Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Russia Wants a Piece of the Action

Russia will likely interfere with any Cyprus unification efforts to ensure their interests in the eastern Mediterranean Sea:

What has been billed as the last chance for Greek and Turkish Cypriots to reunite the island nation appears to be tantalizingly within reach -- but it might not get there without a nod from Russia. ...

If reunification does finally take place, Russia will need to know how its interests will be protected. What it clearly doesn't want is for NATO to be strengthened and for Cyprus to join it -- a possibility after unification. If Moscow is not satisfied, it could undermine the deal both inside Cyprus and in the UN.

Russia has financial interests in divided Cyprus. Lots of Russians live there. And Russia has port rights on this island that nicely complements a base in Syria.

With Crimea newly conquered and built up, Russia has more ability to project power into the Mediterranean Sea.

With Assad secured for now in western Syria, Russia is able to build up their bases in Syria on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean.

If Russia can upgrade access in Cyprus to a base, Russia would gain both a shield for their Syrian bases and an advanced base to project power further west in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

So Russia will seek to secure their interests in Cyprus.

And as long as we're talking bases, to finish a line of supply from Crimea to Syria, I'd bet the Russians would love to eject NATO from Crete and have their own access to bases there at the mouth of the Aegean Sea.

So how's Greece feeling these days as full partner of Europe? On the bright side, Russia cozying up to Turkey makes NATO look better.

Something to Watch

Alert Rosie O'Donnell:

Senegal's forces are at the Gambian border and will enter at midnight if veteran Gambian President Yahya Jammeh refuses to leave power, Colonel Abdou Ndiaye, a spokesman for the Senegalese army, told Reuters on Wednesday.

Jammeh, who lost a Dec. 1 election to opposition leader Adama Barrow, said he would not step down, citing irregularities in the vote. His official mandate was due to end at midnight GMT.

I guess somebody--not America--will get O'Donnell's dream of a military coup to halt a peaceful transfer of power.

Nigeria has deployed combat aircraft to Senegal to support the intervention, which has the backing of the west African bloc ECOWAS.

More from the BBC and AP.

I wonder if America's rapid reaction Marine force mostly in Spain might be used to evacuate American citizens from there if there is an ECOWAS intervention? V-22s and C-130s could likely stage to Senegal for operations into Gambia.

Army Hope Springs Eternal

The Army is exploring concepts for a new tank to replace the Abrams that is reaching the limits of its design to update for new threats.

As an Army that has to send its tanks around the world to Eurasian battlefields to fight, the Army is (understandably) always tempted by the siren song of "light and survivable."

Yeah, good luck with that:

A lighter weight, more high-tech tank will allow for greater mobility in the future, including an ability to deploy more quickly, handle extremely rigorous terrain, integrate new weapons, cross bridges inaccessible to current Abrams tanks and maximize on-board networking along with new size-weight-and-power configurations.

Although initial requirements for the future tank have yet to emerge, Bassett explained that the next-generation platform will use advanced sensors and light-weight composite armor materials able to achieve equal or greater protection at much lighter weights.

Here's a thought. We find a way to save 40 tons of weight by putting on new armor that equals the current heavy plating that the Abrams has. Voila! We have a lighter tank that can take on the enemy!

Which is nice if we maintain technological superiority over our enemies in armor design.

In the short run, enemies who don't have to build tanks to be sent (and supplied) several thousand miles away build anti-tank weapons large enough to punch through the new armor. They may build the tank large enough to hold such a weapon without worrying about the need to ship the tank around the world.

And if the enemy manages to equal our armor technology, they simply load more of it on their tank to make their tank even more impervious to our weapons than our tanks are to their weapons.

Face it, every time we save a ton of weight we will need to add that weight back on--and still have to endure the strategic mobility problem. The Army needs to build a tank that can survive and win; and let the Navy worry about moving and supplying the damn things.

And even active defenses will not save us from needing sheer bulk of passive armor given that there is more than one way to skin a cat in this survivability problem.

The appeal of building a light but survivable tank lives on. But the wonder tank will not be built (see "Equipping the Objective Force")

Oh, and I issue a hardy laugh at the idea that a faster tank is more survivable. Please examine British World War II experience with their cruiser tanks. Speed never replaces armor. No tank will ever be faster than a shell or missile.

Pal-E-stine?

If it is true that a two-state solution cannot divide the region of Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank into to states--Israel and Palestine--because of competing geographic needs of each party that cannot be compromised, what can be done?

This analysis does not bode well for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict:

The Israelis cannot give up the Jordan River line since it is their main defensive position. Nor can they accept a westward shift of the border toward the 1948 lines, as it would make the Israeli heartland (the Tel Aviv-Haifa-Jerusalem triangle) vulnerable to the kinds of rockets fired from Gaza.

The Palestinians can’t accept a state divided between Gaza and the West Bank, without any transport under their control. Nor can they accept Israeli control of the Jordan River line, as that would mean that they remain isolated except for Israel permitting movement – and would mean the Israeli army moving through Palestinian territory. Finally, such a geography would be economic insanity. Palestine would remain dependent on Israel, with its population employed in menial jobs in Israel, passing through Israeli checkpoints.

Those who want Israel to retreat from the Jordan River--even if some would let Israel keep outposts along that line to monitor the region--argue that the world had moved beyond land as a basis of power and security. The position of rocket launchers in Gaza and Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon--would seem to negate that optimism.

But what if a two-state solution partially retreats from the territorial basis of states?

Could a Palestine complete with a UN seat be created in pockets of territory controlled by Israel, plus Gaza, while granting Palestinians who live in territory controlled by Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan Palestinian citizenship?

The focus of citizenship would be transferred to the Internet, for taxation, voting, incorporating companies, and civic groups.

Could Estonia help with this type of focus given their reputation as E-stonia?

By removing these now-Palestine citizens from the local governments, they would be a lesser factor in local politics. For generations, Arab states have refused to grant the descendants of refugees permanent residence status or citizenship. Wouldn't this option be attractive to these states?

Those Palestine citizens would have to be given the option of seeking citizenship in the local government. Perhaps with conditions and numerical ceilings, in a wider "right of return" with limits.

