Thursday, May 25, 2017

Vengence Baby, Vengence

Sometimes cats that usually worry about the wrong thing get stuff absolutely correct...

Let me share with you some deeply flawed words from the editorial board of the New York Times

"Meanwhile, as hard as it is amid the shock and the mourning, it is important to recognize this attack for what it is: an attempt to shake Britain — and, by extension, the rest of Europe and the West — to its core, and to provoke a thirst for vengeance and a desire for absolute safety so intense, it will sweep away the most cherished democratic values and the inclusiveness of diverse societies"

  To the contrary, Britain should seek vengeance. And if terrorists want to provoke a climactic confrontation in the Middle East, then the West should give them the battle they crave.

Why? Because they’ll lose. Because they’ll be slaughtered. Because they’ll be exposed as the violent hucksters they are.

Underpinning the Times’s sentiment is the persistent, misguided belief that what we face isn’t a true war but rather a particularly challenging law-enforcement operation, in which armies stay largely sidelined, the cops do their work, and societies cope with terrorism in much the same way that they cope with other forms of criminal violence.

For those who subscribe to this view, the fundamental response to terror — in addition to mourning the dead and expressing love and support for their families — is to find precisely the people responsible and punish them precisely with the penalties prescribed by law. If we achieve less, then police have failed. If our response sweeps beyond those responsible for the bad act, then we have committed our own injustices and thus perpetuated the cycle of hate and violence.

In war, the goal is different. In war, the goal is to meet an attack with an overwhelming response — to find and punish those responsible for discrete acts, kill their allies, and annihilate their military organization. This martial act of vengeance and wrath — yes, vengeance — should be carried out in accordance with the laws of war, but the laws of war are no impediment to decisive military force.

Vengeance by itself is not wrong.

The manner of the vengeance and its object defines its morality and effectiveness. History is littered with examples of vengeance-motivated atrocities, but it is also full of cases where vengeance (or the threat of vengeance) motivated entire societies to defeat mortal threats and deter even worse calamities. Terrorists count on Western restraint.

The call for unconditional surrender in World War II was a departure from the norm in great-power conflicts, but it led to the ultimate defeat of Nazism and Japanese militarism, rather than to mere setbacks that would have allowed the Nazis and the Japanese to refit, re-arm, and try again. In multiple points throughout the Cold War, the threat of overwhelming retaliation kept conflicts limited, kept weapons of mass destruction off the field of battle, and helped the world avoid another catastrophic global conflict.

By contrast, terrorists count on Western restraint. They often presume that we’ll be unwilling to do what it truly takes to destroy their safe havens or that we’ll grow weary of conflict and ultimately acquiesce to their demands. And all too many voices in the West are eager to oblige. When law enforcement isn’t enough to prevent attacks, and when carefully limited military strikes prove ineffective, they argue that we should look to address the “legitimate grievances” that are said to ultimately drive jihadist motivations.

That is when terrorists win. There exists already a model for successful vengeance. Osama bin Laden wasn’t prepared for massive American retaliation after 9/11. He didn’t expect to lose his safe havens and the vast bulk of his fighters. He thought America would respond as it had before, with ineffective cruise-missile volleys or perhaps even the same timidity that followed the Battle of Mogadishu. In fact, he said as much, speaking of American weakness to Western reporters.

OBL was wrong: He met American strength, al-Qaeda was left in ruins, and the threat of terror eased for a time. In fact, there’s a consistent pattern to terrorist violence. When they obtain and maintain safe havens, jihadists are able to plan, train, inspire, and strike. When they are driven from their strongholds — pounded from the air and the ground — they lose much of their effectiveness and their appeal. Take your boot off their neck, and they rise again.

So, Great Britain, ignore the New York Times. Give in to your “thirst for vengeance.”

In a manner that is consistent with the laws of war and the great tradition of British arms, make an example of ISIS. Destroy terrorist safe havens with prompt, decisive force, pursue terrorists wherever they flee, and send a clear message.

Terrorists have sown the wind. They will reap the whirlwind.

