January 16, 2012

Obama and Gates Sink Our Own Navy

In three posts over the past week I discussed Obama's defense cuts: Obama Cuts the Military Budget, More on Obama's Defense Cuts, and The Obama Administration's "Defense Strategic Guidance" Document. We were pretty much assured that the cuts would come at the expense of the Army and Marine Corps, but the Navy and Air Force would be spared.

Turns out they lied. It was all a campaign of deception.

Most administrations at least put a decent amount of time inbetween their lies and the exposing of them. It didn't take a week with Obama. The Washington Times has the story:

New Navy budgets may sink plans for aircraft carriers
Fight is on to save flattop fleet
By Rowan Scarborough
The Washington Times
Sunday, January 15, 2012

...As Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta prepares to introduce the strategy's first budget next month, the Navy has been in a furious fight behind the scenes to protect only 10 carriers, sources familiar with the issue told The Washington Times.

The sources say that, while the fiscal 2013 budget may well continue 11 carriers, the Navy will be down to 10 or even nine carriers within in the next five years.

...

A scenario discussed inside the Navy: Reduce the carrier fleet by retiring the flattops short of their 50-year life spans, and continue to build more advanced carriers at the Newport News, Va., shipyard at seven-year intervals instead of launching one every five years.

Reducing one carrier would set off a fight in Congress, which under law has required the Navy to maintain 11 active flattops. A source familiar with the discussions said the Obama administration would not want to take up that fight until after November's presidential election, given the importance of Virginia and its 13 electoral votes.

In general, the Navy has three carriers at sea, three returning from six-month deployments, three preparing to be deployed and two in some type of overhaul. For example, the USS Ronald Reagan, commissioned less than 10 years ago, is going into dry dock this month for a year of extensive repairs.

In addition, they're going to cut back on purchases of the fifth generation F-35 Lightning II fighter. Since Obama stopped production of the F-22 Raptor, the F-35 was our only hope for maintaining future air superiority, given that Russia is building fifth gen fighters like there's no tomorrow and China is headed in that direction too.

Here are the excuses, the first offered by Loren Thompson, identified as heading up the libertarian Lexington Institute defense think tank.:

"First of all, they have become extremely expensive to build and operate," he said. "Secondly, some countries, such as China, are developing the capacity to target and disable them from long distances.

"And, thirdly, the advent of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and unmanned aircraft will make it easier to accomplish air missions from other sea-based platforms."

Actually they are cheap compared to the economy and total Federal budget of the United States. The problem is that we spend far too much money on entitlements which are eating up our tax revenue.

Yes China is developing the DF-21 missile, with which they hope to target our carriers. I discussed it in a post here some time ago. But as I also noted in the post, missiles like the DF-21 do not spell the end of the aircraft carrier but are simply another threat we can successfully counter. It won't be easy, as the weapon is nothing to take lightly, but neither is it the wonder-weapon it's advocates seem to think.

As for the F-35, yes we need it but one, Obama-Gates are cutting back purchases of it, and two without the large carriers we can't field it in sufficient numbers to matter. They apparently want us to only have the VSTOL version on the much smaller Wasp or America-class ships or something.

"Do we really need 11 carrier strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?" Mr. Gates asked during a 2010 speech to the Navy League, a naval support association.

The answer to Secretary Gates is "hell yes," and for several reasons. First, China is hurrying to buy and build multiple carriers. Second, we have worldwide commitments so our ability to put more than one or two in any area at once is limited. Third, unless our carriers are in the area when the fighting states they will have a long way to sail and by the time they get there the war may be over. Fifth, the enemy will also have land-based aircraft which are in close proximity to the war whereas our land-based aircraft will have to fly longer distances.

To any commenter who wants to say "didn't you support Sec Gates when Bush was in office?" (as if I'm somehow being hypocritical) my response is that I praise someone when they do good and criticize when they do wrong. That's pretty simple, I think.

"If ever we encounter a competent military with an air force, a navy with ultrasilent diesel electric submarines -- and both with superfast, superlow anti-ship missiles -- I suspect carriers will quickly be extinct if they go into unsafe waters. At $13 billion-plus each, more are an unwise investment for the future."

The final quote is completely disingenuous. It is by one Winslow Wheeler, identified in the article as "an analyst at the Center for Defense Information, a military reform group."

Ha. You can be sure that "reform" means "disarm America" and that this is a leftist group.

First, while the danger is real he overstates the problem (I've been over this here before). Second, and the bigger question is, so if carriers are so old fashioned and vulnerable, what do you plan on building in their absence that will allow us to maintain absolute control of the air and sea?

The answer is "nothing." It's not as if Thompson, Gates, and Wheeler are proposing new types of ships and battle groups. They have no ideas other than to disarm America.

So we know where all this is going and the purpose of all of it. As Charles Krauthammer has said, "decline is a choice," and sadly it is the one that Obama has us embarked on.

The result will be that we are no longer able to control the world's seas. This will have several very bad effects, the first of which is to encourage regional wars. Tinpot and other dictators will fill the vacuum with their own forces and take the opportunity to settle old scores and seize new territory. It will also have a disastrous effect on the ability of American businesses to trade worldwide, as totalitarian/authoritarian nations will step in and demand preference for their products and services. People like Ron Paul who think that we can step back from the world and everything will continue on as before are simply deluded.

If these cuts were part of a general slashing of the Federal budget I'd sigh and say "ok, this stinks but it's what we have to do to get us out of our current fiscal mess." As it is, though, Jennifer Rubin, writing in the Washington Post, told us last week exactly what this is all about:

President Obama is determined to have national security on the cheap. Or to put it more accurately, he is willing to pare back defense spending to dangerously low levels so he can keep spending like there's no tomorrow on the domestic side.

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January 12, 2012

The Obama Administration's "Defense Strategic Guidance" Document

In two posts last week I discussed Obama's defense cuts (Obama Cuts the Military Budget, and More on Obama's Defense Cuts). Today we'll go through the eight document they released, titled Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.

A few key excerpts and commentary:

U.S. economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities. Accordingly, while the U.S. military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.

(emphasis here and later in the original)

I agree that the Asia-Pacific region needs our attention. Communist North Korea and China are threats and potential military adversaries. What I doubt is that we will be able to "rebalance" and move away from the Middle East. That area of the world has a way of getting our attention whether we like it or not.

In the Middle East, the Arab Awakening presents both strategic opportunities and challenges. Regime changes, as well as tensions within and among states under pressure to reform, introduce uncertainty for the future. But they also may result in governments that, over the long term, are more responsive to the legitimate aspirations of their people, and are more stable and reliable partners of the United States.

They are smoking crack if they believe this.

Most European countries are now producers of security rather than consumers of it. Combined with the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan, this has created a strategic opportunity to rebalance the U.S. military investment in Europe, moving from a focus on current conflicts toward a focus on future capabilities. In keeping with this evolving strategic landscape, our posture in Europe must also evolve.

Yes we should draw down forces in Europe. But the Europeans are neither producers nor consumers of defense. Because of it's aircraft carrier the Charles de Gaulle (R91),France is the only one of them with the means of projecting power. But NATO couldn't even take care of Bosnia without the United States, so the idea that they are producers of defense is rather absurd.

Our planning envisages forces that are able to fully deny a capable state's aggressive objectives in one region by conducting a combined arms campaign across all domains - land, air, maritime, space, and cyberspace. This includes being able to secure territory and populations and facilitate a transition to stable governance on a small scale for a limited period using standing forces and, if necessary, for an extended period with mobilized forces. Even when U.S. forces are committed to a large-scale operation in one region, they will be capable of denying the objectives of - or imposing unacceptable costs on - an opportunistic aggressor in a second region.

Note that "victory" does not appear here or anywhere else in the document. "Defeat Aggression" is there, and maybe that counts. But the language of "denying the objectives" and "imposing unacceptable costs" is either bureaucratese or written by someone who doesn't see the objective as winning.

Also, have you noticed the amount that is in italics? I've read no small number of these type of documents from the government, and this is just about the only one that uses italics to emphasize at all, and they do it in almost every paragraph. My snarky side says they don't think we'll take them seriously.

States such as China and Iran will continue to pursue asymmetric means to counter our power projection capabilities, while the proliferation of sophisticated weapons and technology will extend to non-state actors as well. Accordingly, the U.S. military will invest as required to ensure its ability to operate effectively in anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) environments. This will include implementing the Joint Operational Access Concept, sustaining our undersea capabilities, developing a new stealth bomber, improving missile defenses, and continuing efforts to enhance the resiliency and effectiveness of critical space-based capabilities.

This is some good news. As mentioned in my previous pieces, the Navy and Air Force come off relatively unscathed, at least for now. The Army and Marine Corps are in for immediate cuts of between 10 - 15 percent, though. Wars against Iran and China will be naval and air conflicts.

It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force, which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory as well as their role in U.S. national security strategy.

They had better be right.

Conduct Stability and Counterinsurgency Operations. In the aftermath of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States will emphasize non-military means and military-to-military cooperation to address instability and reduce the demand for significant U.S. force commitments to stability operations. U.S. forces will nevertheless be ready to conduct limited counterinsurgency and other stability operations if required, operating alongside coalition forces wherever possible. Accordingly, U.S. forces will retain and continue to refine the lessons learned, expertise, and specialized capabilities that have been developed over the past ten years of counterinsurgency and stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, U.S. forces will no longer be sized to conduct large-scale, prolonged stability operations.

They had really better be right about this one. History tells me that predicting future wars is a fools errand in that the predictions are almost always wrong. I have a terrible feeling it's deja vu all over again. So many times after a war we have cut our military to the bone, only to have to surprised by a new enemy and have to quickly ramp back up again after taking serious losses.

...we have sought to differentiate between those investments that should be made today and those that can be deferred. This includes an accounting of our ability to make a course change that could be driven by many factors, including shocks or evolutions in the strategic, operational, economic, and technological spheres. Accordingly, the concept of "reversibility" - including the vectors on which we place our industrial base, our people, our active-reserve component balance, our posture, and our partnership emphasis - is a key part of our decision calculus.

I have no idea what this jibberish means other than "hold on folks because we're going to cut some important weapons systems shortly," and they're just trying to get us ready for it.

Conclusion The United States faces profound challenges that require strong, agile, and capable military forces whose actions are harmonized with other elements of U.S. national power. Our global responsibilities are significant; we cannot afford to fail. The balance between available resources and our security needs has never been more delicate. Force and program decisions made by the Department of Defense will be made in accordance with the strategic approach described in this document, which is designed to ensure our Armed Forces can meet the demands of the U.S. National Security Strategy at acceptable risk.

It sounds like a lot of risk to me.

My Conclusion: The Cuts Are An Excuse for More Domestic Spending

As military theorists have said from time immemorial, there are two basic strategies: One is to calculate the minimum amount of force you will need to achieve your objective and go with that. The second is to calculate the minimum and then go with double, triple, or quadruple that.

Go with the first, and and your calculations are correct you will win but just barely. More importantly, you will sustain a large number of casualties in the process.

Go with the second and not only will you be assured of victory but you will suffer far less casualties in the process.

Yes I realize that there are budgetary limits which intrude on these nice formulas. And there are certainly situations where spending a lot can provoke an arms race in which you never achieve overwhelming force.

But our budgetary problems are not because of military spending, as I have demonstrated time and again. They are because of out-of-control entitlement programs such as Medicare and other Great Society programs. And Obamacare hasn't even gone into effect yet.

So as I and others have said these cuts in military spending have nothing to do with either reassessing defense priorities or an attention to fiscal discipline. They are being made so Obama and his liberal Democrat friends (aided by some unprincipled Republicans) can continue spending like there's no tomorrow on domestic programs. In short, they are sacrificing our standing in the world and our ability to influence world events for domestic programs which will in turn eventually bankrupt us. It's a Lose-Lose proposition if I ever saw one.

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January 7, 2012

More on Obama's Defense Cuts

On Thursday President Obama announced new defense cuts. From the White House website:

Details are not out yet about the president's defense cuts that were announced on Thursday, but the Department of Defense did release an 8 page document titled Defense Strategic Guidance that oulines the new strategy. More on this in another post.

News Stories also give us a good idea what is going on. You can also get good information from the Defense Department's own website.

First up is
Fox News:

"The Army and Marines Corps will no longer need to be sized to support the kind of large-scale, long-term military operations that have dominated military priorities and force generations over the past decades," (Secretary of Defense Leon)Panetta said, adding that forces will have to become more flexible and adaptable to conflicts around the globe.

Panetta said the U.S. will focus its security more on challenges from the Asia-Pacific and Mideast and it must manage the rising cost of health care for military families even as the Pentagon pledges to uphold its commitment to troops. He said in some cases, investment may increase in special operations forces; in new technologies, like unmanned systems; in space and cyberspace capabilities; and on quick mobilization techniques.

That doesn't mean hollowing out the military, he and the president said. Obama stressed in his remarks that the comprehensive defense review that resulted in the new structure emphasizes counter-terrorism, nuclear deterrence, protecting the U.S. homeland and deterring and defeating aggression by any potential adversary.

Next is the Wall Street Journal:

The Pentagon shouldn't be immune to fiscal scrutiny, yet this Administration has targeted defense from its earliest days and has kept on squeezing. The White House last year settled with Congress on $450 billion in military budget cuts through 2021, on top of the $350 billion in weapons programs killed earlier. Defense spending next year will fall 1% in nominal terms. The Pentagon also faces another $500 billion in possible cuts starting next January under "sequestration," unless Congress steps in first.

Taken altogether, the budget could shrink by over 30% in the next decade. The Administration projects outlays at 2.7% of GDP in 2021, down from 4.5% last year (which included the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan). That would put U.S. outlays at 1940 levels--a bad year. As recently as 1986, a better year, the U.S. spent 6.2% of GDP on defense with no detrimental economic impact.
...

Specific cuts will be spelled out in detail in the next Pentagon budget. The Navy, Air Force and Marines are flying old planes and waiting on the next generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet, which comes with stealth technology. Previous Pentagon chief Bob Gates justified ending F-22 purchases by pointing to the F-35. But now the F-35 will likely be further trimmed and delayed.

Finally, some more details from the Washington Post:

The U.S. military will steadily shrink the Army and Marine Corps, reduce forces in Europe and probably make further cuts to the nation's nuclear arsenal, the Obama administration said Thursday in a preview of how it intends to reshape the armed forces after a decade of war.

The downsizing of the Pentagon, prompted by the country's dire fiscal problems, means that the military will depend more on coalitions with allies and avoid the large-scale counterinsurgency and nation-building operations that have marked the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Instead, the Pentagon will invest more heavily in Special Operations Forces, which have a smaller footprint and require less money than conventional units, as well as drone aircraft and cybersecurity, defense officials said. The military will also shift its focus to Asia to counter China's rising influence and North Korea's unpredictability. Despite the end of the Iraq war, administration officials said they would keep a large presence in the Middle East, where tensions with Iran are worsening.

Budgetary Implications

My general take on this is that I am ok with defense cuts if, and only if, they are coupled with cuts in domenstic spending. The reason is that our budgetary problems are not the result of military spending but the growth of entitlement programs such as Medicare. Until we tackle them we will continue in our downward spiral.

But instead, it seems obvious that the president is only cutting defense so he can continue spending like wild on domestic programs. And neither cutting defense or raising taxes on the wealthy is going to eliminate or even have a serious impact on our huge annual deficits.

The Good News

The good news is that the Navy and Air Force get off light, with the Army and Marine Corps absorbing most of the cuts. Given that the threats from China and Iran are primarily naval ones, there is some logic to this.

Drafting a budget always means setting priorities. Looking around the globe, the threats are mostly from nations that will challenge us in the air or on the water. They are somewhat tied together, but not entirely.

Naval threats come from Iran and China. Iran wants to control access to oil exports that are shipped through the Strait of Hormuz. China wants hegemony in the southwestern Pacific. The American economy, to say nothing of the post-WWII world system, depends on freedom of the seas as guaranteed by democratic nations.

These threats can be countered by naval, air, and anti-missile assets, as well a a focus on cyberwarfare. It is good that the cuts will not (immediately, at least) come in these areas. At least in the short run, then, we should be able to adequately meet the threat.

The Bad News

The bad news is twofold. One, more cuts are likely coming, and two this absolutely sends the wrong signal to our potential enemies.

Worse, all this comes only a few days after Iran threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz. In their mind, the announcement is a sure sign of weakness, a sign that we are in decline. This, then, increases the chance of a war, which is exactly what we don't want.

Further, although we can meet our obligations now, what happens in 10 or 15 years? The oldest Nimitz-class carrier is nearing 40 years of age, and the Enterprise 52. Will we continue to build the new Ford class in adequate numbers? Other systems, like the Perry-class frigates are getting old, to say nothing of the "teen series" of aircraft (F-15, F-16, and F-18). Will Obama commit to building enough Burke-class destroyers and F-35 fighters to replace them?

For that matter, what about missile defense? Liberals like to poo-hoo these systems as unreliable. But negotiations and diplomacy have not at all stopped the Chinese, Iranians, or North Koreans from arming themselves with a variety of short and medium range missiles that could rain down destruction on U.S. bases over a thousand miles away from their respective homelands. Note that most of these missiles are armed with conventional warheads; it's like of like World War II but with missiles rather than B-17s.

Refocusing to the Asia-Pacific Region

Much of the goal behind the new strategy is a refocusing to the Asia-Pacific region. This is warranted in that China and North Korea are obvious threats. No mention is made of focusing on the Middle East, to which I say "good luck." That region of the world has a way of making us focus on it whether we like it or not.

Next Up: An examination of the Defense Strategic Guidance document


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January 6, 2012

Obama Cuts the Military Budget

Yes we need to cut the federal budget. Yes the military should not be totally exempt. But since military spending is most certainly not the cause of our deficit or debt the majority of the cuts should come elsewhere. But that is exactly what Obama has done.

I hope to get up more on this later, but for now two quick quotes. Jennifer Rubin, writing in the Washington Post, sums it all up perfectly:

President Obama is determined to have national security on the cheap. Or to put it more accurately, he is willing to pare back defense spending to dangerously low levels so he can keep spending like there's no tomorrow on the domestic side.

Yup. Medicare is the biggest spending problem in the federal budget, and Obamacare is going to blow that up even greater. But instead of serious spending cuts on domestic programs, Obama, like the leftist he is, goes after the military.

Historian Arthur Herman explains:

America's Disarmed Future
President Obama's Pentagon cuts are indefensible
National Review
January 6, 2012 4:00 A.M.
By Arthur Herman

You have to give President Obama credit. It takes serious gall to tell the American military to its face that you are putting it on the road to second-class status.

That's exactly what our commander-in-chief did at the Pentagon yesterday, as he announced nearly half a trillion dollars in new spending cuts, after already chopping $480 billion during his first three years in office. He also set out plans for drastic reductions in our force size and continuing weapons programs, including the F-35 fighter -- our last best hope for maintaining American dominance in the skies.

Obama's been trying to reassure Americans all this won't endanger our national security or our strategic interests. Everyone in or out of uniform who's free to speak knows better -- and that with a full-scale war still underway we are standing on the brink of our weakest military posture since Jimmy Carter, and our smallest forces since before World War II.

Part of Obama's rationale is his declared belief that America no longer needs to have a military big enough to fight two wars at once -- even though that's been our historical experience more often than not (think the European and the Pacific theaters in World War II, Vietnam and the Cold War with Russia, Iraq and Afghanistan).

More important, President Obama doesn't understand that our military's role isn't just fighting wars. It's providing a strong strategic presence that will influence events in our favor -- and away from that of adversaries and rivals. Even he admits these drastic cuts can only come through shrinking that presence world-wide, which means deep cuts in our forces in Europe and the Middle East, while expecting a shrinking navy (which could wind up with barely 230 ships by 2020) and air force to keep our interests safe in the Pacific region -- where China is surging.

Yet as the latest confrontation with Iran over the Strait of Hormuz shows, while a war rages in Afghanistan and a peace threatens to come unglued in Iraq, not to mention Pakistan, the Middle East is still a major crucible of conflict. And even if our European allies are willing to take up the slack and beef up their defense budgets as we leave -- a highly dubious proposition -- our vote on what happens there and with a belligerent Russia and increasingly anti-Western Turkey will count for less and less.

Still, the lasting damage the Obama chainsaw does is not to our military's present, but to its future.

Of course, Obama's team says it can still defend that future by spending smarter and cutting out "waste, fraud, and abuse" -- this, from the people who inflated our deficit by $1.5 trillion, and gave us the $787 billion non-stimulus and Solyndra. In fact, it's the programs that define the cutting edge of future military technology, and will lead the next military revolution, that are now the most in peril.

A good example is the Future Combat Systems, the program for transforming the Army into a highly mobile force with unmanned combat vehicles and other futuristic technology launched by Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon. The program itself was axed two years ago, with the promise that the resources allocated for modernization would go directly to the Army and Marines. Don't count on that now.

Other examples are the Airborne Laser, also axed in 2010, and the Navy's hypersonic electromagnetic rail gun, which could help combat Chinese anti-ship missiles aimed at our carrier strike groups in the event of a conflagration in the Pacific, the region President Obama claims he's so worried about. It lost its funding earlier this year. Missile defense will certainly be next to feel the knife.

Unlike our big army or naval bases, these programs have little or no constituencies, which means they get little attention or protection from Congress. Yet they are vital to preparing America for its future wars, and to its credible strategic presence. A cash-strapped Pentagon is bound to cut them first, even as our present force structure is dwindling to potentially perilous levels.

Fortunately, some of the Republican presidential candidates have seen the danger coming. Mitt Romney has urged keeping the defense budget at 4 percent of GDP -- today's baseline programs are barely above 3 percent -- and wants to expand the Navy's desperately endangered shipbuilding program. Rick Perry has asked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to resign rather than accede to cuts that are, in Newt Gingrich's words, "very dangerous to the survival of the country."

Still, until Congress and the American public wake up to the peril lying ahead, Obama will continue his program of unilateral American disarmament -- that is, unless the 2012 election can stop him cold.

-- Arthur Herman is the author of the forthcoming Freedom's Forge: How American Business Built the Arsenal of Democracy That Won World War Two, which will be released by Random House in May.

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July 13, 2011

NATO Can't Even Beat Libya

NATO has been fighting Libya for almost four months and victory is nowhere in sight. Of course, it's hard to know what exactly victory is, since no coherent, consistent, objective has been given. One day it was to protect civilians, then to get rid of Khadaffy. We're not helping the rebels then we are; they're doctors and lawyers one day but then the next we're not sure. What we are trying to achieve is still unclear.

But whatever we're doing, it's not working: "NATO" is running out of ammunition. This, mind you, is the alliance that was founded to fight the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact in World War III. It is now so feeble it can't even beat a 5th rate power.

Well, not quite. Italy and France could whomp Libya, if they wanted to. And Italy alone could build a military that would make short work of the Libyan armed forces, it it wanted to. But that's just it.

Rope-A-Dope
Belmont Club
July 11, 2011
by Richard Fernandez

Reuters reports that some NATO countries participating in the Libya operation have punched themselves out, although Khadaffy is still standing. "New U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Monday that some NATO allies operating in Libya could see their forces 'exhausted' within 90 days." European forces are wearing out from the beating they are delivering to the Libyan dictator.

"The problem right now, frankly, in Libya is that ... within the next 90 days a lot of these other countries could be exhausted in terms of their capabilities, and so the United States, you know, is going to be looked at to help fill the gap," Panetta said, speaking to troops in Baghdad.

AFP added that the Italians are pulling out their carrier and Norway is pulling out its planes. The Italians have called for a "political solution" in Libya. France is reported to be secretly negotiating with Khadaffy for a settlement, according to Saif Khadaffy, who says talks have been ongoing between a Libyan envoy and the French President. The reality is that Europe's combat power will soon have to be cut back in Libya unless the US takes up the slack.

Among the European countries involved in Libya, Norway has announced it will withdraw its six F-16 fighters on August 1, and Italy is pulling out its Garibaldi aircraft carrier, for a saving of 80 million euros.

Panetta said that Nato's European members must "make efforts to develop their defence capability; they're gonna have to invest in that kind of partnership as well.

"We can't be the ones that carry the financial burden in all of these situations," Panetta said.

Washington bears 75 per cent of Nato's defence budget. Of the 28 Nato countries, only the United States, France, Britain, Greece and Albania meet the Nato threshold of two percent of GDP spent on defence.

The problem facing President Obama is that, by his own account, there isn't even a war on in Libya, or nothing that amounts to one. It will be hard to make the case that he needs to come to the assistance of allies in military need, if that need has by defined into nonexistence by none other than himself.

If France and Italy have negotiate a settlement that leaves Khadaffy in power they will have provided a textbook example of international rope-a-dope, one convincingly demonstrates the limitations of feeble muscles allied to soft-power. It will be the perfect companion to the emerging debacle to financially save Greece. Europe has punched itself out fighting a non-war against a 5th rate country in North Africa. Far from covering themselves in glory enhancing the prestige of the old continent they will have succeeded in making themselves nothing but a laughing stock. The only problem is that there will probably be serious consequences.

Exactly. The Ron Paul types who think that we can pull up the drawbridge and largely ignore the rest of the world are wrong. Europeans who think they can keep their drawbridge down and rely on United Nations resolutions are also wrong. What happens around the world affects our economies and what immigrants come knocking at our door (or more likely sneaking in around it).

But as Fernandez says in a comment to his own post, "the problem isn't power or even money." Any one mid-sized European country could beat Libya, if it wanted to. The problem is that they are paralyzed into inaction. Europeans, and perhaps increasingly Americans, don't care to rouse themselves to face up to the big issues of our day.

Instead it is obsessed with ludicrously small issues. The political system worries endlessly about soap opera problems, sexual politics, racial quotas, "climate change" etc. This littleness promotes people like Herman Von Rompuy or Julia Gillard or Barack Obama -- complete ciphers -- to positions of power for no other reason than that they check all the boxes. A terrible diminuation of mind, an unbelievable poverty of thinking, has descended on the Western world.

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June 2, 2011

"Birthers, Truthers and Interrogation Deniers"

I've denounced birtherism, the belief some on the right have that Obama was not born in the United States. It's no surprise to me that the release of his birth certificate has not stopped the conspiracy kooks. Now they believe the certificate was forged, or some such thing.

I haven't wasted my time on Truthers. Not worth it.

I have gone after the kookery of "Bush Lied," as that one infects even members of Congress. And over the past year or two I've criticized those who now tell us that enhanced interrogation techniques didn't work, especially attacking Democrats like Nancy Pelosi who went so far as to claim that she hadn't been told about the use of such techniques when clearly she was.

But while the Birthers are sidelined, the Truthers old hat, and the Bush Lied meme no longer useful to Democrats, the "Interrogation Deniers" are making a stink. They tell us that we didn't have to do all that nasty stuff, that it didn't result in any intelligence, blah blah blah. All total nonsense, as General and former Director of Central Intelligence (2006 - 2009) outlines in an op-ed in yesterday's Wall Street Journal:

Birthers, Truthers and Interrogation Deniers
The latest lunacy to get a popular hearing is the idea that harsh CIA interrogations yielded no useful intelligence. I guess we should toss out the 9/11 Commission Report.
The Wall Street Journal
by Michael Hayden
June 2, 2011

For all of its well-deserved reputation for pragmatism, American popular culture frequently nurtures or at least tolerates preposterous views and theories. Witness the 9/11 "truthers" who, lacking any evidence whatsoever, claim that 9/11 was a Bush administration plot. And then we have the "birthers" who, even in the face of clear contrary evidence, take as an article of faith that President Obama was not born in the United States and hence is not eligible to hold his current office.

Let me add a third denomination to this faith-based constellation: interrogation deniers, i.e., individuals who hold that the enhanced interrogation techniques used against CIA detainees have never yielded useful intelligence. They, of course, cling to this view despite all evidence to the contrary, despite the testimony of four CIA directors, and despite Mr. Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser John Brennan's statement that there's been "a lot of information that has come out from these interrogation procedures that the agency has in fact used against the real hard-core terrorists."

The recent dispute over what strains of intelligence led to the killing of Osama bin Laden highlights the phenomenon. It must appear to outside observers like a theological debate over how many angels can reside on the head of a pin. So we see carefully tailored arguments designed to discount the value of enhanced interrogations: the first mention of the courier's name came from a detainee not in CIA custody; CIA detainees gave false and misleading information about the courier; there is no way to confirm that information obtained through enhanced interrogation was the decisive intelligence that led us directly to bin Laden.

All fair enough as far as they go. But let the record show that when I was first briefed in 2007 about the brightening prospect of pursuing bin Laden through his courier network, a crucial component of the briefing was information provided by three CIA detainees, all of whom had been subjected to some form of enhanced interrogation. One of the most alerting pieces of evidence was that two of the detainees who had routinely been cooperative and truthful (after they had undergone enhanced techniques) were atypically denying apparent factual data--a maneuver taken as a good sign that the CIA was on to something important.

So that there is no ambiguity, let me be doubly clear: It is nearly impossible for me to imagine any operation like the May 2 assault on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that would not have made substantial use of the trove of information derived from CIA detainees, including those on whom enhanced techniques had been used.

It is easy to imagine the concerns at the political level as the CIA built its case that bin Laden was in the Abbottabad compound, and it became obvious that detainee data was an important thread of intelligence. To his credit, and obviously reflecting this reality, White House spokesman Jay Carney has not denied that fact but correctly pointed out that there were multiple co-dependent threads that led to this success.

In response to a direct question on the CBS Evening News about enhanced interrogation and the bin Laden success, CIA Director Leon Panetta confirmed on May 3 that, "Obviously there was some valuable information that was derived through those kind of interrogations." He also added that it was an "open question" whether the information could have been elicited through other means, implicitly contradicting those who claim that other means would have produced the same information.

Let me add that this is not a discussion about the merits or the appropriateness of any interrogation technique. Indeed, I personally took more than half of the techniques (including waterboarding) off the table in 2007 because American law had changed, our understanding of the threat had deepened, and we were now blessed with additional sources of information. We can debate what was appropriate then, or now, but this is a discussion about a particular historical fact: Information derived from enhanced interrogation techniques helped lead us to bin Laden.

And so those who are prone to condemn the actions of those who have gone before (while harvesting the fruits of their efforts) might take pause. I've been personally asked about the appropriateness of waterboarding and--recognizing the immense challenge of balancing harsh treatment with saving innocent lives--usually respond: "I thank God that I did not have to make that decision." At the same time, I thank those who preceded me, made such decisions and thereby spared me the worst of the dilemma. Those who deny the usefulness of enhanced interrogation techniques might consider similar caution.

But if they cannot or will not, shouldn't they be true to their faith? If they truly believe that these interrogations did not and could not yield useful intelligence, they should demand that the CIA identify all the information derived directly or indirectly from enhanced interrogation. And then they should insist the agency destroy it. They should also insist that significant portions of the 9/11 Commission Report be rescinded, as it too was based on this data. This would be perfectly consistent with the interrogation deniers' transcendental faith that nothing of use could have come from enhanced interrogations after 9/11.

Strange that we have not heard such calls, even from the most ardent interrogation deniers. Perhaps they are not really like "birthers" and "truthers" after all. Perhaps, when all the public ideological posturing is done, and they are through attacking both their opponents' arguments and their character, they quietly concede to themselves that facts really do matter.

Now that's something I'd like to have faith in.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 8, 2011

The Chinese Jet We Missed

The appearance of fifth-generation J-20 Chinese fighter has shocked the Defense Department


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The aircraft looks eerily like our own next-generation stealth fighters:

This is the Northrop/McDonnell Douglas YF-23, the plane that in 1991 lost the competition to the F-22

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And the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, the Air Force's current top of the line fighter. It was meant to be our main fighter, replacing the F-15 for use in the most high-threat environments. Until President Obama, in his infinite wisdom, stopped production of this fighter at 187 units, that is. This is not nearly enough planes to meet various global threats, but Democrat constituency groups needed the money more so it was an easy decision for him.

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And finally for the U.S., the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. This aircraft grew out of the JSF, or Joint Strike Fighter, program. It will be used by all services; a traditional version by the Air Force where it will replace the F-15 (now that the future production of the F-22 has been canceled) and F-16, a naval version where it will replace the F-18 Hornet, and a VSTOL (Vertical and/or Short Landing and Take Off) version for the Marine Corps where it will replace the AV-8 Harrier. It looks like the military will be allowed to have this plane to replace their fleet of very old fighters, all of which first flew in the 1970s. It's pretty good, but not top of the line like the F-22. Too bad, because with fewer F-22's than expected will have to be our top fighter in most situations, a role for which it was not designed. No worries, if our enemies don't make too many of their new jets most of our guys will survive.

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Not to be outdone, the Russians are developing their own fifth-generation stealth fighter, the PAK FA. It'll be like all recent Russian fighters; good performance but lacking in electronics. Their cockpit technology is about 20 years older than what you see in Western aircraft. They also have problems with reliability, that is, their jets require a lot of maintenance meaning that their readiness rates aren't as good as ours. But see my discussion below about Vietnam...

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Ok, So What Does It Mean?

Bill Gertz has a great piece in the Washington Times explaining the background so I'll quote all of it:

The Pentagon is scrambling to explain what appears to be an intelligence failure after Internet photos made public recently showed a faster-than-estimated advance of China's new fifth-generation warplane.

U.S. intelligence estimates previously concluded the jet, dubbed the J-20, will not be deployed until 2020.

Vice Adm. David Dorsett, director of Naval Intelligence, told a group of defense reporters on Wednesday that the new Chinese fighter program was not a surprise, but "the speed at which they are making progress ... we underestimated."

"Across a broad array of weapons systems, they are making progress," the three-star admiral said.

Progress on the J-20 is among several other Chinese military developments that U.S. intelligence agencies have been accused of missing over the past decade. Others include the failure to detect a new class of Chinese submarine called the Yuan and shortcomings related to Beijing's long-range cruise missiles and a new anti-ship ballistic missile.

Pentagon spokesman Marine Col. Dave Lapan confirmed to Inside the Ring that recent photos of a new Chinese jet show "taxiing tests" on a prototype aircraft apparently photographed by people who saw it pass by.

"This is evidence that a fifth-generation fighter program is proceeding," Col. Lapan said.

"However, progress appears to be uneven: Open-source reports show that China has been seeking jet engines for its fourth-generation fighter from Russia, indicating that they are still encountering some difficulties in working toward fifth-generation capabilities," he said.

The faster development of the J-20 was first discussed by Chinese Gen. He Weirong, deputy commander of the Chinese air force last year. He predicted deployment as earlier as 2017.

The jet is expected to rival the U.S. F-22 superfighter whose production was canceled by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates after 187 jets were built. In scrapping the F-22, Mr. Gates stated publicly that one reason for his decision was that the Chinese would not deploy a comparable jet until 2020, thus more F-35 jets would be built instead of the more capable F-22.

Richard Fisher, a military analyst with the International Assessment and Strategy Center who was among the first to spot the J-20 photos months ago, said the aircraft is manufactured by the Chengdu Aircraft Co.

