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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Escape "Earth Abides" (1950)

About Earth Abides:
Earth Abides is a 1949 post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by American writer George R. Stewart. It tells the story of the fall of civilization from deadly disease and its rebirth. The story was set in the United States in the 1940s in Berkeley, California and told by a character, Isherwood Williams, who emerges from isolation in the mountains to find almost everyone dead.

Earth Abides won the inaugural International Fantasy Award in 1951. It was included in Locus Magazine's list of best All Time Science Fiction in 1987 and 1998 and was a nominee to be entered into the Prometheus Hall of Fame. In November 1950, it was adapted for the CBS radio program Escape as a two-part drama starring John Dehner.
Here are those shows -

The title is from Ecclesiates 1:4 - “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.”

On Midrats 30 April 2017, Episode 382: The Road to Mosul to Raqqa, and What's Next for the Islamic State with Bill Roggio

Please join us on 30 April 2017 at 5pm EDT as we end a short hiatus for Midrats Episode 382: The Road to Mosul to Raqqa, and What's Next for the Islamic State:
Except for a few final holdouts and mopping up, the siege of Mosul is almost over and the wrecked city back in the hands of allied Iraqi factions. Soon the attention will turn west as the investment of Raqqa is setting up nicely.

As they lose actual ground in Iraq and Syria, what will the next step be for the Islamic State? Where will they move to as their next safe haven, and what should be expect from the thousands of fighters trained by them who will return to their home nations?

Our guest for the entire hour to discuss this and related issues will be Bill Roggio, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.
Listen live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or you can pick the show up later by clicking that link or by visiting either our iTunes page or our Stitcher page.

That map? The Middle East as it once was. Sorta.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

I Wonder (Again) Why Don't We Have Hydrofoils in the U.S. Navy?

Littoral combat, narrow seas combat or coastal operations, anything but deep blue water ops, I think we made a serious mistake not keeping and developing these small, high speed ships and their operations in squadrons and flotillas.

In fact, I assert we need them now. Right now.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Open Books

Books currently being read:

Narrow Seas, Small Navies, and Fat Merchantmen (1990) by Charles W. Kobdurger, Jr.:
In the narrow seas , more often than not, it is the bordering small navies which now call the tune to which the super-navies dance. It is they who determine who shall pass and the price he shall pay .
. .
In these small navies, there are few conventional flat-deck aircraft carriers or nuclear-powered submarines. Ship types tend to be down-sized across the board. If they do have a carrier it will be a V/STOL one. They replace destroyers with fast attack craft.
They pay for this in comparative radius of action and in sea-keeping ability --- neither of great interest in most narrow seas it should be noted.

Asymmetric Warfare at Sea: The Case of Sri Lanka (2016) by Jayanath Colombage (Admiral, former Commander of the Sri Lankan Navy):
Maritime terrorism is not just a possibility but a real one. Recent history indicates that the general vulnerability of the maritime environment has become more apparent. To analyze the maritime terrorist threats,
it is not enough to study only the capabilities and motives of terrorist groups, but one must also observe the maritime industry, shipping practices, the vulnerability of the shipping trade as well as counter measures taken by the authorities and other institutions which are entrusted with the security of the shipping routes.

USNI on Naval Cooperation (2015) edited by Sam J. Tangredi. Excerpt from CDRE Adeniyi Adejimi Osinowo's "Africa Partnership Station Helps All Sides" (2011):
APS provides a platform for addressing both African maritime-security limitations and non-African stakeholders' strategic interests. With the extent of challenges and thinness of resources, it is imperative that African maritime services cooperate at all levels to tackle the situation. This mission can be seen as representing a necessary compromise between pride of sovereignty and maritime-security capability. It is an effort-multiplier benefiting all sides.

Small Boats, Weak States, Dirty Money: Piracy and Maritime Terrorism in the Modern World (2010) by Martin N. Murphy:
Several of the factors that favour pirate activity also favour maritime insurgent/terrorist activity. . .

The overriding common factor is politics. While this might be obvious in the case of insurgency and terrorism, including that weak states are less capable of resisting insurgent or terrorist infiltration , it is possibly less evident when it comes to piracy.

Throughout history, however, the ebb and flow of pirate fortunes has been inextricably linked with the ebb and flow of power on land, with the power and policies of states and their political leaders, strong as well as weak. . . .

