Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A New Year of Hope and Aggression?

This author expects Russia in 2015 to embark on more aggression in a twilight war that skirts below open military aggression. Could Russia aggression, if it is indeed likely next year, be limited geographically but more direct than we anticipate?

Is this the face of Putin's 2015 aggression to escape the problem of absorbing Ukrainian territory?

The new year will be filled with many Kremlin operational games of various kinds. Expect regular media reports of “unattributed” cyber attacks, “unexplained” acts of sabotage, “unresolved” online scandals, and “mysterious” terrorist incidents across the West. This can be stopped, and must be; there is little time to waste. I will be spending 2015 doing my part to assist the West as it learns to wage Special War against the number-one-ranked team in the game.

Putin finds himself in need of carrying out further aggression to compel a Western retreat because he is still embroiled in conflict in Ukraine which the West has been forced to notice by his attempts to take Ukraine's territory. The economic problems from sanctions, loss of investor confidence in Russia, and loss of energy income as oil prices plunge make more aggression Putin's only real option to escape these problems since he won't give up his territorial gains.

This, of course, reinforces my basic feeling that when possible, one should pull off the band-aid fast when it comes to military intervention. Which is why I worry that our basically sound approach to defeating ISIL in Iraq could be short-circuited if ISIL successfully preempts our plan rather than waits for us to strike.

Back to Russia, if Putin had restricted his territorial ambitions to Crimea which he rapidly secured, Europe and European-Americans here probably would have been happy to look the other way as they did after the rapid seizure of Georgian territory in 2008.

If Putin had even rapidly used his ground forces to take the Donbas from Kharkov down to the Sea of Azov rather than mess with astro-turf revolt that Ukraine was able to react to successfully before Russia escalated to restore the stalemate there, the same thing might have happened even with that conquest.

But no, Putin did not try to pull the band-aid off fast. And so the affront lingers on, and Europe and America are shamed into doing something to help a victim of aggression.

On the bright side, Putin's failure to rapidly pull off a conquest reflects the fact that Russia's military isn't that good overall. It has some pockets of excellence but it has a lot of ground to cover with relatively few troops. Putin may have wanted to rapidly conquer the Donbas, too, but found he didn't have the assets to do the job.

But there are some good Russian troops. Could Russia seek to use their relatively few quality troops on a narrow front rather than try their "little green men" astro-turf revolt tactic again that we will be more attuned to reacting to if applied to Estonia, a member of NATO, with its relatively large (a quarter of the population) ethnic Russian minority?

What if Russia attempts a page out of Pakistan's long territorial struggle against militarily superior India in the 1999 Kargil War?

What if Russia sends in their regular troops--while denying they are their troops--to seize the Estonian ethnic-Russian city of Narva on the northeast border and dares NATO to counter-attack, which would devastate NATO's reputation if we did nothing?

Remember, Russia recently stated that NATO expansion is a threat to Russia:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new military doctrine, naming NATO expansion among key external risks, the Kremlin said on Friday, days after Ukraine made fresh steps to join the Atlantic military alliance.

Moscow's previous military doctrine, signed by Putin in 2010, also identified NATO expansion as a top risk to Russia, but the stakes have risen sharply over the past year.

Do they mean just future NATO expansion? I imagine Putin considers NATO expansion into former Warsaw Pact states and especially former Soviet territory in the Baltic states as falling under that threat category, especially since NATO troops--in wholly theoretical terms--could be within marching range of St. Petersburg.

Since NATO expansion was already considered a "risk" I don't see how Putin could not want to roll back NATO if he can.

If Russia chose to try some roll back in Estonia, Russia could challenge NATO on a narrow front that NATO could not safely widen to Russian territory without risking nuclear war, just as India did not risk a wider confrontation with Pakistan and accepted a narrow fight.

Unless we could evacuate the city--which the Russians would be unlikely to cooperate with--we would have to bring our A-game of precision-targeting to avoid killing civilians as we dug out Russian defenders.

To me, we'd need a Marine brigade with it's integrated ground support air power (we have equipment stored in Norway) reinforced with armor in cooperation with Estonian troops and NATO special forces to liberate the city, which would be backed by NATO heavy armor formations to guard against a Russian effort to escalate the fight and perhaps drive deeper into Estonia to cut off the Marines.

We'd also need to reinforce Riga in Latvia and add forces to Lithuania to guard against even bigger efforts by Russia to widen the war if the Narva War goes poorly for them.

NATO air power would try to keep the Russian air force from intervening in the fight.

We could cooperate with Russia's fiction of non-involvement by not naming Russia as the aggressor in triggering NATO's collective defense provision (and hopefully give Russia an excuse not to escalate the fight) and work to inflict a defeat on Russia on a battlefield of Russia's choosing.

Let's hope we can manage this crisis with Russia to prevent a direct clash between Russia and NATO. But if Putin decides to escalate, because he is willing to take risks because he sees Russia is in a weak position on the global chess board, let's win at that level of escalation. If we win that narrow war, Russia has little to go up to short of nuclear war to get their way by force of arms with Russia's current military.

Of course, Russia might have a supporting role in a new crisis rather than being the central figure in a new dangerous crisis in the new year.

World wars start out small, remember.

Don't Drink, Don't Smoke, What Do You Do?

The Air Force F-35 is not ready to be the primary ground support aircraft for the Army. But it doesn't have to be the primary ground support aircraft yet.

Given the eagerness of the Air Force to dump the A-10 close air support plane, this news about the F-35 is kind of disturbing:

When the Pentagon’s nearly $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter finally enters service next year after nearly two decades in development, it won’t be able to support troops on the ground the way older planes can today. Its sensors won’t be able to see the battlefield as well; and what video the F-35 does capture, it won’t be able to transmit to infantrymen in real time.

Apparently, since the plane has its sensors for ground support--Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS)--built into the air frame (for stealth purposes), that system is a decade behind the newest pods hung from our older planes. Those internal systems are not as cheaply or easily upgraded.

Sure, the systems can and will be upgraded eventually--for a price that adds to the already high cost. For a plane that will last decades in service, upgrades will happen anyway.

So I'm not overly worried, since the F-35 will just be in initial operational capability. It's capabilities and numbers will increase over time. And until they do, those older airframes that can support the troops (including the A-10 if the Air Force is denied its wishes to dump the aircraft) with the newest targeting systems will continue to dominate the inventory.

Further, as the picture in the article shows, the F-35 can put stuff on external hard points. Yes, this wrecks the stealth (since stealth is maintained by putting unstealthy weapons in an internal bay within the stealth envelope of the plane), but for irregular and insurgent enemies, we can put those newer pods on the F-35 can't we? Stealth doesn't matter in those types of fights.

I'm not going to panic that the F-35 can't take over the close air support role when it debuts. It doesn't have to do that--yet.

Honestly, while I have worries over the ability of the F-35 to provide ground support, my worries on this subject actually center on whether the Air Force even thinks it is a priority mission for them.

But I'm starting to elevate my worry that the F-35 isn't ready for its primary mission that the Air Force is 100% behind--air superiority.

Except for a small number of F-22s, the F-35 is basically going to be the tip of the spear of our Air Force when its production run ends. Let's hope that all these issues are just normal breaking-in problems that will be resolved rather than fatal flaws.

There was a time, after all, when the M-1 Abrams and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles were questioned, and both turned out to be excellent weapons.

We absolutely need the F-35 to be added to that success list of superstars. Despite the subtle innuendos questioning whether the plane can gain air superiority let alone support troops on the ground, there must be something inside, right?

UPDATE: When I spotted an article about the F-35 not having the software to fire its gun until about 2019, I figured this was no big deal because the plane isn't designed to dogfight. Unless an enemy cooperates by flying in front of the F-35, what pilot will use it? And the excuse for getting rid of the A-10 is that the new and improved Air Force doesn't need to fly low to provide support to ground troops.

Anyway, the article has this bit about why it doesn't matter that the plane will have but 180 rounds (or 220 in an external pod for the Navy and Marine Corps versions) even when the software arrives:

The lack of a gun is not likely to be a major problem for close-in air-to-air dogfights against other jets. Part of the problem is that the F-35—which is less maneuverable than contemporary enemy fighters like the Russian Sukhoi Su-30 Flanker—is not likely to survive such a close-in skirmish. “The jet can’t really turn anyway, so that is a bit of a moot point,” said one Air Force fighter pilot. ...

