Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Senators: U.S. Forces at Risk Due to Syrian Chemical Weapons

First, it looked like we may get drawn into a conflict with a nuclear armed Iran. Even if the US and Iran do not directly exchange hostilities, Israel seems to have a far shorter level of what they will accept regarding Iran's nuclear program. While Iran remains less the impressed by Secretary Clinton's admonishments, we now the very real possibility of Syrian chemical weapons being used against US forces in the region.

According to Global Security, "the army was the best equipped of the three services, with over 4,100 Soviet-built tanks (including 1,000 of the advanced T-72's) and a formidable air defense system of SAM batteries and myriad antiaircraft guns and artillery. In 1987, Syria was scheduled to receive 500 new Soviet SS-23 ballistic missiles with a range of 500 kilometers. Syria was also reported to have begun producing its own chemical weapons, including nerve gases, with the capability to use the chemical agents in missile warheads. The Air Defense Command, within the Army Command, but also composed of Air Force personnel, numbered approximately 60,000. It served in twenty air defense brigades (with approximately ninety-five SAM batteries) and two air defense regiments. The Air Defense Command had command access to interceptor aircraft and radar facilities. Air defenses included SA-5 long-range SAM batteries around Damascus and Aleppo, with additional SA-6 and SA-8 mobile SAM units deployed along Syria's side of the Lebanese border and in eastern Lebanon, and short-range SS-21 surface-to-surface missiles with conventional warheads." Link

In addition to sarin and mustard gas, Syria also possesses biological agents that can be dispersed by missiles or rockets. Most open source reports seem to indicate either Iran or Russia supplied the weapons and agents to the Syrians.

What has to be remembered is with chemical and biological agents, a threat is as good as an attack. If US forces have to don protective gear, their movements will be hampered. Anyone who had to wear MOPP gear during the first Gulf War knows troops can only be in protective gear for so long before they become exhausted from dehydration. If US forces become entangled in a conflict with Syria involving chemical weapons, this will adversely impact our ability to deal with Iran.

I wonder how soon before the Department of Homeland Security starts issuing warnings about the possibility of chemical or biological agents being used against us here?

US News

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why the world isn't intervening in Syria

Fascinating, CNN spent three pages talking about why no one is intervening in Syria without mentioning the two biggest; Russia and China. Both sit on the UN security council and have vetoed any actions to intervene. Even Secretary Clinton's calling their actions "despicable" has failed to motivate the West to action. China wants Iranian oil. Russia wants oil and the port in the Mediterranean. Now Iran has positioned ships there as well. If military actions are taken, refugees will most likely flee to Turkey. This will create more internal strife for the Turks. But perhaps the biggest reason no intervention will occur is because the West is much more concerned about hostilities with Iran.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I am not an NBA fan but by now most people have heard of Jeremy Lin (pic above). While known by NBA fans (and beloved by Knicks fans in particular), Lin also provides a new dimension to US foreign relations. Lin is from Taiwan and now that he is fast becoming the most famous Taiwanese athlete in the US, his family is becoming a target. Taiwan has long considered itself a separate nation from mainland China. The US has maintained strong ties with the democratic Taiwan over Communist China. China considers Taiwan a break-away and does not recognize its independence. Lin's increasing popularity has refocused attention on the relations between Taiwan, China and the US.

The US also has to contend with Kim Il-eun flexing his muscle over military drills in South Korea. There is no track record with the newest North Korean leader so we don't know what will happen.

These two hotspots could keep the US and Obama Administration busy for the rest of the election year alone, however matters in the Middle East continue to accelerate.

Iran has moved some of their naval ships to Syria. This means Assad now has Russian, Iranian as well as his own military to protect him from unwanted intervention by the UN, US and Arab League. Israel continues to sound like they will not let Iran get much further with their nuclear program. Afghanistan now is set to erupt after an American soldier accidentally burned Qurans that were seized from prisoners. Musharraf is trying to return to power in Pakistan. US presence in the region is not stabilizing anything and can lead to further hostilities (which could be an advantage for Syria or Iran).

Putin kicked out the Russian mob will in power. Most of the leaders ended up in either North America or Europe. The Russian mob wants back in to their homeland so they could support some type of domestic revolt (Chechnya) to distract Russia or cause the US to head into some type of conflict with Iran by staging a domestic attack.

All of this is cast with on a backdrop of a Presidential race pitting hard-line GOP candidates against an Obama Administration which has already shown its not afraid to take the first shot.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Heightened Security in U.S. Over Iran Threat

World events having an impact on things in the homeland. The problem is their operatives are most likely already here.

