Wednesday, May 24, 2017

What Victory in Iraq Will Look Like (Again)

Secretary of Defense Mattis explains what victory over ISIL's caliphate in Iraq looks like:

You say, "What does it look like" -- I mean, "What will it look like when we say that we've got success?" I think what we'll see is the local security forces, police, that sort of organization can handle it. In other words, we drive them down to a point where the locals can handle that and it's no longer a trans-regional, transnational threat.

So you -- you've got to drive them down to a point that police can handle it. Police can't handle a force that's driving tanks and using artillery, or has thousands of fighters in mobile vehicles that allow them to range far and wide. So we've got to drive them down to a point that police elements can handle it.

That's it. Victory is not turning Iraq into Vermont with heated debates over bike paths.

Victory is reducing the ISIL threat to a police problem. This is what I have described as "atomizing" the enemy.

It was what I said we needed to do during the Iraq War (and we did it, but leaving in 2011 allowed the enemy to ramp up); and it is what I said we needed to do (again) to win after Mosul fell in 2014.

That is victory in this campaign. The fight against jihadis and Islamist ideology will go on, but ideally without the need of American air and artillery support.

Lead, Follow, or Get Pushed Out of the Way

If the Air Force doesn't become the Aerospace Force, someone else will do the job.

The Air Force doesn't want a separate Space Corps:

The U.S. Air Force is in the midst of a major strategic shift from seeing space as a “benign environment” to a “war-fighting domain” where adversaries could seek to start a war or engage in combat, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told lawmakers during a panel Monday.

Goldfein argued that the service’s focus should be on ensuring it can meld space operations with the rest of the war-fighting domains. The Air Force needs to figure out how it can apply its existing tactics, techniques and procedures in space instead of seeing it merely as an area from which to “report, sense and monitor.”

Which bureaucracy-wise is smart given that the independent Air Force evolved from the Army Air Corps. But the space mission needs to be done and if the Air Force doesn't do it, the Navy or Coast Guard--or an independent force right from the start--will do the job.

So the Air Force might want to get a sense of urgency about that "figuring out" process to get out of the "midst" and get a clear view of how to apply their mission and force structure to space.

Become the Aerospace Force. Soon.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Pucker Factor to Eleven

Is an American-led attack on North Korea imminent? Despite tensions and reasons to do something to keep North Korea from going nuclear, this hasn't been on my radar screen for near-term action.

Uh oh:

Speaking Monday to a rapt audience at the 2017 Strategic Investment Conference in Orlando, Friedman said that while it was unlikely the US would take action before President Donald Trump returns home at the weekend, North Korea's actions appeared to have "offered the US no alternative" to a clash.

According to Geopolitical Futures analysis, evidence is mounting that the enmity between the two is escalating to a point where war is inevitable.

Friedman said that on May 20, the USS Carl Vinson supercarrier and USS Ronald Reagan were both within striking distance of North Korea.

Additionally, more than 100 F-16 aircraft are conducting daily exercises in the area, a tactic that foreshadowed the beginning of Desert Storm in 1991.

F-35 aircraft have also been deployed to the area, and US government representatives are expected to brief Guam on civil defense, terrorism, and Korea on May 31.

All of these strategic moves telegraph one outcome — conflict.

How does this work out? I assume a successful war requires American and South Korean active participation. South Korea especially needs to be involved to advance into North Korea to seize artillery positions that threaten Seoul.

Does Friedman mean America will attack unilaterally?

Although I disagree with the claim that China can't deal with North Korea and only America can do the job. China may not be able to unleash an aerial campaign the way America can, but America can't send in ground troops as easily as China can.

China managed to push to Seoul against the American-led UN forces in Korea. If China wants to gather the forces, they can defeat the North Korean military that remains forward deployed in the south facing South Korea.

In an ideal world, America launches the air strike campaign and China launches the main invasion to take Pyongyang while South Korea's military makes a limited thrust north to establish a no-launch zone to protect Seoul while Japan helps with air and missile defenses and perhaps limited offensive strikes.

The American-South Korean division focused on WMD then makes the dash into a collapsing North Korea to neutralize key North Korean nuclear facilities.

I also disagree with the idea that failure to get a declaration of war means America isn't bound together to fight. We had that in 2002 for Iraq yet Democrats bailed on that war pretty rapidly when the going got rough.

Of course, if we really want to put pressure on China to deal with the problem or lose face seeing America tame their little pet psycho regime, our efforts to attack have to look real.

So I have no idea what is going on.

UPDATE: I see that it is clear that China and America have different objectives in Korea:

China said on Wednesday no one had the right to bring chaos to the Korean peninsula, a day after it pushed for full implementation of U.N. sanctions against neighboring North Korea for its missile and nuclear tests and called for dialogue.

China doesn't want chaos and America doesn't want North Korean nuclear weapons. That's quite a gap to bridge.

Je Suis MOAB

The British have been targeted by ISIL jihadis:

Investigators hunted Tuesday for possible accomplices of the suicide bomber who attacked an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, killing 22 people and sparking a stampede of young concertgoers, some still wearing the American pop star's trademark kitten ears and holding pink balloons.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the Monday night carnage, which counted children as young as 8 among its victims and left 59 people wounded. British police raided two sites in the northern English city and arrested a 23-year-old man at a third location.

Yes, the jihad struck a brave blow against little girls by blowing them up.

Whether this was planned or inspired from abroad matters nothing to the dead and their families.

I hope we don't descend into weepy passivity over yet another jihadi attack. Aren't we tired of that?

Aren't we sick of immediately worrying about the "backlash" against Moslems before the dead victims of jihadi rage have been identified and buried? Can we worry a bit more about the "lash" that hits first and regularly in our cities?

Certainly, Moslems are not guilty as a class for these monsters who kill in their name.

But let's get on with killing the jihadis whenever and wherever we find them. Don't shed a tear for their deaths.

