Friday, November 29, 2019

Fullbore Friday

The silent professional who does not seek the light.

Just a small town North Carolina boy.

Via Gina Harkins at;
On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Jolly was about 600 miles away from Benghazi in Tripoli -- roughly the same distance between Chicago and Washington, D.C. Since Jolly and Halbruner were some of the only troops in-country, the operation was coordinated not by U.S. Africa Command, but the CIA.

Team Tripoli, made up of Jolly, Halbruner and five others, arrived in Benghazi at about 1:30 a.m. That was about four hours after the attack began, and two since Ambassador Christopher J. Stevens had last been seen alive.

The team was led by Glen Doherty, a Global Response Staff (GRS) security officer and former Navy SEAL, who was later killed. He was Team Tripoli's medic.

The plan, according to the person familiar with the mission, was to leave the airport and head to the hospital, where they believed Stevens was being treated. When they found out Stevens had died, the first ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979, the team headed to the consulate to bolster the diplomatic security personnel and GRS, a group of private military contractors who were fending off the attackers.

"It could've gone really, really bad," said the source familiar with the mission. "It could've become 30 American hostages in North Africa. There were seven shooters going in to protect people who don't shoot for a living."

By the time they arrived, Sean Smith, a State Department foreign service officer, had also died. It was still dark, just after 5 a.m., according to a congressional timeline of the attack. Within minutes, the first mortar hit.

The attacks continued, with one witness estimating there were as many as 100 insurgents spotted surrounding their location in 20- or 30-man groups. It was a skilled enemy, one of the troops there later told members of Congress.

"It's not easy ... to shoot inside the city and get something on the target within two shots -- that's difficult," the witness testified. "I would say they were definitely a trained mortar team or had been trained to do something similar to that.

"I was kind of surprised," the service member added. "... It was unusual."

They were there a matter of hours, but at times witnesses said the team feared they wouldn't make it out alive. It began to "rain down on us," one of them told lawmakers.

''I really believe that this attack was planned," the witness said. "The accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any regular revolutionaries."

In total, six 81-millimeter mortars assaulted the annex within a minute and 13 seconds, a congressional report on the attack states. Doherty and Tyrone Woods, another former SEAL with the GRS, didn't survive.

Dave Ubben, a State Department security agent, and Mark "Oz" Geist, another GRS member, were badly hurt. The men were defending the compound from the rooftop, determined to make it look like they had a lot more firepower than they actually did.

"There was a lot of shooting, a lot of indirect fire and explosions," the source with knowledge of the response said. "It was just guys being really aggressive and doing a good job at making it seem like their element was bigger than it was, like they were less hurt than they were."

Ubben -- who'd testified before a federal court in 2017 that he took shrapnel to his head, nearly lost his leg, and had a grapefruit-sized piece of his arm taken off -- was losing blood fast. Geist also had a serious arm injury that needed immediate attention.

Jolly and Halbruner were determined to save them. Amid the fight, they were tying tourniquets to the men's bodies.

Ubben is alive because Jolly helped move him from the rooftop to a building where diplomatic personnel were hunkered down. Gregory Hicks, who became the acting chief of mission after Stevens died, later described how the gunny did it during a congressional hearing.

"One guy ... full of combat gear climbed up [to the roof], strapped David Ubben, who is a large man, to his back and carried him down the ladder, saved him," Hicks said.

Jolly and Halbruner also went back out to the rooftop to recover the bodies of the fallen.

"They didn't know whether any more mortars were going to come in. The accuracy was terribly precise," Hicks said. "... They climbed up on the roof, and they carried Glen's body and Tyrone's body down."

It was for Jolly's "valorous actions, dedication to duty and willingness to place himself in harm's way" to save numerous unarmed Americans' lives that he earned the Navy Cross, according to his citation.
Head on over to read the rest.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope we all here have much to be thankful this Thanksgiving.

Thank you all here on the front porch for keeping me on my toes, and giving me encouragement to keep writing.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

You Want Another Fat Leonard?

...because this is how you get another Fat Leonard.

Discussions over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and let me know what you're hearing.

Where Would we Bury all the Bodies?

This bit from Simon Kupor at FT has to be parody, but the emanations from the internationalist bubble-people makes it hard to tell. Even if parody ... deep down this is how a lot of people who so hate the Republican  led USA and Tory led UK think.

Either way, what a fun read this is. If parody, it isn't all that good of a parody ... or is it?

All I can think of is what I like to tell alternative history types who wonder, "What if foreign powers intervened in our civil war?"

Well, I know what would have happened last time; Grant and Lee would have stopped shooting at each other and would have slaughtered whatever foreign power landed on US soil, and then returned to their fratricidal madness.

In this scenario, I don't know about where you live, but if this was tried in my corner of the Union, almost all but opportunistic tone deaf grifters would - even if the US military disbanded - tell the commander of the nearest Belgian/Brazilian/Bangladeshi battalion who landed,
"Excuse us, but would you please leave? Yes, I know you have orders and you are where you are right now, but I'll tell you what; if you don't leave your base, you'll be fine for 2-weeks. You need to leave inside 2-weeks. If any of your people go on any patrol, they will be considered hostile by militia forces - which by the Florida Constitution is,
The militia consists of all able-bodied citizens of this state and all other able-bodied persons who have declared their intention to become citizens.
We want everyone to go home, so please move along. If you can't leave in two weeks, then you will have to surrender all your heavy weapons you cannot carry on the ship we will provide for your transport to The Bahamas. If you do not leave, we will have to kill everyone armed foreign national who does not surrender. Sorry, those are the rules. Governor DeSantis did not invite you & we don't recognize the UN authority inside our boundaries.

