Thursday, March 31, 2011

Letter Bomb Injures Two at Swiss Nuke Plant Office

Al Qaeda and other so-called "radicalized Islamist groups" get most of the copy in the media. However, an equally dangerous and radical form of terrorism is the eco-terrorist. Groups such as the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF) use bombs and other forms of violence to draw attention to their issues.

ELF has set fires to log home mansions to call attention to the use of old growth timber in the construction of these homes.

Media reports have tied Theodore Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, to environmental activists, and say that the 23 injuries and three deaths through letter-bombs were the acts of an independent eco-terrorist.

Earth First! is found of driving railroad spikes (tree spiking) into old growth timber. When lumberjacks go to cut the trees, the spikes will shatter the chains of their chain saws causing gruesome injuries or death.

While most of these groups have focused on preserving the ecology or protecting animal rights, there has always been some groups opposed to nuclear energy. The crisis in Japan has apparently provided the impetus for these groups to turn to violence as well:

GENEVA -- A letter bomb has exploded at an office of the Swiss nuclear power industry in the northern city of Olten, injuring two people, police said Thursday.
The explosion happened shortly after 8 a.m. as staff were opening the morning's post in the fourth-floor office of Swissnuclear

The Unite States has 104 nuclear power plants. The Department of Energy and Department of Homeland Security will need to collaborate on how to best protect the workers as well as the facilities at these plants. We already know we have threats from Al Qaeda, and now probably Gadaffi as well, domestic terrorist groups (including eco-terrorists) and the Mexican drug cartels. The United States may not have to wait for a natural disaster to turn one of our nuclear power plants into the next Chernobyl.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

America's Third War: Mexican Drug Cartels

From the radiation disaster in Japan to the rebellions throughouth the Middle East and North Africa, it is very easy to forget we have plenty of problems right here in the United States.

Mexican drug cartels are able to operate on this side of the border as was evidence by their assasination of a US federal agent. Teenagers in the US are being recruited as drug mules. More violence is the only real outcome of this development yet Secretary Napolitano was quoted as saying a few days ago that our border with Mexico is safer than ever.

Exactly what are our goals?

Coalition forces (read NATO) have established a no-fly zone to protect the rebels. However, simply keeping Gaddafi's aircraft grounded has produced the necessary results so no AC-130 gunships and A-10s are being introduced to the campaign. These aircraft give more flexibility in engaging ground forces (and subsequently the opportunity to strike the very civilians Odyssey Dawn seeks to protect). Airpower, as I wrote about previously, cannot occupy territory. At some point, ground troops are going to be deployed if nothing more than as "advisors" to the rebels. President Obama's message on Odyssey Dawn doesn't seem to be convincing anyone and has left his military leaders pondering the disconnects:

Adm. James Stavridis, head of US European Command, said Tuesday the coalition's military goals in Libya are clear, but he acknowledged that they aren't necessarily configured to bring about the stated political goal of the Obama Administration and many world leaders in seeing Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi step down from power. "I don't think the two are directly linked, but they may connect over time," Stavridis told the Senate Armed Services Committee. The coalition's military operations are concentrated on protecting Libyan civilians from violent attack by Qaddafi forces. Even with the present disconnect, Stavridis said the military activities may indeed end up laying the groundwork for Qaddafi's ouster. "[B]y our participation in protecting the people of Libya, we create a safe and secure environment in which the people of Libya can make a determination, and . . . have the ability to undertake the kind of effort that would, in effect, create regime change, as we've seen in other nations in the Middle East." That is particularly the case if the coalition applies additional elements of statecraft such as a "financial squeeze" and travel restrictions, he said. Source: AFA Daily Digest

In Vietnam, the goal in Washington was to stop the spread of Communism. The goal of senior military leaders was victory through attrition. The goal of the troops on the ground was to survive their tour and go home. Libya is beginning to look like President Obama's version of the Vietnam War.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Syrian Cabinet resigns amid huge protests

Out of all of the conflicts going on in the Middle East and North Africa, the United States decided to get involved in Libya. The decision has cost the United States $600 million dollars so far. The decision is also likely to cause Gaddafi to return to terrorism. In the meantime, Syria has erupted and now the government has resigned. Lebanon and Israel are now both at risk.

I listened to the President's speech and just can't help but think if Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco or Syria had oil we would be involved there as well. I am also troubled by President Obama's decision to take military action while outside the country and waiting more than a week to explain his decision to the voters.

Meanwhile, the Tokyo Electric Power Company continues to come up short in containing the radioactive waste from the Dai Ichi power plant. When will the Obama Administration realize that this tragedy is going to effect the United States? Unless the Japanese decide to exercise the Chernobyl option (boron and concrete), the radioactivity will not be contained. On the heels of this comes a report from ABC news indicating that there have been 56 different violations amongst the 104 nuclear power plants in the United States in the past 4 years. These violations include missing nuclear material.

We don't need to be focused on Libya, we have plenty to worry about right here.

World news

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ocean Spill Feared as Toxic Water Rises

Tokyo Electric Power Company has been trying to cool the nuclear fuel rods at the Fukushima Dai Ichi nucler plant. They began to first inject sea water in an attempt to cool the rods and control a possible Chernobyl melt-down of the reactor core. Someone must have pointed out that flooding the metal containment vessel with highly corrosive sea water probably wasn't a good thing. They then switched to pumping in fresh water. The question that has been on my mind, what are they going to do with all of that radioactive water?

The nuclear power plant was not designed to be flood with water. The radioactive water will leech into the group or spillout of the plant and get into the ocean and surrounding environment. There does not seem to be a good solution. At least with Chernobyl, it was land locked. Radioactive material could be more easily contained that with the Dai Ichi plant that even the smallest spill will get into the ocean. Japan and most of the pacific get their protein from seafood. Contaminated oceans mean shortages of food as well as a devastating impact to the economy.

