Friday, September 30, 2016

North Korea's Air Force

Marty F over at Aviation Week scored a cool coup about NoKo's Air Force... 
For decades, the Korean People’s Army Air Force (KPAAF) has only been seen through an opaque haze of fuzzy, blurred photos and occasional propaganda images with the party elite posing in front of a fighter jet. So secretive is the state that few outsiders catch a glimpse of its military capability.

That is, until now. North Korea held its first-ever public airshow, the Wonsan Air Festival, on Sept. 24 and 25 at Kalma Airport, a newly rebuilt facility that the North Korean government hopes will be a gateway for tourism to the region.

Limited Resources

North Korea’s premier fighter is the Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrum, a type tasked with the air defense of the country. These are the most common aircraft type in pictures released by the North Korean government of exercises. While most reports suggest that the air force took delivery of 40 MiG-29s, other analysts say it could be half that number. 

Korean Classic

Large numbers of Mikoyan MiG-21s remain in service in a number of different versions, indicative perhaps of the variety of countries from which they have been sourced. More telling was perhaps the number of aircraft types not on display, including F-6s, a Chinese-built version of the MiG-19, and also MiG-23s. North Korea is also believed to be one of the last military operators of the MiG-15, used in its two-seat variant as a trainer. 

Korean Close-Air Support

The Sukhoi Su-25, known to NATO as the Frogfoot, is North Korea’s primary close-air support aircraft. Along with the other fighters appearing at the air show, the fast jets were in immaculate condition and had been recently painted in this new gray/blue scheme. The Su-25s show no evidence of local upgrades or modernization. According to Jane’s World Air Forces, around 34 were delivered, but it is unclear how many are operational. 

Sneaky Biplanes

Among the most interesting types on display at Wonsan were several Nanchang/Shijiazhuang Y-5s, a Chinese license-built derivative of the Antonov An-2 biplane. These aircraft are in widespread use with the KPAAF and appear to have undergone some modification, with a large blade antenna on top of the fuselage and what could be a sensor or antenna beneath the rear fuselage. These aircraft could be used for special missions and are widely believed to be designated to carry special-forces troops behind enemy lines in any conflict with South Korea. 

Sanction-Busting Helos

The appearance of the U.S.-made Hughes (now MD Helicopters) MD500D light turbine helicopter in North Korea may come as a surprise to many. But dozens of these machines were illegally exported into the country during the 1980s, and the images from Wonsan are among the first clear photographs of these machines. It is believed that some have been converted into light-attack helicopters equipped with a Russian-made, wire-guided, anti-tank missile. 

Familiar Sight

The Mil Mi-8 Hip transport helicopter is a common sight in countries with a lean to Moscow, and a large fleet remains in operation in North Korea. This camouflaged example is one of several Mi-8s at the airshow.

No word on Noko's allegedly formidable Air Defense SAMs...

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Naval Advice

GsGf's Seapower Expert and Former Navy Officer Provides Unsolicited Advice to the Navy About its Upcoming Military and Resource Challenges. 

Great Power Competition is Central.

The degree to which the Navy focuses its narrative on lesser threats is the degree to which its force structure will be optimized to meet them. While Carrier Strike Groups (CSG) are being employed in current operations against ISIS and other associated terror groups, this is a useful by-product of being prepared for great power competition and not the raison d'etre for that power. 

The U.S. Navy Exists to Ensure Freedom of the Seas.

 Freedom of the seas is the irreducible minimum condition for world trade, the vast majority of which moves by sea. The Navy must be capable of ensuring that our economic interests are not damaged by a rising great power’s desire to impose regional dominance over resources and markets. Over a quarter of this nation’s annual gross domestic product (GDP) is directly associated with seaborne trade, and ensuring that such trade continues unmolested is essential to our prosperity. 

Partner with the Marine Corps. 

The American public must be better informed as to the importance of robust American Seapower to the nation’s security and prosperity. Within the Department of the Navy resides the world’s most powerful Navy, the world’s most feared middleweight land force, and the world’s most mobile and lethal air arm. The efficiency and effectiveness of forward deployed naval power in the guise of an integrated war deterring/waging force from the sea should be touted as an asymmetric advantage that enables the U.S.—uniquely among nations—to exploit the simple fact that the world is mostly water, and most of that water is not claimed as territorial seas.

Do Not Negotiate with Yourself.

 The Navy is vastly under-resourced for what this nation currently asks it to do, let alone for the rigors of growing great power dynamics. When the Navy goes forward with its plan, it should couch it in the language of requirements. State what the force is designed to do, where it is designed to do it, against whom is it arrayed, and the likely operational objectives of those potential adversaries. Make the case that the fleet architecture and its dependent force structure is the requirement to achieve these ends, and state the resulting requirement unequivocally. It is the job of the Congress to balance those requirements against other important needs, and Navy planners should get out of the business of shaping their force around an anticipated level of funding. 

 Put the Admirals to Work.

The Navy has hundreds of Admirals—active and reserve—on the payroll. They reached the positions they occupy on the basis of professional competence and leadership, and there are few better to explain the importance of American Seapower to a general public grown detached from its centrality. The CNO should energize the flag community and require his Admirals to schedule and conduct at least one public outreach event every month solely for the purpose of reinforcing the importance of American Seapower. The Navy Chief of Information (CHINFO) should create a twenty-minute presentation suitable for delivery to civic groups across the country, and provide it to Navy flag officers for their own tailoring. 

Additionally, CHINFO should maintain a master schedule of these presentations and work to coordinate local press coverage both before and after the event to amplify its impact. Finally, individual flag officers should be required to submit to CHINFO a brief post-event summary to include insights gained and their general observations on the receptivity of the audience to the message. This effort is about information and education, not advocacy, a distinction that the CNO should ensure his acolytes understand. Past suggestions of the value of such an effort have gotten hung up on the fear that outreach to those the Navy serves could run afoul of Defense Department guidelines on policy advocacy. A clear statement of intent from the CNO, followed by his personal interest in the program would go a long way toward its effectiveness.

The world is changing around the Navy, and the demands placed on it require it to think differently about how it is organized, trained, equipped, and postured. If it is to make progress in meeting those demands, it must also communicate its requirements with clarity, completeness, honesty, and relentlessness. Such is the burden of the world’s most powerful and consequential Navy.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Merkel über Alles?

"Merkel ist Deutschland, Deutschland Merkel ist"

Maybe not as catchy as when Deputy Führer Hess proclaimed it,  yet Deutsch Chancellor Angela Merkel appears to hanging on by her fingernails.

The graveyards are full of indispensable men,” said De Gaulle, or his predecessor Georges Clemenceau, or New York publisher Elbert Hubbard, or one of several other less famous people with a good turn of phrase, according to the scrupulously careful online Quote Investigator. Be that as it may, it’s looking increasingly likely that the (political) graveyard will soon be welcoming an “indispensable” woman, recently sanctified as such on the cover of The Economist, namely German chancellor Angela Merkel.

 Her Christian Democrat party fell to third place in Berlin’s local elections last week and may not stay long in the city’s governing coalition. Two thirds of German voters now want her gone. And the names of successors are being freely canvassed.

By any respectable criterion, she is a klutz on a heroic scale.

