Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Only Objective

Don't assume China believes war is the last resort.

How many times have you heard that China would not risk war with America and put their economic growth at risk? Sadly for this view, China's rulers consider the continued rule of the Chinese Communist Party as the ultimate objective. Losing a war that keeps the party in power is acceptable collateral damage.

Via Mad Minerva, we have a reminder of China's nationalism problem:

As Robert Kelly, a professor at Pusan National University in South Korea, wrote in a good post on his blog, one of the likelier of a number of possible reasons for China’s ADIZ declaration is to shore up the Communist Party’s nationalist credentials at home. “The CCP may not want a conflict with Japan,” he writes, “but it’s been telling Chinese youth for 20+ years that Japan is greatly responsible for the ’100 years of humiliation.’ So now the CCP is stuck; they have to be tough on Japan—even if they don’t want to be—because their citizens demand it. The CCP has created an anti-Japanese frankenstein at home that has to be placated. They have to ride the anti-Japanese tiger their education/propaganda has created, or risk a domestic backlash.”

If a clash occurs, China could find that it cannot back down because to do so would unleash nationalist anger against the CCP for failing to stand up for China.

That's not terribly rational, is it? Not from our point of view, that is. That's why I insist we understand that Peking will define rational when they decide on the question of war.

So what will the Chinese do if their people demand their country take action to defend their honor against the Japanese (and their American allies)?

Then the calculations become unlike anything we like to believe is rational:

We like to think that it makes no sense for China to risk their economic growth by going to war. We assume--perhaps rightly--that we'd beat China.

But if the Chinese Communist Party is willing to accept even defeat as the price for defending Chinese Communist Party control of China, they have an entirely different view of what is rational than we do.
China's decision to declare and defend an air identification zone that covers Japanese territory covered by our defense treaty with Japan is a reckless act that could lead to a shooting war over the Senkaku Islands. Because their real last resort is risking Chinese Communist Party control of China.

And yes, the Chinese Communist Party rulers consider that rational.

Now That's Dissent

You thought dissent against our government's foreign policy is intense here? It's Queensberry Rules here, for Pete's sake.

The Ukrainian government turned away from Europe, but a lot of Ukrainians are not happy, to say the least:

After a week of protesting in the freezing cold, student Irina Bondar has completely lost her voice, but not her determination. “I am ready for any eventuality, even death. These are not empty words – I’ve clashed with riot police many times,” she whispers, her face betraying the pain. Ironically, she is responsible for dispensing hot tea to a few thousand young protesters who are trying to force Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych to sign a trade agreement with Brussels, which would pave the way for Ukraine’s eventual accession to the EU.

On Sunday, at least 100,000 supporters of the agreement filled two central squares in Kiev, evoking a déjà vu of the Orange Revolution—a massive upheaval triggered by rigged elections—that kicked off around the same time nine years ago. There were clashes, with tear gas sprayed by both the riot police and radical protesters who repeatedly attempted to break into government buildings. The protest continued day and night throughout the week, with at least a few thousand people, mostly students, permanently occupying a patch of the city main square under the kitschy Independence column. Political speeches alternated with live music and DJ sets. Periodically, the entire crowd would start jumping wildly to the chant: “Who’s not jumping is a Russian.”

So maybe we didn't lose Ukraine for good.

Indeed, the EU is still seeking a way to pull Ukraine out of Moscow's orbit:

European Union leaders sought Thursday to revive a stalled agreement with Ukraine after the former Soviet republic shocked the 28-country bloc last week by opting for closer ties with Russia in a geopolitical tug-of-war.

However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel held out few hopes that a deal will be cobbled together during a two-day EU summit with eastern partners that opened Thursday evening.

"I have no hope that it will succeed this time, but the door is open," Merkel said as she entered the summit meeting. "We will make very clear that the EU is ready to take in Ukraine as an associated member."

In a Ukraine divided this deeply on their direction--east and autocracy or west and democracy--it is good to not walk away and let Putin put Ukraine on the path to Belarus status and beyond.

Ukrainians who wish to defend their independence by moving west should draw hope that even getting smashed up in a war against Russia isn't the end of the line:

Five years after it fought a war with Russia, Georgia is preparing to defy its former Soviet masters again by initialing an accord on strengthening ties with Europe.

Seriously, you want to get out while you can. The Russian embrace is a bear hug that crushes the spirit.

And stop whining so much about people expressing unhappiness with President Obama's foreign policy. I know dissent is no longer the highest form of Patriotism, as it was in the Bush era, but we should be able to agree that is isn't evil--and is small potatoes compared to Ukraine.

UPDATE: There's a lot of anger at their pro-Russian leader:

About 1,000 protesters blocked off the Ukrainian government's main headquarters on Monday and surrounding streets, preventing employees getting to work, in further protests at Kiev's policy U-turn away from integration with Europe. ...

Protesters focused their attention on the government building after an opposition-led rally of about 350,000 people in the capital on Sunday, marred by violent clashes between police and protesters.

Luckily for Ukrainians, Russia may be able to spend less than a week pounding on a small Georgia, but their military is not large enough to occupy Ukraine.

Ukraine can still control their own destiny if they don't sell it off to Putin.

Let's Get Small

You can tell our Navy is more serious about the possibility of war with Iran because we are more interested in putting small ships in the Persian Gulf rather than large potential PR disasters if they are hit or sunk in the opening days of a war.

Bahrain is being beefed up:

“Bahrain is going to suddenly emerge” in the eyes of the public and the Defense Department, [CNO Admiral Jonathan] Greenert said. He described a plan to bring two more coastal patrol ships to the island nation in the spring, along with a long-term proposal to port littoral combat ships, which could replace the current fleet of minesweepers that operate here. The first littoral combat ships are expected to arrive in Bahrain in 2018 with rotational crews, he said later in an interview with Stars and Stripes.

Those two ships would be the Cyclone-class vessels USS Hurricane (PC 3) and USS Monsoon (PC 4), as I noted in the summer.

Along with other assets like USS Ponce to support small boats and drones, and led by a larger LCS that is an acceptable (if still expensive) risk to show the flag, these are forces better able to grapple with the Iranians while the carriers stand out to sea in the Arabian Sea to project power into the Gulf and Iran's coastal regions in support.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Putting Their Money Where Their Mouth Is

I've noted that I don't think China could beat Japan in a air-naval war over the Senkaku Islands. Analysts think China would have difficulty just patrolling their newly declared air defense zone over the East China Sea.

Did China think that just drawing a dashed line of death around the area would be enough?

China's military could struggle to cope with the demands for intensified surveillance and interception if it tries to enforce the rules in its new air defense zone over islands at the heart of a territorial dispute with Japan.

Regional military analysts and diplomats said China's network of air defense radars, surveillance planes and fighter jets would be stretched by extensive patrols across its Air Defense Identification Zone, roughly two-thirds the size of Britain.

It will actually be interesting from an operational perspective to see how China rises or falls to the challenge of patrolling the zone and reacting to aircraft refusing to follow the rules. We, the Japanese, the South Koreans, and the Taiwanese will be watching closely.

I'm not so sure the Chinese thought this through all the way. China risks reducing the regional fear of China's rising power if their actions don't match their words.

Taiwan, especially, which can feel China's lengthening shadow extend across their island, might breathe easier if China fails to maintain an operational tempo capable of maintaining a presence over the East China Sea air defenses identification zone.

And if China's air threat isn't what it is cracked up to be, might not Taiwan have alternatives for air defense? Taiwan is struggling to afford modern warplanes to prevent China from invading Taiwan. They are modernizing their older F-16s, but so far haven't been able to develop their own adequate aircraft or buy newer planes from us.

It occurred to me that we have gunships that turn large transport planes into ground support aircraft. They work very well. Couldn't Taiwan use the same concept for air defense?

Taiwan has AWACS-type planes to watch the Taiwan Strait and Chinese air bases near their coast.

Would it be possible for Taiwan to pair up air-to-air missile-planes consisting of a large transport plane carrying lots of long-range radar-guided missiles?

If Taiwan's E-2s spot a Chinese air armada heading across the strait, the "air gunship" could fire off volleys of air-to-air missiles even as Taiwanese fighters were scrambling. Given that the Chinese aircraft would be closing with Taiwan at high speeds, the air gunships could fire while well out of range of Chinese missiles, counting on the Chinese aircraft to close within the missile range even if the missiles are fired while the Chinese planes are out of range.

