Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Future of European Naval Power with Jeremy Stöhs - on Midrats

Where is European naval power in 2021, what is shaping it, and where is it going? 

This week returning guest Jeremy Stöhs is with us to review the above issues as outlined in an exceptional report he produced for the Centre for Military Studies at the University of Copenhagen., "How High? The Future of European Naval Power and the High-End Challenge."

Jeremy is the Deputy Director of the Austrian Center for Intelligence, Propaganda and Security Studies and the editor for their journal, JIPSS.

After service in the Austrian Federal Police in 2005-2010, he studied History and English/American Studies at the Universities of Graz, St. Petersburg (USA) and Marburg (GER) 2009-2015. He was a Defense Analyst at the Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University (ISPK) 2016-2019 and received his PhD in political sciences from Christian-Albrechts University Kiel, 2019. He is the author of "The Decline of European Naval Forces: Challenges to Sea Power in an Age of Fiscal Austerity and Political Uncertainty” (US Naval Institute Press, 2018).

His research focuses on International Relations, Strategic Studies, U.S. and European Security and Defense Policy, Maritime Strategy and Security, Public Security. 

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 26, 2021

Fullbore Friday

25 FEB 1852.

Discipline. Honor. Sacrifice - and steadfast leadership. Do you really know what they mean? How do you know you, as well as the men and women under your command, can do what is needed - and do it with cold firmness? Are you ready for the Birkenhead Drill?
To take your chance in the thick of a rush, with firing all about, Is nothing so bad when you’ve cover to ’and, an’ leave an’ likin’ to shout; But to stand an’ be still to the Birken’ead drill is a damn tough bullet to chew, An’ they done it, the Jollies—’Er Majesty’s Jollies—soldier an’ sailor too! Their work was done when it ’adn’t begun; they was younger nor me an’ you; Their choice it was plain between drownin’ in ’eaps an’ bein’ mopped by the screw, So they stood an’ was still to the Birken’ead drill,2 soldier an’ sailor too!
A little bit from Kiplings "Soldier an' Sailor too!" Here is the background.
At 2 a.m. the following morning, the Birkenhead struck an uncharted rock at 34°38′42″S 19°17′9″E / -34.645, 19.28583 near Danger Point (today near Gansbaai, Western Cape). The barely submerged rock is clearly visible in rough seas, however it is not immediately apparent in calmer conditions. The initial impact ripped open the forward watertight compartment between the engine room and the fore peak, immediately flooding it and drowning over 100 soldiers in their hammocks. A second impact ripped open the bilge in the engine room, resulting in the two largest watertight compartments in the vessel being been flooded. The surviving officers and men assembled on deck, where Lieutenant-Colonel Seton of the 74th Regiment of Foot took charge of all military personnel and stressed the necessity of maintaining order and discipline to his officers.
Almost everybody kept silent, indeed nothing was heard, but the kicking of the horses and the orders of Salmon, all given in a clear firm voice.
Distress rockets were fired, but there was no assistance available. Sixty men were detailed to man the chain pumps, sixty more were assigned to the tackles of the lifeboats, while the rest were assembled on the poop deck, in order to raise the forward part of the ship. Poor maintenance and paint on the winches resulted in only a few of the ship's lifeboats being launched, and the two large boats, with capacities of 150 men each, were not among them. Eventually two cutters and a gig were launched, onto which all the women and children were placed and rowed away for safety. Only then did Captain Salmond order that those men who could swim should save themselves by swimming to the boats; Lt-Col Seton, however, recognizing that rushing the lifeboats would risk swamping them and endangering the women and children, ordered the men to stand fast. The cavalry horses were freed and driven into the sea in the hope that they might be able to swim ashore. The soldiers did not move, even as the ship broke up barely twenty minutes after striking the rock.
Ponder that for a bit. FYI, that is where the phrase "women and children first" originated. Hat tip CO-ED Combat.

First posted in FEB 2008.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Diversity Thursday

This is the 4th and a half draft of this week's DivThu ... a much more simplified version. I did have a very long post, but decided that was unnecessary. It was better, especially with Part 2 - the Navy's Reading List - added below, to keep this rather simple as I think it speaks for itself.

Let's go.

