Monday, February 29, 2016

I Call BS On This

So Comrade Click confronted a student journalist and called unarmed students to come muscle him out of the protest area? Well, you have to break eggs to get an omelet, eh?

Oh, please, this is the best her legal counsel could come up with for the reason that Professor Melissa Click tried to shut down a student reporter at the University of Missouri?

Why did Melissa Click – fired today by the University of Missouri Board of Curators – call for “muscle” to remove a student that she referred to as a “reporter” from a protest on public land?

She thought he had a gun, according to newly published documents written by Mizzou investigators, obtained by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

If I may be so bold, if she really thought some crazed wingnut with the nerve to cover a protest out in the open on campus had a gun, she'd have run.

But instead she decided that it was safer for unarmed lefty students to confront the potential gun toter? Really?

Well, every revolution needs cannon fodder. Comrade Click never intended to be the cannon fodder.

How Flexible Will We Be?

Russia wants to fly over American soil with advanced cameras. This should be a no-brainer to say "no." So it could go either way with Kerry in charge of our diplomacy.

Seriously? This is a dilemma?

Russia will formally ask the Open Skies Consultative Commission, based in Vienna, to be allowed to fly an aircraft equipped with high-tech sensors over the United States, according to a senior congressional staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the staff member wasn't authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

The request will put the Obama administration in the position of having to decide whether to let Russia use the high-powered equipment on its surveillance planes at a time when Moscow, according to the latest State Department compliance report, is failing to meet all its obligations under the treaty. And it comes at one of the most tension-filled times in U.S.-Russia relations since the end of the Cold War, with the two countries at odds over Russian activity in Ukraine and Syria.

If it was up to me, I'd allow the Russians to fly a plane of sketch artists over America under the agreement--with one sheet of paper each.

Under the circumstances, how is this even up for debate? Just decide not to let Russia do this.

Riding Alone into the Sunset?

Apparently, being a blogger--let alone a solo blogger--in an age of Twitter is a dying category.

I thought of joining Twitter quite a few years ago. But it really didn't appeal to me.

So here I am. A dying breed. Coming up on 14 years of doing this (Starting on Geocities without even direct post links--I can't even imagine being worried about updating the site at least once per week ...).

But as I've written, my blogging is more for me. That anyone reads this is a bonus.

And thank you for that, I'll add.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Just Who is 1st Guards Tank Army Aimed at, Anyway?

Russia is setting up a new army ostensibly aimed at the West. Is it really set up with China in mind?

This appears to be aimed at NATO:

The Russian Ground Forces has completed the reactivation of the 1st Guards Tank Army in Russia's Western Military District (WMD) and is to form two new armoured divisions, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced.

That's certainly what I assumed in early stories.

But it is the quick reaction force, the article says. Which implies a broader portfolio than just blitzing the Baltic states.

And it is pretty spread out, with tank divisions planned for Voronezh and Chelyabinsk. The former is the Western Military District east of Ukraine (and west of Khazakstan); but the latter is just north of Khazakstan.

So while Strategypage says the reformed division is based in "western" Russia, consider how many time zones Russia spans. The "western" half of Russia starts at about Mongolia.

I'm thinking that this high priority army is more likely to be earmarked for Central Asia just in case China's trade initiatives pull along the flag in their wake.

Which makes sense from Moscow's point of view, since talking harshly about the West seems designed to conceal Russia's effective appeasement of China--for now.

Unclear On the Concept

People seem to be over-reacting to the notion that the military would refuse to obey (a hypothetical) President Trump's orders.

This is basically not an issue at all (tip to Instapundit):

[Bill] Maher brought up Trump's pledge to kill family members of Islamic State terrorists. “That never even occurred to you, right?” Maher deadpanned.

“God, no!” [ex-CIA director] Hayden exclaimed. “Let me give you a punchline: If he were to order that once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act.”

Maher responded incredulously, “What? Well, that’s quite a statement, sir.”

“You cannot—you are not committed, you are not required, in fact you’re required to not follow an unlawful order," Hayden replied. "That would be in violation of all the international laws of armed conflict.”

“You’ve given us a great reason not to support Trump. There would be a coup in this country," Maher cracked.

It would not under any circumstances be a coup--if by that you mean a measure outside of the Constitution to change the government.

It would not even be a revolt.

It would be the military following standard practice and rule of law.

As a new Army recruit, I was instructed on my obligation as a soldier to obey the lawful orders of those placed lawfully in command of me.

Remember, the post-World War II war crimes trials established the precedent that "I was just following orders" does not excuse you from being punished for committing war crimes.

So as a soldier, I was expected--even as a low-ranking troop--to understand that I am obligated not to commit war crimes, even if ordered to do so.

We can digress about how a low rank soldier is supposed to understand that, but killing civilians should be a no-brainer.

And those higher up the chain of command with access to lawyers and with plenty of education on what is lawful would have little problem with this issue, anyway.

So no, such a refusal by the military to obey a hypothetical order would not be a coup. I'm sure long before such an order was made public, higher ranking officers would explain that the president just can't do that.

And so no such order would be given.

UPDATE: At the Thursday night debate, Trump showed he just does not get this issue. It would be nice if someone explained to him that the military will--and must--refuse to obey illegal orders.

Of course, that's a target-rich environment, I admit.

UPDATE: I'm disappointed to hear people supporting Trump's desire to "take the gloves off" and kill our way to victory against the jihadis.

Let me point out two problems with that strategy that I set out when some wanted us to do the same to the Sunni Arabs fighting us during the Iraq War.

One, America could never be brutal enough to allow a strategy of annihilation to work:

I don't think our people back home would accept the killing of tens of thousands in a short time to brutalize even a uniformly hostile population into submission. Practically speaking, we could not be brutal enough for long enough to make Saddam's method of cowing civilans as he did to the Shias in 1991 work. I think we would make things worse by going back and forth between brutal methods to crush spirits and inducements to win loyalty. We'd just end up being brutal enough to inspire hatred yet generous enough to supply those hostile civilians; but not brutal enough to scare enemies into passivity or generous enough to buy friends.

Two, America should never ask our troops to be mass murderers:

In addition, our rules of engagement that promote winning hearts and mind allow our troops to fight with honor and come home as soldiers and Marines--not as killers. If we let our troops loose to kill as they see fit to terrorize the population into submission, they become judge, jury, and executioner. Even if they make all the right decision in a fight with enemies in civilian clothes, our troops will always wonder if they were right in the decisions they make.

Rules of engagement take much of the judging and responsibility out of their hands and put the responsibility on the leaders where it belongs. As long as soldiers know they followed the lawful rules of engagement they can come home with their heads held high, having fought as soldiers. As long as they allow us to fight and win, this is just fine.

There are enough militaries out there that specialize in brutalizing and slaughtering civilians. Our military is not one of them.

Oh, and if you want a third reason for not treating all of a group as an enemy when they are not uniformly hostile, which I couldn't possibly have noted at the time in June 2006, just months later our efforts to flip the Sunni Arabs of Anbar in the Awakening bore fruit and paved the way for a successful Surge offensive in 2007.

When We Struck a King

The Persian Gulf War ended today after a 100-hour ground war, 25 years ago (well, except for the destruction of the Republican Guard Hammurabi division on March 2, 1991, which redressed part of the complaint that we'd stopped the war too quickly to destroy the whole Republican Guard force).

This was "my" war, I suppose. Although the closest I got to it was a unit formation prior to dismissal in January 1991 during which a series of somber officers and NCOs explained to us repeatedly that if we were mobilized we were obligated to report pretty quickly. And my unit tested the phone tree--before or after that, I can't remember now--to contact us, alarming my office co-workers at the time.

I found out that summer that we had been on the mobilization list from the Pentagon. Then we were off of the list for some reason. We never went to war. Although my unit later went to Iraq in 2005 or 2006--long after I was out.

Anyway, I had submitted this essay for a Military Review contest on the lessons of the war on the tenth anniversary. In a change of editors, the contest was kind of unofficially cancelled.

