TOC Ready Room 22 November 2022: Drive-by edition; Poland missile impact, Biden FBI/Israel, Special Counsel and other Trump

What’s wrong and right with the world.

Increasingly, I agree with those who say we need an “audit” of U.S. support to Ukraine.  I put “audit” in quotation marks because a mere audit of the tens of billions flowing to Ukraine – and to military contractors – won’t get the job done.  What’s needed is a wholesale policy scrub of the Biden administration’s handling of the problem.

As always, I begin by affirming that the U.S. needs to support a fight to reverse and end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  The U.S. shouldn’t have direct military engagement in the fight, nor should NATO.

But it matters what strategy we’re supporting and how military assistance to Ukraine is executed.

It matters at least as much how the fight in Ukraine is affecting NATO’s security conditions, posture, and unity.  Almost everything about those factors is being studiously ignored; papered over with happy talk, and going unchallenged by Congress and the media.  While NATO adds small units in onesie-twosies on its eastern flank, for example, the Alliance’s missile defense posture has actually deteriorated – a point I’ve made before.

(Note: popular themes about corruption in Ukraine aren’t helpful in establishing the overriding need to review U.S. policy.  The ultimate questions for Americans aren’t about President Zelensky or the Ukrainian government; they’re about NATO, President Biden, and the U.S. government.)

Something we should be concerned about is one of the problems I’ve mentioned:  that Germany, of all NATO-interior countries, is now seeking to build a national missile and air defense.  That’s not a sign of NATO unity.  It’s a sign that Germany increasingly mistrusts the integrated NATO missile shield.

Another problem exposing the cracks in NATO, as new challenges emerge, is the missile impact early last week that killed two people on the eastern border of Poland.

Let me frame this up front.  The crack in NATO is that we didn’t have the prior will to aggressively address a possibility so obvious.  If we want to keep NATO from being dragged into the Russia-Ukraine fight on Russia’s terms, this exact event is one of the chief things we should have been prepared for.

Within 24 hours, it appears that NATO authorities had come to the most probable conclusion:  that a Ukrainian air defense missile (from an S300-variant system) had been fired in defense against a sustained Russian missile attack reaching to the far western precincts of Ukraine, and had fallen into Poland, just across the border.

A recoverable section of the missile matched the missile round used in all the export S300 systems in the inventories of European nations.  (See my first tweet thread above for a bit more on that.)  And after some 12 hours of media speculation, the Wall Street Journal was able to report that NATO “radar coverage pointed to” the launched-from-Ukraine scenario.

The latter is what means more, as Belarus, another S300-user, is also in range as the launch point for the erratic fall of an S300 round.  (We also have other means of observing whether Belarus may have been implicated, although we should normally expect to hear little about them, if anything.)

NATO nations have plused up Poland’s air/missile defense with Patriot and the UK’s Sky Sabre system, and media reporting, though sparse and vague to date, indicates the defensive systems are deployed near the extreme eastern portion of Poland where the missile fell.  I prepared these graphics to give a very rough idea of the combined “look” those systems’ radars would have that could establish where an S300 launched from the east came from as it entered Polish air space.

Very rough notional depiction. The NATO systems would be deployed between the Polish border and the western edge of the blue blob.  The portion of the blue bob across the borders of Belarus and Ukraine is a general idea of how much view of those nations’ airspace the radars would have from the western-most edge.  Move the radars closer to the border and they’ll see further across it. Google map; author annotation.
For comparison with the Patriot or Sky Sabre radars. (Patriot’s has some 10-12 miles advantage over Sky Sabre’s, depending on circumstances.) Google map; author annotation.

The ”look” depicted isn’t comprehensive; rather, its premise is mentally slicing out the air space you’d want to see to make the determination about the missile’s origin, and roughly presenting how much of it would be covered by the NATO systems’ radars.

As shown, the Navy radar accompanying Aegis Ashore in Poland would have an extended view of the missile picture; however, the Aegis Ashore system’s radar, besides not being operational with the integrated system yet, isn’t located in the relevant part of Poland.

