Friday, September 23, 2016

Fullbore Friday

It can take decades, but eventually the truth comes out. If the stars align properly, then the truth will also be well known.

The perfidy of UN military operation is well known. Sadly, there is also a history of needless sacrifice because of bureaucratic cowardice and a55 covering.

Well, this is a good news story. Too late for many who have now passed on - but better late than never.

Today, we look to the incredible story of one light infantry company from the Irish Army.

Yes, Irish Army;
FOR THE SURVIVING members of the UN’s 1961 A Company, last night’s Irish premiere of the film The Siege of Jadotville was not about Hollywood stars, massive budgets, or the backing of one of the movie industry’s most powerful production companies. 
It was about memories, and justice, and a chance for the world to see what happened when a contingent of 155 Irish troops were sent to the Congo on a peacekeeping mission that could have turned into a bloodbath.
The Siege of Jadotville, which gets a cinema release this weekend before moving to Netflix on 7 October, is set in 1961, when the United Nations intervened in the Katanga conflict in the African Congo. You have probably never heard of these men, or of the battle they fought – one which, facing improbable odds, they all survived – but a book by Declan Power first helped to tell their story .
It was aptly called The Siege at Jadotville: The Irish Army’s Forgotten Battle.
The men were forgotten, and as the film shows, deliberately so.
Quinn’s memories of his time at Jadotville are vivid. He’s told his family about when they ran out of water in the trenches, and were only allowed one spoon of the liquid each – and of the time he sucked the juice out of a tin of pineapple.
The men didn’t have enough food, ammunition or water for the siege, and yet they fought with all their might. At one stage, they were sent jerry cans of water – but they were petrol cans that hadn’t been cleaned out. Quinn – who was a mortar commander – shuddered at the memory.
Two video's that demand your time today.

First, the telling of the true story of the siege;

Second, the trailer.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Europe fractures in to familiar lines

If you want to test a system to find where its weak spots are, you have to stress it. Here in the USA, we like to grumble about 2016, but we have it easy - Europe's 2016 ... well ...

Europe, never change.
Members of the influential Visegrad group, which comprises of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, rejected migrant quotas and blasted the overbearing EU Commission with an incendiary ultimatum.
That's right; the unloved parts of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire; the Hungarians along with the West Slavic provinces of Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Galicia, - in whole or in parts - along with their West Slav brothers the Poles are pushing back on their softer brothers in Western Europe.

Was Brexit a catalyst? No, just part of the stew. The start of this new chapter of EU's problems was clear to all who wanted to see it; the invasion of hundreds of thousands of unemployable, unassimilable, unaccompanied military aged men from Muslim nations and chaotic sub-Saharan Africa.
The group represents a faction of nations which have become increasingly concerned by authoritarian Brussels, with Poland and Hungary both locked in bitter legal battles with the EU.

Their demands come after a separate clique of Mediterranean states, including France, Spain and Italy, formed their own interest group to counter the power wielded by Angela Merkel.
With France economically and culturally supine under Socialist leadership, already strong Germany has become the unchallenged power in Europe. It appears that German leadership has embraced it national self-loathing and decided to spread the misery around - and Europe is pushing back against the Germans just being, well, bossy Germans.

Parts of the old Warsaw Pact are focused mostly on the migrant issue, the Mediterranean nations mostly economic - but no one outside Brussels, Strasbourg and government officials who have a vested interest in good paying EU job prospect, are all that remain enthusiastic about the European project anymore.
"Recent terrorist attacks in Europe are proof that there is a new challenge which the EU must deal with - the growing terrorism and cross-border crime."

"The Visegrad Group countries point out that the efforts should be channelled to fully implement the already undertaken commitments aiming at strengthening security in Schengen area as well as the protection of EU's external borders."

Linked closely to security was the issue of migration, which is a key issue for a group of five countries which have been on the frontline of the escalating asylum chaos.

Their statement demanded: "Migration policy should be based on the principle of 'flexible solidarity'.
Finally the group addressed the problems with the single market - including the disastrous Euro project, admitting that the EU's popularity had taken a battering due to years of economic stagnation.

