Thursday, April 26, 2018

Getting a Secure Grasp of Reality Would Be a Good First Step

The German foreign minister denies that Germany isn't carrying its military share in the defense of the West, but the facts of German military size and readiness, missions abroad, and basic military spending clearly defy that assertion.

And this statement about his vision of Germany in defending the West makes that failure to defend the West clear:

Foreign policy is rooted in values and interests. It's not always easy to harmonize the two. But following World War II, Germany saw itself as a peaceful power. We have done our best to ensure that there is a long-term effort in international politics to secure peace. I would like to continue that focus.

Despite seeing itself as a peaceful power, during the Cold War the West Germans probably had the best armored force in NATO. (Heck, the East Germans probably had the best armored forces in the Soviet world, albeit on the side of attacking freedom.)

But Germany has done precious little to "secure" peace since the West won the Cold War.

Let me apply the clue bat to the German foreign minister:

I keep reading that the Germans hate their militaristic past so much that they don't want to fight.

Let's try applying the clue bat to Germany's collective skull on this issue.

Conquering and setting up death camps under the shield of a powerful military? That's bad. By all means, don't do that.

Having a military capable of fighting death cult enemies or stopping the Russians from moving west? Well, that's a good thing. Try doing that.

The interviewer asked if a refusal to act abroad is a continuation of the old German habit of letting allies fight while contributing only the money.

I wish.

Germany doesn't fight in defense of the West and because they don't spend money on defense, would be hard pressed to defend NATO inside Europe let alone contribute to the broader defense of the West abroad.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Be Careful Out There

The American commander for Pacific Command wants more forces near China. Be careful out there.

Every commander wants more forces:

The nominee to be the next chief of the U.S. forces in the Pacific has called for an increase in U.S. forces from all three services stationed in the vital region, adding that China is now effectively able to control the South China Sea and challenge the U.S. presence in the region.

Although the admiral correctly speaks of adjusting the footprint to account for Chinese capabilities, putting forces forward within range of enemy forces tempts an enemy to strike first to take out forward-deployed American forces.

It is true that the loudly proclaimed "pivot" to the Pacific has not been terribly impressive in the context of a shrinking total force that can provide forces for the Pacific.

And continued problems in the Middle East plus renewed threats in Europe again compete for assets.

So there is no safe region to pivot from these days to reinforce PACOM.

But it really freaks me out to think we can forward deploy enough to win the war against a peer competitor with what we start the first battle with. I just want to avoid and absorb the first blow, survive, build up reinforcements, and then win the war.

The Naval Source of Russian Weakness

Russia's naval ambitions won't be met and are sucking up resources in a so-far futile effort to build a blue water naval capability:

Russia’s naval construction program continues to suffer from multiple problems, including the shortage or obsolesce of Russian shipbuilding facilities, financial and management problems, as well as technological flaws and lack of access to foreign components—notably Ukrainian-made engines. As a result, a serious gap exists between planned and expected warships. Up to 2020, Russia is likely to operate 5 out of 20 new nuclear submarines, 9 of 20 frigates, 4 of 14 small missile ships, 16–18 out of 41 corvettes and patrol ships, 1 of 6 amphibious ships, 2 minesweepers, and 14 out of 14 fast boats. Such limited numbers of new ocean-going vessels, problems with modernizing older ships (Vz.ru, February 26, 2018), along with reductions to military expenditures (Wek.ru, March 27) may compel Moscow to postpone its blue-water ambitions. Nonetheless, several hundred more long-range cruise and anti-ship missiles deployed to its forthcoming small naval platforms will still likely increase security threats to littoral countries within Russia’s neighborhood.

I believe a blue water navy is beyond what the vast Russia needs to defend their long borders.

Russia needs SSBNs for a survivable nuclear deterrent; coastal vessels and SSNs to secure SSBN bastions in the Sea of Okhosk and the Barents Sea; other coastal vessels to protect their coasts from enemy navies in the Sea of Japan, Barents Sea, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, and Caspian Sea; perhaps a few larger ships for show-the-flag operations; and a solid determination not to waste resources on more than that which are more needed for air and ground power to defend their long border.

It isn't just that Russia won't meet their goals for ships and subs, but that Russia is wasting money on trying to achieve those goals at the expense of real defense objectives.

Remember, Russia's three sources of weakness are the fleet, Poland, and the Caucasus.

Russia lost all three sources of weakness when the Soviet Union collapsed. Yet despite the defense problem Russia now faces in defending its long border that so far can only be achieved by threatening early use of nuclear weapons, Russia has not exploited the relief of losing the Soviet fleet, losing Poland, and losing most of the Caucasus (having fought brutal wars to retain Chechnya).

No, Russia keeps pressure on Georgia (and Russia formalized control of small portions of Georgia in the brief 2008 war)  and keeps troops in Armenia, no doubt to keep a foothold in case Russia can reclaim the region; Russia focuses on the non-threat of NATO where Poland is the NATO main line of resistance in the east (thus sparking NATO rearmament), and has grabbed territory in Ukraine in 2014, where Russia still wages war; and Russia tries to build a blue water fleet when none is needed--failing even as the Russians keep pumping scarce resources into that vanity project.

How many resources would Russia have to defend their vulnerable but valuable Far East from Chinese claims if Russia didn't waste money on a blue water fleet; didn't alienate NATO by effectively trying to build forces capable of driving toward Poland to link up with Kaliningrad; and didn't care if it loses control of the Caucasus which doesn't want to be ruled by Moscow and which separates Russia from Turkey?

If it makes the Russians feel better, they can pretend they need to build up their army and air power in the Far East to protect the region from American and Japanese plots, eh?

It really amazes me that Russia tries to build a blue water fleet. Even in the context of just being jerks in regard to NATO, a coastal fleet focused  on the Barents Sea, Baltic, and Black Seas would make more sense than trying to build a blue water fleet. Does Russia really believe that they could revive a fleet capable of interfering with North Atlantic convoys coming from North America to reinforce NATO in Europe?

