Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Alexander Visits West Point

Elizabeth Samet, author and English Professor at West Point has a superb article out, When is War Over. You can add this to our discussion on the proper education of the military laeder.

The entire article is well worth a full read; the below pull quote gets the mood right.
Major Portis is a practitioner, a man valued in military culture for his experience, but he came back to West Point to teach because he so forcefully believes in the necessity of studying with depth and care the stories of others to fill in the inevitable gaps in our experience. One of my students told him that the visit had given him some new perspective on the literature we were reading, but at the same time that literature was now helping the major to understand his war. Major Portis alluded to several things he wished he’d known before deploying.

Had he read accounts of Alexander’s march over the narrow passes of the Hindu Kush, he might have had an even richer appreciation for the challenges of operating in these mountains, especially in the winter. Had he read Babur’s 16th-century description of the region’s silver and lapis lazuli in “Baburnama,” he might have understood more readily the predicament of the Afghan miners who arrived at Keating attempting to sell stones for a song when the bottom fell out of the gem market. Had he read from the “Shahnameh,” he might have been more fully prepared for the diversity of religious rituals and cultural practices that characterizes this region.

AMERICANS love to start over. Those old epics Horace described, which begin in medias res, are not for us. An enthusiasm for fresh starts and opening gambits is elemental to our sense of ourselves as exceptional: the authors of an entirely new book. We are, perhaps constitutionally, ill prepared whenever we find ourselves in the middle of someone else’s story and more than a little reluctant to admit the ways in which an encounter with that story potentially works changes in us. Yet when we cannot “make it new,” we are forced to determine more precisely what compromise we can achieve, what price we are willing to pay for it, and what constitutes an end.

Alexander’s conquest looms large in the “Shahnameh.” Alexander is sufficiently self-aware to understand the vanity of his quest but unable to turn back: “I see that I’m to be / Hurried about the world perpetually, / And that I’ll never know another fate. / Than this incessant, wandering, restless state!” Asked repeatedly by the rival rulers he encounters what he wants in the end, Alexander finds it increasingly difficult to come up with an answer. There’s an insight here into the psychology of long campaigns, which tend to exhaust our ability to make sense of them.

As Major Portis circulated green tea and almonds around the seminar table, just as his Afghan hosts had done for him in Nuristan five years before, I began to think that the first step toward seeing the end is to come to terms with what it means to be right in the middle.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Hagel: It wasn't fun while it lasted

SECDEF Hagel throws In the towel. He was brought in as an "I told you so" victory lap as Obama showed that Bushitler's wars were results of his bloodthirsty Haliburtontrilateralcommissionzionism. 

Well, the Islamic State rose and all the work we did in Afghanistan was thrown away and threatens to create the conditions for another Islamic State's rise. 

Wrong man with the wrong ideas at the wrong time. A good man though, just wrong. Who will replace him? I hope someone good. Just look at the horrors how that is the White House Nat/Sec team.

UPDATE:

Little Nations Show how it is Done, Again

How do you do small-ish ships right?

Well ... I am green with envy, because our friend Chris Cavas has spent some time on a class of ship we should have instead of the Little Crappy Ship.

I give you the ABSALON derived IVER HUITFELDT-class frigate, Nils Juel NILES JUEL.

At 6,000 tons, she is right between the LCS and DDG-51. It really should be a DD, but I won't quibble - she is unquestionably built right;
The Danes claim Nils Juel and its sister ships were built for US $325 million apiece — an impressive accomplishment for a ship displacing more than 6,600 tons, fitted with a sophisticated combat and communications suite, armed with Standard, Evolved Sea Sparrow and Harpoon missiles, 76mm and 35mm guns, torpedoes and a helicopter, able to cut the waters at 30 knots and travel more than 9,000 nautical miles without refueling.

The price tag is often compared with the $440 million per-unit cost of the smaller US Navy littoral combat ship, which rises to well over $600 million apiece when the average cost of the LCS mission modules is factored in.
Of note, one of those 76-mm mounts is designed to take a 127mm (5-in) gun giving her a diverse, redundant, and effective multi-mission gun system.

