Free Markets, Free People

National Security

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Lunch with SecDef Rumsfeld

I have to admit that when I received an invitation  to have lunch with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld while I was in town for CPAC,  I wasn’t sure what to expect.   As with most public figures I’d seen him from afar through both the lens and filter of the national media.  About 10 of us were invited in to meet and eat lunch with Sec. Rumsfeld and talk about his new book. 

It included a group of pretty heavy hitters in the conservative sphere, including Conn Carroll of the Heritage Foundation, John Noonan and Mary Katherine Ham of the Weekly Standard, Matt Lewis late of AOL and now with the Daily Caller, Ed Morrissey of Hot Air, John Hinderaker Rumsfeld2 of Powerline, Philip Klein of the American Spectator … and me (and yes, I was asking myself wtf am I doing here? The answer is a friend who managed to get me a seat at the table as a favor).

Sec. Rumsfeld arrived and immediately welcomed us and thanked us for joining him.  He was gracious, engaging, humorous and both forthright and informative.  The atmosphere was relaxed and convivial.   It was an hour or so that seemed to fly by.  Frankly I could have stayed there all day talking to the man – it was that enjoyable of a meeting.  And hearing the history of events I had observed and written about first hand from one of the decision makers was, well, an incredible opportunity.

He was hit with all the questions one could imagine in that short time, but perhaps the one that I most appreciated was related to his offering to resign twice and President Bush refusing to accept either (as we all know, he did, in fact, tender his resignation a third time and it was accepted). 

One of the resignations was offered after Abu Ghraib.  You could tell, even now, that Sec. Rumsfeld was still  both mad and upset about what had happened there, calling it “perverted”.  It had a very negative impact on the image of the military, even if the perception was wrong and he was bothered by that.

He said that after the investigation he looked for someone he could hang it on because he felt someone had to take responsibility for what happened.  But looking at the facts in the case there wasn’t really a single person in the chain of command he could validly point too and say “because of him or her, this happened”. He felt it left him no choice but to take responsibility himself.  He was in charge, it happened on his watch, the damage was extensive and he thought he should fall on the sword and resign his position.  President Bush refused to accept his resignation.

His point was about accountability, something he believes in strongly, but – as many of us have observed – no one seems to take very seriously anymore, especially in DC.  He felt then and still does that he should have been the one to be held accountable for the Abu Ghraib fiasco.  I thought that was pretty telling about the man and his sense of duty and honor. 

Rumsfeld1Ed Morrissey has  a lot more at Hot Air (Ed actually wrote his blog post as we sat there with Rumsfeld – Morrissey is a blogging machine) so be sure to give it a read.

After the meeting began breaking up (and I got my copy of his book signed), he spontaneously offered to take us around the office and show us the memorabilia he’d collected over the years.  It was an incredibly impressive tour (picture on the right of yours truly and Ed Morrissey hearing Rumsfeld tell us about each item).  This is a guy who has served numerous presidents in various capacities (to include two stints as SecDef) for decades.  Additionally, he served as a Navy pilot before getting into public life.

Anyway, one of the pieces of memorabilia that really struck a chord with me was a mangled piece of metal.  It was from the airliner that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11.  Rumsfeld had picked that up that day as he toured the damage, had it mounted and hung it on the wall in his office at the Pentagon so he could see it every day and be reminded of the job they had to do (you can see it below on the left– sorry for the Rumsfeld3photo quality, but you get the idea).

And while the meeting had a purpose, to publicize his new book, “Known and Unknown”, it was an event I’ll certainly not forget anytime soon.  Later that day, Sec. Rumsfeld received the “Defender of the Constitution” award at CPAC.  I think he’s very deserving of the award. 

While there were some things I disagreed with him about during his tenure – and I’m certainly not here to pretend there weren’t problems during that time -I have to say my perception of the man changed significantly with this meeting.  While I’ve had the book for a couple of days I’ve not had the opportunity to read it in full – only selected parts I was interested in for this meeting.   And to all you folks who contributed questions, I apologize, I was only able to ask one and it concerned the “you go to war with the Army you have” comment and the fall out.  When I brought it up, he laughed, pointed at me and said, “you’d better not say that in public, you might get in trouble”.

