Germany scandalously unprepared for alien invasion

Very disappointed in Germany. Apparently, the task of fighting off an alien invasion will fall on the US by default:

The German government has “no plans or protocol” should first contact with aliens occur, according to a report by German daily Bild.

The government considers such an event “extremely unlikely according to current scientific knowledge,” the Ministry of Economics said when responding to a question from Green MP Dieter Janecek.

“Concrete cases that could have been the subject of bilateral or multilateral talks with other states are not known,” the ministry’s statement continued.

United States has a plan

While Germany might not have a plan for extraterrestrial visitors, the US is more prepared. Even before the establishment of a Space Force that US President Donald Trump has recently said he plans to created as a new branch of the military, the 527th Space Aggressors Squadron is already a part of the United States Air Force. It aims to train US, joint and allied military forces for combat with “space-capable adversaries.”

The Air Force squadron regularly conducts drills designed to simulate what a space attack might look like if an otherworldly adversary attempted one.

In all seriousness, it’s hard to see what this can accomplish. Any alien invasion fleet will need to have traversed many light-years before reaching the earth, implying a level of technological sophistication that is surely far beyond that of the US military. Maybe, instead of rousing the invaders’ anger with pointless attacks, it would be better to do absolutely nothing.

From 2007-2012, the US also ran a task force that investigated sightings of unidentified flying objects with an annual budget of $22 million (€19.2 million). The UK has also run UFO sighting projects in the past.

More here about the Pentagon’s secret UFO task force. The military did admit that it was “incapable of defending itself against some of the technologies discovered” by the program, according to a New York Times report.

After analyzing past media coverage about possible findings of extraterrestrial microbial life, Varnum found most people’s reactions were positive.

In two following studies asking respondents what their hypothetical reaction would be if researchers did discover signs of life beyond Earth, or if researchers created a new life form in the lab, participants were still more positive than negative and were more excited about finding alien life than synthetically-created life.

Presumably, these people are betting that what we discover is kinder and gentler than this:

The research found that about half of Americans and Western Europeans surveyed elsewhere said they believe aliens have already visited Earth, Varnum said, and there does not seem to be any “chaos or disorder in the world” as a result.

“Perception-management campaign”

A pair of Republican congressmen allege that a major environmental nonprofit appears to have been co-opted by China’s influence machine:

Environmental advocacy groups that take the Defense Department to court appear to operate as foreign agents working to help China and undermine the U.S. Navy and America’s military readiness in the Asia-Pacific region, congressional leaders suggest.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., chairman of the oversight and investigations subcommittee, called on two environmental groups to submit documents that “identify any policies or procedures” the groups took to ensure compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Bishop and Westerman last month wrote the two groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity.

In a letter to Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the two Republican lawmakers expressed concern about China’s “extensive perception-management campaign” and the “NRDC’s role” in assisting these efforts.

The environmental group’s press releases and other written correspondence “consistently praise the Chinese government’s environmental initiatives and promote the image of China as a global environmental leader,” their letter says. […]

The political activism of the Natural Resources Defense Council continues to coincide with China’s geopolitical interests, while it regularly files lawsuits against the Pentagon aimed at constraining military exercises vital to national security, Bishop and Westerman say in their letter to the NRDC.

The organization “collaborates with Chinese government entities deeply involved in Chinese efforts to assert sovereignty over the South China Sea in contravention of international law,” the two Republicans say. It also works to “discredit those skeptical of China’s commitment to pollution reduction targets” who seek to report honestly on environmental data, their letter says.

Quote from the letter: “Over the last two decades, your organization has also sued the U.S. Navy multiple times to stop or drastically limit naval training exercises in the Pacific arguing that navy sonar and anti-submarine warfare drills harm marine life. We are unaware of the NRDC having made similar efforts to curtail naval exercises by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy.”

Another take from the New York Times. At first glance, it seems more likely that the NRDC — like so many Western organizations — is simply forced to adopt a double standard because of the Chinese government’s unique sensitivity to criticism, than that the NRDC is part of some Chinese influence campaign. However, is there a functional difference between these two possibilities?

Whatever the reasons or motive, any group that attempts to clip the wings of the US Navy in the Pacific, while working closely and uncritically with the Chinese government as the latter builds and weaponizes thousands of acres of islands in the South China Sea, is rightly viewed with a considerable amount of suspicion by the US.

China aims to overtake “slower vehicle” US

China has big plans for enhancing its military power around the globe, is bracing for increased frictions with Japan and other neighbors, and sees the US as a power in decline, according to a leaked document:

China’s military reforms are aimed at expanding its military might from the traditional focus on land territories to maritime influence to protect the nation’s strategic interests in a new era, according to an internal reader of China’s Central Military Commission obtained by Kyodo News.

