Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Prom is Over, and the Real World Beckons

The US ambassador to the UN wonders why the Palestinians were elected Queen of the Victim Prom (as I've termed their status) to monopolize the body's time on the Palestine issue while other worse problems are allowed to fester.

Haley verbalized the frustration, but it is widespread:

Since 2005 the Arab donors have become increasingly disenchanted with the Palestinians. Even by Middle Eastern standards the corruption, ineffective government, ingratitude and double dealing of the Palestinians had become intolerable. ... It used to be said that the Palestinian situation could not get worse but Palestinian leaders regularly defied that prediction and found a way to make things worse in ways no one expected.

Yes, the Palestinians continue to make things worse, refusing to accept anything short of the destruction of Israel.

The prom is over. The magical moment has ended. Now the Palestinians need to enter the real world, as all high school queens find they must do.

People that need the help of the UN outside of the Middle East might like a fraction of the time that the Palestinians got in the world body.

Tip to Victory Girls via Instapundit.

Iraq Could Use the Wisdom of America's Founders

Are the Iraqis determined to undermine their victory over ISIL?


After just a few hours moving on foot across farmland and orchards to a cluster of modest houses, [First Lieutenant] Hagerty realized the families he thought were returnees to the area were in fact newly displaced. Their homes in Qaim had been confiscated by the government-affiliated Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, made up mainly of Shiite paramilitary fighters backed by Iran.

"Our end goal is a stable Iraq, right?" Hagerty said later, back at the base. "But when you see stuff like that, it makes you wonder if they are ever going to be able to do it themselves."

Seizing homes doesn't win hearts and minds.

This bit of advice from our Constitution might be of help to the Iraqis:

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Never believe the largely Iran-backed militias want the Iraqi government to be successful. Or want to act under rule of law.

Last on the List

If any American unified command is lower on the priority list for high end military assets than SOUTHCOM, I don't know what it is.

SOUTHCOM want help:

The Southern Command’s top officer told the Senate Armed Services Committee he is receiving only a fraction of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance resources he needs to stem the flow of illegal rugs, people and money into the United States.

Adm. Kurt Tidd, testifying Thursday, added that lack of ISR translates into interdicting only 25 percent of the known movement of narcotics.

Admiral Tidd needs The SOUTHCOM Queen for his ISR and interdiction needs.

Because his problem isn't going to change and the response for assets isn't likely to change, either.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

JDAMs are the Ultimate Cyber Weapon

Russia carried out the most destructive cyber-attack in history. Explain to me again why Ukraine isn't justified in blowing things up in Russia.

So we have a record, it seems:

The Office of the [White House] Press Secretary's statement echoes the conclusion of British intelligence, as the U.K. earlier on Thursday declared Russia responsible for the attack, the BBC reported. The 2017 attack was known as "NotPetya" and targeted companies conducting business with Ukraine, a country with which Russia has been in conflict since its 2014 annexation of Crimea.

"In June 2017, the Russian military launched the most destructive and costly cyber attack in history," the White House statement reads.

The statement goes on to say that the economic damage—which resulted from attacks on shipping giant FedEx, drugmaker Merck, and others—has reached billions of dollars. The White House maintains the attack was part of the Kremlin’s campaign against Ukraine.

Let me just say as I long have argued that while cyber warfare takes place on the Internet, until virtual Artificial Intelligence lives online, the equipment and people waging it live in the real world:

It is necessary to prepare for war in cyber-space with sophisticated cyber-weapons as have been deployed against Iran. But in the rush to fight in cyber-space, don't forget that a physical smart bomb can simply blow up a room full of enemy cyber-warriors if they have an office park and we know the address.

Isn't Ukraine fully justified in attacking Russia with actual explosives that cause the same level of damage?

(I'll say that is one objection I have to past cyber war against Iran. Aren't they justified in using more kinetic means to counter-attack? Cyber isn't a substitute for war. It is one way of waging it and we shouldn't pretend it isn't really war.)

And we should remember that our enemies can do the same thing.

Given that conventional forces are multi-purpose forces, it could be that strategic offensive cyber warfare is a waste of resources.

And really, just what did the record-setting Russian attack actually achieve in their war against Ukraine other than setting a record for such attacks?

The Lone Ranger?

Zumwalt will get long-range anti-ship missiles. Be still my heart.

I won't say this is a bad development:

The [Navy's] 2019 budget request includes a request for $89.7 million to transform its Zumwalt-class destroyers by integrating Raytheon’s long-range SM-6 missile, which can dual hat as both an anti-air and anti-surface missile, as well as its Maritime Strike variant of the Tomahawk missile.

Converting DDG-1000 into a hunter-killer is a win for the surface warfare community’s years-long drive to beef up the force’s offensive capabilities. It also answers the bell for U.S. Pacific Command, which has been pushing for the Navy to add longer range weapons to offset the increasing threat from Chinese long-range missile technology.

I noted this plan when it came out in December. I was happy enough that the land attack mission fantasy had been abandoned. But there was still a problem:

Of course, the ship is too stealthy to risk sailing with other ships and being detected because of them; yet too weakly armed and equipped to defend itself sailing alone if detected.

Remember, the ship is stealthy and not invisible.

Add to the problem of thinking the ship is a savior for surface warfare is that the ship class is just 3. So assume only one is deployed at any one time during peacetime--2 if the Navy really push the ships for a while without major maintenance or upgrades.

So I still say that Zumwalt isn't a combat vessel. It is a test platform best suited to hosting new weapons and systems before spinning them out to the rest of the fleet or to a new class of ships.

That new ship will be affordable because all of the development costs will be written off as part of the "cancelled"  DDG-1000 class (and operating costs of a commissioned warship):

By canceling the ship class, it looks fiscally responsible but it really isn't. It's just accounting, since the next ship built using the exact same technology that by the rules has to be counted against the cost of the ship the research was done for will use Zumwalt technology that is now already paid for. Voila! A cheaper warship.

Oh sure, if there is a war it will be sent into combat. But that isn't the primary mission.

Air Power Theory

Let me describe my simplistic model of air power in support of ground power.

My view is that ground power is the vital factor and that air power is a force multiplier. I argue this based on the simple observation that ground forces have controlled territory for many millennia before air power was invented.

But air power can make ground power far more effective. Lord knows I'm grateful that American ground forces haven't had to operate under enemy air power or without ample air support since about 1944.

So let me look at four scenarios of friendly power, each assuming that in a mathematical equation, each factor can range from 0 (actually making the situation worse) to perfection of 10. A rating of 1 would basically be neutral, neither helping or hurting as a factor.

The best is when American air power and ground power have factors of 10. They are each the best on the planet and capable of working with each other. As a multiple we have 10 X 10 = 100. Unless the enemy also has the best of each (and more of each as well as better leadership and strategy), things should look pretty good for America in battle.