I’m looking forward to reading the book … I feel in know the era and events pretty intimately from the time I spent studying and writing about them.  It’s going to be very interesting to read his version (with almost 100 pages of source notes) that was 4 years in the writing.  I’ll be sure to post a review here when I finish.

~McQ

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Light Blogging–send me you questions

Two points: Headed out on the road for DC, so light blogging today and possibly tomorrow.

Point two:  will be having a lunch meeting (along with other bloggers) with former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld who published his book yesterday (Known and Unknown).

Save the snark and sarcasm for another time – if there are any serious questions about his time as SecDef you’d like for me to ask, put them in the comment section.  Serious stuff only – like I said, limited time for me, so I’d prefer not to have to wade through other stuff.  But this is QandO, it is a libertarian site, and I do know the strong anti-authoritarian streak that most of us have, so I’m not entirely hopeful … heh.

~McQ

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Air superiority and national security–two concepts that go hand-in-hand

"There has not been a single soldier or Marine who lost his life in combat due to a threat from the air in over 56 years."

Let that statement sink in for a minute. The reason we’ve not lost a single soldier or Marine to enemy air is we’ve maintained such a dominant edge in both technology, ability and numbers that no enemy has been able to challenge our dominance of the air over any battlefield on which we’ve fought since Korea.

The military defines air superiority as "that degree of dominance in the air battle of one force over another which permits the conduct of operations by the former and its related land, sea, and air forces at a given time and place without prohibitive interference by the opposing force.”

But that dominance and superiority in the air are in serious jeopardy.  In our drive to cut budgets, we are about to cut capability instead of costs.  And that could result in a serious threat to the war fighting ability of our military and  eventually threaten our national security.  There is a developing fighter gap and if it continues as it is presently proceeding, it may be unrecoverable.

A short digression to make a point.  There are two basic types of fighter aircraft in our inventory today.  One is the air superiority fighter. Its job is to establish and maintain air superiority so that opposing aircraft don’t pose a threat to other air operations and our ground forces.  Imagine how difficult the use of attack helicopters would be in support of ground operations if the enemy was the superior force in the air.  So that air superiority fighter works to keep the skies clear of enemy fighters to allow the second type of fighter to work under that umbrella.  That’s something we’ve successfully done for 56 years.

That second type of fighters is the strike fighter which is usually a multirole fighter with a mission of support for ground operations. They can deliver close air support or go deep and hit key targets that will help cripple the enemy’s ability to fight.

At the moment, we have a fleet of 4th generation air superiority fighters (F15’s, etc.) that numbers about 800.  Those fighters have reached the end of their service life and technology has advanced such that their effectiveness has been badly degraded.  The F-22 Raptor, a 5th generation air superiority fighter, was developed to replace the aging 4th generation fleet, and the original plan was to buy 700 of them.

The aircraft is expensive at over $300 million a copy, but it is the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world and maintains our edge over would be competitors/enemies. But with cuts in the budget becoming a priority, the Defense Department made the decision to limit the number of F-22’s it would buy to 187 and then shut down production. 187 5th generation air superiority fighters doesn’t even begin to replace the 800 4th generation fighters we have.  In fact, the Air Force has conducted over 30 studies which all agree the bare minimum that the Air Force needs to maintain a minimal air superiority capability is 260 F-22s. But the last F-22 has been made, the production line is shutting down and the high paying jobs it created going away.

We’re seeing much the same scenario played out with the other critical player in our fighter future – the F-35. Designed as a multi-role joint strike fighter, the F-35 brings advanced stealth and other technology to the strike fighter role.  As with any developmental aircraft it has had its share of problems, but now seems to be on course to fulfill the promise it holds to deliver an aircraft superior to all the other strike aircraft in the world.

But again, we see talk about cutting capability in the name of cutting cost.  The promised number to be purchased both by the US and it’s 7 partners continues to shrink.  We’re being told we can’t "afford" the F-35. The real question, given the possible ramifications of having too few survivable air superiority or strike fighters is can we afford not to buy them?

Certainly we can "upgrade" the non-stealthy and aged 4th generation fighters. But the emergence of competitive 5th generation fighters in Russia (T-50) and China (J-20) mean that as soon as the competitive aircraft are fielded, our pilots flying those old fighters are essentially cannon fodder and our ground troops become vulnerable.

