Monday, October 24, 2016

The Building Blocks of a Modularized Auxiliary Cruiser

A South African company has developed a drone optimized for use in Africa, the Viper 1000C. The drone isn't of interest to as much as the command system.

The Viper 1000C is controlled by crew in a truck trailer:

The manufacturer also offers a control trailer suited to operating the 1000C in remote areas. The 6x2.56x2 meter (19.5x8.3x6.5 feet) trailer contains radio and satellite communications gear, local weather monitoring equipment plus pilot and payload operator stations. There is also a generator, water and fuel tanks plus kitchen, bunks, a toilet and a shower.

Putting the control equipment in a trailer is what is of interest to me, given my interest in a modularized auxiliary cruiser using military components housed in standard shipping containers (20ft or 40ft long x 8ft wide x 8ft 6in high) mounted on leased container ships.

While I originally looked at the concept as a Navy asset, I eventually viewed the concept as an option for AFRICOM (United States Africa Command) to project land and air power around the continent of Africa's coastal regions. (And see here for the Military Review article.)

And then I noted that it would have use in South America by SOUTHCOM (United States Southern Command)--which could use it for both naval and land-focused missions.

A lot of stuff can be put in shipping containers. And a container ship has room for a lot of shipping containers, even if you don't stack them.

Make That Six

All hail the Nobel Peace Prize-winning president who has responsibly ended our wars and through his outreach to the Islamic world, has built a foundation for peace where a past warmongering president (who probably just liked bombing brown people) just made things worse:

In an election flush with conspiracy theories, here's one that's real: Both major party nominees, as well as the journalists who cover the election and moderate the debates, are actively conspiring to avoid talking about the fact that the United States is waging war in at least five countries simultaneously: Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia.

The author asks, "Why won't anyone admit that America is fighting 5 wars?"


With US air strikes beginning in Syria, President Obama is fighting wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia (a half war), and now Syria.

Which puts him in the lead over that warmonger Bush who only managed the first three.

UPDATE: Really, who can be surprised at this record given that President Obama bombed the Moon early in his first term?

That was two years ago. Since then we added Libya back into the mix.

But considering the premise of the article, how could the author leave out Afghanistan?! Is that war which we have been waging since 2001--and which President Obama escalated dramatically in 2009 and 2010 to win the "real" war of "necessity"--forgotten already? When our people are still fighting and dying in that war?

Is the Afghanistan campaign really covered by the "at least" caveat that I assume is reserved for some quiet intervention that we might not know about?

So make it 6 wars at once, padding President Obama's lead by two in two years.

Oh, and the Obama presidency isn't over, giving potential foes to add to the record:

We do not know what other plans our opponents have to take advantage of Obama’s shortcomings as the clock slowly runs down on his time in the White House. Putin clearly hoped that his interference could muddy the waters of the American presidential race; the Russians believe that Trump is if anything less capable than Obama, and that a Trump presidency would give Russia four more years to work at dismantling American power and the European Union. As Putin now contemplates the likely frustration of those hopes, he is likely to think harder about how he can use the time remaining on Obama’s watch to further weaken the United States and erode its alliance system.

Personally, I think Putin will be just fine with a Clinton presidency--which I think has been the point of Russia's cyber-espionage and email leaks, rather than representing a ham-handed effort to elect Trump. But the real point is that enemies may think they have a limited amount of time to get in on the action and make some gains while America is fighting in so many locations.

Which makes it easy to understand how President Obama will become the first American president to lead a nation at war for two full terms, which means as far as he is concerned, he had endless war.

I never get tired of that picture. Leftists campaigned against endless war in 2008, and that is what they got. Unexpectedly.

The Short-Selling of America Continues

Our NATO ally Turkey bombs our Kurdish allies on the ground in Syria; and our ally Oman looks the other way as Iran supplies their allies in Yemen who fight our Saudi ally and shoot at our ships. "Leading from behind" is no sort of leadership, after all.

Feel the smart diplomacy:

Turkish jets pounded a U.S.-backed group of Kurdish-led militia fighters in northern Syria with more than 20 air strikes overnight, highlighting the conflicting agendas of the two NATO allies in an increasingly complex battlefield.

The jets targeted positions of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in three villages northeast of the city of Aleppo which the SDF had captured from Islamic State, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said late on Wednesday.

And behold the nuance in action:

Iran has stepped up weapons transfers to the Houthis, the militia fighting the Saudi-backed government in Yemen, U.S., Western and Iranian officials tell Reuters, a development that threatens to prolong and intensify the 19-month-old war.

The increased pace of transfers in recent months, which officials said include missiles and small arms, could exacerbate a security headache for the United States, which last week struck Houthi targets with cruise missiles in retaliation for failed missile attacks on a U.S. Navy destroyer.

Much of the recent smuggling activity has been through Oman, which neighbors Yemen, including via overland routes that take advantage of porous borders between the two countries, the officials said.

These are both logical results of our policies that allow Russia and Iran to violently pursue their interests while sowing death and destruction in their wake.

Allies of ours who once would have followed us in resisting Russia and Iran now see that we won't lead them. No, we'd be happy to see them resist Russia and Iran while we do little more than sell them the weapons to do so.

But instead of being led from behind, our once-allies decide not to stick out their necks for our benefit where potent enemies could harm them while we are safely urging them on from behind.

Not that Turkey and Oman have turned against us. But they do see the need to cut deals with enemies as a little bit of insurance in case we can't be counted on to be an ally when the chips are down.

It's a funny thing. Allies threatened by foes with troops, ships, and planes value simple hardware-based signs of our alliance rather than nuanced "smart diplomacy" that downgrades simplistic things like troops, ships, and planes in favor of attempts to turn enemies into friends through concessions, and which dismisses the worries of our allies over the hostile intentions of the new friends we're trying to make.

Wars start this way. Just as Japan in 1941 saw all of our economic and military power yet discounted that power through the belief that our poor quality men and leadership nullified our physical strength, enemies now can tell themselves that our power is meaningless because we won't dare risk our comfortable lives to resist foes with the faith and confidence to take action against us.

Sure, after Japan hit us on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor based on that belief, we mobilized and drove back the Japanese, crushing their military and nuking two of their cities (while also sending combined forces across the Atlantic to smash German and Italian forces that had overrun important chunks of Western Europe).

But we had to send our military to fight and die to demonstrate that our people and leaders did not have values close to zero that virtually nullified our physical advantages.

So keep that in mind when you hear people say we remain the most powerful nation on earth (true on paper) and that no nation would be foolish enough to take us on (false in the real world).

UPDATE: More on Turkey's ambitions along their southern border that seems to be moving further south. Note that rather than being a mini-world war, I look at Syria as (broadly) more like another Spanish Civil War.

