Tuesday, September 27, 2016

NSC is Playing Wordgames While China is Playing Rugby

Really?

If you had any question why the national security environment is such a mess in 2016 - this should help you understand the root cause;
The White House has barred Pentagon leaders from a key talking point when it comes to publicly describing the military challenges posed by China.

In February, Defense Secretary Ash Carter cited the "return to great power of competition" in the Asia-Pacific, "where China is rising."

Similarly, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson characterized China and Russia as rivals in this "great power competition" in his maritime strategy.

But a recent directive from the National Security Council ordered Pentagon leaders to strike out that phrase and find something less inflammatory, according to four officials familiar with the classified document, revealed here for the first time by Navy Times. Obama administration officials and some experts say "great power competition" inaccurately frames the U.S. and China as on a collision course...
Good googly moogly. Have these sweet little people issued a trigger warning to the delicate, easily offended Chinese?

I'll let Bryan do the spanking for me;
“Their explanation is an exercise in nuance and complexity, purposely chosen by the administration to provide maximum flexibility, to prevent them from committing to a real structural approach to the most important national security challenge of our time,” said Bryan McGrath, a naval expert and retired destroyer skipper.
In other words, it lets them practice faculty lounge name games while the real world it being shaped by adults in other nations run by serious people.

This is a unnecessary distraction and own-goal. This mixes up our messages, and for what?
Rumors of the directive also rankled some on Capitol Hill. During a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., asked Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford to comment.

“General Dunford, are we in great power competition with China?” Cotton asked, to which Dunford replied: “We are, senator.”

When Cotton asked Carter, the secretary replied: “We are. Absolutely right."
As mentioned earlier, this is all faculty lounge intellectual narcissism. Mixed in with it you can find the influences of the self-esteem movement, everyone gets a trophyism, mindless non-judgementalism, and national self-loathing.
“My view is that it's unhelpful to describe a very complex relationship in a simple phrase, regardless of whether it is positive or negative,” said Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Michael O’Hanlon, an influential security policy expert at the Brookings Institution, said that focusing solely on the positive or the negative aspects of the relationship isn’t good policy.

“To oversimplify in either direction is not only analytically inaccurate, but consequential for the tone and substance of the relationship,” he said. “The White House really does have it right, I strongly believe.”
Let's end this with Bryan's final points.
“This kind of lawyerly nuancing is not what the American people need,” said McGrath, who leads the consulting firm The FerryBridge Group. “They don’t need nationalism or jingoism, they need a restatement of the role the U.S. plays in the proper function, security and prosperity of the world. To actually contend in great power competition, you have to identify for the American people what is the problem. The problem with this administrations’ insistence in avoiding terms that the American people understand is it lacks clarity.

"What this means is we will spend at least the next 90 days with an administration that’s just trying to tread water.”
Whoever pushed this memo at the NSC should be the first people invited to find a position back in academia where they are less of a hazard to themselves and others.

Sad thing is, Mrs. Clinton will probably keep a lot of them on.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Wars Over Water? Well, Here's Your 2016/17 Most Likely From an Unlikely Place


While we've been picking out belly-button over our shambolic election, history's other lines of operation are moving apace. Have you been briefed up on the Uri Attack of 18 SEP 16?
At least 18 soldiers were killed in a terror attack on an Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on September 18. All four terrorists, who attacked the camp, were killed.
The Indian Prime Minister is decided to play a card India has held deep in the deck.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi after a fiery speech in Kerala where he blamed Pakistan for exporting global terrorism has now called for a briefing on the Indus Waters Treaty.

PM Modi will meet relevant officials from various ministries today including External Affairs and Water Resources, top sources have told NDTV.

The Prime Minister, sources say, wants to discuss the pros and cons of taking action against Pakistan. This confirms that among the various options on the discussion table for India's response to the Uri attack, reconsidering the Indus Waters Treaty with Pakistan could be one.
...
One of the suggestions is to turn off the Indus river tap that waters much of Pakistan. It is perceived that the pressure could compel Pakistan to crackdown on non-state and state actors acting against India.
...
The Indus Waters Treaty was signed between Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan's president General Ayub Khan in 1960, after World Bank brokered negotiations that lasted almost a decade.

