Friday, December 25, 2020

Brusilov and the question of Lessons Learned

 

My Bride (who is a terrific person for lots of other reasons, too...) was wonderful enough to gift me Tim Dowling's 2008 The Brusilov Offensive and I wasted no time curling up amid the wrapping debris to begin reading. 

In the opening chapter I came across something that intrigued me a bit, and thought I'd throw it out here for the patrons to swill along with their Christmas nog.

On page nine, Dowling recounts a general consensus among what he describes as "...a great many people - most notably the Russian general staff - that technological advances would play a minimal role." in the coming war of 1914. 

He then goes on to say that this "cult of the offensive" dominated most of the tactical to grand tactical thinking of the European powers. The paragraph concludes with a summary of the work of Austro-Hungarian GEN von Hötzendorf, as concluding that "Firepower was certainly beneficial, but its effectiveness was limited..."

I won't argue too hard against this; certainly there was a hell of an influential clique for the attaque à outrance idea in the French Army, and most of the other combatant army planners of WW1 seemed unwilling to abandon the notion that you could figure out some way to outrun a bullet or a shell and gain that elusive decisive victory if you just tried hard enough.

I get that part of that had to have been the lack of actual Great Power combat in the forty-odd years between the end of the Franco-Prussian War and 1914.

But, still...

You'd had the Russo-Japanese War just ten years earlier, and that had featured all the things that would kill all that "offensiveness" deader'n a Japanese rifleman hanging on the wire outside Port Arthur; deep entrenchment and obstacles behind machinegun beaten zones and heavy artillery. 

Pretty much every other European power had observers with the combatants, and it sounds like a ton of them reported all the same problems for the attackers facing these defensive measures, it sounds like none of them - particularly the Russians themselves, if Dowling is correct - learned anything from the lessons of others.

That, in turn, makes me wonder; how often in history have we soldiers (or the civilian leadership that directs us...) done that - learned from the experiences either of our predecessors or others - versus how many times we've failed to learn those lessons? It seems off the top of my head that the failures seem more common than the successes, that it seems more likely that military organizations will fail to recognize critical changes in technical or tactical conditions rather than anticipate or adjust to them.

Is that really the case, though? Or am I just being influenced by a sort of military "recency factor" that occurs because those failures tend to be more spectacular than the less catastrophic effects when an organization does react and adjust appropriately?

And is this something that tends to happen to all large military organizations at some point? Is there an example of an army (or navy, or air force...) tending to be uniformly decent at learning from the lessons around them rather than having to learn the hard way?

Christmas Day 2020

 

It rained when it should have snowed.
When we went to gather holly

the ditches were swimming, we were wet
to the knees, our hands were all jags

and water ran up our sleeves.
There should have been berries

but the sprigs we brought into the house
gleamed like smashed bottle-glass.

Now here I am, in a room that is decked
with the red-berried, waxy-leafed stuff,

and I almost forgot what it's like
to be wet to the skin or longing for snow.

I reach for a book like a doubter
and want it to flare round my hand,

a black letter bush, a glittering shield-wall,
cutting as holly and ice.

---”Holly”, from "Station Island" by Seamus Heaney.

 (h/t to Lance Mannion, who has been posting these evocative Heaney poems...) 

No matter your place, time, or creed, I hope you are enjoying a time of peace for you and yours. 

 I wish I could have said it as well as Charlie Pierce, but I can't, so I'll just add his Christmas wish to take me out:

 "...may you all have the rest and peace of this mid-winter holiday season. May all your whiskey be mellow and may all your lights shine. And may there always be a candle in the window, calling you home, calling you out of the storm, calling all of us home, together, and home."

Friday, December 18, 2020

Guardians!

 To Infinity...and Beyond!

From the link above:

"Space Force members have an official new name: Guardians, Vice President Mike Pence announced Friday.

"Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Guardians will be defending our nation for generations to come," Pence said during a ceremony to commemorate the Space Force's 1st birthday, coming up on Dec. 20."


 Oh. OH. Now I'm SO sorry I retired before I got to have fun with this. 

It's perfect as it is, but I know I can make it better. I feel the "Acting 1SG Lawes Reads The Morning Formation Announcements" typing itself already.

Update 12/19: And, yep, here it is.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Now what 2?

Interesting article @ salon.com regarding 10 things a President Biden could do immediately on foreign policy via executive order or reversing the lying-moron's most egregious executive orders.

1) End the U.S. role in the Saudi-led war on Yemen and restore U.S. humanitarian aid to Yemen.

2) Suspend all U.S. arms sales and transfers to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

3) Rejoin the Iran Nuclear Agreement (JCPOA) and lift sanctions on Iran.

4) End U.S. threats and sanctions against officials of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

5) Back President Moon Jae-in's diplomacy for a "permanent peace regime" in Korea.

6) Renew New START with Russia and freeze the U.S.'s trillion-dollar new nuke plan.

7) Lift illegal unilateral U.S. sanctions against other countries.

8) Roll back Trump policies on Cuba and move to normalize relations.

9) Restore pre-2015 rules of engagement to spare civilian lives.

10) Freeze U.S. military spending, and launch a major initiative to reduce it.

https://www.salon.com/2020/11/22/here-are-10-things-joe-biden-can-do-immediately-to-create-a-safer-better-world/

I'm good with all ten especially the first.  Regarding the second, I seriously doubt that Biden will suspend arms sales to the KSA and UAE.  

On the third item with Iran and JCPOA: Biden can end the sanctions but Tehran may not want to  rejoin.  Khamenei has been Iran's Supreme Leader for over 30 years and has seen the bipolar foreign policy of Washington first hand.  Why would he bet on a Biden second term?  

Number five I think Biden will do with one exception.   I don't see him ending Joint US/SoKo miltary exercises.  And that will kill the deal for NoKo's Haircut Boy.

And number six on renewing START depends more on Putin than on Biden.  But hopefully he can at least get his SecState (who will that be?) to begin horse trading with Lavrov.  

Item seven and eight, of course.  Sanctions rarely work unless backed up by blockade.  The only successful example I can recall was against apartheid in the RSA.  But those sanctions were endorsed and backed overwhelmingly by much of the world.

For item nine, ROE, we should be adhering to the San Remo Handbook and/or to NATO ROE.

Number ten, I don't think Joe is going to freeze mil spending.  He is definitely going to get major push from the house to reduce it..  But the Rent Boys in the Senate will have some pushback.  They are NOT friends of America.


Sunday, November 15, 2020

Now what?

Despite the efforts of roughly 47% of the U.S. voters to ensure four more years of nonstop lies, the Plague, and the New Gilded Age Project it now appears that the executive branch, at least, will revert to the more typical sort of internal and external Great Power politics that has been the bog-standard operational mode for the United States since at least 1945. 

Can we project what this might mean, at least in general terms? 

