Friday, April 6, 2018

Doing the Right Thing the Wrong Way, or the Wrong Thing the Right Way, or Something - (Now With More Explosions!!)

So the latest foreign policy surprise from the Fraudulency Administration - if you can call anything a "surprise" when it emerges as some sort of mouth- or brain-fart from a man whose cognitive functions appear to work in a similar fashion to the human colon - is the supposedly-soon and supposedly-total withdrawal of all U.S. armed forces from within the Syrian borders. know my opinion on the whole "Hillary the Hawk, Donald the Dove" nonsense. So I think the thing to look at isn't the "why". The "why" is the same "why" Trump does anything; because he heard it on "Fox and Friends", because he thinks it'll bump the audience share (if you haven't figured out that this is the first Reality Show Presidency, hello), because it has to do with smelly foreigners and Trump hates smelly foreigners. I doubt very much whether Trump knows, or cares, about anything in Syria, including the GIs there.

No. The thing to look at is the "what happens now" and "how is this a potentially positive development?"

And I think the linked articles cover the possibilities pretty well.

First, the single "positive" thing I can think of off the top of my head is that the guys in the special operations outfits can un-ass that chaotic AO. That is good thing, in that if they don't, sooner or later the American guys in Manbij are going to have to fight Turks, our supposed NATO allies, and that won't be good for anyone. Add to that the simple reality that Syria is a dog's breakfast right now. Nothing, including the nonsensical plan to form some sort of Kurdish "Ever Victorious Army" to keep a boot on the neck of the Sunni salafis who signed up for the Islamic State, probably for the retirement benefits, is going to make the place logical and comprehensible. It's a goddamn mess, a Hobbsean war of all against all, and the only thing a GI is going to get out of it, if he's unlucky enough, is dead.

Adnd from there everything pretty much goes downhill.

The Kurds, poor suffering bastards, get hung out to dry like they have by every foreign (and most domestic) adventurers since Saladin. Between the Assad regime and the Turks and the Saudi-bankrolled salafi jihadis the Kurds are going to be tossed into the shark tank. That sucks, to me, anyway, because the Kurds seems like a decent bunch in general, and I have a soft sport for the underdogs. But, like most underdogs, they're gonna find what the smallest dog in the dog pound always finds out; if you stand still they fuck you, and if you run they bite you on the ass.

The other thing I see is that this is unlikely to do anything to lessen the troubles that the Middle East is likely to bring to the United States. That well has been so long and so deeply poisoned that it is too late for the US to simply pull every swinging richard out and hope that the locals will forget the ferenghi and start killing each other. Well, they WILL kill each other, but they will also have time and energy to figure out how to kill the Yankees, if they can. The legacy of the US in the Middle East is a long and disastrous one, going back well into the Fifties. If you're interested, I wrote a lighthearted summation over at Graphic Firing Table in four parts; here, here, here, and here (with a rumination on the potentially ruinous consequence of prolonged war with the Muslim peoples of the Middle East here).

Cole points out that the worst possible outcome of this will be the Saudis' move into the power vacuum with more support for their loathsome fundamentalist proxies. Ugh. Just what the Middle East needs; MORE religious nuts.

The bottom line is that the Middle East is a nearly impossible problem for a U.S. government to solve due to a number of fixed points in history that constrain the government's actions today. To change that would mean trying to change both history and an inertial mass of special interests that are completely unwilling to allow that change to happen.

For my Army brothers I hope Trump's government does manage to yank them out of Syria.

For the rest of us? Let's not kid ourselves. That won't help the cesspit of ambition, distraction, uglification, and derision that is the modern Middle East. And it doesn't mean that the Orange King thinks of himself as a Prince of Peace. Greg Jaffe at the Post has a good piece that limns the sort of viciousness that is at the heart of Trump's character. He's a bully. He likes to hurt and kill people if it doesn't mean he has to risk himself. When he talks about ending wars he's talking about a Roman ending; making a wasteland.

So if Trump is "getting out" of Syria, don't fool yourself; this simply means that he will take his vicious egotism somewhere else.

We are so, so, SO fucked.

