Idiots Driving World to War

A view of the Grace 1 super tanker in the British territory of Gibraltar, Thursday, July 4, 2019
Finian Cunningham
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Like a person going up in an escalator while asserting they are going down, the British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has a bizarre way of trying to assure Iran that war is not on the cards.

Hunt, who is vying to become Britain’s new prime minister, stated on camera that “he wants to de-escalate” the danger of a military confrontation with Iran over mounting tensions in the Persian Gulf.

That was only days after he vowed to dramatically increase Britain’s military spending and in particular, boost the country’s naval firepower  – citing Iran as the main threat to British commercial shipping interests.

It also follows news that London has ordered a second warship to patrol the Persian Gulf. Earlier this week a British Royal Navy frigate reportedly challenged Iranian military vessels (three small boats) after they allegedly tried to impede a British oil tanker entering the narrow Strait of Hormuz. Iran vehemently denied any such interference by its boats and claimed that Britain and the US were engaging in a provocation.

Given that the Pentagon has announced plans to send an international coalition of warships to the Gulf “over the next two weeks”, under the guise of protecting commercial shipping from alleged Iranian threats, it must certainly look to Iran like the “war escalator” is speeding upwards.

Hunt has previously asserted that British forces would join in any American military attack on Iran. The resonance of past Anglo-American skullduggery against Iran is no doubt palpable to most Iranians.

There seems little doubt that Hunt is playing the “hard military man” card in his grubby contest with Boris Johnson to become the next prime minister. Conservative Party members are due to vote later this month on who is to replace the hapless Theresa May.

Bumbling Boris is the favourite to win the party race. But Hunt is making a last-gasp bid to rally the rank-and-file with seeming credentials of being a “tough leader”.

This week he wrote in a newspaper oped: “As the son of a naval officer, I know a little of the sacrifices of these individuals and of their families back home.”

He then promised that, if elected prime minister, he would ramp up military spending by 25 per cent, or by £15 billion, over the next five years. He claimed the tensions in the Gulf with Iran are “proof” that Britain needs to overhaul its maritime forces.

That exorbitant indulgence of military spending will likely wreak havoc on public services and prolong years of economic austerity on ordinary Britons. But such is the ambition of Hunt to get into 10 Downing Street, it’s a devastating price he seems willing to make British citizens pay.

However, more damning is Hunt’s reckless gamble from inflaming tensions with Iran. Sending more naval forces to the Gulf at a time of knife-edge fears about a war breaking out is ludicrous, if not criminally irresponsible.

Over the past two months, there have already been numerous incidents of alleged sabotage on shipping in the strategically important Gulf which the US has blamed on Iran. An American spy drone was shot down on June 20 by the Iranians after it allegedly violated Iran’s airspace. That incident nearly resulted in, reportedly, Trump ordering airstrikes.

The seizure last week by British commandoes of an Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar has added to fraught nerves in the region. More so because Tehran contends that seizure to be an illegal “act of piracy” orchestrated by Washington and London. The refusal by Britain to release the cargo of two million barrels of oil – based on dubious claims of enforcing EU sanctions against Syria – would also seem to be a calculated insult to provoke Iran.

From Iran’s point of view, the British are permitted to hijack oil ships, but whenever its patrol boats even as much as approach a British tanker near its territorial waters, then London and Washington are crying “foul”. The flagrant hypocrisy is in itself another provocative goading.

Let’s be clear: the Buffoonish Boris Johnson would be equally as deplorable as the Silly Hunt. Both of them are unscrupulous sycophants to America’s President Trump and his crazed warmongering towards Iran.

Russia has warned that the escalating tensions in the Gulf could spark a catastrophic war. Potentially a war in the tinderbox region could lead to World War III.

Lamentably, Britain’s shambolic politics and its venal politicians are playing with fire in their pathetic plans for personal self-aggrandizement of power.

Hunt’s double-think posturing of “escalating to de-escalate” is a sure sign that this Tory toff should not be heading to Downing Street, but rather to a padded cell. Johnson could also qualify for a cell next door.

The backdrop to resolving the current madness for endangering global peace seems blindingly obvious. Washington needs to abide by the 2015 international nuclear treaty with Iran, lift the sanctions crushing the Iranian economy, and remove all warships from the Persian Gulf.

As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said this week, there would be no need for the US or Britain to “protect shipping” in the Gulf if these two states simply respected international law and norms of diplomacy.

It is insane and gut-wrenchingly tragic that world peace is being jeopardized by idiots like Hunt, Johnson and their puppet master in Washington. The only long-term solution is for the whole rotten political class in Britain, and the US, to be thrown out by popular revolt.

Views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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The plan of Marcks, the Barbarossa Directive, and Banderism in WWII

May 10, 2019

By Rostislav Ishchenko

Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
cross posted with 
https://www.stalkerzone.org/the-plan-of-marcks-the-barbarossa-directive-and-banderism-in-wwii/

source: https://ukraina.ru/history/20190509/1023546752.html

Ollie's MacBook:Users:O-RICH:Downloads:576a68edc36188751f8b45c8.jpg

There is a false opinion that is popular in narrow circles of Rezun adherents that the “unfortunate peaceable” Fuhrer, having suddenly learned that the USSR concentrated too many troops in the Western Military Districts, scratched around, and with the incidental divisions found near at hand was forced to urgently attack the USSR in order to not be attacked himself.

In practice Hitler gave the order to prepare an attack on the USSR already on July 31st 1940 (France capitulated on June 22nd of the same year).

He motivated his position not at all by the fact that the USSR was preparing to attack him, but by saying that the disappearance of the last major (alternative to German) military force in Europe will deprive Great Britain of hope for a result of war that is positive for it, and London will agree to make peace on the terms of Berlin. I.e., Hitler planned to “heal” the war that was already launched by him via a new war only because his calculations on the tractability of England after the defeat of France failed.

Directive No. 21, which approved the “Barbarossa Option”, appeared only on December 18th 1940. It became the development of the “Ost” plan elaborated by the General Erich Marcks, who was considered to be the best specialist of the OKH (Oberkommando des Heeres) on Russia. Marcks presented his reasons in August, but they did not satisfy Hitler, and the “Ost” plan was improved on the basis of the instructions of the Fuhrer by the group under the leadership of the well-known in Russia – thanks to the Battle of Stalingrad – General Friedrich Paulus.

Here it is necessary to make the reservation of the rather personal qualities of General Paulus. All of his colleagues recognised him as a well educated officer who was brilliantly prepared for staff work. But at the same time they nevertheless noted his obedience. Paulus always unconditionally obeyed the person with a stronger character irrespective of whether the latter occupied in relation to him a leading position (like Hitler) or a subordinated position (like the chief of his headquarters in the 6th army Major General Arthur Schmidt). Paulus executed orders irrespective of whether he considered them to be correct or nhttp://thesaker.is/ending-a-cultural-revolution-can-only-be-counter-revolutionary-7-8/ot. Thanks to this quality of Paulus, the deployment of troops within the framework of the “Barbarossa Directive” happened as a part of three groups of armies, and not two, as General Marcks proposed.

The matter is that Erich Marcks, apparently, was not only a great expert on Russia, but also a sensible staff officer who perfectly acquired the principles of the adventurous strategy of blitzkrieg, which allowed Germany to win at the first stages of World War II. Blitzkrieg assumed a victory by the smaller forces of a stronger opponent due to a concentration of troops (including all mobile formations) in strategic directions unexpected for it. The created local superiority materialised into deep breaches. The mobile formations supported by aircraft destroyed the rear, provided a loss by the highest headquarters of the leadership of troops, after which the front units found themselves in numerous cauldrons, catastrophically losing their fighting capacity, the organised defence of the country collapsing, and the fighting was turning into an operation to clean up the area from the remains of troops of the opponent, already demoralised and incapable of resistance.

This approach justified itself in Poland, in France, and at the beginning (in 1941) in the USSR. In 1942 the success of German troops on the Eastern front was local and didn’t have such a catastrophic character for the USSR. In general in 1942, despite large-scale defeats on the Southern flank, the Staff of the General Headquarters retained control over the situation.

The strategy of blitzkrieg was dictated by the general weakness of Germany in comparison with its opponents. Without going on adventures that were dangerous and fraught with instant defeat, Germany could not count on victories. But an adventure on the verge of catastrophic defeat, if it was successful, led to a just as catastrophic defeat of the opponent. This method is expressed in a proverb today: “He who takes no chances drinks no champagne”.

In full compliance with the strategy of blitzkrieg, General Marcks made a plan that was extremely adventurous, but in the event it was triumphant it promised absolute success. The deployment of “Ost” was supposed to be carried out within the framework of two groups of armies operating to the North of the Polesia swamps. In the South, Romania and Hungary didn’t have to enter the war, which provided the impossibility of an attack of Soviet troops through their territory. And in order to defend the Carpathian passes leading to Poland, there were rather enough small forces. The Polesia swamps, extending from the border to Bryansk, had to cover the open Southern flank of the attacking group. It was supposed to control them also by rather small forces.

Thus, the Soviet troops concentrated in Ukraine (40% of all potential and 50% of mobile formations) had to switch-off from active fighting until the attacking German army appeared on the outskirts of Moscow, in the deep rear of the Ukrainian group of Soviet troops. At the second stage (after capturing Moscow and Leningrad) it was supposed to drive the Soviet troops concentrated in the South towards the Black Sea and the Caucasian ridge and to destroy them with the assistance of the Turkish army, which had to strike them in the rear.

It is unknown whether they would have succeeded to implement this plan, but specific battles of 1941 show that, despite all its adventurousness, it could’ve been realised in the condition of strict fulfilment. During this period of war the Soviet troops proved to be good in passive defence, but no so good at deep and difficult offensive operations, and the command was catastrophically late to react to the actions of the enemy. That’s why the isolation of the large group of Soviet troops in Ukraine in the specific conditions of 1941 is not something unreal.

However, Hitler, who was always much more careful than his Generals, stated that he cannot fight without Ukrainian bread, coal, and metal, etc. He demanded the development of an operation taking into account the need to occupy Ukraine. Conscientious Paulus developed the “Barbarossa” plan, within the framework of which over 30% of German military power as a part of the “South” army groups had to operate to the South of the Polesia swamps (in Ukraine). At the same time, expeditious collaboration between the “Centre” and “South” army groups would be achieved only after arriving at the Smolensk-Chernigov line. This would reduce (although it didn’t completely remove) the general operational risk, but would also sharply reduce the chances of success.

The specific peripeteias of fighting in the Great Patriotic War were repeatedly parsed. The critical, on the verge of a Soviet defeat, situation of 1941 came to an end with the victorious battle of Moscow, after which it was a question only of what year, with what forces, and with what losses will the USSR crush Germany. But for us the transformation of the “Ost” plan into the “Barbarossa” plan is important due to the fact that if it wasn’t for the German occupation of Ukraine, we would not face such a phenomenon as civil war during the Great Patriotic War.

Traitors and collaborators were everywhere (in Western and Eastern Europe, in different regions of the USSR). On Russian territories there was a “Lokot republic” of Kaminsky, and besides Vlasov’s Russian Liberation Army, the 15th SS Cossack Cavalry Corps of Lieutenant General Helmuth von Pannwitz worked in the structure of the German army, and there was also the Baltic and Caucasian “SS legions”, even in Belarus there were its own homegrown henchmen, although the most part had to be sent from Ukraine and from the Baltics. However, in any region, including the Baltics, the amount of the local population that was at war as a part of the Red Army exceeded (some by orders of magnitude, and some by percentage, but all the same exceeded) the number of those who went to serve the enemy.

In Ukraine there was a cardinally different situation. In its central and its Southeast regions the picture was approximately the same as the average for the Union. But the Western regions, generally Galicia, were on the side of the enemy almost in full strength. It’s not a coincidence that after war the USSR couldn’t cope with banderism for a long time. UPA enjoyed the support of the local population. Even Banderist terror would be impracticable if it wasn’t for the support of the local population.

During the war about 1,200,000 Soviet citizens served in different military and auxiliary formations of the Wehrmacht, the SS, and police. From them, according to the data of the German command, 400,000 were Russians and 250,000 were Ukrainians. However, according to the same data, over half a million (nearly a half) from all collaborators lived on the territory of Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic before the war. The Germans simply considered as Ukrainians mainly Galicia residents or those people who officially adopted the ideology of Ukrainian nationalism.

