Tuesday, July 08, 2014

When Your Buzzword Becomes a Punchline

Hopefully you caught the Foggo-Berube back and forth over the last week.

It started with the CNO, Admiral Greenert and Rear Admiral Foggo, USN's bit in the May Proceedings, Forging a Global Network of Navies

Sigh. Here we go again. The Bad Idea Ex-Girlfriend is going to make you love her.
One of our advantages, as a nation and as a Navy, has been our extensive network of alliances, partnerships, and coalitions.

In 2007, Admiral Mike Mullen addressed more than 100 leaders of the world’s navies gathered at the 18th International Seapower Symposium in Newport, Rhode Island. He challenged the international community to act in concert when responding to threats to the global maritime domain, and he shared his vision of a “1,000-Ship Navy” fueled by the common interest of global stability and economic prosperity. The “1,000-Ship Navy” stimulated much discussion among our partners across the globe. Some wondered how contributions would be solicited, what the command-and-control structure would look like, and how binding the concept would become. The debate prompted Admiral Mullen to explain:

The ‘1,000-Ship Navy’ is a fleet-in-being of nations willing to participate in global maritime partnerships (GMP). To face the challenges we do today, nobody can do it alone. Many countries are looking for ways to help create security through an international navy. The barriers to entry here are very low. You don’t have to join; you don’t have to sign a treaty.
I really don't need to do another paragraph by paragraph fisking, do I?

Much of the article is a collection of well worn concepts, diplo-speak, and aspirational goals. Then end of the above quote shows the feet of clay this all is with, ".. you don't have to sign a treaty.

Of course not. You can show the flag, but when things get hairy or wet work needs to be done, you'll leave the work to the USN.

On top of that - some of the transformationalist verbiage is ahistorical and slightly insulting to our heritage;
GMP was a new approach to cooperation among maritime nations.
No it isn't. Combined naval operations have been around thousands of years, in peace and war.
The international community has become an economically hyper-connected global network of independent states pursuing prosperity and security. Trade and commerce transcend borders, while globalization drives interdependence among nations.
Again, this has been true for thousands of years - in fits and starts - but true. Heck - we hear the same argument about how such condition precluded war .... right before WWI.

Why am I making such a pedantic fuss over the above? Simple, the transformationalist mumbling cant that "all is new" is deadly to the intellect and any military organization. 

It is deadly as it gives people the invitation to do the intellectually lazy thing and not read and reference thousands of years of lessons. Equipment and names may change - but by and large, the big picture concepts are exactly the same.

Many generations have been right where we are. We can save a lot of treasure, and some blood as well, by being humble and discuss what the world was and is - not as we wish it to be.
As such, the Global Network of Navies provides the opportunity for countries to more effectively meet the challenges of insecurity in the maritime environment in spite of resource constraints. The only requirements are a willingness to collaborate and the creation of a network that is scalable, durable, responsive, flexible, and interoperable. This makes the Global Network of Navies key to the collective future security of all maritime nations.
They can plug in .. but ... here is the tricky part - what do you do when they unplug and go home?

The authors do nod to this concern - but continue forward;
There are those who may say that we cannot, and should not, rely on coalitions or partnerships to solve all of our problems. We have to “go it alone” because coalitions or partnerships are not enduring or binding, and they are sometimes limited by differing perspectives on authorities, rules of engagement, and national caveats. But a Global Network of Navies already exists. No singular response to crisis is ever the same. A network construct must be flexible and adaptable to different circumstances. Not all nations with the requisite maritime capacity or capability will always see it in their best interests to participate. That is their option, but there is compelling evidence that when like-minded nations get together, the whole of their contributions is always greater than the sum of their parts. Several vignettes illustrate how this network is already confronting common threats to our collective security around the globe.
Who is saying we need to "go it alone?" Who is this cabal? No one I know is asking for a go it alone mindset - what many are saying is, "Prepare to have to go alone." 

To do otherwise is to give other nations' politicians veto power over the US Navy conducting operations in our strict national interest.

I know what Greenert and Foggo are trying to do, and I am sure they are heartfelt - but I'm sorry; it is bad theory that puts too much riding of unicorns pooping skittles on the rainbow lines of operation.

It is an important part of the conversation and part of the solution - but it is an unalloyed vision of the future that does not survive first contact with the past or present.

They starts off their penultimate paragraph with a strangely off-centerline sentence;
We are all facing similar fiscal pressure and rising challenges at sea, and no one nation has the ability to be everywhere all the time or to act alone.
Again, no. First, we are not all facing similar fiscal pressure.
China announced on Wednesday that it would increase its military budget for 2014 to almost $132 billion, a 12.2 percent rise over last year.
Second - again,
"no one nation has the ability ... to act alone"
Excuse me. The USN can act alone. The Russian Navy can act alone. The Chinese Navy can act alone. What a silly line.

I like both Greenert and Foggo, but to be frank, I really don't hear their voice here - they and we are better than this.

The above is my quick jab at a few pull quotes - better minds have been at work at is too.

Over at WarOnTheRocks, our friend Claude Berube sallied forth - you need to read it all
... interconnectivity presents both opportunities and challenges. While the Navy and the country may hope more for the opportunities, they must however resign themselves to the inherent realities of regional and global challenges to partnerships.