Protesters in South Draw Fire From Syrian Forces

Libya has gotten the majority of press, however the Palestinians fired missiles into Israel. In response, the Israelis are deploying the "Iron Dome" early. The Iron Dome is anti-missile system but there are not enough systems to protect all of the Israeli borders. The border includes Syria which makes the unrest there even more disconcerting:

"The political crisis in Syria deepened Monday as Syrian forces in the restive southern city of Dara’a fired live ammunition in the air to disperse hundreds of pro-democracy protesters who had taken to the streets."

NATO takes over no-fly zone

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was originally created to "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down", at least according to the first NATO Secretary General. NATO was more a political association than a military organization. The in-fighting between European members and the US caused the French to pull out in 1966 and create their own nuclear deterrent.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and subsequently the Soviet Union, the relevance of NATO began to wane. The Balklands war in the mid 90s led NATO to involve itself in matters beyond the member nations. Former Warsaw Pact and Soviet Republics were allowed to join.

The Berlin Plus agreement is a comprehensive package of agreements made between NATO and the European Union on 16 December 2002. With this agreement the EU was given the possibility to use NATO assets in case it wanted to act independently in an international crisis, on the condition that NATO itself did not want to act—the so-called "right of first refusal"

The September 11 attacks caused NATO to invoke Article 5 of the NATO Charter for the first time in its history. The Article says that an attack on any member shall be considered to be an attack on all. The invocation was confirmed on 4 October 2001 when NATO determined that the attacks were indeed eligible under the terms of the North Atlantic Treaty. In 2003, NATO took command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. For the first time in its history, NATO would take over a mission outside the NATO area of responsibility.

In 2009, NATO deployed warships in support of Operation Ocean Shield battling Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

Given this history, it is no surprise the AFA Daily Digest had this report:

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced Sunday that, effective immediately, the alliance would assume the lead role from the United States for all UN-sanctioned air and sea military operations in and around Libya. "This is a very significant step, which proves NATO's capability to take decisive action," said Rasmussen. This means the alliance will be in charge not only of the no-fly zone over northern Libya and the arms embargo, but also the air strikes meant to protect Libyan civilians from attack by Muammar Qaddafi's regime. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press that, within the next week, the United States "will begin to diminish [its] commitment of resources" to the Libyan mission. "[T]he idea was that, over time, the coalition would assume a larger and larger proportion of the burden," he said. He added, "Our air power has significantly degraded [Qaddafi's] armor capabilities, his ability to use his armor against cities like Benghazi." As of March 25, US aircraft had flown 529 sorties, coalition aircraft 346, since the air campaign began on March 19.

NATO involvement in the Balklands, Afghanistan, Libya, the Gulf of Aden, and Indian Ocean seems to eerily parallel European colonialism. Coalition campaigns make it easier to get approval for military operations but the implications for recovery become complicated at the least. For example, if Gaddafi steps down there is no obvious follow-on leader as the colonel has successfully suppressed any opposition for nearly 40 years. A NATO backed government in Libya could set-off an even bigger conflict in the Middle East.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The limitations of airpower

Today the headlines are full of news of the United States wanting to add more firepower to Odyssey Dawn. Wait, I thought we were just establishing a no-fly zone? Now that the Tomahawks have flattened all of the SAMs and associated radars and the combat air patrols (CAPs) have either shot down or grounded the Libyan aircraft, we still need to add more firepower?

And not just any firepower, the Obama administration wants to add the AC-130U (pictured above) to the fray. Gunships are not about denying the enemy the use of their aircraft, gunships are all about destroying the enemy's ground forces. But I thought this wasn't a war?

The Obama administration is not the first to become enamored of airpower only to find it does have limitations.

I have been involved in and studied airpower for over 30 years. The Holy Grail of airpower during WWII was daylight precision bombing. However, technology at allow precision bombing was still some 40-50 years away. The lack of precision bombing is one of the reasons the United States and Britain resorted to fire-bombings Tokyo and Hamburg.

During the Vietnam war, laser-guided bombs began to make an appearance. However, fighting guerilla warfare (or as they now say "asymmetric" threat) with modern technology usually gives the advantage to the guerilla fighter.

In both WWII and Vietnam, airpower was used to support ground conflict. Ground troops were still expected in both conflicts to concur and occupy territory.

A little known USAF colonel named Jack Warden had a different idea. Warden created a theory of five rings based on five levels of system attributes. The idea behind Warden's five rings was to attack each of the rings to paralyze their forces, an objective also known as physical paralysis. To optimize a strike attack the attacker would engage as many rings as possible with special emphasis on taking out the center ring, which is the enemy's leadership.

By attacking the rings, as opposed to say ball-bearing plants, the enemy's decision cycle would be interrupted. If the attacker is faster than the enemy's ability to react and counter-attack, the attacker should.

Warden's Five Rings sat pretty much ignored at Maxwell, AFB at the Air University until Operation Desert Storm. Warden's Five Rings became the doctrine for the air campaign. Coalition forces flew 100,000 sorties dropping over 88,000 tons of explosives. Unlike in previous air campaigns, guidance technology finally caught up to where is was now possible to guide a 2,000lbs Mk 84 down an airshaft of an underground bunker if needed.

USAF pilots discovered a new role for the diminutive GBU-12 (500lbs). Precision guidance had advance to the point where the pilots where able to drop a 500lbs bomb right through the turret of Iraqi tanks. No amount of armor on a tank could withstand that strong of a blast. Perhaps that is why in part Army planners admonished USAF planners for the use of the term "tank-plinking".

