Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Oh Kuznetsov!

Commonwealth Russia's Naval Aviation ain't all that!

Many of the fast jets that were embarked on the Russia aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov have been flown to the main Russian air base in Syria, Airbus Defence and Space satellite imagery obtained by IHS Jane's shows.

The imagery shows eight Russian Federation Navy Su-33 and one MiG-29KR jets alongside various Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) aircraft at Humaymim Air Base in Latakia province on 20 November.

Kuznetsov can carry around 20 fast jets and is known to have embarked at least eight Su-33s for its current deployment in the Eastern Mediterranean, and at least four of the new MiG-29KR multirole fighters for the first time. One of the new jets crashed on 14 November, an incident that a Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) statement attributed to an unspecified "equipment fault during an approach for deck landing".

The Russian news website Gazeta published an article on 21 November that cited a source knowledgeable about carrier operations as saying that the MiG-29KR was circling Kuznetsov due to a problem with one of the carrier's four arrestor cables when both its engines failed, forcing the pilot to eject.

The MoD indicated that there were no problems with Kuznetsov's flight operations on 15 November, when it announced that its aircraft had carried out airstrikes against targets in Syria. It released video footage showing Su-33s loaded with unguided bombs and taking off from Kuznetsov, but the MiG-29KRs were not seen flying, hinting they may have been grounded after the crash.

Monday, November 28, 2016


There is more than enough evidence to judge the Castros’ legacy for what it is: the systematic exploitation and oppression of the Cuban people.

Two decades of “Castro-is-dead” rumors are finally at an end. And the race is on to see which world leader can most fulsomely praise Fidel Castro’s legacy, while delicately averting their eyes from his less savory characteristics. Two dul -elected leaders of democracies who should know better, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and 44, are leading the way. Mr. Trudeau praised Castro as a “legendary revolutionary and orator” who “made significant improvements to the education and health care of his island nation.” 44 offered his “condolences” to the Cuban people, and blandly suggested that “history will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure.” Now, he added, we can “look to the future.”

With all due respect to 44, the 60 years Fidel Castro spent systematically exploiting and oppressing the people of Cuba provide more than enough history to pass judgment on both Fidel and, now more importantly, his brother Raul.


Lee Kwan Yew, Augusto Pinochet, Francisco Franco, Chiang Kai Shek, Park Chung-he: all of these dictators and authoritarians can mock Fidel Castro. They left their countries better off than they found them, and while many of them committed terrible crimes, they can also point to great accomplishments. Fidel has only the crimes.

Fidel leaves a shattered society and a desperately poor country behind him. Cuba is more divided today than it was when he conquered it; it is less able to shape its destiny than it was in 1959, and its future will likely be more closely linked to the United States after his death than before his seizure of power

Adios, failed autocrat

Thursday, November 24, 2016


Thankful for being an American. Everything else just seems to fall into place.

Pic - "Almighty God - We totally thank thee for raising up this laughing race of free men, avatars of Thy divine deigns that "Whosoever will" - may. That fun and free choice shall not perish from the earth - we are eternally grateful for l'nom d'guerr "Americans" 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Drones Challange The Law OF Armed Conflict

Over the last eight years, 44’s counterterrorism policy has in large part been defined by drone strikes against a number of terrorist targets around the world.

Indeed, the U.S. drone program is a global enterprise, with bases in at least 10 countries, lethal operations in at least seven countries, and coordination of drone operations with numerous partners and allies.

But even as the Drones Gone Wild program has become a cornerstone of counterterrorism policy, its implementation has raised a number of questions, particularly with regard to the use of drones outside active combat zones or in countries not engaged in war with the United States.

Central to these questions has been the ongoing secrecy surrounding the U.S. lethal drone program, including limited details on casualty figures, a lack of information on the legal framework supporting the program, little insight into policy guidance, and next to no information on how targeted drone strikes fit in with broader strategic objectives.

One of the main challenges with the U.S. drone program is that it has been relatively difficult to assess the basis for and impact of the program itself. Over the last eight years, the administration has released very few documents relating to the legal justification for the lethal drone program, and those that have been released have been primarily only under court order. It wasn’t until the summer of 2016 that the 44th Administration released the first government-provided data on casualties of U.S. “counterterrorism strikes,” as well as a heavily redacted version of the Presidential Policy Guidance (PPG) that governs the use of force and armed drone strikes outside of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, countries that are considered “areas of active hostilities.”

While these documents shine some much needed light on the human cost of the U.S. drone program and provide some much-sought insight into the legal rationale underpinning the U.S. drone program, they emphasize the decision-making process without significant clarification of the legal standards for the program. Indeed, the only thing that can be definitively said after these two releases is that the U.S. drone program demonstrates the flexible nature in which the administration has applied law, rules, and regulations.

The use of drones by the United States has challenged the application of the law of armed conflict. For over a decade, the United States has seemed to widely interpret its legal right to target and kill those individuals identified as a member of al-Qaida or its associated forces wherever they are located. However, the ways in which individuals are identified is based on undisclosed criteria and evidence. Moreover, it appears that there has been little means for anyone outside the secretive process to identify or remedy mistakes. This ad hoc application of international legal standards and principles undermines support for the international rule of law.

Current U.S. drone policy is also devoid of public understanding of the processes through which targeting decisions are made, and the domestic and international legal justifications for these decisions. Though detailed and revealing in terms of the procedural process for uses of force against terrorist targets outside the domestic context and outside areas of active hostilities, the PPG release in August did not adequately explain the standards for the use of force outside active war zones, and the terms used within the PPG are seen as vague, inconsistent, and at times contradictory. Moreover, the PPG still neglects to explain the specific legal rules and standards that underpin U.S. drone policy and is particularly vague in terms of the application of international human rights law standards that should apply in such contexts.

