Sunday, January 30, 2005

John F.Kerry on Meet the Press - why waste the time?

For reasons that baffle the understanding of rational humans, Tim Russert interviewed Democratic sore loser John F. Kerry on Meet th Press, transcript here. Kerry's contribution to th GWOT continues apace, warning the US against trying to "overhype" the first free election in an Arab country since...well, in a very long time.
Secondly, it is significant that there is a vote in Iraq.  But no one in the United States or in the world-- and I'm confident of what the world response will be. No one in the United States should try to overhype this election. This election is a sort of demarcation point, and what really counts now is the effort to have a legitimate political reconciliation, and it's going to take a massive diplomatic effort and a much more significant outreach to the international community than this administration has been willing to engage in.  Absent that, we will not be successful in Iraq.
(emphasis added).
Kerry, who has already attempted to ruin the US effort in a number of ways (bad mouthing the effort during the election, failing to fund our troops, poor-mouthing the effort during a recent visit) . Up to his old tricks, Kerry manages to contradict himself in the space of two questions.
RUSSERT:  Do you believe that Iraq is less a terrorist threat to the United States now than it was two years ago?

SEN. KERRY:  No, it's more.  And, in fact, I believe the world is less safe today than it was two and a half years ago.  ...

MR. RUSSERT:  Is the United States safer with the newly elected Iraqi government than we would have been with Saddam Hussein?

SEN. KERRY:  Sure.  And I'm glad Saddam Hussein is gone, and I've said that a hundred times. ...
MR. RUSSERT:  Specifically, do you agree with Senator Kennedy that 12,000 American troops should leave at once?


MR. RUSSERT:  Do you believe there should be a specific timetable of withdrawal of American troops?


MR. RUSSERT:  What would you do?

SEN. KERRY:  I understand exactly what Senator Kennedy is saying, and I agree with Senator Kennedy's perceptions of the problem and of how you deal with it.... I agree with Senator Kennedy that we have become the target and part of the problem today, if not the problem. ...

What Iraq is after this is important to the world.  It cannot be a haven for terrorism.  It cannot be a completely failed state.  Now, you'll notice the administration has backed off significantly of its own high goals of full democratization and so forth, and I don't think you're going to hear them pushing that.  There are a lot of conservatives, neo-cons and others in Washington debating now sort of what the modality of withdrawal ought to be.

MR. RUSSERT:  Do you have any information that the Bush administration is privately requesting the new Iraqi government to ask us to leave?


MR. RUSSERT:  You just suppose that may be happening.

SEN. KERRY:  I think that over a period of time, this administration is going to face the reality of Iraq which is that a prolonged American presence in Iraq is neither affordable nor wise nor will it ultimately enhance our goals in the region, prolonged, but we're going to have to be there in the short term to do the training we've talked about.

MR. RUSSERT:  Short term meaning a few years?

SEN. KERRY:  Well, Tim, it's hard to figure out.  I mean, if you go at the pace they're going today in the training, it's a long time.  ...

MR. RUSSERT:  President Bush is asking for $80 billion more for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Will you vote to authorize that $80 billion?

SEN. KERRY:  The likelihood is yes, providing that they do some of the things that I've been talking about with respect to the training and so forth.  There are indications that they probably will.  You know, the difference between now and the prior votes is there's more of a plan in place....  We've had the election as of today.  I think there is a way for the United States to transfer stability.  But a year and a half ago, we had no plan whatsoever and we saw that barely any of that money was spent on reconstruction.
SEN. KERRY:  Well, the point is--that's right, and that's the difference. That the difference in this race was 18 electoral votes, 50,000, 60,000 people changing their votes in one state.  That is a mandate for unity, not a mandate to go rushing off to change Social Security, not a mandate to ignore the fiscal crisis of our country, not a mandate to sort of pick some ideological hot buttons and start punching them.  It is a mandate, as I said in my concession speech, to bring the country together, find the common ground and do things that we need to do to strengthen America.  And there is a long list of those things.

MR. RUSSERT:  But you voted against Condoleezza Rice to be secretary of state.  That's not finding common ground.  She is qualified to hold that job, no?

SEN. KERRY:  Yes, and I said so.  But I also said that she was a principal architect, implementer and defender of a policy that has made the United States of America less secure in the world.  And that was a fight that was central to my campaign.  It is central to what I think is one of the major issues that faces our country.  And I think it's important to have accountability.  I paid her a great tribute for her journey of life.  I mean, I think she's a remarkable person.  And I think she's obviously accomplished a great deal.  But I wasn't voting on whether she was just qualified.  I was voting on the judgments that she brought to the table.  I was voting on the answers that she gave us in committee.  And I was voting on the vision that she offered to the country.  And I found all three, frankly, faulty.
MR. RUSSERT:  See if you could clear up one issue that I think has been left over from the campaign.  And that is Steve Gardner, who was a foregunner on your PCF-44 boat, cut a commercial for the Swift Boat Veterans and made a very specific charge.  Let me just show that and you can come back and talk about it a little bit.

(Videotape, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad):

MR. STEVE GARDNER:  John Kerry claims that he spent Christmas in 1968 in Cambodia, and that is categorically a lie.  Not in December, not in January, we were never in Cambodia on a secret mission ever.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Now, the New York Daily News editorial wrote an editorial, and it said this.  "As for Kerry, he might ask why the Swifties' attacks have been effective.  The answer is his propensity to exaggerate. ... It's looking more likely that he exaggerated, if not worse, when he claimed through the years that he was in Cambodia on Christmas Eve '68.  He said the memory was `seared' into him, but it's now clear Kerry was elsewhere, at least at that time.  He has yet to explain.  Until he does, the Swifties will have a powerful weapon in their arsenal."

And they refer, Senator, to a speech on the floor in which you said that you were there, that the president of the United States was saying you were not there, that there were troops in Cambodia.  You have the memory seared in you. In a letter to the Boston Herald, you remember spending Christmas Eve '68 five miles across the Cambodian border.  You told The Washington Post you have a lucky hat given to you by a CIA guy "as we went in for a special mission to Cambodia."  Were you in Cambodia Christmas Eve, 1968?

SEN. KERRY:  We were right on the border, Tim.  What I explained to people and I told this any number of times, did I go into Cambodia on a mission? Yes, I did go into Cambodia on a mission.  Was it on that night?  No, it was not on that night.  But we were right on the Cambodian border that night.  We were ambushed there, as a matter of fact.  And that is a matter of record, and we went into the rec-- you know, it's part of the Navy records.  It's been documented by the other guys who were on my boat.  And Steve Gardner, frankly, doesn't know where we were.  It wasn't his job, and, you know, he wasn't involved in that.  But we did go five miles into Cambodia.  It was on another day.  I jumbled the two together, but we were five miles into Cambodia.  We went up on a mission with CIA agents--I believe they were CIA agents--CIA Special Ops guys.  I even have some photographs of it, and I can document it. And it has been documented....
Why can't he just admit he was wrong? About anything? Where was he on Christmas Eve 1968? He was clearly not in Cambodia as he said he was on numerous occasions...when will he just fade away?

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Slow Going - Down with the Flu?

For those of you visiting - Welcome! Normally I post something every day. The last couple of days, though, I've been hard down with some bug . Dizzy, weak and unable to type properly, I have been lying back, half focused, watching the great story of the Iraq vote unfold.

I hope you have been able to follow it as well.

I hope to shake this thing soon.

Please visit my blog roll and come back soon.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Senator Edward Kennedy Wins an EagleSpeak Dodo Award

Senator Edward Kennedy (D. Mass), based on his remarks reported here, deserves special recognition.
He has called the war a "fraud made up in Texas," and said the administration misled the people about the threats leading up to the war.

Now, Kennedy said, the United States and the insurgents are both battling for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people and the U.S. is losing.

"There may well be violence as we disengage militarily from Iraq and Iraq disengages politically from us, but there will be much more violence if we continue our present dangerous and destabilizing course," said Kennedy...

...Kennedy, who has called Iraq "George Bush's Vietnam," drew parallels between that failed conflict and the current deadly battle against guerrilla insurgents. He said the United States must learn from the mistakes of Vietnam - which he termed a misguided war that carried on too long and was not honestly portrayed by officials to the American people.
Kennedy is so wrong on so many levels it is hard to decide where to start. His perpetual confusion of the situation in Iraq with the war in Vietnam demonstrates a complete inability to understand that the forces of the "insurgents" do not represent a popular uprising, but rather the remnants of a thuggest regime who are striving to win back their life and death power over their fellow Iraqis. The battle is not for "hearts and minds" as he persists but rather for power and domination. The "insurgents" offer no valid poltical view - just a return to the old Baathist ways. That Kennedy fails to grasp this is almost beyond undertanding. That he has chosen to make these remarks on the eve of free election is Iraq is incredible both in lack of sense and in the harm it may bring to our troops by encouraging the enemy forces.

