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Saturday, January 31, 2009

North Korea is a problem

Some words from former UN ambassador John Bolton - Now Is No Time to Downplay North Korea:
Yesterday, North Korea declared all its political and military agreements with the South "dead" -- the latest in a string of confrontational moves taken by Pyongyang against Seoul and the U.S. In the past few weeks, the North confirmed it possessed enough plutonium for four to five nuclear warheads; threatened to retain its nuclear weapons until America withdraws its nuclear protection from the South; denounced the appointment of Seoul's new unification minister as "an open provocation"; and proclaimed that a routine South Korean military exercise had so inflamed tensions that "a war may break out any time."

The Associated Press concluded from all this that North Korea "sounded open to new ideas to defuse nuclear-tinged tensions." Some State Department quarters will warmly receive that analysis; a senior careerist at State once called earlier North Korean provocations "a desperate cry for help." Others will say Kim Jong Il just wants attention, that these moves are simply a "coming out" exercise after his recent illness.

Unfortunately, early signs are that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is falling prey to such logic and downplaying the significance of Pyongyang's nuclear program. It may well be that the Obama administration wants to emphasize domestic economic issues and limit foreign affairs priorities to the Arab-Israeli conflict. But neglecting North Korea is a dangerous gamble with very high stakes.
What? You didn't hear about the NK action? Read about it here:
North Korea’s state media, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), on 30 January 2009, released statement declaring the DPRK’s unilateral withdrawal from all political and military agreements with South Korea.

Specifically cited was a 1991 agreement that included a sea border in the Yellow Sea. This signals North Korea’s dissatisfaction with ROK President Lee Myung-bak’s policy of linking aid to progress in denuclearization, unlike the previous two ROK presidents that appeased Pyongyang. What to watch for? Another naval skirmish along the Northern Limit Line (NLL).
Article 11 of the 1991 agreement cited by North Korea states:

The South-North demarcation line and areas for non-aggression shall be identical with the Military Demarcation Line specified in the Military Armistice Agreement of July 27, 1953 and the areas that have been under the jurisdiction of each side until the present time.

The west coast border between the two Koreas has been extremely contentious and volatile, with naval skirmishes in 1999 and 2002. By disavowing the previously agreed upon border, North Korea opens up the possibility of more naval confrontations on the West Coast.
And here:
The real reason for North Korea’s new hostile policy probably has more to do with the interruption of billions of dollars in regime-sustaining extortion payments the North bullied out of previous left-leaning South Korean governments. Since his inauguration a year ago, President Lee has insisted that South Korea should actually get something back for its money — the return of Korean War prisoners of war or abductees, maybe the removal of some of those guns aimed at Seoul, or a little meaningful performance on one of many North Korean commitments to give up its nuclear arsenal. It’s pretty clear in retrospect that financing those programs was not an effective way to curtail them. And as for the theory that more “engagement” with the South would slowly transform the North into something less miserable and oppressive, there’s a lot more evidence for exactly the opposite.

South Koreans have seen all of this before. Most are reacting to the new announcement with yawns, although “analysts” think some sort of provocation near the Northern Limit Line could be in the works. The South Korean government warned the North that any intrusions across the Northern Limit Line will be met with a “resolute response.” According to the Daily NK, the North Korean military has canceled leaves and appears to be in a heightened state of alert.
Most of the press reports also suggest that the North Koreans are trying to get the attention of Barack Obama, which is a half-truth, because what the North Koreans really want is their very own bailout. What we’re seeing is the beginning of the same old extortion racket the North Koreans have used against every new American president since at least Richard Nixon. There’s always a “crisis” with the North Koreans around the time of a presidential transition. And if my guess is right, the new administration is occupied with the selection of political appointees to fill key civil service posts and much less “ready from day one” than advertised to deal with the threat, however empty it may be, of a third theater war. Which means it’s quite likely that we’ll soon send some special envoy off to Pyongyang to find out the asking price of a few more months of quiet time for appointments, confirmations, and policy reviews.

Of course, North Korea can’t survive for long without the generous underwriting of nations with functioning economies. With its calculated alienation of the South and no immediate prospect of large-scale U.S. or Japanese aid, the North is turning to its main backer, China, to provide the support it will need to sustain its belligerence and terrorism in the meantime.
Your level of concern may vary.

Anti-Piracy Regional Agreement for Gulf of Aden and East Africa

Reported at Maritime Global Net:
A HIGH-level meeting of 17 States from the Western Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and Red Sea areas, convened by IMO in Djibouti to help address the problem of piracy and armed robbery against ships off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, has adopted a Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.

The Code of Conduct recognizes the extent of the problem of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the region. The counties involved have declared their intention to “co operate to the fullest possible extent, and in a manner consistent with international law, in the repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships, with a view towards sharing and reporting relevant information through a system of national focal points and information centres; interdicting ships suspected of engaging in acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships; ensuring that persons committing or attempting to commit acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships are apprehended and prosecuted; and facilitating proper care, treatment, and repatriation for seafarers, fishermen, other shipboard personnel and passengers subject to acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships, particularly those who have been subjected to violence”.

An IMO statement says that the participating countries intend to fully co-operate in the arrest, investigation and prosecution of persons who have committed piracy or are reasonably suspected of having committed piracy; seize suspect ships and the property on board such ships; and rescue ships, persons, and property subject to acts of piracy. These acts would be consistent with international law.

The Code also covers the possibilities of shared operations, such as nominating law enforcement or other authorized officials to embark in the patrol ships or aircraft of another signatory.
More info here:
“The adoption of this instrument shows that countries in the region are willing to act concertedly and together, contributing to the ongoing efforts of the broader international community to fight the scourge of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the area,” UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos said of the Code of Conduct adopted yesterday at a high-level meeting in Djibouti convened by his agency.

Nine countries – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania and Yemen – have already signed the Code, which calls for shared operations, such as nominating law enforcement or other authorized officials to embark in the patrol ships or aircraft of another signatory.

The meeting was attended by ministers and senior officials from Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Jordan, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania and Yemen, as well as observers from other IMO members, UN specialized agencies and international and regional inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations. The Code is open for signature by the 21 countries in the region.

“Like the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia (RECAAP), which was concluded in November 2004 by 16 countries in Asia, I have every faith that the Code of Conduct will prove to be the starting point for successful cooperation and coordination in the region, which will bear fruit in the suppression of piracy and armed robbery against ships,” Mr. Mitropoulos said.

Representatives of States that have sent naval forces to protect shipping off Somalia, including China, France, Italy, Japan, Russia and United Kingdom, also attended the four-day meeting, as did the UN World Food Programme (WFP), whose chartered food aid ships have been hijacked on several occasions.

Iranian Ship With Weapons Cargo Under Inspection In Cyprus

Iranian Ship With Weapons Cargo Under Inspection In Cyprus:
Authorities in Cyprus on Friday began searching an Iranian cargo ship earlier intercepted by a U.S. Navy anti-piracy ship and found to be carrying weapons.

The Cypriot inspectors remain mum about the cargo inside the Monchegorsk docked in the port of Limassol after arriving Thursday in Cyprus from Port Said, Egypt.

Last week, the Monchegorsk was sailing the Red Sea when it was intercepted by a U.S. Navy ship guarding the area against pirates. Artillery and mortar shells were found onboard in violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution banning Iran from selling arms.

However, the U.S. Navy let the vessel go without confiscating the weapons because there was no legal basis to seize the contraband. The U.S., instead, asked Egyptian authorities to inspect the vessel.
Lawfare . . .

More here:
Quoting a European Union diplomatic source, it said Cyprus had acted after Israel and the United States requested that the Cypriot-flagged vessel be stopped.

Authorities contacted the ship and demanded that it dock in Limassol for inspection. Customs officials had unloaded part of the cargo and a large amount of weaponry, including artillery rounds and rockets, the paper said.

