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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.
Wednesday 0230 GMT December 24, 2014
· DPRK Internet Down Seems DPRK has lost external internet connectivity. Coming right after the US proposed “proportional” response to the Sony hack, naturally the suspicion is the US is responsible. But other people think DPRK shut itself down to avoid a US attack. Which would, of course, assume the US has not in advance planted nasties in the DPRK network.
· Lets go through what Editor considers as totally wrong about the official US reaction. Our Royal Preziness of Washington, DC called the Sony hack an act of “vandalism”. See, we don’t know who writes the man’s speeches and announcements, but obviously this abysmally stupid statement reflects on the Prez, not his writer(s), because the Prez appoints the writer(s). Vandalism is when someone defaces your websites.
· What happened with Sony is a criminal act and an act terrorism. It is criminal because digital data was stolen. If someone comes into your offices and steals your files, no one calls it “vandalism”, they call it “theft”, which is a crime. Further, the hackers published the contents of digital files, which were Sony’s proprietary data, again committing crime.
· The terrorism, admittedly against a corporation and not against a state, arises because the hackers threatened Sony not to release the film, and promised all sorts of unspecified bad things would happen to theatres if Sony failed to comply. Is this not blackmail rather than terrorism? No, because the hackers are not threatening Sony alone, but movie theatres, and by extension movie audiences. Threats of a “Christmas surprise” and so on take this episode beyond blackmail.
· You can say “if Sony releases the film I will post embarrassing stuff about you”. That’s blackmail. What happened here is not blackmail because embarrassing stuff was posted; the promise was bad things would happen. When you threaten US movie theatres, you are no longer threatening a corporation, you are threatening the population at large. That what makes this terrorism. Why Prez couldn’t say this and be done with it, Editor cant say. DPRK is already officially designated a terrorist state, so there’s no change of policy or other diplomatic .
· Next, what exactly is this about a proportional response? Where does it say the world’s leading power has to proportionally punish a severely bratty state, which loves nothing better than threatening the US was nuclear war? As an aside to the Sony matter, why does DPRK get a pass from the US each time it threatens war against our country or ROK, or the region? Aren’t we supposed to say: “Any indication that an attack is under preparation, nuclear or conventional, will result in the complete destruction of DPRK and its people”?
· After all, US strategic doctrine does not exclude a nuclear first strike. Why are we putting up with the yipping of a rabid puppy that is biting our foot? The US Government may choose to ignore the rabid puppy, but its failure to speak with utmost harshness, better still to act, only dims our prestige even further. And prestige is all-important in international affairs: if we cant event punish DPRK, who is going to take us seriously? You will answer what is the big deal, no one takes us seriously to begin with, but you catch the Editor’s point. Britain ruled the world not because it issued proportional threats, but because folks knew bad things would happen to them if the tweaked the Lion’s tail. In most cases the British didn’t have to use force. Here people are not just tweaking the Eagle’s feathers, they are removing them one by one – with nary a peep from the Eagle. Or should we say the Great Turkey? Perhaps not, because turkeys are said to be vicious fighters. Editor must ponder more on this metaphor.
· Third, you will see the extent of DPRK’s internet infrastructure at this source http://t.co/lmbJ3OgeFR One connection to the global internet, one ISP, 1000+ IP addresses – this is an infrastructure? It isn’t even a homeless person’s card board box. What retaliation can the US make to match the gravity of the Sony hack? If we do retaliate, all we’re doing is making ourselves look ridiculous.
· Incidentally, Editor thinks the premise of the Sony move is thoroughly tasteless. But quite aside from our constitutional right to be tasteless, American popular culture is the definition of tastelessness. Of course the people have a right to make and sell whatever garbage they want. Editor respects the right, he doesn’t respect Sony.
Tuesday 0230 GMT December 23, 2014
· Russia ups defense budget to 3.3-trillion rubles Big deal, you will say. With the ruble at less than two cents, 0.018 cents to be exact, that is barely $59-billion or 1/10 of the US (just approximately). Germany, for example, spends $40-billion. China is around $120-billion. So why should anyone be concerned?
· Problem One. Because of sanctions and the oil price decline, the rouble is down from 0.025 last year. When oil recovers, which it will, we’ll be looking at a budget of around $85-billion. You will still say “okay, but that still isn’t a lot.”
· That brings up Problem Two. The internal Russian economy works in rubles, not in dollars. So while the imported weapons/components have gone up in price, domestic weapons/components have not. Editor cannot off-hand say what the percentage of domestic production is, but suspects it is 90% if not more, because Russia is self-sufficient in weapons production. Domestic food prices and soldier pay have also not gone up. So on and so forth. Right now that $59-billion for defense is already worth a good bit more than the dollar-ruble exchange rate would indicate.
· This slides into Problem Three. To get the true price of what $59-billion can buy the Russian armed forces, we have to work in other factors. Such as the Russian GDP per capita is a third that of the US. Russia has a smaller military, 850,000 versus 1.35-million, so it spends less on Operations & Maintenance plus salaries than the US. This proportionally boosts its weapons procurement budget. Russia does not maintain large N-forces ready to fight 1-minute notice. It spends very little on its foreign wars. It is a continental power, so it does not pay the cost of 24/365 global, high-intensity operations as the US does. So on and so forth.
· The above is simplifying matters, but our object here is not to do an accurate analysis of what $59-billion buys Russia vs $600-billion buys the US. It is to point out that readers should not scoff at the $59-billion figure because in terms of what it buys Russia, it is likely three times as much, if only because of the per capita difference. Moreover, Russia and the US focus on different areas in terms of defense, so the ground forces/tactical airpower may be closer to the US than the 10-1 difference – calculated in dollars – might indicate.
· For example, the US is going down to 32 army brigades to Russia’ s 40. Agreed that doesn’t mean much by itself. For one thing the US has far more fighter aircraft than Russia will after its 2020 buildup is achieved. But as with everything in defense, there are caveats galore. Russia can put 40 brigades to face Central Europe, the US cannot put 32. And so on.
· Skeptical readers will still not be convinced. What about the rest of NATO? Aren’t we going to add that defense expenditure to the US’s? We should, but immediately two caveats come up. NATO’s defense expenditure bar the US is spread over many countries. The Baltics, for example, are increasing defense spending, but at the end of it they still will not each have more than a brigade considerably weaker than a Russian brigade. Germany is thinking of increasing defense expenditure. So where will this lead Germany? Instead of zero brigades ready for immediately deployment it might have 1-2? Consider the UK. Its armor forces are gutted. If UK ups defense spending, it might have one heavy and one light brigade ready for deployment. Is Italy going to send troops to Central Europe? Are Greece and Turkey? Unlikely. What will Denmark and Norway provide after stepping up expenditures? A heavy brigade each? And so on and so .
· The second caveat is that in the case of NATO, the sum of the parts is weaker than the whole. You can’t add NATO brigades and consider them equal to US or Russian brigades. It doesn’t matter how integrated the command structure is, or to what amazing degree NATO forces are interoperable. A coalition is always going to be weaker than a unitary nation operating on interior lines.
· The reason to worry is not because an actual war, Russia versus NATO, is going to occur. It is not. But as far as Russia is concerned, the real issue is one of perception. For example, in January 2014 before Poots Toots embarked on his Sunday in the Park re Ukraine and Crimea, even in its enervated state NATO remained much more military powerful vis-à-vis Russia. But did anyone rush to mobilize, send troops to Ukraine, draw lines in the sand and so on?
· The reverse happened: NATO, including the US, did everything possible to back down militarily, short of providing an honor guard from Russian troops to enter Kiev. NATO went yak-yak-yak-yak (remember the old pop song “You talk too much?”). It resorted to its most cowardly options, diplomatic and economic sanctions. Fortunately for NATO, Putin did not press his advantage when he could. Had he advanced on Kiev right from the start, he’d be sitting there burping with satisfaction at having made a good meal out of Ukraine.
· You see the problem: back in the day when NATO’s defense line was drawn at the Inner German Border, with 200 Soviet divisions facing it, NATO had the stark choice between fighting or losing a core interest, West Germany. This would meant the end of western Europe. So NATO had no choice but to fight. But are the Baltics, Ukraine, Moldova and so on as core as West Germany was? Of course not.
· So in this sense any bean count of Russia versus NATO is irrelevant. The only question is: will increasing the Bear’s military power lead the Russians to be more confident and NATO less confident? Editor thinks it will. The bean count will not, then, matter.
Monday 0230 GMT December 22, 2014
· Kurdistan: Strange doings Right after declaring that the Peshmerga would not be ready until Fall 2015 for the US’s offensive planned for Mosul Spring 2015, KRG went on its own offensive against IS, and has captured Sinjar (also known as Shingal) west of Tal Afar. Earlier KRG also seized a major crossing between Syria and Mosul. It continues with its offensive from Sinjar toward Snuny, with the idea of controlling the Syria border south of Route 1.
· The general situation in Iraq is highly confused because you have three major combatants, the Iraqis, IS, and KRG; many areas are contested; and there are areas where tribes allied with each of the combatants are in control. Reader’s best bet is to look at the regularly updated map at http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/2014-12 21%20Control%20Zone%20Map_1.pdf
· Earlier KRG participated in clearing Baiji. It also increased defensive depth south of Kirkuk, while insisting Iraq forces were not much in evidence. It gained ground in Diyala Province which borders Iran where the Shia militias are also operating and trying to decide who they hate more, the Kurds reclaiming traditional territory that was taken away by Saddam, or the IS.
· KRG is working to isolate Mosul. Sinjar lies to the west of Tal Afar, which is on the road to Mosul. KRG also seized a major crossing between Syria and Mosul. Editor expects KRG to advance on Tal Afar from the west, but that is likely weeks or months from now.
· Simultaneously, KRG has announced that it will not help at Mosul, that is the business of the locals and Iraq. KRG says it does not want to operate in Sunni populated territory. Nonetheless, Mosul is also claimed by the Kurds, and it is perhaps odd they should seek so assiduously to surround Mosul if they plan simply to let US/Iraq clear the city. They already control the territory north of Mosul (Dahuk province), with the Kurd capital, Erbil, lying to the east. And the Peshmerga is on the ground in force to the northwest of Mosul, where they have been protecting the big dam.
· First, please to remember that in Iraq one day the news will come that the good guys have taken town or city X, Y, Z, and the next days the news will come that IS has either retaken X, Y, Z, or never left in the first place. In Anbar, for example, each time Iraq forces take some part of a town or city they claim they have won, whereas nothing of the sort has happened. See, for example, Fallujah, Ramadi, Baghdadi, and Heet. In the first two cities fighting has been underway for almost a year with no clear result. So readers should be careful of claims, particularly as in many areas which IS is supposed to have lost, it has merely withdrawn and lying low until it is ready for the next match.
· Second, it very much looks like that (a) KRG seeks to gain as much territory before US/Iraq land up; and (b) they are bargaining for major concessions in Mosul before joining US/Iraq offensive. This is, in effect, a second land grab. The first came when IS invaded and Iraq forces retreated. Much territory was taken in areas adjacent to the Iran border, so much so that in some case KRG is barely 70-to-100 km away from Baghdad in the east.
· It does not take any deep analysis to see that the Kurds are looking to the post-IS era. They are getting ready to protect the areas they have taken, and which were part of Kurdistan before Saddam began his policy of Arabization. This in turn means that while they are cooperating as much as possible with Baghdad – and vice versa, for example the $1-billion/month Baghdad is sending Erbil and the 550,000-bbl/day of oil KRG is giving to Baghdad in return, the Kurds are positioning themselves to fight Baghdad should the latter try and reclaim former Kurdistan territory lost after the IS invasion.
· The US may not have as much leverage as it thinks it does: Erbil is rapidly expanding ties with Europe because Europe wants Kurd oil. Also because many Euros feel the Kurds have a case for their own country. As far as Editor can tell, the US is doing little by way of sending arms/ammunition/supplies to Erbil, insisting its assistance has to go through Baghdad. In view of developments, Baghdad, already highly-not-keen on strengthening KRG even before the IS invasion, this stance has cost US in influencing Erbil. Meanwhile, the mad expansion of KRG oil output, which will underwrite KRG’s independence, continues.
Saturday 0230 GMT December 20, 2014
· Pakistan Editor has been silent on the situation in Pakistan because he does not see what he can usefully contribute. As of now, the Pakistan Army Chief has signed death warrants for six militants convicted of capital crimes. Fifty-three more warrants are likely to be signed. Two men have already been executed.
· The reason for the Pakistan Army being involved is these men were tried by military courts and do not fall under the jurisdiction of the civilian criminal justice system. In 2008 Pakistan declared a moratorium on executions. There are 9000 persons on death row. After the murder of the school children and their teachers in Peshawar earlier this week, the civilian government lifted the ban.
· Meanwhile human rights organizations such as Amnesty International are, as is often the case, proving their irrelevance by protesting the executions. Human rights groups say that in many cases, particularly with the military courts, suspects do not get due process of law and confessions are extracted by torture. Further says AI, hundreds of persons convicted by the military have simply disappeared from prison. All we can say is that at least the military courts gave the suspects some semblance of a trial. More usually, terror suspects are simply shot on capture – more on this in a minute.
· Pakistan’s civilian criminal justice system is weak – as is the case for most developing nations where violence is endemic. Trials/appeals to American standards are impossible because militants simply gun down witnesses, police and judges. Consequently, judges are most reluctant to convict. In the Sikh insurgency of the 1980s in India, the only way India could get the situation under control was to shoot militants on apprehension. Doubtless many killed would have been acquitted for lack of evidence or sentences to non-capital terms.
· In war, unfortunately, the rule that better 10 guilty go free than an innocent be wrongly convicted is reversed. War is about survival, not about civil rights. May we remind Amnesty that in World War II in the Pacific both sides rarely took soldiers alive. In the Korean War, it was common for both sides to execute surrendered or wounded soldiers. Ditto Second Indochina. War brings out the best in humans; but it also brings out the worst. India is at war in Kashmir and was at war in the Punjab. Pakistan is now at war with factions of the Taliban.
· There is no point to our asking Amnesty to consider what would happen if the US faced a similar situation: terrorism on a nationwide scale with horrific loss of civilian and military life, with terrorists killing judges, police, and witnesses to intimidate the criminal justice system. Amnesty does not have to try too hard to imagine: look at Mexico. The United States in such a situation would do exactly the same thing Pakistan, India, Mexico do: take no prisoners in the first place.
