Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The NATSEC Marketplace of Ideas Ain't Beanbag

So, you think you want to engage in the push and pull in the NATSEC marketplace of ideas?

As a reader here, I think you do.

Now and then I get emails from people who want to help change the way we do things. They want to write, debate ideas, and generally move the ball forward for reform. As we've discussed here often, that is a difficult place to go for a whole host of reasons.

There isn't enough discussion out there on the topic, and as such it was great to see two of the premier members of the GenX Esoteric and Exalted Order of the Retired O5's, John Nagl and Paul Yingling, put out an exceptional primer on the subject, Considering Defense Reform? Read This First, over at AUSA.

You should read it all, but here's what stood out for me as just plain good advice.
...we’d like to offer some advice to young leaders who are considering fighting the battle for defense reform.

1. Don’t do it.

... you will fail and you will suffer. ... Your career, your family and your friendships will suffer to no good end. If you want to advance, go along and get along: Attend the unit barbecue, laugh at the boss’s jokes and for God’s sake never write for publication.
They are serious. Also consider that even if you try to be anon, ahem, all it takes is one or two people to connect the dots and you'll be discovered. If you are lucky, they will direct their "issues" to your face. If you are not so lucky, you'll only notice the effects later.

As "insurgents" themselves, John and Paul know not all will take #1 to heart, so for those they offer some more advice;
2. Aspire to do, not to be.

You’re still here, so it’s likely you’ve decided, in the words of John Boyd, to do something rather than be something. Boyd did something: transformed our understanding of aerial combat and decision-making. He retired as a colonel. Billy Mitchell did something: demonstrated the critical role air power would play in 20th-century warfare. He was court-martialed for insubordination and reduced in rank from brigadier general to colonel. Defense reformers too often pin their hopes on the example of George C. Marshall, who spoke truth to power as a colonel and yet rose to five stars. We mean no offense, but chances are you’re not George C. Marshall
People forget that track record. There are others.
4. Be kind.

Master the art of disagreeing without becoming disagreeable. Your new idea will offend and anger people whose identity and livelihood are wrapped up in the status quo. ... Defuse angry reactions to your ideas with courtesy, patience and perhaps most importantly of all, self-effacing humor.
I can't emphasize this enough (yes, it is hard to do sometimes. Guilty). I just watched, again, a smart and passionate person blow up their career because they could not help being nasty. I mean, twitter troll nasty. Friends come and go, but enemies accumulate. Also remember that when you try to stab someone in the back, even if you miss, a lot of people will see that you tried and take note. This vibe on tone and attitude is along the same lines as Claude Berube's FEB 2009 Proceedings article, The Navy Can Handle the Truth: Creative Friction without Conflict.

That goes along nicely with;
5. Seek allies. 
... You will find allies for your ideas among those who disagree with you, but only if you look for areas of agreement. ... Disagreement is necessary for dialogue. Every opponent is a potential ally.
Exactly. I've never understood the demand for perfection and full alignment of some by others. Like I try to promote here; I don't have the perfect answer, but neither do you. Only through our discussions can we both work our way towards the truth somewhere between the two of us.

You need to build a network not just on the personal level in detail, but that is broad in scale;
7. Build an outside game and an inside game.

... To change a large bureaucracy, you’ll need to generate energy from the outside. In other words, you’ll have to help journalists, scholars, policy analysts and other independent voices explain how and why the bureaucracy is failing. However, that outside energy will merely disturb the bureaucracy. To change it, you’ll need to work inside the bureaucracy to channel that energy into productive reform.
There is a final note that hits home. Time moves way too fast.
10. Your time too shall pass.

One day, your name will be stricken from the active roles. You may get killed, you may get wounded, you may retire, you may resign. If you are fortunate enough to walk off the parade field, make sure you have someone and something waiting for you. Maybe that someone is your spouse, children or longtime friends. Maybe that something is a second vocation or an avocation. No matter how honorable your service, you are more than your service record.

