Questions and Observations

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 06 Mar 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the situation in Libya, and this week’s employment numbers.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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About a no-fly zone over Libya

Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson had this to say on one of the Sunday shows today:

Richardson made recommendations for that policy. "What I think the U.S. Needs to do is, one, covertly arm the rebels. We should take that step. Develop a no-fly zone."

"Some kind of no-fly zone is going to be necessary mainly to send a message to Libya’s military and Gadhafi that the U.S. and international community is not with them," he continued.

Does anyone know what all of that entails?  Establishing a No Fly Zone I mean.  We need a reality check.

Here’s a guess based on what I know has to happen to establish air superiority/air dominance (and this is being written quickly without any real attempt to research it) in an area.

First, intelligence has to be developed pinpointing both air defenses and where hostile aircraft are located.  That takes a little time.  Most likely that’s an on-going effort right now.

Secondly, a time and date have to be established and communicated to the Libyan government of when the NFZ will be established.  The obvious message is “if anything is in the air and identified as a Libyan military attack asset, it dies.”

Third, someone gets to go test it out to see what the state of Libya is willing or unwilling to do.  I.e. some intrepid pilots get to sortie into the airspace and see what the reaction will be. 

If they are fired upon by enemy air defense, then step four is a country wide (perhaps, depending where the NFZ is located) SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) missions must be run.  Step four may be run with or without a check to see the Libyan reaction to foreign aircraft introduced into their air space.

SEAD missions are usually a combination of cruise missiles and what used to be called Wild Weasel missions (they may still be, I’m just not up on the parlance).  The WW missions are usually the job of multi-role fighters toting HARM missiles.  Once a site lights up their sector with radar trying to lock on the WW, this missile is fired, locks on to the radiated signature of the search radar and follows the beam right back to the source.  Meanwhile the source is feeding missile sites the WW’s data and trying to knock it out of the sky. 

Once the air defenses are suppressed (which can take some time with a proficient enemy and mobile air defenses), then you can introduce air superiority platforms into the conflicted skies to keep other aircraft from flying.  Their job is to keep the Libyan attack air assets from flying in the areas designated NFZ.

And they can only engage hostile aircraft according to whatever Rules of Engagement (ROE) have been agreed upon and issued.  And then there’s the SAR piece to be put together.

That’s just the tactical portion of it (or at least the portion that comes to mind as I write this).

On the planning side of things, you have to determine, given the size of the NFZ, how many aircraft are going to be necessary to patrol that 24/7 until the mission is called off.

Now you back off of that and try to figure out A) where they’ll be based, B) how they’re be supported logistically and C) where that logistical support will come from.    Then you have to get it all together at the proper places.

Since you’re going to have to base out of the country, you’re talking increased flying time to get in an out of Libya which decreases the time on station/target.  You want to maximize their time on station, which means tanker support. 

If it is a multi-nation effort, like NATO, now add in all the coordination over an above the usual coordination problems that such an effort brings to the table.  Things such as what the share of the mission will go to each country, what logistics assets they’re going to have to share, who’ll be in command, etc.

Said succinctly, doing this isn’t something you just snap your fingers and boom, NFZ established.  I’m sure there are things I’ve left out.  But you get the idea.  Establishing an NFZ is a huge undertaking (and, as I understand it the first site for land based aircraft near Libya is 350 miles away).  And it brings me to something White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley said today about the same subject – something I agree with completely:

"They talk about it like it’s a game or a video game or something."

"When people comment on military action, most of them have no idea what they’re talking about," he said.

Precisely.  Most people and politicians are clueless about what it takes to mount this sort of an operation.

And factored in on top of all of this, are the politics of the situation.  We have to ask, do we really want American planes flying over Libya?  In fact, you have to ask, given the colonial past, do we want any Western aircraft flying over it?

Of course that leaves few choices as to countries that could capably handle it, but my druthers are that if the West decides a NFZ must be established, countries other than the US do it.

This is as much a European problem as anyone’s.  My guess is (and unfortunately I have a feeling this administration will play right along and eventually get sucked into it) they’ll try to lay it off on the UN with an eye on the US being the major participant in a UN backed effort to enforce an NFZ.

