Friday, July 01, 2022

Fullbore Friday


Often we refer to WWII as being "....on the edge of living memory." We are reaching the point where we may need to start saying, "...just outside living memory."

We reached an inflection point at the end of June;

Medal of Honor Recipient and World War II Veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams, 98 has died on Wednesday. Williams was born on Oct. 2, 1923, and grew up in Quiet Dell in Marion County, West Virginia.

Williams was the last living WWII Medal of Honor recipient. He joined the United States Marine Corps and served in the Battle of Iwo Jima with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division. Williams received the Medal of Honor on October 5, 1945, from President Harry S. Truman for his “actions, commitment to his fellow service members, and heroism,” the Woody Williams Foundation website says.

Following his service in WWII, Williams worked to serve veterans and their families as a Veterans Service Representative for the Department of Veterans Affairs for 33 years. He also served as the Commandant for the Veterans Nursing Home in Barboursville, West Virginia for almost 10 years and has served on the Governor’s Military Advisory Board for West Virginia.

Attention to citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as demolition sergeant serving with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 23 February 1945. Quick to volunteer his services when our tanks were maneuvering vainly to open a lane for the infantry through the network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, buried mines, and black volcanic sands, Cpl. Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating machinegun fire from the unyielding positions. Covered only by 4 riflemen, he fought desperately for 4 hours under terrific enemy small-arms fire and repeatedly returned to his own lines to prepare demolition charges and obtain serviced flamethrowers, struggling back, frequently to the rear of hostile emplacements, to wipe out 1 position after another. On 1 occasion, he daringly mounted a pillbox to insert the nozzle of his flamethrower through the air vent, killing the occupants and silencing the gun; on another he grimly charged enemy riflemen who attempted to stop him with bayonets and destroyed them with a burst of flame from his weapon. His unyielding determination and extraordinary heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance were directly instrumental in neutralizing one of the most fanatically defended Japanese strong points encountered by his regiment and aided vitally in enabling his company to reach its objective.

Cpl. Williams' aggressive fighting spirit and valiant devotion to duty throughout this fiercely contested action sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

A great Marine, an exemplary Shipmate, and a life well lived. Thank you Woody. We were all better for you.


 

Thursday, June 30, 2022

The Netherlands is Game for the Black Sea Grain Escort Mission


The next questions is, who will throw their hat in the ring with them?

From De Telegraph;

The Netherlands has offered mine hunters to clear the way for grain ships from Ukraine. "If we can play a role, we are happy to do so," Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said at the NATO summit in Madrid.

The Netherlands has offered Turkey, which mediates in the matter, help to clear the sea mines on the shipping routes. Then Russia and Ukraine will have to agree on a so-called maritime corridor, emphasizes Ollongren. Neighboring NATO member states such as Romania and Bulgaria are also in principle more eligible to supply minehunters, insiders say.

The Koninklijke Marine has a half-dozen Tripartite Class minehunters and are very good in this warfare area.

NATO operates combined mine hunting with member states on a regular basis. This could move fast if the diplomats can open the door.

Of course, there is another way to make this happen ... but that brings more risk than I think most of NATO will be willing to take.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

1937, NATO, and the Need for Follow-Through



General Sir Patrick Sanders, GBR A, Chief of the General Staff (GBR), made a statement, in part, this week that at first I thought was a bit of an exaggeration

"This is our 1937 moment," the army chief said, referring to the crucial period leading up to World War Two.

"We are not at war - but must act rapidly so that we aren't drawn into one through a failure to contain territorial expansion… I will do everything in my power to ensure that the British Army plays its part in averting war."

The challenge means the army must modernise, embracing new technologies such as cyber warfare and long-range missiles, but also retain traditional soldiering skills.

General Sanders said if a battle came "standoff air, maritime or cyber fires are unlikely to dominate on their own - land will still be the decisive to domain", adding that "you can't cyber your way across a river".

Perhaps not. It tickled something that this former NATO staff officer and all around NATO fanboi tried to ignore as the Madrid Summit was going on.

