Thursday, December 29, 2011


At its greatest extent, the Persian Empire included the modern territories of Iran, Turkey, parts of Central Asia, Pakistan, Thrace and Macedonia, much of the Black Sea coastal regions, Afghanistan, Iraq, northern Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and all significant population centers of ancient Egypt as far west as Libya.

Persia, modern Iran, was undone by its decentralized form of government. Modern Iran suffers no such illusions. The reign of the ayatollahs being set into motion by a revolution against the US backed Shah.

While the US and the rest of the Western World worried about terrorists, Iran pursued a two-pronged course of becoming a major power. First is the much hyped Iranian nuclear weapons program. Ahmadinejad has pursued a nuclear weapons program as a way of Iranian self-realization (hence my references to the Persian Empire).

The second and more subtle approach has been becoming the chair of OPEC. Iran now sits at the head of one of the most i
influential organizations when it comes to national security and the economy.

Secretary Clinton has been an outspoken critic of the Iranian nuclear weapons program and has, thus far, been unsuccessful in changing Ahmadinejad's mind. I suspected the announced US Navy drills in the region are another attempt to convince Iran that the US means business. However, Iran seems equally determined to tell the US to "piss off" and has allegedly found the US carrier battle group. To be sure, this is not that difficult. Moving that much metal around in the ocean creates all types of signatures.

Iran has not been just sitting around waiting for the Sec Def to send in the troops. First was the rumored recruitment of a Mexican drug cartel to help assassinate a Saudi Arabian diplomat in the US. Now comes a story about the US selling 84 X F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia. While the $20 billion price tag was enticing to the US, the need for the Saudi family to have better fighter aircraft was paramount. After all, the Arabian and Persian empires were not exactly friends.

As though this weren't enough for the Obama Administration, now comes news of Patriot missiles that were on the way to China. The Patriot missiles were the darlings of the first Persian Gulf War. Patriots missiles protected coalition forces from the very real danger of chemically armed SCUD missiles. China possessing such technology, in light of the passing of North Korea's long-time leader, is not good news. Had the Finland doc workers been less vigilant, the US would be at a terrific disadvantage on the Korean peninsula.

I don't know what will happen in 2012, the Mayan calendar not withstanding. We have a presidential election, a troop downsizing, budget cuts, continued unemployment, a contentious relationship with Pakistan, a worse relationship with Iran, and now an unknown taking over the reigns in North Korea. It seems like the perfect storm.

Iran pinpoints US carrier

Patriot Missiles Seized

US to sell F-15s to Saudi Arabia

Friday, December 23, 2011

Does Airport Security Really Make Us Safer?

Vanity Fair is not exactly where one would look for articles on homeland security. The article below does raise some of the same questions I've asked. Are we really safer for the amount of money we are spending? The author, Charles C. Mann, follows around the chief security officer for British Telecom (BT) as he points out many of the flaws associated with our airport security measures.

Even after teaching TSA personnel, I have some of the same concerns. Looking for what happened previously prevents a more fluid approach to looking for the unusual. Case in point, removing shoes. One moron tried it, didn't work, but we still look for shoes. This lead another moron to stuff liquid explosives in his underwear. It didn't work either but not because of our screening process but because of vigilant passengers.

The article also points out the greatest flaw, we are focusing our efforts almost exclusively on passengers. Support personnel and vendors, who work daily at the airport, can easily by-pass procedures or smuggle weapons on-board for other operatives to use.

I also believe if we want to down an airliner, there are multiple ways to do it that don't require the terrorist to ever set foot on an airport.

Do we still need TSA? Yes but not for any reasons the author wrote about. TSA provides a tremendous psychological deterrent to would-be terrorists. Much like the greeter at Wal-mart, TSA lets people know someone is watching. It also makes other travelers feel that something is being done to make them safer. You can't prove a negative, we really can't prove how many terrorists were stopped by TSA. But TSA doesn't just stop terrorists. They seize weapons, drugs and larges sums of cash daily. Most of these seizures result in arrests and convictions by law enforcement agencies.

Vanity Fair

Thursday, December 22, 2011

North Korea's military to share power with Kim's heir

The North Korean military wins the race to being able to directly influence Kim Jong-eun. Having the military with no civilian checks pretty much makes North Korea a junta. North Korea will be more inclined than ever to sell military technology to people or states the US doesn't want to have it. It also lessens the likelihood of a diplomatic solution to any disagreements North Korea may have.

Exclusive: North Korea's military to share power with Kim's heir | Reuters

Monday, December 19, 2011

North Korea

So let's review the last 60 years on the Korean Peninsula. Japan occupied Korea through the end of WWII, after which the North was controlled by the Soviet Union. After the Korean War (1950-1953), Kim Il-Sung adopted a policy of "self-reliance" which set the stage for North Korea's isolation from the rest of the modern world. It also resulted in the longest cease-fire in history. The United States has maintained a heavy troop presence there ever since the war.

According to the CIA Factbook, North Korea "demonized the US as the ultimate threat to its social system through state-funded propaganda, and molded political, economic, and military policies around the core ideological objective of eventual unification of Korea under Pyongyang's control. "

KIM Il Sung's son, KIM Jong Il (who died of heart attack over the weekend), was officially designated as his father's successor in 1980, assuming a growing political and managerial role until the elder KIM's death in 1994.

Under Kim Jong Il, North Korea focused exclusively on becoming a nuclear power at the cost of starving its own people. A German documentary film maker recently gained access to North Korea. Kim Jon Il's obsession has turned the capital, Pyongyang, into a bizarre movie set. Traffic cops stand in intersections directing non-existent traffic. High rise buildings are empty facades with elevators that don't operate.

The nuclear program was no empty promise. North Korea seemed to take great delight in firing ballistic missiles over Japan or at the Hawaiian islands. The missiles were clearly capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

The cost has been millions of North Koreans starving. It has often been speculated that the North would revolt against Kim but he was fondly referred to as "Dear Leader". A North Korean newscaster broke down in tears while announcing the death of Kim Il-Jong.

Kim Il-Jong did realize he needed to set a succession plan in motion. Instead of the 70-year senior Kim, North Korea now has his inexperienced 28-year old son Kim Jong-eun. Much like when an established monarch would pass, Kim Jong-eun is not guaranteed to remain in power.

First, it has long been assumed the only thing preventing the reunification of the Korean peninsula was Kim Jong-Il. Rival North Korean generals and Workers’ party officials will jostle for positions. China may not support reunification efforts which would allow a US ally to be on its border.

Kim Il-eun was promoted by his father to four-star general (though he has never been in the military). He may feel it necessary to prove his "street creds" by escalating hostilities against South Korea or US forces stationed in the Pacific. Or some of the general staff may take advantage of the younger Kim's lack of experience to start aggression.

The one good signs seems to be shares on Seoul’s Kospi index closed down 3.4 per cent. China may not want an economic crisis on its borders. Foreign investors, already leery about the European economic crisis, may become skittish about Pacific markets. This may create an incentive for cooler heads to prevail.

The one area that should cause some concern is the history between Pakistan and North Korea. Pakistan sold Stinger missiles to North Korea back in the late 1980s. Pakistan and US relations have heated up over the recently killing of Pakistani soldiers by US forces. Kim Jong-eun may be drawn into escalating this tension. The US is not in a position to deal with this two-pronged attack and still be able to keep Iran in check.