For completeness: since the U.S. Army concluded a temporary 2019 deployment of the much longer-range THAAD AN/TPY-2 X-band radar to Romania, there hasn’t been one on NATO territory with the capability to reliably track an unusual, short-range ballistic trajectory in the area where the missile fell in Poland.  (The closest AN/TPY-2, in the eastern half of Turkey, might potentially detect an S300 missile in western Ukraine, if operating in the right mode, but would not be a factor in on-the-spot engagement decisions.  I consider the detection probability vanishingly low, given the relatively low approach altitude at which a Ukrainian S300 would be trying to intercept a Russian cruise missile.  In any case, the AN/TPY-2’s detection of an S300 missile from a generic failed engagement would more likely be difficult to resolve and figure into corroborative analysis afterward.)

A key concern with this scenario, meanwhile, is the ability of the NATO systems to respond by intercepting such incoming missiles.  An S300 missile coming down errantly from an unsuccessful intercept is an iffy proposition for Patriot, and probably for Sky Sabre as well.  A system like Israel’s Iron Dome or even perhaps France’s SAMP/T (nicknamed “Mamba” and currently deployed to Romania) is probably better suited for it.

While none of this commentary is meant to attack NATO planners for not having intercepted the missile on 15 November (that would have been a tough exploit in any case), it is meant to illuminate what the Alliance is apparently not prioritizing; i.e., practical defense.

It really wasn’t that hard to foresee that missiles could, no kidding, start falling in Poland.  What’s the policy for defending Poland (or Romania)?  To intercept missiles in tactical scenarios like Ukrainian air/missile defense under assault, so no one gets killed?  Monitor and wait to see what happens?  Those different policies have different necessary preparations.

What’s the plan, in general, for spillover combat damage to a NATO nation?  Make assumptions about intent, and trigger reactions?  Do whatever’s necessary to keep NATO out of the fight, regardless of how much that may mean ignoring?  Shape Russia’s expectations to curb any thirst for endangering NATO’s perimeter?

The NATO allies’ publics are owed better articulation of that topic.  Such articulation gets back to what support of Ukraine is for, other than vague bromides about “defending democracy.”  That blank formulation has become a substitute for almost all other statements of strategy and security goals, including the purpose for “supporting a war”; and the people who pay the bills and whose futures are being imperiled are entitled to much – much – better.

Rogue FBI sneaks around starting investigations of Israeli force activity?

This came over the transom on 15 November, and it’s both pointed and improper.

Keep in mind, the U.S. has already performed an (admittedly strange) analysis of the incident – the death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during a firefight in the West Bank in May – using information from the PA and Israel.  The Israeli investigation concluded that Abu Akleh was probably killed accidentally by a round fired from the direction IDF fire was coming from.

Opening a separate U.S. investigation carries the implication that the U.S. thinks it was more than that.  I.e., that there may have been intent behind Abu Akleh’s death.

That’s an extraordinary signal, and a baseless one.  (All parties to the original investigations agreed that it was impossible to identify the round recovered from the deceased as a sniper round.  Israel has no history of targeting journalists, and the distance from Abu Akleh, of the IDF unit in the exchange of fire with Palestinian terrorists, was too great for an average shooter to reliably target a single individual anyway.)

The Biden FBI launching an investigation, and reportedly informing Israel of it, does nothing but create political pollution.

Pressed by Israel on why this was done, the White House reportedly claimed that it had been surprised by the FBI move.  It should go without saying that that’s a non-credible absurdity.  At a minimum, the White House could quite properly have shut the FBI down; it’s the White House, not the FBI, that’s in charge of U.S. foreign relations, and the White House that decides whether America’s allies have trustworthy standards for law enforcement, self-policing, and accountability.

But listen with your ears to this sub-headline summary of the state of play at Times of Israel:  “Administration seeks to soften blow of FBI investigation into Palestinian-American reporter’s killing, Israeli official say, speculating that ramifications will be minimal.”

That’s a line from a good cop/bad cop dialogue.  Speculating about “ramifications” at all is first and foremost a signal that there could be ramifications.  It’s not reassurance; it’s a warning.

