Incredibly, U.S. forces fail to intercept Russian bombers circumnavigating Guam

Peace in our time.

Tu-95MS Bear H intercepted in April 2014 by an RAF Typhoon.  (Image via The Aviationist)
Tu-95MS Bear H intercepted in April 2014 by an RAF Typhoon. (Image via The Aviationist)

New post up at Liberty Unyielding.  Enjoy!

The Shakiest Nukes in the West

“Listen up, yo: I’m deterring you now”

In case everyone in Northeast Asia missed it, in spite of their intelligence and early-warning networks which have assuredly been tracking it in fine detail, the Obama Defense Department announced on Monday that the U.S. has been deterring North Korea by sending B-52 bombers on practice runs in its vicinity.  The specter of nuclear deterrence was clarified by Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter:

Deputy defense secretary Ashton Carter said during a visit to South Korea on Monday that the bomber flights are part of the U.S. “extended deterrence”—the use of U.S. nuclear forces to deter North Korea, which conducted its third underground nuclear test Feb. 12.

Nukes! I say.  Nukes!  Pay attention, dudes.

As Bill Gertz demurely puts it, Continue reading “The Shakiest Nukes in the West”

Naval Decline: It Starts with the Small Stuff

China and Iran show why now is not the time to cut the US Navy’s most capable forces.

The function of navies, most of the time, is to achieve national objectives without having to come to blows. Naval superiority is one of the most effective forms of deterrence and influence a nation can have. But when the deterrent works effectively, political leaders too often begin to assume that the secure stasis maintained by projecting naval power will simply persist if the naval power is withdrawn.

The thoughts of Defense Secretary Bob Gates appear to be shifting in that direction. In a speech to the Navy League last week, he questioned the need for the Navy’s 11 aircraft carriers and suggested the programs to build new-generation destroyers and ballistic-missile submarines were in jeopardy. Equally disquieting were his musings about the price tags of existing naval platforms, in the context of an allegation that the Navy has not advanced beyond a Cold War mindset.

Each of the services has come in for its share of such criticism since 1991; in many instances it’s justified. Gates’s goal of cutting the defense budget is also not necessarily objectionable in and of itself. And the goal of streamlining and improving our weapon systems to meet emerging threats, rather than remaining stuck on old concepts, is always appropriate.

But everything has to be done on the basis of a valid understanding of the threat – and that’s where Gates’s remarks are jarringly ill-timed. Continue reading “Naval Decline: It Starts with the Small Stuff”

Hit ’em Hard III

Options against Iran include both limited and comprehensive strike campaigns, which the US is well capable of executing. The likelihood of Iranian retaliation through terrorism is a major factor in inhibiting action to date. America might still incorporate her military threat into an escalatory sequence of threats. No option is ideal; eventually, Israel may feel it necessary to provoke an Iranian response that America must react to, as a last-ditch effort.

Yes, we Can!


In DESERT STORM, we talked about how many aircraft sorties it took per target to achieve our objectives.  In ENDURING FREEDOM (Afghanistan), we are talking about how many target objectives we can achieve per sortie.

US Navy Carrier Air Wing Commander briefing his peers in 2002


Israel can do a little to set back Iran’s nuclear programs.  The US can do a lot.

In the last installment of our examination of options versus Iran, we looked at the “reverse” option:  setting Iran’s programs back by some amount of time.  Israel, given her various operational constraints, would be capable of setting Iran back by at least six months, and probably more (my assessment:  a minimum of 12 months).  She could do this by attacking at least two, but fewer than 10, key target complexes.

US forces, by contrast, have the ability to inflict much greater damage in the service of a “reverse” option objective.  The most important factor in this from any standpoint is that the US is able to establish air superiority over Iran, and perform continuous strikes in sequence, at dozens of target complexes, and over a period of days or weeks. Continue reading “Hit ’em Hard III”

Deterrence and the Superpower

The effects of Cold War nuclear deterrence that are relevant to Iran’s situation today are usually misunderstood. From Iran’s perspective, what mattered was that the Soviet Union’s nuclear capacity had a deterrent effect on America’s willingness to intervene where the Soviets and their clients sought, through Marxist insurrection, to establish power. Iran can use this pattern to squeeze the US out of the Middle East, and would have more success if nuclear-armed.

New blog correspondent Dan Simon poses an excellent question in response to the “Hit ‘em Hard” entry on sanctions/embargo enforcement against Iran.  My intention has been to address the substance of his question in the post after I deal with the Reverse and Prevent options against Iran’s nuclear programs.  However, with technical difficulties slowing me down on that post, I will take this opportunity to discuss Mr. Simon’s specific point, outlined in his comments below:

I’m new to this blog, so forgive me if this has already been covered here–but could you perhaps give a short explanation as to why Iran’s nuclear weapons program is such an earth-shattering concern in the first place? It seems to me that one of the lessons of the Cold War–currently being recapitulated in the Indian subcontinent–is that nuclear deterrence works just fine. In fact, it arguably works too well: global conflicts seem to blossom effortlessly into hot wars, proxy wars, terrorism campaigns, civilian massacres and the rest in the presence of a nuclear standoff, almost as if the latter didn’t exist. (I elaborate here.)

The Iranian regime is currently going full-tilt at expanding its global influence, cultivating anti-Western allies of all kinds, and developing offensive capabilities of every conceivable variety. It also deploys these capabilities against its nuclear-armed adversaries, quite confident that just about the only thing that would provoke a nuclear response would be a (direct or proxy) nuclear attack. Apart, then, from deterring a full-blown invasion aimed at regime change–an extremely unlikely prospect in any event–how, exactly, would possession of nuclear weapons significantly alter for the worse either Iran’s aggressive posture or its plausibly deployable offensive capabilities?

Mr. Simon has expressed a common assessment here – and I believe it is, basically, 180 out from reality. Continue reading “Deterrence and the Superpower”