If air-to-air volleys and then anti-aircraft missiles fired from the ground disrupted the Chinese air armada before it reaches Taiwan, Taiwan's outnumbered planes would have a far better chance of inflicting damage and surviving to continue the fight.

If Taiwan buys time, we have more time to intervene in time to make a difference.

Heck, could the air gunship idea even be expanded to be a gunship-in-a-box concept the way our Marines went, allowing Taiwan to quickly outfit their civilian airliners in case of war?

For all I know, this concept has been raised and dismissed as unworkable. But it recently occurred to me. And I have a blog.

So there you go.

UPDATE: Just noticed that we and the Japanese flew around the zone and China dispatched fighter aircraft to make their presence known:

China launched two fighter planes Friday to investigate flights by a dozen U.S. and Japanese reconnaissance and military planes in its new maritime air defense zone over the East China Sea, state media said.

We had a pair of recon aircraft. Japan's aircraft included fighter aircraft.

So now both sides have aircraft in the air at the same time. I wouldn't be shocked if a Chinese aircraft opened fire. Perhaps in error. But I would not be shocked if one did.

Tradition Endures

In my home, Christmas decorations go up the day after Thanksgiving.

I'm a firm believer that opposable thumbs and a mindless adherance to tradition separate us from the animal world. I can no longer remember where I picked that up.

I just searched Google. That was absolutely no help as the top hit demonstrates. This is what I got.

I would swear it was Reverend Jim from Taxi, but I don't know for sure at this point.

Mister let Lamb have most of the ornaments to put up. She was happy to oblige. It's been years since I had to resort to having them alternately choose ornaments to put in their own box lid prior to approaching the tree so they didn't race putting up ornaments from a common box in order to get more of a share.

Mind you, I let them put them where they want--I'm not a control freak, after all--but that was a little ridiculous.

So the tree is up. With decorations and some candy canes (Lamb said she wanted to save most of those to keep adding to the tree). And window lights, too.

I did, however, draw the line when Lamb suggested using pin-feed paper edges as a sort of tinsel. I still have some of that.

Forgive the relative lack of actual tree in the picture. It was hard enough work to get Mister to stand close enough to Lamb for long enough to get them both in the frame and adjust for the height difference!

I forgot that one string of blue icicle lights was half dead from last year. But after I put it up, and the half deadness reminded me of that fact, the other half lit up. I guess it isn't dead.

Lamb made my day when putting out various decorations around our home. She had one in particular, and asked where it went. I said it usually goes on the bookcase in the stairwell. But you can put it where you like, I told her.

"No," she replied, "It's tradition." So it went in the stairwell.

Tradition! Yes, indeed. You don't eff with tradition, as is well known.

Yeah, she'll do just fine growing up.

Ritual Animal Sacrifice. With Pie

So it was a good Thanksgiving.

It was tinged with a little regret since this is a year where my kids go to my Ex's parents for the holiday. But it was still good to see my parents, sister, and my sort-of brother-in-law. My brothers were otherwise occupied.

Then it was home and I watched the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Thanksgiving episode.

That's the one where Anya describes the day as one "To commemorate a past event, you kill and eat an animal. It's a ritual sacrifice. With pie."

I had chocolate mousse. But the idea is the same.

And there was no shopping for me. None today, either, unless you count a quick run to the grocery store for a couple odds and ends for dinner tonight.

And now I need to assemble the tree. Later, Lamb can sort the ornaments with Mister and I can put up lights and other sundry decorations for the next past event commemoration.

It will be another ritual sacrifice. With breaking and entering--via the chimney.


Iran says they will halt most work on their plutonium reactor at Arak. Hey! North Korea is turning on their plutonium reactor. That's quite the nuclear coincidence, eh?

North Korea, after two agreements over the last two decades designed to halt their nuclear weapons work and two nuclear detonations indicating the agreements weren't worth the paper they were written on, North Korea is restarting their plutonium plant:

The U.N. nuclear agency said on Thursday it had seen releases of steam and water indicating that North Korea may be seeking to restart a reactor that experts say would be capable of making plutonium for atomic bombs.

North Korea announced in April that it would revive its aged research reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex but said it was seeking a deterrent capacity.

Say? Didn't Iran agree to halt most (or some, I'm not clear) work at their plutonium reactor under the interim agreement?

But no worries, it isn't like North Korea and Iran are part of some "Axis of Evil" that cooperates on nuclear and missile work!

To be clear, much as Iran appeared to be outsourcing a nuclear plant built by North Korea in Syria until the Israelis blew it apart in 2007, I worry that Iran is canceling out much of the impact of their interim deal with us by getting North Korea to pick up the slack.

North Korea needs money, and the interim agreement grants Iran perhaps $10 billion in relief over the next 6 months.

North Korea would like some of that cash. Assuming Kim Jong Un doesn't want to be the last Kim to sit on the throne in Pyongyang.

Hey! Here's something else the interim deal does!

Now, following last week's interim deal to ease a decade-long standoff over Iran's nuclear activities, Tehran will be allowed limited purchases of aircraft parts and repairs.

Why is this important?

While foreign ministers raced to Geneva for a crucial phase of talks over Iran's nuclear activities earlier this month, passengers with the country's national airline faced a little-noticed drama on the other side of the world.

As a 37-year-old Boeing 747 climbed out of Beijing bound for Tehran, the Iranian crew received a cockpit alert that one of the jumbo jet's four Pratt & Whitney engines was on fire.

Iran's air fleet is old. They need spare parts. They may be rare and expensive, but Iran can seek them out now.

Note where the aircraft failure took place. They were on a flight from Peking to Tehran.

Far be it from me to suggest that a North Korean embassy official could deliver research documents or specialized equipment or devices to a flight going to Tehran. Heavens, no.

I mean, "Axis of Evil" is so post-9/11, isn't it?

Russia is Not "Back"

Russia is being more assertive but this is a far cry from saying Russian "hard power" has returned.

Russian exercises do demonstrate improved capabilities:

Last Good Friday, two Russian Tu-22M3 bombers, escorted by four Su-27 fighter aircraft, simulated an aerial assault on two military targets in Sweden— the first near the capital Stockholm and the second in a southern part of the country. This was then followed in September by Zapad-13 (“Zapad” means “West”), Russia’s biannual military exercise, which this year was jointly held with Belarusian forces variously in Belarus, along the borders of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and in Kaliningrad, Russia’s non-contiguous seaport territory that lies between Poland and Lithuania.

Though initially billed as a counterterrorism operation targeting “illegal armed groups,” Zapad-13 was very clearly aimed at fighting conventional armies on European soil. Which ones? Stephen Blank of the Jamestown Foundation has noted that the “simulated ‘terrorists’ were apparently Balts intent on mounting operations in Belarus against that government and on behalf of their supposedly oppressed ethnic kinsmen.” (Moscow propaganda usually has it that independent Baltic states with pro-European and pro-American bents are the modern-day embodiment of Nazi regimes insufficiently grateful for their “liberation” and occupation by the Red Army.)

An estimated 70,000 soldiers took part in Zapad-13, three times the number given in advance to NATO by the Russian government, although this year, contrary to reports in the Polish press, Russia did not simulate a nuclear strike on Warsaw, as it has in the past. ...

According to Karlis Neretnieks of the Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences, the exercise was intended to put Europe on notice that Russia’s military is vastly improved from its dilapidated state during the 2008 “summer war” with Georgia

And I certainly wasn't impressed with Russia's military performance in the Russo-Georgian War as much as I was impressed with Russia's resolve to use what they had to essentially sucker punch the Georgians and achieve a military victory over the poorly equipped and deployed Georgian military.

And note the return to Soviet practices of simply lying about the size of the exercise. That becomes important if Russia really wants to pounce on someone and we fail to detect the true scale of the deployment.

Mostly, the Russians are displaying resolve with these exercises. Which means we need a little more sense of urgency with our eastern NATO exercises.

And more sense of urgency with real plans to defend the region. REFORPOL, anyone?

So Russia could launch smallish fights for a short period of time. Russia still isn't a threat to march west in strength.

Poland could probably hold the line until help arrives.

Sadly for the Baltic states of NATO, they are small enough in territory and armed forces for a smallish fight to actually conquer them before NATO could react to defend them.

It is also disturbing to see how far the Anschluss with Belarus has gone, with Belarus integrated into Russia's defense structure.