But no, trying to build a blue water fleet, trying to build an army/air force capable of taking Poland, and aspiring to return to the Caucasus where Russia would just find themselves reminding Turkey of the long history of Russian-Turkish warfare all serve to weaken Russia in carrying out their basic defense requirements.

They're their own worst enemy.

Prophecy of Warfare: Theme Two

This is a really good article on planning for future wars by a talented retired Army major general.

Let me review, at his challenge, the ten themes Scales set forth about future war in 1999. Mind you, it speaks well of him to predict the future and then stand by them when the future approaches. As he notes, predictions about future war shouldn't be about getting the future right, it is about not getting it too wrong to win.

I'll do them one at a time in separate posts. This is the second post. Let me preface this effort with my warning from my 2002 Military Review article (starting on p. 28) about the projected FCS that was the primary weapons system envisioned by those planning efforts:

Barring successfully fielding exotic technologies to make the FCS work, the Army must consider how it will defeat future heavy systems if fighting actual enemies and not merely suppressing disorder becomes its mission once again. The tentative assumptions of 2001 will change by 2025. When they do, the Army will rue its failure today to accept that the wonder tank will not be built.

The second theme from 1999 is:

2. Project and Maneuver Land Forces by Brigades
Land forces will best be able to achieve the necessary balance between strategic speed and sustainable fighting power if all early-arriving, close-combat forces are dispatched and fight as autonomous, self-contained brigades of about 5,000 soldiers each.

In 2000 (starting at page 91) I was in favor of having more but smaller divisions (two brigades) to speed deployment, with the ability to add a third brigade when power is required. I did not think that self-contained brigades would have the power of the same number of brigades in a division.

I did not anticipate the need to rotate forces through Iraq for years, which was definitely improved by having self-contained brigades which the Army adopted during the Iraq War.

And I do wonder if the return of conventional warfare as the prime focus means divisions should be revived as the basic Army unit.

At least for Europe. Perhaps we need a mix of divisions using brigades reliant on the division for support; with more resilience for Europe and self-contained brigades for the rest of the world where flexibility and ease of deployment is more important.

So I'm not sure what to make of this. For the environment foreseen with no peer competitor, the independent brigades--brigade combat teams as they are called--have performed well and were probably superior to divisions as the basic self-contained unit.

I'm not sure if we need divisions now given some talk that precision firepower and persistent surveillance might require dispersal and so require self-contained Army units at a level even lower than the brigade. I just don't have a handle on this.

Theme one is here.

Cast a Giant Shadow

I recently noted the very thin British presence in the Pacific. There might be a good reason to value this commitment.

I wondered why Britain was pushing ships to the Pacific (and east of Suez in general) when the small Royal Navy has missions in NATO waters that should more than occupy their assets.

But it seems as if the British are taking on a mission to stabilize small Pacific nations in the south Pacific region:

In the post-Brexit era, the U.K. will be looking to make itself more valuable to its various partners. One area in which it already has a very deep bench is intelligence and strategic analysis. Two of the diplomatic missions the U.K. is reopening, in Tonga and Vanuatu, were only closed in 2006. There are people in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other circles with strong knowledge of the region and good contacts.

The U.K. also had existing representation in Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea. With six posts in the South Pacific, the U.K. will have better coverage in the region than the U.S. (excluding its Freely Associated States), France, Germany, India, or just about anyone else except Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan, and China.

Britain could be a major factor in resisting Chinese penetration of the region that could harm the interests of America, Australia, and New Zealand, for example.

For that mission, the small British naval efforts that defy China in waters close to China would be excellent background scenery for British efforts to provide alternatives to China in the south Pacific region.

So while I noted (correctly) that the impact of the small British naval contribution on the China issue would be pretty small; the impact of British ships fresh from defying China sailing to the waters of small south Pacific island nations could be pretty big.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Who Risks Taiwan?

I find this complaint about the Taiwan Travel Act ridiculous:

So-called friends of Taiwan in the United States are putting the island at risk as never before. ...

If the United States implements the Taiwan Travel Act in a manner inconsistent with its traditional one-China policy, the principal damage will be to Taiwan itself. Taiwan will experience reduced trade, increased tensions, a heavier burden of military expenditures, and poorer prospects. Moreover, Taiwan would compromise its freedom of action on a key aspect of its own security, which is the ability to calibrate the level of threat through careful management of its relationship with mainland China. Unless wiser heads prevail, the United States could unwittingly precipitate the most dangerous crisis since the end of the Cold War. ...

Blurring the distinction between official and unofficial relations will damage U.S. credibility, undermine Taiwan’s future prosperity, and generate dangerous tensions. Putting the future at risk is not good policy.

So this expert wants me to accept that an American refusal to stand up to China over American officials traveling to Taiwan will somehow not undermine Chinese belief that America will fight to defend Taiwan if the Chines attack Taiwan.

If Taiwan thinks such visits by American officials are dangerous, they can refuse to allow them. I'd rather have that situation than one where outside experts tell Taiwan what is really best for their independence and freedom.

Heck, Taiwan might even be able to negotiate with China to reduce the military threat to Taiwan by using visits as bargaining chips.

Would China pull back missiles aimed at Taiwan to keep an undersecretary of housing from visiting Taiwan?

Or scale back military exercises to keep Secretary of Defense Mattis from visiting Taiwan?

I'm thinking so-called experts are involved in making the travel act seem like the threat to peace when the real threat to peace is China's claims on a free and prosperous Taiwan and China's threats to destroy it by force and drag it into China's empire.

And don't forget that China threatens to attack simply if Taiwan puts off too long complying with China's demands to absorb Taiwan.

So just who is putting the future at risk?

A Wolf In EU Clothing

The European Union advocates seem to firmly believe that strengthening the European Union will protect Europeans from external threats and internal threats to democracy. I do believe they have it exactly backasswards.