Moreover, as was said above, collaborators from Ukraine and from the Baltics alone (three small republics gave in total 230,000 collaborators) were used to maintain order in other regions (in the regions of Belarus, Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and Eastern Ukraine, where their own collaborators were lacking in numbers). There was one essential difference between the Ukrainian and Baltic collaborators. A considerable part of the latter indeed fought at the front. The former mainly committed atrocities in the rear. The actions of Baltic police battalions outside the actual territory of the Baltics aren’t as known (there are several cases in Belarus). But the Ukrainian (Galician) punishers “glorified themselves” for both Khatyn and atrocities committed while interrogating members of the Young Guard in Krasnodon. Henchmen from Galicia were brought to Kiev, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhye, and Donbass, as well as to the regions of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic bordering with Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (Rostov, Belgorod), and also to Belarus.

I draw your attention to the fact that in the area of actions of Galician collaborators, 2/3rds of spaces are occupied by the Southeast and central regions of Ukraine, where their own collaborators were lacking in numbers. It is precisely this that grants us the right to say that during the Great Patriotic War the occupied territory of Ukraine became the arena of civil war between the Russian population of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (which became partisans) and the Galician collaborators. Banderism, suppressed after war, only went underground. In new conditions, with the collapse of the USSR, this civil war resumed, and rather quickly went through a cold stage and since 2014 has acquired open character.

However, there is also an even more important detail. During the Great Patriotic War the Ukrainian collaborators, performing punitive functions on the territories of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic and Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, already tried to transfer civil war beyond the border of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic – to set fire to all the USSR. Now, by talking about their “war” with Russia and about their readiness to carry out saboteur work against it, trying to establish ties with Russian marginal opposition and to create a terrorist underground on its foundations, modern Banderists again try to solve a problem that was not solved by their predecessors – to transfer civil war from the territory of Ukraine to Russia and to destroy the Russian State.

The defeat of Germany in war became a condition for a victory over banderism after the Great Patriotic War. The condition of a victory over modern banderism is a victory in the hybrid war launched by the US against Russia and now also China.

The U.S. Government’s Plan Is to Conquer Russia by a Surprise Invasion

December 11, 2018

by Eric Zuesse for The Saker BlogThe U.S. Government’s Plan Is to Conquer Russia by a Surprise Invasion

The following combination of articles explains — and they link to conclusive evidence proving — that the United States Government is actually designing its nuclear forces now with the intention to win a nuclear war against Russia (World War III), and no longer (if they ever really were) adhering to the idea (“Mutually Assured Destruction”) that WW III would produce unacceptable catastrophe for both sides, and must therefore be prevented. The U.S. Government is definitely set upon winning WW III, not avoiding WW III. Nuclear weapons are thus being built and deployed by the U.S. Government with the intention to conquer Russia, and this goal has become NATO’s mission, and its only remaining core function, though this fact is not publicly acknowledged. Here are these articles, and their key quotes, showing this:

1:  https://fas.org/blogs/

“Back in 2011, before the B61-12 development program had progressed to the point of no return, FAS sent a letter to the White House and the Office of the Secretary of Defense pointing out the contradiction with the administration’s policy and implications for nuclear strategy. They never responded.”

2:  http://www.voltairenet.org/

As from March 2020, the United States will begin to deploy in Italy, Germany, Belgium, and Holland (where B-61 nuclear bombs are already based), and probably also in other European countries, the first nuclear bomb with precision guidance in their arsenal, the B61-12. Its function is primarily anti-Russian. This new bomb is designed with penetrating capacity, enabling it to explode underground in order to destroy the central command bunkers with its first strike. How would the United States react if Russia deployed nuclear bombs in Mexico, right next to their territory?”

3:  http://www.unz.com/article/

The US nuclear forces modernization program has been portrayed to the public as an effort to ensure the reliability and safety of warheads in the US nuclear arsenal, rather than to enhance their military capabilities. In reality, however, that program has implemented revolutionary new technologies that will vastly increase the targeting capability of the US ballistic missile arsenal. This increase in capability is astonishing — boosting the overall killing power of existing US ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three — and it creates exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.”

4:  https://off-guardian.org/2017/

The U.S. government’s plan to conquer Russia is based upon a belief in, and the fundamental plan to establish, ‘Nuclear Primacy’ against Russia — an American ability to win a nuclear war against, and so conquer, Russia.”

CONCLUSIONS

The U.S. Government’s statements to the public, alleging that Russia is the ‘aggressor’, and that the U.S. Government designs its nuclear program only for ‘defense’ against Russia and other nations, is as much of a lie as was the U.S. Government’s statement in 2002 that Iraq needed to be invaded because the IAEA had found (which it never did) that Iraq was within six months of having a nuclear bomb. The U.S. Government is not to be trusted — no more now than it was then. And also the U.S. regime invaded and destroyed Libya, and Syria, and Yemen, on the basis of lies. No such serial liar should be trusted.

The U.S. regime’s real goal is conquest and control of the entire world — including especially Russia. After the end of the Soviet Union, and of its communism, and of its Warsaw Pact military alliance that had been established in order to defend against America’s NATO military alliance, there is no excuse for this. The U.S. regime’s guilt here is especially outrageous regarding Russia, because invading Russia would destroy the entire world.

The U.S. regime’s craving to control the entire world is sheer evil, and is ‘justified’ entirely on lies (such as the lie that Putin had “seized” Crimea — this being the alleged ‘justification’ for NATO’s ramping up troops and missiles on and near Russia’s borders).  One of these lies is that “Putin wants to conquer Ukraine”Only the grossest of fools could believe that. But it’s not just the Crimea-Ukraine issue where the U.S. regime lies: All U.S. sanctions against Russia are based on clearly proven lies.

Furthermore, the U.S. regime’s increasing moves towards a police-state if not toward ultimately military law for Americans, are drastically reducing Americans’ own freedoms, and this is extremely bad for the American people. The increasing percentages of the U.S. Government’s spending that go to the military have also been spreading poverty and concentrating wealth in the aristocracy; so, only America’s billionaires are benefiting from this imperialism, even within the U.S.

The United States Government is no ‘democracy’, and it has now become the enemy of the entire world, except of the regimes that rule its allied countries, but even its allied countries will be immiserated by such a war as America’s rulers are preparing, on behalf of the owners of Lockheed Martin and other such corporations.

The U.S. regime is the enemy of publics everywhere. It is the biggest threat to the world in all of human history, if Hitler’s regime wasn’t that. And it will be worse even than Hitler’s regime, if its military bases and personnel aren’t expelled from every country before the secretly planned blitz-invasion of Russia ultimately occurs. Only doing that could now prevent such an attack. If this won’t be done, then NATO’s invasion of Russia will. It has come down to that choice, for each and every nation.

On 20 October 2016, NBC News bannered “Philippine Leader Duterte Ditches U.S. for China, Says ‘America Has Lost’”.

On 1 May 2017, Global Research headlined an opinion-article, “No More Crimes Against Peace: Why Canada Must Leave NATO Now”.

Europe’s emerging competitor to America’s NATO is called “Permanent Structured Cooperation”, a dull name so as to avoid especially the U.S. public’s attention. It was announced on 8 September 2017, and then established on 11 December 2017, with a list of “Ambitious and more binding common commitments” and with 25 EU Member States (all of the 28 EU members except: UK, Denmark, and Malta), signing onto those commitments. Its creation was the start of the end of NATO. This has been inevitable ever since the U.S. coup in Ukraine in February 2014 and installation there of a nazi regime, which the U.S. regime had planned to become a member both of NATO and of the EU.

On 9 November 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted,

“President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the U.S., China and Russia. Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. subsidizes greatly!”

Perhaps Macron wants to keep France out of WW III. Perhaps, also, Macron wants France to be free to determine its own international policies without needing to adhere to the demands of America’s billionaires, especially the demands which America’s billionaires share with Saudi Arabia’s royal family and Israel’s billionaires,* such as to conquer Syria so as to install there a leader who would be chosen by King Saud and cooperate with America’s billionaires. For example: on December 7th, Al Masdar News headlined “Syria accuses US Coalition of completely destroying hospital in Deir Ezzor”. Deir Ezzor is Syria’s oil-producing region, and the U.S. regime and its allies want to steal Syria’s oil and they’ve therefore been trying for years to destroy the Government’s infrastructures and grab control there.

To understand the broader geostrategic context in which these daily events are happening, click here.

NOTE: There is a possibility that Ukraine might, on December 14th, invade its former Donbass region and provoke there a Russian response that the U.S. regime might use as a pretext to invade Russia, but I doubt that the U.S. regime yet feels confident enough that it possesses “Nuclear Primacy” so as to invade Russia at the present time. So, if such a Ukrainian invasion occurs, the Ukrainian regime, which was installed by the American regime, might turn out to be disappointed.

——

* On November 27th, “President Trump’s full Washington Post interview transcript, annotated” included Trump’s fullest explanation, to-date, on why he will not blame Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud for Khashoggi’s murder:

“They’ve been a great ally. Without them, Israel would be in a lot more trouble. We need to have a counterbalance to Iran. … It’s very, very important to maintain that relationship. It’s very important to have Saudi Arabia as an ally, if we’re going to stay in that part of the world. Now, are we going to stay in that part of the world? One reason to is Israel. Oil is becoming less and less of a reason because we’re producing more oil now than we’ve ever produced. So, you know, all of a sudden it gets to a point where you don’t have to stay there” (other than to do the will of Israel’s billionaires, and of America’s billionaires who also share in the control of Israel’s Government). An astute observer noted about that comment from Trump:

As Trump explains now that he holds not only the relations with the Saudis, in order to serve Israel’s interests, but that Israel is “a reason” for the US and its troops remain in the region. With that, Trump has broken a long-standing taboo, because the simple information that Israeli interests are the reason that the US and its troops are in the region, has so far tried to suppress the Zionist lobby with great force and quite successfully. After all, the naked truth does not sound good to the Zionist regime and its henchmen: rows of bombed and destroyed countries, thousands of dead US soldiers and many more cripples, trillions of dollars in costs, and what this all is about: Israel.

Like many traditionalists, that observer refuses to consider that the royal Saud family might be dominant over the Jewish billionaires, instead of vice-versa such as is the case because the Sauds control the exchange-rate of the dollar and the Jewish billionaires don’t even control much oil at all. But that’s a relatively minor disagreement, in the present context.

Furthermore, on December 8th, The Atlantic bannered “The U.S. Is Paying More Than It Bargained for in the Yemen War” and reported that the Pentagon had written to The Atlantic that (as they quoted from the Pentagon), “Although DoD has received some reimbursement for inflight refueling assistance provided to the Saudi-led coalition (SLC), U.S. Central Command recently reviewed its records and found errors in accounting where DoD failed to charge the SLC adequately for fuel and refueling services,” and the Pentagon refused to indicate just how much of that expense had been charged to U.S. taxpayers — that is, added to the federal debt. However, the Pentagon had to have known the answer to that question because otherwise the Pentagon wouldn’t now be demanding from Crown Prince Salman al-Saud this reimbursement. You don’t demand reimbursement unless you know precisely how much the demand is for. The likely reason why Trump makes this demand at the present time would be that with the public information now known about the murder of Khashoggi, Trump now has a vastly better bargaining-position to demand this money. Trump’s bargaining-position against al-Saud has been greatly improved. He represents both America’s billionaires and Israel’s billionaires. He does not represent the American public. In effect: he negotiates here for those billionaires, against al-Saud.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

With Regard to War, Trump Doesn’t Talk the Talk or Walk the Walk

With Regard to War, Trump Doesn’t Talk the Talk or Walk the Walk

WAYNE MADSEN | 18.11.2018 |

With Regard to War, Trump Doesn’t Talk the Talk or Walk the Walk

Last week, Donald Trump disgraced himself before his French hosts, US and Allied military veterans, and the entire world by remaining inside the residence of the US ambassador to France and snubbing a memorial service for US dead in World War I.

Donald Trump, who is undoubtedly the least intelligent man to ever occupy the White House, failed to understand the importance of the 100th centenary observations in France held to mark the armistice that concluded World War I. At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, the guns along the Western front in France fell silent. The war was entirely preventable but had been spurred on by nationalist fervor whipped up by kings, emperors, prime ministers, and foreign ministers who sent armies into battle to fight for the “honor” of their nations.

It was unbridled nationalism that led to World War I and it was nationalist feelings bent on revenge for being vanquished in World War I that ultimately led to World War II. Left unchecked, similar nationalist feelings being fanned today may lead to World War III.

