Tuesday, March 28, 2017

China's Century of Humilation

It is important to understand the history of a rising power, especially one seeking its "proper" place in the world - a place denied it for over 100 years - when its long history indicated it was the central focus of all human endeavor - the "Middle Kingdom."

Nice presentation here on China's "Century of Humiliation" and the role that plays in China's "national narrative" which really ought to be read in toto:
 First, the “Century of Humiliation” – a period between 1839 and 1949 when China‟s government lost control over large portions of its territory at the hands of foreigners – is a key element of modern China‟s founding narrative.
 Second, the Century of Humiliation is thought by many Chinese today to provide historical lessons that are taken as indicative of how strong Western powers tend to behave toward China.
 Third, the intellectual debates about the nature of international relations that took place during the Century of Humiliation underpin similar elite debates that are taking place in China today.  Concerns with the nature of interstate competition, with the possibility for equality among nation-states, and with the question of whether the international system might evolve into something more peaceable in the future, remain salient topics of discussion and debate in China today.
 Fourth, although the PRC government maintains that the Century of Humiliation ended when the CCP won the Chinese civil war and established itself as the ruling regime, there remain several vestiges of that period that, in the minds of many Chinese, must be rectified before China‟s recovery will be considered complete. The most important of these – and perhaps the only one that is non-negotiable – is the return of Taiwan to the mainland.
 Fifth, there is significant lack of consensus among present-day Chinese elites about what the lessons learned from the Century of Humiliation mean for China‟s future trajectory in the global arena. The Century of Humiliation provides key frameworks through which Chinese intellectuals and policy-makers may view China‟s place in the world, but there is significant variation in their interpretations. We should be cautious about assuming that one path will definitely be chosen.
Despite China‟s recent successes, deep-seated suspicions of Western intentions linger, and are stoked by the CCP‟s continual employment of the Century of Humiliation narrative. CCP and PLA writings still present China as the perpetual and innocent victim of Western nations‟ continued determination to subjugate it. Recent PLA publications on martial strategy, for instance, assert that Western nations are fundamentally rapacious, greedy, and aggressive, having grown historically out of “slave states [that] frequently launched wars of conquest and pillage to expand their territories, plunder wealth, and extend their sphere of influence.” Such writings often add that China, by contrast, is by nature a “peace-craving and peace-loving” nation. In this view, because the West has not fundamentally changed, China must seek peace, but prepare for war. Hence President Hu Jintao, in a 2004 speech laying out the new “historic missions” of the People‟s Liberation Army, warned that “Western hostile forces have not yet given up the wild ambition of trying to subjugate us.”
(footnotes omitted and emphasis added)
Okay a couple of quick videos to drive home the point:

Monday, March 27, 2017

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 20 February - 22 March 2017 and Horn of Africa/Gulf of Guinea/ Southeast Asia: Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (PAWW) Report for 16 - 22 March 2017

Yes, two reports from the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence- because its the time of year when conditions for piracy might be expected to be good and because of indicators that the "pirates of Somalia" might be attempting to stage a comeback.

China's Naval Militia

Very interesting read from Andrew S. Erickson and Conor M. Kennedy for the U.S. Naval War College's Chinese Maritime Studies Institute on China’s Third Sea Force, The People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia: Tethered to the PLA (pdf):
Photo source: Tankler News
Amid growing awareness that China’s Maritime Militia acts as a Third Sea Force which has been involved in international sea incidents, it is necessary for decision-makers who may face such contingencies to understand the Maritime Militia’s role in China’s armed forces. Chinese-language open sources reveal a tremendous amount about Maritime Militia activities, both in coordination with and independent of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Using well-documented evidence from the authors’ extensive open source research, this report seeks to clarify the Maritime Militia’s exact identity, organization, and connection to the PLA as a reserve force that plays a parallel and supporting role to the PLA.
Like a tetherball, the PAFMM may be sent in many different directions when contacted by different players in the Chinese security space, but is often directed by the PLA and always remains tied to the PLA.
Read it, download it and think about it.

China is a power using asymmetric tools in a world they want to change to be more China-centric.

More good stuff from James Kraska on The Law of Naval Warfare and China’s Maritime Militia:
China operates a vast network of fishing vessels that form a maritime militia equipped and trained to conduct intelligence, communications, and targeting support for the People's Liberation Army Navy. Fishing vessels normally are exempt from capture or attack in the law of naval warfare unless they are integrated into the naval forces, but distinguishing between legitimate fishing vessels and maritime militia during naval warfare is virtually impossible.
You can download a copy at the link, but the key is that China continually is walking that narrow lawfare line.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Somali Pirates Go Hunting, Grab a Dhow to Use for Longer Range Operations

Let's suppose you are at Somali pirate "High Command" and for 5 years you've been doing some "lessons learned" review and trying to decide how to make a comeback. You know that NATO forces will tire of patrolling the long pirate-less waters of the Arabian Sea and will save their countries money by going home. You know that smaller shipping companies, always watching their bottom line, will cease paying for expensive armed guards as soon as they make the decision that the cost/benefit ratio swings in favor of saving money over the cost of ship security.

