Thursday, February 02, 2023

Diversity Thursday

We should savor the victories when they come our way. Elections matter, and the average American does not want to have sectarianism, division, and hate injected in to their children using their money.

As we've said here for 18-years, those promoting division based on race, creed, color, and other immutable characteristics have no place in a diverse 21st Century Republic.

Elections mean things because for some reason, it can be hard to find leaders with the moral courage to do the right thing

Governor DeSantis on Tuesday announced a legislative proposal to eliminate programs, courses, and bureaucracies dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and critical race theory (CRT) at public Florida universities on the grounds that taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to subsidize harmful, divisive ideologies.

“We are going to eliminate all DEI and CRT bureaucracies in the state of Florida. No funding, and that will wither on the vine,” he said at a press conference. The removal of such departments, he suggested, will serve as an “ideological filter” and “political filter” for the schools. 

The proposed legislation would prohibit DEI spending in state university budgets, which would effectively starve DEI departments of resources, giving them no choice but to discontinue classes and fire administrators.

If you are a regular here, you know we've documented the bloat, growth, and expansion of the Navy's branch of the diversity industry - especially at our educational institutions in detail. 

One day, hopefully soon, someone like Governor DeSantis - perhaps DeSantis - will be elected as President and will do at the federal level what we are not doing in Florida.

The amount of wasted time, wasted resources, and empty hours listening to tenured radicals tell service members - most born in the 21st Century, that they should first and foremost see each other by the most artificial characteristics and then use that difference to position for advantage, conflict, and disorder firmly stuck in aspic from the perspective of the early 1970s..

Take a moment to listen. Good stuff. 

Take the "W."


Remember, there is nothing stopping every (R) governor from doing this in their state but moral courage.

There is also nothing from stopping a (R) President - the Commander in Chief - from ordering his military to do the same, as it should.

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Eastern Europe's Second Chance

Geography doesn't change. To a slightly lesser extent, neither do historic patterns.

Even if Ukraine wins the Russo-Ukrainian War, Russia will still be to the east from Central Europe. 

She will be back in one form or another.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, liberation, and joining NATO - helped with a lot of ahistorical thinking on both sides of the Atlantic - there was a bit of hedging that there was time to rebuild Central European economies and civil society before a threat from the east came back. For almost three decades the former Warsaw Pact members of NATO let their military capabilities and investments fall closer to 1% of GDP as opposed to the 2% minimum.

The events of the last decade have sobered up everyone from Estonia to Bulgaria, but for most of those nations, by free-riding on their richer nations to the west for national defense, they lost or allowed to almost die what domestic arms manufacturing they had remaining from communism.

Everyone - well those who are paying attention - now realize the existential requirement to have at least the most basic domestic production capabilities to defend yourself, regardless what accountants may say.

The last year is seeing once strong medium powers in Central Europe bring capacity back online. 

Good for them, good for all alliance members;

Still wary of Russia, their Soviet-era master, some former Warsaw Pact countries see helping Ukraine as a matter of regional security.


“Taking into account the realities of the ongoing war in Ukraine and the visible attitude of many countries aimed at increased spending in the field of defence budgets, there is a real chance to enter new markets and increase export revenues in the coming years,” said Sebastian Chwalek, CEO of Poland’s PGZ.

State-owned PGZ controls more than 50 companies making weapons and ammunition – from armoured transporters to unmanned air systems – and holds stakes in dozens more.

It now plans to invest up to 8 billion zlotys ($1.8 billion) over the next decade, more than double its pre-war target, Chwalek told Reuters. That includes new facilities located further from the border with Russia’s ally Belarus for security reasons, he said.

Other manufacturers too are increasing production capacity and racing to hire workers, companies and government officials from Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic said.


Chwalek said PGZ would now produce 1,000 portable Piorun manpad air-defence systems in 2023 – not all for Ukraine -compared to 600 in 2022 and 300 to 350 in previous years.

The company, which he said has also delivered artillery and mortar systems, howitzers, bulletproof vests, small arms and ammunition to Ukraine, is likely to surpass a pre-war 2022 revenue target of 6.74 billion zlotys.


Czech arms exports this year will be the highest since 1989, he said, with many companies in the sector adding jobs and capacity.

“For the Czech defence industry, the conflict in Ukraine, and the assistance it provides is clearly a boost that we have not seen in the last 30 years,” Kopecny said.

David Hac, chief executive of Czech STV Group, outlined to Reuters plans to add new production lines for small-calibre ammunition and said it is considering expanding its large-calibre capability. In a tight labour market, the company is trying to poach workers from a slowing car industry, he said.

Defence sales helped the Czechoslovak Group, which owns companies including Excalibur Army, Tatra Trucks and Tatra Defence, nearly double its first-half revenues from a year earlier, to 13.8 billion crowns.

