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We began after September 11, 2001 as America Goes To War. With the US out of Iraq and leaving Afghanistan, we now cover whatever interests the Editor.
Complete World Armies 2012
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Friday 0230 GMT November 21, 2014
Friday 0230 GMT November 21, 2014
· Israel, Palestine, and the Arabs A reader who emphatically qualifies himself as a non-expert add much to our rant of yesterday. Points of interest to the Editor are as follows. By choosing certain points and not the entire discussion oversimplifies matters, but can nonetheless deepen our understanding of this terribly complex issue.
· The Jews were in discussions with the Ottoman Empire to buy land for their homeland when the Great War ended the empire. This poses an intriguing question. Had this deal been clinched before the Ottoman defeat, or if the Ottomans had not sided with Germany, by the laws of the time the creation of a Jewish homeland would have been indisputably legal.
· Much of the land was purchased from absentee Turkish landlords. The Jews evicted the Arabs tenants of the land. So here you get into a never ending debate about the rights of the new owners versus the rights of the tenets. Editor suspects that back in the days of the empire, tenants had no rights, so eviction of the Arabs would have been legal.
· While we customarily think of the British Mandate period as resulting in an influx of Jews, Arabs also migrated to what was to become Israel for new economic opportunities, such as building of the British port of Haifa. So, many of the Arabs expelled from Israel were not traditional residents. Please note we are not taking up the question of Palestine – Israelis have repeatedly said there never was such a country. Discussing the concept of Palestine trips one into another swamp.
· Reader Marcopetroni notes that expulsion of the Jews was not limited to the period after the destruction of Jewish kingdoms by the Romans. He says that the internal expulsion of Jews within Europe was a regular feature, and in some cases Jews were expelled back to what we are calling Palestine. He says that of 800,000 Jews living in the Middle East and North Africa, all except 50,000 (half in Turkey) were expelled or left after 1948 to escape persecution in what had become their homelands.
· Does the claim of the Jews that they did not abandon their homeland after the Romans destroyed the Second Temple, that they remained and were persecuted, or were forced to leave, give them a right of return after 2000 years? The difficulty here is, who is going to define the time past which no restitution is to be made? Australia and Canada have returned huge areas to the inhabitants who were there when these two countries were colonized, this righting a wrong of 2-3 centuries. Of course, it hardly needs noting that both countries gave back territory that barely populated and so involved little disruption.
· To conclude today’s discussion, Editor has to repeat a point he has often made in the past. The Arabs could have taken in and helped their displaced brethren post-1948. After all, India and Pakistan, which were partitioned contrary to all law as declared in the 1944 founding of the UN and the principles of international human rights, took in each other’s refugees. The Arabs cynically refused to take in their dispossessed, penning them into a ghetto in which they still live. It’s fine to say “expulsion of the Palestinians was illegal”. Argue that point in the courts. Why punish the victims? A few hundred thousand Palestinians were involved; absorption was a matter of detail. What the Arabs have done to them is inhumane and violates the international law of refugees. Of course, to say this among liberals, particularly Europeans, is Very Politically Incorrect. Okay, so there will be people who would rather stay and fight for their land. But why aren’t the rest being allowed to leave. Editor once had an Arab person say: “If you Americans are so hurt by the plight of the Palestinians, why don’t YOU take them?” Right. So voicing concern for victims means the new victimizer – the Arabs – can just hand over the problem to those who are sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians?
· From reader Sanjith Menon Apparently the President of Afghanistan, Mr. Ghani, did not bother visiting Pakistan’s Prime Minister when Mr. Ghani arrived in Islamabad. He headed straight off to Pakistan Army GHQ. We asked Sanjith why Ghani is insulting his host. Does he have issues with Nawaz Sharif? Of course the Afghan president must visit GHQ – that’s the real power center. But it could be done discreetly without this astonishing breach of protocol.
Thursday 0230 GMT November 20, 2014
· Either Editor is get too old, or else he is eating too much ice cream before sitting down to write the daily update, but he feels less and less outraged with each passing day. It might also be that the world is going through a period of behaving less outrageously. Which makes it harder to write the blog. To rant effectively, one needs to be outraged. If one’s reaction to no matter what’s happening is to wave one’s hand languidly, give a delicate and polite yawn, and go “whatever”, then the writing suffers. It’s also possible that one has beaten previous outrages to death and more are not happening fast enough. Yawn. Whatever.
· IS The Mideast penchant for wild exaggeration does not help in getting an objective sense of events concerning the Islamic State. For example, for weeks now we’ve been told that the Kurd defenders of Kobani have all but pushed IS out of the city. Yesterday comes the report that the defenders have retaken six buildings in the center from IS. This does not look like IS has been defeated at Kobani, or that clearing it out is now just a matter of detail. All that can be said is that it has lost its momentum, but still continues to hang very tough regarding its conquests.
· Another example: Editor was surprised to learn that Kirkuk city is still very much besieged by IS, though not surrounded. Have the Kurds made a counteroffensive to gain full control of what they claim is their true capital? Or have they just been sitting around waiting for the US to do something? We don’t know, but while we don’t expect the Peshmerga to clear out Mosul at this time, why is nothing happening at Kirkuk? Disturbing.
· It does seem that the Iraqis have recovered the center of Baiji, home to Iraq’s third biggest refinery. As nearly as we can tell, the commendable defense of Baiji – which was never fully overrun to begin with – is due to Iraq Home Ministry police commandoes aided by militia. But again, is IS in retreat? Or has it simply withdrawn a few kilometers to regroup before attacking again?
· In general, to Editor mind, IS’s relative silence makes sense only if they are focusing on expanding their infiltration of Baghdad. Else it is hard to understand why they are not being more aggressive. Are they training up new recruits? If so, their refusal to attack prematurely is commendable and shows high discipline – if this is what is happening. Are they negotiating with their adversaries? There are, for example, suggestions that Assad of Syria knows he is never going to get back all of his country, and is planning to create a new, much smaller Alawite state fronting the Mediterranean. Again, Editor has no real information. Editor also wonders what’s happening in Baghdad. It must be obvious to many there that Kurdistan has gone bye-bye. The real discussion is will the split be antagonistic with the two countries continually at each other’s throats, or friendly, with some cooperation. If the “Accept Kurdistan is bye-bye” lot gain dominance, they could take the position “Lets focus on IS in Baghdad/Anbar, and to heck with the Kurds. Let them deal with IS.” But who knows? Editor doesn’t, for sure.
· Palestine and the Jewish question Editor was discussing the recent Jerusalem terror attack with a Jewish teacher colleague at school. Editor brought up the point made by many, that after the destruction of the Temple for the second time, the Jews left the area and migrated to other countries. Since that happened nineteen centuries before Israel was declared, in returning to their homeland, the Jewish people had displaced, and continue to displace the people remaining. These people voluntarily/involuntarily converted to Islam. We can’t be using claims from nineteen centuries ago, even if the Jewish people have a continuous and recorded history extending almost six millennia. Its year 5775, if you want get picky. If we were to do that, Italy could claim darn nearly the whole Middle East, North Africa, Germany, France, and England and so on. The Holy Roman Empire could claim all Europe. The Spanish could claim a huge chunk of the US, all of Mexico, Central America, and much of South America and soon.
· Editor’s friend told him he was misinformed. The Jews did not leave the region. They lost their kingdoms to the Romans, but with the exception of some who left the region, most stayed. They were politically powerless and lived at the mercy of the dominant power, which from the 7th Century were the Muslims. The return of Jews from Europe to Palestine (we are referring to the region, not to a political entity) began in the early 20th Century. These returnees purchased land from the Arabs, they did not force anyone out. With the end of World War II and the explosion of nationalism, decolonization, and self-determination, the Jewish people were as entitled as anyone to reclaim their own country.
· But what about the forcible expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Arabs from what was declared by the UN as Israel? Editor’s colleague said the Jews did not expel anyone until the Arabs retaliated to the creation of Israel by expelling their Jewish populations, who had lived in those land for 2000 years or more.
· As for Jerusalem, Editor’s colleague made the following observation. Jerusalem was sacred to the Jewish people very much before it became sacred to the Christians or Muslims. Why then should Jewish rights be subordinated to those of those who came later?
Wednesday 0230 GMT November 19, 2014
· Indian strategic rail lines mess We can’t expect our non-Indian readers to be at all interested in the politics and bureaucratic mess-ups of the Indian strategic rail line program. But we’re discussing this anyway, just to show what “top priority” means in the context of Indian defense. The answer is “not much”.
· In 1962, India was soundly defeated by China in a one-month border war. The reasons were many, but lack of roads and rail lines to the very long front was a big reason. The Chinese had roads on their side, the Indians were hauling supplies to battle fronts 200-kilometers from the nearest road heads using mules and porters. For decades after the war, the Government of India made zero effort to build strategic roads and railroads, even as China pushed its railheads into Tibet. Eventually the Government woke up, sanctioned a lot of money for the transport infrastructure, and went to sleep. Nothing was done. On the roads, despite multiple promises and ringing declarations that this was a priority issue, even in 2014 not much has been done.
· The railroads are needed not just in the north, but in the west, where lack of strategic lines hamper mobilization and supply against Pakistan. We haven’t looked at how the railroads are doing, but at least for one part of the program in the Northeast, progress is being made. This is in the conversion of meter-gauge lines with limited cargo/passenger carrying capacities to broad-gauge. We’d assume that conversion in the west is proceeding at a goodly pace because in the plains this can be done with relative ease.
· Now another quarrel seems to have erupted. Indian Railways (IR) is asking the Ministry of Defense to declare several additional rail lines as strategic, arguing that these are being primary constructed/converted for the military’s benefit. Declaring them as strategic exempts IR from having to take the loss and reduce its operating profit, which is already under severe pressure due to reasons of no interest here. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/railways-defence-spar-over-19-northeast-lines/
· Editor wrote a a note to Ajai Shukla, one of India’s leading defense journalists, and himself an ex-Army officer. Why is MOD refusing to make up for the loss on running strategic railroads which are being constructed primarily to help defense? When Indian Rail is expected to make a profit, how can it take the loss on its books when it was forced to construct the lines? Has Government of India not budgeted for operating losses and so MOD cannot pay either? Is there an adult in the room?
· Ajai promptly wrote back: Every loss-making route is not a "strategic railroad" and every border is not the responsibility of the MoD. Borders are the responsibility of the Ministry of Home Affairs, with the MoD --- in cases like Tripura, Meghalaya, etc., providing only a backup. Why should the MoD alone pay for "strategic railroads"? The Indian Railways provides a national service at taxpayer's expense, just as the MoD does. Why should they not run a share of loss-making routes because the national interest demands it? We do not hesitate to impose this obligation on airlines, including private airlines, all of which have compulsorily to run a few loss-making routes? Do the Indian Railways, which have bled the taxpayer white over decades, suddenly now believe that they will be guided only by the free market?
· All valid points, Editor must agree. But two questions remain. First, why is Indian Rail arguing the point with MOD? MOD’s budget is grudgingly funded by the Government of India; more accurate, underfunded by GOI for at least 25-years. There are no discretionary funds in the MOD budget. It is made, in astonishing detail, by the bureaucrats with no consideration of military needs. So even if MOD agrees with IR’s position – which it does not – there is no way it can pay more unless it is giving more money specifically for that purpose by Ministry of Finance. When it comes to defense, the Ministry of Finance’s position on more money is “You’ll have to pry it from our cold, dead hands”. Actually, MOD will never get to pry it from Finance, even if Finance is dead, because Finance plans to take defense money to the next life.
· The second question is: why isn’t the Government of India stepping in – the required adult in the room – and straightening this out? This is not a new dispute, it goes back at least 3-4 years if Editor remembers correctly. Either the Government gives the money to the MOD to give to IR, or it makes up IR’s losses on the loss-making rail lines. But GOI seems to have checked the box “None of the above” and is sitting there on its fat behind.
· A larger, related question is this. When the Chinese can build rail lines of up to 2000-km through very difficult terrain in just 6 years (actual for Tibet north-south line, planned for east-west line which is already under construction) why is India taking 2x, 3x, even 4x the time? Does the Government of India not understand the public sector cannot – for whatever reason – built these lines in any reasonable time, and the same goes for roads. One critical road in Ladakh, the sector where China keeps intruding, has not been built for 40-years after the Indian Army undertook to construct a part of it, and did so in in short order (Leh-Khardung La) with what is today reckoned the most primitive of equipment. The same is true for the Shyok-Daulet Beg Oldi road. Why couldn’t the Government have just let the Army build the roads, slowly, one step at a time?
· Today that leisurely pace is out of the question. The job needs to be done, no excuses. The Government should give both the roads and rail to top-rate international firms. One such firm is already building the Rhotang Pass road tunnel and failryu much keeping to schedule.
Tuesday 0230 GMT November 18, 2014
· David Lucas writes: Regarding the story that IS has 200,000 fighters, here is a quote: “Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of the Kurdish President Massoud Barzani said in an exclusive interview with The Independent on Sunday that "I am talking about hundreds of thousands of fighters because they are able to mobilise Arab young men in the territory they have taken." http://tinyurl.com/odxcptj
· David adds: Probably true, in theory at least. If they have this size of force most of it would be in support roles/internal policing: invisible to US eyes in the sky? Just a bunch of guys with AKs wandering around their own cities/towns/villages?
· Editor’s response First, look at the source of the report. The Kurds are desperate to pull the US/EU in deeper in their defense. Perfectly logical, because IS has turned out to be a formidable foe and the Peshmerga have turned out to be a bit of a paper tiger. The Kurds are frustrated because though the west has given them help, it is token help. To combat IS, they need tanks, armored vehicles, artillery guns, rocket launchers, heavy trucks and everything else that can be thought of. They need a lot of training, too. The US plan to train three Kurd brigades is laughable considering the threat. The Germans are said to be equipping and helping train a brigade. That may be all Germany is capable of, but its also pretty laughable in light of the need. A few hundred additional European trainers cannot be expected to achieve much.
· Given this situation, the source can have little credibility. Putting forward such large numbers, which seem scarcely possible, is perhaps not the best way to impress US/EU and may work to the Kurds’ detriment – the crying wolf problem.
· Next, what precisely do we mean by fighter? In that part of the world, folks hug their AK-47s as closely as young Americans hug their iPhones. Many of Editor’s students would not be caught dead in public without their iPhone. It’s akin to walking the streets without clothes. This may seem a frivolous comparison, but it is not. David’s point has validity, in that there may be 200,000 armed men in IS controlled territory. But does that make them fighters for IS? After all, many folks have ceased-fire with IS because they want to survive. Does not mean these same folks are ready to be thrown into the battle for Baghdad. Many IS supporters will be doing no more than protecting their own localities. Etc.
· If IS had 200,000, leaving aside the matter of logistics and command & control, which makes such a large force incredible, they would have taken much of Kurdistan, Kobani and surroundings, all of Anbar, and be advancing on Baghdad in force. This is not happening. Kobani, for example, is said by the Kurds to have 10,000 defenders, though likely this is an exaggeration. With 200,000 fighters, IS could put 30,000+ against Kobani and finish it off in a few days, US airpower notwithstanding. There is no sign this is happening. IS would not have lost Jurf, on the Baghdad-Karbala Road, which was attacked by 10,000 Shia militia, if they had 200,000 fighters overall. And so on.
· The bigger a fighting force, the more organization it needs. There is a limit to how many groups of 100-1000 fighters led by the tribal sheikh IS high command can handle. We haven’t seen latest figures, but likely the Afghan-Pakistan Taliban have 200,000 fighters together after 10+ years of war, and they absolutely could never get them all organized under a single command or act as a cohesive whole.
· Then, it is said that IS gives $500/month to fighters to maintain themselves and their families. That implies a payroll of $100-million/month. That is not credible. Even a third of that is not credible, because payroll is just one expense. Take, for example, rifle ammunition. If a fighter is in battle a minimum of 3-days/month, and is given a bare minimum of 100 rounds, 200,000 fighters will need 60-million rounds a month. In the US, Ukraine 7.62mm rounds are priced at about 25-cents a round. Whoever is selling IS ammunition will not be charging a whole lot less. But say it’s 20-cents, just for discussion. That’s $12-million/month for rifle ammunition alone. Unlikely. True that IS has captured large quantities of ammunition. But conversely, it has been at war for over five months now. Who is to say the Iraqis had stored their ammunition properly and how many rounds were captured?
Monday 0230 November 17, 2014
Editor did not update last Friday and has also not been keeping the Twitter feed as upto date as it should. He lost two days he should have been spending on his finals for the Fall term on trying to get into a doctorate at School for International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, with full tuition remission and a stipend. Turns out they want Editor to do a Master’s from SAIS first, and that’s $82K for tuition, forget stipends to make up for lost job work days. Once the Master’s, they were willing to consider very generous support for a doctorate, though whether they would have given the support considering Editor’s age is another matter. Why a doctorate, you ask. These days to get any academic job requires a doctorate. With the K-12 school system not wanting ancient birds, an academic job seemed worth a try. So Editor is finishing 6th masters, and will do a seventh before applying for a doctorate at U Maryland – tuition free but stipend unlikely.
· IS claims 200,000 fighters, executes another American We’d argued the other day that IS must have something like 40,000+ fighters, more than 2-4 times the US’s estimates. On the other hand, by claiming 200,000 IS is going too far. With that many they would own Iraq and Syria, and be gobbling up Lebanon. We wont even discuss the enormous challenges of managing that many fighters from all over the world, many with little training.
· Now Editor will say something highly politically incorrect. But one either fixates on being PC or on saying something worthwhile. IS has murdered another American. His only crime was to want to help the victims of the Syria war. President Obama calls this act “pure evil”. Unfortunately, these days jumping the pure evil bar is very hard. Somewhere between 3-5 million civilians have been killed in the Congo civil wars. That’s approaching pure evil standards. Pure evil would be unleashing unrestricted nuclear war and killing a few hundred million people. Considering there are 7-billion of us, even that not meet the standard.
· Etymology aside, it’s fairly obvious you cannot use “pure evil” just because one American has died. It’s a terrible tragedy for those who loved this man, but Americans deliberately murder other Americans on a daily basis and we don’t get into the pure evil line of thinking. Perhaps the closest North America has come to the pure evil thing is the Mexican civil war currently underway. As an example, last month 43 young teacher trainees were murdered because a mayor’s wife was concerned students might disrupt her speech.
· IS, for all we may hate it, is acting rationally. Its objective by staging these murders are two. Intimidate the west and get more recruits. It is undoubtedly succeeding in the recruits’ part. It is not intimidating the west because IS doesn’t understand how the west thinks. For that IS is not alone to be blamed. The west has become so pathetically wimpy that extremists think they can get away with anything. And they are getting away it because the west doesn’t want to fight back. This poor young man who is dead is simply acceptable damage.
· The thing is, if you don’t fight back in massively disproportionate force for just one murder of your citizens, you leave the way open for the extremists to escalate. Clearly IS has not been intimidated by US bombing. What would intimidate IS is the committal of 250,000 ground troops to Iraq and Syria with the objective of finding and executing every single person belonging to IS or affiliated with IS – on the spot.
· But Americans want the world to love them. We can see how well that has worked. This may be very hard for Americans to understand, but if you need to get things done, particularly with respect to people who hate you, fear works a lot better than love. Back home we had the Washington National Cathedral host a Muslim prayer service. Very moving, very Unitarian, respectful, love and all that. Okay, so the Cathedral had to do it for its members. They didn’t want to be seen as religious bigots. So, doubtless we are all waiting with bated breath to see if the major Washington area allows Christians to hold a prayer service on its premises. Even if this happens, far from impressing any Islamists with our tolerance, we will earn only their contempt. To an Islamist, a real man never compromises with heretics, even if it means death. Our wish to compromise will be seen as weakness and will only strengthen their determination to fight us.
· Aside from Americans having become just too darn soft to fight a proper war – without a direct threat to the homeland – there is another problem. Americans will blather on about “our values”. They will not mercilessly crucify every Islamist that comes into their hands, they will not burn IS villages and towns and make them into deserts uninhabitable for a hundred years. They will insist on due process. Which obviously was shown neither to Germany or Japan, which obviously is why we won. Americans call themselves racist, but Editor is unsure how this can be true when we value the life of an alien enemy determined to kill us as a precious as we would an American life.
