Tuesday, January 31, 2017

ISIS' Chemical Weaponry

Well, the AP came through...

Iraqi forces discovered a mustard chemical warfare agent in eastern Mosul alongside a cache of Russian surface-to-surface missiles.

Iraqi and U.S. officials have repeatedly warned of Islamic State group efforts to develop chemical weapons. When Iraqi forces retook Mosul University earlier this month, they found chemistry labs they believed had been converted into makeshift chemical weapons labs.

ISIS' chemical weapons facility was set up in the Nineveh ruins — an ancient site just over 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the Tigris, but removed from the city's dense neighborhoods — to keep it a secret from Mosul residents who might be passing information to Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition.

Iraqi forces showed journalists a tank of the chemical agent and a warehouse of more than a dozen surface-to-surface rockets bearing Russian inscriptions.

The number of casualties due to IS chemical weapons is a small fraction compared to the hundreds of civilians killed in car and suicide bombings carried out by the group. Experts say that is largely due to the low grade of the weapons and the group's lack of access to efficient delivery systems.

The types of rockets found at the site suggest the Islamic State group was attempting to weaponize the chemical agent, the facility was being used up until just one or two weeks ago.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Audie Murphy Day


For those of us born betwixt the Fall of the Wall and 911, we kinda grew up with Great Satan unbound. Until Operation Iraqi Freedom, for older Americans - battles and history were old school stuff that would probably never happen again.

As "Rock of The Marne" blitzed through the largest Arab army in history in 20 days, her combat power was unparalled:

"An infantry division in name only, fielding 270 Abrams M1 tanks with mobile infantry that could be hastily formed into adhoc battle groups to handle a variety of missions"

Thunder Running into downtown Baghdad, even phoning up the Iraqi Minister of Misinformation at Palestine Hotel to request "Parking for 88 tanks" seemed like the debut of audacious American war fighting.

Actually - "Rock of the Marne" was following in the footsteps of their spiritual great grandfathers

"On 26 January 1945, 2d Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by 6 tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to prepared positions in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. 

"Behind him, to his right, 1 of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 

"2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machinegun against the enemy.

"He was alone and exposed to German fire from 3 sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank.

"Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack which forced the Germans to withdraw.

"His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2d Lt. Murphy's indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy's objective.

"The President of the United States of America has awarded in the name of The Congress the MEDAL OF HONOR to LIEUTENANT AUDIE L. MURPHY, UNITED STATES ARMY

Today is the anniversary of Lt Murphy's heroic achievement - Americans everywhere should get on their knees and thank God Almighty for raising up this laughing race of free men.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

45 And NATO

45's core strategic argument is that the United States is overextended. The core reason for this overextension is that the United States has substituted a system of multilateral relationships for a careful analysis of the national interest. In this reading, Washington is entangled in complex relationships that place risks and burdens on the United States to come to the aid of some countries. However, its commitments are not matched by those countries in capability, nor in intent.

Is it Overextension by Alliance?

NATO is the obvious case. The United States has been involved in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Islamic world. NATO has not provided decisive strategic support to these efforts. Many have provided what support they could or what support they wanted, but that level of support was far below the abilities of NATO members.

The members of the European Union have roughly the same collective gross domestic product as the United States, and a larger population. They also have a substantial industrial base. Europe is well beyond where it was when NATO was founded, when it was incapable of collective defense without the United States. NATO members have taken for granted that Washington will bear the primary burden for defense, measured not only in terms of dollars spent, but also in the development of military capabilities. 

As important, the primary strategic activity of the United States for the past 15 years has been in the Islamic world. Many in NATO objected to the U.S. operation in Iraq, and except for the United Kingdom they provided little or no significant support. Alliance members have no obligation to join in conflicts initiated by the United States outside the area of NATO’s focus. 45 accepts that principle but points out that the organization has been irrelevant to U.S. strategic needs.

Where the alliance engaged, it did so with far too little force to constitute a strategic force. Their reasonable argument that the 28-member alliance makes no commitment to out-of-area engagements not undertaken under Article 5 raises the question of what, then, NATO’s value is to the United States. In sum, NATO lacks significant strategic capabilities, and the alliance is defined in such a way that its members can and do elect to avoid those conflicts that matter most to America.

It is therefore not clear that NATO as currently constituted is of value to the United States. The United States is liable for the defense of Europe. Europe is not liable for defending American interests, which today lie outside of Europe. 45 believes this relationship must be mutually renegotiated.

If the Europeans are unwilling to renegotiate, the United States should exit NATO and develop bilateral relations with countries that are capable and are prepared to work with the United States in areas of its national interest in return for guarantees from Washington.

Similar re-examination of our relationships ought to be carried out globally in regard to allies such as Japan and South Korea to assure that such relationships remain of value to both parties, and that the level of effort and risk reflects that value.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

45's Lessons From The Surge

In January 2007, 43 announced that the U.S. would change course in Iraq to reverse the tide of the war. His decision to set in motion the 2007-2008 “Surge” of more than 20,000 additional U.S. troops – armed with a new strategy – pulled Iraq back from the abyss, decimated jihadist and Iranian terror networks, and provided an opportunity for emergence of a state amenable to long-term American interests in the Middle East.

General Jack Keane points out that

45 would do well to ponder that feat. Like 43, he will operate in an environment where Islamic extremists and other anti-U.S. actors are emboldened by the status quo, and where the roadblocks to victory are disheartening and numerous. He should zero in on the following lessons from the Surge:

1. The national interest should always prevail over public opinion and short-term political calculations.

The decision to undertake the Surge was deeply unpopular. Many suggested that the U.S. should simply cuts its losses in Iraq, and leave. But the President would not allow himself to be beholden to the polls. He identified the root of the problem, relied on a clear-eyed view of the national interest to develop a response, let the strategy drive questions over resources, and moved ahead.

2. Recognize when your policy is failing and be willing to change it.

43 acknowledged that his previous approach was inadequate. He did not attempt to sugarcoat the reality of the situation nor did he try to define down America’s security requirements. He took ownership of the policy and defied serious resistance within his own administration to reverse course. That process required wisdom, acceptance of risk, and courage.