The Indus treaty withstood two full scale wars and tense India and Pakistan relations and experts are divided over the benefits of reneging on an international water sharing pact.
...
The Indus originates in China, and unlike India and Pakistan, it has not signed any international water sharing agreement. Should China decide to divert the Indus, India could lose as much as 36 per cent of river water.

Under the agreement, of the six rivers that flow westward in the sub-continent, India has full rights over three - Sutlej, Beas and Ravi - while Pakistan receives the waters of the other three - Jhelum, Chenab and Indus - almost unrestricted.
Two nations with nuclear weapons - the most modern of weapons - potentially in a fight over water - the most ancient of reasons to go to war.
Prime Minister Modi launched a blistering attack on Pakistan on Saturday, saying: “Whenever a terror attack takes place, it emerges either the terrorist set out from Pakistan, or after the attack, like Osama Bin Laden, took refuge there.”

Speaking at a public meeting in southern Indian city of Kozhikode, Modi said India would never forget the militant attack that killed 19 soldiers in an Army base in Kashmir’s Uri District. He also accepted an often-quoted Pakistani “challenge” (read Benazir Bhutto slogan) of a 1,000-year war, saying: “Your (Pakistani) rulers speak of fighting India for 1,000 years. Today, there is such as government in New Delhi that I am ready to accept your challenge.”

Modi ripped into his ‘one-time’ friend and Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif’s needling UN General Assembly speech and phony talks offer, stressing: “Today, I am speaking to the people of Pakistan directly. From the leaders who read speeches written by terrorists, the world can expect nothing. But I want to speak to the people of Pakistan directly. I want to remind Pakistan that your ancestors used to consider undivided India as their land before 1947 and worshipped it. And in their memory, I want to tell you something. The people of Pakistan please ask your leaders that you have Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and you cannot manage it. Bangladesh used to be yours and you couldn’t manage it. You cannot manage Gilgit, Baltistan, Pakhtun, Balochistan, Sindh and you are talking about Kashmir.”
...
As is evident from Modi’s address, India is well aware of Pakistan’s internal vulnerabilities and will not hesitate to capitalise on it, if necessary. By speaking of Bangladesh, the PM reminded the Pakistani political establishment of a wound it has not yet recovered from and what India was capable of.
Can we stay to the side as the world's largest democracy faces off against an Islamist terrorist safe haven?
China assured Pakistan of its support in the event of any “foreign aggression” and also backed Islamabad’s stance on the Kashmir dispute. Immediately after China vowed to help Pakistan in case of “aggression”, the US announced that it would upgrade military combat exercises with India. In a statement, the US Department of Defence said that it has awarded Boeing a USD 81 million contract to supply 22 Harpoon missile systems for the Indian Navy’s Shishumar class submarines.

A ‘great game’ is getting set to be played between India, Pakistan, Russia, China and the US, as a “tectonic geo-strategic shift” is taking place in Asia.
Speaking of the "Great Game" if you have not read Hopkirk's The Great Game - order it now.



Once you read it - order the rest of Hopkirk's books on Central Asia. You're a decade and a half late, but that's OK. History there isn't going anywhere. She may only be getting started.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Fullbore Friday

It can take decades, but eventually the truth comes out. If the stars align properly, then the truth will also be well known.

The perfidy of UN military operation is well known. Sadly, there is also a history of needless sacrifice because of bureaucratic cowardice and a55 covering.

Well, this is a good news story. Too late for many who have now passed on - but better late than never.

Today, we look to the incredible story of one light infantry company from the Irish Army.

