Tuesday, March 31, 2009

UPDATE: Israel Bombs Sudan?

This story has taken some interesting turns, and it seems that Sudan would really like to stick Israel or the U.S. for violating the eastern Sudan, which from what I know about western Sudan, must be the beach volleyball playing resort part of the country (well, not really)

Unfortunately for the war-Criminalizing Sudanese government, when they aren't facilitating the destruction of their own citizens, they apparently were not rehearsing how to win a battle of ideas. In a great piece of journalism, a member of Hamas tried to separate himself from Sudan, and was reluctant to jump to conclusions at all, to wit:

"First of all we are not sure any convoy has been hit, but it is ironic to link these convoys to Hamas," one of the movement's leaders, Salah al-Bardawil, told AFP.

"Should it turn out that there were raids and a high number of people killed, this would mean Israel is seeking to use the opportunity to blame Hamas and hit Sudan," he said.

However, all is not lost for making Israel look evil,and though the Israelis apparently is learning that ideas are stronger than bombs, it is not exhibited by the next statement in the article-

"We operate in many places near and far, and carry out strikes in a manner that strengthens our deterrence," Israel's outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said after reports of the bombing raids emerged. "We operate anywhere we can target terror infrastructure. There is no point in going into details, anyone can use his imagination."

Using my imagination, I smiled deeply when I read about how Israel was still wanting some stealth F-22s. Even though they can already hit a country, and no one would be sure it even happened months later, the sad aircraft manufacturers would be happy for the business.

In fact, we should just go ahead and sell as much of these planes to whoever would be willing to bomb smugglers in the dark.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Random thoughts about phosphorous...

Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of needlessly and recklessly exploding white phosphorous munitions over civilian targets during its recent Gaza campaign last January. Israel claims that it did not violate any human rights norms because the shells were used for legitimate military purposes (smoke screens). The problem is that there are other types of munitions available that produce smoke screens without the harmful side effect of incinerating civilians (slate has an excellent explanation of phosphorous munitions). HRW also claims in its report that the Israeli military was often nowhere near the white phosphorous shells when they exploded and therefore could not possibly benefit from any screen they created. Additionally, the munitions were exploded over targets that are normally considered out of bounds (they were detonated over a school and a hospital). It seems that these weapons were used for the purpose of killing and harassing Palestinian civilians.

This logic leads to two possible explanations: harassing Palestinian civilians with incendiaries was part of the IDF’s strategy or it was a result of the IDF’s frustration at their inability to prevent Hamas from firing rockets into Israel. Personally, I cannot fathom any strategic end that would be served by firing incendiaries on civilians (especially since the best way to prevent people from firing rockets into your country is to make them like your country). It seems then that the Israeli army used these weapons against civilians out of anger or vengeance or just plain frustration. Possibly they assumed that the Palestinians were going to be their enemies no matter what course of action they took, and firing incendiaries on them for questionable military applications seemed inconsequential from their perspective. Indeed, Israel made use of the fact that “Western armies” (I read this as the United States) use white phosphorous all the time for various military applications, and no doubt they feel reasonable safe knowing that the US will help them dodge accusations of war crimes.

Israel also responded to the accusations of HRW by stating that Hamas should be charged with war crimes for using rockets against Israeli civilians. This finger pointing only makes it more obvious that the IDF is frustrated and that it is (possibly) lashing out against the Palestinians for the indiscriminate attacks on Israel by attacking the Palestinians indiscriminately. I doubt that their approach will reduce the number of rockets fired into Israel.

Messin with Lil' Kim

In a matter of days, North Korea will launch a rocket that everyone believes is a preliminary missile test. In many ways this is nothing new. 7 missiles were launched in 2006, all crashing into the Sea of Japan. That same year, they detonated a nuclear device.

I wonder what if feels like to be South Korea and Japan? Japan has a huge North Korean immigrant population which propagandizes Japan and assists North Korean intelligence. South Korea has seen its sailors killed by the North in two Naval battles (1999, 2002).

I do not believe that North Koreans are attempting to start a war. A Russian analyst captured it perfectly late last week when he said, "Their strategic goal is simply to die in their beds." However, their actions threaten everyone nonetheless. As the WSJ reported, the North's mastering of this technology will likely lead to weapons sales to other countries. Weapons sales = Money money. Which allows the elite to build more castles and dominate their people.