Thank you very much and have a nice day."
Some on the left seem gripped by new civil war fantasies. These people are not well. Do they even live a real life? Well, they think it is possible, so we will have to deal with their fevered foolishness.

You can almost smell how much he hates Anglosphere success, especially the American version, and he can't help himself.

The entering assumption here is that an "International Intervention" force would succeed. What would we call it, the American Stabilization Intervention Force (ASIF)?

Yes that is perfect. ASIF. As. If. 

Anyway. It would never reach the point where the fevered internationalists would be able to,
“How to stop a civil war” says the cover of the latest Atlantic magazine. I can suggest a fix: the international community should intervene in the US. Of course Americans have a right to self-determination but the priority now is saving democracy.
...the first step is power sharing: a transitional government that includes all conflicting sides. ... Next comes an Afghan-style loya jirga, or grand assembly, to kick off a national dialogue. ...

Americans may also need to abandon the polarising impeachment of Donald Trump and let him seek exile in a friendly country: the model could be Ukraine’s kleptocratic pro-Kremlin former president Viktor Yanukovich, now based out of Russia.

The loya jirga writes a new constitution. This would be Britain’s first, and for the US, a much-needed update of its antiquated 1787 document. Japanese jurists could help draft it as a thank you to Americans for writing Japan’s excellent 1947 constitution.

The new text would dispense with vagaries such as “high crimes and misdemeanours”, define presidential corruption and end political control of the judiciary. If it’s undemocratic for the Polish or Hungarian governments to appoint judges, why can the US president do it?
... The US’s second republic will also need a new electoral system that favours coalitions instead of winner-takes-all rule. ...

At best, intervention will freeze the US’s overlapping ethnic, economic and regional conflicts. The question for the international community then becomes: how much blood and treasure is it willing to expend on a country that may not be ready for democracy?
Relax Simon, we know you're trying to be funny here (I think), but child please. We actually have less "ethnic, economic, and regional conflicts" in the USA than we have ever had in my short half-century+ on the planet.

As long as the excitable, bitter, ahistorical types are kept from power, we're fine.

Also, don't send the IC here if we do have a civil war. We only solve that one way - bleed each other until one side is exhausted. If foreign power try to get in our way, we'll just, as outlined above, turn our guns, warehouses of NH4NO3,  and redneck technicals on you until you leave.

We'd have enough trouble burying each other - we really don't have the resources to bury all of you too.

Monday, November 25, 2019

What in the Wide Wide World of Sports is Going on Around Here?

What a way to start the week.

News broke halfway through yesterday's Midrats with Bryan McGrath that now former-SECNAV Spencer was fired.

Many of us have spent the last 12-hrs or so trying to figure out why. Well, time will reveal all. In times like this, it is time to quote a great American.

I'm going to let you hash it out in comments, but here are statements from SECDEF's spokesman, Richard Spencer, and President Trump in the order they came out.

Everyone over to the white-board and diagram these out, I'm going to get another cup of coffee.

First, spokesman for SECDEF Esper, Jonathan Hoffman:

Former SECNAV Spencer:

President Trump (tweet, of course):

UPDATE: Well, as reported by Carl Prine;
What none of the parties knew was that minutes before the Pentagon announced Esper’s decision, Gallagher told his attorney, Timothy Parlatore, that he had decided to voluntarily relinquish his trident for the good of the SEALs, the president and the country, believing that he unwittingly had become a lightning rod for criticism and partisan division.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Making the Fleet Ready for a Peer Challenge, with Bryan McGrath - on Midrats

Keeping a fleet ready for war is a process of years of careful, consistent, and sustained stewardship of both personnel and material.

The easiest parts are the buying of equipment and recruiting new people.The hard parts, maintenance, training, and retention – mostly because they are hard – rarely break in to the open.

For our fleet, the structure we live in is the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP). It is a system few understand well, but is one designed around a peacetime “efficiency” with only a passing interest in wartime “effectiveness.”

Decades of dominance at sea has provided the US Navy the luxury of such, but as China expands her fleet at an alarming rate – do we need a new construct?

Our guest for the full hour Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss this and related topics will be Bryan McGrath, CDR USN (Ret.).

Bryan McGrath grew up in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, and graduated from the University of Virginia in 1987. He was commissioned upon graduation in the United States Navy, and served as a Surface Warfare Officer until his retirement in 2008. At sea, he served primarily in cruisers and destroyers, rising to command of the Destroyer USS BULKELEY (DDG 84). During his command tour, he won the Surface Navy Association’s Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Award for Inspirational Leadership, and the BULKELEY was awarded the USS ARIZONA Memorial Trophy signifying the fleet’s most combat ready unit. Ashore, Bryan enjoyed four tours in Washington DC, including his final tour in which he acted as Team Leader and primary author of our nation’s 2007 maritime strategy entitled “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.”

Since retirement, Bryan has become active in presidential politics, serving first as the Navy Policy Team lead for the Romney Campaign in 2012, and then as the Navy and Marine Corps Policy lead for the Rubio Campaign in 2016.

You can listen to the show at this link or below, but remember, if you don't already, subscribe to the podcast at Spreaker or any of the other podcast aggregators.

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, November 22, 2019

Fullbore Friday

You hear, "Improvise, adapt, overcome" on a regular basis ... but what does that exactly mean?

Sgt. 1st Class Richard J. Olson Jr., USA - over to you;
On Aug. 10, Olson and his Soldiers received a report that the Pul-E-Alam governor's compound was under attack by insurgents attempting to assassinate the governor of Logar Province. The team immediately went to assist the governor and other U.S. Soldiers already at the compound.