The worst is when both factors are zero. That is pretty much automatic defeat as the end result of 0 X 0 = 0. But we can still get zero as the result if only one factor is 0.

What if air power is 10 and ground power is 0? Obviously, the ground power makes the effects of air power worse than if it could operate on its own. The ground power is unable to accurately call in air strikes--calling it in on civilian targets or on itself; is unable to exploit air power to go on offense; is unable to even hold its ground long enough for air power to ride to the rescue on defense; is unable to exploit aerial recon; and in fact cannot even protect the air bases that house the air power. The end result is that even excellent air power is unable to control the ground in the absence of ground power.

Even if you simply told the ground power not to get involved in the fight and leave it to the air power, it still would not work because the ground power simply sitting on defense would eventually be defeated and the air bases would eventually be captured. I don't believe an independent air campaign could defeat enemy ground power before friendly ground power collapses.

The only possible way this might work is if the ground factor is truly 1 because the air campaign is conducted from an absolutely secure sanctuary. Air power enthusiasts may believe this scenario subset is possible, but I have never seen an example of this pure air power approach to victory.

Finally, what if air power is 0 and ground power is 10? This scenario makes for a zero result because the air power is counter-productive. Even excellent troops find that horrible air power can't find enemies, can't hit enemies accurately and in a timely fashion, does more damage to friendly troops and civilians, and soaks up resources that would have been better spent on the ground forces.

Yet even in this scenario, if the air power is grounded so it can't do a lot of harm, you at least get the air power closer to 1 as a factor (but not all the way to 1 because resources are still uselessly spent on the air power). But the ground power can be close to 10.

If the enemy doesn't have air power and even a slightly worse ground power; or has a combination of relatively poor quality air power and poor quality ground power; your ground power alone could win the war.

And again, I say this because ground power alone has won wars. There is a long history of that.

Is that it? Mind you, I'm fully on board the possibility that no army alone no matter how excellent (or with poor air power in support) can win a war against enemy ground power with excellent air power supporting it. The math allows this.

And indeed, it seems like the Russians simply want to nullify Western air power with ground-based air defenses to make air power a non-factor for both sides; but actually get an edge over NATO by expending resources not on nullified air power but on superior artillery and targeting capabilities to make their ground factor superior.

Anyway, that's my simplified model of air power.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Last Resort

While there is no indication that Venezuela is massing troops on their border, Guyana is worried about Maduro's intentions:

The Guyana government has been paying close attention to options available to Venezuela, following United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Antonio Guterres’ referral of the border controversy to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), a senior government official said.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon told Demerara Waves Online News that reports that Venezuela had been planning an incursion into Guyana’s territory was being factored into government’s analysis. “Of course, as a nation, we have to take all of these things into consideration. We cannot disregard any reports like that,” said Harmon, a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the Guyana Defence Force and current member of the Defence Board.

That author cites Stratfor analysis (huh, I missed that) for why Guyana might be a target.

With Venezuela accelerating toward starvation and chaos, my longstanding worry that Venezuela's thug socialist rulers might think a short and glorious foreign war might rally the people around them has heightened.

But as I noted in this post about potential targets, going after Guyana automatically gets the Organization of American States to rally around Guyana against Venezuela.

No, a safer target for Maduro in consideration of South American sensitivities is the distant Netherlands with enticingly close island possessions.

We've Been Down This Road Before

The Long World Journal published a map of Taliban control and influence. Sorry, you'll have to jump over to look at it because I can't save the map to reproduce it. It provides a benchmark to judge results of future campaigns with a more active American-led coalition effort to support the Afghan security forces.

One thing I'll say is that the old focus on controlling the ring road would be a good first stage for a renewed effort to roll back Taliban control.

As I wrote 7 years ago in regard to the map above about our plans:

The green and yellow shaded areas are the overall focus while the yellow in the south is our main effort right now.

I outlined this broad picture back in January 2009 when I guessed what we would do. Close to a year ago, I noted that the ring road that provided the basis of my guess was indeed the geographic feature of focus for the surge. I also think that just in terms of numbers, we have enough to win.

But there is a reason we are saying we need a regional effort to win. A map of just Afghanistan fails to note the Pakistan sanctuaries that Pakistan policy support. So we need to operate inside Pakistan:

Yet even major success in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban and other "international" jihadis runs into the jihadi safety net that sanctuary in Pakistan provides.

In light of the idea of options in the broader South Asia region, I will revive my suggestion that our efforts to win should include a major effort to create friendly forces on the ground inside Pakistan the way we have done inside Syria[.]

Add to another effort inside Afghanistan--this time relying on the Afghan security forces built (and which we are still building) since the Obama era surges that ultimately put 100,000 American troops on the ground--an effort inside Pakistan to make it a regional effort, and we'll have a better chance to make enduring gains with a reduced presence.

From the "Well, Duh" Files

Iran will continue to defend the Iran nuclear deal:

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday it would adhere to commitments under its 2015 international nuclear agreement, signed with six world powers to limit its disputed nuclear program.

The Iranian nutballs like the deal because it gives them what they want: nukes and money.

Really, one reason Iran wanted nukes was to escape sanctions and isolation. With nukes, Iran could hope that the prestige and threat of owning nukes would erode the willingness of states to sanction and shun Iran, thus providing money.

The Iran deal's only significance is that it reversed the order of success. Iran got the pallets of cash and abandonment of sanctions to get money first, with the nukes coming later.

The nukes are achieved under cover of the deal that should prevent anybody from attacking them while the Iranians continue research away from prying eyes restricted to safe sites under the deal (and let's not even begin to talk about the North Korea route for Iran to buy nukes with the money the deal provided Iran).

So, duh, of course Iran defends the deal. They're Shia Islamist nutballs--not stupid.

The Forever War

NATO will participate in training Iraqi security forces. Good. Which brings me to an annoying comment that never seems to die.

This is good:

NATO's chief says the alliance plans to expand its military training mission in Iraq and help the conflict-ravaged country develop new academies and schools for its armed forces.

Keep in mind that there will be idiots who will say, "We've been training Iraqis since 2003! How long does it take?! This is all futile. Get out now!"

The short answer to how long does it take is "forever."

Training an army is not like building a widget and putting it on a shelf until you need it.

An army is an organic changing thing with people coming and going, and people losing skills as time goes on.

Training an army is an ongoing process that trains new people, keeps the people in the army once trained current on their skills, and removes those who prove unable to meet standards of honesty and competence.

Once you stop training an army, it starts to deteriorate.

And worse, it takes time for people not involved with the military to realize they no longer have a competent military.

Even before ISIL grabbed territory in Iraq, I called for re-engaging in Iraq to reverse al Qaeda momentum. But I did not know how far Iraqi training had fallen in our absence.