Another senior Air Force official with stealth fighter experience agreed. “From an air-to-air standpoint, an argument could be made that the F-35A not having a functional gun—or any gun, for that matter—will have little to no impact. Heck, it only has 180 rounds anyway,” he said. “I would be lying if I said there exists any plausible tactical air-to-air scenario where the F-35 will need to employ the gun. Personally, I just don’t see it ever happening and think they should have saved the weight [by getting rid of the gun altogether].”

I don't know enough to say the assumptions for air superiority behind the F-35 are wrong. But alarms are going off all over my ground-based cockpit.

The Buttocks Remain a Mystery

I almost thought Fareed Zakaria had a clue.

Honest to God, I got my hopes up when I read this assessment of the Sony Incident:

One of the nastiest regimes in the world effectively threatened to launch terrorist attacks in the United States if an artistic work was shown publicly. And, stunningly, almost everyone involved has caved.

Wow! He's against backing down! He mentions how threats against Salman Rushdie by the Iranians led to Western resistance to attempts to silence us!

But then I had to go and ruin the ride by reading on:

Why does a terrorist threat from North Korea produce appeasement, whereas threats from Islamic terrorists produce courage, defiance and resilience? I suspect it’s because we are fully aware of the barbarism of jihadi terrorists.

Huh? Did Zakaria miss the past 13 years of self-damning questions of "why do they hate us?"

Is he unaware that we arrested a little-known filmmaker over the Benghazi terrorist attack and even aired apologetic public service announcements in Pakistan saying we are sorry for that movie?

Our military has shown great defiance and resolve by taking the war to our jihadi enemies around the world. But there is a strong strain in this country that would negate the defiance by cancelling the Homeland series and making sure no hint of "Islamophobia" ever aired on American television or movie theaters.

Mind you, I'm grateful that so far the American response to the Sony attack has not included cries of despair about the dread "backlash" against North Koreans living here (if there are any).

But the idea that the response to North Korea could take lessons from our response to jihadi attempts to bring the joys of the caliphate to us, too, is nonsense.

Ah, hope springs eternal. I feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick that football again.

So it remains that Zakaria could not find his own buttocks with both hands and a GPS signal.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The New (For Now) Good War

Ponder that the Left dishonestly claims that President Bush 43 "lied us into war" over the Iraq War (when they once agreed that Saddam has WMD but still didn't want to defeat him).

Yet President Obama, who has authorized 3,000 US troops for Iraq, began our war in Iraq with a humanitarian intervention to drop supplies for trapped people in Iraq who had fled under threat of massacre by ISIL.

He then then expanded the humanitarian effort to drop bombs to keep them alive in the face of ISIL attacks, then expanded our bombing to protect the US troops that the president sent to Iraq, and now simply bombs ISIL targets in Iraq while training Iraqi troops to begin an offensive we are planning to direct in 2015.

That's a fascinating gradual easing into a war, no?

And ponder that in summer 2013, our president was pondering bombing Assad over his alleged use of chemical weapons (which Assad denied using and even denied having) but declined to carry out those missions when Congress objected.

Then we made a WMD deal with Assad that has not prevented Assad from again using chemical weapons and which is still dragging on months after the deal was supposed to be complete. And President Obama is now bombing--without seeking Congressional authorization--ISIL targets in Syria, which essentially helps Assad who has been fighting ISIL.

And so now we are in a war in the Middle East with Syria and Iran as our sort-of allies that the president says will last for several years (which means beyond his term of office). I guess an outreach speech in Cairo just wasn't enough to tame the jihadi heart, after all.

Perhaps this convoluted path to war doesn't rise to the level of lying, but it sure is interesting, isn't it?

Mind you, I support this war effort and think it could work (and with allied trainers, we may be able to double the trained Iraqi brigades I mention in that post). So this post is more about how the Left reflexively opposed the Iraq War and now either supports (the president, most prominently) or tolerates without protest Iraq War 2.0.

Not that I'm shocked that the Left is silent about Iraq War 2.0. After all, opposing the President's policies is racist, as they've been telling us for years.

But don't fret! Come February 2017, when the war is still raging, the Left will be able to safely oppose the war that former President Obama started without new Congressional authorization.

Hey, let's just all be grateful that this obviously isn't a war for oil!

UPDATE: Iraq's oil exports reached a level last year unseen since 1980--the year Saddam invaded Iran and began a run of three decades of wars and sanctions that crippled Iraqi oil production.

As President Obama re-engages our military in Iraq, thank goodness nobody will accuse him of shedding blood for oil!

I Don't Think That Word Means What You Think It Means

Strategypage sorts through the propaganda of how Palestinians just want to destroy a land-for-peace deal with Israel.

When pondering the Israel-Palestinian issue, never forget to define what "peace" means for the Palestinians.

Well, maybe it will finally be different in the new year. (No, I'm not actually that optimistic, by nature.)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Is Freedom Worth So Little?

Good grief, here we go again with efforts to pretend Taiwan can defend their island democracy with means that do not in fact defend their island democracy:

The nongovernment Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments is wading into delicate territory. ...

The center advocates an "asymmetric approach," with Taiwan using lighter forces to counter rather than match China's strengths. While Taiwan increasingly emphasizes such tactics, its military modernization plan still calls for big, conventional acquisitions, the report says.

The greatest flaw in this type of thinking is that it concedes the ground to China. Attempting to resist occupation and raise the cost of controlling Taiwan rather than trying to prevent occupation is already a defeat, isn't it?

Such an asymmetric approach disregards the question of whether Taiwan can put up such a stout conventional defense that the prospect of casualties needed to defeat that force--even if you are 100% positive you will win in the end--is enough to deter an attack by China. If Taiwan does not try to defeat the invasion itself, there is no deterrence to invading, is there?

I guess I should draw some comfort that people don't dismiss a Chinese invasion threat by calling it a "million-man swim."

But throwing in the towel over stopping a Chinese invasion at the other end of the spectrum is ridiculous.

I know people keep trying to think of cheap alternatives to defending Taiwan, but there is no cheap alternative to paying the price of having a real military that can fight for every inch of Taiwan should the Chinese try to storm ashore.

If China occupies Taiwan and the Taiwanese resist, China is so big and ruthless that China could deport most of Taiwan's resident's to China's Tibet and Xinjiang provinces where the locals will treat them as just more "Chinese" colonists. The locals will make the Taiwanese exiles "Chinese" by default and be the tool to ethnically cleanse the locals for Peking into a manageable minority

And then China can move in Han mainland Chinese to change the game on Taiwan from local resistance to rapid assimilation by China.

This plan to cheaply defend Taiwan is just a way for China to more cheaply conquer Taiwan.  They always sound better on paper. Keep them there.

Remember, in 1938 the USSR had a GDP twenty-five times that of Finland. Without a 100-mile-wide anti-tank ditch, Finland managed to hold off the Russians for three months in the winter of 1939-1940 and inflicted so many casualties on the Soviets that Finland escaped the war with territorial concessions but with their independence intact.

The center says that a China-Taiwan resource imbalance of 14:1 makes Taiwan's defense task hopeless. I think not. The Taiwan Strait is a defensive advantage that money can't buy.


Imagine what the world would be like with 100,000 more jihadi nutballs running around inflicting mayhem.

Fortunately, because of America, we don't have to face that problem:

The United States alone has done major damage to Islamic terrorist organizations since 2001. Over a hundred thousand Islamic terrorists have been killed or captured as have over a hundred terrorist leaders. This includes al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. The major affiliates of al Qaeda, in North Africa, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia and Yemen have suffered major losses in the last decade. The branch in Iraq was but a shadow of its former self before 2011 when the civil war broke out in Syria between Shia and Sunni Moslems.

I had no idea that we'd created that many good jihadis (well, some are just alright since they are captured, I suppose).

I wonder how many more have been added by others fighting them?

