Friday, August 26, 2016

Behold the Crowning Glory of Smart Diplomacy

Well, now Putin's gone and done it. Release the Kraken!

Putin has provoked the Obama administration into unleashing the disapproval of the United Nations for his actions:

The Obama administration is pushing U.N. reports showing Assad hasn’t given up, and is in some cases still using, poison gas. The strategy is to pressure the dictator’s patron, Vladimir Putin.

Wait. So the chemical weapons deal with Syria's Assad was a farce rather than a glorious success? Huh.

Well I'm sure our nuclear arms deals with Russia and Iran are much better, rather than part of a pattern of self-delusion.

More to the point, what's the administration going to do? Have President Obama's FBI director set out the evidence of Russian complicity?



Yeah, that man is going to care.

Assad wasn't deterred by President Obama's "red line" on chemical weapons use. Why would Putin feel any pressure from a belated effort to redraw the line for him?

I'm guessing that Putin isn't going to feel any pressure at all from this bold diplomatic stroke.

A Figurehead Role in the War on Women

I'm sure that if a Trump backer was a "figurehead" on a publication of a neo-Nazi organization that this explanation for Huma Abedin's role on an Islamist magazine would work for that Trump backer:

Top Hillary Clinton confidante Huma Abedin played no formal role in a radical Muslim journal — even though she was listed as an editor on the hate-filled periodical’s masthead for a dozen years, a campaign rep claimed Sunday.

“My understanding is that her name was simply listed on the masthead in that period,” Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said hours after The Post broke the bombshell story. “She did not play a role in editing at the publication.”

Merrill said Abedin was just a figurehead and not actually on staff at the Saudi-based and -funded Journal of Minority Muslim Affairs, which featured radically anti-feminist views and backed strict Islamic laws roundly criticized for oppressing women.

So no active role. Pity.

Because if she played an active editorial role she might have fought against the anti-women views of the journal rather than passively accepting that actual "war on women" editorial message for 12 years!

Tip to Instapundit.

Strong Horse

When we help allies win, we get more allies.

What a shock, when we arm, train, and support acceptable rebels, we attract more acceptable rebels!

In northeast Syria American trainers working with Syrian Kurds reported a growing number of Arabs are volunteering to join the Kurdish dominated (and U.S. supported) SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces). For over a year about 80 percent of the SDF strength (currently about 25,000) was Kurdish with the rest being Christian and Moslem Arabs. But with the weakening of ISIL because of battlefield defeats and growing desertions (and fewer new recruits) more Syrian Arabs are willing to fight and prefer to do that with the SDF, who are the most successful Syrian rebels. Many of the new volunteers have no military experience at all and the U.S. is hustling to expand its training program, which takes longer for men with no military experience. [emphasis added]

This recruiting success years into the civil war is why I was furious over all the excuses for not arming rebels because of how tough it was to find acceptable rebels.

I wanted to find whatever acceptable rebels we could identify and start arming them to begin a cycle of generating more acceptable rebels:

Since the appeal of the more Islamist (and jihadi) groups has been their effectiveness in battle (which has meant they attract foreign arms or seize them more often from the government), arming the secular and nationalist groups can be expected to reverse the appeal of the Islamists. So this 25% of the rebels could grow with new recruits and at the expense of the groups we aren't arming.

Then look for some of the groups with Islamic character to move away from that outlook in exchange for arms, training, and assistance. If they are losing people to the secular and nationalist groups we help, they will have incentive to move away from an Islamic character.

And once the non-Islamists and non-jihadis are more effective, it will be easier to pressure our Arab allies into reducing support for these Islamist elements.

It isn't too shocking that the Islamists are the most important element right now. They fight the hardest and so get more results and attract recruits and arms. In World War II, the most effective resistance fighters against the Nazis were communists. Is it any wonder that communists were so strong in post-World War II Western Europe?

We found some acceptable rebels and have given them real support, and now find more want to join the acceptable rebels.

Pity we didn't do this 3 or 4 years (and 400,000 dead) ago.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

This is Not Good

American forces are bolstering Afghan forces as the Taliban approach Lashkar Gah:

Around 100 U.S. troops in Afghanistan have been deployed to a southern city at risk of falling to the Taliban.

The spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan said the soldiers had arrived in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, to provide training and support to Afghan forces.

While it is good we are helping, why did it get to this point?

When last The Dignified Rant mentioned Lashkar Gah, we were helping the Afghan forces consolidate their forces to get rid of vulnerable outposts in order to better defend more important territory--like Lashkar Gah:

Army and government officials said security forces had left Nawzad district, which borders Musa Qala, and would concentrate their strength on defending the area around the provincial capital Lashkar Gah and the main highway between Kabul and the western city of Herat.

And gathering reserves by abandoning small posts was supposed to allow Afghan forces to seize the initiative and go on the offensive. That was a good concept.

Instead, Afghan forces appear still on the defensive in the south, but now holding the provincial capital against advancing Taliban.

Will Afghan forces have enough support from America and our allies to allow them to outfight the Taliban?

What the Hell happened?

Turkey is On the Move. To What?

Turkey is moving troops into Syria:

Turkey mounted on Wednesday its largest military effort yet in the Syrian conflict, sending tanks, warplanes and special operations forces over the border in a United States-backed drive to capture an Islamic State stronghold in Syria.

The offensive on the city of Jarabulus began hours before Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was set to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara to discuss tensions raised by the failed coup in Turkey last month. The joint operation in Syria seemed intended to send a message that the countries are still cooperating in the fight against the militant group.

Turkey has long wanted to support rebels trying to overthrow Assad while resisting American pressure to get Turkey to join in the war against ISIL--which includes Syrian Kurds who are not welcome additions as far as Turkey is concerned.