Even when jihadis started taking ground I expressed confidence that the Iraqis were capable--if supported--of liberating the territory. I was wrong. It took a bit before I even suspected the decline (by mentioning the need for training in addition to providing other help) because of the failure to drive the jihadis out of Ramadi and Fallujah.

When America left Iraq at the end of 2011, we had trained a competent Iraqi military. And in just 2 years without our oversight it deteriorated enough to allow jihadis to rise up in Anbar to take territory from the Iraqi government in January 2014; and less than 6 months later to seize Mosul and the north from the Iraqi security forces that simply collapsed with the lack of competent leadership.

So yeah, it takes forever to train a good--or even just adequate--military.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Weekend Data Dump

The worst-case climate models predicting climate in 2100 assume that coal use will rise to 94% of energy generation from the 2015 level of 28%? Ah, science.

Is all the attention that the sister of Kim Jong-Un is getting in South Korea during the Winter Olympics an effort to raise her profile within North Korea in order for China to stage a coup in North Korea with her as the actual or figurehead leader who would de-nuclearize North Korea? I find it hard to believe this fawning media coverage (She is "an unimpeachable representative" of the murderous Kim regime? Really?) is just an example of appeasement in the face of danger. But I quite literally know nothing about the woman, so consider this sheer speculation, of course.

A Russian AN-148 went down with the loss of all 71 crew and passengers. Crap. Look, I worry about Russia's pointless hostility that is prompting NATO preparations when if left alone would have been happy to not think about Russia at all. But I certainly don't wish them ill as a general rule. This is tragic.

So the European Union is using banking regulations to destroy the authority of member nations in favor of a United States of Europe? Don't be silly. The Euros want a multiethnic empire of centrally run provinces--not a federal system as that name implies. And to be fair, everything the proto-imperial European Union does--including common defense plans--is intended to destroy the authority of the member nations and hasten the day when the "proto" prefix can be junked. As I've said, I'm sure elderly Soviets are amazed that complex EU cheese regulations have proved more effective than Soviet tanks and secret police were in holding the Soviet empire together.

The problems with the new German power projection ship Baden-Wurttemberg has a silver lining if the Germans just break up the ship for parts and resume building smaller warships and submarines to contest the Baltic and North Seas. The return of open Russian aggressiveness means that the Germans waste money on power projection assets. Take the problems of their large new ship as a lucky sign from the gods that the German navy is on the wrong path. And honestly, even if there aren't higher priorities today, does anybody really believe the Germans are willing to project military power far from Germany? My skepticism on this issue is hopefully clear in this post. And I was right to be skeptical back when this ambition was announced.

Twenty-four thousand troops and police won't "resolve" the Ukraine crisis unless by "resolve" you mean freeze the conflict and let Russia get away with their aggression in Crimea and the Donbas while avoiding paying the price to hold their gains by getting America to pay much of the cost for a UN peacekeeping force. Seriously, the UN force will look the other way to violations of the force that is most threatening to the UN force. Will that be Ukraine or Russia which has a UN Security Council veto to deflect punishment?

Russians in the Far East are defacing Putin billboards and local police have been ordered to protect them on their own time. So this is that big of a problem or is Putin that thin-skinned? If the former, Russia had best focus more on holding the Far East than grabbing bits of former empire in Europe.

So what have I learned this week from our media? One, like every week, I learned that Trump is a danger to freedom and liberty in America who must be opposed at all costs. And two, based on the fawning coverage of Rocket Man's sister at the Winter Olympics, that a repressive, murdering government that allows no freedom or liberty is kind of cool and to be admired and celebrated!

I wondered if the estimate of 60,000 (mostly) Taliban fighters in Afghanistan was the full-time count or combination of full- and part-timers. The latter made more sense to me given that I understood insurgencies usually have 10% of fighters full time fighters. And 60,000 full-timers should be the tip of 600,000 and so clearly gaining ground. Strategypage writes that the 60,000 figure is indeed total of full- and part-timers.

France: "President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that 'France will strike' if chemical weapons are used against civilians in the Syrian conflict in violation of international treaties[.]" But his foreign minister adds the sophisticated European nuance: "'(The president) confirmed that he would proceed to military strikes against regime installations if there was a new use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad's forces when these attacks are lethal and regime's responsibility is proven,' Jean-Yves Le Drian told lawmakers." So as far as France is concerned, Assad is fine if he just cripples civilian victims. Ah, nuance!

261 Abrams tanks will get active protection systems in the 2019 budget to equip 3 armored brigades.

I get the feeling the Chinese enjoyed insulting the British navy in a little revenge for the 19th century. To be fair, a single British warship on a FONOP in the South China Sea is a far cry from British naval dominance that the Chinese consider a humiliation.

It would be nice if the Iranian mullah regime is doomed. And nicer if that doom happens before Iran's mullahs get nukes. But we lost that bet with North Korea.

Evil clown Maduro has driven Venezuela into misery and poverty. His thug regime continues efforts to paint Colombia as a military threat to Venezuela. As a foreign devil to rally Venezuelans around Maduro's vile, inept rule, the Colombians are a poor target as I noted in this older post trying to identify a proper target. The Dutch should really check their ammo and confer with their NATO ally America.

Damn! They're on to us. But pray tell, just what would our lizard spies find if Iran has no nuclear weapons programs?

Those Russian mercenaries we killed in large numbers in eastern Syria were on a mission paid for by Assad and not a part of the Russian expeditionary force. Russia's interest in Syria does not extend to the east, as I've noted, which explains the lack of Russian reaction to the loss. Russia really just cares about the core west of Syria where Russia's air and naval bases are. I have to wonder if Assad sent those Russian mercenaries east to die in order to try to draw Russia into the fight to secure the east. This seems like an appropriate place to note my collection of posts on privatized warfare (only 99 cents!).

I don't understand why so many people are "depressed and miserable." Opportunities are here for everyone--which explains why so many people try to immigrate here even illegally just to have a chance at the bottom rung of the ladder. I remain happy. As I was during the Obama and Bush 43 years, and most of the years before that (hey, even in a good life there are stumbles and road blocks to recover from or overcome). Cherish your lives, people. We have much to be grateful for in America, every day.

Colluding with hate.

A Security Force Assistance Brigade goes to war in Afghanistan. This new type of unit designed to advise and assist local forces frees up special forces who traditionally did this mission so they can focus on direct action missions; and prevents combat brigades from being torn apart to carry out the mission, leaving these units available for large-scale combat missions.

Wow, I thought "affirmative consent" referred to the female giving consent to a male, and not the agents of the state ordering consent by the female. My daughter has permission to knee the boy in the groin if he doesn't take "no" for an answer the first time.

Secretary of Defense Mattis is adamant that NATO commitments to spend on defense are in no way lessened by carrying out alliance activities as Germany and Italy farcically argue. I've noted the idiocy of the position advanced by the German secretary of defense who seems to have no clue about her job description. I hope Mattis brought his clue bat to Europe.