And I'll say again, when we decline to lead to achieve objectives we can live with, allies who would normally follow our lead become free to lead on their own--for their own objectives.

Oh, and I had noted Turkey's apparent intentions a little while ago. I do worry that Turkey and Russia could come to an agreement to expand both of their influence in the region at our expense.

UPDATE: Related.  Although I don't blame Duterte's antics (and I don't assume this will amount to anything in practice) on President Obama--other than the creation of a "safety in numbers" environment of once-loyal allies hedging their bets where Duterte feels more free to slap America around verbally.

UPDATE: And Russia continues to adjust their border at Georgia's expense:

Marked in places with barbed wire laid at night, in others by the sudden appearance of green signs declaring the start of a “state border” and elsewhere by the arrival of bulldozers, the reach of Russia keeps inching forward into Georgia with ever more ingenious markings of a frontier that only Russia and three other states recognize as real.

Yeah. The 1980s called. They want their Soviet Russian border back.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Paging General Jack (D) Ripper

Democrats have clearly all gotten the memo to ignore answering anything substantive about the damning information found in the Wikileaks releases by attacking the now-evil Russians as the source of the information and questioning the patriotism of anybody who isn't outraged about that origin alone.

Which is kind of funny coming from the party that only four short years ago mocked Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for saying the Russians are our number one geopolitical foe.

Since then the Russians have invaded Ukraine (which is ongoing), intervened in Syria on behalf of a monster with their signature "we have to destroy the city of Aleppo in order to save it for Assad" approach, threatened NATO allies and friendly non-NATO friends with nuclear weapons, cheated on nuclear weapons limitations, buzzed our ships and planes in a dangerous fashion, harassed and physically attacked our diplomats, and waged cyber-war on our presidential election process.

And now Russia is a threat, notwithstanding its conventional military and economic weakness compared to America and the West.

Yeah, our president isn't equipped to lecture anybody on foreign policy. The second decade of the 21st century called, Democrats. It wants our 1980s foreign policy back.

That ill-informed mockery that the Left embraced at least fit well with the late Cold War Democratic tendency to see the evil Soviet Union as morally equivalent to free America. Republicans say the Russians are our enemies? Oh no, our flaws are so much more worse, the Democrats said. America is unworthy of opposing them, they argued.

But now, in response to Russian hacking of Democratic emails, these Democrats are suddenly hard-line Code Warriors ready to go toe to toe with the Russkies in cyber-space to protect their precious bodily emails.

To be fair to the Democrats, it has to be unfamiliar territory to have Russians trying to undermine Democrats rather than undermining Republicans, as the Soviet Russians regularly did during the Cold War with their propaganda efforts that our Left ate up like organic kale.

I assume the Russians have Republican emails, too. And I do want our government to stop the Russians.

But the information is out. And it is damning, if true. The Russian origin isn't a reason to avoid fixing the broken system that created political operatives that these emails reveal.

One can't rule out that the Russians have altered some of the emails--perhaps subtly--to get that forged information warfare bullet circulating among the real email leaks.

After all, how do the Democrats reveal only the real emails they possess to show that altered emails leaked by the Russians are false without exposing that they have other real emails to compare that would verify the majority of leaked emails?

And do Democrats really want to stick to the party line that the Russians took everything but Hillary Clinton's State Department emails housed on her bathroom server that bypassed State Department security systems and procedures?

Still, this is progress. I am a glass half-full kind of man, after all. So welcome Democrats to the American faction that doesn't look at the Russians with weepy-eyed, Reds-tinged admiration.

Maybe Democrats will now condemn that Russian espionage tool Edward Snowden who stole information for the Russians from our NSA. Hope springs eternal.

Light Resistance

I am well aware (although not from personal experience, I hasten to add) that a staff daily report that says troops advancing are facing "light resistance" looks a lot like Hell on Earth to the troops at the pointy end of the stick where the small-scale fighting is taking place. But with that caveat in mind, the Iraqi offensive toward Mosul is facing light resistance.

The offensive is moving forward, on schedule if slowly, according to reports. ISIL is resisting:

Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of the US-led coalition, said Saturday that jihadist resistance was stiff.

"It's pretty significant, we are talking about enemy indirect fire, multiple IEDs (improvised explosive devices), multiple VBIED (vehicle-borne IEDs) each day, even some anti-tank guided missiles," he said in Baghdad.

Sure, it is stiff for the troops encountering the resistance. Any of it would be terrifying on the receiving end.

But indirect fire, IEDs, "multiple" VBIEDs, and "some" anti-tank missile fire is not so much resistance as it is delaying and harassing tactics.

Especially when you consider that we estimate 3,000 to 5,000 ISIL fighters are in Mosul and 1 or 2 thousand are on the outskirts as Iraqi forces are still approaching the city. So even 2,000 ISIL troops are not defending a main line of resistance outside of the city. They are leaving small forces in cities and towns that Iraqi forces appear to surround first--showing the lack of a main line of resistance forward of the city--before clearing them.

And as I noted earlier, the ISIL counter-attack on Kirkuk was insignificant. About 50 enemy ISIL gunmen were killed and the few who weren't killed seem to have fled. This was nothing more than a one-way suicide mission raid that had no effect on the advance. Nor did a suicide attack on the Iraq-Jordan border have an effect.

Heck, even setting fire to a sulfur plant is nothing more than a delaying tactic by ISIL:

Up to 1,000 people have been treated for breathing problems linked to fumes from a sulfur plant set ablaze during fighting with Islamic State in northern Iraq and U.S. officials say U.S. forces at a nearby airfield are wearing protective masks.

A cloud of white smoke blanketed the area around the Mishraq sulfur plant, near Mosul, mingling with black fumes from oil wells that the militants torched to cover their moves.

This kind of terrorist action is more akin to reacting to an industrial accident than a chemical strike, which requires putting down a sufficient density of gas on the ground to kill and wound troops to take them out of the fight.

At worse, civilians are injured--not killed except for the very young or old, or already sick--and so the government military forces are compelled to divert some troops to cope with the civilian casualties.

But it does not strike me that any real delay has been imposed on the slow, tidy advance the Iraqis have planned by this sulfur cloud.

Burning oil is also just an inconvenience and may harm the jihadis more than the Iraqi forces advancing, given the ability of Western sensors to see through the smoke. Recall that during the 2003 invasion, a huge sand storm swept across the area of operations and Saddam's forces believed they could move under its cover--and were smashed up by our air power which was not blinded by the dust.

So far ISIL has done nothing to derail the lumbering offensive approaching Mosul. And short of blowing a major dam (that is already shaky enough to fail on its own) that inundates Baghdad with a surge of water or a pro-Iran coup in Baghdad by pro-Iranian Shia militias, I'm not sure what could do the trick and compel a halt to the offensive to direct the troops to flood relief or protecting the government.

