Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Nuclear holocaust?

There have been articles appearing for the last few days claiming "ISIS" is planning a "nuclear holocaust".  One such article was written by a German journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer claiming to have spent 10 days with "ISIS".  His conclusions are pessimistic to say the least.  He does not believe the West is capable of stopping "ISIS" and only an Arab led effort will be successful.

Todenhöfer's article paints a fanatical group, or rather nation, bent on total genocide of anyone not following their strict interpretation of Sunnism.  While I have no doubt the people he met and interviewed were every bit as rabid with fanaticism as he portrays, I have a hard time understanding how all of that will lead to a nuclear holocaust.

I have no doubt that at least some of the male refugees entering into Europe are ISIS operatives and many more can be compromised through coercion.  Therefore, major attacks in Europe and the US (thanks to knuckleheads like Hillary and John McCain who want us to take in more refugees) will increase.  However, making the leap to a nuclear attack is the difference between sending a manned mission to the moon versus Mars.  Getting access to enough nuclear material to launch an attack is trickier than it looks in movies and television.  Radioactive material can be tracked from overhead (especially with large amounts).  Handling and detonation of said material is very technical and not for the average rabid fanatic.

That's not to dismiss the notion outright.  Of course with enough planning, determination and funding a group could devise a way of doing it.  But in the meantime, a lone gunman armed with a rifle and good supply of magazines is far easier to execute.  Use a squad of riflemen in an attack similar to that in Mumbai and there is really little the police can do.  The US is already at odds racially with one another because of police killings and serial killers.  What if ISIS decides to further manipulate the situation?

It will be interesting to see if the resolve of ISIS changes now that Russia has begun airstrikes.  Unlike Mr. Obama who loves talking to himself about diplomatic solutions involving the UN, Mr. Putin knows that with a group like ISIS you just need to "get Medieval on their ass".  Russia has proven they are not worried about offending anyone's sensibilities in executing their strategy.  ISIS is already persona non grata with the non-Sunni world so Russia has even less to fear from political backlash.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Stupid shit

Stupid shit we are accepting without question;

1.  A 14 year old kid builds a "clock" that looks like a "bomb".  A society that now demands (and accepts) that teachers suspends kids for even drawing a gun, is now supposed to feel guilty for condemning this kid, all because he also happens to be Muslim.  I'm sorry, his religion has nothing to do with him building something that looked like a bomb yet the President has decided to invite the kid to the White House.  Huh?  Have we already forgotten this is the same shit Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris did and how that turned out?

2.  Obama pretends to be about getting rid of nuclear weapons, yet he has been spending billions on maintaining and modernizing the ones already in the US inventory.  Everyone accepts this duplicity by the President without question which is bad enough, but then no one questions his hypocrisy in pretending that Iran trying to build a nuclear weapon and is somehow more dangerous that those already in existence in the US and elsewhere.

3.  Dr. Ben Carson, in an obvious attempt to pander to GOP hardcore, professes his belief that a Muslim cannot be President.  Somehow every dipshit out there believes that a world-renowned physician (who was the first person EVER to separate conjoined twins), who has collaborated with other world-renowned physicians, would even have such a belief.  It's an obvious talking point some dumb ass fed him yet the world is in "shock".  Why?  We know the candidates are only regurgitating the talking points slapped on the teleprompter.  Get over it and for a country that has demonized an entire religion to justify two wars, isn't it just a bit hypocritical to criticize Dr. Carson?

4. The Pope comes to the US and is the first Pope to ever do so.  The Catholic faithful turned up in droves to hear the Pontiff admonish the US for not doing enough for immigrants.  A country that was built by scum from Europe and slaves from Africa (with a notable assist from Chinese slave labor in the West), and now an ever growing Hispanic population, somehow needs to do MORE for immigrants?!  The apologists are wringing their hands in shame somehow or other forgetting that the Pontiff sits in a walled city filled with vast riches (not including the Catholic cathedrals and basilica located throughout the world) that I've not heard him mention being sold to help pay for these immigrants.

5.  Looks the Pentagon is going to have another round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) in 2016.  Everyone will buy into the notion that we have to save money and closing "redundant, outdated, or unnecessary" facilities will save the Pentagon billions of dollars.  Except no one will bother to ask what exactly did the Pentagon do with all of the savings it had from the last round of BRAC (answer, the money was spent before we were even out of the first year of base closures).  In other words, its a crock.  Furthermore, BRAC is not the quantitative process that its proponents pretend.  As soon as a facility is listed on BRAC, the elected officials and community actives swing into action to try to save it.  If you have a powerful politician from the region, you may get spared.  If you get spared, the BRAC swivels to a less protected facility.  No one though will ask the right questions such as, how many bases do we really need?  What if we have to mobilize more forces?  Can any of these facilities be used in times of natural disaster?

