Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I just don't care about James Fallows: "The Tragedy of the American Military"

CDR Salamander, being younger than I, and a naval officer who came of age in the 1980's has a nice long piece on James Fallows The Tragedy of the American Military at The Tragedies of James Fallows. I commend it to you, if you are of the age where James Fallows was part of your formative past.

My own reaction to the work of Mr. Fallows is as it has long been: I. Just. Don't. Care.

"Opinions," as one of my old warrant mentors used to say, "are like a**holes. Everyone has one." Mr. Fallows has the right, long defended by men better than he, to express his opinions however and wherever he can find either an audience or a publisher.

If his angst over evading the draft in the 1960's continues, that is his problem.

As a child of the same era, I was close to many of those who faced the test of whether to serve if called by their country or partake of their right to reject service as an indication of disagreement with an "immoral" war in Vietnam. Some who rejected the call to service went honorably to jail for their beliefs, in the finest traditions and logical consequence of Thoreau's Civil Disobedience and rejected being "tools of the state":
The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others- as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders- serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few- as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men- serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it.
Whatever. After name-calling his fellow citizens (a title he seems to have rejected), at least Thoreau went to jail for his beliefs. After all, he famously spent one night in jail for refusing to pay the "poll tax." I expected the students of Harvard in my day to be willing to go to jail for much weightier matters - such as the right of the state to commit them to involuntary servitude in a time of war that the students believed to be unjust. But no, they took a lesser path, these "Fallows travelers" and sought refuge in phony medical excuses or claims of deviant behavior of the sort which nowadays would not even forbid them from enlisting or being commissioned.

If Mr. Fallows wants to spin his tale and opine, let him first find the grave of the man who went in his place and apologize to him. Let him explain to the dead why his value to society is so much higher than theirs.

If you ask, "Who am I to judge him?" My answer if that I volunteered my services. No draftee took my place.

If I found the Vietnam war immoral, it was in the way it was entered into and managed by the civilian leadership, not by the military leaders who, with a sense of duty that seems to elude Mr. Fallows, followed the Constitution as they understood it. Should they have resigned rather than go forward with plans with which they disagreed ? Maybe. You could write a book about that.

You want to critique moral delinquency? You might look at the way the Democrat dominated Congress abandoned our South Vietnamese allies after 1972, you could take excursion into trying to figure out the needless deaths caused by cutting off funding. Moral high ground? From a speechwriter for Jimmy Carter? Don't make me laugh.

After Vietnam, I stayed on active duty and in the reserves and was a witness to the vast improvements in the military that came after the draft ended and in the increasing professionalism of the armed services - in great part as a result of lessons learned from Vietnam.
If you want it in a nutshell, there is almost no comparison between today's services and the one I joined long ago and which Mr. Fallows evaded.

One of those improvements involves the motivation of the people serving. Coupled with that is not having to spend a vast amount of time keeping an eye on draftees who really don't want to be in the service and lack the skills that make them useful for much other that painting rocks white and picking up cigarette butts.

Mr. Fallows understanding of the history of civil-military relations in the U.S. is limited, as others have already pointed out. He leaves out Civil War draft riots, rich kids paying others to take their place in the Union Army and much more. If he had a better understanding of history perhaps he would not have used WWII as his focus of the "good old days" when every household had a Soldier, Sailor, Marine or defense worker in it. Instead, he says
"Let’s skip to today’s Iraq-Afghanistan era, in which everyone “supports” the troops but few know very much about them."
And he says, this means the "public"suffers because its art forms, movies and television are so weak that it fails the citizenry because
". . . they lack the comfortable closeness with the military that would allow them to question its competence as they would any other institution’s."
What? Give me an 'effing break. Over the last 13 years, we've had embeds up the yingyang, brilliant first hand reports from the troops, milblogs, etc, etc. Hell, Sebastian Junger's Restrepo and Korengal ought to be required watching for Congress and any administration who want to get a look at our current wars and the small wars of the future. If you don't feel close to the military, you aren't trying.

You want to know veterans? Get out of the ivory tower and go meet them where they are now working. Write something challenging the lies that proclaim every vet suffers from PTSD and is a loose cannon unsafe to be around - you be surprised how many vets will come forward to talk to you about the harm the media has done to them and how normal their lives are. Why, some of them even have wives and kids and dreams.

If you feel the tokens of respect shown to the military and veterans at football games is "over the top" then come tell us about your feelings toward those you attacked ROTC students in the 1960s or assaulted troops returning from doing their duty in Vietnam. Should we honor those who bombed ROTC buildings at halftime? How about a Bill Ayers/Bernardine Dohrn halftime show?. We could have the bands play suitable music, like The Internationale:
No more deluded by reaction
On tyrants only we’ll make war
The soldiers too will take strike action
They’ll break ranks and fight no more
And if those cannibals keep trying
To sacrifice us to their pride
They soon shall hear the bullets flying
We’ll shoot the generals on our own side.
Everyone can sing along!