Yes, Irish Army;
FOR THE SURVIVING members of the UN’s 1961 A Company, last night’s Irish premiere of the film The Siege of Jadotville was not about Hollywood stars, massive budgets, or the backing of one of the movie industry’s most powerful production companies. 
It was about memories, and justice, and a chance for the world to see what happened when a contingent of 155 Irish troops were sent to the Congo on a peacekeeping mission that could have turned into a bloodbath.
...
The Siege of Jadotville, which gets a cinema release this weekend before moving to Netflix on 7 October, is set in 1961, when the United Nations intervened in the Katanga conflict in the African Congo. You have probably never heard of these men, or of the battle they fought – one which, facing improbable odds, they all survived – but a book by Declan Power first helped to tell their story .
It was aptly called The Siege at Jadotville: The Irish Army’s Forgotten Battle.
The men were forgotten, and as the film shows, deliberately so.
...
Quinn’s memories of his time at Jadotville are vivid. He’s told his family about when they ran out of water in the trenches, and were only allowed one spoon of the liquid each – and of the time he sucked the juice out of a tin of pineapple.
The men didn’t have enough food, ammunition or water for the siege, and yet they fought with all their might. At one stage, they were sent jerry cans of water – but they were petrol cans that hadn’t been cleaned out. Quinn – who was a mortar commander – shuddered at the memory.
Two video's that demand your time today.

First, the telling of the true story of the siege;



Second, the trailer.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Europe fractures in to familiar lines

If you want to test a system to find where its weak spots are, you have to stress it. Here in the USA, we like to grumble about 2016, but we have it easy - Europe's 2016 ... well ...

Europe, never change.
Members of the influential Visegrad group, which comprises of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, rejected migrant quotas and blasted the overbearing EU Commission with an incendiary ultimatum.
That's right; the unloved parts of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire; the Hungarians along with the West Slavic provinces of Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Galicia, - in whole or in parts - along with their West Slav brothers the Poles are pushing back on their softer brothers in Western Europe.

Was Brexit a catalyst? No, just part of the stew. The start of this new chapter of EU's problems was clear to all who wanted to see it; the invasion of hundreds of thousands of unemployable, unassimilable, unaccompanied military aged men from Muslim nations and chaotic sub-Saharan Africa.
The group represents a faction of nations which have become increasingly concerned by authoritarian Brussels, with Poland and Hungary both locked in bitter legal battles with the EU.

Their demands come after a separate clique of Mediterranean states, including France, Spain and Italy, formed their own interest group to counter the power wielded by Angela Merkel.
With France economically and culturally supine under Socialist leadership, already strong Germany has become the unchallenged power in Europe. It appears that German leadership has embraced it national self-loathing and decided to spread the misery around - and Europe is pushing back against the Germans just being, well, bossy Germans.

Parts of the old Warsaw Pact are focused mostly on the migrant issue, the Mediterranean nations mostly economic - but no one outside Brussels, Strasbourg and government officials who have a vested interest in good paying EU job prospect, are all that remain enthusiastic about the European project anymore.
"Recent terrorist attacks in Europe are proof that there is a new challenge which the EU must deal with - the growing terrorism and cross-border crime."

"The Visegrad Group countries point out that the efforts should be channelled to fully implement the already undertaken commitments aiming at strengthening security in Schengen area as well as the protection of EU's external borders."

Linked closely to security was the issue of migration, which is a key issue for a group of five countries which have been on the frontline of the escalating asylum chaos.

Their statement demanded: "Migration policy should be based on the principle of 'flexible solidarity'.
...
Finally the group addressed the problems with the single market - including the disastrous Euro project, admitting that the EU's popularity had taken a battering due to years of economic stagnation.

They wrote: "It is necessary to inform more effectively the public opinion about the positive outcomes of the Internal Market meanwhile improving the enforcement of its rules to eradicate intra-EU protectionism."
I don't think those who still believe in the EU dream will enjoy 2017 all that much.

Welcome to the party.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

LCS - Annus Horribilis

Well ... I guess is time to look at LCS this week.

This time I'm going to keep it a bit short. "Mr.T'sHaircut" and I were exchanging emails where I stated, frankly, that I was having a hard time keeping track of the fail. I may be missing a detail or two below, so help me correct if needed.