Keeping in mind the Pathogen in the Room that is the COVID-19 pandemic, where is a Biden Administration likely to go geopolitically? 

Away from Trumpian transactionalism, one suspects. It seems likely that the old ties to NATO and the Asian democracies will be tightened and tightened bonds to autocrats such as Erdogan and Mohammad Bin Salman will be loosened, and in particular the pay-for-play demands of Trumpian foreign policy will be discarded. As Bromwich notes;

"Biden has surrounded himself with the conventional advisers of the Clinton-Obama circle – Jake Sullivan, Samantha Power, Susan Rice, Thomas Donilon, Ash Carter, Michèle Flournoy. It is hard to imagine any of them straying far from the Cold War groove of shepherding Nato (sic) against Russia and finding a field for occasional military exercise in a humanitarian war."

The bit about "humanitarian war" elides that Biden himself - and to be fair Bromwich does note this - was against the Libyan misadventure from the start.

I've always been skeptical of the "conservative" insistence on the political influence of the "Responsibility to Protect" crowd on the Left. For a brief moment during the Clinton Nineties the notion that the U.S. could use Bullets for Good was kicked around in public, but the actual effects seem to have been very minimal. 

Despite the UN resolutions of the Oughts Libya remains the only salient example; for all the talk about R2P nothing has been done in Syria or Yemen other than the usual Great Power politics by either the Obama or Trump Administrations. Given that, and Biden's antipathy about the Libya intervention, I don't see any real return to "humanitarian war" in the next four years.

What about the "War on Terror"?

In 2009 Biden advised Obama to cut and run from Afghanistan. I suspect that a Trump-directed wrapup that might have begun this autumn has gone the way of everything else not golf-, television-, and Twitter-related now that the Grifter-in-Chief has no more fucks to give. 

But will 2021 begin with a final shuttering of the neverending saga of "Operation Enduring Freedom"? And what will happen when the inevitable collapse of the Tajik/Uzbek government in Kabul occurs? Will this become a "who lost China" controversy?

The situation in the remainder of the Middle East seems like a perfect opportunity for American disengagement. There is no real reason to take sides in the Sunni-Shia civil war, or to favor the Saudi congeries against the Iranian-led Shia axis. Given its size and demographics Iran is going to be the regional power in Southwest Asia; the U.S. insistence on trying to hold back that tide looks increasingly foolish given the persistent bad-actorism of the Saudis.

And, given the need to reduce the consumption of petroleum if we are to avoid a repetition of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, the need for U.S. involvement in hoarding oilfields and the despotisms that surround them seems increasingly louche. Why not take the opportunity of a Biden foreign policy to wave goodbye and wish a pox on both their houses? 

The real open question is can a Biden Administration DO this? Engagement in the Middle East has become engrained in U.S. policy since 1945. It seems to me that it would take a seismic shift to change that, and I don't see Biden as a "seismic" kind of guy. Unfortunately, I see the next four years as a continuation of the preceding 60-odd, with the U.S. unwilling to quit fussing around in the damned region but unable to devise an actual "coherent-with-national-interest" set of goals there, either.

The other potential engagement point is the west Pacific rim.

There the North Koreans have quietly resumed their usual fuckery with atomic weapons and the means to deliver them. I cannot imagine how a Biden Adminstration will change that; the examples of Saddam and Gaddafi are too powerful for the Kims to ignore. There will be no "denuclearization" in Korea.

Can there be some sort of demarche that takes the ceasefire further towards a genuine peace treaty? Again...it seems difficult to imagine a way to get around the deep well of paranoia and defensiveness that Kimism has dug north of the 38th Parallel. Perhaps the status quo is the best we can hope for.

Collision with the People's Republic of China, however, seems both more threatening and more solvable, depending on how badly the PRC wants to be the regional power in the South China Sea and how badly the U.S. wants to prevent that and how badly both sides want some sort of liveable solution.

War between the PRC and the US would be...bad. But in a sense the two powers are already in an economic and political cold war, and the Trumpian attempt to combat PRC mercantilist war with its own version stumbled on Tariff Man's misunderstanding of how tariffs actually work. The other option that might have done some good - revising U.S. tax and fiscal policies to punish global corporations for capital flight and offshoring - seem to have been a nonstarter in the New Gilded Age. Unfortunately, I can't see enthusiasm for such policies in the former Senator from Citibank. 

That said, given the habits and mores of the Beijing regime, increased global power for the PRC seems undesirable for anyone outside Beijing. The U.S., however, can't really position itself as the Good Guy here unless it can develop a policy other than "Fuck you, China" and the other regional actors can be motivated to respond in concert with it. 

But the actors themselves are such a disparate and rag-tag bunch, ranging from the relative stability of Australia and Japan to the whatever-the-hell-is-happening in the Philippines and Indonesia, that it seems difficult to imagine some sort of subtly-led-by-the-US alliance gently but firmly resisting PRC imperialism along the Pacific rim, and that's without the weird intraparty scuffling going on between the ROK and Japan.

In short, the west Pacific is a potential tarbaby for the U.S. and the incoming administration that I'm not sure how they either solve or disengage themselves from. To step away and let the PRC bully everyone along the Pacific rim seems fraught. But to confront the PRC seems equally, or more, fraught; I can see many ways it could go wrong, and going right will require a hell of a deft touch that the U.S. has been lacking since well before Trump.

Ending the rule of Know-Nothingism and incipient fascism - not to mention the even nuttier political nonsense like "QAnon" - is an unqualified Good Thing.

But what comes next seems, as always, full of questions and doubts...and the recent election results suggest that the United States is, still...

How that will play out over the next four years I dread to think.


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

220 Million Used-car Salesmen

I have no idea what to say after yesterday. Confronted between the choice of a bland corporate technocrat who would put in place the sort of commonsense public health measures that have tamped down a pandemic disease in places as far apart as Germany and South Korea, and a raging, thieving, lying dumpster fire of a bloated orange protohominid whose insane incompetence has helped kill a quarter of a million of their fellow citizens, nearly half of the U.S. public screamed "FUCK YES!!! I WANT MORE PLAGUE!!!"

I don't care how much you love your guns, or your God, or your tax cuts.

It's the fucking Plague!

Half the goddamn US public can't vote to escape the fucking 14th Century.

"This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it—that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable. The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his mistakes and all his imprecise talk about “new politics” and “honesty in government,” is one of the few men who’ve run for President of the United States in this century who really understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon. McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose, as a matter of policy and a perfect expression of everything he stands for.
Jesus! Where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be President?”

~ Hunter Thompson, 1972

Monday, September 14, 2020

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Chumps, Suckers, and Losers

We're now apparently supposed to be all aghast that the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. military thinks that people who get killed wearing a uniform are "suckers" and "losers".