Anyways, the conclusion I'm getting to if you hadn't already guessed, is that this (these?) rocket(s) should be shot down. If Canada were like North Korea and fired a missile from British Columbia, over Alaska, and into the Bering Strait, no one would argue about the U.S. shooting it down. (I should probably hide now after that analogy).

But seriously, shooting missiles erodes the North Korean leadership's goal of dying in their sleep. I think we should make it clear that this behavior isn't going to be tolerated. They're not going to attack Seoul over it. And besides, we shouldn't be punks. How many times do you have to get punched in the face before you hit back?

Here's my proposal for our battle cry:

"Alright, times up, let's do this. Leeerrrroooooy JEEENNNKIINNS."

Women in the Military

I have always wondered about the experiences of women in the military. As a society we see the stereotypical GI Jane in Hollywood flicks; women who are so tough they will shave their heads before they give into the sexual harassment and degrading treatment from superiors and peers. Knowing this experience is not completely true for all women in the military, I wondered what is the typical female military experience?

Recently, Maj. Gen. Mary Ann Krusa-Dossin was elevated to the highest rank achieved by a female Marine. Krusa-Dossin, 56, acknowledged the trials of women in the forces: separate training, discrimination based in attitudes that women cannot lead (especially men) and that they were not as brave or capable as their male counterparts. Despite these attitudes, Krusa-Dossin showed the Marines what a woman in the military could do. She climbed the ladder, and had children.

Most importantly, Krusa-Dossin serves as a real life example of a woman in the military. She did not shave her head to be accepted; instead she showed the men in her company that being a woman is not a frailty. Just the opposite, she says that women bring compassion and emotion to the table, which inform decisions in positive ways. "Women have proven their courage time and time again in Iraq and Afghanistan," she said. "Courage and bravery is not defined by gender."

Women like Krusa-Dossin, like many women before her, have blazed the trail for today’s young women in the military branches. Recent studies say that women are enlisting in record numbers. However, the increased numbers do not necessarily reflect that the women are being wholly welcomed.

A Pentagon task force in 2005 found that inappropriate treatment of women - including offensive comments, repeated and unwelcome propositions and offers to trade academic favors for sexual acts - persisted at West Point and the Naval Academy. (article from military.com)

As Krusa-Dossin celebrates her promotion and all the symbolism it entails for women in the armed forces, it will be up to this generation to hammer home the part about equality and appropriate treatment of colleagues.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Coast Guard Fights Pirates as part of CTF 151

According to this article, not the U.S. Navy or Marines deal with pirate boats, but the U.S. Coast Guard. The reason is that piracy is of course an international crime and is being dealt with not as a military problem, but using law enforcement capabilities through the Coast Guard. After Coast Guard and Navy personnel have collected the evidence against suspected pirates, they plan to prosecute them using the Kenyan legal system.

The USS Boxer is currently one of the main U.S. Navy ships patrolling the Gulf of Aden. It is an amphibious assault ship of 844 feet length. It carries between 2,500 and 3,000 crew members and three 20mm rapid fire guns, four 50 cal machine guns, four 25mm machine guns and numerous missiles. On board are up to 12 CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters, four CH-53 Sea Stallions, three UH-1 Hueys and four AH-1W Super Cobras. Up to six AV-8B Harriers are also on board.

When the Navy spots suspected pirate ships, small speed boats race out in front of the assault ship and chase the pirate vessel down. If the pirates are intercepted, they "invariably surrender" according to the Navy. Combined Task Force 151 is a joint operation of the U.S., Danish and Turkish navies with the objective of actively hunting down pirates. While the EU has its own task force in the Gulf of Aden, its mission is solely to protect humanitarian aid shipments. Russia and China have vessels patrolling the area to escort their own commercial ships.

