Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Landmark!


The fall of the primary ISIS stronghold in Mosul in Iraq represents a turning point strategically, politically, ideologically and even religiously in the Muslim world. Mosul has been the largest symbolic center of the ISIS “Caliphate” over which the ISIS “Caliph” ‘Abd-al-Rahman al-Baghdadi presided.

The fall of the ISIS “capital” of Raqqa in Syria will not be far behind. That puts an end to ISIS’ claim that it had begun the physical elimination of all colonial borders starting with that between Iraq and Syria. In short, It will mark the end of the territoriality of ISIS, perhaps the “Caliphate’s” most striking claim-to-fame.

The institution of the Caliphate has been one of the important historical and symbolic features of Muslim history, embodying the ideal of a universal Islamic state—even though such a thing has never quite fully existed. The Caliphate is roughly the equivalent of the Papacy—once a major territorial concept, and still today a concept of the living religious community of Catholicism. Both Caliphate and Papacy symbolize a vision—the religiously-founded state as an ideal.

Unlike its caricatured image in the West, in the eyes of most Muslims the concept of the Caliphate is quite positive—a symbol of  the Muslim world’s historic power, culture, civilization, and geographical reach. Today, however, few Muslims believe that a Caliphate could ever again be practically reconstituted. Yet the idea of having a single seat of religious authority makes just as much sense for Islam as it does for other religions. But today an effort to recreate a meaningful and responsible Caliphate raises near-insoluble questions: where would it be located, who would the Caliph be, how would he be elected, what qualifications would be required, what would his authorities be, what political power he would exercise if any, and what issues could he address authoritatively. And finally, how binding would his pronouncements be. (The  Pope still faces some similar problems).

Contemporary schemes for the reestablishment of a modern-day Caliphate go back to the abolition of the office of Caliphate by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Turkey in 1924. (Turkey had a right to expel the Caliph but not to abolish the office, any more than an Italian prime minister can decide to abolish the Papacy; it is an issue for global Catholics to decide).

The unique feature of ISIS was not so much that it declared a contemporary Caliphate but that it provided  it territoriality—the closest thing in a century to establishing a meaningful Caliphate possessed of political, administrative and military power. Tragically it was established by individuals brutally intolerant in their vision, violent and cruel in their administration, and willing to employ terrorism against opponents. Yet all these ugly features did not necessarily have to come with the turf—any more than all Popes necessarily had to be brutal. But unspeakable acts became the hallmark of the ISIS brand—and its primary victims were overwhelmingly Muslim—both Shi’a and Sunni.

Equally baleful was the ISIS practice of takfir, declaring individuals—even Muslims—to be non-Muslims or “infidel.” For ISIS the penalty was usually death. But the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia also practice theological takfir, as do many other Salafis or ultra-traditonalist Islamists, even if not necessarily calling for the death penalty. Indeed, Saudi Wahhabism is not directly terrorist —but indirectly its preachings and massive financing have led to the propagation of large numbers of intolerant and extreme movements and individuals around the world, many of whom are indeed violent or even terrorist.

For most Muslims, as well as for the West, the fall of ISIS will be welcome. Yet we should not believe that terrorism conducted in the name of Islam will automatically come to an end. Such terrorism is widely recognized by specialists as basically stemming not from theology—but rather the product of politics, sociology, disadvantaged minorities, or even troubled individuals seeking ideological justification to express the rage of their personal pathology.

But a sober reality remains: the virtually non-stop wars promulgated primarily by the US in the last two decades across large parts of the Middle East, have decimated the region, with upwards of one million Muslims being killed in the wars and resulting anarchy. Vast  material devastation and social and psychological dislocation have occurred whose effects are far from over; they still arise daily in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria among other places. Such violent conditions are hotbeds for the emergence of rage, hatred, despair and psychological derangement. If American soldiers suffer in large numbers post-stress traumatic disorder—leading to high suicide rates—why should the PSTD among Muslims not be one hundred times greater?

Thus as long as radical conditions exist the conditions for further terrorism will also continue to exist. Even in the West there will always be a handful of psychologically and socially alienated Muslim youths ripe for recruitment into acts of terrorism. In most cases it comes down to cases of abnormal psychology then dressed up and dignified as a religious act. One wonders how such cases will ever completely cease. Nor is psychotic violence limited to Muslims in the West by any means.

But the destruction of ISIS in Iraq and Syria is still of major importance. The once dramatic claim to have established a Caliphate on physical territory is no longer there to dazzle and tempt many. For most the bloom is off the rose. Revelations about the brutality of life in ISIS territories are well known in the Muslim world and the overwhelming majority of Muslims are horrified by it. They do not condemn the concept of a Caliphate in Islamic history, but they certainly condemn this vicious expression of it.

Thus today, if some aspiring Muslim radical says “I have a great historical vision, how about creating a Caliphate?” there will likely to be very few takers willing to resuscitate such conditions of violence. By now most Muslims have “been there and done that.” The idea of a Caliphate as a shining new idea ready to attract angry, adventuristic, or idealistic youth has lost its gloss. Others may yet try to proclaim some ramshackle Caliphate in one remote area or another, but it will likely have little attraction except through brute force.

Parallels in the communist movement are instructive. The theoretical foundation of communism—a high degree of state socialism—will never die. But the experiment with communism in the Soviet Union created a fairly miserable society that even Russia’s admirers could no longer accept. Many doctrinaire leftists will still make the case that Russia simply carried out the communist experiment exceptionally badly, that it did not have to be like that, and that the Swedish model of society and governance is closer to the communist ideal.

Still, the present iteration of ISIS as “Caliphate” is now drawing to a close. There will inevitably be some who will try to exploit the power of the idea again—as with authoritarian state socialism— but it becomes mostly an exercise in brutal imposition of power, not an exercise in Islamic political thought. The US can help by sharply curtailing its campaigns of military destruction in the region; they gave birth to ISIS in the first place and remain a key wellspring of radicalization.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Russia's New Big Warships

Russia is likely to build larger surface combatants in the coming years—with larger corvettes and frigates in the works. However, Moscow is not likely to spend large sums of money to build massive new vessels such as the gargantuan 14,000-ton Leader-class nuclear-powered destroyers or 100,000-ton Storm aircraft carriers. Instead, Russia will likely build scaled up versions of existing warship designs.

Indeed, the Leader-class is unlikely to ever be built. Moscow will more likely build a smaller and more cost effective vessel based on its Project 22350 Admiral Gorshkov-class frigates. The new “Super Gorshkovs” are likely to displace about 8,000-tons, which is about size of a normal destroyer.