· People, people, we can go on blabbering about out values. But fire is not fought with heavy idealism. Imagine stopping Hitler or Tojo by trying to convince them of the superiority of our values and the errors of their ways. Stalin and his successors, and Mao and his successors were/jave been stopped by the threat of nuclear hell. Surprisingly, Americans have always been ready to kill 100-million Soviets or Chinese if they dared to attack us. But here we are, under attack by the Islamists, and all we can do is produce denunciations of our enemy as “pure evil”.
Thursday 0230 GMT November 13, 2014
· In today’s most important news, ESA’s comet lander Philae (carried to orbit by Rosetta vehicle) touched down on Comet P67. But its anchors did not fire and it may have touched down a second time, again failing to anchor. The ESA team is optimistic, because much data may be gained even if Philae does not function as planned. The landing is a remarkable feat given the comet has almost no gravity and is moving at 60,000+ kmph. Honestly, Editor is feeling quite sick because once such achievements were almost the exclusive province of the US. But in the US we don’t want to pay for this, or that, or the other, and the space program has a low priority with Congress, though we suspect the public would love to see more money spent on it.
· A fitting comment on the story, which is at http://news.yahoo.com/photos/spacecraft-lands-on-comet-slideshow/ in the form of a photo illustration from NASA is from Joseph: “Absolutely incredible how we can accomplish so much in one area and so little in others.”
· Back in the Alice in Wonderland world of American K-12 education Editor’s school district – Montgomery County Public Schools Maryland – has set some kind of record for stupidity. Since there are Christian and Jewish holidays on the school calendar, Muslims began demanding a holiday of their own. This was not a logical request: (a) America is predominantly a Christian nation and in any case its most important religious holiday, Christmas, is secular and given as Winter Break; (b) the reason our county schools have Jewish holidays is not on account of some bias shown to Jewish people. It’s because the county has so many Jewish teachers, it cannot get enough substitutes for those days. The county did NOT used to have Jewish holidays, but was forced to compromise.
· Muslim holidays are intensely religious, and there are relatively few Muslims in our county schools. So the idea of adding Muslim holidays is kind of Fail from the word “Go”. Further, if Muslims got a holiday, Hindus would want one too, particularly for Diwali, the most widely celebrated Indian festival. It is also quite secular, as it involves a lot of eating, drinking, gambling, and fireworks. We need more holidays like that. Prayers mostly invoke the Divine’s blessing on the house and family.
· Now, of course the county could give everyone a holiday as demanded. The problem is that by Maryland law we are require to have 182 days of school. So the school year would have to be extended and many costs incurred. That would create its own weeping and wailing.
· So now you know the background, here is what the county schools did. http://tinyurl.com/mxlwrpr They are to remove the names of religious holidays from the school calendar. We will still have the holidays, but they won’t be on the calendar. If you are going “Huh?” and “Say what?”, Editor will forgive you, because he also utterly fails to get the logic behind this move.
· When even David Ignatius of the Washington Post starts question Third Gulf, you know the Administration is in trouble. To explain: Ignatius is as establishment as they come. When it comes to national security, he is probably among the Administration’s three most trusted journalists. He gets unprecedented access. To maintain that access, as you may guess, he has to be more faithful than the Pope. He is an intelligent fellow – most mainstream journalists are, BTW, contrary to what the rest of us think – and these restrictions must gall. But there you have it. He could speak out, get a lot of publicity, and a year later be covering the state of Washington’s potholes because he will lose his access. To be clear: Editor would gladly sell out if someone wanted to buy him. No one has offered, so far, in the 44 years he has been writing for the media.
· Ignatius has created a checklist of questions we should be asking before plunging into an expansion of Third Gulf. It is all eminently sensible stuff. Here is the question he asks on military training. “Iraq’s U.S.-trained military collapsed when the Islamic State took Mosul in June. New trainers from the United States and other nations are now arriving to rebuild the military. But a caution: The United States spent over $20 billion training Iraqi security forces from 2005 to 2011. Pentagon planners need to ask: What will be different this time?” Look at the tentative, diffident way in which Ignatius puts this question. That’s the way media persons with access to protect talk. All namby-pamby and mincy-wincy and fancy-tancey.
· You’ve already heard the Editor’s views on training. Frankly, were he in charge, he would bust to the ranks any officers that came up with the training plan the US has committed itself to. He would fire any appointee that approved such a plan. These folks are pose the gravest danger to national security, because their unwillingness to stand and face the truth have been pulling this country down.
· We won’t go into why well-educated and experienced military and civilian officials come up with these amazing stupidities. Nor will we discuss why the President accepts them, except to say he doesn’t know better, and doesn’t care to know better. Valerie Jarrett is not about to tell him “Child, this is an absurd plan” because obviously she doesn’t know the past, present, and future concerning the military, nor would we expect her to.
· What we are saying is time for influential people like Ignatius who do need better to stop futzing around and to stand up and draw a red line, warning the government “This time you have gone too far in being morons.” If Ignatius won’t do it, who will? Editor can holler as much as he likes, who is going to listen to him? But if Ignatius hollers, people will listen.
Wednesday 0230 GMT November 12, 2014
· Business Week November 10, 2014 has two fascinating stories. One on China-India (p. 32-34) says by 2016 India’s growth should marginally surpass China’s. It seems fairly well accepted that China’s glory days of 8-13% growth are over, as was inevitable. Indian manufacturing labor wage costs are one-fourth of China. Though India’s manufacturing contribution to GDP is only 13% vs China’s 30%, India’s is going to grow. In Gujarat state the gap with China is about to close. As a percent of GDP, India is rapidly closing with China, which is at something over 20%. Other media sources say that Indian projects are receiving much faster clearance under the new government. India’s very serious problem is infrastructure, or rather the lack of it. As a start, India has obtained $20-billion from China and $37-billion from Japan to start on the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor, intended to become India’s Guangdong province. While it is gratifying to read good news about India, we all need to keep in mind that no one – except possibly Mexico – has the ability to underperform as much as India does.
· The second story concerns US/Canadian production of heavy oil (p. 100). In 2015 a Toronto energy company will start selling tar sands oil that will cost it just $38/barrel to produce. Compare that with Alberta’s $75/barrel. Equally important, its process uses no water and does not leave behind giant tailings ponds. In fact, after the oil sands are cleaned of 99% of the oil, they will be returned to the site. The project will start with only 250-barrels/day, but a US company is opening a similar plant with 2000-barrels/day extraction capability. Another article quotes the head of a major US independent working in the Bakken area as saying breakeven for US heavy oil is $50/barrel and there are several new giant fields to be opened up. This indicates that Saudi’s “crash-the-price” strategy to push US heavy oil out of business will not work. Of course, Saudi has other, possibly more important objectives with its strategy, and if oil goes down to $70/barrel in the next few years, Saudi will succeed spectacularly in these other objectives. One is to kill Iran.
· There is yet another story that does not cheer up Editor because it concerns a Chinese success. China is on track to expand its solar base to a whacking great 57-GWs. The thing to note here is that almost all has been installed since 2010. And China has pushed solar cells down to $1/watt. If you are interested in solar price you will know the matter is not as simple as that because quality, durability, and conversion ratio have to be taken into account before making price comparisons. Also, since China is at 1-Terrawatt generating capacity (or is about to be), the 2015 total will be just 6% of China’s installed capacity. But given the way in which the Yellow Horde operates, if China wants it could be producing well over 10% of its energy from solar, which would make a big difference to its environment.
· Meanwhile, back at the ranch, our President continues to sail serenely along, blissfully wrapped in the total belief he is a genius and the rest of us are idiots. BTW, readers need to remember when Editor says “our president” he does not mean that literally, as he is Indian. But what Mr. Obama does or does not do affects Editor a great deal, what India does affects him not at all. Also, given Editor has spent 25-years in America this time around, come November 30, perhaps its time to start acting like he belongs here. It’s not easy but perhaps it has to be done.
· So the Great One has absolutely refused to acknowledge the least responsibility for the crashing defeat suffered by his party. It’s like he’s walking somewhere above earth, and the cares and wants of Americans are of less concern to him that the cares and wants of plankton in earth’s oceans. This defeat happened to someone else, not to him, as far as he is concerned. He says he has done great things, and if the American public does not realize that, it’s the public’s problem.
· Right after saying he wanted to work with the opposition, he insisted he would still use his unilateral authority to change immigration rules. The point is – as even Editor in his woeful ignorance can see – changing immigration rules is legislating, and according to the Constitution, that’s Congress’s job. The other point is that the way to kill all cooperation with the GOP is to act unilaterally. So again we have The One uttering great words about cooperation and moving the country forward, and then sabotaging what he just said. One supposes the smartest man on earth (barring Editor’s Teddy Bears who are infinitely smarter than him) is not bothered by these petty contradictions.
· On top of that we have the sickening sight of the President acting as if his immigration reform is some kind of moral crusade. But he calmly put this crusade aside when his party told him his unilateral reform would cost them votes. Strange moral crusade. Its interesting to speculate how much his refusal to live up to his promises cost him in terms of the Hispanic/immigrant vote.
· As for the President’s sending 1500 more troops to Iraq to act as advisors to the hapless Iraq Army, again he has caught himself up in saying one thing and doing another. He can argue all he wants this is not boots on the ground, but come on people, are we speaking the same language? There is no one who knows the Iraq situation who has any faith in his training plans. Everyone knows US troops will have to return if the IS Caliphate is to be cleared out. And everyone knows they have to go to Syria too; otherwise IS’s home bases remain intact. Why not start a debate on this and work to get a consensus instead of pushing plan that has failed before it has started.
Tuesday 0230 GMT November 11, 2014
The Armistice that ended the Great War took effect on November 11, 1918. The date is commemorated in the US as Veteran’s Day, honoring surviving veterans of any US war.
· From Sanjith Menon: US diplomat under investigation She is ex-diplomat and South Asian expert who once had the temerity to suggest that the instrument of Accession of Jammu and Kashmir is not a legal document, nor will be honored by the United Sates. She is now facing a FBI probe. It is alleged (Editor: by India) that she took money from Pakistan and acted on that position. This is good news to many Indians in Ministry of Foreign Affairs who feel that their stands are vindicated by the expose on this woman.
· Editor’s response At this time there are no real details on why the former US diplomat is under investigation. Editor no longer keeps in touch with his contacts in the US Government as his life has diverged too far from that of Washington’s movers and shakers. He learns from the press that the diplomat was taking classified documents home and there is concern she might have been passing them to a foreign power. Indian press reports say that she may be under investigation for illicit links with the Taliban and Pakistan, but Editor does not know if this is a reason for the investigation or if the Indian press is repeating what was widely believed in India about her.
· Americans are likely unaware that this diplomat was offensively non-diplomatic when it came to her position on issues of importance to India. She was abrasive to the point of being abusive. You cannot have a white American diplomat make offensive statements to an India that has most definitely not forgotten its subjugation as a colony of a white power. That the US for many decades seemed to follow Great Britain’s lead on dealing with India, and that the US of the 1940s through the 1970s bluntly spoke down to India as if ordering around a disobedient servant, hardly helped America’s case.
· Indians do not feel angry because this diplomat refused to recognize the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India in 1947. The US, by treating Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh (JKL) as disputed territory in effect does not recognize accession. But the US – quite diplomatically – has never openly said that the document of accession was illegal and will not be honored by the US. This diplomat created widespread shock with her loose mouth and open advocacy for an enemy of India’s. Moreover, she had much too much interest in the Sikh separatists that fought a war against India. She may have severely overstepped all diplomatic norms here, too.
· Because she was an aggressive, rude white woman, the Government of India did not know how to deal with her. She benefited from reverse sexism and reverse racism. Today it would be different because today’s India is different. She would be expelled for doing a fraction of what she did against India. India has every reason to hate her; and that by personality she is completely indifferent to what people think of her made it only worse.
· That out of the way, let’s examine the matter of the investigation. Editor doesn’t think we can assume her contacts with the Taliban and Pakistan were unauthorized. In the 1990s, before 9/11, the US was in regular touch with the Taliban. These contacts continued on a different level after 9/11. They reached the point that no one today bothers denying the contacts, both for the purpose of helping a US military withdrawal from Afghanistan and subsequently to keep a major hand with the powers that be post-2014. The Taliban, of course, will very much be a Power That Is, so all this is quite sensible.
· Regarding Pakistan, let’s put it this way. Since 9/11, which American South Asia hand of any consequence has NOT been in touch with Pakistan? It is their job and the diplomat cannot be condemned for doing her job.
· There have been rumors – both in India and the US – that while the diplomat was in charge of giving substantial sums of money for Afghanistan reconstruction, she diverted funds for personal gain. Now, Editor will be the first to concede that when it comes to wartime corruption, the Americans have much to teach Indians, who are a perennially corrupt lot. For imagination, daring, and scale, however, we Indians can only humbly sit at the feet of the acknowledged masters, the Americans. At the same time, we do not think that if she was suspected of corruption the leaks would say she was taking papers home. They would say she was suspected of taking money.
· Again, Editor must admit that the US FBI, who are such tough investigators and so psychologically brutal – without laying a physical hand on a suspect - that they put totalitarian state investigators to shame are superb game players. There could be any number of reasons that if the diplomat was under investigation for corruption the FBI would not reveal it. We don’t want to go into this as we will stray too afield. So let us just say that Editor cannot rule out the corruption thesis, but feels it is unlikely.
· The simplest way to look at this is to take the leakers at word, and say that the diplomat is suspected of unauthorized possession of documents with the possible intent of passing them on without authorization.
· But this should not make the Indians unhappy. The penalties for egregious mishandling of papers with intent to disclose classified information are far more severe than those for corruption. If the leaks are correct, essentially the diplomat is accused of stealing documents for transmission to a foreign power or group. That’s called spying. The Americans are extraordinarily tough on spies. Given no investigator, prosecutor, or court will be able to show her the slightest mercy particularly because she is a woman, and given there is no parole in the federal system, it’s possible – if she is charged, found guilty, and convicted – that no Indian over age 40 will ever see or hear from the diplomat again.
Monday 0230 GMT November 10, 2014
· The beauty of American propaganda There was a time when Editor found everything to do with defense new and exciting. Now Editor has been old and cynical. If it’s a matter of order of battle information, he still comes out of his coma and gets perky, in similar fashion to an old man when a beautiful young woman stops by to talk to him. Editor need to qualify that: he’s been told old men react that way, he doesn’t. Thanks to working at a large school, there are plenty of beautiful young women staff members who stop to talk to him, several times a day, but he remains – er – unmoved. That’s because the only way old men get to do more than just talk to beautiful young women is if they have power or money, preferably both. Editor has neither. Beyond some ritual flirting – a gentleman never lets down any woman, especially beautiful young ones – Editor knows this is going nowhere, so he remains pretty blah.
· Anyway, enough with the moaning and whining. Today Editor found an article that definitely perked him up, yes, even brought a smile to his lips and a twinkle to his eye. The article can be found at http://t.co/xs819yh7ZZ and it concerns brilliant a propaganda briefing given on IS by a senior US military officer. When you read this, please keep in mind Editor is not being mordant. Propaganda is a vital tool of war, in its own way just as important as tanks, planes, and ships.
· There is no country in the world that comes even close to America’s propaganda skills. To begin with, your typical American military briefer looks good in uniform and has an open, steady-gaze, and a manner that radiates confidence without excessive dismissive arrogance. His language is without exaggeration and beating of chest. He has a gentle hint of diffidence when asked difficult questions. His manner in pleasant even while discussing unpleasant things. He uses qualifiers that give him a humility in getting his point across without appearing to boast. That first-name-basis thing with the press is an absolute killer, equal talking to equal. The standard “I don’t know the answer but will ask and get back to you ASAP” is a true winner, because a propagandist always knows the answer and never admits of doubt. Given how ADHD Americans are, including the press, no one remembers that the briefer either does not get back or latter mutters some mushy generalities.
· This particular officer most convincingly made three claims. (a) IS losing morale due airstrikes; (b) we can hear IS conversations; (c) IS numbers are likely only 9-17,000. What was particularly convincing about this briefing is that it coincides with an attack on an IS convoy that may have killed or injured the leader of this unpleasant group and some of his subordinates. If true, this would definitely support points (a) and (b), and surely affect recruitment, making for smaller numbers than otherwise likely, i.e., point (c). The entire implication is “IS, you can run but you can’t hide. We’re going to kill you no matter what you do.” To blatantly say so, however, would be highly arrogant, and when subsequently the enemy scores a victory, as he inevitably will, these harsh words would be dredged up and thrown in the military’s face. And the best part is, all three statements are manifestly true – while also being manifestly false. Sheer brilliance in propaganda.
· Editor’s job, however, is not to do and die, but to reason why. Let us analyze the three statements.
· IS loss of morale Logically, this has to be true. IS made it its name, in the west at least, based on its blitzkrieg victories and the inevitability of success. Since we’ve used the blitzkrieg metaphor, think of Russia June-to-December 1941. But once Red Army resistance stiffened, and once Germany proved unable to surmount the great distances at which it was fighting, morale plunged. IS has lost ground in North Iraq, has failed to seize Kobani, and is stalled in Anbar. If IS is not suffering loss of morale, it is not composed of human soldiers.
· But morale fluctuates. Look at the North African campaign 1940-43. To use modern terminology, for almost four years the Allies seemed to high on uppers followed by low on downers. Talk about bipolar. But when IS has fully adapted to US air strikes and reorganizes its offensives, morale will improve.
· Meanwhile, IS’s morale may be down but what about the morale of its adversaries? Its main opponent in Syria, the Free Syrian Army, is all but defeated. Its gains against Assad hold and are being consolidated. Iraq forces have been fighting IS for ten months in Anbar and the result is that IS holds 80% of the province. It is carefully infiltrating Baghdad, dealing death lately in the form of car bombs. The capital is all but locked down.
· We cannot imagine Iraqi morale is particularly high, especially with IS’s vicious habit of murdering men, women, and children when it captures a village or town. The Kurds seem to be in reasonable form because the west has rushed to their defense. But the Kurds remain painfully aware that at any time IS can shift its focus back to their front and there will be serious trouble. Morale in the west cannot be high either, because people were led to believe airstrikes would win the war and this is untrue. In Syria, US has just about destroyed the faith non-Islamist opponents of Assad had in us and to the probability we are going to get the locals to fight IS, AQ, and assorted nasties is receding across the horizon. The morale thing cuts both ways.
· BTW, what morale does the Iraq Army have? After 10-years we are back to zero with the Iraq forces. In 2004 we trained three divisions. In 2014-15 we are training three divisions.
· We are listening to everything Absolutely true. US has the technical means to intercept ever electronic conversation over Iraq and Syria. For every strike sortie flown, there are 3 or more reconnaissance sorties, including photo-recon. At the same time, it would seem likely that IS is using encryption for its phones. Not a big deal today. Yes, of course the traffic can be decrypted. But in war, timeliness is everything. Decryption, particularly of large volumes of data, eats up resources even for the US. Messages in the tactical environment, say 1-72 hours, are not of much use if decrypted – say – 96-144 hours later. And yes, regardless of encryption there will always be folks lax with their communications security, as may have happened with the events leading to the strike on the leadership. But just as the US is adapting its tactics/strategy to the IS, IS is adapting its tactics/strategy to the US. It was the failure to realize this that cost us Second Indochina.
· Low numbers US says IS may have no more than 9-17,000 members. Naturally this implies IS is noty attracting as many volunteers as previously assumed. This opens up many existential questions. First, how do we know? The figure seems to keep changing. Second, much of IS strength comes from like-minded local tribes fighting for local issues, so the number of fighters is much more than the IS core. Three, as with the Taliban, there is no shortage of volunteers. When you have a movement that draws fighters from 80 countries, that is quite formidable.
· There is another question. How is it with 17,000 fighters IS has held off losing to 10,000 Kurds at Kobani, taken over the Tigris and Euphrates River lines, around which much of Iraq and Eastern Syria lives, occupied most of Anbar and neutralized at least 20,000 Iraqi forces, holding off 30,000+ Kurds, etc. etc.
· You either say these fellows are superwarriors, able to wage war at odds of at least 1 to 3, in which case we’re in for a tough time; or you say there are a lot more, which undercuts US propaganda.
