Monday, November 18, 2019

Welcome to the Long Game Folks

I used to quote from The Economist more here in the past than I have the last few years. Reasons are - and sad to say about a publication I have been reading for three decades - it just isn't as good as it used to be. It isn't even - at least from the American perspective - center-right anymore. It has drifted well in to the center-left. As such, what I read there doesn't supply much different opinion and perspective of the rest of my media diet.

One thing you could and still can rely on more often than not with The Economist for was it to reflect the Anglosphere "Foreign Policy Consensus." Yes, the gaggle that has, if we can be kind, a spotty record the last three to five decades.

So much of their performance and advice hasn't been malicious, just lazy and wrong. A lot of group-think and wishful thinking. Kind of like the WSJ and open boarder foolishness - they are scope locked on a pleasant theory, and not rigorous on the hard truth. As the phrase goes, they remember everything but learn nothing.

Since Nixon went to China, the blinkered view of China has been the primary example of this failure to adopt a hard-nosed vision. Before the fall of the Soviet Union, we needed a China strong - regardless of what she did to her own people - as a counter to their fellow Communists in the Soviet Union who all the smartest people in the room thought would last until the crack of doom. 

In the 1990s with the Soviet Union magically off the stage, we saw a shift when China pivoted to getting what they wanted by bribery. They soon found that a lot of business and politicians could be bought rather cheaply. Many people and nations talk a good game, but scratch the right place, and you can find those willing to be corrupt. The Chinese know how to play that game better than about anyone. Two greatest examples of that era are found with Loral and the Coffee Klatch money machine.

The last decade, while keeping bribery in their back pocket, we reached another economic power pivot point, the Chinese are moving on to economic extortion and leverage. 

While many on the outside - and a minority on the inside - have seen the Chinese for what they are (see Long Game tag here), too many leaders and influencers refuse to see it, either from lack of curiosity or habit, or simple greed. The German's 5G decision is one example.

The Chinese are getting bold. In their boldness, will they start to wake people up? The millions of Uighur in concentration camps combined with the crackdown in Hong Kong seem to be turning a few.

When The Economist is having second thoughts, perhaps we are seeing a turn;
There were moments during a recent gathering of Americans, Chinese and Europeans, invited to Stockholm to discuss China’s rise and the new world order, when Chaguan wondered whether anyone would say anything cheerful. At last, halfway through two days of doomy talk about trade wars and some scratchy exchanges about whether Westerners have a right to criticise China’s leaders, a Chinese participant sounded an optimistic note. Brexit is an opportunity for China, he enthused—once out of the European Union, Britain will need all the friends it can get.

That was as upbeat as discussions got at the Stockholm China Forum, a semi-annual meeting for politicians, officials, ambassadors, business bosses, scholars and journalists hosted by Sweden’s foreign ministry and the German Marshall Fund, a think-tank. The forum was founded to bridge transatlantic differences over China policy after a crisis in 2004, when France enraged America by proposing to lift an eu arms embargo on China imposed after the crushing of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Chaguan has joined the meetings since 2008 and has seen them turn testy before, despite endless supplies of good coffee and Swedish cinnamon buns. At a forum in 2018 Americans and Europeans sparred over President Donald Trump’s foreign policy. This time was different. A shared fatalism marked panel discussions and offstage conversations. There was a common conviction that China is not about to change its model of authoritarian state capitalism.
You think?

I'm not sure what it will take - but each passing year, the FP and IC community continue to fail to think in line with our reality. How many bad calls do they get passes on? Fall of the Shah? Fall of the Berlin Wall? Fall of the Soviet Union? Iraq WMD? Overthrow of Qaddafi? Mass migration?

There have been a few successes, but not enough. Some more humility would be helpful here. "There was a common conviction..."

Better late than never.

No more, "We welcome China's rise..."

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Building a Thinking Force: the Navy’s CLO, John Kroger - on Midrats

A byproduct of the April 2018 memo from Undersecretary of the Navy Thomas Modly, the newly created position of CLO is described as, “A senior civilian with educational leadership experience headquartered in the Pentagon, with a small supporting staff transferred from extant Navy and Marine education management billets, responsible to the President, Naval University for all matters related to education in policy, budgets, promotion board precepts. Congressional interaction, future requirements, and assessments.”

The Navy's first Chief Learning Officer (CLO) John Kroger will join us for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern
to describe his mandate, the path ahead, and the opportunities and challenges of building a position from scratch.

John served as an enlisted Marine between 1983 and 1986. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale University and a law degree from Harvard University. After college, he spent a significant part of his career in the public sector, as a U.S. Department of Justice prosecutor and Attorney General of Oregon from 2009 to 2012.

Kroger’s academic experience includes working as a visiting professor at Harvard Law School and Leader in Residence at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. For the past six years, Kroger was president of Reed College, a small liberal arts college in Portland, Ore.

You can listen to the show at this link or below, but remember, if you don't already, subscribe to the podcast at Spreaker or any of the other podcast aggregators.

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, November 15, 2019

Fullbore Friday

As I mentioned Wednesday, I have a soft spot for the name "Shangri-La" for aircraft carriers. It has a great story to it, and just sounds cool as hell.

Bill Schultz reminded me that there is a simply awesome video available of a unique and underappreciated time in naval aviation; the early 1960s.

What an incredible time of change and advancement ... and a time yet warped by the war that would dominate the rest of the decade.

So, let's take a moment to give tribute to those Sailors of the early-60s ... in glorious technicolor, on the USS Shangri-La (CV 38), circa 1962, somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea.

Crusaders, Skyrays, Skyhawks, Skyraiders ... just glorious.

From the film Flying Clipper, (1962). Narration by Burl Ives.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

No More Presidents, Please

I don't know what it will take for us to stop naming ships after politicians - but we have some outstanding historical names not being used and no kidding inspirational military people who people would be proud to have on their ball cap ... but politicians?

