Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Have you Read Your Hopkirk?

If you are a regular here and you have not read the full Peter Hopkirk canon ... then shame on me.

If you had, you'd see exactly what is going on at the Chinese-Indian border.

Come on over to USNIBlog for more.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Russia's Libyan Public-Private Partnership Gets Some Aircover

That horrible mess delivered to the world by Obama's "Lead from Behind" dance with Canada, the European powers, and a few also-rans to kill Qaddafi continues to spew out problems.

Of course, there was no thought of follow-through when we decided to ... do whatever it was "we" did. It is almost comical that "they" were concerned with saving the people of Benghazi at the start of all this ... and just look at the wreckage that feckless action begat.

Throw in giving an opportunity for a Turkish-Russian proxy war to add temperature to their forces already at tension in Syria ... and what unnecessary risk thrown in the international system for so little.

No one has yet to be held to account, as it was the internationalists who created this mess, and goodness knows we can't let them look bad ... but we have what we have.

As things heat up, Russia looks to be more aggressively backing their play in Libya.

U.S. Africa Command assesses that Moscow recently deployed military fighter aircraft to Libya in order to support Russian state-sponsored private military contractors (PMCs) operating on the ground there.

Russian military aircraft are likely to provide close air support and offensive fires for the Wagner Group PMC that is supporting the Libyan National Army's (LNA) fight against the internationally recognized Government of National Accord. The Russian fighter aircraft arrived in Libya, from an airbase in Russia, after transiting Syria where it is assessed they were repainted to camouflage their Russian origin.

"Russia is clearly trying to tip the scales in its favor in Libya. Just like I saw them doing in Syria, they are expanding their military footprint in Africa using government-supported mercenary groups like Wagner," said U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command.
MIG-29 and SU-24 are not their most capable platforms, but for that theater, you don't need to send your best, just your good enough. Being there is what matters.

As a nice side-bar to my snarky comment abouve, in Tyler's article over at The Drive, he gives a nice summary of the state of Russian MIG-29's to put it in context.

Another good primer on a topic at hand, Anna Borshchevskaya's DEC 19 profile of Russian PMC's over at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Am I concerned about this? Only in that it is another opportunity for a conflict over something worthless spinning in to a larger conflict. As for Russia or Turkey coming out on top? Libya has been in their sphere of influence in the past, so ... no net gain or loss for the USA. Not our war. I just hope responsible people can keep that mess contained.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Fullbore Friday

Lung cancer took him at the young age of 41 last week.

A story of our time not well known.

Attention to citation;
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Staff Sergeant Ronald J. Shurer II distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on April 6, 2008, while serving as a Senior Medical Sergeant, Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, Special Operations Task Force-33, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Staff Sergeant Shurer was part of an assault element inserted by helicopter into a location in Afghanistan. As the assault element moved up a near vertical mountain toward its objective, it was engaged by fierce enemy machine gun, sniper, and rocket-propelled grenade fire. The lead portion of the assault element, which included the ground commander, sustained several casualties and became pinned down on the mountainside. Staff Sergeant Shurer and the rest of the trailing portion of the assault element were likewise engaged by enemy machine gun, sniper, and rocket-propelled grenade fire. As the attack intensified, Staff Sergeant Shurer braved enemy fire to move to an injured Soldier and treat his wounds. Having stabilized the injured Soldier, Staff Sergeant Shurer then learned of the casualties among the lead element. Staff Sergeant Shurer fought his way up the mountainside, under intense enemy fire, to the lead element’s location. Upon reaching the lead element, he treated and stabilized two more Soldiers. Finishing those lifesaving efforts, Staff Sergeant Shurer noticed two additional severely wounded Soldiers under intense enemy fire. The bullet that had wounded one of these Soldiers had also impacted Staff Sergeant Shurer’s helmet. With complete disregard for his own life, Staff Sergeant Shurer again moved through enemy fire to treat and stabilize one Soldier’s severely wounded arm. Shortly thereafter, Staff Sergeant Shurer continued to brave withering enemy fire to get to the other Soldier’s location in order to treat his lower leg, which had been almost completely severed by a high-caliber sniper round. After treating the Soldier, Staff Sergeant Shurer began to evacuate the wounded; carrying and lowering them down the sheer mountainside. While moving down the mountain, Staff Sergeant Shurer used his own body to shield the wounded from enemy fire and debris caused by danger-close air strikes. Reaching the base of the mountain, Staff Sergeant Shurer set up a casualty collection point and continued to treat the wounded. With the arrival of the medical evacuation helicopter, Staff Sergeant Shurer, again under enemy fire, helped load the wounded into the helicopter. Having ensured the safety of the wounded, Staff Sergeant Shurer then regained control of his commando squad and rejoined the fight. He continued to lead his troops and emplace security elements until it was time to move to the evacuation landing zone for the helicopter. Staff Sergeant Shurer’s actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, Special Operations Command Central, and the United States Army.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

China: is the Quickening Here?

