Sunday, January 30, 2011

Egyptian Civil Strife Sends Oil Close To $100 On Suez Canal Fears

And so it begins;

The situation could have ripple effects worldwide if the Suez Canal becomes jeopardized or even shut down. According to Canaccord Genuity, “this may be impactful as approximately 1.8 million bb/d of oil was transported through the Suez Canal in 2009. A closure of the canal would result in an extra 6,000 miles of travel for any oil being transported out of the region, an additional cost which could drive up oil prices.”

Article Here

Saturday, January 29, 2011

You ain't seen nothing yet

As of this writing, there are at least 100 dead as Egypt’s crackdown on protestors moves into day 5. Egyptians say their growing protest against the 30-year-rule of President Hosni Mubarak was sparked by the Tunisia uprising that toppled another veteran authoritarian leader two weeks ago. The Mubarak regime seems to following Iran’s merciless but ultimately successful, put down of protestors in 2009 after the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

US support for Mubarak has angered many Egyptians and could lead to Egyptian backed attacks on US targets. Mubarak refuses to step down. The likely outcome at this point is many more deaths.

The protests in Egypt are the first widespread use of social media to do something more than create a flash-mob to shoot a YouTube video.

The Muslim Brotherhood (the Society of the Muslim Brothers) was founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Bana. It is primarily a Sunni organization. Their goal was and is a return to having the Quran and Sunnah (daily rituals) as the guiding law for family, community and state.

It was outlawed in Egypt in 1981 after the assassination of Anwar Sadat. Mubarak took over as president at that time.

It is a conservative group that looks to move away from modern conventions. For example, the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait opposes suffrage for women.

Sayyid Qutb wrote the book “Milestones” which called for re-establishing Sharia. Sharia is the sacred law of Islam and is derived from the Quran and the examples of the prophet Muhammad (Sunnah). Osama bin Laden is said to have been influence by Qutb.

The group was outlawed in Egypt. Membership in the Syrian Brotherhood became a capital offense in 1980. In Palestine, the failed Brotherhood morphed into Hamas. Banned in Iraq in 1961, the group has re-emerged after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The Muslim Brotherhood is tolerated in Saudi Arabia.

The Muslim Brotherhood is also active in Algeria, Sudan, Somalia, and Libya. Tunisia, which had an uprising a few weeks ago, has both the Al-Nahda (the Revival or Renaissance Party) and Hizb ut-Tahrir (a group that wants all Islamic countries to unify as caliphates ruled by Islamic law).

There are several Muslim Brotherhood groups active in the United States.

The major for now is centered on the Suez Canal. Two billion barrels of crude oil are shipped through the canal. While Egypt is not a major oil producer, the fear is the unrest could endanger oil shipping. Oil prices have already jumped and we will probably see higher prices at the pump as early as Monday.

The Muslim Brotherhood is widespread meaning unrest could spread throughout the Middle East. Israel has remained silent thus far as there are Muslim Brother chapters in the Jewish state as well. Anything Israel might say could further aggravate unrest or cause groups to target Israeli targets.

This brings us to the final development that has gotten overshadowed by the news in Egypt. Lebanon’s oncoming prime minister, Najib Mikati, is backed by Hezbollah. Mikati, appointed this week after the Shiite Hezbollah toppled the pro-Western government.

In theory, that means Hezbollah has access to the military weapons of Lebanon. These include French anti-tank missiles and US ammunition.

Perhaps this is nothing more than a correction to several Middle Eastern regimes that have grown accustomed to having no serious challengers to their power. Perhaps this is the beginning of a much larger trend of the Muslim Brotherhood to start enacting their agenda.

Some may take this as further proof of a doomsday that has been prophesized. No matter where you find yourself on this debate you have to admit that there are many people that do believe in doomsday prophecies and may see the unrest in Egypt as the beginning of the end.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

No More Color Coded Advisory System!

USA Today is reporting the the Homeland Security Advisory System, the color codes that seem to never change, will be phased out in the next 90 days.

The system premiered at orange, went down to yellow for a time, then went back up to orange in 2006 where it has remained. The changes in the system meant little to the average citizen so it rapidly became irrelevant. The new system seems to be a more location specific and may actually help authorities and traveler alike remain more vigilant.