 (pausing here to note that many of these same pearl-clutchers seemed juuuust fine with the same individual when he was raging and threatening any and all of his fellow citizens who happened to disagree with him politically in fine caudillo style. But we're not here for partisanship at the moment...)

Here's the thing.

If you are a GI, or someone who loves or cares for a GI, or just someone who “supports the troops”...at the very least be honest

Those of us who wear the tree suit are tokens in the Game of Thrones. I'm not whining about that. That's the nature of the business. We knew that when we took the re-up bonus. When it comes right down to it our job is, at the final throw, to be used - and spent, if need be - gaining or trying to gain some geopolitical thing.

We can hope that those spending our health and lives and futures are doing that wisely, judiciously, frugally, and for only the best and gravest of reasons.

All the while knowing that the opposite is very often the case; we will be thrown away for ignorance, pride, hubris, and foolishness. Our lives, or some portion of them, will often be wasted.

That's what we get paid for. That's our bottom line. That's the bargain we've made.

 And if you don’t like that, or that saddens or appalls, or horrifies you?

You need to be better citizens. Learn the issues. Question authority. Support people and policies...or protest against them! Vote...and vote with your head, not with FOX or Facebook or your old high school buddy’s latest email attachment.

Voting for some trashbag or fool or madman, or not even bothering to vote when there's a chance that trashbag of a human being might be elected, means that you lose the privilege to be shocked, shocked, when that trashbag trashes your precious "troops". 

We are your responsibility. We the People are supposed to be sovereign in this republic. So We the People are the ones who ultimately decide whether our futures are hoarded, or wasted.

If someone you helped vote into power - or someone you're not fighting with all your might to keep from power - is disparaging, or mocking, or wasting your soldiers’ lives?

It’s not their problem.

It’s yours.

 

Friday, August 14, 2020

V-J Day

10 August???  I called Ed this morning (14 August), Ed is  a 96-year old  vet who had served at Okinawa during that time.  He was in our local VFW chapter, but is now in a senior care facility near his children.  He recalled that all hands had gotten the word on the tenth that Japan had offered to surrender.  There was a lot of celebration.  He said the wild firing into the air was a bad mistake as several men were killed and wounded.

The US accepted on the 12th of August.  The only exception to the Japanese offer was that Hirohito could only remain in a purely ceremonial role and NOT as Japan's 'Heavenly Sovereign'.  There was a delay in Tokyo for debate about acceptance of Hirohito's eclipse - or continuation of the war.  So on 13 August (14 August in Japan) B29s from Tooey Spaatz Strategic Air Force Pacific resumed air raids attacking Iwakuni, Osaka, Tokoyama, Kumagaya, and Isesaki.  The PM, the Navy Minister, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs all opted for surrender.  The Army was more intransigent, or at least some firebrands there thought they could get away with a coup and continue the war.  They murdered a Lieutenant General who would not go along with them.  Hence the Kyūjō incident.

But wiser heads prevailed.  On the 14th (15th in Japan) Hirohito announced the surrender via radio to all in his nation so that they would know it was his personal decision to capitulate.  He stayed in that ceremonial Emperor role for another 44 years.  A good movie was made about the decision and the coup.  Back in 1967 the great Kihachi Okamoto directed "Japan's Longest Day" aka "The Emperor and the General".  Some dramatic license like all cinema, but well presented. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ky%C5%ABj%C5%8D_incident

 https://www.bestmoviesbyfarr.com/movies/japans-longest-day/1967

http://www.midnighteye.com/features/a-tribute-to-kihachi-okamoto/

There is a remake out titled "The Emperor in August" released five years ago on the 70th anniversary.  I have not seen it yet but hope too soon.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2015/08/05/films/complex-portrayal-emperor-hirohito/

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/08/14/national/history/emperors-wwii-surrender-aired-amid-turmoil-wartime-regime/

 I also called today and chatted with a elderly former Woman Marine who was stationed at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay as a supply clerk during the war.  She couldn't remember a lot.  Said she was on duty when the announcements were made so missed all the partying in downtown Frisco.

The formal surrender of course did not take place until two weeks later on board the U.S.S. Missouri on 2 September.

 https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_1303405

 

UPDATE:  Much has been said about the estimated casualties if the Invasion of Japan, Operation Downfall, had gone ahead.  In April 1945, a Joint Chiefs of Staff planning paper assessed possible casualties based on experience in both Europe and the Pacific given a troop list of 766,700 men and a 90-day campaign.   Based on the "Pacific Experience" JCS projected that the US Sixth Army could be expected to suffer 514,072 casualties (including 134,556 dead and missing).  There were three problems with that this assessment: 1] it only included casualties up to X+90 on Kyushu and not for the later invasion of Honshu on the Kanto Plain; 2] it did not include personnel losses at sea from Japanese air attacks; and 3] Japanese were easily able to accurately predict the Allied invasion plans and thus tripled their defenses on Kyushu from what the JCS estimates had been based on.  There were other estimates, MacArthur low-balled it at 105,000 total casualties but again that was only for Kyushu.  Mac had made a habit of underestimating enemy strength.  He did it in Luzon twice, here, and later in Korea.

Senior Navy admirals were against the invasion of the home islands.  This was based on their experience at the lengthy and costly Okinawa Campaign where 368 Allied ships were damaged while another 36 were sunk, and the 5000 Navy dead exceeded Army KIA and USMC KIA.  And probably based also on their experience at Iwo where Kamikazes sank an escort carrier, severely damaged a fleet carrier, and also damaged another escort carrier, an LST, and a transport.  They preferred a blockade with continuation of a conventional bombing campaign.  It might take longer but would save a lot of blood.

The Navy brass were also against the dropping of A-Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. According to Truman, Admiral Leahy called it "the biggest damn fool thing we have ever done".  Admiral King called the rationale that the bomb would save American lives misplaced, because if Truman had been willing to wait a blockade would have "starved the Japanese into submission".  Admiral Nimitz considered the bomb "somehow indecent, certainly not a legitimate form of warfare".  Admiral Halsey, using military reasoning instead of humanitarian concern said "It was a mistake ever to drop it.  Why reveal a weapon like that to the world when it wasn't necessary."

 UPDATE#2:

David Sanger, NYT correspondent and author of a book on cyberwarfare, "The Perfect Weapon", tells his father's story about V-J Day.  His dad, LTJG Kenneth Sanger was a CIC director on a destroyer. 
Ahead of the surrender, he had to choose between two conflicting orders – one by McArthur instructing the fleet to allow Japanese officials to fly to Tokyo, and another from his captain, ordering him to blow them out of the sky. His Dad's account:

“I relieved the watch in the combat information center. As was routine I just read all the dispatches that had come in since the previous watch. And one of them was a dispatch from General MacArthur’s headquarters in the Philippines saying that if we intercepted any Japanese transport planes that were flying a red pennant from the tail of the fuselage that we were to let the planes through, I presume because they were flying the Japanese generals from China to Japan to receive the surrender. Anyway, we were to let this plane through."

