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Monday, June 29, 2015

Caspian Sea: Oil Issues and Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan

Click on map to enlarge
So on yesterday's Midrats Episode 286: A Restless Russia and its Near Abroad with Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg, we had a little discussion about the status of naval forces in the Caspian Sea (beginning about 44:37).

Claude Berube tweeted this morning about an article which described Azerbaijan's new Caspian Sea Naval Base.

Now, from the Oil and Gas Journal comes Iran yields to Russia in talks over Caspian resources:
Iranian acquiescence to Russia, to which the Islamic Repubic increasingly turns in response to pressure from the West, has become a standard feature of long-unresolved deliberations over jurisdiction and resource ownership in the Caspian Sea. Iran has surrendered its Soviet-era claim to half of the world's largest inland lake and has aligned itself with Russian insistence that countries lacking Caspian shorelines-especially from the West-stay out.
The status of the Caspian Sea fell into question with the demise of the Soviet Union. The three littoral republics that emerged from that change demanded larger shares of the Caspian than allotted to them by treaties negotiated in 1921 and 1940, which granted the former Soviet Union half of the sea and Iran the remainder.

Much is at stake. The Caspian Sea, usually referred to as the boundary mark between Asia and Europe is not only rich in oil and gas; it also produces more than 80% of the world's sturgeon. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the large South Caspian Basin became available to investment by western oil companies seeking exploration and production opportunities.

Caspian border countries all produce and export oil and natural gas, and all claim shares of Caspian resources. Azerbaijan is the hub for export of Caspian gas to western markets. Access to Caspian gas has been central to efforts by the European Union (EU) to diversify its members' gas purchases away from Russia.

International oil companies have been developing oil and gas in the deep basin of the Caspian Sea since the region became accessible to outside investment about 2 decades ago. The formation of Azerbaijan International Operating Co. opened a new era for development. The 1994 signing of the contract known as the "Contract of the Century," as US Sec. of Energy Samuel Bodman called it, allowed Azerbaijan oil to reach global markets for the first time a decade later via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline.

Throughout this new era, Russia has tried to steer movement of Caspian oil and gas through its territory to keep control of the region's transport infrastructure. In 2005, more than two thirds of all crude oil exported from the Caspian moved through the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), operated by Russia. By 2010, Russia's share of Caspian oil transport had fallen below 40%.
The whole article requires a subscription, but what I've put up does give a sense of why there is a naval build up in the area.

More from that article Claude referenced:
In Azerbaijan's case it is particularly worried about Iran, with whom it has had a number of minor incidents. In the longer term it is worried about Russia, which strongly opposes the construction of a trans-Caspian gas pipeline from Turkmenistan, which Baku in principle supports. Russia also has tried to get all the littoral states to restrict the militaries of outside powers (meaning, the U.S.) from getting involved on the Caspian, which Baku has pushed back on. Nevertheless, Russia and Azerbaijan are slated to carry out their first-ever joint naval exercises in September.
For a change, the U.S. probably won't send a fleet to the area . . .

EPA Overreaches, SCOTUS says, "Not so fast"

NY Times reports as Supreme Court Blocks Obama’s Limits on Power Plants
Industry groups and some 20 states challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to regulate the emissions, saying the agency had failed to take into account the punishing costs its regulations would impose.

The Clean Air Act required the regulations to be “appropriate and necessary.” The challengers said the agency had run afoul of that law by deciding to regulate the emissions without first undertaking a cost-benefit analysis.

The agency responded that it was not required to take costs into account when it made the initial determination to regulate. But the agency added that it did so later in setting emissions standards and that, in any event, the benefits far outweighed the costs.

The two sides had very different understandings of the costs and benefits involved. Industry groups said the government had imposed annual costs of $9.6 billion to achieve about $6 million in benefits. The agency said the costs yielded tens of billions of dollars in benefits.
Wait - a cost-benefit analysis? Who'd a thunk it?

You can read the opinion here. From the Court's Syllabus:
Even under the deferential standard of Chevron U. S. A. Inc.v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837, which directs courts to
accept an agency’s reasonable resolution of an ambiguity in a statute that the agency administers, id., at 842–843, EPA strayed well beyond the bounds of reasonable interpretation in concluding that cost is not a factor relevant to the appropriateness of regulating power plants.
From the opinion, the EPA got hoist by its own petard:
EPA concluded that “costs should not be considered” when
deciding whether power plants should be regulated under §7412. Id., at 9326.

In accordance with Executive Order, the Agency issued a “Regulatory Impact Analysis” alongside its regulation. This analysis estimated that the regulation would force power plants to bear costs of $9.6 billion per year. Id., at 9306. The Agency could not fully quantify the benefits of reducing power plants’ emissions of hazardous air pollutants; to the extent it could, it estimated that these benefits were worth $4 to $6 million per year. Ibid. The costs to power plants were thus between 1,600 and 2,400 times as great as the quantifiable benefits from reduced emissions of hazardous air pollutants. The Agency continued that its regulations would have ancillary benefits—including cutting power plants’ emissions of particulate matter and sulfur dioxide, substances that are not covered by the hazardous-air-pollutants program. Although the Agency’s appropriate-and-necessary finding did not rest on these ancillary effects, id., at 9320, the regulatory impact analysis took them into account, increasing the Agency’s estimate of the quantifiable benefits of its regulation to $37 to $90 billion per year, id., at 9306. EPA concedes that the regulatory impact analysis “played no role” in its appropriate-and-necessary finding. Brief for Federal Respondents 14
Two quick points: (1) I'm not saying that power plants should not ever be subject to controls- that would be foolish and (2)  standards need to make sense and the EPA has had history of imposing regulations that serve mostly to raise the price of energy to consumers, who, ultimately pay the price for any regulation as the utilities pass it on them. So it boils down to how much additional tax are you willing to pay for marginal decreases in environmental threats?

Oh, and those white plumes you see coming from the stack of power plant? Mostly steam. Yes - hot water.

