Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part LXXXVIII

As we discussed on Sunday's Midrats, if we can maintain it - energy independence has changed our strategic requirements even if our ossified and inertia bound DC establishments won't realize and act on it. 

We need to focus where the greatest threat is, and it isn't the Arab and Persian interface - it is west of Wake.

Our friend James Holmes at Real Clear Defense is tapping everyone on the shoulder to remind them of the clear truth that is there for all to see.

You can't and should not do everything:

Sometimes, though, stability is an unlovely force. Bad ideas, as well as good, can command overwhelming support. In such cases, stability cements policies or strategies founded on an errant consensus. Well-advised course changes never take place.


At its most fundamental, military strategy is about setting and enforcing priorities. Self-discipline helps the country get its way on what matters most without overspending its finite stock of martial resources. That means dispensing with worthy but less critical commitments. Inability or unwillingness to set and enforce priorities counts among the gravest sins makers of policy and strategy can commit.


It’s time to downgrade the Persian Gulf region on the Pentagon’s list of strategic priorities—and let the new, healthier consensus on China and Russia prevail. Let’s align naval operations and force deployments with national strategy at long last—and husband resources for where they are needed most.


Carl von Clausewitz would have some tart words for Pentagon overseers. You might sum up the Prussian sage’s thoughts about when to siphon effort from top priorities thus: do not risk what matters most for the sake of what matters less. Clausewitz counsels against secondary undertakings unless they appear “exceptionally rewarding,” and unless they do not place more important priorities at risk. He measures risk in terms of resources. Only if the armed forces enjoy “decisive superiority” of resources in the primary theater should commanders countenance diverting resources to secondary endeavors. Otherwise they cannot afford a discretionary venture.

Great stuff. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

The Sino-American War of 2025?

 We’ve been doing the Long Game series on China here since 2004. The “why” then is the same as the “why” now; the Chinese Communist Party has a plan, has the economy to feed this plan, and is building a military to execute this plan. It was clear well before 2004. Any student of history could see it.

I was firmly in, and remain, of the school that it is only a matter of “when” and not “if” the Chinese will decide to challenge the United States on the battlefield again. They did once after WWII and fought us to a tie. They are preparing to do it again, somewhere.

The key, if you desire peace, is to not give them a window – to provide them no easy opportunity to challenge us – before demographics and luck close that window for them. 

Demographics like we have now is not well understood with regards to its impact on a nation's willingness to step in to war, and luck is beyond our control – so that leads us to what we can control; what we do.

To stop a window from opening, we and our friends west of Wake need to remain united on the diplomatic front, closer on the economic, smarter on the informational, and robustly strong on the military front. If we do that, we can stop the CCP from deciding that they will use us as their coming out party as a global military power. 

There are China watchers out there who mostly agree with the above but are much more pessimistic. They believe that war with China will come earlier, not later. 

I don’t think I’ve outlined it here, but in private conversations over the last year with some of those – for a lack of a better word – “Eventualists”, I’ve stated that I believe our window of vulnerability opens around 2030 after The Terrible 20s has its expected effects on our warfighting capabilities. 

The Eventualists trend earlier – closer to 2025. I’m not there yet, but the last year has convinced me their pessimism is warranted. As such, I’ve been looking for and reading as many credible Eventualists I can run across. 

Well, I’ve found one you might be interested in, Michael R. Auslin over at The Spectator. You should take time to read his recent article; The Sino-American War of 2025.

First he sets the ground work outlining, generally fair, what our wandering policy towards a rising China has been over the last three decades;

While the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations midwifed the PRC’s entrance into the World Trade Organization, successive presidents ignored growing evidence of China’s industrial and cyber espionage against both the US government and private American businesses. It was, however, during the Barack Obama administration that the real seeds of the 2025 Littoral War were sown.


The Obama administration’s response was muddled and hesitant. It initially downplayed the island-building campaign, then condemned it. ... Most crucially, Obama hesitated to conduct military operations in the contested areas. ... Only four Fonops were conducted during Obama’s last two years in office, and the US Navy muddied the waters by claiming that it was operating under the rules of ‘innocent passage’, which is a different category of transit under international law. 


Tensions between Washington and Beijing rose dramatically through the Trump years. ... While high-level bilateral diplomatic meetings continued to take place, they produced no solutions, and both sides recognized that such gatherings were increasingly for show.


Joseph Biden initially downplayed China’s threat during the early stages of his successful presidential campaign. But after coming to office in 2021, he promised to maintain US pressure on China. Beijing responded in the first days of the Biden administration by drawing explicit red lines over issues like Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang. 

Now the future; 

In November 2022, the 20th National Party Congress of the Chinese Communist party extended Xi’s rule as paramount leader, which was widely expected, and inserted a policy plank seen as a preemptive declaration that China would seek hegemony over the South China Sea by 2049. Public opinion polls taken in 2024 showed that the percentage of respondents in China and the United States with a positive opinion of the other country had dropped to single digits, and that each considered the other its foremost potential adversary. In short, the political relationship between the United States and China had deteriorated to such a degree by 2025 that relations seemed nearly unsalvageable.

If that is how it play out ... then you have a pile of tinder waiting for a spark;

The Littoral War of 2025 began with a series of accidental encounters in the skies and waters near Scarborough Shoal, close to the Philippines in the South China Sea. 

Ungh. Horrible name for a war. I almost stopped reading right there ... but no ... push on my dear Front Porch ... push on ...

On Monday September 8, at approximately 18:30 local time, a US Navy EP-3 surveillance flight out of Japan over the Spratlys was intercepted by a PLAAF J-20 taking off from Fiery Cross Reef in the same chain. After warning off the American plane, the J-20 attempted a barrel roll over it. The Chinese pilot sheared off most of the EP-3’s tail and left rear stabilizer; his plane lost a wing and went into an unrecoverable spin into the sea. The EP-3 also could not recover and plunged into the sea, killing all 22 Americans aboard. Tragically, the EP-3 shouldn’t even have been in the air: the US Navy had intended to replace the fleet with unmanned surveillance drones as early as 2020, but the Biden administration’s post-COVID-19 defense cutbacks led to occasional use of a limited number of the aging manned aircraft.

Roughly 30 minutes later, before word of the EP-3’s downing reached US Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii, let alone Washington or Beijing, the Bertholf, a US Coast Guard cutter, and the Motobu, a Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel, were returning from a joint training mission when they were approached 13 nautical miles northwest of Scarborough Shoal by an armed Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) cutter. After broadcasting warnings for the Bertholf and the Motobu to leave the area, the Chinese ship attempted to maneuver in front of the American ship in order to turn its bow. The CCG captain miscalculated and struck the Bertholf amidships, caving in the mess and one of its enlisted-crew compartments. The CCG ship immediately left the scene without rendering assistance. Six US sailors later were declared missing and presumed dead in the collision, and three Chinese CCG sailors were swept overboard and lost at sea.