Article Here

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Can anyone think anymore?

The Tea Party provides only half of the answer. The budget should not be cut as some academic exercise in bookkeeping, the activities that warrant such high budgets need to be scaled-back or eliminated. I am a retired colonel and served in both Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. We cannot continue to spend billions of dollars a day but we also can't expect to cut budgets and ask our military to do more with less. If we leave the troops overseas but cut their budgets, we are creating our own failure. If we want to slash budgets, come up with an exit strategy to bring the troops home. Cutting budgets just to balance the budget without regard to how that will impact our troops is political expediency going into the next election cycle.

Tea partiers say defense in mix for budget cuts

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Women soldiers not seen picking up combat arms soon

Political correctness will get you killed. All of the arguments about being more fair to minorities masks the real effect, namely more women will be getting killed or maimed on the battlefield. Don't be fooled, women are serving in combat support roles which is a meaningless term when your vehicle gets hit by an IED. Being behind combat lines doesn't mean crap when enemy artillery rounds or rockets hit your base.

"I think that there's a recognition that the time has come," said Nancy Campbell Duff, co-president of the National Women's Law Center. She said no legislation would be required for the Pentagon to start moving women into combat roles.

I don't know if Ms. Duff has served but her comments are those of someone who won't be going into combat themselves. We need to fully realize the price for all of this equality; more women will be maimed and killed. It is not how you win a war or keep the morale of your combat units high.

Women already serve with distinction in the US military. Army Spc. Monica Lin Brown won the Silver Star in 2008. Women soldiers and Marines have received bronze stars and purple hearts throughout Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Ms. Duff's proposal makes it sound as though women aren't being allowed to serve in combat. Then how did Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Department of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth lose both of her legs?

For those who may be unfamiliar with her story, Duckworth lost the lower part of both legs from injuries sustained on November 12, 2004, when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter she was co-piloting was hit by a rocket propelled grenade fired by Iraqi insurgents.

According to an account posted on Unofficial Arlington National Cemetery Website, the explosion "almost completely destroyed her right arm, breaking it in three places and tearing tissue from the back side of it." Duckworth received a Purple Heart on December 3, 2004.

Let's not get carried away with sound bytes, women veterans are serving in combat right now. The bigger question is how will a society that still judges women by their appearance treat battle-scarred women vets?

Article Here

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"Our city has no image"

At least according to Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, who chairs the City Council's Quality of Life Committee.

For those unfamiliar with Ms. Quinlivan's credentials, she is a former TV reporter who now runs her own marketing business in addition to being a first-term council member. Apparently her background ill prepared her to know the following about the city which she now serves;

- Cincinnati is the birthplace of such luminaries as President William Howard Taft, Doris Day, Tyrone Power, Steven Spielberg, Roger Staubach and of course Pete Rose.

- Cincinnati at one time had three professional sports teams; Cincinnati Reds (the first professional baseball team in the country), the Royals, and of course the Bengals (okay, I know this may be a stretch)

- Cincinnati is home to Proctor and Gamble, Chiquita Brands, GE Aircraft Engines, the Kroger Company, and Fifth Third Bank (I picked companies that have been around the Cincinnati area for a while and are probably familiar to readers outside the Cincinnati area).

- Cincinnati has the Art Museum, Taft Museum, Music Hall (home of the Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and Cincinnati Opera), the College Conservatory of Music (at UC), the School of the Creative and Performing Arts, and the Museum Center (which includes the Natural History Museum).

- Cincinnati was originally called Losantiville (hmm, I wonder where I've seen that name before?) and Porkopolis. Cincinnati was the premier pork butchering center in the world during the 19th Century until Chicago surpassed it for beef butchering (which could only happen because of the invention of refrigerated rail cars).

-Cincinnati was major part of the Underground Railroad (hence the National Freedom Center), had at one time as many as 14 breweries (thanks to the German immigrants), invented Cincinnati style chili (thanks to Greek immigrants) and eats goetta (a type of sausage made from pork and pinhead oats, again thanks to the Germans).

Despite all of this histroy (plus much I either left out or forgot), Ms. Quinilvan thinks we have no image.

