Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Live By the Scimitar

Iran has worked hard to destabilize their region. Is the Persian imperial state as vulnerable to this disorder as Arab states have been?

If it is true that the era of Sykes-Picot is coming to an end in the Middle East and that states like Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq are going to have their boundaries redrawn, it is hard to see how this process can be stopped at the Iran-Iraq border. The Iranian Kurds want independence, and many of Iran’s Arabs would gladly join with their Shi’a Arab brethren (and fellow tribesmen in many cases) across the boundary. Iran’s own meddling has played a major role in the breakdown of order across the region and the enflamed identity politics now plunging country after country into terrible wars. Can the mullahs play with fire and not be burned?

I've mentioned that Iran is really a multi-ethnic empire with subject people not happy about Persian rule.

Strategypage has more on Iran that is relevant.

Iran could well die by the scimitar they so eagerly wield against their Arab neighbors.

Be Careful What You Claim You Wish For

That Russians are "turning on" Trump is quite the dilemma for the "Evil Genius Russians Hacked Our Election" cabal, isn't it?

The new U.S. president has been in his role for just under a month, taking office in a transition that has been marked by chaos and missteps. And already, from the right of the political spectrum to the marginalized Russian left, a mixture of disappointment with the new U.S. president — who came into office promising to remake relations between the two countries — and a sense of vindication that Trump couldn’t be trusted after all has crept into Russian political chatter.

Were the Russians so awful at spy craft that they screwed up the premise in successfully getting Trump elected?

Or, as I think, did the Russians screw up by assuming there was no way Trump could win in a failed effort to get a damaged Hillary elected?

Russia expected to get a crippled but predictable (made even more "predictable" by the Kremlin's possession of Clinton's secret emails that would have provided blackmail material) President Hillary Clinton.

And now the Russians have to deal with a President Trump who apparently can't be damaged by any revelation. That's gotta suck from the Kremlin's point of view.

And worse for Russia, rather than showing American-style democracy to be too difficult to carry out (and thus have less appeal to Russians should Putin's aura of success crack), we got a clear result with no constitutional crisis.

And even worse, our people elected the candidate that the national media waged war against. And our people voted even though the national elites and media tried to bully them through shame into passivity.

For Putin who relies on state media to prop him up and the power of the state to bully any opposition into passivity, our election must be profoundly disturbing.

I'll still bet on the latter.

And now the Russian people, after being told by their own government that if only the corrupt American system would let a true friend like Donald Trump become president all would be great again, find their government was 100% wrong.

Size Matters

Why Would the Navy build light aircraft carriers when a larger number of smaller carriers will never match the quality of a smaller number of large carriers built for the same price?

It may seem odd that I'm defending large carriers as the primary sea control asset given my questions about how well they'd survive in a war with a peer competitor in a network-centric threat environment.

But we need some type of naval aviation. And carriers remain invaluable in power projection roles, which is different than their sea control weaknesses.

But is building light carriers really the answer to costs and survivability?

The new conventional carriers would be roughly the same size as the World War II-vintage Midway-class—as they were configured toward the end of their service lives—and would carry a formidable air wing. Initially, the new carrier strike groups would be equipped the Lockheed Martin F-35B, but once the new CVLs are built and are operational, they would be able to embark more capable air wings.

“In the near-term, existing LHA/LHD amphibious assault ships would be employed as CVLs using a loadout of twenty to twenty-five F-35B aircraft. As they reach the end of their service life, LHA/LHD-derived CVLs would be replaced by purpose-built CVLs with a displacement similar to a Cold War-era Midway-class aircraft carrier and equipped with catapults and arresting gear,” the report states.

The Navy commissioned the report and seems to be backing it.

I find it odd that the Navy backs this idea.

Smaller carriers of a Midway-class size are not as efficient as a larger carrier and provide capabilities far less than the money they save:

I recently read that the Navy had studied medium carriers with 55 planes versus large carriers with 75 planes and found that the large ships and wings generated twice the sorties at a ship and plane cost only 13% more than the medium ships.

And interesting enough, even a wing of 55 planes on the large carrier generated 40% more sorties than the same wing on a medium carrier.

That's because our carriers are planned to be able to use 2/3 of the wing at the same time. So a big carrier's deck can handle a higher percentage of the smaller wing's planes.

So, yeah, we couldn't build enough smaller carriers at the same price to be more survivable and we'd have less sortie generation capacity.

If we build carriers, they should be big. But that doesn't end the carrier debate. Then the question is, do we need carriers at all?

Unless you can build and operate multiple smaller carriers for the price of one big one, plus the escorts, you don't save money and you don't maintain capabilities. (See Bay for more discussion.)

Nor is survivability enhanced much unless you have lots of smaller carriers. If you can replace one big deck with four smaller ones, you could have 40 targets instead of 10. Even if we can do that, is it really that tough for an enemy with far cheaper anti-ship missiles to expand their arsenal to cope with that number?

And yes, we can use amphibious assault ships as light carriers, but exploiting a feature of a ship designed for landing Marines for aviation missions when necessary makes more of what we have. That is not comparable money-wise to building a light carrier specifically for that aviation mission.

Heck, I even suggested moving from the LHA to Ford-class amphibs. Perhaps we could have a total of multi-purpose aviation and amphibious Fords smaller than the current mix of full-deck amphibs and fleet carriers, as long as the Fords could operate as either amphibs or fleet carriers, depending on what is needed.

If we build carriers, they should be big. Although we have to accept that those carriers are primarily for power projection and not for leading the fight for sea control.

The question is really whether we need as many as we have or whether we should start gradually shifting the central player in our sea control mission to non-carrier Navy assets, reserving a smaller number of big carriers for power projection missions or sea control missions in a more permissive environment.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Is There Nothing Trump Can't Do?

Less than a month into the Trump administration, the Euros have a scapegoat for their woes:

European leaders Friday fired a salvo of warnings against Washington, cautioning it against hurting EU cohesion, abandoning shared values and seeking a rapprochement with Russia behind the backs of its allies.

Because EU cohesion was in fine shape when American policy favored the EU and when President Obama weighed in on the Remain side in the Brexit campaign last year.

As for shared values, what Western values exactly does that proto-imperial project share with the world's longest running constitutional republic?

On Russia, settle down skittish Euro squirrels, we're not going anywhere--which pisses you guys off, too. Every top official we have, like Vice President Pence, is out there reassuring Europe that America isn't walking away from NATO or going wobbly on Russia under Putin.

I did say the Euro elites would blame Trump for everything, I'll note.

UPDATE: Vice President Pence said that America backs the EU:

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence assured the European Union in Brussels on Monday that the Trump administration will develop their cooperation in trade and security and backs the EU as a partner in its own right.

