31 August 2015

I suppose it was inevitable

I'm not a particular fan of the current law enforcement regime in the United States. I think that entire agencies such as the DEA and AFTEIEIO are superfluous and counter productive for their supposed purpose and constant erosive action towards civil rights.

The other part is that when you act like an occupying army, you will trigger an insurgency. When the system of checks and balances breaks down to a system of "do you know the right people" or "do you have enough resources to hire the right people" there is an entire segment of the population immediately disenfranchised by socioeconomic status (something that has nothing to do with race).

Generally there is a low level of crankhood out there calling for people to kill cops. Generally they are just cranks. But now someone acted out the race war fantasy and killed a white cop, execution style, while he was pumping gas.

How the cops respond to the execution style death of one of the estimated million law enforcement officers the US will set the tone whether the insurgency grows or dies.

Make no mistake, anyone can be killed. It isn't hard to kill someone. Millions of dollars of military training and any redneck with a shotgun and time can end my life.

The hardest part about ending an insurgency is that you have to admit that you gave it legitimacy by your choices and actions taking power away from people. Giving them back their political power so they can be part of the solution is scary, but really the only way to ensure a lasting peace.

The other options, from martial law to civilian disarmament, may stabilize things in the short term, but are worse than slapping a bandaid on cancer as far as effectiveness goes.

War is a political thing, and an insurgency is war.

I'm not saying that the murder of a cop is justifiable, it is still murder. I'm saying that if the grievance is accepted as legitimate by enough people, the insurgency will grow.

30 August 2015

Si vis pacem para bellum

Ancient wisdom, "To secure peace, prepare for war."

Modern folly, "Now that the Soviet Union has fallen, let us cut defense spending in a peace dividend."

To put things into perspective, we need to not just look at the United States, but at Europe.

Sweden has 120 very good main battle tanks, but not enough crews to man them all: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/6287/sweden-military#.VcSHLgEo8VY.twitter The choice to go from universal service to an all volunteer force have not made Sweden any more secure.

Britain had more top notch Typhoon fighters than pilots: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/8412467/Shortage-of-RAF-pilots-for-Libya-as-defence-cuts-bite.html and their tank fleet is less than Switzerland's at this point: http://archive.defensenews.com/article/20140615/DEFREG01/306150013/UK-Focuses-Challenger-Mobile-Bridging

I wouldn't worry about the lack of pilots, with the maintenance problems the RAF has with the Typhoons: http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/287658/RAF-hit-by-crisis-over-spares-for-fighter-jets

Germany went from 12 Divisions of combat power, to having fewer Leopard II tanks than Poland, but will pull one hundred from mothballs, upgrade to A4 standards and once again be the #1 Leopard II operator in the world, with a massive 328 tanks (down from a former high of about 2,000): http://www.defense-aerospace.com/articles-view/release/3/162847/german-army-to-reactivate-100-leopard-2-tanks.html

The world disarmed after the fall of the Soviet Union. The politicians who cut into military capability were too short sighted to understand what a historian writing about Napoleon Bonaparte meant when he quipped, "Si vis bellum para pacem."

If you want war, prepare for peace. If you plan to attack it puts your enemy off guard, or if you plan to be attacked it's a sure fire way to get someone to attack you.

The good thing about NATO is that if you pool all the military might from the alliance into a single fighting force it is formidable, not something Putin wants to take on. But any single NATO nation (outside of the US) would be mincemeat on its own. And that is why Putin is working so hard to fracture the alliance, because even though Poland leads the way with over a 1,000 main battle tanks they don't have the air force to keep Russia from taking Warsaw, again.

So all these military to military exercises, from Romania to Estonia, are all focused on direct unit to unit, nation to nation interoperability. It's a buzzword that drives training in Europe right now, and it has driven home a number of lessons that I've found very humbling.

The first lesson is that when you train with "new NATO" their equipment may be older but it is serviceable and properly maintained and the equipment operators fully trained. In three multinational exercises I've never seen one of our new allies break down in training, in direct contrast to my own experience where we had the same HMMWV break down four times (once for a rock getting stuck in the throttle spring, and three times for blowing out glow plugs).