Other CTF 151 ships in the Gulf are the Turkish frigate TCG Giresun, the Danish frigate/support ship HDMS Absalon and the U.S. cruiser USS Gettysburg. And who knew were was such a thing as a pirate standard operating procedure (a.k.a. how to be a pirate):
1. pirates launch near Somalia's northern coast using groups of 2-3 boats and GPS navigation systems;
2. pirates overnight off the coast of Yemen, turn off engines to conserve fuel;
3. in the morning, pirates attack any vulnerable boat within reach with AK-47s, ladders and grappling hooks;
4. pirates steer ship to Somali coastal cities and hand it to other pirates
And there is a "pirate code" of good conduct: your pay is cut if you harm the ship or crew unnecessarily. It is a business after all.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

And on a completely unrelated note-- epic toy fail

Hasbro apparently decided it wanted to make a line for My Little Pony featuring famous movie characters. Let's see if the joker in pony form is enough to permanently scar 8 year-old girls worldwide.

The truly amazing thing here is that there had to be quite a few people who thought this was a good idea.

Pakistan's friends in low places...

According to both American officials and Afghanistan's intelligence sources, it appears that Pakistan is still directly supporting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.

Apparently, the support provided by Pakistan's foreign intelligence agency includes money, supplies, and some good old-fashioned know-how to help the Taliban wreak havoc on stability in the region. A prime example of this havoc, of course, is the attack that killed 10 police officers today.

Americans have been saying for a long time that the Pakistani government hasn't exactly been fully upfront about its ties with the Taliban. Still, this report comes at a pretty inopportune time for President Obama, as he is about to announce a new plan for the war in Afghanistan that features heightened cooperation with the Pakistan.

Let's see if President Obama can find a way to pressure Pakistani leaders into stopping support for insurgents without making them angry and jeopardizing our entire mission. Maybe it's pessimistic, but I expect that the United States will just have to keep fighting the war and hoping that Pakistani support isn't enough to make much of a difference.

Worst Analogy Ever?

"Just as an apple pie needs all the right ingredients to be good, the Defense Department needs the contributions of each service to succeed, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told airmen, soldiers and sailors here today. "

You decide:

“You put the Army in, and let’s say that’s the apples, because it’s the largest service,” he said. “Then you put the other services in -- they could be the cinnamon, the sugar, the nutmeg or whatever you like in your apple pie. You cover it with the Department of Defense, which is the crust, then you bake it and you bring it out.

“If you’ve got all the ingredients right, you’ve got a good apple pie,” he continued. “But if you take out one of the services -- one of the key ingredients -- you have something that might look like an apple pie, but when you bite into it, it won’t be as good.”

(This is almost two years old, but still amusing)

Israel Bombs Sudan

According to Haaretz, Israel had just bombed an Iranian arms convoy in Sudan. Haaretz is calling for more of this, to show the Iranians that the Israelis are not afraid of them. I have to think that this sounds like a horrible idea (who in the world thinks that Israel is afraid to use force?) I'm more interested in the overall fallout from this--Sudan is a sovereign state that Israel is not at war with nor has had hostilities with in the past. Even if the convoy was headed to Gaza, as has been suggested, what justification does Israel have for such an act?

I hope it's not just post-electoral posturing, as Haaretz argues. But I can't think of any better explanation.

UPDATE: Israel has not confirmed responsibility for the attack, despite the Haaretz report. Moreover, it apparently happened back in JANUARY, but is just now coming to light. This is extremely confusing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One tough cookie at 56!

This is why we should love DARPA

Besides, you know, the whole Internet thing.

For every dumb idea (such as the "gay bomb" mentioned previously), there's an AWESOME idea. Like regeneration.

Danger Room reports that DARPA is working on being able to grow human muscle outside of the body to be put back in in the case of extensive injury, in order to prevent scarring and keep limbs working. This is just the first stage in eventually being able to replace lost limbs! This technology will be very useful for everyone. Here's hoping it works out.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tsk Tsk, Israel!

After the most recent resurgence of the Gaza/Israel dispute, the UN Human Rights Council paid Jerusalem a little visit and pointed the war crimes finger at them. A Sec-Gen's representative visited last month and charged Israel with the following crimes: using children as human shields, depriving civilians of relief supplies, summary executions of women, and knowingly hitting civilian targets. From Reuters: "Israeli soldiers shot a father after ordering him out of his house and then opened fire into the room where the rest of the family was sheltering, wounding the mother and three brothers and killing a fourth."

It's fairly obvious the Palestinians are getting the short end of the stick in any conflict with Israel. However, it seems the Israelis are entirely apathetic about blowing the rules of war (OK, insurgency, skirmish, whatever you want to term it - last time I checked, Hamas is still the legit government there) completely out the window. One general commented that " If you want to know whether I think that in doing so we killed innocents, the answer is, unequivocally, yes."

