28 February 2007

Negotiating with Iran and Syria...

Yes, I have heard that there will be a 'regional meeting' in which the US will sit down with the 'neighbors' of Iraq that just seek 'peace'!

As this is a Republican President, I assume he will do what the last one to want to find an accord with Iran will do?

You know after taking Americans hostage from our Embassy in Tehran, bombing our Embassy in Beirut and killing 63, of which 49 were US Embassy staff, killing 241 American Servicemen, bombing the US Embassy in Beirut *again* killing 23 and then having one of our diplomats in Beirut abducted, later to be killed?

Do you remember that?

And the 'sweet deal' that came along after those things?

I hope that this President bakes a nice cake.

It is traditional.

Before giving the Iranian regime what it wants.

No thanks to the 'Realists'.


The Directivity of China

Examining China is not my stock'n'trade to say the least, and my ignorance is as vast as my thumbnail knowledge is of that vast territory and Nation. From early Hydraulic Empires to its turbulent decades of losing social cohesion due to the Opium trade to the Japanese invasion and the Red backlash which lost it Taiwan, China has not been a main focus of my interest. That said a few of the underlying principles of what is going on in China have always been at odds with the wonderful face they have presented to the world, please don't mind the bloody tank treads along the way.

In my Oil Outlook mostly upon Iran but ranging far and wide to look at social dynamics, I did put forth this on China:

China is facing a problem of subsidized fuel, a shift to the middle class and yet they still having a huge amount of their population living in rural conditions. Destabilization of its Western provinces by Islamic terrorists is no longer unknown. The Central provinces are facing population decline and economic collapse for the population that remains. Eastern and Southern China are now facing multi-prong threats as the Magic Kingdom of Mr. Kim has stolen food trains from China. China delivers the food 'aid' and North Korea says the trains are part of the package and confiscates them, too. Mr. Kim then turns around and says: You keep feeding my people or I will open my borders. Who would have thought that starving millions would be a political weapon? Finally China is coming face up to the fact that the Rising Sun is returning with modern equipment that makes theirs look antiquated. Japan has put the first of a new set of Aegis class ships out to sea. And with Mr. Kim going atomic, Japan has let it quietly be known they are thinking that option over, too... which, coupled with their existing space rocketry, makes them an instant global power with nuclear tipped ICBMs. China also realizes that if Japan does that, it will have manufacturing capability to turn those out like Toyotas.

All of that while China subsidizes a 1950's base factory system with a few spotlights on high-tech here and there. They run extremely polluting factories and are seeing things like lung cancer in cities go upwards. When a city disappears from satellite due to smog, you know you have a problem. When a yellow, noxious cloud hangs over it continuously, even after rain storms, you have an immense problem. Without a market and societal based feed-back into the industrial base, that base will be non-sustainable. Cheap gas, oil, and land have led to urban sprawl and decay, which it already had but is now spreading faster. Compress the US history between 1910 and 1960 without the sustainability of industry and you get an idea of the problems China will have. They are also getting this damned thing known as cheap telecom, which is starting to liquidize their social cohesion. Attempting to put a 'Great Firewall' in has proven that you need lots of folks to plug leaks and that some of those folks are none too trustworthy in that job. Even if that were done, the SMS cellphone capability has made distributed messages of pure text to be something easily done at nearly no cost burden at all. Add to that increasing storage capacity, processing power and cameras, and you suddenly have individuals who are their own file servers with autonomous wireless connectivity. Attempting to stop the wired internet has proven impossible *inside* China, as the low cost of computers and storage now makes redundant, off-site, fail-over possible. Pull down one server and two others will pick up at distributed locations. To end this China would have to get rid of *all* computational capability, including cellphones, which now serve as the wireless conduit into the world. To step forward they must let go, to let go is to invite disaster, to stay authoritarian invites overthrow, and to try and buy off the population just speeds the acceptance of modern digital technology which the State is not very adept at handling.
We do tend to think of China as thoroughly one Nation, when, in point of fact, it has a diversity within its peoples and religions North to South, East to West. In Western China the direct abutment to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, plus the Kashmir region of India leads to little reported but present problems with radical Islam. It is very sparsely populated out there, but the problems do crop up with border smuggling, some terrorist attacks and ethnic unrest. The populations are Turkic with some Tajik and then more in the Tibetan/Burmese range heading down along the India and Nepal borders. My look at Mountain Warfare was on Afghanistan, and the climate is drier than that and a bit higher, if memory serves, so not the best place on the planet to try and patrol and keep smugglers and radicals from infiltrating on the border. Of course it isn't the easiest place to survive in to do such infiltration, either. Be that as it may, China has been trying desperately since the failed 'Great Leap Forward', which impoverished the Nation even more than it had been, to industrialize and try to get in a better industrial and agricultural system.

Two things have been weighing against that and heavily: efficiency and people.

One of the benefits the West has had over the centuries is a small population base. When large populations of serfs were available, the feudalistic movement of Europe was one in which about 1% of the people were ruling the 99%. In Japan, during its similar period, that was 10% ruling 90%. In China it has been and continues to be a very small fraction of 1% ruling everyone else. Yes you can point to millions of card carrying Communists, but that does not mean that they have any voice in their system of governance. Quite the contrary, the Chinese Communist Party has been trying to keep that slim minority of a minority of a minority in power while trying to 'liberalize' the economic system. Factories have been built, great mining operations opened, huge construction projects going on, all this wonderful stuff to be seen and isn't it lovely that China is modernizing?

One major problem.


With so many people trying to get jobs, life is cheap. Mind you it has a fractionally higher investment than the still majoritarian poor farming areas, but not *much* more value. Why open up modern production facilities that are inherently labor saving when you have so much cheap, surplus labor? And as the cities swell and you have too many people looking for too few jobs, you have a major problem of actually trying to modernize. It just isn't worth the added cost of investment to get higher output per individual, when there are so many cheap individuals to hire. The young people are, indeed, flocking to the cities, and the cities are overburdened with them and expanding at horrific rate onto land that should *also* be producing food. Cities tend to start in rich trade areas along agricultural trade routes and that worked, so long as the cities remained relatively small. As the cities grow, they encroach upon agricultural land, displace more people who have to go into the cities, who go after any job they can get, and the city grows in size, thus attracting more people.

A quick look at the China balance sheet folks at CSIS and their Facts section tells the story here. Agriculture makes up 14% of the economy and nation-wide unemployment hovers around 20%, with official estimates of 4% in the cities. The 2003 estimate has 16.6% of the population below the poverty line. The National Statistical Coordination Board of the Philippines conducted a review of Chinese poverty and found some interesting things, but mostly where to place the poverty line at. Here is a problem endemic with authoritarian regimes: they can tell you what they say is the poverty line or any statistic, and exactly how they measured it. The relationship of that to the actual thing being measured can be problematical, however. By not properly accounting for something like inflation, the 'official' poverty rate is one number and the actual purchasing power is another thing entirely. Thus a minor shift to account for that and the poverty rate jumps from an idyllic 3% to a rather different 9%. That said even using official numbers, nearly 60% of the poor live in the 12 Western provinces with the worse at about 15%. Put in the higher poverty line and then fully 9 provinces have a poverty rate higher than 15% with that worse one jumping to 33.5%.

Other problems seen are things like 'community developments', which are things held in common for a village to use. Getting a village 'access' to telephone and electrical service does not mean that anyone actually can get those services, and that only a limited number of community properties may have same. What has happened is access to roads and a drop in the illiteracy rate from 20% to 10% from 1990 to 2002. These twin developments have changed the mobility demographic from 1.4% of rural folks moving to urban settings to 18.5% migrating for jobs internally. That is a large draw-down, needless to say, but the people left behind are thus: less educated, unable to compete for industrial jobs, and poor. This is causing instability in rural China with half of the households jumping back and forth over the poverty line as those able to earn incomes leave for jobs in the cities and the higher standard of living their eats up modest pay. That in itself is a telling question for while being able to have a better standard of living, the actual type of poverty changes from rural village to urban ghetto.

What happens when large segments of the population do this and start to have access to very cheap information devices is an internetworking of individuals that are: low paid, overworked, highly stressed, and unable to support a family properly. The heavy influx of available workers does increase industry, but the type and kind of industry is not necessarily something that the West would view as 'modern'. Also lacking is something nearly every American picks up just by living in the United States: some knowledge of how to run a business. Even the lowly drug gang has the wherewithal to understand this in a basic way as seen in (H/t to Classical Values):Why selling drugs in a gang is the worst job in America. Yes a 'board of directors', franchising opportunities, merchandising, and recruitment and training, and even the gaudy excesses that are not all they appear to be are well known in gangland America. The entire basis of how to run a free-market economy, buy insurance (or 'protection'), pay off loans (or lose an arm and/or leg), and entice high school dropouts to make less money than they would at McDonald's are ALL within the sphere of knowledge of even the most basic criminal organizations of the US. In China?

