Saturday, June 29, 2019

Countering China in the South China Sea with Hunter Stires - on Midrats

China will continue to expand its holdings and presence in the South China Sea and the first and second island chain as long as it can and does not face pressure to do otherwise.

They have an unmatched shipbuilding program to expand not just their traditional navy, but their coast guard and maritime paramilitary fleets.

To discuss these and related topics this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be returning guest, Hunter Stires.

As a starting point for our discussion, we'll review the major points in his US Naval Institute General Prize Essay Contest winning essay, The South China Sea Needs a 'COIN' Toss and related recent works.

Hunter Stires is a fellow with the John B. Hattendorf Center for Maritime Historical Research at the U.S. Naval War College. His focus centers on maritime strategy and logistics in the Western Pacific. Hunter is the winner of the U.S. Naval Institute’s 2018 General Prize Essay Contest, with his winning entry published as “The South China Sea Needs a ‘COIN’ Toss” in the May 2019 issue of Proceedings alongside a companion piece, “Why We Defend Free Seas.” His article “’They Were Playing Chicken:’ The U.S. Asiatic Fleet’s Gray-Zone Deterrence Campaign against Japan, 1937-40,” is featured in the Summer 2019 issue of the Naval War College Review. He is an Associate at Central Gulf Lines, a division of SEACOR Holdings Inc., and is a graduate of Columbia University.

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

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 28, 2019

Fullbore Friday

You are flying an obsolete platform by this time of the war. Patrolling a relatively quiet sector of a body of water more than a bit out of the action.

You're not out of the fight by any means ... but the headlines, eyes, and best platforms are elsewhere. You have your aircraft, you have your crew, you have your mission - and that is more than enough.

It is the height of summer in the far North Atlantic. Almost nothing but day light all day. Hours and hours of grey ocean - like it had been for days, weeks, months and countless hours before ... and then;
Late in the day on 24 June 1944, Hornell’s Canso was at the end of a 12-hour patrol over the North Atlantic when the German submarine U-1225 was sighted on the surface approximately 120 miles north of the Shetland Islands. As the aircraft made its attack run, heavy and accurate anti-aircraft fire from the U-boat crippled the starboard engine and started a fire on the starboard wing. With great determination and skill, Hornell held the vibrating Canso on course and delivered his four depth charges on target, sinking the submarine. Shortly thereafter the starboard engine fell out of the wing, forcing Flight Lieutenant Hornell to ditch the aircraft, by now a flaming wreck, in the heavy seas. With only one dinghy serviceable, for several hours the eight members of the crew had to take turns holding on to the life-raft’s side while immersed in the icy water. Although the dinghy was spotted by a Consolidated Catalina flying boat from No. 333 (Norwegian) Squadron, RAF five hours after Hornell had ditched, for the next 16 hours rescue attempts were frustrated by high seas and malfunctioning equipment. Two of the crew eventually died of exposure. At one point, Flight Lieutenant Hornell had to be restrained by his comrades when, though at the end of his own strength and about to go blind, he proposed to swim to an airborne lifeboat that had been dropped. Finally, after 21 hours, a rescue launch arrived to pick up the survivors, but all attempts to revive Hornell failed, and he died of exposure.
His plane; his mission; his crew.
Flight Lieutenant Hornell was the first member of the RCAF to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

“Flight Lieutenant Hornell was captain and first pilot of a twin-engined amphibian aircraft engaged on an anti-submarine patrol in northern waters. The patrol had lasted for some hours when a fully-surfaced U-boat was sighted, travelling at high speed on the port beam. Flight Lieutenant Hornell at once turned to the attack.

The U-boat altered course. The aircraft had been seen and there could be no surprise. The U-boat opened up with anti-aircraft fire which became increasingly fierce and accurate.

At a range of 1,200 yards, the front guns of the aircraft replied; then its starboard guns jammed, leaving only one gun effective. Hits were obtained on and around the conning-tower of the U-boat, but the aircraft was itself hit, two large holes appearing in the starboard wing.

Ignoring the enemy’s fire, Flight Lieutenant Hornell carefully manoeuvred for the attack. Oil was pouring from his starboard engine, which was, by this time, on fire, as was the starboard wing; and the petrol tanks were endangered. Meanwhile, the aircraft was hit again and again by the U-boat’s guns. Holed in many places, it was vibrating violently and very difficult to control.

Nevertheless, the captain decided to press home his attack, knowing that with every moment the chances of escape for him and his gallant crew would grow more slender. He brought his aircraft down very low and released his depth charges in a perfect straddle. The bows of the U-boat were lifted out of the water; it sank and the crew were seen in the sea.

Flight Lieutenant Hornell contrived, by superhuman efforts at the controls, to gain a little height. The fire in the starboard wing had grown more intense and the vibration had increased. Then the burning engine fell off. The plight of aircraft and crew was now desperate. With the utmost coolness, the captain took his aircraft into wind and, despite the manifold dangers, brought it safely down on the heavy swell. Badly damaged and blazing furiously, the aircraft rapidly settled.

After ordeal by fire came ordeal by water. There was only one serviceable dinghy and this could not hold all the crew. So they took turns in the water, holding on to the sides. Once, the dinghy capsized in the rough seas and was righted only with great difficulty. Two of the crew succumbed from exposure.

An airborne lifeboat was dropped to them but fell some 500 yards down wind. The men struggled vainly to reach it and Flight Lieutenant Hornell, who throughout had encouraged them by his cheerfulness and inspiring leadership, proposed to swim to it, through he was nearly exhausted. He was with difficulty restrained. The survivors were finally rescued after they had been in the water for 21 hours. By this time Flight Lieutenant Hornell was blinded and completely exhausted. He died shortly after being picked up.

Flight Lieutenant Hornell had completed 60 operational missions, involving 600 hours’ flying. He well knew the danger and difficulties attending attacks on submarines. By pressing home a skilful and successful attack against fierce opposition, with his aircraft in a precarious condition, and by fortifying and encouraging his comrades in the subsequent ordeal, this officer displayed valour and devotion to duty of the highest order.”
What a man.


A note on U-1225. She was a snorkel equipped Type IX/C40 U-boat. Her Skipper was 30-yr old Oberleutnant zur See Ernst Sauerberg. He took command on 12 June, eight days before deployment and 12 days before she was sunk. This was the boat's first war patrol. She was sunk on day 5.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

On LCS Manning, Even The Atlantic Goes Salamander

The worst conceit of the many in the LCS program was its manning construct. There is a decade and a half of LCS bashing on this blog, so I won't bore regular readers rehashing it - new folks can click the LCS-tag to review on their own.

