Friday, January 15, 2021

Fullbore Friday

It is 1944 near Cagny in northern France. You are leading a section of two 33-ton M4 Sherman tanks when, all of a sudden, you find yourself facing a Panther, a Tiger I, an old Mark IV — and one70-ton King Tiger.

What does an army lieutenant do? Become a naval officer. From the excellent War History Online;

Gorman found himself at the top of a ridge, looking down at a field in which the German tanks were gathered. Only 900 feet (274 meters) of open ground stood between him and the feared Königstiger. He knew that if he didn’t act immediately, his two Sherman tanks would likely be taken out. This was when he decided to put a naval tactic to good use.

By then, the Germans had spotted the Shermans. The huge gun of the closest tank – the Königstiger – was swinging around to take them out. Gorman yelled out what must have sounded like an almost suicidal order: “Ram it!”

The Sherman (named “Ballyragget”) roared at full speed down the slope, propelled so fast by gravity and its own motor that it almost skidded out of control. But the maneuver worked. Before the Königstiger could take a shot at Ballyragget, the Sherman smashed into its rear at speed.

The collision incapacitated both tanks. The Germans, shocked by what had just happened, scrambled out of their tank with their hands up.

Although the Königstiger was knocked out of the fight, the three other German tanks were, unfortunately, still perfectly operational. They turned their guns on the other Sherman, commanded by Sergeant Harbinson.

Out in the open, without the element of surprise Gorman’s tank had exploited, the three German tanks pounded it with their main guns, killing three crew members and putting the Sherman out of action.

Gorman and his crew took the opportunity provided by this distraction to escape from their own disabled Sherman. They fled the field before they, too, could be shot.

However, Gorman was determined to destroy the remaining three German tanks. The wounded crew members of Harbinson’s tank had taken refuge in a nearby cornfield. After assuring them that he would return, Gorman struck out on his own.

At this point, the remaining German tanks fought back. Outnumbered, Gorman had no choice but to order a retreat.

He picked up Harbinson’s crew and returned to safety. Gorman was awarded the Military Cross for his action in taking out the tanks. Indeed, the Königstiger he incapacitated was still there a year later.

Sir John Reginald Gorman CVO, CBE, MC, DL, Captain, British Army (Ret.)


Thursday, January 14, 2021

Diversity Thursday

Are you ready for what is coming? I hope you are, because the diversity industry is tanned, rested, and ready - and in most places already well down their lines of operation.

They have the wind at their back. Have you researched the beliefs of the person set to take over the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice?

Those who, like me, believe that the most divisive thing you can do to a diverse republic is to set up a spoils system based on race, creed, color or national origin have not been fighting hard enough. Too many of those who should be our natural allies have surrendered high ground after high ground because they convinced themselves that, "it isn't worth fighting for." As a result, the commissariat holds most of the high ground, and those in our camp are surrounded. 

If we do not take each person as an individual, and instead drive people in to sectarian camps, all we will have is strife and division.

We need confidence. In 2021, the position of equality and fairness for all should be an easy sell. It is the right sell, but it needs advocates. It is worth fighting for 

We simply cannot rely on political, business, and institutional leaders to champion what is right. They are scared more than individual people.

We will have to fight each battle locally ... and more people are - even where you would least expect it.

The left has always been after your children. As they have had the educational system in their control for decades, this is expected. 

It appears that Cupertino, California has had enough.

It wasn't easy for these parents to stand up - but in many ways, they did not have a choice.

An elementary school in Cupertino, California—a Silicon Valley community with a median home price of $2.3 million—recently forced a class of third-graders to deconstruct their racial identities, then rank themselves according to their “power and privilege.” 

... a third-grade teacher at R.I. Meyerholz Elementary School began the lesson on “social identities” during a math class. The teacher asked all students to create an “identity map,” listing their race, class, gender, religion, family structure, and other characteristics. The teacher explained that the students live in a “dominant culture” of “white, middle class, cisgender, educated, able-bodied, Christian, English speaker[s],” who, according to the lesson, “created and maintained” this culture in order “to hold power and stay in power.”
An elementary school in Cupertino, California—a Silicon Valley community with a median home price of $2.3 million—recently forced a class of third-graders to deconstruct their racial identities, then rank themselves according to their “power and privilege.” 