International financial and technical support could be shifted from "refugee" support to state-building on the Internet and in legal matters in states that host the most Palestinians.

Perhaps this could go global with states allowing Palestinians to be residents without being on a citizen track. Again, national limits could be assigned so this isn't just open borders globally for Palestinian citizens.

Sure, the Palestinians would be subject to the friendship or hostility of host nations. But how different is that from the current situation?

We are building an Internet of things, now. Could we build an Internet of a State to get around the problem of two people fighting over control of one piece of land?

I haven't tried to think through the intricacies of such a solution. But I thought I'd throw it out there.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Female Privilege

Man sentenced to 35 years for espionage; woman sentenced for same crime released after serving 7 years:

US President Barack Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who is serving 35 years behind bars for giving classified US documents to WikiLeaks.

#FemalePrivilege

UPDATE: And of course, freeing Manning kind of interferes with the Democratic blood and guts reaction against the Russian-aligned Wikileaks that opened up Democratic party emails.

So update your slogans, comrades! We have always been at war with Eastasia!

As for Republicans who are fine with the Russians messing with us--even though I do not believe Putin was trying to get Trump elected--how's that position now?

Embracing the Stupid

Truly we are a lucky and free country when the frowny-faced gaze of Oppression Aficionados focuses on the evil of fashion trends.

I bet that this type of fashion oppression won't be discussed at their splendid "teach-in."


Real evil and oppression exist. They are not in the Macy's clothing department.

Those morons at GVSU need a good (figurative, of course, oh Snow Flakes) beating with the clue bat which might help them grow up.

Arming The AFRICOM Queen

The Navy has finalized the mine-sweeping package for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), which are designed to have systems housed in shipping containers inserted into the hull to allow them to carry out different missions.

The package can also be used on land to protect port access because it is based on helicopters (and aerial drones?) and unmanned vehicles.

The Navy is also looking at what other platforms could support the package as of now designed for the LCS:

[MG Christopher] Owens said the Navy would have to study other classes of ships to determine if they could support the mine countermeasures package, which includes aviation assets and unmanned surface and underwater vehicles.

Might I suggest a modularized auxiliary cruiser as an appropriate type of ship that could be used as a platform.

So Just Assured Destruction, Then

One of the most interesting side effects of America's missile defense programs that promise to provide a thin shield to allies in Europe and Asia is the reaction of Russia and China to these minimal defenses.

As South Korea plans to buy American THAAD missile defense systems to guard themselves against North Korea's budding nuclear arsenal, Russia and China have raised a stink:

China and Russia have agreed to take further unspecified "countermeasures" in response to a U.S. plan to deploy an anti-missile system in South Korea, state news agency Xinhua reported on Friday.

This follows Russian complaints over the last decade that inconveniently highlighted Russia's intense desire to be able to efficiently nuke Europeans without the worry that some of their missiles might be shot down.

Who knew the Russians were so eager to commit mass murder of Europeans, eh?

And now China has joined the Russians in horror that South Korea might not be completely vulnerable to anybody that wants to nuke South Korea.

And it upsets them so much that Russia and China will not only work on counter-measures to penetrate those thin defenses but will work together to be able to nuke South Korea if they choose without the horrifying inefficiency of losing some missiles to missile defenses.

Call it a policy of Mutual Assured Destruction.

You'd think our information war operations could exploit this.

Win, Build the Wrong Thing, Lose

American special forces carried out a ground raid in Syria against ISIL that was a success. So what are we doing in Syria, again?

Kudos to the military for this operation:

U.S. Special Operations troops carried out a ground operation in eastern Syria aimed at capturing an Islamic State militant, U.S. officials said Monday.

The raid took place Sunday near a small town along the Euphrates River valley, in the vicinity of the city of Deir al-Zour and deep in the heart of Islamic State territory, according to the officials and Syrian activist groups.

The troops, who landed on helicopters, spent about 90 minutes in the area, then left carrying Islamic State captives and bodies, according to witnesses quoted by the website Deir al-Zour 24, which monitors Islamic State activity in that province.

But I don't know why we are fighting ISIL in Syria for Assad's benefit.

Russia has no shame in focusing on non-ISIL enemies of Assad in their effort to defend Assad.

What Russia cares about is that they will get to keep their bases in Syria:

Russia plans to improve and expand its naval and air bases in Syria, Interfax news agency reported on Sunday, citing an unnamed source, as Moscow cements its presence in the Middle Eastern country, its only overseas military deployment.

But the Russians really don't care much about helping Assad deal with ISIL in the east:

Islamic State has launched its fiercest assault in a year against a besieged Syrian government enclave in the city of Deir al-Zor, trying to cut it off from a nearby military air base in a battle that has killed dozens.

Nope. Russia is happy to carry out an exit strategy now, if they can, while their image is good after the fall of Aleppo to Assad's forces.

Much as we took advantage of the murderous and odious Soviet Union waging war on just as odious and murderous Nazi Germany in World War II, I don't know why we would try to keep ISIL from fighting Assad.

From the beginning, I've been in favor of defeating ISIL in Iraq first.

While doing that I thought we could build up the non-jihadi resistance in Syria, attacking ISIL there only to support the operations against ISIL in Iraq or to shape the future battlefield in Syria.

Strikes to protect our Syrian rebel allies from ISIL would be an example of that latter kind of effort.

Then, after the non-jihadi resistance to Assad was built up and after ISIL in Iraq was defeated (and turned into a terrorist problem rather than a caliphate occupying territory), we could focus on defeating ISIL in Syria, confident that the defeat of ISIL would not be a favor to Assad.

I called this Win, Build, Win.

So far we are relying on Syrian Kurds to fight ISIL in the operation to take Raqqa. But the Kurds are not going to fight Assad for us. The Kurds will fight ISIL as long as those jihadis are a threat to Kurdish regions in Syria. The Kurds will not march on Damascus.

The Kurds will happily make a deal with Assad for autonomy as the price of sitting out the rest of the war after the Kurds have what they want secured. No Kurdish leaders are going to send their forces all the way to Damascus while Turks loom over their Kurdish proto-state in northern Syria.

