Category Archives: War Commentary


Why Israel needs to finish the job now:

Iron Dome can defend successfully against a handful of rockets fired simultaneously in the general direction of Israeli cities. At some point Israel’s enemies will acquire the capability to fire large salvos of precision-guided weapons at key military or civilian targets and overwhelm the existing defenses. GPS-guided rockets are not that difficult to make. Iron Dome gives Israel a respite, not relief in the long term.

Israel has an extraordinary opportunity that may not last. It can protect its citizens from retaliation for the time being. Its right to self-defense is so obvious that Western governments usually hostile to Israeli interests must affirm its right to self-defense. Even the German Left Party (“die Linke”) is split, with some of its leaders attending pro-Israel rallies while others join the largely Muslim demonstrators chanting “Jude, Jude, feiges Schwein, Komm heraus und kaempf allein” (“Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come out and fight alone”). It has the tacit (and sometimes not entirely tacit) support of Egypt, not to mention the Gulf states, in its war against Hamas. But it cannot afford a repeat of 2012, after which Hamas rebuilt its weapons capability. Where Hezbollah is concerned, the Chinese proverb applies: Kill the chicken while the monkey watches. The reduction of Hamas has to serve as a deterrent for Hezbollah and Syria, not to mention Iran.


The New Malaysian Airliner Loss

The Russian rebels have shot down other planes in the past few days, so this was probably inevitable unless the airlines had routed around that region. I assume they’ll start doing so now. What this means for the war remains to be seen, of course. But on the up side, maybe CNN will finally cover Ukraine.

[Update early afternoon]

The Pentagon is apparently claiming that the missile originated from Russian territory.

US-China Space Cooperation

A point/counterpoint between Michael Listner and Joan Johnson-Freese. I’m not a big fan of China cooperation myself (a dispute I have with Buzz), but this is probably the best argument I’ve seen for it:

Wolf’s rationale assumes the United States has nothing to gain by working with the Chinese. On the contrary, the United States could learn about how they work — their decision-making processes, institutional policies and standard operating procedures. This is valuable information in accurately deciphering the intended use of dual-use space technology, long a weakness and so a vulnerability in U.S. analysis. Working together on an actual project where people confront and solve problems together, perhaps beginning with a space science or space debris project where both parties can contribute something of value, builds trust on both sides, trust that is currently severely lacking. It also allows each side to understand the other’s cultural proclivities, reasoning and institutional constraints with minimal risk of technology sharing.

If it’s the current NASA cooperating with China, I’m not much worried about technology sharing, either, since NASA’s not allowed to spend much money on useful technology. I just think that cooperation with China (or anyone, really) is an unnecessary distraction from actually doing things in space. But the Congress isn’t really interested in that. It just wants to build big rockets. I certainly wouldn’t put any other country, whether China or even in Europe, on the critical path to anything.

The Post-War World

Has it turned into a pre-war one?

History, perhaps unfortunately, can’t give us a clear answer to the question of whether we face anything like another Great War. Looking into the rear view mirror can only tell you so much about the conditions ahead. Our situation today is different enough from that of a century ago to make renewed great power war much less than a certainty, but there are enough troubling similarities that we can’t rule the prospect out.

It’s an interesting analysis.

Normandy’s Aftermath

An historic leader from The Economist, four days after the successful invasion (after it had finally become clear that it was a success):

…when all the thanks are made and all the contributions measured, there still remain the final artificers of victory, the men who, in the King’s words “man the ships, storm the beaches and fill the skies.” Although the first advances have been secured with surprisingly little loss of life, the hardest fighting lies ahead. In the weeks to come, thousands of men will lay down their lives or suffer disablement, will endure pain and hardship and strain, will throw everything they have into the balance of victory without particularly asking why or counting the cost. For them at the moment there is not very much that the people who stay behind can do. They can keep vigil, as the King has asked. They can face anxiety steadfastly. They can accept the losses when they come; but the real effort of gratitude will only be needed later on, when the men come home. They will not have been given victory, they will have toiled and sweated for it, all the way from Alamein to Bizerta, from Sicily to Rome, in the jungles of Burma, on the landing beaches in France. They have been the active agents of every military success. It is their courage and initiative and adaptability and common sense that have completed the historic reversal of the last four years. It will not be enough for their elders to give them “food, work and homes”—the essentials of a decent post-war society. They must be allowed their place in that society, they must be given scope and opportunity and responsibility to run it themselves.

