Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

LinkSwarm for January 13, 2016

Friday, January 13th, 2017

Time to extract more pure wheat from chaff!

  • Glenn Greenwald says Democrats will go to any lengths to avoid blaming themselves for their debacle:

    I really haven’t experienced anything even remotely like the smear campaign that has been launched by Democrats in this really coordinated way ever since I began just expressing skepticism about the prevailing narrative over Russia and its role that it allegedly played in the election and, in particular, in helping to defeat Hillary Clinton. I mean, not even the reporting I did based on the Edward Snowden archive, which was extremely controversial in multiple countries around the world, not even that compared to the attacks now.

    And the reason is very, very obvious, which is that it has become exceptionally important to Democratic partisans to believe that the reason they lost this election is not because they chose a candidate who was corrupt and who was extremely disliked and who symbolized all of the worst failings of the Democratic Party. It’s extremely important to them not to face what is really a systemic collapse on the part of the Democratic Party as a political force in the United States, in the House, in the Senate, in state houses and governorships all over the country. And so, in order not to face any of that and have to confront their own failings, they instead want to focus everything on Vladimir Putin and Russia and insist that the reason they lost was because this big, bad dictator interfered in the election. And anyone who challenges or anyone who questions that instantly becomes not just their enemy, but now, according to their framework, someone who’s actually unpatriotic, that if you question the evidence, the sufficiency of the evidence to support this theory, that somehow your loyalties are suspect, that you’re not just a critic of the Democratic Party, you’re actually a stooge of or an agent of the Kremlin.

  • In fact, Greenwald is all over this week’s LinkSwarm, saying that the U.S. “deep state” is at war with Trump:

    For months, the CIA, with unprecedented clarity, overtly threw its weight behind Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and sought to defeat Donald Trump. In August, former acting CIA Director Michael Morell announced his endorsement of Clinton in the New York Times and claimed that “Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” The CIA and NSA director under George W. Bush, Gen. Michael Hayden, also endorsed Clinton and went to the Washington Post to warn, in the week before the election, that “Donald Trump really does sound a lot like Vladimir Putin,” adding that Trump is “the useful fool, some naif, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited.”

    It is not hard to understand why the CIA preferred Clinton over Trump. Clinton was critical of Obama for restraining the CIA’s proxy war in Syria and was eager to expand that war, while Trump denounced it. Clinton clearly wanted a harder line than Obama took against the CIA’s long-standing foes in Moscow, while Trump wanted improved relations and greater cooperation. In general, Clinton defended and intended to extend the decadeslong international military order on which the CIA and Pentagon’s preeminence depends, while Trump — through a still-uncertain mix of instability and extremist conviction — posed a threat to it.

    Whatever one’s views are on those debates, it is the democratic framework — the presidential election, the confirmation process, congressional leaders, judicial proceedings, citizen activism and protest, civil disobedience — that should determine how they are resolved. All of those policy disputes were debated out in the open; the public heard them; and Trump won. Nobody should crave the rule of Deep State overlords.

    Yet craving Deep State rule is exactly what prominent Democratic operatives and media figures are doing.

    One need not buy all of Greenwald’s analysis of geopolitics or Trump to conclude that his analysis of the current alliance between Democrats, the media and the intelligence community is essentially correct. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)

  • Borepatch, who is a real life computer security expert, is not impressed with the Russian hacking claims:

    My take is that several state actors certainly hacked Hillary’s email server for years and years, and silently read all her communications. Probably more than one state actor penetrated the DNC email system for several years.

    It’s plausible than an insider leaked the DNC emails – some BertieBro IT Admin type who saw how the sausage was being made and who was smart enough to cover his tracks while pointing clues towards Russia.

    Bottom line, this is a tale told by an idiot; full of sound and fury and signifying nothing. We know that something happened, but we don’t know who did it, and what they say in the report doesn’t change that.