This is not new ground for the Senator. We well remember his on stage sulk when Jimmy Carter won his party's nomination for the presidency, his well-known accident and the various other scandals of his life (thrown out of Harvard for cheating, etc). This is not a man of good judgment nor great wisdom, but rather a man whose own last grasp at power and relevance is tied up to being the "permanent oppositon" to anything offered by the current administration. That he bears the Kennedy name gives him more importance than he deserves or has earned on his own merit.

He fully deserves the EagleSpeak Dodo Award which is presented here:


Update: Fixed some gremlin work.

Kosovo Still a Mess and Getting Worse

The Guardian runs a column by Simon Tisdale which captures the essence of the UN "nation building" non-success in Kosovo: Time running out to stop Kosovo's descent in violence.
Kosovo is fast becoming "the black hole of Europe" and could descend into renewed violence within weeks unless the EU takes urgent action, senior diplomats and international experts warned in Brussels this week.

But continuing EU indecision over the breakaway province's demand for independence from Serbia, coupled with the ethnic Albanian majority's failure to embrace reform and respect Serb minority rights, are paralysing plans to launch "final status" talks this year.
No one seems to have a good "exit strategy."

Earlier posts on Kosovo here and here.

Update; International Crisis Group report
Time is running out in Kosovo. The status quo will not hold. As evidenced by the deadly rioting in March 2004, Kosovo Albanians are frustrated with their unresolved status, the economic situation, and the problems of dealing with the past. Either 2005 will see the start of a final status1 solution that consolidates peace and development or Kosovo may return to conflict and generate regional instability.

Update 2/1/05: Not too surprisingly, ICG board member Gen. Wesley Clark has an op-ed in the print Wall Street Journal making the same ICG points and calling for international cooperation to "Set Kosovo Free." Gen. Clark does not like to admit he was "gamed" by the Kosovar Albanians, who ( while legitimately facing a Serbian threat) slightly exaggerated the dangers to the media to gain a "higher goal"- an independent state. I think Clark is clearly wrong when he writes:
...[I}t is important to remember that Kosovo has already held two democratic elections and developed the foundations of a modern, functioning economy."

Update 3: I don't know what economy Clark is looking at, but it can't be the same one described by a member of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) here

1. A deepening crisis

Ever since the first international donor conference for post-war Kosovo was held in 1999, one widely shared policy objective was "setting the stage for private sector-led recovery and long-term growth". The evidence is mounting that this objective has not been achieved. A look at official macroeconomic data reveals the paradox of post-war developments.

Official statistics presented at various donors' conferences appeared to show impressive GDP growth performance: 11 per cent in 2001, 7 per cent in 2002. The 2003 Kosovo budget envisaged 18 to 19 per cent growth rates for the period 2003 to 2005, and based its revenue forecast on these growth projections.

At the same time, however, official estimates of the level of Kosovo's GDP have continuously been revised downwards: 

In December 2001, the IMF estimated Kosovo's GDP at €1.85 billion.

In June 2003, the IMF estimated Kosovo's GDP at €1.57 billion.

In December 2003, the International Financial Institutions and UNMIK estimated Kosovo's GDP at € 1.34 billion.

This shows a disturbing lack of any reliable statistical base for evaluating the level of activity in Kosovo upon which growth figures could be calculated. It also reveals a growing sense of unease among international officials about the nature of the post-war economy.

To go beyond the official figures, it is important to look at what has actually changed in the structures of the Kosovo economy in the post-war period. Most growth since 1999 took place in the trade and retail sector, in public administration and above all in the construction sector. It has been estimated that €444 million was spent in 1999/2000 on repair of housing, public buildings and infrastructure, with 21 per cent of materials purchased locally. Brick factories did a lively business, as did carpenters and importers of tiles or furniture. However, as in any post-conflict country, the reconstruction boom was short-lived. By 2001, spending on construction in Kosovo had dropped to only 40 per cent of its 2000 high, and in 2002 it was expected to reach only 13 per cent. In the rural municipality of Viti in South East Kosovo, ESI visited 69 of the 81 construction companies listed in the business register in 2003, and found that only 39 were still operating.

The private sector that has emerged since 1999 is predominantly small-scale, low-capital-intensive ventures in trade and construction. Some local entrepreneurs were able to generate quick wealth as importers. However, apart from building materials, some furniture production and a small food-processing sector, there is hardly any local manufacturing. In Pristina's "industrial zone", the largest in Kosovo, 66 plots were rented out in 2002: only 16 were used for production, all with three employees or less, and most were producing doors and window frames.

The post-war boom was also transfer-financed, and therefore unsustainable. The estimated total public expenditure in 2000 in Kosovo was €6.3 billion. In 2003, this had gone down to €3.1 billion (see table). These are very rough estimates, undertaken by the Macroeconomic Policy Unit of the Ministry of Finance and Economy. But the overall implications are clear: GDP growth in Kosovo's economy was driven by external transfers, rather than from any lasting increase in the productivity of Kosovo's enterprises. As a result, as budgetary support and reconstruction aid are withdrawn, Kosovo's economy is almost certain to contract.

Kosovo's post-war economic development depended not just on donor-financed external aid, but also on transfers from the Kosovo diaspora, which made up a significant component of household income. In 2002, the Ministry of Finance and Economy estimated that, of Kosovo's total income of €1,570 million, €720 million came from cash remittances. According to these figures, Kosovo households received more cash income from relatives abroad than they did from working in Kosovo. However, with the route to new emigration to the EU now blocked, there is a substantial risk that remittance income will decline in the coming years.

These factors explain why, given the dependence on international transfers and consumption by international organisations and remittances, Kosovo's economic growth in the post-war period cannot be taken as representative of the future pattern of growth. It also shows why the depth of the structural economic problems did not become apparent during the construction boom. Massive international support to Kosovo has had an effect similar to what the discovery of oil might have had. Without raising the productivity of the work force, producing goods competitive at home or abroad or changing the nature of a backward rural economy, Kosovo could afford massive imports. In 2003, Kosovo imports totalled €968.5 million, while exports (mostly mushrooms, timber and scrap metal) amounted to only €36.3 million. This in turn allowed the government to collect easy revenues by taxing imports at the border, enabling rapid expansion in public-sector employment. Five years after the war, Kosovo's budget remains highly dependent on taxing imports at the border.

U.N. Agency Appeals for Food for N. Korea

Time for the seemingly annual article about the need for the world to pony up more food for the starving masses of the DPRK.
The World Food Program on Thursday appealed for 500,000 tons of aid to feed 6.5 million North Koreans this year, warning that the North still faces severe shortages as world attention focuses on helping tsunami survivors.
North Koreans' ability to feed themselves has been hurt by soaring prices as the communist government opens private markets in an effort to diversify its economy, the U.N. agency said.
"Millions of children, women and elderly people are barely subsisting because they lack both the quantity and quality of nourishment they deserve," the WFP's director in North Korea , Richard Ragan, said in a statement by the agency.
North Korea has relied on foreign aid to feed many of its 23.7 million people since its state-run farm system collapsed in the mid-1990s.
Of course, maintaining a huge army, building and buying nuclear weapons and threatening all your neighbors, doesn't come cheap, either.

Blaming the problem on a growing free market system smacks of DPRK propaganda instead of straight news.

Update: An earlier post on North Korea and how it manages to sustain its way of life here.

N.Korea Has Bought Complete Nuclear Bomb?

Reuters reports (via Yahoo News)
N.Korea Has Bought Complete Nuclear Bomb
North Korea appears to have bought a complete nuclear weapon from either Pakistan or a former Soviet Union state, a South Korean newspaper said on Thursday quoting a source in Washington.

Seoul Shinmun quoted the source as saying the United States was checking the intelligence.

The purchase was apparently intended to avoid nuclear weapons testing that could be detected from the outside, the source was quoted as saying.

North Korea is believed to have one or two nuclear weapons and possibly more than eight.

U.S. Congressman Curt Weldon said after a visit to the North this month that its second-ranked leader had told his delegation that it possessed nuclear weapons.
If true, and it only adds to the total that North Korea may already have, it's not a big deal, EXCEPT it is of major concern that a weapon like this may be available on the world market and that some entity would actually sell it to the nut case governement of North Korea.

Keeping an eye on where this on goes...

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Oxfam asks UN to get inexperienced tsunami charities under control

AP says here
Leading British charity Oxfam said Wednesday too many organizations without adequate skills are working in areas hit by the Asian tsunami and called for the United Nations to accredit aid groups...

OCHA spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told The Associated Press it is common in many emergencies for small aid groups to turn up without notice, often complicating relief efforts. "We see many staff running to the place and we do our best to get these people on board."

Byrs said sometimes these groups do not have the necessary expertise and their efforts need to be coordinated with wider aid operations conducted by the United Nations and larger relief organizations.
Given the UN's own slow start in getting organized, it's not much wonder there are some loose cannons as well as some loose ends.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Pirates and the Tsunami- bad mixture?