Israel is defending their actions because apparently the international community is ignoring "the terrorist and other threats we face." But with Israel lobbing rockets at UN schools in Palestine, among other things, the war crimes accusation isn't too far off. Yeah, even with the terrorist, etc threats.

On a similar note, the nonchalance the Israeli soldiers seem to feel about the Palestinian civilians can now be found on Threadless! Not really but this t-shirt controversy is pretty disgusting. Not that the US military is completely free of these little jokes.

D'oh! US Military Spills the Beans on Israel's Nuclear Program

On November 25, 2008 that US Department of Defense released its Joint Operating Environment (JOE) assessment and basically confirmed one of the worst kept military secrets: Israel possesses an arsenal of nuclear weapons.
Page 37 of the report flatly states, "[T]here is a growing arc of nuclear powers running from Israel in the west through an emerging Iran to Pakistan, India, and on to China, North Korea, and Russia in the east."

This apparently inadvertent confirmation of Israel's nuclear program has several implications.

First, Defense Tech reports that a confirmed nuclear weapons program would jeopardize the flow of US aid to Israel because of the Symington Amendment. The Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 essentially bars US economic and military assistance to countries that deliver, receive, acquire, or transfer nuclear enrichment technology. Thus, because Israel has an independent nuclear weapons program, the US would be required to stop the multi-billion dollar economic and military aid packages it provides to Israel each year. However, the US has made it this far giving aid to Israel despite the nuclear weapons program, and there is no reason to really doubt that this will stop now that the program has been made public.

Second, Iran's list of reasons for suspending its nuclear weapons program just got one shorter after this information was divulged. If Iran hadn't been feeling under enough pressure with the US waging war on two of its borders, it surely will feel more with this announcement. Of course, Iran has undoubtedly suspected the Israeli nuclear threat and has long known that the US would likely retaliate (possibly in kind) if Iran attacked Israeli with nuclear weapons. So, at its root the announcement doesn't do much to change the dynamics in the region, but it does give Iran addition ammunition when stumping for its nuclear weapons program on the international stage.

Overall, the US must be cautious when putting together reports with sensitive information. This report echos back to Senator Feinstein's comments about US predator drones stationed in Pakistan. Either it was a carefully calculated move aimed at deterrence, or it was simply another blunder which we must guard against.

Perpetrators or Victims?

Khmer Rouge S-21 prison guards (Him Huy is fourth from left)

Blood Red.

The Khmer Rouge was a Maoist regime that ruled Cambodia from 1975-1979 under the leadership of Pol Pot. The Khmer Rouge abolished religion, schools and currency in attempts to create agrarian utopia. Along the way, up to two million people are thought to have died from starvation, overwork or execution at the hands of the party. Party and military leaders that gave orders and tortured and killed millions are just now (three decades after the end of the regime) being brought to trial.

The first to trial was “Duch” who ran Tuol Sleng interrogation centre, also known as S-21, a Khmer Rouge prison where about 15,000 people were tortured and then taken to a killing field to be bashed in the skull with an iron rod until dead and thrown into a mass grave. However, Duch claims to never have personally killed anyone. He just gave the orders. (yet, he is the only one of the surviving top leaders to be put to trial that even acknowledges that mass deaths occurred)

Victims or Perpetrators?

The New York Times interviewed Him Huy, the former head of the guards at the S-21 torture house, who took part in the executions of thousands of people at a Khmer Rouge killing field. He claims that the guards were also victims of the Khmer Rouge and that he had no choice but to do his job (torturing, killing, filling mass graves) because had the job not been done, the guards would pay with their own lives.

Along with the death of thousands of S-21 prisoners, about one third (or 500) prison guards were killed. This is used to buttress the claim by many of the lower cadre of Khmer guards that they should be excused from their parts in the killings because they were under threat of death if they disobeyed. As the top leaders, those who made calls but didn’t get their hands dirty, are prosecuted, how should the court system deal with those in the lower rank and file of the organization that only followed the orders? If they believed they would be killed for not following orders, and in effect killed for self-preservation, what level of culpability should they be assigned?

Is There a Choice?