They wrote: "It is necessary to inform more effectively the public opinion about the positive outcomes of the Internal Market meanwhile improving the enforcement of its rules to eradicate intra-EU protectionism."
I don't think those who still believe in the EU dream will enjoy 2017 all that much.

Welcome to the party.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

LCS - Annus Horribilis

Well ... I guess is time to look at LCS this week.

This time I'm going to keep it a bit short. "Mr.T'sHaircut" and I were exchanging emails where I stated, frankly, that I was having a hard time keeping track of the fail. I may be missing a detail or two below, so help me correct if needed.

In a quick bulleted list, let's look at the annus horribilis that has been the last year for PEO LCS.

If we had to go to war, exactly what would the LCS we've commissioned over the last eight years be able to contribute?

Well, we've commissioned LCS 1 through LCS 8 - minus LCS 7 that won't be commissioned until 22 OCT 16. That is seven.

Where are they?

  • USS FREEDOM (LCS 1): Unavailable due to mechanical failures from JUL 16. San Diego.
  • USS INDEPENDENCE (LCS 2): Available, PMC ASUW. NMC all other PMA.
  • USS FORT WORTH (LCS 3): Unavailable due to mechanical failures from JAN 16. Limping to San Diego.
  • USS CORONADO (LCS 4): Unavailable due to mechanical failures from AUG 16. Pearl Harbor.
  • USS MILWAUKEE (LCS 5): Unavailable due to mechanical failures from DEC 15. Mayport.
  • USS JACKSON (LCS 6): Unavailable due to post-shock test repairs. Mayport.
  • USS DETROIT (LCS 7): Not commissioned until 22 OCT 16.
  • USS MONTGOMERY (LCS 8): Not available due to mechanical failures from SEP 16. Limping to Mayport.
I'm sorry, there is no excuse here. 8-yrs after commissioning of LCS 1, and only one of the ships are available, and that one is the first in class "test ship" that is PMC. Pick any class of warship in the post-WWII era - there has never been this record of failure 8 years in.

There are a lot of smart people in hard jobs trying the make the best of this, but just look at that board.

In a few months, we might have JACKSON and perhaps one or two others available, but just look at it.

What to do? We can keep trying to make the best of it. That is an honorable option, I guess. We could also go DDG-1000 on it and stop the bleeding - but that would take Congress and the ability to swallow a much more bitter pill than doing it a few years ago.

Yes, I know, we need the Fleet numbers, but one has to consider the following; if only 1 of 7 ships can even get underway, much less contribute to the fight - off the PPT, what good are they? All those Sailors on "Sea Duty" can't even get underway.

Could this be, "Peak LCS Sucks!"? For our Navy and its nation, we should all hope so. Sailors belong on ships; ships belong at Sea. Both should have a better than 1 out of 7 chance. This is mid-1990s Russian Navy levels of readiness.

For those who will be involved in the next class of warship; take a cold, sober look at what other generations did here ... and don't do that.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Pacific Pivot; Aspirational

In the summer of 2012—around the time that the Islamic State’s inchoate plans for a caliphate merited a mere footnote in a U.S. congressional report on the year-old Syrian conflict—Robert Satloff argued that a civil war was taking shape in Syria, and that its terrible consequences would extend far beyond Syrians; Americans, too, would soon be acquainted with the horror.

Among the plausible scenarios, he reasoned in the New Republic, were a revived Kurdish insurgency in Turkey and thousands of jihadists “descending on Syria to fight the apostate Alawite regime, transforming this large Eastern Mediterranean country into the global nexus of violent Islamist terrorists.”

“None of this is fantasy,” Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, assured his readers.