I hope this is just an exercise in dealing with the reality of the existence of the EU (for now) while not giving the Euros the excuse of America to explain away their failures.

Despite the words, I hope our policy is not to encourage or in any way prop up the European Union that can only undermine NATO, the true defender of the West in Europe.

Perhaps we're just standing aside as the proto-empire destroys itself.

The Tragedy of the Commons

Europe doesn't build enough hardware, maintain enough hardware, or let their troops train enough on their hardware to make many of Europe's troops more than glorified riot control police. So now they won't do enough cooperatively? That will work out just swell.

On the surface, this could work:

In signing ceremonies at NATO, defense ministers from France and Germany said they will buy Lockheed Martin C-130J transport planes, while Germany, Belgium and Norway will join a Netherlands-led fleet of Airbus A330 tanker planes.

Buying in bulk should lower prices.

But will operating cooperatively reduce costs or just result in the tragedy of the commons for the A330, with nobody with an ownership interest in maintaining the capability?

This is interesting, however:

Germany also agreed joint training and deployments of land forces with the Czech Republic and Romania, with both countries set to provide a brigade of several thousand troops for a larger division under German leadership.

Smaller NATO countries will group smaller units into a brigade that will fight under a German division.

We're getting closer to some European states providing tribal auxiliaries to the more capable European powers--not for American units.

So We Need What, Now?

It's nice to see money-saving joint programs like this:

The U.S. and Canadian governments on Feb. 7 established a partnership that will enable the U.S. Coast Guard heavy polar icebreaker acquisition program to test and validate potential heavy polar icebreaker design models at Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) in St John’s, Newfoundland, the Coast Guard said in a Feb. 9 release.

Wait, what? A new heavy icebreaker?

I was under the impression that the polar ice would disappear under the onslaught of global warming.

Never mind.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Does Russia Fear an Orange 2.0 Revolution?

I don't buy the idea that Russia wanted above all else to avoid Hillary Clinton as president. I do buy the idea that the Russians are worried about Trump.

If the Russians did fear the possibility of President Hillary Clinton, as this article says, why didn't the Russians try to prevent Hillary Clinton from getting the Democratic nomination?

Why didn't the Russians try to put Comrade Bernie into that position to end the Hillary threat early rather than rely on Trump--of all people!--to stop Hillary?

And why didn't the Russians try to help anyone--anyone at all--in the Republican contest, given that Trump was widely viewed as the weakest possible candidate to face Hillary? Indeed, Democrats in the Hillary camp welcomed a Trump challenger (as the favorable press by even the left-leaning press demonstrates).

So no, I don't buy the idea that Russia has "buyer's regret" over Trump.

I do buy the notion that the Russians are worried about Trump.

And in bonus territory, this Russian worry noted in the article is exactly what I wrote about early after the election:

The Kremlin today is staunchly opposed to “regime change,” the visitors were told, and thus skittish about eulogizing [the Bolshevik revolution in] 1917. It plans to use the centenary, instead, to draw attention to the catastrophic consequences of resorting to revolution to solve social and political problems.

The last thing the Russian government expected was that 2017 would bring it face to face not with a revolution of the past but with a revolution of the present — the radical regime change taking place in the United States as a result of the electoral victory of Donald Trump. It is Trump’s electoral revolution that has captured the imagination, and fanned the fears, of Russian elites today.

As I said before, the Russian people saw the American people elect an underdog that the elites and the media tried to stop with a shamelessly biased effort that pulled out all the stops to demonize Trump and his supporters, and bully those supporters into staying home and not voting for Trump.

Who knows what lessons the Russian people might draw from our election when the thrill of cheap intervention abroad wears off?

Putin is right to fear Trump even if Trump does nothing at all.

The Ten-Year Rule Reaches 8 With Predictable Results

How is it possible to be short of ammunition in a dangerous world?

This is really unacceptably stupid:

Shortages of bombs and other munitions have forced the U.S. military to pull weapons from headquarters in other parts of the world to sustain its 2 1/2-year-old air campaign against the Islamic State group, despite billions of dollars invested in increasing the stockpiles.

"We are concerned, worldwide, when looking at ammunition needs," Deborah James, the former head of the Air Force, said in an interview shortly before stepping down from her position last month. "We've been expending so many in the Middle East we've had to borrow in some cases from other areas."

"What we want to do is replenish," James says.

We aren't even involved in high-intensity conventional warfare against a peer-ish military. Yet we are emptying warehouses earmarked for other potential theater of war to bomb one ragged group holding ground in Syria and Iraq?

Seriously?

And this is even worse because America maintains stocks of ammunition that serve as the reserve for our allies who as a rule do not maintain such stocks. We had to replenish allies in the Libya War in 2011 despite the weakness of Khadaffi's surviving military in that civil war.

And ammunition is just one measure of our lack of readiness that is finally catching up with our military. (Tip to Instapundti.)

But don't say we weren't warned. This poor readiness is just one effect of the modern ten year rule we launched in 2009:


We assume no enemies will match us in the medium term. This is undoubtedly correct. But this also sounds too much like we're instituting our version of the British Ten Year Rule from 1919.

It was a perfectly reasonable rule when adopted by the British government in 1919, which stated the British would not face a war in the next ten years. The rule was formally abolished 13 years later, in 1932. But defense spending did not rebound from its post-1919 collapse, and when war broke out in 1939, the British only barely proved they'd done enough to withstand the German offensive in the opening of the war.

Certainly, we won't face such a dramatic collapse in defense spending that the British military endured in the 1920s. My worry is whether we will do any better than the British did in recognizing when our version of the ten-year rule no longer holds true. When our national debt is scheduled to skyrocket even under optimistic administration projections, will we actually ramp up our defense spending once the medium term is over in order to maintain our military superiority? Or will we just continue to act as if the medium term never ends? That's what the British did. But they had the Arsenal of Democracy to back them up when they found themselves at war without the military they needed. We don't have such a back-up source of arms.

We've just instituted the Medium Term Rule on our defense spending. The problems that will flow from this plan won't show themselves in the near term. We can coast on our past progress in building the best military in the world. But have no doubt that our military strength will erode, and this means we are accepting risks in case we have to fight a conventional war in the medium term despite our assumption that we can still win such a war.

We won't cancel the Medium Term Rule until it's too late to do any good.

We seem prepared to cancel the Medium Term Rule. I guess the question is whether it is too late to do any good.

Bleed Them Until They Leave

In some ways, America is fine with the status quo in Ukraine. But if Ukrainians resent our lack of interest in ejecting the Russian invaders, the status quo does not in fact benefit America. We should help Ukraine send Russian body bags home.