Cypriot authorities declined comment.

Israel believes the weapons were destined for the Lebanese Islamist guerrilla group Hezbollah or for Islamist Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, Haaretz quoted Israeli sources as saying.

On Wednesday, U.S. military officials said personnel from the U.S. Navy vessel San Antonio last week boarded the Cypriot-flagged "Monchegorsk", a cargo vessel travelling from Iran to Syria, and found a weapons shipment but for legal reasons did not confiscate the cargo.

The officials declined to say what kind of weapons were found or how many. They also would not be specific about where or when the incident occurred.
Officials in Washington said the search was conducted as part of the U.S. Navy's normal maritime security role in regional waters that stretch from the Arabian Sea to the Mediterranean.

The U.S. officials said the arms could not be shown to violate U.N. weapons sanctions against Iran and the vessel was allowed to continue on to Syria.

The incident came to light amid media reports that the U.S. navy has been ordered to intercept suspected Iranian shipments to rearm Hamas following Israel's 22-day Gaza offensive against the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.
The controversy seems to revolve around Un Resolution 1747, which reads, in part:

5. Decides that Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly
from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft any arms or
related materiel, and that all States shall prohibit the procurement of such items
from Iran by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or
not originating in the territory of Iran;

6. Calls upon all States to exercise vigilance and restraint in the supply, sale
or transfer directly or indirectly from their territories or by their nationals or using
their flag vessels or aircraft of any battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large
calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or
missile systems as defined for the purpose of the United Nations Register on
Conventional Arms to Iran, and in the provision to Iran of any technical assistance
or training, financial assistance, investment, brokering or other services, and the
transfer of financial resources or services, related to the supply, sale, transfer,
manufacture or use of such items in order to prevent a destabilising accumulation of
arms . . .

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Somali Pirates: Learning Curve -"Pirates use 'decoy' tactics to capture LPG tanker"

Evidence that the Somali pirates have good tactical sense and are on the learning curve: Pirates use 'decoy' tactics to capture LPG tanker:
SOMALIAN pirates today captured a German-owned LPG tanker participating in a convoy through the Gulf of Aden Maritime Security Patrol Area, diverting Chinese and Indian warships with a decoy raid to enable colleagues to seize a small ship with low freeboard.

The pirates’ latest victim is the1990-built, 4,316 dwt Longchamp, operated by Hamburg-based Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, with 12 Filipinos and one Indonesian national onboard.

The attack took place in the early hours of this morning while the ship was within the MPSA under military protection, said Schulte quality and safety manager Frank Lesse.

“There were apparently three ships attacked, which diverted the attention of the warships, and unfortunately the ship that was taken hostage by the pirates was the Longchamp.”

“The Indian warship tried to repel the attack but was too late. [Longchamp] is a small LPG with a low freeboard, so she is easy to board. The pirates picked her, went on board, and the other pirates vacated the scene.

“The Indian warship kept a safe distance, so as not to aggravate the pirates. Then the ship turned hard to starboard and went straight for the Somali coast.”
Someone has been using their weather down time wisely!

First report >here.

Pirate Fighting: Roundtable with RADM McKnight, CTF-151

I was involved in a DOD sponsored Bloggers' Roundtable with RADM McKnight, who leads CTF-151, the newly created coalition anti-piracy task force. A transcript and a recording will be available this afternoon. In the meantime, and subject to extension and revision, here are some rough notes:

  1. CTF-151 is not a "fix Somalia" task force. Its function is to thwart pirates in the Gulf of Aden in cooperation with the forces of other nations, the EU and whoever else shows up.
  2. There are currently 14 nations and some 20 ships operating in the Gulf of Aden. One concern for CTF-151 is deconfliction and coordination among these units. To that end CTF-151 has contact with the EU force and the Chinese force. This is important as there are also numbers of helicopters, maritime patrol aircraft and various small boats and LCACs operating as part of the anti-pirate effort.
  3. The primary focus is preventing attacks and halting those in progress before a ship is hijacked. This requires the merchant ships to be awake to the threat and quick response by the forces (the admiral referred to the "Magic 30 Minutes" -UPDATE "Golden 30 Minutes" is what he actually said). The goal is to "make it unpleasant to be a pirate."
  4. The effort is somewhat akin to a wild west cattle drive - cowboys (escorts) patrol on the outskirts of the herd movement hoping to be in position to head off trouble. There will be some leakers, but the goal is protection of the sea lanes, not necessarily any individual ship. The function of the Maritime Security Patrol Areas (see here) is to provide some organization to the process. It's not a pure convoy system, but an "area protection system" by narrowing the area better coverage can be provided.
  5. The level of cooperation has been good. This is not a competition among nations to gain exclusive control of sea lanes, but a mutually beneficial exercise in securing sea lanes for the benefit of all mankind except the Somali pirates.
  6. A recent agreement with Kenya (see here) will allow captured pirates to be transported there for trials. While the exaxct terms are still being work on, the counter-piracy effort is being treated as a law-enforcement matter, not as "warfare." Captured pirates are being afforded normal legal protections and evidence is being gathered for prospective trials. No drumhead trials and hanging from yardarms. On the other hand, if the pirates appear to or actually threaten coalition forces, counter fire is allowed.
  7. It currently appears that at least some forces are in the fight for the long haul. My initial question was about the willpower of the forces in the Gulf of Aden and whether the pirates can outlast their staying power. The admiral did not believe this to be a problem.
  8. Finding the pirates is hard. Their small boats, which are fishing boats, look just like small fishing boats and are hard to spot on radar or in the clutter of other, non-pirate fishing fleets. One of the reasons for new Maritime Security Patrol Areas (see #4 above) is to move the transit lanes further away from Yemeni fishing grounds to ease the sorting out process.
  9. The pirates are about "99.9%" Somali.
UPDATE: Transcript available here. MP3 here. Highlights:
Some things that have changed that have helped us in this case to combat the piracy: First of all, the United Nations has come out with several resolutions -- the most current ones are 1846 and 1851 -- that gives us more authority to combat piracy. The other thing that has changed dramatically in the area is the maritime community. We have tried very hard to say to the maritime community, you know, there's just not enough Navy ships out here to cover 1.1 million square miles, so we're trying to put you in like a, what we call the -- what we call it is the UKMTO Corridor. Basically, visualize it as an interstate system where you transit east and west. So we say, "If you can transit in this corridor, we will offer you as much protection as we possibly can." So that seems to be working.

Right now, we have about 14 nations out here with about 20 ships, so there's a lot of activity out here with military aircraft and ships. And my biggest concern, of course, is deconfliction and coordination. And we've had an excellent response from the ships that have been out here working on that.

I have talked directly to the commodore of the EU task force; I have exchanged e-mails with the Chinese, and have talked to -- (audio break) -- the ships that are out here. So it appears that it's been working pretty fairly in the last couple of months.

The other thing that has been a success for us, and always good, is the weather. When the -- these skiffs that the pirates have are not much bigger than a Boston whaler, so when the weather picks up, they tend to stay at home, and not out here.


Q Okay. Two more very quick questions. Are any of the pirates coming out of Yemen? And also, we keep hearing about mother ships for these small vessels. Are there, in fact, mother ships, or is that a media invention?

ADM. MCKNIGHT: No, there are mother ships. In fact, that's what -- what we tend to see happens is a mother ship will either drag along couple skiffs with it and have probably 10 or 15, 20 pirates on board, and then they'll send the skiffs out to, you know, go after a merchant vessel. So, yes, there are mother ships. And that allows them to stay out for an extended period of time so they don't have to go back to Somalia.

