Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Islamic State; Unabated

In times of high levels of rhetoric and low levels of thoughtful discussion, it is always helpful to go to the map.

Maps have a logic and clarity all their own. The struggle is, in the end, about geography: access, possession, and influence.

Words can only tell so much of a story. Take this from TheDailyBeast;
American jets are pounding Syria. But ISIS is taking key terrain—and putting more and more people under its black banners. 
ISIS continues to gain substantial ground in Syria, despite nearly 800 airstrikes in the American-led campaign to break its grip there.

At least one-third of the country’s territory is now under ISIS influence, with recent gains in rural areas that can serve as a conduit to major cities that the so-called Islamic State hopes to eventually claim as part of its caliphate. Meanwhile, the Islamic extremist group does not appear to have suffered any major ground losses since the strikes began. The result is a net ground gain for ISIS, according to information compiled by two groups with on-the-ground sources.
That is a good statement of fact - much better than what you may hear from politicians - but it doesn't quite describe the success the Islamic State has had over the winter months so far.

You will hear a lot of celebrating about Kobani - and any setback for the enemy is good - but that says more about the Kurds than the Islamic State. That is a battle, not the larger sweep of the conflict.

Put that to one side and then look at where the Islamic State has grown just in Syria ... in just five months. Ponder.

Meanwhile in Iraq;
The 82nd Airborne, and more specifically its 3rd Brigade Combat Team, are no strangers to Iraq. 
Since 2003, parts of the brigade have deployed in support of U.S. efforts there on at least three occasions. 
Now, more than three years after the U.S. military presence in Iraq was thought over, about a quarter of the Panther Brigade will return with a new mission to help train Iraqi forces to fight ISIS.

About 1,000 paratroopers from the brigade will deploy this week as part of the Operation Inherent Resolve mission.
In the meantime, we are supporting those who, like the Islamic State, are fighting Assad. I hold no brief for that guy - but he is a small evil; the real game is the Islamic State.

We can worry about Assad later, but for now - he is useful against the Islamic State, the real threat.
“It is time for President Assad [and] the Assad regime to put their people first and to think about the consequences of their actions, which are attracting more and more terrorists to Syria,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Jan. 14.

If the administration has a diplomatic strategy, it centers on cajoling countries that have influence in Syria — Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — to join in a combined effort to end the conflict. The premise is that those countries fear Islamic State and other jihadists enough to put aside their otherwise deep divisions. But that's a long way from happening too.

Until then, the U.S. strategy boils down to attacking Islamic State from the air, hoping a war of attrition somehow weakens Assad's grip on power, and asking Turkey (and perhaps others) to act on the ground where the United States has been unwilling.

“Our problem is that we don't have much leverage,” Ford noted. “We have put very little skin in the game. The Russians and Iranians have put a lot of skin in the game.”

And that offers little ground for optimism. The lesson of our misadventure in Syria may be this: A risk-averse foreign policy can keep you out of ground wars — but it can also keep other goals out of reach too.
In the name of all that is holy, just try to diagram that logic in an arena where the Islamic State has a vote.

Where have you gone Henry Kissinger? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Another Act in a Greek Tragedy

This will not end well; not for the Greeks, not for Europe, and not for us.
Punching the air, Tsipras arrived at a little after 11pm strutting up the steel stairs to the stage like a rock star.

“The hard work begins tomorrow,” he boomed.

“Today, the Greek people have written history. Hope has written history. Greece is turning a page. It is leaving behind the austerity of catastrophe.

“There are no winners and losers. Those who have been defeated are the elite and oligarchs, the vested interests that destroyed our country.”
Son, hope ain't a plan.

Let's not forget how Greece found herself here. For decades they spent more than they produced, digging a deeper and deeper hole until they could not pull themselves out - slathering herself with corruption and poor leadership.

When they realized that there would be a cost to their immature ignoring of reality, they revolted against reality ... and now have started digging again.