Upon arriving at the governor's compound, they found Soldiers from the Police Mentorship Team had already secured the area and ensured the safety of the governor, but they were still taking fire. Olson immediately identified the direction of the enemy fire and told his Soldiers to return fire.

After a vehicle-borne IED detonated directly outside the compound, Olson requested permission to assault the area. He moved with his Soldiers to assault the building from which they originally received fire as well as the location of the VBIED.

Olson led a group of U.S. Soldiers, as well as French and Afghan National Army soldiers to clear the first and second floors of the building. Olson then moved forward by himself and threw a grenade up to the third and fourth floors to clear the areas.

As they moved to the fifth floor, they encountered enemy insurgents and received fire. Coalition Soldiers and ANA troops worked together to fight the insurgents.

The group then left the building to allow the Apache helicopters that had been providing close-air support to fire upon the building. While the Apaches fired on the building, Olson duct taped two Claymore mines to two 15-foot poles.

After the Apaches stopped firing, Olson directed all of the Soldiers to move back into the building and continue to clear the area of insurgents.

"He (was) very cool, calm and collected," said Sgt. Christine Hein, a human resources noncommissioned officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd BCT, of Olson's leadership during the firefight. "Never once (did) I doubt his leadership abilities."

With the insurgents still on the fifth floor, Olson put his Claymore-poles to good use. With the help of an airman, he located one of the insurgents and detonated the Claymore next to him.

Olson then led an assault on the fifth floor and cleared the rest of the building, including the roof.
Grab a pole, a claymore and probably a bit of mil-spec duct tape ... and there you go.

Best. Stick. Puppet. Ever.

BZ Olsen. BZ.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

USA: Becoming the Cheshire Cat Superpower?

A bit of advice I like to give to anyone who will listen is to read. Read widely. Read those who you do not agree with. Read some who you almost never agree with. Read those in your “camp,” read those in the “other camp.”

In almost all areas there are hacks, lickspittles, and grifters. Some are easier to tell, some hide it well. Filter most – but not all – of those out of your reading, and instead look for well meaning people who just happen to see the world slightly differently than you do. If you can find a 50/50 person, then you’ve found a good spot to challenge your closely held beliefs - strengthen when needed, or change when found wanting.

For me, Claire Berlinski is one of those people. Just when I think she’s “one of us” she comes up with something well outside “my” lifelines of good opinion. That’s OK, she’s smart and puts it out there.

When she included some quotes on another person I find “interesting” – Peter Zeihan, I knew I needed to give her latest a good read.

While I may disagree with a few of her points and interpretations, her latest “The World Beyond Washington” post is well worth your time. It ties together some themes that we have discussed for well over a decade here, so let’s dive in to some of her points she makes … and a few Zeihan and French President Macron quotes she includes.
The postwar economic and security order, Zeihan argues, worked exactly as designed: We suppressed great power competition and secured the world’s trade routes. This peaceful environment allowed the rest of the world to become wealthy. The Soviet Union collapsed.

But unlike the allies whose security we guaranteed, we never fully participated in the world we built, and we aren’t dependent upon it. Unlike Germany and China, our economy is not built upon exports. The United States has its own, massive, domestic market. As a percentage of GDP, the US benefits less from trade than any other developed country: Trade amounts to about 15 percent of our GDP, and even less if we exclude Canada and Mexico. We’re blessed with the rich and fertile soil that makes us an agricultural powerhouse and the source of half the world’s grain. We have almost all the minerals we need.

And now we have energy.

The shale revolution, Zeihan claims, has severed American ties with the wider world. Thus, precisely as the world tips into chaos, Zeihan observes—and just as the world most needs the United States to be engaged—the United States is disappearing.

He believes this will work out well for America. We have the waterways. We have ocean moats on either side. The United States has and will always have the competitive advantage of its geography; it is alone among developed countries in having a relatively youthful population.
Let’s stop there. We are not an empire – where decisions are made by an emperor for their own glory and power – but we are as designed, a nation who makes its decisions through the representatives of the people.

There is something I have been saying to anyone who will listen since the end of the last century – something BTW that the Norwegian writers of Occupied felt over a decade ago as well – the USA is one election away from shrugging the “international responsibilities” that other nations feel they are entitled to demand of us.

We are not an empire. We are a representative republic that was designed to be of concern to ourselves and not to wander the planet solving other people’s problems they won’t solve themselves with our blood and treasure.

With the weight of WWII and expansive global Communism gone, we will regress to the mean. That “mean” does not include garrisoning the world, beggaring ourselves while offering up our young men and women as sacrifices to the theories of people unaccountable to our taxpayers.

Does that have consequences? Yes it does … but if that is what the American people want, then over time that is where we will go.

The American people may not know exactly where they want to wind up, but they are with each passing year tiring of bleeding for people who rarely appreciate it and then have themselves judged by people who by sat on the sidelines and did nothing.

Berlinski uses this Zeihan quote from his 2016, The Absent Superpower.
… the isolationist trickle I detected in American politics has deepened and expanded into a raging river. Of the two dozen men and women who entered the 2016 presidential race, only one—Ohio Governor John Kasich—advocated for a continuation of America’s role in maintaining the global security and trade order that the Americans installed and have maintained since 1945. The most anti-trade candidate on the right won his party’s nomination, while the most anti-trade candidate on the left finished a close second in the Democratic primaries to the Clinton political machine. Last night (now President) Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton met in New York to debate economic policy. … their core disagreement on trade issues wasn’t whether trade was good or bad for the United States, but how much to pare it back and which reasons for paring cut it the most with the electorate ...

The world has had seven decades to become inured to a world in which the Americans do the heavy lifting to maintain a system that economically benefits all. … As the Americans back away, very few players have any inkling of how to operate in a world where markets are not open, transport is not safe, and energy cannot be secured easily.