"Chengdu's goal is to beat the F-22 and then build their own F-35 when the 18-ton thrust engine is ready. It is a full challenge to the U.S. strategy for air power," Mr. Fisher said.

Both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations are to blame for not continuing production of the F-22, which is needed if there is ever a conflict with China over Taiwan, he said.

"Absent a better combat aircraft, this constitutes one of the most serious U.S. intelligence and leadership failures since the end of the Cold War," Mr. Fisher said.

Mr. Fisher said the images of the jet reveal that China is advancing rapidly toward fielding a credible and competitive fifth-generation fighter. The photos show a large fighter with radar-evading stealth features, an advanced electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and "supercruise" -- the ability to fly at supersonic speed for long distances using less fuel, he said.

"With refueling, this fighter can carry the fight out to Guam," Mr. Fisher said.

As for the Pentagon's claim that the Chinese are having problems developing an advanced engine for the jet, Mr. Fisher said China is ground-testing a new, more powerful jet engine and, as a result, could deploy the new jet by 2017.

"If the United States wishes to remain an Asian power capable of deterring Chinese aggression, or preventing future generations from becoming victims of China's dictates, it is essential that an improved version of the F-22 be put into crash development, as well as putting a sixth-generation fighter into formal development," Mr. Fisher said.

It's impossible to know if this jet really caught us off guard or if we're just saying that because we don't want the Chinese to know how much we know.

Before You Get Too Cocky

Too many Americans, I think, assume that we'll clean up in any air-to-air war, because, you know, we're the United States. Oh sure, we may have a hard time dealing with a bunch of guys in black pajamas or turbans on their heads, who shoot and run and hide, but our technology is so good that we'll dominate any aerial campaign. After all, we showed Saddam what's what twice, right?

Not so fast. Let's take a little walk through history.

The air war in Korea was mostly between our F-86 Sabre and the Russian built Mig-15 flown by Chinese pilots. Each aircraft had an advantage over the other in certain areas, but they pretty much equaled each other out. Our pilots shot down the Mig at a rate of 11 or 13 to 1 (the fog of war and all that, this not being Hollywood). Were were impressed with ourselves, and rightly so.

We went into Vietnam convinced that it's be Korea part 2 and we'd blow the North Vietnam out of the sky in droves.

Much to our surprise, in the 1964-68 period we only achieved a 2 to 1 ratio over the North Vietnamese, and probably only 1 to 1 against their premier fighter, the MiG-21. This greatly disturbed us because we knew that if we could only do this well against the North Vietnamese, we'd surely do much worse against the Russians.

There were two main reasons we did so poorly; one, our pilots had lost the art of dogfighting. We assumed that most fights would be at long to medium range with missiles and that dogfighting was a thing of the past. We didn't even put guns on our aircraft. When practiced aerial combat, it was one American squadron fighting another; i.e. similar or exactly the same aircraft with pilots using the exact same tactics against each other.

The second reason was problems with missile reliability. All too often our guys would squeesze the trigger and the missile would not leave the rail. If it would, as often as not it would fail to track.

The Russian built Mig-17 and especially the Mig-21 proved worthy adversaries when flown by competent North Vietnamese pilots. One thing that saved us from too many aerial defeats is that as often as not the communist pilots weren't very good and relied heavily on direction from controllers on the ground.

During the bombing halt after 1968, we corrected all of the problems. We formed Top Gun for the Navy and Red Flag for the Air Force, and got our missiles to work. At each fighter school the respective services formed dedicated Red Teams, or "opposition forces," who studied in detail the tactics that Russian (and other potential enemies) pilots actually used. They used aircraft different than what U.S. fighter squadrons used, aircraft with different performance characteristics to try and throw our guys off.

When we went back north again in 1972-73 we shot enemy planes down at the rate of 13-1, which was more like what we had achieved in Korea. We learned our lesson the hard way.

On The Other Hand...

All of the above works the other way around, too. If we haven't fought a serious air war in 38 years, the Chinese haven't fought one in 58. Further, that the Israelis shoot down the Arabs in droves every time they clash shows that you can have all of the sophisticated hardware you want and if you can't properly use it it's just so much junk.

So that the new Chinese aircraft carriers that are due to hit the water in 2015 are a big concern, it's one thing to build a ship and take nice photos of aircraft on it, quite another to engage in high-intensity launch-and-recovery operations over a sustained period, and especially under the pressures of combat, without blowing yourself up. We almost lost the USS Oriskany in 1966, the USS Forrestal in 1967, and the USS Enterprise in 1969 due to flight deck fires before we revamped procedures and got our act together.

Maybe we've retained the lessons of Vietnam and maybe not. Top Gun and Red Flag are still around, and our military takes them very seriously. That's the good news.

The Strategy

Wars do not take place in a vacuum. They are fought over something, and most likely that something will be Taiwan, the Chinese democracy on the island of Formosa.

If the mainland Chinese decided to take Taiwan by force, they could pursue any number of options, but all involve keeping United States forces at bay just long enough for them to succeed. In other words, at the end of the day they do not need to control the ocean; they just need to keep us from controlling it long enough to defeat Taiwan.

We, on the other hand, must be able to rapidly prevail in any war. Time is not on our side.

Sounding The Alarm?

On the one hand, China is not the Soviet Union, as their expansionist goals are much more modest. They are much more nationalist and authoritarian than communist and totalitarian.

On the other, remember that the bully boys around the world are watching, and if they see us humbled in one place they'll figure they can do the same. Just as wars do not take place in a vacuum without political objectives, neither do the results of individual wars not cascade around the world.

So while this new Chinese jet is not the equivalent to the Japanese Zero which was clearly superior to all of our aircraft at the time of it's introduction and a clear threat from a hostile power, neither is it to be ignored. If we sit still and do not produce advanced figther aircraft our potential adversaries will move forward. And if it comes to a shooting war, we may not do as well as we think we will.


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September 4, 2010

Does Obama Even Care About Iraq or Afghanistan?

Last week President Obama gave a major address about the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq. It was remarkable for his lack of passion on the subject, and that he used the opportunity to segue into domestic issues. When he announced his new Afghanistan strategy last year, he did so in a half-hearted speech in which it was clear that his heart wasn't in it. It was as if he was only sending the additional 30,000 troops because he felt he was pushed into doing so, not because he really cared.

This from one of the great orators of our day. The President saves his soaring rhetoric for healthcare and stimulus spending. I understand that Obama, like most presidents, has domestic issues as his primary focus. But that's no excuse, for as Charles Krauthammer says, most presidents don't get to decide whether they become wartime leaders or not.

Our Distracted Commander-in-Chief
Some presidents may not like being wartime leaders. But they don't get to decide; history does.
September 3, 2010 12:00 A.M.
Charles Krauthammer

Many have charged that President Obama's decision to begin withdrawing from Afghanistan ten months from now is hampering our war effort. But now it's official. In a stunning statement last week, Marine Corps commandant Gen. James Conway admitted that the July 2011 date is "probably giving our enemy sustenance."

A remarkably bold charge for an active military officer. It stops just short of suggesting aiding and abetting the enemy. Yet the observation is obvious: It is surely harder to prevail in a war that hinges on the allegiance of the locals when they hear the U.S. president talk of beginning a withdrawal that will ultimately leave them to the mercies of the Taliban.

How did Obama come to this decision? "Our Afghan policy was focused as much as anything on domestic politics," an Obama adviser at the time told Peter Baker of the New York Times. "He would not risk losing the moderate to centrist Democrats in the middle of health insurance reform and he viewed that legislation as the make-or-break legislation for his administration."

If this is true, then Obama's military leadership can only be called scandalous. During the past week, 22 Americans were killed over a four-day period in Afghanistan. This is not a place about which decisions should be made in order to placate congressmen, pass health-care reform, and thereby maintain a president's political standing. This is a place about which a president should make decisions to best succeed in the military mission he himself has set out.

But Obama sees his wartime duties as a threat to his domestic agenda. These wars are a distraction, unwanted interference with his true vocation -- transforming America.

Such an impression could only have been reinforced when, given the opportunity in his Oval Office address this week to dispel the widespread perception in Afghanistan that America is leaving, Obama doubled down on his ambivalence. After giving a nod to the pace of troop reductions being conditions-based, he declared with his characteristic "but make no mistake" that "this transition will begin -- because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people's."

These are the words of a man who wants out. Most emphatically on Iraq, where from the beginning Obama has made clear that his objective is simply ending combat operations by an arbitrary deadline -- despite the fact that a new government has not been formed and all our hard-won success hangs in the balance -- in order to address the more paramount concern: keeping a campaign promise. Time to "turn the page" and turn America elsewhere.

At first you'd think that turning is to Afghanistan. But Obama added nothing to his previously stated Afghan policy while emphatically reiterating July 2011 as the beginning of the end, or more diplomatically, of the "transition."

Well then, at least you'd then expect some vision of his larger foreign policy. After all, this was his first Oval Office address on the subject. What is the meaning, if any, of the Iraq and Afghan wars? And what of the clouds that are forming beyond those theaters: the drone-war escalation in Pakistan, the rise of al-Qaeda in Yemen, the danger of Somalia falling to al-Shabaab, and the threat of renewed civil war in Islamist Sudan as a referendum on independence for southern Christians and animists approaches?

This was the stage for Obama to explain what follows the now-abolished Global War on Terror. Where does America stand on the spreading threats to stability, decency, and U.S. interests from the Horn of Africa to the Hindu Kush?

On this, not a word. Instead, Obama made a strange and clumsy segue into a pep talk on the economy. Rebuilding it, he declared, "must be our central mission as a people, and my central responsibility as president." This in a speech ostensibly about the two wars he is directing. He could not have made more clear where his priorities lie, and how much he sees foreign policy -- war policy -- as subordinate to his domestic ambitions.

Unfortunately, what for Obama is a distraction is life or death for U.S. troops now on patrol in Kandahar province. Some presidents may not like being wartime leaders. But they don't get to decide. History does. Obama needs to accept the role. It's not just the U.S. military, as Baker reports, that is "worried he is not fully invested in the cause." Our allies, too, are experiencing doubt. And our enemies are drawing sustenance.


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August 9, 2010

Not Sailing Into the Yellow Sea
On the Meaning and Importance of Freedom of the Seas

A few weeks ago the navies of the United States and South Korea (Republic of Korea) conducted naval exercises in the Sea of Japan. This was in response to the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan by a torpedo fired from a North Korean(Democratic People's Republic of Korea) Yeono class miniature submarine. The centerpiece of the U.S. forces that engaged in the exercises was the U.S.S George Washington, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

The purpose of the exercise was to send a message to the DPRK that they are messing with a superior force that has the capability to destroy them. It was as much a show of force as it was a chance the the navies to practice fighting battles.

But the message may have been lost, or at least muddled. South Korea wanted to hold the exercises in the Yellow Sea, but China objected. According to this story at Fox News, "at the last minute, word came from the exercises would happen east of South Korea (and well east of China) in the Sea of Japan. U.S. officials denied to us there was any cave-in to Beijing."

Sure.

Yellow Sea

This isn't just a matter of where to hold naval exercises, or "respecting China's request," or whatever. This involves freedom of the seas and who will have hegemony, or primary influence, in this area.

The fact is that the values and policies of the government of the People's Republic of China are antithetical to our own. While we are hardly perfect in who we support and the governments we help create and influence, at the end of the day we'd like to see other countries with a pluralistic systems of government. China doesn't care about these things. It is therefore not good if they are the ones who determine who may sail where.

Freedom of the sea is a good thing. It is good for economics, politics, and a stable world order. We need to be able to ensure all of these, and doing so requires a strong navy that can sail in international waters everywhere.

So the first problem we have is a United States government that caved to the wishes of the Chinese. Not too long ago we would have just bulled through and have been done with it. Our messages would certainly not have been mixed.

Beyond Politics

It has been reported that the Chinese are fielding or preparing to field an medium range ballistic missile called the Dong-Feng 21

Dong Feng 21D

An Associated Pres story carried by Yahoo got much attention last week. Money quote

U.S. naval planners are scrambling to deal with what analysts say is a game-changing weapon being developed by China -- an unprecedented carrier-killing missile called the Dong Feng 21D that could be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defenses of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 1,500 kilometers (900 miles).

According to Wikipedia, the latest version has a range of some 1,900 miles, and allegedly has a terminal guidance system capable of targeting large ships. It might have been tested in 2005 or 2006, though results are uncertain.

Certainly it makes sense to try and develop such a weapon. Asymmetric can make sense, and investing in this technology may be a better bet than to try and develop their own carrier and come after us World War II style; they've read about the Battle of Midway too. Reports I have read have it that the Soviets tried but abandoned the concept.

Whether the DF-21 is a viable concept I do not know. It might be a modern V-1 or V-2. Those Nazi "wonder weapons" were terrifying in concept and caused much destruction in and around London, but had no effect on the outcome of the war. All the Chinese may get for their investment are large splashes in the ocean. Hopefully of course our intelligence services have discerned the truth.

In the end though it might not matter whether the DF-21 will work or not. What matters is whether we think it will work. Between that and our new found timidity, the end of U.S dominance may be upon us and we've barely begun to recognize it.

There will always be new technical challenges to overcome. If the DF-21 is indeed a threat, we can certainly find a way to counter it, whether it be an upgraded Standard 3 missile on board our Aegis-equipped ships (Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Burke-class destroyers) or something new is something for the technocrats to figure out. But to lose our dominance through choice, that would be a real tragedy, and the world will be the worse off for it.

Update

Stuart Koehl, writing at The Weekly Standard, gives some good reasons why missiles like the DF-21 do not spell the end of the aircraft carrier but are simply another threat we can successfully counter. It won't be easy, as the weapon is nothing to take lightly, but neither is it the wonder-weapon it's advocates seem to think. Koehl explains that carriers are amazingly hard to find, and even if targeted can employ a plethora of active and passive defenses.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 4, 2010

The Danger of Low Defense Budgets
Old Weaponry to Face Modern Adversaries

A recent article in The Weekly Standard got me thinking again about our defense structure. We're so committed to so much social spending, and have so many people thinking we don't need to worry about our military, that I fear that we could come off second best in a war with an adversary like China.

In (a May speech at the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas, Secretary of Defense Robert) Gates stated that the U.S. military has more than 3,200 tactical combat aircraft--an impressive number. What he did not mention is that the vast majority of the planes have been flying for years, were designed decades ago, and are supported by a tanker fleet that first entered the force six years before Barack Obama was born. Critically, fewer than 150 of these combat aircraft are top-of-the-line, stealthy F-22s, production of which has been capped at 187. Yet even this number doesn't quite capture how limited the force is. Consider the F-22s needed for training, the dispersal of the remaining number among various bases, and the reality that for every plane on station there are two or three in queue, and you get a sense of just how few air-dominance planes we might have on hand during a crisis.

The Air Force

The F-22 Raptor is the world's best air-superiority fighter, but with production stopped at 187 by Obama we've got precious few to fill our world-wide requirements

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For the rest of this post I'm going to recycle some things I've written before.

Most of our weapons are getting very old. The F-15 Eagle first flew in 1972. The F-16 Falcon in 1979, and the F-18 Hornet 1982. The first Los Angeles class submarine was launched in 1976. The CH-53 first flew in 1981, and the H47 in 1962.

Bombers? The last B-52 rolled off of the assembly line in 1962, and we've only got about 90 operational ones left. The B-1b Lancer is an upgraded 1970s design, with only 66 active. The B-2 Spirit is the most impressive of all... but we've only got 20 of them.

But that's ok, because our tanker fleet of KC-10 and KC-135s are about as old, and we're running out of them too.

The F-35 Lightning II

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Yes all of the above systems have undergone major upgrades. I know all this. But you can only do so much with an old airframe. Sure, we could build a new helicopter instead of the tilt-rotor V-22 and it would be better than what is in the inventory. But we are really at about the limit of what you can do with helicopter technology, so it would be an exercise in the point of diminishing returns.

Instead of the F-22 Raptor we could rely on the somewhat less expensive F-35 Lightning II JSF. This, however, would have been the equivalent of canceling the F-15 and relying on the F-16. Ask any pilot about the wisdom of that potential decision.

Russia and China are building new aircraft like there's no tomorrow; see this list at the Federation of American Scientists. The newer aircraft are very good, and are being exported to many countries around the world. Besides the Russian and Chinese aircraft, the ones coming out of Europe are very good and they hope to sell them to countries that, who knows, we may have to fight one day. China is cranking out ships and submarines too, and is looking to have an aircraft carrier by the end of the decade, from what I read.

Mig-29 "Fulcrum"

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Supporters of the decision to cut further production of the F-22 need to hope that we don't get into any shooting wars in which our planes are shot down, and ex-pilots start going on TV saying "if only we'd had the F-22..." No matter how good Obama's diplomacy, events can spiral out of control. Right or left I think we can all agree that there are a lot of crazies running countries right now.

The Navy

Back to the piece in

The Weekly Standard

Gates also noted that the U.S. battlefleet is larger than the next 13 navies combined. True. But what he didn't say is that the current number of ships in the fleet, 286, is substantially below the minimum set by several previous studies of what the Navy requires to carry out all the tasks it is charged with around the world. Nor does he mention that this number is shrinking--and will shrink, if the budget stays as is, to levels not seen since the early 20th century. Undoubtedly, the ships of today are far more combat-capable than those of even 15 years ago. Still, numbers matter. Typically, for every ship on station there is one being refurbished after deployment and one undergoing training and work-up prior to deployment. Add to that the fact that the Navy is needed virtually everywhere--protecting the sea lanes, providing support for the wars, gathering intelligence, acting as a missile defense shield, and helping deter the likes of Iran, China, and North Korea--and one quickly comes to appreciate why a much smaller fleet, more widely dispersed, will become a strategic problem.

More than this, remember that our navy must be in all places of the world all of the time; so although it is big it is spread out. Potential enemies such as China, Iran, or Russia can concentrate their force all in one area.

And more than that, they will have land bases nearby the scene of the battles, whereby our air force planes will have to fly longer distances, and carriers are sinkable.

We've gone from 15 or so carriers to 11 and soon to 10. They're all Nimitz class which seems impressive, but again a 1070s design. They ships suffer from a lack of electricity. There are a zillion more gizmos today than there were 30+ years ago, and even a nuclear reactor can produce a finite amount of power. The first of the Gerald R Ford class won't hit the water until 2015.

But that's ok, because with the retirement of the F-14 Tomcat we've barely got enough F-18 Hornet and Super Hornets to fill the carrier decks, and the replacement F-35 Lightning II is barely out of flight testing and into production. More, there's no guarantee our dear president won't cancel or limit production of it too just like he did the F-22.

Why Does it Matter?

I probably should have put this first, but couldn't work it in. Again from TWS:

The strategic success of the United States rests on achieving three things: the defense of the homeland, including all of North America and the Caribbean Basin; safe access to and the ability to exploit the "global commons," including the seas, the skies, space, and cyberspace; and a favorable balance of power across Eurasia. For all this to work as a "system," each piece must be in working order.

In other words, we have to keep out homes safe, guard the sea lanes to ensure freedom of navigation, and ensure that no adversary gains too much power in Europe and Asia. I think those are worthy goals, and worth spending money on. Much more so than any "stimulus" that is mostly just a payoff to Democrat interest groups.

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August 2, 2010

History Shows that Cutting Defense Spending is Dangerous

American History follows a predictable pattern. During every war, and we'll throw in the Cold War, we build up our military and usually defeat the enemy. After it's over, we dramatically cut back. Then another war takes us by surprise, and we discover our military is too small for the task. We suffer, often grievously at first, but eventually build back up. Repeat.

In the past we could sort-of get away with this because we didn't spend that much on social programs, so, there was a lot of room to build the military back up. Today we spend more than ever on social programs, and as we all know once in place they're almost impossible to cut.

Max Boot reminds us of the folly of cutting defense spending too much in times of relative peace:

Impact of past defense cuts should warn of risks
The Washington Post
by Max Boot
Friday, July 30, 2010

The prospect of an exit from Iraq and Afghanistan has sparked rumblings on Capitol Hill that it's time to cut the defense budget. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, says, "I'm pretty certain cuts are coming -- in defense and the whole budget." Defense Secretary Bob Gates is already pushing to cancel some big-ticket programs and to wring savings out of the existing budget.

If there were ever evidence that it's impossible to learn from history -- or at least that it's difficult for politicians to do so -- this is it. Before they rush to cut defense spending, lawmakers should consider the consequences of previous attempts to cash in on a "peace dividend."

After the American Revolution, our armed forces shrank from 35,000 men in 1778 (plus tens of thousands of militiamen) to just 10,000 by 1800. The result was that we were ill-prepared to fight the Whiskey Rebellion, the quasi-war with France, the Barbary wars and the War of 1812 -- all of which might have been averted if the new republic had had an army and a navy that commanded the respect of prospective enemies, foreign and domestic.

After the Civil War, our armed forces shrank from more than a million men in 1865 to just 50,000 in 1870. This made the failure of Reconstruction inevitable -- there were simply too few federal troops left to enforce the rule of law in the South and to overcome the ruthless terrorist campaign waged by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups. Segregation would remain a blot on U.S. history for another century.

After World War I, our armed forces shrank from 2.9 million men in 1918 to 250,000 in 1928. The result? World War II became more likely and its early battles more costly. Imagine how Hitler might have acted in 1939 had several hundred thousand American troops been stationed in France and Poland. Under such circumstances, it is doubtful he would ever have launched his blitzkrieg. Likewise, Japanese leaders might have thought twice about attacking Pearl Harbor if their homeland had been in imminent danger of being pulverized by thousands of American bombers and their fleet sunk by dozens of American aircraft carriers.

After World War II, our armed forces shrank from 12 million men in 1945 to 1.4 million in 1950. (The Army went from 8.3 million soldiers to 593,000.) The result was that ill-trained, ill-armed draftees were almost pushed off the Korean Peninsula by the North Korean invasion. Kim Il Sung was probably emboldened to aggression in the first place by the rapid dissolution of America's wartime strength and indications from parsimonious policymakers that South Korea was outside our "defense perimeter."

After the Korean War, our armed forces as a whole underwent a smaller decline -- from 3.6 million men in 1952 to 2.5 million in 1959 -- but the Army lost almost half its active-duty strength in those years. President Dwight Eisenhower's New Look relied on relatively inexpensive nuclear weapons to deter the Soviet Union and its allies, rather than a large, costly standing army. The Army that was sent to Vietnam was not prepared to fight guerrillas -- an enemy that could not be defeated with a hand-held Davy Crockett nuclear launcher.

After the Vietnam War, our armed forces shrank from 3.5 million personnel in 1969 to 2 million in 1979. This was the era of the "hollow army," notorious for its inadequate equipment, discipline, training and morale. Our enemies were emboldened to aggression, ranging from the anti-American revolutions in Nicaragua and Iran to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. We are still paying a heavy price for the Iranian Revolution, with Iran on the verge of going nuclear.

After the end of the Cold War and the Persian Gulf War, our armed forces shrank from 2.1 million personnel in 1989 to 1.3 million in 1999; the Army went from 769,000 soldiers to 479,000. The result: an Army desperately overstretched by its subsequent deployments. Part of the reason too few troops were sent to stabilize Iraq in 2003 was that senior officials thought there simply weren't enough to go round.

We are still suffering the consequences of the post-Cold War drawdown. The Navy is finding it hard to fight Somali pirates, police the Persian Gulf and deter Chinese expansionism in the Western Pacific. The Army and Marine Corps are forced to maintain a punishing operational tempo that drives out too many bright young officers and NCOs. The Air Force has to fly decades-old aircraft until they are falling apart.

It might still make sense to cut the defense budget -- if it were bankrupting us and undermining our economic well-being. But that's not the case. Defense spending is less than 4 percent of gross domestic product and less than 20 percent of the federal budget. That means our armed forces are much less costly in relative terms than they were throughout much of the 20th century. Even at roughly $549 billion, our core defense budget is eminently affordable. It is, in fact, a bargain considering the historic consequences of letting our guard down.

The writer is the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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August 1, 2010

The Financial Cost of Iraq and Afghanistan

I wrote the title the way I did to distinguish my subject from the human cost, which is an entirely different matter.

Whatever the reasons for our budgetary problems, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are most certainly are not part of it. More, while there may be good reasons for abandoning one or both of those countries (though I'd disagree with them), financial cost is not one of them.

From a July 24 story in the New York Times:

Cost of US Wars2

Since I can't make this any clearer, you can view the original on the Times website here.

The conclusion is that the cost of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is very low. The only reason it seems high and a strain is that we spend so much more on various social programs.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq took up 1.2 percent of GDN in 2008, whereas World War I took up 13.6 percent and World War II a whopping 35.8 percent.

History

From a post on this subject I did in April of 2009:

Some of the charts and numbers below are from Truth and Politics, and other charts from Heritage. Unfortunately most of the charts and numbers don't cover the past few years. If I can find more tomorrow I'll fill in the gaps.

My apologies that the charts are not totally clear. I could make them larger but then they'd be blurry. Follow the links to see them more clearly.

Military Spending as a Percent of GDP

First, as a chart from Truth and Politics

US military spending as a percentage of GDP, 1940--2003

This chart from Heritage is pretty up to date

Another chart from Heritage showing National Defense Spending as a Percentage of GDP, 1962-2007

Photobucket

Defense Budget as a Percent of GDP

Then, the actual numbers from Truth and Politics

After the year is the amount we spent as a percentage of GDP

1940 1.7
1941 5.6
1942 17.8
1943 37.0
1944 37.8
1945 37.5
1946 19.2
1947 5.5
1948 3.5
1949 4.8
1950 5.0
1951 7.4
1952 13.2
1953 14.2
1954 13.1
1955 10.8
1956 10.0
1957 10.1
1958 10.2
1959 10.0
1960 9.3
1961 9.4
1962 9.2
1963 8.9
1964 8.5
1965 7.4
1966 7.7
1967 8.8
1968 9.4
1969 8.7
1970 8.1
1971 7.3
1972 6.7
1973 5.8
1974 5.5
1975 5.5
1976 5.2
1977 4.9
1978 4.7
1979 4.6
1980 4.9
1981 5.1
1982 5.7
1983 6.1
1984 5.9
1985 6.1
1986 6.2
1987 6.1
1988 5.8
1989 5.6
1990 5.2
1991 4.6
1992 4.8
1993 4.4
1994 4.0
1995 3.7
1996 3.5
1997 3.3
1998 3.1
1999 3.0
2000 3.0
2001 3.0
2002 3.4
2003 3.7


So excluding World War II, spending peaked during the 1950s but has mostly fallen since.

As a Percentage of Discretionary Outlays

US military spending as a percentage of discretionary outlays, 1962--2003

First, as a chart from Truth and Politics

Photobucket

Then from Heritage

Defense v Entitlements

Wikipedia has it as

U.S. Defense Spending as a Percent of Total Budget Outlays

U.S. Defense Spending as a Percent of Total Outlays

Then, the numbers from Truth and Politics; US military spending as a percentage of discretionary spending, 1962--2003

1962 72.9
1963 71.3
1964 69.5
1965 65.6
1966 65.4
1967 67.6
1968 69.6
1969 70.5
1970 68.1
1971 64.5
1972 61.7
1973 59.1
1974 58.4
1975 55.5
1976 51.2
1977 49.5
1978 47.8
1979 48.7
1980 48.7
1981 51.3
1982 57.0
1983 59.4
1984 60.1
1985 60.9
1986 62.4
1987 63.6
1988 62.6
1989 62.2
1990 60.0
1991 59.9
1992 56.7
1993 54.2
1994 52.1
1995 50.2
1996 49.9
1997 49.6
1998 48.9
1999 48.2
2000 48.0
2001 47.1
2002 47.5
2003 49.0

Again, we see the same pattern.

Operation Iraqi Freedom as compared to past wars. The chart is via National Review and as of January 23 2006. Of course we've spent more since then but even so it wouldn't really change the chart that much.

Photobucket

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June 22, 2010

Yes, Gen. Stanley McChrystal Should be Fired

An excerpt from excerpts from the Rolling Stone article

Even though he had voted for Obama, McChrystal and his new commander in chief failed from the outset to connect. The general first encountered Obama a week after he took office, when the president met with a dozen senior military officials in a room at the Pentagon known as the Tank. According to sources familiar with the meeting, McChrystal thought Obama looked "uncomfortable and intimidated" by the roomful of military brass. Their first one-on-one meeting took place in the Oval Office four months later, after McChrystal got the Afghanistan job, and it didn't go much better. "It was a 10-minute photo op," says an adviser to McChrystal. "Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was. Here's the guy who's going to run his [expletive] war, but he didn't seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed." ...

One aide calls Jim Jones, a retired four-star general and veteran of the Cold War, a "clown" who remains "stuck in 1985." Politicians like McCain and Kerry, says another aide, "turn up, have a meeting with Karzai, criticize him at the airport press conference, then get back for the Sunday talk shows. Frankly, it's not very helpful." Only Hillary Clinton receives good reviews from McChrystal's inner circle. "Hillary had Stan's back during the strategic review," says an adviser. "She said, 'If Stan wants it, give him what he needs.'

McChrystal reserves special skepticism for Holbrooke, the official in charge of reintegrating the Taliban. "The Boss says he's like a wounded animal," says a member of the general's team. "Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he's going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous."

Certainly inappropriate and impolitic, but not as big a deal as some of the stories would suggest. That said, ifPresident Obama fired McChrystal I'd support the decision

The President will meet with the general tomorrow, and has said that he won't make any decision until after they talk: "I think it's clear that the article in which he and his team appeared showed a poor -- showed poor judgment, but I also want to make sure that I talk to him directly before I make any final decisions."

The most famous incident in which a president fired a general was, of course, when Truman dismissed Douglas MacArthur. The general had criticized the president's limited war strategy, particularly his desire to avoid involving China.

Forty years ago, in another incident that caused much controversy at the time, President Carter fired General john Singlaub over comments the latter publicly criticized the President's decision to withdraw troops from Korea.

MacArthur and Singlaub deserved to be fired. McChrystal's offense is different, but he deserves to be fired nonetheless. However, my guess is he'll probably survive with a reprimand. Most likely the story we'll hear is that McChrystal offered his resignation and the President refused it. Obama will calculate that he simply cannot afford for things to go any more wrong in Afghanistan.

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit said that:

McChrystal's greatest crime is speaking the truth -- that the White House is unserious about this war, and that its foreign policy team isn't up to the job. And if he were saying this about a Republican administration, the press would be hailing him as a great hero, speaking truth to power.

Nonetheless, serving generals aren't supposed to speak this way about their civilian masters, and so if the Rolling Stone reports are true, he should probably be sacked.

Exactly correct. Singlaub was right and he still deserved to be fired. Truman was right with regards to China. Whether McChrystal is right or not is irrelevant because we simply cannot have generals criticizing their civilian bosses in public. The editors of National Review make the point that firing McChrystal will not advance us towards victory in Afghanistan. Undoubtedly true, and also irrelevant.

That said, Reynolds makes another point that is dead on correct:

Under a Republican President, it's listen to the generals. Under a Democratic President, it's all about civilian control of the military.

As always, Victor Davis Hanson has wise things to say, so I'll close with him:

Many have commented on the unfairness of it all, and made good points:

a) Obama, having demagogued the Iraq war, and campaigned on a "let me at 'em" in the "good" war in Afghanistan, has done his best to renege on his 2008 chest-thumping (e.g., not meeting with McChrystal for months; setting arbitrary withdrawal dates that turn the war into a "wait them out" process; publicly rebuking in embarrassing fashion the Karzai government; insulting the British enough so that they and other European countries will soon be leaving -- not wishing to stay on when they also know we're going to pack it up soon, and so on).

b) McChrystal has not said anything more defamatory than what Obama himself, as a U.S. senator, said about the surge or Predators, and nothing that approaches the slanders of a Sen. Durban, Kerry, or Reid.

c) We don't always fire generals who mouth off -- especially those so closely identified with the current efforts at the front. Patton was given several chances; Arleigh Burke was saved by Truman despite his campaign against the Pentagon's civilian head.

d) Obama is in a terrible dilemma. If he doesn't fire McChrystal after a second indiscretion, he perhaps looks weak. If he does, it endangers the current effort in Afghanistan and looks like he's silencing an officer for having legitimate worries.

e) The howling media is hypocritical. Yesterday's officers who took on Bush in the "revolt of the generals" were deemed courageous. Today's critics are slandered as near-treasonous when they dare reproach Him.

f) It would be very frustrating for a gifted and devoted general like McChrystal to work for Obama, given the latter's indifference, contradictions, and clear anti-war stance as a senator.

No matter, nonetheless. The issue is not whether McChrystal is a great officer (he is), but one of judgment. One does not openly criticize civilian overseers to the press, however justified (and there are plenty of justifications). Nor does one allow a climate in which subordinate officers feel emboldened enough that they loosely trash an administration to the press. If one really wishes to warn the public about a growing crisis in Afghanistan brought on by ignorance, egos, and duplicity in the administration, one surely does not talk to the likes of Rolling Stone. The proper way is to send warnings in private channels up the chain of command to the Pentagon and then to the White House. And when one feels the level of ignorance is overwhelming the chances of success, then one resigns and goes public to warn the nation. One cannot otherwise have it both ways.

No one wants to see McChrystal go, but senior officers and their staffers simply cannot ridicule civilian overseers, even if casually and in jest. We don't know all the details or the veracity of the journalists involved, so it would be foolish to rush to judgment, but something will have to be resolved within the next 48 hours or so.


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May 7, 2010

Our Nuclear Stockpile - How Many Weapons and How Usable are They?

Last week the Obama Administration revealed that we have 5,113 nuclear warheads in our arsenal. This was only the second time in U.S. history that the exact number has been released.

This sounds like a lot for the post-war era. Unfortunately, it turns out that the number is both inaccurate and misleading.

DoD Releases Nuclear Stockpile Figures
The Weekly Standard
BY John Noonan
May 4, 2010

Yesterday, the Obama administration released the DoD's official nuclear stockpile figures. For decades, the size and shape of America's atomic arsenal have been deliberately kept secret, and for good reason. There's always been a calculated sense of ambiguity around our nuclear forces and our deterrence strategies, with the logic being that an enemy --if left to speculate about how, when, where, and if we'd use our nukes-- would err on the side of caution and keep his fangs tucked.

Releasing the stockpile tally, which comes in at slightly over 5k warheads, doesn't really endanger national security. But it does provide ample fodder to nuclear disarmament types, most of whom haven't breathed through their noses since yesterday afternoon's announcement. Joe Cirincione, head of the Ploughshares Fund, swiftly took to Twitter with a rather dubious claim: "Good News: US lifts nuclear secrecy. Bad News: We have 5,113 hydrogen bombs ready to use. 1 destroys a city."

When I challenged him on this, Cirincione -- likely unaware that I spent five years in the Air Force as a Minuteman III launch officer -- replied: "Of the 5113 weapons, about half are ready to use in minutes; about half could be used in hours, days, or for some, weeks."

When I challenged him on this, Cirincione -- likely unaware that I spent five years in the Air Force as a Minuteman III launch officer -- replied: "Of the 5113 weapons, about half are ready to use in minutes; about half could be used in hours, days, or for some, weeks."

