Dedication

We maintain and continue this committee of correspondence in memory of our founder and mentor, Colonel W. Patrick Lang. The image to the right is Marcus, a character from William S. Burroughs’s “The Coming of the Purple Better One.” Colonel Lang would refer to Marcus sometimes in clever jest, sometimes in biting social commentary and sometimes simply because he liked Marcus. May everyone who corresponds here do so in a similar spirit.

Posted in Administration | 12 Comments

AVAILABLE now FROM iUniverse, Amazon and Barnes and Noble in hard cover, soft cover, and digital.

The Portable Pat Lang

Essential Writings on History, War, Religion and Strategy

From the Introduction:

“In the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Col. Lang created his own blog which to this day still serves as a committee of correspondence for a large network of former military and intelligence officers, diplomats, and scholars of international affairs.

Since its launch in 2005, the Turcopolier website has had over 40 million unique visits.

Since leaving the government, he has also authored five books, including a Civil War espionage trilogy, a memoir of his years in government service, and a primer on human intelligence.

This present volume—his sixth book—is an anthology of some of his most important writings. The content speaks for itself.  So have at it.”

Posted in My books | 4 Comments

“Ukraine Launches Unmanned Systems Force as New Military Branch”

Ivan Havrylyuk, Deputy Minister of Defense against the background of the logo of the Unmanned Systems Forces, June 11, 2024

The Armed Forces of Ukraine have introduced a new military branch aimed at supporting and developing units of unmanned systems, according to a report by Militarnyi. Representatives from the Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defense presented the Unmanned Systems Force, a pioneering branch in the world of military organizations on June 11, 2024 in Kyiv. The symbol for this new branch is a swallow.

The Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Vadym Sukharevsky, has been appointed as the Commander of the Unmanned Systems Force. During the presentation, he stated that the creation of this new structure is a response to modern battlefield requirements and is based on contemporary military experience. “We showed the whole world today that Ukraine has moved away from a conservative approach. Today we set a precedent. Thus, we are ready to dictate the rules of this war for further success,” stated Sukharevsky.

Ivan Havryliuk, the First Deputy Minister of Defense, added that the new branch will enable further strikes on the enemy at all possible distances, from the front line to the Urals. According to him, Ukraine is the only country in the world that is already completing the establishment of such a branch.

As of today, the Unmanned Systems Forces (USF) are already operating in test mode and will be further improved according to requirements and needs.

Speaking about tasks and functions, Vadym Sukharevsky said that the newly created branch will focus on interaction with existing units of unmanned systems, their support, strengthening and increasing capabilities. “In no way will we remove units from the brigades that are on the front lines today, it will be destructive. We will take on specific tasks and provide support,” said Sukharevsky.

The branch will be tasked with providing units with drones, their support, recruiting and training specialists, as well as planning military operations involving unmanned systems.

In addition, USF will gather experience and interact with manufacturers of unmanned systems. According to the Commander, the new line of troops will focus on cooperation with manufacturers of domestic drones. The branch already maintains contacts with 90% of Ukrainian manufacturers and actively communicates with them.

Sukharevsky noted that today the government has currently contracted and is procuring products from over 125 manufacturers. “The president’s task of producing more than a million FPV drones will be fulfilled and moreover, it will be exceeded. It’s guaranteed.

With regard to the supply and operation of other systems, their provision with all necessary components, there is a certain element here that we have manufacturers who are not ready for large-scale production. The state is working to scale production of the best models. This program, which the state is now launching, will allow for the next year to provide our units with the necessary means,” the Commander added. “The president’s task of producing more than a million FPV drones will be fulfilled and moreover, it will be exceeded. It’s guaranteed.”

https://mil.in.ua/en/news/ukraine-launches-unmanned-systems-force-as-new-military-branch/

Comment: This is good news. It’s no secret that Ukraine started early in developing drone warfare and is ahead of all others. The effort has been decentralized in training, employment and in the manufacturing of drones. This was good for innovation but not so good for moving to the next level in what has become a critical capability in this war. The best drone designs need to be mass produced on a wide scale, not just by a few boutique manufacturers. Local innovations in the use of EW, AI and tactics must be spread quickly across the force. The Unmanned Systems Force should make all this happen. I’m also glad to see the intention is to create and train new drone units without detracting from the drone units already deployed with the combat brigades. 

TTG

Posted in The Military Art, TTG, Ukraine Crisis | Leave a comment

English Outsider on MAD

I Ignored the nuclear dimension up above and was reminded on an English site that I’d done so. One cannot ignore that dimension. When I read various accounts of the current condition of American ground forces – “boutique army” and all the rest of it – I sometimes feel we are stuck in the thinking of those D-Day times.

In a couple of years, no more, the American Air, Naval and Ground Forces and the industrial capacity to back them up shot from being a neglected backwater – third rate in most respects – to being the military superpower. Able to cope with heavy and prolonged fighting in two theatres with enough to spare to deal with anything else that came along. I doubt there’s ever been a military revolution like it.

We still assess military capability in those terms. We’re still stuck in those times. Big is best and with near a trillion dollar budget, no matter how much is eaten away by the pork barrel, big still means American. And for minor wars big certainly is best, if that big can get deployed right. But for existential wars does that massive armoury mean anything? One man with a rusty rifle standing on a frontier somewhere will do. If it’s recognised that he is the tripwire that will trigger nuclear war.