So completely defeating ISIL will simply take an enemy off the board in the fight to unseat Assad--who our president seemingly a million years ago insisted had to step down--without building up an acceptable rebel force that can take its place.

Defeating Iran by defeating Assad should be a higher priority than defeating ISIL in Syria.

Simply defeating Assad who has plenty of American blood on his hands from Lebanon to Iraq from his support for jihadis who killed our troops alone should have a higher priority than beating ISIL in Syria.

Remember, when ISIL is gone, who will want to keep fighting to get rid of the butcher Assad who will reassure everyone that he'll be very busy rounding up people in Syria and so no threat to them?

Contrast that to all the nations that will work together to fight ISIL after the Assad regime is defeated to stop terror attacks at home. Even France is on board that fight.

Is this order of operations really so hard to appreciate?

Monday, January 16, 2017

This, Too, Shall Pass?

I've been worrying if Erdogan would take Turkey out of NATO in order to team up with Russia over Syrian issues, in an effort to make Turkey a major regional power that plays off America, Europe, Russia, and China against one another.

Sometimes I read things that say that Turkey is really just trying to gain some leverage against NATO and that the mutual outreach is nothing to worry about. I'd like to think that is true. Turkey under Erdogan is a highly flawed ally but they are an ally rather than a foe. So there's that. I feel much the same way about Pakistan. Or Saudi Arabia, for that matter. Things can always be worse.

So here's another entry in the don't-worry-about-Turkey camp:

The harsh Turkish critique of the Obama White House should be seen as a gambit for the incoming Trump administration. Ankara is hoping that the incoming administration will not be invested in supporting Syrian Kurds and, therefore, will be more amenable to prioritizing Turkish interests. In view of Donald Trump’s conviviality toward Putin, Turks may also be counting on Russian support for Ankara’s new position with Washington. ...

Still, it would be foolhardy to suggest that Erdogan would contemplate abandoning NATO. Turkey lives under the shadow of the Russian giant — its anger at the United States and its Western allies notwithstanding, it needs the protection the alliance offers. Without it, the Russians would be able to intimidate Ankara at will. ...

For now at least, two repressive populist leaders, Erdogan and Putin, have struck up a marriage of convenience.

Of course, Russia no longer borders Turkey. That lessens the Russian threat that once existed when the Soviet Union (and Czarist Russia before it) controlled both Turkey's eastern border and the access through the Balkans to the European Turkey and the Turkish straits. Unless you really believe Russia would nuke Turkey over some issue.

So I'm not so sure that Erdogan is convinced Turkey needs NATO any more.

And Lord knows what Erdogan will think is a good solution out of the financial mess he finds himself in that could result in a crisis this year:

Turkey has yet to make the tough decisions that will mend its economy. And, it seems, it will not. Erdogan prefers to blame economic problems on a nefarious conspiracy of international financiers. Though there is a consensus that the only remedy in the short run is for Turkey to raise interest rates dramatically. Erdogan is against it because, obviously, high interest rates will prevent economic growth.

The danger now is not only that Turkey’s economic growth will stop, but that it will stop under rising inflation. The worst-case scenario for economists — stagflation — might be awaiting Turkey.

I had heard Erdogan say that currency problems were like a terrorist attack on Turkey, but didn't realize there was a real problem here (and the problem isn't that Turkey is under financial assault).

But Erdogan may believe his rhetoric. What might he do?

And even if the Russian-Turkish detente is "a marriage of convenience" that is only temporary, I recall that some really bad things happened because of another marriage of convenience between two repressive regimes to reconcile differences over a third country that turned out to be temporary--the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939.

So I remain far from comforted about recent trends in Russian-Turkish relations.

An Upmarket Rosie O’Donnell

I used to read Paul Krugman. I never agreed with him but it was sometimes fun (if that is the right word to use for columns that figuratively led me to pound my forehead into the wall) to attack his columns. At some point--perhaps even before the Times put their columnists behind a pay wall for a while--I stopped reading him as a complete waste of time and possible health hazard.

Whatever Krugman's talents as an economist in a particular narrow area that got him a Nobel Prize, he long since abandoned economics as a discipline in order to use his Nobel credentials as a sword and shield to be a partisan political hack in the battle to advance liberal Democratic policies.

Behold the issue of deficits:

Like homelessness and military casualties, U.S. government deficits are an issue that bleep into visibility on the progressive radar almost exclusively during Republican presidencies. On October 23, 2016, Professor Krugman wrote that the “debt scolds should be ignored,” and that Hillary Rodham Clinton, then presumed to be the next president, should engage in “years of deficit-financed infrastructure spending, if she can.” A grand total of 78 days later, Professor Krugman declared, “Deficits matter again.”

The science of economics cannot explain such a dramatic shift. It is pure politics.

And I freely admit that Republicans who decide to spend freely under the guidance of a Trump administration--if that is what happens, of course--are guilty of politics.

But how many Nobel Prizes in economics to those politicians have?

Which is why I've often said that the best way to tame the federal government isn't to put Republicans in charge of the same programs that Democrats ran, but to reduce the scope of the federal government so nobody runs the non-existent programs or is tempted to simply add their own "good" program to the mix.

Be Careful What You Wish For?

The notion that Putin backed a Trump presidency to get a friendly administration is shown to be nonsense as the Senate confirmation hearings demonstrate.

I said that if Putin was trying to help Trump become president he'd be a fool to expect that being seen as a Trump fan wouldn't create a backlash against Trump for that reason.

The more logical explanation for the leaks of Democratic emails is that Putin wanted Clinton in office, and the obviously Russian-supplied leaks about other Democrats were a taste about what could be done to Clinton herself (remember her poorly secured private email system that she used for classified information while Secretary of State?) once in office if she didn't self-reset relations with Russia again.

That whole Trump-loves-Putin image Russia inspired with Democratic help would push Trump to be more anti-Russian just to negate such charges. That extends to his appointee, eh?

So how's that supposed Putin plan going?

Retired Gen. James Mattis on Thursday cruised toward likely confirmation as Donald Trump's defense secretary, easily prevailing in a Senate vote granting him an exemption to run the Pentagon as a recently retired officer. At his confirmation hearing, he called Russia the nation's No. 1 security threat, accusing its leader of trying to "break" NATO. ...