The company is increasing production of both 155mm NATO and 152mm Eastern calibre rounds and refurbishing infantry fighting vehicles and Soviet-era T-72 tanks, spokesman Andrej Cirtek told Reuters.

He said supplying Ukraine was more than just good business.

“After the Russian aggression started, our deliveries for Ukrainian army multiplied,” Cirtek said.

“The majority of the Czech population still remember times of a Russian occupation of our country before 1990 and we don´t want to have Russian troops closer to our borders.”

The Poles and the Czechs, in addition to having the industry, have a martial tradition going back over 1,000 years. 

There is no downside to having them strong. They'll bring their neighbors along with them. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part XCVI

Since August of last year, this picture keeps cropping up, and for good reason.

Images posted on the Chinese social media platform Weibo show five hulls of the Luyang III-class Type 052 destroyer under construction at the state-owned Dalian Shipyard in Liaoning province, northeast China

China is building at a wartime pace - more than just these five - for a reason. They have plans ... or at least want to be ready to execute a plan ... one long in the making.

While we're at it, let's bring up a picture of the People's Liberation Army Navy's first aircraft carrier Liaoning - without which they would be at least one if not two decades behind in building their carrier fleet.

While it is encouraging that in the last few years "official Washington" has reached the pivot point in seeing the PRC's plans - it is almost criminal the lack imagination and vision on our part seeing it, especially in the 1990s when was the point everyone should have seen the game was afoot.

Just two datapoints, both related to these two pics.

"The Long Game" was an old story by the time we started it in 2004. It has its roots a lot further back. I think the first tickle of the idea came to Ensign Salamander back in 1990 when he caught a bit of info in the local paper about something that dominated the skyline for anyone coming in or out of Mayport.

Go to the pic at the top and look at those cranes and then return here. 

Know what the pic below is?

That's right - it was the original plan for "Goat Island" in the St. Johns River in northeast Florida. Today is is known as Blount Island.

There were big plans there in the 1960s and 70s;

...Offshore Power Systems (OPS) was formed on July 6, 1972 as a 50/50 joint venture between Tenneco Power Systems (who owned the Newport News shipyard) and Westinghouse Electric Corporation. It proposed to design, manufacture, and market complete nuclear power plants of a standardized design and integrated with specially designed floating platforms 5.

Each floating nuclear power station (FNPS) would contain two or more FNPPs within a protective breakwater. The individual plants were to be 1150 MWe Westinghouse four-loop PWRs with ice-condenser containments. They had once-through steam condenser cooling with no cooling towers. Electricity was to be transmitted at high-voltage (345 kV) through submerged cables beneath the sea bottom. A shore support facility would provide a staging area, a docking facility, office buildings, and parking.

At the time, the largest crane of its type in the world, just one, was at Blount Island - but the anti-nuclear movement in the 1970s killed OPS before any construction could be started.

That crane though...what was to be done with that? In 1990, in the heart of the Bush41 Presidency;

A REMNANT of a futuristic project that would have supplied cities with electricity from floating nuclear power plants is about to leave Florida. The world's largest crane, designed to build the nuclear systems, is being dismantled along the St. Johns River for shipment to China. The crane is being taken down by workers from the China State Shipbuilding Corp. at Blount Island. The Chinese reportedly paid $3 million for the 38-story crane, which cost $15 million when built for Offshore Power Systems.

Ensign Salamander - always suspecting the worse of all communist nations and enraged that we would do any business with them, was unpleased, but had a lot of PQS to do and was keeping a weather eye to that Iraq thing and hoped his betters knew what they were doing.

So began a bi-partisan decade of stupid acts.

Quick, go up to look at the PLAN carrier pic above again then come back.

Where did that start?

It was a mission like no other. In the aftermath of the Soviet Union's collapse, one businessman armed with cash and a casino cover story scooped the world to buy the unfinished hulk of a Ukrainian aircraft carrier that would become the centrepiece of the PLA Navy.

Speaking to the media for the first time, the Hong Kong-based businessman at the heart of the undertaking reveals in a two-part series the details of the little-known, behind-the-scenes odyssey to realise China's long-held dream of owning such a warship.

Xu Zengping disclosed that the militarily sensitive original engines of the carrier were intact when Ukraine sold the vessel in 1998. This is contrary to what Beijing told the world at the time.

Soon to be LCDR Salamander didn't like this either, but he was focused on that guy in Iraq who needed a good spanking for trying to kill Bush41, so he hoped  his betters knew what they were doing. He had his suspicions because we were also selling MIRV technology to the PRC, but what did I know?

His betters didn't.
Karginov told the media: “The unfinished aircraft carrier Varyag was handed over to Ukraine and then sold to China to convert it into a casino. After China received the ship, it completed its construction and renamed it the Liaoning ship. The ship was originally supposed to become one of the main ships of the USSR.”