For the same reason I look with wonderment at what the Russians are doing. Extensive mobilisation, armaments industry gearing up – for what purpose? Plenty of work for them to do in minor wars, certainly, as we’re seeing at the moment, but for what purpose is shell production being ramped up to five million shells a year for the indefinite future if, in a major war in the European theatre, far less is needed to trigger nuclear?

From the very start, in 2022, we’ve seen the Russians holding back the bulk of their forces, building them up now to a great degree, in case NATO came in in force. Do the Russians not understand that if NATO did come in in force it wouldn’t matter who had the best generals or the best logistics or the best army. It wouldn’t matter because the inevitable consequence would be mushroom clouds. Do the Europeans not understand that that would work the other way too?

Developments in missile technology mean that even in conventional warfare it’s possible to devastate a country without ever needing to set foot in it. But even ignoring that, there can be no more titanic battles for Berlin, or massive enterprises like those D-Day operations, if whichever of the sides is losing can unleash a nuclear response that will destroy both.

Not so much tripwire forces, perhaps. It would in reality take more than the man with the rusty rifle to set off Armageddon. But threshold forces. For the major wars of today you need no more than sufficient force to be able to say, “Defeat this lot and it’s curtains for both of us.” And that threat is enough, as it has been since the 50’s, to ensure that the two major nuclear powers never go toe to toe in full scale conventional warfare.

Zelensky’s only chance ever was to get the Americans to deploy that threat. He failed. Now the Europeans are seeking the same end. The only chance the Europeans had to bring this war to the conclusion they want is to get the Americans, finally, to deploy that threat for them. To risk nuclear war for them.

The Europeans’ll fail too. The American President, no matter who he is, will not risk Chicago frying in order to give the Europeans, or indeed his own hawks, the chance of winning a scrubby little war thousands of miles away. That’s too big a risk by far, for too small a gain, for any American President to take.

If you’ll allow me, TTG – we’re a way away from the Filthy Thirteen now and maybe too far away for this comment section – I’ll set out the reasoning that led me to that conclusion. I’ve thought for a couple of years now that the Americans would never go all the way to win this Ukrainian war. And that barring the Americans risking going all the way – isn’t that what Breedlove’s really asking for – there was no other way to win it.

It boils down to nuclear.

The Europeans are a dead loss militarily and have also lost the substantial moral and diplomatic credibility they possessed until quite recently. Not so much a busted flush. More politicians who’ve now been revealed always to have been a busted flush.

So they can posture to their heart’s content. They are like the scrawny man in a pub fight bellowing “let me get at him” while being grateful enough to his companions holding him back so he can’t.

The Americans are a different kettle of fish. They have sufficient military power to give the Russians a hard time, if they chose, even though they have no forces over here to speak off. And they have credible nuclear. That shuts off escalation to any serious extent. Were the Americans to engage in full scale conventional war with the Russians, and were the Russians to start losing – unlikely in the extreme but consider the case – the Russians would use nuclear weapons.

A revealing interview with Colonel Trukhan confirms that. He’s talking of the attempt to breach the “Surovikin Line”. He states matter of factly – almost in passing – that had we put in sufficient armour and CAS and all the rest of it to breach that line, the Russians would have repelled the attack with tactical nuclear as a matter of course. The recent tactical nuclear exercises underline that point. There is no winning against the Russians even if we could put credible forces in the field.

Works the other way. If the American forces were fully committed and were losing, they’d do the same. There is no winning against the Americans, not if they go for it hard. No winning for anyone, really, which is the basis of MAD and has been since the ’50’s.

So the Americans are not going to escalate past pinpricks such as we’re seeing now. And we know that, as in Syria, there are comprehensive deconfliction arrangements in place in order for both sides to ensure serious escalation is avoided in this theatre. So why the posturing? Why Macron’s arm waving or ours? Partly a hope the Americans will put a tripwire force in. Partly in preparation for the post-war blame game.

On the post-war blame game, all will wish to say “We could have won but our Allies didn’t back us up. So it’s their fault, not ours.” We’ve seen hints that the Americans in particular are being criticised for holding back and sometimes the Germans come in for some stick on that count too. Probably the Italians will as well, given they’ve disassociated themselves from escalation.

The blame game’s not a trivial consideration. This is going to be, as both Stoltenberg and Johnson have emphasised recently, a serious blow to the credibility of NATO and of the EU/UK. Being able to blame others will be a lifeline the respective politicians will clutch at so we’ll see, are seeing, a lot of it. And the respective electorates will need to believe them if they are to be kept acquiescent for the coming Cold War II. “For as long as it takes” will remain the spur even after Ukraine itself is neutralised.

The blame game is also a consideration in the States. There we already see one party blaming the other for not agreeing to escalate. “x is the man who lost Ukraine” is a reproach none will wish to suffer. We see that even in the interview linked to.

But there is perhaps more to the arm waving that that. We could be hoping, probably are, that the Americans will put a tripwire force in, We could put troops in overtly in the hope that when those troops get wiped out the Americans, for very shame, would be forced to come in overtly themselves. Or we could provoke the Russians with deep strikes in the hope the Russians would do the escalation for us. In the hope that the Russians would strike at our military installations in Europe or knock out our ISR assets. That could also bring the Americans in.