The irony of World War I was that the monarchs of warring parties Britain, Russia, and Germany were all related. King George V of the United Kingdom was the first cousin of German Kaiser Wilhelm. King George and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia were also first cousins. And the Tsar and Kaiser were third cousins. Nevertheless, the nationalistic passions between Germany and its ally, the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the Habsburgs; Serbia and its protectors Russia and France; and the Ottoman Empire, allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary; and the United Kingdom, later allied with the United States led to the first modern world war.

In 1914, the ground was set for a conflagration. All that was needed to set off the tinderbox was a flame. That match was struck in 1914 when Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the heir to the Habsburg throne, and his wife, Duchess Sophie of Hohenberg, were assassinated in Sarajevo, in Austrian-ruled Bosnia, by a Serbian nationalist named Gavrilo Princip. Austria-Hungary not only blamed Serbia and a Serb terrorist group, the Black Hand, for carrying out the assassination but also implicated the Russian military attaché’s office in Belgrade, Serbia. Accusations that Serbia and Russia were behind the assassinations of the Archduke and Duchess were unfounded. Nevertheless, this “conspiracy theory” of 1914 eventually led to the direct deaths of almost 20 million people around the world. Add the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, which is believed to have been spread by troops returning home from the war fronts, and the indirect war dead count climbs to an additional 100 million.

Compare the Sarajevo conspiracy theory of 1914 to several that exist today, including accusations that Russia perpetrated biological warfare attacks on individuals in England and that Russian forces shot down Malaysian Airlines flight 17 over Ukraine, and we see the same irresponsible allegations about state-sponsored acts of violence that triggered World War I. In 1914, warfare led to the use of chemical and, quite possibly, biological weapons. World War II, the cause of which is nested in World War I’s aftermath, led to the use of nuclear weapons. It is unthinkable what a World War III might lead to.

Since Russia was Serbia’s patron, the Austro-Hungarians believed Serbia’s protector, Russia, and even Romania were behind the assassination plot. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Since Russia and France were pledged to defend Serbia, they declared war on Austria-Hungary, prompting Germany to honor its alliance with the Habsburgs and declare war on Serbia, Russia, and France. Eventually, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Greece, and Britain entered the war in an alliance with Russia and France. The Ottoman Empire backed the Central Powers of Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Bulgaria. The United States entered the war in 1917 on the side of Britain and France.

For all the warring parties, “the other” meant their “nefarious” enemies. Extreme nationalism took an ugly turn. For the Austrians and Germans, “the other” was the “barbaric” Slavs. For the British, French, Russians, Italians, and, eventually, the Americans, “the other” was the “beastly” Germanic “Huns.” For the Ottoman Turks, “the other” was the nomadic, “uncivilized,” and “cruel” Arabs. The Greeks and Serbs, “the other” was the Ottomans Muslim “hordes” ready to re-occupy the Balkans and eradicate Christianity. And, so it went, until over 18 million military and civilian personnel were killed. World War I was the result of blaming “the other” for whatever atrocity could be conjured up by the propaganda machinery of the era. It was a case of extreme nationalism running rampant. At the end of the conflict, the royal houses of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire fell, but the nationalistic blame game continued.

Aspirant peoples, with nationalism as their trumpet, rose from the battlefields of World War I to demand independence. Some of these nations, including Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Yugoslavia), were recognized at Versailles. Others, like Kurdistan, the Emirate of Darfur, the Dervish State of Somaliland, Tuareg Confederation, Zayan Confederation of the Berbers, the Emirate of Jabal Shammar (moderate rivals of the Saudis), Balochistan, and Vietnam, were not granted independence, a decision that would lead to war outbreaks later in the 20th century.

At the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, statesmen, including US President Woodrow Wilson, gathered to draw new borders, grant aspirant nations their independence, and establish an international body – the League of Nations – to serve as a place for dialogue to prevent war. However, the Treaty of Versailles also, inadvertently, laid the ground for World War II. Wilson could never convince the isolationist “America Firsters” in the Republican Party to commit the United States to membership of the League of Nations. America’s absence from the League denied the organization the universality it desired. Today, President Donald Trump is ripping up treaty after treaty, withdrawing from various United Nations agencies and agreements, and sending troops to the US southern border to meet a bogus threat that Central American asylum seekers are planning an “invasion” of the United States. Trump, who fancies himself as an American “nationalist,” has seen “the other” in women and children escaping political violence and economic stagnation in countries where dictators and death squads are propped up by the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency.

Brutal reparations demanded from Germany by the victorious Allies at Versailles, as well as German disarmament, gave rise to someone who would blame “the other” for Germany’s miseries, which were accentuated by the economic depression of the 1920s.

For Adolf Hitler, a wounded veteran of the “war to end all wars,” “the other” was the “Jews,” aided and abetted by Bolsheviks and “international bankers.” Hitler blamed them all for Germany’s surrender in World War I and its subsequent economic collapse. The world failed to learn the lessons of World War I.

At a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to mark the 1918 armistice, French President Emmanuel Macron told the collected world leaders, including an uncomfortable Trump, that “patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism.” Macron hosted a November 11-13 Paris Peace Forum for 84 world leaders in Paris for the World War I centenary. They included Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Moroccan King Mohammed VI, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The forum’s itinerary, including a keynote speech by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, touched on topics ranging from climate change and rising nationalism to abusive corporations and human rights.

In addition to skipping a ceremony at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery outside of Paris, where the remains of thousands of American soldiers who died at the Battle of Belleau Wood are buried, Trump boycotted the Paris Peace Forum.

Trump, like the doomed monarchs of early 20th century Europe, the fascist dictators who rose to power in the interbellum period, and the tyrants of today, blames “the other” for everything he can imagine.

Trump wanted nothing to do with the Paris Peace Forum. His former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is finalizing plans, along with Belgian, French, German, Austrian, Brazilian, British, white South African and Rhodesian, Hungarian, Serbian, Canadian, Australian, and fascisti Italian far-right wingers, to establish a Fascist International, called “The Movement,” in Brussels early next year. It is among these far-right wing politicians where Trump will feel most at home. One hundred years after the end of World War I, we should all have progressed to a point where we no longer pay heed to the Trumps, Bannons, and others who find always find blame in “the other.”

Decoding the hypersonic Putin on a day of remembrance

Image result for end of World War I, Putin and Trump
November 14, 2018Decoding the hypersonic Putin on a day of remembrance

Sitting alongside French President Macron during the 100th anniversary to commemorate the end of World War I, Putin and Trump stole the show in Paris

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with The Asia Times by special agreement with the author)

The Elysee Palace protocol was implacable. Nobody in Paris would be allowed to steal the spotlight away from the host, President Emmanuel Macron, during the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day marking the end of World War I.

After all, Macron was investing all his political capital as he visited multiple World War I battlefields while warning against the rise of nationalism and a surge in right-wing populism across the West. He was careful to always place the emphasis on praising “patriotism.”

A battle of ideas now rages across Europe, epitomized by the clash between the globalist Macron and populism icon Matteo Salvini, the Italian interior minister. Salvini abhors the Brussels system. Macron is stepping up his defense of a “sovereign Europe.”

And much to the horror of the US establishment, Macron proposes a real “European army” capable of autonomous self-defense side by side with a “real security dialogue with Russia.”

Yet all these “strategic autonomy” ideals collapse when you must share the stage, live, with the undisputed stars of the global show: President Donald  Trump and President Vladimir Putin.

So the optics in Paris were not exactly of a Yalta 2.0 conference. There were no holds barred to keep Trump and Putin apart. Seating arrangements featured, from left to right, Trump, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Macron, his wife Brigitte and Putin. Neither Trump nor Putin, for different reasons, took part in a “walking in the rain” stunt evoking peace.

And yet they connected. Sir Peter Cosgrove, the governor general of Australia, confirmed that Trump and Putin, at a working lunch, had a “lively and friendly” conversation for at least half an hour.

No one better than Putin himself to reveal, even indirectly, what they really talked about. Three themes are absolutely key.

On the Macron-proposed, non-NATO European army: “Europe is … a powerful economic union and it is only natural that they want to be independent and … sovereign in the field of defense and security.”

On the consequences of such an army: It would be “a positive process” that would “strengthen the multipolar world.” On top of it, Russia’s position “is aligned with that of France.”

On relations with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Washington: “It is not us who are going to withdraw from the INF Treaty. It is the Americans who plan to do that.” Putin added that Moscow has not scheduled military drills near NATO borders as an attempt to appease an already tense situation. Yet Russia has “no issue with” NATO drills and expects at least a measure of dialogue in the near future.

Enter the Avangard

Vast sectors of the US Deep State are in denial, but Putin may have been able to impress on Trump the necessity of serious dialogue due to an absolutely key vector: the Avangard.

The Avangard is a Russian hypersonic glide vehicle capable of flying over Mach 20 –  24,700km/h, or 4 miles per second – and one of the game-changing Russian weapons Putin announced at his ground-breaking March 1 speech.

The Avangard has been in the production assembly line since the summer of 2018, and is due to become operational in the southern Urals by the end of next year or early 2019.

In the near future, the Avangard may be launched by the formidable  Sarmat RS-28 intercontinental ballistic missile and reach Washington in a mere 15 minutes, flying in a cloud of plasma “like a meteorite” – even if the launch is from Russian territory. Serial production of Sarmat ICBMs starts in 2021.

The Avangard simply cannot be intercepted by any existing system on the planet – and the US knows it. Here is General John Hyten, head of US Strategic Command:  “We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us.”

Iran as the new Serbia?

I wish I had been in Paris – my home in Europe – to follow these concentric World War I–related plots live. But it was no less fascinating to follow them from Islamabad, where I am now, back from the northern part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The British Empire used 1.5 million to 2 million Indian colonial subjects to fight, and die, for empire in that war. Quite a few were Punjabis, from what is now Pakistan.

As for the future, Trump is certainly aware of Russia’s hypersonic breakthroughs. Trump and Putin also talked about Syria, and might have touched on Iran, although no one at the working lunch leaked anything about it.

Assuming the dialogue continues at the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires at the end of November, Putin might be able to impress on Trump that just as Serbia catalyzed a chain of events that led great powers to sleepwalk into World War I, the same could happen with Iran leading to the terrifying prospect of World War III.

Team Trump’s obsession on strangling Iran into economic submission is a no-go, even for the Macron-Merkel-led European Union. On top of it, the Russia-China strategic partnership simply won’t allow any funny – reckless – games to be played against a crucial node of Eurasia integration.

Putin won’t even need to go hypersonic to make his case to Trump.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

The text below is a full version of the anlysis entitled “Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict“, which was originally released by SouthFront on October 10, 2018:

Introduction

In the Department of Defense authored summary of the National Defense Strategy of the United States for 2018, Secretary James Mattis quite succinctly sets out the challenges and goals of the U.S. military in the immediate future. Importantly, he acknowledges that the U.S. had become far too focused on counter-insurgency over the past two decades, but he seems to miss the causation of this mission in the first place. U.S. foreign policy, and its reliance on military intervention to solve all perceived problems, regime change and imperialist adventurism, resulted in the need to occupy nations, or destroy them. This leads to the growth of insurgencies, and the strengthening of long simmering religious radicalism and anti-western sentiment in the Middle East and Central Asia. The U.S. military willfully threw itself headlong into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The United States engaged in unnecessary wars, and when these wars were easily won on the immediate battlefield, the unplanned for occupations lead to guerilla insurgencies that were not so easy for a conventional military to confront. The U.S. Army was not prepared for guerilla warfare in urban areas, nor for the brutal and immoral tactics that their new enemies were willing to engage in. They obviously had not reflected upon the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, nor the nature of their new enemies. As casualties mounted due to roadside IEDs, snipers, and suicide bombers hidden amongst civilians, the U.S. military and the defense industry were forced to find ways to protect soldiers and make vehicle less vulnerable to these types of attacks. This resulted in vehicles of every description being armored and new IED resistant vehicles being designed and fielded in large numbers. This in turn, equated to a vast amount of time, effort and money. It also focused both the U.S. military services and the defense industry away from fighting conventional wars against peer adversaries.