Small Navies: Strategy and Policy for Small Navies in War and Peace (Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies Series) (2014) from Michael McDevit, "Small Navies in Asia: The Strategic Rationale for Growth":
The ROKN shifted focus to littoral war fighting, concentrating on the North Korean submarine threat. Pyongyang's onventory of midget submarines (40 small 300 tonners, and 100 minis) is challenging. One of the most embarassing features of the post-sinking (sinking of the ROKN Cheonan) investigation was the finding that ASW readiness for ships operating in the Yellow (West) Sea was neglected because of the ROK Navy assumption that the Yellow Sea was too shallow for submarine operations.
General Lee: His Campaigns in Virginia 1861-1865 (1906) by Walter H. Taylor:
General Lee anticipated a severe struggle. There were many prominent men on each side of the controversy who contended that the war would be of short duration ; with them there was a disposition to underrate the steadfastness of purpose and the endurance of the other side; and they pretended to expect a sharp, short, and decisive contest. The first call of Mr. Lincoln for volunteers was for three months' service, and the leaders on both sides contended that the war would not last ninety days. General Lee took an entirely different view of the case. He seemed to realize the magnitude of the impending conflict; he gaged correctly the indomitable will, the untiring energy, the fertile resources, the pride of opinion, that characterized the people of the North ; and he knew full well that there would be no holiday affair in a conflict between the two sections of the United States, each animated by a traditional devotion to cherished institutions, each boasting the proud lineage of the Anglo-Saxon, each determined to win or die, and each confident of success.

He looked upon the vaporific declamations of those on each side who proposed to wipe their adversaries from the face of the earth in ninety days as bombastic and foolish. Notwithstanding his views, so freely expressed, and his recommendation that the volunteers be enlisted for the war, the Virginia troops, as also most of those of the other Southern States, were enlisted for twelve months. The civil authorities could not bring themselves to believe that there could possibly be any need for an armed force beyond that time.
So many lessons to be learned from history and examining assumptions that come back to bite those who assumed.

In many ways, naval fiction helps to focus on possibilities that might have to be dealt with. In this vein, Claude Berube's The Aden Effect and Syren's Song and Singer and Cole's Ghost Fleet are interesting to expand your discomfort zone.

UPDATE: Forgot to add a gem, Peter Hopkirk's The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia. Also Sarah Rose's For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History (2011) which was industrial espionage on a grand scale, indeed.

Finally, if you want an understanding of China's 100 years of humiliation, you could start with The Opium Wars: The Addiction of One Empire and the Corruption of Another (2004) by Hanes and Sanello.

UPDATE 2: Fixed bad links for Hopkirk and Rose books.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Fat Man "Murder by Mail"

The Fat Man, a popular radio show during the 1940s and early 1950s was a detective drama created by (or at least credited to) Dashiell Hammett. It starred J. Scott Smart in the title role, as a detective who started out anonymous but rapidly acquired the name 'Brad Runyon'.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Somebody in "Somalia Calls On NATO to Prevent the Illegal Fishing"

All Africa reports "Somalia Calls On NATO to Prevent the Illegal Fishing" which is interesting since there really is only a imaginary construct of "Somalia" in the atlases of the world, while the reality is that the physical territory that was once Somalia is just a series of clan enclaves and would-be states like Puntland. In short, "there is not there there."

Thus, in reading such headlines, one has to decipher which group now seeks to make claim on the assets of other countries to protect the shores and littorals and EEZ that a failed mess of a state cannot protect on its own. Let's look at the article
Somali officials said that NATO must do more to prevent the illegal fishing that sparked the latest pirate hijacking.
Some Somali fishermen, including ex-pirates, have complained of harassment by illegal foreign trawlers. Officials from Puntland have warned that more hijackings could occur if the problem isn't tackled.

"We requested NATO warships to tackle the illegal fishing, but they replied it was not their mandate," Abdihakim Abdullahi Omar, the vice president of Puntland, told reporters at Bosasso port where the crewmen were released.

"We told them that if they cannot take measures against the illegal fishing vessels who come under their cover and those who pour wastes into our waters, then their presence is a burden rather than a benefit."
So, not a Somali government official, but rather a Puntland official.

And, one has to wonder how NATO ships impose any sort of burden on the Somalis, except those who are engaged in illegal activities, since I don't think there are many liberty ports in the failed state and I know Somalia or Puntland is paying one dime for the NATO forces. I guess just having them out there weighs heavy on the Somali minds.

Then there is this, which echoes what I have long said,
However, Joshua Tallis, a Research Analyst at CNA Corporation, a nonprofit research and analysis organization, told the Sri Lanka Guardian that fishing has not traditionally been a major part of Somali culture or economics, nor were most pirates former fishermen. "That does not excuse the devastation of toxic dumping and IUU fishing, only its ability to causally explain piracy," he said.
Puntland Marine Police
I would suggest that if Mr. Omar is serious, that Puntland put some real effort into forming a coast guard (see also here) and getting it out to enforce Somali interests. Otherwise, bad things undoubtedly will continue to happen to his failed state.

Let's Talk Arsenal Ships and Missile Barges

"Payloads, not platforms" so sayeth a former CNO.

So, how to get a whole lotta fire power in to a single ship? About 20 years ago there were proposals for the minimally crewed, missile laden Arsenal Ship, designed to deliver a flexible package of ordnance downrange for support of, say, amphibious operations or something:
The Arsenal Ship was developed initially as a demonstration program to provide a large increase in the amount of ordnance available to ground- and sea-based forces in a conflict, particularly during the early days. The Navy envisioned that the ship would have a large capacity of different missiles, including Tomahawk and Standard, and space for future extended range gun systems. The ship could also have a sea-based version of the Army Tactical Missile System. This ship could greatly increase capabilities in littoral operations to conduct long-range strike missions, provide fire support for ground forces, defend against theater ballistic missiles, and maintain air superiority.
The Arsenal Ship has the potential to provide substantial fire support to a variety of missions in regional conflicts without the logistics burden of transporting both delivery systems and ammunition to the shore and forward areas. The Arsenal Ship is expected to carry a large number of VLS cells but without the sophisticated command and control and radar equipment found on Aegis-equipped ships.
The number of VLS cells being bandied about was 500 per ship, with 4 or 5 ships contemplated.

