Monday, April 30, 2018

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part LXXIII

Admiral Davidson has a view on the Long Game, and it should sober you up this Monday.

Via our friend Andrew Erickson, we have a nice summary of China-related comments from incoming PACOM Commander, Admiral Philip Davidson, USN.

This is ... aggressive;
The strategic and operational environment outlined in the NDS clearly identifies the importance of developing and fielding a force posture that is capable of countering Chinese malign influence in the region.With respect to their actions in the South China Sea and more broadly through the Belt and Road Initiative, the Chinese are clearly executing deliberate and thoughtful force posture initiatives. China claims that these reclaimed features and the Belt and Road Initiative will not be used for military means, but their words do not match their actions.Our defense strategy provides the necessary guidance that will drive our actions.

The Dynamic Force Employment and Global Operating Model concepts inform how the Joint Force is employed across the spectrum of military operations from deterrence operations to crisis response. Due to the distances involved in the Indo-Pacific, we cannot rely solely on surge forces from the Continental United States to deter Chinese aggression or prevent a fait accompli. PACOM must maintain a robust blunt layer that effectively deters Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific.
What exactly does that require and how does that mesh with the CINC's desire to have fewer American forces doing overseas what local forces should?

...and are we about to dust off the 'ole Pershing (III?) and GLCM, but this time with a conventional warhead ... maybe?
The Conventional Prompt Strike system will help meet military requirements in PACOM, but I think we need to also look at additional systems in order to balance against the large numbers of conventional missiles that China has already fielded. In the Indo-Pacific, the absence of the INF Treaty would provide additional options to counter China’s existing missile capabilities, complicate adversary decision making, and impose costsby forcing adversaries to spend money on expensive missile defense systems.
I believe the INF treaty today unfairly puts the United States at a disadvantage and places our forces at risk because China is not a signatory.
Going back to the first issue - if you get the CINC to OK more US forces in WESTPAC, where are you going to put them?
Current force structure and presence do not sufficiently counter the threats in the Indo-Pacific, particularly a resurgent China that leverages military modernization, influence operations, and predatory economics in pursuit of regional hegemony and displacement of the United States over the long term. Aligned with the concept of blunt forces in the NDS, the size of the Indo-Pacific region and the diversity of threats warrant a stable and sizable forward presence. Additional rotational forces allow for more engagements and help increase the readiness of the forward stationed forces.
Lots of good stuff there, read it all.

It ain't 2010 anymore, that's for sure.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Fullbore Friday

What would Jesus do?

Sadly, this phrase is overused to the point that I don’t think people really ponder this in their own life.


It is something that requires action. What action?

In the carnage of war, what would Jesus do?

This is a woman who knew. No one had to ask her that question.

If only a small percentage of us had the bravery and conviction of Sister Agnès-Marie Valois, the world would be a much better place.

Remember, she was 28 at abattoir of Dieppe.
Sister Agnès-Marie Valois, who earned the nickname “Angel of Dieppe” for her defiance in treating Canadian soldiers on the beach of Dieppe during the disastrous Second World War raid, has died, aged 103.

Valois became an iconic hero to Canada’s veterans for defying Nazi authorities on the bloodstained beach who ordered her to treat wounded German soldiers before aiding the Canadians.

“She is known for standing up to the German soldiers; they held a gun up to her to treat the German injured first, but she just looked at everyone as equal — regardless of rank, regardless of nation, regardless of who or what you are she treats those who needed help the most,” said Hardy Wheeler, a retired lieutenant colonel with the Essex and Kent Scottish regiment, one of the first units to hit the beach of Dieppe.
What more can you say?

Read it all. A woman who led a life of purpose. Fullbore.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

LCS: My White Whale

Thar she blows!!!

There's LCS announcing her arrival and/or departure from NS Mayport as seen from a condo balcony in Jacksonville Beach and reported by the Salamander Underground.

We've seen this in San Diego before ... and the folks in Crackerstan will just have to get used to LCS's calling card as the LCS-ODD will be calling Mayport home.

Click the pic and enlarge yourself ... just behold the glory!

Hat tip BB.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Could you fight like its 1990?

Not all that comfortable with the respect we give to the fragility of our access to the electronic spectrum?

Neither am I.

I'm pondering over at USNIBlog. Come on by and give it a read.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

No Balkan Holiday

Only a fool thinks there will be peace in the Balkans forever. Especially with the patchwork of frozen conflicts left by NATO through the 1990s, it is only a matter of time until it heats up again. As always, the concern is who else will get caught up in it?

Over at WOTR, Michael Carpenter and Mieczysław P. Boduszyński are tapping us on the shoulder to remind us that history is a jealous mistress;
With nationalist-populist forces threatening to reverse decades of European integration across the continent — from Brexit in the United Kingdom to Catalan separatism in Spain to Lombard regionalism in Italy — European and American policymakers can no longer take for granted the security and stability of the Balkans, or Europe for that matter. The Balkans are too often ignored in the West on the naïve assumption that the region has permanently transitioned from a net “consumer” of security assistance to a net “provider.” However, history is not linear, and the region’s security troubles are not permanently behind it. The ghosts of the past — ethno-nationalism, admiration for strongmen, a belief in illiberal democracy — are appearing with greater frequency across Europe, and the Balkans are no exception.
Throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s, Russian influence in the Balkans was relatively weak. Moscow may have backed Serbian strongman Slobodan Milošević in the 1990s, but when push came to shove it was unwilling to go to bat for the embattled dictator, who was ousted in popular protests in 2000 and eventually tried in an international criminal court. Russia opposed the 1999 NATO air war over Serbia and Kosovo, but after initially trying to contest the U.S. military presence in Kosovo during the famed standoff at the Pristina airport, the Russians eventually backed down. In 2003, Russia pulled its “blue helmet” peacekeepers from Bosnia and Kosovo, removing a potential source of leverage. Afterward, Moscow seemed content to limit its Balkan engagement to energy diplomacy, such as pushing for the ill-fated South Stream pipeline.