These authors argue that it is wrong to say that North Korea represents an intelligence failure, given that intelligence accurately told us that North Korea is pursuing nuclear missiles. I think this is a fair defense. It is too much to expect that much precision. I think the real problem is the stupid "imminent" standard that the anti-Iraq War side popularized to argue against stopping a thug ruler who wants WMD.

Trying to win the war might be the novel means of ending the very long war in Afghanistan.

Sure, Iran is being quieter in reaction to the uncertainty of what Trump might do. But this is no American victory. This is just Iran's mullahs trying to avoid making eye contact with Trump before Iran can get nuclear weapons under the protective shield of the horrible nuclear deal.

Russia is building air and missile defenses to protect their occupied Crimea base region as well as the new Kerch Strait bridge that links Crimea to Russian territory to the east. The bridge is a good news/bad news development. The good news is that it means Russia doesn't feel the need to escalate the war in the Donbas to gain a land bridge to Crimea through Ukrainian territory. The bad news is that a bridge will ease Russia's ability to deploy and supply an invasion force that could use Crimea as a jumping off point for ground, seaborne, aerial, and airmobile/airborne attacks directly into southern Ukraine.

Fake news and collusion. As I noted before, I was dumbfounded by the apparently widespread "expert" support for the Iran nuclear deal that, as it turns out, was AstroTurfed by the administration. Pity the anti "fake news" campaign wasn't around back then to counter the successful propaganda effort. Although I contend the best remedy to fake news--which has always been around--is not to look to an authority with its own biases to tell you what is real, but to have the education and experience to detect it yourself.

Pakistan clearly sides with Saudi Arabia rather than Iran in that contest for allies.

America and Turkey agree to mend their divisions over Syrian Kurds.

Good Lord, the UN itself is one reason some countries are sh*tholes. Sixty thousand rapes over a decade by their staffs? Tip to Instapundit.

An old post on predicting the future with computer programs. I forgot about this. I really would love to see the products from that.

An Air Force microaggression? More like a Small Diameter Aggression.

Real resistance against real tyranny: the hijab protest in Iran continues.Women have been fined, jailed and even lashed; although Tehran police announced they'd no longer arrest women--I assume to avoid bad images going out to the world. The punishments will resume when the world loses interest. And I assume that outside of Tehran the punishments are still on.

Has Turkey gone rogue under the Islamist Erdogan? I wouldn't give up on Turkey. But it was clearly foolish for the American government to have believed that Turkey could be a model for the Arab Moslem world in governance by "tame" Islamists. Islamists are all bad, varying only in how bad and how immediately bad they are.

No, the 1968 Pueblo crisis did not nearly spark a nuclear war. Why shouldn't people today think that was true when back then America didn't even think of using nukes? I've noticed that today a lot of people think that  "nuclear war"--which they imagine as a Cold War-level thing of thousands of warheads flying both ways--is a real possibility under Trump. Although if the you worry about North Korea launching any nukes at all, I'll ask what the Hell happened to the whole "imminent" standard for stopping a thug regime pursuing nukes before it gets nukes?

Back when I worked for the state legislature, I would get the call to write the resolutions defending Selfridge Air National Guard Base (and the last one I did was expanded to defend what I think were every federal defense installation in Michigan!) during Defense Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) rounds. If Selfridge gets the F-35, the next staff that has to write that resolution will have a much easier job, I dare say. Oddly, I can't find it on the legislative web site. Which causes me to doubt how reliable the search function is (or my memory of when I wrote it. I clearly remember sitting in the Senate committee hearing on this in case I had to amend it. Odd, that is).

As much as Turkey's operations in northwest Syria that challenge the Kurds are a problem for America, don't forget Turkey causes friction with Iran and Russia (and Syria) too.

Grant me that this is funny. In retrospect it fully makes sense for the Russians to back a man who honeymooned in the USSR, no? Really, I called it before the election and since--Russia wasn't trying to get Trump elected. His victory undermined part of Russia's objectives. Sadly, Democrats have done the heavy lifting for the Russians since the election to undermine our election process and domestic politics. Russia is acting like America's enemy--not the enemy of just the Democrats. Although I fully welcome their late addition to the anti-Russian coalition.

Well yeah, America remaining in Iraq to help Iraq hold the gains of defeating ISIL is necessary. See 2011 to 2014 if you are unclear.

And Iranian ATR-72 went down killing all 66 aboard. As with the Russian plane, my sympathies go out to the Iranian people notwithstanding opposition to their government. I certainly do have hope that a post-mullah government will be more friendly and reflect what opinion polling suggests is a sizable number of people with a favorable view of America.

Will China Fight to Fence Off the South China Sea?

China is building island military bases in the South China Sea (sometimes literally building the islands). We say it won't affect our fleet's actions. That applies to peacetime, of course.

China keeps building up its ability to assert control over the South China Sea, which China claims is almost entirely their territorial waters. A Philippines paper publicized the Chinese island-building:

On February 5, the Philippine Daily Inquirer published a series of aerial photos of China’s seven outposts in the Spratly Islands. The photos, most of which were taken in late 2017 by an unspecified patrol aircraft from an altitude of 5,000 feet (1,500 meters), offered glimpses of Beijing’s military facilities at a level of detail rarely seen before. They also reinforced a message that AMTI delivered most recently in December: these artificial islands now host substantial, largely complete, air and naval bases, and new construction continues apace despite diplomatic overtures between China and its fellow claimants.

Our Navy says that this won't affect us:

A Navy officer aboard a mammoth U.S. aircraft carrier brimming with F18 fighter jets said Saturday that American forces would continue to patrol the South China Sea wherever “international law allows us” when asked if China’s newly built islands could restrain them in the disputed waters. ...

“International law allows us to operate here, allows us to fly here, allows us to train here, allows us to sail here, and that’s what we’re doing and we’re going to continue to do that,” Hawkins said on the flight deck of the 95,000-ton warship, which anchored at Manila Bay while on a Philippine visit.

That's peacetime access, of course. Assuming one of our ships doesn't ram an island, China can't stop us from sailing there at will no matter how many island bases China builds and no matter how loudly they complain.

Now if China shoots at our ships or sends their maritime militia to ram and foul our ships sailing in the South China Sea, that's another matter altogether.

Then we'll have to neutralize or capture those island bases.

Allow Me to Apply the Victory Clue Bat


Since the end of World War II, the U.S. armed forces have proved largely inept at exercising military power as an instrument of national policy. Retired Navy Admiral James Stavridis, in his review of Harlan Ullman’s book Anatomy of Failure: Why America Loses Every War It Starts (Naval Institute Press, 2017), concedes that “we have become less successful over the past decades, beginning with the failures in Vietnam and continuing to the frustrations today in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

We have done poorly since World War II? And part of that allegedly poor record is because we "start" wars?