If we can't have everything, could we at least get back to solid names for our aircraft carriers?

I'm pondering over at USNIBlog and naming names.

Come by and visit - and give it a read.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A Failure of the Fundamentals in Hjeltefjord

A beautiful ship on a beautiful night ... and a classic series of failures that led to a collision at sea.

Read the whole thing ... but at its core - what was the failure?

Fundamental seamanship.
As a consequence of the clearance process, the career ladder for fleet officers in the Navy and the shortage of qualified navigators to man the frigates, officers of the watch had been granted clearance sooner, had a lower level of experience and had less time as officer of the watch than used to be the case. This had also resulted in inexperienced officers of the watch being assigned responsibility for training. Furthermore, several aspects of the bridge service were not adequately described or standardised. The night of the accident, it turned out, among other things, that the bridge team on HNoMS Helge Ingstad did not manage to utilise the team’s human and technical resources to detect, while there was still time, that what they thought was a stationary object giving off the strong lights, in fact was a vessel on collision course. Organisation, leadership and teamwork on the bridge were not expedient during the period leading up to the collision. In combination with the officer of the watch’s limited experience, the training being conducted for two watchstanding functions on the bridge reduced the bridge team’s capacity to address the overall traffic situation. Based on a firmly lodged situational awareness that the ‘object’ was stationary and that the passage was under control, little use was made of the radar and AIS to monitor the fairway.
The investigation of the collision in the Hjeltefjord in the early hours of 8 November 2018, has found that the bridge team on HNoMS Helge Ingstad may have been somewhat affected by fatigue, particularly considering the time of day. In the absence of systematic logging of working hours and hours of rest etc., it has not been possible to further investigate the degree to which the bridge team may have been affected by fatigue. The Ministry of Defence has initiated the process of establishing protective provisions for sea-going personnel in the Navy.

The Accident Investigation Board Norway recommends that the Ministry of Defence introduce, particularly relating to critical functions, a system to give the Navy a systematic overview and positive control of hours of rest. In addition, a requirement for compensatory measures should be put in place when non-compliance with the provided hours of rest in the civilian protective provision.
No watch is normal. Nothing is standard. No required procedure is redundant. 

Bad things don't happen to other people; you are other people.

Monday, November 11, 2019


The Mother Country continues to do this best.

As such, I give this day to her.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Fullbore Friday

We don't do enough of our most recent conflicts on FbF ... so today a story from last decade of a Little Bird bringing giants with big medicine.

Hearing Cianfrini’s warning, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mark Burrows, 35, banked right to evade bullets from a heavy machine gun that had opened up across a field. Then, a second machine gun began firing at them. Burrows turned again, only to face a heavier barrage.

“The whole world just opened up on us, it seemed like,” Cianfrini said in a telephone interview from Iraq on Tuesday. “We zigzagged; we did whatever we could do to get out of the guns’ target line. Then, we started taking fire from behind. That is what took the aircraft down.

The Kiowa started to shake violently, its main rotor damaged.

Burrows said he decided to head into the field, but the aircraft began to spin uncontrollably, and at about 20 feet above the ground he had to shut down its power. The helicopter hit the ground tail first, bounced over a canal, crashed nose down and slid into a ditch beside an adjacent dirt road.

Cianfrini climbed out one door, and Burrows got out the other. They met at the nose and discovered that, miraculously, they had suffered only scratches, they said. The Kiowa by then was on fire, its engine blowing up inside. Insurgents were shooting at them from across the field, and the pilots could hear the rounds hitting the burning helicopter.

“Where’s your weapon?” Burrows yelled to Cianfrini.

“I have no idea,” came the reply.
Head on over to the DenverPost for the rest of the story.

H/t JD.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Israel vs Iran? There Must be a German Word

Is there a word, in German or any other language, that means the habit of always being ready for something you now is inevitable, but it never comes to pass because you are always ready for it; the only way for it to happen is to not be ready?

An variation of Schrödinger's Cat?

Who knows.

There is one thing we do know ... often conflicts long seen coming but never quite on the horizon ... all of a sudden are on your doorstep.

As such, keep this in your mind for a bit of pondering.

Via Michael Oren, Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States, writing in The Atlantic;
The senior ministers of the Israeli government met twice last week to discuss the possibility of open war with Iran. They were mindful of the Iranian plan for a drone attack from Syria in August, aborted at the last minute by an Israeli air strike, as well as Iran’s need to deflect attention from the mass protests against Hezbollah’s rule in Lebanon. The ministers also reviewed the recent attack by Iranian drones and cruise missiles on two Saudi oil installations, reportedly concluding that a similar assault could be mounted against Israel from Iraq.
And it’s not hard to imagine how it might arrive. The conflagration, like so many in the Middle East, could be ignited by a single spark. Israeli fighter jets have already conducted hundreds of bombing raids against Iranian targets in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Preferring to deter rather than embarrass Tehran, Israel rarely comments on such actions. But perhaps Israel miscalculates, hitting a particularly sensitive target; or perhaps politicians cannot resist taking credit. The result could be a counterstrike by Iran, using cruise missiles that penetrate Israel’s air defenses and smash into targets like the Kiryah, Tel Aviv’s equivalent of the Pentagon. Israel would retaliate massively against Hezbollah’s headquarters in Beirut as well as dozens of its emplacements along the Lebanese border. And then, after a day of large-scale exchanges, the real war would begin.
A new war in the Middle East in an election year? No one wants one ... but there is always a chance we would get one.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Measuring Grit

Do you want to go to war with a Rhodes scholar on watch with you, or a rugby player?

How do you measure what is hard to make in to a metrics slide?

I'm pondering a few things they've found out over at West Point.

