Thursday, September 30, 2021

Diversity Thursday

Once again we are faced with two options: 1) the CNO is fighting as best he can to slow roll the forces of hate and division that are trying to turn his service in to an organization beset by strife, division, and sectarianism by saying the right words to keep the worst at bay while waiting for the tides to shift or; 2) the CNO is a true believer, more woke than woke – and he is going to drag everyone down with him.

I am open to either option – or perhaps a 3rd “useful idiot” – but the CNO is not an idiot. He is a smart, hardworking, and talented man. As such, we must default to 1 or 2. 

Things are leaning towards 2.

“My goal is to put the Navy in a place over the next 20 years where we’re the most diverse service in the DoD,” Gilday said during a “State of the Navy” event hosted Thursday by Defense One.

“I think it’s going to be a long-term effort to get us where we need to be with respect to a diverse force,” Gilday said. “And where, you know, we ultimately have a force where respect is part of everybody’s DNA, right?”

OK, let’s top there. Putting aside the irony of his use of “DNA,” read again what he said.

In essence, he claims that the organization he leads and was part of for over three decades, does not represent everyone. Really?

That is a bold claim. I hope he has some data to back up such an inflammatory comment against his service.

The ultimate goal, he said, is for the force to respect diversity — which not only encompasses racial and gender diversity, but experience and varied backgrounds. That will require the Navy to modify how it recruits, retains and manages talent to remain competitive.

“I think that if organizations don’t have that mindset, they’re not going to be competitive in this century,” Gilday said

Nope. He doubles down. In the CNO’s mind, he leads a bigoted service. 


Not what I saw for two decades, but perhaps I served with a more enlightened, better cohort of Sailors than he does.

Do we have some facts to look at supporting his statement?

...more than 41 percent of of enlisted sailors are people of color — the highest ratio of all the branches of the military. They comprise nearly 23 percent of officers in the Navy, behind the Army’s nearly 27 percent ... Black male and Black female enlisted recruits comprise a higher percentage of enlisted accessions than are represented in the civilian workforce of 18- to 44-year-olds...white, Asian and Hispanic enlisted recruits make up a smaller percentage of accessions than are represented in the civilian workforce.

Ummm…who wants to tell him? If anything, these numbers say our Navy isn’t recruiting enough “whites,” Asians, or “Hispanics”…if your goal is to “look like America” – whatever that means.

But the military as a whole lacks racial diversity among higher ranks. Based on data from the Congressional Research Service, the study found that nearly 90 percent of general or flag officers in 2018 were white, and nearly 80 percent of all officers were white.

And there we go - some problems are more problematic than others. 

As we have described for over a decade and a half here, the problem is not the Navy, it is the US educational, criminal, and cultural group differences that are the initial filters before anyone even gets near their first officer recruiter. 

The Navy cannot affect those three things. We are customers of our nation’s systems, not a producer of them.

To help retain a diverse population of sailors, the report advises the Navy to examine the structure currently in place for promotions, detailing and milestone job opportunities. It suggests expanding the diversity data included in the records of selection board proceedings and several other submissions in an attempt to foster transparency.

Yes, they want to put the pieces in place – including returning photos into selection boards – in order to be able to move towards hard quotas based on self-identified race and ethnic classifications; a system that throughout human history only leads to division, sectarianism, and conflict.

“If anything, we’re getting more diverse, not less diverse and we need to welcome it, we need to embrace it,” 

Again, the “need to.” We do. We did. We are. Does he know the Navy he leads?

There are few places better than the military for accepting talent regardless of the DNA source. It is something we should be proud of, but instead our leaders pretend just the opposite it true.

The CNO’s vision of his own organization isn’t just wrong, it borders on slander.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Words begat actions which create history

Have you been less than pleased by the squishy use of words the last few months by our senior leadership when it comes to what we all saw transpire in Afghanistan?

Well, it has been a burr in my saddle for months.

At today's House Armed Services Committee meeting on Afghanistan, I just had about enough.

Come on over to USNIBlog where I whip out the dictionary and a little family history on the topic.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Oh, so the UN Will Make Afghanistan Work?

Will someone please save us from our experts? 

Question everyone. Defer to no one. 

If you have learned nothing the last two decades, at least know this; our elite aren’t. Our best institutions do not produce the best product. Credentialism is the last refuge of the incompetent. 

You have to assume these are well meaning people, but building off of yesterday’s post – let this week be a lesson to everyone that our self-selecting elites are like the Bourbons, “They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.” 

I’m not sure I can do more but quote from the latest article in FP by By Charli Carpenter, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and director of Human Security Lab, and Lise Howard, a professor at Georgetown University and president of the Academic Council on the United Nations System. 

This is like a parallel universe where Afghanistan - her history, culture and predilections - are either unknown or are somewhere in the middle of the bell curve internationally. A world where the UN’s track record from Rwanda, to Iraq, to Haiti and other places was one of competence, resilience, and success. A planet where hundreds of billions of dollars were not just poured out on to the sands of Afghanistan. 

It sounds nice. It sounds right, but it is not of this universe.

Where do we start?

The United Nations Charter pledges “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” Afghans have been at war for several generations, and it is likely that the next generation will not see peace unless U.N. member states unite to prevent an intra-Afghan war.
It is almost like there were no Bonn Agreement. Like the UN never discussed Afghanistan. As if hundreds of thousands of uniformed and civilian people from around the world, backed up by almost a trillion dollars didn’t just spend two decades trying to make a silk purse out of a goat’s ear.
… there is a third way, between short-term humanitarian aid and fueling a civil war: deploying a U.N. or U.N.-supported peacekeeping mission. There is a fragile peace to keep in Afghanistan, and it is the duty of the United Nations to help keep it.
Who will pay for it? Who will garrison it (no, Nepal and Indonesia can't sustain what Afghanistan will require)? If you find a lack of historical perspective here or intellectual rigor … there is a reason. We have a parade of appeals to authority in line with a college freshman’s mid-semester paper.
According to the expert Fawaz A. Gerges and many others … According to research by George Mason University’s Philip A. Martin…Scholarly research (whose exactly?)… Research clearly shows... rigorous quantitative research shows (again, whose?)
And then we have comparisons that make you wonder if people writing about international relations have ever really traveled.
In fact, where the international community did not stand up such a mission—such as in Syria and Libya—catastrophic civil wars ensued. In contrast, a U.N. preventive deployment in what was then called Macedonia effectively prevented war.
Do they have any idea what it would have taken in the sectarian stew of Syria and Libya? Also … Macedonia? I’ve served with North Macedonians and Afghans. You cannot even put those two in the same category culturally, geographically, or historically. No. Just, what?
A peace mission need not be large: According to the Human Security Lab report, even a 5,000-troop mission could help. Maj. Ryan van Wie, an instructor of international relations at the U.S. Military Academy, wrote in War on the Rocks this week that a somewhat larger investment of 10,000 to 12,000 peacekeepers could provide even better geographical coverage in Afghanistan.
I guess no one made the effort to review Afghanistan from 2002-2005. Anyone brief them on the Bonn Agreement? The Lead Nation construct? Anyone … or is the past nothing? 