Outside of the coastal cities and the obvious Far Eastern Triads and the few interior operations they have in China, mostly for gray market goods production, and some interior narcotics production, there is no real basis for understanding the very basics of how to make businesses work in China. All of the large projects and industries are either overseen by the Chinese government, run under Chinese government rules which make business owners into the rule enforces of the government or run by outside firms putting in their franchise operations into China. On 27 FEB 2007 Instapundit posted on this and also to this post by James Waterton at Samizdata. A later post at Instapundit also points to the warnings from Samizdata on Non-Performing Loans (NPL) in China being the drive of this. As Mr. Waterton pointed out, the level of NPL in China is, at best, 12% and admitted to being at 25% and speculated to be at 50%. These NPLs are a direct result of businesses that have access to ready cash in China and then no experience in actually paying off loans or even setting up a basic business structure to succeed in China. And the underlying cause of *that*? Poor economic education and an overwhelming supply of cheap labor that has no recourse against exploitation. NPL are Loans that are in default or close to being in default. And this International Journalists' Network article by Anya Schiffrin on the large role of NPLs in banking crises, points out that once a Nation gets over 9% NPL on all outstanding loans, it is starting to look at real trouble.

The Chinese government furthers this problem by restricting access to outside sources of information that could hold vital economic and training information for Chinese businesses to run effectively... but those very same sources would be pointing out that Government overhead in the way of taxation and rule enforcement, was putting businesses into non-economically competitive methods of operation. While China has been trying to 'liberalize its economy' it has retained draconian control over information, training and business spheres to hold them directly accountable to the Government. By doing so the necessary feed-back from *customers* is secondary in importance, and limited as to its realm of influence by those government rules and lack of skills base. China further makes this worse by basically handing out 'free money' in the form of NPL start-ups that fail without any attempt to make good on the loan payback. That is seen as secondary to 'advancing the business climate' while, instead, it removes a necessary feedback INTO the business climate from those holding the bag on the loans.

From George Friedman at Bananas in Pyjamas Counterpoint discussion we have this from 19 FEB 2007:
The conservative count of non-performing loans is $600 billion in non-performing loans. A more realistic estimate that comes from companies like Ernst & Young are $900 billion in non-performing loans. There are some who say that non-performing loans are in the $1.2 to $1.3 trillion range. However you look at it, we're talking about somewhere between 30% and 60% of the Chinese GDP being bound up in bad loans. To benchmark it, when Japan reached about 15% non-performing loans of GDP it began its severe generation-long recession.

When East Asia, particularly South Korea, for example, reached about 20%, 22% it began to tumble. So looking at those two prior Asian benchmarks, we look at China's bad debt problem, its non-performing loan problem, and it is already substantially exceeding that, and we're already seeing the precursor events that we saw in Japan and East Asia; profitless export surges, tremendous growth, demand for commodities, money leaving China for investment in other countries. These are things we saw from Japan in 1990, we saw it in East Asia in 1996 and we're seeing it again here.
Consider the Small Business Administration in the US and its rate of NPLs being 10% or less which, while not grand, is about par for the course in a Federal Government program that has very few dynamic inputs and hard outputs expected and that gives a wide leniency on what is expected of businesses that it works with. The Federal Reserve Board keeps track of the Charge-Off and DelinquencyRates which is where a NPL winds up, in Delinquency still accruing interest past 30 days and then as a Charge-Off to be removed from the books. Now the numbers there stop at 2001, but indicate the worst for Charge-Off is Consumer Credit Cards at approximately 4%. Commercial & Industrial loans hit down in the sub-1% range and do indicate a good capability by lending institutions to figure out who to loan to there. From there we go to the FDIC FFIEC search page for looking at Peer Group Data Reports and get loads of numbers with the pertinent ones starting to show up at page 6 and 6A for Past Due, Nonaccrual and restructured loans and leases. Yes, not exacting but it will do!

As NPLs are those that are highly delinquent and heading towards being wiped off the books, that would be the 30-89 Days Past/Due lines. As of 31 DEC 2006 the #1 area for that was Loans to Individuals at 1.46%, and coming in at a virtual draw for second was Single & Multifamily Mortgages at 1.13% and Credit Card Loans & Leases at 1.12%. And the grand total of All Nonaccrual and all Past Due as a percentage of all Loans and Leases is 1.71% So when the folks looking at China at nearly 7 times that rate at a *minimum* start to get edgy, you know why. Mind you, that is just my back of the envelope quick look at it.

Now on the other part of highly dysfunctional societies we have subsidies. In particular the US started a WTO action against China due to subsidies, and the particulars of that action should be informative. Here is a choice sample from the US Trade Representative's press release:
Several of the subsidy programs at issue appear to grant export subsidies, which provide incentives for foreign investors in China and their Chinese partners to export to the United States and other markets. These subsidies offer significant benefits and are available for all products made in China, including, for example, steel, wood, paper, and other manufactured products. The companies targeted for many of these subsidies, i.e., companies with some foreign participation, accounted for nearly 60 percent of China’s exports of manufactured goods in 2005, according to a WTO report. Other subsidy programs at issue provide incentives for companies in China to purchase domestic equipment and accessories, instead of buying from U.S. exporters.

By subsidizing Chinese exports to the United States and denying U.S. exporters a fair opportunity to compete in China, these subsidy programs unfairly impact U.S. manufacturers and their workers. Elimination of the subsidies will help level the playing field for U.S.-based manufacturers and, in particular, for America’s small and medium-sized businesses across a range of industries. The subsidies being challenged also are inconsistent with clearly stated Chinese policies seeking to rebalance China’s economy with greater emphasis on domestic consumption-led growth rather than export-led growth, and to promote the efficiency of China’s domestic manufacturers.
But a very fun thing happened on the way to the USTR's Annual Report to Congress! Yes the United States proposes something very interesting to the WTO and for all members of it in the way of subsidies:
In addition to proposing the expansion of the prohibited category, the paper also lays out a bold new proposal to address increasing concerns with foreign state-owned and state-controlled enterprises. Questioning the justification for any government investment in the private sector in countries with well-developed capital markets, the paper states that government investment decisions that run counter to the private sector’s assessment that a company is not likely to generate a market return should be made in a transparent fashion, closely scrutinized and, as appropriate, curtailed. Accordingly, the paper proposes that there be a requirement that Members notify the WTO Subsidies Committee of government equity investment, including debt-to-equity conversions. Such notifications should describe: (1) the terms of the transaction; (2) how such an investment is consistent with the usual practice of private investors; and (3) potential adverse trade effects. Moreover, additional transparency measures should be considered for all government-controlled companies as well, such that Members can be assured of a consistently commercial, arm’s-length relationship between the government-owner and the state-owned enterprise.
So, does this mean the US will FINALLY get rid of its agriculture and business subsidies, water subsidies and all the other little goodies that are stashed in the tax code for businesses and uneconomical support of same? Probably not, is my guess.

Now that was a fun! A side-light... but something *else* is of interest to me, at least, coming from the Iranian article. And that is this article from the China Daily 27 MAR 2006China's subsidies on oil and processed oil products. From that article we can see where their gasoline prices are at:
In Beijing, retail prices for 93 RON grade gasoline rose to 4.65 yuan (about 58 US cents) a litre from 4.26 yuan (about 53 US cents), and zero-grade diesel prices increased to 4.04 yuan (50 US cents) a litre from 3.74 yuan (46 US cents), the capital city's development and reform commission said in a separate statement, the Bloomberg reported yesterday. RON is the research octane number that indicates the quality of the gasoline.
As a gallon is 3.7854118 liters that gets you to $2.20/gal up from $2/gal previously. At that same point the average of all gasolines sold in the US, as seen from the Energy Information Administration spreadsheet was $2.36/gal for all formulations and this was just before the steep summer rise in prices. Chinese gasoline is mostly formulated with MTBE and little else, according to Research and Markets which a few US States have banned as seen on the EPA FAQ on Reformulated Gasoline. So that is a fair comparison of prices, more or less, but as the Chinese Government sets the prices, how well their price elasticity deals with seasonal demands is questionable. And as that article cited, the Chinese Government has been lax in keeping up with global oil prices and not wanting to set economical fuel prices as a result. By trying to stabilize fuel prices, the net result is to have uneconomical pricing which is below cost at most times, which encourages wider end use. And when the global prices go down you then get, as seen previously in this Pakistan Daily Times article on 17 APR 2005 smuggling of gasoline and other products into China. That then REVERSES when oil prices go above that level. More of this was seen via an Interfax article on 14 FEB 2007 (since gone behind its customer login):
Two diesel-smuggling ships seized off eastern China coast Beijing. February 14. INTERFAX-CHINA - Two diesel-smuggling ships were seized by anti-smuggling police in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, last week, according to a report released by China's General Administration of Customs.

