Analysis 11-22-2021

ANALYSIS

Tensions Grow on NATO’s Eastern Flank

 

Although NATO/Russian relations have been tensing since the Russian incursion into Ukraine in 2014, the numbers of flashpoints have escalated recently. Belarus, with Russian help, has raised tensions as they have tried to send Middle Eastern refugees across their border into countries of the European Union and NATO, specifically Poland. In response, Poland has asked for a NATO meeting to consider the Russian action and possible NATO response. Poland has also indicated it will double the size of its army – already one of the largest in NATO.

During the G20 meetings, American intelligence warned that “a high probability of destabilization,” of the Ukraine by Russia may take place this winter. A US briefing indicated that Moscow was preparing for a possible invasion of the Ukraine.

These conclusions were not merely based on the number of Russian troops on the border, but additional intelligence on Russian President Putin’s intentions.

An analyst on Russian military movements told a Financial Times reporter, “Information of our [military intelligence services] coincides with the information of partner countries about the high probability of destabilization of the situation in Ukraine this winter. Ukrainian military intelligence says Russia has deployed as many as 114,000 forces around the border.”

American Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters, “We do know that we’ve seen in the past Russia mass forces on Ukraine’s borders, claim some provocation by Ukraine and then invade and basically follow on through on something they planned all along.”

Another worry according to the French foreign ministry is that Russia has refused ministerial level talks with the Ukraine and Germany on the peace process in disputed parts of the Ukraine border.

It’s not just the number of forces being deployed by the Russians. They have shifted some of their elite forces to use them in any potential conflict with Ukraine.  The 1st Guards Tank Army, which is based around Moscow has apparently been shifted to become an operational reserve for the 41st Combined Arms Army (CAA).  The 41st CAA was originally stationed in Siberia, but has been moved to Russia’s Western Military district, which stretches from Finland to the Russian border with Ukraine. They are near Belarus and the Ukraine.

If war starts with NATO, the 41st CAA would likely move through Belarus towards the Sualki Gap, which is found on the Polish/Lithuanian border. This would link up with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and break up Polish and Lithuanian defenses.  Then, the 1st Guards Tank Army could exploit any weaknesses and strike towards the Oder River on the Polish/German border.

Russian security forces that would be used to suppress any dissent in entered areas are also mustering near Rostov.

Putin likely believes that a weak American president and Europe’s need for Russian natural gas will cause NATO to dither long enough for Russia to make some significant advances.

What NATO has in Eastern Europe

The one way to make Putin to rethink his perceived incursion plans is to move military assets into Eastern Europe, especially Poland and the Baltic nations.

It is also desired by NATO to improve the readiness of the units already deployed.

NATO member Estonia has ordered snap military drills and the erection of more barbed wire fencing along its border with Russia. The Estonian government also called up 1,700 reservists to fortify the 40 km border with Russia. The drills are to test the national chain of command and its ability to quickly react to any Russian military movement.

Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania have instituted states of emergency along their borders with Belarus.

This spring, the US moved nuclear capable fighter bombers into Poland.

However, official American attitudes towards Russia remain split. American General Milley of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Russia’s movements were “not overtly aggressive. However, at the same time CIA Director Burns had said he had “serious” concerns about the Russian military buildup.  Secretary of State Blinken warned Russia about making a “serious mistake” in the Ukraine.

To back up its concerns, NATO rotates four battalion sized combat units in Latvia, Lithonia, Estonia, and Poland. It has also deployed a brigade in Romania. Meanwhile, the US Congress is pushing Biden to send some air defense systems to Ukraine.

There is even talk of sending an Israeli Iron Dome missile defense system to Ukraine.

The problem is that these NATO units are more of a “trip wire” than a threat to blunt any Russian advances.  A RAND study found that NATO couldn’t successfully defend its eastern members with the current assets. Wargaming indicates that it would take seven brigades to prevent a rapid overrun of the three Baltic nations.

At best, NATO might have three battalions in the Baltic nations – equivalent to about one brigade. The RAND study indicates that it would require an order of magnitude of more forces to be truly effective.  Given America’s ability to rapidly move forces globally, the US Army could rapidly reinforce its units in Eastern Europe – although probably not enough to guarantee victory.

The US and NATO had planned a major deployment exercise a year and a half ago, but it was scaled back due to the Covid pandemic. However, this summer, NATO held a military exercise called Decisive Strike 21. It included 28,000 troops carrying out maneuvers ranging from the Balkans to the Baltic nations.  Later this month, there will be an exercise named Steadfast Jackal 21, which will train the NATO Rapid Deployable Corps.

On the naval side, the British aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales will become the command platform for the NATO Response Force/Maritime in 2022. It will help free up US aircraft carriers for other operations.

Reenter the Cold War

NATO and the US aren’t merely deploying forces in military exercises. The ghosts of the Cold War are making an appearance in Europe again.  The Pentagon has reactivated a nuclear unit based in Mainz-Kastel.  It will field hypersonic weapons aimed against command-and-control targets in Russia.

The 56th Artillery Command will be armed with “Dark Eagle” long range hypersonic missiles that can reach Moscow in 21 minutes and 30 seconds. The last time the unit had been operational was 1991, as the Soviet Union was collapsing.

The Dark Eagle system, which can be transported on a C-130 aircraft, has a maximum speed of 4,000 miles per hour, a range of 1,725 miles and a weight of 16,300 pounds. In addition to the hypersonic missile, the command will also field the ground launched Tomahawk cruise missile.  These cruise missiles are nuclear capable.

Ground equipment for the Dark Eagle has been delivered to the US Army, but the hypersonic missile itself is due for delivery in 2023.

Both the Army and Navy will deploy the Dark Eagle (officially named the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon). The army version will be air and road mobile. The Navy version will be installed on its Virginia attack submarines and later the Zumwalt class stealth destroyer.

The Zumwalt class destroyer, which is difficult to detect can move undetected into enemy coastal waters and then launch the hypersonic missile – giving the opposition only minutes to react.

However, Russia hasn’t backed down. Russia has dispatched two nuclear capable strategic bombers to patrol Belarusian airspace to counter NATO patrols that have reputedly been doubled.

The possibility of a mistake has grown.

Analysis 11-15-2021

ANALYSIS

Latest Incidents Raise Questions About America’s Submarine Fleet

Does America’s navy need to revise its management style?

 

The last few weeks have once again raised questions about the quality of America’s navy and nuclear submarine fleet.  There was the incident of an American submarine hitting a sea mount (a mountain totally underwater) in the South China Sea.  It also came out that steel used in the construction of American submarines didn’t meet specification, which could have led to catastrophic failures.

Is this just bad luck? Or is there a fundamental problem with America’s naval management?

A few weeks ago, the nuclear submarine USS Connecticut ran into a sea mount in the South China Sea, causing injuries amongst the crew and forcing the submarine to remain on the surface while it sailed to the Guam for repair.  It is currently in Guam and is expected to sail to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

There are now questions if this multibillion-dollar submarine can even return to active duty.

Although the scope of damages is classified, reports say the forward section of the sub was damaged, including the ballast tanks, which would force it to remain surfaced while at sea.

Information about the collision has not been forthcoming.  The Navy says the collision was with an uncharted sea mount.  However, the decision by the 7thFleet to remove the top two ranking officers and the top enlisted person for, “loss of confidence…sound judgment, prudent decision making, and adherence to required procedures in navigation planning, watch team execution and risk management,” indicate there was more to this incident than hitting an uncharted sea mount.

From the Navy’s statement, it appears that the sub’s commander had an untrained watch team that was conning the sub when the accident occurred.  The statement about “navigation planning,” indicates that proper navigation would have prevented the collision – possibly because there was solid evidence that the sub was transiting dangerous, uncharted waters that could cause a collision.  The statement about “watch team management,” indicates that some of the officers and enlisted on watch weren’t fully qualified.

As we have mentioned before, to cut corners, the Navy has shortened officer training and now requires the ship’s captain to oversee the completion of the junior officer’s training onboard the ship.  Unfortunately, the shortage of officers who can stand watch forces commanders to qualify these junior officers before they are fully qualified to handle a ship at sea.

At the height of the Cold War, Naval Officer Candidate School was nearly six months long. Today, it is only three months long. Courses in navigation, ship handling, damage control, etc, have been nearly eliminated.  Surface line officers do receive additional training at Surface Warfare Officers School, but that is only two additional months – seven months less than the full year given to junior officers in the Cold War era.

Junior officers going to nuclear submarines do receive a little over one year training in nuclear propulsion and shipboard operations.  However, that is far less than training during the Cold War era.