(If we're playing the 1930s game here, Ukraine gets to play the role of Czechoslovakia with the eastern portions of Ukraine with its large ethnic Russian population playing the sub-role of the Sudetenland.)

Russia is clawing back some military power and even more fear and respect. But Russia isn't going to restore their glory days as a superpower.

No, they can be a great power again, but one that has such a large territorial expanse that they can never have the ground power to secure their borders without the threat of nuclear weapons; and with both NATO (not an offensive threat) on their western border and China (a growing threat with for-now dormant claims on Russia's far east) on Russia's eastern front. Toss in a turbulent Middle East and Central Asia to their south and for fun a whole new front in the Arctic.

I wouldn't trade places with China's strategic geography. And I bet China wouldn't trade geography with Russia!

So don't panic. Russian hard power isn't back. It is just showing signs of life that Russian leaders are magnifying as much as they can to restore diplomatic clout.

China isn't anywhere near as strong as we are despite their real growth in power--they just have the geographic advantage of being near conflict areas while we are far (advantage in a narrow sense, since strategically I'd rather have conflict areas far from us). And Russia is even farther back in challenging us.

But by all means, don't ignore them. Work the problems, as I like to say.

Earth Shaking Events

The planet just made a more realistic attempt to set back Iran's nuclear program than our diplomats managed with the interim agreement.

Close, but no cigar:

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.6 struck a town Thursday in southern Iran, killing seven people while causing no damage at the country's only nuclear power plant, state television reported.

Iran insists that the planetary crust has recognized Iran's right to enrich uranium.

The crust was unavailable for comment.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Last Kim

North Korea's military is rotting away and their spies are looting what little is left of use. This won't end well for the elites who live like royalty on top of this gulag with a UN seat.

The socialist paradise in North Korea is not in good shape:

In the north the secret police and intelligence agencies have been ordered to do more to prevent people from fleeing the country. ...

The people are hungry, the soldiers are hungry, the secret police are stealing whatever they can get their hands on and the senior officials are planning their escape routes. The highest caste people, who have long come to regard themselves (quite accurately) as a hereditary aristocracy, are growing more corrupt and fearful of revolution. ...

Morale is low in the military, largely because there is less food and fuel and cold weather is approaching. The northern government has been aware of these problems and discreet criticism of military leaders, and replacing a lot of these leaders has not worked. The public show of concern by leader Kim Jong Un is largely symbolic and intended to give a boost to the morale of the angry troops and their stressed (from pressure to fix or control the problems) superiors. What the troops really want, especially with the cold weather coming on, is more fuel (for heat), food and materials for repairing their decrepit barracks. Some of that may be forthcoming to give the troops hope. But when the hope runs out the government will have to deal with some very angry and unhappy troops. This is not a new threat and North Korea has always kept weapons and ammunition locked up when troops did not need it for training, and that is most of the time. Soon it will be nearly all the time, at least as far is letting the troops handle weapons and ammo at the same time.

Years ago, with money drying up, the kooks at the top decided they only had enough money to pay for nukes to keep out foreign invaders (which seems more likely to be China-initiated these days rather than fantasies of American invasion--we have a single combat brigade in South Korea); and for spooks to keep the people and newly impoverished military under control.

Now we're at the point where the kooks don't have nukes and their spooks are looting for themselves. Meanwhile the large army sees their rulers living well.

How well guarded are those weapons and ammunition, anyway?

UPDATE: Thanks to Pseudo-Polymath for the link.

Next Year, Popcorn and Caramel Fight to the Death

Good grief, President Obama held the Thanksgiving version of the Hunger Games in the annual turkey pardon ritual.

I hadn't noticed this slightly disturbing aspect of the annual presidential turkey pardon:

The president announced that, after the public voted, a turkey named Popcorn was declared winner of the 2013 National Thanksgiving Turkey competition over his rival Caramel. Popcorn, an almost 2-foot tall, 40-pound fowl with a blue-tinged head, fanned his tail feathers spectacularly as he strolled about the stage under the watchful eyes of several minders.

The turkeys had to compete with each other for viewer approval?

Next year, they'll attach metal razors to their beaks and set them loose on the White House grounds for a battle to the death.

Only one turkey walks out pardoned!

Oh, Just the Turkey Gets a Presidential Pardon?

Well, at least the Obama administration hasn't proposed banning football on Thanksgiving.

Because that appears to be the only thing about the holiday that the administration doesn't want to destroy.

First they came for the gravy.

And then they decided that drunken revisiting of childhood grudges wasn't enough to spoil the day:

Loathe peaceful holidays? Detest the spirit of agreeableness and good will that tends to pervade during this time of year? Well, if you're longing for it to be 'tis the season of debates, irritations, and shouting matches, you're in luck: The Obama administration thinks the holidays are the perfect time to gather round and discuss … Obamacare.

Great. President Obama pardoned the White House turkey chosen to provide dinner for them. But he sicks young Obamabots on their families. We don't get a break from politics.

Fine. Let them do it. But see if they are so filled with the spirit of debate if parents can take their insufferable whelp off their insurance before age 27.

I'm going to stuff myself. As the youngest at my family gathering, they can at least be thankful I won't be participating in agitprop when we can all focus our rage on the Lions if they don't dispatch Green Bay tomorrow.

UPDATE: It's hard enough already, isn't it? Tip to Mad Minerva.

Why Dolts Should Like the Iran Deal

People with no idea how so-called "hawks" view the Iran deal probably have no clue how Iran views this deal.

This guy has no business telling me why I should actually like the Iran deal:

The reflexive reaction of Iran hawks to condemn the interim accord struck in Geneva this weekend is as wrongheaded as the triumphal assessments of those suggesting it ushers in a new, more hopeful era in the region's history. This deal, hard-won as it has been, is just a tentative if hopeful step down a long and twisting road fraught with dangers.

For the hawks to suggest that the deal freezing Iranian uranium-enrichment efforts above the 5 percent level, halting work on the heavy-water reactor near Arak, and granting daily inspections to Iran's centrifuge-laden facilities at Natanz and Fordow makes matters more dangerous in the short term is just indefensible on its face. Absent such a deal, all enrichment and technological advancement efforts would continue unabated and without inspections. Iran would almost certainly move more quickly toward having a bomb without this deal than with it.


One, freezing enrichment is meaningless given that Iran repeatedly draws down their stock to avoid crossing Israel's red line for having too much enriched uranium for Israel to feel comfortable. Why this agreement would have more of an impact than fear of Israel is beyond me.

As for that Arak reactor halt? Well, never mind:

Iran will pursue construction at the Arak heavy-water reactor, Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif was quoted as saying on Wednesday, despite a deal with world powers to shelve a project they fear could yield plutonium for atomic bombs.

Fancy that.

We'll see how the daily inspections go. As long as they only want to go to places Iran is confident have nothing of important going on, I'm sure Iran will be happy to let them go.

Further, what about other locations perhaps more important to other lines of research and development? And what about other lines of research or technical/production programs not covered by the agreement?

So really, the only reason I should like this deal is that it is a "tentative if hopeful step down a long and twisting road fraught with dangers."

Yeah, that's comforting. When we've agreed in our interim agreement with the statement that Iran will not ever seek or develop nuclear weapons, "hopeful" outweighs that road we're supposed to travel. Watch out for the Iranian EFPs, eh?

Sure, in the short run the deal doesn't make the situation worse. But without the deal, the situation isn't likely to have been different.

It's the long run that is the problem with this deal. We've broken the momentum of international sanctions, granted Iran 6 months free of our military threat to continue to work on areas not covered by the interim deal (even assuming they don't cheat or simply have a different understanding of more areas we supposedly agreed on), and provided economic relief that allows Iran to continue to back Assad and which will give Iran the ability to keep their economy going for much more than the 6 months the deal covers.

If the Iran deal was likely to halt Iran's nuclear weapons work, I'd like the deal. Really. Don't pretend to school me on what I should and should not like about this deal, as if I'm an idiot unable to read the agreement (well, the White House fact sheet about the deal, anyway) and remember just who we are dealing with.

But grant the author this much: he surely explained as well as anyone why dolts should like the Iran deal.

UPDATE: This is a bad deal for us.

Do "We" Really Know What is in the Iran Deal?

I went through our fact sheet on the Iran deal and concluded it is a bad deal for us. Iran denies it is even that good.