A New Generation of Fighter Aircraft Engines?

Aviation Week reports GE Advances Future Fighter Engine
Development of revolutionary engines at GE Aviation is setting the stage for the next 50 years in military aircraft propulsion, engineers there believe.
The engine can adapt in flight to give maximum thrust or long-range cruise, while a third stream of air will cool both the engine and the aircraft’s systems, explains Jean Lydon-Rodgers, vice president and general manager of GE Aviation’s military systems.
“The sixth-generation fighter engine is a big piece of the future of the business. That’s why we’re investing heavily in it,” says Lydon-Rodgers.

That investment also involves materials including ceramic matrix composites and titanium aluminides, and techniques such as additive manufacturing, to make the engines lighter and more robust while running hotter and providing more power. The military engines are benefitting from GE’s huge investment in such materials and manufacturing readiness for its next generation of commercial engines, which helps keep the costs down for the warfighter, she says.

Innovation! More range for fighters? Will this allow aircraft carriers greater stand-off range and improve our maritime security? Sure sounds like it.

Let me recommend again Vaclav Smil's Prime Movers of Globalization: The History and Impact of Diesel Engines and Gas Turbines, now available for Kindle:
What makes it possible for us to move billions of tons of raw materials and manufactured goods from continent to continent? Why are we able to fly almost anywhere on the planet within twenty-four hours? In Prime Movers of Globalization, Vaclav Smil offers a history of two key technical developments that have driven globalization: the high-compression non-sparking internal combustion engines invented by Rudolf Diesel in the 1890s and the gas turbines designed by Frank Whittle and Hans-Joachim Pabst von Ohain in the 1930s. The massive diesel engines that power cargo ships and the gas turbines that propel jet engines, Smil argues, are more important to the global economy than any corporate structure or international trade agreement.

Friday, June 26, 2015

On Midrats 28 June 15- Episode 286: A Restless Russia and its Near Abroad with Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg

Please join us at 5pm Eastern Daylight Time (U.S.) for Midrats Episode 286: A Restless Russia and its Near Abroad with Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg:
It is time to catch up with Putin's Russia, her domestic developments, involvement in Ukraine, and the changes she is forcing on border nations and the near abroad.

To discuss this and more, for the full hour we will have returning guest Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg, Senior Analyst, CNA Strategic Studies, an Associate at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, an author, and host of the Russian Military Reform blog.

Dr. Gorenburg focuses his research on security issues in the former Soviet Union, Russian military reform, Russian foreign policy, ethnic politics and identity, and Russian regional politics. He is also the editor of the journals Problems of Post-Communism and Russian Politics and Lawand a Fellow of the Truman National Security Project. From 2005 through 2010, he was the Executive Director of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.
Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. You can also pick the show up later from our iTunes page.

Friday Fun Film: "Overcoming Fear (1950)"

It's summertime and in summer school when the teacher has a sick day, the substitute trots out the Coronet Film to teach valuable life lessons - or to fill up a few minutes of the day.

This film does have a valuable lesson - that fear of doing something can hold us back and that admitting that fear is the first step in moving ahead. Anyway, enjoy!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday: NOAA/NWS Storm Prediction Center

It's summer and a good time to know more about the NOAA/NWS Storm Prediction Center
About the SPC

SPC Mission

The Storm Prediction Center maintains a high-achieving staff using innovative science and technology to deliver timely and accurate watch and forecast products/information dealing with tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, lightning, wildfires, and winter weather for the United States to protect lives and property.

SPC Vision

The trusted source for the prediction of tornadoes and other high-impact hazardous weather.

SPC Unique Value Proposition

SPC national products and services for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are an essential source of information for the protection of life and property.


The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) is part of the National Weather Service (NWS) and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). Our mission is to provide timely and accurate forecasts and watches for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes over the contiguous United States. The SPC also monitors hazardous winter weather and fire weather events across the U.S. and issues specific products for those hazards. We use the most advanced technology and scientific methods available to achieve this goal.***
Really, this is a great site.

The best way to learn what's there is to go play around with it. Click here

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day

Carl Sandburg:
A Father To His Son

A father sees his son nearing manhood.
What shall he tell that son?
"Life is hard; be steel; be a rock."
And this might stand him for the storms
and serve him for humdrum monotony
and guide him among sudden betrayals
and tighten him for slack moments.
"Life is a soft loam; be gentle; go easy."
And this too might serve him.
Brutes have been gentled where lashes failed.
The growth of a frail flower in a path up
has sometimes shattered and split a rock.
A tough will counts. So does desire.
So does a rich soft wanting.
Without rich wanting nothing arrives.
Tell him too much money has killed men
and left them dead years before burial:
the quest of lucre beyond a few easy needs
has twisted good enough men
sometimes into dry thwarted worms.
Tell him time as a stuff can be wasted.
Tell him to be a fool every so often
and to have no shame over having been a fool
yet learning something out of every folly
hoping to repeat none of the cheap follies
thus arriving at intimate understanding
of a world numbering many fools.
Tell him to be alone often and get at himself
and above all tell himself no lies about himself
whatever the white lies and protective fronts
he may use against other people.
Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong
and the final decisions are made in silent rooms.
Tell him to be different from other people
if it comes natural and easy being different.
Let him have lazy days seeking his deeper motives.
Let him seek deep for where he is born natural.
Then he may understand Shakespeare
and the Wright brothers, Pasteur, Pavlov,
Michael Faraday and free imaginations
Bringing changes into a world resenting change.
He will be lonely enough
to have time for the work
he knows as his own.

Thanks, Dad. You were the best. I hope a little of what you taught me has been passed along to your grandchildren.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Dragnet "The story you are about to hear is true . . ."

All the police procedurals you see on TV? Dragnet was all that and had to paint all the pictures in your mind.

Jack Webb at his best.

Friday, June 19, 2015

South China Sea Pirates: Escape Under the Radar?

