Saturday, December 10, 2016

Hear Them Roar

The jihadi glass ceiling is smashed in Nigeria!

Two schoolgirl suicide bombers killed 56 people and wounded dozens more in a coordinated attack on a crowded market in the northeastern Nigerian town of Madagali on Friday, a local official said.

Boko Haram is suspected but they have yet to take "credit" for the ground-breaking advance in defying what has been "men's" work in the jihad.

Game 117

Go Army! Beat Navy!

UPDATE: The Black Knights win! 21-17.

The long nightmare is over. A good game, indeed, and it could have gone Navy's way, too.

Congratulations to both teams.

He'll Always Be Loved in San Francisco

Canada is a good ally. And I like vacationing there. God help me but I love Tim Horton's, hockey, and poutine. Hell, I can even watch curling without laughing. But Canadian are a funny people.

Case in point, Canadians never fell out of love with Fidel Castro despite more than 50 years of communist tyranny and poverty in Cuba, but Canadians are already turning against their one-man boy band, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

Now the nation’s boyfriend appears to be manifesting the same stonewalling, talking-point-reliance and dismissal-of-evidence tendencies that saw the last guy dumped. In a meeting with the Toronto Star, Trudeau called the electoral reform quiz “a fun little questionnaire that gets into values rather than models, to help us see if there are underlying principles and things that Canadians all agree on broadly that can drive a solution for electoral reform.” ...

But if a government can subject a nation to a loaded Cosmo-style quiz on electoral reform, it’s only reasonable that the country can turn for its political guidance to a 2004 dating bestseller, one that famously instructed women to heed a fellow’s actions, not his words. The advice is equally relevant dealing with a politician’s apparent cynical hypocrisy toward a bold election platform that made a nation fall for him (along with the vow to legalize pot). And unless there’s an unexpected policy reversal, it’s the only takeaway, as heartbreaking as it may be: Canada, Justin Trudeau is just not that into you.

And it is pretty funny that the prime minister finds himself under this kind of attack because he made an over-the-top screaming fanboy statement about the (long overdue and far too peaceful) death of Castro.

Well, Canada will always have The Tragically Hip. (And I don't mock too much. I love Ahead by a Century.)


Oh goody, our friends the Russians:

Afghan and American officials are increasingly worried that any deepening of ties between Russia and Taliban militants fighting to topple the government in Kabul could complicate an already precarious security situation.

The Russians claim that they are really just trying to promote peace.

Seriously, how Vladimir Putin's underlings do that with a straight face is beyond me. Comedy gold, it is.

I realize this campaign in Afghanistan ceased being the Left's "good war" a long time ago, but will their newly discovered hostility to Russia extend to this effort to thwart us (which kills American troops, recall)?

It will be interesting to see how the Democrats' Vlad Scare works out.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Responsibly Escalating a War

Assad wants the looming fall of Aleppo to be seen as the turning point in the war. But Assad's position is still so poor that unless the rebellion loses hope and collapses, it is unlikely that this battle for Aleppo is the decisive battle. President Obama on his way out has taken a step to bolster rebel morale and capabilities:

The White House on Thursday (8 December) announced a new waiver order by President Barack Obama that would lift restrictions on military support for foreign forces and others in Syria if considered "essential to the national security interests of the United States".

The changes, which would allow "foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals" fighting for the interests of the US to be able to access military assistance, were pursuant to the four-decades-old Arms Export Control Act.

"I hereby determine that the transaction, encompassing the provision of defense articles and services to foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals engaged in supporting or facilitating ongoing US military operations to counter terrorism in Syria, is essential to the national security interests of the United States," Obama stated in the presidential determination.

So our military forces can provide training and I assume recon, intelligence, and firepower support as "services" in addition to equipment, which will supplement what our intelligence services can do, I imagine.

About 400,000 deaths ago, the administration declined to help the rebels out of fear of "further militarizing" the conflict.

So now Syria, plus Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Iraq will be left to the next president to solve after our policy has mostly tread water for 8 years in the fight against Islamist terror and associated states.

Not that I fully blame President Obama for failing to fully defeat these forces. This is called the Long War for a reason. It will take time to finally defeat the religious factions that wants to define Islam as a jihadi religion that is thrilled to kill non-believers (mostly non-jihadi Moslems, I hasten to add).

But we'd be further along the path to winning if America under President Obama hadn't tried to pretend that pulling out of Iraq, a speech to the Moslem world, and a president with the middle name "Hussein" would solve our problems coming from the Islamic world.

Good grief, Trinidad has proven to be jihadi friendly territory for ISIL recruits! (Tip to Instapundit)

UPDATE: And right now, more American special forces will go to Syria:

The US is sending 200 more military personnel to help fight the Islamic State group in its Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, the US defence secretary says.

Speaking at talks on Middle East security, Ash Carter said the troops would include special forces trainers, advisers and bomb disposal teams.

In addition, ISIL is taking a shot at Assad-help Palmyra:

Islamic State militants on Saturday captured most of Palmyra after breaking through Syrian army defenses and securing the heights around the ancient city in eastern Syria following a surprise assault, a monitoring group and rebels said.

Palmyra is the outer shield to protect the Damascus region from ISIL attack from the east.

If ISIL holds this city, Damascus is under threat and Assad will have to wonder about having so many forces focused on Aleppo and that area.

ISIL Will Need a New Plan B

ISIL had seemingly prepared their Libya province of the caliphate as their fall-back position in case they had to flee Iraq and Syria. ISIL will need a new Plan B.

It took a while, but with the final defeat of the last hold-outs in Sirte, ISIL's hold on Libya's coastal region has been ended. There is still enough room for ISIL to operate, mind you:

With the ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) threat largely eliminated the major problem remains a lack of national unity. Since 2011 and the demise of dictator Moamar Kaddafi Libya has created three governments and two of them are now competing for power. First came the General National Congress (or GNC), a temporary group whose main job was to create a new constitution for the voters to decide on. The GNC was to rule until the constitution was approved and elections held. GNC failed to attract the support of all factions or agree on a new constitution. In late 2013 the GNC illegally extended its power for another year. Despite that scheduled national elections were held in 2014. GNC did not like the composition of the new House of Representatives (HoR) government and refused to step down. The UN recognized the HoR but most of the GNC members (who tended to be more tribal and religiously conservative) refused to give up power, seized control of Tripoli and became known as “the Tripoli government”. The HoR and the government it had formed fled east to Tobruk and became known as “the Tobruk government”. The HoR rallied most of eastern Libya behind them. The UN recognized the H0R and condemned the GNC.

Scroll down for a discussion of ISIL's defeat in Libya.

