Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Battle of New Years

Just a quick post today for those few spending time online and not getting your freak on ... or both.

In case you were not aware, there is a full day's battle going on in the Long War. The enemy wants nothing more than to attack if they can, disrupt at a minimum, all public gatherings of a high profile nature in the West.

Today is one of those days. The enemy has gained a slight victory so far in Brussels. Not a big shock for the nation that contributes more fighters per capita than any other in the West (Kosovo and Bosnia contribute much more, but I don't count them as Western. They are no more Western that Molenbeek, BEL).

As such, wherever tonight there is a large celebration that goes on without incident, be pleased - that is a victory.

2016 will be an election year, so people will be grumpy. I'll do my best to be the happy warrior.

I look forward to another year with everyone here at the Front Porch as we go in to our 12th year. All of you, even URR, are a great blessing in my life.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Afraid of a Swimming Bear?

Naw ... though interesting to watch.

I'm discussing over at USNIBlog. 

Stop by and see.

LCS Fitted With Decorative Dental Implants

Ok, everyone calm down;
The littoral combat ship is going to grow teeth in 2016 when ships Freedom and Coronado are armed with over-the-horizon anti-ship missiles.

Both ships will deploy next year with either the venerable Harpoon missile or the Naval Strike Missile, a Norwegian-developed missile with a greater range than 100 nautical miles.

The missiles will likely be strapped onto the decks of the ships in box launchers and not fully integrated into the ship's combat system, ...
Yes, I will accept more, "you were right" ticker-tape parades ... but please, no more stripper-grams, they make Mrs. Salamander grumpy.

The money is that even though the Naval Strike Missile was tested in a one-off earlier this year, in the end it will be the less capable Harpoon. We have them, we have the equipment, training and support. That would be good for Phase 1. If we really want NSM, then we can do that in the next spiral. Well ... that is what I would do. Good now, perfect later and all that jazz.

We need to be upfront with each other about what this represents:
- First, this is an admission that we have a surface warship that cannot fight a surface battle. As we have discussed for roughly a decade here, LCS will be asked to do missions the transformationalists wished would go away, but those with a respect for historical reality knew would not. Even if the short range NLOS was made flesh, the LCS would still ...
- Even with this bolt-on weapon, LCS is at best a "shoot and scoot" platform in a surface battle. Once its missiles are gone, it has nothing else to effectively fight anything from a light corvette up. That is OK, if you don't mind having a ship the size of a WWII destroyer with with a smaller gun, fewer ASCM and less speed than a 1970s Pegasus Class hydrofoil. 
- Low observability is gone. You can do a lot with an arc welder, bags of cash, and electrical cable duct-tapped to the deck, but when you do that, your RCS dramatically increases. You are also screaming beacons throughout the electromagnetic spectrum as you coordinate your non-integrated weapon in to a coordinated attack or at least getting a targeting solution locally or through your RC/manned helo.
- Irony is that Harpoon and NSM are not "littoral" weapons. They are designed for open ocean fighting for reasons your JAG can explain to you in detail. So, just CS not LCS.
- LCS was an exquisitely designed platform without much "white space" to make up for its many conceptual flaws. As such, no VLS, just bolt on and hope. This is something that will work, and in that note, we should be satisfied with.

On a positive note:
- As one of the worst kept secret in our Navy is that many of our DDG can only use a Harpoon if it is made of wood and steal and thrown by the BM1, having some additional ASCM shooters - shoot and scoot or not - is a great addition to any Strike Group Commander. It gives you more options, and makes the enemy's job more difficult.
- It give the crew of LCS something to actually fight with if called on to do it. As it stands right now, all they can do is order their helo det to commit suicide while they do a Banzai charge pop'n away with their 57mm saluting gun hoping it ricochets off of a wave and hits something. We don't do such things, so the crew can only go hide as everyone else fights. We don't do such things like that well either - hence the need to give Sailors something to fight with besides PPT slides.

James Holmes got it just about right a few days ago when it comes to the best that LCS/FF can ever hope to be;
Frigate-like combatants like the LCS, which fall into the cruiser or flotilla contingents under Corbett’s taxonomy, have their place in maritime strategy. In safe times they’re implements of choice. But these aren’t safe times. Low-end warships may not be enough to police important waterways in an age when great powers—not nonstate lawbreakers—pose the main threat to the maritime legal order. Rounding up Captain Jack Sparrow is one thing. Facing down the Chinese, Russian, or Iranian navy is quite another.

By all means, let’s station littoral combat ships or their ilk in, say, Singapore for constabulary and alliance-building duty. They’re fine for missions in permissive settings. But they do need a backstop in embattled settings, manifest in a vibrant, hard-hitting U.S. Navy battle force arrayed nearby. Without that backstop—without a fleet able to prevail in contested seas and skies—we’re trusting to China not to make trouble in places where it’s been doing precisely that. We’re assuming the United States, its allies, and its friends can enjoy the fruits of maritime command without defending it.

That’s a flimsy—and ahistorical, and counter-Corbettian—assumption.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Dithering and Spinning is not a Course of Action

When I first saw Kristina Wong's latest at TheHill, I thought it was just a case of the editor picking a clunky title, US military drafting 'new narrative' for ISIS war.

It turns out that no, they are serious.
The U.S. military is seeking to craft a “new narrative” for the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), in part to push back on the growing perception that President Obama does not have a strategy.

Military officials on the Operation Inherent Resolve task force have recently formed a working group to formulate the narrative, defense officials told The Hill. Separately, the Joint Staff has drafted its own messaging document.

The steps are preliminary and are part of a larger effort to better communicate the United States's military strategy amid heavy criticism from Republican presidential candidates who say Obama is losing the battle against the terrorist group.
"To say there's no strategy is just flat out wrong," said Army Col. Christopher Garver, public affairs officer for the Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve.