Last flight home

Sixty-two airmen and 55 soldiers assigned to Camp Adder, known to the Iraqis as the Imam Ali Base, on the outskirts of Nasiriyah in southern Iraq, boarded a C-17 from Travis AFB, Calif., on Dec. 17 for a flight back to Kuwait. It was the last flight from the last US military base on the last night of Operation New Dawn.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Satellite Takes Picture Of Chinese Carrier On The Move

The Varyag is actually Russian bought by the Chinese. While the picture is dramatic, China is not able to launch or recover aircraft from it. We take for granted the ability to launch and recover large aircraft, such as F-18s, from floating runways. In fact, the US was the only major power able to develop the steam catapult system required to get high-performance aircraft up to the necessary speed on a very short field. The Soviets compensated by using a VTOL aircraft, the Yak-38. It was a Soviet knock-off of the Harrier jump jet. The Yak-38 kill more Soviet pilots due to its inferior design and under-powered engine. Aircraft carriers are expensive, complicated pieces of technology. The advent of unmanned aerial vehicles makes this technology is an expensive endeavor to look like a super power. Aircraft carriers are also large targets out on the open sea and need support groups (consisting of cruisers, destroyers, frigates and attack submarines) to protect it. The picture shows China is determined to become a super power able to project its presence globally. However, it may be pursuing yesterday's technology.

Fox News

Monday, December 12, 2011

Major battle in Syria

Nine months and 4,000 deaths later, Syria is still attacking its people without any signs of slowing down. Reports also indicates that many of the attacks in the south are being conducted by Hezbollah. While the West is nowhere to be seen, it should also be noted that NATO or US intervention does not necessarily an improvement. Libya was under Gaddafi for 41 years. The Arab Spring combined with NATO airstrikes forced him out and into the hands of an executioner. However, it appears an even more severe government will take over with the Muslim Brotherhood solidly in charge.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Iran releases video of downed U.S. spy drone–looking intact

Photo credit: George Teichrib

In a rather "revoltin" development, Iran has now posted a video showing what looks like a RQ-170 Sentinel drone. I can't help but draw an analogy to the 1960 downing of a U-2 spy plane flown by CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers.

The United States thought the incredible high operating ceiling of the U-2 made it invulnerable to Soviet air defense systems. The CIA began overflying the Soviet Union in 1956 but it took the Soviets about four years of overflights to formulate a plan. The U-2s were based in Pakistan. Although the aircraft operate at extreme high altitude (80,000+), they are relatively slow moving. The U-2 is essential a jet powered glider.

By having spies in Pakistan, the Soviets were alerted when Powers' U-2 took off. This gave them enough time once the U-2 was picked up to fire three SA-2s missiles. One scored a hit, Powers was unable to activate the aircraft's self-destruct mechanism. The Soviets gained a tremendous asset in both the aircraft technology as well as the political embarrassment of having captured Powers alive. The whole affair directly contributed to the Soviets placing SA-5 missiles in Cuba leading to the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962.

The United States called on Kelly Johnson (who had developed the U-2) to develop an aircraft that would not be vulnerable to Soviet air defense systems. That aircraft was of course the SR-71 which flew higher and faster than the U-2. It is interesting to note that not a single SR-71 was ever shot down.

If the Iranian video is real, then the United States faces a very similar situation (minus a pilot). The RQ-170 contains not only the latest surveillance technology in use by the United States, it also uses the latest stealth technology. It is also the most advance unmanned aerial vehicle in use. Iran may have gained one hell of a jump on the US and will now be able to design counter-measures to defeat our stealth and drone technology.

It also shows just how concerned the United States has become about Iran's nuclear program. Sending a state-of-the-art stealth drone may single to the Iranian government that the US or Israel are planning some type of military action. Unlike Iraq, Iran has no been waging a protracted war with the United States. Its military is at full-strength and may also posses a nuclear capability. The US military has been engaged in a ten year war on two fronts (Iraq and Afghanistan). A military conflict with Iran won't be easy and won't go quickly. The Obama Administration also needs to be concerned should they decide to attack Iran how Russia and China will respond.

Yahoo! News

Monday, December 5, 2011

Ex-leader: Khmer Rouge not 'bad people'

Between 1975-79, Pol Pot lead Kampuchea through a social engineering experiment. He forced all of his urban residents into the country side to learn farming, in effect forced labor. Doctors, nurses, engineers, musicians, artists...basically anyone with education or training was forced to become a farmer. Those that did not comply were executed. It is estimated that from 2 million to as many as 5 million Cambodians were executed in the name of social engineering, placing Pol Pot on par with Hitler and somewhat below Stalin in the number of his own people killed. But apparently, they were not 'bad people' since it really was the Vietnamese (according to his second in charge).

Al Jazeera English

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Iran Says It Shot Down Unmanned U.S. Plane

Earlier today, Iran claimed to have shot down a unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) fly by the United States. The shoot down allegedly occurred near the border between Iran and Afghanistan. The drone that went down wasn't just any drone but the RQ-170 Sentinel which is a stealth aircraft able to avoid detection by enemy radars.

The attack was later denied by the US claiming while a drone did crash it was due to mechanical failure. An earlier report by Iran that they had shot down back in July proved false.

If the reports are true this time, it means the US has to rethink its stealth technology used in the RQ-170. More than likely, drones have been operating in Iranian airspace gathering intelligence on the potential nuclear weapons program bragged about by Ahmandinejad. The situation is eerily similar to when Francis Gary Powers U-2 was downed by the Soviet Union. The United States thought the U-2 flew high enough to avoid missiles but they were wrong. The presence of US drones in Iran indicates the level of concern Washington has about Iran's nuclear program.

The presence of the drones is likely to ignite further problems for the US after last week's attack in Pakistan that killed two dozen residents. Support for US forces in the region has waned and this latest situation more give more support to Iran.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Turkey announces sanctions against Syria

"The sanctions by Turkey, one of Syria’s top trading partners, come as the Arab League and the European Union are enacting their own punitive measures — a triple blow that highlights the growing isolation of the Damascus government and that could significantly hurt Syria’s economy. In Washington, the White House commended the Turkish government for imposing the sanctions, which it said will “undoubtedly increase the pressure on the Syrian regime.”

Syria is one of the last holdouts from the Arab Spring which saw many longstanding North African and Middle Eastern governments falls to internal conflicts. Some such as Tunisia or Algeria occurred with little bloodshed while others like Egypt and Libya were violent conflicts last many months. The United States and NATO led the air campaign against Qaddafi's regime and aided the rebels in overturning his government. Many in both the Middle East and West saw the United States preparing to get involved in the Syrian crisis, perhaps as a prelude to an attack against Iran.

Bashar al-Assad was elected president of Syria in 2000 after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad who had ruled Syria for 29 years until his death. While Syria has prospered under economic policies implemented by his father, Assad's reign has been plagued by charges of corruption, human rights violations, and economic collapse.

When opposition forces started to call for his resignation, Assad launched some of the most violent attacks seen during the Arab Spring. In one weekend alone, the Syrian military killed over 500 Syrian protestors. The violence is so extreme that the Arab League has called for Assad's resignation.

So why hasn't the United States started to drop GPS guided munitions all over Assad's palace? Well for two reasons. First, although some feared intervening in Syria would merely be a prelude for a US attack of Iran the risk of such of attack make it unlikely. The second reason was our friends the Russians are planning to send a battle group in response to the USS George H. Bush being on station off the shore of Syria.

Russia and China have both warned the United States not to become involved in the Syria crisis. The presence of Russian ships may be in response to US plans to expand a missile defense system into form Eastern Bloc countries or that Ukraine, Lithuania and Latvia are being considered for membership in the EU.

Matters are getting worse. An airstrike earlier in the week by US forces resulted in two dozen Pakistanis being killed. Relations have deteriorated with our "ally" Pakistan. The attack could be used as a recruiting tool by radical Islamists in Syria. Turkey is after all a NATO member and their sanctions may be viewed as sponsored by the US.

We are going into the Christmas season with many Americans beginning their travels over the next few weeks. Terrorists may take this opportunity to attack Americans either abroad or at home.