Although armed drones are but one tool in the United States’ larger counterterrorism toolkit, they appear to have become the most coveted tool, and their reliability and usage is arguably driving U.S. strategy (rather than being a tactic of a larger strategy). And because it is unclear what oversight and accountability mechanisms are being utilized, it is difficult to gauge success. What remains is a lack of clear understanding of the structures in place to ensure that continued use of targeted strikes against “high-value targets” and associated forces is fulfilling and/or contributing to strategic goals and objectives. These challenges are compounded by continued uncertainty regarding how the administration assesses effectiveness, and the metrics and methodologies used to evaluate impact. Indeed, the opacity of the U.S. lethal drone program has made it impossible to identify the systems in place, if any, to responsibly respond to mistakes, pay reparations if necessary, or ensure that operations are not undermining longer-term strategic goals.

In short, the lack of information on the justifications and rationale behind the Obama Administration’s drone program makes it impossible to conduct any objective analysis of whether the program rests on appropriate standards and if it is accomplishing broader national security and foreign policy aims. Rather, the administration has resorted to a reliance on its own internal evaluations and a “trust us” mentality, which is inherently problematic. The lack of public information about the drone program limits discourse on key U.S. engagements and the use of force in countries around the world.

This discourse is vital to ensuring that U.S. drone use and policy is effective in addressing immediate threats as well as attending to broader strategic interests and foreign policy goals. These interests and goals include upholding U.S. commitments to the laws of war, international human rights law, and international humanitarian law, as well as establishing appropriate standards for the use of drone technology. All of these principles are essential to establishing an appropriate precedent for the use of lethal drones, particularly as other countries develop and seek to acquire similar capabilities.

The next president will inherit a U.S. drone policy that seemingly offers other countries a blank check to adopt and conduct drone operations based on questionable legal justifications and largely secret policy guidance. The 44th Administration’s continued reticence to provide substantive information on the breadth of the U.S. drone program, the legal justification behind it, and the costs and benefits of operations, poses risks within the United States and sets a dangerous precedent internationally.

45 will need to take steps to clearly and publicly establish rules for the U.S. drone program that provides the domestic and international legal framework for the U.S. drone program, including interpretations used by the United States with regard to international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

Congress has a role to play as well. It must place a larger priority on the U.S. drone program, provide more rigorous oversight over the program, and ask questions about its overall efficacy. Without clear and transparent rules, prominent oversight, and legal use, the U.S. drone program will undermine U.S. national security interests and foreign policy objectives, no matter how well-intended.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Mad Dog As Secretary Of Defense

Something kinda cool about command level Teufel Hunden nom d'guerr'd "Mad Dog."

As in General Mad Dog Mattis who may be getting the gig as 45's Defense Secretary...

If you’re going to put a general in there, Mattis is a good choice. He is a rarity in that he is a genuine strategic thinker, pushing himself and others to stretch their minds. This tendency is not always welcomed.

Having Mattis run the Defense Department would put the Marines in their most powerful position ever — they’d have the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman Joint Chief of Staff, and the commandant. If I were the Army I’d hunker down and plan for the future for a few years.

The relationship between SecDef and chairman of the Joint Chiefs would be especially interesting. Joseph Dunford, the CJCS, served under Mattis in Iraq in 2005.
 A Marine Corps Times profile put him in the Corps’ pantheon, calling him “a leader with almost mythical, rock-star status like Chesty Puller and Al Gray.” Check the #Mattisisms hashtag on twitter.

Congrats General Mattis!

Pic - Mad Dog says "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet."

Monday, November 21, 2016

45's Spy Guy

Mike Pompeo was born in Orange, California, the son of Dorothy (née Mercer) and Wayne Pompeo. He attended the U.S. Military Academy where he majored in Mechanical Engineering, graduating first in his class in 1986 and subsequently serving in the Regular Army as an Armor Branch cavalry officer from 1986 to 1991. He received his J.D. from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He then worked as a lawyer for Williams & Connolly.

Pompeo has been on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the following 3 subcommittees: the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, the Subcommittee on Energy and Power, and the Subcommittee on the CIA. He is also on the House Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi

Pompeo supports the National Security Agency's surveillance programs, characterizing the agency's efforts as "good and important work." In March 2014, Pompeo denounced NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's inclusion in the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, and called for Snowden's invitation to speak via telecast at the annual Texas event be withdrawn, lest it encourage "lawless behavior" among attendees. In February 2016, Pompeo said Snowden "should be brought back from Russia and given due process, and I think the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence." 

Pompeo has advocated for rolling back post-Snowden surveillance reforms, saying "Congress should pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata, and combining it with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database. Legal and bureaucratic impediments to surveillance should be removed. That includes Presidential Policy Directive-28, which bestows privacy rights on foreigners and imposes burdensome requirements to justify data collection."

On July 21, 2015, Pompeo and Senator Tom Cotton alleged the existence of secret side agreements between Iran and the IAEA on procedures for inspection and verification of Iran's nuclear activities under the Iran nuclear deal. The Obama administration denied any clandestine or secret actions. Administration officials acknowledge the existence of agreements between Iran and the IAEA governing the inspection of sensitive military sites, but deny the characterization that they are “secret side deals,” saying instead that they are standard practice in crafting arms-control pacts and that the Administration had provided the information on them that was at its disposal to Congress.

In a 2013 speech on the House floor, Pompeo said Muslim leaders who fail to denounce acts of terrorism done in the name of Islam are "potentially complicit" in the attacks. The Council on American-Islamic Relations called on Pompeo to revise his remarks, calling them "false and irresponsible".

