Thursday, February 28, 2013


Will it happen or won't it?  Sequestration is refers to a procedure whereby the US federal budget has a hard-cap placed on it.  These cuts will, from all accounts, be draconian.  Wright-Patterson will lay off thousands of civil servants.  Postal service will be cut.  Food inspectors will be laid off.  Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera....

I previously posted the US Navy is facing challenges regarding its carrier fleet.  The carrier USS Lincoln is back in port, unable to be refueled.  Others Nimitz class carriers may face a similar fate.  The F-22 has been grounded (again) due to a persistent cough pilots and ground crews are developing. Sequestration may prevent funds from being used to find a solution.  The F-35 continues to need cash injections that sequestration may end.

The military is my field of expertise but of course sequestration is across the entire federal government.  In my new career at the college, this means students may have less financial aid.  Perkins grants may be greatly reduced.

The real question is if sequestration happens (remember the imminent fiscal cliff that was avoided at the last minute?), it doesn't mean that sequestration remains in place forever and a day.  The government will continue to work to come out from under sequestration.  The may reason we are in this mess is the Democrats want healthcare reform and the Republicans don't want to eliminate tax cuts.  Sounds reasonable to me, let's shut down everything then!

As I sit here at my house, the local news has show that North Korea is continuing to escalate its nuclear weapons posture, Syria is still tearing itself apart, and Iran is pressing forward with becoming the next nuclear power on the scene.  All the while, our government becomes less and less relevant to world affairs.  Some might even remark they are becoming less relevant to its constituents.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Park sworn in as S Korea president

"North Korea's recent nuclear test is a challenge to the survival and future of the Korean people, and there should be no mistake that the biggest victim will be none other than North Korea itself." BBC

The new Secretary of State is pushing Iran for similar concessions on their nuclear program.  He now has a kindred soul in South Korea to keep pressure on North Korea.  Interestingly, the United States has never publicly appealed to China to thwart the North Korean nuclear program.

Most interestingly, South Korea was still using horse drawn ploughs about 40 years ago.  Now they have done what the United States still has yet to do; elect its first female president.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Measles and drones

The widespread use of drones is outstripping the public debate.  Policy wonks are creating ludicrous white papers justifying the use of drones whilst the public argues  over gun control, immigration reform and the economy.

Case in point,  Michael Kugelman, a senior Program Associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, has written this surreal explanation for Pakistan's protests against the use of drones;

"In Pakistan, there is much ire over civilian casualties. Reliable figures are highly elusive, though many cite the data of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Early this week, the BIJ was projecting that up to nearly 900 civilians have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan between 2004 and 2013.

That averages out to about 100 per year — a sizable number, and, from a humanitarian perspective, 100 too many.

 Now let’s consider some very different types of statistics. In 2012, measles killed 210 children in Sindh. Karachiites staged numerous anti-drones protests last year, but I don’t recall them holding any rallies to highlight a scourge that was twice as deadly for their province’s kids than drone strikes were for Pakistani civilians."

So it is okay to use remote controlled killing because it results in fewer deaths than measles?  Yes, according to Mr. Kugleman.  He goes on;

"Nor do I recall any mass action centered around unsafe water. More people in Karachi die each month from contaminated water than have been killed by India’s army since 1947. Bad water also takes the lives of 30,000 Karachiities each year. 

 Widen the lens geographically, and you’ll find that more than 130 Pakistanis nationwide perished from measles in January 2013 alone. Or that 630 Pakistani children die from water-borne illness every day (that’s more than three times the total number of Pakistani children the BIJ believes have died from drone strikes since 2004)."

A comparative lack of protests over poor sanitation versus a foreign nation killing your citizens is the worst "apples to oranges"analogy.  What a smug, condescending and dangerous supposition.  We can kill with drones because it results in fewer deaths than measles or dirty water.  Isn't this how Europeans justified that taking of lands from Native Americans?