With that amount of chaos, ISIL will survive on Libyan territory, especially away from the coast (so American air power won't easily reach them) in the far south where ISIL can draw support from across the borders.

But it won't be the same as controlling people, territory, and their resources like a proto-state.

In Iraq, progress continues to be made to liberate Mosul from ISIL control. That won't end ISIL in Iraq, but that major source of money and people will be gone.

My major complaint about Iraq has been the time it has taken to mount this offensive. I will grant that an offensive has been ongoing for the last year in Anbar--which was good--but ISIL isn't so powerful that we had to wait for nearly the same amount of time it took us from Pearl Harbor to landing in France on D-Day to recover from the initial loss of Mosul to the beginning of the Mosul offensive.

But hey, I'm still grateful that President Obama essentially validated the Iraq War after his order to withdraw led to disaster, by initiating Iraq War 2.0 to salvage what America and our allies achieved in Iraq by 2011.

ISIL will have to fall back to Syria where they are under pressure by the American-led coalition supporting local Arabs and Kurds, plus some help from Assad and the Russians when it is convenient as they focus on killing non-ISIL rebels.

And of course, depriving this brand of jihadi Islam of a sanctuary in a proto-state is only the most necessary job we need to achieve. Then we have to use intelligence and police to defeat the group as a terror group. And other groups, too.

Of course, by having a proto-state for years, we gave ISIL the chance to spread their tentacles to make that fight harder than it could have been:

Islamic State militants are using turmoil sown by Russian President Vladimir Putin's bombing in Syria to plot attacks against the United Kingdom and her allies, Britain's foreign intelligence chief said on Thursday.

So before we put too much hope in a blistering Twitter campaign against jihadis, let's grind their faces into the dirt in defeat:

Counter-messaging works best when terrorists are deprived of their power, which means they are deprived of their sanctuary and safe haven, their efforts to recruit are thereby diminished: that’s when counter-messaging is enormously useful in preventing the recrudescence or the reemergence of these movements. But in-and-of-itself, without weakening the terrorist groups’ power, the messaging is going to be ineffective, as we’ve seen today, as demonstrated by the current worldwide proliferation of foreign fighters.

And then we have to help Moslems reform Islam to end the enduring appeal of jihad to young men who feel killing those who are different is acceptable to society and God.

And do that before weapons of mass destruction become easy enough to build that you don't need the resources of a state to make them.

Take a 1.3 Million Mile One-Way Walk Down a Million-Mile Pier

God help us all, but John Kerry says he won't mercifully disappear from our lives.

This is pretty rich coming from a man who carried out a foreign policy that reflected the belief that American influence was so bad that the rest of the world had to be insulated from America by cutting off America from the world:

[Secretary of State John "I served in Vietnam!"] Kerry, who has done time in the loyal opposition before, says he isn’t giving up. Having traveled a few hundred thousand miles with him during his time as secretary, I can attest that Kerry at 72 has more energy than most people decades younger. He’s not saying if he’ll work with a global organization, a university, or the private sector, but whatever he does, he’ll fight for what was — before Trump — seven decades of largely bipartisan support for US leadership in global security and economics.

“We’re going to have one hell of a debate over the course of the next few years . . . and I can promise you this . . . I am not going to go quietly into the night,’’ Kerry declared to raucous applause from the Women’s Foreign Policy Group, which gathered in Washington Tuesday for what was billed as a valedictory address. What they got instead was a cri de coeur not to toss hard-fought deals in the dustbin.

Ah yes, I remember Kerry "loyally" accusing his fellow American service personnel of committing war crimes on the level of Genghis Khan in Vietnam.

Remember, despite its clear belief that America was causing problems around the world, the Obama administration's apologies for America and relentless efforts to elevate the sainted international community at the expense of American influence led not to universal peace but to the first American president to be at war for two full terms of their presidency, with the world descending into chaos as America tries to let the world sort out its own problems, confident that "history" will shape a better world for us and them, yet finds that foes seek to exploit our timidity rather than sit around a table and sort things out peacable like.

Oh, and of course Kerry thinks this:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday Iran's nuclear agreement with world powers last year had made the world safer, rejecting U.S. President-elect Donald Trump references to the pact as a "disaster" and "the worst deal ever negotiated".

Because he is incompetent.

I am sure I will have differences with Trump foreign policy. But I don't want to hear another goddamn piece of foreign policy advice from Spongespine Spandexpants, who is the worse secretary of state in living memory.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Waiting for the Next Taiwan Crisis

Here we go again on Taiwan:

Sino-Taiwanese tensions are rising and the effects have begun to spread, so much so that they have started to complicate China's relationship with the United States. Over the past month, China has redoubled its efforts to weaken Taiwan's ties with diplomatic allies and defense partners while also tempering its own economic and diplomatic involvement with the newly elected Democratic Progressive Party in Taipei. Beijing's push to isolate Taiwan suggests that China thinks its approach toward Taipei over the past decade is becoming less effective, particularly in light of a potential shift in U.S. policy as Washington prepares to inaugurate a new president. This has moved Taiwan to the center of Beijing's foreign policy agenda, a shift that the Dec. 2 phone call between U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has given added weight.

I was right to think the the most core of China's core interests would come to the forefront.

My more than decade old scenario for a Chinese invasion of Taiwan still stands as my template, although the forces involved have evolved.

And I did make a major modification of one detail of the Taiwan invasion scenario to incorporate new information that includes an amphibious invasion aimed directly at the Taiwan capital, Taipei.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: Amazingly, Taiwan doesn't seem to understand that freedom isn't free:

Last June, a delegation from the Senate Armed Services Committee, headed by Chairman John McCain, met with Taiwan’s newly elected president Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei and urged her to spend more on national defense.

It was not the first time that Washington has expressed dismay over Taiwan’s falling defense expenditures. Many in the U.S. government from both political parties have urged Taipei to do more for its own defense.

Seriously, do they value their freedom and independence so little?

Taiwan’s own defense ministry issued a white paper claiming that China will have the means to forcibly reunify Taiwan and the mainland by 2020. That report, written in 2013, gave Taiwan about a month to hold off the Chinese until help could arrive.

As my invasion scenario indicates, I think Taiwan grossly underestimates China's ability to invade sooner if China is willing to pay the price in lives.

Ultimately, Taiwan needs help from America and Japan to survive. But don't the Taiwanese understand that they have to hold off the Chinese long enough for America and Japan to decide to intervene and then intervene in sufficient strength to hold off the Chinese invasion?

If Taiwan is falling by the time we decide to intervene, there will be no intervention. Just a protest at the United Nations and perhaps a law making it possible for Taiwanese boat people to settle in America.