Avenge your fallen.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

MEDO

Think of it like a pan Arab NATO with the nom d'guerre like Middle East Defense Organization

The deal still needs more work, so the announcement would be a framework, not a treaty set for signing. But the plan, as reported by numerous outlets, would begin to bring the Middle East’s Sunni Arab nations into a collective defence alliance that would not include the U.S. directly, but would be favoured and supported by it. Indeed, some reports have noted that Israel (despite not being recognized by some nations as likely to join the alliance) will be a quiet partner, sharing intelligence with its neighbours over matters of mutual concern.

And those matters are serious. A strong Sunni Arab alliance — supported by the U.S. and Israel — would be a stabilizing force in a region in chaos. Committed Arab partners coupled with American military technology and Israeli intelligence would be a nightmare scenario for the Islamic State (among others), and could serve as an effective bulwark against the next terrorist organization to rise.

Iran is a threat to the West, Israel and many Arab states, and would also be partially countered by a properly-equipped military alliance. An American-backed Arab alliance might also thwart Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions in the Middle East, without directly incurring much risk.

An Arab military alliance would be a stabilizing force in a region in chaos. It would also be the Islamic State’s worst nightmare, to say nothing of Russia and Iran. 
The idea is not without drawbacks. Even though Israel is reportedly set to play a supporting role, it will remember well that Arab nations — when allied — have a history of invading it. They will likely welcome the alliance in the short term while remaining carefully watchful in the long. The Arab states have also traditionally not played together particularly well, and many of them are facing serious internal economic and social issues that would not be addressed by an arms buildup and new treaty. Iran and Russia would, of course, seek to undermine the new alliance precisely because it would oppose their ambitions. And given the turmoil in the U.S., allies would have cause to question its commitment.

And, of course, there is this awkward fact: many of the Arab states remain countries with which we would, in a perfect world, prefer not to do business. Saudi Arabia, in particular, has an abysmal human rights record that hardly needs recapping here. American backing of these states further implicates the U.S. (and its Western allies generally, including Canada) in the misdeeds of these regimes.

But the West must be realistic and not let perfection be the enemy of the good. NATO has been a force for unity and stability in Europe for generations. The Arab world would certainly benefit from an alliance built on that model. It would reduce dependence on U.S. security guarantees, help contain Iran, and deny those seeking to exploit weakness and division easy opportunities for growth. An Arab NATO would be a difficult project to bring about, but it’s worth trying. We sincerely wish the president — or any future successor — well in seeking its earliest implementation

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Chechnya

After the Soviet implosion in 1991, Chechnya, then part of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, declared its independence from Russia and split from what would become Ingushetia.

Russia launched the First Chechen War in 1994, lasting until 1996, in an effort to regain sovereignty over the area. But it was not until the Second Chechen War, which began in 1999 and lasted for the better part of the 2000s, that the Kremlin retook control. It was then that Moscow gained the loyalty of Akhmad Kadyrov, the former mufti of the short-lived independent Chechnya. He became president of the Russian-controlled Chechen Republic in 2003.

Yet Russia is in a state of decline. One of the immediate implications of this trend is a diminished ability by the Kremlin to manage its territories and influence countries in its periphery. Chechnya, which is already a major challenge for the Russians, is the most significant area poised to descend into chaos. From the capital of Grozny, Kadyrov’s clan has been the tool through which Russia has held Chechnya – and the broader North Caucasus – together. This region is highly susceptible to jihadists, who would be the first to try to take advantage of any opening in the system.

 As Russia’s ability to help manage the area wanes, jihadist forces and other rivals of Kadyrov will try to exploit it. Just as the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s could no longer project power into its peripheral regions, leading to the secession of its republics in the Baltics, Caucasus and Central Asia, a weakened Russia will not be able to keep its grip on Chechnya and the wider North Caucasus.

Left to its own devices, Chechnya is bound to devolve into factional warfare. And this is where jihadists, with their propensity to rally people around religion, are likely to benefit the most.

Monday, May 22, 2017

45's Afghan Surge

Once More Unto the Breach 

As 45 continues to weigh his options on how to proceed with America’s longest war in Afghanistan, there has been no shortage of arguments regarding U.S. involvement.  Some are calling Afghanistan a lost cause, while others are suggesting that a secure Afghanistan is vital to the security of this region in South Asia

Access to a classified Intelligence Community document found that the U.S. military would need to deploy fifty thousand additional troops to shore up the Ghani government. Coming on the heels of an announcement last week where 45's internal strategy reassessment group found that between three to five thousand additional troops are necessary to break Afghanistan’s with the Taliban.