More recently, the concept has been revived in the SSGN submarine conversions:
The SSGN Program Office refueled and converted four SSBNs into SSGNs in a little more than five years at a significantly lower cost and less time than building a new platform. USS Ohio (SSGN 726) entered the shipyard on Nov. 15, 2002, completed conversion in December 2005 and deployed for the first time in October 2007. USS Florida (SSGN 728) commenced its refueling and conversion in August 2003 and returned to the fleet in April 2006. USS Michigan (SSGN 727) started its shipyard availability in October 2004 and delivered in November 2006. USS Georgia (SSGN 729) completed conversion in December 2007.
Combined, the four SSGNs represent more than half of the Submarine Force's vertical launch payload capacity with each SSGN capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles. The missiles are loaded in seven-shot Multiple-All-Up-Round Canisters (MACs) in up to 22 missile tubes. These missile tubes can also accommodate additional stowage canisters for SOF equipment, food, and other consumables to extend the submarines' ability to remain forward deployed in support of combatant commanders' tasking. The missile tubes are also able to accommodate future payloads such as new types of missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, and unmanned undersea vehicles.
Well, heck, there has been discussion of using the LPD 17 hull to develop a "Ballistic Missile Defense Ship" with up to 288 VLS cells:
Atop the superstructure is a massive S-band phased array radar, over 21 feet on each side. Compare that to the 12.5 ft. diameter of the SPY-1 radars aboard Ticonderoga Class Cruisers and Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers. For radars, larger size means greater range and better resolution and these arrays have three times the area of those which equip current BMD vessels.

Starting behind the superstructure and continuing along the periphery to the stern is a vertical launch system (VLS) with 288 cells to carry surface to air missiles (SAMs), Tomahawk cruise missiles or Vertical-launch Anti-submarine rockets (VLAs). For comparison, Ticos have 122; later Burkes 96 and earlier Burkes 90. So, that’s triple the average missile load to start, with plenty of room to install more. Plus, the ship is taller than the surface combatants, which means it can hold future missiles of greater length and range.
Why? Some suggest it would help defeat anti-access systems, as Capt. Tangredi did in Breaking the Anti-Access Wall:
Before describing the specifics of an arsenal ship, it is important to describe what it is not—or rather, what it should not be. It is not a multipurpose ship; therefore, it is not a replacement for any other ship, especially not aircraft carriers. It is not a destroyer or cruiser capable of conducting missions in multiple domains (that is, antiair, antisurface, antisubmarine, and anti–ballistic-missile warfare). Its weapons are for strike from the sea, not for war at sea . It is not a ship for all reasons. It is a gap filler that will give us the anti-anti-access capability that we need but do not have in the necessary quantity.

A modern arsenal ship should not be designed to make port visits, provide humanitarian assistance, provide C2, host any sort of staff, or do anything else other than fulfill the third capability required to defeat anti-access strategies: provide maximum volume of precise fire onto enemy targets. The C2 of its ordnance should come from other warships. Its long-range and mid-range defenses would be provided by the rest of the Fleet or other joint assets. It should not be expected to operate independently, although a low maximum speed and unique sea-keeping characteristics might require independent transits and tactical rendezvous with deception techniques minimizing the risks.

Perhaps we should call it a self-propelled arsenal barge.
SNAFU has this image of a towed missile barge, the source of which is hard to track, but the caption on the picture indicates this is Russian design using a Sovremennyy-class destroyer as a towing ship

There is this U.S. Navy image of what appears to be a JHSV pulling what appears to be a high speed missile barge:

Even Lego modelers seem to be on the arsenal ship band wagon with a fantasy build:
If you've got any info on the Russian design or the JSHV barge, please let me know.

In the meantime, there is this 2005 article by Cmdr. John B. Perkins from the Armed Forces Journal, "Surface ship, submarine missions are coalescing" to ponder:
Andrew F. Krepinevich, director of the U.S. Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), alluded to this trend 10 years ago.

“Just as bombers are becoming relatively less important than the ordnance they carry,” he said, “so too might surface warships, which could evolve to become “barges” (with some perhaps operating below the surface) for advanced conventional munitions that can strike pre-designated targets at extended ranges.”