6.  Now it comes out that the F-35 was never really meant to be an air-to-air fighter since it will use state-of-the-art munitions we've never heard of to take out enemy fighters (funny, it thought that's what the B-2 was doing).  That is why it doesn't have to outmaneuver fighters that were designed over 40 years ago according to its advocates (Pentagon).    Taxpayers continue to accept this stupid shit.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Pentagon turns to the latest corporate fad

In the latest attempt to ape the fads of corporate America, the Pentagon is now promoting "Lean-In" groups to promote women in leadership roles.  "Lean-In" is based on a book written by Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook.  The Pentagon still hasn't figured out why more women are not in leadership roles and somehow hopes that having the sidebar "Lean-In" groups, the answer will magically appear.

Here is the tough truth that no one wants to admit, the military is the most hostile environment to promote "gender equality"because at its core, the military is about killing people and breaking things. In order to excel in the military, you have to embrace this warrior ethos with a desire as Conan the Barbarian remarked, "See your enemies crushed before you".

Even in the modern 21st Century, the role of women as mothers is venerated throughout society including the West.  The job of the military is odds with the role of mothers as nurturing, caring women who want to protect and raise their babies.  To rise to the top ranks of the military for an American women means long periods away from her children and leading the children of other women into combat and even watching them die.  These "Lean-In" groups will focus on glass-ceilings, sexism and the lack of representation "at the table".  None of those groups will address the basic problem, most women still want to be moms even if there are serving in the military.

All you need to do is look at how many women in showbiz or professional sports give up their careers, or at least pause them, to start families.  Women in the military are no different.  Even the most ambitious, career-driven female NCO or officer still feels the need to start a family.  Hidden in this most basic truth is the lie about "women make up 15 percent of the military" (article).  Of those 15 percent, how women get out to be with their families?  Even if the number is only 5 percent, you now have only women in 10 percent of the military available to serve long enough to become senior leaders.  Attrit another 5 percent for other reasons (medical boards, career changes, disciplinary reasons, lack of upward mobility) and you see 5 percent (or probably less) are available to even make it to senior leader (O-7 or above).

The "Lean-In" groups, or whatever the next corporate fad happens to be, cannot escape this fact.  Women are destined to be moms and a career in the military is often at odds with this.  It also impacts fathers, however the larger number of men in the military tends to mask this phenomenon.  Divorce also skews these numbers as most courts award custody of the children to the moms, allowing the dads to continue their career and forcing moms to often times get out of the military.

Now it is politically expedient to talk about opening all remaining combat roles (such as Rangers, combat controllers, pararescue, SEALs and force recon) to women.  It still won't change the fact women are designed by biology and culture to be mothers.  Women soldiers in Afghanistan often are called upon to enter Afghani homes as they are perceived as "maternal" and aren't likely to kill the children.  Female cops serve the same role with children who are the victims of child abuse.

That's why female warriors find it so difficult to make it in the military.  If they forego being mothers, they are not seen as "feminine" by their male counterparts.  Look at the movie "Aliens", Private Vasquez was more of a bad ass then her male counterparts, so it fell to Ripley (who we already knew was a mom) to establish a bound with Newt.  Even though many think of Ripley as a bad ass as well, she was really driven to kicking alien ass in order to protect her adopted daughter Newt.

I'm not a sociologist so I'm not sure if it is even possible for a military organization to exist and function successfully that also embraces the role of women as mothers.  And this just isn't some retired "guy" thinking this way, women also revolt at the thought of a women who would choose war over motherhood.  Look at how Hillary Clinton is using her role as a "grandma" to soften her image.  Choosing a career over motherhood is still a Hobson's choice for most women, often they themselves becoming their own worst critic.

Don't try to hide behind that propaganda of "Serving her country to protect her children" bullshit either.     The demands of being away from home a year at a time  rapidly dissuades even the most ardent female warrior of this notion (men too for that matter).  Missing birthdays, the first day of school, the last day of class, graduations, games, or just being home with your kids takes a lot of any troop but especially those that are also moms.

We need a much more frank and tough discussion about the role of women not just in the military but society as well instead of trying the latest corporate fad.  We should always value the role of moms and if we do, that means by default we have to accept fewer women will want to continue with their careers.  By extension, that means fewer women in senior leadership roles.  To change that means we have to devalue the role of moms in our society and then the question becomes, are we will ready to do that?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Obama's failed Syrian policy

Something has been bugging all weekend.  Something so crazy it almost doesn't make sense.  I sort of feel like when Dr. Johnny Fever quipped, "this is so crazy and messed-up, even I understand it!"