The stage is set for a global tailspin of epic proportions. Just as the global economy tips into deflation, just as global energy is becoming dangerous, just as global demographics catastrophically reduce global consumption, just as the world really needs the Americans to be engaged, the United States will be … absent. We stand on the very edge of the Disorder.
While some will rail at the USA for backing away, it might be helpful for those same people to ask what their nations did or did not do to keep America engaged.

The French President Macron – who is problematic in a variety of ways – made a lot of news this month by his neo-Gaulesque throwing of shade at NATO.

He’s not 100% wrong;
France knows how to protect itself. After Brexit, it will become the last remaining nuclear power in the European Union. And so it’s also essential to think about this in relation to others.

It’s an aggiornamento for this subject. NATO was designed in response to an enemy: the Warsaw Pact. In 1990 we didn’t reassess this geopolitical project in the slightest when our initial enemy vanished. The unarticulated assumption is that the enemy is still Russia. It’s also true that when we intervene in Syria against terrorism, it’s not actually NATO that intervenes. We use NATO's interoperability mechanisms, but it’s an ad hoc coalition. So, the question about the present purpose of NATO is a real question that needs to be asked. Particularly by the United States. In the eyes of President Trump, and I completely respect that, NATO is seen as a commercial project. He sees it as a project in which the United States acts as a sort of geopolitical umbrella, but the trade-off is that there has to be commercial exclusivity, it’s an arrangement for buying American products. France didn’t sign up for that …

In my discussions with President Trump when he says, “It’s your neighbourhood, not mine”; when he states publicly, “The terrorists, the jihadists that are over there, they’re European, they’re not American”; when he says, “It’s their problem, not mine”—we must hear what he’s saying. He’s stating a fact. It simply means what was only implicit under NATO until now: I am no longer prepared to pay for and guarantee a security system for them, and so just “wake up”. The NATO we’ve known since the beginning is changing its underlying philosophy. When you have a United States president who says that, we cannot, even if we don’t want to hear it, we cannot in all responsibility fail to draw the conclusions, or at least begin to think about them. Will he be prepared to activate solidarity? If something happens at our borders? It’s a real question. ….
This is the fault of those NATO nations who decided to mortgage trans-Atlantic security to support bloated welfare states.

Macron has watched Occupied it seems.

What can European NATO do against pressure from the East? Not sure, but economics and demographics in Russia might take care of that by itself. Without the Anglo-Saxon calming agent in Europe, thousands of years of natural tensions will rise up. He is, rightfully, worried about German-French tensions, but in addition to Russia, you can’t forget about to other historic sources of tension; the Baltic, and a growing Central European sense of place that seems to be congealing from the remains of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth  the and non-German bits of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

History is not done there, but the question returns; what if the American people don’t want to have anything to do with what history has planned?
From Algeria to Zimbabwe, the US is losing influence. Trade between the US and Africa has dropped precipitously. American exports to Africa are down nearly a third since 2014. Other powers are signing trade agreements that leave out the United States: 41 African countries have signed trade agreements with the European Union. (We are meanwhile engaged in a trade war with the European Union.)

Africa has the world’s fastest-growing middle class; its markets are the biggest commercial opportunities in the developing world. Half of the world’s fastest-growing economies are in Africa. By 2050, half the world’s population will live there. Africa will soon be home to the better part of the world’s working-age population.

Since 2014, Russia has signed military cooperation agreements with 19 African countries. China is now Africa’s leading trade partner. India and Russia are increasing their involvement. The European Union is holding steady.

The Prosper Africa initiative was an excellent idea. But it isn’t even clear that President Trump is aware of the initiative.

This too confirms Zeihan’s view.
Given the economics and demographics in Africa - shouldn't the Europeans be the supported vice supporting entity in Africa anyway?

Read it all.

It would be helpful at this point to remind pro & never-Trump people that they need to stop having their emotions about Trump stoping them from seeing the full landscape. Trump will be gone somewhere from 15-months to five years from now – but trends decades in the making will continue. Whatever Trump is doing, he is simply riding pre-existing conditions that finally rose above the ambient noise at the end of the last decade.

From all political parties, other people who follow Trump's time will ride the same wave in their own way. Why? Easiest questions of all; because the voting public will bring them there.

We cannot confuse “influence” with power or position. You also cannot confuse “influence” with national strength or sustainability.

In 1989, the Soviet Union had huge influence throughout the world because she thought it was always 1956 and so did much of the world swayed by her influence.

She is gone.

In 1989 Switzerland had huge influence for her size throughout the world because she did what she has always done – focused on what was best for the security and prosperity of the citizens of Switzerland. 

In 2019, Switzerland has huge influence for her size throughout the world because she does what she has always done – focuses on what is best for the security and prosperity of the citizens of Switzerland.

We are on the cusp of the third decade of the 21st Century. If you are still trying to play internationally like it is the second half of the 20th Century, you are going to constantly be confused, blindsided - and if you control the levers of power in our government - you will put your nation at strategic risk

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

For victims, acused, family members, and communities impacted - the only thing worse than a tragedy itself is waiting for closure.

It can bankrupt people; break families asunder; crack sanity; rip societies apart.

If you don't know the path the CO of the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) has taken in the last 886 days?

Head on over to USNIBlog for the details.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Not Antiseptic War via Technology; War Will Only Get Deadlier

Part of the drive to unmanned systems it, at least from the side that uses it, a desire to minimize casualties. 

Sure, there are also theoretical cost savings ... and micro-managers love the idea of systems who follow orders w/o 2nd thoughts or any thoughts ... but what are we missing?