To Close With and Destroy an Enemy

The Army is converting an infantry brigade to an armored brigade in light of revived conventional war threats:

In response to the increasing demand for armored forces by combatant commanders, the Army will convert the Spartan Brigade, of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT), as the newest Armored Brigade Combat Team in the Army's inventory. Upon completion of this conversion in October 2017, the Army will have 15 ABCTs.

It was only a couple years ago that we planned to have just 12 heavy brigades in the active component.

And I thought we were dropping the total further. I guess not.

The heart of the heavy brigade is three combined arms battalions, which were once organized with 2 tank companies and 2 mechanized infantry companies in two battalions as their core maneuver elements. Now our heavy battalions have three companies weighted either to armor or mechanized units.

This article argues for restoring pure tank battalions to the United States Army in order to build armor officers focused on tank warfare. We would still mix companies in practice to create battalion task forces.

The recognition that heavy armor is vital for conventional warfare is a relief given persistent efforts to replace so-called dinosaurs with light strategically mobile platforms.

My view has long been that it does little good to move a strategically mobile vehicle from Kansas to the Suwalki Gap only to have it destroyed because it is not tactically survivable.

There are other ways to heavy up our forces, too.

UPDATE: One leg of rebuilding our heavy forces is a replacement for the M-113 that serves in many roles on the battlefield to provide tracked, protected, mobility. The replacement is here:

In less than a few weeks, the Army will roll-out its new infantry carrier platform called the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, designed to transport troops under armor, conduct reconnaissance missions, evacuate injured soldiers, fire weapons and withstand major enemy ground-war attacks, service officials told Scout Warrior. ...

The General Purpose AMPV transports two crew members and six passengers. It is armed with a 50-cal crew-served weapon and carry one injured Soldier on a litter.

The AMPV is built on the Bradley chassis. Which is interesting because I thought the Bradley was vulnerable to mines because of its flat bottom.

I also shudder when I read that it is fast in order to protect against being hit by anti-tank missiles. I recall the early World War II British tanks that were designed with the notion that speed could protect them from anti-tank guns. They were wrong. And anti-tank missiles will not be dodged by any vehicle.

It is also interesting that the vehicle has not reversed the shrinkage of our mechanized infantry squads that the Bradley started when it replaced M-113s as our standard mechanized infantry transport.

That lack of numbers in a squad is a persistent problem with our mechanized infantry when they have to drop the rear slab and fight dismounted. They just don't have the numbers to make up for the fighting vehicle's firepower.

There will be a mortar version and I assume other versions like command and control, ambulance, and--I hope--an anti-tank version and anti-aircraft version as there were variants of the M-113.

The Army plans to buy 3,000 AMPVs. That's not a lot, really. But remember that it is not a replacement for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle designed to go toe-to-toe with enemy heavy forces. It is a support vehicle.

The Art of the Sevastopol Deal

I think a deal over Ukraine is possible. Which could eventually pay strategic dividends if it ends the pointless NATO-Russia Cold War 2.0

Without ruling out possible NATO membership for Ukraine, why can't we finesse this issue a bit?

Have NATO make it clear that no state with a non-NATO military base in it can join NATO; and then work a deal that returns Crimea to Ukrainian sovereignty but which grants Russia a Crimea Base Zone.

Russia could pay rent on the zone back to March 2014.

As for the Donbas? Well, Russia would have to get out. But Ukraine could grant some level of local autonomy on a limited range of issues, while Ukraine would maintain absolute control over the border.

I mentioned this notion just after Russia invaded, although I focused on selling the Sevastopol base complex to Russia. A year later, my views evolved on this concept (and I even found a draft from August 2016 that discusses the notion more--I have no idea why I didn't hit publish.)

Now I think Putin would need something a bit more, so I'd focus on the trade above that would in practice keep Ukraine out of NATO--which is something I thought Russia had already achieved--without denying the theoretical right of Ukraine to join NATO.

And for the West, it would not prevent Ukraine from joining the West through economic links and cooperating with NATO to improve Ukraine's ability to govern (by fighting corruption to strengthen rule of law) and defend their own territory.

That deal would also be a deterrent to a Russian annexation of a Sevastopol Base Zone because by doing that Ukraine would be eligible to join NATO.

There is no reason for Russia to be hostile to the West. And while we have to block Russian aggression until they tire of this pointless policy, surely taking a flashpoint off the table would benefit America, NATO, Ukraine, and even Russia.

Maybe trying to make this a crisis over Sevastopol rather than all of Ukraine would focus all of us on a problem small enough to be solved.

Given that China is still rising and seems intent on reshaping the status of their region, a confrontation with Russia--while necessary as long as Russia remains a threat--distracts us from coping with China (hopefully peacefully):

Kendall [the Pentagon's "chief arms buyer"] said U.S. policy had been centered on threats in the Asia-Pacific region and Middle East, but was now focused more on Russia. "Their behavior has caused us ... to rethink the balance of capabilities that we're going to need," he said.

At the strategic level, it would be better to avoid having Russia and China as potential foes. Given the lack of real capabilities of Russia to pose a threat to NATO away from the peripheries of NATO and given the inability of NATO to pose a threat to Russian territory, other than Kaliningrad, I think that we have more room to make deals that end the budding Cold War 2.0 that Russian paranoia is stoking.

And Russia has far more to worry about from China as Chinese influence spreads in former Soviet republics and in Russia's Far East itself--large portions of which were seized from China in the 19th century.

While America and China got along later in the Cold War to unite in the face of Soviet threats, the far stronger Chinese don't need our help to confront a far weaker Russia.

And America stands in China's way everywhere China looks as they seek to compel neighbors to submit to Chinese power.

So a deal with China is less feasible because we'd have to abandon allies, which could set off a train of allied defections to China as they see the power balance shift.

The best we can hope for with China is that we deter war until the Chinese realize that just as they have grown more powerful and prosperous within the system America designed that China can continue to prosper without overthrowing the system.

So Russia is the most logical of the two to win over. Let's start with Sevastopol, eh?

UPDATE: Let me add that August post that I oddly never published, since it notes that settling the crisis could prevent a war from breaking out with Russia, notwithstanding their weakness:

We really need to consider resolving the Ukraine Crisis with Russia rather than just seeing what happens.

Putin's subliminal war against Ukraine continues:

For two years, Ukraine has just been strong enough to cling to independence, but is too weak to regain control of the Donetsk basin. Regain Crimea? Crimea is lost. And Putin's creeping war proceeds.

Do read all of Austin Bay's commentary.

Are sanctions over Ukraine really harming Russia?

