Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Beat Air Force!

No, wait ... they seem to be doing that fine all by themselves.
The Air Force Academy said 27 cadets were injured in a brawl during an unofficial ritual marking the first snowfall of the season.

Six cadets were taken to an off-campus hospital after the Oct. 25 ruckus and have been released, the academy said Wednesday. The others were treated at a cadet clinic.
The injuries included concussions, cuts and a human bite, and some cadets required stitches, Brig. Gen. Dana Born wrote in an internal email that was provided to The Associated Press and other media outlets. Academy officials confirmed the email is authentic.

The ritual is called "First Shirt/First Snow" and involves freshmen trying to throw cadet first sergeants – known as first shirts – into the snow.
"This ritual has devolved to become increasingly violent, with significant numbers of cadets requiring medical care over the past two years," Born wrote in her email.
You don't say?

GOFO, Accountability, & the Genesis of a Book

I haven't read it yet ... but T.E. Ricks book, The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today , sounds like it needs to move up on my list.

Mark Thompson over at Battleland does a tight interview with the author, and this got my attention;
Why did you write The Generals? How much were you influenced by what you saw in Iraq and wrote about in Fiasco and The Gamble?

This book comes directly out of those two earlier ones. In 2005, while I was writing Fiasco, I went on a Johns Hopkins University staff ride study of the allied campaign in Sicily in 1943.

While we were standing on a hilltop in central Sicily, one of Professor Eliot Cohen’s students related the tale of Omar Bradley firing Terry de la Mesa Allen, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, after Allen won one of the toughest battles of the campaign.

I was stunned. Here I was coming out of Iraq, where generals were failing yet not being removed, and I was being told about the firing of one of the most successful American generals during our first year of World War II.

How could that be? Why had the Army’s approach to leadership and accountability changed so much? That was the beginning of this book.
We've discussed it here, we've touched on it repeatedly with multiple guests over at Midrats as well - as have others, but it remains a question unanswered; why do we hold our most senior officers to such a lower standard than we do for O5/6 in command?

Blow .001 over the limit - and you are fired. Run a multi-billion boondoggle of a program, and get another star. Fall in love with someone junior than you are, get NJP and the boot. Use unaccountable computer programs to make your decisions for you and kick thousands of people out of the service for no definable reason - get another star.  Screw up at war - go to a higher position in the Beltway.
Today being a general is like having tenure.
In World War II, it was expected that a certain percentage of generals would fail and be sacked, and so the occasional relief was seen as evidence that the system was working as expected.
By the Vietnam War, relief was seen as a kind of admission of failure. And so almost no one gets relieved anymore, at least for professional incompetence. (They still get fired for sleeping with subordinates and other moral lapses that embarrass the service.)
It brings me back to the most important word in the English language; "Why?"

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Realities of a Calendar Based Plan

MarineCorpsTimes has a nice snap-shot of what we will see more and more in the march to 2014 and beyond. Ground gained will be lost as we leave before the ANSF are fully seasoned and ready. Literally the definition of half-baked. 

It didn't have to end this way - but district by district it will where ever the Pashtun have the critical mass to be able to force the issue, and we made the conscious decision to let it happen.
Rather than concentrating on the border, the border police are based here and in other villages along the Helmand River in Khanashin district, focusing security operations about 60 miles north of Bahram Chah. To push south, the border police would need more manpower and larger weapons, said Lt. Col. Rasoul, who oversees the ABP police kandak, or battalion, with headquarters in Taghaz, a village with a few thousand inhabitants but no paved roads or electricity.
The situation hints at certain complexities as the U.S. military shifts to a security force assistance mission in Afghanistan. The strategy was widely implemented this summer, as thousands of Marines and soldiers across the country returned to the U.S. as part of a force drawdown.
The Marine Corps’ footprint in southwestern Afghanistan has shrunk from about 17,000 in the spring to 7,000 now, with many of the remaining forces redistributed to assist Afghan units, rather than run independent counterinsurgency operations.
Since the shift, Afghan National Security Forces have been tested in numerous bloody battles, particularly in Sangin, Kajaki and other districts in northern Helmand where resistance has been stiff for years. Even in southern Helmand, Afghan units have struggled with logistics, planning and internal power struggles that threaten to undermine security.
“It goes back to the question that everyone asks: When we pull out, can the Afghan forces do what needs to be done to secure Helmand province?” said Lt. Col. David Bradney, who commanded 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, in northern Helmand until the unit rotated home to Twentynine Palms, Calif., in October. “I would tell you that, yes, the Afghan National Security Forces are absolutely capable enough to beat the Taliban. It’s all a question of gumption and will. Do they have the leadership to force the discipline of action, and the commitment to get their forces into the field and risk, perhaps at times, being unsuccessful, to achieve success?”
No one should be shocked. We made the decision to support a policy that thousands of years of military experience tells us would fail ... and we did it without a whimper ... but everyone kept their chance at another star or good post-retirement gig. Everyone kept their good parking space.

There is another article out of Australia that is very much worth your time to get a non-USA perspective.  In part;
But as any honest futurist will admit, there is no way of knowing exactly how events will unfold once we leave: good, bad or indifferent. It is not inconceivable, however, that a de-facto division of the country may emerge between the Pashtun south and the northern groups.
The stronger we can make the ANSF before we leave the less likely is the scenario of being fulfilled. Besides, once we leave the Pashtun groups likely will splinter and dissipate their strength with infighting.

Open Minded Dutch Have Brains Fall Out

The Dutch are usually a sensible bunch who will tell you more often than not what they think ... but it seems that along the way, only the polite "don't make a fuss" Dutch were involved in this care-bear train-wreck. 