At a moment frozen in time, this is defensible to argue:

The problem for Ukraine is that its interests are not the same as U.S. interests. Ukraine wants to reunify the country and expel Russia from its territory. The U.S. is primarily interested in weakening Russia, and the fate of Donetsk and Luhansk is immaterial to that goal. The U.S. is not going to abandon Ukraine, but that is an easy thing to say and a much harder thing to be sure of if you are in Kiev reading American newspapers and following various White House statements.

While I am certainly not willing to commit American forces to a fight to eject the Russians from Crimea and the eastern Donbas, I don't see why we shouldn't help Ukrainians fight the Russians.

And while the Russians may be unwilling to escalate now. Their ambitions cover all of Ukraine and they may expand their goals as their capabilities grow.

If we are seen by Ukrainians as the restraint on ejecting the Russians while Russia does not have the capacity to win a wider war, we will be blamed and Ukraine may not be pro-American for long.

What if on top of resenting our failure to help eject the Russians, our acceptance of Russia's conquests at Ukraine's expense is viewed as just allowing Russia to prepare for another grab in the future? Will Ukraine believe that we will accept that, too?

While it might make sense on paper for Ukraine to accept the status quo and remain pro-Western and anti-Russian, if the Ukrainians feel abandoned by the West they might decide they have to cut a deal with Russia.

And then all of a sudden the Russians are on NATO's doorstep in the center and southwest.

As much as possible, rather than killing frontline cannon fodder in flare-ups along the ceasefire line, Ukraine should attempt to use artillery to target Russian units inside the Donbas supporting the astro-turf secessionists.

In a perfect world, Ukrainian special forces and irregulars add to that body count; and arm local resistance in the Donbas to the Russian occupation.

Russian unwillingness to suffer casualties is their center of gravity. And Putin's denial that Russian army units are even inside the Donbas is an opportunity. Will Russia admit their units by complaining about their losses?

I think a deal that largely restores the status quo ante with some concessions on local autonomy should be acceptable to Ukraine and the West while giving Russia something to claim they achieve in this war of aggression launched nearly 3 years ago. But the costs of occupation have not been high enough for Putin.

But Russia says that they won't leave Crimea:

Russia said on Wednesday it would not hand back Crimea to Ukraine or discuss the matter with foreign partners after the White House said U.S. President Donald Trump expected the annexed Black Sea peninsula to be returned.

I still think Ukraine should bill Russia for rent on the entire peninsula, with back rent calculated back to March 2014 when Russia took it from Ukraine.

Perhaps Ukraine should also announce that all of the sea ports and airports of Crimea are closed. And then pursue damages against any company that violates the lawful order over their territory. Perhaps the monthly rent charged Russia could be the base for determining damages.

And if Ukraine can lay a some low-yield naval mines off of their Crimea ports, that would signal the closure to deter travel and at least raise insurance rates for those ships that travel to the port.

Russia has to feel the human and financial pain of holding their gains more than they have so far. If they don't, they won't leave.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

If California's secessionists manage--contrary to all expectations--put a measure on the ballot to leave the United States because they don't like the current American government, will the secessionists allow their counties the same privilege to refuse to join their secessionist brethren?

This author is right on the mark in his discussion of the problems and usefulness of big aircraft carriers, touching on just about every point I've made over the years. Kudos, Mr. Forsling. Here's just one of my posts with a number of useful links to other relevant posts. My hope is that we have a sea power debate rather than a carrier debate where each side argues past the other. I admit I will have to re-think my views if the seas become transparent for submarine detection.

You know, I never tire of reminding readers that my time in uniform was as a reservist signal soldier and that I never served overseas. At best, my unit was almost sent overseas in 1991. One publication wrongly stated that I had served in West Germany and I immediately sent an email that they printed in the next issue to clarify that. They had wrongly interpreted my statement that my Guard unit was earmarked to support VII Corps. I deleted that source of confusion in my short bio (that until then had never been misinterpreted, but I didn't want to risk that again). I won't pretend that my honorable REMF service was anything special. So this sort of lying about military service is pretty outrageous to me. It's also probably why it annoys me to no end that liberals infected with Trump Hysteria Condition try to pretend that their delusional beliefs about fascism descending on America make them the "Resistance" when nobody is trying to hunt them down in their secret meetings at the local organic market. Tip to Instapundit.

Background on US-Mexican relations. We've had ups and downs. Yes, we fought a war with Mexico. But we fought a war with Japan and Italy--and two with Germany--yet we have good relations with those three countries and hyphenated Americans assimilated here, too. In the end, we will work things out with our neighbor and friend that has provided many of our citizens. Our immigration policies for Mexico's northern border will never be as harsh as Mexico's are for their Central American neighbors, recall.

I will say that the 9th Circuit's upholding of a state's standing to sue the federal government over the Trump foreigner executive order (which itself says nothing about the actual policy's constitutionality) could in the future cause some collateral damage to the Left which sees an all-powerful federal government as their primary means of getting what they want. We shall see.

Feminism today is really upper class white liberal women. If not, Conway would be celebrated as the first female campaign manager to win an election for her candidate. And they'd focus on the impact of mass illegal immigration on poor and working African-Americans (including women) rather than emphasizing the impact on illegal female immigrants. But like I've always said, Feminism as a movement (as opposed to feminism as accepting equality for women) is just the women's auxiliary of Liberalism.

Turkey is working on long-range ballistic missiles. Although range is not specified. I have to feel that Turkey sucking up to Russia and Iran is just to buy time to get these missiles and perhaps some nuclear warheads to go with them.

Ukrainians are doing a good job--with Polish help, too--of rebuilding tanks to take on the Russians. Early in that war I wrote that we didn't need to send heavy armor because Ukraine had a large stock to build on, and that our eastern NATO allies could help with updates. We can help fill gaps to make what Ukraine has more effective. This need for military power applies even if Ukraine is giving up on retaking the east (let alone Crimea). If Russia gets away with their conquests, they'll come after Ukraine later for more.

I'm more than happy to have a debate on immigration and at what level and under what conditions does it benefit America--as opposed to the obvious benefit to immigrants (which the Democrats oddly assume to be true despite coming to the Trump dystopia). But the Democrats don't want that debate.  They just want to muddy the waters by denying that we have illegal immigrants. (They're just undocumented! Try that in any other field where you need government approval.) So they pretend to be morally superior by denying that we should have any debate at all over the basic sovereign right and responsibility to control our borders. Just how does unlimited immigration help the working poor and unemployed here who want jobs without that massive flow of competition at the bottom rung of the ladder?