"If you want to have a debate about it, that's good, let's talk about it. But there is a strategy," he added.

The new working group will look at "how best to articulate what it is we're trying to do ... and do it in a concise, easy to understand way," Garver said.

It is not clear who is overseeing or directing the effort, which appears to be internally driven within the military.
What do they say in domestic politics, "If you are explaining, you are losing."

Of course, we know where this is coming from - a complete lack of effective leadership at the POLMIL level from the Commander in Chief. He simply is not a leader in this segment of his responsibilities.

As we have discussed many times here about leadership, if you have a failure at the top, it is a critical requirement that lower echelons, while being loyal, do what they can to fill the gap. That is the only way they can mitigate damage to the mission as they understand it, and also to fill their responsibility to their subordinates.

When this happens, more often than not it is a clunky arrangement. That is what I believe is going on here.

No way to run a railroad.

As if to underline my thoughts above, Paul Saunders over at TheNationalInterest weighs in;
When President Barack Obama acknowledged in September 2014 that “we don’t have a strategy yet” to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), he stunned his supporters and detractors alike. Obama was similarly candid nine months later, when he announced in a June 2015 statement, “we don’t yet have a complete strategy.” But why not?

Three reasons appear paramount. The first is the president’s defensive approach to foreign policy. On too many issues, President Obama seems primarily motivated by what he wants to avoid rather than what he wants to achieve. Consider Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine and Iran, where Obama has sought to avoid military operations in recent years. Libya is the exception that proves the rule, in that the American role in deposing Muammar el-Qaddafi seems to have validated the president’s instincts about the perils of what he terms “military adventures.”

Secondly, Obama too often resembles a pedantic law professor: he is clearly quite skilled at pointing out the flaws in his subordinates’ proposals. The problem is this: a professor’s job ends at that point; a president’s starts. Yet this president’s avoidant foreign policy seems to prevent him from going further. Finally, Obama does not intuitively understand the exercise of power—not just how and when to use it, but its foundations, its psychology and its consequences. The result of these three factors is a “none-of-the-above” policy assembled from the shards of discarded options.
That is where we are. Elections have consequences, and these are ours. Claim 'em and own 'em American, you voted for it twice.

In to the breach will be lower echelon leaders who will try to provide some kind of holding action in hope that the American people will elect a leader in '16 as opposed to a campaigner. 

Leadership in any matter of international seriousness is not Obama's skill set. A smart guy and a very talented politician - but leader? No, not in this way - and it won't get better.

Embrace the clunk.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Warrior Writers Podcast: The 1990s

This week's episode will focus on the US Navy and Marine Corps from Desert Shield/Storm, the end of the Cold War, and finding their way towards the next century.

This 14-part series will take you decade by decade, starting with the 1870s, discussing the significant naval events and developments that helped shape the US Navy.

The podcast will coincide with the Naval Academy Museum: "Warrior Writers: The U.S. Naval Institute" open from September 10, 2015 through January 31, 2016.

Our guest for each episode leading us through the decades will be Naval Academy History Professor Emeritus and noted naval historian Dr. Craig Symonds, and Naval Academy Museum Director Claude Berube.

You can listen to the episode below, get the full archive over at BTR, or better yet, subscribe to the show on iTunes.

Europe Failed by her Elites ... Again

As an antidote to all the hohohoism of the last week, I spent a wee bit of time over the weekend catching up with sick old friends across the pond.

They are in a pickle, mostly ... and it is as most things are - a failure of the fundamentals.

A government should exist for one reason; to serve and improve the lives of its citizens and their liberties. That only works if that is the goal of those who hold the levers of power as well. There is the rub, there is the disconnect.

With a properly educated and informed populace in a well functioning democratic system, more often than not a nation's leaders will do that, but what if they don't? What if they are driven by other priorities?

All politicians are driven for power - that is human nature - and that is why you have checks and balances in place. It is what they want the power for that is the problem.

Do they want power to promote individual liberty? To promote their favorite religious or secular -ism? To do good? Or, for the worst reason, just for power?

What if they don't make decisions for power directly, but are instead using the levers of power for other, petty, almost psychological reasons?

It is the later that seems to make the most sense to me in understanding the decisions we see coming from seats of power in Europe, and in some ways in the USA as well.

I am not the first person to think that many policies are pursued simply so one person in a ruling elite can say and do the right things so another group or cabal in that same self-selecting social circle will say nice things, write fawning articles about how kind and great they are, and more importantly - will invite them and their friends to all the right parties. One must not let a tux collect dust, dontchaknow.

A North American has to be careful in looking at European politics, as our definition of "left" and "right" don't translate very well. Europe has had a century and a half going battle with itself with -isms of their own creation, and as such, the prism they see the political world through is much different than ours.

There is one thing that is common with almost all democratic systems. Democratic systems rely on those within a half a standard deviation from the political center to work roughly in line with the will of the mass of the people. 

People can be patient in normal times waiting for the mainstream politicians to address their concerns. When one side of that average figures out where the people have their concerns and adjusts their platform to make that concern theirs - then in a center-right, center-left world - one side of the other wins the next elections. Everyone re-adjusts to the new environment and gets ready for the next cycle.

What happens when for reasons best known to the elite in the center, they refuse to address the concerns of the people? The people will move out from the center to the extremes. If a nation is lucky, one party will make a big adjustment in time to capture those people and pull them back to the center in time. The political critical mass of that nation adjusts a bit, but still remains in line with a democratic norm. When someone from the center does not, a power outside the center who does grows as more an more of the ill-served populace moves there as they feel that they have nowhere else to go to have their concerns addressed.

Such as it was, such as it is, such as it will be.