Of course that won’t stop the importation of civilian mercenaries into Libya unless those enforcing the NFZ are prepared to shoot down chartered civilian aircraft or unarmed military cargo aircraft.  And if the air route is cut off, I have no doubt that Gahdaffi’s minions will establish an overland route as an alternative to the air routes. 

Anyway, I understand the desire for an NFZ and the hoped for outcome – keep Gahdaffi’s fighters and attack heli’s on the ground so they’re not bombing and rocketing innocent civilians.  Got it.  The question is, is that our job?

I’m feeling a big “no” as the answer.  Time for others to step up.  Time for others to take the bulk of the action if there’s to be any (we could lend some tanker and other log support).  It would actually be good for the world for that to happen … to see the Western powers who’ve depended mostly on the US to be their military arm having to pick up the mission and conduct it.

I’m wondering if they could (I know the Brits understand how it is done since they flew Desert Fox missions with us).  Oh, and as a side note, every day spent dithering about whether or not to do it means another day’s delay in actually doing it (and it could take a few weeks to a month or so to get everything in place, depending on who is doing it).

But I’ve got to say, I’d like to see someone else do it for a change.

Wouldn’t you?

~McQ

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“Regime alteration” new US policy in Middle East?

According to the Wall Street Journal, that’s the outcome of “weeks of internal debate on how to respond to uprisings in the Arab world”.

To put it more succinctly, they’ve decided the “Bahrain model” is superior to the “Egypt model”.  I’m not sure I disagree.

In the Egypt model, the end result was the US throwing Hosni Mubarak under the bus … finally … and fully supporting the protesters.   Of course it didn’t end up pleasing either side in Egypt and it certainly didn’t please other Arab governments in the least.   They felt that President Obama had abandoned Mubarak and were worried he’d do the same to them as protests mounted.  The US eventually throwing it’s full support behind the Egyptian protestors had the governments of other countries very concerned.  Among them, interestingly, was Israel:

As Mr. Mubarak’s grip on power slipped away in Egypt, Israeli officials lobbied Washington to move cautiously and reassure Mideast allies that they were not being abandoned. Israeli leaders have made clear that they fear extremist forces could try to exploit new-found freedoms and undercut Israel’s security, diplomats said.

And there is evidence in Egypt that Israel’s concerns have a just foundation.  So, the administration approached the protests in Bahrain somewhat differently:

"Starting with Bahrain, the administration has moved a few notches toward emphasizing stability over majority rule," said a U.S. official. "Everybody realized that Bahrain was just too important to fail."

The reason it is “too important to fail”, to repeat the cliché, is because it is home to our 5th Fleet and other war fighting headquarters.  The fear was that if the government there fell, the new government would have ties and leanings toward Iran.  Suddenly “stability” became much more important than it had previously been. 

The solution hit upon has the goal of “help[ing] slow the pace of upheaval to avoid further violence.”

Why slow the “pace of upheaval?”  Well the most obvious reasons are to attempt to maintain stability and important strategic alliances while also attempting to persuade the effected governments to negotiate in good faith with protesters with the eventual goal of implementing reforms in each country which would make the government more representative. 

Yeah, admittedly, a little on the moon pony side.  The alternative choices, however, are few.

As the article points out there is a lot of opportunity for failure in this particular approach, but while it may be a lower probability approach, if it works it would actually end up strengthening the governments and our ties with them.  And in all honesty, there is no real “high probability” approach for the US in this situation.

However, the argument against it working are founded in some simple truths – A) autocratic governments don’t like to give up their power, B) people in revolt are leery and cynical about promises like that and impatient for change and C) a slower pace might allow other more destructive factions the time to organize while “negotiations” are under way.

Obviously, as one official said, this is all done on a “country by country” basis – with the obvious exception being Libya.  Libya’s in a civil war and it’s outcome is anyone’s guess – although, as I’ve mentioned, usually the most ruthless side wins, and right now the most ruthless side appears to be that of Ghadaffi.   Meanwhile the world dithers and discusses while the massacre proceeds.

Back to the new diplomatic approach.  Do I think it will work?  It might is the best I can say.  It obviously depends on good faith negotiations being a priority for both sides and a real willingness to make change.  Do I think that exists?  I’m not sure.  My gut reaction is “no”.  Instead I wouldn’t be surprised to see governments use the time such a policy offers as a means to consolidate their power while throwing a few bones to the protesters. Do I think it is worth a try?  Yes, given that the choices are limited and instability in the region is not in the best interest of the US.