This won't win the Islamic Civil War that counts Westerners as collateral damage in that fight, but it will slow them down. And if we kill enough, it will put the fear of death and failure into them rather than drawing them to fight the jihad for their personal glory to redeem their sorry lives.

UPDATE: On TV, Prime Minister May says troops will deploy to free up police for other work.

As has long been said, if you don't fight (and kill) jhadis "over there," we must fight them "over here." Scarce British troops will now stand guard over here.

UPDATE: The British are raising their threat level to the highest grade based on threats to the British people.

I think the British could use a new threat scale that focuses on what Britain will do to the jihadis.

UPDATE: Mark Steyn has thoughts:

All of us have gotten things wrong since 9/11. But few of us have gotten things as disastrously wrong as May and Merkel and Hollande and an entire generation of European political leaders who insist that remorseless incremental Islamization is both unstoppable and manageable. It is neither - and, for the sake of the dead of last night's carnage and for those of the next one, it is necessary to face that honestly. Theresa May's statement in Downing Street is said by my old friends at The Spectator to be "defiant", but what she is defying is not terrorism but reality. So too for all the exhausted accessories of defiance chic: candles, teddy bears, hashtags, the pitiful passive rote gestures that acknowledge atrocity without addressing it - like the Eloi in H G Wells' Time Machine, too evolved to resist the Morlocks.

Resist the killers. And kill them, of course. It's not the ultimate solution. But it is a necessary start.

UPDATE: More resistance to an actual enemy, please.

Heavy is Good

The Army wants to replenish ammunition stocks and upgrade armored brigades (20 in the active, reserve, and prepositioned equipment brigade sets):

The U.S. Army’s fiscal 2018 budget request funds a 1,018,000 total force and prioritizes munitions stockpiles and modernization of armored brigade combat teams.

We could use more heavy armored brigades, too.

Plus, our brigade combat teams should have actual armored cavalry battalions for their recon and surveillance element.

And restore our heavy armored cavalry regiments, as long as I'm wishing.

Remember the prepositioned "brigades" are just extra equipment for existing brigades in America so they don't have to move their organic equipment overseas in a crisis requiring rapid deployment.

Hard Work or Jamil al-Bond?

How have we defeated ISIL in their caliphate?

The United States has long sought to keep secret details of intelligence gathering but over years, or decades, details emerge that confirm suspicions of who was doing what, with what to accomplish specific tasks. In early 2017 it was confirmed (perhaps by accident) that much of the effort to take down ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) since it appeared in 2014 has been the work of U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). The 2017 revelations confirmed that JSOC had been responsible for most of the casualties ISIL had suffered so far. JSOC, using a combination of SOCOM (Special Operations Command) operators, similar forces from allies (both NATO and Arab as well as, unofficially, Israel) and a growing number of contractors (usually for SOCOM and other military personnel) were responsible for locating most of the 70,000 ISIL personnel killed so far. JSOC did a lot of the intel work using special equipment and techniques developed and used heavily in Iraq and Afghanistan after 2005.

Do read it all.

Or you can believe we rely on an agent who was slipped into ISIL who is radioing back vital information.

One or the other.

Analysis Paralysis in Action

It is nothing new for Russia to portray an invasion as a rescue mission in service of a "liberation" movement.

Fine. But so what?

During the 2014 annexation of Crimea, the Russian government spent more than $19 million to fund 600 people to constantly comment on news articles, write blogs, and operate throughout social media.[4] They intended to sway public and international opinion, overwhelm the voices of dissidents online, and create an image of a population supportive of the annexation.

Russia set up a fake liberation army complete with ethnic Finnish troops to justify their 1939 invasion of Finland; and asserted that they weren't bombing Helsinki--just dropping dread to the starving masses of Finns. Finnish troops slaughtering Russian invaders for three months made that propaganda pointless.

Before February 2014 was over, it was obvious that Russia was invading Ukraine in Crimea:

It was obvious to me early on and far from the Crimea that Russia had invaded Ukraine.

It doesn't matter if an enemy denies invading as long as we don't go along with the fiction.

The immediate problem was that Ukraine was in chaos and nobody could order the already ineffective Ukrainian military into action (and what officers were sure of who was the legitimate authority, anyway?) during the time frame of the crisis before Russia took over the peninsula.

If Ukraine had even 20,000 effective troops at that time, Ukraine could have scattered the little green men and shot down any Russian transports trying land in Sevastopol.

And nobody would even remember 600 bloggers and Facebook posters peddling Russian lies.

More broadly, the problem wasn't that Russia lied about their role in the invasion but that the West went along with that lie.

This social media campaign is fascinating stuff, no doubt. But it is no new diabolical plot to numb the West into inactivity. We did that:

Good Lord people, Russian "hybrid warfare" is just Russian aggression that we pretend isn't happening. Sadly, there's nothing new or novel about that.

And we're still studying it to death! Am I on crazy pills?

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Hunt for Red October

Democrats continue to hunt for Russians wearing Make America Great Again hats during the October campaign period who rigged the election for Trump. If Democrats actually learned to stand up against Russia, this wouldn't be so bad. But we know that is not the case.

Well that's nice (tip to Instapundit):

Democrat leaders at the convention used their time to deride President Donald Trump and beat the familiar drum of tying him to Russia, the Associated Press reported.

Sen. Kamala Harris told the crowd that the president is putting “Russia first, America second.”

“The world, literally the world, is counting on all of you, counting on California to reject Trump’s deception and destructiveness,” Gavin Newsom, the California Lieutenant Governor, said.

The story focused on the leadership-led "F**k Trump" chant and deranged town hall protests, but I'm more interested in the faux outrage over Russia.

I've welcomed Democrats to the "oppose Russia" camp:

But hey, I'm an optimist. I welcome my Democratic brethren into the anti-Russian camp. You are late, but I welcome you. I bet if I still had that [anti-Soviet shirt I wore as a student] I could safely wear it again.