A good friend of long standing dropped me a small note back in March before COVID-19 went in to full bloom. As regulars know by reading the “Long Game” series here for the better part of a decade and a half know, I have never been optimistic about a peaceful future with Communist China. 

My friend has always been a bit darker.

I have never thought direct conflict was inevitable – nothing is written – but history shows less likely things have happened, and will happened.

My friend's note; “I’ve moved by date for war to 2021.”

I made a polite shrug, stated I thought the odds were “POSSWAR-LOW” and then he placed a rather curious marker; “Could break bad in three months.”

That is mid-June.

In my head, I made a short list of I&W items to keep an eye on if Miss Mary Darkcloud might be on to something.

One item on my list is what only makes sense; before the Communist Chinese can externalize an aggression, even across the Taiwan Strait, they need to neutralize problem areas inside their lifelines first. The only pebble in their shoe right now is Hong Kong.

Watch what is happening in Hong Kong. That will give you hints if there are larger games afoot.

Well, this AM, for those praying for peace, no good news;
China's Communist Party will impose a sweeping national security law in Hong Kong by fiat during the annual meeting of its top political body, officials said Thursday, criminalizing "foreign interference" along with secessionist activities and subversion of state power.

After steadily eroding Hong Kong’s political freedoms, Beijing signaled that the national security law will be a new tool that allows it to directly tackle the political dissent that erupted on Hong Kong’s streets last year. The months-long and sometimes violent protests began last June and fizzled out only over public health concerns related to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Beijing has opted for the most risky route,” said Ho-Fung Hung, a professor of international relations Johns Hopkins University. “It will show the world that ‘one country, two systems’ is, if not already over, almost over.”
He added: “It will be very difficult for anyone, especially the United States, to say Hong Kong is still autonomous and viable.”
… The law, a direct response to last year’s protests, will ban secession, subversion of state power, foreign interference and terrorism, said Stanley Ng, a Hong Kong deputy to the NPC, who attended the meeting.
The legislation could pass as early as next week and will bypass all of Hong Kong’s usual processes.
Similar laws were proposed in 2003 and would have allowed authorities to conduct searches without warrants. But they were abandoned after mass protests and never picked up locally again.
“The social unrest last year showed that the Hong Kong government was unable to handle passing [national security legislation] on its own,” said Ng, a Beijing loyalist who has for years pushed for a similar law. “Hong Kong’s status will be sacrificed with or without this law if society is unstable due to the protesters’ violence.”

“The arms of tyranny have reached Hong Kong,” said Ted Hui, a pro-democracy lawmaker who was a regular participant in protests last year. “Darker days are coming.”

I had a strange dream last night. I was told I had to put on my uniform and report to the nearest PSD (for some reason in this dream I had my mustache back). 

The line was long and the GS7 I finally got to talk to was trying to tell me what was wrong my paperwork that was the reason I was there. 

He had a bad accent that I couldn’t understand through a speaker that was scratchy and a lot of ambient noise around me. My subconscious decided to reach for its inner-Karen and asked to speak to a supervisor. 

Out from behind the Plexiglas came a very thin, angry, haggard man who I spent a few minutes trying to calm down and explain I simply needed someone I could understand to tell me what was wrong. He finally calmed down and said something like, “Everything is crazy and everyone is mad.”

That’s all I remember. I have no idea what the paperwork issue was.

Maybe I need to lose about 5 pounds or so.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Neophilia, Presentism, and the Nightmares of the Now

Frozen in the comfortable past, or tripping over the next mirage?

Underthinking or overthinking?

More ponderings on pondering over at USNIBlog.

Stop on by and give it a ponder with me.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Return of an Old Red Friend

Well, "friend" many not be the right word to use, but I recognize this type of leftist (yes, they prefer to be called "progressives" today, but I will use my own, more historically correct term) from my young adulthood at the end of the Cold War.

They traveled in a mixed bag popular front; the well meaning left-leaning-liberals trying to find the cool kids to get kudos from, the blame-America-first crowd (we still have plenty of them), musty old Frankfurt commies or their 68-er red diaper babies, the silver-spoon-paper-plate radicals who liked to see themselves as anarchists, the useful doe-eyed idiots, and finally the real driving forces - the true believers.

They formed and used the popular popular front for what they felt they had to do - defend and support the goals of international communism and the Soviet Union. Classic example here - and an extreme example of the type - was the Professor Tobias Tischbier character from the series Deutschland 83/86.

We all know the type. Castro, Ortega, Allende, Gorbachev - you know the drill - any leftist autocrat or budding autocrat was to be supported as the anti-imperialist bla bla bla.

Well, from the mists of my misspent youth, I see the old, familiar form coming to the front again. The countries and words have changed here and there, but it is the same old band. Wrapped in the veneer of national self-loathing - the defeatist left is wandering in to the US-China game.

We have an example via a straight from central casting led website "Responsible Statecraft" via an author writing from well inside the lifelines at the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) at the U.S. Naval War College, Lyle J. Goldstein.

Lyle, I'll give you credit, you almost have the formula right. You modified it as best as you could considering that the Soviet Union and Communist China are not quite the same ... but this is a blast from the past.