As messy as the world is, let's be grateful that there aren't more nutballs out there actively waging jihad against the rest of the world.

Also note the impact on Iraq of our failure to intervene in Syria by supporting non-jihadi rebels fighting Assad.

In their haste to blame Maliki for the Iraq problem we are facing now, people forget that not only did our withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 encourage Maliki to rely on a Shia base of support to stay in power; but inaction in Syria (to avoid "militarizing" the conflict (!), as Hillary Clinton so laughably explained--and where 40,000 more died in 2014: 60% civilian, 20% rebel, and 20% pro-Assad forces) led to the rise of jihadis in Syria who provided a source of support to the Iraqi jihadis so they could regenerate.

So also imagine what we might have in the Levant if we'd just avoided one of those two mistakes, let alone both.

Stopping Short of Stage 4 and Boat People

Liberal critics of Iraq have certainly been right that Iraq has become another Vietnam--but with a small but important difference about how that happened.

Leftish opponents of the Iraq War constantly said it would be another Vietnam War. And they were right!

In both Vietnam and Iraq, we defeated our enemies on the battlefield and left a fledgling but struggling democracy to face vicious opponents.

In both Vietnam and Iraq, our enemies finally attacked after we were gone, defying the notion that we had "peace with honor" "responsibly ended the war."

The difference is that in Iraq, the enemy was too weak to capture everything as North Vietnam's mechanized legions did by driving all the way into Saigon in 1975, which shamed us into doing something to reverse the defeats in Iraq at the hands of ISIL.

I can only imagine that many on the Left (perhaps including those in the administration) wish that ISIL had swept all the way to Baghdad and Basra in one surge of attacks.

Then, the administration could have said, "Oh, darn the luck--it's too late now to intervene" and offered humanitarian help to the waves of refugees fleeing by land and sea from the tender mercies of the jihadi conquerors.

So there is that small difference.

The Obama administration does seem to be the master of the 4-stage response to crises:

Sadly, ISIL's weakness prevented the Obama administration from going all the way to stage 4.

Drama? No Obama.

At least the Foreign Office doesn't have a stage 5 apology.

On the bright side, our fracking technology operates outside of the 4-stage system and is our most effective foreign policy tool at the moment.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Why Do They Hate Us, Indeed

As I've written before, it is a travesty of language that "liberal minded" is viewed as a synonym for "open minded."

The two-minute continuous hate in action:

A University of Michigan department chairwoman has published an article titled, “It’s Okay To Hate Republicans,” which will probably make all of her conservative students feel really comfortable and totally certain that they’re being graded fairly.

The author protests she did not choose that title. Funny how an editor could read her article and think the now-banned title was appropriate, eh?

It's always easy to demonize the "other."

I dream of a day when Republicans only have to worry about subtle micro-aggressions from the Left.

UPDATE: Mind you, I'm not claiming that conservatives are uniquely open minded. But nor are we uniquely close minded as the prevailing stereotypes would have you believe.

UPDATE: Related:

If you work from the dogmatic assumption that liberalism is morally infallible and that liberals are, by definition, pitted against sinister and -- more importantly -- powerful forces, then it's easy to explain away what seem like double standards. Any lapse, error or transgression by conservatives is evidence of their real nature, while similar lapses, errors and transgressions by liberals are trivial when balanced against the fact that their hearts are in the right place.

Yes. That's pretty much the assumption. When I commuted long distances, it would amuse me--and frustrate me--that NPR's version of treating conservatives fairly was basically asking, "Are conservatives evil? Or are they just too ignorant to know better? More with noted professor of comparative morality narratives ... "

I Remain Too Simplistic to Appreciate the Glories of Nuance

I just don't get nuance.

We can't work to destroy the Assad regime in Syria (who had to go, as our president proclaimed) because it could help al Qaeda and other jihadis in Syria who are fighting Assad.

But we can attack ISIL in Syria, which is helping Assad who is fighting ISIL and which is helping Assad's ally  mullah-run Iran, even though Assad's support for jihadis and Baathists in Iraq while we fought there was responsible for hundreds if not thousands of American dead troops (not to mention Iraqis in even larger numbers) while Iran's support for Shia death squads in Iraq was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops. Oh, and Iran also seeks nuclear weapons.

I just don't get nuanced, smart, foreign policy. But thank God, Secretary of State Kerry speaks French fluently! ("I was against it before I was for it" is probably a single French word, no?)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Following the Plan

Even if Assad survives this war, it is unlikely that he will rule Syria. And a war against the jihadis is assured even if Assad responsibly ends his part of the war.

Syria has become fragmented as Assad has hunkered down in the west and as various rebel factions carve out fiefdoms in the rest of Syria:

Deep into its fourth year of conflict, Syria looks less and less like a state than a patchwork of warring fiefdoms, making outside powers more reluctant to intervene even as it becomes more destabilizing for the region.

And even in Assad's territory, control from the top has been weakened:

“More and more warlords are rising in Syria, who are becoming difficult for the regime to control, which of course adds pressure on the Assad regime,” said Lina Khatib, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.

Some non-jihadis in the north may be finally rallying to hold their ground:

Rebel groups fighting in Syria's northern Aleppo province have agreed to form an alliance, a group monitoring the country's civil war said on Thursday.

While the inclusion of jihadis in the grouping is unfortunate, at least it stops the intra-rebel fighting.

It really is amazing how Assad has followed my playbook that I sketched two years ago: focus on controlling western Syria, work to fragment rebels, Hezbollah and Iranian help with troops, pro-Assad militias, and even getting America and Syria's Kurds to fight the jihadis, effectively making us Assad allies.

Of course, the final plays of that whole new war include expanding Assad's armed forces to then move out from his western Syria bastion to defeat the divided rebels and re-occupy Syria.

Both the astounding level of pro-regime security force casualties and the financial strain (made worse by the dramatic drop in oil revenue for Iran, Assad's main patron) make me doubt that Assad can fight the end stage of the war to fight for all of Syria.

Can Assad's supporters really endure these casualties and the economic pain for his personal survival?

But Assad still might emerge as the warlord of his own fiefdom, in a peace conference that gives John Kerry that Nobel Peace Prize he's lusted after.

Of course, two years after I made that suggestion as an alternative to more death and destruction (and assuming we still tried to squeeze Assad out of controlling even that Alawite principality), the jihadis are too strong in the rest of Syria for such a deal to have a chance of ending the war.

A post-division war against the jihadis in the outlying areas would just mean there would be a different war than the one we are in now. And it seems to be the war that will emerge even without a formal recognition of the division of Syria.

Another Failed Approach Awaiting Judgment

Let's draw some hope for the coming new year from President Obama's statement on his changes to our Cuba policy:

Decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our objective of empowering Cubans to build an open and democratic country. ...

We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.

I can only assume that the president will use the same logic of failure over time to abandon the liberalism he has practiced all his life.

Just how good has our president been at building an open and democratic country, after all?

So Now Everyone Gets to Forget What Happened in Vietnam?

This article argues that the Obama administration is making a Vietnam War-reaction mistake by failing to commit an American corps (a multi-division force) to defeat ISIL across Iraq and Syria. He over-states ISIL strength.

While the author rightly notes that the Vietnam was hardly a victory of guerrillas given that North Vietnamese mechanized forces stormed into Saigon to end the war, he misses a couple big differences between the Vietnam War and the war against ISIL, Inherent Resolve.

One, our plans for helping South Vietnam hold of North Vietnam never anticipated putting American ground forces into battle. We were supposed to provide air power (and logistics help, of course) to make up for the general strategic immobility of the South Vietnamese army which could not mass to oppose a North Vietnamese invasion.

So arguing that putting American ground forces into Iraq now to lead the offensive cannot rely on the Vietnam example he sets forth.

Second, it is absurd to compare the ISIL military power to that of North Vietnam in 1973-75.

North Vietnam had a large, mechanized army. And inside South Vietnam they had North Vietnamese soldiers who largely manned the basically defeated Viet Cong units that simulated an insurrection against South Vietnam's government by the time we left.

ISIL has a strength of perhaps 30,000 troops who function mostly as motorized light infantry that swept into Sunni Arab areas of Iraq to punctuate an "offensive" that was basically an anti-Shia uprising of Sunni Arabs.