As he spoke, Trump's choice to run the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, sided with intelligence officials who claim the Kremlin was behind the election cyberattacks, adopting a similarly tough stand against Russia in his confirmation hearing.

Putin the old KGB man didn't anticipate this? Really?

And for more fun for Putin, how do suddenly anti-Russian Democrats oppose Trump efforts to resist Russia after the Democrats have loudly condemned Russia?

Putin hoped to get a compliant Clinton atop a pacifist Democratic base that would be happy to avoid conflict with Russia over anything, while painting the American political system as one that plotted against Trump at every turn and engineered Hillary's win.

Instead, Putin got a Trump win when all the establishment powers were against him and who can't afford to be seen as friendly to Russia. And Putin got a Democratic party suddenly all militant about stopping the dread Russkies from carrying out their diabolical plots.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

I don't understand why Americans who are opposed to a wall on our porous southern border are so committed to thinking anyone who supports a wall is anti-immigrant. America was built by immigrants. I'm a fan. My family came to America. But what I am also in favor of is sovereignty that gives America the right to say which and how many immigrants get to come in. Remember, we all agree immigration built America. So setting the terms of immigration to make sure that immigration continues to benefit America should be a no-brainer--even for opponents of the wall. In time, if given the opportunity, immigrant communities assimilate. We are a nation of ideas and not of blood and soil, so anyone can become and American. I support a wall--or more accurately, immigration controls. It could include walls where appropriate. And a wall has to be defended, of course, or it is worthless. But it has to be one part of controls that include visa over-stays and fines on businesses who hire illegal aliens. I want immigration. And I want it on our terms. [Okay, I just noticed that I basically wrote this in the last weekend data dump without remembering it. Grant me I am consistent, at least!]

American tanks and heavy equipment are heading to eastern NATO to begin exercises at the end of the month. There was a time prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine that we had no heavy armor in Europe after pulling the last tanks out. Yet the Russians claimed we were out to get them. And now the tanks are back in small numbers. More will arrive if Putin keeps acting the way he is.

Stratfor writes about China's attempts to break out of the island chains that could allow America to strangle Chinese trade, especially vital imports. It's interesting--although I question the aside that America is bad at counter-insurgency. We did win in Iraq--the Obama administration boasted about it. And even in Vietnam we defeated the insurgency. Sadly North Vietnamese armor led a conventional invasion that conquered South Vietnam. But I digress.  The interesting thing about sea lines of communication is that they go from China to some other destination. While we would want to hold the line at the offshore island chains for many other reasons, even if China captures all of them via alliance or invasion, our fleet and air power could operate in the western Indian Ocean or eastern Pacific to halt oil exports to China very far from China. And that's apart from our ability to take the ports with ground troops and prevent the tankers from sailing. China's ports are vulnerable to strikes and minefields. So China hasn't even solved their end of the sea line of communication issue, let alone the distant ends.

Here's an interesting piece on British trade options post-Brexit. Assuming the empire lets Britain go, of course. Which I don't assume is a given. Plenty of Brits still want to bend the knee to Brussels, remember.

For all the worries about whether President Trump will stand up to Russia in NATO, our NATO allies in the Baltics are worried right now about whether President Obama will provide leadership to protect them: “,They’re scared to death of Russia,' Army Gen. Raymond Thomas told The New York Times after a visit to Lithuania. 'They are very open about that. They’re desperate for our leadership.'” Tip to Instapundit.

It won't happen, but if progressives in California who feel so alienated get their wish and secede from the United States of America (tip to Instapundit), they will be abandoning their progressive brethren to Republican rule for a generation at least.

As Republicans learn to love Julian Assange and Democrats learn to hate the Russians (and the reverse), I like to think that my even keel on my views earns me credibility. Whether or not I am right or wrong, I do not blow with the wind on such basic things just because it is politically convenient. I'd like to think I'd be that way even if I wasn't a nonpartisan research analyst for a couple decades.

I assume that Yemen government operations (backed by the Saudi coalition) against Iranian supported Shia rebels near the Red Sea are being done at our government's urging to help protect our ships that have come under fire in the region from Iran's Houthi allies there.

Strategypage has more on the analog drones we sent to Ukraine that Russians promptly hacked. I guess we didn't want to risk our digital drones. But isn't that a good reason to send them now to see if they can survive in a Russian hacking environment rather than blissfully go on unaware of flaws until revealed in a war we are in?

Is it any wonder our reputation in the Arab world is reeling under President Obama? Now we find that we actually sent Iran--the prime enemy of many Arab states--at least $10 billion in cash, gold, and other assets--on top of the economic relief and green light to Iran's nuclear program that Iran swears has nothing to do with nuclear weapons. Tip to Instapundit.

When the band played their rifles.

To help Afghan forces defend Helmand province, we decided to send 300 Marines there.

Indonesia has a lot of people. So it isn't shocking that some will become jihadis. The Indonesian government continues to battle them.

Meryl Streep complained that Republicans are against foreigners in America. As I noted at the first data dump above, it seems that the Left really has a problem distinguishing between being against illegal immigration and for controlling our border to regulate legal immigration as we see fit on the one hand, and being against "foreigners" or all immigrants on the other hand. Those are different things. I'm for controlling our borders and I'm for regulated immigration. Streep and her cheering fans can't see that? Why? I thought they were the ones who intuitively grasped nuance. Was Streep really suggesting that those foreign actors in Hollywood are here illegally? Tip to Instapundit.

Oh come on! This kerfuffle has to be an example of the dread "cultural appropriation," no? At least President Akufo-Addo didn't talk about his ancestors' long days in the coal mines and playing football after.

Our new Iranian pals essentially made a mock attack run with their small boats at one of our warship in the Strait of Hormuz. This stuff is common and so just makes the data dump. When the Iranians actually fire at or ram one of our ships, rest assured I'll bump it to its own post.

So Meryl Streep defended the honor of Hollywood against Donald Trump who said women would let a powerful man grab their p***y and who seems to have mocked a disabled man, which deeply troubled Streep; but Hollywood pretty much considers an actress "handicapped" if she is over 35 and Streep herself gave a child raper a standing ovation. I don't want to hear one damn word about morality from her ilk. Tip to Instapundit.