I appreciate the trip down memory lane, and I am sure that we have not read the last of this line of thinking.

For everyone else I recommend you give Lyle's bit a full read ... but if you're in a hurry ... well ... here's his article "How progressives and restrainers can unite on Taiwan and reduce the potential for conflict with China" BEHOLD!
First, progressives jumping on the neo-liberal bandwagon should realize that they are creating almost irreparable damage to U.S.-China relations. Not only will military support for Taiwan fuel a multi-trillion dollar arms race with ever more destabilizing weaponry, for example hypersonic missiles, but this new weaponry will inevitably siphon off massive resources from other, more worthy priorities, such as the creaking American public health and transit systems. Moreover, progressives who believe that climate change is the most pressing global problem will be distressed to see that Washington and Beijing are increasingly at loggerheads and thus completely unable to cooperate against this dire common threat to the planet.

A second issue progressives need consider is historical. Why, after all, is the island of Formosa formally called in its own documentation (e.g. passports, constitution) the Republic of China? That simple, seemingly inconvenient semantic fact implies not Americans, but rather Chinese people should decide the future of Taiwan. In other words, this is a civil war — plain and simple.
Finally, and most importantly, the military balance in the Western Pacific and especially around Taiwan has shifted decisively. U.S. Navy and Air Force units would face enormous losses in any attempt to reinforce the beleaguered island. Even the vaunted U.S. submarine force almost certainly could not prevail in such circumstances, since it has limited numbers and firepower.

Moreover, Beijing has been working assiduously on decisive countermeasures to American submarines, including sea mines. Beijing would deploy its missile forces to easily gain vast superiority in the air, enabling an enormous mainland assault to go forward — spearheaded by heliborne infantry and commandos. The only thing worse than such a sad day would be either the utter defeat of American expeditionary forces at the lonely end of a 6,500 mile supply line, or the rather conceivable resort to nuclear war.

Instead of ducking tough questions about Taiwan, American progressives and restrainers should unite behind a sound policy of military disengagement from the Taiwan issue. Simultaneously, they should energetically promote “smart power” diplomacy to find a compromise — hardly an outlandish possibility.
See what I mean? Perfect alignment with the intellectual pedigree. Lyle, you'd make your philosophical predecessors proud.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Why Listen to Jim Webb?

There is goodness in the creative friction between Berger’s neo-transformationalist movement within the USMC - you can read the meaty parts here - and the traditionalist pushback whose default head for now seems to be Jim Webb.

There has been a lot of back and forth the last couple of months that I have mostly ignored on the blog. I think the issue has seasoned well enough to start the week on the topic.

I’ve had on and off issues with Webb through the years, and that bias of mine kept me away from reading his article closely. On second reading, his opening stuck with me.

I keep coming back to it.
On September 4, 2002, five months before the invasion of Iraq, this writer warned in an editorial for the Washington Post that “China can only view the prospect of an American military consumed for the next generation by the turmoil of the Middle East as a glorious windfall . . . An ‘American war’ with the Muslims, occupying the very seat of their civilization, would allow the Chinese to isolate the United States diplomatically as they furthered their own ambitions in South and Southeast Asia.”
He was right. From that point, you can see the see of the rage that drove his political action.

On Berger’s neo-transformationalist drive, I think we should pause to consider Webb’s strong and informed warning.
Interestingly, when citing his philosophical inspiration at the outset of his proposal, General Berger chose to ignore two centuries of innovative and ground-breaking role models who guided the Marine Corps through some of its most difficult challenges. The giants of the past—John LeJeune, Arthur Vandegrift, Clifton Cates, Robert Barrow and Al Gray, just for starters—were passed over, in favor of a quote from a professor at the Harvard Business School who never served. Many Marines, past and present, view this gesture as a symbolic putdown of the Corps’ respected leadership methods and the historic results they have obtained.
It is fun an sexy to say that you, or someone you follow, all of a sudden see the future clearly as no one else does … that you are smarter and more perceptive than those who came before. That you are progressive with a new look on a new frontier.

One must move forward, we must evolve. We always do … but it must be grounded on the knowledge of how we got here.

Is Berger right? No.

Is Webb right? No.

The right path is somewhere in between.

What we don’t need are mindless advocacy on behalf of either, as if they received a gilded book from on high.
If history teaches us anything in combat it is that the war you get is rarely the war that you game. As former heavyweight champion, Mike Tyson once put it, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” In World War I the Germans were convinced they would defeat France in exactly forty-two days. Prior to World War II the French matched this folly by building a string of fortresses along the Maginot Line, leaving open the thickly forested Ardennes, which their war planners decided was impenetrable by a large-scale German attack. In 1941 the British were convinced that no military assault could overcome its shoreline defenses against an attack on their naval base in Singapore, then known as the unassailable “Gibraltar of Asia.” The Japanese army landed far to the north, then bicycled and marched its way down the Malayan Peninsula, attacking Singapore from behind and quickly smashing the stunned British and Australian defenders. Except for General Tomoyuki Yamashita the Japanese high command was not usually that brilliant. Its pre-war plan of fixed defenses on island redoubts throughout Pacific Asia backfired spectacularly, and their inability to adapt after their unexpectedly quick victories at the beginning of the war allowed American resilience and control over the sea and the air to destroy their gains.
None of these debacles were the result of a failure in new technologies. All were the failure of faulty planning and especially of the miscalculations of those at the highest levels of command.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Post COVID-19 China, with Dean Cheng - on Midrats

From international relations to trade to almost every aspect of modern society, the outbreak of COVID-19 has altered the global landscape in ways we are only now getting a grasp on.