UPDATE below.

The South China Morning Post headline reads Pirates who hijacked Malaysian tanker escape in lifeboat giving warships the slip | South China Morning Post
Xinhua photo
Pirates who commandeered a Malaysian-flagged tanker in the South China Sea have escaped from the vessel in a lifeboat, giving warships the slip under cover of night, the country’s naval commander said.

State-run Bernama news agency quoted Malaysian coast guard officials as saying all 22 of the MT Orkim Harmony’s crew were safe, though one was slightly injured.

“(The pirates) escaped from the tanker last night using a rescue boat,” Royal Malaysian Navy chief Admiral Abdul Aziz Jaafar said.
I guess the warships' radar was unable to detect a moving lifeboat.

Makes me wonder how that sort of boat would be useful is assisting a rescue at sea. Or perhaps the radar was -um- not operating properly.

Not a good situation since, as the article goes on to note:
Attacks on slow-moving, smaller coastal tankers like the MT Orkim Harmony are occurring roughly once every two weeks, the IMB said recently, with pirates usually siphoning off cargoes to other vessels before later releasing the tankers and crews.
UPDATE: Suspected pirates captured:
Kuala Lumpur: Eight suspected Indonesians pirates believed to have hijacked a Malaysian oil tanker with 22 crew members last week in the South China Sea were on Friday detained in waters near the Tho Chu Island in Vietnam.

"They were found near Tho Chu Island at about 6.30am. They were on a life raft and claimed they were from a fishing boat that sank," Royal Navy Malaysian chief Abdul Aziz Jaafar said.

Aziz said his men were confirming if those arrested were the hijackers of MT Orkim Harmony oil tanker.

Friday Film: "Disasters Don't Just Happen" (1971)

Disasters Don't Just Happen:
Made in the wake of deadly accidents aboard the aircraft carriers USS Forrestal (CV-59), USS Enterprise (CVN-65), and USS Oriskany (CV-34), this U.S. Navy safety film underscores that "Disasters Don't Just Happen". The film examines the causes of accidents and looks for solutions to prevent similar things from happening in the future. Three incidents are specifically examined. First, the 1967 USS Forrestal fire was a devastating fire and series of chain-reaction explosions on 29 July 1967 that killed 134 sailors and injured 161 on the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CV-59), after an unusual electrical anomaly discharged a Zuni rocket on the flight deck. Forrestal was engaged in combat operations in the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War at the time, and the damage exceeded $72 million (not including damage to aircraft). The fire aboard Enterprise occured on 14 January 1969, when a MK-32 Zuni rocket loaded on a parked F-4 Phantom short circuited (due to stray voltage during aircraft engine start) and fired, setting off fires and additional explosions across the flight deck. The fire was brought under control relatively quickly, but 27 lives were lost. An additional 314 personnel were injured. In 1966, one of the worst shipboard fires since World War II broke out on USS Oriskany when a magnesium flare was accidentally ignited. 44 men died in the fire.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Perfect Anti-Zombie Street Sweeper Shotgun?

A double-barreled, 16 shot pump shotgun.

No, I don't know how long it takes to reload.

"Boom Boom Pump. Boom Boom Pump." You could probably dance to that.

Probably not the weapon of choice for a guy with a chain saw in place of right hand, though.

Friday, June 12, 2015

On Midrats 14 June 2015 - Episode 284: 200th Anniversary of Waterloo with John Kuehn

Please join us on Sunday, 14 June 2015 at 5pm (1700)(EDT) for Midrats Episode 284: 200th Anniversary of Waterloo with John Kuehn:
18 June will be the 200th Anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, fought in present-day Belgium.

Just in time, a regular guest to Midrats, John Kuehn,  has his latest book out, Napoleonic Warfare: The Operational Art of the Great Campaigns where he covers the operational level analysis of European warfare from 1792 to 1815, including the tactics, operations, and strategy of major conflicts of the time.

More than just a description of set piece battle, there is a discussion of naval warfare, maneuver warfare, compound warfare, and counterinsurgency.

We've got him for the full hour ... we should be able to get to most of it.

Dr. John T. Kuehn is the General William Stofft Chair for Historical Research at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He retired from the U.S. Navy 2004 at the rank of commander after 23 years of service as a naval flight officer in EP-3s and ES-3s. He authored Agents of Innovation (2008) and co-authored Eyewitness Pacific Theater (2008) with D.M. Giangreco, as well as numerous articles and editorials and was awarded a Moncado Prize from the Society for Military History in 2011.

His previous book was, A military History of Japan: From the Age of the Samurai to the 21st Century.
Join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here. You can also find the show later at our iTunes page here.

Friday Fun Film: "Right or Wrong? (Making Moral Decisions)" (1951)

Moral decisions? Interesting old film that sets up for discussion the concept of "right or wrong."

A question for our modern political times:
"Is it right to hide a lawbreaker from justice?"

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Russia's Asia Pivot

Headline in the Moscow Times "Russia Wants Quicker Build-Up of Military Facilities on Disputed Islands". The disputants being, in this case, Japan and Russia:
Old map of "disputed islands"
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has ordered the speeding up of construction of military and civilian infrastructure on a chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean where Moscow and Tokyo have rival territorial claims.

Dispute over the islands, known as the Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, has strained relations between the two countries since World War II, when Soviet forces occupied four islands at the southern end of the chain.
Which, of course, ties in this Matthew Sussex article in The National Interest, Russia's Next Big Strategic Move (And It Has Nothing to Do with Ukraine):
But the Ukraine crisis—and the broader Russia-West tensions tat it has stoked—obscures the fact that Moscow has been quietly but rapidly re-orienting its strategic posture. And it is doing so to the east, not the west.

For Putin, the logic of an Asian pivot is threefold.

