Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Marriage of Convenience

Russia is in the midst of talks with NATO officials about the the possibility of allowing goods destined for NATO's mission in Afghanistan to be transported through Russia. Currently the majority of supplies for NATO's operations in Afghanistan are shipped through Pakistan, posing problems for even the most deft of logistical planners and threating and threatening the ability of NATO forces to conduct operations.

This is a purely pragmatic move by the Russians rather than a thaw in relations toward the West. Russia's is not only concerned with the growth of Islamic fundamentalism along its borders but also within them, such as Chechnya and Dagestan.

NATO and Russian officials are currently working out the nuts and bolts of the agreement. It remains to be seen of negotiations will be derailed by Russian "bait and switch" or "fluster and fracas" negotiation tactics.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

re: hezbollah's rockets

The post about Hezbollah's new rockets is interesting on a number of levels.

For one, Hezbollah could be gearing up for it's expected reprisal following the February 2008 assassination of Mughniyeh in Syria. Iran's Revolutionary Guard must of course be delighted to help.

For another, this could relate to the dispute over Lebanon's future president. The Hezbollah-led opposition has been unable to reach an agreement with the pro-West coalition, and the country hasn't had a president since pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud stepped down in 2007. In the Lebanese power-struggle, longer-range rockets could be a beneficial display of testicular fortitude for Hezbollah.

Two caveats though. First, this doesn't necessarily spell "happy days are here again" for Hezbollah. If they start launching rockets beyond settlements and into crowded civilian or military areas, Israel will have the justification and motivation to move in with more than a few half-assed retaliatory air strikes.

The summer 2006 offensive was a failure, no doubt, but as an Israeli government report released earlier this year made clear, the IDF has been restructuring itself to do better next time: more preparation, less reliance on air power, more infantry and more on-the-ground operations targeting rocket sites. If Hezbollah starts another offensive this summer, IDF may not be 100% prepared, but they're likely to put up a hell of a better fight than last time. Then again, that could depend on where Hezbollah launches the rockets. Sending Israeli troops into the mountains is one thing - sending them into the streets of Beirut is another.

Secondly, this is Israeli intelligence speaking: the same community asserting that Iran will have a nuclear weapon capable of reaching Israel within a few years, while claiming that Israel has no nukes at all. Then again, if we're talking about Hezbollah and rockets, why not be paranoid? Its not paranoia if you're Israeli.

Bad news for Israel

The AP is reporting that Hezbollah has acquired new rockets from Iran which can reach most of Israel. These new rockets have a range of 185 miles, which means Hezbollah can now reach the center of Israel, and may even be able to hit Dimona, site of Israel’s nuclear reactor.
This represents a drastic increase in range from that seen in the war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006. During that conflict, the longest-range rockets that were fired reached only 45 miles into Israel. Israeli officials have also predicted that Hezbollah now has more than double the number of rockets that the group had before the conflict.
This further underlines the lack of success Israel achieved in the month long war. If Hezbollah has been able to drastically increase its number of rockets, and the rockets have a much greater range than before, did the Israelis achieve anything during the war in Lebanon? This new development puts Israel at greater risk, but with the past failure, it is unclear if there is anything the country can do about it.


"THE WORLD'S LARGEST MACHINE GUN SHOOT" is held semi-annually in Kentucky.

The next shoot is April 11-13th at the Knob Creek Gun Range.



Coming to the The Knob Creek Gun Range

April 11th, 12th, and 13th.



Coming to the The Knob Creek Gun Range

April 11th, 12th, and 13th.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Al-Qaeda in Yemen attacks embassy

Last week, the US embassy in Sanaa Yemen was attacked. An alleged al-Qaeda cell called Yemen Soldiers Brigade has claimed responsibility. In a statement posted on Islamist websites, they said that they had launched five Hawn missiles against the US embassy. Last Tuesday however, one missile hit a girls' school located next to the embassy and at least one student and one soldier were killed. Another 15 students and four policemen were injured.

Welcome to Zimbabwe

As reported under this same title in the Independent, British pilot Brent Smyth, 31, was arrested for flying Morgan Tsvangirai the Zimbabwean opposition leader around on the campaign trail. Despite the company that employs him ATS stating that he indeed had all the paperwork in order, he was detained at Charles Prince airport.

Amidst claims that opposition members are regularly tortured in inside Harare central police station, Mr. Smith awaits release. The British embassy and the South African department of foreign affairs are trying to secure it, but it seems unlikely prior to the election.

This of course is one of many flagrant election violations that Robert Mugabe has inflicted on Zimbabwe over the years. He clearly has lost all sanity and respect for human rights and equality.