Just behold these jewels of historical incoherence;
… an observer mission can create a foothold from which an imperiled country can climb its way from endless conflict to first fragile and then durable peace… the Taliban’s own historic willingness to innovate and explore multilateral solutions... In 2001, it was the Taliban who offered peace talks, and the United States who rejected them. In 2009, the Taliban themselves indicated they could accept a peacekeeping a mission if it came from Muslim-majority nations and not the West… Georgetown University’s Desha Girod argues that the international community has significant leverage over the Taliban that is conducive to inducing and sustaining arrangements leading to a durable peace...a working paper by Timothy Passmore, Jaroslav Tir, and Johannes Karreth shows that it is actually countries like Afghanistan with a high degree of international economic interdependence that are likeliest to both consent to and cooperate with peacekeeping missions. That’s because for such countries there are “tangible incentives to both allow [peacekeeping operations] and to help fulfill the mission of return to peace.”… Perhaps most importantly, the international community holds what the Taliban want: recognition as a legitimate government and the financial means with which to govern…The Taliban leaders have indicated a desire for assistance and an openness to international guidance. U.N. relief chief Martin Griffiths recently told the BBC that Taliban leaders he spoke with told him regarding human rights issues, “Please help us address these issues together. We need patience. We need to learn how to do it.” This guidance should include assistance with conflict resolution and prevention.
There you go. These are the people and ideas that policy makers listen to, will listen to, and will have a great ability to shape perceptions and policy. They are training the next cohort to staff our institutions. 

Those who spent the last two decades trying to operationalize the concepts that cannot survive outside the intellectual terrarium of academia and thinktankdom need to stand up and – how do the cool kids say – speak “our truth.” 

We have no requirement to be kind, gentle or subtle. Well meaning, highly credentialed people with ill-informed, bad ideas made flesh get people killed, bring sorrow to countless families, empty treasuries, and inject strategic risk into nations and alliances. 

Learn. Adapt. Adjust … and be humble. Demand others who ask for you to assume the risk to life and treasure for their pet theories do the same.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Jake Sullivan: The Well Protected Golden Boy

We’ve all seen it; those who promote, protect, and mentor the “deep select” Golden Boy become personally – and professionally – invested in their success. 

Not content to give them opportunities to succeed or fail on their own, when things do not turn out a perfect as the CV and as those mentors promised they would, the wounded instead make excuses, defend, and deflect any criticism of The Chosen One. Though years and decades pass, they still treat grown men on the edge of middle age as if they are still that promising young staffer they once were – poised for greatness at some point in the future. They never really achieve regular success, but give you the appearance that they are ready to claim success should it fall in to their lap simply because … well … look at the CV. Of course. 

The promising future is always almost there, even if the date of measure has already passed. Someone so right, you see, cannot be so wrong. Someone so highly recommended could never be suboptimal. All the right schools, all the correct mentors, all the right jobs so early.

These are smart people. These can be important parts of any successful team, but success is not granted, it is earned. Where it is not earned, but demanded – then you have dysfunction when the real world calls your bluff.

So, we have President Biden’s National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan.

In normal times, this might just be a snarky post aimed at a highly mockable Smartest Person in the Room™ - but these times are too serious and too much accountability remains undistributed. 

We are less than a month removed from the last spasms of our great national humiliation in Afghanistan. There are too many people who are just waiting for the layers of news cycles to cover up their responsibility. 

Well, no. Accountability needs to be placed and underlined.

Let’s dive into Julian Burger’s latest in The Guardian. Yes, Sal reads The Guardian.

Joe Biden was with a team of advisers and on receiving the news he asked two of them, secretary of state Tony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, to accompany him to his private dining room to mark the moment with a call to the defence secretary, Lloyd Austin.

Blinken has been a constant presence at Biden’s side since 2002. By contrast, before he joined the 2020 campaign, Sullivan had worked for Biden for just 18 months, and that was six years earlier as the then vice-president’s national security adviser. His whole career on the national stage before then had been as Hillary Clinton’s right hand man.

People are policy. 

Yes, Biden has his own ideas, but he is briefed and supported by a staff. 

“It was a significant moment and the president wanted Jake to be there,” a senior administration official said. “I’ve watched him turn to Jake for advice on both domestic and foreign policy over the last two years. He has enormous respect for Jake’s judgment and relies on him intently.”

These are the men – and they are all men – who bear the responsibility for our national humiliation. They have been measured and found wanting. 

The White House has vigorously defended Sullivan, arguing that no one around the table in the situation room had predicted how fast Kabul would fall, and stressed the national security adviser’s role in coordinating the evacuation of 124,000 civilians, the biggest civilian airlift in US history.

That is a classic defense of a Golden Boy. Rhodes scholar. Yale law school. He can’t be the problem. It must be others.

Aged just 44, Sullivan is the youngest national security adviser American has had since McGeorge Bundy counseled John F Kennedy 60 years ago.


“Despite being probably one of the smartest people in the building, he’s not somebody who has walled off his process. He’s really interested in hearing what others bring to the table,” Kate Bedingfield, the White House communications director, said.

McGeorge Bundy? Really? You say that like it’s a good thing.

Where is there any evidence that there was a diversity of opinion at the table? Where is any of this connected to the world as it is?

One of Sullivan’s themes in the job is connecting US actions on the world stage to the lives and welfare of ordinary Americans, with the mantra of “a foreign policy for the middle class”.

Excuse me? How much experience in his adult life does Sullivan have with “the middle class” to the point he knows what a foreign policy for them would look like? What does it produce? What is its focus?

How does Jake come to this world view?

So, he left Yale law school at age 27. Clerked for a circuit judge then a SCOTUS judge. 

After practicing and teaching law in Minneapolis, Sullivan’s first foray into politics was as chief counsel to Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar. Klobuchar introduced him to Hillary Clinton, who lured him away to work on her 2008 presidential run.

Spent some time as a junior lawyer at a firm before being plucked four years after law school at age 31 to work for Sen. Klobuchar. From there, mainlined in to (D) presidential campaign support and staff.

She drew on his debating expertise (he came second in the 2000 World University Debating Championship in Sydney)

That is farcical. Maybe one step above an adult man – or his mentor – bragging to others about all the awards he received at the Model UN the summer after their junior year of high school. No wonder she lost to Trump. 

It was only much later that Reines was informed where Sullivan had been – in Oman with the CIA director, William Burns, in the first secret talks with Iranian officials that ultimately led to the breakthrough 2015 nuclear deal. At the time, Sullivan was 35 years old.

