Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ukraine Really is a Forgotten Crisis

 Let's not forget that Ukraine gave up a lot of nukes and for their faith in paper guarantees got invaded and partially dismembered by Russia.

In a pessimistic article about avoiding war over North Korea's nuclear program, the author notes the problem from North Korea's view of the negotiated end of Iraq's and Libya's WMD programs followed by Western attacks for regime change:

What’re the odds that a revived dialogue, of however many parties, is going to lead to complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of the North Korean nuclear program? They’re brutally long. The North Korean regime has made clear, citing the cases of Libya and Iraq, that WMD dismantlement has previously been an invitation to intervention by external powers.

In the case of Iraq, Saddam's regime wasn't attacked because it gave up WMD. It was attacked because it refused to stop pursuing WMD.

As for Libya, the Khadaffi regime wasn't attacked because it gave up WMD. It was attacked because during a civil war the regime looked like it was about to go postal on rebellious civilians.

If North Korea agrees to give up nukes, does North Korea plan to cheat on the deal or massively oppress their people?

Oh wait, North Korea has done both. So for completely different reasons than the author intends to convey, negotiations with North Korea really are futile.

But on the terms of the author, there is a very good example that isn't being made: Ukraine.

Ukraine actually did give up nuclear weapons (inherited during the break up of the USSR) in an explicit exchange for safety from invasion by a neighbor--Russia--and guaranteed by America and Britain.

Ukraine gave up their nukes and a decade or so later Russia invaded Ukraine, taking over Crimea and continuing to fight for the eastern Donbas region.

One wonders if Russia would have invaded if Ukraine still had nukes.

Honestly, while the Crimea operation with an obvious Russian invasion might have been considered risky, the Donbas method of an atro-turfed insurrection would have been plausible.

Nobody would have speculated about Russia trying to take over large chunks of Ukraine, however, as that would have prompted a small nuclear strike by Kiev perhaps on Ukraine's own territory against a Russian-occupied target. But it is hard to say because Russian nukes might have deterred Ukrainian use of nukes.

Or maybe nukes just deter use of nukes in any scenario short of national extinction.

Anyway, I guess that obvious example of WMD disarmament gone wrong didn't come to mind despite being exactly relevant to the issue in question.

I'm Still Critical of Air Power Purists

Huh, while searching around I ran across a letter to the editor that the Washington Post published that I'd completely forgotten about. My basic concern was the unlimited faith some had (and still have) in what air power can accomplish on its own.

By the end of that year, America and Britain led a brief strike campaign on Iraq in Operation Desert Fox; and in response China, Russia, and France took the lead in the dissipation of international sanctions designed to compel Iraq to comply with the Persian Gulf War ceasefire provisions on proving Saddam Hussein had eliminated his WMD programs.

Air power didn't work to stop Saddam from aiming for WMD, the ability to turn the screws on him without war was eroded as Saddam evaded sanctions and eroded the willingness of the world to enforce them with the threat of Western aerial punishment behind them, and 5 years later America did actually gather a coalition to deal with the problem on the ground in Iraq.

Funny, too, is that al Qaeda's air power strategy on 9/11 failed to terrorize America as much as piss us off, and we put a coalition on the ground to defeat them in their sanctuary in Afghanistan, too.

The struggles go in in different ways, but at least neither is the threat to America that they were in 1998. Which is no sign of failure as we continue to deal with evolving security threats on the ground in Europe and against South Korea so many decades after those wars put Americans on the ground in Europe and South Korea.

I completely forgot about writing that letter. And it doesn't even occur to me to write letters to the editor.

Is There a Realistic Threat Aircraft (and Tactics) Already Out There?

Via Instapundit, this is good news for American airpower:

The F-35 Lightning II strike fighter is easily able to counter the adversary services aircraft thrown at it in numbers, said an official of an adversary services contractor, who added that the industry is facing challenges in coming up with a realistic threat aircraft for training for high-end combat.

And the F-35 isn't even optimized as a fighter--it is a fighter bomber--the way the F-22 is.

I was concerned about the design philosophy of the F-35, while admitting I lack the knowledge to say it is wrong. Yet I've been comforted about the plane as it is being put into service.

But I sure hope that our enemies have the same assumptions about fighting the F-35 as our Navy, Marines, Air Force, and adversary services companies have.

Monday, April 24, 2017

We Came, We Saw, We Forgot

I don't know why we support the problematic GNA faction in Libya. Is the West truly too stupid to learn from experience?

The basic problem [in Libya] is that the UN and most Western nations continue to back the GNA despite the fact that the GNA relies too much on Islamic conservative militias and senior Libyan Islamic clerics who favor imposing Islamic law on Libya, something most Libyans don’t want.

Sure, let's support "moderate" Islamists! It worked so well with Erdogan in Turkey and the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt, eh? So what on Earth are the Italians thinking?

Italy tried to get the new U.S. government interested in providing military support for the GNA in its fight with HoR. The Americans declined but will continue helping with efforts to destroy surviving ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) groups in Libya.

The West is aware that Islamists are either hostile to or at war with the democratic and liberal (in the classical sense) West, right?

Democracy Dies in a Coma

In Russia, Putin doesn't bother that much with planting fake news at home given that he has compliant journalists who do it willingly with the threat of dead journalists to remind the rest:

A prominent Russian journalist known for articles criticizing Russia’s government and President Vladimir Putin has died at a hospital in St. Petersburg after being severely beaten by unknown assailants.

Nikolai Andrushchenko, a 73-year-old co-founder of the weekly newspaper Novy Petersburg, had been unconscious since he was attacked on March 9.

Yeah, note to America's liberals, this is what a real resistance to tyranny by speaking truth to power looks like.

