Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Focus on the Right Threat

It annoys me when people ask whether Russia is going to pull another Crimea in one of the Baltic states. That had such unique circumstances that speaking of it as a model is just nonsense.

This article doesn't focus on that question but it does ask whether Russia can repeat a Crimea in the Baltic states. To their credit the authors say "no," but why is that even up for a debate?

In Crimea, Russia had a major base. Russia could reinforce the base pre-H Hour without a problem.

Ukraine was in chaos with the overthrow of the government and no clear authority in place.

The Ukrainian military was unsure of who to obey even if the government still forming was capable of issuing orders.

Nearly all of the Ukrainian military in Crimea was composed of support troops (a single marine battalion was the only combat unit).

The Ukrainian military was a shambles after years of deliberate near-sabotage by the pro-Russian government that didn't want an effective military.

And Ukraine was not a member of NATO.

In what way can Russia replicate the near-bloodless take-over of Crimea in one of the Baltic states given that each of those states lack any Russian military presence, has a legitimate government in place, has a military that recognizes the chain of command, has a functioning military, and is a member of NATO?

I don't worry about Russia pulling another Crimea in Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania.

What I worry about is Russia pulling a Kargil in Narva, Estonia.




Blasphemy!!!! Did You Hear Him?

So Senator Feinstein's position is that President Trump's UN speech yesterday made things worse with North Korea?

“Trump’s bombastic threat to destroy North Korea and his refusal to present any positive pathways forward on the many global challenges we face are severe disappointments. He aims to unify the world through tactics of intimidation, but in reality he only further isolates the United States."

Fifty years of softer words and not actually attacking them led to this nuclear threshold. Is her point really that calling Kim Jong-un "rocket man" is going to make things worse?

Is America really going to be isolated because Trump colorfully pointed out that Kim Jong-un is a dangerous nuclear armed thug who starves his people and has repeatedly attacked and threatened a member in good standing--South Korea--of the United Nations?

Seriously? How?



Are there any serious people here today? Democrats are delighted to call Trump a new "Hitler" but are appalled to have Kim Jong-un called "rocket man." Yeah, that makes total sense.

The speech was good. And a welcome reversal of our bowing submission toward the United Nations' dysfunctional anti-democratic culture (North Korea's vote in the General Assembly counts as much as America's or India's vote, diluting democracy with the horrors of gulags and oppression).

The UN has value in even its current form. But that doesn't mean we should become more like it rather than use it when we can and ignore it when we must.

UPDATE: The South Koreans don't seem too upset:

"We view the speech as portraying a firm and specific stance on the key issues regarding keeping peace and safety that the international community and the United Nations are faced with," the office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a statement on Wednesday.

"It clearly showed how seriously the United States government views North Korea's nuclear program as the president spent an unusual amount of time discussing the issue," the presidential Blue House's statement said.

Fancy that. The world was unified in ignoring North Korea's drive for nuclear weapons with little but wrist-slapping consequences. South Korea probably felt isolated in that environment.

Now America is elevating the threat to South Korea on the world stage. The threat is serious.

And This is Their Secondary Skill Set

With a strong earthquake in Mexico City and a hurricane slamming into Puerto Rico, I imagine we could see American Army and Air Force personnel offered to Mexico for search and rescue and emergency response; as well as Navy/Marine and Air Force personnel sent to Puerto Rico (and other islands in the region) to help.

The primary purpose of the military is to fight and win our wars, of course. But the capacity to move people and equipment into areas without functioning infrastructure that can function with their organic assets to help people recover from natural disasters is a byproduct of having a well trained and well equipped military.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fear the Walking Dead

Hillary Clinton won't go away. And her presence is a continual reminder that I should be grateful to Trump for defeating her.



She did nothing wrong. That's the conclusion of her deep introspection since the election:

She did too speak directly to the damaged blue-collar class. She did too appeal to the white voters who did not support her. It's not her fault that they didn't believe her. It's not her fault that, if they even heard her, they suspected her heart wasn't in the message. She had her well-disciplined talking points like ducks in a row. If the ducks proved dead—that's not her fault. ...

A sad endlessness suffuses the list of all those Clinton blames for her loss. The nation just wasn't ready for her. Fake news undid her. The New York Times was mean to her. James Comey and the FBI were out to get her. So were Vladimir Putin and Julian Assange. Misogyny and racism. Racism and misogyny. Misogyny again, just in case we missed it the first dozen times she mentions it. The FBI again, too.

Hillary's book is just an exercise in throwing more people under the bus--but this time with an index. Clearly we are unworthy of her greatness. Sad.

But for me the fact that she persists is great. I've made no secret that I don't really like Trump. I never have. I still don't.

But I was delighted that the corrupt Clinton lost the election despite all the predictions of her inevitability. I was resigned to that Hell, and then we were delivered from it. Wow.

I think Trump has a better chance than Clinton of doing good things on policy simply because of his appointments, but I don't forget that at heart Trump personally is basically a liberal Democrat.

Why Republicans in Congress aren't rushing to send substantive bills to the president's desk that he will sign to "win" is beyond me. Trump has no philosophical problem with working with Congressional Democrats. And if Democrats would get off their Putin/Nazi/Klan obsession they'd have exploited this odd fact that the Republicans nominated a Democrat-at-heart that the nation then elected.