Come on by USNIBlog and see.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

The Mighty Hercules

If it seems that, like the B-52, the C-130 has been around forever ... well it pretty much has.

Lockheed Martin delivered the 2,600th C-130 Hercules tactical airlifter last week, the customer was the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command.

This milestone Hercules is an MC-130J Commando II Special Operations airlifter assigned to 9th Special Operations Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico

Just an incredibly successful platform that will easily see service in to the 22nd Century. What a great testament to her designers and those who build her.

I've lost count the different services' and nations' C-130s I've flown on. USN, USMC, USAF, ANG, GBR, FRA, POR, SWE, ESP, TUR.

Monday, November 04, 2019

What Do Old People Fight Over?

While history is a great guidepost to the future, there are inflection points where “today” really is unique period of time.

Demographics remain an underappreciated variable in national security, but is growing in importance as the global decoupling of regional trends and the resulting stresses on the international system are hard to ignore.

Unsustainable demographics and the migrations they are causing in Sub-Saharan Africa are one trend, but the world has seen this pattern before. Migrating ethnic groups generating conflict is THE oldest theme in human history, but today there is something new; the graying of the developed world.

We all love to fret about China’s return to the world stage economically and militarily. Volumes of work try to find a benchmark with the rise of Imperial Germany, Japan, or even the USA – but these are all imperfect in a myriad of ways – but the largest block to making them an effective benchmark is in demographics.

Via The Economist;
The pressure on China is mounting. The coming year will see an inauspicious milestone. The median age of Chinese citizens will overtake that of Americans in 2020, according to UN projections (see chart). Yet China is still far poorer, its median income barely a quarter of America’s. A much-discussed fear—that China will get old before it gets rich—is no longer a theoretical possibility but fast becoming reality.

According to UN projections, during the next 25 years the percentage of China’s population over the age of 65 will more than double, from 12% to 25%. By contrast America is on track to take nearly a century, and Europe to take more than 60 years, to make the same shift. China’s pace is similar to Japan’s and a touch slower than South Korea’s, but both those countries began ageing rapidly when they were roughly three times as wealthy per person.

Seen in one light, the greying of China is successful development. A Chinese person born in 1960 could expect to live 44 years, a shorter span than a Ghanaian born the same year. Life expectancy for Chinese babies born today is 76 years, just short of that in America. But it is also a consequence of China’s notorious population-control strategy. In 1973, when the government started limiting births, Chinese women averaged 4.6 children each. Today they have only 1.6, and some scholars say even that estimate is too high.

The economic impact is being felt in two main ways. The most obvious is the need to look after all the old people. Pension payouts to retired people overtook contributions by workers in 2014. According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the national pension fund could run out of money by 2035. The finance ministry is taking small steps to shore the system up: in September it transferred 10% of its stakes in four giant state-owned financial firms to the fund. But far more is needed. Government spending on pensions and health care is about a tenth of GDP, just over half the level usual in older, wealthier countries, which themselves will have to spend more as they get even older.

The second impact is on growth. Some Chinese economists—notably Justin Lin of Peking University—maintain that ageing need not slow the country down, in part thanks to technological advances. But another camp, led by Cai Fang of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, has been winning the argument so far. A shrinking labour pool is pushing up wages and, as firms spend more on technology to replace workers, pushing down returns on capital investment. The upshot, Mr Cai calculates, is that China’s potential growth rate has fallen to about 6.2%—almost exactly where it is today. The labour shortage is hitting not just companies but entire cities. From Xi’an in the north to Shenzhen in the south, municipalities have made it easier for university graduates to move in, hoping thereby to attract skilled young workers.
Never before has a rising power had the headwind of an elderly population matrix. Young nations have different mindsets and priorities than aging nations. Nations are just collectives of people and more often than not reflect their concerns.

What are the concerns of old people relative to young people? Two areas come to mind; fear of poverty and fear of getting sick without help.

Young people think of status, setting a path for future success, and providing a better future for their children. They take more risks for potential long term gains.

Older people are more risk adverse and have a much shorter horizon of concern.

Does a nation with too few young people willingly send hundreds of thousands of them to their death in a war for … what exactly?
On October 1st China celebrated the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic. By the centenary in 2049, Mr Xi has vowed, China will have developed to the point that its strength is plain for the world to see. But as Ren Zeping, a prominent economist, tartly noted in a recent report, the median age in China in 2050 will be nearly 50, compared with 42 in America and just 38 in India. That, he wrote, raised a question: “Can we rely on this kind of demographic structure to achieve national rejuvenation?”

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Naval Aviation with Kevin Miller - on Midrats

With the sequel to "Top Gun" coming up, if you ever wore the uniform of the US Navy, you're going to get asked a lot of questions.

This Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern, we are going to talk about today's Naval Aviation experience with author Kevin Miller, CAPT, USN (Ret.)

Kevin is a third generation naval officer. He graduated from the University of Mississippi and was designated a Naval Aviator in August 1983. In his career he flew the A-7E Corsair II and FA-18C Hornet, deploying overseas six times throughout the 1980’s and 90’s aboard the aircraft carriers Nimitz, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and Enterprise. He finished his career in the Pentagon serving on the staff of the Secretary of the Navy, retiring in 2005.

After leaving the service Kevin was employed as an associate at two Washington DC defense consulting firms, and it was during this time he drafted his first novel Raven One. In 2010 he joined the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Today he is a self-employed defense consultant, Amazon Best-Selling author of the military action-adventure novels Raven One and Declared Hostile and serves as Vice President of Legislative Affairs for the Tailhook Association.

Kevin earned a Master of Science in Business Management from Florida State University and a Master of National Security Policy and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College.

You can listen to the show at this link or below, but remember, if you don't already, subscribe to the podcast at Spreaker or any of the other podcast aggregators.