Let's explore that claim. Half of those bombs are in an inactive state, either waiting to be destroyed or cannibalized to support the operational stockpile. Many of the components on our nuclear weapons haven't been built for two decades, which means that three of the four categories of nuclear warheads are dedicated to supporting the operational force.

And then there's the logistical and planning issues of the "ready to use" argument. Every launcher in our inventory would have to be alerted and fully armed with warheads, all 14 subs would have to be flushed out to launch boxes (we keep around 3-4 on alert), and all of our bombers would have to be fully swapped from conventional support roles, nuclear certified, and armed with a full complement of cruise missiles. Targeteers at U.S. Strategic Command would have to build an entire library of warplans to find aimpoints for the bombs, most of which haven't been operationally certified in years. Disposal plants and storage facilities would have to be emptied in the largest exodus of nuclear weapons in history, but not before thousands of warheads would need to be fitted with parts that no longer exist. Submarine and ground launched missiles would require new targeting data, additional fuel, and extra warheads. Thousands of pages of reference documents and target listings would have to be crafted, and all nuclear crews would have to be fully trained on the new procedures. And, if that string of miracles were to occur, we'd still come up short on launchers to actually deliver the bombs. That we have 5k nuclear warheads ready to be used, even in months, isn't just unlikely -- it's impossible.

After the Cold War ended, the stockpile was kept classified for precisely this reason: politics. Transparency in this sense is not a threat to national security, but the ensuing disarmament fever -- fueled by an ill-informed anti-nuke movement -- certainly could. Our nuclear inventory consists of 5k --soon to be 4600-- bombs for good reason. It keeps the deployed operational force of approximately 800 warheads ticking. So Obama may have declassified the stockpile to build some extra political muscle for his various disarmament initiatives, but instead the president ended up making a superb case for nuclear modernization.

So you see, the issue is a lot more complicated than simply citing a single figure. Let's review some of the points made in the article:


  1. For sound military and political reasons we have not traditionally released the exact number of nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal.
  2. The Obama Administration claims that the exact figure is 5,113.
  3. Only half of that number are ready for immediate use.
  4. Some of the other half could be readied for use after an uncertain period of time
  5. Some of the other half are effectively unusable.
  6. Nuclear warheads are not fungible, which is to say that they are not all available to fulfill all mission scenarios. The W76 and W88 warheads on a Navy Trident II are capable of one thing, the B-83 and AGM-86B cruise missiles carried by a B-52/B-1 or B-2 another.

Another thing that Mr Cirincione said that is simply not true; "one (hydrogen bomb) destroys a city." A common myth is that all nuclear weapons are more or less the same in destructive power. The truth is that they vary considerably, with the smallest not much more powerful than the largest conventional explosives. Still very powerful to be sure, but not all are "city busters."

Statistics on military weaponry are tricky things. If you look up the F-15 Eagle you'll see that it's maximum speed is listed as 1,650+ mph, combat radius as 1,222 miles, and can carry up to 16,000 lb on it's external pylons.

All true, but it can't do all of them on the same mission. For example, getting to 1,650mph requires a "clean" aircraft (ie carrying nothing), and aerial refueling both before and after the speed attempt. Nuclear weapons aren't much different.

For example, what is termed the "hydrogen" bomb is not a static device that you can sit on a shelf for 20 years, take it off, and be assured it will work. You can, on the other hand, take a bullet or traditional bomb off a shelf where it's been sitting for far more than 20 years and be assured that they will work. For example, tritium, an isotope of hydrogen, makes up (some) of the "hydrogen" in a hydrogen bomb (it's all terribly complicated). Tritium decays and must be replaced at periodic intervals.

Here's the bottom line; maybe we have the right number of warheads in our arsenal right now or we don't. Maybe we need more, maybe less. Maybe we should develop new ones and spend more to ensure the workability of our current ones, or we shouldn't. But simply citing a single figure and comparing that to single figures from other countries is highly misleading.

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March 3, 2010

The Decline of American Military Hegemony

David Wood talks about something that I've been worried about for some time:

China, Iran Creating 'No-Go' Zones to Thwart U.S. Military Power
by David Woods
Politics Daily

The United States, Pentagon strategists say, is quickly losing its ability to barge in without permission. Potential target countries and even some lukewarm allies are figuring out ingenious ways to blunt American power without trying to meet it head-on, using a combination of high-tech and low-tech jujitsu....

At the same time, U.S. naval and air forces have been shrinking under the weight of ever more expensive hardware. It's no longer the case that the United States can overwhelm clever defenses with sheer numbers.

As Defense Secretary Robert Gates summed up the problem this month, countries in places where the United States has strategic interests -- including the Persian Gulf and the Pacific -- are building "sophisticated, new technologies to deny our forces access to the global commons of sea, air, space and cyberspace.''

Those innocuous words spell trouble. While the U.S. military and strategy community is focused on Afghanistan and the fight in Marja, others - Iran and China, to name two - are chipping away at America's access to the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea, the Persian Gulf and the increasingly critical extraterrestrial realms.

"This era of U.S. military dominance is waning at an increasing and alarming rate,'' Andrew Krepinevich, a West Point-educated officer and former senior Pentagon strategist, writes in a new report. "With the spread of advanced military technologies and their exploitation by other militaries, especially China's People's Liberation Army and to a far lesser extent Iran's military and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the U.S. military's ability to preserve military access to two key areas of vital interest, the western Pacific and the Persian Gulf, is being increasingly challenged.''

There seems to be a myth out there that because the U.S. is the U.S. we will automatically win any high-tech war. I call it the "Top Gun Syndrome," and while Hollywood is maybe partially to blame they're just rehashing what they saw in the Gulf War.

Due to other pressures I only have time for the briefest of comments. I also don't have time to set up a bunch of links, and so to a large extent will be going off of my general knowledge of the subject and my previous posts. Lets start with this:

The Air War Over Vietnam


We went into Vietnam convinced that we'd blow the aircraft of North Vietnam out of the sky in droves. Our aircraft and missiles were thought to be technologically superior, and our pilots surely better than those of a third-world nation.

Much to our surprise, in the 1964-68 period we only achieved a 2-1 ratio over the NVA, and perhaps only 1-1 against their premier fighter, the MiG-21. This greatly disturbed us because if we could only do this well against the NVA, we'd surely do much worse against the Russians.

There were two reasons we did so poorly; one, our pilots had lost the art of dogfighting. We assumed that most fights would be at long to medium range with missiles. When we did dogfight, the practice was Americans fighting Americans; i.e. similar aircraft with pilots using the same tactics against each other. The second reason was missile reliability, which stank.

During the bombing halt after 1968, we corrected all of the problems. We formed Top Gun for the Navy and Red Flag for the Air Force, and got our missiles to work. When we went back north again in 1972-73 we shot them down at the rate of 13-1, which was more like what we had achieved in Korea.

Old Hardware

Our Nimitz class carriers are based on a 40 year old design, and suffer lack of electrical power production. Nuclear reactors are not magical devices, and are limited in the amount of electricity they can produce. They simply don't have the capacity to generate power for all the modern computers and such we'd like to put aboard but can't. The first Gerald R Ford class won't hit the water until 2015. Right now we've only got 10 Nimitz class and the Enterprise, which was itself launched in 1960 and suffers more problems than the Nimitz. This is the fewest number we've had since before World War II.

More, carriers are only as good as the aircraft on board. The F-18 Hornet first flew in 1978, and it's upgraded sister the F-18 Super Hornet in 1995. The latter is a nice upgrade, but only an upgrade and not really a new design. As we all know the F-18 has a range problem and you can only upgrade an old airframe so much.

The replacement is the F-35 Lightning II, which is in the pipeline, but there are two issues there. One, it was supposed to be backed up by the more capable F-22 Raptor, but Obama stopped production of the Raptor to 187 aircraft, limiting it's availability. Two, the F-35 program is suffering the usual cost-overruns that seem endemic to any program, government or otherwise.

Spending is Down

No time to rehash what I've written, so follow the links to these previous posts:

Obama to Cut Military Spending to Pre - 9/11 Levels

and especially

U.S. Military Spending Is Not Starving Domestic Programs

Not Blaming Obama

The truth is that George HW Bush cut back too much when he was president, Clinton didn't reverse this trend, and W ramped up domestic spending and listened too much to Don Rumsfeld. The history here is bipartisan.

That said, the Obama-Pelosi-Reid domestic spending agenda is so insane that it puts us farther away than ever from being able to rebuild our military.

So Who Cares?

The short version is that we are a democracy that mostly does good in the world and Iran and China are not. Our allies in Europe, Japan, Australia, and Taiwan are also democracies that mostly do good in the world. No that doesn't give us the right to do whatever we want, but the world would be a better place with Western military hegemony in all parts of the world.

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February 5, 2010

Obama's Nuclear Free Fantasy World Part II

In Obama's Nuclear Free Fantasy World I wrote that The honest truth is that a "nuclear free world" has always meant a nuclear-free United States, because as I said earlier there is no way the other nuclear armed countries of this world would be so stupid as to follow suit, and yes that includes France."

I didn't know how right I was.

Charles Krauthammer relates this amazing story in a lecture he gave at the Heritage Foundation on Monday:

The depths of Obama's naïve universalism can be seen in his pursuit of this deeply unserious goal, the most dramatic instance of which, as Nicolas Sarkozy will not easily forget, occurred on September 24, one day after Obama's speech to the General Assembly, when he ostentatiously presided over the Security Council, the first time an American President had ever done so.

At the time, unknown to the world, Obama had knowledge that the Iranians had built a secret uranium enrichment facility near Qom. France and Britain were urging him to use that dramatic setting to stun the world with that revelation and thus be in a position to call for powerful immediate action. Not only did Obama refuse, but Sarkozy was forced to scrap any mention of Qom in his speech. Obama only revealed the news a day later in Pittsburgh.

Why did he forgo the opportunity? Because, explained White House officials, Obama did not want anything at that Security Council meeting to get in the way of his dream of a nuclear-free world. He did not want to "dilute" his disarmament resolution by "diverting to Iran."

Iran as a diversion? It's the most important security issue on the planet. A diversion from the fantasy of universal nuclear disarmament?

Sarkozy was sitting at that same Council table and could hardly contain himself. With Obama at the chair, Sarkozy pointedly observed: "President Obama has even said 'I dream of a world without [nuclear weapons].' Yet before our very eyes, two countries are currently doing the exact opposite." Sarkozy also informed the President that "we live in a real world, not a virtual world."

What have we come to when the President of France thinks our leader is a wimp?

Former Ambassador to the UN John Bolton explains the problem:

More Mr. Nice Guy
While nukes proliferate, Obama fiddles.
By John Bolton

(During his State of the Union Address) the president found time to opine more explicitly than ever before that reducing America's nuclear weapons and delivery systems will temper the global threat of proliferation. Obama boasted that "the United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades" and that he is trying to secure "all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years, so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists."

Then came Obama's critical linkage: "These diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in dealing with those nations that insist on violating international agreements in pursuit of nuclear weapons." Obama described the increasing "isolation" of both North Korea and Iran, the two most conspicuous--but far from the only--nuclear proliferators. He also mentioned the increased sanctions imposed on Pyongyang after its second nuclear test in 2009 and the "growing consequences" he says Iran will face because of his policies.

In fact, reducing our nuclear -arsenal will not somehow persuade Iran and North Korea to alter their behavior or encourage others to apply more pressure on them to do so. Obama's remarks reflect a complete misreading of strategic realities.
...

The premise underlying (Obama's) assertions may well be found in Obama's smug earlier comment that we should "put aside the schoolyard taunts about who is tough.  .  .  .  Let's leave behind the fear and division." By reducing to the level of wayward boys the debates over whether his policies are making us more or less secure, Obama reveals a deep disdain for the decades of strategic thinking that kept America safe during the Cold War and afterwards. Even more pertinent, Obama's indifference and scorn for real threats are chilling auguries of what the next three years may hold.

Obama has now explicitly rejected the idea that U.S. weakness is provocative, arguing instead that weakness will convince Tehran and Pyongyang to do the opposite of what they have been resolutely doing for decades--vigorously pursuing their nuclear and missile programs. Obama's first year amply demonstrates that his approach will do nothing even to retard, let alone stop, Iran and North Korea.

Neither Bush nor Obama administration efforts toward international sanctions have had any measurable impact....

For years I've been saying that there can be no successful negotiating with the revolutionary government of Iran. They are bound and determined to get nuclear weapons because they see them as the key to their goal of achieving regional hegemony. As such, the best solution is regime change, and failing that, military action.

Whether we've been clandestinely engaged in trying to change the government is unknown, but out public actions have certainly not been calibrated to achieving that goal.

I've written at length about this,but long story short we could and should have been overtly supporting a change of government, dissidents, and making a huge issue out of Iran's terrible record on human rights. That Iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terror is also something we should have been screaming to the high heavens, but instead our leaders have been silent.

For the most part George W Bush let the EU3 (France, the UK, and Germany) handle negotiations with Iran. As Bolton explains above, it didn't work. Those who continue to talk about sanctions as the answer aren't reading the papers:

Talk of Iran sanctions hinders diplomacy, says China Friday, February 05, 2010 Reuters

China told other world powers on Thursday that discussing broader sanctions against Iran was counter-productive, striking a blow to a Western push to rein in Tehran's nuclear program. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told a conference during a visit to France that Tehran's negotiating position was evolving and he wanted to see more direct talks with Iran.

"To talk about sanctions at the moment will complicate the situation and might stand in the way of finding a diplomatic solution," Yang said.

France is among Western powers seeking to have the UN Security Council approve a fourth batch of sanctions against Iran by the end of March to prod Tehran into freezing uranium enrichment, which can have peaceful or military purposes.

Russia, like China, has extensive trade ties with Iran and both acted to weaken previous rounds of Security Council sanctions.

But a Russian lawmaker said on Thursday that Moscow and Western powers had already moved closer to agreement on the need for farther-reaching punitive measures.

We've been through this so often that I've no faith whatsoever that there is any hope of enforcing the level of sanctions that would stand a chance of getting the mullahs to stop their nuclear program.

And why should China or Russia agree to sanctions? They've got good trade going with Iran which they see no reason to spoil. Iranian nukes wouldn't be pointed at them, and if and everyone knows that Chinese or Russian leaders wouldn't hesitate to erase Iran from the map if necessary. Everyone does doubt U.S. resolve however, and with good reason: Barack Obama is seen as a wimp.

Israel may strike Iran, but they have very limited resources, and the best they can do is set their nuclear program back for awhile. At the rate things are going, Iran will eventually get nuclear weapons, whatever type of world Obama is dreaming of. Can you imagine a situation where their nuclear weapons are more modern than ours? It would be the case. Our most recent warhead is the W88, designed in the 1970s.

Whatever, one can argue that we have better delivery systems. True enough. What seems inarguable, however, is that severely reducing our arsenal will not persuade Iran, North Korea, or any of the other bad actors to give up their programs, and indeed will reduce our options in striking back if that's what it comes down to.

As I said at the beginning, it's a sad day when the President of France things out leader is a wimp.

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January 6, 2010

Obama's Nuclear Free Fantasy World

Let's get this out of the way up front; that Ronald Reagan said he wanted a nuclear free world is no excuse for Barack Obama to make the same mistake.

Yes, I said "mistake." Reducing nuclear weapons from Cold War levels may be a good thing, but there is a certain point below which we should not go. The reasons are pretty simple, and boil down to two. One, no way we're going to get the nations ruled by tyrants and evil-doers to give up theirs, and two, a nuclear free world would make the world safe for war. Even going down below a certain minimum increases the chance of war, because it eliminates Mutual Assured Destruction and thus makes their use thinkable.

I discussed the use of nuclear weapons in more detail in my series on just war theory a few years ago. Essentially my conclusion was that MAD is just if it entails a counter-force strategy and not counter-value. The former means targeting the enemy's military, the latter their population.

The honest truth is that a "nuclear free world" has always meant a nuclear-free United States, because as I said earlier there is no way the other nuclear armed countries of this world would be so stupid as to follow suit, and yes that includes France.

When Reagan was in office the idea of a nuclear weapons free United States as pie in the sky stuff. With the radical leftist Obama, it's a frightening possibility.

Two recent articles in the Weekly Standard, both by John Noonan lay out the current situation and why Obama's idea is so dangerous.

A World without Nukes
by John Noonan
April 8, 2009 10:51 AM

Great idea if you can get the other guys to play ball, but -- let's face it -- the other guys never play ball. Which is precisely why the idea has been unsuccessfully advocated during the tenures of the past five US presidents.

In today's world, America's nuclear arsenal is as important as ever. Consider that Russia is undergoing a nuclear renaissance, upgrading its bombers, building new ballistic missile submarines, and bending the language of the START treaty in order to buff up their ICBM force. China, currently limited to a one-dimensional MRBM/ICBM strategic force, is working to construct a nuclear triad similar to that of the United States and Russia. North Korea is trying to build a bomb and a delivery system, as is Iran, and as were the Syrians until the Israelis brought an abrupt halt to construction. India and Pakistan remain at the ready to paint each other green, while Japan flirts with the idea of developing a deterrent of their own. Cuba and Venezuela are courting the Russians to base long-range strategic bombers on their soil (because that worked so well the first time the Cubans did it), while every Jihadist from Brooklyn to the Hindu Kush scours the globe for anything and everything that even sounds atomic.

The United States, on the other hand, has steadily shrunk and neglected its nuclear stockpile for the past 17 years. We haven't even tested a bomb since the mid-90s. Our primary nuclear bomber, the B-52, was built in the 1950s and our Minuteman III ICBMS were built in the 1960s. We're currently the only nuclear power not actively upgrading, or planning to upgrade, its strategic force, and we stopped growing nuclear weapon experts circa 1992. The USAF has allowed its nuclear focus to slip to the point where they accidentally shipped four nosecone fuses for the Minuteman III missile to Taiwan and lost custody of six bombs (later found halfway across the country) last year. America's nuclear enterprise, though still capable, is sailing into troubled waters.

President Reagan was mocked for preaching the abolition of nuclear arms while reinvigorating America's strategic triad. A few years later, no one was laughing. Reagan's genius was its simplicity. The stronger we are, the more eager the other guy is to talk. President Obama has already announced his intention to gut our conventional arsenal, and our enemies are smelling blood. Should he treat our nuclear forces the same way, things could get downright dangerous.

Obama's Nuke-Free Vision Impacts with Reality
by John Noonan
January 4, 2010 2:33 PM

Today's LA Times has an admirably even piece on the shadowy barfight between Pentagon officials and White House staffers over the future of our nation's nuclear arsenal.

President Obama's ambitious plan to begin phasing out nuclear weapons has run up against powerful resistance from officials in the Pentagon and other U.S. agencies, posing a threat to one of his most important foreign policy initiatives.

Obama laid out his vision of a nuclear-free world in a speech in Prague, Czech Republic, last April, pledging that the U.S. would take dramatic steps to lead the way. Nine months later, the administration is locked in internal debate over a top-secret policy blueprint for shrinking the U.S. nuclear arsenal and reducing the role of such weapons in America's military strategy and foreign policy.

Obama made some bold statements about nuclear weapons while on the campaign trail, pledges that were ideologically grounded and too simplistic to match complex reality. The new multipolar world's relationship with nuclear weapons requires a carefully tailored strategic calculus, but the White House is using algebra. Obama's core premise, that the US can't make an effective case for a nuke-free world without first shedding our massive arsenal, is ridiculous. Our strategic nuclear forces are 20 percent of what they were two decades ago, but global nuclear proliferation has continued to spread like a bad virus.

This was an inevitable confrontation between the military and the administration. Defense planners are pulling their hair out trying to balance rising nuclear powers like China, North Korea, and Iran, while maintaining the razor thin deterrence equation with Russia that has kept America safe for six decades. Targets are skyrocketing, nuclear assets needed to neutralize targets are plummeting. The military is tackling the nuclear posture review with hardnosed strategic realities, like counterforce planning, contingencies in the event that deterrence fails, and continued protection of non-nuclear allies, while the White House seems to be running their whole nuclear-disarmament initiative off a grossly simplified talking point, that nukes are bad.

If the White House's stance on disarmament is indeed that elementary, we might have a real problem. For better or for worse, America's mighty strategic vanguard has served as one of the most powerful global stabilization tools in history. We shouldn't abandon it simply to appease a gaggle of Scandanavian peaceniks, nor should we sacrifice America's security because we're off chasing utopian fantasies.

This wouldn't be the first utopian fantasy Obama has chased, of course. And it's another reason why Barack Obama is a dangerous man to have as president.

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September 20, 2009

More on the Missile Defense System Obama Canceled

On Thursday I explained how Obama betrayed our allies who had gone out on a limb for us, reduced our ability to defend against Iranian nuclear missiles sure to be developed, and weakened us in the eyes of the world. The system Obama canceled would have put a powerful radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland. cancelled

Before we get going today, a reminder from Jim Geraghty about how all promises from Obama come with an expiration date. Here's Obama this past April 5:

So let me be clear: Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran's neighbors and our allies. The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles. As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. (Applause.) If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe will be removed. (Applause.)

As I explained in my previous post, Poland and the Czech Republic were under tremendous amounts of pressure not to accept the anti-missile system. n 2004 Poland received 43% of it's natural gas from Russia, and the Czech Republic, 77%. Last winter Russia cut off shipments of gas to Ukraine, allegedly over contract disputes, but most likely it was more just a show of power by Russia.

They therefore went out on a limb for the United States. Now that the system has been canceled, they're without as much protection from Iranian nuclear missiles sure to be developed, and they've still got Russia mad at them.

But that's no big deal, as I'm sure the liberals will say. "Circumstances have changed."

Except that they haven't.

Thomas Joscelyn has the scoop in a post over at The Weekly Standard

First, note that the Obama administration, in its fact sheet on missile defense, does not currently intend to deploy a missile defense system capable of intercepting Iran's long-range missiles until 2020. Phase Four of Obama's plan, which is "in the 2020 timeframe," reads (emphasis added): "After development and testing are complete, deploy the SM-3 Block IIB to help better cope with medium- and intermediate-range missiles and the potential future ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile) threat to the United States." All three of the previous phases deal with short to intermediate-range interceptors.

That is, Obama's plan does not envision the deployment of a missile defense capable of countering Iran's long-range missiles until the tail end of the current estimate of when the mullahs will have that capability. The current estimate is that Iran will have an ICBM capability between 2015 and 2020. Obama is therefore assuming the best-case scenario (for us) with respect to long-range missiles within that range. So, the current plan does not envision deploying long-range interceptors in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, or 2019, which are all possibilities in the current estimate. The Obama plan says things may change, of course, but for now they've assumed the best-case scenario from the West's perspective.

Second, as I discussed earlier, it is still very likely that the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) does not really have a firm grasp on when Iran will deploy ICBM's. Just as with the 2007 NIE on Iran's nuclear program, the IC has once again modified its views within a relatively short period of time. The previous estimate said that the mullahs "could" have a long-range missile capability by 2015. This estimate was cited as recently as President Obama's inauguration day, January 20 of this year. 2015 is still apparently a possibility, but the IC has now pushed back the tail-end of its range of possibilities. This means that it could be in 2015, or in 2020, some time in between, or whenever.

Of course, Iran continues apace with its satellite program (e.g. Iran launched its first satellite into space in February 2009), which can be used to push along its development of ICBM's. So, it is not clear why the IC now thinks, on average, it will take longer than previously anticipated for Iran to develop a long-range missile capability.

Third, the timing of the news of this revised NIE is certainly inauspicious. An IAEA document reportedly showing that Iran has the capability to make a nuclear bomb and is developing a missile system capable of carrying it has been leaked to the Associated Press. The IAEA responded by issuing a statement saying it "has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapon program in Iran." This is transparently false as the AP's account makes it clear that the IAEA's document says Iran has mostly likely worked on both the ability to detonate a nuclear weapon as well as the capability to deliver it.

Thus, at the precise moment the Obama administration is telling us there is less to worry about with respect to Iran's long-range missiles, a leaked IAEA document is telling us that there is more to worry about with respect to Iran's nuclear program in general. The Obama administration's entire rationale for its missile defense plan rests on the assumption that Iran will not be able to deliver such a weapon with a long-range missile for ten more years.

The Concept of Layers

Our ships in World War II had a multi-layered defense against enemy aircraft. Farthest out were our own fighters. The ship itself had three types of guns; 5 inch with proximity fused shells to fire long distance, Quad-mount 40mm Bofors for medium range, and 20mm Oerlikon as a last ditch defense. Modern aircraft carriers have a similar arrangement but with missiles and the Phalanx gun system for terminal defense.

It's the same with ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) defense. In the ideal system you set up a variety of radars and detection systems, then you have different types of missiles to intercept the threat during boost-stage, mid-course, and terminal phase. We have AEGIS ships, ground-based interceptors, and finally the THAAD system as terminal defense.

The reason for all this is pretty simple; no one layer will get all of the threats.

By canceling the system that would have been set up in Poland and the Czech Republic Obama has removed one layer.

MAD Won't Work

We could deter the Soviets and Chicoms (nice Cold War term there) because they were atheists and as evil as they were and are at the end of the day wanted to live. Communism has no meaning if everyone is dead. Mutual Assured Destruction thus had a perverse logic to it that worked during the Cold War.

Not so with religious fanatics, especially of the Muslim variety. Through dozens if not hundreds of statements it should be pretty clear by now that Ahmadinejad and the mullahs are not at all shy about sacrificing perhaps millions of their countrymen if it means destroying an enemy.

This said, they indeed hesitate before pushing the button when they get nuclear weapons and the means by which to deliver them. Even fanatics will have last minute doubts. But weakness on our part will encourage them to "risk it" and encourage their fanaticism. Osama bin Laden and others saw the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan as a sign from God that He was on their side and that they should continue their jihad. No doubt the mullahs and Ahmadinejad see the same thing from Obama's weakness. .

Same Old Song From the Democrats

I have been observing Democrats for almost 40 years, and they're all the same on National Defense. Their mantra is "develop forever, deploy never." They're always against current weapons systems, but in favor of some future system. President Carter canceled the B-1a in favor of a future stealth bomber (which eventually turned out to be the B-2). President Clinton forever delayed the deployment of anti-missile systems in favor of future ones. Democrats in Congress are just the same.

Folks, I know these Democrats. I know how they think. What's going on now is the latest stanza in the same old song. I guarantee you that when it comes time to deploy the system(s) in and around Turkey that Obama now claims he wants, they'll want to cancel them too. Do not be fooled.

What Have We Learned?

  1. All promises from Obama come with an expiration date
  2. Our allies went out on a limb for us and we sawed it off
  3. Obama will not deploy any system capable of countering ICBMs until 2020, "the tail end of the current estimate" as to when Iran will have ICBMs.
  4. We should not be confident of current estimates on Iranian capabilities.
  5. Anti-missile defenses should be set up in layers
  6. MAD won't work
  7. History tells us that Obama's future system will be opposed anyway by Democrats as their motto is "develop forever, deploy never."

The prudent thing is to have multiple layers of defense against all types of missile threats; short range, IRBM (Intermediate-Range Ballistic Misslies),and ICBMs. These defenses should be deployed well ahead of when we currently think our adversaries might deploy their missiles. To do anything less is to toy with the security of the United States.

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Obama Betrays Our Allies By Canceling Missile Defense Shield

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 17, 2009

Obama Betrays Our Allies By Canceling Missile Defense Shield

Barack Obama is turning into Jimmy Carter Part II with frightening speed. It's bad enough that he apologizes to foreign offices for perceived U.S. offenses, that he let's Latin American thugs lecture him without response, admonishes Israel while ignoring Palestinian offenses and that he cuts vital weapons systems like the F-22 Raptor, but in his latest act he has both betrayed key allies and left Europe defenseless all at once. All that and we're barely eight months into his presidency. Not even Carter got this bad so fast.

In case you haven't seen it, here's the story as it appeared in today's Washington Times

President Obama on Thursday said he is scrapping current plans for a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic that was intended to protect against the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, but said he is doing so in order to deploy a more flexible system, possibly in those same countries, that his administration said is an "enhancement."

Mr. Obama, in a statement at the White House, said that his "new approach" will "best address the threat posed by Iran's ongoing ballistic missile defense program."

He and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates emphasized that the new system was based on a determination that the Iranian threat has shifted, for now, away from long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) delivery systems for potential nuclear weapons and toward short- and medium-range missiles.

We'll deal later with why the explanation is a load of bunk, but for now let's make sure we understand the magnitude of the betrayal of our allies.

Poland is right on the doorstep of Russia. The Czech Republic is father away, of course, but still vulnerable. Poland is most vulnerable to direct military assault, and both to economic pressure. Russia is the world's largest exporter of natural gas. In 2004 Poland received 43% of it's natural gas from Russia, and the Czech Republic, 77%. Last winter Russia cut off shipments of gas to Ukraine, allegedly over contract disputes, but most likely it was more just a show of power by Russia.

A few years ago Russia put a lot of pressure on Poland and the Czech Republic to not accept their parts of the missile defense shield, but they bravely resisted and threw in their lot with the U.S. They did so knowing that they were vulnerable to Russian pressure, but they did it anyway. And now Obama pulls the rug out from under them. They now have the worst of both worlds; no defense against missiles but still having annoyed Russia for having accepted it in the first place.

An Iranian Nuke

For the past few years I've listened to liberals tell us there was no worry because the Iranians had either stopped their nuclear program or were years off. Today we see this from Fox News

A secret report from the United Nations' nuclear watchdog warns that Iran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and is developing a missile system to carry it -- an assessment that could call into question the Obama administration's claim on Thursday that the biggest threat from Iran comes from its short- and medium-range missiles....

The report, which says Iran is likely to "overcome problems" on developing a delivery system, appears to be the so-called "secret annex" on Iran's nuclear program that Washington has said is being withheld by the IAEA's chief.

But the IAEA pushed back hard against that allegation, saying the charge is baseless.

"With respect to a recent media report, the IAEA reiterates that it has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapon program in Iran," the IAEA said in a written statement.

An IAEA spokesman told FOX News that the next formal report on Iran's nuclear capabilities is expected in November. He said the evidence suggesting Iran has a nuclear weapons program has not been verified.

I tried to quote enough to be fair.

Ok, so it's not definitive or verified. And my instinct tells me that they won't have a nuke until next year. And it'll be awhile after than before they have more than one or two, and longer still before they can put them atop missiles.

But maybe not. The simple fact is that we don't know, and seems to me that it is only prudent to assume that they are relatively far along in development.

Missiles in Turkey Not Sufficient

The White House put out a "fact sheet"on their alternative to the canceled missile defense system in Europe, which says in part:

Starting around 2011, this missile defense architecture will feature deployments of increasingly-capable sea- and land-based missile interceptors, primarily upgraded versions of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3), and a range of sensors in Europe to defend against the growing ballistic missile threat from Iran. This phased approach develops the capability to augment our current protection of the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats, and to offer more effective defenses against more near-term ballistic missile threats. The plan provides for the defense of U.S. deployed forces, their families, and our Allies in Europe sooner and more comprehensively than the previous program, and involves more flexible and survivable systems.

But as Michael Goldfarb points out over at TWS:

The White House has put out a "fact sheet" on their policy of Russian appeasement/missile defense surrender. The fact sheet says that the new approach -- focusing on SM-3 and sea-based systems (presumably in Turkey) -- will "augment our current protection of the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats." That is a lie. This system will provide zero, nada, zilch protection to the U.S. homeland, providing only defense against short- and medium-range missiles to Europe.

The fact sheet says this system will protect "our Allies in Europe sooner and more comprehensively than the previous program, and involves more flexible and survivable systems." That is a lie. The system that was being placed in Poland is already operational in Alaska. These new plans will now take years of negotations to implement and will necessarily be less survivable as they will not be underground.

The fact sheet says that "The Czech Republic and Poland, as close, strategic and steadfast Allies of the United States, will be central to our continued consultations with NATO Allies on our defense against the growing ballistic missile threat." That is a lie. The Czechs and Poles get a midnight phone call from the president while Tauscher is already in the air. They were not consulted with and have been given no assurances -- because the president is selling them out.

The fact sheet says, "We also welcome Russian cooperation to bring its missile defense capabilities into a broader defense of our common strategic interests." If that's true, our president is totally clueless about Russian capabilities and intentions -- even Bush, who looked into Putin's soul, was not so delusional as to think U.S. missile defense could be dependent on Russian good will and cooperation. How long til the Russians threaten to throw us out of our "joint" missile defense facilities in order to coerce us into staying out of an attack on Georgia or some other democratic state in their near abroad.

This is a decision based purely on ideology and the good soldiers on the JCS and and at the Pentagon have no choice but to go along for the ride. At least the president ought to be honest about what this means and stop the smears of missile defense.

Yup, what we have here is pure left-wing ideology in action. It is the mindset of Jimmy Carter; screw our friends and talk nice to our enemies. Obama is all set to talk to Iran next month, yet the latter have shown absolutely no inclination that they will even consider giving up their nuclear program. Both Russia and China have said that they are dead set against any more sanctions.

Betraying Friends and Rewarding Enemies and Adversaries

Obama ignored the massive human rights abuses committed by the mullahs in the wake of the last election there, and only spoke out after intense pressure. He's a fool if he thinks that Russia will give us anything in return for this massive U.S. concession. Obama has betrayed Poland and the Czech Republic, two allies, and is being nicey-nice to our enemies and adversaries, Iran and Russia.

So today Iran and Russia are happy, and Poland and the Czech Republic disappointed. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Perhaps the most insightful words, though, were spoken by Mirek Topolanek, who was the Czech prime minister when Prague agreed to co-host the shield, said that Obama's decision to cancel it was

"not good news for the Czech state, for Czech freedom and independence".

Yes, the future of Czech freedom and indepdence are more in question today than they were yesterday

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 29, 2009

The Obama - Holder War on the CIA II

No time for a full post with my own analysis, but there are several good articles out there that deserve mention, and they say it all themselves anyway.

First up is Dr. Krauthammer who approaches the subject of terrorist interrogations with uncommon common sense:

The idiocy of imagining that if you capture Aymen al-Zahiri, one of the cruelest terrorists in world history, you would actually think of saying to him . . . that he doesn't have to actually tell you anything, is insane. Of course he doesn't have a right to remain silent. This man barely has a right to live. You capture him, you make him talk.

Bingo. Let the ACLU and lefties whine.

Krauthammer goes on to say that this doesn't mean that we adopt an "anything goes" interrogation-wise, but if we read him his Miranda rights we are guaranteed to learn nothing.

For those under the delusion that the CIA was a rogue outfit under the Bush-Cheney neocon regime torturing people at will, the The Wall Street Journal sets the record straight:

Whoever advised people to be skeptical of what they read in the papers must have had in mind this week's coverage of the documents about CIA interrogations. Now that we've had a chance to read the reports, it's clear the real story isn't the few cases of abuse played up by the media. The news is that the program was thoughtfully developed, carefully circumscribed, briefed to Congress, and yielded information crucial to disrupting al Qaeda.