Oh,
most of the ship’s lower decks were designed by Maersk, one of the world’s largest shipping companies, with a focus on efficient, robust designs that are easy to maintain.

“The basic design is a Maersk design, with a hull similar to a container ship,” said Cmdr. Christian Horsted, the ship’s executive officer. “Things are very orderly, very well-arranged. It looks like the people who designed the ships have designed a lot of ships.”

Horsted pointed to the bridge and machinery room arrangements, which leave room to add improvements. “Things are really set up right,” he said, looking up at half-filled overhead wire ways. “The cabling runs leave lots of room for extra wiring for more sensors whenever they’re added.”
Did I say multi-mission? In addition to the guns;
- 4 x VLS with up to 32 SM-2 IIIA surface-to-air missiles (Mk 41 VLS)
- 2 × VLS with up to 24 RIM-162 ESSM (Mk 56 VLS)
- 8-16 × Harpoon Block II SSM
- 2 × dual MU90 Impact ASW torpedo launchers
And she can take a full sized helo.

Check out both the linked articles by Chris - he has more photos than just the two I stole to post here.

Reminder, Denmark is a nation of only a bit more than 5-million. Why aren't we building something like this - a nation of over 300-million more souls? If you didn't catch yesterday's Midrats with Bryan Clark - we talked about it a bit - but I think you already know the answer.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Commanding the Seas; the Surface Force with Bryan Clark from CSBA - on Midrats



How do we build the future surface fleet to ensure our forces maintain the ability to access to all regions of the world's oceans that our vital to our national interests?

Our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss this and the broader issues related to our surface forces will be Bryan Clark, Senior Fellow at Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).

A basis for our conversation will be his recent study for CSBA, Commanding the Seas: A Plan to reinvigorate U.S. Navy Surface Warfare, where he articulates the operational concept of “offensive sea control” as the new central idea to guide evolution of the U.S. surface force. This idea would refocus large and small surface combatant configuration, payloads and employment on sustaining the surface force’s ability to take and hold areas of ocean by destroying threats to access such as aircraft, ships and submarines rather than simply defending against their missiles and torpedoes.

Prior to joining CSBA in 2013, Bryan Clark was Special Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations and Director of his Commander’s Action Group.

He served in the Navy headquarters staff from 2004 to 2011, leading studies in the Assessment Division and participating in the 2006 and 2010 Quadrennial Defense Reviews. His areas of emphasis were modeling and simulation, strategic planning and institutional reform and governance. Prior to retiring from the Navy in 2007, he was an enlisted and officer submariner, serving in afloat and ashore including tours as Chief Engineer and Operations Officer at the Navy’s nuclear power training unit.

Mr. Clark holds a Master of Science in National Security Studies from the National War College and a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Philosophy from the University of Idaho.

Join us live if you can with the usual suspects in the chat room and offer up your questions for our guest, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio

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.


Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fullbore Friday

I'm still on a nautical WWI kick. An encore FbF.

What is duty? What can leadership accomplish? What is the ultimate price one pays for the two? What is your measure? How do you measure? Is your crew ready when the call comes? Are you ready?

While we are at it - tell me what is really "new" and "revolutionary" and "unknown" about asymmetrical warfare at sea?

Back to the old school - a story almost beyond belief, the
SMS Konigsberg.
With Captain Max Looff in command, SMS Konigsberg sailed out of Kiel on the 25th. of April in 1914, she passed through the Mediterranean, passaged the Suez canal, stopping at Aden, where her Captain even dined there with the British Governor, all very civil in time of peace, but even the , war clouds were looming on the horizon.

The cruiser made it to Matzetumbe, outside the port of Dar-es-Salaam by the 6th. of June 1914.
...
The Austrian Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in Serbia on the 29th. of June...Captain Looff received the code word EGIMA, meaning his country was at war with England, now Konigsberg became the hunter.

