Saturday, June 30, 2018

Marines in the Offensive Against ISIS with Col. Seth Folsom, on Midrats

In the last few months a lot has been written about learning how to fight a conventional land battle again after years of a focus on counterinsurgency. Fighting against an enemy who is holding territory, has a capital, armor, artillery and a proven record in the battlefield.

While some are writing it, others have been living it, fighting side by side with traditional allies and new ones in a complicated joint and combined environment that is the latest chapter in the Long War; the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Our guest this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern is returning to Midrats after just returning from leading Marines in the fight, Colonel Seth Folsom, USMC.

Colonel Folsom is a Marine Corps infantry officer with 24 years of commissioned service. He currently works on the staff of I Marine Expeditionary Force, and he has commanded Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan at the company, battalion, and task force level. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia, the Naval Postgraduate School, and the Marine Corps War College, and he is the author of three books about his Marines fighting The Long War. He and his family live in Oceanside, California.

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.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Fullbore Friday

Some days, you miss the passing of a giant. Not in size, but in deed.

These men make you stop and wonder, are you ready to endure what they endured?
Navy Cmdr. Robert J. Flynn, who spent five and a half years in a Communist Chinese prison during the Vietnam War...
Read that again.

Then-Lieutenant Flynn, a bombardier-navigator, was taking part in a raid on Aug. 21, 1967, targeting rail yards near Hanoi, the North Vietnamese capital, about 75 miles from the Chinese border, when his two-man A-6 Intruder came under attack. The Pentagon later said his plane and another Intruder on that raid had been downed after straying over southern China while seeking to escape North Vietnamese jets.

Lieutenant Flynn and his pilot, Lt. Cmdr. Jimmy Lee Buckley, ejected from their craft. Lieutenant Flynn, suffering severe spinal injuries, found the pilot’s body near the spot where he had come down, and he was soon captured. The Chinese news agency Xinhua reported six days later that one of four American airmen whom China had just downed had been paraded before peasants and Red Guards at an anti-America rally. It did not identify that airman, but Lieutenant Flynn was the only survivor from the two Intruders.

Mrs. Flynn said in an interview on Wednesday: “I saw on TV he was being beaten, and the streets were lined with people. That’s how I knew he was alive.”
His experience, almost unknown to his countrymen, is hard to grasp.
For the remainder of the Vietnam War, he spent virtually all his prison time in a small cell in Beijing
“The most terrible part was the solitude, the solitude, the solitude,” Commander Flynn told The Pensacola News Journal in 2008. “What do you do with all that time? All those hours? All those days and years?”
To be so alone for so long, but not alone.
Freedom finally came on March 15, 1973, when he was taken across a covered bridge into Hong Kong, wearing a blue Chinese cap. He was released to the American authorities there together with Maj. Philip E. Smith of the Air Force, who had been imprisoned by the Chinese since his plane was downed over their airspace in September 1965.

Two C.I.A. agents, John Downey and Richard Fecteau, who had been captured in China in 1952 during the Korean War, were also at the prison where Lieutenant Flynn and Major Smith were held. Mr. Fecteau was freed in December 1971, and Mr. Downey in March 1973.
He served until 1985, retiring as a Commander.
“I wouldn’t want to do it again,” he told The News Journal in recalling his captivity. “But it was part of the experience of my life. Life is sort of an adventure. Sometimes, the adventure gets out of hand.”
Cmdr. Robert J. Flynn ... died on May 15 in Pensacola, Fla. Commander Flynn ... was 76.

The cause was a heart attack, said his wife, Kathy.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Diversity Thursday

It seems like it was only yesterday when throughout DOD, warfighting was out, Lean-In Circles were all the rage, and every single month it seemed that we were more concerned with the self-identified color of one's skin than the content of one's character. The later problem is still with us - hiding in the shadows but still exuding its bile about - but perhaps there is still hope.

For so long, our leaders dared not speak in open about "administrative burden" or the amount of manhours and TAD funds were expended supporting the grievance of the month club or the Society of Emoting Navelgazers ... oh no. 
Suck it up and embrace the vibrancy; ships drive themselves anyway - but you won't fix your latent homophobia, CIS-gendered bigotry, and implicit bias laden hatred on your own, you privileged oppressor. Hate yourself as much as I do.
I think I got the zeitgeist right there...anyway.

Where is that hope I mentioned in para.1? Over to the Army via Carlo Muñoz at WashTimes;
In a series of servicewide memorandums approved by Army Secretary Mark Esper and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and obtained by The Washington Times, service leaders are making optional previously mandatory training on issues such as transgender transition and drug abuse. The move, Army leaders argue, is designed to relieve stress on the overburdened troop training regimen and refocus on soldiers’ ability to fight in combat.
Those mandated training requirements “served as barriers to maximizing time … to build readiness and lethality” within combat units, he said in an interview. Aside from ending mandatory training programs on transgender troops and drug abuse, courses on media awareness and human trafficking have been eliminated from the mandatory curriculum, the service memorandums state.

Army officials are codifying the new marching orders into servicewide training guidelines and doctrine, which will bring the Army more in line with the Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy, Col. O’Grady said.
All hail SECDEF Mattis!