Fortunately, they were.

Obama’s Competence

Americans are finally starting to figure out that he doesn’t have any.

Which is, of course, quite frustrating to those of us to whom this was obvious six years ago. And there was never any sensible reason to think otherwise.

[Update a few minutes later]

“Relentless incompetence: Americans are starting to give up on Obama.”

Unfortunately, at least two years too late. I’d like to see the latest “buyers’ remorse” polling of 2012 voters.

[Update a while later]

Obama’s failing foreign policy: Groping for a reset:

At this point, none of President Obama’s foreign policy problems can be solved by a teleprompter. The President doesn’t need more speechwriters or better ones. He needs something totally different: He needs some real-world wins. You don’t demonstrate your mastery of world events by making smart speeches about how intelligent your foreign policy is; you demonstrate your mastery of world events by having things go your way.

…The world is a big place, and there are lots of issues to choose from, but the President now urgently needs to put some points on the board. Otherwise, his authority will continue to erode.

As it is, the President appears to be second guessing himself, but in the worst possible way. He is stepping up support for the Syrian rebels, but not by enough to make a difference on the battlefield. He is proposing new military spending for Europe, but at such a low level that his proposal disappoints his allies and reassures his opponents. One can hope that some things are happening behind the scenes, but from what we can read in the press, President Obama is still splitting differences and splitting hairs when he could and should be making a stand. This is President Obama at his worst: months of agonizing and logic chopping ending in a strategy that fails.

The essence of strategy is to align your ends with your means: to match your goals and your resources. The core problem that has dogged this President from the beginning is a failure to do that. His goals have always been high and difficult, but he hasn’t wanted (or perhaps felt able) to invest the political, financial, or military resources that such large goals require. To heal the breach between the United States and the Arab world, for example, is a noble and a worthy goal, but it is extremely hard to do and would take much more money, political engagement, and policy change than President Obama has been willing to put on the table. Nuclear disarmament, a global climate change treaty, democracy in the Arab world, victory in Afghanistan, detente with Iran, the establishment of R2P as American doctrine, Israeli-Palestinian peace: This is less a foreign policy than a catalog of Holy Grails.

Based on a delusional view of the real world, and how it works. As he notes, the “reset” that is really needed is in the White House. And it won’t happen with its current inhabitant.

Ending Our Dependence On Moscow

Defense News has a hit and a miss. First, the hit:

…And after SpaceX unveils the manned version of its previously unmanned Dragon spacecraft this week, NASA should accelerate development of the project

Yes, though unlike me, they don’t actually propose how to do that.

Here’s the miss, and it’s a big one:

and revive the Space Launch System to put super heavy payloads into orbit.

What does “revive” the SLS mean? I thought it was ahead of schedule? That’s what its proponents keep telling me.

And what “super heavy payloads” are there that need to be put into orbit? What does this have to do with dependence on the Russians? This recommendation seems to be a complete non sequitur.


Why is Russia harboring him? A disturbing and plausible theory:

Since Snowden took vast quantities of information, and nobody can be quite sure what information he took, Russia has gained a fabulous smokescreen for all of its actual intelligence operations in America. Russian possession of American secrets is no longer actionable evidence of Russian spies in America; the secrets, especially anything touching on surveillance and the NSA, might have come with Snowden. The logic of American counter-intelligence is broken for a generation. It is like issuing a new life to every Russian spy in America, and nine new lives to any spy in the NSA.

What a disaster.

Shaming Congress

As I was just tweeting, you know what would be pretty funny? If the other ISS partners weighed in on the Russian thing.

Can you imagine the embarrassment if Canada and ESA said, “Hey, maybe NASA and Congress are afraid to fly without an abort system on the Dragon, but we think that having assured access to ISS is pretty important, even if there’s a risk to crew. Our astronauts are willing to chance it, to stick it to Rogozin. That’s what they signed up for.” I’d love to see the French tell us to stop being such merde du poulet.