The first concerns consolidating Russia's prosperity as an energy and resource giant. He knows that Indo-Pacific appetites for oil and gas will increase massively over the next twenty years. Within the same time frame, European clients will diversify their energy sources once the U.S. shale gas and oil revolution brings American exports on-line. Russia therefore has a relatively small window of opportunity to begin crowding out competitors for Asia's energy demands.

Second, whereas Moscow's strategic posture has long stressed the need to look east, it has now begun increasing its Indo-Pacific trade and security footprint, including in Southeast Asia, in order to give its intended policy substance.

Third, Russia is betting that the 21st century will be an Asian one--and it is betting on China as the main driver of change in regional and global order. Until recently, the main question hanging over Sino-Russian relations was whether Moscow could live with being a junior partner to Beijing. It seems that question has now been answered in the affirmative, at least for the moment.
More fodder, from the Sputnik News Russia, China Hold Joint Naval Drills in the Far East:
The second stage of Russia-China "Joint Sea 2015" maritime exercises is underway in Russia’s Far Eastern Primorsky Territory, the Russian Defense Ministry’s Eastern Military District press service said in a Wednesday statement.

The joint exercise is taking place on June 8-11.

Upcoming drills will include troop landing practice that will take place at a Pacific Fleet range near Mys Klerk (Cape Klerk), the statement said.

On Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that officers from the Russian Eastern Military District, the Pacific Fleet Headquarters and representatives from the Chinese Navy held a reconnaissance mission at the Knevichi Airfield as part of the "Joint Sea 2015 (II)" naval exercise.
Russia is, in many ways, an Asian country (well, of course, especially given how much of it sits in Asia). You also have got to believe Putin is enjoying the heck out of tweaking the Obama administration with all this.

The pivot for Russia is not as long as that required by the U.S.

Japan is a strong U.S. ally.

Then there are the North Koreans.

Never a dull moment.

To paraphrase the movie Jaws, "We're going to need a bigger Navy"

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Lost in the Woods?

Before you get lost in the woods, here's a good idea:

Step 1: Don't get lost in the woods in the first place.
Advice: Stick with your party. Stick to known trails. Have a GPS device that will work in the place you are visiting. Look for landmarks to guide you back to safety before you skip lightly through the woods without a care. And so forth.

Further advice: Have a small emergency bag with you containing water, snacks, a loud whistle, and some waterproof matches or a small lighter. Perhaps a Mylar blanket or a lightweight poncho (adjust this for weather conditions) and time of year. Personally, I like to make sure every kid I take out to the woods has a loud whistle with him or her. Adults really ought to carry one, too, on all hikes.

Somewhere in the bag have a print out of the following:
In short, be prepared before you even go to the woods.

If Step 1 hasn't worked out for you, here are some other steps:

Step 2:
Panic can kill you dead, because you will do stupid things in a hurry. Being lost, stupid and in a hurry constitutes a bad thing.

Step 3: STOP!
S = sit down
T = think
O = observe your surroundings
P = prepare for survival by gathering materials
If you think about it, you are probably not all that far from where you last knew where you were.

Let's suppose you wandered off for an hour without paying any attention to where you where headed. At a good march pace (1 mile every 15 minutes), you are most likely within 4 miles of where you started.

If you just sit down right where you are, you just (1) made your life easier and (2) the job of any search and rescue teams (SAR team) much, much simpler. Why? Well, if you aren't thrashing through the woods in a panic, you are conserving energy which is key to survival. Further, you aren't working up a thirst or burning calories that don't need to be expended.

As far as a SAR team goes, if they know where you were last seen, they are going to draw a circle around that point and calculate a radius based on how far you could have traveled in the period since you went missing. Now, circle with a radius of 4 miles still has an area of 50 square miles (A = π × r2) ), but a good SAR team will know that some areas are less likely to be an issue than others and will concentrate on the more likely areas). If you keep moving instead of just stopping in place, you only make the search area much bigger (an additional mile beyond 4 would now make that SAR circle bigger (5 mile radius = 78 sq. miles, 6 mile radius = 113 sq. miles, etc)). So staying in one spot is a really, really good idea.

"Think" - right up there with "Don't Panic!" - make plans for what happens next where you are. What will you do if it gets dark? If it gets colder? If it starts to rain/snow/sleet? Mark the place where you are so that you can find it again and then do a small search of the area. Is there a tree or overhang that will offer shelter from the weather? Can you improvise something like this debris shelter (from FM 21-76 U.S. Army Survival Manual ):

Thinking is good.

"Observe" - Can you see the sun? It rises in the East and sets in the West so you ought to be able to
Bear Track
figure out North and South. Can you see bees? Bees like to be near water so look around, always keeping within sight of your reference point. Are there animal tracks? Little tracks may not be problem, but track of bears, wolves or coyotes might be an issue. Most of the time animals will avoid you. You might want to mark out your territory the same way dogs do. Not sure it does much good to pee on surrounding bushes, but it can't hurt. If you have food with you, you ought to be careful to put up in a tree away from where you intend to sleep so that if a hungry bear wanders along, all he'll get is the food. Also a good idea to dig small holes to bury your scat so that it doesn't attract flies and other unwanted visitors.

"Prepare" - Covered some of this already. Gather sticks and branches and make a shelter. Retaining body heat is vital, so gather things to put between you and the ground - pine straw or the like. Have stuff to cover yourself. Is there water nearby? Do you have a way to carry it? Be aware that even running water can have bad stuff in it, so you might want to find a way to filter and purify that water.

On wet or marshy ground, you may need to work on a variation of this swamp bed (handy thing that Army Survival Manual):

Step 4: Make noise! Bang things together - make a ruckus at irregular intervals. It scares away animals and may help searchers find you. Shouting is hard on you so that may not be the best thing. If you can whistle loudly, that's great.

Step 5: Put out markers that will be visible from the air. Piling of stones in a triangle or even spelling out "Help" in pine cones in a clearing with an arrow to your location is a great idea.