NATO is always frustrating and not all our allies are as “good” as others. Some nations are just institutionally prone to freeriding … but still, there is nothing better than NATO for nations who are trying to keep the experiment of liberal democratic government going. Even the least democratic nation in our club, Turkey, is still a place you can – within reason – not feel like you are living in some dystopian hell hole – though there are limitations there as opposed to living in say Denmark.

It is clear that the Ukrainians’ brave stand in the face of Russian aggression finally opened the eyes of many in NATO that were previously closed that the post-Cold War fever dream has passed, that it is time to act as adults in an adult world. Not perfect, but an improved situation.

Yes, Russia is a poor and corrupt country … but she is also resource rich and has a distinctly expansionist vision of her place in the world. On paper in GDP and population she does not seem like a threat to prosperous Western Europe and North America, but you can be as rich and prosperous as possible, but if you are supine and distracted, the smaller and poorer who is aggressive will defeat you every time.

The events of the last year make the Madrid Summit one that must deliver more than group photographs. NATO must show her cards. This is one of those moments in time where you either turn in to the wind, or drift hopelessly.

So far, with a few quibbles, there is room for optimism. Let’s look at a few bits from the pre-summit press conference with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday,

We will transform the NATO Response Force.

And increase the number of our high readiness forces.

To well over 300,000.

NRF from 40,000 to 300,000. Hey, I know that gig and I feel the need to get to the CJ5 shop in Mons to go over the Combined Joint Statement of Requirements (CJSOR). Which troop contributing nations are filling which serials? Are we going to use the existing JFC’s as higher HQ or a new structure? This is my staff officer happy place. What a great time to be in Brussels, Mons, Brunssum, or Naples. If you love staff work – which I did – this is the kind of thing you just live for. (NB: don’t expect anything soon. NATO pretty much shuts down from 15 JUL to 15 SEP).

Regulars here know my decades long hobby horse about NATO allies spending their fair share? Well … 

Nine Allies now reach – or exceed – the 2% target. 

Nineteen Allies have clear plans to reach it by 2024.

And an additional five have concrete commitments to meet it thereafter.

Two percent is increasingly considered a floor, not a ceiling.

"... Back in 2014, when we agreed the Defence Investment Pledge, only three Allies met the guideline of spending 2% of GDP on defence. And defence spending was also declining across Europe and Canada." 

Say what you want about Trump, but he is the one that dusted this off and made it a priority. He and his natsec team were correct in this regard and should be given the appropriate credit. 

There are nations that geographically don’t quite “fit” NATO but otherwise would be right at home. We are smartly pulling them in tighter.

I welcome that Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the Republic of Korea will join us for the first time at our Summit.

Absolutely critical to global security…not just North Atlantic.

However … all is not perfect. I would not be doing my loyal readers proper justice if I did not point out one sad fact – there are still unserious people injecting their unserious neo-pagan religion in this very serious secular challenge;

And on climate change, we will agree to cut greenhouse gas emissions for NATO as an organisation.

NATO could disappear tomorrow – and the planet would not notice. What unserious Davosesque BS. Whoever insisted that be included should be publicly shamed. 

Having unserious FOD spot-welded on to serious occasions degrades everyone. It does not belong on the same page as this scene setter;

... remember that, for instance, in the current Strategic Concept, agreed at the Lisbon Summit in 2010 - and I attended that Summit as the Prime Minister of Norway - at that time, President Medvedev of Russia participated in the meeting and we agreed in the Strategic Concept, which is still the current Strategic Concept, and we will have a new one later this week, we said that Russia is a strategic partner. That will not be the case in the Strategic Concept we will agree in Madrid. I expect that Allies will state clearly that Russia poses a direct threat to our security, to our values, to the rules-based international order.

That really set the tone for the conference.

Today we got the official “Madrid Summit Declaration,” and it is good to note the significance of its location; 40-years after Spain joined NATO. 

What are the bold-faced items?