If the reforms progress, the reader points to intensifying friction with neighboring countries, including Japan, in the East and South China Seas and elsewhere. It also suggests the willingness of China to overtake the United States in military strength. […]

“The lessons of history teach us that strong military might is important for a country to grow from being big to being strong,” it said. “A strong military is the way to avoid the ‘Thucydides Trap’ and escape the obsession that war is unavoidable between an emerging power and a ruling hegemony.”

A Thucydides Trap is a phrase used to refer to when a rising power causes fear in an established power that escalates toward war.

Military reforms are therefore a significant “turning point” for any given emerging country to “overtake a slower vehicle on a curve,” it said, suggesting that the United States is in its decline.

Watch the subs

The broad outlines of the next world war are beginning to take shape:

The world’s three largest naval powers are all developing the next generation of their nuclear submarine fleets, accelerating the underwater arms race between the United States, China and Russia.

For now, at least, analysts say America remains by far the most dominant submarine force, even as its chief rivals work feverishly to overcome the U.S. advantages. Each country appears to have different strategic goals, with the U.S. bent on gaining greater cost and operating efficiencies while the Chinese and Russian are keenly focused on technological advances and achieving greater stealth.

I’m no military expert, but focusing on cost and operating efficiencies, rather than overwhelming technological dominance, seems like a sure path to losing the next war.

SSBNs, or “boomers,” hide in the ocean and can launch nuclear ballistic missiles at an enemy anywhere in the world even if the rest of a nation’s nuclear triad of air- and ground-based missiles is destroyed. They are the guarantors of mutually assured destruction in the event of nuclear war.

Some analysts say that these boomers will be increasingly crucial to the national security strategy of all three nations in the coming decade.

“There is no higher priority for the U.S. Navy than SSBN recapitalization,” said J.D. Williams, a retired Marine Corps colonel and senior defense researcher at RAND Corporation, who said SSBNs play a major role in the Navy’s big-picture decision making.

Now, why might that be? I thought the specter of global nuclear war was mostly a thing of the past.

Looks like we could be in for a fun century.

He’s not buying it

The former head of the British navy is less than impressed by the evidence that has so far been produced for Assad’s complicity in the gas attack near Damascus. No doubt he will be dismissed by many as an “appeaser” comparable to Neville Chamberlain:

Retired senior Naval Officer Lord Alan West has questioned whether the chemical attack in Syria was the work of President Assad’s troops.

“We need unequivocal proof that this attack was done by Assad’s forces – I’m not at all convinced at the moment,” he told Julia Hartley-Brewer.

“All of the reports are coming from people like the White Helmets, who have a history of doing propaganda for the opposition forces in Syria. The WHO reports are coming from doctors who are also part of the opposition.

“If I’d been advising the opposition, I’d have said ‘get a barrel of chlorine, at some stage there will be bombs dropped on you – blow it up and we can blame them, because what we really want is the allies coming in’.”

Lord West added that if proof is provided: “we do need to be part of a coalition,” but that we should wait for evidence.

The widening vortex

That Richelieu feeling

In light of the swirling chaos in the Middle East, which will most likely be intensified by today’s strange “punitive” bombing of Syria, it’s instructive to consider how another great religious and ethnic conflict played out in Europe:

The Thirty Years’ War started in May 1618 when the Protestant Estates of Bohemia revolted against the Catholic Emperor Ferdinand II. They threw his envoys out of the windows of the palace at Prague. Fortunately for them, the moat into which they fell was filled with rubbish and nobody was killed.

Had the revolt remained local, it would have been suppressed fairly quickly. As, in fact, it was in 1620 when the Habsburgs and their allies won the Battle of the White Mountain. Instead it expanded and expanded. […]

The similarities with the current war in Syria are obvious and chilling. This war, too, started with a revolt against an oppressive ruler and his regime. One who, however nasty he might be, at any rate had kept things more or less under control. […]

With so many interests, native and foreign, involved, a way out does not seem in sight. Nor can the outcome be foreseen any more than that of the Thirty Years’ War could be four years after the beginning of the conflict, i.e. 1622. In fact there is good reason to believe that the hostilities have just begun. Additional players such as Lebanon and Jordan may well be drawn in. That in turn will almost certainly bring in Israel as well. […]

As of the present, the greatest losers are going to be Syria and Iraq. Neither really exists any longer as organized entities, and neither seems to have a future as such an entity. The greatest winner is going to be Iran. Playing the role once reserved for Richelieu, the great 17th century French statesman, the Mullahs are watching the entire vast area from the Persian Gulf to Latakia on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean turn into a maelstrom of conflicting interests they can play with. Nor are they at all sorry to see Turks and Kurds kill each other to their hearts’ contents.