Something scifi writers have built careers on is not being discussed well enough. Especially when both sides will have similar technologies ... are we simply building a new way for mass slaughter on a scale no one is ready for?

Anthony Swofford in Technology Review, author of the well known book made in to a movie, Jarhead, makes some superb points worthy of consideration.

I think he is more right than anyone will be comfortable with;
Many now profess that the young Marine or soldier with a rifle is obsolete. The greatest weapons race of all is among academic scientists trying to win DARPA funding for new warfighting technology they insist will require scant human interface with the killing act, thus relieving the combatant of the moral quandary and wounds of war. Private-sector startups sell a myth of smart war through AI, or robotic soldiers. In labs where the newest and cleanest ways to kill are being invented, the conversation is not about the morality of going to war, but rather the technology of winning. But when you rely on a myth of technology and distance killing to build a rationale for easy war, your country will lose its soul.
If fighting war is like swiping your smartphone for an order of groceries or posting a meme to Instagram, how bad can it really be? And if a politician is seduced by the lies and supposed ease of technological warfare and leads us into a mistaken conflict, is it really his or her fault? Didn’t we all think it would be a breeze?

The moral distance a society creates from the killing done in its name will increase the killing done in its name. We allow technology to increase moral distance; thus, technology increases the killing. More civilians than combatants die in modern warfare, so technology increases worldwide civilian murder at the hands of armies large and small.

The person with the least amount of distance from the killing—typically an infantryman or special operator—is the most morally stressed and compromised individual in the war’s chain of command. When close-quarters combatants understand that the killing they have practiced is not backed by a solid moral framework, they question every decision taken on the battlefield. But they also question the meaning of the fight. They count their dead friends on one or even two hands. They count the men they have killed on one or two hands, or by the dozen. The moral math will not compute.

The photos and videos of war on our television screens, on our computers, on our smartphones, tell us nothing about the moral computations of the warfighter. The warfighter understands that when a friend is killed on patrol, that is just part of the package. Another part of the package is going back out on another patrol tomorrow. But as you live and operate for longer in a hostile environment, your hatred of the enemy increases and your trust in leadership decreases. You create a moral wound against yourself.

War was supposed to be easy or fast, because of smart bombs and the latest bit of warfighting technology. But this means nothing when years later you only see dead men, women, and children when you try to sleep.

When we believe the lie that war can be totally wired and digitized, that it can be a Wi-Fi effort waged from unmanned or barely manned fighting apparatus, or that an exoskeleton will help an infantryman fight longer, better, faster, and keep him safe, no one will be held responsible for saying yes to war. The lie that technology will save friendly, civilian, and even enemy lives serves only the politicians and corporate chieftains who profit from war. The lie that technology can prevent war, or even create compassionate combat, is a perverse and profane abuse of scientific thinking.
Read it all.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Welcome to the Long Game Folks

I used to quote from The Economist more here in the past than I have the last few years. Reasons are - and sad to say about a publication I have been reading for three decades - it just isn't as good as it used to be. It isn't even - at least from the American perspective - center-right anymore. It has drifted well in to the center-left. As such, what I read there doesn't supply much different opinion and perspective of the rest of my media diet.

One thing you could and still can rely on more often than not with The Economist for was it to reflect the Anglosphere "Foreign Policy Consensus." Yes, the gaggle that has, if we can be kind, a spotty record the last three to five decades.

So much of their performance and advice hasn't been malicious, just lazy and wrong. A lot of group-think and wishful thinking. Kind of like the WSJ and open boarder foolishness - they are scope locked on a pleasant theory, and not rigorous on the hard truth. As the phrase goes, they remember everything but learn nothing.

Since Nixon went to China, the blinkered view of China has been the primary example of this failure to adopt a hard-nosed vision. Before the fall of the Soviet Union, we needed a China strong - regardless of what she did to her own people - as a counter to their fellow Communists in the Soviet Union who all the smartest people in the room thought would last until the crack of doom. 

In the 1990s with the Soviet Union magically off the stage, we saw a shift when China pivoted to getting what they wanted by bribery. They soon found that a lot of business and politicians could be bought rather cheaply. Many people and nations talk a good game, but scratch the right place, and you can find those willing to be corrupt. The Chinese know how to play that game better than about anyone. Two greatest examples of that era are found with Loral and the Coffee Klatch money machine.

The last decade, while keeping bribery in their back pocket, we reached another economic power pivot point, the Chinese are moving on to economic extortion and leverage. 

While many on the outside - and a minority on the inside - have seen the Chinese for what they are (see Long Game tag here), too many leaders and influencers refuse to see it, either from lack of curiosity or habit, or simple greed. The German's 5G decision is one example.

The Chinese are getting bold. In their boldness, will they start to wake people up? The millions of Uighur in concentration camps combined with the crackdown in Hong Kong seem to be turning a few.

When The Economist is having second thoughts, perhaps we are seeing a turn;
There were moments during a recent gathering of Americans, Chinese and Europeans, invited to Stockholm to discuss China’s rise and the new world order, when Chaguan wondered whether anyone would say anything cheerful. At last, halfway through two days of doomy talk about trade wars and some scratchy exchanges about whether Westerners have a right to criticise China’s leaders, a Chinese participant sounded an optimistic note. Brexit is an opportunity for China, he enthused—once out of the European Union, Britain will need all the friends it can get.