A. E. Brain points out what may be a curious by-product of the tsunami - a decrease in piracy in their notorious hotbed of activity, the Malacca Strait.

Aceh has long been reputed to be the home of some of the pirate bands and much of the coastal area (and harbors) there are no more-limiting pirate havens and bases of operation. (Update: Interesting post here)

It could also be the pirates have turned to ripping off aid supplies and haven't felt the need to work as hard at their sea-going trade. We'll have to watch the trend lines.

Update: On the other hand, the latest ICC-CCS (International Chamber of Commerce - Commercial Crime Service) Piracy Report reports:
23.01.2005 at 0340 LT at Panjang port, Indonesia.
Three robbers armed with long knives boarded a tanker at berth. D/O raised alarm and crew mustered. Robbers jumped overboard and escaped empty handed in a speedboat.
Here's a map with arrows pointing to the Aceh area and to what I gather is the Panjang area.

Monday, January 24, 2005

UN FACTSHEET: How does tsunami relief fit together?

Reuters helps the friendly UN man answer all your questions about how the UN makes things happen when bad events happen here.

Bet you didn't know the UN subcontracts a lot of the work, did you? Hey, read it all.

My favorite part:
(Reuters) It seems logical for OCHA to coordinate everything, but I understand that’s not something that can be taken for granted.

(UN guy) Sometimes the U.N. coordination system comes under pressure from donors, like the U.S. or the European Union, who try to take control. In this case, the United States initially set up a rival coordination group with Australia, India and Japan, but it soon dropped this idea and acknowledged it was a job for the United Nations.
(emphasis added)

Nasty U.S. power grabbers.

Update: The Diplomad reveals that the UN takes the credit for life saving "quick response" in wake of tsunami. Given their actual logistical track record as documented here, in earlier posts and on other sites, one would think they might be a little more humble.

Barbara Boxer whines her way to yet another EagleSpeak Dodo Award

In an unbelievable but bold performance,Senator Barbara Boxer has attempted to make herself into the victim of an attack by Secretary of State nominee Condoleezza Rice. Speaking of the Senate committee hearing during which Ms. Boxer did everything she could to accuse Dr. Rice of lying (as edited by Patterico)
And I personally believe -- this is my personal view -- that your loyalty to the mission you were given, to sell this war, overwhelmed your respect for the truth. And I don't say it lightly. . . .

And I will be placing into the record a number of such statements you made which have not been consistent with the facts. . . .

So here you are, first contradicting the president and then contradicting yourself. So it's hard to even ask you a question about this, because you are on the record basically taking two sides of an issue. . . .

But again, I just feel, you quote President Bush when it suits you, but you contradicted him when he said, "Yes, Saddam could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year." You go on television, nine months later, and said, "Nobody ever said it was going to be." . . . . Well, if you can't admit to this mistake, I hope that you will rethink it
"She turned and attacked me," the California Democrat told CNN's "Late Edition" in describing the confrontation during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

"I gave Dr. Rice many opportunities to address specific issues. Instead, she said I was impugning her integrity," Mrs. Boxer said.

As Captain's Quarters writes:
In other words, before Boxer ever even asked a question -- remember, she actually exhausted her time with her opening statement -- Boxer had called Condi Rice an insensitive liar six times. Perhaps Boxer lacks the intellectual capacity to comprehend her own statement, but I can assure the feeble-minded California Senator that Condi Rice does not. She knew exactly what Boxer said to her, and she responded appropriately. Boxer wasn't just attacking the policies she referenced; in fact, when one reads the transcript, it's obvious that Boxer had set out to discredit Rice in a personal way.

Unfortunately for Boxer, she went into that battle of wits completely unarmed. Rice ran rings around Boxer, mostly by deft counterstrokes. It's taken a few days for that to sink in with Babs, and now she wants sympathy for bullying someone who fights back. Nice try.

For her fantastic claim of "victimhood" Sen. Boxer, already the first EagleSpeak Double Dodo winner, earns another. Here it is:

Who will stand for democracy?

William Shawcross has a column in The Guardian which, in essence, asks the world, "Who will stand for democracy in Iraq?"
Tony Blair said in Baghdad in December: "On the one side you have people who desperately want to make the democratic process work, and want the same type of democratic freedoms other parts of the world enjoy, and on the other side people who are killing and intimidating and trying to destroy a better future for Iraq. Our response should be to stand alongside the democrats."

Blair is absolutely right. It is shocking that so few democratic governments support the Iraqi people. Where are French and German and Spanish protests against the terror being inflicted on voters in Iraq? And it is shocking that around the world there is not wider admiration of, assistance to and moral support (and more) for the Iraqi people. The choice is clear: movement towards democracy in Iraq or a new nihilism akin to fascism - Islamist fascism.
(hat tip: Captain's Quarters)

My follow-on question is "If you don't stand up for democracy in Iraq, where will you stand up for it?"

Geopolitical Review says you must read "Thomas Friedman arguing that the war in Iraq will not be won with troops but with ballots. Here's a portion:
Either Iraqis turn out in large numbers to take control of their own future and write their own constitution - and I think they will - or the fascist insurgents there prevent them from doing so, in which case the Bush team will have to move to Plan B. What's sad is that right when we have reached crunch time in Iraq, the West is totally divided. All that the Europeans care about is being able to say to George Bush, "We told you so." What happens the morning after "We told you so" ? Well, the Europeans don't have a Plan B either.

Ever since 9/11, I've argued the war on terrorism is really a war of ideas within the Muslim world - a war between those who want to wall Islam off from modernity, and defend it with a suicide cult, and those who want to bring Islam into the 21st century and preserve it as a compassionate faith. This war of ideas is not one that the West can fight, only promote. Muslims have to fight it from within. That is what is at stake in the Iraqi elections. This is the first great battle in the post-9/11 war of ideas.

This war also can't be won with troops - only with turnout. This is a war between Iraqi voters and insurgents - ballots versus bullets. And the people who understand that best are the fascist insurgents. That is why they are not focusing their attacks on U.S. troops, but on Iraqi election workers, candidates, local officials and police. The insurgents have one credo: "Iraqis must not vote - there must be no authentic expression of the people's will for a modern, decent Iraq. Because, if there is, the world will see that this is not a war between Muslims and infidel occupiers, but between Muslims with bad ideas and Muslims with progressive ideas."

One of those with bad ideas is Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi
"We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology," [Zarqawi] said. "Anyone who tries to help set up this system is part of it."

al-Zarqawi...condemned the election, branding candidates as "demi-idols" and saying those who vote for them "are infidels" - a clear threat to the safety of all those who participate in the balloting.

"All it takes for Evil to prevail in this world is for enough good men to do nothing." (Edmund Burke)

Philosophy for the "To Go" Crowd

Need philosophy on the run? Try Glyn Hughes' Squashed Philosophers. Hits the "highlights" leaves out the heavy lifting.

Does miss some profound thinking of our time, as there is no mention of deep thoughts such as the Murphy Principle of Duality: "Tracers work both ways" or Murphy's Synchronicity Theorems: "Field experience is something you don't get until just after you need it" and "The enemy invariably attacks on two occasions:
(1) when you're ready for them.
(2) when you're not ready for them." See Collected Works of Murphy.

(hat tip: American Digest)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Real Support for the Troops

Russ Vaughn, The Poet Laureate at The American Thinker has a modest proposal about how we can show support for our troops in combat - by making sure that their families will be better taken care of should anything happen to them. Read what he says and drop a note to your Senators and Congressman.

Must Read:Tom Barnett on "The Pentagon's Debate Over What Iraq Means"

Go to The Command Post - Op-Ed - EXCLUSIVE: Tom Barnett on "The Pentagon's Debate Over What Iraq Means".

An earlier post on Dr. Barnett here.

Just to toss my voice into the debate, I read "who lost the war" as set out in the column as not meaning that the Pentagon is conceding defeat by the "insurgents" but rather that victory was not so immediate as in other recent U.S. efforts. Sort of like some people in Washington perceive a reduction in the amount of increase in the funding they were expecting as being a "cut in spending."

I should also point out that our intelligence prior to going in was pretty damn awful- which in turn caused some assumptions to be a little overly optimistic. For example, if it is true that the Iraqis were moving WMD and other materials to Syria as has been alleged, why didn't we know that? Why did we expect to be greeted with "flowers?"

Not that it matters much now, as we are where we are.

And for excellent posts on where that is, as we countdown to the election in Iaq, visit Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette for his superb reports.

