The calm before the ….?

I’ve been having a hard time blogging the past couple of days.  I feel as if I’ve said all that I’m capable of saying about the news already on the table, and nothing new has come along.

I suspect that the lull, both in the news and in my own brain, is occasioned by the fact that we have a new Congress that hasn’t really gotten moving yet.  For the four years of the Democratic Congress, not to mention that this same Congress ahd two “glory” years under Obama, there was always a lot to talk about.  Now, things are fallow.  Obama is in wait-and-see mode, even as he basks in the bounce from having a new Congress putting the brakes on his less savory schemes.  I suspect that Americans being the forgiving people they are, will decide in 2012 that Barack Obama was a poor creature grossly manipulated by Nancy Pelosi, and that we really ought to give him another chance, especially because it would look bad to vote him out of office.

I am finding amusing the fact that the media is trumpeting that nobody worth knowing is preparing to run on the Right in 2012.  (See, e.g., this.)  In fact, to people paying attention on the right, all of the hopefuls are known, and some of them look quite good.  It’s just that the press, focused obsessively on Palin, Beck and Limbaugh, hasn’t been paying attention.  That’s a good thing, in a way, because it allows the hopefuls to consolidate a power base before the media’s engines of destruction turn against them.

I captioned this post “the calm before the ….?” because I really don’t know what’s coming down the pike in the near future.  I could make various gloom and doom predictions based upon the way in which the totalitarian jackals abroad seem to be salivating about Obama’s weaknesses, but I’m actually seeing silver linings.

For example, in past wars with Hamas and Hezbollah, Israel has restrained herself at Bush’s and Clinton’s request.  Trusting both those governments, Israel backed down without taking any fight to its successful conclusion.  Now, with a Hezbollah government to her north, Israel may engage in a real war, unhampered by Obama’s drag.  She doesn’t trust Obama anyway, so she’ll be tempted to ignore his dubious enticements not to fight.  She’ll have some security from a Republican House, and that may be enough.

Likewise, matters may come to a head with Venezuela.  Hoping for something dramatic to happen may seem mean and superficial, but there’s a virtue to clarity and resolution.  Right now, Chavez is engaged in convert attacks that are hard to challenge, especially with a primarily leftist world media.  If Chavez acts on the perception (accurate, I think) that Obama’s weak, the gloves may come off, and world observers might see enough to stop the little Leftist love affair with that tyrant.

In other words, sometimes the status quo stops heavy bloodshed, but it nevertheless enables a slow bleed that can still lead, if not to death, at least to virtually terminal anemia.  The clarity that emerges when the strong man is gone might be helpful.

Or I might be whistling in the wind.

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Comments

  1. SADIE says

    I’ve already sent Speaker Boehner two emails asking for party position and comments on the two topics below. Silence is not the better part of valor all the time.
     
    S. 372 Whistle Blower Protection Act (which expired with the 111th)
    http://www.whistleblowersblog.org/2010/12/articles/legislation/s372-a-bad-deal-for-whistleblowers/
     
    and … my favorite

    Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Hill that oversight would be a key function of the panel, particularly funding to the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) that is “a waste of taxpayer dollars.”
     
     

  2. SADIE says

    Plant away, suek … something will germinate.  I am always grateful to you for leading me to Doug Ross – no matter how cranky I get after reading.  I spoke with younger son the other day, after a ‘company meeting’. Effective February 1, his health care premiums will go up 30%. His best buddy, who works for a major giant huge insurance company saw a 100% increase.
     
    BTW… I wasn’t less cranky when I spoke with him. My response: “well…the two of you voted for him”. Maybe the two of them will wake up by 2012.

  3. says

    Sadie, first you have to break them of the habit of blaming insurance companies for the price increases. The Left generates a price crisis, then takes control by saying the insurance companies are gouging people. That’s their SOP.

  4. SADIE says

    Actually, younger son, knows what and who caused the increase in premiums. He was not pointing a finger at the insurance company. It’s not as though we never engaged in dialogue about the Zero. My verbal skills are infinitely better than my written ones. It was, with a great understanding of facts and details that I conveyed the message, along with much more life experience.
     
    I made my position crystal clear in 2008 and again before 2010 forewarning him -he just chose to ignore my recommendations and I chose to ignore his 30% increase.

  5. Oldflyer says

    Book, as you know  the ’73 war was a bit of near thing for Israel.  I was aboard ship in the Eastern Mediterranean and in a position to watch our airlift of replacement aircraft and armament resupply heading East.   It was massive. (A little aside. After I was transferred ashore to command a jet training squadron, I found that every A4 training squadron in the U.S. Navy had two airplanes without tails.  The tail assemblies had been sent to Israel to replace those damaged by shoulder fired missiles.  I don’t know how many total we sent.)
    I really would hate to think of Israel going into full scale war without U.S. backing. I would hate to depend on this regime for survival if I were Israeli.
    The biggest danger for Chavez was probably from Colombia. I suspect that danger has waned.  Of course the people could rise up; but I won’t count on that.  If they did we would probably support  the Chavez regime.
    The U.S. is suddenly vulnerable on so many fronts, that it doesn’t bear thinking about.
     

  6. says

    With the cuts in the military numbers by Democrats in order to fund their health care and bank account initiatives, people will soon see what an army stretched to the breaking point really looks like. As opposed to the illusion they were sold during the Iraq conflict.
     