Police seized two ships that were trying to smuggle 110 tons of diesel out of China last Friday. Six suspects on board were detained, according to the report.

This is the first oil-related smuggling case foiled by China's police force this year.

China's oil product prices are significantly lower than those in neighboring countries, which has resulted in a rise in smuggling.

Currently, a liter of gasoline is sold at about RMB 5 ($0.64) in mainland China, but its price in Hong and Europe is about RMB 14 ($1.8) a liter, said Chen Qingtai, the former deputy director of the Development Research Center, which is a government think tank affiliated with the State Council.

"Almost all airplanes from around the world want to stop over in China to refuel their gas tanks. Trucks from Hong Kong and Macau drive to the mainland to refuel too," Chen said during a conference earlier this month.

"The smuggling of oil products is another result of this price gap," Chen said.
Thus China becomes a two-way smuggling Nation when prices fluctuate which comes down to the Chinese Government encouraging smuggling by this subsidy. Either internally when market prices are below government set prices, or internally when market prices are above that set price. Even with periodic adjustments, that starts a process of heavily fluctuating use of the refined product in those areas that are amenable to smuggling, which happens to be some of the major trading ports and cities. All of which are growing thanks to the way China is setting its internal policies for lack of rural advances and encouraging growth of those cities with poorly financed and overseen industries.

The problem, then, starts to become a bit more clear:

1) China by increasing education is making a more literate working population.

2) China by not encouraging market based finance is allowing uneconomical and poorly capitalized and run companies to start up with a poorly run banking sector.

3) These industries then need cheap labor which it gets from the poor, rural sections of China which increases internal migration even when such is not allowed.

4) By subsidizing these manufacturers that cannot properly run their businesses, China sees a high rate of Non-Performing Loans that go beyond mere Delinquency. This has been seen as a way to move money into politically connected companies, as see seen by William Plesek in this 27 FEB 2007 article at Bloomberg.com.

5) High turnover of poorly run startups allows for those business owners to pocket the differential in the export market and run their companies into the ground using cheap labor as its basis.

6) Training for highly trained labor is done overseas where such training is done well, but that then returns to China and finds a non-market driven system where their skill sets are ill-equipped to compete in it.

7) Well run foreign subsidiaries then do the mass of employment with long-term outlooks on the Chinese market, but only invest in manufacturing when their goods can be more cheaply done by the lower skilled Chinese market, with the high skill individuals going to smaller manufacturing areas within those companies or serving as interim managers for business marketing and research.

8) The resultant urban population then puts up with high pollution from industries. This has been seen numerous places, including:
17 FEB 2007 Voice of America article in which China is cited as the #1 emitter of sulfur dioxide and the #2 emitter of carbon dioxide,

28 FEB 2007 China Economic Net article by Han Ji on the problem of reducing sulfur dioxide and cites coal fired power plants, uneconomically high energy consumption machinery, increase scrubbing capacity beyond the current 1/3 of all plants (40 million mw, vice an installed base of 125 million mw), and address the increasing inefficient use of coal power plants to meet energy needs,

27 FEB 2007 China Daily with a bill being introduced to make government officials liable for pollution and 'local protectionism' which has been cited as the cause of lead poisoning of 250 children in Huixian County and factories in Hunan Province releasing high concentration of arsenides into the Xinqiang River which is a water supply for 80,000 residents,

17 NOV 2004 Wall Street Journal article put up at the Yaleglobal site on mercury pollution in China,

World Bank 28 FEB 2007 article on its support for a Second Shandong Environment Project addressing a shortage of water, inadequate wastewater collection and treatment, and lack of solid waste management facilities,

28 FEB 2007 Radio Australia article on the World Wildlife Fund citing the Mai Po nature reserve manager, Lew Young, blaming "sewage, farm waste and industrial pollution". Additionally the article cites China for dumping 52 billion tonnes of untreated waste into the river system and polluting that and the coastal sea waters,

28 FEB 2007 People's Daily Online citing $1.5 Billion in economic loss in 2004 to pollution in Beijing *alone*,

Finally a quick visit to
Nasa's Visible Earth will yield all sorts of lovely images of the air pollution over China.

Yes, this is almost Dickensian in its proportions! Polluted cities, streams, rivers, groundwater, and poor country folk trying to get into cities to get any decent job and many of the other sort that become available. Those that can get into a good company and reliable work actually get to afford an apartment of their very own, something a bit better than a bicycle, television, cellphone and computer. And it is that cellphone that is the key to China and its immediate future.

As I went through at the beginning of this, that is the asymmetrical technology aspect playing against the Chinese Government. This Government is trying to be less Communist, but is having trouble letting its hands go of the industries under its control and also unwilling to let Capitalism have free reign. Even though it no longer proposes the idea of global Communism and no longer even aspires to Communism in one country, it is slowly sliding towards something else. The hallmarks we are seeing are attempts to control information, economic enforcement of family size, using internal police mechanisms to stifle free speech, using control of banking to hold industries under the economic oversight of the Government and putting forth that the problems felt now are for a 'better future', just don't mind the crushing poverty, pollution, corruption and prisons.

This is attempted Capitalism within one Nation towards Nationalistic ends but controlled by the State. Thus the hallmarks seen are:

1) Nationalism. China has always had this throughout its entire existence, be it under a Sun Emperor, Dynastic Em porer, or Communist system. China might be defeated, but it always 'absorbed its conquerors'.

2) State Centralized economy. In the case of China via the banking system, bad loans, cronyism, and political favoritism. Also note the lack of caring about the health of the population or even such things as pollution. The Government no longer is a 'dictatorship of the proletariat' or espouses 'workers owning the means of production'.

3) Militarism is State imposed upon a population for repression and dreams of expansion, in this case towards Taiwan. Further the Government looks to bind its population so that individuality disappears. And the threat of the use of that has been seen multiple times in recent history.

4) Anti-liberal, as in the old school, 19th Century rights of man, liberal. By controlling the sources of information, personal liberties and enforcing structure from the rulers downwards, fascism negates all Western liberalism and ends it so that the State may have sole control over all aspects of individual life. No religion is brooked that has any possibility of interfering with the control of the State, as seen in the repression of Falun Gong, not allowing a vice such as gambling, and attempts to control news and ideas within the State.

The type of Government system this describes?


This is not an attempt to describe how the Chinese Government sees itself or purports itself as being, but a description of its activities and how it runs things. It is Communist in name only and Fascist in its outlook, control and methodology of thought. Any gloss of the Government as having any relationship to its people as individuals or even as workers has disappeared in the decades since Mao. One does not need to have a 'Great Leader' to get a Fascistic regime, and a ruling clique that decides who goes up and who does not does just as well and is the more insidious for being a clique and not a single, mortal leader. When you remove the outward, idealistic stance of Communism to be global, shear off any support, even in verbiage, of the worker, and then adhere to Nationalism, Militarism, State centralized control and go against the rights of individuals to have freedom of speech and religion, and use that all towards State centered control of production, you do not have Communism.

You do not have Capitalism.

You have Fascism.

And what technology is doing is liquidizing the last of the old Chinese culture as anything NOT disallowed is PERMISSIBLE. And the State is finding that out in spades as people now report on sexual activities, nepotism, and anything else they can get away with as well as circumventing the 'Great Firewall of China' which will be as effective at stopping ideas as The Great Wall was at stopping previous enemies. What comes of that is unstructured freedom and a dissolving of all bonds above the personal as even the family bonds to those in the countryside are degraded and lost by the current State control.

You do not get a liberal society out of that.

Nor do you get all things good and wonderful with that 'Free Trade'.

The anomic state of being that comes from this detachment is unstable as it is apparently listless and lawless. That was the state the Weimar Republic was in socially, although not politically. And the unstable elements to change that state are ones that are not easily controllable, either.

A rising Japan could easily turn China intensely militaristic.

A sudden religious shift in *any* direction could put in a religious regime bent on 'washing away the sins of the culture' as was seen in 'The Great Leap Forward' and 'The Cultural Revolution'.

A rise of radical Islam in the Western provinces could shatter the final, agrarian social cohesion there and the cracks from that would spread half-way into the Nation, provoking reprisals and possibly worse. If al Qaeda suddenly decided to declare a mountain Islamic State encompassing the autonomous territories of Pakistan, Kashmir and parts of Tajikistan, Afghanistan and China, the ability of a 'million man army' to respond out there in the highland desert would be questionable at best.

A collapse by the Government itself, into different ruling cliques would be a large scale catastrophe, no matter *what* the outcome as there are so many depending on minimal amenities in the cities and no longer a large and dispersed agricultural society to weather out storms at the top of society.