But the light resistance by ISIL combined with Iraqi caution in the advance is giving ISIL time. And when you can't buy victory, you buy time to see if opportunities or errors can be exploited to buy that victory.

In Putin's Russia, We Reset You

What information about Hillary Clinton do the Russians have that they aren't leaking?

I haven't mentioned much about leaked Democratic emails that the Russians have no doubt stolen and released.

One, I really do try to avoid domestic politics. But it does draw my interest because the president is the commander in chief of our military, which is in my lane.

Two, it is distasteful to use that information even though it is damning of the Democrats and even though the Russians are doing what the press should be doing. I certainly don't believe that the Democrats were uniquely vulnerable to this kind of theft. If Russia doesn't have Republican emails, it is only because they don't see a need for it now.

And three, the leaks tell me nothing new. Of course Hillary Clinton is corrupt. If you don't understand that you don't want to understand that, and no revelations will make her corruption apparent or disqualify her for office in your mind.

I know Democrats are avoiding talking about the content of those damning emails by highlighting the source of the information and claiming that the Russians are trying to get Trump elected.

I doubt that motive is true. Trump is a wild card.

I figure the Russians would rather have the Devil they know (so to speak). Who is Clinton. She's a known quantity.  The Russians have decades of Clintonology to fall back on to predict her decisions.

And she is really known now because the Russians have so many of her emails.

Really, are you going to claim that the Russians took all those Democratic party emails but never managed to penetrate Hillary Clinton's off the books bathroom server to get her unsecured private emails, which she used instead of official email, that discussed State Department business?


And if the Russians are releasing all of this information now, can you imagine what information they are keeping under wraps to use against Clinton after she wins the election?

With a Clinton victory, the Russians will get a tainted American president weakened domestically by suspicions of her corruption revealed to be true, while retaining enough information to blackmail her into being more "flexible" than President Obama ever could manage voluntarily.

It will be quite the day when the Russians quietly inform the Clinton administration that they kept that "reset" button that Secretary of State Clinton gave to Lavrov in 2009; but that they rewired it to ensure her flexibility.

"Madam President, in Russia, we reset you. And yes, we will "overcharge," as you foolishly labeled that button. But you will pay the price we demand."

UPDATE: Related.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Weekend Data Dump

Oh good grief. If men don't want to raise boys because they "fear" raising them, I think it speaks more about the so-called men than who boys are. For the record I have a great son and a great daughter. The only thing I have ever feared is letting them down.

The idea that Trump's complaints that the election is "rigged" amount to an assault on our democracy is just ridiculous. Clearly, there is some voter fraud and illegal voting that always seems to tilt in favor of Democrats; and there is media bias that overwhelmingly favors Democrats on both the writing of stories and the choice of stories covered or ignored. And these two factors converge with media efforts to portray efforts to ensure that only legal votes are cast (why this is controversial whether fraud is large or small is beyond me) as "voter suppression." This is not a conspiracy against Trump. It is the environment Republicans operate in--although to be fair, that now involves government-sponsored voter suppression. Trump has been a far more potent thorn in his own side than this dual problem. Trump would be advised to refer to this election as being "tilted" rather than "rigged." But coming from the side that screamed "selected not elected" and "Diebold!" after two Bush 43 elections, this complaint about an assault on our democracy is pretty funny. Vote counting will be legitimate regardless of who wins, in a "good enough for government" sort of way. UPDATE: Huh. And in bonus territory, candidate Obama used my preferred term, although as a euphemism.

America will rotate 300 Marines through Norway, where we have a brigade's worth of equipment stored. Which is nice given that Norway's security may not be as up to snuff in peacetime as I'd like.

The Obama administration wants the glorious international community to pressure Syria to get rid of chemical weapons. Given the glorious deal we made with the Russians that the administration claimed rid Syria of chemical weapons already, I have to ask how many chemical weapons deals are necessary to empty Syria of chemical weapons?

American air strikes were hitting ISIL in Libya pretty hard this last week, prior to the big offensive in Iraq.

Russian propaganda has been aimed at Finland, even questioning Finland's 99 years of independence from Russia. Russia's firehose of falsehood has many targets for reuniting with Russia, and not just Ukraine. UPDATE: Strategypage discusses Russia's revived Soviet playbook for information warfare.

Ponder the wisdom and leadership qualities of someone who alienated her own security detail.

Strategypage takes a tour of that broken state Yemen, including the ramp up of Iranian support enabled by the nuclear deal's cash infusion and the missile attacks on our ships in the Red Sea.

Whether it is seeing how Hillary Clinton is covering up email security crimes or how her campaign conducts dirty tricks against opponents (and one man at least is no low-level flunky), it becomes clearer that Clinton's time on the Watergate Committee was not a lesson to her on the importance of honest government, but a debriefing on how to avoid the mistakes of Nixon in getting away with committing crimes and dirty tricks.

If ISIL's response to the Mosul offensive remains as weak as a platoon-sized attack on Kirkuk, the Iraqis will win this campaign no problem.

A basket full of stupid? A woman berates a meeting and smears peanut butter on participants' cars, in the belief that she is striking a blow against Donald Trump. Sadly for her brave stand, she did not understand the difference between a "conservative" group and a "conservation" group. 

Provocation Theater?

An American destroyer sailed near a Chinese outpost in the South China Sea. I'm still uncertain about whether we carried out a freedom of navigation operation.

On the surface, this seems good:

The U.S. action was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing's efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, U.S. officials said.

The Chinese Defense Ministry called the move "illegal" and "provocative," saying that two Chinese warships had warned the U.S. destroyer to leave.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur challenged "excessive maritime claims" near the Paracel Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighbors, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The latest U.S. patrol, first reported by Reuters, is expected to anger Beijing and could further escalate tensions over the South China Sea. The destroyer sailed within waters claimed by China, close to but not within the 12-nautical-mile territorial limits of the islands, the officials said.

The Pentagon said the Decatur "conducted this transit in a routine, lawful manner without ship escorts and without incident." One official said the ship, which sailed near Triton and Woody Islands, was shadowed by three Chinese vessels and that all interactions were safe.

The article says it was a freedom of navigation operation, but I've yet to read any confirmation for this or other missions to indicate that it is indeed a freedom of navigation operation.

We say we conducted a transit in a lawful matter. Which can mean a warship going through territorial waters as long as the warship keeps all its weapons and related gear "off" so as not to be a threat. I believe that is called "innocent passage" (I'm basically a ground guy and going on memory).

The Russians, I am sure, are conducting innocent passage through the English Channel rather than challenging British or French control of territorial waters in that body of water:

Royal Navy destroyers have been sent to 'man-mark' Russian warships that are on course to pass through the English Channel, reportedly heading towards Syria to support the final assault on Aleppo.