ABC News

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Base Re-Alignment and Closure (BRAC)

BRAC has been around since around 1990 as a response to Reagan Administration build-up. Back then, it was easy to find small installations (such as Gentile Air Station near Dayton) that supported a single use (such as telecommunications. The facilities were thought to be redundant as well as the numerous bases in Europe that were a legacy of World War II. It was found that closing overseas facilities was easier as there were no legislators or constituents to trip over. The first BRACs were then to close redundant or obsolete facilities to gain efficiencies. It also supported the drawdown of forces ordered by George H. Bush.

The 2005 BRAC was different in two important ways from previous BRACs. First, it focused on stateside bases while overseas bases were increasing. Second, for the purposes of the USAF the BRAC served as a means of culling the newer C-130s from the Reserve component back into the active duty.

The slightly dated map above shows just how many bases now exist in the CENTCOM area of responsibility (AOR). It also serves as an illustrative reminder of why Iran feels no compelling reason to stop developing nuclear weapons. Given the history and the incredible footprint of US forces, I find the following from Air Force Magazine to be rather interesting;

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday raised concerns to the Pentagon leadership over the Obama Administration's proposal for two new BRAC rounds in 2013 and 2015. "Finding further reductions in consolidations in our overseas force posture should be our first priority before another BRAC round," said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, during the oversight hearing on DOD's Fiscal 2013 budget request. "I have serious questions whether we save any money from a BRAC process," added Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.). Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said he'd oppose more BRAC since the US military is being reduced "to an unacceptable level." Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he understood the lawmakers' concerns as a former Congressman whose district had to absorb a base closure. "I recognize how controversial this process is for members and for constituencies. And yet it is the only effective way to achieve needed infrastructure savings," he said. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was one voice expressing favor for consolidation, saying "it's appropriate to consider another round."

Only stateside facilities appear to be targeted. The 179 Airlfit Wing in Mansfield has been hit twice since 2005. First, they lost their C-130s (and the base was nearly closed). Now their C-27 Spartans are being taken away.

Drawing forces down while facing potential hostilities in Syria, Iran and Egypt just seems premature.

US weighing steep nuclear arms cuts

I don't really understand why we need to cut our nuclear forces. It will not impact Iran's desire to acquire nuclear weapons. After all, Iran is more concerned about Israel then a US nuclear attack. Cutting our nuclear and conventional forces at the same time will not broker peace, it will merely leave us in a weakened state in the event of a conflict. We've seen in movies and books where the hero, by putting down his weapon, causes the same action in his opponent. In reality, the nation that is disarming is usually the one that ends up getting attacked.

The Associated Press

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pentagon May Oust Troops Involuntarily to Meet Reductions in Budget Plan

The first time I ever heard the term "RIF" was in 1991. "RIF" stands for reduction in force which is an involuntary separation action in the US military. What was odd about 1991 was "RIF" occurred right after Desert Storm. Soldiers who had beat the snot out of Saddam Hussein returned to Germany to find many of their kaserns (posts) had closed while they were gone. The soldiers families had been sent back home. Closing bases overseas was much easier as there are no constituents to piss off. By 1992, the base overseas closures had not produced enough troop reductions so the Department of Defense started involuntary troop reductions or "RIF". At the time, our unit was seeing an increase in commitments (Somalia, the Barcelona Olympics, plus Northern and Southern Watch in Iraq). Ninety-five percent of officers commissioned between 1980-85), excluding rated officers, could be forced out.

Of course this wasn't the first time the military underwent a drawdown. The US Army went from 213,000 to 175,000 right after World War I. Congress wanted to take the Army down to 150,000 causing the Army to halt all recruiting in 1922. The United States was wholly unprepared entering World War II as a result. Troop strength had to be built up rapidly to where by 1945, the US Army strength was over 8 million. By 1948, the US Army was down to 554,000 troops. Two years later, the US would enter the Korean War against North Korea and China which saw it as a war of attrition. Troop strength doubled by 1951 to over 1 million. After the ceasefire, US Army troop levels fell to around 880,000 going into the Vietnam War. The US Army grew back to 1,460,00 troops during the height of the Vietnam War. After the US pulled out of Vietnam in 1973, troop strength for the Army remained around 600,000 into the 21st Century.

