criticism would lead you to believe. It just requires a formal response and not full mobilization and sending in every swinging dick (or flapping ...) you have in uniform to the front. After Europe's World War I experience, no European state was going to commit to automatic responses to a threat.

More basically, Europe doesn't have the military capability to take its fate into their own hands. Their spending on defense is low--although rising in response to Russia. And they get little for what they do spend because most of their militaries are composed of civil servants in uniforms. Pockets of excellence demonstrate they have the potential. But the siren song of the welfare state will keep Europe from having a serious military required to back a serious independent policy.

And that assumes that "Europe" can act with one voice as a political Europe under to proto-imperial order of the European Union.

It also assumes that Europe would collectively decide to act more decisively than the America of their imaginary fears of America's retreat. Are we going to pretend that Europe has been uniformly solid in resisting Russian aggression against Ukraine and Putin's general aggressiveness? Seriously?

And Merkel (who I don't dismiss given the alternatives to her imperfect governance) is simply bashing Trump for domestic political purposes.Who seriously expects militarily weak Germany to provide leadership? Merkel is leading her reelection campaign.

Europe can't take their fate into its own hands. Won't spend what it needs to do that. Hopefully won't be politically unified to try to do that. And will need America to avoid being a victim of foreign powers.

And for the nervous types who think American treaty obligations are only good if it gets repeated endorsement by every president, President Trump actually did that since the article was written.

So never mind, I guess.

America still leads the West. In Asia and Europe. For those this year who fret America won't lead, put your defense money where your complaining mouths are and follow, eh?

The Russia Slider?

So the newly proclaimed "Malorussia" (Little Russia) has the same tyranny, dysfunction, and poverty as the big Russia, only smaller?

“We, the representatives of the former regions of Ukraine, with the exception of Crimea, declare the establishment of the new state, which is the successor of Ukraine,” [the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), Alexander Zakharchenko] said in a statement on the rebel-aligned Donetsk News Agency. “Ukraine has proved to be a failed state and demonstrated a failure to provide its citizens a peaceful and prosperous present and future.”

The Russians deny an collusion with this announcement:

The proposal for Malorossiya was nothing more than a “personal initiative” of the rebel leaders, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Russians might wince at that proclamation given that failing to provide citizens a peaceful and prosperous present and future hits a little too close to Moscow for comfort, don't you think?

With those standards, if the West can push Ukraine to suppress corruption, Ukraine could have a claim on Russia if Russia looks more like a failed state, eh?

I'd like to think the CIA had a hand in crafting that statement from the Russian handpuppets. I wonder if a Russian assassination team makes him pay for going off-script?

In related Russian expansionist projects:

Russia has been slowly taking land from neighboring Georgia for years, and Moscow appears to have done it again in early July, moving its borders about 2,300 feet into the former satellite state, according to Yahoo News UK.

On July 3, Russia troops simply picked up a border sign and moved it farther into Georgian territory, Yahoo reported.

Georgia's security agency said the land grab was "illegal," according to The Independent.

I've noted this Russian aggression before.

Perhaps the West can belatedly use the continued land grabs to sanction Russia further and make up for looking the other way in 2008.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

Ukraine's trade deal with the European Union begins in September. I think little of the EU, especially its likely evolution into an imperial state if left unchecked. But right now it is part of the West and is far superior to Russia. So this is progress in making Ukraine a Western state. And the EU is right: corruption holds back Ukraine. Both economically and militarily. Which should make rule of law a higher priority given that Russia occupies Ukrainian territory and continues to wage war on Ukraine.

Law enforcement is a core function of government. And government is screwing up forensic science that is the basis of convictions. Maybe if government didn't expand into so many areas to show how much it "cares," it wouldn't screw up basic functions. Also. The government said it was science. But it wasn't. And guilty people went free while innocent people went to jail. Heck of a job!

Collusion with Russia. Tip to Instapundit.

At a time when many conservatives continue to turn against the Iraq War, I shall restate that America was right to fight and win the war.  Victory was an opportunity we squandered. President Obama validated the war by initiating Iraq War 2.0 to defend what Bush achieved. May Trump stay to defend what Bush--and ultimately though belatedly Obama--achieved. We still have a great interest in a prosperous democratic Iraq that provides an alternative to autocracy or Islamism for governance in the Moslem Arab world.

Haiti's government wants an army. Haiti does not need an army. Anyone dumb enough to want to invade is too dumb to succeed in holding Haiti. Seriously, add to the national police if Haiti authorities want to patrol the border and help with natural disasters. Heck, most armies are nothing more than police capable only of defeating poorly armed civilians anyway. Why pretend?

When even Snopes is willing to defend the president against outrageous charges ... (while noting many are true, of course).

Yet another case where the well-meaning cure was worse than the disease. On the bright side, proponents can congratulate themselves for being such wise supporters of "good government."