When you have such circumstances happen and it goes to extremes, it isn't pretty. There are worse and slightly less worse options. 1930s Spain and 1970s Chile picked the correct worse direction and as such, once things normalized, they returned to the democratic fold and are highly functioning nations.

Russia a century ago and Cuba of the late 50s went a different direction, and the results speak for themselves.

It does not have to go to extremes, if you are lucky and you catch it in time. That is where we are in Europe - and all the signs are there of a people on the edge of something.

Via the Express' Nick Gutteridge, let's take a quick review of the goings on in the Continent;
In France Marine Le Pen's controversial Front National came within a whisker of winning control over swathes of the country, whilst the traditionally liberal societies of Scandinavia turned their backs on moderates amid unprecedented migratory pressure.
AUSTRIA: ... extremist politicians have benefited from a surge in support largely due to the ongoing migrant crisis. ,,, In late September the party stormed to success in local elections, doubling its share of the vote to more than 30% and securing 18 seats in Upper Austria, second only to the ruling regional conservatives.
DENMARK: The far-right Danish People's Party (DF) has been so successful in recent elections that it now has the balance of power and could topple the Danish coalition government. The party finished second in June's general election after securing 21% of the vote and 37 seats in the country's 179-seat parliament.

Leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl eventually opted to form a ruling coalition with the conservatives, but has recently threatened to "topple" the government by pulling out if there is any attempt to soften its stance on immigration.
FINLAND: ... The nationalists became Finland's second largest political party when they won 17.7% of the votes in April's general election and entered into a pact with the ruling Conservatives.

Like the DP, the eurosceptic party espouses essentially left-wing economic policies but allied to a hardline stance on immigration.
GERMANY: ... the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party making huge gains off the bank of anti asylum-seeker statements. ... Elsewhere the openly far-right group Pegida held one of its biggest ever rallies in Dresden in October, with 20,000 people taking to the streets to protest against immigration.
GREECE: ... Despite electing a radical socialist government Greeks have also voted in their droves for the openly fascist Golden Dawn party this year. The violent group was one of the biggest winners in the country's September general election, called by president Alexis Tsipras so that voters could have their say on a controversial EU bailout package.

Instead the election served to underline the growing popularity of neo-fascists Golden Dawn, who polled third overall with more than 7% of the vote. After the result was announced its spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, who sports a Swastika tattoo, triumphantly declared: ³Golden Dawn is a movement of power, it is not a protest movement any more."
Ordinary Greeks have been left feeling betrayed by other European countries over a series of suffocating bailout packages, which have stopped the country's stricken economy from imploding but have also completely stifled any recovery. The country is also on the frontline of the current refugee crisis, with 7,000 migrants arriving on its shores every day.
HUNGARY: ... one in five Hungarians turned to an ultra far-right party in last year's election. The central European state, which is governed by populist right-wing president Viktor Orban, has built a huge 110 mile long fence along its border with Serbia in a desperate bid to keep hundreds of thousands of German-bound migrants out.

But despite Mr Orban's hardline stance against immigration, 20.7% of Hungarians voted for anti-semitic Jobbik in last April's general election.
Jobbik has consistently gained on Mr Orban's Fidesz party in the polls this year, and has scored as highly as 17% before dropping back to 15% in September. But the party has had a serious effect on the country's politics - it was Jobbik which suggested constructing the razor wire fence later championed by Mr Orban, and he also followed their calls to deploy the army to the border to deter migrants.
ITALY: As in Greece, Italian voters are faced with economic hardship and a place on the Mediterranean frontline of the migrant crisis. Despite being ruled by the socialist government of Matteo Renzi, it is the far-right Northern League party which has made real strides in recent elections.

The nationalist party, whose candidates have made xenophobic comments towards Roma gypsies and immigrants, secured its best ever results in this summer's regional elections. Standing on an anti-immigrant platform, the Northern League won the regions of Veneto - with a landslide 50% of the vote - and neighbouring Lombardy.

It also struck a humiliating blow against the ruling socialists by wooing 20% of the electorate in Tuscany, the left-wing heartland of Mr Renzi's Democratic Party.
The Netherlands: the country's main far-right party, Party for Freedom (PVV) could be on track to storm to victory at the next general election. Support for the anti-immigration party has risen to record highs this year, with it opening up a cavernous 18 point lead on all its rivals.
The PVV is run by controversial politician Geert Wilders, who has previously said that Europe should close its borders to Muslims and described the refugee crisis as an "Islamic invasion". More recently he has supported Donald Trump over his similar proposed policy for the United States, saying he hopes he becomes the country's next president.
SWEDEN: ... Sparsely populated Sweden, home to just 9.5 million people, will take in a record 190,000 refugees from the Middle East this year alone.
Fears over how the predominantly Muslim migrants will integrate into society has seen traditionally liberal Swedes turn their backs on socialist politicians and instead embrace the anti-immigrant Swedish Democrats (SD).

The SD - which wants to close Sweden's borders to immigrants and has neo-Nazi ties - has seen a surge in support with eight separate opinion polls this year placing it as the largest party in the country. Seven of those have put its support at over 25% - comfortably ahead of the ruling Social Democratic Party.
Of course, this all can be traced back to the failure to stop the uncontrolled invasion of hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied, unemployable military aged Muslim men seeking handouts and, for a not insignificant number - rape and terroristic violence.

The mainstream center-left and center-right politicians need to change faster than they are if they want to stem the rise of the nationalists. If they don't, the problem will get horribly worse until the nationalists gain power and then they will fix the problem ... and the mainstream won't like the way they do it.

Some are coming around - grudgingly. As reported by Andrew Higgins at NYT;
Like most members of Hungary’s liberal intellectual elite, George Konrad, a distinguished novelist, loathes his country’s stridently illiberal prime minister, Viktor Orban.

