TOC Ready Room 11 Nov 2021: Ukraine and security; mock-ups in Chinese desert; preview of Danchenko meditation

What’s wrong and right with the world.

These will be drive-bys only, but it’s time for an update, whether updates are polished and ready or not.

Being left for later treatment are such equally urgent matters as the Biden administration’s weird posture on Iranian sanctions violations, which seems to have involved a most peculiar encounter in late October.

The “Ukraine and security” topic was prompted by a segment on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox Wednesday evening.  I rarely catch Carlson, but happened to see it on 10 November in its 8 PM slot, and was kind of mesmerized by the quality of the interview with Ohio Republican Congressman Mike Turner.

I don’t think Carlson has the best perspective on such foreign policy matters, but Turner came off very poorly.  I won’t do much more than embed the tweet thread I posted on this afterward.

Perhaps this will get some security-thinking juices flowing.  Carlson is no more out to lunch than many of our credentialed FP commentators:  one need only read most current articles at Foreign Affairs, or pieces offered by Brookings or the Atlantic Council, to recognize that.  The latter tend to talk about a world we no longer live in; Carlson understands we aren’t in it anymore, but doesn’t seem to see that we may not be interested in the Eastern hemisphere, but it has an obsessive interest in us, and won’t leave us alone no matter what we do.

Our security perimeters in both the East and the West start with the chokepoint network of the Eastern Mediterranean, Red Sea, and Gulf of Aden.  What happens in that region – what I call the Great Crossroads – radiates out inexorably to affect the security of North America.  The only difference since 100 years ago is that it radiates out 100 times faster now.

The reason is not so much that technology has accelerated everything, as that technology now enables would-be Eastern hegemons like China, Russia, and even revolutionary, caliphate-minded Iran to press their campaigns for regional leverage and global extortion on a sub-lifetime timetable.  You don’t have to be a human singularity like Alexander or Napoleon anymore; being Xi Jinping with a state-of-the-art tech kit is enough.

Tucker Carlson is right that we don’t want U.S. troops in Ukraine.  Mike Turner is right that we do need to deter Russian designs on Ukraine.  Neither one had a good argument for the thing he was right about.

I’ll put it this way, as summarized in my final tweet.  The real security crisis today, for the entire world, is the campaign in the West to vitiate the essential idea of nation-states with secure borders and sovereignty.  This is both a domestic and an external security struggle for America.  It’s part of the same crisis that is our current politics.

If we are not ready to deal with China, it will be mainly because of the paralysis being induced in U.S. policy by that political crisis.  And regarding liberty, which Turner kept invoking, its extinction is guaranteed if we give up on the nation-state, without which it cannot be defined and enforced.

It would do little good to merely roam the planet looking for other borders to protect.  Securing the U.S. border is the first thing we need to do, because we’re the U.S.  But deterring Russia at Ukraine’s border is also something we need to assist in – by enabling Ukraine to undertake it, and being a credible patron of that effort.  Nothing would boost that credibility like securing our own border.

We do not need to hand Ukraine over to Russia in order to gain Russian support for countering China.  That kind of thinking is exactly like saying we needed to hand Eastern Europe to Stalin if we wanted to get rid of Hitler.  It’s lazy and wrong, and in both cases it ignores the reality that a Russia that could be bribed in that manner – after earlier making common cause with the emerging enemy, as in both cases – would be a lousy and faithless ally (which certainly turned out to be the case in World War II.  Which in turn, incidentally, is not a knock on the courage and sacrifice of millions of Russians in defeating Hitler’s Germany.  It’s a knock on Stalin and his regime).

At any rate, it’s not surprising that the volume was elevated in the interview with Turner.  The topic was fraught and visceral; right over the target, as regards the most important issue in American security today.  Hitting the target with precision is another story.

Warships and models of warships

Most readers will be aware of the warship mock-ups seen via satellite in China’s remote interior.

A couple of comments are worth making.

One is that it takes some thought to see this as significant, if you know much about state-of-the art airborne targeting.  The models do appear to be for airborne targeting; there doesn’t seem to be anything at the appropriate distance near them that would function to support tactical-range ship-vs-ship targeting.

The speculation is that they are situated where the Dong-Feng 21 (DF-21) antiship ballistic missile can be launched at them from Chinese territory, and travel inland toward the target without any need for the missile to go outside of Chinese territory or air space.

That point makes sense.  It seems to make more sense than using the mock-ups to support practice for fixed-wing aircraft attacks.  Perhaps the models are being put to that use as well (H.I. Sutton mentions a previously seen target outline that was frequently repaired after impacts), though in the context of standard modern capabilities it would seem to have limited utility, since U.S. warships are well defended against a fixed-wing air threat.

