Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Putting the Long War on the Map

Over 16 years in to The Long War, it is time for a SITREP.

Let's give a nod to Tom Engelhardt over at WiB,
More than a decade and a half after an American president spoke of 60 or more countries as potential targets, thanks to the invaluable work of a single dedicated group, the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, we finally have a visual representation of the true extent of the war on terror.


I never really liked the term "GWOT," as terrorism is a technique - but I understand why it was chosen. Simple really, as we couldn't say what it was really all about; a war on radical Sunni fundamentalist (Salafist in clunky shorthand) aggression.
A glance at the map tells you that the war on terror, an increasingly complex set of intertwined conflicts, is now a remarkably global phenomenon. It stretches from The Philippines through South Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and deep into West Africa where, only recently, four Green Berets died in an ambush in Niger.

No less stunning is the number of countries Washington’s war on terror has touched in some fashion. Once, of course, there was only one. Now, the Costs of War Project identifies no less than 76 countries, 39 percent of those on the planet, as involved in that global conflict.
Tom points to the highlights from the Cost of War project.

The numbers are staggering;
In a separate study, released in November 2017, the Costs of War Project estimated that the price tag on the war on terror, with some future expenses included, had already reached an astronomical $5.6 trillion.

Only recently, however, Pres. Donald Trump, now escalating those conflicts, tweeted an even more staggering figure. “After having foolishly spent $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is time to start rebuilding our country!”

This figure, too, seems to have come in some fashion from the Costs of War estimate that “future interest payments on borrowing for the wars will likely add more than $7.9 trillion to the national debt” by mid-century.

It couldn’t have been a rarer comment from an American politician, as in these years assessments of both the monetary and human costs of war have largely been left to small groups of scholars and activists. The war on terror has, in fact, spread in the fashion today’s map lays out with almost no serious debate in this country about its costs or results.
Here is one bit of info I'd love to see - more metrics.

For a start;
- What is the % of GDP over the last 16 years the USA spent on the war? How about GBR, DEU, FRA, JPN, AUS, ESP & CAN?
- What is the ratio to citizens killed by terrorists to the amount of money spent on the war?
- What is the ratio of military members killed fighting the war to civilians killed by Salafist terrorists?

Is this really a global war, or just our war? Are we achieving our goals, just mowing the grass, or creating a larger problem? Perhaps all three?

Hat tip Anna Jackman.

Monday, January 15, 2018

MLK Jr.; 1st Person Spoken Word

2/3 of what I have read and heard today has not been worthy of that great American patriot, Martin Luther King, Jr.

As with many historical characters, it is best to go with primary sources.

Arguably his most important speech is below, with the text.

Ignore how people are trying to shoehorn MLK Jr. in to their 2018 agenda. Just listen to the man.


Your 3rd Power Construct; Sharp Power

Have you been keeping track of the ongoing war in the INFO OPS arena going on in Texas the last few months?
As part of a broad effort to interfere in U.S. institutions, China tries to shape the discussion at American universities, stifle criticism and influence academic activity by offering funding, often through front organizations closely linked to Beijing.

Now that aspect of Beijing’s foreign influence campaign is beginning to face resistance from academics and lawmakers. A major battle in this nascent campus war played out over the past six months at the University of Texas in Austin.

After a long internal dispute, a high-level investigation and an intervention by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), the university last week rejected a proposal by the leader of its new China center to accept money from the China United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF). The Hong Kong-based foundation and its leader, Tung Chee-hwa, are closely linked to the branch of the Chinese Communist Party that manages influence operations abroad.
It is part of a larger Chinese operation - and you need to get up to speed on it.

We all know what hard-power is, and its gentler sister, soft-power. A rising China is going to make you learn and start to talk about another type of power, one that isn't new per se, but one they have a track record of working on harder than anyone else; sharp-power.

In their December 17th edition, The Economist has two must-read articles on China and sharp power. Neither is behind the paywall, and I highly encourage you to read both in full here and here.

Let's look at the wave tops, starting with events in Australia;
Even if China does not seek to conquer foreign lands, many people fear that it seeks to conquer foreign minds.