Early in the year, it seemed that Turkey would intervene to help those anti-Assad rebels.

And now Turkey invades to focus on ISIL. Is this an example of our diplomacy bearing fruit?

I highly doubt that is the case. The new Turkish focus on ISIL likely is related to warmer relations with Russia which has long tried to save Assad by peeling away anti-Assad forces to the anti-ISIL fight.

So, no, I don't think this is not an example of Smart Diplomacy.

Although I suppose Turkey could be using an anti-ISIL operation with the blessing of the Russians to get their foot in the door. Then, Turkey could support other rebels.

Perhaps.

In the long run, I don't worry about a Turkish-Russian alliance. But in the short run, Assad could win his civil war and survive it.

And as an aside, just how will the Turks justify their "disproportionate" response to a few terrorists planting bombs inside Turkey?

MORE: Let me add a pre-publication update to this scheduled post.

Stratfor writes that the Turkish move is small (even if it is Turkey's largest operation to date) and that Turkey has not aligned with Russia's goal of supporting Assad. In fact, the move really is in coordination with America.

So I'm wrong about my speculation that Turkey's move into Syria was more aligned with Russia--even if I thought a second stage could be more anti-Assad.

Now it seems that we agreed to let Turkey prevent the Kurds from linking up their eastern territories with Kurds to the west; and we warned the Kurds to pull back from the Turkish move.

I still don't think this is Smart Diplomacy, since we are going along with a Turkish objective of setting the Kurds back.

That American support might be the price of Turkish permission for American forces to use Turkish bases against ISIL [oops, I originally typed "Assad"].

Do read it all. Basically it argues that both Turkey and Iran need America to balance Russian ambitions. I agree. In the long run.

So Turkey won't stray too far even if it does damage to us.

As for Iran, such an American-Iran partnership is certainly possible. So President Obama is not completely delusional on this long-term factor pushing us together.

However, as long as nutball mullahs run Iran there is no way that the long-term forces pushing us together can bear fruit unless we wish to go along with whatever the nutball Iranian mullahs want to do.

Would we really pledge to defend nutball mullahs with American troop lives in a confrontation with Russia over nutball Iran? And will our other allies tolerate American support for Iran which goes after them, too? And the whole terrorism support thing?

But for Turkey, which is in NATO, we can afford to go along with a minor Turkish move into Syria that is directed more at the Kurds in order to keep Turkey onboard in the short run to deflect Russian efforts to gain ground in the Black Sea/eastern Mediterranean region by loosening our ties to Turkey.

[I thought I'd leave the original post as is and add the new information as a separate piece rather than rewrite the post based on better information just so you can see my thinking process--right or wrong--as I read the news, which at the time I wrote the original post focused on ISIL without bringing in the Kurdish angle. I knew that region was an objective for the Kurds which Turkey opposed--but the reporting was that the Turkish move was anti-ISIL in motivation and larger than it turned out to be.]

UPDATE: The Turks muddy the waters on who they are working with:

President Tayyip Erdogan and senior government officials have made clear the aim of "Operation Euphrates Shield" is as much about stopping the Kurdish YPG militia seizing territory and filling the void left by Islamic State as about eliminating the radical Islamist group itself.

So this can't be just working with America against ISIL. We back the Kurds who fight ISIL.

Turkey sees ISIL as both a threat and a tool against Assad, but sees Syrian Kurds as a problem to be tolerated because America sees Kurds as an asset against ISIL.

Russia wants to save Assad by getting everyone to focus on ISIL, which would leave the Kurds all alone once the Arab rebels are defeated.

America in theory is against Assad and ISIL and walks a tightrope with Kurds who are effective in Iraq and Syria but whose independence ambitions run counter to what our allies affected want (nor does Iran want that).

So Turkey's motives are conflicted, I suppose.

UPDATE: Strategypage characterizes this Turkish operation as an Iran victory. And hence an Assad and Russian victory, of course. Do read it all. I'm starting to downgrade the Stratfor interpretation and lean more on my initial impression.

That America  went along with the Turkish operations by siding with Turkey over the Kurds is just an example of "following from behind."

And ponder that we sided with Turkey to push Kurds out of non-Kurdish areas at the border and limit the Syrian Kurds to positions east of the Euphrates River.

I've long noted that we can hardly count on the Kurds to be the main force against our enemies--whether ISIL or Assad (is he still our foe?)--because the Kurds are hardly willing to sacrifice a lot to move out of their traditional territory. They fight with us as long as our interests coincide.

But if we won't let the Kurds move into Arab territory to link up with Kurds in the Syrian northwest, why would the Kurds advance beyond their own regions to fight our enemies?

Also, this may explain our recent use of fighter aircraft to help protect Kurdish forces in the northeast from Syrian air power. We wanted to take some of the sting out of the Turkish northern operation and our siding with the Turks against the Kurds there.

The Phenomenon of Being Isolated from Consequences

This is a defense of Merkel's policy to welcome and encourage Modlem refugees/migrants to come to Germany (and Europe)?

Chancellor Angela Merkel has dismissed suggestions that the influx of refugees over the past year brought Islamic extremism to Germany.

Merkel said late Wednesday that "the phenomenon of Islamist terrorism by IS isn't a phenomenon that came to us with the refugees, it's one that we had before too."

This strikes me as a damning excuse. If Germany had no Moslems and no Islamic terrorism problem, Merkel could perhaps have the excuse of not knowing that bringing in Moslem migrants in huge numbers could cause a problem.

But she says she was aware of that terrorism problem.