As said, the Americans have nothing of substance in the theatre but they do have tripwire forces. The 101st Airborne, already positioned, could be sent in as a tripwire force – in the expectation that the Russians would not dare to attack them for fear of the Americans using nuclear.

That’s Macron’s Hail Mary, and of the others talking that way. It’d be a gamble that the Russians would be scared to attack overtly deployed American troops directly – something that is never done – for fear the Americans would be pushed to that final escalation.

But this time it would be done. Putin made that clear at the Tashkent press conference. He reinforced that warning just now at the St Petersburg press conference. It’s more than likely the warning was also given to the Americans directly during deconfliction arrangement contacts. The gamble that the Russians would not dare to attack an American tripwire force for fear of escalation to nuclear is therefore not a gamble Biden will be prepared to take.

He made that clear recently. Brussels/HMG will therefore not risk escalation in the hope of getting the Americans to follow suit. MAD will continue to operate even as this proxy war comes to its end.

Comment: I can quibble about some of the points made by our English Outsider, but his conclusion that MAD will continue to operate is correct. Our policy of escalation management is an obvious effort to avoid the risk of a nuclear exchange or a crisis in the Kremlin that could lead to a nuclear exchange. Putin’s constant talk of conducting a nuclear attack on Western Europe is far more a tactic to manage our process of escalation management than it is a real threat to incinerate London, Berlin and Paris.

English Outsider is adamant that Russia has and continues to hold back on the application of military force. That’s true for nuclear weapons use, but Russian forces have not held back in the application of all other means of military force. It became quickly apparent that the much vaunted Russian military machine could not live up to its reputation. They still have plenty of meat to feed into the grinder, but they had to resort to North Korean artillery ammunition and Iranian drones to keep up their invasion against a much smaller Ukrainian force. Their armored columns have given way to T-62s, Scooby Doo vans, Chinese golf carts and motorcycles. They are not holding back and their ultimate victory is not close to being inevitable.

Concerning tripwire forces, they would only function in the manner described by English Outsider if they were in place before the Russian invasion. If US or other NATO trainers are introduced into Ukraine, I doubt Russia would hold back on targeting them. In fact, they would become a priority target just as the Abrams tanks did. And I’m also certain that France, Poland, the Baltics and the US are aware these trainers would be targets and would accept the risk without resorting to nuclear retaliation. France seems fully willing to accept that risk.

TTG

Posted in The Military Art, TTG, Ukraine Crisis | 47 Comments

What kind of war?

Matejko, Jan (1838-1893); Bitwa pod Grunwaldem

How do you assess this war: a regional conflict between Ukraine and Russia, a proxy war between Russia and NATO, or an already emerging war for world dominance between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the USA? And does such assessment influence your judgement about the specific policies of the parties involved?

I foremost understand this war through the prism of the Russian GenStab: as a continuation of Pudding’s politics through other means. Several times over the last 20+ years, Pudding clearly said that Russia is in the state of war with the entire West (and especially the USA). Secondly, I understand it as Pudding’s war of extermination of Ukraine: for him, it’s entirely unacceptable for Ukraine to exist (at least not as an entity separate from Russia).

As next, I see this conflict in which Ukraine was forced to realise that it must completely (re)establish itself as independent from Russia: as a sovereign country with its own history, traditions, language, politics, and future. And it must enforce that way of thinking upon not only the Russians – but its ‘Western allies’, too. Thus, I see this conflict as an ‘ultimate version of the Ukrainian independence war’.

With other words: I do not see this conflict from the typically Western-centric point of view (think it was Mark Galeotti who described it as ‘Western narcissism’), and thus can’t see it as a ‘proxy war’. It’s a ‘proxy war’ only for those who think Ukrainians have no own minds (or are some sort of ‘misguided Russians’) and were played around by outside powers into separating from Russia: as a war based on some sort of sinister plot. I find that way of thinking outright dumb, definitely primitive, and certainly misguided. 

From my point of view, the situation is the same like in Libya or Syria of the early 2010s: nope, there wasn’t any kind of ‘Western regime-change plot’, but the people of Libya and then the people of Syria rose against murderous regimes that were terrorising them for 40+ years. Neither needed some sort of ‘CIA-Mossad-al-Qaeda conspiracy’ to come to that idea and it was only after that point that the West became involved, and even then: only to a limited degree (indeed, in both cases the country went down the sink precisely because the West then refused to impose itself upon the locals and preferred to accept interests of other foreign powers for the sake of apeasment). 

Of course, there are lots of foreign powers involved in Ukraine. There is lots of playing with Ukraine – especially by the Biden-Blinken-Sullivan gang (the EU has no coherent enough foreign policy to do anything similar; it’s rather so that Scholz is doing his stuff, Macron doing his, and everybody else their own….). And yes: because the West is supplying arms, money, and political support, the war is likely to ‘resemble’ a ‘proxy war’ for many. However, it was nobody else than the Russians who drove Ukrainians into taking things into their own hands, it was nobody else than Russians who invaded Ukraine (Pudding admitted this already back in 2015), and it is nobody else than Ukrainians who are defending their country, nation and their sheer existence as Ukrainians. That’s the bare essence of this conflict, and that’s always going to remain that way.  Which is why this is also a war that is going to force Ukrainians into re-defining the role of themselves as a country and a nation in the future. 