After a decade of fighting an insurgency in Afghanistan and almost as long in Iraq, the U.S. leadership decided to destroy the sovereign nation of Libya, and foment a war in Syria immediately afterward. There is no doubt with the knowledge of historic events today, that the CIA and State Department facilitated a foreign invasion of Syria of Islamist radicals. They funded and armed these groups, provided clandestine training, and facilitated the logistical movement of fighters and weapons into a sovereign nation to cause its disintegration. In these two examples they decided not to occupy these countries, but to destroy all semblance of ordered society and replace it with brutally violent chaos. The U.S. political and military leadership seems to have learned that their past adventurism resulted in costly occupations, yet instead of refraining from using the military option as a tool to alter geopolitical realities they did not like, they merely opted to abandon the responsibility of occupation and reconstruction all together.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

Benghazi, Libya. An example of democratic progress and stability in North Africa courtesy of U.S. led “humanitarian intervention”.

While Secretary Mattis describes the “near peer” nations China and Russia as “revisionist powers”, it was not these nations that made the irresponsible and reckless decisions that have weakened the U.S. military establishment, nor aim to revise the ill-conceived and executed catastrophes of their American “peers”. They have reached a state of military and technological parity with, and in many cases a position of superiority vis a vis the United States, because they exercised better judgement over the past two decades, invested their time, talent and treasure in developing powerful conventional and nuclear forces, and refrained from using their national defense assets to punish their perceived adversaries in such a way that more damage was caused to themselves. In many ways, the poor example of the United States and its ill-conceived military expeditions, influenced both Russia and China to advance along different paths. Now, without recognizing and acknowledging the failures of leadership and decision making that have lead the U.S. military to a weakened state, the United States has declared that it is now in a period of strategic competition with the two other strongest kids on the block.

In order to understand how Secretary Mattis has come to such a declaration, we have to look at the U.S. military decisions, actions, mistakes, and failures of leadership at the highest levels that have brought us to this point. A brief analysis of the resultant metamorphosis of the United States military from a robust and balanced conventional fighting force, backed up by a viable nuclear deterrent into a force obsessed with occupation and counterinsurgency must be conducted. This must be followed by a study of how the U.S. military has decided to invest its extensive funding, the weapons systems it has pursued, and how it envisions that it is best suited to protect the national security interests of the state. Finally, a comparison must be conducted of the capabilities of its declared strategic adversaries. A conclusion can then be made regarding the ability of the United States military to successfully engage and defeat these adversaries in a future conflict.

Imperial Expansion, Regime Change and Occupation

When the Soviet Union dissolved in December of 1991, a global power vacuum was immediately created. Regardless of the many assurances given to the Gorbachev government (which were finally revealed in the December 2017 National Security Archive releases of official NATO correspondence) that NATO would not expand and that the former Soviet federated states would be included in the established European economic and security apparatus, the United States immediately embarked on a policy of NATO expansion and economic exploitation of post-Soviet territories.

Just scant months earlier, the United States deployed military forces to Saudi Arabia as the backbone of an international coalition to confront and reverse the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. This resulted in Operation Desert Shield, the greatest deployment of combined military forces on the part of the U.S. military since the Vietnam War. By January of 1991, not even a month since the U.S.S.R. ceased to be, Operation Desert Shield transitioned to Operation Desert Storm, with the invasion of Iraq and Kuwait. The conventional military power utilized by the U.S. was greatly effective, and most combat systems worked extremely well on the battlefield. Air superiority was soon absolute, as the Iraqi Air Force largely left the skies uncontested. The great success of Operation Desert Storm largely gave the military planners of the Pentagon a false sense of superiority, which as we shall see, led to a number of wrong assumptions and poor decisions being made regarding the future development and transformation of the U.S. military.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

M1A2 Abrams tank platoon advancing during Operation Desert Storm. The armored combat vehicles of the U.S. Army proved very effective against a far inferior opponent in this conflict, yet they proved capable and reliable. Logistical requirements; however, did prove to be a challenge.

The first post-Cold War military “humanitarian intervention” conducted by the U.S. was the Yugoslavian civil conflict interdiction of 1995. Predicated upon escalating ethnic atrocities, the NATO intervention was actually designed to make the fracturing of the former Yugoslavian Republic permanent, and to establish a number of pro-NATO, or pro-U.S.-Atlantic establishment nations on the Balkan periphery of Russia. Slovenia became a NATO member state in 2004, followed by Croatia in 2009, and then Montenegro in 2017. At the same time that a civil war was raging in the former Republic of Yugoslavia, the U.S. and its Gulf State allies fomented and aided Islamic insurgencies in the Caucasus Republics of the newly comprised Russian Federation in an attempt to further weaken and encircle it. At the conclusion of U.S. intervention in the Balkans, which included the deployment of U.S. ground forces as part of multiple NATO-led operations including Operation Joint Endeavor, Operation Joint Guard and Joint Forge in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Kosovo Force (KFOR), the United States would de facto create the statelet of Kosovo. As many as 43,000 NATO troops were serving as part of these operations at any given time between 1995 and 2002.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

U.S. Camp Bondsteel in the U.S. sponsored protectorate of Kosovo located in southwestern Serbia. The intervention in Kosovo had nothing to do with humanitarian concerns as usual, but in establishing a permanent military foothold in the Balkans.

As I have described and explained in an earlier analysis entitled “U.S. Army Armored Vehicle Developments in the 21st Century; The Future Combat System gives way to Mobile Protected Firepower”, although the U.S. military leadership was pleased with the performance of its legacy armored vehicles and weapons systems in both Operation Desert Storm and its Operation Joint Endeavor, it was not satisfied with the amount of time required to deploy large combined Arms units via available sealift and airlift capacity. The complex logistics involved in mobilizing and moving heavy armored units does not lend well to rapid deployments, especially over significant distances. Even pre-deployment of heavy armored equipment, either in host countries or loaded in sealift vessels kept on stand-by at forward deployed bases (such as Diego Garcia) or berthed at major seaports of the continental United States, present a whole host of logistical challenges.

The desire to streamline U.S. military logistics, and to create a fighting force that was more rapidly deployable, flexible and yet maintained the highest levels of lethality, and that leveraged advanced information technologies and communications systems led to the genesis of the Future Combat System (FCS). Embracing the FCS concept, the Army set very high deployment goals, which would prove to be unattainable. General Eric Shinseki, then Chief of Staff of the Army, stated that the Army would strive to attain the ability to deploy a combat brigade anywhere in the world within 96 hours, a full division within 120 hours, and no less than five divisions in 30 days. Then Secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld was a vocal supporter of the FCS concept. The U.S. Army would eventually pursue the FCS program, the largest defense acquisition program in U.S. military history with a price tag of approximately $200 billion USD. The program was eventually cancelled in 2009, yet its influence in transforming the U.S. Army have proven substantial, and have had a negative influence on the Army’s ability to fight near peer adversaries in today’s warfighting environment.

The United States military would become a force for invasion and occupation during the Neo-Con era spanning from 2000 to the present. BY 2003, the U.S. was once again invading Iraqi territory, this time during Operation Iraqi Freedom. By this time the U.S. Army had partially realized some aspects of FCS, mainly in the area of rapidly deploying combat ready forces of the Brigade size. Operation Iraqi Freedom was envisioned as a rapid invasion utilizing highly mobile, self-contained, combined-arms combat teams supported by overwhelming airpower. The Iraqi military was far weaker in 2003 than it had been in 1991. It was a shadow of its former self and had been repeatedly targeted over the intervening decade, especially its air-defense and command and control networks. A combined ground force of approximately 148,000 men was deployed and ready for offensive operations in approximately a month and a half. Ground operations of the invasion lasted from March 20th until May 1st, 2003. The initial victory was impressive, but it soon became quite obvious that there was no realistic and pragmatic plan to occupy the country and render aid to a stable and capable new government.

What followed was a time of crisis for the U.S. military. When the U.S. soldiers were not greeted as liberators, and a number of organized and ruthless anti-occupation insurgencies formed, some motivated my patriotism, some my tribal and religious factions, and still others by terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, the soldiers tasked with the occupation of Iraq were woefully unprepared for the task asked of them. U.S. troops deployed to a nation whose minimal civil infrastructure they had just destroyed, were tasked with reconstruction and nation building in a country producing a growing anti-occupation insurgency on many different levels. Convoys and patrols were increasingly the targets of ambushes by insurgents operating along key roadways and within urban centers. Light vehicles and military transports were targeted and destroyed in significant numbers, and the crews had no protection from weapons ranging from small arms and RPGs to extremely powerful improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The Bush administration at the time, who had claimed that the U.S. troops would be widely embraced as liberators, began to scramble for ways to reduce the mounting U.S. casualties. The answer was to add armored protection to all existing vehicles, whether they be HMMWVs, or the LMTVs and HEMMTs of the logistics units. Adding armor to logistical support vehicles not meant to see front line combat greatly reduced their fuel efficiency (of great importance in the logistics arm) and was only accomplished at great cost. The U.S. Army only had one armored security vehicle in active service at this time, the M1117, albeit in small numbers. The decision was made to armor the ubiquitous HMMWV and to give it the tasks of armored patrol, internal security and crowd control vehicle. The HMMWV was designed and used quite effectively as a light utility vehicle and had always performed well in such a role; however, it was never intended for the roles it was called upon to perform after 2003.

An Obsession with MRAPs

A number of different armor packages were developed for the HMMWV, mainly to increase the likelihood of crew survivability. The armored Hummer was merely a stopgap until purpose-built armored vehicles could be developed and fielded in greater numbers. Although effective against high caliber small arms, shrapnel and mines, the M1117 was fielded in very limited numbers in 2003 with military police units, mostly in security duties on U.S. military installations. Large orders of the vehicle were placed after the 2003 Iraq invasion, and the number grew from approximately 50 to over 1,800 units in active service.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

M1117 at the head of a column of HMMWVs and an LMTV halted along a road in Iraq sometime after the 2003 invasion.

The U.S. military enlisted the help of both the U.S. and international defense industry to produce an armored vehicle that could better serve the needs of an army now faced with occupying not only one rebellious nation, but two. Between 2003 and 2007, the U.S. military would suffer increasing casualties in both the Iraq and Afghanistan theatres of occupation. In the case of Afghanistan, casualties would continue to increase until 2010 before decreasing over consecutive years. Most of these casualties were the result of ambushes with IEDs. Such attacks increased six fold from 2003 to 2007.

The DOD would award billions of dollars in contracts for Mine Resistant Ambushed Protected vehicles (MRAP) between 2003 and the present. The total acquisition cost of the various MRAPs ordered and put into service conservatively exceeds $45 billion USD. The U.S. military has no less than seven different types of MRAPs in service as of today, more than any other nation by far. As the U.S. has reduced its active footprint in both Afghanistan and Iraq, it has sold many of these vehicles to local security forces, and even U.S. domestic police forces, as they are of little use on a contested battlefield where the U.S. military would be fighting a conventional conflict with a powerful adversary. The following list details the main types of MRAPS in use by the U.S. military and costs associated:

M-ATV

The genesis of the MRAP All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) was the desire to gain both the IED level protection of an MRAP and the mobility of a lighter all-terrain vehicle. It was realized early on that the armored M1114 HMMWV variant sacrificed much of its off road performance with the addition of heavy armor plate, yet failed to provide adequate protection. A purpose-built light MRAP was called for. Oshkosh Corporation was awarded the initial $1 billion USD contract to supply the new M-ATV to the U.S. Army, USMC, Air Force and Special Operations Command (which employs special operations elements of all the military services) in mid-2009. The initial contract order grew four fold within a few years, and total M-ATVs produced to date has approached 10,000 units of different variants. The acquisition cost not corrected for inflation likely exceeds $4 billion USD, and additional contracts have been awarded to update and refit all units retained in U.S. service. Many units have since been handed over to allied governments in the Middle East and Europe at far reduced prices. NATO recipients include both Poland and Croatia.  Both the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia have made use of the M-ATV in the conflict in Yemen, and have lost a significant number in combat.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

Comparative size of the armored HMMWV and the M-ATV. The ubiquitous “Hummer” was never meant to be an armored car, and hundreds were destroyed by IEDs in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cougar

The Cougar is a much more robust vehicle than the M-ATV, resembling a heavily armored truck. It comes in a 4 x 4 and larger 6 x 6 version, with several variants based on these two platforms, depending on the intended role. The Cougar was developed by Force Protection, Inc. in 2004. The company was later acquired by General Dynamics in 2011. The Cougar was rushed into service after a very simple and rudimentary testing program in 2004, as the U.S. military wanted thousands of MRAPs for service in Iraq as soon as possible. The Cougar can trace its lineage to earlier South African designed and fielded vehicles, and was also adopted into British and Canadian service as well.