Warden's Five Rings finally gave airpower the legitimacy it been seeking since the first pilots in WWI dropped hand grenades on ground troops. Tomahawk missiles were the preferred method of the Clinton administration for dealing with terrorists attacks. It made a statement without actually deploying ground forces. You didn't need to worry about long-term strategic objectives or exit strategies. Someone attacks just launch a few dozen Tomahawk missiles, or later some GPS guided bombs, and call it a day.

Unfortunately no matter how advanced your airpower becomes, you still need ground forces to capture and occupy territory the same way armies have been doing such ancient times. Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom both required large number of ground forces. The ground forces weren't there because airpower had suddenly become irrelevant, they were there to occupy territory. It is simple physics, if your troops occupy territory then your enemy can't. Occupy more of his territory than he does and you win.

Gaddafi's aircraft and air defenses have been neutralized but he is still going strong. The Obama administration and NATO now face the question of what else can they do to make Gaddafi surrender (because remember we aren't trying to kill him). Introducing the AC-130 to mix keeps it an air campaign but the targets have changed.

Ground forces have the bad habit of engaging with their targets at close range. Shooting at Gaddafi's ground forces drastically increases the possibility of hitting civilians by accident. Social media sites will fill with images of wounded or dead civilians hit by coalition weapons. How will a war-weary US public deal with such images?

One last point, this has never been a pure air campaign to establish a no-fly zone to protect the rebels. Remember the British SAS that were captured towards the beginning of Odyssey Dawn? Besides identifying targets for the airstrikes, they were also there to gather intelligence. If the British special forces were there, I guarantee US and French special forces were also on the ground. All of which means we knew weeks or even months before the start of Odyssey Dawn that were going to launch some kind of attack.

If we already have ground forces in-country, don't be surprised if we start seeing Marines or Army units being called upon to support the rebels. Remember though, this is not a war!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Detroit Bomb Scare

The news, and this blog, have been flooded with stories about Libya, the Middle East or the Japanese nuclear disaster. Now comes this story out of Detroit:

"DETROIT (Reuters) – A package found by a security guard at a federal office building in Detroit sat three weeks before someone thought to screen it and found it was a bomb, an official who represents unionized guards said on Wednesday.

A private contract guard, since suspended, apparently found the package outside in late February, said David Wright, president of the union that represents Federal Protective Service guards but not contract guards.

The building in downtown Detroit houses offices for the FBI, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the Social Security Administration and others."

Attracted by jobs in the auto industry during the 1950s and 1960s, Detroit has one of the largest populations of Muslims in the United States. Most of those jobs are now gone but as recent commercials try to show, Detroit is not done and out. The incident with the package could certainly be related to events occurring throughout the Middle East.

The story also illustrates shortfalls with outsourcing services (especially security). As the federal government and many states try to get their budgets under control, it is attractive to outsource services to save money. On paper, outsourcing makes sense as contracting with a vendor eliminates overhead and staffing costs that the government would normally have to pay for. The problem becomes now the contractor is responsible for vetting the employees. This may or may not be a robust process depending on the contractor or who they have doing the employee screening.

Working for contractors can seem lucrative, especially with the ones that provide services for the US government overseas (Haliburton and its subsidiary KBR, DynCorps, Bechtel, Xe). However, the contracts often only cover salaries, no benefits such as insurance to cover work related injuries or death.

Contracts such as the one covering the security at the Detroit federal building, don't pay that well and offer no benefits. These type of contracts aren't attractive to employees with industry certifications and credentials as they know what they should be making. Employees without those credentials, or simply people looking for a job, then become the hiring pool.

Even when the lower paying contracts do hire people with the appropriate training and credentials, they get fed up with the low pay and lack of benefits.

The US is facing increasing risks at the same time of diminishing budgets. If this danger is not recognized and outsourcing continues to be used, one of these attempts will be successful.

Related to Detroit, Fox News just posted this story about Abdulmuttalab (the Underwear Bomber) and he chose Detroit as his destination:

"When an admitted Al Qaeda operative planned his itinerary for a Christmas 2009 airline bombing, he considered launching the strike in the skies above Houston or Chicago, The Associated Press has learned. But tickets were too expensive, so he refocused the mission on a cheaper destination: Detroit."

Fox News story

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Who Sold Libya Its Supermissiles?

The super missile is the SA-24 Grinch shoulder launched surface-to-air missile (SAM). The "who" would be our friend Hugo Chavez.

"The U.S. government calls it the “one of the most lethal” weapons of its kind — an advanced, portable missile, designed to knock planes out of the sky. A variant of it just showed up in Moammar Gadhafi’s army and nobody seems to know how exactly it got there. But diplomatic cables, unearthed by WikiLeaks, suggest one potential culprit: the Chavez regime in Venezuela.

Aviation Week’s eagle-eyed reporter David Fulghum spotted a Russian SA-24 Grinch surface-to-air missile mounted on a Libyan army truck in recent cable news footage. And that’s a cause for concern: The SA-24 is more accurate, longer-flying, and more lethal than than earlier models of surface-to-air missiles. It also has a dual-band infrared seeker and is more difficult to jam than older systems.

The missiles “reportedly have counter-countermeasures that may be difficult for planes with just flares to counter,” Matthew Schroeder, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Arms Sales Monitoring Project, tells Danger Room. ”Overall it’s just a much more capable system.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Protests increase against Odyssey Dawn

The headlines are mounting against the no-fly zone in Libya;

- The Brazilian government called late on Monday for a ceasefire in Libya

- Tensions between the United States and Russia over coalition airstrikes in Libya broke back into the open Tuesday, with Moscow calling for an immediate cease-fire to protect civilians and Washington saying that the claims of Libyan casualties were Gadhafi lies.

