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June 27, 2014

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whatever did cummings do with all those unused capital letters? Export them to improve our trade balance?

I always figured that cummings was typing his stuff on a typewriter with a broken shift key....

Mr. Kipling got attacked from both sides while he was alive. For the Left and the intellectuals he was an iron-and-blood imperialist (and a vulgar one for that matter), for the Right he was a notorious querulant, far too interested in the natives (and likely godless too*) and his writings were subversive to the true British spirit. Some never forgave him

If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.

*RK despised and mercilessly ridiculed the ruling 'muscular Christianity' ideology. My favourite RK book is Stalky&Co and it is full of this 'disrespect'.

But it is ages away from anything that could match the US. (Except if someone were insane enough to get us involved in a land war with them.) Consider, just for example, their naval air capability.

Yes, they could attack their neighbors. They may even reach the point where next time they attack, for example, Viet Nam, they have a shot at clearly winning the war. But there are no more easy targets (ala Tibet) for them to strike at.

First, you and Russell should look at this link: http://www.globalfirepower.com/

China has active duty forces of 2.2mm and reserves of 5mm plus. More to the point, the PRC has over 2K fighter and attack aircraft and 69 submarines (we have 72). We have roughly double the number of fighter and attack aircraft, but unlike the PRC, ours are either here, in Europe, or the Atlantic or otherwise unavailable in that theater.

Any foreseeable conflict with the PRC would be in their backyard, so to speak and thus a long way from home for us. This limits the US to whatever land based aircraft it has or can position in Japan, Taiwan, S Korea and our aircraft carriers. The high likelihood is that we would be outnumbered in that theater.

Outnumbered doesn't mean outfought. NATO doctrine back in the day understood that the Warsaw Pact heavily outnumbered NATO and planned around that with better, more effective tanks, aircraft, etc.

Fundamentally, the PRC cannot exert pressure on Taiwan or Japan or even S Korea unless it can achieve and maintain air superiority.

Some of the open questions are: 1. to what extent do the US qualitative advantages overcome PRC numbers in available aircraft; 2. does the US have the munitions reserves to outlast the PRC and 3. does the US have sufficient and sufficiently capable anti submarine and anti surface-to-ship missile capacity to assure the integrity of our surface assets and particularly our carriers?

During the Cold War I was a lot more current on relative strengths and weaknesses than I am today. What specific knowledge I have about the PRC, in addition to reading random articles from time to time, comes from conversations I had, and continue to have, with a fairly senior, active duty fighter pilot. I originally was going to lay out some of his bona fides but decided not to because his current assignment makes him readily identifiable. So, those who wish to do so can say that I am pulling facts out of my backside. Have at it.

I asked him what the current projection was if there was a full blown conventional battle between the PRC and the US and one or more regional ally(ies) in the far East. His answer, basically, is that no one really knows but that the outcome would be in doubt. A lot of planes and a lot of missiles would be in the air. We have a limited number of meaningful surface targets (a maximum of 6-8 carriers best case on location) plus land based aircraft. Our missile inventories would be limited to what was in place at the time the shooting started. We could, quite foreseeably, run out of missiles to shoot before the PRC did. That would be the end of it and possibly if not probably the loss of some number of carriers.

So, I disagree with WJ's statement. In fact, it is wrong. Naval air superiority is a misleading if not outright erroneous metric. Land based aircraft, for a variety of reasons, have a significant advantages over carrier based aircraft. Some of these include the obvious: you can sink an aircraft carrier, you cannot sink or destroy every landing strip on dry land. Logistically, aircraft carriers carry only so much in the way of munitions and can remain on station for a finite period. Not so land based facilities.

Not sure how the US needs a big military to cope with this. North Korea could do South Korea a lot of damage.

We would further deplete our limited munitions stocks, aircraft and trained pilots discharging our treaty obligations as well as the ground force equivalents in defending S Korea.

Note: Turkey, not Iran, is the dominant military power in the Middle East. And that isn't likely to change any time soon. Iran may be second, but they don't exactly have free rein.

I would say Israel is the dominant power, all things considered, but Turkey would be second. Turkey might be inclined to declare war on Iran if Iran were to invade and occupy parts of Iraq or Oman or Saudi Arabia, but then again, maybe not. Turkey would have virtually no ability to affect Iran if it were to mine the Straits of Hormuz.


Iraq was not a serious military player at the time we invaded. It took the equivalent of 20% of our active military about ten years to accomplish whatever it was we accomplished there.

The notion that Iraq's military was "not a serious player" was not the projection going in. Many who opposed the war were quite concerned that our casualties would be enormous and they did so quite often by comparing numbers of troops/tanks/planes without any discussion of qualitative differences between, say a T-55 and an M-1 tank, or a MIG 23 and an F-18. Which is why Iraq was defeated militarily in fairly short order with relatively light casualties on our side ("our" being the US and its allies)--modern, western militaries do a lot more with a lot less when it comes to battlefield superiority.