As the world's largest nation and the source of the pandemic, how China responds and how it impacts her growth will be the top-line story of this change.

This Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern we are going to look at China's response and reaction to COVID-19, in conjunction with cyber, human right abuses, Hong Kong unrest, military power, economic connections and more.

To join us for a wide ranging conversation centered on China in the post-COVID-19 world will be returning guest, Dean Cheng.

Dean is a Senior Research Fellow at the Asian Studies Center, Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy at The Heritage Foundation.

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, May 15, 2020

Fullbore Friday

I have always found the various stories of the Polish military who fought with the Western forces interesting.

WWII in the West started when Germany invaded their nation - then the Soviet Union joined in eating up what was left. They had no chance. 

Those who escaped the Nazi and Communist death squads had epic stories how they managed to get to the West to keep on the fight. 

They fought, bled, and died for a nation and a cause that they could never return to. A hollow victory that traded fascism for communism for their beloved Poland. Many died before they could see a free Poland again.

One of those leaders was Commander Eugeniusz Pławski, Polish Navy.

He started life as an Imperial Russian Navy officer. Post WWI he joined the navy of the newly independent Poland. Fought through WWII, including going toe-to-toe with the Bismark as CO of the destroyer ORP Piorun (G65).

He and his crew had a great story. Sadly, at least for the English speaking world, Wikipedia is the best source - though a few others are good.

After the war, like most Poles who fought in the West, he could not return to Poland, so he emigrated to Canada, passing away in 1973 in Vancouver.

What would I do in the face of the challenges he faced in his life ... and that of his Sailors?

I don't know, but I would hope that it would be something good enough that Commander Plawski would give a polite nod to.


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Fight is Now. What do You Have For Me

I've always had a problematic relationship with futurists. I agree with a lot of the things they see, but their timelines are always WAY too short.

What has it been, a quarter century since the dawn of that ill-wind known as the Age of Transformationalism?

Is spite of its failures, it still seduces sound minds.

I've been triggered ... again.

Head on over to USNIBlog for my ponderings.

Unsolicited Advice for the SECNAV Designate

Guest post by Bryan McGrath

Nine months ago, in the bandwidth of this very same forum, I took the opportunity to render some unsolicited advice to the new Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). Shortly thereafter, I had occasion to run into the CNO and he graciously thanked me for taking the time to do so. Just think—nine short months ago—the world was a different place. Arguments in naval circles centered around what kind of a fleet we would have, rather than its size. That argument appeared settled, and the Navy would grow.

Nine months later the Navy is in trouble. Two Secretaries of the Navy (one acting) have been asked to leave, and there is no Under Secretary. The secretariat has been tarred by examples of (depending on how one views them) incompetence, disloyalty, political influence, and dirty dealing. The tawdry case of a SEAL Chief Petty Officer receiving a Presidential pardon—and efforts behind the scenes to rig a “win-win” outcome--coupled with the more recent self-immolation of an Acting Secretary after making the justifiable decision to remove a Navy Captain from his command, have many asking “what is wrong with the Navy?” When one works back even further to the “Fat Leonard” scandal and the tragic collisions of 2017, the Navy appears at times to be on a public image losing streak.

Onto the scene steps a man who was until recently, the U.S. Ambassador to Norway, Kenneth Braithwaite. I have written previously about his nomination for the Navy Secretary position, urging that he be thoroughly vetted by the Senate Armed Services Committee before confirmation. If the recent confirmation hearing is any indication (he was one of three witnesses), Ambassador Braithwaite’s confirmation seems likely, given that he gave strong and intelligent answers to the questions he was asked. That none of the questions had much to do with American Seapower and conventional deterrence seems beside the point. Braithwaite handled himself well, and I expect he will be confirmed soon. And so, in order to be a full-service unsolicited advice provider, I offer the following to Ambassador Braithwaite.

Know, and Stick To, Your Area of Responsibility (AOR). As the Secretary, you have two armed services to lead, a beautiful jet at your disposal, and military sites under your purview around the globe. Wherever you go, Sailors and Marines will stand at attention for you, will spit-shine their spaces for you, and will stand quietly in ranks to listen to whatever it is you want to tell them. But the dirty little secret I urge you to internalize is this: they do not give a hoot about you. You are far too removed from their existence to be worth the trouble involved in preparing for your visit. That is not to say that you have no impact on their lives, quite the opposite. That impact, however, comes as a result of you deftly performing your duties in the geographic area of responsibility (AOR) circumscribed by the irregular polygon linking your office with the CNO and Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) offices, the Office of the Secretary of Defense on the third deck of the Pentagon, Capitol Hill, and the White House. You have operational control of no one, but your authority is immense. It all flows from how you play the game in this AOR. Trips to the fleet at holidays are nice and getting out on the scene where there are important political problems to be understood and solved is also worthwhile. But most of the time, tend to your AOR.