I don't doubt he believes this is true:

French President Emmanuel Macron issued a call to Europeans on Tuesday not to retreat into nationalism but to build the European Union as a bulwark for liberal democracy against a disorderly and dangerous world.

Addressing the European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg, the 40-year-old head of state won a standing ovation from most lawmakers after condemning the rise of "illiberal democracies" even within the EU. Nationalist MEPs from France, Britain and elsewhere sat in silence, however.

The European Union can only harm European security from external threats by undermining European commitments to NATO and causing NATO to wither as already scarce defense money is directed to the EU military structure. If NATO withers, America's role in defending Europe will erode. Given the scale of American military capabilities, that would be a huge loss to Europe.

As for preserving internal democracy, thus far membership in the EU hasn't been a bulwark against illiberal democracies (cue my predictable boring commentary on rule of law as the essential partner of voting for true democracy).

Naturally, those in favor of the EU will insist that even more power must be granted to the EU proto-imperial state to suppress that regrettable nation-state-based urge for illiberal democracy.

Which will just mean that illiberal democracy will be entrenched at the continent-wide level rather than being aberrations at the nation-state level that can be reversed under pressure from other true democratic nation-states in Europe.

I can't rule out that I'm the one living in the fantasy world by worrying about the ultimate effects of a more powerful European Union in creating a more dangerous world that threatens liberal democracy, but I strongly believe the pro-EU people are the ones spinning the fantasy benefits of protecting liberal democracy and keeping a dangerous world at bay.

I liked the European Union better when it was the European Economic Community.

A European Empire is Not in America's Interest

Europe achieving "strategic autonomy" where it can defend Europe without relying on America is a good thing, to be sure. But putting that under control of the European Union proto-imperial project is a grave error for America and for Europeans who would have to live under that empire in the making.

This article arguing America should help Europe achieve strategic autonomy rather than opposing it is plain wrong:

There are many reasons to be skeptical of this new yet age-old [European unity apart from America] debate. First, Washington has a poor understanding of the current intra-European debate, its core notion of strategic autonomy, and its implications, a shortcoming that has its roots in the fact that Europeans themselves have not fully defined the concept. Second, it is in America’s interest for Europeans to attain (or at least move closer to) strategic autonomy. Washington should embrace and support European endeavors, specifically by reassuring its skeptical allies across the Atlantic that it does indeed want a strategically autonomous Europe. The worry for Washington should not be that Europeans strive for strategic autonomy. The real worry should be that they might not make it.

The EU surely has an idea of where this is going, and Europeans not fully defining what they want helps the EU push forward to create their continent-spanning empire that represses nation-states and their annoying democracy with soft autocracy built on ever-expanding and onerous cheese regulations.

This is contrary to a century of American efforts to deny a single hostile power the control of the vast economic, scientific, military, and demographic potential of Europe.

And the bums in Brussels have the nerve to believe that the people themselves have to be suppressed in that autocracy to prevent war!

Europeans should indeed be more capable of defending themselves. And if they don't need much or even any American help, that is good. It frees up American power for other threats that Europe can't address.

Although keeping NATO to allow America, Canada, and Europe to act together is still a good thing rather than letting NATO wither and die as an alternative EU military structure is built.

As I've long written, Europeans can be America's friend. "Europe" cannot be America's friend, as long as that term is defined as the super state that Brussels wants to build:

Europe will not be our friend. European states can be our friend. And Europeans even in countries without governments friendly to us can be our friends. Why let these sources of support, friendship, and alliance be submerged in an EU supra-elite culture of hatred for America?

America should resist the European Union's efforts to move from free-trade zone to empire. Europe is home to important friends and allies. Do not let Brussels define what "Europe" means. We won't like it.

Good grief, Russia probably can't believe their eyes that Europeans who can't seem to spend money on their own defense want to decouple America--which still has a real military in capabilities and size--from Europe's defense.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Home Field Advantage

I would hope that people are well aware that the Syria strike mission does not reflect what a possible war between China on the one side and America and our allies on the other side would look like. But what would a tripwire look like to prevent us from seeing how different war would be from strike?

But this part of the article bears repeating, because I've noted this again and again in various contexts:

Only snake-oil salesmen would prophesy with confidence that a fraction of one armed force—even a stronger one—will vanquish the whole of a near-peer force. It’s even more doubtful when the battle takes place on the latter’s home ground. After all, the pugilist protecting its turf lies close to scenes of action, knows the physical and cultural terrain better than any outsider can, and has the option of hurling the bulk of its forces into the fray to overpower antagonists fighting far from home.

America remains stronger than any single foe. It is possible that we have more power than any combination of foes. That doesn't speak to how they would be used and what forces would be available on day 400 of a war, but on day 1 America is stronger.

But not at the point of impact if an enemy seizes the initiative.

Because in a China scenario, America will be on the defensive. We have no disruptive goals and like the status quo. If war comes, China will start it.

And in that case, China will be able to maximize their combat power to take on the small portion of America's global combat power deployed in the western Pacific.

Worse for us, by initiating combat, China can maximize the readiness of their forces while ours will have the usual amounts out of action for maintenance or whatnot.

Further, China could time the attack to coincide with the unavailability of key combat capabilities from deployment elsewhere or rotation gaps or any other situation that takes American systems out of the mix for a short time.

Which is why I really don't like forward deploying key assets where they can be destroyed in the opening hours and days of a war. I'd be much more comfortable exposing only expendable assets in smaller numbers to any attack, representing a tripwire only. Not only does that reduce our losses until we can gather our superior forces, it reduces the temptation to our potential enemies to strike first by dangling key assets in range.

Of course, when discussing a US-China war over Taiwan, keep in mind that China doesn't have to defeat America to win the war.