The West must not waver when it comes to sanctions. They are working and undermining Putin's support at home. His cronies and corporations are denied access to credit. The ruble has cratered, along with oil prices, making imports and travel unaffordable for Russians.

By 2017, the country will go bust, say experts.

"Russia's attempt to have Western sanctions removed over Ukraine is a 'race against time,'" said billionaire George Soros recently at Davos. "Russia is in a very, very weak position. It has enough reserves that it can last a couple of years... and in 2017 a lot of debt comes due."

Moscow's budget deficits soar, and social spending has been cut, leaving only shrinking foreign reserves to keep the lights on. Soros says there is $360 billion left, others say there's only half that amount left.

The writer says Putin has painted himself into a corner. That's a dangerous position for a man who may not be quite sane--and who has lots of nukes.

Are sanctions the key? Or is the low price of oil? And don't forget corruption that is felt now that oil prices aren't rising.

I ask because if the sanctions are truly the crippling part of Russia's economic problems, you have to consider whether Russia will consider sanctions the equivalent of war--which could prompt Russia to respond with military force.

Recall that Japan resorted to their Asia-wide offensive in response to our embargo of oil exports to Japan. A military response to an economic action, exploiting military opportunity against weak opponents.

By all means keep the economic pressure on Russia. But bolster eastern NATO and help Ukraine rebuild its military just in case.

And leave Moscow a way out by making this a crisis over Crimea again rather than the Donbas.

That is, get Russia to end their support of secessionists in the Donbas so Ukraine can reassert control--with perhaps some light autonomy as a face-saving gesture for Russia to justify withdrawal.

And restore Crimea to Ukrainian control while establishing a Crimean Base Zone that perhaps Russia buys or leases from Ukraine. It all depends on whether Ukraine wants to disqualify itself from NATO membership (but otherwise being free to join the West) by having a non-NATO Russian base on their soil, as I thought the situation was pre-February 2014, or whether they'd rather sell the territory to Russia and open their options.

Such a result would really be the status quo ante with enough spin that Russia could tell its people they won something for their troubles.

And then Russia wouldn't be tempted to escalate to war in response to economic sanctions that could be seen as the equivalent of war if they really are as crucial as the author says they are.

Bay thinks Crimea is closed. But if this isn't resolved in a way that knocks back Russsia and makes them pay a price for violating the Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine might try a Hezbollah strategy of  hardening the Crimea front ground defenses and shelling, rocketing, and missiling (?) Russia's forces in Crimea (Ukraine can build missiles with as long a range as needed to hit Sevastopol), sending naval mines to harass Russia's ships using Crimea's ports, and making promises to ethnic Moslems in Crimea to resist Russia.

The latter would likely be a major problem in the long run, but against more powerful Russia, Ukraine can't afford to leave any potential weapon unused.

The West want the crisis to be over. But Russia does not. And Ukraine might not, either. What do we do about that?

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Imagining a Perfect Island Paradise

So what if Cuba under Castro is a nightmare of totalitarian impoverishment!

At least Cuban of African ancestry are fully equal! Wait. What? It's kind of like Apartheid--or Jim Crow if you prefer--in Cuba under Castro?

Now in the 21st century, it has become all too apparent that the black population is underrepresented at universities and in spheres of economic and political power, and overrepresented in the underground economy, in the criminal sphere and in marginal neighborhoods.

Huh. After more than 50 years of communism, some are way more equal than others? And based on race? I was assured by many on the left that this wasn't possible.

But surely the rainbow flag flies proudly in a country with such a "caring" system? Again, not so much?

It wasn’t long after Castro came to power that police began rounding up gay men. In 1965, the regime established prison work camps known as Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP), into which it deposited homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other “undesirable” elements.

The camps closed but the discrimination and suppression did not.

Well, at least there is free education! Leaving aside the standard communist practice that education is needed so that even the poorest can read the commands of their overlords and leaving aside the reliability of communist statistics, is the marginal superiority of Cuban literacy over other non-communist countries in Latin America been worth the price of poverty and oppression? (See global statistics here.)

All Cuba achieved was to provide Leftists around the globe with a government they could--from afar--claim was superior to their own society in whatever way the particular leftist wished to see.

"Reality-based" community, indeed. I don't want to hear one damn word about Trump's potential for tyranny when I watch them cry over the far-too-late and far-too-peaceful death of that monstrous tyrant Fidel Castro.

Be glad Fidel Castro is dead and hope he is just a good start for his fellow gulag masters. Not every Cuban was lucky enough to put Fidel behind them.

Perhaps Castro's long rule will be a reminder of the old truth that "when you strike a king, kill him" (or my preferred slogan, "when you start to take Vienna, take Vienna" which expresses the same thought), given that we failed to topple him early when it would have prevented a lot of suffering.

But the way America is only sort of opposing Assad in Syria--enough to anger him but not enough to defeat him)--demonstrates that this administration, at least, does not understand that, preferring to let history judge Castro. And judge Assad, too, the way things are going, after that monster dies at a ripe old age peacefully in his bed in Damascus.

No word on the truth of the rumor that Jill Stein is collecting donations to recheck Fidel's ashes to find out if he is really at room temperature.

All Quiet on the Western Front

Iraqi forces battling for Mosul continue to be very active on the east bank of the city:

Iraqi army units surged toward the center of Mosul on Tuesday in an attack from the city's southeastern edges that could give fresh impetus to the seven-week-old battle for Islamic State's Iraqi stronghold.

This advance was by units of the Iraqi 9th Armored Division, which is apparently aiming for the southern-most bridge (the Fourth Bridge, which is disabled).

The center bridge is still standing:

The last and oldest bridge, built in the 1930s, was targeted on Monday night, two residents said. The structure was not destroyed, but the air strikes made two large craters in the approach roads on both sides.

It is interesting that the approach roads were struck, keeping the bridge passable after ISIL filled the holes. It's almost as if we didn't really try to disable the bridge in order to encourage the jihadis to think they have foiled our plan to prevent ISIL from reinforcing the east bank of Mosul in the face of the well-publicized attacks by the Counter-Terrorism Service and elements of 9th Armored Division.

That leads to an interesting result:

"The quality of the enemy we are facing now is markedly declined from a month ago," said Brigadier General Scott Efflandt, a coalition deputy commander.

"What they were saving for the west side of the river they are now committing to the east."

The most committed jihadis were on the eastern front. They suffered heavy losses, it seems. And with the most visible fraction of the 100,000-strong Iraqi force advancing in the east, ISIL is using the still-open bridge to commit more troops--not as good as the initial defenders, it seems--to that active front.