“He is not a good democrat and I don’t believe he is a good person,” said Mr. Konrad, a veteran of communist-era struggles against dictatorship.

All the same, he thinks Mr. Orban, the self-declared scourge of mainstream elites across Europe, was right and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany was wrong about how to respond to the chaotic flood of migrants seeking refuge from war and poverty — perhaps Europe’s most serious crisis since World War II.

“It hurts to admit it, but on this point Orban was right,” Mr. Konrad, 82, said, lamenting that in the absence of a joint European effort to control the flow, Hungary was wise to seal its borders and sound the alarm over the perils of allowing hundreds of thousands of migrants, mostly Muslims, to enter Europe willy-nilly.
In fact, Mr. Orban’s prescriptions — notably the need to secure Greece’s porous coastline and seal Europe’s outer borders — have slowly been embraced by other European Union leaders, who vowed on Thursday, at their final summit meeting of 2015, to “regain control” of the Continent’s frontiers.
In a recent interview with European newspapers, Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, the body that presides over European Union summit meetings, described Ms. Merkel’s welcoming approach to migrants as “dangerous” and endorsed the view long promoted by Mr. Orban — that most of the asylum seekers entering Europe were not Syrians fleeing war but economic migrants seeking jobs..
“It is more and more obvious that what we kept on saying for the last six months turned out to be right,” Mr. Szijjarto said in an interview. “This is acknowledged more and more: Some say it openly, some say it behind closed doors and some don’t say it but act accordingly.”
The most that mainstream politicians will say is that “Orban wasn’t completely wrong,” as Reinhold Mitterlehner, Austria’s Conservative vice chancellor, remarked recently.
At a congress over the weekend of the governing Fidesz party, Laszlo Kover, an Orban loyalist and the speaker of the Hungarian Parliament, thundered against multiculturalism as “some kind of experiment” to turn Europe into a “territory for rootless barbarian hordes.”

Tamas Lanczi, the director of the Center for Political Analysis at Szazadveg, a Budapest research group tied to Hungary’s governing party, said: “The European elite is very angry with Orban because he spoiled their game. He called out the name of the emperor who is naked.”

Mr. Orban, he added, has been demonized “as the Devil himself,” but his views are “now becoming the mainstream” because he “refuses to walk down the one-way street of political correctness.”
2016 will be an interesting year on the Continent.

For a nice, broad overview of Europe's discontent from a slightly different angle, I highly recommend Jim Yardley's bit from mid-Month also at NYT.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

David and the Deep Blue Sea

What do the tactical lessons from a wee episode from the Old Testament have to do with helping our friends keep China in her box?

I'm pondering over at USNIBlog if you'd like to stop by and give it a read.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

AFG Slow Slide

Because it tends to put me in a funk, I try not to write too much about the latest in AFG. Mostly because it is going more or less as we thought it would if we signaled retreat - which we did when President Obama gave his West Point speech in DEC 09.

It is taking a bit longer that I thought, but it is getting there. The Taliban have been following Red Most Likely COA; they are being patient and husbanding their forces for the expected civil war that will follow once USA/NATO forces become ineffective.

They will continue to attack, pressure, and take advantage of openings when they see them. They will let us leave, but they will kick us in the tail as we go.

I was thinking it was time to catch up with the front porch after our most recent losses.
A suicide bomber drove a motorcycle into a joint convoy of U.S., NATO and Afghan forces on Monday, blowing himself up and killing six Americans, a brutal sign of deteriorating security in a region where Western troops are trying to help locals overtake the Taliban.

The explosion marked the deadliest day for American troops in Afghanistan since an October helicopter crash, and the worst attack on Americans since six died in a July 2012 roadside bombing, according to the website iCasualties.
Why? Because they can - and because the need to continue to have us bleed.

Via our friend Bill Roggio at LongWarJournal;
The Taliban overran a strategic district in Helmand the same day the deputy governor warned that the southern Afghan province was in danger of collapsing. Sangin District fell to the Taliban despite the involvement of US and British special operations forces as well as US air support in the province.

Afghan officials confirmed that the Taliban overran the Sangin district center and seized control of all of its administrative buildings and the police headquarters over the past 24 hours, Pajhwok Afghan News reported. An estimated 150 Afghan policemen retreated from the district center to a different area and remained surrounded by the Taliban. A member of Afghanistan’s parliament told the news agency that all police and military bases in Sangin are now under the Taliban’s control.

The Taliban has targeted Sangin for takeover since mid-2014. By August 2014, the situation in the district had deteriorated so dramatically that the Afghan military was negotiating with the Taliban to avoid being ejected from its administrative center. Last month, 65 Afghan soldiers and several of their officers in Sangin laid down their weapons and surrendered to the Taliban after their outpost was besieged for weeks without receiving reinforcements or supplies.

The Taliban seized control of Sangin the same day that Mohammad Jan Rasulyar, Helmand’s deputy governor, issued a plea for President Ashraf Ghani to take immediate action in the province. Rasulyar made his dramatic statement in a post on Facebook.

“Your Excellency, Helmand is standing on the brink and there is a serious need for you to come,” Rasulyar wrote, according to Reuters.

Rasulyar also issued a scathing indictment of the Afghan government, the military, and the international coalition, all of which have failed to support Helmand’s troops and policemen in the field.

“We don’t provide food and ammunition to our forces on time, do not evacuate our wounded and martyred soldiers from the battle field, and foreign forces only watch the situation from their bases and don’t provide support,” he wrote.

Rasulyar claimed 44 soldiers and policemen were killed in the fighting in Sangin, and another 90 were killed during recent fighting in Gereshk, a town in Nahr-i-Sarraj district that is in danger of falling to the Taliban. He explained that such high casualties are commonplace.
It gets worse. Though they are doing well, the Taliban are probably looking at the need for a branch plan because there is an unexpected by-product from other fecklessness via the US national security decision making leadership.
Islamic State militants are gaining a foothold in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province, stoking concern among U.S. military leaders and fundamentally changing the nature of the insurgency here, top defense officials said.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Friday made an unannounced visit to this remote base, one of the primary U.S. military outposts in eastern Afghanistan and one of the few slated to remain open indefinitely in this war-torn nation.