(….where I think Ukrainians should always keep in mind: when there is a huge country in Eastern Europe, with a population of some 37 million… then the West is not ‘horny’ about accepting it as ‘equal’, at least not without securing its own interests as first. ….and mind that the ‘West’, actually, needs Ukraine more than the other way around.)

Finally, this is a war I hope might force the West into fundamental reforms of the way it’s ruled (because what we have right now is, simply expressed, a ‘kleptocracy with limited pluralism’, but by no means ‘democracy’). This is what is adding the element of ‘war for the World dominance’ to the entire situation: if our oligarchy and its private and corporate interests continue dominating the politics and governance, and remain dependent on extracting profits from their cooperation with the PRC (and, latest analyses of the situation are indicative of both the USA and the EU being hopelessly unable of disentangling their commercial interests from Beijing, i.e. remaining neck-deep involved  there), then our systems are not an inch better than any other dictatorships out there.

https://xxtomcooperxx.substack.com/p/ukraine-war-q-and-a-session-for-june-f24

Comment: I agree with this succinct analysis by Tom Cooper on the nature of this Ukraine-Russia conflict. It’s a far more reasoned discussion than me shouting “THE UKRAINIANS ARE FIGHTING FOR THEIR VERY EXISTENCE, YOU DUMB SON OF A BITCH!” But that’s the bottom line of Cooper’s answer. However, he doesn’t give the West a free pass.

Of course the Kremlin sees this differently. In their eyes, they are fighting the West and the US in particular. But most importantly, they are fighting to reestablish Greater Russia, “to reunite the Russian people together – in its entirety of Great Russians, Belarusians and Little Russians” as Petr Akopov put it on 26 February 2022 in his RIA Novosti victory editorial.

Although the collective West does want Ukraine within the Western bloc, they have a funny way of showing it. The Eastern Europeans see a continuation of centuries of Kremlin aggression and act accordingly. Western Europe and the US seem just as focused on preserving the Russian state and avoiding a nuclear confrontation as they are on ensuring Ukrainian independence. Our insane policy of escalation management is proof of this. Insane as it is, it is not as insane as seeking a nuclear reaction from a Russia facing not just a lack of a victory, but a real loss. I think this is a fine line we are trying to straddle.

TTG

Posted in The Military Art, TTG, Ukraine Crisis | 15 Comments

“HUGE Legal Victory – HFDF Wins Appeal in Ninth Circuit” – Barbara Ann

Note: I am not a lawyer and the following is not intended as a legal treatment of the issues presented. I welcome expert opinions from any lawyers among the Committee.

“The Ninth Circuit ruling today demonstrates that the court saw through LAUSD’s monkey business, and in so doing, it made clear that American’s [sic] cherished rights to self determination, including the sacred right of bodily autonomy in matters of health, are not negotiable. This is a great  triumph for the truth, decency, and what is right.”

This is the statement issued by the Health Freedom Defense Fund (HFDF) on a recent ruling by the Ninth Circuit appeal court against a Vaxx mandate imposed on all employees by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The LAUSD Vaxx mandate is currently suspended and was originally implemented with the sanction of the loss of employment. The ruling covered at least three important points:-

The court recognized that the COVID-19 Vaxx is not a “traditional vaccine” as it does not prevent infection and transmission

The court recognized that the original ruling (in LAUSD’s favor) did not extend to “forced medical treatment” for the recipient’s benefit (the LAUSD had cited the precedent set by a 1905 decision on mandated smallpox inoculations)

Although the mandate is not currently in force, the court dismissed a mootness argument given that the LAUSD “expressly reserved the option to again consider imposing a vaccine mandate” (quote from the opinion summary)

Here is a paragraph from the HFDF’s statement:

The court declined to give any deference to pronouncements by the CDC that the “COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.” As the court asked rhetorically, “safe and effective” for what? The majority pointed to HFDF’s allegation that CDC had changed the definition of “vaccine” in September 2021, striking the word “immunity” from that definition. The court also noted HFDF’s citations to CDC statements that the vaccines do not prevent transmission, and that natural immunity is superior to the vaccines.

HFDF is a non-profit fighting Vaxx mandates. Their full statement on the result of the appeal is here:

https://healthfreedomdefense.org/huge-legal-victory-hfdf-wins-appeal-in-ninth-circuit

Here is the summary of the court’s opinion:

https://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2024/06/07/22-55908.pdf

Comment: Our Barbara Ann found this decision by the 9th Circuit Court to be important enough to suggest it as a post. It is a legal decision that a California school district could not mandate Covid vaccinations as a condition of employment although the district already did away with the mandate. I would have glossed over the decision without another thought, but maybe I’m missing something.

It looks like the 9th Circuit decided the Covid vaccine is just not that good a vaccine. Would they have made this decision if it was wildly effective? If they were faced with the decision back in 1905, would they have struck down the mandated smallpox vaccination? Back then, teams of NYC police and doctors roamed the streets forcibly vaccinating recalcitrant New Yorkers. We didn’t go that far during the Covid pandemic.