The second lesson is that these guys are serious about their craft. The tankers especially. Watching a Hungarian BN Commander effectively command and control his formation of T-72s from the turret of his tank with nothing more than a map and radio, while fighting the OPFOR, was pretty humbling. These guys train hard, and their military service starts often much younger than 18. In the Czech republic a military high school can start training as early as 14, with graduates going on to serve in the military at 18, or going on to college and officer training at 18.

The third lesson is that on a rank for rank basis, their officer Corps is older and more experienced than ours. I'm an outlier, a CPT with 18 years of experience. In new NATO, that is normal. The junior and senior Officers have much more time in grade to learn their craft and hone their skills. And it shows.

So while "old NATO" was busy downsizing in a "peace dividend" the "new NATO" was getting their act together. They were doing it first by joining NATO and the processes of interoperability that go with it, and then they were doing it by being the only ones to take Russia seriously. Poland didn't amass the most main battle tanks in Europe overnight.

But still "old NATO" labors under the Founding Act and "2 plus 4 Treaty" which have wording such as this: In addition, in the negotiations on the adaptation of the CFE Treaty, the member States of NATO and Russia will, together with other States Parties, seek to strengthen stability by further developing measures to prevent any potentially threatening build-up of conventional forces in agreed regions of Europe, to include Central and Eastern Europe.......NATO reiterates that in the current and foreseeable security environment, the Alliance will carry out its collective defence and other missions by ensuring the necessary interoperability, integration, and capability for reinforcement rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces.

The "Founding Act" is not a treaty much the way the current Iran nuclear deal is not a treaty. It is a document that allows adversaries to gain time by rules lawyering while they maneuver forces into Estonian airspace and submarines into Swedish territorial waters.

The old masters, from Sun Tzu to Clausewitz agreed that war is political, of the utmost concern for the life of a state, and that the appearance of weakness would bring about war.

Remember that next time someone talks about downsizing the military as a benefit of a "peace dividend" or "now that the war is over, we don't need you."

Trust me on this, you'll need us sooner rather than later the deeper you cut.

29 August 2015

Ebola Report, August 2015

For the last two weeks Sierra Leone has joined Libera in posting zero new cases of ebola. This leaves Guinea as the last holdout in the fight against ebola in West Africa at this time, as Guinea has posted single digit new cases for the last three weeks.

Until it's zero cases for three weeks in a row, it isn't over. But clearly things are not as bad as were predicted this time last year.

Data from: http://apps.who.int/ebola/current-situation/ebola-situation-report-26-august-2015

The larger conversation we should have been having about patient triage and care in America has largely been lost in the latest round of distraction tactics by the powers that be through the mainstream media. We are as unprepared now as we were then, and possibly worse off because the worst didn't happen.

Dodging a bullet is luck, not skill.

28 August 2015

More fun than the Hugos

Monster Hunter International fiction contest.

The contestants had to pick a pic from here: imgur.com/gallery/LB39n

Then they emailed the International Lord of Hate's right hand man, who published the stories here: http://1986fa4faf5a-001899.vbulletin.net/forum/reading-writing/365-writing-contest-1

And after appropriate reading time, opened the voting up here: http://1986fa4faf5a-001899.vbulletin.net/forum/reading-writing/435-writing-contest-1-vote-now

Even if you miss the voting cut off, there is plenty of time to read the submissions, then go back to see if you can figure out which picture the author chose as inspiration for the story.

27 August 2015

Iran, Carter. Iran, current administration. Same tune, different players.

Neo-neocon has an excellent post on some of the foreign policy mistakes of former President Carter.

http://neoneocon.com/2015/08/25/jimmy-carters-big-regret/ which goes over some of the same material I've covered before in greater detail: http://randomthoughtsandguns.blogspot.com/2009/10/cleopatras-nose.html

The problem with Iran is always two fold, Iran's relationship with its neighbors, and Iran's internal politics.

The current nuclear deal does nothing about Iran's internal politics.

The problem with foreign policy is that treaties are much like laws, they are "punitive" instead of "prohibitive" in nature.

"Double pinky swear you won't make a bomb Iran, and we'll reduce sanctions." Says a coalition of nations who have no real enforcement means to make sure that bomb making won't happen.

"Of course! we'll TRIPLE pinky swear if that is what it takes to get what we want!" Iran replies, knowing full well that reducing sanctions makes it easier to build a bomb in secret.