At least elements of the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade (part of 10th Mountain Division) deployed to Germany to support NATO forces on the eastern front. It is not being stationed there, just rotated in.

FYI, 72 persons convicted in America of terrorism charges were from the countries included in the executive order temporarily preventing persons from 7 countries from entering America.

I have no particular feelings about National Security Advisor Flynn, who resigned this week. He lied about his contacts with the Russians to his own boss, so he deserved to go for that alone. But this is key, not because talking to Russians was illegal, so we should all worry about how he was shot down. If our people ever think that voting doesn't change government because the permanent bureaucracies won't let mere elections change what they do, what's the next rational decision of the people? This news shows the great thing about not being a Trump fan. He was the last person I wanted to win the Republican nomination, having only the single all-important advantage of not being Hillary Clinton. So I can be pleasantly surprised when President Trump carries out conservative goals. And of course I can be supportive of the people who count on Trump to address their needs who have been ignored for so long. But if the president does something I don't like, I don't feel like I can't or shouldn't criticize him. If the president is too accommodating to Russia or discounts the importance of intelligence, I will oppose that as I opposed President Obama's Iran opening,  his failure to take presidential daily briefings, and Hillary Clinton's lax security procedures with her private email server while Secretary of State (which makes Democratic demands that Flynn lose his security clearance--even if they are right--rather tough to take). Although note to the Left that has dialed up the opposition to 11 over every damn little thing, your too-often violent reactions dull my urge to oppose. FYI. And no, when you shout down discussions, that is not in fact "what democracy looks like." That's what thug storm trooper tactics look like. Again, FYI.

Can we stop this loose talk of impeachment, coups, and civil war (and dictatorship)? This is politics we're talking about, nothing more. If it becomes more, I swear I'll blog about it.

The United States Navy is establishing a ship, aircraft, and Marine presence in the Red Sea. This helps our Arab allies oppose Iranian influence in the region.

Possible "pranksters" released pepper spray at a Hamburg, Germany airport that spread through the ventilation system. While that is not a lethal agent, could it have been a test run to see if more lethal agents can be dispersed that way? Mind you, even lethal agents might not have a concentration to make it lethal, but it would injure and sow panic. So there you go.

I sincerely hoped that race relations would be improved by the election of our first African-American president. It was a big deal. Didn't happen. But at least we don't have African-American racist haters, right? Wait. What? All white people are really handicapped and thus a protected class under federal law? Well, perhaps the young lady didn't fully think through her theory. Tip to Instapundit.

As I've said, return power to the states (and to local governments) to defuse the partisan divide growing at the national level. And it checks federal power. I've long advocated that. With a federal government in the hands of the Republicans, now--other than the "civil servants"--perhaps this conservative view will get a strange new respect from Democrats. As unhappy liberal Californians unseriously consider secession, which would make the remaining American 49 states more conservative absent California's Democratic voters, legislators, and money. Wouldn't it be better--and more compassionate to fellow liberals--to allow all states to have more autonomy under a federal system that reverses the flow of so much power to Washington, D.C.? Tip to Instapundit.

When it comes to Kuznetsov, great minds think alike.

Just as diligently as O. J. Simpson is looking for the "real killer." Tip to Instapundit.

A quick review of the Philippines from Strategypage. It's all fun and games when cops are killing drug dealers. Rule of law is easier to lose than to regain.

Nanny staters say that people must be protected from check cashing stores that function as an alternative to banks (say, who foreclosed on their homes?). But an academic found out they can make sense for a lot of people, But they're icky. And when reality clashes with elite theory, reality must give way. Tip to Instapundit.

A Russian spy ship is sailing off our coast in international waters. I wouldn't even bother to yawn about it except that some people seem to be making a big deal about it. While annoying, it is perfectly legal. And less significant than even I thought it is. I'm not losing sleep at night. As long as our similar operations are taking place at a higher rate. Although we might want to be prepared in case the ship breaks down and needs a tow.

I expected that my relief that Hillary lost the election would be replaced by worry about Trump being president. You know my history of not liking him one bit. But I haven't hit that transition point. Why? Because liberals have thrown a constant "dialed to 11" tantrum and made it easy to support him rather than them. It's like with police shootings. I don't want people shot by police. Courts must decide guilt and punishment. And I worry about the over-militarization of our police. Combined with my view that police-backed government regulation of our lives is too deep (really, selling "loosies" is something police should crack down on?), there was room for discussion. But when the communist-backed Black Live Matters showed up with lies about "hands up, don't shoot" and framed the issue as either for them and their anti-law enforcement attitudes or the police, the choice of who to side with became easy. So congratulations to the left for valuing polarization over rational discussion. Enjoy.

Leftists who maintain a "mass shootings" database altered the definition of a mass shooting that law enforcement uses. The result is to show such shootings as more common by an order of magnitude. Ah, science. Tip to Instapundit.

I'm not pleased with Turkish cooperation with Russia and Iran over Syria, but Turkey's win against Syrian government forces in the race for control of al-Bab in northern Syria (which had been conrolled by ISIL) is the least bad thing to happen. Although the Turkish-backed forces aren't fully in control yet as of the news date, so don't celebrate quite yet.

America complains that Russia violated a Cold War treaty on theater nuclear weapons. The  SSC-8 cruise missile is the violation charged. Russia denies everything. If Russia didn't inherit the USSR's legal responsibility to uphold that treaty, perhaps we should revisit that Russia inheriting the Soviet Union's UN Security Council permanent seat, eh?

For all those Democrats suddenly worried about the health of NATO, Secretary of Defense Mattis reassured our NATO allies that the alliance is a "fundamental bedrock"  of our foreign defense policy. I'm almost giddy that the Left is now pro-NATO.

The youngest don't get the attention to develop the way a first-born does.  As I joke with my daughter, Lamb (we are both the youngest), the first get all the attention but by the time we came along, the parental attitude is "Sure, you can play in traffic--just look both ways."

At this point, clamping down on US trade relations with Cuba would put China more at risk with their new investments.

I wonder if these 82nd Airborne pathfinders returning from their quiet mission based at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti participated in the Yemen raid?

We should stop going along with the fiction that Putin promotes that the Donbas is controlled by local pro-Russian elements. Russia invaded the Donbas and is at war with Ukraine.

I am officially in mourning as I hear that BrainDead has been cancelled. Curse you, CBS.

Funny, but I think in terms of fairness--which makes me conservative contrary to the article's divisions. For example, how is it fair to working Americans or the poor to have open borders that just create more competition for jobs by immigrants and depresses wages for entry level jobs? How is it fair to have so many welfare programs when so many people work hard to afford the same things? Really, the government subsidizes phones? But I clearly see fairness in a different manner than liberals, I guess.