Carter came to talk with some of the 500 U.S. troops deployed here and to meet with senior military leaders for an up-close update on the mission during the wintertime fighting lull. It was one of his last stops on a week-long trip across the U.S. Central Command area of operations, where he is talking to commanders on the ground about progress in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Carter warned that Afghanistan faces many extremist and insurgent threats that include the Taliban, the remnants of al-Qaida, and most recently the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, ISIL or D’aesh.

“They are trying to create little nests wherever they feel there is an opportunity,” Carter said of ISIS. “We have some information that suggests they seem to find an opportunity here in Nangarhar. That is really good information to have because it will allow us to focus our efforts on what they are doing in Nangarhar and make sure they don’t have a nest here.”
SECDEF is giving you happy talk ... seriously, that is the positive spin. There is more info out there;
Malaika, vigorous in her late 50s, is one of three women who decided to stay behind to try to keep their homes.

“The poor woman is guarding the windows and the planks of the two rooms that remain,” her husband, Mullah Jan, said last month. Mr. Jan was held by the militants for two months until he paid them $500 ransom. “We had 10 goats and one cow. They took all of it.”

Dr. Joanne Liu, the president of Doctors Without Borders, spoke on Wednesday in Geneva.Obama Issues Rare Apology Over Bombing of Doctors Without Borders Hospital in AfghanistanOCT. 7, 2015
When reports began emerging last year that some Afghan militants had shifted their allegiance to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, the government and international response remained measured. Experts noted that in Afghanistan, the Islamic State represented more of a splintering of the Taliban than a major expansion of the core group out of Syria and Iraq.
But even as the Taliban are winning major victories against the government this year, including a 15-day takeover of Kunduz, they are not exerting monolithic control. The Islamic State has made major inroads in turf battles against Taliban commanders, particularly in places in Nangarhar Province like the Maamand Valley. And the result, rather than weakening the overall insurgency, has mostly been to inflict more chaos and misery for Afghan civilians.

The people in eastern Afghanistan were not sure what to make of it at first. To them, the shaggy-haired militants were largely the same old Taliban under a new black flag.

But one big difference soon became obvious: The fighters were suddenly flush with cash. Rumors circulated that they were paying a signing bonus of $400 to $500,...
So much that we did - and the core of the very doable "Shape Clear Hold Build" strategy that we had set up was all designed to avoid what is now happening.
The provincial deputy director for the Refugees and Repatriation Ministry, Ewaz Khan Basharat, said initial data showed that more than 17,000 families in Nangarhar had been displaced by the new group’s violence. Other officials and tribal elders estimate that the number is much higher.

Some of the worst atrocities have been reported in Achin District, where the Maamand Valley and Malaika’s village, Bagh, are.

The raiders demanded that villagers in the district submit a list of widows and unmarried girls. In some parts, they declared that marriages that had happened under government recognition were suddenly invalid, according to Zaiullah Amaray, a member of the Nangarhar Provincial council. At first, women were allowed to leave the house in burqas, but then were told not to leave at all.

“They said, ‘If anyone has young women or widows, we want to marry them off,’ ” recalled Aslam Jan, 60, who finally fled Achin this summer after decades of weathering every intrusion to come through. “The Russians invaded, I didn’t leave my home. The Americans invaded, I didn’t leave,” he said. “We had held up through everything. But we couldn’t give up our children.”
We are at the point that it would have been better had we done nothing. All that was gained was thrown away and now we will just sit here and watch all the blood and treasure that we and our allies invested just fade in to fetid, pink mist.
Early one evening in Bagh, Islamic State fighters marched dozens of elders up a mountain, where most of them remained captive for two months on charges of helping the Taliban and trying to rally a fight against the Islamic State. About two weeks in, 10 of them — including Malaika’s brother-in-law, Mohamed Younus — were taken to a lush hillside. More fighters arrived on horseback and began digging a large trench that was lined with explosives. The prisoners, hands tied and eyes covered, were herded in.

Their last moments, and the aftermath of the explosion that killed them, were captured by the militants’ video cameras from at least three angles. Two fighters can be seen igniting a long fuse at each of its ends before running out of the frame. A huge blast sends flesh and dirt flying against the camera lenses.

The Islamic State brutality in Achin was so extreme that some local Taliban commanders surrendered to the government, and some moved their families to displacement camps in government-controlled areas.

One man there, Laal Zaman, 55, said he had been with the Taliban “from the beginning.” But he insisted that his cell of the insurgency remained local, his guns strictly aimed against foreign forces. Even as he fought the international coalition, he said, four of his sons served in the Afghan Army in the country’s south.

Now, Mr. Zaman says he is doubly a target for the Islamic State: for being Taliban, and for having sons who are soldiers.
What can be done at this point?

I don't think much. There has been zero leadership of any substance to make progress since DEC 09. How could there? Any national will was left to die on the vine. There isn't any left. 

Even if the next President wanted to do something to repair the damage done, it would take at least 6-months to work a plan. That is the summer of '17. Get what you needed on on the ground to execute that plan, another year; that is the summer of '18. You need at least two fighting seasons to see if your initial plan is working; that is the summer of '20 when you can make Rev.1 of your plan based on observations of the two fighting seasons. That is optimistic ... and that would only be to see if you could halt the decay that has been in place since DEC 09.

In '05-09 we thought that it would be a decade long process to get AFG on its feet if we stuck with the plan. We stuck with it less than half of that. 