Another problem is the vetting of potential nuclear submarine officers.  During the Cold War, every officer, who was to be sent to a nuclear submarine, was interviewed by Admiral Hyman Rickover, the “Father of the Nuclear Navy.”  These interviews were legendary as Rickover tried to throw challenges at the officers to see how they would react.  In several cases, he would force the officer to sit in a chair that had uneven legs to see how he would react.  Other tactics would include forcing them to stand in a closet or verbally berating them.

These interviews, in addition to adding to the large number of Rickover antidotes, produced a submarine officer who could react to stress and unusual situations.  It also produced officers who would push themselves as well as others to demand absolute perfection.

Rickover’s accomplishments are legendary.  His team designed and built the first nuclear submarine, USS Nautilus, in just three years.  Today, it takes over a decade to build nuclear submarines, even though the plans are already in place.

Rickover’s influence is also seen in the fleet of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers that span the oceans.

Although officers are still interviewed by the head of the nuclear power command, the demand for excellence in all things has declined. And, since there is less of a focus on mathematics and physics in many colleges, it is harder to find naval officers with the rigorous academic background for operating nuclear reactors.

Rickover was opposed to training that left officers unqualified.  He once said, “This system virtually ensures inexperience and nonaccountability.  By the time an officer has begun to learn a job, it is time for him to rotate.”

One of the officers who were able to pass Rickover’s stringent standards was former President Jimmy Carter.  Carter as president was later able to provide political protection to the irascible admiral.

Without Carter’s political protection, Rickover was forced to retire in 1982 and as his management style evaporated; so did standards – not only in officer training, but ship building.  This week, a metallurgist who once was responsible for testing the steel used in US Navy submarines pled guilty to falsely reporting the steel quality for more than three decades.

Ellen Thomas, the former Director of Metallurgy at Bradken, pled guilty of falsifying more than 240 tests during her career from 1985 to 2017.  The test verified the ability of the steel to not fail at -70C, which would guarantee its ability to withstand a collision or other catastrophic event like colliding with a sea mount.

Fortunately for the Navy, none of the submarine hulls manufactured under Thomas’s time at Bradken have failed.

Interestingly, Admiral Rickover retired in 1982 at the age of 82; before the falsifying of submarine steel began.

This is where the management style of Rickover’s probably would have ensured a double check of testing and its documentation.  In 1982, Rickover said in a speech on management, “A major flaw in our system of government, and even in industry, is the latitude allowed to do less than is necessary.  Too often officials are willing to accept and adapt to situations they know to be wrong.  The tendency is to downplay problems instead of actively trying to correct them.”

The case of the faulty steel is an example.  The steel test cards had been obviously altered, but no one discovered this (or cared to investigate the problem) until 2017.  Rickover responded to this lax attitude when he said, “All work should be checked through an independent and impartial review.”

Waiting to find the problem was an anathema to Rickover.  Rickover said, “Every manager has a personal responsibility not only to find problems, but to correct them.  This responsibility comes before all other obligations before personal ambition or comfort.”

The Navy has identified the submarines that have the substandard steel.  Although the Navy has been mum on what actions they have taken, it appears that sub commanders have been told not to push their submarine hulls to the maximum.

As the US Navy faces the problems of substandard steel hulls and undertrained naval officers, the Navy’s top officers must take a different course if they hope to rectify these problems.  In a speech made just before he retired, Rickover said, “It is a human inclination to hope things will work out, despite evidence or doubt to the contrary.  A successful manager must resist this temptation…Although it is not easy to admit what a person once thought correct now appears to be wrong, one must discipline himself to face the facts objectively and make the necessary changes – regardless of the consequences to himself…It is not a pleasant task, but one must be brutally objective in his work.”

One reason Rickover was forced to resign at the age of 82, was that his management style, although successful, was not welcome in many parts of the Navy.  Top officers prefer to avoid responsibility, while enjoying the perks of their position.

As one looks at the collisions at sea by naval vessels in the past few years, it is obvious that the maxims of management by Admiral Rickover have been excised from the Navy management style.

It is assumed that the Submarine incident was a result of spying mission went wrong in a sensitive location, China must be pleased with such outcome since similar spying mission may be halted until further notice.

Analysis 11-11-2021

ANALYSIS

Republicans Shock Experts in Off Year Elections

 

One of the few near- truths in American politics is that the party in control of the White House incurs losses in off year elections.  That was true in 2021.  However, it’s also true that Republicans did much better than expected in 2021.

Not only did the GOP turn Democratic Virginia, Republican by winning the top three statewide elections (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and State Attorney General) they also recaptured the House of Delegates from the Democrats.

While there were Democratic wins, there were other surprising GOP victories (or near victories). As of this writing, the race of New Jersey governor appears to have gone for the Democrat by the narrowest of margins, even though New Jersey is a reliable Democratic state.  Even the New Jersey Senate President is in a close race with a truck driver, who has never run for office.

Pennsylvania, who went for Biden in 2121, only elected Republican judges this year.

New York City, which is overwhelmingly Democratic, saw four City Council seats go Republican (another one is too close to call).  One of the winners, Inna Vernikov, a Ukrainian native, won, in part thanks to Trump’s endorsement and robocalls for her.

These surprising GOP wins were seen across the country.  Seattle, a Democratic stronghold voted for the Republican candidate for District Attorney.  She had promised to clamp down on rioters who caused damage to property.

Republicans also did surprisingly well in county school board elections, where voters made it clear that they didn’t like school curriculum of racial theory, transsexual politics, and socialism.

And, just as scary for Democratic strategists, the Hispanic vote in Virginia went to Republican Governor elect GlennYoungkin by 54%.  Democrats have been counting on Hispanics to be a reliable Democratic voting bloc.

What happened?

Of course, off year elections typically go for the party out of power since it a way of voicing disapproval of the current party in power’s agenda.  But the swing to the GOP was more than mild disapproval this year.

With Biden’s approval rating in the low 40s and his disapproval rating in the high 50%, this election was a referendum on his policies and how well he is governing.

Clinton advisor James Carville once said in 1992, “It’s the economy stupid.”  He was right.  Economic issues always take precedence in election issues.

Unfortunately, for the Democrats, the economy is in bad shape – and getting worse.  The economy is slowing down (only 2% growth) and inflation is going out of control.  And that doesn’t even address supply chain failures and the lack of vital goods on store shelves.

The Biden Administration is claiming that the fault is the Covid pandemic and consumer spending.  However, their claim that all problems are due to the Covid epidemic is not convincing to voters.

Another facet of the Covid issue is mask mandates.  While Americans were willing to wear masks for a while, they are growing tired of the masks and the forcible vaccine inoculation rules.  While Democratic states have maintained mask mandates, Republican states like Florida, have removed them. Most American voters think that the government is going too far in its regulations.

This brings us to the philosophic aspect of this election

A recent Gallup poll shows that Americans don’t trust the federal government to handle domestic and international affairs.  Less than a third of those polled say that they are satisfied with the way the nation is being governed.  55% trust the American people more to makes the right decisions.  Only 37% trust the legislative branch and only 44% trust the people in public life.

This was seen in the issue that first came up in county school boards, racial theory, transsexualism, sex education, and socialism.  But it came to national attention, when some school boards tried to equate the dissent of parents to domestic terrorism and Biden’s FBI started investigating the parents.  It peaked when the Virginia Democratic candidate for governor said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”  Those twelve words probably sunk McAuliffe’s campaign and energized the suburban vote that is normally the swing vote in elections.

The election is over and the damage is done.  What is going to happen now?

Biden’s agenda is in tatters now that the political chemistry has changed dramatically.  Democratic congressmen and senators can stay the course and take their chances in the next election.  For many, they represent safe Democratic districts or states and their continued support of Biden, and his agenda is unlikely to mean a defeat in 2022.

However, the Democrats have razor thin majorities in both the House and Senate, and they can’t afford to lose any votes.  And this is where the moderate Democrats are a major threat to Biden.

About 60 House seats are controlled by Democrats but are tossups.  These are represented by moderate Democrats, who must look towards their own reelection campaigns.  IF they support the current Democratic progressive agenda, they are quite likely to lose.  And, since only about 6 seats are needed by Republicans to control the House, the chances for Republican control of the House are very good in 2022.  That means that these congressmen and congresswomen must moderate their voting patterns if they want to stay in Washington.

There is another option; retire.  Democratic congressmen who have grown used to the power of being chairmen of powerful House committees may not want to stay in a Republican controlled House.  Instead, they may very well decide not to seek reelection and take their government pension.

Without the advantage of incumbency, these seats, especially the vulnerable seats, could easily go Republican, especially if the rule holds that the party out of power does well in the mid-term elections.