The pirates that we have seen are -- and I think I've got it right -- 99.99 percent are from Somalia. They have -- and we've seen times that they hang out -- (audio break) -- territorial waters. And it's unfortunate the coast guard for Yemen just does not have the capability to patrol their waters. But we have them that they'll come up there and hide out in the waters and then come south.
Q Good morning, Admiral. My -- I -- first, can I sneak in a question from Steeljaw Scribe? He e-mailed it to me. He says, regarding CTF-151, what do you see as the greatest challenge to the successful execution of your mission?

ADM. MCKNIGHT: Well, I think the couple challenges -- like I mentioned earlier, when -- people who are under my task force, I can direct them, you know, how to put helicopters in the air, how to manage the ships. The problems that I foresee -- if you're in a -- you know, it's just like running, you know, a highway system. If there's 14 nations and 20-plus ships, and most of them have helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft, the biggest concern is coordination and deconfliction, because what we don't want to happen is have a accident where two friendly helicopters run into each other.
Q Yeah, just -- it was just a comment. And I have a question about the Kenyan matter. I don't know how much detail you can go into or if this is purely a lawyer question. There's a lot of -- I've been getting a lot of e-mails containing law-review articles and cites about the rights that should be afforded to the pirates. Have -- what kind of rules are -- of -- for captured pirates, what kind of rules are our sailors operating under, if you can let me know?

ADM. MCKNIGHT: It's strictly the -- I'll probably get the wrong terms, but it's the -- strictly what human -- you know, they -- we retrieved these -- (audio break) -- (accordance ?) with all rules and regulations. We would -- you know, we'd -- of course we'd, you know, ask them questions. We'd treat them well. Law enforcement -- it's a law-enforcement mission, so we would treat them just like any other law-enforcement thing.

And let me just clarify one thing here. I don't think we'll ever stop pirates. We will do our best to bring the numbers down. When you think of the number of ships that pass through here a year, between 23(,000) and 25,000 vessels -- and the chances of getting pirated here are pretty slim.

But we think that we've had a pretty good success rate in the last couple months.

Somali Pirates: Pirates Grab German LPG Ship in Gulf of Aden

Reported here:
PIRATES have today hijacked a German LPG ship with 13 crew in the Gulf of Aden.

The 4,316dwt Longchamp was en route to Asia from Europe escorted by a naval convoy when it was boarded by 7 armed pirates this morning, owners MPC Group told Fairplay.

The crew are 12 Philippinos and 1 Indonesian.
UPDATE: More info from the ICC CCS Live Piracy site:
Incident Details:

29.01.2009: 0340 UTC: Posn: 14:10N – 049:58E: Gulf of Aden.

Heavily armed pirates in a speed boat chased and fired upon a LPG tanker underway. Pirates boarded and hijacked the tanker and are sailing it to an undisclosed location in Somalia. Further reports awaited

New anti-pirate transit lanes for Gulf of Aden

From - New transit lane for Gulf of Aden:
As of February 1, the existing Maritime Security Patrol Area — introduced by coalition navies last year as a safe passage corridor — will be replaced by two separate five-mile wide eastbound and westbound, separated by a two-mile buffer.

The shake-up comes on account of the increase in number and repositioning of warships in the region, and is also designed to reduce risks of collisions.

As a result, the eastern and western boundaries of the so-called high-risk area, agreed by the joint owner-union International Bargaining Forum last October, will be adjusted accordingly.
The new eastbound lane will begin at 045°E between 11°48’N and 11°53’N, be oriented along a straight line course of 072°, and will terminate at 053°E between 14°18’N and 14°23’N.

The westbound lane will begin at 053°E between 14°25’N and 14°30’N, be oriented along a course of 252°and terminate at 045°E between 11°55’N and 12°00’N.

The hisk risk area will be adjusted to meet the mouth of the new corridors, with the western border running from the coastline at the border of Djibouti and Somalia to position 11°48’N, 045°E; from 12°00’N, 45°E to Mayyun Island in the Bab El Mandeb Straits.

The eastern border will run from Rhiy di Irisal on Suqutra Island to position 14°18’N, 053°E’, and from 14°30’N, 053°E to the coastline at the border between Yemen and Oman.
UPDATE: Added map with rough approximation of new transit lane area (feel free to send me an improved version).

UPDATE: Ask and ye shall receive from Ken Adams:

Somali Pirates: NYTimes Backgounder

A summary of where the world is with the pirates of Somalia from the NYTimes at Backgrounder - Combating Maritime Piracy:
In 2008, maritime piracy reached its highest level since the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center began tracking piracy incidents in 1992. Global piracy increased 11 percent, with piracy in East Africa up a stunning 200 percent. Of the forty-nine successful hijackings, forty-two occurred off the coast of Somalia, including the capture of an oil supertanker, the Sirius Star. Five hijackings were off the Nigerian coast, though the IMB suggests attacks in that area are underreported. In other areas of the world, including Indonesia, piracy dropped.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Reading about pirates

Articles on piracy available in the following magazines which can be downloaded for reading:

Maritime Reporter Jan 09 issue.

Sea Power from the Navy League of the U.S., Jan 09 issue.

In both magazines there is much good information involving ships, maritime security and more.

Somali Pirates: Kenya, US Agree to Deal on Piracy

VOA reports Kenya, US Agree to Deal on Piracy:
Kenya and the United States have signed a memorandum of understanding that will allow pirates captured off Kenya's coast to be tried in Kenyan courts. The international community has been searching for ways to prosecute pirates since the rate of attacks in the region spiked, last year.
Britain has already reached a similar agreement to hand over pirates to Kenyan authorities. Eight pirates detained last year are facing charges in the Kenyan port city, Mombasa.

Gulf of Aden Winds 28 Jan 09

From here. Winds continue 10-15 knots in Gulf.

Explanation of why it might matter here.

Somali Pirates: French Aid ship under pirate attack, grab 9 pirates

Reported here:
The French navy has arrested nine suspected Somali pirates, foiling their attempt to hijack a cargo ship.

According to French military sources, the French Frigate Le Floreal, which was patrolling the waters off the coast of Somalia, dispatched a navy military helicopter on Tuesday after receiving a distress call from the cargo vessel African Ruby, which came under attack from armed men on board two speeding boats, AFP reported.

The navy helicopter pursued the pirate boats in international waters off the coast of the northern Somali region of Puntland.

Photo of "African Ruby" by Vitre Olivier, from

UPDATE: Fred Fry has more, including more photos.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Drumbeat of "Humanitarian Intervention?"

With the arrival of a new U.S. president, the drumbeat of wars of self-protection seems to be dying out while a familiar old tune arises - suggesting the probable return to "humanitarian interventions." See here:
Regarding the "ongoing genocide" in Darfur, Sudan, Rice said the U.S. priority for the moment is reinforcing a U.N.-backed peacekeeping mission to protect civilians. She expressed concern that Sudan's government may retaliate against international peacekeepers and aid workers if the International Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant on genocide charges for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
These should not be confused with "humanitarian operations." Humanitarian operations are approved by countries affected by some disaster or another, such as the aid rendered to the victims of the tsunami of December 2004 or other efforts to assist areas impacted by storms or earthquakes. In such cases, military forces may end up working with non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross or transnational entities like the UN and its disaster contractors. In such cases, the role of the military is usually logistical support.

By contrast, in a "humanitarian intervention" armed force is used directly to intervene in a sovereign nation's affairs even against the will of the sovereign of the invaded or attacked nation.

In the last decade of the 20th Century such "invasions to save lives" include Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, and Sierra Leone. In the world of the people who support such interventions, the U.S. led invasion of Iraq was not a humanitarian intervention because. . . well, because. In fact, Human Rights Watch asserted that the saving of thousands of Iraqis from Saddam's terror "gives humanitarian intervention a bad name."

