Friday, December 15, 2017

Treaty Compliance Theater

Russia is committed to the Cold War-era Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty?

Russia said on Saturday it was fully committed to a Cold War-era pact with the United States banning intermediate-range cruise missiles, a day after Washington accused Moscow of violating the treaty.

The U.S. State Department said on Friday Washington was reviewing military options, including new intermediate-range cruise missile systems, in response to what it said was Russia's ongoing violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Russia is committed to the treaty if you mean Russia wants to keep their new intermediate range nuclear missiles while America does not build them in compliance with the treaty.

If they are technically legal as Russia claims, we can do the same. And if Russia is simply cheating while denying, the treaty will be dead. We will build such weapons, no doubt.

China will be really happy to have America do that given that we have ways of basing such weapons close to China.

So China won't be happy with Russia, I think.

It Really Would Be a Shame if Both Sides Don't Lose

I've said that the Kurdish willingness to bleed for the defeat of ISIL when their sacrifice exceeded defense of Kurdish regions. And I've said that we defeated ISIL in Syria too soon for our own interests. Given that Assad and Russia focused on non-ISIL forces while we did their dirty work in eastern Syria, I'm rather pleased that we allowed one set of enemies live to fight another set.

So what?

The U.S. military allowed thousands of Islamic State militant group (ISIS) fighters to flee from their de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, in a secret deal that boosted the U.S. fight against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to a Pentagon-backed Kurdish commander who has since switched his allegiance to Turkey and who spoke to Reuters.

It's a scandal that we will let enemies fight each other?

Syria tried to do this to us, recall, by shipping ISIL fighters east from Lebanon (from the weekend data dump).

American aircraft cratered a road in Syria to prevent a bus convoy of ISIL terrorists from reaching the Iraq border. I'm not sure why we couldn't bomb the buses notwithstanding the civilian drivers. Isn't sending ISIL gunmen to kill our allies and our troops (and that's what depositing ISIL there would do) an act of war that the rules of war allow us to resist despite the human shields driving the vehicles? Three hundred ISIL gunmen in a 17-bus convoy are still in the Syrian desert. Coalition jets also ran a mock attack on the convoy. I bet we would have fired if it was only the drivers we had to consider. But with families in the convoy, it can't really be a target, I suppose.

And this move, if true, is just a partial redress of defeating ISIL in Syria too soon.

Recall to that the Kurds aren't our mercenaries and there was no way they'd bleed too much to crush ISIL only to weaken themselves enough to allow Assad to roll over the Kurds once ISIL was defeated.

The latter is the most important part. I doubt that the escape of ISIL fighters in the east was really our choice to "allow" because the Kurds would not agree to bleed to carry out a strategy of annihilation against ISIL in Syria.

Or are we supposed to think of Assad, Russia, Hezbollah, and Iran as our allies? To Hell with them. Let them finally fight ISIL and kill each other as much as possible.

UPDATE: While there may be a bit of truth to this based on the factors I note, the full accusation that America let 4,000 ISIL fighters escape Raqqa (I never heard that huge number) is in fact yet another Russian disinformation story.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Iran Reminds Saudi Arabia Why Israel is Worried

Israel has been under threat from Hezbollah and Hamas rockets that Iran helps make and actually delivers. The Saudis didn't have a lot of sympathy, all things considered. Until now.

Well that conclusion is a problem for Iran:

United Nations officials have found that missiles fired at Saudi Arabia by Yemen's Houthi rebels appear to have a "common origin," but they are still investigating U.S. and Saudi claims that Iran supplied them, according to a confidential report.

Iran backs the rebels and has a track record of arming enemies of Israel in Lebanon and Gaza with rockets to hit Israel. So means and motive point to Iran doing the same to attack indirectly their Saudi enemy.

So if there is a deal between a Saudi-led Arab alliance to run diplomatic interference for Israel while Israel conducts a massive land raid into Lebanon to thoroughly smash up Iran's proxy Hezbollah, don't be too surprised.

China Will Need a Favor from America

It never occurred to me that tax cuts in America would strain China. Which is an opportunity for America.

Huh. China is working on counter-measures for an American corporate tax cut:

Under the plan, the people say, the People’s Bank of China stands ready to deploy a combination of tools—higher interest rates, tighter capital controls and more-frequent currency intervention—to keep money at home and support the yuan.

An official involved in Beijing’s deliberations called Washington’s tax plan a “gray rhino,” an obvious danger in China’s economy that shouldn’t be ignored.

In addition, factories normally going to China might set up in America, adding to the strain on China's economy--and hence to China's stability, representing a threat to the Chinese Communist Party monopoly of power.

So basically, China will need a favorable trade deal with America to make up for changes in the American tax structure.

I recall that President Trump offered a better trade deal to China if they dealt with North Korea so America doesn't have to.

If China refused that offer of a benefit to act, is this tax cut designed to (or at least will it have that effect) make the trade deal-North Korea deal an offer that China can't refuse just to reverse a harm?

Indeed, this kind of trade could be broader. Could America even now be negotiating and drafting a new Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal (TPP) that will be unveiled after a crisis with North Korea erupts (with either America and/or China taking the lead) to calm markets and get a trade deal passed in the Senate with the argument that it is needed for national security and is better than the one negotiated under President Obama?