The Curtis Wilbur was the closest US naval vessel to the downed EP-3, and it raced toward the crash location while the Charleston moved to assist the Bertholf. Night fell, and the darkness caused confusion for both sides’ rescue and patrol operations. Two Plan ships returned to the scene of the maritime collision to search for the lost Chinese seamen, coming in close quarters first with the Motobu, which was helping operations to stabilize the Bertholf, and later with the Charleston, which arrived several hours later. In the dark, American and Japanese ships struggled to disengage from the Chinese vessels, while continually warning the other side to stand down so rescue operations could continue.

After several close encounters, a Chinese destroyer, the Taiyuan, activated its fire-control radar and locked on the Motobu. The captain of the Motobu, knowing he could not survive a direct hit from the PLAN destroyer, radioed repeated demands that the radar be turned off. When no Chinese response was forthcoming, and with rescue operations ongoing, the Motobu’s commander fired one round from its deck gun across the Taiyuan’s bow. In response, a nearby Chinese frigate, thinking it was under attack, fired a torpedo in the direction of the Motobu. In the congested seas, however, the torpedo hit the Charleston as it transited between the Chinese and Japanese ships, ripping a hole below the waterline. Early on Tuesday September 9, the lightly-armored littoral combat ship, with a complement of 50 officers and seamen, foundered in just 25 minutes with an unknown loss of life.

OK, there are more than one problem in the above from the timeline for an unmanned replacement for the EP-3E to the anti-surface capabilities (NB: is doesn't have such a capability, it is an ASW torp) of the PLAN's Type 052D destroyer's Yu-7 light weight torpedo (basically a copy of the Italian A224-S).  

Why no one makes the effort to let me read over their stuff first, I will never know. Call me next time Michael, will work for a Midrats interview.

Anyway ... ignore those things. As I've taken a few long quotes from the article, and I've only scratched a bit, read the body of what his scenario involves then come back to see what I find interesting at the end.

This is what hit home as it emphasized the dangers of what I consider one of the most pernicious theories infesting the natsec nomenklatura in DC - the short war fallacy. 

Since neither side had taken any territory, Harris and Xi agreed to ratify the military status quo at the time of the ceasefire and avoid bringing in the diplomats. The commander of US Indo-Pacific Command met the chief of the Joint Staff Department of the PLA’s Central Military Commission in Singapore on September 26, and they reached an agreement on a permanent cease-fire on September 28.

Each side agreed to inform the other of naval and air activities taking place in the Yellow, East and South China Seas. The US would notify Beijing of any passage of US naval ships through the South China Sea, while China would undertake to ‘limit’ but not cease its naval activities in the East China Sea. Further, the US recognized Chinese control over the Spratly and Paracel island chains and acknowledged China’s ‘historic interests’ in the South China Sea. For its part, the PRC promised never to invade or attack Japan, provided Japan refrained from interfering with peaceful Chinese military activities in the East China Sea. (A secret codicil, revealed five years later, contained an American promise to end all military and intelligence aid to Taiwan, effectively killing off the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.)

After the agreement was made public, President Harris announced a withdrawal of US naval, ground and air forces from Japan to Guam and Hawaii; the US would leave a token force of one F-16 squadron and two guided-missile destroyers in Japan but withdraw completely from Okinawa. The US-Japan alliance would instead be maintained by enhanced military aid to Japan and full intelligence sharing along the lines of the ‘Five Eyes’ arrangement. In the interests of maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula, the US Army would reduce its forces in South Korea from 28,000 to 7,000 soldiers, 3,500 of them in combat units, with all of them to be located in Busan, on the southern tip of the country. Seeking to reassure America’s allies, Harris reiterated that America’s extended deterrence commitments, the ‘nuclear umbrella’, would remain in force. Harris’s policy shifts caused an uproar among mainstream foreign policy experts, but they were applauded on both the progressive left and isolationist right of the political spectrum.

Beijing concluded that its victory was a prelude to squeezing the reduced American-led alliance and steadily pressuring the nonaligned bloc. In public, Chinese officials repeatedly maintained that Beijing considered the diplomatic solution merely ‘temporary’, and that China would not rule out further action to follow up on its gains, but it failed to activate any plans to take advantage of its success. Beijing soon discovered that its new allies were resentful and unwilling partners, requiring the investment of Chinese political, economic, and military capital. This restricted Beijing’s freedom of action.

The United States limited its strategic goals to protecting Japan and ensuring that it could operate in part of East Asia’s marginal seas (the eastern portion of the East China Sea) as well as beyond the outer crescent of Japan. This allowed for the possibility of power projection into the inner seas and littorals in a future crisis, but turned the US largely into an ‘offshore balancer’, with its forces concentrated in Hawaii and on Guam. The US’s surviving alliances with Japan and Australia were inherently weaker than before the war.

With the US and China willing to limit future operations to preserve gains or prevent further losses, the political conditions were created for a geopolitical settlement that resulted in the emergence of three geopolitical blocs: one comprising the US and Japan, along with Australia; a second led by China, with its new satellites of Taiwan and the two Koreas; and a third, ‘nonaligned’ bloc containing most of the members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as India and Russia. The Chinese and American blocs were mutually antagonistic, while the third, nonaligned one maneuvered for advantage between the other two.

A cold peace settled on East Asia. Intraregional trade was reduced, though not eliminated, while multilateral diplomatic initiatives and mechanisms such as those sponsored by ASEAN became arenas for rhetorical combat. A sharp drop in Sino-US trade rocked both countries, with the United States entering a recession that lasted three years, while reports of widespread demonstrations in China hinted at pervasive domestic unrest. Trade slowly stabilized between the two, but some of the nonaligned countries — particularly India, Vietnam and Malaysia — retooled their economies to supplant China in the global supply chain, leading to a boost in their exports to America and Europe.

The Chinese and American blocs began a prolonged contest for influence in Asia. Beijing continued its military buildup, though at a slower pace than during the century’s first two decades, due to its economic slowdown. American defense planners increased their reliance on unmanned systems, hypersonic weapons, underwater systems and cyberwar capabilities. Both sides increased their espionage activities and conducted regular cat-and-mouse games in the skies and on the waters of the region. As of this writing, the two antagonists have so far avoided outright conflict. This may be as much through luck as from a shared wariness of stumbling once again into armed conflict.

If we design our military around the mirage that we can fight and win a quick war, or worse condition our decision makers to think we will - we will lose the next war. 

Should war of a limited extent or not come with China, it will not be short. We will take loses. There will be important things we overlooked in peace that are critical to victory, and there will be things we placed too much confidence in at peace that will be of little use when war comes.

Give some of the political swipes and tactical/equipment shortcomings in the article a break and give his scenario some thought. Add it to your mix ... and ponder harder. 

History is impatient with the complacent. 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Late Winter LIVE Free For All ... On Midrats


After a week moving from the warm embrace of Valentines Day to the cold jolt of a nation wide arctic freeze, come join us this Sunday at 5pm Eastern for a live Midrats Free For All!