What has been bugging me?  It was a simple headline, "Kerry: Assad has to go, but timing can be negotiated" in the Times of Israel.  To me, that has got to be one of the stupidest damn things Kerry has ever said, and that's saying a lot.  The headlines itself is ludicrous, the Obama Administration has failed miserably with regards to Syria.  How the hell they expect to negotiate a time for Assad to step down is beyond me.  Clinton and then Kerry have been trying to get rid of Assad since 2011.

Think about that for a moment, Mr. Obama has been trying to push Mr. Assad out of office which means that the US either overtly or covertly supported the opposition to Assad (now known as ISIS).  ISIS is supposedly an even bigger threat than al Qaeda which means we should be looking for any help in defeating them, especially from someone who has intimate knowledge of ISIS.  Someone like say Assad.

Adding to the failure of ousting Assad was Obama's withdrawal of troops from Iraq.  A perfect storm was thus created allowing ISIS to rapidly expand and occupy territory.  Don't let the Obama Administration or their lackeys at the Pentagon fool you, no one actually believed the Iraqi Army was ready to take over responsibilities from the US troops.

All of the troubles started because of an obsession by the Obama Administration with the one leader to survive the Arab Spring.  Now Kerry wants to continue this ridiculous and untenable line of thinking.  Let's just say for the sake of argument that Assad does step down, who then becomes President of Syria?  And whoever that is, would they have the ability to resist ISIS?  More than likely, it would be someone who then s torture and secret police to maintain power.  Sounds a little like Iran under the Shah.

Speaking of Iran, Kerry now wants Iran and Russia to help convince Assad to step down.  First, I doubt Iran would be interested in having Syria experience the same US policy that led to the Shah being in power.  US history when it comes to ousting political leaders has been remarkably bad over the years.  There is no indication that it would be any different in Syria.

Second, why would Russia be inclined to oust their ally?  Syria has provided the Soviet Union and now Russia with a warm water port on the Mediterranean.  Adding another military facility would insure that Russian interests continue unimpeded by US or ISIS.

To all of which, Kerry and Clinton (as part of her campaign talking points) now want the US to take in 65,000 Syrian refugees.  Huh?  The Obama Administration abandoned and ignored the plight of the Syrians up until now.  Obama did nothing to help European allies who are being inundated by refugees fleeing the conflict his policies help create.  And what of those refugees, exactly who are they?  ISIS could easily pose as some of the refugees.

How crazy is all of this?  Obama's failed policy in the Middle East, headed up by Presidential hopeful Clinton and failed Presidential hopeful Kerry, created ISIS, left Iraq in a far worse state that it was under Bush, and now sees Europe bursting at the seems with refugees.  It makes sense only when you realize that Obama thinks that he and his administration are infallible and that there are no consequences for their mistakes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Immigration, the state of policing and drones

My rambling thoughts on what our Presidential candidates WON'T talk about.

As the next round of Republican debates fast approaches, the candidates are more concerned with trying to somehow stop Donald Trump rather than trying to convince people to vote for them.  It has gotten so one sided, Governor Bobby Jindal tried to regain a little of the spotlight by writing a sniveling little piece on CNN.  Really Bobby, the best you can do is call Trump a madman yet you said nothing about why you would be a better President?  Last time I looked, Louisiana is still struggling with the aftermath of both Hurricane Katrina (2005) and the BP Deep Water Horizon disaster (2011).

I'm not a Trump proponent, just disgusted with what passes for political discourse in 2015.  Trump and Bernie Sanders are polling way ahead of the establishment players because they are saying things that resound with the public.

Look at the situation with immigration in Hungary.  The Hungarian Army has been called in to seal their borders from hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring in from war torn areas in the Middle East.  What no one is noticing, except for of all people al-Assad, is the refugees are almost all exclusively male.  This means potentially large numbers of ISIS operatives are arriving as "immigrants" into Europe's open arms.  Now McCain and Obama want those same refugees to come to the United States.  I doubt we will hear any real discussion of this from anyone other than Trump.

Similarly, none of the Republican candidates (and the Democrats still haven't scheduled a debate) want to touch the issue of race and the state of policing.  The issue are interrelated and we are rapidly watching it divided us based on race.  Everyone, both black and white, tend to point to the shooting of Michael Brown last year in Ferguson, MO as to where things really changed.