What a difference a decade makes. By 2015, an assertive Russia, led by an increasingly emboldened Vladimir Putin, feeding off resurgent Balkan nationalism, local victimhood narratives, frustration with stalled E.U. enlargement, and historical ties to Orthodox Slavs in the region, was actively undermining democracy in the region. Moscow’s well-honed propaganda and disinformation campaigns have become a staple in Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, and the Serbian regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Drawing from a playbook it has tested in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and the Baltic states, and bolstered by its successes backing Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Moscow has sought to sow mistrust of Western motives and internal divisions among Balkan publics.
We should ask ourselves this question; what is in the American interest?

We are now in an alliance with Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Albania - with other bits begging to get in - so the odds of getting pulled in are larger than some think. On balance though, this is an European issue and they should be in lead, if anyone.

I don't claim to know what direction this will go. I do respect its instability. I've participated in attacks in the Balkans, I've spent a couple of weeks there, and my daughter a couple of months. I've served with a few Croatians and Macedonians. I work with and live around Bosnian refugees. I have no illusions that the story there is not over.

War in the immediate future doesn't have to take place. Plenty of off ramps and the authors do see hope. Sadly, their plea at the end has more hope than promise;
The time to focus on the Western Balkans is now, while the European Union and United States still have the combined resources to incentivize reforms and strengthen rule of law. On the Macedonia name issue and the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue, deft diplomacy and the right incentives can steer these seemingly intractable problems towards lasting resolutions. Containment of separatist threats in Republika Srpska and ultimately reform of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s governing institutions can stem and even reverse a slow slide towards ethnic fragmentation.

As we learned from the Balkan wars of the 1990s and from Russia’s more recent wars against Georgia and Ukraine, it is better for the West to deal with looming issues before they devolve into dangerous security dilemmas and conflicts. Finally, it is important to remember that the overwhelming majority of Western Balkan citizens want to be part of the West. The European Union and United States can harness those aspirations with a credible Euro-Atlantic perspective for the countries of the region, keeping alive the postwar dream of a Europe whole, free, and at peace.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Plague, 30-yrs War ... and Post-Modernism: Meet the Hard Math of Demographics

Depopulation and demographic collapse are not unknown concepts, disease and war have brought both on a regular basis to human civilization. Unless you are Mayan, Khmer, or other star-crossed civilizations, complete collapse is rare. What we are seeing now from Japan to China to Europe - especially former Communist Europe - is different. This is by peaceful choice.

People have simply decided not to have children.

Over at Bloomberg, Leonid Ragozin has a great write-up about what happened to the Baltic Republics since the fall of the Soviet Union. As is my wont, let's start with a graph.

This graph is almost standard throughout the former Soviet Union. The non-Muslim parts especially responded to economic and social chaos by doing two things; 1) Stop having families, 2) Emigration.
Several factors are contributing to the depopulation of Eastern Europe, and Latvia has all of them: low income, compared with more developed EU nations; insufficient growth; and strong anti-immigrant sentiment. The average annual take-home pay among all EU nations was 24,183 euros ($29,834) in 2015, according to Eurostat, while in Latvia it was only 6,814 euros ($8,406).

The young and educated are disappearing in the greatest numbers, shrinking the amount of working adults who can fund benefits for pensioners. Latvian demographer Mihails Hazans said that, as of 2014, one in three ethnic Latvians aged 25 to 34—and a quarter of all Latvians with higher education—lived abroad. In Moldova, that figure is more than 20 percent. In Ukraine—which other Eastern European nations look to for migrant labor—the state employment service said 11 percent of the population lives abroad.
With fewer young Latvians staying and getting married, buying houses or starting families, the school system is slowly shrinking. The population is skewing older. Classrooms give way to day rooms.

But Lakse stayed. He went on to college and is now pursuing a legal degree at the University of Daugavpils, Latvia’s second-largest city, which has a population of 86,000. Even for those who stay, though, the pull of the west remains. When students in his class were asked recently whether they were going to stay in Latvia after graduation, almost half said no.
Economics can take time, and in an international environment where educated and motivated people can easily move about, emigration will be an issue. The key is to build a nation your people don't want to leave.

If simple numbers are the issue, as this is Bloomberg and Leonid is Leonid, there is a paper thin discussion of the joys of an immigration fix.
Nine out of 10 countries with the lowest acceptance rate of immigrants are former members of the Eastern bloc. Of these, the three Baltic nations had been previously forced to accept Russian-speaking migrants. In Latvia, the issue is so controversial that in 2015, when the EU insisted it accept just a few hundred Syrian refugees, nationalists initially threatened to withdraw from the government. That same year, Latvia came in second to last in the Migrant Integration Policy Index, which ranks 38 democracies according to the quality of immigration policies. Only Turkey did worse. Latvia was fourth from the bottom in Gallup’s 2017 Migrant Acceptance Score list, which ranks countries in order of their populations’ attitudes to immigrants.

Anti-immigrant sentiment in Latvia is driven, in part, by the National Alliance party, one of three in Latvia’s governing coalition. Speaking in Parliament earlier this year, party official Janis Dombrava quoted polling agency Eurobarometer as showing that 86 percent of Latvians believe immigrants make no contribution to the state.

“Latvia must either completely abandon or minimize the number of migrants who come from third-world countries,” Dombrava said. In October, Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis rejected an EU plan to accommodate an additional 50,000 refugees from the Middle East and Africa. He also defended Poland, which refused to meet the EU-imposed minimum number of refugees it was obliged to accept.

Hazans, the Latvian demographer, has been researching the nation’s slow-motion implosion. Low wages, poor career prospects and poorer working conditions, he said, are the top reasons. He also warned of a parallel political cycle to match the economic one: Since the young leave and the old stay, the electorate gets more conservative, he said, further exacerbating anti-immigrant leanings.
Where can anyone find an example where mass immigration from the Middle East or Africa has been a net-positive to civil society in Europe? Where have any of these large masses produced a boom of per-capita income? What net positive attribute to a nation in 2040 will a critical mass of unemployable, unassimilable, ethnically, religiously, and linguistically people in an already existing ethno-state (Latvians are a distinct ethnic group as are Estonians, Finns, etc) have? 