In America, liberal journalism is encouraged by threats of killing your social life if you don't go along with the left-wing herd.

Our way of slanting news is way better, of course, even if it gets to the same general place.

UPDATE: I was prescient on the social life angle

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Houston, We Have a Problem

The chance that the people of North Korea will spare the world the problem of a nuclear-armed North Korea is disappearing.

I don't think it is right to say that North Korea is a particularly difficult problem because while Iraq under Saddam was a prison, North Korea under the Kim dynasty is an "ant colony."

North Korea's prison camp system is so large because North Koreans do resist. Sadly, the smallest resistance is punishable by massive force. North Korea is a particularly harsh prison.

Although resistance in the face of even that exists.

Which is why I never complained about the Obama administration "strategic patience" with North Korea. I truly hoped that a policy of "talk, talk; die, die" could allow North Korea to implode before it could explode a nuclear warhead, while offering reasons for North Korea not to use their eroding conventional power to strike South Korea.

Heck, I was less concerned that Obama would try to cut a faux deal (as Clinton did in 1994) than I was worried Bush 43 would because Obama didn't face any public liberal outcry to use diplomacy the way the Bush administration was vulnerable to faux outrage on that issue. Perhaps we are lucky that the left had Iraq to focus their ire on.

Anyway, we may have lost that race as North Korea's tests of nuclear devices and long-range missiles continues. It is common to say that North Korea has 10-16 nuclear weapons, but I don't know if that is truly accurate. I'm not aware that the intelligence consensus has concluded that North Korea has perfected the nuclear devices they've tested down to rugged nuclear warheads small enough to mount on missiles. Perhaps I'm wrong, of course. And even if I'm right, North Korea is on the path to nuclear weapons sooner rather than later.

If' we've lost that race, another of my assumptions that we could deter a nuclear-armed North Korea is no longer true. I assumed that America would seek regime change in Iran both to protect freed Iraq and to remove the people in Iran who want nuclear weapons.

So one pillar of my patience that we could wait for North Korea's people--even if it was up to the army or a faction of the ruling elite to fight that battle for the beaten down people--was that North Korea would be unable to sell their nuclear weapons technology to Iran, because Iran without mullahs wouldn't want them.

Sadly, the Obama nuclear deal has saved the Iranian mullahcracy just as the Obama chemical deal with Syria saved Assad's dictatorship. I assume that the Iran deal will prevent Iran from having nukes just as poorly as the Syrian deal prevented Assad from having chemical weapons.

So North Korea's prime nuclear weapons customer, Iran--who I have doubts can be deterred--will be willing to pay for nukes (and because of the Iran deal will have the money).

Which means that we may not be able to risk a policy of deterrence with North Korea for the simple reason that it is no longer a case of deterring North Korea.

Perhaps China will deal with their problem child from Hell. It was all fun and games for Peking when their pet psycho just scared America, Japan, and South Korea. But now China has reason to be scared as potential targets of North Korea arm up to deal with the threat and who may decide that they need nuclear weapons. Krauthammer is right about that motivation.

Remember, South Korea and Japan could count on American pledges to use our nukes to defend them with confidence as long as North Korea could only threaten Japan and South Korea. What happens when North Korea can deter American nukes after nuking Japan or South Korea by threatening to nuke American cities?

What happens is that Japan and South Korea decide they need their own nukes. Having fun yet, China?

North Korea could yet collapse--because their people finally rise up in desperation--before Kim Jong-Un is a real nuclear threat if China seriously clamps down on North Korean trade and criminal enterprises.

Or maybe China takes direct action against North Korea, with America's blessing.

Or maybe because the multiple assumptions that allowed patience with North Korea have collapsed, America has to hammer North Korea in cooperation with Japan and South Korea to end the threat of North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapons.

And have no doubt that South Korea is prepared to participate in the hammering:

Back in 2012 the South Korean military also called for over $2 billion to be spent on missiles during the next five years and this plan was largely approved. This was part of an effort to develop the capability to quickly weaken the North Korean artillery and missile forces in any future war. The South Korean plan included the purchase of over a thousand new ballistic and cruise missiles. These are aimed at specific North Korean missile launchers and artillery positions. In the event of a war, the South Korean missiles can be quickly launched and most North Korean missile and artillery weapons destroyed.

Since 2012, America agreed that South Korea could build and deploy longer-ranged missiles. South Korea is fielding them. (And yes, that's a good thing the Obama administration did.)

Although I remain doubtful that missiles and smart bombs alone can knock out the North Korean artillery threatening Seoul as easily as it appears we think. I think troops will have to stand on that ground to protect Seoul.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: I honestly think that Americans who voluntarily go to North Korea where at best they give hard currency to an odious regime; and at worst become hostages to restrain American policy, should be told that they are on their own if they go there and not to expect help from the American government.

Move the Springboard East

The supplies have to roll:

The 16th Sustainment Brigade is based in Germany, but soldiers with the only large logistics unit in Europe aren’t home very often.

The brigade is the logistical springboard for Operation Atlantic Resolve, U.S. Army Europe’s efforts to expand east to counter Russian assertiveness without more permanent basing of U.S. troops.

It's a big job in a NATO logistics desert.

Guess Who's Coming to Deir ez-Zur?

Under American-orchestrated pressure at Raqqa, ISIL has moved its capital in Syria southeast:

In the wake of increased airstrikes and pressure applied from three directions by U.S.-backed Syrian forces, the Islamic State has essentially moved its so-called capital in Syria, U.S. defense officials told Fox News.

ISIS is now centered in Deir ez-Zur, roughly 90 miles southeast of Raqqa, the officials said.