The Cougar was produced in great numbers between 2004 and 2010 for the U.S. military, with further orders filled by the British military, who have fielded the Cougar in at least 4 different variants. A number of Cougars have also be gifted to other NATO countries with contingents serving in Afghanistan. The U.S. military spent approximately $2.5-3.0 billion USD to acquire its Cougars, and additional funds have been spent to upgrade the roughly 20% of the surviving fleet selected to remain in service.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

British Army variants of the 4×4 and 6×6 Cougar (Mastiff and Ridgeback) in a convoy protecting military transports in Afghanistan.

Caiman

Probably the most cost effective MRAP to be developed to meet the requirements of the MRAP Vehicle Program is the Armor Holdings (since acquired by BAE Systems) Caiman. The Caiman initially shared 85% of its construction components with the Stewart & Stevenson/Oshkosh family of military tactical vehicles (FMTV). This family of light to medium trucks have been produced since the early 1980s, with over 74,000 units of varying configuration put into service. This commonality of construction reduced manufacturing, maintenance and inventory carrying costs. The total cost of the Caiman contract (including a later contract to upgrade and improve vehicles to the Multi-Terrain Vehicle standard) amounted to over $1.15 billion USD. The United States sold 1,150 Caiman MRAPs that had been put in surplus status to the U.A.E. to aid in their operations in Yemen.

MaxxPro

Manufactured by Navistar Defense, a subsidiary of the Navistar International Corporation, the MaxxPro MRAP is based on a commercial truck chassis and makes use of a bolt-on armor construction as much as possible. This reduces manufacturing cost when compared to welded construction, and allows for easier repair in the field. Approximately 9,000 MaxxPro MRAPs were built for the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and Air Force. At an average per unit cost of $515,000 USD, the Maxxpro cost the United States military over $4.6 billion USD, not counting a number of upgrade contracts. Of the 9,000 units constructed and delivered, the U.S. military services announced in 2013 the intension of keeping only a third of these units in service beyond 2014.

Buffalo MPRC

The largest MRAP in the U.S. inventory, the Buffalo was designed as an IED and mine clearance vehicle. Manufactured by Force Protection Inc., it is based on the Casspir MRAP that has been in service with the South African Army for decades. The Buffalo in a 6×6 armored vehicle with a maximum service weight of 25,000 kgs. (56,000 lbs.). After building the first 200 units, the Buffalo was upgraded to the A2 standard in 2009, after which an additional 450 units were produced. Over 750 total Buffalos have been produced in total, with 650 of these in service with the U.S. military at a cost of over $1 billion USD.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

Force Protection Buffalo IED and Mine Clearance MRAP removing an explosive devise by use of its articulated, hydraulically-operated claw.

The Buffalo’s origins are clearly a response to the dangers posed by a prolonged military occupation in an environment of active guerilla warfare. It was based on a proven design, and has been extremely effective in its intended role. The traditional vehicle for mine clearance or IED disposal would normally be an MBT fitted with mine clearance apparatus. The Buffalo is cheaper to manufacture, maintain and operate than an MBT, and is slightly more flexible in a multitude of environments. It also can accommodate 12 soldiers in addition to a normal crew of two.

Nyala RG-31/33

Manufactured by Land Systems OMC (BAE Land Systems) of South Africa and FNSS of Turkey, the RG-31/33 NyalaMRAP is produced in a 4×4 (RG-31) and 6×6 (RG-33) version to meet the requirements of the Mine Resistant Ambushed Protected Vehicle Program. Although used by the U.S. military in the highest numbers (almost 2,000 vehicles), ten other nations use this MRAP to some degree. The USMC ordered 1,385 of the Mark 5E variant, and operate more RG-31s than any other military service. The total cost of RG-31/33 acquisition is easily in excess of $2.7 billion USD.

JLTV

The most ambitious of all of the MRAP programs, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) is meant to replace the HMMWV in use by all of the U.S. military branches. Although the design of the new vehicle is meant to allow it to exceed at a number of military tasks, it is at its core a mine resistant, ambush protected vehicle. The JLTV is suited to take over the tasks of light armored reconnaissance, armored security, special operations, utility and convoy protection. The JLTV is meant to be flexible enough to perform all of these tasks and its very design allows for the upgrading or downgrading of armor and weapons systems tailored to the task required.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated in 2015 that the total acquisition cost of the JLTV across all services would likely be $53.5 billion USD, with a total of 5,500 units for the UMC and 49,099 for the U.S. Army requested. In 2016, the Department of Defense claimed that the total cost of the program would be reduced due to revised unit costs and corrected “cost estimate methodologies”; however, past experience has proven that the Pentagon is usually quite bad when it comes to managing finances. The procurement timetable proposed has the first JLTVs being delivered beginning in 2018, and not being completed until 2040 for the U.S. Army. The 5,500 units requested by the USMC should be delivered between 2018 and 2022.

The JLTV program clearly embodies the U.S. military’s fixation on its experiences in both Iraq and Afghanistan with occupation and the resultant insurgencies motivated by inevitable anti-U.S. and anti-Western sentiments. Invaders are never seen as liberators, but always as subjugators and occupiers. Occupiers are never safe, as the frontline is everywhere. The U.S. military reacted to protect itself by armoring everything. Light utility vehicles and logistics transport of all categories were armored for protection. Only a nation that plans to invade and occupy other countries, and that will find itself always in a hostile environment will require so many MRAPs and armored transports. No other major military in the world has decided to follow this new U.S. model. Perhaps that is due to the fact that the main duty of their armed forces is to fight defensively in defending their own territory. Armies of national defense have no need to prepare themselves to fight a hostile native population.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

A side-by-side comparison of an unarmored HMMWV and an armored JLTV. The new vehicle is twice as heavy as the standard HMMWV.

The JLTV is an armored, all-terrain monster that can carry a payload between 1,600 and 2,300 kgs. (3,500 – 5,100 lbs.), weapons as large as the SHORAD (Short Range Air Defense variant of the Hellfire missile) or the 30mm M230LF automatic cannon, and provide crew survivability in most IED attacks. The DOD has decided to replace both MRAPs and the HMMWV family of utility vehicles with the new JLTV platform. The JLTV is equipped with a 6.6 liter diesel V8 which can generate at least 300 horse power. The vehicle weighs in at between 14,000 and 15,639lbs. depending on the variant. By comparison, the unarmored HMMWV weighed in at 7,700 lbs. fully loaded and made use of a diesel V8 (some models used a turbo diesel) generating a maximum 190 hp. Even considering greater efficiencies achieved through modern internal combustion engine technology, a vehicle that weighs twice as much and requires greater horsepower will lead to higher fuel consumption and require higher levels of maintenance.

Counter Insurgency

Not only did the U.S. military experience with occupation and counterinsurgency shape the armored vehicle procurement projects and design priorities of future armored vehicle acquisitions, but it also resulted in an over-focusing of resources toward a traditionally elite, limited and specialized subset of conventional fighting forces; special operations. All effective modern national defense forces operate a small cadre of special operations units. These units are made up of highly motivated, highly trained and highly skilled soldiers who can perform any number of military tasks, but are specifically focused on asymmetrical, hybrid and very specialized warfare subsets. They complement and enhance conventional fighting forces, and often act as significant force multipliers in any conflict.

Prior to the U.S. wars of occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States operated a robust special operations force comprising of units from all services. The considerable investment in these highly selective forces, the high standards demanded, and the extremely difficult training requirements have always kept these forces small; however this has changed a great deal over the past 17 years. The need for soldiers with a skill set specific to counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan lead to increased focus and demand on special operations. From 2001 to the present, the special operations forces under the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) have expanded from 42,800 to approximately 63,500 today. Special operations specific funding has grown four fold in the same time period, from $3.1 billion USD to $12.3 billion USD. According to SOCOM, an average of 8,300 special operators are deployed in missions in as many as 149 nations across the globe on a weekly basis, and 70 nations on any given day.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

U.S. Special Operations Command has access to uniquely qualified units from across all branches of the U.S. military.

There is little doubt that the Pentagon’s over-focus on counterinsurgency (the State Department is guilty here as well) has lead to U.S. military adventurism involving it in the internal conflicts of 75% of the countries of the world. Does this clandestine military involvement in the civil or regional strife of most of the planet really have anything to do with U.S. national security? Does it make the U.S. any safer, or is it only creating more enemies? SOCOM has even deployed assets to clandestinely train amongst the civilian population of the United States itself, a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.

This disproportional over-emphasis on special operations has resulted in an atrophying of more traditional martial structures and establishments. While the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation have stayed at the forefront of modern armor and artillery development, and have advanced the related tactics, the United States has fallen far behind. Even the Peoples Liberation Army has made great strides in these conventional warfare realms in comparison to the United States. The United States surely has the economic resources, and the technical capability to close the gap, but the focus of the military needs to be realigned toward conventional warfighting.

Secretary Mattis has obviously recognized the need to focus higher procurement towards conventional forces, as well as fund R&D efforts into better field artillery, rocket artillery, armored fighting vehicles such as the AMPV, and a new main battle tank (MBT). In identifying near peer adversaries as the greatest national security threat, Secretary Mattis realizes that the U.S. must waste no time in closing the technological and quality gap that now exists between the conventional fighting forces of the United States and Russia and China respectively.

A Navy in Disarray

While the ground forces of the United States have suffered from two decades of occupation and counterinsurgency, which has morphed them from a balanced, combined arms conventional fighting force, into a force obsessed with IEDs, insurgents and guerilla warfare, the U.S. Navy seems to have lost any idea of its national security role. After two decades of enjoying uncontested control of the seas and the ability to use aircraft carrier-borne airstrikes to pummel inferior adversaries, none of which possessed a viable navy or air force, nor a modern air defense network or shore-based anti-naval capability, the U.S. Navy has seemed determined to sail further into the realm of irrelevancy in any future conflict. Unless it intends to engage in battle against significantly weaker opponents, the U.S. Navy will not possess an advantage over its two most powerful possible adversaries, Russia and China.

The United States Navy has not engaged in a major naval engagement with a major adversary since the closing days of World War Two. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union largely kept one another at bay, with very close competition leading to significant advancements in naval warfare. They did not engage in any verified hostile actions. Although the U.S. Navy engaged in combat with Libyan military forces in 1986 in the Gulf of Sidra, as well as sunk a small force of Iraqi Navy vessels of small displacement at the “Battle of Bubiyan” (not really much of a battle at all and UK Navy helicopters did most of the fighting), these engagements were largely one-sided and no one could ever say that the outcomes were a surprise. Regardless, the U.S. Navy apparently has decided that it is an indomitable force that can go wherever it pleases and no one can stand in its way. Such hubris and arrogance are one of the reasons why it is in such poor shape today. The other reason must surely be attributed to a military industrial complex that has sold the service on an expensive pipe dream of wonder weapons that have failed to live up to their hype. All to the tune of huge profits. The following are the most egregious examples:

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)

Based on a flawed concept from the start, of a small surface combatant that could make use of modularity to tailor it to specific tasks as opposed to a traditional multi-purpose design, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) was largely doomed for a number of reasons. Two different designs were awarded contracts, the trimaran Independence Class designed by General Dynamics, and the mono-hull Freedom Class designed by Lockheed Martin. The decision to produce two different designs to meet the needs of a single class should have been seen as problematic. Here the Navy accepted the responsibility and costs associated with maintaining two different platforms, with separate maintenance needs and schedules, not to mention two separate training programs for LCS crews.

The concept of the LCS was also divergent in many respects, and quite frankly, too much was expected of a ship that was smaller in size than a conventional frigate. The U.S. Navy expected the vessels to marry significant striking power, with modularity tailored to just about every form of modern naval warfare, and new networking and information technologies that would reduce the required crew to a minimum. What resulted was what those serving in the force would begrudgingly coin the “Little Crappy Ship”. The aluminum and composite (Independence Class) and lightweight steel (Freedom Class) hulls of the ships provide little armored protection, offensive striking power is far from adequate for either surface warfare or fire support for forces deployed inland, the platform has yet to meet anti-submarine requirements, and the reduced crew size has been determined to be unmanageable.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

This image of the construction of USS Independence LCS-2, clearly illustrates the aluminum structure of the hull. Aluminum offers little armored protection, burns vigorously at high temperature, and led to increased corrosion of steal propulsion components in areas where the dissimilar metals were in close proximity below the waterline.

