Saturday, February 27, 2010

Out with the Colonel - in with the Admiral!!!

Yes - cultural guerrilla warfare is approved.
Tuesday, Ole Miss students voted to find a new mascot to replace the abandoned Colonel Reb. A student committee to develop and propose a new mascot will be formed soon.

Ackbar, a member of the Mon Calamari species who led the Rebel Alliance ships into the Battle of Endor, appears to be the early favorite. He has more than 14,000 Facebook fans. Websites like -- "It's a trap!" was his famous line -- are promoting Ackbar's candidacy.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Fullbore Friday

USS FRANKLIN (CV-13). Sure, we know the executive summary;
Before dawn on 19 March 1945 FRANKLIN who had maneuvered closer to the Japanese mainland than had any other U.S. carrier during the war, launched a fighter sweep against Honshu and later a strike against shipping in Kobe Harbor. Suddenly, a single enemy plane pierced the cloud cover and made a low level run on the gallant ship to drop two semi-armor piercing bombs. One struck the flight deck centerline, penetrating to the hangar deck, effecting destruction and igniting fires through the second and third decks, and knocking out the combat information center and airplot. The second hit aft, tearing through two decks and fanning fires which triggered ammunition, bombs and rockets.

FRANKLIN, within 50 miles of the Japanese mainland, lay dead in the water, took a 13° starboard list, lost all radio communications, and broiled under the heat from enveloping fires. Many of the crew were blown overboard, driven off by fire, killed or wounded, but the 106 officers and 604 enlisted who voluntarily remained saved their ship through sheer valor and tenacity. The casualties totaled 724 killed and 265 wounded, and would have far exceeded this number except for the heroic work of many survivors. Among these were Medal of Honor winners, Lt. Cmdr. Joseph T. O'Callahan, S. J., USNR, the ship's chaplain, who administered the last rites organized and directed firefighting and rescue parties and led men below to wet down magazines that threatened to explode, and Lt. (j.g.) Donald Gary who discovered 300 men trapped in a blackened mess compartment, and finding an exit returned repeatedly to lead groups to safety. USS SANTA FE (CL 60) similarly rendered vital assistance in rescuing crewmen from the sea and closing FRANKLIN to take off the numerous wounded.
With each passing year, fewer and fewer of these men are with us.

I'm stealing the rest from
The crew of the USS FRANKLIN (CV-13) will hold their 2010 reunion from the 18th to the 21st of March, in Branson, MO.

Specific location: Lodge of the Ozarks.

Special event: Memorial service morning of 19 March. This will be held on the 65th anniversary of the attack off the coast ofJapan.

Registration closes 1 March, 2010.

Contact for Questions:
Sam Rhodes 772-334-0366 or
Beth Conard Rowland (daughter of crewman) 740-524-0024 (please leave message)
That's a Fullbore reunion.

As he recommends - this is the book you need to read if you want to know more.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

You can't vote "present" to history ....

It can only be his personal antimosity towards the British that we have seen over an over that can explain this - especially when the British spent the better part of a decade backing our play.
It was a headline I never expected to read: “US refuses to endorse British sovereignty in Falklands oil dispute.” Washington has declined to back Britain in its dispute with Argentina over drilling rights in the waters surrounding the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands. President Obama’s position is one of strict neutrality, refusing to take sides. According to the State Department:
We are aware not only of the current situation but also of the history, but our position remains one of neutrality. The US recognises de facto UK administration of the islands but takes no position on the sovereignty claims of either party.
In The Telegraph, Toby Young nails it,
Has it come to this? Tony Blair sacrificed his political career and jeopardised Britain’s international standing by making common cause with America in the War on Terror. No matter how often he claims it was because he believed it was “the right thing to do”, we all know what was really going on in his head. He simply didn’t want to break ranks with the United States. The Atlantic alliance has been the cornerstone of British foreign policy since 1941, when Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt joined forces against the Axis powers. Dean Acheson may have declared that Britain had lost an empire and yet to find a role, but successive British Prime Ministers have know what their role is and, by and large, it has been to stand shoulder to shoulder with America, presenting a united front in a series of global conflicts, from the Cold War to the Gulf.
So it is truly shocking that Barack Obama has decided to disregard our shared history and insist that we have to fight this battle on our own. Does Britain’s friendship really mean so little to him? Do the sacrifices Britain has made in defence of the Atlantic alliance count for nought? Who does he think will replace us as America’s steadfast ally when she finds herself embroiled in a territorial dispute of her own — possibly with the very same motley crew of Latin American rabble rousers? Spain? Italy? France? Good luck with that, Mr President.

You’d think that having made his bones in Chicago, Obama would know the Chicago Code of Honour: When someone picks a fight with a friend of yours, they pick a fight with you.
Is this a tough call? Of course it is - life is tough; being President of the United States is even tougher. You define your nation by the tough calls - and this defines us as wobbly and ungrateful.

If the Falklands are not British - then the Southwest is not American and neither is Hawaii. Follow the logic.

It will take other leaders years to repair the damage and insult to our best friend.

Midrats - Episode 10: Sea Control

What is "Sea Control?"

Is it,
  • "... fundamentally, the ability to carry your, and your allies', commerce across the seas and to provide the means to project force upon a hostile, distant shore. A sea controller must limit the sea denial capabilities of the enemy."
  • "... control over distant regions, ... it must ultimately be decided by naval power, ..., which represents the communications that form so prominent a feature in all strategy."
  • "...the employment of naval forces, supported by land and air forces, as appropriate, to achieve military objectives in vital sea areas. Such operations include the destruction of enemy naval forces, the suppression of enemy sea commerce, the protection of vital sea lanes, and the establishment of local military superiority in areas of naval operations."
...or is it something else?

What does Sea Control mean in 2010 and where do we need to prepare be able to exercise it over the next decade?

These are some of the questions we will be asking this Sunday, 28FEB 1700R/2200Z/5pm EST on Navy milblog radio, Midrats.

Joining me on our panel will be EagleOne from EagleSpeak and Bryan McGrath from InformationDissemination.

Our guest will be someone well known to readers of this blog,
Robert C. (Barney) Rubel, CAPT USN(Ret), The Dean of the Center for Naval Warfare Studies at the Naval War College.

Join us live at the Episode page or clicking the widget below. During the show, join the usual suspects in the chat room where you can feed us questions and provide comments as the show is going on. If you can't make it live, you can get to the archives at the blogtalkradio showpage, or subscribe to and download the podcast on iTunesicon.

