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

Monday, August 22, 2011


At least 1,300 people have died as rebel forces invaded Tripoli. Another estimated 20,000 have been wounded. Gaddafi's two eldest sons are in custody. President Obama is now calling for Gaddafi to step down. The President has been referring to this as a new age for Libya.

Gaddafi has ruled Libya for 42 years. Ruthless and intolerant of opposition, he also has modernized Libya. Rebel forces (backed by the US and France) decide to overthrow the Libyan government as part of the Arab Spring back in March. This lead to the United States providing air support but the lack of support at home lead to NATO taking over the lead.

So what do we get for all of this? We have yet to hear who will replace Gaddafi. For those who may be too young to remember, the US backed another regime change in Iran resulting in the Shah taking over. This was such a popular decision that the Iranian people, who had grown tired of being tortured and killed by a US puppet, that they stormed the American embassy. The Shah was thrown out and Ayatollah Khoemeni took over setting the stage for a far more belligerent Iran to pursue nuclear weapons.

Gaddafi was no friend of the US but had certainly mellowed since 9/11. Whoever takes over in Libya will be seen as a puppet of the US and Europe. Iraq and Afghanistan are a mess. Iran has become a theocracy with a decided bent towards nuclear weapons. Syria has warned against any outside military intervention as it deals with its post Arab Spring situation.

I just don't see where replacing Gaddafi by backing the rebels was a prudent idea that will produce any strategic gains.

Al Jazeera

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Egypt and Israel Back Away From Diplomatic Crisis

As many as three Egyptian security officers may have been killed by Israeli warplanes. The incident follows exchanges of fire in the Gaza strip. Egypt and Israel maintained peace between their countries as a result of Anwar Sadat and the Hosni Mubarak who took over following the former's assassination. Just because Mubarak got along with Israel did not reflect his domestic policies. Mubarak was forced out and now facing charges. The Egyptian movement that forced out Mubarak wants to change all of his policies including his stance with Israel. The situation escalating and along with the potential fall of Gaddafi could become a flashpoint for even more violence.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Assailants launch multiple attacks in Israel

The story is still developing as I write this so the long range implications are hard to predict. Israel was originally 7,000 sq miles until after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War at which time the territory expanded to its current 20,000 sq miles. At heart, this is what has driven much of the conflict. The territory acquired by Israel in 1967 is considered to be part of Jordan by most of the Arab world. As Israel was at war with Egypt, today's attack has profound symbolic roots for both sides.

The Associated Press

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Radical overhaul of military retirement eyed

No one gets rich in the military. In an all-volunteer force, the point is to serve your country. Of course military troops have to eat and have a roof over their heads so they get paid. Before we start looking to cut retirements (50 percent of the highest base pay received while on active duty), it might be a little illuminating to understand how little troops are paid in the first place.

Since the SEALs have been making the news, let's at the pay of an E-6, Petty Officer 1st Class (PO1). He had to have been in the Navy for at least three years in order to tryout for BUDs (25 weeks), this in addition to recruit training (8 weeks) and skills training (2-4 months). Some sailors such as medics will receive advance training of another 3-6 months depending on the school.

The physical requirements to be a SEAL are well documented. Consider this though, what would an Olympic caliber athlete, sharpshooter and parachutist earn? Using the 2011 pay charts and our example of a PO1, base pay would be $3,192. If he is married he gets another $888. He gets $250 extra for being on jump status plus $340 for dive status. A petty office 1st class SEAL then receives, for all of the training and skills, around $56,000 a year.

Compare the PO1 salary with Ryan Mundy who was a safety with the 2009-2010 Pittsburgh Steelers. He was one of the lowest paid Steelers an received $310,00 per year. A professional athlete, playing a game in which he certainly could be hurt but is not facing enemy fire is paid nearly six times what an elite Navy SEAL is paid.