Friday 0230 GMT November 7, 2014
· The SEAL Shooter and Bin Laden Editor is going to be uncharacteristically blunt here. Normally he accepts all mortals are flawed, himself more than others. But in an American world where today there is no honor, only an insane desire to make money at any cost, even if it means debasing oneself, the military has been a bastion of the nobler virtues men and women that inspire us. No longer.
· First, Editor must in fairness point out that the alleged Bin Laden shooter did not start the revelations about the mission, thus being the first to break his oath of secrecy. That dishonor belongs to a colleague who was part of the 23 man team. We say “alleged shooter” because there is no proof he actually killed OBL: other team members also fired at the target.
· The truly disgusting thing the alleged shooter has done is his stated motivation. He was upset that after 16-17 years in the SEALS, he was not given 20-year retirement benefits. He also seeks to justify himself by saying he believed he was going to be named.
· This second reason is easily dismissed. When others also shoot at OBL, why should this one particularly man fear his name would be leaked? And even it were the case, so what? His oath required him to be silent; had his name been leaked, there was no need for him to speak. At most he should have said: “We were part of a team. The success of the mission is shared equally by all of us.” No more was required.
· The first reason is so mind-bogglingly selfish that one is tempted to wonder if this man is mentally unbalanced. The counter to Editor’s supposition would be that in an age where Americans viciously fight each other to be most selfish, this man is actually quite rational. But that does not justify his selfishness. Since he did not serve 20-years, why on earth does he assume he is entitled to 20-year service benefits?
· The only thing we can come up with is that the gentleman thinks he performed some particularly heroic deed for which he should be rewarded, rules or no rules. Does he realize this attitude immediately eliminates him from the fraternity of warriors?
· So far we think most readers will agree with us. The blunt part which may prove upsetting to some is this: Editor is very sorry and apologetic, but he does not think the mission to get OBL was in any way heroic.
· You want SEAL heroes, look at the ambush of the 4-man SEAL team in Afghanistan. Most recently the outlines of his story are related in http://tinyurl.com/omlj8fn What makes the story particularly poignant is that had the men followed normal commando operations routine, they likely would have lived. They were betrayed by a group of herders that the SEALS did not want to kill in cold blood. A big concern was they did not want to commit a war crime. If the US Government did not want its troops to commit war crimes, it should not have sent them on a covert mission, period. Once having sent them, the US Government should have granted them immunity – as it must for all covert operations.
· The irony of this is that the OBL mission itself is held by many to be a war crime because it was a kill mission, not a capture-but-kill-if-unavoidable mission. BTW, we want to clearly state we understand why the US did not want OBL alive and brought to trial. But let us not get diverted.
· In wartime, any combat operations requires bravery. The hapless infantryman in his foxhole is being as brave as the SEALS sent on this mission. In fact, he may even be braver because he is an ordinary Joe, not one of the elite, highly trained, highly equipped, and backed up with everything the world’s sole super-power can muster. Brave would have been had things gone wrong, as happened in Afghanistan.
· Gunning down a man who made no effort to defend himself, and killing his wife who tried to protect him is not, to Editor’s mind, the deed of brave warriors. Yes, yes, Editor is well aware that Bin Laden had said he would not be taken alive, and he was thought to sleep with a suicide belt. But there are plenty of ways to take a man alive in those circumstances, including firing incapacitating agents into his rooms instead of bullets. Of course, those were not the SEALs’ orders, so the point is irrelevant. The SEALS can claim to be cool and efficient executioners, but just the fact they were part of the mission does not intrinsically make them brave.
· So why does this gentleman think he is entitled to be rewarded in a way to which he is not entitled? If he was a mercenary, and the mission was to kill an enemy, he might be entitled to a reward – but then so are the other 22 men. These, however, were not mercenaries or bounty hunters. They were highly-regarded elite American soldiers. They did their job well despite the setback with the loss of a helicopter – though contrary to the general impression some may have, the US was fully prepared for that eventuality. Given how much can go wrong with these missions, the SEALs and their country have every reason to be proud of them. Always keeping mind that in war such risks are taken every day by thousands, tens of thousands, if not more men.
· No one who calls herself/himself a warrior can stand there, and decide that s/he must be rewarded for doing something s/he was required to do as part of a mission. This gentleman has made a mockery of his country, the US Navy, and of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have fought courageously in the war against terror. He should be arrested and put on military trial for breaking his oath. That he is now a civilian makes no difference. But this being America, the US Government is talking about bringing a lawsuit. How seriously pathetic. If the USG goes ahead, we will be treated to another global spectacle of self-humiliation.
· One of these days Editor must take up the matter of why the US was pretending that the OBL operation was a dangerous excursion into enemy territory. Certainly, any compromise of the operation ran the risk that the Pakistanis would move OBL. But extraction was another matter altogether. Anyway, we’ve ranted enough for one day.
Thursday 0230 GMT November 6, 2014
· Did you know the US 10th Mountain Division was specifically trained to operate in harsh weather? This priceless piece of information is shared by the Washington Post (page A6, November 5, 2014) in an article written by a WashPo staffer. If we go by this article, we must conclude the other nine divisions of the US Army cannot operate in harsh weather. So assume they are given orders to fight, and the first thing the general officer commanding does is send out a met team. He learns that the weather is going to be below 30F with 30-mph winds, or above 100F, or 90F with 90% humidity, depending on his theatre. So he sends a message back to corps or wherever saying: “this is a job for the 10thMountain, it’s specially trained for harsh weather. We surely cannot do it.”
· Does this make any sense? Obviously not. Divisions are supposed to operate in whatever weather they find themselves. Sure, you have case of specialized divisions such as the 6th, which was oriented toward Arctic warfare back when the US Army had 18 divisions. But had more divisions been required in the Arctic, no one would have said “Oh dear, we’re out of troops because we have only one Arctic division.” Other divisions would have been sent; they would only require Arctic gear/equipment. Similarly, the 25th Division is oriented toward jungle warfare, but it can fight anywhere without a jungle in sight. The 10th Division is not even mountain warfare trained. It is a general-purpose light division of the US Army. The “Mountain” comes from its lineage. The original 10th incidentally was mountain trained and equipped, but that was in World War II. Sure, the 10th has picked up a lot of mountain experience in Afghanistan. That is if you want to call Afghanistan mountain country. Some parts are. But where US troops were deployed, if you called it mountains you would be mocked by the Indian or Pakistan Armies. To them Afghanistan is hilly. Mountain terrain is from 3000-meters up.
· Readers are doubtless saying “fascinatingly interesting, but your point is….?” Well, remember we have been complaining about the lack of proper reporting on Third Gulf? We’ve reasoned that likely two factors are at play. (a) The US military is determined to control the story and is not giving reporters access; and (b) without military protection, the environment is much too hostile for media to function on its own. The best US war coverage ever was during Second Indochina. US media was permitted to go anywhere it wanted. There were limits, of course. For example, you didn’t get to go on long-range patrols because you’d simply get in the way. But otherwise, if a military unit was willing to offer you its hospitality, you went where it went. That applied equally to the women who wanted to go. No such situation has existed since First Gulf.
· But what if there is more to the lack of reporting than we’ve figured. What if there is a reason (c) US media is totally clueless about the nuts and bolts of war in ways that were not the case in Second Indochina? What if there is actually enough information out there to construct reasonable stories about enemy and own side operations but no one is doing this? But if the media is simply ignorant, and doesn’t know its ignorant or doesn’t care it is ignorant?
· Anbar We’ve been forgetting to mention that anbardaily.blogspost.com has repeatedly been saying that US advisors are in Anbar. Officially, the story is we’re ready to send advisors providing certain conditions are met. The main one appears to be that Baghdad must accept and arm Sunni militias, which we’ve repeatedly said is something Baghdad does not want to do. But think about this for a minute. Is the US really about to let Anbar fall to IS because Baghdad is not arming Sunnis? We wouldn’t put any foolishness at all past Washington. This country is run by folks who are nine short of a six-pack. Nonetheless, all we’re saying is that maybe ambardaily is right and the US government is not letting the public know, We wouldn’t put that past Washington, either.
Wednesday 0230 GMT November 5, 2014
· Strange things are happening in the world. In Burkina Faso (knows as Upper Volta in the days Editor used to wander around), the Prez who had ruled for 27-years ran afoul of his own created constitution when he wanted to change it so he could rule for more years. The people burned down parliament. Aha, though the army and immediately took over, uttering pious words about an interim government of 12 –months or more. Why not simply have held elections? Well, turned out the Army Chief, a 3-star, did not have the political pull inside the force that a light-colonel commanding an elite unit had. The army told the 3-star to take a hike. So, situation normal, another dreary African case of years of army rule. But then came the strange thing: the people started demonstrating against the army, which quickly realized that times have changed even in Africa. You just can’t walk all over your citizens any more with consequences. So the army has hurriedly agreed to a compromise person to head the interim government, but gratuitously has said it will be keeping a close watch.
· Back in DPRK, ROK figured out that the repeated “missile” launches of the past weeks, which were raising tensions, were actually tests of 150-180 km 300mm rockets. These are copied from China who copied them from Russia. We all read far too many Tom Clancy type novels (Editor included, it’s his equivalent of mind-numbing TV), and we tend to forget that technical intelligence is still a very imperfect game. But then DPRK, which has failed at three previous N-tests, is now muttering about a fourth. Of course, the number depends on if they really were N-tests. Editor’s information is that first was not, second was salted with radioactive material to make it look like a real test, and the third was at best a big fizzle because DPRK was using inadequately enriched plutonium. We’d encourage DPRK to test away because there is no fear of consequences from the US. This is not a backhand swipe at Obama, because Bush too did nothing. Seriously, the US is not serious about stopping N-proliferation. And honestly, seeing as it did nothing about South Africa’s weapons, and has done even less regarding Israel, we think it better the US simply shut up.
· Meanwhile, Third Gulf gets weirder. We’ve mentioned that al-Nusra, Syria’s AQ affiliate that usually fights IS, Assad, and “moderate” rebels, but sometimes cooperates with IS, has destroyed two major US-backed “moderate” groups. Apparently they were components of the so-called Free Syrian Army, which is now effectively wiped out. So Nusra has been advancing on one of the two border crossings between Turkey-Syria used by Turkey/West to supply the rebels. It’s only a matter of some kilometers. So US is considering bombing Nusra. After US started bombing IS, Assad must have wept with joy. Now if the US starts bombing Nusra, he will weep ecstatically, because the two groups are his most dangerous opponents. None of this is sitting well with the so-called moderates. But they seem to be done, in any event, and they must understand that once the US starts bombing, it cannot stop, no matter what the consequences. Does Editor sound sniffily superior? He has to admit that the American part of him gets absolutely thrilled when the US bombs anyone. His main gripe against overall US foreign policy is that it has refused to bomb China, Iran, DPRK, Saudi, and the Gulf States. But hasn’t Editor many times said bombing doesn’t work? See, here Editor is a hardliner. He believes when it doesn’t work its because the effort has been too half-hearted. For example, if US had bombed North Vietnam all the way to the China border and mined the entire coast in 1965, things would have been different. Its this limited war thing that doesn’t work.
Tuesday 0230 GMT November 4, 2014
· The Pentagon: Neither Guilt nor Shame It is said that as matter of psychological interrogation techniques, you break an American by finding out which guilts he finds hardest to bear, and playing on them. Indians, however, do not feel guilty; we feel shame. So an interrogator works on find out what you think are the most shameful things you have done.
· Good news, people. If the Pentagon is ever captured and put to the question, it will not – indeed, cannot - be broken by guilt or by shame. The two words do not feature in its vocabulary. When you become a senior civilian or military officer at the Pentagon, you are given a very brief, painless procedure that erases all feelings of guilt or shame from your brain. Indeed, so effective is this treatment it even leads you to get severe migraine headaches if you as much as think the words guilt or shame.
· Editor can hear his readers rolling their eyes. There he goes again, you say. Ever ready to lay on the hyperbole, the exaggeration, the connection of two irrelevant facts to make his case. Okay, maybe so. But surely readers will agree with Sherlock Holmes when he said “Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.”
· Thanks to the New York Times we have an inkling of what the Pentagon’s strategy is to create a New New Iraq Army. The New Iraq Army formed in 2004 is now in the emptied dustbin of Pentagon collective memory. Editor can convincingly show that since there is no logical factor that can explain the Pentagon’s new new plan, the only factor that remains – that the Pentagon is devoid of guilt or shame – must be the truth.
· So what is this plan? It is available at http://t.co/HskMJUZy0D You may reasonably ask: why must the Pentagon reveal its plan to the media instead of directly to the citizens who, after all, pay for the Pentagon. The answer is simple. Even the stupidest haystack in the United States can figure out the Pentagon’s plan is a crock of hot, steaming, stinky stuff. That’s right, we said haystack, not hayseed. By giving details of the plan to the New York Times, the Pentagon is less likely to be jeered. Because, after all, the NYT is a respectable and intellectual newspaper of deep thought and gravitas. If it is in the NYT, there must be something to the plan. Why the NYT so uncritically and reliably swallows the Pentagon’s inanities is another story for another time, but of course it’s the entire media, not just the NYT, and it has to do with our now addictive habit of using the all-volunteer force for our asinine expeditionary ventures while we sit snug and safe at home. Anyway. Back to the plan.
· The “plan” has three parts. First, the Pentagon will create three new divisions holding nine brigades between them. Sound familiar? It should, because this was the Rummy Rumsfeld plan for the New Iraq Army. That plan was so illogical it fell apart right from the start. Again, we can discuss why this happened, but then we’ll never get to the end of our point today. Iraq Army ended up with 14 divisions. So why are three new divisions needed? Because those 14 divisions no longer exist except some division HQs with a handful of brigades. The real Iraq Army is the Shia militia, and right there you can see a problem developing. The entire Iraq Army of near 300,000 men was defeated and scattered by a force of perhaps 10,000 IS teamed up with perhaps an equal number of Sunni fighters, perhaps more. When less than 30,000 lightly armed fighters can defeat – within weeks and months – a heavily equipped and heavily trained army ten times its size, you have to wonder what went wrong.
· You’d think the Pentagon at least owes the American people an explanation for what went wrong. But you see, the Pentagon is well aware that the attention span of the American people is about 3-nanoseconds. The sole exception is if the public is shown a picture of (a) a beer; (b) a handbag; (c) a scantily clothed male; and/or (d) a scantily clothed female. Then our attention span increases to a whopping 5-nanoseconds. The Pentagon, in the now all-too-standard American style, admits to no stupidity figuring that it can quickly advance to the next stupidity. When that fails, the Pentagon advances to yet another stupidity, always staying ahead of the gullible people.
· So the second part of the plan is that nine Peshmerga brigades will also be formed and equipped to join the New New Iraq Army. You may wonder why 5/6th of the population is being asked to contribute three divisions, whereas the Kurds, 1/6th of the population, are asked to contribute the same amount. If you suspect there is something very wrong with this plan, you are on the right track.
· The third part of the plan is to create 18 National Guard brigades from ethnic recruits, one for each Iraqi province.
· So US air interdiction will sever IS’s supply lines between Syria and Iraq and isolate IS forces. The New New Iraq Army will defeat the isolated IS forces by spreading out, ink-blot style, from big based such as Al Asad (Anbar) and Taji, which we think is the largest bases in Iraq. The National Guard and police will protect cleared areas.
· Problem the first. Air interdiction has never, ever, broken anyone’s supply lines. The US tried this in Second Indochina, dropping more bombs on NVA/VC supply lines than it dropped in all of World War 2. We don’t have to remind readers of the rest of the story. We could get into why this tactic does not work, but we wouldn’t get to today’s point until November 4, 2015.
· The time line is that the counteroffensives should begin in the Spring of 2015, and take about a year to destroy the IS’s ability to operate on a strategic level. Pockets will remain, and these – the US allows – may take four years to clean up.
· Problem the second. The New Iraq Army did not fight to protect Iraq. Why should the New New Iraq Army?
· Problem the third. By end 2015 the Kurds will be exporting 1-million barrels/day of oil. At that point, it becomes politically cost-ineffective to stay in Iraq. Why is the Pentagon assuming the Peshmerga will fight for Iraq when they have no interest in Iraq, and when Iraq did not fight for them when IS overran North Iraq?
· Problem the fourth. Why exactly should Baghdad agree to pay, equip, and train Sunni National Guard units? We tried this strategy before, and it failed miserably.
· Problem the fifth. Why is Iran going to quietly stand by and let the US run Iraq, something the Iraqis absolutely don’t want anyway? Iran’s influence over Iraq has increased manifold. Indeed, the only reason all Iraq has not collapsed under the IS’s offensive is because Iran has stepped in with training, arms, advisors, and leadership. There’s no need for Iranian troops or IIRC troops because Iraq has more Shias wanting to fight than it knows what to do with.
· Problem the sixth. Why does the US think that having gained prominence in the defense of Iraq, the Shia militias will just go home when the US tells them to? The Shia militias have done most of the fighting. Are they even going to let the US form a New New Iraq Army that excludes them from being the exclusive military force in Iraq? No they’re not.
· We could go on, but we think readers will agree that the US plan is devoid of any reason, any logic, any reality. That the Pentagon is pushing ahead with its opium dreams shows it has neither shame nor guilt. It’s going to run the same playbook, with a different cover. And this time it has only a tiny fraction of the leverage it had for Second Gulf.
Monday 0230 GMT November 3, 2014
· Two main US-supported “moderate” Syrian rebel groups surrender to Nusra Front says the UK Telegraph http://tinyurl.com/pp5gvso Nusra in the Syrian affiliate of AQ. Currently it is negotiating with IS for an alliance, but we can take for granted this will be one of the usual Islamic marriages of convenience. The two groups will sometimes cooperate and sometimes fight each other. If Assad is ever defeated, the two will doubtless wage a war of elimination.
· One of the two defeated groups, the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, was just last week subjected to a knockout punch by Nusra, which overran the SRF’s last stronghold. On Saturday Nusra knocked Harakat Hazm out of the ring by overrunning its territory, also in Idlib Province.
· Well, this is awkward because (a) US was relying on both groups to be part of the new 5000-man force it plans to raise; and (b) Nusra now has both groups’ armories, including TOW anti-tank missiles and GRAD rocket launchers. No one will be surprised that SRF and Nusra have been allies as well as fighting each other. In August and September 2014 they fought together (see http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/11/al_nusrah_front_forc.php ) and had a subsequent truce. The SRF leaders has said in the past that AQ/Nusra are not his concern, meaning any help to overthrow Assad of Syria is welcome.
· So we don’t quite understand how US would consider SRF an ally against IS, but then what does Editor know, being as he is from Iowa. Us Iowans are very Americans, in that we know much about corn and cows. But we don’t want to force our thoughts on anyone, which at this point in time makes us very un-American. Anyway. Perhaps someone, somewhere in the US national security apparatus knows what they are doing, though there is no evidence of this. Editor prefers to stay optimistic. It makes life easier.
· These two losses add to the general impression that most folks have, that the US has no idea what it is doing in Syria/Iraq. Nonetheless, when has not knowing what it is doing bothered the US national security apparatus?
· Of late Editor has been pondering why is it that the Islamic Mideast and North Africa is such a chaotic place. The reason given is that the tribe takes precedence over the nation. One can point out that Egypt and Iran are very much part of this region but show a very strong sense of nationhood, so it cannot be that tribalism is inherent in Islam.
· The counter to that might be that Iran and Egypt are old, established nations, dating back thousands of years. They were colonized by the west – Egypt to a much greater degree than Iran, which was merely invaded by the British in World War 2 to keep Russia from getting its grabby bear paws on oil. The official reason was to stop the Germans – coming through the Caucuses – from getting their hot paws on the oil. Doubtless this was an important defensive consideration, yet Russia was the main fear. After the colonizers left subsequent to World War 2, these two countries resumed their own nationhood. That Iran was a US pawn until 1979 in no way changes this assertion; the Iranian leadership made a conscious, self-interested decision to ally with the US. Some will say this is neo-colonialism; we say that is an abuse of the language.