In the wake of tragedies such as the Khmer killing fields of Cambodia, at what point are soldiers, as ethical human beings, expected to break the chain of command and refuse unethical commands? Should Him Huy and the rest of the guards have recognized that the orders to kill innocent civilians were wrong and refuse to complete them even if it meant certain death for themselves?

When the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge are compared to the actions of US soldiers (such as the humiliation at Abu Ghraib prison, torture at Guantanamo) US citizens may be tempted to discount these episodes as isolated and nowhere near the scale of the Khmer killings. However, the same question of US expectations should be asked of US soldiers. When given orders to endanger the lives of innocent civilians or torture even not-so-innocent people…when do we expect our soldiers to exercise individual ethics that may be in conflict with the orders given them?
Soldiers are trained to follow orders from superiors to ensure effective and consistent action and for the safety of the individual soldier as well as the group. Given this, should soldiers be held accountable for following illegal orders given by a superior officer? Mr. Huy knows what would have happened to him, but what would happen to an American soldier who refused to carry out an order to torture or “take” a certain target? A demotion would be almost certain.

Thus, this supports the argument that American soldiers should be more willing to not follow illegal or unethical orders because they do not fear for their lives at the hands of their superiors. Yet, introducing the need for a soldier to second-guess all commands he is given is a slippery slope: one that would have negative consequences on successful military training.

In the wake of many atrocities committed by many militaries, where is the line for soldiers? Should they be able to question a command, or should they follow orders at all times? It is a hard question when faced with stories of the Khmer killing fields.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Aaaand....BOOM go the the navy vessels!

Is it just me, or does it seem a lot of stuff is colliding recently? Coming on the heels of the collision of the two nuclear subs, two U.S. navy vessels smacked into each other in the Strait of Hormuz, near Iran. The two ships were the USS Hartford, a nuclear powered sub and the USS New Orleans, an amphibious vessel. The accident ruptured a fuel tank on the New Orleans and caused a minor spill of 25,000 gallons of diesel into the Persian Gulf.

What makes this collision unique is the ramifications. After the accident, oil prices, which had been declining on the day, shot right back up. But with downward pressure on global oil prices, the jump in price is nowhere near what it would have been a year ago.

From the article- "Both ships were heading to port and were going in the same direction when the incident occurred in the narrow Hormuz, said Christensen. He said the submarine was submerged at the time but that he could give no further details as the collision is still under investigation."

I don't fully understand the dynamics of navy collisions and oil prices, so if someone could kindly explain it would be much appreciated. But furthermore, doesn't it seem like a collision of these sorts are less likely that two subs crashing in the North Atlantic? Isn't there adequate communication between the ships since they were from the same navy? I don't know, maybe they still have some bugs to work out.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The People's Mafia Strikes Again (this time against Americans)

Let's be honest: The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is better understood as a criminal racket. Its 'diplomats' are drug runners. Its intelligence officers are thugs, sent to kidnap and murder for money. Its elites allow Kim Jung-Il to continue extorting the population only because the each profit greatly from it. They live in luxury, acquiring Western goods they ban their own people from possessing. And best of all, it's all in the family: With the youngest Kim son being appointed as heir, North Korea has become a monarchy.

The most recent glaring example of the North's criminal behavior has been with its customs officials and border guards. The long border North Korea shares with China is accessible to many curious tourists. Some are Chinese, but many are Western. Never at a shortage for new ways to steal money, the border guards have made their border irresistible for naive tourists. They lure them close, and then kidnap them. They are released when ransom is paid. These allegations have come from South Korean groups that work with refugees from the North (i.e. Chun Ki Won). Other times, the North Korean border guards will shoot tourists for no reason. Well, you have to keep your street cred up or else others won't take you seriously.

Which brings us to this. Two American citizens, reporting on North Korean refugees close to the Chinese/NK border have been detained in the North. And as far as we can tell, they happen to work for Current TV, ran by former Vice President Al Gore. Oops. Joe Pesci found out the hardway in Goodfellas that keeping the tough guy image up can sometimes lead you to harm the wrong people. My guess is the border guards didn't really know the reporters were connected like that.

Even for a country that routinely goes to 11, the rhetoric emanating from the North has shown signs of desperation. With a sattelite/would-be missile launch rumored for April, Kim Jung-il's questionable health, the severing of the military hot-line between the North and South, one wonders if North Korea is desperate for leverage and want a 'read' on President Obama

South East Asia is heating up, and the Obama administration needs smart coherent policies to deal with it. All sensible options inevitably lead to China - and unforunately they're busy reading Obama as well.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

If insurgents make noise in a forest, but no one hears....