So she had no excuse for not realizing that Islamic terrorism exists within Moslem populations in Germany, and that increasing the Moslem population dramatically in a short time would increase the terrorism problem for Germany (and Europe).

And that's apart from the issue of ISIL or other Islamic terrorist groups using the migrant flow to infiltrate terrorists into Europe.

Oh well. Merkel has armed guards and full-time security to protect her from being groped or otherwise assaulted. And there is no way that a refugee center would be plunked down next to her home!

So for Merkel, this is just a "phenomenon" and not a traumatic and perhaps life-threatening incident.

In a Shocking Development in the World of Smart Diplomacy

Syria did not give up their chemical weapons capabilities despite the 2013 deal. I know. What a shock.

Is anybody really surprised by this?

The world’s chemical weapons watchdog has repeatedly found traces of deadly nerve agents in laboratories that Syria insisted were never part of its chemical weapons program, raising new questions about whether Damascus has abided by its commitments to destroy all of its armaments, according to a highly confidential new report.

The discoveries of precursors for chemical warfare agents like soman and VX at several undeclared facilities, including two on the outskirts of Damascus, underscored what a 75-page report by the director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) describes as a troubling pattern of incomplete and inaccurate Syrian disclosures over the past three years about the scope of the country’s chemical weapons program.

It was always clear that we couldn't trust Assad.

And I predicted in that post exactly what the problem is now that we see Assad using chemical weapons and evidence of cheating (back to the initial article):

Robert Ford, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and a former U.S. ambassador to Syria who helped negotiate the chemical weapons deal, doubts that the Kremlin would support aggressive action against the Assad regime at the same time it is trying to prop up its ally in Damascus.

“Do we really think that the Russians are now going to allow Chapter 7 sanctions against their client?” Ford said. “The administration has worked itself into a position that’s just untenable. They look foolish.”

If you ever believed the Syrian chemical weapons deal was anything other than an excuse to avoid confronting the brutal Assad regime after he crossed President Obama's ill-considered "red line" on chemical weapons use, well, you're just too dense to even talk to.

In the end, Assad just used America to clean up his elderly stockpiles of chemical weapons and raw materials while keeping the best stuff in order to reconstitute a  newer and more lethal chemical arsenal once our attention wanders away.

UPDATE: Related:

A UN investigation established that President Bashar al-Assad's forces carried out at least two chemical attacks in Syria and that Islamic State jihadists used mustard gas as a weapon, according to a report seen by AFP on Wednesday.

There are 6 other incidents whose origin is unclear.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Putin Smiles

Ah, if Putin had a role in directing refugees into Europe, he is getting a nice bonus collateral damage in the main economic power in Europe and the source of the largest potential military challenge to Russia within Europe:

A week-long spate of violent attacks this summer — including two involving migrants — has triggered debate about potentially deploying troops on Germany's streets for the first time since World War II.

The German army is sad enough as part of a weak conventional force that might challenge the Russian army. It would take a lot to mobilize Germany's economic power and build a formidable military.

Instead, the German army may be diverted to police duties dealing with Islamists and criminals among the migrants--making it even less imposing as a force that could stop the Russians.

Chutzpah Lessons

Turkey has decided to give Israel a lesson in Advanced Chutzpah.

The outrage:

Israel said Monday it staged dozens of strikes on Gaza in response to rocket fire from the strip, causing limited casualties but sparking a war of words with Turkey. ...

Turkey, whose parliament on Friday night ratified normalisation of ties with Israel after a six-year rift, slammed the Israeli strikes.

"We strongly condemn these disproportionate attacks," its foreign ministry said in a statement.

One, it is a gross distortion of the concept of proportionality in warfare to say that Israel's much larger response is illegal.

Proportionality is intended to mean--in an obviously exaggerated example--that you don't nuke a building to take out a single sniper.

The notion that Turkey and much of the Western Left use for proportionality means that the stronger party's response must always be artificially hobbled to match the violence of the initial attack.

That is nonsense.

Two, oh really, Turkey?

Turkish armed forces on Monday launched artillery strikes on separate targets of Islamic State (IS) jihadists and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) Kurdish militia in northern Syria, television reports said.

Turkish army howitzers stationed inside Turkey fired on IS targets in the town of Jarablus and PYD targets around the area of Manbij, the CNN-Turk and NTV channels reported.

How does this fit with Turkey's apparent definition of proportional responses?

Two Birds With One Opinion Piece

This author condemns the Obama administration for its failures to promote rule of law in the Balkans and Eastern Europe:

Obama’s global influence, or lack thereof, also led to a spike in chaos and corruption throughout Eastern Europe, harming American interests. I’ve personally seen this on recent think tank trips, speaking and touring for a collective three months in 12 European countries to include 7 former Soviet Republics and several satellite states.

The writer has a point. Although he focuses on Moldova as the worst case of what he says is a regional trend.

But consider that despite lack of American attention to combat that trend, why hasn't the European Union been more successful within its own sphere?

Shouldn't any failure by America been made up by the nearby EU foreign policy bureaucracy to show their mettle?

Yet still there is a spike in chaos and corruption?

America at least has an excuse: things are screwed up in so many places that we have plenty to keep our people busy.

What about the European Union that has pretensions of being an autonomous power in its own right?

Why has this well-paid body spent more time condemning the British for Brexit than in maintaining stability in an expanded democratic free Europe that the American-led NATO provided to Europe?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Yes, But They're So Darned Pretty!

Patriarchy, male privilege, glass ceilings, blah, blah, blah. Men bad.

Wait. What?

