October 29, 2014

Meanwhile

While all eyes are on the Ebola situation, one should keep in mind that as things stand now, Ebola is not at all likely to infect and kill you.



"But...but..."
So cheer up. 

There are other things to worry about....

NATO countries have been responding to incursions by Russian military assets almost daily. Now the Russians are sending their bombers in groups of 8.   Note that a Tu-95-MS (Bear) bomber can carry 16 KH-55 (Kent) nuclear tipped cruise missiles. 
Math can be unpleasant. 

I'm unfamiliar with this site and unsure if it is reads as the Twenty Committee or is looking at foreign policy from a female perspective. However, it does have an interesting overview of Poland's current preparations for hostilities with Russia, which it increasingly views as possible. 

While no one was looking, Putin pretty much annexed another chunk of Georgia (as Putin will).   
 ...In other words, the agreement’s language lays out a blatant attempt to administratively annex Abkhazia into Russia proper. The Abkhazian separatist "parliament” was given two weeks to discuss the treaty. However, Moscow does not expect any negative reactions from Sukhumi about this agreement (vedomosti.ru, October 13). And indeed, it is difficult to imagine what Tbilisi can do to avert this looming annexation of Abkhazia—a region where thousands of Russian occupation troops are stationed.

Of course, Russia is not universally bellicose and is quite capable of strengthening relationships. 

Last month, visitors to Bandar Abbas on Iran’s southern coast gathered to witness a never-seen-before event: two Chinese warships pulling into port.

It could be just the start of a budding naval alliance stretching from the Pacific to the Persian Gulf.
 

Those are not the only vessels that has been in that part of the world recently.

...a Chinese attack sub—a so-called hunter-killer, designed to seek out and destroy enemy vessels—slipped through the strait above water and disappeared. It resurfaced near Sri Lanka and then in the Persian Gulf, say people familiar with its movements, before returning through the strait in February—the first known voyage of a Chinese sub to the Indian Ocean.

 Iran of course is quite happy to use Chinese purchases get around the arms embargo it's suffering under because of its nuclear weapons program.

That nuclear weapons program seems to have some relationship to what on the surface are two completely unrelated stories

The North Koreans reportedly have developed a miniaturized nuclear warhead light enough to fit on a missile.  (The original WSJ piece is here, but behind a paywall). This, of course, is of no use to them without a missile that could deliver it. In no doubt unrelated news, North Korea is building a test rig for a tube launched ballistic missile. This is odd as North Korea has no ballistic missile submarines...aside from the Golf class SSB they bought a few years ago...but using those 40 year old hulls is so far fetched as to be laughable.  The tube test could be for a land based missile or some other project, though the Global Security report does mention sightings of a submarine firred out with a launch tube. Meanwhile  Iran is also testing a similar type of launch tube, allegedly with help from North Korea.  This aparrent technical exchange brings us to the buried lede in the story about the North Koreans small warhead.
Such nuclear warheads would be small enough to fit on a ballistic missile and would be a major improvement to Pyongyang’s weapons technology. Gen. Scaparrotti said he believed North Korea also had developed a launcher that could carry an ICBM with a miniaturized warhead…

Gen. Scaparrotti said North Korea may have gained know-how on warhead-miniaturization technology through its relationships with Iran and Pakistan

Emphasis mine...

Pakistan makes sense, but if Iran does not have a nuke yet, how are they offering advanced technical assistance on nukes?

Which brings us to the Jeffry Goldberg piece in The Atlantic the other day which is notorious for quoting two senior administration officials as referring to Israel's Prime Minister as "Chick*****t". However, there is a much more troubling bit in the tirade by our administration against an ally.  
I ran this notion by another senior official who deals with the Israel file regularly. This official agreed that Netanyahu is a "chickenshit” on matters related to the comatose peace process, but added that he’s also a "coward” on the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat. The official said the Obama administration no longer believes that Netanyahu would launch a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in order to keep the regime in Tehran from building an atomic arsenal. "It’s too late for him to do anything. Two, three years ago, this was a possibility. But ultimately he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. It was a combination of our pressure and his own unwillingness to do anything dramatic. Now it’s too late.” 

Emphasis mine...
So we have an administration official bragging about how they successfully pressured the Israelis not to take out Iran's nuclear program...then ridiculing him for being such a shmuck as to give into their pressure...and gleefully reporting that there is nothing the Israelis can do about Iran's nukes...because "it's too late".