Sailing through territorial waters is not in itself a challenge to sovereignty. The Russians are simply passing through on the way to somewhere else. There is no message on legality being sent.

So until I read that an American warship is sailing withing 12 nautical miles of a Chinese outpost while operating weapons (in training, of course), I'm not going to sit here and say we are conducting freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

This might be provocation theater, in which we pretend to challenge Chinese sovereignty and the Chinese pretend to be outraged at our presence.

Riddle Me This, Nuanceman

I've read that the Iran nuclear deal is going to prevent Iran from going nuclear over the next decade; and that even when Iran is cleared of all international restrictions, by then Iran will have been brought into the community of nations and won't be a nuclear threat to anyone.

Yet so far, Iran is continuing its hostile policy more than a year after the deal was announced. Iran has been getting worse, fomenting unrest in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.

They've captured more of our people and had their sock puppets fire at American warships in the Red Sea. In the Persian Gulf, they've fired near our ships, carried out mock attack runs, and captured two of our vessels that broke down in the Gulf--humiliating our crews in the process.

So that magical reset has not occurred yet despite supposedly clearing the decks for restoring American-Iranian relations.

Clearly, Iran still views us as hostile.

Yet they agreed to the nuclear deal. Why?

If Iran sees America as a threat, why would Iran agree to even suspend nuclear work for a decade? Doesn't that just lock in a period of Iranian vulnerability to an American attack on Iran? That's why many leftists in the West say Iran needs nuclear weapons. Remember? The Iraq War proved why enemies need nukes. That's how the left excused Iran's nuclear ambitions (even as Iran denied having such ambitions).

And no, it doesn't work to say only factions of the Iranian government are attacking us. If the government that agreed to the deal can't control all the state organs, why did we bother with a deal?

Would America get away with signing a deal with Iran and then say that Air Force bombing runs on Iranian targets don't nullify our agreement because the fly boys are just a faction of the government?

But we're supposed to ignore the hostility of factions by maintaining the deal so we don't undermine so-called moderates and interfere with the healing balms of hope and change as they do their work to reset Iran as a non-nutball country?

Couldn't mere factions in Iran continue nuclear work in critical areas, too?

And might not this faction believe we'll look away from violations absent a flashing and smoking gun given how we've looked the other way in regard to ballistic missile development despite saying that would be limited too outside the nuclear agreement?

The revelation of recent days that, back in January, President Obama agreed that the United Nations should lift its sanctions against two Iranian state banks which financed Iran's ballistic missile development puts the lie to Washington's claims – stubbornly maintained for more than a year – that it was determined to rein in the Islamic Republic's expanding missile program.

In fact, the president's decision reflects a larger pattern of U.S. backtracking over Iran's ballistic missiles – one that dates back to well before the landmark U.S.-led global agreement with Iran over its nuclear program in July of 2015.

Maybe the Iranians agreed to a nuclear deal that would help protect them from attack by America because they don't see the deal as stopping Iran from pursuing their nuclear goals in any significant fashion--any more than our opposition to missiles is real.

Indeed, the deal may be a better shield against American attack than nukes in the short run, as Iran ramps up their aggressive actions fueled by deal-released cash while America refuses to do anything to stop Iran that might prompt Iran to walk away from the deal.

Heck, the deal may not have strengthened so-called "moderates" at all in Iran:

Iran’s supreme leader implemented a dramatic overhaul of Iranian military leadership in June 2016, and in so doing, effectively consolidated control of the Iranian military into the hands of a small network of senior Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commanders. This same network of IRGC commanders have been the driving force behind Iran’s recent provocations in the Strait of Hormuz, and they are likely to use their increased influence to further institutionalize this behavior in Iranian military doctrine.

Huh. Iran gets a nuclear deal that at worst (from Iran's point of view) delays Iran's indigenous nuclear drive by perhaps a decade, grants Iran lots of money to foment unrest and perhaps purchase nukes from North Korea, and ties America's hands in the face of increased Iranian actions to dominate the Middle East.

Why would that record of achievement discredit the Shia Islamist hardliners and put non-nutball Iranians on the road to running Iran?

Friday, October 21, 2016


Admiral Tidd, who commands Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) which directs American military operations in South America, needs ships. He wants innovative solutions to get them in an age when his command is low priority for Navy hulls. I suggest modularized auxiliary cruisers as one solution.

Yes, SOUTHCOM isn't likely to get Navy ships any time soon as the Navy pivots to the Pacific while forced to deal with Iran and cope with a newly aggressive and hostile (well, a new level of aggression and hostility, anyway) Russia.

But SOUTHCOM still needs ships:

U.S. Southern Command wants to be a hub for innovation, both in serving as an early tester for new technologies and ideas that can be brought into theater and also in seeking creative ways to get more ships into theater to train with regional partners.

SOUTHCOM Commander Adm. Kurt Tidd said today at an event co-hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the U.S. Naval Institute that his theater has changed drastically from the days when leadership focused primarily on interrupting the narcotics trade and could do so primarily with frigates and maritime patrol aircraft. Instead, the threat set has grown increasingly complex – networks are engaged in moving illicit goods, trafficking both criminals and refugees, laundering money and more – and ships and planes at SOUTHCOM’s disposal are all but gone, due to both the retirement of the frigate fleet and more urgent needs for ships in the Pacific and Middle East.

Tidd said he doesn’t need a carrier strike group to counter this more complex threat – and he noted that he wouldn’t get one if he asked for a CSG – but he does need ships to go on presence missions, to train with regional partners and to help search for sophisticated semi- and fully submersible vehicles now used to move people and drugs into the United States.

Sure, perhaps he could leverage a loan of ships transiting to other commands for brief visits as our 6th Fleet gets in the Mediterranean Sea with ships transiting the area between our east coast and CENTCOM. But that won't be any kind of persistent presence for engaging with regional partners.

I suggest using leased container ships equipped with shipping container-housed systems to turn the ships into auxiliary cruisers, which are civilian ships equipped to supplement fleets (usually during wartime) and which have a long tradition in naval warfare.

I thought that Africa Command--AFRICOM--could exploit this opportunity given their low priority for naval assets, and focused on them in the article "The AFRICOM Queen" that Military Review published earlier this year, which was a play on the Humphrey Bogart movie The African Queen.

But SOUTHCOM is even lower on the priority list than AFRICOM. Indeed, in the article I quoted a prior commander of SOUTHCOM who said that his naval needs were basic. Said Marine General Kelly, “So as I said, I don’t need a warship. I need a ship, something that floats, with a helicopter.”

I thought that was a great argument for my suggestion. He didn't need something fancy. He needed something.