Go ahead, I'll wait.

This isn't going to happen.

Let pause a moment and wonder if there might be a positive here. By chance, could the Baltic republics be bumping in to avoiding a rising future problem? Again, over to Bloomberg;
Meanwhile, some in the tech industry believe that as machine learning and other technologies continue to replace human labor, basic income will be the only way to guarantee large portions of the human race a decent standard of living.
No one argues this point; the future economic system in the developed world will need fewer people, not more. Machines will take many jobs that require low skills. There will be a higher standard of living on average, but jobs will be scarce. It will be a challenge to find jobs for the educated, the low-skilled? Nope.

Waves of immigrants from Muslim nations and Sub-Saharan Africa are not of skilled and educated people. In the modern economies of Europe, there is no place for them to prosper.

As populations shrink, they will eventually find their level as moods and norms change, as they do. Will they be 30% lower? 50% lower? Who knows, but it will level in the next few decades. What we do know is that there won't be a need more people to take what few low skill jobs there will be.

The best thing for these nations to do - if they wish to remain in peace this century - is to build a high-tech, highly educated people among those kids they do have.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Reform, Readiness and the Navy's Path Ahead, with Dr. James Holmes on Midrats

How is our Navy making progress in adjusting how we man, train, and operate our forces following the series of lessons identified in the wake of 2017's series of mishaps that left ships damaged, reputations destroyed, and 17 Sailors dead?

Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern for the full hour to discuss where we are and the way forward will be returning guest Dr. James Holmes. We will use his recent comments from Asia Times and The National Interest as starting points for a broad ranging conversation.

Dr. Holmes is a professor of strategy and former visiting professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College, where he is the inaugural holder of the J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy. A former U.S. Navy surface-warfare officer and combat veteran of the first Gulf War, he served as a weapons and engineering officer in the battleship Wisconsin, engineering and firefighting instructor at the Surface Warfare Officers School Command, and military professor of strategy at the Naval War College. He was the last gunnery officer to fire a battleship’s big guns in anger.

The book he co-authored with Toshi Yoshihara, Red Star over the Pacific, is out in its second edition this fall.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.

UPDATE A few recommendations from our guest:
- George Orwell's The Politics of the English Language.
- Edward N. Luttwak's The Political Uses of Sea Power.
This fall, significantly updated 2nd Edition of Red Star Over the Pacific.
You can read two decades of Jim's work at TheNavalDiplomat.

During the course of the show I mentioned Sen. Sasse's discussion with Jonah Goldberg on DoD reform. Go to the 16-min mark here.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Fullbore Friday

When does your service end? When is it time to call war a young man's responsibility and ride out the storm with hope from a distance?

Well, ask yourself, had this man done his duty?
Samuel Whittemore was born in England on July 27th, 1695, and came to North America as a Captain in His Majesty's Dragoons, fighting the French in 1745. He was involved in the capture of the French stronghold, Fort Louisburg, and there captured a decorative french officer's sword, which he cherished for the rest of his life. About its capture, all Sam would say is that its previous owner had "died suddenly".

After the war he stayed in the colonies, purchasing a farm in Menotomy (now Arlington, Massachusetts). He married Elizabeth Spring, and after her death remarried to Mrs. Esther Prentice. By his two wives he had three sons and five daughters. His house, on Massachusetts Avenue, in Arlington, still exists.

In 1758, war again broke out between England and France. And again, Fort Louisburg had to be taken. At 64 years of age, Sam volunteered and joined a Colonial Regiment which reduced the fort to rubble. He then went on and joined General James Wolf in the successful assault on Quebec.

The 1763 Indian Wars in the west next attracted Sam's attention. Leaving his wife, children and grandchildren to attend the farm, he rode off to join the colonial force launched against the Ottawa chief, Pontiac. He returned home some months later with a brace of dueling pistols as a souvenir, and here again, all Sam would say is that the previous owner "died suddenly."
At a time when he was already well past his expected life span at 80, there was a new threat to his adopted home.

What is a man to do?
... (on the) night of April 19th, 1775) he watched as Colonel Smith led his column of 700 soldiers through Menotomy. He was probably concerned, but the British had come out of Boston before and there had not been any serious trouble. Later that morning he heard rumors that there had been fighting at Lexington and Concord. But, when General Percy marched through the town with an additional 1,400 soldiers, Sam's military experience told him there was serious trouble ...

Word had come to Menotomy that the combined, heavily engaged, columns of Smith and Percy were retreating toward the town, and were burning homes along the way, so the aged warrior decided to take action in spite of his being eighty years old! He strapped on his captured french sword, stuck his brace of dueling pistols in his belt, put on his powder horn and shot bag, took his musket from its place on his fireplace mantle ...

Sam selected a position that gave him a excellent view of the road from Lexington, and sat down to wait. His fellow minuteman from Menotomy pleaded for him to find a safer position, but he choose to ignore them.
This part of the story is why you should always stand up to those who snort at the part-time soldier.
His fellow minuteman started firing at the oncoming British Grenadiers of the 47th Regiment of Foot, falling back to reload, then firing again. Sam waited. Finally, when the column was directly in front of him, he stood and fired his musket. A grenadier fell dead. He drew his two pistols, firing both at almost point blank range. Another grenadier fell dead, a third fell mortally wounded. The British soldiers were on top of him, he had not the time to reload his musket or pistols, so drawing his sword, he . started flailing away at the bayonet wielding soldiers. A soldier leveled his Brown Bess musket, at point blank range and fired. The .69 calibre ball struck Sam in the cheek, tearing away part of his face and throwing him to the ground. Sam valiantly tried to rise, fending off bayonet thrusts with his sword, but he was overpowered. Struck in the head with a musket butt, he went down again, then was bayoneted thirteen times and left for dead.
Enough to fell any man ... but this was no simple man. In a time when medical care was still little more than leaches and prayer;
Using a door as a makeshift stretcher, Sam was carried to Cooper Tavern, which was being used as a emergency hospital. Doctor Nathaniel Tufts of Medford attended to Sam. He cut off his bloody clothes, and exposed the gaping bayonet wounds. Sam's face was horribly injured. Doctor Tufts knew the injuries were fatal, stating it wouldn't do any good to even dress the wounds. Sam's family and friends insisted and Dr. Tufts did the best he could. He tried to make the old man as comfortable as possible. After his wounds were attended to Sam was carried to his home, to die surrounded by his family. To everyone's utter amazement Captain Sam Whittemore lived! He recovered and remained active for the next eighteen years. He was terribly scarred, but always was proud of what he had done for his adopted country. He is quoted as having stated that he would take the same chances again.

