Monday, February 28, 2011

Soft power, or flaccid power?

As an already dangerous nation started to disintegrate last week, I heard it first from Charles Krauthammer - the phrase that always comes up when something nasty turns towards our people or a national interest - "where are our carriers."

I don't know about you, but I count
this as a moment of national shame last week. The world's greatest naval power, its citizens in danger and need evacuation by sea - and our answer is ....
After a two-day wait in the Tripoli harbor followed by a rough eight-hour crossing, more than 300 evacuees from Libya landed here on Friday night on a high-speed ferry chartered by the United States government.

The United States hired the ferry Maria Dolores after commercial flights from Tripoli could not keep up with demand. The Tripoli airport was overwhelmed, with as many as 10,000 people waiting to leave the country, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

But the catamaran ferry remained docked in the Tripoli harbor for two days until rough waters and winds subsided enough for it to depart.

“It was a terrible crossing with very big waves,” said Tammi Shreve, from Florida, who teaches at the American School in Tripoli. But she said that the passengers had rallied and stuck together, and that the United States Embassy had taken good care of them.
Yes, I know the argument that the American military presence would be destabilizing - but I just say it is wrong headed in the extreme.

At this touchy moment - letss not even talk about which ship is where. What the Big E is doing and not. If there is a CSG and an ESG in the Gulf of Sidra or the Gulf of Mexico - or on liberty in Caan; it does not matter to the argument ... but we'll get to that later.

For an untold number of times, American citizens have relied on the Navy-USMC team to get them out of a country falling apart. Our citizens in Libya are lucky that things did not go south. Nod our heads and be thankful that we got lucky this time. Ask yourself why we did not have other ships out there, and know we are not alone.

I think the nations of the world are re-discovering the joys of having and effective navy - and the consequences of not having one.

Oh, Canada;
Most Canadians fleeing Libya Thursday scrambled out on the planes or boats of allies as the Canadian government diverted a military plane from Germany and sent a Jordanian charter to continue the hodge-podge international effort to evacuate foreigners.

The two planes – essentially the Plan B to back up a cancelled charter – may now carry few Canadians, after about 200 were given spots on flights organized by Spain, Britain and Malta, and a U.S. boat sailing to Malta. But Canadian officials said those flights would offer the extra seats to citizens of other nations still waiting to get out.

A Canadian-chartered plane from Amman did land in Tripoli early Friday to pick up Canadians and others. A massive C-17 Canadian Forces cargo plane, diverted from Germany, was still in Rome late Thursday as Ottawa awaited Libya’s approval for the aircraft to land.
Really Canada. Really? OK, I'll say it; what Libyan government official are you waiting for a call from? Even Libya's ambassador to the UN is no longer following his government's edicts. Nice answer fonctionaire.

Just be happy now that they Libyans are happy
killing each other.
Two ships braved churning seas Thursday to whisk 4,500 Chinese workers away from strife-torn Libya to the island of Crete, while rough weather further west left hundreds of Americans stranded on a ferry in Tripoli.

As tens of thousands of foreigners sought to flee the turmoil in Libya, Britain pondered whether to send in its military to evacuate oil workers stranded in remote sites by fierce fighting in the North African nation.

Those who made it out of Libya described a frightening scene _ with bodies hanging from electricity poles in Libya's eastern port of Benghazi and militia trucks driving around loaded up with dead bodies. One video showed a tank apparently crushing a car with people inside.
Germany rerouted two navy frigates and one support ship to help with evacuations and had two military aircraft on standby in Valetta, Malta.

Libyan authorities, meanwhile, were making it difficult for airlines to obtain landing permits for charter flights into Tripoli. That, and other operational and safety problems including deteriorating airport security, forced some airlines to halt operations in Libya.

Germany's Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines on Thursday suspended flights to Tripoli, as did Italian carrier Alitalia, one of the last commercial airlines flying out of the chaos-wracked country.

Several hundred of the 1,500 Italians in Libya have already left.

In addition to its maritime effort, Greece sent three military transport planes to Libya on Thursday to bring home 300 citizens, most of them construction workers.

