Anti-drone Laser, the Navy steps forward

From Wired as so often, this came out the week of SAS(SeaAirSpace) in DC, a conference/exhibition by the Navy League (the premier Naval support/booster society.)

Lasers are used every day for cutting sheet metal, the main issue in weaponizing has become compactness, cooling, and beam forming over miles not inches. The line of sight, zero time of flight nature of its sting, along with some ability to vary your effect and to choose what sort of damage you do (shown in the video), low chance of collateral damage AND the low cost per shot make even a modestly powerful laser weapon a very interesting for ships deployed in zones where the threat can be very low tech but hard to discriminate from non threat till very late, or where you would rather disable than destroy.

Thoughtful, useful, analysis of the NorK problem

From the Thin Pinstriped Line, a good read and some reasonable analysis of the reality facing the NorK regime and the world.

An extremely cogent point is how the current situation is pointing out the limited usefulness of Nukes in the long twilight between proven technical capability and getting beyond only having enough to commit (a messy) suicide.


The Virtues of Stubbornness: Mules at War

The Virtues of Stubbornness: Mules at War

Lance Cpl. Tyler Langford, anti-tank missileman, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, leads his pack mule during a hike at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, Calif., Oct. 13, 2012. Langford used skills he learned in the Animal Packers Course, taught four times a year at MCMWTC. The 16-day course teaches Marines how to use animals in the region they find themselves in as a logistical tool to transport weapons, ammunition, food, supplies or wounded Marines through terrain that tactical vehicles cannot reach. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ali Azimi

Defense Media Network

Why DARPA has been working BigDog and other legged support robots, problem is that robots don’t eat grass, and can’t be grown on a farm.

China Aircraft Carrier / Navy needs proper context



Wired and others have been nattering about the Chinese carrier, it’s nascent flight wing, how crappy the hardware is, how hard the job is, etc, etc. working to defuse the China threat they think is being blown up by the Pentagon and congressional hawks.

Look at the two pictures above, the time from first flight to rational threat back ‘in the day’ was a few years, the big gun guys were laughing the whole time. That Fighter struggling off the Lianoning is a threat today if need be, and you do not have to impress an admiral to be able to sink his fleet. No it’s no realistic threat today but don’t make the mistake of equating little with none, the US capability with the capability required to be a threat, or today with forever. The US CVN capability is essentially static or downtrend, China is on the edge of asymptotic rise, with a century and millions of man years of prior experience across the world to pull up on. As other articles in have discussed, what really is a CV in the 21st century? So how long could it be till a Chinese CV threat is more than a wild card? Not long is my estimate.


Eisenhower National Historic Site

Ike and the Generals
By Evan Thomas Published December 16,

I like Ike more every time I read about him, I seems to me that he may well be the most under rated president of the modern era.  Many will say that he’s remembered for his glory in WWII and that this has covered up the fact that he was past it when it came time to be president and just yucked and golfed his way through eight years with no real threats.  And yet its was this period in the 50’s that was probably the most risky insofar as the chances of nuclear war went, because of Soviet Military Weakness and US Military Arrogance.  Evan Thomas’ argument is that Ike bluffed both sides into quiescence by essentially posing an all or nothing threat over everyone’s head.

Warning, my interpretation of what I’ve read in the above article and elsewhere:  Why would he have had to hold something over the head of his own generals?  Because they had developed their own power base (military industrial complex, remember) and were if not out of control, then out to control the narrative regarding the Red menace and the solution to said menace.  Ike realized that he did not have enough direct control over his generals to stop an accidental or ‘accidental’ escalation from taking place.  So he put forth a strategy of massive retaliation and pulled US forces back to positions where they were not in direct confrontation.  He then supported the technology that would give the president the best and most immediate information about the enemies capabilities and to some extent intentions (spy planes, spy satellites, the NSA etc) so he and future presidents would have the tools to keep the generals flights of fancy (missile gap, bomber gap, etc) in check.   He also started the process of professionalization of the nuclear triad that essentially created a grand strategy / strategic viewpoint that made it harder for high-octane hot heads like Le May etc to become threats to peace and human survival.

___ Damn it to Hell!! What was the WH / NSC thinking-doing?!?!

This is indicates a catastrophic lack of anything like decisiveness or decision making on the part of POTUS BHO and his staff. I include in total the disturbing post by Bob Owens of PJM:

The mainstream media is doing all that it can to avoid reporting on the Obama administration’s cover-up of the Benghazi scandal, where President Obama may have abandoned up to 32 Americans to die.

