Monday, October 28, 2019

In the the South Pacific: China Moves on the Solomons

From the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and Alan Tidwell, The Tulagi turning point
Guadalcanal and Tulagi in red circle
The New York Times reported on 16 October that the People’s Republic of China had leased the island of Tulagi from Solomon Islands. A secret deal was apparently struck in September, no doubt around the time Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare ascended to his leadership role and Solomon Islands announced its switch from recognising Taipei to Beijing. Tulagi is remembered mostly as the place where the pivotal Allied campaign for Guadalcanal started in World War II. With the leasing of the island, we may well have a shift in the strategic competition in the Pacific.
The Solomons are central to the South Pacific

Long-term access to Tulagi will provide Beijing with a base for commercial or military activity. For example, it may make managing regional Chinese fishing fleets easier. Fishing, however, is the least of the worries for the West. How long will it be before Tulagi begins to take on features like those found on the faux-island bases in the South China Sea? Will China build an airfield on Tulagi? China’s J-10 fighter aircraft could use Tulagi, as they’ve done in the Paracel Islands, which arguably brings the coast of Queensland into range. (It’s worth noting, though, that while a J-10 could reach the Queensland coast, it wouldn’t have any time on target without refuelling.)

Tulagi also extends Beijing’s political influence. Cementing Chinese operations there could give China far greater reach in Solomon Islands and the Southwest Pacific. If Beijing manages the leasing agreement well, it will serve as a proof of concept for other Pacific island countries. Leasing an island may become financially very attractive to Pacific island elites. If that’s the case, then Tulagi is the thin end of the wedge. How long will be it before Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia votes for independence and pursues a similar leasing arrangement?
Chuuk is about 550 nautical miles southeast of Guam
Some of you will remember Tulagi from World War II as a small island near Guadalcanal that provides access to major shipping lanes to Australia and New Zealand from Hawaii and the mainland United States. You might note that a major Chinese base in the Solomons would be south east of the major U.S. territory of Guam, a vital site for American naval and air assets.

Japan moved into the area in area in WWII, before the U.S. halted their advances at Guadalcanal and, incidentally, Tulagi. Here's a map of the Japanese Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere,

The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (大東亜共栄圏 Dai-tō-a Kyōeiken) was an imperial concept created and promulgated for occupied Asian populations during the first third of the Shōwa period by the government and military of the Empire of Japan. It promoted the cultural and economic unity of the East Asian race. It also declared the intention to create a self-sufficient "bloc of Asian nations led by the Japanese and free of Western powers". It was announced in a radio address entitled "The International Situation and Japan's Position" by Foreign Minister Hachirō Arita on June 29, 1940.[1]

An Investigation of Global Policy with the Yamato Race as Nucleus — a secret document completed in 1943 for high-ranking government use — laid out the superior position of Japan in the Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, showing the subordination of other nations was not forced by the war but part of explicit policy.[2] It explicitly states the superiority of the Japanese over other Asian races and provides evidence that the Sphere was inherently hierarchical, including Japan's true intention of domination over Asia
Substitute China for Japan in the above paragraphs for a look at how China seeks to dominate the Western Pacific and South China Seas. Japan had the advantage that following WWI it gained governance rights over former German territories in the Pacific, including what are now Palau, the Northern Marianas, and the Marshall Islands as part of the "South Pacific Mandate" (see here).

See also China and It's "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere":
All this being prelude to the bit Ms. Glaser points to in this innocuously titled article,
US spy planes kept eye on Chinese scientists during research expedition near Guam
Xu Kuidong, a lead researcher with the mission who is affiliated with the Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Qingdao, Shandong, said the scientists on board were “well aware” of the area’s sensitivity.

“It is all about the Second Island Chain,” he said, referring to a series of archipelagos that stretches from the eastern coast of Japan to the Bonin islands, to the Mariana islands, to Guam and the island country of Palau.