Life gets a little easier if you have some way to start a fire. First, the smoke from a fire really helps any SAR effort. Second, it can help keep you warm and scare animal away. A couple of small fires on either side of you is better than 1 big fire for keeping warm and stops that freezing on one side roasting on the other effect.

Some old advice from the Forest Service:


Gotta like that.

UPDATE: A great old book on Shelters,
Shacks, and Shanties
from 1916. Still some good ideas.

UPDATE2: Excellent shelter ideas and photos at Tim MacWelch's Outdoor Life's Survival Shelters: 15 Best Designs and How to Build Them

Saturday, June 06, 2015

On Midrats 7 June 15 - Episode 283: The Foreign and Defense Policy Terrain for the '16 Election

Please join us on 7 June 15 at 5pm (EST) for Episode 283: The Foreign and Defense Policy Terrain :
As the world has set its own course as we have been planning other things, some believe that the 2016 election will be more focused on foreign policy and defense issues that any of the candidates thought would be the case at the end of last year.

What will be the above-the-fold topics? The baseline was set by the '16 budget battle last year and the winding down and a post-mortem on the sequestration gambit of the last couple of years.

As proxies in the emerging discussion, to join the old bulls on the Hill, are there emerging new leaders on defense issues elected in the '14 cycle?

Where do declared or expected candidates for President for both parties stand on policy and present operations?

To discuss this and more in the foreign policy and defense arena will be returning guest, Mackenzie Eaglen,

Mackenzie is a resident fellow in the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where she works on defense strategy, defense budgets, and military readiness.

She has worked on defense issues in the House of Representatives and Senate and at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and on the Joint Staff. In 2014, Eaglen served as a staff member of the congressionally mandated National Defense Panel, a bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission established to assess US defense interests and strategic objectives. This followed Eaglen’s previous work as a staff member for the 2010 congressionally mandated bipartisan Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel, also established to assess the Pentagon’s major defense strategy. A prolific writer on defense-related issues, she has also testified before Congress.

She has an M.A. from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a B.A. from Mercer University.
Join us live if you can (or pick the show up later) by clicking here. The show will also be available later on our iTunes page here.

Saturday is Old Radio Day: D-Day as it was heard on 6 June 1944

NBC coverage:

 Alexander P. Russo

Art from the U.S. Navy History and Heritage Command's D-Day Normandy.

Radio broadcasts are from Internet Archive and consist of several hours of actual NBC broadcasts. The show will automatically move to the next segment.

Friday, June 05, 2015

History on Film: The Battle of Midway


"The Battle of Midway," directed by John Ford, provides a relatively brief account of the Japanese attack of American ships at Midway atoll. The film is comprised mostly of authentic footage from the battle, with dramatic narration by Henry Fonda. "Behind every cloud, there may be an enemy," he intones as American fighter pilots search the sky. The rest of the film mocks Emporer Tojo of Japan and portrays him as ruthless, bombing hospitals and churches as he tries to conquer the Pacific.
Based on the some of the comments here, some modern viewers may be offended by what was meant to tell the story of the surprising victory that was the beginning of the end of the war. Propaganda? We were at war with an enemy who had cut a pretty wide swath.

You be the judge. In the moment, there is some amazing combat footage. And a great naval victory.

UPDATE: Oh, yeah, 73 years ago 4 to 7 June 1942.

Friday Film: "Abandon Ship"

U.S. Navy training film regarding a war time reality, the potential need to "Abandon Ship." Narrated by Mike Wallace.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Fun with China: South China Sea Options "Accept or Contain?" and Playing the Environmental Harm Card

China and its South China Sea adventures are gathering a lot of interest reflected in big media, blogs and a large variety of articles.

At the risk of this blog becoming "all China all the time" here's an opinion piece by Michael Swaine from Foreign Affairs that suggests "accepting" a new reality The Real Challenge in the Pacific: A Response to “How to 
Deter China”
An understanding that a gradual, peaceful transition to a more equal regional balance of power was under way could make Beijing more likely to persuade Pyongyang to abandon or strongly limit its nuclear weapons program and begin the sort of reforms that would eventually yield a unified peninsula. Both U.S. and Chinese leaders might ultimately convince Taipei of the benefits of new and more stable security arrangements (none of which would require the U.S. abandonment of Taiwan). And as for Japan, a calibrated strengthening of its capabilities, in the context of the creation of 
a buffer-like arrangement and stable balance of power with regard to the first island chain, would almost certainly prove acceptable to Beijing and eventually necessary for Tokyo.

Such realignments will not occur automatically. They will require courageous and farsighted leadership in all the relevant capitals, some significant risk taking, and highly effective diplomacy. In fact, given the daunting obstacles in the way, one might legitimately ask why it is worth even raising the prospect of these changes. The answer is that the alternative—trying to sustain U.S. predominance in the western Pacific and muddle through continual and likely intensifying crises—is even worse, risking the sort of large-scale military conflict that power transitions throughout history have so often generated.

Ultimately, the choice facing decision-makers in the United States, China, and other Asian powers is whether to deal forthrightly and sensibly with the changing regional power distribution or avoid the hard decisions that China’s rise poses until the situation grows ever more polarized and dangerous. Indeed, delay will only make the process of change more difficult. There are no other workable alternatives.
The Swaine response was to Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr.'s How to Deter China: The Case for Archipelagic Defense:
In the U.S. military, at least, the “pivot” to Asia has begun. By 2020, the navy and the air force plan to base 60 percent of their forces in the Asia-Pacific region. The Pentagon, meanwhile, is investing a growing share of its shrinking resources in new long-range bombers and nuclear-powered submarines designed to operate in high-threat environments.

These changes are clearly meant to check an increasingly assertive China. And with good reason: Beijing’s expanding territorial claims threaten virtually every country along what is commonly known as “the first island chain,” encompassing parts of Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan—all of which Washington is obligated to protect. But to reliably deter Chinese aggression, the Pentagon will have to go even further. Emerging Chinese capabilities are intended to blunt Washington’s ability to provide military support to its allies and partners. Although deterrence through the prospect of punishment, in the form of air strikes and naval blockades, has a role to play in discouraging Chinese adventurism, Washington’s goal, and that of its allies and partners, should be to achieve deterrence through denial—to convince Beijing that it simply cannot achieve its objectives with force.
Read them both. It's always fun to watch a debate, regardless of how slow-moving.

