Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Sorry, no Tanker War This Week

I'm not saying that I write talking points for the Vice Chairman ... but sometimes it helps if people think I do.

Details over at USNIBlog.

Put the war drums back in the Volvo.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Afghanistan? Really China? Good Luck With That

Everyone things they can influence events in Afghanistan, but sooner or later you learn that it also influcences events in your own nation.

Russia knows this, Great Britain knows this, and now we know this.

China should take note.
As the U.S. seeks an exit from the Afghan war, Central Asia is on the cusp of a new era, with Russia and China vying for influence in a region that will no longer be dominated by America’s post-9/11 undertaking to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan.

The two countries are wary of Islamist militancy, both on their soil and spilling over from Afghanistan, while China wants to safeguard the billions of dollars its companies have invested in the region under President Xi Jinping’s Belt-and-Road Initiative...

Monday, June 17, 2019

Hong Kong: A Beautiful & Tragic Tribute to the British Empire

How can you define the Age of Empire? Of course, empires existed well before written history, but in the modern context I think one could best bracket it from 1492 to 1945. In that time, the world shrunk and the strong absorbed the weak. Spanish, Portuguese, British, French, Russian, Italian, Chinese, Dutch, Japanese, and even to a lesser degree Italian, Danish, and even Swedish.

With the passage of years, if you had to pick one empire to be subjugated by – no question it would have been the British. Look at the performance of their former colonies relative to others. The New World is the best laboratory, but the planet is sprinkled with them.

In Asia, Hong Kong springs to mind. A bunch of swampy islands useful for the opium and other trade when opened up, in time it became an economic powerhouse and a rhetorical island of individual, if not political liberty in a sea of autocracy.

The best give was Common Law and a civil society that was spot-welded on the best aspects of the Chinese culture of its inhabitants. That love of rule of law also brought with it the mother country’s deference to law itself – and as such when their lease ran out, the land returned to what was for the inhabitants of Hong Kong, a foreign country – the People’s Republic of China.

Hong Kong never really had a fully democratic system as part of the British Empire, but they had the rule of law and more freedom than anyone else in their part of Asia. They never have had a vote on their future either – no Singapore option for them, sadly.

“One Country – Two Systems” was to allow the citizens of Hong Kong 50-years to have some sort of independence. In 1997, that seemed a long time, but in 2019, 2047 is close and the last few decades have seen a soft erosion around the edges.

Most here are familiar with the most recent protests – protests whose endgame is still unknown, so I’ll only give this one snapshot for those just coming out of a coma;
Faced with huge and disruptive protests in Hong Kong, China blinked. The decision to shelve the legislation that sparked the demonstrations shows that limits still exist to how hard China can, or is willing, to push. It also exposed a fundamental contradiction in the “one country, two systems” framework that governs the semi-autonomous city.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has cemented his hold on power since taking the helm in 2012. His government has expanded control over information, religion and other aspects of society. In Hong Kong, the local government has disqualified a pro-independence party, sent the leaders of a 2014 protest to prison and denied a visa renewal to an editor for Britain’s Financial Times.

Activists decried these moves as chipping away at Hong Kong’s freedoms, but residents largely went about their lives. Then the government, with China’s backing, chipped too deeply, propelling hundreds of thousands, possibly millions in a city of 7.4 million people, into the streets.
The BBC is calling it two million – roughly 25%. That would be as if 81 million Americans hit the streets in protest.

China is playing the long game, as is their habit. You have to feel for the people of Hong Kong. They don’t want to bother their neighbors, they don’t want to do anything but have the basic freedoms they have come to love as … yes it is true … Westerners.

The West has nothing to do with race, creed, color, or national origin. It derives from the best ideas from The Enlightenment – ideas which manifested themselves best in the Anglosphere, if like me you define “best” as based in individual liberty.

The people of Hong Kong are in the streets because they want to live under Common Law – not the Chinese Communist Law. They want freedom of speech, not social ratings and oppression.

They speak with a fun mix of a Chinese inflected English accent. The Chief Executive of Hong Kong since 2017 is Carrie Lam. One of the leaders of the latest protests is Joshua Wong.



Just look at the number of English first names among the most well known Hongkingers.