Another Air Force Accident

Speaking of institutions and accidents, the New York Times reported that the Pentagon accidentally shipped four electrical fuses meant for ICBMs to Taiwan in 2006 instead of the helicopter batteries that they ordered. This is viewed by Washington officials as disturbing for several different reasons. First, the fuses are not really viewed as nuclear material, but they are a component part used for a Minutemen strategic nuclear missile. The Taiwanese did notify the US of the mistake but it is not clear when. An investigation of the site where the delivery was stored indicates that the they had not been "tampered with." Second, the US does not want to ruffle China's feathers. The US's shipment of arms to Taiwan is a sensitive subject because the Chinese resent this support.

Although the shipment to Taiwain does represent a mistake on part of the US government--never a good thing-- there is not much reason to worry. A defense department official noted that the technology is "quite dated" from the 1960's. Also, China--though reminded of our support to Taiwan--will ultimately recognize this as a mistake. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Taliban Heads NATO Oil Tankers Off at the (Khyber) Pass

According to reports, between 25-40 oil tankers carrying fuel from Pakistan to NATO forces in Afghanistan were destroyed March 23, after an explosion took out the trucks in a parking lot near the Khyber Pass connecting Pakistan to the eastern portion of Afghanistan. No group has taken credit yet, but oil tankers are a target for Taliban forces active in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, and a Pakistani official recently said this March that "Up to three oil tankers were either destroyed or damaged every month in similar attacks over the past twelve months". Another tanker was destroyed in the same area March 18 when a roadside bomb exploded.

This is another great way for Taliban forces to hamper NATO ISAF efforts in Afghanistan, both those assigned to reconstruction and combating militants in the southern and eastern parts of the country. Whether the attack was carefully planned or whether it was a target of opportunity - the explosions took place in a parking lot by the border, and news reports aren't too clear on the security and protection available at the time - it offers another example of why a resurgent Taliban in Pakistan is dangerous for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Lots of food, fuel and other supplies for NATO have to be transported through the Khyber Pass, which leaves them open to easy attack. Taliban forces are active at both ends of the pass, in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and love to take pot shots at passing trucks with rocket propelled grenades, rifles and grenades.

Still, this doesn't mean that the trucks are left unprotected. The U.S. military has often described the Khyber as a "critical crossing place", and both NATO and Pakistani forces attempts to step up security in the region have had some success.

The point remains that success in Afghanistan depends heavily on getting supplies into Afghanistan through Pakistan. NATO is stretched dangerously thin as it is, and there is a continual shortage of member countries willing and able to commit troops for more than training and reconstruction operations. Pakistan's military has a hard enough time justifying actual troop deployments to the heavily tribal-controlled areas on its border with Afghanistan. Hence, if Taliban militants really want to make life hard for NATO, they can step up attacks (or even attempted attacks), forcing either NATO or Pakistan's military to commit troops to security.

If anyone could find some real statistics for just how much food, fuel and whatnot moves into Afghanistan through Pakistan via ground transport, that'd be awesome.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Peace in the Future for China and Taiwan?

In Saturday's elections, Taiwan decided that they were going to try a different strategy in their relationship with China. Instead of demanding to be completely free from China, the people of Taiwan elected a President who promised closer economic ties between his state and China. This is a landmark election for Taiwan, because Taiwan has never elected a President who ran on that particular platform. With the economic growth that has been seen in China over the last few years, Taiwan wants to see the prosperity it enjoyed in the 1990's by possibly hopping on to the Chinese economic train.

The new President, Ma Ying-jeou, is not in favor of reuniting with China, but he does know that Taiwan does need a closer relationship with the mainland. He has also condemned past aggression that China has shown to its provinces, including the Tiananmen Square killings in 1989. Right now, the first step for Mr. Ma is to increase the economic ties with China, and then he will see from there what steps to take. He wants regularly scheduled flights from Taiwan to Beijing and Shanghai, as well as lifted restrictions on Taiwan companies to invest on the mainland. It does not mean that peace is imminent, but it may be a step in that direction.

France to Reduce Nuclear Arsenal

President Sarkozy of France has announced that France will reduce it nuclear arsenal by 1/3, leaving the country with less than 300 nuclear missiles. However, Sarkozy emphasized that the France will remain committed to its nuclear forces.

Sarkozy attributed the need to maintain French nuclear capabilities as an insurance policy as against emerging threats from Asia and the Middle East. Iran was explicitly mentioned in this statement.

Sarkozy also metioned that any threat to the vital interests of France would be met with what he called a "severe riposte," preferring to remain ambiguous as to what the nature of such a riposte would be.