Suck it up Mr. Fallows, it does not affect you what tributes are given to our troops except as it batters at the door of your self-respect. Besides, this too shall pass, as it always has. Until we need the military again.

If you feel the sons and daughters of the "upper crust" (apparently as being graduates of Ivy League universities) are not serving as they should, I would suggest the answer is not conscription, but a little dose of patriotism injected into their schooling. Not as in "my country right or wrong" but as in "my country, my duty." And maybe that duty is to be a "dissenter" who is willing to pay a price and not run away.

You want to question "competence?" Look no further than the editors at Atlantic who let this stuff find its way into print.

Somehow, the irony of a "chickenshit" draft evader pointing accusing fingers at "chickenhawks" has lost its humor for me. Instead, I come back to my original vibe toward Mr. Fallows: "I. Just. Don't. Care."

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Heinlein Quote Special Edition: A Radio Version of "The Green Hills of Earth"

Back in the days before television or when we lived in places where there was no television, there was radio. Usually AM radio - static and all - it was. Sometimes, like when I was a kid on Guam, there was Armed Forces Radio transmitting recorded shows for the entertainment of the airmen and sailors (and the rest of the population, too.)

Here's a classic radio version of a Heinlein story that appeared in the pages of the old Saturday Evening Post in 1947. Back in the day having your fiction appear in that publication was a very big deal - my mother had one of her short stories published in the Post in 1961- and in Heinlein's case moved him from "pulp" sci-fi magazines to the slick pages of mainstream publishing.

In any event, pull up a chair and spend 23 minutes or so listening to "The Green Hills of Earth"

Friday, December 26, 2014

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

From Luke 2:1-20

2 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Peace. And for those of you out there trying to keep it, a special prayer.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Be Safe Out There

From our friends at The Naval Safety Center, from their remarkable photo collection:

Well, sure, "offices" take plenty of time off.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Saturday is Heinlein Quote Day #39

Revisiting #29
From the Man Who Sold the Moon (1950):
How anybody expects a man to stay in business with every two-bit wowser in the country claiming a veto over what we can say and can't say and what we can show and what we can't show — it's enough to make you throw up. The whole principle is wrong; it's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't eat steak.

Robert A. Heinlein

In light of Kim the Chubby from the DPRK's veto power over what an American company can put into the marketplace of ideas, consider these words from the past:

People say we ought not to allow ourselves to be drawn into a theoretical antagonism between Nazidom and democracy; but the antagonism is here now. It is this very conflict of spiritual and moral ideas which gives the free countries a great part of their strength. You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police. On all sides they are guarded by masses of armed men, cannons, aeroplanes, fortifications, and the like — they boast and vaunt themselves before the world, yet in their hearts there is unspoken fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts; words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home — all the more powerful because forbidden — terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic. They make frantic efforts to bar our thoughts and words; they are afraid of the workings of the human mind. Cannons, airplanes, they can manufacture in large quantities; but how are they to quell the natural promptings of human nature, which after all these centuries of trial and progress has inherited a whole armoury of potent and indestructible knowledge?
Winston Churchill, in "The Defence of Freedom and Peace (The Lights are Going Out)", radio broadcast to the United States and to London (16 October 1938)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Fun Film: Goblin on the Doorstep (1963)

Old school anti-submarine warfare.

On Midrats 21 Dec 14 - Episode 259: The Islamic State - rise and world view, with Craig Whiteside

Please join us on 21 Dec 14 at 5pm (EST) for Midrats Episode 259: The Islamic State - rise and world view, with Craig Whiteside
The Islamic State, ISIL/ISIS/Daesh - whatever people may call them - are not a flash in the pan. Not quite insurgency, not quiet terrorist organization, not quite nation state - what they are is a presence that has resilience, trans-national support, and has a long range plan.

What is their background, how have they evolved, and how do they view the world?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and more will be Craig Whiteside, LTC USA (Ret.), Associate Professor of Theater Security Decision Making for the Naval War College Monterey at the Naval Postgraduate School. Craig came to the War College from Washington State University, where he was a PhD student in Political Science and taught American Government and National Security Affairs. Prior to returning to school, Professor Whiteside was a career infantry officer in the U.S. Army with service in the airborne infantry. He is an Iraq war veteran and served with the Geronimos of the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry in Iskandariyah as the battalion executive officer during 2006-7. He finished his military service as the Professor of Military Science at Washington State. Professor Whiteside is currently working on his dissertation investigating the political worldview of the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS). He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.
Join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or find this episode, along with its predecessors at our iTunes page here.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Fun with North Korea: Private Company Submits to Blackmail, Setting Stage for Other Demands

Current DPRK Kim-in-Charge. A/K/A "Chubby"
The really, really impressive DPRK hacks Sony Pictures Entertainment and threatens to use its mighty power to "create a sea of fire" (a standard NoRK threat) or its equivalent and kill every single person who decides to go watch a movie:
The Sony hacking saga took a sinister turn on Tuesday when hackers sent a message threatening to target theaters showing “The Interview” in a 9/11-type attack.
As we all now know, Sony has decided not to expose its customers to such a threat and pulled the movie.