“With the exception of the age group between 45-59 (a 15 year span) years old, women cost more to the state than the tax they provide. In contrast, men generate more tax revenue than they cost between 23 and 65 (a 43 year span). In the brief period in which women generate more or as much tax money than they consume, men outscore them by at least 3 times.

Huh.

Well, it isn't a very good patriarchy, it seems.

Tip to Instapundit.

Yeah, That Would Be Pretty Good

I've often spoken of Iran's recruitment of a Shia Foreign Legion to fight for Assad in Syria. Iran is formalizing their practice for a general purpose tool of intervention. So much for Iran becoming a responsible regional power.

Assuming Al Jazeera is reliable, this formation of a multi-national Shia military force is interesting and not too shocking:

Iran has formed what it calls the Liberation Army whose units will be deployed in Arab countries, according to reports.

I'm not sure how "responsible" (as in  abiding by international norms and international rules) this is but it sure does make Iran more of a "regional power":

[President] Obama told NPR that Iran should seize the chance of a [nuclear] deal that could lift crippling sanctions.

"Because if they do, there's incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of Iran and it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules - and that would be good for everybody," he said.

Hell, from the Obama administration's perspective, two out of three ain't bad, eh?

Oh well, in theory this was supposed to be good for everybody. Just like Summer Glau falling madly in love with me would be pretty good, eh? I'm not sure which is less likely to happen.

UPDATE: Strategypage has more on the Shia Liberation Army:

The SLA will be similar to the French Foreign Legion, which was founded in the 19th century as an elite force of non-French troops to handle problems in the worldwide network of colonies and possessions France had accumulated since the 18th century. ... But the main role of the SLA is to develop a source of foreigners devoted to Shia Islam, loyal to Iran and possessing combat and related skills. The SLA is no surprise to those who know the recent history of the region, especially the Iranian experience with creating and expanding Hezbollah.

Funny how left-wing condemnation for use of mercenaries (or "contractors," as we call them) is reserved just for America.

When Leading from Behind it is Easier to Stab in the Back

So are we downgrading our cooperation with Saudi Arabia in the Yemen civil war because of civilian casualties?

The U.S. military has withdrawn from Saudi Arabia its personnel who were coordinating with the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen, and sharply reduced the number of staff elsewhere who were assisting in that planning, U.S. officials told Reuters. ...

The June staff withdrawal, which U.S. officials say followed a lull in air strikes in Yemen earlier this year, reduces Washington's day-to-day involvement in advising a campaign that has come under increasing scrutiny for causing civilian casualties. ...

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the reduced staffing was not due to the growing international outcry over civilian casualties in the 16-month civil war that has killed more than 6,500 people in Yemen, about half of them civilians.

But the Pentagon, in some of its strongest language yet, also acknowledged concerns about the conflict, which has brought Yemen close to famine and cost more than $14 billion in damage to infrastructure and economic losses.

I'm not sure why the civilian casualties are a major factor in any decision we make. As I recently wrote, the 6,500 casualties in nearly a year and a half are really a low rate--assuming the casualty count is accurate.

And the article says that civilian casualties are half of the total, making the toll even smaller.

A "arms watchdog" group is calling for a reduction of arms to Saudi Arabia in punishment:

An arms watchdog on Monday urged major weapons exporters, including the United States and France, to cut sales to Saudi Arabia over its actions in Yemen, as a conference on global arms trade opened in Geneva.

As I noted, the death toll isn't that high compared to other wars. Plus, does the watchdog group account for enemies using human shields? Saudi Arabia is not obligated by the rules of war to refrain from striking valid military targets just because civilians are close. In that case, the responsibility for the civilian deaths lies with the side that places civilians close to their military assets for protection.

And the rebels seem to have plenty of weapons, as does Assad where the death toll of Syrian civilians is an order of magnitude greater than civilian deaths in Yemen (and possibly a couple orders of magnitude greater by now).

I don't know, but this whole issue sounds more like caving in to Iranian information operations designed to portray the Saudi-led intervention against Shia forces that Iran backs as bloodthirsty.

Why we'd go along with Iranian efforts to turn America into a responsible (according to Iranian definitions) power in the region is beyond me.

And given that the Obama administration prides itself in "leading from behind," why we'd undermine an ally actually willing to get in front of us is also beyond my powers of analysis.

But I've always been nuance deficient, I admit.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Signs of Imminent Mosul Assault?

America is preparing to assist an Iraqi offensive to capture Mosul. Are there signs indicating an offensive sooner rather than later at the end of the year?

Our new commander of the war against ISIL is prepared to ramp up our air effort:

The United States will increase the tempo of operations in support of ground forces in Iraq and Syria as they prepare to tackle the Islamic State’s twin capital cities, according to the new commander of the U.S. military operations against the militant group.

Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, who takes command on Sunday of U.S. and allied operations against the Islamic State, said U.S.-backed forces in Iraq and Syria were preparing to move on the Iraqi city of Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa for what he said would be the conclusive urban battles.

Iraqi Kurdish forces are unwilling to slow down their advances near Mosul at the request of the Iraqi government:

The Kurdish government is rejecting calls from the Iraqi government for the Peshmerga to stop advancing towards the city of Mosul in the battle against the Islamic State.

Iraqis can see that ISIL is not fighting hard against the Kurds:

In the north the Kurds have been on the offensive around Mosul and have used their better training and leadership, as well as American air support, to appear unbeatable to many of the ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) fighters facing them. Not only are ISIL defenders being defeated and destroyed, with little visible loss to the Kurds, but details of these defeats have circulated throughout the ISIL forces defending Mosul. This has led to more desertions including leaders of units. This last item requires swift, strong and public response from senior ISIL leadership and that’s what happened. In the last week there have been several public executions of ISIL field commanders who deserted, often while with units under attack by the Kurds.