Superficially, also, the need for exact-replica mock-ups to test missiles with seems questionable.  The purpose of replicating dimensions and features (including aircraft models on the flight deck) would have to be for a kind of on-scene targeting that isn’t at issue with an over-the-horizon missile, and would only get an attacking aircraft shot down if it tried to get in close enough.

All that said, however, technology would allow for these mock-ups to be used in more sophisticated and worrisome ways.

Their chief drawback, for one thing, is that they don’t move.  (The rail system alluded to in Sutton’s 7 November article can’t move them in the way I’m speaking of, as if they’re in an at-sea environment.)

A U.S. warship will be a moving target, unless it’s moored to a pier at a regional port.  Even if it’s disabled, a ship at sea is inevitably being moved around by the water.  It’s nowhere near stationary enough to be the same targeting problem as a structure on land.

So for a ballistic missile, a stationary practice target would be of limited use if the real-world target is to be a warship underway.  That’s the case even if the missile has sophisticated terminal homing, potentially including optical forms.

But what if you could teach the homing sensors to be smarter, and more agile and adaptable, by recording information from numerous homing events and using computer simulation to introduce the variables of target movement?  It’s not just the sensor systems you’d be teaching; it’s you the human as well.  You could arrange to “see” or detect what the sensor would see – if the target were actually moving.  You and the computer could determine how the homing sensors’ capabilities need to be adjusted.

If, as H.I. Sutton speculates, the mock-ups are intended to have radar reflectors, using those as reference markers for such an enterprise could make sense.

Another possibility is a cruder but certainly conceivable one, and that’s orchestrating swarms of armed drones to overwhelm ships’ defenses and get on-scene attacks through by sheer volume.  For such a tactic, it would be best to be able to see the drones’ target, as that’s what a drone controller would be doing.  The target should in that case look like what controllers would actually see, deploying the drones in combat.  The mock-ups should present the same feedback to targeting sensors that the warships would in real life.

Note that these are not the rudimentary outlines or wooden-structure, barge-borne clown cars Iran uses.  China has put a lot into these mock-ups to make them realistic (or enhanced) in very particular ways. 

That’s it; that’s the section.  Interesting development.

A second comms burst from Mr. Durham

More to come on this one, but there’s significant interest from the recent indictment of Igor Danchenko, the Russian-affairs specialist used by Christopher Steele and Orbis Business Intelligence to compile much of the infamous dossier.

As with the original identification of Danchenko in 2020, this fresh round of clues opens new doors for analysis.  One of the most important is the individual referred to as Danchenko’s main sub-source, who is thought to be one-time journalist and more recently PR specialist Olga Galkina, a Russian who has worked in both Russia and Cyprus.

Long-time readers may remember the remarkable array of connections that popped up back in 2020, when we looked at the probable identity of a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer whom Danchenko was tasked by Steele to investigate in the 2011-2012 timeframe.  That individual, Alexey Klishin, turned out to be linked not only to quite a few relevant Clinton enterprises, but to the business end of Spygate as well, through his connections with Joseph Mifsud and Stephan Roh.

Christopher Steele and “Primary Sub-Source” Igor Danchenko shirt up for the roles of their lives.

Galkina’s resume puts her with almost laughable precision in positions relevant to Spygate and the Clintons in a similar way.  There’s even a connection that would be relevant to the Bidens, whose saga is becoming more clearly integrated with the long war to avert the loss of “deep state” power portended by the unsanctioned election of Donald Trump.

Most of the Internet-sleuth squad is understandably focused on other aspects of this.  But one of the useful characteristics of intelligence, as opposed to building criminal cases, is that you can pursue the sum total of what you think actually happened, as opposed to confining yourself to polishing what you can prosecute in court.

And I think that’s extremely important.  Not just a little bit important, but of overriding importance – because the appalling reality of Spygate is not something that can be “fixed” by prosecutions, however welcome they would be.

America has to face what’s really going on and do something decisive about it.  It won’t be good enough to pin things on a few people and leave vulnerabilities in place and unaddressed, even the seemingly un-pluggable philosophical ones.  The courts are unsuited to this task.  It must be the people and Congress who do the work.

And for the purpose of understanding what we’re dealing with, “Hillary started this” is the wrong answer.  She was unquestionably involved in a principal role, and I would say culpably so, but she could not possibly have been behind everything.  She didn’t control anything the Obama administration did, and Spygate would have amounted to nothing without the involvement of the Obama agencies.

This was bigger than Hillary, bigger than any motive of hers, and it started well before the events featured in Durham’s indictments.  The deep dive on Danchenko last year helped open the vista on that.  There are threads that keep recurring in every aspect of Spygate, and it’s because those threads are part of Spygate.  Spygate, in its turn, is also part of the landscape those threads weave together to present to us.  Olga Galkina is another lens through which to see it more clearly.