At 8000-tons, the new Super Gorshkovs would be larger than most frigates such as the 6,700-ton French-Italian FREMMs or 6,400-ton Spanish Álvaro de Bazán class (F100)—and would thus be more appropriately categorized as destroyers. Indeed, the new Russian vessels would be comparable to the 7000-ton Australian Hobart-class or 8,500-ton British Type 45 destroyers in terms of size if not capability.

In addition to the new super-sized Gorshkov-based frigate/destroyer, the Russians are likely to focus on up-sized corvettes.

There is a debate in Russia as to whether their navy needs additional smaller green water surface combatants. If Kofman is correct, the Russians are now leaning towards building larger vessels.

Overall, the Russian fleet will grow and recapitalize at measured pace. Moscow is unlikely to embark on any fantastical projects like the Leader anytime soon. Modern Russia is not the Soviet Union and simply doesn’t have the kind of resources it once did during the Cold War. Thus, current day Russian navy modernization is more measured than was the case prior to the Soviet collapse.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Prokhorovka

"It. Must. Not. Fail"

Elefants, Tigers and Panthers, oh my!

By spring time 1943 das Dritten Reiches was in a hexen kessel of scary dimensions. In the last year Great Satan and Great Britain had driven the vaunted Afrika Korps into extinction, sortee'd several "Thousand Bomber Raids" that carpetly xformed ancient Deutsch cities into flaming craters, Battle for the Atlantic was looking kinda iffy and worst of all - the encirclement, destruction and ultimate surrender of wehrmacht's nearly 1 million (550K to 900K - depending on the source) combat truppen of vPaulus' 6th army at Stalingrad.

Despite the ferociously fearful mauling wehrmacht took on the Volga, Deutschland recovered and thanks to savage fighting hooked up with vManstein's famous back hand b slap, the ultimate Aryans retook Kharkov and inflicted amazingly horrific losses on the best Red Army could juggernaut.

As spring's thawing muddy rasputitsa sunk in - both sides frantically roused themselves out of exhaustion and prepped for the coming summer campaign.

The forced reinstatement of the forced retired "Klotzen, nicht kleckern" cat - the newly minted Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen tripped out on a ruthlessly relentless reinvigoration of the panzer franchise by blitzing factories, design firms, unit creation/rebuilding ubungsplatzes and shooting ranges in a new blitz of genius born of desperation.

Even Luftwaffe got all panzer happy - sexing up something something sturzkampfflugzeug Stuka
with dual 37mm rapid fire cannons and deploying Henschelicious Hs-129

STAVKA knew their bulging bulge in the lines around Kursk would prob be the spot the hated NSDAPers would schwerpunkt in the coming months and conscripted anyone they could get their hands on to erect a formidable deep defensive belt - 500 miles of barb wire, over a million anti ppl and anti panzer mines remixed in a web of of ditches, scarps, counter-scarps, hedgehogs, roadblocks, minefields, fixed artillery impact areas, bunkers and a myriad of panzer obstructions, traps and general purpose nastiness on a colossal scale. Plus Comrade Stalin had spy sources at the highest levels of enemy command.

Sev months of infighting at OKH/OKW bout doing another Kharkov backhand - allowing Red Army to attack first, roll with flow and launch a crushing counter attack - or doing the fourplay forehand pre emptive attack - conterminously coalesced with quality control/production probs with the Panther (her 1st production engines enjoyed bursting into flames at the most inopportune moments), stubborn refusal of the sturmgeschutz to die on the vine and manpower in general held up Operation Zitadelle for months.

Purveyors of pre emption won out and on 5 July Germany attacked. The southern front of Zitadelle featured a combat rock star line up of 3rd Reich's finest panzerteers - all rebuilt, rearmed and reconstituted to Generalinspekteur specs - Großdeutschland, 3rd, 6th, 7th, 9th and 11th Panzer divisions and the newly created II Waffen Ss Panzer Korps

Featuring the lavishly equipped and fully crunk Ss Panzer Grenadier divisions of Liebstandarte, Das Reich and Totenkopf - vManstein formed 'Panzerkeil" - an uparmored wedge with Tigers at the tip, Panthers and Mk IV's fanning out behind with a creamy centre of inf armed with automatic weapons, mortar mounted or SP gunned SdKfz looking thingies with the base built of heavily armed panzergrenadiers in tracked vehics.

In contrast Zitadelle's northern commander Model used Montgomery's El Alamein idea of using inf to poke holes for the panzers to exploit - with disastrous results for his 9th Army.

These panzerkeil wedges were designed to crack open tender, sensitive portions of the southern defensive perimeters, break free and fan out for a fun fast trek like France 1940.

And they did. Chopping through an immense junkyard of trashed Soviet material, General Hausser's Feldpolizei Po Po hauled off columns of dazed and defeated Russian POWs, the final breakthrough was at hand on the morning of 12 July when II Ss breached Psel river - the last obstacle to Kursk - and collided with the Russian armored reserves at a place called Prokhorovka.

For over 8 hours this enormous armored brawl raged unabated, slashing the orchards and churning the lush, green cornfields of a few square miles of upper Donetz river valley into a blackened inferno of exploding armor, wrecked burning vehicles and charred corpses - drenched intermittantly by downpours from violent thunderstorms.


The controversial climax of Zitadelle involving over 2K panzers - as the largest panzer battle in history - has acquired mythic stats - heroic Russian stories of Russians ramming Deutsch Tigers, the 3 premier Waffen Ss fighting shoulder to shoulder, death ride of the panzers and a glorious Soviet victory suffer from hard facts as Prokhorovka gets re examined.

"...Closer study of the losses of each type of tank reveals that the corps lost about 70 tanks on July 12. In contrast, Soviet tank losses, long assumed to be moderate, were actually catastrophic.

"...In 1984, a history of the Fifth Guards Tank Army written by Rotmistrov himself revealed that on July 13 the army lost 400 tanks to repairable damage. He gave no figure for tanks that were destroyed or not available for salvage.

"...Evidence suggests that there were hundreds of additional Soviet tanks lost. Several German accounts mention that Hausser had to use chalk to mark and count the huge jumble of 93 knocked-out Soviet tanks in the Leibstandarte sector alone. Soviet sources say the tank strength of the army on July 13 was 150 to 200, a loss of about 650 tanks.

Germany's Lost Victories indeed, nicht wahr?

Regardless of appearance - Deutschland lost the initiative and despite desperate counters like Zhitomer, Totenkopf's amazingly tenacious blunting blow outside Warzawa or Unternehmen Frühlingserwachen, never again held the initiative. Red Army did. And they never let it go until 3rd Reich died kicking and screaming.

And it happened today - at Prokhorovka.

Pic - "Backhand or the forehand?"courtesy of Uncle Theo

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Syrian Ceasefire


What does the ceasefire in Syria mean on the ground? Which areas will observe it and which areas will not?