3. There is no viable substitute for American military power in certain crises.

It was clear in 2006 that Iraqi forces were incapable of regaining control amidst increasing sectarian violence. Yet we continued to transfer responsibility for security to these forces in order to pull back and eventually withdraw our own forces. A change in strategy proved critical to turning the war around, but it could not have been executed without a significant commitment of U.S. military forces moving out from their bases and stepping into the fight.  

4. Military action is a critical component – not the totality – of a successful anti-Islamic extremist campaign.

With the Surge, the strategy shifted from handing tasks off to Iraqis to securing the population. Capturing and killing terrorists remained a vital priority, but the mission required a non-military track that included political reconciliation and economic development. This effort, advanced in coordination with military operations, gave us a chance to make sustainable security gains on the ground.

5. Securing the peace demands continued effort.

The Surge was not the ultimate solution to Iraq’s problems. The subsequent Iraq tragedy lies in U.S. policymakers’ failure to capitalize on success and chart a viable plan for the next phase of the war. Then-General David Petraeus cautioned in 2008 that the progress in Iraq – decreasing violence, a weakened al Qaeda, and positive movements toward a long-term political solution – remained fragile and would require a concerted U.S. effort to sustain. 44 largely neglected the mission in Iraq for a variety of reasons, which helped lead to our enemies’ resurgence.

The incoming administration will face a world even more dangerous and complex than the one that we faced in 2007. Yet some of the lessons from the Surge are enduring—and pertinent.
45 now has an opportunity to apply them in attempting to restore American national security

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Flipping The Syrian Script

In the week after his inauguration, 45 will have an unusual opportunity to put his new diplomatic designs to the test in, of all places, Astana, the remote capital of Kazakhstan.

If this sounds like a Borat joke, it isn't. Astana is where Russia is convening a deadly serious new round of Syrian peace talks, to which it ostentatiously invited the incoming administration.

45's team has not yet publicly responded to this invitation, but it should seize the chance to work with Russia and others on the intractable Syria problem, in a way that long eluded 44's team. If the Astana conference is too soon for serious input from Washington, a follow-up, UN-sponsored February 8 meeting in Geneva will provide a perfect second chance.

There is nothing new, or necessarily bad, about trying to work with Russia on Syria. 44 and Secretary of State Kerry tried that for the past four years. They failed, with the limited exception of the 2013 deal to rid the Assad regime of most (though not all) of its chemical weapons. For 45 to renew this effort would make eminent good sense -- provided that this time it offers a realistic prospect of achieving positive American objectives, rather than simply buying time for the negative Russian one of keeping Assad in power at any price (see "45 and the Middle East: Between Hope and Apprehension," Fikra Forum).

That prospect exists if new realties on the ground, and new diplomatic approaches, are properly exploited. There is reason to believe that 45 intends to do exactly that, based on a careful reading of his enigmatic January 16 interview in the Times of London and Germany's Bild newspaper. There, he proposed a deal on Russia sanctions in which "a lot of people are gonna benefit." He mentioned that nuclear arms reductions would be "a part of it," but also referred to the "terrible humanitarian situation" in Syria.

Alleviating this humanitarian catastrophe should be the first objective of a new U.S. approach.

And that means going to Astana with three clear, urgent priorities: shoring up the promising but still shaky Syrian ceasefire; ensuring better, more impartial delivery of emergency humanitarian relief; and insisting on protection for the remaining areas held by the relatively moderate opposition, primarily in the northern province of Idlib and the southern province of Deraa. This would prevent those areas from becoming, in the words of one senior Western humanitarian aid official, "the great new killing fields of the region" -- and precipitating a new, uncontrollable flood of desperate refugees into Jordan, Turkey, Europe, and perhaps beyond.

The second U.S. objective should be to coordinate a faster but more precise offensive against Islamic State and al-Qaeda terrorists inside Syria. This could mean much more than just an isolated Russian airstrike. Rather, it could include an agreement to deconflict all forces arrayed against these designated terrorist groups: not just Americans and Russians, but also regime and Free Syrian Army rebel units, Turkish and Kurdish forces, and more. That, in turn, could facilitate two major U.S. objectives: liberating the Islamic State's self-declared capital in Raqqa sooner rather than later, and preempting direct clashes between Washington's Kurdish and Turkish friends, at least on Syrian soil.

A third, longer-term objective in Astana should be to at least begin the process of distinguishing legitimate actors and interests in Syria from Iranian, Hezbollah, and other foreign sectarian militias there (see "Preventing the Radicalization of Syria," Fikra Forum). The United States should urge conference participants to demand the eventual withdrawal of the latter actors, perhaps keeping open an option for international peacekeepers by common consent. Even if such a declaration has no immediate practical effect, it would help reassure American friends inside Syria and beyond, and possibly set the stage for future steps to separate Russian and regime interests from those of Iran and its dangerous proxies.

Why would Russia accept any of this?

For one thing, 45 is prepared to offer the sweetener of selective sanctions relief. Crucially, though, he wouldn't need to offer very much, because Russia has additional reasons to compromise.

First, this deal would defer action against the Assad regime -- which is too weak to retake control of the whole country without outside military support anyway.

Second, Russia really does want to rid Syria of terrorists, which it sees as a threat to its own security. And third, a realistic compromise on Syria would serve Moscow's ability to balance among rival regional players: Sunnis and Shiites, Turks and Kurds, even Arabs and Israelis.

Notably, some Arab players on opposite sides of the war are newly aware of this last important point. On January 9, the pro-regime Syrian daily al-Watan published on op-ed with the sensational headline "Are Iran and Russia Really Selling Syria to Turkey?" -- before concluding with the sensible observation that Moscow "knows it must have a relationship not only with its allies but also with its adversaries." Four days later, the independent Jordanian daily al-Ghad put the case more bluntly: Russia, it opined, now wants "to change its image as the superpower that stood against the Sunnis."

Coming full circle, the Astana venue and participants symbolize this new combination of Russian confidence and potential concessions. Kazakhstan is a pro-Russian but Turkic-majority country, and a predominantly Muslim one that nevertheless just hosted an official visit by none other than Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. And the conference will include Iranians, Arabs, Turks, and even a few Kurds, who all continue to voice disparate views on Syria, plus the Assad regime and much of the mainstream opposition, which just rescinded a boycott warning.