Part 1: Navy Task Force One.

If you were going to try to get the temperature of race relations in our nation, probably the worst time to do it in the last 35 years would have been over the summer and fall of 2020. 

As our Navy reflects the society it comes from, it would be only natural that the high emotions, cultural climate, and all that happened in that time period would come in to the study as you took the temperature.

If you were looking at a worst case snap shot, you would be hard pressed to pick a more opportune time. Keep that in mind and adjust accordingly. 

To add to that, you had leadership in self-preservation mode decoupling themselves from the people they assigned to Task Force One and were unlikely to push back on any of the overreach. 

We have what we have. I think it would be best if you read the entire thing for yourself, but I wanted to put just one screen capture out there to outline to you where I stand. 

The Pledge:

There are five points to the pledge. The 1st, 3rd, and 4th are fairly harmless, but the 2nd and 5th are poison pills.

I pledge to advocate for and acknowledge all lived experiences and intersectional identities of every Sailor in the Navy.

Nope. Never. You have to understand the terms "lived experience" and "intersectional identities." 

For me, this spoils the whole thing. Pick a few good items, but dismissing the rest as the political exercise it is.

Regular readers here understand the term, "Cultural Marxism." Well, as I warned you years ago that it was coming - here it is, red in tooth and claw.

First, "lived experience":

 ...the first google result on difference between “experience” and “lived experience” comes from Geek Feminism Wiki: “The term lived experience is used to describe the first-hand accounts and impressions of living as a member of a minority or oppressed group.”

Anytime there’s language employed almost exclusively by adherents to a certain set of ideas, there’s a two-fold danger. The first is that those who are inclined to object to the perspective will not understand what is being gotten at by the terminology (i.e. they’ll assume redundancy and just replace “lived experience” with “experience” in their minds) or worse not take it seriously (i.e. scoff “as if there’s a kind of experience that isn’t lived!”). On the other hand, there’s the risk of those who use it to take it so much for granted that they don’t scrutinize what claims its rhetorical force is masking (e.g. a few recent titles I quickly scanned through on google books about “lived experience” never define what is meant by the term).

So in this post I want to try to give a brief history of the word. A disclaimer is that this (and everything I write here) should be taken as a first draft and nothing should be taken on authority as it comes from just googling for a couple of hours. The main service, though, that I hope to accomplish is to convince you that there is a very simple reason why people use the term “lived experience” and thus that it shouldn’t be dismissed offhand as “just one of those in-words SJWs say.” A secondary aim is that learning a bit about the various ways the word “lived experience” has been viewed over time might suggest some ways of thinking about how it should be viewed today. This is important because the way we think and talk about “lived experience” today raises many difficult questions about the status of knowledge, representation, and agency in what we hope is the creation of a more just society.

In other words, it is not fact based. It is opinion based. It is a point of view. So, the Navy wants everyone to accept, without question, something that may be false when faced with facts. No, worse than that, the Navy wants you to advocate for it.

Nope. Non-concur. 

Next, "intersectional identities":

Intersectionality is the buzzword to end all buzzwords, the term that launched a thousand hot-takes, a discursive sinkhole where political disputes go to die. Depending on who you ask, it’s the most important theoretical innovation in feminist history; the cancer that’s killing the left; a critical tool in on-the-ground organising; or a totally meaningless liberal shibboleth. I am not overly invested in trying to claw back some kind of clarity on what intersectionality “means”. Like much of the work done by feminists and queer theorists around the same time, there is a certain ambiguity to intersectionality, if only because many of the people interpreting it come from this poststructuralist milieu.


Back in the good old days we had simple, honest labour movements, the kind of vulgar Marxist or social-democratic workerism that anyone could understand. Some time in the 1970s postmodernists and other wreckers took over, junked the notions of universality and the totality of social relations that powered labourism, and replaced them with a weak, defeatist politics of difference and contingency.

Intersectionality is like flypaper for this kind of analyst. A hefty seven-syllable academic megalith intended to do the work of reform under capitalism, beloved by rich liberal college students and the extremely woke and incredibly online: if it didn’t exist, they’d have to invent it.

Nope. Never. Not going to pledge to get involved in that socio-political swamp and would never ask anyone to do so.