See 'ya Sunday!

Listen to Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part XXX

Who is keeping an eye on the long game? James Kraska is.

Over at Orbis, he has an article that is worth reading, How the United States Lost the Naval War on 2015. Sure, the article has been out a few months --- but it lingers; it has a flavor.

Let's look at it.

First thing; I won't pick too much on his 2015 date. Who knows - I wouldn't call that time ripe (if I were Chinese I would push that to the right a decade and a half) - but hey - this is a just a vignette to spark a discussion, and no one called 1939 or
1914 either.

That isn't what is important. The vignette is just the wrapper - the concepts he brings out via the vignette is its meat.

He hits center mass however or some critical "shaping" issues. Starting in the first paragraph - you get a good idea where he is coming from and going to.
With a maritime strategy focused on lower order partnerships, and a national oceans policy that devalued strategic interests in freedom of navigation, the stage was set for defeat at sea.
Yes, a few Salamanderesque things to talk about.

He outlines well the second and third order effects of military exchanges and technology transfer. Short term thinking with long term consequences.
Globalization, developments in the international law of the sea, and the revolution in military affairs aided the emergence of China and other new naval powers. Globalization was a democratizing force among navies. The wealth effect of expanding trade and rising economies combined with the spread of doctrine, training and operational art, serving as a force multiplier. The result of globalization was a vastly improved Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in terms of its force structure and warfighting skills. The proliferation of advanced weapons technology helped nations that historically had never exercised naval power to make generational leaps in precision-guided munitions.
Just for starters, review Loral from the '90s. You know the background.

In addition to being very good at reverse engineering (though more work needed on the quality side) - the Chinese are also a good are understanding history, especially their history.

There are a few things that I would pop Kraska on the back of the head for though, as some good stuff got lost in poorly chosen buzz-words we could have done without. Here is one pop on 'da head.
A collection of unfriendly coastal states had invested heavily in asymmetric anti-access technologies and strategies to counter the power of U.S. naval forces. In 1991, Iraq used a mixture of crude pre-World War I contact navalmines and sophisticated magnetic and acoustic influence mines launched from small rubber boats. The country deployed over 1,100 mines in the first Gulf War, but most of them were either inoperable or improperly positioned. Yet Baghdad still reaped success in using mines to secure its seaside flank off Kuwait City. The USS Tripoli struck a moored contact mine, which ripped a 16 20 foot cavern below the waterline; hours later, and despite proceeding with deliberate caution to avoidmines, the USS Princeton struck a mine that cracked her superstructure and caused severe deck buckling.
Fueled by a dynamic economy and impressive ingenuity, Beijing developed and fielded a bevy of
asymmetric weapons. One game-changing weapon, an anti-ship ballistic missile, could hit an underway aircraft carrier.
The good stuff is the note on "Sea Denial" weapons - or as I call it, the "Porcupine Strategy." You don't have to be the biggest, strongest, or most intelligent - you simply have to make it too painful and dangerous for anyone to get close to you.

The bad part - "

No, no, no. Sigh, sorry - I have to do this.
Adj. 1. asymmetric - characterized by asymmetry in the spatial arrangement or placement of parts or components

irregular - contrary to rule or accepted order or general practice; "irregular hiring practices"
There is nothing asymmetrical about mine warfare - good googly moogly, there is a Union Ship a mortar shot away from me sunk by a "mine" in the Civil War. There is nothing "contrary" about it - it is about as much of the environment as typhoons - and like typhoons, they are only asymmetrical if you ignore them and/or don't prepare for them.

Same thing as ASBMs. Was the Dive Bomber asymmetrical? Was the Motor Torpedo Boat? Was the Submarine?

No. They were evolutionary developments in warfare - the eternal Darwinian battlefield. One technology begets a defensive response to them, that begets the need for another weapon, etc. Once again, they are only asymmetrical if you are so hide-bound and myopic as an institution that you refuse to improvise, adapt and overcome. Ahem.

I do not like the use of the "A-word" because it gives some mystic glint to what is a straight-forward professional challenge. A nit-pic? Sure. Detracts from the good stuff in his article? Not at all.

The core of his vignette,
Without warning, a Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile – a variant of the 1,500 km-plus range DF-21/CSS-5 solid propellant medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) specifically designed to decapitate U.S. carrier strike groups operating in East Asia – struck the USS George Washington causing the ship to erupt in a cataclysm.
There is some nice "PSYOPS-INFO OPS" vignette play that I will skip through because this part is what interests me - but if that is your thing, make sure and read it all. Back to my stuff though.
Nations that had little respect for offshore or littoral freedom of navigation were courted, and regional commanders favored the benefits of partnership over the value of preserving navigational rights. Winning ‘‘hearts and minds’’ trumped age-old principles. The U.S. Navy struggled with how to conduct combined, lower-order maritime security operations. China was concentrating on how to win a naval war.
Furthermore, most of the other nations with large navies were allies. While technically true when measured in fleet tonnage and missile tubes, his testimony obscured the fact that while the U.S. Navy perhaps could outmatch any other navy in a fair fight, her
rivals were not looking for a fair fight. Allies would prove unreliable partners, more intent on avoiding war than deterring it. U.S. adversaries were thinking asymmetrically.
Those are two paragraphs that are very difficult to talk about in "polite company" but represent two significant strategic risks that we have adopted. Oh, and I will ignore the A-word. Read Sun Tzu (the Chinese do) - its all there.

He reminds us of another challenge of the American Fleet - we have more than one ocean to worry about,
The fourteen-to-one advantage in naval power also assumed that the United States had time to collect and concentrate its far-flung ships against a single foe. The ephemeral 313-ship force structure was never achieved, but it called for eleven carriers, eighty-eight cruisers and destroyers, forty-eight submarines, fifty-five littoral combat ships and thirty-one amphibious warfare ships. But these forces were spread thinly throughout the world maintaining a bewildering and multi-tasked agenda. Given that a 1.0 force presence—maintaining one ship on station—typically requires three ships—one in work-ups and evaluation, getting ready to deploy, one on deployment, and one in the yard being refurbished after deployment—the 313 ships never really promised more than about 100 ships at sea at any given time, and these would be spread over the entire globe.
No sooner had warships from the U.S. Second Fleet in Norfolk gotten underway, however, than did Cosco, the Chinese company operating the Panama Canal, declare the passageway closed for four weeks for urgent repairs to the Atlantic and Pacific locks. Closure of the 40-mile long canal added 3,000 miles to transits from the East coast of the United States to the Far East.6 The alternative was to take the laborious route through the Strait of Magellan in southern Chile. Considerably safer than Drake Passage, Magellan was still difficult to navigate. The narrow passage was dogged by fierce winds and the inhospitable climate. Half the U.S. fleet anchored in Norfolk was temporarily cut off from the Pacific. At the same time, street protests to stop the impending transit of U.S. warships through the Suez Canal stung the government in Cairo. The Suez Canal shaves 40 percent of the distance off a trip from the Sixth Fleet operating area in the Mediterranean Sea to the Far East.
Actually, the Straight of Magellan is a challenge, but isn't that difficult, but inside the vignette, both canal challenges are well described.