In theory, the ceasefire should apply to all of Syria. However, Russia has insisted that, along with its allied forces, it reserve the right to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and al-Nusra Front forces as these two groups are outside the framework of the ceasefire, as are other groups labelled as 'terrorist' by the UN.

This means that the ceasefire is not geographically demarcated. This exception to the ceasefire is very problematic, however, because Russian forces have attacked many rebel groups and civilian areas under the justification of attacking ISIL and Nusra.

These two groups have become convenient scapegoats for Russian attacks throughout Syria. Russia has essentially reserved the right to militarily engage any armed groups in Syria under the pretext of fighting ISIL and Nusra.

The United States has been working with Russia in an attempt to designate whether certain areas are ceasefire-abiding areas or not, but they have yet to agree on the specific geographic contours of the agreement. The absence of such contours will give Russia greater military latitude.

Practically speaking, this means that large swaths of Syrian territory in which these groups are present, particularly in the eastern and northwestern parts of the country, will remain active conflict zones. 

Groups outside of the ceasefire, such as Ahrar al-Sham and others labelled as terrorist groups, remain present in parts of Homs and Hama provinces, as well as near Damascus, meaning these areas also potentially lie outside of the ceasefire zones.



What are the chances of the ceasefire holding and for how long? What could it hold and why might it not?

The ceasefire is unlikely to hold for three main reasons: First, Russia and its allies have reserved the right to attack forces outside of the ceasefire. This means that any violence on the ground that is committed by Russia or regime-led forces can be justified within the framework of the Munich agreement and the ceasefire under the pretence of fighting ISIL.

As such, Russia can have its cake and eat it, too; it has reserved the right to militarily engage armed groups while demanding that they cease all hostilities. Second, there are simply thousands of small, organised brigades in Syria that have little interest in a cessation of hostilities.

There is a network of armed groups who have benefitted handsomely from the conflict and for whom a ceasefire may threaten them and their activities.

It is counterintuitive; however, it is important to note that not all of the violence in Syria is driven by metapolitical issues, such as trying to overthrow the regime, and that there are micropolitical issues, such as security and smuggling, that also motivate armed groups.

With little incentive aside from the possible reprieve from Russian bombing, it is unlikely that many of these groups will be motivated to observe the ceasefire.

Third, most of the rebel groups inside of Syria cooperate with other groups on the battlefield. This cooperation has as much to do with their political or ideological affinities as it does their relative strengths and weaknesses and need to build alliances to make military gains.

Thus, very few armed groups inside Syria operate independently of other groups, blurring the distinctions between them. Isolating a few groups as outside of the ceasefire betrays the organisational structure of violence on the ground and the reality that most groups cooperate on the battlefield.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Unhappy Adversaries

When your adversaries are unhappy - rejoice!

There was no pressing reason for Xi Jinping to stop off in Moscow for a summit meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. There have already been two recent high-level contacts where critical issues in the Russia-China relationship were discussed. 

The Chinese leader had already met with Putin at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Astana a month ago, and the Russian head of state had traveled to Beijing in May for the “One Belt, One Road” conclave. And both leaders, of course, were already scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Germany later this week.

No, the decision for Xi to travel to Moscow first and for Putin to host him in the Kremlin is meant as a direct and clear message to the United States and to the administration before the President leaves for Europe: we aren't pleased with the direction of U.S. policy, and we have options.

One must also assume that Xi is giving Putin the benefit of his experiences during his face to face meetings with 45 at Mar-A-Lago earlier this year, as well as his “read” of the American president, prior to Putin's own first direct encounter at Hamburg.

This could prove to be very critical in how that meeting unfolds. Xi, of course, was honored with a meeting with 45 in the more intimate setting of 45's Florida hideaway, but was also “interrupted” by the decision to launch an American cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack in Idlib.

Will Xi convey a sense that 45 employs a bit of  37's “madman” approach and that one must be cautious in dealing with the U.S. president? Will he advise Putin that  45 talks a good game but then can't seem to get his preferences through the U.S. policy process? (A precedent Putin has already experienced with 44 and 43.) And does Xi still believe it is possible to do business with the administration, or will he counsel the Russian president that expectations about 45 the deal maker were overrated? Or, given the political turmoil in Washington, it is time for both Moscow and Beijing to forge ahead and create more “facts on the ground” whether in Ukraine, Syria or the maritime zones of the Pacific?

Of course, China and Russia remain cautious in defining the limits of their strategic embrace. Both will complain about U.S. actions and promise verbal and moral support, but neither Moscow nor Beijing has been pushed—yet—to consummate any sort of Eurasian entente. Neither side has completely foreclosed on the hope that, at some point in the future, 45 the deal maker will gain bureaucratic control of the U.S. national security apparatus and be prepared to sit down to negotiate.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Born On The 4th Of July

4 July 1776 fired off a crazy rocking rolling ride that hasn't stopped 'stirring things up' on a global scale.

Advancing arrogance into an art form with a remarkable relentless risque commitment to liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, and laissez-faire values. 

America differs qualitatively from all other nations, because of her unique origins, nat'l credo, historical evolution, and distinctive political and religious institutions.

Great Satan is magically especial because she was a country of immigrants and the first modern democracy. 

Loud, proud and rowdy - early America forecast future stuff with a provocative lingo that still fits today. "Don't Tread On Me!" "Liberty Or Death", "Live Free Or Die" 

Great Satan's superiority of the American xperiment is reflected in the perception among Americans of America’s role in the world. That American foreign policy is based on moral principles is a consistent theme in the American hot diplopolititary gossip – a phenomenon recognized even by those who are skeptic of such an assessment. 

This inclination to do right has been virtually unique among the nations of the world - and for this very reason - America has been totally misunderstood. How could a nation so rich, so successful actually, really be so unselfish and so caring?

Unconvincing (and either historically igno - or deceitfully dishonest - either term will do) critics cry Great Satan must have darker motives! America must be seeking imperium - to dominate everyone else, suck up all the oil, to trade and rob blind for America's selfish purposes. 

People from more grasping, less idealistic societies find it nigh impossible to accept that America honestly believes that giving everyone opportunity is the real roadmap for abundance and happiness everywhere - not merely in the magical Great Satan.

Americans honestly believe that securing other people's freedom is actually like the best guarantee that America can keep her own.

Great Satan does not want to dominate the world. Americans want to live in peace and hope other people will too.

Great Satan will go out into the world, redress errors, stop uncool unacceptable behaviour, to first challenge, then annihilate threats to our liberty.

Creative destruction is Great Satan's middle name. It is her natural function, for she is the one truly revolutionary country in the world for more than 2 centuries. 

She does it automatically, and that is precisely why creeps and tyrants hate her guts, and are driven to attack her. An enormous advantage, despots fear her, and oppressed peoples want what she offers: freedom. 