Humanitarian intervention seems to be deemed appropriate when enforcing a "responsibility to protect." This new found responsibility is a code phrase for allowing older concepts like sovereignty to be discarded for some theoretical higher "right." This "responsibility to protect" is spelled out in a document authored by the somewhat Orwellian-named entity - the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). You can find the document here:
This report is about the so-called “right of humanitarian intervention”: the question of when, if ever, it is appropriate for states to take coercive – and in particular military – action, against another state for the purpose of protecting people at risk in that other state.
Of course, having posed the difficult question, the report goes on to justify such interventions:
(1) Basic Principles
A. State sovereignty implies responsibility, and the primary responsibility for the
protection of its people lies with the state itself.
B. Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect.
As you might gather, these principles don't seem to be evenly applied, While the Balkans intervention was okay, no one seems to argue that it would have been okay to invade - on humanitarian grounds- China during the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution". For those of you unfamiliar with that time period:
Millions of people in China reportedly had their human rights annulled during the Cultural Revolution. Millions more were also forcibly displaced. During the Cultural Revolution, young people from the cities were forcibly moved to the countryside, where they were forced to abandon all forms of standard education in place of the propaganda teachings of the Communist Party of China.
Estimates of the death toll, civilians and Red Guards, from various Western and Eastern sources are about 500,000 in the true years of chaos of 1966—1969. Some people were not able to stand the cruel tortures, they lost hope for the future, and simply committed suicide.

Kofi Anin, former Secretary General of the UN discussed the changing view of sovereign rights here:
State sovereignty, in its most basic sense, is being redefined—not least by the forces of globalisation and international co-operation. States are now widely understood to be instruments at the service of their peoples, and not vice versa. At the same time individual sovereignty—by which I mean the fundamental freedom of each individual, enshrined in the charter of the UN and subsequent international treaties—has been enhanced by a renewed and spreading consciousness of individual rights. When we read the charter today, we are more than ever conscious that its aim is to protect individual human beings, not to protect those who abuse them.
In recent years, the many people of a liberal persuasion suggested that it would have been perfectly appropriate to engage in an armed invasion of Myanmar/Burma on humanitarian grounds following the devastating typhoon of May 2008. Time offered up Is it time to invade Burma? by Romesh Ratnesar:
. . .The trouble is that the Burmese haven't shown the ability or willingness to deploy the kind of assets needed to deal with a calamity of this scale — and the longer Burma resists offers of help, the more likely it is that the disaster will devolve beyond anyone's control. "We're in 2008, not 1908," says Jan Egeland, the former U.N. emergency relief coordinator. "A lot is at stake here. If we let them get away with murder we may set a very dangerous precedent."

That's why it's time to consider a more serious option: invading Burma. Some observers, including former USAID director Andrew Natsios, have called on the U.S. to unilaterally begin air drops to the Burmese people regardless of what the junta says. The Bush Administration has so far rejected the idea — "I can't imagine us going in without the permission of the Myanmar government," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday — but it's not without precedent: as Natsios pointed out to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. has facilitated the delivery of humanitarian aid without the host government's consent in places like Bosnia and Sudan.

A coercive humanitarian intervention would be complicated and costly. During the 2004 tsunami, some 24 U.S. ships and 16,000 troops were deployed in countries across the region; the mission cost the U.S. $5 million a day. Ultimately, the U.S. pledged nearly $900 million to tsunami relief. (By contrast, it has offered just $3.25 million to Burma.) But the risks would be greater this time: the Burmese government's xenophobia and insecurity make them prone to view U.S. troops — or worse, foreign relief workers — as hostile forces. (Remember Black Hawk Down?) Even if the U.S. and its allies made clear that their actions were strictly for humanitarian purposes, it's unlikely the junta would believe them. "You have to think it through — do you want to secure an area of the country by military force? What kinds of potential security risks would that create?" says Egelend. "I can't imagine any humanitarian organization wanting to shoot their way in with food."
Mr. Egeland seems to lack the imagination that others possess.

Once deemed a virtually dead concept- "so 1990s" - the "selfless" use of power seems to be making a comeback. Kenneth Roth wrote in a 2004 article in Harvard International Review:
The use of military force across borders to stop mass killing was seen as a luxury of an era in which national security concerns among the major powers were less pressing and problems of human security could come to the fore. Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, and Sierra Leone: these interventions, justified to varying degrees in humanitarian terms, were dismissed as products of an unusual interlude between the tensions of the Cold War and the new threat of terrorism. The events of September 11, 2001, supposedly changed all that by inducing a return to more immediate security challenges. Yet surprisingly, even with the campaign against terrorism in full swing, the past year has seen four military interventions that their instigators describe, in whole or in part, as humanitarian.
The tsunami aid rendered counts as a humanitarian intervention, according to Mr. Roth, but the invasion of Iraq does not, "Since the Iraq war was not mainly about saving the Iraqi people from mass slaughter..."

Selecting places in which humanitarian intervention are acceptable is tough work. However, if one begins with the premise that the intervening nations have nothing to gain by such intervention then justification seems to come easier to some minds. Intervening in Iraq = "bad" because it has oil. Intervening in Myanmar ="good" because it has nothing of use to the world. Go figure.

That a forced entry for "humanitarian" reasons might result in armed resistance by the ruling forces of the invaded land or by bands of clan-based groups(as in Somalia in the 1990s) and the deaths of soldiers of the invading forces seems not to bother the pro-humanitarian interventionists much, if at all.

Will they be keeping "body count" lists of those who fall? I wonder.

Back in July 2008, there was a debate of sorts on humanitarian intervention (HI) in the pages of the Los Angeles Times. Excerpts from here, the debate bearing the title "Why not invade Darfur?" From the "anti" HI side:
By the traditional standards of international law, which require state consent and conforming state practice for a customary law norm to emerge, the duty to protect remains much more of an aspiration than a law. It is difficult to understand why the protection of a foreign population should merit greater presumed legitimacy than the protection of one's own population, which underlies all national-interest-driven uses of force, including preemptive ones. After all, fair-minded critics of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars would agree that the Bush administration undertook these interventions to protect the security of the American people.

Notwithstanding the legal and moral hypocrisy associated with humanitarian interventions, there are, of course, instances in which humanitarian intervention is appropriate. There is no shortage of misery in today's world, including genocide, ethnic cleansing and rampant war crimes, poverty and starvation. Alleviating at least the worst cases is a worthy project.

Yet, international humanitarian interventions, whatever their moral appeal, have to be judged by the same hardheaded standards as traditional national-interest-driven interventions. How compelling is the humanitarian problem in a particular place compared with other places? Are the equities clear-cut or are all the sides of a conflict equally unsavory? How does one define success? Is regime change the objective? What are the likely costs of a successful intervention? How many casualties and how much collateral damage should be anticipated? Are sufficient military resources available? The important thing is not to become entangled in a halfhearted, indecisive mission with unclear or excessively soft rules of engagement, as was the case with the Clinton administration's deployment of U.S. forces to Somalia. Such interventions produce no good results. War is too serious of a business to be play-acting, and there is no substitute for victory, something those -- in Europe and elsewhere -- who call the loudest for humanitarian interventions should keep in mind.
From the "pro" HI side:
I would argue that we have as much of a strategic interest and moral duty to stop the genocide in Darfur as we did to stop the rule of Saddam Hussein. Morally, it is clear: Hundreds of thousands of people have been slaughtered in Darfur. We should stop this massacre if we can. Strategically, it is not as direct. That region of Africa does not impact our immediate national security interests -- which is why intervention there is not popular. Indeed, intervention in Africa is rarely considered in even the worst of situations.

Would the interests of developed nations not be served by a stable, democratic Africa as much as they would be by a stable and democratic Middle East? Are dictators such as Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir and Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe, less dangerous than Hussein? David, you and many conservatives spent so much time demonizing Hussein that other threats started to pale in comparison. You seem to have said he was worse than Hitler or Stalin, for example, telling one interviewer in April 2003 in an effort to justify the invasion: "Despite the quite deplorable record amassed by people like Hitler or Stalin, I am not aware of instances where they have targeted their own civilians."

But do we have the resources to intervene? This is where we differ again, David. Your choices (Iraq, perhaps Iran) mean that almost all our military would be engaged in these battles, or what you call "the provider of security services" to the world.
Another question that almost always remains unanswered in suggesting the need for humanitarian interventions is which nations have the airlift and sealift capacity to conduct such operations and sustain forces in the field. Once again, good-hearted amateurs discuss tactics without bothering about logistics. In posts following the Christmas tsunami, I hit on the former UNer Mr. Egeland (see here and here)for his "magic happens" wish lists in humanitarian operations. And I've been to planning meeting at which, when the issue of logistics is raised, every eyeball turns to the U.S. representatives.

As usual in military matters, the self-interest of the country which is contemplating involvement ought to serve as a guide to any combat operation whether it is couched in terms of "humanitarian" or not. Asking American soldiers and sailors to risk death and spending the national treasure and limited military equipment on operations that do not serve the interests of the nation must be carefully considered before falling victim to some internationalist standard of a "responsibility to protect."

Initial thoughts. more to follow.

Photo Credit:
Displaced children in South Darfur near the town of Nyala. [Photo archive UN/Evan Schneider]

Somalia: Ethiopian Troops Leave, Hardline Islamists Move In

Will sharia law return to Somalia? Maybe. Al-Shabab is alleged to have taken power, as reported in Insurgents seize seat of Somalia's parliament:
Al-Shabab, which is on Washington's list of terror groups, took over Baidoa late Monday, a day after Ethiopian troops who had been propping up the government ended their unpopular, two-year presence. Al-Shabab, which means "The Youth," has been gaining ground as Somalia's Western-backed government crumbles.

"We will establish an Islamic administration for the town, and appeal to residents to remain calm," al-Shabab spokesman Sheik Muktar Robow said.

Somalia is a Muslim country, but al-Shabab's strict interpretation of Islam has drawn fear and trepidation. In one case, the group stoned to death a 13-year-old girl for adultery even though her parents said she was a rape victim.

The takeover came as Somalia's parliament meets this week in neighboring Djibouti to elect a new president. It appears unlikely the lawmakers will be able to return to Baidoa, 155 miles (250 kilometers) southwest of the capital.

There was a brief firefight between the Islamists and government-allied militias, who soon fled, witnesses said.
Looks the wheel may still spin some more, but as in law, possession is 9/10 of something.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pirates of the highways

More common than you probably knew, from Canada: Cargo thefts shift into high gear:
Cargo thieves will take anything -- a load of bubblegum, chicken beaks and feet, wedding dresses. Last weekend, someone stole a tractor trailer full of eggs from a Mississauga yard. The empty truck was recovered in Scarborough yesterday.

In 2008, thieves stole $22-million worth of goods in Peel Region. With its vast industrial yards, its circuit of highways and its proximity to Pearson International Airport, Peel is considered by some in the industry to be the cargo theft capital of North America.

Across the GTA, thieves are becoming more organized, and striking more often.

"It's no longer isolated incidents. It's become rampant," said Uwe Petroschke, the president of Brampton-based Totalline Transport Inc.

"The police don't have enough manpower to deal with the situation any longer. They need help. We're dealing with organized crime.
"After stealing a tractor trailer full of merchandise, if they get caught, if they are found guilty, the charge is theft over $5,000. That's it. They can steal at will and the reward is greater than the punishment.''
In 2006, the FBI estimated the cost of U.S. highway cargo theft to be in the rather large range of $15 - 30 billion dollars:
Cargo theft is estimated to cost the U.S. $15-30 billion a year, though the true measure may be even higher, since some businesses are reluctant to report thefts out of concern for their reputations or their insurance premiums. Thieves' methods vary, but the outcome is generally the same—a load of merchandise leaves Point-A and never arrives at Point-B.

"Cargo theft is our number-one priority in Major Theft," says Unit Chief Eric B. Ives, who heads the Major Theft Unit in the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division. "There's never been a time when there's not enough work."

The issue is much broader than a criminal stealing a TV off a truck. In the past few years, investigations have revealed more and more sophisticated operations with well-organized hierarchies. The typical "criminal enterprise," as Ives describes it, has a leader who runs a regional or national operation. Beneath him are cells of thieves and brokers, or fences, who unload the stolen goods on the black market. "Lumpers" physically move the goods, along with drivers. And there's usually a specialist who is expert at foiling the anti-theft locks on truck trailers.

Cargo thieves heist whole truck loads of merchandise—the average freight on a trailer is valued between $12,000 and $3 million. The hotspots are where you might expect—truck yards, hubs for commercial freight carriers, and port cities.
The U.S. penalties are a little steeper thanks to the Patriot Act:
In fact, private industry played a pivotal role in placing a long-sought provision in the USA Patriot Improvement and Reauthorization Act, signed into law in March. The provision requires the Department of Justice to add cargo theft to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) System by year's end. Cargo-related crimes that were once filed in the UCR as burglary, larceny, and robbery will have their own category. Once established, the data will paint a clearer picture of the extent of cargo theft—and help law enforcement agencies allocate their resources. The measure also increased prison terms for cargo theft convictions: three years for cargo valued under $1,000 and 15 years for cargo valued over $1,000.

The Failing Narco-Terrorist State Next Door

Mexico is a mess, as well set out in Drug Gangs Have Mexico on the Ropes:
Tally all this up and what you get is Mexico on the edge of chaos, and a mess that could easily bleed across the border. The U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., warned recently that an unstable Mexico "could represent a homeland security problem of immense proportions to the United States." In a report titled "Joint Operating Environment 2008," the Command singles out Mexico and Pakistan as potentially failing states. Both "bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse . . . . The Mexican possibility may seem less likely, but the government, its politicians, police, and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and pressure by criminal gangs and drug cartels."

The National Drug Threat Assessment for 2009 says that Mexican drug-trafficking organizations now "control most of the U.S. drug market," with distribution capabilities in 230 U.S. cities. The cartels also "maintain cross border communication centers" that use "voice over Internet Protocol, satellite technology (broadband satellite instant messaging), encrypted messaging, cell phone technology, two-way radios, scanner devices, and text messaging, to communicate with members" and even "high-frequency radios with encryption and rolling codes to communicate during cross-border operations."
Queries: Would legalizing drug use collapse all the criminal gangs and stabilize Mexico?

One view:
Illegal drugs are expensive precisely because they are illegal. The products themselves are worthless weeds -- cannabis (marijuana), poppies (heroin), coca (cocaine) -- or dirt-cheap pharmaceuticals and "precursors" used, for example, in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Yet today, marijuana is worth as much as gold, heroin more than uranium, cocaine somewhere in between. It is the U.S.'s prohibition of these drugs that has spawned an ever-expanding international industry of torture, murder and corruption. In other words, we are the source of Mexico's "drug problem."

The remedy is as obvious as it is urgent: legalization.

Regulated legalization of all drugs -- with stiffened penalties for driving impaired or furnishing to kids -- would bring an immediate halt to the violence. How? By (1) dramatically reducing the cost of these drugs, (2) shifting massive enforcement resources to prevention and treatment and (3) driving drug dealers out of business: no product, no profit, no incentive. In an ideal world, Mexico and the United States would move to repeal prohibition simultaneously (along with Canada). But even if we moved unilaterally, sweeping and lasting improvements to public safety (and public health) would be felt on both sides of the border. (Tragically and predictably, just as Mexico's parliament was about to reform its U.S.-modeled drug laws, the Bush administration stepped in, pressuring President Vicente Fox to abandon the enlightened position he'd championed for two years.)

With drugs stringently controlled and regulated by our own government, Mexico would once again become a safe, inviting place for American tourists -- and for its own citizens, who pay the steepest price of all for our insistence on waging an immoral, unwinnable war on drugs.
A counter view:

Recall also that most people in drug treatment are there because of some form of coercion. Very few walk in on their own. Take away coercion, and you take away treatment for all but a few burned-out addicts.

John Stuart Mill, the father of modern libertarians, argued that people can only restrict the freedom of another for their self-protection, and society can only exert power over its members against their will in order to prevent harm to others. I think that the harm to others from drug legalization will be greater than the harm--and it is a great harm--that now exists from keeping these drugs illegal.

And the "Drug Watch International" view:
Drug Watch International
Position Statement


The legalization or decriminalization of drugs would make harmful, psychoactive, and addictive substances affordable, available, convenient, and marketable. It would expand the use of drugs. It would remove the social stigma attached to illicit drug use, and would send a message of tolerance for drug use, especially to youth.


Drug legalization or decriminalization is opposed by a vast majority of Americans and people around the world. Leaders in drug prevention, education, treatment, and law enforcement adamantly oppose it, as do many political leaders. However, pro-drug advocacy groups, who support the permissive use of illicit drugs, although small in number, are making headlines. They are influencing legislation and having a significant impact on the national policy debate in the United States and in other countries. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is the oldest drug user lobby in the U.S. It has strong ties to the Libertarian party, the Drug Policy Foundation, and the American Civil Liberties Union. These groups use a variety of strategies which range from outright legalization to de facto legalization under the guise of "medicalization," "harm reduction," crime reduction, hem/marijuana for the environment, free needle distribution to addicts, marijuana cigarettes as medicine, and controlled legalization through taxation.


The use of illicit drugs is illegal because of their intoxicating effects on the brain, damaging impact on the body, adverse impact on behavior, and potential for abuse. Their use threatens the health, welfare, and safety of all people, of users and non-users alike.

Legalization would decrease price and increase availability. Availability is a leading factor associated with increased drug use. Increased use of addictive substances leads to increased addiction. As a public health measure, statistics show that prohibition was a tremendous success.

Many drug users commit murder, child and spouse abuse, rape, property damage, assault and other violent crimes under the influence of drugs. Drug users, many of whom are unable to hold jobs, commit robberies not only to obtain drugs, but also to purchase food, shelter, clothing and other goods and services. Increased violent crime and increased numbers of criminals will result in even larger prison populations.

Legalizing drugs will not eliminate illegal trafficking of drugs, nor the violence associated with the illegal drug trade. A black market would still exist unless all psychoactive and addictive drugs in all strengths were made available to all ages in unlimited quantity.

Drug laws deter people from using drugs. Surveys indicate that the fear of getting in trouble with the law constitutes a major reason not to use drugs. Fear of the American legal system is a major concern of foreign drug lords. Drug laws have turned drug users to a drug-free lifestyle through mandatory treatment. 40% - 50% are in treatment as a result of the criminal justice system.

A study of international drug policy and its effects on countries has shown that countries with lax drug law enforcement have had an increase in drug addiction and crime. Conversely, those with strong drug policies have reduced drug use and enjoy low crime rates.

The United States and many countries would be in violation of international treaty if they created a legal market in cocaine, marijuana, and other drugs. The U.S. is a signatory to the Single Convention on Narcotics & the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and has agreed with other members of the United Nations to control and penalize drug manufacturing, trafficking, and use. 112 nations recently reaffirmed their commitment to strong drug laws.
Would a really good border enforcement program spare us some trouble or just lead to more corruption?

What would the effect of drug legalization be on terrorist funding?

Take the profit out of the drug semi-submersible business?

Monday Reading

Fred Fry's Maritime Monday 146 over a with photos of a barge supported really big crane. One photo requires an explanation as to what that big silver thing is, because, well, because . . . Freud says it might need an explanation.

UPDATE: Speaking of strange things - Salamander found one here. "Fourth Generation War demands the Navy shift its focus from Mahanian battles for sea control to controlling coastal and inland waters in places where the state is disintegrating." - William Lind. Read and discuss.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday Ship History: Deep Diver

Forty-nine years ago, when I was kid living on Guam on a drive down to the Navy base, I saw something unusual on one of the piers - an odd looking cylinder painted, as I recall, white and orange. My mother, used to Air Force secrecy as a SAC wife, told me it was some "Navy thing" and not to worry about it. Later the local paper reported what the cylinder was and why it was on Guam.

It was all pretty low key - low key then and low key now, but little noted on January 23 was an achievement that ought to be remembered along with the first climb to the highest point on earth, the breaking of the speed of sound, the first men sent up briefly into space - but perhaps you missed it, Jan 23 marked the 49th anniversary of the first men to dive to the deepest point of the ocean - the dive of the the Trieste to the bottom of the Challenger depth near Guam. As set out here:
The deep-diving research bathyscaphe Trieste was first launched in 1953 near Naples, Italy, by the Swiss scientist who designed her, Auguste Piccard. After several years of operations in the Mediterranean, she was purchased by the U.S. Navy and transported to San Diego, California. On October 2, 1959, Trieste was loaded onto the freighter Santa Maria for transport to the Mariana Islands for a series of deep-submergence operations in the Pacific Ocean, into the Challenger Deep, the deepest spot in the ocean identified by the British ship Challenger II in 1851. The operations were code-named "Project Nekton."
More here:
The Navy's bathyscaph Trieste again set a world's diving record when she probed 37,800 feet to the depths of the Marianas Trench, deepest known hole in the world's oceans, Jan. 23.

Lt. Don Walsh of San Diego, Calif., and Swiss scientist Jacques Piccard. . . made the descent. No difficulties were experienced during the dive, during which the Trieste was subjected to a pressure of 16, 883 pounds per square inch (more than a thousand times greater than the pressure at sea level).

This depth program has been named "Project Nekton" and, according to a Navy announcement, provides "scientific knowledge of sunlight penetration, underwater visibility, transmission of man-made sounds, and marine geological studies." The Trieste had previously made two record-setting dives, the last on Jan. 7 when she descended to 24,000 feet.

There was light outside the Trieste until about 800 feet, according to Lt. Walsh. At about 6000 feet, the chill from the water forced both men to don warmer clothing. The entire descent required 4 hours and 48 minutes. Once done, about 20 minutes was spent on the bottom making observations and recording data. Lights enabled the men to see living and moving objects. The return trip to the surface was made in 3 hours and 17 minutes.

ADM Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations, sent congratulations to the two men. He termed their record-breaking feat an accomplishment that " may well mark the opening of a new age in exploration of the depths of the ocean which can well be as important as exploration in space has been in the past."
More on the dive:
On January 23, 1960 — the day of Trieste's historic dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench — the waves were 5 to 6 feet high in the ocean when Jacques Piccard (Auguste's son), and Navy Lt. Donald Walsh boarded Trieste from a rubber raft. They were housed in the white sphere at the bottom of the vessel. Reportedly, it was so packed with equipment that there was barely room for the men to sit in.

The Department of the Navy described Trieste as "the underwater equivalent of a lighter-than-air craft, much like a blimp operating in reverse. It consists of a 50-foot hull, 12 feet in diameter, filled with gasoline to make it buoyant, since gasoline is lighter than water. Beneath this hull is suspended a sphere 6.5 feet in diameter, which easily holds two men and scientific equipment."

Trieste had weights (9 tons of iron shot) to help it descend to the deepest point on the seafloor. The bathyscaphe's air tanks also were flooded with seawater to help make it sink. Trieste descended at a rate of 3 feet per second until it reached a depth of 27,000 feet, when its operators put on the brakes to slow its descent to half that rate.

The nearly 7-mile descent to the deepest known point on Earth took 4 hours and 48 minutes. Piccard and Walsh stayed on the bottom for 20 minutes, eating chocolate bars for sustenance, their teeth chattering in the 45°F cold cabin. Outside the bathyscaphe, the ocean temperature was 37.4°F. The mercury-vapor lamps on Trieste were the first to shine a light in this deep, dark place, illuminating a small, red shrimp-like creature and proving that the deep ocean had enough oxygen to support marine life.