  • Borepatch, in turn, points to this detailed analysis of the security on both Hillary’s email server and the DNC:

    At this point, we can largely dispose of Hillary’s Hack. It was an open book to all comers and at least one was Romanian (and sharing with friends) and not Russia. However, I’d say it was almost certain that at some time a Russian intrusion happened. The name of the server was obvious. The location insecure. The operating system and protective layers a joke. Frankly, I’d expect them to be “in” the same day they first looked at it. Which means something like 8 years ago. So why didn’t things leak then?

    Because the Russians Are Not Stupid. A fundamental of spycraft is you don’t expose sources and methods, you use them to collect intel for your use, not publication. I suspect they enjoyed a near real time email feed from the Secretary Of State for years, in silence. This argues for email dump to be someone other than them. My personal muse would be an NSA guy, aghast at what was in evidence. Like a Snowden, but not willing to give up the $1/4 Million salary… He (or she…) would have all the requisite skilz to pull it off and leave no finger prints, access to PRISM, and lots of neat toys to work with. Though more likely would be the underpaid I.T. guy Hillary had set it up who was making a backup one day and dropped a load… But I digress.

    The bottom line on Hillary is we know she kept a full copy (found on Huma’s Laptop with the Wiener…) and that it was around until she had her lawyers erase it. We know it surfaced in full at the time the laptop went to the FBI, and in parts before that. We know at least one of her hackers was found (though he had likely not leaked it) and that he said he had a doomsday copy for safety. He wasn’t a very good hacker, so that shows lots of good ones walked right in and snagged copies. Assigning source of any Hillary leaks is going to be an exercise is “ME ME MEE!!! PICK MEEE!” with a dozen hands up in the room.

  • More from Guccifer 2.0 himself: “I have totally no relation to the Russian government. I’d like to tell you once again I was acting in accordance with my personal political views and beliefs. The technical evidence contained in the reports doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. This is a crude fake.” (Hat tip: Zero Hedge.)
  • “The opposition research firm that hired a former British spy to dig up dirt on Donald Trump is the same shady outfit that was hired by Planned Parenthood to put a positive spin on videos showing the sale of baby parts.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Our new Secretary of Defense sounds serious about defeating the Islamic State. “We should try to shut down its recruiting, shut down its finances, and then work to fight battles of annihilation — not attrition, but annihilation — against them; so that the first time they meet the forces that we put against them, there should basically be no survivors.”
  • Speaking of which: “Islamic State publishes video of toddler executing prisoner on playground.”
  • House Republicans are already laying the groundwork to repeal ObamaCare.
  • News media buries story of Jeff Sessions bankrupting the Klu Klux Klan in Alabama because it doesn’t fit their narrative. (Hat tip: Dierctor Blue.)
  • Mexican illegal aliens are already self-deporting in advance of Trump’s inauguration. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • The problem with rule by experts:

    The problem that we are faced with, and what the American people seem to be rebelling against, are the “experts” who seek to influence government policy in ways voters are either opposed to or at the very least find ineffective and expensive.

    To put it bluntly: those experts have screwed a lot of shit up. Obamacare, American foreign policy, the war on drugs, domestic environmental policy, the economy…the list of issues is seemingly endless. The American people were told for at least the last eight years that the smart set was in charge, and things would be just dandy if only we allowed the “experts” free rein. The problem is that there are a lot of things that may seem smart on paper but which just won’t work when forcibly applied to the citizens of 50 separate states, with 50 separate economies, and 50 distinct voting bases, and this assessment assumes that those implementing policy actually have America’s best interests as a free republic at heart.

    This leads us to the real heart of the matter: liberty. The Washington political and bureaucratic classes have no Constitutional right to force the “solutions” to any of these problems on their fellow citizens. The health insurance “problem” is not a national problem insofar as there is no Constitutional right to health insurance (or even healthcare), and the answer to what problems there are in healthcare in Texas are very probably not the same as the answer for New Hampshire or Oregon. The federal government institutes regulations constantly affecting the economy that have no Constitutional basis. There is no Constitutional basis whatsoever for banning or regulating any drug at the Federal level, and yet we’re told we have a national “opioid epidemic” that demands a federal solution. Foreign policy experts are undoubtedly necessary, but our foreign policy, when any logic or reason can be discerned in it at all, certainly doesn’t seem to be guided by any experts in the field. There is even a very good possibility that actually fixing any “problem” at the federal level is viewed as bad for business, because without the problem to solve there would be a lot of unemployable experts.