· The closest Editor can come to an explanation is that Libya, Iraq and Syria never developed a national identity superior to tribal identities. The same is probably true of Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. The Kurd question, which impacts on Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey cannot have helped. Once Saddam was overthrown then both tribalism and sectarianism exploded in Iraq; the same thing is happening in Syria. We know from Afghanistan that when wars go on too long, countries fall apart and fighting becomes a way of life. Though, of course, Afghanistan has also ways been a tribal nation. The same is true for Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier and Baluchistan provinces.
thoughts are quite sketchy. But then, Editor has never been big on
the political side of things. Perhaps readers can weigh in with
· Our point, however, is this. There is just no way Americans are going to cope with Islamic tribalism, leave alone manage it as the US is trying. We’ve said before, the only way to manage it is to occupy the Mideast in force and stay there a hundred or more years until nations are built. They certainly wont have the same boundaries they have today. Moreover, our solution invites the inevitable counter: what vital interest do we have in the region to justify such an intervention?
Friday 0230 GMT October 31, 2014
· It was necessary to destroy Jurf-al-Sakhar in order to save it Not unreasonably, Editor believes Americans no longer understand how terrible war is, and how completely it proceeds along its own logic. Jurf-al-Sakhar is a town about 60-km south of Baghdad. It has repeatedly changed hands between IS and the Iraq Government. Since the Iraq Government no longer has a functioning army the way most folks would define “functioning “, the victories, temporary as they may be, have come thanks to the Shia militias. Not surprisingly, these militias work very closely with Iran.
· Jurf-al-Shakar is – was, really – a key point on the road between Baghdad and Karbala. Though Iraq reporting has been maddeningly sketchy, Editor infers from small clues that IS, having seized Jurf in mid-year 2014, was planning to attack Shia pilgrims as they made their holy journey to Karbala for Ashura, which is a month away. Attacks against Karbala from Jurf had already begun. So Baghdad, Teheran, and the Shia militias decided to clear the town of 80,000 by any means necessary. One thing about the Iranians that we should know by now is that they don’t futz around when it is a matter of religion. So with their assistance – including advisors and firepowers – the town was cleared this week.
· Except, as the Washington Post informs us http://tinyurl.com/ow2yj2a clearing has meant the entire Sunni population – which is about all of Jurf – has been forced out and the town leveled. The WashPo elliptically notes that Sunnis who did not or could not flee were eliminated. It does this by quoting a Shia commander as saying that if anyone against IS had stayed had IS been attacking, IS would have killed them.
· Now, while we know much about IS’s mass atrocities, we do not know much about Shia atrocities against Sunnis. Clearly Jurf is one such. Moreover, the Shia militia says allowing the Sunnis back will only again lead to trouble. The town has been a hotbed of Sunni insurgency since 2003. Whatever happened at Jurf has to be big, if only because this is not a village of a few thousand, but home to 80,000
· Editor is not going into a moralistic spiel about how US enables its allies to commit atrocities even as it decries those committed by its enemies. This is the way of war, always has been, always will be. The US has to fight and destroy its enemies where it counters them, and if a lot of innocent folks die, sorry about that. Either don’t fight wars and take the consequences, or fight them and accept cases like Jurf. Editor is obviously not for accepting the consequences of the US not fighting wars.
· Rather, the point Editor makes is that US policy in Iraq is based on a complete fantasy and this does not auger well for clear thinking and clear decisions. The US fantasy is that Iraq must, and can, be kept together. It’s unclear to Editor why the US believes this because the reasons Washington gives make no sense. We will ignore this issue here to avoid too wide a diversion from our point. A second American fantasy is that a non-sectarian Iraq Army can be built.
· Let’s take the second fantasy first. Americans like to pretend that while the Shia militias are sectarian, by clever and subtle American initiatives the Iraq Army can become a multi-ethnic force. We went through this 2004-11; somehow it is escaping us that we failed that time despite putting 160,000 troops into Iraq. The reality, however, is that it does not matter to which institution they belong, both Shias and Sunnis are highly sectarian. We’ve previously many times explained why; again, we’re not judging anyone, just calling it as it is. For example, suppose Iraq did have a non-sectarian army and IS attacked Karbala and – heaven forfend – seized and razed the Shia shrines. This is something they have pledged to do. How long would the non-sectarian Iraq Army have lasted before the Shia troops went nuts and started killing Sunnis, and vice-versa? Answer: not long.
· Back to the first fantasy, that Iraq must be kept together. The genesis of American troubles in Iraq happened because the Sunnis –understandably – refused to live in an Iraq where the Shias held majority power and where Shias sought payback for their centuries’ old oppression. Iraq would have collapsed as a unified state in 2006 had the US not fought Shia militias with the same ferocity it fought Sunni militias. All the US achieved was delaying the inevitable, which is happening now. When IS invaded Iraq in June 2014, the Shias took severe losses. Thanks to Iran, the Shias have recovered to the extent that they fought hard to clear Jurf. By the way, to imagine they will fight as hard to take Tikrit and Mosul and Anbar is unrealistic. Here the Shias were defending their homeland and their shrines.
· Given the history of Jurf, it seems inevitable that the town became a case of us versus them, no compromise. How is Jurf going to play out with Iraqi Sunnis? Badly, because the next town the Shia militias seek to clear will also require the expulsion and killing of every Sunni. This does not mean that individual Sunni tribes will not ally with the US in Anbar. We say the US and not Baghdad because Baghdad wants to have nothing to do with the Sunnis. The minute the US left in 2011, Baghdad throttled the Sunni Awakenings and it will do so again at earliest opportunity.
· If peace can come only when every Sunni is dead or expelled, why not face the inevitable and stop trying to keep Iraq together? The US recognized this in FRY, why is it not recognizing this in Iraq. One-third of Iraq, the Kurds, is never coming back. United Iraq is dead, and in any case, what is the big deal here when united Iraq was never an organic state but a creation of Western colonialism designed to serve Western interests? Why anyway has the US become proxy for long-dead British and French imperialism? Has not the world progressed since 1918? Separate the Shias and Sunnis, as the US/West Europe separated the Christians and the Muslims and different ethnicities in FRY, and protect them all. That is the way to peace.
Thursday 0230 GMT October 30, 2014
· More foolishness from India re. China The Indo-Tibetan Border Police, as its name suggests, is a paramilitary force tasked to protect India’s border with China. Editor doesn’t have his notes, but in the early 1970s the force had a strength of 10 battalions, each with six companies. Forty years later, it has grown to 62 battalions. In view of the continuing border incidents with China, yet another expansion has been sanctioned, 12 additional battalions by 2019. In fifty years the ITBP will have grown by seven times.
· Government of India says that the 12 new battalions will permit the creating of 30 more posts on the border, reducing the distance between posts and improving surveillance/quick reaction. But this is absolutely the wrong way of going about matters if the purpose is to deter China from creating mayhem at the border.
· Adding 12,000 more paramilitary troops to a 3,5000+ kilometer border is like the proverbial drop in the bucket. It should be appreciated that in the high mountains, the border has to be patrolled on foot. The weather is miserable for much of the year, particularly in the long winter, October to April. China has limitless opportunities to create incursions because the border will remain thinly protected.
· Take some numbers. A company of 120 men will have 80-90 available at any one time. The rest are on medical or annual leave and other contingencies. One company of the six will have to be committed to training. You cannot, year after year and decade after decade keep the same companies on the border 24/365 even if you give the men 60+ days of leave a year. Three companies up, or – say – a maximum of 300 men is a reasonable assumption.
· The ITBP guards 3500-km of mountain frontier. When its strength reaches 72 battalions, it will likely have, at best 62 available battalions. Some are posted on CI operations, and some are the so-called “service battalions”, which are in effect support battalions. With 180 companies available, this makes for a company every 20-km. In the mountains this is inadequate if the objective is to prevent Chinese infiltration.
· If the ITBP were to have 100 deployable battalions with helicopter support, or 200 without, we’d be talking business. Re. helicopter support: India is so short of helicopters that only very rarely is a helicopter available to the ITBP for a couple of sorties. This means supplies move by mule pack. Fifteen km/day is a good pace in fair weather. Posts are often upto 50-km or even more from the nearest roadhead. As the Americans say, “do the math”.
· But this is not our point. The point is that once again – as always – India is reacting defensively. Sure you can deal with China defensively. Fence the entire darn border and have lateral roads. But the Chinese will react badly to fences because they do not accept India’s definition of the border. As for India building lateral roads with north-south excursions to every border post, allowing at least 1-ton vehicles to reach them (20 mule loads), the best thing that can be said is that this is an opium dream. The Sino-Indian border confrontation began in earnest in 1956, almost 60-years ago. There is not even one lateral. A 2000-km lateral for the northeast state of Arunachal is now being “conceptualized”. We Indians must be great artists, to have to “conceptualize” a road. Doubtless we can also “conceptualize” troops and supplies moving along this road. The problem is the Chinese are not smoking opium; against out conceptualization they have actual roads they keep upgrading – and their border with Arunachal is getting a broad-gauge rail line, current completion date 2020 though we think this will slip a bit. When the Indian conceptualized road is pitted against actual Chinese roads and rail lines, guess whose vision prevails. Hint: it is not India’s.
· But pure defense never works. Never. Ever. The sole effective defense is offence. When the Chinese intrude, if India was to smack them down each time, the Chinese would stop intruding. Rather than more and more paramilitary forces, India needs only to utilize its existing force to throw out Chinese intrusions. No palaver. No diplomacy. The enemy comes in 1000-meters, 5-km, or 10-km, it should be automatic military action to evict them. Only then will they learn.
Wednesday 0230 GMT October 29, 2014
· Dear CIA, you are fooling no one with the stink bug you’ve placed in my study cubby. He has had not anything to eat or drink in three years now but is still going strong, like the Mars rovers. Clearly he is, well, a bug, a robot bug to be specific. Your choice of targets is wasting scarce national resources. Nothing happens in my house, let alone in my study cubby. Indeed, so little happens that twice this month I have caught the little spider who occasionally visits from the basement weaving a web using my shoulders as anchor points and weaving around my chest just to make things extra secure.
· Your stink bug bug is better deployed to – say – to keep tabs on a Karadshian. This species of alien is a direct threat to the security of the United States because it is reducing the citizens of this country to mindless zombies, thus preparing the way for an invasion. You should know a Kardashian is very easy to out as an alien. Simply dress her up in opaque clothes and you will a dramatic transformation from (fake) human female to (truly terrifying) alien. Alternatively, cancel his credit card and watch her explode. On the other hand, maybe this is a bad idea because the explosion will be so extreme it is likely to bring about another age of extinction. Though, mind you, Americans have become so soggy of brain that maybe an extinction event is need to winnow the population back to people with brains. Obviously Editor will survive. Obviously you all will not. If you had brains, you would know (a) Editor is not up to no good – though given the crop of new teachers as his school he would love to be to no good – rowwwwer!; (b) You have only to invite him to a $2 lunch at Mickey D’s and he will blab all.
· Meanwhile, Editor would like to know what you all at Langley are doing about the new threat to national security. No it is not IS – they’re a bunch of morons. The way to finish them is to hand each a big, blunt knife and say “can you demonstrate on yourself how best to cut off a head?” In no time at all no IS will be left. The threat we are talking about is the French fake assault clowns who, well, are going around assaulting the good citizens of France.
· The situation has gotten so bad the good citizens of France are organizing vigilante groups to go after the assault fake clowns. Obviously if this continues, France will disintegrate into civil war. Editor asked your stink bug who was responsible for unleashing this deadly menace. The bug painstakingly walked the keyboard to spell out: “Le Flannery”. Translated into normal language, which is English, of course, this means “Pudding Face.” Otherwise aka M. Hollande. I am sure you failed to pick up the obvious clue that M. Hollande is not whom he says. The clue is: Which real Frenchperson would call himself Holland? You should have been investigating this instead of setting your stink bug bug on Editor.
· The only thing Editor is guilty of is lusting after younger women. How is that a crime, you will ask? Lusting after younger women is what every red-blooded American does, be he or she a he or a she. See, Editor limits his lusting after young women to women older than his youngest child. The line is currently drawn at 29, and the upper limit is 60. Sixty, you will ask, puzzled? Hey, fella, when you’re going on 80, sixty year old ladies look mighty fine. People unfamiliar with Americans may still be puzzled. How is drooling after women 29-60 a crime? In this country it is, because red blooded Americans, be they a he or a she can drool only after 16-19 year old girls. This is the hidden 31st Amendment to the Constitution, which people have long suspected exists. Yes, it does exist. And it says that no American shall lust after a girl younger than 16 or older than 19. Any person who fails to comply will be labeled a perverted sex offender and exiled to France where this kind of pervasion is accepted.
· But we digress. The clowns. Has anyone at the CIA noted that we have been infiltrated by clowns preparing the way for the assault fake variety? Look no further than your nearest Mickey D. Get a clue, CIA, and stop with the stink bug bug. In case you don’t know why M. le Flannery has unleashed assault fake clowns, we can tell you. His very classy (and delectable) ex-girlfriend Madam Valerie is about to release a book which explains that M. le Flannery’s Wee Willie Winkie is, in fact a Wee Willie Winkie, and proceeds to count the way her former paramour’s WWW is a WWW.
· We believe the editor of her book cut it down – er, bad choice of words – to One Thousand And One Ways. The original has in excess of ten thousand, but the book editor said more would make the book so expensive no one would buy it. Madam Valerie is challenging her editor: she maintains Monsieur le Wee Willie Winks will have purchase every single copy to avert a scandal. She wants a print run of 2-million, 2000-pages a copy, priced at 20,000 Euros. After the 2-million copies are purchased she plans to offer the book free on Amazon – Bwahahaha! But again we digress. If France is in a state of civil war over these assault fake clowns, no one will have time to read Madam Valerie’s book. And you thought Stalin and Mao were ruthless.
· Meanwhile, Editor has sent an invitation to Madam Valerie for a date. Of course, when Mrs. Rikhye the Fourth finds out, she will sneer and tell everyone “Editor’s WWW is so Wee that M. Le Pudding WWW is like the Eiffel Tower.” She will even sink so low as to inform Madam Valerie of this, via Facebook.
· What Mrs. Rikhye IV does not know is that Editor’s proposed date is a Chocolate Date. No woman of beauty, taste, discrimination, and hot lust will take the messy and uncertain business of sex over good chocolate. Madam Valerie is obviously a woman of beauty, taste, discrimination, and hot lust. Bwahahahaha! The Good Bears win and the Evil Cats are defeated – again. Okay, so this is all a bit premature – er, unfortunate choice of words. Madam Valerie has not answered yet, and she has many suitors. But once she finds out the chocolate Editor will bring to the date, she will swoon and say “My darling, do with me as you want! I cannot wait another second! Just let me at the chocolate!”
· So, you will say, enough of this salacious XXX teasing. WHAT IS THE CHOCOLATE?
· Well, Editor is a patriotic American (if he were an American). It will be Hershey’s chocolate bars. Obviously.
Tuesday 0230 GMT October 28, 2014
The Iraq/Syria War is getting boring
Everyone is bogged down in stalemates –
Kobani, Anbar, and Kurdistan. Yes, the good guys have made some
gains. Kobani is no longer in
danger of being overrun, though IS continues to reinforce. Its next
offensive will build on lesson learned from the first offensive,
which are that you do not keep pushing failed attacks on the same
axes. In Editor’s opinion, it is time to go on the defensive in
Kobani and send reinforcements to Anbar. These are arriving, but to
break the stalemate here more fighters are needed. Fair enough, IS
is not pushing the Baghdad offensive because it is not ready, but IS
should be tightening the ring, and not allowing Iraq to punch any
holes in the encirclement.
A counteroffensive at Jurf-al-Sakhar is surely coming as
certainly as night follows day, but that will only restore the
status quo as of October 21. Meanwhile, the battles for Anbar have
gone on far too long for a force that relies on rapid maneuver and
on attacks in unexpected directions. This whole thing is becoming
like World War I, where gains of 10-km were considered major
· Meanwhile, the news that IS has Chinese SAMS in the form of HN-6s is not good. Both US – and more importantly - Iraqi attack helicopters will be limited. One Mi-35 has already been shot down; earlier, IS got at least one or perhaps 2 Su-25 Frogfoots. The missiles are from stocks supplied by Qatar to Syria rebels. They have either been captured or purchased from the rebels. The US is very aware of this danger which is one reason it has been moving at sub-snail speed in the matter of arming the rebels. IS is particularly adept at seizing the good stuff from other rebels.
· American and Western hypocrisy is nowhere more evident than in the matter of barrel bombs. When Assad uses them, we scream at his barbarisms. When Iraq uses them, we have nothing to say. Editor’s point is: why get into the slanging match about barrel bombs? Why go on and on about how destructive they are? Anyone seen pictures of what a US 500, 1000, or 2000-pounder can do? Hint: it isn’t pretty. Barrel bombs are strictly amateur hour. More hint: look at the pictures of the recent leveling of Gaza by the Israelis using this type of ordnance. As far as we are concerned, in war everyone has a right to use whatever weapons they can, and it is plain stupid to demonize some types of weapons while making free with others.
· Interestingly, the British developed Dum Dum bullets (hollow-points) were banned in 1899. They were developed at Dum Dum Arsenal in Calcutta. A hundred years later no one gives a thought to the damage modern bullets do. We leave it to the experts, but Editor seems to recall that back when the M-16 was introduced in Second Indochina, some considered it an inhumane weapon? Why? Well, the velocity of the X45 round is nearly 1-km/second, or 3600-km/hour for those who’d prefer a more easily understood measure. When it hit, it tumbled and completely fragmented inside the body. Big message. But we haven’t heard of any moves to ban this round.
Monday 0230 GMT October 26, 2014
· Jurf-al-Sakhar, Iraq Editor is deeply interested in the battle that saw Iraqi forces retake this city, lost to IS for several months. Jurf is on the Euphrates 60-km slightly SW of Baghdad, To its NW is Amiriyt al Fallujah, which has been surrounded by IS. Amiriyt is on the road to Baghdad, about 30-km away to the East. From Jurf you can also reach Karbala. The map at https://firstname.lastname@example.org,44.2123501,9z shows that by taking Jurf, the Iraqis have torn a big hole in the encirclement of Baghdad.
· At first Editor was pleased at what he believed was the first strategic victory for Iraq. Everywhere else it has either continued to lose ground, or has made feeble gains, such as seizing a few kilometers north of Tikrit. So what happened here? Why was Jurf different?
· Before we discuss that, we have to tell you that Bill Roggio http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/10/iraqi_forces_kurds_c.php seriously ruined our happiness. He informs that actually the Iraqis claim to have captured Jurf many times. So this is not really a strategic victory but a tactical one, because the city keeps changing hands and this is just the latest iteration.
· Anyhows, If you read http://t.co/cwq5KY8qOf and Reuters at http://news.yahoo.com/victory-key-iraqi-town-time-revenge-200129937.html the following few facts emerge. The city was really taken by the Shia militias, including the (in)famous Badr Brigade that vigorously fought the Americans and even more vigorously massacred Sunnis. The commander of the brigade says that the new Shia interior minister, a member of Badr, jointly led the brigade. Also, visuals of the Iranian IRGC’s commander are being circulated. The Shia say they fought with Iranian weapons.
· A photo in the Washington Post shows two Grad type rocket launchers on semi-trailers, one flying a flag that for sure is not the Iraq flag. Perhaps the Iraq Army handed over the rocket launchers, but then one has to ask why they are being transported by semi-trailer. They are mounted on heavy trucks, and Baghdad is just an hour by road. So perhaps they are Iranian.
· The Reuters article quite nicely describes the realities of war. The Shia and whatever there is of the Iraq Army are busy executing IS prisoners, and refusing to bury the bodies. They say they are only doing what IS did to them, which is true. A single sniper held up the Iraqi advance for a day, killing many, until he was killed in his tree by a helicopter gunship – proof of some Iraq Air Force participation. The Iraqis are standing around celebrating when a barrage of mortar fire from an orchard still held by IS rains down, killing many fighters. There is an indication that attack helicopters retaliated against the mortar positions. Such is ground war: messy, bloody, deadly, no glory.