Amazingly, some suspect states, illegit leaders and some people have not yet comprehended that America's primary intention is to preserve and keep our own land and liberty and all it's prosperity and that America will do anything and go anywhere to make it happen.

Great Satan built the modern world.

And She knows her way around.

Joyeuex Anniversarie America!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Civil War In The Middle East

For Iran, Syria is the key, the central theatre of a Shiite-Sunni war for regional hegemony. Iran (which is non-Arab) leads the Shiite side, attended by its Arab auxiliaries — Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Shiite militias in Iraq and the highly penetrated government of Iraq, and Assad’s Alawite regime. (Alawites being a non-Sunni sect, often associated with Shiism.)

Taken together, they comprise a vast arc — the Shiite Crescent — stretching from Iran through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean. If consolidated, it gives the Persians a Mediterranean reach they have not had in 2,300 years.

This alliance operates under the patronage and protection of Russia, which supplies the Iranian-allied side with cash, weapons and, since 2015, air cover from its new bases in Syria.

Arrayed on the other side of the great mohammedist civil war are the Sunnis, moderate and Western-allied, led by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt and Jordan — with their Great Power patron, the United States, now (post-Obama) back in action.

At stake is consolidation of the Shiite Crescent. It’s already underway. As the Islamic State is driven out of Mosul, Iranian-controlled militias are taking over crucial roads and other strategic assets in western Iraq. Next target: eastern Syria (Raqqa and environs).

Imagine the scenario: a unified Syria under Assad, the ever more pliant client of Iran and Russia; Hezbollah, tip of the Iranian spear, dominant in Lebanon; Iran, the regional arbiter; and Russia, with its Syrian bases, the outside hegemon.

Our preferred outcome is radically different: a loosely federated Syria, partitioned and cantonized, in which Assad might be left in charge of an Alawite rump.

The Iranian-Russian strategy is a nightmare for the entire Sunni Middle East. And for us too. The Pentagon seems bent on preventing it. Hence the Tomahawk attack for crossing the chemical red line. Hence the recent fighter-bomber shoot-down.

A reasonable U.S. strategy, given the alternatives. But not without risk. Which is why we need a national debate before we commit too deeply

Monday, June 26, 2017

MiG 35

The MiG-35, designed to replace MiG-29s rounding out their fourth decade in service, will be featured at the MAKS international airshow near Moscow in July as engineers finalize testing on the aircraft

The MiG-35 has been in development for well over a decade, with the first reported demonstration flight at the Aero India Air Show in Bangalore in 2007

Some 5th generation technologies include stealth capabilities, extreme maneuverability, and increased power: 12 percent more than previous models1

Unlike many advanced fighters, the MiG-35 will also be extremely rugged, designed to withstand heavy anti-aircraft fire and operate in austere conditions

It’s rumored MiG is working on a fifth-generation light fighter. Sukhoi, Russia’s manufacturer of heavy fighter jets, has been working on its own fifth-gen offering, PAK FA, since before 2010, with the introduction of the aircraft reportedly slated for 2019. But if the rumors are true, the future project would be a first for MiG.





Thursday, June 22, 2017

Barbarossa!

"The entire World will hold it's breath!"

Unternehmen Barbarossa's 76th Anniversary.

Just after 0300 hours local time this very day in 1941 - a 3 mile wide strip of territory stretching the length of eastern Europe from Baltic Sea to the Carpathian Mountains erupted in a torrent of fire and flying steel as Luftwaffe aircraft, Werhmacht artillerie und panzers blasted across the Soviet frontier. In the violence of her initial collision, the immensity and feriocity of her subsequent development, and her prolifigacy of destruction of human life and resources - Operation Barbarossa - the Deutschland - Russian conflict - transcended anything ever before - or since - in the human experience.

Flush with fast, relatively easy victories over Western Europa - NSDAP time Deutschland flung three ginourmous Armee Gruppen at Russia in a crazy scheme to knock out the Collectivist armies forcing Mockba to accept an uneven uneasy piece and destroy bolshvikism forever.

The 1st 6 months saw amazing feats of Teutonic arms, vast panzer pincers, desperate pockets of Soviets fought to annihilation or capture (often the same thing) and by Pearl Harbor Day the naughty Wehrmacht was fighting in Moscow's suburbs.

The Moscow Battle - Operation Typhoon was the literally chilling climax of Barbarossa's blitzkrieg portion. Ferocious defense of the the capitol city by freshly released Siberian Reserves (Russia learned Nippon wouldn't be attacking their far east anytime soon) ended any hap hap happy tho'ts of a 'lightning campaign' in Russia.

Operation Barbarossa ground on for three and a half years more the site of some of the largest battles, deadliest atrocities, highest casualties, and most horrific conditions for Soviets and Germans alike - massively complex military ops like Stalingrad, Zitadelle and Bagration - until 3rd Reich died in an orgy of blood and flame and shaped the modern world and lingers with us still: NATO, Russia's near paranoia with her Near Abroad and fear of an awakened, reunified, riled up Germany.

Pic - "Verlonne Siege"

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Proxy Wars!

Since January...

U.S. military has struck the Syrian regime or its allies at least five times, in most cases to protect U.S.-backed rebels and their American advisers. Even if the Pentagon may not want to directly engage Syrian forces or their Russian and Iranian-backed allies, there’s a danger of accidental escalation, especially as various forces continue to converge on eastern and southern Syria to reclaim strategic territory from ISIS. Russia, for its part, angrily condemned the U.S. action and threatened on Monday to treat all coalition planes in Syria as potential targets.

But the dangers are perhaps particularly acute when it comes to Iran, which made dramatic battlefield moves of its own on Sunday, when it launched several missiles from inside Iran against ISIS targets in eastern Syria. Officially, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said the volley of missiles fired at Deir Ezzor province was a response to a pair of attacks by ISIS in Tehran on June 7, which killed 18 people and wounded dozens; the attacks marked the first time that ISIS had struck inside Iran. But the Iranian regime had several less-dramatic means to exact revenge against ISIS targets in Syria—after all, there’s no shortage of Iranian allies operating in the war-ravaged country.

Instead, Iran’s fiery act of vengeance seemed to be a message aimed at both the 45th administration and Saudi Arabia. (The six ballistic missiles used by Tehran against ISIS, with a range of 700 kilometers, could reach major Saudi cities.) The kingdom has become emboldened regionally and escalated its anti-Iran rhetoric thanks, in part, to 45’s message of seemingly unconditional support.