In other words, it worked--at least until politics got in the way.

That's the essential judgment offered by former CIA Inspector General John Helgerson in his 2004 report. Some mild criticism aside, the report says the CIA "invested immense time and effort to implement the [program] quickly, effectively, and within the law"; that the agency "generally provided good guidance and support"; and that agency personnel largely "followed guidance and procedures and documented their activities well." So where's the scandal?

There isn't one. President Obama and Attorney General are out to appease the nutbag left. As the WSJ editorial goes on to conclude

CIA officials well understood that they might be second-guessed years later by politicians. "During the course of this review, a number of Agency officers expressed unsolicited concern about the possibility of recrimination or legal action resulting from their participation. . . . officers expressed concern that a human rights group might pursue them for activities . . . they feared that the Agency would not stand behind them." Another said, "Ten years from now we're going to be sorry we're doing this . . . [but] it has to be done."

The outrage here isn't that government officials used sometimes rough interrogation methods to break our enemies. The outrage is that, years later, when the political winds have shifted and there hasn't been another attack, our politicians would punish the men and women who did their best to protect Americans in a time of peril.

Or is that all there is to it? Former assistant US. attorney and author Andrew McCarthy thinks that Eric Holder is pursuing a hidden agenda of transnationalism

Why is Holder (or, rather, why are Holder and the White House) instigating this controversy?

I believe the explanation lies in the Obama administration's fondness for transnationalism, a doctrine of post-sovereign globalism in which America is seen as owing its principal allegiance to the international legal order rather than to our own Constitution and national interests.

Recall that the president chose to install former Yale Law School dean Harold Koh as his State Department's legal adviser. Koh is the country's leading proponent of transnationalism. He is now a major player in the administration's deliberations over international law and cooperation. Naturally, membership in the International Criminal Court, which the United States has resisted joining, is high on Koh's agenda. The ICC claims worldwide jurisdiction, even over nations that do not ratify its enabling treaty, notwithstanding that sovereign consent to jurisdiction is a bedrock principle of international law....

Obama and Holder were principal advocates for a "reckoning" against Bush officials during the 2008 campaign. They realize, though, that their administration would be mortally wounded if Justice were actually to file formal charges -- this week's announcement of an investigation against the CIA provoked howls, but that's nothing compared to the public reaction indictments would cause. Nevertheless, Obama and Holder are under intense pressure from the hard Left, to which they made reckless promises, and from the international community they embrace.

The way out of this dilemma is clear. Though it won't file indictments against the CIA agents and Bush officials it is probing, the Justice Department will continue conducting investigations and releasing reports containing new disclosures of information. The churn of new disclosures will be used by lawyers for the detainees to continue pressing the U.N. and the Europeans to file charges. The European nations and/or international tribunals will make formal requests to the Obama administration to have the Justice Department assist them in securing evidence. Holder will piously announce that the "rule of law" requires him to cooperate with these "lawful requests" from "appropriately created courts." Finally, the international and/or foreign courts will file criminal charges against American officials.

Foreign charges would result in the issuance of international arrest warrants. They won't be executed in the United States -- even this administration is probably not brazen enough to try that. But the warrants will go out to police agencies all over the world. If the indicted American officials want to travel outside the U.S., they will need to worry about the possibility of arrest, detention, and transfer to third countries for prosecution. Have a look at this 2007 interview of CCR president Michael Ratner. See how he brags that his European gambit is "making the world smaller" for Rumsfeld -- creating a hostile legal climate in which a former U.S. defense secretary may have to avoid, for instance, attending conferences in NATO countries.

The Left will get its reckoning. Obama and Holder will be able to take credit with their supporters for making it happen. But because the administration's allies in the antiwar bar and the international Left will do the dirty work of getting charges filed, the American media will help Obama avoid domestic political accountability. Meanwhile, Americans who sought to protect our nation from barbarians will be harassed and framed as war criminals. And protecting the United States will have become an actionable violation of international law.

I'm betting that's the plan.

He may be right. Obama has so far proven to be far more left wing than most people thought he'd be. It was only those dastardly neocon right-wingers like me who sounded the alarm.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

While wasting precious time and energy going after our intelligence agents, the Obama Administration has quietly dropped the cases against the New Black Panther Party and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

My own congressman, the wonderful Frank Wolf (R-VA10) has been on the forefront of the first case. From a July 31 press release:

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10), the top Republican on the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Justice, today called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to re-file a voter intimidation case that his department dismissed in May involving members the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia. In a letter to Holder, Wolf said that given growing press reports of improper political influence in the dismissal of the case, and the disclosure of new memos from the department's Appellate Division arguing for proceeding with the case, the only proper action is to allow the career attorneys on the trial team to re-file the case and allow an impartial judge to rule.

"It is imperative that we protect all Americans right to vote," wrote Wolf, who is originally from Philadelphia. "This is a sacrosanct and inalienable right of any democracy. The career attorneys and Appellate Division within the department sought to demonstrate the federal government's commitment to protecting this right by vigorously prosecuting any individual or group that seeks to undermine this right. The only legitimate course of action is to allow the trial team to bring the case again and allow our nation's justice system to work as it was intended - impartially and without bias."

I'm not holding my breath that Holder does anything, but you gotta try, and Rep Wolf is trying.

I haven't been following the Richardson case so don't know details, but it sounds awfully fishy. From an Associated Press story carried by Fox News:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former high-ranking members of his administration won't be criminally charged in a yearlong federal investigation into pay-to-play allegations involving one of the Democratic governor's large political donors, someone familiar with the case said.

The decision not to pursue indictments was made by top Justice Department officials, according to a person familiar with the investigation, who asked not to be identified because federal officials had not disclosed results of the probe.

"It's over. There's nothing. It was killed in Washington," the person told The Associated Press....

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Albuquerque said he had no information about the Justice Department's decision and couldn't comment.

Maybe Richardson really is innocent, but the case involving the New Black Panther party is a travesty. What is shows is the priorities of this administration, and they do not involve defending us from the jihadists who would destroy us.

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The Obama - Holder War on the CIA

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 26, 2009

The Obama - Holder War on the CIA

Here we go, folks; Obama and Holder have decided to go to war on our own intelligence services. Get ready for 9-11 Part II, because it's going to come. The jihadists can read the newspapers and they know that if their agents are caught they're much less likely now to reveal secret information, thus compromising operations, than when George W. Bush was in office. As such, no doubt they're licking their chops with glee, dusting off old plans that had been shelved for years.

The lefties are happy too. They've always seen the United States as the real enemy, and "this terror-jihadist thing" as a fiction invented by the Bush Administration to take away our civil liberties. Not that this is anything new for them. Having observed the left from the late 1970s on, I know how they thought much the same thing about the Soviet-led communist threat. They shows their true colors with the distain they showed for Reagan's attempt to root out communism in Central America. Che tee shirts are still all the rage for this outfit.

Here's the summary of what's happening from Fox News

After months of consideration, Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday appointed a special prosecutor to examine allegations that terror suspects were abused at the hands of their CIA interrogators.

The highly controversial decision comes as the Department of Justice released a 2004 report from the CIA's inspector general detailing allegations of harsh interrogation practices -- which Holder cited in his decision.

"As a result of my analysis of all of this material, I have concluded that the information known to me warrants opening a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations," Holder said in a written statement Monday.

If you prefer your news via TV here's that, too

As anyone might have predicted, this move by the Obama Administration has "increased tension between the agencies and prompted a sense of betrayal among some CIA officers." No doubt that'll make the lefties feel happy too.

As is often the case the Wall Street Journal has the politics of it right

Mr. Holder had it right the first time. His about-face yesterday, compounded by his release of a 2004 internal CIA report on that agency's handling of terrorists, opens a political war that President Obama, the CIA and above all the country will live to regret.

This is a trap the Administration set for itself. Mr. Obama and his team have attempted to appease their political left by publicly denouncing the Bush Administration's national security policies, even as they claimed to want to forget the past. Their disparagement has only fed the liberal demand for Bush prosecutions and increased the pressure on Mr. Holder to appoint a prosecutor....

By threatening to prosecute CIA officials, the Obama Administration is taking ownership of future troubles in a way that will only do itself harm. Like the Church and Pike probes of the 1970s, Americans will once again see that the Democratic Party cares as much or more about settling scores against fellow Americans as it does about fighting the war on terror. Mr. Holder yesterday acknowledged that his decision to reopen the old CIA wounds would be "controversial." He will soon learn how much.

Yup. This whole thing is mostly a move to appease the hate-America left, just as I outlined above.

Liberals needn't get their panties in a wad, though. While I'm ok with waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and a few others, and I'm also fine with the "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" there's no doubt that at times CIA agents went too far. Threats of using a power drill and retaliation against family members violated the agencies own standards. But guess what the CIA did? Current Director of Central Intelligence Panetta explains in a letter released on Monday:

The CIA referred allegations of abuse to the Department of Justice for potential prosecution. This Agency made no excuses for behavior, however rare, that went beyond the formal guidelines on counterterrorism. The Department of Justice has had the complete IG report since 2004. Its career prosecutors have examined that document-and other incidents from Iraq and Afghanistan-for legal accountability. They worked carefully and thoroughly, sometimes taking years to decide if prosecution was warranted or not. In one case, the Department obtained a criminal conviction of a CIA contractor. In other instances, after Justice chose not to pursue action in court, the Agency took disciplinary steps of its own.

So the situation was taken care of and there's no need for a special prosecutor who will only give our enemies aid and comfort through the glee of watching a politially motivated investigation.

Although the president is in hiding in Martha's Vineyard, no doubt trying to avoid taking responsibility for the announcement of a special prosecutor in case the whole thing backfires, the fact is that Obama has been planning this since at least 2007.

The only "good guy" in this administration seems to be Leon Panetta:

A "profanity-laced screaming match" at the White House involving CIA Director Leon Panetta, and the expected release today of another damning internal investigation, has administration officials worrying about the direction of its newly-appoint intelligence team, current and former senior intelligence officials tell ABC News.com...

According to intelligence officials, Panetta erupted in a tirade last month during a meeting with a senior White House staff member. Panetta was reportedly upset over plans by Attorney General Eric Holder to open a criminal investigation of allegations that CIA officers broke the law in carrying out certain interrogation techniques that President Obama has termed "torture."

Good for him. Panetta may be a partisan Democrat and a liberal, at least on domestic issues, but he knows that this investigation will do lasting harm to our national security. At least someone has their head screwed on straight in this administration.

Our New Fifth Column

If Attorney General Holder really wants someone or something to go after, how about a special prosecutor to< investigate the ACLU? Michelle Malkin has the story:

Last week, The Washington Post reported on a Justice Department inquiry into photographs of undercover CIA officials and other intelligence personnel taken by ACLU-sponsored researchers assisting the defense team of Guantanamo detainees. According to the report, the pictures of covert CIA officers -- "in some cases surreptitiously taken outside their homes" -- were shown to jihadi suspects tied to the 9/11 attacks in order to identify the interrogators.

The ACLU undertook the so-called "John Adams Project" with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers -- last seen crusading for convicted jihadi assistant Lynne Stewart. (She's the far-left lawyer who helped sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, convicted 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind, smuggle coded messages of violence to outside followers.)

Working from a witch-hunt list of 45 CIA employees, the ACLU team tailed and photographed agency employees or obtained other photos from public records. Then they showed the images to suspected al Qaeda operatives implicated in murdering 3,000 innocent men, women and children on American soil.

But no doubt this will be celebrated by the left.

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"Obama Administration's Assault on the American Warrior Commences"

The release of the CIA memos

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July 22, 2009

No More F-22 Raptors

President Obama, aided by Senator John McCain, won their battle to halt production of the F-22 Raptor at 187 aircraft in a 58 - 40 vote in the Senate. 141 have been built so far. According to Wikipedia, the Pentagon originally requested 750, scaled that down to 442 in 1994, went down again to 339 in 1997, and in 2003 dropped it again to 223. We are told that the Pentagon opposed production of 187 aircraft, which will be used by opponents. Knowing people who have worked on this program, I don't believe for a second that's really true. A president can always find careerist officers who will promote whatever policy he chooses to implement.

You can tell I think it was a bad decision.

I did an fairly lengthy post on the F-22 back in April, and since there's no need to reinvent the wheel I'm not going to repeat myself. Interested parties can go to that post for the full argument in favor of building more Raptors. Suffice it to say for now that we have put all our eggs in the F-35 Lightning II basket, which is an airplane not yet in production, and until then we'll have to rely the fleet of 1970's vintage F-15s, F-16s, and F-18s.

Whatever you want to think about the F-22, let's not have any sillyness about "garguantian" defense budgets. As I have shown, Obama's budgets will cut military spending to pre - 9/11 levels, and that at below 4% of GDP, US defense spending is at a post-World War II low (excepting the late 1990s, when under Clinton it fell to 3%).

Othewise, this email posted at TWS says it best:

Clearly the White House and Gates were able to strong-arm wondering Dems, like Kerry in particular. I would say prospects in conference not good; House provision was weaker and so are the House politicians involved.

At a little higher level, this is what happens when defense budgeting is a zero-sum game. Even any Army end-strength increase is going to have to come out of some other hide (don't expect that allegedly walled-off FCS money to be around very long).

This is also a very good day for the ChiComs: less for them to worry about, not only from us but from the Japanese (this pretty much kills export of F-22). And it is a big step in confirming the long-term decline of US defenses that the Obama budget/program represents. Even if much/most of his domestic program doesn't make it, he's begun locking in yet another decade of defense neglect.

There will soon be a crisis of American airpower: old F-15 and F-16s, aging F-18s and not enough of them to fill carrier decks, too few F-22s (that you're going to be very reluctant to use) and late arriving (and limited) F-35s (and what's the likelihood that F-35 goes forward according to plan?), plus a dinky and old bomber fleet. I haven't worked out the numbers, but if you look forward 7-10 years, the picture has got to be very ugly.

But then again, since there are going to be no tankers, it doesn't matter that there are no fighters.

They're high-fiving it in China, North Korea, Russia, Iran, Venezuela....

Posted by Tom at 8:00 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 7, 2009

The Coming "Reverse Reykjavik"

In October of 1986 Reagan and Gorbachev met in Reykjavik, Iceland, to discuss arms control measures. Gorbachev proposed a 50% reduction in strategic nuclear weapons, and completely eliminating intermediate range weapons, coupled with restricting missile defense testing to "laboratories." Reagan wanted to reduce, indeed eliminate nuclear weapons, but famously refused to restrict missile defense, and so the summit ended without an agreement. The consensus in the press was that it had been a failure because no deal had been struck.

In 2002 President Bush withdrew the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty so that we could deploy defenses without being encumbered by it's restrictions. While there were some protests the reaction of Russia and other nations seemed quite muted.

Now President Obama is in Russia to conduct talks on nuclear weapons, Afghanistan, and other matters. Knowing a sucker when they see one, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is trying to succeed where Gorbachev failed. From a Fox News story on Sunday:

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Sunday the United States must compromise on its plan to build a missile defense system in Europe in order to reach a deal on reducing nuclear warheads, Reuters reported.

The Russian leader said in an interview that a deal on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) and the United States' plan for a missile defense system are linked. Moscow believes a missile defense system is a threat to its national security.

"We consider these issues are interconnected," Medvedev said. "It is sufficient to show restraint and show an ability to compromise. And then we can agree on the basis of a new deal on START and at the same time can agree on the question of how we move forward on anti-missile defense."

Obama has thrown his grandmother, his pastor, and Israel under the bus. Why not the one area that plays to our biggest strength, technology?

Barack Obama, I fear, is getting ready to give up our missile defense. Heaven help us.

The threat is real and growing. Iran does not today have a missile capable of reaching most of Europe, let alone the U.S. They also do not have nuclear weapons. Today. But at the rate they're going they will have them both sooner or later, and when they do it would be foolish of us to count on our being able to dissuade them from using them based on a Cold War MAD mentality.

As good atheists, the Soviet communists wanted to live. They were evil, but they weren't crazy. The kingdom they wanted to create was of this earth.

The rulers of Iran are driven by religious zeal, and as such do not behave according to our rules of reason and logic. Ahmadinejad and his associates are driven at least in part by the cult of the return of the Mahdi, or Twelfth Imam, as I've documented about a dozen or so times.

The U.S. State Department website fact sheet dated January 20, 2009 gives the background into what President Bush trying do to in Europe:

The U.S. has agreed with Poland and the Czech Republic to begin formal missile defense basing negotiations, which if favorably concluded, would allow the fielding of ten U.S. long-range ground-based defensive interceptors in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic.
  • The proposed U.S. missile defense assets in Europe would defend the U.S. and much of Europe against long-range ballistic missile threats launched from the Middle East. The U.S. would benefit from greatly enhanced protection from attacks originating in the Middle East, while Europe would gain defenses where none previously existed.
  • Some southern European countries do not face long-range threats from Iran given their proximity to the Middle East. NATO has focused its missile defense development efforts on countering shorter range threats. The United States and NATO efforts are complementary and could work together to form a more effective defense for Europe.

Obama is wiling to give that up, as we see from this story in today's Jerusalem Post:

"If the threat from Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile program is eliminated, the driving force for missile defense in Europe will be eliminated," US President Barack Obama said Tuesday...

"In the short period since the end of the Cold War, we have already seen India, Pakistan and North Korea conduct nuclear tests. Without a fundamental change, do any of us truly believe that the next two decades will not bring about the further spread of nuclear weapons?

"That is why America is committed to stopping nuclear proliferation, and ultimately seeking a world without nuclear weapons ... And while I know this goal won't be met soon, pursuing it provides the legal and moral foundation to prevent the proliferation and eventual use of nuclear weapons," Obama said.

On the surface this might seem to make sense. No threat, no defense. The problem, of course, is that type of thinking assumes that we can predict with certainty 1) what types of weapons our enemies have and exactly what their capabilities are, 2) who our enemies will be a few years down the road, and 3) that if all else fails we an dissuade them from attacking by threatening the use of our own nuclear weapons.

I'm not certain of any of these. We are pretty good at tracking things like missiles, but not infallible. More, missile defense takes a lot longer to set up and test than do the offensive missiles themselves. Worse, Iran could acquire offensive missiles overnight from a rogue source and we might miss the shipment.

Complicating all this are two more factors: One, that the number of U.S. nuclear weapons is shrinking, and two, without testing their reliability is becoming questionable.

Second one first; I've googled around on the reliability issue, and the consensus seems to be that worst case most will explode, one scientist gives a 70% figure in a 2005 story in The New York Times. Even this doesn't sound so bad, but we need to remember that the perceptions of our enemies count for how they'll act.

A memo circulated by House Republicans has some numbers

...the United States has been shrinking (not growing) its nuclear stockpile for quite some time now. For example, under START accounting rules, the number of US warheads attributed to deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers in recent years has been:

1997: 7,957
2000: 7,519
2006: 5,966
2008: 5,951
2009: 5,576

These numbers aren't as impressive as you might think. Let's understand that warheads are not fungible, which is to say they're not all usable in any given situation. This is why we have a variety of types of warheads with different (sometimes variable) yields on many different platforms. Also, our responsibilities are worldwide, while our enemies are able to concentrate on a specific region. Finally, quick action may be required, and if we have too few it may take too long to get the right weapon to the other side of the world to have a decisive influence.

The U.S. - Russia joint statement wants to bring them down to 1500-1675. From the press conference of President Obama and President Medvedev of Russia on Monday:

It is very difficult for us to exert that leadership unless we are showing ourselves willing to deal with our own nuclear stockpiles in a more rational way. And that's why this post-START agreement is so important, and I'm hopeful that we can reduce our nuclear arsenals by as much as a third and hopefully can move even beyond that in subsequent agreements and treaties.

Here's an insight into Obama's thinking from The Washington Post

President Obama called for a new relationship between the United States and Russia on Tuesday, saying that the frequent rivals could both prosper by joining forces to combat common threats and pursue mutual interests.

The modern scourges of stateless terrorism and nuclear proliferation threaten both the United States and Russia, Obama said, demanding that the two nations shed past suspicions and confront those problems as partners.

"There is the 20th-century view that the United States and Russia are destined to be antagonists, and that a strong Russia or a strong America can only assert themselves in opposition to one another," Obama said. "And there is a 19th-century view that we are destined to vie for spheres of influence, and that great powers must forge competing blocs to balance one another. These assumptions are wrong."

Didn't George W. Bush try this?

From a BBC story of June 16, 2001:

Presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin have met for the first time and appear to have hit it off.

The two men still differ over enlarging Nato and US missile defence plans, but they exchanged warm words...

The summit is being judged a success by both sides even though it leaves Russia and the US little closer to resolving the issues that divide them.

The atmosphere here was one of friendly co-operation with the two leaders getting on far better than expected.

That didn't work out so well, did it? Why does Obama thinks he can do better? The answer is found in another Washington Post story:

Obama said he has been trying to alter the tone of U.S. foreign policy to make it easier for countries to focus on their common interests with the United States. But that task is much easier, he said, when the United States is viewed favorably.

"The world leaders are like politicians everywhere, and they're reading the polls," Obama said in an interview Wednesday with ABC News' Jake Tapper. "They find out that their population, 45 percent of or 30 percent approve of America and 70 percent disapprove, that is a strong disincentive to want to work with us."

I don't know if Obama is naive, arrogant, or just some combination of the two, but this business of "now that I have ascended to the throne the world will now bow at my feet in adoration" and so "previously bad nations will now come around" routine is getting old.

The Bottom Line

If Obama wants to flatter himself by negotiating a reduction on American and Russian nuclear weapons, fine. I haven't any great objection.

The problem comes if 1) he gives up missile defense, and/or 2) belives that reducing our arsenal somehow gives rogue nations incentive to do likewise. Anyone who thinks that Iran, North Korea, etc want nuclear weapons because we have them is naive or stupid. Anyone who thinks that if we reduce our arsenal the evil nations of this world will be morally shamed is an idiot. I hope our president is none of these. Who knows, he might surprise me, but I worry.

Wednesday Update

Professor Donald Douglas nails it over at American Power:

Conservatives knew Barack Obama lacked gravitas over two years ago. And now we're starting to see the rest of the country catch on. Folks are getting hip to the Democrats' epic electoral fail of 2008...

So, let's just consider President Obama's U.S.-Russia summit this week. It's one more indication of the woeful unseriousness of this man and his administration. The highlights are at Memeorandum. CNN has a story on Sasha and Malia Obama, "Obama Girls Take Russia by Storm." Plus, the New York Times follows up with, "Family Night for Obamas Miffs Some in Moscow." But the best of these, also from the Times, is "Family Night for Obamas Miffs Some in Moscow."...

The president himself remains inside a narcissisitic bubble and the rest of the world can only watch dumfounded as this administration sleepwalks through history.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 28, 2009

Obama to Cut Military Spending to Pre - 9/11 Levels

Via The Tank military blog over at NRO, Gregory S. McNeal provides the scoop on Obama's plans for national defense spending:

While trillions of borrowed dollars fly out of Washington in the form of stimulus (and into Washington from America's wallets), the federal government is cutting back in one area where the Founders believed a federal government was necessary -- "to provide for the common defense."

Perhaps most alarming are the cuts to missile defense, right when our enemies are preparing advanced missile systems. As an illustration of the dramatic cuts, consider this alarming graphic provided by the Heritage Foundation:

Obama Defense Spending Cuts - June 2009

Liberals used to complain that defense spending crowed out other programs. While that argument might have had some merit in the 1950s, it certainly doesn't today. Obama and his Democrats are spending us into oblivion through their "stimulus," and their "cap n' trade" tax (Waxman-Markey, or American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009), and plans for national health care will send us into the abyss.

Meanwhile we've got enemies around the globe which they ignore. But wait, it gets worse:

First, as a chart from Truth and Politics

US military spending as a percentage of GDP, 1940--2003

We're going to pay for this around the globe. Obama is making it more and more difficult for us to defend our interests, assets, and allies.

Posted by Tom at 9:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 21, 2009

Dick Cheney, Barack Obama, and the New York Terror Plot

Former Vice President Dick Cheney delivered an address before the American Enterprise Institute earlier today that is a must watch. At the very least read it in it's entirety, which you can here.

President Obama also gave a a speech today about national security.

The short version is that Cheney gave a responsible address in which he reviewed the issues at hand and reviewed the threat and discussed what the Bush Administration had done to counter it.

Obama acted like a jerk.

First up is our former Vice President

(video h/t American Power)

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Read and watch the entire thing, but here's the money quote:

Nine-eleven made necessary a shift of policy, aimed at a clear strategic threat - what the Congress called "an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States." From that moment forward, instead of merely preparing to round up the suspects and count up the victims after the next attack, we were determined to prevent attacks in the first place.

We could count on almost universal support back then, because everyone understood the environment we were in. We'd just been hit by a foreign enemy - leaving 3,000 Americans dead, more than we lost at Pearl Harbor. In Manhattan, we were staring at 16 acres of ashes. The Pentagon took a direct hit, and the Capitol or the White House were spared only by the Americans on Flight 93, who died bravely and defiantly.

Everyone expected a follow-on attack, and our job was to stop it. We didn't know what was coming next, but everything we did know in that autumn of 2001 looked bad. This was the world in which al-Qaeda was seeking nuclear technology, and A. Q. Khan was selling nuclear technology on the black market. We had the anthrax attack from an unknown source. We had the training camps of Afghanistan, and dictators like Saddam Hussein with known ties to Mideast terrorists.

These are just a few of the problems we had on our hands. And foremost on our minds was the prospect of the very worst coming to pass - a 9/11 with nuclear weapons.

Yup. It seemed common sense back then that we'd be hit again, and maybe quite soon. We had been caught with such total surprise, and the devastating nature of the attack was something out of a Tom Clancy novel. Indeed, in his 1995 Debt of Honor, a Japanese airline pilot crashes a 747 into the U.S. Capitol building during a state of the union address, killing the president, vice president, and most members of congress. It was an interesting book, but as I read it I thought "that would make a cool movie but it could never happen." 9-11 dispelled such thoughts.

More on what Cheney said, but before that or we go to President Obama, let's review one of the biggest stories of the week; four Muslims were arrested Wednesday for plotting to blow up two New York Synagogues and shoot down military aircraft with Stinger missiles. The story from Fox News:

(F)our domestic terror suspects -- James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, all of Newburgh, N.Y. -- were arrested late Wednesday after they allegedly planted a 37-pound device that they believed was a bomb in the trunk of a car outside the Riverdale Temple, a synagogue in the Bronx, and two other mock bombs in the backseat of a car outside the Riverdale Jewish Center, another synagogue a few blocks away. They also allegedly planned to shoot Stinger surface-to-air guided missiles at planes at the Air National Guard base in Newburgh, about 70 miles north of New York City.

FBI investigators had been monitoring the men and, through an informant, provided them with an inactive (Stinger) missile and inert C-4 explosives, according to the federal complaint filed against the suspects.

Don't think that because the FBI supplied a fake missile that they couldn't have gotten it elsewhere. From the same story

"I don't know if you could buy it on Craigslist, but there's certainly a lot of people who engage in this type of contraband," Steve Emerson, executive director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism, said of the anti-aircraft Stinger missile. "They're not that big, either, so they could've been smuggled into the United States."

Emerson said the 5-foot-long weapon, which has a range of 5 miles and weighs 35 pounds fully armed, could have been bought in a number of black arms markets in Middle Eastern countries, including Lebanon, Pakistan, Gaza and Saudi Arabia. The missile system could be purchased for "tens of thousands of dollars," Emerson said.

To be sure, these guys weren't the brightest bulbs. From the AP

The four men were ex-convicts who envisioned themselves as holy warriors, ambitious enough to concoct a plot to blow up synagogues and military planes, authorities said. But they were amateurs every step of the way. They had trouble finding guns and bought cameras at Wal-Mart to photograph their targets. One was a convicted purse snatcher, another smoked marijuana the day the plot was to be carried out.

Muslims fueled by hatred of America and Jews, they spent months scouting targets and securing what they thought was a surface-to-air missile system and powerful explosives -- all under the watch of an FBI informant.

But before we get to cocky, let's remember that after the 1993 world trade center attack we laughed when one of the terrorists went back to the rental place to claim his deposit on the truck that had been blown up in the attack. I think we all know who got the last laugh on that one.

They're still out there, folks, and they're trying to get us. Odds are that sooner or later they'll succeed again. Whether or not they're homegrown or imported from the wilds of Waziristan doesn't matter.

Independent Jihad

Muslim terrorists need not be connected to al Qaeda or any other terrorist network to be part of the global jihad. I say this because you can expect this plot to be dismissed in days to come if no connection is found.


In May 2006 a story in the Washington Post
describes the career of one Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, who in January of 2005 posted a treatise called "The Call for a Global Islamic Resistance" under the pen name Abu Musab al-Suri on the Internet (I can't find an exact link for the work, but see a description here). From the Post story

Nasar, 47, outlines a strategy for a truly global conflict on as many fronts as possible and in the form of resistance by small cells or individuals, rather than traditional guerrilla warfare. To avoid penetration and defeat by security services, he says, organizational links should be kept to an absolute minimum.

"The enemy is strong and powerful, we are weak and poor, the war duration is going to be long and the best way to fight it is in a revolutionary jihad way for the sake of Allah," he said in one paper. "The preparations better be deliberate, comprehensive and properly planned, taking into account past experiences and lessons."

Let's also not forget the 2007 JFK Bomb Plot and the Fort Dix "Jersey Jihadists." If we hadn't caught them would have caused untold havoc. Again, one day they're bound to get through our nets.

On to Obama

So what has our President been up to lately? As usual, he blames the Bush Administration for our troubles. In a speech today on national security he said that he inherited a "mess"

I knew when I ordered Guantanamo closed that it would be difficult and complex. There are 240 people there who have now spent years in legal limbo. In dealing with this situation, we do not have the luxury of starting from scratch. We are cleaning up something that is - quite simply - a mess a misguided experiment that has left in its wake a flood of legal challenges that my Administration is forced to deal with on a constant basis, and that consumes the time of government officials whose time should be spent on better protecting our country.

He also pontificates that

After 9/11, we knew that we had entered a new era - that enemies who did not abide by any law of war would present new challenges to our application of the law; that our government would need new tools to protect the American people, and that these tools would have to allow us to prevent attacks instead of simply prosecuting those who try to carry them out.

Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions. And I believe that those decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people. But I also believe that - too often - our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight, and all too often trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, we too often set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And in this season of fear, too many of us - Democrats and Republicans; politicians, journalists and citizens - fell silent.

What a jerk.

Throwing out the bone that the decisions "were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people" is a throwaway line that he clearly doesn't mean. Obama has no respect for anyone but himself. He is sooooooo smart that if he had been president at the time he wouldn't have fallen for the "fear" and of course would have calmly and cooly advised that we were all getting excited over nothing and that there would be no further attacks.

Because he is Obama, and the world will bend to his will. I swear the man believes his own propaganda.

Let's go back to someone who can think responsibly about national security, Dick Cheney. Here's what he said about the likes of Obama and his type in his speech at the AEI:

To make certain our nation country never again faced such a day of horror, we developed a comprehensive strategy, beginning with far greater homeland security to make the United States a harder target. But since wars cannot be won on the defensive, we moved decisively against the terrorists in their hideouts and sanctuaries, and committed to using every asset to take down their networks....

(Our strategy) has resulted in serious blows against enemy operations ... the take-down of the A.Q. Khan network ... and the dismantling of Libya's nuclear program. It's required the commitment of many thousands of troops in two theaters of war, with high points and some low points in both Iraq and Afghanistan - and at every turn, the people of our military carried the heaviest burden. Well over seven years into the effort, one thing we know is that the enemy has spent most of this time on the defensive - and every attempt to strike inside the United States has failed....

Our government prevented attacks and saved lives through the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which let us intercept calls and track contacts between al-Qaeda operatives and persons inside the United States. The program was top secret, and for good reason, until the editors of the New York Times got it and put it on the front page. After 9/11, the Times had spent months publishing the pictures and the stories of everyone killed by al-Qaeda on 9/11. Now here was that same newspaper publishing secrets in a way that could only help al-Qaeda. It impressed the Pulitzer committee, but it damn sure didn't serve the interests of our country, or the safety of our people.

In the years after 9/11, our government also understood that the safety of the country required collecting information known only to the worst of the terrorists. And in a few cases, that information could be gained only through tough interrogations....

Yet for all these exacting efforts to do a hard and necessary job and to do it right, we hear from some quarters nothing but feigned outrage based on a false narrative. In my long experience in Washington, few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists.

I might add that people who consistently distort the truth in this way are in no position to lecture anyone about "values." Intelligence officers of the United States were not trying to rough up some terrorists simply to avenge the dead of 9/11. We know the difference in this country between justice and vengeance. Intelligence officers were not trying to get terrorists to confess to past killings; they were trying to prevent future killings. From the beginning of the program, there was only one focused and all-important purpose. We sought, and we in fact obtained, specific information on terrorist plans.

Game, Set and Match; Dick Cheney.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 2, 2009

Andy McCarthy Smacks Down Eric Holder

Former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy has turned down an offer by Attorney General Eric Holder to participate in a roundtable discussion on detention policy. The AG has invited several current and former prosecutors involved in international terrorism cases to seek their input, McCarthy being one of them.

McCarthy is known primarily as the man who led the team that sent the "Blind Sheikh", Omar Abdel Rahman, and eleven others to prison. Rahman was the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and plot to bomb several other New York City landmarks, including the United Nations building, an FBI office, the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, and the George Washington Bridge. As such, Rahman was the most dangerous terrorist ever brought to justice in the United States. McCarthy wrote about the trial and his thoughs on our detention policy in his 2008 book Willfull Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad. As such, he is a legitimate expert on terrorism and the legal issues surrounding the issue.

McCarthy's full letter to AG Holder is below the fold, but here is the part where he states his reasons for turning down Holder's offer:

In light of public statements by both you and the President, it is dismayingly clear that, under your leadership, the Justice Department takes the position that a lawyer who in good faith offers legal advice to government policy makers--like the government lawyers who offered good faith advice on interrogation policy--may be subject to investigation and prosecution for the content of that advice, in addition to empty but professionally damaging accusations of ethical misconduct. Given that stance, any prudent lawyer would have to hesitate before offering advice to the government.

Congratulations, Mr. President. This is the result of the atmosphere of intimidation that you created when you let loose the hounds of the left.

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr. Attorney General of the United States United States Department of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Dear Attorney General Holder:

This letter is respectfully submitted to inform you that I must decline the invitation to participate in the May 4 roundtable meeting the President's Task Force on Detention Policy is convening with current and former prosecutors involved in international terrorism cases. An invitation was extended to me by trial lawyers from the Counterterrorism Section, who are members of the Task Force, which you are leading.