But, to give a different spin to your comment, I think it speaks more to the lack of a discussion on US strategy and needs to meet those strategic goals than it does the size and composition of US forces today and in the future.

So, if you're concerned about addressing a threat, whether real or not, from the likes of the PRC, I'm not sure your best-and-brightest 1.5M is going to get it done.

I don't think I said the 1.5mm was to address a threat from the PRC. Here is what I actually said: "At the end of five years, we would have 1.5mm troops available if something truly awful happened."

Something awful would be on the order of N Korea invading S Korea, Iran taking advantage of our distraction there making a move on Oman and the PRC moving on Taiwan and perhaps some Philippine interests because it perceived we were overextended.

That is, we could wind up fighting a multi-theater war. It has happened before. Moreover, war usually comes a surprise to us. In living history,two of our three largest wars--WWII and Korea--began with surprise attacks. If you credit the Gulf of Tonkin incident, you can arguably add Vietnam to the list. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was a big surprise as well. 9-11 is another example of a surprise hit setting the wheels of war in motion. Shit happens, out of the blue. When we haven't been ready, a lot of men got killed while we played catch up. When we have been ready, the battlefield part of it ended pretty quickly and, as stated above, with relatively few casualties.

Granted, we've learned a lot of lessons about when and where to fight and hopefully those will inform our long overdue discussion and definition of what our strategic national interests are. The problem is, some kind of crazy thing can and will come along that no one really foresaw.

My point about our troops is that if we actually cared about them we would support them with proper equipment, decent health care upon their return, and - perhaps most saliently - enough regard for their well-being not to send them into pointless and unwinnable frays.

Somehow, in parsing the quote from your comment that got this started, I missed this point. Maybe I was reading carefully enough.

However, yes, give them the proper equipment. We do this, for the most part. The question is whether we will continue to do so. As for health care upon their return, perhaps the current status of the VA (I can quote President Obama on the VA back in 2008) bears discussion. I would say this particular example of gov't as health care provider is somewhat telling. I agree that we are not doing what we are spending a lot of money pretending to do. Maybe the issue is competence. Where does that buck stop? Finally: pointless or unwinnable? I agree with both, but if there is a war with a worthwhile point to it, I want to be able to win it. I damn sure don't want to have to fight if we can't win.

Nobody that I know of in the nether reaches of the far, far, left makes this assertion, even pacifists. So where did you get this notion?

I got it from a number of sources: the calls variously for a nuclear freeze and/or unilateral disarmament, from discussions here in the past where various commenters have called for such things as a fifty percent reduction in military spending to a military limited in capacity to coastal defense. I have yet to see an articulated range of overseas national security interests the progressive left deems worthy of defending militarily, all else failing. It may be out there somewhere, but I haven't seen it.

McKinney:I have yet to see an articulated range of overseas national security interests the progressive left deems worthy of defending militarily, all else failing.

What's on your list? It seems defending S. Korea from N. Korea (because of treaty obligations?), Iran making a move on...something (Oman? Really?), and the PRC moving on Taiwan, perhaps some part of the Philippines. And, of course, a combination of all of the above - one opportunistically taking advantage of another (not that any of that happened circa 2003-2011).

The notion that Iraq's military was "not a serious player" was not the projection going in.

If I recall correctly, the consensus among the folks calling the shots was that it would be a cakewalk.

They were, unfortunately, and pretty much to a man, dumb-asses.

Iraq was, by any standard that also includes the US, not a serious military actor.

And yet, we ended up investing 300K folks in country just to barely keep the wheels on, until we left, and the wheels came off.

So, 20% of our active military, to deal with Iraq.

modern, western militaries do a lot more with a lot less when it comes to battlefield superiority.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the folks it took us 300K to deal with were the folks who were left when the modern, western-style military was disbanded after losing in the space of a couple of weeks.

The left-overs kept us busy for ten years.

The problem with having a finely-honed, extremely professional, highly capable military is that folks figure out ways to undermine those advantages.

You can't rely on other folks fighting the war you want to fight and are prepared to fight. They're gonna fight the war that suits their strong points.

But, to give a different spin to your comment, I think it speaks more to the lack of a discussion on US strategy and needs to meet those strategic goals than it does the size and composition of US forces today and in the future.

My point overall is that, if you're talking about multiple theaters, and warfare including the PRC, whether here there or anywhere, 1.5 active is not going to cut it.

My opinion, FWIW.