Which means that if the plan is to strike ISIL from the southwest, the center bridge could be disabled or more firmly isolated with cratering air attacks on the road, meaning the ISIL defenders on the east bank will be trapped and under assault by the Counter-Terrorism Service and elements of 9th Armored Division, just as the main Iraqi army attack against west Mosul comes in from the southwest.

That's what I'd do if I was Lord of the Offensive, anyway.

And if this isn't what we are doing, where are all the Iraqi brigades that the Coalition trained for the last two years?

UPDATE: the west side of Mosul was shelled by Iraqi forces:

Western-backed Iraqi forces have begun shelling parts of west Mosul, residents said, in preparation for a new front against Islamic State seven weeks into a difficult campaign to drive the militants from the city.

One witness reported 10 mortar rounds landing. So maybe the Iraqis were just firing ranging rounds.

UPDATE: Bernard-Henri Levy worries that the offensive in eastern Mosul is bogging down:

Yet ISIS hangs on. Is it because it concentrated its most seasoned personnel in Mosul proper? Is it because the remaining fighters have their backs to the wall and battle here with furious desperation? Or is it that the coalition—with the cold weather setting in, with the rain and low, cloudy skies interfering with airstrikes—is getting weary?

If I was Lord of the Offensive, this lull would be a sign that I was preparing the eastern front Iraqi forces to pounce on ISIL defenders when the southwest offensive kicks off in order to keep them pinned in place and kill them while they try to move--perhaps in a panic--to the west bank of Mosul.

UPDATE: Interesting points from a recent briefing on operations against ISIL:

We've already seen that some of their fighters unfortunately were seeing younger fighters; perhaps adolescent age, rather than adults. That's unconscionable on their part, but it is a long list of things that they do that are unconscionable.

We've also seen their vehicle borne improvised explosive devices don't have the exotic level of machining that we've seen in previous iterations -- a lot of the ones have been used before. So we've even seen the use just regular vehicles rather than the up armored versions that are much more difficult to stop.

These observations indicate that the first-line fighters and equipment are depleted.


I would say many hundreds of fighters are gone. We don't release -- we don't release casualty statistics and we don't consider them a measure of merit, but I can tell you that the enemy is taking very significant casualties, as difficult as they are making it for the Iraqi security forces.

I can assure you that their fighters are being expended at a much faster rate than -- than are the Iraqis. It's still very, very dangerous fighting, it's very, very difficult, but, you know, eventually we're going reach critical mass where the enemy is going to begin to break and then things will start to accelerate.

With reports of heavy Iraqi casualties, this puts that in context by saying the enemy is suffering casualties at a "much faster rate." Which is a problem for the heavily outnumbered ISIL defenders.


Well, I think it'd be very difficult to predict with any accuracy, exactly what awaits in western Mosul. What we've actually seen is that ISIL has done a tremendous amount to try to bring fighters across and confront the Iraqi security forces, particularly the CTS in the eastern part of the city. They've done that throughout the campaign, until they were disrupted from doing so by the strikes on the bridges that would enable that.

So, we'll have to wait and see. We don't want to get into the business of prognosticating on things where we don't have a tremendous amount of fidelity or detail. But, I doubt that there's a lot of people sitting there cooling their heels in western Mosul, while the predominant force that they have is being destroyed in eastern Mosul.

This is relevant to the breaking of ISIL and the acceleration of their defeat that the briefer expects.

When ISIL could have conducted a delaying action in eastern Mosul to inflict casualties on the Iraqis while retreating to the river line and blowing the bridges themselves, ISIL fed their best troops and car bombs into a losing battle on the east bank.

I continue to think that the high-profile Iraqi attack into eastern Mosul, combined with the attacks on bridges across the Tigris River, are meant to kill jihadis and weaken the potentially stronger western Mosul, and is setting up the main Iraqi blow to hit western Mosul from the southwest.

UPDATE: On Saturday I read this:

Iraqi commanders have talked about relieving pressure on CTS troops in the east by opening a new front in southwest Mosul, where federal police units are stationed just outside the city.

However, officers say three brigades from the police forces were being moved from south of Mosul towards the east bank, so they could directly reinforce the offensive there. [emphasis added]

However, I wouldn't have police brigades leading the assault.

Remember, the southern prong of Iraqi forces that could strike from the southwest is where America has committed actual combat units of artillery and helicopter gunships.

If the Iraqi army isn't going to send in Coalition-trained army brigades into western Mosul with these American units in support, why did we bother to send them at all?

And police units in eastern Mosul would serve to control the parts of the city already taken while freeing up the CTS and tank units responsible for advancing and securing their rear areas in the city.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

I Love the Smell of Competence in the Morning

Remember that a defended physical barrier on the southern border is only a small part of properly regulating immigration to make sure it benefits America rather than being a "right" for foreigners.

Oh good Lord:

Authorities in Ghana have busted a fake U.S. embassy in the capital Accra run by a criminal network that for a decade issued illegally obtained authentic visas, the U.S. State Department said.

Until it was shut down this summer, the sham embassy was housed in a run-down, pink two-storey building with a corrugated iron roof and flew a U.S. flag outside. Inside hung a portrait of President Barack Obama.

"It was not operated by the United States government, but by figures from both Ghanaian and Turkish organized crime rings and a Ghanaian attorney practicing immigration and criminal law," the State Department said in a statement released late on Friday.

I'm generally pro-immigration. We are a nation of immigrants. And I support it as long as it is done on terms that benefit America. And that calculation changes over time. Policies on immigration should change with that. So I think we absolutely need to control our borders to increase or decrease the flow as we decide.

Deporting non-criminal illegal aliens really drops down to nearly a non-issue if we can do that. Those people will either assimilate or go back to their country of origin. And their children and grandchildren will assimilate as past generations of the descendants of immigrants have done. America is a land of ideas and not of blood and soil. We can make Americans out of anybody. Which is pretty cool. As long as we decide to make immigrants Americans and not just the local chapter of whatever home of origin they come from.

Which makes me a racist nativist from the point of view of the "open border" crowd that celebrates every culture but our culture. Go figure.

But as this long-running scam operation (pre-dating the Obama administration, it seems) shows, even an airtight southern border leaves us vulnerable to entering on a visa--good or bad--and just staying when it expires.

So don't get too worked up over "the wall" whether you favor cutting off all immigration or whether you support unlimited immigration and deny that it is even possible to be "illegal."

No Longer an Abstract Phenomenon

I figured that Chancellor Merkel and her allies in Germany didn't worry about the consequences of mass migration from poor areas struggling with Islamic warfare because their wealth and status insulated them from problems that ordinary people can't avoid.

Now she and her allies will care very much:

A teenage Afghan asylum seeker has been arrested after allegedly raping and drowning a 19-year-old German student in the city of Freiburg. The student was the daughter of a top EU official, the UK’s Sunday Express reports, and volunteered regularly at a refugee center.