Australia was the first to raise a red flag about China’s tactics. On December 5th allegations that China has been interfering in Australian politics, universities and publishing led the government to propose new laws to tackle “unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated” foreign efforts to influence lawmakers (see article). This week an Australian senator resigned over accusations that, as an opposition spokesman, he took money from China and argued its corner. Britain, Canada and New Zealand are also beginning to raise the alarm. On December 10th Germany accused China of trying to groom politicians and bureaucrats. And on December 13th Congress held hearings on China’s growing influence.

This behaviour has a name—“sharp power”, coined by the National Endowment for Democracy, a Washington-based foundation and think-tank. “Soft power” harnesses the allure of culture and values to add to a country’s strength; sharp power helps authoritarian regimes coerce and manipulate opinion abroad.
The Chinese are comfortable with corruption but don't quite seem to see how clunky it can be if you are trying to make corruption with Chinese characteristics work in Anglo-Saxon free press cultures;
China has a history of spying on its diaspora, but the subversion has spread. In Australia and New Zealand Chinese money is alleged to have bought influence in politics, with party donations or payments to individual politicians. This week’s complaint from German intelligence said that China was using the LinkedIn business network to ensnare politicians and government officials, by having people posing as recruiters and think-tankers and offering free trips.

Bullying has also taken on a new menace. Sometimes the message is blatant, as when China punished Norway economically for awarding a Nobel peace prize to a Chinese pro-democracy activist. More often, as when critics of China are not included in speaker line-ups at conferences, or academics avoid study of topics that China deems sensitive, individual cases seem small and the role of officials is hard to prove. But the effect can be grave. Western professors have been pressed to recant. Foreign researchers may lose access to Chinese archives. Policymakers may find that China experts in their own countries are too ill-informed to help them.
They also are not shy about putting the pressure on companies;
US hotel giant Marriott said it is in the process of sacking an employee for “wrongfully liking” a Twitter post by a group that supports independence for Tibet in its latest effort to calm a storm of criticism sparked by a company survey that referred to the Chinese region, and self-ruled Taiwan, as countries, Chinese state media reported.

Craig Smith, president and managing director of Asia-Pacific for Marriott International, made the announcement at a meeting with the China National Tourism Administration on Friday, Xinhua reported.

Wang Xiaofeng, deputy director of the administration, said listing Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as countries was an infringement of China’s territorial integrity and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.

He said the hotel group should learn from the experience and do all it can to minimise any negative impact.
If that doesn't give you pause, I'm not sure what will.

This kow-tow will only encourage China. Tibet is an occupied country. Taiwan is an independent nation. I wonder what official Chinese maps have to say about the Crimea?

Hong Kong and Macau are "special" zones - but I will give a nod to the Chinese on this detail. 

I like this little note. If you've been too Beltway focused, you may have forgot that the FBI has more important things to do than play DC power brokers ... in theory at least. They need to refocus extra effort here for starts.
Counter-intelligence, the law and an independent media are the best protection against subversion. All three need Chinese speakers who grasp the connection between politics and commerce in China. The Chinese Communist Party suppresses free expression, open debate and independent thought to cement its control. Merely shedding light on its sharp tactics—and shaming kowtowers—would go a long way towards blunting them.
As we are wont to say on the Front Porch, fear and shame are great motivators.

We'll need them, as this sharp-power effort is global;
China seems to have been busy in Europe, too. Germany’s spy agency this week accused it of using social media to contact 10,000 German citizens, including lawmakers and civil servants, in the hope of “gleaning information and recruiting sources”. There have been reports of Chinese agents trying to groom up-and-coming politicians from Britain, especially those with business links to the country. And on December 13th America started to learn of possible intervention, when the Congressional Executive Commission on China began hearings to look into Chinese attempts to win political sway.
Know your sharp-power moves when you see them;
China’s sharp power has three striking characteristics—it is pervasive, it breeds self-censorship and it is hard to nail down proof that it is the work of the Chinese state.

Sharp elbows

Start with its pervasiveness. Most governments and intelligence agencies ignored China’s manipulations because they believed that state surveillance and intervention were mainly directed at the country’s diaspora. They were mistaken. The target now seems to include the wider society.