Let's see, this would include the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War, the Libya War, and Iraq War 2.0. We'll leave out smaller rapid operations like Panama and Grenada. But they were victories, for the record.

Korea: we did not start it, and we and the UN-authorized alliance stopped the North Korean invasion, counter-attacked north, and then coped with Chinese intervention. Today South Korea is a prosperous and powerful ally. Victory.

Vietnam: We did not start it, and we and our allies eventually defeated the Viet Cong insurgents, leaving the fight to North Vietnamese regulars and irregulars infiltrated south to AstroTurf an insurgency. South Vietnam fell not to insurgents but to a conventional North Vietnamese invasion after we withdrew and after our Congress cut off support sufficient to sustain the South Vietnamese military we left South Vietnam with to hold. Was that really a defeat by our military? I count that as a military victory.

The Persian Gulf War: We did not start it and in short order our UN-authorized coalition shredded Saddam's armed forces and liberated Kuwait, crippling Saddam's surprisingly advanced nuclear and other WMD programs in the process. Victory.

The Iraq War: It is debatable to say we started it given that Saddam violated the ceasefire by failing to prove he had disarmed of all WMD. And even though it is arguable that Saddam initiated armed fighting during the no-fly zone campaign, we did initiate major combat operations. So I'll stipulate for this purpose that America "started" the war. America's coalition smashed Saddam's army again. Then went on to defeat the Saddam insurgents, the al Qaeda terrorists bolstered by Syria who eventually merged with Saddam's boys, and the pro-Iran Shia insurgents. Vice President Biden boasted the end result would be one of the great achievements of the Obama administration; and President Obama boasted of the stability and democracy we left there when he ordered our troops out. You could call that four victories.

The Afghanistan War: We did not start that. Recall 9/11, if you will. We smashed the Taliban regime and while we have not crushed the Taliban for a number of reasons, the enemy has not managed to defeat our allies and Afghanistan is not a sanctuary for terrorists who plot against us. At worst it is an incomplete victory.

The Libya War: Okay, we started that one in reaction to a civil war. But we led our sophisticated European allies along with Arab allies in a successful air and special forces campaign in support of the rebels. We had to re-engage to crush the ISIL sanctuary on the coast. And Libya is far from stable and is a source of destabilizing migrants to Europe. But while the post-war has been poor, that is arguably on Europe which would not stabilize it after America carried the bulk of the military load in the actual lengthy campaign. And it did actually result in the final cleaning out of Libya's WMD programs under Khadaffi. I count that a military victory, even if the war was probably pointless.

Iraq War 2.0: We did not start that war. And while the war took way too long to wage, our small commitment on the ground to advise and provide fire support to the Iraqi effort did succeed. Victory.

This is the horrible post-World War II military record we must work to overcome? Really?

And indirectly the article questions our record in counter-insurgency.

Actually our record is pretty good. Especially if you include low-level commitments that are the ideal. Consider Colombia and El Salvador which those countries eventually won with limited but persistent American support. And even if you only count the military efforts that required large amounts of American troops, the record is actually good. I can think of two post-World War II failures off hand--Nicaragua and Cuba. And our roles weren't that big, really.

And seriously, WTF?

Why has Russia’s and China’s military performance eclipsed that of the United States? The People’s Liberation Army-Navy is succeeding in fortifying the South China Sea and expanding China’s influence out to the second island chain. Russia has occupied the Crimea, waged a largely successful insurgent war in eastern Ukraine, and supplanted the United States as the most influential power in Syria. It goes to show that innovative thinking is much more important than innovative weapons.

Let's look at that, shall we?

Let's start with Russia.

Crimea was a victory. Although Russia's credit is reduced by the recently revealed information that we told the new Ukraine government not to resist the Crimean takeover. I had no idea how accurate my description of Russian hybrid warfare as essentially Russia invading a country, Russia denying they are invading a country, and the West going along with the fiction was.

But how is the Donbas a victory? The very fact that Russia relied on irregulars rather than their own military reveals weaknesses. And the war drags on. A "quagmire" you might say, with Russia stalemated and paying a price under sanctions for holding the territory. And what is "insurgent" about a war that has "insurgents" using more tanks that Britain, France, and Germany deploy to their frontline units? These "insurgents" have formed units and hold territory along a frontline with the assistance of Russian battalion tactical groups that officially don't fight inside Ukraine! No American achievement on this scale would be counted a victory.

As for Syria, the multi-war rages with much of Syria out of Assad's control even after the defeat of the bulk of ISIL in Syria; and Russia, while a major factor, is in no way the most influential outside player involved there. Iran, Turkey, America, and even sub-state Hezbollah vie for that title. And if Assad goes down, Russia's investment is lost. At best it is an incomplete victory although Russian military performance has been adequate. But don't mention the smoking hulk of a crippled carrier that figuratively had to be put up on cement blocks for Russia to pretend to use if you don't want to tarnish the record.

We're not to speak of the clusterfucks of the Russo-Georgia War or the first Chechnya war, eh? Or even the incomplete nature of the brutal second one?

And China? Oh good grief. China's construction of islands and bases in the South China Sea is a sign of military prowess? In what alternative world is that a military campaign rather than something to compare to the American Army Corps of Engineers?

Oh, and for fun let's look at the American record from World War II back on wars that were such obvious winning contrasts to the post-World War II record.

The American Revolution. Sure, we started it. And we became independent. But Britain didn't really accept our independence. And we needed French help. Surely that reduces the shine of the victory?

The Quasi-War with France. Okay we were fine in that and I can't lessen the military achievement. We held our own in the undeclared war.

The Tripolitan War. We didn't start it. It took a long time, many commanders were inept despite some tactical proficiency (other than the loss of Philadelphia) and the strategy was limited. And in the end we cut a deal and paid money to end the war and free our POWs. Victory. With an asterisk.

The War of 1812. Sure, we started that. With provocations, it is true. But we started it. And our capital was burned. And our navy and trade were swept from the sea. But we did invade Canada! And after the treaty was signed in Europe we won the Battle of New Orleans which made it seem more like a victory! But it was really a draw as Britain found it had to go to war in Europe again more than it needed to defeat America.

The Mexican War. Sure, we started that. But it was a clear and decisive military victory even if it was a classic 19th century land grab (against another state that was holding land grabbed from others, to be fair).

The Civil War. Should we count that because it is not an international war? But it was a victory. And Americans started it regardless of who you want to blame, I suppose. And the losers found acceptable replacement policies for banned slavery. But it was a Union military victory.

The Spanish-American War. We started that. It was kind of a cross between Responsibility to Protect (Cuba) and 19th century land grab (Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Guam, and Wake--that's all, I think). But it was clearly a victory.