This concept makes the case that barges would be ideal as strike platforms of the future. The reference to the barges “operating below the surface” is the first precursor toward the idea of larger systems operating underwater.
One of Krepinevich’s associates at CSBA put it this way: “This type of basic anti-navy architecture could be made more effective by incorporating increasingly sophisticated mines, active and passive sea-based sensor networks and quiet-attack submarines. Such architectures would have far lower barriers to entry (cost and learning) than carrier battle group operations, potentially enabling those competitors to leapfrog the carrier era and become major maritime competitors, at least in littoral waters. Absent a revolutionary breakthrough in ASW[anti-submarine warfare], naval power-projection operations could be driven sub surface.”
This reference brings the point home in stark fashion: Technologies meant to find and destroy objects will become inexpensive and plentiful. The world’s strongest navy should not build anything but ships that employ the best covering tactics available. The CSBA suggested that the capital ship of the fleet in 2020 might be an arsenal ship — a missile-firing submersible armed with cruise and conventional ballistic missiles — and that such ships might be armed with a few hundred to a thousand missiles.

A distributed power projection navy might include several classes of arsenal ships and other submersible power projection forces in the fleet.
Of course, here's the 12 year old kicker:
The Navy must become bold in decision-making before it is relegated to playing catch-up in a world fast becoming shaped by quick-striking revolutions in military affairs.
Well, we've got the SSGNs.

UPDATE: About that LPD based missile platform:

Monday, April 17, 2017

Interesting Read from "Think Defence on the UK Amphibious Capability - Today and Tomorrow"

The Royal Navy (and its sisters and cousins and aunts) has some amphibious capability, as set out by Think Defence in UK Amphibious Capability - Today and Tomorrow :
The UK maintains a fairly broad array of amphibious combat capabilities with contributions from the Royal Navy, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, the British Army and a number of civilian providers.

In many ways, the future looks bright; improvements to naval gunfire, new support helicopters and attack helicopters on the horizon, and of course, the carriers and F-35B capability, joined by development in unmanned systems, all point to a strong future.

But with the impending ‘out of service’ date of HMS Ocean, block out of service of the amphibious shipping in the medium term, a changing threat and political landscape, and the constant pressure on budget, there are many difficult issues that remain to be resolved.
One issue is size. The RN is under-sized and under-funded.

More good reading at the Royal Navy website where "sea blindness" is being fought daily:
Maritime trade is the lifeblood of the UK economy and industry. 95% of Britain’s economic activity depends on the oceans. And every year Britain imports goods worth £524 billion.

The UK is so dependent on the seas for its prosperity, that without the Royal Navy acting as a deterrent the effect on the economy would be overwhelming.
The UK has 77 commissioned ships, including "13 frigates and 6 destroyers." See also here. By comparison, Japan has 46 destroyers and naval vessels..

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 13 March - 12 April 2017

UPDATE: China's Navy rescues vessel from pirates as reported here:
The Chinese navy rescued a Panamanian merchant ship from pirates in the Gulf of Aden over the weekend, the second time it has helped a vessel under threat this month.

The Frigate Hengyang from China's 25th convoy fleet sent by the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) navy to the Gulf of Aden rushed to the hijacked ship ALHEERA, after receiving reports that it was under attack at 9:30 pm on Saturday. Hengyang's helicopters reached the ship one hour later and drove the five pirates away, the PLA Daily reported on Sunday.

The ALHEERA is now safely continuing its journey.
Perhaps related is this VOA report of two dead suspected pirates:
A Somali official says foreign naval forces in international waters shot dead two pirates and wounded another when the bandits attempted to hijack a ship on Saturday.

Ahmed Abdullahi, an official with the anti-piracy force in the semi-autonomous Puntland region, said the two killed men were part of a group of nine pirates in a boat approaching an unidentified ship near the Gulf of Aden when a naval force opened fire on them.

He said the six other pirates survived the attack and escaped.

Residents in Durduri, a coastal village in Sanaag region, said that on Sunday morning they found two dead bodies, apparently left by the pirates, near the coast.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


The Empty Tomb, 1889, Mikhail Nesterov

Matthew 28King James Version (KJV)

28 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:

4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: "Unification Plan" (1951) from Now Hear This!

Something to do with Korea.

About the show:
Now Hear This was one of the better produced, written and performed docudrama productions of the post-War era. Co-produced by Navy Recruiting and NBC, the east-coast productions featured some of the era's finest east-coast talent. Well-written, directed and paced, the series provided as many as twenty-one highly compelling vignettes of naval exploits, punctuated by one or two Navy recruiting messages. As indicated in the Billboard review below, the reviewer found the premiere episode, Fire At Sea, equally well-dramatized, performed and written.
There's no question that Now Hear This was an effective recruiting message during the Korean War era--and beyond. The series portrayed Navy personnel with both a very human and very inspirational touch, and in a perfect balance of each. Promoted as actual stories based on the personal experiences of the Navy personnel that embodied the great traditions of The Navy, the series more than met its portfolio. These were dramatized, first-person accounts of naval experiences. As such they presented a far more visceral and personal impression of each naval fighting man's fears, self-reflection and motivations. It was an inspired touch.

With the majority of the dialogue so personalized and intimate, the scripts came alive to equal the most compelling Radio drama of the era. This was a tribute to both the production staff and the performers enacting the scripts. This brief series, often overlooked in the vintage Radio community stands as the equal of the Peabody Award winning The Man Behind the Gun. Now Hear This is one of vintage Radio's overlooked and underappreciated gems.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

So, International Law - Mostly a Joke or What?