Lack of critical thinking, historical fuzziness, and perhaps a tad bit of group think - leavened with post-modern moral equivalency gives you ...
A Netherlands church official apologized to a Jewish group for a memorial ceremony that commemorated Holocaust victims with soldiers who died fighting for Nazi Germany.
Rob Mutsaerts, a bishop from Den Bosch in the southern Netherlands, in a letter last week expressed his regret to the small Jewish organization JFN.
Mutsaerts apologized for a sermon delivered Oct. 20 in a church in nearby Geffen in which Pastor David van Dijk read out the names of German soldiers who died in Geffen during World War II along with the names of local Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.
“You are shocked, and those are feelings we cannot change,” Mutsaerts wrote . “We would like to extend our apologies for the pain and sorrow that the naming of all the names has unintentionally caused to Jews.”
Van Dijk’s sermon was delivered after city officials canceled the planned unveiling of a monument in Geffen displaying the names of the German Wehrmacht soldiers along with the Holocaust victims.
All the names were removed from the monument following protests by Jewish organizations and individuals.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Rescue from the Bounty

Sad that we have lost a tall ship to the storm and two of her crewmen, the replica HMS Bounty from the 1960s Brandow film, but as of last report, the USCG did what they do so well for those who got to a raft in time.
A search was under way Monday for two crew members of the stricken ship HMS Bounty, which sank off the coast of North Carolina after it was caught in Hurricane Sandy, the U.S. Coast Guard said. Earlier Monday, two Coast Guard helicopters rescued 14 people from life rafts after they were forced to abandon ship. "It appears that two crew members didn't make it onto the life rafts," Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Michael Patterson told NBC News.

Via USCG - there she is as she goes.

Sump'n's not quite kosher about Ham

As a general rule, I tend to tune out almost all POLMIL gossip after Labor Day of an election year until the silly season is over.  People are emotional, people are looking for that October surprise that will change an election - and there are the general gossip-monger trolls that keep yelling, "Squirrel" in order to avoid higher brain function about real issues.

However, there are enough smart people asking questions about the following to make me pause a bit;
On October 18, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta appeared unexpectedly at an otherwise unrelated briefing on “Efforts to Enhance the Financial Health of the Force." News organizations and CSPAN were told beforehand there was no news value to the event and gave it scant coverage. In his brief remarks Mr. Panetta said, "Today I am very pleased to announce that President Obama will nominate General David Rodriguez to succeed General Carter Ham as commander of U.S. Africa Command.”
Read the RUMINT at the link. As a recidivist staff weenie, I'm not buying it. There would be multiple sources by now. The Caine Mutiny on the AFRICOM watch floor is not classified and would spread like wildfire from multiple sources. There may be some "there there" - but my money isn't on that. 

The smart money is to follow the trail set by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in the video below about his conversation with General Ham. My initial reaction was that there was no story here - but Rep. Chaffetz has me rethinking that.

Read more, listen more, and ponder. 

Interesting. GOFO do not go early without good reason. The fact that we know more about why RADM Gaouette is going home than General Ham should give all pause.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fullbore Friday

After the jackassery of the last debate - there could be only one FbF this week.
Corporal Sean Jones, 25, of 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales's Regiment, "reversed a potentially dire situation" when his patrol came under attack in a carefully planned ambush in October last year.

The soldier, of Tern Hill near Market Drayton in Shropshire, was second-in-command of the patrol which was trying to draw out insurgents laying homemade bombs in Kakaran village, Helmand.

As the patrol moved through an open field it came under heavy and accurate small-arms fire from the north and east.

Caught in the killing zone and unable to advance into the hail of fire, the soldiers withdrew to the relative safety of the water-filled ditch to return fire but were trapped as the insurgents moved in to try to overwhelm their position.

Firing a rocket at one of the insurgent positions, Cpl Jones ordered three of his men to fix bayonets before breaking cover and leading them across 80 metres of open ground raked by enemy fire.

As two of the soldiers provided fire support, Cpl Jones prepared a hand grenade for the final assault. He raced towards an alley and was about to throw the grenade but said he realised that the buildings were occupied so put the grenade away. But the speed, aggression and audacity of his response caused the insurgents to fall back in disarray.

Sporadic enemy fire continued.

Cpl Jones rallied his men to launch another assault just as the platoon commander and the rest of the patrol, who had been suppressing the other enemy position during the charge, rejoined the group.

The insurgents melted away.

The soldier's citation states that Cpl Jones demonstrated "unflinching courage and extraordinary leadership in the face of extreme and tangible danger".

He "epitomised the best qualities of the British infantry: gritty determination, controlled aggression, tactical cunning and complete disregard for his own safety".

UPDATE: For the US Army folks who think they don't need a bayonet as much as the USMC and the British Army - here is a great quote from another article WSTR linked to in comments.
"The undergrowth is so dense in the 'Green zone' that I often ordered bayonets fixed because you knew the distances between you and the Taliban could be very short. It is also good for morale."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

You Can't Classify Math

This is the kind of thing that interests me about high-effects weapons. 

EMP (from small nuke), like nuclear, chemical, or biological are not only inviting even the person you attack and invitation to "go Roman" in response, it isn't all that hard to do foresics on nuclear material, chemicals, and biological agents in order to find out where they came from - even if you have no idea who hit you. That makes them less likely to happen with "rational" opponents. (yes, I know - a lot of "irrational" terrorists would love the chance).

You can call CBRN "Symetrical Asymetric Warfare." We've been faced with it for awhile. What if there was something that didn't kill anyone, didn't physically destroy anything, left no trace - but in a pass moves you back to the 18th Century? Something that would be exceptionally difficult to make a proportional response to - or any response to if you can't find a "finger print" of what hit you. Something like this;
The Counter-Electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), led by Boeing's Phantom works, promised to change the face of contemporary warfare, and its test was a complete success. CHAMP flew over the Utah Test and Training Range last Tuesday, discharging a burst of High Power Microwaves onto the test site and brought down the compound's entire spectrum of electronic systems, apparently without producing any other damage at all. Even the camera recording the test was shut down. Struggling to contain his enthusiasm, Boeing's Keith Coleman says, "We hit every target we wanted to. Today we made science fiction into science fact."
OK. We can make it years before anyone else. We can make it smaller, more accurate and more powerful. But ... make a clunky one. Put it on a GIV. Put it on a tramp steamer. Put it in a semi. What would be the impact of such a "harmless" weapon in NYC? DC? 