Anyway, by reminding me constantly that the real world alternative to a Trump victory was a Clinton presidency, Hillary Clinton makes it easier to be patient with Trump. I hope Congressional Republicans can do something to avoid a backlash that denies Republicans control of Congress in 2018.

Somebody in the Democratic Party needs to figuratively figure out how to kill this zombie candidate who continues to stagger across the land, eating brains.

Seriously, Democrats, you're still with her? Because that pushes me to refrain from turning against Trump.

Auxiliary Cruisers Can Provide Numbers for the Fleet

The Navy's most ambitious objectives to expand the fleet are unlikely to happen absent a really obvious threat. There is a short-term alternative--the auxiliary cruiser.

This seems about right, even if the Navy focuses exclusively on low-end ships in a high-low strategy to get hulls in the water:

The latest attempt to bridge the gap between the 350-ship vision and political and industrial realities is a hybrid plan that mates accelerated shipbuilding with service-life extensions of existing hulls. This plan, which calls for building 27 additional ships over the next decade while upgrading existing ships to extend their service life five to 10 years, could bring the fleet up to about 350 by 2030. While perhaps the most realistic plan, Congress is still no likelier to appropriate the extra $150 billion it requires, and inexperienced shipyard workers are still likely to cause delays.

We could get additional numbers and a surge capacity by building mission packages of anti-ship, ant-submarine, and anti-aircraft, and land power projection capabilities (and others) using standard shipping containers as the building blocks to make modularized auxiliary cruisers from container ships.

(As an aside, I'd love to see a UAV carrier version.)

I wrote about the value such a ship could provide the Army by making power projection platforms.

Given the problems of expanding the fleet, will the Navy ever have enough hulls to routinely spare battle force ships for AFRICOM or SOUTHCOM?

In peacetime, these modularized auxiliary cruisers could be used both for quieter theaters to maintain presence while saving warships for higher threat areas; and in high threat areas to keep warships safer from a surprise attack that opens a war against America.

In war, we could rapidly expand the fleet with modularized auxiliary cruisers plugged into the Navy network until ship building can react to the threat.

Indeed, if we build enough of these mission packages, the cost will decline and we might be able to afford to stockpile them to make the ex-LCS more lethal during war.

I, Jean-Claudius

That gray bureaucrat with the nice parking spot and corner office will keep trying to place the imperial crown on his own head until he gets away with it:

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is a man of compromise, often to the detriment of the vision he espouses. But in his State of the European Union speech on Wednesday, he delivered an uncompromising call for a tighter, federalist EU which goes against the intentions of the bloc's two most powerful national leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. They may resent being dared in such a way.

Luckily, the man has no army to command and is unlikely to get one any time soon.

The European Union, building a multi-ethnic autocratic imperial state, one onerous cheese regulation at a time.

But you already know my opinion of the European Union, right?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Rocket Man



Forgive me. I couldn't resist, given the president's tweet.

Xi blocked my oil last night--we'll fight
Zero hour six AM
And we'll have a Korean War with nukes by then
I miss my lunch so much I miss Rodman
It's lonely in Pyongyang
With such a missile fright

And I think it's gonna be a long long war
'Til B-2 JDAMs* hit me where I hide
I'm not the man they think is in their sights
Oh no no no I'm a rocket man
Rocket man burning down the South with fire storms

And I think it's gonna be a long long war
'Til B-2 JDAMs hit me where I hide
I'm not the man they think is in their sights
Oh no no no I'm a rocket man
Rocket man burning down the South with fire storms

DMZ ain't a place to raise the Un
In fact it's cold as hell
And there's no one there to praise him if you run
And all this science I don't understand
It's just my job five days a week
A rocket man, a rocket man

And I think it's gonna be a long long war
'Til B-2 JDAMs hit me where I hide
I'm not the man they think is in their sights
Oh no no no I'm a rocket man
Rocket man burning down the South with fire storms

And I think it's gonna be a long long war
'Til B-2 JDAMs hit me where I hide
I'm not the man they think is in their sights
Oh no no no I'm a rocket man
Rocket man burning down the South with fire storms

And I think it's gonna be a long long war
And I think it's gonna be a long long war
And I think it's gonna be a long long war
And I think it's gonna be a long long war
And I think it's gonna be a long long war
And I think it's gonna be a long long war
And I think it's gonna be a long long war
And I think it's gonna be a long long war

With thanks for the lyrics: Elton John - Rocket Man Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Oh who am I kidding? I'm not sorry at all. May the Pillsbury Nuke Boy rot in Hell.

*pronounced "Jay-damns".

The Question is Who Initiates the War

The Obama administration enriched Iran with the nuclear deal, and Iran is letting the money flow to Hezbollah. Will the Trump administration green light an Israeli military campaign to take down Hezbollah before that money kills more Israelis?

That's nice (quoting the Jerusalem Post, and tip to Instapundit):

Two years after the nuclear deal was signed by Iran and world powers, the Islamic Republic is reported to have boosted its financial support to Hezbollah to $800 million a year, a dramatic increase from the $200m. it was said to be giving its proxy when sanctions were in place.