It did get cited by Stand-To! on March 20, 2006, in the "what's being said in blogs" section of the Army site (cited as TDD rather than TDR) after I posted it on this blog.

I'd Rather Display Civilizational Confidence

Strategypage writes that covering up the statuary naughty bits to protect Iran's Rouhani from criticism at home is actually a Western victory. I dissent from that view.

This is a victory for the West according to Strategypage?

[When] Rouhani visited (at his request) some museums full of centuries old statues and paintings the ones that showed any nudity had the naughty bits covered. While this seems absurd and demeaning to the average Westerners (and some Iranians) it is seen as a defeat by Islamic radicals in Iran waiting to pounce on Rouhani for viewing such decadent and un-Islamic art. Covering up the nakedness deprives Iranian Islamic radicals neutralizing or bringing down another Iranian reformer.

I think this is focusing on the (semid-nude) trees while ignoring the (civilizational) forest.

Instead, Iranian hardliners can boast that the West bends to their will--on art and everything, really. As Allah wills it.

Unless we draped a mini-skirt and halter top over the female statues. Oh wait, that's forbidden, too. Were they given the full burqa treatment?

So why don't hardliners in Iran tone down on the anti-Americanism to deprive our so-called hardliners (as President Obama appears to see dissenters from his Iran policies) of such victories?

I'd rather keep our society as is and tell Rouhani to make his travel plans accordingly.

I'm not saying we should photograph Rouhani snorting coke off of a hookers backside. But if proximity to statuary boobs is too much back home, let Rouhani visit a cheese museum.

Stop trying not to offend them. It is a thankless and fruitless task. Every freaking little thing sets off the religious fanatics, whether Shia or Sunni.

And in a Seinfeld "of course--" moment with Mr. Tuttle, that quote continues:

All this ignores the fact that Rouhani

That's it. The sentence stopped in mid-thought.

Ignores the fact that Rouhani ... what??!!

--will take this concession to make Iran a normal country?

--really wants to nuke us in our sleep and bounce the rubble?

--believes sodomy is a prerequisite, of course?

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Forward (and Downward)!

President Obama's rudeness, impulse to punch back twice as hard (against domestic enemis), and self-centered divisiveness paved the way for Trump.

It all started with faux Greek columns and went downhill from there.

Tip to Instapundit.

The Missing Phase IV

American forces are good at decisive military operations. But the end of major combat operations isn't the end of the fight. Phase IV, conducted after what we think of as "the war" to stabilize and reconstruct the region we fought for, is needed to cement our military gains.

Not that I reject the idea that a simple punitive expedition to punish an enemy by bouncing the rubble and leaving can be appropriate on occasion, but when we go to war we need to do more than that.

Victor Hanson writes:

As a general rule over the last 100 years, any time the U.S. has bombed or intervened and then abruptly left the targeted country, chaos has followed. But when America has followed up its use of force with unpopular peacekeeping, sometimes American interventions have led to something better. ...

The choices are all awful. But the idea that America can bomb a rogue regime, leave, and expect something better is pure fantasy.

This is pretty accurate. And building something better for the future was what I was describing in my defense of the Iraq War against the charge it was a mistake.

Indeed, you can go back to pre-TDR days for my defense of boots on the ground to cement a victory in war, in my article "Landpower Needed for Decisive Victory," Army Magazine, April 1998 (not online, but synopsis still here), which drew lessons from the Tripolitan War.

If we don't want to defend what we gained by force of arms, we just have a "we came, we saw, he died" military doctrine--the Hillary Doctrine?--instead of warfighting. We might as well scrap authorizations to use military force (AUMF) prior to going to war with ABFUs (authorization to blow the ef out of you).

Is that what our military is to be? Something between going through a kill list for drone strikes and just liking to bomb brown people?

When you start to take Vienna, take Vienna--and then stay through Phase IV.

[In a pre-publish update, Strategypage has related thoughts.]

Not As Snappy as We've Been Led to Believe

Apparently, there will be no snapbacks on rearming Iran:

The Obama administration said Thursday that a proposed Russian sale of fighter jets to Iran would violate a U.N. arms embargo on Tehran, setting up another standoff related to last year's nuclear negotiations.

If this is in John Kerry's inbox, we're doomed. Is Spongespine Spandexpants really going to make the Russians back down?

I'm sure the Russians will file our protest with their usual efficiency.

Given our past responses to Iran's weapons shopping list, I have little to hope for:

Addressing concerns that a landmark nuclear deal reached this year could boost Iran's military power, the Obama administration reassured critics that it would maintain and enforce its remaining tough sanctions against the country.

Yet the U.S. government has pursued far fewer violations of a long-standing arms embargo against Iran in the past year compared to recent years, according to a review of court records and interviews with two senior officials involved in sanctions enforcement.

That was from back in October 2015.

Yet still, there are idiots who actually believe that we forced Iran to agree to the deal!

The story of how American muscle brought Iran to heel

That's the title. And it is about the sanctions that pressured Iran. It is true enough that the sanctions put real pressure on Iran. But if Iran had to be forced to take this deal, truly they are too stupid to win.

What horrifies conservatives is that we got nothing of value from ending them and lost all our leverage over the nutball regime in Tehran.

But the delusions continue in regard to that soft power:

If the nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), collapses, previous sanctions can be reinstated under the principle of ‘snap-back’. Or new sanctions can be imposed if the US or any other P5+1 partner – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – determines that Tehran’s continued support for terrorism, regional adventurism or violations of human rights merits this.

This is delusional. Everyone knows that Iran and its trade partners are working a huge loophole that makes any existing agreements immune to snapback. So big deals are being signed for long periods.

As for the ability of a single permanent member to put new Security Council sanctions into place, I'll believe it when I see it. Because as I mentioned when I looked at the deal, I don't think that provision could possibly stand:

Can the United Nations charter be amended by this deal to carve out an exception to the veto power of the 5 permanent members of the Security Council?

Here's what the Chapter V, Article 27 of the UN charter says about the veto:

1. Each member of the Security Council shall have one vote.
2. Decisions of the Security Council on procedural matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members.
3. Decisions of the Security Council on all other matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members; provided that, in decisions under Chapter VI, and under paragraph 3 of Article 52, a party to a dispute shall abstain from voting.

Because I can see the Russians or Chinese objecting to the whole notion that UNSC resolutions can be reimposed after 30 days of inaction by the Security Council. What do we do when the Russians and Chinese (probably correctly, but it has been a long time since I had an international law class) argue that this deal provision is invalid and that no sanctions resolutions can go into effect without 9 votes, including the concurrence of the five permanent members, and they will not go along with it?

Are you willing to tell me that the Russian and Chinese (and possibly the French) won't tie up this issue for years or decades--even if they ultimately lose--to defend their Security Council veto?

Oh, and the actual deal says that Iran will consider the reimposition of sanctions as grounds to abandon the deal--thus pocketing all their financial gains and moving on with nukes without even the flimsy restrictions of the deal in place.

God, our State Department sucks. The president's fanboys are worse for proudly pointing to the pile of poo that we made.

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Science is Unsettled

The science on salt is highly divergent in its judgment on whether salt is harmful or not:

The debate over the perils of salty diets may be one of the most polarized in all of science.

On one side, scientists warn ominously that most Americans are killing themselves with salt. On the other, scientists insist most Americans are fine.

The inability to resolve this question may seem puzzling. It is a question with deadly consequences, at least potentially. How much salt is healthy? Given the marvels of technology, it seems like that ought to be an easy one.

If the science on sodium is not settled, why am I supposed to believe that the science on the role of carbon on future climate change and its impact is settled?

Tip to Instapundit.

Panzers Forward

This is a flash of reality in Germany:

Faced with the resurgent threat of Russian armor, Germany has embarked on a program to develop a next-generation main battle tank that has sometimes been called the Leopard 3. The long overdue move comes after Berlin neglected the Bundeswehr for over two decades following the end of the Cold War and reunification of Germany.