Let's begin with a piece from Just Security, "International Law is Failing Us in Syria"
Recent events in Syria –President Bashar al-Assad’s horrific chemical weapons attack on civilians in Idlib, and the Trump administration’s subsequent missile strikes – have again forced to the fore the debate over the legality of humanitarian intervention in international law. Naturally, we tend to focus on these questions in the context of an immediate catastrophe, or a particular use or threatened use of force. Thus, the legal question of humanitarian intervention is often inextricably bound up with the extent to which any particular military operation is sound policy. That focus may over-emphasize action, and fail to grapple sufficiently with the wide space in which states do not act, or limit policy options based, at least in part, on the constraints imposed by international law. I would like, therefore, to try to separate for a moment the legal question from President Donald Trump’s recent actions, and from our sense of the extent to which he may be able to put forward a responsible strategy in Syria. To be clear, I have little hope that this president is the one who will be able to thread this needle. But, as we are all painfully aware, Syria’s humanitarian disaster is hardly new. For years now, international law has failed in Syria.

The international law question at stake is simply this: May a state or states lawfully use force against another sovereign state for purely humanitarian reasons, without sanction by the UN Security Council? (emphasis added)....
What is "international law?" There's the classic definition:
International law, also called public international law or law of nations, the body of legal rules, norms, and standards that apply between sovereign states and other entities that are legally recognized as international actors.
Now, I am a simple man, and I always ask this question about any "law" - "How will it be enforced?"

As a result, in many of those cases involving things like "humanitarian intervention" my conclusion has been that the invaded or attacked country/entity seems to be the logical enforcement agent - or the entity to resist having the will of others imposed on it. A weak state which cannot deny access by the forces of "good intentions" is pretty much fair game for the stronger do-gooders of the world, regardless of UN approval or sanction.

Take Syria, please (insert Henny Youngman joke).

Some argue that there is no legal basis for intervention into Syrian domestic matters, no matter how horrific. See The U.S. Has No Legal Basis to Intervene in Syria or Breaking international law in Syria.

Others assert there is such a legal basis, as in HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION IN SYRIA:THE LEGAL BASIS .

Some suggest that there might be a legal basis, but it hasn't been properly identified, see The ETF and the Legality of U.S. Intervention in Syria under International Law

Now, in setting out the above, I have magically confused issues: humanitarian interventions and those other justifications for fighting in another country against the regime that "rules" that land. If you read the above links you might be able to sort it out, but it misses the point I am trying to make here, which is that regardless of motivation or justification, a more powerful force - whether it be a single nation or a coalition - can violate national sovereignty of a country pretty much at will unless that country (and any allies it has) can defend itself from such violations.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait, Saddam offered rationales, but the U.S. and a coalition refuted those rationales with force. When Russia invaded Crimea or chunks of the Ukraine, it offered rationales (like "protecting ethnic Russians") and the Ukraine itself has fought back, though no alliance has jumped in with troops to help the Ukrainian forces with supporting troops. I'll toss in Libya as an example of "humanitarian intervention" but we all know that went south pretty quickly - see From Responsibility to Protect to Slave Markets, creating a whole new set of issues.

Based on where you sit, you can argue, as the Russians seem to be doing, that the intervention in Syria by non-Syrian and non-Syrian allies in the domestic affairs of Syria is illegal and that Russia and Iran are merely doing what the coalition did in the first Gulf War, protecting a sovereign country from outside forces. I'm not suggesting I agree with that view, but it is out there.

In any event, it would be nice if nations could sit around and peacefully resolve various issues, but the reality is, as Mao noted, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." Substitute "International Law" for "Political power" and you will arrive at a truth. International law is of two parts - that part, like maritime law, that nations agree to for the smooth flow of trade which directly benefits them and the other type, that part which "grows out of the barrel of a gun."

So, call me a cynic, but worrying about the niceties of international law in light of what is happening in the reality of Syria is to completely miss the point. This is about power and, ultimately, international law is only as strong as the ability to enforce it.

UPDATE: See also International Law in Times of Hegemony: Unequal Power and the Shaping of the International Legal Order

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

North Korea Says It's Ready for "Any Mode" of War. Really? Let's Crank Up the Bad Weather War Machine

NY Daily News says North Korea claims it’s ‘ready’ for 'war' as U.S. ships approach
North Korea in "darken" stealth mode
A North Korean official on Monday blasted the deployment of a battle-ready U.S. strike group to the waters off the Korean Peninsula — and pledged that the Communist dictatorship is "ready" for war.

The explosive response from Pyongyang comes as tensions on the peninsula are escalating because of intensified cooperation between the U.S. and South Korea. The intensification came to a head when the U.S. Navy's Carl Vinson strike group received orders on Sunday to cancel a planned Australia trip and redirect to Korean waters.

As the strike group approached North Korea late Monday, a spokesman for the isolated country's foreign ministry called the U.S. decision "outrageous" and vowed that it could provoke "catastrophic consequences."

