Friday, August 24, 2018

Russia's Mil Games (Update)

Mark Galeotti has an article at Foreign Policy magazine regarding Russia's tank biathlon and other military games.   Galeotti was at Alabino to witness the games, or at least those that were held there, as some were held in other Russian cities or overseas in some events.   Galeotti has written several books on the Russian politics, the Russian underworld, and the Russian military.  He has written articles for Jane's Intelligence Review, for War On The Rocks, for The Moscow Times and others.   He has a blog titled In Moscow's Shadows, and is on twitter at @MarkGaleotti.

His trip was sponsored by HBO Sports.  So will HBO broadcast a special? 
A little out of their line I would think, but then the quest for ratings overrules all else no matter the network.  They have been branching out away from their traditional shows on basketball, baseball, boxing, football (both American football and soccer).  They have been doing specials on Trump-hating Scotsmen, wing-suiting, deep sea free diving by poor Austronesian fishermen, child camel jockeys some starting as young as two, crossword biathlons, etc.  So why not tank biathlons.

I don't agree with the title of Galeotti's article in FP.  He, or his FP editor calls the games "Decadent and Depraved".   Makes it sound like the the gladitorial combat in the Colosseum of the Roman Empire.   Yeah, they are a public spectacle, bread and circus for Ivan and Katyusha, but I would not call them depraved.  But the article is worth a read.  Galeotti was there and witnessed it.  He has some insights that never occurred to me in the 26 July post on the biathlon here on this blog.  But I note that Galeotti agrees that one of the key reasons for staging the Russian Mil Games is for arms sales.

The link to Galeotti's article is here:  the-international-army-games-are-decadent-and-depraved

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Following Ho

Bùi Tín died last week.  He was a 90 year old former Việt Minh and later disillusioned dissident who fled to France.  He participated in the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ as a political officer.  After the Geneva Accords during Operation Passage to Freedom he continued as a political cadre working to convince North Vietnamese Catholics to remain in the north.  Next he helped to bring northerners and repatriated southerners below the 17th parallel to join the NLF aka the Việt Cộng.  But he found his true calling as a journalist working for both an NVA Army newspaper and then the People's Daily (Nhân Dân), the official newspaper of the Vietnamese Communist Party, formerly famously known as the Việt Pravda.

Tín came to international attention in 1973 when a member of the NVA contingent of the Four Party Commission at Saigons Tân Sơn Nhứt Airbase.   As a journalist himself he became a darling of the Western press and their first meeting with one of their own profession who was from the north.  He understood PR and milked the situation by shaking hands with the last U.S. servicemen boarding a plane to leave country.  And he gave to one of the last, Sgt Max Bielke USAF, a gift package of Ho Chi Minh postcards and a bamboo scroll painting of a pagoda while American TV cameras were rolling.

Tín defected to Paris in 1990 after becoming embittered by many of the policies of those that followed Ho into power in Hanoi, e.g. Đồng, Duẩn, Chinh, & Thọ. - especially their intrigues and infighting and repressive methods in land reform and military/political purges.   He continued as a journalist in France and became an author.  His memoir "Following Ho Chi Minh" published in Vietnamese, French and English.  A good read if you can find a copy.  He testified in front of the US Congress about American MIAs and helped to put to bed the "live-POWs-still-imprisoned" conspiracy theory pushed by many activists and a congresscritter or two at the time.  Following his PR savvy, he took the opportunity while in Congress to greet and embrace former POW John McCain, again while the cameras were rolling.

Back in 1954 at Điện Biên Phủ he was reportedly wounded during a French airstrike.  He was with the 304th Division, which had responsibility for 'Isabelle' the southernmost of the eight French striong points.  Isabelle held the reserve airstrip and was defended by a battalion of Foreign Legionnaires from the 3e REI, plus a battalion of North African tirailleurs from the 1st Algerian Rifle Regiment, two French artillery batteries, and a tank platoon (Chaffee M-24s).  Plus there were about 1500 auxiliaries many of them White Tai highlanders, some of them light infantry, others logistics personnel.  The 304th started light operations against Isabelle in mid February.  It was invested by trenches and isolated in late March and held out until early May before falling.  Tín's unit the 304th was line infantry but they were supported by a bountiful gift of 105mm howitzers that were left behind in Red China when Chiang's Nationalist Army deployed for Taiwan.

Fitting, or perhaps just a coincidence, that he died just a few days prior to the 73rd anniversary of the August Revolution, which is when he first joined the Việt Minh as a young 17 year old.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

This is (One Big Reason) Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Well, it's official.
The president* (as Pierce likes to call him, complete with the Maris Asterisk) signed the "John S. McCain, Jr. National Defense Authorization Act". Unsurprisingly, this monster is loaded with goodies for the armed forces, completely in keeping with the GOP-standard line about how We the People are headed for another Pearl Harbor because we just don't have enough things that can kill people and blow shit up.
(Oh, and apparently there's some pretty appalling idiocy in there handing out pork to GOP pals)
Some of this largesse seems to have some utility - apparently the USN really does have some issues with operational numbers - but the whole thing is just another uptick in the ridiculous "let's-throw-money-at-guns" Washington Rules idiocy that is unquestioned in D.C. and in the public press.

Nobody outside the usual dirty hippies of the Left is asking why the hell, in a remarkably Great-Power-untroubled world, We the People need all this stuff.