The plan is to develop it with France. Other NATO states would likely buy some, I imagine. I wonder if the British will go their own way to replace the Challenger?

Now if only the Germans build more than 150 of them, they might have an army.

Given that the Germans are going up to 130mm for the main gun on their existing tanks as an interim measure, I wonder if we have plans to up-gun the Abrams, too?

Syria = Strategery x the Hope and Change Factor

Focusing on ISIL at the expense of destroying the Assad regime has one outcome--leaving the butcher Assad who has a lot of American blood on his hands in power:

Russia’s bombing of the city of Aleppo this week sent a clear message: Vladimir Putin is now in charge of the endgame in Syria. Moscow’s plan — essentially, to restore its ally Bashar al-Assad to power — is quickly becoming a reality that the rest of the world will have to accept. America, Britain and the rest may not be comfortable with Putin’s ambitions in the Middle East, or his methods of achieving them. But the idea of backing a ‘moderate opposition’ in Syria has been proved a fantasy that leaves the field to Putin and Assad.

I've long wanted to get rid of Assad for his history of working against us with plenty of American blood on his hands from Lebanon to Iraq. I rejected the idea that unless we could simultaneously get rid of Assad and jihadis that we have to keep Assad in power.

This is why I've been in the Assad first camp even as jihadis and then ISIL arose in Syria. No matter what problems flow from the defeat of Assad, there is more of a chance to rally people to resolve the results of that outcome than there is to resolve the problem of Assad if he wins. If Assad wins, people will vote for the "stability" of his dictatorship grinding down Syrians for another generation--and providing bases for Iran and Russia, of course.

Four years ago, before Iran had more financial resources thanks to the Iran nuclear deal, before Russia developed full contempt for the Obama administration to oppose it, before Hezbollah and a Shia foreign legion could be sent to Syria while Assad's forces reeled, and before ISIL rose up in Syria to swamp non-jihadi rebels, a focus on defeating Assad (recall that President Obama said he had to leave office) would have been ugly but doable.

Now, our focus on ISIL in Syria (which should be separate from our focus on ISIL in Iraq--and elsewhere now--as I wrote early on in Iraq War 2.0, calling it a win-build-win strategy) while Russia and Iran focus on non-ISIL opposition to Assad just destroys all the forces that can oppose Assad.

We are effectively Assad's ally. He can now dream of surviving this civil war--at least in his corner of Syria in the short term. That, my friends, is smart diplomacy--by Assad, Russia, and Iran.

And please tell me this wasn't expected:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday he and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, had reached a provisional agreement on terms of a cessation of hostilities in Syria and the sides were closer to a ceasefire than ever before.

Meanwhile, violence continued to rage in Syria.

Please. Lavrov will sign something that advances Russian interests (and drags along the Syrians and Iranians); and Kerry just wants something to sign. It breaks up his work week.

John Kerry can dress a pending Russian victory up any way he likes with impressive formal signing statements held in an Austrian castle, framed by snow-capped mountains, with a genuinely smiling Russian foreign minister Lavrov at his side, replete with colorful ribbons affixed with bright wax seals, but it will still be a Russian-Iranian-Assad win. And toss in Hezbollah as a winner, too.

And this will be called "Smart Diplomacy" by the clowns in Washington, D.C.

Oh, and allow me to bounce the rubble a bit:

Officials with Syrian rebel battalions that receive covert backing from one arm of the U.S. government told BuzzFeed News that they recently began fighting rival rebels supported by another arm of the U.S. government.

A little higher, please:

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Saturday called on the United States to give unconditional support in the fight against Syrian Kurdish militants, illustrating growing tension between Ankara and Washington over policy in northern Syria.

We all of course remember how Turkey fully supported us by allowing 4th Infantry Division to invade Iraq from the north in 2003; and how they committed 20,000 troops for post-war stabilization missions.

Oh, they stiff-armed Bush 43 on those issues? Huh.

And now the country--under President Erdogan--that President Obama decided was our key ally in the region tells us we are either with them or against them? Huh.

Not that I'm mocking unaware of the very dangerous position Turkey is in, with threats all around them:

Turkey now stands completely isolated, trapped in a maze of quandaries that are partly of its own making, said Soli Ozel, professor of international relations at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University.

“It has so alienated everyone it cannot convince anyone to do anything,” he said. “It is a country whose words no longer carry any weight. It bluffs but does not deliver. It cannot protect its vital interests, and it is at odds with everyone, including its allies.

“For a country that was until very recently seen as a consequential regional power, these facts strike me as quite disastrous,” he added.

Which is a problem for us, because under pressure and under belief that they are on their own, Turkey could do something really, really stupid.

In an interesting development, the Turkish military--long the whipping boy of Erdogan--publicly said they would not move into Syria without a UN Security Council resolution approving it.

Russia has a Security Council veto, of course.

Let's hope Erdogan isn't dusting off Turkish plans for a air-naval strike on Russia's Sevastopol base complex in Crimea, using whatever forces are loyal enough to Erdogan to move on his orders, bypassing the Turkish chain of command.

I remember when Obama fans said that his election was all about competence. Yeah. Behold your competency.

I really don't get nuance.

UPDATE: There is a ceasefire that America's Kerry and Russia's Lavrov helped put in place. Oh, which way will it go?

In the estimate of European and Israeli intelligence officials, but not the White House, the pause in fighting may have the unintended consequence of consolidating President Bashar al-Assad’s hold on power over Syria for at least the next few years. Perhaps more important, if it proves successful, it may also begin to freeze in place what already amounts to an informal partition of the country, even though the stated objective of the West is to keep the country whole.

I'll guess that the unintended consequences will rule (that's the president's legacy right there) and that Lavrov also took Kerry's lunch money--and inflicted a wedgie on him just because he could.

Assad and Russia and Iran really only need to hold what they have now to get a win. Russia gets their naval and air bases (as well as taking us down a peg just by winning); Iran gets to keep their line of supply to Hezbollah and a direct front against Israel; and Assad holds on to power without having to rule a lot of Sunnis who don't seem to like him very much. Holding the western part of the country is easier than holding the entire country. Let the West worry about ISIL.

And for Russia and Iran, an Assad regime stripped of much of the country is more reliant on them--and so more pliant.

And what do we get? Well, a lovely signing ceremony is certainly something to relish, eh?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hillary's Costanza Doctrine

It's not a lie if you believe it is true.


She's always tried not to lie.

So she gets the Participation Ribbon, I guess.

Oh, and she did not later deny lying.

The Bottom Line

So an author goes and writes that we shouldn't expect too much from the upcoming Iranian elections. Fair enough. And then she goes and ruins the ride.

Don't expect much change from the Iranian elections if you are hoping for a moderate ascendancy.

And the bottom line?

The ballot on Friday will almost surely leave Iran’s power struggle unresolved, as it has been for most of the past 37 years.

I nearly sprayed my adult beverage across my computer screen.

Apparently, I've been mistaken over the last 37 years about the nature of the Iranian regime. Rather than being a nutball Islamist government (of the Shia variety), the power struggle between Iran's nutball factions has simply been ongoing over that time--sadly still unresolved.

And likely to be unresolved after this faux election.

If I may be so bold, the last 37 years have shown that Shia nutballs run Iran. The only question is how much they care to pretend to Westerners that they aren't nutballs.

Really, some people know so much about a subject that they really do forget the big picture, believing that the nuanced shades of difference that they perceive are the important part of the picture.

Behold the proto-responsible regional power in action!

Iran's top leader warned voters on Wednesday the West was plotting to influence elections pitting centrists close to President Hassan Rouhani against conservative hardliners in a contest that could shape the Islamic Republic for years to come.

Well, not a plot so much as it is a sincere pretending by this administration (tip to Instapundit) that Iran will evolve into a sane state.

Where do they get these people? And I'm speaking of Brookings, and not Iran.