Now, about our fetid little nest of Diversity Bullies ...

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Lies, Damn Lies, and Ship Maintenance

Now and then I read things that tell me that institutionally we are trying to forget the hard lessons of 2017.

Were 17 deaths enough to break our cycles of sweet little lies? 

Over at USNIBlog, I discuss a few things that make me think we are backsliding.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Development Aid, with Chinese Characteristics

I am sympathetic to the theory that the worry that China will become the next global hegemon is overblown. Different schools of this belief have different totems; some demographics of a rapidly aging nation, others the exceptional economic fragility that makes China ripe for a sharp recession leading to internal conflict - but while I can see these are factors, I am starting to subscribe to another confession; China is her own worst enemy.

As a dime-store therapist might say, China has "a lot of baggage." She holds other ethnicities and nations in contempt. She does not have an open culture or one that is flexible enough to be nuanced. She also has a stubborn record of corruption, pride, and cold-hearted mercantilism that would put the East India Company to shame.

She also has a huge chip on her shoulder. She remembers the Opium Wars. She knows how the British and the Portuguese got Hong Kong and Macau. They know how Russia got their far east.

They remember as if it were yesterday. In their 3-4,000 cultural history, it is. Don't discount payback and catch-up going on.

In her desire to secure her economic GLOC and SLOC (Belt & Road), she is using any tool she can to get what she wants. As word gets out as to what happened to others, eventually other nations will demur ... if those nations can find a way to place uncorruptible and competent people in decision making positions.

NYT has a perfect example this week in a story about how China managed to get their foothold right off India in Sri Lanka.

Reading this, it became clear that Goodfellas and The Godfather movies are not all that popular in Sri Lanka. If so, they might have avoided their fate;
Every time Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, turned to his Chinese allies for loans and assistance with an ambitious port project, the answer was yes.
Mr. Rajapaksa was voted out of office in 2015, but Sri Lanka’s new government struggled to make payments on the debt he had taken on. Under heavy pressure and after months of negotiations with the Chinese, the government handed over the port and 15,000 acres of land around it for 99 years in December.
Few things are more dual use than a good port. This is how, if you're playing a long game, you get a naval base.
The case is one of the most vivid examples of China’s ambitious use of loans and aid to gain influence around the world — and of its willingness to play hardball to collect.
From a mercantilism POV, will this be a net economic gain for China? That is a tough sell. From an imperialist POV though, who cares? What a great base if you need one.

Got to get trinkets to the right natives though.
• During the 2015 Sri Lankan elections, large payments from the Chinese port construction fund flowed directly to campaign aides and activities for Mr. Rajapaksa, who had agreed to Chinese terms at every turn and was seen as an important ally in China’s efforts to tilt influence away from India in South Asia. The payments were confirmed by documents and cash checks detailed in a government investigation seen by The New York Times.

• Though Chinese officials and analysts have insisted that China’s interest in the Hambantota port is purely commercial, Sri Lankan officials said that from the start, the intelligence and strategic possibilities of the port’s location were part of the negotiations.
• Though the deal erased roughly $1 billion in debt for the port project, Sri Lanka is now in more debt to China than ever, as other loans have continued and rates remain much higher than from other international lenders.
Is debt really that much of a weapon? It has been used as such for thousands of years, no reason to see that change now.
“John Adams said infamously that a way to subjugate a country is through either the sword or debt. China has chosen the latter,” said Brahma Chellaney, an analyst who often advises the Indian government and is affiliated with the Center for Policy Research, a think tank in New Delhi.
Just don't look at who owns American debt.
“The only way to justify the investment in Hambantota is from a national security standpoint — that they will bring the People’s Liberation Army in,” said Shivshankar Menon, who served as India’s foreign secretary and then its national security adviser as the Hambantota port was being built.
That is exactly how you should look at it.

You need to read the full article so you can see the template they will use where there are democratic systems in place. The 2015 election will do.

It appears that inside China there is not full alignment with how best to gather the access they want. Do they keep the established template, or something less likely to scare away other nations?
Some Chinese officials have become concerned that the nearly institutional graft surrounding such projects represents a liability for China, and raises the bar needed for profitability. President Xi acknowledged the worry in a speech last year, saying, “We will also strengthen international cooperation on anticorruption in order to build the Belt and Road Initiative with integrity.”
Time will tell, but man ... you almost need a 2-meter whiteboard to track this;
The deal left some appearance of Sri Lankan ownership: Among other things, it created a joint company to manage the port’s operations and collect revenue, with 85 percent owned by China Merchants Port and the remaining 15 percent controlled by Sri Lanka’s government.

But lawyers specializing in port acquisitions said Sri Lanka’s small stake meant little, given the leverage that China Merchants Port retained over board personnel and operating decisions. And the government holds no sovereignty over the port’s land.

When the agreement was initially negotiated, it left open whether the port and surrounding land could be used by the Chinese military, which Indian officials asked the Sri Lankan government to explicitly forbid. The final agreement bars foreign countries from using the port for military purposes unless granted permission by the government in Colombo.

That clause is there because Chinese Navy submarines had already come calling to Sri Lanka.

