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National Security

When will the Georgia v. Russia war start?

For those who haven’t been paying attention, the war of words is escalating to guns, car bombs, and hostage taking in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Condi Rice has just landed in Tibilsi in some last minute diplomatic push to settle down things before troops get involved. We’ll see what happens in the next few weeks.

Georgia Messenger is a good English language paper from Georgia. Moscow Times is a good one from Moscow.

UPDATE: For recent visitors, it is worth noting this post came a month before actual ‘hostilities’ commenced on August 7, 2008, but the situation in the region has been tense for years.

Pentagon to rebid Tanker contract. Legal war bigger than real one.

The $40 billion tanker contract awarded to Northrop/BAE/Airbus last year is up for ‘rebid’ after crazy political pressure from Boeing.

Northrop proposed turning the Airbus A330A into a military tanker. Boeing had proposed retrofitting its commercially designed 767 into a tanker.

Politically, this puts the issue back in play during the election year, and forces the final decision on the next administration. McCain has been a fierce critic of Boeing’s earlier dealings, and 1000s of Boeing workers in the state of Washington and Northrop workers in Georgia will be watching.

I imagine the lawsuits will be flying fast and furious no matter who wins.

Nazi war criminal Heim (Dr. Death) sought in Chile

Aribert Heim – known as Dr Death – is hiding in Patagonia according to new evidence reported by the BBC. Heim participated in some torture and experiments in the Mauthausen concentration camp.

Sometimes I’m amazed these guys are still alive. In the last census of 2000, of the 16 million Americans who served, only 5 million were still alive. I suspect that number is going to be drastically reduced in the next census in a few years. I think we only have a half-dozen World War I veterans alive worldwide.

US Special Forces played role in Betancourt hostage rescue

The Washington Post is reporting, with somewhat exaggerated headlines, that US Special Forces played a role in the Columbian rescue mission. You have to read through the whole story to find out that basically they did some radio intercepts and that a few US special forces recon teams were on the ground chasing after the groups known to hold hostages, but purely for intelligence purposes (i.e. they were not about to snatch them).

The story also talks about a videoconference call and other discussions between US and Colombian officials in the days prior to the operation being launched.

Betancourt Ransom – Update

You know what, there are no updates. Not really. Lots of speculation, and rumors of previous ransom payments five or six years ago, but there is a bit more hype than fact right now. The original story is still out there from the Swiss Radio, but as far as any proof or any other claims (i.e. what bank, who did the transfer, etc) there is pretty much nothing.

So for now, the story is either FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) planted by someone who cannot accept that this was actually a military mission, or filed away in the ‘we may never know’ column.

Nice audio interview about the ransom can be found here.

Flying Laser Canon ready for action?

A death ray in a C-130. Watch out.

Boeing Press Release

ST. LOUIS, May 19, 2008 – The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] has fired a high-energy chemical laser aboard a C-130H aircraft in ground tests for the first time, achieving a key milestone for the Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program.

The successful laser firing occurred May 13 at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

“First firing of the high-energy laser aboard the ATL aircraft shows that the program continues to make good progress toward giving the warfighter an ultra-precision engagement capability that will dramatically reduce collateral damage,” said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems.

After conducting a series of additional laser tests on the ground and in the air, the program will fire the chemical laser in-flight at mission-representative ground targets. The test team will fire the laser through a rotating turret that extends through the aircraft’s belly.

“Later this year, we will fire the laser in-flight at ground targets, demonstrating the military utility of this transformational directed energy weapon,” Fancher said.

Last year, the high-energy laser concluded laboratory testing at Kirtland, demonstrating reliable operations in more than 50 firings.

ATL, which Boeing is developing for the U.S. Department of Defense, will destroy, damage or disable targets with little to no collateral damage, supporting missions on the battlefield and in urban operations. Boeing’s ATL industry team includes L-3 Communications/Brashear, which made the laser turret, and HYTEC Inc., which made various structural elements of the weapon system.

Did Pakistan bomb the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan?