Which is interesting when you consider that Assad has forces there under siege.

Will ISIL launch an assault to wipe out those defenders to cleanse their new capital?

Or is this just an interim move to just going underground as a terrorist organization?

Here's a CRS overview of the civil war+.

UPDATE: US-backed forces advancing around Tabqa may accelerate the ISIL shift east:

A US-backed alliance of Arab-Kurdish forces entered the key jihadist-held town of Tabqa on Monday as they pursued their campaign against the Islamic State group in northern Syria.

The really interesting part comes when Russia- and Iran-supported Assad decides that he should move into the area that ISIL is being pushed out of.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

This is an interesting article on the French Foreign Legion. If it is a death cult, it is not very good considering the low casualty rate of the modern era. Or it is a virtual death cult. Tough mind you, but not exactly a death wish to join.

Will opening up to trade with Cuba unravel the communist dictatorship? I'd be happy if it does. So far the Chinese communists seem to have managed to maintain power while allowing trade. I'd be happy if that unraveled the communist dictatorship, too.

Is Bleeding Kansas Berkeley what we want in America? While it is no shock that the communist/anarchist "Antifa" (anti-"fascist") storm troopers have motivated opposition street fighters, I take no pleasure in this. The end of this road is bad. Is this what we want our politics to become? If the damn local authorities (under sympathetic leftists--and I mean really sympathetic leftists) had dealt with the black-clad violent communists and anarchists in the first place, we wouldn't see people taking their own protection into their own hands. Tips to Instapundit.

You go, dead girls! Yeah, I'd forgotten about that weird conference call. Oddly, the media didn't remind us last year. And again, tip to Instapundit.

American airpower is mostly grounded these days. That has to change, if that understatement suffices. Our potential foes are likely worse off. But if one of them initiates hostilities they will work to bring their availability rates up before they strike while we will still be in a low state initially. But is the real problem--which is less likely to be solved with an infusion of money--a tolerance for bad leadership?

The Saudi-led coalition backing the Sunni-dominated government of Yemen continues to make slow progress. It's a slowly developing victory, but it is progress for defeating Iran on that front, at least.

America is now battling Iran for influence in Iraq. The Obama administration abandoned the field to the Iranians when we left Iraq in 2011. If we are serious, we have the advantage over Iran despite Iran's operations that go back to the 1979 Iran revolution. Despite the common Shia ties, Iraq's Shias are Arab and not Persian like the Iranian Shias who run Iran (as a rump empire, Iran has sizable and diverse minorities). So most Shias don't want Iran to dominate Iraq. The Arab Sunnis who sided with us in 2008 (the Awakening) despite our role in overthrowing their minority rule of Iraq in 2003 will back us against Iran. And the Kurds have long been pro-American since we stood with them following the 1991 war against Iraq. Let's hope the Iraqi government and American government are on the same page about continuing America's role in Iraq after ISIL's caliphate is dispersed.

Marine helicopters are now using drop tanks to extend their range, which is useful for the distances encountered in the Pacific.

Since last year's campaign season, I've been worried about Afghanistan's ability to hold in the face of Taliban encroachment that is inflicting heavy casualties. With ISIL's caliphate going down in Iraq and Syria (and Libya), the role of Afghanistan as a sanctuary for terrorists will resume, making it a pre-9/11 threat as a launching point for attacks on the West. So yes, we need a new strategy for the region that defeats the jihadis there. America led the West into Afghanistan because of 9/11. We need to remain to win to prevent another 9/11. I continue to think that focusing on strengthening the artificial central state is problematic as the bulwark against the jihadis, but I will defer to the experts. Oh, and for real yucks, the Russians and Iranians who the last administration banked on becoming our best friends are involved up to their denials in Afghanistan now (and unless I am sorely mistaken, the weapon in that picture is an automatic grenade launcher and not a heavy machine gun).

Apparently frustrated that he can't bamboozle American secretaries of state like Clinton and Kerry, after meeting with Tillerson the Russian foreign minister Lavrov decided to pick on an American journalist. Well, sh*t rolls downhill, as the expression goes.

Liberal fake news is rising. But liberals will still look down on stupid conservatives. Personally, my experience has been that fake liberal news has been a problem for a long time. Tip to Instapundit.

As they are everywhere (outside Russia), the Russians are involved in secession movements in America. Remember, little green men aren't just for Ukraine. Never say the Russians don't think big. When you consider the record of pro-Russian decisions by the last administration, it all makes sense. Born in Kenya? Hah! Try Kolyma! (And good God, yes I'm kidding.)

Heh. The Navy wouldn't think of anything like that.

Marijuana doesn't make you a better mom. It makes you not care if you are or not. And Doritos.

In 2008, Democratic voters denied Hillary Clinton the presidency. In 2016 all voters denied Hillary Clinton the presidency. But only the latter election is a symptom of voter misogyny.  I sometimes find it easier to plumb the motivations of Kim Jong-Un than of our leftist brethren here.

Leftist protesters fixated on President Trump's unreleased tax returns, wondering if they reveal any wrongdoing, are a danger to the liberals. Seriously, does anybody believe the IRS wouldn't have taken action long ago if there was suspicious activity? The Leftist activist are an eye tick away from claiming that Trump's taxes were prepared in Kenya. So drive on activists!

This is odd. Why was there such a disconnect between public statements on the Carl Vinson battlegroup and its actual sailing away from the peninsula? It could be a way of preventing expectations of action by showing up earlier than wanted while raising the threat of the carrier group. It may be that other assets--like subs and anti-missile defenses--need to move in and so the presence of the carrier wasn't needed yet. Or it could be that diplomatic moves delayed the need for the carrier presence. Or it could be a screw up. I don't actually suspect the latter as the explanation, but you never know. It would be illuminating to see the Vinson group commander's face when he says, "POTUS thinks we're where?"