Is there really an insurgency? If we're talking about Southern Thailand, the answer is a resounding yes. What they're after, however, is a different story altogether.

In the Pattani Province, a sort of 'ghost' insurgency has been causing a steady increase in violence and deaths from terrorist attacks since 2004. Pattani guerrilla groups existed long before, but what has emerged in the past 5 years is remarkably different. What exactly it is, no one knows.

What we do know is this: Attacks by Islamist actors, for overt religious regions, and not so clear nationalistic claims concerning the 500 year old Pattani Kingdom, have caused 3,300 hundred deaths in the past 5 years. Just last month, insurgents celebrated their 50th beheading. Pattani was an Islamic Kingdom absorbed by the Thais in 1908.

Unlike other Islamist groups, no one is really willing to claim responsibility. Insurgents emerge from the forest/jungle, kill motorists and disappear. Small bombs are set off to attract police, and when the police arrive, larger bombs kill them. They don't attack Western targets, in sharp contrast to Al-Qaeda with whom they are often, and incorrectly perhaps, linked.

The Thai government doesn't seem to have a clear handle on who the insurgents are and what they are after either. Since 2002, 3 prominent Thai politicians have given three different explanations for the violence. First, there was no insurgency, only armed bandits. Then, the U.S. in a crazed conspiracy, was behind the attacks. Most recently, in 2006, it was rumored they were former Communists.

There are no concrete demands associated with the attacks. Muslims in the area enjoy representation and participation in the political process. However, the Thai military, in response to the violence has violated core tenets of Counter-insurgency theory. They have singled out young Muslim males for being young Muslim males and beaten them. This video, showing the 2004 Tak Bai incident, served as a free recruitment tool which increased the separatists' numbers.

It is obvious Thailand is concerned about the increasingly out of control situation in Pattani. The Global Post reports the following military purchases by the Thai govt. in response to unrest in the province:

Six Russian Mi-17 V-5 attack helicopters: $9 million per chopper. Can be outfitted with laser-guided missile launchers and swiveling gun turrets. Carries up to 30 troops.

85 REVA III 4x4 armed personnel carriers: $310,000 per vehicle. Made in South Africa, this vehicle was designed with Iraqi conditions in mind. Can withstand rocket-propelled grenades and land mines. Uses smooth, rounded edges in vehicle body, which are less likely to blow apart than welded edges.

96 Ukrainian BTR-3E1 armed personnel carriers: $1.2 million per vehicle. Often confused for light tanks, the heavily armored, eight-wheeled vehicles pack a 30mm heavy-machine gun, 7.62mm machine gun and more.

15,000 Israeli TAR-21 assault rifles and 500 Negev light machine guns: $34.5 million. These sleek, modern-looking guns will replace aging M-16 stocks.

Further Reading: Insurgency in Thailand - Maj. Nicholas Vavich

Council on Foreign Relations

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What's up with rogue nations?...Satellites, that's what's up.

Weeks ago the United States was worried about a satellite launch from Iran. Now it looks like we’re facing the same dilemma with another rogue nation, North Korea. The difference being that Iran’s launch was unknown to the public prior to launch, while North Korea’s is a threat known to the world. Rumor is that the launch would not be of a satellite but rather a long-range missile. More importantly, North Korea has threatened that interference with the launch would “mean a war.” But really, how threatening is “war” from North Korean?

As we discussed in class, the mutual assured destruction theory should be deterrence enough for North Korea, especially since they can’t truly mutually destroy an enemy. Granted they could begin an attack on South Korea, but they would be destroyed in no time. Deterrence theory does assume the rational actors, and while Kim Jong-il seems irrational at most times, it’s still obviously not in their best interest to launch a war against much stronger opponents.

Personally, I think North Korea is whining about the joint military exercises in South Korea being conducted by South Korean and American forces. North Korea has conveniently closed communications between the north and south for the exact twelve days of the exercises, preventing workers from crossing the border. Honestly, North Korea is MAD and NUTS and not in the sense of nuclear weapon theories.