Seriously? Are we so inept that we can't even accurately transcribe an agreement we supposedly negotiated? The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman begs to differ with our fact sheet:

“What was released on the White House website as the Fact Sheet was a one-sided interpretation of the text agreed on in Geneva and some descriptions and terms in this sheet are inconsistent with the text of the Joint Action Plan,” Afkham said on Tuesday.

Following the announcement of the Iran-Sextet agreement, titled the Joint Action Plan, the White House released a fact sheet explaining the deal and the US efforts in the negotiations.

“Unfortunately, certain media outlets have translated and released this fact sheet, which is contrary to the reality, as the text of the Geneva agreement,” she added.

The Iranian government will prove to be far less willing than Congressional Republicans to let President Obama amend by executive action this agreement the way he is used to amending our domestic laws on his own.

Seriously, what did we agree to? And what do the Iranians think they agreed to? I mean other than the obvious difference between this deal paving the way for a ban on Iranian nuclear weapons and a deal paving the way for Iranian nuclear weapons.

UPDATE: Huh, here's a little point of disagreement already:

Iran will pursue construction at the Arak heavy-water reactor, Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif was quoted as saying on Wednesday, despite a deal with world powers to shelve a project they fear could yield plutonium for atomic bombs.

Fancy that. In the business, this would be known as a "glitch," I suppose.

UPDATE: Wait. What?

“We will refrain from constructing new enrichment sites over the next six months, and the fact [of the matter] is the administration has had no such plans for the six-month period,” the Iranian foreign minister said.

He also said the final step in negotiations between Tehran and the Sextet- Britain, China, France, Russia the US and Germany- is to normalize Iran’s nuclear case and not merely the removal of sanctions imposed against the country by the UN Security Council (UNSC).

So Iran agreed to "halt" something they weren't planning to do. Ah, Kerry! Master diplomat!

And Iran sees the interim agreement as paving the way for the West to accept Iran's existing nuclear program (remember, Iran denies pursuing nuclear weapons).

This will work out swell.

The Dickens, You Say

Remember when our war in Iraq was just the major recruiting poster for jihadis. You know, by fighting back we just "create more jihadis"? Yeah. Not so much.

You know what really motivates the creation of jihadis in rebel/terrorist ranks? Other types of Moslems (tip to Defense Industry Daily):

Only the Afghan insurgency against the Soviet Union in 1979-89 compares with Syria in terms of the number of foreign fighters. An in-depth study by Norwegian scholar Thomas Hegghammer in the journal International Security in late 2011 estimated that 5,000 to 20,000 foreign fighters had travelled to Afghanistan between 1980 and 1992. As such, the arrival of 5,000 to 10,000 foreign fighters into Syria in only 18 months appears highly significant.

Or Russians motivated them. Amazingly, the Iraq War isn't mentioned.

Yes, foreign jihadis entered Iraq from Syria during the Iraq War. But the numbers in Iraq never matched the pre-war presence when Assad brought in foreign (Sunni) jihadis to staff his Saddam's Fedayeen paramilitary organization. They died in massive numbers during the invasion.

After that, foreigners came in to Iraq in the hundreds per month at peak, but they generally were sent to suicide bomber school. Obviously, they couldn't build up into great numbers that way. So the lack of mention is really only amazing because of what the anti-war side said about how Moslems would react to our campaign in Iraq.

But without America involved (and indeed many Sunni Arabs upset we refuse to help end the Assad slaughter of Sunni Moslems), jihadis are flocking to Syria in record numbers to fight the Assad government.

And of course, the Iranians are funding a Shia foreign legion fighting for Assad. (So it's kind of the Spanish Civil War for our age, no?)

Let the "why do they hate them?" questioning begin!

What the Hell

Even aside from the craptacular face plant that our foreign policy establishment achieved with Iran, last week was a utility disaster of failed phone, Internet, and even electricity.

And I missed Mister's orchestral performance. Let's not even speak of the awfulness of college football.

But by the actual end of the week, the weather could turn to snow in the bitter cold and the Red Wings lost, and I was oblivious of those developments despite being literally right in front of my eyes.

So there you go. It was a good week. Things just seem to work out for me. I don't know why.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The First Pacific Line of Death

When Khadaffi was in charge of Libya, pre-flip, we often had to defend freedom of navigation by crossing his self-declared "line of death" in the Gulf of Sidra. Now we have to do the same with China.

China declared an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea that other countries--especially Japan with their Senkaku Islands within the zone--must obey. Japan rejected that claim. American rejected that claim. Even South Korea rejected the zone.

And we wasted no time in demonstrating that we do not accept China's right to make such a claim:

Two U.S. military aircraft have flown around disputed islands in the East China Sea without informing China, a Pentagon spokesman said on Tuesday, defying China's declaration that the region falls into a new airspace defence zone.

China hopes to push others back from their claims with lots of little moves that keep moving the ball further out to sea wherever they don't meet effective resistance. Our move to challenge the zone was correct, but we have to do this regularly and be prepared for China to shoot at us to enforce their zone.

Remember, defending against a line of death in the Mediterranean led to conflict with Libya.

UPDATE: China did not react to our freedom of flight mission:

Responding to the flight of two unarmed American B-52 bombers through China’s new air defense zone over the East China Sea, the Chinese government said Wednesday it had monitored the planes but had decided not to take action despite the American refusal to identify the aircraft.

Monitoring the flight of two very large planes quite possibly older than I am should not have been a challenge. So saying they monitored them was a low level of competence.

More significant, China did not send up fighter planes to shadow our aircraft.

Maybe next time. Hopefully we have fighter aircraft within range the next time we challenge the zone. You never can tell when the Chinese will escalate. Don't forget the EP-3 incident, after all.

Unless we wish to let China get its way, this will be a routine mission for Pacific Command going forward.

Prepare for much higher pucker factors.

UPDATE: Our allies join us:

Japanese and South Korean military aircraft flew through disputed air space over the East China Sea without informing China, officials said on Thursday, challenging a new Chinese air defense zone that has increased regional tensions and sparked concerns of an unintended clash.

Although it appears that the South Korean flight was limited to the portion that extends into South Korean territorial waters. So unless South Korea makes further flights through the wider zone, this is simply a flight in defense of their own waters rather than an expression rejecting the entire Chinese zone. That's less than fully helpful.

UPDATE: Pucker factor squared:

China sent fighter jets and an early warning aircraft into its newly declared air defence zone, state media said Friday, as Japan and South Korea stated they had defied the zone with military overflights.

So far nobody has been up there at the same time as the Chinese. That will change.

We can't let China get away with an attempted annexation of air space over Japanese islands.

But we can't just let this proceed on its own without some diplomacy that gets China to back down from this dangerous course.

We and the Soviets played dangerous games of chicken at sea until we established rules of the road to prevent these incidents that could spiral into war.

The Chinese leaders are playing with fire here:

The Communist Party seeks to drum up popular support by tapping into deep-seated resentment of Japan for its brutal invasion of China in the 1930s.

Such nationalist passions are easily aroused, and Chinese social media users called for Beijing to retaliate against Washington.

At what point does the build-up of nationalist sentiment get a Chinese pilot to shoot in a crisis or lead Chinese leaders to order their assets to open fire out of fear of angering their own people?

The Hope and the Change

President Obama is vigorously defending his deal with Iran, a deal that bears his personal stamp, it is said. Let's ignore the details and just ponder the very basic assumptions of the crisis and the deal.

President Obama thinks the Iran deal is great:

Pushing back hard, President Barack Obama forcefully defended the temporary agreement to freeze Iran's disputed nuclear program on Monday, declaring that the United States "cannot close the door on diplomacy."

The deal has BHO written all over it, apparently:

His engagement - both in private and in public and according to aides, at a level of minute detail - is in contrast to a more aloof approach as Egypt came under military rule and Syria descended into civil war.

"It's the top item on his foreign agenda for the rest of his term," a source close to the White House's thinking said of the Iran issue. "He doesn't want to leave anything to chance."

One, this is typical straw-man demolition by our president. Rejecting this deal is not closing the door on diplomacy.

As for his personal attention, I think I'm starting to think presidential aloofness is a preferred approach to our policies. At least policies on auto-pilot don't get deliberately screwed up.

After all, let's ponder the long crisis that led to this deal, "interim" though it may be.

Remember, we believe the evidence indicates that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.