Swallow Naval Integration Whole. Get up to speed on what the Commandant and the CNO are doing as quickly as possible and become an evangelist for it. Naval Integration is the most important conceptual thinking in the Department of the Navy since the mid-80’s, and it is going to need your weight behind it to move forward. Your background should provide insight into effective communicating, and this is something the Navy needs desperately. Never miss an opportunity to explain how important Integrated American Naval Power is. In order to do so, master the arguments.

Lead Like You Are at the End of a Second Term. You have one vitally important job between now and the next Presidential Inauguration. It is called “Program Objective Memorandum 2022 (POM 22)” and influencing it (through the lens of Naval Integration) should take up virtually all your bandwidth between now and then. What is left over should be devoted to overall leadership of the Department of the Navy COVID-19 response. If the voters return the President to office and you are retained in the second term, that will be the time to go after larger objectives. You spoke in your confirmation hearings of both leadership and cultural problems in the Navy that you will presumably tackle, and to the extent that a civilian secretary is capable of impacting these areas, considerable long-term commitment from you would be necessary. Pertaining to these two problems, I offer one final point:

Embrace Humility. Two men in the past year who underwent the same vetting process that produced you as an Ambassador and Secretary of the Navy designate, flamed out in disgrace in office. Both were intelligent, both had great plans, and both were patriotic Americans who wished to do good and well. The Department is a gigantic, unbelievably complex bureaucracy, and the two Armed Services within it are imbued with rich, historical traditions. You are to be the appointed caretaker (for the American people) of all of it, and the job demands humble prudence, unshakeable integrity, and relentless execution. When people say that there is a “leadership problem” in the Navy, ask them to explain what they mean, and more importantly, what would they do to “solve” these leadership problems. The deeper you drive this conversation, the more it turns to resource and requirements problems. You will hear from ardent advocates for reform in how we pick and how we educate leaders, but when you ask them to walk you through the logic that ties the problems they seek to solve with the means they identify to do so, the linkage begins to fray. In other words, there are no silver bullets here.

The immediate challenges facing the Department of the Navy—especially when pressurized by the impact of COVID related federal spending—are immense, and a Secretary who expertly navigates the next seven months could wind up being extraordinarily influential to the future of the Navy. I believe I speak for the community of navalists when I wish you the best in this undertaking.

Bryan McGrath is the Managing Director of the FerryBridge Group where he provides consulting service to the Navy. The opinions he wields publicly are his own.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Battle of the Antipodes

History will show in stark relief that one of the most selfish and greed-based errors in the post Cold War period was the active participation of the Western democracies in building up the power of the Chinese Communist Party.

You can track the worst of this grasping period from the Clinton Era Loral Aerospace slime to the Obama, “We welcome the rise of China” expansion.

It was a bi-partisan error, though the bookends of the center-mass were (D). Both parties were driven by the money that could be made, contributions to be gathered, and in a smaller measure – a hope to avoid another Cold War.

Just as today we shake our head at the Soviet Union helping Germany rebuild her military power in the 1930s, so too will the future – if not dominated by the CCP information dominance campaign – report the crass stupidity of the late 20th and early 21st Century of the West vs. China.

It was/is not just an American problem. Running on a capitalist model of comparative advantage and marginal cost savings/gains independent of larger global strategic risks, the capitalist economies moved critical parts of their supply chain to China. As China grew richer and her people started to develop an appetite for more, other economies with an export model changed to serve that Chinese need.

As the relationship between government and people – and the rule of law – in China evolved, this inter-dependency gave the Chinese Communist Party a two edged blade. China controlled the production of things you need, and she also controlled access to markets your people have become reliant on.

China is now in a place where she is strong enough and rich enough to start throwing her weight around. What she cannot get through direct bribery and corruption, she will try to accomplish with threats. Especially smaller nations, she has no problem playing hardball to get them to kowtow.

Two traditional USA allies – by design – are under attack from China with this economic weapon right now. China wants those nations to act like the tributary states she sees them as.

The USA needs to provide all the economic, diplomatic, and informational support – and then some – these nations deserve.

First to Australia;
China has suspended imports from four large red meat abattoirs, fuelling concern of a campaign by Beijing against Australian producers in response to Prime Minister Scott Morrison's push for an independent coronavirus inquiry.
Australia's beef trade has boomed in recent years, based largely on Chinese demand. Last year, the country's imports reached $2.87 billion, double the value of imports in 2018 which were worth $1.37 billion. China accounted for 24 per cent of total Australian beef exports last year, up from 14 per cent in 2018 and 11 per cent in 2017, Meat and Livestock Australia figures show.