     

  7. Charles Martel says

    Our best hope is that the adults surrounding Obama can appeal to his vanity to get him to do the right thing.

    If China, after humiliating the clueless Obama so thoroughly at the White House, decides this is to moment to take Taiwan, Obama’s natural tendency as a wimp will be to throw the problem at the grown-ups. Assuming that the Chicago-style ideologues have not taken total sway over The One, I could see him being talked into flexing some muscle and sending two or three carrier task forces to the China Sea. So, Chance the Gardener’s passivity could work to our advantage.

    The same with Israel and Iran. (I’m praying that Stuxnet really did do a job on the Persian centrifuges.) Obama certainly is going to have take sides if Israel decides to do the dirty deed and bomb Iran, and I’m hoping that the ever-calculating pols who surround him will make him see that he doesn’t want to alienate U.S. Jews, no matter how much he dislikes them, nor the Arab Muslim world, which is far larger than the Persian Muslim world. Again, The One’s craveness and inexperience could work to our advantage.

    His real problems might be economic. Europe is closer to the Grand Teeter than the whore media or the EU will let on. The double dip in the U.S. housing market is due any month now. Illinois could declare bankruptcy, leading to a confrontation with Congress that our nancy boy would be hard pressed to win: “Hey, what’s a few billion dollars more for bloated bureaucracies, parasitic unions and thoroughly corrupt state and city governmental structures?” 

    Since Martel is only suited for Dark Ages-style military plotting and planning, I’d say the challenge will come from some unexpected quarter. Maybe Chavez invades Colombia, or Pakistan rattles India, or the Mexican cartels challenge the U.S. directly. Dunno. For now I’m betting on Obama’s narcissism to make him do the right thing because it will make him look good.

  8. Owen says

    Charles: For what it’s worth, I tend to agree. Obama’s tendancy to have others do the heavy lifting could be the silver lining here. In contrast, Clinton was actually dangerous as president. He was just a clueless, just as arrogant, and disliked foreign affairs intensely so he never had any idea of what he wanted to do or how to go about doing it.

    I have it on excellent authority that sometime in his first term, I simply stopped showing up for the PDB. The PDB was given the chief of staff who took notes and told Clinton whatever it was that he thought the Pres would like to hear.

    But Clinton would still insist on doing things when he was afraid he was looking too wimpy and would not listen to anyone but his yes-men. This is why Clinton’s foreign policy consisted of — as P.J. O’Rouke put it — showing up 6 months late and bombing the country next door.

    Obama has always struck me — to stretch a metaphor a bit — as the inept boy potentate who comes to power having been flattered all his life as to how smart and wise he is, and so believes it and is also therefore fundmentally uncurious.

    Thinking he’s the smartest guy in the room, he actually pretty easy to lead. The grown-ups just need to pat him on the back, thank him for his wonderful inspiration, and go do whatever it is. So it all depends on the caliber of the grown-ups.

    I’m being rather facetious here of course — it’s been obvious for awhile that Obama is getting uncomfortably acquainted with some elements of reality and it’s not sitting well with him, which makes him unpredictable. But I do still doubt he’ll be seized by the need to appear macho at inconvenient times the way Clinton was, which would be a good thing.

  9. Danny Lemieux says

    I do give Obama credit for doing the right thing on Guantanamo and the GWT, though.
    At least he knows now that there are real threats. His positions on missile defense and other military programs (air superiority) really worry me.

  10. says

    The best is that Obama does the right thing, for all the wrong reasons.
     
    That’s about what he did with Gitmo, since he didn’t want to make a decision, so let the status quo stand. He certainly got a lot of flack for the Congresscritters when he talked about releasing them in the US. Congresscritters didn’t want that on their record in their home states, hosting terrorists, in the next elections.
     
    It’s like nuclear wastes.

  11. Oldflyer says

    It would take a lot more than 2 or 3 carrier task forces to deter China from Taiwan.  China has been working hard on their attack submarine force and their other anti-carrier forces for at least a decade.
    I firmly believe that China is militarily free to do what they wish around their borders. I  do not think they have a long-range force projection capability–yet. Strangely, our best weapon against China would likely be economic.  I think their internal security relies heavily on economic growth.  So, if we had the will to punish them by cutting off, or sharply reducing, their export markets it would be a major blow.  If we had the will…

  12. Danny Lemieux says

    Oldflyer, I posited that question about “economic dependency” to a good friend of mine from China (now a Canadian citizen). He is very anti-regime. He says that the Chinese put their national objectives and “face” above all else.
     
    In his view, if it explained to them that it is a sacrifice to be made in the national interest, the Chinese people would accept economic hardship with equanimity. In his view, they consider such hardship normal and their new-found wealth “abnormal”.
     
    That’s just one man’s point of view, of course.

  13. suek says

    >>So, if we had the will to punish them by cutting off, or sharply reducing, their export markets it would be a major blow.

     
    In his view, they consider such hardship normal and their new-found wealth “abnormal”. >>
     
    But _we_ don’t!  Start checking everything you buy (other than fresh fruits and veggies) and see how many are many in China, and what you’d have to do without.  Starting with your light bulbs, by the way.  Cutting off our imports from China might in fact be a way for them to get a handle on _us_!