The threat by North Korea to open *its* borders to China would be a highly destabilizing blow as an economy already straining to cope with the tens of thousands of poor in its cities would then need to cope with a million or so poor AND starving individuals... or just kill them.

Those are my superficial thoughts on China.

26 February 2007

Iraq and the Turf War

I am a retired bureaucrat from the INTEL side at DoD, having worked in the AR&D area, and coming up through various departments and such trying to get one major project going and then contribute to the forward looking capability of the DoD. In that time I got to go to a lot of places, meet with other government Agencies (both Civil and Military) and, in general, had to pick up a working knowledge of how Agencies viewed their own capabilities.

And protected their turf.

And within that protected turf set up 'fiefdoms' of entrenched individuals who saw their area as sacrosanct.

I am not surprised, then, when running across this article at INTEL DUMP by Phil Carter on 25 FEB 2007: The Diyala Two-Step. It goes through the extreme problems of getting cross-Department and Agency support for *anything*, in this case trying to move Dept. of State into the lead on Provincial Reconstruction Teams. I will say that the organization that he cites and that particular author are ones that I do not trust anymore. The description given, however, of non-cooperation *within* the US Federal Government is a pure extension of how they operate at home. And since the US is where the decisions are made, that extreme set of 'turf' conflicts and 'protecting resources' from 'poaching' by other Agencies is endemic across the Federal Government.

As an example, DoS has a laundry list of people that is cited, as necessary for their PRTs to succeed, beyond the mere translation portion of it. This quote is absolutely chime ringing on this: "No foreign service in the world has those people," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice complained.

And the people they are lacking? From the cited article: "...agronomists, engineers, police officers or technicians of its own to send to Iraq."

These are requests sent to OTHER Federal Agencies for individual willing to get an upping in pay to go to an active combat zone, risk life and limb to help out, and, generally, in doing the best job possible to be seen as highly advisable for future promotion. Yes, it is difficult to get volunteers to go overseas for high pay, hard work and chance of good reward! Within the DoD Agency I worked at the Civilian side had its *own* deployable folks and the list of people *willing* to deploy for months to a year. And having known them, some are retired military, but a vast majority are *not*, but have commitment to the mission of providing the best capabilities to the Armed Forces so that they can be effective and lives can be saved.

This same affinity is lacking in the Agencies now being asked to pony up skilled professionals willing to put forth more for their Nation. And where might some of these people come from?

Agronomists - Department of Agriculture which has a truly huge budget and hands out more pork than can be dreamt of by all of Congress. Luckily multiple Congresses have so packed in the pork that no single Congress need expend itself to think upon it. Be that as it may I did put forth on how to defund the drug trade in Afghanistan by rechanneling the pork to something *useful* and then using Dept. of Agriculture analysts to ensure that non-narcotic crops are grown and then to give the first real tests of MOAB upon those that try to still grow the stuff. And you wouldn't even have to *touch* the $0.548 Billion went to disaster relief that they set aside... just the $12 Billion or so to farm subsidies, crop subsidies, water subsidies, and general cash payments for 'set aside' programs... also known as 'not growing crops'. Now I am sure that everyone will point to all the fine work done in rural parts of the Nation by the USDA, and all the lovely price supports, subsidies and such actually helping people to grow crops un-economically, but that is a relatively small part of their budget as seen in the breakout provided by Heartland Insititute giving the quick once over on the 2003-5 USDA budget projections.

And even *better* is that the USDA has BUDGETED for such things as providing overseas help to DoS as seen from Foreign Agricultural Service/USDA site on the Statement of A. Ellen Terpstra, Administrator, Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Before the House Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, Washington, D.C., March 3, 2005:

Our FY 2006 budget proposes a funding level of $152.4 million for FAS and 982 staff years. This is an increase of $11.2 million above the FY 2005 level and represents the funds needed to ensure the agency's continued ability to conduct its activities and provide services to U.S. agriculture.

The budget proposes an increase of $8.8 million for support of FAS overseas offices. The FAS network of 78 overseas offices covering over 130 countries is vulnerable to the vagaries of macro-economic events that are beyond the agency's control. The significantly weakened U.S. dollar and higher International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS) payments to DOS have caused base costs to increase sharply. Since 2002, the dollar has fallen 9 percent against currencies of our major markets.

Specifically, this increase includes:
$5.4 million to maintain current services at the 78 FAS offices around the world, including $2.4 million for wage increases for locally employed staff; $900 thousand for higher rents; and $900 thousand for increases in all other in-country expenses including security, repairs, travel, and supplies. Additionally, an increase of $1.2 million will be required to meet higher ICASS payments to DOS.

$2.7 million for the FY 2006 Capital Security Cost Sharing Program assessment. In FY 2005, DOS implemented a program through which all agencies with an overseas presence in U.S. diplomatic facilities will pay a proportionate share for accelerated construction of new secure, safe, and functional diplomatic facilities. These costs will be allocated annually based on the number of authorized personnel positions. This plan is designed to generate a total of $17.5 billion to fund 150 new facilities over a 14-year period. The FAS assessment is estimated to increase annually in roughly $3 million increments until FY 2009, at which time the annual assessed level will total an estimated $12 million. This level is assumed to remain constant at that point for the following 9 years.

$650 thousand to support the FAS presence in the soon-to-be constructed embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, after an absence of nearly 20 years. FAS will have the lead on all USDA activities and projects in support of Iraq and its agricultural development. This will entail the entire range of market development, market access, and market intelligence tools available to FAS and its industry partners.
The budget also includes an increase of $2.4 million to cover higher personnel compensation costs associated with the anticipated FY 2006 pay raise. Pay cost increases are non‑discretionary and must be funded. Absorption of these costs in FY 2006 would primarily come from reductions in agency personnel levels that would significantly affect FAS's ability to contribute to USDA's strategic goal of enhancing economic opportunities for agricultural producers.
Now let us peruse these numbers! The overall budget increase is that of 7.34% with inflation running in the 3-4% range. That does not address increase costs of running such a widely distributed operation as USDA, which includes getting foreign food inspectors registered with them, moving personnel during an time of increased travel costs, and the such like. Yes, those 'USDA Approved' sticker on that canned ham you got from Poland means that there is an office there to certify inspectors, run the inspection regulation program... you didn't think that foreign inspectors had to come HERE did you? No, the US of A believes in sending our bureaucracy overseas, too! Or that they ran a 'spot inspection program' on imports to ensure quality? Sorry, those 78 offices worldwide are ALL USDA personnel staffed, to keep up the quality of food bearing the USDA sticker of approval.

Onwards to the 982 staff years... yes, not 'person years' or 'man years' but "staff years". What this number is, at the very highest level, is something I came to know as the 'burdened personnel cost' in which all the extraneous factors of employment got added in to the overall staff pay cost. These included things like: 1:1 matching funds to employee Thrift Savings Plan accounts (the accounts employees put gross pay into for retirement), the Federal portion of the various employee health plans (of which the employee picks up 40% or so), travel costs, overhead costs of staff maintenance and the basics that were not outlays for buildings and supplies. Further, as roll-up number, this can be knocked out to more than 982 warm bodies with part-timers and such allowing for that to expand, but the overhead increases, too. Finally all contract personnel costs are put into that, which have their own additional overhead cost for running the contract which has some built-in profit based on contract proposals.

But the real 'meat' is the money they have put into the budget for actually resourcing staff to Baghdad! Unfortunately read what they are looking to supply: market development, market access, and market intelligence tools. Now, this may come as a surprise, based on how many offices and astute locals there are with USDA scattered around our fine Nation, but the Iraqis may need help in actually finding the best CROPS TO GROW! As in: look at the climate and needs and find out what fits them best. You know, like they do for the US in telling us which crops *not to grow* and pay for that? This is a reverse sort of deal where you find the best crops *to grow* and help the farmers to figure out the best way to grow them.

And the real problem: look at the subsidies budget from 2004 at nearly $12.5 Billion.

Look at the FAS part of USDA proposed for 2006: $152.4 Million.

Yes about 1.2% of the size between helping the US get Iraqi agriculture stood up so it can employee folks and get them off the street into good paying jobs and between paying subsidies, a good portion of which goes to not growing crops in the US. That is the real value of our National Security and National Sovereignty: We don't pay to help others to secure freedom and liberty, but we sure do love paying lots of money to folks here so they can get illegal labor to work at their crops! But if Congress doesn't push hard on it, then these things just get done in a lackadaisical fashion...

Next up, engineers. Considering that the US Army Corps of Engineers is doing its bit, we will assume that this is *not* the large scale infrastructure engineering for electricity, clean water, and sewage, along with road building, airport re-building and all those lovely large buildings going up in the way of hospitals, schools, firehouses, police stations, army training areas, border fortifications (say, we could use a few of those!), shipping waterways, oil pumping and refining.... Quite a long list for USACE, isn't it? So lets look at the Dept. of Transportation and see what they can help out on, shall we? This is a link to their 2006 budget and from that a few areas of definite interest show up almost immediately!