I also wonder how the 9th Circuit would decide if a challenge is made to our military’s mandate on vaccines such as the annual flu vaccine. The efficacy of that vaccine is perennially in doubt, but it is still mandated in our military. This is from the USMC implementation message:

3.a.  Per refs (a), (b), and (c), all Marine Corps active and reserve component personnel shall receive the 2023-2024 seasonal Influenza vaccine(s) unless medically or administratively exempt.  The Marine Corps active component shall ensure 100 percent of personnel are compliant with DoD policy (vaccinated or approved medical or administrative exemption) no later than 15 Dec 23.  The Marine Corps reserve component shall vaccinate at least 90 percent of required personnel no later than the DoD goal of 15 Jan 24.

TTG

Posted in Health Care, Justice | 50 Comments

“The Real-Life D-Day Commandos Who Inspired Hollywood’s ‘Dirty Dozen'”

“Filthy Thirteen” member Clarence Ware applies war paint to Charles Plauda, June 5, 1944. The idea was McNiece’s, to honor his Native American heritage and to energize the men for the danger ahead. (National Archives)

Officially designated as the 1st Demolition Section of the Regimental Headquarters Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 101st Airborne Division, the Filthy Thirteen earned the name while training in England. Instead of using their daily water rations to bathe and shave, they instead used it to cook wild game poached from the manor house next to their training area. It didn’t help that they were also “the most difficult, insubordinate, and undisciplined individuals in the U.S. Army while in garrison,” as a 2022 article in the U.S. military’s NCO Journal described them.

“We never took care of our barracks or any other thing, or sanitation, and we were always restricted to camp,” recalled the unit’s leader, Jake “McNasty” McNiece. “But we went AWOL every weekend that we wanted to and we stayed as long as we wanted till we returned back, because we knew they needed us badly for combat. And it would just be a few days in the brig. We stole jeeps. We stole trains. We blew up barracks. We blew down trees. We stole the colonel’s whiskey and things like that.”

The Filthy Thirteen were dropped into Normandy on June 6, 1944, with the mission of destroying bridges over the Douve River to protect the assault forces’ move inland from Utah Beach. When the day came, they dropped with the 3rd Battalion, 506th PIR, but half of the 13 were killed, captured or wounded during the jump, including their officer, Lt. Charles Mellen. What was left was led by McNiece, then a private, whose American Indian heritage inspired the men to cut their hair in a “mohawk” homage before making the jump.

The Army Air Forces, assuming the demolition team was dead, bombed the bridges anyway. The Filthy Thirteen then went on collecting stragglers and aided with the capture of the key French town of Carentan. But that wasn’t the end of their role in World War II Europe. They would jump into occupied Holland during Operation Market Garden, where their mission was to secure three bridges near Eindhoven. They were split up after that.

Fearing Market Garden might be their last combat jump, some of the Filthy Thirteen joined the Pathfinders, specialized units that set up drop zones in occupied or disputed territory for resupply missions. McNiece and others found themselves being dropped in on a Pathfinder mission during the Battle of Bastogne.

Although there were 13 original members, with alternates and replacements, there were more than 13 members of the unit by the end of the war. The nickname caught the public’s imagination after Stars and Stripes reporter Tom Hoge wrote about them in a June 1944 issue. Newspapers back home began repeating the nickname, and it eventually stuck. From there, legends about the Filthy Thirteen, mostly rumors, began to spread into mainstream media. Some of those legends formed the basis of author E.M. Nathanson’s book, “The Dirty Dozen,” which became the movie loved by so many film buffs. Just how much of “The Dirty Dozen” is real can only be known by the Filthy Thirteen. Agnew’s daughter Barbara claims her father said it was about 30% — which is still a lot.

https://www.military.com/off-duty/movies/2024/05/31/real-life-d-day-commandos-who-inspired-hollywoods-dirty-dozen.html

Comment: Soldiers like the Filthy Thirteen sound like my kind of soldiers. I often commented on my first rifle platoon with so many rehab transfers from throughout the brigade. These hooligans were pure hell in garrison, but in the field they could not be beat. I wouldn’t have traded them for all the tea in China. God bless every one of them. 

The Army often says they admire this kind of soldier. I think the brass would rather have an Army of goody two shoes. In WWII the Filthy Thirteen were tolerated and later admired in spite of their Article 15s and restrictions to barracks. We had rehab transfers in the mid-70s because the Army couldn’t afford to loose all those young troublemakers. If we were flush with recruits, those troublemakers would have been chaptered out. A decade later, my Company First Sergeant told me of how he would spot a potential NCO by their ability to get at least one Article 15. It was a sign of initiative. At the time, the Army was willing to expunge most Article 15s from the records of senior NCOs to clean up their records. My First Sergeant refused citing his youthful transgressions as a badge of honor.

In 2022, the NCO Journal published an article on the Filthy Thirteen exploring the principles of mission command. It explains how the Army admires and needs the initiative and risk taking of soldiers like the Filthy Thirteen, while bemoaning their hooliganism. I feel that’s wishful thinking. It’s extremely rare to have one without the other. It’s just not natural and maybe even un-American.

TTG 

https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/NCO-Journal/Archives/2022/November/The-Filthy-13

Posted in History, The Military Art, TTG | 36 Comments

“China’s Chang’e-6 probe lifts off with samples from moon’s far side in historic first”

The Chang’e-6 probe is seen raising a Chinese flag with a robotic arm on the moon’s dark side. 
Chang’e 6 lunar rover/Weibo

Hong Kong CNN  — China’s Chang’e-6 lunar probe departed from the far side of the moon on Tuesday, moving a step closer to completing an ambitious mission that underlines the country’s rise as a space superpower. In a symbolic moment before takeoff, China also reportedly became the first country to display its national flag on the moon’s far side, which permanently faces away from Earth.