Merkel’s energy policy was based upon a combination of nuclear power and “renewables” in order to close down power stations dependent on fossil fuels, and help Germany lead the European Union and the world toward a carbon-free future. She had been a strong defender of nuclear energy against SPD chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s attempts to phase it out. Within a few weeks of the Japanese nuclear disaster at Fukushima, though, she panicked, reversed herself, and closed down Germany’s entire nuclear program. Her Energiewende since then has led to a massive increase in power bills for consumers and industry, the movement abroad of German companies heavily reliant on energy, and, more recently, a phasing out of the phasing out of coal-fired power stations.

 Merkel and the nuclear companies are still haggling over how much the German government will pay for the estimated €23 billion cost of shutting down their plants. Meanwhile, no one believes that Germany and Europe will meet their official goal of reducing carbon emissions 80-95 percent from their 1990 levels by the year 2050.

The refugee crisis is all too plainly a vast mistake, as Merkel herself has admitted. But some of its side-effects have produced other crises almost as severe. Example one: though Merkel welcomed “Syrian refugees” without consulting even her colleagues in the German government, she immediately demanded that other European states within the then-borderless Schengen Zone should accept them as well. That demand was resisted (and still is) by other governments, and there’s been a long-running “existential” (Jean-Claude Juncker’s word, not mine) crisis in the EU ever since.

Example two: Merkel reduced the flow of Middle Eastern migrants into the EU through a deal with Turkish strongman Recep Tayyik Erdogan to control the border. But the price was high: the EU’s silence over Erdogan’s arbitrary arrest of thousands of soldiers, police, lawyers, and journalists, and visa-free entry into the EU for 80 million Turks, which could mean another migrant crisis down the road. There’s no guarantee that Erdogan — who’s skilled at selling the same horse twice — won’t ask for additional concessions from a desperate Merkel and EU, either.

Whether Brexit is a good idea for Britain, Merkel and her EU colleagues all devoutly believe that it’s bad for Europe. But she helped to create the circumstances that made it happen by rejecting all of PM David Cameron’s demands except for the most trivial — and even then the concessions the EU offered were legally reversible. It was a serious setback for her and for her lodestar of European unity. And it came about because at a time when populist parties were rising throughout Europe, including the AFD in Germany, she complacently assumed that the risk of Brexit was not a serious one. She had confidence that Cameron would win but gave him no real help in doing so. He resigned; she was further weakened.

When Merkel won her first election in 2004, she represented a more general shift to the liberal economic right in German politics. Chancellor Schröder — the SPD leader she narrowly defeated — had ushered in some market-friendly economic reforms that many now credit for making the German economy more dynamic. Indeed, Merkel herself praised him for doing so. Since then, however, she has presided over a shift back to the Left. By blocking the demands of the CDU’s traditional coalition partner, the Free Democrats, for tax cuts and a more market-friendly approach, she made them look weak and ineffective.

As a result, they fell below the 5 percent threshold for entry into the Bundestag for the first time since 1945. Though the 2013 election was generally reported as a victory for Merkel and the CDU, in fact it ushered in a small parliamentary majority for the Left.

That had consequences. To retain the coalition and her chancellorship, Merkel had to agree to a series of small socialist reforms required by the SPD — notably, a quite generous minimum wage and a reduction in the pension age. Judged by results, Merkel looks more and more East German with every passing election. (Incidentally, the Free Democrats now favor some restrictions on immigration.)

Merkel’s Euro policy has proved — astounding though it sounds — even more destructive than her immigration policy. By insisting that Germany had to prove its loyalty to Europe by ruling out any reform of the Euro’s structure, she imprisoned Southern European countries in an over-valued exchange rate that inflicted recession, unemployment, and a debt crisis on them indefinitely.

It’s hard to express the damage this has done to millions of human lives, but here’s one measure: Though the average unemployment rate for the Eurozone hovered between 10 and 12 percent from 2010 to 2016 and the Eurozone youth-unemployment rate hovered between 20 and 22 percent over the same period, the youth-unemployment rate in Mediterranean Europe has generally been around the 50 percent mark. (There have been corresponding problems for northern Europe in the subsidies their taxpayers have had to pay to keep Greece, Spain, and Portugal solvent and inside the straitjacket.)

Political instability has accordingly flourished in the South, with successive governments losing elections and extreme Marxist parties coming to or near power. Relations between different European countries — above all, Greece and Germany — have been permanently poisoned. Democracy itself has been sidelined by Brussels as it replaced elected prime ministers with its own favored technocrats. In short, nothing has damaged European unity more than Merkel’s blindly unreasoning insistence on an un-reformed Euro.

  As a result of these and other blunders by the “indispensable” Merkel, Europe is facing a series of disabling crises.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Russia's Aleppo Raid

Bombs Away!

The recent mystery air raid on a bona fide UN aid convoy near Aleppo isn't really a mystery at all...

The Russians are denying that their aircraft were operating above Aleppo during the strike, but they know the U.S. government quickly figured out that they were responsible. After all, every time the Russians or Syrians launch jets, U.S. radar and intelligence assets carefully monitor them, warning U.S. forces of any deliberate Russian or Syrian air strike. The monitoring also provided valuable intelligence on where Russian military attention is focused. Regardless, Putin knows the U.S. employs these capabilities and that we would have been focused on Russia’s heavy air coverage of Aleppo.

And that leads to the key takeaway: Putin just doesn’t care that he’s been caught. On the contrary, his strategy is actually served by his lack of concern.

In destroying the humanitarian convoy, Putin has simply reinforced his longstanding message to the West. In many ways, it is pitch-perfect. An aid convoy is not off-limits, Putin is telling President Obama — which means that we should expect worse to come. In other words, unless the United States accepts keeping Bashar al-Assad in power, Putin will continue to burn Syria. And Assad — totally undeterred by the pathetic weakness of U.S. deterrent power — revels in this longstanding slaughter strategy. Russia might hint that this attack is retaliation for the accidental U.S. bombing of Syrian soldiers, but it wasn’t. Instead, it was pure Putin: deliberate and brutal application of force in the service of a long-term strategy.

Of course, this raises another question: If Putin’s interests are served by this strike, why is Russia denying involvement? The answer is simple: Putin knows that 44 knows, and that’s all that counts. To preserve a pretense of moral credibility, Russia is employing its familiar disinformation strategy to deny responsibility. These denials will cool or distract some of the international public anger against him. But Putin also predicts that two developments will now follow.
 First, the U.S. won’t provide evidence of Russian culpability. Second, the U.S. will continue dancing Russia’s diplomatic waltz by redeploying John Kerry into another round of pointless negotiations. 
The U.S should defy Putin’s expectations in both cases. We should use the U.N. Security Council to confront the Russians with evidence of their culpability. The U.S. should also suspend all cabinet-level discussions with Russia on Syria’s future. Instead, we should escalate our support to moderate rebel factions. For some groups, that support should include the provision of man-portable surface-to-air missile systems.

The whys behind this latest Russian aggression are not complicated. In the end, it’s just another product of 44’s foreign-policy lethargy. As in the Baltics, Putin continues to hold the reins. And so, Assad’s confidence — and the fuel his regime gives ISIS — grows ever stronger. And U.S. credibility — moral and strategic — grows ever weaker. And the overflowing morgue that is Syria grows ever more desperate.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Sino - US Conflict of 2017

A recently published study of four ways that the U.S. and China may engage in war seems at first to warn against the high human and economic costs of all four kinds of engagement. The study by RAND Corporation, sponsored by the U.S. Army, does state that it “reinforce[s] the widely held view that a Sino-U.S. war would be so harmful that both states should place a very high priority on avoiding one.” And it does repeatedly warn that various prevailing conditions are pressuring both sides to rush and strike first, fearing that if it delays initiating war, they would lose much of their capacity to strike, a highly destabilizing configuration.