You can question the old soldier's tactical judgment, making the stand in the manner he did, but you can never question his bravery. He also proved you are never too old! Sam died on February 3rd, 1793, age 98 and is buried in the town's cemetery.
This is just one story of thousands about what simple men, women, and children did to secure your liberty.

Have you earned it? Are you prepared to answer the call when it comes for you?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

REFORGER Now and Forever

This is a bit from the, "What ... you're only thinking about this NOW!" category - but better late than

Some of this makes me think that a lot of the problem is the former Warsaw Pact nations' building boom of the last couple of decades, that and Western European nations forgetting their own history.

That being said, this is why you always need someone from the 4-shop in every thing you do;
The European Union wants to quicken the pace of moving military equipment across countries on the continent to prepare for future crises, according to a planning document unveiled Wednesday.

The project is billed as a key prerequisite for an ambitious project to build European defense capabilities outside of NATO, though still in support of alliance objectives. The “Action Plan on Military Mobility” comes after years of deteriorating relations with Russia, though no mention is made of the eastern neighbor in the March 28 communication to the European Parliament and the European Council.

COLOGNE, Germany — The European Union wants to quicken the pace of moving military equipment across countries on the continent to prepare for future crises, according to a planning document unveiled Wednesday.

The project is billed as a key prerequisite for an ambitious project to build European defense capabilities outside of NATO, though still in support of alliance objectives. The “Action Plan on Military Mobility” comes after years of deteriorating relations with Russia, though no mention is made of the eastern neighbor in the March 28 communication to the European Parliament and the European Council.

While EU member states have fused many of the policies governing citizens’ daily lives, there are still bureaucratic hurdles toward the free flow of military equipment from Portugal to the Baltics and anywhere in between.

A pilot exercise initiated by Estonia last year demonstrated the viability of beginning larger-scale planning for a Europe-wide transportation network capable of handling heavy equipment like tanks, the document states. That drill examined the ability for countries along a North Sea-Baltic corridor to pass equipment from one end to the other.

The exercise uncovered height and weight restrictions on some bridges and put a spotlight on the lack of heavy-loading equipment used for oversized military materiel traveling by rail.

The new planning directive builds heavily on the idea of advancing dual-use scenarios, or tweaking transportation infrastructure meant for civilian purposes to also work for shipping military gear. By next year, European Commission officials will study what specific logistics projects are needed to enable greater mobility of military goods.
It must be a good idea, it has RT all a flustered.

We used to conduct a huge logistics exercise on a regular basis during the Cold War, REFORGER. It tested both ends of the resupply chain and the ability to get forces inland. We need to restart this program. Do it every 3-5 yrs. It will help us find problems in peace we can't afford to deal with at war.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Why Vanuatu?

Nice SLOC you have there Down Under.

I'm pondering China's reach in to the South Pacific over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and read up on it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) Gets Her Revenge

Though she didn't fire a shot in anger in the latest Syrian strikes, everyone on the DONALD COOK should have a little zip in their step, they did something just as important - and satisfying.

Since she showed up in Rota, Spain in 2014 as one of our forward deployed BMD destroyers, she's has made a good show of the flag through the Med, Baltic, and Black Sea. The Russians took a liking to her as some kind of punching bag to make a point for INFO OPS or PSYOPS reasons.

First in April of 2014,
A Russian fighter aircraft made repeated low-altitude, close-range passes near a U.S. ship in the Black Sea over the weekend, the Pentagon said on Monday, condemning the action at a time of heightened U.S.-Russian tensions over Ukraine.

“This provocative and unprofessional Russian action is inconsistent with their national protocols and previous agreements on the professional interaction between our militaries,” said Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.

Warren said a Russian Su-24 aircraft, or Fencer, made 12 passes at low altitude near the USS Donald Cook, a destroyer that has been in the Black Sea since April 10. It appeared to be unarmed, he told reporters.

The incident lasted 90 minutes and took place on Saturday evening while the U.S. ship was conducting a patrol in international waters in the western Black Sea, Warren said. The ship is now in a Romanian port.
...and then again in 2016 another little air show in the Baltic;

The US military released videos and photos showing Russian Sukhoi SU-24 attack aircraft flying across the bow of the destroyer in the latest of many recent cases the White House said were unsafe and unprofessional.

"There have been repeated incidents over the past year where the Russian military, including Russian military aircraft, have come close enough ... to other air and sea traffic to raise serious safety concerns," spokesman Josh Earnest said.

"This incident ... is entirely inconsistent with the professional norms of militaries operating in proximity to each other in international water and international airspace."
Ha, ha Ivan, you insecure bully. You'll get yours.

Patience. All it took was patience.

Somewhere there is a planner out there we all owe a beer to that gave the DONALD COOK her revenge;
In April of last year, two US Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean steamed into the region, let off 59 cruise missiles in response to gas attacks by the Syrian government, and left unpunished and unpursued.

But this time, with the US considering its response to another attack against civilians blamed on the Syrian government, Russian officials threatened to shoot down US missiles, and potentially the ships that launched them, if they attacked Syria. A retired Russian admiral spoke candidly about sinking the USS Donald Cook, the only destroyer in the region.

When the strike happened early Saturday morning local time, the Cook didn't fire a shot, and a source told Bloomberg News it was a trick.