"This goes to prove that the U.S. reckless moves for invading the DPRK have reached a serious phase of its scenario," the spokesman said in a statement, using an acronym for the North's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "If the U.S. dares opt for a military action, crying out for 'preemptive attack' and 'removal of the headquarters,' the DPRK is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the U.S."
I suggest that the NORKS need to pay attention to the oddball theories of the fringe that "knows" the U.S. has the ability to turn weather into a weapon - as in Weather Warfare: Beware the US Military’s Experiments with Climatic Warfare:
Rarely acknowledged in the debate on global climate change, the world’s weather can now be modified as part of a new generation of sophisticated electromagnetic weapons. Both the US and Russia have developed capabilities to manipulate the climate for military use.

Environmental modification techniques have been applied by the US military for more than half a century. US mathematician John von Neumann, in liaison with the US Department of Defense, started his research on weather modification in the late 1940s at the height of the Cold War and foresaw ‘forms of climatic warfare as yet unimagined’. During the Vietnam war, cloud-seeding techniques were used, starting in 1967 under Project Popeye, the objective of which was to prolong the monsoon season and block enemy supply routes along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

The US military has developed advanced capabilities that enable it selectively to alter weather patterns. The technology, which is being perfected under the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP), is an appendage of the Strategic Defense Initiative – ‘Star Wars’. From a military standpoint, HAARP is a weapon of mass destruction, operating from the outer atmosphere and capable of destabilising agricultural and ecological systems around the world.

Weather-modification, according to the US Air Force document AF 2025 Final Report, ‘offers the war fighter a wide range of possible options to defeat or coerce an adversary’, capabilities, it says, extend to the triggering of floods, hurricanes, droughts and earthquakes: ‘Weather modification will become a part of domestic and international security and could be done unilaterally… It could have offensive and defensive applications and even be used for deterrence purposes. The ability to generate precipitation, fog and storms on earth or to modify space weather… and the production of artificial weather all are a part of an integrated set of [military] technologies.’
Some of you may recall the accusation that Katrina was a Japanese Yakuza plot using Russian tech to attack the U.S. via a hurricane (see here) or something.

NORK Drought
I don't want to tip our hand, but, well, you know giving bad weather to the NORKS would ruin their economy, starve their people . . . of, wait, that's what the 3 Kims have done over the past 70 years ... bad weather has the potential to make it worse, though, so there.

By the way, a lot of the "weather weapon" -uh - nut jobs "concernees" cite a paper from the USAF Air University, Air Command and Staff College in 1996 imagining the world in the future Weather As A Force Multiplier: Owning The Weather In 2025, which reads a lot like science fiction to me, but not so much to others, who see it as proof that we have a secret weather weapon (see here for example).

I say, if we got it, let's use it and see how ready the NORKS are for that "mode" of war.

UPDATE: The famous report that some people seem to think reflects reality:

A Reset of the "Cold War?"

Watching CNN this morning (and was there ever a more confusing mess of news than that at CNN?) and Professor Stephen Cohen was on, warning of the dangers of the new world order left in the wake of the out-going administration and the bow wake of the arrival of the current administration. As I understood the Prof, we're on the brink of a crisis on par with the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 and things are serious indeed.

This is not a drum that Dr. Cohen just started beating, either, as can be seen in this CNN interview from back in December 2016:

It should be noted that Dr. Cohen is a contributor to The Nation and has a book out on Russian-U.S. relations, Why Cold War Again?: How America Lost Post-Soviet Russia :
The new East-West conflict, which broke out over the Ukrainian crisis
in 2014, but which long predated it and soon spread through Europe and to the Middle East, is potentially the worst US-Russian confrontation in more than fifty years― and the most fateful. A negotiated resolution is possible, but time may be running out. In this book, renowned Russia scholar and media commentator Stephen F. Cohen traces the history of this East-West relationship in the 'Inter Cold War' period― the years from the purported end of the preceding Cold War, in 1990-1991, to what he has long argued would be a new and even more dangerous Cold War.
Which is pretty much what he said this morning.

Sec State Tillerson is visiting Russia. I hope plain speaking and an understanding of Putin's remarkably weak position helps defuse this mess.

Finger pointing on the Syria debacle seems to be a thing on right and left. See Syria Will Stain Obama’s Legacy Forever from Foreign Policy and Obama’s Disastrous Syria Policy from National Review.

Can the genie be put back in the bottle? I don't know, Russia seems to have only a couple of friends in the world, and Assad of Syria appears to be one of them. AND there is that warm water port.

Iran has hopped on the anti-U.S. band wagon (with "red line warnings"), which was a short hop indeed, given their view of the Great Satan. If I were they, I'd be more worried about the regime to their north, but that might just be me.

In any event, I am less concerned about a "cold" war than a "hot" one stumbled into like WWI, the results of which, by the way, still haunt the Middle East. See A century on: Why Arabs resent Sykes-Picot:
The borders of the Middle East were drawn during World War I by a
Briton, Mark Sykes, and a Frenchman, Francois Picot.