My view has been that Israel could inflict maximum damage to Hezbollah by hitting them at the moment Hezbollah decides to draw down their expeditionary force in Syria fighting for Assad. Why interrupt Sunnis killing Hezbollah fighters (2,000 KIA so far)?

And my view has been that Israel has learned the lesson of screwing the pooch in 2006 and will launch a ground drive (supported by air and naval forces, of course) that goes all the way to the Bekaa Valley to truly tear up Hezbollah infrastructure and kill their fighters and rear echelon types in large numbers.

Is Israel geared up to launch such a campaign?

No Less Misleading for Being True

Yes, Russia is weaker than NATO. But that is kind of besides the point when looking at specific threat scenarios.

This drives me nuts:

Therefore, the upcoming Zapad-17 exercise matters not so much in terms of demonstrating additional Russian military capabilities, which—regardless of Moscow’s claims to the contrary—are orders of magnitude less than the combined military resources of the United Stated and NATO.

Yes, NATO is much stronger than Russia. I've never questioned that.

But at the point of contact along NATO's eastern frontier, Russia has the advantage and would have the advantage for a long time.

The bulk of NATO's superior power is in North America. And even European NATO power is both stretched across Europe and not aggregated into larger formations.

It will take time to move that superior force to the eastern front (and about that)--and much of that power will not leave their home countries--and when it arrives it will be less effective than the Russian formations because of being multinational rather than one-country formations as Russia's army is.

And Russia has nukes.

So yes, NATO is stronger on paper. On the battlefield, Russia will start with the advantage and maintain it for some time.

Can NATO mobilize to defeat Russia when Russia is sitting on their conquests and threatening nuclear war if NATO comes at them?

Blowback

Iran thought they had a great deal by arming Houthis to distract the Arabs in Yemen. But the Iranians have found to their discomfort that the Arab pilots are getting good experience and are proving to be effective:

What scared the Iranians was the skill levels of the Arab aircrew. These pilots had little or no combat experience but since mid-2014 many of them had been flying combat missions against ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) in Iraq and Syria and the air campaign in Yemen demonstrated these pilots, and their ground support facilities, could handle a “surge” (several sorties a day for weeks) and then thousands of more sorties over more than a year of operations.

Iran doesn't have much of an air force and doesn't have enough air defenses to really matter.

Oops.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

From the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence file: Millennial women find that the career track isn't as joyous as they expected. What? Being the one who has to get up and go to work each and every day no matter what you might really want to do because other people rely on you to earn a paycheck is stressful? Get. Out! Tip to Instapundit.

If "Dreamers," people brought into America illegally while they were children, are so much more law-abiding than Americans, why are so many crimes ignored when considering when they are law-abiding? As I say, always check the definitions section. And this is apart from actions by sympathetic sanctuary jurisdictions that refuse to prosecute illegal aliens for crimes that would run afoul of the lax standards. I've noted the latter issue before. Also, beware the dreamwashing of the population through the filter of the chosen few put forward as representative. With better definitions to kick out criminals, actual immigration security (including visa controls and not just border defenses), and no "chain migration," I have no problem with letting these illegal immigrants become legal residents. But the level of pro-dreamer propaganda disturbs me.

Germany isn't close to meeting their greenhouse gas emission reduction goal in 2020. Just loudly caring isn't enough, I guess. And let me remind you that the base year of the reduction was established as 1990. Why 1990? Because that year includes lots of East German Soviet-era heavy industries that massively polluted but which could not survive as part of a western state after reunification of West and East Germany. So the ambitious goals rested on the elimination of factories that would not have survived competition regardless of emission goals. Tip to Instapundit.

Vanguard of the race, vanguard of the proletariat. What's the difference, really? Again, tip to Instapundit.

It will be interesting to see if a series of serious hurricanes hitting Texas, Florida, and the WDC-NYC region (predicted) in a relatively short span will allow the hysteria witch-hunt atmosphere in America to break based on having people working together in adversity, belying the Twitter-based image of deep divisions and hatred; or whether we will return to category 11 politics once the crises pass. Really, it's okay to simply dislike President Trump as a politician rather than make him the embodiment of all you hate. Really, it's fine. And it doesn't make you an enabler of evil that you have imagined sanity to be.

A Syria-centric survey by Strategypage, including a comment that Turkey is trending toward leaving NATO. Which seems right. With Russia pushed back from bordering Turkey, Turkey's reason to put up with NATO hectoring about human rights and democracy is greatly reduced. Turkey wouldn't qualify to join NATO given its authoritarian tilt. And is the multi-war in Syria basically over with an Assad victory imminent? Assad is winning. No doubt. But his forces and supporters are fragile after the heavy losses to get this far. If the rebels could get their act together and get foreign support, this could end differently, I think.

Apparently the Pope can now claim infallibility on issues of faith, morals, and climate science. I really don't like this pope much. And I'm so old I remember when the Left derided the opinions of religion on science matters.

Huh. Cyberwar isn't ruled out yet for the recent Navy collisions near China. While no evidence of an attack has been found, it is significant that an inquiry is ongoing because it means that it is possible to hack our ships. If there was not path into the systems, there would be no reason to investigate. I don't worry that my couch might be hacked. Why is it possible to get into the system online, anyway? Are the peacetime benefits really important enough to risk such a wartime vulnerability? Or does the focus on cyberwar indicate the merchant ship was hacked? All just speculation at this point, of course. The simplest explanation remains that training standards were inadequate and that operational tempo is too high.