Confucius Institutes have turned sharper. Many cash-strapped universities have replaced their own language courses with curriculums led by the institutes. In some places the institutes have set up entirely new China-studies programmes. Though most do not actively push the party line, they often restrain debate about China by steering discussion away from sensitive subjects.
Remember the Red Dawn reboot?
For those already anxious about rising Chinese intervention, the news appeared to confirm their worst fears—and substantiate the academic’s argument, summed up in the volume’s subtitle, “How China is turning Australia into a Puppet State”.

It is not only publishers that are feeling China’s coercive powers. A French film festival this summer decided not to screen a Chinese feature that painted a dreary and bleak image of contemporary China. It cited “official pressures” from the Chinese authorities as the reason.
There is no reason to run to the fainting couches over this. We just need to keep an eye out for it, and to take action when we find it. The argument can be made that this is less a sign of aggression than of insecurity;
Will China’s sharp power prove a success? One of its aims is to prevent foreign-based Chinese from undermining the party at home. Under Xi Jinping’s autocratic leadership, the political environment has changed dramatically. For the first time since Mao Zedong’s era, it has a highly visible strongman in charge. He has crushed rivals and sown fear among officials high and low with a ruthless campaign against corruption. Human rights are trampled upon. China wants to be sure that the programme of control at home is not vulnerable to the lack of control abroad.
...
China’s sharp power poses a conundrum to Western policymakers. One danger is that policies designed to smooth over relations whip up anti-Chinese hysteria instead. Suspicions of China could run wild. Barriers to academic, economic and cultural co-operation with China could go up. Rather than learning to live with each other, China and the West might drift into sullen miscomprehension. The other concern is that policymakers play down the risks. If so, the public and politicians in the West may underestimate the threat from China’s rise. How do you strike the balance between self-protection and engagement? Just now, nobody is quite sure.
We also need to push back hard in the open not just against China, but against those entities and personalities that kow-tow.

Marriott Hotels
, I'm looking at you.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Fullbore Friday

There is an almost universal respect between navies and Sailors of all flags in both times of peace and war. The reason is that we all face the same enemies day in and day out - the sea and our equipment.

That is why you saw such a near universal rush to help the Argentinians in their search for their submarine, the ARA SAN JUAN.

Submariners - who I kid a fair bit about here - work in silence in exceptional circumstances; always one valve away from death. I spent a little more than a week underway on an SSN as a LT and that was enough for me.

This FbF, just a quick general note about the Fullbore Plan of the Day underway every submarine works under in general, and a nod to the crew of the SAN JUAN. Not much more I can say but to put up this brief summary of the recently released acoustic analysis.

Hat tip Chap and NavyLookout.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Rep. Whittman (R-VA) Goes Salamander

It has been almost 9-yrs since our Navy classified its INSURV and I'm still embarrassed we did such an institutionally cowardly act.

Time has shown that we were right about why we were classifying INSURV; it was because the Navy could not handle answering questions about why our Navy was being allowed to slowly degrade. As Chap said so well at that time;
...INSURV results have to be not only unclassified but public; only embarrassment will fix some problems. Classification, especially the insidious “unclassified but special” categories we invented after 9/11, can invite overcontrol of information, improper use and worse. Special places to go look at stuff invite special tweaking. Every boat I knew at one point took the exercise equipment out of the engine room for the inspection, then put it right back in afterward…and everyone knew it, and so did the inspectors. This example is silly, not dangerous; however, there are dangerous ones out there. What are they and how do we correct them?
At last, we seem to have some top-cover on The Hill;
House Armed Services Committee members Reps. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) talked to a room of Surface Warfare officers on proposed changes in how the Navy organizes its surface force, handles maintenance and certifications of its ships and thinks and speaks about its capabilities, ... he (Whittman) noted that Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) reports used to be unclassified and but have been classified for almost a decade. 
“During peacetime INSURVs should be declassified, and that makes sure there’s transparency there that we know what’s going on,” Wittman said. 
“That creates, again, that direction, that focus to make sure that maintenance is being done, maintenance availabilities aren’t being missed, material readiness is being maintained. All those things are critical.” 
“All of us have to look at this as an opportunity to really do some groundbreaking things in how the surface navy operates,” Wittman said. 
“It doesn’t hurt for us to get to points where we feel a little uncomfortable – in fact, I would argue we have to get to a point where we feel uncomfortable to make sure we are exploring all the different avenues that we have to explore.”
Excellent. Now, follow through on The Hill before the Democrats take power after the 2018 elections.