World War I. Brief and bloody for America, but we did end up on the winning side. So a victory. But the war to end all wars did not settle the issues and just ended up leading to World War II. That taints it by the standards of today that would note zero bike paths after the war in any of the countries involved, right?

And then we have the "good war" of World War II. We used nukes, razed cities, and almost immediately after had to wage a long Cold War to defend the chaotic and poverty-stricken western Europe because defeating enemies just created new enemies. And no bike paths, obviously. But it was a military victory aided by the passage of time that allows us to ignore details (like Kasserine or Bataan or the surrender of the bulk of a division in the early part of the Battle of the Bulge or the destruction of the monestary at Monte Cassino or the mustard gas disaster at Bari or Pearl Harbor--oh, you get the idea) that today would reveal a victory as too imperfect to count.

Our military record is fine, thank you very much.

Some people refuse to define any end state as an American military victory because it could have been better; and consider any foe's accomplishment as spectacular no matter the flaws.

The bright side is that we continually criticize our performance, which avoids hiding problems and allows us to fix them. The dark side is that nit picky criticism proliferates, too.

There. I know you come here for perspective. Consider it provided.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

System, Not Planes

While it is true that Chinese airplane technology is beginning to rival Americans--and that is worrisome--that fact does not mean Chinese air power rivals the American air power system.

America does need to respond to Chinese technological advances in air power:

The IISS [International Institute for Strategic Studies] declares that China has become an innovator in military technology and is “not merely ‘catching up’ with the West”.

They are getting close. But remember that the J-20 cited is actually a frontal only stealth plane--and has other deficiencies.

More to the point, air power is not simply the result of the plane technology.

The Air Force is a system of air power that includes planes, crews, logistics, and the entire system of working with all the various pieces of the Air Force to apply air power, and to work with other services to provide them with air power. The Air Force has decades of experience built on actual wars back to and including World War II around the globe in various conditions.

China can't match that experience or system.

Not that I'm dismissing the Chinese technology. But even our retired F-117 was a fully stealthed plane. China has not deployed that type of technology yet.

So react with a sense of urgency to China's new technology. But don't panic. The Air Force (and Navy) systems are still better.

UPDATE: The J-20 has problems. If we had similar problems with one of our operational planes it would be a procurement scandal.

Membership Has Its Privileges

Greece and Turkey continue to be friends without benefits.

This old problem continues to cause problems:

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday Greece would not tolerate any challenge to its territorial integrity, days after Turkish and Greek coastguard vessels collided close to disputed islets in the Aegean Sea.

"Our message, now, tomorrow and always, is clear... Greece will not allow, accept or tolerate any challenge to its territorial integrity and its sovereign rights."

Turkey and Greece have long been enemies with territorial disputes long barely suppressed by their membership in NATO.

Greece is often given credit for exceeding the NATO floor of defense spending (2% of GDP), but Greece spends money not from holding NATO's missions in such high regard but from fear of Turkey.

Actually, as long as Greece remains in NATO, Turkey may not want to pull out of NATO--even if it distances itself from NATO--lest a dispute with Greece become an issue about the common defense of a NATO member.

And again, I hope we are selling reduced capability F-35s to Turkey and reducing intelligence sharing with Turkey. And I think it would be wise to withdraw our nuclear bombs from Turkish territory, and just aim to endure the Erdogan era in hopes that after him Turkey will return to being a solid non-Islamist ally.

Distributing the Marine Corps

The Marine Corps is looking to disperse forward bases to cope with enemy long-range precision fire.

Large bases simplify the enemy's targeting problems:

A future Marine force will need to lower its signature to make detection by the enemy harder, and the Corps will have to distribute its force, [Dakota Wood, a former Marine and senior defense fellow at the Heritage Foundation] explained.

“If I have to worry about 50 or 100 potential targets, that distributes the enemy’s fire and attention span as well,” Wood said.

Any force in the region will also need to “be robust enough that it poses a dilemma to the enemy,” Wood said. “It can’t just be a defensive force or the enemy won’t pay much attention.”

The defensive aspect is the idea of having floating barges to distribute assets on a large number of small forward bases rather than a big one.

Of course, to pose an offensive threat you need more mobility than barges towed around coastal areas can provide. Yet the enemy precision fire is a problem for the traditional large amphibious warfare ships.

Which is why I advocated armed transports modeled on World War II-era APDs converted from older destroyers and destroyer escorts. They would be capable of providing limited fire support to their own landing forces, and able to call on F-35B support from distant big deck amphibious ships.

They would carry up to a Marine company-sized element for smaller objectives, and could swarm a target from different directions if a large landing force is necessary.

Hopefully this would distribute the enemy fire and attention span, lowering the signature of individual elements.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Long, Long Bullshit

While I agree with the idea that it is wrong to assume America and China will go to war--we have enough advantages in peaceful exchanges that should encourage peace--I find this attitude of China worship fully annoying:

While we craft a strategy for the next decade or so (see the Donald Trump administration’s new National Security Strategy), China is planning the 200-year future. They are playing a long, long game.

Just stop that long-range thinking nonsense. I've complained about this before:

I find the notion that the Chinese are deep, long-term planners who have great patience is simply ridiculous.

So what if their civilization is ancient? Chinese leaders are born and die just like Western leaders who, by contrast, supposedly are short-term thinkers hamstrung in dealing with the cunning Chinese. Unless you want to argue that somehow Chinese leaders pass along the wisdom of centuries of rulers, why their civilization's age should give them unique planning abilities is beyond me. Are Egyptians also noted as deep, long-term planners who have great patience, hmm?

I maintain that some Westerners see a veil of secrecy and caution in foreign policy, and interpret that as signs of long-range, deep planning.

Seriously, is the argument that China as a 3-millennia old civilization somehow infuses the DNA of Chinese leaders with the wisdom to plan long beyond the span of human lives?

Or is simply being part of the culture create a racial memory of seeing into the future?

What drugs do you have to do to see Maoism, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution as part of a deep long-range Chinese plan to achieve dominance?

And America which is not even 250 years old is incapable of such purported long-range thinking?

But don't Americans come from ancient civilizations all over the world, including China? Doesn't America have just as much of that "long-range thinking gene" and from a wide variety of ancient civilizations from Asia, the Americas, Europe, and Africa?

That idea of individuals carrying the wisdom of ancient civilizations in their DNA sounds kind of ridiculous when you say it out loud, doesn't it?

And let's do a reality check. China is several thousand years old while America is not even 250 years old, yet China's long-range "Go" planning has gotten them to number 2 on the planet in 3,000 years while America still holds the number 1 position after 250 years based on the inability to think past the next quarter or play a game more complex than checkers?

Explain to me again how the purported long-range thinking edge paid off for China.

Look, I'm certainly willing to entertain that China has a superior strategy. Maybe even a superior long-range strategic ability. But make the case without resorting to silly attributes like superior long-range thinking based on their ancient civilization.