Fox News is the only mainstream media outlet to undertake a concerted effort into sorting through the spin coming from the White House, and they’ve uncovered some maddening claims — including the latest bombshell, a classified cable from the consulate in August wherein the Regional Security Officer (RSO) warned they were understaffed and under-gunned:

“RSO (Regional Security Officer) expressed concerns with the ability to defend Post in the event of a coordinated attack due to limited manpower, security measures, weapons capabilities, host nation support, and the overall size of the compound,” the cable said.

According to a review of the cable addressed to the Office of the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Emergency Action Committee was also briefed “on the location of approximately ten Islamist militias and AQ training camps within Benghazi … these groups ran the spectrum from Islamist militias, such as the QRF Brigade and Ansar al-Sharia, to ‘Takfirist thugs.’” Each U.S. mission has a so-called Emergency Action Committee that is responsible for security measures and emergency planning.

The details in the cable seemed to foreshadow the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. compound, which was a coordinated, commando-style assault using direct and indirect fire. Al-Qaeda in North Africa and Ansar al-Sharia, both mentioned in the cable, have since been implicated in the consulate attack.

When you begin looking at those who bear responsibility for the dead and wounded in Benghazi (four American dead, roughly a dozen wounded, including Libyan allies helping evacuate the consulate staff), there are three separate points of failure:

Failing to secure the consulate staff prior to the attack;
Failing to protect the consulate staff during the initial attack on the consulate;
Failing to protect the combined group of consulate staff, CIA operators, and Libyan allies at the CIA safe house after the consulate rescue and before the eventual extraction the next morning.
Failure to secure the consulate prior to the attack

There can be no mistake about it: the responsibility to provide security to embassy and consulate sites is the responsibility of the secretary of State. Hillary Clinton should be on the proverbial chopping block if the consulate did not have adequate security staff and and weaponry to defend itself, which appears rather obviously to be the case.

The consulate itself was selected because it had several buildings in the compound, and because it could house more than two dozen staff and temporary duty officers. Reports indicate that the actual number of Americans on site was far less than that on the day of the attack. Even after the CIA officers from the safe house a mile away and the eight-man Tripoli-based QRF were included, the total number of Americans extracted was only 24-32.

There are unconfirmed rumors that the White House itself interceded to override State to keep this dangerously low footprint in Benghazi. To date this is just a rumor, and would still not absolve Clinton of her responsibilities to provide adequate protection for diplomatic staff.

Failing to secure the consulate during the initial attack

At roughly 9:40 p.m. local time — after a Turkish delegation left the compound and was apparently allowed thorough Ansar al-Sharia checkpoints with 150 or more armed militants milling around — the attack on the consulate compound began.

According to an earlier Fox News report, the consulate staff immediately called for support (which never came), and the CIA operators at a safe house a mile away were twice denied requests before disobeying orders. They conducted a consulate staff extraction on their own, without military support.

By the time the CIA team from the safe house arrived, Ambassador Stevens had been taken, diplomat Sean Smith was dead, and several other consulate staff were seriously wounded.

The timeline suggests that if the terror cell had begun cutting off roads at 8:00 p.m. with easily recognizable “technicals” — pickup trucks mounted with heavy machine guns — and if the consulate staff was aware of being isolated prior to an attack, then they would have had enough time to call for military air support and an extraction team. The consulate staff could have become aware of the pending attack from the Turkish delegation that must have gone through one of the checkpoints, or from their own surveillance.

In either event, a flight of fighter jets from Italy could have made it to Benghazi prior to the start of the initial attack if they had been scrambled immediately, and AC-130 or MC-130 gunships could have been on-station within two to three hours. Handled aggressively, there is the slim possibility that a show of force from American airpower could have dissuaded the terrorists from launching their attack. Once the attack had begun, however, these air assets could have broken the attacking force.

Of course, the indications are that these aircraft were not on scene during the initial assault that killed Sean Smith and Ambassador Stevens. Fighter aircraft never arrived, and there is considerable ambiguity on whether a gunship was dispatched. The only known air asset was a Predator drone, which the administration claims was unarmed.

General Ham at AFRICOM in Germany would have been the military leader in charge of launching a support mission, and he had considerable assets at his disposal — from the aforementioned drones, fighter-bombers, and gunships to highly trained quick-reaction forces, including a Delta Force team. In fact, such forces would have had standing orders to start preparing a rescue mission as soon as Ambassador Stevens and his staff warned they were under attack. None of these assets ever made it to Libya.

General Ham is no longer the AFRICOM commander and is said to have suddenly not just left his command, but retired from the military. Some military sources familiar with Ham said it would not have been in his nature to abandon Americans in danger and that he had in fact ignored a White House directive in an earlier, still-classified rescue where the administration had left Americans undefended.