... and here is the Porcupine in action,
In 2015, China’s navy was somewhat smaller, numbering only a handful of aircraft carriers, sixty submarines and seventy major surface combatants. Beijing also operated hundreds of fast offshore patrol vessels, many that packed a punch with anti-ship cruise missiles. Whereas an adversary like China could marshal its entire national fleet for a crisis immediately off its shore, as well as land-based missiles and aircraft, to face down the United States, the U.S. Navy would have to fight with the forces that happened to be in the region.
Back to the critique - there is another problem from a historical perspective, though I don't blame the author. It came from the 2009 DOD Capstone Concept for Joint Operations,
Foreign sensitivities to U.S. military presence have steadily been increasing. . . .
Balderdash. I remember the Sane-Freeze gaggle anti-GLCM/Pershing II et al from the Cold War. This is nothing new - we have it easy.

Speaking of balderdash,
The Army could fail, as it did in Vietnam;
No, no, and no. The military part of the Vietnam War was won. The defeat of the '72 invasion proved that. Vietnam was lost in '75 when Congress cut off all support for South Vietnam, inviting the North to invade. Political, not military defeat. Rinse, repeat.

He makes up for these historical oversights with a more critical historical reference that is a foundation stone to understanding th Chinese mind.
When China was weak, it suffered the indignity of routine U.S. and foreign naval operations off its shores. But as the U.S. Navy declined and the Chinese Navy became more powerful, China became less willing to tolerate the ‘‘foreign invasions.’’
All you need to do is pull the string from The Sand Pebbles and you will know what he is talking about. Still a huge issue for the Chinese. Their cultural historical memory is a order of magnitude greater than ours - and they hold grudges.

Towards the end, Kraska plays gadfly rather well.
When China acted, it was the culmination of a patient and focused national plan to couple naval technology and resources to a corresponding political, legal and diplomatic strategy in the oceans. The U.S. Naval force plans had been in disarray for decades. The nation was implementing a ‘‘cooperative’’ naval strategy designed for peace—preventing brushfire wars rather than deterring great power conflict. Meanwhile, the White House, through both Republican and Democratic administrations, placed environmentalists in charge of strategic U.S. oceans policy. These environmentalists championed coastal state control over the offshore areas – both in the United States and in multilateral diplomacy – and this focus played into China’s hands by de-legitimizing freedom of the seas in the littorals.

From the Battle of Lepanto to the Battle of Okinawa, major fleet action was the decisive event in many modern wars. Over the past five hundred years all of the world’s foremost powers achieved their position of leadership through reliance on unsurpassed naval capabilities.16 Even a traditional continental power such as Russia reached the apex of its standing on the global stage through naval power.17 The West had forgotten that the history of international security and freedom of the seas was a story intimately woven into the material of world politics, forming the basis for an Anglo-American world order.
True, we lost focus on Neo-Mahanian ideal - but a good Navy can do both. "Distributed and Networked" warfare with many small units has a long history in the USN. From the Union blockade of the South to the Battle of the Atlantic and the unrestricted submarine warfare against Imperial Japan - we did that while being able to pivot to major fleet actions as well.

Yes, we do need to focus on what I call the Long Game - but we can and must do both. I am not too pessimistic on the technology side. Sure, they (might) have a MRBM - but we will have SM-3. They may sink one carrier - but with the political will, we can handle that. History also proves that fixed shore sites are no match for mobile strike from the sea.

What we do need to do is to shorten our lab-to-Fleet technology cycle. Get technology demonstrators to sea. We don't do that like
we used to.

Why did I call Kraska a gadfly? Well - he got a reaction - reaction in the right places.

Let's start with the
Financial Times. In their article you find a common problem - the "official" thinkers in both locations seem to have the same mission; tell everyone to ignore the poor innocent military expansion by the world's most populous nation - who BTW is run by an authoritarian government.
Some analysts express caution against overstating China’s naval prowess. Even sending a small group of ships to take part in anti-piracy operations off the east coast of Africa this year proved to be a large logistical challenge for the Chinese navy.

“China lacks many of the capabilities to project power abroad,” says David Shambaugh, a China specialist at George Washington University in the US.
“The focus of our foreign policy will be in assisting development, not in signing up to expensive new commitments,” says Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at People’s University in Beijing.

Or as another Chinese academic, who asked not to be named, says of protecting seaborne trade: “Why should we spend billions of dollars paying for something that is already being paid for?” Largely paid for, he did not need to mention, by the US.
Can anyone say, "Don't plan based upon stated intentions, but by capability." Wait, I did.

Thomas E. Ricks isn't all that happy, here is the part he didn't like.
The U.S. Navy also suffered problems in readiness and proficiency. Diversion of thousands of officers and enlisted sailors to fill Army shortfalls in Iraq and Afghanistan deprived the service of years of training and operational experience at sea. Promotions were tied to disassociated augmentation tours for stability operations and reconstruction rather than excellence afloat. An entire generation of mid-career commissioned and noncommissioned officers tried to learn counterinsurgency land warfare in the desert and mountains of of central Asia while their counterparts in China conducted fleet exercises to learn how to destroy them."
Ricks snarkily replies,
Really? Has the Navy sent "an entire generation" to Iraq and Afghanistan?
Well, yes; or at least a large part of it. I spent the last part of my career largely doing nothing but that - Navy CDR doing a LTC's job. I didn't mind though - I picked that set of orders around what "my community" wanted me to do. The taxpayer got much more out of me than the "busy make-work" the folks in Millington would have had me do. So yes, Ricks has a point - but so does Kraska.

Ricks then shifts fire here.
Also, does national security rest ultimately only on the Navy, as this hydrocentric article tendentiously asserts?:
Only more slowly did people begin to realize that the maintenance of the world order had rested on U.S. military power, and that the foundation of that power was U.S. command of the global commons. The Army could fail, as it did in Vietnam; the Air Force was ancillary to the Army. To secure the U.S. position and the nation's security-and indeed for world order-the Navy could never fail."
Well, when you are fighting China - the Navy and the USAF better be at the front. Land war in Asia? No thank you.