Say, the entire FAA portion PLUS the building and infrastructure portion for airport maintenance and helping to fund security are done here to help out TSA. They have an overall asked for budget of $13.78 Billion and some interesting numbers on repair of damaged facilities in previous years shows what would normally be expected for such things, which run at the ~$400 Million per airport for things like hurricane damage and such. Now those are nice, modern US airports, and my bet is with a bit of work that number couldn't be more than 50% higher for Iraqi needs. Now where is Congress when you need it?

Even better are all the people dedicated to flight safety, training and the entire how to design, layout and operate an airport deal! Why, those folks could be mighty handy *and* take a load from USACE, too.

The Federal Highway folks fall into here and USACE has had to do *that* too. Repairing roads and upgrading them and putting in heavy vehicle capable roads have all been under the USACE purview, and here we have an entire group at DOT that concentrates on how best to design, layout, pay contractors for construction, test, and then train maintenance personnel just for *roads*.

For Public Transit we have the Federal Transit Administration, which covers that panoply of assessing public transportation projects, doing planning and development for new systems and the such like. Yes, helping out on surface rail, busing and such would be a great help if anyone ever bothered to fund them and tell them to help. That would be Congress, BTW.

The Federal Railroad Administration is also under DOT! Yes, now the folks in Iraq could certainly use Amtrack! Ok, maybe take a mulligan on that and just hire competent contractors to help lay out new rail lines... but the FRA should be in on the oversight and planning and all that fun stuff. But, Congress would need to budget for that...

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration! At DOT! Just the folks I would want to help in looking at existing infrastructure and helping to lay the plans for new pipelines, refineries, cargo shipping for bulk hazardous materials by rail or on roads. A perfect match for Iraq! If only Congress would budget for it...

Maritime Administration is also at DOT, and with the needs of a congested oil terminal and port facilities nearly co-located, this is a prime concern for Iraq and long-distance oceanic shipping. These people could help out a *lot* in that and getting things really straightened out for long term use and take some load off of the US Navy and USACE. Ah, but where is Congress on that?
And the two prime line items for this? Well how about starting with:
Minority Business Resource Center (MBRC): $3.9 million is requested for MBRC activities. $0.9 million in Federal subsidy and administrative expenses will support an $18 million short-term loan guarantee program to assist small, disadvantaged and women-owned transportation-related businesses; and $3 million will fund the Minority Business Outreach program, which includes a clearinghouse for national dissemination of information on transportation-related projects and grants to minority educational institutions.

New Headquarters Building: $100 million is requested to finance the FY 2006 costs for the new Department of Transportation headquarters building. The goal is to consolidate the Department's headquarters operating functions into efficient leased office space in the District of Columbia.
Yes, a total of $104 Million is peanuts, but enough to get personnel over, projects scoped out, and long-term budget needs laid in and to help Iraqis understand the problems and the solutions. Congress could easily re-route the funds and hand a MBRC waiver and say that using those funds in Iraq is more vital to the long-term security of the Nation. Maybe some 'extra points' for using MBRC folks for normal work, above and beyond the Federal Mandates. You know, get rid of pork and put it to some good use?

Ah, police officers! Well beyond the already and ongoing civil police training. I mean the FBI is great for the Iraqi Security folks, but this goes way beyond that. In truth, after you get past the FBI, Secret Service, BATF, DEA, Treasury, and all the individual security organizations and contractors used for on-site security, it is difficult to find the old 'cop on the beat' training in the Federal system. This really *does* require hard partnership from the Federal side with the States to find police academies not only willing to stand up training capability but to help by getting some folks overseas to help on the local knowledge end of things. The US does a part of that as do the Coalition Nations, such as Poland, Romania, and so on. This is really not a major Federal area, but the folks at the above mentioned organizations can each play a role in things like force protection, counter-intelligence, internal affairs and policing. Still, if Congress doesn't budget for it, this is then left to the President to ask the States for any help they can give over the Slackers Upon the Hill.

Finally is technicians. All those wonderful roads, buildings, systems, and such needs technicians which are already employed working for the Federal Government in DOT and USDA and Dept. of Justice. DoD *itself* has more civilian technicians than you can shake a stick at. Technicians for building maintenance, climate control, automated systems, networking, road maintenance and inspection... again, if it is not in the Budget it does not get done.

And even if it *is* put into the budget, each Agency and Administration and organization will want to find ways to spend it for building their 'feudal empires', and *not* for the actual, specified reasons put in by Congress. And as these are 'extra duties' each Department and Agency will want more money to do them. Lots more.

We have lots of pork in the Federal system, enough to give this a rip-roaring start.

But it is Congress putting the pork in for their own personal needs to pay off lobbyists, contractors, consultants and often just to aggrandize their names.

In a time of war *not* removing such extras and placing those funds to the good of the Nation is destructive.

Pork is for terrorists.

25 February 2007

Mountain warfare and what it takes

There is this strange idea that if you pull troops out of Iraq you can send them directly to Afghanistan and have an immediate fighting force there! Well, you can send them, but their ability to actually fight for most of the year is another question. Lets review the physical characteristics of Afghanistan, and for that I will use the Wikipedia article that draws on the Geography of Afghanistan and that, in turn, appears to be the direct article from the 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica. Believe me, not much has changed since then.

The variety of climate is immense, as might be expected. Taking the highlands of the country as a whole, there is no great difference between the mean temperature of Afghanistan and that of the lower Himalaya. Each may be placed at a point between 10 °C and 15 °C (50 °F to 60 °F). But the remarkable feature of Afghan climate is its extreme range of temperature within limited periods. The least daily range in the north is during the cold weather, the greatest in the hot. For seven months of the year (from May to November) this range exceeds 30 °F (17 °C) daily. Waves of intense cold occur, lasting for several days, and one may have to endure a cold of 12 °F below zero (−24 °C), rising to a maximum of 17 °F (−8 °C). On the other hand the summer temperature is exceedingly high, especially in the Oxus regions, where a shade maximum of 110 °F to 120 °F (45 °C to 50 °C) is not uncommon. At Kabul, and over all the northern part of the country to the descent at Gandamak, winter is rigorous, but especially so on the high Arachosian plateau. In Kabul the snow lies for two or three months; the people seldom leave their houses, and sleep close to stoves. At Ghazni the snow has been known to lie long beyond the vernal equinox; the thermometer sinks between −10 °F and −15 °F (about −25 °C); and tradition relates the entire destruction of the population of Ghazni by snowstorms more than once.
What a lovely place to have a war, isn't it? Here is a bit on Kandahar and environs:
At Jalalabad the winter and the climate generally assume an Indian character. The summer heat is great everywhere in Afghanistan, but most of all in the districts bordering on the Indus, especially Sewi, on the lower Helmund and in Seistan. All over Kandahar province the summer heat is intense, and the simoon is not unknown. The hot season throughout this part of the country is rendered more trying by frequent dust storms and fiery winds; whilst the bare rocky ridges that traverse the country, absorbing heat by day and radiating it by night, render the summer nights most oppressive. At Kabul the summer sun has great power, though the heat is tempered occasionally by cool breezes from the Hindu Kush, and the nights are usually cool. At Kandahar snow seldom falls on the plains or lower hills; when it does, it melts at once.

At Herat, though 800 ft (240 m) lower than Kandahar, the summer climate is more temperate; and, in fact, the climate altogether is far from disagreeable. From May to September the wind blows from the northwest with great violence, and this extends across the country to Kandahar. The winter is tolerably mild; snow melts as it falls, and even on the mountains does not lie long. Three years out of four at Herat it does not freeze hard enough for the people to store ice; yet it was not very far from Herat, and could not have been at a greatly higher level (at Rafir Kala, near Kassan) that, in 1750, Ahmad Shah's army, retreating from Persia, is said to have lost 18,000 men from cold in a single night. In the northern Herat districts, too, records of the coldest month (February) show the mean minimum as 17° F (−8 °C), and the maximum 38 °F (3 °C). The eastern reaches of the Hari Rud river are frozen hard in the winter, rapids and all, and the people travel on it as on a road.
Yes, just a bit 'more temperate' once you get away from Kandahar and Kabul. This is what is typically known as desert highlands and mountainous terrain. Note the poor Ahmad Shah's army suddenly succumbing to a quick cold snap and you get the idea of what happens in such terrain. The overall elevation is trouble, the lack of water is added trouble, the sudden and sharp swings in temperature are extremely dangerous for the unwary. So like lowland, desert Iraq, isn't it?