Given 45's campaign rhetoric about the military “winning,” how he defines victory in Afghanistan is of vital importance.

Writing for RealClearDefense, Jeff Goodson, a retired Foreign Service Officer with experience in Afghanistan, contends, “there is no “win” or “lose” in Afghanistan.” However, Goodson offers: “The long-running objective of ensuring that Afghanistan never again serves as a sanctuary for international terrorism serves American interests as much today as it did fifteen years ago.”

Goodson does not see that goal as one that can be relinquished to a timeline because “Afghanistan is far too important to U.S. national security for us to either walk away or let this theatre of the global jihad spin out of control from simple neglect.”

In contrast, Philip Carter, Center for New American Security, took to Slate Magazine to proffer President Trump’s “Forever War.” Carter takes a historical view of the war, reflecting on the height of the troop surge in the country and concluding: “If the U.S. could not succeed at counterinsurgency in Afghanistan with more than 100,000 troops, it is unlikely the U.S. can succeed with 12,000 troops.”

In the end, all seem to agree that a comprehensive long-term strategy is required to solve the historic perplexity that is Afghanistan.

Except Afghanistan is not going to get much better unless certain elements in Pakistan are deterred




Thursday, May 18, 2017

NoKo No Win Scenarios

While we hate the status quo on the Korean Peninsula, there are far worse outcomes!

Suppose, for example, that China did begin to apply major pressure to what is often called the Hermit Kingdom. Beijing could cut by 25 percent all North Korean oil exports to get the North Koreans to abandon or at least negotiate over their nuclear and missile programs. North Korea might be able to survive the reduction for a time, but not forever.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may eventually grow desperate as gas shortages begin to pop up all over the country, threatening the stability of his regime. Kim then decides that he must show he is still in control, and that his military might has not been affected. So he decides to not only test another nuclear weapon, the sixth such test of his atomic resolve, but at the same time he test-launches his very first inter-continental ballistic missile into the skies above the mid-Pacific Ocean.

Kim chooses to be a little daring -- he selects a flight path that would see the missile crash 250 miles north of Hawaii into the ocean. But American missile defenses in Alaska are ready, easily shooting the missile out of the sky. How then might Kim respond?

Here is another scenario in which China does its best to “solve” the Korea crisis, only to see it backfire. Beijing decides to not only cut back fuel exports by 25 percent, but also slow food exports to Pyongyang for two weeks in what would amount to a temporary 20 percent slashing of North Korea’s food supply.

Already short on food -- 40 percent of North Korea’s population is undernourished and depends on food rations -- chaos breaks out in six different major cities, with more than 400 people killed in food riots. In an army base near the Chinese border, a group of 700 rioting North Koreans storm the food pantries, killing 60 soldiers in the process and taking some of their weapons. Choppy cell phone video leaks out of the North, with the rioters screaming, “we won’t starve anymore,” a reference to mass famine in the 1990s that claimed the lives of possibly 2.5 million North Koreans.

From here, things get worse. Kim sends in his army to put down the riots. They are ordered to use all means necessary, including VX gas, to end the chaos. But Kim’s generals are nervous to give the deployment orders -- seeing an opportunity to end this regime once and for all and attempt market-style reforms like their allies in Beijing.

Instead, in the middle of the night, hours before troops are to leave their barracks and attack the rioters, Kim’s top generals attempt a coup. They send 200 special operations soldiers into a bunker Kim is staying in for protection against America if it were to attack. The mission, at least it appears at the time, is a success, with reports that Kim Jong Un is dead.

However, Kim outsmarted his generals, and through electronic bugs and intercepts he knew they were coming -- they kill a decoy instead. Kim, now safe in a remote location, appears on state TV and names the so-called traitors and orders them executed. But the military is evenly split between those who are loyal to Kim, and those who are loyal to the mutinous generals.

A civil war seems imminent, with both sides armed with weapons of mass destruction that could see the death of millions and drag in not only South Korea, but also China, the United States, and potentially Japan.

Now, a little disclaimer: The above scenarios are from academics and retired military officials in China over the years. And while they may seem too far-fetched, they only scratch the surface of what could happen if the North Korean regime were accidently pushed over the abyss.