- China called Tuesday for an immediate cease-fire in Libya where the U.S. and European nations have launched punishing airstrikes to enforce a U.N. no-fly zone.

Critics are coming out on both sides here on this side of the pond as well. Dennis Kucinich offered this, "President Obama moved forward without Congress approving. He didn't have Congressional authorization, he has gone against the Constitution, and that's got to be said. It's not even disputable, this isn't even a close question. Such an action ... is a grave decision that cannot be made by the president alone."

It seems like the President was pressured into supporting the UN resolution and did not think through how US involvement would be received. It did not help that shortly after approving US involvement he then went on a whirlwind tour of South America.

Monday, March 21, 2011

International alliance divided over Libya command

During the Vietnam War, the United States pursued a unilateral strategy without seeking UN approval or Congressional support. Often the reason given was the Korean War and Vietnam War were not wars but conflicts. In response, the War Powers Resolution was passed over the veto of President Nixon on November 7, 1973, to provide procedures for Congress and the President to participate in decisions to send U.S. Armed Forces into hostilities. Of course, since its passing the War Powers Act has been ignored.

In Desert Storm, President Bush did seek a coalition of nations approved under UN resolution to liberate Kuwait. Once Kuwait was liberated, President Bush did not pursue Saddam Hussein as he felt this would have been beyond the scope of the UN resolution.

Twenty years later, President Obama is facing the same challenges.

"And like a parade of Pentagon officials the past few days, Obama insisted that the United States' lead military role will be turned over—"in days, not weeks"—to an international command of which the United States will be just one part.

The only problem: None of the countries in the international coalition can yet agree on to whom or how the United States should hand off responsibilities.

The sense of urgency among White House officials to resolve the command dispute is profound: with each hour the U.S. remains in charge of yet another Middle East military intervention, Congress steps up criticism that Obama went to war in Libya without first getting its blessing, nor defining precisely what the end-game will be. (On Monday, Obama sent Congress official notification that he had ordered the U.S. military two days earlier to commence operations "to prevent humanitarian catastrophe" in Libya and support the international coalition implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1973.)"

It does the United States no good for the rest of the world to see Congress and the President divided on this issue. The article points out the seeming contradiction of supporting the rebels but not ousting Gaddafi. Operation Odyssey Dawn is being run by US African Command (AFRICOM) which was created only four years ago (for just such a contingency?). Britain, France, Belgium and Canada are all providing forces but who will be in command in the next phase in undecided. As all of these countries are NATO members, should the structure be NATO or non-NATO? A legitimate question is why has NATO started to support operations that have nothing to do with protecting Europe fromt he Soviet Union (which was the sole reason for its creation). It can create the perception amongst other nations that NATO has imperialistic goals.

"Days, not weeks." Perhaps sensing Americans unease with entering yet another conflict, the Obama Administration is promising the involvement will only take days. However, the best laid plans rarely survive the first encounter with reality. Gaddafi is well armed and has not remained in power for nearly 40 years by being careless. I believe we will be in left in charge of Odyssey Dawn for many weeks to come.

Yahoo! News

Coalition strikes more Gadhafi defenses

Is it just me or did the truth change somewhere along the way?

"Speaking by video conference from his headquarters in Germany, Ham told Pentagon reporters that the international coalition is focusing instead on knocking out Libya's ability to command and control its forces.

He says the campaign is not providing air support for Libyan rebels fighting Gadhafi - and he says there is no direct coordination with those rebels."

I thougth the no-fly zone was being established to protect the rebels?

General: Coalition strikes more Gadhafi defenses

New Democracy?

From the AFA Daily Report:

Anti-government demonstrations sweeping through much of the Middle East are having "no effect" on events in Afghanistan and Iraq, Army Gen. David Petraeus said last week. Speaking March 18 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., Petraeus said the "people power" revolts in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Yemen are focused on people's dissatisfaction with their form of government. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the complaints are about national housekeeping functions, like "jobs and keeping the electricity turned on" and "basic services," Petraeus said. It's a hopeful sign seeing the free exercise of complaints in those two nations about how a government is doing its job, rather than a desire to abolish the government, he asserted. Iraqis, in particular, see the government "as 'their' government," he said.

The general seems to be unconcerned that these events are a coordinated rebellion that can lead to destabilization. Egypt was an ally of Israel's under Mubarak. I doubt if the new pro-Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt will be nearly as accommodating to Israel. Over the weekend, 50 rockets were launched by Hamas from the Gaza strip into Israel. In Syria, police clashes resulted in 7 dead and a call for massive protests today. And of course the US has joined other European forces in establishing a no-fly zone over Libya. I wonder if the Muslim Brotherhood views the no-fly zone, imposed by some of the same European countries that colonized most of North Africa, as part of the democratic process?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

How many Tomahawks can you buy for one F-35?

"Washington intends to buy 2,443, at a price tag of $382 billion.

Add in the $650 billion that the Government Accountability Office estimates is needed to operate and maintain the aircraft, and the total cost reaches a staggering $1 trillion.

In other words, we're spending more on this plane than Australia's entire GDP ($924 billion)."

Which is one of the reasons why we see French Mirages leading the attacks on Libya. That and the fact the French and British supplied Libya with many of the weapons Gaddafi and the rebels are using. France gets most of its oil from Libya and thus is especially interested in the outcome of Operation Odyssey Dawn.

The Atlantic

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The French

Okay, something has been bugging me for the last week or so. Why are the French in the lead on this? I mean, all bad jokes aside, the French don't usually take the lead in coalition or allied campaigns. The British, sure. The US, absolutely. The French? I was talking with buddy of mine, another military and foreign affairs buff, and asked him why Sarkozy was the first to launch aircraft for the no-fly zone. He came up with the answer; radar. The Libyans use French radars and since the French are our allies US technology has been developed to jam them. The French have to take to the lead to defeat their own technology.