While it is certain cutbacks in defense spending are necessary, they must not jeopardize our military’s survival or our national security. 5th generation air superiority and strike fighters are critical to both.

Those making the hard budget decisions to come must remember the opening line above.  Air superiority and the ability to deliver ordnance and survive are critical tasks that cannot be "cut" for austerity’s sake.  And we must ensure our military not only has the best fighters we can produce, but enough of them to do their mission of keeping our nation secure.

[First published in the Washington Examiner]

~McQ

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Eric Holder acknowledges homegrown threat but can’t bring himself to name it

Seriously, this sort of nonsense has to stop:

"What I am trying to do in this interview is to make people aware of the fact that the threat is real, the threat is different, the threat is constant," he said.

And the threat is from?

What was uppermost on his mind, however, is the alarming rise in the number of Americans who are more than willing to attack and kill their fellow citizens.

Yes?  And who are these Americans? What do they have in common?

"It is one of the things that keeps me up at night," Holder said. "You didn’t worry about this even two years ago — about individuals, about Americans, to the extent that we now do. And — that is of — of great concern."

"The threat has changed from simply worrying about foreigners coming here, to worrying about people in the United States, American citizens — raised here, born here, and who for whatever reason, have decided that they are going to become radicalized and take up arms against the nation in which they were born," he said.

Hello – what else have they in common?  What has “radicalized” them?

In the last 24 months, Holder said, 126 people have been indicted on terrorist-related charges, Fifty of those people are American citizens.

"I think that what is most alarming to me is the totality of what we see, the attorney general said. "Whether it is an attempt to bomb the New York City subway system, an attempt to bring down an airplane over Detroit, an attempt to set off a bomb in Times Square … I think that gives us a sense of the breadth of the challenges that we face, and the kinds of things that our enemy is trying to do."

Holder says many of these converts to al Qaeda have something in common: a link to radical cleric Anwar Al Awlaki, an American citizen himself.

And Al Awlaki and al Qaeda are both driven by what?  Al Awlaki is what sort of cleric?

"He’s an extremely dangerous man. He has shown a desire to harm the United States, a desire to strike the homeland of the United States," Holder said. "He is a person who — as an American citizen — is familiar with this country and he brings a dimension, because of that American familiarity, that others do not."

Holder said that as a threat to the United States, Awlaki ranks right up there with Osama bin Laden.

"He would be on the same list with bin Laden," the attorney general said. "He’s up there. I don’t know whether he’s one, two, three, four — I don’t know. But he’s certainly on the list of the people who worry me the most."

Yes, yes and what is the common thread between Awlaki, bin Laden, al Qaeda and the people who keep Holder up at night?

"I have to have all those tools available to me to try to keep the American people safe, and to do the job that I’m supposed to do as a 21st century attorney general," Holder said.

Holder said the United States has made great strides in improving its ability to detect and block attacks, which is shown by the number of would-be terrorists who have been stopped before they could kill Americans. The intelligence community is working around the clock, he said, with little time off.

Well acknowledging that every single one of the “terrorists” or “radicals” among the 50 or so apprehended this year was Muslim or a convert to Islam might go a long way in identifying the threat.  Osama bin Laden, Al Awlaki and the 50 Americans all have in common their brand of radical Islam.  Al Qaeda didn’t just pop up because it thought it would be fun to target and kill Americans, it exists because its followers believe in a radical brand of Islam that instructs them to make war against infidels.  And America is considered the infidel of infidel nations.  Ergo, it is their primary target.

Without the underlying thread of their radical beliefs, they have no real reason to attack us.  But, acknowledging that all 50 of the “Americans” were Muslim and the fact that all 126 arrested shared that same radical faith would mean acknowledging that Muslims are 100% of the problem.  Can’t do that and search granny at the airport (in the name of fairness)can we?  Can’t do that and risk the charge of “profiling” – something we absolutely ought to be doing until circumstance or evidence lead us to do otherwise.

Why is it we’ll subject our own citizens to degrading, humiliating and intrusive searches of their person at airports and yet we won’t do the logical thing necessary to actually protect our citizenry?  Profiling is done everyday in law enforcement – just ask about how serial killers are identified.  When a description of a perpetrator is circulated, it will have the perp’s gender, race and age.  That is profiling data which helps narrow the search.