UPDATE: The actual voting is pretty much irrelevant:

Iranians headed to the polls Friday in parliament elections made easy for conservatives after sweeping bans that left many pro-reform candidates off the ballots, adding further political pressures on Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s pragmatist president.

Yes. That's how Iranian elections work. Hopes for change remain "unresolved" in favor of the nutball status quo because the hardliner nutballs screen the candidates.

Yet hope springs eternal for some:

So is Iran a real democracy? Perhaps that is the wrong question. What continues to plague Iran -- and indeed much of the Middle East -- isn't a deficit in participation and process, but rather one in accountability and opportunity. While it may assuage our liberal sensibilities to outright dismiss Iranian democracy, our objections do little to improve the daily lives of Iran's young and ambitious population.

Are you kidding me? The man makes an excuse for the lack of an actual real election by saying the lack of democracy really isn't Iran's problem?

So nothing is resolved; Iran' rulers rail against America; candidates are mullah-approved; and democracy isn't really important to Iranians anyway.

Which explains this:

Remember when the nuclear deal with Iran had a chance to strengthen the country's moderates? Jeb Bush was the Republican presidential front-runner. Fetty Wap ruled the charts. Serena Williams nearly won the Grand Slam of Women's Tennis. 2015. What a year.

You don't really hear this line any more from President Barack Obama.

Iran will remain under the control of nutballs after this election. And they will go nuclear.

Nice legacy, Mr. President.

UPDATE: This is late, but this level of sucking up to the tyranny of Iran by making excuses for them is amazing:

Clearly, democracy in Iran is far from perfect. Scores of opposition activists and journalists lie behind bars and the key opposition leaders and their wives are still under house arrest from the highly disputed presidential elections in 2009. A state ban on publishing the name or picture of former reformist president Mohammad Khatami remains in effect. And certain campaign posters belonging to leading reformists, like the fiery former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, mysteriously disappeared from city streets in early February.

Is that all? Just those little flaws in perfection?

If Canada's democracy was that far from perfection, do you think the author would praise Canada for their system? Of course not.

But that's just the tip of the imperfect totalitarian iceberg. These are the ascendant "moderates:"

Preliminary results of the February 26 national elections indicates that the reformers did much better, more than tripling representation in parliament from about ten percent to at least a third. Unlike 2012 the ruling clerics did not try to rig the voting.

The actual voting--if you ignore the variations in perfection leading up to the vote, including the selection of candidates by the hardliners--was unrigged.

But the hardliners realized they had to give a little ground to people upset with the ruling class lest the people resort to a rebellion. So the ruling hardliners gave a little ground--30 percent.

And who are the so-called "moderates?"

Violent rebellion is still a possibility, especially with so many new “reformers” being former hardliners who now are all for less corruption, lifestyle police and more foreign trade but still want America and Israel destroyed one way or another.

Ah yes, moderates want a more efficient and prosperous Iran, which would be better able to destroy America and Israel.

Feel the Farsi version of hope and change!

To the Shores of Latvia

It sounds like we are updating the equipment we have stored in Norwegian caves for our Marines:

Marines are prepositioning battle tanks, artillery and logistics equipment inside Norwegian caves as the U.S. pushes to station equipment near the NATO-Russia frontier. ...

The deployment of new equipment to the Cold War-era caves comes amid renewed tensions between NATO and Russia.

The 15,000 Marines who can be supplied with this material would be useful for securing friendly islands in the Baltic Sea, such as Gotland or Bornholm, in addition to islands just off the coasts of the Baltic States, prior to a major American amphibious landing there to support an American-led counter-attack north into the Baltic States should Russia knock these exposed NATO states off with a quick offensive.

And this situation where we are faced with an initial loss of territory, by the way, is nothing new for NATO. So Russia's ability to mount an offensive into the Baltic states should be a reason to work the problem and not give up the task as hopeless.

Or, for that matter, our experience in the 1991 Persian Gulf War where we lost territory (Kuwait)in 1990 and had to build up and counter-attack; or for our long-held expectations on the Korean peninsula that we would lose ground south of the DMZ initially.

Funny enough, the equipment is in Norway because during the Cold War, NATO's main naval line of defense against a Soviet attempt to interfere with Atlantic sea lines of communication to North America was the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom gap.

Norway was forward of that line and felt very exposed to a Soviet capability of invading Norway and worried about NATO reinforcements reaching them. So the equipment was put on the ground meaning just the troops needed to be flown in.

Anyway, the Marine equipment in Norway has a new reason to exist. Now another NATO ally is feeling exposed so that equipment is now useful for a similar problem further east.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Preparing for the Day After Mosul Falls

Iraq is looking ahead to their Iran problem, by addressing the Shia militias that are way too influenced by Iran:

The Iraqi government has decided to cut the number of state-financed paramilitary forces due to a shortage of funds as the international oil price declines, a spokesman for a leading predominantly Shiite militia group said Thursday.

Iraq will cut about 40,000 of the 130,000 Shia militia. Clearly, peak ISIL threat has passed.

Well, I don't assume there are 130,000 full-time troops in formation on any given day. But 130,000 are on the payroll.

The Iraqis really need to cut down the size of the rival military force that is not even close to being fully under the control of the Iraqi government.

Which is why the Iraqi government is stiff-arming the existing militias:

[Iraqi] government official and the diplomats said the [Iraqi decision to keep the Shia militias out of the Ramadi fight] was one of a series of moves by Abadi to assert his authority as leader and to distance himself from Tehran and the militias that came to Baghdad's rescue in 2014 and early 2015.

Abadi has begun to push for reconciliation between Iraq's Shi'ites and Sunnis, and for better relations with Sunni Arab neighbors like Saudi Arabia, they said.

This is good news, because it must mean that the Iraqis feel a little more secure with our presence to counter Iran's influence that had expanded dangerously after we left in 2011.

And again, keeping Iranian influence at bay was one reason I wanted to stay in Iraq after 2011.

So I'll recognize what appears to be a good thing by the Obama administration even though they are responsible for allowing the bad thing to happen.

But distancing Iraq from Iran and a 30% cut it is just the first stage. Eventually, the whole rotten lot of these militia will have to be disbanded or brought under tight Iraqi government control.

The task will be more daunting than it was in spring 2008 when Iraq executed the Charge of the Knights Operation.

UPDATE: This story on the liberation of Ramadi is related (and who knew Newsweek still exists?) in respect to how soon Mosul will be liberated once the offensive finally kicks off:

Retaking the Anbar provincial capital, an ordeal described by one U.S. commander as “tremendously slow” and “intensely frustrating,” has strengthened the resolve of Iraqi security forces. Still, “they move in fits and starts,” says U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General William Mullen. “They move for a couple of days. They stop for a couple of days. After six months of ‘Why aren’t you moving today?’ it was ‘OK, we really need you to keep moving.’”

This is heartening. I've been complaining bitterly about the slow pace of the war and the slow pace of the Ramadi counter-offensive in particular. I found it hard to believe this was our plan. And behind the happy talk in public, our military people were as frustrated as I was.

Funny enough, this evokes the slow, halting pace of Iraq's army in 1980 when Saddam ordered the invasion of Iran. Iraqi troops seemed to stop and dig in their tanks every time they ran into resistance from the initially heavily outnumbered Iranian defenders in Khuzestan. Times change and Iraq went from Soviet to Western trainers, but Iraqi habits seem to endure.

UPDATE: Burn the militias up doing something useful:

According to a statement by the Joint Operations Command, the "new offensive" began at dawn in a swath agricultural area northwest of the city of Samarra, 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, with the aim to cut IS supply lines and to tighten the grip around the IS-held northern city of Mosul.

The command says paramilitary forces, mostly Shiite militias, and the Iraqi air force were backing the push on the area, called Jazerat Samarra. The statement did not say if the U.S.-led international coalition was involved in the operation.

Good. Two birds with one stone, I say (in the last update).