The Washington Post

Friday, November 18, 2011

AFP: Pentagon successfully tests hypersonic flying bomb

The Pentagon tested a hypersonic vehicle that can strike a target anywhere in the world in an hour. While the Pentagon did not release the actual speed of the vehicle, a hypersonic vehicle by definition would be capable of speeds in excess of Mach 5. The new weapon is maneuverable unlike a ballistic missile meaning its flight path can be changed. I don't think the announcement of this test is no coincidence. Increased tensions with Iran makes this test especially important. Washington may hope this gives them the leverage to convince Ahmadinejad to back down.

AFP: Pentagon successfully tests hypersonic flying bomb

Monday, November 14, 2011

US officials worried about security at London 2012 Olympics

There are many layers to this story. First the United Kingdom is no slouch when it comes to security and counter-terrorism. The Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS) have been used as models for other counter-terrorist groups (such as the US Delta Force). The UK government had to deal with the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) bombings and assassinations for decades. New Scotland Yard has had to deal with a huge increase in criminal organizations that are as heavily armed as any American gang.

The United States complaints seem to have to deal with not enough security personnel by the UK. In response, the US is sending the FBI and diplomatic security. The response indicates the US government is much more concerned about retaliation either for the past Global War on Terror, the air campaign against Libya, or perhaps anticipated future hostilities with Iran. The choice of the FBI is intriguing. I understand the need for a law enforcement agency but I would have thought the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security would have been the preferred choice in this circumstance.

The United States is becoming more adept at straining relations with former allies. While I agree the 2012 Olympic Games pose some very grave concerns, embarrassing a long-standing ally does not make sense.

The Guardian

Sunday, November 13, 2011

As Obama Talks Sanctions With Foreign Leaders, Lawmakers, Candidates Debate War On Iran | Fox News

Okay, Leon Panetta is not one of my favorite beltway insiders. I think he rather uninspired thinker and as proof, recently named a Democratic Congressman to chair the investigations of the mortuary operations at Dover AFB only to have very same Congressman resign since he was already running for office! However, of late he has been making a lot of sense that President Obama chooses to ignore.

Secretary Panetta only three days ago warned that the proposed super committees recommendation to slash $1.2 trillion in the defense budget could result in aggression towards the United States. In Ohio alone (home to Wright-Patteson AFB), we could active duty military go from 8,000 to 1,000 (as though Ohio needs any more help with unemployment!). Panetta then sounded the alarm that any military action against Iran would at best slow their nuclear program by only about three years. Furthermore, the Sec Def feels (in my opinion correctly) that any strike against Iran would bring retaliation from the Persians (sorry, Iranians).

Given all of Panetta's calls for caution, it seems incredulous that President Obama would seek to continue to antagonize Iran with sanctions. Senator Lindsey Graham's words are just ridiculous. The United States does not need to go to war with Iran and does not need to condone Israeli strikes against Iranian targets. I entered the military at the height of the Cold War and spent most of my early years training how to defeat the Soviet threat. Iran does not pose that order of magnitude threat. And less we all forget, the only country to use nuclear weapons is the United States. If we did not drop the bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, then the Soviet Union would not have felt compelled to pursue their nuclear weapons programs with such gusto (yes, I know how many lives are alleged to have been saved by dropping the atomic bombs). With the US and Soviet Union pursuing nuclear weapons, Britain and France followed suit along with North Korea, China, India, Pakistan and Israel (some say even South Africa and Germany). But the United States seems hellbent on stopping the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons regardless of the long term consequences.

Fox News

Israel refuses to tell US its Iran intentions

Ah, now here is a surprise (not!). Israel is not taking the threat of a nuclear Iran lightly. They most likely will be the first target of any Iranian nuclear attack. Therefore, Israel may just take out the Iranian nuclear program. Panetta and Obama want assurance that Israel won't do anything so rash. Needless to say, Israel is saying mind your own damn business. I don't see this situation improving at all.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Iran explosion at Revolutionary Guards military base

The photo above is not photo-shopped, that is a Grumman F-14 Tomcat painted with Iranian paint scheme. Once upon a time, Iran and the US were allies. Shah Pahlavi came to power after WWII and in partnership with the British created the Anglo-Persian Petroleum Oil Company (better known as BP today, minus the Persian part). The Shah was secular Muslim meaning he was very pro-West. The Muslim clerics was none too happy and opposed the Shah. The Shah maintained his power in no small part through his secret police (SAVAK). In keeping with other secret police agencies, SAVAK kidnapped, tortured and murdered any and all opponents to the Shah. The Iranian people grew tired of this crap and staged a revolution most notably by seizing the American embassy in Tehran. Fifty-two Americans were held hostage for 444 days. The Shah fled into exile and Ayatollah Khomeini came to power re-establishing Iran as a theocracy.

The US and Iran relations have never been the same. The failed rescue attempt (Operation Eagle Claw) was a complete humiliation for US special operations (especially Delta Force) leaving a bad taste in President Reagan's mouth for Iran. He abandoned the former US ally in favor of one Saddam Hussein during the 8 year Iran-Iraq war. Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980 (much as Hussein would almost a decade later with Kuwait). Iran regained much of the territory and for much of the war, Iran was on the offense. Hussein responded by using chemical weapons. Yes, dear children your read that correctly. The US was an ally of Saddam Hussein who used chemical weapons. Now do you see why George W. thought in 2003 he would find weapons of mass destruction?

Meanwhile, Iranians were not that impressed with a theocratical form of government. The ayatollahs allowed the election of a secular president (who would take orders from them). The sixth and current president of Iran is of course Ahmadinejad. He is the least cooperative with the ayatollahs and is the most hellbent on creating a nuclear weapons capability for Iran. He idolizes the rich history of the Persian Empire and seeks to regain it through the acquisition of nuclear weapons. It is important to understand that the Iranians are Persians, not Arabs. Therefore they are much more inclined to move unilaterally compared to an Arabian country.

Secretary Clinton recognizes this proclivity and has stated outright that the acquisition of nuclear weapons technology by Iran is unacceptable. Ahmadinejad counters by stating Iranian nuclear reactors are strictly for peaceful purposes. Israel is not buying it and has threatened a unilateral (read, non-US) airstrike to take the reactors out. Many (including myself) felt the air campaign against Libya was more of a cautionary tale for Iran than actually supporting Libyan rebels.

A few weeks ago, the US media was not buying a supposed plot uncovered by the Department of Homeland Security staring Iran (surprise!) sponsoring Mexican drug lords (another surprise!) to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the US (who?). The plot was such a stretch that none of the cable news networks bought the story. It was quickly overcome by other stories and dropped.

Now the BBC is reporting this explosion at a Revolutionary Guards base. Perhaps I'm just jaded but I suspect we may find out US or Israeli special forces are responsible. Even if they are not, we may see Ahmadinejad claiming they were. May we live in interesting times.

BBC News

Friday, November 11, 2011

Prosecutors raid German arms maker Heckler & Koch’s offices over alleged bribes in Mexico

While Eric Holder claims that the US Attorney General can't be expected to know about Operation Fast and Furious, one of Germany's arms maker seems to have followed suite. Heckler & Koch (H&K) produces some of the most sophisticated weapons in the world including the MP5, G3 and MK23. Their weapons are well made, heavy and the preferred choice of special operators around the world. The reputation and craftsmanship of H&K weapons are such that they command top dollar prices. A typical H&K USP in 9MM will run around $700 or more (a comparable Glock can be had for about $100 less).

It seems H&K executives may have provided weapons to Mexican drug cartels in part to drive up their overseas sales. The actions of both the US Attorney General and H&K are egregious but what is lacking is the outrage against these drug cartels. They are operating way above the law and thus far, the US has not called on the Mexican government to do more. The United States went to war over a single terrorist act but thus far, no outrage has followed the revelations about Fast & Furious. Yes, the BATF should be held accountable for their actions but what about the drug cartels themselves? How much longer are we going to tolerate this undeclared war?