The invitation email (of April 14) indicates that the meeting is part of an ongoing effort to identify lawful policies on the detention and disposition of alien enemy combatants--or what the Department now calls "individuals captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations." I admire the lawyers of the Counterterrorism Division, and I do not question their good faith. Nevertheless, it is quite clear--most recently, from your provocative remarks on Wednesday in Germany--that the Obama administration has already settled on a policy of releasing trained jihadists (including releasing some of them into the United States). Whatever the good intentions of the organizers, the meeting will obviously be used by the administration to claim that its policy was arrived at in consultation with current and former government officials experienced in terrorism cases and national security issues. I deeply disagree with this policy, which I believe is a violation of federal law and a betrayal of the president's first obligation to protect the American people. Under the circumstances, I think the better course is to register my dissent, rather than be used as a prop.

Moreover, in light of public statements by both you and the President, it is dismayingly clear that, under your leadership, the Justice Department takes the position that a lawyer who in good faith offers legal advice to government policy makers--like the government lawyers who offered good faith advice on interrogation policy--may be subject to investigation and prosecution for the content of that advice, in addition to empty but professionally damaging accusations of ethical misconduct. Given that stance, any prudent lawyer would have to hesitate before offering advice to the government.

Beyond that, as elucidated in my writing (including my proposal for a new national security court, which I understand the Task Force has perused), I believe alien enemy combatants should be detained at Guantanamo Bay (or a facility like it) until the conclusion of hostilities. This national defense measure is deeply rooted in the venerable laws of war and was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in the 2004 Hamdi case. Yet, as recently as Wednesday, you asserted that, in your considered judgment, such notions violate America's "commitment to the rule of law." Indeed, you elaborated, "Nothing symbolizes our [adminstration's] new course more than our decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.... President Obama believes, and I strongly agree, that Guantanamo has come to represent a time and an approach that we want to put behind us: a disregard for our centuries-long respect for the rule of law[.]" (Emphasis added.)

Given your policy of conducting ruinous criminal and ethics investigations of lawyers over the advice they offer the government, and your specific position that the wartime detention I would endorse is tantamount to a violation of law, it makes little sense for me to attend the Task Force meeting. After all, my choice would be to remain silent or risk jeopardizing myself.

For what it may be worth, I will say this much. For eight years, we have had a robust debate in the United States about how to handle alien terrorists captured during a defensive war authorized by Congress after nearly 3000 of our fellow Americans were annihilated. Essentially, there have been two camps. One calls for prosecution in the civilian criminal justice system, the strategy used throughout the 1990s. The other calls for a military justice approach of combatant detention and war-crimes prosecutions by military commission. Because each theory has its downsides, many commentators, myself included, have proposed a third way: a hybrid system, designed for the realities of modern international terrorism--a new system that would address the needs to protect our classified defense secrets and to assure Americans, as well as our allies, that we are detaining the right people.

There are differences in these various proposals. But their proponents, and adherents to both the military and civilian justice approaches, have all agreed on at least one thing: Foreign terrorists trained to execute mass-murder attacks cannot simply be released while the war ensues and Americans are still being targeted. We have already released too many jihadists who, as night follows day, have resumed plotting to kill Americans. Indeed, according to recent reports, a released Guantanamo detainee is now leading Taliban combat operations in Afghanistan, where President Obama has just sent additional American forces.

The Obama campaign smeared Guantanamo Bay as a human rights blight. Consistent with that hyperbolic rhetoric, the President began his administration by promising to close the detention camp within a year. The President did this even though he and you (a) agree Gitmo is a top-flight prison facility, (b) acknowledge that our nation is still at war, and (c) concede that many Gitmo detainees are extremely dangerous terrorists who cannot be tried under civilian court rules. Patently, the commitment to close Guantanamo Bay within a year was made without a plan for what to do with these detainees who cannot be tried. Consequently, the Detention Policy Task Force is not an effort to arrive at the best policy. It is an effort to justify a bad policy that has already been adopted: to wit, the Obama administration policy to release trained terrorists outright if that's what it takes to close Gitmo by January.

Obviously, I am powerless to stop the administration from releasing top al Qaeda operatives who planned mass-murder attacks against American cities--like Binyam Mohammed (the accomplice of "Dirty Bomber" Jose Padilla) whom the administration recently transferred to Britain, where he is now at liberty and living on public assistance. I am similarly powerless to stop the administration from admitting into the United States such alien jihadists as the 17 remaining Uighur detainees. According to National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, the Uighurs will apparently live freely, on American taxpayer assistance, despite the facts that they are affiliated with a terrorist organization and have received terrorist paramilitary training. Under federal immigration law (the 2005 REAL ID Act), those facts render them excludable from the United States. The Uighurs' impending release is thus a remarkable development given the Obama administration's propensity to deride its predecessor's purported insensitivity to the rule of law.

I am, in addition, powerless to stop the President, as he takes these reckless steps, from touting his Detention Policy Task Force as a demonstration of his national security seriousness. But I can decline to participate in the charade.

Finally, let me repeat that I respect and admire the dedication of Justice Department lawyers, whom I have tirelessly defended since I retired in 2003 as a chief assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York. It was a unique honor to serve for nearly twenty years as a federal prosecutor, under administrations of both parties. It was as proud a day as I have ever had when the trial team I led was awarded the Attorney General's Exceptional Service Award in 1996, after we secured the convictions of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and his underlings for waging a terrorist war against the United States. I particularly appreciated receiving the award from Attorney General Reno--as I recounted in Willful Blindness, my book about the case, without her steadfastness against opposition from short-sighted government officials who wanted to release him, the "blind sheikh" would never have been indicted, much less convicted and so deservedly sentenced to life-imprisonment. In any event, I've always believed defending our nation is a duty of citizenship, not ideology. Thus, my conservative political views aside, I've made myself available to liberal and conservative groups, to Democrats and Republicans, who've thought tapping my experience would be beneficial. It pains me to decline your invitation, but the attendant circumstances leave no other option.

Very truly yours,

/S/

Andrew C. McCarthy

cc: Sylvia T. Kaser and John DePue
National Security Division, Counterterrorism Section

Summarized, McCarthy's reasons for turning down the invitation are that one, the Obama Administration has already settled on a position, so this meeting is just for show, and two, given recent statements by Holder and President Obama, any lawyer who makes good faith recommendations may be prosecuted just for making those recommendations. As such there not only is no point in attending the roundtable, but it might be hazardous to one's legal future.

Say what you will about George W. Bush, but he never went after Clinton Administration officials for anything. Nor did he spend time blaming them for their national security lapses that helped lead to 9-11.

Update

McCarthy has a piece in National Review explaining his reasons behind the letter, as well as a few comments on the Administration's new policies. Money quote:

The second reason for declining the Justice Department's request is that the exercise known as the "President's Detention Policy Task Force" is a farce. The administration has already settled on a detainee policy: It is simply going to release trained jihadists. Holder said as much in his Germany speech. In the irrational world he inhabits, the existence of Guantanamo Bay, where dangerous terrorists cannot harm anyone, is more of a security threat than jihadists roaming free, plotting to menace and murder us. That's why the administration just released Binyam Mohammed, who conspired with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and "Dirty Bomber" Jose Padilla to execute post-9/11 bombings in American cities. That's why Holder will soon announce (perhaps as early as today) that the Chinese Uighur detainees -- who've been affiliated with a designated terrorist organization and who've received paramilitary training at al-Qaeda camps -- will not only be set free in the United States but will, according to National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, subsist on the support of the American taxpayer.

For all their talk about "the rule of law," President Obama and Attorney General Holder have to know this policy is illegal. In 2005, Congress provided in the REAL ID Act that aliens who've been affiliated with a terrorist organization or who've received paramilitary training (which has been a staple of virtually every jihadist plot against the United States) are excludable from the United States. Moreover, even if the administration were not riding roughshod over federal immigration law, it is endangering the American people. The sophistry required to believe that having people who want to kill us locked up is more perilous than loosing them on civilian populations is so absurd it nearly defies description.

What was that about Bush and Cheney running roughshod over the Constitution again?

Posted by Tom at 1:45 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 30, 2009

Reckless Endangerment By ABC News

Via the Mark Levin Show, I hear that three ABC reporters, Brian Ross, Matthew Cole, and Joseph have published a piece called "The CIA's $1,000 a Day Specialists on Waterboarding, Interrogations The New Focus on Two Retired Military Psychologists Called the 'Architects' of the CIA's Techniques"

As with Levin, I will not link to the piece. If you like you can google for it yourself. Suffice it to say that it is a hit piece. They not only publish the names of the retired military psychologists but their photos as well.

The words of Mark Steyn come to mind:

"Well, I think when we listen to terrorists talking about the new caliphate, and there are a bunch of guys sitting in the cave, we think they're nuts. When a guy is sitting in the cave listening to Bill Keller explain proudly why he betrayed America's national security interests, that guy in the cave would rightly conclude that we're the ones that are nuts. And it's hard to disagree with him."

Replace Bill Keller with the guys from ABC and Steyn has it exactly right.

The left has never understood the truism of what George Orwell meant when he said that:

"We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm. "

What we have is more reckless endangerment of honest Americans who struggled with how to exact information from some of the world's most dangerous terrorists and gave their best assessment of how to do it. Now every nutjob jihadist will be gunning for them, not to mention the American left who will no doubt seek to make their lives miserable, if they haven't already.

Michael Goldfarb at The Weekly Standard has the scoop on one of the ABC reporters, Matthew Cole, as well as some other on-target comments:

ABC runs a report showing the names and faces of two CIA contractors who may have had a role in the waterboarding of KSM and Abu Zubaydah. The network apparently outsourced this report to a freelancer named Matthew Cole, whose record in Nexis includes just three bylines -- two stories for Salon (one of which about "how Bush administration aid to Pakistan helps fund insurgents who kill U.S. troops"), and one for the San Jose Mercury News just two days after 9/11 reporting "anxiety about a backlash" among Muslims, who assure the reporter that the attack "has nothing to do with Islam."

In other words, Cole is a left-wing partisan with questionable reporting chops. This is obvious from the quality of the story tonight. Cole repeats the now throughly debunked claim that Zubaydah and KSM were waterboarded 83 and 183 times respectively. He posts video of the two refusing to answer questions in what is staged as a faux perp walk with no discernible news value other than to portray them as criminals. And, most amazingly, Cole indicts the two men for not having any experience prior to their work for the CIA -- as though being "previously involved in the U.S. military program to train pilots how to survive behind enemy lines and resist brutal tactics" isn't relevant.

ABC's conduct here, exposing two men who will now become obvious targets for terrorists and left-wing extremists, is deplorable. Will the Obama administration investigate who leaked their identities? Or is it now open-season on Americans who were only doing what their government asked of them in order to protect their country from attack?

It is open season, Michael, and it's only going to get worse. Obama has opened a Pandora's box that he'll find difficult if not impossible to close. He and his fellow liberals are recklessly endangering our national security. By doing so, he is sowing the seeds of his own destruction. America finally woke up to Jimmy Carter, and we'll do the same with Obama and his ilk.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 26, 2009

"Obama Administration's Assault on the American Warrior Commences"

This post by Steve Schippert at NRO's The Tank is so good and I agree with him so completely I'm just going to quote the whole thing. I don't think he'll mind.

The assault is relentless. It is enraging. And today, the Obama administration's assault on those who dare to defend America from terrorist thugs who rejoice in publicizing beheadings, mass murder, and pure evil are on notice: "You will be punished. We're coming after you."

The target audience now includes the American Warrior. The Obama administration has abdicated the Warrior's defense, refusing to appeal the 2nd Circuit's decision that more photos should be released from investigations of the detention of enemy fighters from the battlefield. The Obama administration has sided with the ACLU and abandoned our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. This cannot stand.

Brace yourselves for the Obama administration's full on assault on the American psyche, while we in the Warrior Class gear up, strap up, and engage in our defense and our nation's defense by taking the fight right back to its source.

Earlier this week, it was the Bush administration's legal advisers, who had the audacity to write opinions on the legal limits of "enhanced interrogation techniques." They dared to include as legal for use against terrorists procedures that are part of our own Special Forces' training. Then yesterday the Obama administration could not resist its instinctive temptation to renege on its original pledge that it would not go after CIA and military interrogators who, as the administration put it, were simply following orders and guidelines determined from above.

Today, the very legacy of the American Warrior is directly under assault as part of that same process.

The Obama administration agreed late Thursday to release dozens of photographs depicting alleged abuse by U.S. personnel during the Bush administration of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At least 44 pictures will be released by May 28, making public for the first time images of what the military investigated at facilities other than the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Defense Department officials would not say exactly what is contained in the photos but said they are concerned the release could incite a Mideast backlash.

A Mideast backlash? The Obama administration -- and those at the Pentagon not standing up in vociferous defense of its warriors -- had better buckle up for an American backlash. Pay attention here.

The photos, taken from Air Force and Army criminal investigations, apparently are not as shocking as the photographs from the Abu Ghraib investigation that became a lasting symbol of U.S. mistakes in Iraq. But some show military personnel intimidating or threatening detainees by pointing weapons at them. Military officers have been court-martialed for threatening detainees at gunpoint.

The photos are not egregious. Not even rising to the level of panties on heads. But no matter. The assault is on. And your president -- your Commander in Chief -- supports it.

The release of these images serves no practical purpose, except perhaps for "enhanced prosecution techniques" against our own. Understand clearly that the purpose of the release -- and the Obama administration's decision to do so willingly if not energetically -- is to denigrate the American Warrior and to further the assault on the American psyche.

Those we were detaining (rather than summarily executing in the field, mind you) were being locked away at a time when beheadings were commonplace, men were being killed by slowly lowering them into 55-gallon drums of acid, and teens refusing to join al-Qaeda in Iraq were being crucified -- literally crucified -- in the public square and given just enough water to keep them alive and their public suffering great enough to serve as AQ's example to the rest. The children of resistant families were baked in ovens, folks.

And our boys are the evil ones? Not on your bleeping life. Not on my watch. Not on our watch.

From the indispensable Jake Tapper of ABC News, consider this context.

The photographs are part of a 2003 Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU for all information relating to the treatment of detainees -- the same battle that led, last week, to President Obama's decision to release memos from the Bush Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel providing legal justifications for harsh interrogation methods that human rights groups call torture.

Courts had ruled against the Bush administration's attempts to keep the photographs from public view. ACLU attorney Amrit Singh tells ABC News that "the fact that the Obama administration opted not to seek further review is a sign that it is committed to more transparency."

No. It is a sign that the Obama administration holds no perceived loyalty to the American Warrior and is, in fact, putting them under assault in a display of loyalty instead to the ACLU. Is your mind calculating this?

Where is our Secretary of Defense?

The Department of Defense announced in a letter addressed to the federal court on Thursday that it would release the photos.

In a copy of the letter posted on the ACLU's Web site, acting U.S. Attorney Lev L. Dassin said that 21 photographs would be released and that the government "also is processing for release a substantial number of other images."

Mr. Gates, if you cannot muster the principle and courage to stand against this, then our support for you as the remaining adult on the newly formed children's playground may well have been misplaced. You have instantly become indistinguishable from the rest.

This has me so angry I'm practically spitting out my own teeth. I've had enough. Apologizing to Europe and the Muslim world for America, the warm reception of Chavez, blaming America for Mexican drug cartels' murderous rampages, and the threat of prosecuting Bush administration officials because of their legal opinions on what does and does not constitute torture.

And now, the American warrior class is openly and clearly in the crosshairs in a media campaign to denigrate them and cast dishonor upon them and, once again, America.

The aim of the release is to assault America in the court of public opinion, using the wholly owned media PR subsidiary as the armored assault vehicle. And the administration, through its acquiescence, is at minimum enabling this, choosing consciously to end the public defense of the American warrior class and its very legacy. Perhaps the administration is acting with willful disregard for them by taking direction from the ACLU/Soros/Moveon.org hard Left in a form of electoral quid pro quo. At worst, the administration is directly aligned with them and acting in concert rather than taking direction from them.

Either way, the principled defense of the warrior is over, by choice of the Obama administration in directing the Pentagon to end the defense short of SCOTUS. It is an outright abdication.

I say no. Not now, not ever. The Left got away with an all-out assault on the American veteran and military service during Vietnam. It will not happen again. And most certainly not from the military's own Commander in Chief. Not without a bold, determined, and passionate challenge the likes of which have never been seen.

For the exodus of good men and women from a military under assault from its own administration is likely to begin as service commitments come to an end. Retention just took a hit, as officers and NCO's alike begin to understand that they have been left in the wind. Recruiting just got more difficult.

The next logical step for this anti-military administration is to submit the American Warrior to the jurisdiction of a kangaroo International Criminal Court. Don't think the American Warrior isn't watching and thinking. International law, rather than American sovereignty, is all the rage these days in the White House after all.

The Warrior will begin to question precisely what it is that he risks all to defend. And when faced with the fact that he may remain undefended in doing so, his risk expands and the once-booming clarion call to service reduces to distant whispers.

And that will be . . . the end.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The release of the CIA memos

I'm not going to have time to do a proper post on this, but there's no need to when so many others are saying what I think almost exactly. As we all know President Obama has ordered the release of some memos detailing our interrogation of terrorists.

Former Director of the CIA Porter Goss (September 2004 to May 2006) in The Washington Post (h/t The Western Experience)

Since leaving my post as CIA director almost three years ago, I have remained largely silent on the public stage. I am speaking out now because I feel our government has crossed the red line between properly protecting our national security and trying to gain partisan political advantage. We can't have a secret intelligence service if we keep giving away all the secrets. Americans have to decide now.

Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as "waterboarding" were never mentioned. It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience.

Let me be clear. It is my recollection that:

-- The chairs and the ranking minority members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, known as the Gang of Four, were briefed that the CIA was holding and interrogating high-value terrorists.

-- We understood what the CIA was doing.

-- We gave the CIA our bipartisan support.

-- We gave the CIA funding to carry out its activities.

-- On a bipartisan basis, we asked if the CIA needed more support from Congress to carry out its mission against al-Qaeda.

I do not recall a single objection from my colleagues. They did not vote to stop authorizing CIA funding. And for those who now reveal filed "memorandums for the record" suggesting concern, real concern should have been expressed immediately -- to the committee chairs, the briefers, the House speaker or minority leader, the CIA director or the president's national security adviser -- and not quietly filed away in case the day came when the political winds shifted.

Another former Director of the CIA, General Michael Hayden (2006 to 2009), along with former Attorney General Michael Mukasky (2007 to 2009), in the Wall Street Journal

The Obama administration has declassified and released opinions of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) given in 2005 and earlier that analyze the legality of interrogation techniques authorized for use by the CIA. Those techniques were applied only when expressly permitted by the director, and are described in these opinions in detail, along with their limits and the safeguards applied to them....

Proponents of the release have argued that the techniques have been abandoned and thus there is no point in keeping them secret any longer; that they were in any event ineffective; that their disclosure was somehow legally compelled; and that they cost us more in the coin of world opinion than they were worth. None of these claims survives scrutiny....

...public disclosure of the OLC opinions, and thus of the techniques themselves, assures that terrorists are now aware of the absolute limit of what the U.S. government could do to extract information from them, and can supplement their training accordingly and thus diminish the effectiveness of these techniques as they have the ones in the Army Field Manual.

Moreover, disclosure of the details of the program pre-empts the study of the president's task force and assures that the suspension imposed by the president's executive order is effectively permanent. There would be little point in the president authorizing measures whose nature and precise limits have already been disclosed in detail to those whose resolve we hope to overcome....

Disclosure of the techniques is likely to be met by faux outrage, and is perfectly packaged for media consumption. It will also incur the utter contempt of our enemies....

Which brings us to the next of the justifications for disclosing and thus abandoning these measures: that they don't work anyway, and that those who are subjected to them will simply make up information in order to end their ordeal. This ignorant view of how interrogations are conducted is belied by both experience and common sense....

The effect of this disclosure on the morale and effectiveness of many in the intelligence community is not hard to predict. Those charged with the responsibility of gathering potentially lifesaving information from unwilling captives are now told essentially that any legal opinion they get as to the lawfulness of their activity is only as durable as political fashion permits. Even with a seemingly binding opinion in hand, which future CIA operations personnel would take the risk? There would be no wink, no nod, no handshake that would convince them that legal guidance is durable. Any president who wants to apply such techniques without such a binding and durable legal opinion had better be prepared to apply them himself....

Indeed, as Steve Shippert explains, all this is part of Obama's assault on the American warrior.

Wesley Pruden, former Editor in Chief of The Washington Times

We're on unfamiliar ground now. No president before has sought to punish his predecessor for policy decisions, no matter how wrong or wrong-headed. Lyndon B. Johnson's management of the Vietnam War was often ham-handed, as anyone who was there could tell you, and his policy makers sometimes verged on criminal incompetence. But Richard Nixon was never tempted to send LBJ or any of those presidential acolytes to prison. Abraham Lincoln, by his lights, would have had ample opportunity to hang Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, but even the rabid Republicans who survived the assassination stopped short of putting Davis in the dock, finally releasing him from imprisonment at Fort Monroe when judgment overcame lust for revenge. Lee was never touched.

Over the past few days, it seems that Obama has realized that he's opened a can of worms that threatens to get out of control. As Andrew McCarthy explains at National Review, it is unlikely he'll be able to close this Pandora's box.

...as George W. Bush might have warned his successor, anti-American ideologues are emboldened, not mollified, by concessions. The Left doesn't want Bush officials exposed -- they want blood, and anything less than that will be cause for revolt. Simultaneously, Obama has raised the ire of the Right. In his solipsism, the president failed to foresee that the "torture" memos -- memos that, as Rich Lowry shows, in fact document an assiduous effort to avoid torture -- would not support his overblown rhetoric or substantiate the allegations of misconduct raised by politicized leaks from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Critics were not cowed. That, combined with Obama's disingenuous strategy of exposing our tactics while suppressing the trove of intelligence they produced, ensured that the Right would push back aggressively.

So now the president has chaos on his hands and no one but himself to blame for it. From the Left's perspective, he has validated their war-crimes allegations. You can't expect to do that and then just say, "never mind." Senator Leahy was already agitating for an accounting before Obama's high-wire act, as was the ACLU. Obama opened the door to prosecutions only 48 hours after his chief of staff assured a national television audience that there would be no prosecutions; having proved it can push around the weak-willed president, the Left is not going away.

Neither are Obama's political opponents on the right. Many of us spent years frustrated by the Bush administration's failure to defend its national-security policies effectively. President Bush's determination to do what he thought necessary to protect America, regardless of media carping and the consequent sag in his popularity, was his most endearing trait. But his unshakable conviction that the rightness of his actions would be borne out by history, and that he therefore didn't need to justify himself, was foolish. Yes, history will be detached, and perhaps more accurate, decades hence, but it starts being written right now. Bush ceded to the Left the narrative-writing for the War on Terror, which is why the public remains in the dark about the intelligence haul from the CIA's interrogation program for high-level detainees, as well as from the detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, whom antiwar activists have effectively portrayed as hapless shepherds mistakenly plucked from the fields of Afghanistan and shamefully consigned to a "legal black hole."

We'll end with Bill Kristol, who writes in The Weekly Standard that Obama and his fellow Democrats are "throwing those who guard us while we sleep to the wolves."

"We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history," President Obama said when he ordered the release of the Justice Department interrogation memos. Actually, no. Not at all. We were attacked on 9/11. We responded to that attack with remarkable restraint in the use of force, respect for civil liberties, and even solicitude for those who might inadvertently be offended, let alone harmed, by our policies. We've fought a war on jihadist terror in a civilized, even legalized, way. Those who have been on the front and rear lines of that war--in the military and the intelligence agencies, at the Justice Department and, yes, in the White House--have much to be proud of. The rest of us, who've been asked to do little, should be grateful.

The dark and painful chapter we have to fear is rather the one President Obama may be ushering in. This would be a chapter in which politicians preen moralistically as they throw patriotic officials, who helped keep this country safe, to the wolves, and in which national leaders posture politically while endangering the nation's security.

The preening is ridiculous, even by the standards of contemporary American politics and American liberalism. Obama fatuously asserts there are no real choices in the real world, just "false choices" that he can magically resolve. He foolishly suggests that even in war we would never have to do anything disagreeable for the sake of our security. He talks baby talk to intelligence officers: "Don't be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we've made some mistakes. That's how we learn."

Yup. I do believe that Obama is taking us down a long dark path from which it will be difficult, or even impossible, to recover from. Never this century has an American president done so much damage so fast to his own country.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 11, 2009

American Dominance of the Seas Under Threat

It's worth revisiting the issue of China as a potential adversary in the wake of this week's release of President Obama's first defense budget. One of my biggest problems with the budget is that it seems to be focusing around building a military that's mostly suited to fighting insurgencies. While surely this is something we will need to do, we need to be ready for all contingencies.

A military force that's out of balance can get itself into trouble. I remember years ago reading Chaim Herzog's account of the 1973 Yom Kippur War in his book The Arab-Israeli Wars (1982 edition). One reason the Israelis had gotten into so much trouble during the early days of the war was that they "overlearned" the lessons of the 1967 Six Day War. Airpower had been so decisive in 1967 that they cut back on traditional gun artillery and thought they could use their new American aircraft as "flying artillery." What they didn't count on was the effectiveness of of the Egyptian AA system, recently bolstered by Soviet SA-2 and SA-3 surface to air missiles. Soviet made AT-3 Sagger anti-tank missiles were also more deadly against Israeli tanks than had been imagined. They lost many aircraft and tanks before recouping and eventually winning the day. But for awhile it was a near run thing.

We pretty much knew how a conventional and even nuclear war with Soviet Russia would turn out. We knew what weapons we'd need. We weren't well prepared for Vietnam, not having quite the right weapons to fight it.

The lesson of today is that we just don't know who we might have to fight. But one adversary we may well have to fight is China, and while we're cutting back on our air and naval forces, they're building aircraft and ships like there's no tomorrow.

Let's start out with an excerpt from an article in Wednesday's Weekly Standard by Michael Mazza, a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute.

The future of America's long-running dominance of the seas is under threat. The Department of Defense reported recently that the Chinese navy is continuing to modernize at a rapid clip. It is adding guided missile destroyers and nuclear and diesel-electric attack submarines to its fleet, and is developing over-the-horizon radars and next-generation anti-ship cruise missiles, and possibly even the first ever anti-ship ballistic missile. Not only have Chinese ships recently harassed unarmed U.S. naval vessels in the South China Sea, but according to reports emanating from Japan, China will likely complete construction on two conventional aircraft carriers by 2015, and will begin construction on two more nuclear carriers in 2020.

...it is important to consider the downsides of China's future naval plans. Protection of China's merchant fleet is certainly not the PLA Navy's only reason for building carriers and deploying ships far outside its territorial waters. China is acting to alter the balance of power in Asia and working to diminish U.S. presence in the region. The PLA has engaged in a significant build-up over the past twenty years. China's Air Force is on pace to have the largest air fleet in the region within the next decade. Their navy is developing blue-water capabilities, deploying new submarines at an unparalleled rate, and, now, is determined to add aircraft carriers to its fleet. And the PLA has modernized and grown its strategic conventional and nuclear missile force. In short, China is developing considerable power projection capabilities at a time when it faces no discernable external threats.

Right now only the U.S. and French navies possess serious aircraft carriers, and the latter only has one. As noted in the article, aircraft carriers are used for power projection. Other surface combatants are force protection with limited projection capabilities. So if all China wanted to do was protect their merchant marine fleet and petroleum supplies from Somalia, destroyers and frigates would be sufficient.

The Chinese goals are simple; one, achieve hegemony in the south-western Pacific, and two, acquire Taiwan. There are many reasons they want to dominate the area, but they include national pride, dislike of America as the world power, and to acquire and secure economic assets. Indeed, it was in late December that for the first time in modern history, China sent warships abroad to secure their interests in Somalia. They are a nation on the move.

Why Should We Care?

It is in our national interest that Chinese influence not spread. The reason for this is that one of if not our prime foreign policy goals should be to the spread of liberty. Under the current Chinese government, the values that they will spread are antithetical to ours. As such, they should be resisted.

We must also protect our friends. Countries must know that an alliance with the United States means more than just words. If they go out on a limb for us we have to be there to help them as well. It's not that we should foot everyone's defense bill, more that we cannot abandon allies to the mercies of powerful nations like China.

In addition there is old fashioned protection of our various economic interests, which yes include petroleum from the Middle East and elsewhere. No matter what we do on the alternative energy front, we're going to need foreign oil for a long time. Further, it is in our economic interests to protect general shipping from everything from pirates to unfriendly nations.

FAS and More

One of the best overviews of the Chinese military is at the Federation of American Scientists. Their page on the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)is not to be missed. See, for example, their page on the new Type 039 Wuhan C, or "Song," class submarine, in which they state that it

...is said to be as quiet as the American Los Angles nuclear submarines. But its overall performance is constrained by the use of 1980s technology, and the fact that the PLAN purchased the Russian Kilo-class submarines suggests that there are problems with the Song-class. Various upgrades to the Song are reported under development, and an improved version may have already entered service.

So while we shouldn't overrate PLAN forces, neither should we ignore them. As with Iranian and North Korean missiles, they're not there yet, but not for want of trying.

Almost as good is StrategyPage, which has an excellent database of navies from around the world.

I've gone over China's military in much more detail elsewhere so won't repeat it all here; see "China / Taiwan" under "Categories" at right.

Winning Without War

Finally, like any nation, China can achieve it's objectives even if there is no war. Bill Gertz, writing in the Washington Times, tells us the inside story of what happened with the harassment of the USNS Impeccable last month:

A U.S. defense official said the recent confrontation between five Chinese military vessels and the USNS Impeccable, an ocean survey ship, in the South China Sea resulted in the setting of a bad legal precedent for the Navy's freedom of navigation in international waters.

According to the official, who spoke on condition that he not be named because of the political sensitivity of the issue, the Impeccable's captain withdrew from the area rather than hold fast and assert the ship's freedom-of-navigation rights. Worse, the captain also radioed one of the five Chinese naval vessels to ask permission of the Chinese navy to exit the area.

Both steps were viewed as weakening U.S. Navy efforts to assert the right to transit international waters freely and to counter Chinese claims to a 200-mile economic exclusion zone claimed by Beijing as sovereign territory.

Beijing claims the entire South China Sea as its territorial waters.

The U.S. defense official said the Chinese harassment was part of what has been termed legal warfare, or "lawfare," the use of international laws to try to deny access to areas near coasts by foreign ships and aircraft.

The official said it is important for the Navy not to give in to such harassment because of the risks of limiting freedom of navigation, which is a vital interest for both the United States and its allies in Asia.

Remember that the Chinese are students of their own Sun Tzu, who about 2,500 years ago said

To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.

And as Karl von Clausewitz said

"When one force is a great deal stronger than the other, an estimate may be enough. There will be no fighting: the weaker side will yield at once. . . Even if no actual fighting occurs . . . the outcome rests on the assumption that if it came to fighting, the enemy would be destroyed."

The military budget proposed by President Obama and SecDef Gates sacrifices our Navy for counterinsurgency weapons, while both are important and needed. They would reduce our aircraft carrier fleet from 11 to 10, and 11 is way too low as it is. The next generation cruisers would be delayed, and the overall number of ships reduced to below 300. No more F-22 Raptors will be produced. All of this sends the wrong message to China.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 9, 2009

Piracy - The Simple Yet Impossible Solution

The recent seizure of the US flagged ship Maersk Alabama off the horn of Africa has brought the issue home. Most of us who follow the news have been aware that there was a serious problem with piracy in the area, and have read about this or that nation sending a ship or so to help with patrols. But there's nothing like having your own citizens seized to make you sit up straight.

The solution is both simple and impossible. Steve Shippert, military affairs writer for National Review's The Tank blog and Threatswatch, explains

The only tenable solution is to put the prevention at the point of risk: Aboard the vessel.

It is the only solution -- sans magical liquidation of all pirates and their havens -- that is fast-reacting enough or cost effective enough. (Have you ever checked the expense tab of operating a US Navy destroyer for a 24-hour period of steaming? It's an expense only a stimulus's mother could love.)

What does the security team look like? Pretty simple, actually. 4-6 men from the contracting outfit, with small arms with enough reach and punch to introduce a speedboat to the ocean floor. There is an array of potent automatic rifles available. The team should possess at least one .50 caliber weapon for both range and punch. Certainly no 5.56mm M-16's. As well, some form of grenade weapons should be on hand (RPGs, grenade launchers and/or other shoulder-fired explosive weapons suitable for maritime use.) Night scopes and night vision goggles are essential as well. There are plenty of arms experts who know what would and would not work best. Point is, it isn't rocket science. Get it done.

There's more, but that's the gist of it. And it would work. It'll also never be done.

Not sure why it won't work? Consider this tidbit from a story in the Wall Street Journal from last November:

Last April the British Foreign Office reportedly warned the Royal Navy not to detain pirates, since this might violate their "human rights" and could even lead to claims of asylum in Britain. Turning the captives over to Somali authorities is also problematic -- since they might face the head and hand-chopping rigors of Shariah law. Similar considerations have confounded U.S. government officials in their discussions of how to confront this new problem of an old terror at sea.

Then there's the story of the navy that did shoot to kill:

One of the most controversial cases so far is the Indian navy's sinking of a suspected pirate vessel in November. India said at the time it had come under attack from a pirate "mother ship," ordinarily a vessel pirates have captured to use to travel long distances that their speedboats cannot. The International Maritime Bureau and the Thai owner later reported that the vessel was a fishing trawler with civilian sailors on board. The trawler had been hijacked by pirates hours before it was sunk by the Indian navy.

If nation-states are afraid to capture obvious pirates, and a fuss is made then they actually kill them and sink their ships, imagine what would happen to private contractors. At least nations have the protection of sovereignty. Even they are under assault, as consider the cas of the Spanish court which wants to indite former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez on five other Bush Administration officials, charging that they "violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay." The issue of this court is not the work of a bunch of nuts we can ignore, but rather part of a determined effort . We're told that we have nothing to worry about from the International Criminal Court, as it's charter makes it seem so innocuous, but given all that I know color me skeptical.

Googling for "blackwater human rights violations" gets 167,000 returns, and the first two that come up are Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

So call me cynical but if Shippert's solution is employed it won't be long before there is shooting and before long there will be accusations that innocent people were killed. Before lone someone will be paraded before the cameras who will tell the world that he was just out for a pleasure cruise and had his boat sunk and friends killed. You know the rest of that story.

The solution, then, is not really technical, but political. Private firms need political cover.

We need leaders who can take decisive action and have the will to withstand the inevitable assaults from the "human rights" crowd. George W. Bush didn't have that willpower. President Obama doesn't, and I don't see anyone in Europe with the moxie either. I'm happy that the Indians sank that pirate ship, but as Shippert explained it's like swatting flies with a sledgehammer; great that we got one but there are a zillion more swarming around.

I am wondering why Shippert didn't mention special operations troops instead of private contractors. I know that ours are tied up fighting the GWOT(it's still that despite what Obama says) around the world. The Europeans, Indians, Canadians, and other have some, but maybe not enough. I tried to leave a comment asking him this at Threatswatch but got an error message, so sent an email instead. If I get a response I'll post it or a summary of what he says here.

