Monday, March 31, 2014

Why UKR has the Obama Admin Flat Footed

If it seems that the USA is constantly playing catch up, confused, and generally out played by the Russians, there is a reason.

Do these two thing seem to define the foreign policy establishment in the Obama Administration?

1. Liberals.
2. People who work or associate with people at Top-25 institutions (as identified by TRIP).

Well, via Erik Voeten at the WaPo, something to chew on;
Other than Sarah Palin and certain Russian astrologers, few people foresaw that Russia would intervene militarily in the Ukraine. The Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) Project at the College of William & Mary held a snap poll among international relations scholars, which asked: “Will Russian military forces intervene in response to the political crisis in Ukraine?” The results, reported in Foreign Policy, were disheartening: only 14 percent of the 905 interviewed scholars answered affirmatively on the eve of the intervention. (The poll was conducted from 9 p.m., Feb. 24 to 11:59 p.m., Feb. 27. Russian forces controlled the Sevastopol airport on Feb. 28).
...scholars who work at a Top-25 institution (as identified by TRIP) were least likely to be correct. This is consistent with Philip Tetlock’s finding that the more famous and successful the pundit, the less accurate the predictions.
Self-identified Liberals and Constructivists did poorly, with Liberals both very unlikely to predict intervention and very likely to offer a definitive “no” rather than the “don’t know” answer that was very popular among Constructivists (who sometimes look dimly on the predictive ambitions of social science).
Next time someone throws their CV at you ... keep that in mind.

Oh, and if you are one of those with the well polished and worn CV, try to be humble.

You know what really makes this whole article and study sexy? Dude knows his statistics.
On request: in a multiple regression analysis (whether by OLS or (ordinal) logit) the two covariates that have robust sizable and significant (p<.01) negative effects on predicting a military intervention are being at a Top 25 institution and self-identifying with the Liberal school of international relations. I did not find an interactive effect between these two covariates. The significance of the other covariates depends on model specification.
Can we get this guy to do our sexual assault and command failure studies?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Saturday, March 29, 2014

AFG "impossibly ambitious?" No, at one time it wasn't.

Over at WaPo, Bing West reviews Ann Scott Tyson's new book, American Spartan.

If you are interested in the book, I think Bing does a good job hitting the high & low points. I have my opinions on Gant, Tyson and the book - mostly because the meat of the AFG story takes place right after I and other McKiernanites left it, but I'll let others pick at it as I have yet to read the book.

Here is a point Bing makes in his review that I want to pick at a bit.
Our overall strategy failed because we lacked sufficient control over the feckless Afghan leaders we placed in power. It’s a wonder the exuberant Gant didn’t lead a coup attempt against Karzai. Fortunately, his excessive risk-taking and unbridled devotion did not end in tragedy.

“Catch-22” was a satirical novel, sprinkled with gritty vignettes of real combat during World War II. “American Spartan” is the real-life story of living a fantasy, sprinkled with allusions to an impossibly ambitious strategy.
A few points I've made over the years that I would like to repeat for new readers, and a reminder to the regulars. I want to repeat them because this year and those that follow, there will be a lot of ill-informed commentary about why we failed in AFG (which, depending on how you define "fail," I put the odds of failure north of 67%).

1. In line with Bing's theory of original sin of, "the feckless Afghan leaders we placed in power." There was a huge initial error entered in to the post-2001 AFG rebuilding, and that was the Bonn Agreement. This agreement combined the worse tendencies of European bureaucrats soaked in their own failed theories, and the US Department of State's faculty lounge/think tank view of what the world should be. In a nation in Central Asia, the most dysfunctional one at that, this group put Germany (who punted later to EUPOL) in charge of building a national police system, Japan to disarm "illegally" armed groups, GBR counter-narcotics, and for the love of Pete - Italy the judiciary.

2. No one could see the future, but Karzai looked like a good start, but not for that long. As someone I worked with for a short period, Sarah Chayes, outlined in her 2007 book, The Punishment of Virtue, Karzai was a known problem by the middle of the last decade. We've worked with sub-optimal, 3rd world cleptocrats before, so he wasn't a huge obstacle. A big one, but not one you couldn't work with/around.

3. In spite of all that, there was still a plan, though one that had a false start. In late '05 and early '06, we turned over operations to NATO. In less than 2 years of failure to supply the forces they promised and many of the forces sent there so laden with caveats to be almost useless, by mid-07 it was clear that the USA had to take the keys back. To do so without tearing the alliance asunder, was going to be a challenge. By late 2006, NATO's own Regional Command structure had degenerated into a quasi-tribal structure in itself; a Germanic-Nordic North, Mediterranean West, Anglospheric-Dutch South, and Americania in the East. The Star Wars bar scene that was Regional Command Capital was a story in to itself.

As we worked on taking the keys back, General McKiernan developed the "Shape, Clear, Hold, Build" that district by district had a plan that brought together NATO military, Government of Afghanistan, along with those International Organizations, Governmental Organizations such as USAID, and Non-Governmental Organizations to work together that only needed strategic patience to give AFG a fighting chance. It ran parallel with the ongoing counter-terrorism operations.

4. All of that was thrown away one evening in December 2009 in a West Point speech given by President Obama. You can search this blog archive for the details if you wish, but in summary - we announced our withdraw under fire - first summer of '11 and then a more sane summer of '14 - but the signal given that day set the course. We were leaving, the Taliban were staying - those who lived there would have to find a way to make peace with what was to follow. Hedging bets, husbanding forces, and preparing to adjust facts on the ground was all that mattered. We told everyone that we would be a factor for a few years, but then we would leave them to their own devices. A strange, but rough parallel to what the Soviets did.

Back to Bing's quote,
"...impossibly ambitious strategy."
Yes. I agree. Everything after DEC 2009 was all based on hope and luck. Nowhere in thousands of years of military experience showed where such a withdraw under fire achieved any type of "victory" for those who withdraw. At best, you can hope to just disengage and lose fewer of your own. More likely, you just encourage your enemy to, in their own time and schedule, follow you back to where you retreated to.

Victory after DEC 09? Close to impossible, indeed.

Officer Retention with VADM Moran & CDR Snodgrass, on Midrats

As over a decade of major combat operations ashore winds down, economic & budgetary stresses grow on defense spending, a strategic re-alignment combined with a generational change are coming together in a perfect storm of challenges to the effort to keep the intellectual and leadership capital our Navy needs.