The Washington Post

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told members of the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday that he expects the Pentagon's strategic review to be complete by year's end. That review is likely to outline the fate of the Air National Guard's newest airlifter, the C-27J, which embarked on its first deployment to Afghanistan this summer. The service already has purchased 21 aircraft, with plans to purchase 17 more. However, that appears to be under debate as service leaders grapple with fiscal uncertainties. Schwartz said the "decision is not final" over whether to put the remaining C-27Js on the chopping block, but he added that such a move "would be extremely painful to me personally." He explained that he made a "commitment" to retired Gen. George Casey, former Army Chief of Staff, "that I would not do this deal with him and then back out." The C-27J was originally an Army program, but was later transferred to the Air Force. "That was two years ago, so I've got personal skin in this," said Schwartz. But, Schwartz also said that budget constraints are forcing the Air Force to look at reducing entire fleets, "not a few here and a few there.

The C-27J was procured to backfill the tactical airlift gap created by the culling of the C-130s from the Air National Guard. As Katrina proved, the ability of the Air National Guard to use C-130s to move materials into Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana was critical to restoring infrastructure and services. Despite this track record, the 2005 Base Re-Aslignment and Closure (BRAC) recommendations was to cull most of the C-130Hs and C-130Js from ANG. The C-27J was a stop-gap to allow the National Guard some tactical airlift for contingency response and homeland security. Barely a year after the first C-27s were fielded, the remaining airframes are in jeopard of being slashed. Not only will these airframes never get purchased, there is no other option available to the states.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ex-intel chief to Gaddafi wounded, raising more questions about handling of detainees

The former intelligence chief to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi was seriously injured Tuesday while in the custody of the National Transitional Council, fueling concerns about the treatment of loyalists to the deposed government.

Just wait, this is only the beginning of the Islamic Jihad taking over in Libya and Egypt.

The Washington Post

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gilad Shalit freed in Israeli-Palestinian prisoner swap

Israel has been known for some time as setting the standard for hostage negotiations and counter-terrorism. Therefore, the release of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners (many of whom were convicted of violent crimes) in exchange for one Israeli soldier seems completely contrary to their hardline stance. On the Israeli side, it will be seen by hardliners as appeasement and weakening of their position. To the Palestinians, it has to be a tremendous PR and political game-changer to have won such a large scale release of prisoners for a single Israeli soldier. The article does not make it clear why Israel was so interested in this prisoner or willing to release so many prisoners in exchange for his release. Secretary Clinton gives an oblique comment that she is happy Shalit's ordeal is over which begs the question, she isn't happy for the families of the Palestinians that were returned home?

I usually can come up with some rationale behind foreign policy or military decisions that are left out of the media. In this case, I am at quite a loss for a rational explanation. Sure Israel wants to get back their soldier but at such a steep price? He was only 19 when captured so it is unlikely he possessed some state secret Israel wanted to prevent from being revealed. He has also been in captivity since 2006, meaning he has divulged any secrets by now. It seems beyond reason that the Palestinians could have found some bargaining chip that would allow them to trade one prisoner for 1,000 but it appears that this may have been exactly what occurred.

The only clue may be that this deal was brokered by Egypt, the only Muslim nation to have normal relations with Israel. Israel and Egypt have not been getting along as well since the removal of Mubarak and the Arab Spring. The exchange may been more about appeasing Egypt than Palestine. If so, we may need to be more worried that the Egyptian Islamic Jihad may making a marked return to power in the land of the Pharaohs.

Gilad Shalit freed in Israeli-Palestinian prisoner swap

Thursday, October 13, 2011

U.S. Accusations of Iran Plot Face Skepticism

When this story first broke on Tuesday, it sounded very much like a major terror attack against the US had be thwarted. As the story developed, the story became the US thwarted an attempt by Iranians (contracted through a Mexican drug dealer) to attempt an assassination of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the US. The plot supposedly involved the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Coprs (Quds Force, an elite unit contained within), which would be like the SEALs or Delta Force plotting an assassination but getting arrested after arriving at the airport. The attempt was amateurish and not indicative of the Quds Force. The question of course is why?

The US and Iranian relations have been strained ever since the Tehran embassy was stormed and American hostages seized in 1979. Fifty-two Americans were held hostage for 444 days. The Shah was deposed and the Ayatollah Khoemeni returned from exile to establish a theocratical government. Prior to these events, Iran was one of the main allies of the United States in the region. To this day, Iran still flies F-14s sold to them by the US. The US was so enamored with Iran that the CIA staged the coup allowing the Shah to assume power.

The 1990s did little to improve US/Iranian relations (remember Reagan was elected in large part because of Carter's inability to get the hostages release). The Bush Administration, hellbent on waging the Global War On Terror (GWOT), saw Iran as part of the axis of evil. Relations became even more strained as the GWOT hunted weapons of mass destruction, Iran's past dabbling with nuclear reactors became a major focus.

President Obama ran on a campaign on bringing the troops home and by implication, end the war on terror. The first signs he was going to keep his promise was when he reduced the troop strength in Iraq...only to immediately increase the troop strength in Afghanistan! Okay, fair enough as the Afghani campaign had been, in the minds of many experts, ignored. But then Secretary Clinton started to make statements about how unacceptable it was that Iran (now being run by Ahmadinejad) was pursuing a policy of acquiring nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad countered that US imperialism was cause for his country to be concerned and take appropriate measures.

If it seemed a stretch that the US would go to war with Iran, when Odyssey Dawn (the air campaign against Libya's Gaddafi) was launched it seemed more like a prelude to attacking Iran than supporting Libyan rebels (another country who used to a US ally in the 1960s). Syria, which benefits from its relationship with Iran, has been going through its own Arab Spring with Assad worried about his future. Unlike Libya, no air support means the rebels have not had as much success. Syria could be prove to be the catalyst to a much broader conflict between the US and Iran.

The attempted assassination of the Saudi ambassador seems to be either a clumsy attempt by Iran to incite a conflict or the US looking for zebras whenever they hear hoof beats.

U.S. Accusations of Iran Plot Face Skepticism -

Monday, October 10, 2011

‘Time short’ for eurozone

"Time short" for eurozone according to David Cameron. The European Union was first formed in 1958 by six member countries. What we think of today as the European Union was created by the Maastricht Treaty in 1993. Today the EU consists of 27 countries.

What I've always found fascinating was the very concept of the EU is contrary to the history of Europe. The continent of Europe consists of some 50 countries which is a rather huge number given the land mass of Europe in comparison to Africa or Asia. Why so many countries? In short, because the various kingdoms and duchies did not trust one another. The lack of trust lead to the agreements that triggered the First World War. France and England did not trust Germany (which did not trust the former) which ultimately lead to World War II.

National pride has always been at the heart of Europeans. Don't believe it? Go watch Germans or Spaniards cheer on their favorite football (soccer to us) team. Pittsburgh Steeler fans don't even come close! Why then try to create an institution of transnationalism pretending that everyone likes and trusts one another?

The Greek economy has failed in a spectacular way and the EU is demanding Germany and France bail out the Greeks. Wars have been started over less and I think the Greek bailout (which would also lead to bailouts of Ireland, Spain and Portugal) would start more riots in Europe. Countries such as the United Kingdom and Denmark that did not join the EU are dealing with declining economies as demand for their goods declines due to the drop of EU based economies. Increased shipping costs are also helping to reduce profits for the Europeans.

Americans know we have nothing to be smug about. Our jobs continue to decline despite huge injections of cash by the Obama Administration to create new jobs. The problem in the United States is not a jobs problem but stagnant growth. Companies will add jobs if there is more demand for their goods or services. However, to simply mandate the creation of new jobs is forcing more of employers to shut down or relocate. Fewer jobs means less tax revenue to offset the cost of two wars that have been waging for a decade. Now we see groups like Occupy Wall Street beginning to surface. They don't know what they want but they know what they don't like. Sounds like a recipe for riots to me.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Libya, Egypt, Syria

You get distracted by issues at work and things are both but much worse after the Arab Spring.