It doesn’t take a Tom Clancy novel to understand why many past U.S. administrations have not poked Kim too hard: North Korea might just be the ultimate Pandora’s box. Open the lid too far, and you just never know what will come out.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Genius For War?

Modern wars are won by grinding, not by genius.

Strategic depth and resolve is always more important than any commander. We saw such depth and resilience in Tsarist Russia in 1812, in France and Britain in the First World War, in the Soviet Union and the United States during the Second World War, but not in Carthage or overstretched Nazi Germany or overreaching Imperial Japan.

The ability to absorb initial defeats and fight on surpassed any decision made or battle fought by Hannibal or Scipio, Lee or Grant, Manstein or Montgomery. Yes, even Napoleon was elevated as the model of battle genius by Clausewitz and in military theory ever since, despite his losing by attrition in Spain, and in the calamity of the Grand Armée’s 1812 campaign in Russia. Waterloo was not the moment of his decisive defeat, which came a year earlier. It was his anticlimax.

Losers of most major wars in modern history lost because they overestimated operational dexterity and failed to overcome the enemy’s strategic depth and capacity for endurance. Winners absorbed defeat after defeat yet kept fighting, overcoming initial surprise, terrible setbacks, and the dash and daring of command “genius.” Celebration of genius generals encourages the delusion that modern wars will be short and won quickly, when they are most often long wars of attrition. Most people believe attrition is immoral. Yet it’s how most major wars are won, aggressors defeated, the world remade time and again.

We might better accept attrition at the start, explain that to those we send to fight, and only choose to fight the wars worth that awful price. Instead, we grow restless with attrition and complain that it’s tragic and wasteful, even though it was how the Union Army defeated slavery in America, and Allied and Soviet armies defeated Nazism.

With humility and full moral awareness of its terrible costs, if we decide that a war is worth fighting, we should praise attrition more and battle less. There is as much room for courage and character in a war of attrition as in a battle. There was character aplenty and courage on all sides at Verdun and Iwo Jima, in the Hürtgen Forest, in Korea. Character counts in combat. Sacrifice by soldiers at Shiloh or the Marne or Kharkov or Juno Beach or the Ia Drang or Korengal Valley were not mean, small, or morally useless acts.

Victory or defeat by attrition, by high explosive and machine gun over time, does not annihilate all moral and human meaning. Aeon counter – do not remove


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Coming Third War With Hiz'B'Allah

It has been more than a decade since the last open confrontation between Hezbollah and Israel; yet in the last few months, there has been a lot of chatter among Hezbollah and Israel observers over the rising tensions between the two adversaries.

The drums of war have been beating even more loudly in the media.

The cost of the 2006 war was severe enough for both sides that they both seem to be making every possible effort to avoid another war: Israel stopped bombing Hezbollah's locations inside Lebanon, while the latter stopped kidnapping Israeli soldiers or launching rockets into northern Israel. However, both parties know that peace in the Middle East is fragile and fleeting. Preparations for a new round of war — now dubbed the Third Lebanon War — have only increased. Both sides appear to be using every opportunity to display not just the military buildup for the upcoming war, but also expose the weaknesses of the other in the event of a war.


On April 20, Hezbollah arranged a tour for journalists to south Lebanon to expose the recent Israeli fortification activities south of the Blue Line. As Israeli military bulldozers busily cut at the landscape across the electrical fence, Hezbollah members pointed to the infrastructure — newly carved military roads, concrete walls, cement blocks and high-tech monitoring radars — all placed along the border in the last year.


These defensive fortifications are the most recent measures taken by Israel in anticipation of the looming confrontation with Hezbollah. Previous measures included, for instance, merging all Israeli army commando units into a single commando brigade, completing the multi-layered air defense, and conducting various war games and drills specifically designed to mimic a war with Hezbollah.


Israel is almost certain Hezbollah has advanced mobile air defense systems. This means the Israeli air force might not be able to fly over Lebanon as freely as it did in the past. Furthermore, airborne operations using helicopters, which the Israel Defense Forces depends heavily on, might be too risky in the presence of such advanced air defense systems.