A reading of the study, however, is likely to leave readers with the sense that the U.S. will fare much better than China in whatever form the war takes. This observation, which runs throughout the report, is likely to embolden those in the U.S. who believe that a Sino-U.S. war is inevitable, and hence call for more preparations for such a confrontation, and – in some cases – for the U.S. to strike first. This side effect is deeply regrettable, given that this favorable (at least for Americans) assessment of the results of the war, as we shall see shortly, is based on rather dubious assumptions.

The study compares four kinds of war:

  1. A Brief but Severe war would last “a week or so” and would involve selective U.S. strikes on China. In this scenario, military-operational exigencies necessitate a fast-paced, intense conflict. Such a conflict would asymmetrically harm China, because China’s economy would be severely disrupted, with significant aftershocks, and U.S. counterforce capabilities would steadily degrade China’s anti-access, area denial (A2AD) capabilities, while U.S. losses would drop off as China’s A2AD suffered.
  2. A Long and Severe war, the authors estimate that the conflict would last “a year or so,” and it would likely involve Japan and other U.S. allies. In this war, the losses suffered by both sides make compromises harder than in the brief war. They add that the mounting military losses would weaken the legitimacy of the Chinese state and China’s economy would be harmed “disproportionately and badly.” The authors hence conclude that “the economic, domestic, and international effects of a long, severe conflict work against China.” 
  3. In a Brief and Mild conflict, hostilities might be triggered by a miscalculation or an incident involving a third party, but political leaders would withhold authorization for major attacks on opposing forces. The authors conclude that the conflict could be ended before causing major damage, and that there would be only minor losses on each side. A critical distinction between the “Intense” and “Mild” scenarios is that the former involves U.S. strikes on Chinese soil, whereas the latter does not. 
  4. In a Long but Mild conflict, the leaders of each country might agree to contain the fighting, but not to end the conflict. If the losses remained low on each side, the conflict could drag on for a year or so, as each side’s leaders decide that the conflict is “politically sustainable” and don’t want to lose domestic legitimacy by conceding. The authors believe that “even with fighting limited, economic losses would grow, especially for China.” Separatist movements within China might try to exploit the ongoing interstate conflict to advance their aims.
In all four scenarios the report assumes that because China has next to no capabilities to strike the U.S. homeland, and because the war is assumed to be confined to the Western Pacific and to conventional forces, that China will suffer much more from the war than the U.S. The authors add:

“In sum, the economic harm caused by a Sino-U.S. war, unless brief or mild, would be substantially greater to China than to the United States, an asymmetry likely to persist if not grow by 2025.”
The authors explicitly state that they have not included the effects of a possible nuclear war in their analysis [p.29]. They argue that China is unlikely to resort to use of its nuclear arms, even if it will be losing what the RAND authors call a long and severe war, and they describe the possibility of the U.S. initiating a nuclear conflict as “far-fetched” [p.31]. 

The probability of this kind of escalation may indeed be small, but it is certainly not nil, and the disutility is so immense that it merits greater consideration than it is given in this report. One further notes as both sides are developing very high yield conventional explosives and low yield nuclear ones, the line between these two kinds of arms is blurring and the danger that it will crossed is increasing.

Moreover, many who observe that all assumptions and scenarios about how a war will unfold, hold only until the first missile is lobbed.

Nor can one take for granted that the domestic political cost of war will be much higher for China than for the United States. Americans are very war weary, less willing to make sacrifices, and more able to effectively express their opposition to another war in a faraway country than the Chinese people.

The authors’ title for the paper has echoes that may well not have been intended. They argue that one must think more about what kind of war to fight with China, in order to avoid the worst kind. The title though evokes Herman Kahn’s notorious book Thinking about the Unthinkable, which sought to make an all-out nuclear war more acceptable – to Americans. The RAND report’s unintended effect may well make war more likely, given its assumptions that China will be unable to lay a glove on the U.S. homeland , while China would suffer greatly in military, economic, and political terms.

The report does not include even a hint as to what such a war will accomplish, what it will lead to: the U.S. occupying China and “rebuilding it”? 

Introduce a regime change that will end with a government more favorable to the U.S.? 

Given America’s recent nation-building experiences in much smaller states in the Middle East, one cannot but wonder. One may well say, this was not what RAND asked the authors to study. However one cannot assess a war, or compare one kind to another, without discussing what kind of China we will have to contend with once we win (assuming we do). 

If the expected end state is akin to what we now have in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan, one may well conclude that we should avoid any and all the wars RAND has laid out.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Coming Indo - Pak War

Could India and Pakistan really go to war?

 It almost seems an absurd question to ask. After all, both countries have long been nuclear powers -- a deterrent that encompasses the lives of a combined 1.4 billion people. Both nations have also seen some years of relative peace along their border, a break from the wars that pockmarked the 20th Century.

And yet, hours after 18 were killed in an attack on an army base in Indian-administered Kashmir, the director-general of military operations for the Indian Army announced that the terrorists carried gear which had "Pakistani markings."

Arnab Goswami, the host of the country's most-watched English news hour, expressed rage at Pakistan: "We need to cripple them, we need to bring them down on their knees."
One of his guests, a retired army general, went a step further: "We must be seen as inflicting punishment on Pakistan by non-terrorist means ... the nation needs a catharsis!"

But what about the ready nuclear arsenals both countries possessed? Surely that would be a deterrent?
Major General G. D. Bakshi, had a clear answer: "Pakistan is one-fifth the size of India. If we fire even a part of our arsenal, most of it will be on the Pakistani Punjab, from where the Pakistani army comes: Not a crop will grow there for 800 years!"
"Let's stop self-deterring ourselves," he cried.

Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman told CNN that India was "desperately looking for ways to deflect the world's attention from the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir," referring to the protests and unrest there.
And emotions have boiled over on the Pakistani side, too.

Sunday's attack is not the first deadly attack on Indian soil that New Delhi has accused Pakistan of having a hand in.

n January, another Indian military base was attacked in northwestern Punjab, not far from the border with Pakistan. And then there were the Mumbai attacks in 2008 in which 164 people were killed.

While Indian officials continue to link those attacks to the Pakistan government, Islamabad has consistently denied any involvement. In each of these terror attacks, and others like them, there have been calls for a strong Indian response.

The next steps of diplomacy -- or a war of words -- are likely to play out in New York this week on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. New Delhi is expected to call for sanctions on its neighbor, for what it alleges are clear moves to support terrorism.

Islamabad, meanwhile, is expected to highlight unrest in Indian-administered Kashmir, where a two-month-old curfew persists after mass demonstrations and violence.

India's approach will be crucial.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Next Korean War

Imagine it is 2020. The director of the CIA requests an urgent meeting with the US president.

The reason:

North Korea has succeeded in making a nuclear bomb small enough to fit inside the tip of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the continental United States. The news soon leaks to the public. High-level meetings to devise a response are held not just in Washington, but in Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing, and Moscow as well.

This scenario may seem unreal today, but it’s more political science than science fiction. North Korea just carried out its fifth (and apparently successful) test of a nuclear explosive device, doing so just days after testing several ballistic missiles. Absent a major intervention, it’s only a matter of time before North Korea increases its nuclear arsenal (now estimated at 8-12 devices) and figures out how to miniaturise its weapons for delivery by missiles of increasing range and accuracy.