The thing to watch is who decides to retire in the next few months.  Expect more Democratic retirements than one sees in most years.

Who Are the Winners and Losers?

Not all winners and losers were on the ballot.  Two winners were moderate Democratic Senators, Senator Joe Machin (D, WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D, AZ).  They had opposed the Biden agenda’s cost despite the attacks by their fellow Democrats.

Machin agreed with GOP Senate Minority Leader, on Wednesday, that economic issues like inflation were a major concern for voters.  The senator said, “When you look at southwestern Virginia…That’s my entire state…they’re concerned about inflation, high costs making it more difficult for them.”

The same holds for Senator Sinema, who has been steadfast in holding down the costs of the Biden agenda – a stand that will help her win reelection in 5 years in Republican Arizona.

Another winner is the Virginia Lieutenant Governor elect Winsome Sears, the first Black Woman to win the position in Virginia.  She was born in Jamaica and joined the United States Marine Corps.  She is a naturalized American.  She went into politics after building a successful business.  She works in a women’s homeless shelter for the Salvation Army.

If it wasn’t for her status as a naturalized American citizen, she would be a strong candidate for President or Vice President.  However, don’t be surprised to see her run for the Senate or even join the Cabinet of a Republican president.

The losers are top level Democratic politicians who went all out to support the Democratic slate in Virginia, only to see their candidates lose.  This indicates that people like Senator Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, Obama, and Biden don’t have the “coattails” it takes to bring committed Democratic voters out on Election Day.

One possible victim may be Speaker of the House Pelosi.  There are serious questions about her husband’s financial dealings.  She is 81 years old and there have been questions about her ability to manage legislation going through that chamber.  And, she has faced opposition in the past for the Speaker’s job.

Should the Republicans take over control of the House, there is a good chance that Pelosi will face a serious challenge for her control of the House Democrats.

Of course, she may decide to retire before the 2022 election.

There is also the question of Biden, his heath, and his ability to remain in the White House.  If he is seen as dead weight to Democratic chances in 2022 or 2024, there may be pressure to force him to retire or to use the 25th Amendment to make VP Harris the Acting President.

Undoubtedly, there are already discussions about Biden’s future in some smoke-filled rooms in Washington now.  Who knows what these top-level Democrats are thinking?

Of course, one must keep in mind the political axiom, “A week is an eternity in politics.”

Analysis 11-01-2021

ANALYSIS

Don’t Expect Much from the G20
or COP26 Meetings

 

Diplomatic events are well scripted to look like successes.  Press release drafts are circulated long before the meeting starts, and prepared speeches merely reflect what was agreed upon beforehand.

The same is expected at the G-20 and COP26 meeting.  There will be signs of unity, and all will claim that new pledges of cooperation are historic.Don’t believe them.  There are loads of fractures.  France has recalled its ambassador from its oldest continuous ally, the United States, over the Australian nuclear submarine deal.  That’s serious for a relationship that goes back to the time when the US was just a group of British colonies rebelling against Britain.

Just to show that it isn’t picking on the US, France just this week, detained the trawler of its oldest, historical enemy, the British, over a fishing rights dispute.

Germany, on the other hand, is pushing for a European Union army that will allow it to bypass its NATO allies.  And Germany didn’t earn points with its NATO allies when German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer seemed to advocate a “first use” nuclear policy when she said that NATO is “prepared” and ready to activate its nuclear arsenal against Russia.

Meanwhile, the President of the United States will be attending in the most politically weakened condition ever.  Polls show many Americans think that Biden is mentally incapable to be president and his favorability numbers are collapsing.  Meanwhile, his domestic legislative agenda is in tatters thanks to fractures in his party and bipartisan opposition.

Don’t forget that there is inflation and shortages bedeviling Americans.

G20 will also have to solve the maze of travel restrictions and regulations hampering travel in this age of Covid.  And the smaller nations are complaining about un-kept promises to donate Covid vaccines to lesser developed nations.

The first meeting will be the G-20 meeting this weekend in Rome.  Obviously, the Covid pandemic will top the agenda and many of the smaller nations will push the major countries to make good on their pledges to send vaccines.  The Director General of WHO expressed his anger when he said, “But the concentration of these tools in the hands of a few countries and companies has led to a global catastrophe, with the rich protected while the poor remain exposed to a deadly virus.”

The big decision coming out of the G20 meeting will be a promise to send more Covid vaccines to the lesser developed nations.  However, like many of the promises coming from international meetings, the reality will lag far behind the promises.

The COP26 meeting in Scotland was to work out a new international agreement on climate change.  However, international events and the non-attendance of Russia’s Putin and China’s Xi imply that any agreement will not be worth much, especially since China is the world’s biggest polluter.

Other heads-of-state that aren’t expected to attend the COP26 are India, Japan, Brazil, South Africa, Iran, and Mexico.

The COP26 had been billed as one of the most important events in the past few years.  The goal was for world leaders to come up with a concerted effort to reduce emissions and tailor a mechanism for implementing the Paris agreement to contain global temperatures.

As many as 25,000 delegates are flying in on small private jets – making it a major pollution event itself.

Many of the attending nations have no real intention of following through.  China has moved back to coal fired generators as the current supply of electricity is insufficient for current economic growth.  Australia, the world’s largest coal exporter disagrees with the IPCC’s goal to shut down all coal fired plants.

India has made it clear that any agreement on reducing carbon emissions will depend on Western nations and their willingness to provide major subsidies to poorer nations (India included).

Even American climate envoy John Kerry has pessimistically stated, “There will be a gap between the commitments attendees are expected to make at the summit and actual commitments necessary to make the 1.5-degree scenario happen.” (temp of the planet)

There is also the reality that commitments made by delegates in Scotland will not be ratified back home.  In the case of the United States, the Paris Accords were never passed by the US Senate, which means that they don’t have the authority of law.  And, with an evenly split US Senate, there is no doubt that any agreement Biden makes in the next few weeks on climate change will not garner the 67 votes in the Senate necessary to ratify the agreement.

The same political problem is found in the Western democracies, who will need the agreement of their legislatures, and who will find strong political opposition as voters learn the cost of these agreements.

Whatever is agreed upon at COP26, it will face a harsh reality when the delegates get home.  Already citizens in Europe are facing the prospect of a cold and dark winter.  They are also facing the reality that “Green” energy isn’t meeting the needs of the Europeans.

The CEO of Blackrock, Steven Schwarzman, admitted this week that,” Many British residents are being faced with the fact that they may need to ration heat and could be faced with the chilling reality that lives could be lost if this winter is as cold as forecasters are predicting.”

“We are being told we are facing a propane Armageddon,” he continued.

In Europe, natural gas is $29 per million BTUs, compared to the US, where natural gas is only $5 per million BTUs.  Can the regular British citizen afford to pay the steep electrical prices this winter?

Coal, which was once the anathema of energy production is suddenly becoming popular again as European power producers bring coal powered plants onboard again.

The same is happening in the United States, which is a major producer of coal.  Even though American supplies of natural gas are good, power companies are hedging their bets with coal stockpiles because natural gas prices are too high to produce electricity at economical prices.  According to Bloomberg, American coal supplies are the lowest since 1997.  Currently coal produces 25% of America’s electrical power.  However, that number is expected to climb this winter as power plants are expected to burn 19% more coal this year.

The biggest problem isn’t the lack of coal reserves in the ground, but the number of coal miners who can produce enough coal this winter.

Escalating energy prices will also hurt food prices at the same time cold weather will be pounding the northern hemisphere.  The price of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey in America has risen 21.91% in the last year.

Will the average person tolerate that?

Blackrock CEO Steven Schwarzman is pessimistic.  He told CNN, “When power goes out, people are not going to be happy.  And, people are really not going to be happy if it goes out for an extended period of time…we will soon see very unhappy people all over the globe…you’ve got real unrest [in the developed world] …This challenges the political system and it’s all utterly unnecessary.”

In many ways, it seems that the delegates at COP26 are emulating the Roman Emperor who fiddled whole Rome burned.  Recent attempts to increase “Green” energy while decommissioning “dirty” energy sources have left many without reliable energy sources during high usage periods like winter.

Not only is heating impacted, but there are also reduced supplies of gasoline, which are expensive when they can be found.  This in turn increases the cost of transportation of food and other necessary goods.

Demand for “clean” transportation has also cost Americans.  In California, where container ships are piling up off the coast, only “clean emissions” trucks that have been produced in the last three years are eligible to pick up containers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.  This, in turn has left thousands of containers sitting in the port because they can’t be moved.