The Bengals have never won a super bowl and residents born after 1990 can't remember ever seeing them win a divisional playoff. Those same residents can't remember the Reds winning the World Series. The Cincinnati Royals folded so long ago that most residents don't remember that we ever had a NBA team.

But once upon a time there was Oscar Robinson who played for the Cincinnati Royals. Once upon a time there was Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and Joe Morgan and they all worked for this guy name Sparky Anderson. Together they and their teammates were called The Big Red Machine. They won back to back World Series championships (1975, 1976)

They was this guy named Ezzard Charles. Although not born in Cincinnati, we claim him as our own. He was once heavyweight boxing champion of the world (back before they invented MMA and UFC). He won 93 of his fights.

There was this really neat lady who was a radio and television broadcaster and probably is most responsible for creating daytime talkshows. She was also incredibly generous and created a charity to make sure hospitalized children received toys. Her name was Ruth Lyons.

Apparently Ms. Quinlivan has missed out on the fact she owes her previous profession to Ms. Lyons. But we have no image.

Cincinnati does have an image, it just that people like her and the rest of city council are too busy bickering to tell the rest of the world our story.

Article Here

Monday, January 17, 2011

Detroit Schools

Once upon a time, Detroit was home to the big three automakers and enjoyed high employment rates thanks to the numerous manufacturing plants producing American cars. As production costs increased and demand for US cars decreased, the Big Three began to shut down plants and relocate operations overseas. GM may relocated its headquarters to China were the top luxury car is Buick.

Detroit's unemployment for November 2010 was 12.4 percent making it the poorest city in the United States (Cleveland comes in second with an unemployment rate of 10 percent for the same period).

One of the many effects of such high unemployment is diminished tax revenues which in turn means decreased operating budgets. The strong unions in Detroit have protected cuts to city jobs so reductions are taken elsewhere. Detroit is now looking at closing half of their public schools! As the article points out, this means high school teachers may be looking at 62 students in one classroom.

It is hard enough to keep 35 students engaged in a classroom. Distractions, talking, texting, sleeping, and just plain disinterest mean teachers have to keep busy maintaining discipline as well as teaching the subject. Managing 60 students in a classroom designed for 25 will be akin to herding rabid cats. Learning will become a third or fourth level priority below safety, security, and order.

Detroit is facing another problem they haven't addressed. If somehow or other they are able to teach 60 students at a time, what will be waiting for those students when they graduate? Nothing indicates that Detroit is on a path to economic recovery which means those students will be without jobs when they graduate. No prospect for jobs means even less incentive to remain in school and study.

For those that may have a Jamie Escalante (the calculus teacher in "Stand and Deliver") in their lives and manage to do well and go on to college, they will have to move away in order to get jobs. The Detroit school system is then training workers for other communities. Those without the grades or drive to excel will get left behind in a dead city. Crime will continue to be the only viable means of income.

The Detroit school situation also causes me to wonder what our high schools are really preparing graduates to do. As recently as thirty years ago, a high school diploma was all that was needed to go out an earn a living. The argument to that statement is the change away from a manufacturing based economy required workers to have a college degree. So high school curriculums changed from producing workers to college-prep, A funny thing happened though on the way to the forum. State subsidies to secondary education became based on performance metrics. The challenge was how to evaluate all of the various state high school programs equally. In Ohio, the answer is the proficiency test.

High schools had to transform again from college-prep to now increasing performance on standardized proficiency tests. The results are students showing up in college without critical thinking skills since their educational focus was performance on standardized tests.

Somewhere in this mess, no one asked what the real role of high schools should be in the 21st Century. My question is why can't high schools still produce graduates who are able to earn a living? Granted the economy is no longer manufacturing based but does every single job required a college degree? Other than professions such as doctor, lawyer or engineer many workers have degrees totally unrelated to their field. If the role of high schools in producing qualified employees were better understood, the situation in Detroit could be mitigated if not avoided.

Detroit can serve as an important wake-up call to other communities. If we can revamp our secondary away from the proficiency exam based curriculum, we may be able to produce a quality workforce.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Cautionary Tale

Cincinnati barely escaped cutting police an firefighters this year. Next year police and firefighters will start hitting their maximum time under the drop program. Both departments will probably lose 100-200 personnel and no new academies will be held until 2013 at the earliest.