"UN Logistics": Another Oxymoron

What important fact is buried in this AP article's lead?
An American admiral dismissed fears that the U.S. military is ending its relief effort for tsunami victims too soon, as a U.N. agency delivered aid on its own for the first time Sunday- a sign of civilian groups preparing to fill the gap as militaries pull out.
"...as a UN agency delivered aid on its own for the first time Sunday..."
On Sunday, a 400-ton landing vessel carrying World Food Program aid was due to arrive in Aceh's coastal Calang city, said program spokesman Gerald Bourke - the first time the U.N. agency has used its own ship to deliver aid in the disaster. Thousands of victims are at a makeshift camp among the ruins of the destroyed city.
Suffering succotash! It's been almost 4 weeks and this is the first UN boat load of aid? I've been critical of the UN's slowness in getting mobilized and their seeming inability to grasp the concept that the area most affected by the tsunami were on the coast (see here, here, here, here, here (January 1: "Egeland said the United Nations needs cargo airplanes, 100 boats, several hundred trucks, 10 fully equipped base camps with staff support for the aid personnel and water treatment units." I said, "Really, it has taken them a week to figure this out?"), here, here, here, here, and here (which points out on January 13, over two weeks after the disaster, the UN announced:
Overloading of the air routes and land routes has resulted in UNJLC assessing the potential for greater utilization of sea routes. The implications for loading/off loading are being investigated; especially given the substantial assets on offer for sea based transport/offloading (landing craft)).
I guess it took them another 10 days to figure out what any sentient creature could see by looking at a map - there's a lot of water around these beach areas that were hit by the tsunami. I guess the people who received aid from the US, Australian, Singapore and other naval and sea (update: and air) forces ought to be counting their blessings that they were not waiting on the UN to get its act together. Many of them would be dead.

Update: The Diplomad provides a lengthy list of what the US was doing while the UN was "assessing" or whatever.

Stories the MSM Misses: Marines Re-up in "Record Numbers"

Strategy Page reports (under the unpleasant grouping of "Attrition" which is fine if they are reporting on the "attrition" of enemy forces as well as our own) Marines Reenlist in Record Numbers:
The U.S. Marine Corps has experienced a large increase in first term marines reenlisting. In the first three months of fiscal 2005, they have reenlisted over 75 percent of the first term marines they wanted to get for this fiscal year (which ends at the end of September.) Moreover, they are getting more of the higher quality marines (high school graduates, those in the best physical condition and those who score highest on aptitude tests). These marines know there’s a war on, and they believe they are making a difference.

Following this news is a report that the Army National Guard is running 26% behind on recruiting. Without further analysis, the number doesn't mean much. How many of those who do not reenlist in the National Guard are converting to the regular army or to the Marines? How many are hitting retirement age? How many people who might normally enlist in the National Guard are joining the active services instead? The Army NG is inceasing reenlistment bonuses in certain critical need areas.
...enlistment bonuses (for the ten most needed occupational specialties, like infantry, military police and transportation) have been increased from $5,000 to $15,000 (for those who sign up for six years in the Guard.) Same thing for those who re-enlist for another six years. Also, the bonuses can be paid for those with 16 years of service, versus the previous 14 years. At twenty years, National Guardsmen are eligible for a pension [Eagle1 note: Reserve pensions don't start until the retiree reaches age 60 - as opposed to active duty pensions which start immediately upon retirement]... Some 40 percent of the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are reservists, although only 22 percent of the casualties are reservists [Eagle1 question: What percent of the reservists are Army National Guard? This number mixes two different pools of troops] . This is because most of the heavy duty combat is performed by active duty troops. The reservists concentrate on support and security operations {Eagle1 note: this by design of the Pentagon, not due to choices made by the army National Guard].

I should also note that reservists and National Guard personnel are generally subject to different pressures from home than active duty personnel. Assume that the Guard and Reserve is largely composed of men and women who once served on active duty and made the decision once to leave active service to enter civilian life -for family or other reasons. That they also decided to keep a foot in the military by joining the Reserves or Guard is commendable, but since they already decided that active service wasn't for them once, why would we expect them to suddenly find it "okay?" Family, civilian job, and money issues are all different for people who are used to having two incomes - one from a daily civilian job and some from drill weekend and annual training (and some employers even pay full salary while the member is on such training). It can create quite a financial hardship for those who are called up. I know from personal experience that customers lost by small business because the owner was activated and deployed are hard to win back.

Now, all things being equal, which part of the "recruiting news" will the MSM pick up on?

Escorts for the Littorals

In an earlier post I raised some concerns over the potential training of terrorists to use speedboats in attacking ships. The challenges posed threat of such small, high-speed surface units some of which may be seaborne improvised explosive devices (SIEDs) are interesting. Triggered either remotely or on contact with the hulls of high value units, the SIED is not a new threat, SIED speedboats are comparable to the Japanese kamikaze forces of WWII (the comparison is not just an analogy- there were suicide attacks by Japanese boat crews in addition to the better known aircraft attacks). The concept behind such attacks is to overwhelm the available defenses to such an extent that some number of the attacking force may leak through and hit a target, causing damage.

The Royal Navy has looked at the problem
...The possibility of an attack by suicide boats packed with explosives were a major concern during Operation Telic, and the threat remains, such that the Navy was investigating the provision of additional firepower to deal with this threat.

“You can kill the occupants of a suicide boat with machine-guns, but the boat can keep on coming,” the Admiral said. “We are looking at modifying systems like Phalanx to direct them against small surface vessels – although a lot of work needs to be done.

“A fast RIB packed with explosives is a threat – and it is difficult to counter because of rules of engagement. We don’t want to go shooting at a boat full of pleasure seekers which comes too close to our ships.”

Once again, American Scribbles paints a scary scenerio
Granted, these boats can be launched from any shoreline in the Persian Gulf, Straits of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman or off the Arabian Sea. But, they could just as easily be loaded aboard cargo vessels of moderate size, transported to and launched in the Mediterranian Sea or off the coast of Africa or even in the waters off the Indonesian coast, to prey on U.S. vessels helping the tsunami relief efforts ongoing in that area.

Now, when I say prey on U.S. vessels. Don't think I'm suggesting that these would be used to attack a carrrier group. That's not going to happen. But, they could be used to attack a U.S. hospital ship, or unarmed sealift assets.

Teamed together in groups of 5 or 6 boats and grouped into assault groups of 6 to 10 teams, and acting in concert attack a group of U.S. ships moving through a relatively narrow area (say the Straits of Hormuz). In each team, 2 boats are rigged with contact initiated high explosive charges. Several boats take the lead, providing harrassing fire while the HE boats manuever for a suicide run on the target ship. Once one or both HE boats ram the target ship and those charges detonate, inflicting damage akin to that of the USS Cole, the remaining boats move in for RPG attacks against the hull at the water line in an attempt to sink the vessel at that point. If the ship cannot be sunk, they board and execute the crew.

Unlikely? Yes.

Impossible? I doubt it.
What if the terrorists have or (use their speedboat tactics to) seize a "neutral" freighter or tanker and then use that ship as either a SIED or as a "ram" to attack to attack our ships (for this purpose, I believe a tanker to be their preferred vessel because of the potential for fire and pollution and the attendant increase in publicity and spectacular television coverage -so for convenience I will use the word "tanker" alone to refer to this threat).

Now we've identified two potential threats arising from speedboat terrorists: (1) a speedboat SIED and (2) a "pirated" tanker (as SIED or as a ram). How can we protect our sealift ships from them?

Historically, the navies of the world have protected merchant shipping by providing armed escort vessels and/or by arming the merchants themselves and by operating in convoys.

Let's suppose we place armed teams on the sealift ships as they did in WWII with the Naval Armed Guards. How many speedboats are needed to attack from different directions to overcome the firepower that the forces on any one of the sealift ships can generate?Can the fire power of an armed guard force fend off an attack by captured freighter? As set out above, the Royal Navy answers the question about the use of machine guns to kill the crews of speedboats. It would be even harder to kill those piloting a tanker using only the guns and other weapons that could be mounted on a sealift ship. For these reasons, I believe that the answer does not lie in armed guards on sealift ships.

That leaves escort vessels and aircraft. What escorts can we use to protect these high value but important assets? This is where assymetrical warfare agains raises its head.

In my view, most modern U.S. Navy surface warships are not designed to fight at close quarters with small, high speed spedboats. I am not being critical, it's a hard business designing naval vessels to meet threats that might be encountered around the world during the nominal 30 year life span of a ship. Anti-air, anti-missile, anti-submarine and fire support missions in support of forces ashore are concerns of a warship's captain. The proposed "Littoral Combat Ship" (LCS) is supposed to be anti-small boat capable:

LCS provides the Navy with a minimum risk capability to defeat the small boat threat and, in fact, deny the enemy the use of small boats as a credible deterrent to ESG/CSG [Expeditionary Strike Group and/or Carrier Strike Group] and to SEA BASING operations. LCS provides the Navy with a minimum risk capability to defeat the small boat threat and, in fact, deny the enemy use of small boats as a credible deterrent to CVBG operations. The LCS will use its speed and off board systems to set a layered defense against small boats, ensuring they are defeated before they can threaten naval access to the littoral. Through the deployment of unmanned sensors and weapons, coordination of targeting assets and LCS groups with point and area weapons engaging enemy small boat high-density attacks, the LCS force has the ability to prevent small boats from narrowing the Joint Force Commander's range of options.