Next New Zealand who, rightfully, supports Taiwan's membership in the World Heath Organization;
"China urges New Zealand to strictly abide by the 'one China principle' and immediately stop making wrong statements on Taiwan, to avoid damaging our bilateral relationship."

China has denounced Taiwan's WHO attempts as a political stunt aimed at promoting the island's formal independence, and said it will fail in its efforts.
Note the high-handed and arrogant tone. That is intentional. 


How these nations respond to China's pressure is important to watch. Any weakness will simply bring harder pressure to fall in line.

Monday, May 11, 2020

The Chinese Will Tell You if You're Effective

Last Tuesday we linked to a message to the Chinese people from Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger given in Mandarin.

It is still great, but the question was, how effective was it?

Well, ... the Communists will tell you what they fear;
The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.
Strictly delete any reposts, comments, and content related to U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Matthew Pottinger’s Chinese speech from all platforms, websites, and interactive comment sections, leaving no dead corners. If any are found by the internet management office or reported by internet commentators, they will be dealt with seriously.
Simply superb.

Hat tip Jerry.

Friday, May 08, 2020

Fullbore Friday

The 75th Anniversary of VE Day.

At the end of war comes victory, and defeat.

As such, this video of surrendering German forces represents both.

The only good part of a war is when it ends.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

The SALAMANDER Class Frigate, Approved

Our friend Jerry Hendrix put out a nice overview of the selection of the FREMM for FFG(X).

I have a few thoughts over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and give it a ponder.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

"Lies Written in Ink Can Never Disguise Facts Written in Blood."

More of this.

Much more of this.

Yes, it is an investment of your time, but listen - or read the subtitles - of this message to the Chinese people from Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger.


I've been waiting for decades for someone in positions to significance to do something like this - and to do it so well in their own language.


Hat tip Grey Connolly.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Relative to Comparable Nations: How Are We Doing?

Finally a site whose metrics I like. I like it because it gives the end user at least a little control.

If you wonder how the USA is doing relative to other transparent nations, IMAO, the best metric to use is number of deaths per million. I also think you need to stick to Western European nations, the Anglosphere, and their auxiliaries in Asia such as Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore where you can have confidence in the numbers.

In Western Europe, I prefer to look to France as a benchmark. You really can't use island nations with low population density as a benchmark. That takes out Oceania's New Zealand & Australia.

That leaves the UK and France. Italy and Spain are close, but they are simply too chaotic and aspects of their civic culture too apart from the USA. The UK seems attractive, but for a variety of reasons (demographics, population density, etc), I believe France is the better pick. Germany? No. They are doing well because, well, they are Germans. I was joking about this with a German friend over the weekend who has lived in the USA almost two decades and goes home to Hanover every summer. She agrees. A nation full of Germans function, well, like a nation full of Germans. It helps at times like this.

So, that leaves us with France. I have my biases, as I have always felt more at "home" in France and the Low Countries than the UK - but I think that is a reasoned call.

That's my intro, and here is the graph that I think tells the best story.

We are doing fine, and so is France, TBQH.

Go to FT website here and play around some. Of note, I will not entertain arguments from anyone trying to use total numbers as a benchmark. You can't compare a nation of 330 million to one of 5.6 million. To get even close, you need to move that decimal point over one.

Now, everyone go wash your hands.

H/t JBM.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

COVID-19 and the defense budget with Todd Harrison

If it hasn't hit you yet, it will soon. Everyone's assumptions about what the defense budget will look like - what it will buy and who gets what part of the pie - are gone.

The larger impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is unknown, but we do know this; at no time has so much debt been piled so high on top of an incredible spike in unemployment and economic collapse - in so little time - in the lifetime of any living American.

What can we expect?

Our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss this and more will be Todd Harrison, the director of Defense Budget Analysis and the director of the Aerospace Security Project at CSIS.

As a senior fellow in the International Security Program, he leads the Center’s efforts to provide in-depth, nonpartisan research and analysis of defense funding, space security, and air power issues. He has authored publications on trends in the overall defense budget, military space systems, civil space exploration, defense acquisitions, military compensation, military readiness, nuclear forces, and the cost of overseas military operations.

Mr. Harrison joined CSIS from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, where he was a senior fellow for defense budget studies. He previously worked at Booz Allen Hamilton where he consulted for the U.S. Air Force on satellite communications systems and supported a variety of other clients evaluating the performance of acquisition programs. Prior to Booz Allen, he worked for a small startup (AeroAstro Inc.) developing advanced space technologies and as a management consultant at Diamond Cluster International. Mr. Harrison served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force Reserves. He is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with both a B.S. and an M.S. in aeronautics and astronautics.

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, April 30, 2020


As reported by Chris below, it looks like Fincantieri Marinette Marine won the first 10 FFG(X).

Yes, once again - the Navy chose the Salamander Option. Wise move.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

No, this crisis will not fade quickly or painlessly

It almost seems like the Navy has done something very wrong to the Old Gods, and they are very angry.

We are being punished by our own hand.