But wait, there's more:

An environmental campaign to stop China's sand islands? There was this NYTimes article by Floyd Whaley China’s Island-Building Is Ruining Coral Reefs, Philippines Says:
China’s island-building activities have destroyed about 300 acres of coral reefs and are causing “irreversible and widespread damage to the biodiversity and ecological balance” of the South China Sea, a spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said on Monday.

“China has pursued these activities unilaterally, disregarding people in the surrounding states who have depended on the sea for their livelihood for generations,” the spokesman, Charles Jose, said during a news briefing in Manila.
Followed by Robert Williams's The National Interest item "A Secret Weapon to Stop China's Island Building: The Environment?":
Although the tribunal has yet to decide whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case, the Philippines’ strategy of using international law to press its arguments—rather than through negotiations with China—may offer a blueprint for pushing back against China’s recent land reclamation activities. Here is where the environmental consequences of China’s island buildup are poised to play a central role.

Like all countries that have ratified UNCLOS, China has general legal obligations to protect and preserve the marine environment. UNCLOS specifically requires signatory nations to refrain from causing transboundary environmental harms and to take measures “necessary to protect and preserve rare or fragile ecosystems as well as the habitat of depleted, threatened or endangered species and other forms of marine life.”
Hmm. Given China's already well-known disregard for the environment in pursuit of its economic goals, one is forced to assume that the Philippines is playing the environmental card to rally all sorts of folks to the cause of stopping China.

Will "it's for the children" come next?

In any event, The National Interest pushed it out again in Anthony Bergin's Is China Destroying the South China Sea? (which headline should have added "Environment" in my view, since seas are tough things to destroy but not to harm):
It’s surprising we haven’t seen environmental groups, mounting the kind of protests in the South China Sea that we saw a few years ago against Arctic oil exploration.
Well, perhaps not too surprising, since such groups seem to have a mostly anti-Western bias. The Age in Australia has allowed the baton to be picked up by David Rosenberg in South China Sea: Why not take up China on its words?:
Beijing has cast a peaceful light on its construction of airfields, ports and radar antennae on 800 hectares of new man-made islands in the South China Sea, claiming they are intended for humanitarian concerns like maritime search and rescue, disaster relief, and navigational security, and to aid environmental protection.
Other countries are also building or expanding their facilities in the Spratly Islands. Vietnam maintains the most features in the Spratly Islands: six islands, 16 reefs, and six banks. Taiwan controls the largest land feature in the Spratly Islands, Itu Aba, and is expanding its port there to accommodate frigates and coast guard cutters. It is also making improvements to its 1200-metre runway.

But the total size of all these construction activities in the Spratly Islands activities is quite small, under 10 square kilometres.

By contrast, the Philippines has 35,000 square kilometres or 3.5 million hectares of coral reefs within its undisputed territorial waters. About 70 per cent of them are degraded due to coral mining, dynamite, cyanide and other destructive fishing practices, as well as sedimentation and pollution from land based sources. This is vastly larger than the buried 120 hectares of reef attributed to Chinese building projects in the Spratly Islands. In the short term, the environmental impact of all these building projects in the Spratlys is highly disruptive to local ecosystems due to sand dredging, coral mining, and cement pouring.

The long-term impact is not yet clear. However, the costs could be catastrophic. Coral reefs are the foundation of the maritime food chain. They provide the habitat and spawning grounds for numerous fish species, including many of the world's most valuable and productive stocks of tuna and shrimp.
That's the trouble with raising environmental claims - fingers get pointed at you. Of course, the "clean hands doctrine, may apply in courts of equity, but usually seems inapplicable in international affairs.

May we live in interesting times.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Keeping Ice and Snow for Emergencies

There are lot of lessons from the past that have been forgotten as we have become more and more reliant on electricity to power things like refrigerators and freezers. But in planning for a disaster that may take away that electrical power, it is a good idea to look backwards to see how our ancestors dealt with keeping things cold in the heat of the summer.

Stocking the ice house
One solution from olden times was the use of ice houses or other places that ice could be kept until needed. See From Ice House to Refrigerator:
While ice caves, ice pits and spring houses and other structures have a much longer history, the commercial development of ice cooling is peculiarly American. Even in colonial America drinks would be served with a block of ice.

In 1637 Sir William Berkeley, governor of Virginia, was granted a patent “to gather, make and take snow and ice and keep the same in such pits, caves and cool places as he should think fit.” This patent gave him a monopoly on the sale of snow and ice in Great Britain for the next fourteen years. The monopoly was renewed by King Charles in 1665.

Ice-houses became an essential part of American culture. In New England, eighteenth-century farmers cut ice from local ponds and rivers to preserve their apples and vegetables in underground ice-houses. In 1792, Thomas Jefferson subscribed to the ice service in Philadelphia of James Oeller's Chestnut Street Hotel for a shilling a day. Oeller’s hotel had a tradition, noted by British visitors of serving punch with a block of ice.

Robert Morris, whose home in Philadelphia was used as the presidential mansion until the capitol moved to Washington DC, had an ice pit where food could be preserved and ice stored for cooling drinks. George Washington modeled his ice-house at Mount Vernon on that of Robert Morris. But southern plantation owners, including Washington, needed to experiment with insulation materials to preserve the ice. Confronted with an inadequate ice supply, Washington wrote to Morris, noting “The House I filled with ice does not answer, it [the ice] is gone already.” Even after reconstructing his ice-house in 1784 he noted that “not the smallest particle” remained by June.