National power is not just military power, of course.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Jihad Heads for Africa

If Africa is going to be the new hot spot of Islamist terrorism, AFRICOM will be busy. That American command could probably use The AFRICOM Queen to aid flexibility in fighting the jihadis.

African states are in the jihadi sights:

The chair of the House Homeland Security Committee says Africa will be the next "hot spot" for Islamic extremism, amid growing concern about Islamic State migration and recruitment after U.S.-led forces in Iraq and Syria reclaimed the group's so-called caliphate in the Middle East.

"They seek ungoverned territories and safe havens," Republican Congressman Michael Thomas McCaul Sr. of Texas said Wednesday. "Africa is going to be the spot, it's going to be the hot spot."

Sadly, Africa is vulnerable because governing institutions lack resilience:

He added that part of the African continent, especially northeastern Nigeria and Libya, have appeared to be a landing place for IS militants. He stressed, however, that Africa's extremism problem cannot be solved by military action alone, emphasizing that good governance is important to help fulfill the needs of people across the continent.

Refugee jihadis from the fall of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq will be coming home to Africa:

The Africa Union’s (A.U.) Commissioner for Peace and Security has said African countries needed to prepare for the return of about 6,000 Islamic State (IS) combatants from former strongholds of Iraq and Syria.

Smail Chergui, whiles addressing a meeting in Algeria said countries needed to work more closely in the area of intelligence sharing and other security arrangements in order to counter the returning insurgents.

I'm going to guess that most of the jihadis "from Africa" will be heading to North African Arab states where they will be a threat locally. Still, with porous borders across the continent they could go elsewhere to spread mayhem.

Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the American military command that has been trying to hold the line without the resources that EUCOM, PACOM, or CENTCOM get to face threats in Europe, the Pacific, and the Middle East and Central Asia.

Yes, denying ISIL sanctuaries in the Middle East doesn't dent their "global reach." Jihadis can go anywhere on cheap air flights or become radicalized where they live.

But denying jihadis the resources of money, people, and time (to train and to plan and organize bigger plots) that physical sanctuaries provide does reduce their depth and impact. So don't be discouraged by thinking the fight against ISIL's state was pointless.

Yet the American military commands that face bigger and better organized threats will continue to get most of America's finite military resources. AFRICOM will get more resources, no doubt. But getting persistent naval power seems unlikely given the need to protect sea lines of supply for oil in CENTCOM and to focus naval combat power in the Pacific and even in European waters.

Yes, naval assets in CENTCOM and EUCOM can sometimes help with adjacent AFRICOM, but Africa is huge and largely out of reach from those better equipped commands.

So for naval power projection capabilities in the long African littorals far from help, America could use The AFRICOM Queen modularized auxiliary cruiser to have fire support vessels (missiles and/or aircraft), training vessels, anti-piracy ships, special forces carriers, and afloat quick response forces that can sail to trouble spots in response to crises or to add weight to land-based efforts or aid them by striking from unexpected directions.

It isn't futile to fight jihadis who keep popping up elsewhere. Remember that the military campaigns are a holding action to degrade the threat to America and other targets of jihadis until Islam itself resolves their civil war to define whether Islam will be defined by the jihadis or by modernizers who truly wish to coexist with the rest of the world rather than make the world submit to Islam.

But until that civil war is won, America will need to lead allies to kill the jihadis where they stand. Got help Africans, but that's where the jihadis will stand.

UPDATE: Related on the G5 Sahel Joint Force intended to fight jihadis in Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. It is funded by America and Europeans, plus in a new factor, by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The force intends to hit strike in 2018.

Corruption Will Kill Free Ukraine

If Ukraine continues to value the opportunities for wealth that corruption provides over the value of becoming a Western country with rule of law, Ukraine will not be able to push Russia out of Ukraine, will fail to resist the next Russian plunge into Ukraine for more territory, and will in all likelihood fall back into Russia's orbit in the long run.

But no, go ahead and gut the anti-corruption effort:

Ukraine's Western partners are unhappy with Kyiv. On December 4, the State Department raised concerns about Ukraine’s fight against corruption, saying that recent actions “risk eroding international support for Ukraine," while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said "it serves no purpose for Ukraine to fight for its body in [the] Donbas if it loses its soul to corruption." Meanwhile the EU added that Kyiv's war on NABU [Note: the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, the independent body whose leader the Ukrainian parliament just fired] "undermines public trust in an effective fight against corruption.”

America is hardly going to fight Ukraine's war for them if Ukrainian rulers won't rally around the flag when a predator nation is picking apart their carcass and instead just want to grab a bigger piece than Russia is devouring.

UPDATE: Ukraine will lose to Russia if the Ukrainians decide to become a much smaller version of Russia politically rather than emulate the free West that crushed the Soviet Union.

Idiots. The Ukraine is coming at this rate.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

High-Wire Act

The ship of Islam will take a long time to turn around, but the tiller has to be pulled hard over right now to get it started in the right direction.

I don't care if Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's motives are pure but I sure as Hell want him to succeed in this transformation:

Economic modernization and diversification, the prince saw, were essential, and they required social liberalization as the first order of business, beginning with allowing women to drive cars, the royal road to women’s liberation. Already, Saudi women are casting off the hijab and seizing modern social pleasures. The important point is that half the kingdom’s potential workforce will become free to produce, with hugely positive consequences for the economy.

But that’s only part of the social revolution that the prince’s economic transformation entails. Crucially, the royal family will find it harder to fund the radical Wahhabi Islam that OPEC has let grow like mushrooms. It’s hard to imagine that this well-established, well-fed worldwide network of terrorist-supporting fanatics, in their opulent mosques and madrassas—and especially in the more Spartan ones in Pakistan—will go quietly; little wonder that the prince has surrounded himself with a repressive security apparatus reminiscent of the Shah of Iran’s. He appears to be a quiet but inexorable foe of Muslim extremism, and consequently it is uncertain that he will emerge from his heroic and visionary remaking of the Saudi order with his head intact on his shoulders.

This was exactly the hope I had when I first heard the news of the purges.

Yet I worry that the constituency for change could be a single man who will be the target of jihadis and Islamist sympathizers.

But it is better to have that one vulnerable man trying to change Saudi-defined Islam than not to have that one man and continue on as is.

And I hope enough of the elite see their personal survival and wealth as under threat by the jihadis more than by Salman's reforms.

And if Salman succeeds in Saudi Arabia, there is a lot of damage that past Saudi religious foreign policy has to undo:

Pakistan's army chief on Thursday criticized madrassas that have mushroomed nationwide for mostly teaching only Islamic theology, saying the country needs to "revisit" the religious school concept.

Modernizing madrassa education is a thorny issue in Pakistan, a deeply conservative Muslim nation where religious schools are often blamed for radicalization of youngsters but are the only education available to millions of poor children.

The damage runs deep. It takes a village to craze a child, after all.

Not that Pakistan's potential for fragmentation is Saudi Arabia's fault. But Saudi past influence has to be undone to give Pakistan a fighting chance.

The Iron Lung Brigade

Keep in mind that Britain has the best quality military in today's Europe.

Oh good Lord:

Nearly one in five British army troops cannot perform full combat duties because of illness, injuries or other reasons, news reports from England said. Of the 18,000 active-duty troops affected, only about 10,000 could only take part in certain combat operations.

With traditional (but waning) British understatement:

"I think these figures are very worrying," [Conservative MP, Andrew] Bowie told The Independent.

You think?

This is what Putin stands on a stool and yells "eek!" about when his people drone on about the fantasy NATO threat to Russia?

UPDATE: Related news in continued Royal Marine shrinkage:

[Early] retirement of the RN’s two LPDs, HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion , and a reduction in the strength of the RM by 1,000 was being considered in the review.

That's wonderful.

I Really Am Nuance Deficient

We are negotiating with Saudi Arabia to help them develop nuclear energy. But there is an interesting speed bump.

Resolving this issue stands in the way of a U.S.-Saudi nuclear agreement:

Washington usually requires a country to sign a pact that blocks it from making nuclear fuel which has potential bomb-making applications.

In previous talks Saudi Arabia has refused to sign up to any agreement that would deprive it of the possibility of one day enriching uranium itself.

So a close ally who we sell advanced weapons to and pledge to defend won't be allowed to enrich uranium.

But the Obama nuclear deal with nutball enemy Iran allows Iran to enrich uranium.

Got it.

This nuance stuff continues to elude my Neanderthal grasp.

UPDATE: To be clear, I'm not saying it is a good idea to help Saudi Arabia to go nuclear--although our involvement will allow for better controls than having Saudi Arabia turn to others less interested in limiting the scope of nuclear progress.

I'm saying that the Iran deal was horrible on this enrichment issue (as well as the entire deal being bad for America, I'll repeat).

When in the Course of Russian Events

Is Putin's strenuous efforts that have added bits of Georgia and Ukraine to his reborn Russian empire merely paved the way for Russia's empire to fragment a third time after 1989 and 1991?

Huh:

Russia’s regions are feeling their power again. In contrast to their submissive behavior over the previous decade, the 85 regional governments are displaying a newfound attitude of independence. Governors and parliamentarians are no longer hesitant to challenge Moscow on issues ranging from tax revenue distribution to unfavorable changes in electoral laws and top-down pressure on local powerbrokers. In some cases, they are asking for money—but what they really want is greater independence.

Russia is squeezing the regions to pay for rebuilding the empire in the west. Which was dumb even before Ukraine prompted at least some Western reaction.

Russia could fragment a third time, I think, if the virtual colonies believe taxation without representation is intolerable.

If that happens, is the Grand Duchy of Moscow far behind?

Monday, December 11, 2017

Yay! The Clue Bat Can Work!

Sanity prevails in the Navy!

The U.S. Navy is transforming its Zumwalt-class land-attack destroyers into surface-warfare ships whose main mission will be sinking other vessels at sea. In swapping the job of the three-ship class, the Navy is admitting that its original concept for the 600-foot, stealthy warships is no longer viable.

Good grief, the concept was never viable and it was an insult (or worse, folly) to pretend land attack was the ship's mission.

Of course, the ship is too stealthy to risk sailing with other ships and being detected because of them; yet too weakly armed and equipped to defend itself sailing alone if detected.