A modularized auxiliary cruiser for SOUTHCOM could be equipped with missiles, guns, boarding parties, air and sea drones, and helicopters, using standard shipping containers mounted on the deck as the building blocks of mission packages, which would vary depending on the missions envisioned for the cruise.

The modularized auxiliary cruiser could be equipped with medical and classroom containerized mission modules to host regional partners for training on the vessel--or to provide medical help instead of sending a hospital ship.

And as I noted in the article, mission packages consisting of different containerized mission modules could be unloaded to perform a mission in one location while the modularized auxiliary cruiser continues on to other locations for other missions with different partners.

I wrote about the concept for Africa Command because I'm more familiar with the security issues of that region rather than South America, because there are more landpower missions in AFRICOM, and because of the opportunity to use the title, truth be told.

But SOUTHCOM could easily be the pioneering command for the use of modularized auxiliary cruisers if Admiral Tidd wants his command to be a hub of innovation.

NOTE: Speaking of SOUTHCOM as having South America as its region was just shorthand--its area of responsibility goes north of that, too.

Preparing for Mobile High Intensity Combat

Fighting enemies rather than fighting disorder has reappeared on the horizon as Russian aggression in Europe yanks us back from counter-insurgency focus since 2003. So we need the tanks again.

I wrote that while upgrading our Stryker vehicles to 30mm cannons is nice, it is not enough to make our Stryker brigades capable of standing up to heavy armor. It would be necessary to attach Abrams tank units to the brigades to make them more than speed bumps, I thought.

The Army tested out adding tanks to Stryker units, and not too surprisingly, tanks made a difference:

This article explores the experiences of 3-2 SBCT, 7th Infantry Division during National Training Center (NTC) Decisive Action Rotation 15-08.5 at Fort Irwin, Calif. Here, 3-2 SBCT had the unique opportunity of task-organizing tank platoons to a Stryker rifle company within the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment. The creation of Stryker-tank company teams provided the brigade commander with a more lethal strike force and created unique opportunities to experiment with maneuver tempo across restrictive terrain and during a combined arms breach. The addition of armor assets significantly increased the company’s sustainment requirements, specifically for Class III and IX, and also presented challenges for breaching operations.

Not surprisingly, the addition of heavy Abrams tanks greatly increased logistics needs of the unit.

Disturbingly, the mission command systems of the Abrams and Stryker units could not communicate with each other. It's bad enough when Army units can't operate with Marines or allies (highlighting an underappreciated role of NATO in pushing common system capabilities and procedures), but when our own Army units can't work seamlessly with different Army units, that's seriously messed up.

It was good to read this. When the threat of conventional war rears its ugly head, killing off the end of history, it's good to have heavy armor around.

Really? This is Your Complaint?


U.S. President Barack Obama said Donald Trump's embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin was unprecedented and said he was troubled that other Republicans were supporting the Republican presidential candidate's positions on Russia.

So wanting to reset relations with Russia after Russia invades a friend of ours is unprecedented?

Yeah, remember the "reset" effort with Russia mere months after Russia invaded and dismembered our friend Georgia?

Good times. Good times.

Unprecedented, indeed.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Who Fact Checks the Fact Checkers?

According to the logic of an AP fact checker, if you said America fought Japan in World War II, because we spent far more effort fighting the Germans in World War II your statement would only be partly true.

I'm hardly going to defend the Syrian government or call them a reliable ally, but come on!

AP deleted a tweet saying Trump was wrong that Syria's Assad is fighting ISIS. His remark is only partially true. A new tweet is upcoming.

Once again, my nuance deficiency is highlighted, I suppose.

I never consider the verdict of a so-called "fact checker" as the final word on any left-right issue.

They usually try to make the left accurate with all the "context" that is necessary to bring in, while never giving someone on the right (which Trump is considered at the moment by the media, notwithstanding my opinion that Trump is just a Democrat wearing a Republican skin suit after he killed and cleaned the carcass of the party) any benefit of reasonable interpretation.

Where the Visible Hand Crushes Hope and Life

Watch out! Venezuela is gaining on South Sudan and Congo!

Venezuela’s overall infant mortality rate—defined as deaths within the first year of life—is currently 18.6 per 1,000 live births, according to the most recent government statistics. That is well beyond the upper range of 15.4 Unicef estimates for war-torn Syria.

Venezuela is falling apart under their countries batshit crazy socialist rulers have effed up a wet dream--because sometimes war and natural disasters aren't enough to destroy a society.

UPDATE: Yes indeed, socialism kills more babies than war:

There is a lesson to be learned from these data points: economic policy matters. While Venezuela’s socialism has managed to kill more infants than a full-blown war in Syria, Chile’s incredible success story shows us that by implementing the right policies, humanity can make rapid progress and better protect the youngest, most vulnerable members of society. Today it is hard to believe that infants in Chile were once more likely to die within a year than their contemporaries in Venezuela and Syria.

Young people--who not that long ago believed in Santa Claus--flocked to Bernie Sanders' banner in the mistaken notion that his talk of caring for people would actually lead to people being taken care of, when people are far better off when they are enabled to take care of themselves.

A Newfound Respect for Intelligence Consensus

I find it amusing that Hillary Clinton belittled Trump for refusing to believe the American intelligence agencies who think Russia is behind the hacking of Democratic email systems.

Not that I doubt the Russians are involved up to their hips, contrary to Trump's disbelief of what Hillary said:

"We have 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyberattacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin, and they are designed to influence our election," Clinton said. "I find that deeply disturbing."

But I recall when our intelligence agencies said it was a "slam dunk" that Iraq had chemical weapons ready to go prior to the 2003 Iraq War (as did the agencies of our allies), yet when we did not find recently manufactured chemical weapons after we defeated the Saddam regime (which was horrible on many non-WMD levels, too), Democrats slammed President Bush for believing that intelligence even though Democrats believed Saddam was a WMD threat, too:

Deeply disturbing, indeed.

This is Either Sadly Deluded or Sadly Transparent

Seriously, South Korea?

South Korea's military is planning to significantly enhance operational capabilities to strike the North Korean leadership should Pyongyang be first to launch a nuclear attack.

So if North Korea sets Seoul--which has a quarter of South Korea's population--on nuclear fire, South Korea's plan is know exactly where Kim Jong Un and his top leaders are bunkered and guarded deep in North Korea and to helicopter in special forces to kill them?

So America's nuclear umbrella is insufficient to deter North Korea from nuking South Korea but a threat of a commando raid will be? No?

Okay, then this really is the retaliation plan?

Even if such a raid works, China might consider that a great trade: Seoul is smoldering, glowing wreckage and the difficult North Korean leadership is dead, making it easier for China to get a more compliant leadership in the north.

Will South Koreans consider that a good trade?