Just stop it. Chinese leaders are humans like the rest of us.

A Marine Foreign Legion? Good Lord, No!

I don't like this idea of recruiting a foreign-recruited Marine unit for irregular warfare:

The U.S. Marine Corps wants to form an Irregular Warfare Regiment (IWR) that would be a cross between the French Foreign Legion and the U.S. Army Special Forces. The IWR would have 4,200 troops and about 3,000 would be foreign born and selected because they were physically and mentally able to enlist and had language and cultural awareness skills the marines needed in various parts of the world. All officers and NCOs above the rank of E-5 (sergeant) would be U.S. citizens. If the program is established eventually many IWR officers and senior NCOs would be naturalized citizens. In effect, a foreign legion composed mostly of foreign volunteers seeking a quicker path to citizenship and able to meet Marine Corps standards.

Fourteen years ago, pre-Blogger (Behold the primitiveness!), I suggested pretty much the same thing, an American Foreign Legion (AFL):

American officers and NCOs with bilingual skills would lead lower-ranking enlisted personnel recruited from foreign countries. Form them into national-based companies in plug and play light infantry battalions that could be attached to our brigades or used independently. Base them on US or allied territory overseas from basic training on. Teach them English to understand commands and citizenship to give them goals to work for. Teach them riot control and counter-insurgency techniques. Guarantee that they will face two tours overseas in combat in a 6-year term of enlistment. Provide them with citizenship upon completion of their terms (or upon wounding or death in combat) and allow them to transfer at the end of their service to the regular Army or Marines or become a civilian and move to America. There will be no retirement pay from the AFL. Think of them as temps. Do not let them re-enlist in the AFL to keep a mercenary force from developing in our military establishment. Indeed, max out their rank at sergeant E-5.

But I changed my mind, thinking it is a mistake to start down the path of mercenary units:

Mercenaries in the form of a foreign legion might work for a while on solving the narrow military problem, but if we relied on this for long, the effect would be bad for our country. If we started thinking of our entire military as a mercenary force, we will have broken the bond between our citizens and our military. Our public might think of all soldiers--citizen and foreign legionnaire alike--as extendible. Our military might grow to view our society as alien. If this erosion of military-civil relations goes on, one day we could find ourselves with our first military dictatorship. And when our military becomes political, it will lose the ability to defend us from foreign threats. Composed of mercenaries it will be the threat.

It would be better to actively recruit foreigners who see America as the only force seriously fighting to uphold the West when their own countries are effectively conscientious objectors. We already allow foreigners to enlist. Why not go abroad to actively recruit those with needed language and cultural awareness skills? I called it the Liberty Corps program back then.

So no, I don't like the idea of a Marine foreign legion. Not one bit.

NOTE: I added the first link that I forgot to include.

The Dots Form a Picture

Secretary of State Tillerson met with Hezbollah allies in the Lebanese government. Is this a consultation designed to put the last pieces in place to increase the chances that an Israeli attack on Hezbollah in Lebanon will achieve something positive?

That's interesting:

Tillerson was expected to discuss the heightened tensions in his talks with the country's top officials, including President Michel Aoun, Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri — who all maintain close relations with the militant Hezbollah group. He is also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

The article notes a dispute over who controls some sea areas with oil and gas deposits. Could Lebanon be brought on board by an Israeli concession on this dispute?

I fully expect an Israeli attack on Iran's proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon that goes in big on the ground (with mechanized and airborne forces plus air and naval support, of course). It makes sense to harm Hezbollah which has bled heavily on behalf of Assad inside Syria before Hezbollah can regroup in Lebanon and prepare to use their massive rocket force in southern Lebanon to attack Israel.

For this to work, it would be a massive raid that lasts weeks or months to tear up Hezbollah's people, infrastructure, and stockpiles to make it too weak to flow back into southern Lebanon to rebuild their state-within-a-state once Israel withdraws back to their border fortifications.

The Israeli operation would also have to avoid attacking Lebanese forces or infrastructure to make it clear it is targeting Hezbollah and leaving Lebanon--with support from the until now worthless UNIFIL UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon--capable of filling the vacuum in the south to assert state control again.

If all goes well, Hezbollah is destroyed as a military force in Lebanon threatening Israel; Lebanon has a chance to be a whole country again; Iran loses a major proxy force; Hamas is more isolated, helping Egypt; Assad is weakened, helping Turkey and perhaps making them less difficult on the Kurdish issue; and Iran's planned Iran-to-Lebanon line of supply is mooted by that setback, making it easier for Iraq to resist Iranian pressure.

America and France have done a lot of work to strengthen the Lebanese army and government. An Israeli operation won't be worthless if it only sets back Hezbollah for many years. But to really make a military operation worthwhile, Lebanon has to be on board in practice even if they loudly complain about Israeli violations of their sovereignty (despite ignoring Iran's violation and the very existence of Hezbollah for so many years).

Could a gas and oil field buy that cooperation?

Mind you, this whole thing could be prevented if Lebanon could control all of Lebanon as a normal state can. But they don't. And that's a problem:

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday that Lebanon's security was threatened by the growing arsenal of the Iran-backed group Hezbollah and its involvement in regional conflicts.

Which is an interesting way to frame it. He didn't focus on Lebanese control of the area as the ideal. He focused on the reality of Hezbollah's use of Lebanese territory to build a massive rocket arsenal.

That arsenal does not threaten Lebanon in the sense that Hezbollah might turn them on Lebanon. No, the rockets are aimed at Israel. So the only way the rocket arsenal is a threat to Lebanon is because they can provoke an Israeli attack into Lebanese territory to get at Hezbollah.

I know, I know, I'm connecting a lot of dots. As I've done before on this issue as I did in my post I link and in other posts that post links to. Part of the problem is distinguishing between what makes sense to me and what is actually going on in the real world. I'm a history and poli sci major who has played strategy board games since I was 10. So it is hard not to look at the news without seeing them as defining pieces on a board.

UPDATE: Okay, that's gotta be a dot:

"So [because of the danger Iran's proxy forces pose] the time is now, we think, to act against Iran," [National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster] said.

If now is the time, who is getting ready to act?

UPDATE: Is a nod to the Palestinians an effort to help Arab governments mute public sympathy for Hezbollah?

UPDATE: There does seem to be "chatter" out there on an Israel-Hezbollah clash, if even pro-Iran Iraqi militias are boasting they'd support Hezbollah.

UPDATE: Is this a dot by showing a Russian effort to deflect an Israeli attack?

Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev has ordered Russia's Defense Ministry to seek a military cooperation agreement with Lebanon. ...

And what does Lebanon get? "They want a protective umbrella against Israel," says Tony Badran, a researcher at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

There is a question of whether this is accurate. But it adds to the "chatter," no?