In his final broadside, I think Ricks tells us more about himself than Kraska,
But what stuck in my craw most of all was Kraska's casual poke at "the apologizing Obama administration," which he asserts that, combined with the "unpopularity" of the predecessor administration, is undermining national security. I think it is acceptable for active duty officers to critique strategy, but I think here Kraska is sailing a little too close to politically attacking his commander in chief, especially since he offers no evidence, and footnotes this sentence to an article by Henry Kissinger that appeared months before Obama became president.
That is a funny snit. James - you made Tom look cross-eyed! Bravo Zulu!!! Oh, and for the record; Ricks is totally off base on this argument - Kraska is well clear. No one is perfect though, we'll give Ricks a pass.

Intellectual churn - it keeps you healthy. There has been a push, General Mattis and Admiral Stavridis have pushed the most I think, for officers to read, think, and write. James Kraska has answered that call.

One note of warning though - Mattis and Stavridis are rare. Many of their peers - and many more between O6-O9, do not share their enthusiasm for discussion. Cultivate those who support your efforts - but watch your back. Sad, but even this month I have received emails from people on active duty who have had the person who ownes paper on them threaten them professionally for "reading, thinking, writing." But hey - Sims, Mitchell, Connolly - you're in good company.

Diversity Thursday

Ah yes; from the most honestly titled periodical in the business, DiversityInc.

Lookie who is getting facetime with the Commissariat?
Visconti: What are your long-term plans for the academy?

Vice Adm. Fowler: We will continue to reach out, and it’s not about a number. There is no goal. But in my mind it just makes sense … that we have representation as close to the demographics of America. The Naval Academy, with everything we have to offer, should be very close, and it may take a generation to get there. Our enlisted force took a generation to get to where it was up to looking like America. But we need to get there before we really need it. What happens to most people is you don’t invest in something that you know is happening like the [changing demographics of] America, and then you need talent and you’re not getting it.
Hook, line, and sinker on a debunked racialist theory founded in sectarianism and division.

In some ways you have to feel sorry for them - kind of like those who believed in the global warming BS from East Anglia University. They thought they were supporting something that was important and real. Good meaning people, led astray by bad science and agenda driven ideologues - many with a financial hook in it.

You try not to make it personal - i.e. their ideas that they promote that is the problem - not the people. After awhile though - especially when you are dealing with smart, well educated and informed people - when they continue or double-down in supporting a debunked and dangerous fraud - it does become personal, in a way. They really give you no choice. Sorry; not may fault.

Look back at Fowler's boilerplate. How does his statement align with all those PPT slides we have seen? How does that match with the dual-track admissions process and special considerations? How does that mesh with the "Number 1 priority?" Does he not see that when you say something to one group that is not in alignment with your actions and the things you say to another, that your credibility evaporates?

Oh, but it gets worse.
"People are the key. All we acquire and all we do is of little worth without the people who give it value. Our policies must reflect the diversity of our nation. Our policies and practices must enable us to attract, recruit and retain the men and women of America.

Our policies must address the many rewards of service in the United States Navy, and we must be unwavering in our obligation to take care of those who serve our Navy, military and civilian, and their families."
-Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations.
So, we will refuse entry to the Enlisted ranks and certain Ratings to avoid over-representing some minorities groups, right? No, that is not what he means.

Must is a word that when it comes from a 4-star means order. Orders come from power. Power is force. Goals under force are quotas.

Not to be overtly disrespectful, but Fowler and Rougheaad really are the poster-children for the "not getting it branch" of the self-flagellating Baby Boomer generation. The ones who are willing to pollute the minds and sacrifice the professional future of innocent younger generations in order to satisfy their own generation's guilt.

Yep, DiveristyINC's - I still laugh at that title - March 2010 "
GovernmentAgenda" gagglefest of racialist hate and self-loathing - Guess who is headlining it? Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations.

This whole DiversityINC embarrassment brings something to mind. Remember Admiral Mullen's wildly inappropriate comments in Jordan last week? Well, he had a little epiphany and got one thing right.
"You will find as you get older and more senior, finding out what's really going on at the deck plates becomes much more elusive than it used to be when you were sort of living there," he said.
Admirals - the elusiveness is the same with your Diversity madness. The young Sailors, Midshipmen, and officers live diversity - and have no use for Diversity.

Race and ethnicity simply is not an issue in getting the job done - except when it is shoved in their face through speech and actions by others - others who usually have a paycheck and/or ego involved in keeping friction and divisions going.

These young professionals want to be judged and rewarded based on their qualifications and character - not something so useless as race or ethnicity. In addition to promoting division over unity - you force mixed-race Sailors to choose one part of their DNA over the other - we are not AKC purebred dogs, we are human beings in all our glorious American mixture. And for those who are morally challenged we also promote self-identification fraud as well.

Shame on us all, and scorn on those who recommended this cancer under the threat of PC smearing to our leadership.

Our Navy deserves leadership that truly does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, or national origin. By association with DiversityINC and affinity organizations - regardless of intentions or desire - you support discrimination.

Fact. Shame.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Maritime Union: "Arm us."

Even the unions have signed on for Plan Salamander.
The following letter dated Feb. 16 was sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. The letter was signed by American Maritime Officers National President Thomas Bethel; International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots President Timothy Brown; Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association President Don Keefe; Seafarers International Union President Michael Sacco; Marine Firemen's Union President Anthony Poplawski; and Sailors' Union of the Pacific President Gunnar Lundeberg.