And yet America destroyed al Qaeda's Afghanistan sanctuary, continues to kill the scum wherever we find them, and killed and dumped the dead carcass of their swine leader into the sea like it was a bag of garbage.

The Dutch, solid allies that they are, have renewed their commitment to fight jihadis in Mali, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. So thanks for standing on the line with us. Watch your Caribbean possessions in case the idiot Maduro wants a war to rally his people around his autocratic rule.

Unless Jordan hopes to establish a friendly militia in southern Syria that keeps Assad and the Iranians out as a buffer zone, I'm not sure what the point is of truces ("deescalation zones") that simply allow Assad to transfer force to other fronts to defeat Assad's enemies. And another one may go into effect. Does this effectively partition Syria (with an Assad core plus 4 Russian-brokered rebel regions in the west, plus a US backed Syrian Kurdish region in the northeast and a US-backed Sunni Arab region in the east) or make it easier for Assad to isolate and attack rebel sanctuaries?

Next you'll be telling my my ink cartridge isn't really empty when the computer tells me it is.

A tour of Colombia and Venezuela.

You could see this joke coming a mile away, but I still nearly spewed a beverage across my screen laughing. Although I protest that Trump supporters accused her of breaking the law; and Bernie's supporters believed she committed heresy. Tip to Instapundit.

In a way, Leftists who say "property is theft" are right--private property steals power from would-be tyrants. Tip to Instapundit.

Turkey looks like it will buy Russian S-400 air defense missiles. The missiles in theory are vulnerable to NATO learning about them, but with Turkey sliding away from NATO the chance of NATO learning something new pales in comparison to what the Russians can learn about NATO air defense systems and procedures. If the Russians are smart they will sell Turkey a "monkey version" to reduce the chance of NATO learning anything of use. How long before Turkey formally leaves NATO, inspired by dreams of rebuilding the Ottoman Empire (in influence if not in territory) and becoming a great power in Europe, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Middle East? Which doesn't mean we treat Turkey like a foe. But it does mean we don't treat them as an ally.

Britain needs to do whatever it takes to get out of the European Union while it can. If that means granting their prime minister the power to change laws as needed to be compliant with EU regulations for the purpose of negotiating terms of exit, so be it. Parliament can always change those later once Britain is safely out of the EU. Will Britain really refuse to escape the EU on the mistaken notion that for the moment granting a British government the powers that the alien EU has over Britain right now and forever if Brexit fails is really the same? Remember, the EU bureaucrats want to preserve their cushy lifestyles built on phoney baloney jobs and are vulnerable with the loss of British money to prop up the proto-empire's apparatchiki.

Australia intends to upgrade their army with new equipment. While Australian defense of the homeland relies on air power and submarines; fighting somewhere north of Australia at the side of American Marines now deployed to Australia requires a better army. And homeland defense requires a mobile army to defeat anybody that makes it past the shield of the navy and air force to land on the continent, of course.

Persistence pays off. It looks like an article I have tried (off and on) to get published since just prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks will be published next year. I have updated it repeatedly, expanded and shrank it, and ultimately rewrote it completely. I think I still have an early version of it that was irradiated--or something--in the post-attack Anthrax scare. The paper copy was returned to me quite yellowed. I think it was that paper. Might be another. But this one is originally just as old. Trying to verify a source that I apparently threw away with an online version was quite the challenge!

How is it possible to cancel a speech because you believe a violent, totalitarian group will respond to the speech with violence? We will get more of these violent threats if we reward those threats by violent scumbags. Tip to Instapundit.

Unclear on the concept of honoring and helping veterans returning from the war: Nordic edition. This is so far beyond moronic that I have difficulty accepting that sentient beings can really think this is a good idea. If I was an Islamist there, I'd be pretty sure God was on my side, too.

Reason Number N that I will forever remain grateful that President Trump (and even President Obama before him) prevented Hillary Clinton from being president.

Antifa "activists" say violence is necessary. These geniuses do realize that President Obama passed a drone "kill list" to President Trump during the presidential transition, right?

Oh good grief you've got to be kidding me. Why?! What possible value does Manning add? This is the university equivalent of a small dog carried around in a purse. Just a fashion accessory. In a pre-publication update, Harvard has reversed their decision--because the CIA didn't like it. So let's add to the oddity of this whole episode, eh? Wait. Harvard only cancelled the title--not the invitation. I guess the substance is more important than the title. Which is kind of funny considering all the fuss over getting the "correct" pronoun for Manning. Well, perhaps the traitorous Manning can self identify as a "visiting fellow."

Plan Rabbit has failed in Venezuela. Plan Grubs and Beetles is next. Ah, socialism!

A woman's right to choose really doesn't extend beyond the abortion issue, does it?

Truly, Joe Biden is an idiot. Seriously.

Terror attack in London subway Friday. No word as of writing this about who is responsible or the motive. But a betting man would say a jihadi.

Friday morning I saw that North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan again. Unless we go to full land and sea blockade, I don't think economic sanctions will stop North Korea. It would be worth trying before we have to make a shoot/don't shoot decision.

So what mission did Jimmy Carter complete?

Science!  Gaydar is real, apparently.