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, November 01, 2019

Fullbore Friday

There is something a bit otherworldly about finding the long lost remains of a ship lost in battle. They are, more than anything else, war graves.

This has been a busy week or so for this part of naval history. Most here are aware of the probable discovery of parts of the legendary USS Johnson (DD-557), but that wasn't the only discovery from WWII this year.

Two other discoveries may slip by a normal scan. One was a bit of a mystery, the other not.

First the mystery;
A 77-year-long mystery has been solved as scientists finally located and identified the wreck of Royal Navy’s wartime submarine HMS Urge off Malta.

The submarine was found sitting upright on the seabed of the Mediterranean more than 400 feet down, her bow buried in the ocean floor, her deck gun facing forward, her hull encrusted with marine life.

The distinctive features of the U-class submarine have been compared with contemporary photographs and the undisclosed location of the wreck compared with official records to identify Urge.

HMS Urge, which was adopted by the people of Bridgend, is one of 19 U-class boats lost in World War 2, 13 of them in the Mediterranean. The submarines were small and originally meant to be used purely for training.

Urge left the island on her final mission on April 27 1942 bound for Alexandria in Egypt as the 10th Submarine Flotilla moved its base to escape the Axis Powers’ constant bombing of Malta. Aboard were not just her 32 crew, but 11 other naval personnel and a war correspondent.

She never reached North Africa. The Admiralty concluded she ran into an enemy minefield shortly leaving the island, but the wreck was never found.
Well, they found her.
...Canadian naval researcher Platon Alexiades, Francis Dickinson – grandson of Urge’s commanding officer – and Professor Timmy Gambin of the University of Malta’s Classics and Archaeology Department and a team of students, plus the Royal Navy’s official historians.

... deep sea research confirms the original Admiralty estimate – the boat did indeed succumb to a mine laid by a German E-boat; the impact caused catastrophic damage and led to Urge plunging out of control to the seabed.

Here is a little detail about the history of HMS Urge;
On 23 March, (Italian light cruiser) Bande Nere was damaged in storms and, needing repairs, was sent to La Spezia on 1 April 1942. While en route, she was hit by two torpedoes from the submarine HMS Urge, broke in two and sank with the loss of 381 men.
The Vieste minesweeper of the Navy, during an activity of technical verification and surveillance of the seabed in the Tyrrhenian Sea near the island of Stromboli, has found the wreck of the Light Cruiser Giovanni Delle Bande Nere sunk in the 1942.

Unlike the wholesale grave robbing going on in SE Asia, in the Med they should be safe. May they rest well.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

When Allies Have Carriers, Everyone Wins

It would be great if France would build another carrier or two. Italy, Spain, and in a perfect world even Germany ... it would be good for them all to either add one or start one ... but the budgets aren't there.

If they did, we could see more of this in the future ... and the world would be a safer place.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is still on track to deploy to the Far East in 2021 – although whether it will actually sail through the South China Sea is yet to be explicitly confirmed – with escorting warships from the US and the Netherlands, according to reports.

The UK Defence Journal recently reported that Big Lizzie will rehearse for live deployments by practising with "two Type 45 destroyers, two Type 23 frigates, a nuclear submarine, a Tide-class tanker and RFA Fort Victoria".

On her maiden operational deployment, the carrier will take around 24 F-35B fighter jets plus helicopters.
The Dutch Navy will definitely join the deployment, most likely with a De Zeven Provinciën-class frigate – replacing one of the British Type 23 frigates in the mooted carrier battle group. Similarly, UKDJ reckons that an American destroyer will join the 2021 deployment (named Carrier Strike Group 21), freeing up a British Type 45 destroyer.
Good stuff.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Terrible 20s' 12 Step Program

Just a few months before we enter the 2020s ... it looks like we're at Step-1.

1. We admitted we were powerless over efficiency—that our warfighting ability had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that decades of best practices was greater than Transformationalism and could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of Wayne E. Meyer as we understood Him. 
4. Made a searching and fearless inventory of our readiness. 
5. Admitted to Congress, to ourselves, and to another human tax payer the exact nature of our wrongs. 
6. Were entirely ready to have a restored General Board remove all these defects of character. 
7. Humbly asked Congress to remove our shortcomings. 
8. Made a list of all persons and programs we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. 
9. Made direct amends to such people and programs wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 
10. Continued to take institutional inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. 
11. Sought through CBO Reports and meditation to improve our conscious contact with O'Rourke, as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of OMB's will for us and the power to carry that out 
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to the fleet, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Details over at USNIBlog.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

ASW Readiness Points for All my Friends

Man oh man oh man ... to be in the Atlantic fleet in 2019 ... I love no other warfare area more than ASW, and the Russians are coming out to play.

Via the Barents Observer;
On Saturday, the Barents Observer reported about two of the Sierra-class submarines of the Northern Fleet sailing towards the Norwegian Sea for deep-sea dive tests and weapon tests. The two submarines are the «Pskov» and «Nizhny Novgorod», both built with a titanium-hull.

- Eight of the ten submarines now at sea are nuclear-powered, the intelligence service says to NRK.

- The intelligence service claim to have «a decent control» over where the submarines are in the sea.

- Two nuclear submarines are west of the Bear Island, between Svalbard and Finnmark, the northernmost part of mainland Norway.

Two submarines are south and east of the Bear Island, guarding the entrance to the eastern part of the Barents Sea.

Two Sierra-class nuclear submarines are training in the northern part of the Norwegian Sea.
Excellent troll by the Norwegians.

Also, my dear Mother Russia ... only two west of Bear Island?

Come on Ivan, don't be such a cuck. Come west ... come south ... come out to play.

You can't buy training like this.

Send the COD ... MTH & I will slip on a pair of coveralls and are ready to get back to work.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Bye Baghdadi

Some people just need a good killing.