It’s difficult to overstate the risks were North Korea, the world’s most militarised and closed society, to cross this threshold. A North Korea with the ability to threaten the US homeland might conclude it had little to fear from the US military, a judgement that could lead it to launch a conventional, non-nuclear attack on South Korea. Even if such a war ended in North Korea’s defeat, it would be extraordinarily costly by any measure.

That said, North Korea wouldn’t have to start a war for its nuclear and missile advances to have real impact. If South Korea or Japan ever concluded that North Korea was in a position to deter American involvement in a war on the Peninsula, they would lose confidence in US security assurances, raising the possibility that they would develop nuclear weapons of their own. Such decisions would alarm China and set the stage for a regional crisis or even conflict in a part of the world with the greatest concentration of people, wealth, and military might.

There is another risk as well. A cash-strapped North Korea might be tempted to sell nuclear arms to the highest bidder, be it a terrorist group or some country that decided that it, too, needed the ultimate weapon. By definition, nuclear proliferation increases the chances of further nuclear proliferation—and with it the actual use of nuclear weapons.

The US has options, but none is particularly attractive. As for negotiations, there’s little if any reason to be confident that North Korea would give up what it considers to be its best guarantee of survival. In fact, it has often used negotiations to buy time for further advances in its nuclear and missile capabilities.

Another option is to continue with a version of the current policy of extensive sanctions. The problem is that sanctions will not be potent enough to force North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs. This is partly because China, fearing large refugee inflows and a unified Korea in America’s strategic orbit should North Korea collapse, will most likely continue to ensure that it gets the fuel and food it needs.

As a result, it makes more sense to focus on diplomacy with China. The US, after consulting closely with South Korea and Japan, should meet with Chinese officials to discuss what a unified Korea would look like, so that some Chinese concerns could be met. For example, a unified country could be non-nuclear, and any US military forces that remained on the Peninsula could be fewer and farther south than they are now.

It’s of course possible or even probable that such assurances wouldn’t lead to any meaningful diminution in Chinese support for North Korea. In that case, the US would have three more options. One would be to live with a North Korea in possession of missiles that could bring nuclear bombs to US soil. The policy would become one of defence (deploying additional anti-missile systems) and deterrence, with North Korea understanding that any use or spread of nuclear weapons would lead to the end of the regime and possibly nuclear retaliation. Cyber weapons might also be employed to obstruct and impede the progress of North Korea’s program.

The second option would be a conventional military attack, targeting North Korean nuclear and missile capabilities. The danger is that such a strike mightn’t achieve all of its objectives and trigger either a conventional military attack on South Korea (where nearly 30,000 US troops are based) or even a nuclear attack from the North. Needless to say, Japan and South Korea would have to be prepared to support any US military response before it could be undertaken.

The third option would be to launch such a conventional military attack only if intelligence showed North Korea was putting its missiles on alert and readying them for imminent use. This would be a classic pre-emptive strike. The danger here is that the intelligence mightn’t be sufficiently clear—or come early enough.

All of which brings us back to that possible day in 2020. If much is unknown, what seems all but certain is that whoever wins November’s US presidential election will confront a fateful decision regarding North Korea sometime during her or his term

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Flying Shark


Nicknamed the "Flying Shark", the J-15 fighter is currently equipped for air superiority missions. But with heavier versions ready to fly off future catapult-equipped Chinese aircraft carriers, the J-15 will blossom into a true long-range multi-role fighter

New imagery shows that the Flying Shark will receive major upgrades, which point to gains in not just China's engine-making  - but her overall carrier fleet.

The J-15 is derived from the Russian Su-33 (itself developed from the Su-27 fighter), and is currently in limited production by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation. It is used by the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) on its sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.

In September 2016, images of an upgraded J-15, the "J-15A", emerged on the Internet, showing significant upgrades to its engines and flight performance. The plane makes use of domestically produced WS-10H turbofan engines, distinguished by a squarish, silver afterburner nozzle.

While some J-15 prototypes were fitted with WS-10 turbofan engines, all production J-15s presently operating off the Liaoning aircraft carrier use the Russian AL-31 turbofan (which has a dark-colored afterburner nozzle). If future J-15As use the WS-10H as a power plant, it would indicate a triumph for China's emerging aviation engine industry, which has long been a weakness. Another likely upgrade is the installation of an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which has improved resolution, multi-target ability, and resistance to jamming.

However, perhaps the most significant evident upgrade is the reinforced landing gear on theJ-15A's nosewheel, with the extender in particular much larger. Strengthening the nosewheel is necessary for the plane to operate on carriers with catapults; the catapult's aircraft launch bar pulls the J-15 by its nosewheel when the carrier catapult accelerates the fighter during takeoff.

Also, the holdback bar needs to be attached to the rear of the nosewheel prior to catapult launch, in order to prevent premature movement.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The New Power Couple

The Commonwealth Russian and Iran hook up have reached an unprecedented peak, fueled by military cooperation in Syria, a shared vision of the global order, and mutual criticism of Western policy in the Middle East. 

So, what all does this mean? 

The new closeness between Moscow and Tehran in Syria has already had serious consequences for Europe. It has strengthened Assad’s hand, increased violence, resulted in more refugees flowing into European countries, and further marginalised Europe on the diplomatic track.

Yet question marks remain about the durability of the relationship. Does it signify a sustainable strategic alliance that will reshape the geopolitics of the wider Middle East? Or are we merely experiencing a high point in the seesaw saga of Russian-Iranian relations – a saga where cooperation will always be limited and tarnished by mutual distrust?

Tehran is a useful ally to Moscow in a highly unstable region, but it is just one thread in Moscow’s patchwork of important relationships that need careful balancing.

Moscow offers Tehran a critical means of protecting its regional security interests. However, Iran’s leadership is divided on how best to hedge bets between Eastern and Western powers to achieve the country’s strategic objectives.

Despite their differences, the war in Syria looks set to be the crucible of Moscow-Tehran cooperation for some time to come, given its centrality to the strategic ambitions of both parties.

Instead of pursuing policies that attempt to exploit divisions between Iran and Russia, Europe should use its limited leverage to reduce violence in Syria and, if possible, pave road for political transition later down the road. 

This can only happen with better understanding of the drivers of Iran and Russia's policy in the region.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Mission Creep

The expansion of a project or mission beyond its original goals, often after initial successes. Mission creep is usually considered undesirable due to the dangerous path of each success breeding more ambitious attempts, only stopping when a final, often catastrophic, failure occurs. 

 The deal for U.S. military cooperation with Russia would expand the current mission in Syria far beyond it's exclusive focus on the Islamic State group. 

And the Pentagon is totally P.O'd about it

 The cease-fire deal reached Sept. 9 calls for the two former Cold War rivals to set up a joint facility for sharing intelligence and coordinating airstrikes against ISIS and al Nusra. The key requirement is adherence to a seven-day cease fire that calls on the Syrian regime and Russia to halt attacks around the city of Alleppo, which has experienced some of the war's most horrific violence, and allow for sustained delivery of humanitarian aid.

The details remain unclear. Some U.S. military officials are suggesting that the "cooperation" between the U.S. and Russia may be narrowly defined to involve only sharing intelligence with the Russians and deconflicting air space rather than expanding the target list for U.S. aircraft.  

 The seven-day ceasefire could be completed by Tuesday. Top U.S. military officials plan to meet Monday to begin hammering out the details of the “joint integration center”  that will be the hub for the military cooperation with Russia, according to one defense official. 