In such terrain you need specialized training, equipment, supplies, medical knowledge and an understanding of how the climate effects you and your equipment. You are high enough so that helicopter lift is significantly reduced due to the low air pressure and so is your capacity to actually hike, move, and continue on with daily life. The history of warfare is replete with small forces holding up in mountainous terrain for *decades* and thwarting all new advances in technology by using terrain and local knowledge against large forces moving through such areas. Those same large forces, untrained for highland work at a minimum, quickly tire, find their supplies running low and can be kept under constant, low level attacks on the ground that slow advances and disrupt logistical supply lines. Aircraft are no sinecure against such due to sudden loss of visibility, wind shear and and other strange wind effects in rugged terrain. Infrared can be obscured by dust, confused by reflections and by difference in ground heating. Simple things like the metallic structure of equipment can start to crystallize and undergo freeze/thaw strains and just suddenly break as crystals form in the metallic alloys. Weapons lubricant, motor oils and a whole host of other liquids will face a hard time coping unless they are specifically formulated for those temperature swings, without speaking of lowered engine capacity due to lower air pressure.

The #1 surest way to give support to any enemy holding up in mountainous terrain is to throw a large army at them: their ability to slow the army, thwart attempts to be found and continually disrupt overland supplies will give them heart and free PR to show how skilled they are against your army. The British Empire learned this and the Soviet veterans of Afghanistan learned it in spades. For this sort of work you need specialized training and equipment as seen in Alpine or Mountain troops. This heavily specialized area is one where all of the troops must learn to operate across the entire broad range of conditions they will encounter and *still* be an effective fighting force.

In the 1917 Battle of Capretto, Austro-Hungarian alpine troops were a critical part of the fighting and their capability, or lack of same, were key to the fighting there which is very rugged and mountainous. The Italian Alpini date back to then and would continue that capability to this very day. In 1939 the USSR decided to attack Finland as part of the Nazi-Soviet Pact that had given the USSR a 'sphere of influence there' and the Winter War of 1939 was one of competent, well trained Finnish ski-troops taking on mechanized divisions. Germany would later station their own AlpenKorps there as well as deploy the Waffen SS AlpenKorps in Croatia to try and counter the Partisans.

These battles and many before them point to small, capable military units forcing the opposition to stall out and even retreat from the offensive. This is not the 'big troop movement' sort of battle you always see in the movies, as the view from the Italian Campaign by the US as is pointed out in this recollection from WWII:
"Attacking a Village "Daylight attacks against these hilltop villages are almost out of the question as casualties are invariably high. Extensive use of a limited night attack has proven to be the best method of handling this situation. The attack is made on as dark a night as possible. Silence is necessary and is relatively easy to obtain since the ground over which the approach is made is mostly cultivated. The process of infiltration must be systematic and every building gained should be immediately turned into a strong point for the attacker."

"It is advisable, where possible, to have the forward attacking elements allotted a high proportion of submachine guns. Each man should carry at least two to four hand grenades. They are invaluable in clearing buildings.

"The enemy's mortars are habitually emplaced behind villages on the reverse slopes, dug down to a depth of 10 feet. These are almost impossible to knock out by artillery fire even if we can actually locate them. One unit has reported that they have successfully engaged targets of this type by pooling all its 131-mm mortars and 'firing them as a battery under unit control.

"Of course, if at is at all possible, it is better to avoid these villages entirely, flank them, and cut the enemy's line of communication.

"The absolute necessity of keeping a reserve for counter-attacks on the reverse slope is stressed. If there are any houses on the forward slopes they should be occupied or the enemy will use them to assist his counterattacks."
These are lessons learned in mountain warfare bought the 'hard way': at a cost to US soldier's lives. Do not do frontal assaults on villages at daytimes, do not depend on airpower to take out enemy positions, do not expect to locate where enemy fire is coming from easily if it is indirect, and if you can go around the village entirely DO SO. Cutting off an enemy from communication and supplies is the way to make them shift out of a hard point as they seek to regain those supply lines. And they will be doing the *exact* same thing to you.

From a Major Muhammad Asim Malik, Pakistan Army we get this article on Mountain Warfare, and it is a good read to see what someone in the area thinks:
MOUNTAIN WARFARE is specialized combat with unique characteristics. Military leaders and soldiers need training and experience to understand the peculiarities of mountainous environments and how they affect combat. Armies that train for mountain combat perform much better than those that do not.

During World War II, the German Army raised an entire corps of elite mountain troops called "gebirgs jaeger" (mountain troops). Although not all of these troops were used in the mountains, they demonstrated superior abilities in almost all theaters in which they were used. The German Fifth Gebirgs Division marched more than 248 miles, crossed mountain passes above 6,500 feet, and secured well-entrenched defenses on the Mestksas Line. Other gebirgs jaeger captured most of the Caucasus mountain region in the summer of 1942.
These are *not* Special Forces, they are Specialized Forces that train and train hard to survive in some of the roughest terrain on the planet. And what is the priority for these troops? Here Maj. Malik puts it down for us:
Physical fitness is the first prerequisite of mountain-warfare training. The effects of cold weather and unforgiving terrain require a high level of physical fitness for long-distance climbing and walking, and the physical fitness required for mountainous terrain must be developed at high altitude. But being physically fit does not necessarily mean soldiers will be able to perform adequately at high elevations. U.S. soldiers selected to attend the mountain-warfare school in Kakul, Pakistan, required additional climbing time to attain the desired level of physical fitness. The body must adjust to the thin mountain air, and climbing muscles must be developed.

Mountainous terrain can be an ally or a dangerous adversary. In Kashmir each year, thousands of troops are introduced to the mountainous environment to help them understand and appreciate it. A marked difference exists in the performance of units that have conducted vigorous acclimatization training and those that have not. Weather and terrain-related casualties are a big indicator. During initial training in Colorado during the early 1940s, the U.S. 10th Mountain Division suffered more casualties from weather-related injuries than from actual mountain combat in Italy.
Yes, you have read that correctly. Training for this thing called Mountain Warfare is deadly all on its lonesome. And the terrain itself is both friend and foe, depending on how well you have factored it into your plans and your necessarily scanty knowledge of the enemy's plans. Then a bit of interesting local knowledge to show how things differ at altitude and via locale:
In Kashmir, stone or wooden bunkers, which double as living accommodations and fighting bunkers, are found at posts below 13,000 feet, but at high altitudes, stone structures are not practical. Cement will not bind, and the underlying glacier is always moving. Instead, prefabricated, synthetic domes (igloos) are used. The domes are easy to carry and assemble even at 18,000 feet and above. They can be retrieved from even large amounts of snow and set up again quickly.
Things do not work the way you expect them to at high altitudes and if you don't know what you are doing, something that appears innocuous can be fatal. I would think it would be a silly thing to build on a glacier as you never know when a crevasse would open up under you. And if it is a glacier with large amounts of rock and sand and silt in its structure, you may not even *know* it is a glacier. The effect of sudden cold snaps on the human body at that altitude are quite nasty:
Soldiers must also be trained to wear proper clothing. Loose-fitting layers and insulated and polypropylene clothing that does not allow perspiration to accumulate close to the body are best. Developing frostbite from touching metal equipment with one's bare hands is possible when temperatures drop to minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit. Pressurized sleeping bags help stabilize soldiers suffering from altitude-related sicknesses.
It is rare, once one is accustomed to an altitude to get altitude sickness, and at geology field camp we spent two weeks getting acclimated to it. That said a sudden and fierce low pressure front, as is common in Afghanistan, can *drop* that pressure and suddenly make you feel as if you were several hundred feet higher. Fun place to fight, isn't it? Do they have all of those with the soldiers in Iraq? How about the training to USE such equipment and wear clothing properly in such a climate?
Because it is not always possible to transport material by helicopter, troops are often required to carry awkward loads, including kerosene oilcans, rations, and building materials for bunkers. The Soviets learned this lesson while fighting in difficult terrain in Afghanistan.

At high altitudes, where it is difficult to keep weapons functioning, covering and protecting weapons and equipment against snow and ice is a necessity. Batteries often will not perform optimally in the cold, and complicated mechanisms, such as those in surface-to-air missiles, can easily malfunction. Also, artillery shells sometimes behave erratically because of thin air and gusting winds.
Helicopters, as noted, have reduced lift capacity and overground hauling, especially where you have a number of sudden peaks and troughs is vital as the sudden wind-shears can down helicopters and even low flying jets. Knowing how to judge wind direction, speed and what will cause it to change is an art, not a science, in mountainous terrain.