We are now worse off after six years of a slow retreat. Our allies have no stomach to do much of anything. The American people have used up their well of good will.

What can be done? As always, it starts at the POLMIL level. What is the direction and guidance? Right now it seems to be to hold it together until it is the next President's problem.

Someone tell me where they read something else.

As I have been saying for the last half decade; somewhere there is a young man or woman who will be this generation's H.R. McMaster. H.R. McMaster actual is busy in the belly of the beast ... so he can't do it.

There is a story here that will make the parade of shame from Vietnam look like a Pantheon of Honor. I do not think it will be done at an American university though - and it probably will not be done by an American - but there is a PhD and a book deal to be made on this horror show. 

I have hope for that story to be told, and I wait.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Islamic State and Leaving Behind Childish Things

Just in case you are full of a bit too much Christmas cheer, I have one of the better and more serious outlines of the Long War that I have read in quite a while to share with you.

This isn’t a tactical, operational, or a strategic perspective. This is a civilizational POLMIL level review of what we are actually facing.

Even though we have been involved in this Long War for over two decades (I think a convenient starting point is the first attack on the World Trade Center) – many people do not recognize it for what it is. Even people at very high levels of responsibility remain blinded by the threats facing the Western world – including the American President and most of the Western political elite.
Here is your Monday bucket of cold water.

Via Scott Atran, director of research in anthropology at the CNRS, École Normale Supérieure, and a senior research fellow at the University of Oxford over at Aeon. Go get a fresh cup of coffee, close the door and put the phone direct to voice mail. Read it all, and how can you not? Something that pulls in to a discussion of the Long War Robespierre, Burke, Hobbes, Darwin Terence, Hitler, De Gaulle, Jefferson, and Orwell?

Here are the pull quotes;
What accounts for the failure of ‘The War on Terror’ and associated efforts to counter the spread of violent extremism? The failure starts with reacting in anger and revenge, engendering more savagery without stopping to grasp the revolutionary character of radical Arab Sunni revivalism. This revival is a dynamic, countercultural movement of world-historic proportions spearheaded by ISIS, (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). In less than two years, it has created a dominion over hundreds of thousands of square kilometres and millions of people. And it possesses the largest and most diverse volunteer fighting force since the Second World War.

What the United Nations community regards as senseless acts of horrific violence are to ISIS’s acolytes part of an exalted campaign of purification through sacrificial killing and self-immolation: Know that Paradise lies under the shade of swords, says a hadith, or saying of the Prophet; this one comes from the Sahih al-Bukhari, a collection of the Prophet’s sayings considered second only to the Qu’ran in authenticity and is now a motto of ISIS fighters.
Exactly. We continue to look at this from a Western point of view. Worse yet, from a Western faculty lounge point of view.
Although attacked on all sides by internal and external foes, the Islamic State has not deteriorated to any appreciable degree, while rooting ever stronger in areas it controls and expanding its influence in deepening pockets throughout Eurasia and Africa. Despite recent White House reassurances, US intelligence tells us that ISIS is not being contained. Repeated claims that ISIS is being degraded and on the way to inevitable defeat ring hollow for almost anyone who has had direct experience in the field. Only Kurdish frontline combatants and some Iranian-led forces have managed to fight ISIS to a standstill on the ground, and only with significant French and US air support.

Despite our relentless propaganda campaign against the Islamic State as vicious, predatory and cruel – most of which might be right – there is little recognition of its genuine appeal, and even less of the joy it engenders. The mainly young people who volunteer to fight for it unto death feel a joy that comes from joining with comrades in a glorious cause, as well as a joy that comes from satiation of anger and the gratification of revenge (whose sweetness, says science, can be experienced by brain and body much like other forms of happiness).
What the ISIS revolution is not, is a simple desire to return to the ancient past. The idea that ISIS seeks a return to medieval times makes no more sense than the idea that the US Tea Party wants to return to 1776.
I feel the need to just put this out there at the end of 2015 - this is nothing new. Many of us have been trying to get everyone to understand what this was all about well over a decade before ISIS/ISIL/Daesh even existed. We should take it as a victory that more and more are coming around to it - but when will they accept the next cards under the deck?
In our liberal democracy, intentional mass bloodshed is considered evil, an expression of human nature gone awry. But across most of human history and cultures, violence against other groups was considered a moral virtue, a classification necessary for killing masses of people innocent of harming others.

Besides, brutal terror scares the hell out of enemies and fence-sitters. Kurdish leaders told my research group that when 350-400 Islamic State fighters came in a convoy of some 80 trucks to free Sunni captives (and massacre more than 600 Shia inmates) from Badoush prison in Iraq’s second largest city Mosul, a relatively well-equipped Iraqi army of some 18,000 troops under US-trained leaders immediately disappeared or ran away. When I asked one Arab Sunni soldier embedded with a Kurdish Peshmerga force on the Mosul-Erbil front why fellow soldiers fled, he simply said: ‘They wanted to keep their heads.’

The shutdown of Brussels in the wake of the Paris attacks, or of Boston in the aftermath of the marathon bombings in 2013, speaks to a comparable fear, and contributes to an underlying lack of faith in our own societies and values, something that terror attacks are designed to promote. During the Second World War, not even the full might of the German Luftwaffe at the height of the Blitz could compel the UK government and the people of London to cower so. Today, mere mention of an attack on New York in an ISIS video has US officials scurrying to calm the public. Media exposure, which is the oxygen of terror in our age, not only amplifies the perception of danger but, in generating such hysteria, makes the bloated threat to society real.

This is especially true today because the media is mostly designed to titillate the public rather than inform it. Thus, it has become child’s play for ISIS to turn our own propaganda machine, the world’s mightiest, into theirs – boosting a novel, highly potent jujitsu style of asymmetric warfare that we could counter with responsible restraint and straight-up information, but we won’t.