That is why we have continued, over the last decade and a half, to gather as many countries as we can in imposing sanctions on Iran. We hope economic pain will persuade Iran to abandon their goal of nuclear weapons. Indeed, the administration itself defends the deal by claiming the sanctions relief is really no big deal. So we don't even intend to cancel the sanctions during the interim period.

Our belief that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons is why the president has repeatedly claimed (no matter how little anyone seems to believe his threat) that "all options are on the table" to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

We also have waged cyber-war on Iran's nuclear program.

And our belief that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons is why we are building an expensive missile defense system in NATO Europe.

So, we believe Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.

So this "interim" deal that we say can lead to a final solution--oh wait, that's perhaps a bad choice of words--what would that have to do with nutball Iranian mullahs wanting nuclear weapons?! Let's say a final agreement, eh?

This interim deal will lead to a final agreement based on the following language that we and the Iranians agreed on:

Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.

We're at this point because we believe Iran has nuclear weapons programs. We'd have to believe that, you admit, to justify punishing Iranians with sanctions, holding the threat of military force over the Iranians, unleashing cyber-warfare on Iran's nuclear program, and building missile defenses.

Or do you really want to argue that President Obama is arbitrary, cruel, and quite possibly a secret hater of Shia Moslems?

Yet we believe this interim agreement will lead to a final agreement that prevents Iran from getting nuclear weapons even though Iran doesn't even admit that they have any ambitions for nuclear weapons to be negotiated?

What? Is John Kerry's droning voice somewhere at the 5-month mark going to cause the Iranians to snap and cry out, "Yes, for God's sake we've been lying! We want nukes! Just shut up and leave us alone ... ," [Iranian envoy drops heads to table and weeps uncontrollably] and simply beg for mercy?

That really is the only way President Obama could hope that Iran's behavior will change with his deal.

We are so screwed.

UPDATE: Thanks to Mad Minerva for the link.

A Shout Out to the Obama Administration

Given my recent frustrations with the rock-pounding idiocy of our Syria, Iraq, and Iran policies (wow, who knew Kerry would be an idiot?), it is a relief to note that the president's space policy is actually something to be happy about.

Of course, it is being left to the private sector to build a new generation of craft to reach orbit.

Tip to Instapundit.

I've waited all my life for real space travel. When I was little, I thought ahead to the year 2000 (so far away at that point) and counted the years to realize I wouldn't really be that old by then!

NASA had their glory days to go to the moon. And they've had their moments since. But if I'm to see real space travel and a real space presence in my lifetime, it will be the new outfits getting started today. And for that hope, I do give credit to the Obama administration.

When Did the Draft Become So Great?

The lack of a draft did not compel us to use private military contractors in the Iraq War.

This is an interesting article on the rise of private military companies (mercenaries). I would think that is interesting, of course.

But I have to really object to this statement:

The conflict that reintroduced the mercenary to public awareness in America was the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom — the largest American military occupation since the Vietnam War. The all-volunteer American military, lacking in manpower or the ability to increase staffing on short notice, turned to private companies to provide logistics and support. The economic consequences of the abolition of the draft in 1973 became apparent as the occupation began to drag on far longer than American war planners had initially predicted. Politicians could no longer increase the number of boots on the ground at the stroke of a pen — it was now necessary to bring out the public checkbook.

We had a smaller military in 2003 because we decided to have a smaller military after the Cold War was won in the 1989-1991 period. Even without the draft after the Vietnam War, we had a much larger military until victory in the Cold War led us to repeatedly reduce our active duty forces.

And when we finally did decide to have a larger ground force to cope with the longer fight in Iraq, we were able to do that by reorganizing the Army and then when Congress demanded it, by increasing recruitment for an expanded ground force. No draft was necessary to achieve that expansion.

Further, what happened after Congress ordered the expansion was exactly the reason the Pentagon resisted expansion of the ground forces--we won the war in Iraq and then had to reduce our ground forces again when our nation didn't want to pay for that size of a force, with all the dislocations that any reduction in force can cause.

So yeah, private military contractors were able to temporarily do military-related jobs (often with former soldiers with years of experience) that could easily be ended when we didn't need that capacity without harming the core military.

If you think the draft would have been better than the course we followed, explain why we would need to create a complicated and expensive system that would induct only a tiny fraction of annual 18-year-old cohort to provide the manpower that the ground forces needed to wage the war in Iraq. Who would be exempted? We'd need lots of exemptions, after all.

Face it, a draft would have brought in a large number of people who didn't want to be in the military. How good would they be as soldiers? And if the draft replaced all recruiting of volunteers to address whatever theoretical shortfall in recruiting that could have happened depending on how large you think our Army should have been during the Iraq War, we would have blocked the people who wanted to join the military--recruits far more likely to be good soldiers--in favor of counting on luck to induct them in the draft lottery.

Even comparing the annual cost of a single American soldier to the single-year cost of a contractor is nonsense. The soldier--say a sergeant as the article notes--required perhaps a decade of costly training and maintenance to reach that stage when you can look at their annual cost. And that sergeant, if the sergeant stays in uniform another 10 years, will continue to cost the government money for retirement and health costs for the rest of that retiree's (hopefully long) life.

The contractor is a cost for only as long as he or she is under contract.

So whatever the merits and problems of using contract troops--a practice with a long history--using the Iraq War experience as an argument for a draft of inexperienced and resentful civilians-turned soldier as an alternative to contract soldiers who often had years or decades of military experience already--is nonsense.

Vote of Confidence

The idea that Afghans are generally angry with the way we wage war there and just want us to leave them alone is plain wrong.

Tribal leaders of Afghanistan, despite Taliban threats if they voted for a post-2014 American presence in that country, overwhelmingly voted to support that proposed pact:

An Afghan grand assembly Sunday endorsed a crucial security agreement allowing some US troops to stay on after 2014, although President Hamid Karzai set conditions for signing the deal.

The "loya jirga" gathering of about 2,500 chieftains, tribal elders and politicians overwhelming backed the pact setting the terms for any US military presence beyond 2014, and urged Karzai to sign it by the end of this year.

So there you go.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Watching the War Go By

Rebels are still battling around Damascus. Assad has not won this war.

While slower than poison gas, starvation will slaughter people, too. Syrian rebels are desperate to stop that:

Fierce fighting to the east of Damascus has killed more than 160 people [NOTE: 100 rebels and 60 government troops, according to a pro-opposition group] in the past two days as Syrian rebels struggle to break a months-long blockade by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, activists said on Sunday.

It began on Friday when rebel units attacked a string of military checkpoints encircling the opposition-held suburbs in an area known as Eastern Ghouta, which has been under siege for more than six months.

Local and international aid workers say Assad's forces appeared to be trying to starve out residents - indiscriminately affecting civilians as much as rebel fighters.

The rebels say Hezbollah is fighting there. If so, the Assad side will be a tougher nut to crack than the Syrian forces that otherwise should be easier to target.

We handicapped our ability to achieve a victory in Syria. But we didn't eliminate the chance. I guess it depends on whether we want Assad to survive this revolt.

From the Files of Dental Squad

After canceling my last routine dental appointment because my brake system went down (new rotors, pads, and the whole 9 yards), I was able to get in for a new appointment today when someone else cancelled. It's always a chance to reestablish my "bad boy" street cred.

As I'm lying there, the hygienist pulls out my file--my file!--and says to me, "I see here you don't like to floss."

I really need to look in my file. What else is in there?

I don't bother to even deny it any more. I always assertively state that I don't like to floss. It just doesn't feel good, I say in my defense.

That's right! I flaunt the rules. I don't floss. I'm a bad boy. Lighten up, huh? Whaddaya gonna do about it, anyway?

Clearly they worry I'll infect their other patients with my attitude.

They used to try to sway me. But no more. Now they just let it go--and even note that I do a really good job of brushing.

Although what the heck kind of a compliment is that supposed to be?

Oh sure, from a dental environment that's probably high praise, indeed.

But we're talking tooth brushing. This isn't rocket science. Are there really legions of people out there who don't manage to rub a paste-covered brush across their teeth in a reasonably complete fashion two or three times a day--every day? Really? I'm noteworthy?

Maybe so. We do live in an age when masturbation can get you college credit (tip to Instapundit). College credit for that?

Is it really more complicated than the "if it feels good, do it" advice on life. How can you do that wrong? What? Are people rubbing a paste-covered brush across their other sensitive areas and not getting good results?

Let's not speak of flossing in this context. One shudders to explore those avenues of thought. Or I do, anyway. Your experience may be different.