Failing to secure the safe house after the consulate rescue

The State Department failed to provide the consulate with adequate security staffing or weapons in the months and weeks prior to attack. AFRICOM did not launch any known assets as a result of the initial attack. Ultimately, both report to the Obama administration, and this would have been a scandal regardless of whether or not the battle ended there.

Of course, it didn’t end there.

After Ty Woods and his CIA safe house operators had evacuated the consulate staff back to the safe house, and the CIA QRF from Tripoli (which included Glen Doherty) and it’s allied Libyan militia ground force were back at the safe house, a second battle erupted, hours after the initial attack.

There were confirmed American dead, wounded, and missing (Ambassador Stevens) at this point. A large number of jihadi forces had been engaged. There was no question whatsoever that this was anything other than a terrorist attack.

There is no excuse for not having additional military assets deployed at this time, and if the claims that Woods was lasing a mortar team and calling for fire from a Spectre as Jennifer Griffin’s eyewitness claims, then at least a gunship was on-station and someone denied them the permission to fire. The mortar team then killed Woods and Doherty, wounded two more consulate staff, and at least seven of our Libyan allies.

Frankly, it doesn’t matter if the Spectre was on-station and was ordered not to fire, or if it and other air assets were denied permission to take off in a “stand down” ordered from above.

In any event, the buck stops at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, in the person of Barack Obama. It does not matter if he watched the attack live via the drone as some allege, or if he went to bed early so he could campaign in Las Vegas the next day, as others have alleged.

What does matter is that once a rescue mission starts spinning up, the president and the president alone has to give the authorization to send troops into another nation.

This is called cross-border authority. Obama declined to give it.

Barack Obama was responsible for abandoning more than two dozen Americans to die. The buck stops with him, and every plea he’s made for “a thorough investigation” is a bald-faced lie, intended to run out the clock until the election.

Green on Blue, Afghan Tribalism and Would Cyberdyne do better? (w/edits)

One of my favorite websites is StrategyPage it has a text only format news wire covering technical, tactical, strategic, operational, social, political aspects of the military.  An ongoing thread has been the Blue on Green attacks (Afghan  police or army members, killing US, NATO and other Afghans) .  One of the basic issues Strat Page point to is that Afghan society is by modern standards pathologically dangerous.  Most Afghans are probably clinically PTSD by our standards, and they few restraints on killing.  Murder rates are vastly higher than in the west, the main reason we never hear about it is that there is no one to keep the statistics.

This should not come as a surprise, it has a lot to do with their culture and their state of development, particularly the latter.  We used to be a lot more like them, except at the time it was bows and swords, not AK47s.   The murder rate in the west has been decreasing  precipitously for centuries. In feudal and pre-modern times, when the village, clan and tribe were the underpinnings of society, life was harsh anyway,  honor was all a man or family had, and the weapons were knives, clubs and fists (which are often more about hurting than killing and death was a random though not infrequent occurrence)  the killing/murder rate was many times what it is today.  The violence in clan and tribal (familial not trust based) cultures is higher than in the nuclear family/trust based cultures.  In fact I would argue that most of the US murder rate happen in sub cultures that never developed from or devolved back to clan / tribal structures.  Murder in the sense of the gentile English tea garden variety is rare and probably getting ever rarer.

This article What the Western media doesn’t say about green on blue attacks in Afghanistan : goes much further and broadens the aperture:

Recalibrating our perspective
The enemy that we’re fighting in Afghanistan is tribal. Their notion of the nation-state is almost abstract and, outside of the major cities of Kabul and Kandahar, essentially irrelevant to the people of the provinces where the tribe has been the principal social unit since before recorded time. The CIA estimates the literacy rate in Afghanistan at a shockingly low 28.1% of the general population.[ii] The tribe doesn’t recognise international borders when its members have familial ties on both sides that go back for millennia. Nation states may come and go but the tribe remains and nowhere is this more apparent than southwest Asia as a region and Afghanistan in particular. Alexander learned this the hard way after three bloody incursions 329 years BCE. So did Genghis Khan in the 13thcentury, Tamerlane in the 14th, and Babur in the 16thcenturies CE


Tribal alignments are socio-politically complex arrangements that are driven by principles of defence and survival. Tribe and democracy are incompatible constructs, a reality the modern Western militaries would do well to accept and build policy around. Tribal leadership and honour is everything; people do as their chiefs direct. They fight with total commitment the enemy they are told to fight, stop fighting when they are told to stop, vote for whom they are told to vote, plant wheat or opium as directed, and demonstrate a degree of social cohesion that is simply unknown to Western cultures. War and conflict are incredibly personal things to tribal culture and the tribal affiliations transcend any external relationships. This may logically explain how 500 Taliban and Haqqani insurgents escaped from the Kandahar prison in early 2011 without a single ANSF casualty; clearly the ANSF didn’t want to challenge the insurgents or were told not to by their superiors.