The US-controlled islands initially served as a second line of defence against communist countries in East Asia during the cold war. Today they are regarded as a major constraint on China’s rapidly expanding marine power and influence in the Pacific Ocean.
The team’s findings would be shared with the Chinese military and other interest groups in government, Xu said.
“There are many efforts going on to breach the Second Island Chain, this is part of them,” he said.
According to Tom Matelski, a US Army War College Fellow at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies in Hawaii, China was seeking to build a military base in Micronesia.
Micronesia, with a population of about 110,000, has received a large amount of aid and investment from China since 2003. The money helped build some of the nation’s largest farms, schools, bridges and power plants, as well as the residence for the president and other senior government officials.
Since Micronesia lacked its own military, it had “outsourced” its defence to the US since the end of the second world war. But in 2015 Micronesian lawmakers introduced a resolution to end the exclusive partnership with the US as early as 2018.

If the Chinese military got a foothold on a Micronesian island, “the US could potentially lose their access to the strategic lines of communication that connect the Pacific Ocean to the vital traffic of the East and South China Seas”, Matelski wrote in an article published on the website of The Diplomat magazine in February last year.
Possession of portions of the Second Island Chain would give China a “springboard against foreign force projection,” he said. (emphasis added)
So, China - currently through obstensibly peaceful means - seeks to do what the Japanese tried to do before the start of WWII - developing bases on trade routes, expanding their presence, developing what amounts to a clone of the Japanese Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere
Last year Palau was holding out against Chinese pressure see here.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Adventures in Research "Yesterday's Secret Weapon" (1943) and "Victory in the Desert" (1943)

Science and engineering or as set out here:
Adventures in Research! This is Paul Shannon bringing you another
transcribed story of science, produced as a public service, in cooperation with the Westinghouse Research Laboratories, and today telling you the story of…”

So begins Adventures in Research, a radio show broadcast from 1942 to the mid-1950s that brought listeners into the world of researchers and inventors on the brink of discovery. Broadcast by the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company (or, Group W) in partnership with Westinghouse Research Laboratories, Adventures in Research featured dramatic reenactments of historic discoveries and inventions, complete with organ accompaniment and sound effects. At just under 15 minutes a piece, these short programs were narrated by radio host Paul Shannon and written by Westinghouse physicist Dr. Phillips Thomas, whose voice was also heard on the program for a number of years.
Here are a couple of shows from the series:

Yesterday's Secret Weapon

Victory in the Desert

Thursday, October 24, 2019

It's Always Logistics, Logistics, Logistics

U.S. Naval War College presentation U.S. Transportation Command Leader Discusses Power Projection in Great-Power Competition:
Army Gen. Stephen Lyons, commander of U.S. Transportation Command, spoke to U.S. Naval War College students on Oct. 22 about the importance of power projection as the nation faces peer competitors.

"Our ability as a nation to be able to project military power over global distances at our time and place of choosing is indeed a strategic, competitive advantage," Lyons told his audience in Spruance Auditorium.

"It presents multiple options for senior leadership, and it creates multiple dilemmas for potential adversaries," he said.

USTRANSCOM, based at Scott Air Force Base in western Illinois, has overseen air, land and sea transportation for the Department of Defense since the command was established in 1987. Its motto is "Together, We Deliver."

Lyons said the 2018 National Defense Strategy has changed the way the U.S. military thinks about strategic logistics and the nation's ability to sustain forces as they travel across oceans and between continents.

"That fundamentally shifts the way that we have to approach and think about competition and responding to a near-peer competition," Lyons said.

The challenges are only increasing, he said. The level of complexity, the demand signature and diplomatic access are all challenges to his command's ability to project power, Lyons said.(emphasis added)
Some of us have been talking about this logistics stuff for some time - and sometimes people begin to listen:
I don't know what the hell this "logistics" is that Marshall is always talking about, but I want some of it. - Admiral E. J. King
If you missed the 2018 National Defense Strategy, here's the official summary:

Sunday, October 20, 2019

On Midrats 20 October 2019 -Episode 511: Baltic Security with Dr. Sebastian Bruns

Listen in to a prerecorded Midrats Episode 511: Baltic Security with Dr. Sebastian Bruns >
From Finland to Denmark, Sweden to Poland - from small Latvia to the Continental power of Germany - the return of Russia has brought a renewed focus the last half decade to the Baltic.

Not just a SLOC, there are important economic and cultural ties that predate written history that continue to be important today.

Our guest for the full hour in a wide ranging discussion will be Dr. Sebastian Bruns.