· Why is Jurf important? The Shia festival of Shura is a few days away. The action at Jurf seems to have had two objectives: interfere with any IS attack against Karbala or Baghdad. BTW, the Shia militias, for all their vaunted “fight-to-the-death” aura, have actually been performing miserably in the offensive in other parts of Iraq. They seem to be staunch enough in the defense. For example, IS has been held to the north of Tikrit since the start of its offensive. IS progress in Anbar has been very slow, in part because of the militias.
· An important consideration is that IS has been driven out of Jurf – in the main. They are still very much entrenched outside, and likely in parts of the city. They will counterattack – you can depend on this. Nonetheless, Jurf is an important victory for Iraq.
· Meanwhile, US military sources are openly saying it will be years – yes, years – before the Iraq Army is capable of defeating IS in the north. No one much talks of Iraq and Kurdistan, because it’s fairly much accepted Kurdistan is gone. There is no particular reason for it to stay in federal Iraq: its oil output and exports increase month by month. By Editor’s calculation, by end 2015 Kurdistan will make as much money from oil as it would if it stays within federal Iraq – if Baghdad gives Erbil its fair share, which has not been happening for years. (There are reasons for this, its not that Baghdad is entirely at fault. )
· The US continues desperately to bring about a Kurdistan-Iraq rapprochement. The new government has released $1-billion of the $17-billion Baghdad was supposed to give Erbil this year – an additional $1-billion was given in January and February, before Baghdad stopped all payments in protest against Kurd oil experts. There are two months left in the year. Baghdad was already short of money because of the IS war, and now, with oil prices down so much, Editor at least doesn’t see how Baghdad can pay Erbil the $15-billion owing this year (minus what Erbil has earned on its own). Plus there’s money owed from previous years.
· By the way, readers may be forgiven for thinking with the United Kalavyrta case Americans are no longer buying Kurd oil. Bloomberg suggests even this ship managed to transfer 100,000-bbl of the 1,073,000 on board at sea off Houston. And apparently at least one US company continues to buy Kurdish crude – from an Israeli company that buys from Kurdistan. Complicated. But that’s the way of oil. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is buying Kurd oil. Bloomberg has tracked 18-million bbl export sales this year, and Ceyhan is now loading 200,000 barrels/day, or 6-million bbl/month. As Editor has noted, these oil exports are a bit of a red herring. Kurdistan has sold far more to Turkey and also to Iran.
Saturday 0230 GMT October 25, 2014
· Iraq/Syria Strategy This needs repeating: Mideast politics is so complicated that every day is a “not tonight my dear, I have a headache” sort of day. Yesterday was such a day. The Turks have agreed to 200 Peshmerga through to Kobani. This will have about as much effect as sending overcooked limp spaghetti instead of weapons. The Turks have their rather obvious reasons. They don’t want the Syrian Kurds to succeed for fear of encouraging the Turkey Kurds to secede. This is not paranoia. If Syrian Kurds establish and independent state, the Turks are going to lose their Kurds – about 1/3rd of the Turkish geographical area. The Turks, facing international pressure, want to be seen as doing something without doing anything. And we won’t mention the politics of the Kurd factions, because then you have an even bigger headache and your partner will leave you.
· But Turkey is letting 1300 Free Syrian Army fighters into Kobani. Why? Well, it’s so obvious you don’t need Editor to pontificate. Basically FSA and Turkey share the same objective: destruction of Assad’s regime and a united Syria. If the Kurds get an independent state in Syria, they will not fight Assad unless he attacks them. The FSA is Turkey’s Trojan Horse. So why are the Syrian Kurds accepting this “help”? Because their situation is dire. Any help is welcome. Tomorrow if they win, they will have no time for the FSA and you could see FSA-Syria Kurd fighting as the latter force the FSA to leave.
· The above is just a tiny part of the reason so many Americans believe the US needs to get out of Third Gulf. We have zero control over events there. And if you have zero control, you lose.
· This brings us to a theme we have also endlessly repeated. Those who say the US cannot win in the Mideast (notice we saying MIDEAST and not just Iraq/Syria which are only part of the problem) are wrong. We agree that if the US thinks it can navigate the shoals of regional tribal politics, then US is sorely fooling itself and is heading for failure. The only way to deal with complicated situations where the sands shifts every day and everyone acts opportunistically is to go in with such force that the locals become irrelevant. Then no one cares if this faction is with you today and not tomorrow. You simply make it clear you will eliminate anyone opposing, without mercy. Anyone who swears fealty today and turns against you tomorrow gets punished twice as much.
· Wait a minute, you will say. This sounds very familiar. Isn’t this the Islamic State strategy? Indeed it is. Of course, to achieve quick and expedient decisions IS needs 200,000 fighters. Then it could blitzkrieg Iraq and Syria, followed by Saudi and the Gulf oil states. Because so high a percentage of US forces consist of support units, to reorder the Mideast the US would need 500,000 troops – First Gulf featured 900,000 coalition troops – and the ruthless application of firepower. The firepower has to be applied in sole support of military objectives with zero consideration for civilian casualties.
· This was the case in World War II. Had we been concerned about civilian casualties, we’d still be futzing around in the UK waiting for the situation in France to permit invasion. Ditto Japan. Oddly, concern for casualties was a major factor in the US defeat in Second Indochina. If the US had, for example, blown the Red River dykes, a third of Vietnam would have been inundated and the country would have starved to death in 2-3 years. Of course there are corollaries, such as extreme bombing right up to the China border – and the use of N-weapons should China object. Also the entire North Vietnam coast would have had to be mined from the start.
· But the US went in with the mantra of “limited war” instead of “victory by any means necessary”. And we know how well that worked out. Ditto Second Indochina and Second Gulf and Second Afghanistan.
· Now some readers will again say: “Wait a minute. We’ve had little success in fighting insurgencies. How can we defeat IS et al, who are insurgents, and hope to hold the Middle East with its 200-million people?” Well, to start it isn’t 200-million people. We don’t need to reorder Egypt and Iran. Its Iraq, Syria, Saudi, and the Gulf States that need reordering. Probably we’ll have to add Yemen. That’s just a detail.
· Next, to assume that guerillas cannot be defeated is a fallacy. How did Russia and modern China create their vast nations? How did the Mongols build the second largest land empire in history? How did a handful of fanatical Islamists invade and conquer and rule India’s 200-millions for a thousand years? They did it by killing anyone who opposed them. End of matter. Readers will say for a third time: “Wait! How can it be that simple?”
· Alas, it is that simple. Killing up to 10% of a population has a marvelously settling effect on the 90% who remain. As a small example, if you shoot on sight anyone carrying a firearm, no questions answered, and if you shoot the males in a house where arms are found, soon people get rid of their arms.
· But – you will say – we are not Nazis, or Russians, or Chinese, or militant Islamists, or whatever. We can’t just kill people like Editor is suggesting. It goes against every value of our civilization.
· Fair enough. Then get out of the Mideast. Adopt a defensive strategy. Adopt disproportionate response in the event of an attack on Americans or the homeland. One American is murdered, kill 10,000, a hundred thousand, a million of “the others”. Nuclear weapons offer a cheap and effective way of doing this. Sooner rather than later, the terrorists will give up or the locals will kill them rather than face awful retribution. We’ve said this before: 99.999% of those we kill will be innocent. Too bad.
· By the way, if you want to genuinely amuse an Indian, tell her/him about how brutal militant Islam is. S/he will laugh and laugh, because what militant Islam did to India is not just ten times worse, not just a hundred times worse, but unimaginably worse
· Americans have to stop thinking there are shades of grey. In war there are no shades of grey. We are at war with militant Islam. No quarter now will stop the infection from spreading. Killing a few hundred thousand or a few million now is better than having to kill a hundred times more later.
· But what if we don’t want to kill innocent people? Sure, that is the right of Americans. But how are you going to convince militant Islam to reciprocate?
Friday 0230 GMT October 23, 2014
We did not update yesterday. Will make up the missed day with a Saturday update.
· The reason Editor could not update yesterday is so pathetic he does not want to explain. On the other hand, if we get into the American habit of withholding information to make ourselves look better, there’s a lack of integrity. A friend rang up with a problem. By the time Editor understood the problem in detail – not in his field of knowledge - and gave his advice, 35-minutes had passed. Further, he spent 30 minutes more on a homework assignment than he had scheduled. There went the update.
· Now, it’s sad that a person cannot spend ½-hr for helping out a friend without throwing his entire day’s schedule out of whack. But that’s Editor’s schedule. Part of the reason is that if he’s working outside his field he’s very slow. Yesterday he spent 4-hours on a homework assignment for Information Security whereas for the youngsters taking the graduate degree it was the work of 30-60 minutes.
· Recently Editor started spending 15-20 minutes a day on working on the HO model railroad even though he has no time. The reason? He was telling a neighbor: “I must get down to finishing the railroad which I promised to have ready for your son and the other kids on the street”. The neighbor looked at Editor with mild bemusement. “You do know David has gone away to college?” Actually Editor did not know. When he started on the railroad, David and the other kids were in elementary school. Now Editor is trying to finish for all the little boys and girls who have moved in on the street these past few years.
· Editor has a weird relationship with time. He doesn’t know it passes. He simply did not note that ten years had passed since he made his promise to David. It doesn’t help in getting things done when years and years simply slip away at the same pace as days. He did realize the other day than 14 years have passed since he started Orbat.com. And that only because someone asked him “You must be making tons of money from your work, its been 14 years now.” Editor had to admit that 14 years ago we were in the starter phase and 14 years later, we are still in the starter stage.
· The Canadian Parliament terror incident We Americans tends to think that because the Canadians are peaceful, they are soft. This incident was just a reminder that they are peaceful – their homicide rate is supposed to be one-tenth ours – but they are not soft. The man that put down the shooter is Parliament’s sergeant-at-arms, i.e., the top security official for Parliament. That means he is quite senior. He has been a Mountie. At 58 he is not young. Age did not stop him from going after the gunman with single-minded determination and killing the man. Proving again that the Mounties, even retired ones, always get their man. Well done, Canada.
· It may be time for all of us to let the Missouri killing go The autopsy shows that the alleged victim was shot in the hand at “very close” range as would happen if he was wrestling with the officer for his gun. He was not running away nor attempting to surrender. http://time.com/3534140/ferguson-michael-brown-grand-jury-leaks-investigation/ Moreover, it turns out the police have “half-dozen” several African American witnesses who support the officer’s account. They have not publically come forward for fear for themselves. The alleged victim’s family says they will not accept any police investigation. In that case there is nothing to be said.
· None of this changes the reality that the Ferguson, MO police botched their response from the word go. By contrast, the St. Louis police got right in front of their shooting case and gave the public all details as they became known. There too the young man’s family says they do not believe he had a gun. The police investigation is said to show he fired three shots at the officer as he tried to get away.
· Meanwhile, as a person-of-color, Editor would like to hear African-Americans talk about the killing of an unarmed young white man by a black police officer in Salt Lake City. As far as we known, when told to get on the ground the youngster reached to pull up his sagging pants and the policeman – backed up by his white partners - shot the youngster because he thought the latter was reaching for a gun. Editor is a bit amazed at this. When your pants are falling down, how do you keep a gun concealed in your waistband?
Wednesday 0230 October 22, 2014
· Reporting Third Gulf We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. The quality of reporting from Iraq-Syria on the IS war is exceedingly poor. Understandably, the world press is not beating a path to this war. There is a breed of reporter that is super-thrilled to cover a war; these folks, women and men, are as courageous as soldiers and deserve our respect. The problem with this war is that it is fantastically fractured with multiple small wars proceeding simultaneously.
· This is not like covering First and Second Gulf where reporters were embedded with troops. In Third Gulf, there is no one to arrange embedding. Reporters, as much as armies, need considerable logistical support to stay in the field. They need food, water, and telecom same as anyone else. They need cooperation from the troops to travel into hot zones. They need medevacing if they are injured or wounded. None of these conditions is evident in Third Gulf. They say war is controlled chaos, but Third Gulf is uncontrolled chaos. Moreover, for obvious reasons neither the Syrian or Iraqi Government is at all anxious to have reporters hanging around, leave alone having to help them. One supposes if reporters wanted to embed with Kurdish forces they’d be welcome.
· But please note, however, that at Kobani – for example – all the reporting is being done from the Turkish side of the border. No need to ponder deeply on the reasons. First, there is no way of getting into Kobani without Turkish cooperation. We don’t know this for a fact, but we don’t think the Turks are exactly encouraging foreign reporters to do more than hang around strictly defined and strictly limited areas. If one wants to be charitable, one could say the Turks don’t want the responsibility. One could also say the Turks do not see sympathetic or heroic reporting on the Kurds as advantageous. If one does not want to be charitable, one could say the Turks don’t want reporters sniffing around Turkish business.
· How about hanging out with the Peshmerga? Some Kurd media do just that – occasionally. That’s where the video of Peshmerga fighters rushing into camera view, standing in bare chested fashion, firing off a magazine heaven knows at what, and then running back. Still, one could get many good stories by living with the Peshmerga. To be honest, Editor doesn’t know whey – say – a dozen of reporters are not doing that. So obviously if you’re a family woman or man you don’t want to take the risk for a small story. Still, one would think there would be enough crazy journos around just to get their adrenaline flowing and to inhale the smell cordite in the morning.
· Editor is speculating here, but he thinks one reason this is not happening is that most of the time , say 99%, nothing is happening. The Kurdish front is 1500-km wide. The chances of seeing anything are small. Plus even if you are crazy, you don’t want to fall into IS hands.
· There’d be little point to embedding with the Americans because officially we have no booties on the ground. US CENTCOM is determined to absolutely control the narrative. Consequently, there is no reporting from US bases or from Navy warships. All we hear are communiques of the blandest kind, lacing any meaningful information. The little video that is shown could have been taken anywhere – for all we know it is from routine peacetime operations. Asking if one could embed with the Brits or Ozzies will likely elicit polite sniggering. Their SF boys are engaged in clandestine operations , no country even wants to risk the identity of its operators becoming known. Besides, how are reporters going to go along on a little night reconnaissance patrol. The reporters would just be a danger to themselves, more importantly, to the troops.
· That leaves embedding with the Islamic State. This is not as absurd as it sounds: Isis welcoming reporters. All you have to do is convert to Islam and produce propaganda exactly as dictated by your hosts. And even that is no guarantee that when you land up and say “I want to embed with you,” IS wont break out into fits of giggles and welcome you with open arms – so that they get another hostage they can murder.
Tuesday 0230 GMT October 21, 2014
· Islamic State attacks 15 points along Kurd border The biggest effort was put in against Mosul Dam, but this is also the hardest target because thousands of Peshmerga are protecting the sm. The US is prepared to put in an unlimited number of air strikes in the Mosul area. Moreover, US effectiveness has been hampered because of a maniacal focus on averting civilian casualties. But if the IS comes into serious play again, US will inevitably loosen restrictions on bombing.
· So the big question is why is IS now attacking on three fronts? There’s Kobani, where IS is stalemated, there’s Anbar/Baghdad, and now – again –the Kurds. There’s nothing wrong in attacking on three fronts – if you have the manpower. Has IS, in the past few weeks, gained that many new recruits that it can mount attacks on all these fronts? No one has said anything publically, but remember that IS about doubled its strength to 30,000 within a couple of months of the start of its offensive in June.
· On the very limited information available at this time, Editor’s intuition is that the new offensive may be tied to announced plans for the Peshmerga to reinforce their Kurd cousins in Kobani. The aim is two-fold: one, which is announced, is to bolster the defense of Kobani; two, which is announced, is to open a front against IS in his home territory and cut its lines of communication to Mosul. We’re unclear on how the Peshmerga plans to get any meaningful number of fighters to the west, but if it is successful, IS could be in a dangerous situation along the Tigris River line. Its other line is Syria-Anbar-Baghdad along the Euphrates.
· So, possibly, the northern offensive is being made in small numbers, but with the objective of forcing the Peshmerga to defend its home territory. Because IS has the initiative, it can keep making probing attacks with relatively few fighters, tying down a much larger Peshmerga force. This would not be an offensive in the real sense, more in the realm of spoiling attacks. It would not require diversion of resources from Kobani and Anbar/Baghdad to the extent those offensives are compromised.
· On the Anbar/Baghdad front, IS continues to consolidate its gains and nibble away at the outer Baghdad defenses. Nothing spectacular, and surely US air strikes must be slowing things down. Nonetheless, if you gain a kilometer or two a day of vital roads, and a few hundred meters inside cities like Ramadi, at some point the defense collapses.
· Now, interestingly, the northern attacks were made at night, another adaptation to US airpower. More important, however, the Peshmerga – and the Iraqi forces – are still going to sleep at night instead of using darkness to cover their own probes and counter attacks. The Peshmerga rely on US surveillance and Kurds on the ground to warn of impending IS concentration that presages an attack. This time they received no advance warning, and so remained snug in their pink blankies and bunny slippers. This could indicate the IS has stepped up its own security to the point neither US surveillance, nor agents on the ground, are being alerted.
· On the Kobani front, with Turkey blatantly and unswervingly refusing to do anything to help the Syrian Kurds, a fed-up US sent 3 C-130s to drop supplies, medicine, and ammunition. Naturally the Chattering Classes said this unilateral action would antagonize the Turks. Perhaps it does not occur to the chatterers that after weeks – now going on months – of Turkish refusal to help, the US has nothing to lose. The Turks have made themselves irrelevant to US interests and can be safely ignored.
· At any rate, the drop seems to have led Turkey to change its mind – ostensibly. The Turks say they will let fighters and supplies to Kobani. But anyone who believes this will be more than very limited, very token action to throw the US/West off track in their pressure on Turkey will be more hopefully naive than Editor in the matter of getting a girlfriend. We are told the Turks have already made a long list of conditions as to who, what, when, how, and where they will permit help. If Kobani is secured, the Turks will shut down even that token cooperation.
Monday 0230 GMT October 20, 2014
· The Washington Post has totally lost it – as has America The other day, Editor was hit on the head with a Washington Post article that is becoming altogether too common for what is supposed to be a world class newspaper. This article, Rental America: Why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa http://tinyurl.com/p467h3s enlightens us about a family that simply had to have a new sofa, but couldn’t afford one on their income. So they went to a rent-to-buy place.
· The lady "had no access to credit, no bank account and little cash, but here was a place that catered to exactly those kinds of customers. Anything could be hers. The possibilities — and the prices — were dizzying. At (the store), a used 32-gigabyte, early model iPad costs $1,439.28, paid over 72 weeks. An Acer laptop: $1,943.28, in 72 weekly installments. A Maytag washer and dryer: $1,999 over 100 weeks. (The lady) wanted a love seat-sofa combo, and she knew it might rip her budget. But this, she figured, was the cost of being out of options. “You don’t get something like that just to put more burden on yourself,” Abbott said. So she bought a $1500 love-seat plus sofa for $1500, which after 2-years of payments would cost her $4150. Usury? No, because technically this place rents to buy, so the exorbitant interest is not, legally, interest.
· What was wrong with the old sofa? Well, it was 6-years old, not very comfortable, and the springs poked. So Editor’s first reaction was to smash a pie in this lady’s face. He ceased and desisted, not because he is a gentleman, which he is, but because he couldn’t see himself wasting a $5 pie. Which he would never buy anyone because he is on a budget – like most of the country. The pie-smashing urge arose because Editor has a 30-year old sofa that he got free if he took it away. Forget the springs, this feller sags so much if you sit down, you need to grasp someone’s hand. But the cheapest Ikea sofa costs $299, and that has not been affordable since Editor became a single-family income. This sofa is embarrassing and a major reason he wouldn’t invite a new lady friend – if he had a new lady friend – to his house. Heck, he feels guilty even when its just his family visiting from New York. So what exactly is this 6-year old sofa lady complaining about?
· Anyway, Editor calmed down. After all, much of the country has a sense that it is entitled to anything it wants, whether a person can afford the thing or not. This lady was just being the typical American entitled jackass. Nothing to see here, move on. Then he read the rest of the article. The WashPo had decided to make this lady the hook for a story about how badly off less fortunate Americans are today thanks to a declining economy. Of course, we all know the economy is not declining; it’s just that the share of the 99% seems to have been falling for 40-years. But the article was not about income inequality, it was about the loss of the middle class life.
· Editor’s first question is this: are we comparing same-to-same? For example, are we adding income transfers and the cost of healthcare insurance not paid by a family? Are we taking into account the single-family with children phenomenon?.