At a depth of nearly 7 miles, the pressure is crushing, exceeding 16,883 pounds per square inch (more than a thousand times greater than the pressure at sea level). During the dive, an outer Plexiglas window cracked, which fortunately did not cause any problems other than some anxiety for the divers! They released two tons of iron shot to begin their ascent to the surface. The return trip took three hours and 17 minutes. When Piccard and Walsh surfaced, they officially entered the world record books.
And still more here:
The Trieste passed through many thermal layers. When it came to the dense cold layers, it stopped. "We sat on them like going down steps," said Lieut. Walsh. The crew had to release some of the buoyant gasoline in its upper hull before it resumed its dark, downward voyage.

Only contact with the surface was a telephone that transmitted their voices in sonar waves to a listening device on the mother ship. Part way down, it conked out, and the Trieste men drifted on down, utterly isolated from outside contact. Probably the mother ship had drifted sideways and the sonar waves were not strong enough to penetrate at an angle. When the bathyscaphe reached bottom, contact was re-established. From seven miles down, Walsh's voice reached the listeners, faint but clear.

At 30,000 ft. a sharp crack rang through the ship, shaking it violently. The water pressure outside was more than 6 tons per square inch., and even a slight fracture in the hull would have meant certain death. It proved to be only an outer Plexiglas windowpane which had splintered under the pressure. The inner hull remained watertight. "A pretty hairy, experience," admitted Walsh.

When the Trieste finally settled on the bottom, it raised clouds of fine white silt. Dr. Andreas B. Rechnitzer, the scientist in charge of the dive, identified the "dust" as diatomaceous ooze, the silica skeletons of small sea creatures, often used as scouring powder. In effect, the Trieste landed in a cloud of Bab-O.

Clearly visible when the dust settled was a white flatfish about one foot long. It seemed healthy and it had eyes, although the nearest trace of sunlight was more than seven miles overhead. Swimming six feet above the bottom were a shrimp and a jellyfish, neither of them bothered by the enormous pressure on their bodies. The very fact that these creatures were living and healthy proved that the water had oxygen in it. Therefore it must circulate, because if it were stagnant in the trench, its oxygen would long since have disappeared. One immediate conclusion: ocean trenches are not safe places for dumping radioactive wastes, since their water does not stay put.
The Trieste stayed on the bottom for 30 minutes, but Piccard and Walsh could use its powerful lights for only short periods because the heat they generate made the water around them boil violently. In later dives the Trieste will carry more instruments, take more pictures, and collect water and living creatures from the depths. Says Dr. Rechnitzer: "We'll go up and down like a Yo-yo."
As noted above, a great deal of credit for the dive goes to Dr. Andy Rechnitzer:
After receiving his doctorate at Scripps, Dr. Rechnitzer joined the Naval Electronics Laboratory (NEL) (which became the Naval Ocean Systems Center) in San Diego. He was the Deep Submergence Research Program Coordinator and Oceanographer.

While at NEL, Dr. Rechnitzer recognized the tremendous research potential of the bathyscaph Trieste. The Trieste was built in Italy by Swiss Professor Auguste Piccard and his son, Jacques Piccard. The Office of Naval Research put together a rather distinguished team of specialists to travel to Italy to evaluate the Trieste. Dr. Rechnitzer was one of those marine scientists. He studied the theory, engineering and maintenance procedures of Trieste. Dr. Rechnitzer and other U.S. scientists made several deep dives in the Trieste in the Mediterranean Sea. He saw the many advantages of scientists and engineers diving in the bathyscaph to further their individual research specialties.

Dr. Rechnitzer was instrumental in proposing that the U.S. Navy buy the Trieste. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) agreed and bought the bathyscaph for $250,000. The Office of Naval Research assigned the Trieste to NEL for operations.

ONR appointed Dr. Rechnitzer to be Technical Director and Scientist-in-Charge of Trieste in 1958. The Navy immediately established Project Nekton to modify Trieste and make a series of deeper dives in Trieste. Led by Dr. Rechnitzer’s vision, the Project Nekton Team conducted a wide range of ocean science studies that were of strong interest to the U.S. Navy. There were many questions to be answered about what happens deep under the ocean and how that affects submarines and surface ships.

Dr. Rechnitzer assembled a very dynamic, progressive small team of 16 specialists. These were unique individuals, because they all had two or three specialties and they worked very well together as a team. The Project Nekton Team included Lt. Don Walsh (Officer-in-Charge and Pilot), Lt. Larry Shumaker (Assistant Officer-in-Charge, Pilot and Chief Engineer) and Master Chief John Michel (Crew Chief). Jacques Piccard, the son of the inventor, was hired as Technical Advisor on Trieste.

Following a series of dives off San Diego, the Trieste was modified and shipped to Guam for even deeper dives.

As head of the Trieste Team, Dr. Rechnitzer made many dives in the Trieste, down to depths of 18,150 feet (a world record dive at the time).

Dr. Rechnitzer was the Scientist-In-Charge and Technical Director when the Trieste made her historic world record dive to 35,800 feet off Guam on January 23, 1960. The water pressure was 15,931 pounds per square inch. We have a little less that 15 psi on the surface of the ocean.

Pilot of the Trieste on this deep dive was Lt. Don Walsh (later Capt. and Ph.D.). Jacques Piccard was the Technical Advisor aboard the Trieste during the deep dive to the bottom of the Marianas Trench. Lt. Larry Shumaker was topside, providing engineering services and acting as Operations Officer for the dive. Master Chief John Michel did some ingenious last minute engineering and machine work to make Trieste ready for the deepest dive.

The entire Project Nekton budget was a little less than $250,000. That meant that the purchase and operations of Trieste through the deep dive was done on a modest combined budget of $500,000.

For their contributions to the advancement of deep ocean research, Dr. Rechnitzer, Jacques Piccard, Lt. Walsh and Lt. Shumaker were honored personally by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in a White House ceremony. Dr. Rechnitzer was recognized by President Eisenhower for his leadership as Technical Director and Scientist-in-Charge of Project Nekton. President Eisenhower presented Dr. Rechnitzer with the Distinguished Civilian Service Award.
The dive support ship was USS Wandank (ATA-204), a small ocean going tug:
In January 1960, for example, she served as communication relay and support ship for the bathyscaphe Trieste in Project Nekton; she towed the bathyscaphe some 260 nautical miles (482 kilometers) from Guam to the vicinity of the Challenger Deep, where, on 23 January 1960, Trieste descended to 37,000 feet (11,278 meters).

In addition to Wandank, the destroyer escort USS Lewis (De-535) provided support for the dive. She can be seen in the background of the photo above which was taken right before the dive.

Trieste was later used to locate the lost submarine Thresher.

A record that can never be broken is pretty cheap at $500,000. The value of the experience and the bravery of the crew, though, priceless.

And I remember it was a day like any other on Guam, except...

UPDATE: According to this wonderful NASA site, Trieste can be found at the Navy History Museum at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC.

Click on the pictures to make them bigger.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Dems wrestle with ethics problems" Dems wrestle with ethics problems - .

So far "ethics problems" have a take down, a couple of narrow escapes and a near fall and are leading on points...

Will the last taxpayer who leaves California please turn out the lights?

Probably time to dust off Atlas Shrugged, when you read analysis like California’s Tipping Point
I think a threshold or tipping point exists in the ratio between the political power of those who pay taxes and those who consume taxes directly. After that tipping point is reached, those who pay taxes become the economic slaves of those who consume taxes.
In effect, government workers have hijacked democracy. Instead of state employees working for the people, the people now work for the state employees. As far as the state government is concerned, people in the private sector work merely so that they can be taxed for the benefit of the tax consumers. They’ve entered a condition not unlike like that of pre-industrial serfs.