“It just speaks volumes about him that the secretary of state of the United States and the president of the United States thought that he could co-lead the negotiations with one of our strongest adversaries on one of the most difficult issues,” Reines said. “There’s no situation you can put him into that is over his head.”

Complete lack of self-awareness. Were the pallets of cash his idea? Does he know how played we were by the Iranians? 

As for the “over his head” comment. I’m sorry, but it is blazingly clear that he was over his head in Afghanistan – intellectually and as an advisor to the President.

“I think that’s incredibly misplaced,” she said. “I think numerous participants in the process, from [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs] General Milley to Secretary Blinken to [Director of National Intelligence] Haines, have all said that there was no indication that the Afghan government would collapse in 11 days.”

Self-selecting arrogance is no excuse. Just clear that he doesn’t bring in “what others bring to the table” because he isn’t inviting anyone with a different view to this table. 

A bunch of field-grade planners in Kabul the winter of 2009 cautioned about a rapid collapse as a possibility. This was always a known possibility. You were only shocked if you demanded that only people who agreed with you were allowed at the table, and certain things could not be briefed. 

“Trump and Biden received the same assessment: the country could collapse in days or weeks with little notice,” said London, whose book The Recruiter: Spying and the Lost Art of American Intelligence is published next week.

“The Trump White House simply didn’t care. But the Biden White House did not accept the conditions on which that assessment was based as being credible, so dismissed that scenario as unrealistic.”

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Sullivan did voice anxiety and question the speed of the withdrawal, and particularly the abrupt abandonment in early July of Bagram airbase, the nerve centre of the US war in Afghanistan for two decades. But Biden ultimately approved the plan.

A White House official said there would be no comment on Sullivan’s advice to the president to “protect the integrity of the process”.

Bruen, who worked in the Obama White House at the same time as Sullivan, argued that the Bagram debate showed he had not shrugged off the instincts of a staffer.

“There is this tendency to be deferential, and that’s the staffer role,” Bruen said. “As a staffer, you are someone whose raison d’etre is to find justifications to support the principal’s position. Your role is very different as a national security adviser. You have to, many times, challenge the president’s views on an issue, help them to see there may be some assumptions they’re making that are wrong.”

However, when a president has made up his mind on a subject, one of Sullivan’s former colleagues said, no national security adviser could stand in the way of the elected commander-in-chief.

“I don’t have any doubt, based on my observations, that Jake Sullivan was clear on his advice,” one of Sullivan’s former White House colleagues said. “It’s very difficult for anybody to penetrate the conversations between the president and the national security adviser, but at the end of the day the president’s views prevail.”

…and “who” at the White House would that be? Jake Sullivan, that’s who.

So, let’s end this as we started. The end of the article is an attempt by one of his defenders to make excuses for Sullivan. Read this twice. In an objective reading this does not defend Sullivan at all – it actually makes the argument that he is unfit for the job.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The New Standard in Cruise Videos

BZ to VFA-154, the Black Knights, on their Cruise 2021 video.

Everyone else is going to have to up their game.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Fullbore Friday

So, you think you've had some memorable cruises, eh?

What do you think about this record?
APR 26, 1944T29 Torpedo Boat
APR 29, 1944T27 Torpedo Boat
JUN 9, 1944ZH1 Destroyer
JUN 9, 1944Z32 Destroyer
JUN 24, 1944U971 U-Boat
JUN 15, 1944UJ1420/UJ1421 Trawler
JUN 6, 1944M486 Minesweeper
AUG 6, 1944SG-3C
SEPT 6, 1944VEDETTE Patrol Boat
I give to you HMCS Haida, a Tribal Class destroyer who sank all those ships within 13-months of her commissioning.

As Jerry Proc so simply put;
HAIDA distinguished herself as Canada's most active warship by sinking no less than nine German ships in the period from April to September 1944. She was also involved in numerous other actions resulting in German shipping losses such as the Battle of North Cape in December 1943.

Here is a nifty little detail; besides a short period in reserve, she served until 1963, including service in the Korean war. Not bad for a ship quickly built in the early years of a world war.

If you find yourself in Hamilton, you can pay her a visit

Just look at her!

Fullbore my teethy Canadian friend; fullbore.


Thursday, September 23, 2021

Want More VLS Cells West of Wake Before 2030? This is the Way.

I joke now and then about “Make Auxiliary Cruisers Great Again” – but I am only partially joking.

What were Auxiliary Cruisers? On the surface, they were somewhere between pirates and commerce raiders, but they were also a way to get more armed ships with your flag on them in the mind of your enemy's planners, disrupting their Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) (aka supply chains), and complicating their attempts to secure their seas.

Turning merchant ships in to warships is an imperfect act, but until your enemy achieves complete sea control, they have a good to acceptable track record of bringing more capability to the fight from the South Pacific to the Indian Ocean and other places they could make a nuisance of themselves. Also, they are better underway today, than waiting 24-months for a warship to displace water.

When we look at the challenge west of Wake, one thing most navalists have sobered up to is that we simply do not have enough VLS cells to cover the needs of area defense, ballistic missile defense, strike, and even ASW. We are not producing enough multi-purpose warships that carry enough VLS cells – or enough VLS cell carrying warships – to both bring the firepower we need or distribute risk to an acceptable level.

The USAF has a parallel challenge. Since I was a kid and people had plans to convert 747 in to flying cruise missile carrying aircraft throwing out ALCM like a Pez Dispenser does candy, they’ve been looking at better ways to launch stand off weapons without requiring such high demand/low density/high-cost platforms such as heavy bombers. Sure, they can butch up Strike Eaglesbut what about their fleet of cargo aircraft?

In partnership with the U.S. Air Force (USAF), Lockheed Martin has deployed Rapid Dragon munition pallets from C-17 and EC‑130 aircraft and released surrogate JASSM-ERs in system-level flights conducted over White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. 

Rapid Dragon is a fast-paced USAF Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) program that has moved from concept to surrogate missile deployment in just 10 months.

The Rapid Dragon team conducted an airdrop from a C-17A Globemaster III and another from an EC-130SJ Commando Solo. In both flights, aircrews deployed a pallet at an operationally relevant altitude. Once stabilized by parachutes, the pallets released surrogate missiles in quick succession, each aerodynamically identical to a JASSM-ER.

If for no other reason than good old inter-service rivalry … can we iterate past the SA-6 on a USV to, well, looking at what existing cargo ships can be converted in to …. VLS farms.

Work with me here. Yes, I understand people who want unmanned surface vessels to operate like “loyal wingmen” with our surface fleet as VLS farms, but we are a long way from having the machinery, communications, laws, code, etc to make them a reality anytime in the next decade. I'll take them when they come, but they are not coming fast enough.

We cannot wait that long. We need a gap filler. We need to experiment like the USAF … but better.