Well, the clue bat has more work to do, it seems.

Their Appeal Has Become More Selective

Despite the hand-wringing of critics, ordering the eventual move of the American embassy to Israel to Jerusalem hasn't caused the dread "Arab street" to rise up in rage. That cause is so 20th century these days.

Palestinians raged:

At least two people were killed in clashes with Israeli troops on Friday when thousands of Palestinians demonstrated against U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the Palestinian president said Washington could no longer be a peace broker.

But they've been raging long before this decision to move the American embassy. And good luck with finding another broker. Truly they are stupid.

And even Iran where the nutball regime keeps "Death to America!" and "Death to Israel" signs stockpiled couldn't manage more than a token rally in support of the Palestinian cause:

Hundreds of Iranians took part in rallies across the country on Friday to condemn U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision this week to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, state TV reported.

Hundreds. Across the entire country. I'm not feeling the rage.

Oh, and in Hezbollah- and Iran-dominated Lebanon, there were protests and violent clashes at the American embassy.

So only Persian/Shia Iran plus two of their clients worked up any rage.

There were some other organized protests that lacked the spontaneous rage we were promised. I have no problem with protests--even in non-free countries. But the feeling just isn't there. It feels like the protesters are mostly going through the motions.

The Arab world just doesn't give a damn enough to care about the Palestinians whose rulers seem more committed to resistance than to achieving an actual state if that means accepting the continued existence of Israel:

Most Arab countries won’t care much about Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which might seem counterintuitive. The official announcement, though, comes at an important and peculiar time, when Arab regimes—particularly Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt—find themselves more aligned than ever with Israel on regional priorities.

I'm not on board the rest of the article. But the reality of this starting point is clear.

The Arab world recognizes that Iran is the real threat to them, that the Palestinians seem more like Iranian clients, and that Israel could be a real ally to resist and defeat Iran.

There may yet be bloodshed on a bigger scale in the Arab world. But if so it will be because somebody planned a puppet show and not because of spontaneous pro-Palestinian rage.



It would be funny if the puppet masters weren't hard core killers.

UPDATE: Related thoughts on the lack of rage in the Arab street.

UPDATE: Even the Palestinians are too weary to work up a lot of rage. Yes, there were some protests:

But overall the response – especially in Jerusalem – has been muted, at least in terms of physical protest.

Sadly for the Palestinian people--and I do have some limited sympathy for them--the Arab world largely supported Palestinians as a tool to destroy Israel. And Palestinian rulers took that support (which made them wealthy) and rather than trying to make a deal that got a state, got the idea that with widespread Arab support they could destroy Israel and get it all.

Now the Palestinians are radicalized with a reputation for murder and faltering support in the wider Arab and Moslem worlds.

But the Palestinian leaders will be just fine.

The Fulcrum of Europe

What is going on with the West and Belarus?

Yauheni Preiherman, who heads the discussion platform “Minsk Dialogue,” believes Belarus-EU relations face three problems: a lingering deficit of mutual trust, institutional and personal interests set against the improvement of relations, and a lack of unity in the face of externally boosted geopolitical tensions (Minskdialogue.by, November 25). The gist of the third problem is that Lithuania and Ukraine are too eager to portray themselves as last redoubts in the West’s “civilizational struggle” with Russia, so they do what they can to compromise Minsk as a loyal ally of Moscow. Illustratively, Lithuania’s losing battle with the Belarusian nuclear power plant has received half-hearted support from Brussels in favor of Vilnius (Delfi, November 22), and Ukraine is now embroiled in a full-blown spy-scandal with Belarus (see EDM, November 28).

I'm unclear if the argument is that Lithuania and Ukraine are trying to prevent Belarus from being accepted in the West or if it is simply an expression of their deep interest in the fate of Belarus as a non-Russian puppet.

If the former, huh? How is it in the interest of either of those countries to basically push Belarus into Russia's grip? That's insane. They need a buffer state around Minsk and so does NATO.

If the latter, well yeah, Belarus is probably the most important territory in today's Europe because a Russian army could hit Lithuania directly from Belarus and a Russiam army could outflank Ukraine's eastern front and threaten Kiev easily, stretching Ukraine's military perhaps to the breaking point in a general war.

The sad fact is that Lukashenko can be a son of a bitch as long as he is our son of a bitch.

Land Power in the Pacific

I shouldn't have let my email build up. Otherwise I would have read a December 7 AUSA email announcement a bit sooner that my paper "Fighting for the Land--from the Sea" was published by the Institute of Land Warfare.

The paper uses the Guadalcanal campaign of 75 years ago as a historical example to argue for multi-domain synergy that uses the Army's core competencies outside of the Korean peninsula.

Perhaps we don't want to fight a land war in Asia, but potential enemies shouldn't be able to count on that self-limitation.

This is the announcement and the paper is here.

It was just over 20 years ago that they published another Land Warfare Paper that I wrote.

UPDATE: I would like to note that an article on how to use the Army outside of South Korea was accepted for publication and should be out next year. This Guadalcanal paper was intended to complement the policy with a historical example. In the oddities of writing, I wrote this paper after the policy article.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

What Happened to American Military Readiness?

Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and Islamist terrorists all threaten America yet we have a military strained to keep an eye on all of them let alone respond with sufficient force to the expanding threats. Sadly, you go to war with the military you have and not the military you wish you had built a decade ago, when America instituted our own "ten-year rule."

Are we having fun yet?

A quick scan of existing and emerging threats to the U.S. and its vital interests ought to end any lingering debate. The Pentagon must prepare to fight two simultaneous wars in two widely separated geo-political theaters.

Right now, I don't think we can do it.

Well, no. We can't. And if somehow we could the price we'd pay will be very high. We'd pay in blood for what we refused to pay in money before the shooting starts.

The Obama administration ended the goal of being able to meet even the theoretical ability to fight two medium level wars "nearly simultaneously" in favor of being able to fight a land war without serious naval opposition and a naval war elsewhere without serious ground force needs.

Yes, this current challenge was all predicable when the Obama administration instituted our own "ten year rule" in early 2009 that said we faced no threats justifying preparations for serious threats:

The administration has simply decided not to spend the money for future wars. That's the basic problem.

But we've made that decision to reduce defense spending and make sure this reduction doesn't affect the current war. Given this, the reason for my worry about the long-term spending is the whole "medium term" basis for all these decisions to slight our future (medium term) defenses. We assume no enemies will match us in the medium term. This is undoubtedly correct. But this also sounds too much like we're instituting the British Ten Year Rule from 1919.

It was a perfectly reasonable rule when adopted by the British government in 1919, which stated the British would not face a war in the next ten years. The rule was formally abolished 13 years later, in 1932. But defense spending did not rebound from its post-1919 collapse, and when war broke out in 1939, the British only barely proved they'd done enough to withstand the German offensive in the opening of the war.

Certainly, we won't face such a dramatic collapse in defense spending that the British military endured in the 1920s. My worry is whether we will do any better than the British did in recognizing when our version of the ten-year rule no longer holds true. When our national debt is scheduled to skyrocket even under optimistic administration projections, will we actually ramp up our defense spending once the medium term is over in order to maintain our military superiority? Or will we just continue to act as if the medium term never ends? That's what the British did. But they had the Arsenal of Democracy to back them up when they found themselves at war without the military they needed. We don't have such a back-up source of arms.

We've just instituted the Medium Term Rule on our defense spending. The problems that will flow from this plan won't show themselves in the near term. We can coast on our past progress in building the best military in the world. But have no doubt that our military strength will erode, and this means we are accepting risks in case we have to fight a conventional war in the medium term despite our assumption that we can still win such a war.

We won't cancel the Medium Term Rule until it's too late to do any good.

Excuse the lengthy quote from my own post. But warnings have not been heeded. I'm hoping it isn't too late to fix this.

One of my early published works (from 1997) focused on the insanity of the "nearly simultaneous" caveat for fighting land wars, I'll note.

But the situation got worse. And the threats have expanded. So there you go.

As an aside, I read one article that derided Trump for his defense promises because so far our forces aren't getting bigger. This criticism is way premature.

One, he hasn't had a budget yet.

And two, the first step is not to expand a force that is short on full manning, spare parts, training, and ammunition.

After fixing those unseen problems, then you can expand the force structure. Which also takes time, because Obama didn't build that military.

And so right now we have the military we wished to have back in 2009.

We Have the Credibility to Make This Threat

The Secretary of State told the Russians that sanctions will remain until they withdraw from Russian-occupied Ukraine.

Good:

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held his tough line on Russia during a visit to Europe on Thursday, saying in front of his Russian counterpart that Washington would keep sanctions in place until Russian forces withdraw from Ukraine.

Unfortunately, Ukraine is defined only as Russian-occupied Donbas and not Russian-occupied Crimea.

But given the long Cold War when we opposed and resisted the Soviet Union until they withdrew from Eastern Europe, our pledge has weight behind it.

As for Crimea? Well, when NATO won the Cold War, not only did the USSR lose Eastern Europe, they lost large chunks of the USSR itself.

So when Russia finally does retreat from the Donbas, they will probably have endured so much loss economically that they'll lose Crimea and other parts of Russia, too.

I chuckle to myself when people claim America lacks staying power and can't think or act long term.

Careless News Network

This is CNN, sadly enough.


No matter how many times CNN insists this is a banana, it is an apple.

UPDATE: Yes indeed, America's most busted news source.

UPDATE: It's the Charge of the Light Brigade with the media's bizarre focus on resisting the darkness they think Trump represents.

But the media is slaughtering itself in their blind frontal assaults.

It is magnificent, but it is not journalism.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

The Obama administration turned away from being "flexible" for "reset" Russia when Putin turned against Hillary Clinton? No. That pivot happened when Hillary lost the election. The Claudia Rossett interview at the first link is good.

America pulled out of a group negotiating a "voluntary" migration pact. If the people for the migration pact can't even agree among themselves whether the trend is a "positive story" or "hugely destabilizing" why would America want to voluntarily participate when cooperation will surely mean accepting some of those people--on top of what we already do--on the move? People seem confused by thinking that we have to accept as many people as want to come here.