The unofficial protest song is the hymn, in English, ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord.’

What can the West do to for our friends in Hong Kong? I don’t know. It is all just sad – like watching a beautiful flower slowly drowned in a rising flood of concrete.

Hopefully, good people in important positions will do what they can, and the Hongkongers will suffer what they must … but the rest of us?

Realize what a rare gift we have – how easily it is lost – and how hard it is to get back.

If you find yourself bending towards centralized power, desire to restrict speech you dislike, or accept corruption because you think it might benefit your interests … think again.

The natural state of man is one of the powerful abusing the weak. Of the clever fooling the gullible – the majority oppressing the minority. No macro-culture has done more for freedom than the West. We should praise it – even when our education system does not. Support it, even as some political leaders sneer at its fruits. Help others grow it where they can – and mourn its loss when it happens.

Time will tell, but for now admire the people in Hong Kong and their bravery. You can’t help but respect a mass protest who acts like this.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Fullbore Friday

A little more than a decade and a half after D-Day, one of the best stories of that day was published in The Atlantic by S. L. A. MARSHALL (yes, I know, I know). It focuses on Able and Baker companies, 116th Infantry, 29th Division.

The 116th Infantry is a VA National Guard unit that traces its history to the Revolutionary War and fought for the Confederacy during the US Civil War.

Unbloodied yet in WWII, that was to change. She was in the 1st wave at the Normandy Invasion;

Able Company riding the tide in seven Higgins boats is still five thousand yards from the beach when first taken under artillery fire. The shells fall short. At one thousand yards, Boat No. 5 is hit dead on and foundered. Six men drown before help arrives. Second Lieutenant Edward Gearing and twenty others paddle around until picked up by naval craft, thereby missing the fight at the shore line. It's their lucky day. The other six boats ride unscathed to within one hundred yards of the shore, where a shell into Boat No. 3 kills two men. Another dozen drown, taking to the water as the boat sinks. That leaves five boats.

Lieutenant Edward Tidrick in Boat No. 2 cries out: "My God, we're coming in at the right spot, but look at it! No shingle, no wall, no shell holes, no cover. Nothing!"

His men are at the sides of the boat, straining for a view of the target. They stare but say nothing. At exactly 6:36 A.M. ramps are dropped along the boat line and the men jump off in water anywhere from waist deep to higher than a man's head. This is the signal awaited by the Germans atop the bluff. Already pounded by mortars, the floundering line is instantly swept by crossing machine-gun fires from both ends of the beach.

Able Company has planned to wade ashore in three files from each boat, center file going first, then flank files peeling off to right and left. The first men out try to do it but are ripped apart before they can make five yards. Even the lightly wounded die by drowning, doomed by the waterlogging of their overloaded packs. From Boat No. 1, all hands jump off in water over their heads. Most of them are carried down. Ten or so survivors get around the boat and clutch at its sides in an attempt to stay afloat. The same thing happens to the section in Boat No. 4. Half of its people are lost to the fire or tide before anyone gets ashore. All order has vanished from Able Company before it has fired a shot.
Within seven minutes after the ramps drop, Able Company is inert and leaderless. At Boat No. 2, Lieutenant Tidrick takes a bullet through the throat as he jumps from the ramp into the water. He staggers onto the sand and flops down ten feet from Private First Class Leo J. Nash. Nash sees the blood spurting and hears the strangled words gasped by Tidrick: "Advance with the wire cutters!" It's futile; Nash has no cutters. To give the order, Tidrick has raised himself up on his hands and made himself a target for an instant. Nash, burrowing into the sand, sees machine gun bullets rip Tidrick from crown to pelvis. From the cliff above, the German gunners are shooting into the survivors as from a roof top.

Captain Taylor N. Fellers and Lieutenant Benjamin R. Kearfoot never make it. They had loaded with a section of thirty men in Boat No. 6 (Landing Craft, Assault, No. 1015). But exactly what happened to this boat and its human cargo was never to be known. No one saw the craft go down. How each man aboard it met death remains unreported. Half of the drowned bodies were later found along the beach. It is supposed that the others were claimed by the sea.