Feature image: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Felix Garza Jr. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

16 thoughts on “TOC Ready Room 11 Nov 2021: Ukraine and security; mock-ups in Chinese desert; preview of Danchenko meditation”

  1. The prescriptions you list in your tweet-thread sound eerily similar to a certain former President’s established policies. Policies which were successful and delivering “Yuge!” benefits to America. However, the current regime is obliterating them at speed because “Mean Tweets!”

    1. Welcome, Uncajohn. Your one-time “approval” is done, so your comments should post automatically from now on.

      I wasn’t thinking of the Mean Tweeter when I made the list in the thread, but I think you’re right that the recommended measures are similar to what he’d do.

      Trump didn’t have a Cold War to organize his foreign policy actions at a thematic and philosophical level, but basically, his choices were the answer to WWRD — What Would Reagan Do. I give Trump credit for coming up with his program on his own though.

      I didn’t specifically mention regaining energy strength and even independence in the tweet list, but that was one of Trump’s biggest FP moves. Like Reagan, he knows that the way to put Russia’s energy extortion career inside a box, so a Putin can’t alarm and subvert Europe with it, is to outproduce Russia and underprice the cartel. Smart power.

    2. Incidentally, Trump was the best president we’ve had on a particular security matter that even Reagan ultimately whiffed on. That’s border security, of course.

      Trump tried to work something with Congress at the beginning, but Republicans weren’t united enough to do the right thing, which starts with securing the border against illegal crossings before anything else.

      So Trump found ways to secure the border that didn’t require passing new measures in Congress. All he was doing was executing existing law, but it’s been many decades since any president succeeded in doing that. Reagan got legislation through Congress that “said” we were going to do it, but neither Congress nor succeeding presidents ever made good on that intent.

      Trump just got it done.

  2. And don’t sleep on the spat between Poland and Belarus. The Poles don’t appreciate being an immigrant dumping ground.

    As for Ukraine, we can offer logistic support, but our European allies should be the boots on the ground. Though I’ll give Germany a pass.

  3. RE: Tucker Carlson–I think his view here represents a growing trend on the political Right in America of dishonest handwashing and self-exculpation for supporting the War on Terror. People who were all-in for Iraq in the early 2000s now rant on Twitter about “neocons.” Our government aren’t the only ones not being held accountable for the last 20 years of foreign policy failures.

    1. Welcome, Alex M. The one-time “approval” should set you up for your comments to appear automatically now.

      I don’t know that I’d say everyone exhibiting the pattern you speak of is dishonest, but I do think there’s a lot of misguidedness. People flail for cut-and-dried answers, when there are very few in foreign/national security policy.

      What we think is is our national interest often changes with time and circumstances. Politics is always looking for ulterior angles and scapegoats, so the two don’t mix well.

      That said, some people are just being dishonest, as you suggest.

      1. It’s very helpful in 2021 to stop reading the Anglosphere think tanks, and their minions 🙂 in governments, on foreign/natsec policy. They’d re-create the Crimean War if they could.
        Personally been enjoying the MENA ‘quad’: MbZ + MbS + al-Thani, + El-Sisi. Looks like the B-Team has finally noticed this new hegemon, though not clearly enough to realize UAE & KSA are the only nations that have any leverage over China. .

        When I read your tweet about Omarova: “Way we’d have to live to do w/out oil/gas is untenable.”
        thought you should be aware that Bill McKibben has had > 20 years to frame that ideology, based on the 1970’s Deep Ecology movement. McKibben wrote the DNC platform in 2016, key advisor to Bernie, and, the Voice of ‘climate activism.’ Have never seen any pundit recognizing the power of McKibben’s Voice, which really can NOT be dismissed just because it’s “untenable”.
        You can bet Omarova’s nomination is part of McKibben’s Plan.

        This daily update on Glasgow COP26 used citations from his echo chamber.
        “Trust Is Hard to Find at the U.N. Climate Summit in Glasgow. Young activists are right to doubt the pledges of governments, financial firms, and the fossil-fuel industry. By Bill McKibben Nov. 9, 2021 […] But the big pools of capital—the great banks of New York and London, the giant pension funds of the West—are within the reach of young activists, so retail branches and brokerage houses may make for more promising targets than governments. It seems likely that, as the Glasgow summit concludes, that’s where they will turn their attention in a last-ditch effort to hold someone actually accountable for wrecking the planet. https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/trust-is-hard-to-find-at-the-un-climate-summit-in-glasgow Bill McKibben is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org and a contributing writer to The New Yorker.