LCS SUW {Surface Warfare] Characteristics:

High speed to allow interception, screening, and self-defense.
Electronic deception capability to confuse radar-equipped small craft.
Helos and UAVs/UCAVs fitted with surface radar and high rate-of-fire guns and missile launchers
Small UAVs with search, track, target and shadow capability
Deployable surface and bottom acoustic and RF arrays to act as tripwire and early warning of threatening small boat activity
USVs that can lay tripwire sensors, conduct ISR missions and act as floating magazines with their guns / missiles targeted and launched by helos / UAVs
Short/medium range anti-ship missiles to engage enemy C2 platforms as point targets.
Area engagement capability through a large caliber short-range gun or high rate of fire small caliber gun with dispersal fire control system.
Deployment of systems such as aerostats and robotic airships to extend the horizon and provide a stable antenna farm (further keeping LCS signature low) versus low observable targets such as small, fast movers.

LCS SUW Concept of Employment:

LCS provides detection, tracking and attack of small boats via off board and organic sensors.
LCS builds and manages the search, track and ID to engagement problem, which creates a common operational picture (COP) in the littoral.
USVs deployed to lay tripwire sensors at small boat operating ports/harbors.
LCS deploy acoustic/RF sensors to provide early warning of significant small boat activity on likely approach axis.
Manned and unmanned aircraft launched to identify and target small boat formations.
LCS in groups use speed to maneuver for interception, deception, distraction, screening and break up of high-density small boat attacks.
LCS off board and organic sensors detect and track formations of small boats.
Larger vessels and aircraft (C2 nodes) are attacked as point targets using targeting data from helo/UAV with missiles launched from LCS and deployed USVs or by CSG / ESG assets.
High densities of smaller contacts are engaged as an area target using large caliber area weapons or high rate of fire smaller caliber weapons with wide dispersal patterns.
Whatever, the LCS is not currently available. Quite a list of "characteristics," though.

Until the LCs joins the fleet, some other platform must be used. If only U.S. Navy ships are available, I choose the
Cyclone class PCs
Length: 170 feet (51.8 meters)
Displacement: approx. 331 tons
Speed: 35 knots
Armament: 2 25mm Mk-38 machine guns; 2 .50 cal machine guns;2 Mk-19 automatic grenade launchers; 6 stinger missiles
These ships, if used in groups of four, and backed up by some helicopter capable larger ships and supported by helicopters carrying AGM-119B Penguin Anti-Ship Missiles as well as some air support, could be the nucleus of an effective convoy group for choke point escort services. Several other navies have exceptionally capable patrol boats and ships that would also provide high speed interception and interdiction of small speedboats. Having a destroyer in the group would provide some additional firepower for protection against the pirated tanker threat.

One man's opinion.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Asymmetric Warfare: Terrorists, Small Boats, Explosives and Unarmed, Unescorted Ships

In a recent posting Worrisome Pattern? I pointed out a couple of unusual and very similar reports set out on the ICCCS Weekly Piracy Report. Both incidents involved groups of small speedboats with masked "pirates" approaching commercial shipping at or near major ocean "choke points." As I wrote after the first incident in the Strait of Hormuz:
The number of boats, the arms and the attire suggests an organization that has both assets and the ability to coordinate the operation of several boats. The location, one of the world's most important shipping chokepoints for oil flowing from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq and other sources of is troubling.
Here's a reposting of the map I created showing the locations of these attacks: (top arrow is Jan 2 event, lower arrow is Jan 12 event):
Almost by definition, the arrows are sitting in or near chokepoints, where all ships have limited navigation options.

Now American Scribbles has picked up on the concern and in his own post, raises some interesting issues:
Clearly that's a possibility and I think that Eagle1's concern over what appear to dress rehearsals by groups of high speed interceptor boats crewed by armed, masked men dressed all in black is justifiable.

We know al-Qaeda related groups have been buying or stealing ships over the last few years, the purpose for which remains unknown. What is known is that these ships could be put to use for innumberable missions, all to horrible to contemplate for long.

However, I must wonder if there isn't more to these incidents than just impending piracy. It would seem to me that given the limited success of the insurgency to mount hit and run suicide attacks against U.S. forces, couldn't this be a natural extention of that?

Could what we are witnessing with these bands of boats be an attempt by al-Qaeda to extend the reach of their strike capablility to attacking U.S. naval vessels?

Is this an expansion of the assault tactics used to damage the USS Cole?

Couple these reasonable questions with the recent posting at The Adventures of Chester, who linked to a report of the rerouting of several Military Sealift Command ships to avoid the Suez Canal:
At least 12 huge, unarmed ships of the Navy's Military Sealift Command have been sent on the Cape route rather than through the Suez Canal, adding thousands of miles to the trip, the Navy confirmed...

In the past few months, however, U.S. and British authorities have cautioned of threats to shipping in the Middle East. One U.S. warning in mid-December said significant attacks could take place in the Suez Canal and other "choke points" -- narrow channels where vulnerable ships, if damaged or sunk, would significantly disrupt commerce.

Analysts took particular note of the recent rise of Saud Hamud al-Utaibi in al-Qaida's leadership. He is a maritime terror expert believed to have been responsible for the attacks on the USS Cole and the French supertanker MV Limburg.

"Al-Utaibi is the new head of al-Qaida on the Arabian peninsula, and that heightens the threat to shipping certainly within that region," Dominic Armstrong, head of intelligence and research for Aegis Defense Services, an international consulting firm, said in a telephone interview from London.

Maritime shipping in general, he said, "remains vulnerable."

For al-Qaida, U.S. Navy supply ships are a high-value target, even if they are not sunk. "Their attack on the U.S. consulate in Jedda (Saudi Arabia) last month showed an ambition and a hunger to hurt," Armstrong said. "One of these ships would be similarly important as an icon" of American global power.

Al-Qaida-linked terrorists attacking in a speedboat blew up the Limburg in the Red Sea in 2002, two years after suicide bombers, in a similar attack in Yemen, detonated an explosive against the hull of the anchored USS Cole, killing 17 sailors.

Sealift is vital in the supply of U.S. troops in Iraq. It ferries ammunition, tanks, helicopter parts, replacement transmissions, medical supplies, razor wire, Humvee armor and other supplies...

"Unlike warships, they are virtually defenseless, with no on-board guns, missiles or surveillance radar suitable to detect some of the threats people expect these days," said Norman Polmar, an international naval expert and author. Often the ships carry a Navy detachment for security and communications, Polmar said....

In wider sections of the canal and in open water, the threat comes in the form of suicide speedboats of the type used against the Limburg and the Cole, or rocket attack from fishing or pleasure craft. Experts said ships without early-warning radar are also vulnerable to suicide air attacks...

Wikipedia's definition of asymmetric warfare is
"a military term to describe warfare in which the two belligerents are mismatched in their military capabilities or accustomed methods of engagement such that the militarily diasadvantaged power must press its special advantages or effectively exploit its enemy's particular weaknesses if they are to have any hope of prevailing."

As in judo, you use your opponent's strength against him. One of the U.S. strengths is logistical support from the sea, but as is clear from the comments set out above, it is also a potential weakness exploitable by terrorists.

It appears that the US and its allies are well aware of the prospect of problems in the choke points. The questions are: Are we seeing the training for an attack? At which choke point? When?

Protection of shipping in such circumstances could include using naval escorts and/or providing armed miitary personnel to ride the ships through the potential trouble areas.

Update: Jihad Watch posted on what might have been a similar training exercise back in April 2004 is the Sulu Sea off the Philippines. And see my earlier post on this topic Pirates! Terrorists! Oh, my! from October 2004.
Update2: And for an even older warning, see "THE MARITIME THREAT FROM AL QAEDA" by Mansoor Ijaz from 2003 here.

Update3: Thanks to The Counterterrorism Blog (TCB) for referring so many readers to this post. It's been a "TCBlanche" and I appreciate it!

Admiral Cebrowski to retire again

The genius admiral who helped push network-centric warfare to the fore is forced to retire (update: "due to his health" was accidently left out when this was first posted ) from his role as "the Pentagon's transformation czar" says Global Security. He helped make it possible for us to get inside the OODA loops of the bad guys. That's a good thing. He'll be missed.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

U.S. Begins Tsunami Aid Scale Back

My Way News reports that the U.S. will begin to withdraw some of its presence in the tsunami relief area here:
Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, said the U.S. military "will start right now transferring functions to the appropriate host nations and international organizations."