Funny, this is similar to how Assad drives rebellious civilians from their homes by blockading supplies. Tip to Instapundit. If the group involved in this California school initiative was called Friends of the Children the policy would be very different.

I mentioned Sweden's reactivation of coastal defense missile units. Strategypage discusses that.

In the debate over replacing the A-10, one company wants to replace the ground support aircraft by building a new plane around the A-10's 30mm gatling gun. That's recycling I can fully endorse. Tip to Instapundit.

The science is scuttled. Why do the people who claim to have science on their side behave in such an unscientific manner so often?

Late in the week President Trump decided to whine about the situation he inherited. I'll repeat what I said when Obama complained about inheriting problems from Bush 43--man the ef up. Every president inherits problems from their predecessor. The world does not follow an arc of problem and resolution neatly within a presidential term. So just stop it.

Raging Islamophobia in action: "Turkey has increased scrutiny of Russian-speaking Muslim communities in the past few months following a series of attacks blamed on Islamic State, a concrete example of the renewed relationship between the two countries."

To my liberal readers, I can understand why you will grind your teeth in frustration during presidential news conferences the next 4-8 years. If it makes you feel better, that's how I felt for the previous 8 years. As I occasionally wrote, my sympathy for the tough job Obama had increased in direct proportion to the time since I last heard him talk about policy matters. I guiltily admit it has been enjoyable to see the "leg tingle" crowd in the press corps take to their fainting couches over the recent Trump press conference where he showed his hostility to the press. While the sight of a press corps willing to challenge a president is a refreshing change after the last 8 years of fawning worship, in their eagerness to pounce they shouldn't drop all standards, eh? Perhaps we should give them a break because they're rusty. Surely they'll get better. But I also hope that future presidential press conferences aren't so Thunder Domey. That will get old real fast. Although media hostility to Republicans predates this spectacle.

A Strategypage overview of Nigeria. As I wrote about while the original Iraq War raged, corruption is a problem masked by the greater problem of jihadis. Now that Boko Haram is dwindling, the corruption is the problem to face. And when ISIL is defeated as an organized force (terror will remain), corruption must be fought in Iraq.

Just a political commissars assigned to communist military units reduce effectiveness by making sure ideology is elevated over military judgment, a vast array of politically correct commissars assigned (by themselves) to colleges no doubt reduces their educational effectiveness. Tip to Instapundit.

The Trump administration is talking tough about Russia. Good. But I was never worried about that issue. And this is surely a great relief to Democrats who are Born Again Russkie Slayers since the election campaign. But somebody please inform Representative Waters, eh? Use short words. She's not the sharpest knife in the drawer. 

News in countering the awful crimes that mass illegal migration fuels, from Paraguay and Pakistan sends back refugees, which is obviously Islamophobic. Paraguay is guilty of something awful, too, I'm sure. I'm sorry, I interrupted you while you were telling me how controlling America's borders is so uniquely awful.

As I've mentioned, a wall (or any obstacle) is worthless without people defending it--even nuanced compassionate Europeans know this. 

Much as there were French collaborators who weren't thrilled that France was liberated from Nazi control, you have to expect that some Crimeans eagerly working with their Russian conquerors would oppose the return of Crimea to Ukraine

Let's remember that President Obama sent the National Guard to the Mexican border. As did Bush before him.

China halted coal imports from North Korea for the rest of this year to punish the North Koreans for their solid-fuel rocket test. Luckily, Trump lifted impediments on American coal mining, which presumably could fill the gap in Chinese imports.

It Takes a Village to Craze a Child

This is who we fight:

When the boys first arrived at the Islamic State training facility in eastern Mosul they would cry and ask about their parents, who went missing when the militants rampaged through northern Iraq in 2014.

But as the weeks passed they appeared to absorb the group's ultra-hardline ideology, according to a worker at the former orphanage where they were housed.

The children, aged from three to 16 and mostly Shi'ite Muslims or minority Yazidis, began referring to their own families as apostates after they were schooled in Sunni Islam by the militant fighters, he said.

The boys were separated from the girls and infants, undergoing indoctrination and training to become "cubs of the caliphate - a network of child informers and fighters used by the jihadists to support their military operations.

Girls were "married off" to jihadis.

As I mentioned before, this smacks of the work of Saddam's Islamicized lads in ISIL, given that there were "Saddam's Cubs" before we destroyed the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003.

So even after ISIL's caliphate is defeated, they've sown the seeds of depravity to poison the future.

Because sometimes it takes a child to raze a village, eh?

This problem of indoctrinating hate in children is larger than just ISIL, of course.

Why every Westerner isn't a committed anti-jihadist is beyond me. Jihadis are evil and need to be killed.

The Southwest Hounds Are Unleashed

The Iraqi offensive to take western Mosul has kicked off:

Plumes of smoke were seen rising into the sky early Sunday morning as U.S.-led coalition jets struck militant positions southwest of Mosul and militarized Iraqi police fired artillery toward the city. Heavily armed police units were getting ready to move north with their armored vehicles from a base just southwest of the city. ...

Iraqi special operations forces, regular army and federal police units are taking part in the offensive along with government-approved paramilitary forces, mainly consisting of Shiite militias, which are operating on the city's outskirts.

I guess I saw the right signs of the impending assault.

As I expected the activity is to the south and southwest. Although I kept expecting the attack to kick off while ISIL was fixed by the assault on eastern Mosul. That never happened and the phases were sequential rather than concurrent.

Will there also be an air assault into a stadium inside western Mosul to use it as an airhead? That speculation was a lot of that post.

Will there be a complementary assault across the Tigris River from eastern Mosul? Or was that threat a feint all along?

UPDATE: I enjoyed this:

The forces will not be able to attack across the river because all five bridges connecting the eastern and western parts of the city are heavily damaged, so the offensive is expected to come from the south and west.

For weeks now, the stories have been that the attack on western Mosul would be a river assault across the Tigris.

Which made no sense to me when you considered the large force and logistics and fire support base south of Mosul on the west side of the river. Why assault a river when you can avoid it?

As a secondary threat, sure. But the primary axis of advance? Why?

But now the news says the attack "is expected" to come from the south and west.

I assume the military sources were spreading a little disinformation for the benefit of ISIL over the last weeks with those river assault stories.

I wonder if ISIL bought it?

UPDATE: More. Two things.

One, it confirms that Counter-Terrorism Service deployed from the east to the west.

And two, will the fight for western Mosul really be harder thatn the battle for the part east of the Tigris River?

If the ISIL defenders used up their best people and weapons in the failed effort to hold off--or at least decisively bleed--the Iraqi offensive on the east bank, why will the effort on the western side of the Tigris be harder?