Strategic Concerns
China had a stake in Sri Lanka’s main port as well: China Harbor was building a new terminal there, known at the time as Colombo Port City. Along with that deal came roughly 50 acres of land, solely held by the Chinese company, that Sri Lanka had no sovereignty on.
This story will not be going anywhere;
Now, the handover of Hambantota to the Chinese has kept alive concerns about possible military use — particularly as China has continued to militarize island holdings around the South China Sea despite earlier pledges not to.

Sri Lankan officials are quick to point out that the agreement explicitly rules out China’s military use of the site. But others also note that Sri Lanka’s government, still heavily indebted to China, could be pressured to allow it.

And, as Mr. de Silva, the state minister for national policies and economic affairs, put it, “Governments can change.”
Remember, there are so many lessons from The Lost Boys. The most important one - a vampire can only hurt you if you invite them in to your house.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Future is Distributed

Technology is reaching the point of affordability and capability that even medium powers are on the cusp of having a conventional, precision global strike capability. If you're willing to scope that down, we are already at the point of regional long range strike for anyone who wants it.

Right now, a rag-tag group of rebels from Yemen is launching ballistic missiles at the capital of Saudi Arabia on a regular basis. Sure, they are not having much success, but that is because they are using half-century+ old weapons technology in limited numbers against a well integrated 21st Century ABM system. Just wargame out a bit more capability with a bit more targeting and then a diversity of better weapons with similar range and you have ... a tough nut.

The vulnerability of large airfields has been a "known-known" for over 75 years and from Pearl Harbor to Egypt to Iraq, what happens when your enemy is many and your airfields are few is clear.

Because since about 1943 we have been on the giving side of this fact vice the receiving, we've forgotten this more than we should. We need to continue to think hard about those things that are efficient in peace that may be be the most effective at war. Airbases are one of them.

In an interesting article, Robbin Laird brings up a case in point;
“From a USAF standpoint, we are organized for efficiency, and in the high intensity conflict that we might find ourselves in, in the Pacific, that efficiency might be actually our Achilles heel, because it requires us to put massive amounts of equipment on a few bases. Those bases, as we most know, are within the weapons engagement zone of potential adversaries,” Wilsbach said.
“We’re at the very preliminary stages of being able to do this but the organization is part of the problem for us, because we are very used to, over the last several decades, of being in very large bases, very large organizations, and we stovepipe the various career fields, and one commander is not in charge of the force that you need to disperse. We’re taking a look at this, of how we might reorganize, to be able to employ this concept in the Pacific, and other places.”

In February, I talked with his predecessor, Lt. Gen. Kim Jäämeri, who is now deputy Chief of Staff for strategy for the Finnish Defence Forces. He highlighted the distributed operations aspect of the Finnish approach.

“It is becoming clear to our partners that you cannot run air operations in a legacy manner under the threat of missile barrages of long range weapons. The legacy approach to operating from air bases just won’t work in these conditions. For many of our partners, this is a revelation; for us it has been a fact of life for a long time, and we have operated with this threat in the forefront of operations for a long time,” Jäämeri said.
One could also bring this line of discussion in to the carrier debates.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

It's a Midrats Mid-Summer Free for All

We know you've been waiting for it ... but it is time for our post Summer Solstice Free for All!

We're back live Sunday from 5-6pm to catch up on all your maritime and natsec issues bubbling to the surface this summer. From the Space Force, migrant crisis in the Med, Russians in the high north, to the infrastructure crunch in the Pacific - we'll cover it all.

This is also your time to have us address the topics you find of interest. We're taking calls and questions in the chat room. It's a live show ... so now's your chance.

Open phone, open topic, all you need to bring is an open mind.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Fullbore Friday

BJ's article this week had me thinking of the War of 1812 a bit on an off.

In that strange way things in life mash themselves up with unrelated items, I was having a moment with one of Mrs. Salamander's cousins who is all of 27 yrs old and is acting out like a spoiled 16-yr old from a John Hughes movie.

A man of that age is, well, a man, and should act as one. Our history is full of such examples and benchmarks that should set the bar, but alas, we don't teach that history for some reason. At least it wasn't ever taught to him.

One of those benchmarks was crisply outlined by Rick Brookhiser a half decade ago. Look up the battle in detail yourself, but here is the standard every man in his late 20s should measure himself by.

We live in a gilded time with all the advantages providence could bless a person. Stop complaining, blaming others, and think you are entitled to anything.

You've been an emancipated adult for a decade. Shut up and lean on your oar.
... the Battle of Lake Erie ... The American commander, 28-year-old Oliver Hazard Perry, left his burning flagship, the USS Lawrence, and was rowed half a mile under enemy fire to his second ship, the USS Niagara; returning to the attack, he forced the enemy to surrender.

His terse description of the battle – “We have met the enemy and they are ours” — went straight to the log books of immortality.

The battle had two important results. It cleared William Henry Harrison’s flank, allowing him to march into Upper Canada (modern Ontario) and win a rare American victory at the Battle of the Thames (notable for the death of Tecumseh, the only Indian leader with the strategic and political savvy which might have enabled him to stop westward expansion).