I'm not really mad at the PRC. I'm actually quite impressed with their leadership's long term vision, drive, and follow through. 

Are we thinking as long-term? Is our defense nomenklatura focused on the Long Game ... or any game at all outside the Beltway?

Have we learned?

Monday, January 30, 2023

Denial May Bring War - Punishment May Keep it at Bay


Does your opponent respond the same - or to the same degree - to identical incentives and disincentives than you do? 

Are you mirroring? 

Do you want your opponent to think a certain way because it is convenient to you and your priors?

Are you doing your best to structure your actions such that they are conveniently aligned with your peacetime path of least resistance, or are they mindfully structured with your opponent's view of warfighting?

That kept coming to mind yesterday during our conversation with our guest Toshi Yoshihara on Midrats discussing his new book Mao's Army Goes to Sea: The Island Campaigns and the Founding of China's Navy, and for the second half of the hour while we discussed related topics from his CSBA study, Chinese Lessons From the Pacific War: Implications for PLA Warfighting.

Two of the take aways from our discussion were the People's Republic of China's (PRC) institutional habits at war shaped by two predilections; 

(1) A quick sneak attack to negate an opponent's military strength. 

(2) Incremental attacks against a stronger opponent's isolated outposts where local superiority can be obtained at the moment of contact.

When they see these two opportunities, they are more predisposed to offensive action. If we want to deter the PRC from starting a new war in the Western Pacific, then we should not provide them tempting targets that feed their two preferred options.

While we may think many forward deployed bases - which this decade are now well inside the PRC's rocket artillery as in the above graphic - will deter the PRC from action against Taiwan, we may actually create conditions to encourage PRC aggression.

It would seem to me if we want to take the PRC's mindset and preferences in to account, a much greater way to deter them would be in two ways:

First, Taiwan and Japan cannot move, so they must be as strong as possible - long quilled porcupines - who are clearly positioned to thwart and survive any offensive action by the PRC in line with (1) and (2) above.

Second, the USA must maintain a strong, long ranged, and safely based offensive force well outside the range of a PRC quick strike - homeported/based at diverse locations - and supported by logistics capabilities in depth to reach and sustain at range combat operations. Both must be structured assuming not insignificant combat loss rates. We cannot be 2-ships away from being operationally defunct.

As part of my morning read, this article from Emma Helfrich came across as ... well ... worrisome; 

The U.S. Marine Corps has activated a new base camp on the strategic island of Guam in the Pacific, and, at least according to the Marines, it will serve as the first newly constructed base for the service in 70 years. Named Camp Blaz, the installation’s location is not only steeped in Marine Corps history dating back decades, but the activation also reflects the U.S. military's evolving posture in the increasingly tense region over which China looms.

How many more assets can we really put on Guam that just encourages PRC targeting with existing conventional precision strike missiles? The island doesn't need to tip over for those densely packed capabilities to be taken off the board at D+1.

I keep coming back to our requirement to refocus on USA based, long ranged, robust logistically supported forces that demonstrate on a regular basis at peace substantial global reach in support of front-line allied nations.

Smarter move if we assume war is coming - and if robust enough, might prevent that war from coming at all.  

Sunday, January 29, 2023

The People's Liberation Army Navy in 2023, with Toshi Yoshihara - on Midrats


From a navy of peasants to professionals on par with any Western navy; from coastal patrol to global reach, the slow and steady growth of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) crept up on some policy makers in the last decade, but as the PLAN eclipses the United States Navy in numbers and is accelerating their industrial capacity and capabilities, the decades of the American uncontested dominance at sea is no longer granted.

Returning to Midrats to discuss this and the larger trends he raises in his new book, Mao's Army Goes to Sea: The Island Campaigns and the Founding of China's Navy, will be Dr. Toshi Yoshihara.

Toshi Yoshihara is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA). He was previously the inaugural John A. van Beuren Chair of Asia-Pacific Studies and a Professor of Strategy at the U.S. Naval War College.

In addition to his latest book is Mao’s Army Goes to Sea: The Island Campaigns and the Founding of China’s Navy, he co-authored, with James R. Holmes, the second edition of Red Star over the Pacific: China's Rise and the Challenge to U.S. Maritime Strategy. He currently teaches a graduate course on seapower in the Indo-Pacific at the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.

Join us live if you can
, but it not, you can get the show later by subscribing to the podcast. 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. You can find us on almost all your most popular podcast aggregators as well.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Riverine: our Stupidity is Ukraine's Gift

In the first year of this blog ~18-yrs ago, we blowtorched the Navy for throwing away our riverine capability forcing the Army in Iraq to "reacquisition" fishing boats, and generally surrendering a primary logistics path - rivers - to the enemy.