Update 4/12: Maybe more fucked that we thought. Here's Fred Kaplan on what now appears to be an inescapable attack on Syria:
"...Russia and Iran, not wanting to lose their most valued ally and foothold in the region, would come to Assad’s rescue, repairing the damage, replacing the planes, and possibly escalating the conflict. (Trump) can’t launch an all-out attack on Syria’s air force without also attacking Russia, and he can’t do that without risking a very dangerous new war."
Will Le Roi L'Orange be willing to begin that war? Are We the People willing to do nothing if he does?

It seems that we are about to find out.

Update 4/14: And so we have.

The "Western allies" - the U.S., Great Britain, and France - delivered some munitions to Syria late Friday night. The attack was described as "limited", and is supposed to have been directed specifically at Assad's checmical munitions capabilities.

Fred Kaplan claims the the bombing was primarily a "win" for SecDef Mattis and CJCS Dunford, whose main concern was to 1) not get the U.S. mired deeper in yet another hopeless Middle Eastern civil war, while 2) not gin up a shooting war with Russia.

Supposedly Carpenter Trump and his Walrus pal Bolton wanted to go in chocks-away and take those chances.

The frustrating thing about this - for me, anyway - is the degree to which it shows how hopeless the United States "national security" edifice has become at actually thinking about "national security".

Technically you can "make a case" for using lethal force against the Assad regime in Syria on the grounds of its use of chemical munitions. Chemicals are in the group of especially "horrible weapons" that are routinely banned by treaty and condemned in public. And the Assad regime is certainly among the genuinely loathsome of the Earth, a pure semi-Stalinist dictatorship that has long lost any pretension of governing rather than simply reigning.

But this reality-show violence is worthless, and shows the degree to which the U.S. government, in particular, has lost any genuine capacity to think outside the narrow range of kinetic action it has limited itself.

The Assad regime is playing the Game of Thrones, where to lose is to die. It will happily absorb whatever death and destruction this attack will cause in return for successfully using chemicals to crush the Army of Islam rebels in East Ghouta. The cost is well worth it, for Assad, and that the Trump Administration can't think of a better way to get him to reconsider that calculation...well, it will be no surprise to know that the Trumpkins aren't the nicest, newest, or smartest cruise missile in the launcher.

But in the broader view, how much more handless are the minions of Orange Foolius than those of Obama, who was likewise unable to "solve" the problem of sending U.S. armed force haring off across the globe chasing raggedy local rebels and wannabe jihadi franchisees? Or Dubya, who broke the despotic bottle that contained Iraq and was unable to deal with the chaos? Or Clinton, whose random spasms of intervention ranged from laughable to - as in the case of Somalia - tragic? Or Poppy Bush, who sent his military careering around Eurasia and Central America "solving" problems his predecessor Reagan had largely created? Or Reagan himself, whose Charley Wilsons helped create the mujaheddin monster that struck it's creator decades later?

Our friend seydlitz, when he forayed here, used to complain bitterly about the United States' utter inability to think strategically, to define clear national geopolitical interests and then make rational choices about how to address them.

What ultimately so pathetic about this latest round of let's-bomb-something-because-we-have-to-"send-a-message" is how it starkly illustrates how right seydlitz is; how completely and utterly captive to its own incapacity, delusion, sterility, and hubris the American political and military establishment is.

As one of my former recruit privates would have described it, "That's fuckin' magically delicious, man!"


  1. I am unconvinced that America will actually pull out of Syria. The Izzies and his hawks want America to go to war with Iran and Syria is a convenient spot for that.

  2. Doing right for the wrong reason?

    I am starting to feel as a horse must feel when it is given a sugar cube and its ears are scratched, just before putting a bit in its mouth and then harnessed. But I ain't gonna pull Cadet Bone-Spurs wagon.

    If he is serious about this, why no mention of pulling troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan? Kuwait? Niger? Nigeria? Somalia? Kenya? The 22,000+ deployed to unspecifed overseas countries? Or the support we are giving to the Saudis and the Gulfies for their genocide in Yemen.

    1. I think for two reasons; one, because the "Fox and Friends" segment he watched didn't mention those other places where the Scary Moooooslims are and we're Fighting Them There Instead Of Fighting Them Here, and, two, because his pal Pootie doesn't really care about those other places but has skin in the Syrian game.