To this point we haven’t had a non-Muslim attacker try to blow any of us up.  Why are we so shy about saying that “radical Islam” is the problem, and until they prove otherwise, the larger set of Muslims in the US are a potential threat?   How do you argue otherwise given the evidence?

Does that mean we should go on a witch hunt within the American Muslim community?  Of course not – but, we shouldn’t avoid the fact that the threat has consistently and exclusively come from that community and that until it stops, they’ll be views suspiciously, watched closely and receive the most scrutiny.

But we won’t.  Just as Eric Holder spent an entire interview avoiding the use of the words “Muslim” or “Islam”, we’ll continue to eschew the obvious and doing what is logical for the appearance of being “fair”.  Apparently fairness, not security, is our nation’s highest priority – at least for now.

~McQ

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Missile defense: a necessary cost?

Discussing the START treaty that right now is being considered by the Senate, the Heritage Foundation’s Conn Carroll reminds us and the Senators considering the treaty of some objective reality:

Senators should keep in mind this Administration’s hostility toward missile defense to begin with. Within months of assuming office, the Obama Administration announced a $1.4 billion cut to missile defense. The successful Airborne Laser boost-phase program was cut, the Multiple Kill Vehicle and Kinetic Energy Interceptor was terminated, and the expansion of ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California were canceled. Adding insult to injury, President Obama then installed long-time anti-missile defense crusader Phillip Coyle as Associate Director for National Security in the White House Office of Science and Technologyby recess appointment. That’s right—this President not only appointed the “high priest” of missile defense denialism as his top adviser on missile defense, but he did so in a way to purposefully avoid Senate consultation on the matter. This is the President some Senate conservatives want to trust? On missile defense? Really?

One way to make nuclear weapons obsolete or less desirable is to make them undeliverable.  That’s the purpose of the missile defense technology we’ve been developing over the years.  Then, when you negotiate a treaty like START you negotiate from a position of strength. 

Instead, we’ve seen a unilateral decision to throw missile defense under the bus, even while rogue nations like Iran and North Korea develop bigger and more powerful missiles every year.   Not to mention the fact that both countries are supplying the technology to others and, according to news reports, providing missiles to proxies and planning on basing missiles in Venezuela.

The cuts to these programs is short-sighted and ignores a very real and growing problem.  The Airborne Laser boost-phase program, for instance, has successfully intercepted ICBMs in the boost phase in tests and is able to quickly kill and engage multiple targets as they boost out toward their targets (a time when the missiles are at their most vulnerable).    It is the first layer in a multilayered missile killing system which would provide this country and its allies a virtually impenetrable shield against rocket launched nuclear weapons.

Instead, we have an administration going around killing off the systems that will protect us all the while telling us that START will do the job and we should just trust the Russians (and Iranians and North Koreans one supposes). 

The easiest way for a nuclear weapon to be delivered successfully is via an ICBM.   Killing off our successful and front-line missile killers like the Airborne Laser boost-phase program is short sighted and dangerous.  If President Obama wants START, make him negotiate.  Reinstate the anti-missile programs.  Then, the next time he or anyone else (hopefully) negotiates a like treaty, it will be from a position of strength that essentially renders rocket delivered nukes obsolete.  That would be a nice change from the obvious unilateral disarmament we’ve seen in the anti- missile shield area and a subsequent negotiating position of weakness.

That’s what our president should be doing, instead of giving away the farm for a piece of paper.  I wonder if the new START promises “peace in our time”?

~McQ

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Iran to place missiles capable of hitting US in Venezuela

Iran is again upping the ante in the game of brinksmanship it is playing with the US and the rest of the Western world. It’s latest move? An agreement with the anti-US regime in Venezuela to base medium range ground-to-ground missiles there.

Iran is planning to place medium-range missiles on Venezuelan soil, based on western information sources[1], according to an article in the German daily, Die Welt, of November 25, 2010. According to the article, an agreement between the two countries was signed during the last visit o Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Tehran on October19, 2010. The previously undisclosed contract provides for the establishment of a jointly operated military base in Venezuela, and the joint development of ground-to-ground missiles.