Along the beach, only one Able Company officer still lives—Lieutenant Elijah Nance, who is hit in the heel as he quits the boat and hit in the belly by a second bullet as he makes the sand. By the end of ten minutes, every sergeant is either dead or wounded. To the eyes of such men as Private Howard I. Grosser and Private First Class Gilbert G. Murdock, this clean sweep suggests that the Germans on the high ground have spotted all leaders and concentrated fire their way. Among the men who are still moving in with the tide, rifles, packs, and helmets have already been cast away in the interests of survival.

To the right of where Tidrick's boat is drifting with the tide, its coxswain lying dead next to the shell-shattered wheel, the seventh craft, carrying a medical section with one officer and sixteen men, noses toward the beach. The ramp drops. In that instant, two machine guns concentrate their fire on the opening. Not a man is given time to jump. All aboard are cut down where they stand.

By the end of fifteen minutes, Able Company has still not fired a weapon. No orders are being given by anyone. No words are spoken. The few able-bodied survivors move or not as they see fit. Merely to stay alive is a full-time job. The fight has become a rescue operation in which nothing counts but the force of a strong example.
Read the rest; read it all.

There is a reason the national D-Day Memorial is in Bedford, VA.

Company A was mostly from that town.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Everyone Just Calm the Frack Down

OK, fine. No DivThu again this week - we'll pick up next week.

However ...

First, the basics.
The U.S. blamed Iran for suspected attacks on two oil tankers Thursday near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, denouncing what it called a campaign of “escalating tensions” in a region crucial to global energy supplies.

The U.S. Navy rushed to assist the stricken vessels in the Gulf of Oman off the coast of Iran, including one that was set ablaze. The ships’ operators offered no immediate explanation on who or what caused the damage against the Norwegian-owned MT Front Altair and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous. Each was loaded with petroleum products, and the Front Altair burned for hours, sending up a column of thick, black smoke.
Let's break that in to little bits.

1. No USA ships are involved.
2. No USA citizens are involved.
3. No USA territory or waters are involved.
4. All cargo was headed to Asia.

This. Is. Not. Our. Problem.

We don't know who did the attacking. No, I do not assume that SECSTATE saying Iran is responsible will do for the American or international audience. Let's see the evidence.

Even if Iran did do this - or their proxies - this is not our problem (unless Norway Article 5's the attack).

What is Norway doing? Japan? They are both our allies, but they have the lead on this - not us.

Who really benefits from this? It isn't Iran. It certainly is not the USA.

Everyone needs to take a powder and take a step back.

This talk of military action this soon is insanity. This is irresponsible.

At least right now.


Enough with stupid wars. At best, this might be worth a few dozen TLAM ... but only after Norway and Japan take their moves.

We are their ally, not their enforcer, not their daddy.

Everyone needs to back off.
UPDATE: So, IRGC clown show?

No deaths?

Perfect ... we can go nice and slow here.

Sanctions, sanctions, sanctions. Those are the first three things to do ... and let Norway and Japan lead the effort in the IC.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

How Fragile is Our Navy?

Well, judging by what we did early this week - a bit pathetic up in the DC to Newport axis.

Details over at USNIBlog.

The MacLeans at Inverkeithing we were not.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

In DC, the Zombie INF Fight is Afoot

There are a few constants in the natsec environment we live in; elections have consequences, and nameless professional staffers with peculiar and questionable understandings of war have an unimaginable impact on our ability to have an effective military.

For you who were not around or interested in the Cold War, there was a very Eurocentric treaty that was/is almost a talisman to the established natsec cadres that infested the Beltway and still do - mostly interested in their personal egos, legacies, and pet fetishes. Of course, I'm talking about the INF Treaty of 1987.
The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The treaty marked the first time the superpowers had agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons, and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification. As a result of the INF Treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union destroyed a total of 2,692 short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles by the treaty's implementation deadline of June 1, 1991.
The Soviet Union died over a quarter century ago, but to keep Russia from being too pouty, for decades we let it sit that they could pretend it was the mighty Soviet Union as we chased a Medieval death cult around the low-rent parts of the globe.