All China has to do is delay American decisive intervention long enough to invade and conquer Taiwan:

[The] Chinese want to keep this a localized conflict so they won't open with a Pearl Harbor-style attack on our forces at Guam, Okinawa, or any other US bases in Japan. They may not even be capable of seriously hitting bases successfully so far away. An ineffective attack would be counter-productive. Why bother emphasizing the internal nature of the conflict if you are going to internationalize the crisis by attacking other nations? When the war needs to be won quickly before the US and Japan intervene, why make it easier for America and Japan to intervene by essentially deciding for us? Why give the UN cause to get involved? Absent direct inter-state conflict, our response could be delayed critical days or weeks.

So the plan will be a direct and fast assault on Taiwan to win before any outside power can save Taiwan from conquest. The Chinese will have four main missions for their military in an invasion: One, landing nine army divisions and one Marine division on Taiwanese territory plus dropping three parachute divisions and one air landing division. Two, securing the sea and air lines of supply and reinforcement from China to Taiwan. Three, keeping American forces away from Taiwan long enough to finish the conquest. This will also include non-military measures. Fourth, the Chinese must defeat the Taiwanese army and conquer the island.

Since I wrote that 13 years ago, the Chinese are building the ability to hit our distant bases in the Pacific. But the basic logic holds true. America and our allies need time to intervene decisively and Taiwan must buy that time to make sure there is somebody to rescue.

And the author of that first article knows this far better than I can appreciate, I'm sure:

If Chinese warplanes, missiles, surface craft, and submarines can engage U.S. naval forces at long range, they can help absorb the shock from the American offensive—and, if successful, slow it to a halt before it reaches the combat zone. At a minimum A2/AD will grant PLA forces time to subdue the island’s defenders.

Taipei must give U.S. rescuers that time back, and it must help keep American losses down, and fighting strength up. Missile-armed ROC Navy patrol craft can work in concert with shore-based rocketeers to mount a delaying action in the Taiwan Strait. Taiwanese air and sea forces can fan out to the island’s east, helping open a corridor for U.S. reinforcements to steam into the theater. They can keep China from winning quickly—and give the U.S. Navy time to puncture China’s offshore crumple zone.

Once China achieves that objective, apart from a long-term plan to mass 4 American Marine divisions to liberate Taiwan, the only point of American combat missions is to bomb and destroy sensitive equipment America sold to Taiwan to avoid it falling into Chinese hands for reverse engineering.

The author brings up the concept of tripwires to convey American resolve and increase the risk to China of starting a wider war than one just over Taiwan. He doesn't offer specifics. Does he anticipate a tripwire on land or in the Taiwan Strait?

Little Green Trolls?

Is Belarus only cracking down on internal dissent by regulating online commenters?

That's interesting:

The parliament in Belarus has passed a measure prohibiting internet users from commenting on forums without authorization and requiring online publications to register with the government as mass media.

The law passed on Thursday was harshly criticized by the Belarusian Association of Journalists, which called it a further "tightening of the screws" in the country.

How far does regulating comments go? Is it just on publications online or is it broader for any online forum?

And while the authoritarian Belarus certainly restricts freedom, and tightening the screws on dissent is no shock; is this measure directed more at blocking Russian online trolls who might simulate a popular cry inside Belarus for Russian "help" to justify a Russian Anschluss with Belarus in support of armed "little green men?"

I only ask because Belarus might be the most important territory in Europe today.

It is a Particular Role That Should Worry Us

Germany's role is to explain away Russian hostility and aggression?

Thanks Germany!

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has warned against demonising Russia and said Germany had a particular role to play in maintaining dialogue with Moscow, given its history.

Really? Germany has the role from history to maintaining dialogue with Russia?

Surely Steinmeier can't be speaking about two German invasions of Russia in the 20th century, given that Germany now barely spends 1% of its GDP on defense and would have trouble taking Kaliningrad from Russia let alone marching on Moscow.

So Germany has already addressed that history with great enthusiasm.

Germany's history, unfortunately, includes reaching out to the USSR by splitting Poland with them, sparking World War II.

And damn it, energy deals with Russia seem like they are another way to abandon eastern Europeans to the tender mercies of an aggressive Russia.

Whatever particular role Steinmeier has in mind with Putin, let's hope no "pact" is involved to ensure non-aggression.

If we're talking history, here.

What happened to Germany?  They used to have a real military that helped defend themselves and NATO.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

Jihadis are really a bunch of sick f**ks, aren't they? Boko Haram kidnapped 1,000 Nigerian girls since 2013, and 100 are still in captivity.

Do we have to go back to paper for really sensitive material? Or would computers operated on batteries prevent hacking of via power lines of even computers not linked to Internet?

Palestinians continue to cast votes at the Gaza-Israel border in a vain attempt to be re-crowned Queen of the Victim Prom. If you wonder why Palestinians won't get any vote from Egypt. Jihadis in Sinai draw support from Gaza. And the Gaza border campaign is financed by Iran. So don't expect a lot of love from the Arab world east of Egypt, either.

I didn't realize we didn't have drill sergeants in AIT. But since the Army is restoring them, that must be so. In 1989, we had drill sergeants at Fort Gordon. That was new then, to address the problem of the place being nicknamed "Fort Resort."

If Sweden is serious about defending their coast and holding Gotland Island--the latter the only real objective for a Russian attack with ground forces--building up their navy is surely important.

I honestly don't know how the Army can say its operational tempo is "very high" when the Army is well past rotating 160,000 troops through Iraq and tens of thousands through Afghanistan on top of other global deployments. We're not in peacetime so peacetime standards aren't applicable, no?

Good. I've long been an advocate for Taiwanese submarines. Although by building their own, I fear the boats won't be ready before Taiwan needs to repel an invasion.

This seems like overkill on the part of Saudi Arabia over the Saudi-Qatar diplomatic dispute over Qatar's relations with Iran and Islamists in the Arab world. Saudi Arabia has reason to pressure Qatar into better policies, but really? A canal and nuclear dump to cut off land routes into and out of Qatar?

This is an interesting level of open source intelligence on the strike mission in Syria on April 13th. I shudder to think what defenders who could use and integrate such data into their air defenses might do.