I am sick of the media's jihad on President Trump based on standards they never enforced on Democrats via their newfound hatred of Russia. Or did I miss the collusionpalooza about Obama's "flexibiliy" in exchange for Russian "space" offer conveyed to Putin through Medvedev? I am also sick of Trump feeding them ammunition. Not that feeding my preexisting disdain for Trump personally will get me to switch support to the Democrats who are the only alternative and who have zero credibility to govern given their decent into left-wing insanity and street violence. I'm not sure what this situation pushes me to, but supporting Democrats isn't going to be it. Perhaps there is hope if the media gets tired of their personal struggle for self improvement. Actually, I might be pushed to just not watching television news. I'm tired of the attacks with little substance and I'm tired of the exasperated defenses. It's exhausting. My life isn't following this circus orchestrated by the media. Although it might not officially be coordinated as it was in the past as much as it is just the herd instinctively running the same way--off a cliff if my exhaustion is not unique. LATER: Since I wrote this, I've cut the cord. I turn on the news in the morning for any overnight breaking news and then news at 6:00. Other than that, silence or music. Rot in ratings Hell for all I care.

If the ability to see problems in anything isn't a super power, I don't know what is. Woke-Man? Wonder Woken? To Hell with those people. Why does anybody pay any attention at all to them? Tip to Instapundit.

This is what it is like to live under a 1984 regime that seeks out and punishes thought crime and bad thoughts. And these idiots voluntarily live in this environment! Worse, they want all of us to live under an actual government (that they run) with those powers. To Hell with them.

Democrats who hate Trump are looking forward to the 2018 and 2020 elections. Why? They loudly and constantly shriek that Trump is a fascist who is imposing a dictatorship on America. Under the circumstances, why do Democrats believe there will be honest elections? Or any elections at all? And I'm the one lacking nuance?

Yes, China's new base in Djibouti changes things, symbolizing a China that wants to extend its influence beyond the range of shore-based aircraft. But you have to be able to hold the base. America had bases in the Philippines and Britain had bases in Hong Kong and Singapore. But neither country could hold them in the face of Japanese power in war time. Don't panic. Work the problem.

I don't care why she went away. I'm just happy she went away. No loss to the university, I say.

I still don't see any issue with all the Russia stuff. But with so many Republican pundits saying there could be something, I remain unsure despite not seeing what the problem is with listening to someone as any campaign would do when given an opportunity for dirt on their opponent. That's a sad but real fact of life in politics. Funny enough, the Republican pundits in their new angle haven't persuaded Republican voters that there might be something to the Russia stuff. Which is kind of funny when you remember that Democrats claim that Russian "fake news" persuaded enough Democrats to vote for Trump in 2016 to swing the election to him.

Me thinks the man has been partaking of the medical marijuana too much.Tip to Instapundit.

Iran is not following the Iran nuclear deal--and this is just what we can see. Why pretend they are following it by certifying them as compliant? Doesn't that just set the standard that sort of following the agreement is fine? Doesn't certifying Iran as compliant when they are not just encourage them to see what other line they can cross? Of course, if we just plan to hit Iran hard then the look of surprise on the mullahs' faces will be all the more special.

About that Constitution-flouting president. That's okay, a pen and phone are much better protection for our liberties.

I think I'd pay good money if navies would establish a surface ship classification largely based on displacement (carriers and amphibs are different, of course) rather than seemingly randomly defining ships. Frigate, indeed.

Actual collusion between Americans and Russians.

And collusion between an American administration and the Chinese. The media yawned.

So does the threat of being called a stooge of Trump's pro-Russian so-called collusion push people to be overly focused on calling Russia our primary enemy? Perhaps. But you won't notice that here. I think I've been pretty balanced in assessing the threats.

What is "feminist geography?" That's easy! It means Florida can use whatever bathroom it wants.

So Democrats are getting the vapors over the thought of Senator Kid Rock? I have sympathy, of course. But the Democrats have former SNL star Senator Al Franken, so they're up by one with clowns in the Senate, you must admit.

The Russia connection hysteria wouldn't even be possible if Hillary Clinton hadn't had a private server outside of government control while Secretary of State and then deleted 30,000 emails she claimed were personal in nature rather than let the State Department make the decision of what was an official document and what was a yoga scheduling email. Who wouldn't have wanted that information if they thought it was out there, "unbleached?" And remember, President Obama knew that Hillary was using an unofficial email server that bypassed government security systems and procedures but did nothing. So President Obama did nothing to stop Russian cyber interference and did nothing to stop our secretary of state from being vulnerable to Russian hacking. That's not collusion, but it is a whole lot of incompetence that is good enough for Russian government work.

It's nice to see Afghan forces with the initiative around Lashkar Gah.

Mercenaries are perfectly valid to supplement our armed forces but not a substitute. 

It annoys and offends me when people say the Republican Congress must prove it can "govern." No! Legislative bodies legislate. They write the legislation that becomes statutes which guides the executive branch in executing the laws as written, or governing--like governors at the state level, for example. Legislative bodies do not govern. We don't want executive branches legislating, after all. Why talk of legislators as the executive branch?

I still don't understand why it was collusion for Trump's people to listen to the Russians who might have evidence of Clinton crimes or collusion. Which actually existed, you must admit, even if we don't have those 30,000 Hillary emails from her time as secretary of state scrubbed from her personal server rather than turned over to the State Department for review.