Sebastian heads the Center for Maritime Strategy & Security (CMSS) at the Institute for Security Policy, University of Kiel (ISPK). He is the author/editor of six books, including "Routledge Handbook of Naval Strategy and Security" (edited with Joachim Krause, London 2016), and his latest, "US Naval Strategy and National Security. The Evolution of American Maritime Power" (London, 2018).
Now on Spreaker

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Before You Go See the New Top Gun Movie - Listen to these

While that looks like fun, you really ought to prep yourself by listening to this excellent sequence of shows recorded at the Tail Hook Convention in Reno this year covering the Top Gun program and how it works in reality.

One of the key elements of the program's success is the trust placed in, and the reliance on, Navy lieutenants to make it work. Excellence is not demanded, it is expected.

Great job by USNI's Ward Carroll and Bill Hamblet on these shows.

There are a lot more of these great podcasts like these over at the USNI site here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence GULF OF GUINEA/HORN OF AFRICA/SOUTHEAST ASIA Weekly Piracy Update for 26 September to 09 October 2019

U.S. Navy Office of Naval I... by lawofsea on Scribd

U.S. Navy Office of Naval I... by lawofsea on Scribd

The Mess in Syria : Now, if Congress would do its job . . . even occasionally

How'd we get involved in Syria, anyway? Something about "humanitarian interventions?" Well, according to Susan Rice, President Obama's National Security Advisor, it was the "least bad option.":
When White House senior advisers gathered that Friday evening in the Oval Office, Obama began with his description of the challenge he aimed to address. We did not have a clearly valid international legal basis for our planned action, he said, but we could argue that the use of banned chemical weapons made our actions legitimate, if not technically legal. Domestically, we could invoke the president’s constitutional authority to use force under Article II, but that would trigger a 60-day clock under the War Powers Act—meaning that if our actions lasted longer than 60 days, he would need to obtain congressional approval to continue military action. Therefore, before we used any significant force in Syria to address its chemical-weapons use, the president thought it best to invest members of Congress in the decision, and through them the American people.

As usual, Obama was thinking several plays down the field—to the potential need for military action against Iran, should diplomacy fail to force that country to give up its still nascent nuclear-weapons program. Once the precedent was established that Congress should act to authorize military action in Syria, we could insist on the same kind of vote should we need to confront Iran—a much higher-risk proposition that he would want Congress to own with us.

I admired the president’s logic, but disagreed with his assumptions. As Obama polled the aides assembled in the Oval, all agreed with him. He called on me last, as he often did in my role as national security adviser.

The lone dissenter, I argued for proceeding with military action, as planned. We had clearly signaled—most recently that morning in a strong speech by Secretary of State John Kerry—that we intended to hold Syria accountable through the use of force. Our military assets were in place. The UN had been warned. Our allies were waiting. As then–Vice President Joe Biden liked to say, “Big countries don’t bluff.” Finally, I invoked the painful history of Rwanda and predicted we could long be blamed for inaction.
Well, eventually off we went to a sort of war. The sort where we lose our troops for "not technically legal" reasons. And the "War Powers Act?" It's a joke:
The 1973 law was meant to prevent presidents from sustaining wars without congressional approval. But no one thinks the lawsuit will succeed. And the War Powers Act has never been successfully employed to end any military mission.

"The War Powers resolution really does not work," says former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IN), who co-chaired the Iraq Study Group and the 9/11 Commission.

Instead, the War Powers Act has largely been used as it's being used now — as a political tool that allows Congress to criticize a president about the prosecution of a war.
Excellent piece in Military Times by John Robinson In supporting the Kurds in Syria, US has been playing fast and loose with the law
Does it matter that not likely a living soul in the current ISIS planned, authorized, or committed the 9/11 attacks, nor aided or harbored 9/11 perpetrators? Apparently, not a wit. Does it matter that the last administration recognized the 2001 AUMF had outlived its shelf-life and offered a new one, including ISIS language, to Congress? Nope; rejected. Does it matter that a bipartisan group of senators subsequently authored a similar AUMF, to accomplish the same thing? Nope; never left the starting blocks.

We’ve been playing fast and loose with the law ever since 2003, when we connected AQI with the 9/11 perpetrators and now, the chickens have come home to roost and we don’t like it.

We partnered with the enemy-of-my-enemy in Syria to fight the son-of-a-son and we made some friends. We confused that partnership with an alliance and that partnership grew to be as strong as an alliance.