At a moment when NATO members found an agreement, in the recent Lisbon summit (19-20 November 2010), to develop a Missile Defence capability to protect NATO’s populations and territories in Europe against ballistic missile attacks from the East (namely, Iran), Iran’s counter-move consists in establishing a strategic base in the South American continent – in the United States’s soft underbelly.

Some of us are old enough to remember the Cuban missile crisis of the Kennedy era and the fact that we went to the very brink of nuclear war to prevent the USSR from establishing missile bases in the US.

Of course the USSR was a nuclear power at the time and so the possibility of  nuclear weaponry being a part of those missiles was both real and likely.  Iran, on the other hand, isn’t yet a power with nuclear weapons (or so say it and the rest of the world).  But it is anticipated that they will soon have that capability. 

So, if the report is true will the US allow the establishment of such missile bases in Venezuela?  And with the possibility of the regime in Iran developing nuclear weapons, the possibility they’ll “share” them with Venezuela has to be taken serious.  The agreement apparently allows Iran to establish a military base there manned by Iranian missile officers, soldiers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.  The base with be jointly occupied by Venezuelan military as well.

And then there is this bit of ominous news about the agreement:

In addition, Iran has given permission for the missiles to be used in case of an "emergency". In return, the agreement states that Venezuela can use these facilities for "national needs" – radically increasing the threat to neighbors like Colombia. The German daily claims that according to the agreement, Iranian Shahab 3 (range 1300-1500 km), Scud-B (285-330 km) and Scud-C (300, 500 and 700 km) will be deployed in the proposed base. It says that Iran also pledged to help Venezuela in rocket technology expertise, including intensive training of officers

Not only that, it is through Venezuela that Iran is planning to bypass UN weapons sanctions as well:

Russia decided not to sell five battalions of S-300PMU-1 air defence systems to Iran. These weapons, along with a number of other weapons, were part of a deal, signed in 2007, worth $800 million. Now that these weapons cannot be delivered to Iran, Russia is looking for new customers; according to the Russian press agency Novosti[2], it found one: Venezuela.

Novosti reports the words of Igor Korotchenko, head of a Moscow-based think tank on international arms trade, saying that if the S-300 deal with Venezuela goes through, Caracas should pay cash for the missiles, rather than take another loan from Russia. "The S-300 is a very good product and Venezuela should pay the full amount in cash, as the country’s budget has enough funds to cover the deal ," Korotchenko said. Moscow has already provided Caracas with several loans to buy Russian-made weaponry, including a recent $2.2-mln loan on the purchase of 92 T-72M1M tanks, the Smerch multiple-launch rocket systems and other military equipment.

If Iran, therefore, cannot get the S-300 missiles directly from Russia, it can still have them through its proxy, Venezuela, and deploy them against its staunchest enemy, the U.S..

So, thus far, this is what the US’s “unclenched fist” has brought.  A move by Iran – whether admitted or not – to establish a way at striking at the US should the US strike Iran.  Additionally, it has found an ally to help it avoid weapons sanctions and obtain advanced weaponry that would help protect it’s nuclear facilities from air strikes through a proxy (of course, training and maintenance and parts may be difficult to obtain should Venezuela buy them and send them to Iran).

Iran has obviously not been sitting idly by while the West contrived to choke it off from the weaponry it wants.  Additionally it has found a way to make any strike on their facilities much more risky for the US.

Anna Mahjar-Barducci of Hudson New York (Hudson Institute) concludes:

Back in the 1962, thanks to the stern stance adopted by the then Kennedy administration, the crisis was defused.

Nowadays, however, we do not see the same firmness from the present administration. On the contrary, we see a lax attitude, both in language and in deeds, that results in extending hands when our adversaries have no intention of shaking hands with us. Iran is soon going to have a nuclear weapon, and there are no signs that UN sanctions will in any way deter the Ayatollah’s regime from completing its nuclear program. We know that Iran already has missiles that can carry an atomic warhead over Israel and over the Arabian Peninsula. Now we learn that Iran is planning to build a missile base close to the US borders. How longer do we have to wait before the Obama administration begins to understand threats?