  14. Spartacus says

    Owen — I respectfully disagree that he disliked foreign affairs.  Numerically, I’m sure he had more affairs here at home, but he was never one to sneeze at a finely-turned ankle when travelling “a-broad.”

  15. Owen says

    Danny & Oldflyer: Points well taken. I do agree that our best leverage in economic and I think think, without paradox that both points may be true. The Chinese leadership has been selling the “newly rich” line hard to maintain themselves in power but the Chinese will endure privation.

    Of course China is far from monolithic and there are many stresses. Yet I think it should be kept in mind that ecomonic growth may be more destablizing for China than privation. I still think China is “trying to leap halfway across a river in flood” and they will land with a splash before too long.

    Regarding the other point: Yes, China has been working hard on their attack submarine force and I wish I had more current data on how they were doing. Around 2000 they had trouble keeping subs at sea for more than 3 days — and this was in benign conditions.

    At the time, China’s official goal was to be able to operate out to the 1st Island Chain sometime between now and the next few years. Between 2020 and 2030, they hoped to be able to operated out to the 2nd Island Chain, which would give them a blue-water capability.

    I don’t think they have made it to the 1st Island Chain yet, so I suspect they are behind. This to me calls into question how fast their operational expetise has grown. In general, the assessments I have assume (wittingly or not) either what PLA and PLAN hardware could do if operated by American personel or the capabilities given the very best Chinese forces, which are an insignificant percentage of the whole.

    It is entirely possibly that I do not give the current PLA enough credit but I cannot really tell from current open sources.

  16. says

    It’s not as though we never engaged in dialogue about the Zero. My verbal skills are infinitely better than my written ones. It was, with a great understanding of facts and details that I conveyed the message, along with much more life experience.

    You should write those conversations up and post them up here. Just like book does with hers ; )

  17. Danny Lemieux says

    To your point, Owen, I recall that many of the Soviet-era subs were found to be highly inefficient and usually inoperable. They had a lot of subs because so many of them were broken down at any given time.
     
     
    The U.S. Navy made a good point in its comments regarding China’s expansing military capabilities, I thought, in that it takes decades to build the support-infrastructure capabilities and training regimens to use modern weapons systems effectively (with respect to China’s carrier and submarine forces). I also wonder about the education level of the average Chinese soldier.

  18. says

    Apropos the Soviet subs, one of them is open for tours down in San Diego, along with an American sub.  The differences are stark.  While American subs are uncomfortable, the Soviet sub, which was huge, was clearly designed by Torquemada.  It was insanely unpleasant, as if the military wanted its submariners to suffer.  My husband banged himself badly going through an ill-designed hatchway, and I joked that he was the last casualty of the Cold War.

  19. says

    Pretty funny, Book.
     
    Danny, I was at a dinner party some years ago and the wife of a guest expressed surprise that the US military could stand up to the Chinese military. She quoted something about a large number of individuals in the Chinese military, land or sea.
     
    I was unimpressed, but chose not to go into the training aspects that differentiate between an elite military force and a parade quality force.
     
    The Chinese have legendary tacticians and strategists. Sun Tzu/Sun Wu. Zhuge Liange. These are individuals which made mince meat of the concept that “there is a quality to quantity all on its own”. Their level was such that not even superior numbers could be counted an advantage against them. For they used such numbers to their advantage, and did not treat it as a weakness at all.
     
    Their stratagems and traps became legendary in Chinese history. Mao, of course, distrusted the traditionals and he attempted to purge them from Chinese culture, replacing it with himself of course. He was not entirely successful in the end.

  20. says

    But he was successful enough that CHinese military power, is not even at the level it was back in 500 BC, in terms of training and general strategic expertise at the flag rank.
     
    They haven’t fought a real war in decades. Land or sea. All they have to go on are the text books, which Mao couldn’t reach to burn. Textbooks are nice, but to truly understand war, you’re going to need either personal experience or somebody else’s experience guiding you.
     
    Which means, China will be looking for military trainers. But the best military trainers are the Americans. And the second best, probably private military contractors, and then the Russian private contractors. But it’s a second best by far.

  21. Owen says

    Danny: That sounds like what we told them back 1999 ;-) . (Full disclosure: In ’98, I and one other principle author published a report for ONI on how the Chinese would plan to fight an asymmetric war with the USN covering the period from 2000 to 2020. The report was intended to be the Navy’s foundational document for how to deal with China over that period. Whether it actually became that, I don’t know as they never tell us that. But they seemed to like it.)

    One thing I learned during that study was that takes at least 5 years for the USN to properly train a crew to make a carrier operational. Given that we invented that concept, have been doing it longer than anyone else, and have people available who start out at much higher level than the Chinese, the fact that it still takes us 5 years should impose some caution on the notion that the Chinese navy was somehow going to go from 0 to carrier in about 10 years, as some were saying at the time. (The Russians never did figure it out, BTW.)

    The last war China fought was with Vietnam in 1980 and they suffered an ignominious defeat at the hands of a smaller force. During the 90s, the PLA was struggling hard with the inplications of Gulf War 1 and I don’t think they’d gotten their hands around them when the Invasion happened and upset them all over again. (In modern parlance, to say that the PLA was “totally freaked out — like totally!” would an understatement. I assume that is modern parlance, BTW? I don’t get out much.)