We reaffirm our commitment to NATO’s Open Door Policy.  Today, we have decided to invite Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO, and agreed to sign the Accession Protocols.  In any accession to the Alliance, it is of vital importance that the legitimate security concerns of all Allies are properly addressed.  We welcome the conclusion of the trilateral memorandum between Türkiye, Finland, and Sweden to that effect.  The accession of Finland and Sweden will make them safer, NATO stronger, and the Euro-Atlantic area more secure.  The security of Finland and Sweden is of direct importance to the Alliance, including during the accession process.

No questions the largest takeaway. Swedish and Finn officers have been a regular sight through Partnership for Peace at NATO HQs for decades and at least their military has been ready to finalize their integration in to NATO. They were just waiting for the people and their elected representatives to realize the utility of this fact. They are turnkey members and will more than carry their weight. Great to officially have them in NATO.

The second takeaway is something not spoken loudly in polite company but generally understood. Russia is the reason for NATO.

We condemn Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine in the strongest possible terms.  It gravely undermines international security and stability.  It is a blatant violation of international law.  

...

The Russian Federation is the most significant and direct threat to Allies’ security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area.

The invasion of Ukraine was simply the last straw. 

We warmly welcome President Zelenskyy’s participation in this Summit.  We stand in full solidarity with the government and the people of Ukraine in the heroic defence of their country.  We reiterate our unwavering support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders extending to its territorial waters.  We fully support Ukraine’s inherent right to self-defence and to choose its own security arrangements.  We welcome efforts of all Allies engaged in providing support to Ukraine.  We will assist them adequately, recognising their specific situation.

We are a long way from and many plays away from UKR joining NATO, but NATO is clearly as close to being a combatant in this war as one could be without having actual troops on the ground. The nearest parallel I can think of is the USA’s relationship to GBR from 39-41, and perhaps the Soviet Union to Vietnam during our war there.

We will continue and further step up political and practical support to our close partner Ukraine as it continues to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russian aggression.  Jointly with Ukraine, we have decided on a strengthened package of support. 

Every NATO meeting, like minded non-NATO nations should be invited and smart minds put to work to see how we can better integrate with these friends.

We have met here in Madrid with many of NATO’s partners.  We had valuable exchanges with the Heads of State and Government of Australia, Finland, Georgia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Sweden, and Ukraine, as well as the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission.  We welcomed the engagements with the Foreign Ministers of Jordan and Mauritania, as well as the Defence Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Sadly, once again – the unserious neo-pagan cohort had to jump in where they are not needed nor wanted, but Davos must have its bit of the spotlight;

Climate change is a defining challenge of our time with a profound impact on Allied security.  It is a threat multiplier.  We have decided on a goal to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions by the NATO political and military structures and facilities, while maintaining operational, military and cost effectiveness.  We will integrate climate change considerations across all of NATO’s core tasks.

So, there you have it. Sweden and Finland are in, and Russia is on report.  Hopefully that means that I will have fewer opportunities to tap my sign over on twitter.


If we are lucky, by mid-decade the new floor will be 2.5% of GDP and punitive measures like we’ve recommended through the years will be placed on member states not carrying their fair share of the load.


Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The War Gods of the Copybook Headings Return


Industrial capacity feeds logistics. Logistics win wars. Logistics is math. Math is unforgiving to the complacent.

If you are looking for early lessons of the Russo-Ukrainian War, there are two that need to be underlined today.

Lesson 1: Don’t Fall for the Short War Fallacy:

This is a known fallacy throughout human history, but every generation must be reminded of it, sometimes more than once. At peace, people will find reasons – either phycological or financial – to promote the promise of a short war either through their superior ideas or exquisite weapons. Good people desiring good things are easily seduced by this peace-time siren’s song. 

The Russians thought that the Ukrainians would fall in 3-5 days and planned for it. The United States and Western Europe thought that so much they tried to convince the Ukrainian government to retreat to Lviv or even Poland before the first Kalibr cruise missile received intent-to-launch. Before the war, the Ukrainians did not believe the Russians would actually do this – but the moment the first Russian boot stepped off a Mi-8 at Hostomel, they knew they were in for an existential fight … and here we are at the start of month-5 of the war.