· How come Pakistan did not kill the military prisoners it has in custody? Because they were – and very much remain – bargaining chips. Readers of Orbat.com know full well about the deep and complicated relationship between Pakistan and its state sponsored terror groups. All Editor has to add is that even now, Pakistan is NOT fighting the “bad” Taliban; it is fighting only some factions. And even when it is fighting, it is SOP to give the “bad” Taliban enough warning that they clear out. Pakistan has a “no permanent enemies” paradigm with its terrorist groups.
· BTW, US should be familiar with what the Pakistanis are doing because we did the same thing in Iraq. The Sunnis became our allies against the Shia militias and Islamists. Now the Shia militias are our defacto allies as well as the Sunnis, even if we are keeping the Shia militias at arm’s length. But if Iran was not fighting alongside the Shia militias, we would have been their overt allies. In war you have to do what you have to do, and Editor for one is sorry if this upsets Americans who want the Global War On Terror to be fought as if we are dealing with the Mafia or Central American gangs and other benign threats. But the same applies to the Pakistanis.
· Editor has always been careful not to put moral judgment on the Pakistani use of terrorists/militants to further their strategic interests. After all, didn’t the US do the same for decades after 1945 while we were locked in an existential war with communism? Or does Amnesty believe the guerrilla movements we supported were freedom fighters with the cleanest hands and the strictest adherence to the laws of war and the laws of the civilian criminal justice system.
· Pakistan does NOT want to destroy terrorists/militants. It wants those who have slipped from the fold to return and submit to the guidance/leadership of the Pakistan Army. Even if it wanted to fight Islamists, it cannot, because the Army itself is Islamized. One reason Pakistani troops have been most reluctant to fight the “bad Taliban” is that they are in deep sympathy with it. If the Army’s commanders were to push the troops too far, the troops would mutiny and that would be the end of the story. Again, this all hypothetical as Pakistan does not want to fight terrorism.
· This is why Editor says he has nothing useful to contribute on the matter. As far as Editor is concerned, there is no one to eradicate terrorism from Pakistan. The Islamists in particular continue to gain ground. It is a matter of time before they put an end to what remains of Pakistan secularism and westernization. As far as Editor is concerned, India should be focused solely on the aftermath of an Islamist takeover of Pakistan. So should the US. The chances of India taking needed preemptive even though it is already under attack, is in Editor’s estimation, about 10%. The chances of US preparing for the worst are about zero percent. Indians are amazingly, stupidly blind about what is coming. But Americans are much worse.
Friday 0230 GMT December 19, 2014
W e've reduced the column width as reader Rishi
Tandon says the blog is unreadable on mobile. The narrower column
may also be easier for or PC readers.
e've reduced the column width as reader Rishi Tandon says the blog is unreadable on mobile. The narrower column may also be easier for or PC readers.
· Cuba Contrary to what many believe, normalization of relations is a long way off. For example, while Mr. Obama can make certain limited restrictions on trade, the embargo can be lifted only by Congress. With the GOP is charge of Congress, how will this play out?
· First we need to relegate folks like Senator Marco Rubio to the squirrel nut house. When reminded that most Cuban –Americans want normalization – 68% overall and much higher among younger voters according to the WashPo http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/marco-rubios-fury-over-the-cuba-shift-shows-why-obama-made-the-right-move/2014/12/17/42ead216-8632-11e4-b9b7-b8632ae73d25_story.html – he said he didn’t care if 99% of his people wanted normalization. He was going to oppose all of it because he knows Cuba better than anyone else. Chuckle Chuckle. Young people are so hot-headed and so sure of themselves. There, there, boy, come to grandpa Editor for a hug and pats to calm you down.
· A few things seem to have eluded Mr. Rubio’s attention. His primary job is not championing anti-regime interests, but championing American interests. Mr. Rubio, you are an American or are you confused about that? Further, with each year more of the first generation of Cuban-Americans die of old age. Keep in mind these folks are part of the old white feudal rulers of Cuba. Their thoughts and wishes are of no interests to real Cubans. The Cubans have no sympathy for the exile position that no normalization is possible until the exiles are compensated for their confiscated properties. Nor are these reactionary ideas of interest to Cuban-Americans who were economically disadvantaged back home or are of color.
· Next, if Mr. Rubio wants to lose Cuban-American votes because he is such a principled man, we will of course admire him for being the first politician in many years to put principle above votes. We will also remind him that politicians who shoot themselves in the head because of principle don’t have a promising future. Last, we thought it was a liberal thing to say “I don’t care if 99% of the people want X, I know that Y is good for them and I will force Y down their ignorant throats.”
· The only question Mr. Rubio should be debating is this: is normalization of net benefit to America? If maintaining the freeze is more advantageous, then by all means, let us maintain the freeze. But if we gain from a thaw, than a thaw it should be.
· Editor is no expert on Cuban-American economic relations. He does know that Cuba is a potential market for American commodities and manufactures. He also knows that Cuba needs American oil drilling and production capability, as well as capital and management expertise. On the other side, perhaps there are some like sugar producers who will lose with normalization. Our guess is that the economic benefits far outweigh the negatives.
· Editor is, of course, somewhat knowledgeable about American geostrategic interests. He can say without equivocation that America will make major gains here. To start, normalization will undercut Venezuela’s position in the Caribbean. It will also undercut Cuba’s interest in using Russia for protection against the United States. These are major positives. Except for petty spite, there are no geopolitical advantages to refusing normalization.
· A big gain will come from a change of world opinion toward the US. The entire world considers the US is a big fat bully on the matter of Cuba. Agreed that there are many people in the world who will hate the United States no matter what we do. That is the nature of being the superpower. But surely there is benefit in increasing support for ourselves by reducing friction points with the rest of the world especially when the Cuba friction is unncecessary.
· Another big gain will come from us stopping being hypocrites. Come on, admit it: we hate Cuba because it has defeated every effort of ours to stage a counter-revolution over 50-years. Americans don’t like being losers, though one supposes they would have gotten used to being losers by now. The Castro brothers survived Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush the Elder, Clinton, Bush the Younger, and now Obama. This happened by an accident of demographics: the Castros were very young when they took power. Thanks to a gold opportunity to blame every ill on US opposition, they have managed to stay in power. Okay, but they are going to die. Isn’t it better that we look forward and not backward?
· The real hypocrisy comes because of our willingness to perform unnatural sexual acts with the Chinese to keep the latter happy. The biggest tyranny in the world is our Best Friend Forever. Vietnam is a near ally. We negotiate with the Iranians. Until Putin took Crimea and East Ukraine, we were happy frenemies with him. We very actively support the Muslim tyrannies of the world. We are BFF’s with Pakistan. The Central Asian republics are in the BFF category. We could go on. To say we will not deal with a tyrannical Cuba is hypocrisy squared. It is unbecoming and illogical to refuse to “reward” Cuba when we reward every 2-bit dictators when it is to our advantage.
· Re China, we don’t have the guts to punish China for its tyranny. We’re greedy for the steadily diminishing profit China gives us. We are frightened of China’s rising power. So we don’t say a word about the Tibet genocide – the Castro brothers did not commit genocide, about the savage repression of Sinkiang, and the sheer brutality with which the Chinese rule their country.
· Is this what we are? Kowtowing to big China, but punishing little Cuba? Editor wants the US to start a crusade with the aim of overthrowing every tyranny in the world. If the US will act against the world’s tyrants, then the Editor will gladly support the harshest measures against Cuba. But keep our lips glued to the big fellow’s butt even while he poops, and stomp on the face of the little fellow? This is un-American.
Thursday 0230 GMT December 18, 2014
· Why the US cannot build an Iraqi Army Off and on Editor has discussed this matter in a “By The Way” kind of manner. What went wrong the first time? A partial list would have, at the top, two reasons. The US built a MiniMe army without any consideration of the realities of Iraq; then it proceeded to run the Iraq Army, filling in at whatever the Iraqis couldn’t get right.
· The problem was, and remains, that the US was never a serious imperial power like the British. It never learned to adapt to local conditions and cultures. Instead it imposed its own ways on its local allies. And it worked in South Korea and South Vietnam. But ROKA and ARVN could not have operated on their own. When the US withdrew its support to South Vietnam in 1975, the ARVN collapsed even though it had done an excellent job of repelling the NVA offensive of 1972 without the assistance of US ground units. The US was providing air and helicopter support. When the US ceased to do this in 1975, it was game over.
· Similarly you can appreciate that had the Korean War resume in 1960 or even in 1970, the ROKA could not have held. Today, though it very much relies on the US for psychological support, ROK forces can comfortably hold off DPRK. Fifty years of US training/support, and rapid economic growth has made ROK self-sufficient .
· In ROK there has been no pressure on the US to leave. It is the opposite: South Koreans want a continuing US military presence. In Iraq from the start there was a problem because not only are the Iraqis a very ancient civilization and xenophobic, the US had clearly stated from Day 1 that it planned to leave ASAP. Having given Iraq democracy, the US could hardly stay when the Iraqis democratically asked the US to leave. We’ve made this point before: its fine for Obama critics to say he didn’t negotiate hard enough to keep US troops in Iraq, but the critics have no grounding in realities. First, Iraq would not have agreed to immunity for US troops. Second, the Shia rebellion against the US would have started up again.
· Please to note that though Iraq is today in desperate straits, it has not asked for US ground formations. If any government was foolish enough to accept, and the US foolish enough to agree, US forces would be fighting Shia militias determined to get them out.
· So basically what we are saying that an American style army needs Americans to keep it running. Plus lots of airpower and helicopter support. And when the going gets tough, the proxy army needs to be backed up by US ground formations. Unless the US is willing to go back to 2003-11, this Iraq Army Version 2 is not going to work. And if the US is willing, and successfully neutralizes the Shia militias, and the Iraq Army “succeeds”, the US will have to leave right quick. Then the whole cycle will repeat.
· So what is the solution? Fortunately, the Iraqis are already building the army that is right for them. The Version 2 Iraq Army on US lines will prove irrelevant. The real new Iraq Army will look like the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
· Some months ago, Editor figured out that the traditional Syrian Army was no longer in existence. It had been replaced by an Iranian Revolutionary Guard model. Those of you who are skeptical of what Editor says because he never gives sources, can read about it themselves at http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2014/12/16/iran-transformed-syrias-army-into-a-militia-that-will-help-assad-survive-another-year/
· A word about sources. Editor doesn’t have a job in the government, so he is frequently asked about his sources. Many people underestimate the trained person’s ability to read between the lines. Editor did not need sources to tell him about the Syrian transformation. He read precisely two minor facts from the western media and was able to put together the rest. It’s nice to have sources, and once in a while someone will give him a few facts, but that only adds to what he’s already mostly figured out. Similarly, after reading the very sketchy reports in the English medium Iraq media, he figured out the Iranians had already implemented their system for the battle of Jurf southwest of Baghdad. Then came the source that confirmed his analysis – we mentioned this the other day.
· Now, please to follow. The real new Iraq Army owes nothing to the US. It does not interact with the US in any way. The Iranians provide the military leadership, the strategic and tactical planning, the training, advisors, combat units to back the Shia militias, the money, the weapons, the logistics. The Iranians are already succeeding in combat before the US has gotten a single new brigade into the field.
· We’re not going to go into two things you will want to know, for now, at least. One is what precisely military mistakes did the US makes with Iraq Army Version 1? And what are the implications for the US when they have this beautifully equipped army that will be irrelevant to the real fight? Think of it: the Iraqis have two allies who are building two very different armies. A most interesting situation.
· But meanwhile, a suggestion for Washington. Ditch your rebuilding plans, work with the Iranians to learn how they do it. The lessons you learn will be applicable all through the Arab world. And it will give you the clues you need to build armies in other parts of the world that can succeed. Not like your Mali Army, which proved as big a flop as the Iraqi Army.
Wednesday 0230 GMT December 17, 2014
· Does praising my boy students mean I am putting down my girls? In my almost two decades of teaching, never once I have heard the boys complain because I praise the girls, which I do a lot. In the last 3 weeks, twice I have praised the boys for doing well, and on each occasion a girl has taken severe umbrage. I won’t go into the details of how the umbrage was expressed: teen girls have their own language, body and speech, and unless you are familiar with their language, my description will make little sense.
· You will undoubtedly want to say that two girls objecting to my praise of boys is hardly a sufficiently large statistical base on which to base an entire essay. Actually, you can base an analysis on a sample of two; it’s just that the uncertainty will be high. But I am only arguing for the sake of arguing. If I compare the number of boys who have ever complained about my praising the girls to the number of girls to the vice versa – 0 to 2 out of a sample of thousands, the comparison might have greater validity. But that would take us to the realm of Statistics 400, which I had to drop 20-years ago because it was too difficult. Nowadays statistics for the social sciences are done with a computer program guiding you step by step on entering the numbers, and then all you have to do is push “Enter”. I have to take such a course in 2016 and will not only keep a wider eye for girl vs boy complaints, but also do a proper computation.
· In the meanwhile, treat this essay as based on impressions, not data. I suspect, though, that few parents of boys will disagree with me.
· To clarify, I have few occasions to praise boys because, as any teacher knows, the girls are ideal students, the boys are just plain messy. The girls are organized, neat, attentive, motivated, do their work, and well-behaved. The boys are – well, they are boys.
· Obviously this is a generalization because some girls are absolute hellions and some boys are angels. The thing about a generalization is that – well, it is generally true, which means there are always exceptions. One of the cheapest and shallowest modes of debate in the west that is used to dismiss an argument is to say “Oh, that’s a generalization”. Hello, critics. Do you not realize everything, every single thing, is a generalization?
· Take as an extreme example the business of sitting in front of a wall and expecting to cross the wall without any movement or effort. It would seem fair to say: “you can never spontaneously cross that wall. It is impossible.”
· Hmmm. Except it is not impossible. If you sit long enough in front of the wall, one day your atoms will disintegrate, pass through the all, and arrange themselves into you on the other side. So how many days must you sit? It could happen as you’re reading this. It might also take several lifetimes of the universe to happen. Indeed, the probability is that it will take several lifetimes of the universe. So while the generalization is a good working hypothesis, it remains just that, a generalization. Give it enough time, and an exception will occur. So please, no one write in accusing me of generalizing about boys and girls.
the board in the United States, girls are doing better at school –
which includes college – than boys. By what measure? Number of each
sex in college. This may not be the sole metric to judge academic
success. But it is one of the few that can be empirically measured.
Why is this happening? I am by no means an expert of any sort about
gender differences in education, so please treat this as my personal
observation: girls are more successful in school than boys because
schools today are designed to play up to the strengths of girls and
play down the strengths of boys.