REFORGER; Now More Than Ever

You know you want a REFORGER. You know we need REFORGER.

I'm pondering over at USNIBlog.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Chinese History You Need to Remember

It is so easy to let some parts of history fade ... but there are other parts of history that need to be kept at the front of everyone's mind.

As I was 23 and a recently minted Ensign, I remember - but to many it is as old to them as the Cuban Missile Crisis is to me.

Sadly, we teach but a sliver of this event - but people should remember more. If for no other reason than to honor the thousands upon thousands of nameless Chinese heroes who - when the time came - stood for their nation to turn towards freedom.

They failed. History does not have a right side or wrong side - it only records which side had the greater will can capability;
Diplomatic archives recently declassified by the U.K. government have shed further light on the horror of the military crackdown on student-led protests in Tiananmen Square, describing troops of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) 27th army as being ordered to "spare no-one" as they used dum-dum bullets, automatic weapons and armored vehicles to carry out mass killings in Beijing.
...
"On arrival at Tiananmen troops from [the northeastern city of Shenyang] had separated students and residents," then British ambassador Alan Donald wrote in a diplomatic cable dated June 1989 detailing how the Shenyang troops had been sent in unarmed to disperse the crowd, followed up by a fully armed 27th Army that rampaged through the city killing civilians and other soldiers alike.

"Students understood they were given one hour to leave square but after five minutes [armored personnel carriers] APCs attacked," the cable said. "Students linked arms but were mown down, including soldiers."

"APCs then ran over bodies time and time again to make "pie" and remains collected by bulldozer. Remains incinerated and then hosed down drains," it said.

The cable, which described the 27th Army as illiterate "primitives" from the northern province of Shanxi, commanded by the nephew of then Chinese President Yang Shangkun, said the heavily armed troops were kept without news for 10 days and told they were to take part in a military exercise.
The article has more, but here is some of the horror reported not by some propagandist ... but in a British diplomatic cable;

There was more resistance than just at the square;
The documents also describe pitched battles between "enraged" crowds and troops in the western suburb of Muxidi, and Shilipu, to the east of the diplomatic quarter in Jianguomenwai.

"The first three waves were held by the demonstrators and [Shenyang] troops tried to push back the crowds to let 27 Army through," the cable says. "They failed and 27 Army opened fire on the crowd (both civilians and soldiers) before running over them in their APCs."
...
At Muxidi, "the enraged masses followed ignoring machine-gun fire to next battle at Liubukou," the description reads, in a reference to a district of Beijing just west of Tiananmen Square.

"APCs ran over troops and civilians at 65 kilometers/hour in same manner," it said. "One APC crashed and driver (a captain) got out and was taken by crowd to hospital. He is now deranged and demands death for his atrocities."

It said the 27th Army was ordered to spare no-one, and "shot wounded Shenyang soldiers."

In Liubukou, "four wounded girl students begged for their lives but were bayoneted," it said.
...
"1,000 survivors were told they could escape via Zhengyi Lu but were then mown down by specially prepared machine-gun positions," it says, adding that any ambulances trying to rescue the wounded were also attacked and their crews killed.

"With medical crew dead, wounded driver attempted to ram attackers but was blown to pieces with anti-tank weapon," it says. "In further attack APCs caught up with Shenyang military straggler trucks, rammed and overturned them and ran over troops."

It said a 27th Army officer was shot dead by his own troops, "apparently because he faltered."

"Troops explained they would be shot if they hadn't shot officer," according to the cable, which said the Chinese leadership was protected by two rings of tanks and armored personnel carriers, one inside the walls of Zhongnanhai, and another outside.
The Chinese had 100,000 soldiers surrounding the city. Not all were willing to go against the students.