From a corporate liability view, I get it.

On the other hand, who will line up next to threaten movie and television studios about the content of their shows? Russia? Iran? Pakistan? China? al Qaeda? The Taliban? Boko Haram? Hamas?

The list is almost endless.

So, I would guess this includes pretty much anyone who doesn't like to be portrayed in a negative light.

Or, at least, in a light that they feel is negative.

Looks like Hollywood writers need to get working harder on more "space alien" movies where the bad guys come from very far away.

At least until the Gbaba show up.

On the other hand, we could, oh, I don't know, stand up to this sort of bullying effort. Otherwise, you can pretty much kiss freedom of speech good-bye because of a heckler's veto - which you might remember from the excuses rationale offered for the Benghazi attack.

Despite the way in which we seem to submit to threats, we really are not 98-pound weaklings. Just confused a little because we forget our values. "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute" expressing one of them.

By the way, I wonder if the current Kim-in-Charge would like us to -um- censor his often looney comments about the world by, oh, threatening the future existence of the worst regime on the planet if he opens his yap again? After all, we technically are still at war with the DPRK.

Just sayin' . . .

Meanwhile, I think Team America is available on Netflix and Amazon. On my list for tonight's film.

Or even in a theater in Texas. UPDATE: Paramount has now pulled the plug on showing Team America - even in Texas. The next time any Hollywood idiot starts to talk about "courage" and "freedom of speech" just walk away. No point it listening to such babble from cowards.

Trust me, Chubby Kim, you do not want to mess with Texas. Messing with Hollywood is much easier, apparently.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Another Plug for a Great Online News Source on the "Long War" Against Terror

If you aren't reading The Long War Journal on a daily basis, you are behind the knowledge curve on the "where and what" of the struggle against terrorism.

An excellent example is a report on the attack on the high school in Pakistan that took over 120 lives - "The Peshawar attack: sickening, but no surprise":
Today's attack seems especially heinous given that the Taliban intentionally targeted students, but it isn't particularly unique: in recent years the Taliban has executed numerous suicide operations against soft targets such as churches, shrines, markets, hotels, and even hospitals. Thousands of civilians have been killed in such attacks since the Pakistani Taliban was formed in late 2006.

Pakistani military and government officials were quick to condemn today's attack. And while the military and government have pursued the Taliban for waging war against the state, the Pakistani establishment is in many ways responsible for the group's survival.

While the Pakistani government views the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and other jihadist groups (such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) as "bad Taliban," it treats other Taliban groups, such as the al-Qaeda-allied Haqqani Network, the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group, and Lashkar-e-Taiba as state assets. In the words of the chief adviser to the prime minister on national security and foreign affairs, such groups are "not our problem." These Taliban groups, the so-called "good Taliban," only seek to wage jihad in Afghanistan or India - not overthrow the Pakistani regime - and thus offer Islamabad "strategic depth."

This good-versus-evil view of the Taliban, however, is fatally flawed. The so-called good Taliban shelter and support the Pakistani Taliban as well as al Qaeda and other jihadist groups. Moreover, while the Pakistani military has launched an operation in the tribal North Waziristan area to root out the Taliban, the group would be unable to operate there without the assistance of the so-called good Taliban of the Haqqani Network.

Let me also commend the West Point Combating Terrorism Center, especially its resource section on ISIL, Syria and Iraq.

Along the way you might ponder why ISIL and AQ are encouraging "lone wolf" terror attacks and why it so hard for some people to see the danger.

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Help Your Neighbors and Let Your Neighbors Help You

A few years ago there was a storm that dumped a bunch of snow on the nice area where I live in the American South.

Now we don't usually get much snow down here and even the threat of a few inches has been known to bring the place to a full stop for a couple of days. This usually causes my friends and relatives who have, for reasons best known to them, decided to live in really cold places, to call me up and tell me what a place of wimps I have landed in.

Many of these relatives seem to have forgotten that I lived in Nebraska and Wyoming and in Michigan and have "enjoyed" the effects of snow and ice and grayness that lasts for months. I recall the sub-zero days and nights. I have trudged through snow over my boot tops to get to school and back home with the icy wind in my face both ways.

I settled where I am because we don't get much snow down here and that is just fine with me.

However, when do we get one of those 8 to 18 inch "dustings" I undertake all the things I learned as a teenager whose father decreed that the driveway and sidewalks must be cleared of snow as soon as possible after a storm and that the primary function of a teenage boy was to accomplish that task.

Imagine my surprise then following one "snow event" that people in one of our suburbs (a town whose name has be declared to be an acronym for "Containment Area for Relocated Yankees") were shown on television coverage of this disaster complaining they were trapped in their homes because their town, county and state hadn't come to clear out their cul de sacs. They were unable to get to the store for bread and milk and other essentials of life, like doughnuts and bagels. "Harrumph! Harumph!" they said, "Why back in New Connectimassjersey this would never happen."