Based on whistleblower documents and parents familiar with the session, a third-grade teacher at R.I. Meyerholz Elementary School began the lesson on “social identities” during a math class. The teacher asked all students to create an “identity map,” listing their race, class, gender, religion, family structure, and other characteristics. The teacher explained that the students live in a “dominant culture” of “white, middle class, cisgender, educated, able-bodied, Christian, English speaker[s],” who, according to the lesson, “created and maintained” this culture in order “to hold power and stay in power.”
3rd graders.
“We were shocked,” said one parent, who agreed to speak with me on condition of anonymity. “They were basically teaching racism to my eight-year-old.” 
Here's the kicker;
...despite being 94 percent nonwhite, Meyerholz Elementary is one of the most privileged schools in America. The median household income in Cupertino is $172,000, and nearly 80 percent of residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher. At the school, where the majority of families are Asian-American, the students have exceptionally high rates of academic achievement and the school consistently ranks in the top 1 percent of all elementary schools statewide. 
They are teaching young kids that a small racial minority in their universe are inherently bad people.

We've seen this movie before. The nature of the minority doesn't matter, it never has, but the part of the brain stem the race obsessed diversity bullies are waking up is the source of much of human history's misery.
One parent told me that critical race theory was reminiscent of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. “[It divides society between] the oppressor and the oppressed, and since these identities are inborn characteristics people cannot change, the only way to change it is via violent revolution,” the parent said. “Growing up in China, I had learned it many times. The outcome is the family will be ripped apart; husband hates wife, children hate parents. I think it is already happening here.”
This is not isolated. This is already probably in your kids' schools, your businesses, and your government. Until a few months ago, it was deep in your military ... but it will be back, soon.

Critical race theory or any effort to get Americans to identify not as American, but as self-selected sectarian groupings and then told that they are pitted against each other for finite resources ... is evil.

Fight it where you can. Slow roll it where you can't.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

How do You Say, "Cowabunga" in Mandarin?

You know about The Long Game, you know about comparative shipbuilding numbers between the USN and the PLAN ... but have you seen the pictures?

Behold the graphs I've put over at USNIBlog.

Regulars here will not be shocked ... but if anyone tells you all is well in WESTPAC, they are fools or think you are one.

Check it out.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

CNO is Heading in the Right Direction

Gina Harkins over at Military Times yesterday has some great quotes from CNO Gilday. He is saying things most readers here will be happy with. 

It would have been ideal for a CNO 10-12 years ago to have said most of the following – because it was as true then as it is now – but we’ll take today over another decade’s wait. 

We need to look for action and follow through, but this is all very sound stuff;

"I don't mean to be dramatic, but I feel like, if the Navy loses its head, if we go off course and we take our eyes off those things we need to focus on ... I think we may not be able to recover in this century," Gilday told reporters Friday, ahead of the document's release. "Based on the trajectory that the Chinese are on right now -- and again, I don't mean to be dramatic -- I just sense that this is not a decade that we can afford to lose ground."
The Long Game is real and we are reaping what the Age of Transformationalism sowed. We cannot fix the errors of the past, but we can change the direction we are heading in now as we set up for the future. 
We have not just lost a decade, in a very real sense we lost the better part of two if you want to be picky. However, a decade ago it was clear what the errors were in the first decade of the 21st Century, it just took a decade for it to soak its way up to the top. 

More evidence that we “get it;”
"... I am more interested in getting it right in a deliberate fashion than I am getting it fast."
I take that to mean a greater respect for technology risk and throwing away the snake oil of “jumping generations” and all that crap. The above comment is especially good as it takes aim at those who, either ignorant of the past or arrogantly thinking it no longer applies, were heading full speed in a Transformationalist mindset that begat LCS and DDG-1000 with unmanned systems. The technology is just not mature enough, from engineering to weaponeering. 

We have a lot more testing to do.
Buying large numbers of unmanned vessels by the mid-2020s is "unrealistic," Gilday told reporters. Instead, by the end of the decade, sailors "must have a high degree of confidence and skill operating alongside proven unmanned platforms at sea," he said.
Exactly. We also seem to be taking a few bites of crow and returning to our core competencies;
"This includes divestment of experimental Littoral Combat Ship hulls, legacy Cruisers, and older Dock Landing Ships," he wrote. "It also includes divesting non-core Navy missions like Aegis-ashore. Transferring shore-based Ballistic Missile Defense sites to ground forces enables Sailors to focus on their core missions at sea and frees up resources to increase our lethality."
FREEDOM Class LCS should be mothballed as soon as practical. That and the other steps will allow us to re-capture Sailors towards higher value uses of their time and talents. No, it won’t be easy … and neither will the money;
"It may not be as smooth of transition as everybody wants," he said, "... [but] we need to divest from some of these capabilities that are becoming very expensive to maintain." The Navy is transforming at a time when military leaders are bracing for possible budget constraints. Gilday said he doesn't expect any sort of plus-up. President-elect Joe Biden has acknowledged that the military is facing threats it hasn't seen since the Cold War, but slammed President Donald Trump for abandoning fiscal discipline when it came to defense spending.
Will everyone please stop using the “T” word, except when used ironically or as an insult? Thanks. 

