Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Not so much tweaking China? "Philippines, U.S. begin military exercises near disputed seas" - for the 31st time

"Philippines, U.S. begin military exercises near disputed seas":
Thousands of Philippine and American soldiers began annual war games on Monday near disputed waters in the South China Sea, testing the readiness of the two oldest security allies in the southeast Asian region to respond to any emergency.
More here:
Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. service members gathered for the opening ceremony of Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015 Sept. 29 at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Naval Forces West Headquarters, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines.

PHIBLEX is an annual, bilateral training exercise conducted by U.S. Marine and Navy forces alongside members of the AFP focused on strengthening the partnership and relationships between the two nations, across a range of military operations, including disaster relief and complex expeditionary operations.

“This year marks the 31st iteration of this exercise,” said U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Paul J. Kennedy, commanding general of 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “On the surface, it showcases our combined capabilities and complex maritime operations. But in reality, it highlights a much deeper union.”

The exercise and training events will strengthen the bond between the two nations, and ensure they are able to work together in an even more efficient and effective way during future real-world operations, according to Kennedy.

"We will hone our military skills together during multiple combined field training events,” said Kennedy. “Additionally, we will focus on improving the tactics, techniques, and procedures in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, crisis response, and preservation of peace.”

While the main focus of PHIBLEX is strengthening interoperability, and ensuring the exchange of best practices and tactics between the two forces, the secondary purpose is to ensure there is a bilateral force standing ready to respond to potential HADR efforts, according to AFP Rear Adm. Alexander S. Lopez, commander of Western Command, AFP.

“The Philippines is host to 20-22 typhoons a year…our country is well versed for varying degrees of natural disaster,” said Lopez. “PHIBLEX has been intentionally scheduled yearly in the Philippines during the region’s typhoon season. Together we form an organized bilateral force with the capacity and ability to conduct more rapidly and affect more humanitarian assistance and disaster response (missions).”

PHIBLEX 15 will take place in areas around the Philippines, including Palawan and Subic Bay, and reinforce the structure in those places to ensure a stronger Philippine nation overall.

“A significant amount of the exercise will take place here in the province of Palawan,” said AFP Brig. Gen. Armando V. Banez, commander of the 3rd Marine Brigade, AFP. “We are sending out a strong message of commitment to the people in Palawan, and our country as a whole, as we support nation building and developmental efforts throughout our country.”
(\U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. William Holdaway

During his closing remarks, Lopez took time to emphasize the importance of PHIBLEX as not just another exercise and training opportunity, but as a chance to build upon already present friendships and strengthen bonds.

“To me, the most significant aspect of the exercise is its social relevance and sustainability,” said Lopez. “Let us not waste a great opportunity to meet new friends and develop a friendship between our ranks – military or civilian alike.”

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Saturday is Heinlein Quote Day #27

From Time Enough for Love
Stupidity cannot be cured with money, or through education, or by legislation.
As we enter political season, though, you might hear arguments to the contrary.

Do you remember General Honore' trying to explain things to a reporter following Katrina?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Grim (Albeit Unintentional) Humor from the NYTimes

Apparently having neither listened nor read any commentary on the limitations of air power, a couple of New York Times reporters seem to be shocked - shocked I say - as they report Weeks of U.S. Strikes Fail to Dislodge ISIS in Iraq
After six weeks of American airstrikes, the Iraqi government’s forces have scarcely budged the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State from their hold on more than a quarter of the country, in part because many critical Sunni tribes remain on the sidelines.
Very weak boots on the ground, riven by competing tribal and religious sect differences.

Who could be surprised except the NYT?

General Mattis has it right:
Specifically, if this threat to our nation is determined to be as significant as I believe it is, we may not wish to reassure our enemies in advance that they will not see American ‘boots on the ground,’ ” Mattis said. “If a brigade of a our paratroopers or a battalion landing team of our Marines would strengthen our allies at a key juncture and create havoc/humiliation for our adversaries, then we should do what is necessary with our forces that exist for that very purpose.”
You might want to read all of his testimony, which is set out below. But especially this,
Properly used a mix of our troops can help set the conditions for the regional forces that can carry the bulk of the fighting on the ground. Half‐hearted or tentative efforts, or air strikes alone, can backfire on us and actually strengthen our foe’s credibility, reinforcing his recruiting efforts which are already strong. I do not necessarily advocate American ground forces at this point, but we should never reassure our enemy that our Commander‐in‐Chief would not commit them at the time and place of his choosing. When we act it should be unequivocal, designed to end the fight as swiftly as possible.

Fighting ISIS: President Obama on Air Strikes

Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert Burck
President Obama's presentation on airstrikes against ISIS in a transcript
10:11 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Last night, on my orders, America’s armed forces began strikes against ISIL targets in Syria. Today, the American people give thanks for the extraordinary service of our men and women in uniform, including the pilots who flew these missions with the courage and professionalism that we've come to expect from the finest military that the world has ever known.

Earlier this month, I outlined for the American people our strategy to confront the threat posed by the terrorist group known as ISIL. I made clear that as part of this campaign the United States would take action against targets in both Iraq and Syria so that these terrorists can't find safe haven anywhere. I also made clear that America would act as part of a broad coalition. And that's exactly what we've done.

We were joined in this action by our friends and partners -- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, and Qatar. America is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these nations on behalf of our common security.

The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America’s fight alone. Above all, the people and governments in the Middle East are rejecting ISIL and standing up for the peace and security that the people of the region and the world deserve.

Meanwhile, we will move forward with our plans, supported by bipartisan majorities in Congress, to ramp up our effort to train and equip the Syrian opposition, who are the best counterweight to ISIL and the Assad regime. And more broadly, over 40 nations have offered to help in this comprehensive effort to confront this terrorist threat -- to take out terrorist targets; to train and equip Iraqi and Syrian opposition fighters who are going up against ISIL on the ground; to cut off ISIL’s financing; to counter its hateful ideology; and to stop the flow of fighters into and out of the region.

