Bowe Bergdahl and Eddie Slovik; Ukraine; Moon Colony

View 827, Wednesday, June 04, 2014

John Quincy Adams on American Policy:

Whenever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

Fourth of July, 1821


Jerry, via @Instapundit "Both President Obama and Ms. Rice seem to think that the crime of desertion in wartime is kind of like skipping class. They have no idea of how great a sin desertion in the face of the enemy is to those in our military. The only worse sin is to side actively with the enemy and kill your brothers in arms. This is not sleeping in on Monday morning and ducking Gender Studies 101.


General Eisenhower had Private Eddie Slovik shot by firing squad in World War II for refusing to return to duty. Slovik boasted that he would go to an internment camp where he was safe, and he’d be released when America won the war. The sentence was confirmed on December 23, 1944, and carried out in January, 1945. Slovik was a conscripted soldier. He deserted after his request for a rear area assignment was denied by his company commander.

PFC Bowie Bergdahl, like all current American military, was a volunteer. AlJazeera America reports:

The circumstances surrounding the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl continue to ignite controversy, with mounting calls that he be prosecuted for desertion for having allegedly walked away from his base in 2009.

The U.S. takes desertion seriously. Under military law, desertion in wartime can carry the death penalty.

But despite mounting speculation and heated rhetoric, legal experts tell Al Jazeera that the military would be hard-pressed to make a legal case for desertion. And the military, while saying it will review the situation, said on Tuesday that Bergdahl "is innocent until proven guilty."

The Taliban captured Bergdahl in June 2009 after he walked off his base in Afghanistan, a decision that reportedly stemmed from his deep disillusionment with the war.


One does wonder about the wisdom of trading five flag rank Taliban officers for PFC Bergdahl. I would think this inflates the price by a lot: the Israelis have famously made such asymmetrical trades, but the United States has not done so. 



‘In reality, the EU has never considered Ukraine fit for membership.’


To say that Western coverage of the Ukraine crisis has been light on facts and heavy on anti-Russian propaganda does not begin to do justice to the extraordinary levels of misinformation. In fact, the reality of the history of the relationship between Ukraine and the EU is almost the exact opposite to the claims being made in the mainstream media. Far from Ukraine being at the centre of a battle between West and East, actually the EU has consistently rejected Ukraine’s requests for membership. In place of membership, the EU has attempted to manage its relationship with Ukraine through various agreements and frameworks, all of which have been premised upon the refusal of the EU to accept Ukraine as a member. Most recently, the relationship has been managed through the European Neighbourhood Programme (ENP)/Eastern Partnership (EP) Programme. It was Ukraine’s rejection of an EP association agreement (which had been negotiated over several years and again was explicitly not a stepping stone to EU membership) that sparked the current crisis.



Roland Dobbins

There is considerably more, worth reading for anyone interested in what’s likely to happen next.

It’s not entirely clear what Brussels wants – the EU leadership isn’t really responsible to anyone, and operates pretty much independently of the populations of its members, although presumably it is responsive to European oligarchs and member state power centers. There is an interesting analysis from the viewpoint of the standard NGO think tanks here: . This is from the Carnegie foundation people , who tend to come from the academic centers but try to incorporate some realistic views.

In my judgment , Ukraine is far more important to Russia than it is to the EU, and infinitely more so than it is to the US. Allowing Ukraine to join NATO would be a declaration of hostilities to Russia, and Putin knows we know that. It is one reason why he is now interested in closer relations with Asian powers although Russia is far less influential in Asia than in Europe: it is still joined to the Pacific by a single vulnerable railway and a few rather badly maintained highways. Sheer geography – and a lack of transportation infrastructure – makes Russia more important to the Middle East and Europe, and not much of a Pacific power. President Putin is certainly aware of all this.

And Ukraine remains of interest to Russia because it has Russians and Cossacks, which Russia needs, and Ukrainians are seen by Russia as Russians who speak a different language. There are Germans who still consider Silesia a sort of Germania Irredentia. There are far more Russians who see Ukraine in much the same way.


“This committee found a number of compelling reasons to include the moon [sp] as a stepping stone on the way to Mars.”



Roland Dobbins

As of course I always have. Interplanetary colonization is not easy. When NASA studied self-replicating systems in Space in 1980 it was concluded that technology was not up to closing the loop: we could not build real self-replicating systems with the current technology. When the report was presented to the Administrator, I pointed out that we did have the technology to build one kind of self-replicating system: a Moon Colony. It would have a replication time of about 18 years. The Administrator asked “Why would anyone want to live on the Moon”, which sparked the L-5 Society study on lunar colonists that demonstrated there was no shortage of well educated adventurous couples who would undertake to go live on the Moon. But that was back in the days of great space enthusiasm.

The good thing about the Moon as a place to study problems of space colonization is that is is only a few days away for physical transportation, and only a few seconds away for communications. We don’t need great theorists on the Moon: we need craftsmen. The best heart surgeon in the world is available by high definition television; a skillful surgeon can do her work under the direction of the best.