Is peak oil theory dead? Don't be silly. Zombie peak oil will be back again. It is too convenient to argue for government control of every facet of our lives. One day oil won't be needed for energy. We are not at that day yet and trying to artificially reach it prematurely is too expensive.

Spain's Catalan region still has people upset with the national government.

Refusing to punish criminal students in Broward County, Florida led to--wait for it!--criminal students to lose their fear of punishment and commit more crimes in and out of school. Allegedly sentient humans put these stupid policies under the name PROMISE, which stands for Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Supports & Education, in place. I prefer Preventing Recidivism through Overwhelming Discipline. And tar and feathers for the adults responsible for abandoning kids under their temporary care to such conditions. Honestly, this type of stupidity is what turned me off to the show Black Lightning. The hero confronts an angry student with a gun and the hero's concern is that the kid would get caught if seen with it. He let the kid walk away with the gun. Hero indeed. Tip to Instapundit.

Note that in the Syria strikes we did not use any of our four cruise missile submarines based on converted Trident ballistic missile submarines that can carry 154 Tomahawks. I imagine those at sea remain in the Pacific region tethered to a potential North Korea mission.

People really don't get the idea of "proportionality" in warfare. Once restricted to the Left, the misconception has seeped into the wider discussions. "Proportionality" doesn't mean that if an enemy hits you with X weapons of Y size, the legal response has to be roughly X weapons of Y size. That is completely wrong. Proportionality applies to the means used compared to the objective. It was proportional to use 100+ missiles to destroy 3 chemical weapons sites in Syria. It would violate proportionality if we had used nukes to destroy them. Or if we had used way more than the number of missiles reasonably expected to accomplish the mission, needlessly risking civilian lives to accomplish the mission. As long as civilians aren't needlessly risked, my view is that if an enemy still resists, you haven't exceeded proportionality.

Remainers hope for a do-over on Brexit by having a new referendum on the finalized deal that will peel away some Brexit voters unhappy about the details while all Remainers stay in lockstep. Don't fall for it, Britain. Get out while you can!

Wow! Trump continues to pass the global test with flying colors! "France's Macron says Trump, France agree on Syria objectives".

All things considered, this is good news about Turkey.

Arguing that the Supreme Court must overturn past rulings allowing by-mail sales that don't require companies to levy a customer's sales tax because Congress has had 25 years to correct the problem and hasn't, is just plain wrong. The sole authority of Congress to enact laws is not a requirement to enact a law on something you think is important. If the statutes don't require companies to levy sales taxes for the most part, by not acting Congress has actually made a decision--it's fine with the current law notwithstanding the rise of Internet-based commerce. Don't like it? Change the statutes.

I'm not sure why Russia is acting so outraged over sanctions imposed since 2014 over Ukraine, propping up Assad and his gas use, and interference in Western elections. They've been saying for years that America is out to get them. Shouldn't the Russians finally be relieved to find their paranoia is actually based on reality?

Japan has discovered a huge rare-earth deposit southeast of Japan. This will eventually break China's stranglehold on the elements. But it will take a long time to figure out how to mine it. Long enough for the sea area to become Chinese "sacred territory," I imagine.

The American destroyer in the Mediterranean Sea was clearly a red herring to distract Russia. I suspected that the talk of a carrier battle group heading to the region was a red herring designed to gain tactical surprise by attacking before the carrier reached the area.

Once again, a lesson of my oft-repeated lament that the idea that "liberal minded" is a synonym for "open minded" is an assault on the English language.

Venezuela's desperate refugees increase in number and desperation. This could become a flood as Venezuelans realize they have more hope as refugees than as residents of socialism-wracked Venezuela.

Good Lord, does nobody have any worry about creating enzymes produced by microorganisms that eat plastic? Are we sure we can keep the microorganisms under control? And who weaponizes it first? This has bad idea written all over it.

Strategypage takes a tour of Afghanistan. Of note, the Taliban are noticing that the Afghan government didn't collapse when American and other allied forces ended their direct ground combat missions and scaled back support in 2014.

In case you missed the James Comey televised infomercial book tour, this is pretty much it:


Oil-rich socialist Venezuela has to import oil now. What really puzzles me is how American liberals have loved Venezuela so much the last couple decades given that Venezuela virtually gives away evil planet-killing gasoline to buyers.

America uses 5,500 contractors in Iraq and Syria, mostly for logistics although 400+ are "security" personnel. I assume that means the outer perimeter guards at bases. If America really does pull most or even all troops out of Syria, we'll need more contractors in a more kinetic role to back local allies and call in fire support from US and coalition forces. And I always assume special forces are not counted in any kind of tally of US forces abroad.

Well, yes, of course we are supposed to ignore that. Tip to Instapundit.

Strategypage takes a tour of Algeria, which is problematic on a number of issues (I did not know they are pro-Assad). But this explains why America sold Abrams tanks to Morocco. Exit question: Why did Palestinian rather than Polisario refugees get named Queen of the Victim Prom by the international community?

A judge notes what I've mentioned before: If you are upset that money flows into national politics, why can't you understand that a more powerful national government naturally attracts the money? I've said it again and again. But those campaign finance fanatics tend to be big government backers, too. Tip to Instapundit. And let me add that tighter campaign finance laws don't stop the money--it just tilts the field in favor of the wealthy who have the lawyers to figure out how to legally send money to politics despite the new rules. Only ordinary people get punished for violating those laws. But I've mentioned that, too.

Why yes, a troublesome journalist falling to his death from a balcony in Russia is rather suspicious.

Collusion. Does rule of law apply here, or not? I have a question: Did President Obama let Secretary of State Hillary Clinton get away with using a private email server in order to sabotage Clinton's presidential ambitions? Or to have something to hold over Hillary's head during her presidency? There was no love lost between the Obama and Clinton families, it seems. How far did the game of thrones go?