Folks, I really hope I'm wrong here. I'd like nothing more than to see dozens or hundreds of these security teams from dozens of nationalities put onboard ships, have them shoot up some pirates, and have the "international community" give a hip hip hurrah. I just doubt any of it will happen. And if you have your own ideas as to how do deal with the problem I'm all ears.

What Won't Work

One, relying on traditional naval forces. The pirates are coming out in large speedboats and the like, and even the smaller naval vessels are expensive to operate, meant for high-tech warfare, and as Shippert put it using them would be like "swatting mosquitoes with a sledgehammer."

Along with this, "international cooperation" and UN resolutions are most certainly not the answer. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton typifies this attitude.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Wednesday for world action to "end the scourge of piracy" as U.S. warships raced to confront the pirates.

"Specifically, we are now focused on this particular act of piracy and the seizure of a ship that carries 21 American citizens. More generally, we think the world must come together to end the scourge of piracy," she said.

This sounds like something out of one of those sentence generators that paste together stock phrases. Note to Hillary; "the world" doesn't care enough to do anything.

The Barbary Coast Pirates

We've dealt with the issue or piracy before. If you're like me, you've often heard that the Barbary Coast pirates were attacking ships, the Europeans paid tribute, and we refused. President Thomas Jefferson sent the Navy and Marines and they took care of business. "To the shores of Tripoli" and all that.

In the end that's true, but it's all a bit more complicated and didn't go down quite that easy.

In the late 18th and early 19th century, pirates ("corsairs") operating Algiers were raiding ships in the Mediterranean. The entire story is long and complicated, but essentially Europeans powers were paying tribute to avoid having their ships seized. Nevertheless, some were seized, including some American ships, holding their crews as slaves for several years. After years of debate, we finally decided to build a navy to deal with this and other problems. We fought two wars with the pirate nations, the first lasting from 1801 to 1805 and the second in 1815. After much fumbling we eventually won and the pirates mostly ceased their actions, though it wasn't until the French invasion in 1830 that the problem was finally ended.

My guess is that the current problem will take the same route. It'll take more than the incident with the Maersk Alabama to provoke serious action. Until then we'll dither.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 8, 2009

More On The Obama-Gates Defense Budget

On Monday I wrote specifically about how further production of the F-22 Raptor would halt under Obama's new defense budget in a piece called "Obama's B-1A?".

Today I'm going to examine some of the rest of the budget. Because I don't have time to go through the budget myself and analyze it line by line, I'm really just going to copy from some trusted sources. I'm putting it up mostly for informational purposes; it's an important issue, and it makes it easier for me to refer to it in later posts. The first is a piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal Following are excerpts as the authors discuss some of the proposals:

- The termination of the F-22 Raptor program at just 187 aircraft inevitably will call U.S. air supremacy -- the salient feature, since World War II, of the American way of war -- into question.

The need for these sophisticated, stealthy, radar-evading planes is already apparent. During Russia's invasion of Georgia, U.S. commanders wanted to fly unmanned surveillance aircraft over the region, and requested that F-22s sanitize the skies so that the slow-moving drones would be protected from Russian fighters or air defenses. When the F-22s were not made available, likely for fear of provoking Moscow, the reconnaissance flights were cancelled.

As the air-defense and air-combat capabilities of other nations, most notably China, increase, the demand for F-22s would likewise rise. And the Air Force will have to manage this small fleet of Raptors over 30 years. Compare that number with the 660 F-15s flying today, but which are literally falling apart at the seams from age and use. The F-22 is not merely a replacement for the F-15; it also performs the functions of electronic warfare and other support aircraft. Meanwhile, Mr. Gates is further postponing the already decades-long search for a replacement for the existing handful of B-2 bombers.

- The U.S. Navy will continue to shrink below the fleet size of 313 ships it set only a few years ago. Although Mr. Gates has rightly decided to end the massive and expensive DDG-1000 Zumwalt destroyer program, there will be additional reductions to the surface fleet. The number of aircraft carriers will drop eventually to 10. The next generation of cruisers will be delayed, and support-ship projects stretched out. Older Arleigh Burke destroyers will be upgraded and modernized, but at less-than-needed rates.

The good news is that Mr. Gates will not to reduce the purchases of the Littoral Combat Ship, which can be configured for missions from antipiracy to antisubmarine warfare. But neither will he buy more than the 55 planned for by the previous Bush administration. And the size and structure of the submarine fleet was studiously not mentioned. The Navy's plan to begin at last to procure two attack submarines per year -- absolutely vital considering the pace at which China is deploying new, quieter subs -- is uncertain, at best.

- Mr. Gates has promised to "restructure" the Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, arguing that the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan have called into question the need for new ground combat vehicles. The secretary noted that the Army's modernization plan does not take into account the $25 billion investment in the giant Mine Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles. But it's hard to think of a more specialized and less versatile vehicle.

The MRAP was ideal for dealing with the proliferation of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in Iraq. But the FCS vehicle -- with a lightweight yet better-protected chassis, greater fuel efficiency and superior off-road capacity -- is far more flexible and useful for irregular warfare. Further, the ability to form battlefield "networks" will make FCS units more effective than the sum of their individual parts. Delaying modernization means that future generations of soldiers will conduct mounted operations in the M1 tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles designed in the 1970s. Finally, Mr. Gates capped the size of the U.S. ground force, ignoring all evidence that it is too small to handle current and future major contingencies.

- The proposed cuts in space and missile defense programs reflect a retreat in emerging environments that are increasingly critical in modern warfare. The termination of the Airborne Laser and Transformational Satellite programs is especially discouraging.

The Airborne Laser is the most promising form of defense against ballistic missiles in the "boost phase," the moments immediately after launch when the missiles are most vulnerable. This project was also the military's first operational foray into directed energy, which will be as revolutionary in the future as "stealth" technology has been in recent decades. The Transformational Satellite program employs laser technology for communications purposes, providing not only enhanced bandwidth -- essential to fulfill the value of all kinds of information networks -- but increased security.

The authors point out that although SecDef Gates justifies the cuts as a "hard choice" brought on by a desire for "fiscal discipline," this seems hard to maintain given the huge spending increases in the rest of the budget. Further, cutting Navy ships and USAF F-22 is not a temporary action "to get us over a fiscal bump in the road," but will have consequences for decades. The reality of current weaponry is an ever increasing timeline from concept to production. If an emergency arises, we indeed must go to war with the military we have.

The second piece is an editorial in today's Washington Times. I thought some of the points quite good, so following are excerpts:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' 2010 defense budget proposal is markedly out of step with the times. Coming in at $534 billion, it represents a mere 4 percent increase over the previous year, which is an inflation-adjusted flatline, and slightly below 4 percent of gross domestic product. An additional $130 billion to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will be requested in a later supplemental, which is down from $136 billion in the last cycle. Other than a deep-seated lack of appreciation for the country's defense needs, there is no explanation for why the Defense Department is required to be parsimonious when the rest of the government is swimming in money....

The Defense budget released Monday by the Pentagon confirms the image of America as a declining power. In an administration that is spending record amounts of money on just about everything, it is dangerous to force the military to have to choose between today's resource demands and preparing for tomorrow's threats.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' 2010 defense budget proposal is markedly out of step with the times. Coming in at $534 billion, it represents a mere 4 percent increase over the previous year, which is an inflation-adjusted flatline, and slightly below 4 percent of gross domestic product. An additional $130 billion to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will be requested in a later supplemental, which is down from $136 billion in the last cycle. Other than a deep-seated lack of appreciation for the country's defense needs, there is no explanation for why the Defense Department is required to be parsimonious when the rest of the government is swimming in money.

Belt-tightening at the Pentagon is best seen in context with the $787 billion stimulus bill, an off-budget exercise in congressional profligacy, and the $3 trillion and counting in Troubled Asset Relief Program funds. Given these vast sums, it is inexplicable that Mr. Gates is objecting to spending $143 million for each new F-22 fighter plane.

For an administration that preaches that Federal spending is the way out of the current economic crisis, the Gates budget proposal is slightly schizophrenic. Shifting defense priorities away from big-budget weapons systems will translate into immediate job losses in highly skilled sectors.....

Mr. Gates' budget is reactive and backward looking. This is because he is trying to correct a resource imbalance between conventional and unconventional forces that should have been dealt with five years ago, when it would have had greater impact. In his hyper-concentration on special forces and lighter more mobile forces, the defense secretary seems intent on building the ideal force for Iraq circa 2004, a transformation that then-Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld shrugged off when he said, "you go to war with the Army you have." Five years of painful evolution have brought us the forces and doctrine we need to win unconventional wars, but that does not mean it is the right force for every war....

The most glaring disconnect in the new budget is cutting funding for the Missile Defense Agency by $1.4 billion. This reduction was presented without apparent irony only days after North Korea's missile test and months after a more successful test in Iran. Given these and other missile program developments around the world, we would expect that the United States would be making defensive systems a priority instead of cutting them. Missiles, particularly those armed with nuclear warheads, are the emerging threat from the developing world, and national security demands that its defensive technology be perfected before it is needed.

Ditto to everything in both articles.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 6, 2009

Obama's B-1A?


Will this be Obama's B-1A?

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If you're not aware, it's the F-22 Raptor, and Secretary of Defense Gates announced today that production would be stopped at 187 airplanes. This from a planned force of 339 aircraft to have been completed in 2013. However even this 339 figure is down from the 648 the Air Force had originally requested in 1991 Follow the link for the full story on how the figure has gone steadily down.

Readers of this blog will not be surprised to hear that I think this was a bad decision.

I'm not going to set up links to every weapons system mentioned here. If you want information I find the Federation of American Scientists the best source, but Wikipedia is good also.

In 1977 President Carter canceled the B-1A. Because he didn't want to look weak, he justified his decision by revealing that we were working on a "stealth" bomber that would perform better than the B-1A anyway. Partially because he canceled the B-1a, and partially because he revealed the existence of a stealth bomber program, the entire affair was very controversial. As a candidate for president, Ronald Reagan used the incident against Carter to great effect. It ended up hurting Carter, and was one of many things that contributed to his looking weak on defense.

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After he was elected, Reagan resurrected the B-1 program. As technology had advanced, Rockwell updated the design and 100 B-1B bombers were built, all of which (except for a few which were destroyed in accidents) 66 are in active status today with another 24 in mothballs.

Will Obama's cancellation of the F-22 be his B-1A? Maybe I'm getting carried away, but maybe I'm not. Of course parallels are never exact, which is why they call them analogies.

Our Current Inventory

This section consists of stuff that I've written before and am just going to copy and paste

Let's not be overconfident or arrogant with regard to our own capabilities. This attitude got a lot of US pilots killed during the early days of the Vietnam War, when we discovered that the MiG-21 was the equivalent of our F-4 Phantom, and their pilots nearly as good.

Further, some of our weapons are getting very old. The F-15 first flew in 1972. The F-16 in 1979, and the F-18 1982. The first Los Angeles class submarine was launched in 1976. The CH-53 first flew in 1981, and the H47 in 1962. You get the point.

Yes all of the above systems have undergone major upgrades. I know all this. But you can only do so much with an old airframe. Sure, we could build a new helicopter instead of the tilt-rotor V-22 and it would be better than what is in the inventory. But we are really at about the limit of what you can do with helicopter technology, so it would be an exercise in the point of diminishing returns.

Instead of the F-22 Raptor we could rely on the somewhat less expensive F-35 Lightning II JSF. This, however, would have been the equivalent of canceling the F-15 and relying on the F-16. Ask any pilot about the wisdom of that potential decision.

Everything new goes through growing pains. Every roll out a new software platform at work and not have it go perfectly? Build a WAN and not have everyone be able to talk to each other the first time 'round? Years ago I bought a book on the X-planes. What struck me is that there seemed to be at least one crash in every single program.

There was criticism of the B-1A, and also the B-1B about various things that didn't work right. I'm sure if you dig you can find something on the F-22. Remember that the P-51 was a failure with it's early Allison engine, and didn't perform as the superior fighter we remember it to be until upgraded with the Rolls Royce engines.

Some will say that the "real question" is bang for the buck. Yes, I understand.

But there's a certain group who are against every weapons system that comes down the pike. They're always in favor of some future program that's still in development, or yet to be conceived. We see this especially with regards to Missile Defense, where it's "research forever, build never." There comes a point where you just have to freeze research and development and just build the thing. As you'll see below, our potential enemies are building new weapons.

Potential Enemies

It is said that "generals always want to refight the last war," but in this case I think it's the civilians. It is said that all we'll have to worry about is insurgencies and counter-terrorism. This I believe is a mistake. There are plenty of places where we could get into a traditional air-to-air shootout. China primarily comes to mind, but Chavez in Venezuela is intent on arming his country, and the Iranians or even North Korea could even acquire more advanced aircraft. Recall also that we sold Pakistan F-16s and that country could fall apart at any moment.

Russia and China are building new aircraft like there's no tomorrow. See this list at the Federation of American Scientists. The newer aircraft are very good, and are being exported to many countries around the world. Besides the Russian and Chinese aircraft, the ones coming out of Europe are very good and they hope to sell them to countries that, who knows, we may have to fight one day.

Mig-29 "Fulcrum"

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Supporters of the decision to cut further production of the F-22 need to hope that we don't get into any shooting wars in which our planes are shot down, and ex-pilots start going on TV saying "if only we'd had the F-22..." No matter how good Obama's diplomacy, events can spiral out of control. Right or left I think we can all agree that there are a lot of crazies running countries right now.

These past 10 years or so the entire USAF has centered around the F-22. I know people who have worked as civilian contractors and as civilian DOD employees, and they've told me that the entire message from on high was that their future as a fighting force depended on this weapon.

I remember throughout the 1980s all of the weapons systems developed under Reagan were derided as "gold plated," too expensive, wouldn't work as advertised, and too complicated for our troops to handle. The B-1b was one of them. Then came the Gulf War and what do you know but most all of them worked as well or better than expected. The only shortfall was the Patriot Pac3, and that was a rushed early ABM system anyway.

Potential adversaries aren't just building new aircraft, but new ships, subs, and anti-aircraft systems as well. I don't have time here to detail it all now.

Relying on the F-35 Lightning II

I don't have specifics, but it looks like President Obama has been persuaded that the F-35 Lightning II "Joint Strike Fighter" can hold the fort for the next few decades. It's a good aircraft, but is to the F-22 what the F-16 was to the F-15; not designed as the primary front-line fighter meant to take on the best the world could throw at us.

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The Dangers

The danger is not just a traditional shootout with ad adversary like China, though that is a possibility. It's also the message it sends; we're not serious about remaining the world's superpower. It sends a green light to our adversaries that they can poke us and get away with it.

Our adversaries are testing Obama, and they're looking at what he's doing with our defense budget. The incident with the Chinese harassment of the USNS Impeccable was a test. If they see weakness, they'll pounce.

I think we're seeing weakness from Obama.

SecDef Gates announced cuts in Missile Defense. More on this later, but it strikes me as incredibly bad timing to cut back on efforts there just after North Korea tried to intimidate us with the recent launch of their Taepo Dong-2, and when Obama wants to open negotiations with Iran. In both cases the clear message to each is that we're not serious about stopping or even countering them. Diplomacy only stands a chance if backed by military force.

Of course, this budget has to get through Congress. Lawmakers whose districts are impacted will not want their constituents thrown out of work. My guess is that Obama won't get all of the cuts he wants.

More to come.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

April 4, 2009

U.S. Military Spending Is Not Starving Domestic Programs

Just when President Obama and the Congressional Democrats are spending untold levels on domestic programs, it looks like they're getting ready to cut one of the few things actually authorized in the Constitution, the military. From The Weekly Standard on Friday:

Just days after Chinese warships harrased an unarmed U.S. naval vessel, the USNS Impeccable, in international waters off the coast of China, Barack Obama's Secretary of Defense is set to announce massive cuts to the U.S. naval fleet.

Just days before the expected launch of a North Korean missile in violation of the spirit if not the letter of every agreement Pyongyang has ever signed with the international community, Barack Obama's Pentagon will release a budget that guts the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

This according to a report from InsideDefense.com (the article is behind a firewall) citing sources "close to the budget process." According to those sources, Gates will essentially terminate the Missile Defense Agency and with it Boeing's Airborne Laser System which was considered particularly well suited to the missile threat from North Korea.

Gates will further announce that the United States will have to make do with just nine aircraft carrier battle groups. The Navy currently has eleven, already considered a shortfall by the Senate Armed Services Committee which objected when the Bush administration decommissioned the USS John F. Kennedy in 2006 due to fiscal constraints. The shovel-ready, already under construction USS Gerald Ford, the first of the Navy's new class of supercarriers, will be delayed.

On the upside, Gates is expected to announce an increase in the end strength of the F-22 fleet from the current 183 to 250, keeping the production line open for at least another three years. The Army's deservedly maligned Future Combat Systems program will also be restructured and the massively over-budget program to replace the president's fleet of helicopters will be terminated.

Barack Obama is spending billions on this country's infrastructure, but he's shortchanging the United States military and undermining its ability to project power overseas and mitigate the missile threat from rogue regimes. Obama will also be eliminating tens of thousands of high-tech and union jobs in the process.

Swell.

I'm going to wait until the cuts are actually announced before commenting on specifics. My purpose here is to knock down the idea that we spend a huge amount of money on our military, because we don't.

As noted below, some charts and numbers are from Truth and Politics, and other charts from Heritage. Unfortunately most of the charts and numbers don't cover the past few years. If I can find more tomorrow I'll fill in the gaps.

My apologies that the charts are not totally clear. I could make them larger but then they'd be blurry. Follow the links to see them more clearly.

Military Spending as a Percent of GDP

First, as a chart from Truth and Politics

US military spending as a percentage of GDP, 1940--2003

This chart from Heritage is pretty up to date

Another chart from Heritage showing National Defense Spending as a Percentage of GDP, 1962-2007

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Defense Budget as a Percent of GDP

Then, the actual numbers from Truth and Politics

After the year is the amount we spent as a percentage of GDP

1940 1.7
1941 5.6
1942 17.8
1943 37.0
1944 37.8
1945 37.5
1946 19.2
1947 5.5
1948 3.5
1949 4.8
1950 5.0
1951 7.4
1952 13.2
1953 14.2
1954 13.1
1955 10.8
1956 10.0
1957 10.1
1958 10.2
1959 10.0
1960 9.3
1961 9.4
1962 9.2
1963 8.9
1964 8.5
1965 7.4
1966 7.7
1967 8.8
1968 9.4
1969 8.7
1970 8.1
1971 7.3
1972 6.7
1973 5.8
1974 5.5
1975 5.5
1976 5.2
1977 4.9
1978 4.7
1979 4.6
1980 4.9
1981 5.1
1982 5.7
1983 6.1
1984 5.9
1985 6.1
1986 6.2
1987 6.1
1988 5.8
1989 5.6
1990 5.2
1991 4.6
1992 4.8
1993 4.4
1994 4.0
1995 3.7
1996 3.5
1997 3.3
1998 3.1
1999 3.0
2000 3.0
2001 3.0
2002 3.4
2003 3.7


So excluding World War II, spending peaked during the 1950s but has mostly fallen since.

As a Percentage of Discretionary Outlays

US military spending as a percentage of discretionary outlays, 1962--2003

First, as a chart from Truth and Politics

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Then from Heritage

Defense v Entitlements

Wikipedia has it as

U.S. Defense Spending as a Percent of Total Budget Outlays

U.S. Defense Spending as a Percent of Total Outlays

Then, the numbers from Truth and Politics; US military spending as a percentage of discretionary spending, 1962--2003

1962 72.9
1963 71.3
1964 69.5
1965 65.6
1966 65.4
1967 67.6
1968 69.6
1969 70.5
1970 68.1
1971 64.5
1972 61.7
1973 59.1
1974 58.4
1975 55.5
1976 51.2
1977 49.5
1978 47.8
1979 48.7
1980 48.7
1981 51.3
1982 57.0
1983 59.4
1984 60.1
1985 60.9
1986 62.4
1987 63.6
1988 62.6
1989 62.2
1990 60.0
1991 59.9
1992 56.7
1993 54.2
1994 52.1
1995 50.2
1996 49.9
1997 49.6
1998 48.9
1999 48.2
2000 48.0
2001 47.1
2002 47.5
2003 49.0

Again, we see the same pattern.

Operation Iraqi Freedom as compared to past wars. The chart is via National Review and as of January 23 2006. Of course we've spent more since then but even so it wouldn't really change the chart that much.

Photobucket


Conclusion

The lesson from the data is clear; no matter how you measure it, the amount we spend on the military has been going down for decades. Those who talk about how military spending starves domestic programs are simply wrong. If anything, the opposite is the case, especially with the advent of Obama-level budgets. Spending on Iraq and Afghanistan has of course produced a recent uptick, but not really enough to make a big difference.

None of this is to necessarily argue for a particular level defense outlays. I've made the case for more defense spending elsewhere (see "National Defense" under "Categories" at right) and will do so again after the budget is actually announced.

December 16, 2010 Update

Looks like I was wrong, folks. While defense spending has been going down as a percentage of GDP and the federal budget, you get a different result if you measure it in terms of inflation-adjusted dollars ("real dollars")

via The American Maxim


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Measured in terms of inflation adjusted dollars, then, we see more ups and downs, all of which are explained by various historical factors. The recent uptick is, of course, due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I don't think this changes the premise of the post, though, which is that defense spending is not starving domestic programs of money. The reason defense spending has gone down in terms of percent of GDP and the federal budget is in the first case to a GDP that increased faster than defense spending, and in the second that domestic spending increased faster than defense spending.

Posted by Tom at 10:45 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 14, 2009

A Challenge From China

Last Saturday, March 8, Chinese "fishing trawlers" harrassed an unarmed US Navy ship, the USNS Impeccable. From the original story March 9 on Fox News

Chinese ships surrounded and harassed a Navy mapping ship in international waters off China, at one point coming within 25 feet of the American boat and strewing debris in its path, the Defense Department said Monday. The Obama administration said it would continue naval operations in the South China Sea, most of which China considers its territory, and protested to China about what it called reckless behavior that endangered lives.

At one point during the incident Sunday the unarmed USNS Impeccable turned fire hoses on an approaching Chinese ship in self defense, the Pentagon said. At another point a Chinese ship played chicken with the Americans, stopping dead in front of the Impeccable as it tried to sail away, forcing the civilian mariners to slam on the brakes.

PLAN/Trawlers &amp; USS Impeccable

Photo Fox News

It's pretty obvious that China is testing President Obama. How he responds to this and other challenges will determine much of what happens internationally over the next 4 or 8 years.

What exactly the Impeccable was doing is anybody's guess. It's mission is described as "surveillance" and it is part of the Navy's Special Missions Program, which includes a variety of innocuous tasks as well as "Submarine and Special Warefare Support." According to the Wikipedia article linked to above, "The mission of Impeccable is to directly support the Navy by using SURTASS passive and active low frequency sonar arrays to detect and track undersea threats." It is outfitted to tow a sonar array, which as all Tom Clancy fans know is the best way to detect submarines. The ship has a civilian crew, and is unarmed.

Interestingly, while reading the official Pentagon statement I found that the March 8 incident was only the latest in a series of incidents in which the PLAN (People's Liberation Army/Navy) had harassed US Navy ships in the area:

On March 4, a Chinese Bureau of Fisheries Patrol vessel used a high-intensity spotlight to illuminate the entire length of the ocean surveillance ship USNS Victorious several times, including its bridge crew. USNS Victorious was conducting lawful military operations in the Yellow Sea, about 125 nautical miles from China's coast. The Chinese ship then crossed Victorious' bow at a range of about 1400 yards in darkness without notice or warning. The following day, a Chinese Y-12 maritime surveillance aircraft conducted 12 fly-bys of Victorious at an altitude of about 400 feet and a range of 500 yards.

On March 5, without notice or warning, a Chinese frigate approached USNS Impeccable and proceeded to cross its bow at a range of approximately 100 yards. This was followed less than two hours later by a Chinese Y-12 aircraft conducting 11 fly-bys of Impeccable at an altitude of 600 feet and a range from 100-300 feet. The frigate then crossed Impeccable's bow yet again, this time at a range of approximately 400-500 yards without rendering courtesy or notice of her intentions.

On March 7, a PRC intelligence collection ship (AGI) challenged USNS Impeccable over bridge-to-bridge radio, calling her operations illegal and directing Impeccable to leave the area or "suffer the consequences."

Again, it's plain for all to see; the Chinese leadership is testing President Obama.

Why Do We Care?

The far right and far left say that we have no business in the area anyway, and we should content ourselves with homeland defense. This is wrongheaded for several reasons.

We need to protect our interests around the world. Our interests are political, economic and moral. By political I mean fighting the War on Jihadism (choose another term than "political" if you like, I'm just trying to make a point). The War on Jihadism requires a global presence where our forces can operate without being seriously threatened.

Economics means trade, and yes that includes access to energy such as oil. Whether we like it or not we are and will be dependent on petroleum for the foreseeable future. It is also in our interest to have friendly nations that we can trade with freely. We do not want countries to be intimidated by the likes of China, Iran, or Venezuela. It is bad enough that the (temporarily) reemerging Russia is causing trouble, we don't need to add to the list.

It is in our moral interest because although we are not the world's policeman we must counter egregious threats to our sensibilities. Democracy stands no chance if anti-democratic regimes rule the waves. Further, we need to have the capability of providing humanitarian relief, and as we have seen, when a tsunami hits somewhere no one can coordinate activities better than the US Navy.

Diplomacy without military power is powerless. No one will listen to you if you can't back it up with at least some military power. This is not to denegrate the importance of economic or "soft power" (two somewhat different things). They are very important as well. But they are more useful when coupled with military force.

So we need to maintain the ability to project power around the globe.

The Chinese Objective

China wants three things:

  1. Regional hegemony
  2. Reincorporation of Taiwan/ROC into mainland China/PRC
  3. Control of sea lanes to and from energy producing regions of the world

I base this and what follows upon everything I have read and heard over the past several years, see China/Taiwan under "Categories" at right for background.

Achieving the first objective will lead to two and three. In order to achieve the first they need to do three things

  1. Become the strongest military power in the region
  2. Remove the US Navy as a regional threat
  3. Ensure that no other regional power emerges that can challenge the PLA/PLAN

They are on their way towards the first with a massive shipbuilding program (details here and here). While the number of ships in the US Navy has been going down, the number of PLAN ships has been increasing. Further, while the quality of US ships has been increasing, so has that of the Chinese. As Mark Helperin pointed out in the Wall Street Journal last year, do not assume US supremacy in a shoot-out. While Helperin's recommendations for a US building program go a bit far, there is little doubt in my mind that we are in a very dangerous position with our current forces.

If Obama backs down, and/or cancels or cuts back on U.S military programs mentioned below, China may make a move to take Taiwan. This move could come in many forms, which I've discussed at some length before, but either way China needs to remove the United States as a military threat before they proceed.

China, like other regional players, are sensitive about Japanese military power. This may have made sense as late as 20 years ago, but the "another World War II" holds little water today. They use it more as a stick with which to beat Japan, and keep the latter from getting any ideas about helping the United States or Taiwan in case of war. Nevertheless, US, Japanese, Australian, India and Singapore held very large military exercises in the Bay of Bengal a year and a half ago to demonstrate resolve in the face of challenge.

Not only is China seeking hegemony in it's own backyard, for the first time in it's history it has sent large military forces abroad. two Chinese destroyers and a supply ship were dispatched dispatched to Somalia last December to counter the threat from pirates. On the one hand we should be glad for the help, on the other it represents a potential challenge to our interests.

I do not expect Obama to significantly increase spending on defense. I do expect him not to cut the U.S. programs mentioned above.

The U.S. Response

While China demanded that we end surveillance missions off their coast, Obamasent a warship:

Chinese Navy officers reacted with annoyance today when it emerged that the United States had sent a destroyer to back up a surveillance vessel in the South China Sea after it was harassed by People's Liberation Army sailors.

The decision by President Obama to send an armed escort for U.S. surveillance ships in the area follows the aggressive and co-ordinated manoeuvres of five Chinese boats on Sunday. The vessels harassed and nearly collided with the unarmed USNS Impecccable.

This is encouraging. Of course, we hear the usual talk about "the need to reduce tensions" and "face-to-face dialogue in Beijing and in Washington will go a long way to clearing up any misunderstanding about this incident," and it's impossible to know what's really going on behind the scenes.

If Obama orders that we reduce our surveillance missions, China will have won a large victory. If we don't, we keep the status quo, with which we have a check on Chinese ambitions.

Just as important is what President Obama does with the defense budget. We're currently in a situation where we're understandably concentrating on counterinsurgency. This is fine and good with regards to the War on Jihadism, but we need to be aware that we face a variety of threats around the globe. Just recently Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez offered his country as a temporary base for long-range Russian bombers. Iran is on a mad dash to develop nuclear weapons. A shoot out with either Venezuela or Iran, let alone China, will require every bit of high-tech weaponry we can lay our hands on. A year and a half ago I wrote

Let's not also be overconfident or arrogant with regard to our own capabilities. This attitude got a lot of US pilots killed during the early days of the Vietnam War, when we discovered that the MiG-21 was the equivalent of our F-4 Phantom, and their pilots nearly as good.

Further, some of our weapons are getting very old. The F-15 first flew in 1972. The F-16 in 1979, and the F-18 1982. The first Los Angeles class sub was launched in 1976. The CH-53 first flew in 1981, and the H47 in 1962. You get the point.

Yes all of the above systems have undergone major upgrades. I know all this. But you can only do so much with an old airframe. Sure, we could build a new helicopter instead of the tilt-rotar V-22 and it would be better than what is in the inventory. But we are really at about the limit of what you can do with helicopter technology, so it would be an exercise in the point of diminishing returns.

Instead of the F-22 Raptor we could rely on the somewhat less expensive F-35 Lightning II. This, however, would have been the equivalent of canceling the F-15 and relying on the F-16. Ask any pilot about the wisdom of that potential decision.

Among other things, I concluded that we needed to

We need to do two things. The first is to ensure that we have a balanced force. We need Special Forces, and we need F-22s. We need Virginia Class submarines and we need the MRAP. We cannot predict with any certainly who we might have to fight in the forseeable future, and different wars will require a different set of weapons.

The second thing we need to do is to simply spend more. Critics have a point when they say that the Army is stretched thin. The solution, however, is not to pull out of Iraq or anywhere else, but to build up the force. As the editors of National Review reminded us a few months ago how much our forces have shrunk recently:

From 1974 to 1989, the Army had 770,000 to 780,000 active troops (all of them volunteers). Today, we have around 508,000. The Navy had 568 ships in the late 1980s; today it has 276, and its manpower is so reduced that it often has to helicopter sailors from homebound ships to outbound ones in order to keep them staffed. The Air Force's number of tactical air wings has shrunk from 37 to 20, and the average age of its aircraft is 24 years (as compared with nine years in 1973).

There is disagreement about whether the armed forces should be restored to their Cold War size, but there is consensus among military analysts across the political spectrum that they are too small. Today's strategic environment requires them to be able to engage in multiple regional wars and peacekeeping operations simultaneously, and still have enough resources left over to deter threats and respond to unforeseen dangers.

During the last part of the Cold War I think we spend about 8% of GDP on national defense. Today it's at about 3.7% or so. While we don't need to go back to Cold War levels, we do need to do more. The unfortunate fact of history is that there will always be another war.

The only thing I'd add to this list is missile defense. We badly need to move forward with the new sites we are planning for Europe; ABM missiles in Poland and a radar site in the Czech Republic,. We also need to maintain if not add to our radar and ABM missiles in Alaska. None of thse will help us much with regard to China, but are meant to counter the threat from countries like Iran and North Korea.

Hopefully President Obama will not cut vital systems such as those mentioned above. The Chinese are not sitting still, and are building new aircraft and rumored to be building or buying an aircraft carrier. In addition, Russia and other countries are still producing a variety of new fighter aircraft at breakneck speed.

How Would You Like It If...

Let's address this one and get it out of the way before we go any farther. You'll occasionally hear the far left or far right make an argument along the lines of "how would you like it if they did the same thing to us?"

This is moral equivalency, and as such must be swatted down. The argument presupposes that all nations are as chess pieces, with the differences being superficial.

The difference between the US and China, the UK and Iran, or France and Syria for that matter, is the same as that of the police officer vs the gang member. It is right and good that the police officer be armed and conduct surveillance of gangs; it is wrong and bad for gang members to be armed and harass police officers. This does not mean that the police officer can do anything, there are and must be limits on what the police can do. Likewise, it is right and good that democracies are armed vis a vis nations like China, Iran, or Syria. Continuing the analogy, it does not mean that there are no limits to what we should do.

In Conclusion

So far Obama doesn't seem to be backing down, which is good. What's going on behind the scenes, though, is anybody's guess. The Senate is moving ahead with the Law Of The Sea (LOST) treaty, which some say will help and others hurt our ability to project power around the globe. It is in our interests to control sea lanes, and while we must avoid belligerence we cannot back down in the face of challenges. China has challenged us, and we must stand firm.

Update

Commenter jason and I disagree on a lot of social and economic issues, but he sees pretty clearly on energy policy and foreign threats to our nation, and I like guys like that. Mostly though I'm jealous because he and his wife are taking something of a world tour and I'm stuck here in northern Virginia. Check out his travelblog.

Anyway... in a comment below he links to an excellent FAS article that explains much of the Impeccable was surveilling where it was (yes I know the Federation of American Scientists are a bunch of liberals, but they still put out some good stuff). Text and pictures are from the FAS article:

Impeccable Incident Map

The incident that unfolded in the South China Sea Sunday, where the U.S. Navy says five Chinese ships harassed the U.S. submarine surveillance vessel USNS Impeccable, appears to be part of a wider and dangerous cat and mouse game between U.S. and Chinese submarines and their hunters.

News media reports cite Pentagon reports of half a dozen other incidents just within the past week in which U.S. surveillance vessels were "subjected to aggressive behavior, including dozens of fly-bys by Chinese Y-12 maritime surveillance aircraft."

The latest incident allegedly occurred in international waters only 75 miles south of a budding naval base near Yulin on Hainan Island from where China has started operating new nuclear attack and ballistic missile submarines. The U.S. Navy on its part is busy collecting data on the submarines and seafloor to improve its ability to detect the submarines in peacetime and more efficiently hunt them in case of war.

The U.S. Navy's description of the incident states that "a civilian crew mans the ship, which operates under the auspices of the Military Sealift Command." Yet as one of five ocean surveillance ships, the USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS 23) has the important military mission of using its array of both passive and active low frequency sonar arrays to detect and track submarines. The USNS Impeccable works directly with the Navy's fleets, and in 2007 operated with the three-carrier strike battle group in Valiant Shield 07 exercise in the Western Pacific

USNS Impeccable is equipped with the Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System (SURTASS), a passive linear underwater surveillance array attached to a tow cable. SURTASS was developed as a floating submarine detection system for deep waters, and the Navy wants to add an active Low Frequency Array (LFA) to improve long-range detection of submarines in shallow waters.