Why, the Iraqi government may figure, will ISIL fight harder against the Iraqi army?

Why would the government ask the Kurds to slow down unless the Iraqis figured the Kurdish help was not needed at the price of taking ground the government considers Arab land?

There is also this in Syria:

Kurdish fighters on Monday captured the central prison in Hasakeh after fierce clashes with Syrian regime forces and are in control of 90 percent of the northern city, a monitor said.

We would certainly like to stress out ISIL in Syria while the Mosul offensive is conducted to make it tougher for ISIL to even order troops to run our gauntlet to reinforce Mosul.

The Kurdish assault on Syrian government positions in the northeast where we are putting air power into the skies to deter Syrian air strikes could indicate that we paid the price of getting the Syrian Kurds to move on Raqqa in partnership with Syrian Arab rebels we support at their side.

I've been writing for a long time that the time we are taking to prepare to take Mosul is ridiculous. If the offensive truly doesn't begin until the end of this year, that means that we took about as much time following the Pearl Harbor attack to prepare for the Normandy freaking invasion as we are taking to prepare for the liberation of Mosul after its capture by ISIL in June 2014.

And I've been writing all year (and a little earlier) that jihadi morale isn't as fierce as they'd like us to believe.

I sure hope that the assault begins months before the end of this year.

Get on with the offensive. Bad things happen when you give an enemy time.

Cunning bastards that they are, they may annoyingly refuse to patiently await the meticulously planned killing blow.

In the Long Run We are All Dead

Even if Iran abides by the nuclear deal without cheating, I believe that Iran has routes to nuclear weapons that go through North Korea.

This article (direct link, or alternate access here) shows how all the hopes of of the Iran nuclear deal for shifting Iran away from a hostile and aggressive foreign policy are not working out.

And while that aspect isn't working it--yet, the administration says--the nuclear parts of the deal are working just fine, they say:

Today, only 5,000 centrifuges are spinning, the plutonium-making reactor has been made inoperable, and most of Iran’s enriched uranium has been shipped out of the country.

But if this nuclear deal is preventing Iran from going nuclear in the short term, as the administration says in contradiction to indications of problems already, they concede that in the long run--and that seems to range from anywhere from 8 to 15 years from the start of the deal--the deal will free Iran from all constraints on their nuclear programs and allow Iran to use the short run to gain knowledge and experience with nuclear technology free from worry about American military power.

So the long run prospect of a non-nuclear Iran requires Iran to undergo a metamorphosis in the short run from hostile, mullah-run, nutball regime that reaches out around the region to harm American interests to responsible regional power that might not even want nuclear weapons.

Yet consider the signs of claimed short-range success on the nuclear front: that Iran has their plutonium route shut down and can't accumulate enriched uranium. This means Iran can't get nukes, right?

Yeah, not so fast sparky.

Consider that Iran and North Korea are working together on nuclear missile development.

And then recall that North Korea has ramped up both their uranium and plutonium routes to nuclear warheads. As I wrote about this development:

I will note what I asked about a year ago when the news of new Plutonium production on top of their Uranium production came out:

North Korea increases production of two types of nuclear weapon material just as Iran agrees to suspend their work with possible military dimensions.

Isn't that a crazy coincidence?

Given that we know that Iran and North Korea have worked together, why do we assume that North Korean actions are related to tensions with America?

According to North Korea, we've been planning an invasion of that Pearl of Northeast Asia for 50-plus years now. It's imminent war 24/7 as far as Pyongyang is concerned.

But North Korea is desperate for money to survive. North Korea has but two potential exports: ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads.

And Iran has money. And because of the Iran deal, Iran has more money--including $400 million in cash.

Even if Iran abides by the nuclear deal without cheating, I believe that Iran has routes to nuclear weapons that go through North Korea.

What part of "Axis of Evil" was unclear?

Our President Spent His Time Dealing With Sand Traps

President Obama probably actually thought that he could wrap up all our problems with the proper infusion of much-needed hope and change and a few speeches to inspire people and officials here and around the world to just get stuff done. Cue the credits.

Remember, President Obama complained quite a bit about the problems he inherited.

The economy still creeps along more than seven years after we came out of the Great Recession.

And abroad, rather than solving the problems by getting America out of the way--justifying that Nobel Peace Prize he got for his "potential" (!)--bad stuff has happened:

It would be a fitting story to tell of the man who ascended to the presidency while simultaneously winning a Nobel Peace Prize. Obama returns America's sword to its sheath, and earns the praise of his fans and admirers. Just as he passed on a better economy to his successor than the one he inherited from Bush, so he passed on a safer world.

Unfortunately this story is a lie from end to end. The world the next president will inherit is full of traps.

Do read it all.

Although the author unnecessarily genuflects to the Left by ending with this:

President Obama was given a very difficult foreign policy situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. But his decisions in the Middle East and elsewhere have set a number of traps for the next president, while weakening our allies. And this in turn has invited other global powers to test America's historic commitments. [emphasis added]

I will remind readers that Iraq was a battlefield victory by the time President Obama took office. All he had to do was not do stupid shit to defend and exploit the gains. The administration boasted of this success before we walked away in 2011 and that JV team ISIL swarmed over northern and western Iraq in 2014.

And Afghanistan was a low-level fight during the Bush administration, where 660 American troops died in battle since 2001. President Obama tripled our troop strength and our forces suffered nearly 1,700 dead since 2009 in a campaign that he prematurely ended before the military plan of the president's escalation could be completed (which had puzzled me repeatedly).