So I sat there and thought, "Right - but you may have noticed that the address on your house indicates you are now in a whole different place - which, presumably, you chose because snow and ice 'events' occur somewhat less frequently here than in -say- Buffalo, NY. Those lower taxes you pay here? Because we don't spend a ton of money on snow removal equipment, we save tax dollars."

Later, as I was out shoveling snow off the driveways and walks of some of my elderly neighbors and even some of the streets by our houses, I thought, "Wait. What's stopping those folks from doing what I'm doing and getting off their duffs to shovel out some part or all of their precious cul de sacs? Why don't they get together with their neighbors and clear paths to the main roads?"

I don't know the answer to that question, but it dawned on me that we seem to have lost those "self help" and "help your neighbor" ideals somewhere if all you can do is whine about how slow the government is to get to you.

All you really need to do is to talk to your neighbors every now and then (heck invite them over for a get together on your front lawn - they probably won't bite) and mention a few things that have been known to happen in your neighborhood (trees falling down in the streets, snow, etc) and talk up a little cooperation in helping clear things up to make it better for everyone.

Hey, look at this as an example:
10 Simple Steps to Help With Snow Removal

1. Start a neighborhood team to help shovel snow for elderly and those unable to shovel.

2. Residents and businesses should ensure all accessible parking spaces for people with disabilities are cleared of snow and ice.

3. Don’t put trash cans and recycling bins out until after the plows have come.

4. If possible, remove parked cars from the road. Navigating around objects severely hampers a plow or heavy equipment driver’s ability to clear the roads and costs valuable time.

5. Clear snow away from fire hydrants in your neighborhood. Ask neighbors to adopt a fire hydrant and clear snow and ice away from all hydrants so that they are easily visible in the event of a fire.

6. Shovel snow into the yard instead of into the street to minimize the problem of the snowplow covering your driveway with snow after you've just shoveled it.

7. Keep the openings of storm drains clear of snow and debris to help alleviate potential flooding and to protect the environment. (At no time, however, should a resident attempt to enter a storm drain to remove debris.)

8. Remove all portable basketball hoops from the road when possible.

9. Volunteer to use equipment you may have such as small snow blowers for a community removal effort.

10. Driving on snow is dangerous and packs the snow into compact sheets that turn to ice, making it much harder and more expensive to remove. If possible, don’t attempt to drive before the plows come to your neighborhood.
Good ideas.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mushy Return Fire: China's "Nine Dashed Line" Fantasy Get Pelted by Marshmallows by the U.S. Department of State

Scott Cheney-Peters guests at USNI News and writes about The Expanding Assault on China's South China Sea Claims, citing what, in my opinion, is a typically mushy U.S. State Department document:

If you want to cut to the chase, skip all the early stuff and head directly for the conclusion, which notes:
China has not clarified its maritime claims associated with the dashed-line maps in a manner consistent with international law. China’s laws, declarations, official acts, and official statements present conflicting evidence regarding the nature and scope of China’s claims. The available evidence suggests at least three different interpretations that China might intend, including that the dashes are (1) lines within which China claims sovereignty over the islands, along with the maritime zones those islands would generate under the LOS Convention; (2) national boundary lines; or (3) the limits of so-called historic maritime claims of varying types.
How nice of the State Department to suggest China's possible intent, instead of just noting that China lack of clarification is good cover for its attempted "land and sea grab."

Then there is this powerful concluding paragraph:
For these reasons, unless China clarifies that the dashed-line claim reflects only a claim to islands within that line and any maritime zones that are generated from those land features in accordance with the international law of the sea, as reflected in the LOS Convention, its dashed-line claim does not accord with the international law of the sea.
You have got to be kidding.

China's "grab" is not, as China well knows, covered by the law of the sea. It is, however, in  "accord" with the law of the "biggest dog" taking what it wants. The acts of a bully pushing around its weaker neighbors while attempting to provide cover for its actions with a fig leaf of "legal right" ("we once sailed through these waters, therefore they are ours" or some such baloney).

State should have written: "China's claims are unmitigated B.S. and serve only as a cover for its attempts to take over the bulk of the South China Sea with flimsiest of excuses, to the detriment both of its neighbors and the freedom of the seas."

Sorry, State, the clarification that is needed here is one that says, "If you try to take the territory and maritime rights of our allies, we will not stand idly by."

I don't think pelting aggressors with marshmallows has ever deterred anything. How many more disasters will it take for State to figure out that weakness in the face of such action just invites more aggression?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Thanks to my crack technical staff - eaglespeak.us is back online

After beating my head against it with no success, I called on the crack technical unit of EagleSpeak to fix the glitch that I created this morning .... well, really,  I sent a text to my younger daughter and ... lo and behold!

It's back!

It's good to have experts in the family.

Big gun salute!

Well, Sometimes Things Change

For those of you used to going to eaglespeak.us, I am working to get that to work again after a change that seems harder than it should be.