Oh boy. Just what we need in that region. Let’s throw gasoline on stirred up bees and push them out of the frying pan and into the fire. (Yeah, it takes that many metaphors to summarize this one)

SkyNews is reporting that Afghanistan is blaming a ‘foreign intelligence service’ with assisting in the bombing that killed 41 outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul.

If true, that’s just a level of ‘not thinking’ that goes beyond any level of stupidity every seen.

Is Europe secretly annoyed by the ‘rescue’ of Betancourt?

The Swiss public broadcasting network is running a story about the ransom and/or rescue mission of Colombian hostages and you can start to hear some faint whispers of annoyance. French, Spanish and Swiss official have for years attempted to negotiate for the release of captives in Colombia under the auspices of a ‘humanitarian mission’. Colombian officials have been more than annoyed at this over the years, especially in that the European powers have basically opted to treat FARC at the same level of a legitimately elected government. The rescue mission, a quasi-military operation, has set back the role of negotiations for some time to come.

Today’s broadside against Jean Pierre Gontard is likely a strong message to the European powers that they should no longer meddle in Colombia’s dealings with the FARC. I suspect we’re going to see a little more ‘let Colombia deal with Colombia problems’ in the next few months. I think Jean Pierre Gontard is history. One wonders if he would even be allowed back in the country after today’s comments.

I also love the lack of realization on the part of some European commentators. It reminds me of a statement I learned back during the Cold War. ”We judge our enemies by their actions. We judge ourselves by our intentions.” Europe’s intentions are good, but one wonders what effect their actions have, long term, to the stability of Colombia. By dealing with the FARC, in effect legitimizing the FARC (as Chavez has tried to do), the big powers of Europe are giving it desperately needed credibility (credibility they no longer have with the rank and file Colombians). One must wonder if the longer ‘big uncle Europe’ is watching over the FARC, the longer it may be in the business of drugs, kidnapping, and terror.

Was Jean Pierre Gontard the source of the Betancourt ransom story?

UribeThe LA Times is reporting that the Colombian government is pointing their finger at Geneva-based Jean Pierre Gontard as the source for the Swiss radio report claiming a ransom for the release of the hostages. Left-wing blogs are reporting that Gontard was well on his way to arranging a negotiated release for the hostages when they were trumped by the military operation last week.

Gontard’s name is also mentioned in connection with the seized laptops, with some in Colombia accusing him of ‘unauthorized contacts’ with FARC. Chinese media is reporting that Gontard supposedly gave $500,000 to the FARC.

Perhaps the Colombia government doesn’t like this guy and wanted to tar him with this accusation. It will be difficult for him to resume a negotiator (for anything) if he is considered a leaker of information.

My bets are still on FARC supporters in Europe, either left-wing groups or drug dealers pushing through the story to help keep FARC alive.

But I’m still looking around for other theories.

The Betancourt ransom conspiracy theories

So did they pay $20 million for her and others? We’ll probably never know. But as I was thinking about the different ransom theories I recalled a story about an American food critic in the South of France (you’ll see where I’m going in a minute).

So this food critic arrives in the South of France to some dingy bed and breakfast type place and they direct him to this local restaurant. He goes in there and orders a number of dishes and they all come back pretty awful. This is a guy who has eaten just about everything the world has to offer, from the finest restaurants in Europe to the wildest tin shacks in China and Africa. The restaurant staff ask him how his meal was and he offered up some criticisms of this and that and how it could be better.

Later when he tells the hotel staff of his unpleasant dinner, they call the restaurant to ask “what happened?”. The owner picks up the phone and tells the hotel staff ‘he came in here and was upset that is ‘didn’t taste like McDonalds’?” Guffaw, laugh and the hotel and restaurant employees just put it off to him being an American.

Of course that wasn’t true, but it shows how easy it is to come up with something if you just fall back on your preconceived notions of what does and doesn’t happen based on which parties are involved.