In a quick bulleted list, let's look at the annus horribilis that has been the last year for PEO LCS.

If we had to go to war, exactly what would the LCS we've commissioned over the last eight years be able to contribute?

Well, we've commissioned LCS 1 through LCS 8 - minus LCS 7 that won't be commissioned until 22 OCT 16. That is seven.

Where are they?


  • USS FREEDOM (LCS 1): Unavailable due to mechanical failures from JUL 16. San Diego.
  • USS INDEPENDENCE (LCS 2): Available, PMC ASUW. NMC all other PMA.
  • USS FORT WORTH (LCS 3): Unavailable due to mechanical failures from JAN 16. Limping to San Diego.
  • USS CORONADO (LCS 4): Unavailable due to mechanical failures from AUG 16. Pearl Harbor.
  • USS MILWAUKEE (LCS 5): Unavailable due to mechanical failures from DEC 15. Mayport.
  • USS JACKSON (LCS 6): Unavailable due to post-shock test repairs. Mayport.
  • USS DETROIT (LCS 7): Not commissioned until 22 OCT 16.
  • USS MONTGOMERY (LCS 8): Not available due to mechanical failures from SEP 16. Limping to Mayport.
I'm sorry, there is no excuse here. 8-yrs after commissioning of LCS 1, and only one of the ships are available, and that one is the first in class "test ship" that is PMC. Pick any class of warship in the post-WWII era - there has never been this record of failure 8 years in.

There are a lot of smart people in hard jobs trying the make the best of this, but just look at that board.

In a few months, we might have JACKSON and perhaps one or two others available, but just look at it.

What to do? We can keep trying to make the best of it. That is an honorable option, I guess. We could also go DDG-1000 on it and stop the bleeding - but that would take Congress and the ability to swallow a much more bitter pill than doing it a few years ago.

Yes, I know, we need the Fleet numbers, but one has to consider the following; if only 1 of 7 ships can even get underway, much less contribute to the fight - off the PPT, what good are they? All those Sailors on "Sea Duty" can't even get underway.

Could this be, "Peak LCS Sucks!"? For our Navy and its nation, we should all hope so. Sailors belong on ships; ships belong at Sea. Both should have a better than 1 out of 7 chance. This is mid-1990s Russian Navy levels of readiness.

For those who will be involved in the next class of warship; take a cold, sober look at what other generations did here ... and don't do that.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Pacific Pivot; Aspirational

In the summer of 2012—around the time that the Islamic State’s inchoate plans for a caliphate merited a mere footnote in a U.S. congressional report on the year-old Syrian conflict—Robert Satloff argued that a civil war was taking shape in Syria, and that its terrible consequences would extend far beyond Syrians; Americans, too, would soon be acquainted with the horror.

Among the plausible scenarios, he reasoned in the New Republic, were a revived Kurdish insurgency in Turkey and thousands of jihadists “descending on Syria to fight the apostate Alawite regime, transforming this large Eastern Mediterranean country into the global nexus of violent Islamist terrorists.”

“None of this is fantasy,” Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, assured his readers.

Today, they need no convincing. In the three years since Satloff issued his warning, the Syrian Civil War has steadily metastasized as a perceived threat to U.S. national security, nurturing ISIS, bludgeoning Iraq, and radiating refugees in the Middle East and Europe.
...
President Obama may believe America’s future lies in Asia, but the Middle East endures as the capital of American preoccupation. As Paul Stares, the report’s lead author, writes, “Of the eleven contingencies classified as Tier 1 priorities, all but three are related to events unfolding” in the Mideast. Several stem from the Syrian Civil War.
In one of the better articles published in The Atlantic in awhile, Uri Friedman provides enough to get your week started. 

He summarized the results of a survey of over 500 national security professional conducted by the Council on Foreign Relations.

It starts, as most good things do, with a map - actually three maps - that outline High Priority Threats (red), Medium Priority Threats (orange) and Low Priority Threats (yellow) to the USA;


There are a few items to quibble with, but I won't. This is an exceptionally good entering argument and a solid opinion on which priorities should help drive our strategy - or at least focus our mind. If nothing else, I like it a lot more than the outdated, "The Pentagon's New Map" by Thomas P.M. Barnett.