And, since there is a shortage of computer chips, the companies that produce trucks can’t increase production.

Given the wide range of problems right now, the regulations being pushed at COP26 not only seem difficult, but dangerous to a population that can’t afford food or heating and is on the verge of protesting and rioting.

Analysis 10-25-2021

ANALYSIS

New China and North Korea
Weapons Tests Worry US

 

Tests by China and North Korea this week are worrying some in the West.

North Korea launched a submarine-based missile this week.  North Korea said that the new missile had improved guidance and maneuvering technology.  The missile launch was in conjunction with an arms exhibition in Pyongyang.  Being a submarine launched missile makes it harder for South Korea, Japan, or the US to detect it before launch.

The missile has an estimated range of 1,900 kilometers, although this test only flew 450 kilometers.

Although the North Korean missile launch is a new technology for NK, it is a technology the US has developed adequate defenses for.  North Korea’s conventionally powered submarines don’t have long range and are unable to travel far enough into the Pacific to threaten most of the US.  In addition, North Korea’s waters are shallow, making hunting the NK submarines easier.  North Korea’s submarine must also go through several chokepoints that are closely monitored by South Korea, Japan, and the US.

Another test that worried Western observers was a test of China’s hypersonic glide vehicle that purportedly made two orbits before reentering the atmosphere and missing its target by about 24 miles.  The hypersonic glide vehicle was launched by the Long March 2C liquid fuel missile.

The Chinese government has denied the report and maintained that the vehicle was a spaceship.

US Disarmament Ambassador Robert Wood said that the US is concerned about the deployment of such a vehicle because the US hasn’t developed a defense against it.

“Hypersonic technology is something that we have been concerned about, the potential military applications of it and we have held back from pursuing military applications for this technology, “Wood said at a press conference on October 18th.

The test caught the US intelligence community off guard, noting that it was unaware that China was so far in developing its capabilities.

However, like many reports on defense technology, journalists are woefully lacking in understanding the physics.  For instance, every object orbiting in space is travelling at hypersonic speed.  In that regard, this Chinese vehicle is no different than the first satellite (Sputnik) that went into orbit in the 1950s.  Journalists also don’t consider that additional energy is needed to slow the glider enough to safely reenter the atmosphere.

But is this technology that advanced?  Many observers doubt it.  Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control analyst at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, noted that the American space shuttle is also a hypersonic glide vehicle.  “The only difference,” he noted, “was that the space shuttle doesn’t have a nuclear bomb onboard and the Chinese vehicle doesn’t have landing gear.”

The technology is very old and goes back to Nazi Germany in WWII to attack New York.  The US tested a hypersonic orbital or suborbital vehicle (C-20 Dyna-Soar) in the late 1950s.  It was designed to fly at hypersonic speeds in low orbit and glide to a target on Earth.   In addition to its ability to put a man into space, the US Air Force saw its application in reconnaissance and as a bomber.

There were technological problems that killed the program.  One was the damaging heat that built up in the vehicle as it glided into the atmosphere.  One way to solve the problem was to “skip” on top of the atmosphere – gaining altitude as the vehicle got hot to allow the temperature of space to cool it down.

The heat problem wasn’t solved until the Space Shuttle and the development of its high temperature tiles on the space vehicle’s surface.  However, they were fragile and any flaw or damage to the tiles could cause a catastrophic failure as was seen in the Columbia disaster in 2003.

Another problem was that the low trajectory, unlike the high trajectory of the traditional ICBM, made it harder to hit the target.  Since these were first strike weapons designed to hit hardened targets like missile silos and command bunkers, pinpoint accuracy was necessary since any attack by these missiles would be instantly countered by land-based ICBMs controlled by American command and control bunkers.

Development ended in 1964, but the Soviets took a simpler track in later years.

The one clear advantage of these missile systems was that the weapon could attack the US from any direction like the southern hemisphere, while traditional ICBMs must fly over the North Pole region, where it would be detected by American radar.

A memo from the State Department Bureau of Intelligence in 1967 noted that the Soviet Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) was being pursued by the Soviets, but its only advantage was its ability to reach the US unobserved.  The memo went on to note that the US was on the verge of fielding a satellite that could detect any launch by the Soviets.  Therefore, the Soviets would soon discard this technology since the chance of surprising the US would be lost.

The State Department analysis proved to be right.  Testing soon ended and the last of the FOBS ICBMs (only 20 were constructed and 18 deployed) were retired in 1983.   The Soviets discovered that the missile could only carry one nuclear bomb (5 megatons) and only 50% of the missiles would fall inside a range of 1.1 kilometers of the target.  That would make the chances of hitting and destroying the missile silos problematic.

In the meantime, normal ICBMs could reach the target faster than the FOBS and multiple independent reentry vehicles of the Soviet R-36 were more accurate and more devastating.

With this history of the FOBS, one must question if the Chinese are interested in deploying such a system.  Any ICBM launch by the Chinese would be detected with America’s satellite constellation and American ICBMs could be heading towards China before the FOBS reached the continental US.

Of course, it is true that the US is currently unable to intercept and destroy these FOBS missiles.  However, the technology has already been developed and it only requires incorporating it into a current system.

The biggest challenges to US air defense are the speed and the direction of the incoming missiles.  The Navy’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System has the range to hit a FOBS but isn’t designed to hit such a weapon.  However, the Navy is undoubtedly looking at upgrading the software, radar capabilities, and missiles to intercept such a glide vehicle.

Another option is to arm the Navy’s Standard missiles with enhanced radiation nuclear weapons that wouldn’t require a direct hit on the FOBS vehicle but could safely destroy the FOBS nuclear warhead with a blast of high energy neutrons that could damage the electronics or the warhead itself.  The Sprint Anti-Ballistic Missile System, which was never fully deployed, was designed to destroy hypersonic speed missile warheads just seconds from impact.

Clearly, there is technology that could counter the FOBS technology, given enough time.

The biggest problem for China is that as fast as it is, America, with its early warning satellites will have enough time to retaliate before they hit their target.  In other words, the launch of FOBS vehicles by China would be the equivalent of a “first strike” and a declaration of war.

Given that, is China heading towards developing a deployable FOBS system?

Maybe not.

As many strategic arms experts have noted, the test could very well be a test of a civilian space system.  All orbital systems travel at hypersonic speeds, just as the American space shuttle did.  The test could have merely tested flight characteristics of the glide vehicle in a near earth orbit.  Although the technology is something the US would prefer China doesn’t have, it isn’t proof of hostile intent

However, rest assured that all results of the test will be forwarded to the People’s Liberation Army.

Even if China’s intent is purely peaceful, rest assured that the US will use the test flight to boost defense spending on hypersonic missiles, glide vehicles, and upgraded missile defenses.  No politician will want to be perceived as allowing China to develop a technology that makes the US vulnerable.

But how much should the US worry about China’s FOBS technology?  It should balance the threat with an understanding of the difficult technology and the Soviet’s decision to abandon it.

No doubt, China is quickly advancing its strategic weapons technology.  Much of it is in the public arena and what is secret, seems to be leaked by American scientists and engineers willing to sell out America for cash.

The challenge for America is to discern which Chinese developments should be aggressively countered.

Analysis 10-18-2021

ANALYSIS

Is Iran Close to Possessing a Nuclear Weapon?

 

After years of hearing that Iran is “months” from building a nuclear device, it was a surprise to hear the Mossad’s former director Yossi Cohen saying this week that an Iranian atomic weapon was still far away.

“I think Iran, to this day, is not even close to acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Cohen said at a Jerusalem Post Conference.  “This is due to long standing efforts by some forces in the world,” he said in an oblique reference to Israel’s covert actions in Iran.

“They should not sleep quietly in Iran.”

Cohen also implied further actions against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure when he said, “We have to develop capabilities to allow us to be absolutely independent.  Doing what Israel has done twice before;” referring to the bombing of the nuclear reactors in Iraq and Syria.

Cohen also said that there is greater opposition to Iran’s nuclear program than in the past.

There was some question about the timing of these statements just as the US and Iran hope to continue further talks on renewing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  Cohen said of the JCPOA that “it isn’t comprehensive; it has to be comprehensive.”

The deal must be “completely refurbished – not only in one different subject, but completely.”

In an aside, Cohen stated that the Abraham Accords normalization and peace agreements were “one of the greatest accomplishments.”

 

Is an Iranian Nuclear Bomb Currently Practical?

There remain questions about the Iranian nuclear program.  Did Cohen imply that Iran is truly far away from developing a bomb soon, or does it mean that they are far away from developing a bomb capable of being deployed and of defeating Israel’s air defense system?