    In short, the American people don’t have a problem with experts or intellectuals. What they have a problem with is incompetence, and it is just a fact of life that the larger and more remote the government and bureaucracy become, the more incompetent and unaccountable they will be.

  • Thanks Obama. “93 percent of police officers are concerned about their safety on the job; 72 percent are less willing to stop suspicious characters; and 75 percent report increased tension between cops and the black community.” (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • U.S. troops sent on permenant deployment to Poland. Given that Poland joined NATO in 1999, it’s a surprise it took this long. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • About half the EU has been cheating on the 3% deficit ceiling fiscal discipline rule half the time. Only Finland, Estonia, Luxembourg and Sweden have never broken the rule. And Poland, France and the brexiting UK have actually violated the rule more than Italy and Ireland. Once again: Austerity hasn’t been tried and found wanting in the EU, it’s been declared difficult and left untried.
  • Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames “terrorist exchange rates” for attacking his country. Fun how that happens when you ruin your own country… (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Social Justice Warriors already deterring people from the “Women’s March on Washington.” See, they were all set to flaunt the peacock feathers of their leftwing virtue, only to be told “they had a lot of learning to do.” Because there’s nothing more fun than being lectured about how you’re a racist when you’re not. Welcome to Red State America, liberal white women! (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • “DNC Chair Candidate Forum to Be Held at Anti-Israel Restaurant” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Germany court rules that an attempt to burn down a synagogue is a “justified expression of criticism of Israel’s policies.” You know, I think I’ve seen this movie before…
  • Heh: “Intolerance at Berkeley as Faculty Demand Gay Immigrant Stay Off Campus.”
  • More: Berkley Social Justice Warriors dox the hosts of Milo’s speech. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • 1. “CEO Raises Salaries to $70K for EVERY Employee” 2. ???? 3. Wrecked company. (Hat tip: Borepatch.)
  • Teach women not to lie about rape.
  • Social Justice Warrior drama at the Free Software Foundation. “‘Developer’ Leah Rowe has been making unhinged, outrageous claims of harassment and bullying on behalf of her anonymous friend who was let go by the FSF. She then stole the Libreroot project from the community, locked it down away from the other devs, and made a unhinged claims of wrongdoing by the FSF and two employees. She has provided no evidence of any of these claims and as she is a post-modernist, we’re supposed to substitute her feelings for any facts as being equivalent.” The amazing thing is that, for once, FSF head honcho Richard Stallman (who is somewhere on the continuum between “true software visionary” and “fanatic lunatic no one wants to deal with”) isn’t the person at fault for the drama…
  • “An Arizona Department of Public Safety officer has survived an attempt on his life after a passing motorist shot dead a highway sniper who took aim at the trooper after stopping to assist an individual in a rolled vehicle.”
  • Also from Arizona: Naked woman steals police car, goes joyriding.

  • Clockboy’s lawsuit dismissed.
  • William Peter Blatty, RIP.
  • What the hell? YouTube takes down Legal Insurrection’s channel at the behest of anti-Israeli activists.
  • Slate won’t even delete their big mistakes:

  • Pentagon Successfully Tests Microdrone Swarm

    Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

    Given the name of my blog, you wouldn’t expect this development to escape my eye:

    The Pentagon may soon be unleashing a 21st-century version of locusts on its adversaries after officials on Monday said it had successfully tested a swarm of 103 micro-drones.

    The important step in the development of new autonomous weapon systems was made possible by improvements in artificial intelligence, holding open the possibility that groups of small robots could act together under human direction.