That was as upbeat as discussions got at the Stockholm China Forum, a semi-annual meeting for politicians, officials, ambassadors, business bosses, scholars and journalists hosted by Sweden’s foreign ministry and the German Marshall Fund, a think-tank. The forum was founded to bridge transatlantic differences over China policy after a crisis in 2004, when France enraged America by proposing to lift an eu arms embargo on China imposed after the crushing of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Chaguan has joined the meetings since 2008 and has seen them turn testy before, despite endless supplies of good coffee and Swedish cinnamon buns. At a forum in 2018 Americans and Europeans sparred over President Donald Trump’s foreign policy. This time was different. A shared fatalism marked panel discussions and offstage conversations. There was a common conviction that China is not about to change its model of authoritarian state capitalism.
You think?

I'm not sure what it will take - but each passing year, the FP and IC community continue to fail to think in line with our reality. How many bad calls do they get passes on? Fall of the Shah? Fall of the Berlin Wall? Fall of the Soviet Union? Iraq WMD? Overthrow of Qaddafi? Mass migration?

There have been a few successes, but not enough. Some more humility would be helpful here. "There was a common conviction..."

Better late than never.

No more, "We welcome China's rise..."

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Building a Thinking Force: the Navy’s CLO, John Kroger - on Midrats

A byproduct of the April 2018 memo from Undersecretary of the Navy Thomas Modly, the newly created position of CLO is described as, “A senior civilian with educational leadership experience headquartered in the Pentagon, with a small supporting staff transferred from extant Navy and Marine education management billets, responsible to the President, Naval University for all matters related to education in policy, budgets, promotion board precepts. Congressional interaction, future requirements, and assessments.”

The Navy's first Chief Learning Officer (CLO) John Kroger will join us for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern
to describe his mandate, the path ahead, and the opportunities and challenges of building a position from scratch.

John served as an enlisted Marine between 1983 and 1986. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale University and a law degree from Harvard University. After college, he spent a significant part of his career in the public sector, as a U.S. Department of Justice prosecutor and Attorney General of Oregon from 2009 to 2012.

Kroger’s academic experience includes working as a visiting professor at Harvard Law School and Leader in Residence at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. For the past six years, Kroger was president of Reed College, a small liberal arts college in Portland, Ore.

You can listen to the show at this link or below, but remember, if you don't already, subscribe to the podcast at Spreaker or any of the other podcast aggregators.

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, November 15, 2019

Fullbore Friday

As I mentioned Wednesday, I have a soft spot for the name "Shangri-La" for aircraft carriers. It has a great story to it, and just sounds cool as hell.

Bill Schultz reminded me that there is a simply awesome video available of a unique and underappreciated time in naval aviation; the early 1960s.

What an incredible time of change and advancement ... and a time yet warped by the war that would dominate the rest of the decade.

So, let's take a moment to give tribute to those Sailors of the early-60s ... in glorious technicolor, on the USS Shangri-La (CV 38), circa 1962, somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea.

Crusaders, Skyrays, Skyhawks, Skyraiders ... just glorious.

From the film Flying Clipper, (1962). Narration by Burl Ives.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

No More Presidents, Please

I don't know what it will take for us to stop naming ships after politicians - but we have some outstanding historical names not being used and no kidding inspirational military people who people would be proud to have on their ball cap ... but politicians?

If we can't have everything, could we at least get back to solid names for our aircraft carriers?

I'm pondering over at USNIBlog and naming names.

Come by and visit - and give it a read.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A Failure of the Fundamentals in Hjeltefjord

A beautiful ship on a beautiful night ... and a classic series of failures that led to a collision at sea.

Read the whole thing ... but at its core - what was the failure?

Fundamental seamanship.
As a consequence of the clearance process, the career ladder for fleet officers in the Navy and the shortage of qualified navigators to man the frigates, officers of the watch had been granted clearance sooner, had a lower level of experience and had less time as officer of the watch than used to be the case. This had also resulted in inexperienced officers of the watch being assigned responsibility for training. Furthermore, several aspects of the bridge service were not adequately described or standardised. The night of the accident, it turned out, among other things, that the bridge team on HNoMS Helge Ingstad did not manage to utilise the team’s human and technical resources to detect, while there was still time, that what they thought was a stationary object giving off the strong lights, in fact was a vessel on collision course. Organisation, leadership and teamwork on the bridge were not expedient during the period leading up to the collision. In combination with the officer of the watch’s limited experience, the training being conducted for two watchstanding functions on the bridge reduced the bridge team’s capacity to address the overall traffic situation. Based on a firmly lodged situational awareness that the ‘object’ was stationary and that the passage was under control, little use was made of the radar and AIS to monitor the fairway.
The investigation of the collision in the Hjeltefjord in the early hours of 8 November 2018, has found that the bridge team on HNoMS Helge Ingstad may have been somewhat affected by fatigue, particularly considering the time of day. In the absence of systematic logging of working hours and hours of rest etc., it has not been possible to further investigate the degree to which the bridge team may have been affected by fatigue. The Ministry of Defence has initiated the process of establishing protective provisions for sea-going personnel in the Navy.

The Accident Investigation Board Norway recommends that the Ministry of Defence introduce, particularly relating to critical functions, a system to give the Navy a systematic overview and positive control of hours of rest. In addition, a requirement for compensatory measures should be put in place when non-compliance with the provided hours of rest in the civilian protective provision.
No watch is normal. Nothing is standard. No required procedure is redundant. 

Bad things don't happen to other people; you are other people.

Monday, November 11, 2019


The Mother Country continues to do this best.

As such, I give this day to her.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Fullbore Friday

We don't do enough of our most recent conflicts on FbF ... so today a story from last decade of a Little Bird bringing giants with big medicine.

Hearing Cianfrini’s warning, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mark Burrows, 35, banked right to evade bullets from a heavy machine gun that had opened up across a field. Then, a second machine gun began firing at them. Burrows turned again, only to face a heavier barrage.