What are those challenges? What lessons can be drawn from past retention problems, and what is different this time? Is this institutional or generational? What steps can be made in the short term to address this, and what longer term policies may be put in place to mitigate the systemic problems that are being looked at? Are their opportunities to be found in the challenges the Navy faces?

Our guests this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern for the full hour will be, Vice Admiral Bill Moran, USN, Navy Chief of Naval Personnel, and Commander Guy Snodgrass, USN, Prospective Executive Officer of Strike Fighter Squadron ONE NINE FIVE. We will use as a stepping off point to our talk CDR Snodgrass's Navy officer retention study, Keep a Weather Eye on the Horizon.

Vice Admiral Bill Moran, Chief of Naval Personnel, is a P-3 pilot by trade, having commanded at the squadron, wing and group levels. As Chief of Naval Personnel, he oversees the recruiting, personnel management, training and development of Navy personnel. Since taking over in August he has focused on improving communication between Navy leadership and Sailors in the Fleet.

Commander Guy "Bus" Snodgrass is a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Pilot slated for a command tour with Strike Fighter Squadron 195, forward deployed to NAF Atsugi, Japan. A native of Colleyville, TX, Snodgrass has served over the skies of Iraq, taught as a TOPGUN Instructor, and as a department head in Japan. He is a 2012 graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and, most recently, served as Speechwriter to Admiral Jonathan Greenert, the 30th Chief of Naval Operations. His recently released paper, "Keep a Weather Eye on the Horizon", takes a hard look at the factors influencing sailors to leave military service, and explores opportunities to keep our talented men and women in the Navy.

Join us live if you can with the usual suspects in the chat room and offer up your questions for our guest, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio.

Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

Friday, March 28, 2014

Fullbore Friday

In port.

Just another watch on the pier.

Tic. Toc. Yawn. It's 23:20. Watch is almost over.

Thing is, there is no such thing as a normal watch. You never know when the call comes. You don't even have to be at sea. You don't even have to be overseas. You can just be at the largest naval base in the world in your own nation.

When in a moment things can turn from boredom to the point where character, instinct and training take over. The first, is the most important - the rest only support it.

MA2 Class Mark Mayo, USN. Fullbore Shipmate; fullbore.
(the shooter) parked his tractor-trailer cab near Pier 1, was able to walk onto the pier and began heading up a ramp toward the USS Mahan when he was confronted by Navy security, said Mario Palomino, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agent in charge of the Norfolk field office.

The man then got into an altercation with a female petty officer and disarmed her, Navy officials said. Palomino said Mayo stepped over the disarmed officer and fired his weapon at the assailant. He was serving on watch for the installation that night and came to help once he saw the civilian board the ship.

Multiple pistol rounds were fired between the gunman and Navy security forces responding to the scene, Palomino said. The Navy has said previously that the truck driver fired the shot that killed Mayo.

The base's commanding officer, Capt. Robert Clark, said Mayo's actions to protect the disarmed officer (sic) were extraordinary.

""He basically gave his life for hers," said Clark said during a news conference.
Ship, shipmate, self? Yep; it means exactly what it says.
MA2 Mayo enlisted in the U.S. Navy in October 2007 and began working in Norfolk in May 2011.

“Petty Officer Mayo’s actions on Monday evening were nothing less than heroic. He selflessly gave his own life to ensure the safety of the Sailors on board USS Mahan (DDG 72),” said Capt. Robert E. Clark, Jr., commanding officer, Naval Station Norfolk.
There is more background at the above links and here about the shooter that I really don't want to cover here. There is plenty of time later for that and what lessons we can take away from it.

I have my opinions, but not here, not today. 

Petty Officer Mayo, well done.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lithuania Wakes Up & Realizes She is Sleeping Next to a Bear, Takes Prudent Action

Estonia is already there; the President of Lithuania has decided it was time to wake up from the post-Soviet haze.

Read all of President H.E. Dalia Grybauskaitė;
First, we have to stand in unity and to work together in order to respond to new challenges.

It is necessary to renew without any delay the national agreement between all political parties on foreign and security policies, and also on adequate finances for defence. We have advanced to reach the two percent defence spending target in the next five years without hurting other economic areas and social groups 
....the symbol of our energy independence - a special vessel for the LNG terminal - will arrive to Lithuania this coming autumn after overcoming hostile storms and turbulences created by commissions and instigated by others.

This geopolitical project of cooperation between Lithuania, Norway and South Korea, the first in the Baltic region, is the result of historic changes in our energy system.

It is a crowning achievement by the efforts of the whole of Lithuania, making Russian gas - which poses an existential threat - simply needless for Lithuania.

In the course of only several years, Lithuania has managed to develop alternatives to both gas and electricity supplies. Next year, in 2015, a power bridge to Sweden will be built, linking Lithuania to Western Europe through electricity networks.
She gets it. Well done Madam President. Latvia, your play.

Diversity Thursday

Well, well, well. I'm quite happy with this company in this thankless labor.

Übermench Victor Davis Hanson has gone just about full Salamander. Over at NRO, read it all;
Diversity has become corporatized on American campuses, with scores of bureaucrats and administrators accentuating different pedigrees and ancestries. That’s odd, because diversity no longer means “variety” or “points of difference,” in the way it used to be defined.

Instead, diversity has become an industry synonymous with orthodoxy and intolerance, especially in its homogeneity of political thought.
Exactly. I would add close-minded, Cultural Marxist, intellectual bullies.
Nor does diversity mean consistently ensuring that institutions should reflect “what America looks like.”

If it did, all sorts of problems could follow. As we see in the NBA and NFL, for example, many of our institutions do not always reflect the proportional racial and ethnic makeup of America. Do we really want all institutions to weigh diversity rather than merit so that coveted spots reflect the race and gender percentages of American society?
He hits on all the major talking points you need to take with you next time you are forced to be lectured at by your local Navy commissariat fresh from training by our Diversity Bullies.
Diversity, Inc. is also based on a number of other shaky fundamental assumptions. Race, gender, and politics are supposed to count far more in a diverse society than other key differences. Yet in a multiracial nation in which the president of the United States and almost half the Supreme Court are not white males, class considerations that transcend race and gender often provide greater privilege.
Does Diversity, Inc. rely on genetic testing, family documents, general appearance, accented names, trilled pronunciation, or just personal assurance to pass judgment on who should be advantaged in any measurement of diversity?