· Take an example. Teachers value focus in the classroom. Indeed, focus is mandatory because given the way we teach, focus becomes the key to learning. Yet, for whatever reason, boys in the class room are less focused than girls. Boys need to move around more, and they need more space to spread themselves. One of the stupidest things I ever heard when I started teaching is “Teachers address the boys five times more than girls”. From this the implication was drawn that teachers favor boys. Ha ha. Teacher are addressing boys more than girls. Except the boy addressing is generally in the form of exasperation because the boys will not – cannot – behave as well as the girls. It is negative attention. If you have a naughty dog and a good cat, yelling “bad dog!” all the time is hardly paying the dog more attention. To misquote My Fair Lady’s Professor Henry Higgins, the typical teacher is grinding her/his teeth, tearing her/his hair, and saying in an angry, choked voice: “Why can’t the boys be more like the girls?”
· Another reason the gap between boys and girls is widening is that we teachers have been bombarded for at least three decades by feminists telling us – male and female teachers both – that we are discriminating against the girls. Incidentally, in certain ways this was true and still is. For example, look at this article http://t.co/PB7RU6AjKe It says that 11 times as many parents wants their boys to become engineers than is the case for girls. This is an astonishing figure if true, and the unspoken implication is that mothers are as ready to discriminate against girls in this respect as fathers.
· Three decades ago, girls were doing very well in the “soft” subjects whereas the percentage of boys science and engineering was significantly greater. A simple example: visiting the astrophysics department at the University of Maryland 20-years ago, I saw one woman student – the rest were men. Perhaps the women had gotten mysterious messages informing them that I would visit and were in hiding, or perhaps the astrophysics department fielded the university’s women’s basketball team and were in the gym, but I think not.
· So certainly girls needed encouragement to enter the science and engineering fields. And it worked. Read http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind12/c2/c2s3.htm#s2 to learn the National Science Foundation statistics on women with graduate degrees gained in science and engineering: by 2009, US citizen/resident women were earning half these degrees.
· If, however, you are the parent of a girl, perhaps it might be a good idea to tell them that just because a boy is doing better at some aspect of academics does not mean his success diminishes their success.
Tuesday 0230 GMT December 16, 2015
· Sydney, Australia hostage incident Editor is terribly disappointed with both the alleged Islamist and the Ozzies, who along with the Canadians are his most favorite people in the world. If we’re going to have an Islamist hostage crisis, let us please have a proper crisis, not some low-life drama.
· The hostage taker was no Islamist. One demand was that he be given an IS flag. Has anyone heard anything more pathetic than that? “I am taking the war to you infidels and I want an Islamist flag”. Sheesh. It turns out all he was only a run-of-the-mill criminal and serial sexual molester. He had approximately 50 molestation/assault cases against him, thanks mainly due to his behavior as some sort of guru. He was on bail for conspiracy to murder his ex-wife. He used to write hateful letters about Australian casualties in the Global War On Terror. Is there anything more petty than this?
· Josh Egwaras sent Editor a hilarious Twitter saying “you mean he’s a psychopath?” But think about that a minute. This Islamist wannabe is so insignificant he does not make it to anywhere near psychopathic level. He’s just a groper of women, a shameful dirty old man.
· As for the Ozzies, there was a lot of weeping and terrified running and leaping into policepersons’ arms. The senior police officer gave a statement, which we heard on CBS radio news, where he almost crying about the terrible horror the hostages experienced. Terrified people were paying Uber 4x normal fares to flee Sydney city center.
· People, get a grip. This is a war. Of course it was terrifying for the hostages. But they are nonetheless expected to maintain a stoic, dignified calm. Residents in the district are supposed to go about their business in normal fashion, not flee. The police are not expected to go into empathy shock about the feelings of the hostages. Australia is not supposed to act like America. Just say the hostage taker is dead, the hostages are mostly unharmed and free, we are returning to our regular duties.
· Bad show, Australia. Your fans expect better of you. Try and do better next time.
· Basij fighting in Iraq http://t.co/vvlu34rkXF Editor has long suspected that Iranian soldiers are fighting in Iraq. He wont detail today the process of how he arrived at that conclusion, but will make some broad points.
· First, look at the way Iraq militia forces rapidly organized themselves to stop IS’s advance on Baghdad at Samarra and Tikrit. Consider that the Shia militia had not fought since their disastrous encounters with US troops, for example, at Najaf. Indeed, on Teheran’s insistence the militias were stood down (another story for another time) and the only “combat” they engaged in was general thuggery against Sunni civilians.
· Second, it doesn’t matter how brave you are, if you are not a professional, you are going to get thrashed whether it’s the boxing ring or the battlefield. IS are quite professional and it remains a mystery how they became this way. Editor was told it was because of experienced Pakistani soldiers, but while there is no doubt Pakistanis are fighting with IS so are folks from sixty other countries. Editor has been unable to confirm to his satisfaction that Pakistani officers and NCOs form the backbone of key IS units. However, let’s not get diverted.
· Third, it was the battle of Jurf-al-Sakhr that convinced Editor the Iranians were playing a bigger road than just advising and planning. This was a hard fought affair that was bitterly contested by IS – who were seriously outnumbered, not that that has bothered them in the past. There were clues that the Iraq militias were well organized and well led, and put in a good fight, pushing to win despite heavy losses. Editor thought at the minimum the artillery and rocket launchers had to be manned by Iranians.
· Now – see Rudaw’s article – an Iranian politician openly says the Basij are fighting. He further goes on to make an interesting point. He says that had Iraq forces been organized on Iran lines instead of US lines, IS would not have succeeded. Truthfully, Editor did not think of that, but he had figured out that the Iraq armed forces are going to end up looking like Iran’s revolutionary guards, not like the US model.
· There is no way in which the US model can succeed. For one thing, it has already badly failed, and for the Americans to just forget the past and go in to repeat their mistakes is utterly pointless. The Iran model can succeed.
Monday 0230 GMT December 15, 2014
· Oil prices: from Richard Thatcher In most cases, the oil price necessary to balance the budgets of major oil producing countries is above $100 a barrel in 2015, according to data from Citi Research’s Edward Morse.
· Venezuela, already facing serious fiscal woes and rampant inflation, needs oil at $151 a barrel next year to balance its budget, according to the data. Iran, which has yet to agree to curb development of nuclear weapons and heavily subsidizes gasoline for its citizens, needs oil at $131 a barrel. And Russia, whose seizure of Crimea and continuing aggression towards Ukraine has raised tensions throughout Europe and inspired western financial sanctions, needs oil at $107 for a chance of getting its finances in order.
· Editor’s comment We are told that Russia has enough by way of reserves to avoid default on its debt. Venezuela is an interesting case. We thought it is headed for an inevitable default. But apparently it has managed to keep current on debt payments because its debts are not that acute, and it has no plans for default. The economy, of course, is in complete shambles, with hyperinflation and a calamitous shortage of the simplest consumer items like toilet paper and diapers. In the first week of December the black market rate went to 160 bolivars to the US dollar as opposed to the strongest of three official rates, which is $6.5 to $1.
· Those countries that need high oil prices are doubtless counting on prices rebounding as exploration/new production slows. That is why the market is expecting $80 oil toward the end of next year. First, that still wont help the three countries mentioned above. Second, the world is likely going to have to get used to $60-$80 oil because of Canada/US. New methods to extract heavy oil have been developed at substantially reduced costs over today’s costs because they use much less water. As an additional bonus, the methods allow the rapid repair of ecological damage. Of course, it will take decades for the deep forest to return in Canada even with the new methods. But it will return. In the US the heavy oils are not in forested regions; the problem is the scarcity of water in the west. The new methods are easy on water. We are talking 1-trillion barrels in the US recoverable with early 2010s technology. New technology, such as for fracking recovery, is already pushing down breakeven in some US areas to $40.
· The issues Americans should be dealing with have changed. The US should be focusing on ramping production to permit 10-million-barrels/day export even as it must continue reducing its own dependence on oil and on environmental damage. Why should it cut dependence when it has so much? Because the oil will be more valuable if exported. Next, the US has to realize that oil is not just a commodity like other commodities. Without oil, modern civilization does not function. Oil is every bit as much a strategic commodity and as economic one. One of the ways in which the US can restore its global power is through becoming the leading petro-exporter. For example, we are at war with Venezuela, Russia, and Iran, and whether we like it or not, with the terrorist-supporting Gulf oil states.
· Oil is a way we can fight back to limit their power and to gain power vis-à-vis China. Last, the new oil wealth can be used to revitalize America which, we are sorry to say, is in severe economic decline. Yes, the misappropriation of 40% of the GDP by the top 1% for largely unproductive uses is the cause of the decline. Also the economic dogma that profit must be increased by squeezing wages must be ended. If the top 1% were using this money to generate jobs, instead of using it for financial speculation, America could be turned around in a few years. By cutting taxes and regulations for activity that generates jobs, together with raising taxes for financial speculation, combined with new oil wealth, and including entitlement reform, we could make a new beginning as a nation.
· What are the chances this will happen? Currently, zero. Special interests of the right and left are too entrenched. But it does not have to be this way. Change requires American give up the twin narcotics of reality TV and cheap beer. If it is believed we have sunk too low to rise up again, the question arises, how low do we sink before the people rise up to change. Because lower we will continue to sink. America is in increasing disequilibrium. Simple physics says the system must return to equilibrium. Will this return be via peaceful methods, or will it be through violence?
· Up to you, folks. Editor has said he will not be leading or sparking any revolutions at his age.
Sunday 0230 GMT December 14, 2014
· From Rory Bartle The American Thinker article is way off. Just watch the video, then see if you can draw the same conclusions as the article does. I'm not some kind of activist, but this article had the exact effect that they wanted it to vis-a vis your post - individuals who have not watched the video began to spread disinformation...
· Editor’s response Editor did see the video before receiving Mr. Bartle’s email, and was confused because the police officer does have his arm around the suspect’s throat. Here is the video http://tinyurl.com/pypj8uq
· First, Editor has to go backward on this. The autopsy did not show damage to the throat indicative of someone being choked. This is likely why the officer said he did not use a chokehold and why the grand jury believed him.
· Second, after Mr. Bartle wrote in, Editor recalled from his school wrestling days that a neck takedown was perfectly legit. You cannot choke your opponent – foul – but of course you can put your army around his neck and apply pressure to the back or side of his neck to force him to the mat. After receiving Mr. Bartle’s email, Editor looked at the video again, and this time it seemed to him that the officer has one arm pushing from behind the suspect’s neck and the other to the side of the neck, but the other arm is not choking the suspect. So both versions can be true: officer does have his arm around suspect’s neck, but is not using a chokehold.
· Editor was making his usual point about police officers in the old days, that they wouldn’t put any holds on you, they would simply club you to the ground with their nightsticks. The person said “So they can’t beast you now, so they merely shoot you.” A valid point.
· BTW, there seem to be a lot of officers in the video which runs 30-seconds before reinforcements arrived. No officer was in danger. The question arises why the officers couldn’t just talk to the suspect and calm him down. Why even put hands on him or handcuff him, just say they want to talk to him at the station, given the suspect was not accused of a violent crime. In England for minor infractions the police often tell you to show up at such-and-such time for questioning at the station.
· The reason the US police choose not to do this is most cases is that our police have become militarized and are given to the dramatic thrills of “taking down” a suspect with maximum violence. In a lot of places there is no community policing any more, its people playing commandos making a raid on Bin Laden’s hideout. Editor has often said of our police: you wanna play commando, go join the military. Your job is resolve disputes with the absolute minimum of force – still done in countries like the UK, not to do the stormtrooper thing. It is not as if the police know better: they are trained to act the way they act.
· That this is the case reflects on us as a society, not on the police. The American people have become addicted to the maximum violence/no mercy school of policing and law enforcement. We reached a stage in the 1970s/1980s where our patience with crime simply ran out, and we readily accepted a policy where our police deal with all manner of non-violent crime as if we every suspect is a murderous mobster.
· As part of this policy we accept the mass jailing of people unprecedented among the nations of the world. As is often said, we have 5% of the population and 25% of the prisoners in the world. We give phenomenally long sentences for every crime. Yes, there are crimes such as murder that deserve very long sentences. But take, for example, the former GOP governor of Virginia. The prosecutors have asked for 10-12 years. His crime? Taking money from a person who wanted favors. It’s not even clear if the favors were given. Surely, bribery with our without favors done in return should be illegal. But 12-years? No public money was involved, BTW. The governor did not steal from the people.
· The usual credit card scam Editor in 2006 had to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy. At the time Mrs. Rikhye left, Editor was studying for public school certification at her insistence and held a part-time job. This was after helping Mrs. R. through three degrees; for two she did not work at all – Editor wanted it that way, for the third she worked a few hours a week. A request for her to do what she wanted but to stay in the house until Editor got a public school job was rejected by her.
· In Catholic school, Editor was making $36K. In public school, with the 1st master’s he was doing and certification, he would have made $55K. Mrs. R’s departure involved Editor’s mortgage shooting up from $800 (his share) to $1900. He also took all joint debt including her educational debt so Mrs. R could have a free-from- debt start. Also, the youngster was starting college; Editor’s share was 50%. Editor got through two years on student loans and credit cards: there was no way of paying all this on $20K/year before taxes. Just as he got a full-time public school, one credit card company jumped his interest rate from 0% - 4% on different loans to 33%.
· Editor protested to the company that he had being making timely payments all along, now had a full time job, and could start paying down his credit cards. The company said “You’re carrying too much debt”. Editor said: “But 90% of that is you repeatedly raising my limit, something you wouldn’t do for a customer whom you thought could not pay. If you force 33% interest rate on me, I’ll be paying $24K a year for interest/installment versus the $4K/year I pay now. I’ll have to declare bankruptcy.” The company said “We don’t care”.
· So its off to the court, about the most humiliating experience Editor has experienced. There’s a certain pride to going to court for having offed three people who have done your family wrong. There’s no pride to standing there because you’re too poor to repay debts.
· Anyway, the month after declaring bankruptcy and cutting up his 3 credit cards (one sent by his bank without Editor even applying for it, his credit was thought so worthy), Editor starts receiving credit card offers in the mail – including from the very company that forced him into bankruptcy. Now, it’s okay to say “I should pay cash”, but the reality is you have to carry cash, not all places take cheque, and you have to have a credit card for stuff like renting a car or if you are on the road and your car breaks down. So Editor took one card for a modest $1800 limit and 25% interest rate – you can’t expect someone in bankruptcy to get 0% offers with $10K limit. Solution to the interest rate is simple, pay off when due. All well.