But, let’s also be real about its chances – we’re talking about two very different views of outcome here (government v. protesters) and reconciling them wouldn’t be easy even if both sides were fully committed to good faith negotiations.  The question is have these governments been scared enough to actually agree to make significant changes or are they simply buying time and using the US as a means of doing so?

Old cynical me, again referencing Human Nature 101,  thinks it’s probably the latter.

~McQ

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Chavez’s relationship with Gahdafi says more about Chavez than Gahdafi

Hugo Chavez is really interested in pulling his good friend Moammer Gahdafi’s bacon out of the fire.  Did I say bacon – how insensitive of me.  Let’s just call it “fat” and leave it at that.

Yes, Hugo is good buddies with the guy who is in the middle of doing whatever he can to hold on to power to include bombing his own people.  And, of course, Chavez is also using it as an opportunity to blame the US and divert attention from the atrocities his good buddy is ordering committed daily:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has called for an international good will commission to mediate in Libya; in contrast the U.N. Security Council over the weekend voted for tough restrictions and possible war crimes charges against the Libyan regime.

On Monday, Chavez said Gadhafi, "has been my friend and our friend for a long time," in remarks broadcast on Venezuelan state television.

And in comments made on Thursday, Chavez described alleged preparations to invade Libya as "a madness, and in front of that madness, as always, the Yankee empire that tries to dominate the world, at the cost of fire and blood."

You’ve got to love a guy who can delude himself so completely.  He’s the prototypical autocrat.   And he’s watching tyrants very similar to himself falling one by one. 

And you have to laugh at how lame it is when he tries to push it all off on "the Yankee empire”, when we’ve got an administration that has been mostly silent about everything and was so timid that it sent a commercial ferry for its evacuees instead of using the military.  Yup, “the Yankee empire” is just dyin’ to lay a little “fire and blood” on the world.

So Hugo Chavez, now the head of the dictator protection league, peddles his “peace plan”, with an eye to keeping a mad man in power.

Yeah, that ought enhance his reputation.

~McQ

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Polls against Walker similar to polls against ObamaCare

One of the Kossaks has a post up about the polls showing WI Governor Scott Walker on the wrong end of them as he moves to fix the WI budget and curtail the power of public sector unions.

Poll after poll is telling Scott Walker the same thing: you are on the wrong side of public opinion. While early polling can fool you, we now have substantial data both from the nation and from Wisconsin.

[…]

The bottom line is that Gov. Walker has overplayed his hand with the public. Every Republican governor who is trying to curtail collective bargaining is at risk for being seen by the public as taking rights away, not balancing the budget. That can be done with givebacks (and the public is all for that, especially through negotiation.) But trying to curtail collective bargaining is seen by the public as the power grab it really is. The polls leave no doubt.

My reaction is, “so what”?

I mean I seem to recall poll after poll telling Obama and the Democrats that Americans didn’t want the ObamaCare monstrosity.  But we were reminded that he’d won and elections have consequences.

Is that no longer true?

~McQ

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Welcome to reality–Obama admin prepares for possibility of new Islamist Regimes in Middle East

Apparently the moon pony contingent is slowly fading from prominence in Washington DC and the administration is preparing for what now seems most probable  outcome in the Middle East – the new “post-revolt” regimes may be distinctly “Islamist”.   Note the word – not “Islamic”.  Most of them are that already.  The term used in the Scott Wilson Washington Post column is “Islamist”.  And Williams says:

The Obama administration is preparing for the prospect that Islamist governments will take hold in North Africa and the Middle East, acknowledging that the popular revolutions there will bring a more religious cast to the region’s politics.

However, apparently they want to diminish any concern by pretending that such an outcome isn’t really that significant:

The administration is already taking steps to distinguish between various movements in the region that promote Islamic law in government. An internal assessment, ordered by the White House last month, identified large ideological differences between such movements as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and al-Qaeda that will guide the U.S. approach to the region.

"We shouldn’t be afraid of Islam in the politics of these countries," said a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal policy deliberations. "It’s the behavior of political parties and governments that we will judge them on, not their relationship with Islam."