So the military power of ISIL is essentially the reverse of North Vietnam's.

You can see this by the fact that North Vietnamese mechanized forces took Saigon in 1975 and that when the war ended South Vietnam was simply absorbed into North Vietnam to make a Hanoi-dominated Vietnam.

By contrast, even without any American help, the ISIL offensive last summer essentially ran its course when it reached Shia and Kurdish areas of Iraq.

And this despite the fact that most of Iraq's military power is pretty static and tied to defending those Shia (and Kurdish) areas, and was reduced to a remarkably low level.

Very little is strategically mobile, and won't be until we train up those brigades we have identified as suitable for mobile warfare, yet they held the line and prevented an ISIL march into Baghdad nonetheless.

So it is clear that ISIL's power is inferior relative to Iraq's (and the Kurds') power in contrast to North Vietnam's power which was superior to South Vietnam's power without our support (which had been built into Saigon's strategy to hold the line).

Our current strategy--if I'm correct in my interpretation of seeing my view of what we should do put into play--does not require American ground force combat brigades in direct offensive action against ISIL.

If we can again exploit the re-alienation of Iraq's Sunni Arabs by the jihadis (because of jihadi brutality against their supposed Sunni brethren) who the Sunni Arabs initially hoped would be their saviors against the Shias and Kurds, ISIL's few troops can be shattered by some strong blows by decent and mobile combat units, much as the French shattered the jihadi hold over northern Mali.

We need to train the Iraqis, provide air power and logistics, and put advisers and forward air controllers into Iraqi frontline units to exploit our air power.

But except for special forces units for their expertise and company- or battalion-sized combat units held for search and rescue efforts in enemy territory to rescue any air crews that go down in enemy territory, we do not need to commit combat brigades to the war.

Well, I'd want American combat units in Jordan, Kuwait, and afloat just in case we need to rescue our numerous support forces inside Iraq from some unforeseen calamity.

I am even open to the possibility that other interests may make it acceptable to seek an end to the Syria front without the total destruction of the Assad regime, as the author suggests, even though I think he deserves to pay for making war on us in Iraq and his general monstrosity.

But the defeat of ISIL does not--because we built an Iraqi military with enough remaining ground power to beat ISIL--require American ground combat units.

And let's not expand the scope of people who have learned the wrong lessons from the Vietnam War.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Screw the Reasonably Enlightened Part

Castro has problems, but this isn't one of them:

President Raul Castro demanded on Saturday that the United States respect Cuba's communist rule as the two countries work to restore diplomatic ties, and warned that Cuban-American exiles might try to sabotage the rapprochement.

Respect Cuba's system of government? Good grief, from universal (crappy) state-run health care to balance-of-power-free executive powers--President Obama envies Castro's system of government!

I Just Knew It!

It's science, damn it!

Actually, it's satire. Although to be fair, that disclaimer quoted is not at the top of the page on that Smithsonian story.

When I first ran across the article, I started reading it with the idea which I've heard from someone in the field and from other material that archeology has gate-keepers who defend the status quo theories rather ruthlessly.

But as I read the story, it just didn't sound right. Especially since I'd never heard of the news source.

Suppressing evidence that undermines accepted theories? All too plausible.

Giants? Not so much.

And other stuff didn't seem legit, like the picture of the giant "human" leg bone.

So I searched some more using that wonderful Google thing.

Try to read with a critical eye even when you expect to have your bias confirmed.

And now I also know that World News Daily Report is a satire site.

Preparing for a War of Movement

One thing is clear from the small-scale Iraqi efforts to claw back territory from ISIL--ISIL is planting all sorts of mines and IEDs to slow down an offensive. We seem to be preparing for that.

If we are to plan a rapid, air-supported ground advance with retrained Iraqi units and Kurdish units, we will have to cope with roads littered with explosives that will slow the offensive to a crawl.

So we are stockpiling equipment in Kuwait useful for an Iraq offensive:

The U.S. military has been stockpiling huge quantities of gear in Kuwait in preparation for shipping it across the border into Iraq for possible use in a coordinated offensive against the terrorist group Islamic State, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The gear is being housed near a busy commercial port, which is now the place where roughly 3,100 vehicles -- mostly ambush-protected vehicles known as MRAPs – are parked, in addition to electronic equipment and other supplies, the magazine reported, citing defense officials.

Of course, I don't think that Iraq has the ability to maintain this equipment. I imagine this is where civilian contractors come in. And we are increasing the use of contractors, too:

The U.S. government is preparing to boost the number of private contractors in Iraq as part of President Barack Obama's growing effort to beat back Islamic State militants threatening the Baghdad government, a senior U.S. official said.

How many contractors will deploy to Iraq - beyond the roughly 1,800 now working there for the U.S. State Department - will depend in part, the official said, on how widely dispersed U.S. troops advising Iraqi security forces are, and how far they are from U.S. diplomatic facilities.

Still, the preparations to increase the number of contractors - who can be responsible for everything from security to vehicle repair and food service - underscores Obama's growing commitment in Iraq. When U.S. troops and diplomats venture into war zones, contractors tend to follow, doing jobs once handled by the military itself.

Yes, the State Department "army" in Iraq. But that wasn't enough to hold the line when President Obama ordered our actual army out.

So are these MRAPs mainly for Iraqi troops in the spearheads of the offensives? I assume that's the plan.

Will some be reserved for foreign forward observers to call in air strikes?

That would make sense for our special forces, contractor, CIA, and even Coalition military forward observers who can work with our aircraft while the Iraqi troops advance into ISIL territory.

And in either case, we'll need civilian contractors to maintain the MRAPs since Iraq can't do the job and since we are unlikely to commit uniformed troops to do the job inside Iraq.

Hopefully, the use of MRAPs, along with helicopter-mobile infantry, will allow us not only to reduce casualties but to maintain a rapid advance into ISIL-held territory.

A mostly static front of frontal attacks into ISIL-held urban areas plays to ISIL advantages of being willing to die in place while taking as many attackers out as possible.

Better to have a war of movement that both reaches potential Sunni Arab allies inside ISIL territory and isolates jihadis from reinforcements and supplies as the frontline passes them by, which can weaken the resolve of the less committed jihadis to die in place and make it easier to let the die-hards die without inflicting as many casualties on our side.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Could the State Department Assign This to the America Desk?

I stand by my assessment two years ago of lifting the embargo on Cuba.

Although I should perhaps have been more specific when I asked "what's in it for us?"

I meant what's in it for America and not what's in it for President Obama.

There is a difference, you know.

Stratfor has a good analysis of the situation (and I agree and disagree with various parts, although the discussion of Cuba's geographic impact on American security is spot on).

Of course, as they say, there's a long way to go before it can be said we've rescued Cuba:

We are far from settling a strategic dispute rooted in Cuba's location and the fact that its location could threaten U.S. interests. Therefore, opening moves are opening moves. There is a long way to go on this issue.

There is a statutory basis for the embargo on Cuba. Perhaps not even the president's lawyers can figure out how to use executive power to subvert it.

I do hope that as we go forward we ask what is in the president's initiative and vision for Cuban-American relations for America.

Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Liberalism is Funny

In his grand announcement of an outreach to communist Cuba, it strikes me that President Obama has started to normalize relations with a country that has a general policy of ignoring cries of "Hands up! Don't shoot!" and "I can't breathe" from its people.

Watch Your Assumptions

Or, Congress that refused to make things worse at historical pace ends.

Of course, this is The Hill, so they are biased to prefer things they can report.

Tip to Instapundit.

UPDATE: If this is unproductive, may we have more:

The federal budget is shrinking as a percentage of gross domestic product, falling just below 20 percent in the third quarter of 2014. That's down four points from its peak of 24 percent in 2011[.]

Nineteen percent is the historic average for the last half century.

Since "being productive" is generally defined as agreeing to spend money, why on Earth wouldn't we celebrate an historically "unproductive" Congress?

UPDATE: A late addition.