The Great Liberal Hope Jon Ossoff failed to top 50% in the special Congressional election in Georgia. So he will face likely defeat against Republican Karen Handel who led the crowded Republican pack in the second phase. I assume Handel will win because, as Madeleine Albright has explained to women, "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other."

I'm sure liberals will cheer at claiming the scalp of Bill O'Reilly (whether he is guilty or innocent), but I honestly couldn't care less about him. I tend not to watch talking head shows like his. Other than The Five and the Greg Gutfeld Show, which have good entertainment value, I find the partisans of Fox News Channel no more illuminating--and only somewhat less annoying--than the partisans on CNN or MSNBC (or on the main networks, for that matter). So the Left can enjoy their scalp. If he did wrong he should be punished. But say, about your superiority dance. Tip to Instapundit.

I thought maybe my phone charging cord was going bad, with intermittent connection for recharging. But then I used a toothpick to gently remove a build up of lint in the charging port, and all is well. Your results may differ.

I'm perplexed at the statement that North Korea has 10-25 nuclear weapons. I thought North Korea hadn't yet miniaturized and ruggedized nuclear devices sufficiently to be called warheads. How did I miss that evolution? The key to using force to stop a state from getting nukes is to strike before they get nukes--not after. Isn't this concept from Pre-emptive Strike 101?

I'm unhappy that President Trump congratulated Turkey's Ergodan for engineering via referendum a legal autocracy. This development is not good for the West any way you look at it. But then again, President Obama elevated Erdogan as a favored "tame" Islamist in the Moslem world; and I'm not a liberal Democrat upset with the Bush freedom agenda that sought to support democracy in Moslem countries. So I assume Democrats are saluting this display of pro-Erdogan realpolitik in action.

"If you see something say something" doesn't apply to potential Islamist terror because if you are wrong the outrage mobs will tag you as "Islamophobic." But by all means let your imagination run wild if you see a father with their child. Yeah, I had experiences with my toddler son and daughter that follow that thinking. My small son had swollen eyes from yellow jacket stings and I got dagger stares in line at a pharmacy from one woman until I raised up the antibiotics I was waiting to pay for while holding my son. The woman changed totally, saying that happened to her grandchild. With my daughter at a theater, I let her go into a women's room unattended (she was more interested in running off to the bathroom than in seeing the movie, so that wasn't our first trip and I decided that rather than taking her into the men's room with me, I'd try this) while I stood outside close to the door to hear if she had any problems--or if the bathroom wasn't empty as it sounded. That was fine until a bunch of tweens trooped in looking at me in horror standing there. I avoided eye contact and said nothing until some moms came along with the same look and I explained that my very young daughter was in there. Again, things changed with an explanation and various girls checked on my daughter and gave me status updates. Thankfully my experience involved people capable of adjusting their notions when a reasonable explanation was given. But there is no social stigma for failing to adjust, it seems. Tip to Instapundit.

I vote that we retire "shock and awe" to describe a bad-ass blitz with the new North Korean expression "super-mighty preemptive strike." If we have to go after the Kim regime, I hope it is called Operation SMIPS.

It occurs to me that if we make North Korea worry enough that China is considering intervening in North Korea to end the problem that President Trump says is China's responsibility, then North Korea might do something against China that provokes China to do exactly that.

The idea that a threat of violence by protesters justifies canceling the speech of someone the proto-fascist "protesters" don't like is 100% wrong. Imagine if in the Civil Rights era segregationist governments had cancelled civil rights speakers "for their safety" because masked and hooded "protesters" (in Klan white rather than the anarchist black today) threatened violence. Would that have been acceptable logic or would have state troopers, National Guard, or even active Army troops have been sent in to protect the people exercising their rights? Tip to Instapundit.

Just when you think we've reached Peak Stupid, something else comes along. The "tiny house" movement "appropriates" poverty? I just thought the movement was stupid. Say, is being thin actually appropriating starvation? Now this is getting fun! Of course, now I hate the tiny house people seeming more rational than the utterly stupid "appropriation" nutjobs.

I'm really not worried about a couple Russian "nuclear capable" aircraft flying near Alaska. It's Superpower Theater for the Russians.

Russia is expanding the use of military contractors and is using them in Syria and Ukraine, in particular. Strategypage has more and looks at the wider picture. If you like, you can see a collection of posts from The Dignified Rant on private warfare, with commentary, for only 99 cents!

Turkey may buy Russian S-400 air defense missiles. Other than possibly a sign of Turkey's drift to autocracy and Russian friendship, I don't know whether I should be worried that Russia will know the weaknesses of Turkish air defenses or whether I should be happy NATO could get a really close look at Russia's S-400 system.

Romania, by contrast, will buy Patriot air defense missiles. Which should reliably shoot down Russian aircraft if necessary.

I didn't realize how many drugs I must have been using at the time, because I totally missed the Apocalypse that experts predicted on the first Earth Day. The end is always nigh, for some people. Tip to Instapundit.

Is anyone really shocked that Palestinians tried to smuggle explosives into Israel labeled as medical supplies? No good deed goes unpunished.

One year ago, my dad died. /NOTHING FOLLOWS/

Just in Time to Be Blamed on Trump

American liberals spent the last 15 years or so praising socialist Venezuela under Axis of El Vil founder Hugo Chavez and then that mini-me Nicolás Maduro, but a liberal writer says the descent of Venezuela into autocracy, violence, and poverty is the fault of America rather than because of liberals who cried "hands off Venezuela" and of a liberal president who did nothing during his tenure?

