Thursday, September 29, 2016

Responsibility to Neglect

We remained silent in the face of reports that the Russian-Syrian alliance was about to slaughter an aid group at Aleppo.

Why would we do this? Is this possibly accurate?

Two days prior to devastating aerial attacks, Michael Ratney, the U.S. special envoy to Syria, was told the Assad regime was planning to hit the Aleppo facilities of the Syrian Civil Defense, a volunteer rescue group.

But our government did and said nothing, it is alleged.

Was the ceasefire omelet that Secretary Kerry anticipated seen as so delicious that mere broken eggs on the ground were a price he was willing to have paid to have a shot at a Nobel Peace Prize?

Russia, Iran, and Assad are trying to kill their way to an acceptable victory in this civil war and our administration continues to insist that these brutes will tire of killing any day now if we can get just the right words down on paper.

So Just When Did Syria Stop Being Acceptable?

That's nice:

"We all know that what is happening in Syria ... is unacceptable," Obama told a summit on refugees on the sidelines of the annual gathering of leaders at the United Nations. "We are not as unified as we should be in pushing to make it stop."

I'm so old, I remember when President Obama said Syria's dictator Assad had to leave office.

I'm so old I remember when the world was united around the red line against Assad's chemical weapons usage (remember that our president said "the world" set the red line and not him!).

I'm so old I remember when Secretary of State Kerry compared Assad to Hitler.

I'm so old I remember when we finally passed that "global test" Kerry has long gone on about when France was willing to join America in military action to make Assad pay a price for using chemical weapons on civilians.

And I'm also old enough to remember the time when (several hundred thousand casualties ago) when the White House said that we didn't want to further militarize the conflict in Syria and make things worse.

It got worse. Much worse.

And now on his way out, our president calls the situation he was happy to accept for 5 years as long as he didn't have to do anything effective (and no, serial deals between Kerry and Lavrov don't count as "effective") is "unacceptable."

UPDATE: By all means end cooperation with Russia over Syria:

The Obama administration threatened to pull out of talks with Russia over a collapsed cease-fire in Syria and has renewed an internal debate over giving rebels more firepower to fend off a stepped-up Russian and Syrian assault on their Aleppo stronghold, U.S. officials said.

Other than deconflicting our air power, we should not deal with Russia and simply pursue our interests of fighting ISIL and getting rid of Assad.

Russia wants Assad to win and we want to fight ISIL, and while on the surface that provides room for cooperation, in practice Russia has leveraged American attempts to cooperate into a practical alliance to save Assad by fighting all the opposition groups and by causing rebels to doubt our commitment to them.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Gentlemen, You Can't Think in Here! This is a University!

These Leftists who need safe spaces from conservative thoughts are awfully aggressive for fragile snowflakes unable to handle confrontation and differing opinions.

It's almost as if "safe spaces" are a new way for Leftist authoritarians to say "shut up!"

No word on the status of their precious bodily fluids.

Tip to Instapundit.

Mission Accomplished? Really?

The Syrians and their Russian friends are certainly bombing the Hell out of Aleppo, but Assad is not on the verge of winning the civil war.

America had at least beaten Saddam's army and the insurgencies had yet to develop when President Bush 43 declared mission accomplished in the Iraq War in early 2003. What on Earth justifies this Assad regime confidence?

Syria's top diplomat told the world's nations Saturday that his country's belief in military victory is greater now because the army "is making great strides in its war against terrorism" with support from Russia, Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah fighters.

Of course, he has to say that. Syrian loyalists have been fighting, dying, and suffering to keep Assad in power at a high cost with years of fighting, dying, and suffering ahead of them before it is over. So Syria's top diplomat has to speak as if the fighting, dying, and suffering won't be for a losing cause.

But the "comprehensive" offensive by Assad and his allies against rebel-held Aleppo seems to be mostly a heavy bombing of civilians. Which is surely demoralizing, especially after the false hope of a ceasefire agreed to by that monumentally gullible Secretary of State Kerry and possible deliverance from the Hell on Earth in Aleppo cruelly snatched away as Russia bombed a relief convoy to end that small chance at relief.