The last half-decade you have seen some people try to mitigate the original sin of "Optimal Manning," but there is only so much you can do when something is baked in to the design.

Now and then we bring out LCS to gibbet it as an example to others, and at least here, it may start to have a little bit of a "doesn't everyone know by now" vibe, but we can't really stop. Every year, new leaders come online who may not fully understand the fail. They need to know what happened so when they find themselves working on a new program, they won't repeat the mistakes of the old.

When you read outside the traditional maritime natsec press, you realize that our failures are starting to leak out, and whole new sections of the population are only now discovering what we have known here since the first few years of this century.

The latest example is a very detailed and broad reaching article at The Atlantic by Jerry Useem. I have a few quibbles with some of his prose, but this is very deserving of your time - if you are an OG member of the Front Porch or someone wet behind the ears.

Give it a read. Here are a few pullquotes;
Can a few brilliant, quick-thinking generalists really replace a fleet of specialists? Is the value of true expertise in serious decline?
To ask the question is to answer it ... and I think at least for our Navy we're starting to see that we drifted too far. Expertise is starting to have a comeback.

Nice review of the hubris that was injected right in to the veins early on in the program.
“I think when the Navy started off, they had a really good plan,” Paul Francis, of the Government Accountability Office, told the Senate in 2016. “They were going to build two ships, experimental ships.” But in 2005, having assured itself that “optimal manning works,” the Navy decided to skip the experimentation and move straight to construction. From this point on, whenever the Navy tried to study the feasibility of minimal manning, its analysis was colored by the fact that—on these ships, at least—it had to work. Dozens of littoral combat ships were on their way. The Giffords was the 10th to deploy.
The cult of personality. Suppression and outright persecution of contrary opinion. The "make it happen" mentality begat the horrible record of LCS to date. No other warship class has commissioned so many ships for so many years that have done do little as the LCS.

Should a fire break out, Butler said, he would become a “boundaryman” and work to stop the spread of smoke to other compartments—a job that, on another ship, would be supervised by a full-time damage-control specialist. The LCS has only two of these—which is one reason it has a “survivability” rating of 1, the lowest score possible. If the ship is critically struck, crew members are expected to simply abandon ship and escape. Traditionalists hate the idea.
Expected? More like don't have a choice.

Nice comical vignette that really needs no more commentary from me;
Butler wasn’t the only character to reappear in different form. During an all-hands meeting—the smallness of the group exaggerated by the large size of the flight deck they stood on—someone pointed to the figure strolling in from stage right. It was one of the two boatswain’s mates who had been overseeing the line-handlers that morning. He had swapped his blue coveralls for head-to-toe green camo, and was walking back and forth, appearing to survey the upper deck of the ship. Such costume changes gave the whole ship the feel of a small theater troupe in which the actor playing the prince’s cousin also plays the apothecary, the friar, and Messenger No. 2.
Look at that scattering of uniforms in the headline pic of the article I copied above. Just silly.
Yet the limitations of curious, fluidly intelligent groups of generalists quickly become apparent in the real world. The devaluation of expertise opens up ample room for different sorts of mistakes—and sometimes creates a kind of helplessness.

Aboard littoral combat ships, the crew lacks the expertise to carry out some important tasks, and instead has to rely on civilian help. A malfunctioning crane on board one LCS, for example, meant that the crew had to summon an expert to solve the problem, and then had to wait four days for him to arrive.
A tired, burned out crew that with each passing week has less and less capability as things break they cannot fix. It barely works in peace. In war? Forget it.

This is what everyone was screaming 15 years ago;
the Navy’s initial, full-throttle approach to minimal manning—and are an object lesson on the dangers of embracing any radical concept without thinking hard enough about the downsides.
The fact new people are still pointing this out is nice validation, but a shame it even has to happen.

Better late than never ... maybe.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Pirates of the ... Gulf of Guinea

Probably not the most popular attraction as Disney World ... but a good topic for discussion over at USNIBlog this Wednesday.

Come by and pay us a visit.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Orwell's China

This has got to be one of the most soul-sucking, scary things I have seen in awhile.

The Chinese Communist re-education camps for Uyghurs is almost unbelievable. Even the Soviets were not this obtuse.

This is what all that cheap stuff made in China is supporting.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Weak Knees and Clay Feet at the US Army War College

How can an organization full of people who engage in actual combat show so little spine in the face of the absolute worst organizations in out country? 

Why do we surrender to the heckler's veto?

Let's talk about an organization we have not discussed much lately - the German American Bund ... oh wait, I'm sorry - C.A.I.R. - the organization described as an an “unindicted co-conspirator" in the first World Trade Center attack by the Department of Justice.

Let's go to Raymond Ibrahim for his summary;
The US Army War College (USAWC) has just surrendered to the demands of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) — an “unindicted co-conspirator,” to quote the US Department of Justice, in the largest terror-funding case in American history, and a designated “terrorist organization” in nations such as the UAE.
The June 19, 2019 planned lecture on my book, Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West at the US Army War College (USAWC) in Carlisle Barracks was canceled due to a CAIR-induced hysteria that focused on presenting me — a native Arabic speaker of Egyptian/Middle Eastern descent — as a “racist” and “white nationalist” who is out to incite American soldiers to murder Muslims.
Although the USAWC claims that the event has been “postponed” — and that CAIR’s smear campaign had nothing to do with its decision — what really happened, along with the troubling lessons learned along the way, follow.
You need to read the whole thing - especially C.A.I.R.'s offer to "help."

Hey new active SECDEF and former Army Secretary - get hold of your organization.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Small Boats and Daring Men: with CDR BJ Armstrong, USN - on Midrats

Punitive expeditions, retaliatory strikes, raiding, hitting pirate camps, attacking enemy ships in the dark of night, striking enemy facilities & resources on shore and other forms of irregular naval warfare - sound new, transformational?

No. They've been with the US Navy from day-1.

Join us this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern with returning guest BJ Armstrong to discuss his latest book, Small Boats and Daring Men: Maritime Raiding, Irregular Warfare, and the Early American Navy.