Meantime, the Institute for Science and International Security stated in a report issued this week, and reported by the New York Times, that Iran could produce the fuel for a single bomb in “as short as one month.

Consequently, Cohen seems to be implying that Iran is far from developing a practical nuclear device that can be fitted to some sort of missile capable of penetrating Israel’s vaunted air defense system.

In other words, Iran may have enough uranium 235 for a bomb in as little as a month, but they would have no way to deliver it.

One reason to believe that there are still technological issues to solve is the recent assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was the head of Iran’s nuclear program.  He was not a nuclear scientist.  Rather it appears that his area of specialty was miniaturizing the nuclear warhead and making it rugged so the warhead could survive its reentry into the atmosphere.

Although it is easy for analysts to say that a nation is close to building a nuclear weapon, there are many problems associated with the project.  America’s first nuclear bombs were extremely large and heavy.  The first bomb used on Hiroshima weighed 9,700 pounds (4,400 kilograms) and was 10 feet long.  It had to be carried in America’s largest bomber and it was essential for America to have total air superiority over Japan for the mission to succeed.

It is believed by many experts; Iran will not be able to achieve air superiority over Israel.  That leaves ballistic missiles.  However, ICBMs are extremely complex to design and build.

The first practical American ICBM was the Titan II, which could be launched from hardened underground silos.  However, they didn’t go into service until 1962; 17 years after the US had developed and used the atomic bomb.  Although the warhead had a similar mass to the first bomb dropped over Hiroshima, it had a much larger yield – 8 megatons versus only 13 kilotons.

During the years between 1945 (the first atomic bomb) and 1962 (fielding of the Titan II ICBM), American scientists had to solve numerous problems like accurate missile guidance, practical propellants, reliability, ablative material for reentry, nosecone configuration, and the ability to launch a missile within minutes.

The warhead had to undergo considerable miniaturization to fit into the Titan missile.  There was also the problem of making the bomb rugged enough to withstand the acceleration of the missile, the temperature variations of outer space and reentry, and lateral forces on the warhead.

But there is more than 17 years of research on ICBMs that Iran must copy.  Nuclear weapons, ICBMs, and air defenses have changed dramatically over the last 60 years.  Many American and Israeli military analysts are of the opinion that while an Iranian missile may be able to penetrate the first American anti-missile system, the Nike Zeus (built in 1961), it would be easily defeated by the multi layered Israeli missile defense system,

This may explain Cohen’s statement that Iran isn’t close to building a nuclear weapon.  Given Iran’s limited stockpile of Uranium 235 and its inability to penetrate Israeli airspace either with an aircraft or missile, it would be a waste to build a nuclear weapon that has no practical utility. Although Iran repeatedly denied that is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and insist on its right to develop a peaceful nuclear program.

To develop a missile that can be practical to employ against the US or Israel, Iran has moved towards development of a hypersonic missile.  However, hypersonic technology has its own problems.  A nuclear device must be more rugged to withstand the Mach 12 speeds of the Iranian Haj Qasem.  And, since physics mandates that weight must be dramatically reduced to reach these high speeds, more miniaturization is required.

At this point Iran doesn’t appear to be able to field a nuclear tipped hypersonic missile.  The publicly available pictures of the Iranian hypersonic missile do not show a glide vehicle that is used to provide effective maneuvering at hypersonic speeds.  Such a glide vehicle could be incased in the missile shroud, but it would be probably too small for an Iranian developed nuclear weapon.

It also appears from video of its launch that it relies on obsolete North Korean fuels and engine design.  The bright missile flames and black soot at launch, indicates a hydrocarbon (gasoline or kerosene) based fuel.  This is a typical liquid fuel for the Scud B and indicates that Iran is using older North Korean missile technology.

Given the size of the missiles and the fuel, there isn’t any way that this missile has the range to reach Israel.  That means that Iran will keep focusing on hypersonic technology and designing a nuclear device that may be fielded with the missile.  However, they are not likely to build such a nuclear bomb, unless they see the probability that such a missile could reach Israel and penetrate its missile defense systems.

Israelis and opponents to reinstating the JCPOA negotiated under Obama, are advocating that the problem is not the Iranian stockpile of Uranium 235, but hypersonic missile technology and technologies that would let Iran mate a nuclear device to a hypersonic missile.

This mirrors Cohen’s statement that the deal must be “completely refurbished – not only in one different subject, but completely.”

The chance of a viable deal with Iran is growing fainter by the day.  US Secretary of State Blinken on Wednesday noted “time is running short.”  He was meeting jointly with the Israeli and Emirates foreign ministers.

At the follow up press conference, Blinken stated, “We are getting close to a point at which returning to compliance with the JCPOA will not in and of itself recapture the benefits of the JCPOA and that’s because Iran has been using this time to advance its nuclear program in a variety of ways.”

Given the events of the week, it seems unlikely that Iran will produce a strategically practical nuclear device soon.  That, in turn gives the US time to renegotiate a nuclear deal with Iran.

Of course, Cohen’s statement that the deal must be “completely refurbished – not only in one different subject, but completely,” implies that the US must focus on limiting the technologies to make an Iranian nuclear weapon practical.

In other words, the next round of talks between Iran and the US will have some difficult issues to iron out before any accord is signed.

Analysis 10-10-2021

ANALYSIS

The CIA is Losing its Informants
What is happening and why

 

Is there a shadow war going on in the halls of the CIA?  Is there are real life George Smiley (hero in the spy novel of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) hunting for a mole in the agency?

We saw two interesting pieces of that puzzle come out this week.

The New York Times broke a story that reported that top CIA counterintelligence officers sent out a top-secret message to all of its stations in the last couple of weeks that reported dozens of CIA informants have been turned, disappeared, arrested, or killed.

The message went on to warn that the CIA has underestimated foreign intelligence services.  There has been a too much of a focus on acquiring informants without carefully vetting them.  The message also mentioned that foreign intelligence services are using facial recognition, bio metrics, and artificial intelligence to find American informants.

This will put a crimp in recruiting agents as it’s well known that recruiting informants is the best way to earn promotion in the CIA.  Factors like unreliability are often ignored in the rush for more agents.

The result has been a score of failures in the generation long war on terrorism.  The CIA has been fed false information and some of its assets are working for the opposition.

This is not new.  During the Obama Administration, China’s counterintelligence service was able to shred the American spy network in China.  The biggest fault was the CIA’s belief that China couldn’t break its communications network.  Thus, from 2010 to 2012, the Chinese were able to arrest and execute the bulk of America’s Chinese spy network.

To solve the problem of Chinese working for America, the Chinese set up a task force that broke into the system and rapidly identified the American agents.  Over 30 agents were executed, although some sources say that the number is much higher.

As a result of this intelligence coup by China, the US is still trying to rebuild its agent network in China – a long and expensive process.  That’s one reason for the push to acquire agents without checking them out.

However, there are many other factors that are hampering the CIA.

The biggest concern, although it wasn’t mentioned in the message, is that there are very likely agents working in the military and intelligence communities – possibly Chinese – that are selling out America’s crown jewels.  Some of the Chinese spies that have been discovered in the past few years include Larry Wu-tai Chin, who worked in the intelligence community for 35 years, Glenn Duffie Shriver, and Peter Lee, who worked at the secret Los Alamos National Laboratory.

All these worked in the American intelligence and defense community.  However, the biggest (and unmentioned) fear is the possible existence of an operating Chinese mole in the CIA itself.

That is not as impossible as it seems.  There is evidence that there are moles in the CIA that may be leaking some of America’s biggest secrets to its enemies, especially Russia, China, Pakistan, and Iran. Why else would dozens of foreigners working for the US suddenly get arrested, imprisoned, and executed?  This is driving the CIA’s mole hunt in Langley.

The Chinese threat was shown on Thursday when the CIA announced that it was forming a “Mission Center” focused on the Chinese threat.  The Mission Center can draw assets from other CIA groups, including counter espionage.

One of the most intriguing undiscovered mole possibilities of the last few decades is one that came out during the arrest and debriefing of the Soviet mole in the CIA, Aldrich Ames.  This unknown agent may have blown the covers of dozens of American assets in the USSR in the 1980s.

Although the CIA started hunting for the mole in 1986, it wasn’t until 1994 that they found Ames.  He had been the chief of the CIA’s Soviet counterintelligence branch and was ideally positioned to sell out America’s agents in the USSR.

As part of a plea bargain Ames opened about his decade of spying for the Russians.  He not only told the interrogators about who he burned, but when he gave their information to the Russians.

Here’s where the story falls apart and the proof of an undiscovered Russian mole in the CIA comes to light.