And this time, unlike the earlier, equally diverse Geneva conferences on Syria, the United States may come with a realistic proposal that could bring Russia on board. If the 45th administration manages to eke out greater success in this key arena, it should be applauded by all Americans, regardless of political affiliation.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Paper Tiger

45'll have tons of issues to deal with, no doubt!

None, however, will come as close on the Richter scale as rising instability on the Korean Peninsula, powered first and foremost by a North Korean nuclear and ballistic-missile program that is advancing in both quality and quantity.

The typical options are on the table: more stringent economic sanctions on Pyongyang’s revenue sources; unconditional dialogue with the North Korean leadership; third-party sanctions on Chinese entities enmeshed in DPRK dealings; and, in the most extreme case, a preemptive U.S. air strike on its nuclear facilities. Interestingly enough, if 45 does in fact take the more forceful route, a new study indicates that any retaliation by the North Korean army on South Korea or U.S. military bases in the region may not be as destructive as originally assessed.

In a scenario where the U.S. Air Force uses military force against North Korea’s nuclear program, Pyongyang’s likeliest course of action in terms of retaliation is a heavy barrage of South Korea. Given the fact that the North boasts several different types of rocket-launch systems—one, the three-hundred-millimeter multiple rocket-launch system, can hit targets anywhere in South Korea—the United States would have to provide advance warning to its allies in Seoul in order for South Korean leadership to prepare for an incoming volley of rocket fire that would claim thousands of civilian lives.

According to the aforementioned study, however, many of the DPRK rocket systems along the DMZ suffer from technical lapses, poorly trained artillery crews, and a concentration of offensive weapons systems that would be highly susceptible to destruction once its location is compromised.

Because the DPRK can’t accurately predict how well its offensive systems would actually perform, Kim Jong-un wouldn’t have much confidence that a bombardment of South Korea’s capital would result in maximum impact. Throughout history, North Korean test launches have failed;  “roughly 25 percent of North Korean shells and rockets fail to detonate on target.”

The more inaccurate those shells are, the less likely Pyongyang will be able to strike fear into the heart of Seoul.

Even assuming that North Korea’s rocket systems perform the way they are intended, any fire into South Korea would expose Pyongyang’s systems to counter-battery fire. There is little doubt that even a single, coordinated volley of North Korean fire into South Korea would cause immense damage to civilian infrastructure, especially if the South Koreans for some reason are caught by surprise and slow to take defensive measures.

The northern suburbs of Seoul would be at risk of saturation, and the South Korean political leadership would wake up the next morning to a worst-case scenario with what could be tens of thousands of civilian deaths. South Korean and U.S. retaliation, though, would be even more punishing than Pyongyang’s initial volley—the very artillery and rocket systems that Pyongyang has spent decades perfecting would be wiped out in short order.

And, as for Pyongyang’s ballistic-missile inventory? Although the range of the North’s medium-range ballistic missiles can travel anywhere in South Korea, every missile fired during an operation is one less missile that Pyongyang can utilize for deterrence purposes—a problem that would be compounded the longer the skirmish goes on.

None of this is to argue for U.S. military activity against the North. For the United States to pull the trigger, Washington would subject its South Korean allies (and possibly Japan, if the war expands) to such incredible physical destruction that the economic leaps Seoul has produced over the past three decades would be severely jeopardized. Alliance relations between the United States and South Korea would be strained to a breaking point, as the United States inevitably attempts to de-escalate tensions, and the South Koreans itch to use ever-greater uses of force to bring eliminate the military capability of its northern neighbor.

And it should go without saying that nobody would be able to predict Pyongyang’s behavior in the event of hostilities; with his regime’s stability in jeopardy, there is nothing stopping Kim Jong-un from acting irrationally.

But, as war planners in the Defense Department update their strategies and war games throughout the year, this new assessment will give them some comfort that South Korea would survive from a retaliatory North Korean attack. How long it would take for South Korea to rebuild into the economic powerhouse it is today is a whole other story.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

44's Drone Legacy

The most convenient stick for certain elements with which to whack 44's foreign policy has always been his use of military drones to kill American enemies in chronically anarchic parts of the Mideast and Somalia.

A president who came into office hoping to put a friendlier face on American empire has made significant use of a global assassination technology that seems disturbingly uncircumscribed, not only by domestic laws and democratic oversight, but even by cost or inconvenience

Drones are to the 21st century what the atomic bomb was to the 20th and the crossbow was to the 12th: a new class of weapon that inspires an emotional nightmare of indiscriminate and rising bloodshed. It is an idea that seems to demand the creation of new taboos.

From the standpoint of innocent non-combatants who might be killed in a drone attack, the horror of the drone is just the same as the horror of ordinary bombing, whether perpetrated by planes or ships or wearers of suicide vests. It can really be of no comfort to the dead to know that their destruction was endorsed by an independent committee, or followed some sort of secret adversarial trial.

But since the legislative branch of the U.S. government has left the use of drones up to the president personally, and since the power to assassinate is hard to delegate even within the executive, drones have had a philosophical tendency to delineate the structure of American empire—to reveal the way in which death flows out into the world from the mind, some would say the whim, of one man. It is, in a sense, a public relations problem, one that Islamists have not been slow to exploit.

It was sheer chance that a constitutional lawyer was president when U.S. military drone technology reached an advanced state of perfectibility. Not that this seems to have made much difference. (When constitutional lawyers were needed to endorse torture, America had no trouble finding some.) Since historians continue to have no scholarly access to alternate realities—put DARPA to work on that one!—we have no way of knowing whether 44’s choices about drones have improved the world or made it worse.

The dead can be enumerated, loosely, although the White House’s estimates of “civilian” deaths are an order of magnitude lower than those of non-government assessors. Critics rightly ask whether we can know who is definitely a “civilian.” Indeed, they take Obama to task for the unintended deaths of rank-and-file combatants who were not personally any threat to the United States.

Politicians always think that history will be kind to them—that once all the records of their dilemmas and options are known, and their sincerity can be judged, they will be forgiven even their objective mistakes. They create diaries and assemble libraries knowing that they are pleading a case for themselves to be argued by others. Probably 44 is no different, privately.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

EMP Artillery

If the U.S. Army has its way, America’s next secret weapon may be an electromagnetic pulse artillery shell that paralyzes an enemy city.