    Military strategists have high hopes for such drone swarms that would be cheap to produce and able to overwhelm opponents’ defenses with their great numbers.

    The test of the world’s largest micro-drone swarm in California in October included 103 Perdix micro-drones measuring around six inches (16 centimeters) launched from three F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets, the Pentagon said in a statement.

    “The micro-drones demonstrated advanced swarm behaviors such as collective decision-making, adaptive formation flying and self-healing,” it said.

    “Perdix are not pre-programmed synchronized individuals, they are a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature,” said William Roper, director of the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office. “Because every Perdix communicates and collaborates with every other Perdix, the swarm has no leader and can gracefully adapt to drones entering or exiting the team.”

    And I tracked down video of the test:

    Of course, there are all sorts of military and ethical considerations to truly autonomous drones. Like what theaters do you deploy them in, and under what conditions. And what do the first time they decide to dismantle a schoolhouse, or kill one of your own guys…

    Rep. Sam Johnson to Retire

    Saturday, January 7th, 2017

    U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson of the Texas Third Congressional district (northeast of Dallas, including Plano and McKinney) has announced that he’s retiring at the end of his term.

    Like Sen. John McCain, Johnson served as a military pilot who was shot down, held prisoner and tortured during the Vietnam War. Unlike McCain, Johnson has been a fairly reliable conservative, earning an 89% ranking from the Heritage Action for America’s scorecard and 82% ranking from Conservative Review, earning particular liberal ire for a bill to reign in the abuses of the EPA.

    At 86, Johnson is well into retirement age. As for replacements, State Senator Van Taylor’s Eighth District is right smack dab in the middle of the U.S. Third, and like Johnson, Taylor is ex-military, having served with the Marines in Iraq. He’s also a staunch conservative, pulling a 100% rating from the American Conservative union, all of which makes him a natural candidate.

    I just sent Taylor a tweet asking if he’s running. I’ll let you know if I get a reply.

    Obama Administration Awards Obama Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service

    Thursday, January 5th, 2017

    Un. Freaking. Believable:

    On Wednesday, President Obama added another prestigious medal to his Nobel Prize collection when he had Defense Secretary Ash Carter award him with the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service.

    Secretary Carter awarded his boss with the medal on January 4 during the Armed Forces Full Honor Farewell Review for the President held at Conmy Hall, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Virginia.

    Carter insisted that the medal was a token of appreciation for Obama’s service as commander in chief, the Associated Press reported.

    There are two possibilities: Either Obama ordered them to do this, because he has the biggest ego in the world, or the DoD came up with this on their own, and Obama didn’t have the good sense to decline the obvious wrongheaded flattery, because he has the biggest ego in the world.

    If The Onion had published this as a parody, people would complain it was too unsubtle. I’m sure he feels the “World’s Greatest Boss” mug he ordered his staff to buy him was also richly earned.

    For people who think that Donald Trump has the biggest ego in the world: Have you seen who he’s replacing?

    (Hat tip: BigGator5’s Twitter feed.)

    (PS: And yes, George W. Bush should have had the good sense to turn it down as well. A Distinguished Public Service Medal shouldn’t be handed out like a retirement watch…)

    Tank Watch: Abrams To Control Drones?

    Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

    The army is thinking of making the M1A2 Abrams tank a drone control platform:

    The Army is preparing to configure Abrams tank prototypes able to control nearby “robotic” wing-man vehicles which fire weapons, carry ammunition and conduct reconnaissance missions for units on the move in combat, service officials said.

    Although still in the early stages of discussion and conceptual development, the notion of manned-unmanned teaming for the Abrams continues to gain traction among Army and General Dynamics Land Systems developers.

    Algorithms are progressing to the point wherein they will be able to allow an Abrams tank crew to operate multiple nearby “wing-man” robotic vehicles in a command and control capacity while on the move in combat.