    I wish I could remember all the stuff I read about Chinese training and logistics, a lot of it was pretty funny (if perhaps a bit dark) 

    There was an article in PLAD about the wonders of the new PLA automated field kitchen — a chuck wagon-ish thing on the back a truck. There was a photo with a caption about the smiling PLA cooks “pushing brightly lit buttons and holding large spoons.” For months after that, any assessment of Chinese military capability was met with: “Yes, but have you considered the large spoons?”

    There was another article in PLAD about a commendation given to a airbource unit for reducing casualties during parachute drops (which were really horrific). Turns out that the soldiers did not fold their own parachutes!

    Some bright young fellow suggested that maybe this would help and the unit petitioned to be allowed to give it a try. So they retrained the outfit to fold their own parachutes and casualties went way down (altho they were still high). While applauding this “grass-roots” effort to improve effectiveness and morale, the article did not (as I recall) say anything about try to expand this effort to other units.

    They may have, of course (I never found out any more about it), but I still wonder if PLA airbourne units are still kind of raining down like lemmings.

  22. Danny Lemieux says

    Ymar and Owen, you are right about the issue of numerical superiority not being a factor in modern war. I’ve tried to guess the kill ratio of U.S. soldiers dead to enemy dead in the recent wars and I figure it to be 1:20 (one American killed versus 20 enemy). And that is under heavily restrained battle conditions. Even in WWII, however, our kill ratios against highly trained, motivated and professionally led German and Japanese soldiers were about 1:10, I believe.
     
    Then there is training. The American soldier is trained to be an independent thinking unit, the product of a dictatorship like China or North Korea (or Saddam’s Iraq) is not. They are cowed into losing any ability to contribute independent thought.
     
    I once asked a fellow TKD instructor, a former Army Ranger who had served in Korea, what the key difference was between an American soldier and a (South) Korean Soldier. He thought about it and said, “if an American soldier was lost on patrol, he would soon figure out a way to rejoin his unit. A Korean soldier, on the other hand, would sit down in place and wait for his unit commander to find him”. That was a South Korean soldier. Can you imagine how limited a ChiCom or NoKo soldier’s independent thinking capabilities would be? This advantage is in large part because our military is confident and able to delegate authority down through the ranks: our non-com leaders are surpassed by none and provide the bulwark or our armed forces. A contradiction of dictatorships is that they dare not delegate authority downwards.

    A principle in martial arts – every strength can be a weakness and every weakness can be a strength.
     
    We have two glaring weaknesses, as I see it. One, we are totally reliant on our technology. EMP attacks on our satellites or battlefield electronics would be devastating. Two, we lack the political will to take heavy casualties or fight extended wars. Our enemies’ timelines are measured in centuries, ours in news cycles. I also have my doubts about Americans’ abilities to endure deprivation.

  23. Owen says

    Danny: Regarding our weaknesses — yes, we are heavily reliant on our technology. On the other hand, it’s not as easy as all that to defeat.

    A guy we worked with at ONI was the local gadfly and naysayer. His boss once told us (when he was not around) that anytime he picked up a marker and walked towards a whiteboard, you could here the theme from Jaws playing. (Stop him before he theorizes again!)

    But aside from being a rather cantankerous pain-in-the-ass he was useful and kept people on their toes. He gave us a lot of our tasking (and a lot of taxpayer dollars) which was generally to try to show how vulnerable our military technology was — EMP and GPS jamming were two of his hobby horses. We worked both these issues a lot but the threats just did not pan out. This was not for lack of trying on the part of the Chinese and the Russians, who have both done a lot of research in both areas (although I must say the Chinese efforts were kind of lame).

    I was also once involved briefly in an EMP effort from the other side and it gave me a useful perspective on the whole problem.

    I’ll also note as an aside that when they did the second upgrade to the New Jersey, they left the old analog fire-control systems in place because they found they were just about as effective as the new electronic systems, so if the electronics were lost, they could still fight. I wish they’d bring those ships back.

    Regarding casualties, that was certainly the Chinese perspective after Somalia. For all their talk of taking out carriers, their actual hope (as they stated it) was to put a torpedo into a poorly defended auxillary on the assumptions we’d run for home if that happened. Afganistan and the Invasion of Iraq I think recalibrated them generally but I’m not sure what it did to their perception of that perceived weakness.

    By extended wars, I take you mean high-intensity wars? You may well be right but that implies a degree of symmetry in the conflict that currently cannot exist. In the future it might (20 to 50 years out), depending on who advances how much and how much we degrade.

    On the other hand, technology marches on. When they get that railgun operational, I want one for my birthday!

  24. says

    I want the kinetic nuclear drops from orbit. Just drop a couple of rocks from orbit after accelerating them, and you get an accurate tactical nuke system that is both clean and cheap to use.
     
    I haven’t heard about what sort of nuclear yield it takes to blanket an entire area such that the induced voltage from the EM field is enough to fry both working and not working electronics. It’s definitely not in the kiloton range. The higher up you go, the less intense the EM induced voltage becomes due to the inverse proportion ratio between strength and distance.
     
    So either you could drop something low enough to blast some stuff, or high enough to cover a wide area. The second one would require a disproportionately larger yield.

  25. says

    The assembly process for a carrier is pretty complicated. Both from the manufacturing level and from the manpower level.
     