Action 1: have hard follow-on questions for anyone who is promising a short war or is selling a “Win in 72-hr Posture.” It briefs well, but it almost never works out.  Everything has to be executed perfectly and your opponent have no agency. What is their “Plan-B” or will it be like Iraq 2003’s “Phase 4” or the Russian retreat from Kiev when reality hits?

Lesson 2: The Hard Math of Shallow Magazines:

You are short of everything because you didn’t believe the warnings of Lesson-1. We have all read volumes the last few months of all the friends of Ukraine scouring the deep recesses of forgotten magazines for former Soviet compatible ammunition that could be sent to Ukraine. Well, that which was not destroyed pre-war by the Russian clandestine services. Because the answer was too painful for peacetime leaders to ponder, no one wanted to do the math of what a real war would mean. That is the subject of today’s post.

Action 2: Tell the Cult of Efficiency to Get Bent; You Have a War to Prepare For.

Alex Vershinin over at the Royal United Services Institute has a must read article I’m going to pull some quotes on supporting Lesson-2 titled, The Return of Industrial Warfare.

The rate of ammunition and equipment consumption in Ukraine can only be sustained by a large-scale industrial base.

This reality should be a concrete warning to Western countries, who have scaled down military industrial capacity and sacrificed scale and effectiveness for efficiency. This strategy relies on flawed assumptions about the future of war, and has been influenced by both the bureaucratic culture in Western governments and the legacy of low-intensity conflicts. 

...

The winner in a prolonged war between two near-peer powers is still based on which side has the strongest industrial base.

From small arms to nuclear submarine repair, our industrial base is exquisitely designed and Tiffany-tough. Any unexpected shock can almost make the whole system grind to a stop. Though the roots go deeper, this is a direct byproduct of the 1990s “Send all senior defense leaders to a 2-week MBA school” mentality and its second order effects. The Cult of Efficiency’s green eye-shade priorities took the place of the bookshelf full of history’s example.

It didn’t take the Russo-Ukrainian War to expose this. We saw this in 2011’s operations against Libya and the war in Iraq.

...there is an assumption about overall ammunition consumption rates. The US government has always lowballed this number. From the Vietnam era to today, small arms plants have shrunk from five to just one. This was glaring at the height of the Iraq war, when US started to run low on small arms ammunition, causing the US government to buy British and Israeli ammunition during the initial stage of the war. At one point, the US had to dip into Vietnam and even Second World War-era ammo stockpiles of .50 calibre ammunition to feed the war effort. This was largely the result of incorrect assumptions about how effective US troops would be. Indeed, the Government Accountability Office estimated that it took 250,000 rounds to kill one insurgent. Luckily for the US, its gun culture ensured that small arms ammunition industry has a civilian component in the US. This is not the case with other types of ammunition, as shown earlier with Javelin and Stinger missiles. Without access to government methodology, it is impossible to understand why US government estimates were off, but there is a risk that the same errors were made with other types of munitions.

As I alluded to above, there are some important influencers in the natsec arena who are in love with the “72-hr War.” Their premise is that if we design our force around convincing the Chinese – and ourselves – that in the first 72-hrs we have the capacity to destroy any ability of the enemy to proceed towards their objectives then they won’t start the war. If they do, well, we have what our wargames tell us we need to win in 72-hrs.

I’m sorry, but your modeling and wargames are just that – models and games. You tell any competent designer what outcome you want, and they/we can tweak the assumptions and variables such that we can give you that result. I am very sure all the Russian models and wargames showed them conducting a victory parade in Kiev before March … but how did that work out for them?

If you don’t win quick – there are no mulligans in war. Let’s quote me again; Industrial capacity feeds logistics. Logistics win wars. Logistics is math. Math is unforgiving to the complacent."