About 15,000 American troops have been deployed to tsunami-hit nations, where huge waves spawned by a massive earthquake swept away coastal settlements on Dec. 26. Most of the soldiers have been sent to worst-hit Sumatra island in Indonesia.

At a news conference on Thursday, Fargo, who was on a two-day visit to Malaysia, noted that the humanitarian missions in Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and other affected countries have moved from the "immediate relief phase ... toward rehabilitation and reconstruction."

A little side question: Why does the AP lump the sailors and Marines involved under the generic term "troops?" Would it hurt to say "military personnel?"

Update: The U.S. is not alone in cutting back, Singapore is reallocating its forces, too, as noted here.

Update2: Blackfive posts a letter from Marine Colonel Jim Kessler who is heavily involved with military humanitarian logistical relief in Sri Lanka:
I visited one of our job sites at a small fishing village where most of the homes were demolished by the tsunami.  Hardly a family made it through without significant loss of life and property.  Yet, despite these horrific losses, they had smiles on their faces as they saw Marines working their butts off helping them get things back in order.  I tell you, it gives me goose bumps just thinking about how marvelous these young AMERICANS are. Not just Marines, but the sailors and soldiers with us as well. They work their tails off and still have time to play with the kids and bring smiles to their beautiful little faces.  You would be SO very proud of the job they are doing!

While the efforts in each country vary significantly, I can tell you we have had a lasting positive impact on the people of Sri Lanka.
BZ Colonel and to all your hardworking sailors, Marines and soldiers.

Not happy with the way we do it? Here, try it your way...

Argghh! comes up with an instant classic in "A White House Reponse".

What a nice fantasy!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Senator Barbara Boxer Wins a Rare Double Dodo

It takes a rare combination of stupidity and, well, stupidity to earn an EagleSpeak Double Dodo Award. In fact, in the short history of the award, this is the very first such award.

But Senator Barabara Boxer has rare combination of smugness coupled with ignorance and a remarkable ability to avoid recognizing the truth when it smacks her in the face (which it should do more often). Now, as evidence of her stature I simply point to the fine work done by Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters:
Sometimes I wonder if Barbara Boxer ever listens to herself and cringes. If so, yesterday certainly provided opportunities for winces galore as the senator from California kept providing evidence of her status as one of the least intelligent members of the upper chamber. In just her opening statement for her portion of Condoleezza Rice's confirmation hearing, she managed to embarrass herself and her constituents multiple times:
Dr. Rice, before I get to my formal remarks, you no doubt will be confirmed -- that's at least what we think.

We think there's no doubt? And her favorite color is plaid, too.
(Boxer) I am -- Dr. Rice, I was glad you mentioned Martin Luther King -- it was very appropriate, given everything.

There's nothing like a rich white woman giving her approval of a black woman's reference to Dr. King to define the term "limousine liberal."
Hey, I could continue to quote, but Captain Ed needs the hits. Go visit his site.

While that may be enough for one Dodo, Senator Boxer goes beyond that with her inability to tell the truth, as evidenced by James Taranto at Opinion Journal's Best of the Web Today:
In an unpleasant exchange yesterday, Boxer confronted Rice with the usual Angry Left line, that BUSH LIED!!!! about Iraq. But it turns out Boxer is the one taking liberties with the truth:
Rice: It wasn't just weapons of mass destruction. He was also a place--- his territory was a place where terrorists were welcomed, where he paid suicide bombers to bomb Israel, where he had used Scuds against Israel in the past.
And so we knew what his intentions were in the region; where he had attacked his neighbors before and, in fact, tried to annex Kuwait; where we had gone to war against him twice in the past. It was the total picture, Senator, not just weapons of mass destruction, that caused us to decide that, post-September 11th, it was finally time to deal with Saddam Hussein.

Boxer: Well, you should read what we voted on when we voted to support the war, which I did not, but most of my colleagues did. It was WMD, period. That was the reason and the causation for that, you know, particular vote.

Presumably when Boxer says "I did not," she means that she didn't vote to liberate Iraq, not that she didn't read the resolution. But the resolution itself makes clear that Rice was right...
...And here's another apparent Boxer falsehood:
You never even mention indirectly the 1,366 American troops that have died. . . . And 25 percent of those dead are from my home state.

According to Casualties.org, the number of California servicemen who've died is 157, which is about 11.5% of the total, less than half the proportion Boxer claimed.

Truth? Truth? We don't need no stinkin' truth...We're Democrats!


Update: This short piece from The American Thinker site lays out what we wish Ms. Rice had said to the grandstanding Dems on the Foreign Relations Committee instead of politely letting them preen for the cameras.

Dirty Bomb in Boston?

The Counterterrorism Blog warns of "Reports of Possible Dirty Bomb in Boston". Yeah, well:
 The Massachusetts investigator said much of the man's information sounds far-fetched and investigators have some doubts about the caller's validity because he has not identified himself.

     ``A lot of it doesn't make sense and some of it does,'' said the source. ``It's totally uncorroborated. This all began several days ago as a series of phone calls and they don't know who the caller is. There are some parts of it that just don't make sense and other little pieces of it that fall into place. The information is these people that came into the country are going to New eYork into Boston and the (nuclear) material will follow them.''

     The source said there is speculation the caller may have been ripped off by illegal immigrants he helped over the border and is now trying to exact revenge.

     ``It's very weird. Even if (the Iraqis and Chinese) were going to do something why would they be blabbing to the yahoo smuggling them across the border? You have to wonder if they screwd him on a deal but you have to treat it seriously and the issue is how do you put it out to the public and not get everybody (in a panic)?''
Nonetheless, you've got to take it seriously because if is serious then...

Update: As I was starting to say before I was called away for a minor crisis, my instincts follow those of the "Massachusetts investigator" - this smells like a hoax. "How many mines does it take to make a minefield?" is an old Navy question and the old Navy answer is "None - it just takes the report of a mine." I'm sure that the counterterrorism world has a parallel saying. Of greater concern is that we are being gamed - or misdirected. Get us to focus attention on Boston and strike in Sacramento or Dallas or Charlotte. But it may also be a test to see how we react. Or "cry wolf" episode that will be repeated until we grow complacent and then... Reminds me of scene in The Princess Bride where The Dread Pirate Roberts challenges Vizzini to a battle of wits to the death and Vizzini manages to think himself to death.

Dread Pirate Roberts: You guessed wrong.

Vizzini: You only think I guessed wrong! That's what's so
funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned!
Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the
classic blunders! The most famous is never get
involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly
less well-known is this: never go in against a
Sicilian when death is on the line!! Ha ha ha ha ha
ha ha!! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!! Ha ha ha--

[Vizzini stops suddenly, and falls dead to the right]

We can't afford to be that smart. Instead we need to be very, very careful.

Worrisome Pattern? Another Covey of Pirates Off Oman

Another disturbing report of a group of piratical speedboats attempting a ship boarding off Oman on the ICCCS Weekly Piracy Report here(update: expiring link):
12.01.2005 at 1045 LT in position 20:47N - 059:14E, off Oman, Arabian Sea.
Four masked pirates in four white hull speedboats attempted to board a container ship underway. Alert d/o raised alarm, crew mustered and activated fire hoses and master took evasive manoeuvres. Pirates aborted attempted boarding and moved away. At 1115 LT master observed another six speedboats in the vicinity.

An earlier report (from about 2 weeks before this latest report)
02.01.05 at 0730 LT in posn: 26:13.2N - 056:52.2E, Strait of Hormuz, Persian Gulf / Arabian Sea.
Several persons armed with guns in six blue speedboats about 6 - 8 meters long crossed a container ship from starboard to port. They were dressed in black clothes with facemasks. D/O raised alarm and crew mustered and activated fire hoses. Boats followed the ship but later moved away.

While the specific locations are some distance apart (but still off the coast of Oman), the pattern of masked "persons" and the number of boats observed is disturbing.

My concern is that some group is testing its ability to coordinate a group attack and also testing locations where ship crews might be less vigilant.

Here's a map with the approximate positions of the incidents (top arrow is Jan 2 event, lower arrow is Jan 12 event):

Navy UAV Plans: Adjustments

UAV Blog posts that U.S. Navy May Adjust UAV Plans. Admiral Clark, the Chief of Naval Operations wants the Navy to
One of the thrusts among the objectives Clark spells out is a move to expand from a focus on reconnaissance to persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, suggesting the need for a more far-reaching data-collection mechanism.

UAV Blog cites an article from Aviation Week & Space Technology containing this:
Among the steps the service wants to take is the development of requirements to provide the future Navy destroyer, DD(X), with an independent targeting capability that would include use of a destroyer-based unmanned aircraft.

The service has been working with Northrop Grumman on the Fire Scout unmanned aircraft to explore ship-based vertical takeoff and landing UAV operations, although at-sea trials using the Navy's experimental high-speed vessel have been delayed because the ship has been diverted to support relief operations in Southwest Asia. The Navy and, in particular, the Marine Corps, have signaled they want a VTOL UAV, but one more capable than Fire Scout.