    China would need a cadre force to initiate training of people. Meaning, they need a solid core of individuals trained to “work” on an actual carrier, and then disperse those individuals to train more people to “work” on an actual carrier. But to do that, they NEED an actual carrier first. This is not something you can simulate by propping up wooden artillery pieces on a field and having the gunners “mime” out their actions.
     
    This cadre force must number equal to a skeleton crew of a carrier, meaning every task is accounted for in a particular individual. Then once you test out the cadre force and they know what they are doing, you then must disperse them. Which means you have no crew able to man the carrier any more. They are now in training, because you just pulled 100% of the crew off to teach others with.
     
    Assuming it takes 5 years to train a cadre corps, it would be another 5 years before you could even get one carrier operational.
     
    The real problem starting from scratch is that you can’t use the trained crew you HAVE immediately. If you do, you will never be able to get another one. The Japanese ran into this issue and that’s why you had a Turkey shoot over the Marianas where the Americans shot down every Japanese zero while suffering ZERO casualties themselves. It’s because the Japanese refused to rotate back experienced pilots to train the greenies.

  26. suek says

    This is not specifically about China – it’s economics stuff.  But his comments/observations/questions towards the bottom of the article concerning China are interesting.  There’s no question in my mind that China is a massive puzzle box – partly because that’s the way they play the game, and partly because the culture is just so darned foreign to our way of thinking.
     
    http://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=178541

  27. says

    Danny, numbers are much less effective on a strategic level. It’s primarily because to make effective use of numbers, you need to be able to move them together and attack with them together. That’s more easily done on a tactical level, when you already have the people you need there, physically. But China has to actually be able to move their land and sea forces. Thus without the proper logistics and C3 to handle these flowing of forces, numbers are indeed meaningless. Because they can’t bring those numbers into effective contact with the enemy in an organized manner.
     
    A mob is not a match for a trained and well supplied army. Especially when there are no ROE restrictions involved.
     
    America, even in a land war on asia, can basically fly all over the place and attack everywhere. They just need to fabricate some FOBs out around there and be able to defend them. When the Chinese move their military forces en masse in one direction, superior C3 and logistics allows the counter-attack to be made while the Chinese forces are in transit or totally bypassing those forces to hit a critical target. Like the capital.
     
    Part of America’s problem, as seen in Iraq, is that you should refuse to win the war quickly. Meaning, you want to keep their resistance up so you can find out exactly who is doing what. The military mind is always focused on concentrating firepower and dealing the death blow quickly, but this is the modern world now and dealing a death blow isn’t really a death blow any more.
     
    There has NEVER historically been a case where a battle won too cheaply and too quickly, turned into a disadvantage for the winners. Until America came along.
     
    If there ever had been a historical case, I’d like to hear it.

  28. says

    The strategy I am referring to when it comes to the time scale of a war, is based upon a rather old kind of thinking. Meaning, take the offensive strategically, but then on the tactical battlescape, go into defense mode.
     
    This means going into the enemy’s territory on a grand offensive, but then sitting around in a fort waiting for them to attack you. it is one of the most devastating stratagems in terms of coffering to your side all the advantages, and to the other side, all the disadvantages. You have the advantages of both offense and defense, while the enemy is fighting defensively, but without any fortified walls or insurgent populations to support them.
     
    It’s not much used these days, for some reason. Well, except for Russia’s offense into Georgia. That was an example.

  29. Oldflyer says

    Interesting exchanges.  Much more informative than 200+ entries with Zach.
    Glad I tickled your interest Owen.  You are clearly much more current than I who have been retired  for longer than I served (that really screws up the actuarial tables).  And your level of knowledge is deeper.  Danny is always a font of knowledge.
    I do sort of laugh at the notion that the Chinese, and the Russians too, are going to become significant carrier forces in the near term.  There is some video floating around of a Russian fighter performing  a wave-off on a Russian carrier.  It creates some chuckles, and winces, among old Naval Aviators.  The guy was extremely fortunate–that time– because he violated the most basic principles of carrier airmanship.  That is just one aspect.  Command and control within one complex ship is formidable task enough; not to mention among a force.  I well remember some embarrassing moments during my last deployment as a member of a Task Group Commander’s staff, when we couldn’t always account for our own supporting force, much less the opposition.
    As  I said, and I think it is accurate; China can have its way around its borders.  No one has  the necessary combination of strength and will to oppose them.  I do not believe that they will be a military threat in the wider world for some time because of limits on force projection and sustainability.  It is a matter of curiosity, but I do not want to test the thesis, whether China of today would tolerate the enormous level of casualties that they did during Korea. It was their ability and willingness to do so then that made them so formidable.
    For those who are knowledgeable of China.  My understanding is that there is often unrest formenting just below the surface in the provinces, as traditional life is upset to support economic development.  However, as stated, they are accustomed to privation; and of course it is harder to organize.  It is in the metropolitan areas that I suspect economic stress would have the broader effect.  Any reaction?

  30. Owen says

    Ymarsakar: Are you familiar with TRIMs? The wife of a fellow I worked with doing atmospheric modeling work at FMC doing research on hyper-velocity projectiles. Fun stuff!

    On my blog there was an interesting discussion in the comments years ago about EMP effects from nuclear air burst. It turns out to be harder than one might think to get a EMP damage radius that is that much bigger than the blast radius. The conclusion I came to was that as EMP weapons, nukes were not so hot (so to speak).