Monday, March 09, 2009

China's Secret Weapon

Yesterday, a U.S. surveillance ship (USNS Impeccable) was engaged in legal operations in international waters close to China. At some point in the journey, five Chinese naval vessels began maneuvering aggressively towards the ship. The Chinese vessels close to within 50 ft. of the ship with no communication of their intentions.

The Impeccable is part of Military Sealift Command's (MSC) Special Mission Ships Program. There are 5 oceanic surveillance ships in this command. The ship is staffed by 25 civilain mariners and 25 military personnel. The ship possesses no armaments and the crew are unarmed.

Which explains why, when the Chinese ships got within fifty feet, the Impeccable's crew employed the only weapons they had: the fire hoses. We may never know for sure if the Chinese would've employed their secret weapon if the fire hoses had not been deployed. But, as it stands, the water hoses prompted the Chinese crew to run across the deck and strip down to their underwear and make explicit gestures at the U.S. personnel shooting the water.

We can now write another page in our understanding of Chinese Naval Doctrine. "If fire hoses must be used, expect massive retaliation in the form of naked Chinese sailors."

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Army Becomes Brainy

Since it seems a given fact that change in the military does not happen fast or come easy, it is quite a revolution to hear that the U.S. Army is finally developing its own teams for electronic warfare. In recent years, the Army has primarily been developing the muscle component of operations, while the brains have been neglected.  Tasks involving highly technological capabilities in Iraq and Afghanistan have primarily been delegated to the U.S. Navy and Air Force.

But, as the Army slowly adapted its strategy of warfighting to the terrain and enemy through the consolidated approach in the Counterinsurgency Manual FM 3-24, it is finally expanding and adapting its technological capabilities to the circumstances in combat zones. Primarily U.S. Army soldiers and marines are in harms way on the battlegrounds in Iraq and Afghanistan and thus it seems way past due that the Army is training its own electronic warfare specialists and developing its own response teams. Especially Improvised Explosive Devices detonated by cell phone or other electronic gadgets have caused many casualties and tracking devices and drone activities require a fair amount of technological expertise from the everyday soldiers and marines on the ground.

The plan is to begin the training of 1,600 soldiers (officers and enlisted) and more in later years to operate the high-tech equipment that has been shipped to the war zones and is increasingly being developed to counter new technological threats there.  In the past, this equipment was primarily operated by Air Force and Navy personnel specifically dispatched to the areas. A new electronic warfare doctrine called "FM 3-36 Electronic Warfare in Operations" has been developed, which according to the New York Times teaches "commanders how to integrate electronic warfare into all tasks, from planning to carrying out military operations" and includes directions for a training program and equipment requirements.

The doctrine is a response to the difficulty that soldiers and marines often encounter when faced with a large amount of conflicting signals traffic in a combat zone from other allied units.  Insurgents are hard at work at using jammers to disturb signals traffic and at developing new technologies of their own to intercept and attack electronic frequencies.  The military largely relies on signals traffic to communicate, coordinate troop movements and utilize satellite fed navigation systems.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Peace for Somalia?

Peace for Somalia would mean many good things, including (possibly) an end to piracy. And, with Ethiopia gone and a new Somali president, there is more hope than there has been for awhile.

Again, yes, it's David Axe, but who else is crazy enough to go to Somalia to report?

Then, perhaps, we won't need to continuously monitor the situation.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Also apropos...

David Axe recently posted that the military is considering buying more F-15s, instead of the extremely expensive F-22 and F-35. This will allow us to buy far more, at far less cost, and still maintain our edge (as this plane is still top of the line compared to everyone else.)

I like this idea. A LOT. I've been wondering why we haven't done this already. If our old F-15s are falling apart, but the new planes are falling apart...it seems like the only logical thing to do.

Anyone have any other ideas?

Russia Tries to Nuke Canada!!!

Not really. But two nuclear capable bombers brushed by Canada's airspace on the eve of President Obama's visit last month.  NORAD dispatched two Canadian fighter jets to escort the Russian's and let them know that Canada was miffed at their gesture.  The Russian bombers, of course, never had any intention of entering Canada and remained in international airspace without incident.  Canada has publicly reprimanded Russia for conducting these exercises (apparently they have been occurring quite regularly) without adequately informing Canada ahead of time.  Earlier last month two similar Russian bombers brushed up against Alaska and NORAD sent four F-15's to escort the Russians around US airspace.