Ice house at Baltimore's Hampton Mansion

Washington failed to understand the need for proper insulation of the ice in warmer climates. Morris provided him with crucial advice: “The Door for entering this Ice house faces the north, a Trap Door is made in the middle of the Floor through which the Ice is put in and taken out. I find it best to fill with Ice which as it is put in should be broke into small pieces and pounded down with heavy Clubs or Battons such as Pavers use, if well beat it will after a while consolidate into one solid mass and require to be cut out with a Chizell or Axe. I tried Snow one year and lost it in June. The Ice keeps until October or November and I believe if the Hole was larger so as to hold more it would keep until Christmas.”
Beginning in 1799, ships carrying New England ice, insulated in sawdust, brought ice to the warmer regions of the American South and later to Caribbean Islands. Still later ice was delivered to plantation ice-houses down the Mississippi River from ice ponds in the upper Midwest. As plantation owners learned to insulate their stored ice with grass or later sawdust, ice-houses were used to store food throughout the South. Inside the icehouses, plantation owners would store barrels of brandy, pickles, preserves, cider, milk, butter and other perishable foods.
What we see is that it takes some planning to set aside ice for use - but that the use of insulation - like sawdust - can help preserve the ice for long periods of time. In the right climate, that might be from ice season to ice season.

Ice storage facilities have existed from ancient time (see here):
A cuneiform tablet from c. 1780 BC records the construction of an icehouse in the northern Mesopotamian town of Terqa by Zimri-Lim, the King of Mari, "which never before had any king built."[2] In China, archaeologists have found remains of ice pits from the seventh century BC, and references suggest they were in use before 1100 BC. Alexander the Great around 300 BC stored snow in pits dug for that purpose. In Rome in the third century AD, snow was imported from the mountains, stored in straw-covered pits, and sold from snow shops. The ice formed in the bottom of the pits sold at a higher price than the snow on top.
In any event, it is a doable thing.

Mother Earth News has ice house plans at How to Build an Ice House.

Some interesting thoughts and suggestions from The SurvivalistBlog including a good idea in the comments about how to save ice in areas where it gets cold enough to freeze water but not to freeze ponds enough to allow for ice harvesting:
I would think if you used ‘white’ buckets you could store clean water & ICE. Two birds…. with one bucket. He filled and let nature freeze then stacked them 3 and 4 high by 2 deep all around his ‘Cold Room’. Seems along the same line as ‘tubs’. I’m liking the bucket ice house this fellow built.
See the referred to Doomsday Preppers episode here. See also Ice Blocks from whence cometh the adjacent photo:
These bucket-shaped ice blocks were made by the National Aquarium in Washington DC in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. If they had lost power these would be instrumental in regulating water temperatures for their aquariums.

Of some interest is this pdf Snow Storage for Cooling of Hospital.

One key point is that the time to preserve the ice you already have on hand in the event of an emergency is to get it into well insulated containers in proper storage as soon as you can. If you have time and space , like the National Aquarium did prior to Sandy, make some.

"Should U.S. worry about China's island building?"

James Kraska on CNN: Should U.S. worry about China's island building?

Short answer: Yes!

Meanwhile, over the past six weeks, Philippine and U.S. maritime patrol aircraft have been warned away from the artificial island, as though China is claiming that its work generates a territorial sea and national airspace. U.S. Navy Adm. Harry Harris has dismissed these maritime claims as "preposterous," while Defense Secretary Ash Carter has stated that the United States will "fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows."

The "United States and everyone else in the region has a stake in this" because "it gets to the question of freedom of navigation, freedom of the seas, freedom from coercion, abiding by peaceful and lawful processes," Carter told the media on his way to Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue security conference. "[A]nd that is...a longstanding U.S. position, as is freedom of flying, freedom to sail."

International law appears to support U.S. officials' skepticism about China's seeming territorial aspirations.

Under article 121 of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), only "naturally formed" islands or rocks that are above water at high tide generate a 12-nautical mile territorial sea -- there is no lawful claim of sovereignty over a submerged reef or artificial island. Despite this, on April 24, China flashed powerful lights at Philippine aircraft near Subi reef and reportedly warned it to leave Chinese "territory."
Read the whole thing.

Nice power play, you've got there China. But a little ham-handed.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

China's "Far Sea Operations"

From the U.S. Naval War College's China Maritime Studies Institute, Beyond the Wall: Chinese Far Seas Operations in a downloadble pdf format. The contents may prove interesting:
CHAPTER ONE Multipolarity and the Future of Sea-Lane Security by Dale C. Rielage
CHAPTER TWO Rimland Powers, Maritime Transformation, and Policy
Implications for China by Wu Zhengyu
CHAPTER THREE Multipolar Trends and Sea-Lane Security by Xu Qiyu
CHAPTER FOUR Chinese Cooperation to Protect Sea-Lane Security:
Antipiracy Operations in the Gulf of Aden by Andrew S. Erickson and Austin M. Strange
CHAPTER FIVE Chinese/U.S. Naval Cooperation on Counterpiracy and
Escort Missions by Zhang Junshe
CHAPTER SIX Chinese Overseas Basing Requirements for the
Twenty-First Century by Christopher D. Yung
CHAPTER SEVEN China’s Evolving Overseas Interests and Peaceful
Competition by Cai Penghong
CHAPTER EIGHT Freedom of the “Far Seas”? A Maritime Dilemma for China by Jonathan G. Odom
CHAPTER NINE SLOC Security and International Cooperation by Wang Xiaoxuan
CHAPTER TEN The U.S.-Chinese Maritime Dynamic: Catalyst for
Cooperation or Confrontation? by Mark Redden and Dr. Phillip C. Saunders
It's the May 2015 edition, edited by Peter Dutton and Ryan Martinson.