Let me be modest here: what kind of merchant ship can we purchase right now that I can fit 256 VLS cells, bolt on a SeaRAM or two, a couple of 30mm, can cruise effectively at 20 kts but can also make 25kts at a minimum sustained maximum speed. 

Can you think of a better way to give the USNR some warships?  

Just imagine; six on each coast ready to get underway, fully loaded, in 2-weeks.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Budget War Warning

If you think there is a good news story around the Navy's portion of the defense budget over the next few years, you haven't been paying attention.

Pondering over at USNIBlog.

Grab a drink and give it a read.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Terrible 20s Emerge from the Fog

Ah, yes, The Terrible 20s. What if you had the leadership and malaise of the Carter Administration mixed in with the budgetary pressures of the Clinton Administration ... with a little bit of Biden Administration special sauce mixed in?

We're not even a year in to the Biden Admin still at the start of the you know this was coming.  

Via Joe Gould at DefenseNews;

House progressives will have a few chances to hold down the defense budget this week, but it’s going to be an uphill fight.

The House is set to vote this week on two Democratic amendments to cut the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act’s $740 billion top line. One would reduce it by roughly 10 percent, and another would undo a $24 billion a plus-up the House Armed Services Committee passed earlier this month.


“We face imminent threats from the COVID pandemic, climate change, growing economic inequality, and systemic racial and ethnic inequities [and] also, domestic terrorism,” Lee said. “It is time to shift our spending priorities to meet these priorities. I personally support much larger cuts to the Pentagon budget.”

There are a few amendments to be voted on too;

- A prohibition on funding for the Air Force’s nascent Ground Based Strategic Deterrent — a next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile and its warhead, the W87-1 — from Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif.

- A prohibition on U.S. military forces in Syria without approval from Congress within one year, from Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y.

- A prohibition on U.S. military logistical and intelligence support for Saudi air forces conducting strikes in the Yemen civil war, from Rep. Ro Khanna. (A separate amendment from House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., would bar U.S. sustainment and maintenance support for those forces, with certain exemptions.)

- The top line-lowering amendments are a proposed 10 percent cut (excluding salaries and health care of military personnel), from Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and proposed reduction of the defense authorization top line to the level requested by the president, from Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.

The (D) have a razor thin margin in the House and odds are the cuts won't run the board - but the anti-military (D) also know their window is about to close as '22 comes up ... they will do their best.

There are some macro patterns that are on their side - some masked by the flood of fiat money to cover the response to COVID - a classic black swan event.

Just a reminder from almost a dozen years ago, let's look at what we discussed in 2010 about where we might be today; from my Feb 2010 phrase-coining post, Looking towards the "Terrible 20's";

Let's look at 2020 again. What else is happening in the 20s? Well, for one, we will have to find money to re-capitalized the SSBN fleet. I offer to you that the 20 JAN HASC SEF Subcommittee meeting has an outstanding money discussion about that challenge. Deputy SECNAV Work has also discussed this challenge in other venues, and I think he has a very firm grasp of the problem, as do most in positions to know.

You have to look at it in the broader context of the budget as well. The hangover in the 20s from this decade's drunken frenzy of spending will couple with another cohort of Baby Boomers retiring and putting stress on the budget in ways we still do not have a firm grasp on.

In 2020 - that ship built in 1990 will be at 30 years. That LCS built in 2009 will only have 9 years or so of service life (LCS is expected to only last 20-25 years) - so by the end of the 2020s, LCS will be dropping like flies.

When you consider that we will be limited this decade to LCS and DDG-51 for our non-amphib surface ship program (don't throw JHSV at me, that is just a truck - full stop - all else is spin and hope) - you have about a perfect story for the 20s of limited shipbuilding funds and a stunted fleet.

Stunted? If you continue to assume that CG(X) is dead, then you might get funding for the much needed DDG(X) follow-on for the DDG-51 class - might. That will be requested in light of the SSBN money sponge - and I don't see how with all the other needs in the 20's, we will be able to afford both a DDG(X) and a CG(X) - and there is a good chance that we will simply have to live with DDG-51 Flight III as our "new" platform through the beginning of the mid-21st Century.

I know that looking into the future is a fuzzy hobby. Heck, if you outlined in 2000 where we were in 2010 people would have said you were a nutty pessimist - so we can only see 2020 in very large, fuzzy pixels. The beginning of the mid-century (2030) is just a silly exercise in many ways - but one that needs to be done. There are known-knowns (DDG-1000 will be a rump, expensive class of ships, Ticos history, DDG-51 backbone, LCS decomm'n like flies), known-unknowns (will LCS even meet some of its promised ability and numbers, will DDG(X) be moving forward), and unknown-unknowns (Black Swan events), but still - 2020 is closer than we think, and there are economic facts that need to be looked at.

It was so clear then ... why so many people refused to see it, I have no idea.

Navalists will need to fight every battle. Every ant hill is a hill worth dying on. Keep up the fight and don't take the bait. 

Monday, September 20, 2021

Shippings Flock of Swans

Most readers here are aware of the fleets parked off major ports on both coasts
The number of container ships at anchor or drifting in San Pedro Bay off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has now blown through all previous records and is rising by the day.

There were an all-time-high 65 container ships in the queue in San Pedro Bay on Thursday, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California. Of those, a record 23 were forced to drift because anchorages were full.

Theoretically, the numbers — already surreally high — could go a lot higher than this. While designated anchorages are limited, the space for ships to safely drift offshore is not.

“There’s lots of ocean for drifting — there’s no limit,” Capt. Kip Loutit, executive director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California, told American Shipper.

“Our usual VTS [Vessel Traffic Service] area is a 25-mile radius from Point Fermin by the entrance to Los Angeles, which gives a 50-mile diameter to drift ships. We could easily expand to a 40-mile radius, because we track them within that radius for air-quality reasons. That would give us an 80-mile diameter to drift ships,” said Loutit.

Over at Splash247, they have a few interesting points to consider; 
“What you see today is not only a black swan event, but in fact an entire bevy of black swans, and one which grows larger by the day, as more and more weak strands in the supply web snap,” Jensen says.

The US is indeed the real origin of this fiasco, the Dane agrees. Yet, he has answers to why warehouses are so full.

According to Sea-Intelligence research, many industries in the US are actually dangerously low on inventory.

Another explanation is the very real shortage of drivers to take goods from those warehouses that are actually full, to the consumers.

A game of musical chairs

Steve Ferreira, CEO of New York-based Ocean Audit, describes today’s clumped box situation as like a game of musical chairs.

“You don’t want to be left standing without a seat, and it’s a self-perpetuating cycle,” Ferreira says, giving a couple of recent examples such as Walmart ordering 149 containers of garbage cans on one single vessel or a French tire manufacturer inking a new charter to Houston.