Which is probably all that Russia and Assad wanted from that ceasefire ploy.

Yet Assad does have hope of survival. As I wrote in December 2012, Assad needed a whole new war to emerge victorious:

Assad needs to do something that offers his troops hope of victory by giving them an objective within reach. Assad needs to abandon large parts of Syria to the rebels and prepare to rebuild his forces to retake the country.

I went on, saying that with Russian, Iranian, and Hezbollah forces, that Assad could replicate our strategy of expanding our initial core of Iraq until we defeated our enemies there:

Assad would have to similarly hold his core, rebuild his army's numbers, use air power and ground raids into rebel territory to keep the rebels off balance, and then begin expanding areas of control as he gains the numbers to do so.

Assad has a problem in that he can't count on a foreign patron to supply a surge of trained forces as Iraq's government could count on America in 2007. He also has a problem in that his forces rely on a minority of the population rather than the majority (80-90% Shia and Kurd) that the Iraqi government could rely on.

Assad would need to engineer at least a partial awakening by using divide and conquer diplomacy with Sunnis who fear al Qaeda more than they fear a deal with Assad. Perhaps the Kurds could be won over with promises of autonomy.

And perhaps with enough chaos in the abandoned parts of Syria, Assad could even count on Western and regional forces to move in and fight al Qaeda. Even if foreign troops move in just for humanitarian or WMD reasons, the possibility that mission creep will take place as jihadis attack foreign troops (the temptation will be great for al Qaeda types) could turn foreign troops into de facto allies against the jihadis, or at least weaken the jihadi fight against Assad's forces by spreading jihadi attention.

Assad could still win this fight. But he has to retreat until the correlation of forces can be swung back in his favor. Assad just can't win the way he is fighting, now.

ISIL turned out to be the big jihadi threat, but otherwise I think I was darned close.

Assad got his whole new war, as he was forced back to western Syria with only pockets in the east.

But nobody from outside has provided the troops Assad needs to conquer all of Syria. Assad certainly hasn't restored let alone expanded his own army to do the job.

And I don't think Assad can do that with his limited base of support. How many sons of Alawites and other supporters are there to shove into the meat grinder?

Assad may win his war yet, but if he does it will be as the ruler of a rump Syria that may or may not include Aleppo and may or may not include Damascus.

And Russia will accept that since it includes territory for their bases to support their fleet in the eastern Mediterranean Sea; and Iran will accept that because it gives them a land route to Lebanon to support Hezbollah in order to threaten Israel.

We may just get the thankless job of coping with jihadis, Kurdish aspirations and enemies, and neighbors under pressure from refugees and jihadis.

I just thank God we didn't further militarize the conflict back in 2012 by aiding anti-Assad rebels, eh?

The Russian Threat

Sweden advanced the date that their Baltic Sea island of Gotland will be defended by a year, by ordering a mechanized infantry company sent there this month for an exercise to stay. More troops will follow:

Though 150 troops are hardly enough to withstand an incursion by an enemy force of battalion strength or heavier, these troops will be aided by the arrival of regular Swedish Army units next year that will include a mechanized company, an armored company, and command & control components.

So Gotland will have a mechanized battalion as a garrison. Given the small size of the Swedish army, I have to wonder what is left on the mainland?

This is good. No Russian subliminal war that counts on lack of effective military opposition will be possible here.

I especially like the deployment ahead of schedule that denies Russia the temptation of a long gap between plans to defend the island and actually defending the island.

Russian possession of Gotland would both shield Russia's Kaliningrad exclave and block NATO efforts to operate off of the coast of NATO Baltic states if under attack by Russia.

Our Marines, who station a brigade's worth of equipment in Norway, should familiarize themselves with Gotland (and other Baltic Sea islands).

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Thrilla in Manila

What the Hell is the Philippines government up to?

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday he would visit Russia and China this year to chart an independent foreign policy and "open alliances" with two powers with historic rivalries with the United States.

Duterte said the Philippines was at the "point of no return" in its relations with former colonial ruler the United States, so he wanted to strengthen ties with others, and picked two global powers with which Washington has been sparring with on the international political stage.