I think anyone who has served in uniform can share the joy of ending the scourge of Aquaflage for the Navy.

Stereotypes held by the well-educated deplorables. This is true: "[The working class] are also widely thought to be intolerant. But as far as I can tell, no class and no political faction dominates the market in intolerance." Indeed. As I've said many times on this blog, it is a crime against language that "liberal minded" is considered to be the same as "open minded." Tip to Instapundit.

Do liberals still want us to be more like sophisticated transnational Europeans? "EU Commissioner Guenther Oettinger defended himself on Monday over controversial remarks he made about women, homosexuals and Chinese people." But I freely admit I am deficient in nuance.

This Strategypage post on Segway-based target robots to train marksmanship to American troops is pretty awesome. I just had pop-up "Ivan" targets way back when.

China sent their Liaoning carrier task force--or just a group of ships if I overstate their ability to fight as a unit--through the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan sent planes and ships to watch the transit. This was propaganda because China would no more risk their carrier so close to Taiwan than we would send ours close to China.

Give the Littoral Combat Ship time. Sure, I'm on board the notion that the new LCS can work through the teething problems of this new type of ship. But I strenuously deny that the LCS can ever be a replacement for smaller vessels like the Cyclone class for working close to enemy shores. The LCS is too fragile and too expensive to be considered a ship for working in the littorals. Ever. Under virtually any circumstances.

The Germans are expanding their military presence in Mali (to 1,000 troops). Think of it as the first line of defense to prevent mass migration that affects Germany. 

Will the Democrats so eager to investigate the possibility that Russia has compromising information on Donald Trump have the same enthusiasm for looking into what all those deleted "personal emails on Chelsea's wedding and yoga lessons" that Hillary Clinton wrote on her personal, off-the-books private email server contained and whether the Russians have had compromising information on Hillary and other Democrats? That question was rhetorical, I hasten to add. 

Jonah Goldberg writes that the president's farewell rally--in addition to being a big wet kiss to himself--demonstrated how President Obama believes that democracy works when you agree with him but fails when you resist. It has always been a matter of the Progressive Borg assimilating all resistance. As I wrote in 2011, that whole post-2008 election "52 to 48" campaign where tilty-headed leftists asked McCain voters to "join" them was always a thinly disguised offer to accept the complete surrender of conservatives--not any type of offer to work together. The whole misbegotten Obamacare legislation process showed that.

Rail guns continue to be developed, although there are a lot of engineering problems to solve before they are a weapon and not a science fair project. 

Defense policy made me a Republican when I was young. As the Democratic Party demonstrates its utter contempt for working class people who refuse to shut up and remain on the liberal plantation, my politics are anchored more fully. And it increases my sympathy for Trump, who I long detested. Liberal elites have long enjoyed despising the working class, which feeds their wholly unearned sense of superiority. I find it kind of funny that poor white Democrats in the 19th century South backed their wealthy slave-owning elites at least in part because the existence of slavery gave even the poorest free white person a class of people they could look down on. Break into small groups and discuss.

I have no problem with an investigation into the FBI's conduct during the election if it includes the underlying illegal Clinton email server (and illegal transmission of classified material and illegal erasing of emails) and the question of whether the Attorney General Lynch-Bill Clinton tarmac meeting that both parties insist did not involve any "discussion" of the Hillary email case was legal. In particular I want to know if the denial that they "discussed" the case is a denial limited to spoken communication. Was there written or other communication on the subject in that highly problematic encounter? Or will Bill Clinton insist he had no "communication relations with that woman--Loretta Lynch" on that plane? The blinders of the established press is amazing. In asking why President Obama did nothing to stop the known Russian efforts prior to the election, Ignatius doesn't even consider the possibility that the efforts were having zero effect on voters. Of course, there is a reason why the press doesn't even think to ask some questions.

America approved sending an additional 130 tons of Uranium to Iran, on top of what they had and have purchased. No worries, in it's "original form" it is harmless, the Obama administration claims! Iran would never ever use it for nuclear warhead. Or send it to their close friend North Korea to make nuclear warhead for Iran, eh? This article says the shipment is meant to encourage Iran to remain "committed" to the agreement. Wait. What? We have to keep bribing them? I must admit I'd be pretty committed to a deal that gave me everything I want. What's next, sending the mullah nutballs a fully functioning squadron of Minuteman III nuclear missiles to keep Iran "committed" to the deal?

The 2011 Arab Spring was a disappointment for those who wanted democracy and rule of law. It showed a longing for an alternative to autocracy or Islamist rule. Which is a good sign for the long run. But in the short run we have civil war in Syria and budding civil war in Libya, with Egypt right back where they started with autocracy. Only in Tunisia was there some success. And there, resentment over lack of economic progress for rural Tunisians has sparked new protests and riots. Could there be an Arab Re-Spring?

I'd be shocked if Russia didn't have something to do with this provocation: "A Serbian train halted at the border with Kosovo and bearing signs reading "Kosovo is Serbian," has fueled a major crisis in the Balkans and escalated a potential Russia-West row over dominance in the heart of the Balkans." Remember, Russia recently "donated" MiG-29 fighters and T-72 tanks to Serbia, as I recently noted. UPDATE: More on the potential crisis. Russia is not mentioned as a potential instigator. UPDATE: Remember that Russia has long wanted "revenge" for the Kosovo War.

The Post-Khadaffi Struggle Continues in Libya

So how does the Libya suspended civil war stand now that ISIL has been dispersed after the capture of Sirte?

Bloomberg has a good map in an article that discusses Putin's new support for General Haftar who dominates eastern Libya:


The international community continues to force a national government on Libya, but the situation on the ground reflects my early Libya War assessment of the conditions for an east-west civil war.


The factions identified on the Bloomberg map, in light of my post on how the coastal populations would need to reach deep into their southern territories to make sure they control oil resources all the way to the ports in order to afford to contest for control of the country, make for an interesting board.

Haftar's (or Hiftar's) LNA in light green needs the Tebu in purple to solidify his oil for his export access.

Getting the Tebu would also help Haftar harm the GNA in tan to consolidate their oil resources.