As it has for more than two hundred years, the U.S. Navy works with other navies – whether in underway replenishment, patrols, or other operations. In the late eighteenth century, Thomas Jefferson suggested to John Adams that the U.S. should organize an “international task force comprised of all European nations whose shipping was being victimized” by the Barbary States, although Adams responded that it was an idea whose time had not yet come. During the Barbary War, both the U.S. and Swedish navies cooperated against Tripoli until the latter made peace in 1802 and left America to continue alone. In the early nineteenth century, the U.S. Navy sent warships to West Africa to suppress the slave trade at the same time the Royal Navy had its own Africa Squadron.
In a more ideal world where countries do find common cause, it is unclear where the fleets will come from. The article states that there are 12,000 ships in the service of navies globally, only 5,000 of which are blue-water capable. How many of these 5,000 are adequately resourced and maintained? How many crews receive sufficient training? How many could actively deploy on a moment’s, a week’s or even a month’s notice? Most importantly, which of those navies have countries that would have the national interest and political will to conduct out-of-area operations? The authors note that “on any given day 685 [ships] are under way.” However that number does not distinguish between being deployed and being under way, the latter a term used for any day away from the pier which might include exercises or preparing for deployments. For example, the Navy’s own website stated on 30 June 2014 that it has 289 battle force ships with 99 deployed and 29 under way. In addition, the authors admit that 42 percent of international ships under way are ships of less than 1,000 tons and therefore unlikely to contribute to major blue-water operations.
Those are good questions and hard facts. Items, sadly, not found in depth in Greenert and Foggo's article.

One of the great things about Berube's insight, is the fact he brings to the table a multi-disciplinary method that looks at an issue from not just a military viewpoint, but a historical, practical, and in this case - political one.
Political decisions – not naval relationships – will determine what forces to use and when in response to incidents, challenges and crises. The article also fails to address the political realities of multinational operations including funding, compatibility, various rules of engagement and access denial not only by potential adversaries but by allies and partners. For example, as the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division prepared to assault Iraq through Turkey, access through that nation – a NATO ally – was denied despite the offer of billions of dollars. Then-Deputy Chief of Naval Operations Vice Admiral Charles Moore later stated that this was a “glimpse of the future…where Turkey was able to significantly alter our war plan in that they denied access.” Negative perceptions about the United States are on the rise globally further eroding U.S. opportunities and increasing them for peer competitors.
BZ to RADM Foggo, he jumped in to comments on Berube's post. However, I was very disappointed to see a tired strawman in Foggo's response that we see dragged out now and then, a complete non-starter - especially if you are responding to WOTR and Berube readers,
"I don’t see America going it alone in the near future unless it is defense of the homeland."
Eeeek! That again. Just stop.

Seriously, to repeat again: no one is saying that American should go it alone - though it should be ready too as time and time again, from when Sweden broke formation in the Barbary War, to Veracruz, to Vietnam, to FONOPS in the Gulf of Sidra - sometimes we have to - and it is something the American people demand that we maintain the ability to do.

The norm is, and our Navy does it every day, to operate in a combined environment.

Here is the undeniable less of history that Berube holds out;
...naval partnerships are important but they aren’t always reliable – not because of the navies with whom we the honor to work with every day but because of the decisions that rest with the political authorities and public opinion among our partners and even ourselves to appropriate invest in their own capabilities.
From the caveat laden allied forces of flaccidity that we all had to work around in Afghanistan, to the ships-in-being that joined us off the Horn of Africa, that is the hard truth of allied operation.

Even in the most right wars - even with the best allies - they can just go home. In one of my favorite little gems in Max Hastings Retribution, in moment of indecision and selfishness in the middle of a fight, some allies will just steam out of sight like the HMCS UGANDA off Okinawa.

To put yourself in Strategic Risk based simply on the promises - especially implied and theoretical - is folly. Or, as Berube puts it,
In the end, affirming phrases like “global maritime partnerships” cannot rationalize, justify or compensate for the lack of national will to appropriately invest in the country’s own naval capability at the risk of maritime force codependency.
Amen. I would much rather see the intellect and political capital of Admiral Greenert and Rear Admiral Foggo invested in explaining to the American people how in a period of strategic change after a decade of land combat, the Navy needs more than an even slice of the budgetary pie.

A little reminder to all. Call it "1,000 Ship Navy" - "Cooperative Maritime Partnership" - or if you must grab your thesaurus and make it a bit more buzzwordy-poetic - "Global Network of Navies," the end effect is the same.

Let me do one of the few things that brings joy in to my life - quote myself - from 7.5 years ago on this blog;
"1,000 Ship Navy" with all due respect, is a mirage. When the shooting starts, they will be about as useful as the Italian and Vichy French Fleets were to the Germans in WWII - or NATO in the South and East of Afghanistan.
A positive note here; the whole interaction with Foggo & Berube specifically is exactly how it should be done. On the more refined side of creative friction, you have two professionals with the same goal, the best maritime forces out nation can provide, working it out tit-for-tat.

As it should be.

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