Open chat room, open phone, and open topic on the - mostly - maritime national security front.

From the new Biden DOD and State Department's first moves, to the ongoing efforts of the USA and our allies as we try to figure out what we need to do to ensure the global system that serves us all.

Come join us and if you don't like these topics, join in the live chat or even give us a call.

We’ll be live and hope you’ll join us this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern.


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, February 19, 2021

Fullbore Friday

First published in AUG09.
Just another old man walking around in his garage, eh?
These days he’s long retired, living with his wife, Shirley, in a trim split-level below a wall of rimrocks near the college where he used to teach. Every day he tramps out to the studio behind his house to paint and draw.
You ever wonder what they have seen? Maybe, just maybe --- you don't want to know.
He is 91 years old now, among the handful of last men surviving from America’s worst military defeat, the fall of the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines during that desperate winter and early spring of 1942.
American Heritage magazine has a must read article that personalizes what is often forgotten --- and rarely read in detail like this.
He tried to stay aloof. So many were dropping to the road, he thought, it was better not to get close to anyone. But north of Layac Junction, about 50 miles into the march, he lost his resolve and befriended a march mate. They had talked a bit while walking: about where they’d been, where they might be headed, what might happen when they got there. Talking made the walking easier, the heat a little less intense. Next afternoon on the road, he noticed his new friend beginning to wobble, and a mile or two later the man gave out and went down, grabbing for Steele’s leg.

“Come on, Ben—help me!”

He and another man hauled the dropout to his feet. They hadn’t gone far before a guard rushed up and shouted at them to let go. His helper obeyed, but for reasons beyond all understanding, Steele hung on, and the next thing he knew, his buttocks were on fire. He thought the guard’s blade had penetrated to his pelvis. Blood was beginning to course down his leg, and flies were starting to swarm the wound. He looked at the man he was holding, hoped he’d understand, then let him sink slowly to the road at the guard’s feet.

“No!” the man said. “No. Please.”
Ben Steele; well done on a long, good life. Read it all.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Diversity Thursday

I've decided to change the topic of this week's DivThu. If you're here for the farcical Navy's "Task Force One Navy", well, come back next week.

This is worse and more important. 

For how many years of doing DivThu, through all the name calling, attempts to doxx or cancel me and my sources, have we been told - in spite of the experiences of many here - that in no case will our Navy set up quota systems ... and then in hushed tones perhaps whisper, "Well, they'd never be stupid enough to make it official. We have goals and desires."

OK, here is it, red in tooth in claw. At least it is out in the open - and perhaps has been for quite a while.

Is to exclude someone by race and ethnicity discriminatory?

- "Any Sex field other than "M" (Male).

- "Any Race other then "E" (White) or "F" (Declined to Respond)

The rest is all there below. We, of course, have all the parallel issues in play; 

- Everything here is "self-identified" and brings all the fraud that comes along with it.

- Mixed race people or those who cannot or will not classify themselves are "othered."

- In a zero-sum game, to deny based on race or ethnicity is racism or bias based on same.

- Worse, we are telling everyone - including you - that we do not trust or assume that people that wear the uniform can judge based on merits. Indeed, we seem to be buying in to racial determinism and the assumption that those self-identified minorities will "look out" for those who share the sectarian identities. There are few things more corrosive to a human organization - history is clear about this - than to encourage action and behavior based on race, creed, color, or national origin.

Now it is policy.

Is this where we want our Navy to be?

Is this what our Congress and Judicial branch will allow?

If this nose is let in to the tent, in the open now - red in tooth and claw - then the whole mass of the diversity diktat, implicit bias, intersectionalism - with all the strife, conflict, division, and sectarianism that comes with it - will follow, put down roots, and go to seed.

As we have warned here for years - this does nothing to promote unity or good order and discipline. This promotes disunity, strife, and conflict.

Shame on everyone who approved this.



The cancer of division is spreading.

It has been almost a decade and a half since I was on a board. There wasn't a hard quota by race and ethnicity for voting members. Just a "soft quota" of desire and effort ... but is there now?

“Additionally, diversity among the recorders and assistant recorders who prepare the records for the promotion and advancement boards is regulated in policy similar to the voting membership.”

Final note: don't blame Biden for this. Check the date. This happened on Trump's watch.

Will anyone act?

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Use and Abuse of Wargames

I am happy we are talking more about wargames, but I am losing confidence in our ability to understand what they are and how to properly use them.

The fact they are being used to justify further divestment from our hard won - yet still rump - fleet of smaller warships only adds to my concerns that we are making a huge mistake.

Quotes and more thoughts over at USNIBlog.

Come by and wonder what in the wide world of sports is going on over there.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Cyprus, Greece and Egypt Move Closer Contra Turkey

As we briefly reviewed last summer, Turkey's bullying action from the Aegean to Cyprus to Libya was having the effect of pushing surrounding nations closer together - and getting the attention of larger powers on the other side of the Mediterranean as well.

After a series of provocations by Turkey, it was only natural that the nations of the Eastern Mediterranean would either have to fold or stand up.

They've taken the later option

Egypt, Cyprus and Greece have demanded respect for the sovereignty and sovereign rights of states in their maritime areas in the eastern Mediterranean.

The demand came in a joint statement from the three countries’ foreign ministers during their meeting in Athens, where they discussed cooperation to deepen their political and economic commitment, regional challenges and delivering a clear message that the region had the potential to be peaceful and stable.They welcomed the preparations for the establishment of a Tripartite Secretariat, based in Nicosia, Cyprus, that launches later this year, and for the founding charter of the EastMed Gas Forum that enters into force on March 1.

The charter establishes the forum as a regional organization based in Cairo. The forum is open to all countries that share the same values ​​and goals and have the desire to cooperate for regional security and prosperity.


They stressed the importance of respecting the sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction of each state over its maritime areas in accordance with international law, while condemning any activities that violated international law.

Their statement said the expected words about Syria, Israel, the Palestinians, and Libya, but there is no question here the concern revolves around their mutual history with the Turks/Ottomans. 

On balance, this is good for the international community. Turkey needed to be checked, and these neighbors - in an East Med "community watch" - put their obnoxious neighbor at the end off the cul-de-sac on notice. 


Monday, February 15, 2021

On Afghanistan, a Cold Bucket of Water in the Face

R.K. Lembke has an article over at Small Wars Journal that had me nodding my head in agreement on the subject more than any I have read in a long time.

Regular readers of CDR Salamander will see many of the issues we've raised here over they years, but Lembke's presentation, tying them in together while providing sound and well documented quotes from the start, is simply a powerhouse.

I spent half a decade of my active duty life on, and for a few months, in Afghanistan. A wee bit early on at the Tactical, but most as a staff weenie on the in-theater Operational and Strategic levels at USA and NATO commands from Bush43 through to the first year of the Obama administration. I am not in full alignment with everything Lembke stakes out, but almost all. 