I'm sure Democrats will still be there when the going gets rough, right?

But we all know that Democratic embrace of putting Russia second is just a cudgel to beat Republicans that would be discarded in favor of cutting defense spending, appeasing the Russians, and excusing their actions as soon as (in their wet dreams) Trump is impeached and Elizabeth Warren takes the presidential oath of office under the approving gazes of Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Schumer.

Perhaps I'd believe the Democrats if they were chanting "F**k Russia" and organizing angry protests outside of Russia's embassy and consulates.

UPDATE: Wow! Who could imagine that telling the Russians to stop that wouldn't work?

Unclear on the Concept

It's like they never heard of the MOAB:

US intelligence believes ISIS is bringing together all of its experts on chemical weapons from Iraq and Syria into a new "chemical weapons cell," according to a US official.

The cell is comprised of chemical weapons specialists from Iraq and Syria who have not previously worked together, the official added. The new unit is being set up in an ISIS-controlled area in Syria within the Euphrates River Valley, between Mayadin, Syria and the town of al Qaim, just across the Iraqi border.

Really? You guys are concentrating? Because you can't dig deep enough. You know that, right?

Actually, I think we have different weapons designed to burn up chemical agents more than scatter them. And if the ISIL chemical cell is in a more desolate area, we might try those out.

Or I suppose we might try a different approach:

On May 16, the U.S. Army Second Infantry Division’s “Iron Rangers” regiment conducted a ship-to-shore assault and counter-weapons of mass destruction (WMD) exercise with the South Korean Navy.

Carrying out such a mission kind of requires a collapsing North Korean military, of course. But this is a skill set more broadly useful, eh? Even if done from land (like from Jordan?).

While that is a nice signal to North Korea, we have a global force so I don't assume a practice in one region means the experience is limited to that command.

That area the chemical cell has formed in is the new de facto ISIL capital as Raqqa gets closer to being assaulted by US-backed forces in Syria.

Like a China in a Bull Shop

China isn't cutting Japan any slack in the East China Sea as the North Korea nuclear issue advances toward a dangerous crisis. So now we know the ground rules.

Thanks China! Way to act like you care about resolving the North Korea issue as the most pressing security issue in the region!

Japan scrambled fighter jets on Thursday after four Chinese coastguard vessels entered what Japan considers its territorial waters near disputed East China Sea islets and a drone-like object flew near one ship, Japan said.

It was the first such flight near the islands witnessed by Japanese officials, although the incident took to 13 the number of intrusions this year by Chinese coastguard ships in the contested waters, Japan's coastguard said.

So let's get those freedom of navigation operations going in the South China Sea--real ones and not innocent passage dressed up like freedom of navigation operations.

And Japan should be prepared to emplace and use their own ground-based remotely manned weapons backed by aerial drones and smart mines to destroy Chinese unmanned drones trespassing in the Senkaku Islands.

Most importantly, because the North Korea nuclear issue isn't apparently a dire enough crisis to get China to pull back on pursuing other objectives in favor of a united front to stop North Korea, let's make the North Korea nuclear issue a problem China actually cares about:

So if China won't solve America's (and Japan's and South Korea's) North Korea problem because the problem isn't bad enough from China's point of view, perhaps we need to make a problem that China does care about.

We could quietly let it be known that America will be willing to help South Korea and Japan to each match North Korean nuclear weapons warhead for warhead to deter North Korea.

I suspect that the possibility that Japan and South Korea will have nuclear arms (and if they go nuclear, Vietnam and Taiwan and perhaps others will see a green light--or at least an opportunity to get lost in the outrage directed at Japan and South Korea--to go nuclear) would be important enough to get China interested in solving a nuclear proliferation problem among potential foes of China.

Or maybe less dramatically we can exploit this:

Levels of hunger not found in other parts of East Asia persist in North Korea, according to a report from two United Nations agencies.

The Food and Agricultural Organization and World Food Program's 2017 Global Report on Food Crisis states 17 percent of the North Korean population, or 4.4 million, are in a state of "crisis, emergency and famine," Voice of America reported Thursday.

Perhaps we should just blockade North Korea and let that hunger spread until North Koreans flood across the northern border into China looking for food.

What? Is that cold-hearted? Are we supposed to care more about North Koreans than Kim Jong-Un cares as he squeezes them to afford nukes? Maybe we care more about Americans, South Koreans, and Japanese who would be the targets of North Korean nuclear weapons.

China apparently feels it can throw its weight around as usual while counting on America, Japan, and South Korea to go along with whatever China does on the faint hope that China will deal with North Korea's nuclear threats.

But hey, at least now we know what China's priorities are.

UPDATE: China can just enjoy this:

Raytheon Co and Lockheed Martin Corp are working with Japanese partners on rival projects to develop new radars that will enhance Japan's shield against any North Korean missile strike, government and defense industry sources in Tokyo told Reuters.

As long as China won't stop North Korea, Japan has the perfect justification for building missile defenses. It is just a coincidence that it would be useful against China, too.

But what can China really say given that their little psycho pet nuclear threat really does justify missile defenses?

How much is China willing to endure to protect their little loose cannon on their border?

UPDATE: I see that it is clear that China and America have different objectives in Korea:

China said on Wednesday no one had the right to bring chaos to the Korean peninsula, a day after it pushed for full implementation of U.N. sanctions against neighboring North Korea for its missile and nuclear tests and called for dialogue.

China doesn't want chaos and America doesn't want North Korean nuclear weapons. That's quite a gap to bridge.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

Let's save this advice: "'I'm trying to keep this apolitical but I can't help myself ... the principle that no one, no one in this country is above the law and we need a Justice Department, not an obstruction of justice department,' [Senator Elizabeth] Warren said." I guess this principle didn't apply when Obama's attorney general met Bill Clinton on her plane at an airport and, they said, only chatted about family and grandkids and whatnot. Nobody ever asked them if written or digital information changed hands, I'll note. So if Hillary Clinton does get charged over her off-the-books email system and mass purge of emails from her secretary of state days, I'll haul that quote out.