I suspect the worries about "latent" racism in the aftermath of the Starbucks kerfuffle is really about "liberal" racism. Not that there aren't racists in America--although we have made great progress and it racist attitudes are hardly unique, or even worse, in America--but I do get tired of the Left acting like their loud claims of purity mean they are actually pure. The should health themselves before they lecture the rest of us. I don't even like Starbucks coffee. And the only time I regularly went to an upscale coffee place was because a woman I really, really liked went there. I spent a lot of money for nothing despite being told she obviously returned the interest. Oh well. But perhaps I've shared too much.

The right stuff.

I'm not speculating on recent North Korea diplomacy because I have no idea what can happen. We have no interest in conquering North Korea. So North Korea has no need to deter invasion with nuclear weapons. Do they finally realize that? Does China realize that the usefulness of North Korea pursuing nuclear weapons status is reversed by North Korea achieving nuclear weapons status (because it prompts proliferation and missile defenses around China)? I believe America will attack North Korea's missile and nuclear infrastructure before it is a nuclear threat to America and that we are on a countdown. I believe we won't let up on pressure until we either strike or get a deal that China guarantees. Things stay the same until they don't. Have enough factors changed to lead North Korea to seriously abandon nuclear weapons and their programs rather than pretend to do so? We should know pretty soon whether things have changed, and other things. We'd have to know quickly because I think we're on deadline.

Would a bargain in Syria involve Israel wrecking Hezbollah in Lebanon; Russia eliminating Iranian influence in Syria via a US-Russian deal that decentralizes Syrian administration and thus eliminaes Assad's need to rely on Iran; the Syrian Kurds getting substantial autonomy in the northeast; and America withdrawing from Syria, all because we no longer need to protect Kurds (and whatever Arabs move to that zone if unwilling to live in even a decentralized Syria within reach of Assad), oppose Iran, or support Israel in regard to Iranian influence and fear of a rise of Sunni jihadis in the east? A stronger Iraq able to reject Iranian influence and keep Sunni Arabs happy enough to refuse to join jihadis would really help, as well. But that's separate from a deal--if related. Ukraine should not be thrown under the bus for this, of course.

When "science" ruined lives. When liberals accuse conservatives of being "anti-science" it always seems like the cry of "Heretic!" to me. These types of liberals seem as if they treat scientists as priests revealing the Truth from the Lord, which cannot be questioned in practice or application. John Plunkett was a brave man to defy the inquisition he endured in the name of actual science. RIP.

Australia is sending more ships forward where the Chinese, who claim almost all of the South China Sea as territorial water in defiance of international law, have "challenged" Australian warships--whatever "challenge" means--for sailing through those international waters. More here. Ir remains unclear what happened.

I'm not sure who is talking about the failure of the allied strikes on Assad's chemical warfare infrastructure to end the war there. The strike was very narrowly intended to impose the Western norm against chemical weapons on the world to spare people the horrors of that type of warfare.

Anti-Semitism has set up shop in the Left, despite American Jewish tendency to bizarrely focus on and blame a marginalized and small extreme Right. This has long been clear to me, living in a college city.  Instapundit commented that American liberal Jews define themselves as leftists first. Sadly, the anti-Semites of the Left will always define American liberal Jews as Jews first. Being considered "goodlife" never lasts long.

I've always been suspicious of Bitcoin. Maybe it isn't just my age talking. Actually, I'm a bit surprised that it is worth anything. But Tulip bulbs had a worth, too, of course.

More Syrian rebels in the west surrender the territory they hold. Assad is clearly winning his war. American intervention in 2014 to defeat ISIL, which was the most potent anti-Assad force; and Russian intervention in 2015 to help Assad defeat the other rebels, has worked well for Assad. The most effective rebels remaining are basically jihadis. Things could change, as they have in the past, but that's the trajectory now. It's even possible that Assad will survive the war but not the post-war as his backers assess the massive price they paid to keep Assad in power.

Reuters reports that more Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops during "border protest" at Gaza. A more accurate headline would convey that Palestinian terrorist continue to attack Israeli border defenses using children as cannon fodder.

I don't know about all that, but he's an idiot, for sure.

Yeah, this refusal to act when the stars are aligned has mystified me.

Iraqi warplanes struck jihadi targets in Syria. Iraq can get away with that. During the Iraq War America would have been vilified for targeting the same vile people in Syria who flowed through Assad's al Qaeda pipeline to become suicide bombers in Iraq.

"The Chinese Communist Party Is Setting Up Cells at Universities Across America." That must be mistaken. Our colleges already have those. We call them "faculty."

Excuse me? We missed what, where?

The Social Map of the Battlefield

I remember reading about this software that was very useful in building up a picture of the insurgency and terror networks in Iraq. Be very careful about bringing it home. I'm almost positive Strategypage wrote about it and I'm sure I blogged it (but the internal search feature of Blogger seems lately to have abandoned the ability to find pre-2017 posts):

Founded in 2004 by Peter Thiel and some fellow PayPal alumni, Palantir cut its teeth working for the Pentagon and the CIA in Afghanistan and Iraq. The company’s engineers and products don’t do any spying themselves; they’re more like a spy’s brain, collecting and analyzing information that’s fed in from the hands, eyes, nose, and ears. The software combs through disparate data sources—financial documents, airline reservations, cellphone records, social media postings—and searches for connections that human analysts might miss. It then presents the linkages in colorful, easy-to-interpret graphics that look like spider webs. U.S. spies and special forces loved it immediately; they deployed Palantir to synthesize and sort the blizzard of battlefield intelligence. It helped planners avoid roadside bombs, track insurgents for assassination, even hunt down Osama bin Laden. The military success led to federal contracts on the civilian side. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services uses Palantir to detect Medicare fraud. The FBI uses it in criminal probes. The Department of Homeland Security deploys it to screen air travelers and keep tabs on immigrants.

While I have no problem using something like this for law enforcement, I do worry that it could be used for suppressing political opposition. I assume Dystopian State 1.0 that China is building uses something like this program.

Seriously, using this program at home is no more acceptable than using armed drones used in war to take out American citizens at home.