CDR Benjamin "BJ" Armstrong is an Assistant Professor of War Studies and Naval History at the U.S. Naval Academy. A former search and rescue and special warfare helicopter pilot, he earned his PhD at King's College London and is the author or editor of three books, including his most recent "Small Boats and Daring Men: Maritime Raiding, Irregular Warfare and the Early American Navy."

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

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 21, 2019

Fullbore Friday

So, like WWII submarines?

This fits for a very good find from reader Steve - it's all so Fullbore, I can't pick just one.

All the submarine reports Historic Naval Ship Association from S-11 to USS Diablo.
At the end of each war patrol of WW II, submarine commanders created a report on the patrol. These reports were used as the raw material to inform intelligence, improve tactics, evaluate commanders, etc. During WW II, over 1,550 patrol reports containing approximately 63,000 pages were generated. During the 1970s these were photographed and reproduced on microfilm to make them more easly accessible and easily reproduced (approx. 250 rolls). During 2008 a copy of this microfilm was scanned into digital format (110 GB), and in 2009 it was made available online here (14 GB).

These war patrol reports were written during a deadly, bitterly fought war. Please note that there may be some references to enemy forces that may be offensive in today's context.
Treat yourself here. Oh, and if you find any of those terrible Politically Incorrect comments, please report them in comments. Sadly, I couldn't find any.

First posted March 2009.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Cooling’s Last Stand

What will you do when they come for you? How will you prove a negative? 

When the accusation is made fact by proclamation – will you defend yourself?

As I have said before, no one can survive an IG. For the vast majority of leaders, all it takes is that one person or cabal to shout, “J'Accuse!” – and you will find yourself in a Kafkaesque sideshow.

You will have everything thrown at you, some are real, some only partially true, and some seem to be made from whole cloth.

Where do people find themselves in trouble? Each story is slightly different, but there are known danger areas, and unknown danger areas. Sometimes people forget or don’t believe known danger areas – soft, coddled civilian culture vs. a deployed service culture is one – but the unknown ones can be the most dangerous. 

You don’t know the personality mix brewing at your new location – often for years – that the person you relieved was just lucky enough to not inflame. You don’t know who you may have made an enemy of. You don’t know who might want to raise their position by taking you down. You don’t know who out there just might like to watch the world burn. 

If you have low emotional intelligence, you can get yourself in a lot of trouble.

One thing you need to know is that for any leader, from LPO to General Officer – one day the IG Bell may ring for thee. If you have done anything in life, you will know because you have people who do not like you. If you are lucky, they will either face you like an adult or ineffectively just try to passive-aggressively use process and influence to undermine you like a child. If you are unlucky, they will go all Leroy Jenkins on you to the IG Hotline, and then the IG Star Chamber begins.

How do you respond? Will any response be good enough when as the IG was being done, you’ve already had two FITREP cycles and a selection board pass you by?

Having seen this movie one to many times, I think the following advice remains solid.
1) Lawyer up.
2) Once (1) is done, do not go gentle into that good night.

I give you the case of Brig. Gen. Norm Cooling, USMC as the latest example.

Read the full thing from Gina Harkins, but here are the meaty bits in the case in destroying a man;
The Senate Armed Services Committee complaint detailed six instances of alleged disparaging or inappropriate treatment from Cooling, a career infantry officer and Naval Academy graduate.

During the course of the IG's investigation, witnesses described four more examples.

One of the first complaints took place about five months after Neller testified before Congress following the March 2017 Marines United scandal, in which more than 50,000 social media users shared nude photos of female troops without permission. More than 100 troops faced courts-martial or administrative punishment for participating, and Neller called the problem "a perversion in our culture."

Witnesses told investigators that Cooling disputed Neller's claim while hosting a breakfast for congressional fellows.

"I keep telling CMC to stop saying this," one witness recalled Cooling saying. "Our culture is fine."

Another witness said Cooling called Neller "totally wrong." Troops serving as congressional fellows, who work with members of Congress for about a year on Capitol Hill, said they were concerned about getting mixed messages from Marine leaders. They weren't sure what position to take back to their assigned members of Congress, the report states.

Cooling told the investigators that, since he didn't violate a specific standard when he made the comments, the analysis should be removed from the final report. They disagreed.

About six weeks later, Cooling was found to have told Senate staff members that opening combat roles to women impacted the men because "women were physically inferior" forcing male troops to "pick up the slack."

Men were also having "a difficult time adjusting to open combat roles because they can no longer refer to certain rifle parts as female body parts," witnesses recounted him as saying.

While a Senate staffer who was at the meeting declined to cooperate with the investigation, two witnesses corroborated the story, the report states.

"When BGen Cooling told the Senate staff member in the presence of two [Office of Legislative Affairs] subordinates that opening combat roles to women impacted men negatively because women were physically inferior to men, and made the comment about rifle parts and female body parts, BGen Cooling created a negative work environment by disparaging and devaluing women," investigators wrote.

In another breakfast with congressional fellows that December, Cooling said he believed women "make naturally better schedulers or secretaries," the report states. The general told investigators he meant the remark as a compliment.

"I did not say or infer that women could not do something well or that they could not do other things equally well," Cooling said, adding that he holds the positions of congressional schedulers and Marine Corps executive assistants and staff secretaries in high regard.

"I now clearly recognize that this may be a generational communication issue and/or one that is perceived by some in a political context," he added.

Investigators substantiated that claim as another example of Cooling devaluing women.

That same month, Cooling's deputy was speaking with a noncommissioned officer who wanted to become a Marine pilot. Cooling, who overheard the conversation, told the woman he'd rather "his daughter work in a brothel than be a female Marine pilot," according to the investigation.

Cooling's deputy told the NCO the next day that the general's comment was inappropriate and that it had been addressed.

"Here's a young impressionable kid," the deputy told investigators. "She and I are having a great conversation about the opportunities that exist for her in the Marine Corps ... and it ends with a turd in the punch bowl."

Cooling told investigators he wouldn't have told the joke again, according to the report.

"I'm an infantryman ... ground combat guy just poking fun at our pilots," he said. "I love pilots, and they know it."

He then went on to tell investigators the woman could not have found his remark demeaning because she was not offended, bullied or humiliated by it, the report states.

"We disagree," the investigators wrote.
The month before he was suspended, witnesses said they heard the general yell down the hall that he was going to castrate a Marine if he found out he'd been withholding budget information from him.

While the general officer told investigators he didn't recall making the comment, they stood by their findings.