Well sure, God sides with the big battalions, and all that. But leadership is not irrelevant unless you don't care how high the body count gets and if you think your people will tolerate any level of losses.

Strategypage looks at the situations in reviving Colombia and collapsing Venezuela. I worry that Maduro will try to cope with looming collapse by going to war with the Netherlands in an effort to rally the people around a foreign threat.

The apple doesn't kill far from the tree, apparently. Ah, family businesses. Just a reminder that ISIL is not the entire world of jihadis who need to be killed. Al Qaeda is also still out there.

North Korea fired what appears to be a long-range missile with an artificially short arc, but one that landed fairly close (60 miles) from Russian territory. Why did North Korea do that? Is Russia fine with that? I'm not sure whether it would be more worrying from Moscow's point of view if the impact site was deliberate or accidental.

Well that's not good: Four Montreal airport screeners were found to have become radicalized (of the Islamist variety). So the re-screening checked out. What about anybody allowed to bypass screening?

As an aid to Democrats let me say that many Republicans don't actually like Trump. He received a smaller percentage of the primary vote than Sanders got in your primary (although I admit that in large measure that reflects the mostly 2-candidate race that you guys had--how much of that was due to Hillary-DNC collaboration you might ask), so that shows you he wasn't that popular among Republicans. But when Democrats turn the "resistance" dial to 11 on every little damn thing Trump does or says, you make it difficult for Republicans to join you in criticizing Trump. If you force a choice between Trump and your spittle-flecked ravings and black-clad rioters, the choice is easy every single time. Related thoughts that seem about right. I'll never be happy that we had the choice of a clown or a crook in 2016. But I can't be unhappy that we dodged the long history of corruption.

A mass ransomware infection has hit the world. Last year I discovered some version on my computer. Lord knows how it got there because I do not click on attachments or links from unknown (and confirmed) senders. But it never triggered. Apparently I'm not ransom-worthy. I suspect this one is state-sponsored for some purpose. Crooks would want to remain low key to encourage payment rather than freaking out the world with the scale and mobilizing intelligence agency and software company collaboration to battle the attack. (In a pre-publication update, North Korea seems behind this.)

About a week ago Syrian forces moved "toward" the Iraqi and Jordanian borders at Sabaa Biyar. The Syrians and militia allies occupied an area abandoned by ISIL as they contract to hold positions at Raqqa and points east. But towards the border is not at the border. The town is over 50 miles from the borders, FYI. For a second there, until I looked at a map, I thought this was pretty provocative move regarding Iraq and Jordan. It will be big news if Syrian forces attack American-backed militias that eject ISIL from Syrian territory, not occupying abandoned territory. (And after I write this section, pro-Syrian forces did move toward the border where Americans are and got bombed for their troubles on Thursday.)

If you wonder why jihadis, Russians, North Koreans, and probably even Canadians think America is easy to defeat.

Huh.

Wow! Eight years of hope and change were surprisingly ineffective, it seems.

Disorganized and splintered hatred is better than hatred with a territory and people to command and plunder.

Azerbaijan destroyed an Armenian Osa air defense vehicle in a disputed region that Armenia holds. Armenia hosts Russian troops.

This is why I think Republicans need a sense of urgency on enacting legislation while they have a slender Senate majority along with the House and Oval Office. Accidents, actuarial facts of life, or deranged assassins can upset the best-laid 18-month plan for legislation.

The Democrats are an eye tic away from going on about their precious bodily fluids. I wish they had been this determined to confront the Russians in the Cold War--or even just before our last presidential election.

I'll withhold judgment on maintaining the Iran nuclear deal to see if we can make Iran howl within the horrible deal (Obama gave away too much up front, remember, making ending the deal problematic on that score). But I suspect that we'd be better off ending the pretense of a deal that relies on Iran pretending not to have nuclear weapons ambitions and relies on America pretending to believe the Iranians.

I'm just going to have to accept that Peak Stupid isn't going to arrive in my lifetime. I'm not even sure how to respond to that complaint. Please keep in mind that I spent many years at the University of Michigan and live in Ann Arbor without being absorbed by the Borg Stupid. Although as one friend said of me, living here has had remarkably little effect on me. Nobody has ever accused me of being a conformist, I guess.

I'm not fully on board the idea that geography is destiny. But I'm sympathetic. Stratfor looks at the Middle East. If you fear President Trump, you might want to sign on for the view, however. So you know, I assumed interests would shape Trump's policies more than the reverse. And I will say that our foreign policy is easier with a friendly Iraq that fights rather than supports terrorism. Remember what we would have chosen if we hadn't destroyed the Saddam regime.

From the "Advice it Would Have Been Good to Give Eight Years Ago" files. So put down the pen and phone? It is good advice, mind you. Just oddly belated.

If the media-political complex is making America ungovernable, is that a bad thing if it leads to states picking up the slack on all the things that aren't national that the federal government gathered to itself over the last 90 years? And perhaps when the federal government is more restricted to truly national (and foreign) affairs, it will be able to govern as the stakes for control go down. I like having a republic. Direct democracy threatens to undermine rule of law as far as I'm concerned and just become a tyranny of the majority.

Is the UN-recognized Libyan government bringing Haftar into the government or just trying to de-fang him?

Despite being a person of the left, the new South Korean president sees South Korea and America working closely to stop North Korea. Sometimes reality narrows your options, eh?

American artillery has so far fired 6,000 rounds of smart ammo in support of Iraqi operations to take Mosul.