In this environment fighting a war in the traditional sense is almost pointless unless you have a clear eyed view of the situation and a long term plan to eradicate the problem not by violence alone but by uprooting the social structure. Of course there are many who would see this as abhorrent on its face…though the lives of those affected would be improved it would not be self determination.  It would also require decades and decades of money, toil and blood.  In our 140 character society with its plethora of supposedly quick changes we lack the ability to see that doing a hard thing like this requires incremental change over time, a million little wins not a handful of big ones.  This is the curse of our Big Bang mentality, and the failure of Westerners to understand that people from low development cultures are not  ‘us; waiting to be released from some shell of dung.   It takes decades of work to infuse the ‘memes’ that would underpin an Afghan society with the arrow of development going up rather than spinning down.

I’m not advocating this, I don’t think that humans have the ability to carry through the ‘plan.’  No society could wage peace-war for decade after decade maintaining the high moral and intellectual honesty as well as financial and material outflows that it would require while suffering the casualties and the continuing hatred of the the rest of the world.  See the fate of the British Empire..

We are going to pull out of Afghanistan in the main, given the surrounding hostility we cannot maintain a large force in country without the risk of something bad happening.  In a few years Afghanistan will be a near worthless wilderness patrolled by deadly drones ready to kill anyone who is seen to present a threat.  

And…maybe Cyberdine is the solution. The Terminator…the flying Terminator, the Predator.  With these reapers taking down any would be king Afghanistan might become a new frontier of wild east libertarian-ism. At first a place where the tribes can live if peace, or war, as they feel fit.  But under the unblinking eye will they slowly be brought to heel by the chains of modern life, solar lighting, cell phone commerce, TV, Googlepads, etc.

Maybe this is the plan behind the plan in the Disposition Matrix…..

Free Syrian Army | Counterpoint


As a counterpoint to Huriyet Daily’s Point of view this article; Guerrilla Country I linked to in Foreign Policy has a different take.  The article is fascinating in its details but the money item is this:

As a no-holds-barred battle rages to the east in the city of Aleppo, the pulse of the Syrian insurrection can be taken in Jabal al-Zawiya. This complex region of hills covered in olive groves and plains entwined with narrow roads of asphalt or dirt is the homeland of Hussein Harmoush, the first officer to publicly defect in 2011, and of Riad al-Asaad, the leading figure of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Here, the insurrection is deeply rooted in the social fabric: The war these men are waging is always present, and its path is inseparable from their identities.

The FSA’s lack of formal hierarchy appears to be an asset here, as it allows the citizens of the region to organize the insurgency locally and tailor their military response to their environment. Although the rebels in Jabal al-Zawiya recognize a general leadership above them — and though they place themselves under the FSA’s umbrella — these semiautonomous groups of fighters are organized along village and family lines. That gives them several advantages: They have natural intelligence-gathering networks, and they know the terrain like the palms of their hands, having relied on back roads for supplies and secret meetings for many months. These assets, coupled with basic military skills, have allowed them to drive a far superior foe out of the towns.

Now I am far from the sound of guns and have never had the ill luck to be any closer than in an airliner on the original 9/11 but this piece rings true to me.  That is not to say it’s a good thing or bad thing, it is a reasonable facsimile of a fact on the ground.  What it says is that the FSA is probably a lot more effective than numbers and weaponry might indicate.

The FSA does not need to have its boots on the ground everywhere as it has co-opted the local fighting age inhabitants into a cell based ground holding force.  This ground holding force is self-supporting, motivated and dangerous because of its local knowledge and backing.

The FSA assault groups can stay very lean and relatively disbursed and yet have considerable military effect   They can move through the held ground quickly even if on foot because they will have local guides, support and not need a significant logistics tail or carry a lot of food and ammo.  Of course that means they cannot carry out a stand up fight from the move but that should happen rarely since they have eyes everywhere.

That’s not to say the situation sounds good.  The picture and the description are unsettling.  This is a war very much like those in the Balkans during the partisan wars associated with WWI, WWII and the ColdWar.  A war of sects who until the dogs were loosed had lived interlaced with each other for decades if not centuries (not always at peace mind you.) Now with the emperors (dictators) military police no longer suppress all,  distrust and pent-up hate is unleashed and leads down an ever tighter and more destructive spiral.

This is what the US and others should have been trying to prevent, the fragmentation and violation of the populace to a point where their natural distrust of ‘the other’ will make it all but impossible to put a working multi-cultural society back together again.

Lebanon (Syria’s neighbor and sometime satrap) is another multicultural nation in name only, but it has learned to live with its divisions, hopefully it can teach Syrians how to live with theirs when the dogs of war grow sated.