Anyway. I have a dental reputation. My file is clear on that. I'm difficult. I'm a bad boy.

I scare them. A little, anyway. But inexplicably I'm a good boy on another measure.

Anyway, I got a good bill of health and I'm good another six months. Hey, nobody's putting a gun to their head to make them treat me.

Good grief, I'm so effing suburban. And to think I grew up in Detroit.

How Can People Celebrate the Kerry II Deal on Iran?

There is no way that Iran under the current rulers will negotiate away their right to build nuclear weapons. Period.

So far, the only strong support for the Iran deal has been from Syria, Hezbollah, Obama administration officials, and certain journalists--including Thomas Friedman, now.

Yeah, stupid Israelis--thinking that John Kerry couldn't negotiated a deal that will halt Iran's nuclear drive! The simpletons!

Less than 12 hours after Obama announced the agreement at the White House, Democratic and Republican lawmakers ripped it on Sunday morning talk shows, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu taking to Twitter to bash the terms as a “historic mistake” and warn that “this ‘first step’, might be the last step.”

What rubes! Let Kerry handle everything. He's kind of big deal, you know.

But let's check on Friedman:

I’VE never been in a big earthquake, but I know what one feels like now, having spent this past week in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The American-led interim negotiations in Geneva to modestly loosen some sanctions on Iran in return for some curbs on its nuclear program — in advance of talks for an end to sanctions in return for an end to any Iranian bomb-making capability — has hit the Sunni Arab world (and Israel) like a geopolitical earthquake. If and when a deal is struck, it could have a bigger impact on this region than anything since the Camp David peace treaty and Iran’s Islamic Revolution in the 1970s combined to reorder the Middle East.

Ah, Tom. No issue is so big that he can't preface it with a self-inflating mention of his most recent globe-trotting with the international conference set. He's kind of a big deal, too, you know.

To his credit, while unwilling to criticize this Kerry deal, Friedman's conditional bravo on the possibility of a good final deal rests on an end state that there is no possibility of achieving under Kerry (or possibly anyone):

We can only manage it by being very clear about our goals: to unleash politics inside Iran as much as possible, while leashing its nuclear program as tightly as possible, while continuing to protect our Arab and Israeli allies.

That is, Friedman wants regime change in Iran--a long evolutionary one, of course--while we prevent Iran from going nuclear until Iran's regime changes.

Yeah, nice work if you can get it.

Firedman even makes a good point that an Iran friendly to the United States risks upsetting our Arab allies in the region who got used to having their concerns raised above Iran since the revolution in Tehran.

But I think they really can get used to an Iran friendly to the US again if that country is not a mullah-run Shia nutball factory armed with nuclear weapons.

So I'll give Friedman some partial credit here, and not repeat my usual slam. Although how Friedman thinks we go from this faux interim deal to a non-nuclear Iran with politics unleashed is beyond me.

But his bosses are equally hopeful:

The interim nuclear deal between Iran and the major powers is an important step toward resolving the increasingly dangerous dispute over Iran’s progress on production of a nuclear weapon. President Obama and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran deserve credit for resisting fierce domestic opposition and a 30-year history of animosity between the two countries to get to this point.

How can this be a revolutionary change in relations when Iran doesn't even admit to having a nuclear weapons program? When Iran continues to support Assad to the hilt? When Iran is bankrolling Hamas and Hezbollah rocket arsenals? When Iran is undermining Iraq and hoping to do the same in Afghanistan?

In what alternate universe is it possible to call this an important first step?

The only thing we managed to do that can remotely be called a good thing is Iran's limits on enrichment of uranium.

And even without an agreement, Iran has managed that stockpile on its own to push back the clock and keep the bombers at bay! Isn't it just as likely that without a deal Iran would continue to keep their stockpiles below the "red line" level until they are ready to use it to make missile warheads?

Of course, the editors at the New York Times make it clear what alternative universe they are in:

Even though the temporary agreement does not achieve permanent and total dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear program, no one can seriously argue that it doesn’t make the world safer. It would freeze key aspects of Iran’s program for six months and lay the ground for negotiating a comprehensive, permanent deal.

Ahem. I very seriously argue that this doesn't make the world safer.

One, how does this interim agreement lay the ground for a permanent deal when Iran doesn't even admit to having nuclear weapons programs?

The Times editorial board weighs a false peace for six months that allows Iran to continue work on non-agreement aspects of their programs without threat of an American or Israeli attack against added pressure of American-led sanctions and threats of air strikes and concludes the former makes the world more safe.

The former could give Iran nukes sooner than they would otherwise while the latter might involve a conventional war that puts off the day of Iran's nukes. But the former is judged so easily safer for the world that no one can seriously argue against their position.

Have a super sparkly day.

All Your Monies Are Belong to Us

Who's this 'We' stuff that Representative Rangel is peddling?

This attitude is the problem (tip to Weekly Standard) and not something that means we don't have a federal government spending problem:

America is not broke. Our country is making great strides toward energy independence and to position itself as the world’s largest oil producer. For the first time since early 1995, U.S. oil production exceeded imports, and it will surpass Saudi Arabia’s output by 2020.

It's not just the wrong notion that we can tax energy companies enough to sustain our spending habit. No, that's just the normal everyday attitude of a spending class toward anyone that succeeds.

They didn't drill that, you see. Or frack it. Or wrestle it from whatever inhospitable patch of ground or sea, risking their money if they fail. So really, our government can take whatever it needs for the better purposes that our spending class can identify.

The real problem is that in an age when we are facing massive budget deficits with no path to a balanced budget in sight, a Congressman can conflate our economy with our federal budget. That is, "America" is not broke. And if America isn't broke, America--let alone only acceptable scapegoats like the oil industry--can "contribute" (under force of law, of course) more money to maintain whatever level of federal spending that the spending class wants.

As long as America isn't broke, the federal government shouldn't be considered broke. That's really what they think, and it is actually a relief to see one of the spending class admit it so clearly.

I swear, in their perfect world they'd take all our money, and in their infinite wisdom and generosity, grant us an allowance.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Other Saudi Nuclear Option?

I've noted that Saudi-Pakistan nuclear and defense cooperation could easily extend to Pakistan providing their "Islamic bomb" to the caretakers of Islam's holy places. Is there another source?

Yes, Pakistan could provide Saudi Arabia with nuclear weapons.

But is there another source?

Consider that the news has reported intensified cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia over Iran's nuclear ambitions and the conviction by both countries that America will do nothing to stop Iran from going nuclear.

The assumption seems to be that Saudi Arabia would make its air space and possibly territory available for Israel to strike Iran's nuclear facilities as a last resort.

But what if Israel considers supplying Saudi Arabia with nuclear weapons to deter Iran?

Seriously. Stay with me.

What if Israel, despite its rhetoric, does not believe they can strike Iran absent an American green light? A green light that an America determined to score a final deal with Iran will not provide.

If Israel can't risk alienating us by striking Iran and is sure that Saudi Arabia will get nuclear weapons from Pakistan in response to a nuclear Iran, might not Israel provide nukes that perhaps have safeguards built in to them to prevent them from being launched at any target but Iran?

If Israel hard wires them for whatever targets in Iran that Saudi Arabia is willing to target, could the warheads be locked up so they can't be reprogrammed or disassembled for their raw materials?

Could the weapons be designed to degrade to inert condition within a couple years (they do, anyway, because of a special gas required--in our designs, anyway), requiring Saudi Arabia to rotate the weapons back to Israel for replacement that often?

For Saudi Arabia, they'd have better quality nukes than Iran's North Korean- and Pakistan-derived design, and would not risk antagonizing India over nuclear cooperation with Pakistan.

And maybe other states in the region would feel safer with Saudi nukes that can only be fired at Iran, thus stopping post-nuclear Iran nuclear proliferation at one more--Saudi Arabia.

Shoot. We might even be quietly relieved that Saudi Arabia doesn't go the Pakistan route if we accept Saudi nuclear ambitions as readily as we accept Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Desperate people do desperate things. How desperate is Israel?

I'm Not Reassured So Far

Will and Hanson think Iran will go nuclear.

The major questions are what Iran will do with their eventual nuclear weapons (nuke Israel, shield a more aggressive foreign policy against Iraq, Afghanistan, small Arab Gulf states; intensify their terror campaigns); what Israel will do (to bomb or not to bomb Iran, expand their nuclear arsenal); when the Saudis, Turks, and Egyptians will respond so they can deter Iran with their own nukes; and whether other non-nuclear allies will decide our nuclear umbrella isn't strong enough to protect them from a nuclear foe (Japan and South Korea, mostly, but Taiwan, too).