People Unclear on the Concept

I expect Russia to prop up Assad, run interference for Iran's nuclear ambitions, play footsie with Venezuela, sell China weapons useful for war with us, and even probe our air space to remind us they exist. They're Russians led by Putin. What really annoys me about the Russians is their complete lack of self-awareness.

Cue the spit-take:

The Ukrainian parliament on Tuesday renounced Ukraine's "non-aligned" status with the aim of eventually joining NATO, angering Moscow which views the Western alliance's eastward expansion as a threat to its own security. ...

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called Ukraine's renunciation of its neutral military and political status a "counterproductive" step that would only boost tensions around the crisis in the east.

The Russians do realize that by invading a country, taking their land, and continuing to try to pry apart the nation along ethnic fault lines that Russia is pretty much compelling Ukraine to align with someone other than Russia, right?

The Russians aren't really so dense that they think they have a valid point in complaining about Ukraine's natural reaction to Russian aggression, are they?

When the choice for Ukraine is between a prosperous West and a Russia that is dismembering Ukraine, why would Ukraine be "non-aligned" between the two?

I mean, Ukraine feels aligned enough to want to build an anti-tank obstacle on their border with Russia:

Ukraine's easterly Donetsk region, dominated by Russian-speakers and buffeted by rallies by pro-Russian activists, has built a defensive trench complete with concrete barriers along its long border with Russia, its governor said on Monday.

Russia has pretty much defined Ukraine's alignment without any legislation being responsible.

UPDATE: Russia increases the pressure along Ukraine's northern flank while Ukraine reminds Russia that the energy weapon works both ways for now:

On Wednesday, Ukraine briefly cut off power to Crimea, its former territory that Russia annexed earlier this year, while Russia reportedly plans a new air base in Belarus, north of Ukraine [at Babrujsk].

Russia is doing nothing to make Ukraine feel that anything but aligning with the West is the way to secure their independence.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Failure to Communicate

Consider how North Korea and America view the whole Sony Incident.

North Korea considers the once-planned release of The Interview to be an act of war:

North Korea has criticized the planned release of the film as an "act of war" and a diplomat at the United Nations has denied any part in the cyber attack against Sony.

And they acted disproportionately by hacking into Sony Pictures.

Meanwhile, our president views the North Korean attack on Sony as a criminal matter where proportionality will reign:

"We will respond. We will respond proportionately and we'll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose."

While the president said he was sympathetic to Sony's plight, he also said: "Yes, I think they made a mistake."

"We cannot have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here in the United States," he added.

Dictator? No. Can't allow that sort of imposed censorship thing.

But a certain religion that imposes censorship? Well, that's another matter. In that case, break out the apologies.

If Sony made a mistake as the president says, it was perhaps only that they thought somebody in their Hollywood offices might get arrested on a completely unrelated cocaine possession charge (some did write some arguably racist things in hacked emails) if they released the film.

We still haven't done much to respond to the killing of our ambassador to Libya and three other Americans at Benghazi more than two years ago. So that "place, time, and manner" caveat gives the president considerable flexibility to do nothing and pass it off to the next president.

Or perhaps the president will deny Dennis Rodman permission to visit Kim.

But at least we are defining the expectations of our foes.

North Korea bloodlessly cyber- attacks us and we back down for offense they take from our free system.

Islamist jihadis bloodily kill us and we apologize for offense they allegedly took from our free system.

That was China's mistake. They just took offense and failed to take any type of action. In that case we were defenders of our free system.

I think we're all on the same page, now.

UPDATE: An amateur may have counter-attacked North Korea with that 10-hour Internet outage in North Korea:

The small number of computers connecting North Korea to the Internet makes disabling them straightforward, said Jose Nazario, chief scientist at Invincea Inc., a Fairfax, Virginia-based security-software company.

"It's actually pretty easy," he said. "There are only a handful of hosts. It's relatively easy to attack just those hosts or the pipes that are present there. There's not that much bandwidth there. It's very, very accessible to anyone who wanted to attack them."

It had no impact on North Korea's hacking capacity, little on the public, and probably could have been done for $200. But it was embarrassing.

Theory-Action Mismatch

Mass amnesty advocates like to say that immigration benefits America, but they oddly don't support immigration policies designed to benefit the host country.

Which is what I've always said. Immigrants built America. I agree. And so I support immigration on our terms and not as an international welfare program.

Extending Our Perimeter

The new Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) will improve our ability to detect the launch of cruise missiles at our East Coast:

Two US military blimps flying 10,000 feet above the East Coast will act as a new missile defense system for the United States. ...

It is designed to defend against cruise missile attacks, or the sort of rogue aircraft incursions that happened during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

I'm feeling a little better about this issue.

Although I'd feel even better if we dispersed potential high value targets, too.

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

Extra! Extra!

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in an interview broadcast Sunday that he does not think a recent Japanese aerial attack against the Pearl Harbor naval base was "an act of war."

"No, I don't think it was an act of war," FDR said to CBS's Edward R. Murrow. "I think it was an act of aero-vandalism that was very costly, very expensive. We take it very seriously. We will respond proportionately."

He added, "We're going to be in an environment in this new world where so much is airborne that both naval and air force assets are going to have the capacity to disrupt our bases in all sorts of ways. We have to do a much better job of guarding against that."

Congressional Republicans questioned the president's tepid response and choice of Hawaii for his vacation in light of the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor:

Some Republicans appearing on Sunday radio shows were critical of FDR's overall response to the Pearl Harbor attack.

"This was a nation-state attack on the United States and saying aloha and getting on an airplane, going to Hawaii is not the answer that really the world needs, let alone America," Joseph William Martin, Jr., the House Minority leader, said in an interview on "NBC News of the World." He was referring to Roosevelt leaving Sunday for a vacation.

In other breaking news , aero-vandalism continues to rage in the Philippines and much of Indochina ...

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

Japan is foolish to rely on the ability to race to the contested Senkaku Islands ahead of the Chinese.

Yes, I know that Japan is buying V-22s (but China may think they have an answer to that) and building a small marine corps with amphibious assets to beat China to occupy the Senkaku Islands (which China claims to own, too) in a crisis.

But since China will initiate any such race, China will have the advantage in timing the race while Japan is unready (perhaps because of weather alone).

Consider that China has naval assets capable of moving fast:

Zubr is a 555 ton watercraft developed by the Soviet Union during the 1980s. ...

The Zubrs can carry about 150 tons of cargo, including tanks (three of them). Alternately, ten smaller armored vehicles can be carried, or trucks, or up to 500 troops. The big advantage of the Zubr is that it moves over coastal waters at speeds of up to 110 kilometers an hour (nearly a hundred kilometers an hour sustained.) Range is short (about 480 kilometers), mainly because a craft like this consumes enormous quantities of fuel. ...

Zubrs are also seen as key weapons if China decides to settle some disputes with its neighbors over possession of contested islands. Using the Zubrs, with air cover, China can occupy disputed islands, even those with small garrisons, before anyone can interfere and then offer to make peace.

China plans to have 8 by next year with up to 5 operational, at first. That's a significant payload capacity for small islands that can't hold much, anyway.

China is certainly making belligerent noises:

Over the last several months, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party have repeatedly exhorted the People's Liberation Army to "be ready to win a war." Xi has repeatedly called for greater military modernization, increased training, and enhanced overall readiness of the Chinese army, navy, and air force.

Certainly, part of this motivated by a desire to make the Chinese personnel match the new quality of their weapons. Shiny weapons are just expensive soon-to-be-junk if used by poor quality troops led by corrupt officers.

But even is Xi isn't telegraphing imminent war, making the military better does in fact make them "ready to win a war." Perhaps a war with Japan.

China is edging their starting position closer to Japan's largely undefended islands by building a large base:

Several landing strips have been paved on the main Nanji island, Kyodo reported. The islands are about 100 kilometers closer to the disputed territory than the main island of Okinawa[.]

I think that counting on racing China to the islands ignores the history of these disputes that whoever occupies these islands in force pretty much gets to keep them. No matter what the legalities are, attacking is a viewed as a bigger breach of the peace than defending.

China is not shy about building up their forces in disputed islands, after all.

Honestly, if China makes a move on any single country, others should move to fortify their claims while China is busy.