...390 daily missions fired by tube artillery...With four guns per battery and four rounds per gun, the tube artillery fires about 6,240 rounds per day. We can estimate an additional 15% wastage for rounds that were set on the ground but abandoned when the battery moved in a hurry, rounds destroyed by Ukrainian strikes on ammunition dumps, or rounds fired but not reported to higher command levels. This number comes up to 7,176 artillery rounds a day. It should be noted that the Russian Ministry of Defense only reports fire missions by forces of the Russian Federation. These do not include formations from the Donetsk and Luhansk separatist republics, which are treated as different countries. The numbers are not perfect, but even if they are off by 50%, it still does not change the overall logistics challenge.

Presently, the US is decreasing its artillery ammunition stockpiles. In 2020, artillery ammunition purchases decreased by 36% to $425 million. In 2022, the plan is to reduce expenditure on 155mm artillery rounds to $174 million. This is equivalent to 75,357 M795 basic ‘dumb’ rounds for regular artillery, 1,400 XM1113 rounds for the M777, and 1,046 XM1113 rounds for Extended Round Artillery Cannons. Finally, there are $75 million dedicated for Excalibur precision-guided munitions that costs $176K per round, thus totaling 426 rounds. In short, US annual artillery production would at best only last for 10 days to two weeks of combat in Ukraine. If the initial estimate of Russian shells fired is over by 50%, it would only extend the artillery supplied for three weeks.

...

The expenditure of cruise missiles and theatre ballistic missiles is just as massive. The Russians have fired between 1,100 and 2,100 missiles. The US currently purchases 110 PRISM, 500 JASSM and 60 Tomahawk cruise missiles annually, meaning that in three months of combat, Russia has burned through four times the US annual missile production. The Russian rate of production can only be estimated. Russia started missile production in 2015 in limited initial runs, and even in 2016 the production runs were estimated at 47 missiles. This means that it had only five to six years of full-scale production.

...(a)crucial assumption is that industry can be turned on and off at will. This mode of thinking was imported from the business sector and has spread through US government culture. In the civilian sector, customers can increase or decrease their orders. The producer may be hurt by a drop in orders but rarely is that drop catastrophic because usually there are multiple consumers and losses can be spread among consumers. Unfortunately, this does not work for military purchases. There is only one customer in the US for artillery shells – the military. Once the orders drop off, the manufacturer must close production lines to cut costs to stay in business. Small businesses may close entirely. 

Now is the time for Congress to force The Pentagon to stop with foolish ideas. Demand to see the full inventory for everything from 5.56mm to 21-inch torpedoes and run the long war. Not 72-hrs, but 72-weeks. Heck, take an extra day and make it 72-months.

Look at our single points of failure. From magazines and airfields west of Wake to production facilities in CONUS – expect at war that through direct action or sabotage, we will lose some of these facilities/capabilities. The Chinese have seen this in the build-up and execution of the war by the Russians against Ukraine. They will go after these non-resilient targets that even without prompting can go up in a – pun intended – flash. There is even a term of art for it; Unplanned Explosions at Munitions Sites (UEMS).

We need to start acting on this now.  There are more lessons to come, but we don’t have to wait for them all to come in – we don’t have time to.


Monday, June 27, 2022

Getting Our Head Around German National Solipsism


Over at The Tablet, Jeremy Stern has a real meaty article on “our” German problem. I lived in and around Germans for years and still try to get a grasp on what they want and why. As you would expect being that Germans contribute more to America’s DNA than any other group, there is a familiarity to Germans and Germany … but that only get you so far until you find yourself in an “uncanny valley” where you realize that you are not quite in sync with those around you. They are not us, and likewise…and that should be fine and good for everyone.

America’s view of their relationship with Germany and what we think Germany’s relationship with Russia should be is just that – America’s view. People and nations have agency, and what “we” think makes sense for them to do – all clear and logical – may not be what they think makes sense for them to do. It is this paradox that Stern appears to be trying to get his head around. 