    As for how good an idea this is, it depends on the drone and depends on the mission. Reconnaissance seems like a natural, and some drones might work well at over-the-horizon top-down attack roles against other armored vehicles in rough terrain or beyond the range of the 120mm main gun (which is plenty far), assuming they can find a way to defeat active countermeasure systems like Drozd and Arena.

    I can also imagine non-winged drones, like an updated, low-profile version of the old German Goliath tracked mine used for tasks like bunker clearing.

    The M1A2s equipped with the System Enhancement Package (SEP) already have considerably upgraded electronics, and drone control is probably seen as a natural follow-on. The question is where do you store the drones and, if they’re not launched from the tank itself, what advantages does having local control over give you over remote control. I suspect that needing to launch the drones from the tank before rotating the turret is going to be a non-starter in most combat environments. Maybe that could be done automatically, assuming the kinks could be worked out in autonomous operation (a big if; all it takes is one friendly fire incident to scuttle that idea right quick).

    (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)

    LinkSwarm for December 23, 2016

    Friday, December 23rd, 2016

    I hope everyone has plans for the Christmas weekend, even if they’re only “eat as much food and watch as much football as humanly possible.”

    Enjoy a Friday LinkSwarm:

  • Suspect in Berlin jihad truck attack shot dead. I was going to do one of my increasingly irregular jihad updates, but Stuff and Things got in the way.
  • One possible benefit of a Trump presidency: a restoration of federalism:

    America owes President Barack Obama an enormous debt of gratitude for showing how truly dangerous the federal government can be when our Constitution’s checks and balances start failing. With the active collusion of congressional Democrats, President Obama’s presidency has been one long series of body blows to the separation of powers that has protected our democracy since the Founding.

    The results have been stark. Never has a president trampled so much on the prerogatives of Congress. Obama’s executive orders, suspending parts of our immigration laws and even his own prized Obamacare, have been sheer usurpations, going far beyond even the breathtaking delegations of legislative authority granted by the brief Democratic supermajority in Congress in 2009–10.

    Sad to say, Obama’s trampling on the prerogatives of state governments has been even more unprecedented, and potentially far more damaging. His agencies’ “Dear Colleague” letters, addressing such sensitive issues as local school districts’ bathroom policies and the standards by which institutions of higher education review claims of sexual assault, have wrested away the core functions of state leaders, local boards, and even administrators.

    The separation of state and federal authority is one of the most essential principles of our Constitution. It explains the Constitution’s structural allocation of powers as much as the division between legislative, executive, and judicial functions. If we lose the separate and independent existence of state governments, we will lose our Constitution.

    And Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is walking point on the issue.

  • Trump’s election marks the overthrow of the media: “This election didn’t merely expose the failure of six months of campaigning by the Democratic Party. This election exposed the failure of SIX DECADES of leftist propaganda to have any cumulative effect at all.”
  • Ten ways Obama broke the American system. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • “Outside California, Trump outdistanced Hillary by 1.41 million votes, 47.8% to 46.6%. As I have noted before, Hillary’s support was so geographically narrow that she won a popular vote majority in only 13 states (plus DC), the fewest of any major-party candidate since Bob Dole.”
  • Remember how Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison looked like a shoe-in for DNC head after Howard Dean withdraw from the race? Yeah, not so much. Although some of the dirt (like his ties to Louis Farrakhan) are decades old, there’s enough of it that lots of Democrats are getting cold feet about his candidacy:

    Despite the support of the first couple of populist progressivism — Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — the controversy has emboldened the opposition: Last week, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, a buddy of President Barack Obama (who called him “wicked smart” last week), jumped into the race. The effort to boost Perez, paradoxically and to Ellison’s irritation, is led by operatives allied with the country’s first black president, who view the Minnesotan as too tied to the identity politics they think cost Hillary Clinton the election.

    “We like Keith,” one longtime Obama political ally, who was pushing Perez, told me in November. “But is he really the guy we need right now when we are trying to get all of those disaffected white working-class people to rally around our message of economic equality?”