 But U.S. and Russian commanders will likely experience tension over selecting and prioritizing targets. The Russians are more focused on al Nusra because that group poses a bigger threat to Syria’s major cities and the survival of President Bashar al Assad, a key Russian ally.

“Going into this, the U.S. wants overwhelming attention paid to ISIS targets. The Russians would much rather see the targeting of al Nusra. It’s going to be a negotiation on the ground between colonels and one stars that are putting together targeting lists,” Stavridis said.

Those negotiations could get ugly.

“They’re going to get into the nitty-gritty targeting disagreements,” said Jacqueline Lopour, a former CIA analyst who is now a research associate with the Centre for International Governance Innovation  in Canada. “What if there’s a target and the Russians say ‘Our information says this is a terrorist’ and the U.S. says no, it’s not? They say ‘Show us your information’ and the U.S. says 'No, we’re not going to compromise our sources.' It’s going to get messy,” Lopour said. “What happens if someone vetoes a target and the other side goes ahead and strikes it anyway?” she said.

 Complicating matters are the links between al Nusra militants -- who at times fight against ISIS -- and the American-backed rebels that the U.S. considers to be moderate. 

“There’s a lot of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend,’” Lopour said. “It’s all quite muddled and complex.”

The U.S. has teams of special operations troops on the ground in Syria to support some Sunni Arab militias in fights against ISIS. Other Sunni Arab groups receive money and weapons from the U.S. In some situations, they fight alongside al Nusra militants against common enemies like ISIS.

That ambiguity will frustrate the Russians.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Battle Of Britain Day


 Way back in the last millenium when Europa still enjoyed fighting among themselves right around WWII time - the naughty Jerries pulled a fast one and out flanked the French, Dutch, Belgium and British armies scattering the Allies, entrapping many and ended up hanging and partying in Paris.

So awesome was this 'sickelschnitt' plan that France freaked and screamed "God! Please! Stop!" and totally surrendered in like 6 weeks. This was unheard of - wars tended to last a lot longer and this panzer und stuka unbeatable combat plan was given the name 'Blitzkrieg' - Teutonic for 'lightning war'.

Hard on the heels of dissing the French in another war, das Deutsches Reich prepped for taking the blitz cross channel to hit Great Britain with a D Day style invasion called 'Operation Sealion"

First bit of Sealion was to drive the British Air Force out of the air, achieve and maintain air superiority then hit the beach and hang and party in London. Easy! Great Britain's army was really hurt - many were captured in France and those who were rescued off the beaches at Dunkirk had to leave all their heavy weaponry behind.

Great Britain's mighty fleet would suffer horribly in an Armada redux at the hands of the wicked Luftwaffe if she attempted (and everyone knew she would) to stop an invasion with no air cover.
It was awful scary looking. Sir Winnie himself pointed out the war was just starting and everything depended on it.
".......the Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin,
upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization, upon it depends
our own British life and the long continuity of our institution and our Empire."

In the summer of 1940, 2,936 pilots took part in an historic battle against the German Luftwaffe that was to become the only battle to be fought entirely in the air (Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2001 was a very close 2nd), this battle has become known as; the Battle of Britain.

These brave pilots came from all walks of life, many were trained and
experienced, but most had come from civilian duties to become fighter pilots
with RAF Fighter Command. During that battle which lasted almost four months,
544 of them would lose their lives, many of them killed in action, while others
were never to be heard of again, and officially listed as missing in action. The
Battle of Britain was a prelude to the German invasion of Great Britain which
after just four months had to be abandoned because of the dedication, courage
and tenacity of those 2,936 pilots, who, against a formidable and experienced
foe and against all odds, fought only for success.

The great victory that they fought for MUST NEVER BE FORGOTTEN

And it hasn't. Even today, the spiritual sons of the Few fly and fight in the dark scary places of the world and they carry the torch of Freedom and Liberty.

"The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout
the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen
who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger,
are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion.
Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

Happy Battle of Britain Day Royal Air Force!

From your crazy cousins across the Pond.

(Love the Bikini!)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Admiral Kuznetsov

Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov!

The term used by her builders to describe the Russian ship is tyazholyy avianesushchiy raketnyy kreyser (TAVKR or TARKR) – "heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser" – intended to support and defend strategic missile-carrying submarines, surface ships, and naval missile-carrying aircraft of the Russian Navy.

She is the Admiral Kuznetsov and her gig is to project Commonwealth Russia's influence, prestige and force far beyond Momma Russia's borders.

Yet, she ain't all that

In early July 2016, upon completion of a refit, it was reported by Russian media that Admiral Kuznetsov would be deployed in the Mediterranean in October that year to serve as a platform for carrying out airstrikes in Syria. This would be the first time ever a Russian (or Soviet) aircraft carrier has seen combat. With MiG-29K fighters

 The 26-year-old Admiral Kuznetsov had a scary 2009 Mediterranean transit, one sailor died when the vessel caught fire, and the ship accidentally dumped tons of fuel into the sea in a refueling mishap. And those accidents aren’t outliers. The problems with the ship are so widespread, and so expected, that the flattop has to be shadowed by tugs to tow it to port when she predictably breaks down.

The Kremlin, painfully aware of the carrier’s spotty history, seems to be playing things safe, with one military source telling TASS that the ship will stick close to Syria’s coastline “so that the deck aircraft have enough fuel to complete the military tasks and return back.”

The Kuznetsov lacks the catapults found on American and French carriers that shoot jets off the short decks at high speed. Instead, the Russian ship — like India’s and China’s first carriers — features a “ski jump” lift at the bow to help planes get airborne. That kind of deck means the planes, about 15 Su-33 and MiG-29s, have to fly light, with smaller loads of fuel and half-empty bomb racks.

 American carriers currently in the Middle East launching strikes on the Islamic State, can carry at least 60 aircraft and launch them with full fuel and bomb loads. 

The decision to dispatch a limping ship with a one-armed air wing shows that Moscow is just “flexing muscles,” one senior U.S. defense official told Foreign Policy. The Russians already have strike aircraft near Latakia, on the Syrian coast, from where they have been launching operations for the last year. Another dozen-odd planes launching unguided bombs on short flights from the deck of the Kuznetsov won’t add much punch to their efforts.

The Russians already have strike aircraft near Latakia, on the Syrian coast, from where they have been launching operations for the last year. Another dozen-odd planes launching unguided bombs on short flights from the deck of the Kuznetsov won’t add much punch to their efforts.

Her gig is mostly to prove that Russia is a global military power with the capacity to strike targets from offshore.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Big Willie

She was the Empire's super secret development project. Absorbing tons of R n D, bling and brain power - so many cats were involved from thinking her up to her combat debut it is nigh impossible to name a single name as her poppa.

And the gig was to breakthrough and exploit

"You might drive a steam-chariot triumphantly through a regiment. Imagine three or four of these machines driven at a galloping speed through a square of infantry; the director might be seated in perfect safety in the rear of the engine, and a body of cavalry, about fifty yards in rear, would enter the furrows ploughed by these formidable chariots, and give the coup-de-grace to the unfortunate infantry."

From the ancient days of Leonardo's tortoise looking thingy to 1833 and up to the armored chariots of Land Iron clads conceptualizing the panzer or tank into a real live weapon really had to wait til certain tech levels were reached. Great Britain's Joseph Hawker invented the idosity of "propelling a road locomotive employing endless flat linked pitch or other chains passing round the rims of the main moving wheels. The details of his patent reveal clearly the influence his idea had on the whole concept of crawler tractors and tanks employing drive and clutch steering."