    Good comments on strategy too. In Iraq though, I think Saddam had the insurgency primed and ready to go from the start. I tend to believe that he overestimated the time he would have to get it going, so I think that actually the speed that things moved during the invasions worked to our advantage. Had things stretched out, I suspect the insurgency would have been better organized, better supplied and funded, and harder fought. So overall, my (guarded) assessment is that we came out ahead.

    Danny: Regarding China, I’m not sure if they would stand a high level of causalities — they well might. The Chinese have never had a horror of such things and the majority probably still don’t.

    But I can’t see a reasonable scenario where that would happen again. I recall when I was looking over eveything we’d done on China and I realized they were in the same position in 2000 that they were in the 1830s and 1840s when Britain easily dominated them.

    I thought at the time that China could effectively taken down with slightly fewer tomahawks than Clinton used to bomb an Sudanese asperin factory and some empty mud huts in Afghanistan. That thought was facetious, then and now — but my assessment of China’s vulnerability was not.

    True, the current Chinese economy could be destroyed by taking out six or so coastal cities — an easy thing to do — but again why would we ever want to do that? The coastal Chinese don’t like the regime. They are asperational people — they want to do better. As much as they hate the unequal treaty century, a lot of Chinese did pretty well out of it. They’d like the effects back, without the unequal treaty part.

    We could probably also drive the Chinese economy to collapse through ecomonic means if we really wanted to — we effectively own important sectors of it. But again why? This would mainly hurt the sector in China that we’d most like to encourage.

    China as a robust ecomonic competitor – good. China as a militarily adventurous regional power -Bad. But the latter comes down to power projection, where China is weakest. So it’s not that hard to make China keep it’s hands to itself. That’s what really matters.

  31. Owen says

    Oldflyer: Thanks. There were some interesting interviews I read with ex-Soviet Admirals in the 90s. I recall when Gorshkov was regarded as a genius — and I think he was — nd we were very concerned about the blue-water Soviet navy. But these admirals frankly admitted it never worked. “We were given task that we never could master,” was I think how they put it.

    The more I studied Soviet naval C4I and fire control, etc and how the parts of the military were integrated and supposed to work together, I was on the one hand very impressed with Soviet cleverness. On the other, it was clear they didn’t have a snowflake’s chance in hell of making it work.

  32. says

    Owen, I’ll look into the TRIM field. Sounds interesting.
     
    The way I look at Iraq, they were trying to do two things.
     
    1. Butter up international UN people, like Blair in UK, for some kind of UN Resolution.
     
    2. Buy time for another infantry division to land in from Turkey to Kurdistan.
     
    As a result of the “additional” time invested, Saddam was able to come up with an insurgency and the division that was supposed to come from Kurdistan to “crush” escaping Baathists and what not, didn’t happen.
     
    So basically, a huge waste of time. Wasting time strategically to buy time via a tactical knockout? That’s completely arsebackwards.
     
    If they wanted a knock out blow, they should have flowed it in in 2002, right after Afghanistan mostly fell.
     
    If they wanted to take their time and dicker around playing whatever political games they want to play, the tactics should have reflected that and been more of a “search, destroy, hold, and unify” plan. Forget about moving fast enough to grab Baathists or insurgents or Saddam. Just park people’s armor in Kurdistan and Shia and wait until the local political movements have enough time to get up to speed. After all, wasting almost 2 years playing games at the UN, now people want to go rah rah let’s go now, in Iraq in one month? A little inconsistency between the tactics and strategy here.
     
    The theory behind EMP attacks is sound. It’s just the engineering aspects that take front stage. If we could induce an EM charge in a “field” that reaches across a large area, we would be able to “beam” electricity around. But we can’t. Because our engineering level isn’t up to that “tech” yet. So the best people can come up with is a bomb specifically designed for EMP. But then again, that’s like re-inventing nuclear bombs in the first place. Not exactly easy to do or delivery. After all, it’s one thing for people who already have nuclear launch capabilities and tech to say “we’ll now develop an EMP nuke”. It’s quite another thing for people who have no nuclear launch abilities or warheads, to now start talking about taking the EMP field by storm. It’s going to take a miracle-genius and a lot of resources.
     
    Also, depending on the damage, you can pretty much replace the damaged components. If the wires and resistors are undamaged, and it’s just the capacitors, transistors, and transformers, then you can just sort of swap em out. Resistors are designed to control electricity. It’s unlikely an EM field can generate enough of a voltage spike to fry those puppies. For wires, they basically have to melt to be damaged.
     
    Of course, there are plenty of “survivalist” enclaves here in America that are preparing for a full blanket EMP storm across the nation, setting us back to the Stone Age. More power to them. If they want to spend their money to be self-sufficient, that’s a virtue, not a vice.
     
     

  33. Owen says

    Ymarsakar: You are right about points 1 & 2. In the end, that was a somewhat regretable choice (and in particular the WMD focus was understandable, regrettable, and I think unnecessary), but so was the first choice not to finish the deal during GW Part 1.

    I’m not as sure about the inconsistency between the tactics and strategy you mention. Not to say that your idea would not have worked, but I’m not sure it would have worked any better in the end, given the socio-political realities on the ground.

    I’m willing to be convinced — I’ve had a long-standing wish for someone to layout a realistic plan that would be a significant improvement of what actually happened in Iraq, according to reliable metrics. No one so far has ever made a serious attempt.