Take joy in having served, and find a way to keep serving.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part LXXIV

In so many ways, things have gone sideways since I left Active Duty in 2009...

I started the "Long Game" series in 2004. Half a decade later when I left AD, this was what the PLAN's major surface combatant fleet looked like;

This is where the Chinese will have grown their navy 10-yrs later. You know ... next year.

There are a lot of bad arguments and concepts out there on why we need to get to a 350+ fleet. There are a few good ones. Sadly, from those who actually have the power to make it happen, we are not hearing an effective case for it.

All they really need to do it look what the Chinese have done in the 10 years from 2009 to 2019. 

Wait until you see what they have by 2029.

Why this graphic is not showing up on C-SPAN every time our Navy is discussed in the House and Senate, I don't know ... but no one is asking for my advice.

The PLAN will be more than just a porcupine at the other end of the Pacific.

We are in denial. The Chinese are not.

Hat tip SakaMobi.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Fullbore Friday

Do you know who Bill Slim is? You should. Maybe this will help.
Lieutenant-General Sir William Slim, KCB, CB, DSO, MC ("Bill") is 53, burly, grey and going a bit bald. His mug is large and weatherbeaten, with a broad nose, jutting jaw, and twinkling hazel eyes. He looks like a well-to-do West Country farmer, and could be one: For he has energy and patience and, above all, the man has common sense. However, so far Slim has not farmed. He started life as a junior clerk, once he was a school teacher, and then he became the foreman of a testing gang in a Midland engineering works. For the next 30 years Slim was a soldier.
A reader sent along a recommendation of Slim's book, Defeat Into Victory: Battling Japan in Burma and India, 1942-1945, and reading up on the man - someone who I only read about in passing - all I could think of is, "More Slim."

Talk about a Vince Lombardi of leadership. I could do a years worth of FbF on the guy - so I'm not going to get in to any specifics. Let me just give you a few things to ponder in order to have you do some of your own research.
He began at the bottom of the ladder as a Territorial private. August 4, 1914, found him at summer camp with his regiment. The Territorials were at once embodied in the Regular Army, and Slim got his first stripe as lance-corporal. A few weeks later he was a private again; the only demotion that this Lieutenant-General has suffered.
Field Marshall Viscount Slim was referred to by Admiral of the Fleet Earl Mountbatten, who was Supreme Allied Commander of Southeast Asia, as "the finest general World War II produced". After the war he was head of the Imperial General Staff, Britain’s top military post, from 1948 to 1952, and was governor general of Australia from 1952 to 1960. This article is reprinted from a 1945 issue of Phoenix, the South East Asia Command magazine.
Again - not just he accomplishments on the field of battle - but his thoughts on leadership demand thought. Nothing radical or new - but they need repeating and if you want to know what makes successful people successful, listen to what got them there.

Want to be successful? Start by benchmarking the best.
Officers are there to lead

Then Slim relates at one critical point in the retreat in a jungle clearing he came across a unit which was in a bad way. "I took one look at them and thought ‘My God, they’re worse than I supposed.’ Then I saw why. I walked round the corner of that clearing and I saw officers making themselves a bivouac. They were just as exhausted as their men, but that isn’t my point. Officers are there to lead. I tell you, therefore, as officers, that you will neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep, nor smoke, nor even sit down until you have personally seen that your men have done those things. If you will do this for them, they will follow you to the end of the world. And, if you do not, I will break you."

The General stepped down from the ammunition box and replaced his hat. The division rose as one man, and cheered him. A few weeks later, these troops were to cross the frontier river at the point Slim had led his indomitable, ragged rearguard three years before. They dug up the tank guns which the old army had buried there when they abandoned their tanks, and they used those guns to blast open the road to Mandalay.