Libya: U.S. Tomahawk Cruise Missiles Hit Targets in Libya

From ABC News:

"More than 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles struck over 20 targets inside Libya today in the opening phase of an international military operation the Pentagon said was aimed at stopping attacks led by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and enforcing a U.N.-backed no-fly zone."

We are now engaged in our third war with no talk about how President Obama completely by-passed Congress and the War Powers Act. I thought he was going to bring our troops home?

One correction, I've been saying Third Generation Soviet aircraft but have neglected the 50 or so Mirage F-1 aircraft that the French sold Gaddafi. I believe he also bought some AS.12 or AS.15 anti-ship missiles from the French. Now the Allied forces get to figure out if that Mirage is a Libyan or a French pilot.

Libya: U.S. Tomahawk Cruise Missiles Hit Targets in Libya - ABC News

Allied Powers Declare Military Action Against Libya

In case you have not heard, UN has authorized a no-fly zone over Libya. A no fly-zone really doesn't address the Gaddafi's ground forces that are pounding the rebels. The rebels are not as well armed which raises the specter of Western supply of arms to the rebels. Hmm, last I checked Gaddafi was still the legally in charge of Libya despite his ruthless tactics. Arming rebels is an overt way of overthrowing a ruler the West has decided needs to go. Why aren't more Middle Eastern countries protesting? Perhaps because the same groups are trying to takeover in these countries as well and could use the help from the West.

Gaddafi survived years of UN sanctions during the aftermath of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing. Before the outbreak of hostilities Libya produced around 2 percent of the world's oil. The West's intervention will inevitably be seen as a grab for the oil. Thus far, oil prices have not sky-rocketed as originally anticipated because of the crisis in Japan. The Japanese are not able to drive cars and trucks due to the earthquake so their need to import oil has dropped. The drop in demand from Japan is sufficient to keep prices from rising. However, Japan's demand is likely to rise once infrastructure is restored and to offset the loss of energy produced by Japan's nuclear reactors.

The United States is getting drug into ostensibly its third combat operation. US military doctrine has always looked at fighting one major campaign and a delaying on the second campaign. We will now have forces engaged in combat in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya. What most people don't realize is we also have military forces in the Columbia battling drug cartels. We will also increase the number of National Guard on the Southwest Border. OPEC is watching all of this with some delight as the military burns up to fight all of these conflicts. Military contractors are enjoying the boost to their stocks as the rush to provide parts and supplies for this latest operation.

I suspect President Obama will remain consistent with his predecessors and avoid pursuing approval under the War Powers Act. He will also follow suit with the Bush Administration in using private contractors to the maximum extent possible. Private contractors allow the ability to meet the mission requirements without running afoul of military end-strength numbers or constituents getting pissed off because their sons and daughters are dying. The private contractors may not even come from the United States as in the case of Bahrain (which is now using Pakistani contractors to quell unrest), the contractors maybe from other nations (such as Bolivia).

Allied Powers Declare Military Action Against Libya -

Friday, March 18, 2011

F-22 in Combat?

At $64 billion dollars a copy, why would the United States want to use this aircraft to take out third generation Soviet era aircraft? This will be a very expensive show of force and it may be too late. Reports are Gaddafi's forces are pushing towards Benghanzi.

The F-22 Raptor could see combat for the first time if the United States helps enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, Gen. Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday. There is "no doubt that it would be useful and I have the expectation that, at least in the early days, it would be used," he said. Schwartz said there's no question that the United States has the wherewithal to impose a flight-exclusion zone. The issue is "should we and, if so, how?" Estimates that US aircraft would rule the skies over Libya within several days are "overly optimistic," said Schwartz. He thinks it would take "upwards of a week." The operation would require fighters, bombers, tankers, airlift, and intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance assets from bases in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere, he said. It likely would also require shifting some ISR and airlift assets from Southwest Asia where they are supporting operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said. "There would be some tradeoffs involved," he said. Instituting a no-fly zone alone "would not be sufficient" to reverse the Libyan regime's momentum against opposition forces in the last few days, Schwartz noted.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Raymond Davis released

With everything else going on, it is easy to forget why Pakistan may no longer be an all of the United States:

A CIA security contractor jailed in Pakistan was acquitted Wednesday of the January shooting deaths of two Pakistani men in Lahore, in a case that has seriously tested U.S.-Pakistani relations.

The dramatic incident came to a close when the families of the deceased pardoned Raymond Davis in court. In exchange, an attorney for the relatives says they received more than $2 million in compensation.

American's Release Doesn't End Turmoil In Pakistan : NPR

Radiation: Dose and Risk

Get ready for a rash of stupid posts like the one linked below. The author comes up with a half-ass answer that exposure to twice the normal level of radiation equals only a 1 percent increase in cancer. These are the kinds of arguments that are used to justify ignoring a threat. I believe counselors would call this rationalization or denial.

Each one of us is an individual with different pre-existing conditions, differing levels of exposure to radiation, age and diet. All of these factors will change the effects of radiation exposure. People at the plant maybe exposed to only 20 rem but they may be getting much more from the atmosphere, water they drink and food they eat. We don't know how much radiation may already be present in their bodies. They may already have cancer cells present and even a 1 percent increase translates into a much higher incidence for the individual.

We haven't even discussed birth defects. How will the exposure to increase radiation effect pregnant moms or couples looking to have babies in the near future?