Meanwhile Russia uses the new treaty as justification to demand that Poland doesn't get any Patriot missiles. After all, if Iran triple pinky promised to not build a bomb, then clearly Poland doesn't need any capabilities that would reduce the effectiveness of Russia's promise to put Iskandar medium range ballistic missiles in Kaliningrad. Of course Russia has already come out and said that the multiple warhead capability of the Iskandar missile means that there is no possible defense, so one has to wonder why the objection by Russia over a missile shield they say is irrelevant to their missiles anyways...

Either way, trying to force Iran to change internal politics (as Carter did) didn't work out in our favor, so color my very skeptical that doing the same thing again this time will produce different results.

26 August 2015

JLTV announced

Oshkosh Defense's JLTV submission won the bid. Essentially it is an upgraded M-ATV with less weight and more speed.

What the military gets, a better vehicle than an up armored HMMWV for patrolling and combat operations for our light forces, and our heavy forces once they don't need to do patrolling and combat operations in Bradleys and Abrams.

What the military doesn't get. The ability to overcome the bodies problem that the HMMWV family of vehicles gave us. Fighting from small trucks, no matter how capable, is only half the problem. The other half of the problem is delivering enough dismounts to the fight. The JLTV as it exists now is not an effective dismount delivery system, although the 2 seat variant could have the cargo area transformed into a troop carrier compartment. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen.

What the JLTV means as far as doctrine is concerned.

1. These are not designed to be "fighting vehicles" despite all the Oshkosh PR about having the "armor of a light tank." These vehicles are designed for stability and nation building operations in conflict zones where we might get shot at. Nothing wrong with that, but given the current state of the Army and the world security situation, I'm not sure that we should be spending the money on this instead of fighting vehicle upgrades.

2. These things are sling loadable (I expect they will be air drop certified soon, but not internally transportable by CH-47D or CH-53E. This means they are now directly competing with the SOCOM slash 82nd Airborne's "Ultra Light Combat Vehicle" or ULCV numbers for acquisition, maintenance, and training dollars. The ULCV duplicates our NATO allies who use customized Land Rovers for their "air inserted motorized raiding force" platforms, so I think it will stick around for SOCOM. I expect the 82nd will be forced to abandon the ULCV for anything other than raids because the ULCV is a crappy patrolling vehicle (no armor at all), which means having two sets of vehicles available for them, a set of ULCVs for the "expeditionary" mission, and a set of JLTVs for everything else. Mixing fleets to match missions is probably only a matter of time.

3. The JLTV should be able to support a real cannon, and go beyond the M2/Mk19/TOW as a fire support weapon. This is a good thing in my opinion as a properly stabilized 20mm cannon supporting otherwise light infantry is a good way to add punch without costing too much weight. I expect the Army not to explore this option, and stead make the TOW missile system the heaviest punch it puts on the vehicle.

4. Despite the name "light" in the title, these things are heavy. The Oshkosh JLTV comes in "about half" the weight of their M-ATV, which has a curb weight of 27,500 lbs. So 13,750 lbs is somewhere in the ballpark of reality. But they will have the ability to carry more than a M-ATV and tow at least as much. This means there is now no excuse to not to upgrade our Infantry and Airborne BCTs to the M777 cannons and go away from 105mm towed artillery for those forces which will use the JLTV. The Army has a general rule that the towing vehicle must be as heavy as or heavier than the towed vehicle, and the 9,800 lbs of the M777 should be well within the capabilities of the JLTV if they didn't seriously neuter the engine (the M-ATV has a more powerful engine than the FMTV used as the prime mover for the M777 in other units, I expect the JLTV to maintain a Caterpillar engine capable of towing a significant amount of weight).

Points three and four are interesting possibilities, but I don't expect either to happen any time soon.

What is interesting to me is that the Oshkosh JLTV doesn't yet meet the original capabilities requirements the USMC listed way back in 2006. These two "Gap requirements" have not yet been meet by the JLTV.

Move mounted combat forces: Six Passenger Combat Tactical Vehicle (CTV).
Move light (airborne/air assault) forces; 2 crew plus 9 passengers or 2 crew with added shelter.

I expect that a six passenger vehicle requirement will be forgotten but the 9 person (dismount squad) will be made by turning the 2 passenger variant into a troop carrier.