Fascinating:

The void of U.S. leadership has been partly filled, at last, by the energetic new secretary general of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, who since taking office in 2015 has campaigned hard to bring pressure to bear on Maduro. But the OAS is unlikely to save Venezuela. Instead, a country that was once a close democratic ally of the United States, and the richest in Latin America, may be doomed to years more of violence and hunger — while a former superpower looks away. [emphasis added]

One, America is a former superpower? Seriously? Apparently you can smoke Trump Hysteria Condition.

Two, I'm so old that I remember that failing to lead and letting others take care of their neighborhood was considered the height of nuanced Smart diplomacy. "Leading from behind" ring a bell? Anyone?

But no, now America's refusal to do something about this long-telegraphed catastrophe is Trump's fault (in his nearly three-month old administration) despite 8 years of tolerance for the problem under Obama and nearly as long under Bush when liberals demanded that America keep our hands off fraternal socialist brother Hugo as he built his delicious socialist omelet.

Yeah, the name conspicuously absent in the article blaming America is "Obama."

Jackson Diehl does know who was president for the previous eight years, ending only this last January, during that void in U.S. leadership while Venezuela really began its steep spiral leading to chaos, right?

If I was Lord of news feeds, this would be considered "fake news."

UPDATE: The killing is so far limited:

At least 12 people were killed overnight during looting and violence in Venezuela’s capital amid a spiraling political crisis, authorities said Friday.

But there will be more of these:

Venezuela's opposition prepared to march in silence on Saturday to honor a dozen people killed in three weeks of protests demanding that the government of President Nicolas Maduro hold delayed elections and address a growing economic crisis.

Oddly enough, Maduro's government is inept even for socialist autocracies which usually lack everything but the means to violently control people:

Venezuela's National Police threw rocks at a peaceful demonstration Thursday, as inventories of tear gas seem to be running low in Venezuela, due to embargoes by materiel-producing countries and a decline in the price of oil, the commodity that brings in more than 90% of all hard currency.

On the bright side for the forces of el vil, swinging a baton aimed at heads is cheap.

UPDATE: Let's hope not:

After several days of violent protests, Venezuela's socialist government is struggling to keep order on the streets of Caracas. Amidst the chaos, a local woman known only as 'La Dama' was photographed putting herself between people and an armored truck.

Reminiscent of Tank Man who came to symbolize China's Tiananmen Square Massacre, La Dama could go down in history.

People do remember that ultimately the Chinese tanks crushed the demonstrators with perhaps thousands of civilian casualties; and that the communist government won, right?

Of course, that's real courage as opposed to the silliness over a statue of a girl posed in front of a statue of a bull.

UPDATE: More:

Venezuela cannot wake up from its socialist nightmare.

The Venezuelan opposition just staged a massive protest against the government, which the government repressed with military force, leading to at least three deaths, The New York Times reports. Detained opposition activists say the authorities tortured them, according to Reuters. Meanwhile, across the country, people are starving.

Venezuela, a beautiful, oil-rich country, once one of the wealthiest nations in the Southern Hemisphere, is only sinking further into economic devastation and chaotic, corrupt authoritarianism.

Never forget that when you want a government big enough to "give" you everything you think you need; you get a government big enough to give you tear gas, bullets, and batons when that government predictably fails to be your father and mother forever.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Red Sports Car Would Be Cheaper

I didn't really get any sense of why a land power like Russia is apparently trying so hard to build a navy from this article.

Other than some banal observations on the utility of naval power and actually sending ships to sea, I didn't learn why Russia wants a navy. With the question of whether Russia is trying to revive a blue water navy capable of acting far from Russia's shores, this seems important to know. But could Russia's renewed drive to build a navy really a function of Putin liking naval uniforms?

My view is that Russia needs smaller ships to protect their coasts; ballistic missile submarines as a survivable nuclear deterrent; forces to protect those subs; and down the line in importance, ships for show-the-flag missions abroad.

Otherwise, a fleet is a pointless drain on limited Russian resources when they need ground and air forces to protect their extremely long border.

Of course, in addition to the fleet there are two other traditional sources of Russian weakness.

Is Russia so used to facing aggressive threats from the west that they can't adjust to the new reality that unless Russia provokes it, no Western European countries want to spend money on military power to confront Russia?

Pain and Response

Liberals crack me up.

The American flag is a symbol of our country and all Americans. Yet liberals like to complain that Republicans act like only they deserve to display the American flag.

So the Democrats haul out newly purchased flags every two years for elections while they harrumph that Republicans don't have a monopoly on patriotism.

Yet outside of election windows, this is the message our left gives us:

First we have some California college students who wanted to make the flag's presence at their student government meetings "optional." ...

“We don’t have to have this show and demonstration of patriotism everywhere in our society,” one student senate member, Itmar Waksman, told KOVR.

Another student told KOVR, “The flag to a lot of people represents capitalism, colonialism and the genocide of indigenous people, and this is why we don’t want the flag in meetings.”

Yeah, America's problem is that patriotism spread too widely.

Also, a lot of people are apparently stupid.

And:

Second, NBC baseball writer Craig Calcaterra was annoyed that the "political symbol" of the flag is present at sporting events.

Wait. What? I thought the official Democratic line is that Republicans don't have a monopoly on the American flag? Now the American flag is a political symbol at American sporting events?

Which recalls President Obama's reluctance when a candidate to wear a flag pin on his suit despite seeking to be elected president of America (and not head of the DNC).

Democrats would have a better chance of convincing me that Republicans don't have a monopoly on the American flag if Democrats didn't react to our flag the way vampires react to Holy Water and sunlight.