This is an in-depth article that needs to be read in full, but here are a few points that stood out to me.
Among the scenarios in this high-priority tier of conflict are a mass-casualty attack on the U.S. homeland; a major cyberattack on U.S. critical infrastructure; a crisis with or in North Korea over, say, nuclear-weapons testing or political tumult in Pyongyang; increased fighting between Kurdish groups and Turkish forces, aggravated by the Syrian Civil War; a deterioration in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; political disarray in Libya and Egypt; and Iraq splintering further as a result of ISIS advances and Sunni-Shiite violence.

Another worry appeared for the first time in the survey: “political instability in EU countries stemming from the influx of refugees and migrants, with heightened civil unrest, isolated terrorist attacks, or violence against refugees and migrants.” And this judgment was made before ISIS’s November attacks in Paris; the survey concluded the day of the rampage.
...
Two contingencies were downgraded from high to medium priorities between this year’s survey and last year’s, even though hostilities in each case are still pronounced: an armed confrontation between China and its neighbors over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and an escalation in fighting between Russian-backed militias and Ukrainian security forces in eastern Ukraine.

A ceasefire in eastern Ukraine “seems to be holding,” Stares noted, “and Russia has a lot on its plate both internally and in terms of its [military] intervention into Syria. Why would they dial up tensions in Ukraine at this moment?” Similarly, “there’s probably a sense that China has made the island grabs that it wants to do, and it is consolidating its position [in the South China Sea]. And given China’s [sluggish] economic situation … and a certain level of high-level agreement between the U.S. and China with the various meetings between [Presidents] Xi and Obama, people are saying, ‘Look, I don’t think the Chinese are really going to rock the boat here this year.’”
...
The third tier includes three contingencies that haven’t featured in the survey before: political instability in both Saudi Arabia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the growth of Islamist militancy in Russia and particularly the North Caucasus region, spurred in part by Vladimir Putin’s military operations in Syria and the threat of Russian ISIS fighters returning home.
Again, this is good in that it is an opportunity to think, but it comes with a few warnings, cautions, and notes hidden between the lines.

This from CFR. It is harder to get more "conventional wisdom" than CFR - and more often than not in the last couple of decades, the CW has gotten it wrong. It has not seen the next turn very well, especially the big turns. The national security establishment from both left and right have bought us a rolling train wreck of bad ideas from making the Middle East safe for democracy, nation building where no nation exists, to the Arab Spring, to whatever the latest manifestation of the neo-colonial "Responsibility to Protect" delivered by the good idea fairy.

I don't see CW as any great source of predicting the future. It has a more important function, as an intellectual dampener. The CW is a good steading influence on policy makers.

As we discuss here on a regular basis; I don't have the right answer, but neither do you. Only by open, vigorous and honest debate can you get closer to the "truth." You don't really get there, but you can get close. 

That is what the CW is good for. It should, respectfully, get the opening comment - but in order to work others must listen and then counter. If you don't have any better ideas, then there is nothing wrong with saying, "OK, that sounds about right. Let's start there, but be prepared to adjust as required." When CW becomes dogma; that is when you get in to trouble.

I am still ill at east. It all sounds mostly right, but as history teaches us - I just can't help but think; what are they missing?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

21st Century Patton, With J. Furman Daniel III - on Midrats

Put the popular, and mostly accurate, image of the flamboyant General Patton, USA given to us by popular culture to the side for a moment.

Consider the other side of the man; the strategic thinker, student of military history, and innovator for decades. This week's episode will focus on that side of the man.

For the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern, we will have as our guest J. Furman Daniel, III, the editor of the next book in the 21st Century Foundations series; 21st Century Patton.

Furman is an assistant professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, Arizona. He holds a BA (with honors) from the University of Chicago and a PhD from Georgetown University.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

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.