With some time on your hands you contemplate how to repeat the old "happy times" of taking ships at sea using low cost, entirely expendable labor. You plan, you plot, you wait. NATO forces do leave. The EU group's mission is not "high seas piracy" but convoying food to your failed state homeland, so you will leave the food ships alone. You wait. You put out some small groups into the waters and watch for reactions. They get reported, but no one chases them down, so you grow bolder.

You find a cheesy little tanker (love that low freeboard) and you dispatch a team to take her. Your spokesman revives the old "protecting our fishing grounds" routine, which can be applied to any vessel seizure, regardless of whether or not the seized vessel has any connection to fishing or not, because it sounds so ... justifiable? It helps that there really are bad guys out there illegally fishing in what would be Somali waters if Somalia was a real nation instead of a geographic area full of warring tribes and power seeking goobers.

In any event, you've proven that piracy can done again. You return the test case vessel without seeking ransom. Now you move on to phase 2 - expanding the potential range of your workers - by hijacking a "Mother Ship":

In an advisory notice issued Friday, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade
Operations (UKMTO) warned that pirates had hijacked a dhow in the vicinity of Eyl, a city in northern Somalia that was once a hub for maritime piracy. Local authorities suggest that they may intend to use the small vessel for hijacking a merchant ship further offshore.

"Some crew have been put ashore and the [dhow] is now proceeding to sea; course, speed and destination unknown. Vessels are advised to exercise extreme caution," UKMTO warned.

Residents of Eyl told Reuters that local pirates were seeking a target. "We understand that pirates hijacked the fishing vessel to hijack a big ship off the ocean," said Abdirahman Mohamud, head of maritime police forces in Puntland. He added that the pirates had kept the dhow's captain, cook and engineer on board.
If little players like the tanker have given up on armed security teams just off the Somali coast, you think, then there may be some ripe picking of bigger ships out there - where the owners figure the risk of piracy is now low enough to start cutting corners on ship protection. And there's not NATO lurking about to send planes and helicopters and nasty little boats full of armed boarding teams.

The waiting game seems to be over.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Philo Vance "Cheesecake Murder Case" (1949)

About Mr. Vance:
Philo Vance is a fictional character featured in 12 crime novels written
by S. S. Van Dine (the pen name of Willard Huntington Wright), published in the 1920s and 1930s. During that time, Vance was immensely popular in books, movies, and on the radio. He was portrayed as a stylish, even foppish dandy, a New York bon vivant possessing a highly intellectual bent. The novels were chronicled by his friend Van Dine (who appears as a kind of Dr. Watson figure in the books as well as being the author).
Three radio drama series were created with Philo Vance as the title character.[4] The first series, broadcast by NBC in 1945, starred JosĂ© Ferrer. A summer replacement series in 1946 starred John Emery as Vance. The best-known series (and the one of which most episodes survived) ran from 1948 to 1950 in Frederick Ziv syndication and starred Jackson Beck. "Thankfully, the radio series uses only the name, and makes Philo a pretty normal, though very intelligent and extremely courteous gumshoe. ... Joan Alexander is Ellen Deering, Vance's secretary and right-hand woman.”[5]

No sound effects? More organ music!

Friday, March 24, 2017

On Midrats 26 March 2017- Episode 377: Too Many SWOs at Sea?

Please join us at 5pm on 27 March 2017 for Midrats Episode 377: Too Many SWOs at Sea?
When is there ever too much of a good thing? Is our officer manning policy in the Surface Warfare Community resulting in too many JOs chasing too few hours of experience actually performing one of their most important professional duties, the safe and effective maneuver of a ship at sea?
U.S. Navy photo MC2 Jeremy Graham

Do we have our numbers, policies, and priorities right to ensure we are giving out Surface Warfare Officers the opportunity to master the fundamentals of any respected leader at sea?

Building off his article in the March 2017 Proceedings, Too Many SWOs per Ship, our guest for the full hour will be Lieutenant Brendan Cordial, USN.

We will not only discuss the issues he raises in his article, but will cover the experiences, responsibilities, and future of our surface forces from the Fleet LT perspective.

LT Cordial is a native of Beaufort, South Carolina. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2011 and commissioned through the NROTC Program. During his division officer tours, he served in USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) and USS San Jacinto (CG 56), both home-ported in Norfolk, VA. He is currently assigned to NROTC units at The George Washington University."
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 Movie: "Land the Landing Force" (1967)

Once upon a time:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

From the Department of Cheaper War Fighting: "A Ship that Still Isn't a Frigate" - byThink Defence

A while ago, Think Defence took on the task of thinking through what sorts of uses could be made of ships built for trade by an armed force that wanted to save its multi-billion dollar real warship hulls for doing what they were meant to do - patrolling the sea against threats from submarines and things like that.