I eagerly await liberal condemnation of religious-based anti-science policy: "Turkey has announced an overhaul of more than 170 topics in the country's school curriculum, including removing all direct references to evolution from high school biology classes." Who am I kidding? Liberals let that whole patriarchy thing slide. This will escape the outrage machine, too.

"[The] Pentagon accused Russia this week of bombing U.S.-backed forces on the [Euphrates] river's eastern bank." Russia needs to be reminded to stay on their side of the emerging DCZ.

Three more years of this ailment and Trump will take California's electoral votes and the get the popular vote win.

The Window Cult

There is a window company in my area that sells windows much more expensive than traditional construction materials. But they act like a cult. Which is off-putting.

Several years ago that company came around and offered to provide an estimate. I understand their product is better despite the higher cost. So I'd have to balance the cost versus benefits. I can do that.

But the company oddly won't tell me what their product costs unlike any other product from a pack of gum to a car to a house. Even airlines will quote me a price despite the rapidly moving target of that data.

But not this company. Not before they sit down with you for an hour-long brainwashing session.

Seriously, years ago I let the guy come in and he went on for a bit. I finally had to cut him short to pick up my kids from school and told him to give me his sales material, quote me a price, and I'd get back to them.

He would not do that. I was incredulous. I'm a customer. He's a salesman. He would not tell me the price of his product! So I sent him on his way.

This last week an installer came by after working in the neighborhood. I said sure, give me an estimate. I warned him that my past experience was bad and that I did not have time for a full long sales pitch. He acknowledged my statement.

The next day a salesman came by. He looked at the windows. He wanted to sit down. I told him I was busy and that he had 5 minutes to make his pitch and give me the price quote.

He said he had to have an hour to make the full pitch.

I didn't give him grief. He probably gets tired of acting like a weirdo cultist at company orders.

So I sent him on his way. I gave the company two chances to sell me their product. I'm done with them.

When I get new windows I'll go with a traditional window company.

Flaws? From Iran's View Those are the Heart of the Deal

So the "best thing since sliced bread" Iran nuclear deal has flaws? Get. Out!

The fever breaks:

The public line from the supporters of the Iran nuclear deal in the last two years has been clear. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the core agreement is known, is wonderful. As President Barack Obama said after its negotiations were completed in 2015: “There’s a reason why 99 percent of the world thinks that this is a good deal: It’s because it’s a good deal.”

And you’ll encounter this kind of thing on social media today.

It’s reminiscent of what journalist David Samuels described in 2015 as an echo chamber of prominent arms-control experts, sympathetic journalists and Obama administration staffers deployed to sell the nuclear bargain to the public and Congress. Their party line is that the deal is the best possible way to limit Iran’s nuclear rise.

Nonetheless, many of these experts and former officials are also beginning to acknowledge that the nuclear deal they sold in 2015 is flawed. Next month, the Brookings Institution will host an off-the-record meeting of policy experts — some who favor the deal, some who oppose it — to discuss how to address the nuclear agreement’s flaws.

Flawed? It's awful. All you had to do was read the deal (what we could see, of course, given the side deals that were not revealed to us) to see how obviously bad it is.

The awfulness is why the administration had to basically trick a sycophantic press corps and think tank cadre into praising the deal.

A Serious Question About Climate Change Advice

So hurricanes are getting stronger while the death toll shrinks?

I don't think two hurricanes after such a long gap in deadly strong storms since Katrina in 2005 is enough data to conclude the former. But for a moment let's stipulate that as a fact.

Would we be better off if we had taken the money we spent on being better prepared for storms and responding to them since 2005; and instead plowed it all into fighting global warming, and thus reducing the increase in the global average temperature since 2005 by an amount so low as to be indistinguishable from random changes or instrument error?

Even if the models and predictions of the extent of global warming are correct, we are under no obligation to follow the economic and financial advice of climate scientists in response to that warming, because they will have strayed well out of their lane to be given that kind of authority.

Seriously, people, with renewed calls to punish those who haven't gone full global warming panic out there, are you really telling me that this attitude is a defense of science rather than a case of true believers punishing heretics?

Now go and emit no more.

I generally leave global warming thoughts in the weekend data dump these days. But this seemed like an important enough point to raise in its own post.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Walking Dead

The original reason for regulation is gone but the state keeps regulating (quoting the Wall Street Journal):

Since the electronic cigarette arrived around 2010, the rate of smoking in America has plummeted. Yet progressive do-gooders are now throwing tobacco a lifeline. Last month New York Mayor Bill de Blasio signed new restrictions on e-cigarettes. A limited number of vendors will need licenses to sell them, and vaping will be banned from many apartment common areas. This will only push smokers away from the most promising method for kicking their deadly habit.

In Britain, public-health authorities have encouraged smokers to switch to safer alternatives. E-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine as a vapor, are about 95% less harmful than smoking, according to a 2015 review by England’s health agency. The Royal College of Physicians, Britain’s pre-eminent medical authority, has warned that it would be “irrational and immoral” to discourage smokers from switching.

But the U.S. is doing just that. The Food and Drug Administration has misclassified e-cigarettes as a “tobacco product,” drawn up regulations that could eventually outlaw most products now on the market, and barred e-cig companies from mentioning any health advantages over smoking.