In addition to money, the last 10-20 years has seen a lot of wasted money, personal/professional capital, and warfighting ability because … our leaders decided other things were more important – or they just were well meaning people who had the wrong approach. Either way, we are … no kidding here … out of time.
…Gilday said there is no time to waste in pushing ahead with … investments in public shipyards, dry docks, maintenance facilities and aviation depots that he says are overdue for upgrades.
That last bit – the “unsexy but important” is something we can and should do immediately. It looks like that is the plan. 

Actions we must do now; stop double-pumping. Stop more than 6-month deployments. That wasn’t addressed in the article … but I thought I throw it in here for good measure. 

Good words; let’s see action.

Crossposted to substack.

Monday, January 11, 2021

A Habsburg plan for Europe

Though I blend in well with the populations of Europe who have ready access to the North Sea, my bloodline has been unconnected to Europe for four centuries.

I am an unalloyed North American, yet as our culture is an offshoot of Europe, I keep an eye on the goings on there. You have to as Europe continues to be a source of conflict. Their waring ethno-states generate more national security problems than can be consumed internally.

That manages to bring North America in to their scrimmages.

Beyond and more impactful today than military , Europe is a source for trends that impact cultural, social, economic, and military change throughout the globe. China is trying to change that, but there is a long way to go for them to get there, if ever.

For those in alignment with me, I encourage you to read, in full, the English translation of Karl von Habsburg (yes, that Habsburg, the head of Head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine) New Years "Speech on the Future of Europe." 

His family has been at the heart of the European project for the better part of a thousand years and remains influential for a whole host of reasons.

Ideas matter, especially European ideas. I know that is an unfashionable thing to say in today's intellectually fetid and self-deceiving environment, but it is true. 

The 20th Century was dominated by two horrible European ideas that were rooted in the late 19th Century, Communism and Fascism. Both those blood soaked socio-political movements are still with us, but in a much degraded and less dangerous form as the 20th Century efforts of both showed their less than ideal reality.

We are in the third decade of the 21st Century, and we should keep an eye on where the European project is going. BREXIT caused, rightfully, an ongoing reassessment of what they are doing to promote trade, standards of living, and security in peace as opposed to fruitless cycles of internal wars. 

Good people can argue which form European integration should take, but neither extreme - full disaggregation on one end or United States of Europe on the other - are optimal. An aggressive pursuit of the later will bring about the former, so if one wants a closer Europe - how does one get there?

Few families have more of a history - and as a result have thought the most about how it has failed in the past - than the Habsburgs. 

Somewhere between the two extremes of the European project is a middle way. Karl Habsburg has ideas closer to full integration than not, but it represents a solid starting point for discussion. There is a lot here for an outsider to agree with on its logic and long-term soundness.

Below are a few pull-quotes for you to consider. Solid work;

Today, the focus is on the integration of the six countries in South-Eastern Europe that are not yet EU members. In its latest reports on enlargement, the EU Commission rightly states that the admission of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia to the EU is a „geostrategic investment in peace, security and economic growth throughout Europe“. 

You have to respect a Habsburg going early to the Balkans. It is what it is for Europe, and at some point needs to be resolved to the advantage of all.

The geostrategic importance of the region is clear to anyone familiar with its history. And in politics there is no vacuum . If Europe withdraws from the region, there will be all the more room for other powers to advance their interests in Southeast Europe. 

In addition to actors like Russia and Turkey who have been connected to the region and its politics throughout history, today above all China but also Saudi Arabia for instance with its Wahabism exert massive influence. The interests of these actors do not coincide with European security policy interests.

Yes, he names names. Absolutely solid. I also greatly respect his acknowledgement of the historic and modern threat to Europe from fundamentalist Islamic forces.

Europe itself must formulate and defend its own security interests.