"When BGen Cooling threatened to castrate a subordinate, he created a negative work environment by failing to show dignity and respect for his subordinate to whom he directed the comment as well as those who heard it," they wrote.

He was also found to have called another staff member a "bad officer" when she failed to secure a visit between the assistant commandant and a congresswoman. Cooling, witnesses told investigators, threatened he'd "jump out of the f---ing window" if other personnel performed that poorly.

The officer's failure to set up the meeting was a mistake, Cooling told investigators, though he denied raising his voice or saying he'd jump out the window.

"It doesn't take much for people to interpret what you're doing as being yelled at or screamed at when you're at this grade," Cooling said in the report. "And I understand that; I'm an emphatic person but, to me, yelling or screaming means raising your voice, and I don't -- I don't remember raising my voice."

Investigators found that Cooling's staff considered him "an equal opportunity offender who demeaned, bullied and humiliated male and female subordinates," they wrote.

One witness said Cooling's leadership was ineffective. He wasn't a motivator, rather "just killing the weakest in the herd," they said.

"I never saw any unfairness or unequal treatment," the witness added. "I thought he treated everybody [all genders] in different ways but just as bad."

But Cooling had a responsibility of treating subordinates with dignity and being a positive influence, investigators wrote. Instead, he humiliated them or spread rumors that could damage reputations.

"We determined that BGen Cooling conducted himself in a less than exemplary manner in his treatment of subordinates or in comments that devalued women on seven occasions during his [seven] month and 17 day tenure at OLA," the investigators wrote.

Cooling is one of at least eight officers investigated over allegations of improper behavior toward women.
The investigators are not objectively investigating – they are being subjective manner police. 

The only thing it looks like Cooling is guilty of is assuming civilians work at the same level as infantrymen who have spent most of the last two decades at war. May have been a bit of a jerk - but if that is the standard, line up the buses as a lot of people need to leave DC today. 

That was yesterday. It appears that Cooling had an, “enough of this BS” moment.

From today’s reporting from Gina;
"At no time during my seven months in the Office of Legislative Affairs, nor at any other time during my 33-year career, have I ever negatively singled out anyone for anything other than their job performance," Cooling told

"I inadvertently offended some through random remarks that were taken in a different context other than I intended," Cooling said. "... Had I been less demanding or willing to compromise standards, these allegations -- which surfaced only during the promotion confirmation process -- would have never emerged."

"But I did not account for the politically charged environment in which it (the office) operates," he added.
What politics is he talking about? This is all you really need to know. There seems to be two standards - and it isn't Cooling who has the split;
"We determined that BGen Cooling conducted himself in a less than exemplary manner in his treatment of subordinates or in comments that devalued women on seven occasions during his [seven]-month and 17-day tenure at OLA," the investigators wrote.
This tells me a lot about him as a man.
As Cooling awaits his fate, he said he remains grateful for the opportunity to serve with Marines.

"It has been my life, and I could not have asked or hoped for a better one," he said.
OK USMC, over to you.

Do the right thing.
Leaders are currently reviewing the report and will take appropriate action in light of the substantiated misconduct, Maj. Brian Block, a Marine spokesman at the Pentagon, said this week.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Sorry, no Tanker War This Week

I'm not saying that I write talking points for the Vice Chairman ... but sometimes it helps if people think I do.

Details over at USNIBlog.

Put the war drums back in the Volvo.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Afghanistan? Really China? Good Luck With That

Everyone things they can influence events in Afghanistan, but sooner or later you learn that it also influcences events in your own nation.

Russia knows this, Great Britain knows this, and now we know this.

China should take note.
As the U.S. seeks an exit from the Afghan war, Central Asia is on the cusp of a new era, with Russia and China vying for influence in a region that will no longer be dominated by America’s post-9/11 undertaking to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan.

The two countries are wary of Islamist militancy, both on their soil and spilling over from Afghanistan, while China wants to safeguard the billions of dollars its companies have invested in the region under President Xi Jinping’s Belt-and-Road Initiative...

Monday, June 17, 2019

Hong Kong: A Beautiful & Tragic Tribute to the British Empire

How can you define the Age of Empire? Of course, empires existed well before written history, but in the modern context I think one could best bracket it from 1492 to 1945. In that time, the world shrunk and the strong absorbed the weak. Spanish, Portuguese, British, French, Russian, Italian, Chinese, Dutch, Japanese, and even to a lesser degree Italian, Danish, and even Swedish.

With the passage of years, if you had to pick one empire to be subjugated by – no question it would have been the British. Look at the performance of their former colonies relative to others. The New World is the best laboratory, but the planet is sprinkled with them.

In Asia, Hong Kong springs to mind. A bunch of swampy islands useful for the opium and other trade when opened up, in time it became an economic powerhouse and a rhetorical island of individual, if not political liberty in a sea of autocracy.

The best give was Common Law and a civil society that was spot-welded on the best aspects of the Chinese culture of its inhabitants. That love of rule of law also brought with it the mother country’s deference to law itself – and as such when their lease ran out, the land returned to what was for the inhabitants of Hong Kong, a foreign country – the People’s Republic of China.

Hong Kong never really had a fully democratic system as part of the British Empire, but they had the rule of law and more freedom than anyone else in their part of Asia. They never have had a vote on their future either – no Singapore option for them, sadly.

“One Country – Two Systems” was to allow the citizens of Hong Kong 50-years to have some sort of independence. In 1997, that seemed a long time, but in 2019, 2047 is close and the last few decades have seen a soft erosion around the edges.

Most here are familiar with the most recent protests – protests whose endgame is still unknown, so I’ll only give this one snapshot for those just coming out of a coma;
Faced with huge and disruptive protests in Hong Kong, China blinked. The decision to shelve the legislation that sparked the demonstrations shows that limits still exist to how hard China can, or is willing, to push. It also exposed a fundamental contradiction in the “one country, two systems” framework that governs the semi-autonomous city.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has cemented his hold on power since taking the helm in 2012. His government has expanded control over information, religion and other aspects of society. In Hong Kong, the local government has disqualified a pro-independence party, sent the leaders of a 2014 protest to prison and denied a visa renewal to an editor for Britain’s Financial Times.

Activists decried these moves as chipping away at Hong Kong’s freedoms, but residents largely went about their lives. Then the government, with China’s backing, chipped too deeply, propelling hundreds of thousands, possibly millions in a city of 7.4 million people, into the streets.
The BBC is calling it two million – roughly 25%. That would be as if 81 million Americans hit the streets in protest.