A rally to help ensure the Alabama election of Roy Moore to the United States Senate was held in Detroit, Michigan earlier in the week.

When racist rally members in Charlottesville were confronted by communist/anarchist antifa thugs, the local police actively decided to let them fight, leading to the death of a young woman minding her own business at the protest. Not that this is a defense of the man accused of driving the car into the crowd and killing the woman. But the police should have been trying to prevent violence rather than planning to exploit violence.

She is a meat head, ironically enough. From the Journal of Feminist Geography, which refuses to study Florida.

The Saudis might have missed a missile launched in November from Yemen by Iran-backed forces. Which isn't a shock. No weapon is perfect (and some very far from it) and so a Patriot missing is hardly impossible. And let's not forget that the Yemen faction was aiming at a civilian target. But that's not a story, apparently.

In an effort to build on the buzz of Bitcoin, Maduro plans a crypto-currency to be called the Shitcoin Petro backed by Venezuela's natural resources. It won't work and should be backed by Maduro's good looks and personal charm for all this will achieve. Although it might have promise in the complementary digital crypto-food that his people will be able to buy with the new money. Mmmm, virtual rabbit.

Flynn copped a plea for lying to the FBI notwithstanding no underlying crime. Give the man a break, lying to the FBI is apparently a very new law.

I have little respect for Foreign Policy magazine. Regularly getting their email links doesn't help. This does not improve my view of their judgment. They aren't good enough to be in the echelon above reality. They're in the echelon in defiance of reality.

Russia says they are ready to exert their influence on North Korea over the nuclear issue. Given Russia's "help" to preserve Syria's chemical arsenal with a chemical weapons deal and given their "help" to enable Iran's drive to get nuclear weapons with the farcical nuclear deal, I'm thinking we should keep Russia out of this nuclear crisis to prevent more "help."

Egypt may allow Russian planes use Egyptian air space and air bases. Not that this is a one-way proposed deal! If Egypt ever wants to bomb Finland, Russia is granting Egypt the right to use Russian air space and air bases. We have a way to go in restoring our reputation in the Middle East if long-time ally Egypt is willing to work with Russia just in case. Unless Egypt is just negotiating with America by using the Russians to get a better deal.

Yemen's Iran-backed rebels have fractured and the Saudi coalition may have gained a vital advantage to press forward.  I never bought the notion that the Saudis were losing this war. Yes, it was stalemated because Saudi Arabia was unable to get enough locals on the ground for their air power to support. This may change that ground problem. I'm sure eventually talks will rearrange the name plates around the big table in the Yemen capital and this clusterfuck of a state, as this story about Saleh's history shows, will resume its usual programming of poverty, corruption, and the production of Islamists.

Will Democrats stop turning the dial to 11? This time people will die with festering boils because of the Republican tax cut bill. In the past when taxes went up the deficit went up; and when taxes went down, the deficit went up. While I'd like the deficit reduced, that isn't going to happen in the current political environment. So I'd rather have the deficit go up with the taxes lower, at this point.

Bike lanes are killing the planet. Who knew reserving disproportionate road space for a little-used vehicle would be environmentally counter-productive? Tip to Instapundit.

How is it possible that Britain is having more problems leaving the European Union than Eastern Europe had in escaping Soviet control in 1989??!!

The Fulani tribe are a problem in Nigeria as well as other places in the region. That's quite the rap sheet they have there. How Nigeria survives as a state with their problems is kind of amazing.

The FBI has pretty much wrecked the trust they built up by their wildly different treatment of Hillary Clinton and Trump. I realize most agents are honorable and this problem is based on the politics of relatively few. All the more reason the many should be the most outraged. The reaction to Trump is proving far more destructive to our country than Trump could ever be. Solid trusted institutions can check excesses. But if the institutions are corrupted in their partisan zeal, the ability to check anything truly dangerous in the future is crippled. This trend pre-dates the Trump-Clinton race, of course, as the whole IRS politicization makes clear. A lot of federal employees need to lose their jobs and face the criminal justice system as a warning to the rest that this is unacceptable. I have never been big into the "deep state" view (as opposed to bureaucratic interests and inertia) but the opposition is tipping into territory that makes that view more plausible to argue, I think. Our pride used to be peaceful transfer of power. Do we still have that fully?

As I've long said, the federal government has grown too big a prize because of its increasing power over so many areas of our lives to be healthy for our country. It is clearly the center of gravity for our entire nation. It obviously draws too much political attention. In regard to the chart in the article above showing the extreme tilt in favor of Democrats as demonstrated by federal employees by department, is it really that bad? Is this the top level of civil servants only? That's bad enough but wouldn't reflect the bulk of people in the organizations. Although I don't know why civil servants are allowed to make political donations or have political opinions in public. Or are the donations from the top levels that are appointed and so in 2016 obviously Obama appointed?  I just don't know what the significance of this is. But for me, given I was diligently nonpartisan in my career in the state legislative branch, the possibility of bias as extreme as that chart shows is extremely disturbing. The civil service system may have failed completely and been corrupted by the political competition that has grown so extreme to control the federal government.