The most important gift in the article is his focus, as much as one can as an outsider, on the Afghan people. He goes to the heart of the issue and does not focus on just the latest news and personalities of today.

The hardest part of Afghanistan - the greatest challenge - has always been the long game; the Afghan people and their culture(s) and how that is understood from the western mind.

Lembke lets you know in the first paragraph - he's not taking the indirect approach - and he's naming names;

Peace is possible in Afghanistan, but it has to be by the terms of the average, rural, Muslim, Afghan tribesman. They represent the majority of the Afghan population. Taliban, U.S., and Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) empathy and accommodation of the average Afghan is the only door to peace. Thanks to the U.S. and international involvement in Afghanistan, for right or wrong, Afghanistan has become the poster child of what happens when western-inspired Progressive, Post- Modernist, Critical Theory meets Islamic Tribalism – and it's not working out very well for the average Afghan. Thanks to the Taliban, Afghanistan has also become the poster child of when the execution of 7th Century Islamic jurisprudence meets the modern world – also not working out very well for the average Afghan. Unfortunately, it appears the desires of the average rural farmer population doesn't matter to anyone at the peace table.

He follows up on each point with the facts of the reality on the ground.

I am not going to do a fully paragraph by paragraph review. It is too long for this format and readers here have varying levels of understanding of the topic at hand. I really would like everyone to take time to read it in full.

I do want to bring up two topics he raises that have bothered me for a decade and a half because they do not get enough discussion; The Bonn Conference and agriculture. Regular readers have heard them raised here and on Midrats, and they are brought in to Lembke's critique.

While updating OPLANS for AFG, we would discuss Bonn as the original sin - the fatal flaw - in everything we were trying to do. We feared that no matter how hard we tried, however many forces we brought in - we may not be able to help the Afghans construct something useful around the internationalist fantasy that came out of Bonn. 

The Taliban claim the Afghan government is not legitimate and the Afghan Constitution needs to be changed. Frankly, if one is honest, they have a point. It is likely even if the Taliban were to surrender tomorrow, fighting would ensue once the rest of the population know of the conflict between the constitution and their tribal/Islamic rules. The seeds of GIRoA and the constitution began from Bush Doctrine with progressive, postmodern, and Critical Theory elements. The seeds grew into the root of the current government, the 2001 Bonn conference (Office of the Deputy Minister of Policy, 2001). While the Afghan representatives to the Bonn conference represented the Bush administration’s progressive values, the old monarch values, and those of the victorious minority backed by the U.S., they did not represent the single largest intersectional group in Afghanistan – the Pashtun who practice the Deobandi Fiqh of Islam (BBC News, 2020). The corrupted root grew into the tree, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. From the tree grew a constitution that was at best a compromise between the secular United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the Holy Koran (Freedom or Theocracy?: Constitutionalism in Afghanistan and Iraq, 2005; Jura Gentium, 2010; New York Times, 2003). Progressives claim the constitution gave too much power to the Mullahs, the Taliban claim the constitution is the UDHR in Islamic window dressing (Afghan Constitution, 2020; Rand, 2003).


 The 2001 Bonn conference in 2001 was significant because its attendees appointed the interim government, designed the blueprints for the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA), and defined the process to use to write the constitution (U.N., 2001). Based on the demographics, one would expect the Bonn conference to have a fair proportional representation of all intersectional groups' values in Afghanistan, but it didn't (Conciliation Resources, 2018; PBS, 2009; Office of the Deputy Minister for Policy, 2001; Vendrell, 2012).

Historically, tribal traditions and the Islamic fiqhs form Afghan's values (Afghanistan Culture, 2009; Yassari & Saboori, 2010). Based on the intersection of ethnicities, fiqhs, and social classes, the representation in Bonn should have been proportioned to reflect the values of the following intersectional groups: The rural Pashtun Deobandi Hanafi should have been represented by at least 43% of the representatives; the rural Tajik Hanafi Lahori by 29%; the Hazara Shiite by 11%; the rural Uzbeki Hanafi by 11%; Urban Kabulis - Ex-royalists, academic, communists, and modern progressives- by 6%  (CIA World Factbook, 2020; World Population Review, 2021). The actual Bonn conference consisted of 24 voting members and one nonvoting member. All but one represented competitors to the rural Pashtun Deobandi Hannafis. Of the 24 voting members, 30% were rural Tajik Hanafi Lahori; 12% were urban academic progressives; 30% represented wealthy elite Pashtun Kabulis, Pashtun Monarchist, and progressive Pashtun academia; 20% were Hazara Shia; 4% was Uzbeki Lahore Hanafi (Bonn Conference, 2001; International Conference on Afghanistan, Bonn, 2001). Not one person represented the rural Pashtun Deobandi Hanafi community, not even Pacha Khan Zadran, who was both too controversial to be effective and associated with the monarch.

While it is comforting to some in the West to point to the Afghans as the problem, they are wrong. Afghanistan is their culture, their people, their history. The problem was we refused to make the effort to see the problem from their eyes. We allowed us to get played by exiles of questionable worth and then took the worst ideas from think tanks and academia and tried to spot weld them on a people who would instantly become an antibody to them.

Deconstructing Bush's doctrine, there are elements of progressive, postmodern, Critical Theory defining the U.S. approach to constructing the "new" post-Taliban Afghanistan. Walter Nugent in 2010 defined progressivism as the belief that societies will evolve from uncivil to civil societies through the application of empirical knowledge (Nugent, 2010).

As embodied by Wilson, progressives exchange their faith in the invisible hand of a God to that of the bureaucrats in administrative states (Link, 1967; Pestritto, 2007). Whether one agress with it or not, progressivism has become the philosophy of choice in foreign policy in the modern west (Reeb, 2020; Schambra & West, 2007; Van Jackson, 2018). I am guessing the Muslims who watched hundreds of millions of people executed by modern secular governments in the 20th century - such as China and the USSR - are a little skeptical of the wisdom of "expert" progressive bureaucrats. It is clear the philosophy of Islam is popular with 99% of Afghans – they have not yet given up on their faith in the invisible hand of God (Nelson, 2013; Asia Foundation, 2019).

Between 2002 and 2005, Bush gave 37 speeches reference the Afghan people's rights and aspirations (Whitehouse Archives, 2004). He never mentioned God, faith, or divine rights once. Bush's following quotes reference the importance of government, coalitions, and even armies –but nothing about faith or God.

"Under the Taliban, women were oppressed, their potential was ignored. Under President Karzai's leadership, that has changed dramatically. A number of innovative programs designed in collaboration with the Afghan government are increasing the role of women in the private sector." President Bush's remarks in a press conference with President Karzai of Afghanistan

-The Rose Garden, Washington, D.C. June 15, 2004. (Whitehouse Archives,2004)

[Comment: I do not think the 100,000+ mothers who gave permission for their sons to fight for the Taliban felt oppressed by their definition of oppression. Understanding by current progressive postmodernist Critical Theory ideology they are ignorant and have been fooled by males to thinking that way. Yet, they are still allowing their sons to fight for what they believe – no matter how wrong we think their beliefs are.]