Does Duterte believe that while he is on a charm offensive with China and Russia (and an anti-charm offensive against America) that China might refrain from taking Filipino territory in the South China Sea in hope of scoring a big win by flipping the Philippines and stripping it from our alliance system?

Does Duterte believe flirting with the Russians and Chinese will leverage more American material help for his armed forces and more solid pledges to help the Philippines resist actual Chinese moves in the South China Sea?

Or is Duterte just a Filipino version of Trump who just enjoys saying outrageous things?

I'm not sure what we do with a problem like Rodrigo when the status of the Philippines is a crucial objective for who becomes the heavyweight champion of the western Pacific.

But hey, we'll always have our loudly proclaimed pivot to the Pacific to focus our diplomatic and military might here, right?

UPDATE: Seriously, what is going on with Duterte?

The firebrand Duterte pledged to honor a longstanding security treaty with the United States but said China opposed joint marine drills in the Philippines starting next week and there would be no more war games with Washington after that.

"I am serving notice now to the Americans, this will be the last military exercise," Duterte said during a visit to Vietnam. "Jointly, Philippines-U.S.: the last one."

Their president is aware that the security treaty involves America defending the Philippines, isn't he? This treaty isn't a favor to us, although it is of value.

We pulled our military out when asked after the Cold War ended, recall. We are not the threat.

Does Duterte think he has a commitment from China to leave the Philippines alone? If so, it is only to pick off another target which will only bring the Philippines higher on the Peking list in the long run.

So We're Still Asking Why Do They Hate Us, Eh?

Please stop blaming Americans for jihadi hatred.

Oh?

Clinton held an impromptu news conference in the morning in which she presented herself as a steady hand in the face of terror threats and Trump as a reckless leader who is already making the United States less safe.

“We’ve heard that from former CIA Director Michael Hayden, who made it a very clear point when he said Donald Trump is being used as a recruiting sergeant in and for the terrorists,” Clinton said.

“We know from the former head of the Counterterrorism Center, Mike Olsen, that the language that Mr. Trump has used is giving aid and comfort to our adversaries,” she added, using the constitutional definition of treason.

I'm so old that I remember when dissent against fighting the Iraq War (that's the Iraq War under Bush 43 and not the Iraq War 2.0 now being waged by Obama 44, of course) was considered the highest form of patriotism. But no matter. That was then, this is now, and the Democratic memory hole is located between.

But what I really want to know is why Hillary believes Moslems are uniquely prone to signing up for the suicide vests and stabbing and shooting sprees?

After all, critics of Trump say that Trump is literally if not figuratively a Nazi and so pretty much hates everyone.

Should we expect Mexicans to charge a southern wall with explosive belts? Are gay people going to shoot up NASCAR events? Are African Americans going to go on stabbing sprees in malls? Are women going to drive cars up and down sidewalks mowing people down? Are establishment Republicans going to pay people to do any of those things?

I mean, that's the natural result of hearing Trump's words isn't it? That kind of speech is the recruiting sergeant of violence, right?

Or is Hillary Clinton suggesting that Moslems are uniquely capable of hearing words they don't like and then deciding that slaughtering Infidels is the only possible retort?

Heck, are the "deplorables" among Trump's white supporters (as Hillary called them) likely to respond to her words and start killing sprees in response?

Good grief, people, what doesn't set off jihadis and their supporters? Stop asking "why do they hate us?" while looking for those among us as the answer.

Not Her Proudest Moment After All?

Given that Donald Trump's claim to the presidency rests on his business skills, I have to wonder why Hillary Clinton doesn't boast about her amazing record in business:

In 1978 and 1979, lawyer and First Lady of Arkansas Hillary Rodham engaged in a series of trades of cattle futures contracts. Her initial $1,000 investment had generated nearly $100,000 when she stopped trading after ten months. In 1994, after Hillary Rodham Clinton had become First Lady of the United States, the trading became the subject of considerable controversy regarding the likelihood of such a spectacular rate of return, possible conflict of interest, and allegations of disguised bribery,[1] allegations that Clinton strongly denied. Clinton was never charged with any wrongdoing.