UPDATE: Egypt aligns with Israel:

Israel has struck an "historic" contract for sales of billions of dollars' worth of natural gas to Egypt, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Our Friends the Pakistanis

Afghanistan has experienced some high profile terror attacks recently. Thanks Pakistan.

So do the attacks that killed 150 show Taliban strength? This seems about right:

Rather, [unnamed analysts] say, it was a violent Pakistani response – using its Islamist insurgent clients – to President Trump’s recent pressure on Pakistan to rein in militant sanctuaries, or else.

That's what the attacks seemed like to me:

It's as if Pakistan is trying to show how bad they could be if they choose.

Mind you, an unidentified Western diplomat denies this is the case. But it sure is walking and quacking like a duck. You certainly can't argue that this runs counter to past Pakistani action and capabilities.

If Pakistan (more precisely their military and intelligence arms) is sending a message, Pakistan shouldn't believe America has no response to Pakistan's deadly warning.

In an effort to get Pakistan to destroy the jihadi sanctuaries inside Pakistan that help sustain Afghanistan's jihadis, America should do what I suggested in 2008--start bribing and organizing tribes in Pakistan's tribal border areas to go after the jihadis.

I mentioned this last August (quoting the 2008 post) and still think it has the potential to leverage Pakistani efforts to truly work against the jihadis rather than support them.

Oh, and India might have a say from the opposite direction:

India's defense minister said Monday that gunmen belonging to the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed were behind a weekend attack on an army camp in Indian-controlled Kashmir, and warned Islamabad that it "would pay for this misadventure."

So does Pakistan really want to play this kind of game if everyone else plays by Pakistan's rules?

Speak Softly and Supply a Big Stick ... Wait. What?

The head of Ukraine's intelligence service is pleased with American aid to resist Russia under Trump:

To understand why Ukraine's top spy is grateful for U.S. support, some context is needed. When Russian special operators infiltrated Crimea and later parts of eastern Ukraine in 2014, the administration of President Barack Obama was caught flat-footed. Senior officials told their Ukrainian counterparts not to fight back.

Obama rallied European allies to impose tough sanctions on senior Russians and some sectors of the Russian economy, but he refrained from sending defensive weapons to Ukraine's military and largely kept Ukraine's intelligence services at arms length.

After nearly a year in office, Trump reversed Obama's policy, approving not only a shipment of sniper rifles but also the sale of Javelin anti-tank missiles. That's part of the reason Hrystak gives Trump high marks.

The other reason is on the intelligence side. U.S. and Ukrainian officials tell me that on a few high-level investigations, the Central Intelligence Agency and Hrystak's service have been cooperating more closely than in the Obama years, when the White House was reluctant to get directly involved in Russia's proxy war with the Ukrainians.

That's all good. Ukraine might be wavering in their determination to be a free democratic country but they have a right to be a free independent country with all their territory regardless of their status in pursuing rule of law.

Although even with more American help, without democracy and rule of law, Ukraine is probably doomed to defeat.

But Good Lord, when Russia invaded Crimea in February 2014 the Obama administration told the Ukrainians not to fight back?

Let me re-read that: "President Barack Obama was caught flat-footed. Senior officials told their Ukrainian counterparts not to fight back."

Yes, I read that right.

I'd been writing for years prior to the invasions that Russia might try to take Crimea and eastern Ukraine. There was no excuse for our government not to know what Russia might try to do even if the actual decision to invade was a surprise.

And I called the Russian invasion very early, yet media reports that my lying eyes were wrong and that Russia wasn't doing anything caused me to doubt that what clearly looked like Russian special forces without insignia were in the early stages of an invasion. Those media reports were probably based on sources in the Obama administration that was caught "flatfooted" and preferred to deny reality than correct their error rapidly.

I've been saying that the idea that Crimea is a model for so-called "hybrid" warfare is ridiculous in large part because Ukraine in the midst of a revolution was unable to send in the relatively small number of trained and equipped troops that could have slaughtered the "little green men" early before Russia could airlift troops into Sevastopol base and cross the Kerch Strait. Those Russian special forces aren't actually infantry equipped or intended to hold ground and endure casualties to do so.

But we told the Ukrainians not to defend their country? That doesn't necessarily mean that Ukraine could have issued the order to attack. But my judgment of their inability was based on the post-conquest search for a reason why on Earth didn't Ukraine order their troops to scatter the Russian special forces thin on the ground.

Still, even if Ukraine was unable to send in troops regardless of what our government said to Ukraine, that Obama communication might have influenced the failure of any of the mostly rear echelon Ukrainian troops in Crimea to simply defend their bases and make the Russians fight to take Crimea.

Well, thank God the Obama administration didn't collude with Putin to give Russia what it wanted. That's the good news.

Of course, the Obama team instinctively wanted to let Putin get what he wanted without getting anything in return. So there's that.

But that passivity is over. Which is good.

Losing Control of the Brown Skies

Years ago I wrote that the Air Force should aim high to be what I eventually called an Aerospace Force and let the Army rebuild the Army Air Corps the way the Marines have their own ground support. Drone technology in the hands of enemies makes that shift in responsibilities more important to achieve.

The Navy has distinguished between the blue waters far from shore which must be fought in to dominate the seas and the shallower green waters--and even brown waters where soil runoff darkens it--closer to shores where the Navy can influence events ashore.

Air power needs to distinguish between the high blue skies where air forces traditionally vied for supremacy and the "brown" skies just above the Army where drones roam.

On the issue of ground support, the combination of precision ground fire, helicopters, and drones seemed to offer the Army a better method of providing prompt ground support to troops in contact while freeing the Air Force to dominate the skies well above the battlefield and to deal with the deep battle beyond the battlefield.

The Air Force lost the battle to control all the drones over the battlefield because it made no sense. And in wartime what made sense mattered more than bureaucratic prowess.

But the limitations of the Air Force in supporting the Army may be worse than what I thought then:

While the U.S. military pioneered the large-scale use of drones, both for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike missions, other militaries are now catching up. In many ways, small and medium-size UAVs challenge the notion of air superiority.

Perhaps more significant, nonstate actors are rapidly adding UAVs to their arsenals and developing sophisticated tactics for their employment. ISIS pioneered the use of small, commercially available drones to bomb Iraqi forces. For the first time, nonstate adversaries will have air power. Equipped with cameras, drones provide terrorists and insurgents with critical, real-time ISR information. Loaded with just a few pounds of explosives, drones become precision-guided weapons.

If drones becomes a constant threat, the Air Force has lost the air supremacy battle right off the bat. Don't even try to tell me that high-flying F-35s and F-22s are going to shoot down the drones that will target Army troops.

Perhaps Army air-to-air drones with smaller ones carried by even platoons are the way to fill the gap between the high-flying fighter planes absolutely necessary to control the blue skies and the brown air just above the mud where the Army fights and from where it can be targeted even when the blue skies are friendly.