And even if you insist that Iraq and Afghanistan were major problems unjustly passed on to President Obama, our president failed to use his big-brained and nuanced powers to resolve them. These problems too get passed on to the next president.

Hell, I'm just grateful that President Obama didn't just wash his hands of both campaigns and is able to leave the solution to the next president.

The next president will inherit quite the list of problems to deal with. Pity our current president is more skilled at dodging golf course sand traps than in solving foreign policy traps.

President Obama would have been livid to have been handed this list by such an inept predecessor.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Blame It on Rio?

As the Olympics end, it is interesting to ponder that Russia has an Olympics doping scandal (and worse for their Paralympics team) while America has a scandal about dopes at the Olympics.

Or is this just one more thing to blame on Rio?

How to Lose Iraq War 2.0 in a Dramatic Fashion

If I was a nutball Iranian mullah in charge of foreign policy, newly confident of deterring American military action because of the nuclear deal that defanged our military option and because Russian aircraft are now operating out of Iran, I'd time a coup or uprising against the Iraqi government based on the tens of thousands of pro-Iran militias inside Iraq to coincide with the last phases of the capture of Mosul, which would cripple ISIL in Iraq.

If I was a nutball Iranian mullah, I'd also block the Strait of Hormuz with mines, block ships, and shore-based anti-ship assets to trap American naval forces (please include an American and/or French aircraft carrier, I'd pray) in the Persian Gulf; and I'd foment unrest among the Shia of Bahrain in order to at least make America's naval base in the Gulf insecure and at best successfully take over that island--thus denying America our base when our ships can't leave the Gulf.

Add in troops entering southern Iraq to support the Shia revolt in response to their request for fraternal help in order to threaten American supply lines to Iraq and position in Kuwait, and you'd have a lot of American troops distracted by looking north trapped in Iraq, ships trapped in the Gulf, and personnel endangered in Kuwait who would be wonderful leverage (to borrow the current term of art in Washington, D.C.) against America to get us to cave in to the Iranian operation.

If I was an Iranian nutball mullah completely unaffected by the nuanced American efforts to turn Iran into a responsible regional partner of America, of course. Thankfully, I'm not.

As I've long said, giving an enemy time is always an error. Sometimes they use the time granted to thwart our objectives rather than patiently await our killing blow.

Iran has been on notice for two years now about what we plan to do about taking Mosul. If I was a nutball Iranian mullah in charge of foreign policy, I'd have used that time.

And really time the coup or uprising right to coincide with a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine, and Secretary of State Kerry might throw Ukraine under the bus to get Russia's "help" to save our people from Iran Hostage Crisis 2.0 on a scale orders of magnitude greater than the original.

Thank goodness I'm not a nutball Iranian mullah in charge of Iran's foreign policy.

Trust? The Answer is Verified

The Russians appear to be violating both the INF treaty on medium-range nuclear weapons and the New START treaty on intercontinental nuclear weapons. We clearly can't trust them, as this demonstrates:

The House Armed Services Committee has put Russian noncompliance into some perspective:

According to the testimony of senior officials of the Department of State, the Russian Federation is not complying with numerous treaties and agreements, including the INF Treaty, the Open Skies Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Vienna Document, the Budapest Memorandum, the Istanbul Commitments, the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives, the Missile Technology Control Regime, and the Russian Federation has recently withdrawn from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE).[v]

We are clearly dealing with a pervasive problem of noncompliance that involves virtually all of the arms control agreements.

Good Lord, people, the entire Russian Paralympic team was kicked out of the upcoming event because of widespread doping of disabled athletes! WTF?

And it gets worse than "just" Russian cheating. We apparently have no interest in making sure Russia complies with the treaties:

The Obama administration appears not to be pressuring Russia to comply with the INF and New START Treaties. There is no indication that the Obama administration has done anything to close the New START loopholes discussed above. It reportedly may offer Russia a five year extension of the New START Treaty,[lxv] apparently without resolving any of the outstanding compliance issues or dealing with the circumvention issues.

Yet we seek Russia's "help" on Syria.

And for real yucks, our president thanked Russia for helping us get that farcical nuclear deal with Iran.

How likely do you really think it is that Russia helped us get a deal that benefits America?

Hell, the Russians probably gave Iran the list of violated agreements above to convince the mullah nutballs of how easy it is to violate any agreement with America.

A Revolution is No Problem at All?

You doubt me when I note that communists exploit problems for their own purposes?

Behold the vanguard!

A Chicago-based communist revolutionary group blamed by Milwaukee's police chief for stoking a second day of violence said that some of its members did go there to "support a revolution" but didn't set out to cause trouble.

Police chief Ed Flynn said members of a Chicago chapter of the Revolutionary Communist Party turned what had been a peaceful night into a tense one by leading marchers down several blocks at around 11:30 p.m. TV footage showed a small group of protesters walking or running through the streets, sometimes toppling orange construction barriers.

"The (communist group) showed up, and actually they're the ones who started to cause problems," Flynn said at a news conference Monday.

The communists hold that an armed overthrow of the American government is necessary but "didn't set out to cause trouble" in Chicago? Somebody needs to study their Lenin a little more diligently.

I hate Chicago communists.

Bonus: Carl Dix who is quoted in the AP article above was featured in a post I wrote last year.

The usual suspects, of course.

The communists don't give a damn about saving Black lives.

Tip to Instapundit.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

I Spent Years Gluing Models Together-Am I in the UAW?

So will there be a giant clamp or just two burly auto workers pushing on opposite sides of the chassis for 10 minutes?

Gluing a car together might seem like a dangerous way to reduce weight, but it turns out that the practice of using advanced adhesives to construct vehicles is not so new. The Boeing Dreamliner airplanes have used a kind of super-superglue since 2009. ...