Russia, however, is Russia. So ...
The United States first alleged in its July 2014 Compliance Report that Russia is in violation of its INF Treaty obligations “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a ground-launched cruise missile having a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers or “to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.” Subsequent State Department assessments in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 repeated these allegations. In March 2017, a top U.S. official confirmed press reports that Russia had begun deploying the noncompliant missile. Russia denies that it is in violation of the agreement and has accused the United States of being in noncompliance.

On Dec. 8, 2017, the Trump administration released an integrated strategy to counter alleged Russian violations of the Treaty, including the commencement of research and development on a conventional, road-mobile, intermediate-range missile system. On Oct. 20, 2018 President Donald Trump announced his intention to “terminate” the INF Treaty, citing Russian noncompliance and concerns about China’s intermediate-range missile arsenal. On Dec. 4, 2018 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States has found Russia in “material breach” of the treaty and will suspend its treaty obligations in 60 days if Russia does not return to compliance in that time. On Feb. 2, the Trump administration declared a suspension of U.S. obligations under the INF Treaty and formally announced its intention to withdraw from the treaty in six months. Shortly thereafter, Russian President Vladimir Putin also announced that Russia will be officially suspending its treaty obligations as well.
Well, hello everyone and welcome to the end of the second decade of the 21st Century. A lot has changed.

Russia, though a weak and tottering old bear up to mischief and still a bit dangerous, is not the Soviet Union. The threat as we move to mid-century is and will be China. China was not part of INF - again that was signed 32 years ago - so what has she been doing with what - on paper - is an incredible bit of tactical kit?
To achieve a preemptive strike against America’s military bases, China has procured a massive missile force. In fact, Beijing has the largest land-based missile arsenal in the world. According to Pentagon estimates, this includes 1,200 conventionally armed short-range ballistic missiles, two hundred to three hundred conventional medium-range ballistic missiles and an unknown number of conventional intermediate-range ballistic missiles, as well as two to three hundred ground-launched cruise missiles.
If we find ourselves at war with the rising power of China - and history shows we most likely will this century - their missile forces will be something we will have to address. By address, I mean fight. By fight, I mean destroy or be destroyed by them.

How do you eliminate them? Well, a defensive posture is not ideal, and we do not have enough ABM capability to counter that number inbound. We don't have enough TLAM either ... so what does that leave? TACAIR. Those are bodies. Expensive and hard to replace bodies.

You don't have to play too many rounds of this game to see the problem.

Let's back up a bit. What is the USA and Japan's comparative advantage over China? High technology, of course. The Chinese are very good at stealing other people's ideas and reverse engineering them - but that means as long as things advance, they are always going to be 1 to 2 generations behind the West and its auxiliaries. They also have a quality issue (more than we do) and an issue in running effective and coordinated operations.

Advanced technology and computing - and the multi-spectral targeting it enables - can translate in to incredibly accurate targeting without GPS or other external guidance. As such, in a conventional missile exchange, we just might have an edge to attrite their missile forces down before we have to commit additional forces that are harder to replace.

Outside China, there are other places high-precision conventional ballistic missiles would come in handy and would be very much in line with the American preferred way of war (ignore the foreverwars in Asia for a moment) - short, deadly, limited, and with low casualties.

Especially for punitive expeditions (Salamander's preferred approach to most affronts) - there is little not to like.

The world is not on a hair-trigger to global nuclear exchange any more, so that shouldn't be an issue either.

So, back to the point. We are out of INF. We have a modern problem that needs to be solved. One would thing that we would start to develop what China already has vast numbers of as they were never restrained by the INF - we need out own SRBM, IRBM and even MRBM forces.

No "missile gap" jokes please. 

You would think that this would be considered a serious shortfall in need of immediate action. It isn't like we have a bunch of Pershing II's waiting to be dusted off.

So, serious minds are turning-to in DC, right? 

Well, if you think that, you would be wrong. It would appear that the Majority Staff in Congress has decided that - for reasons best known to these unknown - they want our nation hobbled.

They are more in love with a dead treaty - or more likely just want to poke Trump - than they are with preparing for war.

For the details, I point you to Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) who got a sniff of what is going on and it running to the sound of gunfire.

I don't do this often, but who is your member of Congress? Have they looked in to this? Are they supporting Rep. Gallagher's efforts?

Call them and ask.