Pompeo opposes closing Guantánamo Bay detention camp. After a 2013 visit to the prison, Pompeo said, of the prisoners who were on hunger strike, "It looked to me like a lot of them had put on weight."

Pompeo has criticized the 44th administration's decision to end the CIA's secret prisons (so-called "black sites"), and the administration's requirement that all interrogators adhere to anti-torture laws.

On November 18, 2016, the President-elect announced that he would nominate Pompeo to be the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Friday, November 18, 2016

45's NSA

Michael Thomas "Mike" Flynn (born December 1958) is a retired United States Army lieutenant general who served as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, and chair of the Military Intelligence Board from July 24, 2012, to August 2, 2014. Prior to that, he served as Assistant Director of National Intelligence. 

Flynn co-authored a report in January 2010 through the Center for a New American Security entitled Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan, which criticized the intelligence community for lacking an understanding of the human-socio context of the battlefield in Afghanistan.

Flynn's military career was primarily operational, with numerous combat arms, conventional and special operations senior intelligence assignments. He also served as the senior intelligence officer for the Joint Special Operations Command. Flynn is a published author, with articles appearing in Small Wars Journal, Military Review, Joint Forces Quarterly and other military and intelligence publications.

In May 2016, he emerged as one of several leading possibilities to be the vice presidential running mate for Republican nominee. Flynn was not chosen as Trump's running mate; the vice presidential pick was ultimately Indiana Governor Mike Pence. At the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, Flynn delivered what the Los Angeles Times called a "fiery speech".

On November 18, 2016, the Transition announced via press release that President-elect  had named General Flynn his National Security Advisor

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Arab League's Brain And Cash Deficit

Oh Arab League!

It's a comedy except it's sooo tragic

If Middle Eastern countries do not start making real progress on fundamental political and economic reforms, further regional turmoil is inevitable. With the rentier systems that governments have maintained for decades now at a breaking point, policymakers must begin the difficult, but not impossible, process of establishing new social contracts. 

That contract in Arab countries started to erode at the turn of the century, when governments with inflated budgets and bloated bureaucracies could no longer provide an adequate supply of basic services such as health care and education, create a sufficient number of jobs, or sustain food and fuel subsidies. But, despite diminished state benefits, most leaders have continued to insist that their countries’ people uphold their end of the contract by not participating meaningfully in public life. 

Arab governments were able to sustain inefficient economies for decades because they were propped up by oil revenues. In recent decades, most Arab countries have benefited in some way from the Middle East’s abundant oil and gas reserves. Hydrocarbon-producing countries used their profits to buy their citizens’ loyalty and establish what were effectively welfare states; and non-oil producers enjoyed the benefits of aid, capital inflows, and remittances sent back by their nationals working in resource-rich countries. 

Because the governments of oil-producing countries used revenues to provide for most of their people’s needs – including jobs, services, and favors – these governments fostered a culture of dependency, rather than encouraging self-reliance and entrepreneurship to expand the private sector. What’s more, because they did not need to tax their citizens to generate revenues, people had little recourse to challenge authoritarianism. The political culture reflected a simple principle: “no taxation, no representation.” 

Now that oil prices are declining and will likely continue to remain low for several years, if not permanently, the Middle East’s rentier systems face a significant challenge. Saudi Arabia, for example, is raising taxes, cutting domestic subsidies, and shifting its foreign-aid paradigm away from grants and toward investments. The kingdom has long provided financial support to Egypt, Jordan, and other countries in the region, so this shift will put pressure on those governments to pursue private-sector growth to improve their own countries’ economic performance. 

But, while the Arab world’s governments have reached the limits of their ability to employ more people, raise public debt, and attract outside grants, members of these countries’ political and economic elite, whom the current rentier system privileges, will likely resist efforts at substantive reform. And we should expect to see further opposition from state bureaucracies, which lack any vision for a transition to an inclusive and sustainable economic model. 

Still, Middle Eastern countries cannot hope to develop prosperous economies without such a transition. After relying on resource rents for decades, these governments must switch not only to new growth models, but also to more representative governance. When Arab societies are asked to accept reduced subsidies, fewer government jobs, and less from the state in general, they will demand a larger share in the decision-making process. 

As it stands, the Arab world is stuck between an unsustainable economic and political status quo and the inclusive, merit-based economic system that less myopic people in the region know must replace it. Too many Arab governments have put themselves in this untenable situation, having given little consideration to building the governance institutions their states need. 

The first wave of Arab uprisings, which began in December 2010 and led to the 2011 Arab Spring, was a response to the breakdown of the old social contracts. In today’s perfect storm of declining oil prices and closed political systems, a new wave of protest could well emerge, particularly where governments have not recognized that the end of rentierism marks the end of the old social contract.  
For these governments, economic reform is now a matter of survival. In a more open system, Arab governments will need to privatize many state-controlled companies, and make it far easier for entrepreneurs to register start-ups and launch new businesses. And, ultimately, Arab states’ economic reforms will succeed only if citizens gain a more powerful voice in governance. 

Tunisia is the one country where a new social contract has begun to replace rentierism. The rest of the Arab world faces two alternatives. Its leaders can begin fighting the cancer of an unsustainable status quo, with all the pain and uncertainty that such a struggle entails; or they can wait for the cancer to become a terminal condition, and be devoured by it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

45's Counter Revolution In Military Affairs

After eight years of 44's Pentagon, certain defense issues were meant to be settled, finished, over, dead—shot by a firing squad composed of History and Progress and rolled without ceremony into shallow graves. 