Now, General Motors is taking this idea and applying it to their cars. Though it's unclear if GM is using the exact same method as the Boeing Dreamliners, making use of intense glue and lighter materials creates a similar result.

I don't like this. If this holds, in ten years they'll be duct taping the cars together.

Tip to Instapundit.

Taking the Proxy Out of Proxy War?

How bad is our foreign policy? We have tried to pivot to Asia while downgrading Europe and the Middle East in our hierarchy of interests, but may find that we fight Russia in Syria. That's how bad.

Kurds in Syria are fighting for themselves remember, as we see Kurds fight Assad's forces over a city in northeast Syria:

Civilians fled a city in northeastern Syria where government warplanes bombed Kurdish-held areas for a second day on Friday, as the Syrian army accused Kurdish forces of igniting the conflict by trying to take over the area.

The fighting this week in Hasaka, which is divided into zones of Kurdish and Syrian government control, marks the most violent confrontation between the Kurdish YPG militia and Damascus in more than five years of civil war.

We hope that the Kurds can spearhead our efforts to win in Syria, but they will prove less willing to spearhead offensives to take territory that isn't basically Kurdish or important to consolidating Kurdish territory:

[Faysal Itani, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council,] said the United States would increasingly be forced to contend with the fact that its military objectives may differ from those of the Syrian Kurdish forces it has leaned on to fight the Islamic State. Kurdish forces appear to be focused on their own territorial gains over the U.S. goal of capturing Raqqa.

“The main difference is that the [Kurdish force] is highly enthusiastic about moving west through Aleppo province toward Afrin canton,” Itani said. “I expect they’ll come under U.S. pressure to feel otherwise and head to Raqqa. At best, you’ll have a less motivated Kurdish component.”

So yeah, the Kurds work with us to take Manbij from ISIL--who Assad's forces also fight.

But the Kurds will fight Assad, too. Which makes our ground forces inside Syria de facto part of the anti-Assad coalition despite our total disinterest in really working to overthrow Assad.

In that regard, isn't this all sorts of sphincter-tightening interesting?

On Thursday, the United States sent fighter jets to head off air strikes conducted by regime planes and to protect coalition advisers, but the Syrian planes had left by the time they arrived.

It was apparently the first time the coalition had scrambled jets in response to a regime action, and possibly the closest call yet in terms of Syrian forces coming close to killing American or coalition advisers.

"This was done as a measure to protect coalition forces," Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said.

The warning of Coalition fighters overhead didn't stop the Syrian aircraft from bombing, although the next day there may have been some effect:

Two Syrian regime warplanes attempted to fly to the area again on Friday, but were met by coalition aircraft, a US defense official said in a statement.

"The presence of the coalition aircraft encouraged the Syrian aircraft to depart the airspace without further incident," he said. "No weapons were fired by the coalition fighters."

Perhaps the show of force was enough.

But perhaps not. We didn't shoot the Syrian planes down (and this article says the planes were American F-15s). So perhaps the Syrians learned that we won't shoot before they bomb. So next time the Syrian planes might bomb and then run fast to see how that goes.

Which means that Coalition fighters will have to shoot down the attacking aircraft on the way in to protect Western special forces on the ground even if we didn't want to protect Kurdish forces or civilians from Syrian bombing.

And what if the Russians decide to join in the bombing to see if we are as willing to shoot at them?

Ah, now your pucker factor goes up.

Even if we keep American fighters away from direct air-to-air combat, that gets dicey.

And with Russian fighters and air defense missiles in Syria, with many months of watching our air effort over Syria to guide their actions, might not Russia try to plink an F-22? Knocking down just one would dent America's military reputation and cause Russia's to soar.

When wars drag on and on, bad things happen.

Pity we didn't put our weight behind the uprising in early 2012 when the death toll was 400,000 lower, ISIL was actually a JV team, Russia was just watching, poor Moslem (and largely male) "refugees" weren't pouring into Europe, Assad was reeling, and jihadis were a minor factor in the rebellion, eh?

But we thought further "militarising" the conflict was a bad idea, you'll recall.

UPDATE: On Friday we sent F-22s to intercept Syrian planes:

The U.S. military on Friday dispatched two F-22 Raptors stealth fighter jets to intercept a pair of Syrian Su-24 Fencer aircraft that flew in the vicinity of Hasakah, Syria, according to news accounts citing an unnamed Pentagon official.

That makes me nervous. The F-22 is no invisible. It's tough to spot on radar. So it is best when it detects targets beyond the target's ability to detect the F-22 and then shoots the target down with long-range missiles.

Doesn't this type of interception just allow the targets to potentially close the range enough to get a visual ID and so negate the plane's main advantage? If it closes with us, do we really shoot "just in case" the Syrian planes want to shoot?

Or do we let them get closer to avoid an incident only to give them a chance to take a shot at our planes.

Do We Really Know What We Think We Know?

North Korea says it has restarted Plutonium production and the talk from them and us is that it is related to US-North Korean tensions. How do we know this is true?

From the Asian branch of the Axis of Evil (if we still believe in such things):

North Korea says it has resumed plutonium production by reprocessing spent fuel rods and has no plans to stop nuclear tests as long as perceived U.S. threats remain, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported on Wednesday.

North Korea's Atomic Energy Institute, which has jurisdiction over the country's Yongbyon nuclear facilities, also told Kyodo it had been producing highly enriched uranium necessary for nuclear arms and power "as scheduled."

I will note what I asked about a year ago when the news of new Plutonium production on top of their Uranium production came out:

North Korea increases production of two types of nuclear weapon material just as Iran agrees to suspend their work with possible military dimensions.