Hezbollah, for its part, has been busy preparing for war as well. Today, it is considered by many in Israel to be the strongest nonstate actor in the region, and it has analyzed the lessons of the 2006 war to prepare for the next one. Rockets and missiles proved to be effective enough in 2006 for Hezbollah to continue increasing their quantity, while also upgrading the quality of its arsenal.


Yet the most important development in Hezbollah's military capability is the unprecedented opportunity that came with its participation in the Syrian war. It now has the ability to train thousands of its fighters, who are rubbing shoulders with Syrian, Iranian and Russian elite special forces, while also developing its telecommunications, logistics, and command and control capabilities to handle a situation where hundreds of its fighters can fight nonstop for weeks and months in a vast, hostile environment. This is a huge leap from 2006, when Hezbollah only deployed independent small fire teams and squads in defensive fortified positions, in a friendly environment, while awaiting the advance of Israeli infantry and armor units.


Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah's threat in 2011 to invade northern Israel is no longer so far-fetched, neither are his threats to hit the nuclear facility in Dimona. Israel takes these threats very seriously, hence the fortification works along the Blue Line. Hezbollah's plan is simple and bold: Saturate Israel's multi-layered air defense with hundreds of rockets and missiles while its fighters go on the offensive across the Blue Line — and perhaps even the Golan Heights.


According to sources familiar with Hezbollah, "A wider front will force Israel to spread out thinner, so now having the front expanded from Naqoura on the sea all the way to the end of the Golan Heights will prove to be more difficult for Israel in the event of a war."


Amidst the war cries, both sides have made it clear they are not interested in embarking on another war. Hezbollah is indeed busy in Syria and has little interest in fighting on multiple fronts. Furthermore, the domestic atmosphere in Lebanon is not that of 2006. There are now around 2 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon for Israel to consider, as well as a Hezbollah-hostile section of society that would not be as welcoming as they were in 2006 to internally displaced people fleeing airstrikes. In addition, the Syrian-Lebanese border will not be open to those escaping the attacks, essentially turning Lebanon into an open-air prison.


It is also worth noting that with all of Hezbollah's upward trajectory in the region (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen), today's region is incredibly hostile toward it. Thus, the last thing Hezbollah and its backer, Iran, would want is to create a situation where even on its home territory it is on the defensive and dealing with a hostile population — while also fending off attacks from one of the strongest and best-equipped armies in the world.


Nor is Israel prepared to fight a war in which it cannot guarantee a total achievement of its goals.

While it does have the capability of causing severe damage to Lebanon, it still cannot guarantee neutralizing Hezbollah. Israel also knows Hezbollah's missiles have the potential to cause serious damage to both Israeli infrastructure and the security of its population. Furthermore, if the Golan front is indeed activated, it will be a battlefield with a lot of unknown and unpredictable variables. These variables include the role and position of the differing opposition groups, as well as whether both Hezbollah's allies and Israel's allies would be dragged into the confrontation, moving the war from what Israel would prefer — contained, surgical, quick — to an open-ended, messy and complex conflict.


As one Hezbollah fighter told Al-Monitor, "While Israel may have the key to open the door for a war, it does not have the ability to close that door again when it chooses, and therefore won’t take the risk."


While this could encourage some analysts to rule out the possibility of a confrontation, one needs to remember that what happens between Hezbollah and Israel is motivated, to a great extent, by what happens in the region — namely the wider confrontation between US allies and Iran.


Hezbollah is certainly wary of the new US administration, with sources close to the organization pointing to the fact that the previous administration under Barack Obama was not interested in entertaining a new Hezbollah-Israel war, whereas the Donald Trump administration has proven so far to be an unknown variable.


"Before 45, there was no indication of a war [between Israel and Hezbollah] in the future," said one official close to the party. "But now with 45, no one has a clue about his foreign policy. What we have seen so far, his priorities seem to be North Korea, the Islamic State and Iran."


Is it likely the administration would entertain a confrontation with Iran via a Hezbollah-Israel war? It is so far unclear, but the fluidity of the battlefield and the players in Syria mean such a confrontation would prove to be incredibly risky, with the likelihood of eventually dragging the United States further into an already messy arena.


As one source put it, "If there is going to be a war between Hezbollah and Israel in Syria, it would be an expansive confrontation with many unknown variables."