Tuesday, October 15, 2019

No, you can't get enough Salamander, really.

The kiddies over at The Salty Herald invited me over to play last night for a bit over an hour.

Great conversation for over an hour ... and I had the chance to throw a little love over to you folks on the Front Porch who make this whole blogg'n thing worthwhile.

It's a good listen, I hope.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Syria: a Festival of Bad Options

Time to quote myself from 2013 with regards to the Syrian Civil War;
However one comes to, "Syria; not our fight" - I frankly don't care. Besides a little culling of the herd, punitive expedition, and trying to mitigate the nasty-bits of the Syrian government's arsenal moving around - we have no reason to do anything more militarily directly in that nation.

If any nation should invade and occupy Syria, it should be Turkey. If Turkey did, should we support them? Of course - but in about the way we supported the Europeans in Libya. No more, perhaps less. Throw a few drones and TLAM as needed? Sure. Fine with me. Any more? Foolish.

If Syria isn't worth an Anatolian shepherd's son - it sure isn't worth John Smith from Des Moines, Iowa.

There is a cost from backing away from being the World Policeman ... and I'm OK with that.
Then, the Islamic State took root in the chaos of the Syrian Civil War and our less than ideal early withdraw from Iraq during the Obama Administration.

While the Obama Administration was wise to keep out of Syria's civil war, they did not appreciate the threat that ISIS would become.

What was one of their hopes to counter ISIS?


As our former chief diplomat in Syria Robert Ford outlined in 2015 when the Islamic State was large and growing:
“It is time for President Assad [and] the Assad regime to put their people first and to think about the consequences of their actions, which are attracting more and more terrorists to Syria,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Jan. 14.

If the administration has a diplomatic strategy, it centers on cajoling countries that have influence in Syria — Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — to join in a combined effort to end the conflict. The premise is that those countries fear Islamic State and other jihadists enough to put aside their otherwise deep divisions. But that's a long way from happening too.

Until then, the U.S. strategy boils down to attacking Islamic State from the air, hoping a war of attrition somehow weakens Assad's grip on power, and asking Turkey (and perhaps others) to act on the ground where the United States has been unwilling.

“Our problem is that we don't have much leverage,” Ford noted. “We have put very little skin in the game. The Russians and Iranians have put a lot of skin in the game.”

And that offers little ground for optimism. The lesson of our misadventure in Syria may be this: A risk-averse foreign policy can keep you out of ground wars — but it can also keep other goals out of reach too.
Turkey was not so interested in fighting the Islamic State per se ... but they are interested in what they see as a real threat to their national security - Kurds. Turkey is all about Turkey. Everyone knows that. We seem to misread that on a regular basis, but there it is.

OK, we've reviewed the history here. What about today?

The Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw from the northern part of Syria was announced and executed in an exceptionally clunky method. Plenty of blame there for both the civilian and military sides of the house – but it is defendable for a host of reasons.

First of all, if you don’t understand the connection between the Marxist YPG and PKK, then sit down and be quiet.

Second, if you don’t know the difference between Syrian and Iraqi Kurds or the geography of the area, sit down and be quiet longer.

Third, if you are real excited – the YPG has international brigades. Grab your passport and good luck.

For the adults in the room, you have to look at options.

We have choices, none of which are ideal but guess what? Nothing has been ideal in that part of the world since recorded time.

Look at why we put boots on the ground in Syria to start with. Do you remember what ISIS was doing in their caliphate? Catch up here if you need to.

We needed to remove them from Iraq and chase them down to their last sanctuaries in Syria. We smartly decided to use the method that works well in that area, find the enemy of your enemy and make them your friend. We did that, and together we accomplished the end state we both wanted.

The Islamic State’s Operational Center of Gravity has been defeated; their holding of large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq. Their Strategic Center of Gravity, their religious justification for existing, can only be defeated by the Islamic world. We are, at best, a supporting entity there.

Of course ISIS is also a terrorist organization and in that mode it can continue for decades. A different challenge.

Of course there are prisons full of ISIS detainees in Syria who are either stateless or their nations of origin, like Germany, will not take them back. In that part of the world in similar conflicts, that was not a problem … and you know why. Tertiary issue.

So, what are our options? None are good, but we have options.

1. Garrison N. Syria until the crack of doom and hope that nothing stupid will take place that will lead to a wider conflict with the resident population or worse, Turkey, Russia, or Iran over a part of the world we have no ethnic, economic, historical, or religious reason to have any concern over.