And when I mention Russia and China, it is clear that this is primarily a matter of geopolitical interests. This should also be borne in mind by those EU member states that keep blocking this enlargement out of mostly petty national or even nationalistic interests.

I have read a quote, and my googlefu is failing me to give proper credit, perhaps it was Bismarck, that says, "In a game of five, it is best to be one of the three." A united Europe can play economically and diplomatically in a world of China, India, USA, and Russia. Divided? Notsomuch.

But we must also look to the East, where a country like Ukraine with the Euromaidan or the so-called Revolution of Dignity has made it clear that its citizens see their future in Europe rather than under Russian dominance. Undoubtedly there still are major problems in all these countries regarding, for instance, the rule of law and corruption, but they are European countries nevertheless. Anyone who takes European unification seriously must make it possible for every European country to join the European Union. That is why I also advocate upgrading the current neighbourhood policy towards Ukraine into a concrete accession perspective policy.
Even though the European perspective is of no real relevance in the democracy movement in Belarus, it is our duty to support this democracy movement wherever possible. If Europe, if the EU emphasises the rule of law and democracy the way it does, these principles must also apply towards Belarus.

In the long to medium run, this is true. To get there, Europe - specifically Germany - must make sure it cannot be subject to Russian hydrocarbon blackmail. Right now it is going in the opposite direction.

The below is why Europe is, and will remain, a natural ally of North and South America. North America especially is a nation based on the European Enlightenment. South America less so, but is getting there.

We share these ideals on balance - China and Russia do not.

... the rule of law indeed was right there at the beginning of the European idea.


Another essential element of European identity is freedom. Let me quote Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi: „The European ideal is freedom – European history is one slow struggle for personal, spiritual, national and social freedom. Europe will exist for as long as it continues this fight; as soon as it abandons this ideal and becomes unfaithful to its mission, it loses its soul, its meaning, its existence. Then its historical role in history will have come to an end.“

European unification, however, European politics should not aim to bring an end to Europe’s historical role, but to make use of it!

Freedom is not a given. Freedom must be won again and again. Freedom is inseparably linked to responsibility. And we cannot delegate this responsibility for freedom to the state.

To define the concept of freedom, I have to resort to the English language for it has two terms for what we call freedom: Liberty and Freedom. Both terms refer to different things. A good definition comes from Murray Rothbard, a classic representative of the Austrian School of Economics. He said: „Living in Liberty allows each of us to fully enjoy our Freedom“. In other words, only when we live in an external system of freedom can we actually enjoy and live out our inner freedom. Liberty in  English means the external construct of freedom, that is what actually creates freedom for us, while Freedom means inner freedom. For example, the freedom to think what I want. The inner freedom that no one can actually take away from me. Enjoying this inner freedom requires an external construct. It is also quite clear that implementing this concept of external freedom, Liberty, is one of the most important tasks of politics.

What got me hooked on Habsburg's work - besides his quote from Murray Rothbard, was his willingness to speak what is in many political areas, unspeakable.

 And it will be necessary to master one of the biggest obstacles to unanimity – that obstacle is the indebtedness of public budgets.

That applies to the USA as well. 

Crossposted to substack.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Navy's Problems and a Plan to Fix Them, with Bryan McGrath - on Midrats


There is one area of agreement among navalists, the US Navy is beset with a whole series of hard, long building problems, ignored for too long. Many, including our highest ranking uniformed leadership, seem incapable of not only acknowledging them, but coming up with a plan to address them.

As we enter 2021 and the third decade of the 21st Century, what are our greatest challenges, and what are some steps we can take to start the process of meeting them?

Returning to Midrats this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss this and related issues he raised in this recent article, The Navy Has Problems and Must Be Bold to Fix Them, will be Bryan McGrath, CDR USN (Ret.), Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC defense consultancy.

Bryan grew up in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, and graduated from the University of Virginia in 1987. He was commissioned upon graduation in the United States Navy, and served as a Surface Warfare Officer until his retirement in 2008. At sea, he served primarily in cruisers and destroyers, rising to command of the Destroyer USS BULKELEY (DDG 84). During his command tour, he won the Surface Navy Association’s Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Award for Inspirational Leadership, and the BULKELEY was awarded the USS ARIZONA Memorial Trophy signifying the fleet’s most combat ready unit. Ashore, Bryan enjoyed four tours in Washington DC, including his final tour in which he acted as Team Leader and primary author of our nation’s 2007 maritime strategy entitled “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.”