Perhaps France Has Taken the Lead

France is involved in Libya:

French special forces and intelligence commandos are engaged in covert operations against Islamic State militants in Libya in conjunction with the United States and Britain, the French newspaper Le Monde reported on Wednesday.

French special forces have been spotted in eastern Libya.

The story also reports that French recon planes have overflown Libya and that France set up a base in Niger near Libya, presumably to focus on ISIL.

Is France taking the lead here as I've advocated?

Apparently not, as the initial story continues:

[Le Monde] quoted a senior French defense official as saying: "The last thing to do would be to intervene in Libya. We must avoid any overt military engagement, but act discreetly."

If France is leading, they too want to lead from behind. ISIL has no problem lunging into France. But France doesn't want to actually do anything overt to fight ISIL in Libya.


The French leaned forward a little more 5 years ago. But the French still want somebody else to field the spearhead force to defeat their enemy on the ground in Libya and solve their problem.

This time for sure. Right?

But no worries, the post-Paris Massacre state of emergency that clamps down on the French people can be extended in France indefinitely, right?

UPDATE: The mood is shifting, at least:

There are signs of a growing Western urgency to stop Islamic State (ISIS), and Libyan commanders say Western weapons and air strikes will make a vital difference in the coming battle against their better-armed enemy.

Can France rally that growing urgency?

UPDATE: Can France build a local ground force to secure the country without sending any French conventional ground units?

"The French military group in Benghazi are just military advisers who provide consultations to the Libyan National Army in its battle against terrorism, but they are not fighting with our Libyan forces," special forces commander Wanis Bukhamada told Reuters. There was no immediate French comment.

That according to a senior Libyan officer.

UPDATE: Strategypage covers Libya.

UPDATE: A late addition indicates that NATO is preparing to deal with Libya:

Tunisia's government backs a plan for German forces to come to the country to train troops from neighboring Libya for the fight against Islamic State militants, the Tunisian defense minister said on Tuesday.

The British already have a small force there to help with border security, in an indication that NATO is bolstering Tunisia to hold off any spillover from a renewed NATO war in Libya to smash up ISIL.

Do I Really Have to State the Obvious?

The press is saying Hillary had a do-over on her answer to the "do you lie?" question. That's not the question she answered, in a very Clinton-like response.

After being shown the famous video of her recently saying she always tried not to lie (video at the link), behold the Glory of Clintonian parsing!

After Clinton watched the video, moderator Chris Cuomo asked her if she'd like to revise her previous answer.

"I'll just say no," Clinton responded with a smile.

Being a veteran of the Clinton years, let me remind you that Hillary Clinton answered the question "would you like to revise your previous answer?" and not "do you lie?"

So now we know Hillary Clinton doesn't want to revise her previous answer.

No wonder she smiled. She got away with it again.

UPDATE: Apparently Ms. Clinton didn't try hard enough.

Just One Problem

One author looks at the test that Afghan security forces faced in 2015 as they fought largely on their own at the pointy end of the stick. We are not doomed. But I'd like to clarify one thing.

In a good overview of the fight and problems in Afghanistan, one analyst concludes:

The fighting in 2015 served as a test for Afghan forces, one they largely passed; however, without adapting to lessons learned, 2016 could see further gains by insurgent forces, and possibly the total collapse of an Afghan province, Helmand. Afghan forces will need to prioritize territory, abandon checkpoints, re-organize, and successfully incorporate new technologies if they wants to maintain the status quo.

The problem is that "prioritizing territory" conflicts with "abandoning checkpoints."

Counter-insurgency requires you to spread out to control the people.

For friendly people, this allows you to protect them from the enemy and recruit them.

For hostile people, it allows you to separate them from the insurgents and prevent the enemy from recruiting those people.

So a strategy that prioritizes territory--that is, controlling the territory (and the people there)--cannot abandon the checkpoints.

Yet I've mentioned that the continuing presence of checkpoints gives the enemy opportunities to mass forces to wipe out isolated outposts.

So if the Afghan security forces don't abandon the vulnerable checkpoints, their ground forces will lose morale and erode.

But abandoning the checkpoints gives the enemy terrain.

The real problem is that because we withdrew our capabilities, the enemy can mass forces to hit the small government checkpoints. And the Afghans don't have their own replacements for our capabilities.

A combination of air power, recon, and aggressive use of Afghan ground troops to go after the enemy and keep them from having the time to pick off Afghan checkpoints and deny them the ability to mass forces is the key.

This is the issue of "atomizing" the enemy, as I often spoke of during the fighting in Iraq.

This requires the abandonment of checkpoints in some areas--as we announced--to build up mobile forces that can go after the enemy to atomize them and make it safe to reestablish checkpoints to control territory (and people).

Ultimately, Afghan security forces need a balance of checkpoints with air power and reaction forces on call to help repel attacks; combined with offensive operations that reduce the ability of the enemy to conduct sizable offensive operations by pushing them down the escalation ladder to terrorism and random mortar or rocket attacks rather than the big assaults now being carried out.

Our help is key to allowing Afghan forces to adapt and succeed in 2016.

The Iraq War Was Not a Mistake

Jonah Goldberg recently wrote--in an otherwise enjoyable piece--that most Republicans agree that the Iraq War was a mistake. While I'm not about to burn my JG Fan Club Card and smash the decoder ring (R-E-A-D-M-O-R-E-N-R-O! Aw, man!), I must vigorously dispute the notion that the war was a mistake. It is too early to say that.

Not to pick on Jonah, since he's not alone. But I don't buy this seemingly new conventional wisdom.

Note that this is completely separate from the legality issue--the war was legal.  (Although my bias against international law was not affected by my graduate school international law class. My basis for legality tends to start and stop at the authorization to use military force.)

Was it a mistake? in 2010--with full knowledge of the price in blood and treasure we'd paid--Vice President Biden boasted that Iraq could be one of the great achievements of the Obama administration!

On Larry King Live last night, Vice President Joe Biden said Iraq "could be one of the great achievements of this administration. You're going to see 90,000 American troops come marching home by the end of the summer. You're going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government."

In 2014, President Obama re-started our participation in the war he responsibly ended in 2011 in order to save what we'd gained!

Consider the balance sheet right now. Iraq is a fledgling democracy that fights on our side in the war against jihadi terrorists rather than being a supporter of anti-Western terrorists; is not a threat to our Gulf allies in the south as it once was; has closed the industrial-scale oppression machine that slaughtered Shias, Kurds (with poison gas), and even Sunni Arabs who opposed Saddam; and is not a WMD threat, no matter what you thought of Saddam's potential (or the potential of his evil spawn sons) to get and use them (again).

The Iraq War was arguably quite successful even as it stands now. At worst, it is too early to say it was a mistake because of the price we paid.

Fine, the Middle East is a mess. But long before Operation Iraqi Freedom, it had been a mess teetering between autocrats who suppressed Islamism (except for their own tame Islamists who backed the autocrat) on the one hand and wild Islamist nutballs on the other who rejected the autocrats and who organized resistance to the autocrats' corrupt rule by posing as champions of the purity of Islamist rule.

Recall that United States Central Command (CENTCOM) is the smallest regional unified command by geography and is almost solely focused on the Middle East--expanding out into Afghanistan only because of 9/11. There is a reason for that focus on such a small piece of real estate. It's a clusterfuck (with oil).

With the threat of WMD proliferation making the rule of Islamist nutballs far more dangerous than they were in the days of scimitars or even suicide explosive vests, something needed to be done to push Arab Moslem societies toward democracy and rule of law as an alternative to autocracy or Islamist nutballery lest the current or future wave of Islamist jihad gain the use of WMD to fling at the unbelievers (of all faiths, truth be told).

And recall that based on a Clinton-era law, the overthrow of Saddam and the development of representative government there was official American foreign policy.

In 2010, things were looking pretty good for representative government in Iraq as an example to the Islamic Arab world about a way out of their autocracy-or-Islamist choice.

Even now, if we can help Iraq throw out ISIL and reject Iranian influence, Iraq can become a beacon of a third way.