But the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs reminded everyone on Thursday that our actual ally, Turkey, had been a NATO ally for the past 70 years. On Sunday, the new secretary of defense gently corrected his Sunday news show host, when she casually referred to our YPG partners as allies. “The Kurds have been very good partners,” the secretary affirmed. There’s a difference between a 70-year ally and a regional partner, no matter how distasteful you find your ally’s actions to be or how loyal you believe your partner to be.

In 2001, the commander in chief declared, “You are either with us, or with the terrorists.” NATO invoked Article 5, which states that an attack on one member of NATO is an attack on all of its members, for the first time, in response to the 9/11 attacks. NATO allies, including Turkey, aided the coalition effort in Afghanistan.

What if Turkey should invoke Article 5 now, in response to what it sees as a terrorist threat? US forces are withdrawing from areas of combat in northeastern Syria now, but can we see ourselves obligated to a fight on the sides of the allied Turks, against partner Kurds?

Rather than threatening sanctions, Congress should update an AUMF they’ve been dithering on for 16 years. Better still, let Congress declare war on Turkey, on behalf of the Kurds, as Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution authorizes them to do.
Fat chance. Why would they give up the chance to point fingers and assign blame that the current situation gives them?

Laws, apparently, are for little people.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

On Midrats 13 October 2019 - Episode 510: A Half-Baked Navy with Jimmy Drennan and Blake Herzinger

Please join us at 5pm EDT on the Navy's 244th Birthday, 13 October 2019 for some fun conversation during Midrats Episode 510: A Half-Baked Navy with Jimmy Drennan and Blake Herzing
Submarine Aircraft Carrier?
Everyone has half-baked ideas ... some quarter-baked and some three-quarters-baked ... that in a just world of their making would have a funding line.

Are there some ideas so far "out of the box" that they really should be "in the box?"

Find yourself saying, "If I were CNO/emperor/Chairman of the HASC for a day, I would..."?

Have some ideas that you are convinced our Navy needs to win, but everyone else thinks is impossible/stupid/insane?

Well, that is the Navy we're going to ponder today.

With our guests Blake Herzinger and His Exalted Saltiness Jimmy Drennan, EagleOne and I this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will talk about our pet "half-baked ideas" that ... in all seriousness ... we'd like someone to at least give a serious thought to for a few seconds.
If you can't catch the show live and you use iTunes, you can pick up the episode and others and add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main show page - or you can just click here.

Navy AN-1 art liberated from H.I. Sutton's excellent Covert Shores site.

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: "The Navy Come Through" (1943)

 Heroics at sea.

U.S. Navy Armed Guards in action.

Finest traditions of the U.S. Navy.

Radio remake of a 1942 movie of the same name.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

PG&E Gives California a Glimpse of the Future and It's Ugly

California's power utility to cut off nearly 800,000 customers to avoid wildfire risk reports Axios
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, the California power giant, said early this morning that it has begun shutting off power to almost 800,000 customers in a bid to prevent fires when strong winds arrive.

Why it matters: Via the San Francisco Chronicle, "For PG&E, the shut-offs will mark a high-stakes test of a program the now-bankrupt company developed after being implicated in two years of catastrophic infernos."

The paper calls it the company's "biggest preemptive action to avert another destructive wildfire like those which took dozens of lives and destroyed thousands of homes over the past two years."
According to the San Francisco Chronicle:
The outages could last into next week, affect more than 2 million people and, by some estimates, cost businesses and residents more than $1 billion.
So why is this happening? Well, for one thing, you have a company forced into bankruptcy by the disastrous fires of the past and the heavy costs incurred as a result. They might be a little gun shy, you think?

Further, due to the distances from some of the sources of electricity, power lines run through forested areas. If power plants were located closer to major population centers, the need for lengthy power line runs would be lessened. As you may determine from the below, however, California has only one operating nuclear power plant,
The Diablo Canyon Power Plant is an electricity-generating nuclear power plant near Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo County, California. Since the permanent shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in 2013, Diablo Canyon is the only operational nuclear plant left in the state.

Here's a map of the major power lines in California, with the red lines being those of PG&E:

 What is producing that electricity?
 Type of power plant:

And the amount of energy California gets from its neighbors (negative numbers means imported into California):

According to PG&E:
To protect public safety, PG&E has turned off power due to gusty winds and dry conditions combined with a heightened fire risk. Once the weather subsides and it is safe to do so, PG&E crews will begin patrolling power lines, repairing damaged equipment and restoring customers.