A nice overview of Russia's enemy-producing foreign policy. Short version: Russia is corrupt and broke, too weak to compel Ukraine to submit, scaring even Finland and Sweden to work with a strengthening NATO to resist Russia, losing ground to China in former Central Asian Soviet republics, and too weak to stand up to China short of nuking them. Oh, and their sub-based nuclear arsenal is having problems, too. If the Russians keep up their brilliant diplomacy, Belarus will petition for NATO membership within a decade.

After a relentless media frontal assault on Trump 24/7, Trump is still more popular than Hillary Clinton. Is there nothing America can do to compel that awful politician to just go away? Tip to Instapundit.

Oh, this isn't "useless." How do you put a value on demonstrating your moral superiority over the rest of us? Tip to Instapundit.

Huzzah! The end of the (relevant) world predicted at the latest for 2018 has been cancelled! Reset your doomsday plans for 2168. Which is smart because by then the scientist making the prediction will be long dead unlike today when he has to face the error of his earlier prediction.

The Trump administration may sanction Venezuela if that moron Maduro goes ahead with dictatorial plans that keep the socialist Hell hole in place. As Colombia emerges from long insurrection to prosper, Venezuela prepares to descend into chaos and violence. I remain concerned that Maduro will target the Netherlands in a desperate attempt to rally his people around his failing regime. The Dutch should check their ammo.

Britain is gathering the crumbs into a full loaf of bread, with the Joint Expeditionary Force of Baltic state nations that now includes Sweden and Finland. I noted this development.

Apparently Iran needs more pallets of cash given that it is essentially kidnapping Americans again.

Senator Schumer calls on Republicans to work with Democrats to pass a health fill that "lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our health care system." Wait. What? Obamacare didn't do that already? And here I thought they cared. Failure to repeal Obamacare doesn't mean Obamacare continues. It just means it collapses without a replacement.

George Friedman's (of Stratfor) view on Trump six months into his presidency and why he has difficulty pushing his agenda.  For those who think the Trump dictatorship is charging onward and upward, this may be hard to digest.

I'd like to think that draconian executions for minor offenses is a sign that North Korea is unstable enough to implode. Do strong rulers really execute people for watching the wrong TV shows? If the reports are reliable, of course. Are we lucky enough to escape the choice of attacking North Korea or accepting them as a nuclear state (with Iran a customer)?

So many female Western politicians and wives of male politicians cover up when visiting Moslem countries to be "sensitive." But Moslem women are pointing to the First Lady and daughter visiting Saudi Arabia as Western women uncovered to defend Saudi women being picked on by religious police over dress. Discuss.

The Left is nuts and intrinsically pushed to even more nuttery.  I will always cherish a CNN report about an anti-meat protest some years ago. You could see the young woman who claimed "meat is murder" to the camera subsequently struggling to control her inner nut yet finally blurted out "milk is murder!" CNN subsequently edited that out for future airings.

American, NATO, and other European forces are exercising in eastern Europe. Putin will soon have "3,000 Russian troops and 800 tank" in Belarus for Zapad 17 exercises. The figures are confusing. Just crews for 800 Russian tanks would be 2,400 men; and consider that 800 tanks is darned close to our entire inventory of tanks in all of our active Army brigades. If Russia is putting 800 tanks into Belarus, a whole lot more troops than 3,000 will be involved and it is disturbing that Russia is claiming such a small troop number. Something on the order of 70,000 is more likely. It isn't the exercise that is the problem. The problem is that invasion preparations could be made under the cover of exercises done on a large scale. Let me just note that the CBS article goes out of the way to highlight Trump's campaign questioning of NATO without also noting that Trump sold advanced Patriot missiles to Poland while in that country to give a speech in defense of the West. Why imply American commitment is less than solid?

Why does San Francisco hate women so much?

History is hard: Leftists oddly think slavery was uniquely American (and neglect how many Union soldiers died to end it) rather than a widespread crime.

I hope the movie Dunkirk prompts the British to relearn the lesson of getting off the continent to save themselves as Brexit talks bog down.

"Americans are feeling better about their own lives than they have in over a decade." So not since the Bush administration, they're saying? Huh. I'm not sure why this is shocking. Since Trump was elected, half the population is happy to have a government more willing to leave them the eff alone; and the other half can safely pretend they are resisting a dictatorship (safe because the government aims to leave them alone), thus fluffing their egos.

Iran is again mucking around in Kuwait.

I assume colluding with a communist military threat to undermine the American government's policy is okay in this case.

The Charge of the Fright Brigade. Why have Filipino jihadis decided to fight to the death in Marawi?  Have the jihadis experienced Mosul Envy and decided to get the glory of dying for the caliphate?

Senator John McCain has brain cancer. He says he will be back soon. I hope so and wish him well. But this situation highlights my refrain that the Republicans need a sense of urgency about passing legislation given their narrow edge in the Senate that could evaporate at any moment. Does anybody remember the Scott Brown special election that threw Democratic plans into chaos?

Hezbollah, which has lost 2,000 KIA and 6,000 WIA in service to Assad under Iran's orders, is still spearheading Assad's offensives in the core of western Syria.