While described as part of an ongoing revamp of French defense policy and a positive step forward for nuclear nonproliferation, this move is more likely the result of financial difficulties for the French government.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Syllabus and Lectures Available


Note that the course syllabus is once again available on the sidebar, as are all course lectures.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Biggest Drill Ever

According to this article, Israel is holding its largest emergency drill ever, starting on April 6 and lasting for five days. The drill has been developed from lessons learned in the Second Lebanon War, and is meant to prepare Israelis for a possible war with Syria or Iran.
Emergency services will prepare for nuclear, chemical, and biological attacks, and will also participate in a mock mass evacuation from an affected site.
Israeli government officials have been quick to note that the drill does not indicate that a war is imminent. Instead, they claim that are just working to increase their preparedness, and add that they plan an annual exercise from now on.
Hopefully the drill is a little more helpful than the fire drills we used to do in elementary school, which consisted of a quick march outside where we then planted ourselves five feet from the building (apparently well outside the danger zone)…

Friday, March 14, 2008

Das Vadanaya Comrade...

It appears the once cozy relationship between India and Russia may be on the proverbial rocks. The rising cost demanded by Russia for therefit of the Admiral Gorschkov, an aircraft carrier purchased by India, disagreements involving a submarine deal, and a host of other issues indicate that oddest of Cold War odd couples may be heading for splitsville.
Although the vast majority of Indian military hardware is supplied by Russia, India is importing military hardware from the United States and India in increasing numbers. However, due to the current reliance of India on Russia for parts, etc., the divorce will not be final for several more years.
This development is indicative of the industrial atrophy that has gripped Russia during the so-called boom years of Putin's administrtion. Russian industrial capacity has declined over the years, spelling big trouble for its venerable weapons export business. This has resulted in the production of inferior military hardware, exemplified by the cancellation of the Algerians of MiG fighter planes from Russia and this most recent episode with India.

Monday, March 10, 2008

He didn't forget Poland

Reuters is reporting on the recent meeting between President Bush and Polish Prime Minister Tusk, which represents another important step in the creation of a U.S. missile defense system. While the Poles appear to be more than willing to base the U.S. system in their country, it looks likes they're going to want some serious incentives in return. Specifically, they are calling on the U.S. to help modernize their military forces. President Bush has acknowledged that the Polish military needs help, and promised that before he leaves office, U.S. experts will be on the job. It's unclear what specifically, if anything, has actually been agreed to, because so far the President has said only that Polish needs will be assessed. Call me crazy, but it seems like the Poles should have a pretty good idea what their needs are, and will expect a lot more than verification of the same. I'd expect to hear an announcement soon outlining a huge U.S. military package to the country if the missile deal is to be kept alive.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Big Victory for Waterboarding Enthusiasts

So by vetoing a bill that would ban waterboarding, President Bush has officially recognized that CIA interrogators do not have to abide by the same rules that military interrogators must follow. Even though the CIA has not approved waterboarding for use, the option to use in the future is still in play after this veto. It also allows for other more extreme interrogation measures such as prolonged sleep deprivation, painful stress positions, and exposure to extreme cold.

President Bush explained his actions by saying "The bill Congress sent me would take away one of the most valuable tools in the war on terror, so today I vetoed it. The bill provides guidelines for intelligence activities for the year and includes the interrogation requirement. It passed the House in December and the Senate last month. This is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe."

Many critics question this decision, including some congressmen and congresswomen who are going to try and override his decision, but this will be difficult. These critics do criticize the decision though not only because of the human rights issues involved but also the effectiveness issues. Many believe that these enhanced interrogation techniques actually provide less, or even worse, false information. Either way, these tactics are still able to be used after the veto, and there is not a lot that can be done to change it.

Everybody was Kung-Fu fighting (online)

Not sure if anyone read this story already, but it’s a pretty interesting read. It lays out how some Chinese hackers claim to have penetrated the Pentagon’s database. The thing that could really ruffle some feathers, though, is the hackers’ claim that the Chinese government pays them for their actions. Now, these stories are picked up pretty regularly, and if they’re the least bit true, the U.S. government has a serious problem on its hands. If this is happening so often, the government has to have some sort of proof, so why don’t we ever any sort of U.S. response? If the government thinks it can handle this sort of intrusion non-publicly, I’d have to point out the continued cyber attacks indicate it’s not working. It’s time for the U.S. to stop dropping the ball, and seriously respond to this threat.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


In addition to producing evidence that could implicate Venezuela and the FARC in the acquisition of a dirty bomb, the recent raid by Colombia into Ecuador also resulted in the death of Raul Reyes.

Why is this important? Reyes is a member of the FARC's ruling Secretariat. Reyes death marks the first time that a member of this body has been killed in 4 decades of fighting. Reyes was also the public face of the FARC, responsible for forging contacts with like minded organizations in foreign countries.

Although the war between the war between the Colombian government and the FARC is long from over, the death of Reyes and other recent success by the Colombian government indicate that the end may be in sight.