      That, to me, is the REAL significance of all this "Russia collusion" stuff. Not that the Russians tried and are trying to hack U.S. elections - if I was a Russian intel/strategy guy and could do that, duh! of course I would. It's up to us to stop it, but it's not like some huge scandal that the Russians are trying.

      It's that I truly believe that the Russian intel services(s) have something on Trump, something he will work with them to help hide. Probably nothing like the "pee tape" - Trump thinks whatever and where ever he puts his dick is just dandy; he's a wrestling heel and a showman, he doesn't care, it's just publicity and all publicity is good - but my guess is money laundering for the oligarchs. I think they hooked him when he had to go through DeutscheBank for his money and ended up in bed with the Russian mob.

      So I think Putin gently hinted that this whole "Kurdish-American Ever Victorious Army" in eastern Syria that the Pentagon planners hoped to gin up didn't work for Russia, and Trumpie took the hint.

      The other places? Hey, we're killin' sand niggers Who Hate Our Freedoms. Who cares whether some dune coons' wives and kiddies get droned?

      I can't get past the thing Bachevich said in the piece I linked to the other day; what would happen if the news media spent a day, or a week, spending as much time reporting and talking and thinking about the pointless killing U.S. soldiers and intelligence officers are doing in the global hustings as they do about Trump's latest fucking tweet?

  3. FDC -

    It was a rhetorical question. I don't really give a dam about answering the 'why' of it, as we already knew the answers. I only posed it to show the man's hypocrisy.

    As far as doing good for the wrong reasons: Look to what some perceived of the fascisti of 90 years ago.

    Or look today in the parts of Iraq and Syria where the ISIS caliphate ruled, where 12 million people lived in an area almost as large as Oregon. Residents said “Garbage collection was No. 1 under ISIS”. They also said that "their faucets were less likely to run dry, the sewers less likely to overflow and potholes fixed more quickly under the militants, even though there were now near-daily airstrikes". But in no way does that excuse the mass murders, or the sexual enslavement of Yezidi women and children, or the headchopping and burning people alive, or throwing queers off the rooves of four story buildings.

    1. I missed that as a purely rhetorical question. Durr...
      One aspect of US Middle East policy that I think is and has always been inadequately examined is the degree to which the US and Israel contributed to the rise of political Islam. There was little or no interest in secular politics in the devout Muslim world in 1950, and most Muslims thought that emulating the secular character of Western states would produce Western-style economic success. The Baath parties and secular, technocratic regimes such as Nassar's in Egypt were all the rage.

      These regimes proved corrupt and incompetent domestically and were consistently defeated militarily, making the Islamists look like the better option. And so here we are.

  4. It'll be interesting to see what happens now that it appears apparent that the Assad regime has slimed its enemies with chemicals again.

    My guess is...nothing. The withdrawal announcement - regardless of the sense or lack of same behind it - is, to me, a formal announcement that Trump is officially Putin's Bitch in Syria. Whilst he may confront the Tsar elsewhere in the world, Pootie has let Napoleorange know in no uncertain terms that Syria is now within Russia's Near Abroad and the Spray-tanned Fuhrer has accepted that dictum.

    At best, we may see another Cruisemissile-palooza, but I'm betting not even that.

    Mind you, there's Bolton. But the Mustache of Lunacy doesn't come into play until tomorrow. We'll see if he puts the wind into Trump's sails.

  5. Did Bolton receive his security clearance? I thought there was a move on to hold that up?

  6. Don't see what would hold him up. He's had repeated executive branch positions and has no significant security question marks I know of. Being a totally idiotic asshole isn't a security problem, unfortunately, or 2/3rds of Trump's appointments would be out of work.

    Orange Foolius certainly talked tough yesterday. But we'll see if he has given the question of response, if any, thought. Given Trump my guess is no, but anything's possible with this joker.

  7. Re: the last sentence above, it's worth observing that it's almost useless to attempt to predict, or analyze, Trump foreign policy using the usual means like national interests or doctrinal or political preferences.