To understand how doomed Greece is - and it will get worse until someone else comes in to fix them, goodness knows what that will be - you need to see who has taken power. As you read the below, ask yourself, "When has this ever worked?"
SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) entered a new stage in its life and action as a single party after its first (Founding) Congress (10-14 July 2013).
The Founding Congress of the new party defined itself as a party of the democratic and radical Left, which has its roots in popular struggles for Greek independence, democracy and labour and anti-fascist movements in Greece. The party comprises many different ideological currents and left cultures, building its identity on a synthesis of the values of the labour movement with those of the ecological, feminist and other new social movements. This is why there are three flags on the SYRIZA logo: red, green and purple.
There you go. Here's something for you national security types;
Together with the European Left Party, of which it is a very active member, SYRIZA is fighting for the re-foundation of Europe away from artificial divisions and cold-war alliance such as NATO. As for the E.U., SYRIZA denounces the dominant extreme neoliberal and euro-atlantic policies and believes that they must and can be transformed radically in the direction of a democratic, social, peaceful, ecological and feminist Europe, open to a socialist and democratic future. This is why SYRIZA is in favour of cooperation and coordinated action of left forces and social movements on a pan-European scale. However, it does not hold euro-centric views and rejects the idea of an insulate "fortress Europe".
The capitulation of our foreign policy to the desires of the U.S. and the powerful states of the European Union endangers the country's independence, peace, and security. We propose:

-- A multi-dimensional and peace-seeking foreign policy.
-- Disengagement from NATO and closure of foreign military bases on Greek soil.
-- Termination of military cooperation with Israel.
-- Aiding the Cypriot people in the reunification of the island.
That last link has a good executive summary of the party platform, you should read it all.

At this point, especially from the German perspective, I do not see how Greece will stay in with the Euro. She never should have been allowed to join the Eurozone to begin with - and now the sooner she can leave, the better.

In the party platform, you can also see the seed for a policy that will further promote division and conflict in Greece and the rest of Europe. Unchecked immigration in to the EU is a great destabilizer, and ... well ...
-- Immigration reforms:

-- Speeding up the asylum process
-- Abolition of Dublin II regulations and granting of travel papers to immigrants
-- Social inclusion of immigrants and equal rights protection
Yes, the worse, the better. They know their Lenin well - or they are delusional.
Mondal, 23, was among a crowd of hundreds who turned out to cheer Tsipras as he arrived at Syriza party headquarters in Athens late Sunday after his election victory. He said he hopes a Tsipras-led government will make it easier for him to acquire Greek citizenship. At the moment, he has a card that lets him reside in Greece only and not elsewhere in the European Union.

I believe I’ll get the passport,” Mondal said as he mingled with a handful of other Bangladeshis who rushed forward as Tsipras appeared. “Then I can think about Italy, Germany, Spain.”
A huge youth unemployment problem does not get better with wave after wave of young, uneducated, and unskilled workers from the south and east - but that isn't the point.

The center will not hold.
Greece is headed into a new era of anti-austerity as the radical leftist Syriza successfully formed a government with the Independent Greeks party after falling agonisingly short of an outright majority in Sunday’s landmark elections.

“I want to say, simply, that from this moment, there is a government,” the Independent Greeks leader, Panos Kammenos, told reporters after emerging from a meeting at Syriza’s headquarters.
The center, left and right, have no one to blame for themselves. They stamped themselves, correctly, with the taint of corruption and cronyism. 

This new party "right wing?" Notsomuch in an economic sense.
Both Syriza and Independent Greeks agree on the need to end austerity. And both hold strident views on the especially sensitive issue of Greek national sovereignty having been denuded as a result of six years of stewardship under Athens’ hated “troika” of creditors. Anel, like Syriza, says foreign lenders have turned the debt-crippled country into a “debt colony”.