Oh, sure, haters will say it was a corrupt arrangement.

But if Clinton's investment skills were that great, why isn't she boasting now when she needs it most?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Thus Always to Moderators

I feel sorry for Lester Holt, who is moderating tonight's debate between Trump and Clinton.

Unless Holt leaps from his chair during the debate and stabs Trump through the heart with his pen while yelling "Sic semper tyrannis!" the American Left will accuse Holt of being biased against Hillary.

Trump should probably worry more about what kind of software upgrades that Hillary has received over the last 11 months.

UPDATE: Well, cancel my sympathy. He'll still get invited to the right social events.

Holt didn't yell anything. But Holt clearly tilted to Hillary. Follow-ups to Trump: 6; to Clinton: 0. Tip to Instapundit.

And his choice of questions avoided sensitive topics for Hillary. Which is a source of bias less recognized, as is choice of stories to cover or ignore.

I can't believe these two highly flawed people are our choice this year.

Where Unicorns Go to Die

Oddly enough, the oft-repeated claim that the Israel-Palestinian conflict has to be solved first before any other Middle Eastern problem can be solved has been killed during the American administration most prone to believing that notion. And Israel has a better reputation among Arab states than we do.

Ponder the distinction between our "outreach" policies and Israeli resolve:

The reason that Bibi [Netanyahu of Israel] has been more successful than Obama is that Bibi understands how the world works better than Obama does. Bibi believes that in the harsh world of international politics, power wisely used matters more than good intentions eloquently phrased. Obama sought to build bridges to Sunni Muslims by making eloquent speeches in Cairo and Istanbul while ignoring the power political realities that Sunni states cared most about — like the rise of Iran and the Sunni cause in Syria. Bibi read the Sunnis more clearly than Obama did; the value of Israeli power to a Sunni world worried about Iran has led to something close to a revolution in Israel’s regional position. Again, Obama thought that reaching out to the Muslim Brotherhood (including its Palestinian affiliate, Hamas) would help American diplomacy and Middle Eastern democracy. Bibi understood that Sunni states like Egypt and its Saudi allies wanted Hamas crushed. Thus, as Obama tried to end the Gaza war on terms acceptable to Hamas and its allies, Bibi enjoyed the backing of both Egypt and Saudi Arabia in a successful effort to block Obama’s efforts. Israel’s neighbors may not like Bibi, but they believe they can count on him. They may think Obama has some beautiful ideas that he cares deeply about, but they think he’s erratic, unreliable, and doesn’t understand either them or their concerns.

We have far greater military power than Israel, but a larger number multiplied by a perceived American resolve factor that is close to zero weighs heavily in favor of Israel.

This doesn't mean that Israel's problems with the Palestinians are dead.

And it doesn't mean that America can't restore our position--just improving the resolve factor can change perceptions overnight.

But it is an interesting case study in the power of hope and change in a region that values power.

Do read it all.

Make America Grate Again

Hillary turns the volume to 11, and it just doesn't work.

Tip to Instapundit.

The anger subroutine in Hillarybot needs some work despite all the coding lines already written.

Semi-Real

Germany has rediscovered realpolitik:

The 2016 Weissbuch [defense white paper] represents a paradigm shift in two important respects. First, the latest Weissbuch acknowledges the possibility of Germany joining in coalitions of the willing in response to collective security crises. Indeed, the Weissbuch acknowledges an increasingly obvious reality: “ad hoc cooperation will continue to gain significance as an instrument of international crisis and conflict management.” What is perhaps most significant is the declaration that Germany will be willing to not simply participate in but also to initiate such coalitions. This is a major departure from the past, in which Germany consistently sought to exercise hard power solely through established multilateral institutions.

I'm all in favor of Germans understanding that military power to conquer and exterminate people is bad but that military power to resist enemies who want to conquer or exterminate people is good.

Pity Germany lacks a real military. Because without that, trying to act independently in support of national interests just angers enemies who have real militaries.