Northwestern Military and Naval Academy's Commandant Harley Davidson of Great Satan, the French Levavasseur project, Russia's Vassily Mendeleev and Osterreiches Günther Burstyn all fiddled about with creating uparmored land wagons capable of fire and maneuver potential.

Yet only the British Empire flung brainpower, industrial might and bling bling at her Landships Committee to make the idea an en masse reality in a make or beak attempt to end the horrific grinding trench/machine gun stakemate of WWI and by 1915 had created an entire posse of steel critters to unleash with Somme Offensive

Big Willie Mark I, was hot, noisy, unwieldy, nigh incommunicable and suffered mechanical malfunctions on the battlefield debut.

The first panzer attack was supposed to come at 6:20AM on September 15, 1916 but it got going about an hour early.
Captain H.W. Mortimore got cranked up early. His was supposed to be one of three tanks to initiate the action but the other two were delayed. Mechanical issues proved to be a real downer the first time out as only 32 of the 49 tanks available got off the mark that day. Of those, 5 ended up stuck in a trenches or shell holes, 9 broke down and 9 were too slow to keep up with the other tanks, let alone the troops.
However, the 9 slow pokes were successful in mop-up operations as the 9 that managed to keep going, breeched enemy lines and caused considerable damage. The sight of these new beasts were quite a shock to the German army.

Warfare was totally changed as Big Willie clanked new ideas about the operational art of fire and maneuver and brought new machines and tactics into the arena of organized conflict.

Pic - "Flers-Courcelette"

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

End Of Jihad

Ebberdobys knows about Mohammedism's pillar of Jihad.

The quiz is - how does it end?

44 ’s containment strategy has clearly failed. A sympathetic critic might claim that the problem is in execution, that containment is the right strategy, but the administration has wrongly implemented it. But there are reasons to believe that containment is flawed in principle, even if it were effectively executed. 

Containment is a strategy of endless war.

 Under a containment strategy, the United States abandons efforts to foster stable political or economic order in the blighted regions that have given rise to jihadism. Instead, the United States sustains a worldwide assassination campaign against anyone it unilaterally deems to be a terrorist, anywhere in the world, indefinitely. It couples global drone strikes and special operations forces raids with ever-increasing investments in homeland security, border controls, and domestic surveillance. 

This is a fundamentally defensive strategy that makes no pretense of even trying to address what fuels jihadism. An assassination campaign against jihadists often keeps the immediate threat at bay, but enables the groups to reform and even grow in popularity elsewhere in the world, as they quickly did in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria.

 A containment strategy appears far more economical than its alternative. Yet as a strategy of “forever war,” it carries hidden costs and unacceptable moral consequences. The apparent economy of lean counterterrorism operations is undone when they continue into their third or fourth decade. In accounting terms, the net present value of all future expenditures on counterterrorism operations is infinite because they will never end. 

Additionally, the United States is unlikely to burnish its reputation abroad when drone strikes are the most visible aspect of its foreign policy. Globalization, which depends on open borders, stable markets, and mobile labor, is the unintended casualty of endemic political violence and a global climate of fear. Endless conflict abroad and the risk of terrorist attacks at home have already fueled rising xenophobia and nativism in both Europe and the United States.

The jihadist ideology is not new, jihadist groups have not been contained, and, contrary to 44’s assertion in 2011, the tide of war is not receding. The United States plainly needs a new approach for its fight against the menagerie of apocalyptic, totalitarian, theocratic movements that make up jihadism. This is not a “War on Terror,” as 43 claimed, nor an effort to combat “violent extremism,” as the current administration insisted — both formulations that imply the solution lies in getting counterterrorism right. That conceptual distortion overlooks the reality that jihadists can also be found in the ranks of insurgents, drug traffickers, preachers, professors, day-laborers, and government officials. Jihadism is a cultural and political phenomenon as much as a military one.

The United States needs a grand strategy against jihadism as a whole, in all its guises, throughout the world; that means a strategy tailored to the different battlefields on which it must be fought. Fighting only the military aspects of jihadism throughout the world, as the strategy of containment counsels, is a recipe for endless tactical success with no strategic victory. 

But fighting everywhere simultaneously with the full range of tools of national power, as the strategy of rollback would entail, is unsustainable and foolish, as is a strategy of rollback in the heart of the Middle East, where the costs and risks are highest. A tailored strategy is the only approach feasible within fiscal and military limitations, yet still holds out the hope of victory — the hope of ending jihadism as a meaningful force in world politics.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Acting Out In The Persian Gulf

"Bogey approaching fast!"

Ayatollah apologists are always on that part of Iran’s political establishment views the United States as an enemy and believes the main reason for the US military presence in the Persian Gulf is to threaten Iran, Tehran maintains the right to monitor the movement and passage of “enemy ships” and views any restrictions placed on military ships of enemy countries as self-defense.

That kind of thinking can also start a war.

In recent weeks, the IRGC’s Naval component has conducted numerous simulated swarm-attacks against U.S. Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf. In each case, IRGC sailors have ignored radioed warnings from our sailors.

The Iranian revolutionaries — of which the IRGC are the elite honor guard — have a long history of spilling American blood. And in recent years, the IRGC’s navy has been buoyed by new capabilities specifically designed to sink U.S. ships. As such, if IRGC leaders keep pushing without riposte, they are likely to decide that they can strike the U.S. with minimal cost. 
The IRGC-Navy’s commanding officer, Ali Fadavi, is a well-known attention seeker, but he would not be in his position without a reputation for anti-American purity. 
Consider this hypothetical situation. 
A month from now, the IRGC leadership directs a lieutenant to “go rogue” and crash an explosives-laden ship into a U.S. vessel. If the U.S. Navy sinks the lieutenant before he strikes, the IRGC would claim its sailor was murdered by an outrageous act of American aggression. In the aftermath, the Chinese and Russians would condemn the U.S. Navy, the Europeans would stay quiet, and the White House would probably apologize. But if the lieutenant succeeded, the IRGC would claim he was acting in self-defense. Or they’d claim he was overzealous and acting independently. 
This may seem like a stretch of the imagination, but it is not. 

After all, the IRGC thrives on using “cutout” officers and operations to give its senior leaders deniability. That’s how the IRGC killed hundreds of U.S. military personnel in Iraq (Google “Iran EFP” or “Karbala Raid 2007”), that’s how the IRGC kidnapped Westerners for prisoner exchanges (Google “Peter Moore Khazali”), that’s how they plotted to blow up a packed Washington, D.C., restaurant in 2011 (Google “Quds D.C. restaurant plot”), and that’s how they are turning Iraq into a sectarian puppet state.
 IRGC leaders are not as cutout-clever as they think, but because the U.S. very rarely calls them on what we know they are directing, it doesn’t matter.
If IRGC leaders believe they can kill American sailors without incurring significant retaliation, they will have no qualms about sending a few Iranian sailors to their deaths in order to do so. The sailors would become heroes of the Revolution; righteous heirs to the defining Shia martyr, Husayn ibn Ali, and proven servants of Ayatollah Khomeini’s theological project.
Or it could redux something from way back...

18 April 1987 

On that crazy day, the Sinbad's of Persia actually drew beads and fired on the Great Satan and her navy.