Today, they need no convincing. In the three years since Satloff issued his warning, the Syrian Civil War has steadily metastasized as a perceived threat to U.S. national security, nurturing ISIS, bludgeoning Iraq, and radiating refugees in the Middle East and Europe.
President Obama may believe America’s future lies in Asia, but the Middle East endures as the capital of American preoccupation. As Paul Stares, the report’s lead author, writes, “Of the eleven contingencies classified as Tier 1 priorities, all but three are related to events unfolding” in the Mideast. Several stem from the Syrian Civil War.
In one of the better articles published in The Atlantic in awhile, Uri Friedman provides enough to get your week started. 

He summarized the results of a survey of over 500 national security professional conducted by the Council on Foreign Relations.

It starts, as most good things do, with a map - actually three maps - that outline High Priority Threats (red), Medium Priority Threats (orange) and Low Priority Threats (yellow) to the USA;

There are a few items to quibble with, but I won't. This is an exceptionally good entering argument and a solid opinion on which priorities should help drive our strategy - or at least focus our mind. If nothing else, I like it a lot more than the outdated, "The Pentagon's New Map" by Thomas P.M. Barnett.

This is an in-depth article that needs to be read in full, but here are a few points that stood out to me.
Among the scenarios in this high-priority tier of conflict are a mass-casualty attack on the U.S. homeland; a major cyberattack on U.S. critical infrastructure; a crisis with or in North Korea over, say, nuclear-weapons testing or political tumult in Pyongyang; increased fighting between Kurdish groups and Turkish forces, aggravated by the Syrian Civil War; a deterioration in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; political disarray in Libya and Egypt; and Iraq splintering further as a result of ISIS advances and Sunni-Shiite violence.

Another worry appeared for the first time in the survey: “political instability in EU countries stemming from the influx of refugees and migrants, with heightened civil unrest, isolated terrorist attacks, or violence against refugees and migrants.” And this judgment was made before ISIS’s November attacks in Paris; the survey concluded the day of the rampage.
Two contingencies were downgraded from high to medium priorities between this year’s survey and last year’s, even though hostilities in each case are still pronounced: an armed confrontation between China and its neighbors over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and an escalation in fighting between Russian-backed militias and Ukrainian security forces in eastern Ukraine.

A ceasefire in eastern Ukraine “seems to be holding,” Stares noted, “and Russia has a lot on its plate both internally and in terms of its [military] intervention into Syria. Why would they dial up tensions in Ukraine at this moment?” Similarly, “there’s probably a sense that China has made the island grabs that it wants to do, and it is consolidating its position [in the South China Sea]. And given China’s [sluggish] economic situation … and a certain level of high-level agreement between the U.S. and China with the various meetings between [Presidents] Xi and Obama, people are saying, ‘Look, I don’t think the Chinese are really going to rock the boat here this year.’”
The third tier includes three contingencies that haven’t featured in the survey before: political instability in both Saudi Arabia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the growth of Islamist militancy in Russia and particularly the North Caucasus region, spurred in part by Vladimir Putin’s military operations in Syria and the threat of Russian ISIS fighters returning home.
Again, this is good in that it is an opportunity to think, but it comes with a few warnings, cautions, and notes hidden between the lines.

This from CFR. It is harder to get more "conventional wisdom" than CFR - and more often than not in the last couple of decades, the CW has gotten it wrong. It has not seen the next turn very well, especially the big turns. The national security establishment from both left and right have bought us a rolling train wreck of bad ideas from making the Middle East safe for democracy, nation building where no nation exists, to the Arab Spring, to whatever the latest manifestation of the neo-colonial "Responsibility to Protect" delivered by the good idea fairy.

I don't see CW as any great source of predicting the future. It has a more important function, as an intellectual dampener. The CW is a good steading influence on policy makers.

As we discuss here on a regular basis; I don't have the right answer, but neither do you. Only by open, vigorous and honest debate can you get closer to the "truth." You don't really get there, but you can get close. 

That is what the CW is good for. It should, respectfully, get the opening comment - but in order to work others must listen and then counter. If you don't have any better ideas, then there is nothing wrong with saying, "OK, that sounds about right. Let's start there, but be prepared to adjust as required." When CW becomes dogma; that is when you get in to trouble.