It’s mildly reassuring that US Defense Secretary Mattis is calling this missile strike a “one-time shot” (for now), but I don’t think anybody believes that we’ve seen the end of US military involvement in Syria. To the contrary, it has probably only just begun — and nobody knows when or how it will end, and at what cost.

A military in rapid decline

The US military is tried and found wanting by the Heritage Foundation:

Since the inaugural 2015 “Index of U.S. Military Strength,” subsequent editions have described an unsettling trend, and the 2018 “Index” leaves no room for interpretation—America’s military has undoubtedly grown weaker. A quick look at some of the findings of the 2018 “Index” readily demonstrate this fact:

  • The U.S. Air Force is currently short nearly 1,000 fighter pilots, and of the service’s 32 combat-coded fighter squadrons, only four are actually ready for combat.
  • Of the U.S. Army’s 31 Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs), the building blocks of American ground combat power, only three are considered ready to “fight tonight.”
  • In 2017, the Marine Corps’ overall strength rating was downgraded to “Weak,” given declining capacity and readiness issues. This downgrade means half of the service branches (Army and Marines) are both rated “weak.”

From the full executive summary of the study:

Overall, the 2018 Index concludes that the current U.S. military force is likely capable of meeting the demands of a single major regional conflict while also attending to various presence and engagement activities but that it would be very hard-pressed to do more and certainly would be ill-equipped to handle two nearly simultaneous major regional contingencies. The limits imposed on defense spending and the programmatic volatility created by continuing resolutions, passed in lieu of formal budgets approved on schedule, have kept the military services small, aging, and under significant pressure. Essential maintenance continues to be deferred; the availability of fewer units for operational deployments increases the frequency and length of deployments; and old equipment continues to be extended while programmed replacements are either delayed or beset by developmental difficulties. […]

As currently postured, the U.S. military is only marginally able to meet the demands of defending America’s vital national interests.

That’s not very reassuring.

Failure to launch

Well done

Hey, North Korea, maybe you should just give up

A North Korean missile launch that failed shortly after it was fired may have been thwarted by cyber attacks from the US.

The medium-range missile exploded seconds after it was launched on Sunday from a site near the port city of Sinpo, as Mike Pence, the US vice president, arrived in Seoul for talks with the South Korean government over how to deal with Pyongyang’s belligerence.

“It could have failed because the system is not competent enough to make it work, but there is a very strong belief that the US – through cyber methods – has been successful on several occasions in interrupting these sorts of tests and making them fail,” the former Conservative foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind told the BBC on Sunday. […]

Experts have suggested that the United States may be carrying out “left-of-launch” attacks on the missiles using electromagnetic propagation or cyber attacks, including through infected electronics aboard the weapon that confuse its command and control or targeting systems.

Eamonn Fingleton suggests another possible culprit:

Rifkind could have added that Japan and South Korea, where many of the chips in the North Korean rocket were probably made, may also have played a part in the outcome.

Will Canada go east?

This essay by strategist Edward Luttwak (a.k.a. the Machiavelli of Maryland), on why Canada should turn its military attention to the Pacific, also serves as a mini recap of the theme of Luttwak’s book The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy:

It would appear that China’s leaders badly misread the 2007-2008 financial crisis and greatly overestimated China’s gain in relative strategic power. This prompted them to abandon the very successful “peaceful rise” (中国和平崛起) or “peaceful development” (中国和平 发展) foreign policy officially presented in 2004, but long practised before then. This policy set aside all Chinese claims against regional parties in order to have everyone’s co-operation in China’s economic growth.

Once that policy was abandoned, there ensued the loud and practically simultaneous assertion of Chinese territorial claims against Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, the Sultanate of Brunei, Indonesia, Vietnam, and India, in a half-circle of expansionist pretensions. Newly aggressive forms of border and maritime patrolling, increasingly frequent territorial intrusions, and even outright occupations added greatly to the concerns provoked by China’s verbal demands.

Inevitably, the threatened countries started to strengthen themselves militarily and to coalesce diplomatically. They did this mostly in pairs that became increasingly interconnected, but also in threes, as in the case of the India-Japan-Vietnam trio that accelerated Vietnam’s deployment of Russian submarines. […]

Nobody can reasonably suggest that Canada should restructure its armed forces on a very large scale in order to become a major power in Northeast Asia. But given that Canadian political and economic leaders know very well that the centre of gravity in world politics has changed, it would behoove Canada to gradually acquire a significant stabilizing role, in the agreeable company of Australia.

The essay also contains this nugget of strategic wisdom:

All of this is in perfect accordance with the paradoxical logic of strategy which prohibits any form of linear progression in the realm of conflict. This logic ordains that great powers can defeat middle powers, but not small ones.