A plane carrying 125 Ukrainians and 38 foreigners from Libya landed at Kiev's Boryspil airport early Thursday. A Polish government plane that was supposed to carry 80 Poles back home arrived in Warsaw with only 15 Poles and several foreigners because many people could not make it to Tripoli's airport.
German military. Check (Hi Rommel!). Greek military (!) check. US military? Global force for some else's good, I guess.

What about the Brits, you say. Well ... that brings us back to the original topic.

The quasi-panic from minimal forces ...
SAS troops, with a unit of paras in support, are poised to help an estimated 150 British oil company workers stranded in isolated parts of the Libyan desert.

They were believed to be on standby in Malta ready to extricate the British nationals as the frigate HMS Cumberland prepared to arrive at the Mediterranean island with 200 Britons on board. The frigate HMS York was ordered to head east for the Libyan coast, though the captain had not yet been instructed with any specific task, defence officials said.

Officials referred to a "range of assets" now available to British forces in the region. They are understood to include Chinook helicopters, Hercules aircraft which can land and take off on relatively short strips, and larger C17 aircraft which could land only at places with large airfields, such as Tripoli or Benghazi.A government official familiar with contingency plans that have been draw...
... and where the Salamander grins,
Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy, meanwhile, has said the Libyan crisis made the government's recent strategic defence and security review already look out of date. "The government's plans were based on strategic and international geopolitical assumptions, many of which have been shaken over the past month", he said.

Referring to the decision to scrap the carrier, Ark Royal, Murphy added: "Recent dramatic events mean that the defence review must be reopened and perhaps even rethought. It would be sensible to stop and reflect again on our nation's strategic defence needs."
... and your Branch Plan is?

Yes, just like out already hide-bound Maritime Strategy. White papers designed to reverse engineer defense cuts - as if because you want it to and you write it, the rules of the world and the need for military forces will magically disappear and bend to your will.

History is a spiteful b1tch. She will not be ignored, and she will not let her warnings go unheeded without a painful result, to you. They are not outdated Mr. Murphy (which BTW is an awesome name for a Defense Minister/Secretary), they were foolish.

So, where are our CSG and ESG? Admiral Lyons;
over to you.
As a first order of business, we should reposition an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean. The USS Enterprise and the USS Kearsarge, both in the Red Sea, and perhaps the USS Ponce as well, should be turned around to re-transit the Suez Canal and take a position off the coast of Libya. The Enterprise is to relieve the USS Carl Vinson, which currently is in the Gulf of Aden. This relief could take place in the Mediterranean, which would result in two carriers off the coast of Libya. U.S. Air Force B-2 strike bombers also should be repositioned in the region. The USS Kearsarge and other amphibious ships from our allies should be positioned to assist in evacuating Americans and other nationalities by sea if evacuations cannot be accomplished by air charter flights or other means.
The knob a little to 11 for some - but much more dare I say prudent than this.
Despite growing calls in the U.S. for action, the Obama administration is carefully limiting the American role in the unfolding international effort to halt the killing of Libyan demonstrators by dictator Moammar Gadhafi's regime.
U.S. officials have been pushing European countries to take the lead in world powers' response to Gadhafi, arguing that the Europeans have closer ties and more leverage.
OK. Fine. That is a legitimate point to make and to hold - as a matter of fact, once all the Americans are out of there - I agree.

Small problem though. Until then, if
you ever wanted to create air supremacy - a no fly zone if you will - either to cover evacuations or to keep the Libyan runt Air Force from bombing their own people - there is only one way to do it - with Aircraft Carriers. Big deck aircraft carriers. Way to far for land based air even if you could get basing rights.

If you want to do it for any length of time, you need two at a minimum. Longer - three. Two American and one French would be nice. Two American and then perhaps Brit/Italian/Spanish as help would be.

Wait, I'm sorry - did I say
The last Royal Air Force and Royal Navy Harrier GR9s embarked on HMS Ark Royal made their final departures this morning, bringing to an end 30 years of Fleet Air Arm fixed-wing operations with both the aircraft and the CVS carriers themselves.
...Britain had chosen to cease to be a serious country, choosing to put welfare and a bloated public sector above engagement in the world and the willingness to defend ourselves properly.
Goodbye to all that, I guess.

There's your global maritime partnership, Shipmate.

It used to be with Mark Steyn,
America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It. I guess depending on who is running the show - if you are an American citizen you can just be, well, alone.

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