There was the seed that never had a chance to germinate;
The embassy said the 27th Army were likely used because they were the most "reliable and obedient," adding that many in China believed civil war was an imminent possibility.

"Some considered other armies would attack 27 Army but they had no ammunition," Donald's cable reads, adding that many military commanders had refused to respond to a summons to a meeting with President Yang Shangkun, while the Beijing military commander had refused to supply outside armies with food, water or barracks.
Sometimes freedom's flame is only a flicker. With no tinder and in a harsh wind, it cannot last.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Maybe the Germans are on to Something

You have to admit - this is something.
...a persistent list to starboard and the fact that the ship is dramatically overweight, which would limit its performance, increase its cost of operation, and most importantly, negatively impact the Deutsche Marine's ability to add future upgrades to the somewhat sparsely outfitted vessel.

Now the German Navy has officially declined to commission the vessel and will be returning it to Blohm+Voss shipyard in Hamberg.
Tell me if you recognize a common thread here...
The decision to do so was based on a number of "software and hardware defects" according to German media reports. The noted software deficiencies are of particular importance because these destroyer-sized vessels will supposedly be operated by a crew of just 120-130 sailors—just half that of the much smaller Bremen class frigates they replace—continuously for months at a time. On top of that, the design's reliability is paramount as the four ships in the class are supposed to deploy far from German shores for up to two years at a time.
Looks like another navy fell for the yes-man defense consultant snake oil.

Fewer Sailors deploying for longer periods of time, and all will be made up by automation. How is that concept working out for everyone?

Speaking of echoing bad ideas;
Complicating things further is the fact that the fourth and final F125 frigate, the Rheinland-Pfalz, was already christened last Spring. Because of the concurrent construction and testing procurement strategy, these vessels are likely to suffer from at least some of the same issues as the lead ship in the class.
Did we have two different breeds of Good Idea Fairies pop up at the same time, or did the Germans believe our own transformational voodoo?

Hope they have a Plan-B.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Fullbore Friday

A little encore FBF from the first year of the Obama Administration.

The schadenfreude of irony ...

Please, my fine, wise, and loyal readers from the Left - don't leave me this FbF - stick with me.

Ya'll remember the
gift exchange train wreck, right? Well, regardless of your political persuasion, let this put a smile on your face. Via Ted Bromund,
The ironies here are wonderful, though Obama doesn't seem likely to appreciate them. Of course, the reference to the anti-slavery mission is a nod to Obama's fascination, fervent but not deep, with Abraham Lincoln.

But HMS Gannet was not, as a casual reader might guess, employed against the trade of slaves from Africa to the New World, and since it was built in 1878, it has nothing to do with Lincoln or slavery in the United States. It sailed the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, patrolling against Islamist slavers. In the Red Sea, the Africans it saved would have come, among other places, from Kenya. Obama has made mention of his grandfather's antipathy to Britain, stemming from his experiences in colonial Kenya. It is quite possible that grandfather's ancestors would, had it not been for the Royal Navy, have been carried away to slavery in Arabia.

The British campaign against the slave trade is instructive for another, more important, reason. By volume of business, it was the Foreign Office's most important concern for much of the 19th century. In the courts of Europe and the New World, Britain sought to negotiate effective treaties against the trade. But Britain did not restrict itself to diplomacy. Far too often, treaties were negotiated and then not enforced. Britain's first response to this was usually to negotiate again, but its patience was not infinite,
Then we get to the FbF part - seriously, imagine being on the deck during this action - a little before her time, but what set the purpose for HMS Gannet when she came along.
[In June 1850], British warships entered Brazilian ports to flush out vessels being fitted for the slave trade. The subsequent burning and scuttling of suspected slave ships, and exchanges with coastal batteries, resulted in a predictable outcry in Brazil, including a call for the government to consider war with Britain. Wiser counsels prevailed, and in the summer of 1850 new legislation placed a comprehensive ban on the importation of slaves and measures for the seizure of vessels fitted for the trade. Unlike previous acts, these provisions were rigorously enforced and within twelve months the Brazilian slave trade was effectively extinct.
...
In short, Britain's campaign against the slave trade combined diplomacy and unilateral force in a highly effective and sustained way. Diplomacy provided legitimacy, but the British were not willing to be bound by treaties that did not bind the other side: if they felt they were being made fools of, they acted. Negotiations were meant to achieve a distinct aim: they were a means of policy, not an end in itself.