However, I argue that what we are dealing with today is a legacy of the war on drugs.  Going back to Richard Nixon, who declared drugs as "public enemy number one", the US federal government has waged a "war" to arrest those who distribute, possess, manufacture, grow or abuse illegal drugs.  This sent into motion two disturbing trends that resound today.

First, the war on drugs sent police into the most crime-ridden neighborhoods, which were predominately African-American or Hispanic.  Drug crime is lucrative (for both sides really) and the dealers were able to afford better weapons to protect their business from marauders from rival organizations.  The police found themselves seriously outmatched in firepower during the early days and you began to see department switching first from revolvers to semi-automatic pistols, then later adding assault rifles and submachine guns.

That much firepower concentrated in a few neighborhoods inevitably will see violent, deadly confrontations between gangs as well as between gangs and police.  Rounds flying around from 7.62mm or 5.56mm rifles keep going until they hit something, often times innocent bystanders that had nothing to do with the crime being committed.

In response, citizens demand cops do more to reduce violent crime.  The cops oblige never truly realizing their actions to reduce crime and rid the streets of drugs means they are focusing almost exclusively on African-Americans.  A nasty closed-loop is established where the most cops are sent into black neighborhoods creating the highest number of incidents were police have to use force or deadly force to deal with the situation.

It is why "Black Lives Matter" has resounded in the black community leaving whites scratching their heads on the sidelines.  Blacks in these neighborhoods see cops only when their friends or relatives are being arrested or shot by a police officer.  Police officers working these neighborhoods develop a view that everyone is involved in criminal behavior and feel everyone in the community is out to get them.  Conversely, that sentiment is perceived by the African-American community that police are out to get them.

The war on drugs made political hay for elected officials which in-turn led to more legislation.  Mandatory sentencing was seen as getting "tough on crime" but all it really did was send more African-Americans to prison while forcing out violent criminals to make room for more prisoners convicted of drug-crimes (such as possession).  "Asset forfeiture" was seen as a way of disempowering major drug dealers by seizing their homes, cars and property.  Instead it became a way for drug task forces to fund themselves after Byrne Memorial Grant funds ran out.  In both cases, African-Americans took the brunt of these "get tough on crime" policies as police were already targeting black neighborhoods.

Crimes rates did in fact go down during the 90s and early 2000s but at the cost of turning many black neighborhoods into essentially war zones.  Police and blacks forms those neighborhoods targeted as a result of decreasing violence paradoxically found themselves in an ever increasing cycle of violent confrontations.  Cops, as a result, treated black suspects as "more violent and dangerous" since to do otherwise would have jeopardized their own safety, yet this is really a type of racism that has led to what we see today.

Flash forward to today, the headlines are making criminals feel more emboldened since they know cops are under a microscope.  Cops are shutting down rather that be the next poster child for the next shooting.  Crimes rates in Baltimore (where Freddie Gray died while in police custody) has soared.  People are getting concealed carry permits and purchasing weapons at a record rate.  The Black Lives Matter advocates meanwhile fail to the see irony that by continuing to call for the killing of police officers, they are creating the very environment they abhor, a violent lawlessness where blacks are seen as dangerous and violent (the same result again as was created under the "war on drugs").

Only a few people have recognized that the only way to change things is to reform how we do policing in the US.  Instead of creating ever more heavily armed officers looking to arrest at the slightest provocation, we should be looking at how police are used.  Instead of having large numbers of cops on the streets in the most crime ridden areas patrolling around looking for people to arrest, have them show-up like firefighters…when needed.  It is not as radical approach as one might think.  This is how policing is done much of Europe.

Back in April, four Swedish off-duty cops broke up a subway fight in New York city without guns or even injuring the suspect.  It was such a non-event for the Swedes that back home, everyone was shrugging their shoulders.  What was the big deal, that's what Swedish cops are supposed to do.  If they see something, they are supposed to help.  Compare that to the charge given to any American cop working in the city.

None of our candidates will touch immigration or the need to reform policing (other than maybe Trump) but this is what we need to have the next occupant of the White House deal with.

If this topic is too hot-button for a Presidential race, here is another one…drones.  These things are already getting out of hand with everyone from the federal government, police, local agencies and your next door neighbor flying these things around.  They are a danger to airliners (several incidents have already happened where drones have been in the flight path of airliners trying to land).  They are invasive (a man in Louisville, KY shot one down claiming it was spying on his sunbathing daughter).  Finally, they are dangerous.  Most drones use propellors to achieve flight so they are basically flying lawn mowers.  If they malfunction and get shot down, they can seriously injure or kill anyone they hit.