Instead, a US submarine, the USS John Warner, fired missiles while submerged in the eastern Mediterranean, presenting a much more difficult target than a destroyer on the surface. Elsewhere, a French frigate let off three missiles.

But the bulk of the firing came from somewhere else entirely: the Red Sea.
I don't know what, "Give DONALD COOK a call, they have your jock." is in Russian ... but Russia, the DONALD COOK has your jock - and the last laugh.

As a side-note, you know how the submarine bubbas will run up a Jolly Roger when they do a Special Operations mission or somesort? Well, this epic troll/PSYOPS deserves something new. The crew of the DONALD COOK needs to get a big troll flag to run up her mast for when she comes back to port.

Hat tip SJS, EM Simpson, & Herb.

Monday, April 16, 2018

NATO Spending A Little Better ... but ...

Nice set of graphics from DefenseNews with the 2017 NATO "Give a Damn" numbers.

Just imagine what a powerhouse NATO would be if all its members met at least the 2% goal.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Fullbore Friday

Civil wars are always a nasty bit of work, and with a few exceptions here and there, on the whole the American Civil War was mostly fought on the battlefield without the civilian slaughter often seen. This and the wisdom of President Johnson's administration standing against the Radical Republicans, is largely responsible for us being able to stitch the Union back together.

In the slaughter we inflicted on ourselves in that stupid war born of political failure, there were great moments of humanity. One of the finer examples was that of Sgt. Richard Kirkland, Company G, Second South Carolina Infantry, Confederate States Army.
All through the night of Dec. 13, 1862, the ambulance corps of the Union’s Army of the Potomac labored to remove their wounded brethren from the killing grounds at Fredericksburg.
Nevertheless, they were unable to reach the men who had advanced the farthest against the Confederate “sheet of flame” that came from behind the stone wall at the base of Marye’s Heights. As dawn broke on the morning of the 14th, hundreds of these brave soldiers still lay where they had fallen, crying out for loved ones, for a mercy killing or just a drink of water.

Crouching on the other side of the wall, the Confederates who had inflicted such devastation on the unfortunate federals listened to their enemies’ piteous pleas.
...the wounded men’s cries became too much for one rebel soldier to bear. Sgt. Richard Kirkland, Company G, Second South Carolina Infantry, left the lines and made his way to the nearby Stevens’ house where his brigade commander, Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw, had his headquarters. According to Kershaw’s later account, the young Kirkland said he could no longer stand to hear “those poor people crying for water” and asked permission to go over the wall with filled canteens to relieve their suffering.

Kershaw granted the request, but would not allow Kirkland to show a white handkerchief while on his mission. No truce had been declared between the opposing armies, and Kershaw knew it was not within his authority to initiate one.

Kershaw’s account goes on to describe what happened when Kirkland entered the deadly ground between the lines:

Unharmed he reached the nearest sufferer. He knelt beside him, tenderly raised the drooping head, rested it gently upon his own noble breast, and poured the precious life-giving fluid down the fever scorched throat.

This done, he laid him tenderly down, placed his knapsack under his head, straightened out his broken limb, spread his overcoat over him, replaced his empty canteen with a full one, and turned to another sufferer.

By this time his purpose was well understood on both sides, and all danger was over. From all parts of the field arose fresh cries of ‘Water, for God’s sake, water!’ More piteous still, the mute appeal of some who could only feebly lift a hand to say, here, too, is life and suffering. For an hour and a half did this ministering angel pursue his labor of mercy, nor ceased to go and return until he had relieved all of the wounded on that part of the field. He returned wholly unhurt.

Kershaw’s recollections, titled “Richard Kirkland, the Humane Hero of Fredericksburg,” originally appeared in The Charleston News and Courier in January 1880 and was reprinted 12 days later in The New York Times.
Of course, the post-modern era being what it is, people have tried to deconstruct this story ... but even the NTY has to say;
So, is the Richard Kirkland story true? Looking at the available evidence, it’s almost certain that a Confederate did risk his life to bring water to at least one wounded federal soldier, and if that “angel of mercy” must be identified, odds are probably better than even that it was indeed Kirkland. While Kershaw likely embellished his recollections of the incident for his letter to the News and Courier, it’s just as likely that he named Kirkland as “The Angel of Marye’s Heights” for no other reason than that he believed it himself.

Kirkland went on to fight at the battles of Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and Chickamauga. At the last of these, he and two comrades advanced too far in front of their unit, and he was mortally wounded while trying to cover their retreat. Refusing his friends’ offers to assist him, he gasped: “I am done for. You can do me no good. Save yourselves and please tell my pa I died right.” Kirkland was barely 20 years old.
Like the one erected outside my ancestral church in Mississippi almost 150 years ago, this is another monument I hope the anti-intellectual Woke Historians Collective and their American Babiyan Taliban co-religionists never tear down.

A personal side-note about Sgt. Kirkland's death at the battle of Chickamauga. I thought the 2nd South Carolina Infantry rang a bell. 

At that battle, my family (multiple lines) fought in the 7th Mississippi in Anderson's Brigade of Hindman's Division. On the 18th they were on the far left of the Confederate line facing Wood's 1st Division of XXI Corp. By the 20th, Hindman's division was moved to the center left of the line alongside Longstreet's Corps.

Nine months after Fredericksburg, the 2nd South Carolina was still part part of Kershaw's Brigade of McLaws' Division of Longstreet's Corps. By the afternoon of the 20th, the 7th Mississippi and the 2nd South Carolina were fighting right next to each other as they pushed back the Indiana and Ohio forces of Brannan's Division of Thomas's XIV Corps.

Small war.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

LCS: Bringing a Junkie's Mentality to a Great Service

Let's start with a quote from the Behavioral Medicine Association, shall we?
The first casualty of addiction, like that of war, is the truth. At first the addict merely denies the truth to himself. But as the addiction, like a malignant tumor, slowly and progressively expands and invades more and more of the healthy tissue of his life and mind and world, the addict begins to deny the truth to others as well as to himself. He becomes a practiced and profligate liar in all matters related to the defense and preservation of his addiction, even though prior to the onset of his addictive illness, and often still in areas as yet untouched by the addiction, he may be scrupulously honest.