· In due time Editor’s credit rating crosses the 700 mark which while not great today is good. So last week he gets an offer from an issuer for a “Black Stainless Steel” preferred, honored, privileged and so on card. Editor is puzzled. Why would anyone send him a preferred card given his income? Opening the letter, he sees the interest rate is 27%. Never heard a preferred card carrying 27% interest rate. Obviously they think Editor is a poor credit risk, else why 27%?
· Somewhere in the small print is “Annual Fee $495”. The light bulb goes on. Because Editor’s income is so low, this company has figured Editor is illiterate and with zero financial education. For the prestige of having a metal card such as “gold”, “platinum” and “titanium”, Editor gets to pay $495/yr for 10-grams of stainless steel, whereas the money would buy about 8-kilos of the stuff each year. And think of how his friends would laugh if he proudly said: “I have a stainless steel card”. You can’t get more louche than a “stainless steel card”.
· So that’s the way it is here. The poorer you are, the more you get scammed.
Saturday 0230 GMT December 13, 2014
· Iran’s Prez is positively hilarious This learned gentlemen opines that there is something “unnatural” in the oil price drop. http://t.co/qUcrIjQ1aU We wonder where they “educate” these people who have so much impact on the lives of Americans. There is nothing wrong in pushing for your country’s interests. There is much wrong in being just plain ignorant.
· Or does the Iran Prez think there is something wrong with the fundamental concept of pricing known as supply and demand? That the price drop has been engineered by evil Americans to destroy Iran?
· The only unnatural thing about oil prices is that thanks to America oil companies working in concert with OPEC, in 1973 the oil cartel managed to push up – within a year –oil prices by an incredible 400%. The mechanism was an embargo on sales to the global market. Today, most would not consider an increase from $3 to $12/bbl an incredible rise. But suppose that overnight prices went from today’s $60/bbl for West Texas Intermediate to$240/bbl and went even higher for several years. Would most people not consider this a terrible economy calamity?
· So it was in 1973. But whereas the developed nations weathered the shock, poor countries like India suffered heavily. After all, the West had hard currency. Moreover, the West was rich. In 1973 US per capita was about $12,000. India’s was $150. Sure, these raw figures do not tell the whole story, but Editor needs to get on with his point. Which is that an oil increase by 4x was a killing event to India not just because of its size, but also because India now had to suddenly find four times as many dollars for this vital commodity.
· By 2008 oil was almost $150/bbl. Nonetheless, they had fluctuated wildly in the previous 25-years. Because increasing price reduces demand, oil prices plummeted in the 1980s. That reduced the imperative for conversation and inhibited the search for new oil. So oil price went up again in the 1990s. By 1999 they were down to about $12/bbl. Then the rise to $150/bbl began. In the late 2000s oil traders gleefuly rubbed their hands at the prospect of a crisis that might close Hormuz, pushing the price to $250/bbl. Instead, on December 12, 1914, West Texas Intermediate fell to $60 and an expectancy is rising that the new floor will be $50 or perhaps even $40.
· A minor point for the edification of oil traders who had hoped for $250/bbl. Had a war pushed up prices that high, the US would have had to push oil company interests aside in favor of the national interest. Futures trading would have been suspended and government price controls imposed. Those who might have speculated on $250 would be looking for cardboard boxes in which to live.
· Another point, which is not really minor. The Arab oil embargo was thought up by American advisors to the Arabs. You may ask why the US Government did nothing to stop prices from going to $150 in 2008. Because it wasn’t just the Arabs who benefited by very high prices. The US oil companies also benefited. Those who talk about the rise in oil price as “the greatest wealth transfer in the history of mankind” that a substantial part of the transfer was to the pockets of oil companies. There is yet another player in the drive to keep prices high: the Greens. But we can’t keep complicating this simple – even simplistic – analysis.
· The Great Recession starting in 2008 knocked prices back to $100 in late 2013. So how did prices fall to $60 even as the US economy recovered? Because – no thanks to the oil majors - a whole bunch of oil/gas American wildcatters operating in the finest American tradition of steel nerves and unbounded believe in their actions created a new supply of hydrocarbons that no one had anticipated.
· Okay, not exactly no one. Many, Editor included, knew of the frantic night-and-day development of new technologies to economically extract unconventional oil. But we had no way of knowing when this would pay off, because the global media and global experts would go “scoff scoff, never happen” at these new developments. As readers know, turning points human events may take decades to build up unnoticed, then they suddenly explode overnight. That explosion began in early 2014 and has continued.
· Inevitably, of course, this new hydrocarbon rush will slow as price fall. That is why oil folks talk of $80+/bbl oil by late 2015. The important thing to realize is that nothing in life stays static. Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. (Though Editor likes to phrase it differently, as in mothers are the invention of necessity.) What is impossible today becomes possible tomorrow.
· The enabling factor can be government, as was the case for science and technology1940-1980 because governments are better suited to run enormously large projects. Such as the A-Bomb – 500,000 people worked on it at a time US population was less than half of what it is today. Ditto space program. It also can be private enterprise, though it does need noting that had the price of capital not sunk to near zero in the last 20-years, these wonderful wildcatters would not have been able to take off.
· Not that the Iran Prez is going to be reading this anytime in this universe, but the causes of the oil price drop are entirely natural. It was made possible by an unnatural event, the cartelization of oil by OPEC. By the way, what if the US had cartelized foodgrains? Even US businesspeople and the US government are not so greedy to have presented the world with the choice of paying or dying. But insofar as oil if the foundation of the modern world economy, OPEC caused a lot of poor people in the world to take a big cut in their already pathetically low living standards, including their ability to buy food when fertilizer, electricity, and distribution costs rocketed.
· Purely as an aside, we appeal to the Greens to please understand the strategic implications of the US hydrocarbon bonanza. The people getting whacked at the drop in oil prices include many of the key tyrants of the world, including almost all oil Arab states, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela. Oil is the key global commodity. It is better the US have as much as possible and our enemies as little as possible.
· We are not saying the Greens should cease their anti-oil campaign. They should press on, because in large part it is their work that has kept improving the oil companies’ environmental record. But America is at war, and the needs of war must come first. For the rest, if the Greens want huge reductions in the burning of carbon, it is better they encourage N-energy rather than try and reduce carbon through expensive government regulations. That’s fine, you all in the West can pay $20 or $50 or $100 per ton for carbon generation. US’s per capita is rising to $50,000. India’s true per capita is $2000 (not the $1500 stated). India has at least 400-million very poor people who spend 60% or more of their income on food. At that, the food is not enough to sustain healthy life. Think of that before you demand ever tougher environmental regulations on carbon generation.
Friday 0230 GMT December 12, 2014
· What is the matter with American journalism? Eric Cox sent us an article from the American Thinker on the New York City case where a white police officer put a black suspect in a chokehold that likely contributed to his death. http://tinyurl.com/o9w9cfy Coming on top of other cases, this one caused fury across racial lines, with folks of every race condemning the police.
· All ye indignant ones (including Editor, who truthfully was only mildly indignant because by the time you’re 70 you’ve seen so much injustice that the deaths of a few persons at the police’s hands hardly register): here is the bad news. (a) The senior police officer present was a black woman. She did not physically participate in taking down the suspect. But her presence destroys the narrative this was a racially motivated crime by a white officer against a black man. (b) The white officer did not put the suspect in a chokehold; the autopsy showed no damage indicating the suspect was choked. (c) The suspect repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe after he was taken down.
· Mr. Cox asks: nonetheless, were the police justified in dogpiling the suspect? This question is worthy of a debate on police tactics. But there is no law – as far as we know – that bars policing officers from piling on to a suspect, particularly when he is a big man. As far as Editor is concerned, when the officers prepared to handcuff the suspect, it was the suspect’s duty to cooperate and not create a situation where the officers had to force him to the ground.
· But even if the suspect supported himself by a life of very petty crime, surely no one deserves to die over untaxed cigarettes? The problem here is the suspect did not die because he sold untaxed cigarettes. He died as an accidental byproduct of his arrest. When the police seek to arrest you, if you do not cooperate, you have to take the consequences. As someone sardonically said, refuse to accept a traffic ticket from a police officer and see what happens to you. When a police officer gives you an order, you don’t argue or debate. You comply. That is the way the police operate worldwide, and its hard to see how they could do otherwise. Real life is not like being in school, where we teachers are expected to get the cooperation of students not by threats or punishment, but by using positive behavior modification – whatever the heck that means.
· What was the accident? The unfortunate suspect died because he was obese and asthmatic; being pushed to the ground and having police officers pile on to him triggered a respiratory crisis. American Thinker says even if the police realized what was going on, there was nothing they could have done because a person dying for lack of breath can be saved only by skilled medical personnel. The police had no a priori way of knowing what was happening. As for the “I cant breathe” part, since the police were not choking the suspect, they would have no reason to believe other than the suspect was simply creating trouble.
· Okay. So much for the background. This is given with the caveat that the Editor has no personal knowledge of the incident. He is relying on what he reads in a media source, just as he was relying on the original story as published in the media. Who said what and who did what is best known to the witnesses and not for us to sort out. Our concern is that because the original media did not report the presence of a black police officer as part of the arresting team, the public drew its own conclusions to decide this was a racial incident.
· The failure of the media to think and investigate before racing to get out a story not placed in context brings into question – once again – the utter irresponsibility of the media. Wait a minute, you will say – particularly oldie types of Editor’s generation or older. Are you saying that media wasn’t irresponsible in the past? You could well say “Now let me tell you, the media was just as bad in the past as it is now.”
· Granted. But back in the day, the media was different. There was a time buffer between events and details reaching the public. There were no live visuals. There was no CNN and social media and whatever to spread a story across the country and the globe within minutes. If you read the global media, which Editor does on computer, you will know the “within minutes” part is not an exaggeration. Sometimes Editor actually reads a story sooner on foreign media than domestic media.
· It so happened that in this case the public was not waiting for an excuse to explode if the Ferguson, MO officer was not indicted. So there were no riots. Perhaps that white folk were also shocked and upset calmed black folk because they did not feel alone and at the mercy of the white oppressor. But it could have turned ugly, coming on top of two other high profile murders of black folk by white officers, including the case where the officer took just a minute or so to assess the situation with the kid who was waving a replica pistol before deciding to gun him down.
· Is there any chance that the New York incident will lead media to examine itself? Obviously not.
· In a novel Editor is reading a character reflects that conspiracy theorists insist there must have been a second shooter at the JFK murder site because no one can fire 3 rounds from a bolt action rifle in a minute. The character notes that Oswald was not someone who spent time plinking cans in the woods, but a trained Marine who most certainly could fire three rounds in a minute.
· This put Editor in mind of a story he read decades ago, when the Indian Army was still using a bolt-action rifle with a 5-round magazine. The story was about the Army’s champion speed shooter, who could fire sixty aimed rounds in a minute. If any ancient reader remembers the news item, do get in touch.
Thursday 0230 GMT December 11, 2014
· “ Why US Disagree with Iraq Winter Offensive in Mosul?” That is the exact headline from Al-Alam. This newspaper happens to be Iranian. The Iranian press is state sponsored. So how come a semi-official Iran newspaper publishes a balanced article, stating – in detail and without editorializing – the US view on why Iraq should not conduct a winter offensive against Mosul?
· A bit of background. Readers may recall the other day we were deriding US plans for an Iraqi Spring 2015 offensive against Mosul with just 2-months training for the Iraqis. We were particularly sneering at the US expectation that the Peshmerga would be part of the offensive, while the KRG was saying their forces would not be ready until Fall 2015.
· So, behold! Imagine our surprise when we learned from Al-Alam of Iran that the Iraqis are raring to go and champing at the bit – for a winter offensive, months earlier than the US had planned. Iraqis – read Shia militia leaders –are going to the extent of complaining that the US doesn’t want Iraqis to liberate Iraq. At this point, of course, any American will want to smack the militia leaders and ask: if the US doesn’t want Iraq to liberate Iraq, who exactly does the US plan to do the job? US troops? Mercenaries? Martians? The way the Shias are talking, its like they’re all 3-years olds: all yelling and screaming and no thinking.
· At that, we think we may have insulted 30yars olds, who are actually far more mature than these fellers. For example, the Shias say they have assembled a joint force of 20,000 including Peshmerga to do the job. But the KRG just said it will not be ready until Fall 2015. Another example: Iraq is going to attack Mosul without having under its control the Line of Communication between Baghdad and Mosul? Most of the territory from Tikrit on north is under Is control. Moreover, while Iraq/Shia militia/Peshmerga have scored a victory in the east, the east is not under Baghdad’s control. Who exactly make an offensive without (a) securing the LC, without securing the flanks? Brainless idiots, that’s who.
· We’ll let you read the article at http://en.alalam.ir/news/1656483 to understand the reasons why the US is discouraging this hasty move. Mainly, however, US says there aren’t enough trained troops, the logistics are not up to the job, there’s no one to hold the territory once cleared of IS. US could add – but probably will not as it lives in La La Land, that the Peshmerga have no intention of liberating Mosul to hand it over to Baghdad. So there is a rather large strategic flaw in both the US plan and the Shia plan, which is really no plan at all.
· Another reason sane folks on all sides are resisting the notion of hasty moves on Mosul is that a city is very hard to take from determined defenders. Need an example? Fallujah, where just 3-4000 Sunni militia faced 11,000US/UK troops and 2,000 Iraq security forces. It took 6-weeks to secure the city. And the allies had unlimited firepower – civilians had been given every chance to escape, so the fire was unrestricted.
· Will Iraqi forces at Mosul have 3-1 superiority in manpower, and an enormous superiority in training, logistics, and firepower over IS? Currently IS is said to have “hundreds” of fighters in Mosul. We’re a bit dubious, we can’t see how that small a number can hold down a city of a million people. Nonetheless, there should be no doubt that the IS can concentrate 10,000 fighters there, including anti-Baghdad/anti-Shia Sunni fighters. Because it’s a city, US will strictly limit the use of its airpower. You can’t for example, clear a machine-gun position by dropping a couple of 500-pounders on it because while you’ll kill 10 IS, you’ll also kill 3-5 times as many civilians. In Fallujah you could expend as much explosive as you wanted: air delivered bombs and rockets, gunships, 155mm artillery shells, anti-bunker missiles and so on. It still took six weeks. Also, please to note: despite heavy US air support (or what passes for heavy in Third Gulf)and a 1-1 parity in manpower, the Kobane defenders have been unable to defeat IS.
· We thought the US plan an inane one, but the Shia militia’s plan is not just inane, its insane. As in “Cuckoo!” followed by urgent call to the nurse for horse tranquilizer injections. If the US lets the Shia militia go ahead, the offensive will fail big time and the militia men will be looking for their sorry butts in the sky, because that’s where their butts will be blown.