Outages (weather event plus restoration time) could last longer than 48 hours. For planning purposes, PG&E suggests customers prepare for outages that could last several days.
As you may recall from Forbes:
Yet, beyond power rates 45% above the U.S. average, California has another problem that makes it less of a model than some proclaim. California now imports 33% of its electricity supply from fast growing neighbors, with about 65% of that coming from the Southwest and 35% coming from the Northwest. These numbers increase most in summer months when air conditioning loads peak. Imports have been rising rapidly: in 2010, California "only" imported 25% of its power.

Per the U.S. Energy Information Administration, California imports because "its wholesale power markets in the region are relatively open and generation from outside the state is often less expensive." In fact, California imports about 6% of its electricity from out-of-state coal-fired power plants, with another 14% coming from "unspecified imports," of a cloudy origin that is generally attributed to hydropower, gas, nuclear, and other renewables.

Besides having the most expensive electricity west of the Mississippi River in the continental U.S., California already has the least reliable electricity. California easily leads the nation with nearly 470 power outages a year, compared to 160 for second place Texas, which is really amazing because Texas produces 125% MORE electricity! (here). California's reliability problems will be multiplied as more wind and solar enter the power mix, intermittent resources located in remote areas that cannot be so easily transported to cities via the grid. (emphasis added)
SO, you kill the most reliable,most environmentally friendly power plants - nuclear. You add in intermittent sources, the need to bring in power from outside the state, you rely on hydro power locations that are in the mountains and far from the cities, and you'll be the current mess.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Gulf of Guinea Piracy and Illegal Fishing: Expensive Crimes for the Neighborhood

Hellenic Shipping News reports Nigeria, Others Lose $2bn to Pirates' Attacks
Annually, Says Naval Chief
The Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas, has revealed that Nigeria and 15 other countries in the Gulf of Guinea are currently losing a sum of $2 billion to pirate attacks annually.

The Naval Chief’s revelation was coming two months after Nigeria was rated as number one in pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea in a report by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

Ibas also confirmed THISDAY’s exclusive report that Nigeria loses several millions of dollars to illegal fishing and poaching on the nation’s coastal and territorial waters.
THISDAY report here:
Nigeria is losing $600 million annually to illegal and unreported fishing by foreign vessels as a result of lack of equipment such as Automatic Identification System (AIS) and Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), and adequate manpower to police the country’s vast coastline, THISDAY’s investigation has revealed.

THISDAY gathered that the country also spends $800 million annually on fish importation, being the fourth largest importer of fish in the world, after China, Japan and the United States.
The document titled, “Fisheries Crime Activities in West Africa Coastal Region,” showed that Nigeria spends about $800 million (N324 billion) to import fish to bridge the supply gap.

According to the document, Nigeria in 2018 imported fish worth $71 million, $56 million, $43 million and $174 million from Iceland, Russia, Norway and Netherlands respectively.

The document also showed that West Africa remains a global hotspot for illegal fishing with estimated losses of $2.9 billion.

The document further revealed that over 450 Chinese vessels fish illegally in Nigeria and the coast of West Africa, adding that, “a survey carried out by the West Africa Task Force showed that over 37 per cent of all fish caught in West Africa are caught illegally with China, Taiwan, Russia, South Korea, Spain, France and Thailand being the main countries responsible.

“This is aside vessels from other countries and artisanal fishing in Nigeria inland water ways in areas such as Badore, Epe and coastal areas in Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers states.”
Nigeria reports it has a project to deal with these issues, Deep Blue Project:
There is hope in the horizon for the high level of insecurity in Nigeria’s waterways as the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), has established the Integrated Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure known as Deep Blue Project to drastically reduce criminalities in the Gulf of Guinea.
He said, “The Deep Blue Project is a multi-pronged approach towards tackling insecurity in our territorial waters and the entire Gulf of Guinea. What we are doing is fulfilling the training aspect of the project and this will also be complemented by acquisition of assets, such as fast intervention vessels, surveillance aircraft, and other facilities, including a command and control centre for data collection and information sharing that will aid our goals of targeted enforcement.”
Wishing them the best of luck with that. The GOG is a huge area.