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone magazine wrote a blistering criticism of Kugelman's article;

"It's been amazing, watching the histrionics and mental gymnastics some people have resorted to in their efforts to defend this infamous drone program. Extralegal murder is not an easy thing to manufacture consent around, and the signs of strain in the press have been pretty clear all around." Rolling Stone

The Obama administration has decided that the expanded use of drones is good and that's that, no arguments will be allowed.  Even if those criticisms come from one of allies in the war on terrorism (Pakistan).  We should be very vigilant that the policies governing the use of drones are not crafted by the likes of Kugelman.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


dik-tat: 1. : a harsh settlement, unilaterally imposed (as on a defeated nation); 2. : decree, order

Two seemingly unrelated events in the past few days gives me reason to dust this term off.  The first was the use of drones to hunt down former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner.  He ended-up in a stand-off with L.A. County deputy sheriffs.  The cabin has was in mysteriously burned to the ground.  Reports are now surfacing that he was killed by a single gunshot to the head.  Diktat.

The other event was the announcement of the Distinguished Warfare Medal (DWM) on Thursday. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said, “This award recognizes the reality of the kind of technological warfare we are engaged in the 21st century.” The Defense Warfare Medal will soon become the fourth highest combat decoration in order of precedence pushing the Bronze Star down a notch to the fifth highest combat decoration.

Combat decorations are just that, awards for those who have served in combat.  For the first time, servicemen and servicewomen can be awarded medals for killing an enemy without ever being on the combat field.  Killing by remote control by "warriors" who get to go home at night.  Diktat.

We are rapidly being conditioned to accept drones as common place without considering the wider implications.  Risking our own bodies in service of our country is what makes troops different.  In comparison to drone operators, look at what it took for SSGT Clinton Romesha to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor.  We both admire his bravery and cringe at the loss of life of his comrades and those enemy combatants he had to kill.   It is brutal, dirty and ugly.

Drone strikes, on the other hand, are "surgical in their approach" being clean, efficient and most of all, anonymous.  Drones can be used anywhere (at let me stress that again, ANYWHERE) and anytime.  President Obama and his future successors will not longer have to face an angry public filled with the family members of the fallen.  He or she will be able to smile and bestow medals on warriors who have never left the country.  More than ever, President Obama and his successors (or for that matter, any high-level administration official) will be able to conduct "warfare" without the public become any wiser.

A report by Michael Isikoff of NBC News, reveals that the Obama administration believes that high-level administration officials -- not just the president -- may order the killing of “senior operational leaders” of al Qaeda or an associated force even without evidence they are actively plotting against the U.S.  “A lawful killing in self-defense is not an assassination,” states the Justice Department white paper quoted by Isikoff.  Diktat.

The same article points out "Attorney General Eric Holder specifically endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans, saying they could be justified if government officials determine the target poses “an imminent threat of violent attack.”  Based on this, I truly felt Dorner was going to become the first test case of Holder's opinion.  The next serial killer or would-be terrorist that high tails it into the woods may be taken out by a drone strike.  Diktat.

The Obama administration has realized something Kennedy/Johnson/Nixon could only have dreamed of during Vietnam; a sanitized way of killing your enemies.  And medals still get to be handed out.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Interesting Case of Christopher Jordan Dorner

The above montage shows Christopher Jordan Dorner, former LAPD and Navy Reservist who has now been charged with capital murder of one and attempted murder of three other LAPD officers.

Dorner, a former LAPD officer, was sacked in 2008 for falsely claiming a colleague kicked a homeless suspect, but a judge who examined the case concluded that he could not be certain whether or not the suspect had been kicked. 

Fresh out of the navy reserves, where he had served in Bahrain and Kuwait, Dorner, a trained marksman, was a rookie police officer on 28 July 2007, when he accompanied a training officer, Teresa Evans, to a reported disturbance at the Doubletree Hotel in San Pedro. 

They encountered a mentally ill homeless man, Christopher Gettler. Evans tasered him after he threw a punch. Gettler was later returned to his father and that seemed to be the end of the incident. Two weeks later, however, according to LAPD records published by the LA Times, Dorner told a superior, Sergeant Donald Deming of the harbour division, that after the tasering, Evans had kicked Gettler in the chest and face, snapping his head back and causing him to bleed. 

 An internal affairs investigation ruled that the kicking did not happen and that Dorner had lied. This led to a disciplinary hearing in 2008. Dorner's attorney, Randal Quan, a former police captain, called the case against his client "very, very ugly" said he "wasn't given a fair shake." Quan said: "In fact, what's happening here is this officer is being made a scapegoat." Dorner said he had not immediately reported the kicks because he had filed other complaints against fellow officers and feared retaliation.  Guardian

Last week, he published his manifesto and went on a shooting spree.  He also mailed a LAPD challenge coin to Anderson Cooper at CNN which Dorner had shot several times with what appears to have been a 5.56mm weapon.