I own the domain name, but am having some trouble getting it to work right now and due to a time crunch, will need to fix it later. Just use use www.eaglespeak.blogspot.com for now.


You might recall Mr. Murphy:
 If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which something can go wrong, and circumvent these, then a fifth way, unprepared for, will promptly develop
Bear with me.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

On Midrats 14 Dec 14 - Episode 258: COIN, Cyber, and Lawfare: the continuity of war in to 2015

UPDATE2: Really, if you missed the live show, take the time to listen to this one from the archives or at iTunes. Links at the bottom.

UPDATE: Well, someone unwrapped the gift early so here's a modified plan:

As we near Christmas,it is a season of surprises - and Midrats presents Episode 258: COIN, Cyber, and Lawfare: the continuity of war in to 2015 on 14 Dec 14 at 5pm:
With the coming of the new year, some things have not changes and the old challenges are still with us; most waxing - only a few waning.

This Sunday we have returning guest Charles J. Dunlap, Jr., Major General, USAF (Ret.), Professor of the Practice of
Law, and Executive Director, Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University.

We will cover the board spectrum of the evolution of Counter Insurgency, warfare in the cyber domain, and the ever-present impact of law on the conduct of war.

General Dunlap's teaching and scholarly writing focus on national security, international law, civil-military relations, cyberwar, airpower, counter-insurgency, military justice, and ethical issues related to the practice of national security law.

Tune in at 5pm (EST) and find out. You can find the show here (live or unwrap it later). Or pick up the show later from our iTunes page here

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Saturday Is Heinlein Quote Day #38

On deadlines and the dangers they pose:

NY Times quote:
"They didn't want it good, they wanted it Wednesday."

There is a reason why you take your time when, say, welding in a shipyard on components whose failure would have -um- negative results.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

TIme to Re-Read Red Storm Rising?

After citing Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising on a recent Midrats show, I decided it was time to revisit the book.

Much of the Clancy book, which was published in 1986 - before the collapse of the Soviet Union - is dated, with discussions of military equipment long gone. But, on the other hand, there perhaps are some parallels to today's Russia. First, a Wikipedia summary of the premise of the book:
Islamic terrorists from Azerbaijan destroy a Soviet oil-production facility at Nizhnevartovsk, Russia, crippling the USSR's oil production and threatening to wreck the nation's economy. Contemplating concessions to the West to survive the crisis, the Politburo instead decides to seize the oil fields in the Persian Gulf by military force.

According to the Carter Doctrine, any attack on the Gulf is an attack on strategic interests to the United States, necessitating a military response. To prevent a combined reaction by NATO, the Soviets launch a KGB operation to carry out a false flag operation framing West Germany for an unprovoked attack on the USSR; afterwards, the Soviets plan to invade Europe in response to that “attack”. With West Germany occupied, and NATO defeated, the Soviets hope that the U.S. will not rescue the Arab oil states when it attacks them, as it can meet its oil needs with Western sources. The Politburo arranges a bomb blast in the Kremlin that kills some visiting schoolchildren, blaming a West German exile for the attack.

How do we re-write the book for today?

Suppose Russia, resource rich but with its arteries clogged by corruption and facing a demographic decline, once again has a "strong man"in power who, steeped in the Cold War resentments of NATO, seizes the opportunity to begin grabbing back chunks of the Soviet "lost empire" by nibbling at the margins of its former captive states - and challenging a much weaker NATO or UN to do anything about it.

Suppose Russia were to use the excuse of "rescuing" ethnic Russians from the clutches of those allegedly dangerous others - say the ¨Ukrainians"- to physically invade adjacent lands and begin presenting the rest of the world with a fait accompli before the Ukrainians or the remainder of Europe or the U.S. could react.

Suppose all this was accompanied by a much more aggressive use of military aircraft and the Russian fleet, including noisy submarine and air intrusions around NATO territory? See Hunt for Red October... off the coast of Scotland: Britain calls in Nato patrol planes to search for rogue submarine after periscope is spotted and Russian planes “exceptionally active” over Baltic.

Just sort of as a reminder to the West that the Bear still has big claws and teeth.

Suppose that Russia, already an economic shambles, is further weakened by sanction and a deep diminution of the value of its natural resources - further "threatening to wreck the nation's economy."

Taking in its situation and its actions, at this point wouldn't you have to ask what the Russian intentions are?

In the Clancy book, of course, a big war results from the Soviet actions.

I haven't yet figured out where the revised version might be headed . . .

But I would guess there are some military planners who are dusting off some old war plans for updating.

Sort of like updating Red Storm Rising.

Energy Wars: The "Shale-Oil Insurgency"

Interesting analysis from Nikos Tsafos writing in The National Interest Shale-Oil Surprise: OPEC Faces an Insurgency, Not a Price War
Between June and November 2014, oil prices have fallen by some 40 percent, courtesy of robust growth in output and a bleaker outlook for oil demand. In late November, The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) chose to keep its production quotas intact, triggering several obituaries and talks of a price war between OPEC and the United States, where most of the additional supply originates. Yet war is not quite the right term; insurgency is more like it—decentralized, adaptive and, likely, inconclusive.