First the addict lies to himself about his addiction, then he begins to lie to others. Lying, evasion, deception, manipulation, spinning and other techniques for avoiding or distorting the truth are necessary parts of the addictive process. They precede the main body of the addiction like military sappers and shock troops, mapping and clearing the way for its advance and protecting it from hostile counterattacks.

Because addiction by definition is an irrational, unbalanced and unhealthy behavior pattern resulting from an abnormal obsession, it simply cannot continue to exist under normal circumstances without the progressive attack upon and distortion of reality resulting from the operation of its propaganda and psychological warfare brigades. The fundamentally insane and unsupportable thinking and behavior of the addict must be justified and rationalized so that the addiction can continue and progress.

One of the chief ways the addiction protects and strengthens itself is by a psychology of personal exceptionalism which permits the addict to maintain a simultaneous double-entry bookkeeping of addictive and non-addictive realities and to reconcile the two when required by reference to the unique, special considerations that àat least in his own mind- happen to apply to his particular case.

The form of the logic for this personal exceptionalism is:
Under ordinary circumstances and for most people X is undesirable/irrational;
My circumstances are not ordinary and I am different from most people;
Therefore X is not undesirable/irrational in my case - or not as undesirable/irrational as it would be in other cases.
Armed with this powerful tool of personal exceptionalism that is a virtual "Open Sesame" for every difficult ethical conundrum he is apt to face, the addict is free to take whatever measures are required for the preservation and progress of his addiction, while simultaneously maintaining his allegiance to the principles that would certainly apply if only his case were not a special one.
Could there be a more accurate description about where our Navy finds itself at the start of 3QFY18 concerning LCS?

Let's spin the golden oldies, shall we? Back to the dulcitones of yesteryear, in this case almost a decade ago to 2009;
The Navy announced Oct. 13 the decision to deploy the USS Freedom (LCS 1) in early 2010 to the Southern Command and Pacific Command areas ahead of her originally scheduled 2012 maiden deployment.

According to Navy leaders, littoral combat ships (LCS) are needed now to close urgent warfighting gaps.

"Deploying LCS now is a big step forward in getting this ship where it needs to be - operating in the increasingly important littoral regions," said Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations. "We must deliver this critical capability to the warfighter now."

The Freedom will have an immediate impact on fleet readiness and global reach as an asset with unique combat capabilities and the ability to meet littoral tasking not previously seen in the modern cruiser or destroyer fleet.

"The Navy plans to build a considerable number of littoral combat ships which will form the backbone of our future fleet," said Adm J. C. Harvey, Jr., commander, U.S. Fleet Forces, charged with executing the early deployment. "The sooner we integrate them into our fleet, the sooner we can incorporate them in the order of battle. This deployment offers a golden opportunity to learn by doing. Employing the USS Freedom in theater two years ahead of a normal timeline allows us to incorporate lessons that can only be learned in a deployment setting more quickly and effectively in the LCS fleet integration process."
...and here we are.

A decade after commissioning Hull-1. A decade and a half after the triumph of the Transformationalist movement. How many changes? How many excuses?

Here we are;
The Navy may not deploy any of its Littoral Combat Ships this year despite previous plans to deploy one to the Middle East and two to Singapore in 2018, due to a confluence of maintenance availabilities that has most of the LCS fleet sidelined this year.

Three of the Navy’s four original LCSs are in maintenance now, and four of the eight block-buy ships that have commissioned already are undergoing their initial Post Shakedown Availabilities (PSA), Cmdr. John Perkins, spokesman for Naval Surface Force Pacific, told USNI News.

In addition to the deploying ships themselves being in maintenance, so too are the training ships that will be required to help train and certify the crews.
Still, no ability to do ASW. No ability to do MIW. Exceptionally limited - almost comical - ASUW.

Oh, and the air det?
Weaponized MQ-8B Fire Scouts are ready for deployment, they just need the Littoral Combat Ship program to reconfigure its weapon storage to squeeze in the ammunition, program officials said.
The weapons testing went great from the airframe standpoint,” Dodge said. “One of the issues with the advanced weapons systems is because it’s based on an unguided rocket, it’s designed to be built up in an armory and the LCS armory doesn’t have the space that you can build up.”

The LCS has one magazine, used to store all the ships weapons, including any that would be used for aircraft and other weapons systems.
Good googly moogly; ready, fire, aim.

We chose this path over a decade ago, and yet not only do we not have mission systems, the Sailors' training pipeline en route to the ships is so jacked up, we don't have enough Sailors to properly man the ships we have conducting extended static displays ... not to mention training them once they are there.

As a Fleet LT told me, deployment isn't a priority; deliver is.

And there is your problem. We are so focused on spending money on hulls that equipping them, manning them and training them for warfighting is an afterthought.

It is 2018 and we still do not have it right.

We have what we have and need to make the best of it - but we simply can't. The solution now is what the solution was that I offered over a decade ago. Stop building these ships NOW and find some use for what we have. License build a couple of dozen Eurofrigates until we get a good USA design ready to go.

We have built way more of these white elephants now than if we followed Plan Salamander a decade ago, but it is never too late to do the right thing.

Stow the cost arguments before you drag them out again. 

Look at what OHP, SPRU and DDG-51 Class warships were doing 10-yrs after commissioning of their Hull-1, and then behold LCS.

Remember, what would you rather have; 3 FFG deploying in 2018, or 5 LCS hanging out pierside? What is the real value for your money?

Over and over again we continue to choose LCS or to make excuses. We define deficiency down for the sake of what?

Like any addict, we will make excuses and warp everything to feed that addiction. What are we addicted to, our own desire to defend our bad decisions? Hope?

Choose life my dear Navy. Choose life.

...but to really understand that, you need the non-Kristen friendly OG version.

Hat tip Sid.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Watching Syria? I hope so.

If you have not already, you should have a short list of reliable sources of information on what is going on in Syria.