"And about 10 minutes after I had read these dispatches, we had picked up a bogie, an unidentified aircraft, on that course, and I had 16 marines in Corsairs – they were marvelous pilots – and dispatched one division of these 16 planes, which would have included four planes including the flight leader. Marines being what they were all 16 marines went out to this intercept, and we intercepted this plane, of the type which was mentioned in the MacArthur dispatch. And it was flying a red pennant from the fuselage.

“And I ordered them not to fire, unless told to do so. Grudgingly, the flight leader acknowledged the order. And I got on the squawk box and called the bridge and told them what I had done. And our commanding officer said, “Shoot the son-of-a-bitch down, Sanger.”

Sanger's Dad debated this in his mind, while the planes were in air. In the end, “I returned the planes to us without firing. I guess I made the snap judgement that I would rather be court-martialed by my commanding officer than by Gen. MacArthur. So the plane went through as intended.”

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Beirut

My first thought on hearing the 70-plus dead was that they got off easy.  As compared to Oppau 99 years ago where 560 died and Texas City 73 years ago where 580 died.  Both, like Beirut 2020 were ammonium nitrate explosions.



But their search for the dead has just started, they may yet match Oppau and TC.  A larger problem is the 300,000 people now homeless due to the blast.  Plus food shortages and a destroyed port hindering aid relief.

Authorities have arrested port officials for never moving the 2750 metric tonnes (3030 US tons) for the last six years.  But will the original owner ever face justice?

I saw a few twitter conspiracy comments that disbelieved the 2750 amount, saying that  the Oklahoma City bomb (2 tons), caused almost as much damage.  BS!  Beirut damage is at least  an order of magnitude worse.  And they overlook the fact that at Oklahoma City the ammonium nitrate used was dosed with nitromethane.  That turned it into ANNM with double the detonation velocity of ammonium nitrate alone.  Plus ANNM has more capability to break concrete and cut steel, i.e. brisance. 


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Passing through

Busy day today, but thought I'd throw out a couple of nutty clusters to chew on for the gang here.

SecState Pompeo delivered a real tubthumper of an address at the Nixon Library last Thursday about those tricksy Chinese. They're devious heathen devils, and apparently all the Western efforts to civilize them since "Nixon went to China" in the Seventies have gone for naught, so now it's time to muscle up and beef them around:
(Pompeo said that)..."the U.S. will organize the free world, while alienating and undermining the free world; he extols democracy, while aiding and abetting its destruction at home; and he praises the Chinese people, while generalizing about the ill intent of Chinese students who want to come to America.

Pompeo is also ultra-loyal to a president who cares not one whit for democracy, dissidents, freedom, or transparency overseas. Trump’s long track record on this is well documented, and it has defined his personal approach to China."

As we discussed here a while back, I'm all in favor of treating the PRC with cautious skepticism. But the problem here is that, having made it clear that if you're a Trumpkin, you're "America First" all the way, this administration has little diplomatic throw-weight to actually mobilize any sort of large-scale pushback against Chinese geopolitical ambitions. And then there's the whole "you are, too!" problem:

"The Chinese Communist Party wants a tributary international system where smaller countries are deferential to larger powers, instead of a rules-based international order where small countries enjoy equal rights. The CCP also sees no place for universal rights or global liberal norms, and wants to ignore the principles of open markets to pursue a predatory mercantilist economic policy.

So does Trump."

All this will undoubtedly rachet up tensions in the East Asian littoral. What that means in practice? I'm not sure; right now the U.S. is too busy being devoured by the Plague to make anything as distant as the South China Sea fairly low on the priority list...

Meanwhile, half a world away the same U.S. administration has directed the USDOD to move about 12,000 military bodies out of the Federal Republic of Germany.

This does not, in case you're keeping score, count as a "Donald the Dove" peace proposal. These people aren't going to become VISTA volunteers. Many are going to other parts of Europe, including Poland(?), Belgium, and Italy. But some of this may tie into the aggressive rhetoric against the PRC:

“Several thousand troops currently assigned to Germany may be reassigned to other countries in Europe,” Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said in an op-ed published Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal. “Thousands may expect to redeploy to the Indo-Pacific, where the U.S. maintains a military presence in Guam, Hawaii, Alaska and Japan, as well as deployments in locations like Australia.”

It's difficult not to be cynical about seeing this as a Trumpian revenge against the German government and his bete noir, PM Merkel, for being insufficiently fawning.

Anyway...interesting times.




Monday, July 13, 2020

کمربند و جاده, or "How do you say "Belt and Road" in Farsi?"

So much for "maximum pressure":
"Iran and China have quietly drafted a sweeping economic and security partnership that would clear the way for billions of dollars of Chinese investments in energy and other sectors, undercutting the Trump administration’s efforts to isolate the Iranian government because of its nuclear and military ambitions.

The partnership, detailed in an 18-page proposed agreement obtained by The New York Times, would vastly expand Chinese presence in banking, telecommunications, ports, railways and dozens of other projects. In exchange, China would receive a regular — and, according to an Iranian official and an oil trader, heavily discounted — supply of Iranian oil over the next 25 years.

The document also describes deepening military cooperation, potentially giving China a foothold in a region that has been a strategic preoccupation of the United States for decades. It calls for joint training and exercises, joint research and weapons development and intelligence sharing — all to fight “the lopsided battle with terrorism, drug and human trafficking and cross-border crimes.”

The partnership — first proposed by China’s leader, Xi Jinping, during a visit to Iran in 2016 — was approved by President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet in June, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said last week."
This is an obvious move for Iran, given that it is unavoidably clear that any Republican administration - and 2016 makes clear that the US electorate cannot be counted on not to elect a Republican government, no matter how ridiculous - will treat Iran to whatever they can manage of the Ledeen Doctrine.

This is also obviously a very deep tarpit for Iran. Other "Belt and Road" nations have found that the PRC gives nothing that it cannot take, and have found themselves in hock up to their national ears.

Still...a worthwhile reminder that when your only tool is a hammer, and the tool using that tool is an utter tool, you end up with a "foreign policy" stupider than a bagful of hammers.

Oh, well. We're too busy catching the Plague to worry about any of this stuff anymore.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Vote by Mail


Everyone in the great state of Washington votes by mail.  Thank God our state capitol Olympia did away with the caucus system.  Ditto for Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, & Utah.  California allows everyone to vote by mail but also allows those who prefer to go to a polling place to vote.  No need to apply for a mail-in ballot, all registered voters get one.  No need to prove your inability to travel to the poll.  No need to prove you are out of state. 