Japan should occupy the islands. As a first step to manned outposts, perhaps Japan could send in the robots to defend the islands.

Or will Japan really use their new marine corps to assault and retake the Senkakus when China makes their move to take them?

Then the war gets bigger.

Is Japan counting on Chinese rhetoric on war being something other countries need to worry about?

Driving Lesson

Whoa. Sometimes focusing on the obvious threat blinds you to another.

While driving with my kids over the holidays, I approached a green light to make a right turn.

I checked the intersection where I'd turn and saw it was clear.

But a car from the opposite direction was edging forward to make a left. So my focus was on avoiding being hit by that car if that driver made the decision to go.

Watching that car a little too closely meant I didn't see the jogger about to cross the street I was turning on to. I was horrified. I've never so much have gotten a parking ticket.

I'm relieved he (?) saw me--or perhaps he just wasn't that close to me. It's possible my reaction to not seeing him until I went by made him seem closer than he was since the consequences flashed in my head. There was no loud swearing, after all.

So it probably wasn't as bad as I felt it to be. But still. I didn't see him. I certainly hope I didn't give him a pre-holiday scare.

I dissected what happened so my son, Mister (a new driver), could understand the perils of ordinary driving. Even when you think you are being careful.

And it helped me, too. In the season with lots of harried drivers and those who've had one too many, that's a good reminder.

And the lesson was painless for anyone else and me. That's a bargain.

I'm Feeling a Little Air Sick, Right Now

I've been worried about the ability of the F-35 to carry out the air superiority role. Is a plan to make a version of the F-35 dedicated to air superiority missions confirmation of my worry?

So, the still-new F-35 isn't already a good air-to-air fighter?

Advanced derivatives of the tri-service Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter could replace the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor, Boeing F-15C Eagle and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, multiple sources told the National Interest. However, they added that the idea of replacing the high flying and fast Raptor with the slower and less agile F-35 was not well received by many within the Air Force.

“No doubt that the F-35 will be doing air dominance missions in the future,” one industry official said. “Especially with more internal air-to-air, and maybe a new engine.”

The reservations of Air Force people about relying on a future derivative of the F-35 optimized for the air superiority mission does nothing to lesson my worries about the existing F-35.

Mr. Obama, Tear Down This Wall!

In simpler times, governments built physical walls to keep you inside a country you wished to leave. In the Internet age it is much different.

Is this the hope part or the change part?

The U.S. is the only developed country in the world that requires citizens who live abroad to file tax returns. This is so complicated that it is virtually impossible to do without an accountant, and that can cost more than $1,000 a year, even for very simple tax returns.

But that’s only the beginning. There are additional reporting requirements for Americans who live abroad. The FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Report) requires holders of foreign financial accounts to report detailed information about all such accounts each year. ...

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2010 made matters worse. Fatca compliance costs for foreign banks are so high that many banks have closed the accounts of Americans living abroad.

Many more Americans living abroad are giving up their citizenship as we send hither swarms of regulations to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

The red stripes on our flag represent hardiness and valor, but for too many now represent red tape that fewer expatriates have the hardiness and valor to endure.

For aliens who come here illegally, our government tries to make their dreams come true.

For those of us who go abroad legally to seek their fortune, we make their hopes nightmares.

Based on my own experience leaving the US, I don't know if a physical barrier is that far-fetched.

Mr. Gorbachev Obama, tear down this wall!

Tip to Instapundit.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Defining Acceptable Acts of War

If we don't respond to North Korea's cyber attack on Sony with enough impact to really hurt North Korea's rulers, don't we just green-light other countries like Russia--which is reeling under economic problems from their physical world aggression against Ukraine--by signaling that they can get away with acts of war outside of the physical world?

Did Who Do What?

This article asks if North Korea "blinked" (that is, backed down) by offering a joint investigation over the Sony hacking attack. Are you kidding me?

Offering to jointly investigate with America simply puts North Korea on par with a superpower, allows them to pose as a joint victim while deflecting any real progress in an investigation, and strings out our crisis response as if this is a police matter rather than an act of war.

Does this really seem like this is "blinking:"

"The U.S. should bear in mind that it will face serious consequences in case it rejects our proposal for joint investigation and presses for what it called countermeasures while finding fault with" North Korea, the spokesman said.

Whoa! I guess the president can break out the "mission accomplished" banner for this kind of retreat in the face of our power and resolve.

This is what really gets me:

“You don’t have a lot of good choices,” Martin Libicki, a cyberwar expert at the Rand Corp, told the Wall Street Journal. “We’re probably looking for something of a small, symbolic nature or a quasi-symbolic nature.”

Are you freaking kidding me?! Something quasi-symbolic?

Is that more or less than Secretary of State Kerry's "unbelievably small" standard?

And this excuse for passivity is just amazing:

For the US to retaliate by hacking North Korean targets could encourage further attacks against American corporation, institutions, and government entities.

There you go. Let them get away with it because if we retaliate they'll do it again.

And besides, what could we hack in North Korea? Dirt is not connected to the Internet, of course.

This cyber attack is an occasion for analysts to talk about how our enemies react "asymmetrically" against us to avoid our enormous military power.

Well you know what? Our enormous military power is our asymmetric advantage over North Korea.

North Korea didn't bomb Sony or send in commandos to attack Sony, but otherwise this is an attack on us and not a criminal matter.

We are fully justified in sending cruise missiles into whatever buildings that house North Korean hackers. Yes, their attacks take place in cyber-space, but the hackers live in a physical place.

Heck, we could use older model missiles to avoid giving China an opportunity to learn our technology should they have the opportunity to disassemble a dud or examine the components of those that do go boom. We don't need the new stuff to penetrate North Korean defenses.

If that kind of retaliation is too much for us (and for South Korea), let's ramp up the Proliferation Security Initiative that seeks to track down any WMD components that move in the physical world.

We've investigated or intercepted ships we believe are involved in North Korea's WMD programs (see here, here, and here).

And here's another interception that I thought I blogged about, but can't find anything.

So I suggest that we simply intercept and inspect every North Korean ship or plane that we can find, and confiscate legal goods, auction them off, and pay for the damage that North Korea did to Sony and to us as we respond to the North Korean attack.

And we keep the illegal stuff, too. But that wouldn't be in the reparations category.

And if North Korea launches another cyber-attack, start confiscating the ships and planes, too.

So Where's the Prototype?

Our Navy has a robot shark:

It is the latest offering in what the US military calls its science-fiction-turned-reality projects: the GhostSwimmer, a reconnaissance robot with an exterior shell built to look a lot like a shark cutting through the ocean depths.

In the ocean depths, what does it matter what it looks like?

And is this really meant to break the surface off of an enemy shore to scout out the place?

Because, obviously, when people spot a shark, they shrug and go about their wading business as if nothing is amiss.

If we wanted stealth we should have gone for a robotic patch of floating garbage.

Perhaps I was hasty in assuming the Egyptians were just being paranoid.

Are You Kidding Me?

In order to keep terrorists from funding plots, the federal government watches cash deposits of $10,000 or more.

Because terrorists know of this limit, the government considers cash deposits of less than $10,000 to be suspicious.

The government feels free to seize those deposits without any criminal conviction. (Tip to Instapundit)

I don't know how many terrorist plots have been harmed by this government program, but at least the government is able to nail lots of legitimate small businesses.

This is just one more way that forfeiture laws are nothing but legal theft.

Aside from passing the bill mentioned in that article, as a good initial step, no executive agency should benefit financially from asset seizure. If everything went to the general fund where the legislative branch would decide what to do with it, how many resources would police forces expend to grab that money?

I bet the life of Julia that President Obama designed didn't include having her dream of starting a small web-design business in her early 30s shattered by the government seizing her assets.

The federal government is just too big.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Cultivated Hate Blooms

The murderer might as well have yelled "Al Sharpton is Great!" as he shot and killed the two New York cops:

Two uniformed NYPD officers were shot dead Saturday afternoon as they sat in their marked police car on a Brooklyn street corner — in what investigators believe was a crazed gunman’s ­assassination-style mission to avenge Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

The killer took his own life when other police caught up with him.