How unlike the current administration, which congratulates Hugo Chávez on winning his "dictator for life" referendum, has responded with "utter passivity" to a series of Russian, Pakistani, and Iranian provocations, and which cannot wait to stab Eastern Europe in the back by selling them out on missile defense. Maybe that pen holder is Brown's way of encouraging Obama to show a little of the old-fashioned British spirit, and to recognize that endless negotiations not backed by steel are a mistake if they come at the cost of the nation's values and honor.
Zen. I love history and fact - it clears the mind and brightens the soul. Regardless of today's politics. what a Fullbore action by a Fullbore nation.

As a side-bar, the HMS Gannet is still around - that is her modern day picture on the right and below - and a link to her here.



Hat tip Scott.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

In Addition to a Vote, the Enemy has Eyes and Ears

I think no better picture captures the blinkered mindset of many designing cutting edge weapon systems than the DDG-1000 advertising poster of the last decade.

There she is, alone and unafraid - attacking an unpopulated, supine, and defensiveless coast in the tropical regions of Shangri-La.

In the real world, it is crowded and messy. Our world is teeming with people and those people go about their business as best they can to feed their families. In most of the world, the coastal regions are full of small boats either plying some trade or attempting to catch what few fish the Chinese left behind.

In those waters, we plan to send out unmanned systems. Have we in any way designed them to hide themselves, defend themselves, or at least evade? Once again, it appears not.

As reported by Ben over at USNINews;
Houthi forces have captured a U.S. Navy research unmanned underwater vehicle off the coast of Yemen, according to a video released on Monday.

In the video posted online by local media on Monday, four men described as members of the “Houthi Navy” in dive gear are surrounding what appears to be a REMUS 600 UUV with the name “Smokey” printed on the body. According to the AMN News web posting, the Houthis discovered the UUV within the past week somewhere off the coast of Yemen.
Good googly moogly - as the below video shows, we even have it painted in "capture me yellow."



We need to up our game a bit.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Mind the Gap

Go east old alliance.

The ground and air parts of NATO have already moved their lines east towards the bear - but on the maritime side of the house we don't even have our old lines of defense ready.

What do we need to do and where do we need to go?

I'm pondering over at USNIBlog. Come on by.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

The Cluster Around Clusters

If there is a bill sponsored by Senators Feinstein and Leahy, and it involves the military, you pretty much know what direction it is going in;
In April of this year (2017), Feinstein and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act to bind the Defense Department to the 1 percent maximum failure rate for cluster bomb detonation. It is also intended to put the U.S. on the path toward compliance with the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
No, it is designed to remove a capability the US needs to win in future conflicts without funding a replacement capability.

The push against cluster munitions has a long history, and the concerns are valid.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions, an international treaty, prohibits the use or stockpiling of this weapon. Significantly, Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran have not ratified the treaty.

The George W. Bush administration, recognizing the continuing importance of cluster munitions to U.S. defense needs, also refused to sign the treaty, but set a deadline of 2018 for the U.S. to move to cluster munitions with a very high degree of reliability.

This policy sought to eliminate cluster bombs whose sub-munitions detonate less than 99 percent of the time. This reduces the risk that unexploded ordnance poses to noncombatants.
There is another need out there that is of more importance than feeling good among the well-healed at Davos; in time of war, we will need cluster munitions. That capability is essential to how we fight wars agains numerically superior ground forces. Until we have enough war reserve to cover the capability clusters bring - especially in a GPS contested environment - we need to keep them.
The Pentagon has cluster munitions that meet this degree of reliability, the Sensor Fuzed Weapon, for example, but its large stockpiles of legacy cluster munitions would be useless at the 2018 deadline as legacy munitions do not meet that standard.