In opposition, the two political forces collaborated to block the election of a new head of state, which ultimately triggered Sunday’s snap polls. With Syriza and Anel outright rejecting the commitments the previous government signed up to with creditors – outlined in the onerous bailout accords that Athens agreed with the EU, ECB and IMF – they will make an extremely tough negotiating team when stalled talks resume this month.

Kammenos’s appointment will not be welcome news to Berlin, which has provided the biggest share of the €240bn (£180bn) in rescue funds to Athens.
They are only further to the right when it comes to religion and national security which, it is fair to say, in Greek politics is hard not to be to the right than Syriza.

Looking through their platform, there is nothing here that looks to moderate what Syriza will do to what is left of the Greek economy and her people, but I do see the seeds of future conflict.

As much as I love to slap the hard left around (not the American center-left - I'm actually in mild alignment with some of their issues, and they are well meaning silly folks more than off their rocker). It would be a mistake to see what happened in Greece as just a leftist problem. As a matter of fact, in the context of an American discussing what his happening in Europe, the "left" and "right" shorthand is becoming less useful than ever.

In a way it always has been imperfect. As Jonah Goldberg put in his book Liberal Fascism, and I have tried to convince with less success here - what the communists and socialist sympathetic left has tried to do to avoid hard truths, is to separate themselves from their statist leftist brothers the fascists by calling them "right." 

No, when you boil it down, they are all born in the same nest, and it doesn't matter what the color of the boot is that is kicking you in the face, it feels the same and has the same effect.

Is this a sign of a larger European collapse? No, but it is the canary. Without question, Greece is the weakest sister as the graph below shows.

Update: Nice overview by Tom Rogan;
This isn’t just about questions of finance and debt — it’s about the nature of society and the underlying role of personal responsibility. The undeniable, proven-by-history truth — a truth that the far Left in Europe and America ignores — is that socialism is a cause of economic suffering, not its solution. Greece’s economic difficulties (25 percent unemployment) aren’t caused by capitalism; rather, the blame lies squarely on the Greek governing class that for many years constructed an inefficient and ever more bloated state, with no one to pay for it. Instead of admitting this truth, Greek voters have taken two easier options: Blame Germany, and pretend things will get better.

But things will only get worse. As I wrote last year, when discussing France’s economic collapse, socialism’s failure is inherent to its ideology. When President Hollande tried to soak France’s high earners, they simply left the country or stopped investing. Hollande chose to completely ignore the movability of 21st-century capital, and his country is paying the price. Reality is hard, but as the U.K.’s successful “austerity” program attests — the U.K.’s 2014 third-quarter growth was 2.6 percent, compared with France’s 0.4 percent growth — spending cuts are necessary for investor confidence. These investors encourage private-sector growth and productivity.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The fruits today of the American military in WWI

Well inside an officer's career arch, we saw the American Navy move from the Great White Fleet, The Spanish American War to the age of the Dreadnought. Our Army, from ad-hoc volunteer units to a professional army going head-to-head with the finest professional army on the planet.

How did our military and our Navy build up to WWI, and how did that experience inform the evolution of our national defense infrastructure?

Our guest for the full hour Sunday from 5-6pm will be Dr. John T. Kuehn , the General William Stofft Chair for Historical Research at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College CGSC). He retired from the U.S. Navy 2004 at the rank of commander after 23 years of service as a naval flight officer flying both land-based and carrier-based aircraft. He has taught a variety of subjects, including military history, at CGSC since 2000. He authored Agents of Innovation (2008), A Military History of Japan: From the Age of the Samurai to the 21st Century (2014), and co-authored Eyewitness Pacific Theater (2008) with D.M. Giangreco as well as numerous articles and editorials and was awarded a Moncado Prize from the Society for Military History in 2011. His latest book, due out from Praeger just in time for the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo is Napoleonic Warfare: The Operational Art of the Great Campaigns.

Join us live if you can with the usual suspects in the chat room and offer up your questions for our guest, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.

Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

Friday, January 23, 2015

Fullbore Friday

As it appears that in spite of many being belatedly recognized, a Shipmate has been overlooked.