“How are Michelin’s tires going to supply cars you can’t buy due to a chip problem?” Ferreira muses.

Andy Lane from CTI Consultancy, a container advisory, cites both archaic US logistics infrastructure as well as the near impossibility for retailers to have prepared for such a see-saw in demand as Covid presented as the two largest factors in today’s snarled container situation.
For decades, technology helped generations of MBAs design exquisite global supply chains built on incredibly delicate assumptions. As long as the models worked, it gave you the ability to save micro-cents to hundreds of dollars per unit as opposed to more robust but inefficient domestic supply chains.
The sand-cascade failures that we are starting to see in isolation can, if they cannot be controlled, combine in to significant economic dislocation - and with it - any chance for a sustainable recovery.

I think this will be the story of the next year. After an orgy of money printing and once in a century pandemic responses - injecting huge inefficiencies in to economies not designed for them - how will this settle out?

As I mentioned on Sunday's Midrats - you can't shoot up the horse forever.

So far, not so good. 

Don't quit your day job.

 H/t Sal.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

September Maritime Melee - on Midrats

Sal and EagleOne are tanned, rested, and ready to dive in a … well … where does one start for the last couple of weeks.

Australia pivots strong to China with here plans to move to SSN, France gets grumpy with the Anglosphere as a result but still kills a baddie for us, fleets of container ships are haunting out ports, and we’re all digesting what happened in Afghanistan. That’s just a start.

Join us for the full hour LIVE Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern

The chat room will be open and the studio line too.

Join us live if you can and roll in with your preferred topic in the chat room or call the switchboard number right here on the showpage.

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Friday, September 17, 2021

Fullbore Friday

Even though I posted this FbF again 6-months ago I wanted to bring it back just to add something quite special via twitter-friend Simon. 

From WWI we don't have must contemporary video of the people we read about, but in this case we do. 

Just 36.

Men his age saw the height of Edwardian Empire as young adults leading in to the extinction of their world in WWI, the nightmare of the depression and WWII in their middle-age and then - for those who survived - the poverty and decline of the post-WWII era for Britain. 

Zeebrugge. If you have been there or to its inner city Brugges you know what a beautiful and peaceful place it is - as most all of Belgium is today. 

In 1918 though, Belgium was a nightmarish slaughterhouse where the bodies of millions were blended into the beaten earth - where like Okinawa and Iwo Jima over a quarter century later - the living earth would move with a blanketed mass of maggots.

In one of history's subtle hints she will give you early if you wish to listen, Britain found herself on the edge of starvation due to a threat few understood or even knew of at the beginning of the war - the submarine. Something new, unexpected and decisive needed to be done.
By 1918, the Great War had entered a decisive phase. While Russia had been knocked out of the war, its place had been taken by the United States, which now provided a fresh pool of manpower and industrial capacity to the Allied cause. The transfer of these resources however was threatened by the continuing war at sea and the U-Boat menace that also threatened Britain's link with the continent. The early advance by the German Army in 1914 had meant that the Belgian ports of Ostend and Zeebrugge had been overrun and with the expansion of the port facilities, the Germans were in a position to threaten the very lifeline that supplied the Allied armies in France. The two ports were connected by a canal network with the city of Brugges that also gave access to the open sea. Brugges in turn, was connected to Germany by the railway network and partially completed U-Boats were shipped from Germany, to be finished at Brugges and then make their way to the open sea by means of the canal system. The canals formed a triangle and inside this, the Germans had built a series of airfields from which they conducted air raids on Britain and fortified the entire length of the coast with light and heavy artillery batteries. The Royal Navy did not attempt to bombard these ports until 12 May 1917 when it bombarded Zeebrugge in order to put the lock system out of action and used a smoke screen to hinder German observation. While the bombard failed in its task, the Germans stepped up defensive measures and as the war progressed, the front line drew ever closer to Ostend, bringing it within range of the Royal Marine heavy howitzer battery in France, forcing the Germans to transfer many of its facilities to Zeebrugge.

One of the objectives for the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) was the expulsion of the Germans from Flanders and to capture the ports of Zeebrugge and Ostend. The battle however failed to achieve the intended breakthrough and so any attempt to expel the Germans from these ports or to deny them the use of these facilities meant that any future attempt would have to made from the sea. The mounting losses in the war at sea caused the Royal Navy to look at the problem. A suggestion by Admiral Keyes that the ports might be blocked by sinking a ship in the entrance was initially rejected but as the war dragged on, the Royal Navy returned to the idea and it was decided that it might be done with the use of several ships, although the exact position would have to be chosen with care so that it would not be possible to get around the ships or to dredge around them to create additional channels and their bottoms would have to be blown to sink them as quickly as possible and prevent drifting.
So, as it is often done in this line of work, the word went out. Volunteer for a mission you have no idea about - odds are you won't come back. You will be trained quickly, sloppily with a pick-up team. You execute.
As the ships were approaching the entrance to the port, some protection would be afforded (in the case of Zeebrugge) by the Mole, which extended in an arc across the entrance to the channel. It was over a mile in length and some 100 yards wide, having extensive storage facilities and hangers for seaplanes. A railway connected the Mole to the shore and was used to transfer men, equipment and stores. As the planning for the operation got underway, a special Royal Marine battalion (mainly volunteer) was formed in February 1918 to eliminate the battery that was situated at the end of the Mole and would threaten the block ships as they approached the canal. Lt Col F E Chichester was appointed to command the battalion but was succeeded by Major B N Elliott. The battalion consisted of a headquarters, a machinegun section, a mortar section, three rifle companies and medical support staff. The troops were to be conveyed to Zeebrugge in HMS Vindictive, assisted by the Iris and the Daffodil, two Mersey ferry boats that had been provided for this operation. Once they had reached Zeebrugge, Daffodil was to push Vindictive against the Mole until she could be secured and disembark the troops. The ships were modified for this task. Special ramps were fitted to Vindictive so that the storming parties could reach the Mole, while Iris and Daffodil had been fitted with ladders to that their parties could climb up onto the Mole. Vindictive was strengthened and armoured against the storm of fire she would receive and additional armament fitted so she could support the troops as the moved onto the Mole.

By April 1918, the preparations for the raid had been completed, the men trained for their tasks and the shipping collected for the operation. Three block ships were to be sunk in the Zeebrugge canal entrance, HMS Thetis, HMS Intrepid and HMS Iphegenia. The first time the force sailed, 11 April 1918, the weather conditions changed as they neared Zeebrugge, which forced a postponement, but on the eve of St George's Day, 22 April 1918 the force sailed and during the passage, Admiral Keyes signalled "St George for England". Commander Carpenter on the Vindictive replied, "May we give the dragon's tail a damned good twist." By 23.20 on 22 April, the monitors had opened fire on Zeebrugge. Twenty minutes later, the motor launches that had accompanied the force began to make the smoke screen. One minute after midnight, St George's Day, Vindictive arrived alongside the Mole after which Daffodil arrived alongside her to push her against the Mole. By this point the smoke screen had begun to lift and the defensive fire was intense. In the approach to the Mole, many of the ramps fitted to Vindictive were damaged and only two could be used to allow the storming parties to disembark on the Mole. The ladders fitted to Iris were damaged as well and so the troops had to transfer to Vindictive to land. Once on top of the Mole, they had to endure intense German machinegun fire in order to get to the battery and while they failed to knock it out, they prevented it from firing on the blocking ships and so succeeded in their mission, something for which they suffered heavy casualties for.