China is playing the long game, as is their habit. You have to feel for the people of Hong Kong. They don’t want to bother their neighbors, they don’t want to do anything but have the basic freedoms they have come to love as … yes it is true … Westerners.

The West has nothing to do with race, creed, color, or national origin. It derives from the best ideas from The Enlightenment – ideas which manifested themselves best in the Anglosphere, if like me you define “best” as based in individual liberty.

The people of Hong Kong are in the streets because they want to live under Common Law – not the Chinese Communist Law. They want freedom of speech, not social ratings and oppression.

They speak with a fun mix of a Chinese inflected English accent. The Chief Executive of Hong Kong since 2017 is Carrie Lam. One of the leaders of the latest protests is Joshua Wong.



Just look at the number of English first names among the most well known Hongkingers.

The unofficial protest song is the hymn, in English, ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord.’

What can the West do to for our friends in Hong Kong? I don’t know. It is all just sad – like watching a beautiful flower slowly drowned in a rising flood of concrete.

Hopefully, good people in important positions will do what they can, and the Hongkongers will suffer what they must … but the rest of us?

Realize what a rare gift we have – how easily it is lost – and how hard it is to get back.

If you find yourself bending towards centralized power, desire to restrict speech you dislike, or accept corruption because you think it might benefit your interests … think again.

The natural state of man is one of the powerful abusing the weak. Of the clever fooling the gullible – the majority oppressing the minority. No macro-culture has done more for freedom than the West. We should praise it – even when our education system does not. Support it, even as some political leaders sneer at its fruits. Help others grow it where they can – and mourn its loss when it happens.

Time will tell, but for now admire the people in Hong Kong and their bravery. You can’t help but respect a mass protest who acts like this.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Fullbore Friday

A little more than a decade and a half after D-Day, one of the best stories of that day was published in The Atlantic by S. L. A. MARSHALL (yes, I know, I know). It focuses on Able and Baker companies, 116th Infantry, 29th Division.

The 116th Infantry is a VA National Guard unit that traces its history to the Revolutionary War and fought for the Confederacy during the US Civil War.

Unbloodied yet in WWII, that was to change. She was in the 1st wave at the Normandy Invasion;

Able Company riding the tide in seven Higgins boats is still five thousand yards from the beach when first taken under artillery fire. The shells fall short. At one thousand yards, Boat No. 5 is hit dead on and foundered. Six men drown before help arrives. Second Lieutenant Edward Gearing and twenty others paddle around until picked up by naval craft, thereby missing the fight at the shore line. It's their lucky day. The other six boats ride unscathed to within one hundred yards of the shore, where a shell into Boat No. 3 kills two men. Another dozen drown, taking to the water as the boat sinks. That leaves five boats.

Lieutenant Edward Tidrick in Boat No. 2 cries out: "My God, we're coming in at the right spot, but look at it! No shingle, no wall, no shell holes, no cover. Nothing!"

His men are at the sides of the boat, straining for a view of the target. They stare but say nothing. At exactly 6:36 A.M. ramps are dropped along the boat line and the men jump off in water anywhere from waist deep to higher than a man's head. This is the signal awaited by the Germans atop the bluff. Already pounded by mortars, the floundering line is instantly swept by crossing machine-gun fires from both ends of the beach.

Able Company has planned to wade ashore in three files from each boat, center file going first, then flank files peeling off to right and left. The first men out try to do it but are ripped apart before they can make five yards. Even the lightly wounded die by drowning, doomed by the waterlogging of their overloaded packs. From Boat No. 1, all hands jump off in water over their heads. Most of them are carried down. Ten or so survivors get around the boat and clutch at its sides in an attempt to stay afloat. The same thing happens to the section in Boat No. 4. Half of its people are lost to the fire or tide before anyone gets ashore. All order has vanished from Able Company before it has fired a shot.
Within seven minutes after the ramps drop, Able Company is inert and leaderless. At Boat No. 2, Lieutenant Tidrick takes a bullet through the throat as he jumps from the ramp into the water. He staggers onto the sand and flops down ten feet from Private First Class Leo J. Nash. Nash sees the blood spurting and hears the strangled words gasped by Tidrick: "Advance with the wire cutters!" It's futile; Nash has no cutters. To give the order, Tidrick has raised himself up on his hands and made himself a target for an instant. Nash, burrowing into the sand, sees machine gun bullets rip Tidrick from crown to pelvis. From the cliff above, the German gunners are shooting into the survivors as from a roof top.

Captain Taylor N. Fellers and Lieutenant Benjamin R. Kearfoot never make it. They had loaded with a section of thirty men in Boat No. 6 (Landing Craft, Assault, No. 1015). But exactly what happened to this boat and its human cargo was never to be known. No one saw the craft go down. How each man aboard it met death remains unreported. Half of the drowned bodies were later found along the beach. It is supposed that the others were claimed by the sea.

Along the beach, only one Able Company officer still lives—Lieutenant Elijah Nance, who is hit in the heel as he quits the boat and hit in the belly by a second bullet as he makes the sand. By the end of ten minutes, every sergeant is either dead or wounded. To the eyes of such men as Private Howard I. Grosser and Private First Class Gilbert G. Murdock, this clean sweep suggests that the Germans on the high ground have spotted all leaders and concentrated fire their way. Among the men who are still moving in with the tide, rifles, packs, and helmets have already been cast away in the interests of survival.

To the right of where Tidrick's boat is drifting with the tide, its coxswain lying dead next to the shell-shattered wheel, the seventh craft, carrying a medical section with one officer and sixteen men, noses toward the beach. The ramp drops. In that instant, two machine guns concentrate their fire on the opening. Not a man is given time to jump. All aboard are cut down where they stand.

By the end of fifteen minutes, Able Company has still not fired a weapon. No orders are being given by anyone. No words are spoken. The few able-bodied survivors move or not as they see fit. Merely to stay alive is a full-time job. The fight has become a rescue operation in which nothing counts but the force of a strong example.
Read the rest; read it all.

There is a reason the national D-Day Memorial is in Bedford, VA.

Company A was mostly from that town.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Everyone Just Calm the Frack Down

OK, fine. No DivThu again this week - we'll pick up next week.

However ...

First, the basics.
The U.S. blamed Iran for suspected attacks on two oil tankers Thursday near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, denouncing what it called a campaign of “escalating tensions” in a region crucial to global energy supplies.