Over at USNIBlog I'm making a recommendation. Check it out and add it to your list.

NB: USNIBlog seems to be having trouble. Check back in later when they have it fixed.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

John Lewis Gaddis and the Mal-Education of Strategy

Trying to understand strategy should make your mind hurt. In his latest book, On Grand Strategy, it seems that John Lewis Gaddis is out to do just that.

From Aaron Maclean's review in The Weekly Standard, it appears Gaddis does not disappoint. I greatly enjoyed Gaddis's book on George F. Kennan, but this looks like a heavier load.

Take time to read full review, but here is a taste on the very wide aperture the author takes to the discussion, opening up on what it takes to get strategy right, and why those we trust to form it seem to be coming up short.
A gap has opened between the study of history and the construction of theory, both of which are needed if ends are to be aligned with means. Historians, knowing that their field rewards specialized research, tend to avoid the generalizations upon which theories depend: they thereby deny complexity the simplicities that guide us through it. Theorists, keen to be seen as social "scientists," seek "reproducibility" in results: that replaces complexity with simplicity in the pursuit of predictability. Both communities neglect relationships between the general and the particular—between universal and local knowledge—that nurture strategic thinking. And both, as if to add opacity to this insufficiency, too often write badly.
As the review notes, there is a problem in academia - one we've discussed often here on on Midrats. It is a problem of narcissistic curiosity; when one is only interested in what happened in your lifetime or that of your parents.
Moreover, young people interested in geopolitics are very likely to get their first meaningful exposure to the subject not from a history department or a classics-oriented course in grand strategy like the one at Yale, but from an introductory course in international relations. A yet-unpublished study by the Alexander Hamilton Society—an organization dedicated to promoting debate on the first principles and contemporary dilemmas of American foreign policy—reviews the syllabi of such courses at the 10 universities atop the 2017 U.S. News & World Reportrankings and finds that of the most commonly assigned readings, only one author (Thucydides) was not born in the 20th century; the other nine are contemporary or near-contemporary political scientists of the likes of John Mearsheimer and Robert Jervis. Such a pedagogical approach implies that our knowledge of statecraft, like our knowledge of materials science or of how to treat cancer, is steadily accumulating. Each generation of theorists will know more, or at least will know better, than the last.
On the evidence of the results of the last 25 years of American foreign policy, it seems as though the question of how to educate strategists ought to be acute for us. In particular, Gaddis's general hostility toward dogmatism of any variety deserves attention: He gets a great deal of mileage out of one of F. Scott Fitzgerald's glittering and somewhat glib aphorisms, that "the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." For Gaddis, the strategic value of such an observation is the suggestion that one might take "the best from contradictory approaches while rejecting the worst."

Fitzgerald's remark ultimately leads Gaddis to the observation that terrible strategic dilemmas can only be resolved by "stretching them over time. We seek certain things now, put off others until later, and regard still others as unattainable." The American project of self-government began with a compromise between the high moral principle of the Declaration of Independence and the barbarity of slavery, a dilemma that took a century to resolve; we redressed the balance of power in Eurasia three times in the last century, and on two of those occasions succeeded through cooperation with an ideologically hostile power (with Stalin to defeat fascism; with Mao and his successors to defeat the Soviet Union). Each resolved dilemma, each geopolitical success, vindicated the reputation of our bold project of self-rule. Acting creatively within such tensions—between the dreams of "idealism" and the demands of "realism"—is the very stuff of the American approach to strategy. Or as Gaddis puts it, quoting Isaiah Berlin, "Perhaps there are other worlds in which all principles are harmonized, but 'it is on earth that we live, and it is here that we must believe and act.'"
I've got to pick this up.

Note, if you will, the overview at the opening of the article. In a subtle way it reminds those in elder-cohort GenX and older something we remember from our youth, and what younger may not realize; there were and are academics that regret that the West won the Cold War. Even while vast parts of the globe were covered with blood-red Soviet domination, they made excuses. They never felt the joy of the end of the Cold War. They acted like, and it may be true, their side lost. The halls of our institutions of higher learning are worm-eaten with blood-soaked communist apologists. They hate people like Gaddis - which should make you like him even more.

Remember, The Killing Fields' Comrade Phat was a college professor.

Monday, April 09, 2018

A Whisky on the Rocks Chaser's Hangover in Sweden

Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) is more than just a perishable skill, it is a needy skill.

Four years later, Sweden’s defense establishment is finally hearing what those with knowledge of ASW have been yelling for years both inside and outside the SCIF.
In 2014, the Swedish Navy turned its painfully unsuccessful hunt for a "Russian submarine" into an international thriller. Today, Navy experts are blaming substandard maps of the challenging and difficult-to-navigate seascape for reducing the nation's submarine hunting capacity.

Poor measurement of the seabed poses extra problems for the country's Naval Forces, making it particularly challenging to discover naval mines or hostile submarines, the military magazine Officertidningen reported.
Have you been told or have told others that we are ready to find and kill submarines from the Baltic to the South China Sea?

Because the oceans are vast and the detection ranges are so relatively small, hunting submarines is a numbers game. It is also a game that requires a lot of different tools to play successfully and a bespoke set of kit with highly trained and focused specialists.

It is not a pickup game. It is not something you can place in reserve to restart when war comes. It is something that can be helped with technology, but needs the human to make sense of what is found. It is something that needs a constantly evolving and updated support structure to ensure effectiveness. It is not cheap to do in peace, but it is less expensive than sunk warships you can’t replace at war.

ASW requires a hunter’s instinct fused with a technologist’s intelligence. It isn’t a hunt where the hunter is going after prey; it is a hunt where the hunter is going after another hunter. The hunted knows that it is being hunted, and it knows that thing which is hunting it also knows it be being hunted in return.

There is no rapid build-up to a dramatic engagement. It is a process put together bit-by-bit by multiple parties. It is hours, days, weeks, of mind-numbing ambient inconsequence suddenly broken by a clear, bright indication that something human is out there in the inhuman chaos … or is it?

