Friday, February 17, 2017

On Midrats 19 Feb 2017 -Episode 372: Andrew Jackson’s Navy; Now More Than Ever?

Please join us at 5pm EST on 19 Feb 2016 for Midrats Episode 372: Andrew Jackson’s Navy; Now More Than Ever?
Since his election in November, the administration and several articles have suggested Donald Trump is a new Andrew Jackson whose portrait now hangs in the Oval Office. What might that mean for the Navy? How did Andrew Jackson approach his Navy and what lessons can we draw from that?

Our guest for the full hour for a discussion of an understudied part of our naval history and what it could mean for the current administration is returning guest Claude Berube.

Claude is the Director of the Naval Academy Museum and has taught in both the Political Science and History Departments at the Naval Academy. He has worked in the U.S. Senate, as a maritime studies fellow at the Heritage Foundation, as the head of a terrorism analysis team for the Office of Naval Intelligence and as a defense contractor.
An intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve, he deployed with Expeditionary Strike Group Five in 2004-05. His articles have been published in Orbis, Vietnam Magazine, Naval History, The Washington Times, Jane’s Intelligence Review, Naval Institute Proceedings and others. He’s also written or co-authored five books. He’s completing his doctoral dissertation through the University of Leeds.
Listen live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or you can pick the show up later by clicking that link or by visiting either our iTunes page or our Stitcher page.

Friday Film: U.S. Coast Guard "Alaska Patrol" (1958)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Mr. Mattis Goes to NATO

The Secretary of Defense does not mince works in Speaking Truth to Eurocrats
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, echoing his boss in Washington, warned on Wednesday
that the amount of American support for NATO could depend on whether other countries meet their own spending commitments.

Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do,” Mr. Mattis said in his first speech to NATO allies since becoming defense secretary.* “I owe it to you to give you clarity on the political reality in the United States and to state the fair demand from my country’s people in concrete terms.”

“America will meet its responsibilities,” he said, but he made clear that American support had its limits.

In his speech to NATO defense ministers, Mr. Mattis repeated a call made by previous American secretaries of defense, for European allies to spend more on their militaries. His comments on Wednesday give teeth to President Trump’s expressed skepticism about the alliance.

What’s more, Mr. Mattis went further than his predecessors in apparently linking American contributions to the alliance to what other countries spend.

“If your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defense,” he said.
I think I hear Euro heads exploding - their social welfare spending does not include sufficient defense of their nations - because they long have counted on the U.S. to have the laboring oar. However, the U.S. has carried some of them for over 70 years and that is not how partnerships are supposed to work. I know previous SecDefs have made the same point - but Secretary Mattis, well, he seems to have a way with words.

By social welfare, I include the idea that a primary function of a state is to protect its citizenry.

Next, how about a discussion of those sea lines of communication the U.S. is protecting? How about some load sharing?

That being said, we, of course, properly should thank France for using its carrier and carrier air as an ally.

*Emphasis added

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Philippines Piracy: China, U.S. and Japan to Assist Philippines?

Crude Oil Flows in the South China Sea
The Republic of the Philippines sits on major sea lines of communication (SLOCs) which makes those nations that use those SLOCs have a vested interest in keeping them open for use for ships to transit them free of action by pirates and/or terrorists who would disrupt the flow of goods and petroleum on these SLOCs.

The Philippines, about as near to a failed state as one can get without actually being Somalia, knows  that it needs help in patrolling its own waters from the scourge of entities like the formerly al Qaeda affiliated - now ISIS pledged Abu Sayyaf and other terrorist groups that seek to peel away the Muslim majority southern Philippine islands from the ROP. So, the Philippines seeks US, China help to fight pirates:
U.S. National Counterterrorism Center map

The Philippines is seeking US and Chinese help to guard a major sea lane as Islamic militants shift attacks to international shipping, officials said on Wednesday.
Manila does not want the Sibutu Passage between Malaysia’s Sabah state and the southern Philippines to turn into a Somalia-style pirate haven, coastguard officials said.
The deep-water channel, used by 13,000 vessels each year, offers the fastest route between Australia and the manufacturing powerhouses China, Japan and South Korea, they added.
In the past year Abu Sayyaf gunmen from the southern Philippines have boarded ships and kidnapped dozens of crewmen for ransom in waters between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, raising regional alarm.

Indonesia has warned the region could become the “next Somalia” and the International Maritime Bureau says waters off the southern Philippines are becoming increasingly dangerous.
In addition to the U.S. and China, the ROP reports that Japan has offered to "assist" in this situation, as set out here:
Japan has offered to send patrol ships to deal with a growing piracy threat in the southern Philippine waters bordering Indonesia and Malaysia, a senior Philippine defense official said on Tuesday.
A surge in piracy off parts of the southern Philippines is forcing ship-owners to divert vessels through other waters, pushing up costs and shipping times. Dozens of sailors have been taken captive by Abu Sayyaf.
Japanese vice minister Ro Manabe offered the assistance at a meeting in Tokyo on Friday and expressed readiness to contribute to efforts by the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia "in addressing piracy and terrorism", said Raymund Quilop, assistant defense minister for assessments and international affairs.
A senior Japanese defense ministry official, however, gave a different account of the Tokyo meeting and said no offer of patrols was made to the Philippines, just "capacity building".
Leaders from the two countries agreed last fall that Japan would give the Philippines high-speed small boats for its counter-terrorism efforts, but it was not clear if that was part of the apparent offer made by Manabe.
I don't think any of the nations that are mentioned have any desire to see the ROP actually fall into full failure mode and they surely want to have this affected SLOCs clear for normal merchant transits.