Gone are the days where high oil prices triggered a production response with a seven-to-ten-year lag (to allow for acreage acquisition, exploration, appraisal and then development of an oil field). When a system can grow as quickly as the United States’ can, then clearly, the world has a competing source of “spare capacity,” meaning capacity that could come online quickly to meet market needs.
Good read.

And, really, isn't "energy independence" mostly about being able to quickly fill market needs?

"Decentralized" "Adaptive" -- I like that in the energy context.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Must Read: USNI News "NAVSEA Chief Talks Risk, Cyber and A New Era of Naval Shipbuilding"

Sam LaGrone of USNI News delivers the goods with his interview of Vice Adm. William Hilarides in NAVSEA Chief Talks Risk, Cyber and A New Era of Naval Shipbuilding. Go read it.

Admiral Hilarides is point man for applying new ways of doing the Navy's business in a time of budget cuts and, sadly, an increasing level of "sea blindness" in our country's leadership and people.

As I wrote before:
The U.S. Navy has a mission: Protect the United States of America.

That mission has subsets: Maintain freedom of the seas. Assist our friends and allies as they assist us. Choose assets wisely. Remind those in high places that a single ship cannot be in two places at once.

Part of the problem, I guess, is that the U.S. Navy and it better allies have done too good a job in keeping seas open for the past 70 years. Another part of the problem is the idiots who keep pointing out that the U.S. Navy is "x times" bigger than all the rest of the world's fleets put together or words to that effect. See here.  See also Neither "Horses or Bayonets" - Why the Size of the Navy Matters:
The sea is a harsh operating environment. And, unlike a company that operates a fleet of trucks or cars, we can't just pick up a bunch of the new model year from the local dealer. You have to have a plan - have a strategy and build a fleet to match that strategy.

I guess shrinking your fleet because you can't budget to keep the minimum you need is a sort of strategy. Just not a winning one.

Today's fleet?
Ships and Submarines
Deployable Battle Force Ships: 289
Total Ships Deployed/Underway Ships Deployed: 100 (35%)
Ships Underway for Local Ops / Training (USFF / 3rd Fleet) Ships Underway for Local Ops / Training (USFF / 3rd Fleet): 32 (11%)
Ships Underway
Underway Aircraft Carriers:
USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) - 5th Fleet
USS John C Stennis (CVN 74) - Pacific
Underway Amphibious Assault Ships:
USS Peleliu (LHA 5) - 7th Fleet
USS Makin Island (LHD 8) - 5th Fleet
USS Bataan (LHD 5)- Atlantic

Aircraft (operational): 3700+
Stennis is on a unusual planned long deployment - because we really don't have enough carriers given the demands for their services.

So, if you cut ships enough, what missions are you going to give up? 46% of the fleet is at sea now in some form or another...

One quote from the NAVSEA interview about government action in a time of high unemployment:
Hilarides said a major issue is manpower.

“In [2013] the sequester and the shutdown resulted in me not being able to hire in my public shipyards for almost nine months. I lose about 1,000 people a year across the four yards due to attrition, and so during those nine months, we went down a thousand but we were in an increasing requirement,” he said.

It took NAVSEA nine months after the freeze was lifted to hire back to pre-shutdown levels and it continues to hire at a maximum rate but there is still a so-called divot in the maintenance schedule.
Everything is connected.

Southeast Asia Piracy: "Pirates board tanker off Pulau Aur, gun down Vietnamese crew member"

The Star (Malaysia) headline covers it: Pirates board tanker off Pulau Aur, gun down Vietnamese crew member:
Armed men who boarded a tanker in the sea off Pulau Aur, south Johor Sunday, shot dead a Vietnamese crew member and robbed the 16-man crew in what was described as the first fatality in Malaysian waters in two years.
The attack occurred about 5.30am while the asphalt-laden vessel was on its way from Singapore to Vietnam.
More from the ICC International Maritime Bureau Live Piracy Report:
7.12.2014: 0530 LT: Posn: 02:15.15N – 104:49.30E, Around 20nm SE of Pulau Aur, Johor, Malaysia.
Seven armed pirates boarded an Asphalt tanker underway from Singapore to Vietnam. They checked the cargo, stole crew properties and left the vessel. After the pirates left the vessel the crew found the third engineer bleeding from his head. It appeared that he had been shot. The Master reported the incident to POCC Singapore and requested for medical assistance. A medical evacuation was carried out and the third engineer was admitted to a hospital where the doctors pronounced him dead. The remaining crew are safe and the vessel was boarded by the authorities for investigation.
Nearby is a map, also from the IMB, showing attacks in the same area since the start of 2014. Every red marker on this map is a hijacked tanker of some sort.