The GNA also need the Zintanis in dark green for oil reasons.

The Tuaregs in light blue and the Benghazi Defense Brigades (my have they been driven into the wilderness, eh?) in pink seem mostly irrelevant to a civil war in regard to oil to be able to finance a civil war.

Although at least taking the BDB territory allows the LNA to push west in the interior to link up with some of their guys out by their lonesome.

It is interesting to see that control in many areas is just a line indicating control of roads in the wastelands away from the coastal strip where most people live.

Western Libya where the GNA dominates does have an electricity problem, it seems:

According to officials at Al-Zawiya oil refinery , an armed militia shut the gas pipeline that is feeding the power generator at Al-Hersha power plant, which feeds large parts of western Libya including Al-Zawiya and Tripoli.

The result?

Western Libya was plunged into darkness late on Saturday as a blackout already affecting the south spread to the capital, Tripoli, and other major cities, the national power company said.

The blackout extended from Libya's western border with Tunisia to the city of Ajdabiya, nearly 900 km (560 miles) to the east, national power company GECOL said in a statement.

The electricity grid had collapsed because a number of cities in western Libya had rejected terms for sharing out power cuts, it said.

Clearly, the GNA has a lot more work to do than the LNA to consolidate their portion of Libya before turning against the other for control of the entire territory of Libya.

And our friends the Russians who seem to be exploring options to aid (and gain favor with) the LNA could cause a problem for Europe:

A Russia-backed Libyan warlord could start a “civil war” in Libya, increasing refugee flows to the EU, Malta has warned.

The danger comes as the Libyan commander, Khalifa Haftar, advances on Tripoli, the seat of the UN-recognised government, Malta’s foreign minister, George Vella, told press in Valletta on Friday (12 January).

“Haftar with his army is moving gradually, slowly from the east to the west … and possibly, eventually linking up with his colleagues from the west, from Zintane, and advancing in a pincer movement on the region of Bani Walid, and Misrata, and Tripoli”, Vella said.

Ouch. The Zintanis are friends of Haftar? That's going to be a problem for the GNA in a civil war scenario.

Which makes the life expectancy of the BNB holding those roads between the main factions rather short, I should think.

And why we stiff-armed Hiftar is beyond my comprehension.

Of course, there is a bright spot in Russia's effort to be Haftar's friend (from the Malta article):

Haftar, on Thursday, toured Russia’s aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, as it was sailing from Syria and held a video call with Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu.

The Russians think their floating slum is impressive? Good Lord.

Italy, which would see a wave of refugees if Libya gets worse, is worried enough to re-establish their embassy in Libya. We'll see if this kind of problem can be solved by diplomats.

Strategypage has more on the situation and the oil factor.

At what point did this war stop being a shining example of "leading from behind?"

UPDATE: The Russians plan to arm Hiftar's faction, according to Hiftar.

Putin Stands on a Stool and Yells "Eeek!"

I know our Army is kind of a big deal, but really, get a grip Russia.

An American heavy brigade has started to arrive in Poland. The Russians act as if this force might knife through all the way to Moscow:

It is the largest US military reinforcement of Europe in decades.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the BBC that the move "threatens our interests and our security".

"It's a third country that is building up its military presence on our borders in Europe," he said. "It isn't even a European country."

Remember, the American deployment is a single heavy brigade. That's about 4,000 troops.

Yet the Russians--they who wrestle bears bear-chested--are soiling their armor over this killer rabbit (all references figurative, of course)? Really?

And the Poles are happy to have them:

Poland's Undersecretary of State for Defence Tomasz Szatkowski said the deployment was necessary because of Russia's "large exercises" next to its border and its "aggressive actions in our vicinity - I mean Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea".

America sent these troops east to set up a continuous presence in Poland 25 years after the Soviet Union collapsed not because our aggressive intent has taken this long to gear up--recall that it was only a few years ago that we actually pulled out our last tanks from Europe--but as an effort to respond to Putin's aggression.

It took Russia's invasions of Georgia and Ukraine plus repeated aggressive verbal threats and military exercises aimed at their neighbors, up to and including nuclear threats, to get a single heavy brigade--not even permanently based there--back in Europe.

I think we should restore a corps to Europe (see "Transforming USAREUR for a Strategy of Preemption"--which I now think should be a heavy corps) with 5 brigades on the ground in Germany, Italy, and eastern NATO, plus prepositioned NATO equipment sets in southern Poland.

Sure, technically we shouldn't base troops in Poland per an understanding with the Russians, which is why the unit is only rotating in for 9 months--to be replaced by new units for rolling 9-month deployments that gets around that agreement. But doesn't the caveat in our pledge that this restriction would be honored "provided the security situation remained unchanged" be triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine despite the pledge Russia made in an agreement (the Budapest Memorandum) to respect Ukraine's independence and territorial integrity?

Please note that I don't know why Military Review credits me with a PhD in that issue I link to. I never reported that and after publication I notified them of the error. They published my correcting email in the next issue and at one time corrected the error online, but the mistake has reappeared. I claim nothing more than an MA in history.

As an aside, given that Russia refused to join the West when communism was defeated there, and given that most of Russia's territory is in Asia, is Russia really a European country?

UPDATE: I mentioned back in October in this data dump that American Marines were heading to Norway where we have a brigade's worth of equipment stored. Well, the Marines have arrived and the Russians have gone from eeek to irked:

Some 300 U.S. Marines landed in Norway on Monday for a six-month deployment, the first time since World War Two that foreign troops have been allowed to be stationed there, in a deployment which has irked Norway's Arctic neighbor Russia.
Well, Russia and Norway share a border. Which is always dangerous. Being a small nation yet unable to move to a safer location, being a member of NATO with American troops on the ground is the next best thing.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Commieflage

Stratfor discusses the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) will never be a counter-weight to NATO as Russia has advertised. But how could it be when the "alliance" is weighted toward Central Asia?

The analysis is useful, but I don't understand why there is even a question of whether the grouping will be a counter-weight to NATO when the only non-Russian member of the CSTO is Belarus. Just who in Central Asia or the Caucasus would volunteer troops for duty against Poland and the Baltic NATO states?