The e-cigarettes provide nicotine rather than tobacco. To be fair, like "assault rifles," the e-cigarettes look dangerous.

Yes indeed, the regulators know e-cigarettes are dangerous because they look like a witch cigarettes.



The alternative is to think that governments that tax tobacco so heavily "so we'll quit" actually rely on that revenue and want to protect the tobacco companies and the tax stream. Heaven forfend!

Not that safety regulations to prevent the devices from bursting into flames can't be considered. But that is separate from whether or not they are a tobacco product.

Ah, science!

Life from Above

Finding and killing the Taliban is one way air power can help the Afghan government forces gain battlefield superiority over the Taliban. Encouraging government forces to fight is another advantage for the government.

This will be very important for government security forces morale:

After 16 years of war, Afghan forces still lack efficient means to evacuate wounded and dead off battlefields in Afghanistan. And its air force is still in its infancy, making it difficult to dedicate air assets to helping wounded troops.

U.S. Marines in Helmand province have taken the initiative in assisting Afghan partner forces in building a capability to move wounded off the battlefield in one of Afghanistan’s most unmanageable provinces.

Of course, more surveillance and strike capacity will help keep government security forces from being hit as hard in the first place.

Afghan forces need every advantage they can get from the air.

A Well Regulated Militia

If not controlled, criminal gangs and warlordism based on Ukrainian volunteer militias that move on from fighting the Russians will actually do Russia's work by making Ukraine unsuitable for integration with the West.

Ukraine has a militia problem:

When the volunteer battalions (although not all are technically battalions, we will use this terminology as shorthand) first appeared in 2014, their assistance was welcome and necessary, albeit controversial. Although seen as patriots by many, critics deemed these groups undisciplined, politically extremist, and insufficiently controlled by Ukrainian authorities. Some were credibly linked to human rights violations and neo-Nazi sympathies.

Ukraine's volunteer units that sprang up to resist the Russian invasion of the Donbas were absolutely necessary to cope with the Russians while the military was rebuilt from the pro-Russian era of neglect (how convenient was that for Russia?).

But they've outlived their usefulness as militias (or local self defense forces) usually do if not brought under the discipline of the regular security forces when the emergency passes.

Militias are a tool that can be used for good or bad.

During the Iraq War, in the early years I counted the Shia militias that protected Shia neighborhoods in the south as an asset because they freed up police and troops to fight in the Sunni Arab areas.

But in the later years these militias became a source of problems under Moqtada al-Sadr. They were eventually brought under control by Coalition and unilateral Iraqi military action.

Arguably, Iraqi Shia militias were needed to hold the line in mid-2014 when the Iraqi army in the north collapsed in the face of the ISIL-led uprising.

Now they are a source of problems if Iran can use them to create a loyal Hezbollah-like force in Iraq.

It seems like Iraq is working on solving the problem now that the crisis has passed. Ukraine seems to be taking some steps, but according to that article not nearly enough.

A militia needs to be well regulated by the government to be an asset absent a dire emergency that self-regulates the behavior of the militias.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Watch on the Imjin

I don't want to sound paranoid, but is North Korea scraping together reserves of fuel and food to supply their army in an offensive war?

Hmm:

North Korea has been pressing Chinese companies to increase their exports of gasoline and other refined petroleum products since August, according to North Korean government documents and other information obtained by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

A source with close knowledge of the Chinese-North Korean relationship said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued an order to stockpile gasoline and has restricted how much could be distributed on the market.

Back in April I wondered if the regime was diverting fuel to war reserve stocks.

And this month I noted that North Korean soldiers have been ordered to forage in the friendly countryside to eat!

Is it long-term desperation or a short-term solution while the regime puts daily food rations into war reserve stocks?

A North Korean offensive that threatens Seoul might keep our military too busy protecting all those civilians to deal with North Korea's nuclear facilities. Could Kim see an offensive war as the means to get across the nuclear threshold cleanly without a preemptive American-led strike campaign?

And more worrisome, could Kim believe that his army is too large to support but too dangerous to demobilize in an age when he has nuclear missiles?

Could an offensive have the secondary purpose of using South Korea and America to kill off large numbers of excess mouths to feed? Mouths that could potentially be a threat to the regime if left alive to suffer and waste away?

Pure speculation on my part, obviously. North Korea could be accumulating war reserve stocks of food and fuel for defense or in anticipation of a blockade on the land and sea. Or reports could be wrong and no stockpiling is going on. Or maybe this is a routine thing to do periodically.

My pucker factor went a bit higher nonetheless.

UPDATE: I guess I wouldn't assume that the decision for war lies solely with us.

Isn't a basic lesson for despots that waiting for America to set up the killing blow is suicidal?

The Other Gathering Storm?

There is a gathering storm that Israel will face north of their border. Does Israel wait for it or strike first?

This seems about right:

Storm clouds are gathering on Israel’s horizon that will one day pose a grave danger to the security of Israel.

In a speech given this June, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah warned that a future war with Israel, “…could open the way for thousands, even hundreds of thousands of fighters from all over the Arab and Islamic world to participate – from Iraq, Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan”.

Iran's hoped-for land bridge from Iran to Lebanon would be the source of Iranian-backed attacks on Israel.