As a result of its overwhelming failure to meet the expectations of the U.S. Navy or Congressional oversight, the total fleet size of LCS vessels has been reduced from the original 50 planned down to 32. Project cost overruns, a number of high profile system failures, and the smaller fleet size have resulted in a total cost of $12.4 billion USD for the first 26 vessels. The U.S. Congress capped the per-unit cost at $480 million per ship, bringing the theoretical total cost to $15.5 billion USD. All for a ship that has a minimal chance of surviving most modern naval combat scenarios. There is little wonder why the U.S. Navy has decided to start building a multi-purpose frigate, dubbed the FFG(X), to pick up where the LCS has failed.

 DDG 1000 Zumwalt Class

If the LCS was not a huge and unequivocal disappointment, then the much vaunted stealth destroyer, the DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class was a total embarrassment and unmitigated failure.  Envisioned as a high-tech game changer, the DDG-1000 was supposed to make use of powerful new technologies, overwhelming firepower, and massive power generation, all wrapped in stealth that would render it invisible. Although designed as a multi-mission surface combatant, added emphasis was put on naval surface fire support (NSFS) while operating in littoral waters. Due to a number of factors, mostly the exorbitant cost of the program, the Navy is now trying to find a role for the Zumwaltclass vessels.

Originally, the Navy intended to build 32 of these stealth destroyers, yet the exorbitant initial cost plus huge cost overruns led the Navy and the U.S. Congress to reduce the fleet to 24, then 16, then 7, and finally to only 3 vessels. Correspondingly, the cost per vessel increased tremendously, as did the cost of all class-specific systems including weapons systems, power generation and propulsion systems. Cost per vessel stands at over $7.5 billion USD.

The 155mm Mark 51 advanced gun system (AGS) deck guns designed specifically for the DDG 1000s were made to fire guided rounds over a range in excess of 80 nautical miles, with a circular error probable (CEP) of just 50 meters (160ft.). Each DDG 1000 is equipped with two AGS on the forward deck. These guns were designed to strike shore targets accurately from coastal waters in support of allied ground forces and amphibious landing forces. Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems developed the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) for use in the AGS, but due to the now 3 vessel fleet, the per unit cost of each LRLAP had risen to over $800,000 USD. The Navy had already procured 90 rounds before the decision was made to cease purchasing the rounds due to the prohibitive costs.

The DDG-1000 utilizes the same MT-30 Rolls Royce gas turbine engines as the Freedom Class LCS vessels; however, in the case of the destroyers the gas turbine is linked to a massive electrical grid that not only powers the electric motors that propel the vessel, but just about every other system onboard, including the weapons systems. The arrangement is proving problematic, as the first two vessels in class have both experienced main engine failures and damages. The USS Michael Monsoor DDG-1001 suffered damage to the turbine blades of one of its main engines during sea trials in February of this year. The MT-30 engine will have to be replaced at the cost of $20 million USD. The USS Zumwalt DDG-1000 famously broke down during its transit from Maine to San Diego and had to be towed from the Panama Canal to its new home port.

The U.S. Navy is now struggling to find a new niche for the DDG-1000s. Now that its NSFS mission is a non-starter, it is being adapted as a platform to strike inland targets with land-attack cruise missiles (LACM) and engage other surface ships with an anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) that has yet to be accepted into the service. The DDG-1000s lack a strong anti-air warfare (AAW) capability, and would thus be tied to other fleet components such as the Arleigh Burke Class DDG-51s and Ticonderoga Class CGs which have strong AAW capabilities. In an attempt to utilize the USS Zumwalt, the Navy has added legacy weapons systems, radars and communications antennas to the stealthy superstructure, undoubtedly negating its minimal radar signature. It remains to be seen what munitions will be provided for the two AGS turrets, as no munitions other than the cost prohibitive LRLAP exist.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

The latest revision of the DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class lead vessel’s once smooth and unblemished superstructure is now marred by various external sensory and communications arrays. Two rear deck guns for close-in defense have also been added.

CVN-78 Gerald R. Ford Class

As if the U.S. Navy was not content with wasting $38 billion USD on the failed LCS and DDG-1000 programs, an even more grandiose undertaking was envisioned for the service that would revolutionize the all too important and largely obsolete “super carrier”. It is a widely accepted fact that the U.S. Navy has been obsessed with the aircraft carrier since World War II and the pivotal naval battles between the U.S. Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy. This obsession is alive and well to this day, seemingly immune to the realities of modern missile technology, especially in regard to guidance, speed, range, and the advent of armed and semi-autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) of increasing lethality.

The U.S. Navy embarked on a program to replace the existing Nimitz Class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers currently comprising the central component of the aircraft carrier strike groups (ASG), of which the service operates 10 (with the additional CVN-65 Enterprise in reserve), in 2005 with the advanced construction of CVN-78. In 2008 the U.S. Navy signed a contract with Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding worth approximately $5.1 billion USD to build the first in a series of four such carriers. The goal is to build each carrier in four year periods under the current funding schedule. The Gerald R. Ford Class was supposed to take advantage of a number of new technologies and experience significantly improved efficiencies in aircraft carrier operations over the preceding Nimitz Class.

While the initial cost estimate for CVN-78 was around $10 billion USD (U.S. Congress had caped it at $10.5 billion USD in 2007), the total cost for the vessel has exceeded $13 billion USD as of May of this year when it was revealed that the Advanced Weapons Elevator and a main thrust bearing had suffered damage in sea trials and required repair. The CVN-78 is by far the most expensive warship ever constructed. In a controversial move, it was decided to try and incorporate a number of new, unproven systems in the new design. In retrospect, this decision was bound to result in cost overruns and a more problematic breaking-in period. New systems integrated into the Gerald R. Fordinclude an electro-magnetic launching system (EMALS), advanced aircraft arresting system, advanced weapons elevator system, dual band radar (DBR), and a more powerful nuclear reactor.

There was much discussion in the Navy regarding the wisdom of introducing so many new technologies in a single platform. Many senior officers argued that there were bound to be serious delays in working through both the foreseeable and unforeseeable problems associated with rendering so many new technologies operational. This opinion turned out to be of merit, as the Gerald R. Ford immediately experienced problems with just about all of its new systems. The vessel has experienced two main propulsion malfunctions over the past year, the advanced arresting gear has proven unreliable, and the EMALS (as well as other “critical systems”) has displayed “poor or unknown reliability” according to the Navy Operational and Test Evaluation Force. In early testing, the EMALS was unable to launch F-18 strike aircraft at weights even close to a full combat load. All of these problems or shortcomings were revealed during sea trials and the vessel returned to shipyard in Newport News, Virginian on July 15th, 2018 to undergo extensive repairs and improvements.

In should have been of little surprise to most naval architects, engineers, and naval line officers who have held vessel commands, that the above mentioned problems were inevitable. The big question is why the leadership of the Navy decided upon such a platform at all. What is the point of investing so much money and effort into such a large and advanced vessel, regardless of the unproven nature of many of the critical systems, when aircraft carriers have become so vulnerable to modern anti-ship missiles? Of even greater significance, why invest so much in a new carrier and not invest in increasing the range and striking power of the carrier air wing? An aircraft carrier is worthless without a powerful and flexible air wing element.

Carrier Air Wing Vulnerabilities

As much as President Trump and various administration officials and Senators tout the power of the U.S. military, often citing an increasing defense budget as an indicator of strength, efficiency and effectiveness, there is little doubt that U.S. naval aviation has atrophied over decades of misuse, neglect and poor decision making at the highest levels. U.S. naval aviation is arguably in its worse state since the opening days of the Pacific Theatre of operations during the Second World War. Not only is it in disrepair, but it is ill-equipped for a fight against a peer adversary.

Let us address the first issue, the ever shrinking air wing with its shrinking range. In the last decade of Cold War naval competition between The U.S. and the U.S.S.R., the Nimitz Class aircraft carriers deployed with nine, or even ten squadrons of fixed-wing aircraft. Today, that has been reduced to six. Of greater importance, the only aircraft utilized for combat operations is the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet with all of its inherent shortcomings, most importantly its limited operational range of 370 nautical miles (full strike combat weapons load and fuel). The aircraft it replaced, the A-7 Corsair II and A-4 Skyhawk in the Navy and the F-4 Phantom in the USMC, all had much longer operational ranges and all but the A-4 had greater weapons payload capacity. The F/A-18 is a jack of all trades and a master of none. In an attempt to lower costs (although few combat aircraft has ever operated at lower cost than the A-4 Skyhawk) by using one airframes for all roles, the U.S. Navy has put all of its eggs in one basket, and that basket is not up to the task. This is not to say that the F/A-18 Hornet and F-/A-18E/F Super Hornet are poor aircraft. The plane merely cannot do all of the things asked of it as well as many other aircraft. What has resulted, is an aircraft carrier air wing that is less capable in all respects, and cannot compete and excel in a future conflict with a peer adversary.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

This image clearly illustrates the ordinance payload capacity of the A-4 Skyhawk. It could carry 9,900lbs. of munitions on 5 external hardpoints. It had an effective combat radius from an aircraft carrier of over 700 miles, and a maximum range of 2,000 miles.

Although the improved F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is significantly larger than its predecessor, and gains about 100 nautical miles in range due to larger internal fuel capacity, it still lacks the required range needed to protect its carrier. Not surprisingly, even though there was a better option, the Navy decided to use F/A-18s for aerial refueling duties as well. The S-3 Viking had been kept in service as a carrier borne aerial tanker, having given up its original role as an ASW aircraft, and was superior to the F/A-18 in this respect. Although most S-3s in service still have approximately 12,000 hours of service life left on their airframes, the Navy pushed ahead with their retirement in 2009. With a much greater range than the F/A-18 and a fuel capacity of 16,000 lbs., the S-3 was a better and far cheaper solution. The fact that it was a far cheaper option was probably its downfall. Profit drives the U.S. military industrial complex, not efficiency or performance.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

The only fixed wing aircraft that operate from U.S. Navy aircraft carriers today are the F/A-18 Hornet, F/A-18E Super Hornet and E-2C and E2-D Hawkeye AEW&C aircraft.

The second issue, which is perhaps more damning, is the fact that the F/A-18 squadrons that the Navy relies on to conduct almost all carrier air wing duties including attack/strike missions, air superiority, fleet defense, buddy refueling, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and surveillance, are in an alarming state of disrepair. The Navy announced in February of 2017, that two thirds, or 62% of all F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets were unserviceable due to maintenance issues. Twenty-seven percent of these aircraft were undergoing major maintenance depot work, not minor or preventive maintenance. Of the 542 total F/A-18 and E/F-18 Hornets, only 170 were mission capable. Fast forward one year and a new and increased defense budget, and the Navy is still a long way from solving the shortfall in available replacement parts just to meet normal maintenance requirements. The decision was also made to take 140 of the oldest single seat Hornets (A/C variants) in the Navy and either cannibalize them for parts or transfer them to USMC squadrons that are experiencing similar maintenance issues. In the case of the USMC, they have been waiting so long for new F-35Bs that their legacy F-18s are falling into disrepair.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

Maintenance crews performing repairs on an F/A-18 aboard a carrier. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps must address the maintenance crisis plaguing the services, yet the problem cannot be remedied at this level. Only a reduction in the tempo of deployments, flight operations or the provision of added funding will alleviate the issue which will be determined by the White House and Congress.

Has anyone asked the question, “What good is an advanced, gigantic aircraft carrier with an air wing that is limited in range and capability?” If the U.S. Navy does manage to get the first three Gerald R. Ford Class carriers in service, how many F/A-18E Super Hornets will be mission capable to fly from them? Will the F-35C and F35B Joint Strike Fighters meant to complete the complement of strike and fighter aircraft going to finally be available for deployment? Seeing that the F-35 does not close the “missile gap” that threatens U.S. aircraft carriers in general, is the Navy soliciting the defense industry to produce a carrier-borne aircraft, whether manned or unmanned, to correct this obvious weakness? Russian and Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles and hypersonic cruise missiles can strike U.S. CSGs long before their aircraft can get within range of striking the territories of either of these near peer adversaries. This “missile gap” will not be rectified anytime soon.

The One-Size-Fits-All Fighter Aircraft

After a short review of the Navy’s decision to settle on a single airframe to fill all of the roles of the carrier air wing, it should come of little surprise that the Pentagon would come to a similar decision on a much broader scale. A cursory study of combat aviation history has proven that there is no one-size- fits-all solution to the many combat functions performed by military aviation. It appears that the decision to introduce a multi-role fighter making use of many new technologies and heavily reliant on stealth to be effective in modern aerial warfare for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and USMC was more about making huge profits for the defense industry and providing jobs to American workers than it was about providing the U.S. military with a superior tool.

