Monday, June 23, 2014

What's next for the White House?

Talking over world events with a friend the other night, it seems we are at some tipping point.  Nothing has thus far started a major conflict, everything seems to be contained to a region.  Some theorizes that this may be the new "normal" for wars, keeping things regionalized which keep costs down.

The theory doesn't allow for the acquisition of new territory which in the end is why most wars are fought.  The Sunnis for example feel they have been left out by Maliki and have thus resorted to war.  Putin felt Russia had receded far enough and annexed Crimea.  China and Japan are rehashing old claims to islands from nearly a century ago.  Japanese and Chinese aircraft are nearly bumping into each other over disputed airspace.  Russian fighters have overflown American warships in the Black Sea at extremely low altitudes.

In the 21st Century, the acquisition of territory is almost always about safety.  In modern times safety equates to access to cheap energy (oil).  The White House isn't worried about the American public tiring of war, the war is often the last thing on the minds of people (unless they themselves or their loved ones are serving).  The White House IS worried about the price of gasoline sky-rocketing as a result of a major conflict in the Middle East.  Rising gas prices would not help the Democrats in mid-term elections and would damage Hillary's chances at getting elected.

Gas prices effect not only how much you pay at the pump but how much consumer goods cost at the store.  Soaring gas prices, or worse a gas embargo, would also cripple the US military.  The jet fuel it takes to fly all of those sorties still comes from the oil pumped out of the ground in the Middle East.  About 10 years ago, the USAF successfully tested a synthetic jet fuel made from shale.  The continental US sits atop huge reserves of shale so if the technology has matured enough, the synthetic jet fuel could keep the F-35s turning and burning without regard to OPEC.  The question is does the process the USAF came with have enough capacity for all of the branches of the service?

The Navy went on better.  They have unveiled a technology for turning seawater into fuel at a cost of $3-$6 a barrel.  The article can be found here.  The process has the benefit of reducing CO2 levels in the ocean and it would eliminate the demand for oil from the Middle East.  Good news, right?  Well except for one thing, the timing of this means the Navy is a position to wait out any conflicts in the Middle East and still be able to run its non-nuclear ships.

Now let's follow that a step further.  The Air Force is rapidly follow out of favor with drones the have a bad habit of falling on innocent bystanders, nuclear launch officers who cheat, sexual assault scandals, and state of the art fighters that spend more time in hangars than in the air.  The Army takes too long to get anywhere and needs too much stuff to win.

The Navy is self-sufficient with ships and airplanes.  The Navy doesn't need expensive overseas bases to operate from.  Their nuclear forces are being benchmarked by the USAF to try to improve the readiness of Global Strike Command airmen.  Navy ships also carry Marines that can land on the shores and take-over stuff if needed.  Now with the ability to run everything on seawater, the Navy may have come back to forefront and give the White House an option to use to wage war.

But even this White House can't just wage war without some type of impetus.  Syria failed to provide enough justification for Obama, even after the use of chemical weapons.  Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons made great sound bytes but provided Obama with even less of a reason to go to war.

Iraq was supposed to be his victory lap in having pulled all the troops out but Washington's trust in Maliki blinded them to his actions.  Maliki marginalized and oppressed the Sunnis and Kurds.  Further complicating matters was the US decision to completely disassemble the Iraqi military and build anew.  The Iraqi military of Saddam Hussein had seen battle many times.  The Iraqi military of Maliki is completely new and is having to operate without their US mentors for the first time.  The results have not been impressive;

After tens of thousands of desertions, the Iraqi military is reeling from what one U.S. official described as “psychological collapse” in the face of the offensive from militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).--The Washington Post

The Sunnis have the Shiites on the ropes.  Contrary to the naysayers, the Sunnis are a bigger threat for they are the majority through Middle East.  The British intelligence agencies are quite concerned that Sunnis in the UK might be inspired towards terrorist attacks since the UK and US did nothing to help them in their fight against Maliki.

It's a stretch but this may be where the White House finds its reason to go to war.  A British 9/11 could give Obama the reason he lacks to go back into Iraq or finally attack Syria.  Of course the Sunnis most likely have operatives here in the US as well and another major attack on US soil could inspire the White House.

I never like the obvious, I think the reason for the US to go to war has yet to come out.  Perhaps Japan and China finally get tired of playing chicken and finally launch forces.  Perhaps North Korea fires a missile at Japan.  I don't think this White House will launch any kind of military action to protect the Southwest border although the continued flood of illegal immigrants here poses the most immediate threat (and where is DHS in all of this?).

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