That speaks to a basic misunderstanding of the role of Islam “in the politics of these countries”.   Unlike Western countries, there is no “separation of church and state” in an Islamic country.   Islam is about politics, governing, the law, you name it.  It is as much a political system as it is a religion.  And that’s why assurances such as those the White House is putting forth here are just not accurate.   The “behavior of political parties and governments” are going to be fundamentally grounded in … Islam.

That takes us to the term “Islamist” which most have used to distinguish the broader religion of Islam to those who have hijacked it and made their version an aggressive theocratic and expansionist version of the religion.  Islamist included the Taliban and Al Qaeda as well as other murderous and anti-Western groups throughout the Middle East.

However, WaPo wants to assure you that it’s just not as bad as you think:

Islamist governments span a range of ideologies and ambitions, from the primitive brutality of the Taliban in Afghanistan to Turkey’s Justice and Development Party, a movement with Islamist roots that heads a largely secular political system.

Unmentioned, of course, is Turkey’s new belligerence and aggressiveness toward Israel and its seeming turning away from the West and apparent desire to be a, if not the, power broker in the Middle East.  The “largely secular political system” in Turkey is much less so than it was a decade ago when that party took power and it is likely to be even less so as it retains it.

But, you say, what’s made the administration suddenly take off its rose colored glasses and begin assessing anew the probable outcome of these revolts? 

None of the revolutions over the past several weeks has been overtly Islamist, but there are signs that the uprisings could give way to more religious forces. An influential Yemeni cleric called this week for the U.S.-backed administration of President Ali Abdullah Saleh to be replaced with Islamist rule, and in Egypt, an Islamist theoretician has a leading role in drafting constitutional changes after President Hosni Mubarak’s fall from power last month.

A number of other Islamist parties are deciding now how big a role to play in protests or post-revolution reforms.

David Warren made the point that no “Walesas or Havels” have emerged in these countries to steer the revolutions down the path of democracy.  And that’s true.  But the Islamist equivalents are emerging – and attempting to subvert the revolutions to their own ends.  And, as Warren points out, they have an advantage:

As we should surely have observed by now, whether or not the Islamists command Arab "hearts and minds," they are not only the best organized force, but the most ruthless. They are also in possession of the simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated "vision."

They don’t have to do much selling of their vision, they have the institutions and traditions of Islam to turn too and it just isn’t a very big leap from “Islamic” to “Islamist”.  Democracy and freedom, on the other hand, have no such institutions, traditions or leaders to turn too.  So when figuring probability, it is clear which scenario enjoys the most probable outcome.

Having been forced to accept the obvious, don’t expect the administration to give up all its moon ponies.  There will still be plenty of rationalization which ignores the fundamental differences between what “secular” in the West means, and what it means to Islam.   You can expect to see “Islamism” and “Islamist” defined down:

Paul Pillar, a longtime CIA analyst who now teaches at Georgetown University, said, "Most of the people in the intelligence community would see things on this topic very similarly to the president – that is, political Islam as a very diverse series of ideologies, all of which use a similar vocabulary, but all quite different."

Yeah, “Death to Israel” doesn’t mean the same thing in Egypt that is does in Gaza.  And Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban don’t necessarily represent what an “Islamist” regime would look like, do they?   And don’t forget, as they continue to try to throw Turkey around as an example of “not so bad” – Turkey has been slowly changing from a true secular democracy to an Islamist state.  And the change has not been a good one for the interests of the US.

The White House has an internal study that it is studying and is still believing that there are good Islamists and bad Islamists:

The report draws sharp distinctions between the ambitions of the two groups, suggesting that the Brotherhood’s mix of Islam and nationalism make it a far different organization than al-Qaeda, which sees national boundaries as obstacles to restoring the Islamic caliphate.  

The study also concludes that the Brotherhood criticizes the United States largely for what it perceives as America’s hypocritical stance toward democracy – promoting it rhetorically but supporting leaders such as Mubarak.

"If our policy can’t distinguish between al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, we won’t be able to adapt to this change," the senior administration official said. "We’re also not going to allow ourselves to be driven by fear."