That does not actually induce 'the warm fuzzies'.  

What if some of those later,  more successful North Korean nuclear tests were joint tests with Iran and Iran has therefore already tested their bomb? Of course there would need to be some evidence of Iranian scientists present at North Korea's nuclear tests for that silly theory to have any merit. 

It is good to put that worry to rest otherwise the fact that Iran is the state sponsor of Hezbollah might be cause for considerable alarm. You see there are further indications that Hezbollah is prepping for a huge attack on Israel in the very near future, one likely to overwhelm Israel's missile defenses. Additionally, the Israelis are assuming that there is a tunnel network in place along the lines of the one used by Gaza in the recent conflict there. 



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October 09, 2014

China's New Path

Via Eaglespeak comes this interesting piece on China's current political direction. It's only 8 minutes, I strongly suggest you watch the whole thing. 



The most worrying bit is the mention towards the beginning where the guest mentions the current emphasis on an unsavory strain of Howard Zinnesque nationalism that focuses on China's victimhood. That tends to lead to rather dark places. Note though, that there are promising signs as well pointing to less bellicose influences. 

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October 04, 2014

This was Unexpected

It is certainly interesting...


 The two Koreas shocked everyone on Saturday when a North Korean military delegation led by Hwang Pyong-so, Choe Ryong-hae, and Kim Yang-gon arrived in Incheon, South Korea on an unannounced trip.
Although the North Korean leadership structure is highly opaque, Hwang Pyong-so is widely believed to be the second highest ranking official after only Kim Jong-un.
  

This is particularly intriguing given rumors regarding Kim Jong Un's absence from public view over the last months., which have taken a rather different flavor over the last few days



It's unclear if this is a sign of a major change (for good or ill) or if it is meant to reassure the ROK government that the status quo is unchanged, but it certainly bears watching. 


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October 01, 2014

Just Kick Your Heels Together and Say "It's a Destroyer! It's a Destroyer!"


JS Izumo, Japan's newest...um...destroyer, begins her sea trials





Izumo-Tan by Eroquis and Okomoto Kazihiro

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September 27, 2014

Some Good News

A welcome follow-up to the previous post: 


The Times of India reports that China and India are withdrawing from their positions in the disputed border region.


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September 24, 2014

Meanwhile:

While the world focuses on the current bombing campaign and the fact the the POTUS doesn't know that if your hands are full, you don't salute, there is news from the continent of Asia that as of this writing is getting little coverage in the US press. It is eliciting some interest in India though:


 Xi Jinping tells People’s Liberation Army to be ready to win regional war  

This, of course, is coming as Indian and Chinese troops are facing off in Ladakh.  

There is still the matter of territorial disputes with Japan as well as generally deteriorating relations. The Chicom's  'terraforming' adventures with the minor powers in the South China Sea are unlikely to be seriously challenged if Japan is out of the picture. 

There is another factor that might cause China to feel that there is a narrow window of opportunity for action and it again involves India. In 2012 there was a major scandal in India when it was revealed that India's ballistic missiles were unreliable, and India's nuclear deterrent was almost entirely delivered by Jaguars and Mirages which cannot really threaten China.  India is modernizing its forces with a new class of missile submarines. These are fitted with four tubes carrying a total 12 SLBMs with a modest 750km range. However, in a few years, these will be swapped out for 4 of the K-4 missiles with a 3000+KM range.  India currently has 90-110 warheads, most of which can't reach China. In a decade or less, if present trends continue, they will have a credible second strike capability with the ability to do China serious harm. 

Despite some nontrivial internal issues, China is in ascendance and has become a major world power, but its chance to completely secure it's position is threatened by two developing nations poised to experience growth comparable to what China achieved over the last 30 years. This will happen just as China hits a 20-30 year demographic arrestor switch on it's growth. Chinese leaders may perceive a narrow opportunity to become THE power, as China was for most of it's history, but that opportunity (if it exists at all) is a fleeting one and it will soon be surrounded by new major powers.

I said poweRs.
Because India is not the only country in the area that is ascendant. 

Indonesia has largely gotten it's act together in the last decades and it's booming economy is on the cusp of becoming a major economic powerhouse. It is further poised by geography to be a major regional naval power, in a commanding position on the trade routes that service China. China has started poking them too

100 years ago this year, Germany had become alarmed at Russia's rapid industrial and military progress. They decided that they needed to nip that in the bud before Russia fully modernized and became a serious threat. Certain members of the German general staff decided to take a pro-active approach. That decision did not end well. 