2. Have a small garrison deep in the sovereign territory of a nation whose permission we don’t have to be there until the locals come to an arrangement on their own that we are not a part of, and overnight everyone has become an antibody to our foreign presence forcing a humiliating withdraw through … where exactly? Has no one this century read Xenophon?

3. Make a decision that with the major threat gone, the Islamic State’s Caliphate, that we should go home on our terms and our timetable before we get caught up in some long simmering local conflict that is using the umbrella of our protection to renew traditional grievances.

4. We propose an international peace conference in Geneva where we have the USA, FRA, SRY, RUS, IRN, IRQ and the major Kurdish factions get together to agree to post-conflict terms.

We are doing a version of 3. I don’t think 1 or 2 are smart options. I think option 4 only sounds good in faculty lounges, the permanent FP nomenklatura who see wonderful rent seeking job security here, or on Earth 2 where this might actually work.

Our partners of convenience (YPG) is a partner with a terrorist organization (PKK) that threatens a treaty ally on whose nation we have thousands of military personnel and family members, aircraft, and nuclear weapons stationed on. With the major threat gone, it is only natural that Turkey will adjust their tolerance of a threat to their security – a comparable one we would not suffer long on the Mexican or Canadian border. If you don’t like that calculus, then first you need to get our nukes out of Turkey, then our military personnel, and then Turkey out of NATO. If you do that, then I will entertain arguments why our military should stand against the military of Turkey over a bit of territory that was, for centuries until 100 years ago, Turkish. No promises I will agree with you, but I will entertain arguments.

As a final note, if you wonder about my thoughts across administrations on Syria, please click the tag below. It’s all there. Facts changed over time that make some comments OBE, but I stand by it all.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

A Half-Baked Navy with Jimmy Drennan and Blake Herzinger - on Midrats

Everyone has half-baked ideas ... some quarter-baked and some three-quarters-baked ... that in a just world of their making would have a funding line.

Are there some ideas so far "out of the box" that they really should be "in the box?"

Find yourself saying, "If I were CNO/emperor/Chairman of the HASC for a day, I would..."?

Have some ideas that you are convinced our Navy needs to win, but everyone else thinks is impossible/stupid/insane?

Well, that is the Navy we're going to ponder today.

With our guests Blake Herzinger and His Exalted Saltiness Jimmy Drennan, EagleOne and I the Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will talk about our pet "half-baked ideas" that ... in all seriousness ... we'd like someone to at leave give a serious thought to for a few seconds.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at Spreaker

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, October 11, 2019

Fullbore Friday

So, like WWII submarines?

This fits for a very good find from reader Steve - it's all so Fullbore, I can't pick just one.

All the submarine reports Historic Naval Ship Association from S-11 to USS Diablo.
At the end of each war patrol of WW II, submarine commanders created a report on the patrol. These reports were used as the raw material to inform intelligence, improve tactics, evaluate commanders, etc. During WW II, over 1,550 patrol reports containing approximately 63,000 pages were generated. During the 1970s these were photographed and reproduced on microfilm to make them more easly accessible and easily reproduced (approx. 250 rolls). During 2008 a copy of this microfilm was scanned into digital format (110 GB), and in 2009 it was made available online here (14 GB).

These war patrol reports were written during a deadly, bitterly fought war. Please note that there may be some references to enemy forces that may be offensive in today's context.
Treat yourself here. Oh, and if you find any of those terrible Politically Incorrect comments, please report them in comments. Sadly, I couldn't find any.

First posted, March 2009.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Diversity Thursday

Of course.

It was only a matter of time.

The below is ligit, it seems.

Even as an unchurched Evangelical, I firmly believe that certain Catholic priestly vocations are in the best position to discuss how Satan and his teaching would best serve ship, Shipmate and self at the Naval Academy and the fleet.

There are some additional details on the - dare I say - devilish goings on with this little treat over at TAC that I would recommend you give a read.

It is all rather farcical, just a step over from "Lean-in-Circles," but serious as well. These are not neo-pagans doing what neo-pagans do with very harmless whatever they do with ... whatever. Regardless of what they say otherwise; Satanism is a different kettle of fish. Satan has a little track record. Again, I'll let the Catholics take it from here.

The good news? It also appears that the good folks at Annapolis still have a sense of humor.

UPDATE: For those so interested, here's the response from USNA;
An internal email was sent to the Brigade of Midshipmen Oct. 8 announcing that “satanic services” would start this week. This email was sent without the review and approval of the Naval Academy’s Command Chaplain, as required by command policy; it did not represent the U.S. Naval Academy’s Command Religious Program.