America’s control of Lake Erie would also be a key factor the following year when the ministry asked the Duke of Wellington to go to America himself and wrap up the war for Britain. The Duke looked at the map and the lakes and said, no. Peace soon followed.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

ASW: Making your brain hurt for 104 years

If you want to make 'ole Sal's eye twitch, write something about how ASW is going to get easy with this PPT technology.

Better yet, try to tout something as new and exciting that was around when he was a MIDN.

Go ahead ... read what I link to at USNIBlog.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The NATSEC Marketplace of Ideas Ain't Beanbag

So, you think you want to engage in the push and pull in the NATSEC marketplace of ideas?

As a reader here, I think you do.

Now and then I get emails from people who want to help change the way we do things. They want to write, debate ideas, and generally move the ball forward for reform. As we've discussed here often, that is a difficult place to go for a whole host of reasons.

There isn't enough discussion out there on the topic, and as such it was great to see two of the premier members of the GenX Esoteric and Exalted Order of the Retired O5's, John Nagl and Paul Yingling, put out an exceptional primer on the subject, Considering Defense Reform? Read This First, over at AUSA.

You should read it all, but here's what stood out for me as just plain good advice.
...we’d like to offer some advice to young leaders who are considering fighting the battle for defense reform.

1. Don’t do it.

... you will fail and you will suffer. ... Your career, your family and your friendships will suffer to no good end. If you want to advance, go along and get along: Attend the unit barbecue, laugh at the boss’s jokes and for God’s sake never write for publication.
They are serious. Also consider that even if you try to be anon, ahem, all it takes is one or two people to connect the dots and you'll be discovered. If you are lucky, they will direct their "issues" to your face. If you are not so lucky, you'll only notice the effects later.

As "insurgents" themselves, John and Paul know not all will take #1 to heart, so for those they offer some more advice;
2. Aspire to do, not to be.

You’re still here, so it’s likely you’ve decided, in the words of John Boyd, to do something rather than be something. Boyd did something: transformed our understanding of aerial combat and decision-making. He retired as a colonel. Billy Mitchell did something: demonstrated the critical role air power would play in 20th-century warfare. He was court-martialed for insubordination and reduced in rank from brigadier general to colonel. Defense reformers too often pin their hopes on the example of George C. Marshall, who spoke truth to power as a colonel and yet rose to five stars. We mean no offense, but chances are you’re not George C. Marshall
People forget that track record. There are others.
4. Be kind.

Master the art of disagreeing without becoming disagreeable. Your new idea will offend and anger people whose identity and livelihood are wrapped up in the status quo. ... Defuse angry reactions to your ideas with courtesy, patience and perhaps most importantly of all, self-effacing humor.
I can't emphasize this enough (yes, it is hard to do sometimes. Guilty). I just watched, again, a smart and passionate person blow up their career because they could not help being nasty. I mean, twitter troll nasty. Friends come and go, but enemies accumulate. Also remember that when you try to stab someone in the back, even if you miss, a lot of people will see that you tried and take note. This vibe on tone and attitude is along the same lines as Claude Berube's FEB 2009 Proceedings article, The Navy Can Handle the Truth: Creative Friction without Conflict.

That goes along nicely with;
5. Seek allies. 
... You will find allies for your ideas among those who disagree with you, but only if you look for areas of agreement. ... Disagreement is necessary for dialogue. Every opponent is a potential ally.
Exactly. I've never understood the demand for perfection and full alignment of some by others. Like I try to promote here; I don't have the perfect answer, but neither do you. Only through our discussions can we both work our way towards the truth somewhere between the two of us.

You need to build a network not just on the personal level in detail, but that is broad in scale;
7. Build an outside game and an inside game.

... To change a large bureaucracy, you’ll need to generate energy from the outside. In other words, you’ll have to help journalists, scholars, policy analysts and other independent voices explain how and why the bureaucracy is failing. However, that outside energy will merely disturb the bureaucracy. To change it, you’ll need to work inside the bureaucracy to channel that energy into productive reform.
There is a final note that hits home. Time moves way too fast.
10. Your time too shall pass.

One day, your name will be stricken from the active roles. You may get killed, you may get wounded, you may retire, you may resign. If you are fortunate enough to walk off the parade field, make sure you have someone and something waiting for you. Maybe that someone is your spouse, children or longtime friends. Maybe that something is a second vocation or an avocation. No matter how honorable your service, you are more than your service record.

Take joy in having served, and find a way to keep serving.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part LXXIV

In so many ways, things have gone sideways since I left Active Duty in 2009...

I started the "Long Game" series in 2004. Half a decade later when I left AD, this was what the PLAN's major surface combatant fleet looked like;

This is where the Chinese will have grown their navy 10-yrs later. You know ... next year.

There are a lot of bad arguments and concepts out there on why we need to get to a 350+ fleet. There are a few good ones. Sadly, from those who actually have the power to make it happen, we are not hearing an effective case for it.

All they really need to do it look what the Chinese have done in the 10 years from 2009 to 2019. 

Wait until you see what they have by 2029.

Why this graphic is not showing up on C-SPAN every time our Navy is discussed in the House and Senate, I don't know ... but no one is asking for my advice.