Big mistake. Sparking a naval brawl that raged for 12 hours, Great Satan annihilated over 1.2 billion bucks worth of offshore oil platforms (they were also dual functioning as Revo Guard seaborne missile silos in the Gulf oil tanker war) and pretty much made the term 'Iranian Navy' truly past tense for like a decade. Ken Pollack's "Persian Puzzle" reads like a movie
"The Iranian Navy came out to fight. Light attack, F 4 Phantoms, even Iran's
largest warships sortied from Bandar Abbas to take on the American Forces. The
Iranian missile boat Joshan started the battle by firing an antiship missile at
an American cruiser (it missed) and was immediately sunk in a hail of missiles
and gunfire.
Iranian small boats and a pair of F 4's also tried to strike various American ships in the Gulf, and several of the boats were sunk or damaged as were both F-4s. The Iranian frigate Sahand fired on planes from the USS Enterprise, which was providing air support. Enterprise's air wing immediately put two Harpoon missiles and four laser guided bombs into the Sahand, sinking her.
Finally, in a remarkable act of stupidity, the Iranians also sent out the frigate Sabalan, sister ship to the Sahand, late in the day, and it two fired three missiles at a passing American A-6 Intruder. The Intruder promptly put a 500 pound laser guided bomb neatly down Sabalan's smokestack."

Still, it speaks volumes that 44 has not yet issued a sharp public statement authorizing U.S. Navy commanders to proactively defend their crews. The IRGC might not listen, but the current status — America’s commander-in-chief staying quiet as the threat rises — is a signal of unambiguous weakness. 
And that silence fuels the IRGC fire.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


If there’s one lesson the nation should have learned from that awful day 15 years ago, it’s that the United States cannot afford to ignore a rabidly anti-American terrorist group that has established a haven in a faraway place.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Inevitable War

Is China just doing ye olde autocratic bayonet probing - or is she hot for a conflict?

On July 12 an international tribunal at The Hague found that China possessed neither an historic claim over disputed islands in the South China Sea nor a legal basis for sovereign claims over its waters. On the same day Beijing landed civilian aircraft on two of the three reefs—Subi and Mischief—that China has turned into armed islands. This gives China three working runways in the disputed Spratly Islands the nearest of which is 600 miles from China.

Notwithstanding Chinese President Xi Jinping’s 2015 statement to 44 that the manmade islands would not be militarized, continued construction of hardened hangars demonstrates Beijing’s intent to deploy combat aircraft to the islands. The CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency website shows what the islands will look like when People’s Liberation Army Air Force fighter aircraft arrive.

The administration’s response to the international court’s decision wholly ignored the military character of China’s actions to date in the South China Sea: “The decision today by the Tribunal in the Philippines-China arbitration is an important contribution,” said State Department spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby, (USN, ret.), “to the shared goal of a peaceful resolution to disputes in the South China Sea.” RADM Kirby is right that China prefers a peaceful resolution to the islands dispute. Beijing would like to resolve the matter by threats, rather than the use of force. This is not a solution that the U.S. government should embrace. Still, Kirby’s statement is entirely consistent with long-standing U.S. policy.

Since 40's administration U.S. policy has sought to make China a stakeholder in the liberal international order. This means that China would have a stake in such characteristics of the current system as freedom of navigation in international waters, respect for international agreements it had ratified, the rule of law, as well as for other states’ sovereignty—to name a few. To encourage Chinese rulers to identify their nation’s own interest with that of the international order, senior-level officials from both countries have been meeting together since the Nixon administration. With U.S. support China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

 In 2016 the People’s Liberation Army Navy participated for the second time in the large naval exercise that the U.S. conducts with other Pacific Rim states. The list of U.S. overtures is a long one.

No joyful music has followed them. Quite the opposite. Encapsulating China’s view of its relations with other states, Beijing’s foreign minister at the time, Yang Jiechi, told other Asian senior officials at a 2010 meeting in Hanoi when the subject of China’s claims in the South China Sea was raised that, “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s a fact.”

China’s brand of exceptionalism reinforces Minister Yang’s blunt assertion that might makes right. The qualification “with Chinese characteristics” has become a commonplace in international lingo. The press and scholarly publications have reported on ‘a global order with Chinese characteristics.’ Ditto foreign aid, environmental law, nuclear deals, and commercial practices. The list of accepted international practices “with Chinese characteristics” is long, showing that China’s exceptionalism lies neither in adherence to principle, nor to law, nor accepted norms of international behavior, but rather in deflection from these.

U.S. policy toward China has failed spectacularly. China’s actions show that it sees us as a strategic competitor. We have chosen to see China as a large market that can be cajoled into joining us as a defender of international security and economic stability. U.S. policy makers hoped that the large volume of trade between China and the U.S. and the accompanying economic progress in the former would remold Chinese rulers to look, think, and act more like us. The evidence does not support this roseate hope.

The next U.S. administration needs to understand that our fate as a great power is inseparable from America’s continued role as a great Pacific power. This does not mean aggressive policies or military confrontation. It does mean active diplomacy with the nations on China’s periphery who fear its hegemony. It means credible combat power to foreshorten China’s mis-behavior and militarized ambitions, including consistent, reliable, and frequent U.S. Navy freedom of navigation operations in the international waters of the South China Sea. No less important, it means increasing the U.S. naval advantage over China by building substantially more attack submarines, and exploiting this asymmetric advantage by deploying them to the South and East China Seas.

For now an expression coined during the current U.S. administration, “strategic patience,” governs Washington’s policy toward China. On Beijing’s sometimes longer-range strategic horizon are more artificial islands, more confrontations with neighbors in the South and East China Seas, larger and more technologically capable fleets, and a not unfounded hope that U.S. seapower will continue its slow but steady retreat. Bound by enormous trade flows the leaders of both states are willing to let the clock keep ticking.

But international relations are less predictable than precision watches. Over the weekend of August 6-7, Beijing sent 18 Chinese maritime law enforcement ships and 350 fishing boats into the contiguous zone around the Senkaku Islands that Tokyo claims. Another 100 fishing boats are just outside this zone, and well within Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

China does not respect international law. Japan and the U.S. do. American policy has done nothing to resolve this fundamental difference, and the possibility increases daily that the growing weight of opposed interests could lead to accidents or actual hostilities. The U.S. should change its policy toward China so that instead of persuading its leaders to be more like us, our objective is to convince China through diplomacy, military strength, and increased presence, that a conflict with us is not in their interest.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Iran In South America

Three years ago, as the Administration began to pave the way for a rapprochement with Iran, the State Department offered soothing reassurances to Congress that the Iranian regime’s influence in the Western Hemisphere was "waning"—reporting that Tehran's efforts in the region had been “undermined” by robust “sanctions” that had been imposed on the Islamic Republic. 

This assessment appears to have been premature at best, wishful thinking at worst. 

This Sunday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif embarked on a six-nation tour in seemingly far away Latin America “to expand political and economic relations between the two sides”. But, is it so far away given Iran's stated aspirations which seem to be increasingly backed by words and deeds? Just as the foreign minister was arriving in Havana, back home the regime was announcing the establishment of the Shiite Liberation Army under the command of Major General Qasem Soleimani of the Quds Force. Though it's likely the force will be deployed largely in the Arab territories, the announcement took pains to note that Iran was prepared to deploy its forces to distant lands, “Anywhere where there is a fight, we organize and supply the army from the people of these areas.”  