The situation in Japan is serious and worse we are going into unchartered waters. People in California are running out buying iodide tablets but how much radiation have they been exposed to already (from food and other environmental factors unrelated to the Japanese reactors?). Stupid shit that is going to create unsubstantiated confidence that they didn't exposed to too much radiation.

Radiation: Dose and Risk - Boing Boing


While the UN debates, Gaddafi's forces are making inroads against the rebels heading towards Benghazi. How did it turn things around? Airpower. I am not in favor of a no-fly zone because it creates too many opportunities for civilian casualties. However, the UN and US inactivity in this matter is almost as bad.

Meanwhile the Egyptians aren't doing too well. One of the protesters was interviewed on NPR yesterday. He had been recently caught and tortured by the Egyptian Army.

Things in Bahrain are worsening with the introduction of Saudi troops to quell the unrest. There is a very strong potential for this situation to create a regional conflict and cause Saudi Arabia to experience the unrest they have thus far been able to avoid.

I have several Facebook "friends" who added me as a friend due to my views on the 2nd and 10th Amendments. Many of these people are of the belief that the situation in Japan is being hyped and is not nearly as dangerous as being portrayed. One otherwise rational lady feels justified in this belief because the Japanese are so adept at nuclear power.

I don't doubt the Japanese technicians and their abilities. But Mother Nature just sent them the biggest earthquake they have ever seen along with multiple aftershocks and tsunamis. My money in on Mother Nature, the minute we start to think we can control the earth she ups the ante.

Now the Japanese, who have been in denial, are finally admitting the meltdown is not really a 4 but more like a 6 (Three Mile Island) and may become a 7 (Chernobyl). Seventeen US sailors were exposed to radiation during relief efforts and had to be decontaminated. The USS Ronald Reagan and other warships pulled back when they detected radiation 160km off the coast of Japan. The French have pulled out their reporters. The Germans, no slouches in the engineering and technical fields, have shutdown 7 of their 17 reactors. Yup, nothing to worry about here.

The prevailing winds tend to blow west to east, meaning radioactive particles could be blown to the western coasts of the US and Canada. Citizens were already making a run on iodide tablets, a known prophylaxis for radiation exposure. California residents were the most alarmed but their state emergency management agency assured citizens they were did not need to purchase the iodide. Unfortunately for the director, the US Surgeon General was in California and contradicted the state director by telling residents they SHOULD buy iodide tablets.

In the midst of all of this excitement, gas prices have risen on aver .4o cents since last month. In Ohio, the governor just unveiled his budget plan which means a reduction in state subsidies for public transportation. Those cuts translates into reduced routes for mass transit in the larger cities (the rural areas will still be some state subsidy).

It is unrealistic to expect any president to be able to have answers for all of the above. I suspect carving out a solution to any single issue requires political maneuvering and bi-partisan support that just isn't possible with today's Congress and Senate. Perhaps that's why the President is out playing golf.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ides of March

On his way to the Theatre of Pompey (where he would be assassinated), Caesar saw a seer who had foretold that harm would come to him not later than the Ides of March. Caesar joked, "Well, the Ides of March have come", to which the seer replied "Ay, they have come, but they are not gone."

In keeping with the Ides of March, these are just some of the headlines for today:

- The king of Bahrain has declared a three-month state of emergency, state TV reports, following weeks of pro-democracy protests in the kingdom.

- Egypt's Interior Minister Mansour al-Issawi has dissolved its internal security agency, which had been blamed for decades of human rights abuses.

- The situation at the quake-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in northeastern Japan ''has worsened considerably,'' the Institute for Science and International Security said in a statement released Tuesday.

- Libya's revolutionary leadership is pressing western powers to assassinate Muammar Gaddafi and launch military strikes against his forces to protect rebel-held cities from the threat of bloody assault.

- Muammar Gaddafi's forces pushed relentlessly eastwards toward Libyan rebels' stronghold of Benghazi on Tuesday, while world powers wrangled over a draft resolution to impose a no-fly zone.

To quote Private Hudson from Aliens, "We're in some pretty serious shit pal!"

Monday, March 14, 2011

Japan crisis: third explosion raises spectre of nuclear nightmare

Third explosion but the second explosion is the most concerning as it creative a plume of radioactive material. The USS Ronald Reagan is on station and has been modeling the plume. The cloud could eventually contaminate parts of the United States and Canada. The amount of radiation may be minute or it could be large in the event of more damage to the reactors. Japan had insured their buildings and infrastructures could withstand earthquakes but what even the Japanese could not have predicted was the effect of earthquake, followed by tsunami/flooding and nuclear fallout. The damage to the Japanese infrastructure is hampering efforts to control the meltdown. We probably don't want to think about what this will do to the seafood from the North Pacific.


'We're told not to breathe the air – it's scary'

Japan experienced a 9.0 earthquake which has produced numerous aftershocks and tsunamis. Japanese building codes are some of the best in world allowing many buildings to survive and mitigating the impact of the disaster. Even so, Japan relies on nuclear power and the aftershocks have set one of the reactors on fire (the secondary containment vessel suffered and explosion. As of this writing, the primary containment vessel remains intact). Radiation is leaking out and it is feared this catastrophe could rival the Three Mile Island disaster. Japan was prepared for the earthquake. They are also prepared for tsunamis. They were not prepared for the combination of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.

Recently Cincinnati unveiled its newest and tallest skyscraper pictured at the top. The top is meant to evoke a crystal crown and is made of class and steel. Looking at this building and several others that make up the Cincinnati skyline, I wonder how many were constructed with an earthquake in mind? Unlike other cities, Cincinnati does not have a history of earthquakes making it unlikely that planners used shock absorbing technology or counter-weights to allow the buildings to survive an earthquake. Such technology is proven but also expensive. Incurring such additional costs in the Tri-State region would probably not get approved by investors.