If we were to go to war with PRC, I've zero doubt we'd be reactivating the veterans in the Inactive Reserves more or less immediately. There would be a much deeper pool than the current 2.5m AD+RC, or McK's proposed 3.5m-ish, would suggest (although under McK's scheme, the Inactive Reserves would be presumably growing by an extra 300k/year, so it'd be deeper still, albeit full of much, much greener personnel than it is now). Of course, we'd only be able to provision for some fixed amount of servicemembers, so at a certain point we'd run out of material and the marginal value of additional personnel sharply declines...

In living history,two of our three largest wars--WWII and Korea--began with surprise attacks. If you credit the Gulf of Tonkin incident, you can arguably add Vietnam to the list.

WTF?? In my not-so-humble opinion - studying and teaching the Vietnam War since the 1960s - no one, but no one, seriously "credits" the Gulf of Tonkin incidents as a "surprise attack." We had already started building up our ground forces in VN, we were running naval patrols as close as possible to DRV waters, we were absolutely *itching* for any pretext for escalation. The best case interpretation (for defending US actions) is that the DRV foolishly responded to our provocations by firing on one of our vessels in international waters. The likelier one appears to be that the "attack" didn't even occur, or if it did it took place in DRV waters. (Cf. Germany's invasion of Poland, 1939, claiming they were fired upon?)

I'm not staking my claim here as to one interpretation or the other, but neither way was this anything remotely like the kind of "surprise attack" that would catch us unprepared for the conflict that follows. Invoking it here, even "arguably," hints at a desperation to make your point.

McTX: -modern, western militaries do a lot more with a lot less when it comes to battlefield superiority.

The US military does a lot more with A LOT more. (Money, I mean.) So maybe it's not a "modern, western military"??

Seriously, McKinney, if you can give me some of the names of the "many who opposed the war [who] were quite concerned that our casualties would be enormous" I will see what I can do about drumming them out of our librul cabal. They must be at least as dumb (or cynical) as the aluminum tube alarmists or the mushroom cloud nostradami.

--TP

What's on your list?

I asked first, still waiting for an answer.

If I recall correctly, the consensus among the folks calling the shots was that it would be a cakewalk.

They were, unfortunately, and pretty much to a man, dumb-asses.

Iraq was, by any standard that also includes the US, not a serious military actor.

And yet, we ended up investing 300K folks in country just to barely keep the wheels on, until we left, and the wheels came off.

So, 20% of our active military, to deal with Iraq.

No doubt, our military cannot hold a diverse and radical population in check for ten years--or it can, but just barely. If that is how you measure military effectiveness, we are simply on two different pages. The initial invasion and confrontation with Iraq's military went just fine, and no contractors to speak of were involved. It was the occupation--a gross miscalculation by the dumbasses--that was beyond our ability.

The US military does a lot more with A LOT more. (Money, I mean.) So maybe it's not a "modern, western military"??

Money is the worst metric by which to measure military size or effectiveness. We have to pay our folks more or less in line with what the civilian market will bear because we have an all volunteer army. The labor burden that goes into our hardware, software, etc likewise reflects the cost in US dollars, not yen or rubles, to build and maintain our stocks. And so on. But, it makes for a good rhetorical point if you don't drill down into reality.

WTF?? In my not-so-humble opinion - studying and teaching the Vietnam War since the 1960s - no one, but no one, seriously "credits" the Gulf of Tonkin incidents as a "surprise attack."

Which is why I said, "If you credit . . .". Notice the choice of words. I agree we were heading toward a war in Vietnam and that the GoT incident was a pretext. I think the senate vote "for" the GoT Resolution was pretty lopsided--was it all or just about all of the US Senate?

Seriously, McKinney, if you can give me some of the names of the "many who opposed the war [who] were quite concerned that our casualties would be enormous" I will see what I can do about drumming them out of our librul cabal.

I will, if I can find the time. In the meantime, it would take no research for the lefties here to compile their list of what is worth fighting for overseas--Taiwan, S Korea, mining the Straits of Hormuz? Pick your scenario or your country that the US should go to bat for--I'm all ears.

My point overall is that, if you're talking about multiple theaters, and warfare including the PRC, whether here there or anywhere, 1.5 active is not going to cut it.

Of course not--it would be a starting point and one much farther down the line than we would currently be. If you read my comment and analyze it, we would cut back on a standing army and beef up naval and air forces, which in the initial phase of operations would be critical to blunting another's offensive moves.

Of course, we'd only be able to provision for some fixed amount of service members, so at a certain point we'd run out of material and the marginal value of additional personnel sharply declines...

Very true. Absent a prolonged conflict in which we would have, in theory, time to militarize the economy (we are now at the extreme end of potential conflicts), we have what we have when hostilities begin. Thus the fundamental flaw in deep cuts in national defense spending. We set ourselves up for failure.

If that is how you measure military effectiveness, we are simply on two different pages.

I measure military effectiveness in a very simple way:

Was the goal achieved, or not?