Think Defence expanded on an idea I proposed in The Department of Cheaper Pirate FIghting with an interesting post titled A Ship that Still Isn't a Frigate:
One of the first multi part series on Think Defence was called a Ship
that is not a Frigate, so called because it was a few thoughts on how the Royal Navy could create a class of vessels that could operate in the area between the RFA logistics support vessel and the frigate or destroyer, specifically on a range of non-war-like tasks.

Taking inspiration from Mark Tempest I expanded the concept from re-purposing surplus offshore supply vessels and creating a larger, more flexible ship, utilising an offshore construction vessel as a base.

Since then, and before, I have written about the general concept a few times so this is a continuation and consolidation of those various blog posts and longer series.

The reason I called it ‘not a frigate’ because it was not intended to be a frigate on the cheap, or a surrogate frigate, and to emphasise the point so that people would not get carried away by adding medium calibre guns and cruise missiles.

The reason this article is notionally called ‘still not a frigate’ is because that still stands.

If one wants a Frigate (light or global) ask those nice chaps at BAE or BMT to design and build one for you.

So why bother, the simple point, the whole raison d’ĂȘtre for this, is one of cost, trying to squeeze the maximum utility from the smallest pot of cash. A class of ships that fulfils a plethora of roles that are less than high intensity combat, and might use some notional future budget for an Argus and Diligence replacement, and perhaps with a nod to future mine countermeasures and survey budgets.
Yes! Despite the crazy English spelling, TD has it exactly right. If you need more ships, figure out which missions are best performed by "not a frigates" and get going on building a force of such vessels to take on things like . . .piracy patrols, or the the list TD suggests:
- Training and Defence Engagement
- Salvage, Repair and Firefighting
- Medical support
- Experimentation and Systems Development
- Survey
- Mine Countermeasures
- Ship to Shore Logistics Support
- Maritime and Littoral Security
- Special Forces Support
- Disaster Relief
- Submarine Rescue
- Aviation Support
The U.S. Navy already has a number of normally unarmed vessels it uses for some of these purposes. You can see the list at the Military Sealift Command site.

Now, what, as I have suggested before we alter the equation by adding some armament? By placing hard-charging young officers out there in command of the modern equivalent of armed schooners? Let them get their feet wet in command.

Why? Let me refer you to an article in the March 2017 U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, "Too Many SWOs per Ship which points out that too many of our
surface officer youngsters are going to waste because they have too few opportunities to do the one fun thing about being a surface warfare officer - driving ships:
Inequalities in experience are exacerbated by the sheer numbers of division officers assigned to surface combatants. An afloat SWO training program seeks to enhance the baseline knowledge learned during the Basic Division Officer Course and help ensigns to achieve their SWO qualification. Nothing is more important to the quality of those qualifications than watch-standing experience, particularly during special evolutions. Given a finite number of special evolutions, large wardrooms result in fewer watchbill assignments per officer. Watchbills either become bloated with under-instruction watch standers—often to the detriment of the watch team’s overall cohesion—or junior officers simply are not given more than a handful of opportunities to directly participate in special evolutions.
Solution? More, cheaper ships doing real missions that can fully engage the hearts and minds of our future admirals. On smaller ships, experience comes at you fast.

Give them "Not a Frigates."

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Fun with North Korea: Again with the "Sea of Fire"

A video put out by the NORKS (uploaded to YouTube by ZeroHedge) "demonstrating" (nice word that, since it attempts to "demonize" the U.S.) how the great forces of the latest Kim-in-Charge will demolish any threat to the Hermit Kingdom and prove the superiority of "juche" over - well, over whatever the U.S. represents to the repressive regime in Pyongyang:

Long term readers may recall that the NORKS have been threatening the world with a "sea of fire". See also here, here, here, and here. Such threats may be annual events, I quit tracking them after a few years.

In any event, the NORK leadership is perpetually ticked off about something (perhaps having to live in North Korea?) and, for the most part, their blustery ways have spooked the better off places in the world into offering food, medicine and the like that prevent the place cratering around the ears of the current Kim. Yes, we prop up this family of nutjobs.

Now, however, the NORKs may have some weapons to threaten the world around them and it seems time to tell the would-be neighborhood mini-bully to grow up. As was touched on during Sunday's Midrats (starting about 52:00), the U.S. and its allies (and the Chinese, neighbors and sometime protectors of the NORKs) need to quit being nice to the current Kim and let him know that his rantings have outrun their usefulness and that, as a rising nuclear power, he is playing with . . . fire when he and his regime make threats.

As my sailors were wont to say, "Paybacks are a ". . ."

Here's hoping that some give Kim a clue that, if he's not in the big leagues, he's nudging up against the self-protection rights of other countries. That has real consequences.