The two diplomats' pencils divided the map of one of the most volatile regions in the world into states that cut through ethnic and religious communities.

Later dubbed the Sykes-Picot treaty, the secret agreement was signed by Paris and London on May 16, 1916, to become the basis on which the Levant region was shaped for years to come.

A century on, the Middle East continues to bear the consequences of the treaty, and many Arabs across the region continue to blame the subsequent violence in the Middle East, from the occupation of Palestine to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), on the Sykes-Picot treaty.
Also here.

Of course, there is also Ukraine, Crimea and the threat to the Baltic NATO countries.

May we live in interesting times.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Somali Pirates: Hijacking and "Thwarting"

From the Tribune of India: India, China warships thwart pirate attack off Aden coast
The Indian Navy and China’s People’s Liberation Army (Navy) jointly
saved a bulk carrier named OS-35 which came under attack by pirates. The 178-metre ship was attacked by pirates on Saturday night in the Arabian Sea. The INS Mumbai provided air cover to the distressed merchant vessel, while the PLA Navy ship Yulin sent in a team of 18 to sanitise the merchant ship.
Previous reports were that OS-35 had been hijacked see Reuters: Somali Pirates "Suspected" in Bulker Hijack
Somali pirates are suspected of hijacking a bulk carrier ship, the head of
INS Mumbai
a maritime security company said on Saturday, in the latest in a string of attacks after years of calm.

A security source working at the Puntland Marine Police Force said the vessel was Tuvalu-flagged and is known as OS35.

Info on OS-35 here
PLAN frigate of type involved

Copyrighted photo of OS-35 by Julian De Lucas from

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Crime Classics "The Good Ship Jane (1954)

About Crime Classics:
Created, produced, and directed by radio actor/director Elliott Lewis,
the program was a historical true crime series, examining crimes and murders from the past. It grew out of Lewis' personal interest in famous murder cases and took a documentary-like approach to the subject, carefully recreating the facts, personages and feel of the time period. Comparatively little dramatic license was taken with the facts and events, but the tragedy was leavened with humor, expressed largely through the narration.
The crimes dramatized generally covered a broad time and place frame from ancient Greece to late 19th-century America. Each episode in the series was co-written by Morton Fine and David Friedkin, in consultation with Lewis, although the scripting process was more a matter of research, as the stories were "adapted from the original court reports and newspaper accounts" or from the works of historians.
The only continuing character was the host/narrator, Thomas Hyland, played by Lou Merrill. Hyland was introduced by the announcer as a "connoisseur of crime, student of violence, and teller of murders." Merrill's deadpan portrayal of Hyland provided the welcome note of tongue-in-cheek humor to the proceedings.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Friday Films: Star Identification

In the world of anti-satellite weapons depending on navigation by electronics beamed from space might not be the best idea, so it's probably time to learn how to identify stars again - so here's a head start from the past:

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Somali Pirates: Pakistani Vessel Taken

Pakistani ship kidnapped by Somalian pirates

Somalian pirates hijacked a Pakistani ship near the Somalian coast, Samaa reported on Wednesday.

According to details, the pirates hijacked the ship named MV Salama 1 and have taken to El Hur near port Hobyo.

Salama 1 is the fourth ship to be hijacked by Somali pirates.

The Pakistani ship was hijacked a day after an Indian commercial vessel was abducted by the pirates in a similar manner.

The Indian vessel was such as wheat and sugar from Dubai via Yemen to Somaliawhen it came under attack, owner Isaak Them said.

So, there I was, just blogging about things that interest me and . . .

. . . I find myself surrounded by some really good company
Top 60 Military Websites & Blogs For Military Professionals & Veterans

I'd like to thank the Academy and all those who decided this little space on the world of electrons was deserving for the honor

Tuesday, April 04, 2017



UPDATE: Most of you, not being UNC basketball fans, will not visit the Tar Heel athletics website so you would read Turner Watson's excellent piece there, Turner's Take: This Shining Moment
There are those who would say that sport fandom is irrational. Investing so much of yourself emotionally in the outcome of a game, in something that you have no control over, it's . . . well it's silly, they say.

Often, it's easy to agree with them. After a tough loss by your team, it's healthy to take a step back, get some perspective. Hug your family and move on. Sport fandom is irrational.

Except, it's not, because our society coalesces around sport like it does little else in life. Sport brings people together. We have pregame tailgates and postgame celebrations. We have gatherings around the television and tickets bought together all so we can share in an experience, witnessing tremendous athleticism and root for our favorite team. We toast to wins and wallow after losses.

As we grow older, our perspective shifts a bit. We don't invest so much in outcomes as we invest in people, those we commune with and those we enjoy watching. We begin to see athletes as three-dimensional people, with incredible talent, certainly, but with thoughts, feelings, emotions of their own. We invest in our sports heroes because they represent a part of us. They are walking, breathing metaphors. We live vicariously through them; weep in times of failure, jump and scream in times of triumph. Whether or not we ever meet them, we feel a connection, one that persists long after their playing days are over.
When one of our favorites is struggling, we want more than anything for him to overcome those struggles. So that they contribute to a positive outcome, yes, but also because, well, we just care.