Is the German white paper a leading indicator of increased German military power or an exercise in studykrieg that hides the lack of action to create a real military?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Data Dump Cleanup

I try not to write more than 100 blog posts per month to avoid appearing, ah, compulsive. The month Russia first invaded Ukraine was my peak month and at some point I vowed to aim for no more than 100. I'm trying.

Anyway, tabs are building up in my browser and I have forward posted about as much as is healthy.

So here's a data dump of things blogworthy but with minimal commentary.

In the category of no good deed goes unpunished, how terrorist organizations are funded through charity.

Venezuela could implode from socialist mismanagement; and is so bad off that the oil-rich nation is importing American oil. I hope SOUTHCOM is busy with PowerPoint presentation preparations.

The European Union is Balkanizing into blocs, which will be fun when the EU goes from being a proto-empire to a full-blown multi-ethnic empire.

While North Korea and Iran have ties on missile development, it seems more like a seller-buyer relationship, respectively. Which is not comforting when you consider that North Korea is making progress on nuclear warheads for those missiles.

The United States military wasn't consulted on the big cash payments to Iran notwithstanding Iran's role in killing hundreds of American troops in Iraq during the Iraq War.

From the "Well, duh" files of anybody not associated with the Obama administration (outside of DOD), our cash payments to Iran will enable Iranian terrorism.

The Syrians have begun another offensive against Aleppo (which seems to be matching the Isonzo River front for futility and stalemate if not the carnage of Verdun). The ceasefire did nothing more than demoralize rebels who saw us try to sell them out in another counter-productive deal with Russia. I will say that the Assad/Russian effort to kill civilians seems more intense this time.

An article on how China's foreign policy is driven by domestic politics. I think this underestimates the linkage since the Chinese Communist Party thinks in terms of maintaining the primacy of the party, and so domestic and foreign policies are part of a continuum for achieving their primary objective.

The Army is hoping to get the National Guard more integrated with the active component. I believe that the tests will prove that reserve combat support and combat service support units can be readily integrated with the active component; but that combat integration is more difficult. I think studies will show that reservist combat companies can be integrated with relative ease; battalions can be with some work; but brigades will always require post-mobilization training to bring them up to active standards.

Pondering decentralizing Syria. Of course, pondering whether we should promote this outcome may be moot since it is already well on that path on the ground.

Western elites have more in common with each other than the grubby "deplorables" who share technical citizenship with their elites but who don't even know what Davos meetings do let alone aspire to be invited to them. When our leaders aren't at least partly motivated by "duty, honor, country," how do we defend ourselves against foes who actually believe in their countries?

Well, that cleaned things up nicely. And it is one post. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Perhaps We Need Eight Full Years Before the Healing Really Kicks In

I seriously thought that after more than 7 years of hope, change, and restoring our reputation in the world that we'd avoid charges like this:

The United States was slammed over its rights record Monday at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, with member nations criticizing the country for police violence and racial discrimination, the Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility and the continued use of the death penalty.

It's almost as if those people have forgotten that George W. Bush isn't president!

Of course, remember that the UN is the only place that select citizens of most thug governments in the UN can cast a meaningful vote.

Is This Navy Crisis an Army Opportunity?

The LCS is dead. Are LCS modules dead, too? Or is this an opportunity for building a modularized auxiliary cruiser for AFRICOM's land component?

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) was designed to be a replacement for the frigate--a cheaper and less capable ship useful for escort and low-threat presence missions--as well as being able to do other jobs like mineclearing.

And it was supposed to be able to operate closer to shore in "green" or even "brown" waters really close to shore, as opposed to deep "blue" waters. This despite its lack of survivability in construction standards.

It stood out as being a class capable of carrying out different missions depending on the type of shipping container-housed mission modules were installed.

The innovative ship design isn't working out:

The United States Navy has decided to come full circle and turn its innovative LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) into what its designers had tried to avoid; a replacement for the 71 Perry class frigates. This change has been obvious since early 2015 when the navy decided to officially call LCS vessels frigates. By mid-2016 the navy decided to go one step further and drop the use of modules in the LCS. Instead the navy would equip existing and future LCS ships like MMSC (Multi-Mission Surface Combatant) version of LCS Saudi Arabia had requested in late 2015.