As far as I'm concerned, all this talk of Iraq being a mistake "knowing what we know now" lacks perspective.

It may seem crazy to the "mistake" contingent to say that knowing that we'd lose 4,600 dead to defeat a Saddam regime that did not have WMD weapons in firing condition when we invaded does not convince me that we should have perhaps tried another way to implement the Clinton-era Iraq Liberation Act.

But why is 2016 the time to judge the 2002 choice to invade Iraq, ratified by Congress under divided control (Republicans controlled the House and Democrats controlled the Senate)?

This story is why I do not reject the war:

During Richard Nixon's visit to Beijing in 1972, the Chinese premier, Zhou Enlai, was asked about the impact of the French Revolution. Speaking of an event that took place nearly two centuries previously, Zhou famously commented that it was 'too early to say'. The witticism quickly became a way of emphasising the Chinese ability to take the long view in history.

And yes, I'm well aware that Zhou misunderstood, and was almost surely speaking of the French student riots of 1968 and not the French Revolution of the late 19th century.

But the fact that this answer was taken as an admirable way of looking at the long view of history makes the way of looking at hisory no less correct. Many people continue to claim that the Chinese have a (superior) long view of history in contrast to to the West short-term focus.

Consider our Civil War.

Was it worth it to free the slaves in 1865 when we tallied the cost in lost and broken lives?

Slavery was dying out all around the world. Did hundreds of thousands have to die in that half-decade to do it right then in America? Would it have been less cruel to let it die out on its own over several more decades? Was it worth the cost that to this day represents our bloodiest war ever?

Was the war worth that death toll and national division when Reconstruction failed a decade after the war ended and Southern Democrats rebuilt the system of oppression without slavery? Young men died in those numbers and at that cost in money to change the legal basis for oppressing African Americans?

Was the war only worth it with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which finally ending legal segregation, more than a century after African Americans were formally freed?

And the way Black Lives Matter supporters speak of modern America, you have to wonder if they believe that 19th Century slaughter accomplished anything at all even today.

Yet who today would seriously claim the Civil War was a mistake? That generation paid the blood price to redeem our nation's history of slavery, and today civil rights are guaranteed to the point that an African-American man was elected (twice) to the presidency (whatever else I may think of the man who reached that milestone, it says good things about our country that he did). At what point from 1865 to 2012 do we say the war was worth the price?

So we need more perspective on the Iraq War before we can pronounce it a mistake strategically, as opposed to a mistake for the election cycle. The Iraq War was a step forward in ending the tyranny of autocracy or Islamism, and we don't know what the journey will look like.

Even the 2011 Arab Spring was a watershed moment in popular Arab outcry for an alternative through democracy (however ill-understood) to the traditional choices of autocracy or Islamism that each suppressed liberty.

If democracy develops in the Middle East, the Iraq War will take its place as a moment when American power gave Iraqis the chance to have democracy--just as American power helped it thrive in Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan--and will stand as an example to other Arabs of what is possible with rule of law and democratic government.

In 150 years, if Middle Eastern countries are still swinging between autocracy and Islamism, without any significant progress toward democratic governments in their ranks, we can revisit whether the Iraq War was a mistake.

Unless computer AI is the best way to get efficiency and justice, I suppose.

Right now, it is indeed too early to say the Iraq War was a mistake. And I think the balance even this early shows it was a victory.

Oh, before I went into full rant mode on this topic, I guess I could have just linked to the last time I was ticked off. Our troops did not die for nothing no matter how much so many people seem to think or want it to be true.

I don't do analysis by majority vote here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Breaking the Seaborne Phalanx

Thank you Captain Jeffrey E. Kline, USN (Ret.). Will the Navy finally think about network-centric warfare and what it means for the ultimate in platform-centric power--the big deck aircraft carrier?


In January of 2015 the U.S. Navy’s surface leadership publicly described the concept of distributed lethality.[ii] In broad terms, distributed lethality proposes creating small offensive adaptive force packages comprised of surface action groups (SAG) with a variety of support elements that operate across a wide region and under an adversary’ anti-access sea denial umbrella. Its purpose is to confound adversary locating and targeting while introducing a threat to their sea control ambitions. It is an offensive concept for the U.S. surface forces. After decades of investment in defensive technology, systems, and training to counter cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and submarines, distributed lethality represents a course change for surface warfare, or at least a return to accepting a major role in sea strike that had been ceded to the carrier air wings.

This is what I wrote in 2005 on this issue (which built on an article that the United State Naval Institute purchased from me many years before that, but did not publish):

In the long run, given networked and very long range cannons, large aircraft carriers will add little to most offensive missions and will absorb scarce resources and assets simply evading attack rather than striking the enemy and contributing to victory. The concentrated power of the carrier platform's air wing will simply be one element of the massed effect of dispersed attack platforms such as DD (X) achievable in network-centric warfare. An enemy will face massed firepower from all directions launched by U.S. forces wielding a plethora of weapons deployed on surface ships, submarines, and aircraft. This attack capability will be potent whether carriers are part of the network or not.

Today, even though more and more of our surface combatants possess potent offensive weapons and are capable of more independent operations, they are still tied to the carrier battlegroups. In this role, their primary mission is to protect the carrier. ...

To exploit the network, the capable surface ships we will build must be cut loose and dispersed in accordance with the logic of network-centric warfare. Aircraft carriers will not add a bang commensurate with the billions of bucks they cost. Writing just after the Kosovo War, I asked did the Theodore Roosevelt really help in Kosovo? In my opinion, no. A couple score of shooters was irrelevant in NATO's thousand-plane force.

The worst part of carriers, even if we accept that carrier-launched planes are not the most efficient or effective manner of attack in the future, is that they will grow increasingly vulnerable. Eventually, an enemy will develop a network even if it only covers their immediate area or is limited in scope. The problem of defending in a networked environment will be brutally apparent to the Navy if it fights an enemy possessing a similar attack network which will seek the high value target of an aircraft carrier. If the Navy's carriers enter an enemy grid to come within striking range, they will no longer have the safety of getting lost in the vastness of the oceans. Nor can large carriers be made stealthy enough to remain obscured within an enemy grid. They will need to dash to striking range, strike, and get out before being struck themselves.

Even in a network-centric world, carriers will remain potent power projection platforms against enemies without anti-ship assets. But that's a different debate, really.

Kudos to Captain Kline. The Navy really needs to hear this.

UPDATE: While I remain skeptical of CNAS, figuring anything they write about carriers is to cut Navy spending rather than redirect it to other platforms, their basic point is right:

A report published Monday by the Center for a New American Security, a D.C.-based think tank that focuses on national security, claims that the Navy’s carrier operations are at an inflection point. Faced with growing threats abroad, the United States can either “operate its carriers at ever-increasing ranges … or assume high levels of risk in both blood and treasure.”

Yes, let me add another post of mine from 2006:

Our next carrier will be the giant CVN-21. Aircraft carriers are wonderful weapons for fighting small nations without significant air or naval power. Afghanistan and Iraq are good examples of how this has worked well for us. North Korea would be another. Any little brush fire around the world would, too. The problem comes with fighting a country with significant air and naval power.

And a 2002 post on the limits of carriers for sea control noted that my submission to the Naval Institute was in 1999. So I have a history on this issue.

Brain Privilege

So college students so wrapped up in trying to solve the world's problems at the expense of doing school work are having psychological problems?

A report on the emotional state of Brown University student-protesters—who suffer from suicidal thoughts, sleeplessness, panic attacks, and failing grades as a result of their advocacy—paints a weirdly alarming picture.

I'm going to laugh very hard and show very little sympathy for these idiots. What morons.

What's weirdly alarming is that anybody would give a rip about these fragile cases for advancing the voting age to 25 (or after a term in the military).

There are people with serious actual mental health issues, and these gifts to America in a prestigious university are having panic attacks because they didn't make a huge dent in that world hunger problem before their first term was over?