"Afghanistan and America are working together to print millions of new textbooks and to build modern schools in every Afghan province. Girls, as well as boys, are going to school, and they are studying under a new curriculum that promotes religious and ethnic tolerance." President Bush's remarks in a press conference with President Karzai of Afghanistan The Rose Garden, Washington, D.C. June 15, 2004. (Whitehouse Archives,2004)

[Comment: The Afghan government and U.S. developed the new curriculum -  not  GIRoA, Ulema, and parents worked together in developing he curriculum.]

 "In Afghanistan, we helped to liberate an oppressed people. And we will continue helping them secure their country, rebuild their society, and educate all their children, boys and girls." President Bush Delivers the State of the Union, January 28, 2003. (Whitehouse Archives,2004)

[Comment: First, the 43 % + of the country supporting the Taliban didn’t think they were oppressed.  Secondly, note the “U.S.”. will rebuild their community and educate their children. Bush did not say we would work with the government, parents, and Ulema to build society. In his statement, Bush was saying the secular U.S. is replacing the elders and Ulema. ]

Point by point, Lembke brings receipts. You may not like it, but his case is solid.

Finally, the second point I was so happy to see Lembke bring up. We tried on multiple occasions to get more rural expertise on the planning staffs. There were just a few of us who would try to pull at least the ideas in, but with few exceptions, no interest was shown by the senior uniformed and civilian leadership. 

We would bring up the importance of understanding rents and land lords, security and quality of transportation of goods to market. We even tried to bring in the well known concept of subsidies for certain crops to overcome the inadequacy of both security and access to markets - something we in the West do for our farmers - but besides a few small projects ... nope.

Our military and civilian senior leaders were either so far removed from any rural understanding or, more likely, uninterested in it. Especially in the USA with our states that have land grant universities with large agricultural expertise in climates not dissimilar to Afghanistan - and untold numbers of National Guard members with that expertise - in the half decade I was involved with planning the operation, we could never get traction on the concept.

In a rural society - find out what the farmers need, get them on your side, and at best the rest will follow - or at least they won't actively help those who will get in the way of your help to them.

Yes it's transactional. Welcome to the real world.

According to the farmers’ and southern Pashtun I have talked to, they perceived the Taliban movement’s beginning as a movement against the injustice caused by expatriated monarch families returning to Afghanistan to take back their lands and power – not to establish a terrorist occupation. The communist government redistributed land from wealthy landowners (representing the “rich” half of the tribes in the south) to poor land workers (representing the “poor” half of the tribes in the south) in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Rubin, 2002). The wealthy landowners took their money and ran to the U.S., Europe, Russia, Pakistan, and Turkey. After the communist government fell, the old landowners came back and made a deal with the Mujahadeen government: their tribes’ support in exchange for their old lands and power. In fact Karzai, the first "appointed" President of Afghanistan, was a son of one of the wealthy returning Popalzai families (Hamid Karzai Biography, n.d.). The workers, who had been allowed to own and work their own land for the first time in centuries, rebelled against the government giving the monarchists their old lands back. Most joined the Taliban to unite against the monarchists and their supporting Army Brigades. The Taliban movement quickly spread into a national movement for peace and justice. As it turned out, the Taliban couldn't govern fairly and compassionately, proving to be an inadequate alternative (Ghufran, n.d.). Once the U.S. jumped in the war, the old autocrats and their sons used their U.S. and European colleagues' influence to reclaim their wealth through the Bonn Conference and constitution (Bonn Conference, 2001; Conciliation Resources, 2018; Freedom or Theocracy?: Constitutionalism in Afghanistan and Iraq, 2005; International Crisis Group, 2003 ).

It is easy to say, "We need new elites." but we do. 

If we will continue to insist on pulling people from the same intellectually inbred lines, we should at least hold them to account and make them address their shortcomings.

Yes, the Afghans failed themselves, but we did not help them all that much either. We damaged our own - and their - opportunity after the events of almost 20-years ago. 

We will repeat those errors again, somewhere else, if we do not look at how we failed - who led that failure - and the ideas that drove their failure - with clear eyes.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Fullbore Friday

One year and a week ago - 05 Feb 2020 - I wrote the below and posted it at USNIBlog as it became clear to me that we may have a pandemic on the way. 

It stands up well. 

As I read it again, it wasn't as much of about the coming pandemic, but in a way - a love letter to my Navy.  

It also is a story Fullbore worthy. I'm going to repost it in full as I wrote it at the time.

Of course our Navy has a distinct culture. Unless you were born in to it – in which case you get a head start on everyone else – you walk in to it as a young man or woman to be shaped by it.

The Navy’s culture slowly changes over time, shaped by its national culture and and trends, but there is a lot of consistency to it that goes back centuries and is universal not just in time – but across borders.

Much of it is formed by the demands of a career at sea. You can see the cross-border navy culture when you meet people from other nations who serve in their navy. You are usually just a minute or two from a shared experience or story. Heck, my wife found herself half way through a dinner with a young woman we were hosting when she found out her husband happened to be a LT in the Chinese Navy, AKA PLAN.

Even navy wives from different nations have the same issues, stories, and way of making fun of their husbands’ shared quirks. Even a retired USN CDR and a serving PLAN LT have similar personality quirks I came to find out.

Eventually, all Sailors come ashore – but we don’t leave our Sailor habits behind. If you service just one tour or a few decades of service, some habits and ways of doing business at sea will always be with you.

A great example from a century ago – a time of the last great pandemic – is an under-told story about a retired US Navy officer who kept his culture with him to the furthest reaches of the planet to a small job in a forgotten corner … and saved the lives of thousands.

If you ever wonder what skills you will bring with you might be of any use to the world outside the Navy, just think of John Martin Poyer, USNA class of 1884.

After an uneventful career, he was medically retired from the Navy in 1906 as a Lieutenant Commander due to ill health.

Before it was all said and done though, in “retirement” he would find himself promoted to Commander and receive the Navy Cross.

Why? Well, you know why.