The only way this story makes sense is if the raiding capability is a part of a decapitation strike on North Korea prior to North Korea using nukes on South Korea in order to stop such a strike, using a joint American-South Korean ground division to occupy nuclear launch sites while South Korean forces carve out a no-launch zone north of the DMZ to protect Seoul from conventional fires.

Although pray tell, how will we defend the nuclear threat as imminent and so justifies decisive military action?

Mind you, I can understand why South Korea doesn't want to admit what it might want to do and so sticks with this story. But I don't buy it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Friend Indeed

The Philippines is going to get hammered:

Philippine forecasters warned that a super typhoon set to slam into the country's northeast late Wednesday may bring widespread damage similar to that wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and asked people to flee out of harm's way.

Let's see if President Duterte calls on his new crush, the Chinese, for help when the typhoon passes and the Philippines has gone to Hell, or if America gets the call again.

And we will help. As we always do.

UPDATE: Seriously?

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday he was announcing his "separation" from the United States.

He said that while in China. What is that man thinking?

On the bright side for the Philippines, the typhoon was bad but does not appear to have killed a lot of people because of precautions taken.

Seriously, what is Duterte thinking?

UPDATE: Other members of the government seek to nullify the impact of their president's statement

The Meal Worm Foreign Policy

We are pushing for a ceasefire in Yemen, which demonstrates a few fascinating features about our foreign policy.

So America said we wanted a ceasefire in Yemen where our ally Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition with our support to defeat Iranian-backed Shia factions:

The United States and Britain called on Sunday for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Yemen to end violence between Houthis and the government, which is supported by Gulf states.

A Saudi-led campaign in Yemen has come under heavy criticism since an air strike this month on a funeral gathering in the Yemeni capital Sanaa that killed 140 people according to a United Nations' estimate and 82 according to the Houthis.

We did get a three-day truce:

The warring parties in Yemen have agreed to a 72-hour cease-fire that will take effect shortly before midnight Wednesday, the U.N. special envoy to Yemen said.

Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said he hopes the temporary truce can lead to "permanent and lasting end to the conflict."

One, our pursuit of a ceasefire comes after attempts by Iran-backed forces in Yemen to sink our warships in the Red Sea. Which indicates that despite not hitting our ships, the attacks worked by getting us to back reining in our Saudi allies to the benefit of Iran.

Two, we are apparently going to enforce a red line over a mistaken Saudi attack on a funeral long after we abandoned our red line on Syrian chemical weapons attacks on Assad's enemies when it became apparent how much we'd have to do to enforce that empty declaration by our president.

The body count at Assad's hands in Syria is astronomical while the body count in Yemen is actually pretty small--and even when Saudi weapons have done the killing, the Saudis don't bear the legal responsibility for those deaths if the Houthi rebels deliberately use human shields to protect their military assets.

Say, just where are the European human shield volunteers, anyway? Shouldn't they be flocking to Syria by now?

And three, isn't this a fascinating result of a president who wants to "lead from behind?"

I did warn that allies capable of acting without us taking the lead can do things we don't like.

Yet that isn't quite what we have here. We've backed the Saudi effort with logistics, and you have to admit that for an administration that doesn't want to act, having an ally take action should be a feature rather than a bug.

And here we are calling for a ceasefire in a war that our ally has been willing to fight and which they are slowly winning after checking the enemy advances that threatened to put Iran-backed forces at the southern entry to the Red Sea.

We don't have a foreign policy. We have a foreign policy bureaucracy that reacts to unpleasant stimuli by changing directions to avoid the unpleasantness of the moment.

Break Them Up and Sell Them for Parts?

Oh good, it isn't bad enough that Syria and Iraqi fragmentation threatens to break down these two states. But as long as they are in danger of falling apart, Turkey figures they might as well pick up one or two prime pieces of the wreckage.

Oh goodie:

A dispute continues to deepen between Ankara and Baghdad over the presence of Turkish soldiers near the Iraqi city of Mosul.

Тhe spat erupted after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took the country and the region by surprise last month by calling into question the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which defined modern Turkey’s borders.

He declared Turkey had been blackmailed by foreign powers into giving up vast swaths of territory that were once part of the Ottoman Empire. Although Erdogan focused his criticism on the loss of Aegean islands to Greece, it is Turkey’s southern borders he had in mind, according to visiting Carnegie Europe scholar Sinan Ulgen.

“The message should be seen more of a signal in relation to Turkish polices towards the south, Syria and Iraq. I read it as a backdrop to a policy that tries to build domestic support for a more long-term presence, particularly in Syria, by pointing out, at allegedly past historical mistakes," Ulgen said.

Really, if Russia and Turkey have come to some sort of arrangement to pull Turkey away from NATO (perhaps a "pact" at the expense of third parties?), Russia could force Syria to give up territory to appease Turkey while not harming Russian interests in bases in western Syria--which Turkey would accept--to exert influence in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

And Iran could probably make Iraq suck it up if the Kurds pay the price of Turkish demands--especially if Turkey is friendly to Iran (tip to Instapundit) and provides them overland access to Iranian strongholds in western Syria.

Iran really just needs western Syria as an access point to supply Hezbollah in Lebanon and doesn't have hope of getting influence in Iraq's Kurdish regions anyway--so why not let Turkey strip away some of Iraq?

Really, although Turkey and Russia have a long history of warfare which should keep Turkey in NATO, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkey no longer has a direct land border with Russia, which gives Turkey more room to maneuver and cut deals with Russia to expand Turkish influence without risking a Russian invasion.

And the ongoing Erdogan purge of Turkey's government, military, and other institutions of people who can be described as pro-Western (if the coup had as much support as the purge indicates, the coup would have worked) certainly helps Erdogan shift Turkey's focus south and east.

Yeah, It Sucks When That Happens

The Syrian government is worried that the Iraqi offensive to take Mosul will result in ISIL forces fleeing to Syria where they will be a problem for Syria. That's kind of funny.

Assad is worried:

Both the Syrian army and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah have warned of what they have called a U.S. plan to open a path of retreat for Islamic State from Iraq into Syria. A Pentagon spokesman called the claim "ludicrous".

I noted that it seemed like Iraq was keeping the western side of Aleppo open to allow ISIL to retreat. Despite some claims to the contrary, the advances seem to confirm this.

This approach has been a longstanding practice of the Iraqi army to avoid trapping ISIL and forcing them to fight to the death. While I disagree with the idea of allowing enemies to survive to fight and kill you another day, this has been standard operating procedure for the Iraqis to keep your casualties this week lower. Tomorrow is another day to worry about the next week.

Further, the Iraqis would rather the enemy runs rather than fight inside the city of Mosul where civilians will be used as human shields and also get caught in the crossfire.

For the Syrians, the complaint is kind of funny given that during Iraq War 1.0, the Syrians funneled Sunni jihadis into Iraq where American, coalition, and Iraqi troops had to fight them and try to keep them from killing Iraqi civilians. So bust out a tiny violin for these Syrian complaints.