The New Obama Narrative

Epic incompetence.

Well, everyone has to be good at something.

The emerging narrative of Barack Obama, the one that actually comports to reality, is that he is a rare political talent but a disaster when it comes to actually governing. The list of his failures is nothing short of staggering, from shovel-ready jobs that weren’t so shovel ready to the failures of to the VA debacle. But it also includes the president’s failure to tame the debt, lower poverty, decrease income inequality, and increase job creation. He promised to close Guantanamo Bay and didn’t. His administration promised to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed before a civilian jury in New York but they were forced to retreat because of outrage in his own party. Early on in his administration Mr. Obama put his prestige on the line to secure the Olympics for Chicago in 2016 and he failed.

Overseas the range of Obama’s failures include the Russian “reset” and Syrian “red lines” to Iran’s Green Revolution, the Egyptian overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, and Libya post-Gaddafi. The first American ambassador since the 1970s was murdered after requests for greater security for the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi were denied. (For a comprehensive overview of President Obama’s failures in the Middle East, see this outstanding essay by Abe Greenwald.) The president has strained relations with nations extending from Canada to Germany, from Israel to Afghanistan to Poland and the Czech Republic to many others. All from a man who promised to heal the planet and slow the rise of the oceans.

But that’s not all. The White House response to everything from the VA and IRS scandals to the seizure of AP phone records by the Department of Justice is that it learned about them from press reports. More and more Mr. Obama speaks as if he’s a passive actor, a bystander in his own administration, an MSNBC commentator speaking about events he has no real control over. We saw that earlier today, when the president, in trying to address the public’s growing outrage at what’s happening at the VA, insisted he “will not stand for it” and “will not tolerate” what he has stood for and tolerated for almost six years. His anger at what’s happening to our veterans seems to have coincided with the political damage it is now causing him.

Yeah, that’s pretty much the only thing that really upsets him. I hope the Democrats are proud of what they foisted on the country.

[Update a few minutes later]

How Obama because the superhero of excuses.

From Ron Fournier, who isn’t exactly part of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.

A Space-Socialist Republican

Greg Autry is sort of singing my tune:

If NASA were compelled to “downselect” Commercial Crew to a single vendor, Washington power politics would clearly favor Boeing’s CST-100 capsule, a luxurious spacecraft, that while it has never flown, is on track for some unmanned flights to the ISS in about three years. This leisurely development schedule puts no pressure on SLS. While it is surely coincidently that both the SLS and CST-100 programs are headquartered in Houston, we are lucky to have Messrs. La Branche and Culberson standing between us and the utter chaos of free market competition.

…Frankly, DragonRider could fly to the ISS next month if it were subject to the same expectations of safety as NASA’s Space Shuttle. A truly conservative response to Mr. Rogozin would be to announce that the United States is ready to move a DragonRider launch forward without further testing, send eight Navy Seals to the ISS and “liberate” our space station from Russia’s state capitalist squatters.

Well, I wouldn’t go quite that far. But that’s Greg.

Merde Just Got Real

Rogozin is cutting off sales of RD-180s, and threatening to end ISS participation in 2020.

The former is much more concerning than the latter. 2020 is a long way off, and we have time to resolve that one way or the other. But Atlas V is out of business in a couple years if they don’t come up with a solution. Which is bad news for Boeing and Sierra Nevada in terms of commercial crew.

Obama’s Presidency

The day it died:

Let us now return to Parshall’s observation that ”all military failures fall into three basic categories: failure to learn from the past, failure to anticipate what the future may bring, and failure to adapt to the immediate circumstances on the battlefield.” It’s possible that Obama did exactly that on the night of September 11, 2012. He didn’t see the double cross coming; he had no Plan B for Syria, for al-Qaeda, having bet the farm on Plan A and he covered failure up.

He went and committed all three categories of failure. ”Finally, at the apex of failure stand those rare events when all three basic failures occur simultaneously-an event known as catastrophic failure. In such an occurrence, the result is usually a disaster of such scope that recovery is impossible.”

And now he’s living with the consequences of having to pursue a strategic assumption he knows is wrong but does not dare denounce.

It’s going to look worse and worse as time goes on.