Impeccable Sonar

mong Chinese submarines the USNS Impeccable was monitoring is probably the Shang-class (Type-093) nuclear-powered attack submarine, a new class China is building to replace the old Han-class, and which has recently been seen at the Yulin base.

A commercial satellite image taken September 15, 2008, shows two Shang-class submarines present at the base, the first time - to my knowledge - that two Shang-class SSNs have been seen at the base at the same time.

Photobucket

Posted by Tom at 1:30 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

December 4, 2008

The Cluster Bomb Treaty

This is maddening

OSLO, Norway (AP) -- Ninety-three countries signed a treaty banning cluster bombs Thursday, as diplomats accepted the wishes of victims who begged them to bar the weapons that kill and maim civilians long after the conflicts end.

Some of the world's top military powers -- including the U.S., Russia and China -- refused to attend, arguing cluster bombs have legitimate military uses, such as repelling advancing troop columns.

"We're of course disappointed by the states that did not show up here in Oslo," said Steve Goose, the arms director of Human Rights Watch. "They're on the wrong side of history. Some of them are clinging to what is now a widely discredited weapon."

Under the accord, negotiated in May, signatories agreed not to use cluster bombs, to destroy existing stockpiles within eight years, and to fund programs that clear old battlefields of dud bombs.

Grrrrr

They may has well just call it the "Screw the United States Treaty" for what it amounts to.

What I want to know is after they're done here if these brave souls will push for a ban on suicide bombers. Call me crazy, but I'm not going to hold my breath for that one.

These people suffer from a case of serious moral confusion.

It's all so typical. Here we have the mad mullahs of Iran working feverishly to obtain nuclear weapons, and when they get enough of them they'll probably nuke Israe. We have terrorists the world over building heaven knows how many suicide vests and car bombs to kill thousands of innocents. Fidel Castro wannabe Hugo Chavez seeks dictatorial powers, is arming himself to the teeth with Soviet weapons, is tied to the FARC terrorists in Columbia, and is cozying up to Iran. Hugo Chavez wannabe Evo Morales would make himself a dictator if he could. Pakistan is turning out terrorists by the thousands from it's madrassas, and the Saudis sending forth cadres with zillions of dollars to take over and radicalize Mosques the world over, China wants to take over Taiwan and seeks hegemony in the south-west Pacific. The Russians seem not to know the Cold War is over as they continue to modernize their ICBMs and develop modern warheads. They're doing business with Iran and want their empire back. Did I miss anything?

Yes I did; the United Nations has no agreed upon definition of "terrorism."

It's true. You'd think terrorism would be pretty easy to define. We all know it when we see it. So why can't we get a definition that will satisfy everyone? Eye on the UN has the story:

The definitional impasse has prevented the adoption of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. Even in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 the UN failed to adopt the Convention, and the deadlock continues to this day.

The prime reason is the standoff with the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). It seeks to insert into the Convention: "The activities of the parties during an armed conflict, including in situations of foreign occupation....are not governed by this Convention." Or, as the Pakistani delegate describes the standoff on behalf of the OIC, there is a need "to make a distinction between terrorism and the exercise of legitimate right of peoples to resist foreign occupation." In October 2007 the Coordinator of the informal negotiating meetings which had been organized "to move the process forward" circulated a document in which she named the outstanding issues. The OIC demand was on the top of the list, namely, "the importance not to affect the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination."

The Arab Terrorism Convention and the Terrorism Convention of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) define terrorism to exclude armed struggle for liberation and self-determination. This claim purports to exclude blowing up certain civilians from the reach of international law and organizations. It is central to interpreting every proclamation by the states which have ratified these conventions in any UN forum purporting to combat terrorism.

in other words, they want to be able to claim that Palestinian is not terrorism. In fact, I think they want to be able to claim that any Muslim terrorism that suits their purposes is not terrorism. And no doubt they want a definition that allows them to brand Israel, and, when it suits them the United States, as terrorist countries.

But no, to this bunch it's much more important to go after a weapon that is important to the United States.

The group behind it all is one called the Cluster Munition Coalition. From their website, here are the ones who have signed

Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, Comoros, Republic of Congo, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia (FYR), Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Togo, Uganda, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela and Zambia.

Here's the bottom line; when all hell breaks lose somewhere no one is going to rely on any of the nations listed above. Please don't bring up the UK or France; they couldn't even take care of Bosnia/Kosovo by themselves. Their military's are a hollow shell of what they were during the Cold War, and they were pretty small them.

No I am not saying that just because we're the United States we can do whatever we like. What I am saying is that treaties to ban specific weapons usually miss the point, and this one strikes far from the mark.

First, it's usually not the weapon but who's using it and how. Just as there are responsible and irresponsible use of firearms in the home, there are responsible and irresponsible use of cluster munitions. The US military only uses them to stop an advancing army. Israel, who also refused to sign, uses them because to lose a war means 6 million dead Jews. Further, we have worked hard to reduce the dud rate, which seems to be the biggest concern for those pushing this ban.

Therefore, if they wanted to set rules as to how cluster munitions could be used, or set an upper limit on their dud rate (and every weapon has a dud rate) that would be one thing, and that's an approach I agree with. We have rules with regard to civilian use of firearms; when you can use them in self-defense, and we ban certain types of guns like automatic weapons. We can do likewise with cluster bombs.

Second, of all the world's problems and things that ought to be banned cluster bombs falls pretty far down in my book. It's typical of the mindset that promotes this treaty to go after the United States and Israel (which is what they are doing), because they know we're law abiding nations. They won't go after nations that send forth terrorists because they know those nations will tell them to get lost. Oh, and direct some of the terrorists their way.

Look at the nations who refused to sign; the United States, Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and Finland.

These are all nations that have to take war seriously. Most the nations that signed don't, and the rest I think just wanted to stick their thumbs in the eyes of the great powers. That Finland refused to sign may strike one as odd, but as their defense chief told the Washington Times, "we would have risked having a significantly weaker and more expensive defense." He explained that without cluster munitions defending their border with Russia would exceed $1.2 billion, more than they could afford. Those who are unsure of why the Fins are so sensitive about this need only read about the "Winter War," when Stalin invaded their country in 1939.

I'm still waiting on the treaty to ban suicide attacks. I'll settle, though, for a meaningful UN definition of terrorism.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 26, 2008

Obama to Keep Gates at Defense

It seems to be true. From yesterday's New York Times

President-elect Barack Obama has decided to keep Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in his post, a show of bipartisan continuity in a time of war that will be the first time a Pentagon chief has been carried over from a president of a different party, Democrats close to the transition said Tuesday.

Mr. Obama's advisers were nearing a formal agreement with Mr. Gates to stay on for perhaps a year, the Democrats said, and they expected to announce the decision as early as next week, along with other choices for the national security team.

To which I have this to say to all you lefties who thought Obama stood for change;

BRBRRRHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA!!!!!!!

So let me get this straight. For the past two years, we have heard from Senator Obama that our military venture in Iraq was a failure, that the surge would not work, and when the violence did go down it wasn't because of the surge or anything our troops did at all, and now he's going to keep as his Secretary of Defense the very man who carried out the surge and has said (I am sure) that it was responsible for the reduction in violence?

Look, for the sake of our nation I'm glad Obama is keeping Robert Gates. I think he's an excellent Secretary of Defense. I think it is a signal that Obama will not precipitously leave Iraq, which would be a very good thing.

But you have to admit that the chutzpah on display by President-elect Obama is breathtaking. His anti-war supporters are surely very disappointed.

Sure, I know that liberals can turn it around and say to me "see, this proves he's not the extreme leftist you said he was." A fair point, though it's far too early to come to that conclusion. But the fact is that Obama ran on a platform of immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and from this history one would have just about thought that he'd appoint Dennis Kucinich to the post, not Robert Gates.

How is the left reacting? I'm not going to do a full survey, but the two diarists at the Daily Kos I found were upset but less than apoplectic. Kos Diarist bugscuffle says

I suppose it's bad news that a neocon warmonger is to remain at the Defense Department. I suppose it's good news that he's not a former member of the Clinton Administration.

Diarist Meteor Blades quotesChris Bowers at OpenLeft as saying that

This should be an open and shut case. If there was one message that Obama ran on loudly, clearly, and indisputably, it is that he was going to bring "change" to Washington, D.C. If Gates were kept on as Secretary of Defense, it apparently would also mean that all of his top advisors would also stay on, and that it all happened because long-time D.C. operatives said it should. Keeping the same guy and all of his advisors at the behest of old establishment types is about as far from change as possible.

Some commenters try and rationalize the decision, others are mad as all get out. No doubt they don't want to give up on their god messiah leader easily.

Jon Soltz, writing at The Huffington Post, likes the pick, saying that

For those who worry that Gates will somehow drag President Obama to the right on Iraq, I think that fear is really unfounded. If the first question one must ask is, "Why is Obama picking Gates?" then the second question has to be "Why does Gates want to stay with Obama?"

It's not because Gates wants to preserve some neo-con view in the administration -- after all, Gates is a Bush I guy, a moderate who sees more eye-to-eye with Brent Scowcroft (an opponent of the war) than Paul Wolfowitz. It's not to preserve the current course, because Gates is smart enough to know that with Hillary Clinton, James Jones, and Barack Obama, staying the course will never win out.

The only reasonable answer is that Gates clearly understands that there will be a new course for our military, that includes redeployment from Iraq, and wants to make it work.

What Soltz even means when he says that "staying the course will never win out" is something of a mystery. Is he referring specifically to Iraq? Anyone who follows this blog knows that our military commanders in Iraq have been talking about a responsible draw down there for months, and that brigades are in fact coming out.

At least they're more honest over at The Nation, where John Nichols, in an article titled "A Secretary of Defense We Can't Believe In," starts off with

Barack Obama in February, 2008: "I don't want to just end the war; I want to end the mindset that got us into war."

Barack Obama in November, 2008: "Never mind."

I think that's more accurate than the rationalizations I've seen elsewhere.

Bill Clinton famously ignored many of his campaign promises, most notably his middle class tax cut, which he reneged on before even taking office. While this and two years of mistakes gained the GOP the Congress, it didn't do us any good in 1996.

On the other hand, Bill Clinton was elected president with a normal campaign. Obama was elected by a cult following who worships his every move. Their expectations are sky-high.

In the end, I think the left will suck this one up. They've invested far too much in Obama to give up this quickly.

Now, if he doesn't close Gitmo that'll be a different story....

My question for now, however, is how could Obama do this after all that he's said about Iraq? Maybe Shelby Steele was right, when he said that

Of of the things that troubles me about Obama's character is that he can get along with anybody. He can articulate a conservative point of view better than many conservatives can. He can be strikingly far left. The problem is not so much that he's going to reveal who he really is, the problem is that he may not be anybody. He may not have strong convictions.

(Follow the link and watch all five segments of Steele's analysis of Obama and the election. It's on par with the best I've seen or read)

Whether Steele is right or not only time will tell. I think what he does with our detention center in Guantanamo will be a telling moment.

Either way, forgive me for chortling a bit here. This post is a bit out of character. Friday I'll be back to my usual geek analysis with a piece on Iraq that you won't want to miss.

Posted by Tom at 8:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 23, 2008

Petraeus to CENTCOM, Odierno to MNF-Iraq

Today we have excellent news coming from the Pentagon. From CNN

Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has been chosen to become chief of U.S. Central Command, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday

Petraeus would replace Adm. William Fallon, who said last month that he was resigning. Fallon said widespread, but false, reports that he was at odds with the Bush administration over Iran had made his job impossible.

In addition, Gates said, Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of the Multinational Corps-Iraq -- the No. 2 position in Iraq -- is being nominated to fill Petraeus' post. Odierno has been home from Iraq for only a couple of months but has agreed to return, Gates said.

The plan is for Petraeus to leave Iraq in late summer or early fall, Gates said, to ensure a smooth transition and plenty of time for Odierno to prepare.

Lt. Gen Odierno was slated to become the next Vice-Chief of Staff, but that is obviously now off.

Anyone who has followed the war in Iraq knows that these two men were the architects of our success in 2007. Along with a few others like Frederick Kagan and Jack Keane, they designed and implemented what is popularly known as the "surge".

Everyone is familiar with Gen. Petraeus. Odierno less so. Here's the short version for the uninitiated; Odierno was to Petraeus what Patton was to Eisenhower. Odierno is, in fact, known as the "Patton of Counterinsurgency".

I've blogged quite a bit about Petraeus and Odierno, and have covered most of their press briefings and/or appearances before Congress. Go to the sidebar under "Categories" and choose "Iraq" and "Iraq II 2007 - 2008".

Both commanders will have their work cut out for them. Adm. Fallon failed at CENTCOM in what was arguably his most important task; stopping Iranian interference in Iraq. His successor, Gen Abizaid, failed in this as well (Contrary to what the leftist blogosphere said, no Fallon was not the lone sane guy preventing the Bush Administration from bombing Iran). Petraeus succeeded in Iraq where his predecessors Sanchez and Casey failed, so he certainly has experience in saving losing situations.

As for Odierno, he is well suited to taking over command of MNF-Iraq. As he said during a press conference (I forget which, so sorry no link), he "got the memo" regarding the need to adopt true counterinsurgency warfare. He did a masterful job as commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq, coordinating action between the divisional commanders, setting policy, implementing the "surge", and allocating resources.

I will have much more to say about this in the months to come. Both will have to be confirmed by Congress, and so will appear in testimony.

Richard Fernandez ("Wretchard") had this to say

Gen Petraeus has been nominated to head CENTCOM, according to the Washington Post. And Gen Odierno, his deputy, will take over command of ground forces in Iraq. I think this news will be received with great alarm and trepidation in Teheran.

As I've written in the past, I don't think an invasion or bombing campaign of Iran is in the works. What I think will happen (and it's just my own opinion) is that Petraeus plans take a hammer to all the places where Iran has poked its finger; turn its own allies against it with a combination of targeted force and politics.

More important than his battlefield successes in Iraq may be the implied victory in Pentagon politics that his nomination to CENTCOM chief suggests. It's important to remember that before the Surge, Petraeus' ideas were on the margin. Now they are in the mainstream.

Now it's the Democrats who need to "get the memo" about what's now mainstream.

There's also a great roundup of opinion over at Small Wars Journal. Read the whole thing, but here are two quotes:

Max Boot: Odierno spent the year from early 2007 to early 2008 working closely with Petraeus to supervise the implementation of the surge. They were by far the most successful team of commanders we have had in Iraq-potentially the Grant/Sherman or Eisenhower/Patton of this long conflict.

William Kristol: The allegedly lame duck Bush administration has--if this report is correct--hit a home run. CENTCOM is the central theater of the war on terror, and the president is putting our best commander in charge of it. What Odierno achieved as day-to-day commander in Iraq was amazing.

Thursday Update

The Wall Street Journal approves


This means that both men will be able to build on the Iraq success of the last year, without losing time as new commanders learn the ropes. It also means that General Petraeus won't face a superior at Centcom agitating that he withdraw troops before Iraqis are ready to handle their own security. That was the case with former Centcom chief, Admiral William Fallon, who recently resigned with a well-deserved White House push. As a theater commander with a direct line to the Defense Secretary and President, General Petraeus also won't have to answer to service chiefs jealous of his success and resources....

If confirmed by the Senate, the pair will lead their commands into 2009 and the next Presidency. This means the next President will get the candid advice of Generals who will not want to jeopardize hard-won progress with a too-hasty withdrawal. As patriots, they will of course follow civilian orders. But knowing first-hand the sacrifice of their soldiers, they well appreciate the consequences for Army morale if the U.S. fails in Iraq. Who knows: Barack Obama might even listen if General Petraeus explains why retreat in Iraq would make victory in Afghanistan harder, not easier.

Now compare Sen. Harry Reid's statement on these promotions with that of Sen. Joe Lieberman. Here's Lieberman (via The Weekly Standard)

"I applaud Secretary Gates' recommendation to nominate General David Petraeus to become the next Commander of U.S. Central Command, and General Raymond Odierno to become the Commander of Multi-National Forces - Iraq. There is no doubt in my mind that General Petraeus and General Odierno are the absolute best men to take on these two critically important assignments.

"General Petraeus has won the admiration and respect of the entire country over the past fifteen months. As commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, he has overseen one of the most dramatic turnarounds in American military history, quite literally seizing victory out of the jaws of defeat in Iraq. There is no one better qualified or more capable to lead America's brave men and women in uniform in the Middle East, which remains one of the most strategically vital regions of the world for America's national security.

"I also strongly support the nomination of General Odierno. As commander of Multi-National Corps Iraq, General Odierno brilliantly adapted General Petraeus' overarching counterinsurgency strategy into operational art. As much as anyone else, he deserves credit for the extraordinary transformation in security conditions in Iraq over the past year.

"In addition, General Odierno's willingness to accept another tour in Iraq -- having only just returned to his family in the United States after fifteen months there -- is a testament to his extraordinary patriotism and inspiring dedication to duty. There is no one better qualified to succeed General Petraeus in Baghdad than General Odierno.

And here's Reid

The next CENTCOM commander and field commander in Iraq will have to help the next President with a number of critically important challenges: making America more secure, restoring America's power and influence in the world, fixing our costly strategy in Iraq, and articulating a more effective strategy for winning in Afghanistan and defeating Al Qaeda in Pakistan....Our ground forces' readiness and the battles in Afghanistan and against al Qaeda in Pakistan have suffered as a result of the current costly Iraq strategy. These challenges will require fresh, independent and creative thinking and, if directed to by a new President, a commitment to implementing major changes in strategy...The Senate will carefully examine these nominations and I will be looking for credible assurances of a strong commitment to implementing a more effective national security strategy.

As Michael Goldfarb points out, the statement is so political that Reid can't manage "a word of thanks or praise for the remarkable job Petraeus has done in Iraq."

Tuesday Update

This article in the LA Times (h/t SWJ blog) describes perfectly why Odierno is the right general to succeed Petraeus

When Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno began his second tour of duty in Iraq late in 2006 as the war's No. 2 commander, he was handed a battle plan that he and his staff quickly determined was out of touch with reality -- a set of precise timetables for handing over whole provinces to Iraqi security forces, regardless of their readiness.

"This race to victory based on a timeline did not pass the common-sense test," said a top Odierno aide, citing the threat of widespread violence.

So Odierno made a fateful move: He challenged his boss, Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., to change the strategy. It was an opening salvo in the behind-the-scenes battle over what became known as the "surge."

And Odierno's challenge, though initially spurned, goes a long way toward explaining why he was nominated last week to succeed Army Gen. David H. Petraeus as the overall commander in Iraq.

The tall, intimidating artilleryman with a shaved head and a grave bearing was an early believer in what is now basic U.S. policy in Iraq. And he has proved he will stand up for it under fire.

Odierno's commitment to the new approach is all the stronger because he embraces it with the fervor of a convert. During his first tour in Iraq, in 2003 and 2004, critics charged that his dedication to overwhelming force and firepower was the antithesis of counterinsurgency doctrine.

As a result, although Petraeus has become the face of the war, it is Odierno who more truly mirrors the American military's experience in Iraq.

Read the whole thing

Posted by Tom at 9:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 30, 2007

Defense Vision Indeed

An editorial today in the Washington Times I think provides an opportunity to review some aspects of our national defense policy. William D. Hartung, identified as the director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation, wrote a piece called "Defense Vision MIA?"

Hartung is well intentioned, and unlike those on the far left genuinely cares about defending our nation. He has obviously given serious thought to matters such as how the DOD should be organized, and what weapons we should purchase. However, his thinking seems rather confused, and from this article it's hard to know exactly what he wants us to do

Here are some representative parts from his piece

...Mrs. Clinton's insistence on keeping "all options on the table" in dealing with potential adversaries — presumably including the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons — represents old thinking that should have no place in a post-September 11, 2001, foreign policy.

Ugh. I certainly hope it does not come down to it but if we are not able to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons it's not too difficult to imagine a scenario in which we have no choice but to use them in self-defense. Although it's less likely, one can also imagine scenarios involving nuclear weapons with North Korea or China.

He then criticizes both Obama and Clinton for recommending that we add 80,000 troops to our armed forces

Advocating more troops raises an obvious question. What would the additional troops be for? Since all Democratic candidates claim to favor a withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq in relatively short order, the increase could not be meant to reinforce the U.S. presence there, unless they plan to maintain the occupation far longer than advertised.

Do Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama want to ensure that the U.S. military is ready to engage in future Iraq-style occupations? Do they contemplate multiple humanitarian interventions that would involve hundreds of thousands of troops? Or is the call for more troops simply a political insurance to insulate them from Republican claims they are "soft" on terrorism?

None of these rationales is persuasive. In fact, a case can be made that an increase in troop strength is just as likely to detract from U.S. security as improve it.

So then he thinks that we can deter our enemies through high-tech weaponry, right? Not exactly. He wants to cancel most of them too. His prescription?

Increasing Special Forces for use in antiterrorist actions is a reasonable mission but does not require 80,000 more troops. Some of these units can be developed by training personnel already in the armed forces, rather than using new recruits who would take several years to attain adequate readiness. Unless Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama can clearly articulate the mission or missions requiring additional forces, they would be better served sticking to the issue of how to rebuild forces at existing levels after the trauma of Iraq.

This works only in a world whereby all US military actions are limited to Chuck Norris style quick in-and-out hit and run raids. If all threats meet this need, great. Unfortuantely I rather think the world will have other ideas.

Here's his other big idea

One place to start would be canceling programs like the F-22 combat aircraft, the V-22 Osprey, and the Virginia class submarine. These systems were designed when the Soviet military was deemed the primary threat, rather than the current challenge posed by a loose network of terrorist groups waging unconventional warfare.
Here Harting reverts to everything that is wrong with modern liberal thinking on defense; cancel everything and build nothing in it's place. Substitute organizational changes for actual weapons. Sounds like Jimmy Carter and the B-1 all over again. Surely cancelling the Crusader was the correct move. I'm less certain about the Comanche, but I'll buy it. But what about the F-22, V-22, and Virginia class submarines? I think that if you look around the world it would seem reasonable to conclude that we might face any one of a number of enemies, and each would present a completely different challenge

Iraq and Afghanistan: Unlike Hartung, I want to stay in Iraq. Low intensity counterinsurgency. The need is for heavy weapons but small units. Lots of Special Forces are needed.
Iran: Air and Naval campaign: The need is for strategic bombers, aerial refueling, naval air, destroyers and frigates.
China: Any number of scenaries are actually possible. Most involve a shoot-out on the high seas, in which we're going to need every piece of high-tech equipment we can get our hands on.
North Korea: Absolutely unpredictable. It could turn into anything from a nuclear shoot-out, to a limited bombing campaign, to repelling a full-scale assault by the North Korean Army. The DPRK doesn't have much in the way of high-tech, but they do have a lot.
Venezuela or Cuba: Hard to imagine ground forces going to the former, but Cuba after Fidel remains unpredictable, and it's not impossible to imagine a US invasion. Low-tech forces should carry the day in either case, however.

So as we can see each scenario requires a completely different approach. It is my contention that we therefore need a little of everything. A balanced force is better than one in which we put all of our eggs in one basket.

The Israelis put most of their eggs into the airpower basket after their success in the 1967 war. As a result, for example they neglected artillery, thinking that their new F-4 Phantoms could serve as "flying artillery". As a result they nearly lost the 1973 Yom Kippur war, a loss that would have meant the end of Israel itself.

Further, it is not as if we can predict our wars. I laid out some obvious scenarios above, but history shows that we are usually surprised by how things develop. The Korean War took us by surprise. In the 1950s we prepared for nuclear war with the Soviets, only to find us fighing in the jungles of Vietnam the next decade. Weapons like the F-105, which was built as a short-range tactical nuclear bomber, ended up being used as a conventionbl bomber in Vietnam. For that matter, the VSTOL Harrier was built as a survivable tactical bomber for Europe (it could hide in the woods and be wheeled out to take off in a field), yet served in a conventional role in the Falklands War (in fact without it the British could not even have sent the task force forth).

Not Sitting Still

I don't have the time to go through the aircraft, submarines, and ships that our enemies might use against us, but suffice it to say that they aren't standing still. Let's not also be overconfident or arrogant with regard to our own capabilities. This attitude got a lot of US pilots killed during the early days of the Vietnam War, when we discovered that the MiG-21 was the equivalent of our F-4 Phantom, and their pilots nearly as good.

Further, some of our weapons are getting very old. The F-15 first flew in 1972. The F-16 in 1979, and the F-18 1982. The first Los Angeles class sub was launched in 1976. The CH-53 first flew in 1981, and the H47 in 1962. You get the point.

Yes all of the above systems have undergone major upgrades. I know all this. But you can only do so much with an old airframe. Sure, we could build a new helicopter instead of the tilt-rotar V-22 and it would be better than what is in the inventory. But we are really at about the limit of what you can do with helicopter technology, so it would be an exercise in the point of dimishing returns.

Instead of the F-22 Raptor we could rely on the somewhat less expensive F-35 Lightning II. This, however, would have been the equivalent of cancelling the F-15 and relying on the F-16. Ask any pilot about the wisdom of that potential decision.

And In Conclusion

We need to do two things. The first is to ensure that we have a balanced force. We need Special Forces, and we need F-22s. We need Virginia Class submarines and we need the MRAP. We cannot predict with any certainly who we might have to fight in the forseeable future, and different wars will require a different set of weapons.

The second thing we need to do is to simply spend more. Critics have a point when they say that the Army is stretched thin. The solution, however, is not to pull out of Iraq or anywhere else, but to build up the force. As the editors of National Review reminded us a few months ago how much our forces have shrunk recently

From 1974 to 1989, the Army had 770,000 to 780,000 active troops (all of them volunteers). Today, we have around 508,000. The Navy had 568 ships in the late 1980s; today it has 276, and its manpower is so reduced that it often has to helicopter sailors from homebound ships to outbound ones in order to keep them staffed. The Air Force’s number of tactical air wings has shrunk from 37 to 20, and the average age of its aircraft is 24 years (as compared with nine years in 1973).

There is disagreement about whether the armed forces should be restored to their Cold War size, but there is consensus among military analysts across the political spectrum that they are too small. Today’s strategic environment requires them to be able to engage in multiple regional wars and peacekeeping operations simultaneously, and still have enough resources left over to deter threats and respond to unforeseen dangers.

During the last part of the Cold War I think we spend about 8% of GDP on national defense. Today it's at about 3.7% or so. While we don't need to go back to Cold War levels, we do need to do more. The unfortunate fact of history is that there will always be another war.

Posted by Tom at 10:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 24, 2007

Edwards Shows His Colors

On the one hand this is really no big surprise, but it's interesting to hear him say so plainly that he doesn't believe that there's any jihadist or Islamist threat to the West (h/t NRO)

The war on terror is a slogan designed only for politics, not a strategy to make America safe. It's a bumper sticker, not a plan. It has damaged our alliances and weakened our standing in the world. As a political "frame," it's been used to justify everything from the Iraq War to Guantanamo to illegal spying on the American people. It's even been used by this White House as a partisan weapon to bludgeon their political opponents. Whether by manipulating threat levels leading up to elections, or by deeming opponents "weak on terror," they have shown no hesitation whatsoever about using fear to divide.

But the worst thing about this slogan is that it hasn't worked. The so-called "war" has created even more terrorism—as we have seen so tragically in Iraq. The State Department itself recently released a study showing that worldwide terrorism has increased 25% in 2006, including a 40% surge in civilian fatalities.

By framing this as a "war," we have walked right into the trap that terrorists have set—that we are engaged in some kind of clash of civilizations and a war against Islam.

There are so many things wrong in this it's hard do know where to start.

First, there's the big lie that the Bush Administration is manipulating threat levels for political purposes. Where's the proof, John? None, of course, is offered, because there is none to be had. Just because a threat level is turned up before an election doesn't mean that it was done for political reasons. One of the most basic tenants of logic and statistics is that association is not causation.

One thing that amazes me about the anti-war left is that they tend to assume that all of our intelligence findings about the enemy must be made public, and that anyting that is not public doesn't exist. The have no understanding that so much happens behind the scenes, things that won't and shouldn't be made public for dozens of years. The public actions officials take are but the tip of the iceberg, and the public sees only a bit of what is going on.

Judith Coplon

One example should suffice.

In 1949 an employee at the Justice Department named Judith Coplon was arrested in the act of handing top-secret documents to a known KGB agent. FBI agents had been following her for some time, and as she was handing the documents to the Russian agent the FBI swooped in and arrested them both. Coplon was caught red handed, as it were.

Newspaper reporters asked FBI officials how it was that they suspected her. They told some story about how they watched everyone in the DOJ records department, and discovered that Coplon was pilfering documents.

Coplon was convicted in two separate trials, but each time an appeals court ruled that certain evidence the government presented was inadmissable, and nullified the convictions. Eventually the government gave up and she was let free.

Fast forward to 1994. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan's (D-NY) Commission on Government Secrecy has the job of deciding which old covert programs can safely be made public. There is, after all, no reason to keep things classified forever, and the public should know about the successful efforts of our clandestine services.

One of the programs that Moynihan's commission decides to make public was project Venona. During project Venona, the Signals Intelligence Service (the precursor to today's NSA) intercepted and decrypted hundreds of cables sent from the Soviet embassy in Washington DC to Moscow during 1942-45. They were not able to decrypt all cables, and some were only partially decrypted, but the intelligence haul was monumental nonetheless.

In the cables some 349 American agents working for one or another Soviet intelligence service were identified by code name. Of these, American intelligence was able to identify by name 171, leaving 178 unidentified to this day.

Among those identified in the cables was Judith Coplon.

At Coplon's trial, government prosecutors had a problem. If they revealed the existance of project Venona, the KGB would be alerted to the fact that many of it's agents had been compromised, and the Soviets would redouble their efforts to secure their codes. On the other hand, by not revealing Venona, much of the government evidence that was presented might get thrown out (you'll have to read the details of the trials yourself if you want to know why, because the technicalities would time some time to explain and I'm not a lawyer anyway).

In the end, the prosecution took the only decision they could; they kept Venona secret. Partially as a result of this decision, Coplon's two convictions were overturned and she walked.

Back to Edwards

In case it's not blindingly obvious by the example above, project Venona also revealed that Alger Hiss and Julius Rosenberg were Soviet spys. Yet for decades the far left claimed that they were innocent victims of McCarthyism.

No I am not saying that we should blindly trust whatever the Bush Administration tells us. What I am saying is that people need to be aware that when they turn up the terrorist threat level and only issue vague justifications we need to understand that there is a lot going on that we don't know about, and won't for decades.

So when Edwards talks about the Bush Administration "manipulating threat levels leading up to elections" he sounds like a complete idiot.

War on Terror?

In a way, Edwards is right when he says that there is no War on Terror. Unfortunately, his reason is completely wrong.

The correct answer would have been to say that we're in a War on Terror makes about as much sense as describing World War II as a War on Blitzkreig. It wasn't about fighting a tactic, but rather about fighting an ideology.

As such, as I've said many times, we're really in a "War on Jihadism". Our enemies, in their videos, pamphlets, and communications, call themselves "men of jihad". We ought to do them the favor of taking seriously what they say.

But is it a war? Edwards thinks not. Like most liberals, he distrusts and dislikes military action, and any military action is usually characterized as "an over reliance" on it.

The jihadists have been saying for decades that they are in a war against us. When Osama bin Laden issued his famous 1998 Fatwa declaring war against the United States, neither Republicans nor Democrats took them seriously, to say nothing of the major media. Stunned by this non-reaction, bin Laden took it as a sign from Allah that the United States was ready to be attacked. We paid the deadly consequences on September 11.

Of course we're in a war. Using this term does not, as Edwards supposes, mean that military action is our predominant method of fighting it. For over 40 years we fought what was properly called the "Cold War" against the Soviet Union, yet employed many methods other than military action to win it. Does he want us to rename that time period also?

For that matter President Johnson and other liberals declared a "War on Poverty" in the 1960s. The plain fact is that applying the term "war" to something does not mean that those involved necessarily see military action as the prime or only method of fighting it.

Playing Defense

Much else that Edwards says in the speech is silly as well. Consider this passage

We must be clear about when it is appropriate for a commander-in-chief to use force. As president, I will only use offensive force after all other options including diplomacy have been exhausted, and after we have made efforts to bring as many countries as possible to our side. However, there are times when force is justified: to protect our vital national interests... to respond to acts of aggression by other nations and non-state actors... to protect treaty allies and alliance commitments... to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons... and to prevent or stop genocide.

Sorry, but no it isn't clear at all as to when you'd use military force. As Jim Geraghty comments, "Okay, but how would he, or any other President, know that all other options have been exhausted? How do you know with 100 percent certainty that no additional efforts, concessions, negotiations, requests, or efforts at persuasion will bring on additional allies? When is it considered enough?"

Recall that in 1991 a majority of Democrats in the House and Senate voted against the resolution authorizing President George H.W. Bush to eject Saddam from Kuwait. Yet the Bush Administration had garnered worldwide support, and had all of the necessary Security Council resolutions in place. If that wasn't enough, what was?

It would seem, therefore, that Edwards is setting up a series of conditions that he know cannot be met. No matter how much failed negotiation takes place, he can always say that we ought to give it "another chance".

This is nothing new from the Democrats. Some time ago I reflected on all of the little conditions they were setting up and drafted some new rules for going go war Democrat-style.

And Finally

One of two more points and I'll let this go. Edwards again

But I will also remove any civilian or military officer who stifles debate or simply tells me what I want to hear.

What does this even mean? That he's going to fire anyone who agrees with him? This is the sort of pap that gets applause from the crowd but doesn't really mean anything. I t sounds good in theory but would be hard to actually enforce.

These troops are exhausted and overworked, and we have been forced to dig deeper and deeper to find ground forces for Iraq and Afghanistan. This leaves us ill-prepared for the future. Today, every available combat active-duty Army combat brigade has been to Iraq or Afghanistan for at least one 12-month tour. We are sending some troops back to Iraq with less than a year's rest. To make matters worse, the Secretary of Defense just extended tours from 12 to 15 months, which is unconscionable.

The proper response, of course, would be to rebuild our armed forces, which have fallen disasterously in size since the end of the Cold War.

Last month the editors of National Review provided some facts that shows just how small our military has become compared to the force that ejected Saddam from Kuwait.

From 1974 to 1989, the Army had 770,000 to 780,000 active troops (all of them volunteers). Today, we have around 508,000. The Navy had 568 ships in the late 1980s; today it has 276, and its manpower is so reduced that it often has to helicopter sailors from homebound ships to outbound ones in order to keep them staffed. The Air Force’s number of tactical air wings has shrunk from 37 to 20, and the average age of its aircraft is 24 years (as compared with nine years in 1973).

In addition (sorry but I can't find the link just now to prove it) during most of the Cold War we spent about 8% of GDP on defense. Today it's under 4%. For a time we spent about 50% of the federal budget on defense, today I believe it's under 20%. One of the biggest failures of the Bush Administration has been to not increase the size of our armed forces.