The story of the development of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is a cautionary tale of a weapons development program that was ill conceived and soon spiraled out of control.  Perhaps the most controversial and scandalous of any such program, the JSF is the costliest weapons program in world history. Newly revised estimates from the Pentagon put the cost of development and procurement of the 2,056 fighters that the DOD wants at $406.1 billion USD. The total cost to procure these aircraft and maintain them over the 20 year life span of the aircraft exceeds $1.5 trillion USD.

While the F-35A first flew in 2006, the only U.S. military branch to declare the F-35 operation and to use it in combat is the USMC. The F-35 was developed from the outset for export to allied nations, and Israel has used the F-35 for strikes against targets in Syria. It is important to note that Israel has relied heavily on its decades old squadrons of F-15 and F-16 multi-role aircraft to bear the brunt of most combat missions. Approximately 300 units of all versions have been produced so far for both the U.S. military and foreign militaries, yet only Israel and the USMC have declared the aircraft combat ready. A major issue facing the program is the fact that aircraft manufacturing began years before the plane was deemed fit for operational deployment, largely because so many deficiencies have been identified and have had to be rectified. This was the result of concurrency, a procurement process that allowed for production of the aircraft prior to final approval of the design. It was agreed that all deficiencies identified would eventually be addressed and rectified in airframes already manufactured at a later date in order to bring them up to the latest standard.

Not only has the F-35 not attained wide operational status seventeen years after its first flight, but it has pulled an exorbitant amount of funding from existing, combat proven aircraft. What could have been done to maintain and improve existing squadrons of F-15 Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, and F/A-18 Hornets currently in varying states of disrepair and serviceability? The idea of replacing all of these front line aircraft with the F-35 is laughable. What kind of imperial hubris and institutional tunnel vision could have led to such an ill-advised decision?  The answer is the institutionalized corruption and waste of the U.S. military industrial complex. It continues to leave the United States less protected, and sends American soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen into combat with increasingly less capable weapons.

Atrophy and Exhaustion

The U.S. military has been engaged in counterinsurgency warfare in Afghanistan for over seventeen years. The disastrous invasion of Iraq, the destruction of Libya, and counterinsurgency operations in a host of nations including, but not limited to Yemen, Somalia, Niger and Nigeria, have all taken a toll on the U.S. military. Not only has a great deal of military hardware been destroyed, but a great deal of equipment has been worn out and essentially must be retired from service. More importantly, the constant deployments have undermined the personnel needs of all services, with thousands of men having been killed or physically and psychologically maimed for life. Tens of thousands of the most skilled commissioned and non-commissioned officers have left the services, many of them having served multiple combat deployments.

The fact that 62% of U.S. Navy’s F-18s are not mission capable is not an anomaly. In 2017, approximately 72% of all U.S. Air Force aircraft were not flight worthy. Many of the airframes are quite old, yet well within their engineered service life, but most are in need of maintenance. Both the Navy and Air Force claim that there is not enough money in their respective budgets to procure the needed spare parts to keep these aircraft flying. One would wonder that if this is the case, why tens of billions of dollars are being poured into new aircraft when existing fleets are being left in disrepair. The decisions being made in the upper echelon of the DOD are quite perplexing for the thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen struggling to keep weapons and vehicles ready for action.

The U.S. Army finds itself looking for buyers of surplus MRAPs, vehicles of little utility in a major conventional war with a peer adversary, while at the same time lacking spare parts and munitions for armored vehicles and artillery systems. While the Army has made some progress in procuring the first of the 49,099 JLTVs it wants, it is far behind in all other armored vehicle procurement and development programs. BAE has delivered the first batch of 29 AMPVs to the U.S. Army for extensive testing before the decision can be made to start low rate initial production (LRIP). Once the LRIP begins, it is estimated that BAE will be able to produce approximately 262 units annually, unless the company’s main manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania is expanded. The initial contract is worth $1.6 billion USD. The Army wants at least 3,000 AMPVs of six different main variants to replace the thousands of M113 armored vehicles still in service. The M113 first saw service in 1962 and a replacement for the venerable vehicle has been required for decades.

Defense Secretary James Mattis made it crystal clear in his National Defense Strategy that the U.S. must rebuild its conventional warfare capabilities. The U.S. Army’s proposed 2019 budget lays bare the new priorities of a service facing a major transition in priorities. Procurement of tracked combat vehicles, as well as artillery rounds, rockets and missiles account for much of this latest budget request. Procurement is up by 18.4% over the previous year, with procurement of weapons and tracked vehicles up 84% over the previous year. Although upgrading of the M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer to the M109A7 level is down by 56% compared to 2018, procurement of 155mm artillery rounds is up a whopping 800%.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

The percentage of total procurement directed toward weapons and tracked combat vehicles in the 2019 proposed budget denotes that the U.S. Army recognizes its weakness in conventional warfighting capability.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

This chart clearly shows the desire on the part of the U.S. Army to upgrade and rearm conventional capabilities. 155mm artillery rounds and Army Tactical Missile System upgrades to the M207 MLRS are at the top of the list, followed by MBT upgrades and acquisition of new AMPV vehicles.

As the U.S. Army attempts to rebuild its aged and depleted armored brigade combat teams and conventional and rocket artillery, the U.S. Navy and Air Force are facing their own challenges. The Navy finds itself in a position that is far from enviable, but was very easy to predict. Having dumped $38 billion USD into two failed new classes of warships and a further $13 billion into a new aircraft carrier that will likely not become operational until 2022, the service is currently in the process of realigning its priorities. The service is struggling to procure the new VirginiaClass SSN and Columbia Class SSBNs that are required to ensure the viability of the nation’s nuclear deterrent triad well into the foreseeable future. These defensive weapons programs, which are integral to U.S. national security, could have benefitted greatly from the $50 billion wasted on the LCS, DDG-1000 and Gerald R. Ford programs. Russia and China have spent the same time wasted by the U.S. Navy on updating and modernizing their own submarine forces, chiefly their ballistic missile submarines.

Institutional Corruption

If one had to identify the main reason behind the utter failure of the U.S. political establishment and military leadership, both civilian and in uniform, to identify and prioritize weapons programs and procurement that was truly in line with the national defense needs of the country, it would be the institutional corruption of the U.S. military industrial complex. This is not a fault of one party, but is the inevitable outcome of a thoroughly corrupted system that both generates and wastes great wealth at the expense of the many for the benefit of the few.

Massive defense budgets do not lead to powerful military forces nor sound national defense strategy. The United States is the most glaring example of how a nation’s treasure can be wasted, its citizens robbed for generations, and its political processes undermined by an industry bent on maximizing profitability by encouraging and exacerbating conflict. At this point it is questionable that the United States’ could remain economically viable without war, so much of its GDP is connected in some way to the pursuit of conflict.

There is no doubt that the War Department was renamed the Department of Defense in an Orwellian sleight of hand in 1947, just a few years after end of World War II. The military industrial complex grew into a monolith during the war, and the only way to justify the expansion of the complex, was by finding a new enemy to justify the new reality of a massive standing military, something that the U.S. Constitution expressly forbids. This unlawful state of affairs has persisted and expanded into a rotten, bloated edifice of waste. Wasted effort, wasted wealth and the wasted lives of millions of people spanning every corner of the planet. Tens of thousands of brave men and women in uniform, and millions of civilians of so many nations, have been tossed into the blades of this immoral meat grinder for generations.

President Donald Trump was very proud to announce the largest U.S. military budget in the nation’s history last year. The United States spent (or more accurately, borrowed from generations yet to come) no less than $874.4 billion USD. The declared base budget for 2017 was $523.2 billion USD, yet there are also the Overseas Contingency Operations and Support budgets that have to be considered in determining the total cost. The total DOD annual costs have doubled from 2003 to the present. Yet, what has the DOD really accomplished with so much money and effort? Very little of benefit to the U.S. tax payer for sure, and paradoxically the exorbitant waste of the past fifteen years have left every branch of the U.S. military weaker.

The U.S. Congress has the duty and responsibility of reigning in the military adventurism of the executive branch. They have the sole authority to declare war, but more importantly, the sole authority to approve the budget requests of the military. It is laughable to think that the U.S. Congress will do anything to reign in military spending. The Congress and the Senate are as equally guilty as the Executive in promoting and benefitting from the military industrial complex. Envisioned as a bulwark against executive power, the U.S. Congress has become an integral component of that complex. No Senator or Representative would dare to go against the industry that employs so many constituents within their state, or pass up on the benefits afforded them through the legalized insider-trading exclusive to them, or the lucrative jobs that await them in the defense industry and the many think tanks that promote continued prosecution of war.

Possible Reforms

It would be quite simple for the U.S. Department of Defense to rectify the current endemic problems that have rendered it weaker and less prepared for a major conventional conflict with a peer adversary. The greater challenge is transforming the relationship between the federal and state governments back to the constitutionally intended one, and to dissolve the powers of the now allied executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government. This would undermine the ability of the military industrial complex to coerce the nation into working against the interests of the states and the citizenry. The military industrial complex and the Deep State that serves it can only exist when power is greatly concentrated in a federal system.

For the sake of argument, if the political will could be found to work against the military industrial complex in the interests of true national defense and fiscal responsibility, the following steps could be taken immediately to rectify the many problems facing the military services of the United States:

The U.S. Army

Abandon the obsession with counterinsurgency and occupation and realign the focus of the Army on the defense of the homeland and a handful of historical allies. Rebuild the Army as a lean and well-equipped conventional fighting force. The most highly trained and experienced cadres of special operations forces should be retained, with other members dispersed to more conventional infantry, airborne and reconnaissance units. Most of these men would be moved to reserve status. Personnel should be cut by at least 25%, the majority retained moved to reserve status, and many overseas bases and operations ceased. The focus should be on defense of the nation’s own territories, while also safeguarding the economic interests and maritime trade lanes that are the lifeblood of any nation.

All legacy systems that have proven capable and efficient on the modern battlefield should be refurbished and upgraded to the most modern standard. The M2 Bradley modernization program should be continued, and the AMPV program given increased priority so that the thousands of M113 vehicles can finally end their 56 year tour of duty. MRAP inventories should be reduced to the very minimum and all surplus units sold off to recoup some of the expense incurred in their procurement and the money directed into offsetting procurement costs of new AMPVs and JLTVs.

The JLTV platform is a modular, easily upgradable light tactical vehicle that can be tailored to fit the mission. Although most units should be the basic utility variant, many will need to be acquired to fill the roles of light armored reconnaissance, armored security, convoy security, and light special operations vehicles. An air-droppable airborne armored fighting vehicle should be developed based on the JLTV. The U.S. airborne forces have lacked any real armored fighting vehicle that can accompany them in parachute operations since the M551 was retired in 1996. An up-armored JLTV equipped with a 30mm autocannon would serve as a good stopgap until a purpose built tracked vehicle could be designed. The venerable and ubiquitous HMMWV should maintain its utility role in all non-combat formations, as well as the basis for the Avenger light anti-aircraft missile system for years to come.

Of greatest importance is the rejuvenation of the armored and mechanized units of the U.S. Army. The M1126 Stryker family of wheeled armored vehicles cannot bear the weight of a conventional conflict with either Russia or China. The M1A2SepV3 MBT upgrade, including the addition of the Trophy APS should be afforded adequate funding, yet the greatest need of the Army is the replacement of the M113 in combat units.  The U.S. Army’s proposed 3,000 unit procurement of AMPVs is a good start.

The artillery arm of the U.S. Army must gain the attention it has lacked since the dissolving of the Soviet Union and the success of Operation Desert Storm. U.S. military planners and the leadership of the DOD must realize the continued importance of both conventional and rocket artillery on the modern battlefield. The U.S. Army only operates two self-propelled artillery systems, the M109 Paladin and M270 MLRS. This is not necessarily a bad thing as long as both systems are maintained, upgraded and fielded in sufficient number. The M109A7 upgrade program must gain greater funding in the immediate future.

The U.S. Navy

The LCS and DDG-1000 programs are a national disgrace and should be declared as such. The two existing DDG-1000s should be used as test beds for future engineering and weapons systems. The third vessel should be cancelled immediately. As for the LCS, the existing fleet should be used for littoral patrol duties, and all units currently under construction or planned should be cancelled. Enough money has been wasted on these horribly conceived and even more horribly manifested examples of the monumental corruption and waste so integral to the U.S. defense industry.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

Freedom Class LCS (background) and Independence Class LCS (foreground). Arguably two of the most monumental failures of warship design in modern history. A cautionary tale of waste and ineptitude.