Nowhere is Iran projecting its regional power more extensively than Syria. Since the war started, Tehran has sent billions of dollars in aid and thousands of troops and Shiite volunteers to support Assad’s men. Over the past two years, Russia and Iran, along with Hezbollah and several Iraqi Shiite militias, helped Assad consolidate control and regain territory he lost to Syrian rebels and foreign jihadists. In December, with intensive Russian airstrikes and Iranian ground support, Assad’s forces recaptured the rebel-held sections of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. It was Assad’s biggest victory since the war began.

What worries us: that with these gains, Iran and its allies will carve out a “Shiite crescent” extending from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, and into Lebanon, where Hezbollah is the most powerful political and military force. Such a prospect looms large not only for the 45th administration, but also its allies in the Arab world, especially the Saudis.

While the Pentagon is eager to portray its latest actions as a defensive measure, Assad’s regime and its Iranian allies view it as an aggression, noting that Washington shot down a Syrian jet in Syrian airspace. And by flexing their military reach in Syria with Sunday’s missile launch, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and other regime hardliners risk inflaming more tension with the Trump administration—tension that could boil over in the coming war for dominance of southern Syria. One danger, among many, is that Assad and Tehran, which both have a history of testing their adversaries’ boundaries, could overreach and provoke a confrontation that spirals out of control.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Tough To Bear

It's been a tough few days for the Army and Navy. The losses are more than we can bear.

Take a moment and breathe a prayer of thanks and well wishes for Americans - volunteers all - serving on the periphery of danger

Friday, June 16, 2017

6 Key Questions

The U.S. is at war in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere with ISIS, al Qaeda, and other Salafi-Jihadi groups.  Our strategy in that war, particularly in Syria, is incoherent and internally contradictory, however.  We must also demand answers to six key questions about how America can secure its people and interests against the large and growing threats from the Middle East.

How will we defeat ISIS?

The U.S. military has been briefing steady progress in the war against ISIS.  It highlights ground retaken by Iraqi forces in Mosul and by Kurds in Syria.  It suggests that ISIS will basically collapse once it has lost Mosul and Raqqa, in Syria.  Assessments by the Institute for the Study of War contradict that view. ISIS still controls Deir ez-Zour, a sizable city southeast of Raqqa, to which it has already relocated leadership and resources.  Our Kurdish partners cannot drive that far south through Arab lands.  Our reliance on Kurds and refusal to fight the regime of Bashar al Assad have severely hindered the formation of an indigenous Arab force against ISIS in Syria, moreover.  How does the U.S. imagine that success against Raqqa will lead to clearing the rest of the Euphrates River Valley?  And even if the U.S. finds partners to retake the cities, ISIS is already reverting back to the insurgent-terrorist mode it used before it had seized them.  What is the plan to continue the pressure on ISIS to stop it from continuing in this mode while preparing its next comeback?

How will we defeat al Qaeda? 

The U.S. has focused on ISIS in Syria, taking little action against the large and powerful forces closely associated with al Qaeda.  The Syrian al Qaeda affiliate has rebranded itself, but remains part of al Qaeda and pursues the same goals of establishing a global Caliphate.  It and its partners control Idlib Province in northwestern Syria and are strong elsewhere in central and southern Syria.  The U.S. military keeps saying that it will deal with al Qaeda after it has defeated ISIS.  What is the plan for doing that?  How do operations against ISIS support or hinder that plan?

How will we ensure that we won’t have to fight son of ISIS or son of al Qaeda?

Both ISIS and al Qaeda gained ground in Syria in response to the brutality of Bashar al Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies.  The sectarian policies of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki created the Sunni Arab protest movement in that country that opened the door to the ISIS invasion in 2014.  Military success against these groups will not resolve the underlying political grievances that created support for them in the first place.  Yet the U.S. has not done remotely enough to address this problem in either Syria or Iraq.  The failure to form a sizable local Sunni Arab force in Syria suggests that the Sunni Arabs do not believe that their grievances will be redressed.  What is the U.S. doing to press Assad and the Iraqi government to resolve the political crises that allowed ISIS and al Qaeda to arise?

How will we contain Iran? 

The Trump administration makes much of its plans to contain and pressure Iran.  Yet Iran is militarily stronger than it has ever been.  Tens of thousands of Iranian proxy forces, led by elements of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Qods Force, are the army keeping Assad in power and alive.  The removal of these forces without any replacements would open the door to al Qaeda and ISIS expansion.  The U.S. thus relies on the unprecedented forward deployment of Iranian military power to pursue its anti-ISIS campaign.  How can America depend on an Iranian-controlled army in Syria while containing Iranian military power in the region?

How will we come to terms with Turkey? 

Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a troublesome ally.  Erdogan supports Islamist groups in Syria closely associated with al Qaeda.  He fears Kurdish efforts to form an autonomous region in Syria and to create a larger Kurdistan that would reach into Turkey’s Kurdish population.  He sees American support to Kurds fighting ISIS in Syria as U.S. backing for Kurdish terrorism in Turkey.  Yet Turkey is still a NATO ally.  It is also an essential player in any settlement in Syria.  Unequivocal and unrestricted American support for Kurds in Syria is driving the U.S. steadily toward conflict with Turkey—we’ve already had to deploy U.S. forces to stop the Turks from attacking our Kurdish allies twice.  How can the U.S. reconcile our dependence on Kurdish forces with the need to get Erdogan to work with us, stop backing Islamist groups, and accept a stable outcome in Syria?

How will we reduce Russian influence?  

Russia has established a massive airbase in Syria, giving it a major military position on the Mediterranean for the first time in decades.  Vladimir Putin has used that base to constrain American actions in Syria, to threaten Turkey, and as a hub for further expansion in the Mediterranean.  The hue-and-cry about Russia’s interference in U.S. elections and the Russian threat to America has oddly ignored these developments.  How can the U.S. make the strong stand against Russia that many on both sides of the aisle now demand while tolerating this unprecedented expansion of Russian military power?  How can the U.S. hope to pressure Assad to stop his efforts to oppress Syria’s Sunni majority while Russia provides him an air force to do just that?

The administration, Congress, and their critics on all sides must answer these questions if we are to arrive at any strategy in the Middle East that has a chance of securing our people and interests.  We must stop focusing on our own internal dramas so much that we ignore the increasingly dangerous world around us.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Army Day

"This We'll Defend!"


Happy happy BDay (#242 in fact!) to Great Satan's all weather original voltiguerres - the Army!
Two hundred 42 years ago, our nation's leaders established the Continental Army, beginning a rich heritage of successfully defending this great country and her citizens. Today, we celebrate the continued strength, professionalism and bravery of our ready and resilient Soldiers in the all-volunteer force. Our Soldiers remain Army Strong with a lifelong commitment to our core values and beliefs.
Following more than 15 years of war, the Army remains committed to the readiness, training and advancement of the Total Army through the Army initiatives: Ready and Resilient, The Army Profession and Soldier for Life. This 238th birthday commemorates America's Army - Soldiers, families and civilians - who are achieving a level of excellence that is truly Army Strong. We also celebrate our local communities for their steadfast support of our Soldiers and families. We are "America's Army: Service to the Nation, Strength for the Future."
"...We are “America’s Army: The Strength of the Nation."