I am still reading it, but this introduction to Chapter 6 is intriguing:
In the thirty-five years since inaugurating its “Reform and Opening” policy, China has become increasingly intertwined with the world outside its borders. China is currently the world’s largest trading nation, relying heavily both on foreign supplies of raw
materials for and on foreign consumers of its manufactured products.1 Chinese firms, answering the call of to “Go Out” (走出去), are expanding their overseas investments, and Chinese citizens are traveling the world in ever greater numbers in search of business, education, and pleasure. Though generally positive, these developments have increased the country’s vulnerability to events beyond its control.

Chinese leaders recognize the increasing challenges of safeguarding overseas interests. However, official Chinese policy rejects the type of initiatives that would enable the country to meet these new needs better—namely, overseas basing of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces. In recent years, growing numbers of Chinese commentators have expressed views favoring revision of this traditional policy, suggesting that in due time China will have no choice but to take steps to enhance its far-seas support capabilities. This public discussion likely reflects a debate among Chinese policy makers about how best to protect the country’s expanding overseas interests. If China ultimately does
change its long-standing policy eschewing permanent overseas presence, what basing model is it likely to choose?
Dr. Yung lays out the options he sees.

It's interesting reading, as are the previous 12 issues of China Maritime Studies - which are also available for your reading pleasure here.

If you want more "PLA/PLAN cred," there is this Peter Mattis post at War on the Rocks So You Want to Be a PLA Expert? I don't know if you can get a special ribbon for reading all his links.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Fun with China - South China Sea Freedom of Navigation Operations

Nice piece at Defence One discussing U.S. Freedom of Navigation Operations in the context of the artificial islands China is creating in the South China Sea:
The point of these operations is to publicly challenge any country which seems to be asserting unjustified legal rights under UNCLOS. China has a longstanding disagreement with this US interpretation of the law of the sea. So they always make protests, and China has sometimes sent its fighter jets out to harass or challenge US spy aircraft.

But the bottom line: freedom of navigation operations are not challenges to “territorial claims” or “sovereignty”; US Navy operations already assume that the other nation has “sovereignty” over the relevant coastline or island. So the US Navy operations near China’s artificial islands can assume that China has sovereignty but still demand the standard transit rights.

Of course, it is worth noting that the US could soon escalate the dispute with China.

The US might take the view, for example, that China is building artificial islands on top of reefs or submerged features which do not entitle China to any legal rights at all (See UNCLOS, Art.60(8): “Artificial islands, installations and structures do not possess the status of islands. They have no territorial sea of their own, and their presence does not affect the delimitation of the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone or the continental shelf.”)

If so, then the US would fly within 12 nm miles or even directly over the artificial islands. Such operations would effectively be a direct challenge to China’s territorial claims, but they haven’t happened yet. 

(Hat tip to James Kraska)
China is pushing hard to assert that it has some historical claim to a large chunk of the South China Sea that renders the provisions of UNCLOS inapplicable. See Why US analysis of China’s nine-dash line is flawed:
The State Department study is at its most questionable in its blunt dismissal of the dashed line’s most compelling legal basis: as a geographic limit of China’s historically formed and accepted traditional fishing rights in the semi-enclosed waters of the South China Sea, which are exercised today on a non-exclusive basis. The study argues that China, in acceding to UNCLOS’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) regime and its exclusivity-based prerogatives, effectively conceded all prior usage-based claims that it may have held in foreign EEZs, even in semi-enclosed seas. Limited rights pertaining to historical uses are confined to the territorial sea of the coastal state. It quotes the International Court of Justice’s Gulf of Maine judgment of 1984 to press its point.

The study’s argument is conceptually and legally flawed. It fails to fully admit that such long-usage (traditional fishing) rights in semi-enclosed seas that pre-date UNCLOS can be exercised non-exclusively, and has been accepted by regional peers by way of practice. Further, such usage rights do not raise sovereignty or title-based claims but only give rise to the right to continue using the waters for these traditional purposes.
Read the source completely.

See also Maintaining Peace and Tranquility in the South China Sea:
International law has not prohibited the reclamation of land or islands from the sea. For instance, Shanghai has expanded greatly since the Song Dynasty by reclaiming land from the sea. Songjiang, now a part of internal land here, used to be coastal many centuries ago. Such reclamation has been continuing all the time – Japan has built Kansai International Airport through reclamation, Hong Kong has done similarly for its current airport, and Dubai has engineered its famous World Islands projects for leisure purposes. Certainly they have expanded their territory and gained associate benefits. Contemporary international maritime law doesn’t disallow such activities.

Maritime reclamation has been a part of our life. For a long time, Japan has been fortifying the Okinotori Islands and demanded an exclusive economic zone derived from its fortified structure. However, America has been silent on this. For a similarly long time, Vietnam has reclaimed and expanded some of the islands of the Spratly under its occupation, earlier than China is doing. Again, America has made no objection.

It shall be noted that China and Vietnam have disputes over some of these islands in South China Sea. China has claimed that it owns all islands/islets on its side of the U-shaped line and it thought that decades ago Vietnam had agreed with China’s claim, made at the time when Hanoi needed China’s support to its independence and unification fight with France and the US. Last year China submitted to the UN its evidence of Vietnam’s past admission of China’s sovereignty over the entire Spratly and Paracel islands. China has difficulty with Vietnam’s negating its past commitment and present occupation oj some of them and subsequent reclamation.

Despite this, China has joined the Declaration on the Code of Conduct (DoC) on the South China Sea with all ASEAN members, committing to using peaceful means only to settle disputes. Lately Beijing has embarked on a process of preparing for negotiating the Code of Conduct (CoC) on the South China Sea, to eventually conclude a multilateral institutional legally bound framework of resolving disputes peacefully in the region. Clearly, China’s handling of the disputes has shown its intent to maintain peace and tranquility collaboratively in South China Sea. It is notable that per the UN Charter, any countries have self-defense right to protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity, with or without specific UN authorization. By working around DoC and CoC parameters on the South China Sea, China is willing to abide by higher standard so as to resolve international disputes through cooperation.
I guess that only works if you assume China has any rights at all to do what it is doing.