That's it folks, comments are open.

25 August 2015

Female Rangers

There are two schools of thought about Army schools and standards. The women who graduated Ranger school have brought the argument into clear focus.

One school of thought is that Army schools should weed out those we don't want.

The other school of thought is that the school is there to train and develop Soldiers. I generally fall closer to this school of thought.

As far as the women in Ranger school goes, these two articles are worth the read.

Weaponsman has one take: http://weaponsman.com/?p=24857

Other student has a different take: http://sofrep.com/42761/really-happened-women-ranger-school-class-06-15/

Whether they "earned it" or not will probably be argued long after I've given up caring about the subject.

When we let women into Airborne school we didn't stop getting paratroopers. The school is just a school, and the difference between going through Airborne school in 1998 (left foot injury on my second jump and medically dropped) it was mandatory runs and don't you dare fall out. Going back through Airborne school in 2007, I can tell you that the school definitely did get easier. But it got easier because we went from an Army at peace, to an Army at war, and during war the training emphasis becomes "train 'em up and ship 'em out!" more than weeding out people who don't deserve to be there. We were an all volunteer Army at war, and everyone at Airborne school volunteered to be there, how much more weeding out do you need?

As a 24 day non-select from SFAS (way back in the day, 2001, five full years before I commissioned) and getting peered out as the weakest guy in the squad (I was, but I'm still proud to be the weakest guy amongst the peer group I had, those guys were just amazing) I understand how a training school and a selection process are different. Ranger school is not a unit selection process, and the peer evaluations are basically there to be the non-academic weed out process that gets rid of the people who are strong enough, smart enough, but aren't the team players you want on your team.

Getting peered out in SFAS and in Ranger school was a learning point for me, not that I'm a bad person, but that my personality and leadership style were not meeting the expectations of my peers. So I changed my leadership style on my second go through to something much more directive and began peering much higher and went on to graduate. Possibly our two female Rangers did the same as me and used the peers process as a feedback tool to change their behaviors in order to gain the approval of their next set of fellow students. I don't know, I wasn't there.

On a different note, the Ranger school curriculum is constantly evolving. My class didn't have to do a 12 mile ruck march because the Ft. Benning commander stopped all ruck marches longer than 8 miles because of a heat wave and a Soldier dying on 12 miler. Am I less of a Ranger because my RAP week ruck march was only 8 miles? It would be easy to make that argument. When I took a double recycle (from Mountains back to Darby) I had an entirely different experience going through the second time. A different set of RIs, a different set of students, and I'd changed as well in that I knew what NOT to do and much more of WHAT to do. Sometimes a lot of things just come down to dumb luck.

In the end a school that doesn't have a weed out function is not worth the effort. Standards exist to let us know who meets them and who doesn't. The Army policy on recycling students is very generous for most formal schools that involve either temporary duty (TDY) or change of station (TCS or PCS orders) to attend. So the danger to Ranger school isn't that women can attend and graduate, it is that the weed out function would be compromised in order to graduate more women for some reason. 400 volunteers, 138 chances at RTAC, 20 graduate RTAC, 19 start Ranger school, 2 finish with one more possible. I'm ok with those numbers. But when someone dictates that graduation rates for males and females must be the same? I'm most definitely NOT ok with that.

The historical numbers for women earning the Sapper tab are indicative that there will be a lot of women washing out of Ranger school, but so far having women attend the course hasn't stopped Sapper school from being the best pre-Ranger course in the Army. Seriously the Sapper tab holders who attend have an insanely high go rate compared to the normal population.

The point of the training at Ranger school isn't to teach tactics (at least for the Infantry, Cav Scout, SF and Engineers, who used to be the only MOS's that could attend outside of Regiment), it is to teach you how deep you can dig, how hard you can push, and how the limits we think we have are just illusions to push through. Whether or not the women deserve their tabs, I'm absolutely positive that they did achieve that point. I'm sure they learned other things as well.

Our nation has decided that women will be in the Army, and that there will not be a draft. The women who are here have all signed on the dotted line, and if Ranger school can make them better by all means give them a chance to learn something. These are all consequences of choices made long ago to get rid of the draft, and open up support jobs to women to fill in for the lack of capable motivated men in those fields. If you don't like it, call your representatives. I sure as hell can't do jack about it.