And keep in mind that the Syrians have been part of an effort to funnel Moslem refugees into Europe to put pressure on the Europeans to make nice with Russia by giving in to Russian goals for Ukraine and Syria in exchange for help in shutting down the refugee flow to Europe.

The Iraqis clearly aren't interested in blocking the western escape route, and have punted to the Americans:

"It is the responsibility of the coalition to cut the road to Syria for Daesh," Iraqi state television quoted Abadi as saying, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State. Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused the coalition earlier on Tuesday of planning to allow safe passage into Syria for IS militants fleeing the battle for Mosul.

As I also noted, I figured we would try to use our air power to smash up fleeing ISIL members. So it is possible that we can have a battle of annihilation and help the Iraqis avoid casualties among their troops and civilians.

But I'm skeptical that air power can manage to shoot up running ISIL forces as fully as we'd like, assuming that the jihadis learned any lessons from trying to run under our air umbrella.

Not much news this morning other than the fact that ISIL resistance is light on the approach to Mosul, relying on suicide car bombs and mortar fire to delay the Iraqi advance. No word on mines, booby traps, or physical obstacles to do the same.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Floor Wax AND a Dessert Topping?

The Royal Navy wants to adapt their new biggish deck carriers to also carry marines if necessary. Is this how America's Ford class carriers should be adapted?

This is interesting:

The UK Royal Navy (RN) is conducting study work to determine how to optimise the planned integration of an amphibious capability element into its Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.

The two carriers - the future HM ships Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales - are dedicated to generating carrier strike operations. However, the size and scale of the 65,000-tonne platforms provides the flexibility to support additional roles.

The British want to the carriers to be able to launch a two-company assault force, which sounds like the ship could hold a battalion in total.

Given that our large amphibious ships are to have a secondary strike aviation role with the ability to operate a small number of F-35s, I wondered if we should eventually replace our amphibious ships with a smaller number of Ford class carriers in order to have a better back-up aviation role, while reducing the number of dedicated strike carriers (because I worry about their survivability in sea control missions) so we can build more ships and subs better able to fight for sea control while not representing a catastrophic loss if sunk in battle.

We would have more Fords in total than we have big deck strike carriers and big-deck amphibious shops combined now, but would have the ability to switch their roles depending on the needs.

The dedicated Ford strike carriers would then have a back-up amphibious role to complement the amphibious Fords with a strike back-up role.

Just a thought. Remember that The Dignified Rant is not a ship designer.

If War is the Answer to Putin's Question

So let me ponder a scenario of war if Russian rhetoric is telegraphing intentions.

Mind you, this is mostly my wargaming mind let loose, contemplating opportunities on a map with cardboard counters.

Let me start with assumptions:

--Rather than being a reason to avoid war, Russia's financial and economic problems from sanctions, corruption, and low oil prices could be viewed by certain paranoid people as an act of war against Russia, that justifies war in more kinetic terms.

--Russia is far weaker than America in conventional military power.

--Russia matches us in nuclear weapons.

--Russia has a military advantage close to their western borders in the short run.

--Russia's allies in this will be Iran, Syria, plus a flipped Turkey and a secretly cooperative Pakistan.

--China is a wild card, that may or may not want to be involved.

Russia's goals are to weaken NATO as a barrier to Russian westward expansion, to claw back some ground, and to portray America as powerless to resist Russia, thus setting the conditions for reconstruction of the Russian empire in Europe at a future date when Russian conventional power is greater, rather than going for broke right now to win it all.

So let's go from north to south, and then head east.

Russian forces pretending to be Estonian rebels occupy Narva, on the border with Russia. They dig in with Russian forces providing air defenses, artillery, logistics, and replacements from across the border in Russia. Everyone will know that this is all a lie but it won't matter because Russia will deny everything.

Russia announces a quarantine of Estonia, arguing that this is an internal Estonian matter. Russian ships and planes patrol the Baltic Sea. Russia seizes Sweden's Gotland Island "for the duration of the crisis" and Russia announces that it has planted mines in the Baltic Sea to prevent outside interference.

Russian forces--of low quality but overwhelmingly large, move up to the border of Latvia.

In Kaliningrad, Russia announces that their Iskander missiles are equipped with nuclear warheads. Russian air defense forces in the exclave light up everything flying over Poland, and Latvia (with fire control radars as a warning--not shooting planes down, to be clear).

Russia reinforces their air force in Belarus and flies in paratroopers to prevent NATO aggression against their fraternal friend Belarus. Belarus is helpless to object.

Hungary's Putin-friendly ruler announces that he considers the crisis in Estonia an internal matted that NATO should stay out of.

Russian separatist sock puppets in the Donbas supported by Russian forces begin operations to secure the Ukrainian region from Kharkov to the sea of Azov.

Russia reinforces Crimea with air, naval, and paratrooper units to threaten the Black Sea coast of Ukraine.

Turkey announces that the Estonian crisis is an internal matter and closes the Dardanelles and Bosporus to NATO sea traffic for the duration to prevent unwanted incidents in the Black Sea. Turkey also shuts down the NATO base at Incirlik for the duration of the crisis. American and NATO personnel in Turkey are confined to their bases, essentially becoming hostages.

Russian air and naval forces--reinforced from the Black Sea because Russian traffic is not blocked in the Turkish Straits.

Moqtada al Sadr--Iran's hand puppet Shia warlord in Iraq, stages an uprising in Iraq supported by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. If the Iraqi army units we trained are leaning forward in the offensive on Mosul, with Sadrist militias in their rear, the Iraqi army might again collapse between ISIL and the pro-Iran elements.

Many American advisors--lacking American combat units to protect them--are captured, although the bulk of them manage to seek shelter in the Kurdish north and the American embassy in Baghdad. But the American remain cut off and unable to quickly evacuate. Sadr raises the issue of whether Kuwait is the 19th province of Iraq.

Turkey moves troops into Syrian and Iraqi territory, beginning the rebuilding of the Ottoman Empire, gaining their part of the bargain with Russia. Turkey also overruns the ethnic Greek portion of Cyprus, completing the invasion begun by Turkey 40 years ago.

Russia closes the Suez Canal, blocking American routes to the Central Command region in the Persian Gulf. This might be with a block ship sunk in the canal, with paratroopers occupying a segment while on training missions in Egypt, or with missile strikes from Russia's Mediterranean naval forces. This also blocks any oil traffic from Saudi Red Sea facilities going north.

Iran closes the Strait of Hormuz with minefields and covered by naval forces and shore-based anti-ship artillery and missiles, blocking Gulf oil exports.

Iran fires several ballistic missiles with the range to reach Saudi oil fields into the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea to warn Saudi Arabia.