One of the children of the elite, properly volunteering to help, was murdered. The money and status and homes far from refugee centers behind proper security screens did not protect the young German victim.

Yes, I know. Plenty of blond German men are rapists and murderers, too. But that's why Germany has police and courts and all that. Your own citizens are going to have a certain number of criminals, and you fight them because you must.

But why invite more potential rapists and murderers in when you don't have to?

Some months ago, an African-America man interviewed on TV about the attention given to victims of Chicago police compared to the inattention of the many more people killed in Chicago said that there was no comparison. He said he expects some number of fellow civilians to be criminals. What he doesn't expect is that the police will kill with no more thought than the criminals. The police are supposed to protect civilians. I don't know if I ever argued that point before I heard that man explain his thinking (being out of my usual lanes), but I sure haven't made it since then. The man is right.

I still think the Black Lives Matter leadership is just a scummy bunch of left-wing activists, but Chicago people really do have the right to expect more of their police than they expect of gang members.

The same reasoning applies to refugees and migrants.

The citizens and legal residents already in Germany will have some level of criminal element. That's why we have police and courts. We punish our own to protect the rest of us.

But those seeking to come in to a country for safety or even freedom have no right to expect that they will be treated the same as people already living in the country of arrival. The migrants/refugees are asking for help and the people being asked have the right to set the conditions for helping and have the right to demand better behavior than is tolerated for those already living in the country.

The country of arrival has every right to block immigrants from entering their society to protect their own people and the have the right to screen applicants to enter with any degree of depth that the country of arrival wants. Why needlessly bring in more criminal elements--even though they surely are a small minority--when you don't have to?

Now that the daughter of a top EU official has been raped and murdered by a young refugee when she was a volunteer to help the young criminal's compatriots seeking asylum, the worries of those who wonder what German immigration policy is doing to Germany might get a more respectful hearing.

UPDATE: See? Now Merkel cares:

Angela Merkel laid out her case for a fourth term as German chancellor on Tuesday, seeking to energize her conservatives with a call to ban full-face Muslim veils and the promise of a tougher stance on immigration after a record influx of refugees.

That was way faster than I expected.

UPDATE: Scroll down a bit for terrorism trends, from Strategypage. And yes, this is related.

On the Cusp of a Resurgent Russia?

I'm skeptical:

After enduring three years of a foundering economy and feuds with the West, things may be looking up for Russia. The Brexit vote in June exposed the deep discord in the European Union, giving Moscow a glimmer of hope that dissenting member states might break the bloc's consensus on its sanctions against Russia in a future vote on their renewal. Though EU members decided unanimously in July to extend the measures, upcoming elections on the Continent could undermine the bloc's unity. In the United States, meanwhile, Donald Trump's victory in the presidential election has opened a potential path to warmer relations between the United States and Russia, and perhaps even an end to Washington's sanctions on Moscow.

I don't know. I'm not so sure that Putin can ride the Trump train to resurgence given that Putin seems to need the fiction of a hostile West to prop him up; and given that the post-Russo-Georgian War Obama administration "reset" has been followed by Russian war on Ukraine, intervention in Syria--with the "refugee attack" on Europe following, threats to Western nations (in and out of NATO) to the west of Russia (including nuclear threats), and Russian information war in Western states.

The bad taste that first "reset" left is likely to be an obstacle to a big league outreach to Russia.

On the receiving end, I honestly think Russian paranoia under Putin is too great to overcome any outreach. At best, Russia is willing to pretend a bit to get short-term advantage.

Oh, and I am especially skeptical of the analysis after reading this:

Crimea declared its independence from Ukraine, and Moscow annexed the region and extended support to a separatist rebellion in Ukraine's eastern part of the country.

Really? Crimea declared its independence from Ukraine rather than Russia executing a subliminal invasion (via the "little green men") of the region?

And there was an actual separatist rebellion in Ukraine's Donbas rather than being an astro-turfed Russian-staffed "rebellion" combined with a far less successful subliminal invasion?


Nor does the article even mention China's efforts to supplant Russian influence in Central Asia, speaking of it in terms of  a Russia-West competition.

I expect better from Stratfor.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Damn the Torpedoes! And Belay that 'Full Speed Ahead' Order

The Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program is under a lot of fire. Deservedly so. But it is what we have.

The ship was intended to fight in the littorals--that is closer to shores in "green" or even "brown" waters really close to the dirt that flows into the sea. The deep waters are "blue."

The Navy does need a low-end ship to provide numbers as fleets traditionally have.

But the ship class costs skyrocketed.

Yet the modularity concept of the ship has value. The ability to change out shipping container-housed weapons systems to adapt the ship to the mission (anti-ship, anti-air, or anti-sub--or even special operations) was a good idea (so good it led me to propose the Modularized Auxiliary Cruiser, which Military Review published as "The AFRICOM Queen").

But the modular weapons system costs skyrocketed, too.

And the small crew size which relied on automation proved to be a problem for damage control and routine maintenance.

On top of those development problems, despite the focus of the ship missions, the ship was not actually designed to fight and survive in those waters close to shore where land-based systems pose a threat to anything sailing nearby:

In prepared testimony for the hearing, the Pentagon's director of Operational Test and Evaluation, J. Michael Gilmore, gave a damning accounting of where the program stands, saying neither of the two LCS variants now being built by competing contractors is expected to be survivable in combat, a fact that undermines the whole concept of operations for the ship class.

That's the key. And a defense of technical complaints--even if true--does not address my concern.

We paid the price for the ships the Navy has put in the water and the development costs for future ships is already spent. So that's a problem in the rear view mirror.

And I can accept that working out the kinks on a new type of ship will take some time. I imagine the Navy will get the ship working. Early in their lives both the M-1 Abrams tank and Stinger anti-aircraft missile were damned for problems in fielding the systems. That doesn't mean the Navy will overcome problems, but it lends credibility to the idea that they need time to do so.

But the survivability problem is not going to go away. That's how the ship class was built in both variants.

I don't understand why this is a revelation. In March 2013 I had a post on LCS survivability with lots of links. In that post I quoted a Navy defense of the ship's survivability:

Navy leadership responded Wednesday to a Tuesday Pentagon report saying both variants of the littoral combat ship (LCS) are “not survivable in a combat environment.” ...

The Navy has three levels of survivability for the ships in the Fleet, according to an August 2012 report on the LCS from the Congressional Research Service that quotes Navy standards from 1988.

“The Navy decided to design the LCS to what it calls a Level 1+ survivability standard, which is greater than the Level I standard to which the Navy’s current patrol craft and mine warfare ships were designed, but less than the Level II standard to which the Navy’s current Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG-7)-class frigates were designed, ” the report says.