What the Hell, people. Could the Ferguson protesters go the ef home and let the justice system work?

Tip to Instapundit.

UPDATE: Via Instapundit, obviously, since this video wasn't made by anybody related to the Tea Party, it doesn't represent incitement or any kind of atmosphere of hate.

And perhaps the Bronx Public Defenders Office, which had a hand in the video, would like the voters to decide if they'd rather be protected by them or the police.

The Make-a-Liberal-Wish Foundation

What with illegal immigrant amnesty, a ludicrous carbon deal with China, and Cuba relations via executive decisions, will the last two years of the Obama administration be one long multiple orgasm?

I guess we can look forward to presidential executive orders, memos, and knowing nods for a Keystone XL pipeline refusal, a coal-mining ban, recognition of Palestinian statehood, a faux nuclear deal with Iran, revision of Obamacare into formal nationalized health care, and major non-NATO ally status for Venezuela under the rule of that idiot Maduro.

The Obama administration is just going to be a Make-a-Wish Foundation for our Left.

UPDATE: This attitude (tip to Instapundit) is consistent with this view of "governing:"

He’s gone from thinking of himself as a sitting (lame) duck, they tell me, to a president diving headlong into what amounts to a final campaign – this one to preserve his legacy, add policy points to the scoreboard, and – last but definitely not least – to inflict the same kind of punishment on his newly empowered Republican enemies, who delighted in tormenting him when he was on top.

And if our president believes he is the rearguard of the Left, expect it to be a scorched earth tactic for two years.

Because sometimes you have to destroy the village in order to save it, eh?


Russia has identified the problem preventing peace in Ukraine:

Russia accused the West on Saturday of fuelling unrest in Ukraine by adopting anti-Kremlin sanctions that further erode the prospects of peace talks to end the separatist war.

Not quite. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has fueled unrest and has eroded the prospects of peace talks.

But the Russians really are unclear on who the victim is in all this, as they complain of sanctions on Crimea entities:

"That's why they chose the 'punishment' to be collective," it added. "It is sad that the countries which call themselves democratic resort to such methods in the 21st century."

Wait. What? Russia conquered Crimea and took it from Ukraine? Oh, that ...

What the Russians mean is that Western sanctions (and rapidly declining oil price which Russia assumes is an American plot) erode the prospect of a Russian victory over Ukraine in Putin's 21st century subliminal war of aggression.

This is why Russia can't have nice things.

An Appropriate Arms Source

Ukraine has large stocks of Russian (and Soviet-)-made weapons. For the big stuff, I think Ukraine should stick with those adequate weapons. It would be a waste to re-equip Ukraine with American or Western heavy armor and other systems. Our newer NATO members who are shedding Soviet stuff are an appropriate source of Russian-designed equipment with upgrades made since they joined NATO.

Poland is remaking their armed forces with Western weapons. They must have plenty of upgraded Russian weapons that Ukraine could use:

Poland is open to hold talks with Ukraine regarding potential sales of arms, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said on Wednesday.

In addition to selling Ukraine weapons to fill in gaps in their arsenal, Poland probably can offer upgrades to what Ukraine already has to make them more effective.weapons.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The LCS is Dead. Long Live the LCS Hulls

After sticker shock for our so-called low end warship that left us with under-armed and under-protected ships that we couldn't afford to build modular weapons systems to make them real warships, we will truncate production and replace them with modified LCS hulls.

The Navy's Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) will live on, sort of:

After rigorous review and analysis, today I accepted the Navy's recommendation to build a new small surface combatant (SSC) ship based on upgraded variants of the LCS. The new SSC will offer improvements in ship lethality and survivability, delivering enhanced naval combat performance at an affordable price. ...

The more lethal and survivable SSC will meet a broader set of missions across the range of military operations, and addresses the Navy's top war-fighting priorities. It will feature an improved air defense radar; air defense decoys; a new, more effective electronic warfare system; an over-the-horizon anti-ship missile; multi-function towed array sonar; torpedo defenses; and additional armor protection.

As multi-purpose warships, perhaps the fantasy that these are green or even--horrors--brown water ships will be quietly forgotten.

Without a market for the container-housed modules to equip LCS, I guess we can't afford to stockpile such modules to create Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers.

Be Careful What You Wish For--Cuban Edition

Okay, I'm going to feel a little sorry for President Obama in this post.

For decades, American leftists have been condemning America for our economic embargo on communist Cuba.

So President Obama decided to lessen Cuba's isolation within his powers outside of statutory provisions (well, so far he isn't issuing memos to amend statutes). Take that, future Republican-controlled Congress! I'm relevant! My base will love me for this!

Only Nixon can go to China? Child's play! Only Obama can go to Cuba! Can you say "legacy?"

Sure, the president probably got a momentary bump in popularity from the crowd.

But then the Left realized that their long-held wish has a downside--Cuba might actually become prosperous! (Tip to Instapundit.)

Starbucks? McDonald's? In pristine, authentic Cuba? The horror!

Maybe our Left will get lucky and they'll get to go to Chebucks and McJefe's for their morning Jose' and a Maximo Mac with cheese.

Truly, our president is justified to think, "I just can't win with these guys!"

As much as I think the president's move is a mistake that achieved nothing for us, I eagerly await the annual reports on Cuba's carbon production increases in future years.

I'm disappointed that I didn't see this reaction coming.

Don't Count on China's Distance

China is fed up with North Korea and has kind of placed North Korea outside of China's defense perimeter:

North Korea is angry at China for not coming to their aid over recent war crimes accusations. North Korea is even angrier, and very shaken that a retired Chinese general said [publicly] that China would not come to the aid of the current North Korean government if the government collapses or starts a war. China often makes official announcements via public “comments” by retired senior government or military officials. This makes it easier to, if need be, back off from the new policy. China has not backed off this one. China is telling North Korea to do what China wants or else. China wants work on North Korean nuclear weapons stopped.

Distancing themselves from North Korea is nice, and all. But right before the Korean War we placed South Korea outside of our defense perimeter yet still intervened quickly when the North Koreans--backed by the USSR and China--invaded South Korea.

So if North Korea goes belly up and South Korean troops possibly aided by American forces cross the DMZ to protect Seoul from artillery bombardment and to grab North Korean nuclear facilities, don't be too shocked if China intervenes anyway to prevent a perceived hostile force from marching up to the Yalu River.

Remember, the Chinese just won't intervene to protect the current North Korean government. That's a bit different than saying they won't intervene on the peninsula.

And the Chinese could change their mind, of course.

As an aside, I wonder if China let semi-official hackers inside China go after Sony for North Korea as kind of a consolation prize of weakened Chinese support for the North Korean regime.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Christmas Guide to Global Air Space

While Santa can expect a friendly reception in American air space this Christmas as the NORAD Santa operation kicks in on December 24th, Santa needs to worry about other countries' efforts. is the best-case situation for Santa.

ADIZsanta, run out of China, claims the North Pole (within their 9-Dashered line) as a core Chinese interest that has historically always belonged to Peking, and which has been renamed the city of Santasha.

And Littlegreenmensanta, run out of Russia, has shipped anti-aircraft missiles to ethnic Russian Elves who wish to secede from Santa and have Russia annex them and establish a military base there.

I'm thinking Santa needs to reduce his gift payload in favor of some chaff and flare dispensers, just in case. IFF is tricky stuff.

And for God's sake, snuff out that red nose that Rudolph sports (that's Buk bait, people) and barrel that sleigh in so low!

So Hell yes, Santa has a chance!

Boots on the Ground

Iraq's hold in Anbar is getting rather shaky. American forces seem to have fought ISIL to help hold an Iraqi base there.

US forces are reported to have fought ISIL in Iraq:

American troops in Iraq had their first actual battle with ISIS troops after the Islamist militants tried to overrun a base, an encounter that left the ISIS troops decimated and in retreat.

The attack took place near the Ein al-Asad base, which includes close to 100 U.S. military advisers. The U.S. troops, armed with “light and medium weapons,” and were able to inflict casualties against the ISIS fighters, forcing them to retreat, Shafaq News reported.

I'm not sure of the reliability of that news site or the news site that is the source of the report. I await information from our people about what happened.