Unlike most professional athletes, SEALs are expected to have a 20 year career (it takes almost 10 years before a regular SEAL is ready for SEAL TEAM Six). How many professional athletes have a career that spans that long?

My example focused on a Navy SEAL that qualifies for the maximum in incentive pay. You basic troop at the same rank does not get jump or dive pay. Their annual salary is around $48,000 for defending their country.

Patriotism can overcome only so many injuries and separations from family and friends. Earning that military retirement (a guarantee for the military member and 55% for their spouse in the event of the retiree's death) is the one incentive that keeps troops training and re-enlisting when in other careers people would have left to write their memoirs.

The government and Pentagon needs to leave the retirement alone, otherwise they can forget about retaining troops past their first or second enlistment. If they go to a 401K type system, the government will still end up spending money in increasingly larger signing bonuses and other incentives to keep troops in. Come on Leon, you can do better than this.

CBS News

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What's going on in the world?

I attended a beer tasting event last week put on by Hoperatives. After a couple of porters, a fellow attendee admitted she was not able to keep on what was going on in the world through our local fishwrap. In particular, she asked if we were still involved in Libya.

First the US and then NATO has convinced themselves that a country of 679,362 square miles (source: National Geographic) can be tackled with merely airpower. Even in the 21st Century, aircraft are not a persistent presence and minus that regime change is difficult. Add the large land mass of Libya and airpower alone will not win the conflict.

Libyans have a saying, "mia, mia" which literally translates to "100 percent". They are found of saying that now indicating more of a "everything is just fine" even after months of bombardment to target one man. NATO is claiming "significant advances" according to a CNN article that you can find at the end of this entry.

Pro-Ghadaffi forces have been hammered (along with innocent bystanders) for months. NATO does not have the long logistical tail of the United States and can't keep bombing Libya indefinitely. Victory has to be declared before NATO forces run out of bombs (the British have come dangerously close to running out of cruise missiles). NATO may be wanting to call it a day more than any real gains through its air campaign.

The question still remains who wanted regime change? By all accounts, Gaddafi has done a fantastic job over the last 40 years in preventing even the merest hint of opposition. If Gaddafi is asked to step down, then who has the political infrastructure and savvy to takeover?

Elsewhere as the American press continues to inundate us with pictures of President Obama's bus tour, another Middle Easter nation continues to rip its own throat out. Anti-government protestors have been fired upon by Syrian authorities. Several videos have been put up by CNN showing the attacks and a horrifying image of a young girl killed by a bullet through her eye. If Gaddafi is worthy of a sustained air campaign, certainly Syria is worthy of some kind of military intervention? I've posted a link to Al Jazeera that details the violence from a Middle Eastern perspective. Syria and Turkey are also shooting at each other and the last time I checked, Turkey is still a member of NATO. What happens when the alliance (NATO in this case) gets attacked? Perhaps this is why NATO is trying to quickly declare victory in Libya.

The S&P dropping of the US from AAA to AA+ bond rating caused most news outlets to ignore a truly amazing story. Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell on Wednesday accepted responsibility for two devastating oil spills in the Niger Delta which lawyers say have destroyed the livelihoods of a fishing community. (Source: Yahoo News).

Americans watched in horror as the Deep Water Horizon spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. What most Americans don't know is in 2008 and 2009 there were oil spills off the coast of Nigeria that made ours look like a picnic. Nigeria produces 2.2 million barrels a day (source: CIA Factbook) ranking it as the 14th oil producer in the world. Despite that production, less than 20 percent of the profits produced from oil is received by Nigeria. Most of the profits go right to Royal Dutch Shell.

While looking up data on Nigeria, I discovered the the world leader in oil production is....not a Middle Eastern country (or even Venezuela). The world leader in barrels per day of oil is Russia. A little known story is the amount of oil that is produce in Azerbaijan. In 1898, the Azerbaijani oil industry exceeded the U.S. oil production level. At that time, approximately 8 million tons were being produced. In 1901, Baku produced more than half of the world's oil (11 million tons), and 95 percent of all Russian oil.