There are checks in place to prevent fraud.  Sure, Junior can fraudulently vote for his senile parents.  But incidents like that are onesey-twoseys.  Large scale fraud is easy to spot via statistics, or by suspicious journalists or political analysts of any party.    Public election officials can easily prove or disprove fraud by checkin signatures. 

There is a system in place to insure secrecy & privacy of your vote.  It increases voter turnout.  It provides a legitimate backup record for recounts.  It lowers the expense to states and counties for holding elections.  What is not to like?

Reportedly two thirds of the country would prefer to vote by mail.


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

86 degrees in the Arctic Circle yesterday.


Image

But I'm sure the real smart opposition will kochsplain it to us.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Return of the Cannibal Plague Rats!

Beware rogue ravenous rats.

"That’s the latest coronavirus-tinged health warning from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as the rodents that have been starved of restaurant leftovers these past two months make themselves known.

In a species evolutionarily adapted to resort to cannibalism during hard times, the CDC is warning of “unusual or aggressive rodent behavior” stemming from their lockdown starvation diet."

Oh My Fucking God.

This is...c'mon, it's been less than a decade since the LAST outbreak of Cannibal Plague Rats - on a boat! - but this time it's with Actual Plague.


So I'm calling it right here, right now, and you better damn well remember I did so because I want the credit when it actually happens:


"Cannibal Rats versus Murder Hornets! This Sunday on SYFY Channel!"

THIS is the sort of entertainment we need.

Acting 1SG Lawes reads the morning formation announcements

Comp-ney, Atten-shun!

At ease.

Okay, listen up. Coupla things here.

AT Platoon.

I understand that, as those fucking pizza commercials keep reminding us, we are in "trying times", by which I mean both this fucking plague AND the fact that in this training cycle y'all have been down to the anti-armor range twice a day every day for three goddamn weeks. But if I get one. More. Phone. Call. from Brigade whining "Why are your AT vehicles parked in the B-Lane?" I will make it my personal business to go down to Willy's Speedi-Tow, requisition one of their goddamn trucks, and personally snatch your asses up and drag you back down to the motor pool.

You know the rules. I know the rules. And, unfortunately, so do those fucking Karens up at Brigade. So load and unload most quick smart and then park in the goddamn motor pool and walk back to the company area. Sergeant Morrow, you and me, after this formation. Am I clear? Thank-yew.

Now.

I am led to understand that there are certain individuals in this formation who are sick and tired of all this Plague Year shit. Who want to unmask, who want to slink back to the fucking Lizard Lounge so their Jody asses can get busy with rando grass widows, not that I'm being judge-mental or anything. I am led to understand that this commotion is all about "freedom", and that "your fear doesn't trump my freedom" and, yes, I see what the fuck you did there.

Let me remind you people.

We are STILL in the fucking Plague Year.

I trust that you, being the out-stand-ing airborne soldiers that I know you are, are familiar with the means and methods for the battalion in defense outlined in chapter three of Army Techniques Publication Three-dash-twenty-one.

That being said, how would you assess the behavior of, say, Private Black, here, if he proudly announced that he had no intention of digging a fighting position, that he would not submit his freedom from overhead cover to your fear of getting blown to small bloody independent republics by enemy artillery fire, and that he, in fact, intended to exercise his right to walk around the main line of defense wearing a pink tulle' tutu drawing fire whilst y'all cowered fearfully in your holes?

Anyone?

Thank you, Specialist Echevarria!

Yes. You would call him, and correct me if I am misquoting you here, Specialist, a "brain-dead fucker of whom the best portion of which ran down his mother's leg". Yes, indeed.

There are things you are supposed to be afraid of, people. Things that the fear is telling you not to fuck with, because they will fuck you up. Enemy artillery. Non-alcoholic beer. Payday loans.

The Plague will fuck you up like a one-five-five HE round. You are not brave and free if you walk around while the rounds are impacting your position, people. You are being fucking stupid and endangering your fellow troopers and compromising your airborne mission.

I trust this will be the last I hear of this nonsense. Keep your fucking masks on, people. Keep your distance. That's good practice for GIs anyway; remember - every time you bunch up you invite Mister Grenade to your party, and Mister Grenade is not really your friend.

Finally. Medical platoon.

You will be doing yourselves, this organization, and the nation a massive solid if you will kindly transfer those two empty shipping crates from your loading dock where they have been standing proud since, like, the last fucking fiscal year, to their forever home in the dumpster.

I spoke to Private Black about this the last time I ran into him on the loading dock and, frankly, I am not sure that I completely buy his explanation that they are part of what I believe he described as a "living art project" of Sergeant Carter's. Feel free to correct me after this formation if I am being overly skeptical, Sergeant.

Good. That is all.

Comp-ney, Atten-shun!

Platoon sergeants, take charge.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Died in vain

I was talking about this with my Bride today. She said that she didn't see how it made a difference where, when, or how you died in war; whether you died storming the Normandy beach to crush Nazis or blown up by an exploding latrine while waiting for orders in the War of Jenkin's Ear.

I replied that it was all part of the implied bargain that we the troopers made when we raised our hands.

We promised to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies. With our lives, if it came to that.

They - the Constitution in the form of our People, our government, our Army, and our officers - promised to hoard those lives and ensure they were spent as frugally as humanly possible.

The Old Lie is one thing.

The Old Lie, when the lie is told as part of a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing?

That breaks the bargain.

And that got me thinking of how many bargains have been broken in the Plague Year.

So I posted this to my FB page today:
"Pandemic Timeline, Day 157: It suddenly seems utterly weird to be having a "day" about dead American soldiers when EVERY day hundreds and even thousands of Americans are dying all around us. Weird. And wrong."
And a dear friend immediately spoke up about his disgust that the federal government had decreed an official day of mourning with the national flags flown at half staff for the dead of COVID-19; "Couldn't have waited another few days to let us honor fallen soldiers?"

And I understand that. I do. I know he and his family have a very dear friend who was killed in Iraq, and I'm sure they still feel the pain of that loss.

Our dead are with us always.

But this was my reply:
"But these poor suffering bastards are dying for their country - in the sense that they're dying because of decisions their government made - as much as anybody who got killed at Bataan or Fallujah.

As an un-fallen soldier I'm as angry and grieved at these losses as I am about the lives we threw away in the Middle East or Vietnam. Even the rhetoric - "heroes" - is the same, whether we send GIs into the streets of Basra with hillbilly armor or nurses into the plague ward with homemade masks and re-used gloves.