    Just to go on record, my own feeling, based on what I knew about Iraq pre-and post-invasion, is that between the invasion and 2008, no competing approach (that does not depend heavily on hindsight) would have generated a statistically significant improvement at a significantly lower cost.

    Since this is somewhat far afield of this thread, if you can point me to the counter-arguments, I would be very happy.

  34. Owen says

    Ymarsakar: Oh, yes, the theory is fine. And as design rules shrink, it’s finer (so to speak). It’s the engineering and the overall payoff that are the bugger factors.

    Just to give a bit of prespective, I was involved with a related program briefly. There was a test bed set up in the courtyard where I worked — a big dish and computer. There was a lot of jabbering about what one could potentially do. I sat there thinking: yes but with a long lean, you could just hit it with a wrench too.

    But, yes people want to be self-sufficient, that’s all good. All there are some thing that I think should be hardened. But as a matter of policy, it not a huge worry at this time, and I kind of wish some of the pundits and such like would stop trying to whip of public hysteria about it.

    We have bigger fish to fry.

  35. says

    No one so far has ever made a serious attempt.

    From my experience, most people’s energies were tied up arguing with the Left over made up stuff like “body armor” issues. The people who had time to work on the issues, were working on them, but the debate was non-existent because it was all about fluff or political games.
    There was a great amount of expectation on the part of Iraqis, after the statue came down, that America would lay down the iron fist and replace Saddam’s order with American liberty and prosperity. But…, the American view was “why aren’t the Iraqis doing anything by themselves”. Well, given their history, when they tried, they died. So now that the “magical American” army is here, they were just waiting around to see what happens.

    Well, obviously what happened was chaos, looting, and the introduction of AQ in Iraq. Power vacuum. The Kurds were all right. They had autonomous functionality and Kurdish perseverance going for them. The Shia had religious nut problems in Sadr, but that was years down the road. The Sunnis were number 1 when it came to break down of law and order and they had the hot bed of resistance because a lot of people had it good under Saddam. Sunni bloggers, one a woman even, graduated from a Sunni Triangle university and knew English rather well. She wasn’t happy about America’s presence in Iraq, to say for sure.
    To go back during the 2002 planning stage, I can’t speak for myself since I wasn’t at the point where I could make an independent judgment based upon military/political goals. I was still relying upon the generals or other military experts as the authority on what was correct planning for Iraq.
    By the time I gained enough of an education in military matters, the Iraq invasion had finished and now COIN was being developed. On the positive side, that did mean I was able to pick up a lot of things by looking at other people’s first hand experiences. Stuff that isn’t easily absorbed from historical texts.

    By the time the invasion had happened, it was too late to change the strategy, for the most part. Entrenched interests, both military (man, there were a bunch of people at high rank wanting to get their last war in before it was over) and political, were too deeply invested already to change much dramatically without an external threat (like losing).

    To change the fundamental strategic consequences of the Iraqi invasion, one would have needed to restructure things starting from 2001.

  36. Owen says

    Ymarsakar: Thats good input. I retired from the biz in late 2002, so I wasn’t in loop for the last 6 months or so before the invasion. There are still things I’m puzzled about but since I was in intel, not the military, ops planning was something we only heard about after the fact. I cannot discount that there were valid reasons for going in when and as we did.

    My impression of the first year is bascially the same as yours. The problem, I think, was two-fold: things were socially even worse than was thought. This is not surprising but the operative point is that there was no way prior to the invasion to know how things actually were.

    So yes, there was a lot of expectation on the part of Iraqis, but we could not get the actionable intel we needed. Again, given history, this is perfectly understandable — who was going to be the first to stick his neck out under those circumstances, esp given the way e’d behaved in the past?

    It’s also my impression that Saddam planned on a heavy-headed American occupation. I think he was counting on us rounding up lots of people and trying to restore order, and making a lot of mistakes in the process that his people could exploit. To a large extent that did not happen, and I think it disrupted his plans.

    So in effect I tend to believe that the power vacuum was necessary, bad as it was. I don’t think we were going to win out over Saddam without it, because that would have put us in a reactive position of trying to out-politic Saddam in his own country.

    It sounds callous to say it, but in an important sense, all the chaos and even the AQ and Iranians coming into the country, leveled the playing field. What amazed me in Iraq (and I don’t think that’s too strong a word) is how fast the Iraqis came around to our side. We made more progress in 3 years than I ever hoped.

    Maybe I was too pessimistic in my pre-invassion assesments, but considering say, the split between India and Pakistan, Iraq was a Disney ride.

  37. says

    The problem, I think, was two-fold: things were socially even worse than was thought. This is not surprising but the operative point is that there was no way prior to the invasion to know how things actually were.


    If the goal was to liberate the Iraqis post invasion, I would have started building it during the war effort itself. Meaning, the best way to differentiate between the chaff and the wannabes is to stick them in a war together and see what comes out. But while I had expected in 2003 to see Iraqi auxiliaries used (I had heard good things bout the Kurds and they certainly didn’t lack for “interest” in the matter of hitting Saddam where it hurt), but nothing happened on those lines. Nor was there any planning to make it happen, apparently.