Pic "The American Army - Killing Our Enemies On Xmas Day Since 1776"

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Military Omnipresence

Today, in the face of other nations’ advances and area-denial strategies, the U.S. Department of Defense is looking for the next set of technological breakthroughs that will allow the military to engage “at the time and place of our choosing.”

When the Royal Navy’s new steam-powered ships emerged victorious from the First Opium War in 1842, one British newspaper could barely contain itself: “Steam, even now, almost realizes the idea of military omnipotence and military omnipresence; it is everywhere, and there is no withstanding it.”

One hundred years later, Wernher von Braun, a German engineer who’d been secretly whisked away to the United States, suggested a different approach: an armed space station into low earth orbit. As he put it, “Our space station could be utilized as a very effective bomb carrier, and the nation who owns such a bomb-dropping space station…will have military omnipresence.”

Yet unlike steam engines or space stations, the technologies and supporting architectures that can actually establish omnipresence today are possible.

The strategy to regain our fighting edge has been called the Third Offset. But whether given this or some other name, one of its primary shortfalls is that it lacks a unifying concept. Many believe the present approach is really just a set of technology investments and is too focused on futurist technologies. And some scholars have argued that it seems to have “no clear purpose or urgency.”

Military, or operational, omnipresence is the answer to this dilemma.

Operational omnipresence is exactly what it sounds like: perpetual, networked presence that enables operations and awareness anywhere in the world. It consists of three primary interconnected components: physical assets, virtual capabilities, and information. It’s the culmination of where you are, where you can be quickly, and awareness of what is occurring everywhere else. In other words, operational omnipresence is superlative forward presence — a U.S. military preoccupation since at least World War II — accomplished by a variety of interacting means.

Execution of this concept is exceptionally difficult, but that’s how competitive advantages are realized.  

Making operational omnipresence a reality requires surmounting the tyrannies of time, distance, and information—the significant difficulties associated with operating across great distances and needing to be quick and sure-footed in doing so.

It can do so via its three essential components of presence: physical, virtual, and perceived.

Physical presence is the strategic positioning of military forces around the world such that they are always in relative proximity to contingencies. In addition to deploying ships and planes abroad, the U.S. military maintains more than 150,000 service members on 800 bases in 70 countries. This is the most expansive military footprint of any nation, and accounts for more than 95 percent of the world’s foreign bases. Further, the current presidential administration has articulated its goal to increase physical presence in a recent executive order. When coupled with unmanned and autonomous vehicles and aircraft, physical presence is remains a U.S. strength.

But there will be gaps, and virtual presence can help fill them. Previous conceptions of virtual presence have defined it as being physically nearby or having a passive presence via technology. But today, virtual presence exists where force can be applied quickly from a distance — within hours or even nanoseconds — and includes cyber, electronic, and space-borne warfare.

Whether moving at the speed of light from thousands of miles away to strike in cyberspace, reassuring allies and partner nations through the sharing of digital capabilities, or causing adversarial nations to adjust their decision calculus as these two things come fully online, virtual presence can be a true form of forward presence.

Perceived presence rounds out the operational omnipresence concept. Perceived presence is the use of technology to collect information and monitor events occurring in places in which physical and virtual presence aren’t possible. Though it doesn’t permit the application of force, the perception of being watched influences behavior — an insight that goes back to the concept of the panopticon introduced by 17th-century English philosopher Jeremy Bentham.

Today, cyber- and satellite-enabled surveillance, coupled with traditional forms of intelligence gathering and the ubiquity of the press and personal devices, means that a global electronic version of the panopticon is possible. The strategic use of acquired information could be employed to influence the decisions of competitor nations. What was thought to be in secrecy is now under a spotlight. From that point forward, this nation would assume it is being watched.

This, too, is a form of presence, and the essence of perceived presence.



Monday, June 12, 2017

Discombobulated Deutschland

After World War Two, there was much debate about whether Germany should have any armed forces. An end had to be made, it was argued, to a cycle which began with Prussian militarism and ended in Nazi war crimes.

While communist-ruled East Germany did create a People's Army following German military traditions, in democratic West Germany - occupied by Britain, France and the US - a very different armed services emerged.

The Bundeswehr, born in the mid 1950s, was a deliberately modest force, meant only to defend West German territory, not fight abroad. Its recruits were taught to think of themselves as "citizens in uniform".

Chancellor Merkel told Germans in May that "we must fight for our future ourselves as Europeans".

Yet Germany and Her Chancellor face a fundamental problem. Most Germans are very reluctant to go down this road.

They regard their own army with suspicion - an attitude reinforced by a recent scandal involving the Bundeswehr. Foreign deployments are tightly restricted by German law and parliament.

Above all, attitudes are shaped by the shadow of history.

So successful have outsiders been in demilitarising Germany - so sensitive are Germans about their warlike past - that today's greatest European power is likely to remain a battlefield weakling.

Germany currently spends only around 1.2% of GDP on defence. 

Germany will resist 45's calls for huge extra spending, but underfunding has been at times highly embarrassing, such as the revelation that during a Nato exercise in 2014 Bundeswehr tank commanders covered up their lack of machine guns by using broomsticks painted black.
So how far will Berlin go?

Werner Kraetschell, who knows Angela Merkel and her thinking well, says she wants a "strong German army able to take international responsibility". But her difficulty is that "the German people are against the army".

Perhaps the Germans will continue a unique historical experiment, trying to become a growing international power without significant military effort.

For the past still weighs heavily. Whatever happens, there'll be no brash marching into action abroad. Instead, Germany's military will tiptoe warily into a highly uncertain future.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

6 Days Of War

"I'd love to. Turn. You. On"


Way back in the last millennium, the Summer of Love's soundtrack by those naughty Beatles wiped clean and drew again the face of popular music. Often hailed at times as  "a decisive moment in the history of Western civilization."  

It wasn't the only one that year!