The U.S. Navy rushed to assist the stricken vessels in the Gulf of Oman off the coast of Iran, including one that was set ablaze. The ships’ operators offered no immediate explanation on who or what caused the damage against the Norwegian-owned MT Front Altair and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous. Each was loaded with petroleum products, and the Front Altair burned for hours, sending up a column of thick, black smoke.
Let's break that in to little bits.

1. No USA ships are involved.
2. No USA citizens are involved.
3. No USA territory or waters are involved.
4. All cargo was headed to Asia.

This. Is. Not. Our. Problem.

We don't know who did the attacking. No, I do not assume that SECSTATE saying Iran is responsible will do for the American or international audience. Let's see the evidence.

Even if Iran did do this - or their proxies - this is not our problem (unless Norway Article 5's the attack).

What is Norway doing? Japan? They are both our allies, but they have the lead on this - not us.

Who really benefits from this? It isn't Iran. It certainly is not the USA.

Everyone needs to take a powder and take a step back.

This talk of military action this soon is insanity. This is irresponsible.

At least right now.


Enough with stupid wars. At best, this might be worth a few dozen TLAM ... but only after Norway and Japan take their moves.

We are their ally, not their enforcer, not their daddy.

Everyone needs to back off.
UPDATE: So, IRGC clown show?

No deaths?

Perfect ... we can go nice and slow here.

Sanctions, sanctions, sanctions. Those are the first three things to do ... and let Norway and Japan lead the effort in the IC.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

How Fragile is Our Navy?

Well, judging by what we did early this week - a bit pathetic up in the DC to Newport axis.

Details over at USNIBlog.

The MacLeans at Inverkeithing we were not.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

In DC, the Zombie INF Fight is Afoot

There are a few constants in the natsec environment we live in; elections have consequences, and nameless professional staffers with peculiar and questionable understandings of war have an unimaginable impact on our ability to have an effective military.

For you who were not around or interested in the Cold War, there was a very Eurocentric treaty that was/is almost a talisman to the established natsec cadres that infested the Beltway and still do - mostly interested in their personal egos, legacies, and pet fetishes. Of course, I'm talking about the INF Treaty of 1987.
The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The treaty marked the first time the superpowers had agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons, and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification. As a result of the INF Treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union destroyed a total of 2,692 short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles by the treaty's implementation deadline of June 1, 1991.
The Soviet Union died over a quarter century ago, but to keep Russia from being too pouty, for decades we let it sit that they could pretend it was the mighty Soviet Union as we chased a Medieval death cult around the low-rent parts of the globe.

Russia, however, is Russia. So ...
The United States first alleged in its July 2014 Compliance Report that Russia is in violation of its INF Treaty obligations “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a ground-launched cruise missile having a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers or “to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.” Subsequent State Department assessments in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 repeated these allegations. In March 2017, a top U.S. official confirmed press reports that Russia had begun deploying the noncompliant missile. Russia denies that it is in violation of the agreement and has accused the United States of being in noncompliance.

On Dec. 8, 2017, the Trump administration released an integrated strategy to counter alleged Russian violations of the Treaty, including the commencement of research and development on a conventional, road-mobile, intermediate-range missile system. On Oct. 20, 2018 President Donald Trump announced his intention to “terminate” the INF Treaty, citing Russian noncompliance and concerns about China’s intermediate-range missile arsenal. On Dec. 4, 2018 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States has found Russia in “material breach” of the treaty and will suspend its treaty obligations in 60 days if Russia does not return to compliance in that time. On Feb. 2, the Trump administration declared a suspension of U.S. obligations under the INF Treaty and formally announced its intention to withdraw from the treaty in six months. Shortly thereafter, Russian President Vladimir Putin also announced that Russia will be officially suspending its treaty obligations as well.
Well, hello everyone and welcome to the end of the second decade of the 21st Century. A lot has changed.

Russia, though a weak and tottering old bear up to mischief and still a bit dangerous, is not the Soviet Union. The threat as we move to mid-century is and will be China. China was not part of INF - again that was signed 32 years ago - so what has she been doing with what - on paper - is an incredible bit of tactical kit?
To achieve a preemptive strike against America’s military bases, China has procured a massive missile force. In fact, Beijing has the largest land-based missile arsenal in the world. According to Pentagon estimates, this includes 1,200 conventionally armed short-range ballistic missiles, two hundred to three hundred conventional medium-range ballistic missiles and an unknown number of conventional intermediate-range ballistic missiles, as well as two to three hundred ground-launched cruise missiles.
If we find ourselves at war with the rising power of China - and history shows we most likely will this century - their missile forces will be something we will have to address. By address, I mean fight. By fight, I mean destroy or be destroyed by them.

How do you eliminate them? Well, a defensive posture is not ideal, and we do not have enough ABM capability to counter that number inbound. We don't have enough TLAM either ... so what does that leave? TACAIR. Those are bodies. Expensive and hard to replace bodies.

You don't have to play too many rounds of this game to see the problem.

Let's back up a bit. What is the USA and Japan's comparative advantage over China? High technology, of course. The Chinese are very good at stealing other people's ideas and reverse engineering them - but that means as long as things advance, they are always going to be 1 to 2 generations behind the West and its auxiliaries. They also have a quality issue (more than we do) and an issue in running effective and coordinated operations.

Advanced technology and computing - and the multi-spectral targeting it enables - can translate in to incredibly accurate targeting without GPS or other external guidance. As such, in a conventional missile exchange, we just might have an edge to attrite their missile forces down before we have to commit additional forces that are harder to replace.

Outside China, there are other places high-precision conventional ballistic missiles would come in handy and would be very much in line with the American preferred way of war (ignore the foreverwars in Asia for a moment) - short, deadly, limited, and with low casualties.

Especially for punitive expeditions (Salamander's preferred approach to most affronts) - there is little not to like.

The world is not on a hair-trigger to global nuclear exchange any more, so that shouldn't be an issue either.

So, back to the point. We are out of INF. We have a modern problem that needs to be solved. One would thing that we would start to develop what China already has vast numbers of as they were never restrained by the INF - we need out own SRBM, IRBM and even MRBM forces.

No "missile gap" jokes please. 

You would think that this would be considered a serious shortfall in need of immediate action. It isn't like we have a bunch of Pershing II's waiting to be dusted off.