With our love of COTS - in the middle to the Strait of Hormuz as the CBG passes through? "Back in the day" we spent a lot of time on EMCON and electronic hardening of equipment - mostly because we also planned for nuclear war. In the late 90s though, it became a lower priority, waived in most cases. Now? You can do the math. What do you need to make such a weapon? Mostly brains and a little access to technology. Give 2nd or even 3rd level nations 20 years. 



Diversity Thursday

Don't watch so much what they say - watch what they do. 

Who are they spending $$$ to hire - and what will they be doing?
A.  San Diego, CA, Diversity Outreach Coordinator

The Diversity Outreach Coordinator serves as the central point of contact for coordination of outreach events, opportunities and aircraft support and reports to the Diversity Program Manager and Diversity Director. Diversity Outreach Coordinator also serves as a subject matter advisor to the Diversity Director and Diversity Program Manager and provides advice and recommendations on diversity-related issues for the aviation community. Focuses on diversity outreach, trends and best practices to develop a responsive outreach program integrating the Navy's strategic diversity goals while maximizing return on investment. Compiles reports and metrics to assist the Diversity Director and Diversity Program Manager in adjusting direction and emphasis of outreach programs. Diversity Outreach Coordinator also serves as a key member of the Diversity Team in developing and delivering training to the fleet on naval aviation opportunities and mentoring as needed.
  • Independently seek out and develop strategic working relationships with organizations that have high minority demographics in order to help increase Navy awareness and to cultivate an interest in naval aviation through outreach events. Liaise and partner with presidents of national organizations and CEO's of companies to build sustainable partnerships, programs, and events which meet the mutual objectives of both organizations.
  • Coordinate and provide a central point of contact within the Diversity Directorate to develop, maintain and distribute the Diversity Calendar of events. Ensure that diversity calendar is disseminated to the entire Tactical Diversity Team and other centers of influence to foster maximum support and partnering in the execution of outreach events.
  • Foster and sustain good working relationships with senior leadership in other commands to acquire aircraft support and partner with other entities in outreach events. Coordinate large scale events involving sites, aircraft, pilots, recruiters, speakers, and participants.
  • As requested by the Diversity Director, attend outreach events to ensure that all support is seamlessly orchestrated for optimal efficiency and participation. Events include school visits, speaking engagements, aircraft fly-ins and static displays. Perform public speaking presentations to a wide array of audiences, provide post-event reporting, and produce publishable news articles to highlight the Navy's participation and achievement. Have general background knowledge of the United States Naval Academy (USNA) & Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) scholarship Programs, Baccalaureate Degree Completion Program (BDCP) and other Navy offered scholarship opportunities.
  • Manage Cross-Country website and be cognizant and responsive to all potential outreach opportunities involving pilots and aircraft with local Navy recruiting and NROTC units.
  • Assist with training and facilitating the Formal Mentor Program. Possess knowledge and have personal mentoring experience in order to continue to refine the Formal Mentor Program and Mentor Train the Trainer Course and provide updates to instructional design, content and direction.
  • Effectively deliver the Formal Mentor Training and Mentor Train the Trainer Course material to senior and junior officers and senior and junior enlisted personnel. Integrate assessment, evaluations and feedback to guide development of program.
  • Perform as a leader of the bi-weekly Tactical Diversity Team Teleconference; develop agenda, maintain a comprehensive communication strategy, and disseminate information in a clear and timely manner to all team members. Ensure dissemination of diversity award information and ensure all commands are aware of these diversity award opportunities. Solicit award nominations and track status of award nominations.
  • Brief and engage in meetings with senior officers and senior enlisted personnel. Possess superior communication skills with the ability to express oral and written ideas and facts in a clear and logical manner. Tailor communication conducive to specific audience levels from elementary school children to senior officer and senior executives.
  • Document and maintain current status of all outreach events to help gauge the return on investment and to have readily available information in preparation of briefs for leadership at Commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF), Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE), (Office of the Chief of Naval Operations) OPNAV and Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) level.
  • Identify good news stories, best practices, lessons learned and areas needing improvement within the Diversity Program. Be able to share that information and insight with the Diversity Staff and Tactical Diversity Team.
  • Engage in other diversity community conferences as a representative on behalf of the Diversity Team as needed.
  • Possess innovative skills to research, compile and analyze demographic data as requested in order to develop and ensure execution of productive outreach events and school visits.
  • Possess a passion for diversity and the initiative to pursue opportunities that will cultivate and foster an interest in naval aviation and maximize the return on the investment of the Diversity Team.
  • Provide sound knowledge, advice and counsel to client on all diversity-related issues.
  • Make basic updates to the Diversity website and Cross-Country website.
Required Skills:
  • Aviation experience and/or Military experience required.
  • Superior written, oral communication and public speaking skills required.
  • Strong proficiency in MS Word, Excel, and Power Point required.
  • Strong organizational skills and/or event planning experience required.
  • Self-starter and strong initiative required.
Desired Skills:
  • Proficiency in basic website maintenance desired.
  • Instructor/Facilitator experience desired.
  • Education: Bachelor's degree required.
Clearance: Secret

POC: Kara [redacted], 703-769-[redacted], kara.[redacted]
In other words - justify your existence. Focus on race and ethnicity and nothing else. 