We covered the rise and rebuilding of riverine in our Navy, and if you followed the tag, the ahistorical stupidity of our Navy at once again throwing it away due to having the attentions span of a squirrel.

Wherever there is war with any significant river systems, having a mature, well equipped riverine force is essential to controlling that logistics corridor and having the ability to defend from and project force quickly using the water.

This is military 101, but again, we have a problem with institutional maturity to support the "unsexy but important."

At least we are giving the Ukrainians what we are foolishly throwing away.

Over at Naval News they have the full report.

For the record, the United States’ State Department approved a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to the Government of Ukraine of up to 16 Mark VI Patrol Boats and related equipment for an estimated cost of $600 million back in June 2020. The U.S. Department of Defense on 5 January 2021 awarded SAFE Boats International a US$ 19 million order to start production of Ukraine’s first two Mk VI Patrol Boats. Eight months later NAVSEA awarded SAFE Boats International a US$ 84 million contract modification for the delivery of six more Mk VI patrol boats, with an option for an additional two boats.

Mark my words; we will - again - regret with blood and treasure giving up this capability. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The White Swan off Yemen

Civil wars are nasty and unpredictable things. The longer they go, the more the thin veneer of civilization starts to strip away for even the most advanced nations and their people. Less advanced nations devolve to Madmaxistan rather quickly.

All governmental efforts, money, and attention goes towards weapons, food, and fuel. Industries, infrastructure, and parts of civil society that do not support that get left as if frozen in aspic.

If you don't live in a nation suffering that civil war, it is easy not to pay attention to that which does not effect you.

There is one aspect of the Yemen civil war that no one should ignore - and it is at sea.

This isn't a disaster that anyone can state will be a surprise in the likely event nothing is done in time and it reaches its ultimate end. This isn't a "Black Swan" - this is a White Swan.

In a real world version of "Life After People" there is a ticking timebomb off of Yemen. Via Maritime-Executive;

Floating in the Red Sea, attached to an oil pipeline that runs nearly 300 miles to the war-torn city of Marib, the FSO Safer was established as a Yemeni oil export facility in 1988. The massive converted tanker was due to be decommissioned and replaced by a land-based terminal when the Yemen civil conflict erupted nearly eight years ago. Owned by SEPOC, a company which itself is owned by the Government of Yemen, the Safer sits off the coast of Ras Isa, an area controlled by Houthi rebels.

The vessel is still loaded with 1.14 million barrels of oil. While roughly 15,000 barrels have evaporated over the last eight years, and a thin layer has polymerized, the majority of that cargo remains liquid and liable to spill. The portion of the pipeline that runs for five miles beneath the Red Sea has an additional 17,000 barrels of liquid crude in it.  Without intervention, the Safer will either explode or corrode and spill its contents - and likely take the pipeline with it. 

Of note, Safer is a single hulled old-school tanker just rotting in the water. There is little to any margin of error left.

What could the results of inaction be?

For context, the amount of oil spilled off Mauritius (which destroyed an entire marine protected area) was 8,450 barrels. This is less than one percent of what is at stake with the Safer, and less than half of what is in the subsea pipeline. And while the Ever Given disrupted trade through the Suez Canal for six days, some projections suggest the Safer's spill could slow or stop trade through the entire Red Sea for weeks or even months, forcing ships to divert around the Cape of Good Hope to avoid spreading the oil by sailing through it.

The combined risks of a massive explosion, the blockage of international commerce, and a devastating oil spill form only part of the concern with the FSO Safer.  Add in the deaths of millions of people (already in famine) from loss of drinking water, caused by the contamination of desalination plants, and limited access to food caused by the blocking of Hodeida, and we will have a humanitarian emergency at a level the world cannot currently sustain. 

Furthermore, with the annihilation of the world’s most temperature-resistant coral system along with 10 unique species of fish, and the long-term damage to economic activities like fishing and tourism, the effects of this one vessel’s demise would be felt for generations. The potential consequences dwarf the various other maritime disasters experienced in the last few years. 

Usually when there is a cause for international action it is either military related or the disaster has already happened. 

This looks to be a space where those maritime nations who are hesitant to get involved militarily to maintain the global order, make a lot of noise about being "green," and generally make long speeches at the UN about such issues ... well ... they could take action.

The UN even has a "Go Fund Me" like pledge drive going to raise enough funds to get a cheap fix instead of an expensive clean up. I'm not sure if you get a tote-bag or not, but...I mean, really...this is embarrassing.

So much time and money spent on imaginary or exaggerated threats to the environment are flooded with billions of dollars, but a real one has to beg for scraps?

I'm pretty sure a fraction of the money spent at the latest Davos gathering by the WEF would have covered the cost, but there would be no power to be gained and the skiing in terrible in Yemen, so I guess not.

Time is ticking. 

h/t E.