  • Texas officially removes Planned Parenthood from Medicaid.
  • “Feminism Is a Synonym for ‘Shut Up.’

    A major goal of feminism is to silence opposition. Because their ideology cannot withstand informed and articulate criticism, feminists therefore requires a dishonest vocabulary of jargon that functions to disqualify and discredit their opponents. A man expressing disagreement with a feminist will invariably be accused of “sexism” or “misogyny,” and if he persists in his criticism, he will be accused of “harassment.” What these terms actually mean — other than as pejorative labels, deployed to smear the movement’s enemies — is seldom examined. It is quite often the case that men who ostensibly support feminism engage in abusive behavior toward women (e.g., Jian Ghomeshi), whereas men who oppose the movement are branded “misogynists” for no other reason than their willingness to state their criticism honestly and openly.

  • “New York State Employee Demands Death For Trump Supporters, Still Employed.” Bonus: Openly calling for Republican women to be raped and cheering the death of American soldiers. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • 5 Arrested After Egyptian Police Bust Staged Photo Shoot Of “Wounded Aleppo Children”.
  • Funny how “hate crime” hoaxes are the fake news the media wants to keep reporting:

    n all four cases, there were reasons for the media to doubt the stories. In all four cases, the narrative of white and/or conservative and/or Trump-supporting and/or bigoted “people of privilege” persecuted and/or harassed and/or discriminated against some variation of minority. In all four cases, the hoax was reported before confirmed and later it was revealed by law enforcement or conservative media that we had all been duped.

    Here’s the core of the problem. Mainstream media has a narrative agenda that has failed miserably. They did everything they could to hand the White House and Senate to the Democrats. In the past, that’s all that needed to happen; if the media united behind a cause, they could bend the will of the people. In the case of the 2016 election, their agenda backfired, so they now have two choices. They could learn their lessons and return to a bygone day when reporters actually reported and commentators made absolutely certain their perspectives would not be confused with news.

    Predictably, mainstream media has chosen option two. They’re doubling down. The lesson they think they learned from their mistake is that they can’t allow a sliver of doubt to creep in. They actually think they were too easy on Donald Trump. They think they didn’t push enough of their narrative on Senate races. They think they now need to promote their agenda in full force, working overtime if necessary.

  • The media lies again.
  • Baby Boomers increasingly having their Social Security garnished to cover their student loans.
  • Snow falls in the Saraha.
  • Scott Adams on cognatize blindspots and worst-case-scenarios on global warming.
  • Obama to world: (10,000 word speech all about him.) World: (Ignores him). President Elect Trump: “Hey! Don’t do that! World: “Yes, Mr. Trump.” (Hat Tip: Chuck DeVore on Twitter.)
  • Of course, the entire issue is a final attempt for Obama to stick it to Benjamin Netanyahu out of personal vindictiveness, never mind how badly it might affect U.S. and Israel foreign policy. Because Obama is a spiteful, petty little creep.
  • Know who Obama doesn’t hate? Cocaine dealers. “President Barack Obama has commuted the sentences of 657 cocaine dealers since Aug. 3, a Daily Caller analysis reveals. That represents nearly 80 percent of the commutations the president has given since August.” I’m a “legalize it, regulate it, tax it” sort of guy, but the fact that admitted cocaine user Barack Obama would commute more cocaine dealers over mere mere marijuana users or dealers is more than a little odd. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • “Snopes Co-Founder Accused Of Embezzling Company Money, Spending It On Prostitutes.” And as Fark would say, “the rest he just wasted.” Bonus: Alleged prostitute is now allegedly a Snopes staffer. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Navy decision to use PC titles reversed. (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • F4-J retired from flying. From aerial target to ground target. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • This is the sort of story headline writers live for: “Pensioner pleases neighbours with his massive flashing cock.” (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Cthuloid horror devours the Pope.
  • Merry Christmas, everyone!