This long history may explain why Putin has decided to pursue a Eurasian economic union. Basically it is a re-imagined Soviet Union based on capitalism. There are good to be traded and Putin is rightly concerned, in my opinion, about the emerging Chinese economic juggernaut. The American and European economies are stalling and Putin knows he has the one thing China needs, oil. Creating a Eurasian economic union is the only way to keep Russia relevant economically relevant in the future.





Monday, August 15, 2011

Pakistan lets China see US helicopter

The Financial Times is reporting that Pakistan has shared the tail section of the stealth helicopter used on the raid to kill Osama bin Laden.

The SEALs smashed the avionics and used explosives to destroy the fuselage but according to the FT, the tail section landed outside the compound. It was this act that has fueled all manner of speculation to the type of helicopter used and whether the team on board may have been killed.

The report illustrates the relationship with Beijing is much stronger than with Washington. For some reason, both the US government and media try to portray a positive relationship with Pakistan. History does not support this. During the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, the CIA sold sniper rifles and Stinger missiles to mujahaieen. After the Soviets left, Pakistan showed North Korea the Stinger missiles and traded the sniper rifles for new batteries to power the missiles.

Islamabad has been portraying the US military of late as a secretive, uncooperative tenant that indiscriminately kills Paksitani citizens. The US can't fight the Taliban with ground forces unless it maintains a presence in Pakistan. By sharing the helicopter section, Pakistan shows the relationships have gone from cold to strained. The US may have to end operations in Afghanistan not because the Taliban has been defeated but the relationship with Pakistan is too complicated.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Britain burns the colour of ‘A Clockwork Orange’

Guatam Malkani takes a unique approach to understanding the riots in London. The London riots have been attributed to either rage against the establishment (held by the left) or the result of hip-hop culture (held by the right).

These two uninspired rationales look at the world as though political motivations explain everything. The UK has started to cut social services as a means of balancing their budget. To the left, this was the reason for people to riot as an expression of protest against reduced services. The argument loses credibility when you see the rioters are plundering their own neighborhoods and not destroying the more affluent neighborhoods. The alienated attacking the disenfranchised makes no sense as a political protest.

The right saw all of the use of words such as "feds", "see a fed, shot a fed", "5-0", and other texts as proof American hip-hop culture had ruined British youth. The language in London is a mish-mash of British, American and Jamaican colloquialisms. Most of the colloquialisms have nothing to do with hip-hop and more to do with sounding cool or using a slang term from one's background. Hip-hop is a convenient way for the right to demonize something into a sound byte. It is also easier politically to blame hip-hop then it is materialism (which much closer to what we saw in the news videos).

Malkani compares the riots to "A Clockwork Orange" in which bored young people engaged in the most decadent violence not out of political protest but because they were bored. Both the UK and US have an astounding level of wealth even for those that are considered impoverished. Don't believe it? Western definitions of homeless mean people who don't have a permit residence but thanks to social services can still receive some subsistence. In parts of Africa and Asia, everyone is homeless in the sense they lack a permanent residence but they receive NO subsistence from the government. Citizens of those countries are too busy trying to survive to become bored. Western citizens can receive welfare or steal what they lack from their neighbors.

The number of bored young people in the United States is not known but we can assume quite large. It is this boredom and lack of purpose that leads to the violence we see in London and see in snippets here in the US. There is little empathy and much apathy. Flash mobs can easily become mobs as they both take advantage of people feeling anonymous (until they replay the video). Philadelphia has already had to establish a curfew to deal with mobs attacking people. The Wisconsin state fair suffered a similar situation with flash mobs of apparently African-American youths attacking fair goers.

Technology allows these alienated (to use a Marxist term) youth to connect quickly and plan a mob before law enforcement can react. The London riots have been on the news and will inspire others to copy their tactics. The US with a drop in bond ratings is prime for more of these flash mobs to turn into full blown riots.