I understand how you feel, my friend. But I'm too sick and too cynical to feel the outrage. Our country has decided that we are all expendable. So let the poor sods have their flag. We're all being driven into the minefield now."
And with that, I find that today I have nothing more to say.
Except, as always, this.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Briefing the Toddler

Apparently President Bone Spurs prefers to get his intelligence briefings from  a casino poobah, an 85-year-old golf partner from South Africa, and a house-painter turned talk show host.  He is too inattentive or disinterested.  Too short an attention span (the Ritalin maybe?).  Too wrapped up in irrelevant side issues.  Too narrow-minded and intolerant to reality or to any info that does not fit within his belief system.  Too untrustful of the IC that he sees as the borg or the deep state. Too lazy.  And too narcissistic.

Per the NY Times:
Image
Image

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/21/us/politics/presidents-daily-brief-trump.html


Thursday, May 14, 2020

Blundering into the blast zone

Forty years ago yesterday (May 13, 1980) as Dick Waitt records in his 2014 work In the Path of Destruction, the Washington State Department of Emergency Management and other agencies including the U.S. Geological Survey were forced by public pressure to open up large portions of the forest lands around the then-unquiet Mount Saint Helens volcano that had been off-limits since the end of April.

(then-Governor Dixy Lee Ray had signed an order establishing a "red zone" around the volcano on 30 APR 1980 that turned out to be, in fact, grossly undersized - something like 50 of the 55 to 60 people who died in the eruption on 18 MAY were outside the original "red zone" - see below).
But that wasn't enough for the people who made their living in the woods, or who had cabins or houses near the volcano, or who just wanted to go back into the forest to mine or pick mushrooms or whatever.

Saturday, 17 MAY, something like 50 vehicles drove into the area that had been closed to bag up their stuff. The eruption took place at 8:32am, before the second planned caravan enetred the blast zone at ten, and since it was a Sunday the active logging tracts were empty.

Still, somewhere in the vicinity of 55 people were killed.

That ain't Pompeii...but, then, we knew more than they did back in the First Century, and knew how damn deadly dangerous these stratovolcanoes were. The volcanoligists of what eventually became Cascades Volcanoes Observatory warned the State of Washington that this monster could do all sorts of unpredictably deadly things. And the state government listened...until people grew bored and restless and demanded to "reopen" the woodlands around an actively erupting volcano. We learned a hard lesson about the power of convergent margin tectonics and nature in general.

As a geologist I find it kind of interesting to reflect on that, just at the moment.

Why?
Oh...y'know. No reason.

Just a thought.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Legal Notes from the Airsoft Coup

Anderson and Deeks have a long digression at Lawfare on the latest stabile genius foreign policy chess move between sorta-kinda-the-U.S. and the Maduro government in Venezuela and, specifically, did it roll over into the "Neutrality Act" of 1795 (18 U.S.C. § 960), which says:
"Whoever, within the United States, knowingly begins or sets on foot or provides or prepares a means for or furnishes the money for, or takes part in, any military or naval expedition or enterprise to be carried on from thence against the territory or dominion of any foreign prince or state, or of any colony, district, or people with whom the United States is at peace, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."
The pithiest description of the Trump Administration is "malevolence mitigated by incompetence" and that as much as anything surely describes this opera bouffe' "coup".
Obviously the part of this we'll probably never know (or won't until the clearance expires in a quarter century, assuming it ever does) is the degree to which the U.S. government was involved. The principle of the Neutrality Act is that it is illegal for a private citizen or citizens of the U.S. to take actions that might lead the nation into war with a foreign nation. But...if the U.S. government did authorize this clusterfuck, then it's no longer illegal under U.S. law. The Trumpkins deny any involvement because, duh, fail, of course they would whether they greenlit this thing or not.

My question would be...does that "authorization" extend to what might be called "guilty knowledge"? Can silence imply consent or even "authorization - without explicit authorization? Assuming that the administration knew this "coup" was in train - and since the knucklehead mercenary CEO publicly announced it (cunning move, there, Clausewitz...) it is difficult to believe they did not - and deliberately did nothing to forestall it...does that provide the mercs with implicit "authorization"? Certainly it would provide the US intelligence agencies plausible deniability. Sure, we knew. So what? Not our business. Oh, wait, it worked? Sweet! Welcome, our new Venezuelan buddies!

Once again, the difficulty is separating the incompetence from the malevolence from the pure goofy "WTF?" with these people.
Somewhere in Hell William Walker sneers in bitter contempt...

Friday, May 8, 2020

1919 vs 2020?

Well worth reading discussion of the similarities and differences between the current pandemic and the previous one here.
"It’s really remarkable to me that the flu of a century killed 675,000 Americans out of a population of 110 million, meaning that roughly works out to the 2.2 million upper range guess of projections for COVID-19 by proportion of the population. And yet, the cultural response to it was primarily to shrug our collective shoulders and get on with our lives. It wasn’t total ignorance that created that situation. Some communities did engage in effective quarantining, for instance, and there were real death rate differentials between them. But to my knowledge anyway, sports weren’t cancelled. The World Series went on as normal (and quite famously in 1919!). There was no effective government response at the federal level."
One point I will take issue with, however, is this:
"Basically, what has changed is us. We see ourselves as something closer to immortal today." (emphasis mine) "The only two health crises even close to the flu between then and now were polio and HIV and those are very different types of events. Polio’s transformation into something much more powerful than in the past definitely scared lots and lots and lots of people, but what could you really do? AIDS certainly frightened many, but it was also classified as gay cancer early on and Reagan was happy to let them all die until his buddy Rock Hudson fell to the disease.

We have a culture of immortality. That’s not a bad thing. Science has advanced so far. We think we can protect ourselves from the outside world through eating and exercise and medicine. To an extent, we can. Even though COVID-19 has hit very old people in nursing homes and those with co-morbidities much harder than most people, it’s seen as an unimaginable tragedy to lose these people in a way that the deaths of thousands upon thousands of young parents and workers was not a century ago. To an extent, this is a reminder that human beings are incredibly fragile animals who have bodies where germs and bacteria pass in and out of all the time. We just don’t think about it. Our seeming indifference to climate change is related to this as well. We simply think we will figure it out, just like we figured out polio or the ozone layer or how to make a good television comedy."
I think this confuses correlation with causation.

Yes, we do think we'll "figure it out". But that's because we are accustomed to the - when you think about it - astounding advances in medical practice over the past century.

I mean...the docs in 1919 understood the germ theory of disease and the nature of influenza. They weren't stupid. They did what they could.

But.

At the time inoculation and vaccination was just beginning to become widespread. The notion that "oh, sure, we'll get a vaccine for that" was not just remote, it was nearly unthinkable in many cases. People died all the time from diseases we've more-or-less removed from our experience; typhus, cholera, diphtheria, measles, smallpox. That simply doesn't happen anymore.

So it's not that we "see ourselves as...immortal" or have a "culture of immortality". It's that we have internalized that what is going to kill us is a heart attack, or cancer, or an auto accident, or a random nutter with a firearm. The notion that a simple contagious disease - a sort of superflu - can kill or maim us?

