Ahmadenijad promised a “hot” summer. Signs are pointing in that direction.

The Syrian military is notoriously weak and incompetent. Having a ring-side seat to the Israeli-Hezbollah war last summer has taught it some valuable lessons:

The Syrian Armed Forces number about 650,000 troops, including 354,000 reserves. They are equipped with fairly old Soviet-era tanks, artillery, armored cars and warplanes that would be no match for those of the Israel Defense Force in a conventional war.

Taqi said Syria took an important lesson from last summer’s war between Hizbollah and Israel: The Israeli rear is vulnerable to long-range artillery rockets. Hizbollah fired some 4,000 rockets in 33 days of intense fighting that battered the Israel Defense Force and damaged its ability to deter others.

One Syrian defense official said Syria would avoid a direct, classic war with Israel, seeking instead a guerrilla conflict on the front lines while firing rockets and ballistic missiles at strategic and civilian installations.

Syria has Soviet-made SS-21 missiles and has built a large arsenal of Scud ballistic missiles, the D variant with a 700-kilometer range. Syria also builds artillery rockets of various calibers ranging from 122mm to 240mm, and has bought other types from Russia and Iran with ranges up to 200 kilometers.

“The next possible Syrian-Israeli war will be more like a war of cities rather than battles on fronts or in the fields,” the Syrian defense official said. “It’ll be a war of attrition that Israelis are not good at.”

The Syrians have previously fought the Israelis using conventional tactics, and were roundly defeated. Syria can and will manufacture Kassam rockets and hammer at the Israeli rear during any coming war between the two, while the conventional IDF hunts for the increasingly unconventional Syrian army and its more unconventional, and more experienced Hezbollah allies. The strategic nub for the Syrians is that the Israelis would probably be able to march on and take Damascus quickly. They have probably factored that in; Assad and his top lieutenants would hide as Nasrallah did last summer, and conduct their guerilla war from bunkers buried somewhere outside the capital. An Israeli incursion into Syria would be fought according to an Iraqi template — let the enemies take the land and capital, and use the people to resist and attrit them. Such a war would leave Syria in ruins, but would also leave the Israelis devastated and divided, and vulnerable to attack from other enemies. Read the rest of the article to see that junior axis of evil member Syria is certainly preparing for this war.

But on the other side of the world, US ally Japan is re-arming.

Today, Japan is America’s biggest partner in developing and financing a missile defense shield in Asia. Some Japanese ground and air force commands are also moving inside American bases in Japan so that the two forces will become, in military jargon, “interoperable.”

Here in Guam, American and Japanese pilots simulated intercepts and air-to-air combat for two weeks. In the final days, each side took turns pummeling the tiny island with bombs.

Col. Tatsuya Arima, the commander of the Japanese squadron, said such bombing could protect Japanese grounds troops or vessels from encroaching enemies…

Japan’s military has become less shy in projecting its power away from home. Japan lacks the nuclear submarines, long-range missiles or large aircraft carriers that amount to real power projection.

But it is acquiring four Boeing 767 air tankers that will allow its planes to refuel in midair and travel farther, as well as two aircraft carriers that will transport helicopters and, with some adjustments, planes capable of taking off vertically. The United States has welcomed the changes while pressing for more.

Japan is very interested in buying the F-22, and has with the US jointly developed its first new fighter, the F-2. With its new aerial refueling capability, Japan could strike targets in North Korea without US assistance. As Japan’s military stands now, it’s larger than the UK’s in manpower and on the cusp of major power status. Japan is stepping up to become America’s strongest military ally.

But the question of the age is, are conventional militaries relevant? Western and Westernized militaries fight using conventional doctrines and restraints; the enemies of Western armies don’t. This summer may show us what the future of armed combat is going to look like.

(thanks to Chris)