Even if they were trying to solve real problems, what kind of over-inflated self-worth do they possess to believe that they can solve whatever problem they've focused on before they graduate when the problems have resisted efforts long before the activists were potty trained?

Yet it is even worse than that lack of a sense of reality, since most of these precious snowflakes are trying to solve bullshit problems that are only a problem in their cloistered environment.

Why do we even keep a straight face when they drone on about micro-aggressions as if that is a real problem?

These are the kind of people who grow up and give Californians Proposition 65:

In December of last year, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) published its intent to list Aloe vera, whole leave extract to the Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer. Despite the widely accepted extensive health benefits of Aloe vera, an unelected regulator in Sacramento can now tell you and all consumers it will cause cancer, even if no cases of cancer from Aloe vera exposure exist.

No safe spaces anywhere, I guess.

Well, in an effort to reach out to the Offended Americans on our college campuses, I freely admit my privilege rather than deny what gives me such an unfair edge over others--I am advantaged by Brain Privilege.

There. I said it. And boy do I feel better!

That's right, I use my brain. And it kept me from despair during college and let me build a career without curling into a fetal position because somewhere, somehow, somebody was suffering and I couldn't stop it. Those social justice worriers should try using their brains. Everyone has one. Not everyone uses it.


Clear Out Anbar First

As I've advocated an Anbar First approach to defeating ISIL in Iraq--and hoping for a Jordanian offensive from the west as a major part of this--the Iraqis are debating the Anbar versus Mosul question, too:

In Iraq’s military circles, there has long been a debate over the order of battle — Anbar first or the Islamic State’s Iraqi stronghold of Mosul, in Nineveh province to the north, or simultaneous operations in more than one province.

While some had argued that Fallujah, already heavily besieged, could wait until after Mosul, a growing number of Iraqi commanders are now arguing otherwise.

“We’ve changed our thinking and think we need to continue to invest in the collapse of Daesh in Anbar,” Mahlawi said, using the group’s Arabic acronym. “Anbar will be liberated entirely, then the forces will move north.”

So for now, even as preparations for Mosul are made, the Iraqis are rightly seeking to exploit their Ramadi success:

After clearing the last neighborhoods of the battered city of Ramadi last week, Iraqi special forces packed up to leave but expected to move on quickly to their next offensive — the walled market town of Hit.

Located 30 miles northwest of Ramadi, also in Anbar province, Hit has been occupied by the Islamic State since the fall of 2014. About 12,000 civilians are estimated to remain, local officials say.

While a buildup of Iraqi army forces has begun farther north in preparation for a Mosul offensive, special forces known as Iraq’s “Golden Division” have a more immediate target. Bolstered by a win in Ramadi, commanders say they plan to take full advantage of a state of disarray among the militants in the area — prioritizing Hit, while debate continues on whether to move farther west to Fallujah.

Cleaning up Anbar and enabling a new Awakening Sunni Arab force to hold the gains would free up a lot of Iraqi manpower for the Mosul offensive.

And cleaning up Anbar would reduce the need to have so many good troops guarding the greater Baghdad region by pushing ISIL away from the city where they have been able to launch terror attacks into that region.

Further, losing all that territory would be another blow to the morale of ISIL and reduce the global recruiting effort that relies on the existence of a robust caliphate on the march.

I'm not sure what the timeline for a Mosul offensive is--is it this year or 2017?--but it seems far enough in the future that a focus on Anbar now might not even affect the drive on Mosul.

And to the point of simultaneous offensives, that should not be too difficult for the Iraqi military given how much they outnumber ISIL and given that a Mosul offensive will also bring in the Kurds who otherwise will sit and watch. So two offensives will add some forces to the Iraqi order of battle.

Have no doubt that our air power is strong enough to support as many offensives as the Iraqis can manage.

Note however, that offensives require core Iraqi mobile forces to spearhead offensives. And Iraq is moving their Ramadi spearhead--the counter-terrorism force (that "Golden Division" which is not an actual division in size) to spearhead the Hit attack. If this is the only force Iraq has that can work with our air power and reliably advance in the face of fanatics, multiple offensives without really heavy casualties won't be possible.

This is Stupid Culture

So college administrators warn students that they should be careful about alcoholic drinks because drugs could be put in them, making the students vulnerable to rape. Stupid-Americans are outraged--at the warning:

This is a message from campus safety in response to multiple students being drugged on Claremont McKenna’s campus. This is disgusting. This is unacceptable. This is rape culture. By no stretch of the imagination is it the fault of the drugged students that our campus is made unsafe.

This, my friends, is an example of Stupid Culture on our campuses.

Which is a problem, because studies show that 1 in 5 college students will be really, really stupid during their time on campus.

Other People's Money

You of course realize that the Swedish socialism that Sanders glorifies was merely the stage when socialists loot the success that capitalism built, right?

And now Sweden has to go with less socialism and more capitalism to rebuild what socialism stripped away.

But will Sweden be able to do that with a new society built on an alien culture imported there that is far different than the nation that built that success?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Lighten Up, Francis

Lord knows that I'm not a Trump fan, but Pope Francis is way out of bounds:

"Anyone, whoever he is, who only wants to build walls and not bridges is not a Christian," the pontiff told journalists during his return journey from a trip to Mexico in response to a question about Trump's anti-immigrant stance.

Ah, rendering unto God what is Caesar's, I see.

Sure, there was some papal qualifiers about "if Trump said that stuff," but really, this was out of the Pope's lane.

Liberals who normally like a high wall between church and state will no doubt applaud the pope's statement.

Say? How many migrants has the Vatican accepted lately?

Is the Vaunted Pivot Faltering in a Little-Known Area?

Before the places we pivoted from (the Middle East and Europe) reverted to violence, the grandly announced Pivot to the Pacific was considered brilliant strategy. How's it going there?

Hope and change seem to be failing to affect rulers in Micronesia where even President Obama's odd focus on global warming fails to win hearts and minds across a large swathe of low-lying Pacific islands.

Behold the restoration of our global reputation in the Pacific:

In December 2015, in an oft overlooked corner of the globe, the Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia (F.S.M.) passed a resolution signifying the intent to end the Compact of Free Association with the United States of America in 2018. The two sides were in the process of discussing a potential renewal of the Compact when it expires in 2023.

While the rest of the world watches events in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, the People’s Republic of China is positioning itself to be in the driver’s seat in an area of key strategic interest to the United States. If Washington fails to act in a timely manner to renew the sometimes troubled Compact relationship, it will inadvertently drive the Micronesians into the arms of China and simultaneously leave a gaping hole in strategic access.

Right now we have China penned west of the first island chain from Japan to the Philippines.

Although it is difficult to see the impacts of our pivot so far on Chinese actions.

If China exploits a cancellation of our relationship with Micronesia, the location of many World War II battles to push closer to Japan, China has the potential of pushing their anti-access/area denial forces east of that line and add to the complications of sending our forces west to contest a Chinese advance in the western Pacific.

Indeed, holding bases here would put China in the position to threaten Hawaii.

It is important to nail this compact issue down to the satisfaction of Micronesian sovereignty issues and our defense concerns.

The 360 Pivot

The United States Army is pivoting back to Europe with heavy armor. We'll need much more, now.

The pivot to Asia assumed Europe was secure and wars were responsibly ended in the Middle East.

The latter is obviously way off. And notwithstanding the administration's hope of a "reset" with Russia, Putin's aggression, rearmament, and rhetoric have made it clear that Europe is not secure.

With more money allocated to Europe, the Army will continue the pivot back to their starting point:

The biggest chunk of funding — $2 billion — is for putting a “heel-to-toe” armored brigade combat team (ABCT) in theater 24/7 on a rotational basis on top of the Stryker brigade and infantry brigade already in Europe. The funding will also cover more aviation in theater.

A total of $1.8 billion of the ERI funding will pay for prepositioned equipment to include an entire ABCT static set of equipment, Horlander said, as well as some other enablers.