The probe, carrying the first lunar rocks ever collected from the far side of the moon, took off and entered lunar orbit early Tuesday Beijing time, following successful sample collection over the previous two days, according to a statement from the China National Space Administration (CNSA). Its return journey to Earth is estimated to take about three weeks, with a landing expected in China’s Inner Mongolia region around June 25. The successful return of the samples would give China a head start in harnessing the strategic and scientific benefits of expanded lunar exploration – an increasingly competitive field that has contributed to what NASA chief Bill Nelson calls a new “space race.” This is the second time China has collected samples from the moon, after the Chang’e-5 brought back rocks from the near side in 2020.

Earlier this year, Nelson appeared to acknowledge China’s pace – and concerns about its intentions – were driving the American urgency to return to the moon, decades after its Apollo-crewed missions.

https://www.cnn.com/2024/06/04/china/china-change6-moon-lift-off-intl-hnk

Comment: Like NASA administrator Bill Nelson, we must acknowledge that China’s space program is impressive. In addition to several successful Moon missions, China has a working space station and, like us, secret space shuttles doing secret stuff.

During the height of the Cold War, we managed to start cooperating with the Soviets in space with the Apollo-Soyuz mission and eventually building and operating the ISS. I think it’s time to reach out to China to cooperate in space. We can start by inviting a taikonaut onto the ISS. Perhaps Elon could invite a taikonaut or two onto a SpaceX mission. The possibilities of future joint endeavors are endless.

In other space news, the Boeing Starliner finally launched successfully on its way to the ISS and the FAA has approved the next launch of Elon’s Starship.

TTG 

Posted in China, Space, TTG | 8 Comments

Mexico elects Claudia Sheinbaum

Supporters of Morena party candidate Claudia Sheinbaum celebrate at Zocalo Square in Mexico City, June 3, 2024 [Yuri Cortez/AFP]

Claudia Sheinbaum was elected as Mexico’s next president on Sunday, making her the first woman in the country’s 200 years of democracy to hold its highest office. She won with more than 58% of the vote against Xóchitl Gálvez — marking the first time in Mexico’s history that the two main presidential candidates were women. Sheinbaum is the successor of outgoing president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has been president since 2018 and who also belongs to the left-wing Morena party.

Sheinbaum’s election is significant because the government of Mexico has traditionally been male-dominated and because she will also be the first Jewish person to lead the predominantly Roman Catholic country. Her six-year term will start Oct. 1. “For the first time in 200 years of the republic, I will become the first female president of Mexico,” Sheinbaum said on Sunday. “And as I have said on other occasions, I do not arrive alone. We all arrived, with our heroines who gave us our homeland, with our ancestors, our mothers, our daughters and our granddaughters.”

Sheinbaum, 61, is a Nobel Prize-winning climate scientist who received her PhD in energy engineering from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. In 2000, she began a six-year term as the Secretary of Environment under López Obrador while he was Head of Government of Mexico City, a position similar to a mayor in the U.S. Sheinbaum also served as Head of Government of Mexico City, from 2018 to 2023 — resigning to seek the Morena party’s nomination for president.

López Obrador, sometimes referred to as AMLO, doubled the minimum wage, invested in college scholarships and programs to keep young people out of cartels, dissolved the federal police and pushed construction projects forward to beef up infrastructure across the country. In her victory speech, Sheinbaum said she would continue to enforce policies enacted by López Obrador, such as his social welfare programs, to address economic inequality. “I promise to protect López Obrador’s legacy,” Sheinbaum concluded. While López Obrador still has a high approval rating in Mexico, and despite their mentor-mentee relationship, Sheinbaum has spent the last few years toeing the line between supporting the outgoing president and differentiating herself as a separate candidate.

Mexico’s high levels of violent crime will be Sheinbaum’s most immediate and biggest challenge once she takes office. During her campaign, she told supporters that she would focus on building “a strategy of addressing the causes and continue moving toward zero impunity.” According to a report by Vision of Humanity, a research company dedicated to analyzing data on peace-making efforts around the world, organized criminal activity is the “main driver” of homicides and gun violence in the country. Such activity has been on the rise over the last few years. As Head of Government of Mexico City, Sheinbaum lowered homicide rates by half.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/claudia-sheinbaum-makes-history-what-to-know-about-mexicos-1st-woman-president-160851773.html

Comment: It would be quite chauvinistic of me to suggest that a Jewish woman will be the next president of Mexico largely because of the support of AMLO, but I must suggest it anyways. I do this in spite of her impressive credentials and accomplishments. What happened to Latin machismo?

But seriously, what will this mean for Mexico and the US? Sheinbaum will continue to stress poverty reducing and job creating policies and programs rather than taking on the cartels directly. It seemed to have some success in Mexico City while surprisingly reducing the death and violence at the same time. But this did not weaken the hold the cartels have over the Mexican people. They’re just as strong, if not stronger, than they were before AMLO.

Sheinbaum also supports migrants or at least migrants as they make their way to the US. That attitude may do fine as long as Biden is President, but if Trump wins in November, we’ll see if she changes her tune on the rights of migrants.