UPDATE: So American officials estimate that 2,000 ISIL defenders remain in western Mosul.

I'm not sure how the conclusion that this phase of the campaign will be tougher than the first phase to capture eastern Mosul was reached.

Without NATO, the West Falters

I agree with Chancellor Merkel:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday that NATO is important not just for Europe but also for the United States, speaking as a major security gathering kicked off in Munich.

Europe--now extended to eastern Europe--is an important ally and source of economic, military, and scientific power. It is an objective as much as an ally.

Which is why I am so anti-European Union.

So we'll not be abandoning it or NATO, our primary tool for strengthening our alliance with and defense of Europe.

And as a side note, while Merkel catches grief from conservatives these days, she's head and shoulders above Gerhard Schroeder--anti-American and in Russia's pocket since then--who preceded her.

She made a mistake welcoming unlimited migrants to Europe--which could kill her career. And her allies have another reason to be miffed at her green policies (tips to Instapundit).

But from America's perspective she's a Westerner, no doubt.

UPDATE: Yes, we can cajole Europeans to spend more on defense, but a free and friendly Europe is an important objective for America even if Europeans spent zero money on defense. (Tip to Instapundit.)

Although I strongly disagree with the author's negative assessment of the Iraq War. Note that President Obama who vaulted to the Oval Office on his opposition to the Iraq War ultimately initiated Iraq War 2.0 in 2014 to correct his error of leaving Iraq too soon in 2011.

If the initial war was such a mistake, why did President Obama of all people commit to defending Iraq?

But more important than quibbling over that statement at the moment, America will remain a strong NATO partner to defend Europe, more than a quarter century after the West won the Cold War which freed eastern Europe and more than 70 years after World War II freed a good part of the rest. from Nazi and Fascist control.

Shall I Share Your Location?

I have expressed a worry that our carriers could be self-targeting. It gets worse if our sailors and Marines are cooperative enough. Technology really is catching up with my worries, it seems:

India is the latest country where the military has been forced to deal with the problems created when soldiers have their cell phones with them while on duty. ... Indian commanders feel they have a unique problem in that Pakistani hackers working for the military have managed to install malware (malicious hidden software secretly installed on a computer) on cell phones and laptops used by Indian offers and used that to capture what was on the infected device and also secretly turn on the camera and record what was in view.

If I was in the Chinese navy, I'd sell cheap burner smart phones in every port of call our carriers pull into in the hopes of selling some infected versions of the phones to Internet-addicted crew members.

We tell ourselves that the enemy kill chain to reach our carriers is long and vulnerable. Unless it isn't, of course.

I know I come back to this issue more than I think I do. Heck, I used a similar title in a recent one!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Ah Yes, I Remember It Well

In an article about a likely violation by Russia of a 1987 treaty on intermediate-range missiles, I nearly laughed out of my chair when I read this:

American and Russian relations were on a better footing in December 1987 when President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, signed an arms accord, formally known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and commonly called the I.N.F. treaty. [emphasis added]

For those too young to remember the 1980s, the media had spent the previous 7 years basically arguing that Reagan would get us into a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

Yet now that is a glorious pre-Trump era of relations on a better footing.

Unless of course you are a member of the media worried that Trump will be too friendly to Russia.

Which means that poor relations developed under Obama? Despite Hillary's "reset?"

It's always tough to remember whether we are at war with Eastasia or not.

Amazing.

On the policy side, Russian theater nukes are not useful against America, of course, for the most part.

Perhaps the Russians aren't as oblivious to the Chinese threat that they pretend to be by loudly focusing on the non-existent NATO threat in the west.

The United States Aerospace Force

The Air Force needs to migrate to being an Aerospace Force.

In science fiction, we have space navies. And maybe for missions away from the Earth-Moon system, such a way of looking at space warships makes sense.

But for the Earth-Moon system that impacts our ground, doesn't that kind of force mesh more as an Air Force mission asset? If so, while the concept is good, calling a future space force a Coast Guard in space just concedes the mission to the Navy doesn't it?

I noted this notion of a Coast Guard in space back in 2012. An effort to have a routine presence in space is good.

But I still think that the Air Force should take the lead, aim high, and become an Aerospace force.

I refined my notion in the years after that initial post 11 years ago. But the basic concept remains valid, I think.

Which is why I like whatever the heck we are doing with the X-37B (tip to Instapundit):

A miniature, reusable space plane just thirty feet long, the X-37B has been in space for 636 days, a long voyage that is quickly becoming typical for the craft. What we still don't know is, what exactly it is doing up there?

There are two X-37B spaceplanes, and they are launched from U.S. Air Force Atlas 5 launch vehicles. Similar to the old Space Shuttle in appearance, the X-37B is just one quarter the size. Unmanned, it lacks a crew and life support systems.

The cargo bay is the size of a pickup truck bed.

Whatever it is doing, it is doing it for a long time. Which means a scaled-up version could do the same one day.

The Air Force clearly doesn't really like to provide ground support to troops, as the longstanding aversion to the A-10 shows. So the Air Force should pull in space missions and migrate the mission and funds for close air support to the Army--matching what the Marines already have.

If that is done, it will be interesting to see what the Army does with armed helicopters and drones once those assets aren't in-house alternatives to fixed wing aircraft provided by another service. Will the Army fund airplanes at the expense of helicopters and drones? Just what asset will the Army value the most?

Unleash the "Why Do They Hate Us?" Questions!

In what world does this excuse for the Louvre attack make sense?

A man arrested by police for attacking soldiers with a machete outside the Louvre museum in Paris last week said he wanted to damage paintings and "avenge" the Syrian people, a judicial source said on Tuesday.

Abdullah Reda al-Hamahmy confirmed his name, his age of 29 and his Egyptian nationality to investigators after initially refusing to speak, the source said.

In what world does it make any sense at all to attack Western art to get back at the Russians, Iranians, Hezbollah, Assad regime, and jihadis who are ripping apart Syria?

In what world? The world that includes the corner of Rage Street and Why Do They Hate Us Boulevard.

Why do they hate us, indeed. Why do they hate is the right question.

And more important than even that is why do we hate ourselves so much to treat these scum with any respect at all?

It's funny, leftists here consider it a war on art if a Republican wants to cut the NEA budget by 5%. In France we have a jihadi fanboy literally trying to destroy art and nobody on the left will work up even a minor bit of annoyance, let alone full frothing rage at the assault on our very civilization.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Art of the Palestinian Deal

President Trump didn't abandon a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem. He gave the Palestinians incentive to actually say yes to a deal.