The spirit which Slim breathed into that division, on that blue, sunny morning in Palel inspires the whole of the 14th Army. His victorious host has now marched back a thousand miles, planted its battle flags on the citadel of Mandalay and above the capitol city of Rangoon, killing 100,000 Japanese on the way. Their achievement must be attributed in large degree to the character of their Commander. Slim does not court popularity, and he hates publicity. But he inspires trust. The man cares deeply for his troops, and they are well aware that their well-being is his permanent priority. The 14th Army has never been out of his mind since that day nearly two years ago when Mountbatten appointed him to the command. Of the Mountbatten-Slim partnership history will record that it was one of the rock foundations of our Jungle Victory.

Slim talks little and swears less, but one day at Army Headquarters the roof lifted when he received a demand that mules should be installed in concrete floor stables in a training camp, well in the rear. "My men are sleeping on earth, and often on something worse. What’s good enough for British soldiers is good enough for mules of any nationality." Slim set his Army hard tasks, but none have been beyond their power. After the great battles of Imphal and Kohima, where five Japanese divisions were destroyed, Slim called on his exhausted soldiers to carry on relentless, final pursuit. "So great were the dividends that could accrue," he confesses, "that I asked for the impossible - and got it!

Slim affirms "that the fighting capacity of every unit is based upon the faith of soldiers in their leaders; that discipline begins with the officer and spreads downward from him to the soldier; that genuine comradeship in arms is achieved when all ranks do more than is required of them. ’There are no bad soldiers, only bad officers,’ is what Napoleon said, and though that great man uttered some foolish phrases, this is not one."

What has a soldier got, asks Slim, and answers it himself. "He has got his country, but that is far away. In battle, the soldier has only his sense of duty, and his sense of shame. These are the things which make men go on fighting even though terror grips their heart. Every soldier, therefore, must be instilled with pride in his unit and in himself, and to do this he must be treated with justice and respect."

Slim says that when he was in civvie street he saw men who were fathers of families cringing before a deputy-assistant-under-manager who had the power to throw them out of their jobs without any other reason than their own ill-temper or personal dislike. "That, at any rate, can’t happen in the Army," he declares. "You don’t have to cringe in the Army, though it’s true some incorrigible cringers do. In the Army you don’t have to go out to dinner with a man if you can’t stand the sight of him."
People like to make fun, Monty Python like, of British General Officers, shame though - almost all I read about are more like Slim.
From January to August 1944 a series of decisive battles was fought along the India-Burma border which resulted in the turning point for that theater of war. After two years of failure the Allies wrested the initiative from Japan and destroyed the myth of Japanese invincibility.

The Allies were successful despite a number of challenges, many self inflicted. The first challenge was to organize and resource defenses of the India-Burma border. The second challenge was to train the soldiers to fight in the jungle clad mountains that typified the area of operations. Inextricably tied to this was the challenge of moving and supplying forces in the rugged environment. Developing a feasible and acceptable plan despite the absence of a coherent theater strategy was the next challenge. This challenge was made more difficult by the complex and dysfunctional command relationships. Finally, there was the challenge of defeating an aggressive and fanatical enemy who had an unblemished record of success in the India-Burma Theater.

Fortunately, the Allies had an answer to these challenges in Lieutenant General William Slim. It was Slim who established the training program that taught the soldiers to fight in the jungle, developed the tactics and techniques to move and sustain forces in the arduous terrain, provided the leadership to overcome the dysfunctional command relationships, and unified the theater strategy. Finally, and most importantly, it was Slim who developed and executed the plan that drew in and defeated the Japanese 15th Army thereby setting the conditions for the successful re-conquest of Burma in 1945.

First posted Feb. 2012.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Off Yemen, the Future Speaks

Ignore the PPT.

Blow off the Beltway prophet.

Bind your mind instead to what is happening now.

This week, look to Yemen's main rebel held port.

I'm discussing over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and give it a read.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

When You're Weak in "M" & "E" - Push "D" & "I"

Ukraine is, was, and will be in a tough spot. Geography is as unkind to her as history is. 