On behalf of the American merchant mariners our organizations represent we respectfully ask that you work with us to develop and implement the programs and policies necessary to protect U.S.-flag vessels and their United States citizen crews from acts of piracy. Despite efforts over the past 10 months, American mariners face an ongoing threat. As American crews simply attempt to do their jobs they must remain vigilant, never knowing exactly when these international criminals will initiate illegal and perhaps deadly action against U.S.-flag ships. As evidenced by the frequent incidents against ships from various nations in the Gulf of Aden and in other waters near Somalia, it is no exaggeration to state that mariners' lives are in constant peril.
Our organizations continue to work with American shipowners and government agencies to ensure mariners have the training they need to help repel pirate attacks. However, these non-lethal measures alone are not enough as piracy becomes more sophisticated and deadly. American crews need and deserve to have their government standing shoulder to shoulder with them to combat this ongoing threat.
We agree that international patrols in high-risk waters, international conferences and meetings -- including those of the United Nations' CGPCS (Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia) -- and international aid efforts can all help bring attention to the problem and may ultimately lead to long-term solutions. However, until there is an effective international response in place, the United States Government should act forcefully to protect U.S.-flag vessels and their American citizen crews. For example, our government should continue to work with U.S.-flag vessel operators and American maritime labor representatives to put in place the most practical and effective deterrents against acts of piracy against U.S.-flag vessels. Second, it is extremely important that our government be prepared to respond, as it did so effectively during the situation involving the Maersk Alabama, with speed and force each time a U.S.-flag ship is attacked and the vessel and its American crew are taken hostage.
We further believe that our government should not consider after-the-fact legal actions against U.S.-flag shipowners who, as a last resort, pay a ransom to secure the safe release of their American citizen crews as the best solution to the problem of piracy. It would be unconscionable for the United States government to turn its back on or to dictate that America shipowners turn their backs on the American merchant mariners who willingly sailed into harm's way in service to their country. We are proud that throughout our history American merchant mariners have served with distinction as our nation's fourth arm of defense. America's merchant mariners never have and never will shirk their responsibility to deliver the goods whenever and wherever needed. For this reason, we do not subscribe to an international call for mariners to boycott the waters most at risk to attack by pirates. Rather, we believe that just as land-based criminals know they will face strong and swift retribution when they attack innocent victims, we believe seaborne pirates should know they will be treated no differently.
A plan to repel and fight piracy must be as forceful and as unrelenting as piracy itself. We suggested immediately following the attacks against the Maersk Alabama and Liberty Sun last year that the most effective step that can be taken in response to aggressive action against U.S.-flag ships and their American crews is for our government to provide U.S.-flag vessels with the on-board armed force protection necessary to repel acts of piracy. We remain convinced that this approach still represents the most effective course of action that can be taken.
Nonetheless, we appreciate and strongly support the recent decision by the Department of Defense to assist U.S.-flag vessel operators in contracting with private security forces for U.S.-flag vessels carrying military cargo in high risk waters. We ask that all agencies of the Federal government immediately follow the Defense Department's lead so that all U.S.-flag vessels transporting military as well as non-military government cargoes receive the same type of support.
In conclusion, we thank the Administration for its efforts and support for the U.S.-flag merchant marine and for American's merchant mariners. As representatives of America's maritime labor organizations we remain ready and willing to continue working with the Administration to bring an end to piracy, once and for all. This only can happen if the United States and other affected nations apprehend, prosecute and hold accountable the pirates for their criminal acts.
Hat tip Gramps.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Anti-Piracy @ Heritage

Earlier today at The Heritage Foundation, there was a panel on piracy titled, Anti-Piracy Hardware: Keeping Ships Out of Harms Way.

The host was Jena Baker McNeill, Homeland Security Policy Analyst, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation, and the panel was moderated by Ethel Machi Homeland Security Science and Technology Consultant.

The panel members were Martin Murphy, Senior Fellow, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Josh Robbins, Project Director, American Defense Systems, Inc. - and someone very familiar to the the listeners to Navy milblog radio's
Midrats; Claude Berube who teaches at the United States Naval Academy.

It's OK if you aren't a member of the Potomac Flotilla and couldn't make it in person - thanks to the good people at Heritage, we have the video.

Enjoy, this is varsity intellectual football.

If you liked listening to Claude, check him out on Midrats on Episode 2 and Episode 7.

My readers have failed me ...

You know my weaknesses. Of the legion - here are a few.

1. Latin American food.
2. Latin American women.
3. Latin American women.
4. Strong women.
5. Conservative famale politicians.
6. Did I mention the fevered dreams I have of the possibility of a strong Latin American female politician; who can cook and help me find a decent place to buy pupusas?

Costa Rica has elected its first female president in a landslide victory, marking another political milestone for women in Latin America.

Laura Chinchilla, from the centrist ruling party, won 47% of the vote in a crowded field in yesterday's poll, further eroding the region's reputation as a bastion of machismo and patriarchy.
A social conservative who opposes gay marriage and abortion, she campaigned under the slogan "Laura: firm and honest," and said her priority would be to combat drug-fuelled violent crime. Opponents had cast her as a hypocritical Arias puppet who was soft on criminals. One rival, Otto Guevara, took a televised polygraph test to show he was more honest. Another, Luis Fishman, ran on the slogan that of all the candidates he was the "lesser evil".

Despite or perhaps partly because of such tactics, Chinchilla won in all seven provinces, a rare feat, and easily surpassed the 40% needed to avoided a run-off.
Most of you know how I feel about Colombia - but most of you have no idea that Costa Rica is my closest nation of refuge.

There are enough El Salvadorans in Costa Rica that I am sure she could help my find a good pupusaria.

Sigh. You all make me sad.

On a serious side, let me tie in a few things: in the last series of elections - Honduras, Panama, Chile, and Costa Rica have all turned right towards free markets and liberty. I wish we would reward these nations more along with Colombia. Alas, I don't expect that anytime soon.

Hat tip PowerLine.

DADT 101

One thing I learned as a LT doing my first Staff Weenie tour was this simple fact: you don't have to be an expert in everything - you just have to make sure you get the right people on your staff.

In that line, one of the great things about this blog is the network of commenters, emailers, lurkers, facebookers, and twitterers that keep the information flow going both ways. When things come up that are complicated - I reach out to them. When I put something out there that I am a little off-phase about - they reach out to me.

I tend to run the anti-DADT argument from the upper-level, large pixels. A few weeks ago I reached out to one of the JAGs I keep in the stable. If you want to read about DADT from the JAG level - you cannot do better than this.

Counselor - over to you.

There is a lot of confusion and misinformation circulating about how DADT is applied to the fleet. While it is easy for some to pull up a random piece of the US Code, it is far more difficult to explain how that law is applied to a given sailor. This brief primer is designed to give a more comprehensive explanation on the law of DADT, explain how it is applied, and give concrete examples of how DADT has failed as a policy.

First: The Law.

The DADT policy is codified as 10 U.S. Code 654. However, the actual process for applying DADT is primarily covered in MILPERSMAN 1910-148. DADT prohibits anyone who "demonstrates) a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts" from serving in the armed forces of the United States, because "it would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability." The act prohibits any homosexual or bisexual person from disclosing his or her sexual orientation or from speaking about any homosexual relationships, including marriages or other familial attributes, while serving in the United States armed forces. The "don't ask" part of the policy indicates that superiors should not initiate investigation of a service member's orientation in the absence of disallowed behaviors, though credible and particularly evidence of homosexual behavior may cause an investigation.