Do read it all.

We have already witnessed a wave of engineering problems with the first ships:

Montgomery’s casualty — only days after the ship was commissioned — is the latest in a string of engineering failures in both classes of LCS this year. In late August, Independence-class LCS USS Coronado (LCS-4) suffered a casualty in route from Pearl Harbor to Singapore for a planned deployment. Days earlier, the Navy confirmed USS Freedom (LCS-2) would have to have a main propulsion diesel engine replaced after sea water flooded the lube oil system. In January, operator error caused a complex gearing system in Freedom-class LCS USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) to suffer extensive damage which resulted in the removal of the ship’s commander. The year before a software problem in USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) caused a similar casualty in its gearing system.

On top of this, the modules themselves aren't working out because of weight, integration, and cost problems.

This is a problem for me because the LCS modules in shipping containers concept is central to my notion for a modularized auxiliary cruiser that would use such modules mounted on container ships to create auxiliary cruisers.

Indeed, in an article published by Military Review (see "The AFRICOM Queen" on page 50), I expanded the concept to propose more of a power projection platform for small land forces plus air power (drones and helicopters) capable (among other missions) of moving good--if small--land power around the African continent to aid Africa Command's (AFRICOM) missions.

Does the demise of the LCS concept for the Navy invalidate my idea for the Army?

I don't think so.

One, weight isn't an issue on a container ship already designed to stack containers pretty high as opposed to the small LCS.

Two, many of the modules for the modularized auxiliary cruiser would be more akin to mobile homes as barracks or related modules that are already commonly used in the military and civilian worlds.

Three, integration shouldn't be as much as a problem since the Army is already used to lots of individual armed vehicles integrated without a hull surrounding them. Why would artillery (tube or rocket) or anti-aircraft systems housed in shipping containers bolted to a container ship deck be more of a problem than such systems mounted on wheels or tracks moving around a battlefield?

And four, the Navy has already done a lot of the research on the "failed" modules (like the Hellfire-equipped module). The Army could pick up where the Navy left off with a sincere thanks and a lot of money already spent, no?

There are other examples the Army could adapt.

There may already be opportunities to get the hulls cheaply.

Could the Army flesh out from the failed Navy effort to build the LCS and run with the modularity concept to field containerized mission modules that I would like to see to build modularized auxiliary cruisers to enable AFRICOM to project power around that large continent?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Operation Overlong Continues to Prepare the Perfect Killing Blow

It was 30 months between Pearl Harbor and the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, during World War II, in the heart of Nazi Germany's Fortress Europe. It has been 27 months since ISIL captured Mosul from Iraq.

Granted, we've been supporting offensives elsewhere in Iraq during the last year despite leaving the ultimate objective in Iraq in enemy hands.

But we had also been on the offensive elsewhere in Europe before going after the ultimate goal of landing in France to defeat the Nazi army.

I'm not sure what to make of this:

When Kurdish Peshmerga, Iraqi army, and U.S.-led coalition forces move to liberate nearby Mosul, possibly within two weeks, Islamic State fighters will not abandon their prized city and quietly slink away as many in Washington have predicted, according to the Peshmerga’s top military officer.

“They will fight to the death,” said Gen. Jamal Mohammad Omer, Kurdish military chief of staff, in an exclusive interview with Defense One in his office Thursday.

One, will ISIL really fight to the death for Mosul? Since the end of last year, I've been wondering why the jihadis weren't fighting to the death to defend their caliphate.

Sure, the jihadis could rediscover the "we love death" attitude that has compensated for their lack of numbers, training, and equipment. When Iranian morale collapsed in 1988 during their war with Iraq, enough Iranians discovered the will to fight when Iraq made thrusts into Iran to convince Iraq to end that war while they held the edge rather than push for a bigger victory.

So ISIL could rediscover the will to fight.

But what are the reasons for this? Because Mosul is their prize city? If it is so prized, why isn't Mosul the de facto capital of their caliphate rather than Raqqa, Syria?

And there have been reports that ISIL has executed their fighters for running from other cities that were supposed to be held to the death. What makes ISIL's purported decision to fight to the death for Mosul more real than past orders to do so?