I've been looking for signs that Israel will strike deep into Lebanon to tear up Hezbollah while the terror group is busy in Syria. Ideally, the strike comes at the point of maximum damage to Hezbollah from their service to Assad and Iran in Syria (2,000 killed in action so far). This point could be at either the point of an Assad victory or an Assad defeat.

At that point Hezbollah can withdraw their expeditionary force from Syria and reset to fight Israel. So Israel could strike then while Hezbollah in Lebanon is the weakest and while the force moving from Syria is vulnerable to air strikes.

So have we reached that point?

The Lebanese Shi‘ite group Hezbollah has declared victory in the Syrian war while Russia said government forces had driven militants from much of the country where President Bashar al-Assad’s rule seemed in danger two years ago.

I suspect this leans more to a "mission accomplished" moment than a true victory. But it can help to fake it until you make it if it truly depresses the enemy by making them believe they've essentially lost the war.

An Israeli combined arms strike that advances deep into Lebanon and really tears up Hezbollah would reduce the Hezbollah threat to Israel; give Lebanon some hope that a new and improved UNIFIL and strengthened Lebanese forces could regain control of southern Lebanon; and remove a major force in Assad's arsenal, making it more likely that declarations of victory will be more off base than they likely are by tipping the balance away from Assad in the fight against post-ISIL Syrian rebels.

Israel did just finish a very large exercise aimed at defeating Hezbollah:

“We know our enemy. He’ll take advantage of launching against us up until the last day and the last minute of the war in order to serve his narrative,” [Israeli Brig. Gen. Saar] Tzur said. “But we‘re not excited about this. We will create our own narrative by facts on the ground. Next time around, we expect our victory picture to be very clear to all.”

I know I'm biased as a land-centric analyst, but that sure sound like having Israeli troops on the ground in Lebanon when the ceasefire goes into effect so nobody can doubt whose ass got kicked. Lopsided body counts just don't matter in the propaganda war.

Also, I know people say Hezbollah is "battle hardened" after their long war in Syria on behalf of Assad. But their very small "army" has suffered 2,000 KIA. Can't we just as readily call Hezbollah's ground forces "bled white?"

Is this dispute a reflection of Israeli intentions?

Is a gathering Israeli storm for Assad, Iran, and Hezbollah on the horizon?

Celebrate the Failure of Cultural Authenticity!

I don't understand the firestorm of criticism that has attacked this professor for stating the obvious about trends in our culture:

That culture laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.

The anger directed at the author is amazing:

The firestorm that followed the editorial's publication culminated in 33 members of the Penn Law faculty publicly denouncing Wax in an open letter published in The Daily Pennsylvanian. The professors did not engage Wax's arguments on the merits, but instead spoke of their concern for an ideal educational experience in which people "respect one another without bias or stereotype."

The angry types are essentially arguing that you should have children whenever; abandon the children when convenient; don't worry about learning; get by with the minimum at work; lay about like a lump; be indifferent about the survival of our nation and surely someone else will defend it; don't worry about your neighbors or helping out--think only of yourself! Curse in public and defy authority just for the thrill of it. And if it feels good, abuse it; and if you want it, take it. Or destroy it.

And no worries! We'll respect you for your choices because really, who can expect more from you or the self-destructive culture that you have built? We support your right to fail while we in the elites have followed the advice we would never foist on you!

Really? That is what those idiots are arguing for? You have the right to do all these self-destructive things and society should celebrate and support your deviation from a script that has worked for so many, including the elites?

Enjoy your place at the bottom and the elites will pass you morsels when they need to feel better about themselves!

God, some people are too effing stupid to believe. Those at the bottom failing have an excuse, perhaps, given the authenticity that elites claim those failing are demonstrating.

But what excuse do those highly educated dolts--who would never let their own children deviate from the script--have for celebrating habits of failure? Do these credentialed dolts seriously wonder why so many Americans have so little respect for them as a class of people?

I thank God that while growing up in Detroit, I had parents who made sure I followed the script rather than having so-called elites "defend" me by telling me to embrace the failure.

Reparations for Poland?

If Poland wants reparations from their new NATO ally Germany over World War II crimes and damages, it should be in the form of a German army  heavy division based in central Poland.

Poland is raising the issue of reparations from Germany:

Polish parliamentary legal experts ruled on Monday that Warsaw has the right to demand reparations from Germany for its actions in the country during World War Two, although Poland's foreign minister indicated that no immediate claim would be made.

The issue of reparations, revived by Poland's eurosceptic ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) after decades of improving relations with Germany, could escalate tensions between the two European Union governments.

Germany is an ally now. I don't like this.

But perhaps the Germans and Poles could agree on a monetary figure without calling it reparations; calculate how much it would take to move and sustain a German heavy division in Poland to help deter a Russian invasion; and then sign a treaty to keep those German troops in Poland for the number of years it would take to pay the total monetary figure.

And let Germany count those additional costs as adding to their defense budget under the 2% of GDP defense spending goal.

But reparations from an ally that has long rejected their Nazi past? I don't think so.

And if the Poles want reparations for their Jewish citizens killed, the Poles might want to reconsider their anti-Semitic past, especially that era.