· Assume worst to worst, and give that income has not increased in 40-years or whatever. But it hasn’t fallen. So the same percentage of people who lived the middle class life then must be leading it now. So why is not WashPo analyze why we feel poor even though we are not compared to 40-years ago? Has WashPo thought about explaining that our very definition of middle class life has changed? When I was growing up in this country, folks had one car, one phone, and one TV. Eating out was a treat. If now everyone has to have a car, their own TV, their own computer, nice clothes, entertainment, vacations away from home, own phone, cable TV, and eat out or buy food from out every day, then sure as heck we are going to reach a situation where Editor’s friends who make $150-$300,000 a year feel as if they’re living paycheck to paycheck. People who make less than the median family income of $53,000 (including Editor) must be in a complete and total world of misery.
· But does it have to be this way?
· At this point, Editor must relate a story he has related before. A fellow substitute teacher in her late 50s came to school with a new coat and was admired by the ladies. She said: “I promised myself when our mortgage was paid off, I would reward myself with a new coat. This is the first time in 30-years I’ve been able to buy a new one for myself.” The lady and husband had brought up six kids; she’d worked for Catholic Schools all her life and her husband was a cashier at a supermarket. They were truly middle-class – and could not afford a new coat. We knew from previous discussions she wished her husband had done better, but she made it clear that she was married to him, and that was that. At no point did we ever hear her complain about her lot. Indeed, she was grateful she/husband were able to keep a roof over the family’s heads, and feed, clothe, and educate them to the best of their ability.
· To Editor, this lady was a real American. Not the folks who work at the WashPo and the people in its story. Nor does Editor have any sympathy for greed-driven people who define every want as a need. BTW, this particular lady feels tempted to rent more stuff each she goes to pay her weekly bill – and sometimes does, though she cannot afford the wretched sofa in the first place. Then she is upset because she has only $11 to buy food that day. Editor will bet 9-to-1 that this family also smokes and drinks. Not sure how that qualifies as a middle class entitlement when you’re making $20,000 or so a year and paying $600/month for your accommodation. (This is in Alabama.)
If WashPo really feels such
folks are getting a bum deal, and if the lady and her husband really
feel they are getting a bum deal, why isn’t anyone talking of
picking up the guns they already have and toppling the ruling order?
Why sit and complain, and what’s more, why have a national newspaper
tell us about people who complain?
Friday 0230 GMT October 17, 2014
· India Stupid – our new brand name for an old condition This may surprise readers, but in his personal and job life Editor is very laid back and relaxed. Insufficient money for the upcoming mortgage payment? The Upstairs Person will provide, even though Editor and Him don’t get along one bit. Car engine making horrible sounds indicating it is about to die, and no money to get it checked? Think positively, and let’s get through today, tomorrow is another day? Whole Foods weekly grocery bill comes to $46? Simply put back the vegetables. No one died from not eating enough vegetables. Dentist wants $298 co-pay to extract a dead tooth and wont even estimate implant costs since she knows Editor’s financial state? Editor wont get a date even if the tooth is replaced so why bother. House leaning to one side, contractor wants $15,000 for immediate repairs? If the house collapses, it collapses. But what if it collapses on Editor? Well, then he won’t have to worry about finding $15K for repairs or being late for work – ever.
· At work, similarly Editor is cooler than the average cucumber. Thirty kids have him backed into a corner, each screaming for individual attention now? Editor thinks how lucky he is to have 30 more grandkids, even if their behavior could be better. Two girls fighting on top of teacher who is pinned to the floor, with blood falling on him? He smiles benignly and waits for them to finish killing each other so he can stand up and resume teaching. Class of twenty-five panics at having to do a test and goes berserk, screaming, running around, throwing things, jumping on desks, girls molesting the boys, boys stealing the girls’ makeup and trying to kick each other below the belt? Editor is so grateful he has such an important job, the education of America’s future generation.
· So how come when the Government of India does something incredibly stupid regarding national security Editor goes ballistic to the point he really cannot see through the red mist that covers his eyes, blood pressure rising to 180/150, wishing he had a handful of nice 1-KT nukes that he could use on the Indian leadership, or making quick plans to return, lead a revolt, and hang the politicians and bureaucrats from the lampposts – himself?
· After all, Editor has not been back in 25-years, has explicitly vowed he will never return, and has mandated in his will that when he dies his ashes should be flushed down the toilet rather than being sent back for immersion in the Ganga River (Americans sewers are cleaner than the Ganga River, but that’s not the reason – he wants nothing to do with India).
· Here’s the reason he gets upset. Editor is just one individual among 1.2-billion Indians. What happens to him, whether he is successful in life or not, makes not the slightest difference to India. But when India’s leaders are crippling national security so effectively one wonders if they are being paid off by China – Editor refers to the new government, the old one didn’t need to be paid off to destroy India, they were doing it for free – it does matter to India and to its future. Thus Editor’s extreme anger.
· The two latest assaults on national security, made by a government that has boasted it will be tough on India’s enemies and will spare no effort to see the military gets the money it needs, concern light helicopters and border roads.
· For years the Army (197 lights) and Navy (56 lights) have been waiting for a contract to be signed so they can replace India’s Alouette 3s and Lamas, which are Alouette 2s designed specifically to India’s extreme high altitude requirements. We don’t have a good idea of the fleet’s age, but it is likely to be somewhere between 30-40 years. We aren’t talking median age, either, nor are we taking into account these helicopters have been worked to death. This is not a metaphor. But for one reason or another, the previous government would put off a decision. The new government has gone one better. It has cancelled both deals, and requested RFPs – for manufacture with Indian partners. If you know the Indian aircraft manufacturing industry and the government , this is tantamount to another 6-8 year delay – if things go well.
· The government will have several excuses for its decision. None change the reality that India immediately – as of yesterday – needs a minimum of 2000 light helicopters for the armed forces, border forces, internal security, and routine policing/air ambulance. The 250 cancelled helicopters were not a big financial deal, BTW. Perhaps $1.5-billion at 2012 prices. Indians may well be the smartest people in the world, but instead of using their smarts for the nation’s good, they use them to make excuses. If they spent half the excuse time actually doing something productive, India would catch up with China within 20-years.We’re not saying anything regarding the 1980 per capita incomes, which were higher in India than China, and now are at least 4-times less than China’s.
· The next act of genius concerns the government’s announcement it will build an 1800-km road west-east on the Indian side of the southeast Tibet border. Yes, 52 years after Indian’s defeat by China, a simple lateral road is still being planned. Meanwhile, the Chinese are doing preliminary work on a west-east railroad starting from north of Kathmandu, running along the Tibetan side of the border, and to be linked up with the Kunming-Chengdu networks. Last we heard, China planned to complete this line in six years.
· But that’s not what we’re complaining about. China has belligerently said India cannot build this road until the border issue is settled. The Indians have said no one can threaten India – that message did not reach Beijing because China HAS threatened us without specifying consequences, - and added Beijing should sit down with India to discuss the border issue.
· Huh? Excuse Editor, please: what border issue is to be negotiated? In the Northwest China has seized almost all of Indian East Ladakh. In the Northeast, in 1962 the Chinese crossed the border but then withdrew, as at that time they could not sustain a forward position. There is no need for any negotiation: China needs to get out of India – and that should not be subject to negotiation. Editor had rashly hoped with the new government, that India would convey this message to Beijing. Instead it enthusiastically greeted the Chinese President even as China was – once again – forcing India back from patrolling its rump Ladakh border, and now it is calling on China to negotiate – this totally giving in to what China wants!
· No doubt the new government is doing many wonderful things to get India moving economically. But there is also national security. The new government seems comfortable with a 1.75% GDP budget for defense, which is not even half of what is needed immediately just to modernize the armed forces, leave alone meet new threats from a rising China.
· 99.999% of Indians will not care that on national security, the new government is back to India Stupid. They are so entranced by the good things the new government is doing in the non-national security area. But it doesn’t matter how wonder a job the new government does if it cannot assure the defense and security of India. Defense and security have to come first of the nation is to survive. Do we have proof of our statement? Sure. Just look at what’s happening in Europe today.
Thursday 0239 GMT October 16, 2014
· When it comes to national security, American decision makers seem to function in an alternate universe. Currently, there is supposed to be no way we can communicate with another universe. But somehow these ALT-Washington folks have found a one-way conduit to us: they do stuff, but seem unable to receive feedback. Or perhaps they have the feedback circuit turned off – permanently.
· Here is an example. Yesterday in the Washington Post, their national security analyst David Ignatius made a list of what US needs to do to win in Iraq and Syria. To be clear: Mr. Ignatius has the best contacts with the Pentagon. But either (a) the Pentagon presents him with tailored pictures which, for lack of hard military expertise, he accepts as the truth; or (b) he doesn’t understand that the military dimension is probably the least important of our issues in Iraq/Syria.
· First, outside of the hack generals, bureaucrats, and politicians who run/influence the Pentagon, who exactly is saying that winning in Iraq/Syria is possible? Editor hasn’t come across a single military/political/intelligence person with any real experience of the region who talks in terms of winning. The more optimistic of the real experts will, at most, speak of containing by preventing a bad situation from getting worse. The more realistic believe we do not have reasonable answers. Personally, Editor doesn’t need a military expert to tell him this, because after 54 years of study he has a reasonable idea himself. Sure, he lacks up-to-date information. But that means only he is behind the curve. So, for example, he was supporting the Iraq venture until about 2008, when he realized it wasn’t going to work. The minute anyone talks of any sort of winning n Iraq/Syria, Editor is very sorry, but these folks need an immediate appointment for admission at the nut house.
· Does this mean American cannot win? As a military analyst of 50+ years, with a good working knowledge of the intelligence, economic, political etc factors, let the Editor categorically state: America can win providing it is willing to stay in the region for a hundred years. Yes, count ‘em: one hundred years. Is a hundred years fantastic? Not a bit. We’ve been in Europe for a hundred years. We enunciated the Monroe Doctrine one hundred and ninety years ago. Sure, we’ve dropped this doctrine, but only because since Cuba went communist 50+ years ago there has been no threat of an enemy state establishing itself in this region.
· The ruling reality is, however, that America is unwilling to even consider the price that would have to be paid. Because everything in the Mideast is tightly interlinked, we’d have to reorder the entire region. Editor has never worked out the details, perhaps he should, but it seems for the first 20-years an additional 2-3% of GDP will have to spent on defense. So. This. Is. Not. Going. To. Happen.
· But short of reordering the Middle East, no victory in the region is sustainable. This is not very complicated. You do not need five degrees from an Ivy to know this. All it requires is common sense.
· Since no victory is sustainable, why talk in terms of winning? It took Iraq but three years to fall apart after we left – and at that, to the very first real threat it faced.
· On a microscale, let’s consider Mr. Ignatius’s proposal to retrain the Iraq Army and to rely on Sunni militias. Didn’t we do this once? And didn’t it fail after we left? Has anyone even sat down with Mr. Ignatius to explain to him WHY this happened? Has anyone of influence at the Pentagon even admitted to themselves the reasons for our massive training failure? As far as we know, they have not. So how can we even conceive of a repeat when we don’t understand what went wrong the first time?
· Without getting into why armies won’t fight for their country, let us make a general observation. In the past, extreme nationalism not just ruled, it was enforced by drafted armies held together by nationalistic propaganda and brutal discipline. That era, that started with Napoleon is finished – again, we wont go into this but it’s fairly obvious. Take an example. In 1860 we had a population of 30-million. Over 2.5% of this population died during the Civil War, whatever the cause. Our population now is ten-times as much. Does anyone really think that if part of the country wanted to secede the American people would accept a death toll approaching 8-million combatants to keep the country together?
· The last time the Iraqi Army seriously fought was 1991. It was a draftee army led by a gentleman who would have had no compunction in shooting ten thousand, or a hundred thousand, refuseniks. Incidentally, the Soviets used to get lyrical about their casualties in World War II. It showed, so it was said, how patriotic the Soviet people were. Goosefeathers and Gumdrops. Your typical Soviet citizen had no choice but to fight. By fighting, he had a chance of returning alive. If he refused to fight, he had no chance of returning. In fact, in World War II, the only people willing to fight without coercion were the Indians. Two million volunteered for service. The British could have asked for 5-million volunteers and received them.
· Today’s Iraq Army is composed of volunteers, most of whom did not enlist because war is a way of life – as is true of the Indians – but because they want a paycheck. The Americans seem to have convinced themselves that crony leaders were the problem. They were a problem – and will be a problem in the New New Iraqi Army. The real problem was that the soldiers did not want to die for their country. There is zero evidence this has changed, and even less that the US can change this.
· Similarly the Sunnis. Some Sunni tribes may indeed join up in the fight against IS. Sunnis need a paycheck too. But as soon as the immediate threat is over, the Shias will go back to killing the Sunnis. Indeed, the Shias are losing left and right but Baghdad still has time to kill Sunnis – and vice versa. We want the Sunnis to fight for a country that is not their country. Some may opportunistically join the fight. They will be no more willing to die than the Shias. Faced with IS, which is indeed willing to die, the Sunni militias will disintegrate just as did the Shia troops. And most Sunnis will not join. They have no quarrel with IS except that Iraqis as a generalization are not Islamists. But should IS ease up on its atrocities as a tactical measure, the Sunnis will naturally help IS – as many already are – because if the Shia are defeated, the Sunnis can come back.
· When the Iraqi military house has no foundation, when its walls are built on sand, who in their right mind would talk of rebuilding the Iraq Army and the Awakenings? The Americans, that’s who. Then the Americans will leave in a few years, and we’ll be back to the next round.
· Unless the Middle East is restructured – which means a very long occupation, demobilization of every fighting force, death for owning a weapon and a hundred other infractions of American law – which will have to be applied ruthlessly with the aim of keeping the peace, not of supporting human rights, collective punishment in colonial imperialistic style, so on and so forth, we cannot win – or honestly, even contain the Iraq/Syria mess which really is the Middle East mess.
Wednesday 0230 GMT, October 15, 2014
· Conversation with Bill Roggio on Iraq. Bill runs the nationally acclaimed www.longwarjournal.org which he built from scratch. He is often quoted overseas. We’ve left his analysis in the first person.
· Before I attempt this, I suggest reading this, from June 14, on what I believe to be the Islamic State's plan for Baghdad. In summary, the Islamic State, in my opinion, will attempt to squeeze Baghdad/make it ungovernable. To do this, they seek to control the "belts" around Baghdad: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/06/analysis_isis_allies.php The map embedded in that article is relatively up to date. Keep in mind red means controlled or contested. You can also see the Google map here: http://tinyurl.com/oqof8bu
· So, the Islamic State is essentially in control or heavily contests the following "Belts": southern (northern Babil/southern Baghdad province), western (Anbar), eastern (southern Diyala),and Diyala (Baqubah/Khalis); while the northern belt (north Baghdad/Taji/southern Salahaddin) are contested but somewhat under gov't control.
· The Iraqi military/militia's only real success so far has been blunting the IS's advance on Samarra. That prevent the IS from fully taking control of the cities and towns between Taji and Samarra (Balad, Dhuluyiah, Dujail, etc). But that area is essentially a "Mad Max zone" with militias providing security on the main roads while IS attacks from Thar Thar from the west.
· I wouldn't expect a Mosul-like advance on Baghdad until it is sufficiently weakened, if at all. The Shia militias will fight hard for the city.
· IS has most definitely infiltrated Baghdad. My question is: why isn't the attack tempo higher? Are they saving their resources for a later push, or are they so consumed with the fighting outside of the capital that they are spread thin? I don't have answers to these questions.
· IS's ability to successfully mount concurrent ops in Iraq and Syria is, frankly, stunning. IS is currently gaining on 2 major fronts: Kobane in Syria, and along the Euphrates River in Anbar. While doing this, they've held their ground elsewhere.
· US airstrikes have had marginal effectiveness. The strikes helped the Kurds retake Mosul Dam and some nearby areas, but that is about it. The strikes, as noted above, are too infrequent.
· The US has to be wary of the Kurdish issue. The Turks are freaked out about this, hence their inaction at Kobane. Don't expect the Turks to intervene on behalf of the same group responsible for killing tens of thousands of Turks in the past few decades.
· Editor adds: Iraq Army divisions We know 1, 2, 3, 4 Divisions are wiped out. 5 Mechanized is in Diyla but don't seem to be doing anything, which seems to indicate it too is ineffective. 6 is in Baghdad. 7 in Anbar has been ineffective for months; just two days its base at Hit was overrun; the HQ is at Al-Asad airbase, an IS target. 8 was moved to Anbar where it has been taking a beating. 9 Armored (sometimes referred to as Mechanized) is at Baghdad but with brigades dispersed to Anbar and the North. 10 is now around Abu Gharib, therefore part of the Baghdad garrison. 11, the commando division is in Baghdad with at least one brigade in the north. 12 was in the north and has not been heard from; Bill Roggio suspects it was dissolved and effective elements merged with the Peshmerga as likely it had a significant percentage of Kurds. 14’s location has not been identified, but it seems likely it took over 17’s AOR just south of Baghdad. 17 was bashed up in the south before being transferred to Anbar; it is unlikely to be effective. 18 is the oil security division and not a tactical formation.
· At this point we can sing “This is the end, my friend”, because Iraq is out of troops. With Anbar looking like it is going to fall, Iraq will be left with the Baghdad garrison. We share Bill Roggio’s opinion that Baghdad is unlikely to fall – not on account of the Army, but because of the Shia militias. At the same time, we have to consider when IS attacks Baghdad, it will have as allies large numbers of Sunni militia, thirsting for revenge for the atrocities the Shia’s inflicted on them in Baghdad until the US surge brought the Shia militia’s under control. Baghdad is supposed to have 60,000 troops. This, however, counts the National Police paramilitary brigades. We will be surprised if a third of the garrison will stand and fight.
· Please to remember that no army fights to the last man. At 66% losses, it is finished. Iraq Army is at around 75% losses, mainly to desertions. Sure there must be a large number of soldiers on the roll, but to imagine they are actually in units and in the field is an illusion.
Tuesday 0230 GMT October 13, 2014
· The Canadians shaft the Americans, who richly deserve it Fed up with the delays over Keystone XL, and – naturally – much concerned with the loss of economic benefits because of a lack of options to sell their heavy crude, the Canadians have decided to say goodbye to Keystone. They are now in the process of putting together a pipeline to the Atlantic Coast. Much of the pipeline already exists; the $11-billion cost is to upgrade the existing network to ship 1.1-million barrels/day to New Brunswick. This is a third more than Keystone, and over twice the distance.
· Who will buy the heavy crude? Well, Europe obviously, but also –surprisingly – India. So who gains and who loses?
· The Canadians by 2018 will no longer be trapped in selling heavy crude to the US at discounts of up to $43/barrel. We had no clue the discount was so high; the only folks selling at a higher discount is the Islamic State. Europe and India will have an additional source of reliable, non-conflict-zone oil. Moreover, 1.1-barrels/day will only be the start.
· The losers are the United States. Not only its close ally making an oil life that doesn’t include us, but the Canadians are very angry at us. More than that, we have cut off our access to 800,000-bbl/day of non-conflict-zone oil that would have been available to us without security issues.
· Also losers are the Greens. With respect to Keystone, the Greens adopted one of the most extreme environmental positions ever. Their aim is not just the oil from coming to America, but to force the Canadians to leave it in the ground. The Canadians first considered – and are still working on – a Pacific pipeline from Alberta. The US-Canadian Greens have managed to raise considerable opposition to this because significant parts of the Pacific pipeline need to run through First Nation’s lands, and not all these folks are overjoyed about a pipeline. It remains to be seen how events to the west will work out. To the east it’s different because the pipelines already exist.
· What Greens need to understand is that everything is a tradeoff. Yes, Canadian heavy crude creates environmental issues. The Greens can be very useful by keeping up pressure on the energy companies to adhere to the highest possible safety considerations. But if they stop Canadian heavy crude from coming to the US, the IUS loses, and the security cost is enormous. One reason the US has been involved in so many ruinous adventures in the Middle East is because of our need for oil.