 
One factor has not been mentioned, and that is the USA. Well, there is another opportunity that will likely have a limited duration. The current astonishing display of foreign policy fecklessness is unlikely to continue to anything like the same degree past January 2017, regardless of who succeeds the current resident of the white house. In the intervening time however, it is quite possible that the USA has been largely discounted as a factor in the Politburo's risk assessment. 

With regard to the terrifying risks involved in seriously poking India,  we should not be limited to looking at the problem throufgh our eyes and weighing the costs with our value system. We look at the term "limited nuclear exchange" and see an oxymoron.  However, it should be remembered that Xi Jinping is an admirer of Mao, who led 1 successful war against India and fought a guerilla war against Japan. However, Mao killed far more of his own people than Japanese or Indians, and he did it in the name of national greatness.  The notion that the Chinese leadership is willing to take a gamble of this sort when the potential payoffs are so high should not be dismissed out of hand. They have 4000 years of history that tell them that China's proper place is as the Middle Kingdom..the center of the world.  More disturbingly, with over a billion people....the way they may look at it ...they have spares. 

UPDATE: With regard to the border dispute, it appears that the crisis, is, at least for now, winding down
more...

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September 22, 2014

All the World's Eyes are Upon ISIS, Russia and Ebola

...which makes it a perfect time for China to "adjust" it's border with India


Two nuclear powers who've already fought a war are having a border dispute.

I'm sure nothing bad can possibly happen. 

Here is footage of China's first nuclear test which has something American nuclear test footage sorely lacks...



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September 17, 2014

Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your......Nuclear Missiles

It appears that if Scotland goes all independent tomorrow they have declared that they will be a nuclear free zone. The UK's nuclear deterrent is mainly concentrated in their ballistic missile submarines...which are based in Scotland. Some accommodation can likely be made but this would give the Scots a huge leverage over the UK England's nukes.


The result of this is that the English, who weren't expecting this voter to go anywhere suddenly find themselves scrambling for options. Since the new base in England or Wales will take a decade to build, the plan they came up with last week is to homeport their nuclear submarines in the US in the interim. Assuming the Scots vote for independence and Congress does not balk at the proposal, I'm guessing the English boats would be in Kings Bay, Georgia, which is the only US Boomer base on the East Coast. 

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September 14, 2014

Meanwhile...

Russia is focusing on new offensive weapons. Amongst them is a new heavyweight liquid fuel ICBM to replace the R-36 SATAN.  Though this massive weapon won't be mobile (unless it is launched), it will carry a huge payload. Their violation of the IMF treaty and militarization of the arctic, are in addition to the Ukraine mess.  Oh. and those Russian bombers that have been showing up off the Grand Banks and Pacific Northwest? They seem to be dry runs for cruise missile launches



The North Korean nuclear reactor may well be running again
Note to self: Don't go to North Korea. Further note: If somehow note one is forgotten, under no circumstances tear up ones Visa and demand asylum. 

A majority in China feel war with Japan is inevitable by 2020.  In other news China just sent troops to South Sudan



 

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But... When We Started From Scratch We Did it in Three

This article discusses the state of america's aging nuclear arsenal and points out once again that the United States is no longer are making nuclear pits (the core of atomic weapons) and hasn't since 1989.


 I think the article is sightly unfair to Bush (1) in that canceling the deployment of the new generation of weapons that were originally intended to come online in the early 90's was absolutely necessary to calm the Russians down after the collapse of the U.S.S.R.

 In any event, there is this damning revelation at the end of the article...
  In 1989 the executive branch shut down the nation's only facility to produce plutonium pits — the hearts of nuclear weapons — making us the only nuclear weapons state in the world unable to produce nuclear arms. Since then, executive branch fumbling and congressional denials have combined to prevent replacement of this absolutely essential production facility. If a decision were made today, it would still be 10 to 15 years before pit production could start.
Emphasis mine.