Second: How it works.

The Act gives the policy, but the MILPERSMAN gives the process. Under the MILPERSMAN, separation processing is MANDATORY if the CO believes based on credible information, the servicemember has committed homosexual conduct.
Homosexual conduct includes engaging in a homosexual act, marrying or attempting to marry a person of the same gender, or making statements evidencing a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts. "Credible" information MAY be in the form of outing by a third party, a provision that has come under increased scrutiny, but has not yet been repealed.

Credible information does NOT include opinion, rumor, frequenting of homosexual establishments, reading of homosexual materials, or associations with homosexuals (e.g. participating in a "pride march"). Credible information DOES include a statement by the member that they are gay, a reliable person observing the member in homosexual activity, or a reliable
person relates that the member made a homosexual statement (either verbal or non-verbal). So yes, outing by a third party CAN lead to a separation board.

Processing for these cases is MANDATORY, unless it can be proven that the conduct in question was committed solely to get out of service and separation is not in the best interest of the service.

If the CO questions the validity of the information, the CO, and only the CO, may authorize an investigation. The purpose of the investigation is not a witch hunt and is used only to gather information necessary to assist the CO in determining the appropriate disposition. Per MILPERSMAN, this is to be done after consultation with the Staff Judge Advocate of the General
Court-Martial Convening Authority. Many GCMCAs will in fact order subordinate units to not conduct an investigation without the GCMCA's approval.

Where a member admits to being gay and does not contest separation, little investigation is needed, unless the CO believes the statement was made to avoid service obligation. In this case, the CO must seek approval from SECNAV (ASN (M&RA)) before initiating an investigation.

Once referred to an admin board, the verbatim reason for processing must be stated on the notice form. (e.g. Separation by reason of homosexual conduct as evidenced by member's statement that he is a homosexual).

If a member marries or attempts to marry a member of the same gender, the member must be separated. If a member makes a statement that he or she is gay, the member must be separated UNLESS the member can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that they do not intend to engage in homosexual acts. (i.e. they intend to remain celibate). If a member engages
in homosexual acts, the member must be separated UNLESS the member can prove that the act is a departure from their normal behavior; not done by use of force, intimidation or coercion; the acts are unlikely to recur; the member does not have a propensity to engage in homosexual activity; and retention is not contrary to good order, discipline, and morale.

If the evidence of homosexual conduct is not deemed credible by the board, the board may find no basis and retain.

Everyone following?

Third: How it REALLY works.

Since DADT's implementation, over 13,000 servicemembers have been processed out. I can say that I have never seen a gay sailor with a good record, who wanted to stay in, kicked out. However I've seen MANY straight sailors claim to be gay in order avoid service. While I caveat this segment by stating that this is anecdotal, enough anecdote eventually becomes data.

Case 1: A nuke sailor finishes his enlistment and re-enlists with a substantial bonus. A month later he says he's gay. He keeps the bonus, waives his board in exchange for an honorable, and goes to work for a power company.

Case 2: A sub par sailor with only three years in and a poor performance record claims he is gay. He leaves with a General and retains is VA disability benefits and his VA loan benefits.

Case 3: A slightly better sailor claims gay at three years. He gets an honorable and keeps his GI Bill.

Case 4: A strong sailor, well liked by his chain, is outed by his psychotic ex-boyfriend. The command drops several hints to the PIO that, should the investigation into the credibility of the evidence come back "inconclusive", they would not be upset. No board conducted upon a proper investigation and determination that the evidence was not credible.

Case 5: Similarly strong sailor caught receiving oral sex in the sea bag locker by shipmate. After referral to NJP, where the same punishment was given in other cases of shipboard sexual activity, regardless of gender involved - restriction and a bust, the case is sent for mandatory processing. Sailor presents a good military character defense with testimony from his LCPO and others in his chain, and claims "queen for a day". Sailor retained by vote of 3-0.

Case 6: (And there are a lot of these) A sailor is caught groping his shipmates in the berthing. The command is low on operational funds and is worried about a drawn out court-martial which will be expensive, politically charged, and require sending several of their key crewmembers TAD to TPU during their upcoming underway. To save cost, the defense attorney offers, and they agree to process the member for homosexual conduct vice sexual assault in exchange for his waiving a board and accepting an OTH, denying him all veteran benefits.

This is how it really works.

The problem with DADT is that is primarily a vehicle through which poor performers can get an easy out, and good sailors live in fear of separation. My overwhelming experience, is that most of the fleet, in the words of one of my more eloquent blue shirts, "don't care if you eat a taco or lick a hot dog when you go home...just show up and do your job." Moreover, it allows
activist groups to take skewed numbers consisting largely of either people who are NOT gay, or people who were committing other misconduct, and then claim that the mean, homophobic, military has pushed people out. This is particularly infuriating as it is congress, not the military, that mandates DADT, yet we must remain silent and vilified while people in Washington
paint us as bigots to further their own agenda. It allows liberal politicians to vilify the military and we, thank to Article 88 of the UCMJ, are often all too silent in defending the truth...that it is CONGRESS, and the PRESIDENT, not the military, that says gays can't serve.

Again...your results may vary, but I have NEVER seen a good sailor who wanted to stay in kicked under DADT. I have seen commands bend over backwards to retain these sailors, even when everyone knew they were queer as a three dollar bill at an Elton John concert.

Repeal the policy. Treat sex offenders as sex offenders. Stop giving dirtbags an easy way to keep their benefits. And let those who do their job continue to do their job without fear in a time when we are fighting two wars.
UPDATE: OK, see what you people have done to my blog? Over 200 comments and all is great .... but are you happy now? If you haven't seen the add on the right - well, I saved URR the trouble and did a screen-cap. Click here. And no, I didn't pick it - google adsense did. If I did, there would be more chest hair.

FWIW - Byron saw it first.

Monday, February 22, 2010

TLAM-N in the can?