Additionally, Clark wants the service and special operations forces to standardize their tactical UAV candidates, rather than pursue dissimilar systems. Another area of UAV collaboration between the two parties would occur in the Silent Hammer exercise series involving submarines aiding special forces ashore. The first Silent Hammer drill took place last year, with submarine control of a long-endurance UAV providing special forces on land with overhead imagery. Clark wants a repeat of that drill to refine operational concepts between the sub and elite troops.

The anticipated adjustments in UAV plans represent only one in the latest of a long-running series of Navy reviews of its unmanned aircraft activity, which has led to turmoil affecting tactical, endurance and unmanned combat aircraft programs. But Clark also says he wants the service to field new unmanned systems more rapidly; a directive that would cover unmanned systems beyond aircraft.

Northrop Grumman Fire Scout info here. Fire Scout (Northrop Grumman photo)

U.S. Navy Tsunami Help Continues

As the MSM turns to more "exciting" stories, the hard work of getting aid to those affected by the "Boxing Day" Tsunami continues. The U.S. Navy Newsstand has a collection of reports of what is and has been done here.

A quick trip through the site will lead you to articles on the arrival of the hospital ship USNS Mercy into the Seventh Fleet area of responsibility and how the Navy is planning to invite various non-governmental, humanitarian aid groups to augment the existing staff. Mercy can accomodate up to 1000 patients at appropriate manning levels and has 12 operating rooms.

There is a link to another article about the guided missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG-69) undertaking the delivery of two Spanish Red Cross provided water purifiers to a remote area of Indonesia, proving that even the non-amphibious ships of the task force assembled offshore are assisting in the effort.
As the purifiers were shuttled ashore from the ship, Milius Command Master Chief CMDCM (SW/AW) JoAnn Ortloff sneaked a few boxes of items donated by Milius crew members aboard the helicopter. She had taken a collection to gather extra clothes and hygiene items for the tsunami victims, as well as putting together a small collection of toys and coloring books for local children.

“With everyone busy getting food and water and clothes, I thought maybe they’re forgotten,” Ortloff said. “I don’t want them to forget that they’re still kids.”

Photo: USS Milius (DDG-69) underway

Official U.S. Navy photo.

And don't overlook the efforts of the U.S. Logistics Group Western Pacific, located in Singapore, as reflected in this article.
Sailors here are working with enthusiasm to keep HADR supplies flowing to the forces that are distributing them.

“We're working long hours with no days off, but it's worth it,” said Storekeeper 1st Class Reiner Tumang, who works in NRCC’s logistics support center. “We know the disaster victims really appreciate the help.”

“I participated in the evacuation of the Philippines [following the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo],” Quinn said. “I was struck then by the sense of common purpose, of everyone pulling together to help their fellow human beings. I see that same sense of dedication now, and even more so by our men and women here in Singapore.

“The work we’ve been doing is a matter of life and death,” Quinn said. “That’s the motivation.”

(Hat tip: Singapore Tsunami Relief Effort)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

China building up amphibious force

Strategy Page has an interesting piece on the "stealth" construction of small but seaworthy (for limited distances) amphibious ships here. Money quote:
Larger amphibious ships, like their new LSD (landing ship dock) are building at a more leisurely pace. In any event, the LSD and LST type ships are also useful for longer range amphibious operations. But the smaller craft have only one target; Taiwan. If there is no invasion attempt against Taiwan, the hundreds of new small amphibious craft can be used for river and coastal shipping operations (which carry a lot of cargo in a country that is still underserved by modern highways and railroads.) But in the meantime, this building program is sending a rather unpleasant message to Taiwan. 

Andrew Sullivan Earns a Dodo

Andrew Sullivan, who apparently was once a rational human being, proves that the effects of rampant egocentrism are pretty devastating with a post on the sentencing of former Sgt. Charles Graner here. He starts by calling Graner a "sadistic monster" a term I find a little over the top, believing that Graner really is more akin to low life pond scum. In any event, Sullivan finally has earned the EagleSpeak Dodo Award (he's been teetering on the edge for so long) with this absurd statement:
It would be hard to find or invent a more graphic example of evil than that perpetrated by Graner in Abu Ghraib.
Jeez, Andrew, I dunno, but killing 300,000 and more of your citizens, having sons like Uday and Kusai, using biological weapons, invading Kuwait (and allowing some incredible incidents of torture in the process), etc, etc - just might be more evil than what Graner did. Or maybe executing a few million people just because of their religion or, horrors, sexual preferences - like old A. Hitler did - might be more evil. Or, well let me just toss out a few names - Mao, Stalin, Lenin, Idi Amin, Atilla...well, I'm sure you get the idea.

Here's your award:


China builds up strategic sea lanes

The Washington Times tells us "China builds up strategic sea lanes."

China is building up military forces and setting up bases along sea lanes from the Middle East to project its power overseas and protect its oil shipments, according to a previously undisclosed internal report prepared for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
"China is building strategic relationships along the sea lanes from the Middle East to the South China Sea in ways that suggest defensive and offensive positioning to protect China's energy interests, but also to serve broad security objectives," said the report sponsored by the director, Net Assessment, who heads Mr. Rumsfeld's office on future-oriented strategies." (Eagle1 says, "I think for clarity this should read "...Director, Office of Net Assessment. The director heads ...")


The internal report stated that China is adopting a "string of pearls" strategy of bases and diplomatic ties stretching from the Middle East to southern China that includes a new naval base under construction at the Pakistani port of Gwadar.
The Times says these additional bases are located in Bangladesh, Burma and other locales. The report also reportedly suggests a Chinese pattern of seeking to control strategic "choke points" and that the build up of Chinese naval forces is proceeding more rapidly than earlier estimates suggested.

Hmmm. In his classic book, Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat, Captain Wayne Hughes tells us what a navy is for:
A navy's purposes deal with the movement and delivery of goods and services at sea; in contrast, an army's purpose is to purchase and possess real estate. Thus a navy is in the links business, while the army is in the nodes business. Seen that way, a navy performs one or more of four functions and no others:

At sea, it (1) assures that our own goods and services are safe, and (2) that an enemy's are not. From the sea, it (3) guarantees safe delivery of goods and services ashore, and (4) prevents delivery ashore by an enemy navy.

China is doing almost precisely what the Japanese attempted in World War II when it tried to protect its sea lines of communication from oil and rubber rich areas to Japan. In fact, they are almost exactly the same sea lanes and choke points, unless the canal through Thailand referenced in the article is built. Not too surprisingly, they are still vital sea lanes for Japan and the rest of the Far East. If China wants to play the "big dog" in the area, this strategy would put them in a pretty good position to do so.

So, just when the critics were gearing up to suggest that the U.S. Navy might be a target for larger budget cuts (budget cutters always seem to fight the very last war and seem to always pose the "what have you done for me lately?" question), along comes China to show us why we need a force capable of defending our sea lines of communication and safeguarding our goods and services and hindering, if necessary, someone else's.

Keep an eye on this issue and on China's Navy.
Update: Here's a map of Japan's WWII conquests:

Except for Pakistan, pretty much the same area under discussion.

Update 1.5: On this map the red arrows more or less point to areas mentioned in the article:

Update 2: Global Security's take on the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) here.
Update3: China Defence Today's more timely review of the PLAN here
In recent years, the PLAN's maritime mission has evolved from a role of static coastal defence to one of “active offshore defence”. In this capacity, the PLAN can be used both as a tactical force and to support strategic national defence. The objectives of this new strategy are to assert China's role as a regional maritime power, to protect coastal economic regions and maritime interests, and to optimise the Navy's operations for national defence. The PLAN's responsibilities now include capture and defence of islands, and protection and blockade of sea-lanes of communication. Moreover, the PLAN is increasingly viewed by senior PLA leadership as integral to resolution of the Taiwan issue -- should force be required -- and for safeguarding China's Xisha and Nansha Islands in the South China Sea. Finally, the PLAN is likely to be increasingly used as an instrument of overseas diplomacy through participation in goodwill cruises and port visits.

The PLAN's evolving strategy has been described in terms of two distinct phases. The strategy's first phase is for the PLAN to develop a "green water active defence strategy" capability. This "green water" generally is described as being encompassed within an arc swung from Vladivostok to the north, to the Strait of Malacca to the south, and out to the "first island chain" (Aleutians, Kuriles, Ryukyus, Taiwan, Philippines, and Greater Sunda islands) to the east. Analysts have assessed that the PLAN is likely to attain this green water capability early in the 21st century. Open-source writings also suggest that the PLAN intends to develop a capability to operate in the "second island chain" (Bonins, Guam, Marianas, and Palau islands) by the mid-21st century. In the future, the PLAN also may expand its operations to bases in Myanmar, Burma. These bases will provide the PLAN with direct access to the Strait of Malacca and the Bay of Bengal.