From the blog West Hunter;
John Martin Poyer, an officer that had retired from active duty due to illness, was brought back to active duty in 1915 to serve as Governor of American Samoa.
The 1918 influenza pandemic hit every country on Earth … Worldwide, the Spanish Flu killed 3-5% of the population … In the South Pacific, the flu was spread by the SS Talune, which regularly visited Tonga, Fiji, American Samoa, and West Samoa. Crewmen had picked up the flu in New Zealand and spread it to those ports, excepting American Samoa.
…here is when that Navy training kicked in;
Washington didn’t micro-manage American Samoa, not being all that interested. A policy of benign neglect was interpreted by Poyer as an opportunity to act on his best judgment, in the finest traditions of the US Navy. He imposed quarantine. That was harder that it sounds, because of the frequent family visits between West Samoa and American Samoa – but Poyer also had the support of the local chiefs, who understood how serious imported epidemics could be. The people of American Samoa self-blockaded, on top of official quarantine: they sent out canoes to stop any and all visitors. They never had a single case.
Why was that so different than other islands?
American Samoa was physically quite close to Western Samoa, less than 100km. …
The islands of Western Samoa were administered by New Zealand, which had recently seized them from Germany. The administrator (Colonel Robert Logan) had little administrative experience (former sheep farmer) – he felt that he needed approval from Wellington for any action and he received no instructions. Medical officers also waited for instructions – none came. In addition, plantation interests were important, and they opposed any quarantine, which was also the case in Fiji. So, no quarantine. Thing went very badly: so many were sick (~90% of the population) that few were left to care for them. Since food was mostly in gardens, rather in cupboards, people starved while weak. … 20-25% of the population died, concentrated among young adults, the highest death rate in the world. 
No one in the Navy can stand a micro manager. I think it is because it isn’t just it is a horrible environment to work in, but because we know it is foreign to what is our natural culture.

Have good officers. Help them know how to have sound judgement and give them the authority to act on it.

Hey, it saves lives.

From his Navy Cross Citation;
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Commander John Martin Poyer, United States Navy, for exceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility as Governor of American Samoa, for wise and successful administration of his office and especially for the extraordinarily successful measures by which American Samoa was kept absolutely immune from the epidemic of influenza at a time when in the neighboring islands of the Samoan group more than 10,000 deaths occurred, and when the percentage of deaths throughout the Polynesian Islands as a group, is reported to have ranged from 30 to 40 per cent of the population
As a side note, if you find yourself at Arlington National Cemetery, you can find Commander Poyer’s grave in Section 2, Site 1182.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Sleepwalking in to Decline

When you take the 30 Year Shipbuilding Plan published last December, throw in the desired decommissioning of the first four LCS and the very good chance that we will have to decommission all the Freedom Class LCS early due to a fatal design flaw in the combining gears ... and then mix in what the communist Chinese are building ... 

Well ... here are the Terrible 20s in all their horror.

Come on over to USNIBlog and ponder the numbers with me.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

The New Way of War is the Old Way of War

There is a lot of wishcasting when it come to talking about "the next war." A lot of money is to be made in peace selling a vision of what people desire the next war to be; a fast war, an easy war, a war fought on our ethical spectrum with the weapons we like, on a timescale that works best for us. 

History teaches that war does not work this way. No one gets the next war exactly right, but some get it partially right. That is why you need to be suspicious of single points of failure or any cult-like following of concepts or personalities that make this historically hard seem easy.

There is one thing that you can count on when it comes to big or even medium wars; they will last longer than you think. You will also find out in the first few months what you bought in to works or does not work; what kit you need more of, what you have in excess.

In those few months you will also see something else come out in stark relief against the background; the hints about what this war would be like were there all along in bits and shadow from the small and medium sized wars in the decade or so prior to the big one. The longer an army or navy is at peace before the next war, the greater the delta will exist between theory and reality.

As we've discussed here, there are examples of small conflicts going on right now that are providing invaluable lessons that should be the center of our attention. Most of the lessons from these conflicts - Ukraine, Syria, and Libya are just three - are land centric, but in all three places there are some useful lessons in the maritime sector on the margins. 

While it is easy or comfortable to discuss things on the tactical level, or as in the above paragraph service specific topics, on Syria, what are a few things we should be looking at - on the strategic level?  

Eyal Berelovich over at Military Strategy Magazine has a great overview of the long Syrian Civil War. In line with the bias towards long wars, this one bit rang especially true;
Attrition-based warfare ... proved to be an operational concept that allows the Syrian army to overcome its enemies. The question is will it affect the future structure and military strategy of the Syrian army: 
...it is plausible to think that the army will be made of two armies: one that can execute offensive operations to limited geographical objectives and another that will be able to only do defensive operations. Both armies will have sufficient fire power to attrite enemy forces while minimizing the damage the enemy could cause them.
Other nations are learning this lesson. They have nurtured a briar patch they will love for someone to jump in to.

While some potential opponents will pay attention to these lessons - which parallel what we are seeing in Ukraine and Libya - I don't think we are likely to want to take these lessons onboard. They are unpleasant. They are not in line with how our republic likes to fight its wars.

Additionally, there is a modern twist here that I'm not sure how to fully see how it plays out. 

For all of modern history, waring nations were young and growing with high fertility rates. What if the nature of war has not changed as much as human demographics have changed? What is the impact of wars of attrition on ageing populations with many families only having one child, or at best one son? How do they respond differently based on the system of government they exist under?

If you properly examine these questions, how do you arrange your force structure and OPLANs?

Leaving the strategic questions and returning to a service specific question; does the 2021 USN look more like the IJN or USN prior to WWII when it comes to the ability to fight a naval war of attrition?

If wars of attrition are the old/new of the 21st Century ... how do we posture our military and industrial base to flex to that need?

Crossposted on substack.

Monday, February 08, 2021

We Need a Clean Break from LCS to FFG-62

I wish I made the observation first, but last week I noted another's spot on commentary on LCS that was simply damning in its simplicity; LCS-1 will be decommissioned before any of the mission modules it were to carry are FMC.

All that being said, LCS will be with us for awhile, and good people in hard jobs are doing their best to squeeze some utility out of them. 

That is great ... but we have so little actual experience with LCS besides a few bespoke deployments that we need to be very careful thinking we can transfer "lessons" to new classes, like FFG-62, that will be used in very different ways ... like useful ways ... but I digress.

That won't stop some people, it seems;

 “When we started building frigate, we looked at lot at LCS and what we can learn – for example, the way we train on LCS, train to qualify, is a really good model and we’re going to leverage that for FFG-62,” Kitchener said during the media call ahead of this week’s Surface Navy Association annual symposiums.

I'm open to that, I guess. If it were so great - and I don't know if it is - why aren't we doing this with already existing classes of warships? Are we?

“And then the manning, we just looked at what we’ve done on LCS, the blue/gold concept, and how we’re going to fit them out. And we think that is probably the way to get the most presence” out of the frigate hulls.

Bullshit. Blue/Gold only works in the submarine world. If you want to copy their program, then great. All experience we have with Blue/Gold in surface ships doing surface ship business - and LCS has never done that - has always been, what is the world, "suboptimal."

It appears that this may be soaking in. Perhaps we are mature enough as an organization to admit that we can say, "No, this was a mistake." Close ... so close ... but perhaps we are allowing some to save face. We'll see.

“The ink’s not dry yet – we’re looking at, as the SWO Boss said, there’s some lessons learned from blue/gold crewing, I think there’s some ability to potentially deploy the ships for longer with a rotational crew model, and we are still learning about how to do that and what that right rotation is. So it’s a little bit pre-decisional still with Connie,” he said.

Let's pour bleach on that ink before it is dry and toss what remains in the shredder. 