So as it relates to the Betancourt story, you have to start to ask ‘why’ would someone leak a story like this? Is it to back up their pre-conceived notions that the evil and corrupt Americans are behind everything that goes on in the world? Of course the Americans paid this money. It’s all part of the modis operandi. I mean, after all, these hostages were front page news (not) and returning them will deliver votes in November for McCain, who just happened to be in Colombia.

Or is it because some Swiss diplomat, tired of the non-neutrality policy of the Swiss and annoyed at playing a role of world mediator decided to risk his entire country’s role and stature in the world by divulging something sensitive about a negotiation? (note: this is the country that negotiated the PLO-Israeli truce over a period of years without a peep to anyone). Or maybe the opposite–maybe they want to be involved in more negotiations so sending a message to the world that the US is paying millions is a great way to get more people taken hostage

Or maybe it is something like this: FARC, a leading supplier of drugs to Europe and the United States, is suffering a massive military setback from this operation. Not necessarily tactically, but from a perception standpoint. Troops will desert, drug production will go down, money will be lost. So someone plants an innocent story on the other side of the world saying ‘no, it wasn’t because they were tricked, but because someone was paid off.’ FARC commanders show this to their under-educated troops and the desertions don’t take place, the drugs continue to be made, and the money and profits continue to flow in Europe and Colombia.

Conspiracy theories are generally pretty stupid, but easy to create. Just look at this one I thought up while thinking about a food critic and McDonalds.

We’ll see what else comes to light this week…

Stealth boat comes into dock

The Stealth Boat I saw earlier today called it a day after doing a series of profiles for the Navy lab and headed back to the Navy pier in town today. It eventually came to rest next to a 74 foot landing craft so I think my original guess of 150 was a bit high.

As you can see, it has a pretty low profile. It is made of metal (thunk sound when they dropped something on it) and is a catamaran as far as I could tell. It’s still out there tonight, but hidden by the LCM so most people don’t notice it.

Stealth warship off the seawall

This is a weird one.

What can only be described as a stealth PT boat has just gone past my house and is now near the radar testing range of the Navy Research Lab at Chesapeake Beach. It’s about 150 feet long, and probably not more than 8 feet high (the cockpit looks like one of those high speed racing boats). It’s about 2000 yards offshore and is pretty hard to see. It’s doing 90 degree turns to give different profiles to the radars.

Yes, I did get a picture of it. It’s a bit far off though. I used my film camera to get a better one (bigger lens) but this digital posted here will have to do for now until I get that developed.


EDIT:  Check out these pictures I got later in the day.

Blaming Turkey for the Looting

One thing that has struck me since the IraqWar is the lack of reflection on the role Turkey (did not) play on the conduct of the war. As you may recall, the US 4th Infantry Division (our most advanced combat force) wanted to land in Turkey and attack Iraq from the North. With the benefit of hindsight, it is rather apparent that this would have formed a blocking force for the two divisions (the Marines and the 3rd Infantry Division) coming up from the South.

The presence of the 4th ID in the North would have accomplished a number of things. First it would have helped secure the border of Syria which accepted a number of Iraqi exiles. As it was, there was a smattering of US Special Forces operating in the West and North, but nowhere near enough units to seal off the border.

Second it would have provided a quicker end to the war. As it was, after the liberation of Baghdad, the 3ID and the Marines had to leave to head north to Tikrit and other towns that had yet to be freed. This lead to fewer troops in Baghdad and more thus, fewer forces to control the looting.

Just imagine if another division had been in Baghdad and no troops had to head off to the countryside after the liberation. Imagine the potential on the morale of Iraqi forces, suddenly being surrounded on all sides. Imagine if there had been an additional 20,000 + troops in Baghdad (which is what Secretary Rumsfeld will soon be asking for).

But this didn’t happen. Turkey did not assist us in allowing our forces on the ground. Iraqis escaped to Syria. Treasures were looted as an overstetched US force looked on. Maybe it’s time to turn our attention to the role of Turkey in limiting US forces in Iraq and the role that played in the looting and crimes in Baghdad.

Anyway, this is just a ramble and I have to work on it a bit. More to come…