Philly curfew

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Riots and Social Media

The L.A. Riots. The 2001 Cincinnati Riots. The riots following Hurricane Katrina. Now the 2011 riots of London.

According to Webster's on-line, a riot is "a violent public disorder; specifically: a tumultuous disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons assembled together and acting with common intent". In all four cases, there was widespread violence by large groups of "persons" intent on looting and destruction.

Riots usually start with a singular event. In the case of L.A, Cincinnati and London it was police violence. Hurricane Katrina left its own swath of destruction taking out public safety agencies as well. Rioters in all cases were originally "outraged" over the response (in the case of the first three) or lack of response (in Katrina) by authorities.

The beating of Rodney King being caught on video tape and shown on cable TV lead more to the riots than the actual incident itself. Millions saw and reacted to L.A. police officers repeated striking Mr. King with batons. Some people who were legitimately outraged took the streets in protest. However, the majority of rioters had no idea what had happened and seized on the opportunity to loot and destroy neighborhoods. The part technology played in these riots was only the beginning. Law enforcement agencies had to take into consideration the proliferation of video cameras and how quickly videos could get on the local news.

The fatal shooting of Timothy Thomas by Cincinnati Police in 2001 set off four days of rioting. The Cincinnati riots exploded due the presence of rioters from outside the city who used cell phones and radios to coordinate their actions. Mobile communications combined with the aforementioned video cameras made Cincinnati the poster child for what happens when race relations are ignored. (Note, the lessons learned from those riots turned things around to where Cincinnati successfully hosted the NAACP national convention, the LULAC national convention, the Elks and the Prince Hall Shriners.)

Hurricane Katrina makes land in 2005 and basically shuts the city of New Orleans down. Hurricanes do not discriminate. They will destroy the homes of police and doctors just as fast as someone who is unemployed. New Orleans police suffered the same fate as their fellow citizens. Their homes were flooded and destroyed. The police stations were flooded. The radios did not work because all of the power was out throughout the city. Looters quickly figured out that alarm systems as well as the police were down for the count. The news showed images of people pushing shopping carts with filled withe high-end electronics (apparently the lack of power did not diminish the desire for big screen TVs). Unlike L.A. and Cincinnati, the lack of power and cellular services prevented looters from better coordination.

Now London is making headlines for another police shooting resulting in a fatality. Like L.A. and Cincinnati, the incident was in a poorer neighborhood where relations with the police are already strained. The reaction was to riot (not an uncommon practice in London). What is unique about these riots is the use of social media (Facebook and Twitter) to recruit hoodlums to areas for looting. This should come as no surprise given that social media creates "flash mobs". Most of these are the silly ones with people breaking out in dance in the middle of a mall or train station. But it does take much to use the same principle to recruit a mob for a nefarious purpose.

The AP article makes much about the economic crisis facing Britain and the cuts to social programs may be part of the reason for the widespread looting and violence. I submit that might be the excuse but in reality there is always those that are looking for an excuse to join in a group and engage in anonymous behavior. They lack the courage or wit to act alone but will follow a group right off the proverbial cliff.

There will be a outcry for regulating social media but those demands miss the flip side to what is going on in London. Many law abiding citizens are using Facebook and Twitter to help law enforcement pinpoint where the next riots are likely to breakout. Social media is like any other tool, it has no inherent "good" or "bad". It comes down to the intent of the users.

News from The Associated Press

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Seemingly unrelated

First, the Navy SEALs and Colorado National Guard are mourning their losses after a Chinook was shot down in Afghanistan this weekend. It frustrates me to learn that the SEALs were part of SEAL Team Six and were being exfiltrated after assisting a Ranger unit. This same scenario happened in Somalia in 1993. Why was a very high-value asset like SEAL Team Six being used to back up the Rangers? We have close air support, attack helicopters, Reapers, Predators, and good old fashioned artillery. We won't know the real details but on the surface we used to wrong asset for the wrong job and a bunch of special operators got killed.