This intervention of our troops is significant and shows what I've noted before--whatever we planned to do when we first intervened, Anbar province must be the first target unless we want the local Sunni Arabs hostile to ISIL to be terrorized into passivity.

Even if the report is false, just having such a story highlights the need Iraq has for help in the region:

No matter how many bombs Americans drop on ISIS forces, Iraqi troops are losing ground. If al-Anbar is lost, the entire Iraqi front dynamic will shift to favor ISIS again, and months of the U.S.-led air campaign will have been wasted.

If Iraq loses their hold on the fraction of the province they still hold, Baghdad becomes the front line and Iraq's already depleted ground forces will need to be committed even more strongly to fighting for Baghdad itself. That will leave fewer troops available to attack.

And a potential Jordanian commitment to fight ISIL in Iraq will have farther to go (I keep flogging that idea, I know, with nothing more than hints and hunches to support my notion) before linking up with Iraqi troops.

We may want to wait until all our plans are perfect before beginning an unstoppable offensive, but the funny thing about war is that enemies want to win, too.

And they usually don't cooperate by sitting there until we are ready to crush them. Not every enemy is as cooperative as Saddam was through two wars against us. We need to break that bad habit, no?

The Kurds Attack

The Kurds with our air support are making a move on Sinjar, Iraq:

Kurdish Iraqi forces launched a major operation Wednesday to retake the militant-held town of Sinjar in northern Iraq, part of a push to secure the road that leads directly to the Syrian border.

Peshmerga forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, moved into the town, which has been under the control of the Islamic State group since August, a statement from the Kurdish Regional Security Council said.

I dare say this isn't part of the integrated plan to defeat ISIL. The Kurds are better prepared than the Iraqi army and probably don't want to wait for the big offensive that is scheduled to take part some time in 2015 after the Iraqi army is re-trained.

Not that the Kurds could probably move on Mosul yet, but if the Iraqi Kurds can push toward the Syrian border, the Kurds might not need Turkish cooperation to reinforce their brethren in Syria fighting ISIL.

Imagine Their Victories When They Have Nukes

Okay, moviegoers, be prepared for movies where only the British--or perhaps Luxembourgers--are considered safe enough to be villains.

Amazingly enough, Sony has halted the Christmas release of their movie that included the assassination of Kim Jong-Un:

Until this week, “Guardians of Peace” had limited itself to corporate espionage, hacking the computers of Sony Pictures Entertainment, embarrassing studio execs for their snide remarks about Hollywood stars, revealing company spreadsheets, and setting off lawsuits by employees whose personal and financial information had been hacked. North Korea, never known for its sense of humor, is the prime suspect. On Wednesday evening, The New York Times reported that intelligence officials confirmed that the North Korean government was in fact behind the attacks.

But on Tuesday, “Guardians of Peace” escalated its attack on “The Interview,” posting a message on the text-sharing site Pastebin: “The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)”

It wasn't that long ago that North Korea was the safe alternative to having the Chinese as villains in Red Dawn. Now, North Korea is in the game.

One can only imagine their dreams of what they can do when they have nuclear missiles.

It's humiliating. When others don't like us, the response is "why do they hate us?" as if we're at fault.

When North Korea is viewed as a barbaric basket case of a nation led by a mad man, their response (it seems likely that North Korea subcontracted the hit) is "why don't you shut up--or else."

And in the case of Sony--a Japanese company (although it would be shameful if we had a hand in their decision)--they shut up.

Gosh, remember when it was considered ridiculous to claim North Korea is in an "Axis of Evil?"

UPDATE: And why wouldn't North Korea believe that they could get away with this kind of threat when we've already stated that movies with far lower production values can justify an attack on America that we will apologize for.

UPDATE: North Korea has officially pushed us down and stolen our lunch money:

US cinemas have now pulled screenings of hit comedy Team America, reportedly as a knock-on effect of the Sony hacking.

And the villain market could dry up:

Hollywood loves its overseas villains. Evil forces from Russia, China and North Korea have tirelessly menaced our big-screen heroes in recent years. But, in the wake of the startling cancellation of "The Interview," an entire species of movie baddies might be in danger of extinction.

I see a future of Republican Christianist villains.

If even North Korea sees us as too weak to stand in their way, how many other real-world villains will take their shot over the next two years?

Kim Jong-Un is why God gave us JDAM.

UPDATE: I'm not filled with confidence:

A White House official said on Thursday that the administration was considering a “proportional response” against those who hacked into Sony Pictures computers, a retaliation that could thrust the United States into a direct confrontation with North Korea.

A "proportional" response is just another word for "ineffective." A response should be enough to make Kim Jong-Un believe that messing with us is a really bad idea.

I half expect President Obama to lift all sanctions on North Korea, arguing that since they haven't worked so far, why not try something new?

Do We Understand What Russia Is and Is Not?

Stratfor has an interesting discussion of Russia's view of the Ukraine crisis.

Friedman points out that Russia is flat and considers it a necessity to push their western border as far from Moscow and the Russian heartland as possible. Not that this excuses Russia's actions, but that it is a basic reason why they are pushing west now that they can.

Which should also tell you that they will push more when their military is in better shape relative to their targets.

He also notes that he thinks Russia can endure Western sanctions without public opinion turning on Putin to compel him to reverse his Ukraine policies.

I think he is right, but it does not speak to whether the sanctions could compel other members of the ruling class to turn on Putin to change policies in order to protect their own interests.

Indeed, I am also worried that sanctions effective enough to compel change--regardless of who in Russia is affected--could be indistinguishable from an act of war to Putin and his people around him.

Further, these issues show that they simply think differently than we do. We have to be careful about assuming we know how the Russians will react to what we do--or don't do.

I do find it amusing (in worried sort of way) that the Russians use Quebec's status in Canada as an excuse for the Donbas having more autonomy.

Forgive me if I missed it, but did France invade Canada to achieve that Quebec autonomy?

Perhaps the Russians are still mad at Canada for this helpful map aid to the Ukraine Crisis:

Even more important for those who do wish to excuse Russia's actions against Ukraine as just something Russia naturally must do to protect themselves is Friedman's description of our own interests in Europe:

The United States has spent the past century pursuing a single objective: avoiding the rise of any single hegemon that might be able to exploit Western European technology and capital and Russian resources and manpower. The United States intervened in World War I in 1917 to block German hegemony, and again in World War II. In the Cold War the goal was to prevent Russian hegemony. U.S. strategic policy has been consistent for a century.

I've mentioned this many times--usually as I express bewilderment that we still officially support the creation of a powerful European Union central government--but rarely do I see this mentioned by others.

Sanctions and the collapse of energy prices are surely seen from Moscow as evidence of our plots against them.

And Russia is hurting, have no doubt. But is this really how Putin's choice is framed in Russia:

The Putin government has come to a fork in the road—and both of its choices look unpleasant. It can accept that the oil price collapse is forcing it to change paths in foreign policy and give up (at least for now) on its dreams of geopolitical revenge for the defeat in the Cold War—or it can double down on the fight against the West and the world system.

The first course is obviously the smartest from the standpoint of Russian national interest, but the second may make more sense in terms of the personal fortunes of one Vladimir Putin—and unless something changes in Russia, Putin is firmly in charge.

I don't think that most Russians even remotely think changing paths is obviously in their national interest.

We surely risk war by resisting Russia. But the problem is Russian aggression and not our reaction to it.

We also risk a bigger war later by a more powerful Russia if we ignore or downplay Putin's aggression and hope that he simply stops having territorial ambitions at our expense.

Isn't it smarter to make sure that Putin knows that we have--and will enforce--red lines in Europe that it is not safe for him to cross?

But will Putin believe we have--and will enforce--such red lines when the declarations are made by this administration?

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: A political opponent thinks that Putin could be forced to step down, since he will not be able to win a free election should he fail to cope with economic problems:

A prominent opponent has warned Vladimir Putin his days in power are numbered, as Russia awaits the president's response to the dramatic decline of the rouble.

Well, free elections are a big "if" to bank on, eh? I imagine Putin will only be forced out if his allies decide they'd be better off without Putin in the front office.