Seven months later, Gaddafi has been run out of town and rebels are have created a Transitional National Council.  NATO has spent "hundreds of millions," according to a state from NATO Supreme Allied Commander Admiral Stavridis back in June.  Despite an intense air campaign, it took rebel forces many months to route Gaddafi forces.  We may see and even more dictatorial regime emerge as opposition forces look to oppress former  Gaddafi sympathizers.

Egyptians threw out Hosni Mubarak during the Arab Spring but again with no real plan as to what to do once he was gone.  A good study might be to ask why the United States stood around while the successor to Anwar Sadat and the leader of the only Arabic country to get along with Israel was ousted.  Well one would have to look a little practice called rendition used by many countries but most recently the United States.  Rendition means moving a suspect (usually a terrorist suspect) to a third country where other means of persuasion can be applied.  Egypt was the preferred destination for those that the US wanted interrogated.  If you think about that for a minute, a country that could interrogate (read, torture) other suspects might have acquired those skills by first using them on their own people.

Oh, Egypt was doing us a favor either.  Most of those that were sent their through rendition were early al-Qaeda operatives (you know, back when we gave Osama bin Laden Stinger missiles to use against the Soviet Union?).  Now the latest is 19 dead in clashes with the government that has taken over in Egypt.  Unlike Libya and Syria, at least 10 percent of Egyptians are Coptic Christians and are quite concerned that an ultra conservative Islamic government could take over.

Syrian leader Assad has been fending off rebels almost as long as in Libya but with different results.  While former Libyan leader Gaddafi is on the run, Assad is still very much in control of Syria.  Syria has warned against recognizing the rebels.  Fighting has been intense but unlike Libya, Syrian rebels don't have the benefit of NATO air cover.  Syria receives support and weapons from Iran which could be another reason the West has treaded much more lightly with this outbreak of the "Arab Spring".

What does the world get for all of the violence?  It is difficult to say.  It looks like France may have secured itself a choice seat at the table to discuss Libya's oil (which is around 2 percent of the world's production).  If Egypt becomes more conservative, it means heightened tensions with Israel (security officers on both sides have been killed).  Turmoil in Syria might mean some type of intervention by Iran (either overtly or covertly).  Syria and Turkey have also been exchanging fire.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Secret panel can put Americans on kill list'

(Reuters) - American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions, according to officials.


Was it legal?

From the Palm Beach Post:

The killing of the U.S.-born Al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki on Friday along with another U.S. citizen and two other Al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen is likely to fuel the international controversy over the legality and wisdom of the Obama administration's dramatically increased use of drone attacks.
For several years, U.S. allies have made no public comment, even as U.S. drone strikes have killed twice as many suspected Al-Qaeda and Taliban members than were ever imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. But that acquiescence may change, as human rights groups and the media debate the legality and collateral damage of drone attacks. The U.S. drone program has been highly effective in killing senior Al-Qaeda leaders, but the administration needs to better explain and defend its use of drones to avoid losing international support and potentially exposing administration officials to legal liability
The U.S. position, under the Bush and Obama administrations, has been that drone strikes against Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders are permitted by the September 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act, which empowered the president to use "all necessary and appropriate force" against nations, organizations or persons who planned, committed or aided the Sept. 11 attacks. The United States also believes that drone strikes are permitted under international law and the United Nations Charter as actions in self-defense, with or without the consent of the country where the strike takes place.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Obama impeachment a possibility, says Ron Paul

I don't necessarily disagree with what Ron Paul is saying here. The killing of thousands in the name of the Global War of Terrorism has not made the world safer. The Obama Administration dropped the term "GWOT" from their lexicon, then promptly sent in SEAL Team Six to execute Osama bin Laden. Make no mistake, the unclassified information shows that we knew where UBL (the Bush Administration short-hand) was for long enough plan a raid. We should have captured UBL and prosecuted him, instead he became a bullet-stop and was buried at sea. Historians will be analyzing and debating that for a long time. The case of al-Awlaki adds another component; no matter what he did or helped inspire others to do he was an American citizen. Are we watching the Obama Administration become the trigger-happy vigilantes they accused the Bush Administration of being?

Monday, October 3, 2011


Back in May 2010, the Greeks started demonstrations and protests against austerity measures implemented to counter the debt crisis.  The bailout of the Greek economy created more demonstrations and protests and none have so far created the desired result.

France has strikes and protests on a fairly regular basis.  The French followed suite with the Greeks (plus the Irish, Belgians and Spanish) in protest of exploding deficits created by European Union (EU) policies.  Unlike their non-Gaul friends, the French took protests to a new level.  French rail and airway workers struck shutting down the country for several days.  Like Greece, French workers have threatened rolling strikes to keep the pressure on the government and EU.

Not to be outdone by their Norman neighbors, the British most recently rioted in August when police fatally shot Mark Duggan in North London.  Originally the impetus of this riot was poor relations between police and the local community but as the riot quickly spread, the economic impact became quite evident.  The rioters were looting communities and organized crime had figured out that through social media, they could recruit thugs to help them out.  The police simply could not respond fast enough to a flash mob striking multiple businesses at one time.

Most white Americans are descendants of the same European nations that have experienced riots and protests in the last few years that it seemed the United States (which was founded by a revolution after all) would eventually see some type of protest.  We did not have to wait all that long.

While the news media followed a hunk of space debris falling from the sky, a group called Occupy Wall Street started to stage protests in the financial district.  A core group of around 200 protestors has been able to orchestra demonstrations consisting of thousands of people.  Over 700 were arrested this weekend when the protestors staged a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Protestors have assembled in as divergent areas as Albuquerque, Boston and Los Angeles in support of the core movement in New York.  While exact demands remain vague, interviews indicate people are protesting over financial policies that are leaving more and more Americans in debt.  Two weeks into the protests and the movement shows no signs of abating.

While terrorism takes the front page (see al-Awlaki, while an influential cleric he never did pose a direct threat), the Occupy Wall Street poses a far different problem.  What happens when hundred or even thousands of protestors all organize and demonstrate at the same time?  There aren't enough law enforcement officers in the country to handle such a situation.  Even if there were, where would they process or lock-up all of the demonstrators?  We may be seeing a similar situation developing here in the US that has been going in Europe for the last few years.  Unlike Europe, we have a much larger population which is connected virtually.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Deaths in Yemen protest march

Yemen, the site of the USS Cole bombing and training ground for Abdulmuttalab, continues to use violence against its own people. News coverage of Egypt, Yemen and Syria do not reflect the level of violence that continues. The Arab Spring was scene as a way of certain leaders, such as Gaddafi, to be ousted in the short-term. However in many countries the new governments are proving to be as oppressive as the previous regimes. Even where there has been no change, the protestors are meeting with increasing violence.

BBC News - 'They shot at him' - Deaths in Yemen protest march

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Libya the day after

The commander of US African Command, Gen Ham, has three fears as a result of Libya.  First,  Libya has a large stock pile of shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles.  Second is the large quantities of ammunition.  Third, Libya has many of the components to make chemical weapons (even though Libya does not have chemical weapons).

When the Soviet Union fell, the stockpiles of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons became available to terrorists and the black market.  Inventory records either were destroyed or never existed so no one really knows what weapons may have found their way out of the former Soviet Union.

Gen Ham's concerns are another example of jumping into a conflict without a clear understanding of the implications.  We do know who will follow Gaddafi as the new leader of Libya.  Whoever that turns out to be will most likely be ousted as they will little traction.  Now analysts are beginning to realize that no Gaddafi means no one is around tending to the store.  The new regime is going to need funds to rebuild after the NATO air campaign.  Selling the missiles and munitions could provide ready cash.

Shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles are low-cost and effective.  You don't need to sneak in operatives and have them take flying lessons.  Now a single operative, who could already be in-country, can now take a shoulder-launched SAM and down an airliner.

The general is concerned the cache of munitions could be turned into improvised explosive devices (IED).  The munitions could be used as is to attack soft targets in the United States or embassies abroad.

Finally the components to make chemical weapons means rogue nations could find a ready supply.  Chemical weapons are very difficult to deploy for small cell terrorist groups.  Unless the weapons are manufactured by a qualified maker, the terrorists are at greater risk of being exposed to the weapon than the intended target.

All three of the general's fears are correct.  Imagine had another course of action been pursued (like leaving things alone), this new threat to our security would be less or even non-existent.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Ragged Ede

Air Force is flying "at the ragged edge." The Marine Corps is not equipped to handle a contingency if it were to arise in the Pacific theater. And, the Army doesn't even have enough resources to fulfill some of its "most basic needs," warned Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), House Armed Services Committee chairman.

Yet a newly formed committee has until Thanksgiving to come up with $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in savings or an automatic cut will kick in that will decimate the US military, said McKeon. "Fifty percent of the mandatory cuts associated with the [automatic] trigger are from the Defense Department. Fifty percent. That's a deeply unbalanced number with defense accounting for less than 20 percent of federal spending,"

While I admire the Congressman's frankness, he doesn't list some big ticket programs that could be a huge step in reducing DoD spending.  The F-35 is the most expensive acquisition program in the history of the U.S. armed forces.  According to the Daily Tech, the program is pegged at somewhere in the $380 billion range and the costs keep moving upward.  

The tanker replacement program to find a new air refueler will cost at least $25 billion just in the first phase.  There has already been on very costly scandal involved in finding a replacement tanker.  I have no reason to believe this version won't have cost overruns as well.

Why am I picking on the USAF?  Because the F-35 and KC-46 programs are a legacy from the days when manned aircraft were how we fought air wars.  The 21st Century has shown us the efficiencies of unmanned aerial vehicles.  They cost less to operate than manned aircraft, they can remain on station for much longer periods of time, they don't risk the lives of pilots, they can operate from the most austere locations, and they don't require air refueling.

Instead of looking to cut manned aircraft programs (while increasing drones), Secretary of Defense Panetta wants to restructure military retirements.

In contrast to what both the Secretary Clinton and Panetta have said about China, Rep McKeon said the Pentagon's recent report to Congress on China's growing military was "face whitening."  The report "outlined a country that is emboldened with a new-found military might and drunk with economic power," said Rep. Buck McKeon, "For the first time in history, Beijing believes that they can achieve military parity with the United States." 

China has the production capacity to far out produce the US military industrial complex.    Trying to match their capacity is a game we will lose.  Ah but we have the technological advantage some may argue.

In our pursuit of reducing costs, we have outsourced much of technology to overseas companies.  The risks of this practice are only now being realized by cyber analysts who point out malicious hardware and codes could be built into our cellphones and other electronic equipment.  Our imagined technological advantaged could be zeroed out by the push of a button.

The US has been at war for ten years and both the troops and the civilians are growing tired.  China on the other hand hasn't had to devout serious amounts of resources to a war since World War II.  

The Obama Administration needs to realize the rest of the world is not impressed with us.  We have lost whatever competitive edge we enjoyed.   The drop in the S&P bond rating and squabbling over the budget have show just how tenuous our economy is to the rest of the world.

If the military gets hacked down to pre-9/11 levels, we won't have the time to ramp back up if we are attacked.  Reducing the budgets needs to include a plan that recognizes that our next conflict could be the last.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Swedish Police Arrest Four Terror Suspects

Sweden arrested four terrorist suspects on the eve of 9/11. Their intended target was an old heating plant that had been converted to an arts center. Sweden has been focused on radicalized Muslim terrorism but with the advent of Anders Breivik (the Norwegian right wing terrorist/mass murderer), experts started to look out for similar groups. The Swedish government has released few details about the four suspects. The attack may have been related a Swedish cartoonist who in 2007 drew the prophet Mohammed.

According to Fox News, this wasn't the first attack by a Muslim suspect. In December, suicide bomber Taimour Abdulwahab blew himself up in downtown Stockholm among panicked Christmas shoppers, injuring two people.

The latest case from Sweden shows that terrorists are opportunists and will attack targets they perceive to be "soft". It also shows that attacks can be thwarted without resulting in the country becoming a police state.

Fox News

Saturday, September 10, 2011


You don't have to blow anything up to be a terrorist.  By just threatening to attack, you can force your target to spends millions, and even billions, on counter-measures.

Transit authority police are patrolling Penn Station in New York armed with assault rifles.  Wow, they must be preparing for an invasion along the lines of "Independence Day" or "Battle Los Angeles".  Then I read this on MyWay:

Late Wednesday, U.S. officials received information about a threat that included details they considered specific: It involved up to three people, either in the U.S. or who were traveling to the country; a plan concocted with the help of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri; a car bomb as a possible weapon and New York or Washington as potential targets.

New York City has mobilized a brigade-sized force to intercept three terrorists that may be armed with a car bomb.  I saw the terrorists are winning just on economics.  Yes, I agree NYC and Washington DC need to protect their citizens and visitors but the reaction is too cumbersome.  The footprint is too obvious and goes beyond a show of force.  We need a nimble response that can easily flow from one type of threat to another, one that doesn't cost the equivalent of the GDP of Mozambique.

Some future historian will write about the Global War on Terror and wonder why the United States spent billions of dollars to ostensibly hunt down one man.  It took ten years to find him and then he was essentially shot on sight.  If that was the goal all along, why was it necessary to mobilize the entire US military at the cost of thousands of lives?

I'm not that future historian.  I'm trying to figure out if we aren't being snookered by a very small group into providing a huge response and costly response.  What if the attackers are heading to Chicago?  Detroit is right across from Windsor, Canada and has one of the largest Arabic populations in the United States.  Detroit is only a few hours by car from Chicago which happens to be the hometown of President Obama.

Or what about LA? Los Angeles has Hollywood, a symbol of Western influence abroad.  Los Angeles also has fewer police per capita than New York City (the most recent numbers I could find were from 1998; 55 per capita in NYC versus 26 per capita in LA).  The weather is far milder and the border with Mexico provides a means of ingress or egress for the attack.

Analysts can sometimes over analyze the past and create an assessment that looks like the terrorists will repeat the same behaviors.  Perhaps they will try to attack NYC or Washington DC but why?  Those targets have already been hit.  Even a moderately successfully attack on another city would create a far greater psychological impact.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A "specific, credible but unconfirmed threat"

Dilemma, Catch-22, Hobson's Choice, Morton's Fork, double bind...all of these terms apply to the latest warnings from DHS and the White House about an al-Qaeda threat to New York City or Washington D.C. on eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

The fact there is a threat should come as no surprise to anyone.  People are fascinated by anniversaries that are a factor of 5, so the 10th is much poignant than say the 9th or 12th.  All any would-be terrorist needs to do is come up with some detailed plan and leak it to the authorities.  Bam!  You know put the authorities into the classic dilemma of damned if you do or damned if you don't.

The authorities know that there is little real chance of an another 9/11 scale attack against NYC or DC.  There are just too many resources focused on there now to make any attack successful.  However, they can't afford to become lax and thus allow an otherwise ineffective effort to become successful.  A threat to one of those cities could also be a feint and the real attack could happen elsewhere.  There are many targets that do not have New York or Washington zip codes.

A number of events earlier this year have come together to make the 10th anniversary of 9/11 an especially intriguing date.  Osama bin Laden was killed, Gaddafi was ousted and Libya bombed, the Arab Spring, Syria/Turkey/Israel/Egypt all shooting at each other, and the falling of the US bond rating are all rallying points for a terrorist cell to attack.