…the crimes of national solipsism and wishful self-contradiction remain as German as ever. See, for example, the performance of Chancellor Olaf Scholz over the last two weeks, during which he helped lead a pledge for Ukraine’s candidate status as a future member of the European Union, then dispatched his foreign policy adviser to clarify that Ukraine shouldn’t expect EU membership “just because you’re attacked,” then made an obviously unrealistic demand for more German voting weight in the European Council and greater representation in the European Parliament as a condition of Ukrainian membership. In other words, Germany supports Ukrainian accession to the EU, and the reason it probably won’t happen is that Germany will block it—a by-now familiar maneuver that has left many of the states stuck between Germany and Russia rubbing their eyes in disbelief.

When Germans want something to happen, it happens fast and is done well. When they don’t want something to happen, the reaction is equally stark. When they are wallowing in self-doubt, like we have seen with the slow rolling of promised support to Ukraine and self-contradictory statements – that is a signal that the Germans are in a quandary between what they want to do and what they want to be. There are Germans who want their nation to be more involved as the Czechs are, but they are not the Germans in power.

It is more than the fact that Germany is being led by the SDP. We’ve already covered the SDP’s compromised leadership with regard to the Soviets and now Russians – if you are not up to speed then do a bit of reading on the topic. Even though a war wages just a few hours east of Berlin, as we often see here as well, the left has old habits and beliefs it cannot let go of.

Under Merkel, the previous CDU/CSU/SDP coalition government was more Russophilic than the center of the German center-right – and now it is firmly in the left. 

Scholz still refuses to say whether he would like Ukraine to win the war, and frequently calls for a “cease-fire” rather than a Russian withdrawal.

There is, moreover, an undeniable Sprockets-like undertone to these policy gyrations, as difficult as they can be to follow day-to-day or month-to-month. On the same day that the strategic Lyman railway hub fell to Russian forces, Scholz tweeted airily from a convention of Catholic pacifists (who were apparently debating whether Jesus was trans), “Can violence be fought with violence? Can you only create peace without weapons?” Indeed, Herr Chancellor.

Don’t forget, Scholz was – not making this up – part of the group of SDP youth in the 80s who danced with their GDR counterparts and played the useful idiots protesting NATO etc. I know these guys; I couldn’t stand them in the 80s and my opinion has not changed that much since.

Even though there are philosophical reasons for their externalized self-loathing, make no mistake, they are very much capitalists. Schroder’s millions for being a toy of Putin is just one example, but there is big money to be made in the east – a common theme for all of Germany history.

There is no sense in pretending that Putin could never afford a gas embargo, German officials have come to believe, given the experience of sanctions. After the imposition of Western sanctions in March, Russian exports increased by 8% in April. The explosion in the value of Russian commodity exports means Putin’s current account surplus this year may double from last year, making the loss of his foreign exchange assets irrelevant. The West’s arrogant miscalculation about the size and importance of Russia’s economy contributed directly to ruinous dynamics that routinely convulse Western democracies: spiraling inflation, cost of living crises, a looming rise in immigration and refugee flows as supplies continue to fall. The consequences of the anti-Russia sanctions have been worse, Germans argue, than if we had imposed no sanctions at all.

While Olaf Scholz may have multiple fraud scandals in his past and all the political charisma of a former mayor of Hamburg, a more credible explanation for the gap between German rhetoric and policy with regard to Ukraine is that Berlin simply believes Moscow was right—right that the sanctions regime was doomed to fail, that Western financial and military support for Ukraine is unsustainable, that trans-Atlantic unity will fray, and that Russia will eventually win, no matter what kinds of weapons Germany provides or where it buys its gas. If Germany has a “special responsibility” to “remember history,” many German officials believe, it probably shouldn’t risk an economic catastrophe for the sake of the Donbas.