These special shells won’t carry high explosive. Instead they will emit EMP bursts, or some other non-kinetic technology, to disrupt the computers, radio communications, Internet links and other ties that bind modern societies. And do so without creating any physical damage.

This is sort of a twenty-first-century version of  the neutron bomb, that notorious Cold War weapon designed to kill Soviet soldiers through a burst of radiation, while inflicting little damage to property. Except this weapon targets the radio frequency networks that keep a nation functioning.

The concept is expressed in a single paragraph in a new Army research proposal:

Extensive use of wireless RF [radio frequency] networking for critical infrastructure and communications systems provides an alternative attack vector for the neutralization of an adversary’s underlying industrial, civil, and communications infrastructure without the destruction of the hardware associated with those systems. Advances in munitions-based microelectronics and power technologies make possible the implementation of non-kinetic cyber and electromagnetic – or electronic warfare (EW) – attacks that could be delivered via artillery launched munitions. The precision delivery of the non-kinetic effects (NKE) electronics payload close to the target allows low power operation which limits the geographical extent of impacted systems, and reduces the overall impact on the electromagnetic spectrum.

In addition, the weapon must fit in a 155-millimeter artillery projectile, with the eventual goal of shrinking the weapon’s size so that a single shell can carry multiple submunitions, each capable of creating electronic havoc.

However, the proposal does not specify how all this is to be accomplished. A query to the Army didn’t shed much light. In an email response, the project scientist said that the project is “open to a broad range of non-kinetic effects.” In fact, the artillery shells don’t even have to be 155-millimeter, but “maybe any other caliber that has the space to place an electronic subsystem that can be used to neutralize an enemy infrastructure and computer based systems.”

Nonetheless, some kind of electromagnetic-pulse shell would appear to be a likely candidate. EMPs, those short but intense bursts of radiation that fry electronics, are generated by nuclear weapons. The United States has long been concerned that a nuclear device, especially one detonated at high altitudes, could massively disrupt the electronic fabric of American society.

However, conventional weapons, such as bombs and missiles, can also generate EMP bursts. North Korea allegedly has such devices, and Russia claims to have equipped aircraft and drones with them, while the Pentagon has been working on high-power microwave weapons for years.

Whether such microwave weapons are effective or reliable is another matter. But regardless of how the artillery shell disables electronics, what’s interesting is that artillery will be the delivery system.
Nuclear and nonnuclear EMP bombs, delivered by aircraft or missiles, can be launched at targets hundreds or thousands of miles away. But a shell launched from a 155-millimeter howitzer suggests the targets will only be ten or twenty miles away.

In other words, what the Army wants is a battlefield weapon for U.S. troops in fairly close proximity to enemy forces. Except that the research proposal isn’t asking for devices that would disrupt, say, Chinese or Russian military command-and-control systems.

Instead the Army speaks of paralyzing “an adversary’s underlying industrial, civil, and communications infrastructure.” This sounds more like some form of strategic bombing.

Or perhaps, it could be used to cripple an enemy city prior to an assault or a siege by U.S. ground troops.

The fact that the Army also desires a low-power weapon that precisely targets a small geographic area and a specific portion of the electromagnetic spectrum also suggests that the Pentagon is aware of the possibility of collateral damage. An artillery shell that fries the power supply for a government ministry is one thing, but frying the power supply to a hospital or water-treatment plant is another.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

COIN, Chechnya Style

Tiny Battles Gazette has a great bit on the Forever War in Chechnya.

One of multi money shots right here...

 Terror Tactics
The Russian army suffered greatly during the urban fighting of the First Chechen War and during the Second War the Russian High Command was eager to avoid repeating the same mistakes. As an alternative strategy the authorities opted for devastating air and artillery strikes to ‘preserve infantry fighting strength and combat effectiveness’). This approach reduced urban centers practically to rubble and made plain to the local population that the cost of supporting the insurgency would be prohibitive.

The general in charge of the operation wrote that the bombing of the city of Komsomolskaya forced the Chechen inhabitants ‘to say a permanent farewell to their town’). The enormously high civilian casualties which such methods incurred would have provoked outrage and protest in liberal democracies but in Russia the coverage was limited and the war weary public was largely uninterested.

From a strategic perspective, these tactics were effective and the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya ) reports that 841 Chechen fighters were killed in the battle for Komsomolskaya. By bombing urban centers into submission and using overwhelming force, the Russians gradually gained control of all big cities and population points. This had the effect of forcing the rebels to flee to the mountains and therefore lose their material support base. From then on the Russian campaign was ‘a containment mission’ and the security forces adopted a ‘village-targeting strategy’) to deprive the guerrillas of support in the mountains.

Indeed, by targeting the civilian population, Russian forces were able to gradually strip the rebels of ‘sanctuary and social support’ and thereby grind them down. Russian intimidation and brutality confirmed to the general populace ‘the futility of further resistance and the risk of genocidal collapse of the Chechen population’ . By adopting strategies reminiscent of 19th century counterinsurgency policy, the Russians left the population in no doubt that any collaboration with the insurgents would be punished.

Finally, the Russians conducted a ‘relentless, extensive and protracted HVT campaign’ which yielded numerous scalps. Although the intrinsic value of decapitation campaigns has been questioned, it is surely significant that ‘the past four top leaders of the Chechen militants have been removed from their posts due to their loss in targeted killings’ .

The decimation of the Chechen leadership would have degraded the rebels’ combat effectiveness.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Two China Policy

So, what's better than one China?

Why, two China's of course!

As best understood, the "One China Policy" refers to the something something policy or view that there is only one state called "China", despite the existence of two governments that claim to be "China". As a policy, this means that countries seeking diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC, Mainland China) must break official relations with the Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan) and vice versa.

The amoral corrupt cult of Realpolitik developed this ancient policy way back in the Cold War as a way to reassure, nurture and contain the Earth's largest Collective nation state.

That either the PRC or the ROC is the sole rightful government of all China and that the other government is illegitimate. While much of the western bloc maintained relations with the ROC until the 1970s under this policy, much of the eastern bloc maintained relations with the PRC.

While the government of the ROC considered itself the remaining holdout of the legitimate government of a country overrun by what it thought of as Communist rebels, the PRC claimed to have succeeded the ROC in the Chinese Civil War. Though the ROC no longer portrays itself as the sole legitimate government of China, the position of the PRC remained unchanged until the early 2000s, when the PRC began to soften its position on this issue to promote Chinese reunification. 