However, there is a little matter of this:

New Madrid fault has been overdue for an earthquake for many decades. There is the very real possibility with the moon moving closer to the earth than it has in 18 years the additional gravitational pull could trigger additional earthquakes. As I pointed out in an earlier blog, the hills of Cincinnati combined with lots of tall buildings would amplify the effects of any quakes along the New Madrid fault. The five bridges over the Ohio would either collapse or be severely damaged. In-turn, this would shut down the Interstates (I-71, I-75 and I-74). The shut-down of the Interstates would delay relief and recovery efforts. The Ohio River would flood creating mudslides and property damage.

Instead of arguing about casinos and streetcars, city planners need to start asking some serious questions about how the city is going to recover from an earthquake.

Asia, World - The Independent

Warning from Russian Institute on Physics

Saturday, March 12, 2011

UC Professor says Cincinnati should prepare for an earthquake

UC Professor Kilinc says Cincinnati would experience even more devastation than Japan due to the hilly terrain. Rain has saturated the ground and caused flooding in the area. If the New Madrid fault were to shift, the wet soil would create huge mudslides. The hilly terrain and tall office buildings makes matters worse. Professor Kilinc is advocating an earthquake drill in May. Tri-State residents should take heed. Unlike other natural disasters, earthquakes strike without warning. Experts have been predicting a major earthquake in the New Madrid fault. The potential may increase with the news of the moon coming closer to the earth than it has in the last 18 years. The additional gravitational pull could be just enough to create a tectonic shift.

UC Professor says Cincinnati should prepare for an earthquake - FOX19 News

Friday, March 11, 2011

Libyan Air Defense

From the Air Forces Times Daily:

Libya's air defense infrastructure is "quite substantial," said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Thursday. "They have a lot of Russian equipment, and there is a certain quality in numbers," Clapper told the Senate Armed Service Committee. He said the Libyans have "about 31 or so" major surface-to-air missile sites and a radar complex "focused on protecting the coastline" where the vast majority of Libyans live. They also have "a large number" of man-portable surface-to-air missiles, he said. Although some of this equipment has fallen into the hands of forces opposing Muammar Gadafi's rule, Clapper was reluctant to say suppressing the Libyan air defenses would only require several days, when asked. His testimony came as NATO and the international community continue to weigh options, including imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, in response to the violence in the North African state. NATO has already begun around-the-clock surveillance of Libyan airspace. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday at the NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels that the alliance is repositioning naval assets in the central Mediterranean and continues to plan "for all military options." However, "that's the extent of it with respect to a no-fly zone," he said.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Saudi police open fire

Saudi Arabia, major producer of oil, was the only Middle Eastern country to escape the protests. That has just changed:

Saudi police opened fire Thursday to disperse a protest in the section where minority Shiites live, leaving at least one man injured, as the government toughened its efforts to prevent a wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world from reaching the kingdom.

Pan-Islamism now stretches from as far West as Morocco to now the Persian Gulf. The implications for Iran and Israel are not good.

News from The Associated Press

Radical Muslims

'The only real testimony we have on it was actually from Sheikh Kabbani, who was a Muslim leader during the Clinton Administration, he testified, this is back in 1999 and 2000, before the State Department that he thought over 80 percent of the mosques in this country are controlled by radical Imams. Certainly from what I've seen and dealings I've had, that number seems accurate."
--Rep. Peter King, Jan. 24, 2011

The timing of these hearings could not be worse. We are seeing pan-Islamism spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East. NATO and the United States are still arguing about how best to establish a no-fly zone while hundreds or perhaps thousands of Libyans are dying at the hands of Gaddafi thugs. The British SAS get captured by Gaddafi giving him reason the declare the West is merely trying to capture control of Libyan oil production. Now Rep King decides to make news with these hearings.

The United States has been facing unemployment, foreclosures, efforts to end collective bargaining by state employees, and now skyrocketing energy costs. Now add these hearings which will only strain relations with US Muslims and we may see violent outbreaks. King's remarks are the stuff Muslim radicals dream of, now they can recruit and fuel feelings of alienation and anger against the situation in North Africa and the Middle East. King's hearings will do nothing to help improve the situation nor make the United States any safer.

Washington Post Article

More here

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Close Air Support

Close air support uses aircraft (such as the A-10) to engage ground forces that are already in contact with friendly forces. Conversations within the Pentagon and NATO continue about establishing a no-fly zone in Libya. I doubt any of those conversations will address this problem:

"Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's forces are reportedly using tanks and warplanes to attack the rebel-held town of Zawiyah in western Libya. "This is a completely full attack. Approximately 50 tanks have been bombarding the city, crushing everything in sight."

No-fly zones are about keeping enemy aircraft on the ground. In the case of Libya, the intent is to prevent Gaddafi from bombing his people. No-fly zones are useless against armored vehicles that are in contact with civilians. You have to use the right tool.

During the Serbian conflict, I saw video of a British Chieftan tank trying to engage insurgents. The tank tried to swivel its main gun but the dense forest kept is from moving. A few weeks later, I saw another video of the US Marines on a wheeled vehicle with a swivel mounted SAW. This time when the insurgents behaved badly, the Marines was able to immediately point his weapon at the group and good behavior ensued.