Here's the Mad Scientist tag at Small Wars Journal, which includes the top 8 entries in the science fiction contest. My entry didn't make the cut. I think it might still be published online but I'm not sure if that will happen, or when it will happen if it does happen.

While I remain ecstatic that Trump continues not to be Hillary Clinton, and though good things continue to be done that wouldn't have been done under Clinton, Trump has yet to make me like or respect him. Extremist attackers and defenders of Trump are really just off-putting. So cutting the cord of the media continues to be refreshing. I don't rule out that Trump could be more than just non-Hillary by the end of this term. I worry the unhinged resistance could be more than slightly violent.

Damned If We Do

One of the problems with liberating a Moslem-majority country from a thug autocratic ruler is that Saudi money and influence enters the vacuum to bolster the worst sort of Islam. Kosovo was an early alarm bell for this problem.

Anything we can do to leverage opposing Iran in a Saudi-led coalition should be done to pressure the Saudis into cutting off that money and ideology flow.

Of course, the other problem is that failure to overthrow a thug ruler in a Moslem-majority country is that the corrupt and harsh autocratic  rule encourages support for Islamists who promise that "pure" Islam can restore the country's greatness.

So anything we can do to keep the price of oil low should be done to reduce the amount of money available to send to Islamists.

And trying to strengthen the yearnings of Arabs who rose up in the desire for democracy--as poorly as they understood it--as an alternative to autocracy or Islamism as means to govern their countries should be a priority if we want to end the threat of the jihad.

Islam has a problem. A problem that mostly inflicts death and misery on Moslems.

But the West is suffering collateral damage from this struggle over whether the problem is crushed or becomes the norm in Islam.

China's Most Core Interest

China has made it clear that it wants Taiwan absorbed into the mainland's totalitarian government, snuffing out freedom (oh, does Taiwan think they are special?):

Beijing has ramped up diplomatic, economic and military pressure on Taipei to accept its “One China” point of view and it is driving the United States to better define what that means in Washington, experts on cross-straits relations said Thursday.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank, Zhao Suisheng, a professor at the University of Denver, said in answer to a question that while peaceful unification still is official policy and mainstream thinking among the Chinese leadership and public, President Xi Jinping has in several recent speeches signaled that he wanted to see the matter resolved between 2021 and 2049, marking the centennials of the founding of the Communist Party and its successful revolution[.]

The issue “has brought two strong leaders [Xi and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen] to stalemate.”

China insists on progress toward absorption. Stalemate is unacceptable.

Taiwan needs to arm up because they can hardly expect other people to care more about Taiwan's democracy and independence more than the Taiwanese do.

Although countries who could be next on the list as the most core interest of China like India, Japan, and Russia have a lot of incentive to help Taiwan resist the Chinese.

Taiwan needs to remember that China's charm offensive was just an effort to get Taiwan to submit without the expensive use of force and risk of escalation. When China accepts this smiling charm offensive has failed, the bared teeth remain.

The war option remains because the Chinese marines aren't the main tool for taking Taiwan, and don't let people fool you that invasion isn't possible.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The French Connection

This article urges President Trump to push France to back efforts in Syria and Iran to fight terrorism.

While I welcome French diplomatic support on those fronts, I've long felt that France, building on their former colonial role in much of the region and on their Mali expedition, should take the lead in fighting jihadis in Libya and points to the west and southwest.

America, with our other allies, has the military power to handle Syria and Iran without the relatively small increment that France could add.

I'd rather have France take the lead to prevent northwest Africa from becoming a problem that requires our serious intervention.

France and Europe would benefit from a calmer and more prosperous Africa that doesn't send jihadis and mass numbers of migrants poorly equipped to assimilate into Europe.

Given that Macron has abandoned the goal of removing Assad from power in Syria, I'd rather have the French involved where we can more closely align our interests.

Macron should open the French front in Africa. For the glory of France, of course.

Science On the Rocks

Global warmers: Huge iceberg calves off of Antarctica! Surely it is the work of global warming!! Except:

In 1956 an iceberg broke off from Antarctica which was 200 miles long and sixty miles wide. It was the size of “Massachusetts and Connecticut combined”.

That’s six times the size of the one which broke off from the Larsen-C ice shelf in Antarctica this week.

Another iceberg broke off in 1927 which was four times the size of this week’s iceberg.

No one is disputing, then, that a big chunk of ice broke off Antarctica this week.

But it wasn’t unprecedentedly large and it wasn’t anything to do with climate change.

Even global warming science only says mankind began influencing the climate in the 1950s. So this is kind of a normal thing.

Never mind.

Getting Old Before They Get Rich

An aging population will slow China's rapid growth rate:

As China’s labor force becomes smaller and older, the country’s potential economic growth rate will decline. The IMF’s research into population aging finds that a larger share of older workers in the labor force means lower productivity, but also lower labor force participation, which will ultimately reduce China’s potential economic growth rate by between 0.5 percent and 0.75 percent per year between 2020 and 2050.

This is one factor of many that explains why forecasters like the OECD are expecting China’s growth to slow from 6.6 percent on average between 2011 and 2030 to 2.3 percent per year between 2030 and 2060.