While the U.S. officially adheres to the one-China policy, it practices a de facto two-China policy. Under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. sells Taiwan military weapons, and the language of the act warns the People's Republic that any coercive unification efforts would be "of grave concern to the United States."

Beginning in the late 1980s, the two Chinas flouted their one-China policies by establishing economic and cultural but not political ties. Last summer Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui upset this delicate balance by referring to the "state to state relations" between Taipei and Beijing.

Chen Shui-bian, elected Taiwan's president in March on a pro-independence platform, has continued to pay lip service to independence--two Chinas--but, out of fear of provoking China, has refrained from explicitly repudiating the one-China policy.

Since Red China is acting out - seizing International turf, failing to handle North Korea and generally P.O.ing all her neighbors (except maybe Pakistan), it may be time to coax desired behavior from her with a new schoolmix called the Two China Policy

Friday, January 13, 2017

Royal Navy Versus China?

Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to the United States, recently told a Washington think tank that Britain will send aircraft carriers to the Pacific once they become operational in the 2020s. Four Royal Air Force Typhoon fighters, which arrived in Japan in October for joint exercises, are scheduled to fly over the South China Sea.

“Certainly, as we bring our two new aircraft carriers onstream in 2020, and as we renew and update our defense forces, they will be seen in the Pacific,” Darroch announced. “And we absolutely share the objective of this U.S. administration, and the next one, to protect freedom of navigation and to keep sea routes and air routes open.”

Naturally, Beijing warned that these moves could threaten relations between China and Britain.

There are two questions here.

The first is technical: What exactly does Britain think it can accomplish militarily against China? The Royal Navy is now down to just nineteen destroyers and frigates, and is phasing out its antiship missiles, leaving British warships to slug it out with cannon like the Grand Fleet at Jutland in 1916. The Royal Air Force is shrinking, and the British Army has fewer infantrymen than were killed on the first day of the Somme in 1916.

Compare this to China, whose defense spending has surged 12.9 percent per year between 1989 and 2011. Even with the Chinese economy slowing, the defense budget was still expected to increase by 7.9 percent in 2016.

Assuming the Queen Elizabeth–class carriers and their F-35B aircraft are ready by 2020—two big ifs, given the history of these two programs—then each carrier will accommodate perhaps fifty aircraft at most, including F-35B vertical/short takeoff and landing strike fighters, as well as assorted airborne early-warning and antisubmarine aircraft and helicopters.

If the Americans, with their bigger carriers and sophisticated Aegis-equipped escorts, are worried about Chinese submarines, hypersonic weapons and carrier-killer ballistic missiles, how would a British carrier task force fare? If a time warp could take a Queen Elizabeth battlegroup back to 1982, it could possibly take on the entire Argentine air force and navy. But China in 2020? Not likely.

Which in turn brings up the question of what Britain hopes to accomplish. As a means of asserting British influence in East Asia, the British military presence probably won’t help much unless London is prepared to somehow wield a bigger stick (nuclear weapons don’t count—China has them too). As deterrence against a Chinese attack on Taiwan or Japan, if Beijing isn’t afraid of the United States, then it’s not likely to be afraid of Britain.

Militarily, despite some claims that Britain could defeat China under some conditions, this seems a risky proposition at best. With Chinese GDP almost five times greater than Britain’s, it is a proposition that will only get riskier. In the high-tech arms race between America and China, Britain simply doesn’t have the resources to compete.

Nor should it. Regardless of what China does, there is still the emerging Russian threat in Europe. Wouldn’t it make sense to concentrate the Royal Navy in Europe and the Mediterranean, as in World War II, and let the United States worry about the Pacific?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

von Richthofen Day

Gott Mit Uns!

100 years ago today, Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen was awarded Imperial Deutschland's highest military award - Pour le Mérite - often informally referred to as the "Blue Max."  Pour le Mérite was awarded strictly as a recognition of extraordinary personal achievement, von Richthofen earned his for shooting down 16 confirmed French and British fighters and observation planes (not counting two unconfirmed kills).

With Red Baron as his nom de guerre, von Richthofen in his all red fighter wrecked havoc on Allied Air Forces for the next 15 months, shooting down 80 aircraft in very close combat. 

For comparison, the highest-scoring Allied ace, the Frenchman René Fonck, achieved 75 confirmed victories. The highest-scoring British Imperial fighter pilots were Canadian Billy Bishop, who was officially credited with 72 victories, Mick Mannock, with 61 confirmed victories, Canadian Raymond Collishaw, with 60, and James McCudden, with 57 confirmed victories.

Along with his posse of fighter pilots known as the Flying Circus, von Richthofen became an international celebrity and a genuine war hero to the Central Powers and Germany especially.

A true blue blood of Prussian nobility, von Richthofen led his Flying Circus to unparalleled success, peaking during "Bloody April" 1917. In that month alone he downed 22 British aircraft, including four in a single day, raising his official tally to 52. By June he had become the commander of the first of the new larger "fighter wing" formations: Jagdgeschwader 1, composed of Jagdstaffeln 4, 6, 10 and 11.

The Flying Circus was highly mobile and combined tactical units that could move at short notice to different parts of the front as required. In this way, JG1 became "The Flying Circus" or "Richthofen Circus", name coming both from the unit's mobility (including, where appropriate, the use of tents, trains and caravans) and its brightly colored aircraft.

von Richthofen was wounded in combat at least once and although he was performing the duties of a lieutenant colonel, he remained a captain as it was a Deutsch custom for a son not to hold a higher rank than his father, and von Richthofen's father was a reserve major.

Instead of using risky, aggressive tactics like his brother Lothar (40 victories), Manfred observed a set of maxims (known as "Dicta Boelcke" ) to assure success for both the squadron and its pilots. He was not a spectacular or aerobatic pilot, like his brother or the renowned Werner Voss, however, he was a noted tactician and squadron leader and a fine marksman. Typically, he would dive from above to attack with the advantage of the sun behind him, with other pilots of his jasta covering his rear and flanks.