Camden, N.J. cutting 300 plus city workers is an example of what can go wrong in other cities (especially Cincinnati). To offset money shortfalls, the city pursued grants and added police and firefighters to combat the crime resulting from a depressed economy. Without jobs, crime continued to rise in Camden and now with fewer police and firefighters the city may never recover. The article makes this cautionary observation for other cities facing similar situation:

"It's the struggling cities like Camden that could bear the worst of the fallout from the Great Recession as governments at all levels slash costs. Congress has signaled that it will allocate less money to states. And New Jersey, facing its own fiscal crisis, has begun cutting how much money it gives to cities. Camden, where 80 percent of the budget in recent years has come from the state, has the most to lose."

Article here

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Desert Storm

On Jan 16, 1991 the air campaign began. In less than two months, coalition forces would drop 60,000 tons of ordnance on Iraqi forces. At that rate, coalition forces were on par with the monthly totals for WWII or Vietnam.

The use of aircraft to drop bombs goes back to World War I when pilots tried to drop hand-grenades on ground troops hunkered down in trenches. For almost as long, pilots and planners pursued the goal of precision bombing.

During the Battle of Hamburg (Operation Gomorrah), it took 700 aircraft 8 days and 7 nights to drop just 9,000 tons. The US Army Air Corps conducted daytime operations while the Royal Air Force conducted night time operations. The campaign was an extend carpet bombing operations as no precision guided munitions existed. The ensuing firestorm resulting from burning asphalt turning Hamburg into an inferno made the operation far more destructive than the numbers would indicate.

Allied bombers had to fly directly over the target risking losses from both anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) as well as Luftwaffe fighters. It took multiple passes with multiple aircraft just to take out larger targets such as factories. The bomb sights of the day could not compensate for wind, drift or poor visibility.

Daylight precision bombing became the holy grail for air planners. Twenty years after the end of World War II, USAF and USN jet aircraft still had to overfly their targets. In addition to the AAA and figthers of the Vietcong, American bomber pilots had to also contended with surface to air missiles. Laser-guided bombs were used towards the end of the Vietnam war but had little effect on the war.

Desert Storm saw the first use of precision guided munitions. Videos of bombs flying through windows of buildings and going down the smoke stack of factories thrilled CNN audiences. Bombs could actually now take out only those targets that were supposed to be taken out, collateral damage seemed like something of the past.

Desert Storm also showed the devastating effects of airpower. You can't launch your aircraft if they are destroyed on the tarmace before they ever get the chance to launch. You can't build tank armor strong enough to withstand a 500lbs high explosive (HE) bomb coming through the turret.

The best guard dog a downed aviator or surrounded ground-pounder could have was an A-10 on station. The A-10 went from being just flying tank killer, to a protector of all coalition ground forces. If a tank couldn't withstand a hit from the 30MM gun or Maverick missile, what hope did other Iraqi vehicles have? There were stories of Iraqi soldiers surrendering just as soon as they heard the sound of the Hog's engines. They knew the A-10 could loiter for a very long time and encountering a Hog meant certain death.

Desert Storm worked too well. Kuwait was liberated, the Iraqi forces were sent packing and American troops were heroes. It also caused American military planners to believe airpower alone could win wars.

What many Americans don't know is while US forces were kicking the snot out of Saddam Hussein and his elite Republic Guards, bases were being closed in Europe. Many soldiers returning after Desert Storm found their posts closed and their families back in the States. Without those bases, the military didn't need as many people. A reduction-in-force (RIF) or involuntary separation was instituted. The criteria targeted, either deliberately or accidently, those who had just finished learning how to fight a war.

Twelve years later, the US would be back fighting in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Airpower would be called upon again to protect ground forces and to eliminate Iraqi air threat before it even left the ground. The Iraqi air force had not forgotten the lessons from Desert Storm and buried many of their jest rather than tangle with a new generation of coalition fighter pilots.

The airpower that is used today looks nothing like what sent a Sunni despot packing twenty years ago today. Stand-off precision bombing is now common practice using GPS to precisely guide bombs to their target. Munitions today can range anywhere from 2000lbs bunker busting bombs to smaller 250lbs bombs. The precision of delivering bombs now has become so precise 250lbs are all that is required to take out most targets.