Last night, we also took strikes to disrupt plotting against the United States and our allies by seasoned al Qaeda operatives in Syria who are known as the Khorasan Group. And once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.

I've spoken to leaders in Congress and I'm pleased that there is bipartisan support for the actions we are taking. America is always stronger when we stand united, and that unity sends a powerful message to the world that we will do what’s necessary to defend our country.

Over the next several days I will have the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Abadi of Iraq, and with friends and allies at the United Nations to continue building support for the coalition that is confronting this serious threat to our peace and security. The overall effort will take time. There will be challenges ahead. But we're going to do what’s necessary to take the fight to this terrorist group, for the security of the country and the region and for the entire world.

Thanks. God bless our troops. God bless America
UPDATE: From CENTCOM, a report on the strikes here:
To conduct these strikes, the United States employed 47 TLAMs launched from USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea operating from international waters in the Red Sea and North Arabian Gulf, as well as U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighter, remotely piloted and bomber aircraft deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of operations. In addition, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates also participated in or supported the airstrikes against ISIL targets. All aircraft safely exited the strike areas.
Separately, the United States has also taken action to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests conducted by a network of seasoned al-Qa'ida veterans - sometimes referred to as the Khorasan Group - who have established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations. These strikes were undertaken only by U.S. assets.

In total, U.S. Central Command conducted eight strikes against Khorasan Group targets west of Aleppo to include training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities.
See here.
UPDATE2: A little Navy video on mission launch:

UPDATE3: A very interesting piece from (I can't believe I'm writing this) Politico, The Barbarians Within Our Gates:
Arab civilization, such as we knew it, is all but gone. The Arab world today is more violent, unstable, fragmented and driven by extremism—the extremism of the rulers and those in opposition—than at any time since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire a century ago. Every hope of modern Arab history has been betrayed. The promise of political empowerment, the return of politics, the restoration of human dignity heralded by the season of Arab uprisings in their early heydays—all has given way to civil wars, ethnic, sectarian and regional divisions and the reassertion of absolutism, both in its military and atavistic forms.

Read the rest here.

War Against Terrorists: Al Qaeda is back in the news and gets attacked to forestall "imminent attack"

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carlos M. Vazquez II
Al Qaeda makes the news again, and gets attacked in Syria, as set out here
Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby confirmed Tuesday that the plotting was far along.

“This is a very dangerous group,” Kirby told Fox News. “We had information, good information that they were very actively plotting and very close to the end of that plotting -- and planning an attack on targets either in Europe or the U.S. homeland.”

As for the result of the airstrikes, he said: “We think we hit what we were aiming at.”
More from the Long War Journal:
The US-led bombing campaign in Syria is targeting the Al Nusrah Front, an official branch of al Qaeda, as well as the Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that is one of Al Nusrah's fiercest rivals.

Before they were launched, the air strikes were framed as being necessary to damage the Islamic State, a jihadist group that has seized large swaths of territory across Syria and Iraq. But in recent days US officials signaled that they were also concerned about al Qaeda's presence in Syria, including the possibility that al Qaeda operatives would seek to use the country as a launching pad for attacks in the West.

Several well-connected online jihadists have posted pictures of the Al Nusrah Front positions struck in the bombings. They also claim that al Qaeda veterans dispatched from Afghanistan to Syria, all of whom were part of Al Nusrah, have been killed.
Among the Al Nusrah Front positions targeted in the bombings are locations where members of the so-called "Khorasan group" are thought to be located. Ayman al Zawahiri, the emir of al Qaeda, sent the group to Syria specifically to plan attacks against the US and its interests. The group, which takes its name from al Qaeda's Khorasan shura (or advisory) council, is reportedly led by Muhsin al Fadhli, an experienced al Qaeda operative who has been involved in planning international terrorist attacks for years.

Al Fadhli's presence in Syria was first reported by the Arab Times in March. Shortly thereafter, The Long War Journal confirmed and expanded on this reporting. [See LWJ report, Former head of al Qaeda's network in Iran now operates in Syria.] The Long War Journal reported at the time that al Fadhli's plans "were a significant cause for concern among counterterrorism authorities."

The New York Times reported earlier this month that al Fadhli leads the Khorasan group in Syria.

Unconfirmed reports on jihadist social media sites say that al Fadhli was killed in the bombings. Neither US officials, nor al Qaeda has verified this reporting. The fog of war often makes it difficult to quickly confirm whether an individual jihadist has been killed, wounded, or survived unscathed. Initial reports should be treated with skepticism and there is no firm evidence yet that al Fadhli has been killed.

Read more: here

More on the Al Nusrah Front here:
Al-Nusra Front (also the Nusra Front or Jabhat al-Nusra) was formed in late 2011, when Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi sent operative Abu Muhammad al-Julani to Syria to organize jihadist cells in the region. The Nusra Front rose quickly to prominence among rebel organizations in Syria for its reliable supply of arms, funding, and fighters—some from donors abroad, and some from AQI. Considered well trained, professional, and relatively successful on the battlefield, they earned the respect and support of many rebel groups, including some in the secular Free Syrian Army (FSA). However, al-Nusra also made some enemies among the Syrian people and opposition by imposing religious laws, although the group has shied away from the types of brutal executions and sectarian attacks that made AQI unpopular. Al-Nusra was also the first Syrian force to claim responsibility for terrorist attacks that killed civilians. (footnotes omitted)
Al-Nusra is affiliated with AQ and has pledged allegiance to the organization, serving as its only official branch in the Syrian conflict after global AQ emir Ayman al-Zawahiri publicly disowned ISIS following months of ISIS disobedience to AQ orders.
So, it's not really that the Al Nusrah Front and the Khorasan group just sprang up - but have been around and have enjoyed the chaos of Syria as providing recruiting and a safe haven.