Richthofen was a brilliant tactician, building on his mentor, an air superiority pioneer Oswald Boelcke's tactics. Unlike Boelcke, he led by example and force of will rather than by inspiration. He was often described as distant, unemotional, and rather humorless, though some colleagues contended otherwise. He circulated to his pilots the basic rule which he wanted them to fight by: "Aim for the man and don't miss him. If you are fighting a two-seater, get the observer first; until you have silenced the gun, don't bother about the pilot".

Richthofen's early victories and the establishment of his reputation coincided with a period of German air superiority, but he achieved many of his successes against a numerically-superior enemy, who flew fighters that were, on the whole, better than his own.

At various times, several different German military aviation Geschwader (literally "squadrons"; equivalent to USAF "wings") have been named after the Baron particularly Jagdgeschwader 71 "Richthofen" (from 6 June 1959)—the first jet fighter unit established by the post-World War II German Luftwaffe; its founding commander was the most successful air ace in history, Erich Hartmann

von Ricthofen's tactical genius is still required learning today for Air Forces around the world and his autobiography is a very good read.

Today is the 100th anniversary of the creation of a legend.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Confronting North Korea

One of the most critical foreign policy challenges 45 will face in the early days of his administration is what to do about the nuclear saber rattling that continues to emanate from North Korea.

Ringing in 2017 with a New Year’s Day address, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told the world that the year ahead would see North Korea test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), perhaps one capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

Because North Korea denies most information to the outside world, no one knows for sure whether Kim’s claim is true or whether North Korea possesses the technological know-how to launch a missile on a suborbital trajectory and have it return to Earth on target. Last year, it tested its intermediate-range missile and failed seven out of eight times.

45 has signaled that he has a plan, but it remains under wraps. He did tweet that "North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won't happen!"

Whether successful or not, an ICBM test by North Korea would be very much against U.S. interests, and 45 should act to counter it as early as possible. A turn to the basics of deterrence would be the path most likely to succeed.

For deterrence to be effective, the United States should make it clear to North Korea and its autocratic 32-year-old leader that no benefits will flow from an ICBM test — that it will neither empower the regime nor advance its nuclear capability.

When North Korea threatened ICBM development in 2006, former Defense secretary William Perry and Ashton Carter, who now holds the job, recommended that the United States destroy any test missile on its launch pad. That plan, however, was considered too escalatory and raised fears that North Korea might respond by firing artillery at U.S. allies in the region, such as South Korea or Japan.

Instead, 45 could announce a plan to use U.S. missile defenses to shoot down any test ICBM after its launch. Shooting down North Korea’s test vehicle would be a spectacular demonstration of the futility of the regime continuing to pursue its nuclear ambitions, and far less escalatory than dropping bombs on North Korea.

At the same time, the new administration could threaten to undermine the Kim regime’s power through new information operations if North Korea tests an ICBM. 45 also could pressure China to intervene, though  44 and 43 had similar hopes and China never delivered.

45 made clear his dissatisfaction with China’s failure to intervene in a recent tweet: "China has been taking out massive amounts of money and wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade, but won't help with North Korea. Nice!"

But China might be more willing to intercede with North Korea if it knows that the United States is prepared to take major action against the Kim regime to stop its testing of ICBMs.

Kim has parallel goals in pursuing nuclear weapons. One is to distract his people from the many economic and social failures of the Kim family regime by showing the world that North Korea is a nuclear peer of the United States. The other is to demonstrate his ability to strike the USA with nuclear weapons. He hopes to thereby coerce U.S. agreement to a peace treaty with North Korea to end the 1950s Korean War, which could lead to an eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Korea. Without U.S. forces in South Korea, Kim might be emboldened to pursue the only form of reunification he supports — North Korean conquest and absorption of South Korea.

Though a test is merely a test, if Kim orders enough of them during 2017, the North could succeed in resolving the many problems its missile program has encountered. That’s why a strong U.S. response is needed now.

There clearly are risks to any response that could provoke the mercurial Kim, but the risks of allowing North Korea to have a proven ICBM capable of carrying a nuclear payload are far greater. If even a single nuclear-armed North Korean ICBM were to strike a U.S. city, it could kill or seriously injure several hundred thousand Americans.

45 should be clear on how he would respond, not just to the threat of attack, but also to the tests that could make such an attack possible in the future. Kim should know that testing ICBMs will bring no benefits but will instead extract costs.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Year Of The Commando

Busy year for JSOC and similar cats

They could be found on the outskirts of Sirte, Libya, supporting local militia fighters, and in Mukalla, Yemen, backing troops from the United Arab Emirates.  At Saakow, a remote outpost in southern Somalia, they assisted local commandos in killing several members of the terror group al-Shabab. 

Around the cities of Jarabulus and Al-Rai in northern Syria, they partnered with both Turkish soldiers and Syrian militias, while also embedding with Kurdish YPG fighters and the Syrian Democratic Forces.  Across the border in Iraq, still others joined the fight to liberate the city of Mosul.  And in Afghanistan, they assisted indigenous forces in various missions, just as they have every year since 2001.

For America, 2016 may have been the year of the commando.  In one conflict zone after another across the northern tier of Africa and the Greater Middle East, U.S. Special Operations forces (SOF) waged their particular brand of low-profile warfare.  “Winning the current fight, including against the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and other areas where SOF is engaged in conflict and instability, is an immediate challenge,” the chief of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), General Raymond Thomas, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last year.

SOCOM’s shadow wars against terror groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (also known as ISIL) may, ironically, be its most visible operations.  Shrouded in even more secrecy are its activities -- from counterinsurgency and counterdrug efforts to seemingly endless training and advising missions -- outside acknowledged conflict zones across the globe.  These are conducted with little fanfare, press coverage, or oversight in scores of nations every single day.

 From Albania to Uruguay, Algeria to Uzbekistan, America’s most elite forces -- Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets among them -- were deployed to 138 countries in 2016, according to figures supplied to TomDispatch by U.S. Special Operations Command.  This total, one of the highest of 44's era, typifies what has become the golden age of, in SOF-speak, the “gray zone” -- a phrase used to describe the murky twilight between war and peace. 

The coming year is likely to signal whether this era ends with 44 or continues under 45.