Code Dead

After 9/11 we got a color-coded terror alert system to let people know the level of the jihadi terrorist threat to our nation. We need a system that informs the world of our danger to jihadis.

The Obama administration thought it inadequate and changed the Bush system.

I think the system needs to be changed again. But not to warn Americans about the terrorist threat to us.

No, we need an alert system that tells terrorists how pissed off we are and what they can expect from us. Let's split the difference between the 5-level Bush scale and the 3-level Obama scale, and have 4 levels of (our) threat.

Code Green is peacetime where if you catch our eye, we'll kill you when we get around to it. Death will come from the air. The British will participate, too.

Code Yellow is routine wartime. We'll look for you and you can expect a drone, special forces, or missile strike to regularly upset your training and mayhem schedule. Expect allies like the Canadians, Dutch, Poles, and Australians to participate as well.

Code Red is a state of intense desire to kill you, and you can expect a MOAB or lots of smaller bombs impacting in a short period of time. There could be lots of American special forces and regulars after you, too. The French might join in.

Code Dead is a state of American anger and resolve that will strain the capacity of jihadi paradise to scrape up the required virgins to meet the sudden need. For innocents, please leave a generous buffer zone around any jihadis you see. Measured in tens of kilometers, please. Also, while the French will participate, the Germans still won't take part.

So that's my suggestion. Enough of the focus on what our enemies can do to us. Let's focus on what we do to them.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hold the Swagger

In 2014 I did not assume Ukraine was doomed in a conflict with Russia. The conventional wisdom did assume that.

Interesting:

Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine is now entering its fourth year, but there was a time when few expected it to last even four weeks.

The virtually bloodless seizure of Crimea, which fell to Russian troops in early 2014 without a fight, led most observers to conclude that Ukraine was effectively defenseless and at Moscow’s mercy.

This was the consensus view in Moscow, where many of the bolder voices began speaking of celebrating the traditional May holidays in Kiev itself. Such swagger seemed perfectly reasonable; Ukraine was still reeling from months of anti-government protests that had spread chaos across the country before culminating in the flight of President Viktor Yanukovych and the collapse of his entire administration.

Before the war, I assumed Ukraine could resist--and had counter-offensive options if their military wasn't shot (yet it was from years of neglect and corruption and the immediate confusion of the change in government)--and that Russia would face problems in taking much Ukraine. I assumed Russian operations would be limited to taking a chunk of the east and Crimea.

And I called the Russian on their failure to quickly move into the Donbas region as they did in Crimea which gave Ukraine time to scrape together defenses in the east.

Even in mid-March I thought that Ukraine could resist in Crimea.

Also, in bonus territory, before the invasion I called any Russian operation to grab Crimea an opening to expand their role in the eastern Mediterranean region:

Pushing Russia away from the Black Sea--should Russia lose their bases in Crimea if Ukraine doesn't want them there any more--in the long run makes Russian operations in the Mediterranean much more difficult. That would make their help for Syria a bit more difficult and deprive Russia of some leverage in Egypt.

Russia is now directly fighting in Syria, updating their air and naval bases there; making plays for influence in Libya, Turkey, and Egypt; and sent their carrier on a photo op mission to Syrian waters.

I write this post not to claim prescience--I've certainly gotten things wrong.

But I do want to remind readers that I give you my analysis of events rather than just running with the herd.

I'm not willing to call this a Russian "quagmire," as the article says--absolving the West of doing anything--unless the West helps Ukraine send body bags back to Russia in larger numbers and gets the fight going inside Russian-occupied Ukraine rather than on the line of contact that only seems to work against Ukraine.

And about that hybrid war hype ...

The Last Refuge of the Scoundrel Maduro?

Will the mother of all protests in Venezuela lead to the mother of all distractions?

Venezuela's amazingly inept socialist strongman Nicolas Maduro has targeted America as his nation spins apart:

General Motors said Wednesday it has been forced to stop operating in Venezuela after one of its plants was illegally seized by local authorities.

The seizure, in the country's industrial hub of Valencia, comes amid a deepening economic and political crisis that has sparked weeks of deadly street protests.

Could Maduro take a desperate gamble to convince his people that the nearby Dutch island of Curacao is a safe haven for enemies of the state and the launching pad for an imminent American invasion that must be crushed to save the socialist paradise that Hugo Chavez passed down to Maduro to defend?

If you think you are doomed, a near-doomed gamble looks good by comparison.

UPDATE: Hmm:

With Venezuela’s capital girding for massive demonstrations Wednesday, President Nicolás Maduro is accusing the United States of trying to overthrow his leftist government.

In an address from the national palace in Caracas Tuesday evening, Maduro complained of “a State Department push” to “provoke an imperialist intervention” in the South American country, with pro- and anti-government demonstrations as a backdrop.

Protesters don't seem swayed by mere words to rally around Maduro. Will Maduro try something more dramatic to "prove" the American threat?

It's Just Plain Old Warfare

Stripping out the cyber-war, fake news, denials, and irregulars, Russia's aggression in Ukraine's Donbas is just plain old aggression. Stop trying to over-think this as an excuse to do nothing.

Don't forget the conventional warfare part of Russia's aggression against Ukraine!