Of course no one is being whipped, but in effect an ordinary citizen of California cannot get their desires for reduced state spending implemented due to the disproportionate power of the State’s employees and allied interest. It appears now that the government unions will not accept any solution to California’s budget crisis except increased taxes in a declining economy. Ordinary citizens have no choice but to either emigrate or just lie there and take it.

And when they emigrate, I hope they remember what drove them out of California so that they don't start the cycle again in a new state...ooops, too late...

Further, while the state workers are a problem, add in those receiving various benefits from those they vote into power . . .

My name is John Galt.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Latest ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping Report (to 23 Jan 09) and the Latest ICC CCS Piracy Report (to 19 Jan 09)

The latest ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping Report (to 23 Jan 09) can be found here and the latest ICC Commercial Crime Services Weekly Piracy Report (to 19 Jan 09) can be found here.

Highlights from the ONI Report:
1. UN/GULF OF ADEN: As a result of the growing piracy threat, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has proposed a number of measures to deter, arrest, and prosecute pirates in the Horn of Africa to the United Nations Security Council in December 2008. The most immediate of these is to put forward international agreements allowing law enforcement agents from the Horn of Africa region to join warships as 'ship riders' - as these are known - to circumvent legal impediments to arresting pirates on shared waters. Traditionally used to combat drug trafficking and illegal fishing, ship rider agreements are designed to remove policing barriers in international maritime boundaries, and to stop smugglers and other criminals from taking advantage of shared territorial waters for illegal activities. The practice has been employed successfully in the Caribbean to fight drug traffickers. This proposal - endorsed by the Security Council in a resolution passed in December 2008 - is an immediate response to the growing threat of piracy in the Horn of Africa. Ship rider agreements would make use of existing functional criminal justice systems in the region to be able to arrest and try pirates. Subject to a special agreement, a ship rider arrangement would allow a law enforcement officer from, for
example, Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania, or Yemen, to join a warship off the Somali coast, arrest the pirate in the name of their country and have them sent to their national court for trial. . .
2. ASIA: The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Center (ISC) extended its Annual Report 2008. The following is a summary of their results. The total number of incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia in 2008 has decreased compared to 2004-2007. The decrease was most evident in the ports and anchorages of Indonesia, and the port of Chittagong, Bangladesh. There were 96 incidents reported in 2008, of which 83 were actual and 13 were attempted incidents. This was a 4% decrease compared to 2007, when 100 incidents were reported, of which 77 were actual and 23 were attempted incidents. It is noted that there has been an increase in the number of actual incidents in 2008 compared to 2007. The greatest increase occurred in the Category 2 (moderately significant) incidents. There is a slight decrease in the number of Category 1 (very significant) incidents in 2008 compared to 2007. Of the Category 1 incidents reported in 2008, two were hijacking incidents. In the two hijacking incidents, the culprits were arrested, the crew rescued and the hijacked ships recovered. The number of Category 3 (less significant) incidents, comprising mainly petty theft incidents at ports and anchorages, has remained fairly consistent between 2006 and 2008. The incidents in 2008 were generally less violent compared to 2004-2007. Incidents involving assault of crew and taking hostage of crew occurred less frequently in 2008 compared to 2004-2007. Tankers were involved in a larger portion of incidents in 2008. Notably, there has been an increase in the number of incidents involved tug boats in 2008 and majority of these incidents occurred in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, and off Pulau Tioman, Malaysia. The ReCAAP ISC notes similarities in the modus operandi of the robbers operating in these areas. Theft of ship stores and engine spares made up a higher proportion of incidents reported in 2008. However, there has been a significant increase in the number of incidents which reported losses of cash and properties in 2008 compared to 2005-2007 (ReCAAP).
4. UN/GULF OF ADEN: An anti-piracy group held its first meeting on 14 Jan 08 at the United Nations to discuss best management practices for ships plying the Gulf of Aden and waters near the Horn of Africa if they are attacked or seized by Somali pirates. The one-day meeting at UN headquarters in New York was organized by the Contact Group on Somali Piracy, which was chaired by US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, Mark T. Kimmitt. Practices suggested to ships, tankers, or passengers in pirate- infested waters call on ship masters and crews to 'offer no resistance' when boarded by pirates because it could lead to unnecessary violence and harm to the crew. The document offers steps to deal with action taken by military personnel to fight the pirates. It calls on the hostage crew to place their hands above their heads and not make sudden movement. The hands must be visible and not holding anything. 'It is expected that these best management practices will be periodically updated based upon operational experience and lessons learned,' the document said. The contact group is mandated by the UN Security Council, which has imposed sanctions, including travel bans and freeze of assets, on some individuals or groups in Somalia. The group called on states and organizations to use the practices in dealing with piracy. An initial 24 countries and five international organizations took part in the discussion in New York. Those countries include the US, Djibouti, Egypt, Japan, South Korea, Japan, India, and Russia. The African Union, the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, the International Maritime Bureau, the Joint War Committee, and the Baltic and International Maritime Council took part in the debate. The contact group said over one-third of attempted seizures of ships in the Gulf of Aden had succeeded, but it said measures adopted by ships to repel the pirates have been positive (DOS,
3. NIGERIA: Loading vessel (LAMNALCO WAXBILL), tanker (FRONT CHIEF), tug
boat attacked 18 Jan 09, early morning at a crude loading platform in the Bonny oil terminal, owned by Shell and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. According to sources, Nigerian militants attempted to board the tanker (FRONT CHIEF) but were unable to do so, then turned their attention to the (LAMNALCO WAXBILL) as it was loading crude oil. The militants abducted eight Nigerians from a nearby tugboat, killing another, and wounding the captain. The militant group MEND later claimed its affiliates were behind the attack (AFP, Reuters, LL).
4. NIGERIA: Tanker (MEREDITH) attacked 21 Jan 09, early morning while underway in the Bonny Fairway Buoy in the Niger Delta. Heavily armed assailants riding in four speedboats hit the tanker with dynamite at around dawn as it was in transit to Port Harcourt with approximately 4,000 tons of diesel fuel. A Romanian crewmember was taken hostage but later released according to Nigerian military officials. An official said the unidentified gunmen inflicted “massive” damage on the tanker’s engine and superstructure. The militant group MEND later claimed its affiliates had carried out the attack (UPI, Reuters, AP).
Highlights from the ICC CCS Report:
* 14.01.2009: 1245 UTC: Posn: 13:02.18nN- 046:41.06E, Gulf of Aden. Eight pirates armed with guns in two boats attempted to attack a tanker underway. Master raised alarm, sent distress message, contacted coalition warships and took evasive manoeuvres. A coalition warship responded and was ready to dispatch a helicopter. Pirate boats slowed down and aborted the attempt upon noticing the British security team at the bridge wings armed with axes.

* 13.01.2009: 0810 UTC: Posn: 12:24.5N – 044:57.7E, Gulf of Aden. One boat with six pirates armed with guns / RPG chased a container ship underway. Pirates open fire with RPG. Two warships in the vicinity provided assistance to the vessel. After half an hour the attack was abandoned. The Russian warship chased the pirate boat but was instructed by Aden control not to interfere.
UPDATE: NATO Shipping Center Report as of 21 Jan 09:
(Unclass) The lull in piracy continues with no new incidents confirmed in the past week. The last recorded piracy incident was the approach of MT DAYLAM on 14 Jan.
It is believed that a combination of inclement weather conditions and recent successes by the substantial coalition and international naval forces have resulted in the present inactivity.
Negotiations are believed to be well advanced for BISCAGLIA and she may be released soon. 10 vessels remain hijacked
Japan and South Korea have agreed in principle to send naval anti piracy forces to the region in the near future.
Click on the image to enlarge it.

UPDATE2: You can download the ReCAAP 2008 Report here.