Although the Manhattan Project started in 1939, it was only a fact finding and technology feasibility assessment project until it got seriously spun as a weapons project in early 1942. By late 1944 and early 1945 pit production was a reality and they started out going into a previously unknown field. Thus, one can reasonably assume, given 70 years of experience and the leaps and bounds technology has made since Trinity, that, the tripling of the time necessary to do what was done with 1940s technology in 2014 is due to institutional inertia and bureaucratic asshattery.  Most of the Chinese dynasties ended due to the machinations of the eunuchs and other bureaucrats in administrative empire building at the expense of the state, rendering it vulnerable to new developments.  The Mandarins in Washington are a Gordian Knot that we really need to cut. 

Note that this is specifically talking about plutonium pits. Plutonium is necessary for most modern weapons especially if they are lightweight and compact. However, it is my understanding that Oralloy (a type of highly enriched uranium)  can be used to make perfectly effective bombs but they are heavier and less safe to store in the confines of a submarine (due to their higher radioactivity) and in any event not using plutonium would require extensive testing of new bomb designs or the use of old ones ill suited to our current delivery methods. 

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September 02, 2014

This Seems Newsworthy To Me For Some Reason

This also seems utterly blinkered.

I'm putting it out there as the source is Newsweek and not Info Wars or something.


I suppose this is in keeping with the Russian policy of de-escalation via fusion, but it seems awfully odd for them to make this sort of threat in the current situation. 


There are, I'm sure, worse ideas for bringing the unpleasantness in the Ukraine to a close. I just can't think of any at the moment. 



Tactical...but not really practical.

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September 01, 2014

I'm Thinking That The Takeaway Is....

...don't buy a Taurus semi-auto. 



Wow!

It's surprisingly reliable with the safety on and no finger on the trigger....but not in the right sort of way. 

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July 27, 2014

A Few Random Thoughts About the Ukraine

A spirited discussion on this topic has sprung up in the comments. My latest reply went long so here are a couple of random observations and opinions on the topic..

Russia is being a jackass in the Ukraine. However, their interest in Crimea and Sevastopol in particular is of vital importance to their nation. The Crimea is overwhelmingly ethnically Russian and Cossack so even if we were going by Wilsonian as opposed to Westphalian doctrine the ethnic self determination angle might give Russia a defensible position in that case. 

We don't HAVE a doctrine at the moment , Wilsonian, Westphalian or even Carteresque, so that's irrelevant. 

Which is one reason the parallels to 1930's Chekoslovakia cause concern.

Ukraine has grievances against Russia that are numerous and legitimate, including a large swath of their country that's uninhabitable for extended periods and mass graves filled by by Stalin with their brethren. 

However, Ukraine is not a bunch of angels, with some very vocal members of their polity having anti-semitic and even neo-nazi ties. They have been using the Balkan conflict as a how-to manual rather than a cautionary tale. They are also pretty much a failed state.

We (the US) have, in the 20th century, normally supported self determination as a matter of national policy and a big chunk of eastern Ukraine is ethnically Russian.

Russia, like us, is fighting islamic extremists and would be a natural ally in this endeavor. In fact Russia has given a lot of assistance in that regard including overflight privileges to facilitate our fighting in Afganistan and providing intel on Chechen terrorists in the US which we ignored, thereby facilitating the Boston Bombing.

The plane shoot-down was a dreadful calamity, but the airline ignored warnings not to fly over a FRICKKING WAR ZONE where 3 transports had already been shot down. I don't think that Russia intentionally shot down an airliner. I cannot conceivably have gained them anything.

Is this patch of black earth which is a huge ethnic and political mess a place we want to really get involved in? 

No.

But there is a problem with that. 

We guaranteed The Ukraine that we would protect their territorial integrity  if they acquiesced to our demands that they give up their nukes. So we actually do have an obligation to do something. It is a matter of global interest that we encourage non-proliferation. this is not achieved if a country that gives up its nukes is dismembered by others that did not.

Like, you know, Libya, who we promised not to poke at if they gave up their nuclear program. A promise we honored until the president leveraged the fact that the UK and France wanted to pay less for oil to support Muslim Brotherhood affiliated revolutions. Now North Africa is awash in weapons, thousands of MANPADS are in the hands of terrorists and Boko Haram is spreading pain and woe with weapons they got from Quaddaffi's arsenals. OTOH the oil is not flowing near as  much now.


So the "We gave our word" and "nonproliferation" carts have left the barn. The sort of brinksmanship necessary to protect Ukraine's integrity would be fraught with opportunities for catastrophic, 1914 style miscalculation and tragedy even if we had level-headed, grounded professionals running our foreign policy. 


 via
We don't have that. We have the crew that threw away an admittedly phyrric victory, in the process giving Mesopotamia to ISIS, set North Africa aflame, and has been making fools of themselves in the Levant.  