And, of course, nobody - no legislators, no cable talking news heads, no cabinet officers, certainly not the man in the Oval Office - is questioning or, perhaps, even wondering, why so much of this stuff will end up chasing raggedy-assed villagers around the mountains of Central Asia or the Horn of Africa or the islets of the Philippine archipelago in an endless pursuit of ideology and resentment grown of the death and destruction caused by last year's blowing-shit-up money.

Somehow poor people getting medical care, or building new highways and bridges, or replacing antiquated power plants with new technologies, are just "not affordable". But all this deadly bling? Hell, yeah! Let's throw MORE money at it!

All this would be a hell of a nonsensical way to spend the public coin even if we weren't in the process of handing our wealthiest citizens a massive tax break. But now?

And, yet, what seems to be the biggest single source of public outrage about this bloated monstrosity of a "defense" spending bill is that somehow the guy with the pen failed to tongue-bath the guy that the monstrosity was named for.


Update 8/15: And to remind us again that presidential "signing statements" are one of the most pernicious anti-republican bits of claptrap floating around the Swamp, Comrade President sneaks in a bit of backhander to his pal Pootie:
Included in the bill is "...a ban on spending military funds on “any activity that recognizes the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea,” the Ukrainian region annexed by Moscow in 2014 in an incursion considered illegal by the United States. He said he would treat the provision and similar ones as “consistent with the president’s exclusive constitutional authorities as commander in chief and as the sole representative of the nation in foreign affairs.”
"Faithfully execute the laws"? Of course not. That's for the Little People.

And Congress, paper-trained by years of deference to Executive power, and cowardice in exercising their duties as the representatives of We the People, will do nothing but cringe, assuming they even bother to react to this.

This isn't even a Left or Right issue. The Chief Executive's job is to execute; execute the laws as written. If he's got a problem with that he needs to get his party to change the laws in Congress, or rely on the judiciary to strike them down. That We the People accept these nonsensical pronouncements is another symptom of the deep rot that has set into our putative Republic.

But, mind you, engaged and intelligent citizens of a vital republic wouldn't have voted in the millions for a tangerine-hued real-estate grifter that lies like a cow shits - endlessly and everywhere. Or for a party the promises to hurt the vast majority of them. A subtle reminder; if your "No. 1 motivating factor is Second Amendment issues" you are a goddamn moron who should not be trusted with the franchise, let alone a firearm.

But this is your republic, America. This is why We can't have nice things.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Space Marines!

From the WP - emphasis mine - :
"After the announcement, President Trump tweeted, “Space Force all the way!” For months, Trump has been calling a Space Force, a new, free-standing military department, with its own chain of command and uniforms. The White House intends to work with lawmakers in submitting legislation by early next year, a senior Administration official said, with the hopes of standing up the department as early as 2020."
Be still, my heart...
Before you laugh too hard, remember that the last time we had a Republican in the White House nearly as unhinged and probably less criminal that the current occupant we got these:
So I can't wait to see how my tax dollars will be well-spent!

And speaking of tax dollars, Charlie Pierce has a nice little piece that draws a pretty bright line between what the American Right and American Left have on offer.

Speaking for the Right, Laura Ingraham reminds us how scary foreign dark people are;
"In some parts of the country, it does seem like the America that we know and love doesn’t exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted on the American people, and they are changes that none of us ever voted for, and most of us don’t like."
This is, let us remember, about an "immigrant crisis" that is not a crisis because it does not exist.

And, as Pierce notes, it probably sounded better in the original Algonquin.

From the Left...well, I'll let Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez speak for herself as a final comment on the relative value of "Spaaaaace Foooooorce!!!!!";
“We write unlimited blank checks for war. We just wrote a $2 trillion check for that GOP tax cut and nobody asked those folks how they are going to pay for it...Why is it that our pockets are only empty when it comes to education and health care for our kids? Why are our pockets only empty when we talk about 100 percent renewable energy that is going to save this planet and allow our children to thrive?...We only have empty pockets when it comes to the morally right things to do. When it comes to tax cuts for billionaires and when it comes to unlimited war, we seem to be able to invent that money very easily."
As we should always recall when the number of people who subscribe to InfoWars is mentioned, We the People includes some very great fools.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

From the Department of Not Learning From Your Mistakes...

...comes the news that the cunning plan behind the U.S. government's re-imposition of economic sanctions on Iran is the notion of "regime change".

This would be fatheaded in any case, given the history of U.S. farkling about in Iran and the predictably resulting blowback.

But after the spectacular own-goal that was regime change in Iraq it would take a complete moron, or John Bolton (but I repeat myself...), to presume that whatever might succeed the mullahs in Tehran because of U.S. political and military pressure will be anything but a complete foreign policy disaster for American interests in the Middle East and a nightmare for the region that has seen too many of them.

The Trumpkins are here emulating the epigrammatic Bourbons, who supposedly "learned nothing and forgot nothing". One can only assume from this that "making America great again" is functionally indistinguishable from the effect of being repeatedly dropped in your head while a child.

Monday, August 6, 2018


Saudi Arabia has kicked out the Canadian Ambassador to  the Kingdom.   Recalled their ambassador in Ottawa.  And has frozen trade with  Canada.   Will that, I wonder, put an end to the $15-Billion deal with General Dynamics to buy 900 LAV 700s, an export model of the LAV 6.0 fighting vehicle.   But maybe not, the crown prince needs them to eliminate more Yemeni women and children.

All because Canada scolded the Saudis for arresting more ladies who want to drive.

But worse was the statement "Any further step from the Canadian side in that direction will be considered as acknowledgment of our right to interfere in the Canadian domestic affairs,..."

And worst of all was this widely distributed twitter image: