Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Monday, February 28, 2005

Singapore goes proactive- will provide escorts

As a comment to an earlier posting kindly noted, the Singapore government has announced
Singapore soldiers will board and escort commercial ships deemed vulnerable to terrorist attack, including cruise liners, while they are in Singapore waters, the government said on Monday.

Ships will be evaluated according to previous ports of call, types of cargo and other data. Those deemed "high-risk" will be escorted through Singapore's waters near the Malacca Strait, one of the world's busiest shipping channels.

as reported here.
Singapore's authorities have sounded repeated warnings that a plague of sea piracy in the narrow, 805-km (500-mile) long Malacca Strait -- through which more than a quarter of world trade and almost all oil imports to Japan and China pass -- could lead to a terrorist attack.

The three littoral states -- Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia -- began coordinated sea patrols in July, and Singapore and Malaysia have agreed to look at extending intelligence sharing.

It was not immediately clear if Singapore's neighbours plan similar escorts.

Interesting development, and one that makes great good sense.

Hat tip to reader Chris Lock.

Update: The Philippines have increased port security, too:
On 16 Feb, a local Philippine
radio station reported the Philippine Coast Guard is increasing security in the country's major ports in the wake of the Feb 14
bomb attacks. A Philippine Coast Guard spokesman said intelligence operatives in plainclothes were deployed in
various ports. The Philippine National Police Maritime Group also tightened security in Visayas and Mindanao following the explosions in Davao and General Santos. At least six sea marshals were assigned to ensure the safety of passengers in every ship. Marines have also been on foot patrol in various ports since Feb 15th and x-ray machines were installed to check passenger's baggage.
report from the Feb 23 ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping report, found here

4 million dead in Congo

According to this San Francisco Examine editorial, there have been 4 million killed in the Congo's on-going saga of violence and deprivation.

The UN, since it relies on voulntary offers of forces and support from member countries has been unable to offer up enough help.

Four million? Stunning.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS)

Under certain conditions, merchant shipping may find itself contacted by naval authorities in a effort to communicate guidance that will enhance vessel safety. Guidance is provided to merchant ship masters and shipping companies about the condition under which they may be contacted. Such information is provided here.

NCAGS is a program active in many navies around the world, especially NATO countries and Australia. NCAGS units have been active in the Arabian (Persian) Gulf for some time: Here's an article from March 2003 -
"There are concerns, and there have been ever since September 11, in the region," Lieutenant Commander Ken Sprowles told journalists Saturday. "We try to balance people's fears with advice, to tell them what the situation is."
...The team, known as Naval Co-operation and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS), has been in the Gulf since October 2001, just a month after the suicide plane attacks on New York's World Trade Centre and Washington. NCAGS -- and similar teams run by the US, Canada and Australia in the Gulf -- act as a link between commercial shippers and the increasing naval forces in the region. "Our information goes directly through British command to British warships," said Sprowles, a reservist for 21 years...
Data gathered by NCAGS lets military commanders know the position of commercial vessels. At the same time NCAGS can advise merchant seamen about threats and "self-protection measures", if that becomes necessary.
Source: here (scroll down to "Vigilance advised for merchant shippers in Gulf region")

NCAGS itself goes back to the convoy operations of World War II and through the Cold War years when it was known as Naval Control of Shipping.

In the late 1990's, the name was changed to Naval Control and Protection of Shipping, later to Naval Coordination and Protection of Shipping and now to NACAGS. In most navies (including the US Navy), it largely has been a reserve function. Also in the later 1990's the mission was changed from developing large open-ocean convoys to a more regional role stressing de-confliction and identification of vessels of interest. These new techniques were tried in various exercises with the fleet. For example,
Exercise BELL BUOY 99 validated the concept that NCS can be employed as both a long-range detection asset and as a force multiplier. Merchant ship characteristics information obtained by NCS personnel, along with the timely reporting of merchant shipping movements, assisted in the identification of both legitimate and suspect vessels. The result of implementing these new NCS procedures was that fewer resources were required to process legitimate shipping, thereby freeing up naval and air assets to detect, search, identify and interdict suspect vessels.
Later exercise validated the concept and led to hands on multi-national exercises with real merchant shipping in the Arabian Gulf, which clearly paved the way for the work described above. See: Global Security

NATO has clearly embraced the mission:
There is no need for every navy in NATO to cover the whole spectrum of maritime capability and I think that a better understanding of task specialization would enable us to focus limited resources in a more efficient way. This would lead to improvement in quality of response and a contribution to something which is known as increased ‘maritime domain awareness’. This is a key factor in my vision for enhancing global maritime security. The old campaigners among you may remember a NATO concept called ‘Naval Control of Shipping (NCS)’. Of course NATO cannot control merchant shipping – neither does merchant shipping necessarily want to be controlled. The vision was to increase security, and therefore also the operational efficiency and effectiveness of commercial maritime traffic. Co-operation between the military and civilian sectors, rather than control, is the way ahead. NCS has now developed into new project known as Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping (a mouthful which is also known by its more user friendly acronym ‘NCAGS’). NCAGS is dedicated to providing advice, guidance and assistance to enhance the safety of merchant ships and support military operations – on a global scale. It is an ambitious, but realistic, project.
(from a speech by Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, 24 Oct 2002: "Fighting Terrorism on the Oceans")

Intelligence at Sea: Vessels of Interest

The Strategy Page posts about the process of determining which ships become "vessels of interest" which are tagged for special watching here. (Note: Link may not work - if it doesn't, go
and click on the link "Counter-terrorism:'Vessels of Interest' and the Usual Suspects").

With over 50,000 ocean going vessels out there, that could make it to North America, the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard have developed techniques to deal with the situation. First, only a few thousand ocean going ships regularly visit North America. Most are huge cargo vessels or tankers, constantly moving back and forth between East Asian or Persian Gulf ports and North American destinations. These are easy to watch. So the navy has established a class of ships that get special attention. These are called “vessels of interest” (VOI). Some get included in this list because they carry hazardous materials (explosives or very dangerous chemicals)...
Obviously, the problem of seeking out ships is a little easier than identifying individuals because there are so many fewer of them. Also, because the U.S. has lots of water between it and most foreign ports, it is unlikely that a ship can "rush" across the ocean to surprise us. In fact, vessel tracking pays other dividends:
The search for VOIs has also uncovered a lot more nefarious activity on the high seas than the navy had previously suspected. While it was known that North Korea had been shipping illegal goods (drugs, counterfeit cash, weapons) around on its merchant ships, the VOI search uncovered much, much more. The North Koreans have been more active in gunrunning and smuggling illegal raw materials (ore, oil and lumber) out of Africa and Asian hot spots...
However, just because we have VOI doesn't mean, as I have been pointing out, that a non-VOI ship can't be hijacked and turned into a weapon for use against American interests and/or ships overseas.

Hat tip: The Counterterrorism Blog

(Oh,yes, the pictured ship is the training ship for the United States Merchant Marine Academy)

Krispy Kreme=Crispy Critter?

Krispy Kreme Is Facing a Second Investigation:
"The chain, which replaced its chief executive, Scott A. Livengood, in January with a turnaround specialist, Stephen F. Cooper, said earlier this month that it needed additional credit by the end of March to stay in business."

A long-time North Carolina success, Krispy Kreme got lured by the bright lights of the big city and the result may be a "going-out-of-business sale." At one point in th elast year, Krispy Kreme traded for about $40 a share and the late quote was $5.54. Things seem to have tumbled down in a hurry.

The Motley Fool says:
Before you know it, Krispy Kreme is going to be blamed for everything from global warming to the 1919 Black Sox scandal. It certainly feels that way after it seems as if every downtick in the troubled doughnut maker's share price invites a new depressing revelation. This week it was word that the Feds were moving in, interviewing Krispy Kreme officers and former employees in an investigation spearheaded by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York.

Will it uncover that the company's been hoarding uranium or plotting alongside Austin Powers nemesis Dr. Evil to take over the world? Nothing should surprise investors anymore. While Krispy Kreme still has time, creditors willing, to revive its tarnished brand, it's going to have to start producing some good news to turn that vicious sentiment tide.
here. Doughnuts with a side helping of bad karma?

Democracy marches on: Election reform announced in Egypt

CNN does not make this its top "world" story, but it is a biggie: Election reform announced in Egypt.

Not that the Traqi election played a role or anything...

Saddam's Half Brother Captured

The AP reports Iraqis Capture Saddam's Half Brother.

A spokesman for interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said al-Hassan's capture "shows the determination of the Iraqi government to chase and detain all criminals who carried out massacres and whose hands are stained with the blood of the Iraqi people, then bring them to justice to face the right punishment."

Good for the Iraqis.

Cubans told to shun foreigners

Cubans told to shun foreigners
More than 100,000 workers in Cuba's tourism industry have been ordered to restrict their contact with foreigners to an absolute minimum.

New regulations from the communist state's tourism ministry apply to Cubans on the island and overseas.

They form part of a series of moves by the Cuban government to tighten state control across the country.

Workers are also told to watch their foreign employers and report actions that might threaten Cuba's revolution.

Fifty years of "revolution" and the failed state goes backwards to repression.
The rules are the latest of a series which have been passed by the Cuban government with the broad aim of recentralisation.

In the last few months, the US dollar has been removed from circulation. Private enterprise has been curbed and managers of Cuban state enterprises have been stripped of much of their autonomy.

President Fidel Castro has said that recentralisation is enabling the Cuban state to rise again, like a phoenix.


Zimbabwe shuts another newspaper

BBC News reports that Zimbabwe shuts another newspaper.

Mr. Mugabe is 81. In a few short years he has managed to take his country off my list of places that would be good to visit. As he has dragged his country down, though he has managed -like every other tyrant- to blame someone else for the problems he has created.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Iraq "insurgents" may be around awhile

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Myers, says that there is no quick fix to the "insurgency" in Iraq.
Myers said, however, that recent elections in Iraq were a sign that insurgents were not succeeding in their efforts to strike fear in the Iraqi people. American television was full of images in January of Iraqis whose fingers were stained with indelible ink after casting their ballots.

"They were sticking that ink-stained finger in the eye of the insurgents," Myers told a packed ballroom at the Beverly Hilton hotel.

He is, of course, absolutely right. Take large group of disaffected former Baathists who are now members of the minority and who have access to an incredible array of explosives buried hither and yon, mix in some assistance from anti-US, anti-democratic neighbors like Syria and Iran, throw in a little Al Qaeda-fed hatred and you've got a recipe for a long-lasting spree of violence and murder. Judging by the nature of the most recent Iraqi attacks, the bigger, organized "insurgency" has been defeated and Iraq is now facing a form of standard, garden-variety terrorism - random acts of violence against its population, meant to send a message to the citizens. Or, as the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) (gasp!)puts it,
it is a deliberate use of violence against civilians for political or religious ends.
Want more of a definition? Try this:
In another useful attempt to produce a definition, Paul Pillar, a former deputy chief of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, argues that there are four key elements of terrorism:
1. It is premeditated- planned in advance, rather than an impulsive act of rage.
2. It is political- not criminal, like the violence that groups such as the mafia use to get money, but designed to change the existing political order.
3. It is aimed at civilians- not at military targets or combat-ready troops.
4. It is carried out by subnational groups- not by the army of a country. (cite)

How hard is it to fight such terrorism? The Council on Foreign Relations (gasp!) has information on various terrorist organizations around the world here.

Take a look at Peru against the "Shining Path," the Brits against the IRA... it can be a long hard slog. Of course, the goal is to reduce the level of terrorism, as John Kerry might say, to the level of "nuisance" so that it becomes a background noise in Iraqi daily lives, sort of akin to the place fatal auto accidents have in our society (we tolerate 10 to 15 such deaths per day in the US). Much of the possibility of reducing the level depends on the average citizen's willing cooperation with the government forces taking on the terrorists.

Why not try to stop terrorism completely? That's the ideal goal, but it's almost impossible because acts of terrorism are relatively so easy to commit. A random killing here and there, an explosive device planted here and there- pretty soon you've got a wave of terrorism going. Then lie low for a time and start again at the time and place of your choosing. It's especially hard when so there are so many willing "martyrs" who are not concerned with self-preservation. The CFR has it right:
Are religiously motivated terrorists like al-Qaeda less restrained than other terrorists?
Yes, generally speaking. Not only are these terrorists' goals often vaguer than those of nationalist terrorists- who want, for example, an independent state, a much more concrete goal than Osama bin Laden's sweeping talk of jihad- but their methods are more lethal. That's because, experts say,the religious terrorist often sees violence as an end in itself, as a divinely inspired way of serving a higher cause. ... But for al-Qaeda, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo, the Palestinian group Hamas, and other religious terrorist organizations, mass killings are considered not only acceptable but "holy."(emphasis added)

One more morning thought of great cheer from the CFR(gasp!):
Have terrorists ever used weapons of mass destruction?
Yes. In 1995, members of Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese cult, released sarin nerve gas into the Tokyo subway, killing 12 and wounding over 3,500- the first recorded use of chemical weapons by terrorists. The first deadly use of biological weapons by terrorists was the late-2001 U.S. mailings of anthrax-laced letters by persons still unknown.

Have a nice day.

Update: I don't seem to be the only one who has noticed the "war phase" is over. Captain's Quarter's quotes Jack Kelly
It will be some months before the news media recognize it, and a few months more before they acknowledge it, but the war in Iraq is all but won.
Now it's up to the Iraqis and their friends to fight back the terrorists.

Friday, February 25, 2005

More on SLOCs

Southeast Asia Chokepoints has some great (although dated) graphs. Table 2 has info on what would happen to excess shipping capacity should a SLOC or SLOCs close. Need an update to get us current.

Marine in Possum Incident Not Prosecuted

No prosecution reports Ace of Spades HQ.

Scott Ritter: More lunacy

GeoPoliticalReview pays enough attention to Scott Ritter to observe some odd thinking backed by?

I'll match my anonymous government sources to his any day of the week. And Harvey the Pooka, too.

One Man's Advice to President Bush

Whatever else he is, Thomas P. M. Barnett is not shy about offering advice. Here are his suggestions to make for a better future (from Esquire): Dear Mr. President, Here's How to.... Like Fox, I link, you decide.

Some interesting ideas, but....

Hat tip: Budaechigae

Another View on China, Japan, Taiwan and the US

Interesting read: The Peking Duck: Inevitable calamity as China faces off against Japan, US and Taiwan? (read the comments, too).
Bowring warns that Europe should watch the unfolding situation carefully, as it indiates "the commercial benefits of advanced weapons sales to China carry long-term risks. For myopic Europe, Taiwan may be a small and distant place, but it has the potential to be the pivot of East Asian power relationships."

Hat tip: Simon World

Knowing Your Audience

Alec Rawls over at Error Theory reminds us in the verbal war for liberty President Bush knows his audience in Warnin' the Moolahs.


Sea Going Terrorism

A Foreign Affairs article from November/December "Terrorism Goes to Sea" sets out some interesting information:
Since many shipping companies do not report incidents of piracy, for fear of raising their insurance premiums and prompting protracted, time-consuming investigations, the precise extent of piracy is unknown. But statistics from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), a piracy watchdog, suggest that both the frequency and the violence of acts of piracy have increased in recent years. In 2003, ship owners reported 445 attacks, in which 92 seafarers were killed or reported missing and 359 were assaulted and taken hostage. (Ships were hijacked in 19 of these cases and boarded in 311.) From 2002 to 2003, the number of those killed and taken hostage in attacks nearly doubled. Pirates have also increased their tactical sophistication, often surrounding a target ship with several boats and firing machine guns and antitank missiles to force it to stop. As Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan recently warned, "piracy is entering a new phase; recent attacks have been conducted with almost military precision. The perpetrators are well-trained, have well laid out plans." The total damage caused by piracy-due to losses of ships and cargo and to rising insurance costs-now amounts to $16 billion per year.

Whereas land targets are relatively well protected, the super-extended energy umbilical cord that extends by sea to connect the West and the Asian economies with the Middle East is more vulnerable than ever. Sixty percent of the world's oil is shipped by approximately 4,000 slow and cumbersome tankers. These vessels have little protection, and when attacked, they have nowhere to hide. (Except on Russian and Israeli ships, the only weapons crewmembers have today to ward off attackers are high-powered fire hoses and spotlights.)

However, the article is from the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security whose work I have found on another occasion to be good, "but a little overly dramatic." I make the same minor complaint here. For example, whereas the following is generally true, the potential disaster of a scuttled ship in a narrow strait is a bit overwrought as I'll explain later.
If a single tanker were attacked on the high seas, the impact on the energy market would be marginal. But geography forces the tankers to pass through strategic chokepoints, many of which are located in areas where terrorists with maritime capabilities are active. These channels-major points of vulnerability for the world economy-are so narrow at points that a single burning supertanker and its spreading oil slick could block the route for other vessels. Were terrorist pirates to hijack a large bulk carrier or oil tanker, sail it into one of the chokepoints, and scuttle it to block the sea-lane, the consequences for the global economy would be severe: a spike in oil prices, an increase in the cost of shipping due to the need to use alternate routes, congestion in sea-lanes and ports, more expensive maritime insurance, and probable environmental disaster. Worse yet would be several such attacks happening simultaneously in multiple locations worldwide.
While there are some very narrow major waterways (the Bosphorus, for example - the U.S. Department of Energy produces a handy "chokepoint" list), for the most part, the Strait of Malacca is is 1.5 miles (7000+ feet) wide at its narrowest spot. Even a 1200 foot long ship placed sideways in that channel leaves some room to maneuver around it. The Strait of Hormuz is wider still. As we learned in the "tanker wars" these large tankers are hard to sink completely.
The Exocets and other small missiles generally failed to "kill" large merchant ships. They did, however, significant damage to 11 out of 17 tankers hit in
1984, which displaced over 50,000 tons, and slightly damaged six. The Exocets were more effective against smaller vessels, and against more complex or automated ships (the automated Safina al-Arab had to be written off because her machinery was too sophisticated to repair), and against ships where the hit happened to trigger a fire.
(Tanker War and the Lessons of Naval Conflict). Not that it can't happen.

And if it does, as the DOE puts it,
If the strait were closed, nearly half of the world's fleet would be required to sail further, generating a substantial increase in the requirement for vessel capacity. All excess capacity of the world fleet might be absorbed, with the effect strongest for crude oil shipments and dry bulk such as coal. Closure of the Strait of Malacca would immediately raise freight rates worldwide. More than 50,000 vessels per year transit the Strait of Malacca.
But any such closure would be relatively short-lived, given the incentives to salvage, raise or raze a ship interfering with the free passage through the Strait. How long would it take to clear such a ship? While the vessel didn't completely sink, in September 2003 the bulk carrier "Sea Liberty" was involved in a collision in the narrowest part of the Singapore Strait and was salvaged.

The vessel Hyundai No.105 (40,000 GRT) sank just outside the Singapore Strait in May 2004. In fact, the Singapore Strait is a busy, dangerous place and warnings have been issued like this one from Tokio Marine Nichido:
The Strait of Singapore in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, being the main seaway between ports in Europe and the Middle East and those in the Far East and South East Asia.

Singapore is the busiest port in the world with an average of 350 ships arriving per day. At any one time there are more than 800 ships in the port-a ship arrives or departs every 3 minutes. It is the focal port for some 366 shipping lines with links to 3,600 ports worldwide.

With congestion in many parts due to a daily traffic of 400 vessels on average, the Strait has become prone to ship collisions, oil spillage, strandings and sinkings. Therefore it is extremely important for ships to navigate safely in the Strait to avoid accidents which would adversely affect the three littoral states of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore and the marine environment.
These collisions and sinkings do not seem to interfere with other vessels transiting the Malacca Strait and its "subparts" such as the Singapore Strait.

Obviously, terrorism at sea is a serious threat and one that requires significant preventative measures. In the "worst case" scenerio, it is possible that some interference with international trade is likely. However, the probability of that worst case- a "perfect storm" of sea-going terrorism must be measured against other, more likely results.

Update: It occurs to me that since I have asserted that the seizure and scuttling of a ship in a narrow strait may not result in the shut down of the flow of world oil and other goods, it is incumbent on me to posit what I would be more concerned about Again, I am concerned with the "seizure and sink" scenerio but just not as concerned as I am with some other possible terrorist acts involving ships. These areas of greater concern include the seizure of a major ship and turning it into a weapon - very similar, in fact, to the seizure of commercial airliners and turning them into guided missiles for the accomplishment of an act of war. Note that I am distinguishing between "terrorism" and "war." Al Qaeda has not declared "terrorism" on the United States - it has declared war.

Osama bin Laden has a vision of his objectives in that war:
The principal stated aims of al-Qaeda are to drive Americans and American influence out of all Muslim nations, especially Saudi Arabia; destroy Israel; and topple pro-Western dictatorships around the Middle East. Bin Laden has also said that he wishes to unite all Muslims and establish, by force if necessary, an Islamic nation adhering to the rule of the first Caliph
cite. His strategy includes the economic crippling of the United States in such a way that it will be unable or unwilling to continue its presence in the Middle East. He seeks to raise the cost of our presence to a level beyond which we are willing to pay in blood and dollars. Part of his plan is to demonstrate the weakness of the U.S. and thus rally new members to the cause. 9/11 was both about hurting the US economy and showing that the "Great Satan" could be attacked. The joyous reaction in many parts of the world to the fall of the World Trade Center did demonstrate the power of the second prong. In my view, Al Qaeda needs another major "victory" against the U.S. As set out in prior posts, one such possible victory would be the attack and damaging of a major symbol of U.S. power - such as an aircraft carrier (the attack on the USS Cole and the failed attack on the USS The Sullivans show how much attacking these power symbols mean to Al Qaeda). In one of my posts, I indicated my major concern
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 (seaborne improvised explosive device) 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).
So, my concern is less with the damaging of international trade in the Malacca Strait (much of which flows to Japan and China) by blocking the chokepoints than with the use of such restricted areas (with limited maneuver room) as an area to engage in a vigorous attack on a prime U.S. warship in such a manner as to be visible to the world in an effort to rally more people to the Al Qaeda cause.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Kosovo Again

The Reuters headline says "UN representative says talks on Kosovo's future can start in 2005"...but what he really said was "could" not "can" -
"My evaluation is that we had a good chance of keeping this timetable and that the process leading to status talks could therefore begin in the second half of 2005," the administrator, Soren Jessen-Petersen, told the U.N. Security Council...

...The final status of Kosovo has taken on new urgency, with some predicting riots if the province were left in limbo and its economy deteriorated further. Up to 70 percent of the people in Kosovo are unemployed, in part because the province cannot be part of international banking system, has difficulty securing loans and attracts few foreign investors.

Hmm. Wonder what the other parts of the cause of 70% unemployment are?

ABC News: Scientist Rates Bird IQs

ABC News reports Scientist Rates Bird IQs.

The good news is that he's Canadian and, presumably, Canadian tax dollars helped pay for this.

Shock! Fake email!

Spate of fake e-mails spook gov't agencies
"'It's gotten to the point where you can't trust anything you get in e-mail, and that's very sad,' said Mary Landesman, About.com's computer virus expert. 'E-mail is quickly becoming a very untrustworthy source.'"

You mean I shouldn't trust those emails from the "lawyers" who are offering me millions in hidden bank accounts?

Astronomers detect first invisible galaxy

MSNBC Astronomers detect first invisible galaxy ...

How do they know it was the "first?"

Al Qaeda and Ship Attacks

Belmont Club posts on a warning from Austin Bay about the potential "Cole"-style attack in the Strait of Malacca area. The Weekly Standard piece contains this:
AN AMERICAN OFFICER familiar with U.S. Navy security concerns in southeast Asia first tipped me to the aircraft carrier scenario. "Singapore's a logical choice for a 'super Cole' operation, or something similar," he said. That was October 2001. We sat in a CENTCOM office, a world map tacked to the wall (U.S. Central Command is responsible for our security interests from the Horn of Africa into Central Asia). "The Straits of Malacca are a chokepoint. The U.S. has log[istics] support on Singapore, to an extent replacing what we lost when we moved out of Subic [Bay, Philippines]. It's a nice place, First World in the Third World. Even if it wasn't a U.S. ally, Islamists don't like the island. It's Chinese--that's what the radicals say. They don't like it. Not because it isn't Muslim, but because it's a wealthy Chinese island dumped between two predominantly Muslim nations, Malaysia and Indonesia."
The officer and I explored several "ship assault" scenarios, including a tanker scuttled in the straits (this was a year before al Qaeda attacked a French tanker off Yemen). Our Malacca incident had the plot of a novel, with Indonesian or Malaysian pirates assisting al Qaeda operatives. The broken tanker spills a million barrels of crude, creating an eco-disaster, Exxon goo lapping pristine south sea beaches. The attack has iconic qualities, underlining Western and Japanese reliance on Mideast oil, producing the sort of propaganda bonanza a terrorist zealot literally dies for.

Then I said, "Sink a super carrier? The armor? U.S. Navy damage control? And we're watching for these guys."

"Yeah," he replied. "But after September 11, the far out's too real. Rumsfeld says it's a new kind of war."

Readers of this site may remember that I've been discussing the possibility of shipping attacks by Al Qaeda for some time - see here and here. See also American Scribbles where he warned,
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?

Narrow sea lanes are logical choices for such attacks, as are ports. The Strait of Malacca is narrow and piracy has been common in the area. Here's a map of the area (arrows point to a couple of post Tsunami piracy efforts):

It's a very plausible scenerio. But it is also preventable. Update: Earlier post on escorts for the littorals here.

Update2: U.S. Navy, in addition to the Cole, has already suffered losses from suicide boaters...
Three speed boats manned by suicide bombers try to attack Iraq’s main oil loading terminal in the Persian Gulf, doing minimal damage to the terminal but leaving two U.S. sailors dead.

Update3: replaced link to 'kook" site to MSNBC in update above.

Update4: Commentor Leslie points to this NY Times piece on which John S. Burnett writes of modern piracy:
Now, one hopes, these countries will take note of what an increased military presence can accomplish, because the pause in piracy will not last forever, nor will the cease-fire the Free Aceh Movement made with the Indonesian government in the aftermath of the tsunami. Unless Indonesia and Malaysia accept American help in fighting them, the pirates will be back.

Update 5: Previous posting (10/28/04) on pirates and terrorism here. I highly recommend the Eric Koo article from Asia Times here, here and here.

Update 6: From a Singapore Angle travels some of the same ground, but has a little different "angle" on it - a lot more Singapore based information. Good read..

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

NIghtline transcript: Tipping Points

Worth a few minutes time: Nightline transcript

Hat tip: RealClearPolitics

Pipe dream? "Pouring oil on the East China Sea"

Read this piece Pouring oil on the East China Sea by Mark J. Valencia.
Japan has begun planning for the worst. A conflict with China over rich gas deposits in the East China Sea has escalated since late January when two Chinese destroyers entered the area, which has been in dispute for decades. Japan warned China that it would defend its resources there.
But conflict is not inevitable. China's June 2004 proposal to jointly develop a large gas field that straddles a boundary claimed by Japan is an opportunity to cap rising tension, and at long last harvest the resources in the disputed area.

Is this an "offer" that Japan "can't refuse?"

As proposed by China, the sovereignty dispute could be shelved, allowing the governments to jointly develop resources in an agreed area of overlapping maritime claims. Taiwan and China might then jointly develop the resources on the Chinese side of a provisional boundary line. As part of the deal, Japan might be allowed to purchase gas from China at a reduced rate in return for investment in the project.

Sounds like an "I win, you lose" deal to me...

And this gives the game away:
At the very least, all involved should be able to agree on a code of conduct, particularly regarding naval and exploration activities in the disputed area. Such an agreement, if successful, could build confidence and defuse a dangerous situation.

Anyone can find peace if they give up on important issues. I don't think that a "code of conduct" will be of much help. Nice flight of fancy, though.

Hat tip: Real Clear Politics


Paranoid Left? Sounds Familiar to Me

James Taranto in the Feb 23, 2005 OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Today raises the issue of the Paranoid Left and quotes from Richard Hofstadter's "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" in referring to the looney left.

Sound familiar to me. I reached the same conclusion back on November 6, 2004 here

Great minds...

NIMCAST: Standardizing Procedures

Contingency Planning Magazine also post this info:

FEMA Announces NIMCAST — The National Incident Management System Capability Assessment Support Tool (NIMCAST) is a self-assessment instrument for State, local, tribal, and private-sector and nongovernmental organizations to evaluate their jurisdiction's ability to effectively prepare for, prevent, respond to, and recover from domestic incidents, regardless of cause, size, or complexity. The National incident Management System (NIMS) and, by extension, the NIMCAST are designed to enhance the ability of the United States to manage domestic incidents by establishing a single, comprehensive system for incident management. NIMS provides a consistent nationwide approach for Federal, State, local, and tribal governments to work effectively and efficiently together to prepare for, prevent, respond to, and recover from domestic incidents, regardless of cause, size, or complexity. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate developed the NIMCAST to contribute to the establishment of a national baseline for compliance by all State, local, and tribal jurisdictions with the NIMS. It will also include readiness metrics and elements that support the national preparedness goal, including standards for preparedness assessments and strategies and a system for assessing the Nation's overall preparedness to respond to major events, especially those involving acts of terrorism.

Seems like a great idea to me and a way to head off "apples" and "oranges" problems. One system, one common language - works better in allowing an escalating response to a problem. Imagine the confusion if every jursidiction developed its own approach.

Business Security Issues

Contingency Planning Magazine posts IBM business security threat concerns:

IBM has published the results from its 2004 Global Business Security Index Report and provided an overview of the potential 2005 security threat profile...
Potential trends in 2005 include:
- Mobile devices - mobile devices such as PDAs and cell phones are the new frontier for viruses, spam and other potential security threats...
- Identity theft...
- Malware - malicious software (known as malware) writers are getting smarter and are employing basic software development practices to spread destructive software.
- Instant messaging - Botnets will likely move to instant messaging networks for command and control of infected systems.
- VoIP - there will likely be an increase in the disruption of VoIP networks... In particular, eavesdropping and denial of service attacks carried out remotely against VoIP networks could provide significant damage for enterprise organisations.
For more information visit IBM Security.

With all the useful new technology, it's hard to grasp the idea that so many people are devoting their energy to wrecking it and diverting it to their own nefarious schemes.

Port Security: IG Critical

According to Port Security News here (subscription may be required):
The Office of Inspector General in the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on an internal audit it conducted in which it found that the Department has awarded a number of port security grants for projects that were considered “marginal” in one way or another by a review board. The report was particularly critical of grants awarded under the former Office for Domestic Preparedness prior to the time responsibility for port security grants was shifted to the Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness in 2004.

Hey, protecting ports is hard. One congressman who seems to get it is Chris Cox:
The IG investigation also came up during a “Lou Dobbs Tonight” interview with House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Christopher Cox (R-CA). Dobbs asked why the port grants have not gone to where they are badly needed and why this “bureaucratic mistake” is being permitted. Cox replied that “it isn’t just a bureaucratic snafu that is the reason that our port security remains a work in progress. Rather, it is because there isn’t broad general agreement on precisely what to do and how to spend the money.”

He added: “We have got the national labs working now looking at the whole supply chain to find out how best we can deploy our resources when it comes to port security. It isn’t just spending the money in the ports, because once something enters our ports, its too late. We have got to make sure we apprehend, particularly, radiological devices well before then.”
We always want to stop it "off shore."

Troop Strength

The American Thinker has an interesting read in Troop Strength and Congress, based on an open letter appearing in The Weekly Standard (link here). The question posed is the right size of the U.S. military and the proper mix of active forces and reserve and Guard forces. Much of this touches on the issues of the "Abrams doctrine" (described here):
The Abrams Doctrine is widely interpreted as an expression of General Creighton Abrams’ determination to maintain a clear linkage between the employment of the Army and the engagement of public support for military operations. Abrams, according to the doctrine, established this bond by creating a force structure that integrated Reserve and Active Components so closely as to make them inextricable, ensuring after Vietnam that presidents would never be able to again send the Army to war without the Reserves and the commitment of the American people.

Getting the military and reserves components exactly "right-sized" is probably impossible, since the needs that need to be addressed shift over time. Today's "hot" unit is tomorrow's backwater... What The Weekly Standard open letter addresses is a simple "up sizing" of the Army and Marines:
The United States military is too small for the responsibilities we are asking it to assume. Those responsibilities are real and important. They are not going away. The United States will not and should not become less engaged in the world in the years to come. But our national security, global peace and stability, and the defense and promotion of freedom in the post-9/11 world require a larger military force than we have today. The administration has unfortunately resisted increasing our ground forces to the size needed to meet today's (and tomorrow's) missions and challenges.

Once again we seem to be rediscovering the lessons of the importance of boots on the ground:
“You may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life,” wrote T.R. Fehrenbach. “But if you desire to defend it, protect it, and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men into the mud.”(This Kind of War: The Classic Korean War History by T. R. Fehrenbach>
Kosovo should have taught us some of the limits of high level air power against a smart enemy, and our prior experiences in Kosovo, Iraq, Rawanda, etc, should have taught us of the need for more active duty "civil affairs" units (although there is much to be said for such units being composed of mayors and city council members who have had practical experience the politics of governing instead of just theory).

None of us wants to return to the days of excess manpower, much of it poorly trained except in marching and painting rocks for base beautification projects. However, there is recognition that something needs to be done:
So we write to ask you and your colleagues in the legislative branch to take the steps necessary to increase substantially the size of the active duty Army and Marine Corps. While estimates vary about just how large an increase is required, and Congress will make its own determination as to size and structure, it is our judgment that we should aim for an increase in the active duty Army and Marine Corps, together, of at least 25,000 troops each year over the next several years. There is abundant evidence that the demands of the ongoing missions in the greater Middle East, along with our continuing defense and alliance commitments elsewhere in the world, are close to exhausting current U.S. ground forces. For example, just late last month, Lieutenant General James Helmly, chief of the Army Reserve, reported that "overuse" in Iraq and Afghanistan could be
leading to a "broken force." Yet after almost two years in Iraq and almost three years in Afghanistan, it should be evident that our engagement in the greater Middle East is truly, in Condoleezza Rice's term, a "generational commitment." The only way to fulfill the military aspect of this commitment is by increasing the size of the force available to our civilian leadership.
(I think the "broke force" matter needs more context as I set out here)

I am one of those who served in the reserves who believes that it is important to have well-trained and equipped reserve component and who believes that in the long run having our reserves gain experience in places like Iraq and Afghanistan helps the "total force" but I also agree that the unwise reductions of the Clinton era need to be reversed and the size of the active ground forces bolstered.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

DefenseLINK News: DoD Not Conducting Flights Over Iran, Spokesman Says

DoD Not Conducting Flights Over Iran, Spokesman Says.

Well, even if we didn't, then we shouldn't deny it - let's keep them on their toes for no good reason.

Slightly off topic, here's a good quote:
The insurgents continue to kill "a lot of innocent civilians inside of Iraq," Di Rita added. "Most Iraqis do not want what the insurgents want, which is a country that's thrown itself back into the Dark Ages," he said.

How to know when you've won

Although Reuters headlines it Bush Wins Token NATO Pledge of Iraq Aid, the truth is much bigger than that. The fact that every NATO country will do something in Iraq means that President Bush has won - as have the Iraqi people.

Freedom is on the march! That Reuters describes NATO's help as "largely symbolic" strikes me as sour grapes.

Update: MSNBC take. Oh,yes, the irrelevant French and Germans may not actually send people to Iraq, but will contribute in other ways...
NATO officials said France was the last to come on board and will contribute just one officer to help coordination at NATO’s military headquarters in southern Belgium. But France has separately offered to train 1,500 Iraqi military police in Qatar and play a lead role in European Union efforts to train Iraqi judicial officials.

“In Iraq, France wants to contribute to stability,” Chirac told the meeting.

Mais oui!

U.S. & Japan vs. China

Some interesting thoughts on the implications of the recent U.S.- Japan Joint Statement on Security here.
The statement by the U.S. and Japan makes clear, or as clear as these things can be made, that Taiwan has now become Japan's problem as well. To this end Japan will further integrate its military with the U.S. and train to meet common objectives such as protecting Taiwan from an invasion by China.


(Hat tip: North Korea zone)

Monday, February 21, 2005

Don't Miss Interview: Chrenkoff and Ledeen

Chrenkoff interviews Ledeen here Good stuff:
The regime in Iran is very frightened right now. Just look at the panicky reaction to the explosion near the nuclear site last week. First it was a missile, then it was a fuel tank, somehow related to "friendly fire." What in the world is THAT? Iranians firing on their own aircraft? Well, maybe, the mullahs don't trust their own armed forces (and they are right not to trust them).

One could do a lot, but for the most part our governments are engaged in ritual dances to avoid coming to grips with the terror masters, hoping somehow to achieve "stability" and security in Iraq, and that this will inspire the others. But there can't be security in Iraq so long as the monsters are in charge in the neighboring countries...

Verrry interesting....

Update: If Ledeen is right, we need to expand our encouragement to the Iranian people to cast off the Mad Mullahs. Patience is required here.

Oh, yes, hat tip to Mudville Gazette

Attack at Aussie Airport? or just paranoia?

Terrorism Unveiled reports on a possible Attack at Aussie Airport?.

CNN report: here

Yahoo News: here

South African News: here

Latest AFP report: here.
We're trying to move as many people as we can tonight," Amanda Bolger said.

While some kind of toxic gas was the main suspect in the incident, the exact cause of the contamination remained a mystery.

"The source has not been located or identified," a Melbourne fire brigade spokesman said Monday night. "All (chemical detection) readings are showing zero."

He said firefighters had spent the day testing everything they could, but found nothing. "Unfortunately, whatever it was has now dissipated," he said.

Well, there are a lot of strange things in world that can cause illness, but it is probably a good idea to treat them all like terrorism...

(Hat tip:Ranting Profs)

Avian Flu World's Biggest Threat? What will North Korea do now?

Reuters report the U.S. Center for Disease Control says Avian Flu World's No. 1 Threat.

I'm sure Kim Jong-il will be disappointed to learn he has dropped in the polls, though many of us consider him a virus on the earth.

"Terrorists" attack Iraqi Infrastructure

In a NY Times article that is in the "not a surprise" category, the Times notes Insurgents Wage Precise Attacks on Baghdad Fuel. What is amazing is that author of this piece felt it necessary to point out
The new pattern, they say, shows that the insurgents have a deep understanding of the complex network of pipelines, power cables and reservoirs feeding Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

If these "insurgents" really are the dead-ender remnants of the Baathist party and the Iraqi military, wouldn't we expect them to have this kind of knowledge? As one Iraqi said,
The overall pattern of the sabotage and its technical savvy suggests the guidance of the very officials who tended to the nation's infrastructure during Saddam Hussein's long reign, current Iraqi officials say.

The only reasonable conclusion, said Aiham Alsammarae, the Iraqi electricity minister, is that the sabotage operation is being led by former members of the ministries themselves, possibly aided by sympathetic holdovers.

Here's a little NYT hyperbole:
A new analysis by some of those officials shows that the choice of targets and the timing of sabotage attacks has evolved over the past several months, shifting from economic targets to become what amounts to a siege of the capital.

In a stark illustration of the change, of more than 30 sabotage attacks on the oil infrastructure this year, no reported incident has involved the southern crude oil pipelines that are Iraq's main source of revenue. Instead, the attacks have aimed at gas and oil lines feeding power plants and refineries and providing fuel for transportation around Baghdad and in the north.
Well, it may be some form of infrastructure attack, but it doesn't even come close to a "siege." All it does is require a little more planning in protection of such assets. In addition, the Iraqi people, who should already have little or no love for the former officials of the Saddam regime, will, if pushed far enough, hunt these guys down like the dogs they are and administer a little justice, frontier or otherwise. It's a matter of who is running the country.
Update 2/21/2005; The Fourth Rail has some parallel thoughts about the Sunni mistaken approach to the Iraqi election - which has left them out of power and with no legitimacy:
Like al Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunnis grossly miscalculated the ability of the insurgents and terrorists to derail the January election, and now they fear being kept from exercising their share of power in a new Iraq (which they consciously relinquished). Recognizing that the Iraq people view the election as a legitimate referendum of the will of the Iraqi people, they now want to reenter the process of forming a government. Their defense of their actions, were it not so serious in the encouragement of the murder of Iraqis and Americans, would be considered comical. They want the fruits of the electoral process - power and decision making – without actually participating in said process...
That dog won't hunt.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Iran Preparing for U.S. Attack

According to The Counterterroism Blog, the Iranians are preparing defenses against a U.S. attack here. Not surprisingly their "lessons learned" include Iraqi-style asymmetrical terrorist-style warfare and organizing more of the cannon-fodder human wave groups who fought Iraq.

Not a surprise that they put so little value in the lives of their citizens.

Sea Lanes

I keep posting about sea lanes. What are these things? Sea lanes are trade routes - almost like highways in the sea, where due to geography, ocean going vessels follow certain paths to avoid islands, shallows and other impediments to their travel. They are also generally the most efficient routes to get from Point A to Point B - as close to straight line travel as a ship can accomplish given the number of obstacles in its path.

Of particular interest in recent days are the sea lanes China is working to find ways to protect. As you can see from the following (which just reference crude oil shipments) these lanes are heavily travelled. In the first chart, I have marked U.S. allies in blue (yes, Singapore is oversized) and areas that China is making claims or working to establish relations as red bursts. Note that the red bursts sit athwart the sea lanes. The second chart is from 2004 and you should be able to detect an increase in crude being shipped.

1993 lanes

Chokepoints: Maritime Economic Concerns in Southeast Asia Institute for National Strategic Studies, Washington,D.C. (National Defense University, 1996)
(color and bursts added)

2004 lanes

from Straits, Passages and Chokepoints: A Maritime Petroleum Distribution by Jean-Paul Rodrigue Rodrigue. Similar charts exist for other raw materials, such as metals.

So? Well, as Parapundit put it so well:
Oil is China's Achilles Heel from the standpoint of military strategy. Even if they use their massive economic growth rate to build a much larger blue water navy (and I expect they will do exactly that) it is far easier to deny the use of the oceans to some nation than to protect the sea lanes. On the other hand, even if the US and China clash over Taiwan the US would have a difficult time denying oil to China while still allowing oil to get through to other nations in East Asia. Though conceivably the US could allow tankers with carefully selected crews of known loyalties to go around New Guinea headed toward Japan and South Korea.

China wants to be in a position to defend its trade route/sea lanes and they are taking steps now to do so.

The fact that they are also vital to Japan, South Korea and lots of other countries is problematic not only for the reasons Parapunit points out, but because the potentially impacted countries are being targeted individually in what really is a collective problem. The U.S. is interested for economic and security reasons.

And that's why I keep posting about it.

The New Iraqi Army: Building the NCO core

In an older article (Feb 8, 2005) from the Wall Street Journal Mark Bowden (of Blackhawk Down fame) puts his finger right on the most essential aspect of rebuilding the Iraqi army - developing a solid core of non-commissioned officers to lead the Iraqi troops.
"Strong NCO leadership gives units in battle far greater flexibility to respond to unexpected situations and to demonstrate initiative."

In the American military, the NCO's provide the deckplate, ground level leadership to the troops (simplified as "how to fight"), while the officers work on tactical and operational leadership (simplified as "where and when to fight") in pursuit of higher level strategic goals (simplified as "what we are trying to achieve") in line with national command policy (simplified as "Why we need to fight"). A platoon sergeant, a corporal, or Air Force sergeants and Navy chief petty officer and petty officers provide the technical expertise to do the job right and keep the troops on task. It is a hugely important role and development of professional NCOs takes time, patience and a great deal of trust.

As reported in the article, the problem of training for the Iraqi army has not been the soldiers, but the leadership, especially the old Saddam officer corps. This problem can be resolved by professionalizing the NCOs and pushing leadership at that level.

When Senator Kennedy made this completely idiotic statement
When we send over Americans that have had 12 weeks of training, like the nephew of my wife, and is a tail gunner on a Striker--12 weeks--and we have the best-trained American servicemen and the best soldiers in the world, there's no reason in the world that we can't expect Iraqis to be trained with four months, eight months, 12 months so that they are going to fight for their country and they're going to be willing to die for it.  And I think that is what is missing when we hear these numbers batted around like we did today.
(see here) he demonstrated a woeful lack of understanding of how hard that process is.

But it is doable.

Base Closures: Why it's hard to get it done...

Names for the panel on base closures have been submitted to the President, and it seems like every Congressperson will be lobbying hard to keep "his or her" bases open, even if it involves the waste of billions of dollars.
Congress has refused repeated requests by the Pentagon to close more bases since 1995. Part of the reason was lingering Republican distrust after President Clinton moved to ease the economic impact from two base closings in vote-rich California and Texas just before his re-election campaign in 1996.

For Every Action There Is An Equal and Opposite Reacton

People irritated with the constant barrage of being forced to listen to other people's inane cell phone conversations are employing cell phone jammers.

I have a few suggested locations, such as restaurants, stores, and other public spaces.

Develop the rock-penetrating nuke

Bill Gertz of the Washington Times looks at the proposed Defense Budget and notes that in there is a request for money to develop a "rock penetrating Nuclear weapon here.
The Pentagon is seeking $419.3 billion for fiscal 2006, a 4.8 percent increase, and wants to renew work on a rock-penetrating nuclear bomb that could be used against underground bunkers in places such as Iran and North Korea.
    Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld recently asked the Energy Department to spend $18 million over the next two years to finish a study on the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, or RNEP, which congressional opponents of nuclear weapons sought to kill this year by cutting all funding.

Godd idea to have what you may need in inventory....

Update: Space Daily's take
(hat tip: IMAO

Saturday, February 19, 2005

UN Kosovo "Not Ready" for review -- not much of a surprise

Radio Free Europe reports UN Chief Dismisses Early Kosovo Status Review.
Annan says in a report to the Security Council that there must be "real progress" in Kosovo before any decision can be taken on its future.

The UN has had over 5 years to "fix" Kosovo.

This decsion is not a surprise to me. Good thing they decided to stay out of Iraq.

The best sitcom episode ever

Script for the best comedy episode ever Chuckles Bites the Dust

Of course, this one was really good, too:
November 22, 1975

"Over the River and Through the Woods," the craziest Bob Newhart Show episode of all time, begins sanely enough: Emily (Suzanne Pleshette) announces her intention to visit her family in Puget Sound over the Thanksgiving holiday; psychiatrist Bob begs off, saying he wants to be available to his neurotic patient, the endlessly depressed and depressing Mr. Carlin. But Carlin can't be happy unless he's making others miserable, so he invites himself over to watch football with Bob, Jerry (Bonerz), and ever-present neighbor Howard (Daily). Of course, there are certain customs that must be observed. "We take a slug of this every time the other team scores," says Jerry, offering an enormous jug of grain alcohol to Bob. Soon things get loco; it's a high-scoring game. Smashed, starving, and facing a frozen turkey, the boys consider cooking the bird at 2,000 degrees for a half hour -- but the oven only heats to 500. "Then we'll use four ovens," suggests Howard. That's when they decide to call out for Chinese food -- to be precise, for Moo Goo Gai Pan (to be more precise, for Moo Goo Goo Goo Gai Pan). And lots of it. So much that it has to be delivered with a hand truck. Luckily for Bob, Emily arrives just in time to pick up the tab -- and put on a pot of coffee.
(100 Greatest TV epsiodes)

The unpleasant taste of his own medicine

Professor Bainbridge on "bullying" allegations brought by the Waxman.
Nobody in Congress knows more about using the power of a committee chairmanship to bully and intimidate witnesses than does Henry Waxman, who did it so well for so many years until the Gingrich Revolution finally put him on the sidelines.

Reminiscent of the whining by Senator Reid when his public record was revealed by the RNC:
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid on Monday urged President Bush to stop the Republican National Committee from calling him an obstructionist and criticizing his Senate record, a tactic the GOP used to help defeat Reid's predecessor.

These Dems, apparently still in shock over being the minority party, are not liking having the shoe on the other foot. Based on their post-election scrambling, they had better get used to it.

Where do we get these guys?

I recommend a visit here for a little All-American inspiration.
The spirit of the American soldier, Marine, sailor and airman is simply awe inspiring.

Old guys like me used to worry about who would take on the future. No worries, now.

Bless them all!

And, in further celebration of bravery, honor the Marines for their heroic days on Iwo Jima, 60 years ago. Courage lives on.

The oops list

It's an odd collection of disasters that have happened or are about to happen and it's the "The oops list" Warning: For those with time on their hands.


Non-Governmental Organizations and the peacekeeper

StrategyPage has some interesting comments on NGOs and how they work here.
The NGOs, as they have taken over the delivery of foreign aid during the last half century, have also become part of the problems they are trying to treat. Despite their description as “non-profits” and “relief workers,” the NGOs live from contract to contract. While “non-profit,” they are not “non-revenue.” They have to bring in contracts to take care of their payroll and expenses. This has become an issue in some of the countries where NGOs operate. The locals have been noticing how much of the aid money given to their country is going through the NGOs, and how the NGOs use a lot of it to pay NGO expenses, and generally distribute the aid as they feel best, without a lot of consulting with the locals. But a major reason so many donor nations prefer to give aid via NGOs is that it cuts down on corruption. In too many poor countries getting emergency aid, local officials are quick to divert aid to personal use. 

It was an eye widening experience for me to learn the NGO "game" - that many of them were out ot get UN and other contracts to manage certain aspects of refugee problems (like camps, mine clearance, water, etc) and that these contracts provide funding that does not all go to the "victims." My observations in Kosovo were that some agencies (including UN agencies) had the latest in SUVs and other equipment, while others drove older trucks and cars. It may be a matter of managing resources, but I always felt better if dealing with an NGO that had older, but still serviceable, equipment because I felt they were better stewards of the funds they had.

More on Wing in Ground

For some reason, probably because you can find almost anything on the internet, I continue to explore the world of wing in ground ship/planes. It seems that the idea sort of lost its luster, but some people never quite gave up on it. For example a Chinese company seems to believe.

And, according to this Getting more strategic lift: Wing-In-Ground effect craft:
China, a great power in the Pacific, is particularly interested in WIG Air-Mech technology. Chinese analysts attribute the following advantages to WIG craft over conventional ships and aircraft:

--Superb Mobility. A WIG Air-Mech craft travels above the water's surface to travel in the air whose density is 800 times less than that of water. This greatly decreases the drag exerted on ordinary vessels and greatly increases its speed. Fast transports have a top speed of 20 knots. A conventional warship has a maximum speed of 30 to 40 knots, and although the hulls of hydrofoil craft and hovercraft travel above the water, their hydrofoils and their aprons still come in contact with the water. Thus their speed is limited to between 70 and 80 knots or less. But a WIG Air-Mech craft can travel between 300 and 400 knots.

--Superb Airworthiness. A WIG craft can fly around bad weather or fly above a stormy sea. Since a WIG craft is not pounded by the storm waves it is remarkably seaworthy. It is also very airworthy.

--Ease of Operation. A WIG craft is controlled through its vertical rudder, its elevator, and its wing flaps. It is simpler to fly than an airplane, and it turns easily. The WIG craft's speed and altitude are easily controlled by the flaps.

--Economical operation. Pressure under the wings of a WIG craft increases greatly by flying fairly close to the water surface. Consequently, only 80 to 130 horsepower are required to propel each ton of weight. The large lift-drag ratio means that fuel-consumption is less and the cruising radius is expanded when compared to similar-sized aircraft. WIG craft are far superior to ordinary aircraft and helicopters in carrying capacity, speed, and cruising radius when using the same power.

--Convenient Maintenance. WIG craft do not need permanent shore bases. Unlike other high-speed craft, they are able to come ashore under their own power and do not need cranes or chutes. Furthermore, since they have no aprons, like hovercraft, maintenance is very convenient. WIG craft do not have to make a gliding takeoff from the water or land on the water like seaplanes. This lessens the corrosive effect of seawater on the hull.

--Diverse Flight Modes. Not only can WIG craft fly quickly and steadily above water, under radar detection but they can also fly above beaches, marshes, grasslands, deserts, glaciers, and snow-covered land.

--Flight Safety. Should the engines fail, the WIG craft can travel on the water like a conventional ship. They are stable craft, which have operated safely over the years. Some WIG craft vent their engine exhaust forward beneath the wings of the craft to create an increase in dynamic lift. This not only assists takeoff and improves amphibious performance, but also improves flight safety.

--Military applications. The speed, maneuverability, amphibious capability, and reduced signature of WIG craft are greater than that of other craft. Their fast, low-altitude approach may allow them to become the next generation of fast attack craft replacing hydroplanes and hydrofoils. Since WIG craft usually fly within 50 meters of the surface, they are in the radar sweep and search blind zone. The ultra-low altitude of WIG craft leaves no traces on the water surface and is difficult to detect by radar. WIG craft are not optically trackable from space like conventional surface ships. This greatly increases the concealment and surprise attack capabilities of the craft. This extraordinary concealment capability has extremely important military significance. WIG craft may be used as Air-Mech landing craft and for the rapid and effective movement of Heavy AFVs, Gavins/Ridgway and M8 Buford AGS Armored Fighting Vehicles and troops in a campaign. The low-flying altitude, the long cruising radius, and the AFV carrying-capacity of WIG craft are second to only ships. WIG craft are also suited for anti-submarine patrol craft, high-speed minelayers, minesweepers, and rescue craft.

FuturePundit discussed WIG back in 2002 here

And, Boeing has explored the world of WIG - with the Pelican: here, here and the Boeing site: here

"The Pelican can broaden the range of missions for which airplanes are the favored way to deliver cargo," said Boeing's Pelican program manager Blaine Rawdon, who is designing the plane with Boeing engineer Zachary Hoisington. "It is much faster than ships at a fraction of the operational cost of current airplanes. This will be attractive to commercial and military operators who desire speed, worldwide range and high throughput. We envision that the Pelican can multiply aircraft's 1-percent share in a commercial market now dominated by container ships."

John Skorupa, senior manager of strategic development for Boeing Advanced Airlift and Tankers, said, "The Pelican currently stands as the only identified means by which the U.S. Army can achieve its deployment transformation goals of deploying one division in five days, or five divisions in 30 days, anywhere in the world." If necessary, he said, the Pelican could carry 17 M-1 main battle tanks on a single sortie. Commercially, the aircraft's size and efficiency would allow it to carry types of cargo equivalent to those carried by container ships, at more than 10 times the speed.

"It is attracting interest as a mother ship for unmanned vehicles, enabling rapid deployment of a network-centric warfare grid, a likely future mode of operation for modernized U.S. forces as demonstrated in Afghanistan," Skorupa said. "And it is attracting interest as a potential first-stage platform for piggybacking reusable space vehicles to an appropriate launch altitude.

"Why would such a huge airplane be flown at such a low altitude?

By flying low, the Pelican, like its name-sake, exploits the aerodynamic benefits of a well-known phenomenon called ground effect. Flying close to water, the wing downwash angle and tip vortices are suppressed, resulting in a major drag reduction and outstanding cruise efficiency.

"It's an effect that provides extraordinary range and efficiency," Skorupa said. "With a payload of 1.5 million pounds, the Pelican could fly 10,000 nautical miles over water and 6,500 nautical miles over land.

"Flying in ground effect demands the latest flight control technology, conceded Skorupa. Reliable systems will provide precise, automatic altitude control and collision avoidance. Cruise altitude will be adjusted according to sea state, and if the seas get too rough, the Pelican can easily climb to high altitude to continue the flight.
For the military, of course, it's all about getting there in a hurry with a lot of stuff, although having to have a "landing field" to handle the Pelican's landing gear may prove a non-starter.

And, don't forget there have been a few other aviation ideas that didn't quite pan out.

Friday, February 18, 2005

The Return of the Gyroplane?

The Army may be thinking outside the box. Here's a possible replacement for the C-130 - a return to the Gyroplane as presented by CarterAviationTechnologies.com

And the Navy, too, according to Sea Power
The Pentagon Office of Force Transformation and the Navy's fleet readiness and logistics office are assessing a 50-year-old technology to fill one of the biggest gaps in a naval warfighting concept for the future. The heliplane, a hybrid craft with both a rotor and wings, might be a way to provide the fleet with heavy lift "connectors" to rapidly move troops and materiel from ships at sea to tactical units ashore.

A key to the Navy's sea basing concept is for a craft that can lift a 40,000-pound cargo container and move it quickly to forward units. The idea behind sea basing is that U.S. forces sent to world hot spots will operate from the sea rather than building supply depots and headquarters ashore. Striking from ships at least 25 miles from shore, they would avoid traditional battlefront tactics and rely on the elements of high-speed strike, maneuver and surprise to force adversaries into a reactive posture. However, the services lack the fast, powerful "connectors" necessary to make that happen.

Arthur K. Cebrowski, director of the Office of Force Transformation, recently told reporters, "There are some things that we are keenly interested in. One of them is work on a gyrocopter. We stopped research on gyrocopters a long time ago, but right now there are people who believe" - and have demonstrated with a small-scale flying prototype - "that we may be able to lift upwards of 70,000 pounds at 450 knots and fly it over 30,000 feet and do vertical takeoff and landing."

The concept of which Cebrowski spoke is a proposed design by Carter Aviation Technologies of Wichita Falls, Texas. The design, called a Carter Heliplane Transport 150 (CHT-150), is a craft the size of a C-130 cargo plane. The heliplane is based on gyroplane technology in which a rotor is used for vertical and slow-speed flight. When cruising at high speeds, the wing provides all the lift, Carter Aviation said. The heliplane has long wings for efficient cruise, a four-blade rotor for hover and slow-speed flight, and two 24-foot-diameter lightweight pusher propellers for forward propulsion.

In flight, the heliplane gradually transfers lift and flight functions from the rotor to the wings. "A rotor is a very efficient device for providing lift at low speeds, but its drag increases rapidly" if the rotor must continue to support the aircraft as it picks up speed, according to a statement on the company's website. As the wings produce more of the lift, the rotor slows down, decreasing drag.

It's not pretty:

But it can carry the goods.

It may have non-military uses.

Update: Another company in the Gyroplane competition: Groen Brothers
which even proposes converting C-130's to autodynes

And the use for "sea-basing":

Hey, it's all about logistics.

Syrian Armed Force Purge

Interesting take on changes in the Syrian armed forces from the DEBKAfile. Sample:
Our military sources note that, for the relatively modest investment of $45 million to $60 million a year, Iran has acquired control over the most sophisticated sectors of Syria’s military industries. They are available as Tehran’s backdoor suppliers of missiles, non-conventional weapons and ammunition for any contingency, such as the Iranian armed forces or a surrogate, like the Hizballah, being called upon to fight in a part of the Middle East that is far from the Islamic Republic’s borders.

DEBKAfile’s military analysts note that while the Syrian army is not directly mixed up in US-insurgent warfare in Iraq, its military intelligence remains a separate and potent instrument of the Assad regime’s strategic policies. This entity is currently proactive on four fronts:

1. Iraq. Syrian military intelligence supports the Baathist guerrilla campaign by recruiting, training and dispatching combatants to Iraq from among the terrorist groups Assad sponsors such as the Lebanese Hizballah and such radical Palestinian organizations as the Jihad Islami and Jibril’s Popular Front – General Command. Recruiting also takes place in Syrian city slum districts and among Palestinian refugee camp inmates with Syrian citizenship.

NASA rejects claims about life on Mars

MSNBC - NASA rejects claims about life on Mars

NASA on Friday issued an unusual denial of a report that its researchers saw strong evidence for life's existence on present-day Mars, based in part on atmospheric methane readings. Other scientists involved in Mars research said the jury was still out on the meaning of Martian methane, but they agreed that preliminary findings are well worth a follow-up.

Well, I didn't put the methane there.

Cosmic Explosion Hits Earth, Alters Climate, Bush to Blame

MSNBC - Brightest galactic flash ever detected hits Earth :
A huge explosion halfway across the galaxy packed so much power it briefly altered Earth's upper atmosphere in December, astronomers said Friday.

I just made up the stuff about Bush to make some people feel more comfortable here. "He didn't sign the Kyoto Treaty!"

Oil, Sea Lanes and Navies

International Herald Tribune says India joins China in a worldwide rush for oil and gas
Now India is joining China in a stepped-up contest for energy, with both economies booming while their domestic oil production sags. China is now the world's second-largest energy consumer, trailing only the United States. India has moved into fourth place, behind Russia.
China and India are also expanding their navies as they become increasingly dependent on lines of oil tankers from the Middle East, posing the beginnings of an eventual challenge to U.S. influence in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.
(emphasis added)

See here and the section about China here.

Update: More thoughts- The Big Picture notes China's Oil Grab in its dealings with Venzuela and Russia.

Don't forget its action in the Sudan (one reason why Darfur gets no UN traction) and its deal with Iran.

China is looking out for China.

Update: Chrenkoff highlights posts on bloggers who note "It's a dangerous world out there." Interesting to note that China's growth and demands for raw materials plays a role. As noted in the links above, China has deals with Iran, Sudan, Venezuela, Russia, and a lot of other places. Of particular interest to me from a naval point of view is some of the material gathered by Chuck Simmins here:
What, then, are the specific challenges? Jiang Zhijun saidt hat in view of the fact that the primary task of China’s naval defense force, as stipulated by China’s national interests, is to complete the reunification process with Taiwan. At the same time, the naval force is also entrusted with the protection of China’s maritime rights and interests against possible invasion and damage, and to safeguard China’s rapidly growing export-oriented economy. Further, the drastically changed modern day warfare has also meant that long-range precision attacks characterizing high technology warfare will pose another grim threat to China’s defense of the territorial seas.

With Taiwan in hand, the Pacific Ocean will become China’s open field to the East

China is the only major country in today’s world that has not been unified. If China were to become strong, it would have to complete the grand task of reunification. The strategic importance of Taiwan simply can not be over-stated. Jiang Zhijun noted that the present state of China’s maritime security is rather grave. Generally speaking, the defense proficiency is not good, the level of defense combat effectiveness is low and there is little initiative control power.

China’s territorial waters are mostly composed of enclosed or semi-enclosed areas surrounded by the “first island chain”. Looking from north to south, apart from the South China Sea, all of China’s sea territory directly faces east towards the Pacific Ocean. The distance of most of the “first island chain” areas is no more than 200 nautical miles to China’s coast, which, in modern warfare, is within easy effective strike range. Locked in by the “first island chain” blockade, China’s sea defense force could hardly move beyond the boundary to carry out any meaningful defense operation. The only thing to do is to back up against the coastal lines to conduct shallow water defense. Since combat occurs right outside China’s doorway, China will be fighting close at home and is left with hardly any maneuver room to take operational initiative. Taiwan ought to be China’s natural gateway, but, if things went sour, it could then turn out to be other people’s stepping board for attacks against China.

Every big country bordering on both land and sea must have a safe exit point out to the waters. However, China’s exit point to the sea is questionable. It might not be a problem during times of peace, but during crisis, if the enemy country seals off the “first island chain,” then China would lose its exit way and the channel to connect to the outside world via the sea.

However, once the Taiwan issue is resolved, all the above strategic maritime safety concerns would automatically dissipate. Taiwan is China’s ideal seaward exit way bequeathed to us by our ancestors. As long as Taiwan is in China’s hand, then the Pacific would be an open area to China. Taiwan itself is a key link in the “first island chain”. After Taiwan is reunified with mainland China, this “first island chain” blockade will be broken, enabling the Chinese troops to expand their defense lines out to the Pacific in the East in order to better protect the safety of China’s coast and inland. By that time, the Taiwan Strait would become a safe and convenient route of communication for transporting troops and supplies between north and south.

In terms of China’s maritime rights and interests, Taiwan is also of immense significance. The issue of China’s maritime interests is addressed too late and the extensive degree of damage China has endured is rarely seen among other major countries of the world. Almost half of what should have always been Chinese territory according to international maritime laws have been forcefully taken away or invaded, the natural resources being looted routinely. Once the (Taiwan) reunification mission is completed, Diaoyu (Senkaku) Island to the North and the waters surrounding it would fall into the range of the Chinese gunfire protection. To the south, the distance from China’s coastal defense force to all the South China Sea islands and regions will be shortened by a big margin.
(source United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission)

Also worthy of noting:
Although Beijing's claims over Taiwan remain the focus of world attention, China is embroiled in unresolved territorial maritime and land issues with no less than 13 of its neighbours. Given that China's military capability is growing apace with its economy, the potential for military conflict over the disputed regions is similarly on the rise.
(also from Chick Simmins, original The Standard (China)

Those sea lanes? Let's go to the map again:

The red arrows point to places that China is working on to build up secure sea lanes for its raw materials.

It is a dangerous world.

How dangerous is North Korea?

Strategy Page has some thoughts on the topic in military news about Korea.
Despite North Korea's self-proclaimed nuclear weapons, Iran is still a bigger threat to the world, because Iran supports terrorism, even the Sunni terrorists who consider Iranian Shias to be heretics.  The North Koreans are mainly a threat to South Korea, China, Russia and Japan. These four nations are trying to get North Korea to behave, and either fix it's crumbling communist era economy, or collapse quietly and let South Korea take over. However, the people running North Korea (and no one outside the country is entirely sure exactly who that is) do not operate according to any normal logic. The constant fear is that North Korea, with its large, but weakening, armed forces, will somehow lash out and invade South Korea.
The most talked about threats, like missiles and nuclear weapons, are blown out of proportion. The North Koreans have basically taken the World War II German technology found in the SCUDs, and scaled it up to produce multi-stage missiles that can, possibly, reach halfway across the Pacific. But it is potential, at the moment, more than actual capability. The guidance system technology the North Koreans have is not first rate, and even the use of GPS for guidance is doubtful because of meager North Korean engineering resources. Moreover, there is the engineering required to make a nuclear weapon (theirs has not even been tested yet) work in a missile warhead. Their Taepo Dong 2 intercontinental missile has not been test fired yet. The Taepo Dong 1 has been used, which gives you something to work with. The range for the Taepo Dong 2 is an extrapolation (from 2,000 kilometers for the 1 to three times that for the Taepo Dong 2). It's much ado about nothing, unless it can reach the Alaska, Hawaii, or maybe US West Coast. Maybe.

Oh, yes, and, of course, a main source of revenue is exporting weapons:
The "No Dong" missiles have seen incremental improvements to assist their export program. The No Dong sales are a major source of hard currency. These missiles are basically improved SCUDs.

As I've said before, the DPRK is not in a good geographic location to be threatening the world. It is surrounded by greater powers and separated from its ancient enemy, Japan, by miles of ocean which it cannot hope to reach across except by missiles. However, such an attack on Japan will be dealt with pretty roughly.

North Korea is like the grade school bully who is just annoying enough to shake some lunch money loose just to keep him quiet, but runs the real risk of making some bigger, stronger kid mad enough to put him in his place. I like the Strategy Page's concluding sentences:
The North Korean leadership has a lot to be afraid of, but the United States is only one of many objects of terror for them. It's gotten to the point where North Korean generals are not sure their troops would follow through if ordered to attack the south. So there you have it. Unreliable troops and missiles, untested nukes and a North Korean population that is starving to death. And none to happy with their present leaders. Perhaps it's no surprise that the North Korean leadership acts a bit mad. They have a lot to be mad about.

Update; Captain's Quarters reports that North Korea may have backed off another hard line stance herein their game of international blackmail.