According to the timeline, the Soviets had already become suspicious of the agents before Ames sold them out.  Letters ordering them home had already gone out in May 1985 and some of the agents had sent out emergency messages to their CIA handlers’ months before Ames treachery.

But Ames hadn’t sold the agent’s identities until June.

That means there was already a Soviet mole in the CIA before Ames – one that hasn’t been discovered in the last four decades.  The mole is likely retired or dead by now.

For the CIA counterintelligence group, if one mole could stay hidden for all these years, there is a good likelihood there are others.

True, there were other moles in the CIA.  Robert Hanssen and Edward Howard were Soviet agents in the CIA who were spying during the 80s and 90s.  However, they didn’t have access to that type of information Ames had, so they couldn’t be the mole.

Although the CIA placed the blame on Ames, the secret that CIA officials don’t talk about publicly is that the American agents were sold out by another Soviet Mole.

“Some of it just didn’t add up,” said former CIA official Milton Bearden.  “I remain convinced there was a fourth man.  Maybe a fifth.”

John Lewis, a former FBI counterintelligence agent said, “I always thought there was another one…There were certain anomalies that took place that we just couldn’t put our finger on.”

“That the KGB ran a “fourth mole is undeniable,” said KGB counterintelligence officer Victor Cherkashin.

Which means that the CIA letter sent out to CIA stations may not be totally truthful.  Although the message blamed technology like facial recognition, those algorithms were well known decades ago and Facebook was using them extensively many years ago.

Is it possible that the message may be covering up the existence of another mole?  Yes.

As nationalism has declined, the national loyalty of the past has weakened.  Patriotism is considered outmoded.  Serving in the secret world of intelligence, without recognition or much money, but for the belief in the superiority of one’s homeland is not in favor today.  Selling out one’s country is more acceptable today.

If any nation is at the top of the list for operating a mole in the CIA, it would be China, which has had 36 of its agents convicted of spying in the United States in the past 20 years.  China clearly has the interest in penetrating American military and intelligence agencies.  They also have the money to spend.

China is also more than willing to give information on American informers to Iran, Pakistan, and Russia.  All four of these nations appear to have arrested and executed American informers recently.

So, why doesn’t the CIA admit it may have a problem with a mole?  The answer is politics.

Since 9/11, the CIA has grown in organization, budget, and political power.  The once secretive agency was once a government group that kept its low profile.  Now it is a Washington political power.  It trades in information and leaks, which is frequently the political currency of Washington.

The CIA knows that adding a politician to an intelligence briefing will make for a powerful friend and ally on Capitol Hill.

As with other Washington agencies the CIA isn’t an intelligence agency as much as a bureaucracy that protects its secrets and fellow CIA employees.

The CIA can’t admit that its intelligence is tainted in any way since it produces many of the briefs for policy makers like the president.

And that is its weakness.

Aldrich Ames was clearly a security risk – he was a heavy drinker and spent more money than his CIA salary gave him.  Although there were questions about his behavior, Ames had friends and a bureaucracy that was willing to “look the other way.”  It didn’t take someone like the fictional George Smiley to spot this security risk.

There is good reason to be suspicious of the existence of a mole in the CIA.  When Ames (and possible other moles) sold out America’s intelligence sources in the USSR, only 10 agents were arrested and executed.  Others were “lucky” and were merely imprisoned and sent to the Soviet Gulag.

This secret letter that was sent out implies that dozens of US intelligence sources have been arrested and killed in the last few years.  That is a tally that is greater than Ames treason.

It’s possible that mere carelessness about security may account for some agents.  And some computer technology may be responsible for leading to other arrests.  However, when dozens of American agents are gathered up by enemy intelligence agencies, it is unlikely that carelessness is responsible for all of them.

The only question is: who the mole is and if he will be discovered?

Analysis 10-04-2021

ANALYSIS

Supply Shortages – Don’t Blame Covid

 

Other factors from buildup of forces in South China Sea to factory fires are more to blame

The world is facing a critical supply-chain failure.  Everything from energy shortages in China and the UK to household appliances and taco sauce in the United States have impacted consumers throughout the world.

What is causing it?  Listen to politicians, and it’s the Covid Pandemic or hoarding by consumers (which may explain a lack of toilet paper, but who hoards several dish washers in their house?).

The fact is that there are several reasons, some the fault of politicians.  However, some of the blame goes back decades.

In the 1970s, when the Japanese were dominating the automobile industry, one of their secrets of success was “Just in Time Inventory” (JIT).  The concept was that parts for auto production would only arrive just before they were needed – avoiding the need for warehousing parts, thus reducing warehousing costs.  Soon, companies across the world were using the same business strategy, even though many logisticians were warning that a problem with the movement of parts would cause the JIT strategy to fall apart and precipitate worldwide shortages.

That time has come.  Several industry groups have warned of a worldwide supply chain system collapse.  In a letter to the United Nations General Assembly, the International Chamber of Shipping warned that governments must restore freedom of movement to transportation workers.  They warned of a “global transport system of collapse.”

“” All transport sectors are also seeing a shortage of workers and expect more to leave,” said the Chamber.  They called upon, “heads of government to take swift and meaningful action to resolve the crisis now.”

However, a study of the issue shows that neither government action nor the end of Covid will solve the problem.  According to data released by Resilinc, a global leader in supply-chain risk monitoring, Covid related events ranked 19th in terms of supply chain breakdown in the first six months of 2021.  The top five factors were factory fires, mergers and acquisitions, business sales, factory disruptions, and leadership transitions.  Factory fires are up 150% in 2021 over 2020.

Mergers, acquisitions, and business sales weren’t due to Covid, but a desire to turn assets into cash to boost the core business.

Supply disruptions caused by the lack of cardboard, semiconductors, and plastics were up 638% over the previous period in 2020.

Most of the supply disruptions are occurring in the US.  According to Resilinc, 46.5% of the disruptions happened in North America.  The second largest source of disruptions was in Europe (23.43%) and the third largest was Asia (19.45%).  Europe has overtaken Asia in terms of supply disruptions since 2020.

One rapidly growing threat to the supply-chain is the resurgence of piracy.  The International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center reports that the Gulf of Guinea, which is on the Western coast of Africa, is the scene of about half of all piracies.  The Singapore Straits is another area seeing increased piracy.

Piracy has been best countered with regular patrols of Western nations’ warships.  However, many Western nations are moving their naval assets closer to the South China Sea to check Chinese expansionism.  That has made piracy a safer enterprise.

Another political issue has been carbon taxes and regulation of carbon dioxide.  While many European nations are trying to limit carbon production, carbon dioxide is an important feedstock to produce gasoline, fertilizer, and meat production.  The lack of natural gas storage due to the desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused a carbon dioxide shortage that impacted gasoline supplies and caused a panic by British citizens.

Not all supply chain problems are government inflicted.  Many are caused by bad decisions by corporate leaders.  An example is the lack of rental automobiles in the US.

When the Covid pandemic began, it caused consumers to cut back on travel and the resulting renting of autos.  As a result, auto rental companies decided to sell a large portion of their rental fleets, with the idea that they would buy new cars when the market improved.  The problem was that they hadn’t planned on the semiconductor shortage that has hampered the production of autos.  The result is that car rental companies are short of cars and unable to meet current demand for rental cars.

Another problem is the bottleneck at many port facilities.  Los Angeles and Long Beach port facilities are so overloaded that over 70 ships are lying off the coast awaiting a chance to off load.  As of this writing, the wait time is over 8 days.

Meanwhile, twice as many ships are awaiting a chance to unload in China.

As loaded ships await a chance to offload, the situation is causing a shortage of ships and shipping containers.  This has caused transportation prices to skyrocket, while delivery times are twice as long.  That only increases the inflation rate.

But, getting the ship in port and offloaded doesn’t end the problems.  There is also a shortage of railroad cars, shipping containers, and trucks.  Warehouses near ports are filled to bursting.  Half a million shipping containers are currently onboard ships waiting off the coast of Los Angeles.

Other supply chain problems are coming from further down the logistics chain.  US hog herds are shrinking at a brisk rate due to high animal feed prices and disruptions at meat processing plants.  The drop in hog herds numbers is the largest since 1999.

While some of the supply chain disruptions will only cause some discomfort (after all, an American can hand wash dishes instead of needing a dishwasher), there are critical disruptions that could cause unrest in the United States.  These critical sectors are energy, food, and housing.

Housing costs (either home ownership or rental) have skyrocketed up in the last few months and in parts of the country where housing costs are too high like California, “shanty towns” are being established.  Politicians may try to clean them out, but that doesn’t solve the problem of growing homelessness.