Edwards gives a positively Clintonian response as to whether he'd increase the size of our military

The problem of our force structure is not best dealt with by a numbers game. It is tempting for politicians to try and "out-bid" each other on the number of troops they would add. Some politicians have fallen right in line behind President Bush's recent proposal to add 92,000 troops between now and 2012, with little rationale given for exactly why we need this many troops—particularly with a likely withdrawal from Iraq.

The numbers game only gets us into the same problems as the president's approach. We must be more thoughtful about what the troops will actually be used for. Any troops we add today would take a number of years to recruit and train, and so will not help us today in Iraq.

We might need a substantial increase of troops in the Army, Marine Corps, and Special Forces for four reasons: to rebuild from Iraq; to bolster deterrence; to decrease our heavy reliance on Guard and Reserve members in military operations; and to deploy in Afghanistan and any other trouble spots that could develop.

So does this mean he would or wouldn't increase the size of the military? I can't tell. 5 1/2 years from 9/11 and 4 years after the start of OIF and the best he tell us is that he "might" substantially increase the size of the military?

What he's doing is trying to have it both ways. In the first paragraph of the quoted secrion he's playing to the Kos kids, and in the last to whatever hawks are left in the Democrat party. In coming months he'll point to whichever paragraph suits him depending on his audience.

In short, Edwards gives us no reason to think that he would be a competent commander in chief. He is clueless as to the threat our nation faces, and has no serious plans to defeat the jihadists.

Posted by Tom at 12:30 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 13, 2007

Soldiers Angels in Kansas City

My friend Kat, who normally blogs at The Middle Ground, has been working with some of her friends to do something special for the troops in her area.

They became involved in the Kansas City chapter of the Soldiers Angels, a 501 3(c) organization dedicated to sending care packages to our troops overseas. Their motto: "May No Soldier Go Unloved"

Among other things, Kat and her frields constructed a float and marched in the annual North Kansas City, Missouri Snake Saturday Parade. The Snake parade is a charity event and raises awareness for charities in the Kansas City area.

Videos are on the KC chapter website. Go and watch them.

Several times I have posted about Adopt-a-Platoon, an organization in which I participate to send letters and care packages to soldiers. Whether you choose to participate through one of these or another charity doesn't matter. Our troops need to know that we care about them and are willing to take action. Head over and sign up today.

Posted by Tom at 7:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 25, 2007

Adopt-a-Platoon

Our troops need your support more now than ever.

Adopt-a-Platoon is an organization that offers many ways you can support our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. I've been sending weeky letters and/or packages to soldiers and Marines through them for a few years now so I know they're a good outfit.

Please go to their site and see if one of their programs fits the level of support that you can provide. You do not have to adopt an entire platoon of 50 troops. They have different levels of individual troop support, and have both recurring and one-time programs.

If you're already involved in one or more campaigns through this or any other organization, then God bless you for your efforts. If not, please go visit Adopt-a-Platoon and check out the ways you can support our troops.

Posted by Tom at 8:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 10, 2007

The President's Speech on a New Plan for Iraq

President Bush gave his much anticipated speech outlining a new strategy for victory in Iraq tonight, and here are my initial thoughts on the matter.

It was shorter than I thought it was going to be, only about 20 minutes by my count. President Clinton took that long just to warm up. Here is the transcript posted at Fox News.

First, if you don't already know, the President is apparently basing some of or much of his new strategy on the plan laid out by Frederick Kagan and Gen Jack Keane (Ret) of the American Enterprise Institute, called "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq". If you haven't already done so, I strongly encourage you to follow the link and download the "Interim Report", which is a 56 slide powerpoint in the form of an Adobe file. At the very least, please read the Executive Summary.

On with the speech. Following are excerpts

But in 2006, the opposite happened. The violence in Iraq - particularly in Baghdad — overwhelmed the political gains the Iraqis had made. Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's elections posed for their cause. And they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis. They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam — the Golden Mosque of Samarra — in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today.

Well that's pretty honest. Not that I think he'll win applause from the Kos crowd, but the admission that the enemy's strategy worked is more than I think most presidents in history have been willing to say.


We benefited from the thoughtful recommendations of the Iraq Study Group...

And later

In keeping with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, we will increase the embedding of American advisers in Iraqi Army units — and partner a Coalition brigade with every Iraqi Army division.

Ha. The President dismissed it out of hand is what he did, as well he should. Yes the ISG had a few good ideas, but most of them were bad. What the President did here was just thow them a bone for show.

The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people. On September the 11th, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities.

Bingo. Look, if you want to criticize the President and the dreaded neocons for mistakes made in the past go ahead. We'll take our lumps. But those who call for immediate withdrawal without a single thought as to the consequences are irresponsible in the extreme. For an example of one of the most mindless rants of this sort, read Senator Kennedy's speech at the National Press Club of earlier today. Rapid withdrawal will likely lead to a collapse of the Iraqi government and mass slaughter, but Kennedy seems not to care at all.

Back to the President:

The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. Eighty percent of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital. This violence is splitting Baghdad into sectarian enclaves, and shaking the confidence of all Iraqis. Only the Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people. And their government has put forward an aggressive plan to do it.

Slide 12 of the Keane-Kagan plan (I told you to download it ;-) points out that "Baghdad is now the center of gravity in this conflict", and as such "We must act at once to improve security there." Slides 15-16 are maps of the city showing where the violence is occuring, and slides 17 and 18 outline the Iraqi militias and terrorist groups causing it.

Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have. Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes. They report that it does. They also report that this plan can work.

In two posts last October (here and here) I discussed this effort, and that it failed partially due to a lack of American troops. We could clear, but we couldn't hold. It depended on the Iraqis to do the holding, and they just weren't up to it. Later in the speech the President admitted just his when he said that

In earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents — but when our forces moved on to other targets, the killers returned. This time, we will have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared.

I think that those who believe that we should stick to our "light footprint" strategy, which emphasizes training the Iraqis, are mistaken because Iraq is sliding into chaos faster than we can build up a viable Iraqi army.

The President then talked about deploying more Iraqi units to the fight. However, they can't do it on their own.

Our commanders say the Iraqis will need our help. So America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence - and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American force levels. So I have committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq. The vast majority of them — five brigades — will be deployed to Baghdad. These troops will work alongside Iraqi units and be embedded in their formations. Our troops will have a well-defined mission: to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs.

ABC News is reporting that the "surge" has already begun.

The phrase "well defined mission" is critical, both for military and political reasons. Many questioned why we should send more troops to do the same thing. The President is trying to tell people that this will not be the case. The Executive Summary to the Keane-Kagan plan makes just this point

We must change our focus from training Iraqi soldiers to securing the Iraqi population and containing the rising violence. Securing the population has never been the primary mission of the U.S. military effort in Iraq, and now it must become the first priority.

As we all know, the Iraqi government not exactly been holding up their end of the bargain. The months-long squabbling to form a government was an embarassment. Many suspect that Maliki would just as soon let the Shia militias kill as many Sunnis as possible.

I have made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people — and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act. The Prime Minister understands this.

Does he? We should know the answer in a few short months.

This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings, assassinations, or IED attacks. Our enemies in Iraq will make every effort to ensure that our television screens are filled with images of death and suffering.

Not exactly "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat", but close enough.

Kagan and Keane anticipate enemy reaction on slides 30, 31, and 32, and suggest how we should counter them.

A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities....

To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis. To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend 10 billion dollars of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs.

Slides 37-40 discuss such reconstruction. From what I understand, part of our problem with such past efforts is that A) we couldn't adequately secure the reconstruction efforts, leading to a loss of credibility when the terrorists blew something up, and B) We reconstructed everywhere, instead of only doing so in areas willing to cooperate with us. Now, hopefully, we will establish a real carrot-and-stick system; cooperate and you'll get reconstruction money, otherwise you're on your own.

We will double the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams.

I've heard that these have been working out very well in Afghanistan, and have heard some frustration that they had not been used to as good effect in Iraq. Hopefully that will now change.

Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity — and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

When I first heard this, and even when I read it later, I thought "that's pretty vague". I wasn't expecting him to announce airstrikes, but was hoping for something more.

But Michael Ledeen points out the sentence "And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq." and asks what else can it mean other than we're going to go after the training and supply bases in Syria and Iran? It does sound like it, and I certainly hope we do it.

The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time. On one side are those who believe in freedom and moderation. On the other side are extremists who kill the innocent, and have declared their intention to destroy our way of life. In the long run, the most realistic way to protect the American people is to provide a hopeful alternative to the hateful ideology of the enemy — by advancing liberty across a troubled region.

Pretty close. If you think that the war is about "getting bin Laden", put your dunce cap on. It's about defeating radical Islam, plain and simple. We're always told that it can't be done with bombs and bullets alone, so spreading liberty (a bit different than democracy) is the only long term plan that makes sense to me.

Acting on the good advice of Senator Joe Lieberman and other key members of Congress, we will form a new, bipartisan working group that will help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror.

I have to think that Lieberman is almost persona non grata among Democrats these days when it comes to the war, but it works for me.

Most of the rest of the speech is fluff. The above are the main points.

Final Thoughts

I doubt that the speech will change many minds, at least in the anti-war camp. What will be interesting is to see if they actually have any alternative other than cut-and-run.

Those who want to win are divided on strategy, but at least we have ideas, many of which I outlined in previous installments of this series.

Either way, the President is going to push ahead and let congress squabble. Most anti-war Democrats don't have the courage of their convictions to cut off funds, but they don't have an alternate strategy to win, either. They seem to vaguely hope that the situation will simmer and the president will slowly bring home the troops. Iraq will fall into chaos and they can blame him. It would seem that he's determined not to let that happen, and is going to give it the 'ol college try one more time.

I say we support him on it. I'm going to write my Senators, Warner and Webb, as well as my Congressman Frank Wolf and let them know that I want them to support this effort. Yes I know that Webb will probably come out against it but he's going to hear from me anyway.

Previous
New Plan for Iraq V
New Plan for Iraq IV
New Plan for Iraq III
New Plan for Iraq II
Here's the New Plan for Iraq

Update

I wrote Rep Wolf and Sen Warner, but cannot find any email or web form contact information for newly elected Sen Webb, either on his new Senate web page or his campaign site. If you can find an email contact for him please leave one in comments. Until he gets around to setting this up I'll have to send him snail mail.

Posted by Tom at 10:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 20, 2006

Air Show at Andrews Air Force Base

Today I went to the annual air show at Andrews Air Force Base. The official name of the event is Joint Service Open House 2006, which is technically more accurate because all of the services are represented, including the Coast Guard. The aircraft, of course, are the main attraction.

Andrews AFB is in Maryland, just outside of Washington DC.

This year, the weather was perfect. Not too hot, not too cold. A bit of clouds but nothing major.

Modern military aircraft are truly amazing. We saw lots of aircraft demonstrations; F-15, F-16, AV-8, a World War II era P-15 Mustang, a Korean War F-86, even the new F-22. The Canadian Snowbirds and U.S. Navy Blue Angels put on tremendous shows. Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne jumped out of C-130s. As I got there, the US Army Golden Knights parachute team was finishing their landings.

All day, the pilots put their aircraft through their paces today, twisting, turning, and climbing, mostly in afterburner. The thrust ratios of modern jet fighter aircraft is so high that they can accelerate going straight up, assuming one doesn't mind burning a lot of fuel quickly. The result is an aircraft that doesn't seem bound by the laws of gravity. They just go where they want when they want.

And they made it look easy.

So without further ado, here are some of the resulting photos

They let you climb up for a quick look at the crew cabin of this B-1b Lancer. Times have certainly changed, because in the 80s even that would have been classified. Interestingly the pilot was a woman. I spoke with her a bit while in line, as I try to do with all of them. I've been to maybe a dozen airshows over the years, and have always found that the pilots and aircrew love talking to the public and answering their questions.

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The pilot of this B-52 Stratofortress said that his longest mission was 37 hours. For such a large aircraft, the crew area, like that of the B-1, is amazingly small and cramped. The crews call it the BUFF, which stands for Big Ugly Fat F..... I'll let you figure out the last word.

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Here's an AV-8 Harrier making a vertical landing while an F-15 taxies by.

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Several World War II era aircraft were there, including this Navy/Marine Corps F4U Corsiar. The Corsair was one of the fastest fighters of the war, although it was mostly useful as ground attack during our many amphibious invasions. It flew one of the demos.

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In the foreground is a Mig-17 (basically a Korean War era Mig-15 with an afterburner), and in the background an F-86 Sabre. The F-86 and Mig-15 squared off in Korea, while the Mig-17 was one of our main adversaries in Vietnam

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The Canadian Snowbirds taxi out in front of the Blue Angels. The Snowbirds are the Canadian military's precision flight demonstration team. They do everything our Blue Angels and Thunderbirds do, only slower. Only a superpower can afford to spare front-line jets for this type of duty.

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The Snowbirds gave a pretty good account of themselves.

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Here are the next generation of aircraft; the F-35 JSF and F-22 Raptor. First up, the F-35. "JSF" stands for Joint Strike Fighter, because it will be used by all services. It is not in production yet. It will also have VSTOL (Vertical and Short Take Off and Landing) capability, so it will also replace the Marine Corps AV-8 Harrier, in addition to the Air Force F-16 and some of the Navy F-18s. The UK's RAF and Royal Navy are also scheduled to purchase this aircraft.

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The F-22 Raptor, pictured below, will soon dominate the skies. A huge C-5 Galaxy transport is in the background. The Raptor is now in production and I believe a squadron has been formed. I've read where they've put the F-22 up against F-15s and it shoots them down like it's swatting flies. The F-15s don't stand a chance. Expensive? Terribly. Worth it? Every penny. The Russians and Europeans are fielding some very good new fighters, and the F-15 is getting old (it first flew in 1972).

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Here's a view of the F-22's tail, which shows it's unique thrust vectoring nozzles, which give it such great maneuverability. The black tail at left is the vertical stabilizer of an F-117 Nighthawk ("stealth fighter")

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The pilots and aircrew love telling people about their aircraft. The aircraft below is the EA-6B Prowler, the Navy's electronic warfare aircraft.

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This is what they call a "Heritage" flight, which has become popular of late. Aircraft of different eras fly together in a precision flying demonstration. Here we have a WWII P-51 Mustang, a Vietnam War F-4 Phantom II, a Gulf War/WOT F-15 Eagle, and the new F-22 Raptor.

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The U.S. Navy Blue Angels

The stars of the show were the last demonstration of the day, taking off at around 3:30. As with the others, their flying is amazing and they make it look easy.

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This, I think, was my best photograph of the day.

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The Army and Marines

The Army and Marine Corps had their major helicopters and ground vehicles on display. Here is our main battle tank, the M1 Abrams. In the background is a self-propelled artillery piece. I didn't get the type.

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Not Pictured

Around and inside the aircraft hangers behind the static displays, the Army, Marines, and Coast Guard had more displays. Units such as the Rangers and 101st Airborne have displays of what seems to be most of their equipment. I didn't really get a chance to speak with many of them, but I'm sure there were some veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Also, many aircraft flew that I took pictures of but didn't publish here. My cheap digital camera only has a 3x optical zoom, and in most of the photos you only see a barely recognizable shape which, due to some weird rule of physics, seems farther away in the photo than it did live. The F-15, F-16 and F-22 did demonstrations which were absolutely amazing. This was the airshow at which I've seen an F-22 fly. Since they're all using their afterburners for the maneuvers, the sound is quite loud and impressive.

In addition to providing entertainment and information, airshows and military open houses are, of course, part sales pitch. They want to show the public first hand what their tax dollars are buying, and convince us that it's worth it to keep buying more such hardware. Yes I know that there's more to the story than what's shown here. But I've no problem with this type of government spending. Heck, I wish there was more of it.

Posted by Tom at 8:51 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 6, 2005

The Fallacy of the ABM Mentality

This past Sunday I was watchiing the 11:00am show on Fox News while at my part-time job at an electronic retail store. The guest was John Loftus. From his website, "As a former Justice Department prosecutor, John Loftus once held some of the highest security clearances in the world, with special access to NATO Cosmic, CIA codeword, and Top Secret Nuclear files."

He told of a new Russian supersonic cruise missile which would be a threat to the US Navy or indeed the continental United States.

Although I didn't get the name of the missile at the time, from subsequent research I believe it to be the PJ-10 BrahMos.

The weapon is the result of a joint venture between India's Defence Research and Development Organisation and Russia's NPO Mashinostroyenia. From Global Security:

The BrahMos missile is a two-stage vehicle that has a solid propellant booster and a liquid (propellant) ram jet system.

The jointly developed Indo-Russian anti-ship cruise missile, which was successfully test-fired from Chandipur interim test range in Orissa, is a crucial step forward in India's defence efforts. This technological achievement places India among a small group of countries to acquire the capacity of producing cruise missiles. What, however, makes the jointly produced cruise missile distinguishable from others is that it travels at a supersonic speed i.e. more than twice the speed of sound. Almost all other contemporary anti-ship missiles fly at subsonic speed. Its other distinguishing feature is that the Indo-Russian cruise missile is a state-of-the-art product.

Its unmatchable speed is its high point, making it invincible. The supersonic speed imparts it a greater strike-power as well. Possessing stealth characteristics, the 6.9-meter cruise missile weighing three tons has a range of 280 km. Its another outstanding feature is that it is highly accurate and can be guided to its target mainly with the help of an onboard computer. This has been established by the test-flight. The computer and the guidance system have been designed by India whereas Russia has provided the propulsion system.

Loftus' point was that this and similar weapons invalidated our missile defense program, because they are an "end around". The idea is that countries can "simply" get around our missile defenses by developing our buying long-range cruize missiles.

Loftus wanted us to take from this that pulling out of the ABM was a huge mistake. Indeed, according to Loftus the "the Russians warned us" that they'd develop this weapon when we pulled out.

Even if I do not have the technical specifics correct as to what weapon Loftus was referring to, it doesn't really matter. We've all heard these arguments before.

The Fallacy of the ABM Mentality

There are a whole host of reasons why I believe Missile Defense is needed and why the opponents are wrong. Here we go, in no particular order:

First, let's get the Russians out of the way.
By this I mean an enemy who has the capability to fire serious amounts of nuclear weaponry our way. It was often said during the Cold War that missile defense was pointless because we couldn't stop every one they fired at us. Plenty would get though, and the devastation would be terrible. Better to rely on treaties and Mutual Assured Destruction.

There are several things wrong with these arguments. One, MAD is of dubious morality, especially when the targeting is countervalue (population centers) rather than counterforce (military targets). Second, treaties would never do much good anyway. Third, worst case, by reducing even a percentage of incoming missiles we would avoid at least some damage. I never did buy the "I'd rather be dead than live in a post-nuclear world" stuff. I'll take my chances alive, thank you. I at least want a chance to live. And you have no business telling Americans that they'd be better of dead anyway.

The Alternate Delivery Argument
Some say that if we build defenses against missiles "all our enemies have to do is to find another way to deliver them." Loftus was making just such an argument. If we build a defense against missiles, our enemy will build low-to-the-ground cruise missiles. Or they'll smuggle them into our cities. It's sort of an updated Maginot Line argument.

But by this logic we may as well not defend against anything. Airport security? They'll just hijack trains. Harbor security? They'll just come across the border. Firewalls on our computer systems? They'll just get work to get jobs with clearances and subvert systems from within. For that matter, why build defenses against anything?

But a Missile Attack is not Probable
This is another version of the argument made above. The problem with it is that all you have to do is look around the world and see the types and numbers of missiles our enemies have. All too many pose a serious threat to our country.

But it would be Suicide for them to Attack Us
Al-Qaeda crazies are one thing, this line of argument goes, but leaders of nation-states have too much to lose.

Sometimes this argument holds water. For example, once Breshnev came into power, the Soviet Union was not going to up and launch nuclear strikes on us. They were evil, but not crazy. Same with the Chinese in the post-Mao Tse-Tung era.

But even this starts to fall apart, and I haven't even gotten to the main part of my counter-argument. Note what I said above; "in the post...era" Khrushchev and Mao were dangerous and unpredictable, the former a ranting warmonger, and the latter completely uncaring about the possible deaths of millions of his countrymen in a nuclear war with the United States (Mao even scared the Russians, who came away shaken after conversations with him on this subject).

But the main problem with this anti-missile defense argument is that it assumes that foreign leaders will behave according to our definition of what is rational. It is "mirror image" thinking; "they would do such-and-such because if I were in their shoes it is what I would do." Now is not the time or place for a hundred examples from history, but a quick review of the Second World War should disbuse anyone of the notion that totalitarians act rationally.

It Won't Work
This argument is stated in various forms. Another version is "they'll always be one step ahead of us". No matter how it is stated, what it comes down to is a technical argument that our technology won't be up the task.

I don't have the time to do a full-scale dissertation, but suffice it to make a few points. One, development of an ABM system will take time. Because of constant opposition from Democrats, we are behind we should be. We lost much time during the 1990s. Second, we put a man on the moon thirty-five years ago, folks. Come on, of course we can do it if we set our minds (and money) to the task. Yes there will be failures along the way. Many, probably. But all test programs are full of failures (and if aircraft, crashes).

Ok, enough for now. Not a terribly topical post, I realize, but one I wanted to write about.

Posted by Tom at 10:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 22, 2005

Fake Statistics

Michelle Malkin has an excellent post on "The Myth of Black Soldier's Dying Disproportionately" in Vietnam, the Gulf War, and the Iraq War.

We've all heard the claim that black soldiers are frontline fodder in Iraq and are being killed disproportionately.

In fact, as this New York Times op-chart makes clear, the truth is just the opposite. White and Hispanic soliders are overrepresented among military personnel killed in Iraq, whereas African American soldiers are underrepresented. (Blacks account for 18.6 percent of military personnel in Iraq, but account for only 10.9 percent of military personnel killed.)

The same was true in World War II, the Korean War, and the 1991 Gulf War. In Vietnam, sometimes referred to as "a war fought by black men against yellow men on behalf of white men," blacks accounted for 12.5 percent of all combat deaths versus 13.1 percent of the young male adult population of fighting age.

I've heard this before, but it needs repeating every now and then. Kudo's to the New York Times for having the courage to take this issue on.

Check out the article on Vietnam stats, it's well worth reading. Among other things, you'll learn that

  • The oft-cited "statistic" that one-in-three Vietnam vets suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not even close to the truth (although PTSD is itself very much real)
  • Suicide, homelessness, and drug abuse rates for Vietnam vets are about the same as for the rest of the population.
  • The incarceration rate for Vietnam vets is lower than that for the general population.
  • Two-third of those who served in Vietnam were volunteers.
Fake Statistics II

Don't believe the crap you read in the liberal-left media about the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan or Iraq. The numbers they cite are mostly false. (hat tip USS Neverdock)

The Johns Hopkins study, published in the British medical journal Lancet, claimed that 100,000 civilians were killed as as result of U.S. and coalition actions in the invasion of Iraq. This is usually used in an attempt to discredit the invasion.

Slate completely debunked this study last October, and Instapundit has more last week. Both Slate and Instupundit get into details on statistical analysis that I am not qualified to comment on, but I can read plain English. And the story in Slate spells it out:

Readers who are accustomed to perusing statistical documents know what the set of numbers in the parentheses means. For the other 99.9 percent of you, I'll spell it out in plain English—which, disturbingly, the study never does. It means that the authors are 95 percent confident that the war-caused deaths totaled some number between 8,000 and 194,000. (The number cited in plain language—98,000—is roughly at the halfway point in this absurdly vast range.)

This isn't an estimate. It's a dart board.

Some reader comments posted on Instapundit:

Are we honestly to believe that twice as many non-combatants have died as a result of the liberation of Iraq as were American combatants in 8 years of VietNam? In a war designed and fought to minimize civilian casualties with things like GPS guided bombs?

Please, you have the power to unleash the internet on this wholesale fabrication with a call to factual arms. This fraud cannot go unchallenged or in 30 days from now, it will simply be cited as irrefutable “fact” that “George Bush killed 100,000 Iraqis.”

and
There's no need to debunk the 100,000 civilian casualty figure being cited so often by war opponents. In progressive circles it's an article of faith that pre-war sanctions killed 5000 Iraqis per month. Cost of the war two years later? 20,000 Iraqi civilians saved! And counting...
Surely civilians have been killed. And, as I said in my post on Discrimination in Just War Theory, we are required to try and protect the lives of civilians. But we don't have to put up with fake statistics.

Posted by Tom at 1:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 15, 2004

Humvee Armor and the Secretary

As it turns out, the Homespun Blogger's weekly symposium question is about Secretary Rumsfeld and the Humvee armor question. I addressed the issue in this post:

It's been pretty well established that the incident the other day when Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld got some by tough questions from soldiers over Humvee armor was a setup. The reporter's behavior was completely out of line (and something of a braggart too). And Senators such as McCain and Biden, both of whom have been quite critical lately, are simply positioning themselves to run for president in '08. Further, we live in an age of style over substance, one in which the way a question is answered gets greater attention than the substance of the question at hand. But lapsing into despair over these things will not make them go away.

Ultimately, the question about the armor is valid. And it is inexcusable for Rumsfeld to have appeared startled by the question. After all, the issue of armor on Humvees and other vehicles has occupied the Pentagon for some time.

And unfortunately for Rumsfeld, it might get worse before it get's better. William Kristol, one of the most influential neoconservatives around, has declared in a Washington Post editorial that he no longer supports the Secretary. It seems to me that Kristol is entirely too hard on Rumsfeld, and seems unaware that the issue is actually fairly complicated.

And, before we write off our Defense Secretary over armor on Humvees, let's site back and take a deep breath. For the plain fact is that far from being the "arrogant, buck-passing" Secretary that Bill Kristol seems to think he is, Rummy is actually quite iconoclastic. He's trying to shake things up at the Pentagon far more than I think is generally realized.

Consequences

If there is any blame, it is in not anticipating that there would be an insurgency. We need to remember that we thought that what we were worried about was fighting a conventional battle against the Iraqi army. As such, our Army and Marine Corps was configured to fight just such a war. Armor on Humvees was simply not important in a traditional invasion, where armored vehicles such as the M-1 Abrams tank and Bradley M2/M3 fighting vehicle would lead the way.

But then, almost no one anticipated the insurgency. Recall that those who opposed the war warned of many dire consequences, but few if any mentioned a long insurgency. Most were focused on a conventional fight with the Iraqi army, or chemical attacks on our troops. Others told us that a civil war would almost certainly erupt, or that massive famine would ensue. Still others were certain that the "Arab street" thoughout the Middle East would erupt and chaos would ensue throughout the region, perhaps even toppling governments. But then if you're anti-war you are always forgiven.

That none of these things have happened seems not to matter to some of these critics. For the plain fact is that the requirements of an invading column and those of an anti-insurgent force are quite different. And it's not so simple to revamp overnight.

Armor on a Humvee has disadvantages, as has been pointed out elsewhere. One of them is slower speed, which can be a tactical disadvantage. Another is increased fuel consumption. In an insurgency, when you are operating from bases close to the scene of the action, this is not a big deal. But go back to the original invasion of Iraq (or of another country). This additional weight on the vehicles could very well have slowed down the invasion columns to the point where the Iraqis were able to put up a better defense. And this would have resulted in a longer conventional phase to the conflict. Which would have resulted in criticism from the usual suspects.

Some Marines in Fallujah have pointed out the pros and cons of armor to reporters who told them about the dustup with Rumsfeld

Asked whether he would prefer a closed Humvee with bulletproof windows, Munns said "it's a yes-and-no answer."

"An enclosed vehicle reduces your visibility and if you are not able to see an attack you might as well have no armor at all," he said. "It needs to be a fine balance between visibility and protection."

Munns said he prefers mobility over the weight of extra body armor.

The three Marines agree that the most exposed person is their gunner in the turret.

"He has to think about the bigger stuff, he is up there, more exposed than any of us," Munns noted.

History and More History

Here is where things get difficult. For me as a writer, that is. . Certainly it looks like up-armored Humvees are necessary in fighting the insurgency. Certainly also many soldiers are angry that they don't have enough armor. And maybe the Pentagon should have anticipated the need and got them out to the field faster. But, and I don't at all mean to sound callus here folks, but in the scheme of history this is not a huge screw-up. It is important and deserves our attention. Woe be the day when we shrug off what our troops tell us that they need.

And from most of what I read the Pentagon is and has been trying to get armor on the Humvees and trucks. Have their been mistakes, and should the job have been done faster and better? Perhaps so.

However, we need to put all this in the perspective of history. And if we take a little trip back through time, here are some things that we discover

  • We entered World War II with 80% of our torpedoes being defective. That's right, folks, up to 80% of the torpedoes that we fired didn't work for one or more of three reasons: they dove too deep, they failed to explode on contact, or they detonated en route to the enemy ship, the magnetic detector being the culprit (ideally a torpedo goes under the enemy ship and detonates to achieve maximum damage, thus a magnetic detector is required to detect the steel of the ship).
  • Not only did we enter the war with inferior and outright lousy tanks, we never did achieve parity with the Germanys. The reasons why we stuck with the venerable Sherman are many (and some quite valid), but that does not excuse the fact that we entered the war with inferior tanks. (Note to techies; yes I know this issue, like all others concerning military hardware, is very complex. See posts here, for example)
  • The Shermans that we did finally build couldn't deal with the hedgerow country in Normandy in the days and weeks after the D-Day invasion. The tanks became stuck in the hedgerows that were all over the area and became bogged down. Finally a US sergeant came up with the idea of welding a fork-like scoop to the front of the tanks. When they came to a hedgerow they were able to plow the hedges up and keep moving. None of this was anticipated, as arguably it should have.
  • However one comes down on the debate about US tanks, no one can dispute that our aircraft were almost universally inferior, especially to those the Japanese had. Our F4F Wildcat couldn't match the famous Mitsubishi Zero, the F2A Buffalo was a joke, the and TBD Devastator obsolete . At least theSBD Dauntless was a good aircraft.
  • We went into Vietnam with F-4 Phantom fighter aircraft that didn't have guns. In our infinite wisdom we had thought that the days of gunbattles in the sky were over and everything would be decided by missiles. Wrong. Pilots quickly discovered that while missiles were preferred, there were many cases where only a gun would do. To rectify the situation we strapped a gun onto the center hard-point of the Phantoms (or some of them anyway), and only later reincorporated a gun into the aircraft.

Rumsfeld the Rebel

Take this story that appeared in the Wall Street Journal recently. The Army was quite convinced that it had discovered the way to winning future wars. Speed, overwhelming firepower, and ever-better C4I capabilities would surely devastate future enemies. What we found out was that yes, we could win this way - as long as the enemy cooperated. As Clausewitz reminded us

In war the will is directed at an animate object that reacts
Rumsfeld understands all this perfectly and it working to change how the Army fights.

"We're realizing strategic victory is about a lot more than annihilating the enemy," says one senior defense official in Mr. Rumsfeld's office. Victory also requires winning the support of locals and tracking down insurgents, who can easily elude advanced surveillance technology and precision strikes. In some cases, a slower, more methodical attack, one that allows U.S. troops to stabilize one area and hold it up as an example of what is possible for the rest of the country, could produce better results, according to emerging Army thinking.

Mr. Rumsfeld acknowledges that the military, which is still organized "to fight big armies, navies and air forces on a conventional basis," must change in order to deal with guerrilla fighters and terrorists. "The department simply has to be much more facile and agile," he says in an interview. "We have got to focus more on the post-combat phase."

and further

A recent directive, prepared by Mr. Rumsfeld's office and still in draft form, now yields to that view. It mandates that in the future, units' readiness for war should be judged not only by traditional standards, such as how well they fire their tanks, but by the number of foreign speakers in their ranks, their awareness of the local culture where they will fight, and their ability to train and equip local security forces. It orders the military's four-star regional commanders to "develop and maintain" new plans for battle, hoping to prevent the sort of postwar chaos that engulfed Iraq.
But does it Matter?

Despite all of the good he has done in his position, Secretary Rumsfeld is under attack as never before. Regardless of what one thinks of Senators McCain and Hagel, when they call for his resignation we must pay attention. And when Bill Kristol adds his voice to the chorus, it's really time to sit up straight.

Perhaps the Humvee armor story is overblown. But if that is so it is more a case of the straw that broke the camel's back. Our inability thus far to put a lid on insurgency in Iraq has frustrated supporters of the war. That they should call for changes at the top should not surprise us.

Update

The editors of National Review, as usual, put some perspective on the issue of armor

Remember: When Rumsfeld showed up at the Pentagon for
his second stint as secretary of Defense, the army was hell-bent on building the Crusader, a "mobile" artillery system that couldn't even fit into a C-130 transport plane. It wanted to build the Comanche helicopter, an aircraft conceived in 1983 with our Soviet adversary in mind. The army was caught in a bad Cold War flashback. As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year, "Even as the armored Humvee proved itself in small conflicts around the globe, the Army failed to buy more because it was focused on preparing for major wars with other large armies — rather than low-end guerrilla conflicts."

It would be ironic if Rumsfeld lost his job over the issue of armor, when it was he who has been trying to revamp the military just so it could fight these "low-end guerrilla conflicts.

At this point, of course, everyone agrees on the need for more armored Humvees, which weren't originally conceived as combat vehicles. But in considering today's conventional wisdom, it is always useful to remember yesterday's. Before the roadside bombs really took hold as the Iraqi insurgents' weapon of choice, commentators were praising the British in Iraq for their unthreatening approach that emphasized soft vehicles and foot patrols. The Pentagon was criticized for its attachment to armor, not for having too little of it.

But hindsight is always 20/20 and if you're an anti-war commentator you are never held to account for what you said in the past.

Meanwhile, Republicans McCain and Hagel call for Rumsfeld's head. Once again, the editors of National Review

The get-Rumsfeld crowd — mostly Democrats, joined by the McCain-Hagel caucus and a few stray hawks — takes great umbrage at Rumsfeld's answer to a National Guardsman's question about an insufficient number of up-armored Humvees. Hagel intoned, “those men and women deserved a far better answer from their secretary of Defense than a flippant comment.” But Rumsfeld wasn't being flip. One wonders whether Hagel has even taken the time to read the full transcript of the secretary's remarks. The troops gave Rumsfeld a standing ovation at the end. Is it the position of the secretary’s critics that the troops were too stupid to realize they had just been belittled?

Further, Rumsfeld was certainly right when he said that you go to war with the army/military that you have. Long gone are the days when one had time to hold off the enemy with whatever was at hand while you built up your forces. Today we are almost required to see into the future. Unfortunately, noone has yet invented the necessary crystal ball.

Update II

Courtesy of the Greg Pierce at the Washington Times

The truth is trickling out on the true state of affairs concerning the armoring of U.S. vehicles in Iraq, the Media Research Center reports.

" 'It now appears that the premise of the question that caused an uproar around Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was, so to speak, off base,' [Fox New Channel's] Brit Hume noted Tuesday night in reminding viewers how two weeks ago National Guardsman 'Thomas Wilson said to Rumsfeld, quote, "our vehicles are not armored, we do not have proper armament vehicles to carry with us north," into Iraq.'

"But, Hume relayed, 'according to senior Army officers, about 800 of the 830 vehicles in Wilson's Army regiment, the 278th Calvary, had already been up-armored' at the time of his widely publicized question.

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