    Trump is truly a black swan, a president whose outlook is dominated by the kindergarten mindset of "Fox and Friends" and whose interests are purely self-centered around his need for adulation and personal enrichment. In other words, he's a poorly-informed, adolescent, impulsive, greedy moron who will often do whatever the last flatterer suggests he do.

    Even the sorts of people who have occupied the Oval Office in the late 20th Century, from outright paranoia like Nixon to semi-senile Reagan and machine pols like Johnson had some sort of sense of the larger burden imposed by the immense power they commanded.

    Trump has none of that. His use of power is like a mean little boy tormenting the cat; hurting creatures weaker than himself for the pure sexual rush of seeing the victims' suffering. It's evident in his immigration policy, in his contempt for his subjects who are poor and vulnerable, in his treatment of those who work for him.

    As a man, this makes him petty, mean, and despicable. But as a power of state it makes trying to predict his acts incredibly difficult. Even the worst of

  8. ...the other men who occupied the office in the past century had at least a vague sense of the moral gravity of their position (although that seems to have been exceedingly tenuous in Dubya's case...) and did at least a modicum of introspection before sending men to their deaths or decreeing the deaths of others.

    Trump hasn't the moral gravity even of Dubya, so trying to predict, or interpret, his acts is correspondingly difficult.

  9. Perfect example; did Le Roi L'Orange really call off his South American trip to plot a Syria attack...or because his lawyer may have given up some damaging evidence of his corruption? There's no way to tell.

  10. Spankee does a lot of telgraphing his future moves.

    I can't figure whether Vladimir is now kicking himself in the butt for electing Twitter-Boy, or jumping for joy?

  11. Better to telegraph the punch than kill a bunch of Russian airmen and risk a shooting war. MAGA!

    Putin seems to be both patient and ruthless, so even taking the occasional TrumpTantrums into account I think he's probably pleased enough with what a very minimal investment in poking the U.S. election helped produce. Trump's mix of low information, impulsiveness, and personal issues make him more playable than a more conventional Cold Warrior would be.

  12. Perhaps it will not be today. The PPPI (Pentagon Press Parking Index) is low this morning.

    And DoD Mattis says they are still looking for actual evidence. He says even if investigators get to the site in question, they won't be able to tell who carried out the attack, just that the gas was used.

  13. Cole had a good piece today noting one especially nasty aspect of this; that Assad's slimeing worked.

    The attack took place in a part of the East Ghouta area held by a salafi proxy of the Saudis, the "Army of Islam". These jokers had been fighting well against the better infantry of the Syrian Arab Army (the "Panther Brigade" that Cole calls "special forces" but that is probably just an elite infantry outfit). The gas attack caused the salafi rebels to fold, and allowed the regime to retake the last piece of that enclave.

    I'd be willing to bet that Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers will be fine taking whatever damage Trump's strike deals out. Unlike Orange Foolius, they have an actual political objective, one that's feasible, and are willing to do the dirty work to accomplish it.

  14. Jim Wright (Stonekettle Station) wins the Internets today:

    (Headline: "Secretary of Defense Mattis meets with the nation's top general to discuss possible actions on Syria")

    Mad Dog: Whatcha got, Dunny?

    Dunford: BOMB 'EM!

    Mad Dog: What else you got?

    Dunford: BOMB 'EM SOME MORE!

    Mad Dog: Contingency plan?

    Dunford: Well, I suppose we could consider a complex long-term non-military nation-building response involving a coalition of interested nation states utilizing international forces to impose a cease fire and to provide security for a team of diplomats, statesmen, teachers, and economists to rebuild a functioning, productive, stable civilization with attention and respect to regional history, politics, and religious ideals...

    Mad Dog:


    Mad Dog:


    Mad Dog: So, bomb 'em?


    Mad Dog: God bless America.

  15. FDC -

    Sounds more like Trump. Mad Dog told Congress today he was still looking for evidence.

  16. Regarding Juan Cole's Panther Forces, they are NOT a brigade. They are more likely battalion (minus) sized. Part of Syria's elite Tiger Force, whose CO is Air Force general Suheil al-Hassan. As you say they are not Special Forces as we know that term. Although they are special within the Syrian Armed Forces.