In such an illiberal, tribally obsessed, and ideologically based value system, it is not hard to see why and how careerists such as Senator Elizabeth Warren and activist Ward Churchill were able to fabricate helpful Native American ancestries.
People in the Balkans, Rwanda, and Iraq certainly championed their ethnic differences in lieu of embracing concord and ethnically and religiously blind meritocracy.

Tragically, these are also examples of where the logic of privileging differences, and dividing and judging people by the way they look and what they believe, ultimately ends up.
There you go. Push back against the sectarianism and mindless racial divisiveness being injected in to our Fleet. As President Obama might say, you are on "the right side of history" to do so.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Bad Superpower STRATCOM Start of the Week

March has been a month where a lot of very smart people have spent a lot of time reminding everyone how weakness invites aggression. Trying to get everyone to see the world as it is - not as we wish it to me.

Well, they need to speak some more. We do not seem to be playing long ball very well.

First of all - PACOM decides to tell everyone that his knob goes to 11;
The head of U.S. Pacific Command believes America does not possess the capacity to conduct amphibious assaults in the wake of a crisis, as it did during World War II.
Adm. Samuel Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command gave his assessment of the deficiency in readiness on Tuesday, Stars and Stripes reported.

“We have had a good return of our Marines back to the Asia-Pacific, particularly as the activities in the Middle East wind down in Afghanistan. … But the reality is, is that to get Marines around effectively, they require all types of lift. They require the big amphibious ships, but they also require connectors (meaning landing craft and other amphibious vehicles). The lift is the enabler that makes that happen, so we wouldn’t be able to [successfully carry out a contested amphibious assault without additional resources],” Adm. Locklear said, Stars and Stripes reported.
Of course we need more in order not to have too much mission-risk, etc ... but if we can't do amphibious landings, no one can ... right?
The admiral’s comments come only weeks after Capt. James Fannell, the chief of intelligence of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said that he believes China is training for war with Japan.

“[We] concluded that the PLA has been given the new task to be able to conduct a short sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea following with what can only be expected a seizure of the Senkakus or even a southern Ryukyu [islands] — as some of their academics say,” the captain said in February after witnessing “massive” Chinese military exercises in the Pacific.
Oh, good googly moogly, people. Admiral Locklear, if I may be so bold - you're not in DC playing word games on The Hill. Words matter, and the way this is being reported in the press is simply not helpful. I'm sure this isn't what you wanted, but there it is. There are PLAN intel types who do nothing else but parse every word you say like some druid elbow deep in sheep entrails.

Then we have this jewel. 

Power projection. You know - that "From the Sea" thingy. In the last few decades we have removed our deep strike capability by going to all light strike-fighter and no organic tanking (buddy Hornet doesn't count, Shipmate). As a former TLAM guy myself, I know how well one can clear out the cells in theater and the effort to get reloads to port. Magazine, magazine, magazine - in theater would be nice - pre-positioned better. War won't wait ...

So, this sends an interesting message;
The Tomahawk missile program—known as “the world’s most advanced cruise missile”—is set to be cut by $128 million under Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal and completely eliminated by fiscal year 2016, according to budget documents released by the Navy.
In addition to the monetary cuts to the program, the number of actual Tomahawk missiles acquired by the United States would drop significantly—from 196 last year to just 100 in 2015. The number will then drop to zero in 2016. 
The Navy will also be forced to cancel its acquisition of the well-regarded and highly effective Hellfire missiles in 2015, according to Obama’s proposal.
There's your risk.

Remember, in three days of DESERT FOX, we launched ~325 TLAM. TLAM are good for the kind of punitive expeditions we should expect to have to do - not to mention a very useful weapon to have against static targets like, oh I don't know, S/IRBM launching bases used or A2AD.

If you respond with "UCLASS UCLASS UCLASS" prior to even IOC, I will have BM1 slap off the front porch.

In summary, we started the week telling our nation's enemies that we have no confidence in our ability to land Marines ashore, and that, really, we don't think we want to attack any major power anytime soon.

Risk; it's what for Spring.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sea Blindness

Over at USNIBlog, my co-host over at Midrats and general hail fellow well met, EagleOne of EagleSpeak, has a post up about a regular topic - Sea Blindness.

Along with others, over the last few years we have been beating the drum at our homeblogs and especially over at Midrats on the topic - if you need to catchup, E1 does a great job providing links, another reason for you to read the whole thing. Good news? It looks like the right people are starting to do the right thing;
A couple of weeks ago, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Greenert went before the House Armed Services Committee and did a little “Counter-Sea Blindness” work, both in his written testimony and in his spoken words.
As Claude Berube wrote somewhere, when the big headline news was the Army being cut to pre-WWII levels, the Navy had already been cut to pre-WWI levels. See here, where it shows the fleet in April 1917 had 342 ships.
Admiral Greenert and Secretary Mabus deserve praise for standing up on this issue.
However, that message needs to be spread further and faster – that the U.S. Navy – the flexible forward presence that this country depends on for freedom of the seas and protection of both vital sea lines of communication and helping its allies abroad- is becoming too small to carry out 40% of its primary missions.
Those “faulty premises and a lack of strategic direction” are exactly the symptoms of “Sea Blindness” that have gotten us this tipping point of fleet size.
As stated above, it is good that the CNO and SecNav are speaking out on this issue- but that is not enough. More voices need to spread the word of the vital importance of sea power to this country and the facts of what the reduction of fleet size on this country. 
The cure to “sea blindness” is sunlight – shining light on the situation. Those of us who believe in a strong Navy must spread the word of what the Navy does and why a larger fleet is vital to our national interests and defense.
Amen ... and amen.

Monday, March 24, 2014

SECNAV, UN is on the Line ....

When the UN goes Salamander on you - you know that you're in an isolated position;
The United Nations will officially warn that growing crops to make “green” biofuel harms the environment and drives up food prices, The Telegraph can disclose. 
A leaked draft of a UN report condemns the widespread use of biofuels made from crops as a replacement for petrol and diesel. It says that biofuels, rather than combating the effects of global warming, could make them worse.

The draft report represents a dramatic about-turn for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Its previous assessment on climate change, in 2007, was widely condemned by environmentalists for giving the green light to large-scale biofuel production. The latest report instead puts pressure on world leaders to scrap policies promoting the use of biofuel for transport.

The summary for policymakers states: “Increasing bioenergy crop cultivation poses risks to ecosystems and biodiversity.”
Again, this pet vanity project of the Great Green Fleet beyond experimentation is a waste of money and personality based folly in the extreme.