Now, let me be so bold as to suggest that the Iraqi Kurds have a motivation to say the fight will be hard. The harder taking Mosul appears to be, the more assistance the Kurds can get from America and other coalition partners.

With the caveat that morale can change during a campaign, I still expect the offensive to go more rapidly and easily than the Kurds say it will be.

Although it is also possible that ISIL just wants to increase our body count to make us pay a price for defeating them.

That said, the second point I want to make is that many in our capital think the offensive will be fairly easy? Is that the position of our military people in charge of facilitating the Iraqi offensive?

If that is so, why has Mosul been occupied by ISIL for 27 months now? Why haven't we helped organize a much more rapid counter-offensive to take Mosul from badly outnumbered defenders by now?

At the rate we are going, ISIL will be able to boast that their caliphate held out longer against the might of America than Nazi Germany managed!

Frogfishing

The Hillary Clinton campaign was catfished--by a frog:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has published a parody of Vox, the liberal news site for young adults. Headline: “Donald Trump, Pepe the Frog, and White Supremacists: An Explainer.” Subheadline: “That cartoon frog is more sinister than you might realize.”

The campaign fell for a complete joke that a cartoon frog had been hijacked by white supremisists.

Doesn't get email security. Doesn't get Internet jokes.

This is horrifying. What can you do? Don't vote for Hillary.

To be fair, the parody Clinton site is as valuable as the actual Vox.

UPDATE: More revelations about Clinton's email. Had a Republican administration done this, there would have been prosecutions by now. But our FBI just pretended to investigate this issue.

What the Hell? If we are going to be a banana republic and not a nation of rule of law, we might as well have a banana republic-quality leader. We'll have that regardless of who wins, eh?

Webocide?

Is somebody trying to figure out how to take down the Internet?

Over the past year or two, someone has been probing the defenses of the companies that run critical pieces of the Internet. These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well these companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down. We don't know who is doing this, but it feels like a large nation state. China or Russia would be my first guesses.

That "critical pieces" of the Internet is important, I think.

We like to think of the Internet as a diffused network designed to provide communications despite the damage of a nuclear attack.

But that Internet doesn't exist anymore. One, surviving for email doesn't begin to cover what the Internet is now with its massive bandwidth and speed appetite.

And for commerce, efficiency is prized more than redundancy. So rather than being diffused with easy ways to rout around blockage, there are now "critical pieces" of the Internet that make the Internet more vulnerable.

In 2007, I wondered if the potential for cyber-attacks had not reached the level that high explosives could achieve, so that question was whether the Internet could be physically attacked and taken down given that just 13 critical locations needed to be destroyed.

Later, the answer seemed to be no, but it could be damaged. But some of the assumptions seemed questionable.

And certainly, specific geographic locations at the ends of single points of Internet access can be knocked down.

More recently, I posted about Russian efforts to reach the underwater cables that account for 99% of transoceanic digital traffic.

Nine years after I first asked the question, is redundancy even less important than efficiency? How many critical pieces of the Internet are there?

And are cyber-tools so advanced that physically attacking the web isn't a potentially easier method of taking down the Internet?

Friday, September 23, 2016

They Do it for the Love They Dare Not Blame

The Saddam-era Iraqi press at least had the excuse of being threatened with their death or the death of their families for being sycophantic supporters of his regime. What's our media's excuse?

This complaint about Trump's dislike of the media is rich, coming from CNN (quoting Breitbart):

Sporting a look of concern, [Ashleigh] Banfield gazed into the camera and asked plaintively, “Why so much cheering?” She then said of the excited Trump supporters heard on the video clip, “Do people not realize, or are they forgetting the other critical element of it, either you have a media, or you have what I witnessed in Saddam’s era, and the Libyan’s era, where you never got to actually call yourself press or you’d go to jail for it.”

Banfield essentially insisted that if you criticize a biased press you are necessarily imposing a Saddam-like tyranny on America.

That's a shocking lack of nuance between questioning the even-handedness of our media and imposing a dictatorial regime with controlled media, isn't it? Sheesh, I thought I was bad at nuance!