    Tanks For the Memories

    Sunday, December 18th, 2016

    Reading up on The Battle of the Bulge brought research on just how quickly the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant (where a quarter of all American tanks were built) was assembled.

    Here’s a video on how the the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant was built. If you can look past the Chrysler rah rah tone, there’s a lot of information on how quickly it was built and what went into building it (including 51,000 tons of concrete, and 13,000,000 pounds of steel).

    Skip ahead to 13:40 to see the first tank off the assembly line drive through a house.

    Evidently they started producing sample tanks six months after groundbreaking and before the entire building was finished. There were giants in the earth in those days…

    Here’s a video of the plant producing and testing M3 Lee/Grant tanks.

    The Grant/Lee tanks were well armed and armored when deployed by the British to North Africa, but the exceptionally high silhouette and extremely limited traversal range for the main gun meant they were quickly outgunned when German Panzer IV’s with their own 75mm main guns mounted in full 360 turrets hit the battlefield, and were quickly replaced by the M4 Sherman tank for European battlefield roles. (M3s continued to be used in the Pacific theater with great success, since it was superior to any tank the Japanese fielded outside the home islands before the end of the war.)

    72 Years Ago: The Battle of the Bulge

    Saturday, December 17th, 2016

    On December 16, 1944, Nazi Germany launched The Battle of the Bulge in a last desperate effort to stave off defeat. It failed due to a combination of stiff American resistance and German shortages of materials and manpower, but it was a hard-fought struggle. Next to D-Day it was the most important Western Front battle of World War II, but as it fades from living memory I thought it offered the opportunity for a reminder.

    What’s Happening in the War Against The Islamic State?

    Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

    The twists and turns of the election, Hillary’s corruption, liberal derangement over Trump’s triumph, etc. have pushed a lot of other news stories onto the back-burner.

    One of the big ones being: What the hell is happening in the war against the Islamic State?

    It looks like I’m not the only one to have taken my eye off the ball. Back when Bush was President, there was heavy mainstream media reporting on conflicts in the Middle East. But ever since Obama’s Iraq pullout engendered the rise of the Islamic State, American reporting on the conflict has been (at best) sporadic.

    Which is why I was surprised to see reports that Kurdish-led fighters were closing in on the Islamic State’s de-facto capital of Raqqa:

    As the Mosul offensive drags into its second month, another fight is raging 450km to the west around Islamic State’s de facto capital at Raqqa, on the Euphrates River in northern Syria. The battle is already a tragedy for Raqqa’s 320,000 civilians, who’ve suffered under brutal Islamic State occupation for more than three years. Many have fled, with thousands crowding into already overflowing refugee camps since the latest fighting began, and others fleeing across the hills towards the Iraqi border even as night-time temperatures plunge below freezing. Their lives, like those of families still in the city, are about to get even harder.

    The battle for Raqqa will shape the Syrian war throughout the coming year. Though smaller than the vast offensive around Mosul, it will be even more significant. It may decide the fate of Islamic State’s “caliphate” in Syria and will set the tone for the incoming Trump administration’s dealings with Turkey and Russia, two critical relationships that will drive events in the region and beyond.

    During a visit to the Middle East last week, I spoke to Syrian, Kurdish, Iraqi and American leaders involved in the campaign. They told me that while the military offensive is progressing about as well as anyone expected, the politics are proving characteristically complex.

    The troops fighting Islamic State in Raqqa come from the Syrian Democratic Forces, a rebel coalition backed by the US, among other countries. SDF units have received a stream of weapons, training and advisers since last year. Supported by coalition airstrikes, they attacked Raqqa early last month, timing the offensive (known as Operation Euphrates Wrath) to coincide with the Mosul assault, to stop Islamic State shifting reinforcements between fronts.

    The SDF has achieved considerable battlefield success. In the past month it has cleared 600sq km of rural terrain in Raqqa province, recapturing 45 villages and expelling hundreds of Islamic State fighters. Many recovered settlements are ruined, however, their populations massacred or driven off by Islamic State, or bombed out by Bashar al-Assad’s regime in previous fighting.