What intellectual cancer.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part XLIII

A sensible article in WaPo as a reminder of China hanging out in WESTPAC making her neighbors review their history books.  I wonder how many people had to back up and read this twice.
Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan of the China Military Science Society said outsiders need not be concerned. China’s military spending only reflects the newly booming economy, he said, and the country is simply playing catch up after years of neglect.
“Actually, our rapid spending increase in recent years is more like compensation for the past,” Luo said. “Second, the huge increase in our budget is because China faces a lot of threats, traditional and nontraditional. We have a lot of land occupied by other countries. We’re also one of the countries in the world with the most neighbors.”
Luo also said that while other sectors are enjoying the fruits of reform, the armed forces should not be neglected. “It’s important that a person not only grow his bones, but also his muscles,” Luo said. “The military is the muscles.”
Yes ... Russia & India; call your office. There is a lot more in General Luo's mind than just a few islands scattered about. 
"...a lot of land ..."

Dutch Treat ...

One of the great things about working with the Dutch ... they are not yes-men - or yes-women for that matter. 

Working in an international environment is enlightening in many aspects, one of which is that you quickly realize that national stereotypes exist for a reason - they are more often than not accurate.

Some nationalities will almost never say "no" or "I don't know." Some start at "no" and work from there - and others are unmercifully honest. Others are so bureaucratic that you don't want to work with them. 

The following excerpt is from the 2012 book 'Officier in Afghanistan' ('An Officer in Afghanistan'), written by LCOL Esmeralda Kleinreesink (RNLAF). It makes me laugh, and anyone who has worked with the Dutch will get a giggle out of it - or cuss.
The Dutch C-130 planner I carefully sound out over the telephone puts it quite plainly. No intense looks and meaningful ums, just an outspoken: ‘We offered our C-130 to NATO for ITAS, not for VIP flights. We have better use for our C-130. If this happens I’ll withdraw the Dutch offer. And I don’t think you’ll find any other country willing to make their C-130’s available for this.’
I decide to consult with my pillow on how to tell COMISAF that ITAS and key leader engagement from the air are not compatible. The next morning, however, the colonel delivers me from this problem. For the third time in a week I stand at ease in front of a neatly cleaned desk, this time with the firm intention not to be overwhelmed again.
‘Did you tell COMISAF that he can’t fly?’ ‘No, sir,’ I answer, without feeling any impulse to explain myself. If he wants to play boss-subordinate, he can get it.
‘Then why do I get to hear that?’ ‘Maybe because I talked to one of COMISAF’s staff officers about his travel plans and the staff officer concluded from our little chat that it is impossible to both fly ITAS and COMISAF with this entire party,’ I say.
Flushed and emphasizing each and every word, the colonel says: ‘We are British. We do not say “no”.’
This time I am prepared. Last night I read the standard operating procedure which clearly states that the Chief Air Transport is responsible for the upkeep of ITAS and for planning the air transport capacity which has been made available to NATO. Not my department chief. I am to put the mission first and foremost, not nice COMISAF plans or national interests. Therefore I answer with the same emphasis:
‘I am NATO. It is my call. I do say “no”.’

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Does it smell like that glue too?

So, there goes everyone's favorite balsa wood project. DDG-1000's superstructure heads out at last. Big.

Hat tip A.

John Nagl vs. Jorge Benitez on AFG

John Nagl around some otherwise good points, put out a rather strange little bit over at WaPo originally titled it seems (by the URL) "The Look of Success in Afghanistan" - but otherwise titled, Not Losing in Afghanistan. Strange in that of all people - I would think he would be producing something different than what reads like a mid-grade PAO working on talking points. Here is what I mean;
The spate of “green on blue” killings of U.S. soldiers by members of the Afghan security forces — some Taliban infiltrators, but mostly disgruntled or frustrated Afghans after a decade of foreign occupation — is a serious threat to our partnership strategy. After a temporary stand-down, to allow reactions to cartoons and videos caricaturing the prophet Muhammad to pass, joint patrols have resumed. We are proceeding with our plan to hand over primary responsibility for security to the Afghans by the end of 2014.
He also says some very incorrect things about Vietnam, but let's ignore that and stick with AFG. Nagl then goes on to say some sensible things about AFG and proposes a most-likely COA that we will probably follow under whoever is in the White House in 2013, based upon what we heard in the debate last night. 

What bothers me the most about the quote above, especially coming from Nagl, are: 
1. Green on Blue predate the "video" and have nothing to do with it - and they don't need non-AFG troops to attack, they are more than happy to kill their own
2. Green on Blue was predicted as being a problem with too rapid of a build-up during Operational Planning for AFG over a half a decade ago. 

Nagl knows this - why put out the above? Is this political positioning, or did he just have a bad day? 
This will allow the United States to accomplish our national security objectives in the region: defeating al-Qaeda; preventing al-Qaeda and its affiliates from establishing permanent bases in Afghanistan and the tribal regions of Pakistan; and maintaining our own bases in the region from which to operate drones, manned aircraft and Special Operations forces.
1. al-Qaeda is morphing and growing well outside and inside Central Asia. Defeating al-Qaeda is a long way off, if it can ever really be done in my lifetime.
2. Our national security objectives includes just "bases?"

I'll let Jorge Benitez over at the Atlantic Council take it from here;

As a consequence, several U.S. officers and civilian specialists who have worked with those forces have started to question the wisdom of the 352,000 goal. To them, the obsession with size has been at the root of much that has gone wrong with the Afghan security services. “We’ve built a force that’s simply too big,” said Roger Carstens, a former Special Forces lieutenant colonel who spent two years as a senior counterinsurgency adviser at the NATO headquarters in Kabul.
“When you try to generate that many people that fast, you create leaders without the requisite leadership, maturity or acumen to get the job done. You can’t meaningfully vet anyone. You can’t ensure morale and discipline.” More than a dozen active-duty officers, from majors to generals, who have been involved in training the Afghan army and police over the past two years shared that assessment in recent interviews, upon which this article is based.
Most spoke on the condition of anonymity, because of concern that criticizing long-held U.S. strategy could harm their careers. “We have been obsessed with quantity over quality,” said a Special Forces major who worked alongside Afghan soldiers for a year. “You can only build so many troops to a certain standard. At some point — and we’re long past that — you get to diminishing returns. . . .” ...
Even then, there are no plans to ease up on recruitment. High rates of desertion and low rates of reenlistment mean the army needs to replace about a third of its force each year. “We’ve turned this into a numbers game,” said a senior U.S. official involved in Afghanistan policy. “When you’re concerned about numbers, you end up with numbers.”