Until now.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Midrats 21 Sept 14 - Episode 246: "When the short snappy war goes long, with Chris Dougherty"

Please join us on Sunday, 21 September 14 at 5pm (EDT) for Episode 246: When the short snappy war goes long, with Chris Dougherty
As we once again face the promise of a conflict with a limited mission and a strangely ill-defined Strategic and Operational design - what do we need to keep in mind not just from recent history, but the longer term record?

History shows us that military and political leaders either over or under appreciate changing technology, outmoded doctrine, and the imperfect correlation between past experience and present requirements.

From the national psyche to stockpiled war reserves - what happens when the short and splendid turns in to the long slog?

Using his latest article in The National Interest, The Most Terrifying Lesson of World War I: War Is Not Always "Short and Sharp," as a starting point, but expanding to a much broader discussion, our guest for the full hour will be Chris Dougherty, research fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).

Mr. Dougherty graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in Security Studies from the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington and received an M.A. in Strategic Studies with distinction from John Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. He also served as an airborne infantryman with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment from 1997 to 2000.
Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or you can also get our show on iTunes here.

Saturday Is Heinlein Quote Day #26

If you ever find yourself in the situation where this advice might be needed, it is good to have it. From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long:
Get a shot off fast. This upsets him long enough to let you make your second shot perfect.

Actually, General Patton had a similar thought:
"A good solution applied with vigor now is better than a perfect solution applied ten minutes later."
Most people will be more familiar with,
"A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week."

Timing is everything.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Fun Video: "Submarine Salvage" (1969)

"Submarine Salvage"
This U.S. Navy film shows how a sunken submarine can be raised from the depths using pontoons and air apparatus. Features footage of the salvage vessel USS Hoist (ARS-40), hard hat divers, and animations and footage of a real salvage operation exercise.

Lots of good deck seamanship involved along with some engineering math. Plus variations on the old diver's saying: "Plan your dive and dive your plan."

That saying can cover a whole range of adventures in your life - from a simple hike in the woods to creating a business.

You might notice some of the planners using a slide rule for their calculations. For some of you it might be the first time you've ever seen one in use. Hard to believe that they could perform salvage operations, build bridges and dams, design airplanes and all that stuff without a computer on hand - but they did.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Disturbing Report: Pakistani Naval Officers Tried to Hijack Ship to Attack U.S. Navy

Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal reports AQIS claims plot to strike US warships was executed by Pakistani Navy officers
Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) claimed that Pakistani Navy officers were involved in the failed attempt to hijack a Pakistani warship and launch missiles at US Navy vessels in the Indian Ocean.

AQIS' spokesman, Usama Mahmoud, made the claim today in a statement released on his Twitter account. Mahmoud's statement was obtained by the SITE Intelligence Group.

Mahmoud had previously claimed on Sept. 13 that AQIS executed the attack on the Pakistani warship, and published a diagram purporting to show the layout of the PNS Zulfiqar. He said that the attackers had planned to take control of the PNS Zulfiqar and launch missiles at US warships in the Indian Ocean. The PNS Zulfiqar carries at least eight C-802 surface to surface anti-ship missiles.
While Mahmoud's claim that Pakistani naval officers executed the attack on the PNS Zulfiqar cannot be proven, Pakistani officials and press reports indicate that at least some of the attackers are members of the Pakistani military.
Read the whole thing.

Yes, Bill is quoting a AQIS spokesman so take those comments for what it they are worth. However, even if they are mostly a tissue of deceit, there is still the underlying premise of the remarks - that AQIS thinks there is a way to hijack a modern technology to threaten U.S. naval forces operating in the vicinity.

Disturbing. On the other hand, U.S. naval forces are now forewarned.

General characteristics of the Zulfigar class can be found here:
The F-22P or Zulfiquar-class frigate (Urdu: ذوالفقار ‎ English: Sword class), is a general purpose frigate built by Pakistan and China for the Pakistan Navy (PN). They are an adaptation of the Type 053H3 frigates of China but include elements of the Type 054 frigates as well.
The frigate's primary surface-to-surface missile armament comprises eight C-802 subsonic anti-ship missiles carried in two launchers with four cells each, fitted between the foremast and the funnel.
Built by China. Those box launchers circled in the nearby photo contain the C-802's.

Info on the C-802 here:
The Ying-Ji-802 land attack and anti-ship cruise missile [Western designation SACCADE], is an improved version of the C-801 which employs a small turbojet engine in place of the original solid rocket engine. The weight of the subsonic (0.9 Mach) Yingji-802 is reduced from 815 kilograms to 715 kilograms, but its range is increased from 42 kilometers to 120 kilometers. The 165 kg. (363 lb.) warhead is just as powerful as the earlier version. Since the missile has a small radar reflectivity and is only about five to seven meters above the sea surface when it attacks the target, and since its guidance equipment has strong anti-jamming capability, target ships have a very low success rate in intercepting the missile. The hit probability of the Yingji-802 is estimated to be as high as 98 percent. The Yingji-802 can be launched from airplanes, ships, submarines and land-based vehicles, and is considered along with the US "Harpoon" as among the best anti-ship missiles of the present-day world.
Photo shows a C-802 launching from a from truck mounted box launcher.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Saving Defense Dollars: Air Force Looks to Downsize JSTARS Aircraft Potentially Saving Millions and Millions

Saving Defense dollars is a good thing, especially if the mission can still get done albeit at the lower cost. The U.S. Air Force is lookiing at a way to shave $200- 500 million dollars a year from its budget by replacing big jets (Now a Boeing 707 variant - the E8-C) with smaller jets (Boeing offering up a 737-700 version and Grumman proposing either a Gulfstream G650 or G550 model) with updated technology.

Nice report from Aviation Week U.S. Air Force Scrimps On Jstars Recap Program: USAF embraces ‘art of the available’ with ground surveillance aircraft:
The Air Force expects to spend about $4.3 billion buying 17 new Joint Stars aircraft based on its fiscal 2015 budget request. But the savings are expected to come in the annual operating cost of the aircraft: The E-8C would require about $650 million in work to meet requirements in the coming years, according to Jennifer Cassidy, an Air Force spokeswoman.

The platforms that housed the side-looking AN/APY-7 radars were old 707-300s purchased from airlines and outfitted by Northrop Grumman with the sensors and onboard work stations as well as supporting computer equipment. It was a thorny project, as each separate platform had its own aging and wear-and-tear issues. Twenty years later, the platform and its legacy computers, displays and radar are proving troublesome due to diminishing sources for parts and age of the equipment. The only commercial operator still listing the 707-300 in its fleet is Iran’s Meraj Air.

The replacement program is expected to save 28% in operations and sustainment funding, a cost avoidance of $200-500 million annually. “The current Jstars Recap Program Office estimates show a return on investment between fiscal year 2028 and 2030,” Cassidy says. Service officials provided written information rather than discussing their plans in an interview.
Competition is good and downsizing for the right reasons is great.

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Stirling Engines for Electric Power Generation

The world as we know come crashing down if the electrical grid crashes. No electricity means no refrigeration, electric water pumps, electric water heaters, electric lighting and so on.

What are some ideas for preparing for such a catastrophe? In some past post in this series I suggested one route might be using steam to power a generator as in this post. There a a whole lot of issues with steam generation, though, as noted here:
After 3 years and more than 100K investment, I have come to the difficult realization that using steam power to generate electricity for home use is not currently viable. The wood fired boiler being the key problem. To get a real wood fired boiler that can do the job (produce the pounds of steam per hour) is expensive, no one is manufacturing certified boilers for home use, is dangerous (steam burns/ruptures), there is a massive regulatory process to get certified and requires regularly inspected (ASME), and lastly it is a very manual process. You have to be there the entire time it is operating. So if it takes 8 hours to charge your batteries – you are there putting wood into it for … 10 hours (1 hour to get up to temp and 1+ hour shut-down).
Also, here. The point being that steam boilers powered by wood are (a) very labor intensive and (b) dangerous. Your opinion may vary.

Another alternative for off-grid power generation that shows promise involves an engineering design from 1816 - the Stirling engine:
A Stirling engine is a heat engine that operates by cyclic compression and expansion of air or other gas (the working fluid) at different temperatures, such that there is a net conversion of heat energy to mechanical work.
Stirling engines can run directly on any available heat source, not just one produced by combustion, so they can run on heat from solar, geothermal, biological, nuclear sources or waste heat from industrial processes.
Unlike an internal combustion engine, the heat applied in a Stirling engine is external which is why there are so many "heat sources" available to drive it.

Dean Kamen, inventor, thinks Stirling engines are the wave of the future, as set out in this Forbes piece "Segway Inventor Dean Kamen Thinks His New Stirling Engine Will Get You Off The Grid For Under $10K":
Though Stirlings are highly efficient, they haven’t caught on because it takes them a while to warm up and they can’t change power output quickly. That makes them unworkable for cars and trucks, but potentially ideal both for power generation and water heating.
The beauty of the Stirling is that it can run off of any heat source. “We have powered them using cow dung in Bangladesh, and even by burning olive oil,” Kamen says.
So in 10 years will everyone have one?

“I’d say yes. Ten years from today the probability that you are depending on wires hanging on tree branches is as likely as that you’ll still be installing land lines for telephones. Close to zero.”
Kamen's $10,000 device has a smaller, lower cost competitor, funded 3 years ago through Kickstarter, Low Cost Stirling Engine, and now for sale through Selfton Motors, although it runs about $1400 just for the Volo One Engine (and about $375 more to get a wood fire box (or buy fire box plans for $25) and $505 for a generator to produce electricity and then add shipping or roughly $2800 total +/-):
Introducing the Volo One Engine. The heart of becoming energy self-reliant. The Volo One Engine runs off of heat. Heat created by wood, propane, natural gas, solar, and bio fuel. The engine converts the heat energy to rotary motion that turns a generator to create electricity. As some of us like to say - "put the wood in one end and electricity comes out the other".

The engine is designed to operate with a temperature difference of about 400 degrees F. The output of the engine is targeted at 1 KW at maximum pressure and temperature. Outputs exceeding 100 W can be obtained using lower temperatures without any pressurization of the engine.

The engine works in conjunction with our Fire Boxes (propane or wood). The hot end of the engine is placed in the hot Fire Box causing it to run (it must warmed up and be hand started). The engine can be utilized with any heat source. You do not have to use our Fire Boxes. You can install the engine into a wood stove or a fireplace. There is no exhaust from the engine itself. The engine is 8' long, about 16" in diameter and weighs over 200 lbs.

The engine is designed to last for many years with very little maintenance. There are no spark plugs, air filters, oil, or batteries.
You might note that the engine alone is about 8 feet long and weighs 200 pounds.
Here's a video of its components:

And another of a simple tin can version:

And, a solar powered version. Note that the heat from the lens is pretty high - high enough to ignite wood.

The Volo engine folks are looking at a solar version:

There are other solar power designs. See also here:

In any event, the Stirling engine is a proven design and is a very viable alternative method of producing electricity when used to drive a generator. Even with the heat needed to drive a Stirling engine, the pressures involved and the fact that you don't need a water source as is required for using a steam boiler to drive a generator make it much safer than a steam plant.