“The whole world just opened up on us, it seemed like,” Cianfrini said in a telephone interview from Iraq on Tuesday. “We zigzagged; we did whatever we could do to get out of the guns’ target line. Then, we started taking fire from behind. That is what took the aircraft down.

The Kiowa started to shake violently, its main rotor damaged.

Burrows said he decided to head into the field, but the aircraft began to spin uncontrollably, and at about 20 feet above the ground he had to shut down its power. The helicopter hit the ground tail first, bounced over a canal, crashed nose down and slid into a ditch beside an adjacent dirt road.

Cianfrini climbed out one door, and Burrows got out the other. They met at the nose and discovered that, miraculously, they had suffered only scratches, they said. The Kiowa by then was on fire, its engine blowing up inside. Insurgents were shooting at them from across the field, and the pilots could hear the rounds hitting the burning helicopter.

“Where’s your weapon?” Burrows yelled to Cianfrini.

“I have no idea,” came the reply.
Head on over to the DenverPost for the rest of the story.

H/t JD.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Israel vs Iran? There Must be a German Word

Is there a word, in German or any other language, that means the habit of always being ready for something you now is inevitable, but it never comes to pass because you are always ready for it; the only way for it to happen is to not be ready?

An variation of Schrödinger's Cat?

Who knows.

There is one thing we do know ... often conflicts long seen coming but never quite on the horizon ... all of a sudden are on your doorstep.

As such, keep this in your mind for a bit of pondering.

Via Michael Oren, Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States, writing in The Atlantic;
The senior ministers of the Israeli government met twice last week to discuss the possibility of open war with Iran. They were mindful of the Iranian plan for a drone attack from Syria in August, aborted at the last minute by an Israeli air strike, as well as Iran’s need to deflect attention from the mass protests against Hezbollah’s rule in Lebanon. The ministers also reviewed the recent attack by Iranian drones and cruise missiles on two Saudi oil installations, reportedly concluding that a similar assault could be mounted against Israel from Iraq.
And it’s not hard to imagine how it might arrive. The conflagration, like so many in the Middle East, could be ignited by a single spark. Israeli fighter jets have already conducted hundreds of bombing raids against Iranian targets in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Preferring to deter rather than embarrass Tehran, Israel rarely comments on such actions. But perhaps Israel miscalculates, hitting a particularly sensitive target; or perhaps politicians cannot resist taking credit. The result could be a counterstrike by Iran, using cruise missiles that penetrate Israel’s air defenses and smash into targets like the Kiryah, Tel Aviv’s equivalent of the Pentagon. Israel would retaliate massively against Hezbollah’s headquarters in Beirut as well as dozens of its emplacements along the Lebanese border. And then, after a day of large-scale exchanges, the real war would begin.
A new war in the Middle East in an election year? No one wants one ... but there is always a chance we would get one.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Measuring Grit

Do you want to go to war with a Rhodes scholar on watch with you, or a rugby player?

How do you measure what is hard to make in to a metrics slide?

I'm pondering a few things they've found out over at West Point.

Come on by USNIBlog and see.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

The Mighty Hercules

If it seems that, like the B-52, the C-130 has been around forever ... well it pretty much has.

Lockheed Martin delivered the 2,600th C-130 Hercules tactical airlifter last week, the customer was the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command.

This milestone Hercules is an MC-130J Commando II Special Operations airlifter assigned to 9th Special Operations Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico

Just an incredibly successful platform that will easily see service in to the 22nd Century. What a great testament to her designers and those who build her.

I've lost count the different services' and nations' C-130s I've flown on. USN, USMC, USAF, ANG, GBR, FRA, POR, SWE, ESP, TUR.

Monday, November 04, 2019

What Do Old People Fight Over?

While history is a great guidepost to the future, there are inflection points where “today” really is unique period of time.

Demographics remain an underappreciated variable in national security, but is growing in importance as the global decoupling of regional trends and the resulting stresses on the international system are hard to ignore.

Unsustainable demographics and the migrations they are causing in Sub-Saharan Africa are one trend, but the world has seen this pattern before. Migrating ethnic groups generating conflict is THE oldest theme in human history, but today there is something new; the graying of the developed world.

We all love to fret about China’s return to the world stage economically and militarily. Volumes of work try to find a benchmark with the rise of Imperial Germany, Japan, or even the USA – but these are all imperfect in a myriad of ways – but the largest block to making them an effective benchmark is in demographics.

Via The Economist;
The pressure on China is mounting. The coming year will see an inauspicious milestone. The median age of Chinese citizens will overtake that of Americans in 2020, according to UN projections (see chart). Yet China is still far poorer, its median income barely a quarter of America’s. A much-discussed fear—that China will get old before it gets rich—is no longer a theoretical possibility but fast becoming reality.

According to UN projections, during the next 25 years the percentage of China’s population over the age of 65 will more than double, from 12% to 25%. By contrast America is on track to take nearly a century, and Europe to take more than 60 years, to make the same shift. China’s pace is similar to Japan’s and a touch slower than South Korea’s, but both those countries began ageing rapidly when they were roughly three times as wealthy per person.

Seen in one light, the greying of China is successful development. A Chinese person born in 1960 could expect to live 44 years, a shorter span than a Ghanaian born the same year. Life expectancy for Chinese babies born today is 76 years, just short of that in America. But it is also a consequence of China’s notorious population-control strategy. In 1973, when the government started limiting births, Chinese women averaged 4.6 children each. Today they have only 1.6, and some scholars say even that estimate is too high.