But I hope we use this software on an ongoing basis to build up pictures of networks of power in foreign states we might fight or where we might have to fight an insurgency. That would be very useful information to have when a war starts, no?

Saturday, April 21, 2018

No Blood for Solar Panels!

For a large part of my adult life, liberals have cried "no blood for oil" to condemn reliance on oil for our economic health. That problem seems to be receding, but will competition for rare earths replace the central role of oil?

This is interesting:

The [2018 United States Geological Survey] has provided a sobering wake-up call. Assuring access to 42 vital minerals and rare earths that the USGS identifies as critical now ranks high on the list of national security and economic security issues in the 21st century. ...

The American public likes solar power. ...

Do you like your clean energy depending on the whims of the Communist Party in Beijing? That's the mob that approved the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre of 2,000 pro-democracy demonstrators.

You have to admit that there is some dark humor in the fact that the push for "cheap and clean" renewable energy sources to replace fossil fuels has just created the need to compete for the rare elements that allow us to build solar panels, electric cars, and windmills.

And smart phones, for that matter. Will there be blood shed for gallium so you can freely Snapchat?

The Deadly Enemies Paperwork and Image

Strategypage writes about the deadly effects paperwork and image have on military effectiveness. Let's hope Mattis can address the paperwork quagmire that takes up too much of troops' time. I'll hope ongoing combat addresses the "look" issue even though war didn't stop the paperwork ambush.

This is important stuff:

The new American secretary of defense is the first combat infantryman and combat commander to run the Department of Defense. Equipped with that background he sees a lot of problems his predecessors missed or underestimated. In particular the guy at the top understood the seriousness of a growing problem in the military; not enough time to carry out all the required training and verification events. In other words, too much paperwork and pointless busywork. This degenerative process got worse once the Cold War ended in 1991 and throughout the 1990s there were more and more mandatory training and verification tests. Many of these new requirements were based online, which somehow supposed to make them less onerous.

I hope this succeeds. It is a problem. Let me provide three examples from my personal life, 2 from the Army and 1 from civilian life.

First, the civilian side. When I was a research analyst one job was to fill out a form that identified long distance phone calls made from my phone to identify who was called, why they were called, and what research question this was related to. This had to be done every month. If the total calls per month resulted in more than a couple dollars in charges, it was noteworthy.

One day when I was carrying out my monthly drudgery, my boss came in to check on how things are going. I picked up my log sheet, and told him that I was astounded that I had to spend X amount of time at Y rate per hour to verify that the calls on this log that cost Z piddly amount was really worth it. Wouldn't it be better to simply come to me if I have a sudden spike of costly calls and otherwise just let me do my job?

He was silent for a moment and then said "You're right." He took the paper from my hand and told me I'd never see it again. He was a smart guy and a good boss. But I was still kind of shocked that he acted given the pressures of paperwork. And I never saw that paperwork again.

The second example is from my time at Fort Gordon for signal school. Uniforms were designed to suppress infrared signature and were not to be starched lest they ruin that feature. I have no idea if that is true but that's what I was told.

Yet having ironed and starched uniformed was considered the look of professionalism. As a National Guard soldier, I emphasized by casual nature while following the rules. I did iron my blouse front pockets while at Gordon, but other than that, wrinkles ruled. Indeed, the base sergeant that was my first point of contact when I arrived at the base noted on my personal record that I did not present myself as a professional soldier. But I was at the top of my class and a high performer on the PT tests, so nobody ever officially told me to change.

But one day a staff sergeant who was in the class along with me took my aside to dress me down for my presentation and told me that I should iron and starch my uniform. I listened as I stood at parade rest. When he finished I asked him if ironing and starching the uniform was required. Completely annoyed, he said no it is not. I thanked him for his advice and that was the end of that. At the end of the field training exercise (actually it was a station training exercise (?) since nearing the end of the fiscal year there wasn't the money to send us into the field), the active trainer wrote on my "report card" that I should be regular Army and not Guard. I took it as the compliment it was intended to be. Apparently my un-starched uniform (and the flu I was enduring during the STX) did not affect my ability to learn the MOS.

The final example comes from Guard annual training at Camp Grayling in northern Michigan. The issue was a debate on the bandage orientation that changed from day to day for a while. Opening up or opening down was the question for how to place the bandage carried on the front of the LBE. It was completely silly as word came down on the latest directive.

I started just randomly placing my bandage on my LBE each day. Not that this took up my time. But there were clearly officers up the chain of command using up scarce training time to determine just how the bandage should be placed.

But I was lucky that none of my experiences affected whether I would live or die; or win or lose. Let's hope Mattis succeeds in his effort to rein in the bullshit so that it can be safely said that none of the bullshit kills our troops or loses us a war.

Suck Up Much?

Wow! I do hope Putin has the decency to take this reporter to dinner!

Facing a stark choice between engaging the United States, Britain and France in combat or passively watching them strike his ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin has opted for the peaceful route.

Putin opted for a peaceful route?

Putin had the stark choice of risking his weapons not working to stop the missiles fired by the allies or doing nothing.

Putin had the stark choice of risking a clash with the allies that he would lose or doing nothing.

Putin had the stark choice of angering the Arab world by defending Assad who gasses his own people and is a hand puppet of Iran or doing nothing.

So Putin did nothing during the attack on Assad's chemical weapons infrastructure.

But what Russia has done in Syria is not "the peaceful route."

Putin has been on the route of massive bloodshed and misery by backing Assad to the hilt by supplying Assad with the means to do even more killing; by engineering a faux chemical weapons deal with our idiot secretary of state that saved Assad when he was on the ropes; by bombing civilians directly; by standing aside as Assad uses chemical weapons; and by shielding Assad from repercussions in the UN Security Council.

The idea that Putin has chosen a "peaceful route" in Syria is offensive.

Oh, and check this out:

Putin condemned Saturday's strikes as an "act of aggression" that will worsen the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria and have a "destructive influence on the entire system of international relations."