Recently, a group of Midshipmen with beliefs aligned with those practiced by The Satanic Temple (a nontheistic religious and politically active movement based in the U.S., recognized as a church by the Internal Revenue Service), requested a space where they could assemble to discuss and share their common beliefs. The request was for a "study group" space, not for holding “satanic services," as stated in the email.

The USNA Command Religious Program provides for the exercise of diverse beliefs. Arrangements were being made to provide the Midshipmen with a designated place to assemble as chaplains facilitate for the beliefs of all service members, a responsibility outlined by Navy instructions (SECNAVINST 1730.7E and BUPERSINST 1730.11 CH-1).

Americans embrace a wide array of beliefs, life philosophies, and opinions, and our Constitution guarantees to all the right to hold those beliefs and to freely exercise such beliefs (modified by unique requirements accompanying military life). The Command Religious Program at the Naval Academy facilitates the opportunity for the free expression of diverse beliefs, but without endorsing any particular belief.

Midshipmen have the right to assemble to discuss their beliefs as they choose, but, to be clear, in accordance with Department of Defense Policy, military members will not engage in partisan political activities, and will avoid the inference that their activities may appear to imply DoD approval or endorsement of a political cause.
This does beg a few questions.

As described above, "...The Satanic Temple (a nontheistic religious and politically active movement..." - let's unpack via dictionary.com.

Let's have some word fun.

First, "nontheistic" derives from:
theism[ thee-iz-uh m ]
1. the belief in one God as the creator and ruler of the universe, without rejection of revelation (distinguished from deism).
2. belief in the existence of a god or gods (opposed to atheism).
So, nontheistic is just "atheist" using a less well known and loaded word.
Nontheist is equivalent to the broader definition of atheist (anyone who lacks a belief in gods.). The term "nontheist" isn't popular though. All atheists fall under this definition, no matter their stance on the claim of the nonexistence of any or all gods.
So, we are just dealing with atheism.

Next, "religious."
religious[ ri-lij-uhs ]
1. of, relating to, or concerned with religion:
a religious holiday.
2. imbued with or exhibiting religion; pious; devout; godly:
a religious man.
3. scrupulously faithful; conscientious:
religious care.
4. pertaining to or connected with a monastic or religious order.
Sure, you can stretch definitions more, but contradiction here is clear. You cannot have a "nontheistic" organization based on a spiritual being, "Satan." Satan only exists in various different confessions of the Abrahamic religions ... and a few others by different names. This specific concept of "Satan" comes from the Christian branch. If Satan has ideas and concepts worth having a "temple" for, then "Satan" must exist. If Satan exists, then G-d must exist. OK, fine, then you have a religion. We can discuss that.

If, however, you state that G-d doesn't exist, then Satan does not exist. If Satan does not exist, then you are just making things up - or you might as well have a temple based on a fictional character out of a Hemingway novel. You have something, but it isn't religious and should not fall under any Command Religious Program. If followers of Ayn Rand have an Objectivist Club, do they fall under the Command Religious Program? Heck, at least Objectivists believe Rand existed.

If it isn't religious, then you have to look at the other side of their definition, "political." A Command Religious Program should have nothing to do with a political organization.

If Satanists want to sit in a circle to discuss how great the ideas of the fictional character of Satan are - whatever - but don't put that anywhere under a Command Religious Program where for almost all the different branches where Christian, Muslim, Jewish, & even Buddhist Chaplains have a very real belief in "Satan." That is simply institutional trolling ... which is pretty much what Satanists have been doing since I first ran in to that sad little bunch in the late-80s.

Put them wherever the Dungeons & Dragons Club is. 

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

China is in an INFO war - if you know it or not

If you don't appreciate that the Chinese are lapping us in the Information domain, you're not paying attention.

More over at USNIBlog.

Come visit and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

A Small Measure in Support of China's Uighurs

Is this a lot? No.

That being said, the international silence on the persecution of China's Uighurs has been a blot on everyone.

This is welcome;
The U.S. is imposing visa restrictions on Chinese officials linked to the abuse of Muslim minority groups in China’s Xinjiang region, where as many as a million people are detained in camps.

The visa restrictions—which will limit the ability of affected Chinese officials to travel to the U.S.—come a day after the U.S. imposed export restrictions against more than two dozen Chinese firms for having a role in government policies toward minorities.

Both moves come as U.S.-China trade talks are slated to resume Thursday in Washington.

The State Department said the visa restrictions will apply to designated Chinese government and Communist Party officials, along with their families. China has engaged in a crackdown on what it sees as a long-simmering separatist movement led by the region’s Muslim Uighur population.

Western scholars estimate more than one million Turkic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities have been arbitrarily detained in China’s Xinjiang region over the past few years.