The costs of taking care of an aging population will hit at the other side of the ledger.

Dealing with China's basic problems without an advanced economy will be a problem.

Which is why I haven't panicked about China's (for now) rise.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Of Medals and Honor

Salvatore Giunta was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism in Afghanistan. He has raised the bar for devotion to duty.

This is simply great:

At a ceremony in Vicenza, Italy honoring the storied history of the [173rd Airborne] brigade, Giunta pulled out his medal and handed it to the brigade, saying he wanted the medal to be with them: "I want this to stay here in Vicenza, Italy with the 173rd to the men and women that earn this every single day through their selflessness and sacrifice," he told the audience, which was full of young troops.

Outstanding.

I named the fighting vehicle in the story I submitted to the Mad Scientist initiative science fiction contest (about future war) earlier this year after this soldier. I made a good choice. I hope my story sees the light of day.

In related news, the combat suit I described in the entry monitored both the soldier's physical and mental status.

May we always have such soldiers as Salvatore Giunta in our Army and armed forces. The future of the West rests on that hope.

Cold Spark

I know China and India have lots of small confrontations every year along their common disputed border, but an ongoing crisis in the northeast seems to be getting more serious as both sides psychologically dig in:

After accusing Indian troops of crossing over the disputed Sikkim border last month, Chinese Communist Party outlet Global Times published a commentary Tuesday urging restraint by both belligerents, but warning that China was prepared to engage India in a battle for the contested land. The piece chalked up the conflict to a greater competition for economic and political dominance between the two leading Asian powers and said that Beijing would amass troops and armaments at the border in anticipation for what could turn into an all-out war.

I've noted this and there is more background information links there.

China has the edge with the ability to reinforce more rapidly and with a better air force than India has to provide top cover.

India recognizes China's edge there and is working to build up their troops and infrastructure in the northeast to match China's capabilities. That's a positive for India, eventually.

But India's dysfunctional arms procurement bureaucracy seems to be the most effective Chinese air superiority asset so far.

India would lose in a serious fight given the balance of forces there.

On the other hand, if China pounds on India over this, it will likely alarm a lot of China's neighbors. That might cow them. Or it might alarm them enough to keep arming up to better resist China.

And India could retaliate by forging closer ties to Taiwan, America, and Japan, for example, to distract China from the land border with India.

It might even alarm India's arms industry enough to be more effective.

So it is more complicated than just the local balance of forces and the location of an obscure border line.

UPDATE: More from the BBC which says that despite the escalating tensions that war is unlikely. They expect a continued stand-off.

Perhaps. But China has the edge and might want to "teach India a lesson" and put them in their place. China may not be able to challenge America for global dominance but China can challenge India for pride of place in Asia. And China has the advantage in being able to deploy forces to the theater.

India on the other hand is pining for revenge for the humiliating loss in the 1962 border war. And to add more fun, given India's need to maintain their close relationship with Bhutan as a buffer state, India might need to fight a war to preserve that tie even if the likely outcome is a loss. If India won't fight over Bhutan, will Bhutan shift to alliance with China?

And if a tense stand-off continues, one spark can make this very hot very fast.

UPDATE: And let me add that because each side has nukes, both sides have incentive to rapidly grab a chunk of land while opposition is weak, dig in, and rattle nuclear sabres to keep their limited gain.

Multi-Front War

President Trump has ordered a cut off to support to rebels in Syria backed by the CIA. This does not mean America is siding with Assad.

When I first heard that Trump is cutting off support for rebels in Syria, I wondered what the heck is going on? Then I saw details:

The Trump administration has decided to halt the CIA's covert program to equip and train certain rebel groups fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, two U.S. officials said, a move sought by Assad ally Russia.

Recall that the CIA and Department of Defense have backed different rebels in Syria. American support for rebels via the Department of Defense in the east has been growing and includes direct American military help.

The Department of Defense also backs rebels in southwestern Syria that have been shielded by a ceasefire agreement with Russia.

I don't assume this is anything but a win for the Pentagon over the CIA and a victory for ending support to rebels that bolster Turkey in the north--a Turkey that is less friendly these days.

Why would be back rebels who provide a buffer zone for Turkey when Turkey is endangering our troops supporting Kurds and other Syrians fighting ISIL.

So we may be just focusing on a more promising path to opposing Assad.

Or am I missing something?

UPDATE: Support for rebels in the east is certainly up:

Over the last week videos and pictures posted by Kurdish activists on social media show flatbed trucks delivering U.S.-made MRAP, M-ATVs, and up-armored bulldozers into Syria.

This front harms ISIL (by destroying them) and Iran (by blocking a land route through eastern Syria); but doesn't harm Russia (which just needs western Syria) or Assad (who doesn't control the area anyway).

UPDATE: Reason to worry?

Earlier this week, after a meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu let the cat out of the bag. He said Israel was “totally opposed” to the U.S.-Russian ceasefire plan for southern Syria because it leaves Iran very much present -- and gaining military power all the time -- in the country.