The PLAN will be more than just a porcupine at the other end of the Pacific.

We are in denial. The Chinese are not.

Hat tip SakaMobi.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Fullbore Friday

Do you know who Bill Slim is? You should. Maybe this will help.
Lieutenant-General Sir William Slim, KCB, CB, DSO, MC ("Bill") is 53, burly, grey and going a bit bald. His mug is large and weatherbeaten, with a broad nose, jutting jaw, and twinkling hazel eyes. He looks like a well-to-do West Country farmer, and could be one: For he has energy and patience and, above all, the man has common sense. However, so far Slim has not farmed. He started life as a junior clerk, once he was a school teacher, and then he became the foreman of a testing gang in a Midland engineering works. For the next 30 years Slim was a soldier.
A reader sent along a recommendation of Slim's book, Defeat Into Victory: Battling Japan in Burma and India, 1942-1945, and reading up on the man - someone who I only read about in passing - all I could think of is, "More Slim."

Talk about a Vince Lombardi of leadership. I could do a years worth of FbF on the guy - so I'm not going to get in to any specifics. Let me just give you a few things to ponder in order to have you do some of your own research.
He began at the bottom of the ladder as a Territorial private. August 4, 1914, found him at summer camp with his regiment. The Territorials were at once embodied in the Regular Army, and Slim got his first stripe as lance-corporal. A few weeks later he was a private again; the only demotion that this Lieutenant-General has suffered.
Field Marshall Viscount Slim was referred to by Admiral of the Fleet Earl Mountbatten, who was Supreme Allied Commander of Southeast Asia, as "the finest general World War II produced". After the war he was head of the Imperial General Staff, Britain’s top military post, from 1948 to 1952, and was governor general of Australia from 1952 to 1960. This article is reprinted from a 1945 issue of Phoenix, the South East Asia Command magazine.
Again - not just he accomplishments on the field of battle - but his thoughts on leadership demand thought. Nothing radical or new - but they need repeating and if you want to know what makes successful people successful, listen to what got them there.

Want to be successful? Start by benchmarking the best.
Officers are there to lead

Then Slim relates at one critical point in the retreat in a jungle clearing he came across a unit which was in a bad way. "I took one look at them and thought ‘My God, they’re worse than I supposed.’ Then I saw why. I walked round the corner of that clearing and I saw officers making themselves a bivouac. They were just as exhausted as their men, but that isn’t my point. Officers are there to lead. I tell you, therefore, as officers, that you will neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep, nor smoke, nor even sit down until you have personally seen that your men have done those things. If you will do this for them, they will follow you to the end of the world. And, if you do not, I will break you."

The General stepped down from the ammunition box and replaced his hat. The division rose as one man, and cheered him. A few weeks later, these troops were to cross the frontier river at the point Slim had led his indomitable, ragged rearguard three years before. They dug up the tank guns which the old army had buried there when they abandoned their tanks, and they used those guns to blast open the road to Mandalay.

The spirit which Slim breathed into that division, on that blue, sunny morning in Palel inspires the whole of the 14th Army. His victorious host has now marched back a thousand miles, planted its battle flags on the citadel of Mandalay and above the capitol city of Rangoon, killing 100,000 Japanese on the way. Their achievement must be attributed in large degree to the character of their Commander. Slim does not court popularity, and he hates publicity. But he inspires trust. The man cares deeply for his troops, and they are well aware that their well-being is his permanent priority. The 14th Army has never been out of his mind since that day nearly two years ago when Mountbatten appointed him to the command. Of the Mountbatten-Slim partnership history will record that it was one of the rock foundations of our Jungle Victory.

Slim talks little and swears less, but one day at Army Headquarters the roof lifted when he received a demand that mules should be installed in concrete floor stables in a training camp, well in the rear. "My men are sleeping on earth, and often on something worse. What’s good enough for British soldiers is good enough for mules of any nationality." Slim set his Army hard tasks, but none have been beyond their power. After the great battles of Imphal and Kohima, where five Japanese divisions were destroyed, Slim called on his exhausted soldiers to carry on relentless, final pursuit. "So great were the dividends that could accrue," he confesses, "that I asked for the impossible - and got it!

Slim affirms "that the fighting capacity of every unit is based upon the faith of soldiers in their leaders; that discipline begins with the officer and spreads downward from him to the soldier; that genuine comradeship in arms is achieved when all ranks do more than is required of them. ’There are no bad soldiers, only bad officers,’ is what Napoleon said, and though that great man uttered some foolish phrases, this is not one."

What has a soldier got, asks Slim, and answers it himself. "He has got his country, but that is far away. In battle, the soldier has only his sense of duty, and his sense of shame. These are the things which make men go on fighting even though terror grips their heart. Every soldier, therefore, must be instilled with pride in his unit and in himself, and to do this he must be treated with justice and respect."