Most of the time, hard critique is not out of malice, but out of heartbreak. Let's not speak of this anymore, m'kay? 

Our Navy needs the SECNAV's attention elsewhere from here on out - mostly about tomorrow's post.

Hat tip IK.

Talleyrand, Metternich, and Churchill; Chortling in the Corner Table

One of the few positives to come out of the last month or so of Russia being, well, Russia, has been the sure and certain knowledge that there are a cohort of ignored, unloved, largely thought an anachronistic side-shows known as "Russian Experts" who for the first time in decades perhaps, are getting up in the AM with a little verve.

Ignored and having their desk moved every few months closer and closer to the basement, all of a sudden they are getting calls, emails, and even invitations to brief people.

Of course, there were some "Russia Experts" and professional thinkers who were getting all the invitations to the right parties by the right people for the last few decades, invited to conferences, given book deals, and generally given plenty of attention. These where the transformatinalist Russia experts who were ahistorical in their analysis, but coo'd nice sounding things in to ears that let everyone think that all was well and not worthy of worry about that decayed, post-Soviet, demographic meltdown, extraction economy, "R in the BRIC" nation known as Russia. A nation that slowly we can turn in to the West's friend and partner.

How's that working out for 'ya?

As usual, the transfortmationalists were wrong (though they'll be back). Popular, but wrong. Russia is, was, and will always be; Russia. Just ask a neighbor or crack a history book;
"Russia is never as strong as she looks; Russia is never as weak as she looks." This quotation, or ones similar to it, have been attributed to Talleyrand, Metternich, and Churchill. In May 2002, Putin pronounced a modified version of it (which he attributed to Churchill): "Russia was never so strong as it wants to be and never so weak as it is thought to be." 
What is of interest here, though, is neither the exact quote nor even who said it, but the enduring truth of the notion that Russia is neither as strong nor as weak as it seems. This is the result of Russia being composed of both strengths and weaknesses in the past, the present, and probably well into the future.
For those needing to catch up, Mark Katz's bit above is worth a read. That isn't my favorite Churchill quote.
"Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."
That brings us to Ross Douthat's article in the NYT, Russia Without Illusions;
SINCE the end of the Cold War, America’s policy toward Russia has been shaped by two dangerous illusions.

The first was the conceit that with the right incentives, eyes-to-soul presidential connections and diplomatic reset buttons, Russia could become what we think of, in our cheerfully solipsistic way, as a “normal country” — at peace with the basic architecture of an American-led world order, invested in international norms and institutions, content with its borders and focused primarily on its G.D.P. Not the old Russian bear, and not an “Upper Volta with rockets” basket case, but a stable, solid-enough global citizen — Poland with an Asian hinterland, Italy with nukes.

The second illusion was the idea that with the Cold War over, we could treat Russia’s near abroad as a Western sphere of influence in the making — with NATO expanding ever eastward, traditional Russian satellites swinging into our orbit, and Moscow isolated or acquiescent. As went the Baltic States, in this theory, so eventually would go Ukraine and Georgia, until everything west and south of Russia was one military alliance, and its western neighbors were all folded into the European Union as well.

On the surface, these ideas were in tension: One was internationalist and the other neoconservative; one sought partnership with Russia and the other to effectively encircle it. But there was also a deep congruity, insofar as both assumed that limitations on Western influence had fallen away, and a post-Cold War program could advance smoothly whether the Russians decided to get with it or not.

Now both ideas should be abandoned.
Exceptionally solid and clear-eyed policy bit. His recommendations are spot on - and as a quasi-neo-realists - I can say with fair confidence that I am about 90% aligned with his thinking.
But no to sudden overcommitments that would give Putin exactly what his domestic propaganda effort needs — evidence of encirclement, justifications for aggression. Unless we expect an immediate Russian invasion of Estonia, for instance, we probably don’t need a sweeping NATO redeployment from Germany to the Baltics. Unless we’re prepared to escalate significantly over the fate of eastern Ukraine, we shouldn’t contemplate sending arms and military advisers to the unsteady government in Kiev. Unless we’re prepared to go to war for Abkhazia and South Ossetia, we shouldn’t fast-track Georgia’s NATO membership.

And unless the European Union wants to make its current problems that much worse, its economic accord with Ukraine shouldn’t be a prelude to any kind of further integration.

The key here is balance — recognizing that Russia is weak and dangerous at once, that the West has been both too naïve about Putin’s intentions and too incautious in its own commitments, and that a new containment need not require a new Cold War.

When illusions are shattered, it’s easy to become reckless, easy to hand-wring and retrench. What we need instead is realism: to use the powers we have, without pretending to powers that we lack.
We should all hope that someone like-minded is sitting in the seats behind Kerry and Obama slipping them notes.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The CNO's Rapid Innovation Cell, on Midrats

The Chief of Naval Operation's Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC) was established in 2012 in order to provide junior leaders with venue to identify and rapidly field emerging technologies that they see needed in the Fleet.

Who is in the CRIC, how do they get there, and what are some of the projects they have been working on?

This Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern, our guest for the full hour will be Commander Ben Salazar, USN, Director of Innovation (N93) with CRIC, along with other members of his team.

Join us live if you can with the usual suspects in the chat room and offer up your questions for our guest, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio.

Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fullbore Friday

From a 2007 FbF.

We always remember Pearl Harbor - but that second week of DEC 1941 war was breaking out all over the Pacific. Something different for Pearl Harbor. Capt. Colin Kelly Jr., early leadership example.

The war exploded all over the Pacific that day, and in the focus on Hawaii, the other stories often get forgotten. Let's look at some events in Skippy's favorite Old School liberty area - The Philippines.

On the morning of Dec. 10, 1941, six B-17Cs of the 14th Bomb Squadron, 19th Bomb Group, sat in the rain at a rough landing strip near San Marcelino on the Philippine island of Luzon. The crews had spent the night without food, sleeping in or under their planes. Of the war situation they knew little except that Japan had attacked Clark Field and other installations near Manila on Dec. 8--Pearl Harbor on the 7th--and some 400 Japanese aircraft had destroyed most of the US B-17s and pursuit planes.

Squadron Commander Maj. Emmett "Rosy" O'Donnell Jr., had flown to Clark before daylight to get orders for his squadron. He radioed his pilots to proceed to Clark at daybreak. Only three of the B-17s were allowed to land. They were flown by Capt. Colin P. Kelly Jr., and Lts. George E. Schaetzel and G. R. Montgomery. Captain Kelly, a 1937 graduate of the US Military Academy and a former B-17 instructor, was one of the most experienced and respected pilots of the 19th Bomb Group.