This design decision did make the ship cheaper in order to get numbers. Which is important. One ship no matter how good cannot be in more than one place at a time, eh? Which is a problem if we need a ship in two places.

The problem in my mind was the concurrent decision to sent that ship as designed into coastal waters rather than keeping them in the blue waters away from most land-based threats.

One of those links in that post goes to a 2008 post of mine that reflected on the carnage of a small-craft battle in the Sri Lanka civil war:

Close in combat like this make me nervous about the Littoral Combat Ship that we plan to sail in deep water and close to shores to combat enemy forces.

We need a cheaper ship to provide numbers in the fleet. The LCS, despite cost overruns, will be cheaper than our other larger ships and still reasonably capable and flexible because of mission modules that can reorient the ship's capabilities.

But look at this ship. It is nearly 400 feet long and 3,000 tons. They are larger than our World War II destroyers. This is not a small, coastal combatant. And I have little doubt that these ships will suffer damage and loss if put into coastal waters against masses of cheap enemy ships that will include suicide boats.

If we really need to operate in the littorals, buy cheap and small ships/boats in large numbers that operate simple small guns, automatic weapons, and short-range missiles. Plus add small UAVs/USVs to extend their range and capabilities. Battles in the littorals cannot avoid losses since we sacrifice the ability to punch at long range by operating in areas that allow enemies to hide and strike quickly at short range.

Putting expensive LCS into the littorals will risk ships way too expensive to be sunk and will just provide propaganda stories for an enemy.

The survivability issue can be lessened by not deliberately putting the LCS into a shooting gallery where every yahoo with a long-range cannon or anti-tank missile (maybe even shore-based torpedo tubes!)--or an inflatable power boat with RPG-7s--can take shots at the ship.

Which is also why I don't sleep well at night thinking of our friggin' aircraft carriers sailing in the Persian Gulf.

But I digress (as I can!).

The LCS is a flawed ship in a more flawed program, but with experience for the crews and operations, and with a decision not to send the ship into the littorals, it will be okay.

Heck, if we can get the shipping container-inserts to work the ship might be just fine in blue water operations.

And by all means, let's get a better lower cost frigate that can take a punch and make smaller vessels cheap enough to be risked in littorals.

Keeping America In

I am eager for the proto-empire European Union to fail. I believe it would become hostile to America and defeat our long-held goal of preventing Europe from being controlled by an enemy.

But this objective assumes a strong American-led NATO to keep Europe our ally.

We can manage that, right?

Blather. Pinch. Repeat

Russia continues their subliminal invasion of Ukraine from their advanced positions in the Donbas region:

Intense combat suddenly erupts in eastern Ukraine. Russian-backed rebels -- using Kremlin-supplied heavy artillery, mortars and machine guns -- launch a series of attacks on Ukrainian military positions. Other rebels raid neighborhoods or probe Ukrainian defenses around the Black Sea port of Mariupol.

Then the violence stops. All appears to be quiet on Europe's eastern front. Ukraine contends Russian intelligence agents planned the attacks and Russian Special Forces officers directed them. The Kremlin denies supplying or financing the rebels and announces it has convinced the rebels to respect the ceasefire agreement with Ukraine. Russian propagandists promise peace, soothing the headline consciousness of U.S. media. As a result, a war in Europe involving a nuclear power draws scant American attention.

This calculated cycle guides Russia's creeping war of aggression in Ukraine: a burst of planned, aggressive violence followed by planned, well-propagandized dormancy.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Unless Ukraine starts to launch counter-attacks to inflict losses on the Russians and their hand puppet local allies, eventually the pressure of constant attacks will lead to a portion of the Ukrainian front--perhaps around Mariupol--to collapse and give Russia an important territorial gain.

Ukraine must regain the initiative in the Donbas rather than just sit and take Russian aggression turned on and off to suit Russia.

And I still think that Ukraine should prepare escalation options to threaten Russia's conquest of Crimea that would involve anything from planting minefields off of Crimea's ports (after ordering the ports "closed" since this is still Ukrainian territory despite Russia's illegal annexation), to a "Hezbollah" (but not in the war crimes sense of shooting from civilian areas and shooting at civilians) strategy of bombarding Russian troops holding the "neck" of Crimea, to volleys of ballistic missiles to bombard the Russian bases and warships at Sevastopol to overwhelm Russian missile defenses to inflict real losses on Russia (which should explain Russia's protests about Ukraine's missile tests near Crimea at the beginning of December), to a ground invasion of Crimea.

UPDATE: Russia can't afford this kind of running sore. Unless the talking in Minsk saves Russia, how do they afford it?

Reviving the Cold War has cost Russia a lot. Mainly because of operations in Syria Russian defense spending rose to $48 billion (4.2 percent of GDP) in 2015. That fell (to $45 billion, four percent of GDP) in 2016. But the government has been forced to cut defense spending sharply in 2017 and 2018 because of continued low oil prices and sanctions. In 2017 spending will be down to about $38 billion (3.2 percent of GDP) and $34 billion in 2018 (2.9 percent of GDP). After that, it is uncertain how the situation change.

Don't save Russia. Help Ukraine save themselves.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Having Fun Storming the Syrian Castle

Is Russia on the cusp of dread "quagmire" in Syria? Perhaps. But we can't rely on vague forces of historically "inevitable" events to get that result or think we can make a deal on purported common interests and avoid saving Putin, Assad, and the nutball mullahs of Iran.

Back in September 2015 when Russia directly intervened on Assad's side to reverse his looming defeat, I hoped we'd continue to resist Assad and let Russia get bogged down in their adventure:

Russia does not want to fight for Assad. Putin wants to save Assad as cheaply as possible so he can get back to picking apart eastern Ukraine while consolidating the conquest of Crimea (and then Belarus will be in Putin's crosshairs, prior to focusing on the Baltic states). Our cooperation is key to letting Russia win in Syria on the cheap.

Don't fall for Putin's ploy. Bid him good luck and tell him to have fun storming the castle.

Only now is Assad finally in the position to retake Aleppo that has long been partially held by the rebels--and that won't mean Assad has won the war--or is even the last battle for Aleppo--even though he wants everyone to believe that.

Stephen Blank wonders is Putin has "stepped on his own rake" by pledging back in October to fight until Assad has all of Syria:

Putin may have stepped on his own rake without realizing it. Moscow has achieved almost everything it could have hoped for in Syria. But by acceding to Assad and Tehran’s desires, it is not clear that he is now fighting for Russia’s or even his own best interests. It simply is not clear that Russia can provide the support over time needed to establish Assad’s control throughout Syria and eliminate all resistance and threats to him. It is relatively cheap to send air defenses to rebels, and to negate Russia’s aerial advantage and leave the hapless Syrian army face to face with its enemies. Moscow runs the risk of getting ensnared in its own self-made quagmire, as its Soviet predecessor did in Afghanistan.