During Desert Storm, drones were only seem in movies. Now drones have gone from small observation-only platforms to lethal hunter/killers that can remain on station for many hours.

Twenty years ago, airpower ascended as the means to fight a modern war. The aircraft may have changed but the effectiveness remains.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chinese fighter 'has changed power balance'

The Chinese J20 has changed the balance of power in their favor over the United States. Whether or not the J20 is a more capable aircraft than the F35 is irrelevant. The Chinese were not expected to field this aircraft for another 5-10 years. By doing so, it has put the United States on notice that it is committed to maintaining a modern fighting force. The US has been trying to field the F-35 to replace the aging legacy fighters such as the F-15, F-16 and F/A-18. The first flight of the F-35 occurred in 2006 and cost overruns now place the F-35 as the single most expensive weapon system ever and it still isn't fielded! The US military-industrial complex just is not nimble enough to rapidly field new technology and the speed of the Chinese system should be cause for concern. Getting into another arms race with China is something the US probably won't win.

Article here

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Congress readies new gun-control bills after Gabrielle Giffords shooting -

Of course, how will this stop Loughner? The high capacity magazines are already out there and of course the next Loughner can simply do what Cho did, reload. This is a bunch of political drama to take our attention away from the real problem, a mental health system that is unable to deal with people like Loughner (other than to medicate the crap out of them). What happens when they stop taking their meds?

Article Here

Glock Pistol Sales Surge

Two camps seem to be forming over the shootings in Arizona. One camp is pointing out the inadequacies in our mental health system that makes it almost impossible to get people like Jared Loughner help. Recommending someone for a mental health evaluation carries so many stigmas and risks the individual losing his or her job that it almost impossible to get people the help they need.

The other camp wants to rehash gun control and specifically the Glock with high capacity magazines. Glocks are inexpensive, readily available, come in a variety of calibers and sizes. The ease of operation, shooting and general indestructibly of Glocks makes them popular with law enforcement and those looking for a concealed carry weapon. There is nothing inherently talismanic about Glocks other than their availability makes them the most likely to be used by shooters.

The rush in Arizona to buy Glocks falls into one of two scenarios. The first is simply people who have wanted a Glock and now are afraid the shootings will make it impossible to get one. The other reason is why product placement in movies and TV shows is so lucrative, people but what it on the screen. The shootings have placed Glocks on screens everywhere and there are mall rats running out to buy theirs.

All the hype about Glocks misses that Loughner would have used any weapon he could get his hands on to commit his murder spree. No Glock? What about a Winchester 30-30 or a Remington 1100 automatic shotgun. Or he could have simply gone the Timothy McVeigh route and build a bomb.

The national dialog needs to focus on better identifying the next Loughner or Cho BEFORE they start shooting and stop the goofy arguments about barring guns would have stopped him. Loughner is an evil, psychotic bastard that would have figured out a way to kill those people even if he did not have access to firearms.

Article Here

Gates: North Korea will pose direct threat to US

First Iran and now North Korea, the United States seems unable to determine which threat it wants to stare down. Furthermore, Sec Def Gates record for correctly assessing the capability of our potential adversaries seems woefully lacking. The Chinese are fielding the J-20 prototype a full decade ahead of his predictions. The Chinese have also built an anti-shipping missile that seems capable of knocking the snot out of a carrier battle group. Now his assessment is that North Korea is a direct threat due to long range missiles. Well North Korea did not just go out and get that technology.

To be fair, the Secretary is not making these assessments by rather a whole staff of advisors who are presumably pulling intelligence from throughout the Department of Defense. I have the feeling that intelligence that was not consistent with the Sec Def's strategic vision were either filtered or ignored. I suspect Gates' vision is one of a stable world situation that would allow a drawn down of the forces that have grown over the last 10 years. Such a view is one driven more be the economics of waging a two front war than of the reality of the world. North Korea really is undergoing only its second change of leadership since its founding. Iran is rediscovering its Persian Empire roots at a time when the US superpower is waning. China and Russia have just completed an oil pipeline that will give both the needed resources to continue to be major players on the world front.