Since retirement, Bryan has become active in presidential politics, serving first as the Navy Policy Team lead for the Romney Campaign in 2012, and then as the Navy and Marine Corps Policy lead for the Rubio Campaign in 2016.

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.

Friday, January 08, 2021

Two Kind of Leaders

Since I started reading military history when I was ... well ... able to read ... there have been two types of leaders that I have always found interesting at moments when all is lost. One represents the worst example, and one is the best.

When I say, “all is lost,” I'm not talking about fighting retreats or "Horatius at the Bridge" situations when forces are engaged in holding actions to buy time, but those moments when defeat is a forgone conclusion. There is no real hope for victory but a leader has to make decisions as to what they are willing to do and sacrifice - not just themselves, but for those they lead.

If they decide to continue to fight or carry out their duties in spite of the inevitable, what do they do and how do they lead the forces under their command? Where do they place their desires/duty to themselves versus the responsibility for those who they lead, those who believe in them and trust them?

Tough situations, I believe, don't build character - they reveal character. In this extreme situation, the character of a leader is revealed in clear, stark contrast.

With that foundation, let's explore a small subset of leadership examples, with a focus on a war inside the edge of living memory; WWII.

Let's start with one example of the bad leader: Admiral Seiichi Itō, Imperial Japanese Navy.

Itō was the leader of Operation Ten-Go, the suicide run of the battleship Yamato with her escort of a light cruiser and eight destroyers. While one can take in to considerations his culture as an excuse, the record shows that he knew this was suicidal. He opposed the mission at first, but then agreed to lead it. This was about his honor, his duty and it appears, his death. Though Japanese, he was an educated, modern man of the mid-20th Century. It is fair to judge him by modern standards. As a senior leader, he knew what few of the people who served under him knew; the war was lost and there was no chance for success. Only a fool say success for the mission at even a tactical level, much less on operational or strategic one. As a result, over 4,000 Japanese Sailors died with him in a vain, inglorious display of false-military honor. Nothing could be gained. Only senior leaders' vanity fed. Itō in his last moment of power, in a radiant moment of sociopathic narcissism, got his "warrior's death" - but needlessly clawed over 4,000 lives down with him; lives dedicated to their duty to trust and follow their leader.

Now the good leader, Kapitän zur See Hans Langsdorff, Kriegsmarine.

Langsdorff fought the good fight in the South Atlantic alone as Captain of the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee. In the Battle of the River Plate against the  Royal Navy cruisers HMS Exeter, Ajax and Achilles, he retired with his damaged ship to the neutral port of Montevideo, Uruguay. Damaged, far from home and trapped by the Royal Navy, he had limited options given the information he had at the time. He could try to fight his way out where, even if he succeeded, it was very unlikely his damaged ship would survive the trip back to friendly waters. He could also find some way to preserve life and honor. Of his roughly 1,100 Sailors under his command, he already had 96 killed, less than the British. In spite of what was coming from Berlin, he put all but a skeleton crew ashore and got underway to scuttle the Graff Spee in the estuary of the River Plate. Sadly and unnecessarily, he committed suicide alone, but he did not take those who trusted him, followed him, and believed in him, on some mindless death charge. He knew his cause was lost, had his own sense of duty, but he also had an understanding that part of being a leader is to look after your Sailors. Your Sailors will fight with you and die with you - willingly - but all they ask of a leader is to make sure it is not in vain.

Arrogance. Vanity. Honor. Duty. Morals. Ethics. Laws. 

Leadership is hard and there is nuance in difficult situations, but at least for me there is one foundational concept of a good leader - humility.

Humility requires self-reflection of your place, mindset, motivations, and responsibilities. All leaders have a bit of arrogance as well - we are humans - and optimistic confidence. If not leavened with humility, it drifts in to the darkest areas of the human condition. 

History should and usually does harshly judge leaders who by acts of commission or omission lead their followers in to vain, pointless, and destructive actions that are hopeless and provide no reasonable chance of gain, good, or value from sacrifice of life, liberty, or future prosperity.

One does not have to go to war for examples of good or bad leaders.  We can find them in our personal, professional, and even political worlds.

Finally, if you think this post is related to Trump, you're right. It is. In inciting the radical fringe of his supporters through his reckless behavior and words, he firmly put himself in the Itō category. He betrayed his followers. He betrayed his office. He will be judged harshly by history, and he has no one but himself to blame.