Never underestimate the ability of money to steer nations away from the right thing. This is a German problem. The Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians have even more reasons to use the excuses the Germans are using, but they are not. Though I do not accept this excuse, some do – it has to do with WWII;

The first thing Americans tend to forget about the war and the occupation period is that Germans experienced it very differently than Americans did. When Franklin Roosevelt announced a war policy of “unconditional surrender” in Casablanca in 1943, various U.S. officials opposed it for a number of reasons—but whatever its efficacy, there’s no doubt about how the policy was implemented. Allied strategic bombing campaigns killed approximately 400,000 civilians in Germany, wounded 800,000 more, and rendered 7.5 million homeless. The bombing of Hamburg killed 37,000 people in one week; the firebombing of Dresden killed 25,000 people in three days. Civilians, of course, were not collateral damage, but often deliberate targets of the Allied air raids.

Stern goes in to more details, but yes – this is always in the background and feeds a subtle anti-Americanism amongst Germans that everyone encounters. It is understandable from an objective point of view. Not a majority opinion I don’t think, but not insignificant.

The way the Cold War ended suggests the democracy promotion myth was both effective and justified. From a distance of 75 years, it is also clear how it warped and in some cases deranged Americans’ understanding of a defining moment in their own history. Four generations of Americans have now grown up under the assumption that a primary legacy of “The Good War” is that the United States brought freedom and democracy to people and places where it had never existed before. In the case of Germany (among others) this isn’t exactly true—Germany before 1913 had a parliament, freedom of the press, and intellectual freedom, in some cases more robust than in the United States at the time.

In reality, the eventual West German growth miracle owed more to German corporatist economic principles, and to the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community, than it did to any free-market values introduced by the United States. It would likewise take a special kind of self-deception to mistake Germany’s greatest postwar achievement—one of the world’s most effective and admirable welfare states, which harks back to Bismarck’s social bargain with the German labor parties—for a postwar American import. Yet it was the example of “democracy promotion” in Germany (and also Japan) that U.S. politicians and statesmen repeatedly invoked in their later misadventures, from Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Though in part this seems not to be germane to Ukraine, I think it is. Americans see the world through our experience and tend to forget the experience of others. Yes, America and Germany are both free nations in the West, but we see the responsibilities and possibilities of being in that club differently. 

Today, the United States is once again putting itself at the center of someone else’s story—invoking Lend Lease and the Marshall Plan and the Berlin airlift to conjure the happy ending we’ve already determined is required of the Ukrainian nightmare. Rather than aim for a “dirty, contemptible compromise,” Washington has—rightly or wrongly—made support for an unconditional Ukrainian victory a litmus test for the American democratic ethos, even as American voters have started to lose whatever interest they had in helping the heroic Ukrainians. Convinced of their own centrality to the drama, U.S. leaders can’t or won’t understand that many U.S. allies can’t and won’t stake their futures on whatever the American position happens to be at any particular moment—because according to the internal logic of American partisan warfare, that position will be reversed every few years.

No one fears and loathes this toxic U.S. political dynamic more than our allies in Berlin. For them, Donetsk and Luhansk are simply not worth a Lehman-style contagion in Germany’s energy sector. Neither, for that matter, is Odessa, or Kyiv, or Transnistria, or the Suwalki Gap. And why, they ask, should it be otherwise? There is “our relationship with Russia [in the] future” to consider, as Scholz’s foreign policy adviser reminded Germans last week after the chancellor’s trip to Kyiv. “That is at least as exciting and relevant an issue.”

Americans are entitled to wonder what all this means for Germany’s status as a member of the Western alliance. What we’re no longer entitled to is surprise.

America must do what it and like-minded nations feel they must do to support Ukraine, but we should stop asking Germany to do and be something that it is not. We should acknowledge that reality. By doing so, we may actually get more help out of her than if we stubbornly try to make her something she is not at this stage of the game.

She is trying to stay in the middle of the road by doing as little as possible to stay in good standing with her allies and friends, while not completely burning the bridge to business and cheap energy in Russia. The longer the Russo-Ukrainian War goes on, the thinner the supports of her position will grow. At some point she will have to pick a side.