Monday, October 22, 2012

Well, poo ...

One of the only good things to come out of TFU.
NAVADMIN 314/12, released Oct. 19, announced the Chief of Naval Operations' (CNO) decision to terminate the Service Dress Khaki (SDK) initiative.
Oh well.

The Poet in the Coal Mine

From Vietnam to London ... how do we get there?  

Well, first we have to bounce around my nogg'n a bit ... indulge me; I had a great weekend and am in zen for a small bit. We'll build of off URR's medium from over the weekend.

Why do we serve?

Maybe that is a bit too broad; why do you serve?

With our allies, we serve side by side. Some are from different governmental systems than ours. Some are based on what we understand as a democratic form of government based on the consent of the governed, but others are not.

That is easy to explain, as on the micro level we serve next to each other because that is what you do. At the unit level and the personal level, politics really do not mean much - nor does nationality. Just the fact that the person next to you has your back and you have hiss - that is all that matters.  

That is Warfare 101 that has been true since the Ooogaa and Boogaa clans defended a berry patch they were both used together against the Aanngaa and Baanngaa from the other valley who had no reason to be way over here near the berry patch between the Ooogaa and Boogaa clans.

No, let me project a bit. I'm an art queer (using the "q" word in the traditional sense, natch). Though 89.5% of the time my politics differ from theirs, I enjoy the company of artists.  Like I did this weekend, I will hang out in an artist's gallery with Mrs. Salamander and the wee Salamanders chatting up a storm because the artist happened to be there that afternoon. I go to museums ... my kids even enjoy it because they think it is a natural thing to do.

I love music ... and even with the stuff I don't like - I enjoy watching musicians make it. Momma Salamander was an artistic polymath from music to drawing to singing, so I get it natural; I guess. Sadly, I have it in the brain, but it never makes it out of there. I cannot play an instrument to save my life, and puberty took away what I am told was a nice voice. I cannot draw worth squat ... but I'm not that bad with a camera - that is my booby prize. I would like to blame my father, the jock, for keeping me away from that stuff, but I can't. A lot of that is genetic, and I just didn't get it from mom.  Sadly, my father was also a nationally ranked player in the sport that paid for his college - but in spite of all the opportunities I had there, I didn't quite get his gifts either.

Funny,  but in the strange calculus that makes up a person's world view - I think it is the artist in the brain, and the frustration in its inability to get to the fingertips and the eye, that led from my youthful flirtation with the Left to the right, and why though I am a man of the right, it is the libertarian right.

As discussed before, it was the 1980s Western Left's inability to talk on a factual basis on what was then a radical discussion of the Ukrainian famine of the 1930s just coming out in to the public that made me turn, there were other things that set the foundation for the turn; part of that was the treatment of artists on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

I could never understand how my artistic friends could excuse the nightmare of Communism, or for that matter even seemed to support them; especially in the music world (hypocrite of a Burton Bradstock, Dorset living Billy Bragg, call your office).

I mean, in the USA we may grump at, or even march in front of the "put a crucifix in urine" supporting museums and galleries .... but we never throw the owners or artists in jail.  However, the Communists filled their prisons and graves with artists; expecially those of the written word.

Yes, I know ... most of you who are still reading are thinking, "Sal, enough of the free therapy for you, you insufferable narcissist - get on with it!" I hear you, I'm getting there.

There is one place where I can almost understand the Communists ... next to Mimes (actually, I respect Mimes) ... I find poets bothersome. Spoken word? Child please. I just don't get most of it - but a lot of people do, so maybe it is just me.

They should really just be ignored - but no; Communists, like all totalitarians, cannot just walk away from those who do not submit.

I was reminded of that when I read in The Economist about Nguyen Chi Thien who passed recently. A poet who, it seems, was a much stronger warrior than most.
THE poems were under his shirt, 400 of them. The date was July 16th 1979, just two days—he noted it—after the anniversary of the fall of the Bastille. Freedom day. He ran through the gate of the British embassy in Hanoi, past the guard, demanding to see the ambassador. The guard couldn’t stop him. In the reception area, a few Vietnamese were sitting at a table. He fought them off, and crashed the table over.
In a cloakroom nearby, an English girl was doing her hair; she dropped her comb in terror. The noise brought three Englishmen out, and he thrust his sheaf of poems at one of them. Then, calm again, he let himself be arrested. Thus Nguyen Chi Thien sent his poems out of Communist Vietnam. They were published as “Flowers from Hell”, translated into half a dozen languages, and won the International Poetry Award in 1985. He heard of this, vaguely, in his various jails. In Hoa Lo, the “Hanoi Hilton”, one of his captors furiously waved a book in his face. To his delight, he saw it was his own.
... he had done several long spells in prison and labour camp. Hard rice and salt water had made him scrawny and thin-haired by his 40s. ...
The mind’s treasury was a safer place for them. It was also, for almost half his life, the only place he had. In prison he was allowed no pen, paper or books. He therefore memorised in the night quiet each one of his hundreds of poems, carefully revised it for several days, and mentally filed it away. ...
Walking out to till the fields with his fellow prisoners, many of them poets too, he would recite his poems to them and they would respond with theirs. Some of them counted the beats on their fingers to remember. He never did; memory alone served him. It saved him, too. After 1979 he spent the best part of eight years in solitary, in stocks or shackles in the dark. His poems became sobs, wheezes, bloody tubercular coughs. But in his mind he still set out fishing, and watched dawn overtake the stars. He sniffed the jasmine and hot noodle soup on a night street in Hanoi. He remembered his sister Hao teaching him French at six—what a paradise the French occupation seemed, in retrospect!—and went swashbuckling again with d’Artagnan and his crew. That way, he kept alive.
Read it all; and join me in cutting poets a little slack. After all, it is just a short jog from poetry to prose to a free press. So, the late-teen Salamander had an issue with those who throw artists in jail and that helped push him in to a uniform ... so what? ... and for what? 