If you think the latest wave revolving around the relief of Captain Crozier, USN and COVID-19 will fade soon ... you are sadly mistaken.

Details over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and behold with me.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Post-COVID-19 Natsec Environment

If you haven't had a moment to consider a point EagleOne and I have discussed here and there on the last two Midrats - how COVID-19 is going to change national security assumptions and priorities - then as we start the downslope of the first wave of infections, you may want to start investing some of your ponder-time on the topic.

Over at WOTR, Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, U.S. Army (ret.) and Dr. Nora Bensahel have been giving it a thought in a recent article, Five Ways the U.S. Military Will Change After the Pandemic.
The number of Americans killed by the virus is about to exceed the number of U.S. troops killed in Vietnam, unemployment is higher than it has been since the Great Depression, and the social and human toll is simply incalculable. The ultimate damage will be so great that after the pandemic, the urgent need to defend the American people from devastating threats inside the homeland will quickly displace foreign threats atop the hierarchy of national security concerns.
I'm in alignment with three of their five points, but not with two. Read it all for the details, but here's a brief outline.

Let's look at the three I agree with them on.

Reliance on Forward Defense Will Diminish
... the United States will continue to defend its most vital interests overseas: keeping NATO alive, protecting Eastern Europe from Russia, supporting Israel, and deterring conflict in Asia. But U.S. forces across the Middle East, Afghanistan, Africa, and even in some parts of the Pacific are likely to be drawn down if not withdrawn completely.

The economic crisis may also require changes to U.S. force posture in the places where military forces remain, since the sprawling network of overseas bases remains expensive.
Yes, that is a bit self-serving for me as this "withdraw from empire" call aligns with what I have wanted to do for the last two decades, as regulars of the Front Porch know. Now more than ever it makes sense from a reactive response, vice a long term strategic move ... but that is OK, eventually everyone goes Salamander and they are welcome to the party.

The Reserve Component Will Become Much More Important

The increasing primacy of homeland defense means that the reserve component of the U.S. military may become equally if not more important to the nation than the active component, which would completely invert the traditional relationship between them. The vast majority of the military capabilities that have been used to respond to the pandemic, and that will be needed for future homeland crises, reside in the reserve component (which includes the National Guard and the reserve forces of the individual military services).
Like the first point above, this aligns with my long-term call to invest on what is our comparative advantage as a maritime and aerospace power. The vast majority of our land forces should be in the reserves and National Guard with a smaller more expeditionary focused active component for our land forces. Extra bonus - it will be harder to knee-jerk our way in to land wars in Asia if we have to mobilize significantly.

Final point of agreement:
Legacy Programs and End Strength Will Be Cut — By a Lot

As we’ve argued, the massive economic crisis and growing political pressures for greater domestic spending mean that the defense budget will likely plummet — and may even make the sequestration-era cuts look rosy by comparison. The combination of sharply declining budgets, less emphasis on the land, sea, and air domains, and diminishing forward presence means that expensive conventional platforms like aircraft carriers, amphibious ships, and manned fighters will likely face severe cuts. Major legacy modernization programs that were already reaching unaffordable levels (like the F-35 fighter and the Ford-class aircraft carrier) will inevitably have to be significantly scaled back, and some may be canceled outright.
Welcome to the Terrible 20s folks.

Now for the "others," those two points where I disagree with the authors.

Cyber and Space Will Be Higher Priorities Than Land, Sea, and Air

The U.S. military currently recognizes five warfighting domains: land, sea, air, cyber, and space. After the pandemic, external threats to the United States from the land, sea, and air will become much lower national security priorities than protecting against threats to the homeland from newly emerging and unconventional dangers. For the Department of Defense, that means a much greater emphasis on the cyber and space domains.
This is a mistake that pre-dates COVID-19. It is easy to want supporting domains, such as cyber and space, to be the supported domains of the future. It is easy because it excuses you from having to accept that war was and what it has always been, will be again - a nasty, bloody business that isn't won until young armed men and women stand athwart the enemies land and say, "this is no longer yours, it is mine." Hard power will always be the deciding factor, no matter how many think-pieces you write trying to make the icky go away. Those who forget that will lose the next war, and the one following that.

The Prestige of the U.S. Military Will Be Dimmed

The U.S. military will also face a profound cultural challenge after the pandemic, as its place in American society inevitably shifts. Since September 2001, the United States armed forces have been uncritically revered by the American people. The amount of deference and praise heaped on the all-volunteer force fighting overseas for almost two decades has been enormous, and largely warranted. But it has grown so excessive that even some in uniform now find it a source of embarrassment. Every year has brought new pay raises, more benefits, and greater visibility, which has sometimes raised expectations of ever more prestige and perquisites.
No, not really. That thought/wish has been true for some intellectually and culturally isolated segments of our society for a long time and it not new - but for the American people as a whole, no, that won't happen. I know a lot of the usual suspects want it to happen and look forward to it - but it won't. At least in my blessed corner of the country.

On balance, nice article that should encourage everyone to think about the topic.

Three out of five ain't bad.