After his shooting spree, he drove off into the mountains and set his SUV on fire.  Authorities have been hunting him on foot and via drones ever since.

The LAPD have been on edge ever since resulting in two officers opening fire on what they thought was his vehicle (even though it was the wrong color and was driven by a grandmother).

Unlike say the shooters at Columbine or Sandy Hook, Dorner has garnered a surprising number of sympathizers.  At least three Facebook pages appeared shortly after the shootings all in support of Dorner (those have since been taken down).  It is this support that has fascinated me and leads me to wonder what else is at work here.

A Navy officer who seems to have served in the Undersea Warfare Unit.  He holds a rifle marksmanship ribbon and an expert pistol medal.  The extent of his training is unclear.  He is not a SEAL based on his uniform yet he would seem to possess more training than a typical Navy officer would possess.  I've read conflicting reports as to when he separated.  Some state 2006 while others say as late as 2013.  I suspect he may have left in 2006 but remained in the Inactive Reserves until this year.

Dorner played football and suffered two concussions, one while playing in high school and one while playing college football.  This is mentioned in his manifesto where is also talks about suffering severe depression.  It may turn out he was on prescription medications which may be responsible for his mental state and desire to commit mass murder.

From all reports, it appears Dorner is highly trained between his Navy and LAPD experience.  He is also very fit having played football and from all of the photos, has maintained a very high level of fitness.  Based on this, I doubt Dorner is hiding out in the woods.  He torched his vehicle to draw attention to that spot and is hiding elsewhere.  He did not spend all of that time writing a manifesto to freeze to death in the mountains.

LAPD is being quick to convict Dorner in the media.  The populace does not seem to be as quick to buy into it.

Dorner also represents a bigger issue yet mostly unspoken issue.  The military spends millions of dollars to train operators like Dorner yet nothing on converting them from highly trained killing machines back into civilians.  We may find Dorner is suffering from both severe depression brought about due to his football injuries and PTSD.  The question becomes what happens to all of these highly trained operators in future years?

The Dorner case also is conditioning the public to be more accepting of drones being used domestically. Both of these are things that we should be as concerned about, perhaps even more than a former cop running amok in the mountains of California.

Read about the life of the SEAL Team Six operator that killed Osama bin Laden.  His story is NOT unique.  The man who shot Osama bin Laden

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Book claims Petraeus was brought down after betrayal by vengeful CIA agents and bodyguard

Bunch of hypocrites, Petraeus wasn't the first (or last) executive to have an affair. He also wasn't the first O-10 (four-star flag officer) to run the CIA. He was the first to run things based on real world experience gained in Afghanistan.

There is something about veterans that worries non-veterans. Veterans bring a different ethos and mindset to the job, something I suspect is at work in the case of former LAPD officer Dorner.

Peteraeus biggest mistakes, besides having an affair, was trusting his bodyguards would be as loyal as his military detail. The powers that be did not like the high profile general (something you can see in the press reports). He needed to be removed and the affair provided the perfect excuse.

Daily Mail

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Navy: Lincoln Refueling Delayed, Will Hurt Carrier Readiness

Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower subcommittee called the delay, “another example of how these reckless and irresponsible defense cuts in Washington will have a long-term impact on the Navy’s ability to perform its missions. Not only will the Lincoln be delayed in returning to the Fleet, but this decision will also affect the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) defueling, the USS George Washington (CVN-73) RCOH, and future carrier readiness.”--Navy

The cascading effect of delaying the refueling of a single carrier will have profound effects on carrier readiness for many years to come.  Our current and future enemies are watching this with interest.  The carrier fleet remains the primary means of the US to project power in a global environment.  If the carriers are unavailable, so to is power projection.  Drones aren't the same thing.  A single missile strike does not (at least not year) strike fear into to the hearts of despots the way a carrier battle group does.

This is a calculated risk that does not bode well for the United States and her allies.  Britain can barely keep its forces funded and global ventures may be out of the question for them in the very near future.  No other country has really stood with the United States and without the British, there really is little other allies would or could bring to the table.