The Baltic states have learned a lesson from Ukraine's dependence on Russian energy by tying their electric grid to the EU just in case Russia is less than reliable. Now if only the EU would make itself less reliant on Russian energy. On the bright side, Russia's Kaliningrad exclave has electricity supply lines going through NATO territory.

The fight against ISIL in Iraq still goes on in western Anbar notwithstanding the focus on Mosul.

I see the nutjob left doesn't even want me to be able to measure when we approach Peak Stupid. I don't want to hear one more Goddamn thing about liberals being uniquely pro-science.

What will they think of next?

Rouhani won reelection as Iranian Nutball in Chief. Remember, in Iran a "moderate" is the candidate pre-screened by the nutball mullahs who doesn't randomly yell "Death to America!" in English while discussing recent rain patterns. In America, liberals are still more upset that Trump won.

I noted an article on Russia's use of 600 bloggers/social media posters and $19 million to persuade Crimeans that the Russian invaders were the good guys: "To accomplish this, social cyber attackers appealed to the pro-Russian population of Crimea by spreading rumors of hate and fear." Funny enough, the Russians are amateurs compared to what the Democrats have done here since the Trump election.

New York, where voter suppression is just okey dokey with the courts and which doesn't upset any liberals.

The planetary defense shield is up! Tip to Instapundit.

That's Quite the Dilemma Iran Has Now

I've written that I think the Iran nuclear deal is horrible. And that despite the benefits to Iran being front-loaded (nice job Obama and Kerry!), I'd rather cancel the deal than let it exist to encourage the West to pretend it is working and that Iran is contained.

But President Trump's virtual declaration of war on Iran puts the deal in a new light:

Donald Trump slammed Iran during his Saudi Arabia speech in Riyadh on Sunday.

In an address to 50 leaders from Muslim-majority countries, the president, said countries must unite to isolate Iran until the regime committed to becoming a “partner of peace.”

“From Lebanon to Iraq and Yemen, Iran funds, arms and trains terrorists, militias and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region,” Trump said.

"For decades Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror; it’s a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this very room.

By rallying the Arab world (and to a far lesser degree, the broader Moslem world) to a fight to resist Iran, Iran has a problem with the deal existing--not the West.

If Iran abides by the deal, Iran gives Trump about a decade to defeat Iran during which Iran won't have nuclear weapons.

And if Iran cheats on the deal, we will presumably call Iran on that and justify harsher measures against Iran in the alliance against Iran.

Iran thought they'd shackled America with that nuclear deal. In one speech, Iran finds the handcuffs are on them.

Now that's Smart Diplomacy.

Keep the 2% NATO Measure

I don't buy the premise of this article criticizing the 2% of GDP defense spending goal for NATO states that the measure is the sole way of deciding whether NATO is capable of defending its borders and carrying out missions:

But for all its political appeal, the 2 percent figure is fatally flawed and does not accurately capture a state’s contributions to all of NATO’s core tasks. First, 2 percent is a rather arbitrary number. Before being first endorsed in 2006 by NATO’s defense ministers, the figure surfaced in response to declining defense spending after the end of the Cold War.

Oh come on! This is asking too much of the goal. It's just the freaking starting point.

NATO staffs surely look at what is purchased by that spending to see what it can do. No offense intended, but Britain spending 2% of GDP is going to have a far more effective military than Greece with 2%--even including Britain's nuclear forces. But just getting everyone to a floor of spending is a start to that analysis.

A new complicated measure that purports to encompass everything from spending to capabilities in one measure is pointless and will just invite further gaming of the system (as Germany would like to do) by states that don't want to meet the spending floor.

And such a measure would still be misleading. Greece, for example, meets the NATO minimum not because of a special commitment to NATO common defense but because their traditional enemy Turkey (a fellow NATO member) is their neighbor. Would a Greece that excels in the new proposed  measurement really be a more reliable NATO member or just digging in to face Turkey?

And if Greece failed in the new measure of NATO commitment, would Athens alter what they are doing one bit given their objective?

Sure, the spending floor is arbitrary. And flawed even. But it is a start. And if it seems necessary, NATO could suggest a 2.5% of GDP floor.

I don't think anybody argues that meeting the floor means NATO is good to go. It just means that everyone is meeting a minimum financial burden for collective defense.

Keep it simple. Keep the spending floor measure (and increase it when met--it isn't carved in stone). And let the NATO military staffs evaluate what their militaries can do with that spending without wasting time on PowerPoint presentations outlining a new and improved measure that reduces their analysis to a single number.

UPDATE: In a discussion of defense spending waste in Germany and their failure to appreciate a vital capability, there is this conclusion:

Germany is a modern, leading industrial power. There is no excuse for Germany not spending the political capital to allow for increased defense spending to the agreed upon 2% of GDP NATO spending goal.

Yes. Rather than look for reasons not to meet the goal or measures purported to more accurately achieve the objective of the goal, just meet the damn goal.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Let's Avoid Iraq War 3.0, Shall We?

A think tank report calls for up to 20,000 American troops to remain in Iraq after ISIL is defeated as an organized state within Iraqi territory:

“My hope is the experience of 2014 may prove that … it may be worth paying a political price for keeping U.S. forces in the country,” Mr. Brands added, regarding acceptance of a prolonged American presence by Iraqis.

Iraqi Shia will likely remain split over support for the U.S. postwar mission, while Iraqi Sunnis and Kurds will embrace the deal, since they see American forces as a necessary “balance against Iranian influence,” Mr. Edelman added.

American forces will help the internal politics by helping to ensure that disagreements are resolved by politics and rule of law rather than by guns.

With American support for this, the leader of Iraq will feel far less pressure to fire effective military leaders and replace them with loyal leaders regardless of military competence.

Restraining Iranian influence and rolling it back will be important. If we are serious about opposing Iran's regional domination ambitions, we will retain a robust force to support Iraq.

And without our presence, will the Kurds and Sunnis of Anbar want to remain within Iraq? If they leave, natural allies to oppose Iran's influence in a portion of Iraq's Shia population will be lost.