Slim says that when he was in civvie street he saw men who were fathers of families cringing before a deputy-assistant-under-manager who had the power to throw them out of their jobs without any other reason than their own ill-temper or personal dislike. "That, at any rate, can’t happen in the Army," he declares. "You don’t have to cringe in the Army, though it’s true some incorrigible cringers do. In the Army you don’t have to go out to dinner with a man if you can’t stand the sight of him."
People like to make fun, Monty Python like, of British General Officers, shame though - almost all I read about are more like Slim.
From January to August 1944 a series of decisive battles was fought along the India-Burma border which resulted in the turning point for that theater of war. After two years of failure the Allies wrested the initiative from Japan and destroyed the myth of Japanese invincibility.

The Allies were successful despite a number of challenges, many self inflicted. The first challenge was to organize and resource defenses of the India-Burma border. The second challenge was to train the soldiers to fight in the jungle clad mountains that typified the area of operations. Inextricably tied to this was the challenge of moving and supplying forces in the rugged environment. Developing a feasible and acceptable plan despite the absence of a coherent theater strategy was the next challenge. This challenge was made more difficult by the complex and dysfunctional command relationships. Finally, there was the challenge of defeating an aggressive and fanatical enemy who had an unblemished record of success in the India-Burma Theater.

Fortunately, the Allies had an answer to these challenges in Lieutenant General William Slim. It was Slim who established the training program that taught the soldiers to fight in the jungle, developed the tactics and techniques to move and sustain forces in the arduous terrain, provided the leadership to overcome the dysfunctional command relationships, and unified the theater strategy. Finally, and most importantly, it was Slim who developed and executed the plan that drew in and defeated the Japanese 15th Army thereby setting the conditions for the successful re-conquest of Burma in 1945.

First posted Feb. 2012.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Off Yemen, the Future Speaks

Ignore the PPT.

Blow off the Beltway prophet.

Bind your mind instead to what is happening now.

This week, look to Yemen's main rebel held port.

I'm discussing over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and give it a read.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

When You're Weak in "M" & "E" - Push "D" & "I"

Ukraine is, was, and will be in a tough spot. Geography is as unkind to her as history is. 

She will never have a secure and friendly relationship with her big neighbor, Russia. The reasons could fill a small library, but she must try her best to remain independent and prosper in the modern world.

All you have to do is look at her per-capita GDP to see how far Ukraine has to go to even nibble at what some of her other Slavic neighbors have been able to achieve since the fall of the Iron Curtain (Ukraine $3,700; Serbia $15,200; Bulgaria $21,500; Poland $29,300). She is not an economic powerhouse.

Militarily, she is no match for the full force of Russia should she wish to use it.

As such, she needs to work the diplomatic and information fields of national power as much as possible in order to buy time for her to continue to evolve in to what she wants to become.

You can tell that she very much wants to be part of the West, and perhaps she can drift that way - but for now there are larger problems to deal with. Russia is unrelenting.

Ukraine's small navy will never be able to stand for long against Russia, but short of combat, there is much it can do to bring the attention of a busy world to what Russia is doing on her borders.
The blocking of the Mariupol and Berdiansk ports is already an act of aggression. ... According to Klymenko, the Ukrainian naval forces had to act more decisively toward the aggressor by attracting the attention of the international community.
"If there was an order from Kyiv, they could do more. For example, I would give such a mirror response. On May 21-23, Russia announced a large area south of Berdiansk closed for gunnery drills. I would have responded by declaring the area near Yeysk or Temryuk, or Kerch closed, i.e. where the Russian ships pass from Rostov through the Sea of Azov to the Kerch Strait," (Andriy Klymenko, editor-in-chief at BlackSeaNews) said.
A risky game ... but one she needs to think about - and a lesson about the various things a navy can be used for short of war.

Monday, June 11, 2018

British Frigates

Like all sensible people, I know each Monday you wish that you had the opportunity to start your week right by thinking about frigates.

Well, we have just the tonic for you. 

Though focused on the Royal Navy, the general concepts and discussion would be of interest to any navalist.

For example;
... (the challenge is) in delivering small, agile warships that meet the Royal Navy’s minimum baseline for a globally deployable combatant. However, this is about capabilities, not just costs – it is essential to ensure that our warships have a minimum capability, or else it is all a waste of money (or worse, a target).
That should get you to read more from a nice bit of work over at Verdigris.

Give it a full read.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Fullbore Friday


In 1940, Bedford, VA had a population of 3,973.
When the National Guard’s 116th Infantry Regiment was activated on February 3, 1941, Bedford bestowed its soldiers in Company A to their ranks. By D-Day in 1944, there were still 37 Bedford soldiers in that company which became part of the 1st Infantry Division.
They were slated for the D-day invasion.
“When Company A landed on target and on time at Dog Green beach – one of only a handful of units to do so – they received the fire intended for a much larger force. For Bedford, the result was especially devastating. Of 37 assigned to Company A, 31 loaded into a landing craft and headed for Omaha Beach in the first wave; the remainder belonged to supply details and would arrive later.

“En route, a landing craft struck an obstacle and sank, stranding dozens far from shore, including five of Bedford’s boys. The remaining 26 successfully reached Omaha Beach, where 16 were killed and 4 wounded within a matter of minutes. Three others were unaccounted for and later presumed killed in action.

“Another Bedford boy was killed in action elsewhere on Omaha Beach with Company F, bringing Bedford’s D-Day fatalities to a total of 20.”
20 out of 38. A 52.6% casualty rate, in one day.