Even worse is that individuals become disconnected from the true needs of their body due to altitude and the rapid loss of heat and body moisture:
Surviving and operating in mountainous terrain requires more energy than usual. A soldier who needs 3,000 to 4,000 calories under normal circumstances will require 6,000 or more calories in the mountains. To complicate the situation, high altitude adversely affects a person's appetite. Soldiers tend to eat and drink less in high altitudes, which reduces morale and fighting capabilities and makes them more susceptible to mountain-related illnesses. U.S. soldiers conducting mountain-warfare training at Abbotabad, Pakistan, which is at 4,000 feet, lost approximately 25 pounds during a 3-week training period. Commanders must ensure soldiers consume proper diets and are well-hydrated.
The idea for a given body mass is the number of quarts per day that you would go through, and sometimes that was per *hour* in the highland desert terrain where I had field camp. Carrying 30-60 lbs of supplies required lots of food and I would go through a gallon of water in 6 hours of just hiking and mapping the terrain, and it was a common experience to be the only person, outside of the instructors who had water *left* at 6 hours. As a diabetic I cut down on my basal insulin and didn't worry about morning highs, as those would burn off in an hour or two of hard work. I have problems imagining carrying a combat load, all of one's supplies, weapons, ammo, and the rest in such a situation, not to speak of winter-time ops.
The normal practice in glaciated areas is to not keep soldiers above 19,000 feet for more than 3 to 4 weeks before returning them to lower elevations. If soldiers experience any signs of altitude illnesses, commanders must evacuate them promptly. For most mountain illnesses, evacuation to below at least 3,000 feet is the first requirement for saving a person's life. Delaying evacuation might not only cost the soldier's life, but imperil the lives of the soldiers who might have to conduct evacuation procedures during bad weather.

Replacements being sent to high-altitude environments must have operated at heights similar to those to which they are being sent for at least 10 to 15 days. If not, they could quickly become casualties themselves. Well-trained, acclimatized troops must be available to replace those at higher altitudes.
Altitude sickness is no joke and the acclimation time is vital. I had spent additional time at altitude before field camp to ensure that I was adjusted, and we only had one member out of 22 that needed to be sent down to lower elevations and he returned in a few days. The terrain and climate must be accounted for in all high terrain operations be they desert, highland jungle or forest, or mountain. And key is replacement troops already acclimated to the altitude so that when casualties need to be replaced, the replacements don't have problems, too.
High-altitude environments can take heavy physical and mental tolls on soldiers. While in the Caucasus, the Germans learned that troops wore down much faster in mountains despite the fact they were elite troops, picked for their mental abilities and physical prowess. Operations in such environments involve extreme physical exertion. Living conditions in mountainous terrain can be difficult. At times all movement is stopped, soldiers do not receive mail, and replacements might not arrive on time. These factors can lead to depression and boredom and a sharp decrease in fighting spirit. Simple tasks such as manning weapons, sentry duty, and patrolling require determination.

Offensive actions in mountainous terrain are difficult and costly. Not only must soldiers fight the enemy, they must also brave the elements of harsh terrain, which are equally formidable. These conditions call for strong leadership by junior leaders, who must physically lead and be mentally tough.
My personal experience with that mental fatigue is one of not being able to properly analyze data captured in the field, which I knew was vital but was unable to correctly interpret it during slack times. When the 'simple task' of actually *recording the information* was something I overlooked, I stopped, drank water and just recovered in any available shelter in the rocks.

This next part is the absolute key for understanding the difference between lowland warfare and mountain warfare:
Mountain combat is decentralized and often takes place at the platoon or squad level. The quality of junior leadership is decisive. The Russians observed in Afghanistan that even a small unit, maneuvering boldly, could decide the outcome of a battle.
Large force operations are not only difficult, but futile in the long run as you literally cannot *take* terrain. You own the ground you are on and that is about it, and are safe up to the distance you can accurately see and fire, and then the reverse-slope indirect fire can still kill you. The Russians noted that small units could decide the outcome of such battles because they were fighting large unit battles and not succeeding.
Cost-effective mountain combat requires skilled and well-trained troops. Soldiers cannot be sent into a fight at high altitude at the last moment. Doing so could invite disaster. One example of such an action is the employment of the 7th Indian Brigade against the Chinese in the 1962 Himalayan conflict. The brigade had not been stationed in the mountains previously, and when things began going badly, the brigade was moved from the plains straight into mountain combat. The soldiers, who had not been acclimatized or equipped to fight in the mountains, suffered heavy casualties because of frostbite, edema, and other high-altitude-induced illnesses.
And here is the nub of it: you do NOT send unprepared troops into such terrain. You are asking for disaster and lots of it and deservedly so for not taking into account training, acclimatization, equipment, stores, supplies and the entire medical chain that is necessary for survival.
Maneuver. Mountainous terrain is ideally suited for the defense. During World War II, some of the heaviest casualties in the Italian Theater occurred during an attempt to overcome German defenses at Mount Casino. In Afghanistan, the Russians attacked the strategic Panjshir Valley repeatedly but were unable to clear it despite their advantage in firepower and mobility. The line of control in Kashmir in 2003 was not much different from the cease-fire line of the India-Pakistan war in 1949. Both Indian and Pakistan forces found that an assault on well-defended positions was extremely costly. Defense requires the control of dominating heights, passes, and lines of communication by strongpoints. An integrated defense is not possible in cut up, mountainous terrain. During training, commanders need to understand the techniques of defense with all-around protection and emplacement of direct fighting weapons. Field Manual 3-97.6 highlights that reserves must be closer to important defense locations because reaction times in mountainous terrains are longer than usual, which could require several small rather than one large centralized reserve.

Mountainous terrain offers opportunities for infiltration, requiring defenders to be aggressive at all times. Aggressive patrolling enhances security and keeps soldiers active and sharp. In Kashmir this helped prevent a bunker mentality. Although sensors provide some protection, mountainous terrain is too compartmentalized for complete electronic surveillance. Combat service support (CSS) elements must provide their own protection and must train in patrolling and perimeter defense while developing a mindset focused on constant vigilance.

Offensive operations require meticulous planning and preparation because of the inherent strength mountainous terrain provides to the defender. Training plays a vital role in ensuring an edge for the attackers. Since the defender has an advantage, successful attacks should isolate the defender and keep him under constant pressure. The Soviets laid great emphasis on junior leaders and company-level mountain operations, advocating envelopment by smaller, autonomous groups.
This puts a stress on the junior officers and on-the-ground commanders as they know the conditions, the enemy, and their own force's capability and higher command does NOT. The Soviet system was not designed to encourage lower level officer initiative, and so the need to actually have troops that were well led required a strong NCO Corps. The Soviets also did not try to befriend the population and 'blend in' by not being omnipresent. The strategic outlook for obedient forces and direct attack limited their tactical ability to actually have competent low level officers that would show initiative and be able to compensate for the strategic lacks on the ground. They nearly succeeded until the US got Stinger missiles in to remove the airpower part of the equation and then the Soviet military was on equal footing with their adversary. The Stinger was the 'equalizer' of the Soviet invasion. Once on equal footing, local knowledge and support countervailed against Soviet external supplies and support.
During Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, U.S. forces used more decentralized combat than on normal terrain. Junior leaders' initiative and skill is vital to the mission's success, especially in security and reconnaissance missions. Mountainous terrain and bad weather provide opportunities for small forces to concentrate and achieve surprise. Russian and Afghan government forces suffered heavily when they neglected this aspect of the battlefield environment.
Here is something that is another key, and that is the INTEL portion and force protection portion. These are also some of the duller jobs to be done, and they are especially difficult at altitude. The skill and planning are essential as with those in mind the enemy can also be examined for how *they* are succumbing to the altitude. And now for the really painful part:
Logistics. Logistics support in the mountains is difficult and time-consuming. In Kashmir, a variety of transport is used for logistical support, road transport being the most reliable and cost-effective. At higher altitudes where tracks cannot be maintained because of snow and difficult terrain, mules are a preferred means of transport. At altitudes where even mules cannot go, porters can. Porters are local people capable of carrying heavy loads across difficult terrain.

In the Caucasus Campaign, the German army used sleds, mules, and horses in addition to trucks. Recently, despite technological advances, the U.S. Army had to use horses and mules in Afghanistan. Helicopters are a quick, versatile means of transportation, but at higher altitudes their lift capability is severely limited. The French Alouette helicopter can fly higher than U.S helicopters can, but even it can deliver only about 180 pounds above 20,000 feet. Because helicopters cannot be used in adverse weather, a mixture of resources is necessary to ensure reliability and flexibility.