The list included the integration of women into combat jobs, the normalization of transgender troops, and the importance of green energy to the military. The imposition of draft registration on women, though not yet accomplished, was thought to be all but inevitable.

Especially on the social issues, conservative national security experts had long felt they were defending less and less favorable terrain, forced to make arguments the country (not to mention the president and his appointees) didn’t want to hear. Eventually, there seemed to emerge a kind of unspoken consensus that it wasn’t worth contesting these issues, because the limited political capital of national security conservatives was needed for more important debates, like the size of the Pentagon’s budget.

Well, that was then. “Social conservative” isn’t exactly the description that springs to mind when one thinks of 45, but the fact is that social conservatives are in his coalition, and a fair few of them are going to get government appointments, including in the Defense Department—where their decisions will be subject to oversight from a Republican Congress. Additionally, there are those who, regardless of political labels, were always skeptical of imposing policies on the military that appeared to have political purposes beyond combat effectiveness.

Consider the case of Rep. Duncan Hunter (R., Calif.) a Marine reserve officer, outspoken critic of the 45th  administration, and an early 45 backer. Speaking to the Washington Times‘ Rowan Scarborough, Hunter called this morning for an “armed forces counterrevolution” that reverses policies that have “cut down on the warrior mentality.” Scarborough reports that Hunter is under consideration for “Navy secretary or even secretary of defense.”

Replacing the historically terrible Ray Mabus with Hunter would be a reversal on the order of 44 finding himself succeeded by 45. Hunter’s definition of a counterrevolution includes reopening the issues of women in combat and transgender service members, restoring the word “man” to titles in the Navy and Marine Corps (nixed by this year by Mabus, but for a handful of exceptions), and restoring the Navy’s traditional rating system—an esoteric subject for outsiders, but another Mabus-driven reform that has caused an uproar amongst sailors.

Such a tack to the right would be popular among the troops, a narrow plurality of whom supported 45 for president in a September Military Times poll—close second was Gary Johnson, by the way, with Clinton a distant, distant third. Moreover,44 earned a shockingly low 15 percent approval rating in another Military Times survey taken at the end of 2014—a number the paper attributed, in part, to the social liberalism of his administration.

But that’s the troops. Senior officers have spent eight years adapting to the reality of the Obama administration, which has, in turn, appointed officers assumed to be copacetic with its own worldview. On the social issues, public stands on principle have been rare—General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was a rare exception when, along with the General Robert Neller, the Marine Corps Commandant, he recommended certain exemptions for opening combat jobs for females late last year, only to be overruled by Ash Carter.

Moreover, it is less politically costly to prevent “reform” than it is to reverse it, and 45's administration counterrevolutionaries could find themselves dealing with a insurgency able to draw on plenty of support from the media, the out-of-power defense establishment, and from liberal pressure groups—who are already preparing to fight, and who are happy to take their issues to the courts. There is also the question of how much cover such efforts would really get from the White House, and from a president who has sent mixed signals on these issues. In some areas, compromise may end up being more realistic than a complete rollback: for example, granting the Marine Corps the well-documented exemption it originally requested on women in combat, without imposing a stop order on an Army that seems to have happily adopted the policies of the 45th administration.

But the mere fact that we are even having this conversation again shows just how much, and how quickly, things have changed.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veterans Day

The 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Imperial Germany gave up the ghost. America's 1st regime change in the new century. Armistice Day for the War to End all Wars, entirely achieved by the addition of the Great Satan's spiritual fore fathers to an entente of desperate states.

Conscripting an army of free men, America deployed 2 million troops to save Europe from a Prussian military machine that was the world's best - until they hooked up with the Great Satan in combat. Places like
Chateau-Thierry and Bellau Wood decisively crushed Teutonicism. Deutschland screamed "GOD! PLEASE! STOP!"

extensive remixed v2.0 released 27 years later as Veteran's Day.

Americans should get on their knees and thank God Almighty for
raising up this laughing race of freemen.

Americans energetically pursue commerce, science, medicine, technology and the arts. When these designs are halted by conflict, they energetically pursue absolute, decisive, and ruthless destruction of their enemies. After visiting violence and securing victory they energetically return to the pursuit of commerce, science, medicine, technology and the arts.

One of Great Satan"s High Holy Days -
The Veterans Day National Ceremony is held each year on November 11th at Arlington National Cemetery . The ceremony commences precisely at 11:00 a.m. with a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns and continues inside the Memorial Amphitheater with a parade of colors by veterans' organizations and remarks from dignitaries. The ceremony is intended to honor and thank all who served in the United States Armed Forces.
The Veterans Day National Committee also selects a number of regional sites for Veterans Day observances throughout the country. From stirring parades and ceremonies to military exhibits and tributes to distinguished veterans, these events serve as models for other communities to follow in planning their own observances.
Their name legion, for they are thousands. From Bunker Hill to Chickamauga, from Midway to Fallujah.

America's veterans put their lives on hold, deploy overseas, incinerate our enemies, return home and continue to build this awesome place.

and the world can never thank ya'll enough.

Pic - "America's Victories"

Thursday, November 10, 2016

3 Deaths Will Rock The Middle East

"You see? Death comes for us all."

Allegedly whispered to King Edward by Princess Isabella, such ancient ideas are actually right on target today.

US policy is often dominated by the here-and-now, but what happens when dominant figures for good or bad are suddenly no longer on the scene? That’s probably going to be a challenge that will confront the next administration and throw long-held policy assumptions into doubt.