    They are primarily a combined arms unit - armor, mobile artillery, engineers, infantry, with their own in-house air controllers and embedded intel. They get top priority for close air support from both the Syrian Air Force and the Russkies. They also get top priority for fire missions from higher echelon general support artillery. Officers, NCOs and many of the other ranks are Alawites like the Assad family. They reportedly have the best arms and equipment in the Syrian Armed Forces. They had first pick of the new model T90AM tanks. Plus they have the same upgraded AK74M and accessories that are in use in the Russian Ground Forces.

    My guess is that they will next be used in helping the Palestinians retake the Yarmouk Camp south of Damascus from ISIS. I hope that Trump's bomb-em-for-the-gassed-babies campaign does NOT interfere with that effort. And sooner or later both the Panther Force and her sister unit the Cheetah Force will end up kicking butt on al-Qaeda and other headchoppers in Idlib and Afrin.

  17. Interesting that Cole says the gas attack at Douma was a combo of Chlorine & Sarin. I assume the chlorine, which is denser than air was for the tunnels and cellars? While the Sarin, a lot lighter was for ground level?

  18. I read about a Faux News twitter poll that was roughly 2:1 against military intervention and was swung teh other way in the last minutes bots.

    If rue (and I'm not inclined to investigate this myself), this would mean there's an active pro-war organisation. This might be LM lobbyists, a think tank, an intelligence service, a Syrian faction...

    drive them out of underground shelters with one, kill them with the other agent would be the intention IF whoever did it thought that far and wasn't jsut throwing a found arsenal of munitions at enemies. It might (if the attack really happened with CW)have been some low level leader's idea to make use of some looted stocks after days or weeks of being low on munitions.

    These events should be read about in history publications, not in news publications. News are too often crappy on such topics due to ignorance.

    1. There's always been a "pro-war" faction in the U.S.; Bolton is the poster child. Despite the sorry record of military adventuring in the Middle East the "war works/more rubble = less trouble" school of (largely "conservative") thought has never been throttled in its bed. Shamefully. The US public isn't bright, but it has learned the hard way that these cabinet wars are typically useless at best, disasters at worst...

  19. I wonder how much of this "hunt for evidence" is the uniforms kicking the can down.the road in hopes that Orange Foolius will get distracted,or persuaded to to change his "mind", or conditions in Syria will change...or SOMEthing. The brass, most of them, know that they can rain missiles on Syria from now until Lammastide and nothing will change for the better. They also surely know that cannot be hammered into Trump's pinhead; he's like Dubya like that. He has his "gut" and knows better than some fancy-schmancy "expert".

    There's no real whoodunnit here, so I'm guessing that Mattis is playing for time.

  20. IF, and that is a big IF, Juan Cole's assertion that the gas attack on Douma was a mix of chlorine and sarin, then it tends to point away from the jihadi false flag attack that Russia is peddling. Why would the Army of Islam intentionally gas the tunnels, underground bunkers and cellars? Those are the defenses that they themselves were using to repel the Panther Force. Does not make sense to me that they would contaminate their own defense works. Instead you would think that if they were pulling off a head fake blaming the government then they would only gas a few select civilians - perhaps those that were pushing for surrender. OTOH I should stop trying to second guess anything that goes on in that hellhole.

    Another point from Cole's article: Ali Akbar Velayati's visit to Assad and his taunting of the West regarding the gas attack on Douma. Let's hope that does not push John 'War Horny' Bolton into prodding President Bone-Spurs into a direct attack on Iran. Not that Bolton gives a damn about the dead babies in Douma. He is not a 'humanitarian interventionist' or RTP guy. And he claims not to be a NeoCon. Just a War Hawk. Funny position for a guy who avoided service in Vietnam because as he himself confessed: "I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy."

    1. I don't think that anyonewith a functioning hindbrain buys the "false flag" story. Particularly because it worked; a fake chem strike would have been designed to stiffen the Army of Islam resistance, not end it.

      I have no doubt that Bolton, because he's a fucking nitwit, will spend the next however-long-he-lasts-as-NSA trying to inveigle Trump into attacking Iran. Because he's...well, a fucking nitwit who learns nothing from experience; I mean, the goddamn moron still thinks that Dick n' Dubya's Excellent Middle Eastern Adventure was a GOOD idea...