· Okay, so much for that. Back to the main point. Obviously Al-Alam’s article has been cleared by Teheran. And so obviously it’s part of a psychological ploy by Teheran to tell the Shia militias to cool it. But nonetheless its interesting – and quite strange – that Iran is quoting the Americans to make its own case.
Wednesday 0230 GMT December 10, 2014
· The parents of 3 Muslims teenagers arrested October 4 enroute to Turkey to join the Islamic State have said that they taught their children to love their country and their religion. http://tinyurl.com/mtv4x2e Did it occur to these parents that for Muslims religion easily triumphs country?
· Palestine now has observer status at the International Criminal Court. http://t.co/0YZUZ2RLL1 Palestine says it will push the court to press charges against Israel for war crimes. Fair enough. Will the ICC also investigate Palestine war crimes, such as the recent war? From the Palestine side this consisted almost entirely of Palestinians firing rockets at Israeli civilians – which is what started the war.
· Two police killings To Editor, the grand jury in the Ferguson, MO case did the right thing. But what does one say about the New York chokehold death? The suspect did not resist the police in any way. He was placed in a chokehold that led to his death. Perhaps if he had not been so overweight and asthmatic he might have survived. But that is hardly the point. New York City police are expressly forbidden to use chokeholds. The officer’s actions are clearly shown on tape. Yet he was acquitted. How exactly is this going to convince anyone, whatever their color, that grand jurys in the case of police killings are fair?
· Muslims in Montgomery County, Maryland where Editor lives are highly upset that the school system has refused to grant Muslims a holiday whereas Jews have two. We’d mentioned that the school board, in the true spirit of American liberalism had taken the weasel course of refusing to make a direct response; instead the board eliminated all mention of religious holidays on the school calendar, such as Christmas, Easter, and the two Jewish holidays. Muslim groups have blasted the school board and announced plans to expand their demands to other Maryland school districts.
· Seeing the liberals getting beat up brings much joy to Editor’s otherwise boring life. All the board needed to say was that Montgomery County has a large number of Jewish teachers. It did not used to give the Jewish holidays. It was forced to reconsider when it could not arrange substitute coverage for so many absent teachers. In short, this was a matter of practicality, not religion. The board could have said if in the future an increasing number of Muslim teachers enter the system to the point it impacts teaching, the board will reconsider.
· But telling the truth and facing up to the consequences is not something American liberals do well. NTW, Editor has nothing against liberals – he considers himself as one of the tribe. It is the Politically Correct Variant which is without principle he is talking about.
· There is much upset among various interest groups about the discovery that the University of Virginia fraternity case has been discredited. People are worried that this will divert attention from the real problem of campus sexual assault. This case might not be true, people are saying, but many/most are. Curiously, no one has had anything to say about the seven boys that were wrongly accused by name or by implication of a very serious crime. No one has anything to say about the current trend of marking every male as a potential rapist – a position firmly held by some feminists.
· Has UVa issued an apology for punishing not just the fraternity involved but ALL UVa fraternities, and then for the sake of political corrections, punishing all sororities as well? Is this justice? Are we to believe than men don’t matter? BTW, why were the sororities shut down? Have there been any allegations of men being lured into dark sorority rooms and subjected to mass rape? But more seriously, this is where political correctness leads: the girls are being punished because the boys are, and the administration wants no one to accuse it of sexism in favor of the women even if no one has accused them of misconduct.
· Also, BTW, isn’t collective punishment forbidden in war and peace?
Tuesday 0230 GMT December 9, 2014
· Excerpt of letter from a reader You keep talking about the need to mobilize our national resources in a fight-to-the-finish with militant Islam. Yet aside from vague generalities you never detail what it will take in terms of manpower, money, time, and casualties. It is easy to make sweeping, superficial statements. It is more difficult to consider costs vs benefits, a force structure, strategy, tactics and more. Until you do that, all I hear from you is talk.
· Editor’s reply Sigh. Young people are so rude and so disrespectful of their elders. Not to say impatient. Ah well. Editor supposes he has no right to complain. When he was young, he was all these things. Now that he most definitely an elder in a few days, he is still rude, disrespectful, and impatient with everyone of any age, except those young people who come to him and ask to be taught.
· An American reader will not know about Editor’s last book, which was writing precisely to address the letter writer’s complaint, but in the context of India, Pakistan, and China. At 150,000 words, it is only a précis; the real deal would have to be closer to 750,000 words, of which 4/5th would have to be spent in refuting in advance arguments that people who are only partly informed will bring. Okay, so this took eight months part-time, about 2000-hours of work. The book sold 7 copies. No one – including people sent free copies – has read through it. Editor is not blaming anyone, because his books are unreadable by anyone who can be classified as normal. Now, Editor loves this defense analysis business, but at some point one has to pay the mortgage: everything else can be cut back on, but not the mortgage. No one is going to pay for such a work, because Editor’s basic premise will be labeled as unrealistic by anyone who reads the first paragraph. They won’t be able to refute the premise, they will merely say “this is unrealistic.”
· Nonetheless, the Editor will spell out, in the barest outline what he is saying with reference to the US. The first assumption is that true American values are the only values which benefit humanity now and in the future. Sure these values come from western humanism so they are not uniquely American. But only America has the ability to truly spread them globally and to change the world. So this is not just about militant Islam, it is about a true American global empire that is benign and just. That means, for example, authoritarianism in all its forms must be defeated. Militant Islam is only one form.
· Because authoritarians will not be moved to give up power just because we put them on the road to Damascus and they pass through the gate of enlightenment, this process has to be accomplished by force. Nations that have never had proper humanistic regimes need more than for us to liberate them. We need to expend great effort to destroy counter-revolutionary elements and to spend decades in building these new nations. Eliminating the despots is, in fact, the easy part,
· Because unfortunately we Americans have strayed far from our own revolutionary ideals and because we have created a reactionary society, we will need also to bring revolution to our own country – which is to say, regain the ideals under which the nation was founded. Unfortunately, the immediate threat of militant Islam is so great that we don’t have time to first transform ourselves before embarking on our great mission to transform. We have to operate two concurrent missions: transform ourselves while we transform the world. To those who will ask: “Havent we already done this and failed miserably?” the answer is yes. We failed because we did not live up to our own ideals. That does not mean we now give up: we are humanity’s only hope.
· As a rough back-of-envelope calculation, Editor believes that we need to immediately increase GDP defense spending to 6% to defeat militant Islam in the short run, and 8% to overthrow all tyrants. This level of spending can easily be maintained if we simply truly reform the medical system and make other changes in the way we tax and spend. This will require sacrifice – mainly by vested interests of every political stripe. It will probably a require a reduction of our hedonistic, rampant consumerism. This does not mean we go back to the austerities of the 1940s – and even then Americans had the highest standard of living in the world. It does probably mean we will have to sacrifice our lattes and new I-Pods every 2 years. (You can see Editor’s scheme will be deemed impossible just because of this one point.)
· The numbers we have already discussed. For example, militant Islam cannot be destroyed unless we commit at least 10 ground divisions to the Middle East. And yes, success is contingent on sending our great friends the Saudis and Gulf ruler into exile. For us to succeed, we cannot compromise with any special interest, at home and abroad. This means a 30 ground division force. And no, that does not mean tripling army/UMUC spending, only doubling it. This means an 18 carrier battle group force and amphibious lift for two divisions. We can probably get by on 16 fighter wings because we are so far ahead of our adversaries not much additional airpower is required. Of course, we will have to expand specialized forces such as airlift and tankers.
· Are we arguing for a state of perpetual war? Hardly. The purpose is to build up to the point that the minute we target a regime, the regime’s calculus says there is no way it is going to survive, and that pushing off to the fleshpots on the west is better than dying. But are we seriously suggesting occupation of the Middle East? Wont the Arabs rise up against us? Hardly. Did the people of Iraq rise up against us? Some of the militant Shias did, until after a couple of campaigns they realized they could not win. Ditto Sunnis. Ditto Middle East. Does anyone really think that the Saudi people will die to defend their regime? They will join us in deposing their corrupt rulers. But how can we fight a regional insurgency? That is so simply done its pointless even to ask.
· And so on. So America: are you ready to cut back on the lattes? No? Look at it this way. Unless we cut back on lattes and change our own country, at some point the dispossessed of the country will rise and take those lattes for themselves. Why not accept the inevitable and for once go with the flow instead of fighting it as we have been doing for at least the last 70-years?
Monday 0230 GMT December 8, 2014
· Young Indian Army officers take to social media about the terrorist attack on Uri last week. Uri is almost on the Kashmir line of control. There is an election underway in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which more properly is the state of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh. The Army and paramilitary forces are out to ensure security. Because of the need for security, and because of limited policing resources, the elections has been taking place in stages.
· The turnout so far has been in the 70% range, which is high, particularly for a state that is alleged by some Americans to be groaning under the yoke of Indian oppression, something like the US’s District of Columbia, where citizens are not allowed to vote for a government of their own. Of course, these same Americans never bother to inquire about the state of democracy in Pakistan Kashmir, but that’s neither here nor there.
· Six terrorists belonging to that bastion of human right and freedom, the Islamist group Lakshar-e-Toba, just another of the unpleasant creation of Pakistan military intelligence, attacked an army camp at Uri on Friday December 5, before dawn. In the subsequent fighting, 8 army soldiers including a lieutenant-colonel were killed, as were the six terrorists.
· Now young officers have taken to the social media to blame their generals. http://ajaishukla.blogspot.com/ The Indian Army, to prove its human rights credentials, has already court-martialed, jailed, and Kashmir an unknown number of officers in the state for HR abuses. Just very lately, 9 men of an army battalion were arrested for killing two Kashmiri students, who turned out to be unarmed, for running a roadblock. It would be useful for HR critics of India to tell us how many US soldiers have been arrested and put on trial for killing folks unarmed who don’t stop at roadblocks. That the car needed to be searched for weapons and explosives – there is, after all, an insurgency underway - seems to be beside the point.
· To the Indian leadership, Kashmir is all about winning hearts and minds. This is subsequent to a very brutal and very successful counterinsurgency 1987-2004 which had the effect of ending a 17-year war. The current war is a new one, that has been ginned up subsequent to the withdrawal of NATO/US forces from Afghanistan, which leaves several tens of thousands of militants and terrorists free for employment elsewhere. The Army has decided to make an example of the 9 men. Earlier they made an example of an Army team that lured suspected terrorists into an ambush and killed them; there appears – if Editor has understood – grave doubt if the men really were terrorists. In the US we sensibly treat these incidents as a “Sorry About That”, but here you are dealing with an Army that is determined to stamp out HR abuses.
· Thus the Uri incident. The terrorists’ vehicle approached at 0300. The area was under curfew – it is a forward border position. Civilian movement is banned at this time. The soldiers on duty heard or saw/heard the terrorists’ vehicle approaching, but under the rules of engagement, were not permitted to open fire even though the vehicle was breaking curfew, Moreover, we may doubt the persons in the vehicle were bring hot chocolate and bunny slippers to boost the morale of the army post, given the harsh conditions of a Kashmiri winter. One hates to think what would have happened had this been a suicide bomber with a few hundred kilograms of explosives gotten into the Army camp.
· The young Army officers are protesting this. We will not get into how unprecedented it is for Indian Army officers to take to the media. After all, serving American soldiers who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq did loudly complain each time they were buggered over by their senior commanders. Which, Editor needs to point out to his American readers, was very, very frequently. The senior Indian Army leadership has launched a counter social media campaign, suggesting the post was lax.
· Now, Editor needs to clearly state he is horrified that the young officers have gone public, albeit under the cover of social media which gives certain assurance of anonymity. But he is even more horrified that senior officers – which means 3-star generals – have retaliated by blaming the men in the trenches. Whether the charge of laxness is supported or not, it is astonishing that the Indian generals are violating every principle of command by reflexively and publically blaming their men.
· Alas, the young officers had no choice except to utilize this wrong method of making known their frustration. The Indian Army is not a huggy-touchy-feely sort of organization. The young officers have no voice. It may be added that the Other Ranks have even less. They have no whistle-blower rights or anything akin to that. Americans know how far in-house complaints by company-grade officers to their superior are taken. To spare readers the suspense, they are NOT taken. To complain is to end one’s career. So it is for India. It’s easy for outsiders to say “they should resign”. See, India’s army is a professional force. You cannot resign. Unhappiness with your leadership is not an acceptable ground for resignation. If it is a grave personal matter, someone might hear you out, with zero assurance that even if you have the best of cases that you will be granted permission. But to say you want to reign because your government and your generals are failing their leadership responsibilities? Impossible.
· When soldiers are frightened to open fire even though the rules of engagement dictate they should, something is very wrong in the kingdom of Indraprastha (Aka Delhi, India).
Saturday 0230 GMT December 6, 2014
· NASA’s Orion: Triumph and Failure Yesterday, NASA’s Orion spacecraft performed flawlessly: launch, 2 orbits of earth, and recovery. Orion is a 6-crew vehicle intended for Mars missions. Normally this success would be something for America to be proud about.
· But consider. Fifty-two years ago, in 1962, John Glenn did three orbits of the earth. In 1965 Gemini 3 did three orbits with a 2-man crew. In 1968 An Apollo mission featured 10-days in earth orbit with a crew of three. Just the next year, 1969, Americans landed on the moon. By 1972, six landings had taken place. So it’s hard to get excited about a 2-orbit unmanned mission, even if Orion is a six-crew vehicle.
· In fact, far from being a success, Orion demonstrates the complete failure of the American will and the ignominious betrayal of the American spirit by succeeding generation of little-minded political leaders. But wait: it gets worse. When do you think the next flight of Orion will take place? Next year? Hardly. It takes place in 2018 – if funds allow, which is by no means certain. When will the first manned Orion mission occur? In 2021 – if funds allow. When will we head for Mars? In the 2030s – if funds allow, else in the 2040s – if the US government still has any interest in manned space exploration.
· The original Mars target was 1980, so we will go to Mars after a delay of 60 to 70 years – if funds are made available. When you mention 1980, you encounter a good deal of scoffing on the lines of “that was a totally unrealistic target, do you realize how hard a Mars mission is?”. Hmmmm. Strange, then, that President Kennedy did not realize how hard a moon mission was back in 1963 – when the US did not even have a reliable launch vehicle. Yet six years later Americans were on the moon. Strange too that the great mariners of yore, folks like Columbus and Magellan did not realize how hard their missions were. Or is it that they, and Kennedy, understood this full well, but were determined to push ahead regardless?