Before we start trying to build self replicating colonies elsewhere we should learn to build them on the Moon – and they might well be both physically and economically successful.

As to getting to Mars, it has been decades since I ran the Human Factors Lab at Boeing and did serious professional study of such matters, but I have kept in touch, and I don’t believe we know how to get humans to Mars alive, much less maintain them there. I do know that if we have a Lunar Colony first, we’ll have a lot more confidence in Mars operations.


Russia Irredenta

When I was in Germany in the early 1970s, I saw graffiti showing a map with the shape of West Germany, East Germany, and East Prussia-Silesia to scale but as separate puzzle pieces. Underneath was the slogan: "Dreimals niemals!" I don’t know if it has been redrawn as "Zweimals niemals." In Austria, I saw a graffito reading "Südtirol bleibt deutsch!" That was a re-bordering made after WWI. Sometimes memories are long. Wasn’t there a Russian politician who was nostalgic for the return of Alaska?

And of course the nostalgia of the Irish for the Six Counties is legendary.

The Crimea always was Russian and when Stalin moved the boundaries of the Ukrainian SSR to include Russian regions, it was the era of the New Soviet Man. Ethnic distinctions were not supposed to matter. (Though curiously, both the Ukrainian SSR and the Byelorussian SSR received separate UN seats.) The Kazakh SSR was also re-bordered to include enough Russians to outnumber Kazakhs. (Though since then, demographics has reversed the majority, the northern tier of Kazakhstan is still ethnically Russia.)

John Lukacs, my old history professor, was fond of saying, "All the ‘isms’ are ‘wasms’." The only ism that mattered in Europe was nationalism. Memories are as long as language. Consider Quebec.


Precisely. But these are now “territorial disputes in Europe,” precisely what President Washington warned us to avoid along with entangling alliances. Russian ambitions are no greater, and neither more nor less moral, than those of nations through most of history.  The Cold War with the USSR was different because communism claimed the world, and whether they believed it or not, Marxism was taught and taught well to every Soviet college and University graduate, and for that matter to all in high school.  So long as it was the official doctrine it remained the official doctrine, and you ceased to pretend to believe it at your peril, no matter how high – actually, especially how high – one might go in the Party.  After Stalin’s death Suslov became more important, and eventually became powerful enough to depose Khrushchev.  His antipathy to one-man rule kept him from becoming a new dictator, but he was powerful enough to prevent anyone else form achieving it until his death in 1982.  We used to call him The Last Communist.  After he died, the Nomenklatura, which had become a powerful faction, became even more important.

But for all that the goal of world communist domination remained the official doctrine and goal of the USSR so long as it existed.


My thoughts on air superiority

Dr Pournelle

I note that the F-35 is now 7 years behind schedule. Given the inexorability of Moore’s Law this means that the airplane is obsolete by current technology standards. We need to buy a hundred or so of the F-135’s, and finish working out the bugs, and get them into operational readiness; there are no prizes for second place in an air superiority airplane. On the other hand, we will not need to deploy them against very many countries; few will have anything that can challenge our current force.

The optimum strategy is to assure continuity by buying enough F-135 to dominate the air superiority mission in the next few years, while accelerating the design and development of the F-35’s successor. And about the time we are ready to deploy that, it’s successor should be well into the R&D cycle. –

I know nothing of the F-135. Is that a typo?

It was not said in my classes or my briefings, but it was easily inferred: All air superiority is local and temporary. At this moment, North Korea enjoys air superiority over its land because it is uncontested. If the US or South Korea ever challenge them, that will change quickly.

Air superiority comes in two flavors: air denial and air control.

David Drake’s Hammers Slammers practice ground-based air denial. You cannot fly over them ’cause they have line-of-sight, speed-of-light weapons. In effect, Mr Drake ratcheted up the effectiveness of the ZSU-23 by six orders of magnitude. In reality, air denial is never complete, especially since the advent of PGMs.

Air control means that you can use your air power for offensive operations against the enemy. You can increase your control by knocking out his air force on the ground. But the point of air control is that you can deliver ordnance against his ground forces.

The F-35 is just a tool. I do not believe it is intended to replace the Raptor (F-22) as an air superiority fighter. My impression was that the F-35 is seen as the Viper (F-16) replacement.

I believe that what matters most for air superiority is not the fighter; it is the AWACS.

I think an AWACS upgrade will do more to ensure American dominance of the air over the battle area than any fighter in development. We can deliver tons of PGMs from the belly of a B-52, so why send a manned vehicle into a battle area where the pilot can get his butt shot off?

As for air superiority, it may be time to resurrect the Navy’s theory of a stand-off fighter vis-a-vis the Tomcat (F-14) and the Phoenix. Strike Eagles (F-15E) loaded with Phoenix missiles maybe?

80% of air-to-air kills occur on the first pass. The loser never sees the winner. In the air, the element of surprise is decisive. AWACS gives the USAF surprise.

Once you see fighters as ordnance delivery systems for AWACS your picture of what we need in the-next-generation fighter changes.