The economic impact is being felt in two main ways. The most obvious is the need to look after all the old people. Pension payouts to retired people overtook contributions by workers in 2014. According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the national pension fund could run out of money by 2035. The finance ministry is taking small steps to shore the system up: in September it transferred 10% of its stakes in four giant state-owned financial firms to the fund. But far more is needed. Government spending on pensions and health care is about a tenth of GDP, just over half the level usual in older, wealthier countries, which themselves will have to spend more as they get even older.

The second impact is on growth. Some Chinese economists—notably Justin Lin of Peking University—maintain that ageing need not slow the country down, in part thanks to technological advances. But another camp, led by Cai Fang of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, has been winning the argument so far. A shrinking labour pool is pushing up wages and, as firms spend more on technology to replace workers, pushing down returns on capital investment. The upshot, Mr Cai calculates, is that China’s potential growth rate has fallen to about 6.2%—almost exactly where it is today. The labour shortage is hitting not just companies but entire cities. From Xi’an in the north to Shenzhen in the south, municipalities have made it easier for university graduates to move in, hoping thereby to attract skilled young workers.
Never before has a rising power had the headwind of an elderly population matrix. Young nations have different mindsets and priorities than aging nations. Nations are just collectives of people and more often than not reflect their concerns.

What are the concerns of old people relative to young people? Two areas come to mind; fear of poverty and fear of getting sick without help.

Young people think of status, setting a path for future success, and providing a better future for their children. They take more risks for potential long term gains.

Older people are more risk adverse and have a much shorter horizon of concern.

Does a nation with too few young people willingly send hundreds of thousands of them to their death in a war for … what exactly?
On October 1st China celebrated the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic. By the centenary in 2049, Mr Xi has vowed, China will have developed to the point that its strength is plain for the world to see. But as Ren Zeping, a prominent economist, tartly noted in a recent report, the median age in China in 2050 will be nearly 50, compared with 42 in America and just 38 in India. That, he wrote, raised a question: “Can we rely on this kind of demographic structure to achieve national rejuvenation?”

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Naval Aviation with Kevin Miller - on Midrats

With the sequel to "Top Gun" coming up, if you ever wore the uniform of the US Navy, you're going to get asked a lot of questions.

This Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern, we are going to talk about today's Naval Aviation experience with author Kevin Miller, CAPT, USN (Ret.)

Kevin is a third generation naval officer. He graduated from the University of Mississippi and was designated a Naval Aviator in August 1983. In his career he flew the A-7E Corsair II and FA-18C Hornet, deploying overseas six times throughout the 1980’s and 90’s aboard the aircraft carriers Nimitz, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and Enterprise. He finished his career in the Pentagon serving on the staff of the Secretary of the Navy, retiring in 2005.

After leaving the service Kevin was employed as an associate at two Washington DC defense consulting firms, and it was during this time he drafted his first novel Raven One. In 2010 he joined the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Today he is a self-employed defense consultant, Amazon Best-Selling author of the military action-adventure novels Raven One and Declared Hostile and serves as Vice President of Legislative Affairs for the Tailhook Association.

Kevin earned a Master of Science in Business Management from Florida State University and a Master of National Security Policy and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College.

You can listen to the show at this link or below, but remember, if you don't already, subscribe to the podcast at Spreaker or any of the other podcast aggregators.

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, November 01, 2019

Fullbore Friday

There is something a bit otherworldly about finding the long lost remains of a ship lost in battle. They are, more than anything else, war graves.

This has been a busy week or so for this part of naval history. Most here are aware of the probable discovery of parts of the legendary USS Johnson (DD-557), but that wasn't the only discovery from WWII this year.

Two other discoveries may slip by a normal scan. One was a bit of a mystery, the other not.

First the mystery;
A 77-year-long mystery has been solved as scientists finally located and identified the wreck of Royal Navy’s wartime submarine HMS Urge off Malta.

The submarine was found sitting upright on the seabed of the Mediterranean more than 400 feet down, her bow buried in the ocean floor, her deck gun facing forward, her hull encrusted with marine life.

The distinctive features of the U-class submarine have been compared with contemporary photographs and the undisclosed location of the wreck compared with official records to identify Urge.

HMS Urge, which was adopted by the people of Bridgend, is one of 19 U-class boats lost in World War 2, 13 of them in the Mediterranean. The submarines were small and originally meant to be used purely for training.

Urge left the island on her final mission on April 27 1942 bound for Alexandria in Egypt as the 10th Submarine Flotilla moved its base to escape the Axis Powers’ constant bombing of Malta. Aboard were not just her 32 crew, but 11 other naval personnel and a war correspondent.

She never reached North Africa. The Admiralty concluded she ran into an enemy minefield shortly leaving the island, but the wreck was never found.
Well, they found her.
...Canadian naval researcher Platon Alexiades, Francis Dickinson – grandson of Urge’s commanding officer – and Professor Timmy Gambin of the University of Malta’s Classics and Archaeology Department and a team of students, plus the Royal Navy’s official historians.

... deep sea research confirms the original Admiralty estimate – the boat did indeed succumb to a mine laid by a German E-boat; the impact caused catastrophic damage and led to Urge plunging out of control to the seabed.

Here is a little detail about the history of HMS Urge;
On 23 March, (Italian light cruiser) Bande Nere was damaged in storms and, needing repairs, was sent to La Spezia on 1 April 1942. While en route, she was hit by two torpedoes from the submarine HMS Urge, broke in two and sank with the loss of 381 men.
The Vieste minesweeper of the Navy, during an activity of technical verification and surveillance of the seabed in the Tyrrhenian Sea near the island of Stromboli, has found the wreck of the Light Cruiser Giovanni Delle Bande Nere sunk in the 1942.

Unlike the wholesale grave robbing going on in SE Asia, in the Med they should be safe. May they rest well.