Not much one can do about it, but we can at least give him a Friday; a Fullbore Friday.
Lt. (Rev.) Thomas M. Conway, a 37-year-old Navy Chaplain from Buffalo, New York, was sleeping soundly on July 31, 1945, on board the USS Indianapolis, a heavy cruiser. At 12:14 a.m. the first torpedo from the Japanese submarine, I-58, blew away the bow of the ship. An instant later the second struck near midship on the starboard side, the resulting explosion split the ship to the keel, knocking out all electric power. Within 12 minutes the unescorted cruiser slipped beneath the surface of the Philippine Sea, midway between Guam and Leyte Gulf.Of 1,196 men on board, approximately 900 men made it into the water. Few life rafts were released; the majority of the survivors wore the standard kapok life jacket and life belts. The ship was never missed, and by the time the survivors were spotted by accident four days later, only 316 men were still alive. For three nights Fr. Conway, a Catholic priest, swam to the aid of his shipmates, reassuring the increasingly dehydrated and delirious men with prayers until he himself expired, the last Catholic chaplain to die in WWII.
This was the news that came out this week.
Over two dozen veterans can recount how chaplain Lt. Thomas Conway kept their hope alive as sharks swarmed the remains of the USS Indianapolis on July 30, 1945.

But a letter written in 1948 stating Conway went down with the sinking ship could be the reason behind the denial of a Navy Cross — a decision one Connecticut veterans organization wants to reverse.
However, Conway's heroic actions "never happened," Dorr said, because "the captain believed that Father Conway went down with the ship on July 30, and his letter was written in the official 1948 history of the Navy chaplains corps."
More background here, here, and here.

What would Jesus do? Yea, that is what Jesus would have done. Easily folds in to ship, shipmate, self as well.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Whose up for a LCS pig-pile?

Hey ... it is time to drag LCS out from under the bed and thrash it around a bit.

Using DOT&E's 2014 annual report, we're whomp'n over at USNIBlog.

Come visit and tell me what jewels you've found.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Since I've been President, we've worked responsibly to cut the population of GTMO in half. Now it's time to finish the job. And I will not relent in my determination to shut it down. It's not who we are.

Not wow.

Where Jointness Devolves to Self Parody

There is a beauty and power in simplicity, especially in language. The shorter, the better.

To effectively discuss a topic, it is the duty of serious people to keep descriptions accurate and easily understandable as to how they relate to the challenge or issue at hand.

When one unnecessarily complicates something, adding words and syllables or unnecessarily changing its name, that is a signal that something is going on. Either the argument is weak and in need or repackaging, or someone is trying to find some way to obscure an issue that makes a party uncomfortable.

There is also on occasion a third option; you are just trying to make someone stop whining.

In this case, we may have all three;
The Pentagon has dropped the controversial name Air Sea Battle for its concept to defeat modern anti-access weapons and folded the accompanying Air Sea Battle Office (ASBO) into the Department of Defense’s Joint Staff, according to a Jan. 8, 2015 memo obtained by USNI News.

The new Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC pronounced: Jam, Gee-Cee)
In the worst traditions of leftist newspeak, it appears that the Joint Staff just decided it had enough of Army butthurt from not having their playground mentioned as the other kids did. To stop him from feeling left out, everyone is getting a trophy and no one is keeping score.

In the 70s, did the Navy and USMC complain about "Airland Battle" to the point of trying to make a name change? No.

Well, you can mark your calendars now - this concept has officially gone past all utility. No one is going to say, "Jam Gee-Cee" in public with a straight face - and they shouldn't. Now that the office itself, in addition to its name, is in the Joint Staff tarpit, it will be threat to no one - which it really wasn't to begin with.

Well, they can't win on the football field, but it seems the Army can win in the Byzantine rules of the Pentagon Court. Congrats Army, you've managed to squash ideas. Yea.

Anyway, one good thing about Jam Gee-Cee - at least it has its own theme song.