Helicopter air assault hasn't changed much since Vietnam. On the inbound or infiltration you may get in fast enough that the enemy doesn't have time to coordinate an attack. On the exit or exfiltration you run the risk that the enemy knows a team is on the ground and is looking for the helicopters. They can radio each other to set-up a quick cross-fire with RPGs, shoulder launched SAMs or simply automatic rifles. A helicopter lifting off is easy to hit and with concentrated firepower you can bring it down (see Vietnam, Afghanistan in the 1980s, Somalia in 1993, and most recently the helicopter extracting the SEAL team to hit Osama bin Laden).

SEAL Team Six has been well documented since killing Osama bin Laden. It takes years of training to ready for that team. We lost the lives of some of the most highly trained men in the world. In addition to the loss to their family and friends, the US lost 20 of the most highly trained special operators in the world. Their use in this mission suggests either desperation or a complete lack of understanding of how to use Special Operations. In either event. this is not going unnoticed by the enemy.

At the same time, a seemingly unconnected event occurred this weekend. The US lost its AAA rating in the S&P for the first time in history. That means the US has a lower rating (AA+) than Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

In another spectacular move of either ignorance or desperation, President Obama keeps Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary. No, the lower rating in the S&P was not Geithner fault however keeping him (when he was talking about leaving) means President Obama does not see anything wrong with US economic policies.

The Tea Party is blaming the President and Democrats. The President is blaming the Tea Part and Republicans. We are now in crisis mode, the question is not how we got here but how are we going to get back to a AAA rating. Keeping Geithner is symbolic in that the US does not see where it had made an errors. Geithner is already calling S&P essentially ignorant in their downgrading of the US.

So how are these two events connected? Both the downing of the Chinook and US bond rating show the rest of world that the US is vulnerable. We are militarily vulnerable as 10 years of continuous operations has stressed our forces and reduced the lifecycles of our weapons systems. The new F-22s have been grounded so long that pilots have lost their proficiency (MR) and to recertify. The bond market shows a decided lack of confidence in the US economy contrary to what President Obama may say. China has already suggested that other countries dump the dollar. The Chinese economy continues to be a juggernaut that is now set to become the largest world economy by 2016!

Russia is watching the US continue to slip in its influence with China ascending to dominancy. Putin does not Russia to take a backseat but has been unable to turn his oil fields into the gold equivalent to the Middle East. Iraq has demanded the US completely remove forces by the end of 2011.

I really don't subscribe to the theory that 2012 is the end of the world. However, I do recognize that with a bond rating that has dropped, a depleted military, and problems such as riots in London, many will believe the world is ending and will act accordingly.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Iran revolutionary guards commander becomes new president of Opec

While the world watched a lone gunmen murdered over 60 people, other developments continued unfettered. Iran taking over as president of OPEC at a time with relations with US at an all-time low does not bode well for the price of oil. The US narrowly missed defaulting for the first time in history just a few days ago. The markets are still quite skittish and consumer confidence is not where President Obama needs it. Even a small increase in the price of oil could have a devastating impact on the US economy. The relations between the US and Iran has been hot for last few years and if cooler heads do not prevail, we could see a conflict over oil.

Egypt and Libya are still unresolved. If you read something other than Western media, you will see a different take on the events in Libya. It makes you wonder if NATO will be able to bring about a regime change through aerial bombardment (and by the way, who really asked for Gaddafi to step down?). On a related note, the Pentagon is trying to cut its budget (again) which means fewer troops and weapons in the future. The US State Department has quietly been pursuing a private security force in what seems to be an attempt to offset the reductions at the Department of Defense.

If the State Department does pursue private contractors (mercenaries), then we can see further deterioration of relations with the Middle East. Unlike the DoD, the State Department does not fall under the War Powers act. Private forces could be use and would be subject to any of the restrictions imposed on our military.