Indeed, things appear to be moving along. Last month, the English language edition of Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Iranian intelligence and military efforts to recruit young men in Peru, train them in Iran, and return them to Peru. A Hezbollah movement has now been established in the country. 

According to the same report, Peruvian authorities recently arrested several suspects with links to Hezbollah who were “trying to enter the country to execute suspected operations.” This activity was forewarned earlier in March when Admiral Kurt Tidd of the US Southern Command reminded Congress of the symbiotic relationship that exists between Iran and its principal terrorist surrogate, remarking that Hezbollah maintains a substantial network of supporters and sympathizers throughout the hemisphere with the capacity to support and launch terrorist attacks.  

The number of Iranian supported operatives in the hemisphere is unknown. However, a 2012 report by the Clarion Project cited a former Iranian official with knowledge of the country’s terror network who claimed that “more than 40,000 of the regime’s security, intelligence and propaganda forces” have been successfully placed in the region. According to another source cited in the article, the Quds Force has established command and control centers in two Latin American countries.

On another front, in April, Iran’s Army Commander Major General Ataollah Salehi announced his country intends to deploy warships to the Americas. Speaking at a ceremony in Bandar Abbas to welcome Iran’s 38th fleet, Salehi announced: "We intend to take a longer stride in marine voyages and even go towards friendly states in Latin America.” Iran, he added, intends to conduct joint operations with friends in the region and is capable of establishing a “mighty presence” there. 

Salehi cautioned patience noting that this year's priority was to equip Iran’s navy with state-of-the-art weapons and equipment—an effort, no doubt, that will be aided by the lifting of sanctions, unfreezing of assets, and $2 billion in US cash payments into the mullah's coffers. 

One can safely assume Iran’s warships will soon be ready to sail from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Sirens Of Isolation

Many Americans would like to detach themselves from a violent, chaotic Middle East. So would many Israelis, for that matter.

Yet, tuning out and turning off is not a realistic option for the indispensable nation

The Eastern Mediterranean is in extraordinary flux. Many of the transformations under way are negative. Iran’s policy of nuclear hedging is giving impetus to the spread of nuclear weapons to multiple countries. ISIS achieved substantial economic and political power in Iraq and Syria and retains formidable ability to conduct and inspire terrorism abroad, despite its recent loss of ground in Iraq. Islamist extremist groups are fighting across the Middle East to upend political institutions, challenging the nation-state as such. The Syrian refugee crisis is aggravating the region’s epidemic of Arab political instability and straining European immigration policies.

The desire to disengage from the Middle East is an especially strong element of the general American isolationist impulse. After decades of leading the democratic world in the Cold War and in multiple wars since 9/11, many Americans would like relief from world affairs. They would prefer to have nothing to do with foreign wars, with lands that breed jihadists, stagnate in corruption, or have populations that reject modernity or hate the United States. The preference is easy to understand, but it’s not realistic. 
The issue is not whether isolationism is desirable; it is whether it’s possible. To put the question more precisely: Can Americans preserve their security, prosperity, and civil liberties without maintaining an active role in the world — and specifically in the Middle East and its environs? The answer is no. As Americans try to “pivot” away from the region’s problems, those problems, history teaches us, will follow after them and likely worsen.

Why is isolation not an option? The region’s wealth will necessarily influence interests around the world; and so will its pathologies. The West cannot be indifferent to the conquest of a country with large oil reserves (and therefore large revenues), which helps explain why 41 organized a war to free Kuwait from Iraqi forces in 1991. Imagine if ISIS or al-Qaeda were to take power in Saudi Arabia and control its bank accounts; no amount of “homeland security” could then neutralize the resulting terrorist danger. 

Similarly, even though America and other Western countries tried to stay out of Syria’s civil war, the conflict’s ill effects reached them in the form of terrorist murders and millions of refugees. Neither the Middle East nor any other large region can be quarantined. Nuclear or biological weapons developed there could strike anywhere, and cyber attacks launched from there could infect computers anywhere. Isolation is impossible in the world of Internet, easy travel, and miniature means of mass destruction. 

Then there’s the question of who will protect freedom of navigation on the seas. Since the sun set on the British Empire, the United States has been instrumental in keeping the world’s seas open to commerce. No other country or alliance is ready and able to substitute. Without open sea lines of communication, much of the world’s trade would cease to flow. If, in hopes of disengaging from the Middle East or cutting its defense budget, the United States were to relinquish this essential role, the harm to the global economy, including America’s economy, would be catastrophic. In other words, disengagement from the Middle East would not isolate the United States; it would simply forfeit America’s ability to shape events. 
This is not an argument for any particular kind of engagement — it does not, for example, militate for U.S. ground troops to be deployed to Syria. 
But it is an argument against believing that non-intervention would spare America from paying a price for what happens in the region.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Invasion Dress Rehearsal

Tokyo delivered a humiliating public protest to Beijing for the intrusion of a vast Chinese “fishing fleet” escorted by more than a dozen coast guard and other law-enforcement vessels in or near waters of the disputed Senkaku islands. 

The various scenarios for war in the East China Sea, and possibly in the South China Sea, usually fall into two main categories. There is the “accidental” fight scenario. A Chinese destroyer’s radar locks onto a Japanese warship. The Japanese captain fires back in self-defense and the incident spirals out of control.

That is one scenario. Another, possibly more realistic, is the “swarm” scenario: Several hundred “fishing boats” sail from ports in Zhejiang province for the Senkaku, where they overwhelm the Japanese Coast Guard by their sheer numbers. 

This time, the fishing boats land some 200 or so commandoes disguised as fishermen or “settlers.” The Senkakus are not garrisoned by Japanese troops, so no shots are fired. The Chinese side says it is not using force, merely taking possession of what it claims to be its sovereign territory.

Tokyo feels obliged to respond, although the Chinese landing force is too large to dislodge by ordinary policing methods, such as those that have been used in the past when a handful of activists – Chinese and Japanese – tried to land on the disputed islands and plant their flags. 

That would put Japan in the position of being the first party to fire shots, possibly landing elements of the Western Infantry Regiment, which was created and trained specifically to recapture islands. Meanwhile, Tokyo hurriedly consults with Washington seeking assurance that it will honor its commitments to defend Japan.

On more than one occasion, including in remarks from President Barack Obama himself, the United States has stated that the Senkaku come under the provisions of the joint security treaty as they are administered by Japan.

In the most recent incident, the estimated 230 Chinese fishing vessels escorted by Chinese law enforcement vessels made no effort to land anyone, though the Japanese Coast Guard shadowing the vessels kept a sharp eye out for any sign of it. 

China boasts the world’s largest fishing fleet, but it is a matter of debate among security analysts as to extent to which China’s fishing fleet constitutes a paramilitary force, or as they sometimes say, a “maritime militia.” Somehow, a swarm of Chinese Fishing boats always seem to materialize on cue in disputes in the East and South China Sea. 

The use of fishing boats, not to mention the nominally civilian coast guard, tends to blur the distinctions between what is civilian and what is military. In any conflict, the Japan and the U.S. would have to deal with ostensibly civilian boats that could flood the battlefield turning it into a confusing melee.

“China’s fishing fleet is being encouraged to fish in disputed waters . . . and are being encouraged to do so for geopolitical as well as commercial reasons,” says Alan Duport, a security analyst at the University of New South Wales. 

Swarm tactics have been used often in the South China Sea. Hundreds of boats converged in the Gulf of Tonkin in 2014 in the dispute over the oil-drilling rig that the Chinese erected in Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).