America’s most elite troops deployed to 138 nations in 2016, according to U.S. Special Operations Command.  The map above displays the locations of 132 of those countries; 129 locations (blue) were supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command; 3 locations (red) -- Syria, Yemen and Somalia -- were derived from open-source information. (Nick Turse)

Monday, January 9, 2017


Bombs Away! 

In 44's last year in office, the United States dropped 26,171 bombs in seven countries. This estimate is undoubtedly low, considering reliable data is only available for airstrikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, and a single “strike,” according to the Pentagon’s definition, can involve multiple bombs or munitions. In 2016, the United States dropped 3,027 more bombs—and in one more country, Libya—than in 2015.

Most (24,287) were dropped in Iraq and Syria. This number is based on the percentage of total coalition airstrikes carried out in 2016 by the United States in Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the counter-Islamic State campaign. The Pentagon publishes a running count of bombs dropped by the United States and its partners, and we found data for 2016 using OIR public strike releases and this handy tool.

Using this data, in 2016, the United States conducted about 79 percent (5,904) of the coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, which together total 7,473. Of the total 30,743 bombs that the coalition dropped, then, the United States dropped 24,287 (79 percent of 30,743).

To determine how many U.S. bombs were dropped on each Iraq and Syria, we looked at the percentage of total U.S. OIR airstrikes conducted in each country. They were nearly evenly split, with 49.8 percent (or 2,941 airstrikes) carried out in Iraq, and 50.2 percent (or 2,963 airstrikes) in Syria. Therefore, the number of bombs dropped were also nearly the same in the two countries (12,095 in Iraq; 12,192 in Syria).

Last year, the United States conducted approximately 67 percent of airstrikes in Iraq in 2016, and 96 percent of those in Syria.
Sources: Estimate based upon Combined Forces Air Component Commander 2011-2016 Airpower Statistics; CJTF-Operation Inherent Resolve Public Affairs Office strike release, December 31, 2016; New America Foundation (NAF); Long War Journal (LWJ); The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ); Department of Defense press release; and U.S. Africa Command press release.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Nothing Less Than Victory

Ever wonder why not once since the end of World War II has the United States of America—having the most powerful military in human history—won what Professor John David Lewis in Nothing Less Than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History calls an “unambiguous military victory?” We did not win it in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq—and have not against our recent terrorist enemies.

Lewis examines the Greco-Persian and Theban wars, the Second Punic War, Aurelian's wars to reunify Rome, the American Civil War, and the Second World War. He considers successful examples of overwhelming force, such as the Greek mutilation of Xerxes' army and navy, the Theban-led invasion of the Spartan homeland, and Hannibal's attack against Italy--as well as failed tactics of defense, including Fabius's policy of delay, McClellan's retreat from Richmond, and Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler. Lewis shows that a war's endurance rests in each side's reasoning, moral purpose, and commitment to fight, and why an effectively aimed, well-planned, and quickly executed offense can end a conflict and create the conditions needed for long-term peace.

Positing what should be but isn’t generally understood, Lewis holds that “war and peace are the consequences of ideas—especially moral ideas—that can propel whole nations into bloody slaughter on behalf of a Fuhrer, a tribe, or a deity, or into peaceful coexistence under governments that defend the rights and liberties of their citizens.” (Italics added)

Professor Lewis quotes Lt. Gen. Harold L. George:

"The object of war is now and always has been, the overcoming of the hostile will to resist. The defeat of the enemy’s armed forces is not the object of war; the occupation of his territory is not the object of war. Each of these is merely a means to an end; and the end is overcoming his will to resist. When that will is broken, when that will disintegrates, then capitulation follows."

Consider the Korean War. To say the least, President Harry Truman and his political and military cronies had an agenda that was not the defeat of either the North Korean invaders or the Chinese intervenors. Far from it. Truman and company may have wanted a war, but they did not want to overcome the Communists’ will to resist. Tens of thousands of U.N., South Korean, and American troops, not to mention literally countless civilians, fell victim to their Cold War Machiavellian calculations.

Consider the Vietnam War. The United States could have crushed the North Vietnamese will to resist by using air power to destroy Hanoi, much as American bombers ultimately leveled much of Germany and Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. Instead, in Vietnam (just as in Korea) we countenanced enemy sanctuaries in China and ruled civilian and other targets off limits. Far from overcoming the Communists’ will to resist, we fought a defensive, not offensive, war.

Consider Afghanistan, where after supposedly eliminating al Qaeda, we took on the Taliban with rules of engagement that not only did not overcome their will to resist, but actually encouraged a guerilla war with, again, sanctuaries where their fighters would be reasonably safe. This time in Pakistan/Waziristan.

Consider Iraq. Even if the United States succeeded in removing Saddam and al Qaeda, whatever will to resist by their successors and freelance sectarian fighters we managed to suppress, our complete removal of troops stoked the embers of their will, and the situation there is predictably worse than when America pulled out.

Professor Lewis make the perceptive point that:

"An aggressive nation can be empowered far beyond its physical strength by a conclusion that its opponent does not have the will to fight . . . and then be demoralized and beaten by an offense that exposes the physical and moral bankruptcy of its position. Conversely, a powerful nation may give up if its people come to think that a war is unjust, their nation’s position is morally untenable, or its goal unclear or simply not worth it."

The “aggressive nations” of North Korea, China, and North Vietnam knew that the United States lacked the will for a sustained fight, and the Communists acted accordingly—achieving far more than their physical strength should have allowed. So, too, the irregulars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sadly, none of them has been “demoralized and beaten by an offense that exposes the physical and moral bankruptcy of its position.”

Of whom might Professor Lewis be speaking when he observes that “a powerful nation may give up if its people come to think that a war is unjust, their nation’s position is morally untenable, or its goal unclear or simply not worth it.” Could it be the United States in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq?

These few remarks cannot begin to do justice to John David Lewis’s important and enlightening book. To prove his thesis, he presents examples from the ancient world, and then moves to modern times with extensive discussions of Sherman’s march through the South in 1864-65 (Chapter 5), British appeasement and the prelude to World War II from 1919 through 1939 (Chapter 6), and American victory over Japan 1945 (Chapter 7).

These chapters, alone, are worth the reader’s time.

The author’s conclusion—entitled “The lesson of the victories”—sums up his thesis that indispensable to victory in war is a clearly understood moral base that propels the fighting not to armistices, deadlocks, cease fires, and other inconclusive ends, but rather to clear-cut victory born of annihilation of the enemy’s will to resist.