So, serious minds are turning-to in DC, right? 

Well, if you think that, you would be wrong. It would appear that the Majority Staff in Congress has decided that - for reasons best known to these unknown - they want our nation hobbled.

They are more in love with a dead treaty - or more likely just want to poke Trump - than they are with preparing for war.

For the details, I point you to Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) who got a sniff of what is going on and it running to the sound of gunfire.

I don't do this often, but who is your member of Congress? Have they looked in to this? Are they supporting Rep. Gallagher's efforts?

Call them and ask.

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Truman Decision: There is History and Then There is History

We'll start this week with a response to last week's guest post by Bryan McGrath, from a man who should be very familiar to regulars here and Midrats; Robert C. (Barney) Rubel, Captain, USN (Ret).

As you will read below in a guest post from Captain Rubel, the pros and cons of the recent USS Truman refueling is bringing out some of our best minds to understand the argument. 

Barney, over to you.

Bryan McGrath, in his recent post concerning the Navy’s decision to forego refueling USS Truman, attempts to channel CP Snow’s book on the clash of the scientific and humanities cultures as a kind of strawman aimed at criticizing the decision. Contrasting the relative ability of history majors vs operations analysts in thinking broadly about the security environment, he attempts to show why America needs as many carrier battle groups as possible, in the process talking down those who assert the carrier’s vulnerability, asserting that history has refuted them time after time.

Now, truth be told, I was a beer major in college, scraping out a bachelor’s in liberal arts with the minimum required hours at the University of Illinois (anybody seen Risky Business?). The thing is, though, I actually lived some history as a young A-7 pilot aboard USS Independence back in late 1973 when the US Sixth Fleet faced down the Soviet Fifth Escadra in the context of the Yom Kippur War. The Soviets had 96 ships and we had 63. They had anti-ship cruise missiles and war-at-sea tactics and doctrine, we did not. Even as a nugget I could see that if it came to a fight, we were screwed. After that crisis blew over I became my squadron’s weapons and tactics officer and I worked for the next several years on anti-ship tactics. What I found was that even with a launch in the air it took almost 45 minutes to organize a strike against a Soviet formation whereas all they had to do was push a button.

Even with F-18s carrying LRASM, a carrier is way less responsive than a missile-armed surface combatant. So, the first thing a fleet commander does not want to do is place his carrier battle groups within hostile missile arcs during crisis or brink of war situation. When your threat sector is 360 degrees, I don’t care how good your defenses are, you will likely take hits, especially if you can’t fire first.

The history that Bryan cites is wrong; the assertions of carrier vulnerability have not been refuted because it has never come to an actual test. There have been cases of self-inflicted wounds such as on Enterprise and Forrestal, and in each case the crew reacted heroically to limit the damage. The contention has been that despite the damage those carriers were capable of operations within hours. Maybe they could have launched a few aircraft and recovered a few, but whether they could have continued to actually fight is quite another matter. The former USS America absorbed weeks of punishment from various weapons on a sinkex and still had to be scuttled. Again, this does nothing to prove the ship could have continued to be an effective fighting platform after receiving such hits. Remaining afloat and being combat effective are two different things. Because there has been no true test of naval combat we have continued to build carriers because, as Bryan says, they are outstanding presence platforms and they enjoy an almost legendary reputation. But it is well to remember that in 1944/45 the USN put dozens of carriers forward for operations within the range of Japanese land- based aircraft. Despite our carriers escaping harm at the Battle of the Philippine Sea due to excellent fighter defenses, many were subsequently damaged from Leyte onward to the end of the war.

In 2001 I was director of a small analysis cell within the Wargaming Department of the Naval War College. One day a faculty member, a retired Navy intel officer, came to me with a proposal to do an independent project concerning China’s buildup of ballistic missiles in the vicinity of Taiwan. What he proposed to do was count up all their missiles of various types and use this data to try and infer what kind of strategies might be available to them. I liked the idea and made that study his principal function. This led, over the years, to the formation of the Halsey Group, a student advanced research program that conducted iterative wargaming at the top secret level. They focused on high end war with China in various scenarios. I received outbriefs on their results every year for the next thirteen years. While I cannot share much of that information, I can say that it convinced me that the aircraft carrier is the wrong platform to use as the Navy’s principal offensive weapon in that scenario. I subsequently became director of wargaming and had the opportunity to design, direct, umpire and observe any number of games dealing with high end naval war. All of them, in various ways, supported this view. The latest game I observed was Global 8, a game in which Admiral Scott Swift brought key members of his Pacific Fleet staff to play. Again, it was a highly classified game, but I can say that it did not change my outlook on carriers. I contended in an article on wargaming I wrote a number of years ago that properly run wargames are a form of artificial military history. As such they are better evidence than broad assertions based on no test.

The bottom line on all this is that we really do not know how vulnerable aircraft carriers – as ships – are to modern anti-ship missiles. It is one thing to dash into Indian Country, make a strike and then bug out such as Enterprise and Hornet did for the Doolittle raid, and quite another to hang out continuously and support landings on Okinawa. We may wish for a quick, decisive engagement if war over Taiwan breaks out, but we have to be prepared for a drawn out slugfest; wars have a way of going on longer than anyone expects. In that case, the longer the carriers operate within Chinese threat rings, the better their chances of getting hit. If you think that there is no chance of them getting hit or if they do, they can shrug it off and keep fighting, then, in my estimation, which is not uninformed, you are mistaken.

But focusing solely on the hull does not address how vulnerable the airwing is to modern air defense systems. More history. I was a strike leader on USS Eisenhower during the 1980 hostage crisis. As we planned our contingency strikes we found that the Iranians had, among other US-furnished equipment, Hawk missiles. Turned out our warning gear could not see the Hawk continuous wave illumination radar. We ended up putting Fuzz Busters – which could see the Hawk - on our glare shields. However, the missile was good enough that if the Fuzz Buster went off, it just meant you had 20 seconds to live. Our losses would have been such that the wing would have been neutralized after maybe four strikes. Modern Russian SAMs are at least as good as the Hawk; probably much better. In order for the air wing to have any staying power, it will have to employ missiles from outside the considerable envelope of the S-300 and 400 systems, making the F-18 and F-35 expensive booster stages. Why not just use Tomahawk? Recent history shows a preference for Tomahawk strikes on defended targets.