Well, I thought that I was on the side of those who laughed and rolled their eyes at poets ... not throw them in jail. The great West ... those who believed in the freedom of the mind with wide lanes to let cultural creative friction work its magic. A culture secure and mature enough to take a tough word or two like an adult. 

Well ... yep. Here we are.
The Blackadder and Mr Bean star attacked the "creeping culture of censoriousness" which has resulted in the arrest of a Christian preacher, a critic of Scientology and even a student making a joke, it was reported. He criticised the "new intolerance" as he called for part of it the Public Order Act to be repealed, saying it was having a "chilling effect on free expression and free protest".
Mr Atkinson said: "The clear problem of the outlawing of insult is that too many things can be interpreted as such. Criticism, ridicule, sarcasm, merely stating an alternative point of view to the orthodoxy, can be interpreted as insult." Police and prosecutors are accused of being over-zealous in their interpretation of Section 5 of the Act, which outlaws threatening, abusive and insulting words or behaviour, the Daily Mail reported.
The logical path for those I rail against now - the PC police and their thought police ... they will take us to a point when the wrong world will put the police on the speaker's back; just like their serious friends of the Left, the Fascists and Communists. 

In the Mother Country. The land of George Orwell to Monty Python to Benny Hill - and here we find ourselves in the 21st Century; the insult comic or fool finds themselves with a record; when will we start putting poets in too? 

Job still isn't done, is it?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Gods of the Naval Engagements

We don't do guest posts often, but when we do .... it's poetry.

Better than Vogon poetry ... over to you URR!

(With sincerest apologies to Mister Kipling)

The Gods of the Naval Engagements

As I sail crosst the world’s big blue oceans, from every shoal and reef,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Power Point Brief.
Seen through LCD magic, I watch them promise and pledge,
But the Gods of the Naval Engagements, warn that we not lose our edge.

We were six hundred ships when they met us. They showed us without doubt,
That a balanced fleet is important, and we shouldn’t leave anything out.
But we found they were not Transformational, nor pursuing the next shiny light,
So we said that we wanted a Navy, whose job it was not to fight.

We made sure we got face time with Admirals, they seemed to prefer the Chiefs,
Not having to justify billets, like the Gods of the Power Point Briefs,
They told us when we were dreaming, and when our ideas would not work,
But we said they didn’t understand us, or were hidebound Cold War jerks.

With the Hopes the Thousand Ship Navy, they seemed totally out of touch,
They said most of our allies can’t help us, and the ones that can, won’t much;
They denied that they’d challenge the Russians, or sail with us to hostile ports,
So we worshipped the Power Point Briefers, and their hundred-and-four slide reports.

We championed “Optimal Manning”, a big savings in manpower alone,
A skeleton crew was sufficient, and shipboard maintenance postponed.
But in a short time things got rusty, and our equipment gave out or it quit,
The Gods of the Naval Engagements reminded: "Unmaintained ships go to shit." 

Diversity, we said, made us stronger, it would help us in battle, to win,
By selecting not the most qualified, but by quotas and color of skin,
Till our Sailors were so disenchanted, and doubted Diversity’s claim,
And the Gods of the Naval Engagements said: "Fairness is being treated the same." 

We no longer put vessels in mothballs, and threw away still-useful ships, 
Till Navy strength dropped past 300, with hardly a hull on the slips. Our global adversaries took notice, and contemplated war on two fronts, 
And the Gods of the Naval Engagements said: "You can’t be two places at once."

We gave us a 50-knot “sea frame”, and said we should build fifty-five,
Built for Littoral Combat, where we admitted it wouldn’t survive,
A pitifully small pop-gun up forward, short range and a maintenance fright,
And the Gods of the Naval Engagements said “Warships must be built to fight!”
Then the Gods of the Power Point tumbled, and the Navy admitted it erred,
With time spent on meaningless training, things of which no warrior cared.
We found we had lost naval gunfire, mine-countermine, and auxiliaries, too,
And the Gods of the Naval Engagements, dusted off old lessons anew.

“This transformational nonsense, it keeps us from doing things right, 
Those who win wars must be warriors, and the Navy stand ready to fight. 
In tough, sturdy, powerful warships, with trained and disciplined crews,
Will deter the enemy most times, and win far more fights than they’ll lose.

The direction in which we are heading, will find our fleet second-rate,
A Mahanian challenge from China or a nuclear Mid-Eastern state.
They may deny us strategic access, or make us abandon our friends,
 In a world once whose oceans and sea lanes, our Navy controlled end to end.

For the Navy exists to fight wars, and maintain control of the seas, 
With trade and free navigation, to go unhindered wherever we please. Ignore history’s lessons at your peril, but don’t think your enemies would,
And build a Navy for fighting and not some damned Force for Good!”

UPDATE: Important update. First of all, EagleOne takes and undercurrent and runs with it ... like a champ. Read it all

Second, in it he links to a very good post by another friend, Bryan McGrath. Again, you need to read it all

Soak it in; and ponder.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fullbore Friday

There are some men whose true story should give all a pause to ask, "Am I as dedicated to my cause?" "What risk will I take?" "What is the level of my dedication?"