Really?  Have you been watching the timidity with which this President has faced the change in the Middle East and N. Africa?  This sudden equivocation about “Islamists” is a statement of fear.  A firm stand against the Islamist movement taking over any of these countries vs. standing up for secular democratic movements in those lands is evidence of fear.  The equivocation about the word and the accommodation the administration seems ready to make with some “Islamists” says all that needs to be said. 

There’s a reason “Islam” and “Islamist” are defined in a particular way.  What the administration is trying to do is blur those lines substantially in order to make what was and has been unacceptable to the US suddenly acceptable (at least to the degree to which “Islamists” appear “secular” to these rocket-scientists). 

We have been at war with “Islamists” for a couple of decades.   Is this redefinition of “Islamist” the first sign of our capitulation?

~McQ

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February Employment Situation

Once again, the headline unemployment number for February, which droped from 9.0% to 8.9%, hides much weakness in employment, despite the 193k new payroll jobs. Indeed, the BLS’ own U-3 unemployment rate, which is calculated in a similar fashion to mine, increased from 9.8% to 10.4%.

For my methodology, the numbers look like this:

Civilian noninstitutional population: 238,851,000
Historical participation rate: 66.2%
Proper labor force size: 157,641,660
Actually employed: 138,093,000
Actual unemployment rate: 12.4%

At the end of the day, we need another 8 million new jobs to bring us back to full employment.

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How alarmists have hurt their AGW cause

Science is about discovery, the expansion of knowledge, how things work and what that means.  What it is not, or shouldn’t be, is an accessory to politics.  Politics isn’t about any of those things.  Politics is about the application of power to move things in a particular direction.  So when pure science teams up with politics to become advocacy “science” bad things are most likely to happen.

The IPCC report specifically, and climate science in general, are learning that the hard way.  James Taylor, who seems open to the AGW arguments,  asks the salient questions generated by the last IPCC report and subsequent findings.  Using  Godfather II as an analogy, he sets up the point:

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Assessment Report was as straightforward as Frank Pentangeli’s earlier confession that he had killed on behalf of Michael Corleone. “Milder winter temperatures will decrease heavy snowstorms,” IPCC reported.

That was in 2001. Now, however, with an unprecedented number of major winter snowstorms hitting the northeastern U.S. during the past two winters, the alarmists are clamming up and changing their tune faster than Tom Hagen can fly in Vincenzo Pentangeli from Italy to aid his brother in his time of trouble.

He’s absolutely right – there was no equivocation in the report.  A leads to B.  They said the same thing about hurricanes – warming would lead to many more and much more powerful storms.  Instead they’re at a historically lower level.   Glaciers, snowcaps, all sorts of predictions have been found to be false.

When James confronted the IPCC on this, he got the sort of mushy answer you might expect:

During the question and answer portion of the UCS press conference, I quoted the IPCC Third Assessment Report and asked Masters and Serreze if they were saying IPCC was wrong on the science.

“I would say that we always learn,” replied Serreze. “Have we learned a great deal since the IPCC 2001 report? I would say yes, we have. Climate science, like any other field, is a constantly evolving field and we are always learning.”

Really?  What happened to “the debate is over” and “the science is settled”?

For years, alarmists have claimed “the science is settled” and “the debate is over.” Well, when was the science settled? When global warming would allegedly cause Himalayan glaciers to melt by 2035, or now that it won’t? When global warming would allegedly cause fewer heavy snow events, or now that it will allegedly cause more frequent heavy snow events?

You can’t have it both ways and have it be called “science” can you?

~McQ

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TSA screens people AFTER they get off train?

This allegedly happened at the “Savannah train station” (I assume that means Savannah GA), after passengers had come OFF the train on Feb. 13, 2011:

Here’s a description [sic] of what you’re seeing  from the person who uploaded the video:

The only bad thing on our trip was TSA was at the Savannah train station. There were about 14 agents pulling people inside the building and coralling everyone in a roped area AFTER you got OFF THE TRAIN! This made no sense!!! Poor family in front of us! 9 year old getting patted down and wanded. They groped our people too and were very unprofessional. I am all about security, but when have you ever been harassed and felt up getting OFF a plane? Shouldnt they be doing that getting ON??? And they wonder why so many people are mad at them.

Make sense to you?

[HT: Me Again]

~McQ

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