A technology worth keeping an eye on for disaster preparedness.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Guessing About the Future: National Intelligence Council - Global Trends

Speculating about the future is fun and has proved to be the basis of many works of "science fiction" and other literature. Some projections however, are used to drive strategies and raise concerns that government agencies might have to address. As the cliche goes, "the only sure thing is change."

One group that engages in speculation (driven by observed trends) is the National Intelligence Council which, on occasion, puts out a publication discussing the future. The latest edition follows. As you read over it, you might ask, "What did they get right?" "What did they get wrong?" and "What did they leave out?"

Happy reading!

It might also be useful for you to read this Chatham House prepared report (pdf format) US National Security Impacts of Natural Resources in 2020, 2030, and 2040.

Read those things and you will have done a day's work.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fighting ISIS: Things to Read as We Trot Off to Bomb People

Photo by Spc. Joshua Grenier

You can start with this Foreign Affairs reprint of the prescient Samuel P. Huntington article (that spawned a book of the same name) The Clash of Civilizations?:
It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.
If that bit doesn't do it for you, buy the book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Kindle format costs about $11.

Of course, this work has its critics: here:
Without Huntington’s unique view of this era, it would be challenging to try to understand some daunting international relations concepts . However, in that same strength of taking a complex study of international bodies and simplifying it, Huntington fails to account for many other factors that must be understood when dealing with rising economic, political and military powers such as China, Pakistan, India, and the “new" Russia.
And, of course, Edward Said held some strong views The Clash of Ignorance: Labels like "Islam" and "the West" serve only to confuse us about a disorderly reality. :
The basic paradigm of West versus the rest (the cold war opposition reformulated) remained untouched, and this is what has persisted, often insidiously and implicitly, in discussion since the terrible events of September 11. The carefully planned and horrendous, pathologically motivated suicide attack and mass slaughter by a small group of deranged militants has been turned into proof of Huntington's thesis. Instead of seeing it for what it is--the capture of big ideas (I use the word loosely) by a tiny band of crazed fanatics for criminal purposes--international luminaries from former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi have pontificated about Islam's troubles, and in the latter's case have used Huntington's ideas to rant on about the West's superiority, how "we" have Mozart and Michelangelo and they don't. (Berlusconi has since made a halfhearted apology for his insult to "Islam.")
There probably a middle ground there someplace.

For another perspective on the commitment of military force and strategy, there are many lessons to be learned from H.R. McMaster's Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam.

Another book on "limited war" and the dangers of "peace dividend" and trusting in air power alone is T.R. Fehrenbach's This Kind of War: The Classic Korean War History from whence comes a quote worth remembering:
Americans in 1950 rediscovered something that since Hiroshima they had forgotten: you may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life—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 in the mud.

Source: Institute for the Study of War Iraq Updates

Whether that quote applies to Iraq is an interesting question - properly phrased as. "What is our purpose in engaging ISIS?" If the goal is to "keep" portions of Iraq and Syria "for civilization" - well, someone has to be willing to have boots out there. Should it be the U.S.?

See also H.R. McMaster (yes, him again) on The Pipe Dream of Easy War (2013):
American forces must cope with the political and human dynamics of war in complex, uncertain environments. Wars like those in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be waged remotely.

More McMaster comments reported as McMaster busts myths of future warfare:
Americans and their leaders all too often wear rose-tinted glasses when it comes to assessing future warfare, said the deputy commander of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command for Futures and director, Army Capabilities Center.

Too often, people think battles can be won through engineering and technological advances: cyber, advanced weapons systems, robotics and so on, said Lt. Gen. Herbert R. McMaster Jr.

Big defense firms sell big-ticket systems that are supposed to win wars, he said. The firms use subtle and not-so-subtle advertising that you need this system for the sake of your children and grandchildren and if you don't purchase it, "you're heartless." Congress usually obliges.

The truth is that while overmatch is important, people win wars, he said.
An interesting take on the appeal of ISIS to the Sunni masses using a Marxist approach can be found in Why is there Sunni Arab support for Isis in Iraq? (site seems a little buggy to me):
Above all, however, it behoves to consider the specific economic circumstances in which many Iraqi Arab Sunnis have found themselves – roundly ignored by most analysts – in order to explain their inclination to embrace the militants.

Economic deprivation has plagued the Iraqi Sunnis, who are thought to comprise between 20 and 35 per cent of the population (accurate data is lacking), since the 2003 war.

Driven from power by Western forces after enjoying supremacy, and comprising the majority of Saddam's Ba'athist government (Saddam himself was a Sunni Arab from Tikrit), the Sunnis have been increasingly marginalised in the past ten years.
Well, that's not really news, is it? To take up arms there has to be some discontent - happy people seldom revolt.

That ought to get you started. Feel free to disagree with any or all of it.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Saturday Is Heinlein Quote Day #25

Some management advice from Podkayne of Mars
". . . a boss who is forced to part a man's hair with a wrench has failed at some point."

Friday, September 12, 2014

On Midrats 14 Sep 14: Episode 245: "The Carrier as Capital Ship" with RADM Thomas Moore, USN, PEO CVN

Please join us at 5pm (EDT) on 14 Sep 14 for Midrats Episode 245: "The Carrier as Capital Ship" with RADM Thomas Moore, USN, PEO CVN:
In a time of budgetary pressure, a shrinking fleet, and an ongoing discussion of their relevance, how are we keeping out legacy Aircraft Carrier's in shape for the regular demands for extended deployments while at the same time bringing the new FORD Class CVN online?

What are some of the lessons we have learned in our decades of operating nuclear powered aircraft carriers that we are bring forward to serve the Fleet in the coming decades so we always have an answer to the question, "Where are the aircraft carriers?"