· People in America think they pay $100 or whatever for a barrel of oil. Wrong. They pay at least $150, if not more, because of the money we spend to protect the production and delivery of that oil. That means, among other things, that tax money that could be more productively used – for example, to protect the environment - is being wasted. Moreover, the Mideast producers first overcharge us for the oil, then use their profits to support Islamic fundamentalists who want to destroy America. Does this not upset the Greens? We guess not, because we doubt they are even aware of the point.
· The irony is that Canadian heavy crude still flows to the US, albeit in reduced quantity in the absence of Keystone. It now moves by train, a considerably more unsafe way of transporting it. Though some of that risk will be mitigated by mandating double-hull tanker cars. Moreover, Canada sends 2-million barrels/day to the US via pipeline. All it would take is major upgrades to the North American rail networks, and Canadian heavy crude imports would increase. These investments are being made. According to Congressional Research Service, in 2014 US companies have 50,000 tanker wagons on order, more than double the entire existing fleet. Between 2012-2015, rail terminal capacity to unload oil will increase by 4-times! Now, no one is rushing to add addition rail lines because transportation costs by rail are twice that by pipe. If tomorrow Keystone is approved, the addition of new rail lines will be less profitable.
Monday 0230 GMT October 13, 2014
· Mr. Panetta on Mr. Obama and Iraq Mr. Leon Panetta’s critical memoir of Mr. Obama, including the latter’s failure to get an extended military presence, makes the same mistake as all those who have attacked Mr. Obama on this point. Before we restate the obvious for what must be the 10th or 20th time in this blog, we’d like to reassure readers that we are NOT defending the president. As far as Editor is concerned, he is an utter and complete failure at home and abroad. He is the beneficiary of racism: had he been white, few Americans would have put up with his failures. As far as Editor is concerned, mainstream criticism of Mr. Obama is like weak tea: neither does it have flavor, nor does it satisfy. People are still pulling their punches because they don’t want to be called racist.
· But when people attack Mr. Obama for something he has not done, it plays into the hands of his defenders. This is neither good strategy or tactics. Aside from which there is in an injunction in the Bible about lying. How are people lying for accusing Mr. Obama for not trying hard enough on extending the US presence? Where is our proof that he tried? Editor agrees he didn’t try very hard. But why should he have, when the Iraqis had set their terms in stone: US troops could remain, but subject to Iraqi law. How could Mr. Obama have gotten around this? Where was his leverage?
· By 2011 the US had little leverage left over Baghdad. Ironically, this was a consequence of its successes. The US had brought stability to Iraq and destroyed Iraq’s internal enemies. Iraq was immune to financial pressure because it was making over $70-billion annually in hard currency. Baghdad had zero reason to make a concession on the status of forces. Moreover, it could not make such a concession. Had al-Maliki agreed, militant Shias would have turned on the US.
· Indeed, the militant Shias gave the US as much trouble as the Sunnis. It is only after being repeatedly smacked by US troops, and being told by Iran that fighting the Americans would serve only to perpetuate the stay of US troops, that the Shias stopped fighting the US. It is the same reason the Taliban eased off after the Afghan surge. It was clear the US was going to leave, so why get killed forcing out the Americans a year or two earlier than they might otherwise have left? Was it not better for the Taliban, and the Shias, to let America say it had won, and give them every incentive to leave?
· Today, even with IS having surrounded Baghdad, Iraq has refused to countenance the idea of US ground troops. Well, then what about Anbar, where the provincial government asked Baghdad to request US troops? Dear me. Anbar is a Sunni province. The Americans saved the Sunnis once from a massacre. Its quite reasonable for Anbar to request a second intervention.
· We’ve said in 2011 matters in Iraq were calm. How could the US (a) have foreseen the events of 2014, and even if it had, (b) how could it have forced Iraq to accept its foresight? Please don’t forget the American military was telling us Iraq now had 600,000 well-trained army, police, and security troops. So why exactly were American troops required? It is said a continued US presence would have prevented al-Maliki and the Shias from attacking the Sunnis. Really? How? Early the US did this by waging all-out war against the militant Shias. Does anyone think 10,000, or even 30-50,000 US troops could have done this? Moreover, were we ever supposed to be running Iraq as a colony? The moment people say “the US could have convinced Baghdad to do this, that, or the other”, we are harking back to a past era. Iraq is not South Korea or South Vietnam. By our own definition, we went to Iraq to liberate its people. We did so in ultra-stupid ways, but we did it. So how now were we supposed to tell them: “See, you’re free, but Uncle needs to hang around for the next 20-50 years to make sure you behave”?
· Last, please consider: how would 10-50,000 US troops with three years more in-country gotten the Iraqis to become better fighters, when 8-years did not work? Mumbling about “we could have prevented Maliki from appointing officers on a sectarian basis” are pure fantasy. Does anyone think the Shias would have paid the slightest attention to the US? The minute the US handed responsibility for security to Baghdad, Baghdad did precisely what Saddam used to do – appoint military leaders on the basis of loyalty to the ruling regime.
Saturday 0230 GMT October 11, 2014
[In lieu of Friday October 10 update)
· What’s up with Pakistan? This past week Pakistan heavily shelled Indian border observation posts and villages closed to the Kashmir line of control. At one point, no fewer than 50 posts were attacked on the same day. India retaliated, with some force – a Pakistan general said 20,000 shells had been fired since the brouhaha began. Even acknowledging that most of the fire was from mortars and not artillery, 20,000 seems a wild exaggeration. But whichever way one looks at it, India noted that in 2013 perhaps 100 rounds had been fired; this seems to have been a hundred times more. It was the worst flareup since 2003, after which Pakistan agreed to stop firing at India. More or less, that ceasefire had held until now.
· The West’s reaction has been a peculiar one: silence. Now, of course, international silence is what India wants since it has resisted all attempts to internationalize a dispute dating back to 1947. India maintains only India and Pakistan are the concerned parties and discussions have to take place only between them. Pakistan, on the other, ceaselessly attempts to internationalize the dispute because on its own, it has no chance of ever gaining Indian Kashmir. To that extent, the silence is to India’s liking but not to Pakistan’s.
· Simultaneously, however, look what happens when DPRK and ROK exchange fire on scales much less than what happened between India and Pakistan. The West in particularly quickly goes in 5-alarm fire mode, and we are constantly reminded that things could escalate because (a) The Norks are insane; (b) both sides of the DMZ are heavily militarized; and (c) DPRK is a proto-nuclear weapon state.
· With regard to India and Pakistan, this time the Western media barely paid attention though (a) There was no rational reason for Pakistan to start firing; (b) the Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh borders between the two states are heavily fortified and troops are right on the Line of Control – there is no DMZ; and (c) both countries are nuclear powers. That Pakistan does not have a reliable nuclear force, which reduces its credibility as a deterrent, does not matter. After all, if Pakistan lobs ten missiles at Delhi, does it really change things if three don’t fire, three don’t reach target, and three fizzle with nominal yields? That tenth missile could be a 10- or 20-KT explosion, which would cause havoc.
· So Editor, at least, finds the West’s passive acceptance of the firing duels odd, if we consider the issue from Washington’s end. At Delhi’s end, as we’ve mentioned, the passiveness is totally copacetic. This rant, however, is written from the Washington end. More on this.
· Indian analysts have come with an impressive list of reasons for why, after all these years, Pakistan sought to raise the temperature. Analyst Ajai Shukla has ruled out the usual reasons given when firing occurs. He does not think Pakistan needs to provide cover for infiltrators. This was a major reason back during the Kashmir insurgency 1987-2004. He says infiltration occurs the year round even with the 10-year old ceasefire. Next, he notes that India stands to gain if Pakistan starts firing because the Indian Army, otherwise under very tight control by Delhi, is given a freer hand. Pakistan’s villages, army installations, supply dumps, and winter advance stocking for the theatre all happen closer to the border than is the case for India. Why should Pakistan hand India the advantage?
· One clarification. Though the Indian Government told the Army it had a free hand to retaliate, and while the Indian public cheered at the new Prime Minister’s “No more Mr. Nice Guy” stance, the Army was NOT given a free hand. All that was conceded is that (a) the Army did not have to get permission each time it had to retaliate; and (b) the Army was given some latitude in choosing targets from where firing did not originate. A true free hand would have been to give the Army permission to straighten out the border as necessary to protect Indian villages and border observation posts. For all the bluster from the new Government, there is no chance this will be given unless Pakistan crosses the Line of Control in an outright invasion. Still, it is progress because the previous government had no limit to its wimpiness. Editor can give Mr. Modi a half-hearted one cheer, whereas he had only abuse for the previous government.
· So if the traditional reasons for the Pakistan fire offensive don’t apply, why did Pakistan start this up? You will ask: why is Editor assuming Pakistan is at fault? Simple. India is so content with the status quo it has even offered to discuss a permanent settlement which leaves the 1/3rd of Kashmir under Pakistani control with Pakistan. It has zero wish to attack Pakistan. Pakistan, on the other hand, cannot accept the status quo. If it accepts Muslims can thrive in India, the very reason for the creation of Pakistan is thrown into question.
· The consensus seems to be that Pakistan started things for two reasons. One, to divert attention from the ongoing operations in Waziristan, which are making the militants/Islamists very unhappy. As has been the case with all Pakistan operations in the west, the current operations are marked by a complete lack of seriousness. They are mounted just to get the US off Pakistan’s back. Two, to tell India it cannot take Pakistan for granted. As Shukla has said, strong Pakistan Army chiefs have no need to aggravate India, weak ones do.
· Now, if these two points are correct – and Editor certainly has nothing better to offer, then we are in a total DPRK situation. Pyongyang creates tensions because of internal problems and because it wants to warn the west against brushing it off. When DPRK does this, everyone goes: “Wow! What Looney Tuners! Don’t they realize they are risking war just to make some minor points?”
· Put this in the US context. Putin definitely feels marginalized by US indifference. He also has internal problems. Does he start firing on US territory and military positions to divert attention from his internal problems and to grab US attention? No he doesn’t. Crazy Putin is not. He knows the US has nukes and will use them.
· What SHOULD be worrying India is that in Pakistan we have a crazy state acting nutzoid. Yet no one seems overly bothered – even though India has nukes. You cannot have a country willing, at periodic intervals, to start hostilities for local gain. In the last 30-years Pakistan has done this three times: Kashmir 1987-2004; Kargil 1999 – an outright invasion; and this week’s firing. This creates huge instability between two traditional and N-armed adversaries.
· Not only does US not control Pakistan, it treats Pakistan like a valued ally. Does Washington wonder that Indians remain deeply suspicious of Washington’s efforts to be Best Friends Forever with India. Washington is acting like an enemy, not like a friend. This is not the intent, but it is the reality. Indians care about the reality, not good intentions.
Thursday 0230 GMT October 9, 2014
· Goodbye Kobani, Goodbye Kurds When even senior US military officials says Kobani, Syria is going to fall to the Islamic State, we may as well bit the Syrian Kurd city goodbye. The US has also been quite clear that it considers the Syrian front secondary to the Iraq front, with IS in Syria to be dealt with after IS in Iraq is taken care of. The US says it has no reliable ground partner in Syria, thus airstrikes alone will not do the job. It hopes to turn its attention to Syria when the first recruits of the new Syrian moderate rebel force take the field. This, US has separately said, will take a year. Just to make sure everyone gets the point, the US has said Kobani is of no strategic significance to it.
· This actually is quite true. Of course, it would be nice if the US would go one step further and admit that Iraq also is of no strategic significance. But as long as the US says Islamic State is a strategic threat, then the reason for the US expansion of the war to Syria is valid, because IS recognizes no international border. IS uses Syria resources to support its war against Iraq, and vice versa. Assuming readers are still reading and have not gone to sleep in front of their computers, it follows that any strategic gain by IS in Syria is of importance to the US. The US is thus either dissimulating or trying to rationalize its inability to save Kobani.
· To repeat: why is Kobani important? Because from here 100-km of the Turkish border come under IS threat. This permits a future expansion of IS into Turkey. Equally important, Kobani enables the IS to consolidate its hold over a big chunk of Syria.
· Now Editor is going to make a statement contradicting America’s generals. We can agree that air support cannot win a ground war. But it can certainly stop an offensive against a city. The US says it is making robust air strikes against IS in Kobani. Dunno how the Pentagon defines robust, but 4-6 airstrikes a day, each aiming – in most cases – for a single vehicle or fighting position is not, by any definition of military operations, robust when thousands of combatants are engaged. A fighting position, BTW, can be a couple of men with a heavy machine gun
· Indeed, US air operations in Kobani have been very firmly symbolic and notational. You can infer this from US announcements, but there is also the constant complaint by the defenders that the US is making little effort to bomb IS. US has been coming up with rather bizarre excuses for not being more robust. One is that the US doesn’t want to kill civilians. So: US wont risk – say – a hundred civilian casualties, but when IS takes Kobani, the tens of thousands who have not fled are at risk from IS. Does this make sense? We don’t think so. Next, the US says without booties on the ground it cannot identify and fix more targets. Also bizzare, seeing as the US can in the middle of the night find an IS tank or gun or truck and blow it up. The other day a Kurd leader complained that the US has not even touched a valley serving as a major IS base with 2000 vehicles. Okay, lets concede the Kurd may be exaggerating. But there have to be hundreds of vehicles close by, because thousands of IS fighters are attacking Kobani. IS is not the Viet Cong circa 1965. It is fully motorized.
· From these few facts Editor infers the real reason for US reluctance to intervene in Kobani. It is the same reason the Turks will not save Kobani. Neither the US nor Turkey wants an expansion of area under Kurdish control. Step back a moment. At this time there are four types of Kurds: Iraqi, Iranian, Turkish (by far the largest number), and Syria. They have their own tribal loyalties and interests. A united Kurdistan seems a farfetched possibility. Nonetheless, it could happen. The US is not only dead set against an independent Iraq Kurdistan, it also doesn’t want to deal with the consequences of a unified Kurdistan that will change the entire dynamics of the Middle East. Turkey may be willing to tolerate an independent Iraqi Kurdistan for the sake of oil, but there is no way it will accept an expansion of Syrian Kurdistan. The Syrian and Turkish Kurds have much in common. Moreover, the Turkish Kurds have ceased fire against Ankara, but they are helping their Syrian brethren. It seems inevitable if the Syrian Kurds are saved, Turkish Kurds will be motivated to again seek independence.
· So, in case readers suddenly jerked awake when their heads hit their keyboard due to the utterly boring analysis to which they are being subject, here is the bottom line. Neither Turkey nor the US want to save Syrian Kurds. US had to act in Iraqi Kurdistan because a whacking great number of western oil companies are drilling there; perhaps more important, the persecution of Christians and minorities by IS was creating a major public relations debacle for Washington. Also important: an IS controlling North Iraq and 45-billion barrels of oil could spell the end of the rest of Iraq. As far as we are concerned, united Iraq is so yesterday, but at least the US has leverage with Iraqi Kurdistan. It would have no leverage with Islamic State Iraqi Kurdistan. And of course, the defense of Shia Iraq becomes very hard if the north is under IS control.
· When you are enmeshed in such a complicated situation, the correct strategic course is to seize the initiative and impose your will on the problem. Otherwise there is no solution. You are fighting defensively, with hopes and prayers replacing decisive, hard action, and you are going to lose. But losing is tomorrow: Washington – like India – simply wants to get through today. The solution is (a) independent Kurd states and if they want to unite to let them unite; and (b) protection to the Sunnis and Shia Iraq nations. It is not for the US to fight Turkey’s wars, or Iran’s, or Baghdad’s. Let the Mideast be reordered and let the US dominate the new Mideast.
Wednesday 0230 October 8, 2014
· Turkey committing unrestrained aggression against Editor’s blood pressure, Editor to complain to UN Security Council. Every day the Government of Turkey comes up with statements even more moronic than the previous. That, and the failure of Washington to smack Turkey for its absurd insolence, is raising Editor’s blood pressure to dangerous levels. This is aggression, pure and simple.
· Yesterday, President Erdogan of Turkey came up with his latest urgent demand. Kobani, he says, is about to fall. The US must step up airstrikes, though airstrikes alone won’t work. US must save Kobani. It so happens the US is almost 10,000-km from Kobani. And Turkey is 250-meters. It also happens that Turkey has at least 200,000 troops it can send to the Syria border without calling up reserves. So, President Erdogan, please explain why the US must do something, while you refuse to do a darn thing other than hectoring and bullying the US each day? Sir, since you say air strikes won’t work, presumably you want ground troops. Please explain why you are not providing ground troops? You haven’t even let the US use Turkish airbases for the airwar!
· What right do you, President Erdogan, have to demand anything from the US after aiding and abetting the fundamentalists in Syria, including IS, who now you say threatens you? If IS takes Kobani, it will – so it is said – have a 100-km border with Turkey. So now you feel threatened by the vipers you helped nurture and whom you refuse to fight?
· NATO has said the alliance will defend Turkey against IS. Poor, helpless, defenseless Turkey. It only has the biggest army in European NATO. That army has not just told to stand-still, it has been told to prevent Turkish Kurd volunteers from going to Kobani’s aid. When Turkey won’t lift a finger to help NATO against IS, someone please explain why NATO has to protect Turkey against IS? Is Turkey so terrified of 10-20,000 Islamic fighters that it cannot defend itself? Is the Turkish Government frightened that if asked to engage IS its army will disintegrate like the Iraq Army?
· President Obama, please do tell your people where does Turkey get off? When are you going to plant your rather ample boot on Erdogan’s fat backside and tell him to shut up? Yes, he is hectoring and bullying you. Poor, poor little you! We weep with empathy for you. And we suspect a good number of your people want to plant their boots on your backside, because when you cower in front of an insignificant head of state, you bring ridicule not just on yourself, but on your country. Not that that seems to bother you in the slightest.
· In this parade of morons, Turkish and American, comes a British moron wanting to participate. A former defense minister is worried that IS has surrounded Baghdad. His solution is that the Sunni tribes must be got together to fight IS and protect Baghdad. What a great idea! What a giant brain! You, sir, are wasted in England. You need to come and join the US government, where your smarts will be properly employed in hastening the West’s downfall.
· On your flight over from London to Washington, would you be so kind as to explain just why the Sunni tribes should fight for Shia Iraq? The Shias are not fighting, so their mortal enemies the Sunnis should save the Shias? For what? So the Shias get another life extension and exterminate the Sunnis with greater enthusiasm when this current brouhaha dies down? We’re told British education is in a terrible mess, much like American education. Your brilliant, deep, complex, sophisticated reasoning proves that this is the case. You know what? Your country would be so much better off if you made a Birmingham sanitation worker from the Punjab (Muslim Punjab, Indian Punjab, makes no difference) the ruler of the UK. S/he would do so much better a job than you and yours have done. Six fighter aircraft. One ready frigate. 36 tanks. Sunnis must save Baghdad. What a sick joke your country has become. Though honestly, America is fast catching up.
Tuesday 0230 GMT October 7, 2014
· Iran wins one, US loses one A sports metaphor is in order, since US is treating the war against Islamic fundamentalism with the same seriousness you and I might treat a friendly neighborhood softball game. Yemen’s capital, Saana, has fallen to the Shia Houthis. Okay, you say, why is this bad? Iraq is a Shia state, we’re Best Friends Forever, or something like that.
· Problem is – and everything in the Arab world is a problem from the US’s viewpoint, the Houthis are backed by Iran/Hezbollah, and are virulently anti-American. So one up for Iran, one down for us. Iran’s campaign to put the Shias in power has been a long one, and as such is a strategic gain, not an opportunist win.
· The Houthis comprise 30% of Yemen. They rebelled against Saana in 2004, and a 10-year campaign culminated in their victory. The Sunnis of Yemen are not going to accept Shia dominance, so this civil war will expand. The US doesn’t need more complications as it battles Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. But then who cares anymore what the US needs or wants.
· Watching the US descent into alcoholism Editor has two alcoholic friends who are constantly in and out of rehab. When either of them comes out of rehab, there is a lot of swearing on their heart that they will never touch another drink. Then comes the first drink – “I can handle it, it’s just one, I’m clean”. Then it’s back to a drink a day, four drinks a day, half-a-bottle a day and so until they check themselves into rehab. All one can do as friend is stand there and watch them destroy themselves: one already knows from experience there I nothing one can say or do that will change anything.