· There are two differences between the mid-1960s and the mid-2010s. One is we no longer have the will to push ourselves to the limit and beyond. The second is in the earlier period we spent 4%+ of GDP on NASA, now that amount is one-tenth as much. More scoffing as in: “Do you realize how the money is simply not available?”. Hmm. Strange that in 1962 they had money available, at a time the defense budget consumed 9% of GDP versus 3.7% in 2014. In 1962, 47% of the federal budget was going for defense. You can see all these figures at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2014/assets/hist.pdf So, gee, in 1965, when defense/NASA was consuming almost 12% of GDP, compared to a third that today, Americans must have lived a life of great shortage and deprivation, madly sacrificing to pointless defense and pointless space exploration. Must have been tough then. Well, Editor remembers the 1960s rather well, and he doesn’t remember it that way at all. It was a time of great prosperity.
· Sometimes Editor thinks only way we’ll get moving again is because of the Chinese. They’ve clearly said they plan to land on the moon. They’ve clearly said they intend to militarize the moon. They haven’t announced any firm plans for Mars, but we can be sure they are going there, if only to beat us to it. So if only for the same of competition and self-defense we’ll have to keep several steps ahead of the Chinese. But sometimes Editor thinks: do we really care anymore? The rise of China has certainly not spurred us to action. Instead we’ve been lulling ourselves with garbage thoughts such as “we’ll work toward integrating China into the global order”. Only problem is the Chinese have given no indication they wanted to be integrated into our, or anyone else’s world order. They have, rather, given every indication that they will someday integrate us into their world order. This doesn’t seem to bother us in the least.
· Hey, if we really suck up to them maybe they’ll give us a seat on their fourth or fifth Mars mission. Or is Editor being too optimistic?
Friday 0230 GMT December 5, 2014
· Iraq: here US goes again US has been touting a planned spring offensive against Mosul, IS’s key stronghold in the north. Allegedly troops are being given two-months training and will be ready to go soon. It will be a joint Iraq-Peshmerga affair. Lovely.
· Except the Peshmerga says it wont be ready for an offensive until Fall 2015. You’d think by now US would have learned to think before speaking, but apparently not. It would be of interest to know: did the US consult the Peshmerga before setting a Spring 2015 date? Or has the US already slipped back into its 2003-11 imperial mode where US gave the orders, while the colonials shuffled their feet trying their best not to obey in a passive-aggressive way?
· BTW, it is not as if Americans as a race are Dumb-Dumber-Dumbest. When that Spring target was announced, Editor distinctly recalls a lot of American sources scoffing at the unreality of it all. There was also scoffing when US announced plans to form the New New Iraq Army, of the variety “pray tell, what are we going to do differently this time?” It unfortunately remains true, just as it did 11-years ago, that the Americans making the decisions in Iraq are being just as stupid as they were before. Okay, then at least there was a feeble excuse: US hadn’t done this kind of intervention/rebuilding. We say “feeble” because US did build the ROK Army into a formidable fighting force that bore the brunt of combat in 1950-53, though usually US forces were in the lead. In Vietnam the US also built a reasonably competent army. We’ve given the figures earlier: ROK took 6:1 killed compared to US; ARVN took 4:1 killed.
· Right, so it’s also been repeatedly said the US military has no institutional memory. So was anyone been punished for this? Don’t think so. That’s the way it is in the US military at least since 2nd Indochina. No one is punished for failure. Anyway, if in 2003 we had a feeble excuse for mucking up things, was is our excuse for continuing stupidities in 2013-14? Having no institutional memory is one thing. Quite another is our senior commanders forgetting what they should have learned during multiple tours of Iraq/Afghanistan.
· Editor may be completely wrong on this, but he sees absolutely no retrospection on the part of our military and civilian leadership as to why Iraq Army collapsed – and remains collapsed – after an offensive by maybe 10-20,000 IS and allies in June 2013. Okay, Editor has to back up: we don’t have a civilian national security leadership and haven’t had one since 2008, so how can a non-existent civil leadership do retrospection? Nonetheless, what he does see is a lot of blame-gaming along the lines of “we were perfect, the Iraqis messed up.”
· Now, we left at the end of 2011; just 18-months later the Iraq Army ceased to exist. Might it just be that we did such a lousy job that when faced with a real test the Iraqi Army ran away? Also, was the IS really a “real test”? It was lightly armed, moving in civilian SUVs, it was not an army by any means. Rather it was a bunch of enthusiastic militia. Which defeated our trained-equipped Iraq Army, which had tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery and so on up the old wazoo. Is it not more probable that we failed rather than the Iraqis failed?
· For example, it now turns out that the actual army strength was 200,000, not the 350,000 or so we allegedly left behind. So are we expected to believe that in 18-months, with no fighting required of them, 150,000 Iraqi soldiers simply deserted? Were they just waiting for the last American plane to depart before high tailing it home? Seems unlikely. Then the US has been blaming Maliki for putting in generals loyal to him rather than choosing strictly on the basis of competence. First, anyone remember Saddam? Didn’t he choose his generals for loyalty? They nonetheless for 8-years against Iran, losing 200,000 killed. Not a small amount given the population was about 25-million. It would be like us losing 2.4-million killed. Second anyone remember the ARVN? Its generals too were chosen for loyalty. So may be the ARVN wasn’t as good as it could have been. But it still fought – for more than ten years, which is a very long time to be at war. And ARVN was fighting PAVN, who were the best infantry of the 20th Century bar the World War II Germans. Then our leaders bring up corruption. Right, so presumably there was no corruption under Saddam or in the South Vietnamese government.
· These are all excuses intended to divert any honest assessment of why we failed with the Iraqis. BTW, some readers may point out that the Americans were openly saying that the Iraqis weren’t ready to be on their own. Doubtless it was true. Which leads to another unpleasant question. How come the ROKA was ready within a year or two, and how come ARVN was also ready in about the same time after the Americans landed up enmasse in 1965?
· You see, unless these questions are ruthlessly asked, and the lessons taken to heart, and mistakes remedied, we are again going to fail. Just BTW, anyone in Washington have an answer for another simple question: why should Shias fight and die for Sunnis in Anbar, and Kurds in Mosul? The Kurds are not giving Mosul back to Baghdad. Or perhaps this tiny detail has been overlooked by our “best generals in the world”?
· But what do we know? We’re only from Iowa.
Thursday 0230 GMT December 4, 2014
· Baghdad, Erbil reach agreement on revenues Erbil will give Baghdad 550,000-bbl/day of oil in exchange for $12-billion/year and another $1-billion from Iraq MOD to KRG for the Peshmerga. There have been many deals and many false starts, but essential – it seems to us – that Baghdad has gotten what it has demanded for a long time, since KRG seriously began exporting oil around late 2011.
· At the same time, Baghdad too has compromised. 300,000-bbl/day will come from Kirkuk, which until KRG seized the area after the IS invasion, was part of Iraq. In effect, Erbil is selling Baghdad oil already owned by Iraq. Perhaps this is why al-Maliki, former prime minister and now one of two vice-presidents for Iraq, has been scoffing at the deal. Nonetheless, Maliki failed to reach any deal at all, so the current prime minister, al-Abidi, has made progress in resolving the dispute.
· Still, the deal needs closer scrutiny. For Erbil this is an excellent deal. Its oil output has been surging. So far Erbil has been exporting via Ceyhan (Turkey)on a ship-by-ship basis, with the tanker companies continuing threat of legal action by Baghdad. True no one has been paying much attention to Baghdad: oil is oil, if the price is right people will buy, using any number of evasions. One used by the shippers is for tankers out of Ceyhan to off-load to other tankers, which then sell the oil in Europe. No one asks for proof of origin, because there is no international embargo on buying KRG oil, only a lot of windy half-threats by the US. The US wants to discourage KRG’s independence, though we have to wonder if at last the US has seen sense and accepted that that ship has sailed.
· But now half-million bbl/day has a firm buyer, Baghdad. Moreover, Erbil is getting $60/bbl for the oil, which is about the maximum it could expect given the crash in oil prices. We won’t get into the technical discussion of KRG oil pricing, so you’ll have to take our word that this is a decent price for the Kurds.
· Importantly, however, the question of Kurdish independence seems to have been sidelined for now, with a decision made that fighting IS is more important than hypotheticals that lie in the future. Al-Maliki insisted on pinning Erbil to stay within Iraq, so anything that helped its independence was anathema to him. It is probable that may Iraqis do not feel as strongly as he does about keeping the country united given that Baghdad does not have – and will not have – any means of bringing The Kurds back into a close union. Neither is there going to be a viable Iraq army for some years, nor will it be overly anxious to wage a 2-front war, against IS and Erbil, or even just a 1-front war, against Irbil after IS is defeated. If/when it is defeated. So Baghdad is doing nothing more than accepting the reality on the ground.
· Further, with the fall in oil prices – which last 2-3 years before climbing again –the only way Iraq can meet its budget is by producing more oil. That will take time. So the money gained from Erbil’s oil will help. You will ask: with oil at $70, Iraq is making a profit of just $2-billion (approximately) on Kurdish oil. Isn’t this an insignificant sum? First, its better than no money. Second, just because new oil is $70 today doesn’t mean previous contracts are at that price. Iraq could be holding contracts to supply at $100-$110. Oil pricing is terribly complex and seldom transparent.
· Erbil, incidentally, gives a much more generous price to foreign companies producing oil in Kurdistan than Baghdad gives to its foreign producers. Erbil, therefore, will not be getting $60/bbl but something more akin to $45 – again, there is a lot of guesswork on our part, don’t take these figures as precise. Still, the addition of$9-billion/year to Erbil’s revenues will be very welcome and will seriously boost the region’s economy. Remember, there’s just 5-million or so Kurds in KRG. Nine billion dollars is a hefty addition to the revenue base.
· Also incidentally, Editor suspects a lot of revenue is being siphoned off the books in KRG. He hasn’t done a detailed study on this and nor will he because he has other things to do. Of course, Baghdad also siphons off oil revenues. Given that its revenues should be in the range of $100-billion plus, you can see there is considerable potential for many, many, many people to become wealthy. The Saudis do this siphoning off the best: all oil belongs to the royal family, so it isn’t siphoning off!
· Eric Cox notes that – despite what we said yesterday – a US policeman’s claim of being feeling threatened as a reason to kill still has to pass a test of reasonableness. He notes that it is unusual for juries to reject the police’s reasonableness claim. He also notes that handguns are tightly controlled in Canada even though long guns are not. If at all readers are familiar with guns, they will know murdering someone with a long gun is quite a bit harder than with a handgun. For one thing, you cannot conceal the long gun. He wonders if our Canadian neighbors are more civilized than we are. Of this there can be no doubt. Indeed, Editor in his American mode would be insulted if someone conflated the terms “American” and “civilized”. There are many advantages to being considered violently uncontrolled.
· Richard Thatcher and Editor have been discussing the X-37B, which returned in October from a flight 3x longer than the stated maximum endurance of this vehicle. Editor’s interest in the X-37B is its “limpet mine” anti-satellite capability. Of course, US admits to no such capability. Indeed, it admits to NO capability of ANY sort for this vehicle. Editor thought that with its ability to disappear from radar, X-37B could creep up to enemy satellites and attach – say – a soda can worth of explosive and shrapnel, to be activated at need. That should wreck any satellite. Richard pointed out that a mine carrying bus launched from X-37B would be better for attaching mines than creeping up. It’s easier, after all, to conceal a stealth bus. He also pointed out a disadvantage of Editor’s soda can mine: it would create too much debris, which is not something you want in orbit. Something knocking out 10% of a satellite could disable it and produce much less debris.
· There is also the X-37C in prospect, capable of carrying six personnel. Okay, it will have that capability, but government has not told us what such a capability might be used for. Thoughts, readers?
Wednesday 0230 GMT December 3, 2014
· 1000 US police killings a year? An op-ed in the Washington Post says that is likely the case http://tinyurl.com/pcvyxyx The FBI reported about 475 justified killings at the hands of police in 2013, but apparently – surprisingly – all police killings are not reported to the FBI. One wonders why this is so in a country obsessed with statistics, particularly given this is an important one.
· Context is everything; fortunately the op-ed provides it. Britain reported no police killings in 2013, the population is about a fifth that of the US. Germany reported 8 killings in two years; its population is one-fourth that of the US, so this equates to an average of 16/year byUS stadards. Canada with 1/10th US population reported about a dozen. Take that as 12, then Canada has the equivalent of 120/year. This is an important comparison because the Canadians love their guns as much as we do, though they kill each other at a far lower rate. Northern US white also kill each other at rates far lower than the general US population.
· About 20% of deaths at US police hands are African Americans, no figure on how many were armed or not. No context here because some significant percentage of US police are non-white. What was news to Editor is that a big percentage – unspecified in the op-ed – of people killed by police are mentally unstable. Editor knows this happens all the time simply by reading the local news, but he did not know this was a major category.
· And – interesting context – less than 30 US police each year are killed. This is much fewer than Editor would have thought, given the wide US prevalence of guns and the willingness of people to use them. What would be useful to know – and no way Editor can think up of knowing – is how the very low rate of police killings is due to the US police policy of kill-on-threat. Meaning, if US rules of engagement were stricter, say on British standards, what increase there would be in US police deaths.
· What folks who are outraged at events in Ferguson, MO have to realize is that given the police doctrine of shoot-on-threat, whether the dead teenager was surrendering or charging is entirely irrelevant because the officer says he felt threatened. Please to understand, folks, there is no presupposition that the officer has to justify feeling threatened. At any point he can feel threatened and shoot-to-kill. That is the end of it, and just because it was an unarmed black teenager who was the victim has nothing to do with it. Can critics of the policeman’s action assure us that had a white teenager of Brown’s size confronted the officer in the manner Brown did, he would not have been killed? Can they assure us that if a black officer had shot an unarmed white teenager they would have been as outraged? Can they assure us that if a black officer had shot the teenager there would have been the same outrage?
· The people who don’t like the way US police are allowed to kill-on-threat should focus their outrage on the system. In previous posts, Editor has already made his suggestion on how to reduce police killings: hire only big, strong people as officers and have them patrol in pairs. Another obvious change that has to be made is to the rules of engagement. Police have to be taught to disable threatening unarmed people and even people waving knives or baseball bats instead of being taught to kill them as efficiently as possible.
· The Ferguson, MO government has decided to hire more black officers – there are only three in the force of around 57. Editor supports this move because once the police force is more integrated, the citizens of the city will realize what anyone who lives in localities with integrated forces already knows: police are foremost police, regardless of their color. They behave the same.