High up on that list is the late Caliph Baghdadi who it appears had his last moment on earth staring at the approaching teeth of an American military working dog … probably a Belgian Malinois. (NB: we still don’t have all the details we need, but it appears this canine hero will recover from its wounds).

Forget those who are trying to diminish the importance of killing this medieval genocidal maniac, sit down; this is nothing but good news. First and primary; that this was an act of justice. No other nation has the ability or force of will to kill this guy – so as with OBL, it is up to us to do these things. We should do them gladly and without apology.

Our wheels of justice may grind slow, but when given the green light – they grind fine.

This will impact the Islamic State significantly. This was their Adolf Hitler. With him gone, so is much of the cult of personality. IS will get a new leader, but he will only be a fraction of the founder. In time, we will find and kill him too, and they will get a new leader.

We will mow the grass like that for years, because when it comes to fighting IS, we can only significantly address the tactical and operational level. Those Centers of Gravity we can undermine – but the strategic Center of Gravity? No. We can only be a supporting vice supported entity.

The strategic Center of Gravity of IS is the religious justification for their existence. Only the Muslim world can undermine that. IS will be with us in one form or another for a long time, just like AQ. At their core, they are a religious order. Once established, they are the hardest to eliminate.

So, celebrate and be thankful that the only concern Americans have right now is a wounded pooch.

A final point. The last two days have been very instructive and a good filtering mechanism for your natsec sources. There are good people in the natsec world from both left and right, but there are also a lot of bad players. Especially in an election year, they can soak up a lot of airtime and print space preventing the public from getting good info.

When listening to commentary about Baghdadi’s killing, keep a weather eye out. There is good commentary on both sides, but they are the wheat in a blizzard of chaff.

You can break the chaff in to four main breeds who you should tag for future use when evaluating the value of their input:

Grifters: true “pay for play” they will take whatever position that they feel will get them airtime, or for a few, make their sponsors and underwriters write more checks. Pro or anti-Trump … they are objects of scorn, not pity.

True Believers: sad little creatures, they really think that anything we do involving the military – especially aggressive killing kind of things – just are not “who we are” or create more problems. Well-meaning people, but just wrong.

Terminal Trump Derangement Syndrome: you know these types; anything associated with Trump that might make him look good must be attacked or if nothing else, ignored. The “that photo is fake” push early on was a classic tell. Some of these are cross-pollinated with the Grifter and True Believer types. I’m no Trump guy … but these TDS extremists make me defend him way more than I am comfortable doing.

Partisans First: these are simply party people. Those with an (R) next to their name will look you in the face and tell you that short hair on a (R) is great but on a (D) is bad. Those with a (D) next to their name will say just the opposite. I don’t think even they know what they really believe anymore – they just get high off their own fumes.

In the end, a very bad guy is dead. For now, that should be enough.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Fullbore Friday

War wages all around you, and yet, you have your modest ship.
The motor vessel Ondina was a modern Dutch tanker of the Petroleum Company La Corona and had been delivered by the Dutch Dry Dock Company in Amsterdam [Amsterdamse Droogdok Maatschappij ADM]. The tanker had an overall length of 130 meters and a standard displacement of 6,341 ton and was equipped with a 6 cylinder Werkspoor diesel engine with a modest power supply of 2,800 shp. The maximum speed of the Ondina therefor was only 12 knots.
Each day brings harder news, yet you have a mission. 

The enemy is all around, and escorts are few. Who will protect you from the enemy?
...the new Bathurst-class corvette HMIS Bengal, which was destined for the British Indian Navy. During the Second World War 60 of these ships were constructed after an Australian design. Four of these corvettes, often called minesweepers as they were equipped with minesweeping equipment, had been built in the framework of the ’Commonwealth’s Shipbuilding Programme’ for the Indian Navy. British India at that time was still a British colony and therefore automatically a member of the Commonwealth. The four ships built for India were HMIS Madras, HMIS Punjab, HMIS Bombay and HMIS Bengal. This last ship was taken into service on 8 August, 1942, by Lieutenant Commander W.J. Wilson of the Royal Navy Reserve (RNR).

The corvettes of the Bathurst-class originally had a standard displacement of 650 ton but during the war the vessels were loaded with masses of extra equipment, ammunition and depth charges; so fully equipped they had a displacement of over 1,000 ton. The ships were provided with a triple expansion steam engine which supplied 2,000 shp. The max speed of the corvettes was designed to be 15 knots, but because of the larger displacement most of them did not go faster than 13 knots. On HMIS Bengal a 7.6cm gun (twelve pounder) had been installed as the foreseen 10.2cm guns were no longer in stock. The secondary armament of the ship consisted of a 40mm Bofors and two 20mm Oerlikon machine guns as anti-aircraft weapons. For the anti-submarine warfare the multi-purpose vessel was equipped with a type 38 Asdic (fore runner of the sonar) and 40 depth charges.

As the Bengal had only a capacity of 186 tons of heavy liquid fuel oil she could not reach India in one go from the Australian mainland. But sailing together, the ships would serve each other: the Ondina received an escort for part of the trip and HMIS Bengal could obtain fuel from the Dutch tank ship. It was scheduled that the Ondina and the Bengal would split up at Diego Garcia on the Chagos Archipellago south of the Maldives. On 5 November, 1942, the two allied ships departed from Fremantle. With an average speed of 10 knots it promised to be a long and dull crossing.
Dull? No. That was not to be.
In the morning of 11 November, 1942, HMIS Bengal and the Ondina sailed in line ahead, heading west-north-west. It was a nice and sunny day with a flat sea and excellent visibility. Around 11:30 a lookout of the Ondina saw two ships appear over the horizon at 90 degrees over port at a distance of approximately 12,000 meters. A little bit later the ships were also sighted from the Bengal. Because of the high deckhouses the strange ships for a moment were taken to be aircraft carriers. Because there had been no mentioning at all about allied ships being in the neighborhood, both Ondina and Bengal sounded the alarm and both ships turned 90 degrees to starboard, away from the suspected enemy ships. Around 11:50 Bengal signaled to Ondina to maintain her heading. The Bengal herself turned into the opposite direction in order to catch up head on with the enemy ships and to create time for Ondina to escape.