Simply an amazing man. You need to read it all.
Witold Pilecki, a 39-year old veteran of the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1921 who fought against the initial Nazi invasion and a member of the Polish resistance, volunteered himself in 1940. Pilecki's mission was to allow himself to be arrested and, once inside Auschwitz, to collect intelligence for the Polish resistance in the country and the government-in-exile in London, and to organize a resistance from inside the camp. "I think he knew, he realized what he was getting himself into," said Jacek Pawlowicz, a historian at Poland's Institute of National Remembrance. "But even so, he was not prepared for the things he was actually able to witness."
During the next three years, Pilecki was involved in one of the most dangerous intelligence-gathering and resistance operations of the war. He authored three reports about life inside the camp for the Polish resistance. During his incarceration, Pilecki witnessed from the inside Auschwitz's transformation from a detention facility for political prisoners and Soviet soldiers into one of the Nazis' deadliest killing machines. An English translation of Pilecki's third and most comprehensive report -- a primary source for this article -- was recently published as a book titled The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery .
It is a fascinating first-hand account of virtually all aspects of life inside the camp. The original document is in the custody of the Polish Underground Movement Study Trust in London. ... By early 1943, Pilecki began considering his escape from the camp. He had gone in and accomplished his objective of organizing a resistance within the camp, at which point he thought the logical thing to do was wait for an attack on the camp by the Polish resistance from the outside so they could rise up from within. On top of this, the Gestapo was clamping down on security in the camp and many of Pilecki's recruits had been lost.
Pilecki ultimately made the decision to escape on April 13, 1943. The reason behind this was so he could make the argument for an armed assault on Auschwitz in person to the resistance leadership. He began handing over his network contacts and responsibilities to top deputies as a gradual transition process. After approximately 2,500 roll calls and 947 days inside the camp by his own calculations, Witold Pilecki and two other inmates escaped Auschwitz.
On the night of Monday, April 26 -- the day after Easter Sunday -- the three men were assigned to work in the bakery, which was located outside the camp grounds. They took advantage of a moment when the SS guard wasn't paying attention to cut a telephone wire, force open a door and made a run for it. Pilecki eventually made his way back to Warsaw and reported to the Home Army's headquarters on August 25, 1943

There is not a happy ending though. Just another card to put in the stack next time someone tries to excuse the evil of Communism.
Pilecki was arrested by communist authorities not long after, on May 5, 1947. According to Pawlowicz, "His fingernails were ripped off, ribs broken, nose broken. His interrogation was very difficult and he was tortured badly." He, and others, were given a show trial for activities against the state the following March.
On March 15, he was found guilty on several charges. The court declared, "As a paid agent of General Anders' Intelligence Service, he organized a spy network on Polish territory, collecting information and sending it abroad,' and in doing so 'betraying state secrets.' Pilecki was sentenced to death. A typical capital punishment sentence was carried out within 95 to 105 days of the sentence. The order for Pilecki's execution was given on May 22, two months after his trial.
The final account of anyone seeing Pilecki alive comes from father Jan Stepien, a Home Army chaplain whose own capital punishment was later changed to a 15-year prison sentence. His description of Pilecki as he was being led to his execution at the Mokotow prison in Warsaw: "He had his mouth tied with a white bandage. Two guards led him by his arms. He could hardly touch the ground with his feet. I don't know if he was conscious then. He seemed completely faint."
The exact location of where Pilecki was buried is unknown. His remains are believed to be either in a meadow next to the Sluzewiec cemetery, or in an area of the Powazki Military Cemetery in Warsaw, also called the meadow, in a mass grave with others who were executed by the post-war communist regime.
Hat tip xformed.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Embassy Attacks, Pirates, & Grumpy Naval Officers

If that title didn't get your attention - then you ain't living right.

Did you miss Midrats last week? Are you a fan of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, or William F. Buckley’s Blackford Oakes? Well, if you are – then you need to get a copy of Claude Berube’s new novel, The Aden Effect: A Connor Stark Novel - hardcopy or Kindle

Last week we had Claude on Midrats for the full hour to discuss the novel – so come catch the show on archive if you aren’t already sold.

While you are at it, check out the book's page on Amazon as well. Good stuff … good stuff. 

If you like what you read – get ahead of the curve and buy a box of them as gifts for Christmas. You know my advice - get books for gifts.

Do your part to get this moving off the shelf, and if Book-1 does what I think it will …. then there will be more Connor Stark novels on the way.

Diversity Thursday

Who is ready for another positive news Diversity Thursday?

Sometimes good people and good institutions find themselves doing things that are wrong, self-destructive, and corrosive.

Often they find themselves at a place they never wanted to be, but got there on a path of the best intentions derived from bad advice, bad theory, or misguided leadership decisions that ride on the back of bureaucratic inertia.

As time brings the realization of the wrong path taken - a learning institution starts to change course and look for another way than the bad path they are on.

A hearty BZ is due to the United States Naval Academy. They have done the right thing. A small thing perhaps, but one that matters. 

Here is the background.

Back earlier in the month, a member of the well compartmentalized Annapolis Underground (all praise to them on this) sent along a link to COMDTMIDNOTE 1301 Class of 2013 Service Assignment Review Board (Sarb) Precepts. You can read the whole thing below; but here are the meaty bits from the 25 JUL 12 version that was up until just recently.
"(5) Per Department of the Navy policy, Midshipmen service assignment is dedicated to equality of treatment and opportunity for all Midshipmen without regard to race, creed, color, gender, or national origin.
(6) Per Department of the Navy policy, Midshipmen service assignment is dedicated to provide the Navy and Marine Corps with officer accessions that anticipate the expected demographic changes of tomorrow – that is, it takes over 20 years to develop senior leadership. Accordingly, community assignments should reflect uniqueness, different perspectives, and talents. Careful attention should be given to selecting Midshipmen who have demonstrated the potential to lead large organizations composed of personnel coming from widely varying ethnic and cultural backgrounds."
A clear reading shows the contradiction, and the mixed message it sends. Comdtmidnnote 1301 Class of 2013 Service Assignment Review Board (Sarb) Precepts