While on this topic, a brief word of praise for the IMB's Piracy Reporting Center , which does a terrific job keeping track of piracy and armed robbery against shipping and seafarers worldwide. Noel Choong heads it up. It's an hugely valuable service they provide.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Saturday is Heinlein Quote Day #36

From Starship Troopers:
That old saw about "to understand all is to forgive all" is a lot of tripe. Some things, the more you understand the more you loathe them.
You can choose your own crimes to loathe.

I have my own list.

Saturday Video: Pearl Harbor 7 Dec 1941

This footage of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was shot by CWO4 Clyde Daughtry. The original footage has since been lost, and the poor quality of this footage is due to the fact that it is a copy. Among the many valuable portions of this footage are shots of USS Nevada (BB-36) underway and firing back at Japanese aircraft, USS Oglala (CM-4) rolling over and sinking, and USS St. Louis underway (CL-4). Naval History and Heritage Command, Photographic Section, UM-10.

What many people forget or never knew was that there was a huge salvage operation and that most of the damaged battleships were raised and repaired and went on to fight. See Sunday Ship History: After Pearl Harbor - Down but not out:
On October 25, 1944, at the seminal battle of Surigao Strait, the battleships USS Mississippi, USS Maryland, USS West Virginia, USS Tennessee, USS California and USS Pennsylvania "crossed the T" of a Japanese fleet in the last great surface ship engagement.

Of the six battleships of the U.S. Navy involved in the action, five had been either sunk or damaged during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Here's short compilation of the salvage operations:

Friday, December 05, 2014

On Midrats 7 Dec 14, Episode 257: "Clausewitz - now more than ever, with Donald Stoker"

Please join us Sunday at 5 pm EST for Episode 257: "Clausewitz - now more than ever, with Donald Stoker"
He is quoted often, correctly and incorrectly, but few have actually read his works in full - and even fewer know much about the man himself, Major General Carl von Clausewitz, Kingdom of Prussia.

Out guest for the full hour will be Donald Stoker, author of the new book, Clausewitz: His Life and Work. Stoker is a Professor of Strategy and Policy for the U.S. Naval War College's program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

His previous book, The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War, won the distinguished Fletcher Pratt award for the best non-fiction Civil War book of 2010. Past winners include Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote.
Join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here. You can also find this show after it airs and all our shows at iTunes here.

It Is to Laugh: "European Court Condemns France's Treatment of Somalian Pirates"

European Court Condemns France's Treatment of Somalian Pirates
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) demanded Thursday that France pay thousands of euros to the 10 Somalian pirates arrested after they diverted two boats in 2008.

The Court stated that although the French Army was entitled to detain the pirates on the sea, it remained compelled to present them immediately to a judge as soon as they landed on French soil.

Therefore, the court asked the country to pay damages ranging from US$2,000 to US$6,000 to each of the 10 pirates involved in the taking of the French boats Le Ponant and the Carré d'As in the Gulf of Aden in April and September 2008.

You might recall the Russians may have had a different policy at least in 2010. See Russian navy ‘sent Somali pirates to their death’:
Ten captured Somali piracy suspects are thought to have died after the Russian navy released them in an inflatable boat without navigational equipment, Russian media are reporting. An unnamed source told Russia's Interfax news agency yesterday: "It seems that they all died."
Inconvenient that. For the pirates

I would guess the Euro Courts probably don't like the yardarm and rope idea much either.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Cheaper Houses for Disaster Victims

If your house gets blown or washed away in a flood, hurricane or tornado, it would be nice to be back into a real home within a short period of time, living on your land instead of in a FEMA trailer.

There's a nice article from Emergency Management, captured from the Houston Chronicle Project Aims to Get Disaster Victims into Homes Within Days
The nation's top housing official recently toured the core of a house in Brownsville that holds the promise of returning people quickly to their homes after a major disaster. What he didn't know was that it had been partially put up in an afternoon by a group of unskilled teenagers.

The house inspected Monday by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro is part of a $2 million pilot project that envisions the construction of less-expensive, structurally sound housing within days of a disaster instead of years.
The biggest hurdle to rebuilding housing after a disaster is the snarl of government red tape — federal, state and local. In Texas, counties and cities are ultimately responsible and they usually have no experience in rebuilding housing after disasters, said John Henneberger, the co-director of the Texas Low Income Information Housing Service.

"Historically," Henneberger said, "it has not worked as efficiently as it should on any level."

The grain of an idea for the approach taken in the Rio Grande Valley sprang from Henneberger's experience assisting in the rebuilding of low-income housing after Hurricane Rita hit the Beaumont area in 2005. Those ideas this year won him a $625,000 MacArthur Foundation fellowship, known as the genius award.
Mr. Henneberger has been referred to as the Scourge of FEMA Trailers:
Mr. Henneberger, who is co-director of the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, has been involved in helping low-income people get housing after numerous natural disasters that have destroyed property in Texas. He does so by working with, and sometimes bringing legal action against, state and local governments charged with distributing aid.

The MacArthur Foundation, in its write-up of the award, said Mr. Henneberger had “created a new paradigm for post-disaster rebuilding” that greatly improved the efficiency of the funding pipeline so emergency housing could be built faster.