One looks with difficulty for that moral base in America’s post-World War II conflicts, and with futility in today’s so-called War on Terrorism.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Top Threats Of 2017

While 2016 saw an increase in activity from known threats across the globe, the threats the country will face in 2017 are far less obvious.

Here are some of the potential issues to watch out for in 2017:

1. Cyber attacks from new and old enemies

The digital battlefield is no longer relegated to the shadows, and it is likely to become a premier security concern in 2017. Russia’s alleged hacking into various U.S. political institutions put the spotlight on cyber security. China and Iran also continue to develop cyber capabilities aimed at the U.S. Some cyber threats do not operate under a flag whatsoever. In response, the government is spending billions to bolster its cyber capabilities and is fostering partnerships with private entities in Silicon Valley to counter both state and non-state actors.
2. Al-Qaida takes over for ISIS

The Islamic State’s so-called caliphate is under siege on all fronts. The terrorist group’s capitals in both Iraq and Syria are on the verge of being retaken, and its land holdings are a fraction of what they were during its rise in 2014. The eventual downfall of the caliphate will leave behind thousands of jihadis and adherents across the world, all of which will be available to al-Qaida, ISIS’s chief rival.

Al-Qaida waited in the shadows while ISIS’s bravado stole the attention of the U.S. and international community. Meanwhile, it consolidated allies across the globe, particularly in Syria. Al-Qaida could easily regain its prominence as the world’s premier terrorist organization by absorbing ISIS’s remnants.

3. Iran’s dominance in the Middle East

The Islamic Republic of Iran has not wasted any time since it signed a nuclear deal with the U.S. and international community in 2015. It has a hand in every major conflict in the Middle East, including Syria, Yemen and, perhaps most importantly, Iraq.

Iranian naval vessels regularly harassed U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf throughout 2016. Iran also continues to hold its spot as the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism. It is quite likely Iran will continue to pose a major threat to U.S. interests with its dominant position in the Middle East secured.

4. Increased Chinese provocations in South China sea

China spent the last several years building islands and engaging in a military build-up in South China sea. It has now moved on to more provocative actions, including the seizure of a U.S. submarine drone, the dangerous interception of a spy plane and the militarization of civilian fishing vessels. With its island building campaign more or less complete, its quite possible the Chinese will continue its aggression against the U.S. in the Pacific.

5. Russia’s military expansion, and not just in Europe

Russia’s military build-up along the NATO border in eastern Europe is well documented, and a legitimate cause for concern, but the Kremlin also has machinations elsewhere. Russia added a significant military presence in Syria, including a full upgrade to its naval base in Tartus, while fighting rebels in support of Bashar al-Assad. It also is expanding in the Arctic, where the military has sent some its most advanced units.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Navy's New Nine


The fleet is scheduled to add nine new ships in 2017, a year that could kick off 45's plan to increase the fleet to 350 ships.

The new year may bring four additions to the troubled Littoral Combat Ship program, and the Navy anticipates commissioning the supercarrier Gerald R. Ford. There are two destroyers and two submarines slated to join the service as well.

The LCS program's four new ships will be the Gabrielle Giffords, Little Rock, Omaha and Sioux City, according to Naval Sea Systems Command. Two more destroyers, the John Finn and Rafael Peralta, are also in the mix to join the service.

Two Virginia-class attack submarines, the Washington and Colorado, are set to be commissioned in 2017. All commissioning dates are subject to change.

Meanwhile, the silent service is saying goodbye to the Los-Angeles class submarine San Francisco, which will become a moored training ship. Two more subs in that class, the Dallas and Buffalo, will face dismantlement. Decommissioning will occur after the boats go inactive throughout 2017.

Monday, January 2, 2017

44's Drone Legacy

As of Jan. 2016, 44 had authorized 506 known drone strikes, compared to the 50 strikes ordered by 43. The U.S. drone arsenal has expanded exponentially. In 2000 the military had some 50 drones. By 2012 that number had jumped to over 7,000 — a 140-fold increase in 12 years. Proponents of drone strikes, including the president, other public officials and members of the military, claim that drones are useful in a number of ways: they are less costly than their manned counterparts, are capable of eliminating terror groups and reduce civilian casualties.

But the evidence for these claims is shaky at best.

The most charitable evaluations find that drones save little over their manned counterparts. Others find, considering expensive accidents (at least 79, costing at least $1 million as of 2010), the need for multiple "ground pilots," and the cost of systems needed to operate the machines, drones cost just as much if not more than other weapons systems. Take the Global Hawk, one of the drones commonly used in the war on terror. This "cheap" drone costs nearly $200 million, nearly double the price of one F-35 fighter jet.

When it comes to disrupting terrorist groups, drones again fall short. In a study of more than 250 terrorist groups, researchers found that only 7 percent were eliminated with military force. The lion's share ceased operations by either joining the political process or when local law enforcement got involved.

An objective of counterterrorism is to eliminate "high-level fighters," the managers of terrorist groups. One study found that drones kill 12 times more low-level fighters than mid-to-high-level fighters. Another study found that only 2 percent of all drone casualties are high-level fighters. Moreover, terrorist groups often use drone strikes to recruit — so drones may actually be counterproductive!

This brings us to the topic of civilian casualties. CIA Director John Brennan says drones are like a surgical tool with "the ability with laser-like focus to eliminate the tumor called al Qaeda, while limiting damage to the tissue surrounding it."

But rather than conducting foreign policy with "surgical-like" precision, using drones may be more like performing open-heart surgery with a spoon. Researchers with the Center for Naval Analyses found that drone strikes were 10 times more deadly to civilians than strikes with manned aircraft. Another report disclosed that some 90 percent of people killed in "targeted killings" were not the intended targets. Government reports acknowledge only a few civilian casualties, but this is in part because the government defines "militant" as any military-aged male in a strike zone.

44 is aware of the dangerous legacy he will leave. In a recent interview, he expressed worry about the number of strikes and their "routineness." He expressed further concern that future presidents would be able to engage in perpetual covert wars via drones. What he failed to address, however, was the aforementioned drawbacks and how we might constrain use of the technology he has used so intensively.

Although 44 will leave office on Jan. 20, 2017, his drones are here to stay.