Though the 2018 deadline was set 10 years ago, the Obama administration showed no urgency in developing adequate replacements.
Today, those replacements are still under development. The military therefore took the only viable course of action by delaying the ban and keeping this weapon, while continuing to work toward developing new munitions that pose no risk of leaving any unexploded ordnance.
If the West is going to lean on the USA to provide the bulk of its combat power in case of significant conflict - which it does - then serious nations abroad, and serious leaders here, need to give our nation the room it needs to be ready.

If Feinstein and Leahy are really that concerned, then they should have sponsored a bill back when their party was in power in both the legislative and executive branches of government to fully fund a replacement. Of course, they didn't because that would not signal their brand of virtue.

Given the resources it has been provided, as Thomas Wilson and James Di Pane outline, the military has done the best as could be expected;
...most critiques of the Pentagon’s compromise policy ignore the fact that it now requires new purchases of cluster munitions to either have a less than 1 percent failure rate, or have self-destruct mechanisms that will be triggered after firing.

The Pentagon’s new policy has not, therefore, departed from the original goal of designing safer and more reliable cluster munitions. The policy rightly allows the U.S. military to maintain the capabilities necessary to counter masses of conventional forces should a future wartime scenario require it.

This is a prudent and defensible approach. The United States has used cluster munitions sparingly in recent decades, but they could be vital in a military situation involving large concentrations of conventional forces.

It would be reckless to destroy a valuable and well-established asset before its replacement is deployed.
Serious people will come up with serious alternatives - but that takes money and an understanding that war is a nasty and destructive business. If you want more scoped nastiness and destructiveness, then provide resources. If all you do is take away capabilities, all you really do is signal your willingness to sacrifice the lives of your countrymen tomorrow for you to be able to feel good about your self-righteousness today.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Hey, it's 2018 ... and all is well

Remember how 2017 was supposed to be the year where everything went off the rails? When Trump's election had everyone who didn't vote for him, and some who did, in a funk?

Look around you. 2018 is here and we are remarkably well. The Long War is not getting worse. The economy is the best its been in a decade. Sure, you can pick around the edges for some not so great stuff, but the bold faced items are more than not OK.

Regardless if you give this politician or political party no, some, partial or all credit - it does not matter. Take some time and simply enjoy the fact that you are alive in one of the best times in human history.

Last week, Jonah Goldberg said it well;
If you were hovering above Earth looking to be born randomly into any time period in human history, you’d pick now if you had any brains. And if you could pick a place, you’d pick a Western liberal democracy, and probably the United States of America (though as much as it pains me to say it, you wouldn’t be crazy to pick Canada or the U.K. or Holland). Sure, if you could pick being rich, white, and male — and didn’t really care too much about the plight of others — you might take the 1950s. But even then, your choices for food, entertainment, etc. would be terribly curtailed compared to today. If you chose to be a billionaire in 1917, you could still die from a minor infection, and good Thai food would be entirely unknown to you. You’d certainly never enjoy watching a Star Wars movie on an IMAX screen in air conditioning. In other words, while your homes would be bigger and cooler if you were a billionaire in 1917, a typical orthodontist in Peoria in 2017 is in many respects much richer than a billionaire a century earlier. Still, that’s not the deal on offer. You have to buy an incarnation lottery ticket, and the results would be random. I’m not big on dividing people up by abstract categories, and I certainly don’t mean them to be pejorative. But as a historical matter, being born poor, gay, black, Jewish, ugly, weird, handicapped, etc. today may certainly come with some problems or challenges, but on the whole those traits are less of a shackle or barrier than at any time in the past. The only trait where I think it might be a closer call is dumbness. All other things being equal, a not-terribly-intelligent person with a good work ethic and some decent values might have had more opportunities before machines replaced strong backs. But even here, I can think of lots of exceptions.
As I bask in my day off doing a bunch of nothing, I will try to keep that in mind as I look forward to 2018.

Sure, the wheels may come off at some point - but they probably won't any time soon. I've done all I can do, so why not enjoy the good while it is here? The bad times will come back - they always do - but for now, it is time to enjoy.

Here's to what I hope, for you and me and ours, will be a great year.