Here are three figures to whom Washington has geared policy for years that likely will not survive the next administration:

  • Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
  • Khamenei has served as Iran’s supreme leader (and, as far as the Iranian regime is concerned, the deputy of the Messiah on earth) since 1989, but the 77-year-old ayatollah has recently battled cancer and is reputed to be in ill-health. That he allowed himself to be photographed in the hospital signaled Iranians that they should be prepared for a transition and that his health crisis was not merely something that could be swept under the rug. What comes next? In theory, the 86-member Assembly of Experts picks the new supreme leader but, in reality, they are little more than a coffee klatch that rubber stamps a decision made by influential powerbrokers and faction heads. So who might come next? Council on Foreign Relations scholar Ray Takeyh has suggested it could be Ibrahim Raisi, a hardliner. Other scholars might argue that Khamenei’s successor would likely be a weaker, more run-of-the-mill ayatollah since no one else would get buy-in from all factions. Takeyh is probably right, however, in the notion that the new Supreme Leader will trend far more hardline than even Khamenei did after his selection. The difference between now and 1989 is that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is far better resourced and powerful (thanks, Secretary Kerry!). They will never subordinate themselves to someone who they see as weak and too flexible.
Is the West prepared for an even more radical and ideological supreme leader? Of course, there’s another possibility: Nothing requires the leadership to be an individual; it’s always possible that absent a consensus, a council of leadership will emerge with multiple ayatollahs representing the major factions. 

This might create an entirely new dynamic but again one not favorable to the West as, when the factional competition gets too fierce, bad things happen as hardliners seize hostages and sponsor terrorism in order to prove their dominance and purity.
  • Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani
  • As corrosive as Khamenei has been to international peace and the reputation of Shi’ism globally, Sistani has been the opposite. In every crisis, Sistani has worked to repair crises and calm passions rather than inflame them. He has regularly reached across the sectarian divide and condemned terrorism. When Sunni terrorists blew up the al-‘Askari shrine in Samarra in 2006, Sistani forbade any reprisals but when the Islamic State seized the overwhelmingly Sunni city of Mosul, he called for volunteers to help the city; hundreds of Shi’ites willingly gave their lives in answer to him. But what happens when Sistani passes away? It’s a subject of conversation in Najaf and Karbala. Few locals believe the other three resident Grand Ayatollahs will rise to the stature of Sistani, though. In 1994, when Grand Ayatollah Araki passed away, Khamenei tried to suggest that he would now be the sole ‘source of emulation,’ but was basically laughed off the stage as his religious credentials barely qualify him to be an ayatollah. Khamenei has been maneuvering to impose the 68-year-old former Iranian Judiciary Chief Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi upon Najaf. Iraqis say local Shi’ites wouldn’t accept Shahroudi and would likely favor one of Sistani’s prominent students but what might a fight mean? Again, nothing requires a single source of emulation—historically, there have been many–but if there is a crisis, would any successor have the stature to restore calm and promote peace as Sistani has done?
One thing is clear: Any Palestinian aspirant would likely only consolidate his power upon the corpses of his rivals.
  • Mahmoud Abbas
  • The 81-year-old Palestinian Authority president is currently serving the 12th year of his four-year presidential term. Unlike Yasser Arafat before him, Abbas refuses to appoint a successor. So what happens when he dies? Muhammad Dahlan, the former head of Arafat’s and Abbas’ Fatah political party in Gaza, is a name often floated, but he wouldn’t be a shoo-in or unopposed. Nasser al-Kidwa, Arafat’s nephew, is another possibility. The United States and Europe like Salam Fayyad, the former finance minister. Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian politician serving time in an Israeli prison for terrorism and murder, is popular among many Palestinians but it is unlikely Israel would release a man serving five life sentences. One thing is clear: Any Palestinian aspirant would likely only consolidate his power upon the corpses of his rivals. Palestine is already a failed entity, with Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip. If the West Bank collapses, that would change fundamental assumptions which have been enough to keep what little peace process there is on life support. It also might provide an opening for Hamas or other radical groups (think the Islamic State) to make inroads.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

China's Stealth Drones

When it comes to weaponized drones - Red China has potential!

Two drones especially look threatening. Both are somewhat innocuously labeled 'target drones' 

The Stealth bomber looking CH - 805 Stealth Target Drone, is a 4-meter wingspan flying wing drone that can fly high subsonic speeds. Its RCS of 0.01 square meters indicates its role as a target for simulating stealth aircraft to Chinese fighters and air defense missiles. However, its high flight performance would make it a good candidate for potential modification into an operational use, such as a 'wingman' drone for Chinese fighters and bombers.

And the Orbital Fighter looking CK-20 is a supersonic target drone concept in the advanced stages of development. A 5.5-ton, single-engine aircraft roughly the size of a jet fighter trainer, it can fly at an altitude of 18 km, reach speeds of up to Mach 1.8. It may make first flight around 2020, and like the CH-805, has stealthy features, including canted vertical stabilizers. Similarly, its high speed could make it a candidate to be developed into an operational role.

Monday, November 7, 2016

44's Failed Middle East Policy

Everyone knows the Iraq 44 inherited was seemingly stable but had 144,000 American troops in the country. Saddam's dictatorship was deposed. The 2007 Bush military surge had worked and Iraq was beginning to exhibit long-awaited signs of stability. By a precipitous politically motivated withdrawal of U.S. forces, 44's policy mortgaged the hard-won gains made through spilled blood and treasure and, moreover, allowed Iraq's venal sectarian divide to dominate the Baghdad government.

Thus, the outcome, which witnessed the rise of IS, reflected a quick political fix rather than a commitment to long-term stability. Key Iraqi cities fell to the ISIL militant insurgents. Fast forward. Now thousands of American special forces are back in Iraq trying to help the Iraqi military retake lost territory.

