Friday, September 04, 2015

Today's Reading Assignment

From migrant crisis to war, and in two years or less.  Today's reading assignment from FleetStreetFox of the U.K. Mirror:

It would be very nice if the world worked the way it ought to.

It doesn't.

The world works the way it always has - vicious and thoughtless, with occasional patches of decency.

That's why when children drown in their thousands in the Mediterranean we don't notice until one washes up under our noses, with a name and a parent.

And because we were surprised, we panicked. We put up fences, conflated refugees with migrants, threatened to deport them, declared we were full then with one dead toddler said: "Oh s***."

Had we thought quicker, and harder, we'd have set up migrant and refugee reception centres at the crossing points. We'd have given those in need a place to wash, visa forms and an option other than relying on the mafia.


While you and your politicians are having a moral panic, there's something else you haven't spotted.

War is coming.

And it's not the sort where the most exciting it will get is some video game footage on the evening news.

War, in all its horror. War that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, a war of superpowers, of modern technology and medieval cruelty.

The ISIS myth requires a crusade; they actively seek apocalypse, whereafter they expect their desserts in heaven. They will push us until our armies mobilise and give them what they want.

It might be a year or two, it might even be five, but there will come a point where war is our only remaining option. And the only fighting which will work is hand-to-hand, street-by-street, cleaning out the mess we created and allowed to fester for so long.

There are two problems with this. First, our army is one tenth the size of that obliterated at Dunkirk. We have not one operational aircraft carrier. Our air force is relying on decades-old planes and our troops include more officers than there units to command.

Sadly, the view isn't much different on this side of the pond.  "Festering" has been our strategy since at least 2011, when President Obama completed our withdrawal from Iraq, with little consideration for what might occur without a residual military U.S. presence.  

Indeed, we have subsequently learned that the Commander-in-Chief and his aides sought to downplay the menace posed by Al Qaida in a draft National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) three years ago.  The administration claimed (at the time) that the terrorist group no longer posed a direct threat to the United States. Only a strong push-back from Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency--and others--prevented the NIE from being published in its original form. 

As for ISIS, everyone recalls Mr. Obama's famous assessment about the burgeoning threat being little more than a "jayvee" team.  Three years later, the terror group is on its way to forming a true caliphate, with U.S.-led airstrikes having only a marginal effect on the group's expansion efforts.

And, if you believe President Obama is prepared to expand the war, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in.  He's quite content to remain on the present course, sustaining just enough military activity to keep marginal pressure on ISIS and refute charges he isn't "doing anything," without antagonizing the anti-war base of the Democratic Party.  Meanwhile, there's a library to build in Chicago and more rounds of golf.  

Even if he were interested in really going after ISIS, Mr. Obama would find his military options limited.  The number of Air Force fighter squadrons (and aircraft) have declined by more than 50% over the past 25 years, and the F-15s, F-16s and A-10s that remain are getting long in the tooth, and more difficult to maintain.  We have the smallest Army since before Pearl Harbor; claims of a Navy "expansion" under Obama are nothing more than an accounting trick, and we are now experiencing carrier gaps in places like the Persian Gulf and the western Pacific that demand a continuous American naval presence.  

What about the Europeans?  FleetStreetFox's comments on the U.K. military are slightly misleading, since the Brits are far more capable that most of our NATO allies.  Unfortunately, decades of cuts have made the British military a shadow of its former self, and many of our European allies have never funded their armed forces at appropriate levels.  

The old adage that NATO will fight "to the last American" has never been more true.  Unfortunately, U.S. leadership on the world stage is either non-existent, or directed towards "solutions" (such as the Iran nuclear deal) that actually create more danger.  

In 1683, European Armies under John III Sobieski of Poland turned back the Ottoman Turks at the gates of Vienna, stemming the Muslim tide in Europe.  As the next invasion unfolds, slithering amid a sea of illegal immigrants and refugees, it will be virtually impossible to find a European leader willing to stand against the tide--and find the forces to defeat it.  




sykes.1 said...

Sixteen years ago, European militaries were so debilitated that they could not intervenein Kosovo without American assistance. They are even weaker today. I suspect that one of the reasons Obama keeps backing off a Syrian intervention is that the US no longer has the capability to do so. Force projection is a thing of the past. Will all those carriers now docked ever go to sea again?

It would be of interest to know what the real American economy is. For 30 years or more, working class earnings have declined steadily, and they are substantially below the levels of a generation ago. Middle class earnings have also declined significantly, and even median incomes, which include the rich, have declined. These facts suggest that real per caput GDP is declining, too. And that means the resources available to the US government are declining, also. Hence the huge, permanent budget deficit in peace time.

We have kept the social peace by ever expanding welfare payments, which forces actual spending reductions in all other areas, including especially the military. So much for the Pax Americana. What happens to the social peace when we have to cut EBT etc.?

sykes.1 said...

I think it is fair to ask if we are capable of intervening in Syira, other than a few, largely ineffective air raids.

You say that the UK has one of the more capable militaries in NATO, but that is only a relative measure. Their army is all but disbanded--a single tank regiment of only 56 MBT's. NATO can muster about 400 MBT's in need, but as Kosovo demonstrated they can't move them anywhere for lack of logistical support. Our allies needed American AWAC's in Libya, and they ran out of smart bombs. Their war stocks are largely imaginary.

The US Army has also demobilized most of its heavy armor in favor of light infantry and Stryker armored cars. The Army is about to become a 1920/1930 force. Most of our carriers are semi-permanently docked and unavailable. The Marines are mobile enough to get into serious trouble. Etc., etc., …

So given Obama a break. He doesn't have the forces needed to intervene, and neither does NATO. The only military capable of intervening is Turkey's, and they are tacitly supporting ISIS.

We are fortunate that Russia is still recovering from the wreckage of the USSR and that China is only now becoming a blue water and long distance aviation threat. The US/NATO and Russian/Chinese military trajectories are close to crossing, if they have not yet already. It remains to be seen how extensive and how effective Russian intervention in Syria will be. They have already defeated the US/EU/NATO in eastern Ukraine. Minsk II is their plan for peace in Ukraine.