Perhaps the best source from all sides on 6 Day War is penned by the "Most Dangerous Cat in DC" - Little Satan's American former ambassador - the super brainiac (he's kinda hot too) Dr Michael Oren

Mid May 1967 - Pyramidland's General Nasser initiated a state of war with neighboring Little Satan by kicking out UN's Sinai contingent and announcing a blockade of the straights of Tiran - the gate to the Aqaba Gulf.  UN's Sec Gen U Thant (not to be confused with certain lingerie) failed to defuse the hot hot hotness of the sitch and
Pyramidland's Badgers, MiG 17's and 21's were taking a well earned break from xforming hapless Yemenis into living shrieking blisters courtesy of WMD and being redeployed to airfields in range of Little Satan's population centers

The Most Dangerous Cat in DC reissues choice cuts and why cause the 1967 jank is 44 years too little and too late:


"...Jets and tanks launched a surprise attack against Egypt, destroying 204 of its planes in the first half-hour. By the end of the first morning of fighting, the Israeli Air Force had destroyed 286 of Egypt's 420 combat aircraft, 13 air bases, and 23 radar stations and anti-aircraft sites. It was the most successful single operation in aerial military history.

"...As feared, other Arab forces attacked. Enemy planes struck Israeli cities along the narrow waist, including Hadera, Netanya, Kfar Saba, and the northern suburbs of Tel Aviv; and thousands of artillery shells fired from the West Bank pummeled greater Tel Aviv and West Jerusalem. Ground forces, meanwhile, moved to encircle Jerusalem as they did in 1948.


"...In six days, Little Satan repelled these incursions and established secure boundaries. She drove the Egyptians from the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, and the Syrians, who had also opened fire, from the Golan Heights. Most significantly, Little Satan replaced the indefensible armistice lines by reuniting J'lem and capturing the West Bank from Jordan. 

And:


"...44 years after Arab forces sought to exploit the vulnerable armistice lines, it remains clear that Little Satan cannot return to those lines. And 44 years after the United Nations, through Resolution 242, indicated that Little Satan would not have to forfeit all of the captured territories and must achieve "secure and recognized boundaries," the unsecure and unrecognized armistice lines must not be revived. Little Satan''s insistence on defensible borders is a prerequisite for peace and a safeguard against a return to the Arab illusions and Little Satan's fears of June 1967.

Pic - "And though the news was rather sad, I just had to laugh"

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

D- Day


Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest -- until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them -- help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment -- let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace -- a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.

Amen.

32 - June 6, 1944

Monday, June 5, 2017

Midway

"The most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare."

They were elite predators. Deadliest of the age. Four of them with their attendantry vessels, screening, scouting and securing SWO boy protection. A six month run of raising pure heck from Infamy Day

Nipponesed as "Red Castle," "The Province," two sisters "Blue Green Dragon" and "Flying Dragon"their complement of aircraft and air crew were like the most expert naval aviators in world history. And they had the battlefield bona fides to back it up.


After doing Pearl -

"...Japan was on a roll. The Philippines had fallen, including the final outposts of Bataan and Corregidor. The Japanese had swept down through the Malay Peninsula from French Indochina, and on 15 February, the supposedly "impregnable fortress" of Singapore had fallen--to numerically inferior Japanese forces. The Dutch East Indies had been captured. Japanese forces were advancing into Burma and might proceed to India.

"...Even Australia appeared to be threatened. American naval forces, significantly weakened by the attack at Pearl Harbor, appeared vastly inferior to the armada that Japan was gathering to advance eastward in the Pacific toward Midway--and then possibly to the Hawaiian Islands or even the West Coast. Additional Japanese victories would have made it politically impossible for Roosevelt to continue to pursue the Grand Strategy of Europe-first.

When Doolittle Raiders launched a magical 30 seconds panty raid on the Imperial Capitol from USS Hornet, Nippon was determined to destroy what remained of Great Satan's grievously injured naval forces.

Fixing up the final hook up to finish up creating the Far East Greater Co - Prosperity Sphere, Midway was the bait. Plotting to draw out Great Satan's last two carriers (actually three - Yorktown was an unpleasant surprise as Japan intell'd she was blown out of the water just days before at Coral Sea) Enterprise and Hornet and annihilate them - forcing 32 to sue for peace and abandon PACRIM.


Instead, Imperial Navy rec'v'd the nasty surprise as Admirals Fletcher and Spruance bush wacked Nippon.

The Death Ride of Torpedo Eight was horrific in a uncoordinated attack that was supposed to be coordinated - those low and slow American torpedo planes ceased to exist as IJN's Combat Air Patrol destroyed them all. Wave hopping after the frantic, desperate aircrews - Japanese fighters leisurely killed them all except for a few miraculous shot down survivors.

Fashionably late - Dive Bombing Eight - appeared way up in the sky - way too far and too late for the bloodthirsty Zeroes to intercept or interdict. Torpedo 8's heroic sacrifice was not in vain.


Diving headlong from as high as 20,000 feet, Dauntless dive bombers attacked INS The Province (Kaga) first. Her death was incredible - four bombs hit her flight deck crammed plumb full of gassed up aircraft fully crunk with bombs and torpedoes. Payback is sweet.

"...Kaga stopped dead in the water and began exploding. In eight minutes (a divine ref to Torpedo and Bombing Eight*) 800 hundred of her crew were vaporized.


At the same incredible instant Red Castle (Akagi) - flagship of Fleet Admiral Nagumo himself took multiple direct hits and literally xformed in a dead floating inferno.

Minutes later Blue Green Dragon (Sōryū) suffered the same instant death as her plane loaded hanger decks began reduxing the first hits - exploding in tandem and killing over 700 crewmen as fires flamed up and out of control.


Flying Dragon (Hiryū) exacted revenge of sorts - damaging Yorktown so bad in a counter strike the grand Old Lady was scuttled the next day. It did Flying Dragon no avail - Great Satan hunted her down without mercy and killed her.

The tide of war not so much tilted against Nippon - it somersaulted against her as America took the initiative and never. Let. Go.

Imperial Japan never recovered, her bloody dying death orgy doom was only a matter of time.

Midway was the place and today is the time that Great Satan's conception as l'nation indispensable' - uniquely powerful - the only one of her kind - took place.

Pic -"All these torpedo planes can't be coming from one American Carrier!"   

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The End Of Syria

al Suriya Kubra!

Six years into the Syrian war, the survival of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is ensured — but it has become something of a facade and lacks a strategy for reuniting the country. The sometimes sharply differing interests of Russia and Iran from above, and the local concerns of a myriad array of pro-regime irregular militias from below, are the decisive factors — not the decisions of the country’s nominal rulers. This impacts the calculus of the “regime” side in the war, in determining its strategy in the conflict.

Just take a look at how the war has developed since late last year, when things seemed to be going well for the regime. The rebellion had been driven out of its last fingerholds in eastern Aleppo city, seemingly paving the way for the eventual defeat of the insurgency. But five months later, while the general direction of the war has been against the rebels, they appear still far from collapse. Idlib province, areas of Latakia, Hama, northern Aleppo, and large swaths of the south remain in rebel hands.

The rebels in the south received a boost this week when a coalition airstrike targeted forces loyal to Assad that were advancing on a base used by U.S. and British Special Forces. If the United States and its partners are willing to use force to defend allied groups in the area, it is hard to envision how the regime can hope to reestablish its rule there.