This would be outrageous just considering Syria in isolation.

But when you recall that Putin has dismembered Ukraine by seizing Crimea and parts of the Donbas region (on top of carving out parts of Georgia) in defiance of the UN Charter that represents the system of international relations, the ability to report that with a straight face is amazing.

So fine, Putin portrayed himself to his people at home as a wise man avoiding plunging Russia into a nuclear war by standing aside during the attack. But why go along with that propaganda in reporting that interesting angle?

Friday, April 20, 2018

Screw the Reputation Talk

The fact that the F-22 was not used in the recent punitive strike on Syria is no reason to question the aircraft's capability. The plane simply wasn't needed for the mission and so why give potential enemies a chance to learn about the plane's capabilities in a less-than-vital mission?

I'm fine with this:

The F-22 Raptor is fast developing a reputation as the aircraft that gets left behind during combat ops.

The Air Force fifth-generation stealth fighter was not flying alongside a pair of B-1B Lancer bombers that dropped missiles on Syrian targets. Nor was it conducting overwatch in the area as the bombers for the first time deployed the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range in combat during Saturday's strikes against a chemical lab and two equipment facilities, according to U.S. Air Force Central Command.

The B-1s launched from outside of Syrian air space. The F-22 is useful for penetrating into highly contested air space. Honestly, if interceptors had tried to go after the B-1s inside Jordanian air space (I assume), other fighters on overwatch could handle them just fine if backed by other planes tracking the bogies.

And why give potential enemies a chance to see the plane in action and learn from it when it wasn't needed to conduct the mission?

Further, why risk an accident that might allow our foes to claim they shot it down--let alone risk an actual shoot-down--when the plane was not needed to achieve the mission? Do we really want enemies crawling over the wreckage?

Seriously, we have few enough of these high-end planes. If we need them, we'll need them badly and we'll be grateful we didn't needlessly use them before then just to help enemies learn how to fight them.

If we never need to use the F-22 for its prime mission of fighting for aerial supremacy, I'll be more than happy. Silly reputation talk be damned.

UPDATE: The Pentagon revised information to say that the extended range version of the JASSM was not used and to say that the F-22 was used for overwatch because it flew within the envelope of Syrian air defenses:

“Thanks to its unique fifth-generation capabilities, the F-22 was the only airframe suited to operate inside the Syrian integrated air defense system, offering an option with which to neutralize IADS threats to our forces and installations in the region, and provide protective air support for U.S., coalition and partners on the ground in Syria,” Graff said.

Also, the spokesman confirmed no allied warplanes entered Syrian air space.

I still don't get why the F-22 was needed rather than using non-stealth planes if they stayed safely over Jordanian air space (I assume) or over the Mediterranean Sea.

Unless the overwatch capability was mostly concerned with air defenses on the ground and so crowded Syrian air space in order to more rapidly fire at ground-based air defenses, it seems like a needless worry to think Syrian fighters would take off to attack planes already returning home by the time the missiles struck.

I haven't read the latest briefing yet, so perhaps it has more details than the article.

Was the F-22 used to avoid a bad reputation? I just don't like needlessly showing potential enemies the plane in action so they learn more about its capabilities.

UPDATE: In related news, Lavrov claims Russia dictated where America, Britain, and France could strike.

The Russians spin it that way, but as I said before, of course we wanted to avoid killing Russians on the ground. So we worked with the Russians so they would get out of the way. And they likely told the Syrians to skedaddle too, which is why nobody died in the strikes. But the facilities are wrecked.

Why the Russians would want to claim this is beyond me. Did they think through the image they conveyed of  Russia working quietly to "allow" a strike on their ally Assad?

Why Our Enemies Like Diplomacy So Darned Much

This should be worrisome:

[In 2017], the [Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, Syria's chemical weapons research facility,] was ordering up shipments from North Korea. According to the UN Panel of Experts on North Korea sanctions, in a report dated March 5, 2018, their investigations into weapons and dual-use shipments to Syria from North Korea turned up more than 40 shipments between 2012 and 2017 "by entities designated by Member States as front companies for the Scientific Studies Research Centre of the Syrian Arab Republic." Among these shipments were items "with utility in ballistic missile and chemical weapons programmes."

Notwithstanding the 2013 chemical weapons deal that eliminated Syria's chemical weapons that somehow Assad continues to use, North Korea supplied Syria with material to rebuild the arsenal.

Yes, despite the smartiest of smarty Smart Diplomacy carried out by the most nuanced American diplomat evah (he speaks French, you know), somehow Assad continued to use chemical weapons following the Kerry-Lavrov deal which Kerry insists was simply grande.


How is it even possible for OPCW to map attacks in 2014, 2016, and 2017 (they took a break in 2015?) when the 2013 deal ended that problem! We have pieces of paper that assured us this is so!

Yet for some reason the Russians and Syrians are stalling inspectors to scrub the latest site of evidence.

No worries, though! Assad can continue to kill like he has for the vast majority of his victims the good old fashioned way!

We had these problems with inspectors and non-gas killings with Saddam until we destroyed his regime in 2003 and sent him to trial where he was executed for his crimes.

Tell me we wouldn't be reporting the same facts about Saddam as we are about Assad today if we hadn't taken out the ultimate weapon of mass destruction--the thug ruler and his minions who are determined to kill.

But I'm told that the 2015 nuclear weapons program deal with Iran has stopped Iran in its tracks. And we should not worry that North Korea will supply Iran with any material or technology that Iran might need to complete nuclear weapons.

Pity the media isn't worked up about past collusion with Iran or Syria to harm America.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: Iran:

"Iran has several options if the United States leaves the nuclear deal. Tehran's reaction to America's withdrawal of the deal will be unpleasant," TV quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying on his arrival in New York.

I don't know what "unpleasant" reaction Iran might have in mind, but thank God we know--because of the 2015 deal which allowed Iran to deny even having a nuclear program rather than agreeing to end a nuclear program--that Iran can't build nuclear missiles!