Coming at a time when the U.S. is urging Israel to appoint cabinet ministers whom the U.S. can work with, it’s a threat that doesn’t bother to veil itself.

Put it bluntly:  the Biden administration opened this investigation in order to have an “official” process to dangle Israel with – through “leaks” and innuendo – in the coming days.  Kind of like the mafia informing you that they’ll have to come around twice a week for a while, instead of once, to check on you for your own safety.

Of course, one might ask why Israel shouldn’t be treated like other American allies – e.g., the UK, Italy – who’ve been given peevish ultimatums by the Biden administration about their governmental arrangements.

It’s a good question.  Any discussion of it merely serves to highlight the great disservice Biden’s presidency is doing the American people.  (Yes; we’ve already been over many times the point that Joe Biden himself is not in charge.  Someone behind him is evidently calling the shots.  The presidency with his name on it is getting a lot of destructive things done with that non-accountability ticket.)

The Trump-related information offensive

On Friday, in an abrupt move, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the appointment of a special counsel to “investigate” former President Trump in two separate matters:  the 6 January 2021 riot at the Capitol, and the material with classification markings recovered from Mar-a-Lago.

This Twitter thread summarizes my points on that.

Former U.S. Attorney Jack Smith is the appointee.

Weirdly, Smith will reportedly be unable to return to the U.S. for some undeclared period due to a bike-riding injury in the Netherlands, where he’s been lead war-crimes prosecutor for the international court at The Hague.

As argued in my tweet thread, the discussion about avoiding a conflict of interest (i.e., Biden and Trump are both declared candidates for 2024) is a red herring.

The real aspect to focus on in this situation is that if, in either matter, the DOJ and FBI had a court-worthy case against Trump, whom they’ve already been “investigating” for at least 18 months (and indeed have been scrutinizing closely for seven years), they could just file it.

Announcing investigations when potential defendants are political candidates is one thing.  That could be legitimately perceived as a political move.

Filing good-faith charges that are likely to produce honest consequences in court is another.  The latter cannot be against the interest of “democracy” (or, more correctly, against the interest of the Unted States), if the charges are indeed in good faith.

DOJ/FBI apparently don’t have the good-faith charges backed by evidence.  But – cf. Israel, above – they can use the special counsel “investigation” to continue generating “leaks” and innuendo against Trump for at least the next two years, if not beyond.  As with the Mueller operation, the special counsel “probe” need never produce anything actionable in court.  Its purpose isn’t to do that.

Along with the “leaks” and innuendo, keep in mind that third parties can be put through hell by the special counsel as well, threatened with catastrophic financial losses and manufactured process crimes.

Before a final point, consider that we know by now what Trump did in relation to both matters.  There’s no mystery that needs clearing up, as regards what Trump did.  Imagining there’s something more to investigate is to simply accept the atmospherics of the media narrative, rather than think the situation through.

Merrick Garland essentially confirmed that, with his uncommunicative announcement, as did the media’s emphasis on an appearance of conflict of interest rather than any substantial elements of a potential case.  Appointing a special counsel isn’t about pursuing a legitimate indictment.  It’s about keeping a politically convenient process going.  (There may even be an eventual indictment, but with every day that passes, the likelihood that it wouldn’t result in conviction, and would probably be framed to encourage a plea from Trump, increases.)

The final point is the telling report from the Washington Post right before Garland’s announcement.  The report got a lot of play among conservative pundits.  Its gist, conveyed in peculiar language, was that the FBI couldn’t find evidence that Trump had a pecuniary motive for keeping documents marked classified at Mar-a-Lago.  The FBI has concluded that Trump’s motive was “ego.”

First let’s clear our heads.  Who cares?  If the FBI could sustain charges for the documents at Mar-a-Lago, DOJ could already have brought them.  It hasn’t.  There’s really no need, in that regard, to discuss the story line being retailed by WaPo.  “Trump ego” is just fodder for TDS sufferers.

But in another regard it’s worth a few words.  One point is that it is increasingly inane to think the FBI, by itself, is running some kind of legitimate operation that actually involves an incessant stream of highly dubious leaks to the major media, and the media keep eating it up without curiosity or skepticism.