An imminent air attack sent the three bombers off to their respective targets before refueling and bomb loading were completed. Captain Kelly had only three 600-pound bombs aboard and orders to attack airfields on Formosa (Taiwan), some 500 miles north of Clark. The mission would earn Colin Kelly a place in American history and legend.

In the confusion of the early days of the Pacific war, Kelly was credited with sinking a Japanese battleship and with award of the Medal of Honor. Overnight he became a national hero. It later was determined that Kelly and his crew did not sink a battleship, nor was he awarded the Medal of Honor, although some still believe both. In fact, Colin Kelly was recommended for the Medal of Honor by Maj. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton, commander of the US Far East Air Forces. The award he received was the Distinguished Service Cross, on the orders of Gen. Douglas MacArthur's headquarters.

This is what actually happened, as told in mission debriefings by members of Kelly's crew and in an official report of the mission prepared in February 1942.

For Captain Kelly and his crew, it was a solo mission deep into territory where the Japanese held absolute air superiority. They had no fighter escort. By Dec. 10, there were only 22 flyable P-40s and a few obsolete P-35s left. As they flew north toward Formosa, Kelly and his crew passed over a large Japanese landing in progress at Aparri on the north coast of Luzon. The presence of an enemy carrier in the vicinity had also been reported.

Kelly radioed Clark Field for permission to attack the landing force, which was supported by several destroyers and a large warship, thought to be a battleship, bombarding the coast from several miles offshore. After two calls to Clark that brought only a response to stand by, Kelly told the crew they were going ahead on his decision to attack the battleship--actually a cruiser. Kelly made two dry runs at 20,000 feet, giving bombardier Sgt. Meyer Levin time to set up for an accurate drop.

On the third run, he told Levin to release the bombs in train. As best the crew could tell, two of the three bombs bracketed the ship with one direct hit. Smoke prevented more accurate assessment. The B-17 then headed for Clark Field, its bomb bay empty.

As it approached Clark, the bomber was hit by enemy fighters.

The first attack killed TSgt. William Delehanty, wounded Pfc. Robert Altman, and destroyed the instrument panel. A second attack set the left wing ablaze. The fire spread rapidly into the fuselage, filling the flight deck with smoke.

Captain Kelly ordered the crew to bail out while he still had control of the doomed bomber. Fire began to engulf the flight deck. SSgt. James Halkyard, Pfc. Willard Money, and Private Altman went out the rear. Navigator 2d Lt. Joe Bean and Sergeant Levin, after a time-consuming struggle, pried open a stuck escape hatch and took to their chutes.

The nose of the aircraft was now an inferno. Colin Kelly remained at the controls as copilot 2d Lt. Donald Robins moved to the upper escape hatch. At that moment, the bomber exploded, hurling a badly burned Robins clear of the aircraft.

The B-17 crashed about five miles from Clark Field. Colin Kelly's body was found at the site. The early report of his heroism, which inspired a nation in shock, is in no way diminished by the actual events of that December day in 1941. Alone and far from friendly territory, he attacked and damaged a heavily armed ship, then sacrificed his own life to save his crew.
As is not too uncommon, in the rush to make a legend, good people with good intentions try to make an already great story of heroism and honor even better - and ruin it.

NB: when in doubt, ignore emotions than tell the truth. History will find it out later. You can dig around the refs and links to see what I am talking about, but here is the truth and the two big lessons we should take away from Capt. Kelly. Oh, remember....this was less than 72 hours after the start of the war with a early mod of the B-17.

BTW, one of the men attacking Kelly's bomber that day was Saburo Sakai. He was a great man, great pilot, and a hero to anyone who takes the time to try to know what he did with his life.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

3rd Order Effects from Crimea Start to Form ... Your Silver Lining

Russia has demonstrated, again for those who wish to see, that history belongs to those who make it. Russia is Russia, and hard power trumps soft power.

If the diplomatic, information, and economic levers of power that NATO is lamely pressing on to counter Russia's military efforts win out in time, we will all see eventually. What we do see now, thankfully, is to many nations in Europe this has been a wake up call. Time to leave Cold War habits behind.

First über-neutral Sweden:
Sweden’s government is examining a proposal to boost military spending to defend its own territories and the strategic Baltic Sea area in the face of renewed Russian aggression in Ukraine. There is also a movement among high government officials to re-examine the long-running issue of joining NATO.

The Swedish Cabinet will discuss, in coming weeks, a cross-party coalition proposal to signifi­cantly increase capital spending on the Navy’s submarine fleet.

In a direct response to Russia’s military actions in the Crimean Peninsula, Jan Björklund, the Liberal Peoples’ Party leader and Sweden’s deputy prime minister, is pushing for a “comprehensive strategic military re-think on capability.” Björklund also wants Sweden to “set the wheels in motion” to join NATO.
Once submissive Finland next:
...Finland's defence and security policy is under the spotlight again.

In an interview published on Sunday in the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen reiterated the country's stance that Finland is not a neutral country, even though it is not part of any military alliances.The premier stressed that Finland has always kept NATO membership open as a option. Katainen denied that the decision to stay out of the alliance is based on a desire to maintain good relations with Russia.
It is easy to understand the connection west to Denmark and Norway, and to a lessor extent south to Germany - but there are strong bonds to the Baltic republics as well.

For those not up to speed with their Baltic trivia, there are more than just the Baltic Sea that can draw Sweden and Finland closer to NATO, and all you have to do is look at one of Salamander's favorite nations; Estonia.

Estonians still remember the "good old Swedish times" when they were under the Swedish Crown, and after the fall of the Soviet Union, Sweden was one of the first nations the newly freed Estonia reached out to.

Estonians are also close ethnically and linguistically to Finland. For those who have had the chance to visit Finland, Russia, and Estonia will easily not just see this - but feel it. The Baltic nations are Western, not Russian. Latvia and Lithuania more like Poland than Scandinavian, but Western nonetheless.

There is a lot of institutional inertia keeping FIN and SWE out of NATO, but the one good byproduct of the Crimea crisis is this; it shows that as irritation it can be to be in an alliance, when facing the Russians - it is a lot better than being outside it. It will be interesting to see how the numbers move.
The idea of joining NATO has also gained traction among Swedes in recent years. A 2013 poll found that popular support for becoming a member had jumped 9 percent in two years, even though it still falls short of a plurality. "Sweden must realize that we can no longer defend ourselves alone. NATO membership must be debated seriously. It is the best long-term option for our defense and security," said Christian Democratic spokesman Mikael Oscarsson last January after the coalition government to which his party belongs announced a formal review of Swedish military capabilities. "With significantly higher spending on defense and material acquisitions, we will see better equipped and trained Russian troops in this region. This strengthening requires a credible response by Sweden," Oscarsson added.