Food inflation is also a problem, although America has traditionally been a land of plenty.  Many Americans are on a fixed or limited income and food inflation has caused them to cut back on food.  Although real hunger isn’t a problem yet, it is a traditional cause for civil unrest.  One only must remember Marie Antoinette’s statement, “Let them eat cake,” and the resulting French Revolution.

The most critical sector is energy because it can cost lives.  The brutal cold in Texas cost lives as natural gas and electricity were cut off.  And there are some parts of the US where colder than normal temperatures are forecast.  Skyrocketing fuel and energy prices could force families to choose between food, housing, or heat in the winter.

The Biden administration has proven to be incapable of responding quickly to a crisis.   In many cases, it has taken a moderate problem and made it worse (Kabul and the drone attack on a civilian family is an excellent example).

As the BLM, Antifa, and January 6th incident showed, America is balanced on the edge of serious civil unrest.  Biden has shown little ability to handle a crisis and it is quite possible that some unrest could blossom into a full-fledged civil war.

Could the federal government stop such unrest?  Maybe not.  There is unrest in the police force as many policemen have quit rather than be forced to take the Covid vaccine.  Unrest in the military has grown so much that the administration has jailed field grade officers who have criticized the president and senior generals.

Don’t forget that many state governors are actively opposing the president.

There is also an armed citizenry that owns many more firearms than the US military.

Although Biden said that the American citizens can’t win because they don’t own “F-15s or nuclear weapons,” he may want to consider that the Afghans didn’t have sophisticated weapons either.

Normally, these problems are settled by the next election.  However, the midterms are over a year away.  And the next presidential election is over three years away.  Much can happen in the interim.  Case in point, the time between the coup against Gorbachev and the end of the Soviet Union was only about 3 months.

Successful revolutions are a function of several factors.  First is a monetary problem (usually inflation) that threatens the people’s survival.  Clearly, potential problems in housing prices, food inflation, and energy prices in a cold winter fit those criteria.

Second, is weak leadership.  France had Louis XVI and Russia had Czar Nicholas II.  Biden’s behavior clearly fits into that same category.

Finally, there needs to be a spark to light the fire of revolution.  France had the storming of the Bastille, the Russians had the storming of the Winter Palace, and the Americans had the confrontation and resulting skirmish in Lexington that led to the Battle of Lexington and Concord.

Some experts are warning that the supply-chain problems could be earth shaking.  Given history, they could be right.

Analysis 09-19-2021

ANALYSIS

US, UK, and Australia Form
New Alliance Against China

 

On Wednesday, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the US formed a new alliance that is targeted towards countering China – although China was never mentioned in the press conference virtually held by the three leaders, Joe Biden of the US, Boris Johnson of the UK, and Scott Morrison of Australia.

“This partnership is not aimed or about any one nation,” one official said.

China reacted to the alliance.  Chinese media accused Australia of “making big strides in the direction of being an enemy of China.”

The pact is considered “historic” although the three nations have always had close military relations and the three were the major military powers to defeat Japan in the Second World War.  However, as Biden noted, “It’s about connecting America’s existing allies and partners in new ways and amplifying our ability to cooperate.”

The alliance called, AUUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom, United States), builds on already strong ties in intelligence and military matters.  It is designed to facilitate cooperation in cyberspace, artificial intelligence, long range strike capabilities, quantum technologies, underwater capabilities, and sharing nuclear submarine technology with the Australians.

This last issue, sharing nuclear submarine technology, is a dramatic move.  The US has only shared nuclear submarine technology with the British.  Australia isn’t a nuclear power but will be able to receive a nuclear reactor from either the British or Americans for a domestically produced submarine.

The Australian submarine will be nuclear powered but will not have any nuclear weapons.  But the nuclear reactor will give the ship the long range and ability to stay on station that is necessary in the Pacific

The announcement that the US and Britain will help Australia build a nuclear-powered submarine created blowback from France, who had a $40 billion contract to build submarines for Australia.  France accused Australia of “stabbing France in the back.”

However, the French submarine contract has been a contentious issue in Australia for years.  The French contract was budgeted for $40 billion, but projections had seen the contract price go up to $80 billion.  In addition, the first delivery had been pushed back from the mid-2020s to the mid-2030s.

Although some of the work was being done at the shipbuilding facilities in Adelaide, Australia, the Australians were growing skeptical of the project.  The day before the announcement of the alliance, the Sydney Morning Herald attacked the program.  They noted that the Australian government must announce by next week that it was continuing the program with the French shipbuilding firm by another two and a half years.  The newspaper noted that after that announcement, it “almost certainly will be too late to pullout.”

It’s likely that the Australian government felt the same way and saw this AUUKUS alliance as a diplomatic way to get out of the submarine deal.

This policy will gain support from the Australian shipbuilding industry.  The next generation of Australian submarines will now be built in Australia.  Only the nuclear reactor will come from either the US or UK.

However, any Australian submarine will be years away.  The current benefits of the alliance will be the sharing of computer technologies, long range strike capabilities, and the “underwater technologies.”

“Long Range Strike Capabilities” indicates that the US will provide some technology (or weapons) that will allow Australia to strike back at China, probably with missiles fired from aircraft or ships.  This will be considered as a counter measure to China that has been accused of bullying Australia recently.

Given the geology of the area, it will be the underwater technologies, specifically acoustic technology, which will benefit the alliance more and provide a strong counter to the aggressive Chinese navy.

There are also some possible economic benefits for Australia.  Australia is having problems selling its beef and wine to China and this agreement may encourage the US to buy more Australian goods.

Although China is a nuclear nation with nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles, they are generally ground based.  Ground based missiles are the fastest and easiest nuclear option to retaliate with and are more accurate than other options.  The problem is that ground based missiles are easily targeted and their only defense is hardened silos and missile defense systems.

Ballistic missile submarines are an excellent option.  Although they aren’t as accurate as ground based ballistic missiles, they are harder to find in the vast waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Polar regions.

This is where China’s geography causes problems and is one reason why China desires control of the South China Sea.

The Chinese Jin Class of ballistic missile submarines are currently patrolling the South China Sea.  Although much of the sea is shallow (under 100 meters in many places), which make submarines vulnerable to detection, there are several parts of the sea that are deep like the South China Basin, which is over 4,000 meters deep.  In addition, the Chinese air assets and island defenses discourage constant US anti-submarine operations there.

China is also actively discouraging US anti-submarine operations through harassment.  In 2009, Chinese fishing vessels cut a towed sonar array of a US warship, while it was patrolling the South China Sea.  Later that year, a Chinese submarine hit the sonar array of the USS John McCain off the Philippine coast.

The problem is that for the sub’s missiles to reach America, they have to break out into the Pacific Ocean, while remaining undetected.

Although China has a long coast, it is surrounded by shallow waters.  To reach deep waters, it must go beyond the chain of islands (Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Malaysia) to reach large and deep portions of the Pacific.  The major routes to the Pacific are the strait between Japan and Taiwan – which is well patrolled by the Japanese anti-submarine forces – the Luzon Strait between Taiwan and the Philippines, and the Sulu Sea between the Philippines and Malaysia.

American naval strategy is to control the seas by controlling the chokepoints.  Thus, this new alliance fits neatly into US naval strategy.

However, the US Navy, even with the British squadron now assigned to the Far East, can’t cover all the chokepoints in the region with its anti-submarine assets.

That’s where the Australians are important.  For decades, Australia has been the regional power in the South Pacific Archipelago and has good relations with most of the nations.  Several of the nations are also members of the British Commonwealth.

These good relations should allow the AUUKUS alliance to place acoustic devices in critical chokepoints leading to the open Pacific.  These will probably be monitored by the Australians, who have a sizable navy, but lack the anti-submarine capabilities of the UK and US navies.

The Australians also offer other benefits.  As the traditional peace keeping force in the South Pacific archipelago, they have considerable amphibious abilities for a navy their size.  This would add to the threat that allied forces could capture some of the small islands that China uses to claim its rights over the South China Sea.

Australia has also purchased 72, F-35 fighters that could be launched from Australia’s Canberra Class helicopter carriers, although that would seriously degrade their amphibious capability.  However, the two Canberra Class Australian carriers do have the ski jump ramp that the British use to launch their F-35s.  That would give the allies one or two US super carriers (at any one time), one British carrier, one Japanese helicopter carrier that is F-35 capable, and the two Australian helicopter carriers – a sizable air combat capability, if necessary.

Of course, the question must be asked; can the AUUKUS alliance remain a serious threat to the Chinese?  The answer is probably yes, despite American actions in Kabul.