Sure, the Arab League is complaining about the Trump statement that he'd support any deal that the Israelis and Palestinians agree to:

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Thursday that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict required a two-state solution, a day after the United States backed away from its commitment to Palestinian statehood.

The Western Left will go berserk, too, if they can take time out from their fantasy panic over the descending Trumptatorship--as if they have any clue about what real fascism is.

But I digress (as I can!).

Exactly what did 8 years of Obama pressure on Israel and our president's contempt for the country's leaders--complete with authoring a nuclear deal with Iran that paves the way for the mullahs to have nukes (even if you believe the deal is good, that is the end result of a deal that works)--get for the Palestinians?

Eight more years of life under corrupt Fatah in the West Bank and corrupt Hamas (plus assorted "rogue" jihadis) in Gaza. That's what it got the Palestinians.

Oh, the corrupt rulers prospered very nicely under that status quo, mind you. Few of them are poor. But the Palestinian people have gotten nothing from their rulers or from an American president fairly hostile to Israel.

The Palestinians could have had a deal back in 2000 under President Bill Clinton that would have provided a two-state solution, recall.

But the Palestinian leaders--afraid of saying "yes" when so many Palestinian extremists would have killed any Palestinian leader who said yes to anything but the destruction of Israel--said "no."

Trump didn't rule out a two-state solution. What he did was motivate the Palestinians to say "yes" to a deal while making Israel more comfortable with American guarantees to back Israel in setting up the deal.

Indeed, demoting the Palestinian issue in the vexing array of conflicts that threaten stability in the region could also represent a beating with the clue bat for Palestinians who can't say "yes" to anything other than "Death to Israel!" Say "no" too much and we will move on to other issues in the job jar.

This may in fact be the best chance for the Palestinians to get their state.

Building a Better Class of Rebels

Strategypage looks at Syria where pro-Assad forces have the edge.

This is interesting. Iran is paying for Hezbollah fighters to join Syrian army units, as platoons under their own command:

The use of Lebanese and other non-Syrians (like Russians) in Syrian uniforms also accounts for the sudden improvement in the performance of many Syrian units.

The odd alliance of Russia, Iran, and Turkey thinks this is just part of their path to victory:

The “unnaturals” see ISIL being defeated (losing control of any territory and reduced to another Islamic terrorist group without a permanent base area) by late 2017. 

ISIL does look like it is going down as a caliphate. As I've long argued, defeat and death on the battlefield is discouraging those jihadis on the ground and those thinking of joining ISIL in Iraq or Syria. That demoralization did not require undermining their ideology first, which always seemed like a cart-before-the-horse thing.

But this is more problematic for me:

Since ISIL represented more than half the “combat power” of the rebels and the pro-Assad coalition (Iranian mercenaries and weapons, Russian air support and tech assistance) is now strong enough to defeat the rebellion. Some rebel factions like the FSA (Free Syrian Army) and Syrian Kurds) understand that and are willing to make a deal to get what they can. Success for the unnaturals isn’t guaranteed, but at this point is seems likely.

I don't think that the loss of more than half of anti-Assad combat power spells the defeat of the rebellion.

One, that ISIL combat power often was directed at other non-jihadi rebels.

And two, since a lot of local recruits went to ISIL because ISIL (and other jihadis) were seen as the most effective anti-Assad fighting forces and not because the recruits were necessarily jihadi themselves, why wouldn't the defeat of ISIL simply allow young Syrian men the opportunity to join non-jihadi rebels?

Has living under ISIL rule made Syrians in the east suddenly fond of Assad? Won't the ending of ISIL rule in parts of Syria simply allow Syrians who hate ISIL and Assad to freely join the rebellion?

We've done exactly that in the offensive on the ISIL capital Raqqa, for example:

In the east SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) rebels drove ISIL forces out of a key town 11 kilometers east of Raqqa. The SDF pointed out that 70 percent of their forces advancing on Raqqa are Arab, the rest are from various Kurd factions.

For political and practical reasons, we can't rely on Syrian Kurds to defeat ISIL outside of the traditional Kurdish regions. So we recruit, train, and supply Arab Syrians to fight ISIL in regions that the Kurds have liberated from ISIL.

If ISIL's caliphate collapses in larger swathes of Syria this year, why couldn't we do the same?

As long as such rebels believe we will support them until victory and not use them as a bargaining chip, Assad's forces already reliant on outside support and even stiffeners and replacements for the frontline troops could yet collapse as the light at the end of the tunnel is again yanked away from them.

Rebels in the south have stirred themselves to action after a long silence:

Monitors, activists and an aid group said fighting between opposition and pro-government forces raged for a fourth day Wednesday in the southern city of Daraa, pushing the number of dead and wounded past 60.

Assad still has a bad hand. It is only because his allies Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah understand that you support allies; while the Obama administration was oddly ignorant of that basic rule of foreign relations.

Where does Trump stand on this?

And do read all of the Strategypage post, which touches on Mosul as well.

UPDATE: Pro-Assad forces are pushing toward ISI-held Palmyra:

Syrian troops have begun an offensive front in the country's central desert region in a bid to recapture the city of Tadmur, home of the Palmyra ruins, from the Islamic State.

I'm not sure they are really "Syrian" given the decline of the Syrian army's infantry.

UPDATE: A recent map from Der Spiegel:


Note that despite the victory at Aleppo, the pro-Assad forces control little of the country. Even after all this time, rebels hold ground near Damascus and Homs.

When ISIL is defeated, will Assad's forces or rebels take over the regions now held by ISIL?

Note too that the vast areas of light blue are sparsely populated where control colors would be pointless.

Freedom of Speech is Not a Lesser Objective

I was in the Michigan Army National Guard and had riot control training. So I know what the UC Berkeley police chief is getting at here. But she's wrong.

I understand why in response to complaints that the police let thugs riot and disrupt a speaker, that the chief of campus police would say this:

In situations like that, we understand that if we go out and we engage -- with the level of force and the presence of the trained anarchist-style protesters that were present -- it will embolden the protesters and it will escalate the level of violence. And our officers exercised, I think, some very tough and extreme restraint.

She is correct that in general--and as I was trained--that you don't kill or attempt to seriously hurt rioters to protect mere property. Unless it is critical property to defend, you want to make your fellow citizens disperse and go home before they hurt people.

What the chief gets wrong is that the building under attack by the rioters was not some random laundromat or party store. In those circumstances, restraint is defensible. You don't risk killing to defend that.

But that general rule is not an excuse to do nothing all of the time.

The campus police were not defending a building that night. The campus police were defending freedom of speech. And the chief ordered her officers to stand by and let freedom of speech be burned and destroyed by street thugs on her campus that night.