Indeed, Russia's invasion of Ukraine gave Belarus and Armenia reason to question their position within the CSTO, as the article notes. [Uzbekistan, Georgia, and Azerbaijan have withdrawn from the CSTO as this newer Stratfor piece about how the organization is broken as a military alliance writes--this is a pre-posting update.]

To me, the alliance has always been about pretending to rebuild the USSR's borders for the purpose of containing China by preventing China from supplanting Russian influence in Central Asia.

Talk of opposing NATO is just camouflage to hide a weak (compared to China) Russia's interest in resisting China even as it pretends that efforts to claw back military power are to face a NATO that is not a military threat.

Not that growing Russian military power isn't a threat to NATO. It is.

But the Russians have to know that the real threat to Russian territory comes from China which might revive their claims to lost territories in the Far East that Russia grabbed from a weak China in the 19th century. 2020 looms, eh?

Yes, It's the Communists Again

Protesters are coming to Washington, D.C.

And yes, the hard core communists of ANSWER are involved. But not mentioned.


The story does not even mention the significance of the picture they chose to illustrate their story.

So we've got that going for us.

UPDATE: Oddly the picture I used seemed to blow up the entire blog. So I removed it. Let me see if I can redo it.

UPDATE: Well, it seems okay now.

UPDATE: Oops. Somehow I killed the article link in an effort to save the post. It is back.

UPDATE: Idiot; useful; 1 ea.:

I FULLY SUPPORT IMPOSING MARTIAL LAW - DELAYING THE INAUGURATION - UNTIL TRUMP IS "CLEARED" OF ALL CHARGES

I'm sure Rosie O'Donnell would have felt the same way about clearing up all the "charges" regarding Hillary Clinton and her corruption if she had won the election.

Just as I am sure she was fully supportive of Bush 43 imposing martial law until President-elect Obama could "clear" his name regarding where he was born (and yes, that was always silly), his college transcripts, and a certain still-unpublished video of the man that might have explored the nature of that blank slate we elected.

A Basket of Gullibles?

I did mention that (in an aside in an update) this fracking aspect of the recent intelligence memo (it is too short to be a report) on Russian interference in our recent election would not be taken to heart:

The much anticipated intelligence report which concluded that Russia tried to influence the recent presidential election had another startling, yet widely ignored, conclusion: The Russian government promotes anti-fracking propaganda in the United States.

I also noted that the Green types lauded natural gas as an alternative to oil and coal right up until fracking made natural gas cheap.

Perhaps I was wrong to assume that the Greens just wanted us to live in innocent poverty in harmony with Mother Earth by ruling out anything but intermittent solar and wind power.

Perhaps the poor, biased, ignorant lads and lassies--a basket of gullibles?--just succumbed to Russian fake news on the issue.

Or maybe on this issue they think Putin is a reasonably enlightened despot.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Target: Hezbollah

Strategypage discusses Israel and the northern threats. Lebanon is a major worry.

At peace with Egypt and Jordan, chaos in Syria, and with Iran only a potential nuclear threat, Lebanon is naturally the focus of Israeli conventional forces where Hezbollah and their rocket arsenal loom over northern Israel:

Israel considers Lebanon, in the form of Hezbollah, as its most immediate military threat. Israel has been shifting its military plans and deployments to the north and paying close attention to Syria because of this and the fact that Iran gets a key base area if it succeeds in getting the Syrian rebels and ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) shut down there. Meanwhile Hezbollah continues to make progress in taking control of the Lebanese government.

One, I hadn't realized Hezbollah has been gaining ground in dominating Lebanon. I thought their support for Alawite Assad would decrease their appeal. That is worrisome and a reason to be careful in arming the Lebanese government.

Two, they note that Hezbollah has suffered 2,000 killed in action since 2011 in their fight inside Syria on behalf of Assad on the orders of their Iranian paymasters. That's an amazing level of casualties for a force that totals 15,000 armed men.

Are those who survived that meat grinder experienced or shell-shocked?

As I've noted before, when the Syrian Civil War looks like it is winding down with either an Assad win or defeat, so that Israeli action doesn't get in the way of the circular firing squad of forces hostile to Israel killing each other off, I think Israel should seriously consider invading Lebanon to tear up Hezbollah before that terror group can fully withdraw from Syria, regroup, and focus on Israel again.

Israel has a problem with a Lebanon whose power does not allow them to control Hezbollah, but Israel's ability to target the non-state threat is shielded by that sovereignty.

But Israel will have an opportunity to set back Hezbollah's threat to Israel. Heck, I'd drive all the way to Baalbek and really tear up the Hezbollah infrastructure in addition to killing off any of the experienced survivor of the Syrian Civil War.

Denial of Access?

The nominee for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, said something rather interesting that cannot be our actual position on the South China Sea.

Hmm:

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state has set a course for a potentially serious confrontation with Beijing, saying China should be denied access to islands it has built in the contested South China Sea.

I don't see this as akin to Russia's capture of Crimea from Ukraine.

The bits of semi-submerged rocks are arguably Chinese. There are disputes, but ownership is not settled--as Ukraine's ownership of Crimea was settled until Russia said "never mind" and took the peninsula.

So turning them into islands in theory just made something nice for someone else if ownership is settled.

And even arming the islands doesn't seem outrageous.

What is a problem is if China tries to assert that the rocks are now legally islands that allow China to claim 12 nautical miles around them as Chinese territory.

What is a problem is if China tries to claim an exclusive economic zone around them and then claims this gives them the right to treat the waters as Chinese territory for a number of purposes.

Mind you, China simply claims the bulk of the South China Sea as their territory without requiring such justifications. But China will add them to their case, have no doubt.

So I wouldn't try to blockade the Chinese during peacetime.

What I would do is carry out clear and unambiguous actual freedom of navigation operations--not dressed up innocent passage missions that would be legal if we sailed past Peking (figuratively speaking).

They should be properly backed to make sure Chinese fishing vessels don't swarm and disable a single American warship sailing close to those islands, giving China an excuse to "rescue" the vessel with heavily armed coast guard vessels.

But perhaps Tillerson is just staking out an advanced position for the purpose of negotiations so the Chinese will be relieved about what we actually do.