Unless Putin can get Trump to subsidize Russia's effort by cutting deals and thus completing the journey President Obama began on the road from his "red line" to propping up Assad, trying to retake all of Syria after the heavy casualties Assad's forces have endured already just to survive in their corner is a long hard slog with no guarantee of success.

Of course, I don't take that October statement at face value. Both Russia and Iran only need Assad to control western Syria. Russia for air and naval bases to project power in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. And Iran to maintain overland access to Lebanon and Hezbollah and be closer to Gaza and Hamas in order to have a front against Israel.

Really, Assad would have an easier time just holding portions of western Syria where his base will not be quite as outnumbered as it would be if he controlled all of Syria.

And why wouldn't Russia, Iran, and Assad in a Core Syria enjoy letting America, Turkey, Iraq, and Jordan cope with a wild wild east where jihadis and Kurds would still roam?

We should complicate Russia's problems by dropping as many figurative rakes in Putin's path in Syria, of course. But don't assume that Russia is saying anything more than a pro forma declaration in support of Assad's full sovereignty over all of Syria, well aware that far less territory will work out just fine for this Axis of Weasels.

We can still defeat Assad, Russia, and Iran in Syria. Talk of having to accept that Assad will win ignores the cost and casualties Assad and his backers have suffered just to finally--after more than four years--make serious progress in taking Aleppo in Assad's corner of Syria. There are still a lot of people fighting Assad and they will fight if supported.

UPDATE: Russia really, really wants us to believe their victory is inevitable for a very practical reason. Unless we grant the win to them, how do they afford it?

Reviving the Cold War has cost Russia a lot. Mainly because of operations in Syria Russian defense spending rose to $48 billion (4.2 percent of GDP) in 2015. That fell (to $45 billion, four percent of GDP) in 2016. But the government has been forced to cut defense spending sharply in 2017 and 2018 because of continued low oil prices and sanctions. In 2017 spending will be down to about $38 billion (3.2 percent of GDP) and $34 billion in 2018 (2.9 percent of GDP). After that, it is uncertain how the situation change.

Give Russia the chance to flail and fail.

You Have to Really Hate White Supremacy to Join the PFLF

First watch this:

Now behold the Extreme Balkanization our Left is giving us:

University of California, Los Angeles students were treated to a dinner dialogue this month on the topic of “white feminism” and its relation to white supremacy.

I'm confused. Is this the work of the Popular or People's Feminist Liberation Front?

Truly these are sad days when the lack of a penis doesn't protect you from the conformity mob's hatred.

Tip to Instapundit.

The Hottest of Red Hot Lines

American diplomats have secret talks with Iran and the Taliban and who knows what other odious groups, and yet there is a tizzy of people taking to their fainting couches when Trump talks to Taiwan's president briefly? Take a hike.

Behold the crippling lack of nuance!

Donald Trump spoke on the phone with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, a conversation that breaks decades of U.S. protocol and risks a clash with China.

Trump’s transition team confirmed late Friday that the president-elect had spoken by phone on Friday with Taiwan's president, the first conversation between a U.S. president or president-elect with Taiwan's leader since 1979, when the two countries severed diplomatic ties.

We sell advanced weaponry to Taiwan, but a phone call with their elected leader is forbidden?

People here are seemingly horrified at Trump, yet seem to think that it is perfectly reasonable that China might react to a phone call with actions that risk a military clash with America? Really? This is how their "horror" meter is set off?

I'm inclined to tell these people to take a hike. Our president can talk to whoever he wants--even if it is to a friend that our Chinese colleagues seek to crush and control--if it is in our interests.

I expect the Chinese to get all huffy. And they did:

"We have already made solemn representations about it to the relevant US side. It must be pointed out that there is only one China in the world. Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory," the statement said.

"We urge the relevant parties in the US to abide by the commitment to the one-China policy" and "to handle Taiwan-related issues with caution and care to avoid unnecessarily interfering with the overall situation of Sino-US relations," it said.

So who made China the offshore call center for our leadership? China sets a red line at phone calls and we are supposed to go along? I could live with that when China was cooperating with America in containing the Soviet Union. Now China is the threat to peace and stability in east Asia.

So I suggest we file China's solemn representations about the phone call:

We violated our own "protocol" as the first article notes. Nothing official. China still gets the UN seat. China still gets the state dinners. China still gets all the official name plates at international conferences. That is not under threat.

I'm not saying we go out of our way to anger the Easily Excitable over the Taiwan issue. But I don't see how it hurts to throw a hard block every once in a while to remind China that they don't get to be Miss Manners on how we conduct foreign policy; nor do they get a veto on what our policies are.

If our president wants to talk to Taiwan's freely elected president over the objections of China's top autocrat who finds it inconvenient that there is an example to his own subjects of Chinese people (as well as native Taiwanese) living under democracy to ask her how our weapons are performing--or any other subject--we should be free to do it notwithstanding China's solemn representations.

I might be right about this worry, eh?

UPDATE: Although really, what is China going to do? Be less effective reining in North Korea? Be more hostile to Taiwan? And why is it wrong to make a dictator mad over their threats to a small democracy that does not wish to be absorbed?

Our Democratic brethren up in arms are fascinating. A small communist dictatorship (Cuba) on an island off the coast of democratic America is celebrated; while a small democracy (Taiwan) on an island off the coast of communist-run China is denigrated.

What's next? Will China "allow" our president and the Australians to talk to each other? 

UPDATE: Related.

We really should review the "protocol" that has apparently built up over the years separate from any legal obligations--no doubt under pressure from China, which fits with their approach of applying pressure over a long period of time to get what they want bit by bit--to separate out the core requirements from the protocol that "forbids" an American president from even talking to the president of democratic Taiwan.

UPDATE: And don't forget that China is run by communists who engage in "industrial-scale harvesting" of organs from people who don't fill out organ donor cards.

UPDATE: China gets upset at a lot of things that interfere with their Greater China Project. India gets the treatment, too:

China called on India on Monday (Dec 5) not to do anything to complicate their border dispute after a senior exiled Tibetan religious leader visited a sensitive border region controlled by India but claimed by China.

China claims chunks of Arunachal Pradesh, which China considers part of China-occupied Tibet--which China also controls over the objection of the locals (but mass Han immigration has given Peking a better class of residents who want China to control the region).