“The crew on a frigate will be larger, so there’s kind of inherently more capability in that crew. It’s not a minimally manned platform as the LCS was. … That means that the frigate, the Connie-class crew size, will support being able to do more multi-mission sorts of things, whereas the LCS is more single-mission, one mission at a time platform,” he said.

“And there’s some more ability for the crew to do its own maintenance; planned maintenance will be done much more so by the ship’s force crew on a frigate, on the Connie class, than on the LCS.”

So close, so close to sounding like a customer of the military industrial complex as opposed to a PR spokesman ... so close. 

That being said, nice that Big Navy is starting to accept the critique from the Front Porch about LCS here well over a decade and a half old. I like how we are finally calling LCS's manning CONOPS not "optimally manned" but "minimally manned." Also admitting that - shocking I know - a ship needs the ability to do some of its own repairs ... and hey, multi-mission is a thing again. Good. Potential enemies were being a bit persnickity about signaling what the PMA of the Quarter was going to be in time for us to get the non-existent mission modules installed. 

Maybe soon we can say, "Little to nothing from LCS can be adopted by FFG-62. We learned a lot from LCS and will continue to, but the manning and deployment CONOPS for FFG-62 will be better aligned to a multi-mission frigate as we understand it in our and allied navies."

Saturday, February 06, 2021

Military Strategy From the Classroom to the Briefing Room, with Dr. Alissio Patalano - on Midrats

Today we are going to discuss military strategy from the a macro level. We will cover the ways to teach military strategy to already seasoned military and civilian personnel, some of the significant members of the strategic canon, and larger strategic challenges we find today.

Our guest for the full hour Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be Dr. Alessio Patalano. 

Alessio is Reader in East Asian Warfare and Security at the Department of War Studies (DWS), King’s College London (KCL), and specializes in maritime strategy and doctrine, Japanese military history and strategy, East Asian Security. From 2006 to 2015, he was visiting professor in Strategy at the Italian Naval War College (ISMM), Venice. 

In Japan, Dr. Patalano has been a visiting professor at the Japan Maritime Command and Staff College (JMCSC). He is also a Senior Fellow at the highly influential think tanks Policy Exchange and RUSI.

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, February 05, 2021

Fullbore Friday

HMS Nelson. One of the more curious, no, the most curious Battleship classes (2) ever built. 

The first thing that comes to mind is "Shipmate, where is your stern?" If it looks like a ship built by committee, well that is because it is. 

A product of The Washington Treaty, "compromises" were made. Though it was the only RN ship with 16" guns, the ship herself was a tad slow, and once the war was done - like the rest of the RN Battleships - off to the breakers she went.

Best pictures here. Other sites here and here.

Orig. posted 16JUN06.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Return to Transformationalism

At least on the Navy side, it seems that many have learned the hard lessons of the Rumsfeld Era Transformationalism mistakes that still hobble our Navy.

Sadly, it seems the head of the USMC and USAF have not learned that lesson. 

Head on over to USNIBlog to see the return of the snakeoil.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Killing Small Ships, Again

I love our Navy, as I know almost everyone here does. As such, I try as hard as I can to be optimistic - not by experience - but by hope.

We were granted by previous generations an advantage at sea not seen since the Royal Navy after the final fall of Napoleon. All today's leaders had to do was not screw it up.

Since the victory in the Cold War - it was a victory - we seemed to have lost our way. Just look at the series of new major surface combatant failures of the last quarter century. 

Officially and unofficially, we've tried to admit our mistakes - we've even had "blue ribbon" commissions and reports outlining them and calling for corrections. It is one thing to admit your mistakes, it is another to take actions not to repeat them.

Can we agree on a few things?

1. As we covered in the first year of this blog back in 2004/5, we made a huge mistake by getting rid of our riverine forces in the 1990s. The capability shortfall clear as day as our ground forces clawed their way up the Tigris and Euphrates rivers with almost not waterside help. We also clawed back the Cyclone PCs from the USCG as we rediscovered the utility of smaller ships - not just riverine.

2. We know we have a problem with leadership at sea. We have people showing up at CDR Command not having an opportunity to learn with at LT or LCDR command ... or even a pure XO tour before taking command. The lack of opportunity to command at the LT and LCDR level is part of that problem.

3. LCS is, for a ship the size of a WWII destroyer, an underperformer. The issues and challenges are well known here.

I could list more, but I'll let you fight out the details in comments.

We are set to repeat our errors it appears;  

At the Surface Navy Association 2021 (SNA 2021) Virtual Symposium, Naval News asked RADM Paul Schlise, USN, Director, Surface Warfare (N96), whether the U.S. Navy intends to replace the aging Patrol Coastal boats. The direct answer is, “No.”


Sixteen PCs were originally planned for and two were canceled, resulting in a total of fourteen boats.  The lead ship, PC-1 USS Cyclone, was transferred to the Philippine Navy in March 2004.  The oldest active-duty U.S. Navy Patrol Coastal boat, PC-3 USS Hurricane, commissioned in 1993, is 28 years old and is still in service today.  The newest Cyclone-class PC, PC-14 USS Tornado, commissioned in 2000, and also in service, is now 21 years old.  With an estimated service life of 30 years, the thirteen Patrol Coastal boats are nearing the end of their intended service life. 


RADM Paul Schlise said that the roles of the PCs will be replaced by the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) and the smaller U.S. Coast Guard boats.  Schlise described the Coast Guard boats as platforms that work in both peace and wartime and having great capabilities that can make up for the retirement of the Patrol Coastals. 

This is a pitiful answer. This is the wrong decision. What more can one say?

We do not learn.

There is a lot more in Peter Ong's story. Give it a full read.

Monday, February 01, 2021

The War on (Military) History: Half a Century In

Over the weekend I saw a few people commenting on Max Hastings's latest over at Bloomberg, American Universities Declare War on Military History. I couldn't help but laugh at times the shock - SHOCK - some showed when reading it. My take is, "Where have you been?"

Yet in centers of learning across North America, the study of the past in general, and of wars in particular, is in spectacular eclipse. History now accounts for a smaller share of undergraduate degrees than at any time since 1950. Whereas in 1970, 6% of American male and 5% of female students were history majors, the respective percentages are now less than 2% and less than 1%, respectively.

Fredrik Logevall, a distinguished Harvard historian and author of seminal works on Vietnam, along with a new biography of  John F. Kennedy, remarked to me on the strangeness of this, given that the U.S. is overwhelmingly the most powerful, biggest-spending military nation on earth. “How this came to be and what it has meant for America and the world is surely of surpassing historical importance,” he said. “Yet it’s not at the forefront of research among academic historians in this country.”    
The war on the study of history – and especially military history – has been with us for as long as I have been alive. As with many things in American culture, the fault lies mostly with those complaining about it – and it can trace its pivot point to 1968.
The revulsion from war history may derive not so much from students’ unwillingness to explore the violent past, but from academics’ reluctance to teach, or even allow their universities to host, such courses. Some dub the subject “warnography,” and the aversion can extend to the study of international relations. Less than half of all history departments now employ a diplomatic historian, against 85% in 1975. As for war, as elderly scholars retire from posts in which they have studied it, many are not replaced: the roles are redefined.   