The US has relied on coalition forces to wage military operations in the last two decades. Support has come primarily from European nations but those nations now face a failing Euro. The United Kingdom is getting rid of its aircraft carriers and is talking with France about forming a joint self-defense force. It is unlikely that should the US find itself in a shooting war with Iran or North Korea (or worse, both at the same time) that it will be able to turn to a coalition of European forces for help.

The US only has Japan and South Korea as military allies in the Pacific. Neither country has a power projection capability. A war on the Korean Peninsula will almost assuredly guarantee and attack by North Korea on Japan. The casualties on the peninsula will be unimaginable, even if it doesn't go nuclear, since there is a huge population densely packed on a small land mass.

Perhaps Gates will prove to be again be wrong, only this time it means we won't be facing a threat.

Article Here

Monday, January 10, 2011

Gates and China

From the Air Force Association Daily Update:Defense

Secretary Robert Gates has acknowledged that China's efforts to develop a stealth combat aircraft may be more advanced than the United States previously thought. "We knew they were working on a stealth aircraft. I think that what we've seen is that they may be somewhat further ahead in the development of that aircraft than our intelligence had earlier predicted," he told reporters Saturday while traveling aboard his aircraft to Beijing on the first leg of his Asia trip. A reporter had asked him about the recently revealed Chinese J-20 aircraft, which appears to be a stealth design. Gates said "there is some question about just how stealthy" the J-20 is. Despite the J-20's emergence, Gates said, he "continue[s] to stand" by his earlier assertion that there will be "a vast disparity in the number of deployed fifth generation aircraft" that the United States has by the middle of next decade compared to China or any other nation. That's even with the changes being made to the F-35 strike fighter program, he noted.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Jared Loughner Radically Changed

Watch, we will see more stories about Loughner being radicalized. In turn, there will be more legislation passed to allow surveillance of websites and penalties for those deemed "radical". Groups like the Tea Party and NRA will go into overdrive protesting these measures. The Liberals will counter that this is exactly what lead to the shootings in Arizona. I don't think the Obama administration is going to be able to come up with a solution for this problem.

Article here

AZ shooter Jared Loughner's behavior

Jared Loughner will be analyzed in the news for the next several weeks. The shootings in Arizona illustrate the problem facing colleges in the 21st Century, namely what to do with students that cases other students to feel uncomfortable (as the emails in the Washington Post article show) but their actions aren't grounds for kicking the students out. The economic downturn has been a boom to community college enrollment as students take advantage of the lower tuition. Community colleges also tend to have open enrollment which means there is wide range of academic, socio-economic, and demographic factors walking through the door. Sometimes the students walking through the door have mental health challenges and if those are social pathologies, college can set off a greater pathology. Arguments with faculty and other students, feelings of rejection, or feelings of failure are college experiences for some. For people like Loughner or Cho (the Virginia Tech shooter), these experiences drive them to action. The challenge for colleges is to come up with ways of identifying these students without becoming draconian and expelling every student that says something that makes other people uncomfortable.

It also serves as a reminder of my constant mantra, remain vigilant at all times!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Arizona congresswoman among 12 shot at Tuscon grocery

Fighter pilots call it "SA" or situational awareness. You have to keep aware of the constantly changing dynamics, focusing too much on the enemy aircraft may cause you to forget about ground based missiles. Situational awareness is something we should all strive to develop. I'm sure the people were busy either listening to the Congresswoman or shopping but this case shows the danger of forgetting violence is around us all of the time. You need to constantly assess your environment. If something happens, where would you take cover or escape? Even if it isn't an active shooter, what about a fire or earthquake? How would you get out? People go about their daily business without considering what happens when the SHTF. I'm not advocating a paranoid state, just a prudent one that realizes even the most benign looking bookstore or market could be turned into the next catastrophe.

Link Here

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Pentagon to cut spending by $78 billion, reduce troop strength

President Obama increased troop strength by 30,000 in 2009 making current levels over 90,000. According to, US casualties were 155 in 2008, 317 in 2009 (the year of the increase), and 499 in 2010. Given these numbers, Secretary Gates comment that "what had been a culture of endless money . . . will become a culture of savings and restraint" is especially offensive. The "endless money" is for the conduct of the war in which American service men and women are dying.