[What] is often lost in the discussion of the technological innovation of Russian hybrid warfare is that a conventional line of effort resides just below the surface. The Donbas campaign of the Russo–Ukrainian War (2014–present) highlights this idea. The Donbas campaign showcases innovations in Russian land warfare through the actions of Russian land forces—working in conjunction with separatist land forces—throughout the campaign. Most notably, these innovations include the development of the battalion tactical group (BTG)—a formation that possesses the firepower to punch at the operational level of war—coupled with a reconnaissance-strike model not seen on contemporary battlefields. Furthermore, the BTG and reconnaissance-strike model work in tandem to create siege warfare opportunities for the Russian and separatist forces, allowing them to generate high levels of destruction while operating beneath the notice of the international community. [emphasis added]

As I understand it, one reason for the use of the BTG is that Russian brigades are not capable of being committed, requiring the Russians to tap brigades across the entire Russian expanse to pick out the acceptable troops in those brigades (the RUSI report link is broken):

Russia is compelled to bring in troops from all over Russia, compel draftees into becoming "contract" soldiers, putting troops from different units together to form battle groups for the Donbas, and even using Interior Ministry troops behind the lines to keep Russian troops from retreating.

As for operating beneath the notice of the international community, that's just BS.

We know the Russians invaded Ukraine yet the West has chosen to ignore the blatant invasion. How on Earth are multiple battalions with hundreds of tanks directing massive and sophisticated firepower so subtle that we can't notice it?

And as much as I hope the Ukrainian lawsuit works, even the Ukrainians go along with the fiction by asserting that Russia is  "'sponsoring terrorism' by financing pro-Russian separatists and failing to stop military aid from seeping across the border into eastern Ukraine's Donbas region."

It's not only financing separatists--it's an invasion.

And it isn't "failing to stop military aid" from crossing the border like it is a problem to be solved by tougher border controls--it is a deliberate policy to send aid into the Donbas.

Face it, hybrid warfare is just Russia invading a country with conventional and special forces at the side of an astro-turfed secessionist movement while denying Russia is responsible, and the West going along with that fiction. The Russians could commit entire numbered armies to the fight with that kind of thinking on both sides.

And if the Russians could do that kind of large invasion, they would have. This "hybrid warfare" theory is just dressing up Russia's inability to do a fast smash and grab with overwhelming force.

Do you really think the Russians chose from ingenious thinking to stretch out the war in the Donbas this long and wouldn't have preferred to pull the bandage off fast if they could to avoid the Western sanctions that were imposed when it became embarrassing to ignore Russia's aggression any longer?

That's how Russia avoided sanctions over attacking Georgia in 2008 and cementing their control of that country's breakaway provinces. Heck, that's how Russia has gotten away with seizing Crimea with a direct attack bolstered by reinforcing troops, special forces, and astro-turf local rebels. Who talks about getting Russia to relinquish that conquest as the focus remains on Russian-occupied Donbas?

There is a full report at the first link. I'm so disgusted with the willingness of the West to go along with Russian fiction that I'm not inclined to read it (although I know I will eventually when I get a paper copy).

Training Eagles

American regulars will train Somali and African troops in Somalia.

The 101st Airborne Division will help locals and regional allies fight jihadis in Somalia:

A few dozen troops from the 101st Airborne Division in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, arrived in Mogadishu on April 2 at the request of the Somali government, a U.S. military official told VOA.

The team is carrying out a train-and-equip mission that is expected to last through the end of September, according to the official.

This also helps our special forces who normally do jobs like that.

With special forces' direct action role in demand to fight terrorists, it is tougher to spare them for training. So regulars help the locals and help the special forces.

Of course, having our special forces do the training and advising makes the special forces better, too, in understanding the local environment and actors. So it shouldn't be an absolute substitution.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Turkey Starts Down a Dangerous Path

The Turkish opposition wasn't very happy with the process that gave Ergogan a narrow victory (51.4%) in the vote to give him pretty much dictatorial powers. But whether or not the vote is totally legitimate, that's the working theory Erdogan will go forward with. What will NATO do?

Yeah, the result is probably fishy:

Turkey's main opposition party urged the country's electoral board Monday to cancel the results of a landmark referendum that granted sweeping new powers to the nation's president, citing what it called substantial voting irregularities.

Bulent Tezcan, deputy chairman of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, cited numerous problems in Sunday's vote, which gave a narrow victory to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's long-time plans to greatly expand the powers of his office.

But urge too hard and that magical and broad "anti-coup" purge that has been going on will surge again, eh?

I've wondered if Erdogan might want to leave NATO--triangulating with NATO, Russia, and China to create maneuvering room--to chart a course for a new Ottoman Empire to serve as the real caliphate of Sunni Islam (under Turkish rule).

But with Erdogan heading into caliph territory, will NATO downgrade or expel Turkey?

I ask because NATO has become a club of democracies, using membership to push former Soviet vassals toward rule of law and real voting.

Can Turkey despite its important geographic position be allowed to set an example for going backwards on democracy and rule of law when we have enough problems keeping some of our new NATO allies on that path?

I imagine the actual path will more likely be pressure on Erdogan from NATO to stop what he is doing that Erdogan will finally meet with downgrades of alliance cooperation followed by a formal break.

UPDATE: The election in Turkey was close--and if there wasn't voter fraud, close for Erdogan's power grab. But what does it say that Turkish voters who live in Europe were more in favor of giving power to Erdogan than voters in Turkey itself?

These Turkish voters, living in some of Europe’s most liberal countries, overwhelming cast their ballots for Erdogan’s illiberal reforms of Turkish society. The results, from the state-run Anadolu Agency:
  • Austria – 73.23% Yes, 26.77% No
  • Belgium – 74.98% Yes, 25.02% No
  • France – 64.85% Yes, 35.15% No
  • Germany – 63.07% Yes, 36.93% No
  • The Netherlands – 70.94% Yes, 29.06% No
Not only did these European Turks vote far more heavily in favor of Yes than their countrymen back home (the domestic vote was 51.18% Yes, 48.82% No), they also voted more heavily Yes than just about any other Turkish expatriate community. In the U.S. and U.K. Turks voted No by about 84% and 80%, respectively.