Now upscale that. 20 is .5% of the city's 1940 population.

In 1940, Baltimore, MD had a population of 859,100. That same loss rate, in one day, for Baltimore would be 4,298.

No consider this, for those who grew up in a small town.

In Bedford, most went to high school together. Grew up together. Their families all knew each other.

They died for ... what? For whom?

That is war. That is why it is so horrible. That is why it must be avoided until there are no other options.

And it will always be with us.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

FITZ & MCCAIN - what will we learn?

Will there actually be change for the better after a cold, hard look at ourselves after the horrible year for the surface navy that was 2017?

There might be reason to be optimistic. I'm discussing over at USNIBlog. Come on over.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Japan Steps Out from History's Shadow

As I said almost a half-decade ago, say hello to the return of the Japanese flattop;
The ruling party endorsed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's call to remove a 1 percent psychological cap on defense spending against gross domestic product that has been in place since the 1970s.

In line with the more ambitious spending policy, Abe's Liberal Democratic Party on May 25 also gave its blessing to refit the helicopter carrier Izumo into a full-fledged aircraft carrier.
All smart-thinking navalists should welcome this move by Japan. Though their own distinct culture, the Japanese are firmly in the Western camp and are a good and just people. WWII notwithstanding, they have never been a natural enemy of the United States.

As China rises, a strong Japan will with each year be an important part of keeping her in check - or at least looking over her shoulder. At a time when working with China requires certain "expectations" from smaller nations, a strong Japan will give other smaller Asian nations someone else to look towards as a partner that won't have the same strings attached.

The Japanese are an insular and proud people, and that is fine and good. They are our friends, and man for man are an exceptionally good military.

As we finish up our Midway remembrances, it is good to remind ourselves it is 2018 and Japan needs to be a full partner.

Now, spend some of that money on some F-35B and get to work on a larger follow-on class of CV.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Decisions and Outcomes

Guest post by Michael Junge, CAPT, USN

Commander Alfredo Sanchez’ career ended at 0524 on August 21, 2017. A graduate of the University of Puerto Rico, Sanchez’ career included graduate studies at the US Naval War College, two chief engineer tours, and service as executive and commanding officer of USS John S McCain (DDG 56). He was, as all commanders in command of ships are, destined for promotion to Captain. 

Last week he pleaded guilty to dereliction of duty as part of a plea deal that retained his retirement. He is one of only three commanding officers to face courts-martial in the last two decades. He is the only one to be tried for actions that were not related to personal misconduct. Sanchez commissioned in 1998 and as part of the plea agreement requested to retire this year at the minimum 20 years of commissioned service. 

Removal followed by retirement has been the Navy’s practice for the last few decades. When commanding officers and executive officers are removed from command they progress through an administrative process that may include non-judicial punishment, an administrative recommendation for detachment for cause, a board of inquiry to show cause for retention or all, or none, of these. Given the modern approach to command removal these officer’s are digitally and irrevocably linked to whatever incident occasioned their removal and also linked to those who were removed for other reasons. Collisions, groundings, fires, misuse of alcohol, sexual harassment, assault, and rape are all linked in a melange of end of year firing lists.

It wasn’t always like this. In 1945, submarine commander Lieutenant Charles Eliot Loughlin was removed from command at Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz’s order and court-martialed. Found guilty of intentionally sinking a Japanese aid ship, Loughlin was barred from submarines but commanded in surface ships, rising to the rank of Rear Admiral and retiring in 1968 – twenty-three years after his court-martial conviction. His was not an isolated case. 

In 1985, Commander Robert Joseph Natter, while in command of USS Chandler (DD 996), passed a tug towing a barge down the Columbia River. Chandler sped by the tug and barge at a high rate of speed, swamping the barge. In 1987, the US District Court of Oregon found that USS Chandler was solely at fault for the collision by violating the safe speed rule. Natter later held commands worldwide, including Commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, Commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Commander U.S. Northern Command, and Commander-in-Chief of the NATO Western Atlantic Command. He retired in 2003 as an admiral.

In 2002, a torpedo shield door gasket failed aboard USS Dolphin (AGSS 555) while she operated off San Diego, California. Despite the abandonment, the submarine was stable and towed back to port where she underwent three years of repairs before decommissioning. Kelety promoted to captain and retired in 2008.

In 2005, Captain Jeffery S. Jones commanded USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) when she collided with the 34-foot Canadian sailboat MAREEKA II. There were no casualties or injuries reported as a result of the collision. Captain Jones promoted to Rear Admiral and served as the senior naval advisor to the head of the Iraqi Navy and commanded Expeditionary Strike Group SEVEN before retiring in 2013. He was a 2001 recipient of the Stockdale Leadership Award.

Between 1945 and 2015, 318 commanding officers dealt with and recovered from some accident or problem that today would mean career death. Some instances involved significant loss of life.  Some meant the loss of a ship or submarine.

In a time when the surface navy is undermanned, has been undermanned, and is likely to be undermanned for the foreseeable future can we really afford to discard officers whose only error was being in command when something bad happened? Have we raised the “reasonable person” standard so high that no one knows what it really is? Is every commanding officer really only one eighteen-year old’s mistake away from being removed from command?