Speaking of malfunction, there is going to be a huge market for electronic devices that jam signals to or from drones.  Some more aggressive devices may allow people to take over control of the drone and either smash it into the ground or steal it.  Lots of chances of innocent people getting hurt as a result.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Intelligence Failure

Last Friday was the 14th anniversary of 9/11.  I saw a lot of remembrances posted on social media and few articles here and there on the news websites.  Many of the remembrances were poignant, remembering fallen comrades or family from that day or from the subsequent wars.  But what seems to be fading as we get further away from that fateful day is remembering what caused it.

No I'm not talking about al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or even radicalized Muslims.  For those who may not remember or have forgotten, according to the findings of the 9/11 Commission the events on that day were caused by an intelligence failure.  Agencies that all had most or part of the picture did not share the information with one another allowing the hijackers to complete their plan.

The whole purpose of the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, US PATRIOT ACT, was to combine all of the right agencies to prevent this type of failure from ever happening again and thus was born the US Dept of Homeland Security.  After reshuffling 22 agencies, plus several hundred thousand employees, to form the new DHS, two glaring exceptions didn't make the new team…the CIA and the FBI.  So the two biggest intelligence gathering agencies in the US, along with the NSA and DIA, were not folded into the new DHS.  Basically, DHS was sent into a gunfight without any bullets.

But even if the CIA and FBI had been rolled in, things might not be much different if what former MI6 Chief Sir John Sawers says here is correct.  The CIA and FBI have increasingly shifted their focus away from "HUMINT" or human intelligence (spies) and relied more on more on technology.  Part of this is budget driven but part of it is a legacy from Robert McNamara and his "whiz kids".

McNamara and the "Whiz Kids" wanted to turnaround the management of the Department of Defense and the conduct of the Vietnam War through quantitative analysis.  Basically it meant taking the human out of the process and turning everything into data.  Hence McNamara's view that the success of the war could be tracked by "body count".   McNamara and his Whiz Kids forgot to consider that data was still being reported and collected by humans so fraud was rampant.

Even though Vietnam disproved "body count" as a way of assessing the success of a military campaign, quantitative analysis became the ideal way for the military and federal bureaucracy to hide behind numbers.  Intelligence became a fertile ground for quantitative analysis mavens.

Up until the end of the Vietnam War, intelligence gathering had been the forte of spies (human intelligence).  Spies were people who seemingly worked for the other side but in reality worked for us.  Spies would smuggle out plans, documents, hardware that the enemy had been working on for analysts stateside to dissect and analyze.  But the problem is it takes a long time to develop a spy.  They have to have a cover story, be planted into just the right spot and hope that they can feed stateside analysts with some real information.  Often this costly assets took years before they could produce something important.  To the McNamara's of the intelligence world, this was an antiquated and costly way of doing business.

Instead, McNamara and his friends wanted to see scientific methods and quantitative analysis used.  Hence the shift during the Cold War years from warm-blooded spies to spy planes and spy satellites.  These assets removed much of the human error that McNamara hated and were immediately available at a moments notice.

The problem with spy satellites is you only see or hear what the satellite sees or hears.  You get none of what is going on in the mind of the target.  For example, you can see troop build up and monitor the radio frequencies indicating there is an invasion.  But only a spy in the headquarters can tell you that this is all a feint by the target.  

Regardless, by the 1990s the CIA HUMINT programs were being slashed in favor of cyber and overhead surveillance.  Once the wars began in Iraq and Afghanistan, drones showed the overhead collection game wasn't just for the National Reconnaissance Office anymore!  

But even with the incredible advancements with drones, the ability intercept any data transmission at will, is always the same as before.  You cannot always gauge intent simply from data.  You need someone to tell you what they are thinking.

I've written about this before.  Say you do an assessment that says an attack will happen within two weeks.  You have imagery and chatter to back this up.  Your higher ups concur and the appropriate forces are activated.  Then on the day in question nothing happens.  Instead of saying, "Good job, we avoided an attack".  The analyst gets, "WTF with is wrong with you?  Do you know how many assets we wasted on your assessment?"  You won't ever get the attention of your higher ups again.

What doesn't happen enough is a retro-analysis of why that attack didn't happen.  Only a spy could fill in the blanks for you.  Was it a lack of political support or funding?  Did the opposition threaten to kill the leader if the attack went through?  Didn't a key player suddenly end up in jail?  Often you find answers to these questions in you quantitative analysis.  You need a spy.

Spies have another advantage over overhead collection (including cyber collection).  You have to target your drones, satellites and software to look for a particular threat.  A spy can find out about a new, unheard of threat much more easily and redirect their efforts accordingly.