It is a game full of ghosts, tricks, phantoms, and futility. It is a game full of false paths, dead ends, lies, hidden truths, sleight of hand, wishful thinking, ignored solutions, and trusted mirages. It is not a game for amateurs or accountants. It is not the game for the easily bored or excitable.

It is needy. It is jealous. It is expensive. It hates to be ignored or neglected - it has a mean streak.

Its greatest enemy are its esoteric complications. Policy makers and warfare commanders have only a paper-thin understanding of the challenges – until they need to find the submarines that suddenly people are telling them are a danger to their entire enterprise.

In every war in the last century where a belligerent had submarines, the same pattern emerges – the ability to locate, track, and attack enemy submarines that was promised in peace simply does not work at the war.

WWI, WWII, Indo-Pakistan Wars, The Falkland Island War, all have similar patterns. There are not enough ASW capable units to effectively negate the threat; expenditures of search and kill-stores far exceed peace-time expectations. The advantage is with the submarines, causing surface ships to have less freedom of movement than expected.

Of course, this was all known prior to the beginning of hostilities, but why the shock with the reality of war?

Money and priorities. ASW is pricy, is not as “sexy” or career enhancing in peace as other areas. As such, it suffers.

It is a hard sell, and that is part of the problem – decision makers do not have the patience or background to understand the unique nature of hunting submarines. It really isn’t their fault, they just have never had to ask.

It is way too easy to conflate ASW with other kinds of warfare areas and as a result, feel that you have a handle on the challenges. You don’t, and here’s why;

- Water: Water is not air. Though there are some sexy and not so sexy non-acoustic ways of finding submarines that we simply will not discuss here or on the comments section – ahem – for the vast majority of the world and in most tactical situations, you are looking at acoustic sensors, active and passive.

Water, to a much greater extent than air, has density, temperature layers, and life that live in it. All impact how you can see what is there. Imagine that you were walking around town looking for a specific person and every few steps you took and each different direction you turn, the glasses you were wearing changed tint, had different polarization filters come and go, had mirrors and prisms slide in and out of view.

Sound: Drive over to a friend’s house. Have them blindfold you and drive you to an open field a few hundred yards from a train track. Listen. In 5-min, 5-hrs, or 5-days a train comes by. By listening to it, I want you to tell me what direction it is heading to. How fast is it going? Where it is relative to you when it comes closest to you? What kind of train it is? What is the production number of that kind of train is this one? That was easy. Now I want you to have one ear with an ear-bud in it playing AM radio static. I also want you sitting in the back of a flat-bed truck that is driving up and down the dirt road in a thunder storm.

Geography: Sure, the ocean looks smooth, but that is the trick it plays on you. Under the surface there are mountains and canyons that make those on land look like cute little models. There are ocean bottoms that soak up every bit of sound like a dry sponge does water. There are other ocean bottoms that do to sound what rooms of mirrors in funny houses do to light. There are walls, cliffs, dizzying drop off in to the actual abyss. There are forests as crowded and noisy as any terrestrial rain forest. People will ask you to drive a truck down a bike path. They will ask you if you can see things through mountains, to hear the whisper of a child over the roar of a waterfall.

Sensors: “Best if Used By” dates apply to more than just food. In addition to the intellectual limited shelf life and ongoing need to replenish and refurbish grey matter, especially on the air-ASW side of the house, sensors (sonobuoys) take up a lot of space and stocks deplete quickly when prosecutions are underway. How many days/weeks of stores do you have available on your ship/air station/AOR? Care and maintenance of surface/subsurface ASW sensors are as challenging as anything exposed to the sea for extended periods of time. Are your estimated usage rates based on exercise data, or what you expect in a wartime footing when nerves are touchy and the attitude is, “You can’t find a sub with a helo/MPR bird on the deck or a buoy in the tube. You can’t kill a submarine if a torp isn’t in the water.” Are your stocks instead based on what crumbs you’ve managed to collect at the edges of the POM?

Weapons: Ah yes, the toothy end of the kill chain. Let’s put the submarine’s MK-48 HWT to the side for a moment and focus on the surface and air side of the ASW house. What do you have to kill a submarine with? You only have one option, the LWT of the MK-46/50/54/Stingray/MU90 variety. Let me pose to you this question. You are a hunter responsible for feeding your family and your poor and slightly lazy neighbors. You are, unfortunately, only allowed one gun in one round. You have your ideas about what you need as you will be hunting everything from squirrels, to ducks, to quail, to deer, from deserts to leafy woodlands. However, you are not making that choice. Your Aunt Mable in town who runs the family accounts is making that call. You’re getting a single shot Stevens break open rifle in .22 short. It will work great for squirrels and moderately good for rabbits. You better be real lucky if anyone expects you to bring a bird to the table. You’re not sure how she expects you to take a deer at the other end of the bean field - but Parson Jones told her that a .22 is dangerous out to a mile – in theory – so a 200-yd shot shouldn’t be a problem. In theory with a shot through an eye socket you might be able to bring a deer home, but … well … you’ll just have to see what you can do. Does save money, in a fashion. You tried to be reasonable and asked that you could get by with a 20-ga and a .308. Didn’t have to be fancy, but … they wouldn’t hear of it. And so, that is what we have at the pointy end. You’re going on a trip to Kansas to hunt Pheasants and Montana to hunt Pronghorn next year. Make it happen. Would it be better to have a gun cabinet of .22, .243, 30-06, 6.5mm Creedmoor with a 20-ga over/under and 12-ga autoloader to choose from instead? If you wanted to be successful, yes.

Is ASW doable? Sure it is. Ask the German Navy about late ‘43-45. Is ASW hard to convince people in peace how hard it is? Sure, ask the Royal Navy from 1939-42 and again in 82.

Ask the Swedes today.

Ask the VCNO next time you see him. He’d probably enjoy the question as a welcome distraction from what he is usually asked. If you’ve listened to him speak, you can detect a man who knows his ASW.

...and yes, I know. Sputnik News ... but it is in English and besides the defense industry ads, the source document is all in Swedish.

Hat tip Bob Hein.