Our Chief of Naval Operations speaks of advocacy mentorship - and he has a point. People like Bryce Benson, Alfredo Sanchez, Sean Babbitt, Jessie Sanchez, Jana Vavasseur, and David Nartker need someone in their corner. Someone who remembers that these officers are the best of our best and that the qualities that placed them in command were not erased by a decision later judged to be in error. Their decisions were not wrong - the outcome was. Likewise, the decisions the Navy has made in these cases are not yet wrong, but the outcomes are likely to be.

Capt. Michael Junge is a U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer currently serving at the U.S. Naval War College. He commanded USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41) and served in amphibious assault ships, destroyers, and frigates and is the author of the forthcoming “From Pillar to Pillory: U.S. Navy Crimes of Command 1945-2015.”.  The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Naval War College, the U.S. Navy, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government. His cat remains unhappy, but is now hopeful as he corresponds with his new friends in Washington, DC.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

American Strategic Myths Through the Lens of Star Wars - on Midrats

There is a long and successful record of fiction, especially science fiction, being instructive about history, human nature, and the eternal course of events.

Fiction, of course, gets its inspiration from reality - a two way road.

What do the Star Wars movies have to tell us about some of the comfortable myths we may see in American military and strategic thought?

Using his latest article at the Modern War Institute, Star Wars and American Strategic Myths as a starting point, our guest today Sunday at 5pm Eastern will be returning guest Major Matt Cavanaugh, USA an active duty Army Strategist and nonresident fellow with the Modern War Institute at West Point. He’s been the youngest recipient of the Army Strategist Association’s highest professional award (in 2015), and was named the US Army’s Athlete of the Year (in 2009). He’s currently finishing a PhD on supreme command under Professor Colin Gray at the University of Reading (UK), and his writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, among other publications. His book, co-edited and co-written with Max Brooks (of World War Z) is Strategy Strikes Back: How Star Wars Explains Modern Military Conflict, from Potomac Books has been available since May 1st from Potomac Books.

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.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Another uniform failure

OK fine, I'll say it.

Everyone, man and woman, looks 5-months pregnant.

Ditch these horrible uniform options, visit every ship in SNMG1 and SNMG2, steal the best ideas, and then try again.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Fullbore Friday

If you think that the Good Idea Fairy should have a French last name, you are probably right;
RAF Air Chief Marshal Sir Philip Joubert de la Ferté, who was born in India and was of partial French descent, devised this propaganda idea to boost the morale of the French when he was provided with intelligence report by Major Benjamin Cowburn of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) that the Nazi Forces paraded down the Champs-Élysées boulevard everyday between 12:15 and 12:45.
Oh, yeah ... you know where this is going,
... Philip called in Wing Commander Gatward to see if he would volunteer for the risky mission. With numerous low-level day light attacks under his belt, Gatward, along with his navigator, Sergeant Gilbert Fern, agreed. Beside flying low level down the Champs-Élysées and attacking the German soldiers, the plan also included a backup target of attacking the Nazi Navy (Kriegsmarine) headquarters in the former home of the French Ministry of Navy, Ministère de la Marine.
Of course you would. 

What a great story;
The duo took off again at 11:29 am on June 12, 1942 from Thorney Island in West Sussex in heavy rain. By the time they were flying over Rouen, the city in the North of France, there was bright sunshine and excellent visibility. The aircraft encountered the first anti-aircraft fires while passing over the suburbs of Paris at a very low altitude of just 30ft. They had circled around the Eiffel Tower at 12:27 and the radiator of the starboard engine of the aircraft suffered a bird strike. But they somehow managed to maintain their course.

The intelligence report about the schedule of the parade was found to be incorrect and no German soldiers were there to be strafed. However, Gatward flew down the Champs-Élysées at second floor window height and Fern released the first flag over the Arc de Triomphe. Gatward then attacked the Naval Ministry in the Place de la Concorde public square and strafed the ministry building with 20mm cannon shells, scattering the German soldiers, much to the delight of the Parisians. Then Fern dropped the second Tricolour. After completing the attack, Gatward turned the Beaufighter for home at 12:30 pm. They landed at RAF Northholt in South Ruislip in Western London at 01:53 pm.
That just started his war - one he had a superior record of excellence.
Upon returning to London, Gatward removed the dead bird from the engine radiator. It was found to be a French crow and was laid to rest at the RAF Northolt. Later, intelligence mentioned that the Nazi parade had been cancelled due to confusion following the Operation Squabble. The attack hugely boosted the morale among the British and French.

Gatward was immediately awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross and Fern received a Distinguished Flying Medal. Gatward was also awarded a second Distinguished Flying Cross in September 1944 for his heroics during the aerial attack on a German convoy off the Norwegian coast. He further received a Distinguished Service Order in October, 1944 ...
...and a life well lived,
retired in 1964 as Group Captain after spending 30 years in the RAF. The RAF hero lived with his wife Pamela in Essex and died in 1998 aged 84.
It is a shame the Beaufighter isn't better known. Here's a nice overview of a solid bit of kit.

Hat tip Tom.