The distraction caused by the motor launches and Royal Marines enabled the block ships to approach the canal entrance without too much difficulty. Thetis ran into problems when one of its propellers got caught in a net, forcing her to collide with the bank. She had to be sunk some distance from the entrance but performed admirable work in helping to direct the remaining two ships into the canal entrance itself. Both Intrepid and Iphigenia were able to be sunk in the correct positions, thus blocking the canal. Two submarines, C1 and C3 were packed with explosives and rammed into the viaduct, demolishing it, thus isolating the Mole from the shore. The crews from the submarines and the block ships were picked up by the motor launches despite heavy fire from the German batteries. By 00.50 on 23 April the recall had sounded and by 01.00 the survivors were all aboard. A quarter of an hour later, Vindictive had cleared the protection of the Mole and was undergoing intensive fire from the Germans but managed to come through it. The raid on Ostend at the same time proved to be a failure but another attempt was tried the next month and Vindictive was used as a block ship in that operation. The Royal Marines had been on the Mole for just an hour and the force had displayed such courage and devotion to duty that it gave great encouragement to the Allied forces at such a dark hour in the war. The 4th Royal Marine Battalion was awarded two Victoria Crosses with another six being awarded for the action at Zeebrugge and three being awarded for the actions at Ostend. At Deal, on 26 April 1918, a ballot was held as to who should receive the awards, with Captain Bamford and Sergeant Finch winning. In order that the gallantry of the battalion would be remembered, it was decided that no other marine battalion should be named the 4th.
In a day where entire nations ponder abandoning the battle against an existential threat to their very existence due to a number of casualties suffered at Zeebrugge in a matter of minutes, it can make you wonder if we can even try to understand what these men did and why. We can try. That is what the study of history is. That is why what we have done to the study of history from elementary school through college and as adults is a crime in itself and a shame on our culture.

And in the end;
Much was made of the raid. Keyes was knighted, and 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded. The Germans, however, made a new channel round the two ships, and within two days their submarines were able to transit Zeebrugge. Destroyers were able to do so by mid-May.
Did it make a difference? Of course it did. Did the pundits of the day nit-pic it to death? No, they understood that war from the Strategic to the Tactical is a dark room you step in to. No, it has only been nit-pic'd once the pundits were safely behind the wall of freedom that those who bled built.

First posted NOV08.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

AUKUS and the Nuclear Roo

I guess this is submarine week at CDR Salamander, because right after the Wednesday post, the Anglosphere decided to wake everyone up;

Joint Leaders Statement on AUKUS

SEPTEMBER 15, 2021


As leaders of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, guided by our enduring ideals and shared commitment to the international rules-based order, we resolve to deepen diplomatic, security, and defense cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, including by working with partners, to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. As part of this effort, we are announcing the creation of an enhanced trilateral security partnership called “AUKUS” — Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Through AUKUS, our governments will strengthen the ability of each to support our security and defense interests, building on our longstanding and ongoing bilateral ties. We will promote deeper information and technology sharing. We will foster deeper integration of security and defense-related science, technology, industrial bases, and supply chains. And in particular, we will significantly deepen cooperation on a range of security and defense capabilities.

As the first initiative under AUKUS, recognizing our common tradition as maritime democracies, we commit to a shared ambition to support Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy. Today, we embark on a trilateral effort of 18 months to seek an optimal pathway to deliver this capability. We will leverage expertise from the United States and the United Kingdom, building on the two countries’ submarine programs to bring an Australian capability into service at the earliest achievable date.

The development of Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines would be a joint endeavor between the three nations, with a focus on interoperability, commonality, and mutual benefit. Australia is committed to adhering to the highest standards for safeguards, transparency, verification, and accountancy measures to ensure the non-proliferation, safety, and security of nuclear material and technology. Australia remains committed to fulfilling all of its obligations as a non-nuclear weapons state, including with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Our three nations are deeply committed to upholding our leadership on global non-proliferation.

Recognizing our deep defense ties, built over decades, today we also embark on further trilateral collaboration under AUKUS to enhance our joint capabilities and interoperability. These initial efforts will focus on cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and additional undersea capabilities.

The endeavor we launch today will help sustain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. For more than 70 years, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, have worked together, along with other important allies and partners, to protect our shared values and promote security and prosperity. Today, with the formation of AUKUS, we recommit ourselves to this vision.

I remain a fan of conventional submarines and are open to arguments that in our forward deployed empire, we could find a use for them, but just look at Australia’s place in the world;

That geographic imperative screams for the range and capability that only a SSN can bring to the table.

As for the French, one has to allow that they should be upset that their previous deal went south - they lost a good deal - but the world changed and they did not help themselves in a variety of ways once Australia decided to go SSN. 

The response from Emmanuel Macron’s government was unequivocal. In the early hours of 16 September, the foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and the army minister Florence Parly issued a blistering communiqué denouncing a “decision contrary to the letter and the spirit of Franco-Australian cooperation”. The statement criticised “the US’s choice … to sideline a European partner and ally”. 

In a radio interview, Le Drian went further, denouncing “a stab in the back”. He added: “We need explanations.”

“The French seem to be in shock,” said Tara Varma, the head of the Paris office of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

The AUKUS pact just just a subset of the Five Eyes subset of the larger Anglophere, just leaving Canada and the spoiled traditionally anti-nuke posturing New Zealanders to the side. Sorry France, you are a friend, but when the going gets rough ... blood and history is stronger in the Anglosphere.

Once they decided to go nuclear, tying in to the already long standing military relationship with their fellow English speaking nations - and spot welding themselves on US-UK nuclear power relationship dating back to WWII - just makes too much sense.

One thing I hope so much for is that we make this as affordable as possible for Australia. I would hope we give it to them at cost. No reason to try to get any of the development cost whichever direction the build goes. 

Helping build the infrastructure to support nuclear submarines will benefit everyone, and especially Australia - a nation that is a natural to go nuclear power for both green energy and other reasons - something this military effort could help kickstart.

How many? Let me do a back of the bar napkin guess. Australia has 7.5% of the US population and 6.5% of our GDP. Let’s mash that up as 7%.