To discuss this and more, our guest for the full hour will be Rear Admiral Thomas J. Moore, USN, Program Executive Officer for Aircraft Carriers and is responsible for life cycle management for In-Service Carriers as well as the design and construction of the Future Class Carriers.
A second generation naval officer, Rear Adm. Moore graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1981 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Math/Operations Analysis. He also holds a degree in Information Systems Management from George Washington University and a Master of Science and an Engineer’s degree in Nuclear Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Join us live at 5pm (EDT) on Sunday or pick the show up later by clicking here. By the way, Midrats is available again on iTunes.

Friday Fun Video: Admiral Nimitz

Nice Army tribute to a great naval officer.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Stopping Ebola (Revisited)

Just last month, Ebola appeared in Disaster Prep Wednesday here.

Included in that post was this:
Summary of epidemiological facts and experience

 Person-to-person transmission by means of direct contact with infected persons or their body fluids/secretions is considered the principal mode of transmission. In a household study, secondary transmission took place only if direct physical contact occurred. No transmission was reported without this direct contact. Airborne transmission has not been documented during previous EVD outbreaks.
What am I saying? It is improbable that you will get Ebola by flying on the same airplane with an infected person, unless you have "direct contact" or share bodily fluids.

The World Health Organization seeks to dispel myths regarding Ebola here:
To prevent the transmission of Ebola virus disease from one person to another it is necessary to take the following precautions:
  • Do not touch sick people who show symptoms of Ebola including for example fever, diarrhoea, vomiting, headaches and sometimes heavy bleeding.
  • Do not touch the dead bodies of suspected or confirmed Ebola patients.
  • Wash your hands with water and soap regularly.

It makes little sense at this time to cast blame for the continuing spread of Ebola as is done in this Foreign Policy piece,"We Could Have Stopped This", which call for a massive international (read heavily U.S. response), but it does post some interesting epidemiological information about what happens if you don't follow the guidelines set out in that CDC poster shown above:
And now the epidemic is skyrocketing -- nearly half of the cumulative case burden of Ebola in the three countries has occurred in just the last 21 days, according to the WHO. This week CDC Director Tom Frieden returned from Liberia visibly stunned, flabbergasted by what he had witnessed, warning that "There is a window of opportunity to tamp this down, but that window is closing."

Disease fighters reckon the contagious potential of an outbreak in terms of its RO, or reproduction number. (RO = 1 means that each infected person is statistically likely to infect one more person, so the epidemic will neither grow, nor shrink in size. RO = 0 signifies that the disease cannot be passed from person to person. Any RO above 1 connotes an expanding epidemic.) Christian Althaus of the University of Bern in Switzerland just released a grim new calculation of the RO for this epidemic that finds that when the outbreak began in Guinea, it was RO = 1.5, so each person infected one and a half other people, for a moderate rate of epidemic growth. But by early July, the RO in Sierra Leone was a hideous 2.53, so the epidemic was more than doubling in size with each round of transmission. Today in Liberia, the virus is spreading so rapidly that no RO has been computed. Back in the spring, however, when matters were conceivably controllable, Liberia's then-small rural outbreak was 1.59.
There are two factors contributing to the rate of spread: the genetic capacities of the virus itself and the behaviors of human beings that put them in contact with one another, thereby passing the virus. Though there is strong evidence that the Ebola virus is mutating and evolving right now as it passes through large numbers of people, none of the roughly 300 mutations detected to date have given the virus capacities that change its inherent infectiousness. So any change in the RO is due to people taking terrible risks, or lacking equipment and knowledge to protect themselves. (empahis added)

2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

While the piece goes on to point out issues with the world outside the affected region shunning both refugees from the affected area and the facilitation of rendering aid by opening staging areas for aid agencies, it also points out that the real key to stopping Ebola lies not so much with outside aid as with the establishment of trusted local agencies who can calm the panic and:
As in Kikwit [NB E1: Kikwit was a 1995 outbreak of Ebola in Zaire], Kerstiens says, the Ebola responses in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and possibly Nigeria each need a "national force/brigade that tells people, 'this is what you do and what you do not,' and that does surveillance -- this brigade has to have the trust of the people."

The trust of the people: Attaining that is clearly the primary challenge these desperate governments face.***
Clearly, without both education on how to prevent spreading the disease and self-help, this problem is unlikely to fade away except as the disease runs out of hosts.

To repeat good advice, here's a list of preventative measures suggested by the Mayo Clinic:
  • Avoid areas of known outbreaks. Before traveling to Africa, find out about current epidemics by checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
  • Wash your hands frequently. As with other infectious diseases, one of the most important preventive measures is frequent hand-washing. Use soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol when soap and water aren't available.
  • Avoid bush meat. In developing countries, avoid buying or eating the wild animals, including nonhuman primates, sold in local markets.
  • Avoid contact with infected people. In particular, caregivers should avoid contact with the person's body fluids and tissues, including blood, semen, vaginal secretions and saliva. People with Ebola or Marburg are most contagious in the later stages of the disease.
  • Follow infection-control procedures. If you're a health care worker, wear protective clothing, such as gloves, masks, gowns and eye shields. Keep infected people isolated from others. Dispose of needles and sterilize other instruments.
  • Don't handle remains. The bodies of people who have died of Ebola or Marburg disease are still contagious. Specially organized and trained teams should bury the remains, using appropriate safety equipment.
I presume the last four items are germane for people who haven't followed the advice in the first item . . . but there is this report from Democratic Republic of the Congo:
On August 26, 2014, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Ministry of Health notified the World Health Organization of an outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Equateur Province. The index case was a pregnant woman from Ikanamongo Village who butchered a bush animal. She became ill with symptoms of EVD, reported to a private clinic in Isaka Village, and died on August 11, 2014. Local customs and rituals associated with death meant that several healthcare workers were exposed to Ebola virus.