        Association of US Army Medal of Honor Graphic Novels, which are very good even if they are real non-fiction: Vol 1, No. 1 was Alvin York: https://www.ausa.org/medal-honor-graphic-novels h/t Liel Liebovitz for featuring Vol. 2, No. 4 Tibor Rubin, even though Liel called them “comic books” https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/arts-letters/articles/tibor-rubin-veterans-day

        Really wish this platform allowed formatting…

        1. Thanks, D4x – yes, I’m aware of McKibben. The point of bringing up the untenability of the program he pushes is to highlight that its implementation will become a crisis sooner rather than later. It can’t just be an abstraction various factions disagree on for decades on end.

          It will start killing people, with the declining availability of both fossil fuel for individual discretionary use and mass-supplied power for industrial applications (including agriculture and food production, as well as sophisticated and complex health care).

          This will be at the same time people are being herded into a model of homogenized life we haven’t seen the like of for at least 200 years – and 200 years ago the quality of the homogenization was different. More than 90% of people did agricultural work in that earlier era. But that’s too independent and self-directed for the McKibbens of the world. Their project is to homogenize us into a broadly dependent, highly centralized, crammed-in urban lifestyle.

          The latter is untenable even for a short period. It literally cannot be sustained, at all, for a global population the size we currently have. It’s precisely diversity in living locations, economic opportunity, and energy sources that makes a growing global population possible. The McKibbens want to shut down all those factors.

          1. TY, but, my point is the power of McKibben’s voice shapes the Echo Chamber of the one-sided dialogue. McKibben is an acolyte of Deep Ecology, and, he has long believed, half the global population must disappear. I read that > 20 years ago.
            Ignoring/dismissing McKibben is not the way to stop ‘BuildBackBetter’, where the punditry focuses on tax and cost, make fun of AOC and the BBB version of Green New Deal, NEVER noticing the underlying ideology.

            His call for global protests against finance to stop hydrocarbon investment will dwarf 2020’s BLM ‘fiery protests’.

            Since 2020, the deepecology.org website has disappeared, even from the wayback. They forgot to disappear this: https://www.britannica.com/topic/deep-ecology#ref311895 The eight points of the platform for deep ecology posit:
            1. “The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life on Earth have value in themselves…. These values are independent of the usefulness of the nonhuman world for human purposes.”
            2. “Richness and diversity…contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.”
            3. “Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.”
            4. “Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.”
            5. “The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease.”
            6. “Policies must therefore be changed…[to] affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures.…”
            7. “The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality…rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living.…”
            8. “Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to participate in the attempt to implement the necessary changes.”

            1. Yes, I understand that McKibben’s enunciated positions are very clear on the posited imperative of eliminating quite a bit of the population.

              My point is polemical and hortatory (and not aimed at people like you who already understand it).

      2. Oops, an edit to ” the MENA ‘quad’: MbZ + MbS + al-Thani, + El-Sisi. ”
        Egypt is the GCC’s army, and India might just be their Navy.
        UAE and KSA have very close ties, alliance, totally ignored by the Anglo-pundits, with India.

  4. Good day,
    “Reckless”, does not even begin to describe current US policy concerning the Ukraine.
    “Existential threat” and “vital national interest”, are understatements in the context of describing Russia’s concern about a hostile Ukraine.
    As an analogy, consider the PRC arming and extending a security guarantee to Mexico, in the event of a conflict with the US.
    This business will eventually blow up in our face and make the previous series of ~20year blunders seem innocuous.
    As usual, expect a confounding Russian response — of the type and time of her choosing.
    As we’ve said on many a previous occasion, it ain’t the Nineties anymore.
    –JG

    1. Good to see you around, jg.

      I perfectly understand Russia’s sensitivity on Ukraine. But I always recall Nixon’s line from some 35-40 years ago: that Russia’s security concerns don’t justify occupying and poaching territory from her neighbors.

      Things have gotten out of hand in Eastern Europe, from folks acting stupidly on both sides. There is ZERO chance of aggression against Russia from Ukraine, even if Ukraine were to join NATO (which I don’t advocate). That said, NATO flying US strategic bombers around Europe is a very poor way of making that point. We don’t have to do it just because Russia’s doing it (with Blackjacks and Backfires).

      It’s not even clear what our “message” is with such a move today. We got through the Cold War, when the message would have been clear, *without* circling over Europe with B-52s (or B-1s). Now, when the message just looks incendiary but untethered to a specific goal, we feel compelled to do it?

      Unfortunately, Biden and the whole NATO/EU leadership are playing out a civilizational meltdown. It’s not clear at all where things are headed. None of the old assumptions is definitively predictive now.

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