Further east, the war against the Islamic State is being prosecuted by a powerful U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led force called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). This force will shortly embark on the conquest of Raqqa, the last remaining city in Syria fully controlled by the retreating Islamic State.

In other words, the rumors of the death of the rebellion have been greatly overstated. And some of its component parts apparently possess considerable vigor and strength.

Does the Assad regime have a strategy for the reunification of the country, or has Syria’s fragmentation now become an unavoidable reality?

Syria, after all, is today divided into no less than seven enclaves: the territory controlled by the regime, three separate areas of rebel control, two Kurdish cantons, and the Islamic State area.

What is the government’s strategy to reverse this fragmentation?

 “We have absolute faith that this is a temporary situation. The major reason for this faith is that the Syrian people start to understand the conspiracy against them.”

In other words, there is no strategy at all, but the kind of conspiracy theories that no self-respecting Baathist should be without. In fact, no evidence exists of any overarching plan to divide Syria — nor do any of the major forces in the country support its breakup. Syria’s de facto division is a result of the inability of any force to prevail over all the others, not of design.

That is, Syria will be divided between the regime enclave in the west, the Sunni Arab rebels in the northwest and southwest, a Turkish-ensured rebel enclave in the north, an SDF-controlled region in the northeast, and some arrangement involving both the SDF and Western-backed Arab rebels in the east.

As this process plays out, the Russians will continue to do as they wish by day and night in Damascus, the gap between regime rhetoric and reality will remain as gaping as ever, the rebels and the Kurds will continue to march in tune with their own patrons’ wishes. Meanwhile, the stark fact will continue to remain unsaid: namely, that the state known as Syria has effectively ceased to exist.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

PLA Reforms?

Shi Lang!

People’s Liberation Army has not officially released a new generation of operational regulations (作战条令)—which are believed to be roughly equivalent to doctrine—since its fourth generation of them in 1999. The protracted process for their revision has apparently become a “bottleneck” for the PLA’s advances in joint operations and training.

Evidently, its attempts to update these doctrinal documents in response to new strategic challenges have lagged behind its intended progression towards jointness, while failing to keep pace with changes in the form of warfare.

Since the early 2000s, the PLA has been engaged in an extensive process of revision of its fourth-generation operational regulations. Although the actual contents of the PLA’s operational regulations have never been released, an understanding of the underlying process and those involved is nonetheless informative. The Academy of Military Science Operational Theories and Regulations Research Department has traditionally played a leading role in this process.

The apparent centrality of the Operational Theories and Regulations Research Department to the formulation of the PLA’s doctrine renders the writings of its leadership and researchers of particular importance to those seeking to understand the evolution of the PLA’s doctrinal approach to warfare. For instance, its series of lectures (教程) released in 2012—including “Lectures on the Science of Joint Campaigns” and “Lectures on Joint Campaign Command” may be closely linked to the revision of the operational regulations themselves.

Although the PLA’s operational regulations may remain opaque, a new “revolution in doctrinal affairs” appears to have been gradually occurring, as the PLA prepares to confront the challenges of future warfare. The apparent lengthiness of the revision process—and unexpected, unprecedented delay in the issuance of fifth-generation operational regulations—could indicate substantive impediments to progress that are only just starting to be overcome, under the leadership of Xi Jinping. Within the foreseeable future, the new generation of operational regulations will likely include revised campaign guidelines for each of PLA’s services—the Army, Navy, Air Force and Rocket Force—as well as the new Strategic Support Force, along with force-wide guidelines for joint operations and joint operations command. To date, the PLA seemingly does not have official campaign guidelines that address operations in the space and cyber domains.

Potentially, this fifth generation will establish the PLA’s first operational regulations for space and cyber operations, which are considered critical strategic frontiers for the PLA that are integral to joint operations. Indeed, Maj. Gen. An Weiping deputy chief of staff of the Northern Theater Command, recently called for the introduction of “military cyberspace operations regulations and statutes.” The contents of this fifth generation of operational regulations, while not publically released, will presumably take into account recent changes to the PLA’s military strategic guidelines, reflecting its evolving missions and advancing capabilities. Looking forward, their release could be officially announced as a critical component of the PLA’s new stage of “below the neck”  reforms, which seek to enact deeper changes than the initial “above the neck”  stage of high-level, organizational changes.

Frigate Review

A planned $143 million review of the Navy’s future frigate design was prompted by a changing threat environment that will require the ship to complete more missions, top service officials told Congress this week.

The review was included as part of 45’s fiscal 2018 budget request, released Tuesday.
The money, budget documents say, will allow the Navy to “reassess the capabilities required to ensure the multi-mission frigate paces future threats.” Priorities, according to the request, include maximizing lethality and survivability, particularly in the areas of surface warfare, air warfare through local area defense, and anti-submarine warfare.

The future frigate is set to be based on the controversial littoral combat ship, a platform that saw major cost overruns in its early years and still faces harsh criticism from oversight authorities on survivability and ability to execute its major mission sets.

In April, the Government Accountability Office released a report recommending that Congress delay what had been a planned frigate block buy in 2018 to pursue more information on the ship’s cost and capabilities. In a 2016 report, the GAO noted that the lethality and survivability of the LCS was still unproven, raising questions about investing more in the same design for the frigate.

Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley told a panel of the Senate Appropriations Committee in a Wednesday hearing that the service now plans to contract for the frigate in 2020, saying the revision of the initial 2014 plan reflects a changing world.

“Since that time, the security environment, the budget environment, and the industrial base have changed,” he said. “We are refining our requirements to the frigate to increase multi-mission capability and, in view of the additional year required to get to a 2020 contract, we will continue to procure LCSs to maintain the industrial base.”

Funding for just one LCS was included in this year’s budget request, but Navy officials said Wednesday that the workload would be enough for the shipyards when coupled with last year’s three-LCS buy. Currently, two variants of the LCS are made by competing companies: Lockheed Martin/Marinette Marine, and Austal USA.

Stackley said the Navy wants to make sure the LCS and frigate program remain “heel to toe” so that the industrial base will remain financially healthy and able to build the ships.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson called the pace of change in global threats “exponential,” saying the current threat environment will inform the way the Navy rewrites its requirements for the frigate. Tighter budgets, too, mean the service will have to ensure it is getting the best value for its money, he added.

“The way we operate is changing. The way the U.S. Navy operates in terms of networking … this frigate into the larger fleet, executing distributed maritime operations — that has changed as well,” Richardson said. “And so the combination of those three things really necessitated that we go back to the drawing board and make sure we haven’t missed an opportunity to put to sea a ship that will address today’s threats and be modernizing into the future.”