I reached out to USNA via CDR William Marks, their PAO, with a few questions.
I was hoping to get the Commandant of Midshipman, Captain Clark's point of view the apparent contradictions in his COMDTMIDNNOTE 1301 dated 25 Jul 12 para 4.c.(5) & (6).
... Where does USNA define, identify, and track such traits as "uniqueness" "perspectives" and "talents?" How are those metrics determined? If, as it reads and was my experience on active duty, the Navy does track ethnicity and cultural backgrounds in a way that can be measured and treated as a metric, but "uniqueness" "perspectives" and "talents" are not so tracked in any way that lends itself to the "rack and stack" process, then there is a clear contradiction between the direction of the last sentence of para 4.c.(6) and the entire paragraph of 4.c.(5). Really, if race or cultural background is used in any way in service assignment, there is a contradiction between (5) and (6).
Also, specifically, how does one "demonstrate the potential to lead large organizations composed of personnel coming from widely varying ethnic and cultural backgrounds."? How is that metric determined? What are the variables of that metric? If someone does not "demonstrate the potential..." then how is that determined in the negative? If someone cannot - then why? If not, how have they spent 4 years at USNA and not reached that simple ability - and if they don't have it, why are they being sent to the Fleet to lead anyone?
Yes, I'm trying to play inside the system (again).

Reason I didn't launch on this right away is that I have seen a lot of positive action by the present leadership team at a USNA.  Though USNA is not my Alma Mater, it is a very important part of the Navy and Marine Corps, and therefor is important to me. That contradiction just did not seem in line with what I thought of the leadership. So, when in doubt, ask.

Well - here it came in yesterday. Not line by line - but better. Here is the Naval Academy's official response provided to me by CDR Marks.
Information in paragraph six was meant to be informative rather than directive in nature, providing general background affirming the Navy’s goals that officers be able to lead a diverse cross section of Sailors and Marines. We can see how the wording could potentially be confusing to board members. It is now removed. Paragraph five directing that service assignments be made without regard to race, creed, color, gender, or national origin is accurate, is the correct direction to assignment board members, and is the current practice at USNA. We removed paragraph 6 to clarify the precept and reissued the instruction to all USNA staff and faculty.
That's fair - and the right thing to do.

There you go. See folks; a good institution with good leadership focused on a 21st Century construct, not mired in debunked 1970s racialist theory.

Here is the new instruction with a 17 OCT 12 date; executive summary - they took out the retrograde and patronizing racialist diktat paragraph. Comdtmidnnote 1301 Class of 2013 Service Assignment Review Board (Sarb) Precepts-1 BZ USNA. We should all pause and nod our heads at the sign of progress in the right direction of looking away from something as meaningless as the color of a person's skin, and towards what really matters - the content of their character.

Now, in the big picture - we know that the well entrenched tentacles of the (D)iversity Industry as led by our own (D)iversity Bullies are not in alignment with the concept that all officers regardless of race, creed, color, or national origin are;
... able to lead a diverse cross section of Sailors and Marines.
All you have to do is sit through their training and attend their conferences to know that ... but that is common knowledge. As their theories never survive the follow-up question and more people are starting to stand up to their bullying,  we'll get there.

One step at a time. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Don't Hate Us 'Cause We're Beautiful

This picture sums up fairly well why I don't get all that excited about the Chinese carrier for now or the near future.

Hat tip gCaptain.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Who Wants a 15'x6' painting ...

... of THIS.

PHOTO OF THE DAY: USNS John Ericsson sailing off the coast of Japan. Photo courtesy of the Royal Australian Navy!
Hat tip Phil.

UPDATE: Ben delivers! You can download it here.

Unsexy, dumb, & difficult

Well .... before we spend all our intellectual capital on "Celestial Networks" that I have seen on PPT for a couple of decades and just creep along .... let's focus on something 3-D with a proven track record.

We'll call this a wake-up call; again.
A major international naval exercise last month in and around the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, led by the U.S. Navy with more than 30 other nations participating, located fewer than half of the practice mines laid at sea. This outcome of the highly publicized military drills — not publicly known until now — underscores how difficult it may be for the United States and its partners to detect and incapacitate waterborne explosive devices that Iran has threatened to plant if its nuclear facilities come under attack. Out of the 29 simulated mines that were dropped in the water, “I don’t think a great many were found,” retired Navy Capt. Robert O’Donnell, a former mine warfare director for his service, told the NewsHour. “It was probably around half or less.” Navy officials, though, said the drill was constructive and asserted that focusing on the number of mines detected alone would paint an incomplete picture.
Perhaps. There is that side of the story, and then this.
“We enjoyed great success,” said Cdr. Jason Salata, the top public affairs officer for the 5th Fleet. “Every platform that was sent to find a shape found a shape. We stand by that.” Salata asserted that “there were no missed mines, each platform that had an opportunity to find the mine did so.” The drill, dubbed International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2012 or IMCMEX, brought together countries from all over the world at a time when tensions with Iran have been heating up. Tehran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most important choke points through which 20 percent of the world’s oil flows.
Ummmm .... OK PAO.
Now a consultant, O’Donnell was invited by the Navy to observe the September exercise firsthand as it unfolded. The Navy declined to provide data on how many practice mines were located during the two-week naval drill but did not dispute that less than half were found. However, a spokesman insisted that the figures do not tell the whole story and that the event was “‘not just about finding” the dummy mines. “Numbers alone do not tell the story of IMCMEX’s effectiveness and success,” said Lt. Greg Raelson, a media officer with the 5th fleet, stationed in Bahrain. “We operated ships, helicopters, divers, and unmanned undersea vehicles with accuracy and effectiveness, confirming our ability to respond to maritime mine threats in the undersea environment. Because of this exercise, we were able to enhance partnerships and further hone the international community’s ability to ensure the safe and free flow of navigation.”
That is roughly right, methinks. Learning to work together is the key, and we really should do this more often - kind of like BALTOPS, but with worse liberty. If after a few years we're still batting .500, then we should worry a bit.