Sunday, June 26, 2022

Turning the Tables on China with Brent Sadler - on Midrats

While everyone is distracted by the Russo-Ukrainian War, the People’s Republic of China continues to work to solidify her ability to control the South China Sea and to bring more nations in to her orbit.

Though not a cold war, it is a struggle for presence, influence, and setting the conditions for advantage should conflict come.

The United States and her Navy are not required to be in a passive posture, allowing China to shape the environment without pushback.

This episode of Midrats will focus on American options and actions we can take to blunt Chinese influence and to prevent her from setting up the Western Pacific to her advantage relative to the United States and her friends and allies.

Our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss this and more will be Brent Sadler, a senior fellow for maritime security and advanced naval technology at The Heritage Foundation.

Join us live if you can, but it not, you can get the show later by subscribing to the podcast. If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here. You can find us on almost all your most popular podcast aggregators as well.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Fullbore Friday

They found the Samuel B. Roberts (DE 413).

More than 22,600 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean lies a WWII US Navy destroyer that has been named the world’s deepest shipwreck.

The USS Destroyer Escort Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413), known as the Sammy B, was located on Wednesday in the Philippine Sea.

The vessel went down during the Battle Off Samar in the Philippine Sea in October 1944 after it was hit by Japanese fire.

89 Sailors were lost when she sank. This counts as the world's deepest war grave. Unlike a lot of shallow wrecks in this part of the world - the salvagers won't be able to get to her.

Over the years we've used her story for FbF ... so this is a good time for a repeat.

Here we have the story of the great stand of the USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (DE-413).

There are better stories, but this puts it in a nice summary of her performance during her fierce attack against a superior Japanese force helped save the United States invasion fleet during the 1944 Battle of Leyte Gulf and earned her the nickname "the Destroyer Escort that fought like a Battleship."
The destroyer escort was part of a screening unit to protect a force of American aircraft carriers. When the enemy opened fire at 7 o'clock that morning, the ROBERTS immediately sought to protect her "flattops." The first step was to lay a smoke screen and then, steaming under cover of her own screen, the ROBERTS approached within 4,000 yards of a Jap heavy cruiser, fired three torpedoes, and returned to the protection of the smoke. One of the torpedoes struck home and started fires in the enemy ship.

Keeping between the main enemy force and her own carriers, the ROBERTS settled back and turned all guns on a Japanese cruiser. One 5-inch gun fired more than 300 rounds of ammunition, all that was available, in 50 furious minutes, scoring at least 40 sure hits.

The rapid fire from this gun was halted when a Jap battleship found the range and blasted the gun out of action with a 14-inch s (sic) Six charges were rammed in by hand and fired, although the men knew that an explosion might result from each of them because the gas ejection system was not working.

The seventh round fired in this manner exploded and killed all but three members of the gun crew outright. The gun captain, Paul Henry Carr, Gunner's Mate, Third Class, who was credited generously for the excellent performance there was wounded beside his mount, clutching the last 5-inch shell and struggling to ram the 50-pound projectile into the chamber. Upon the recommendation of his Commanding Officer, Carr was on March 1, 1945 awarded the Navy Cross posthumously.

In the next few minutes, the Japs kept sending successive salvos of major caliber projectiles into the foundering destroyer escort. The death blow was a three-gun battleship 14-inch salvo that hit in number 2 engine room, tearing a hole 40-feet long and 10-feet wide in the ship's skin on the port side. Abandon ship was ordered.

Men abandoning the vessel to port launched a life raft on that side, but a breeze blew it into the gaping hole torn by the last salvo. Four men crawled into the aperture, embarked upon the raft, and with every ounce of strength at their command, pushed the raft against the tide of inrushing water and managed to get it outside of the rupture.

This was an important victory because the 120 men that survived had only two other rafts and two floater nets on which to cling until rescue was effected some 50 hours later.
Next time you hear "Finest Traditions of the Naval Service," that is what we are talking about - not leading the set-up for a charity golf tournament.

At the link at the top of the page there is a nice pic of her torpedo launchers. 


UPDATE: xformed covered this very well many moons ago. Give it a read as well.