The entire report is below, or at this link

Read it all if you want. I think if you did, you might be a step ahead of Navy's uniformed leadership. Well, perhaps that is an unkind assumption on my part, but that would be about the only acceptable excuse for putting your name on this. If they did read it and put their name to it afterwards, well, that tells you about all you need to know.  

Part 2: The Navy Reading List: I know it is no longer called the "CNO Reading List" or somesuch, but a Navy reading list is his reading list, so let's run with it.

I want you to look at the bottom of the list, on "Sailors"

It's below or at this link;

As this has become kind of my wheelhouse, I'll go there. 

Why in the hell are we injecting the poison of Critical Race Theory and sectarian political fads in to our fleet? 

"How to be Anti-Racist" by the highly problematic Ibram X. Kendi as "Foundational?" 
The most threatening racist movement is not the alt-right’s unlikely drive for a White ethnostate but the regular American’s drive for a “race-neutral” one… there are ideas that express hierarchy and inequality. There are policies that create equity and inequity. The other aspect of it that is troubling is that there’s no such thing as a “not racist.” There is only racist and antiracist.
Then for "Advanced" the CNO wants to inject "Sexual Minorities and Politics" by Pearson in their heads?

"Capstone" it all with "The New Jim Crow" by Alexander?

Well, there you go.

This is political. This is taking a side. At least we know.

Captain Second Rank Ivan Yurievich Putin is watching.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

What is One Word That Will Terrify an Entire Ship?

They are ugly, boring, quiet, sedentary, misunderstood, ignored, disrespected ... yet in crisis - surprises & terrifies everyone.

They are also something we need to be ready to use immediately if we are serious about confronting China.

I'm pondering things that go bump in the night over at USNIBlog.

Come by and ponder with me for a bit.

Preflight Your Brain: the Navy Discussion-Guide on Extremism in the Ranks Standdown

If you're on active duty or a civilian employee, you're going to have to go through a struggle session. 

The best thing you can do to prepare for it is to know what you are going to be subjected to ahead of time. That way you can better get through it.

This training isn't as great as supporters say it is, nor is it as bad as it could have been.

There is still a lot of problematic items in here - mostly because of who wrote it and the climate to anyone doing anything but saying, "Looks great!" 

Because it wasn't properly edited, yes, it is political.

Anyone who watched the events of the summer of 2020 and have made an objective review of what happened in January (NB: those new here & have not read what I wrote at the time can click here and here if they so wish), know that "white nationalism" and "white supremacy" are not the full story. A chapter of a story to be sure, but not the full story.

You can read in spots here where a larger story is implied, but in the end they didn't flesh that out. Screaming about "white nationalism" is the fad of the moment and the round is already half-way out of the tube. Just let it flow around you and get through it. 

Shame really. There is some good stuff in here, but the flavor of the was spoiled like someone sprinkling anchovies over a pepperoni pizza.

As this is something the Navy was ordered to do on relatively short notice, it is what it is. 

My advice - in addition to reading the below - is to realize that except for the people whose paycheck rides on the back of facilitating such "training," everyone else - leadership and you - are;

You don't have to do anything but sit through it. Repeat an oath you've already taken? Sure. 

If Paris is worth a Mass, your Navy career is worth saying an oath you've already taken.

As with all things run by humans, you may have someone who decides to pursue their own agenda. If you find yourself uncomfortable, utilize your chain of command. Hopefully no one will find themselves in such a position, but you never know. Like the nation is serves, the Navy has all kind of people in it. Some woke bad actors are emboldened. Note who they are to yourself and carry on. 

Here you go. Read up. Be informed. Take every headbreak you can and remember, 98.7% of the people in front and around you don't want to be there either.


 If the embed doesn't work, try this direct link to the PDF.

If there is a Q&A, here are a few ideas, especially if SECDEF, A/SN, or CNO is there following:

1. Define extremist conduct.
2. Since the Department supposedly has knowledge of extensive extremist groups / conduct in the ranks, provide three examples of extremist conduct in the Department.
3. What policies would have prevented this conduct?
4. What is the end state?
5. What are the metrics to know the Department achieved this end state?

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: 
... 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.