It’s far more likely that this situation is what it looks like:  scriptwriters (e.g., from the 2020 Democratic/Biden “cabal”TIME’s word, not mine) feeding a narrative to the public, with the cooperation of the FBI and the media.

The question is why this particular story element was fed to us.  Probably to get ahead of the reality that there are no charges to bring against Trump.  Gee, he really wasn’t holding onto document covers marked “Top Secret” in order to sell nuclear secrets to Saudi Arabia.

Trump, Destroyer of Worlds.

The focus is shifted to Trump’s ego – a “professional” assessment that basically merits a string of “rolling on the floor laughing out loud” emojis as a sober response – so that we can keep extending the Two-Minute Hate.  Behind the shrill, farcical puppet show is the reality that the American people are the ones being punished with the “process” – and in the words of Peter Strzok, there’s no “there” there.

Bonus 30-second topics

California launches preparations for a new attack on the U.S. supply chain.

Self-explanatory.

Here’s a good summary thread on major news stories that have shifted from “right-wing conspiracy theories” to “yep; reality” within short spans of time.

Note that the tweeter is a news professional with a background across the spectrum.  He’s not a political one-note.

Getting cocky is never advisable, but ignoring the toothless “conspiracy theory” allegation from the Left is, at this point.  It’s not deployed in good faith; it’s just used to talk down and silence people.

CBS has suddenly gotten religion about the Hunter Biden laptop.

Thoughts:

Nota bene:  the Democratic Party doesn’t need any more leverage over Joe Biden than it already has, to prevent him from running in 2024.  He has no power to run against the wishes of the party or his presidency-handlers.  He’s not an independent actor; this sudden move by the media isn’t about stopping something Biden has the power to attempt.

For further thinking, at readers’ discretion:  the Democratic Party may not want to spend the next two years with Joe Biden in office having his laundry aired by a Republican House.  Not a good trend for the party brand going into 2024.  Fish-hooking Biden off the stage in early 2023 may be a better plan.

I don’t think the succession of Kamala Harris would improve things much from the Democrats’ point of view, but a Senate “gang” could well come together to support a consensus VP nomination by Harris.  That appointee could step in at some point if necessary; i.e., to recharge the Oval Office with an appearance of normal competence and engagement.  If the Senate is 50-50 in the next Congress (especially if Murkowski returns for Alaska), a “gang” would inevitably decide the confirmation vote on a VP appointment.  It’s in the realm of feasibility.

All mere speculation, worth less than a warm bucket of spit.

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

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4 thoughts on “TOC Ready Room 22 November 2022: Drive-by edition; Poland missile impact, Biden FBI/Israel, Special Counsel and other Trump”

  1. NEOCONS, in the State Department started the Ukraine problem in 2014. That is a Mr. Obvious information point. Over throwing a govt and putting NATO on the border with Russia is /was personified stupidity. The Bidens, Kerrys, and Pelosis are the only winners. They have taken in a lot of corrupt money based on the bodies of Tens of Thousands of dead in Ukraine. They could care less. The fact England, and the EU would destroy themselves over Ukraine is almost impossible to believe. The West is moving into a downward spiral. BRICS will be ascendant. A final note: The US military is becoming an empty shell and NATO is a paper pushing joke. The West is a group of Pretenders. Very best regards OC.

  2. The extra Special Counsel has little to do with Trump and much more to do with the new Republican House. It’s purpose is to spirit away all the “evidence” collected by the J6 Committee to keep it away from nosy Investigating Committees. Sort of like the 1st SC hiding Obama/Hillary’s malfeasance.

  3. Poland and the Baltics have been part of NATO for a while and they border Russia, so that argument is invalid.

    Putin realizes the Rus demographic is in a death spiral, and he’s fallen under Alexander Dugin’s spell of not Russian nationalism, but Russian imperialism, which means returning Georgia and Ukraine to mother Russia.

    Except that is backfiring on him. Healthy (virile) young Rus are getting killed and the partial mobilization are sending tens of thousands of others out of the country.

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