The USN has 50 or so SSN depending on how you measure. Let’s add the 4 SSGN and round up to 55. If you round up and normalize for population/GDP that gives your 4 SSN for Australia.

Australia spends 2.1% of her GDP on defense, and rising. That $44.6 billion is roughly 6% of the USA’s $725 billion, so that doesn’t lead me to change any numbers there.

Let’s call it four boats … but wait.

How about this as an underline?

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, U.S. President Joe Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson jointly announced the formation of a new tripartite alliance known as AUKUS on Thursday (local time), under which the first initiative will to build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy.

Make that eight. 

That, more than anything else should get your attention. There are serious things taking place as the West - and specifically the Anglosphere - is turning in to the wind coming from the Middle Kingdom.

Read the statement at the top of the post again. 

Yeah … this is a big deal. Let’s hope we do it right.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Who Wants to do the Range & Time to Target Math for Me?

Conventional submarine launched ballistic missiles.

If you aren't mad that the South Koreans have them before we do, I don't know if we can be friends.

I'm discussing over at USNIBlog. Come by and ponder a bit more.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Preliminary Commander's POSTEX on Afghanistan

CNN’s summary of Sunday’s 2-hr documentary on Afghanistan has some interesting quotes from the commanders – and a few errors – I thought we should start the week out with.

What is most interesting here are three individuals speaking out who have mostly stayed in the background: Barno, McNeill, and McKiernan. You’ll come away wanting to hear more from them.

No longer in uniform, Gens. Stanley McChrystal, David Petraeus, Joseph Dunford, John Allen, David McKiernan, Dan McNeill, and Lt. Gens. Eikenberry and David Barno, speak frankly.

First, as always – let’s pull out the appropriate graphic. Time and context matters. In the article, they don’t do like they should and go chronologically, so I will here.

Let’s get to the pull quotes:

"I personally resented the war in Iraq," Barno, the senior US commander in Afghanistan for 19 months over 2003 to 2005, says.

Fair, but this is all in hindsight. That feeling is just 20-yrs of running the play over and over. If you read what was being done from Bonn, Brussels, and DC on AFG, what AFG was to become was not seen by most of the decision makers – heck almost all the decision makers. It was more than IRQ, and the contemporary historical record is helpful to review here. In hindsight, he is not wrong – but time travel is not possible.

"The 20-year war in Afghanistan was -- for the results that we have achieved -- not worth the cost," Karl Eikenberry, both a commander in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007 and ambassador to the country from 2009 to 2011, tells CNN's Jake Tapper in a two-hour documentary that airs Sunday.


Eikenberry observes, "There really was no clear political end state. That leads to deep questions. Was it worth it? What was it all about?"


"We could provide advice," Eikenberry says. "We could provide training support. But we couldn't give that Afghan army a soul. Only the political leadership and people of Afghanistan could do that. And that was a failure. The Afghan government remained extraordinarily corrupt."

Eikenberry was part of the early, smaller efforts and then came in again later as a civilian with the Obama administration when there was a hard pivot away from a long-term plan to try to get a win. He was there when the march towards defeat began when we culminated at Obama’s DEC 09 West Point speech. He has two perspectives that he seems to be trying to work through internally.

Eikenberry is an almost tragic character. He knows he owns a lot of the blame – as every officer who served in AFG does – and appears to try to explain things as best as he can. His latest comments on Biden’s withdraw are another example.

"My first impulse is to say, yes, it was worth it, but I no longer am certain of that," retired four-star general McNeill, who led coalition forces in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2003 and then US troops from 2007 to 2008, says. "Before I go to my grave, I hope to have that question answered."


McNeill, the commander Bush didn't know in 2002, recalls meeting the President at the White House in 2007, during his second tour as a commander in Afghanistan. "'Tell me exactly what you need'," McNeill remembers Bush saying, before adding a caveat: " 'You're not going to get it, because I got to take care of this Iraq thing'."


McNeill is introspective. "I am doing soul searching to determine -- is it fair to say I did my share of the task?" he asks. "Did I come up short in some way? What's the duty owed to those who came home, not carrying their shields, but on their shields?"

When asked what he would say to Gold Star families or veterans who wonder if the sacrifices of Afghanistan were worth it, McNeill speaks about his pride in everyone who stepped up to fight there or in Iraq before continuing.

"I would just simply say that for what I have failed to do, I'm sorry," McNeill says. "I did the best I could."

Tapper asks why he blames himself.

"The commander is responsible for what his unit does or fails to do," McNeill answers. "If this is a failure, then I carry my share of it."

McNeill, along with McKiernan, is one of the commanders I have the most direct knowledge of. Our time and place in the AFG conflict mostly overlap, so our perspectives – one a General Officer one a Field Grade staff weenie – are similar from our relative positions. His comments are the best of all here and the ones that resonate best with me. 

I need to make a few comments on this McKiernan paragraph that I think contains some commentary from the authors and are not in line with McKiernan. I briefed this issue for months.

McKiernan recalls that in the summer of 2009, troops in Afghanistan were facing a terrible problem with improvised explosive devices. They had three "route clearance companies" to clear roads. Iraq, which faced far fewer issues with IEDs and mines at the time, had some 90 route clearance companies. That didn't change for eight years, until President Barack Obama ordered a surge in troops.

IED came in to AFG from the lessons learned by our enemy in IRQ. The problem manifested itself in IRQ first and then started to decline in 2007. Even at the peak fighting season in 2007 AFG, the IED attacks in IRQ were 10-times higher in IRQ than they were in AFG. The IRQ commander was very jealous of his assets – as he was with his ISR assets, through 2008 in case he needed them. 

See these two graphs. They help.

"What happens in that eight years?" McKiernan asks. "You have a Taliban, which has generally a safe haven in the frontier provinces and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan. They become resurgent. And eight years, we don't grow fast enough and well enough [the] capabilities of the government in Afghanistan and the army. And there you are."


McKiernan wonders aloud whether there were better ways to retaliate for September 11. He concludes that, there are "probably lots of things we could have done differently."

Remember at the start of the AFG conflict when everyone said that to avoid a problem like Vietnam we had to deny a safe haven? Well, we let Pakistan give them a safe haven. There is a direct line from there to 2021. Department of State, call your office.

The next two players are, in my opinion, the worst of the bunch; McChrystal and Petraeus;

"We didn't understand the problem," says McChrystal, who led international forces from 2009 to 2010. "The complexities of the environment, I think, weren't appreciated. We went for what we thought would work quickly over what would have likely worked over the longer term."

McChrystal argues that in hindsight, right after the September 11, 2001, attacks that triggered the invasion of Afghanistan, the US should have held its fire -- "no bombing, no strikes" -- though he acknowledges that would have been almost impossible. Instead, he would have spent a year building a coalition to counter al Qaeda and training Americans in Arabic, Pashto, Urdu and Dari languages "to get ourselves ready to do something that we knew would be very, very difficult."