Swedish membership in NATO would leave Finland as the last non-aligned Scandinavian state, but the Finnish people are warier about picking sides. A February 24 Helsinki News poll, conducted prior to Russia's occupation of Crimea, found that 64 percent of Finns oppose NATO membership, 60 percent oppose forming an EU common-defense policy, and 60 percent oppose a proposed defense alliance between Finland and Sweden. Given Finland's proximity to the Russian border, one can hardly blame them for embracing non-alignment. Henry Kissinger opined in The Washington Post that the new Ukrainian government should follow Finland's example. "That nation leaves no doubt about its fierce independence and cooperates with the West in most fields but carefully avoids institutional hostility toward Russia," he wrote approvingly.
On a personal note, I had the pleasure last decade to spend a lot of time with Swedish and Finnish field-grade officers. Culturally, professionally, and by any other measure - those nations are turn-key members of NATO. It would be a great addition to their nations', NATO's, and be extension - our safety if they were to join.

Or ... this could be just silly fearmongering.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Open Your Operational Planning Hymnal Please ....

Is it possible that Afghanistan may turn out some shade of OK where we don't have a mark of shame, again, on our conduct of a campaign? Sure. That might happen.  If it does, will it have got there because of sound military planning, and the political support needed to create the conditions for success? No, not really. That all fell apart a bit over four years ago.

As we march towards our summer'14 retrograde, we need to watch with a clear eye. Be ready to grasp hold of a firm straw if it drifts past, build something quickly if we can - but not to have false hope on partial observations of selected viewing.

I hate to be Miss Mary Darkcloud (well, not really - it is kind of a hobby), but everyone needs to keep their wits about them as we move towards the scheduled withdraw from Afghanistan this year.

Depending upon the Operational Planning confession you adhere to, there are in roughly decreasing hierarchy; Mission, End State, Objective, and Decisive Points & Decision Points scattered along the progressing Phases along your Lines of Operation that outline your Tasks and - if you blend in some EBO concepts in to your confession as I do - Desired Effects.

You can have wonderful success on individual Objectives, Decisive Points, and Tasks. You can even achieve wonderfully positive results in your Desired Effects - you may even meet one or more of your Objectives, but ... that does not mean that you will get even close to your End State or Mission.

In general, if you tap-out before you reach your End State, you will never have achieved your Mission. If you never achieve your Mission, you have not achieved victory as originally planned. You can of course, revise your Plan to change anything and everything - but when you reverse engineer your Plan to lowered expectations, you are just covering your exit - that is all.

Now that a few weeks of class is complete in a few sentences (all you Operational Planning trolls, get back in your hole - no nit-pick'n the Cliff's Notes; URR I'm talking to you), let's look at this little bright pebble in the pan;
Donald Sampler, who directs the Afghanistan office for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), told a House subcommittee Thursday that 900,000 Afghan children were enrolled in school in 2001, virtually none of them girls. Today, the number is approaching 8 million, and about one-third are girls.

During the same period, life expectancy has risen from 42 years to 62. The child mortality rate has fallen from 172 to 97 per 1,000 live births.

Electricity now reaches 18 percent of Afghans. Land line and cell towers provide phone service to 90 percent of the population. The telecom industry provides about 100,000 local jobs.
This is all very true and wonderful ... but, well let's review the ISAF Mission Statement;
In support of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, ISAF conducts operations in Afghanistan to reduce the capability and will of the insurgency, support the growth in capacity and capability of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), and facilitate improvements in governance and socio-economic development in order to provide a secure environment for sustainable stability that is observable to the population.
There are three parts here.

Part 1: " reduce the capability and will of the insurgency"
Part 2: " the growth in capacity and capability of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF)"
Part 3: "...facilitate improvements in governance and socio-economic development"

1.a. Capability?
After more than a decade of war, the Taliban are a long way from being defeated and have been growing in strength. Many of Nato's territorial gains are by no means irreversible.
1.b. Will? I don't even need to quote or link to anything. No one ... and I mean no one of any seriousness is arguing that we have impacted the will of the Taliban one bit. As a matter of fact, after President Obama's DEC09 West Point Speech, it has only grown.

If the troop surge of 2010 was successful in stopping the Taliban's momentum in the south, it did not succeed in defeating the militants, especially in the north and centre where the alliance is thinner on the ground.
2. ANSF? Let's stick with the linked BBC article.
Afghan forces remain inconsistent, but those who train them say the best are as good as any army in a developing country.

But many people still question how the army would fare against the insurgents without help from Nato. Only time will tell.
I agree. Time will tell, but they need more seasoning and continued support to have a chance - hopefully more than we gave to South Vietnam and the Royal Cambodian Army.

3. Governance and development: that takes two. The government of Afghanistan has to ask for it, and there has to be someone there to offer to help. I hope so, but hope isn't all that helpful.

Let's go back to the opening quote. Everything that USAID has to say is wonderful and nice - and all of us who served in AFG are glad to see and read it, but ... but ... that is only 1/2 of 1/3.

It is just a desired effect, and depending on your Operational Planning confession, perhaps just a Measure of Effectiveness. That is all. Not an End State, not a Mission. 

No, the concrete is not set. The cake is not baked, and unless we have significantly revised the OPLAN, good odds that along most of the Lines of Operations, we have plenty of Decisive Points that will not be met prior to this summer. Risk increases, and we will have to rely on, yes - hope.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Navy Enters the Mobile Gaming Market

OK all you history buffs, all you former and active Harpoon players - all those who love their Navy and a good video game at the same time. Think about what, in even a modest manner, you would like to see for the official US Navy's first mobile gaming product.

Let that warm and excited feeling soak in for a bit. Now, brace yourselves and head on over to my post at USNIBlog for the details.

Gird your loins.

As a side note, if you read this blog and are not also a member of the US Naval Institute, you should really consider joining. Look on the right side of the page for the widget, give it a click and find a few shekels.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The USMC Post-QDR with Dakota Wood, on Midrats

With the new defense budget out, new QDR out, the withdraw of maneuver forces from Afghanistan, rising interest in INDO-PAC operations, and a resurgent Russia: after over a decade of COIN and land wars in Southwest and Central Asia - what is the status of the United States Marine Corps?