On top of that, China has unveiled a stealth fighter prototype and a anti-ship missile capable of knocking out a carrier battle group. The US military has been at war since 2001 (something that escapes many people thanks to both the Bush and now Obama administrations reluctance to ask Americans to make sacrifices). The OPSTEMPO has cause the lifecycle of many weapon systems to shrink geometrically in relationship to OPERATION IRAQI and OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. Now President Obama and Secretary Gates want to cut the budget to prove a point? If they truly want to save money, why not truly bring the troops home (something the President promised during his campaign) and save the taxpayers billions of dollars.

Link Here

Underestimating China

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made the observation that China was 5-10 years away from fielding a stealth fighter prototype. Then China unveils its new J20 stealth fighter. Vice Adm. Dorsett (chief of Naval intelligence) observed that the observed that the US is adept at underestimating China's ability to field prototypes. Give that bit of introspection, I find the following to be incredulous:

China has an operational carrier-killer ballistic missile much sooner than expected, said Navy intelligence chief Vice Adm. David Dorsett Wednesday. "I am concerned about the DF-21B ballistic missile," Dorsett told defense reporters in Washington, D.C. The missile, if fired in salvos of "several" at a time, could find and destroy a "maneuvering target" at long range, he said. He's not worried about it yet, for while the missile has been tested over land "a sufficient number of times" to prove it works, and has been fielded, it has never been demonstrated—"to our knowledge"—operationally over water, using real-world naval sensors and targets, he explained. Whether it could really sink a US aircraft carrier, "we don't know, and frankly, I'm guessing they don't know," said Dorsett. He admitted that, a year ago, the Navy believed "no one had a maneuvering capability" in a ballistic missile. That assessment has now changed, he said.

I for one am note betting that the DF-21B won't be able to strike the fleet.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


While pondering what the new year might hold, one story caught my attention. A bomb killed at least 21 people outside a church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria early on New Year's Day in what appears to be an attack by a suicide bomber. The bombing could be an attempt by a group to create disharmony between the Muslim and Christian populations in Egypt. A statement on an Islamist website posted about two weeks before the blast called for attacks on Egypt's churches, listing among them the one hit.

"The first and most likely possibility is that a sleeper cell of al Qaeda group carried out this operation and this would mean that al Qaeda has penetrated the Islamic political movement in Egypt," said analyst Nabil Abdel-Fattah.

Considering this is the tenth anniversary of 9/11 the bombing holds some ominous implications. The US invasion of Afghanistan following the attacks on 9/11 caused many in the Islamic world to wonder if the US was restarting the Crusades. It did not help that the rhetoric that followed in the US equated terrorism with radical Islam. It is the stuff of ratings for the talking heads on TV and radio to incite patriotic feelings focused on radical Muslims.

The Crusades all started because a Byzantine emperor got the snot kicked out of him by the Turks. He went sniveling to Pope Urban II for help who saw in this request an opportunity to seize back the city of Jerusalem from the Muslims. In total, nine crusades were fought and some interesting alliances were formed. Saladin was a Kurdish Muslim who recaptures Palestine but he allowed Christian pilgrims safe passage to the city. He won the respect of many of them, including Richard the Lionheart; rather than becoming a hated figure in Europe, he became a celebrated example of the principles of chivalry.

The United States has had quite a history with the Muslim world as well. "Morocco was the first nation to recognize the United States, in 1787, and it has been a steadfast friend and security partner," remarked Defense Secretary William Cohen in 1987. Founded by the Berbers, Morocco's history spans 8,000 years and during the 18th Century it was most assuredly Muslim.

Then there is Article 11 of Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary, ratified in 1797, that states: "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries"

Apparently Article 11 didn't stop President Reagan from launching Operation El Dorado Canyon against Libya in 1986.

My point in bringing up Morocco and the Tripoli Treaty is to show the US has not always had destabilized relationship with the Muslim world. Events since 9/11 has rekindled tensions between the Christian and Muslim world. We need to be aware that there are other groups out there that will seek to continue to fuel hatred and violence between Christians and Muslims.