Her points are dead-on.  The unclenched fist, as we predicted, has caused the aggressors of the world to decide to push the envelope.  Believe it or not  And why not?  There’s no penalty evident for doing so.  As mentioned here at QandO, 2009 would be a year that the bad guys watched the new guy on the block and assessed him (weak or strong?).  If they decide he’s a weak sister, they will begin to test him in 2010 and 2011.  North Korea is right now in the middle of doing that and, as this deal indicates, Iran (nor Venezuela) has absolutely no fear of the US’s reaction to basing missiles capable of hitting the US mainland in Venezuela.  And START does nothing to address this situation, obviously.  Yet that’s the administration’s current priority.

The phone is about to ring at 3am.  You have to wonder when it does if it will just go to the answering machine.

~McQ

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DADT

I think it should be obvious – even to Sen. McCain – that DADT is going to be repealed at some point whether anyone likes it or not.  That repeal can be a purposeful one, implemented in a way in which the military can decide on a timeline and methodology by which to do so, or it can be by a court order that will end it immediately and not allow the military any control of the transition.

The Pentagon’s DADT study was recently published and it essentially concluded that most troops really don’t care about gays serving openly. That sentiment mirrors what most of the country feels as well.  The Pentagon report concluded that the threat to the force of repeal is “low”.

As I’ve said for years, when the dominant culture concludes sexual orientation isn’t relevant to job performance, that would eventually filter into the military.  If the Pentagon’s study is to be believed, that’s happened.

I’m reminded of one NCO who essentially boiled down the issue in a way that best reflects my feelings.  I’m paraphrasing, but he said that in the military there are two types of soldiers – those that are squared away and those that are dirt bags.  If a soldier is squared away he wants him, and he doesn’t really give a rip what his sexual orientation might be.  If he’s a dirt bag he wants him gone, and again that means straight or gay.

The top leadership in the military seems prepared to make the change.   The majority of the military, as reflected in the study’s numbers, seem prepared to make the change.  The experience of other nations, to include Israel, seem to indicate little risk in its implementation.

One of the things both sides have trotted out at various times in an effort to score political points when considering military issues  is  we should “listen to the generals”.  In this case I think that’s exactly right.  Repeal it and let them implement what is necessary to make the transition as painless as possible.  Refusing to do so leaves only the courts as an alternative.  And the courts aren’t going to give a rip about “transitions” or “time lines”, etc.  They’re going to order it stopped now.

John McCain said he was “open” to abiding by what the Pentagon study concluded.  That was apparently when he believed it would conclude something completely different than it did.  As far as I’m concerned, we’re making official something that has been the military’s dirty little secret for centuries.  That is we who have held command in the military have always pretty much done precisely what the NCO I paraphrased above said.  If you’ve been in the military for anytime at all, you’ve been in units in which gay soldiers served.  You knew it.  Everyone else knew it.  They knew you knew.  But as long as they showed up every day, in proper uniform, did their job to the utmost of their ability – i.e. “soldiered” – no one cared.

That should be the only standard by which we judge our soldiers, and we should make it the sole standard as soon as possible.

~McQ

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Defense: cut cost, not capability

One of the eternal claims of the left is that there is much that can be cut from the defense budget. Shockingly they’re right. At least in a meta-sense. There isn’t a government bureaucracy anywhere in government that can’t comfortably be cut, despite claims to the contrary. Defense is no exception. Secretary Gates plan to cut 100 billion from the Defense budget is both necessary and laudable.

But here’s the catch. Those cuts must address fat, not muscle. They must cut costs, not capability. We must address any cuts made carefully and in a way we ensure our future viability in a very dangerous world.

We also need to understand that whether we like it or not, we have the dominant leadership role in the free world. Abdication of that role could have catastrophic results for our nation and our allies and, in fact, for freedom around the globe.

Those are the facts.  And we need to understand that when the defense budget is addressed, a scalpel instead of a meat axe should be used. While it will be tempting to cut expensive programs as a means of achieving short term spending goals, their absence could, at some point in the future, lead to our defeat.