I have worries, too. It all depends on whether this is a tactical move to shield rebels in the south while the Raqqa battle is concluded (which soaks up resources that otherwise could be used to support rebels in the south) or whether it is a sign of things to come overall even after Raqqa is retaken from ISIL.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Another Problem Child

I've certainly noted many times that Pakistan is a problematic ally, hopes for a virtuous cycle to break that attitude notwithstanding. But I also note that if Iran was as good a friend as Pakistan is we'd call our Iran policy actual Smart Diplomacy. Turkey had joined the ranks of problem children. Work the problem rather than push Turkey into Russia's orbit.

I don't like this given Turkey's behavior the last 15 years or so as it has tilted Islamist:

Turkey has agreed to pay $2.5 billion to acquire Russia’s most advanced missile defense system, a senior Turkish official said, in a deal that signals a turn away from the NATO military alliance that has anchored Turkey to the West for more than six decades.

The preliminary agreement sees Turkey receiving two S-400 missile batteries from Russia within the next year, and then producing another two inside Turkey, according to the Turkish official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Erdogan is no friend, to be sure:

In the latest display of Turkish anger at U.S. policy in Syria, the state news agency has divulged the locations of 10 U.S. military bases and outposts in northern Syria where the U.S. is leading an operation to destroy the so-called Islamic State in its self-styled capital of Raqqa.

If Turkey was a solid friend, I'd see this arms deal with Russia as potentially a way to get deep insights into the S-400 system.

But that's not the situation. Now I worry that Russia will have the edge in information gains by getting insights into how NATO air defense systems and procedures work.

I noted (in this weekend data dump) a suggestion based on other issues that Turkey be denied the F-35.

I'd rather not do that and simply push Turkey away from NATO. I'd rather have an imperfect ally than an imperfect foe that is now an imperfect asset of a foe.

With Russia's efforts to establish a military presence in the eastern Mediterranean Sea (to extend a buffer south and west of the Black Sea, supported by the Crimean base area), a friendly Turkey that can choke Russia's sea line of communication from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean is obviously a big deal.

So I don't want to push Turkey away despite Turkey's inadequacies as a treaty ally. Enforce that standard too hard and how many allies will we still have?

But I do hope that we are selling Turkey a monkey model of the F-35 that lacks the best technology that I don't want a shaky Turkey sharing with their new friends the Russians.

Although it would be kind of funny if Turkey is getting an inferior version of the S-400.

UPDATE: Good question:

“As a program partner, Turkish industries are eligible to become suppliers to the global F-35 fleet for the life of the program. In total, F-35 industrial opportunities for Turkish companies are expected to reach $12 billion,” the warplane’s website explained. “Turkey plans to purchase 100 of the F-35A Conventional Takeoff and Landing variant. Its unsurpassed technological systems and unique stealth capabilities ensure that the F-35 will be the future of Turkish national security for decades to come.”

But is the F-35 safe with Turkey?

I wouldn't trust the Turks to service my F-35s. I hope Turkish industrial participation involves making the cup holder.

In unrelated problem child news:

The United States will withhold $50 million remaining in military reimbursements to Pakistan for fiscal year 2016 because Defense Secretary Jim Mattis believes that Islamabad has not done enough to blunt the Islamist militant Haqqani network, a U.S. official said on Friday.

Pakistan: Not as bad as an enemy; not as good as an ally.

The Hidden Army

China will reduce their active army to less than one million personnel, to put personnel in other branches of the PLA:

"This is the first time that active PLA Army personnel would be reduced to below one million," wrote the article.

It added that the number of troops in the PLA Navy, PLA Strategic Support Force and the PLA Rocket Force will be increased, while the PLA Air Force's active service personnel will remain the same.

China doesn't fear invasion by Russia anymore. And China clearly doesn't think India will invade or that America will send a sizable army that threatens Chinese territorial integrity.

Keep in mind that much of the reduction of China's army in the past simply involved changing PLAA light infantry units to People's Armed Police units, currently totaling 1.5 million.

The PAP may not be useful in conventional warfare outside of cities, but they can soak up attackers by defending in cities and function as irregulars or guerilla fighters in rural areas.

So they are not irrelevant to the smaller PLA.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

We Should Resist Iran

Of course we should resist Iran in Iraq. And whose fault is it that we let it get this far?

Huh:

Iran Dominates in Iraq After U.S. ‘Handed the Country Over’

I'm confused. So Iranian influence in Iraq is bad? So the Obama administration Iran nuclear deal didn't turn Iran into a responsible regional partner?

And wasn't it the Obama administration that walked away from Iraq after the sacrifice in blood and treasure the article mentions rather than make the commitment to stay and combat Iranian influence?

So what is it? Did Obama screw up leaving Iraq in 2011 or did Obama screw up by empowering Iran in 2015 with the Iran nuclear deal?

Surely NYT can't be arguing that this is Bush's fault! That's like arguing that defeating Hitler in 1945 just "handed over" eastern Europe to the Soviet Union.  The latter bad thing doesn't undermine the basic morally good nature of destroying a psychopathic aggressive dictator in the former action.

Remember that one of the reasons that Iraq's army collapsed in 2014 was that the Iraqi leaders worried about staying in power selected army leaders based on loyalty rather than military ability. Had we stayed to make sure Iran was not a threat, Iraq's leaders would have relied on our power to resist Iran (and we'd have made sure leadership was solid enough to keep the army fighting).