McChrystal points out that no one was thinking in the long term, either. "I don't think we sat around a table, ever, and talked about where's this going to be in 20 years."

That is one of the most disingenuous comments about the AFG conflict by any General or Flag Officer. It is, in a word, bullshit. All we did – at least on the planning level – was talk about the long-term project this was. In 2008-09 in Kabul, that was the entire foundation of the Operational Plan.

As for his, “take a year” COA – I’m sorry, I was in theater at the start in 2001. In none of an infinity of parallel universes would that ever been thought of, briefed, or accepted. What a bullshit comment. I don’t need to say more, it mocks itself by its own existence.

Petraeus argues that counterinsurgency -- a strategy he co-wrote a book about -- worked. "It actually did work during the period that we had the resources to do that," he says. McKiernan disagrees. "I think in rural Afghanistan, which is most of Afghanistan, it has not worked," he says.

In general, it is best to ignore Petraeus and listen to McKiernan. ‘Nuff said.

"Much of our strategic attention and much of our strategic capacity was diverted into Iraq, to the detriment of the war," Allen says.

This is true in a variety of ways. Not fully appreciated at the time, but unquestionably true.

Dunford says he believes the US accomplished its mission "to prevent al Qaeda from attacking the United States, to prevent Afghanistan from being a sanctuary and also mitigate the risk of mass migration."

He adds, however, "We shouldn't confuse the outcome with saying that we did that at an appropriate level of investment." He would have liked to see "fewer young men and women having lost their lives, families suffering, casualties, there's no question about it. But at the end of the day, I'm not willing to say it wasn't worth it."

In the short term, yes. I am of the school that things are much more dangerous now than they were 20-yrs ago. That is what we should plan around today. If not, we’ll be luck. If so, we’ll be ready.

Go back and read McNeill’s comments. They resonate best of all, I think.

I’d also offer that you look back at the short video I posted last month with quotes from the commanders of the AFG war. This was, for most of its effort, a NATO effort until they culminated in 2007 and it shifted over to mostly a USA effort from there. 

That is one of the problems with this documentary that was also a problem during the AFG conflict. Too many Americans, from Main Street to the Joint Staff, never understood the international effort that was AFG for the first decade of the conflict.

Another error is the mistelling of the “Obama surge.” Review my contemporary writings from 2008-09 on the topic. What we called at the time the “uplift of forces” (to avoid confusion with the IRQ surge that took place earlier), began in 2008 with its first phase done before Obama became CINC. He just approved the next phase. The “Obama surge” was really a Bush-Obama surge. They both were involved. Seems like a small point, but it is an important historical fact that cannot be allowed to become forgotten. 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Twenty Years

It was just another hot, process filled day for a mid-grade LCDR in Bahrain when the brief flush of the post-Cold War peace ended and the world we know today was rebuilt from the rubble.

I would not have expected things to be where they are today, 20-yrs later. For the first few months in theater before I returned home to a very different America, we were focused on what a more direct culture would call a "punitive expedition" - not what it became.

In late 2001 and through 2002, we could see what was forming in DC, Brussels, think tanks, and faculty lounges in The West that became the complete disaster of pet theories and projects thrown on to the backs of the dead in New York City, The Pentagon, and that sad little field in Pennsylvania. 

They played off the rage of a nation to have us spend trillions of dollars to, what, exactly?

Multiples of the numbers of people killing on Sept. 11th died fighting the wars that followed from Afghanistan across Iraq, Syria, Libya, and various other dusty hell holes in Africa ... for what exactly? Orders of magnitude of civilians were killed by us in the process of creating ... what exactly?

We've discussed the above here before and this isn't a day for me to go on about it again.

I do think of my youngest daughter on that day, not even six months old at home with her mother and sister. I thought of them a lot that day and was hoping that we would help create a better world for them. Did we? Maybe, as we don't know what alternative futures would have looked like ... but did we do our best?

I don't know. Maybe, but I doubt it. The negative effects of our humiliation in Afghanistan on our nation and our place in the world will resonate through the rest of this decade and longer.

Though he is dead, Bin Laden did get something from his attack 20-yrs ago. I think part of what we need to do is acknowledge and accept that if you told him where things were in 2021, he may not be exceptionally happy, but he would feel much better today and the rest of us.

As I like to do, I want to pick a clip from AM TV that Americans watched. Watch it again just to remember the place and time.

A final note: those who mastermined 911? A few are dead, and many of those still alive are still in custody ... and only now going on trial. Think about that as well. Think about that and other parts of our government and leading institutions that created the state of play today. Think how we can change both to better serve our nation and the West.

Action is always better than anger.

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Our Military Failures are Intellectual Failures

Our military failures of the last half century have not been at the Tactical or for that matter the Operational level. They have been failures at the Strategic and POL/MIL levels,

We have to accept that there is something wrong with not just who we select as our senior uniformed and civilian leaders, but how we educate them, and how we designed the system they work in.

For today's post, let's just touch on one segment of the education portion; our war colleges.

As our war colleges started to focus less on their part in the practice of war and instead pursued the pleasures and practices of colleges, our military has been less successful at war and have adopted some of the worst vices of academia.

I'm not the only one thinking along these lines. Over at City Journal, Thomas Bruscino and Mitchell G. Klingenberg from the U.S. Army War College have a bit addressing this head on you should give a full read to;

In May 2020, the Joint Chiefs of Staff published guidance for the education of future senior military leaders that repeatedly emphasized the need for all senior officers to learn how to fight wars ... The Joint Chiefs issued their guidance because our senior-officer education system does not prepare its students for joint warfighting, which is enormously complicated.

At the war colleges, this cry for help has gone missing in a maze of bureaucracy and jargon. Educational standards take the form of vague word salads: “Senior leaders who lead complex organizations and think strategically and skillfully as adaptive and collaborative problem solvers to develop strategies to achieve national security outcomes.” Such “standards” are neither measurable nor focused on winning wars, yet educators congratulate themselves for meeting them, while graduates leave not even knowing what they don’t know.

Here is what we know: the only standard that matters is whether our military officers can prevail in war. As recent events in Afghanistan have demonstrated, we don’t meet that standard. 


Our war colleges must rededicate themselves to the task of instructing students in the problems of fighting and winning. They must teach graduates to reject simplistic analogies, aphorisms, and the latest “revolutionary” developments in warfare. They should teach diplomatic, economic, scientific, historical, legal, and other academic subjects only insofar as they contribute to warfighting. Above all, they must carefully study historical and contemporary conflicts of all types to gain a greater appreciation of the vast complexity of joint warfighting, and then apply it in practice—first, by crafting their own war-winning strategies and campaigns, and then by fighting them out, over and over, in war games and other exercises.

We have forgotten much of what we need to know. We will have to relearn it together.