The FFG(X) program to design a modern yet conventional multi-purpose frigate for the U.S. Navy should be fully embraced. The new frigate should adhere to the traditional naval warfare duties of a frigate and should be designed to sufficiently fulfill a balance of AAW, ASW, and surface warfare missions.  In conjunction, priority should be given to procurement of the new DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Flight III. The Arleigh Burke has been the backbone of the U.S. Navy since it entered service. It is a well-designed, balanced, flexible and powerful naval combatant of significant displacement. It puts the LCS and the Zumwalt to shame in every respect, and has existed as a symbol of U.S. Navy power and presence across the length and breadth of the globe since 1991.

It is almost unconscionable that with the richest and most accomplished history of aircraft carrier aviation under its belt, that the U.S. Navy could not come up with a better design for the next generation of CVNs than the Gerald R. Ford Class. Perhaps the namesake of the lead vessel in the class was well chosen, as President Ford was far from a memorable performer; however, the wisdom of the entire program from its very inception must be questioned. The U.S. Navy must outgrow the “super carrier” fixation. There is a future for aircraft carriers, yet on a far different pattern than what the U.S. Navy has operated for the past 50 years.

The greatest area of concern for the U.S. Navy is the weakness of the carrier air wing, a weakness that will not be fundamentally corrected by the introduction of the F-35 in U.S. Navy and USMC service aboard U.S. carriers. A new, longer range fleet defense aircraft akin to a modern F-14 Tomcat must be developed. In addition, a new attack aircraft must be developed with a range that exceeds that of the F-18 Super Hornet by a factor of 100%. It is hard to believe that the F-4 Skyhawk had an operational combat radius exceeding 700 miles (2,000 mile maximum range), twice that of a Super Hornet. Additionally, the S-3 Viking must be re-tasked as a carrier borne aerial tanker, and the many airframes now mothballed, yet with thousands of hours of use left, need to be repurposed to this task. The current carrier air wing as it stands, even with the introduction of the F-35, is of little utility against a peer adversary such as Russia or China.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

S-3 Viking in use as a carrier borne aerial refueling tanker. Even without significant modification, this stout little aircraft can carry 16,000 lbs. of fuel. The US Navy has 108 of these aircraft sitting in storage at a military aircraft storage facility in Arizona.

The United States must acquire both an SSN and SSBN to replace the Los Angeles and Ohio Class vessels that are approaching the end of their service lives. There is no greater defensive role for the U.S. Navy in ensuring the security of the nation than the continued operation of its attack and ballistic missile submarine forces. Both Russia and China understand this, and have greatly modernized their own submarine forces. Much of the success they have achieved in pushing the envelope of submarine design was due to their intense competition with a U.S. Navy submarine force that was always at the cutting edge of sub-surface warfare.

Conclusion

The United States stands at a crossroads in many respects, and the nation’s military equally so. All empires experience a period of over-expansion, military, economic and political over-reach and imbalance. The United States has followed in the wake of the many imperialist endeavors before it, with apparently little lessons having been learned. Imperialism is the inevitable result of power devoid of wisdom and humility. A nation borne out of a revolution against empire and absolutism has itself devolved into a much more dangerous and immoral avatar of its former oppressor. This must change.

While Defense Secretary Mattis clearly acknowledged the need to transform the U.S. military and realign it in a direction more focused on fighting and winning a conventional conflict with the near peer adversaries he identified as Russia and China, one can only hope that he realizes how the U.S. military that he served in for decades, got to the deplorable state that it now finds itself in. The greatest enemy that the U.S. military has fought for the past seventy years is undoubtedly the military industrial complex that it is an integral component of. The Soviet Union, North Korea, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, and Syria were never as much of a threat to the U.S. Armed Services as the corrupt military industrial complex and the Deep State that serves as its guardian.

The United States military is in the weakest state of material strength and readiness since the conclusion of the Cold War. The conventional ground forces of the Army have been transformed into a force bent on occupation and counterinsurgency. Its heavy armored formations are in a state of disrepair and material inferiority vis-a-vis its most capable theoretical adversaries. The cornerstone of American power projection and intimidation, the aircraft carrier strike groups, are a sad shadow of their former self. The carrier air wing, the entire reason that an aircraft carrier exists in the first place, has devolved into a tool of increasingly limited utility, with an ever diminishing reach.

The corrupt military industrial system that permeates every facet of American economic, political and even cultural life has sucked the very lifeblood from the nation, eroded its morality, bankrupt its economic future, and stolen a generation of its most patriotic and selfless sons and daughters. While James Mattis acknowledges the challenges facing the national security of the United States, he clearly misattributes the blame and misidentifies the very real adversary. Russia and China are not existential threats to the continued welfare of the American state. James Mattis need only look in the mirror to see the real threat, for he has come to represent the cabal of special interests that enslaves the nation and constitution he has pledged to serve, and holds the remainder of the world equally hostage.

There is very little chance that the reforms mentioned in this analysis will be adopted, or that the United States will move in a direction that brings it back to its inception as a constitutional republic. The interests of the military industrial complex in promoting conflict, and maximizing financial profit will continue to steer the United States military, and the nation as a whole, on an unsustainable and self-destructive path. There is little doubt that if the Deep State pushes the nation to war against Russia or China, and likely an alliance of the two, that the United States military has ever been in a weaker position. Such a conflict would be of no benefit to any of the nations concerned, yet many potential flash points exist that could lead to a conflict, including the South China Sea, Syria or Ukraine. As the United States plays catch-up after decades of military adventurism, China and Russia have spent that same time patiently and judiciously gathering their strength. The scenario of a one-sided victory in favor of the United States is pure fantasy, existing only in the daydreams of the emperor who wears no clothes.

The Path to World War III

Ilyushin2-600x360

The minimal U.S. press coverage accorded to last Monday’s shooting down of a Russian intelligence plane off the coast of Syria is, of course, a reflection both of lack of interest and of Israel’s involvement in the incident. If one had read the New York Times or the Washington Post on the morning after the shoot-down or watched the morning network news it would have been easy to miss the story altogether. The corporate media’s desire to sustain established foreign policy narratives while also protecting Israel at all costs is as much a feature of American television news as are the once every five minutes commercials from big pharma urging the public to take medications for diseases that no one has ever heard of.

Israel is, of course, claiming innocence, that it was the Syrians who shot down the Russian aircraft while the Israeli jets were legitimately targeting a Syrian army facility “from which weapons-manufacturing systems were supposed to be transferred to Iran and Hezbollah.” Seeking to undo some of the damage caused, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to express his condolences. He also sent his air force chief to Russia on Thursday to provide a detailed report on what had occurred from the Israeli perspective.

But that story, however it will be spun, is inevitably only part of the tale. The narrative of what occurred is by now well established. The Russian aircraft was returning to base after a mission over the Mediterranean off the Syrian coast monitoring the activities of a French warship and at least one British RAF plane. As a large and relatively slow propeller driven aircraft on a routine intelligence gathering mission, the Ilyushin 20 had no reason to conceal its presence. It was apparently preparing to land at its airbase at Khmeimim in Syria when the incident took place. It may or may not have had its transponder on, which would signal to the Syrian air defenses that it was a “friendly.”

Syrian air defenses were on high alert because Israel had attacked targets near Damascus on the previous day. On that occasion a Boeing 747 on the ground that Israel claimed was transporting weapons was the target. One should note in passing that Israeli claims about what it is targeting in Syria are never independently verifiable.

The Israelis for their part were using four F-16 fighter bombers to stage a surprise night attack on several sites near Latakia, close to the airbase being used by the Russians. They came in from the Mediterranean Sea and clearly were using the Russian plane to mask their approach as the Ilyushin 20 would have presented a much larger radar profile for the air defenses. The radar systems on the F-16s would also have clearly seen the Russian plane.

The Israelis might have been expecting that the Syrians would not fire at all at the incoming planes knowing that one of them at least was being flown by their Russian allies. If that was the expectation, it proved wrong and it was indeed a Syrian S-200 ground to air missile directed by its guidance system to the larger target that brought down the plane and killed its fourteen crew members. The Israelis completed their bombing run and flew back home. There were also reports that the French frigate offshore fired several missiles during the exchange, but they have not been confirmed while the British plane was also reportedly circling out of range though within the general area.

There was also a back story. The Israelis and Russian military had established a hotline, similar to the one that is used with the U.S. command in Syria, precisely intended to avoid incidents like the Ilyushin shoot-down that might escalate into a more major conflict. Israel reportedly used the line but only one minute before the incident took place, leaving no time for the Russian plane to take evasive action.

The Russian Ministry of Defense was irate. It saw the exploitation of the intelligence plane by the Israelis as a deliberate high-risk initiative. It warned “We consider these provocative actions by Israel as hostile. Fifteen Russian military service members have died because of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military. This is absolutely contrary to the spirit of the Russian-Israeli partnership. We reserve the right for an adequate response.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin was more conciliatory, saying the incident was a “chain of tragic circumstances.” He contrasted it with the Turkish shoot-down of a Russian warplane in 2015, which was planned and deliberate, noting that Israel had not actually attacked the Ilyushin. Though the Putin comments clearly recognize that his country’s relationship with Israel is delicate to say the least, that does not mean that he will do nothing.

Many Israelis are emigres from Russia and there are close ties between the two countries, but their views on Syria diverge considerably. As much as Putin might like to strike back at Israel in a hard, substantive way, he will likely only upgrade and strengthen the air defenses around Russian troop concentrations and warn that another “surprise” attack will be resisted. Unfortunately, he knows that he is substantially outgunned locally by the U.S., France, Britain and Israel, not to mention Turkey, and a violent response that would escalate the conflict is not in his interest. He has similarly, in cooperation with his Syrian allies, delayed a major attempt to retake terrorist controlled Idlib province, as he works out a formula with Ankara to prevent heavy handed Turkish intervention.

But there is another dimension to the story that the international media has largely chosen to ignore. And that is that Israel is now carrying out almost daily air attacks on Syria, over 200 in the past 18 months, a country with which it is not at war and which has not attacked it or threatened it in any way. It justifies the attacks by claiming that they are directed against Iran or Hezbollah, not at Syria itself. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that any peace settlement in Syria include the complete removal of Iranians, a demand that has also been repeated by the United States, which is also calling for the end to the Bashar al-Assad government and its replacement by something more “democratic.”

Aggressive war directed at a non-threatening country is the ultimate war crime as defined by the Nuremberg Tribunals that followed after the Second World War, yet the United States and its poodles Britain and France have not so much as squeaked when Israel kills civilians and soldiers in its surprise attacks against targets that it alone frequently claims to be linked to the Iranians. Washington would not be in much of a position to cast the first stone anyway, as it is in Syria illegally, bombs targets regularly, to include two major cruise missile strikes, and, on at least one occasion, set a trap that reportedly succeeded in killing a large number of Russian mercenaries fighting on the Syrian government side.

And then there is the other dimension of Israeli interference with its neighbors, the secret wars in which it supports the terrorist groups operating in Syria as well as in Iran. The Netanyahu government has armed the terrorists operating in Syria and even treated them in Israeli hospitals when they get wounded. On one occasion when ISIS accidentally fired into Israeli-held territory on the Golan Heights it subsequently apologized. So, if you ask who is supporting terrorism the answer first and foremost should be Israel, but Israel pays no price for doing so because of the protection afforded by Washington, which, by the way, is also protecting terrorists.

There is, of course, an alternative explanation for the Israeli action. Netanyahu might have considered it all a win-win either way, with the Russian plane masking and enabling the Israeli attack without consequence for Israel or, perversely, producing an incident inviting retaliation from Moscow, which would likely lead to a shooting war with the United States after it inevitably steps in to support Israel’s government. In either case, the chaos in Syria that Israel desires would continue and even worsen but there would also be the potential danger of a possible expansion of the war as a consequence, making it regional or even broader.

It’s the same old story. Israel does risky things like attacking its neighbors because it knows it will pay no price due to Washington’s support. The downing of the Russian plane through Israeli contrivance created a situation that could easily have escalated into a war involving Moscow and Washington. What Israel is really thinking when it seeks to create anarchy all around its borders is anyone’s guess, but it is, to be sure, in no one’s interest to allow the process to continue. It is past time for Donald Trump to fulfill his campaign promise to pull the plug on American engagement in Syria and terminate the seemingly endless cycle of wars in the Middle East.

By Philip Giraldi
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