Methinks the reason behind continuing to build the F-35 in numbers vs. putting together a demo squadron to see how they work in practice is the old fighter jock feeling of "Oooh! Cool! Wanna fly it." The Eagle-Viper-Warthog-AWACS mix worked well. The Raptor is a worthy successor to the Eagle, but there are too few Raptors. I do not see that the F-35 is superior to the Viper in the delivery of ordnance on target. Frankly, I do not see coherence in the Air Force’s acquisition plans. It looks to me like they are buying things because they are cool, not because they suit a defined role better than an existing aircraft.

FWIW I think any upgrade to AWACS must include control and targeting of RPVs. (Yeah, I know AWACS is obsolete terminology. But you know what I mean. Besides, the F-35 is an obsolete answer to the question of how do we put hurt on the target.)

Live long and prosper

h lynn keith

Of course F-135 is a typo. 

The simplest definition of air supremacy is “I can fly. You can’t.”  Air supremacy is not achieved by dogfights, and the air superiority mission isn’t really the key to winning the air war; this was the mistake Goering made. He had more air war experience than just about anyone else, first from his experiences as Freiherr von Richthofen’s successor in World War II, then in the Spanish Civil War; but it wasn’t in strategic air war. If you want to clear your yard of hornets you don’t swat one hornet at a time.  You clear out the nest. The WW II USAAF strategy of taking out fabrication of aircraft or of critical components of aircraft was sound, but it did not take account of the repair and reconstruction capabilities of German workers.  The costly Schweinfurt raids intended to stop German production of ball bearings, did not achieve their objectives, although it was difficult to know this at the time. Had Goering directed his air attacks on the British Fighter Command installations, particularly fuel storage, the outcome of the Battle of Britain might have been different.

Similarly the Army strategy of knocking out German airfields ahead of the advancing ground forces was quite sound, but resisted by the advocates of the Independent Air Force which had been persuaded that “victory through air power” was possible.  On the other hand, sometimes for political reasons it is important to swat the hornets one hornet at a time: that is to fight air penetration and interception battles. In those cases air superiority aircraft are vital, and “dual purpose” air superiority/recce strike weapons like TFX (FB-111) turn out to be nearly useless: there are no prizes for a really good second place airplane in air combat.  The TFX turned out to be an excellent weapon for recce strike and for isolating the battle area; nearly useless for close ground support; and very good but not quite good enough for air superiority missions.  When we pointed all this out to McNamara and recommended that we use everything we had to take out the three military airfields in North Viet Nam, he decided that we could target one of them.  When that was knocked out all the MiGs were moved to the other two, and their effectiveness was not much diminished – after all, they were in the combat area quickly, and didn’t have to fly any distance to get there.  I see I am rambling. I was involved in the strategic arguments in that situation, and I was on the design team for Boeing’s TFX proposal.

Structuring the force – Air Force, Navy, Marine, and Tactical Air – is complicated. We discuss much of this in Strategy of Technology. As technology advances rapidly it is important to build some operational system so that you can develop doctrines and tactics for the new weapons.  It is also important not to waste too much money on intermediate models.  None of tis is going to be settled in a few paragraphs.

But one thing is clear to me: the electronics, both hardware and software, of the F-35 is several years obsolete. It is still better than anything anyone else has; but five years we have three Moore’s Law cycles: capability doubles, and cost falls by half.  The rapid growth of technology makes it possible for newcomers to jump into the game. China is doing this now. We could and should be designing and building a fighter system at least twice as good as the F-35, and advances in technology have made that possible.  We must build enough F-35 to learn the new tactics and doctrines, but since funds are limited it is a mistake to spend billions on an obsolete airplane.  Structuring the Air Force is always a problem, because from the Army’s point of view a somewhat improved Warthog would be more than good enough.  Of course that airplane is entirely dependent on being protected by aircraft that are fairly useless in air superiority battles. Pilots good at close support of the field army are not likely to have a chance against middling good air superiority aircraft.  None of this is insoluble, but it must be resolved at the Presidential, not the Services, level – and at present the White House seems utterly unaware of this. 


As to what you call AWACS, with drones, the concept was developed by the Boeing advanced planning team back in the early 60’s. Boeing proposed building a fleet of KC-135 aircraft, some with lots of air to ground missiles (“Thoth Missiles”). Others would have a plethora of air to air missiles.  And of course they would be controlled by electronic warfare aircraft – all Boeing KC-135 but configured differently for each.  We had teams working with missile design companies on the armaments.  The fleet would be guarded by air supremacy aircraft to mop up anything that got through the missile interception drones.  War game analyses shoed this to be a pretty good system, but it was not loved by either the Army or the Air Force.  I left Boeing and air warfare to work on missiles and strategic defense in 1964, and I note that no contracts for the air supremacy fleet were ever issued.  Schriever’s Project Forecast, directed by Francis X. Kane, came up with some important concepts in the early 60’s, and some of them were implemented; but the conflict between the services always as to be resolved at the Presidential level, and few Presidents have been equipped to do that.  All services will buy things because they are cool if given the opportunity. Who doesn’t?




Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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