Alas, the love affair with quantity over quality, continues to permeate the intelligence world.  The US is also losing its ability to recruit and train spies (since funding is being diverted to newer toys).  The problem is terrorism is increasingly carried out by small, unassociated cells using small weapons.  These tactics are much easier to disguise from the eyes of satellites and drones.  And as long as the group stays off the Internet, software programs won't find them.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Russia's increased presence in Syria

Yesterday CNN published "US warns Russia on military buildup on Syria" (article here).   CNN and the rest of the media outlets don't really do much analysis, merely regurgitate State Department talking points as to why Russia is in Syria at all.

First, Russia didn't just recently become involved in Syria.  The then Soviet Navy built its facility in Tartus, Syria in 1971.  The Soviets, and now Russians, have maintained a continuous presence ever since using it as a maintenance facility for Russian navy vessels operating in the Mediterranean.

Second, the CNN articles (along with the rest on Western media outlets) has Mr. Kerry taking a strong stance against Russia and tries to make it look like more Russian aggression similar to that in Crimea.  I am always leery of Russian actions that may lead to conflict with the US but in this case, CNN and others are showing their biases.

Russia has had a long relationship with Syria and the Syrian Ba'athist Party (of which Bashar al-Assad is General Secretary as well as President of Syria).  The US has long opposed the Ba'athist Party and al-Assad which is why then Secretary of State Clinton and Mr. Obama supported the Arab Spring back in 2011.  Clinton and Obama wanted to see al-Assad go the way of Qaddafi and Mubarak.  

Perhaps you remember the now infamous "red line" Mr. Obama used to warn al-Assad against using chemical weapons against the opposition?  Most people, myself included at times, point to this as just one of many examples of Mr. Obama's unwillingness to follow-through.  The real reason though may have simply been Russia had sent several warships and Russian Marines to Tartus.  Had a US strike go awry, it could have escalated things between Russia and the US at a time when the Obama Administration was still pretending relations were copacetic.  

The Arab Spring did not oust al-Assad, if anything it made his hold on power stronger.  It also increased Russian support of his government.  Now comes the little embarrassing part for the US and she-who-would-be President; the opposition group that the US supported (and which Russia opposed) became, what for it, ISIS!

CNN and the other Western media outlets do a good job of only relating stories from a pro-Obama standpoint.  Russia's increased presence in the region is to support al-Assad….which means they are there to strike ISIS.  So what's the problem?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Redesign of the Army and Army National Guard relationship

Read this morning "Effort to Bring Army, National Guard Closer May Result in Redesign" (article here).  In short, the Army is going through the same thing the USAF, USAFR and ANG went through in the 90s.

A little history lesson is order to better understand the issues.  Redesigning the relationships between the Army, Army Reserves and National Guard isn't just an issue for the components or even DoD.  The very structure of how the US ground forces (and by extension, the US military in general) is dictated by the Constitution.

The founding fathers knew too well that real cost of a large standing military is too often imposed on the people.  In 18th Century Europe, when large standing armies weren't at war they were billeted on private lands.  This meant that the monarch did not have to spend their money on feeding the troops.  The troops were free to hunt all of the game, seize all of the crops find on farms and in villages(along with any wealth or women).

The writers of the Constitution wanted to avoid this situation in America, the Second and Tenth Amendments being just two examples of how they tried to prevent it.  The Second Amendment in particular, contrary to the NRA, is about having a part-time militia that could be called up as needed.  This was both a necessity as well as a design back in the Colonial period.  The Colonies simply could not muster a large standing army to fight the British so they relied on a well armed citizenry.  But early Americans also knew war would eventual end and having a bunch of soldiers standing around was just going to deplete their supplies.

The Tenth Amendment is designed to keep the government in Washington (which the framers were worried could end up being just like the monarchy) from over extending its influence over the states.  The states are the real power of the United States.

The National Guard is the well regulated militia referred to in the Second Amendment.  The National Guard is the governor's military might to insure that Washington doesn't over step its boundaries (such as forcing martial law without the governor's consent).

The plan worked for the most part until World War II.  The amount of manpower and material required to fight both in Europe and the Pacific was enormous.  The cost of maintaining all of those troops and equipment was prohibitive yet you couldn't just get rid of it, hence came the role of the Reserves.  The Reserves are the part-time force of the various branches of the military.  This allowed for the extra tanks, planes, ships, etc. to be placed in a stand-by status (along with troops to operate and maintain it) should it be needed to fight the Soviets.  (The National Guard and Air National Guard are also part of the Reserve Components)  So much for calling up the Reserves!