An eminent historian recently told me of a young man majoring in science at Harvard who wanted to take humanities on history, including the U.S. Civil War. He was offered only one course — which addressed the history of humans and their pets.
This is part of a larger story – one from academia that covers more than military history. The American left after 1968 accelerated their march through our institutions of higher learning, pulling like minded people behind them and letting time and unity of purpose do the rest.

The goal was and is to chance the nation they loathe as founded in to something they can control.

Have you seen the agenda from the last American Historical Association annual meeting? Heck, look up the last few years yourself. Show me anything even remotely in line with center-right to right ideological thinking. Next do center-left to left.

Cowed, those right of center became more and more isolated. Not only did they not support up and coming scholars for ideological reasons like those on the left, as they watched everything from the classics to military history get gutted, they refused to fight. The ideological left played by new rules and were allowed to. Like a Cuckoo hatchling, the first pushed out their competition. 

My introduction to this “new problem” was in the mid-1980s. As part of our required NROTC curriculum, we had a course in naval history. Naturally, I loved every second of it and had a great professor. Towards the end of the semester, I cornered him as I was looking to change majors. I asked him about the path to be like him – a PhD in history.

After asking me a few questions as to my interests and goals, he stopped me short; “Don’t do it. Don’t major in history and do not invest time in getting a PhD in it – especially if you plan on not making the Navy a career. Military history is not in demand, most universities are hostile, departments are shrinking, and what you want to study is not what you will be given the chance to research if you stay in the USA. Apply yourself elsewhere. Don’t make the mistake I did.”

Yes, that conversation stuck with me. As a LT, I started down that path again when another professor I talked to – one who even had tenure – again advised me against it.
Paul Kennedy of Yale, author of one of the best-selling history books of all time, “The Rise and Fall of The Great Powers,” is among many historians who deplore what is, or rather is not, going on. He observed to me that while some public universities, such as Ohio State and Kansas State, have strong program in the history of war, “It’s in the elite universities that the subject has gone.”

“Can you imagine Chicago, or Berkeley, or Princeton having War Studies departments?” he asked. “Military history is the most noxious of the ‘dead white male’ subjects, and there’s also a great falling away in the teaching of diplomatic, colonial and European political history.”
This is where it is less of an academic discussion and more of an existential one. Ignorance of history or the mal-education in history at our highest institutions of learning is a critical vulnerability. 

Where do we draw many of our government leaders? That’s right – the top universities. Ignorance of history always results in repeating mistakes of others, with tragic results. Mal-understanding of other nations relations to neighbors, why borders exist, how they’ve changed …. literal libraries full of keys to every challenge we are facing, and yet we allow the teaching of history to devolve in to some farcical discussion of what pronouns to use?
It is extraordinary that so many major U.S. universities renounce, for instance, study of the Indochina experience, which might assist a new generation not to do it again. Marine General Walt Boomer, a distinguished Vietnam vet, said to me five years ago, when I was researching that war: “It bothers me that we didn’t learn a lot. If we had, we wouldn’t have invaded Iraq.”

Biddle has written: “The U.S. military does not send itself to war. Choices about war and peace are made by civilians — civilians who, increasingly, have no historical or analytical frameworks to guide them. They know little or nothing about the requirements of the Just War tradition … the logistical, geographical and physical demands of modern military operations.”

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron is not a stupid man. But he might have made less of a mess of U.K. foreign policy had he accepted the advice of some people who understood both war and the Muslim world better than his ill-informed Downing Street clique. 
Post-modernism. Critical theory. Aggressive bullying and cowardice. This is what we have in our university history departments. Did you follow the AHA link earlier?
Kennedy notes that war studies are highly popular with students, alumni and donors, “but the sticking point is with the faculty — where perhaps only a small group are openly hostile, but a larger group don’t think the area is important enough.”    

Harvard offers few history courses that principally address the great wars of modern times. Many faculties are prioritizing such subjects as culture, race and ethnicity


Tami Davis Biddle, a professor at the U.S. Army War College, has written, “Unfortunately, many in the academic community assume that military history is simply about powerful men — mainly white men —fighting each other and/or oppressing vulnerable groups.” 

You may have noticed in many recent books that are either the byproduct of someone’s PhD studies or afterwards, that there is a section or two shoe-horned in that has to address race, gender or other socio-political themes that otherwise don’t seem to be in line with the story. I’ve reached out to authors asking them “why.” On two occasions, and this was shared on a condition of anonymity, they stated “had” to cover this as those who had power over the granting of their PhD or the publication of their book advised them, ahem, to address these issues. They were embarrassed, but they had no choice.
A few years ago, a history department in the Canadian Maritime provinces was offered a fully funded chair in naval history — and rejected it. Paul Kennedy told me recently that he is amazed by the lack of interest in naval affairs at U.S. universities, “since we are by far the greatest naval power in the world, and the global naval scene is heating up enormously.”

Many, indeed most, academic institutions across the continent are infected with an intellectual virus that causes them to reject study of subjects that seem to some faculty members distasteful. This represents a betrayal of the principles of curiosity, rigor and courage that must underpin all worthwhile scholarship.

 In Britain, by comparison, history continues to thrive. About the same number of students embark on first degrees in the subject as take law. Post-graduate studies are especially popular. Some 30 institutions offer War Studies programs. On the European continent, those at Stockholm and Leiden Universities are particularly respected. The problem — we might even call it the repugnance — appears an explicitly North American phenomenon. 

North America’s great universities should be ashamed of their pusillanimity. War is no more likely to quit our planet than are pandemics. The academics who spurn its study are playing ostriches. Their heads look no more elegant, buried in the sand.

What can be done about history as an area of study in North America? If you can’t beat your opponent’s methods, then copy them. If they won't play fair - why should we? If they don't like it - then perhaps they will come to the table to compromise. Maybe not - but the practice of surrender by the center-right needs to come to an end. 

People right of center – and intellectually honest people left of center (this really shouldn’t be a right/left divide) need to push back. 

Push back against post-modernism and critical theory. Push back on cancel culture. Get on board of regents/advisors/directors at your university. Be willing to be called names. Support fair minded individuals and isolate bad actors. Do not be bullied. Stand by truth in the face of ideology. 

I would hope that even well-meaning center-left to left academics would support this action. It might help them better understand the nation in which they live to be exposed to different views. It would be a joke if it were not so sad to see many of them react in stunned horror when they hear ideas everyone outside their bubble discuss on a regular basis. The real world is intellectually diverse; when 90% of your fellow academics vote one way and are in alignment with all the wokeish issues you can think of, you may be the problem – not the unwashed masses you rarely interact with.