      Our only hope is that he can't get Orange Foolius to go further than some desultory bombing. If he manages to get the moron to invade...Godhelpus.

  21. Aaaaand here we go.

    It's really pointless to try and examine the geopolitics behind this, or speculate on some sort of larger strategic setting. This is what political futility looks like; you have a problem that looks like a tangle of wire wrapped around a brick sunk in a clockwork mechanism...and you have a "solution" that looks like a hammer.

    In a very real sense this isn't about Trump. He's just the most recent guy at one end of the hammer the U.S. has been forging for decades. Admittedly, he's among the stupidest, least self-controlled, and worst-advised. But you'll note that none of his predecessors has done much better.

    The failure here is in large part on We the People for electing these fatheads. And as much or moreso on the popular press. Had the "news media" spent as much time informing Us on the geopolitical conditions in the Levant and, over the longer term, the spectacular uselessness of this sort of aerial wog-bashing in particular and Western expeditionary warfare in general perhaps our political "leaders" would be a little more hesitant to piss away tax money on this useless crap.

    But they didn't, so they're not. And Trump, so it all comes down to dick-waving when you strip away the persiflage.

    What a mess.

  22. The three nuclear powers in NATO conducted the strike. It's uninspired great power chest thumping, no less and nothing more.

    I wonder what their plan is; are they planning to accept failure in Syria, but want to save face or do they prefer to cynically let the conflict linger endlessly like Korea, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Berg-Karabagh, Golan Heights, West Bank, Gaza Strip, West Sahara, Kashmir and South China Sea?

    1. What frustrates me is that this SHOULD be seen as failure. It is part of the larger Great Power failure in the Levant and the Middle East, but it's still a pointless exercise, a waste of blood and treasure, and should be reported and classified as such.

      But it won't be. Trump, May, and Macron will be praised for their "resolution" and this will be filed away as a conventional piece of geopolitical give-and-take.

      And since there's no downside for the Western governments or the Western publics, there's no motivation to ponder the worth, or lack of worth, of this stuff.

    2. The only thing I'm curious about is whether there is ANY truth to the Russian claims for their AAA. The Era of The Cruise Missile has depended on the combination of low risk - no human pilots to die or become POWs - with tactical effectiveness; the missiles can fly lower and pull higher Gs than humans, making them harder to shoot down than a piloted a/c.

      The Russians are making some pretty big shootdown claims. The probability of these being nothing more then Trumpian-scale lies is ridiculously high. But...even if the AAA managed a 10-15% attrition that would be pretty impressive; I don't think any Soviet-design or Russian-made air defense system has ever been even minimally effective against A/SLCMs to date.

    3. I doubt that any cruise missile can pull more than 11 G (the limit to pilots with Libelle anti-g suit). Their wings are too tiny and their body lift should be too little as well.
      Moreover, such one-time use munitions lack the missile approach sensors to time evasive actions properly. Preventive evasive manoeuvre patterns regardless of SAM incoming or not could not possibly sustained at 9+ g. Too much energy would be bled in less than one minute.

      Cruise missiles depend on terrain following flight (can be countered with aerial pulse doppler radars), low emissions (low power terrain following radars and laser altimeters and small RCS (mostly by paint and size, not so much by shape - only reason why no turboprop version is used despite turboprop's superior fuel economy), surprise, standoff jamming and saturation effect for survival.

    4. I think the advantage is that there's no physical limitation to the number of times the robot can pull those Gs. Even the best G-suit can't make those turns much fun; a human pilot must suffer some degree of fatigue after repeated high-G turns that the machine does not.

      I'm really unfamiliar with AAA acquisition abilities other than knowing generically that the lower and tighter-to-the-NOE you can fly the less time and thus more difficult the targeting system has to lock on the aircraft (or missile). So far as I know the Soviet legacy systems the Iraqis used in the 90s and early Oughts were hopeless at it. If the newer Russian equipment has gotten significantly better I can't think that will please U.S. mission planners...

    5. High Gs means high angle of attack and much induced drag - it bleeds energy quickly. That's the real limit (in combination with thrust/weight ratio, at which cruise missiles suck).

      The Serbs shot down some cruise missiles with ManPADS (SA-14 IIRC) because they kept coming the same way at night.