Our continued military presence will also allow us to monitor the Iraqi officer corps to avoid the surprise of mid-2014 when we discovered that a politicized officer corps was unable to lead their troops to resist the ISIL uprising across the north (on top of the earlier failure to block the western uprising).

Remember, it can take a long time to reform the military of a defeated dictator:

The Bundeswehr has taken on a spring cleaning operation. Revelations that two soldiers had been planning a "false flag" terrorist attack in Germany - and to lay the blame on asylum seekers - led to wider questions firstly about the prevalence of neo-Nazis in the German military, and then about the way the Bundeswehr deals with connections to its Nazi-era forerunner: Adolf Hitler's Wehrmacht.

Let's remain in Iraq this time.

Or did we enjoy the Iraq War and Iraq War 2.0 so much that we are eager for Iraq War 3.0?

UPDATE: From Strategypage, after ISIL comes the Iranian threat.

Executive Summary: Just Shoot Them!

Make Russian invaders without unit insignia patches Little Green Dead Men and they'll be no problem at all.

Good grief:

The Pentagon is studying gray zone conflict — otherwise known as hybrid warfare — beginning with a focus on Russia and later moving on to study Iran and China, the acting assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict, told members of Congress.

What is to study? Russia got away with this tactic because Ukraine was in chaos with their military in no shape to respond and uncertain as to who was the lawful authority. Stop trying to make that very specific situation some grand theory that will run circles around us!

But you already know I think we are over-thinking this hybrid stuff.

It was obvious to me early on and far from the Crimea that Russia had invaded Ukraine.

It doesn't matter if an enemy denies invading as long as we don't go along with the fiction.

Just shoot the invaders.

Hell, enemy denial is a bonus! What will they do when we shoot the little green men? Complain we are killing their troops? Which they deny are there?

Talk about analysis paralysis.

Getting China's Attention

One of the problems with getting China to use their influence and power to solve our North Korea problem is that China has never minded rattling America, Japan, and South Korea by having their little pet psycho regime threaten us.

Chinese actors remain vital for North Korea's drive for  nuclear weapons:

A team of UN technical experts and sanctions investigators issued a report in early 2017 agreeing with South Korean allegations that North Korea was not only obtaining key components and manufacturing equipment via China but also prohibited raw materials and cooperation from Chinese banks and companies to pay suppliers and hide these activities from outside scrutiny. The Chinese government still denies knowledge of these activities but the latest evidence was so detailed and well documented that China did admit it must be acted on.

(China has had a role in keeping Iran's American-made F-14s in the air, too.)

Maybe offering trade concessions to China as the carrot to the threat to attack North Korea will work.

But I think we'd get China's more enthusiastic help if we make North Korea a problem China cares about:

So if China won't solve America's (and Japan's and South Korea's) North Korea problem because the problem isn't bad enough from China's point of view, perhaps we need to make a problem that China does care about.

We could quietly let it be known that America will be willing to help South Korea and Japan to each match North Korean nuclear weapons warhead for warhead to deter North Korea.

I suspect that the possibility that Japan and South Korea will have nuclear arms (and if they go nuclear, Vietnam and Taiwan and perhaps others will see a green light--or at least an opportunity to get lost in the outrage directed at Japan and South Korea--to go nuclear) would be important enough to get China interested in solving a nuclear proliferation problem among potential foes of China.

China doesn't think it is so bad to have North Korea pointing nukes at America, Japan, and South Korea?

Well maybe America won't think it is so bad to also have Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan pointing nukes at China.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Opa!

Greece is not in good shape financially. What are China's thoughts on that?

Athens truly has their gyros in a vice these days:

Thousands of Greeks walked off their jobs on Wednesday and marched through central Athens in an angry protest against continued austerity measures being demanded by international lenders in exchange for disbursing bailout funds.

There were isolated clashes with police, but the demonstration was generally peaceful.

The strike was called by the country's main public and private sector unions a day before Greece's parliament is due to vote on reforms that would help unlock the funds from the 86-billion-euro bailout, the country's third in seven years.

In light of China's large planned investments in trade routes that reach all the way to Europe (formerly the New Silk Road but now known as Belt and Road), I bet China would love to have a secure trading outpost and naval base in Greek territory to protect the far end of their long trade lines.

With a China wielding a check book, Greece has an alternative to austerity if China is willing to pay the price to buy Greece.

I'd worry about Russia doing this, but Russia has to sell their plasma to buy a pint of vodka these days.

Or maybe Greece is about to turn the corner and leave the crisis atmosphere behind. Let's hope so.

Turning Greece into a Chinese subsidiary (and thus leaving NATO) would singe our cheese, no doubt.

UPDATE: Related information on China's interests in Europe via the Belt and Road project, including the big projects to make Greece a port of destination.

Bonus: China's efforts undermine the European Union (although the analysis says China wants a unified Europe). I just hope NATO doesn't lose Greece as collateral damage in that impact.

The Faust and the Furious

I get the feeling that by the time Turkey quits NATO it will be a mere formality rather than a great change in actual policy at the time.

The Turks are angry with Germany but are acting like they are more powerful than their actual strength justifies:

Germany's defense minister says her office has drafted a list of eight locations where it could move aircraft supporting the anti-IS mission if Turkey continues to block German lawmakers from visiting troops at the Incirlik base.

Although to be fair, it might not be that Turkey fails to appreciate the benefits of NATO common defense as much as it is that Germany (as economically successful as it is, doesn't know what its role is believing the often-resented America will defend them) provides very little of that collective defense.

Although this is encouraging on the latter issue:

The German Air Force this month sent the U.S. military a written request for classified data on the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jet as it gears up to replace its current fleet of fighter jets from 2025 to 2035.

I imagine the F-35 would be the smaller high end of a high-low mix with the European-made Typhoon.