How is it possible for Turks living in liberal democracies to reject that democracy in their country of origin?

Does this say more about continental Europe than the Turkish residents? Tip to Instapundit.

Best Stand-Up Comedy Act, EVER!

This is comedy gold:

Yet amid all the hyperbole and hysteria, a basic point gets missed. Europe today is a genuine superpower and will likely remain one for decades to come. By most objective measures, it either rivals or surpasses the United States and China in its ability to project a full spectrum of global military, economic, and soft power. Europe consistently deploys military troops within and beyond its immediate neighborhood. It manipulates economic power with a skill and success unmatched by any other country or region. And its ability to employ “soft power” to persuade other countries to change their behavior is unique.

If a superpower is a political entity that can consistently project military, economic, and soft power transcontinentally with a reasonable chance of success, Europe surely qualifies. Its power, moreover, is likely to remain entrenched for at least another generation, regardless of the outcome of current European crises. In sum, Europe is the “invisible superpower” in contemporary world politics. Here’s why. [emphasis added]

Get a room. This is a full spectrum delusion.

I'd go through the piece to argue against it. But why bother? When has a European power projected significant military power in recent decades without the assistance of America's logistics machine? Even pounding on civil war-wracked Libya was embarrassingly reliant on America despite pretensions of showing that Europe could lead the show.

Seriously, on paper Europe has military power, but the numbers lie. And without military power, I don't believe any entity can rank high in actual--as opposed to potential--power.

This hope is nothing new. Even France's good--but small--operation in Mali inspired visions of Euro-power leading the West into the glorious future!

But in reality, Europeans are getting dangerously close because of their refusal to spend on defense to being suitable only as tribal auxiliaries for America.

The author is well educated and deploys many (many) charts, but the claim that Europe is an "invisible" power should lead the author to question whether he is astutely perceiving what others don't see or is just delusional (back to the original FP article):

Sixty years ago, when European leaders met to sign the Treaty of Rome, one of their shared goals was to strengthen Europe’s global position. They have succeeded and, looking forward, there is little reason to doubt they will continue to do so.

Yeah, I'm going with the latter. Remember, the author concludes by saying Europe will continue to succeed but started out saying that Europe still had some good decades left in it. Pick one.

Oh, and here's a fellow comedian arguing that when Britain leaves the European Union--superpower that it is!--that Argentina will have an opening to get the Falklands back!

All that stands between Britain and Argentina's wrath are the EU legions?? (Or is it the soft power?)

Stop! Please! You're killing me!! I think I'm going to burst my spleen!!!

As I wrote in this post on some questionable power projection measurements that ranked Europe high in the future:

I suspect that the EU is just primed to be the most healthy, educated, and well-governed non-factor in global power consideration the world has ever seen.

Europe has economic, scientific, and demographic power but lacks the military power to be more than a potential superpower that for now is more likely to be fought over as an objective than a force to fight--or stop--others.

UPDATE: This is related. This video headline says that American and European Union special forces are training African militaries. No, that is not is what happening. American and European forces are training African troops. The EU is doing nothing.

Yes, the European states are part of the EU, but you could by that logic say that NATO, United Nations, or even UNESCO troops are doing the training.

But if you want a myth of a rising EU power, such little things push the image. To be fair, it is just the headline that makes this error and not the text or video. But how many just see the headline and move on?

Be Proud of the West

The thing that horrifies me the most about the modern world is the willingness of so many Westerners to actually despise the West as much as any of our enemies.

Yeah, the rise of threats is an age-old problem that does not explain today's threat environment:

The problem, rather, is the West’s growing inability to agree on how it should be defined as a civilization. At the core of the deepening dysfunction in the West is the self-induced deconstruction of Western culture and, with it, the glue that for two centuries kept Europe and the United States at the center of the international system. The nation-state has been arguably the most enduring and successful idea that Western culture has produced. It offers a recipe to achieve security, economic growth, and individual freedom at levels unmatched in human history. This concept of a historically anchored and territorially defined national homeland, having absorbed the principles of liberal democracy, the right to private property and liberty bound by the rule of law, has been the core building block of the West’s global success and of whatever “order” has ever existed in the so-called international order. Since 1945 it has been the most successful Western “export” across the globe, with the surge of decolonization driven by the quintessentially American precept of the right to self-determination of peoples, a testimony to its enduring appeal. Though challenged by fascism, Nazism, and communism, the West emerged victorious, for when confronted with existential danger, it defaulted to shared, deeply held values and the fervent belief that what its culture and heritage represented were worth fighting, and if necessary even dying, to preserve. The West prevailed then because it was confident that on balance it offered the best set of ideas, values, and principles for others to emulate.

Why can't every Westerner value what the West has built, even if we try to improve on our failures or shortcomings? Are those flaws really sufficient to condemn the entire structure? Seriously?

When so many on the left asked "why do they (jihadis) hate us?" and answer their own question by saying we caused the hate, I asked instead "why do we hate us?"

Really, I don't blame our enemies for hating us. They are slime. Why wouldn't they hate us? But honestly, can't we in the West appreciate what we have and have the backbone to defend it?

Honestly, if we were a unified society proud of our achievements and what we represent, I really wouldn't worry about a bunch of pathetic cave dwellers who fantasize about destroying the West. We'd butcher them before lunch and be on with our lives.

But the sad fact is, many in the West would kneel before their beheaders and feel privileged to be killed by the jihadis.

And this confidence would help with dealing with the Russians, especially, as well as the Chinese, Iranians, and others who would defeat the West.

What is our major malfunction is failing to see our civilization is worth defending?