Take the F35 program for an example. The F35, known as the Joint Strike Fighter, is a 5th generation fighter that will replace many of our present day 4th generation fighters, such as the F16, F15 Strike Eagle and A10 (all designed in the ‘60s and ‘70s).  It is an expensive airplane. But there are reasons why it is expensive and those reasons are sometimes hard to explain to those only focused on the bottom line. But the fact that our potential enemies, Russia and China, are busily developing versions of their own 5th gen fighters should tell us about what sort of priority a program like that should have. Scrap heap isn’t one of them.

A fifth generation fighter is quite an upgrade from the 4th gen fighters we now have in that they include advanced stealth, exceptional agility and maneuverability, sensor/ information fusion, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment.  And these result in far greater survivability, situational awareness, and effectiveness for war fighters, as well as improved readiness and lower support costs.

The cost of the F35 appears higher than 4th gen fighters because the F35 comes as a package with all its mission equipment included on board – an important point that is rarely seen in discussions of cost. This puts the cost in line with current 4th Generation aircraft which do not carry their mission equipment in their price  (Targeting Pods, Jammer, EW System, Fuel Tanks, Infrared Search and Track and other systems). Currently that price is about $60 million a copy in 2010 dollars. And Lockheed Martin, the supplier, has transitioned to that fixed cost per copy 2 years early.

Many would like to argue that austerity precludes paying for such programs. They claim we can do this on the cheap by modifying 4th gen fighters and extend their life.  But consider this –in combat configuration, the F-35 outperforms all advanced fourth-generation aircraft in top end speed, loiter, subsonic acceleration and radius. Additionally, it is comparable or better than the best fourth generation fighters in aerodynamic performance in all within-visual-range categories and the F-35 outperforms all fourth-generation aircraft in both the “Within Visual Range” and “Beyond Visual Range” air-to-air combat arenas.

The  5th gen fighters of Russia and China will also out- perform today’s fighters. The question you have to ask is would you want your son or daughter in the cockpit of an upgraded 4th generation fighter facing that sort of threat? The obvious answer is no.

Defense cuts must be made. That’s the reality of this era of austerity. But it doesn’t have to be a conflicting priority to fielding the best for our future national defense and security obligations. Intelligence and the future needs of the nation must be factored in to the cuts anticipated in the defense budget or we could put our military and our nation at a terrible disadvantage in coming years.

~McQ

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Taliban attack in US imminent?

There’s apparently corroborated intelligence which says there’s a Pakistani Taliban operative within the US preparing to stage an attack similar to the Times Square plot that failed some months ago.

I would assume the newest terrorist has undergone much more intensive bomb construction training than did Faisal Shahzad.

Of course, making bombs isn’t particularly difficult nor does it take exceptional brain power or technical knowledge.  Any fanatic boob can be taught how to do it.

Frankly I’ve been surprised that we haven’t suffered a number of these sorts of attacks.  Perhaps it is because in the past, the terrorists have attempted to send in one of their own from Pakistan or Afghanistan.  In the case of the latter, unless extensive cultural training was done prior to the insertion of such an operative, he’d be like an alien landed on a new planet.  And then there are all the visa and travel difficulties to contend with.

Nope, the way you do this is how the Taliban is proceeding at the moment.  Recruit citizens from the target country to do the dirty work.  Like the 8 “Germans” who were just killed in Pakistan.  Or, Faisal Shahzad for that matter.

That’s probably the biggest hurdle – getting someone in country who can operate without raising suspicion.  They used to tell stories in South Korea about how easy it was for authorities there to identify North Korean agents – because of the culture they came from, they were just obvious.  And they didn’t last long in South Korea (any number of them defecting when they got a quick taste of the “decadent” South).

I don’t believe defecting is a particular concern, but it is a pretty fair surmisal that a rural Afghan would not fit in particularly well in the US culture.   So stage 2, that which is apparently underway now, is to recruit those who can move easily through the culture and society – US citizens of the Muslim faith they can radicalize.

That, of course, significantly narrows the group that authorities most likely have to concern themselves with, but it also smacks of “profiling” – a sin worse than seeing Americans blown up by a terrorist, apparently.  Of course profiling has been used successfully many times in chasing down serial killers and the like, but woe be unto authorities that admit it might be useful in chasing down a terrorist.