A pro-Shia uprising initiated by Iran takes place in Bahrain, supported by Iran. Saudi Shia riot in eastern Saudi Arabia.

Iranian and pro-Iranian Yemen forces block the southern entry to the Red Sea with mines and anti-ship missiles to further block Saudi oil exports going south.

Heading east, Russia convinces Pakistan to quietly flip--perhaps with a Chinese assist behind the scenes to offer to make up for lost American support. Already worried about American pressure to behave, Pakistan closes--or allows to be closed by bandits--all supply routes to Afghanistan. Combined with Russian efforts to close off American lines of supply through the "Stans" and an Iranian closure of routes through their country, thousands of American and NATO personnel are isolated in Afghanistan for the duration--and effectively hostages. And Pakistan opens the spigot to the Taliban who put American bases under siege in Afghanistan.

Faced with multiple threats from the Baltic to the mountains of Afghanistan, what does America do?

With so many American military personnel plus civilian personnel at risk in hostage situations, do we take military actions against any of the threats and risk losing them to prison or massacre?

Or do we sit back an let Narva and the Donbas be annexed to Russia at the price of freeing our trapped military personnel?

Do we abandon Iraq, and by caving in notify Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and everyone else in the region that Russia and Iran are the strong horse and they'd best make their deals with Moscow and Tehran--which will include ending all support to Sunni resistance to Assad in Syria--because they can't count on American support?

Do Hungary and Turkey then pull out of NATO, beginning the "Nexit" (NATO Exit) stampade out of NATO by countries too close to Russia to risk their ire?

Does Greece follow quickly, making a financial deal with Russia in exchange for hosting Russian forces on their soil, to contain Turkish ambitions at their expense and to avoid being the last to leave NATO, so reducing the price Greece might get for flipping to Russia?

Do Sweden and Finland make their peace with Russia by ending NATO ties? Does Sweden even get Gotland back?

Or does America declare war and mobilize to keep our allies on the line with us? Setting the stage for a major war against Russian and Iranian aligned forces, risking nuclear war if the Russians sense they are losing as we mobilize forces for a long war to repel the Russian and Iranian advances?

We would win such a war, I have no doubt, if it remains conventional. And Russia could very well remain rational on the nuclear escalation issue as they lose ground despite their rhetoric. But it will suck to count on Russian rationality, no?

And keep in mind that this does not require a lot of decent quality Russian ground forces at the pointy end of the stick. Relatively small capable ground forces plus larger numbers of bluffing troops that just have to look scary will suffice to win if we back down or fight on a narrow front at one point of the offensive. Mind you, if we don't back down and significant pieces of the scenario don't play out, we have the option of mobilizing resources to win the war.

With the threat of nuclear escalation looming over the war, of course.

I don't mention China. My guess is that rather than making a play for Taiwan or the South China Sea or East China Sea islands that they claim during the chaos, China would rather see if a crisis in which China is strictly neutral escalates to the point of taking out or reduces their two biggest military threats--America and Russia. Why risk getting involved and really rattling America to the point of triggering irrational (nuclear) actions as we see threats coming at us from everywhere?

China might well think they can play the long game and take advantage of the loss of America's reputation as an ally if we back down across Europe and the Middle East; or benefit from the end of the pivot to the Pacific as American military power is sent to the European and Middle East fronts.

Or they might jump in thinking they can get a short and glorious war to bolster the authority and legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party as the economic basis of that authority erodes dangerously.

Perhaps that is how a regional war against a couple of regional powers becomes a global war.

And maybe North Korea announces they've sold Iran nuclear warheads for their new missile force.

Like I say, this is just a wargaming scenario that could make for an interesting game. What are the odds of all or even significant portions taking place in the real world?

For want of a resolute president the last 8 years, the kingdom might fall and burn.

UPDATE:  Strategypage looks at Russia's military problems. Remember, Russian aggression so far depends on Russia choosing weak targets that don't get American support to clearly defeat the Russians. If Russia is able to rebuild their conventional military forces, their target list will expand. Note too that Russians are worried about China even though Russia loudly complains about a NATO threat that is only prompting NATO to prepare to fight Russia again.

Begin the Aleppo Airlift

I doubt that any direct American military intervention in Syria could be more than too little and too late, unless we bizarrely conclude that we must risk war with Russia to achieve our goals. But we have options to defeat Assad.

Well, it is hard to argue our policies the last 5 years have worked as we flail about for options to save eastern Aleppo from the Russian-backed offensive:

Some U.S. defense officials are skeptical that U.S. military power can help as the White House deliberates how to alleviate the suffering Syrian city of Aleppo.

Syrian regime forces, backed by Russian airpower, have completely encircled the opposition rebels in eastern Aleppo, along with about 250,000 civilians, who are running out of food and water.

Air strikes against Assad's forces in western Syria are too risky now that Russia is on the ground with air defenses.

Maybe we could manage to use long-range tube, rocket, and missile artillery to strike Assad's fixed assets near Aleppo.

But other than increasing arms shipments to rebels--even at the risk of arms leaking to jihadi groups (and I don't think the jihadis could hold Syria even if they lead the advance into Damascus. Unless Sunni Syrians really are all just Islamists, the majority of Syrians will support resistance--which we will support--to any such victory)--we could do something that will give the residents of Aleppo hope and inspire resistance to Assad.

We could begin to airlift humanitarian relief supplies to Aleppo.

This option is raised in the article near the end (although I think we'd find the Russians and Syrians would dare to stop ground convoys of aid, so that won't work).

Not by landing supplies at an airfield like we did in the Berlin Airlift. I don't know where we'd do that. But by air dropping supplies.

By using GPS-guided parachute systems, we could accurately drop humanitarian supplies into Aleppo without exposing the aircraft to ground gunfire. Such an operation would at least give the residents some hope and if scaled up enough, do real good.

I've read that we aim for up to 30 kilometer range on these systems. Even with that kind of offset, we'd have to enter Syrian air space where long-range air defense missiles would threaten them. So that's a risk.

Unless we can rig these devices for over 45 kilometer range so our transport planes could remain within Turkish air space, the Russians or Syrians could shoot at the planes.

Also, unlike their use to resupply outposts in Afghanistan, we'd have to count the systems as one-time use items rather than collecting them for return.

It might be that we could only send high-value aid like medicine, baby formula, water purification supplies, and vitamins.

I can't rule out that we could ramp up the effort to send real amounts of supplies given enough time.

And I can't rule out that we could figure out a way to have the GPS systems sent back to the Turkish border for re-use.

But even if the effort never gets large, a Western air drop campaign would at least give the residents hope that they have not been forgotten.

And as always, the ultimate humanitarian solution is to defeat the Assad regime that is bombing and starving the residents of Aleppo (and other civilian urban areas).