And for those here who think the deal is great and that war mongers just wanted to bomb Iran for jollies, remember that your preferred policy of containment requires your open willingness to commit mass murder against Iranians in order to deter Iranian use of nukes. That's about as far from R2P as you can get.

Oh, and for added yucks, the interim period ends in mid-2014, just as the mid-term elections primary season gets going. How likely is it that the Obama administration will clamp down on Iran and implicitly admit they screwed up when it could have a bad effect on those elections for Congress?

Face it, the administration will claim that Iran's nuclear ambitions are on the run and that their nuclear program is dead.

I retain some hope that our military has prepared a military option that accommodates even a last-minute resolve to destroy Iran's nuclear arsenal when it appears.

God help us, but I think the Obama administration really thinks they achieved a triumph here.

UPDATE: Carafano has thumbs down.

And if you really want confirmation of the badness of the deal, consider that Fareed Zakaria--who couldn't find his own buttocks with both hands and a GPS signal--thinks it is swell!

At least we didn't offer concessions to get Iran to freeze development on their F-313 "stealth fighter."

UPDATE: Good God, the press corps probably isn't going to be of any help in getting the administration to understand that they did not achieve a diplomatic triumph:

President Barack Obama has pulled off a historic deal with Iran on curbing its nuclear program but he and other global leaders now have tough work ahead turning an interim accord into a comprehensive agreement.

It's surely historic. Iran getting the time to go nuclear will go down in history, no doubt. But there is no reason to celebrate this.

No worries, we'll get through whatever "glitches" arise, eh?

"Master Builder," Indeed

China is funding building projects in North Korea. It sounds less like a real effort to create some semblance of an economy above prison barter stage than it is an effort to facilitate a Chinese invasion of North Korea.

I don't think this means North Korea is staving off collapse, although it may buy time:

Partly out of the public eye, however, the young leader has presided over a construction boom since he took office two years ago with the aid of funds from China, the North's major backer, and Russia, a former Cold War ally.

So what is being built?


Chinese money paid for a $300 million suspension bridge across a one kilometre-wide stretch of the Yalu River, according to Chinese media reports, linking China's port city of Dandong and its North Korean equivalent, Sinuiju.

That's along the main highway from China into North Korea in the west.

And then there are roads:

"The DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) appears to be increasing the quantity and quality of paved roads," said Curtis Melvin, a researcher at the U.S.-Korea Institute at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

"It appears one goal is to link all the provincial capitals to Pyongyang by paved highway (and) increase road transport integration with the Chinese economy," said Melvin, who spotted foundations for the Wonsan-Hamhung road using satellite imagery.


So if there is a dispute among the powers about who should administer a collapsed North Korean state, China is making sure that the main highway into North Korea allows the Chinese army to rapidly drive south to Pyongyang.

And from there, the Chinese army can fan out to other parts of North Korea to various provincial capitals.

Meanwhile, South Korean forces would have to react to the Chinese move and then cross the heavily mined, obstacled, and defended DMZ before trying to sprint to Pyongyang and lay claim to the northern part of the peninsula.

Is Kim Jong Un the Master Builder? From China's point of view (and axis of advance), sure. Have a cookie, Kim. Heckuva job!

I Fear Waking Up Tomorrow

It just occurred to me that our federal government has engineered two nuclear options in two days.

What will Monday morning bring?

The Iran Deal Is Passed, So Let's See What's In It!

I'm not convinced the deal we have struck with Iran halts their overall progress toward nuclear weapons.

This deal may just be a 6-month pause that allows Iran to set up a faster sprint to a nuclear weapons with all the components of their program that need to cross the line at the same time. Even though some of the limits negotiated are real, are they significant delays in this light? And the time Iran bought complements the time Syria's Assad bought, allowing Iran to continue to support Assad financially to defeat the rebels.

We have a fact sheet out on the Iran nuclear deal.

Let's see. We can start with the framing of the agreement. We're billing it as an interim agreement that buys time until a final agreement that prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon can be negotiated.

This assumes that Iran also sees it as an interim agreement with the same objective. If not, we have what we have, don't we? Does Iran consider this an interim step only in the sense that it gives us time to accept Iranian positions on their nuclear position?

And we have reduced our goals. Now, actually having a nuclear weapon is the no-go stage for Iran rather than the capability of enriching uranium to make bombs. That alone is a victory for Iran.

How about the details?

Halt all enrichment above 5% and dismantle the technical connections required to enrich above 5%.

Dilute below 5% or convert to a form not suitable for further enrichment its entire stockpile of near-20% enriched uranium before the end of the initial phase.

This keeps Iran from having the highly enriched stocks readily available. But with the technical connections re-established, Iran could restart. Another source notes that the enrichment limit extends the time Iran would need to have enough bomb material for a nuclear bomb from "at least 1-1.6 months to at least 1.9-2.2 months."

That source says this minor adjustment is significant, but it assumes we would do something decisive if Iran starts racing through that slightly increased time period to build a bomb. I assume we would not. Maybe Israel would, but that's another issue.

Not install additional centrifuges of any type.

Not install or use any next-generation centrifuges to enrich uranium.

Leave inoperable roughly half of installed centrifuges at Natanz and three-quarters of installed centrifuges at Fordow, so they cannot be used to enrich uranium.

Limit its centrifuge production to those needed to replace damaged machines, so Iran cannot use the six months to stockpile centrifuges.

Not construct additional enrichment facilities.

This leaves existing centrifuges intact.

And what does "install" mean? If Iran sets them up, with only a final connection being the "installation" phase, Iran could do a good deal in the "interim" period.

Also, Iran can continue to enrich to low levels with the centrifuges not defined as "next-generation."

Does broken centrifuge replacement allow Iran to replace older broken models with newer models? If so, Iran could increase capacity within the limits.

Does Iran even need an additional enrichment facility? This seems like a pointless Iranian concession since the 6-month "interim" period is surely too short of a time period for Iran to build a new facility. I assume the agreement doesn't prevent Iran from digging a large deep bunker for some vague non-nuclear purpose in this time.

Not increase its stockpile of 3.5% low enriched uranium, so that the amount is not greater at the end of the six months than it is at the beginning, and any newly enriched 3.5% enriched uranium is converted into oxide.

Could Iran move some of this level of uranium to the 5% limit? If so, the combined 3.5%-5% enriched uranium isn't really limited.

Not commission the Arak reactor.

Not fuel the Arak reactor.

Halt the production of fuel for the Arak reactor.

No additional testing of fuel for the Arak reactor.

Not install any additional reactor components at Arak.

Not transfer fuel and heavy water to the reactor site.

Not construct a facility capable of reprocessing. Without reprocessing, Iran cannot separate plutonium from spent fuel.

So the plutonium track is in theory frozen in place. I have no doubt that Iran can do things not forbidden that would help restart this route to a nuclear bomb at a quicker pace.

Is the plutonium track even that important to Iran? That isn't the route North Korea used to go nuclear even though North Korea has that alternate track, as well.

Provide daily access by IAEA inspectors at Natanz and Fordow. This daily access will permit inspectors to review surveillance camera footage to ensure comprehensive monitoring. This access will provide even greater transparency into enrichment at these sites and shorten detection time for any non-compliance.

Provide IAEA access to centrifuge assembly facilities.

Provide IAEA access to centrifuge rotor component production and storage facilities.

Provide IAEA access to uranium mines and mills.

Provide long-sought design information for the Arak reactor. This will provide critical insight into the reactor that has not previously been available.

Provide more frequent inspector access to the Arak reactor.

Provide certain key data and information called for in the Additional Protocol to Iran’s IAEA Safeguards Agreement and Modified Code 3.1.

Better inspections are good. But in regard to the Arak reactor, is Iran simply giving the appearance of a concession for a non-critical facility?

And does Iran simply accept the inspections as a necessary evil that can be endured during the interim period without seriously harming their nuclear plans in order to reap our concessions?

Is the joint commission Iran and the great powers (Germany and permanent UN Security Council members--including Russia and China, remember--will set up to oversee this just a means to limit the scope of inspections and impede them if they get too effective? Why put such a body between Iran and the IAEA, if that isn't its purpose?