Regarding the goods and others of the aircraft carrier as a presence platform, let me share some more personal history. In the summer of 1990 I was CO of VFA-131 aboard USS Eisenhower. We had been on cruise since February and it had been pretty much a love boat cruise compared to earlier ones I had made. The Soviet Union was in its death throes and everyone around Europe was glad to see us; pretty much in a celebratory mood. Even the French were welcoming. We put thousands of people through the Ike on tours during the Cannes film festival. Most all the crew wore their uniforms ashore in order to increase the chances they would be shanghai-ed by a delegation from a surrounding village, to be feted at a dinner. We were amazed at the reception but proud to show the flag.

Ike was in the Med pretty much due to the strategic momentum left over from the Cold War. Then on 2 August Iraq invaded Kuwait. Within two days we were dispatched to the Red Sea via the Suez Canal. It was eerie as we transited, watching Egyptian MIGs fly cover for us. We were convinced that Saddam would continue south into Saudi Arabia and expected to launch strikes as soon as we issued out the south end of the canal. The Air Force already had F-15s in Riyadh and tankers in Jeddah. The night of the transit we planned our strikes. The best we could come up with, even with USAF tanking, was six aircraft continuously in the Kuwait Theater of Operations, it being almost 700 miles from the ship’s position. At that point Saddam had hundreds of aircraft at his disposal, so the odds looked pretty bad.

We figured that in an all-out fight the wing could sustain losses for three, maybe four days and still have some effect. On the positive side, we were the only game in town from a US perspective. Although the Air Force quickly had jets on the scene, it took them over a week to get ammo up from the storage bunkers down in the UAE. We showed up ready on arrival to operate for at least a week at full bore. USS Independence, operating just outside Hormuz, was farther from the KTO than us; not being able to enter the Gulf because the stub oil platforms had not been surveyed, and hitting a semi-submerged one would be worse than hitting a mine.

But nothing happened. Perhaps our arrival dissuaded him from going further. My shipmates and I like to think so, but it is impossible to say. As the weeks went by, additional carriers showed up, and the Navy decided to send us back to Norfolk in September. The Navy invested six carriers in the operation and planners knew there would be an aftermath to whatever happened in Kuwait. Ike had been on cruise almost eight months at that point and needed maintenance before going back out. If SECDEF wanted a carrier presence in the region after a war, Ike needed to come home. In fact, the war disrupted carrier deployment cycles for several years after. Carriers need lots of maintenance, and any perturbation to the deployment cycle creates readiness ripples and not in a good way.

So let’s review the bidding. On the good side, the Ike was a marvelous naval diplomacy platform, more impressive than anything else the US could deploy. When called to respond to a crisis, she was there in a couple of days and ready to fight in a sustained way with no footprint on the ground in a sensitive country. This is why presidents ask where the carriers are when trouble arises. On the down side, there were very real limits to what the air wing could bring to bear. If the issue could be handled by a one-time Eldorado Canyon-like strike, we were good to go; if the situation required a sustained air campaign in which losses occurred, then a single carrier was not enough. In any case, we needed Air Force refueling in order to reach the area of operations.

Same deal later in OEF. What allowed us to plan for even six aircraft at the end of our “chainsaw” operation was the fact that there was no appreciable threat to the carrier. Had there been real threat (rumors of a missile-toting Lear Jet aside) a significant portion of the air wing would have been tied up in defending the battle group. My point is that as a presence platform the CVN has many advantages, but some very real limitations. Carrier proponents – ones who have not been, say, strike leaders - tend to overlook the details. They assume the CVNs can be moved around the geopolitical chessboard like queens. In an age where the Russians can sell highly sophisticated, land-launched anti-ship missiles to anyone, the limitations start tipping the balance scale toward the others.

Now let me be clear as I can on all this. Saying that the carrier should not be the Navy’s principal offensive weapon in a potential war at sea versus China is not the same as saying they are obsolete or that we should not buy the Ford Class – or even that we should not refuel Truman. What it does mean is that the Navy must come up with a new fleet design for the specific purpose of fighting for sea control in East Asia. In that design I envision the Ford Class – once the bugs have been worked out – as a key enabler for the Navy’s distributed maritime operations (DMO) force, uniquely able to support long-range, high-endurance unmanned aircraft that will perform a number of critical functions. A new air superiority fighter (son of Tomcat?) will keep the DMO force, including the P-8s and MQ-4s, from being shot up by Chinese aircraft. Elsewhere in the world, Nimitz Class CVNs will continue to provide credible US presence. But how many CVNs should we have? Elsewhere I believe Bryan has said, and I agree with him, that we live in a 15 carrier world. If you think about the assessment of goods and others in the previous paragraphs, you can quickly conclude that CVNs should operate at least in pairs. Thirty would thus be a reasonable number. That said, how many can we actually have? Here Bryan and I disagree.

Bryan’s post makes a tacit assumption; that Congress will eventually produce a budget that will support both an 11 carrier fleet and development of the DMO force. So far, there is no indication that is the case, which is why the Navy elected to trade Truman for development of DMO platforms. Certainly there was some number crunching involved, but in the end it was a decision based on forward-looking strategic judgment. In my view, the US cannot afford to let China successfully invade Taiwan or militarily enforce its territorial claims in the South China Sea. If we cave or are driven off, our credibility will be shot and we will be faced with either becoming tributary to China in their version of a new global system or we will have to escalate, probably to nuclear weapons. In 1973 we discussed running west through the Straits of Sicily to get to TACSIT III; untargeted and unlocated. However, that would have ceded the Eastern Med to the Soviets. If we had stood and fought we would have lost two, maybe three carriers. The NCA would have been faced with the unappetizing choice of ceding the Eastern Med or escalating, probably to nuclear. If we had had a DMO-style force we could have faced down the Soviet fleet with confidence. The USN, along with the other Services, MUST be able to win a conventional war at sea in East Asia, and that means a DMO force. That strategic imperative, combined with very real budget limitations, is behind the Truman decision, math or no math.

If Congress coughs up extra funds to refuel Truman, so much the better. If the Navy has to eat the cost, our strategic risk level will go up considerably, as we could find ourselves, as in 1973, ill-equipped to face the naval threat that pops up and as in 1980 when entering certain air defense zones was virtual suicide. That is history rhyming, and I don’t like the sound of it. I may not have majored in history, but I have sure as hell lived it.

Robert C. (Barney) Rubel, Captain, USN (Ret) is a Professor Emeritus at the U.S. Naval War College.