First Blood.
On the 6th. of August 1914, the British SS City of Winchester was in the Gulf of Aden, making her way to London, She was crammed full of general cargo, including the 1st. of India's seasonal tea crop. Her Captain, George Boyak, now found his ship in company with a cruiser, which he thought was British, searchlights lit up his command, and he was asked by signal lamp " What ship and nationality?" He dutifully responded with the ship's name and port of registry, but was then ordered to stop.

The arrival on board of a German Naval Officer with his boarding party made the Captain suddenly realise his ship was now part of history, the first British ship to be captured by Germany in WW1, and the first victim of the Raider Konigsberg.
...
The afternoon tide of the 19th. of September carried Konigsberg out to sea, and she set a course for Zanzibar. The following morning she destroyed the Channel Pilot Boat off the harbour entrance, and Pegasus came within range at 9,000 yards, and the German ship opened fire. Within 20 minutes the British cruiser was down by her bows and giving off heavy smoke. Looff made good his escape heading back out to sea, and a broken piston rod crosshead in one of the ship's main engines forced her Captain to return to the Rufiji Delta...Two days after Konigsberg had sunk Pegasus, the German cruiser Emden ( a sister ship to Konigsberg ) had boldly steamed into the harbour of British Madras and bombarded it. The British had now had enough, and the 5,400 ton Royal Navy cruisers Chatham, Weymouth, and Dartmouth, were all sent out on a find and destroy mission seeking out Konigsberg.
When Chatham stopped and searched the German ship Prasident, she found orders to ship coal out to the Rufiji Delta, then on the afternoon of the 20th. of October a landing party from the British cruiser was combing this Delta area. A sailor shinned up a tree, and was able to detect the disguised masts of both Konigsberg and Somali poking up through the forest canopy. Chatham promptly called up her sister ships, and the blockade began.

The attack begins.
On the 2nd. of November the three British ships commenced their bombardment, but Looff promptly moved his two ships 2 miles further upstream. A few days later, Somali was hit by Chatham's gunfire, set alight, to soon become a total loss, one down and one to go! On the 9th. a British freighter Newbridge was sunk as a block ship in the mouth of the Ssuninga channel, but really to no effect, as Konigsberg never was able to obtain enough coal for her to make a dash for the open sea.
...
The British went about very systematrically charting all of the cruiser's defences, and two shallow draft River Monitors, Severn and Mersey were sent off on their way to the Delta where they finally arrived in June of 1915.
...
At 0645 ( 6.45 AM ) the Monitors opened fire at a range of 10,000 yards, and soon after the German cruiser responded with return fire, and by 0740 ( 7.40 AM ) she had gained two hits on Mersey who was forced to retire, leaving Severn to continue the assault, she opened the range another 1,000 yards. Although the rather incredible number of British rounds fired added up to 635 from their 6 inch guns, only 3 of them actually struck Konigsberg.
...
Now four days of quietness descended on the scene, but early on Sunday morning of the 11th. of July, British aircraft circled Konigsberg, to announce a renewal of the action.

By 1115 ( 11.15 AM ) the Monitors had entered the River, and within 30 minutes the German ship opened fire with four guns of her main armament, but she could not match the rate of fire from the Monitors who began to score hits along her entire length. In addition, the German was short of ammunition, her middle funnel was brought down, smoke poured from her hollow mast, a fire started close to the forward magazine, by 1300 ( 1. PM ) Konigsberg was lost.

Abandon Ship was ordered, and the crew scrambled down the ship's side, taking their wounded with them. Shells from the Monitors continued to pour into the stricken German cruiser. First Officer Koch placed torpedo heads in position to blow out the ship's keel, and at 1400 ( 2 PM ) on the 11th. of July 1915, these heads detonated, SMS Konigsberg heaved slightly, then with a roar, the hull blasted apart, she heeled over to port, and sank into the ooze of the Rifiji River.
...
Konigsberg armament salvaged.
The Germans quickly salvaged the ten main armament guns from their stricken cruiser, to use them in the East African land campaign. In Dar-es-Salaam workshops, gun carriages were fashioned to carry these Naval guns, now formed into land artillery.

Fate of the crew from Konigsberg.
From the original crew of 350 Officers and Sailors, only Captain Max Loof and 14 others survived WW1, to eventually return home to Germany.