Libyan Tanks Moved in to Crush Rebels

Thursday, March 3, 2011

No-fly zone (NFZ)

I try to write my blogs based on my experience and education (both civilian as well as military). Apparently my blog about establishing a no-fly zone inspired one reader to submit an extended response. I'm posting Skyflea's comments here:

An excerpt from an e-mail sent by the Air Force Association CEO:
The air defense system could not threaten the F-22. The Libyans have older systems. The network is integrated for a common radar picture. However, their aircraft are older -- mostly Mig 21s and Mig 23s with some light attack/trainers and some ground attack aircraft. The Surface to Air missiles are also older SA-2s, SA-3s (Viet Nam era) and about 50 SA-6s. The latter are lethal to almost all aircraft except for the F-22. They would have to be dealt with in any regard. But it is not clear what kind of maintenance they have undergone ... nor how well the Libyans are trained on the system.

The central issue, in my mind, with a no-fly zone (NFZ) is a policy one. What do you want to do? It is too facile to say: Stop aircraft from killing people and destroying things ... as it begs the question of: “Soooooo, are you OK with ground forces killing people and destroying things?” If the latter is answered in the negative, then the air piece is only one part of a larger answer. [I worry this option is being considered just to be seen as “Doing Something.”]

A second, but lesser important question is: How long do you want to do this. If the answer is: We don't know ... but plan for a month or so. Then we'll need a couple hundred aircraft for 24/7 ops ... and either 3-4 carriers plus land-based support or bases in nearby nations or both. Italy is the best choice ... and to get its OK, we'll need either a NATO sign off, a UN Security Council Resolution, or just plain leaning on a good friend with a weak government. Other basing options are a bit unsavory. Egypt probably won't help ... neither will Tunisia. Algeria has its own terrorist problems. Israel won't want to be seen in an active role. Other African choices are pretty far away with little infrastructure.

A subset of the first issue -- more in the tactical realm -- is you would want to take out some of the air defenses no matter what systems you use ... and that means killing Libyan troops ... with all the unintended consequences of such actions. Secondly, what do you do about helicopters? They are hard to kill ... especially if they know you are coming. What if they just set down on the top of a building? You can't get them with an air-to-air missile; you'd need bombs [or as some of our members have pointed out – bullets] ... and that may mean civilian casualties ... especially if you don't hit that which you are aiming. Also, you don't generally configure fighters for both air-to-air missions and air-to-ground ones at the same time. Thus the need for more aircraft. The F-22 does carry both types of weapons internally and can do the job. I cannot address the policy question of whether Sec Gates would entertain a request from EUCOM/AFRICOM to deploy the F-22. Some believe he would be reluctant to approve the aircraft’s deployment.

Finally, the Navy is not configured for round the clock operations, except in a short-term surge mode and has to keep a bit of its airpower to defend the fleet. This means less for NFZ ops. The good news is that you would not have to establish a NFZ over the entire country -- probably just the major cities and perhaps a few key air bases.
Bottom line: creating a NFZ over the country is “do-able” – but not simple … and I would want to get the policy pieces answered before we embarked on this option.

Skyflea's comments are right on point. While the F-22 may be able to handle anything Libya can throw at it, why risk your newest (and most expensive) fighter to keep third generation aircraft from taking off? Using older airframes such as F/A-18s means shortening their lifecycle even further after ten years of war. Maintaining Operation Northern and Souther Watch (no-fly zones over Northern and Southern Iraq respectively) was very costly in just fuel and maintenance. Factor in costs associated with maintaining the bases and NFZs become very expensive showpieces.

Operation Provide Comfort (the cease fire operation of Desert Storm and the pre-cursor to Northern Watch) established a no-fly zone at the 38th parallel. The intent was to protect the Kurds of Northern Iraq from Saddam Hussein. While the Iraqi air force did not fly past the 38th parallel, there was nothing stopping Saddam from rolling his artillery right up to the line of demarcation and lobbing artillery rounds. Artillery generally has a range of 18km (11 miles). The Kurds had to move further north to avoid artillery rounds which forced them into contact with Turkish forces. The Turks would attack and drive the Kurds back towards Saddam's artillery.

Shooting down aircraft is unpredictable in respect to where the parts impact the earth. During Operation El Dorado Canyon, Libyan air defense artillery (ADA) created many civilian casualties. Gaddafi's planners only thought about firing solutions out over the Mediterranean. When the FB-111s crossed over land, the ADA batteries had to slew 180 degrees and fire back over Libya. The impact of the rounds caused even more casualties and damage.

If the reports are correct, more and more of Gaddafi's forces are leaving or joining the rebels. I think establishing a NFZ is the answer to the wrong question. The question the US and other governments should be asking is, who will take over Libya when Gaddafi finally falls? We can't let Libya fall into the same lawless chaos as is the case in Somalia.

Passenger boards with 3 boxcutters

The situation in Libya and Yemen seems to mean terrorism is back on the rise. Earlier today, two airmen were shot and killed on a passenger bus at Rhein Main in Germany (a Kosvar has been arrested). Now we learn that the TSA, that was created after 9/11 used boxcutters to hijack aircraft, aren't any better at detecting passengers with deadly weapons. Together all of the events in the world should be cause for great concern.

Article Here

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

No fly zone?

Gaddafi continues to hang on by a thread. More and of his military are switching sides and supporting the rebels (protesters). As Gaddafi tries to use more of his military might, more of his military are defecting or fleeing from Libya. It appears at this point that providing safe areas and providing support to the rebels is going to be far more effective than any military action.

The Pentagon and British Defence Ministry are preparing plans to establish no-fly zones over Libya. The idea being to keep Gaddafi from using helicopters and close air support aircraft to bombard Libyans. The problem is when you start shooting down aircraft, innocent people have a tendency to get hurt.

Russia and China are almost guaranteed to vote against such a plan at the UN. Turkey, a NATO member, is against the use of any military in Libya. The British plan to use a base in Cyprus which will strain relations with Turkey.

There is much more to lose if we use military action at this point versus waiting Gaddafi out.

Article Here

More here