The road network in the mountains is generally a logistician's nightmare. Main supply routes are limited and often do not support vehicles that require large turning radii. Many roads do not permit two-way traffic.
One man with a sniper rifle need only pick off one vehicle in a convoy and the entire thing gets stuck. Get the lead vehicle and the ones behind it often have no place to go and their troops will take a bit of time to get used to the surroundings. Pick your place, pick your escape route and this can be done and with an extremely high chance of survival. Roads only become semi-reliable once an opponent is forced from mountainous terrain, and even then a few individuals with commitment can cause a large amount of chaos. Just a bit more on logistics:
Logistics estimates and loads must be customized for the mountainous environment. For example, using mules requires loads be broken up according to their carrying capacity. Also, overages must be built into supply estimates because there is always a need for a large reserve of items that wear out quickly, such as boots, jackets, and gloves. If soldiers use improper or worn clothing for even a short time, the chance of developing altitude and cold-related sicknesses increases significantly. In addition, combat casualty evacuation involves many challenges. Air evacuation remains the preferred method, but because of the dispersed nature of troops, expert medical help might not be available quickly. Therefore, self-aid, buddy help, and the availability of more combat life savers in the unit is important.

Canadian small-unit support vehicles, specially designed for restrictive terrain, were particularly useful for logistics support at high altitude in Afghanistan, whereas the bulky ground-held laser designating system was not. Soldiers' personal loads of more than 50 pounds were too heavy at high altitudes. Equipment must be upgraded for future mountain warfare.
This is why the US and Canada worked together to train up the US 10th Mountain Division. Canadians have a long history of having knowledge of mountains and survival in bad weather in such places. And note that last on equipment upgrade: it *must* be done for existing forces, not to speak of a raw army thrown in there.

The article goes into training, and that the US Army does basic survival skills training for mountainous terrain. One of the places it does so is United States Army Mountain Warfare School, Ethan Allen Firing Range, Jericho, VT and they have downloadable course materials on both winter and summer survival courses and objectives. Courses in mountaineering and assault climbing are featured in both variants. One could spend a 3-4 months just taking courses, learning how to apply what was learned, do some field testing, and so on, just to get through the basics. The Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center has a much longer listing of courses, from what I could see on the public side, and looks to be intensive for enlistees and officers.

What was worrying on 9/11 and thereafter was the state of the US 10th Mountain Division because of the state it had fallen into during the previous Administration. At the Defense and National Interest site they have a 1997 report on a staff trip to the NTC and JRTC (National Training Center (NTC) and the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) made by a Senate staffer.
Army-wide Shortages in Key Personnel

Despite high operating tempos and work loads, both OPFORs at the NTC and JRTC were described as fully manned, enjoying high esprit de corps, and having retention rates at least as good as the rest of the Army, if not better. For the units rotating into the NTC and JRTC—i.e. the Army's combat units; that is to say, the heart and sole of the Army—there is a very different story. I was told the following:
Units coming to both training centers frequently do not come with many of their sub-unit commanders; these have frequently been assigned to peacekeeping missions or other deployments that separate them from their units. As a result, sub-units—from basic squads on up—do not train with the commanders that they would go to war with. When this happens, it violates a key dictum of readiness and one of the basic points of having the NTC and the JRTC: the Army should “train just as you go to war.”

At the NTC, units rotating in typically come with a 60% shortage in mechanics and a 50% shortage in “mounted” mechanized infantry (in their Bradley APCs). These were described as “Army-wide” shortages: they were demonstrated by virtually all the units coming to the NTC. These shortages were described as due to these personnel, especially the mechanics, being deployed abroad for missions such as Bosnia. On average, all Army personnel now spend from 180 to 220 days of each year away from their home base, and families, on deployments. This average used to be about 165 days per year. According to Army testimony to Congress, the increase in these deployments is for peacekeeping missions.
At the JRTC, units were described as typically missing 25% of their basic infantry: mostly junior enlisted personnel with combat military specialties and mid grade non-commissioned officer (NCO) personnel. This was described as a recruiting problem and specifically not because of deployments such as Bosnia.

In actuality, these problems may be worse than indicated here. I was told at the NTC that the NCO shortages are often temporarily addressed by pulling junior NCOs into the unfilled senior and mid level slots to make more complete units for training purposes. At the JRTC, because one third of each brigade's junior enlisted and NCO personnel do not deploy for a rotation, it is possible that gaps in the units that do deploy are filled with those that would otherwise stay home. I was told this is not occurring; however, I am skeptical that it never happens.
The problems seen were Army-wide, but concentrated due to the conflict in Bosnia and 'peace keeping' there by US troops. Shortages in skills, personnel, equipment and the such like are being described with the drain being due to Bosnia. One of the groups sent to Bosnia and then suffering through this was the 10th Mountain Division. By NOV 1999 the 10th Mountain Division and 1st Infantry Division had both fallen to the lowest readiness level since Vietnam. Given the high level of training necessary to make the 10 MD, this was astonishing and pointed to some larger scale problem that could allow any part of the Army, but *particularly* the 10 MD to fall to that level. In the year 2000 an investigation due to presidential campaigning ensued and found the following, as seen at the DNI site hosting this report:
Summary Findings and Conclusions

The character, enthusiasm, and professionalism of the officers, non-commissioned officers (NCOs), and enlisted men and women in the 10th Mountain Division is impressive. The 10th Mountain Division is officially rated by the Army at a level that lends support to General Shelton and the other respondents to candidate Bush's assertion of non-readiness. Strenuous efforts of the 10th Division's personnel are manifest to make it as effective a combat unit as resources permit. Various unit commanders expressed a willingness and readiness to take on and perform effectively any mission assigned, as has been the case in the past.

However, beneath the favorable overall readiness rating and an understandable - and professional - expression of confidence by various commanders, and despite all the hard efforts of the officers, NCOs, and enlisted personnel, the 10th Mountain is today experiencing multiple, serious shortages of people and material resources, training deficiencies, and other impediments to readiness, a large number of them resulting from policies imposed by Washington.

The issues include the following:
Incomplete manning in many combat and support units, sometimes to the extent that important secondary - if not primary - missions cannot be performed and/or primary mission performance is degraded. Moreover, because of Army force structure decisions, what is normally one-third of a US Army division's combat strength (an entire ground maneuver brigade) does not exist in the 10th Mountain Division.

Gaps in the leadership of the Division throughout its hierarchy, such that enlisted personnel are frequently doing the work of sergeants, lieutenants are doing the work of captains, captains of majors, and so on. Also, in cases where a position is occupied by an individual of appropriate rank, that individual may be less experienced than in the past or than experienced personnel - in and out of the 10th Division - deemed sufficient.

Training deficiencies that include less satisfactorily trained personnel received from Army training or personnel trained on equipment not assigned to the division, and incomplete opportunities to overcome these training inadequacies.

Non-availability of various equipment , training ammunition shortages, and funding shortfalls for facilities.

Various policy directives and allocation of resources from Washington (i.e.: from the civilian and military leadership of the military services and the Department of Defense and from Congress) that either impede readiness or that are ineffectual at addressing known deficiencies.

A lack of inquiry by various entities to collect on-the-ground, empirical information on the condition of the 10th Mountain to establish what basis candidate Bush may have had for his statements and/or to verify the statements of General Shelton, Secretary of Defense Cohen, Vice President Gore, and others.
From these findings and the data presented below, it is concluded that,
As stated by a 10th Mountain soldier at Fort Drum "There are two different armies; the one described in Washington, and the one that exists." And, from another, "There is a mind-boggling difference between the division that Washington DC describes and what exists in 10th Mountain." And from still another, "The [Division] only looks good on paper."
About a year later and the 10 MD had *still* not recovered from its neglect at overlong 'peace keeping' missions without resupply, rest and replenishment of personnel and stores. Also note multiple levels of conflicting orders from not only the DoD structure, but from Congress. Mind you Congress is the one to ensure that enough equipment is procured, pay established, training paid for and the such like and it is for the President to utilize such things. If the President is not utilizing them and Congress can't put forward a coherent outlook, chaos ensues. As it was the 10 MD was finally up to the task a bit more than a year later when it was actually NEEDED as the one group that knows how to act as a larger fighting force on the ground in mountainous terrain. Special Operations can only go so far, and they did a superb job coordinating between the Northern Alliance and the US Armed Forces. What was needed was the 10 MD, however. This is why those who think that 'any army' can fight in Afghanistan have it positively dead wrong: this is specialist terrain and if you don't have the training, equipment, stamina and logistics, then you are dead.

Congress has not lived up to its duties for over 15 years and has yet to actually define what the Armed Forces of the US should look like in the 21st century, how they should be equipped and what the necessary stores and supplies ARE for that force. Even with gross mismanagement by the Executive branch, there is no excuse for not properly understanding the needs and requirements of training, force structure, supply, refit and equipment upgrades. In THAT Congress has failed.

It took two branches of the Federal Government to fail for the 10 MD to fall as low as it did.

But the underlying long-term problem for 15 years has been Congress. And it has been run by both political parties.

Obviously Congress has failed its job and its duties to the Armed Forces of the United States.

And that does not look to be getting any better as of late, and most likely far, far worse.