Isaiah Hicks is one of our favorites. The affable Oxford native began his career on the wing, playing from the outside in as a freshman. He was not comfortable there, and before his sophomore season, Hicks was genuinely excited about returning to the post, playing with his back to the basket, as he'd done so as a dominant high school player. For two years he came off the bench and provided a spark before becoming a senior starter. But Hicks went through a slump recently. After scoring 17 points against Texas Southern in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, he hadn't didn't hit double figures the next two games. Against Kentucky, he was just 2-5 from the field and he gave way to the rise of Luke Maye. In the national semifinal against Oregon, Hicks scored two points –a single dunk– on 1-12 shooting.

On Sunday, Hicks said he wasn't down on himself, enough times that you came around and believed him."I wouldn't say I'm very frustrated or anything, because I feel like I'm out there just trying, and I feel like when you try and it doesn't go well, just keep trying," he said.

Trying. You don't often hear an athlete at the collegiate or professional level talk about 'trying.' A word like 'try,' rather than 'execute,' for example, conveys vulnerability. It takes away some of the myth of the athlete. It makes them human. "The only pressure is just trying," Hicks said. "At the end of the day, I look at it like I've just got to try. Hope to play the best, but all I can do is try."

Roy Williams was asked about Hicks' struggles on Sunday, the day before the national championship game. "It's a tough time for him as an individual," the coach said. "I keep trying to tell him I believe in him, I trust him. I'm going to keep putting you out there. Said many times I'm not the smartest, but I'm not the dumbest guy. So if I keep putting you out there, I must have more confidence in you than you have in yourself. So hopefully things will change Monday night."

They didn't. Not right away, anyway. Hicks' first field goal attempt came 15 seconds in. He got a good look at a baseline jumper, but it went long. So too did his second shot. But he kept trying. He got a block. A couple of rebounds. A few free throws, and then his first jumper fell inside of three minutes to go in the first half. Hicks proceeded to have a very average Isaiah Hicks game. He'd made a strong move to score late in the shot clock five minutes prior, but with a minute to play he had 11 points, 9 rebounds and four fouls. Not dominant, but not bad. He was trying.
What a great life lesson. Keeping in the fight, even when your "A Game" seems to have deserted you.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Somalia Pirates: Indian Ship Grabbed

BBC News reports pirates seize ship off northern Somalia
Somali pirates have hijacked an Indian cargo ship off the coast of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, officials there say. One source said the vessel was heading towards Somali shores. There were no details of the crew or destination.
"We understand Somali pirates hijacked a commercial Indian ship and [it is heading] towards Somalia shores," Abdirizak Mohamed Dirir, a former director of Puntland's anti-piracy agency, told Reuters news agency.

The privately-owned Daynile website said that attack happened some 50km (30 miles) south of the port town of Hobyo.
Area around Hobyo marked in the oval on the adjacent map.
Daynile report:
There were 11 people on board the vessel, which was taken on 1 April, Indian media report.
Reuters report:
Pirates have hijacked an Indian commercial ship off the coast of Somalia, the second attack in weeks after years of inactivity, industry and security sources said on Monday.

United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which coordinates the management of merchant ships and yachts in the Gulf of Aden area, said it had received information that a dhow en route to Bosasso from Dubai had been hijacked "in the vicinity of Socotra (Island)".

A spokesman said UKMTO could not confirm the location of the vessel, which he identified as Al Kausar, or what exactly had taken place, and that investigations were continuing.
Graeme Gibbon-Brooks of UK-based Dryad Maritime Security said industry sources had told him the Indian vessel was en route to Bosasso from Dubai when it was hijacked on Saturday.

The pirates were on board and were taking the ship and its 11 crew members to Eyl in Puntland, he said.

An Indian government official briefed on the incident confirmed the crew's number, said they were all Indian, that the vessel was an unmechanized dhow, and that officials were in touch with the Somali government.

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 27 February - 29 March 2017

Saturday, April 01, 2017

On Midrats 2 April 2017, Episode 378: China & the Challenge in the Cyber Domain

Please join us at 5pm EDT on 2 April 2017 for Midrats Episode 378: China & the Challenge in the Cyber Domain
You hear a bit on the edges about China's cyber forces' ongoing efforts to penetrate the cyber domain in order to get an edge against the USA and other nations she sees as either being in the way of her national goals, or in possession of something they need to keep their economy strong.

This Sunday we are going to take a deeper dive in to the role of China in the cyber domain with our guest Dean Cheng.

In addition to being the author of the book, Cyber Dragon, Dean Cheng has been studying Chinese political and security developments for over 25 years. He has worked at a variety of think-tanks, including the Center for Naval Analysis, the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, and SAIC, as well as the Heritage Foundation. His research builds on a variety of Chinese materials, to bring to light how the Chinese talk about key issues such as space warfare and information warfare to their own military and civilian decision-makers.
Listen live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or you can pick the show up later by clicking that link or by visiting either our iTunes page or our Stitcher page.

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Our Miss Brooks "April Fool's Day"