THAT's insane. That's fucking creepy. That's...something that shouldn't be happening.

So we ARE not really treating this plague the way we did a century ago, but not because WE'VE changed.

It's because our fundamental baseline for medical competence and medical success has changed.

We don't expect we're going to die of cholera anymore.

So we're really pissed off and really frustrated and really afraid that this thing has become, despite all our knowledge and skills and learning, the pestilence that stalks in the darkness

Friday, May 1, 2020

O tempora, o mores!

Bearing arms against the Republic, 1864:
The U.S. government's response, 1864:
Bearing arms against the Republic, 2020:
The U.S. government's response, 2020:
We live in sadly diminished times.

Update 5/11: As noted in the comments, I think the obvious problem here is that the rebels and traitors are seeing a lot more Buchanan (if not more Jeff Davis...) than Sherman in the federal government's responses and they are thereby emboldened:
“We need a good old fashioned lynch mob to storm the Capitol, drag her tyrannical ass out onto the street and string her up as our forefathers would have,” John Campbell Sr. wrote in a group called “People of Michigan vs. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer,” which had nearly 9,000 members as of Monday morning.

Steve Doxsie had the same idea: “Drag that tyrant governor out to the front lawn. Fit her for a noose.”

“Either President Trump sends in the troops or there is going to be a midnight lynching in Lansing soon,” Michael Smith chimed in.

Others suggested she be shot, beaten, or beheaded.

“Plain and simple she needs to eat lead and send a statement to the rest of the democrats that they are next,” James Greena, of Fennville, wrote.

Chris Rozman said, “She needs her ass beat. Most of these politicians need a good ass whooping. Just. Punch there lights out.”

When someone suggested the guillotine, Thomas Michael Lamphere responded, “Good ol’ fashioned bullets work better, but I like the enthusiasm.”

“Wonder how long till she’s hit with a shotgun blast,” Chris Parrish wrote.

Matthew Woodruff had another idea: “Can we please just take up a collection for an assassin to put that woman from Michigan down,” he asked.
With these knuckleheads I'm not sure that even fear would be the beginning of wisdom. These are deeply,aggressively stupid people.

But the prospect of giving it a try sure seems increasingly attractive.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Breaking the Belt? Leaving the Road?

Andy is one of the few regulars here that keeps reminding us of this, but the current pandemic has brought the problematic relationship between the United States (and much of the "developed world", I should note...) and the People's Republic of China into a harsh light. Fred Kaplan at Slate posted a worthwhile conversation starter here:
"David Livingston, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, notes in an email that while China is not a rich source of raw materials or finished products, it is “a behemoth in the middle of supply chains.” It is in fact the world’s largest exporter of intermediary goods, providing one-third of the “intermediate goods” that help turn raw materials into finished products.

According to a recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute, China supplies the critical components in 70 to 85 percent of the world’s solar panels, 75 to 90 percent of high-speed rail systems, 60 to 80 percent of agricultural machinery, and 40 to 50 percent of cargo ships.

COVID-19 has drawn attention to this grip on the middle of supply chains for health and medical products—a grip that’s tighter than commonly realized. As Bradley Thayer and Lianchao Han note in the National Interest, China produces “key ingredients to medicines in almost every area,” including drugs for Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, antidepressants, HIV/AIDS, and cancer treatments, as well as statins, birth-control pills, antacids, and vitamins. If China stopped exporting these ingredients, they write, “America’s—and the world’s—hospitals would be in free fall.”
It's very obviously not in the national interests of a supposedly-developed, supposed-republic like the United States to be at the mercy of a one-party dictatorship. Especially a dictatorship that sees itself as a global rival. Especially a dictatorship that is moving aggressively to gain influence beyond its borders in a way that no previous Chinese governments have ever attempted since the days of the Yuan Dynasty.

The difficulty - as the piece points out - is finding some less fraught middle ground without pushing either nation closer to an open Cold War.

It's tempting to read the problem as an artifact of the sort of bog-standard-fatheaded-Trumpian-"diplomacy" that has produced idiocy like the ridiculous "Love Letters from Pyongyang" Kim-Trump bromance. I think that's heaping too much of the problems on the current Administration; this is a tangle produced by generations-long economic and political miscalculations from the West in general and the US in particular, as well as a false hope that the fall of the Soviet Union (once described to me as "because nobody wanted to wear East German jeans and listen to Bulgarian disco music") could be duplicated by showing the PRC the attraction of Western goodies. Far too long the US has been coasting on the Nixonian engagement policies begun back in the Seventies. The PR has been more than willing to open the doors. It's just not going to let anything in it dislikes - like the idea of a China not run by the current dictatorship.

It's also tempting to look at it as purely a governmental and diplomatic issue without considering the massive role played by domestic US financial and tax policies that encouraged private US corporations to move much of their production to the low-wage nations of East Asia. If corporations are people those people are sociopaths; they typically have no interest in anything other their bottom line. Making the West hostage to Chinese mercantilism? Hey, not my problem! Gotta make the price point on those inhalers and the cheap plastic Walmart crap!

The duplicity - and let's not kid ourselves, regardless of whatever else the PRC did in this pandemic, their initial reaction was horrifyingly similar to that forecast in Max Brooks' World War Z PRC's response to the zombie apocalypse; they tried to hide the outbreak and downplay the severity because that's overwhelmingly often what dictatorships do - of the PRC's government simply points out that as currently constituted the government of mainland China is not anything similar to the sort of state presumed to be a part of the "Western group" of nations.

The fact that the United States is increasingly neither one of those states is neither here nor there in affecting how the rest of the developed world decides to deal with the PRC.

But I think the problem at the heart of the Kaplan piece remains; how? His conclusion is that "...we need to diversify our supply chains, we need a more clever, alliance-driven style of diplomacy, and we need a new president."

Which is all well and good, but...those supply chains are largely in private hands, which will move them only as far as the fattest profit.

And the diplomacy is largely in the hands of that president, who was recently quoted recommending that Americans threatened by a pathogen inject themselves with bleach and swallow UV lights and yet remains the god of nearly 4/10ths of the American public. There is at least an even chance that there will be no "new President" for another four years and change.

So...what?

Update 4/26: Dan Drezner at Reason has a thoughtful piece that goes into the US-PRC relationship in more detail. In particular it does good work examining the starry-eyed narrative that too many US officials believed would link economic growth and political freedom, as well as the clumsy mess that the Tariff Man has got the relationship into.