But at least the Iraqi media under Saddam was both paid by the regime and under threat from the government's security apparatus.

What the excuse of our "independent" media that loves and excuses Democratic-run government (or those who want to run the government) with a devotion that no compliant Iraqi journalist could match:



Granted, now our media usually doesn't face the threat of going to jail if they get out of line from the left-leaning narrative. They just don't get to go to the right cocktail parties and other social events if they dissent.

Oh, and Ed Driscoll comments about that resisting government tyranny:

Gee, you mean the Saddam Hussein that former CNN president Eason Jordan admitted in April of 2003 that CNN was in bed with so that it could have “Live from Baghdad” appear on its Chyrons? The Saddam Hussein who when asked in 2000 if he could be described as evil, CNN founder Ted Turner replied, “I’m not sure that I know enough to be able to answer that question,” as quoted by Ken Auletta of the New Yorker?

And since when did CNN ever worry about fighting tyranny in the world, let alone America? From Saddam to Castro to Kim Jong Il, there aren’t many dictators whom CNN hasn’t gushed over.

Well, not many anti-American dictators, to be more precise.

So, do we have a media under the Banfield standard?

Welcome Mat

We would be wise to track prevailing winds in the region of this chemical plant in Iraq:

[Colonel Hamish de Bretton Gordon, former commanding officer of the UK Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regiment (CBRN)] told the Telegraph that Peshmerga commanders have intelligence that Isil has rigged a chemical plant at Misraq with explosives. The plant lies just 25 miles south of Mosul and six miles north of where the US troops are at Qayyarah.

An explosion at Misraq, which holds thousands of tonnes of sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide, could be catastrophic.

The good news (for friendly forces if not local residents, of course) is we could avoid such a threat by going around the plant until the cloud dissipates without wrecking the offensive to liberate Mosul.

I don't know how we'd continue the offensive if ISIL manages to set off a "water bomb."

Reunited (and it Feels So Good)

What is the limit of Russia's "reunification" efforts?

I was a fool to ever leave your side
Me minus you is such a lonely ride
The breakup we had has made me lonesome and sad
I realize I love you 'cause I want you bad, hey, hey

Despite giving Crimea to Ukraine three times, Putin says that Russia didn't annex Crimea. Oh, no! Crimea and Russia were "reunited." 

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow did not annex the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014 but claimed it was "reunified" with Russia.

Yeah. The Russians really just piss me off sometimes.

And it feels so good! Who else might be reunited with poor lonely Russia because Putin decides he wants them bad?

There's the rest of Ukraine. All the pieces of Moldova. Estonia. Latvia. Lithuania. Belarus. Finland (from the Russian Empire days). Kazakhstan. Turkmenistan. Uzbekistan. Tajikistan. Kyrgyzstan. Armenia. Azerbaijan. The rest of Georgia.

Heck, toss in Alaska under Putin's logic. Or California.

A Bridge to Nowhere--Because Kim Jong-Un Isn't Stupid

A bridge that would link China to Pyongyang along a major highway to Pyongyang remains incomplete:

Towering above the murky waters, the New Yalu River Bridge was supposed to symbolize a new era in relations between China and North Korea, helping bring investment to landmark free trade zones jointly run with the impoverished and isolated state.

Costing 2.2 billion yuan ($330 million) and partially completed last year, the dual-carriageway bridge today sits abandoned, the impressive border post on the Chinese side deserted and locked, not a soul to be seen.

On the North Korean side the unfinished bridge ends abruptly in a field, with little sign of infrastructure work happening.

North Korea would be stupid to finish that bridge given that the North Korean army is mostly deployed along the DMZ with South Korea and the bridge would be a vital route into North Korea for an invading Chinese army:

So if there is a dispute among the powers about who should administer a collapsed North Korean state, China is making sure that the main highway into North Korea allows the Chinese army to rapidly drive south to Pyongyang.

And from there, the Chinese army can fan out to other parts of North Korea to various provincial capitals.

Not finishing that bridge is a feature and not a bug of the North Korean regime.