  23. LtGen McKenzie at this mornings briefing claims none of the missiles were shot down.

    Also claims Syrian air defenses did not respond until AFTER the missiles hit their targets. 40 Syrian SAMs were launched, reportedly they were ballistic {unguided} because there was nothing to lock onto.

    Multiple axis from the eastern Mediterranean, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf. Missiles used were TLAM, Storm Shadow, MdCN (ship launched extended range version of the Storm Shadow), and Scout.

    1. Yeah, well...supposedly the soldiers of Napoleon's First Empire had begun using the expression "You're lying like a fucking (Imperial) Bulletin!" to express disbelief in someone's veracity. So, yeah, no, duh LTG McKenzie would say that. It's a tossup whether he or the Russians are the bigger liar, and, sadly, we won't know either way because DoD would be fools to admit to actual losses. What I think will be interesting is to see if DoD releases actual BDA information. If they don't I'd opine that we will have to take "Mission Accomplished" at somewhat less than face value...

      The whole Syrian missile barrage thing seems odd. I can see them launching if they THOUGHT they had a target. But not if there was legitimately nothing on the screen.

    2. The French were involved, so some other missile type must have been used as well.
      "France fired 12 cruise missiles, three from a frigate and nine from aircraft, while the US provided the bulk of the firepower with 85 missiles in total."
      Apache is a likely candidate munition for this.

      I doubt that all missiles launched functioned flawlessly and impacted on targets, so that General has almost certainly no battle damage assessment of hits everywhere. This in combination with the non-existence of radio data uplink on some of the munitions means he did almost certainly lie.

  24. Russian defence ministry briefing said that the "alleged chemical weapons facilities" near Damascus and Homs were "partially destroyed". The ministry suggested there had been no casualties among the Syrian army or civilians.

    The ministry also said Russian units had tracked the actions of the US and UK forces but not the French.

    The ministry said 103 cruise missiles had been launched and 71 were shot down by Syrian systems.

    I might have accepted FDC's thought of ten to 15% attrition, but the claim of 71 out of 103 (70%) is BS IMHO.

    As for nothing on the radar screen, I assume there was a lot of electronic spoofing going on. Plus some deception. All eyes were on the USS Cook but she did not participate.

    Some preliminary BDA on the three targets was shown. Plus there is much on TV.

  25. Images are often deceiving, so I'd guess that the full BDA will take a day or so for an analysis of traffic around these targets from satellite imagery as well as from whatever humint the various Western intel agencies have.

    I'm struck again at the obvious nature of this as pure propaganda. Trump announces "Mission Accomplished!" within minutes despite having no possible way of knowing the effects on target (and only Trump would be fucking clueless enough to use that phrase in context of military action...)

    It's not like I expected maturity from Trump. But you'd think his people would have impressed on him the need to try and look at least slightly like a grownup when making war. Instead he makes the reality-show quality of this joke inescapable.

    The other joke is that his chemicals have helped Assad win the civil war, and having called him childish names Trump will have to deal with him as head of state he secured by use of those weapons and despite American efforts.

    This would be almost comic if it didn't include people maimed and killed.

  26. Sven -

    French air-to-surface strikes used SCALP which is their name for Storm Shadow. As you mention, the Storm Shadow and the SCALP are based on the much earlier Apache. And they are manufactured by MBDA, the Apache developer.

    The French ship-launched version is the Missile de Croisière Naval or MdCN. It is a larger version of SCALP for extended range, plus it has a booster not needed in the air-launched version.

    To my knowledge the StormShadow (and SCALP), the MdCN, the TLAM, and JASSM all have a data uplink allowing the missile to transmit its location and status. Not sure about the Scout missile referenced in a BBC report. Cannot find anything on it. I believe it is nickname for one of the other missiles used, or a mistake on BBC's part.

    I still am amazed that the Syrians claimed they shot down 13, and then the Russian MOD multiplied that by a factor of five and a half to get to 71?

    The general lying? He briefed what he was told by the forces involved. And there is a long history of pilots over-estimating weapons effectiveness and BDA. So maybe a few missiles did not make it to target. But I don't believe the general could get away with telling an outright lie. And he certainly would not do it for Corporal Bone-Spurs. The proof, or lack of proof, should be in the data uplinks.