The outcome is dangerous and preposterous. The US Justice Department, with overwhelming support from Congress and the media, now considers the common kitchen pressure cooker to be a ‘weapon of mass destruction’ if used for terrorism. This ludicrously levels a cooking pot with a thermonuclear bomb that has many billions of times greater destructive power. It trivialises true weapons of mass destruction, making their acceptance more palatable and their use more conceivable. In this present hyperreality, messaging is war by other means. ISIS’s manipulation of our media creates a sense of foreboding of mass destruction where it isn’t really possible, and at the same time obscures any real future threat.

Asymmetric operations involving spectacular killings to destabilise the social order is a tactic that has been around as long as recorded history. Violent political and religious groups routinely provoke their enemies into overreacting, preferably by committing atrocities to get the others to drive in the sheep and collect the wool.
Over-reaction comes from panic. Panic spreads due to one primary cause; poor leadership.

From the retreating mass of the Iraqi Army to the growing assault on the Bill of Rights in the USA, ask yourself, who were/are the leaders and what were they doing? What messages were they putting out to their people, and what did they state as their priorities? Did it reassure the good and confound the bad? Well ... results speak for themselves.

How much can lower echelon leaders do to make up for failings at the very top? Can they?

Back to resetting fundamentals. This, more of this.
The chasm between values is compounded by alternate historical arcs. The West and the Arab and Muslim world have long lived mostly separate and parallel histories. In the West, people generally believe history began with Ancient Sumeria around the 26th Century BCE. Centred in the southern part of modern-day Iraq, Sumeria was birthplace to written law and literature, and to Abraham and his monotheistic creed. Civilisation then moved west to Greece and Rome. After the fall of Rome, came the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightenment, the first political revolutions, the world wars and the Cold War. Human rights and democracy became triumphant and seemingly inevitable.

The Arab and Muslim world also begins with Sumeria but, until the world wars, Rome, Greece and the rest were peripheral. Christian Europe was the dark continent; Muslim heroes, myths, legends and references were all basically different. Sure there is Moses and Alexander and Jesus, but their profiles in Islam are distinct: Musa’s (Moses’s) life paralleled Mohammed’s and foretold the Prophet’s coming; Iskandar (Alexander) or Dhul-Qarnayn (Arabic for ‘The Two-Horned One’) was a religious figure to whom Allah gave great power and the ability to build a wall of civilisation to provisionally keep out the forces of chaos and evil. And Isa, or Jesus, was Allah’s righteous messenger, not his son, who did not die on the cross but, like Mohammed, was raised to heaven.

All of the European political imports and even nationalism itself (except maybe for Turkey, Egypt and Iran, which are still more built around ethnicity and faith than national identity per se) have failed in the Middle East, and miserably so. People are longing for something in their history, in their traditions, with their heroes and their morals; and the Islamic State, however brutal and repugnant to us and even to most in the Arab-Muslim world, is speaking directly to that.
Ideas matter. Your ideas, and the ideas of the enemy. In a war of ideas, how much is offence, how much is defense. What can be done if only one side is fully engaged in both?

In the West, those who support the foundations of Western Civilization have over the last century surrendered control of the culture and academia to the self-loathing left. That has given us the worst possible terrain to fight this battle. You cannot attract others to your cause - and bolster those already on your side - if your messages are swaddled in self-loathing, and your actions signal a weak horse. Combine this with one side exporting their surplus population that brings their hostile cultures with them and a receiving side refusing to force assimilation, and you have a recipe for unending conflict until one side or the other changes - or is defeated.
As I told the UN Security Council this spring, what inspires the most lethal assailants in the world today is not so much the Quran or religious teachings but rather a thrilling cause and a call to action that promises glory and esteem in the eyes of friends. Foreign volunteers for the Islamic State are often youth in transitional stages in their lives – immigrants, students, people between jobs and before finding their mates. Having left their homes, they seek new families of friends and fellow travellers to find purpose and significance.

France’s Centre for the Prevention of Sectarian Drift Related to Islam estimates that 80 per cent come from non-religious families; West Point’s Center for Combating Terrorism finds that their average age is 25. For the most part, they have no traditional religious education and are ‘born again’ to religion through the jihad. About one in four, often the fiercest followers, are converts. Self-seekers who have found their way to jihad reach out through private gatherings or the internet. They might be people who feel uncomfortable with binge-drinking or casual sex, or have seen their parents humiliated by employers or the government, or their sisters insulted for wearing a headscarf. Most do not follow through to join the jihad, but some do. More than 80 per cent who join the Islamic State do so through peer-to-peer relationships, mostly with friends and sometimes family. Very few join in mosques or through recruitment by anonymous strangers.
Another item we simply refuse to address seriously - the role of the Saudi monarchy in promoting this radicalization. Decades ago, it was Saudi money that sponsored mosques throughout the Western world, exporting the Wahhabi and Salafist radicalism with it;
Adherents of this pure Caliphate are violently opposed to the idea of greater jihad as an inner spiritual struggle. They consider this bogus notion of jihad to be the heart of the Sufi heresy introduced in the later Abbasid Caliphate, which corrupted the pure Arab-led form of the Caliphate and led to its decay and downfall.

At the East Asia summit in Singapore last April, some people insisted that the Caliphate was nothing more than a myth masking traditional power politics. Our research in Europe and North Africa shows this to be a dangerous misconception. The Caliphate has re‑emerged as a mobilising cause in the minds of many Muslims, and even has some appeal to Muslims who favour interfaith cooperation. ‘I am against the violence of Al‑Qaeda and ISIS,’ said an imam in Barcelona who helps to run an interfaith dialogue initiative with Christians and Jews, ‘but they have put our predicament in Europe and elsewhere on the map. Before, we were just ignored. And the Caliphate… We dream of it like the Jews long dreamed of Zion. Maybe it can be a federation, like the European Union, of Muslim peoples. The Caliphate is here, in our hearts, even if we don’t know what real form it will finally take.’
The seeds bore fruit.