It should also be noted that Australia has made long-term commitments to aid the ROP. See here:
Total Australian Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Philippines will be an estimated $81.9 million in 2016-17. Our economic partnership with the Philippines will focus all elements of our trade, investment and aid initiatives working together to promote growth.

Australia delivers targeted advice and technical assistance that aims to have a catalytic effect both on reform efforts and capacity development of the Philippine Government. Given the Philippines’ current positive economic position we will shift focus from basic service delivery, such as classroom construction, towards supporting the Philippine Government to better manage its own resources.

The strategic direction of Australian aid to the Philippines is informed by the Australian Government’s development policy Australian aid: promoting prosperity, reducing poverty, enhancing stability; Australia’s national interests; by our ability to add value; and our previous development results. Australia’s aid will align with the priorities of the Philippines Government which is seeking to put the country on the path of accelerated and inclusive development. The Philippine Government has had an ambitious reform agenda in recent years to tackle poverty, improve governance and address corruption, while pushing through important social sector reforms, including education, and promoting peace in the Southern Philippines.
UPDATE: Fixed a portion that was somehow turned into gibberish when first posted.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Iranian Fake Navy News: "Navy Repulses Pirate Attack on Iranian Vessel in Bab-el-Mandeb"

For several years I've had some fun with the elaborate claims made on behalf of the Iranian navy's apparently single-handed war against "Somali" pirates claims that follow a cookie-cutter format with minor variations as to the number of pirate vessels involved.

Iran Navy's Alvand, Alleged Pirate Fighter
One common thread in these reports has always been the claim that the pirates seem to concentrate on Iranian shipping - which is interesting because no other country reports any such attacks in the area since major anti-piracy programs - both naval and private security - have been in place.

In any event, here's a "story" from Iran's Tasnim News Agency "Navy Repulses Pirate Attack on Iranian Vessel in Bab-el-Mandeb":
Iran’s naval forces saved one of the country’s trade vessels from a massive pirate attack in the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, which links the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea.

The Navy’s 44th flotilla of warships, which patrols the Gulf of Aden waters in an overseas mission, saved the trade vessel when Somalian pirates tried to hijack it.

The pirates, equipped with modern and expensive vessels such as refueling ships, launched the attack on the Iranian trade vessel on board 11 speed boats.

The timely presence of the naval flotilla forced the pirates to flee the zone.
An interesting aspect of this version is the claim of the alleged pirates possessing "modern and expensive vessels such as refueling ships."


The Mess in Syria: Counter- Assad Jihadists Go Joint

Can't keep track of who is fighting whom in the former state of Syria? It's nice to have a guide through the maze of groups like ISIS, JTS which became HTS, etc. One of the best guides is the gang at Long War Journal, especially Thomas Joscelyn.

For example, I recommend reading Jihadists and other rebels assault Syrian regime positions in southern city, a portion of which is set out below:
On Feb. 12, the newly formed Hay’at Tahrir al Sham and its allies launched an offensive
against Syrian regime forces in the southern city of Daraa. The assault was led by two suicide bombers who detonated their vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) in the regime-controlled neighborhood of al Manshiyeh. Daraa, which lies just several miles from Syria’s border with Jordan, has long been divided between the insurgents on one side and forces loyal to Bashar al Assad on the other.
Al Nusrah Front was the name of al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria until July 2016,
Arrow points to Daraa vicinity. Underlying map Ermanarich 
when the organization was rebranded as Jabhat Fath al Sham (JFS). Then, in January, JFS and four other insurgent groups merged to form Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS), or “Assembly for the Liberation of Syria.”

HTS has posted photos (seen below) on social media from the fighting in Daraa, including an image of one of its “martyrs.” HTS identified the suicide attackers as Abu Riyan al Muhajir, a Jordanian, and Abu Muhammad al Ansari. The use of suicide bombers is telling. Although HTS has tried to obscure the role al Qaeda plays in its operations, “martyrdom” attacks are one of al Qaeda’s signatures. Other Islamist groups allied with al Qaeda in Syria have, by and large, abstained from carrying them out.

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s Islamic State, which rivals HTS, is prolific in its use of suicide terrorists. But al Qaeda has been far more selective, only using the tactic in key operations. For example, a number of “martyrs” were deployed during the battle for Aleppo late last year. Their appearance in Daraa likely indicates that HTS has deemed the offensive to be especially important, for one reason or another.

The anti-Assad forces in Daraa coordinate their movements in a joint military operations room known as Al Bunyan al Marsous. (Another, unrelated coalition of forces used this same name in Sirte, Libya.)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Nightfall "The Monkey's Raincoat" (1982)

From the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in the 1980s, Nightfall:
. . is the title of a radio drama series produced and aired by CBC Radio from July 1980 to June 1983. While primarily a supernatural/horror series, Nightfall featured some episodes in other genres, such as science fiction, mystery, fantasy, and human drama. One episode was even adapted from a folk song by Stan Rogers. Some of Nightfall's episodes were so terrifying that the CBC registered numerous complaints and some affiliate stations dropped it. Despite this, the series went on to become one of the most popular shows in CBC Radio history, running 100 episodes that featured a mix of original tales and adaptations of both classic and obscure short stories.
Here's a less scary show that involves a look at U.S. presidential - um- inaugurations with a very odd twist to it -