Tom Cotton's China sounds like fun

This is why Arkansas can't have nice things, people.

Late delivery today, but still managed to push through and get this thing shipped. Spent a little more time on it, so if it sucks, please…keep that to yourself. Chased a few rabbit holes (looking for a callsign, and some video), and the format below is what this will be for a while.

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Quote of the Day

I want to talk about the biggest and the most important story in the world. the Wuhan coronavirus. This coronavirus is a catastrophe on the scale of Chernobyl for China. But actually, it's probably worse than Chernobyl, which was localized in its effect. — Sen. Cotton, who does not have a TV and hates miniseries.

Democrats ready to snatch more defeat from jaws of victory

A pair of House-passed bills seeking to rein in President Trump on Iran are dead on arrival in the Senate, but Democrats say the fight over the issue is not over.

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Fresh off their successful bid to impeach Donald Trump and still giddy from how well things went in Iowa, Democrats are ready to take on the World's Angriest Orange on another issue He Who Styles His Own Hair cares a lot about, and that's the Authorization of the Use of Military Force.

Because while the AUMF sounds like an early 90s industrial band, it's not, but it's just about relevant. The current AUMF has been stretched more than Dolly Parton's face, and the latest Gumbification of that document was the death-by-drone assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani at the Baghdad airport.

Now Democratic congress persons. want to take the issue on again, and they're convinced that the discussion is going to open up sometime in the spring when the next National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is up for discussion. Last year's NDAA discussion seemed like a good time, but Republicans killed off both the provisions limiting military action against Iran and a repeal of the 2002 AUMF.

Hey, Dems: you're taking on the party backing the guy who likes to pretend he's conducting the band while the National Anthem is playing. Your logic is sound. And irrelevant.

US goes another way on landmines

Trump made the decision to broaden the use of landmines as a result of a study commissioned by then-Defense Secretary James N. Mattis as part of the National Defense Strategy. "The National Defense Strategy talks about the return to great power competition," said Vic Mercado, acting assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities. "When we look at great power competition, some things come to the fore. … We are the greatest military in the world, but that advantage is diminishing."

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Not going to belabor this one too much, because it's not that complicated, not really.

The US doesn’t like things like the Ottawa Convention, aka the Land Mine Treaty.

It wants to be able to deploy anti-personnel landmines (APL) whenever it wants to.

Used to be a time when the only APL the Americans would cling to were in South Korea. Now they want to open that up. And this tweet sums up (it’s a thread, so check that out) why that’s a bad idea, even just from a military perspective.

Airstrikes in Somalia or your kid's party at Chuck E. Cheese

The U.S. conducted a series of airstrikes at the end of January in support of Somali federal government troops fighting suspected al-Shabaab militants in the country’s south, AFRICOM said.

“Removal of even one terrorist makes the region and the U.S. safer,” Major General William Gayler said in a press release about Sunday’s strike. “Continuous pressure on the network is necessary to prevent al-Shabaab from building a safe haven and exporting violence.”

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Regular readers will remember yesterday when we covered the US and its waning commitment in Africa. Or maybe that's just the Pentagon's waning commitment. Because US combatant commanders are still pretty keen on using airpower to combat al-Shabaab.

Bombing our way to freedom, which always works.

Of course, this was a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, and since Sen. Tom "Crawlspace+" Cotton got in his digs about coronavirus and Chernobyl, Sen. Martha "McRib++" McSally asked whether things like this were just another round of whack-a-mole. And whether there was some kind of reasonable metric whereby a sane person could state whether the campaign in Somalia was doing any actual good.

This is what whack-a-mole looks like.

A different time, the 90s.

You rarely have to issue statements that you only whacked bad moles after playing that.

Gen. Townsend's response? “I don’t believe it’s whack-a-mole."

Seems definitive.

The problem here is the same problem with brushfire wars everywhere:

  1. They tend to blaze out of control.

  2. Since they never quite go out, hard to tell if you're winning them or not.

+Seriously, there's a funny smell in that guy's attic.

++This is not her callsign. Please reach out if you know what it is, though.

SEAL who should have had more hugs instead got all the drugs

Over a two-year period of seeking help, Ryan Larkin was prescribed over 40 medications, his father said. The drugs made him feel worse and he was labeled operationally unfit and mentally unstable. Without a customized care plan, Ryan Larkin started losing trust in the institution he loved above all else.

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Bright guy Ryan Larkin became a SEAL. Deployed a bunch. Worked with high explosives a lot. After one deployment where a lot of things went bang in the general vicinity of his head, he came home and was a different guy.

The SEALs were at least smart enough to see that, so they had him do some more instructing in high explosives. Probably made thing worse. He said something was wrong in his head. No one listened.

So he killed himself in 2017.

Now his family is hoping his death and the military's response of "take another pill, drink water" for traumatic brain injury (TBI) might be affected by that in some way. Because it's not just the PTSD that's killing those who served their country.

Trump ready to name Jenny McCarthy as Surgeon General

Bolton eliminated the National Security Council’s global health security and biodefense directorate, and reshuffled its team of world-class infectious disease experts. In response, two highly respected leaders in the field – Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer, the NSC’s senior director for global health security and biodefense, and Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert – left the White House.

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Fun fact: Ziemer left the same day there was an Ebola outbreak in Congo. Seems ill-timed. And in line with an administration that favors streamlining its personnel over whether those personnel are effective in the roles selected for them.

Now with the coronavirus upon us, it seems like not having someone in charge of pandemic management at a national security level is probably ill-advised. Because "Ill-Advised" is the name of the all cover former Cabinet band that plays every other Thursday down at McGinty's.

Those last two things are not facts.

But disbanding that expertise is going to be a problem, as now-disparate units struggle to keep up with the different needs of various departments in managing the current disease crisis.

Collateral Linkage

  • If you're a VA Deputy Secretary and you like your job maybe don't tell a fellow Navy veteran that their account of being sexually assaulted at a VA medical facility was a lie. Turns out even in this administration, that's something they fire people for.

  • Man living in Arizona since 2008, accused of leading an al-Qaida group in Iraq and killing two cops in Fallujah, ran a driving school in the state. As a matter of public service, here's a few ways you can tell if your driving instructor is, in fact, an al-Qaida terrorist.

    1. He's always talking about how the advanced course is "much shorter," and is only available in Syria.

    2. He keeps trying to tape a cellphone to your shirt.

    3. When you show up for your driving test, he handcuffs you to the wheel.

  • Turns out Afghan security forces cannot come back from the dead, and it looks like someone's discovered that casualties are a problem because recruitment/retention can't keep up. As someone who's read these same reports for years and see this same info before, it's cute when the journalism learns new stuff.

  • A 'low yield' nuclear weapon is like being a little big pregnant except your baby's got a little less than half the explosive power of the bombs the Americans dropped on Japan. So of course the US is arming its submarines with these things because having more nuclear weapons means other people (looking at you, Moscow) won't use theirs. This is not a good theory.