We are still paying the regional price for 44's hasty withdrawal.

Egypt: While much of the Mideast appeared strangely static, the Arab Spring exploded in Cairo in 2011. Pro-democracy demonstrations toppled the authoritarian but pro-American rule of President Hosni Mubarak ushering in a swirl of events that resulted in an elected but thuggish Muslim Brotherhood regime. Soon rising frustrations the following year led to a new military government in Cairo. Once close political ties between Cairo and Washington are destabilized.

Syria exploded in 2011 as demonstrations tried to topple the entrenched Assad Family regime, a secular but longtime Russian client. Syria's original uprisings were probably democratic but were soon hijacked by hardline Islamic jihadi forces. While 44 fiddled rhetorically while supporting the Syrian uprising, his Administration led from behind when it came to decisive action. Before long Russia decided to support their longtime Syrian client. Over 500,000 people have been killed; Aleppo is a humanitarian hell. Millions of Syrians have become refugees; the surge has swamped neighboring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey and is flooding into Europe. There's no end in sight in this grinding conflict.

Libya saw its longtime dictator Col. Gaddafi toppled by a series of tribal uprisings. Later the U.S. and France sent massive air support to help break in the impasse in the civil war. But what then? Radical jihadi militias burned down the American consulate in Banghazi and killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Libya remains in chaos and serves as a conduit for refugee flows into Italy. While we are well rid of Gaddafi, what were HRC State Department's plans for the day after the overthrow?

Yemen: Once touted as an Administration socio-political success story, Yemen has descended into a dangerous spiral of tribal conflict amid sectarian divides. A U.N. official told the Security Council, "The state of Yemen is broken," and there are 20 million people in need of humanitarian assistance."

Turkey: The once rock solid and reliable relationship between the U.S. and Turkey is threatened. Tragically, Turkey's once staunchly secular Republic is increasingly Islamic-lite under the authoritarian rule of President Erdogan. Ties with Washington are deeply frayed.

The Mideast now suffers the aftershocks of 44's fundamentally failed foreign policy.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Super Patriot Missiles

The Army is advancing effort to upgrade the radar, fire control technology and flight software for its PATRIOT missile in order to sharpen its target tracking ability against approaching enemy attacks.

The Army has awarded a contract-extension with Lockheed Martin to further develop these technological advances for the weapon.   

The $ 13.4 million modification includes engineering services for phased array tracking radar intercept on the PATRIOT Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) - also known as PAC-3 MSE.

“The PAC-3 MSE program includes flight software, flight testing, modification and qualification of subsystems, production planning and tooling, and support for full Patriot system integration,” according to Lockheed.

At the end of last year, the Army’s Patriot missile destroyed a mock-enemy theater ballistic missile target in a recent test-firing in order to demonstrate new guidance technology built into the weapon, Army officials said.

The Patriot Advanced Capability-3 is an advanced kinetic energy hit-to-kill interceptor surface-to-air missile designed to knock out incoming threats and protect ground forces, buildings and other assets.  As a kinetic energy interceptor, the weapon relies upon the sheer force of impact to destroy approaching enemy attacks and does not need to use explosives – thus the “hit-to-kill” description. 

The Patriot can be used for close-in threat approaching targets such as drones, cruise missiles and even enemy aircraft. At the same time, the missile can destroy longer-range theater ballistic missile targets as well, Army officials have explained.

The missile system also functions in tandem with the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense, THAAD, system to provide the U.S. with a “multi-tier theater defense.” 

To intercept an incoming missile, it steers towards a predetermined intercept point chosen by its ground-based fire solution computer, selects the proper trajectory, and then applies a direct, body-to-body hit on the target.

In service since the early 80s, Patriot missiles have been upgraded several times, including this latest MSE software improvement. This test, which took place in December of last year, was engineered to asses an even newer target-tracking technology called Post Deployment Build, or PDB-8, service officials explained. 

“PDB - 8 software is a major software build that provides improved capability against the evolving threat and is fully compatible with the IBCS (Integrated Battle Command System). The air and missile defense threat continues to progress and proliferate, and the Patriot system is continually evolving to deliver threat-paced capabilities in the current and persistently-changing threat environment,” Dan O’Boyle, spokesman for Program Executive Office, Missiles and Space, told Scout Warrior in a written statement last year. 

The PAC-3, which is deployed in military theaters around the world, is a lower-tier, hit-to-kill missile and member of the Ballistic Missile Defense System. It features a solid propellant rocket motor, aerodynamic controls, attitude control motors and inertial navigation.

During last year's test, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., the Patriot used its Active Electronically Scanned Array to track data, detect and engage the target, an Army statement said. The system uses radar, sensors, guidance technology and an integrated fire control technology to track and destroy targets. 

“Preliminary test data indicates a successful Juno (Theater Ballistic Missile-like) target intercept with missile number one and a successful test flight.  The test was conducted to:demonstrate the capability of the PATRIOT system, using PDB-8 to detect, track, engage and kill a threat representative TBM (Theater Ballistic Missile) with PAC-3 MSE Missiles.

The Patriot is now in service with at least 13 countries around the globe, including five NATO countries. Up to 16 PAC-3 missiles can be loaded up into a launcher for increased firepower and defensive capabilities. Also, the weapon is highly mobile and can be fired from an Army Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, or HEMTT.

Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Boeing are all associated with Patriot missile development, technology and production.