And didn't the Obama decision to wage Iraq War 2.0 keep our commitment low enough that Iraq also sought Iranian aid to fight ISIL that had overrun much of western and northern Iraq, reaching the gates of Baghdad?

Remember, Iranian influence in Iraq was one reason that Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980. The appeal of cross-border Shia solidarity existed then. This is nothing new.

Of course, then the Shia of Iraq were under the heel of a Sunni dictatorship. Having freed Iraq's Shias and Kurds from Saddam in 2003--eventually gaining even the support of Sunni Arabs who hated the jihadi-Saddam alliance in the insurgencies--why didn't Obama take our opportunity to expel Iranian influence from Iraq by exploiting our sacrifice and role? Iraq's Shias are Arab and not Persian, remember, making a wedge to blunt Iran's appeal absent sectarian oppression that Saddam inflicted.

Or work to expel Iran from Syria?

Oh right, Obama wanted the Iran deal and didn't want to anger Iran by opposing them (like the Iranians would have refused the diplomatic gift to them under any "provocation!").

Iranian influence in Iraq is a problem because Iraq is better than it was in 2002 and so it matters that Iran has influence in Iraq; and Iran is pretty much the same (but getting closer to nukes every day), making their influence now bad. Would we care if Iran was a friendly non-nutball power?

I assume the New York Times will be fine with an American-led effort to roll back Iranian influence in the entire region, and not just in Iraq.

UPDATE: We have a big job ahead:

Yet radical Sunnis, separatist Kurds and meddling Iranians will remain a problem, along with corruption and unstable neighbors.

Work the problems.

The Iran Problem

I don't believe the North Korean ruler is insane. And if it was just a North Korea nuclear problem, I think we could deter and contain North Korea. We really have an Iran problem.

Seriously, North Korea has not rolled the dice to attack South Korea since the armistice suspended the Korean War in the middle of the last century. They didn't do it when they had a decent shot at winning such a war and a Soviet ally to deter our nuclear forces. Would they really try it now?

Even with nukes that deter our nuclear response?

Would North Korea really launch at one of our cities?

When we might shoot it (or them) down? And when we'd nuke North Korea in return even if we shot down every North Korean missile? (Not their cities. We aren't mass murderers of innocents. But we would have to nuke a number of North Korean military and nuclear assets if we didn't want to see our nuclear deterrent reputation dissolve in the mistaken notion that "no harm, no foul" rules apply.)

Victor Hanson says that we can't attack North Korea to destroy all their nukes and we can't live with a nuclear-armed North Korea.

I think that we can't live with a nuclear-armed North Korea as long as it has a nutball-run Iran with the desire to get nuclear weapons and the cash to buy them from North Korea.

Seriously, all the promises Iran has made to limit--for an increasingly short time frame that will end before you know it--their domestic nuclear programs don't cover buying nukes from someone. From someone like North Korea that is desperate for money.

Even assuming success with Hanson's response of a long expensive struggle to build the capacity to defeat North Korean nuclear missiles that avoids the shortcomings of attacking North Korea yet refuses to live with the threat, the problem of Iran as a nuclear customer remains.

North Korea may be rational enough to deter. But is Iran with their religious zealotry that may embrace nuclear flames to purge the world and bring their time of glory out a risk we want to take?

Supporting a revolt of Iran's long-suffering people to get rid of the mullah-run regime would make the North Korea problem more solvable.

Indeed, getting rid of Iran's mullah regime cuts the Gordian Knot for a lot of our problems.

UPDATE: Iran strongly hints that it would shoot missiles at our troops in the Middle East if we impose sanctions on Iran. American troops at bases in Arab countries.

Atomizing Deja Vu All Over Again

Lieutenant General Townsend describes what is happening to the proto-state that ISIL's caliphate represents as it is defeated in its efforts to hold and defend its claimed territory. This is nothing new to long-time readers here.

Yes, the ISIL enemy is changing:

In fact, the enemy has been, conveniently, fighting us in the -- in the way that a standing conventional army might fight us, other than using suicide bombers and vests and things like that. They have -- they've chosen to take and hold ground and defend that ground. And that is something that our partners are well designed to counter.

I think that what we'll see is as the -- ISIS is -- comes under greater and greater pressure, they will devolve into a more insurgent-like method of operation. They'll try to hide with the population. Their cells will get smaller. Instead of companies and platoons, they'll go to squads and cells, much smaller elements hiding in the population. They'll disperse. They'll be smaller. They'll be more covert.

In one -- in some ways, that's an easier security problem for the security forces to handle. In other ways, it's more difficult and there are challenges with that. So we'll have to adapt our security force partners over time to deal with less -- something less than the conventional force threat that they're facing now and something that looks more like an insurgency in the future. [emphasis added]

Don't become confused, however. It is unquestionably better to have insurgents and terrorists than a proto-state that controls territory. Sure, kill them while we have the opportunity when they try to defend. But don't be confused that such a state is preferred over defeating and scattering the survivors.