And just because the local community likes that decision doesn't make the chief's decision right. It makes the local community complicit in the wrong.

Shame on all of them celebrating an attack on freedom of speech.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

It's a Hat Trick of Whoop Ass

Regardless of your bombing needs, the United States Air Force has a delivery system to suit you, no matter where you hide.

B-52, B-1, and B-2 in flight.
Source

Flipping Greece?

Greece has been out of the financial and political headlines lately, it seems. But we could have a NATO problem because Greece could yet head for the EU exits because of their continuing financial problems:

The International Monetary Fund warned on Tuesday that Greece once again risks a eurozone exit amid stalled bailout talks, sending the clearest signal yet the emergency lender isn't likely to soon rejoin Europe's failed efforts to fix the debt-wary nation.

Might Russia or China seek to pry Greece away from NATO via an EU exit?

Russia would love to improve their situation in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Balkans--with the bonus of sticking it to NATO.

China could use a firm anchor in Europe at the end of their New Silk Road project to develop land and sea trade routes to Europe.

For Greece, cash would be nice as well as support against their rival and near-enemy Turkey. Would Russia with its revived friendship with Turkey be the best source?

Hard to say. It depends on whether a common religion, Eastern Orthodox (of a different branch, of course), can overcome the recent Russian-Turkish flirtation based on Syria.

Or would China as the distant power (with more money) be preferred by Athens?

Or will Greece stand with the West to uphold their status of mother of Western democracy?

UPDATE: Four NATO countries--Bulgaria, Greece, Slovenia, and Turkey--think Russia would be a better ally to defend them. Huh?

Russia doesn't defend allies. Russia controls vassals. But this poll is an easy way to signal anger at America, secure in the knowledge that Russian troops won't be "protecting" them.

After 8 years of America not standing up for allies with the same enthusiasm we reach out to enemies, I'm surprised the numbers aren't worse for us.

What about the 4 in question?

Turkey is lurching to authoritarianism where Russia already is, and America didn't share Turkey's objectives in Syria. So Turkey is more open to Russia for now.

Slovenia always seemed western, but I guess past time in Yugoslavia had an impact. The Bulgarians have a long history of being under Soviet or Russian dominance. Still, these are surprising.

Greece is interesting in light of Greece's financial problems and fear of Turkey. Greece oddly gets kudos for meeting the NATO standard of at least 2% of GDP going to defense. But Greece spends out of fear of Turkey not out of NATO solidarity. And Greece shares the Orthodox religion with Russia. Might Greece flip to Russian alliance based on religion, money, and a conviction that Russia now friendly with Turkey could deter Turkish military threats more effectively? The way Russia is making a play for the eastern Mediterranean Sea--with a recent additional play for eastern Libya--Greece would be a solid addition to the perimeter.

UPDATE: Greece continues to be vulnerable to an offer that resets their finances:

The global financial crisis and its fallout forced four euro zone countries to turn to international lenders. Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus all went through rescues and are back out, their economies growing again. But Greece, the first into a bailout in 2010, has needed three.

Rescue funds from the European Union and International Monetary Fund saved Greece from bankruptcy, but the austerity and reform policies the lenders attached as conditions have helped to turn recession into a depression.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose leftist-led government is lagging in opinion polls, has tried to make the plight of Greeks a rallying cry in the latest round of drawn-out negotiations with the lenders blocking the release of more aid.

The EU and the West has so far failed to help Greece help itself enough.

Will the Greeks tire of trying to help themselves and look for a Golden parachute from Russia (with Iranian financial help?) or--perhaps far more likely--China?

The Legacy of Arrogance Combined With Idiocy and Vanity

Reviewing the 2013 Syria chemical weapons deal that Russia engineered.

The article still defends the deal as reducing the scale of chemical weapons use by Assad, but by minimizing the effect of the deal in keeping Assad in power, this defense basically says that the hundreds of thousands who have died by conventional means don't count for as much as the "success" of preventing thousands of deaths by poison gas attack.

Hell, Assad killed more with old fashioned secret police methods than he did with poison gas attacks:

Amnesty [International] said on Tuesday as many as 13,000 people were hanged in five years at the notorious Saydnaya military-run prison near Damascus, accusing the regime of a "policy of extermination".

And there is this:

Syrian government forces carried out at least eight chemical attacks during the final weeks of the battle for Aleppo, killing nine people, among them four children, Human Rights Watch said Monday.

Fancy that. Even as a stand-alone question, the chemical deal failed.

President Obama stepped in it with his red line comment to deter Assad from using chemical weapons that Obama probably never had any intention of enforcing.

Yet rather than take the hit to his reputation like a man after Assad crossed that line, and move on to a better Syria policy, our president--aided by that buffoon of a diplomat John Kerry--preferred to let Russia provide a fig leaf deal to allow President Obama to claim a diplomatic success.

It was obvious from the start that the deal would fail on its merits. And it has, since Assad still uses chemical weapons in his war effort.

In many ways, Assad and his Russian friends used the West as a Superfund clean up project for old chemical weapons and equipment that Assad can rebuild with modern facilities when the civil war is over.

I don't assume Assad will win this civil war. But that he has a chance to win is the bigger legacy of President Obama and his foolish chemical weapons deal that set in motion a process that turned America from an enemy of Assad into a co-belligerent against his enemies; and has allowed Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah to prop Assad up despite being heavily outnumbered by Syrian opponents.

This would have been Obama's biggest failure in the Middle East, but for the withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. But he at least initiated Iraq War 2.0 to redeem his 2011 withdrawal from Iraq. And President Obama jammed through an even bigger clusterfuck of a deal with Iran that he claims will slow down Iran's drive for nuclear weapons.

And as you read the review of the chemical weapons deal, ponder how long it takes to put Assad's fingerprints--and Assad still denies it, avoiding all but token punishment--on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Does anybody really believe Russia with their Security Council veto will allow any decisive international retribution to fall on Assad?

France said on Tuesday the United Nations Security Council had to respond over the use of chemical weapons in Syria with a resolution that would punish those responsible for repeated attacks.

What part of Russian and Chinese veto power in the Security Council is unclear?

Now tell me how we can determine--let alone set out the proof--that Iran is violating the nuclear deal in laboratories that have only limited IAEA presence or that are in off-limits Iranian military sites.

That doesn't even address the question of how much of Iran's nuclear program is subcontracted to the North Koreans.

So tell me again that Russia or China, with their Security Council veto power, will allow any decisive international retribution to fall on Iran if we manage to meet the burden of proof on what is a murky issue (and which if we meet that burden of proof, we will likely tell Iran exactly who provided that information or how we managed to find out what Iran did).

Ah, legacy.

Have a super sparkly day.