Given that the Libyan fiasco has pissed away any non-proliferation mojo that might be preserved by an adventure in Ukrania, poking the bear* does not survive even the most cursory cost benefit analysis.  The moral calculus is dubious at best.

The only realistic way to deal with the destabilizing and dangerous situation that is our shattered credibility is to wait two years and say "Sorry...he was a fluke. We're back now".

Even then, our policy in this squalid European mess probably ought to be to bolster our newest NATO allies and provide humanitarian aid. 

*the actual bear

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June 28, 2014

100 Years Ago Today: The Beginning of The End

Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the heir apparent to the throne of Austria-Hungary. He had initially been third in line for the throne and as such had, in his early years, led a somewhat dilettante lifestyle. After a suicide and then typhoid fever placed him in the position of heir he frequently came to violent disagreements with his father(the Emperor Franz Joseph) over what he perceived as needed reforms. While Franz Ferdinand was a bit of an autocrat and  a staunch royalist who wanted to consolidate executive power on the throne, he also wanted to establish a basically federal system granting considerable autonomy to the various regions. He also wanted to ensure all ethnicities had equal standing, which was very unpopular in some quarters, particularly the Hungarian half of the empire, which had its own legislature. In essence he wanted to extend in some ways the privileges the Hungarians enjoyed to all regions while simultaneously unifying the country on strictly national matters. Furthermore he wanted to organize a third ceremonial kingdom out of the slavic states with equal prestige as Austria and Hungary to drive home the idea that the Slavs were full citizens. Franz Ferdinand was also one of the few voices in government advocating that the Empire should cultivate good relations with its neighbors and in particular, not poke Serbia any further. 


His wife Sophie was a commoner and was not permitted any royal courtesies by imperial decree (another reason there was grief between Archduke and Emperor). However she was accorded the courtesies and privileges due the wife of a general in the imperial army if he was engaged in official military business. Thus, when he went to Sarajevo to inspect a local garrison she accompanied him.

While there they made some goodwill appearances and visited the Sarajevo town hall....



Moments after that picture was taken both were assassinated by the leader of a local chapter of a Serbian secret society called the Black Hands...which despite his melodramatic title was an an angry young loser of a man who lived with his mother.


The assassination removed one of the last voices for conciliation with the Serbs and threw the Emperor into a grief stricken rage. 



Russia stepped up to defend their Serbian allies which obliged Germany to step in and honor their treaty with Austria-Hungary, whereupon the Kaiser signed off on a unfortunate plan to preemptively take out France "quickly", lest they decided to open up a second front...which brought the British Empire into the fight. These and other decisions formed a cascade failure of strategic miscalculations amongst the governments of Europe cumulating in a disaster of unimaginable proportions from which the world has still not fully recovered. 






The entrance of the Ottoman Empire into the fray and its subsequent collapse precipitated the mess we now call the Middle East. The toll the war took on Russia begat the Soviet Union, international communism and the hundred or more millions that died from that ideology in Russian, China and elsewhere. Germany, broken and humiliated by the conflict rose up under the leadership of a fiend to lash out once more against a world still reeling, not only from the loss of a generation of young men, but from the fact that this unspeakable, and stupid orgy of carnage broke the spirit of the west.


The progress that civilization has made in the last hundred years seems impressive, but it pales between the vast leap that took place between the end of one great war  in 1814 and the events of 1914. From the cold war, to the middle east, we've spent the better part of a century putting out fires started or fanned by the First World War...and still they smolder

We hardly think of this conflict today but its ramifications are still with us. Let us hope the lessons are as well, because while history, as they say, does not exactly repeat, it does rhyme

The analogies at the link, while worrisome, can be taken too literally. There is of course, little significance to the century mark beyond superstition baed on numerology. If we were using hexadecimal this year it wouldn't even have that, but the artificial significance of a hundred years passing should be taken to reflect upon not only the carnage, but the miscalculations that led to it.  

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June 27, 2014

A Refrigerator Moment

This video has been making the rounds lately. 

It concerns a Harrier landing on a assault ship without the benefit of the planes nose landing gear.


This is pretty interesting but there is one thing that concerns me.
more...

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