I am still ill at east. It all sounds mostly right, but as history teaches us - I just can't help but think; what are they missing?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

21st Century Patton, With J. Furman Daniel III - on Midrats

Put the popular, and mostly accurate, image of the flamboyant General Patton, USA given to us by popular culture to the side for a moment.

Consider the other side of the man; the strategic thinker, student of military history, and innovator for decades. This week's episode will focus on that side of the man.

For the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern, we will have as our guest J. Furman Daniel, III, the editor of the next book in the 21st Century Foundations series; 21st Century Patton.

Furman is an assistant professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, Arizona. He holds a BA (with honors) from the University of Chicago and a PhD from Georgetown University.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Firing Line with William F. Buckley Jr. "Is Modern Architecture Disastrous?"

Yes, as a teenager I watched Firing Line. You can still bite me - and watch this and you'll see why.

Still true today what Tom Wolfe says about modern architecture.

Hat tip Josh Greenman.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Fullbore Friday

The last year a lot of articles are out about the 5.5 million Finns getting closer to NATO.

A small nation - what could they add? Well, you have to understand the character of the people of Finland. Here's a datapoint.
During the Winter War (1939–1940) between Finland and the Soviet Union, Häyhä served as a sniper for the Finnish Army against the Red Army in the 6th Company of JR 34 during the Battle of Kollaa in temperatures between −40 °C (−40 °F) and −20 °C (−4 °F), dressed completely in white camouflage. Stalin’s purges of military experts caused chaos, and Soviet troops were not issued with white camouflage suits for most of the war, making them easily visible to snipers. Häyhä has been credited with 505 sniper kills.[2][5] A daily account of the kills at Kollaa was made for the Finnish snipers. All of Häyhä's kills were accomplished in fewer than 100 days – an average of just over five kills per day – at a time of year with very few daylight hours.

Häyhä used an M/28-30, with serial number 60974, because it suited his small frame (1.6 m (5 ft 3 in)). The rifle is a shorter, Finnish White Guard militia variant of the Mosin–Nagant rifle, known as "Pystykorva" (literally "Spitz", due to the front sight's resemblance to the head of a spitz-type dog) chambered in the Finnish Mosin–Nagant cartridge 7.62×53R. He preferred iron sights over telescopic sights as to present a smaller target for the enemy (a sniper must raise his head higher when using a telescopic sight), to increase accuracy (a telescopic sight's glass can fog up easily in cold weather), and to aid in concealment (sunlight glare in telescopic sight lenses can reveal a sniper's position). As well as these tactics, he frequently packed dense mounds of snow in front of his position to conceal himself, provide padding for his rifle and reduce the characteristic puff of snow stirred up by the muzzle blast. He was also known to keep snow in his mouth whilst sniping, to prevent steamy breaths giving away his position in the cold air.

The Soviets' efforts to kill Häyhä included counter-snipers and artillery strikes,[citation needed] and on March 6, 1940, Häyhä was hit by an explosive bullet[citation needed] in his lower left jaw by a Red Army soldier, blowing off his lower left cheek. He was picked up by fellow soldiers who said "half his face was missing", but he did not die, regaining consciousness on March 13, the day peace was declared. Shortly after the war, Häyhä was promoted from alikersantti (Corporal) to vänrikki (Second lieutenant) by Field Marshal Mannerheim.

It took several years for Häyhä to recuperate from his wound. The bullet had crushed his jaw and blown off his left cheek. Nonetheless, he made a full recovery and became a successful moose hunter and dog breeder after World War II, and hunted with the Finnish President Urho Kekkonen.

When asked in 1998 how he had become such a good shooter, Häyhä answered, "Practice." When asked if he regretted killing so many people, he said, "I only did my duty, and what I was told to do, as well as I could." Simo Häyhä spent his last years in Ruokolahti, a small municipality located in southeastern Finland, near the Russian border. Simo Häyhä died in a war veterans' nursing home in Hamina in 2002 at the age of 96, and was buried in Ruokolahti.
Hat tip Claude.