Update 4: Chrenkoff also has taken a look at China's sea lane situation here. He's not as stressed over the immediate situation and, perhaps in a nod to the Oriental way, takes a longer view:
Actually, the really interesting pastime is not so much projecting the present-day China into the future, but predicting what China will be like in five, ten, twenty or fifty years from now. Yes, some things never change, as realists would want to remind us; great powers have their own national interests which they pursue with a single-minded zeal, and China will always, for example, strive to ensure its energy security. But aside from that, what will the country look like? Will it eventually turn democratic, or at least liberalize more, to be on par with, say, Singapore? Will Chinese people and infrastructure manage to cope with the economic growth? Will there be one China or perhaps several successor states?

Well, in the meantime, keep your powder dry.

Internal North Korean Anti-Kim Jong-il Protests?

Interesting report out of North Korea covered by Oranckay here. If true, these are some mighty brave people...

(Hat tip: The Marmot Hole)

Also over at North Korea Zone with a translation of some of the materials and some good questions.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Chicago vs. Iraq Murder Rates: Fun with numbers

Machias Privateer has some fun with numbers and points out that the murder rates (per capita) in Chicago and Iraq are not dissimilar - in fact the trend line seems to favor Iraq!
Here is some unrefuted reporting from the New York Times which shows that Iraq had 202 murders in 14 days or 14.4 per day! Iraqi population estimates vary, but for comparison purposes Chicago (at 450 confirmed murders in 366 days with a population of 2.8 million) had .439 murders per million per day. The two would be equal if Iraq's population was 32,858,867 people! Population estimates vary but about 25 million people live in Iraq. Therefore, the streets of Iraq are about as safe as the streets of Chicago though in both places there are some tough neighborhoods and you might not wish to be a member of particular organizations! The Iraqi trend is going down faster than Chicago's.

As Bruce Thompson, proprietor of the blog indicates, it's not exactly the way the MSM reports it.

(Hat tip: American Thinker)

Military Minds, End States and Exit Strategies

I started this post a couple of days ago, because the more I read his essay, the more I appreciated the points laid out by LTC Ryan in his now well-known piece from the frontlines as provided through Black Five.

Why, I ask, is there such a gap between the "military truth"and the "media truth?"

Much of the problem I see is that a military mindset is very much mission/goal oriented. "How are we progressing toward achieving the end state we desire?" might be on the mind of the commander in the field. Then, today, Black Five provided me with the perfect example of what I mean in another post from Iraq, in which Lt Col Mark Smith, USMCR writes about a visit from a Marine General named Dunford who visited Col. Smith's camp and offered up this:
He said, and again I paraphrase, "you hear talk in the media and other places of an exit strategy.  Usually communicated in the form of a question, such as, what is our exit strategy?
Well, professional Warriors DO NOT ESTABLISH EXIT STRATEGIES, WE ACHIEVE AN END STATE!  And our end state in Iraq is a freely and democratically elected government in Iraq, sustained and protected by a viable, competent and professional security force.
Have we won?...NO, are we winning?...YES!"
Exactly, was my thought.  No doubt it will take time.  But if we remain WILLFUL as a Nation, if we deliberately and with cold calculation understand the cause, then the effort is required, the hardship endured, the VICTORY ASSURED.

The contrast with the media representative couldn't be greater. Each media person has the goal of getting his or her story printed or shown on the news. It's very short term and requires short term thinking. Which explains why "if it bleeds, it leads" is the prevailing media approach to almost any story. As many of us know, the fact that so many people are honest and good does not make for a "good" news story --even if it is good news. And in the media world what counts is getting your stories published or shown, so you go with the obvious - the bad and the ugly news and leave the good news alone.

Obviously, these cultures have very little in common. And that explains why there such a gap between the view of the troops as to how things are going and the view of the press.

U.S. Spying on Iran? Sure hope so!

Seymour Hersh, a truly despicable human being who has no hesitation to put U.S. troops in danger, uncovers a major non-story reported here: The U.S. may be spying on Iran. Whoopdee do!

The United States has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran to help identify potential nuclear, chemical and missile targets, The New Yorker magazine reported Sunday.

The article, by award-winning reporter Seymour Hersh, said the secret missions have been going on at least since last summer with the goal of identifying target information for three dozen or more suspected sites.

Hersh quotes one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon (news - web sites) as saying, "The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible."
Given all the flapping of arms and pronouncements of incompetence of the pre-9/11 intelligence gathering and over the WMD flail in Iraq, I sure as hell would hope the U.S. is doing some serious intel work in Iran.

Remember, Iran is developing nuclear weapons and the missile systems to deliver them and is not a friend of the U.S. (or many other people either, unless North Korea floats your boat in the friendship world). And, golly gee whiz, using another unnamed consultant to bolster your case that the U.S. has "civilians" in the Pentagon who want some of Iran's "military infrastructure" destroyed is pretty lame. I am not in the Pentagon, I am a civilian (although I did spend some time in the military) and I am concerned about the offensive military capability of Iran and I wouldn't mind seeing it's missiles and nukes vanish, either. And you don't need a "consultant" to learn that.In fact, I think you'd have to be some sort of fool not to be concerned about what Iran is up to...Oops -I suppose I just revealed my opinion of Seymour Hersh and his fan club.

From an earlier post here's a missile box showing the range of one of the missiles (Shahab-3) Iran is working on:

(Hat tip: Little Green Footballs)
Update: This post was assembled in pieces from three different computers as a result it was posted in several iterations. Sorry for any problems that may have caused.
Update2: You can read The New Yorker piece here. It's chock full of gems:
Despite the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, the Bush Administration has not reconsidered its basic long-range policy goal in the Middle East: the establishment of democracy throughout the region.
“This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone,” the former high-level intelligence official told me. “Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign. We’ve declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah—we’ve got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism.”
Rumsfeld will become even more important during the second term. In interviews with past and present intelligence and military officials, I was told that the agenda had been determined before the Presidential election, and much of it would be Rumsfeld’s responsibility. The war on terrorism would be expanded, and effectively placed under the Pentagon’s control. The President has signed a series of findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia.

The President’s decision enables Rumsfeld to run the operations off the books—free from legal restrictions imposed on the C.I.A. Under current law, all C.I.A. covert activities overseas must be authorized by a Presidential finding and reported to the Senate and House intelligence committees. (The laws were enacted after a series of scandals in the nineteen-seventies involving C.I.A. domestic spying and attempted assassinations of foreign leaders.) “The Pentagon doesn’t feel obligated to report any of this to Congress,” the former high-level intelligence official said. “They don’t even call it ‘covert ops’—it’s too close to the C.I.A. phrase. In their view, it’s ‘black reconnaissance.’ They’re not even going to tell the cincs”—the regional American military commanders-in-chief. (The Defense Department and the White House did not respond to requests for comment on this story.)
Getting such evidence is a pressing concern for the Bush Administration. The former high-level intelligence official told me, “They don’t want to make any W.M.D. intelligence mistakes, as in Iraq. The Republicans can’t have two of those. There’s no education in the second kick of a mule.”
Actually all of this makes perfect sense to me and the administration has been perfectly clear on who it views as being part of the "Axis of Evil" - so no one should be shocked to find that the grown-ups in charge are actually following up on what they said they would do, including fighting a Global War on Terrorism. As far as the Hersh article goes, there's a lot more alarmist blather in it, but I've had my fill. Read it yourself and draw your own conclusions.
Update3: Pentagon response to Hersh here.
Instead, he said, Hersh's sources fed him "rumor, innuendo, and assertions about meetings that never happened, programs that do not exist and statements by officials that were never made."
Hmmm. "Rumor" and "innuendo" - hmmm.
Update4: Read the whole Pentagon response here. (Hat tip: Counter Terrorism Blog)

Conspiracy? Shhhh!

If "loose lips sink ships," what will happen to the U.S. military base in Diego Garcia now that the Diplomads have revealed all?

Not content with its run of the mill anti U.S. bias, the BBC has given voice to wacko tsunami theories here. The good news is that most of the comments published on the page are rational. Aside from the kook jobs, my winner for giving the secret away is this:
Actually, since this island is British owned and merely "leased" to the United States Navy, Commander James Bond disclosed the evil plot to the American commander, who then promptly raised the "Anti-Tsunami" barrier which encircles the island...
Eddie, New York

On the other hand the BBC does pose the interesting question of who to blame, "God or science?" Well, not really science- more like vacation:
And how could God allow any of this to happen - and for that matter how could science? Susan Watts reports on the sophisticated monitors that operate in the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization in Vienna which could have given advanced warning of the tsunami, had its staff not been on holiday and had governments agreed to share the information.

DG before tsunami: DG after:
Or is the other way round? Photos from Global Security website.

More info on Diego Garcia here. Imagery (before and after) here.