A recent al Jazeera editorial places the blame for both the cartels and drugs in general squarely on the US. The writer also blames our hunger for cheap labor for feeding the cartels’ growth. She raises some valid points, but I find it odd that Mexico has no agency in any of this.

TTG

https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2024/6/3/mexicos-election-a-victory-for-organised-crime

Posted in Blood on the Border, Mexico, TTG | 49 Comments

Ukraine’s drones outsmart Russian jamming with AI-powered “Eagle Eyes”

The Economist reports that as Ukraine faces dwindling artillery supplies, it has increasingly relied on drones for precise, long-range strikes. However, Russian electronic warfare has effectively jammed many Ukrainian drones’ communication signals. In response, Ukraine’s special forces have developed “Eagle Eyes,” an AI-driven software that allows drones to navigate autonomously using machine vision, even when jammed.

Eagle Eyes compares live video of the terrain with an on-board map created from previous aerial reconnaissance data. This optical navigation enables drones to continue their missions without external input. The software can also recognize and engage specific targets, such as tanks and jamming stations, without human commands.

Initially tested by a few special forces teams, Eagle Eyes is now affordable enough for kamikaze drones and widely used. Ukrainian manufacturers view optical navigation as a “must-have” for drones with a range over 12 miles (20 km). Developers like MindCraft.ai and Midgard Dynamics are enhancing their systems with infrared cameras, inertial data, and semi-automated targeting to improve accuracy and allow night flights.

Demand for optical navigation is growing beyond Ukraine, with Israeli firm Asio reporting strong sales to the Israel Defense Forces and U.S. companies. While the technology’s effectiveness against Russian jamming remains to be seen, it could potentially be a game-changer in turning the tide of the conflict.

DroneXL’s Take: The development of AI-powered optical navigation for drones showcases the incredible resilience and innovation of Ukraine’s Drone Industry in the face of adversity. As the technology continues to advance and become more widely adopted, it could significantly impact the future of drone warfare, enabling autonomous operations even in heavily contested environments. This breakthrough highlights the crucial role of drones in modern conflicts and the importance of continued investment in cutting-edge drone technologies.

https://dronexl.co/2024/05/29/ukraine-drones-ai-eagle-eyes/

Comment: This is similar to the inertial navigation systems once used by our cruise missiles that could check their location with contour mapping and radar altimeter readings (TERCOM). I remember a counter to this was to lay out large reflective panels to spoof the contour mapping system. I don’t know if that worked. Then GPS came along and we all jumped on that bandwagon. That was fine until GPS jamming and spoofing became widespread as it has in Ukraine.

I see Eagle Eyes as a throw back to the old TERCOM, but a welcome throwback. Advances in computer miniaturization, power and computer vision made this possible. The key is that this is now so cheap it can be used on thousands of FPV suicide drones. This should give Ukraine an advantage in the drone wars, but probably only for a few months. This is largely a software solution and the Russians will solve it or copy it.

BTW, this source, DroneXL, is interesting. It’s a cross between a hobby and a news site. In another article on the Ukrainian drone industry it lays out a blueprint for furthering our own military drone industry. It speaks against legislation limiting and hindering the widespread development and use of drone technology. Such legislation would only stymie innovation. Another point I found useful is Ukraine’s decision to provide funding directly to units to develop and field their own drones. Can you see units like the 10th Mountain or 25th Infantry Divisions developing, funding and supporting local drone industries and sponsoring local drone clubs and local competitions? That would enhance innovation, the development of local drone manufacturing and even Army recruiting.

TTG  

https://dronexl.co/2024/02/05/ukraine-drone-manufacturing/

Posted in Technology, The Military Art, TTG, Ukraine Crisis | 23 Comments

Trump Guilty… What’s next?

A Manhattan jury found former President Donald Trump guilty of all 34 counts of falsifying business records. The jurors said they unanimously agreed Trump falsified those business records to conceal a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels in order to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. Here are the details of those felony counts.

  • NPR’s Andrea Bernstein was sitting in the front of the courtroom and told Up First that Trump was “visibly unhappy” with the verdict. Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, Trump denounced the trial as a “disgrace” and said “the real verdict is going to be Nov. 5 by the people.” Bernstein adds that this time is different: Trump used his money and power to silence people and avoid consequences, a strategy that always worked for him—until yesterday.
  • The jury heard from 22 witnesses over the course of four weeks, and examined evidence including phone records, invoices and checks to Michael Cohen, Trump’s former “fixer” who paid Daniels to bury the news of her sexual encounter with Trump.
  • Kim Wehle, a law professor at the University of Baltimore, says this evidence, along with the fact that “the defense didn’t give an alternative narrative” is ultimately what convicted Trump.

The charges carry a sentence of anywhere from probation to up to four years in prison, but legal experts told NPR that it’s unlikely Trump will face incarceration.

  • Lauren-Brooke Eisen, a senior director at the nonprofit Brennan Center for Justice, told NPR’s Ximena Bustillo before the trial’s conclusion that it’s “very unlikely for someone who has never been convicted of a crime to go to prison… for their first offense, which is nonviolent.”
  • Trump’s legal team is also likely to appeal the verdict, which would further delay any potential consequences.

https://www.npr.org/2024/05/31/g-s1-2086/former-president-trump-found-guilty-on-all-34-felony-charges-in-hush-money-trial

Comment: He wasn’t tried for raw dogging a porn star or paying her off. All that’s perfectly legal in the state of New York. The 34 counts he was found guilty of seem to refer to specific business documents that were falsified. Those documents were the crux of the prosecutor’s case. That and the underlying crime of doing so to influence an election. It was a unique prosecution to raise misdemeanor offenses to felony offenses, but it is New York law. As unique as it was, twelve jurors and a grand jury found it convincing.