No nukes? Well, fewer nukes it looks like. Fewer options. Higher systems risk.
The United States has informally told Japan that it will retire its sea-based Tomahawk cruise missiles carrying nuclear warheads, in line with President Barack Obama's policy to pursue a world free of nuclear weapons, Japanese government sources said Monday.
Washington said the move would not affect its ''nuclear umbrella,'' addressing concerns in Tokyo about the step's effect on the U.S. deterrence against potential attacks from countries like China and North Korea, the sources said.
The retirement policy will likely be stipulated in the ''Nuclear Posture Review,'' a new nuclear strategic guideline the Obama administration is slated to report to Congress in March, they said.
Officials from both (USA & Japan) governments have already begun discussions on the future of the U.S. deterrence on the premise the Tomahawk will be retired, they said.

In February last year, before Japan's long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party was ousted from power in September, Japanese diplomats concerned about a weakening of the U.S. deterrence asked the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States that Tokyo be consulted ahead of any decision if Washington considers retiring the nuclear Tomahawk.

The commission urged the U.S. government in its final report in May to take steps to retain the Tomahawk, saying, ''In Asia, extended deterrence relies heavily on the deployment of nuclear cruise missiles on some Los Angeles class attack submarines -- the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile/Nuclear (TLAM/N). This capability will be retired in 2013 unless steps are taken to maintain it.''
We'll see when it is official. Fewer options for response leads to fewer and fewer points of failure. TLAM-N has certain advantages over a SLMB when it comes to not scaring the vodka out of our Russian friends when you launch it - in addition to other things that the crazy people behind the cypher door can talk to you about.

Hat tip Jeffrey Lewis via Chap.

Parsing honor at Annapolis

There are a few things that I hold as self-evident. This simple progression, is one of them;
- The most effective things and the most important things are simple to describe and protect.
- When effective and important things are inconvenient to some, barriers to their needs - they complicate the effective and important.
- When effective and important things are made more complicated, they become flaccid and ill-defined.
- Flaccid and ill-defined things can be easily shaped and avoided.
- Things easily shaped and avoided are useful for everything and nothing.
- Things that can be used for everything and nothing are ineffective and unimportant.
This weekend at The Captial, Ensign Stephen E. Shaw has an important article that requires your attention titled,
Naval Academy Honor Concept strays from roots.

You don't have to be a Annapolis Alumni to be concerned with Annapolis - I'm not. The fact remains that this is the critical core of our future leadership - its seed corn. What is learned there is brought to the Fleet. What is damaged there has to be repaired in the Fleet. Honor - or one's respect of it - is the wellspring from which all else flows. If you don't get that right, it is hard to make the rest work from being a DivO to running a Program Office.

You have to read it all - seriously - because the strength of the article is how ENS Shaw describes how a simple system has been perverted in such a way that it is almost impossible to talk about it. So complicated, that good people can't even argue about it because no one really understands it. You cannot enforce something you can't explain, understand, or follow.

The French have a great word for someone who works in and is stuck in a bureaucratic mindset -
fonctionnaire - that about describes the only personality type that could support the system at Annapolis as it exists today.

Here is the pull-quote,
The current widespread problem of cynicism at the Academy is an indication of a failure to do this. I often wondered, What legitimate reason does the Naval Academy midshipman have to be cynical? The quality of education is high and is provided at no cost to the midshipman. The opportunities available to each member of the Brigade far surpass those available to any comparable undergraduate student in the country, including cadets at West Point and the Air Force Academy who have fewer options for service assignments.

It is difficult to believe, as it is oftentimes claimed, that trivialities such as limited weekend liberty or regulated exercise uniforms are the main causes of cynicism. The average midshipman is not, and has never been, adverse to hard or challenging work. In fact, this is what typically attracts him or her to the Academy in the first place. Something is driving midshipmen to acquire cynical attitudes towards the Naval Academy.
In 2005, the committee structure was completely abandoned. The current "honor staff" is a subcomponent of the regular Brigade organization, and honor staff members are selected by a panel of senior officers at the Naval Academy. 27 It must be noted that few, if any, midshipmen have had a “say” in the changes that have been made to the system over the years— a system which was originally created by midshipmen and enacted by a nearly unanimous Brigade-wide vote.

Nonetheless, since the system was established in 1951, each new class of midshipmen has been taught that the Naval Academy has a non-codified, or concept-based, standard of honor despite the system’s actual structure. There is still regular discussion and proclamation that the Brigade "owns" the Honor Concept (sometimes meaning both the statement and the system, depending on whom you talk to), despite the fact that: 1) the Brigade plays no role whatsoever in the selection of honor staff members, and 2) the selected staff members report directly to the Honor Officer, who is a member of the Department of Character Development and Training Division under the Commandant. This is a far cry indeed from the original structure, which on occasion saw the First Class Committee Chairman, who was the midshipman responsible for overseeing the system, report directly to the Superintendent. 28

While the system has undergone drastic changes throughout the past 60 years, the description and discussion of it have remained basically unchanged. Due to the inconsistency between how the system was understood and how it actually operated, midshipmen, alumni, faculty members, and staff officers have little confidence in the effectiveness of the current program.

The system is claimed to be non-codified, yet definitions remain; it is claimed to not be based on fear, yet its only function is to punish (although I am unaware of any midshipmen who were separated solely due to an honor offense in the last four years); it is claimed to be owned and operated by the Brigade, yet the Brigade has no “say” in the selection of staff members, nor do those staff members have any real authority over the system, other than the execution of documented procedures and orders from the staff officers assigned over them.
As long as the inconsistencies described above are allowed to exist, it remains practically impossible to address any issues afflicting the honor system. Since the same terminology (concept, ownership, etc.) has been used for the past six decades, officers, midshipmen, and alumni who attempt to discuss these issues are not aware that they very well may be talking about different things. For example, it took me nearly four years to completely piece together the evolution of the honor system from its creation in 1951 to what exists today. The confusing language and recycled terminology has made work on this program convoluted and tedious at best. The current honor system at the Naval Academy is inconsistent, ineffective, contradictory, misunderstood, and confusing, and has little support from the Naval Academy community as a whole.
I've said it before, and I will say it again. There is nothing wrong with the MIDN at Annapolis. This generation of men and women are just fine, thank you very much. The problem is with the older generations above them.

These MIDN - the ones you want - will have no problems meeting a superior standard, all you have to do is ask. All leadership has to do is to have the courage to meet the standard in action that they describe in words.

Remember, what is learned at the Academy is brought to the Fleet - the good and the bad.

Crossposted at USNIBlog.

A North American Classic

USA vs. Canada. What a show!