I value Poland as a NATO ally. But let's not go down this path, okay?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Well That's Quite the Coincidence

Russia has begun military exercises in Belarus, the long-expected Zapad-2017:

The scenario for the Zapad-2017 exercise is an armed uprising in Belarus by "saboteurs" and "terrorists" backed by a fictitious country called Veishnoria. Russian forces are deployed to Belarus to help crush the rebellion.

The main purpose is to integrate the two countries' military headquarters in a realistic combat scenario. Belarus is mobilising about 7,200 troops and Russia about 5,500, Russia's defence ministry says.

The Russian territory of Kaliningrad - sandwiched between Nato members Poland and Lithuania - is included in the exercise.

Saboteurs and terrorists?

Say, look what is happening back in Russia Prime:

A series of anonymous bomb threats phoned in to authorities across Russia has continued, with new threats in Moscow and St. Petersburg. ...

Since September 10, similar calls have triggered mass evacuations at schools, malls, theaters, and universities in many cities and towns across Russia.

Bombs have not been discovered in any of the cases.

No bombs. Just threats by saboteurs and terrorists at the same time Russia is exercising their troops in Belarus in case of exactly that kind of threat.

Which is a convenient coincidence if Russia wants to convert the exercise to a real world mission to complete the Russian Anschluss with Belarus.

I've mentioned before that Belarus is possibly the most important piece of territory in Europe today.

Putin probably isn't planning to take over and annex Belarus this month. But he might. And it is surely always nice to have the option.

UPDATE: The Russians need to work on their "reassuring" skills:

General Valery Gerasimov, the chief of Russia's general staff, told Curtis Scaparrotti, a U.S general who is NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, that Moscow's latest military exercise was purely defensive, the RIA news agency reported.

Sadly, the Russians consider conquering neighboring countries a "defensive" move.

Emphasizing the Art of the Deal

North Korea doesn't need nukes. North Korea just needs everyone to pretend they have nukes.

Seriously, North Korea can't believe anyone wants to conquer that black hole of misery and poverty, can they? Isn't the cost of coping with owning that awful place the real deterrent to conquering North Korea?

If the North Koreans are rational, they know they don't need actual nuclear weapons to prevent an invasion.

If the North Koreans really just want nukes for domestic purposes, proving North Korea is a great power in the world, all North Korea needs is a deal that pretends North Korea has nuclear weapons.

The deal could include Chinese and American assistance in building and installing the "weapons" and "command and control facilities" to prove we've submitted to North Korean demands--while China takes control of all  actual nuclear facilities and nuclear material (military and civilian) in North Korea to guard against cheating (and making China responsible for cheating). The UN Security Council would formally recognizes North Korea as a nuclear power to facilitate that ruse.

Such a deal would let North Korea claim to be a nuclear power.

Remote cameras and sniffers, both fixed and roaming, would help America monitor compliance while we could justify publicly the monitors as verifying the limits on the number of North Korean nukes--just like America has with Russia, for example. That's what nuclear powers do.

We could also publicly reconfirm that no American nuclear weapons will be deployed in South Korea--our limit on nukes to match the limits on North Korea's nukes.

Heck, South Korea could pledge not to build nuclear weapons as long as the deal stood.

Nukes are expensive to maintain on top of the cost to develop and build them. Wouldn't North Korea leap to gain the benefits of having "nukes" while avoiding the expense of keeping them in working order?

Heck, when our first nuclear missiles went to see in our first submarines, the warheads didn't work and could have been rocks. Luckily the Soviets didn't know.

And honestly, who knows if Russia's nukes work today? Some surely do. But are there many? Does it matter for deterrence that we don't know as long as we believe enough exist?

Why should North Korea care if they have nukes if people think they do? I seem to recall one parade where the North Korean nuclear missile on display appeared to be fake (I think there was a dent, or something). Let's go along with this fiction!

If North Korea truly wants nuclear weapons for a domestic audience, couldn't we engineer a deal that secretly puts hollow shells of ICBMs in North Korean silos?

Isn't the art of the deal just painting a picture that looks good to the North Koreans?

UPDATE: A tour of North Korea.

The army is in rough shape. The Chinese increasingly see North Korea as a threat. And the economy is in trouble.

But we will lose the race between collapse and crossing the nuclear weapons threshold. 

Collapse of the state or regime after the regime has nukes would be a high-pucker factor moment. The collapse of the USSR gives me hope this could work out; but is that the pattern for North Korea?

From the "Well, Duh" Files

Armies that police are neither armies nor police. Good plan!

Well, yes:

The use of armed soldiers to patrol alongside pavement cafes and selfie-snapping tourists in European cities since jihadi attacks risks compromising deployments overseas, military leaders say.

Belgium and major military power France, both active in EU and NATO missions, have cut back training to free up troops and NATO planners fear that over time armies may get better at guarding railway stations and airports than fighting wars.

Some of the more than 15,000 soldiers serving at home in Europe say tramping the streets is a far cry from the foreign adventures they signed up for and that they feel powerless to defend against militants.

American ground troops are less effective in high intensity combat because they have spent so much time fighting insurgents. Imagine what walking around a city does to troop skills and morale?

There are 15,000 European troops on this kind of duty now.

And don't even pretend these are even remotely effective as actual police.

If Russia was involved in pushing refugees and migrants to Europe, this has been a most effective effort to undermine NATO defenses.