One of the most powerful, but unsung alliances of the post war era is the alliance of the five English speaking nations, the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand – called the Five Eyes.  They have cooperated with each other in intelligence and defense, although Canada and New Zealand don’t have the large military resources.  In this case, New Zealand has already announced that the Australian nuclear submarine will not be allowed in New Zealand territorial waters due to the nation’s “Nuclear Free Zone Policy of 1984.”

Given this history, it seems reasonable to expect the AUUKUS alliance to hold together in the face of Chinese aggressiveness.  It is to Australia’s interest to boost its military technology which has fallen behind Chinese military technology.  America and Britain benefit because Australia’s military capabilities will better match theirs.

It’s easier for China to ignore other regional navies and only focus on the US.  However, with a resurgent British Navy and an Australian Navy using American naval technology, that will help restrict the Chinese Navy operations   The alliance, and its ability to check Chinese hegemony, will also encourage smaller nations in the region – Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, etc. – to assist the alliance.

Although China has managed to gain some allies, they do not have the naval resources to control the oceans.  In fact, many of them are landlocked.

Although the alliance hasn’t immediately changed the situation in the region, once US underwater technology starts to be used to control the chokepoints leading from the South China Sea, it will make a dramatic impact.

Analysis 09-13-2021

ANALYSIS

America 20 Years after 9/11 – Better or Worse

 

“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty or Safety.”  Benjamin Franklin

American leaders used to claim often that America is “a city on a hill.”  They meant that was a beacon of hope and freedom for the world.

These freedoms were enshrined in the US Constitution – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom from unjust arrest, freedom from being held in jail without charges or the chance to gain release by bail.  The freedom of being secure in your person, and property, and the freedom to protect those rights even with firearms.

Unfortunately, many are realizing that in the twenty years since 9/11, many of these freedoms have been trampled upon as government has used the terrorist threat of 9/11 to institute a raft of measures that have lessened what it means to be an American.

Meanwhile, the intelligence services like the NSA and FBI monitor everything that is being discussed on the internet.

Then, there is the growing threat to American lives by Covid and those who want to use it to pry Americans from their liberties.

For instance, although the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution says that the people will be secure “in their persons,” Americans are finding that the federal government is trying to force the mandatory vaccination of all people in the US.

Obviously, it appears that liberty has been sacrificed for security against terrorists and Covid.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in testimony before the US Senate, “We are in danger of allowing ourselves to be governed by our fears rather than our values…How else can we explain the actions of our government.

Although the response to 9/11 was the US Patriot Act, which was described as allowing the US government to conduct surveillance on terrorists, many on both sides of the political spectrum were worried that it was opening the door to spying on Americans.  The government response by a Department of Justice spokesman was, “US citizens can’t be investigated under this act.”  And “the standard of proof before [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] is the same as it has always been.”

The concerns were justified.  In fact, it was false FBI records that were presented to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to get permission to spy on many including the Trump campaign.  The FBI agent who committed this crime wasn’t fired or sent to jail.

Since 9/11, nearly every safeguard against government overreach has been sidestepped.  The Future of Freedom Foundation stated, “the US government has posed a greater threat to our freedoms than any terrorist, extremist, or foreign entity ever could…While nearly 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks, the US government and its agents have easily killed at least ten times that number of civilians in the US and abroad since 9/11 through its police shootings, SWAT team raids, drone strikes, and profit driven efforts to police the globe…The American people have been treated like enemy combatants, to be spied upon, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subject to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, denied due process, and killed.”

Although these tools granted under the Patriot Act were to fight the war on terror, now that Biden has declared the end of the war in Afghanistan, these tools for government surveillance still are in place and there is no rush by the federal government to relinquish them.  In fact, the government is merely using them as tools in other political agendas like Covid, the environment, racial theory, and gun ownership.

One of the most controversial uses of these new government powers is in the war against Covid.  Where “no fly lists” were designed to prevent terrorists from getting on a plane, there is now a bill in Congress to refuse to let anyone not fully vaccinated fly in the US.

Since anyone can be put on the “no fly list” for any reason (including the person’s political views) without any legal proceeding or opportunity to defend oneself, some want to use the list to forbid gun ownership, even if the person has a clean record and has never been arrested.

This “no fly list” isn’t limited to aircraft.  The Transportation and Safety Administration now screens people who travel by train or bus.  There was even a suggestion that non vaccinated people should not be allowed to cross state lines.

The surveillance state has only grown as the federal government has subsidized closed circuit TV networks in stores, businesses, and public streets.  These are then tied into artificial intelligence that identifies the people in the picture with facial recognition technology and runs it against outstanding arrest warrants.

Of course, many don’t see a problem with this as they feel only those with something to hide would oppose such surveillance.

That is until one gets caught in the web.

On April 28, federal agents raided a house in Homer, Alaska because they thought they had identified this couple as stealing House Speaker Pelosi’s computer.  According to the warrant, facial recognition technology had identified this couple in the US Capitol on January 6th.  The agents refused to allow the couple to read the warrant when they entered their house.

The problem was that the person in the picture didn’t resemble the person they raided.  The lady put the picture up next to her face and challenged the female agent to say it was her.  The lady in the picture had a different ear lobe structure.  The agents left but confiscated several electronic items.  They also confiscated a pocket copy of the US Constitution, since federal agents thought it could be considered “paperwork related to planning violence.”

Obviously, the technology used to entrap Americans is still unreliable.

Not only are mistakes taking place that will permanently ruin people’s reputations, but the government is also using some of the anti-terror legislation to attack and neutralize its political opponents.

On the same weekend that the Taliban took Kabul, the Department of Homeland Security put out a list of extremists that pose the greatest terror threats to America.  ISIS, the Taliban nor al Qaeda was not on the list.

Number one on the list was people who do not want to take the Covid vaccine.  Others who have been considered terrorist are white, conservative, veterans who own guns and support former President Trump.

Federal attempts to infiltrate some of these groups has become nearly comical.  Last year there were arrests of some people were accused of wanting to kidnap the Governor of Michigan.  Although the original arrests made headlines, the rest of the story has been hidden by the Department of Justice.  It appears that nearly 2/3 of the group was either FBI agents or paid FBI informants.  It appears that it was the FBI agents and informants that were encouraging the kidnapping. This does not imply innocence on the part of many racists white extremist groups that support Trump.

This has also been the same entrapment tactic used by the FBI to trap innocent Muslims and charge them with terrorism.

However, if there has been one major change in the last 20 years, it has been the dramatic growth of the Defense/Intelligence Community.

Although the evidence showing a credible threat against the Twin Towers on 9/11 was quite evident, the intelligence community said it “couldn’t connect the dots.”

The government response was not to correct the problem, but to create a bigger bureaucracy, with more funding, and less supervision.

More money was pumped into defense and intelligence operations.  A new layer of intelligence bureaucracy was added and named the Department of National Intelligence.  The Department of Homeland Security was created, although their focus is on naming political opponents than being an actual threat.  Agencies like the US Forestry Service and Social Security now have armed paramilitary police units.

Has this made America safer since 9/11?   No.  The Taliban is more powerful than it was on 9/11.  It now has the reputation of beating the world’s largest superpower.  And, thanks to the military equipment that the US left behind, it has one of the best equipped militaries in the world.

The Defense/Intelligence community is now so large that it is impossible to efficiently manage itself.  The Defense/Intelligence community is collecting so much information on American citizens and others that they are now overloaded and unable to accurately “connect the dots.”

There is also a societal corrosiveness from the growth in surveillance and diminishing of American rights.

Americans are not only more divided today than in the past, the gaps between groups of people are growing.

Opposition to the Covid restrictions is growing as large groups of people see that this pandemic is eroding American rights.  Meantime, there are those who want the security of a Covid free environment.

This divide should not be ignored.  Several governors of Republican states are standing up to federal incursions in many areas of governance and American rights.  Not only are some states ignoring federal regulations on covid prevention, but many states have also decided to ignore federal attempts to restrict American gun rights, including ordering the local police to not assist in the confiscation of firearms and authorizing the arrest of federal agents that may try to take private guns.

The chances that someone will start shooting is getting incredibly likely now that Biden has indicated that he will “push back.”. If that happens, the United States as we know it will have ceased to exist.

Former Republican US congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul recently warned that the real threat is not Covid, but authoritarianism.  He notes, “If a government can force people to take…a vaccine…the same reasoning would support the imposing of many additional liberty violations.

Although the initial strike against al Qaeda was meant to preserve American liberty, it appears that a generation later the biggest loser may not be al Qaeda, but American freedoms.