The Foundation also cited a design competition that Mr. Henneberger organized that challenged 83 architecture teams to design a low-cost home with “temporary to permanent potential” for storm victims. The parameters were that the houses have 3 bedrooms, cost less than $65,000 to build and are able to be built in six weeks or less. There were five winning designs, and $20 million in state recovery funds were used to build homes using three of them in 2009. There are currently 20 under construction in the Rio Grande Valley.
Getting FEMA out of the emergency housing business is a good thing.

Especially since the poor and un/under-insured are at the greatest risk of ending up as long term wards of the government without real property to call their own.

See info at buildingcommunityWORKSHOP. More here:
The VISTAs then developed and designed a deployment strategy and prototype design. The deployment strategy minimizes time between disaster and shelter construction by using local materials and labor sources. It stimulates the local economy by creating jobs in construction of the prototype “core” home. It teaches local residents job skills in construction and disaster recovery response. The prototype increases the cultural sensitivity of disaster response housing by engaging local residents in regional disaster response planning. Finally, this housing model jumpstarts a permanent rebuilding process by providing a “core” shelter that can be expanded and improved by residents with the assistance of future design consultations.
Over two weeks, the VISTA team built a full scale prototype “core” for Engineering & Humanity Week at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. The prototype has now been moved to a permanent site in Dolphin Heights, a predominantly low-income neighborhood in Dallas, and will be reconfigured as affordable rental housing. Currently, the prototype and deployment process are ready for large-scale manufacture in the event of a natural disaster.

Really interesting work out of Texas

Still, as noted in the part about the VISTA home, the key is "disaster response planning." Having a plan is good thing.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Whither the U.S. Navy Surface Forces? Sea Control? Is it mission possible?

From The National Interest blog: Rough Waters Ahead: How to Maximize the Power of the U.S. Navy's Surface Fleet by Bryan Clark and Bryan McGrath.
The U.S. Navy faces a daunting future environment. Flat defense budgets, improving adversary capabilities, growing instability and a defense strategy that portends additional responsibilities all conspire to challenge the fleet’s capability and capacity. At the same time, its backbone—the surface force of cruisers, destroyers and smaller combatants—is at a decision point.
The Navy should rethink traditional approaches to air defense, weapons development and maritime security so it can equip surface combatants to better defend themselves and increase their ability to outrange the enemy and conduct offensive operations.

We discussed this topic on Midrats a couple of weeks ago with Bryan Clark Episode 255: Commanding the Seas – the Surface Force with Bryan Clark from CSBA

Suggested background reading and more:

Bryan Clark's Commanding the Seas: A Plan to reinvigorate U.S. Navy Surface Warfare

Jerry Hendrix's "Buy Fords, Not Ferraris". And Influence Squadron Are Here, But Will We Use Them?. And another Midrats interview, Episode 253: The Fleet we Have, Want, and Need - with Jerry Hendrix.

Bryan McGrath: On Midrats, Episode 223: 12 Carriers and 3 Hubs with Bryan McGrath discussing his co-authored (with McKenzie Eaglen) article, America's Navy needs 12 carriers and 3 hubs. On the Sea Control podcast, Episode 20 On Maritime Strategy.

Oil Prices

UPDATED: An interesting audio discussion of declining oil prices from the folks at The Economist at this link (autorun video replaced by link).

Are the Saudis trying to hurt others in the market? Russia? Iran? Venezuela? U.S. shale producers? Can they do it in the long run? Short term benefit to consumers, but it pushes the smaller oil producers toward a decline as prices drop below production costs. More analysis here:
The growing oil glut has already had reverberations around the world, as oil producing nations attempt to balance their books based on the gloomy new forecasts.

Reminds me of the early 1980s, which were not much fun in the oil patch, but good for the rest of the economy.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Things to Worry About: China's Missile Forces

Worth reading this Bill Sweetman opinion piece from Aviation Week "China’s Radar and Missile Work Means More Than Fighters: China’s defense plans are not aircraft-centric":
What is impressive, however, is how many new Chinese missiles there are, and how they fit together.

This is not the first warning along these lines. See here, here, and here, for examples.

Oh, yeah, and little tiny missile boats and aircraft and such. Fun for all.

Fun with Gasoline Prices

Whether or not OPEC is dead (see here), today's gasoline prices are in line with simple inflation. Which means, I assert, that supply and demand are pretty much matching up.

Fifty years ago, a gallon of regular gas cost $.33. Adjusting for inflation, the current price ought to be $2.53. In my area, the current price is hovering around $2.55 in most regular retail outlets +/- a couple of pennies. Might be slightly higher in your area.

You might ponder the additional costs placed on refineries since 1964 in order to decrease air pollution which is being passed on to the consumer.

You probably are also aware that the retail price of gasoline has swung widely over the last few years. See the chart below:

Does supply drive down prices? Well, yes, supply and refinery capacity.

Probably can't drive prices low enough to starve ISIS, though. See here.