Materially, intellectually, and culturally - is the USMC set up to move best towards the expected challenges and missions?

Our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be Dakota L. Wood, Lt Col, USMC (Ret.), Senior Research Fellow, Defense Programs at the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy at The Heritage Foundation.

Following retirement, Mr. Wood served as a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Most recently, Mr. Wood served as the Strategist for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Special Operations Command.

He holds a Bachelor of Science in Oceanography from the U.S. Naval Academy; a Master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the College of Naval Command and Staff, U.S. Naval War College.

Join us live if you can with the usual suspects in the chat room and offer up your questions for our guest, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio.

Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

Friday, March 14, 2014

Fullbore Friday

I have always liked this story and the painting it tells - truth is always better than fiction - and with the goings-on in Ukraine as of late, I can think of no better time to bring it up.

If you so wish, do a little reading up on the history of the Zaporozhian Cossacks of Ukraine; but let's keep this FbF clean and to the point.

As everyone is hip to "cultural sensitivity" let's try to get some insight in to the cultural foundation and references of the Ukrainian people (and the Russians too). This took place, roughly, in 1676. 100 years before our Declaration of Independence, and the same year we first recognized by proclamation the very American holiday of Thanksgiving. So, yea ... it works.

First of all, we have a letter from the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud IV.
Sultan Mahmud IV to the Zaporozhian Cossacks:

As the Sultan; son of Muhammad; brother of the sun and moon; grandson and viceroy of God; ruler of the kingdoms of Macedonia, Babylon, Jerusalem, Upper and Lower Egypt; emperor of emperors; sovereign of sovereigns; extraordinary knight, never defeated; steadfast guardian of the tomb of Jesus Christ; trustee chosen by God Himself; the hope and comfort of Muslims; confounder and great defender of Christians -- I command you, the Zaporogian Cossacks, to submit to me voluntarily and without any resistance, and to desist from troubling me with your attacks.

--Turkish Sultan Mahmud IV
... and the Ukrainians pondered a response ...

... and then you have a bit of poetry (potty-mouth warning);
Zaporozhian Cossacks to the Turkish Sultan! 
O sultan, Turkish devil and damned devil's kith and kin, secretary to Lucifer himself. What the devil kind of knight are you, that can't slay a hedgehog with your naked arse? The devil excretes, and your army eats. You will not, you son of a bitch, make subjects of Christian sons; we've no fear of your army, by land and by sea we will battle with thee, fuck your mother. 
You Babylonian scullion, Macedonian wheelwright, brewer of Jerusalem, goat-fucker of Alexandria, swineherd of Greater and Lesser Egypt, pig of Armenia, Podolian thief, catamite of Tartary, hangman of Kamyanets, and fool of all the world and underworld, an idiot before God, grandson of the Serpent, and the crick in our dick. Pig's snout, mare's arse, slaughterhouse cur, unchristened brow, screw your own mother!

So the Zaporozhians declare, you lowlife. You won't even be herding pigs for the Christians. Now we'll conclude, for we don't know the date and don't own a calendar; the moon's in the sky, the year with the Lord, the day's the same over here as it is over there; for this kiss our arse!
Fullbore. An American would have simply said, "Nuts" - but we are a simple folk.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Diversity Thursday

Sometimes the Diversity Bullies do us a favor and let the mask slip. In 21st Century America, there is only one place where it is socially acceptable, and indeed, professionally rewarding, to be an out-and-out bigot. Where, you ask? Simple ... any of the paying gigs in the Diversity Industry's various commissariats - especially in our educational system.

As you read the below I want you to remember this; we do roughly the same thing every day in our Navy. We pay money to send our diversity commissars to the same conferences and get the same training. This is the cancer we soak our soul in. Via King-5;
A group of employees at South Puget Sound Community College sent out an invitation to all 300 staffers.

The "Staff, Faculty and Administrators of Color" encouraged employees to reply to the invitation to find out the confidential date and time of what was being called a "happy hour" to "build support and community" for people of color.

The invite made it clear white people were not invited.

The email read: "If you want to create space for white folks to meet and work on racism, white supremacy, and white privilege to better our campus community and yourselves, please feel free to do just that."
Karama Blackhorn, program coordinator for the school's Diversity and Equity Center, helped write the invitation.

She said it could have been worded differently, but she maintains the staff members of color would have a more honest discussion about race without white employees.

"When trying to explicitly talk about race it can be a really difficult conversation for a lot of people," said Blackhorn.
No kidding Karama. I sure if some people of pallor decided to have a sit in at your racist little gathering, you would have made them plenty uncomfortable. 

What a bitter, small minded, bigoted little twit she is.

Amazing ... and your tax dollars are paying her salary - or even better - your student loans.

Hat tip CB.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Want to talk about size?

Just thought I would beat the LCS drum a little more.

SAN DIEGO (March 10, 2014) The littoral combat ship Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Coronado (LCS 4) passes the amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) as Coronado makes it way to its new homeport at Naval Base San Diego. Coronado is the third U.S. Navy ship named after Coronado, Calif., and is the second littoral combat ship of the Independence-class variant. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Donnie W. Ryan/Released)
Next time someone mentions, "Small" when they talk about LCS, please show them this pic of PCU CORONADO (LCS-4) and USS RUSHMORE (LSD-47). There are many things to describe either class of LCS - but little is not one of them. 

Smaller, yes; small, no.

Words mean things.

Hat tip NH.

UPDATE: Let's keep with the LCS theme a bit.

How many task forces, PEO, Blue Ribbon umptifrance items do we need as a substitute for strong programmatic leadership and vision?
Under orders to reexamine the Littoral Combat Ship program and begin the process of evaluating possible new designs, Adm. Jon Greenert, chief of naval operations, said Monday he was preparing to stand up a new task force to provide him with recommendations.

The effort is in response to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s direction to begin consideration of a more heavily-armed and survivable small surface combatant, with recommendations to be in hand in time to guide 2016 budget formulations.
Let's also use the correct terms here.

A "more heavily-armed and survivable small surface combatant" compared to a LCS is ... wait for it ... a frigate.

We spend more times playing games with names than we actually do intellectualizing what proper Fleet THE world's maritime power needs. To do that, though, we need intellectuals. We need people who are willing to engage in the marketplace of ideas - you know - the whole creative conflict without friction thingy.