She will never have a secure and friendly relationship with her big neighbor, Russia. The reasons could fill a small library, but she must try her best to remain independent and prosper in the modern world.

All you have to do is look at her per-capita GDP to see how far Ukraine has to go to even nibble at what some of her other Slavic neighbors have been able to achieve since the fall of the Iron Curtain (Ukraine $3,700; Serbia $15,200; Bulgaria $21,500; Poland $29,300). She is not an economic powerhouse.

Militarily, she is no match for the full force of Russia should she wish to use it.

As such, she needs to work the diplomatic and information fields of national power as much as possible in order to buy time for her to continue to evolve in to what she wants to become.

You can tell that she very much wants to be part of the West, and perhaps she can drift that way - but for now there are larger problems to deal with. Russia is unrelenting.

Ukraine's small navy will never be able to stand for long against Russia, but short of combat, there is much it can do to bring the attention of a busy world to what Russia is doing on her borders.
The blocking of the Mariupol and Berdiansk ports is already an act of aggression. ... According to Klymenko, the Ukrainian naval forces had to act more decisively toward the aggressor by attracting the attention of the international community.
"If there was an order from Kyiv, they could do more. For example, I would give such a mirror response. On May 21-23, Russia announced a large area south of Berdiansk closed for gunnery drills. I would have responded by declaring the area near Yeysk or Temryuk, or Kerch closed, i.e. where the Russian ships pass from Rostov through the Sea of Azov to the Kerch Strait," (Andriy Klymenko, editor-in-chief at BlackSeaNews) said.
A risky game ... but one she needs to think about - and a lesson about the various things a navy can be used for short of war.

Monday, June 11, 2018

British Frigates

Like all sensible people, I know each Monday you wish that you had the opportunity to start your week right by thinking about frigates.

Well, we have just the tonic for you. 

Though focused on the Royal Navy, the general concepts and discussion would be of interest to any navalist.

For example;
... (the challenge is) in delivering small, agile warships that meet the Royal Navy’s minimum baseline for a globally deployable combatant. However, this is about capabilities, not just costs – it is essential to ensure that our warships have a minimum capability, or else it is all a waste of money (or worse, a target).
That should get you to read more from a nice bit of work over at Verdigris.

Give it a full read.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Fullbore Friday


In 1940, Bedford, VA had a population of 3,973.
When the National Guard’s 116th Infantry Regiment was activated on February 3, 1941, Bedford bestowed its soldiers in Company A to their ranks. By D-Day in 1944, there were still 37 Bedford soldiers in that company which became part of the 1st Infantry Division.
They were slated for the D-day invasion.
“When Company A landed on target and on time at Dog Green beach – one of only a handful of units to do so – they received the fire intended for a much larger force. For Bedford, the result was especially devastating. Of 37 assigned to Company A, 31 loaded into a landing craft and headed for Omaha Beach in the first wave; the remainder belonged to supply details and would arrive later.

“En route, a landing craft struck an obstacle and sank, stranding dozens far from shore, including five of Bedford’s boys. The remaining 26 successfully reached Omaha Beach, where 16 were killed and 4 wounded within a matter of minutes. Three others were unaccounted for and later presumed killed in action.

“Another Bedford boy was killed in action elsewhere on Omaha Beach with Company F, bringing Bedford’s D-Day fatalities to a total of 20.”
20 out of 38. A 52.6% casualty rate, in one day.

Now upscale that. 20 is .5% of the city's 1940 population.

In 1940, Baltimore, MD had a population of 859,100. That same loss rate, in one day, for Baltimore would be 4,298.

No consider this, for those who grew up in a small town.

In Bedford, most went to high school together. Grew up together. Their families all knew each other.

They died for ... what? For whom?

That is war. That is why it is so horrible. That is why it must be avoided until there are no other options.

And it will always be with us.