I didn’t follow the trial so I don’t know how vigorously Trump’s defense lawyers went after those documents. TV coverage was all about how hard they went after  Michael Cohen. I don’t think Trump’s lawyers did him any favors concentrating on Cohen. The prosecution already established Cohen as a liar, convicted perjurer and what an all around sleaze he was early in trial. I don’t know if they made the point to the jury that this liar, convicted perjurer and all around sleaze was Trump’s right hand man for years, but I think the jurors made that connection.

So what happens now? I don’t think much will happen. I don’t think this will gain or lose many votes for Trump. Those who hate him still hate him. Those who love him still love him. Those who believe in the integrity of our judicial system still believe in it. Those who don’t, still don’t. Trump said he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes. I believe it. I’m waiting for the narcocorridos to replace “Macho Man” at the rallies. Those who rant and rave about rising up and starting a civil war will continue to rant and rave, but that’s all they’ll do.

TTG 

Posted in Justice, Politics, TTG | 151 Comments

The IC and AI

ARLINGTON, Virginia — Long before generative AI’s boom, a Silicon Valley firm contracted to collect and analyze non-classified data on illicit Chinese fentanyl trafficking made a compelling case for its embrace by U.S. intelligence agencies. The operation’s results far exceeded human-only analysis, finding twice as many companies and 400% more people engaged in illegal or suspicious commerce in the deadly opioid.

Excited U.S. intelligence officials touted the results publicly — the AI made connections based mostly on internet and dark-web data — and shared them with Beijing authorities, urging a crackdown. One important aspect of the 2019 operation, called Sable Spear, that has not previously been reported: The firm used generative AI to provide U.S. agencies — three years ahead of the release of OpenAI’s groundbreaking ChatGPT product — with evidence summaries for potential criminal cases, saving countless work hours. “You wouldn’t be able to do that without artificial intelligence,” said Brian Drake, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s then-director of AI and the project coordinator.

The contractor, Rhombus Power, would later use generative AI to predict Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine with 80% certainty four months in advance, for a different U.S. government client. Rhombus says it also alerts government customers, who it declines to name, to imminent North Korean missile launches and Chinese space operations.

U.S. intelligence agencies are scrambling to embrace the AI revolution, believing they’ll otherwise be smothered by exponential data growth as sensor-generated surveillance tech further blankets the planet. But officials are acutely aware that the tech is young and brittle, and that generative AI — prediction models trained on vast datasets to generate on-demand text, images, video and human-like conversation — is anything but tailor-made for a dangerous trade steeped in deception.

Analysts require “sophisticated artificial intelligence models that can digest mammoth amounts of open-source and clandestinely acquired information,” CIA director William Burns recently wrote in Foreign Affairs. But that won’t be simple.

The CIA’s inaugural chief technology officer, Nand Mulchandani, thinks that because generative AI models “hallucinate” they are best treated as a “crazy, drunk friend” — capable of great insight and creativity but also bias-prone fibbers. There are also security and privacy issues: adversaries could steal and poison them, and they may contain sensitive personal data that officers aren’t authorized to see.

That’s not stopping the experimentation, though, which is mostly happening in secret. An exception: Thousands of analysts across the 18 U.S. intelligence agencies now use a CIA-developed gen AI called Osiris. It runs on unclassified and publicly or commercially available data — what’s known as open-source. It writes annotated summaries and its chatbot function lets analysts go deeper with queries. Mulchandani said it employs multiple AI models from various commercial providers he would not name. Nor would he say whether the CIA is using generative AI for anything major on classified networks.

https://www.military.com/daily-news/2024/05/23/us-intelligence-agencies-embrace-of-generative-ai-once-wary-and-urgent.html

Comment: This article was suggested by Keith Harbaugh a short while back. I liked what I read. Seems the DIA has finally come around to embracing AI. It wasn’t always so. When I first proposed using AI as a targeting/collection tool in my cyber HUMINT collection detachment, I might as well have been proposing the practice of witchcraft. Some already thought I was practicing witchcraft.

To test this particular AI, I devised a test using wild data recorded over more than year’s worth of our online operations. I had that data and analytical results derived from that data as a control. The question posed was whether this AI could look at this data and produce the same results our trained collectors and analysts did. In a matter of hours, the AI presented the same results as we did in our intelligence reports without providing any false results. It also identified several instances of possible recruitment scenarios we missed. Most importantly, it showed its work… the data points and reasoning behind its answers. It was wildly effective. I wanted to use it as a sort of cyber wingman to my collectors. However, even with the results of this test, it all remained witchcraft to my bosses. 

But this article shows that DIA and other members of the IC have since embraced the promise of AI. I don’t know if the HUMINT operations side of DIA has gotten on board. Most of the examples of AI use is on the analytical and open source collection side of the IC. It’s also gratifying to see that the IC is aware of AI’s limitations, its penchant for “hallucinations” and “bias prone fibbers.”

TTG  

Posted in Intelligence, Technology, TTG | 39 Comments