· So it is with the US. In 1975 the US decided it was never going to fight a counter-insurgency. Within the space of two years, it became involved in two. The Afghan affair, which is now in its 13th year, is the longest US war, unless you want to count the Indian Wars. The outcome is already known: when the US leaves, the CI effort will collapse. The same thing happened in Iraq, which went “only” 8 years.
· So the US is back in Iraq, this time expanded to Syria. President Obama began by swearing there would be no boots on the ground as the number of troops went up from 300 to something like 1500+ now – we haven’t been keeping track. This doesn’t count the 20,000 or so in theatre, on land and at sea, supporting the air war and the 1500.
· Each time Mr. Obama reinforces the theatre, people proclaim from the rooftops that this isn’t going to work, more troops are needed. Lots and lots of folks predicted the air war wouldn’t work. Now, for the first time, we learned there are US Apaches flying in Iraq. The Apaches belong, of course, to the Army. The Army, last we looked at it, is a ground organization, so we DO have boots on the ground – not to mention the hundreds of advisors and trainers already at work. [Maybe they have helium party balloons tied to their waists and do their work from 1-meter off the ground?]
· At Kobani, Syria, we’ve seen the limits of airpower – as predicted by the Cassandras. BTW, please to note that Cassandra was always right. There is an impression that “a Cassandra” is simply one who forecasts doom. But to have dismissed Cassie as a habitual “The end is near” type would have been wrong. When she said “The end is near”, it really was – as was the case with all her earlier predictions to do with young Paris and other things. Anyway.
· At Kobani, IS has been using heavy weapons aka tanks, artillery, rocket launchers, stuff that should be easy – theoretically – to pick up and destroy from the air. But here’s the thing: if you cant see it, you cant blow it up. The Serbs proved this in the Bosnia war or whatever that affray was. IS, having first-class leadership and training, has protected most of its heavies even while losing a few to US strikes. As of last afternoon, IS was fighting in Kobani’s streets in three neighborhoods. So much for the airstrikes.
· In Anbar, where the US first deployed the Apaches, IS continues to steadily gain ground. Maybe the Apaches will stop IS, maybe they wont. If they do, IS will adapt. The US is particularly in a bind. Had the Soviet Group of Forces Germany rolled west in the 1980s, the Apaches would have been down in the weeds fighting tanks. They would have inflicted heavy casualties, and taken massive casualties of their own – the Soviets were no slouches when it came to flak support for ground troops. The Apaches, however, would have been just one defensive weapon. NATO tanks, armored infantry, missiles of every stripe, tube artillery, rocket artillery and so on would have been in the fight.
· But if the US loses a single Apache and its crew is captured, what will the reaction be? Now, it is plain wrong to say the US cannot tolerate casualties. It took 6000 killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. It can even take 60,000 killed or more. BUT – here’s the inevitable but – only if the president has prepared the country for war. By saying “no boots on the ground”, he has trapped himself in a fat lie. There are already boots on the ground. And the minute casualties occur, the people will be up in arms because “no boots” means no casualties.
Monday 0230 GMT October 6, 2014
· Vice President Biden is not a boomer, so why is he worried about Turkey and UAE’s feelings?
A couple of days ago, our VP actually – gasp – spoke the truth about our duplicitous, lying, double-dealing Middle East/Gulf “allies”. It is long past time that someone in Washington said this because it is our “allies” that have created the threat of Islamic fundamentalism by financing and providing arms.
· Each of these three nations have their own reasons for supporting fundamentalists. Saudi Arabia bribes the fundamentalists to do their mischief outside the Kingdom. UAE, like Qatar, is a tiny state and feels it cannot afford to antagonize anyone, even enemies of the state. Turkey is so desperate to get rid of Assad it is willing to arm anyone opposed to that wonderful gentleman. There is another complication regarding Syria, which I these three nations are Sunni and are reflexively anti-Shia. This does not mean that anti-Shiaism is some kind of passing fad, inless you consider a mortal 13-century fight to be a passing fad.
· Do these countries not realize that as the Islamists grow stronger they will turn around and bite them in the butt before beheading them? Do they not realize that the Islamists hate everything these states stand for? Turkey’s western liberal society is, for example, an absolute anathema. The hedonist excesses of the petrostate elites is another anathema. The Islamists have made clear they will not be bought off. They will use the money given out of fear to destroy these states in their turn. Islamic State, for example, has already said it will liberate Mecca and Medina from the Saudis. And by the way, except that IS is getting in the US’s way, and will do so even more fervently if/when they seize control of the petrostates, the Middle East/Gulf regimes do need to be deposed. The one to do the job, according to us, is the US. But the idea the US elite will bring justice to the petrostates is laughable. Aside from buying off the Islamists, the petrostates have also bought us off.
· Yes, these three countries do realize they are only making trouble for themselves. But they belong to cultures of expediency, of bazaar dealing, of doing everything possible so that they can sleep soundly tonight, the morrow be darned.
· As a general principle, keeping committed revolutionaries under the sponsor state’s control does not work in the end. India is an example. India liberated Bangladesh. The result? Two-thirds of the Hindus in that country have been expelled. Where the Pakistanis had one division in erstwhile East Bengal, Bangladesh has eight divisions and plans more. No need to mention the Sri Lanka fiasco where India had to go in to destroy the very rebels it had nurtured to partition Sri Lanka, before they brought their anti-Lanka war to the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Mrs. Gandhi nurtured Sikh extremism as a way of destroying the entrenched hold of the dominant political party. That cost her life. And the extremists were destroyed only by the harshest of means. Pakistan is another example. The revolutionary forces it unleashed in Afghanistan have blown back, and Pakistan’s very existence is in peril. No need to mention US support of fundamentalism in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
· In Iraq and Libya we “freed” the people from tyrants, only to create the conditions for the rise of even worse ones. For example, there would have been no Islamic State but for us. Saddam would simply have executed 10,000 people and everyone would have calmed down. Big Daddy Assad killed – it is said – 30,000 civilians in Homs. In Little Baby Assad’s civil war, 200,000 have already died, in great part because our allies support the rebels, who were then overthrown by the revolutionaries, and the revolutionaries in their turn will destroy their sponsors.
· BTW, our occasional contributor Major AH Amin has warned that the US need to ditch the meme of a tough, well-equipped, well-trained Saudi National Guard that will protect the regime against extremists. Dead wrong. The regular armed forces and the SANG are composed of ordinary folks. When trouble comes, first they will shoot their elite-families officers, then they will join the revolution against the regime. Or have we already forgotten Iran 1979?
· Nonetheless, for speaking the truth, Biden has been forced to apologize to Turkey. Erdogan admits only to the occasional fighter who might have entered the country as a tourist and then hoofed it across the border into Syria. Erdogan says he has not supplied anyone with any arms. Now tiny UAE has demanded “clarification” about being named by Biden. The fear is that UAE/Turkey will cease their cooperation with the US in the anti-IS war. What cooperation has Turkey given? Even as Kobani is within days of falling the Turks have done nothing. As for the UAE does the White House really believe it has to have the UAE’s willing cooperation for air bases? First, why has the US not learned it cannot sell itself out for the sake of airbases. What are aircraft carriers for? Second, what happens to UAE if the US breaks its alliance to protect that country? Where is UAE going to go? To France? To Russia? Right.
· When the current administration took office in 2008, Editor sincerely believed much of the opposition to it was racist –which was and remains the case. But it is utterly wrong for liberals to stop thinking at this point. Much of the opposition to the administration has arisen because it simply lets every passing crippled beggar in the street kick its butt just for the joy of it.
· Turkey is obligated by its treaties to support the west against threats to the west. If Turkey cannot do that, NATO needs to expel Turkey from the alliance; Europe should block Turkey from Europe, and let Turkey go do what it wants. Precisely the same applies to UAE. Instead we are blubbering apologies for speaking the truth.
Friday 0230 GMT October 3, 2014
· Iraq-Syria This really has to be considered a single theatre, as IS is leading the fight in both countries and has captured huge swathes of territory. The objective is a unified military operations command spanning both countries, and to use this as the base for an expansion to take over the Middle East and North America, then attack Europe and India/Pakistan. We all have our fantasies; nonetheless, without concentrated US-led efforts, there is a good chance that IS could seize most of Iraq, more than half of Syria, and parts of Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
· Tactically, fighting is focused on Kobani (Syria); Sinjar (Iraq); and Anbar (Iraq). The objective in Kobani is offensive, the seizure of a large part of the Syria-Turkey border. In Sinjar (Shingal), it is defensive.
· Kobani Despite US/Arab air strikes supporting 10,000 Syrian Kurd fighters, IS continues to press on. Reports from the region are always confusing, but it appears that IS is within 2-3 km of the city itself. Civilians have almost all left, fearing IS’s signature massacres and beheadings. Why cannot the defenders hold? First, IS has reinforced by pulling fighters out of Northern Iraq. Second, IS continues to fight more fiercely and with better motivation and tactical skills than the defenders. It is past time the US confided to the public how exactly is IS turning in such a superior performance? Editor suspects the Pakistanis, who did a similar, and very effective job of getting the Taliban defeat the Afghan warlords, ending up by seizing 85% of Afghanistan – within two years. Three, IS has heavier weaponry. This has become an excuse. No matter how heavy IS’s weaponary, it is not a ptach on US Hellfires, and 250-kg/500-kg precision guided bombs
· Turkey is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. This causes Editor no end of glee, because the Turks have tried to play both sides against in the middle, and in the process have undercut US objectives. The Turks have every right to do that, but then they should not be considered as US allies, which effectively they have not been since 2003. They need a sound smacking, and at the minimum of suspension from NATO. However, you know the problem there. We are told Mr. Obama tried, the other day, to be firm with a tattered dandelion, and the half-dead plant beat him up without breaking up a sweat.
· Turkey’s problem is that while it will tolerate an independent Iraqi Kurdistan because of its oil, it cannot let the Kurds grow in Syria. That would exacerbate the now dormant situation in Turkish Kurdistan. Turkey has been double dealing not just here, but in its zeal to overthrow Assad, has also been supporting the very same militants who are creating increasing mayhem. The Turks have helpfully (think Austin Powers) offered to carve out a protected refugee zone out of northeast Syria. The actual objective is to create a buffer between the Syria Kurds and their Turkish counterparts, Essentially, however, Turkey wants the US to come in and save it by defeating IS on its own, and overthrowing Assad on its own. The benefits largely accrue to Turkey, while Turkey keeps its lily hands pure. So far Turkey hasn’t even allowed the US to use joint-NATO designated airbases, even as it loudly complains the US is not doing to counter IS. The sheer audacity is galling, but then when we have a president who wears a sign front and back saying “Kick me, I am too wimpy to retaliate”, we should not blame the Turks from obliging.
· The Peshmerga aided by Iran and Turkey Kurds is on a counter offensive to recover all of North Iraq and restore the status quo ante as existed before the IS invasion. Of course, the Kurd objective is a wee bit different from the US/Baghdad’s. The Kurds plan is to bring all areas that belonged to them before Saddam began his Arabization policy. Since the Kurds have the only effective military force in the region, they have a good chance of success. From US/Baghdad view this would be a disaster because Iraq is the reduced to present-day Central and South Iraq, which have already seen big inroads by IS. Again, this offensive is proceeding with utmost caution because IS are just as good at defense as they are at offensive, even with its Iraq strength depleted by switches to the north. The Peshmerga will take months, if not longer, to match IS’s fighting skills. But what happened to the formidable Peshmerga about which we were being told? Media hype, the usual stupid endless repetition of a meme that became a stereotype. Pesh was a guerilla organization, not a conventional army, and when it used to fight Iran, it used to get regularly thrashed. Nothing complicated.
· In Anbar the situation is extra-confused because (a) the Iraqis put out the rosiest of daily communiques, which usually are at complete variance with reality. Example, think Tikrit. It is STILL in IS hands, to the point Baghdad has at last stopped boasting about taking the city in a couple of days. (b) Local reporting is confused. (c) Showing the fantastic flexibility that has enabled IS to defeat three armies – Iraq, Syria, and Syria rebels – IS very rapidly changes direction when the opposition is too strong to easily break. Manstein and Guderian would highly approve of IS – yes, IS seems to be THAT good.
· So, the other day we were being told Iraq has retaken this road and that road in Anbar and chased IS out of this city or that city. All lies. Iraq is doing nothing more than shelling Fallujah and killing its own people. Readers know about the big Iraq defeat outside Fallujah, where an Iraqi brigade – one of the few remaining in the fight - was wiped out. In Ramadi, IS has gained ground inside the city and last we heard has 250 Iraq forces isolated and ready to be killed. True that the US stopped IS’s drive on the dam at Haditha. But even here, please to be careful. What was true last week is usually a week later because IS reorganizes and tries another way. Mobile warfare, excellently done.
Thursday 0230 GMT October 2, 2014
· Indians and the Reds***s controversy May be that our foreign readers are not informed of the controversy about Washington’s football team. Please be assured you are decidedly better for it. Much of American life today tends to suck away what’s left of our brains in the age of media, and this name controversy will further deplete your IQ.
· Before we get into this, please consider the absurdity of naming their game “football”. The only time you are allowed to use your feet is to start, and to score an extra point after a touchdown. The designated kicker gets to kick the ball over the goalposts, while the other side rushes to pummel him. Throughout 95% of the game or more, the ball is carried in players’ hands, or thrown, to be caught by hands. That said, even Editor has to admit American football features far more action than soccer, which in turn is eclipsed for dullness only by six-day cricket matches and the snails’ 100-meter dash. But, as the Americans say, whatever.
· So Washington’s team features a Native American brave and is called the “Reds***s”. Think the slang term for the Red Man, who may have been red once, but is no longer. For decades, the Washington team has used this name for itself, intending it as a symbol of courage, determination, and so on. Got it.
· Lately some folks have decided that this is Not Right because the term used to be racially pejorative. The Washington teams says it would hardly name itself with a pejorative, and the majority of Native Americans do not find the term offensive in this context. Not good enough say the critics. Don’t care if the majority is not offended. Was discrimination against blacks acceptable because the majority of Americans supported it?
· As usual, we see the American penchant for deliberately obfuscating an issue, which is what propaganda does. The real issue is if the majority of blacks did not object to being called blacks, of Negroes (small “n” and big “N’ variant), or even Niggers, then if I am call myself black, Negro, or Nigger is not a civil rights issue. No one is discriminating against Native Americans by using the term “Reds***s”.
· Be that as it may, others object to calling sport teams by Native American names, such as “Indians” or “Braves” because that is appropriating Native American culture. Right. So now an American culture belongs only a particular people. Mixing pot, anyone?
· Not to get to the point of this rant. If we follow the above logic, “Native” Americans have no right to call themselves that because they came from Asia, and (controversially) from Europe. They are immigrants as much as you and me. BTW, other folks call them the “First Peoples”. Objection, your honor. First into North America is not First Peoples, who would have existed hundreds of thousands of years ago.
· But even that is not the point of the rant. As an Indian – of the real, not ersatz kind, I deeply, deeply object to the name of my people being appropriated by Americans. We all know Columbus got himself turned around 180-degrees while looking for the Indies. I call upon the Indian community to wage a relentless campaign to take out name back. India has an ancient, proud civilization, and certainly we do not want to be identified with a bunch of hunters and gatherers.
· Further, I deeply object to the appropriation of our food by the west. You, the west, are stealing our heritage and producing – mostly – food that is altered to suit local taste.
· I deeply object to the rest of the world stealing Zero. The number should be called Indian Zero, and the rest of the world should ask our permission before using it. Our pain at this theft of our cherished heritage would be deeply, deeply, ameliorated by payment of royalty, say 1/10th of a US cent for each use – Hello, binary!
· Now, Editor could go on, but you get the point. Honestly, what the Washington “football” team calls itself is of no interest to him. But just that we are debating this in America, with one person or another rushing forward to speak on behalf of Native Americans, and telling them that they SHOULD consider the name offensive, shows how low we have sunk. These days the mantra in America is: “If even one person is offended by XYZ, the name is wrong.” There are 318-million Americans and Editor is sure a large number, forget one, are offended by something. For example, Editor is deeply, deeply offended by the use of the word “gay” for homosexual. Gay means happy, cheerful and so on. Now I cannot use the word without someone saying “oh, okay, you’re referring to homosexuals”. Editor knew women once objected to “women”, because of the “men” part. Gives men a higher status. They wanted to be called “Wymin”, but that didn’t last long. BTW, Editor objects to terms like “actresss” because a woman actor is not a diminutive male. Call them all actors.
· By the time we finish banning words objectionable to anyone, teacher’s job as a teacher will be simplified. There will be no words left, so there will be nothing to teach or speak. We will all have to talk in terms of numbers.
Wednesday 0230 GMT October 1, 2014
· Another day at the Clown Parade that is NATO So the German defense minister coyly admitted that the German armed force are not in good shape and cannot meet their NATO missions. http://t.co/nI9GpJBNvr This was known even to beings with the IQ of a goldfish. Perhaps the minister knew, in which she was doing what politicians are wont to do, embrace a state of denial. Perhaps she did not know, which wouldn’t be the first time the political authority was ignorant of what was going on in its front yard.
· Most likely, this admission would not have come about had the US not sat on Germany demanding Berlin play its part in the new Iraq-Syria War. The link will tell you that only 40% of the already very depleted Luftwaffe can fly. To begin with, the Luftwaffe is down to 208 fighter aircraft. Eighty fighters are operational. We wont bore you with the state of the army, but it cannot put together a brigade group for out of area operations.
· Aside from commercial factors, these unpleasant facts may explain why Germany, which has the most to lose against an expansionist Russia, was Not Keen to confront Mr. Putin in Ukraine. We don’t mean to single out Germany to mock and trash. The rest of NATO bar the US is in equally parlous condition. We have mentioned that the British have just six fighters committed to the new war. They have only seven fighter squadrons left. Subtract for training, Falklands, defense of the UK, and Afghanistan, and behold, you get six fighters in Cyprus. And they just flew their fifth consecutive mission without dropping ordnance, because they couldn’t locate appropriate targets. Snigger.
· So, what happened to NATO bar the US? Did nuclear winter descend due to an asteroid strike and wipe out their economies these past 25 years? It is twenty-five years since the fall of the Berlin Wall? No. NATO nations slashed their defense budgets to the bone and that started shaving away the bone. They no longer even look like a femur, a major bone of the skeleton; they look like a twig that a crippled rabbit can snap in two Jackie Chan style. They slashed theirvdefense budgets so they could waste more money on other things. They sang in the sunshine and danced in the rain, gaily chanting “The wicked witch is dead!”. This wicked witch, unlike Dorothy’s nemesis, ruled the East. Flowers were strewn. Drinking wine and eating took national precedence. Sexual pleasure became the alpha and omega of existence. (Historically minded folks will recall this is hardly the first time in the last hundred years that this has happened.) Military service became uncool and detested, so that conscription was cut down to 9-months and then abandoned entirely. So on.
· So do you blame Islamic fundamentalists for thinking that the west is so degenerate that with a small push it will fall? Editor doesn’t.
· To be fair, what the Islamists don’t understand is that there for western cultures there is no fatal dichotomy between hedonism and the ability to wage war. Germany is the prime example. In the 1930s it was in the throes of degeneracy (of course this applies only to some sections of the elite, but if we go on qualifying everything we’re never going to get to the point). A few years later Germany had overrun Europe from the Channel to Moscow. The US is another example. Since the 1960s it has become progressively more degenerate in terms of personal morals. But let the trumpet sound, and Americans rush to the flag, salivating at the prospect of going out to kill.
· What the west has lacked so far is a coherent motivation to go to war (US excepted: US needs no motivation, it is constantly ready to fight. This “boots on the ground” and casualty aversion is something that the politicians come up with.) IS, bless its little heart, provided that motivation by murdering four westerners and threatening to murder more. This was supposed to scare the west into a stupor. It had the reverse effect. British MPs voted 9-to1 for war against IS – this from a country we were told had become completely war weary to the point of neo-pacifism.
· Rather, the Europeans had become weary of American wars fought for American objectives. Now they are in the fight for their own reasons. Just imagine: Belgium, Holland, Denmark: tiny nations impossibly vulnerable to terrorism. They were quick to send combat aircraft to join in the war.