Tuesday 0230 GMT December 2, 2014
· It’s not easy being a genius like the Editor He wrote two brilliant papers one for each of courses. He got the expected A in one, but only a B in the other. Why? Because the professor who graded the B paper took 10 points off (a whole grade) because the topic had not the approved one. Editor then realized he had mixed up the recipients of the papers. The A professor is easy going about term paper topics and I had warned him I might change midway of the approved topic turned out to be dull or of little interest. With both papers graded, and term ended, Editor can hardly ask if he can resubmit the correct paper to each professor. The thing is dyslexics normally don’t make academics/research their career. Editor has no problem in his own field because he’s been at it for 54 years, and if he sent the wrong paper to the wrong recipient, it’s a simple matter of correcting the error. Besides which, except for academics he wouldn’t have two papers to work on at the same time. Positively painful, since after killing himself all semester Editor going to end of with a B in one course.
· Europeans are clowns, and not particularly funny ones at that In response to the Pootie Poot’s aggressions, the Europeans decided to put together a quick reaction brigade. Pooties has 40 brigades, but no matter. One is thought enough to deter him. NATO/EU already has quick reaction forces up the wazoo, but never mind; turns out none really work so a new one has to be developed.
· The EU has a GDP of $17-trillion, slightly exceeding US’s, and it has a larger popular, again, not by much. A 5,000-troop brigade should be ready for duty in a couple of months, you’d think. But this is the Euros. It will be ready by 2016. Okay, so that’s fairly clownish, but not worthy of jeers and rotten tomatoes. But just a few weeks after deciding to raise such a force from existing units, the Euros are already complaining about the money and saying its too hard to get the troops together. Ignore that their combined army is much bigger numerically than the US Army.
· If getting a brigade together is too hard, may we politely ask why the Euros are maintaining armies? It seems as if a single company should suffice for each nation. Why a company? To have an honor guard when comes time to sign instruments of surrender after half-a-dozen inebriated Russian border guards accidently cross the EU border.
· Meanwhile, we’ve already mentioned the US will forward base an entire brigade – gasp, swoon, this is so impressive – in Europe. Two brigades are already there, the173rd Airborne in Italy and 2nd ACR in Germany. What the 2nd ACR is doing is not clear to Editor; 173rd is the US’s fire brigade for Europe/Africa. Any idiot knows that to truly deter Putin requires 12 divisions, of which three will have to be American. Apparently, however, neither the White House nor the Pentagon contains any idiots because they apparently think 2+1 brigades will scare off the Big Bad Bear.
· Editor has been pondering what is to be done He devoted an entire three minutes to the problem before getting the solution. Back in the day (post-WW2), the Soviets and “allies” could put perhaps 250 divisions into combat, given sufficient warning time to call up reserves and perform necessary training. In the 1950s, NATO decided that to counter the Warsaw Pact, there was no question of maintaining the 100+ divisions needed. So NATO went to massive retaliation, i.e., if the Pact crossed the Inner German Border, NATO would respond with nuclear weapons of many different varieties. It gave up the idea of a conventional defense. Came the 1960s and it occurred to NATO that it needed an intermediate capability: you couldn’t go nuclear just because a Soviet tank company crossed the border. So there was a huge conventional buildup. US part, if anyone is interested, was 5 divisions in Germany and five more with Pre-Po stocks to be flown in within days, plus a division to Norway.
· But now we are back to the 1950s and NATO does not want to pay for a conventional defense. Ergo or whatever, we have to go back to massive retaliation. I.e., send the nukes back to Europe and make it clear you will use them even if one Soviet tank company crosses. You can do proportional response in the sense that for one company you’d react with one tac nuke. What about salami tactics a la Ukraine? Same response. Convoy crossing the border will be nuked.
· You’ve already realized the weakness of this suggestion. Those namby pamby Europeans will tremble in their pink bunny slippers at the very thought of a return to nuclear warfighting. Heck, they go all pale and swoony at the thought of a civilian nuclear reactor. Any Euro government that signs on to the nuke thing will likely be shown the door.
· So we go back to the one-company army. Realistically, the only plan that will work for the Euros is to lie back and think of England in winter. Putin already knows this. The nibbling will continue; Estonia and Finland are next.
· But wont sanctions stop Putin? Okay, brief quiz. Facing sanctions, Czar Poots caves and agrees to kiss NATO/Euro butt once every hour around the clock. Or he gets belligerent and builds up his forces even further.
· To answer this, again one has to go back a bit. From 1940 onward until 1990, the Soviets were a nothing state, of no importance – except for their nukes and their multi-million man armies. They were hated and feared. We don’t know what the current estimate is, but they may have been spending 20-40% of GDP on defense and even this likely understates the actual amount. This left the Soviet families each with a tiny cheap rent apartment, cheap bread, cheap vodka, cheap transportation, and little else. Coincidentally as part of their system they had very little crime (ignoring the crimes perpetrated by the state against its people, but you know what we are saying). They personally had little, but their country was a very powerful one that had to be reckoned with by the west in every corner of the world. It may be that if a dictator makes them give up some of their standard of living in return for global power, they will go with the dictator. Of course, from 1917-1990 they had no choice but to go along with the dictator. As the Soviets might have said with no irony, Better Red Than Dead.
Friday 0230 GMT November 28, 2014
· With finals at last done for Editor’s fall term, he ventured out of the house to buy a pair of gloves. His youngster, who is now 28, loves to leave Editor’s umbrellas and gloves somewhere else. So after two years of making do with those tiny black excuses for gloves that fold into a package the size of a 4-year old’s socks, Editor decided it was time for a proper pair. Off he went to Walmart on Georgia Avenue, Washington DC, almost next to Takoma Park. No gloves. Try on Wednesday. Came home, checked Target’s website, which said the store was open 8AM-11PM.
· Off Editor went to Westfield Mall, Wheaton, MD, about 5-miles way. Mall was curiously deserted. Good, Editor thought, no crowds for once. Target entrance locked. JC Penny’s entrance locked. Now Editor is not about to buy gloves from Macys, but he thought he’d try the Macy’s entrance and walk inside to Target. Macy’s locked. He stood outside pondering the cosmic significance of his inability to find an open door. Very metaphorical statement for his life, he pondered. A mall maintenance worker passed by.
· Editor asked him about the locked doors. “Its Thanksgiving and moreover the game is about to begin in 10-minutes,” says the worker, muttering something about the stupidity of foreigners. Editor, of course, had no clue what day it was. The worker was from East Africa and from his accent and lack of command of Washington English, appeared he must have arrived off the boat a week ago. But He knew what day it was. He was already an American. Editor despite being brought up here and spending a total of 35 years in these parts obviously is a foreigner.
· He spent time pondering the pointlessness of his life. Obviously this Target exists in an alternate Earth, where “Open Today” on the website means “Closed Today” on our Earth. Editor has long since given up stressing on the unfairness of his life A police car slowly approached. For a moment he wondered if he should share the unfairness of his life with the officer. He decided not to, as undoubtedly the officer was brooding about the unfairness of his life, given he had to work on Thanksgiving. So he waved to the officer, and went to look for his own car.
· Needless to say, next time youngster visits he will not have gloves as he doesn’t feel the cold. Needless to say Editor will insist youngster take Editor’s gloves. Youngster will say he doesn’t them. Editor will say ‘take them to keep me happy, but be sure to bring them back’. Youngster will be sure not to put them on and to leave them behind where he’s visiting, and will not even mention it to Editor. Editor will feel wronged and sigh at how hard it is to be a Jewish mother. Editor is at the stage when next time youngster calls him he will tell the youngster the light bulb has fused, but not to worry, he’ll just sit in the dark while youngster has a great time in New York (where youngster has gone after abandoning his old dad). Of course, youngster never calls him or answers his calls, so this conversation will never take place except in Editor’s head. Better to sit in the dark and feel sorry for oneself than to light a candle.
· Two girls, one 21 and the other two years old At Editor’s school there is a young lady who has been in 9th Grade for as long as Editor can remember, which is some years. She always has a smile for Editor if he greets her and is always polite to him because Editor is one substitute teacher who “understands her” and never hassles her. Last year Editor was working with a math teacher for the entire semester. This young lady was in the class. The second day Editor told her gently she had to do some work. She said “I don’t know this stuff”. Editor said she was taking the course for at least the third time that he knew, she had to know it.” She said: “If you teach me, I’ll learn”.
· Well, Editor tried. Within one lesson it became clear that she barely knew sixth grade math. We’re allowed to do a bit of remedial stuff, but we have to keep the student on track for the curriculum. There was no question of doing this, you can’t make up for 2-3 years of missed math as well as teach the current course as well as assist the other 29 kids in the class. Editor noticed the young lady spent her entire time in class listening to music. She didn’t talk, she didn’t disrupt, she was just somewhere else the young lady got up and left the class whenever she wanted, and came back whenever she wanted. The teacher never said a word to her. Editor asked teacher, “what ho?” Said teacher “she has a flash pass: she can leave to talk to her counselor whenever she wants”. Editor said “I watched from the hall when she left without asking, she had a drink of water and then stopped by every classroom with an open door on her way back. No counselor.” Teacher just shook his head.
· Editor went to counseling office to ask “What’s up with that?” He was told she has problems, and has a legal right to the Flash Pass, and as long as she does not disrupt class or fight or abuse anyone, she can do what she wants. Even if she did disrupt, she can only be removed to the assistant principal’s office to cool down. It’s all down in her individual education plan. You have to deal with your class the way you want, but the IEP sets the rules. Talked to other teachers. They all left her alone, if she was late she was marked late and not told to get a late pass, if she walked out no one called security and so on.
· So what happens to her, I asked another teacher. She cant just keep repeating. Simple, said teacher. We have to keep her until she is 21. Then she’s out and can live her life as she wants. Everyone has tried their utmost and everyone has failed. You’re just the latest.
· Okay, there really is a point to this story. One day young lady was standing in the hall talking to head of security. I said “hello, how’re you’re doing?” and she said “I can’t wait to get out of this crummy school”. I was shocked: “Dont say that, everyone at this school cares for you and try to do their best by you.” I could see the head of security was really hurt by her words – you could see it in his eyes. Finally he said “We cant wait for you leave this crummy school either,” and I knew he was more than hurt because he never says things like that to the kids no matter how badly they behave.
· So, finally we shift to young lady who is two. Editor was getting his car repaired. In the waiting room was this adorable 2-year old turning pages in a magazine with great focus. Editor and she became immediate best friend, and she started going through the magazine, insisting Editor explain to her about the person in the picture or to explain the name of the foods and the cat and the dog and so on. When she’d see a picture of a person, she’d point to the person’s boots and then her boots and so on. This must have gone on for at least 40-minutes. Then the mom’s car was ready, Miss Adorable went off, blowing kisses and making gestures with her five fingers together and touching her chin.
· Mom said “She’s thanking you,” so I made the same gestures, and off she went. The shop owner – whose office is in the waiting room said: “She’s my real niece, that lady is my sister, we’re very close.” I ventured that the little one was one smart cookie, really focused and determined to learn. 40-minutes is not a short time, my school kids can barely focus for 10-minutes before disintegrating. The shop owner said: “She is, but she cannot speak. We’re trying to get her help but…” and then trailed off. Editor mumbled meaningless soothing words. Odd thing was Editor never realized she hadn’t said a word, not even a gurgle. We had a long and interesting conversation, who had time to notice she didn’t speak?
· On the way home Editor pondered the unfairness of it all. His almost 21-year old was being given every opportunity, every chance, everyone wanted to help her, everyone tried, everyone gave up, but invariably someone would try again. The young lady was not interested in learning. The little one was trying so hard to learn. She had no one to help her. Yes, when she goes to pre-school they’ll arrange speech therapy, but she’ll miss two very critical years. And if its something physical that cannot be fixed, what then? She’ll be put into special education. Maybe she’ll thrive and maybe she wont. So much will depend on the mother and the father – if there is one.
· Editor doesn’t know what to do. The shop owner and his sister are recent immigrants, Editor can barely understand them and – if you didn’t know – no foreigner can understand him. So he cant even get the details of the little one’s disability and see what can be done. Sure, several of his teacher friends speak fluent Spanish. But they have their own lives, they want to go home after a stressful day, you cant say “come with me to see the Uncle and translate”.
· Wait a minute: Editor can get one of the teachers during her free period to talk to Uncle on the phone…that’s the start of a plan…
Thursday 0230 GMT November 27, 2014
· IS on general offensive in Iraq The media is not calling it that, but when Ramadi, Mosul, and Kirkuk all report heavy fighting within 2-days, the conclusion is inescapable. Of course, great and glorious victories are being won on all fronts, the enemy is dying in great numbers, and so on.
· Even with reports from http://anbardaily.blogspot.com/ its difficult to tell what’s going on at Ramadi. IS seems to have scored major gains in this town, Anbar’s capital, though Iraqi forces –read Shia militia – are not going down quietly. In an airstrike at Heet, the IS Emir of Anbar may have been killed. Reports says he has, others say there’s no proof. Can’t happen too fast for us; this is the man who had 500 men, women, children of the Bu Nimr tribe murdered for the crime of opposing IS.
· No news on how the Iraq offensive at Heet is going or if there is any fighting near Al-Assad Air Base where the Americans are, or if US gunships and advisors are participating. If US Administration is to be honest – something it is assiduously avoiding – there is no way that hastily organized Sunni militias are going to defeat IS. This is not the late 2000s, where the predecessors were just another rabble fighting the Sunni Awakenings – themselves a rabble in military terms. Even US advisors are not going to work. It has to be US troops. Since 90% of US troops will have to be deployed force protection because of fear of US casualties, we’d say you really need the equivalent of a MEF back in Anbar, say 40,000 troops and the equivalent of six Marine regiments/Army brigades. Also please note that IS is a much tougher adversary than Saddam’s irregulars who did a fairly decent job of tying up, for a few years, the MEF that was sent.
· Editor is feeling a bit empathic the air cavalry colonel Kilgore Apocalypse Now, the one who loved the smell of napalm in the morning. Editor excited at the thought that if we want to win this one, we have to return. We can clean up, leave, and take a relax before Fourth Gulf. The good old USA is so messed up, better to go and fight, regardless of the purpose. Fighting, and Hollywood Big Screen movies – that is all we are good for anymore. Lets go do it once again, folks. But this time we have to keep the tours to six-months and one tour every three years. What we did in Second Gulf and Afghanistan is not fair to the soldiers, no matter how you rationalize it, such as “they’re volunteers”. That they’re volunteers is more the reason not to abuse them. A good workperson never abuses his tools. Of course, who said our politicians and generals are good workpersons. But you see what Editor’s getting at.