Some will point to the drop in troop strength as a pre-cursor to WWI, Korea and Vietnam. The argument assumes that North Korea and North Vietnam declared war on the US as result, instead of the US taking actions to prevent the spread of Communism. However, it is accurate that the reduced troop strength did adversely impact the US operations, costing more money and lives had a larger force been available in the first place. Having a large standing military can lead to imperial tendencies that the framers of the US Constitution tried to avoid. Large standing militaries cost money and tempt leaders to use them indiscriminately.

Now after fighting two major wars, the US military is facing yet another drawdown. What is different this time is we are drawing forces down while trying to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Even if the US does not engage in military actions, Israel just might leading to a major conflict. Of course the majority of combat vets will be out applying for unemployment.


U.S. Navy: Iran prepares suicide bomb boats in Gulf

The Iranians have a number of smaller submarines and could plan to use suicide boats much like the one used against the USS Cole pictured above. The article is wrong by the way, the attack occurred in 2000, not 1996. It also seems to over-emphasize the technological differences between the US Navy and the Iranian navy. There was the same technological gap between the Yemen terrorists who attacked the USS Cole, however they were able to exploit weaknesses of the ship while refueling. Small, two man subs could avoid detection and still deliver a punch to the Fifth Fleet. Small vessels could get close enough to frigates or destroyers to ram or explode a bomb. Iran may be able to deploy mines in such a way that the fleet is unable to detect them. Of course there is always dumb luck; someone makes a mistake and an attack goes from unlikely to historical.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Of Arabs, Persians, and Russians

During the Cold War, it was easy to think of the massive build-up of weapons by the Soviet Union as a means of destroying the United States. Simplistic and efficient if you were part of the military-industrial complex of the late 20th Century. However, it does not explain why the Soviets built such a sheer number that could have destroyed the United States and Western Europe many times over.

The map above will help explain why the Russians (and formerly the Soviets) KNEW everyone was out to get them. First, why is it the many of the "white" Russians look European? Russia is a word derived from the Slavak "Rus" to describe the people that were most likely Vikings (who had red hair or "rus"). Peter the Great would lead Russia from a primarily agrarian economy to a modern European economy following his favorite culture, the Dutch (the current Russian flag uses the same colors in a different order). Peter the Great specifically wanted to learn about Dutch ship building to fend off the Swedes.

The Russians have been invaded by pretty much everyone on the Easter hemisphere to include the Swedes, French, Prussians, Germans, Ottomans, the Arab empire, the Persian empires, and the Mongols. Czar Nicholas tried to pick a fight with the Japanese navy, lost and subsequently he and his entire family were assassinated. The Soviets invaded Afghanistan and after a first class ass-whooping, they were sent packing by a mountain people armed with a combination of 19th Century rifles and Stinger missiles.

While China and India have never invaded Russia, they have always posed a threat in the minds of Moscow. China for having a different view of Communism and the Indians for never appreciating the Soviet incursion into Afghanistan.

Of course if you imagine a larger view of the map you will notice the United States with all of it intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) pointed at Russia. With so many friends, you begin to understand why the Russians felt the need for such a huge arms build-up.

Understanding Russia from this point of views enables a different interpretation of the events in Syria and Iran. Syria provides the only naval base for Russia in the Mediterranean Russia has no interest in losing its only naval port to a pro-Western puppet to replace Assad. Russia has been providing Iran with the centrifuges and other technology needed to develop its nuclear power plants. It is most likely that Russian nuclear physicists are working with the Iranians. Russia needs Iran (for now) and the cash that selling nuclear technology produces. It will also make conflicts with the Chechnyans look less theologically motivated.

Iran also suffers from a similar worldview as does Russia. The Persians have battled pretty much every empire that surrounded them and now modern day Iran sees danger in every corner. The Tehran Embassy crisis was certainly an attack on the United States but one must not forget that the Shah was put into power with the help of the CIA.

Now the Arab League wants to lead a peacekeeping mission into Syria. Peacekeeping missions are hardly that, they are conducted by well armed soldiers. In Syria, this would mean more deaths and a possible escalation of conflicts with bordering countries. It could also lead to peacekeeping forces in confrontations with Russian forces.

Another ugly potential is the 2012 Summer Olympics. Athletes could be attacked, kidnapped or killed in the name of Syrian liberation. The Obama Administration may take in retaliation take a hard-line stance so as to not appear weak on national security in light of the elections. Republicans will be clamoring for more action and defense contractors will be eager to trot out new systems in light of impending defense budget cuts.

In short, we are looking at the perfect storm.