Anders Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who killed 69 people, identified himself as a Christian and slaughtered his fellow Norwegians because his country had become too liberal towards Muslims.  The attack should have served as a reminder to analysts that it doesn't take a radicalized Muslim to become a terrorist.

Eric Robert Rudolph committed a series of bombings throughout the South from 1996-1998 ending in the Olympic Park bombing that killed two and injured 150.  His motivations for such crimes?  Abortion.

The real target of any terrorist attack is not the victim but the survivor.  More people die each year in the United States from the flu then did in the WTC bombings.  But which group gets a memorial?  That's the point of a terrorist attack.

The other part is to cause the government to spend money and resources in reaction.  New York City is spending huge amounts of its budget to add additional patrols (including air and maritime) to prevent an attack.  Imagine what a fraction of that money could do for public works or social services!  The terrorists are driving our priorities.

As the 10th anniversary draws near, we need to keep things in balance.  While NYC and the Pentagon were in a state of chaos, the sun still rose and many people went to work on Sep 12th just like any other day.  Be careful out there but don't let the potential threat cause you to make drastic changes.  After all, you are at a far greater risk of being killed by a drunk driver than being a victim of a terrorist attack yet you are still driving.  Keep it in perspective.

Fox News

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Want to know why relations between Turkey and Israel are strained?

In May last year eight Turkish nationals and an American of Turkish descent died on the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship of the six-vessel convoy taking aid to the Palestinian territory of Gaza, in a raid by Israeli special forces in international waters. The U.N. reports did nothing to diffuse the situation by on one hand criticizing Israel for excessive force but then saying it Israel was right to impose a naval blockade to prevent arms from reaching Hamas. Turkey has not blacklisted Hamas as a terrorist group (Europe has making Turkey's attempts to join the EU difficult). Last week, Turkey announced that Israeli ambassador Gaby Levy was being expelled and all bilateral military agreements were suspended as it angrily rejected the findings of a United Nations probe into the deadly flotilla raid (source: Sydney Morning Herald). Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced a total freeze of military and trade ties with Israel and threatened to visit Gaza as the one-time allies' diplomatic spat intensified.

Want to know why the United States has been silent on the issue?

 The State Department last week announced that Turkey will host a ballistic missile defense radar in support of NATO's efforts to defend its European member states from attack. "The United States welcomes Turkey's decision," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland in a Sept. 2 release. Stars and Stripes reported that the United States hopes to set up the AN/TPY-2 transportable X-band phased-array surveillance radar at an undisclosed Turkish military site by year's end. The radar will link to Navy's BMD-capable Aegis ships that will operate in the Mediterranean Sea as part of the US Phased Adaptive Approach BMD architecture that will help protect Europe. Both Poland and Romania already have agreed to host US missile interceptor sites later this decade as part of the PAA. AFA Magazine

Forward-based radars enhance the missile defense system’s capability by adding precision in tracking and cueing interceptors against incoming missiles. Radars are capable of detecting ballistic missiles early in their flight and will provide precise tracking information for use by the missile defense system. This approach provides overlapping sensor coverage, the potential to extend ballistic missile defense system battle space, and to complicate enemy's ability to penetrate defense system.

The United States and NATO cannot create a ballistic missile shield without a presence in Turkey. Dealing with Turkey whenever its interests diverge from US policies becomes difficult. It is far easier to just ignore our Eastern ally and hope they can peacefully settle things on their own. Of course, that was before the Syrian government crackdown that is driving thousands of Syrians into Turkey.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Jihadists plot to take over Libya

Back in February, we had only begun to think about the "Arab Spring". I wrote a blog about pan Islamism and with Gadhafi out of the way, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) may be trying to make it a reality.

U.S. officials said spy agencies are stepping up surveillance of Islamist-oriented elements among Libyan rebels. A government report circulated Tuesday said extremists were observed “strategizing” on Internet forums about how to set up an Islamist state in Libya after the regime of Col. Gadhafi is defeated.

I've wondered who would replace Gadhafi and what the government would look like. Western governments felt the transitional government would be superior to Gadhafi's regime. Of course, since Gadhafi has so successfully crush any opposition that likelihood of it succeeding is low. It simply does not have the infrastructure and history to keep itself in power. So the question becomes, what follows? It appears the LIFG (which according to the Washington Times has ties to LA Qeada), is thinking about creating an Islamist state. Even just the discussion of such a government could embolden efforts in other countries such as Egypt.

Some future historian or foreign affairs analyst will be able to answer, what was the point of taking out Gadhafi? Especially since neither the United States or the European Union had a plan beyond getting oil rights.
Washington Times

Friday, September 2, 2011

Scott AFB

Officials are still trying to figure out why two US postal workers and an airman became sick while handling mail early Wednesday at Scott AFB, Ill. All three were sent to the hospital and later released after "experiencing adverse reactions to handling mail," according to a base release. Fourteen others were decontaminated on site. The postal center, education center, bowling alley, information tickets and tours office, and the airman family readiness center all were evacuated. As of Thursday afternoon, the postal center remained closed; however, officials had reopened the surrounded buildings. Bio-environmental specialists at Scott and explosive ordnance disposal technicians "found nothing of significance at the official mail center," although US postal inspectors continue to investigate. "Our personnel are safe and the buildings in which they work have been declared safe and we will proceed with normal business tomorrow," said base commander Col. Michael Hornitschek. He added, "We view this as an isolated incident that could have happened any particular day in any particular mail center" in the Air Force.

I was stationed at Scott AFB during the mid to late 80s. Even today, it still sits out in the middle of a corn field. Unlike say Andrews AFB (which is basically on the beltway in DC), the area around Scott is rural. The incident should serve as a reminder that incidents can occur anywhere.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

US Troops Will Pull Out By Year's End

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said his country has no intention of asking the United States to extend its military presence in Iraq beyond the Dec. 31 deadline to withdraw all 46,000 remaining US troops, reported Agence France Presse. "The agreement on the withdrawal of American forces will be implemented on schedule by the end of the year, and there will not be any bases for US forces here," Maliki told Al-Ittijah TV channel in an interview, according to AFP. The United States will still continue to work with the Iraqi military under a post-2011 training mission that leaders of both nations have approved, although no details have publicly surfaced yet. AFA Magazine

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


fungible: adj; being of such a nature that one part or quantity may be replaced by another equal part or quantity in the satisfaction of an obligation.

That's how Adm McRaven describes special operations forces and more importantly, the decision to use the counter-terrorism SEAL Team Six to back up the Rangers last month. The result was the deaths of 17 members of the elite Navy Seals, 5 members of a Naval Special Warfare unit that supports the Seals team, 3 members of an Air Force Special Operations unit, 5 members of an Army helicopter crew, 7 Afghan commandos and a civilian Afghan interpreter.

The new commander of Special Operations Command is facing criticisms from both special operators and military strategists about last months raid. Admiral McRaven is holding to "fungible" as justification for putting an elite team as back-up. Yes, the SEALs can do this but is this the best use of their skills? The questions McRaven is dodging is when the mission was being planned, why did the planners go with an elite team to back-up the Rangers? There are many other units (with more firepower), as well as artillery units, that should have been in the planning process. Perhaps a limiting factor was no other units were available to back-up the Rangers. If so, why send them in to what appears more and more to have been an ambush.

In addition to the 38 lives that were lost, the US Special Forces community lost many seasoned operators. You can't just run out and replace that kind of skill set.

I also wonder if the planners did not get snookered into thinking the Rangers would be meeting a much less lethal force. Gen Custer is remembered for the Battle of Little Bighorn. Most high school students, if they study the battle at all, will simply say Custer and his forces were annihilated. What they don't realize is that Custer was a veteran of the Civil War and Indian Wars. He was a West Point graduate, a good strategist and field officer. There were numerous errors but it came down to under-estimating the threat. Custer split his forces up and failed to consider the superior numbers and firepower of his enemy (the Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux had Henry repeating rifles. The soldiers had single shot carbines).