The enemy ships were recognized to be Japanese auxiliary cruisers and the Bengal steamed straight forward towards the one in front. First they thought that they were facing Hokoku Maru and the smaller Kunikawa Maru. Captain Horsman understood that he would never be able to pick up sufficient speed with his slow tanker to escape from the faster Japanese vessels and decided to face the battle and to support the Bengal with his 10.2cm gun. Just before 12:00 Hokoku Maru opened fire at HMIS Bengal and at 11:58 the corvette send an SOS signal to Fremantle with the message that they and the Ondina were under fire of two Japanese raiders in the position of 19.38 degrees southern latitude and 93.5 degrees eastern longitude, about half way Fremantle and the Chagos Archipellago. HMIS Bengal answered the fire of the Hokoku Maru with her twelve pounder. Second mate Bakker of the Ondina, who was the artillery commander of the tanker and was standing on the poop deck next to the gun, asked permission from captain Horsman to open fire. Steaming away from the approaching Japanese auxiliary cruisers, the captain of the Ondina granted permission. The artillery crew consisted of merchant seaman Visser, Able Seaman B.A. Hammond of the Royal Australian Navy and the Acting Able Bodied Seamen R.H. Bayliss, H.C. Boyce and H.A. Brooklyn of the Royal Navy. The Ondina opened fire when the Hokoku Maru had approached till about 8.000 meters, around 12:05. While the Dutch tanker received her first 14cm hit, which splintered the mast, the first 10.2cm shell of the Ondina went wide and the second hit just in front of the bow of the Japanese auxiliary cruiser. Therewith Second Mate Bakker could adjust his fire and the third grenade hit the deckhouse of the enemy ship. This was an extra ordinary achievement as the Ondina was not equipped with distance measuring equipment nor with fire-guidance. Bakker now diverted his fire to the stern of the Hokoku Maru. Whilst both HMIS Bengal as the Hokoku Maru continued to shoot at each other the fifth or sixth shot of the Ondina caused an enormous explosion on the Japanese auxiliary cruiser. A giant yellowish flame erupted and soon thereafter part of the stern broke off while the wrecked float planes shattered into the sea. The broken part of the rear of the ship sank and wild fires broke out in various places onboard the ship. Thereafter the ship listed heavily to starboard which caused ammunition to roll over and even more explosions erupted.

Aboard the Ondina they could not believe their ears and eyes The artillery crew danced for joy in spite of the fact that some enemy shells hit which damaged the radio antenna and one of the starboard life boats. The Chinese crew members who were not on duty, had sought a safe refuge below deck and AB Seaman Henry did his utmost to keep them composed. The Aikoku Maru now took aim on both ships and placed several hits on both ships that caused little damage though. When the Bengal ran out of ammunition the corvette put up a smoke screen and turned away from the battle around 12:40. One minute later the Bengal was hit again; this time in the rear which caused a fire to start. The crew of the corvette however succeeded to control the fire. The last they saw of the Ondina aboard the Bengal was that the tanker received a hit on the bridge at 13:08 and desperately tried to prevent further hits by changing course all the time a little bit. The corvette after having seen this, sent a coded message with the information that one of the auxiliary cruisers as well as the tanker had been sunk.

Aboard the Hokoku Maru the crew could not control the heavy fires and Commander Hiroshi could do nothing else but to issue the order to abandon ship. In the meantime on board all electrical power had failed and the engine rooms were ablaze. Because the Hokoku Maru was a converted merchant ship she did not have many watertight compartments; consequently the vessel made quickly a lot of water and after another heavy explosion the auxiliary cruiser foundered at 13:12. Of the 354 crew 76 lost their lives amongst whom Captain Hiroshi. 
In the meantime Ondina had fired her last 10.2cm shells whilst the Aikoku Maru had closed in on the tanker up to approximately 3.500 meters. Captain Horsman ordered white flags to be hoisted and ordered to abandon ship. The engines had stopped and the crew disembarked the ship in three life boats and two life rafts. The hit that struck the Ondina at 13:08 on her bridge, the last to be seen by the Bengal, killed captain Horsman. The remaining Japanese raider approached the Ondina up till 400 yards and launched two torpedoes towards the abandoned ship that both hit. Large holes were blasted in the starboard side of tanks number 1 and 2. This caused the Ondina to list to about thirty degrees, but remained floating on the other tanks. Thereafter the auxiliary cruiser maneuvered along the bow of the tanker, of which the Japanese thought that its fate had been sealed and started to machine gun the life boats and rafts. This war crime was probably committed out of frustration about the sinking of the Hokoku Maru and the escape of the Bengal. By this machine gunning three Chinese stokers were killed and the chief engineer J.J. Niekerk and ABS Henry were severely wounded. Chief engineer Niekerk died an hour afterwards from his wounds.

At 15:00 the Aikoku Maru had picked up the survivors of her sister ship and returned to the Dutch tanker. The Japanese fired another torpedo but missed. Convinced that the tanker had been lost, the Japanese auxiliary cruiser left the battle scene and sailed away in northerly direction without any further concern about the drowning crew of the Ondina.