So you want to know why I have long (for decades) mistrusted our press corps? As the media constantly looks for Republican scandals--real or imagined--it has downplayed Democratic scandals (opting instead to focus on Republican "overreach" in response). And worse, the media ignored the sexual abuse scandal that they all knew about in their own industry. They all knew. And they said--and published--nothing. In what way have they earned my trust? Yes, I rely on them. And they often do good work. And practically speaking, they're the only game in town for news. But treat them as suspect until proven otherwise is always a safe approach.

Nancy Pelosi promotes ethnic cleansing. She really is a deplorable character.

Good Lord. Moore and Franken look better by contrast every day. They keep saying "icon." I don't think that word means what they think it means.

I see the Remain camp has gained some new recruits to oppose Brexit. I hope May doesn't really believe Trump's tweets are the biggest British problem.

When I heard of Libyan slave markets, it didn't even occur to me to blame President Obama. Yes, I think the Libya War was a mistake. I figured that if the issue was so important to Europe, they could have dealt with it. And if Europe couldn't handle rebellion-wracked Libya, they should be ashamed. France didn't help in Iraq, after all, so have a ball. But we took part. So I wanted America to win. You certainly couldn't claim the war to overthrow a dictator was immoral. And I thought Europe should take the lead for post-war work. Europe didn't. And here we are. But the fact is that the slave trade is the fault of slave sellers and slave buyers--not Obama or America or Europe or the West. The sad fact is that slavery was not invented by America and continues to exist in parts of the sainted Third World.

The persecution of Lindsay Shepherd demonstrates how oppression is perfectly compatible with a reputation for politeness. Here is her recording of her inquisition. Listen to those whiny proto-Red Guards grind her beneath their Birkenstocks. If they could send her into the countryside to toil her way to proper thinking, they would. (Nobody expects the Canadian Inquisition. But you should. Fascism is always descending on America; but it always seems to land elsewhere.) You wonder where the Gestapo  or the Soviets got their camp guards? From people like these petty tyrants.

Wealthy liberals can use their wealth to live a carbon-spewing lifestyle and then buy "carbon credits" with their wealth so they can feel ecologically and morally superior to a young working man driving to work in an old car that lost its emission control systems long ago. So Lena Dunham's rage against Republicans is kind of like a feminist carbon credit to "make up" for (in her mind?)  her unwillingness to go public with what she knew about the abuse by liberal Weinstein of women in her own industry.

A preview of the newest American anti-ship missile, the LRASM.

Europeans basically despise Israel and--if they believed in God--granted sainthood to whatever terrorist is speaking for the Palestinians, yet still jihadis slaughter them in their cities. So don't expect ritual denunciations of Trump's Jerusalem (sort-of) decision to shield Europe from religious violence.

Perhaps I'm unclear about crypto-currency, but isn't hacking them and stealing them supposed to be impossible, which is the appeal of the concept?

If Iran won the first round over Lebanon in the Hariri crisis, the Saudi-Israel coalition still has a trump card to play to cripple Hezbollah and reduce Iran's influence in Lebanon. And with the U.S. secretary of state meeting with Hariri to encourage him to stand up to Iran, are we sounding him out on his abilities if the balance of forces inside Lebanon suddenly tilts against Hezbollah? And is America taking precautions to make sure Hezbollah survivors from Lebanon don't make it to the Western Hemisphere to seek revenge for Iran?

The first time I taught a class my mouth got so dry that I could barely pronounce words. I'm surprised it happened to Trump but when I watched his Jerusalem announcement I assumed that the high stakes of this move caused unusual nervousness and a resulting dry mouth. But question Hillary's health last year?

Senator Franken announced his intention to resign from the U.S. Senate over sexual harassment-related conduct.  The day after the American embassy opens in Jerusalem? Or will that plan be put off if Moore wins? The apology was more "I'm sorry this horrible thing happened to me," but who's perfect? Regarding Moore, I suspect if he is elected he will be ejected for some reason or another to let Alabama have a redo with an actual Republican rather than electing a Democrat by punishing Moore in the special election. Moore is a piece of work without his girl fixation. Don't we have enough Democrats in Congress with views like that without adding Republicans to the ranks?

I generally watch Fox with a large component of CNN thrown in. But MSNBC is never on my TV given that they are so unclear on the concept that their idea of an expert on terrorism is a terror apologist and outright liar. WTF, people. Has MSNBC decided to compete with al Jazeera for market share?

It's kind of funny to see China experiencing the joy of Pakistan as a frenemy: "China on Friday warned its nationals in Pakistan of plans for a series of imminent 'terrorist attacks' on Chinese targets there, an unusual alert as it pours funds into infrastructure projects into a country plagued by militancy." It's so odd. How can any Moslems be mad at China when China didn't invade Iraq or recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital! I thought those were the approved reasons for being a terrorist! Given this Islamist threat, the Chinese are going to be aghast when they find out that terrorists will use the road link China is building between Pakistan to the sea at one end and China's restive Xinjiang province at the other. Also, Pakistan is "plagued by militancy"? That's like saying I'm plagued by beer on game night. Just who did that to me and why can't I stop them?

It's starting to seem like the intensive "obstruction of justice" investigation of Trump's team over an issue of "collusion" that isn't even a crime and doesn't seem to have happened is just an exercise of "the best defense is a good offense." Doesn't it? Tips to Instapundit.