Carriers are the Means and Not the End, Remember

Will the Navy adopt smaller carriers to supplement larger carriers?

“The Navy should also pursue a new “high/low mix” in its aircraft carrier fleet,” CSBA says in its report, CSBA “Restoring American Seapower, A New Fleet Architecture for The United States Navy,” released Feb. 9 of this year.

“Traditional nuclear-powered supercarriers remain necessary to deter and defeat near-peer competitors, but other day-to-day missions, such as power projection, sea lane control, close air support, or counterterrorism, can be achieved with a smaller, lower cost, conventionally powered aircraft carrier,” CSBA says “Over the next five years, the Navy should begin transitioning from large deck amphibious ships into smaller aircraft carriers with the goal of delivering the first such ship in the mid-2030s.”

The CSBA refers to the ships as light aircraft carrier (CVL), saying it “initially be a legacy LHA/LHD, but eventually replaced by a purpose-built 40,000- to 60,000-ton CVL with catapults and arresting gear.”

I don't think that makes a lot of sense on cost-effectiveness. Unless you can build and maintain multiple smaller carriers (and their escorts) instead of a single big carrier, is it really worth it?

Or are you telling me that Chinese (for a random example) anti-ship assets will be insufficient to take on 15 CVL battle groups rather than 10 supercarrier battle groups that are under high threat?

Further, unless sortie rates are no longer as important because of precision to generating carrier offensive and defensive air power, smaller carriers are at a severe disadvantage.

And while smaller drone aircraft could increase the number of aircraft that a smaller carrier can hold, don't smaller drone aircraft allow big carriers to carry more, too?

Further, describing a smaller alternative as "faster, more agile smaller carriers better able to maneuver away from enemy fire" is sheer marketing nonsense. A 40-60,000-ton ship is not agile in any meaningful sense of the word. And never will be. And adding a few more knots of speed will make how much of a difference against hyper-velocity missiles? How do you dodge that? We may find a way of shooting that missile down or misdirecting it, but the ship isn't going to get out of the way.

So just stop that.

Anyway, let me add some of my past posts on the subject:

"Decked" (January 2006).

"Hulk-21?" (November 2006).

"Let's Get Small?" (January 2011).

"Build More Ford Class Carriers" (January 2014).

"Not a Carrier" (February 2014).

"Another Carrier Debate?" (November 2015).

"A Floor Wax AND a Dessert Topping?" (October 2016).

"Size Matters" (February 2017).

These posts have a lot of other links to posts, of course.

The problem is that big carriers remain invaluable in power projection missions even as their survivability in sea control missions wanes. Carrier proponents and opponents tend to just argue their portion of the argument.

I think we should stop having carrier debates in order to have a sea power debate.

UPDATE: No ship type lasts forever as the dominant weapon.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

What Blue Water Missions Does Russia Need?

In another article on Russia's plan to rely on multi-mission frigates for their navy to have a "blue water" capability, one glaring omission stands. What blue water missions does Russia want to achieve?

I noted the frigate focus (in the most recent data dump):

Does Russia plan a frigate-centric fleet? That's closer to what Russia should have given that a major fleet investment is a source of weakness for the defense of Russia. (And given the land threats to NATO, I'd be content if Russia spent scarce money in a futile attempt to match NATO navies.) But even this frigate plan seems like an overreach for their high end warship given the trend in Russian shipbuilding that is leaving a smaller, older, and smaller tonnage navy (oh, and Ukraine won't sell the engines needed!) in contrast to the Chinese building program that has aimed for a newer and more balanced fleet with high-end blue water ships.

This article discusses it, too. But the only purpose given is for blue water--the deep waters of the oceans away from the shores--missions in the North Atlantic and eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The latter makes sense. It keeps Western ships from the southwest direction at bay from Russian territory. It builds on the conquest of Crimea as the launching pad for deployments in the eastern Mediterranean Sea that is bolstered by intervening in Syria to preserve a naval base option there.

Although countries in the eastern Mediterranean certainly make do with smaller ships tied to nearby bases. Does Russia have so little confidence in their Syria base to provide that resupply point for smaller ships that they want ships capable of longer deployments without resupply?

That leaves us with the North Atlantic as the location for Russian blue water capabilities.

What will they do in the North Atlantic? In the Cold War, the mission was clear: stop American and Canadian troops and supplies from crossing the Atlantic to reinforce NATO under assault by massed Soviet armor trying to conquer West Germany.

What is the point now? Does Russia really think that they need that capability again?

Russian blue water navy ambitions are a vanity item lingering from the glory days of the Soviet fleet that bear no relation to what Russia needs: coastal defense, ballistic missile subs for a nuclear deterrent, and the subs, ships, and aircraft to protect those SSBNs in bastions close to Russian shores.

Anything more is a wasteful drain on Russian resources needed for ground forces and the air power to support them to hold a very long land border that spans a distance from the Baltic Sea to the Bering Strait.

So I'm fine with Russia's plans to invest in their navy.

The Syria Front

According to television news, American aircraft fired at pro-Assad forces in southern Syria after warning shots failed to keep the pro-Assad forces out.

I assume this was for force protection purposes to keep American forces there safe from attack.

It also sounds like these are likely Iran-affiliated forces rather than actual Syrian troops.

Is this an effort by pro-Assad forces to fill a vacuum left by ISIL pulling east?

UPDATE: I guess my impressions are mostly right:

U.S.-led coalition jets hit a convoy of Syrian and Iranian-backed militias that were heading towards the Tanf base in southern Syria where U.S. special forces are based, a rebel official with a Pentagon-backed rebel group said on Thursday

Muzahem al Saloum, from the Maghawir al Thwra group, told Reuters that the jets struck after rebel forces clashed with advancing Syrian and Iranian militias that were about 27 kms away from the base along the Damascus-Baghdad highway.

There were Syrian troops with the group advancing toward the border where we support rebels.