The huge military command structures created during World War II remained in place even after the post-war drawdowns.  Much like any other bureaucracy, these military structures needed something to do so they articulated the need to maintain a larger number of troops on active duty (this need was conveniently supported by the huge standing Soviet military).  More troops needed to fight a potential war with the Soviets (and later China and North Korea) meant increased spending for the latest weapon systems.

But what to do with the stuff they already have?  Easy, give it to the Reserves!  This is why the ANG was still flying F-51 Mustangs when the active duty Air Force had already switched to jet fighters.  As time went on, the Reserves and National Guard were increasingly equipped with systems that were not compatible with their active duty counterparts.

Then Desert Storm caught everyone off guard.  A major campaign with ground forces maneuvering around the desert, the active duty forces did not have what they needed nor in the quantities needed.  So the Reserve components were activated to fill active duty shortfalls.  The USAF/USAFR/ANG handled this well but not because the active duty recognized the need to keep the Reserve Components compatible.  Rather, this was the result of former USAF personnel who had seen combat in Vietnam joining the Air National Guard.  They were dismayed and used the ability of being a part-time military to lobby lawmakers to legislate state of the art aircraft for the state ANG.

The USAF didn't pay much attention to the lobbying efforts until after Desert Storm.  The ANG was showing up to Operations North Watch and Southern Watch with newer and better maintained fighters than the active duty.

When OEF and OIF kicked into high gear, the ANG was flying more sorties because they had the right aircraft with the right avionics flown by pilots with more hours than their active duty counterparts.  The USAF/USAFR/ANG model had had over ten years of practice to get it right.

When the Army got ready of OEF and OIF, they differences between the USA/USAR/ARNG were stark.  It took Army National Guard units 90 days to mobilize to the CONUS mobility site.  Then it was another 30-60 days to re-accomplish what they had already done but this time under the auspices of the active duty Army.  Then it was another 30 days of orientation in-country BEFORE they could even start doing their jobs.  The system had been turned on its head.  Instead of keeping the ground reserves ready, the active Army had neglected them until they couldn't anymore.

So for the long lesson but now you can understand the article better.  What the article doesn't point out is both the US Army and US Air Force hate their National Guard counterparts because in order to call them up, they have to go through the governor.  This is really what the "re-design" is trying to get around.  The Army Guard is much more important to backfilling the active duty units than the US Army Reserves (which are primarily combat support).

The Army Guard has proven itself time and again in combat but the active duty Army still hates to think that they may not get the critical backfill just because some governor needs his troop for a natural disaster (that won't happen by the way, other units in the National Guard can backfill one another during disaster relief under the EMAC).

In short, the active duty Army has to figure out a way to maintain its OPSTEMPO in the face of continuing budget cuts.  The only way to do that is to somehow grab more of the National Guard for themselves.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Challenges for the next administration

Let's review, when Mr. Obama to office with was viewed as a repudiation of the Bush policies regarding Iraq and Afghanistan.   Mr. Obama then pulled the troops out as he promised during his campaign speeches, blaming the Bush Administration for all of the havoc.  

Flash forward to today.  The Taliban has become even stronger in Afghanistan since the troops were pulled out and a previously unheard of group, ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh, is now running amok in both Syria and Iraq.  Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry pretend that this is not of their making and focus their efforts instead on brokering a deal with Iran.

Yet the failure of the Obama Administration's foreign policy goes even further.  Under President Clinton, the United States reached out to the former Warsaw Pact nations to bolster democratic governments.  Many of these countries, such as Hungary, hoped that successful participation in this program would lead to membership in the European Union and NATO.  The failure of Obama to shutdown ISIS has created thousands of refugees flooding into Europe.  Hungary now finds itself at odd with the rest of the European Union that "everyone is invited".  Hungary in response plans to seal off its border.  Just in case you think Hungary is being draconian, take a look at what Israel built along their border with Egypt;

Photo credit:  Breitbart

Instead of supporting the countries the US helped bring into the European Union, Obama and Kerry are trying to double-down on Iran.

Obama and Clinton (or as she refers to herself in her campaign, "Hillary") spent most of their time together painting the "Arab Spring" as a good thing but that Iran having a nuclear weapons was a bad thing.  After Hillary left office, Mr. Kerry was brought in to continue the chant of how dangerous a nuclear Iran is while ignoring increased aggression from Russia.