The Army has already established an “activity set” — separate sets of equipment outside of prepositioned stocks — that builds out a brigade combat team.

Unfortunately, the equipment will be in central Europe--where the old NATO infrastructure still exists--well west of the revived Russian threat to new eastern NATO states.

And the presence is rotational, leaving our forces based in Europe at just two lighter brigades.

I lamented the end of our heavy armor presence in Europe.

Note that my hope at the end of that post that lack of heavy armor would at least reduce the ability of Putin to complain about our planned invasion has been dashed as paranoid ranting increased instead.

I've long wanted a robust Army presence in Europe, both to project power into an arc of crisis from West Africa to Central Asia; and to guard against a possible resurgence of threats to Europe itself. (See my article on force presence in Europe here. And note that I don't know why MR credits me with a PhD. I never said that, at one time they corrected that error, but it has reappeared. I have an MA in history.)

On the bright side, we are up-gunning the light Stryker brigade in Europe to include 30mm guns with some anti-armor capability (against lighter armor--not tanks) rather than their original heavy machine guns.

This is something I've long wanted for conventional war. Indeed, I think the simplest thing to do for the Stryker brigade to adapt to new threats is to add a tank battalion to the three light mechanized maneuver battalions (up-gunned [link added], to be sure) that the brigade has. It could either fight as a battalion or split the companies out to the infantry battalions. Or trade companies with two of the infantry battalions to create three tank-supported task forces and have one pure infantry unit.

And please note that in light of the need to continue to protect our gains of World War II in Europe with added forces more than 70 years after World War II and more than 25 years after the Warsaw Pact collapsed, ending the Cold War in victory, how smart was it to walk away from Iraq in 2011 following our military victory there, where the pivot with Iraq War 2.0 has reached 360 degrees, too?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

From Inter-War Era to Pre-War Period

Whoa Nelly, that Pucker Factor keeps ratcheting up.

Victor Hansen sees eerie parallels to the pre-World War II period as Russia get's all Russia-like:

Appeasement, collaboration, and isolationism always prove a lethal mix — past and present.

Yes, while the past has had an eerie inter-war vibe to it (and that move paved the way for the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia), we seem to be going past the "inter-war" phase into a "pre-war" period.

Which is why my Pucker Factor is redlining lately.

The surface justification for our ten-year rule on defense retrenchment didn't make it past 5 years.

If we're lucky, this is a pre-Cold War period.

But if we are not lucky, I'm not saying that Putin is playing the role of Hitler these days. He might be the Mussolini sidekick in the analogy, eagerly trying to put back the empire of his glory days even though it can't be done.

That would be the really unlucky path.

Some Analysts Apparently are Idiots

After North Korea set off a nuke and testing a long-range missile, South Korea withdrew from the Kaesong project north of the DMZ that matched South Korean businesses with cheap North Korean labor. The project earned North Korea a lot of money. And then "some analysts" turned the stupid dial to eleven.

Oh, good grief:

Some analysts have said that without Kaesong as leverage, South Korea's ability to influence change in the North has now evaporated.

Leverage? What leverage? Do you mean that in the future if North Korea threatens to test a missile or blow off a nuke, then South Korea can't threaten to cancel the project to get North Korea to back down??

If I may be so bold, North Korea's oppressive government, nuclear program, and missile program all suggest that South Korea has zero ability to influence change in North Korea.

Or at least it is a value not much greater than zero, as Austin Bay rightly suggests:

The latest closure of the jointly-administered South Korea-North Korea Kaesong Industrial Region illustrates the limitations of over-reliance on "soft power" -- in this case, Seoul's well-intentioned economic and diplomatic power-- when confronting a vicious dictatorship that relies on "hard power" military might and terror for survival and prestige.

God save us from some analysts.

The Gods Have a Sense of Humor

President Obama carries a binder full of liberals to ponder an appointment to the Supreme Court.

One question: Are there any women in there?

Because I'm so old that I remember when a "binder full of women" was a thoughtcrime.

UPDATE: As an aside, what's with a binder? This digital-age presidency has a binder of hard copy? Please tell me that they don't use index cards, too.

But I assume this is a Plastic Binder scandal about something designed as a prop only. Let the outrage commence!

Where Did the WMD Come From?

ISIL has used Mustard gas in both Iraq and in Syria:

A source at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed that laboratory tests had come back positive for the sulfur mustard, after around 35 Kurdish troops were sickened on the battlefield last August. ...

The OPCW already concluded in October that mustard gas was used last year in neighboring Syria. Islamic State has declared a "caliphate" in territory it controls in both Iraq and Syria and does not recognize the frontier.

Perhaps the gas was stolen from Assad stockpiles not actually surrendered as he pledged to do.

Perhaps the gas was made by some of Saddam's boys working with ISIL--remember, Saddam kept the organization and raw materials to restart WMD production. The knowledge base remained and could have been put to use, perhaps with raw materials stolen from Assad's government.

Heck, maybe some of Saddam's boys know where Saddam's old stuff--gas or raw materials--was hidden away--whether in Iraq or Syria perhaps.

The targeting of Kurds speaks of old Saddam Baathists who have a history of gassing Kurds.

On the bright side, the gas might be old, making it less effective considering that Iraqi skills led their gas to deteriorate and required Saddam to have gas manufactured shortly before use (as in months, if I recall correctly) during the Iran-Iraq War.

And it is certainly not available in large amounts which is really necessary to blanket an area with sufficient density of gas to kill. note the Kurds were sickened and not killed.

So this might be just to terrorize and bring up old memories of serious Saddam-era gas killings.

It is also a reminder that the Western revulsion against chemical warfare created from large-scale World War I usage probably isn't a universal revulsion.

When in a Hole, Stop Digging

Even though I recently wrote that Afghan forces can't hold all their exposed outposts while they lack the ability to reinforce them and while the enemy is not atomized to the point that enemy attacks are too small to overrun those checkpoints before reinforcements arrive, I was nonetheless a little shocked to read this news of pulling back:

Afghan forces have pulled out of bases in Musa Qala, a strategic district of the southern province of Helmand, after months of heavy fighting with Taliban insurgents, officials said on Saturday. ...

The commander of the Afghan army's 215th corps, Mohammad Moeen Faqir, said troops had been ordered to pull back from Roshan Tower, their main base in Musa Qala, as well as other checkpoints to reinforce Gereshk, straddling the main Highway One which links Kabul with the south and west.

It takes decent troops to fall back in good order. Can the Afghans do that? But the alternative of holding everything is bad, too. The government has to fall back to what it can hold and then hammer the enemy in the areas it doesn't control while preparing to expand the area of control into the enemy-held areas.

So I felt better to read this pre-news description by our military of what is going on (as I was clearing up a backlog of unread emails):

The second point is [that Afghan security forces have] got to reduce checkpoints. The Afghan security forces, particularly in the army, are short about 25,000. They've got a total authorization of 352,000, but in the army they're short about 25,000. They've got too many of their soldiers on checkpoints, and they've got to reduce some of those checkpoints. Some of those checkpoints are lightly armed and in some cases, it has been fairly easy for the Taliban to take advantage of those checkpoints that are vulnerable.

So, what they need to do is get soldiers off checkpoints, they need to consolidate, they can't get rid of all of them, but they need to create strong points that they can defend and from which they can maneuver and deal with security issues as they arise.

So it is a plan to stop the erosion of the Afghan security forces and not just a retreat. But it is a retreat because to control the country you have to have a government presence with checkpoints. Eventually the checkpoints will have to return.

As long as the Afghan troops feel the impact of Western support to win, they will transition to this new strategy and eventually win.

UPDATE: More consolidation in Helmand:

Army and government officials said security forces had left Nawzad district, which borders Musa Qala, and would concentrate their strength on defending the area around the provincial capital Lashkar Gah and the main highway between Kabul and the western city of Herat.

The next step must be do use the freed of troops to go on the offensive, and then to reestablish the abandoned positions with expanded troop strength and adequate air and ground reaction forces to help them hold.