Sir Mixalot goes to sea

Via Phil Ewing's ScoopDeck,
In a yard period late last year, Freedom acquired two large oblong metal boxes on its transom, on either side of the stern gate its crew uses to launch and recover boats. The sailors call these “buoyancy tanks,” although they look almost like a baby’s water wings for the pool — or, yes, there is a more explicit anatomical parallel to be drawn. Think about it.

I wonder how that impacts the stern RCS - you know, when LCS is "running away" as per the CONOPS? Just saying ... he has more on what this means for LCS-3 here.

Sims would not be pleased.

.... and yes; LCS-1 now has a ship's song - they can play it while UNREP'n every 48hrs.

Sestak; still making friends ....

I will always take good now for a promised perfect - and you know I like SECNAV Mabus. If nothing else, I approve his accent. I am very comfortable and happy with his job. Now, the opposite of comfortable .....

... but lo, from
Narcissus's play group....
Rep. Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) said yesterday that the White House offered him a federal job in an effort to dissuade him from challenging Sen. Arlen Specter in the state's Democratic primary.

The disclosure came during an afternoon taping of Larry Kane: Voice of Reason, a Sunday news-analysis show on the Comcast Network. Sestak would not elaborate on the circumstances and seemed chagrined after blurting out "yes" to veteran news anchor Kane's direct question.

"Was it secretary of the Navy?" Kane asked.

"No comment," Sestak said.

"Was it [the job] high-ranking?" Kane asked. Sestak said yes, but added that he would "never leave" the Senate race for a deal.

A White House spokesman this morning strongly denied an offer had been made to Sestak. Before the spokesman issued the denial, a senior Pennsylvania Democrat said Sestak's account was met with anger by White House officials yesterday.

After yesterday's taping, Sestak said he recalled the White House offer coming in July, as he was preparing to formally announce his Senate candidacy in August. He declined to identify who spoke to him or the job under discussion. Sestak also would not say whether the person who approached him worked for the administration or was an intermediary for the offer.

"I'm not going to say who or how and what was offered," Sestak said in an interview. "I don't feel it's appropriate to go beyond what I said," because the conversation was confidential.
Oh, that would be great for retention.

Hat tip Kevin.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Dutch run for the door confirmed ...

The fact that the Dutch were going home from AFG NLT 2011 - as they warned - has been a planning assumption at CDR Salamander.

What I didn't expect to be a major possibility was this.
Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's coalition government collapsed on Saturday when the two largest parties failed to agree on whether to withdraw troops from Afghanistan this year as planned.
The fall of the government in the EU member country, just two days short of the coalition's third anniversary, all but guarantees that the 2,000 Dutch troops will be brought home this year and will eventually prompt new parliamentary elections.
... and who is waiting in the wings?
Right-wing legislator Geert Wilders's Freedom Party, which has called for an end to the Afghan mission, could be the big winner at the next election.
Opinion polls tip the Freedom Party, campaigning on mistrust of the government and an anti-immigration ticket, to become the largest or second biggest party in parliament.
Yes, a country the size of New Jersey with a population of 17 million is always good for some news.

This next line I don't agree with.
"A withdrawal will damage the reputation of the Dutch as a reliable partner that is willing and able to contribute to important military missions," said Edwin Bakker, a senior research fellow at the Clingendael Institute in The Hague.
No, only if you had an unrealistic expectation of the Europeans and a lack of understanding of what is going on.

Though I am not happy to see them leave - or the Canadians - I do not begrudge either nation. Here is why.

The Dutch and the Canadian troops are actually useful. They have operated caveat free in the toughest parts of the country - unlike the Germans, Italians, and Spaniards; for starters. We have listed those nations in the past, hit the archives if you need a review.

The Dutch volunteered in the hope that the rest of Europe would join them. In essense, they blew their whistle, climbed out of the trench with a hearty, "Follow me!" call - only to find themselves in the middle of no-man's land alone, their European allies still hunkered down.

No, the Dutch did their job. The Belgian and/or French battalions never showed up in Regional Command South. I appreciate the Dutch government trying to answer President Obama's call - but they have done the most their political system will let them. We should thank them, perhaps be a little upset that they are leaving the field - but don't begrudge them their weakness. They did their best.

Same with the Canadians. Successive leftist governments left them with a military that was almost unusable for anything but semi-permissive peace keeping. They were within a FY of getting rid of their tracked armor. Their per-capita losses have been huge for a nation with such a pacifist core - remember back to WWI & II they didn't even have enough of a native officer corps to fill out their ranks. Canada did the best she could as well given her political and national limitations. Like the Dutch - I am sad to see them go - but I do not begrudge their service. They fought well - and though are leaving the field, I know why and am impressed that they lasted this long. Kind of like expecting militia to only take one volley of musketry before fleeing and watching them stand for three before running. Not happy - but impressed and knowing I got more than expected.

Enough love though - here is the bad part. Nations have known this was going to happen for the last few years. As these two major players head through the door - the next question is who will follow.

AFG will take the rest of this decade to get right - a much harder nut to crack than IRQ. As our allies leave, and as long as budgets, global challenges, and lack of strategic patience don't upset the equation - Uncle Sam will be able to step into the breach.

Dank u en tot ziens.
UPDATE: Micheal Yon goes Salamander on NATO here, here, and here.
NATO has become a contrived vehicle used by freeloading nations to exert unearned influence. The NATO press machine is a transparent propaganda monster. To whit, this statement on the NATO website: "NATO looks forward to deepening cooperation with Pakistan:
The Pakistani Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, visited NATO and met with Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Minister Qureshi also addressed the North Atlantic Council."

Which NATO member actually has an iota of influence with Pakistan? The United States. NATO members freeload and forward their economic and political agendas at our cost. Secretary Gates, as well as Generals Petraeus, McChrystal and others, must spend substantial time simply trying to persuade members to contribute their share (which not a single member has done).
The staggering weight of NATO lies on its website: "Operation Moshtarak - Operation Moshtarak is an Afghan-led initiative to assert government authority in the centre of Helmand province. Afghan and ISAF partners are engaging in this counter- insurgency operation at the request of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Helmand provincial government." What "ISAF partners"? Those partners are nearly entirely British and American. The operation is in no way led by Afghans. NATO is a platform used by remora members to hitch rides on.
It is all that and less/more. The self-delusional nature of much of what NATO does is the worst kept secret for those who have been involved with it.

I will repeat again; all you really need to do is look at what they spend on defense as a % of GDP, but the Europeans and Canada are content to let the USA do most of the spending and dying in support of the West. We need to pull everyone back from Europe - all maneuver forces specifically - except for a few joint/combined logistics/training bases. You know the rest.