A total of 24 suspected cases and 13 deaths have been identified. Human-to-human transmission has been established. The index case and the 80 contacts have no history of travel to the EVD-affected countries in West Africa or history of contact with people from the affected areas. The outbreak in DRC is unrelated to the ongoing outbreak in West Africa.
Ignorance kills.

If you were wondering, except for infected people coming into the U.S. - there No cases have been reported in the United States.


Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Disposing of ISIS and Preemptive Thoughts

Yes, I know the President is due to speak on this topic, yet again, on the morrow.

Still, before that happens, I strongly suggest that you listen to our last Midrats show featuring Bill Roggio:

Check Out Military Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Midrats on BlogTalkRadio

And the one we did with Bill about 4 months before that:

Check Out Military Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Midrats on BlogTalkRadio

Somewhere in the more recent episode, it came up that fighting a group like ISIS and its spawn begins, like the journey of a recovering alcoholic, with an admission that you have a problem.

Well, not just a problem - but a problem that is interfering with your life and the lives of the people who depend on you.

My hope for this President is that he truly accepts that fact that ISIS and its ilk (henceforth "ISISI") are a problem that he needs to act on. In other words, that is not a matter of "optics" or "politics" or "my predecessor did it" or one of those "straw men" that his is wont to set up. I would like him to accept the idea that he may not be the "subject matter expert" in fighting ISISI and that he needs to reach out to those who have, by years of experience, gained that expertise. That even if he feels Israel is the source of all problems in the Middle East (it isn't, but he appears to me to feel that way), the solution is not ISISI. That if the Middle East is ready to adjust some borders of countries laid out by long gone empires post-WWI, ISISI is not the path to that. That the slaughter of innocents cannot be justified on the basis of some doctrinal differences between sects or religious groups. That if he can cobble together a coalition, it is one in which the laboring oar is local as much as possible, but with U.S. troops and air power if needed.

The world is a complicated and dangerous place. But we are a part of that - and we cannot pretend it will go away if we say some "magic words" or give a great speech.

                               Facta Non Verba

Geological Wonders: Natural Methane Seeps Off U.S. Atlantic Coast

Reported as "Widespread methane leakage from the sea floor on the northern US Atlantic margin", then noted here:
Researchers have discovered 570 plumes of methane percolating up from the sea floor off the eastern coast of the United States, a surprisingly high number of seeps in a relatively quiescent part of the ocean. The seeps suggest that methane’s contribution to climate change has been underestimated in some models. And because most of the seeps lie at depths where small changes in temperature could be releasing the methane, it is possible that climate change itself could be playing a role in turning some of them on.
For a handful of the seeps, the researchers were able to take pictures with a remotely operated submersible. They found carbonate rocks associated with the seeps that would have taken several thousand years to form. But some of the seeps are shallow—and are at the critical depth where hydrates fall apart—so they could be sensitive to rising ocean temperatures on much shorter time scales, says Carolyn Ruppel, a co-author of the new study and chief of the gas hydrates project at the U.S. Geological Survey in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. “There are reasons to believe that some of the present seepage has been triggered by changes in oceanographic conditions,” she says.

Proving that climate change is directly responsible could be difficult, Berndt says. In January, he and colleagues published a study in Science on methane seeps in the Arctic Ocean off the coast of the island of Svalbard, where temperature changes are occurring more rapidly. Berndt found evidence that the seeps there had existed for at least 3000 years and saw no evidence that the ocean sediments had been heating up—and releasing methane—on the decades-long timescales associated with climate change. At the very least, though, he says, the Atlantic Ocean study shows that ocean and climate modelers should start to incorporate methane inputs from many more types of seafloor terrains around the world. “We have this extra source here,” he says. “Not much attention has been paid to it.” (emphasis added)
Just about anyone familiar with coal fields and oil and gas geology is going to tell you that there are pockets of methane beneath the earth's surface, some of which finds its way to the surface - sometimes in unusual ways. For example, there is the Flaming Geyser around which a Washington State Park is formed:
The park is so named for a flame which burns through a concrete basin, fueled by a methane gas pocket 1,000 feet below the surface. When the pocket was discovered by prospective coal miners in the early 1900s, the test hole hit gas and saltwater, shooting water and flames 25 feet into the air. The same methane pocket seeps gas through a mud hole to create the "Bubbling Geyser" nearby. Both "geysers" can be found along a short hike.
Nor is this unique - geysers in Yellowstone National Park release small amounts of various gases:
Most geyser basins are either acidic or alkaline, and in some, like Norris, acidic and alkaline springs flow side by side. Some of the thermal features emit strong or obnoxious smells and even deadly odoriess gases. These gases, released at the surface after the pressure lowers, include carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, methane, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, ammonia, argon, radon, as well as other noble gases such as helium, neon, krypton, and xenon.
Even the famed NYTimes reports on the issue of coal mines and methane, as in this article:
Coal mines will always have methane, often in explosive concentrations, geologists and engineers say.
The gas, like coal, is a molecule made of hydrogen and carbon, and it is produced from the same raw material as coal, ancient piles of biological material, by the same processes. Much of the natural gas sold in the United States is drawn from coal seams.

In undisturbed coal deposits, the methane is loosely attached to the coal molecules when the deposit is under pressure; when the area is opened up by miners, the pressure is reduced and the methane bubbles out.

“Methane is ubiquitous on the coal mines,” said Neville A.H. Holt, a chemical engineer at the Electric Power Research Institute, in Palo Alto, Calif.
Methane feeding bacteria
In short, down under us in the ground beneath our feet and under the seas, the same raw materials that make coal and methane exist - so there should be no surprise that some of the gas thus create might find to reach the surface.