Although this makes it sound like the Syrians were part of an Iranian-organized militia--so not really a "Syrian" government force.

UPDATE: This incident may be related to this Iranian initiative:

Iran has changed the course of a land corridor that it aims to carve to the Mediterranean coast after officials in Iraq and Tehran feared a growing US military presence in north-eastern Syria had made its original path unviable.

The new corridor has been moved 140 miles south to avoid a buildup of US forces that has been assembled to fight Islamic State (Isis). It will now use the Isis-occupied town of Mayadin as a hub in eastern Syria, avoiding the Kurdish north-east, which had earlier been mooted by Iranian leaders as a crucial access route.

But the more southern route risks running through territory that has been abandoned by ISIL to fight America-backed rebels or that those rebels could take from ISIL.

So was this clash the result of an effort by Iran to take over territory abandoned by ISIL in order to secure an Iranian supply line to Syria and Lebanon?

UPDATE: No, apparently there were no Syrian troops. Just militias that appear to be Iranian sponsored:

US jets have attacked a convoy of Iranian-backed militiamen in south-eastern Syria in the first clash between the American military and forces loyal to Tehran since the US military returned to the region almost three years ago.

The airstrikes occurred near the Syrian town of al-Tanf, where Syrian opposition forces backed by the US have been under recent attack by Syrian and Russian jets near the main road linking Damascus to Baghdad. The militias, made up mainly of Iraqi Shia fighters, had been advancing towards the base throughout the week.

This is more of a strike on Iran than on Assad. The article notes the supply line linkage I mentioned.

Although this is the logical development of the war that President Obama began in Syria. At some point the parallel wars that Syria waged on non-jihadi rebels and the war we wage on ISIL and other jihadis as a de facto Assad ally would lead to a conflict between Assad's forces and the Syrians we back to fight ISIL.

So is our policy that Assad has to go, as Obama said? Or do we just want the Iranians to go?

UPDATE: I don't think the Russian protests are totally sincere. While Russia surely doesn't want our intervention to conclude with Assad hanging from a lamp post, the Russians don't want Iran to build up their influence in Iran.

UPDATE: The strike certainly bolsters our seriousness about this diplomatic effort:

U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says a centerpiece of President Donald Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia is to curb any threats to the region posed by Iran.

Iran was definitely the focus of the strike.

Let China Remain in Ignorance of Our Navy's Condition

I'm not a fan of our eagerness for military contacts with the Chinese that give the Chinese the opportunity to see our forces up close.

By now, won't we admit that we aren't frightening the Chinese military into passivity in the face of our awesome awesomeness?

If more evidence is needed of American dismissiveness mixed with a dose of hubris, consider the decision to invite China to the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, known as RIMPAC, in Hawaii in 2014 and 2016.

The People’s Liberation Army was invited despite well-understood intelligence risks (try ‘acoustic signatures’ for starters), and apparently in the belief that exposure to US awesomeness would convince China to behave. An invitation to China for RIMPAC 2018 is apparently still open.

Face it, the Chinese aren't learning what we keep trying to teach them:

We hope to teach them the big picture--don't mess with us; but the Chinese are just interested in learning how to do their job--fighting us--so they focus on details.

Face it, in a vacuum of information the Chinese will fear their own imagination about what our military can do more than from the Chinese seeing the reality of it.

Respect the Chinese navy enough to admit that the Chinese might use what we show them to hurt us and not go back home scared witless of our military.

I'm No Rocket Analyst, But I'm Calling Bullshit On This

No, this is not what would happen if North Korea launched a nuclear attack:

Speaking to the Associated Press about what would happen in the event of a nuclear strike from the North, scientist David Wright, of the UCS Global Security Program, and rocket analyst Markus Schiller, of ST Analytics in Germany, described how the drama would unfold.

“The timelines are short,” Wright explained. “Even for long-range missiles, there are a lot of steps that go into detecting the launch and figuring out what it is, leaving the president with maybe 10 minutes to decide whether to launch a retaliatory strike.” [emphasis added]

That statement is purely stupid. Why I don't drink more I have no idea.

America has a large and varied nuclear arsenal that includes the basic triad of land-based, submarine-based, and aircraft-carried strategic bombers. Plus we have a lot of tactical aircraft that can carry smaller nuclear weapons.

In what alternate world of stupid scientists pretending to offer analysis does North Korea's small arsenal pose such a threat to America's retaliatory capability that we are reduced to a "launch on warning" status of our nuclear weapons?

Because that's what the author is basically saying by asserting Trump would have 10 minutes to order a nuclear retaliatory strike. If 11 minutes pass without the order being given, the author apparently believes America's entire nuclear arsenal is gone, victim of a North Korean counter-force strike.

So here's how your host, an analyst of stupid with a MA in history sitting in his figurative pajamas in Ann Arbor, says a North Korean nuclear strike would unfold.

North Korea launches missiles. They impact on American soil--or don't if missile defenses work--and whether or not our missile defenses work, we ride out the assault with the loss of approximately 0.0% of our nuclear arsenal, and then we figure out what kind of retaliatory strike we need to order.

We would likely use nuclear gravity bombs to avoid any chance of a mishap with a nuclear missile going off course and hitting nearby China or Russia.

I think it would involve a nominal nuclear retaliation (to preserve deterrence--who would worry about us if we fail to respond to a nuclear attack with nukes?) against selected North Korean military targets (and we'd warn them so they could evacuate or run from the site); while the bulk of our retaliation would be a conventional campaign that strikes every leadership, missile, aircraft, ship, sub, artillery, chemical, biological, and nuclear target we can find in North Korea.

Ten minutes to order retaliation, indeed. Where do these "experts" come from?

UPDATE: Let me note that it could be that the reporter is the one that screwed up perfectly reasonable statements in the context given. I shouldn't be so quick to assume the reporting is fully accurate.