Also of interest to this discussion is now the rumor that Hegel may only have a 50/50 chance of becoming the next Secretary of Defense.  If he does, his testimony has demonstrated he may be one of the least prepared individuals to take over at the Pentagon.  If he does not get confirmed, who then will the Obama administration appoint?  Panetta has already loudly criticized sequestering so it will be unlikely that he would be asked to remain.  No alternates to Hegel have appeared at this time.  The only other vet is Kerry who has already taken the helm at State.  Perhaps McCain but he would bring much of the same baggage that is stalling Hegel's nomination.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Aviation experts say new Iranian stealth jet is a pathetic hoax tht can’t even fly

We should not feel superior, the Boeing Dreamliner presented at its premiere was not much better.  It flew but lacked any interiors or anything but basic avionics.  Now it sits grounded because of the lithium batteries that like to catch fire.  It doesn't mean that the Iranian stealth fighter is fantasy.  Quite the contrary, most countries unveil mock-ups to prevent secret technology from being unveiled.  The reverse happened to the US.  The F-22 flies and is operational but has the unfortunate habit of depriving pilots of oxygen.  It got so bad that pilots started to refuse flying in them.  The oxygen generator has been fixed but it took many months to fix something that should never have been a problem in the first place.
NY Post

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Should we still fear al Qaeda?

The Peter Bergen piece on CNN demonstrates the Western bias towards the Muslim world.  Somehow we have to think of al Qaeda as a group that wants to directly attack the United States.  Bergen does not consider how the US has been drawn out and forced to spends billions of dollars and lose thousands of lives on both sides.  The US policy has to adopt to the lack of public support for sending more troops into harms way.  There is victory when you force a superpower to start doing things on the cheap.

The drone campaign Bergen fawns over is the exact reason why we continue to have pop up skirmishes.  You push a button, you take out a terrorist.  The problem is the world isn't that simple.  The drone may take out the individual but not the motivation.

Bergen also thinks that the quiet validates the success of the Obama administration when it may simply mean tactics have changed.  I also disagree about his assessment of Mali and Syria.  Yes, they don't act like al Qaeda in Pakistan but are their goals the same?  What if the goal is to keep the Arab spring alive for reasons other than attacking the United States?

Should we still fear al Qaeda?

Iran: President Ahmadinejad unveils new fighter jet

First China and now Iran has announced a new fighter jet.  A separate story on Business Insider shows a jet that is a combination of the F-22 and F-35.  Analysts have questioned the lack of wiring and extremely small air intakes.  It seems this prototype to be more mock-up than actually production model.

Yes, I'm sure the F-35 can more than handle Qaher 313 but that's not really the point of this aircraft.  Iran has relied on others (including the United States) for its fighter technology.  The 34th anniversary of the Tehran Embassy Crisis is only 10 days away.  Ahmadinejad is invoking the past to legitimize the future of Iran.  Tehran stood up to Washington once before and it was Carter who blinked.

The Obama administration is heavily influenced by by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who will go to his grave believing nothing is more threatening than a nuclear Iran.  Translated, Kissinger is the most pro-Israel former Secretary of State the United States has ever known.  His views were shaped by his experience during WWII (a German born Jew who served in the United States Army) and he did not enjoy the same level of success with Nixon regarding Israel as he did with China and the Soviet Union.  Kissinger would find much more success in first with President Clinton and then later Secretary Clinton.

It is Kissinger who has convinced Hillary Clinton to use a heavy hand when dealing with Tehran.  Israel's relationship has not cooled fears in Tehran that Tel Aviv would not hesitate to launch a pre-emptive strike. Iran not being an Arab country sees itself as being only able to rely on itself for protection.

The Qaher 313 is more bluff than reality.  Iran does not want to be seen as overly relying on Russia for its defense.  It also sees the Obama administration as tiring of the war in Afghanistan and unwilling (thus far) to commit troops to the Syrian crisis.  The Obama administration is facing several domestic challenges with the true cost of Obama Care causing unions to start questioning their support and firearms legislation causing more divisions.  The issue of more vets demonstrating PTSD is slowly becoming a major topic and reason against deploying more ground troops.  In part this is why the President has started talking about using a "surgical approach" in dealing with future crisis.

Iran is going to continue its high stake poker.  The United States is going to have to somehow quell the fears of Kissinger and Israel yet not get drawn into any more conflicts.

Jerusalem Post