    1. Do you have a source for a radio data uplink in Storm Shadow?

      I know Tactical Tomahawk has a good one, but even in MBDA's promotion brochure there's no mention of a datalink.

    2. How could anyone contradict McKenzie, walk the press out into Syria and show them seventy SLCM wrecks? He knows perfectly well that won't happen, so even if the ADA did well he will suffer no penalty for lying about it.

      AOs for the US armed forces have learned that lying works back in the Gulf of Tonkin days; even when the facts are hard to elide it's hard to get straight answers out of public affairs briefings where bad publicity might result. So IF the Russian or Syrian ADA had done a decent job I wouldn't expect McKenzie to admit it.

      I agree that the 70% figure is a ridiculous lie, but that's a great tradition of totalitarian states; their forces are always victorious up until the moment the enemy tanks roll into the courtyard of the Propaganda Ministry.

      What's sad is watching our own administration press people try and emulate those regime mouthpieces.

  27. Sven -

    Here is a 2004 article in Defense Update magazine that states:

    "Recent enhancements of the Storm Shadow / SCALP EG include the capability to relay target information just before impact, utilization of one-way (link-back) datalink, to relay battle damage assessment information back to the host aircraft. This upgrade is already under development under a French DGA contract."

    That was 14 years ago. It also mentions an effort to upgrade to a two-way data link to enable in-flight retargeting.

    1. oops! Here it is:

    2. I have never read anything like that. Wonder if it was ever implemented.

      I wasn't able to find any orders by UK or France post-2005, and can't tell if the midlife refurbishment program included an upgrade with a radio.

  28. @FDC - "chemicals have helped Assad win the civil war"

    The tragedy is that with Russian and Iranian help Assad was winning his civil war without the use of chemicals. So the question is did he (or a subordinate?) use them to conserve resources for the coming fights in against Turkish proxies in the northwest and US proxies in the northeast? Or to send a message to those proxies? Or just to poke the West in the eye? Or all three reasons?

    1. I think the latest round was simple; the Army of Islam was giving his elite troops a hell of a hard time. MOUT always sucks, HE isn't a good answer, but gas works its way down into cellars and up into stairwells. The Syrian Arab Army still has a lot of fighting left to do, and losing their best guys in a barroom brawl in East Ghouta, when chemicals would break the defenders, was really a no-brainer for me if I'm Assad's chief of general staff. The last "warning" was a complete pass for me to slime my enemies and then just hunker down, take whatever piddly little pasting, and drive on.

      So Assad wins this round, too. So much losing, Donnie!

  29. Sven -

    Perhaps I am only speculating about the data link. But MBDA, or more probably one of its subsidiaries, long ago developed the UMMD (Universal Miniaturized Missile Data-Link). That combined with the 14 year old Defense News article linked to above would seem to indicate that Storm Chaser has that capability, no?

    1. It depends. The original orders predate the article by years. I have not found any follow-up order notices, and only follow-up batches would benefit from a hardware upgrade (unless it was part of the munitions refurbishment after ~15 years of storage) that was developed after those initial orders.

      I'm furthermore rather sceptical about such a tiny radio module's range potential and ability to transmit a decent image over 100+ km seconds before impact. S band looks like a weird choice for this, but I'm very far from a radio expert.

      BTW, MBDA developed the UMMD to 57 mm diameter - this sounds a lot like a module for tiny, portable missiles.

  30. So...


    here we are...



  31. What I find intriguing - in a "yeah, THIS is why U.S. foreign policy is fucked up as a football bat" way - is that a politico-military analysis of U.S. policy in Syria ( can include this statement on the criticality of keeping American military force in Syria to attack the rump Islamic State:

    "But the total disconnect—so highly public—between the President and his top advisers on strategy to confront a major threat to national security stunned Washington."

    So now a bunch of raggedy-ass jihadis parking their bettered rumps in some dusty shithole town in the Syrian desert are "a major threat to national security". Russian nukes, Chinese carrier air groups...and a bunch of Saladin wannabes and bin Laden fanbois?

    Christ, no wonder we're so fucked up.