President Carter learned the risks associated with using helicopters to attempt an infiltration of special operators to rescue the American hostages in Tehran. Eight helicopters came in from the USS Nimitz. The fine sand caused one to crash and another to turn back. Six helicopters reached therendezvous point. The decision was made to abort the mission. A hot refueling (engines running) on the ground (very dangerous!) was attempted between the C-130 refueler and one of the helicopters. A combination of wind and sand caused the helicopter to crash into the C-130. Both aircraft were lost and 8 Americans were killed. The remaining helicopters were now stranded without fuel.

Military officers and senior NCOs study these events and yet we continue to repeat the same mistakes. Inserting or extracting troops with helicopters is always risky. Helicopters transition from "aircraft" to "ground target" quickly. It is at those times the mission is at greatest risk to mortar or artillery fire. Bombard the landing zone with artillery and mortar fire and you may score a hit. The Chinook in this case fell victim to that other weapon, the shoulder launch surface-to-air (SAM) missile. The same tactic that brought down Soviet Mi-24s in the Afghanistan and US Blackhawks in Somalia. It will continue to be an effective tactic for the foreseeable future.

Admiral Defends Use of Navy Seals Unit in Fatal Raid -

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Russia, China resist U.N. Syria sanctions

"Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa have repeatedly complained that the NATO intervention in Libya has gone far beyond the U.N. mandate approved by the council in March to protect civilians from violence by the government. They say they do not want the same thing to happen in Syria."

There are many more things at play here than Syria. Russia sees US influence on world affairs weakening. The Russians are going to continue to strike down US/European proposals in the future. It also doesn't hurt that Syria is a major buyer of Russian arms.

China continues to be a surging economic threat to the US and with the downgrade of the US bond market, China sees no reason to support a weakening superpower. The Chinese are also building their first true aircraft carriers, stealth fighters, and anti-shipping missiles. The United States debt prevents any real discussion of building weapon systems to counter these threats.

Finally, while France and the US may have no use for Gaddafi the rest of world sees the UN intervening in another country's affairs. We really have no idea what Libya is going to look like in a few years but whatever happens, it will be because of US/NATO intervention. The rest of the world is growing weary of such actions with Russia and China being in the best positions to do something about it.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

China Update

"The People's Liberation Army is on track to build a completely modernized force by 2020, according to the Pentagon's annual report to Congress on military and security developments in China, released Wednesday. As such, its air force continues to use the US and Russian air forces as a model to transition from a limited territorial defense to a more agile and flexible force capable of operating in both offensive and defensive roles offshore, according to the report. It says that the January flight test of the J-20 "highlights China's ambition to produce a fighter aircraft that incorporates stealth attributes, advanced avionics, and super-cruise capable engines over the next several years." The PLA also is upgrading its B-6 bomber fleet, originally adapted from the Soviet Tu-16, with a longer-range variant armed with a new long-range cruise missile. In addition, China possesses "one of the largest" forces of long-range SAM systems in the world, thanks the acquisition of multiple SA-20 PMU2 battalions over the last five years and the intruduction of the HQ-9. Moreover, Chinese industry is designing "several types" of AWACS aircraft, including the KJ-200, based on the Y-8 airframe, and the KJ-2000, based on a modified Russian IL-76 airframe. "

From Air Force Association Daily Update

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

France and the new deal

Reuters is reporting "France and its partners at the United Nations are working on a draft resolution that would enable Libyan assets to be unfrozen and sanctions to be unlocked, a French diplomatic source said on Wednesday.

So European colonial powers (albeit former) are still dictating what happens in North Africa and the Middle East. Perhaps I'm wrong but the European Union has not demonstrated the ability to tell anyone what to do.


Libyan numbers

I had been using the number of 1,300 killed and 20,000 injured the siege of Tripoli. However, Breitbart is reporting;

"Four hundred people were killed and 2,000 wounded in three days of fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Moamer Kadhafi in the Libyan capital Tripoli, the head of the rebel council said Wednesday."

These number seem low given the use of airpower to support the rebels. I suspect this may be a downplay on the actual carnage.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Turkish bombing campaign against PKK signals shift in strategy

I just finished my last post about Libya and mentioned Turkey when this story caught my eye.

The Kurds occupy an area consisting of Northern Iraq, Southern Turkey, Western Iran and parts of Armenia and Georgia. The Kurds are not Arabic (they have their own language) and really have no place to call home. The governments of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Armenia basically have no use for the Kurds. After Desert Storm, Turkey and Iraq (under Saddam Hussein) agreed on Kurdish problem. Iraq would move their artillery up to the 38th parallel (the star of the northern no-fly zone) and shell Kurdish villages. The Kurds would be driven back into Turkey who had a hot-pursuit agreement with Iraq and could fly into Northern Iraq to strike the PKK. Oh, and the US was part of OPERATION PROVIDE COMFORT which was supposed to protect the Kurds (except for the Turks who were letting coalition forces stage at Incirlik).

Now 20 years later, the Turks and the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) and having more disagreements. As you can see from the map, the Kurdish problem could create an interesting cooperation between Turkey, Iran and Iraq. The presence of Turkey in NATO raises the ugly question, does an attack by the PKK on Turkey constitute an attack on NATO? If so, what will NATO's response be?

Thoughts about Libya and Syria

In our race to liberate Libya from Gaddafi, some Western leaders forgot that Libya (as the rest of North Africa) really doesn't look or act like a Western democracy. Most of the countries of Africa have borders formed not be tribal or ethnic boundaries but by former European powers. Many different groups are confined within these national boundaries (often still harboring decades or centuries old grudges).

Gaddafi and Hussein were brutal in part because they had to get these divergent groups to work together. Iraq consists of three different groups; Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds. It was easier to terrorize all equally than to workout out some type of compromise. Gaddafi successfully ran Libya that way for 40 years. Getting rid of Gaddafi does not mean Libya is going to become a democratic utopia in North Africa. Quite the contrary, the factions that were squabbling with Gaddafi will start to squabble with each other.

One of Gaddafi's sons stands to become either the next ruler of LIbya or leader of the revolutionary faction that will topple whoever follows Gaddafi into power. Nothing has really changed and actually Libya may follow Iraq into a destabilized, squabbling mirror of its former self.

Ambassador Rice is now taking Syria to task and wagging her finger at them as is to say, see what happened in Libya? It can happen to you! But there is a difference that the secretary seems to be ignoring. Gaddafi was very much a lone wolf in North Africa subsidizing his regime through supporting international terrorist groups (such as the Provisional IRA). In contrast, Syria is not a lone wolf and very much is under the influence of Iran (which provides funding and arms). Unlike Libya, Syria can deflect at any time its own domestic problems by starting a war with Israel. Israel is already experiencing problems with Egypt and having to deal with issues on two different fronts would be challenging even for the Israelis. Or Syria can pick a fight with Turkey and watch other Middle Eastern nations rise up against NATO.

Change is not always a good thing. Sometimes things change for the worse.

US Military Intervention in Libya Cost At Least $896 Million

At least according to ABC News' Luis Martinez, $896 million is the cost of US operations in Libya. The U.S. has also promised $25 million in non-lethal aid to the Libyan Transitional National Council. And what has the US purchased for this? Two elder sons who are in custody (one of which may have been promoted to celebrity status as a result of his incarceration), Gaddafi is still at large, and at least 1,300 dead in Tripoli. The actions have done nothing to stabilize the post Arab Spring movements in Egypt and Syria. Yet Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense, is carping about how expensive it is to run military retirements. I wonder how many retirements could have been covered for the $896 million it has cost thus far for Libya?

ABC News