Isn't that a crazy coincidence?

Given that we know that Iran and North Korea have worked together, why do we assume that North Korean actions are related to tensions with America?

According to North Korea, we've been planning an invasion of that Pearl of Northeast Asia for 50-plus years now. It's imminent war 24/7 as far as Pyongyang is concerned.

But North Korea is desperate for money to survive. North Korea has but two potential exports: ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads.

And Iran has money. And because of the Iran deal, Iran has more money--including $400 million in cash.

Am I really too suspicious when I wrote this?

I've long worried that a nuclear deal with Iran will fail to consider that Iran is likely outsourcing some parts of their nuclear program. But what if I'm thinking small?

What if North Korea sells Iran nuclear missiles and rents the facilities in North Korea to launch them?

From North Korea, these missiles could reach Europe, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, and a number of targets in America. So Iran doesn't need to have the missiles inside Iran, really.

As I've observed every once in a while, hiding what you are doing from an enemy is often impossible. It was always unlikely that North Korea could hide their nuclear work.

What is key is having a plausible alternative reason for doing what can be seen that your enemy will believe instead of the true reason.

Nobody would believe that North Korea is pursuing cheap and clean nuclear energy (as so many here are willing to say they believe in regard to Iran--Iran has muddied the waters enough, eh?).

Everybody is willing to believe that the psychotic regime in Pyongyang wants nuclear weapons to threaten South Korea, Japan, and America.

And truth be told, they do want that.

But how many consider that a major reason for North Korea's program is to make money? And that Iran is likely customer number one?

This Guy Was Better as a Mercenary Than an Analyst

The use of military contractors (or mercenaries) was once thought of in liberal circles as horrific. Contractors were less than human ("screw them" as one leftist said of dead American contractors in Iraq). In the era of hope and change, contractor use is a higher percentage.

What do you know?

Now, as President Obama prepares to hand off combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere, to his successor, he’s also bequeathing a way of war that relies on large numbers of guns-for-hire while, at least formally, restricting the number of American “troops” sent overseas. Since 2009, the ratio of contractors to troops in war zones has increased from 1 to 1 to about 3 to 1.

In Vietnam, the ratio was 1 to 8.

But we had conscription for the Vietnam War. It was cheaper and a matter of habit to use poorly paid troops for these tasks.

Now we have a smaller volunteer military and we like to focus our training for these high quality people on fighting rather than potato peeling.

So we use contractors more in the volunteer military era. Few in Iraq or Afghanistan during the Bush administration were there for combat duties. Of those who were expected to fight, few were more than base perimeter guards.

Rather than recruit more expensive soldiers for jobs that don't really require soldiers to do, we saved money by hiring contractors; and kept our troops trained enough to suffer fewer casualties than they would have if they were saddled with other duties that took away training time and subtracted rest time.

The Left hated that.

And given how our Army is smaller than before 9/11, how much worse would the disruption of reduction be if we'd expanded the Army even more than we did by getting even more volunteers?

Remember, part of how we added brigades during the Bush 43 administration was by shifting military slots to civilians in order to add combat soldiers under the allowable military end strength.

Nor did it make sense to institute a draft to get needed troops. We have so many new 18-year-olds and needed so few of them that the exemptions would have made a mockery of the concept of a draft.

And the draftees wouldn't be as good as volunteers, and so would have died in larger numbers.

But now we have a 3 to 1 ratio of contractors to troops in Afghanistan. In Iraq it is a little more than 1 to 1. In the era or hope and change. Even though troop deployments are way down from peaks nearly a decade ago.

Was this done for a military reason as it wasn't done in Vietnam and as it was done during the Bush era (and it started before that in the Clinton era, for the Balkans deployments, to be fair)?

No, it is being done to observe artificial administration-defined ceilings on US troop deployments. When you responsibly end our wars, more than token numbers of troops in the "war" zone is inconvenient, to say the least.

The missions now require more US troops, but the Obama administration wants to avoid admitting that we need more troops even to just lead from behind. So contractors proliferate even though uniformed troops could be found to send overseas.

Rather than complain about the Obama administration, I'll just be happy they are trying to meet the need for troops somehow.

Although I'm happy to note the hypocrisy of the left for complaining about the trend under Bush 43 while ignoring it under Clinton and Obama.

As for the "dramatic" increase in contractor casualties?

Today, more contractors are killed in combat than soldiers—a stunning turnaround from the start of the wars Iraq and Afghanistan, when fewer than 10 percent of casualties were contractors. By 2010, more contractors were dying than troops.

That's a meaningless comparison. Before, our troops were in combat on a daily basis and were the main fighting force out killing enemies. Contractors were mostly in the rear (although exposed to some violence, just not nearly as much).

Now our troops for the most part aren't committed to routine daily combat, but are engaged in support functions. If there are more contractors than troops and all are mostly doing the same thing, of course contractors will suffer more casualties.

Still, the use of contractors is something common throughout history, only receding with the rise of drafted mass armies. As we return to volunteer militaries around the world, the use of contractors is naturally making a comeback. And the scope isn't nearly as great as it was before when combat maneuver units were available for hire.

But until the contractor industry starts creating and hiring out formed combat maneuver units and higher command elements rather than kitchen help and gate guards, the hyper-ventilating this author does about oil companies and oligarchs potentially having private armies is just silly.

The article would have been really good if the author had stuck to describing what was going on rather than trying to condemn the practice.

I have a collection of posts on this trend available here (for just 99 cents!).

So we have more contractors now. At least the Left isn't saying "screw them" when they die.

Maybe next year.