    They didn’t have intel because they didn’t have boots on the ground to get the human intel. But when they had boots on the ground, they also didn’t do anything about gathering human intel. So it was, obviously they were intending to decapitate Saddam’s government and that was their primary goal. Post war was apparently left in the hands of the Department of State. OMG who the hell would do that unless they wanted a complete disaster.

    The thing about local auxiliaries was something I thought up in 2003 as the invasion went on. The rest was a result of re-engineered re constructive analysis of past events knowing what I know now. The models I developed seem pretty accurate in predicting the results and incidences that happened, so regardless of how many blind spots there can be in models, I still use them. So long as they are useful in predicting Iraqi or American policies.

    My issue is, I don’t expect the planners to be geniuses and be able to predict all this stuff we know now, in advance. I do expect them, however, not to completely make a hash out of the planning so that it becomes a Rud Goldberg machine with 50,000 moving parts. They got to keep it simple, if only because war is friction. And the other reason they got to keep it simple is because they need intel and they needed it from the Kurds and Shia. Because of the language barrier, they needed more time in country.

    I think the military, the Army specifically, got bothered by Vietnam nation building and just said to hell with it. They concentrated solely on winning the land war in Iraq and assumed somebody else would carry the load post-war. The Special Forces in Afghanistan, of course, did it the “cheap” and right way, so to speak. Those individuals understood the local culture, the dynamics, and what not. But then why didn’t SF take the lead in Iraq or offer a consulting role working with the local auxiliaries? Oh Ya, because the Army wanted that war action. There is no other reason, I can think of, not to utilize the SF with locals fighting, except the explanation that the US Army and Marines decided to junk the whole auxiliary concept, with its attendant political and intelligence ramifications.

    This stuff wasn’t apparent or all that public, but I know it was going on. The military has their own little factions. Even if the news media never really reports on their doings.

    I’m not too sure how much of a disaster or who could have done better than the various generals or diplomats in 2003. From hindsight, it was obviously Petraeus, but he didn’t have his COIN system set up at the time. COIN, was not something the Army gave much of a Two Frack about given Vietnam and the various political generals installed under Clinton.

  38. says

    So in effect I tend to believe that the power vacuum was necessary, bad as it was. I don’t think we were going to win out over Saddam without it, because that would have put us in a reactive position of trying to out-politic Saddam in his own country.

    The thing is, once the US installed themselves as the occupation forces, anything bad that happens was attributed to us. This was in fact the lynch pin of the insurgency. Anything bad that happened, US fault. That seemed to be the end all and be all plan of Saddam’s. Make enough trouble for us and we would leave like in Vietnam or Somalia. He didn’t count on the Bush factor, though.

    So it was both a power vacuum, and it was the US’s fault. If the US had no taken the capital and just staged from Kurdistan and the Shia areas, they would not have been the occupation, the war would be on going, and they could work out political solutions with the Shia and Kurds without attempting to deal with an insurgency at the same time. They would just be fighting “conventional” forces, so to speak. That is a political-military solution, rather than simply a military solution of taking the capital and winning the land war. For the reasons I listed in the previous comment, this wasn’t done. If Bush had received a recommendation advancing the political aspirations of liberty seeking Iraqis, I don’t think he would have disapproved of it. So the explanation I arrive at, is that the military hierarchy, under Rumsfeld, did not forward the proposition. Rumsfeld and SOCOM did for Afghanistan, but I don’t think Bush was aware of military affairs (at that time) to know the difference. He was always very free in giving his subordinates room to make their own decisions. (Case exampel, Diversity Casey. Disaster that was)
    So yes, there was a lot of expectation on the part of Iraqis, but we could not get the actionable intel we needed. Again, given history, this is perfectly understandable — who was going to be the first to stick his neck out under those circumstances, esp given the way e’d behaved in the past?

    At the time in question, specifically 2003 May, the US army didn’t need Iraqi assistance for basic law and order. They had full and complete control of the capital and most of the underlying areas. The insurgency was not yet in full swing. They were still organizing and getting funded. What it looked like to me was that the people in charge of military affairs said to themselves “we won the war, now we’re retiring”. Maybe if the military had been given General-Governorship of Iraq, things might have been different, but that didn’t happen. I believe the military themselves thought the war would go on longer. It didn’t because Saddam ordered people to fall back, and of course most of the Iraqis deserted due to memories of Gulf War 1 (High Way of Death). Essentially, it was almost like Saddam retreated to a hole, the Iraqis welcomed in the Americans, and the Americans thought they were fighting World War III and was getting ready to battle all these Republican divisions, which simply collapsed on a dime. Everybody got surprised, it seems. That is not a good thing. Only the enemy should be surprised. The people who planned for the military campaign, should not be the ones surprised. They, after achieving victory, should not behave like they had just suffered a rout and needs time to ‘sort” through things.
    In 2004, the intel then got really important. But as a consequence of the last 2 years, it wasn’t forthcoming as you mentioned. I think the past, Gulf War 1, played a part, but it was 2002-4 that really made people suspect US actions.

    At the time, the euphoria of victory in 2003 was pretty heady. I think that, along with the shortness of the war, really distorted some people’s perceptions of what was going to happen in the future. Again, good planning includes contingencies on such matters. They don’t need to know the future. They just need to be prepared for all kinds of things and not waste time doing stuff they shouldn’t be doing.
    The Department of State and the Department of Defense wasted time, both in their own fashions. Time is something not easily recovered in war, though.

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