Now Leon Panetta, former Sec Def and former director of the CIA, has come out as the latest critic of the deal with Iran;

"In itself, the Iran deal would appear to reward Tehran for defying the world, make funds available for its extremist activities and generally make it stronger militarily and economically. Although the agreement provides for a temporary delay in Iran’s nuclear enrichment capability, it allows Tehran to retain its nuclear infrastructure and obtain sanctions relief. The risk is that Iran could become an even bigger threat to the region."--Breitbart

This is the problem for Mr. Obama that his supporters refuse to acknowledge; his plan doesn't stop Iran, it is at best a delaying action.  Further, his record in Afghanistan and Iraq shows Mr. Obama is not in it for the long haul.  If a nuclear Iran truly means the end of the world, Mr. Obama's plan really won't stop it.

While our attention is focused on Iran, Russia has been busy expanding their presence in the area (to be fair, the US has the most bases in the region of any foreign power).  The Russians already lease a naval facility in Tartus, Syria.  Russia now plans to build another military base in Syria, placing another 1,000 Russian troops near Latakia.  This means the if the next President decides to strike ISIS with something more than aircraft, US forces engaged in Syria could end-up facing Russian troops.

Russia is building up their military while the US continues to cut our troops.  This typical happens after a protracted war, and the war on terrorism has lasted longer than any other war in US history.  The challenge for the next administration will be to either deescalate tensions through diplomacy (something that Obama has not really done, he merely has appeased the threats) or figure out how to increase our military readiness.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Questions you won't hear the candidates answer

Questions no one is asking our Presidential candidates;

1. The Big One

One question that none of the current Presidential candidates have even remotely talked about is, what do they intend to do about a major earthquake happening in California?  Often referred to simply as "the Big One",  geologists have been trying to figure out when the next major quake will hit the San Andreas fault.

Imagine tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of Californians displaced by the destruction.  Where would they go?  Most likely inland towards Nevada and Arizona or north into Oregon.  Would these states be able to handle all of the refugees and provide them with the necessary food, shelter and healthcare?  Contrary to what FEMA would have you believe, they are still primarily about recovery and not mitigation.  Food, water and medical stockpiles would need to be pre-positioined in unprecedented levels in order to properly handle "The Big One".  Maybe that's why no one is talking about it.

2. Iran

Much to do has been made about Mr. Obama's deal with Iran.  Supporters say it is the only way to keep Iran from building nuclear weapons.  Critics say it doesn't do enough, especially after 15 years.  Here is a question for our candidates; who exactly is being threatened by Iran?  Forget the nonsense "death to America" chants and dispassionately analyze the evidence.  Even if Iran produces enough nuclear weapons grade material, how would exactly are they going to target the US?  If they were to start building ICBMs, the US can destroy those silos as they are being built.  Long range bomber?  We can shoot it down before it even takes off?  Submarine?  That's why we built attack submarines and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft launched from carriers.  "Man-portable" nuclear devices?  Sure, but the radiation from even these alleged devices is easy to pick-up and monitor.

Moreover, the President has repeatedly assured Iran that there will be "consequences" if they break the agreement.  One can't help but recall a similar line with Syria.  How will the broken promises to act by the current administration by dealt with by the next administration?

3.  ISIS

Take a look at this graphic from the Department of Defense;

That is as of Aug 7, 2015. As of July 31, 2015, the total cost of operations related to ISIL since kinetic operations started on Aug. 8, 2014, is $3.5 billion and the average daily cost is $9.8 million for 357 days of operations (according to DoD).  Then why is ISIS still becoming a bigger threat every day according to Washington DC?  Either we as taxpayers are not getting our money's worth or we are blowing up the wrong things.

4.  North Korea

This week we saw tensions mount between North and South Korea which were especially alarming since Kim Jung Un is still new in power.  Tensions have died back down but are we going to continue risking the lives of the 40K personnel permanently stationed on the Korean peninsula?

5.  Immigration

Last week, Macedonia (formerly of Yugoslavia) was forced to declare a state of emergency due to the flow of immigrants fleeing hostilities in the Middle East.  Any conversations about immigration policies that even remotely hint at limiting the number of people coming into the US gets shutdown as being racist.  I'm not advocating something as draconian as Trump's wall (which won't do a damn thing by the way).  I'm merely suggesting that we will at some point reach critical mass in our infrastructure, adversely impaction our ability to provide services the immigrants as well as our own citizens.  The conversation that we are not allowed to have also needs to address an increasing prison population that is made up of immigrants.

It now looks like the Clinton email scandals just won't go away and it's time to call in the designated hitter, Joe Biden.  You can certainly argue that Valerie Jarrett has been laying the groundwork for such just an eventuality.  The non-Clinton Democrats are tired and want to look at someone else.  Biden represents essentially the third term for the Obama Administration.  Stay tuned!