Anyway, the other aspect of this is the availability of bomb making substances and the ease by which they can be obtained.  Certainly after the OKC bombing some steps were taken to better account for the obvious substances that can be used, but in reality, so many bomb making substances are in such wide use that unless you had unlimited manpower and unlimited time to follow up every purchase of propane, fertilizer or other bomb making substances, the probability of someone gathering the right stuff in the right quantities is high.  That too is certainly better accomplished by a citizen than by an alien.

Finally, there’s opportunity.  The bad guys want to make a bloody statement.  That means a mass casualty scenario.  The opportunities for that are almost endless in a country of this size in which large crowds gather routinely for any of a number of reasons.  This is where constant intelligence and analysis are necessary to constantly monitor those opportunities as they occur and narrow them down to a small group of “most likely”.  Not an easy job. 

If, for instance, intelligence says that the terrorist is most likely to use a device like the Times Square (failed) Bomber, then he’s going to need an outdoor venue, not an indoor one – so you cross off all the indoor venues in the time frame.  Since it is likely to have to be vehicle mounted, perhaps outdoor venues where the crowds are safely away from the streets can be crossed off as well.  So maybe, for that day, they narrow it down to a couple of political rallies held in parking lots, or similar scenarios. 

That’s all good for that day only.  Next day starts the process all over again – in addition to continually attempting to identify and find the terrorist and his network (he’s most likely going to have some in support and logistics roles as well).  One needle in a multitude of haystacks.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand – if this is an effort by the Taliban, it seems ill timed given the reports of high level talks between the Taliban and Afghan government aimed at stopping the Afghan war.  Perhaps they are of the opinion that a successful attack here (and the promise of more if the US doesn’t get behind the effort) might actually help their cause.

Having watched the American people react to such attacks in the past, I’m not so sure that’s a great read on how to proceed.  Of course they could be aiming this at the leadership here which may be much more influenced by such an attack in the way the Taliban would prefer than the people.

Bottom line: be aware.  Per the intelligence out there somewhere someone is plotting American deaths in the US.  Nothing particularly new there and nothing which should stop you from doing what you want.  But understand as well, that this is the world we live in, keep your eyes and ears open and have a situational awareness about you that is tuned to security.  I’m not trying to scare anyone – heck you risk you life every day when you drive to work.  I’m just saying that this is and will be our on going reality for years to come.   May as well get used to it.

~McQ

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Quote of the day – "Post-racial" dumb quote edition

J

ake Tapper brings us today’s QoD from none other than our "post-racial" president while being interviewed in South Africa. The quote pertains to al Qaeda’s operations in Africa and in particular the bombings in Uganda.

"What you’ve seen in some of the statements that have been made by these terrorist organizations is that they do not regard African life as valuable in and of itself. They see it as a potential place where you can carry out ideological battles that kill innocents without regard to long-term consequences for their short-term tactical gains."

Per Tapper, White House aides explained that as “an argument that the terrorist groups are racist."  Not just generally racist, but their racism is aimed at blacks:

Explaining the president’s comment, an administration official said Mr. Obama "references the fact that both U.S. intelligence and past al Qaeda actions make clear that al Qaeda — and the groups like al Shabaab that they inspire — do not value African life. The actions of al Qaeda and the groups that it has inspired show a willingness to sacrifice innocent African life to reach their targets."

So what the hell was Iraq?  Who were the suicide bombers there?  And when the AQ operatives flew the planes into the World Trade Center, how many were “African” and how much “innocent African life” was sacrificed to reach their targets.

This is absurd.  Al Qaeda is an equal opportunity killing machine.  If they have a prejudice it is against all things western and all things non-Muslim.  Their method of operation is to use those locally they can recruit and, if necessary to import fighters.  But anywhere they’ve ever operated that haven’t given a rip about “innocent … life”.  In fact, their violence against innocents in Iraq was their undoing.

I can’t tell you how uninformed and, frankly scary it is to think our top leadership actually believes this stupidity.  Al Qaeda has a single purpose – to see their distorted, violent and totalitarian brand of Islam conquer the world.  And they will use anyone or kill anyone who will either advance that goal or stands in its way.

To pretend that they are merely another in a long line of racist groups and their racism is aimed only at Africans is to essentially say these people know nothing about the real al Qaeda, their history or their goals.  And that, folks, should scare the living hell out of you.

~McQ

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