If the goal was to defeat Saddam's army, full stop, then we succeeded. Our only mistake in that case was in not simply packing up and coming home after about a month.

Obviously, that wasn't the goal, and as can be seen by current events we did not succeed.

I'm pretty confident that the US could prevail in pretty much any straight-up our-army-vs-your-army punch up. The question is whether whoever our future opponents are will be kind enough to oblige us by bringing the fight to us in that form.

The dumb-asses were dumb-asses because they thought the straight-up our-army-vs-your-army punch up was the whole ball of wax. I.e., that simple on-paper military superiority was the full story.

Thinking the world is going to do what you want it to is how you get to be the stupidest f***ing guy on the planet. Not directed at you McK, just a reference to Franks' comment on Doug Feith, which is applicable to that whole gang.

What it comes down to is, military power is a tool. But, like any tool, it is good for some things, and marginal for some others, and useless for yet others.

In Iraq, the US military did what it is good at very well. And then, it was asked to do counterinsurgency and nation-building -- which is not what it is particularly designed for and good at. (It didn't do particularly well at it in Afghanistan either.) When you ask a pipe wrench to be a hammer, it may do OK, at least for a few nails. But it is unreasonable to expect it to do very well if you are trying to build a whole house.

Unfortunately, there is a significant segment of the population which deals with US policy who apparently think that the military is the answer to every foreign problem. (And that every foreign situation is a problem that we should "do something" about.) Note the cries of outrage when we didn't take military action in Syria. And the utter lack of acknowledgement that what we did undertake, to get rid of Syria's stock of chemical weapons, has succeeded in doing just that -- because it was done with diplomacy rather than military force.

Perhaps what we should be discussing is: What kinds of tasks should we ask the US military to do vs. what should we do via other means? And then, which approach should we take in dealing with any particular situation, current or possible? Only then can we say something sensible about how big (and what kind of) a military do we need.

I'm pretty confident that the US could prevail in pretty much any straight-up our-army-vs-your-army punch up. The question is whether whoever our future opponents are will be kind enough to oblige us by bringing the fight to us in that form.

That is one question. There are a bunch of others. One of which is: will anyone give us a try if they perceive the cannot prevail? I don't mean non-state actors, I mean nation states. Japan thought it could neutralize the US by sinking our fleet at Pearl Harbor. That was a miscalculation, to say the least. Saddam miscalculated by attacking Kuwait. One question is: what leads another country to miscalculate US intentions or abilities to react?

Is there any kind of consensus or base line on the left of what we should be doing in terms of preparing for that eventuality?

Absent a prolonged conflict in which we would have, in theory, time to militarize the economy (we are now at the extreme end of potential conflicts), we have what we have when hostilities begin. Thus the fundamental flaw in deep cuts in national defense spending. We set ourselves up for failure.

...and the fundamental flaw in deep cuts to domestic spending IOT finance unrealized military contingencies likewise set us up for failure, albeit in a different arena. We can't prepare to meet ever possible scenario perfectly, so it more than a little behooves us to be very careful about where and when we're prepared to do so. IIRC, the DoD is currently tasked with being prepared to simultaneously fight major conflicts in two theaters while maintaining current overseas security commitments. We can argue all day whether we're realistically prepared to do this (and pretty much all of that comes down to who we assume we're fighting), but I don't think we need - or should want - to be prepared for more than this. I honestly don't even think we need this level of preparation absent some clear-cut reason to believe such conflict is impending, and by that I don't mean "we're in an arms race with a frenemy". At that point military spend has devolved to a matter of prestige. Tradeoffs go both ways, and there's never enough money for both guns and butter.

Blah. When will I learn it's "write, proof, post", not "write, post, proof"?

McKinney: I asked first, still waiting for an answer.

You asked the "progressive left."

When I have more time I will try to post my own thoughts. But as a first cut, I will note that I would be willing to do without this sort of thing. I mean, really, an "Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement" between the United States and...the Union of Comoros?

I asked first, still waiting for an answer.

...and in return, I have asked for a meaningful discussion on what constitutes a "national security interest".

The fanciful "threat" of Iran invading Oman is not one of them.

I'm still waiting for an answer.

The only real "national security interests that the US has in the Middle East (including North Africa) are:
-- access to oil. Or, at least, access for some buyers, so the world price doesn't rise -- whether we can directly buy it there is irrelevant for such a fungible commodity.
-- support for those countries who in turn have a track record of supporting our interests (i.e. real allies). At the moment, that comes down to:
- Turkey
- Tunisia
- Jordan
- Morocco
- Lebanon (?)
- Somaliland (should we someday have the wit to recognize their nation and government)
That doesn't mean that all the others are enemies, necessarily. Just that they are not firm allies.

We doubtless have interests of other kinds there. But those are the only security interests that we have.

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