The full $13.4 million modification amount agreed upon for this most recent contract was obligated at the time of the award. Work will be performed at the Army Reserve Center in Grand Prairie, Texas and at the White Sands Missile Reserve in White Sands, New Mexico. The estimated completion date is January 30, 2018. Army Contracting Command, is the contracting activity.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Future Navy

The Navy is undertaking a series of reviews, one, the force structure assessment, is currently underway at the Pentagon under the auspices of the service’s leadership. Three other Congressionally mandated studies look further out into the future—one internal to the Navy, another conducted by a federally-funded research center and another by a think-tank—are nearly complete and are currently in the process of being approved before being submitted to lawmakers.

All four reviews are likely to call for a larger fleet and will likely be shared with the Congress before the new President submits his or her budget proposal.

Generally speaking, the Navy will operate in a much more dispersed manner to maintain its presence around the globe while still maintaining its striking power.

One of the keys to the Navy’s future force structure architecture will be the submarine fleet.

 The Navy does not have enough submarines to meet the demand for undersea assets with the 52 boats currently in the fleet, which is more than the stated requirement for 48 attack subs (SSN). However, even if the Navy increases the requirement for the number of submarines, the service is physically incapable of increasing the number of boats in the fleet significantly by the late 2020s. However, the service is trying to mitigate the gap by extending the lives of older Los Angeles-class SSNs so that they can deploy one more time. The Navy also hopes to buy a second Virginia-class SSN in fiscal year 2021 and continue buying two attack submarines per year indefinitely. That is the only way for the Navy to recover from the current submarine deficit.

 However, given the insatiable demand for ships and submarines around the globe, the Navy recognizes it will never have enough assets to meet every combatant commander request. Thus, the service is turning toward unmanned technology.

 Meanwhile, recapitalizing the all-important sea-based strategic deterrent—which will comprise 70 percent of America’s nuclear arsenal—remains the Navy’s top priority.

America's Future Navy: Dispersed, Unmanned and Underwater

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

War: The American Way

From Havok Journal

There is an unfortunate disconnect when it comes to the American perception of war. The average American seems to think that war is conducted by drone strikes and jets dropping precision munitions on folks living in tents. Yes, we do kill our enemies this way but it is not the only way. Unfortunately what it does is paint a false picture of the reality of armed conflict. 

While we have many advanced weapons at our disposal, war is still essentially the same. To be decisive we must place American rifleman in range of opposing and similarly armed counterparts.

Violence on this level has not changed, only the popular and public perception of it. Americans at home want their wars run clean and cold, through the digital optics on board fast moving airframes delivering their ordinance. This is a problem, because this is not how war works.

Let’s take a look at some recent conflicts, starting with WW2. Often looked back on with nostalgia and reverence for being the last time the good guys fought real bad guys. The shine of metallic P-51 Mustang fuselages and flashy nose art can be distracting from the fact that our grandparents were killing each other by any means possible. In this conflict there was no mistake about the goal, or the nature of the conflict. Everything was a valid target, be it soldier or civilian. High level bombers rained high explosive and incendiary death down on the civilian populations of their enemies.

The will of the enemy needed to be broken, not just the fighting man and materiel. We understood that in this war, the violence nob needed be cranked up to 10 and then snapped it off. We nuked two cities just to end the war and to prove a point. The folks back home had no idea of the level of brutality that men were inflicting upon other men. The American idea of war at the time remained this, that what must be to end the war should be done.

Fast forward a few years and we are now in Vietnam. Not only politically volatile but socially as well; images and video of the soldiers in combat were being broadcast into the living rooms of Americans at home. This didn’t sit too well with the American public as Mom and Dad got to watch their sons being blown apart on the evening news. The nation, for the first time got to see the true face of war. This had consequences of course, as this apparently wasn’t how the young folks in America wanted to spend their summer vacations. They could turn to those images and see what was waiting for them in the jungles of a place thousands of miles from home.

Politicians ran the war as popular support waned with every image of napalm burned children, and GIs in various states of messed up. The soldiers suffered as their ability to make violence was limited by restrictive rules of engagement, stemming from indecisive political meddling. We all know how this story ends, yet it started a new chapter in the way Americans fight, and their perception of warfare. Americans just didn’t realize that what they were seeing was not new.

As a consequence of Vietnam the American public came face to face with the brutal nature of warfare. Atrocities committed by both sides were exposed and the scars from these events were left on the heart of the nation. We abolished the draft, and the military industrial complex continued working on smarter munitions. Weapons were being designed to save lives; if you don’t see the irony in that statement then I can’t help you.

The idea that war and its magnitudes of violence could be minimized and victory still attained over a determined enemy were easily swallowed by the public. Americans watched as laser guided bombs and cruise missiles devastated the Iraqi army in Gulf War I and we all swallowed this as proof. We were in and out, victory accomplished with minimal casualties on our side. What we didn’t see was that the violence was still there. This factor however was mitigated by the disintegration of the Iraqi military. In the near future this would change.

We now find ourselves in the present day, 14 years into a conflict that should have been over in less than half the time. In WW2 our goals were clear: victory at any cost because there was no alternative. The violence needed to accomplish this was understood by all who participated. If only America understood this necessity now they would know why we are still fighting the same enemy with no victory in sight. America has confused the pop culture idea of war with its reality.

War has not changed; only the popular perception of it has. We are bombarded from youth by images and concepts of what war is or should be. So there is an understandable bit of confusion when the military is producing weapons to reduce damage, at the same time politicians are selling war as a thing that can be limited to preserve the image of the American peace keeper. These things contribute to the American version of war, ideally bloodless affairs where only the enemy gets killed and the harming of civilians is unacceptable.

Here is the reality of warfare: people die. What I mean by people is this; that combatant and non-combatant are killed the same. War is the breaking of bone, of high explosive liquefying solid organs. It is the ignition of organic matter through the heat of explosive chemical reactions. It is the boot heel and the fist. We have been plagued by the notion that warfare can be limited and in doing so we have diluted our ability to achieve victory.