Conclusion.
This rather bizarre chapter in the early part of WW1, stage in the more remote region of German East Africa, proved that a resourceful Captain Looff, and his crew could tie up more formidable enemy forces for many months before sheer numbers overcame his resistance. An intriguing story from a now distant past.

By a strange twist of fate, two 4 inch guns from Konigsberg have survived today, one is in Mombasa, and the second in Pretoria. The Mombasa gun sits close to one salvaged from the British Cruiser Pegasus, in WW1 each ship fought against each other at Zanzibar, now the two guns peacefully coexist side by side.
You SUPPOs and CHENGs should read the whole thing - and it is a good example of how the British took one bit of carelessly kept information to their advantage, for you N2 types. What a story.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

And now, we test the built in safety system ...

Just one short note about the President's speech tonight.

I'm not all that excited or fevered over it. The founders of this nation did their best to build a constitutional republic based on the rule of law.

They built the system we have fully expecting that there would be those who would abuse their power and not work within the constitutional system in order to get things done that they like, because the can't force the system to work for them.

This is one of those extra-constitutional moments. It is what you get when you elect people such as President Obama.

We have two other branches of government who are now charged to be the anti-bodies to excess and overreach.

Let them work. If the antibodies do their job, the system will, as designed, fix the problem. If they do not function, then the republic takes one more step towards death.

Republics have a tendency to do that eventually, die. Our founders, who studied in detail failed republics in the past, tried to design a system of republican governance that would have safety systems in place to stop past errors from coming up.

To work though, it takes an informed people and politicians who are people of good character and good will.

So, let's see what happens.

I have faith in the Constitution I swore an oath to. I support its system, and if it works - great. If not, then we have a very interesting few years to go.

Diversity Thursday

This is progress.
Today, the Project on Fair Representation announces the filing of two lawsuits challenging the racial preference admissions policies of Harvard and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

The complaints can be found at www.studentsforfairadmissions.org.

The plaintiff in both lawsuits—Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA)— is a newly-formed, nonprofit, membership organization whose members include highly qualified students recently denied admission to both schools, highly qualified students who plan to apply to both schools, and their parents.

The Harvard lawsuit alleges the university is engaging in a campaign of invidious discrimination by strictly limiting the number of Asian Americans it will admit each year and by engaging in racial balancing year after year. These discriminatory policies in college admissions are expressly forbidden by the Fourteenth Amendment and federal civil rights laws.

Students for Fair Admission's complaint highlights data and analysis that strongly suggests that white, African-American, and Hispanic applicants are given racial preferences over better qualified Asian-Americans applying for admission to Harvard.

Additionally, the complaint demonstrates that Harvard is not in compliance with the new "strict scrutiny" standards articulated in 2013 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. The Fisher opinion unambiguously requires schools to implement race-neutral means to achieve student body diversity before turning to racial classifications and preferences.

The UNC-Chapel Hill lawsuit alleges that, like Harvard, the University is not in compliance with the new Fisher strict scrutiny requirements. Students for Fair Admissions explains in its complaint that UNC has admitted in an amicus brief it submitted to the Supreme Court in the Fisher case that the school can maintain, and actually increase, racial diversity through race-neutral means if it ends its race-based affirmative action policies. Students for Fair Admissions argues that this compels the university to end its racial classifications and preferences and adopt some combination of race-neutral policies instead.

The discrimination against Asian-Americans at Harvard and both schools' blatant failure to comply with recent Supreme Court directives with regard to race preferences are emblematic of the behavior of the vast majority of competitive colleges throughout the country. Because of this, Students for Fair Admissions asserts in its complaints that racial classifications and preferences in college admissions are inadministratable; a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and federal civil rights laws; and must be ended as a matter of policy and law.
This is how you fight it. Drag it out in to the light where it cannot survive.

Sad thing is - the military used to be at the cutting edge of race relations - now we are seem to be stuck in the Nixon Administration. It should simply be, "Shall not discriminate on the base of race, creed, color or national origin." Should be, but isn't.

Soon.