However, when he comes to his proposals for solving the mess, Drezner doesn't seem to have all that much more than Kaplan:
"There are areas in which the prospect of weaponized interdependence means that some negotiated decoupling will be necessary. In those arenas, however, the United States will need the cooperation of its allies—because otherwise, China is likely to be the one setting global standards in 5G and other technical areas. The U.S.-China Trade Policy Working Group, a collection of economists and lawyers from both sides of the Pacific, has put forward a framework for managing the relationship. As for coping with predatory liberalism, Adam Silver's change of tune in the face of a media firestorm shows that negative press attention is the best way to get U.S. firms to stop kowtowing to Chinese authorities."
The notion that the Trumpkins will sudden drop their "America First" mania and begin cooperating with allies is risible, while "negative press" seems a weak reed for a world that has gotten used to reading the press equivocating on whether drinking bleach is a bad idea.

So I think we're still very much in the same place. We know there are some things that need to be done about the US-PRC relationship. But what things, and whether the US in its existing condition can or will do them?

That seems very much not so much undecided as largely unexplored.

Update 4/29: It's worth noting that this really is a transnational problem; the Trumpkins' "America First" xenophobia isn't the only source of trouble here. There's much to ponder in this essay (An Old Anxiety in a New Era 1900 & 2020 庚子年的優思 by Zi Zhongyun) regarding the turn to aggressive nationalism on the PRC. It appears that the Xi regime has largely abandoned the pretense of socialist internationalism inherited from the original revolutionaries. In its place - at least, per Zi - is a sort of purblind xenophobia and nationalist rage that would make any MAGA rally look like a kid's playdate.
(The banner above the restaurant door reads "Enthusiastically Celebrate the Coronavirus in America; Wishing the Virus a Long and Successful Journey in Japan". Yike.)
"This deplorable situation is only getting worse and, given the kind of unwarranted self-congratulation encouraged by the recent Amazing-China-boosterism [inspired by a swaggering and sensationally popular 2018 propaganda-documentary, ‘Amazing China, My Country’ 厲害了, 我的國], it is hardly surprising that we are now subjected to fabricated stories about how neighbouring countries are supposedly pleading with Beijing to be allowed to merge with the ‘Chinese Motherlands’. [Note: in mid April 2020, articles appeared on the Chinese Internet claiming that Kazakhstan was applying to become part of China. In response, the Kazakh foreign ministry summoned the Chinese ambassador in Almaty to issue a formal protest]. On the global stage stories like this feed an existing anxiety that China is secretly harbouring plans to invade and absorb other nations."
I've heard it said that a diplomatic catastrophe often requires the hard work of the parties on both sides. It would seem that we have just such a situation at hand.

Update 4/30: This...
...on the other hand, is NOT good.

Friday, April 17, 2020

That's how sieges work, Phil.

How the hell did they deal with these people in the past?
Phil: "That's it. I can't take it any more. We gotta get out. Open the gates."

Dave: "We've been through this, Phil. The Mongols are still outside. We can't open the gates yet."

Phil: "But...freedom! I gotta get out. I can't take it. I gotta...I gotta weed the turnips! I left the lights on in the cow byre! I gotta buy another dozen swords!"

Dave:...

Dave: "Mongols, Phil."

Phil: "Uuuugh. I can't staaand it. We've been in here for...weeks!"

Dave: "That's how sieges work, Phil."

Phil: "But...the Mongols have barely killed anyone for days!"

Dave: "That's because of the walls."

Phil: "Are you sure? Maybe the Mongols aren't as dangerous as you said they were!"

Dave:

Phil: "I'm just saying, how bad could it be? They can't kill all of us!"

Dave: "That is literally the thing they do, Phil."

Phil: "Aaarrrggh! My turnips!"

Friday, April 10, 2020

Naval Gazing

Good discussion here about what the USS Theodore Roosevelt fiasco shows us about the internal mess that is a now an integral part of "the world's most powerful armed force":
"The response to Crozier’s memo, after it was public, was incoherent. Everybody was saying different things. Modly got on the news and told CNN, We’re working on it, we have a plan in place, which was true because he was in communication with Crozier and his staff at that point. That same afternoon, Modly’s boss, Secretary Defense Mark Esper, got on the evening news and said, I haven’t made any decision and I haven’t read the letter in full. They were nowhere near on the same page. It was the beginning of this massive schism that’s happening right now between civilian and military leadership."

"You see a real difference between how the admirals and the political appointees are dealing with this. The admirals are looking for how to get the sailors off and investigate what happened. But the political appointees, specifically Modly and Esper, seemed like they were completely foundering and looking for a political mitigation tactic that might save them face."
And let's not kid ourselves; it wasn't just the flunkies - this clusterfuck goes all the way up to Head of Grifting:
"Last year, the Navy was roiled by Trump’s call for clemency for Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who was convicted of keeping war trophy photographs of himself with a dead Iraqi captive. So there was already this sense, when Modly came to the job, that you need to anticipate what the White House wants and carry it out. I think that’s an understanding most administration hopefuls have reached. It could be seen as a bit of a proximate factor for what happened with Crozier."
So as far as "most powerful" goes, while I do not question the sheer weight of metal that the U.S. military has and will continue to bring in the near future, it's worth noting that the track record of military organizations that are beaten into a sort of permanent cringe...
...by being forced to suck up to the whims of their dictators...
...is not a good one.

Update 4/25: Innnnnnnn-teresting:
"Pentagon leaders are now at an impasse about how to move forward. While CJCS Milley wants a broader inquiry, CNO Gilday and ASECNAV McPherson want to move ahead with reinstating Crozier. SECDEF Esper may be the deciding vote between the two camps."
Why I say this is interesting is because the CJCS is NOT in Crozier's chain. Remember the little thing I posted about the Navy chain of command?

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs ain't on it.

The only reason I can see that Milley is sticking his fucking oar in is that certain Trumpkins want to torpedo Crozier somehow but don't want their tiny little fingers on the firing button.

Like I said; the track record of armed forces who begin sucking up to political despots?

It's not good.

And, given the track record we already have from the U.S. performance in Central Asia?

Yeah.

That.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

What's Hungarian for Ermächtigungsgesetz?

President Trump's EU pash, Viktor Orban, is now officially the Dictator of Hungary.
Somewhere in the bowels of the White House Stephen Miller does a little dance.

I'm as terrified of this plague as anyone, but I'm almost equally terrified of our little American Orbans and their orange Leader. War and pestilence are the great enablers of dictators. It is when We the People are the most fearful and beaten that we are willing to trade liberty for "safety". We will get neither - especially given that these new dictators worship the old Gods of the Gilded Age that mean more profits for themselves - but those of us who prize "security" over that liberty will surely be tempted.

And, given our recent history, I cannot be sure we can resist that temptation. Four of ten Americans have already shown they will gleefully support any amount of destruction to small-r republican mores if it means shuttering drag queen story hour and keeping the dusky heathens in their place.

It will be intriguing to watch the reaction to this from the EU. If the leader of a European nation can become an out-and-proud dictator without consequence, what will stop those others (looking at you, Poland...) who are teetering along the border?
Did I mention lately how I reeeeeeally hate this timeline?