As stated here:
It wriggles up through fissures in Earth’s crust. It emanates from landfills. It is the primary component of cow burps and natural gas. This colorless, odorless gas is methane, and it is one of Earth’s most abundant—and, in some ways, most elusive—energy resources.

Produced primarily by living creatures breaking down organic matter, methane is the largest hydrocarbon source on Earth, making it the most common member of the chemical family that includes such fuels as petroleum and propane. Despite its abundance, however, methane remains difficult to use as a fuel because it is a gas under normal conditions, making it notoriously hard to store or transport.

Asserting that these seeps are due to climate change shouldn't be too surprising, either, since that's how the materials got under the sea in the first place.

We do not live on a planet with a static climate.

If you need proof of that, I suggest, once again, you go look at the history of glaciers.

Tuesday's Grim Humor Attempt

Jeff Bacon nailed it in this "golden oldie moment:"

Monday, September 08, 2014

Things That Might Kill You: Piece of Asteroid Hits Rural Nicaragua, Sadly Missing ISIS Leader.

Piece of Asteroid Hits Nicaragua
. . . [A]stronomer Dr Heather Couper explained that although more investigation is needed it does appear the meteorite came from the larger 2014 RC asteroid: "A bit must have dropped off."

"These impacts happen about once a year, so we do have to be on our toes," she added.
So, I guess you all will be building large and strong trampolines over your houses to bounce one of things back into space?

The good news is that the main body of the asteroid (which was first detected last week) did safely fly by the earth.

Now, why can't one of these things land on - say - the ISIS leader, smashing him into microscopic fragments?

You can select your own preferred target.

Just saying.

The odds of a asteroid killing you are confusingly reported as being somewhere between 1 in 250,000 (here) and the slightly higher 1 in 74,817,414 (here). So, not impossible, then. More likely then winning the big pot in the Mega Millions Lottery, in fact (see here ("5 numbers and the Mega Ball: 1 in 258,890,850").

That's comforting.

At least you don't have to spend a dollar to attempt to win the asteroid strike!

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Saturday is Heinlein Quote Day #24

From the Moon is a Harsh Mistress, page 118
As Prof says, a society adapts to fact, or doesn‘t survive.


Any current facts we need to be adapting to?

Friday, September 05, 2014

On Midrats 7 September 14, "Episode 244: Long War update with Bill Roggio"

Please join us live on Sunday, 7 September 2014 at 5pm EDT US, for another discussion on the fight against terrorism, especially the terrorism and action of radical jihadist groups, as we host Episode 244: Long War update with Bill Roggio
If you fell asleep on Memorial Day and woke up on Labor Day, your head is probably swimming. The situation in the Muslim world from Libya to the Iranian border has turned in to some strange chaos if you have not been paying attention - but when you look at the details and trendlines, the logic is a lot clearer.

The long war has not gone anywhere, like a field untended, the weeds have returned and are prospering.

To help us understand developments over the summer, coming back to Midrats for the full hour to discuss this and more will be Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Bill is also the President of Public Multimedia Inc, a non-profit news organization; and the founder and Editor of The Long War Journal, a news site devoted to covering the war on terror. He has embedded with the US and the Iraqi military six times from 2005-08, and with the Canadian Army in Afghanistan in 2006. Bill served in the US Army and New Jersey National Guard from 1991-97.
As noted, Bill was with us recently (Episode 225: The Long War Becomes a Teenager), but recent events suggested that it would be good to have him back sooner rather than later.

Join us live if you can or pic the show up later by clicking here.

Friday Fun Film: "ASW: To Catch A Shadow" (1969)

Old school look at ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare):

Featured in the film is footage of P-3 Orion search aircraft, DASH drone helicopter, and the ships USS Yorktown (CV-1), destroyers USS Leary (DD-879), USS Walker (DD-517), and USS Bridger (DE-1024) and various submarines including USS Scorpion (SSN-589).

By the way, ASW is hard. You might find Lt. Cmdr. Jeff W. Benson, USN's A New Era in Anti-Submarine Warfare interesting reading:
When comparing the undersea with other warfare area such as anti-air warfare, the science and understanding of the ASW operating environment is a more complex tactical problem. Given the complexity of ASW, training personnel in mastering oceanography and anti-submarine operations must remain a high priority. For the last twenty years or more, ASW has not been a significant operational requirement as a result of the Cold War ending and a decade of fighting in the war on terrorism. A culture change from a primarily air warfare centric navy to an emphasis more in ASW must occur to improve proficiency among naval personnel at all ranks. This culture change must occur from the top down led by the Navy’s senior officers afloat and ashore.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

South China Sea Pirates: Tanker Hijacked, Cargo Stolen

Reported by the ICC CCS Live Piracy Report here:
Location detail: Around 30nm North of Pulau Tioman
Type of Attack: Hijacked
28.08.2014: 2040 LT: Posn: 03:24N - 104:04E, Around 30nm North of Pulau Tioman, Malaysia.
Six armed pirates hijacked a product tanker underway. They took hostage all crew and locked them in the engine room. The pirates sailed the vessel to an unknown location where they transferred the cargo into another tanker. Before leaving the vessel the pirates destroyed all navigation and communication equipment and released the crew. The crew managed to repair the vessel and sailed to a safe port.
Need more Coast Guards out there.

And someone to track where these stolen cargoes are going.

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Getting Ready for the "Zombie Pandemic"

Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic is the Center for Disease Control having some fun with nightmare scenarios as they offer up a more interesting approach to disaster preparation. Click on the image below to open up the book:

Or, you can find it as a Google Book,

Of course, there's a checklist in the comic that might be useful for things that may happen before a Zombie Pandemic.You know, those regular nightmare disasters.