Does the joint commission exist beyond the 6-month interim period? Or is this now a standing body that can run interference for Iran because it has Russia, China, and Iran on the commission?

Then we get to what Iran gets--not including the precious 6 months of time they've bought during which even Israel wouldn't dare attack Iran:

Not impose new nuclear-related sanctions for six months, if Iran abides by its commitments under this deal, to the extent permissible within their political systems.

Suspend certain sanctions on gold and precious metals, Iran’s auto sector, and Iran’s petrochemical exports, potentially providing Iran approximately $1.5 billion in revenue.

License safety-related repairs and inspections inside Iran for certain Iranian airlines.

Allow purchases of Iranian oil to remain at their currently significantly reduced levels – levels that are 60% less than two years ago. $4.2 billion from these sales will be allowed to be transferred in installments if, and as, Iran fulfills its commitments.

Allow $400 million in governmental tuition assistance to be transferred from restricted Iranian funds directly to recognized educational institutions in third countries to defray the tuition costs of Iranian students.

Facilitate humanitarian transactions that are already allowed by U.S. law. Humanitarian transactions have been explicitly exempted from sanctions by Congress so this channel will not provide Iran access to any new source of funds. Humanitarian transactions are those related to Iran’s purchase of food, agricultural commodities, medicine, medical devices; we would also facilitate transactions for medical expenses incurred abroad. We will establish this channel for the benefit of the Iranian people.

On the bright side, in theory Congress could impose additional sanctions and override a presidential veto. In practice there is Senator Harry Reid, who obviously has no problem with a "nuclear option" if it supports President Obama.

I assume lifting some sanctions on gold and precious metals will help Iran evade banking restrictions. So Iran could barter oil for gold and whatnot quietly and then gain additional revenue from those precious metals.

Making Iran's aircraft safer helps Iran's air bridge to Assad and allows Iran to more safely bring in small but valuable components or materials from places like North Korea or Venezuela.

I'm not sure what the oil-level provision means. If export levels are to be allowed to remain as is, how does Iran get over $4 billion? And who determines if Iran is fulfilling requirements? And how do we keep Iran from using some legal exports to leverage resources for Iran's nuclear program and foreign policy the way Saddam Hussein used legal "oil for food" trade to add to his slush fund?

I don't know what to make of the tuition piece. But if that frees up other Iranian resources that otherwise would have supported those students, that's a chunk of change for Iran. And obviously, any time there is talk of Iranian "students" I get nervous given the role of "students" as the shock troops of their takeover of our embassy in Iran at the start of the Iranian revolution during the Carter administration.

Making it easier for Iran to get allowable humanitarian aid is still a means for Iran to gain more money or assets that otherwise the Iranians would have to pay for.

I remain worried that the limits Iran has accepted are restrictions they don't consider vital to continue at this moment. Remember, Iran needs the ability to produce nuclear warheads and missiles to put them on at the same time. I see nothing that restricts Iran's missile programs or warhead work.

And Iran has its own 6-month shield to go along with Syria's 6-month shield that the chemical weapons deal gave Assad to pound down the rebellion. Now Iran has more financial resources to prop up Assad and keep their own economy going. Syria has already "welcomed" the agreement.

There is also a large section explaining that the financial concessions to Iran aren't really that big of a deal. Which begs the question of why Iran would accept a deal that the administration says is so crippling to Iran's nuclear program. Clearly, Iran feels the deal is a good deal for them even if the administration can't conceive of why they think this is so.

After all, I fear we think this is a good deal because it is a deal that is not glaringly bad in the light of morning and not because of what is in the deal. It all depends on your objectives, no?

So there you go.

Pressure has been lifted from Iran, allowing them to continue their hostile foreign policy and allowing them to continue whatever is not banned.

Will we really be able to get Iran to dismantle their nuclear programs at the far weaker level of not reaching an actual bomb rather than the previous level of not having the ability to produce the uranium for bombs?

If not, will we really be willing to ratchet up the sanctions again? Especially given the amazing statement in this fact sheet that we had to cut a deal because sanctions would have frayed if we didn't?

Furthermore, without this phased approach, the international sanctions coalition would begin to fray because Iran would make the case to the world that it was serious about a diplomatic solution and we were not. We would be unable to bring partners along to do the crucial work of enforcing our sanctions. With this first step, we stop and begin to roll back Iran's program and give Iran a sharp choice: fulfill its commitments and negotiate in good faith to a final deal, or the entire international community will respond with even more isolation and pressure.

How does that inspire confidence that Iran is giving in to our pressure?

If there is no deal in 6 months, what gives the administration any confidence that we could make the case that Iran is still pursuing nuclear weapons better than Iran can make the case that they tried to build confidence but those darned unreasonable Americans just wouldn't take "yes" for an answer?

And if we restart sanctions in 6 months if Iran doesn't move toward a final deal, we'll have to spend many months just to get Iran back to the financial point they are at right now. So Iran has at least bought a year, rather than 6 months. And probably more, since they'll also have had 6 months to figure out how to get around the temporarily suspended sanctions. Iran has operated under various sanctions for virtually the entire life of the Islamic Republic, remember. They're fairly adept at finding loopholes and people willing to risk discovery for the profit potential.

Finally, just having 6 months to a year or more of more time provides Iran with a better chance to achieve a break-out nuclear capability that bridges that period of vulnerability between the time we recognize they have the ability to produce nuclear weapons and the actual possession of nuclear missiles that could deter an attack, as I've long feared:

The problem from Iran's point of view is that they can't know if crossing one of these lines could trigger an American or Israeli preemptive strike out of fear that further delay in attacking would be too late to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. And if I was an Iranian nutball, I wouldn't assume the Americans and Israelis couldn't knock out my infrastructure.

Were I an Iranian nutball, under those circumstances, I'd want at least a few atomic warhead on hand before I announce capabilities to produce atomic weapons-grade material. Which would mean I'd have had to have bought some from either North Korea or Pakistan--or possibly even from some broke custodian of Russia's arsenal.

If Iran can announce both the ability to make nuclear bomb material and the possession of actual nuclear weapons--perhaps by detonating one in a test on their own territory--Tehran would quite possibly deter an attack on Iran's nuclear infrastructure.

We're not dealing with idiots. If the Iranian mullahs believe there are red lines that trigger Israeli or American action, why wouldn't they take counter-actions rather than just blindly cross those lines and provide a pretext for military action against them?

Have a super sparkly day. I suspect that Iran's mullahs will have a truly great Thanksgiving as they gorge on the turkey we just delivered.

The IED Warehouse

We have a hurt locker warehouse:

Just outside the nation's capital, amid suburban trappings like yogurt shops and yoga studios, chain sports bars and fast food franchises, sits a nondescript building few could guess contains the legacy of two wars terrorists fought with hidden bombs.

It's the FBI's repository of pain.

Inside the brightly-lit and highly secure warehouse that evokes "Raiders of The Lost Ark", the Bureau has neatly stockpiled a "bomb library" of 100,000 remnants of improvised explosive devices, called IEDs, recovered by the U.S. military from battlegrounds mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They've been collected to examine as evidence and intelligence on IED makers, and also to study in order to design technology to defeat them and keep G.I.s alive.

Of our more than six-and-a-half thousand killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, over 3,100 were from IEDs.

As odd as it is to think of it this way, this is a statistic of our enemies' weakness. Insurgencies win by moving up the escalation ladder to ultimately forming units that rival the government forces in size, training, and equipment.

Our enemies couldn't even hold the line at using direct fire in small unit actions prior to moving up that ladder. Instead, they went down the ladder to a form of warfare that didn't risk their own people to our fire and which simply killed civilians to alienate more people from the jihadi cause--eventually prompting our Sunni Saddam-supporting enemies to switch sides to fight at our side against the jihadis!

And while our enemies still had a surge of IED (including suicide bombers) killing ahead of them, the pattern held. We suppressed most of the violence and could look forward to the day when the Iraqis would defeat them with some modest US presence after 2011. Of course, we never provided that help. Still, the terrorists are not moving up the escalation ladder, either. Just more pointless killing seems to keep the jihadis happy.

But I risk digressing too much. Anyway, we are studying what these murderers built.

I'm not sure what enemies we might face who would use the same weapon to the same degree. But it is better to study them just in case. You never know.

And we have bits from Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, too. So this is useful "data" to study regardless of what goes on in Iraq and Afghanistan.