Foundation and Empire

Will society collapse in the 2020s? That's what a math historian (wasn't 2 + 2 always 4?) wrote:

Peter Turchin, a professor at the University of Connecticut’s department of ecology and evolutionary biology, warns in a Phys.Org article published this week that society could risk implosion within the decade because of increasing social unrest.

And, no, a collapse wouldn’t necessarily be President-elect Donald Trump’s fault ― though Turchin writes that he sees the businessman’s election win as confirmation that “negative trends seem to be accelerating.” Trump’s campaign marked an “unprecedented collapse of social norms governing civilized discourse,” Turchin adds.

“We should expect many years of political turmoil, peaking in the 2020s,” the cultural evolution researcher writes.

“This is a science-based forecast, not a ‘prophecy. It’s based on solid social science.”

So it is based on "solid social science?" Then we'll be fine. Nothing in that field seems terribly solid as opposed to dressing up liberalism with the color of science.

I don't mean to mock too much. I did link to his argument on the over-supply of elites who are contributing to bitter partisan divisions over control of the federal government (and I suggested a return of powers to states and local governments might provide more openings for the elites to lessen the competition for jobs at the federal level)

And because of that article, I did buy his book on the rise and fall of empires based on his theory. I guess I should move it forward on my list of books to be read.

But since the author's name isn't Hari Seldon, I guess I'm skeptical. We shall see.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Holy Civil War Batman

This hasn't gotten a whole lot of commentary, it seems, but isn't this a marker that Maduro might respond to with war?

The Venezuelan National Assembly, where the political opposition holds sway, on Monday declared President Nicolas Maduro to have “abandoned his post” and demanded new elections as a way out of the country’s political crisis so that “it may be the people who express themselves with their votes.”

Is this not a big deal?

The war might be on the assembly, on the opposition in general, or on the Dutch over their nearby island possessions in an effort to rally Venezuelans to his continued inept socialist rule.

But how is something like being declared not the president something to talk about?

UPDATE: Calling that vote a "coup" attempt, Maduro is striking at opponents:

Venezuelan authorities Thursday said they arrested four opponents of President Nicolas Maduro for plotting an armed revolt, while the opposition accused him of using intimidation to cling to power.

One of the arrested is a legislator.

At this point I'm assuming organized violence is coming.

UPDATE: Half a million troops and (armed?) civilians were sent out as a show of force by Maduro:

His finger on a rifle trigger and wearing an olive green hat, President Nicolas Maduro on Saturday oversaw military exercises in crisis-wrought Venezuela, which he says is under threat of imperialist" invasion due to its oil wealth.

The opposition would be wise not to take this lightly:

"You are PATHETIC, Nicolas Maduro," tweeted opposition lawmaker Armando Armas, adding the drill was a "pantomime."

This is more like scary serious. When no invaders show up, Maduro could easily send them against other targets already in the country--the opposition.

Or maybe send them against the Dutch possessions just off shore.

UPDATE: Maduro refused to give his annual presidential address to the legislature, as is required.

If he has given up even the pretense of talking to the opposition, what does that mean?

The article says that Maduro is unlikely to be budged with his support by the military and public institutions (other than the legislature, that is).

Can Maduro wait out the opposition until poverty and hunger defeat them?

Or will Maduro resort to open violence on a larger scale?

UPDATE: I'm not sure how Maduro could even outlast the opposition given how bad it is:

Venezuela is no longer a country with a government, institutions and a civil society. It’s a geographic area terrorized by a criminal enterprise that pretends to govern, with a civil society made up of two sets of people: accomplices and victims.

I'm not sure there's enough to keep the accomplices happy.

Nazi Comparisons Coarsen Our Discourse? Duly Noted

President-elect Trump struck back at fake news over the intelligence leak on peegate (?) and the outrage is ... interesting.

So an insufficiently sourced report of Trump being vulnerable to Russian blackmail (Projection anyone? Hillary's hacked private server emails?) was splashed across our body politic to the delight of Trump opponents. But it exploded in their faces, which was less than pleasant for them.

And then it got better when the Outrage Machine was turned on and aimed at Trump who Tweeted that such an attack on him was Nazi-like in its disregard for the truth:

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Wednesday condemned President-elect Donald Trump for invoking Nazi Germany in his criticism of the U.S. intelligence community, arguing his comments trivialize the Holocaust.

The ADL has a point. But I don't recall this kind of condemnation over the past year or so about this kind of comparison (over 32 million hits) when it might have been more relevant.

Of course, the fault might not lie with the ADL. Perhaps their archives are filled with hundreds of such condemnations put out every day during the election campaign to reject the fire hose of comparisons by the Left turned up to 11 for Trump compared to the usual dull roar of Nazi insults easily flung at Republicans by the Left (24 million hits over a longer period of time but "just" half a million more recently).

It is possible that the real blame lies with the media that has the power to decide who to quote and who to ignore. Maybe the media has decided to amplify the ADL condemnation and make it real in a world of "if someone condemns in a press vacuum, does anybody hear them" sort of way.

On the bright side, does this outrage at a Nazi comparison mean it is de-legitimized as a cheap and lazy slur?

If You Build It--and Defend It--They Will Come

Yes, defending the world order that we designed after World War II benefits America in many ways.

Do read it.

And just one of the benefits is that America has far more allies around the world with most of the rest of the world being friendly neutrals.

When you look at how few allies Russia and China have, you begin to appreciate one benefit most easily counted. If we didn't defend the world order, those allies we have would slide away and we'd find out how much worse it is not to have allies--or have more foes or enemies--than to have allies we have to cajole into doing more to help us defend the world order.

And yes, as the author rightly states, defending NATO is a vital objective for America and not a gift we provide the Europeans that we should withdraw from if European states don't spend more on defense.

Still, not many objected to the futile effort to lead a defense of the world order "from behind" under President Obama.

Thank God President Trump will be the one suspicious of our role so outfits like Politico will defend this network of influence, friends, and allies rather than damning America for having an "empire."

And for the record, I am sure I will have many opportunities to oppose Trump's impulses--until hopefully, and even after, the realities of being president in a dangerous world allows him to evolve his views--even though I will remain grateful he defeated Hillary Clinton.