    The frontline sits just north of Raqqa city, in Ayn Issa district, where heavy combat (including coalition airstrikes called in by observers on the ground) has killed as many as 200 Islamic State fighters in the past two weeks.

    In the same timeframe, SDF spokesmen announced the recapture of the towns of Hazima, al-Taweelah and Tel al-Samman, north and west of Raqqa, bringing the SDF main force within 25km of the city’s outskirts, with reconnaissance teams pushing forward to the edge of town.

    Islamic State resistance is increasing as SDF advances, and most commanders expect a ferocious fight against a determined enemy once they reach the fortified downtown area.

    As the investment of Mosul has been going on for weeks, the battle for Raqqa will probably be at least equally slow and grinding, especially given the difficulties inherent in managing a diverse force of various factions:

    More than 25,000 SDF members — by far the largest faction in a force of about 30,000 — come from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the affiliated Women’s Protection Units (YPJ, an all-female combat brigade of 7000 troops). SDF also includes a few hundred Arab fighters from the Shammari tribal confederation, plus an Assyrian Christian militia and a small ethnic Turkmen force. The Shammari have a longstanding blood feud with Islamic State, which has massacred their men and boys and enslaved women and girls as it seeks to intimidate tribes in its region of influence. Christians and Turkmen are fighting for survival against Islamic State, which has engaged in genocidal slaughter against both groups wherever it has gained control. There also is a small secular nationalist force drawn from regime military defectors, the Free Officers Union. But these are minorities, perhaps 15 per cent altogether, in an alliance that is overwhelmingly Kurdish.

    Evidently the fighting is going poorly enough for the Islamic State that their spokesman urged their own soldiers not to flee Raqqa and Mosul. (That would be their new spokesman, the old one having been removed from office by a Hellfire missle.)

    There’s also indications that the Iraqi forces closing in on Mosul have cut off escape routes for Islamic State fighters, though Islamic State forces just launched a counterattack.

    Some have suggested that the Islamic State is preparing to retreat to a desert stronghold, in Wilayat al-Furat near the Iraq-Syrian border if it’s ejected from both Raqqa and Mosul. (This, as far as I can figure, is about where it is.)

    isis-desert-fortress

    More far afield, Libyan militias backed by American airstrikes said they have cleared Sirte, the stronghold of the Islamic State in Libya.

    One thing that may be making battlefield progress against the Islamic State possible: Cheap oil prices. Without excess petrodollars to spend, the Islamic State’s backers on the Arabian peninsula (not to mention Anatolia) may not have the spare cash to prop up their miniature caliphate.

    That said, the war against the Islamic State is far from over, and expected it to drag on into the Trump Presidency.

    Mad Dog Mattis Tidbits

    Monday, December 5th, 2016

    Now that President-elect Donald Trump has officially nominated retired Marine Corps General James Norman “Mad Dog” Mattis as his Secretary of Defense, here’s a roundup of some Mattis links:

  • How Mattis approached counterinsurgency operations in Anbar province.
  • How the Obama Administration pushed out four of the most gifted generals of their generation: “David Petraeus, Stanley McChrystal, John Allen, and James Mattis.”
  • Brief Forbes overview of Mattis, including the tidbit that “as the military moved him about the globe he travelled with a library reports say was about 7,000 books.” A man after my own heart…
  • Indeed, he penned a letter scoffing at the idea of being too busy to read.
  • Here’s seven memorable Mattis quotes. Like this advice to Iraqi tribal leaders: “I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you f*** with me, I’ll kill you all.” (Note: At least a couple of those quotes have been around longer than Mattis.)
  • No wait, here’s the 16 best quotes from Mattis, with some overlap. “Find the enemy that wants to end this experiment (in American democracy) and kill every one of them until they’re so sick of the killing that they leave us and our freedoms intact.”
  • A swell General Mattis Christmas story. (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • Heh:

    (Hat Tip: Dwight.)