War is a destructive process and our ability to creatively destroy our fellow man is unrivaled. Warfare as an extension of politics should be the last resort; I do not seek to glorify it. It must be conducted with the utmost violence in order to achieve the goals set forth. If this is not the intent, and conflict is entered into with limitations and lack of vision, then we will find ourselves repeating the mistakes of the other conflicts we so often find ourselves half-heartedly engaging in.

We draw these conflicts out because we are fighting according to a set of culturally imposed rules that no one else is playing by. Do you think ISIS shares our same view on warfare? This is not a gentleman’s game. Hang up your powdered wig and 18th Century ideals of fairness in war.

What I ask is that we as a nation face this reality. If we send our soldiers into harm’s way let them do what needs to be done to preserve their lives and to deprive the enemy of theirs. Wars are won in the will and we seem to be lacking the conviction to rob the enemy of theirs. If you don’t want our warriors to be plying their trade then do not send them.

This is a conversation that must happen as we face an inhuman enemy, capable of horrific violence, and who is single minded in their pursuit of total war. What can be gained by a more realistic view on war I cannot say? Perhaps a diminished propensity to rely on it for our answers, and when used it is done in such a way as to end it swiftly and decisively.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Yemen No Fly Zone?

For much of the post-World War II era, Saudi Arabia has enjoyed a special relationship with Washington. As America's key regional ally, primary energy provider and key arms market, Riyadh’s ideological mismatch with Western liberal values has traditionally been overlooked, but the contemporary focus on Salafist-inspired jihadism has highlighted this ideological mismatch.

For all Riyadh's multi-billion dollar annual outlays on American and British defence equipment, it has rarely had to employ the weapons on which it has splurged so much money. That is, until the young defence minister Muhammad bin Salman launched an ill-considered Saudi-led air campaign against, and subsequent invasion of, Yemen more than a year ago.

Time for a Yemeni No Fly Zone?

The Saudi prosecution of the war has come under increasing criticism for its apparent lack of a coherent strategic aim as well as the lack of attention paid to target identification and minimisation of civilian casualties. A UN report released in January criticised the significant humanitarian impact of Riyadh’s naval blockade on the Yemeni population, and noted that up to the time of the report 60% of civilian deaths (or more than 2600 people) were caused by the air campaign. These deaths are not on the scale we have seen in Syria of course, but Riyadh’s poor performance in prosecuting the campaign are beginning to pose deep questions for Washington and some European capitals.

The targeting mishap that led to the deaths of scores of Yemenis and injuries to hundreds more has thrown into sharp focus the role of the West in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.

Targeting mistakes will always happen in war regardless of the professionalism and experience of the aircrew, particularly when air support is provided while troops are in contact with the enemy or there are targets on the ground inter-mingled with the civilian population. Civilian casualties also occur when attacking forces are in an urban area and the intent is to kill those fighters or force them to leave through indiscriminate use of force, such as we see in Aleppo right now.

But Yemen appears to be a different case – civilian casualties are being caused by incompetence.
Early on in the campaign, US officials were quoted in the New York Times as saying that inexperienced Saudi pilots were flying their missions at too high an altitude, thereby decreasing the accuracy of their attacks and increasing the risk of civilian casualties. Only five days before the strike on the funeral the Washington Post quoted a US official as saying Saudi killing of civilians was due to 'errors of capability or competence, not malice.' Despite these concerns, there appears to be an unfounded belief that the Arab coalition is capable of changing its operational methodology by itself. A British Conservative MP, after returning from a fact-finding mission to Saudi Arabia, recently told the BBC that 'they (Saudi-led coalition) have made some mistakes and have breached (international humanitarian law) in the past, but I can tell you this...things have been really tightened up.'

The rather uncomfortable fact for Washington is that it has provided refuelling aircraft to support the Saudi-led air campaign, and some operational staff support (which allegedly doesn’t extend to target or weapons selection). Moreover, both Washington and London have provided the munitions that are killing Yemeni civilians. US-made cluster munitions have turned up in civilian areas of the capital Sana’a and Amnesty International claims an August 2016 attack on a MSF-run hospital in northern Yemen that killed 11 people used US-made bombs. Claims have also been made that UK-manufactured munitions have featured in attacks on civilian targets in Yemen.

The focus on civilian deaths in Yemen resulting from the actions of a close American ally is also challenging for those in Washington trying to advocate for military intervention in Syria to stop civilians being killed in Aleppo. If the justification for establishing a no-fly zone or safe zones in Syria under US protection is to stop Washington’s enemies from targeting Syrian civilians, isn’t then there an equally compelling case for establishing the same to protect Yemeni civilians from the incompetent actions of Washington’s allies? Of course this is not going to happen, but to counter this argument, Washington's response to Riyadh's poor handling of its air campaign has to be something more than rhetorical.

Washington has leverage over Saudi behaviour in Yemen that it doesn’t have in trying to influence Russian and Iranian behaviour in Syria. Riyadh is reliant on Washington for its own security, and much of its military training and equipment. And while the National Security Committee’s spokesman has said that US assistance is not a blank cheque, Washington could send a much stronger message to Riyadh by ceasing refuelling support to the air campaign, with a threat to cease future supply of air-delivered munitions.

Stopping refuelling would hinder but by no means stop the campaign, and the Saudis could purchase weapons elsewhere and arguably hit back by seeking other suppliers in the future. But if Washington can do little to stop civilian deaths in Syria because it has no leverage, it should at least do all it can to avoid complicity in civilian deaths in Yemen.