Monday, April 27, 2020

COVID-19 isn't just a 1st World Problem

Great overview over at FT of the problem getting hold of the death toll from COVID-19.
The death toll from coronavirus may be almost 60 per cent higher than reported in official counts, according to an FT analysis of overall fatalities during the pandemic in 14 countries.

Mortality statistics show 122,000 deaths in excess of normal levels across these locations, considerably higher than the 77,000 official Covid-19 deaths reported for the same places and time periods.

If the same level of under-reporting observed in these countries was happening worldwide, the global Covid-19 death toll would rise from the current official total of 201,000 to as high as 318,000.
According to the FT analysis, overall deaths rose 60 per cent in Belgium, 51 per cent in Spain, 42 per cent in the Netherlands and 34 per cent in France during the pandemic compared with the same period in previous years.

Some of these deaths may be the result of causes other than Covid-19, as people avoid hospitals for other ailments. But excess mortality has risen most steeply in places suffering the worst Covid-19 outbreaks, suggesting most of these deaths are directly related to the virus rather than simply side-effects of lockdowns.

David Spiegelhalter, professor of the public understanding of risk at Cambridge university, said the daily counts in the UK, for instance, were “far too low” because they only accounted for hospital deaths.
The thing is, this is just covering those fully developed nations (+Indonesia) who have exceptional health care systems from a global perspective, and relatively good and transparent reporting systems.

What about the rest of the world from Africa to South Asia?

We really have no idea.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Midrats in the Garden Good & Evil

Last week, we could have gone another hour, so we thought the easy thing would be to bring it forward to this Sunday from 5-6pm.

We will cover the waterfront as the Navy continues to struggle to get past COVID-19's dominating Navy news, not just with the TR, but now the USS Kidd and everything from boot camp to the Naval Academy.

Throw in a pick up game presence missions in the South China Sea, and the Russians ditching their future surface fleet ... and there is more than enough to make a fast hour.

Open topic and open mic.

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, April 23, 2020

Presence Mission Done Right

Hidden behind all the COVID-19 news this week is another standoff in the South China Sea that had a bit more energy than usual.

Via Sam LaGrone at USNINews;
On Monday, USNI News first reported USS America (LHA-6) was operating in the vicinity of the site of a tiff between China and Malaysia over mineral-rich territory in Malaysia’s Exclusive Economic Zone. The region has been marked by the increased presence of naval and paramilitary ships from China, Vietnam and Malaysia since Malaysian drillship West Capella began exploring the region in October. Currently, the Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 has been operating in Malaysia’s EEZ since April 16 with an escort of China Coast Guard vessels.

Chinese officials typically call out U.S. actions in the South China Sea that conflict with Beijing’s interests. However, during a Tuesday press conference, the foreign ministry presented a toned-down response to questions about U.S. ships near the territorial dispute.
We seem to have put together a team to make a point;
“USS America (LHA-6) and USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) are forward-deployed to the region and are currently operating in the South China Sea,” U.S. Indo-Pacific Command spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman said in a statement to USNI News.
America and Bunker Hill are operating in concert, with the cruiser serving as an air defense escort for the amphibious warship. Guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG-52) is also operating in the region.
Then look who came out to play;
HMAS Parramatta (FFG 154) began sailing with Ticonderoga-class guided missile-cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) then rendezvoused with amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) and Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) April 18.
Isn't this a great view?

That is the way it is done. I think we need to get the Australians a properly sized battle-flag, but that is a minor quibble.

Photo credit, IPN.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Monday, April 20, 2020

What Would it Take to Navalize This?

The incredible lost opportunity to get a good gun cruiser back in the mix by the Transformationalists making a dog's breakfast our of the ZUMWALT Class is still rage inducing.

Like with so much of that arrogant cabal's products, it was lost in a stew of technology risk and compounded best case scenarios.

It didn't have to be that way. 

There are proven systems that just need to be modified and evolved. If we wanted a larger naval gun, we could always dust off and evolve the MK-71 ... or do what navies have done for centuries - navalize good army kit.

How to do that in a modern sense? Just for entertainment, ponder what the Germans are doing ashore with the same caliber Zumwalt was going to bring to the fleet; 155mm/6.1".
Rheinmetall plans to develop and manufacture a new 155 mm gun with a significantly larger chamber and longer, 60-calibre barrel, the company said in a 27 November press release.
...a gun able to fire existing rounds compliant with the NATO standards set out in the Joint Ballistics Memorandum of Understanding (JBMoU) as well as new ammunition families. The new ammunition types will be optimised to withstand the stresses occurring in the new gun as well as being able to be fired from legacy JBMoU-compliant guns. The German procurement authorities have specified a maximum effective range of 75 km, according to Rheinmetall, which said it would use 83 km as the baseline as the course correction fuze necessary to achieve precision at these ranges reduces range by 10%.
The Germans aren't going to build a ship large enough to carry this gun - and one could argue they don't have the requirement, but we can and do.

The Germans buy a lot of American kit. Wouldn't it be nice and return the favor?