Obviously, the Russians can't bomb the US or even Canada with only two unescorted bombers, so the point of these little adventures is symbolic.  Russian had suspended these fly-bys after the end of the Cold War but began them again in August of 2007.  Most likely Russia is feeling its power weakening and is trying to reassert itself as a major international actor, but to me at least these gestures seem like a symbol of growing insecurity... if Russia was really that powerful, it probably wouldn't feel the need to constantly remind people that it was powerful.

The Canadian Defense Minister stopped short of accusing the Russian's of plotting any kind of symbolism by the event, and a Russian air force spokesman went on record saying that Canada's statements are a "farce".  But considering that Mr. Medvedev timed his announcement of Russia's deployment of surface-to-surface missiles to the border of Poland and Lithuania on the same night that the US presidential elections were announced, I doubt that this latest round of saber rattling is a coincidence.  

The missile defense shield in Poland is still a point of contention and quite possibly the impetus for this event.  Russia perceives the potential missile installations as interference in its traditional sphere of influence.  Maybe its trying to remind the US what that feels like.

Mozi 2K9

During our discussion of The Art of War in the History of Strategic Thought course, I learned about the ancient Chinese philosopher Mozi, and was intrigued by this:

...the Mohist community...functioned as an international rescue organization that dispatched members versed in the arts of defensive military techniques to the aid of small states under threat from military aggressors.

So basically, Mozi and company went around intervening in wars on the side of the just. This got me thinking about what I would do if I could raise my own military force and go Mozi-ing around the globe. Now, clearly, a force like this probably wouldn't be a good thing, and would probably end up causing more problems than it solved. But a blogger can dream...

For the purposes of this fantasy, I'm going to assume that:

a) My intervention force is pretty darned powerful and actually has the resources to make a significant impact on some of these conflicts and

b) The international public has an indifferent to positive view toward my intervention force. If I am simply going to start an anti-me insurgency everywhere I go then there probably wouldn't be much point in intervening.

So let's give this a try...

IRAQ-I would use my intervention force to take over the US advising mission so that the America could completely withdraw forces in 19 months and not have to keep residual forces in Iraq. Hopefully, my presence in Iraq would carry less baggage than that of the US, and the Americans could focus on Afghanistan and their domestic economic woes.

AFGHANISTAN-I would talk to General Petraeus and volunteer to use my force to either a) patrol the Af-Pak border to keep insurgents from escaping across or b) augment US force levels to better conduct COIN in Afghanistan, since, even with the Obama mini-surge, many analysts believe that more troops will be needed to conduct proper COIN.

PAKISTAN-I would offer to provide intelligence services in rooting out insurgents in FATA and Swat, since the ISI is incredibly unreliable and in bed with many of the more unseemly elements there.

SUDAN-I got nothin'. I can't really think of any use for my force here, other than perhaps augmenting the UNAMID peacekeeping force.

SOMALIA-Conduct COIN against Al-Shabab and try to peel off the more moderate elements of the insurgency. Work toward a power sharing agreement between these moderate elements and the transitional government. Resist Ethiopian influence in Somalia to prevent their attempts to weaken new government. Add ships from my navy to international anti-pirate effort and possibly provide equipment to merchant vessels to help resist pirates (electric rails? something to make the rails slippery? I dunno).

DRC/RWANDA/UGANDA-I would completely wipe out the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda and the DRC and the FDLR in the DRC. Don't think I would even really need to use COIN, since there isn't much support for these groups.

MEXICO-Again, I got nothin'. Don't see a military solution to the drug wars.

CAUCASUS-This is interesting, since I think both sides messed up here. But I think Georgia is ultimately the more just side. I would chase the Russians out of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and encourage the Georgians to make them mostly autonomous. While the Georgians were assholes to the breakaway regions, that's no excuse for Russia's actions.

IRAN/N. KOREA-I would use my special operations capabilities to sabotage the nuclear programs in both of these states.

I give up. In conclusion, I don't think I'd be very good at the Mozi thing. This stuff's way too complicated. I started to think about some other problematic areas like Tibet, Kashmir, and Ukraine, but really had no idea how to solve these problems. Guess this enlightened private army stuff is going to have to be resigned to the annals of Chinese history.