"The Resistance" is just silly in its worry about Trump trying to impose fascism on America. It's not happening. But when Trump leaves office and our checks and balances are intact, I have no doubt that the Left will proudly boast that their tactic of turning everything to 11 to stop fascism worked great!

I still have no idea if the Cuba "sonic attack" issue is even real or who did it. It should go without saying that communist Cuba can't be trusted to provide answers.

You have to admit, if the email actually had been sent 10 days earlier, it might actually have been a story! Not even close to being an apple, CNN. The orange blinded you.

I'm not sure how the candidate who was ahead in the pre-election polls actually winning indicates voter fraud in Honduras. Although running for reelection does seem illegal. But abroad I'm not ashamed if a pro-American candidate wins in a shady manner when foes of America have been winning in a shady manner in the region. I'm not proud of this "hypocrisy." But I'm not happy with the anti-American winners, and those types seem to end up way worse in how they treat their own people.

Go Army! Beat Navy! Two in a row. Never forget that those players are officers going to war. 

Dunkirk II

It looks like an actual Brexit deal is in reach.

Good:

Britain and the European Union struck a divorce deal on Friday that paves the way for arduous talks on future trade ties, easing immediate pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May and boosting hopes of an orderly Brexit.

More from the BBC.

I figured the European Union would cut a deal. They've proven willing to let Iran go nuclear if Iran will sign trade deals with Europe before the nukes fly so why should the EU be bad ass conquerors if Britain wants to leave?

What I didn't know--and still don't know--is whether Britain can get out before British Remainers sabotage the process and reverse the Brexit vote by hook or crook.

And don't be fooled by the soft fantasies being peddled of a safe play pen built on ever expanding cheese regulations.

The EU royalty may say they want a United States of Europe by 2025, but what they really want is a Union of Servile Socialist Republics.

Brexit is a warning to grip the provinces tighter in "ever closer union" while they can to preempt that sort of dangerous thinking. I mean, what might happen if more Europeans remember they live in states and not provinces?!

Does Britain really want to be a mere province of the EU imperial state? Get out whether orderly or not! Just escape and rebuild from the mistake of joining a free trade pact that morphed into an oppressive continental empire so slowly that the British barely noticed in time.

UPDATE: How cute! German conservatives think the EU cares what they think!

Senior members of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives on Saturday rejected the vision for a "United States of Europe" put forward by the Social Democrats (SPD), with whom they are hoping to form a governing coalition.

Yes, "ever closer union" is very interested in Germany.

If So, the Sooner the Better

I don't think the North Koreans thought through their most recent nuclear rage:

North Korea says a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula has become a matter of when, not if, as it continued to lash out at a massive joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea involving hundreds of advanced warplanes.

That undermines the claim of many in the West and North Korea that it needs nuclear weapons to deter an invasion of that jewel of northeast Asia.

Also, if a nuclear war is inevitable, shouldn't America thoroughly nuke North Korea right now?

I mean, if the North Koreans are correct, it would be worse for America and our allies to delay a nuclear war and allow North Korea to build up their arsenal. Right? We should strike first based on North Korea's stated belief.

That is the logic of the situation.

And there is added incentive to hit North Korea first with a non-nuclear strike campaign.

The stealthy F-35 could in theory loiter unseen over North Korea to shoot down North Korean missiles when they launch. Here's more not behind a pay wall. (Tips to Instapundit.)

In practice this would have to be as part of a strike campaign to go after missiles our strikes miss because such patrols can't work indefinitely.

I have mentioned this capability before--going back years pre-F-35 if you follow links. So I don't know why "eyes rolled" when this possibility was recently raised by Representative Hunter because without any special briefings I read about this possibility many years ago late in the Bush 43 administration (or maybe very early Obama administration).

And if North Korea is so sure there will be a nuclear war next door to China, was the message of recent Chinese aerial exercises one that defends North Korea or threatens North Korea?

Because while I've stopped trying to find signs that North Korea's regime might collapse from economic problems, the greater problems and regime work-arounds that undermine control seem to indicate a regime that could be pushed over from the outside by China.

UPDATE: North Korea reacts with their usual flair for the dramatic:

North Korea said Friday that President Donald Trump has effectively declared war on supreme leader Kim Jong Un’s government by gathering the U.S.’s Pacific allies to surround the Korean Peninsula and restrict trade.

Not that the North Koreans don't have a point, as I've noted before:

[Sanctions] are unlikely to achieve our objectives peacefully for the simple reason that any sanctions that hurt a target nation enough to compel them to change their priority policies more to our liking will be sanctions tough enough to seem like an act of war to the target nation's leadership. So sanctions tough enough to work will likely just compel the target nation to escalate to military action as their response.

North Korea could strike first, firmly believing they are under attack. And they'd have a point. The failure of sanctions isn't the only way to get a war.

UPDATE: Is China setting up refugee camps to cope with North Koreans streaming north?

If we are planning to hit North Korea, we'd be talking to China a lot to warn them so they don't wake up in the middle of the night to reports of explosions and American ships and planes all over the place and wonder who America is shooting at.

And if we want China to deal with North Korea, we'd want China to absolutely believe we are coming and coming big.