· Meanwhile, US Education Secretary is distressed to learn that in top school achieving countries like Finland and South Korea, the teachers are from the top of college graduates, whereas ours are from the bottom. (In ROK its actually from the top 1-2%.) So he is planning an overhaul of teacher training programs because, he says, every American school student deserves a great teacher. Sure. And every American deserves the best police, doctors, lawyers, administrators, politicians and so on ad nauseum. Are they going to get the best? Obviously not – unless they’re willing to pay for it. Are Americans willing to pay for the best teachers, police, and so on? Please don’t be ridiculous. Obviously not. We don’t want to pay for anything, but we demand the best. The best education programs wont work unless you pay enough to attract the best teacher candidates.
· Truth be told, even that won’t solve the problem in the low-income districts. Their problem is not teachers, but a whole bunch of very complicated issues that concern family/society. There is no way American teachers can make up for dysfunctional families and dysfunctional society, no matter how much you pay them.
Wednesday 0230 GMT November 26, 2014
· US police and shoot-to-kill Ever since Editor got back to the US, 25-years ago, he’s been bothered by the manner in which US police kill unarmed suspects, and fire so many rounds while doing it. There are any number of cases where someone is waving a knife around and half-a-dozen police feel threatened. People have been killed for waving around screwdriver. And so on. Why not fire in the air or shoot-to-wound?
· Two days ago we finally got the answer, from the Washington Post no less, which is normally a mine of non-information - all the news that is not fit to print, etc. US police are not allowed to fire warning shots or wound. If the officer/s feel threatened, they are to shoot-to-kill. Which explains why so many suspects are killed and why so many rounds are fired.
· In other words, killing is the first resort, not the last resort. Editor’s a bit confused. Are American police in the army and engaged in combat with the citizenry? In the army, as we all know, no one looks for alternate resolutions, you fire first and don’t bother with the questions. Understandable. But why are the police trained like this? Something should be done.
· If you consider the training and the policy, Ferguson, MO and killings of other unarmed people, usually men, becomes clear. The suspect was a big fellow, and we know from his robbery of a convenience store minutes before, not afraid to use his size and heft. The grand jury report is not yet released. But if it is true that the youngster wrestled with the officer for his gun while the latter sat in his patrol car, even if the youngster walked away, if he turned back and walked toward the officer – even if he was surrendering – the officer was totally within his rights. Further, it doesn’t matter if the youngster did not wrestle for the gun. If he didn’t immediately stop in his tracks and throw up his hands, even he took as much as one step toward the officer and the officer felt threatened, well, its bang-bang-you’re-dead – and its 100% legal.
· And please to remember in Salt Lake City a young white man didn’t get down on the ground fast enough – because he had on his music and couldn’t at first understand what the black officer was saying to him, it was bang-bang-you’re dead and that is it. Quite lawful.
· Mr. Bill Crosby Of course we don’t know the details. But that should not stop one from making some obvious points. These events happened 30, 40, or more years ago. The man cannot defend himself against the accusations because these ladies did not go to the police. Statute of limitations has passed. Whatever evidence there was has long since gone. What they are doing is wrong – and sorry if Editor’s women friends get angry at him. He has no women friends, and nor is anyone going to date him. So women have no hold over him and he can say what he thinks.
· What is particularly wrong about these accusations is that in at least two cases – from what Editor can tell by skimming the stories – the ladies had repeated contacts with him after he attacked them. One said he repeatedly raped her. Are we entitled to ask what she was doing in repeatedly returning to him? Another said she had to “quit him” because of all the other women. That means she was his girlfriend or at least considered herself as such. Are we entitled to ask is it normal to become the girlfriend of your rapist, or return to him repeatedly? Many of the ladies took money to keep quiet. So, what Mr. Cosby did to them may be totally wrong (if they are telling the truth). But if they took his money they committed two wrongs: taking money and then breaking an agreement to keep quiet. This does not excuse Mr. Cosby. But neither does it make what these ladies are doing right.
· There is a context to everything. Mr. Crosby was/is in the entertainment business. It was – still is – considered totally normally to exchange sex with those in power in return for favors. This applies to all business, all politics, all human relations. Sometimes things get out of hand. Often there are morning regrets – look at the US Naval Academy cases. Often there is anger if the person giving the sex feels used. But these are private matters.
· Further to context: in the old days, if a lady accepted a gentleman’s invitation to drink with him, and to go to his room with him, she was considered fair game. These days we are told its wrong, and the lady has the right at any point to say “Stop”. She also has the right – which Editor finds strange – to say “I was too drunk to give consent so I was raped.” This would be fair if the man was given the same free pass: “I was too drunk to understand I didn’t have consent, given we were oin bed with our clothes and getting hot and heavy”. But giving the ladies a free pass for being drunk and not giving men the same free pass is absolutely, totally, 100% wrong and immoral to boot. This is waging war on men.
· Well, what about the UVA case where a lady was lured to a dark room and raped by several fraternity brothers? If they’re guilty, please hang them. Editor would be honored to do the honors. What the administration did and many administrations do, which is make light of the matter – “boys will be boys, girls will be girls, she said, he said” is wrong. If a student, male or female, comes to administration, it should be acted on. At the same time, victims of a crime have to understand that they must complain, and to the police. Certainly the shame, shock, horror etc of being assaulted prevents many from complaining – one reason you have so few men who complain. But that is life in the raw. A crime against a person requires a complaint from that person.
Tuesday 0230 GMT November 25, 2014
· Benghazi and the meme of the impartial men in the trenches Congress has closed its enquiry on events in Benghazi nearly two years ago. One of the CIA operates still insists they were told to stand down for 27-minutes, and the report is a whitewash. You can see the original story here http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/06/top-cia-official-in-benghazi-delayed-response-to-terrorist-attack-us-security/
· A bit of semantics. In the military, “stand-down” means you are told your planned mission is a no go. Initially, the allegation was that the stand down order came all the way from the top. That was disproved. Then the allegation became that the CIA head of the “annex” ordered to stand down. So was there a rescue mission that was scrubbed? No. There was no approved mission. Several operators got ready – as they should, but were not given permission to move. They moved anyway. The 27-minute delay – by the account of the operatives who have gone public was no scrub, but their boss telling them not to rush out. Editor has no idea how the CIA’s paramilitary wing works, but had these gentlemen been soldiers, they would have been looking at a serious court-martial for failure to obey orders.
· In effect, these operators decided they knew better than their commander and ignored him. Now, obviously Editor doesn’t know what went on. Heck, he knows so little of what is going on in his school that he had no clue two of his fave teachers had been – urm – doing the Public Display of Affection thing until weeks later. But seriously, there were reports at that time that it took time to get the CIA-paid militia organized. This is understandable. In the movies someone shouts “lets go!” and Mission Impossible rolls in less than three minutes. Editor presumes the operators were all ex-military, and they should understand when no one is on-their-mark, it takes time to organize things.
· Editor thinks it’s likely the CIA boss – if it was him – held up the mission is that he did NOT want two vehicles worth of operators rushing into the street to do the Cavalry-To-The-Rescue thing. That is Tactics 001 – not even Tactics 101: you do not rush out with adequate assessment of the situation when you are totally outnumbered. We think 30 men in a city with thousands of crazed militia were totally outnumbered. Aside from that, many would have to remain at the annex for facility protection – it could be the next target, and frankly, its security was more important than that of an ambassador who should not have been where he was anyway. The annex commander, we may expect, was torn between the need to rush to the shut-down consulate, the need to protect his own post, and the need to make sure that enough of the militia arrived to protect the rescue team.
· Have these gentlemen given any thought to what would have happened had they rushed out, gotten trapped in the streets or caught in a planned ambushed, and subsequently killed? That would have really look good in the American media, and the same officer who stop the men would have been looking at a legal lynch mob back home for NOT stopping the men from blind action.
· It is indeed commendable that these would be rescuers had so much fighting spirit that they were willing – apparently – to take the risk of jumping into their vehicles and burning rubber, regardless of what lay before them. But here’s some news for these brave boys. It doesn’t matter that you are willing to risk your life. You cannot act unilaterally against your commander’s orders. HE is responsible for your safety even if you have no heed for your safety. Moreover, what would have been the point of 8-10 rescuers got killed following which the annex was attacked? Remember, the annex was the Crown Jewel, not an ambassador who arrived with just 2-3 security guards and who did not even tell his Chief of Mission what he was doing
· All the annex commander likely did was to think over the situation before acting. This does not make a scandal. It makes a good commander doing the responsible thing.
· You need not accept Editor’s interpretation of events. But think a minute. Given the immense hatred – and that is too mild a word for the emotions directed against Mr. Obama and the then SecState – why does anyone assume that there could be a whitewash? Do the Congresspersons investigating strike anyone except the three rescuers who interview on Fox as being gullible? You can, of course, say that once the Congressional investigators decided there was no cover-up they lost interest. But you can also say that the investigators, left at best with investigating an operational order given by a field officer in the middle of a crisis, decided it was not their place to investigate further. Any more than they believe it is their job to investigate every order given by a captain or a major in the field.
· One of the Fox interviewed said something Editor found astonishing: he asked for air support which never came. Presumably the CIA operatives, or enough of them, have served in Iraq/Afghanistan and know a bit about air support. We have been over this in detail in past years, but there is simply no way air support could have been organized. And there is no way the USAF is going to order jets from Signorelli into the air because some grount on the ground asked for air support. And if that air support had come – if the USAF had acted like the rescuers and blindly rushed into the sky without preparation – and should a couple of bombs have dropped too close to our own men or wiped out a couple of hundred civilians on the street, what would have been the consequences?
· Editor is convinced the rescuers knew this. That one is throwing around “air support” is suspicious to say the least. America is a country where everyone is out for the big payday and the TV cameras. It cannot be unquestioningly accepted that just because these men were in the trenches they were impartial. Even if they were, are we not familiar with the phenomenan of six observers seeing six different versions of the same event? Particularly when everyone is stressed out to the maximum?
· A last question. These men were allegedly told not to talk to anyone – and most likely this is the case. But how come they were ready to appear on Fox, but not to visit a sympathetic Congressperson to talk about the standdown?
· In war – and in peace – things inevitably go wrong. Good people die or get hurt. Bad people walk away as the victors. It’s horrible. But it’s life.
Monday 0230 GMT November 24, 2014
· President Obama as a Flower Child Editor is very careful not to judge someone just on their age, or to pull the “I’m so much older so I know more”. Young people are the future, and one has to encourage them, not criticize them by going “I am so much more knowledgeable than you”. Its not a good idea for another reason. So young people may not know as much as us old war horses, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the most amazing insights and knowledge us oldies don’t have.
· Besides, a president is supposed to have wise, learned, experienced advisors. So there’s no excuse for Mr. Obama to be walking around the world wide-eyed, discovering new things like if you close your eyes and stand in the middle of the expressway, you are going to get squashed.
· The particular remark that snapped Editor out of his coma had the President saying something like “I guess the American people are finding out that its easier to get into wars than to get out”. No, son. The American people know this already, at least anyone who lived through Korea, Vietnam, Second Gulf, and Afghanistan. We may not be as bright as the most brilliant man in the world, but neither are we stupid that we need to lectured on these matters.
· The President’s purpose, of course, was to mildly chastise those of us who are calling for stronger intervention in Third Gulf. That its harder to get out of a war than get in is zero excuse for not getting into one, when you have to. Mr. Obama thinks his job is hard re wars. Has he perhaps heard of Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt? Those presidents had it tough. Today the US is so much more powerful than its adversaries, and the costs of war in terms of lives are so low, everything is amusingly easy compared to presidents who had to launch real wars. Except for adding to the deficit, there is ZERO cost to the nation as a whole. The French lost a million men at Verdun in the Great War. That was hard. Stepping up to the plate for Third Gulf is, by comparison, as casual as stepping up to the plate for a whiffle-ball game where your opponents are goldfish out of the bowl.
· Of course, its hard getting out when you have no clue as to why you’re getting in. That’s what happened with Second Gulf and Afghanistan. Every time we’d achieve our starting objective, we’d shift the goal posts. Its even harder when you are utterly convinced in advance that by using force, you are somehow degrading yourself. But wait – its gets worse, such as when you are convinced that victory is impossible. And it gets even worse, such as when you are convinced that even if you win, it is morally wrong. Can it get worse? Yes it can, such as if you’re convinced that by using force you’re the one committing a war crime.
· Now look, folks. A man is entitled to his beliefs, if they really are his beliefs. One problem Editor has with his Great Leader is that it seems that GL doesn’t have strong beliefs about anything, unless its stuffing his face at every opportunity with high-fat, very high calorie meals. That he’s passionate about because he likes fast food, and – we suspect – because it’s his way of getting back at his controlling wife. But enough of this pop psychoanalysis.
· The point here is that if Mr. Obama lacks the modern liberal’s stomach for force, he should stand firm and loudly say he does not believe in violence. Sure lots of us would hate him. But we’d respect him because he’s a man of principle. It’s this complete non-belief in the utility or necessity for force as a tool of state policy, followed by most reluctantly committing just enough force to fail, that is so maddening. We say modern liberal because George Washington was one – indeed, he was a raving revolutionary; Lincoln was one – imagine going to war for believing all men were created equal regardless of color, at a time when no other country believed this ; and FDR was one. Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson were liberals too. So it’s only recently liberals have gotten morose about the utility of force.
· Personally, Editor believes that while the interventions talk big and loud, they too don’t have the stomach for a war decisive enough for victory. We’ve gone over this before by listing the requirements for defeating militant Islam, crushing Russia, and confining China to its sandbox. The interventionists will start quivering in their bunny slippers once they realize how long this will take, how many casualties, and how much money.
· If Obama was politically smart as opposed to being horribly, horribly naïve, he’d call the interventionists bluff by listing precisely what is required for decisive victory. A draft and an immediate doubling of defense spending (means adding 4% to the tax rate). This would lead the interventionists to fold.
· Editor is convinced that America doesn’t have what it takes anymore to be the world superpower, and he has zero faith in its generals’ ability to successfully prosecute a major war. Of course, it can be argued that if America brought in a results-only system for its generals, instead of treating their wartime jobs as just another step up in the enshrined-for-life bureaucracy, we’d start getting good generals. But Editor’s faith that America can implement such a system is zero, too. These days you can criticize God, but heaven forfend you should criticize a general.
· Given the above, Editor believes it is time to get out – everywhere. Because this business of “I’m having sex but I’m still a virgin” doesn’t work in the real world. That’s his message to our Great Leader, too.
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?