Salvage of the Ondina
After the first mate Rehwinkel had provided a seaman’s grave to the chief engineer, he wanted to return to the Ondina. Of the crewmembers that were with him in the life boat only sailor Visser was prepared to accompany him. The others, Chinese crew members refused to come along as they feared that the Ondina would sink as yet. Second mate Bakker in the meantime, with the motor launch in which he was commander, had returned to the tanker. Together with third engineer Leys, the Australian gunner Hammond and the British artillerist Ryan he boarded the ship which was still on fire in several places. Bakker and the gunners started to pump water into several of the port tanks which slowly righted the Ondina. Leys inspected the engine room and established that the diesel engine was still in working condition. The motor launch was sent to collect the other life boats and rafts and Leys and Bakker went to the bridge where a fire was still burning. The fire was extinguished by both men after which they carried the body of the captain to his cabin. The tanker had in the meantime been righted and the outboard valves could be closed. Around 19:00 all life boats were alongside the tanker and the crews from the rafts had been taken aboard the life boats. The life boats were hoisted on board as good and as bad as this was possible and secured. The stokers and engineers went to work and a few hours later first officer Rehwinkel could give the order ”slow ahead”. And somewhat later even “full ahead”. The heavily damaged tanker set her heading for Fremantle while the crew extinguished the last fires in the forecastle.

The next day captain Horsman received a dignified seaman’s burial. The wounded were cause for serious worry. Especially ABS Henry was in serious condition. He had a crushed leg and had lost a lot of blood and was in urgent need of professional care. After two days the crew of the Ondina was of the opinion to be safe enough to send a radio message and to ask for medical assistance. This message was sent in clear language as, after the order to abandon ship, all secret documents and also the code book had been thrown overboard. The surprising and unexpected message was being received by the allied authorities in Colombo on Ceylon and in Fremantle with disbelieve and mistrust. As the Bengal had indeed reported the Ondina to be sunk and a trap, created by the Japanese in order to lure a ship towards them, was suspected. From Fremantle a signal was sent to inquire about her position. Rehwinkel did not dare to provide this because his clear language message could also be read by the enemy. Therefore medical assistance remained lacking for the time being.

It was not until 17 November before the damaged tanker was reconnoitered by an Australian Catalina flying boat, over 220 nm north-west of Fremantle. Onboard the Ondina shortly before, a ship had been spotted and with signal lamp the Catalina was asked to contact that ship and to ask for the presence of a doctor. The relevant ship turned out to be the Australian hospital ship HMAS Wanganella and it was directed quickly towards the Ondina. By quick handling of the doctors the life of ABS Henry could be saved. The next day the Dutch tanker entered the port of Fremantle after a trip that had not proceeded according to expectations and which had cost the lives of five crew. The day before HMIS Bengal had safely made the harbor of Diego Garcia. The last days the corvette had to sail at slow speed to safe fuel, but there had been no further problems.
Note, both ships ran out of ammo.

You never have enough ammo.

The accountants and supply people are always wrong. Take what they say you need, and add at least 30% more.


Also, when the next war comes, and it will - what are our plans to give our auxiliaries teeth? They will need it - regardless what the peacetime theorists say.

They always have during every war with a maritime component. From the dawn of time. It won't be different next time either.

Nice video here a year later of the Bengal.

H/t MR.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

So, Need a Cold Bucket of Water?

Most of the regulars here probably remember my post from almost exactly four years ago, "Why do some become quiet?"

Another author seems to be feeling the same subtle vibration in the undercarriage; David Samuels over at The Tablet.
Another thing that residents of the broad North American expanse between Canada and Mexico have noticed is that the programs and remedies that this class has promoted, both at home and abroad, have greatly enriched and empowered a small number of people, namely themselves—while the broader American population continues to decline in wealth, health, and education. Meanwhile, the American Empire that the ruling elite administers is collapsing. The popularity of such observations on both the left and the right is what accounts for the rise of Donald Trump, on one hand, and of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on the other hand, among an electorate that has not been historically distinguished by its embrace of radicalism. Add those voter bases together, and perhaps 75% of Americans would seem to agree that their country, however you think of it, is in big trouble, and that the fault lies with the country’s self-infatuated and apparently not-so-brilliant elite.

Every student of history has their own theory about how and why empires fall. My theory is this: The wealth of any empire flows disproportionately to the capital, where it nourishes the growth, wealth, and power of the ruling elite. As the elite grows richer and more powerful, the gulf between the rulers and the ruled widens, until the beliefs and manners of the elite bear little connection to those of their countrymen, whom they increasingly think of as their clients or subjects. That distance creates resentment and friction, in response to which the elite takes measures to protect itself. The more wealth and power the elite controls, the more insulation it must purchase. Disastrous mistakes are hailed as victories or are made to appear to have no consequences at all, in order to protect the aura of collective infallibility that protects ruling class power and privilege.

What happens next is pretty much inevitable in every time and place—Spain, France, Great Britain, Moghul India, you name it: Freed from the laws of gravity, the elite turns from the hard work of correct strategizing and wise policymaking to the much less time-consuming and much more pleasant work of perpetuating its own privileges forever, in the course of which endeavor the ruling elite is revealed to be a bunch of idiots and perverts who spend their time prancing around half naked while setting the territories they rule on fire. The few remaining decent and competent people flee this revolting spectacle, while the elite compounds its mistakes in an orgy of failure. The empire then collapses.
H/t Chap.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Is the USAF Leading the Way ... Again?

The USAF is radically changing how it promotes its officers - at least that is what it looks like in the cheap seats.

As we approach the third decade of the 21st Century ... is it time for us to do the same?

Details over at USNIBlog.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A Welcome Cleaning at the JAG Shack

This is long overdue and welcome.
Twin probes by the Navy and Marine Corps into the state of their legal communities continue, with approximately 35 experts picked to review their reports when they’re completed, the Pentagon announced on Friday.

Lt. Cmdr. Beth Teach, the spokeswoman for Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Robert Burke, told Navy Times that the blue ribbon panel includes both uniformed and civilian legal experts but she said they must remain anonymous for now so that they can complete their work.

Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Gary Thomas is spearheading his service’s investigation.

Both surveys are designed to review leadership and performance of their uniformed legal communities — both the Judge Advocates Corps and the Staff Judge Advocates — to ensure that they’re properly organized, staffed, trained and equipped to perform their missions.
For the 30 people on the panel, if you need a JAG or two to talk to about views from the inside, drop me an email. I'll check with them, and if they're game we'll Skype.

Now, when will we review the IG?

Monday, October 21, 2019

Merkel Goes Salamander

How many times and in so many ways did she and her fellow travelers sneer, call names, and attempt to marginalize those both inside and outsider her country who tried to warn her?

Her multiculti policies are most responsible for the rise of the irresponsible right in Germany.

...and yet ...
Merkel said allowing people of different cultural backgrounds to live side by side without integrating had not worked in a country that is home to some four million Muslims.

“This (multicultural) approach has failed, utterly failed,” Merkel told the meeting in Potsdam, south of Berlin.
I guess I should say, "Welcome to the party..." but that would be like calling Italy one of the allied powers in WWII. You could say it kind-of, and perhaps defend it at the end of the war ... but not when you take the full view of the war's timeline.

Here is the big danger for Germany to self-correct before they become something they don't want to become; Germany's center-right parties, the CDU and CSU, are in the American context - especially the CDU - run by what we call "Chamber of Commerce Republicans." They will sell their country in to a cesspit of 3rd World internecine conflict if it means they can continue to access below-market labor.

You can just smell the self-loathing wrapped in greed ... using the same tired argument used post-WWII to import hundreds of thousands of Turks who still are not assimilated writ large and were the nose of the camel for all that followed.
In a weekend newspaper interview, her Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) raised the possibility of lowering barriers to entry for some foreign workers in order to fight the lack of skilled workers in Europe’s largest economy.

“For a few years, more people have been leaving our country than entering it,” she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. “Wherever it is possible, we must lower the entry hurdles for those who bring the country forward.”

The German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) says Germany lacks about 400,000 skilled workers.
So, your educated, high skilled workers are leaving Germany to get away from the chaos you imported, so you can replace them with uneducated, unskilled workers who won't assimilate and create more chaos. Nice plan.

Germany's leaders remember everything, but learn nothing.

I guess it is up to the Bavarians to stand in the breach.
Yet Horst Seehofer, chairman of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the CDU’s sister party, has rejected any relaxation of immigration laws and said last week there was no room in Germany for more people from “alien cultures.”
UPDATE: Find the Easter Egg.

Hat tip Gray Connolly.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Baltic Security with Dr. Sebastian Bruns - on Midrats

From Finland to Denmark, Sweden to Poland - from small Latvia to the Continental power of Germany - the return of Russia has brought a renewed focus the last half decade to the Baltic.

Not just a SLOC, there are important economic and cultural ties that predate written history that continue to be important today.

Our guest for the full hour in a wide ranging discussion will be Dr. Sebastian Bruns.

Sebastian heads the Center for Maritime Strategy & Security (CMSS) at the Institute for Security Policy, University of Kiel (ISPK). He is the author/editor of six books, including "Routledge Handbook of Naval Strategy and Security" (edited with Joachim Krause, London 2016), and his latest, "US Naval Strategy and National Security. The Evolution of American Maritime Power" (London, 2018).

You can listen to the show at this link or below, but remember, if you don't already, subscribe to the podcast at Spreaker or any of the other podcast aggregators.

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.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Ford and the Wages of Transformationalism

If you've been mostly the "close your eyes and breath and hope for the best" when it comes to the FORD, our friend Chris Cavas has a cold bucket of water to throw in your (our) face.

The ship is a long way from being ready to take to the seas in defense of the nation. While construction began in 2005 and the Ford was delivered to the Navy and commissioned in 2017, it’s been back in the shipyard since July 2018 undergoing a series of fixes known as a post-shakedown availability, a planned event all US Navy ships go through but that is more difficult with this first-of-class ship full of new and hitherto untried technologies. It’s hard work for all involved and it will not be nearly finished when the ship comes out of the yard as expected later this month to renew testing and development of its systems whether or not they’re fully functional.

Four major systems in the ship will continue to need work: the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), the Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), the eleven Advanced Weapons Elevators (AWEs) and the Dual-Band Radar (DBR). Issues with those developmental, new-technology systems have been widely reported on for years, ever since Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld under the banner of transformation ordered them installed on the first ship in the new class despite deep Navy reservations and recommendations against doing so.

We continue to be saddled with the wages of Transformationalism.

Yes, yes ... first in class has all sorts of issues ... but with time, this is starting to look like it might be a bit more than that.
Less talked about are the ship’s electrical and propulsion systems. The Ford’s more-than-100-megawatt electrical system is far more powerful than the 30 MW systems installed in the ten ships of the previous Nimitz-class carriers, and all that power is crucial to the operation of the four major developmental systems.
One issue that was reported involved the failure of main thrust bearings, fixtures that bear the weight of rotating propeller shafts. Twice, in April 2017 and again in January 2018, the Ford suffered main thrust bearing failures while at sea and was required to head back to port. The Navy did not publicize these problems, which were unknown to the public until Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio reported them in May 2018.

Hope is not a plan, as the phrase goes ... but let's hope we are all pleasantly surprised, and soon, by all the hard work and pallet-loads of cash we seem to be burning to make it happen.

Some of this may come from the unfortunate retreat that started a half-decade ago from persistent public engagement with media and influencers about FORD specifically, and the Navy in general. The Royal Navy, by comparison, has done an exceptional job with the QUEEN ELIZABETH Class development.

As a side note, more background on how we got here can be found in a Midrats from a few years ago we did with Tal Manvel. 

It's embedded below.