What message are we putting out there on the rewards we give for such behavior?
The new task force will supersede the LCS Council, a group of high-ranking officers assembled in August 2012 to help guide the program. Under the guidance of the director of the Navy Staff, Vice Adm. Richard Hunt, the council issued directives and gave the program a new high-profile emphasis.

But its actions largely fell out of sight after Hunt’s retirement last summer, and his successor, Vice Adm. Michelle Howard, never spoke publicly in a council role. She has since moved on to a deputy CNO position, and has been nominated to become the vice chief of naval operations.
Methinks we will be adrift a bit longer.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Don't we have that attrition data on a backup slide?

So, this will be interesting to watch over the next few years. Via USNINews;
The Navy has abandoned its plans to buy 17 additional Northrop Grumman Fire Scout rotary wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for the next five years as part of its Fiscal Year 2015 budget submission.

The submission zeroed out purchases of the helicopter UAVs over the Future Years Defense Plan (FYPD) — the five-year planning period that extends to fiscal year 2019. In its Fiscal Year 2014 FYDP the service indicated it would buy close to 17 MQ-8C Fire Scouts from 2014 to 2018 — primarily for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) mission packages.

So far the Navy has purchased 28 of the legacy MQ-8B Fire Scouts and paid for 14 of the larger MQ-8C variants — including two demonstration airframes currently being tested by the Navy in California.
I guess you can always grab come commercial Bell 407s and spray paint the inside of the glass gray later if needed - if things go as expected.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ukraine; the Central European Flounder?

We can call this and "undesired 3rd order effect." It is a bit hard to argue the logic - if I were a Ukrainian patriot, I would be well along the road of working this out.
The United States, Great Britain and Russia agreed in a pact "to assure Ukraine's territorial integrity" in return for Ukraine giving up a nuclear arsenal it inherited from the Soviet Union after declaring independence in 1991, said Pavlo Rizanenko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament.

"We gave up nuclear weapons because of this agreement," said Rizanenko, a member of the Udar Party headed by Vitali Klitschko, a candidate for president. "Now there's a strong sentiment in Ukraine that we made a big mistake."
Rizanenko and others in Ukraine say the pact it made with the United States under President Bill Clinton was supposed to prevent such Russian invasions.
To reassure the Ukrainians, the United States and leaders of the United Kingdom and Russia signed in 1994 the "Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances" in which the signatories promised that none of them would threaten or use force to alter the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.

They specifically pledged not to militarily occupy Ukraine. Although the pact was made binding according to international law, it said nothing that requires a nation to act against another that invades Ukraine.
"Everyone had this sentiment that for good or bad the United States would be the world police" and make sure that international order is maintained, Rizanenko said of the Budapest pact.

"Now that function is being abandoned by President Obama and because of that Russia invaded Crimea," he said.

"In the future, no matter how the situation is resolved in Crimea, we need a much stronger Ukraine," he said. "If you have nuclear weapons people don't invade you."
If you wonder a bit about the UDAR party - this Wikipedia article is a nice summary.

Compared to some member of the popular front that took power, you can call UDAR fairly mainstream.

As a side note, if you didn't review the "Salamander Play" from March 3rd, read it again. I'm standing by it.

The Life of a Small Light Next to a Sea of Darkness

You are a very small nation who desperately just wants to be left alone. A small outpost of Balto-Scandinavian culture next to a Russian vastness.

It never has been easy, it isn't easy, and odds are it never will be.
For this tiny country of 1.3 million, things are, from one perspective, excellent indeed. Since independence in 1991, Estonia has welcomed democracy and a market economy, become a member of NATO and the European Union, and adopted the euro. The country exudes modernity, consumerism, and freedom. There’s wireless Internet nearly everywhere—parks, pubs, squares, beaches, forests—and nearly always free. When you walk through Tallinn Airport, you feel like you’re in a trendy version of an Ikea store, with semi-inviting cafés, book alcoves, ready-to-use iPads.
Joe Biden might say LaGuardia pales in comparison.

Freedom House gives Estonia highest marks in democratic development, for both political rights and civil liberties. The country ranks higher than the United States in economic freedom in a Heritage Foundation index.

So what’s to worry?
Estonia’s ethnic Russian minority comprises nearly a quarter of its population (fellow Baltic nation Lithuania has 5.8 percent; Latvia, nearly 27 percent). As a result, Tallinn has to put up with constant Kremlin complaints—the charges nearly always unsubstantiated by international observers—that Russians in Estonia are treated poorly and subject to discrimination by the Estonian government. Russian president Vladimir Putin is believed to have a personal gripe with the country. Or so Estonian officials think, as we know from diplomatic cables, thanks to WikiLeaks. Putin’s father, who fought with the Red Army during World War II, parachuted on a mission into Estonia, where locals, still angry over the Soviet occupation in 1940—a year before Germany invaded—handed him over to Nazi forces.

What’s clear in any case is this: Moscow loves meddling, provoking, and slapping Estonia around.
Some might have thought that NATO and EU membership settles everything. Courtesy WikiLeaks, we know that at least some U.S. officials have considered Estonia paranoid about Russia. It seems instead that recent events in Ukraine and Russian policy toward this small Baltic nation well might concentrate our minds on Kremlin strategy toward Eastern Europe—and on the sad fact that we don’t seem to have one.
Read all of Jeffery Gedmin's article in TWS for the details if you are not up to some of the nuance about the pickle that is Estonia.

Here is the Wikileaks note mentioned:
The Estonian authorities have a pessimistic view of the prospects of relations with Moscow, according to a new portion of secret diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.

Russian Reporter magazine has published a secret cable sent to Washington by US diplomats in Estonia last spring. The cable allegedly concerns Tallinn’s policy toward Russia and Estonia’s place in US-Russian relations.

The cable, attributed to US diplomats, including Ambassador to Tallinn Michael Polt, describes Estonia’s views of the prospects of relations with Russia as “pessimistic.” The country’s defensive posture is even “based on an almost paranoid perception of an imminent Russian attack,” the document says.

The diplomats tried to find positive signs in Estonia’s approach, stressing that the country “is working to temper its political stance on Russia.” In particular, Tallinn prefers to handle bilateral issues with Russia “quietly,” the document reads.
Who are we actually sending as ambassador to Estonia? Do they know of nothing about their history? Have they not visited the Occupations Museum in Tallinn? Idiots.

You aren't being paranoid if your are a neighbor of Russia; you are just a student of history.