I noted this process of breaking down the enemy and pushing them down the escalation ladder over a decade ago:

Over the last two years, I've said that we need to atomize the enemy in Iraq. As long as the enemy can mass in company-sized units, they can overrun police stations. If they can mass in platoon strength, they can wipe out road blocks and patrols.

If Iraqi patrols, road blocks, and police stations can't hold alone, it is more likely that more sophisticated forces with tanks and artillery and air power will be needed to fight the enemy. Right now, that's US forces.

Make it so that the enemy can only gather squads or fire teams, and low tech Iraqi light infantry and police can fight the enemy effectively. Iraqis can provide reaction teams to reinforce threatened Iraqi units.

If the Iraqis can fight effectively, we can pull back sooner into large bases to deter Iranian attack until the Iraqi army defeats the insurgency and then builds up conventional defenses.

We did that in the Iraq War. But we didn't stay after 2011 to make sure the Iraqis could handle the lower level threat. And the enemy rapidly scaled the escalation ladder to create a caliphate in Iraq (and Syria).

We are in the process of doing this again in Iraq War 2.0. Dispersing the enemy as the general notes, is a mark of success.

Although recall that despite the problems of the Iraqi army in 2014 that enabled the ISIL advance, we started Iraq War 2.0 from a far higher level of local capacity to fight than we did in post-Saddam Iraq in 2003. We repaired enough of the Iraqi military we built in the first war rather than having to build it from scratch.

Let's remain to help the Iraqis keep their foot on the pedal to exterminate jihadis (and to expel Iranian influence). Otherwise we will have Iraq War 3.0.

Malobar 2017

America will long be the key factor in international power balance calculations even as American relative power declines.

India hosted American and Japanese aviation ships in naval exercises in the Indian Ocean:

"Malabar 2017 is the latest in a continuing series of exercises that has grown in scope and complexity over the years to address the variety of shared threats to maritime security in the Indo-Asia Pacific," the U.S. Pacific command said.

Military officials say the drills involving the U.S. carrier USS Nimitz, India's lone carrier Vikramaditya and Japan's biggest warship, the helicopter carrier Izumo, are aimed at helping to maintain a balance of power in the Asia-Pacific against the rising weight of China.

All three countries have interest in balancing China's rise.

Japan and India could work together but given their limits on projecting power and locations on opposite sides of China, neither could help the other much if one found itself at war with China. China could use interior lines to hold off one power by savaging the other which would be largely incapable of helping the other.

Japan has little ground power and no ability to project naval and air power to the Indian Ocean to directly help India fight China; India has a lot of ground power but no ability to project naval and air power to the South China Sea or East China Sea to directly help Japan.

That's where America comes in. America has the power and reach to knit together a lot of separate centers of power into a more coherent front to resist Chinese efforts to use their power to dominate their region at the expense of neighbors who would prefer not to be dominated by China.

This ability to join potentially isolated centers of resistance to Chinese ambitions makes the various local centers less likely to give in to Chinese pressure and instead hold their position in the line.

Obviously, American power is the key. Otherwise what practical help would Japanese-Indian military exercises provide?

Monday, July 17, 2017

I Remain Old

I saw Spider-Man. I really liked it.

I know I'm old because I was (figuratively) drooling for Aunt May. Huge fan.

And to cement my old status, I texted to my daughter, Lamb, who'd already seen the movie, "A heartwarming story of a misunderstood overprotective dad. Tragic, really".

To which she responded, "I knew you'd like that part".

Yeah, funny kid. She doesn't know I memorized the dad's speech to the date in the car.

Anyway, one more reboot sequence in this series and there won't be any woman in the show I can be attracted to (I chuckled at a reference to Aunt MILF) and remain socially acceptable.

Signal Intelligence

The European Union undermined America over North Korea by offering their surrender diplomatic services. Let this be a warning of things to come if European means ever match Euro elite intentions.

Thanks Brussels! The EU's effort of course came to nothing. But the signal is the key:

It is also a way of signaling Europe’s biggest card if it gets truly fed up with the US: it could always tilt toward China, selling arms and tech to a country many in the U.S. believe is the greatest long term threat to America’s global position.

Not that propping up China would be good for Europe. But it would scratch the itch of sticking it to the hated and resented America that the EU elites feel in their bones.

And really, Europe couldn't care less about North Korea's nuclear plans. Euro apparatchiki would probably be happy if a North Korean nuke took out Boeing in Seattle and left Airbus free to sell planes.

That EU signal should be a strobe light that makes us realize that the European Union is not in our interest. America has friends in Europe but a politically unified Europe will not be our friend.

Take the signal seriously.

A Disturbing Lack of Nuance

What a simple man:

In an exclusive interview with PJ Media, the Libyan National Army (LNA) spokesman, Col. Ahmed al-Mesmari, says that President Obama and Hillary Clinton "abandoned the Libyan people to face these terrorists alone."

Don't be silly. The lesson of Iraq according to Democrats is that if you knock off the long-time thug ruler and then get out of the way, the locals will work out their differences peacefully without the malign presence of Americans who just make thinks worse and inspire jihadis to flock to the country.

So remain calm. All is well.