It is in these mosques that much of the local battle will be fought. Every Friday. Remember, one of the primary targets in this war are our Muslim countrymen and other Muslims holding Western passports, converts, and immigrants. How hard are we working to support their integration and for them to resist radical messages in their mosques?
‘The Extinction of the Grayzone’, a 12-page editorial published in ISIS’s online magazine Dabiq in early 2015, describes the twilight area occupied by most Muslims between good and evil – in other words, between the Caliphate and the Infidel, which the ‘blessed operations of September 11’ brought into relief. The editorial quotes Osama bin Laden, for whom ISIS is the true heir: ‘The world today is divided. Bush spoke the truth when he said, “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists”’, with the actual ‘terrorist’ being the Western Crusaders. Now, ‘the time had come for another event to… bring division to the world and destroy the Grayzone.’
No center is their goal. What are we doing to grow the Grayzone?

The author ends on a very somber note. To my friends on the left, as you attack the fruits of the Enlightenment, Western Civilization, and the Western concept of individual liberty; are you frustrating or helping our enemy in the Long War?
Civilisations rise and fall on the vitality of their cultural ideals, not their material assets alone. History shows that most societies have sacred values for which their people would passionately fight, risking serious loss and even death rather than compromise. Our research suggests this is so for many who join ISIS, and for many Kurds who oppose them on the frontlines. But, so far, we find no comparable willingness among the majority of youth that we sample in Western democracies. With the defeat of fascism and communism, have their lives defaulted to the quest for comfort and safety? Is this enough to ensure the survival, much less triumph, of values we have come to take for granted, on which we believe our world is based? More than the threat from violent jihadis, this might be the key existential issue for open societies today.
History does not always progress. The future belong to those who show up and fight for it.

Always has, always does. History does not owe you and your culture a future. What are you doing for it?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Little Respect for a Cruiser's Command Triad

You have a 33 year old cruiser that spent 10 of those years in neglectful "mothball" status. You've been on Med deployment for awhile ... and you look beautiful.

I'd like to see what the inside of the Sava Class Moskva looks like, but from the outside - I think we should give the Russian CO, XO and Command Master Chief a nod of professional respect. They do their ship and their Sailors honor.

I've seen some nasty Soviet/Russian ships ... and this ain't one.

Bravo Zulu. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Fullbore Friday

About half of this is from an email Sid sent me the other month. I added a little bit - but what a catch.

An elderly leader with decades of experience at sea. Merchants without enough military ships to make the passage. Hostile waters. A mission.

What do you do against a superior military force, when you basically have next to nothin'..?

You have been put in command of really nothing of a military ability - but everything of an economic necessity. Your nation is one that is at war, and relies on sea born commerce to survive and prosper. Between you and your nation are thousands of miles of open ocean, and an enemy that wants to destroy you.

You know you do not have what you need to fight and win ... at least on paper.

So, what do you do? Well - if you are Commodore Sir Nathaniel Dance, you get to work. You go to war with the Fleet you have - not the Fleet you wish you had.

Let's set the stage.

During the Napoleonic Wars, the British economy depended on its ability to trade with the British Empire, particularly the valuable colonies in British India. The intercontinental trade was conducted by the governors of India, the Honourable East India Company (HEIC), using their fleet of large, well armed merchant vessels known as East Indiamen. These ships weighed between 500 long tons (508 t) and 1,200 long tons (1,219 t) and could carry up to 36 guns for defence against pirates, privateers and small warships. They were not, however, capable under normal circumstances of fighting off an enemy frigate or ship of the line. Their guns were usually of inferior design, and their crew smaller and less well trained than those on a naval ship.
The East Indiamen sought to ensure the safety of their cargo and passengers, not defeat enemy warships in battle. Despite these disadvantages, the size of East Indiamen meant that from a distance they appeared quite similar to a small ship of the line, a deception usually augmented by paintwork and dummy cannon. The East Indiamen would gather at ports in India and the Far East and from there set out for Britain in large convoys, often carrying millions of pounds worth of trade goods.
The journey would usually take six months and the ships would subsequently return carrying troops and passengers to augment the British forces stationed in India. "Country ships", smaller merchant vessels chartered for local trade, sometimes independently from the HEIC, would often join the convoys. To protect their ships from the depredations of pirates, the HEIC also operated its own private navy of small armed vessels. In combination, these ships were an effective deterrent against smaller raiders, but were no match for a professional warship.

Understanding the importance of the Indian Ocean trade and seeking to threaten it from the start of the inevitable war, First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte ordered a squadron to sail for India in March 1803. This force was under the command of Contre-Admiral Charles-Alexandre Durand Linois and consisted of the ship of the line Marengo and three frigates.
What was Commodore Dance working with?
The China Fleet was a large annual British merchant convoy that gathered at Canton in the Pearl River during the winter before sailing for Britain, via India. As the convoy passed through the East Indies, it was joined by vessels sailing from other European ports in the region on the route to India, until it often numbered dozens of ships. The 1804 fleet departed in late January, and by the time it reached the approaches to the Strait of Malacca it had swelled to include 16 East Indiamen, 11 country ships, a Portuguese merchant ship from Macau and a vessel from Botany Bay in Australia.
Although the HEIC had provided the small, armed brig Ganges as an escort, this vessel could only dissuade pirates; it could not hope to compete with a French warship. There was no military escort: news of the outbreak of war had reached Canton before reinforcements had arrived from the squadron in India. Spies based in Canton had passed the composition and date of departure of the China Fleet to Linois in Batavia, and he set out to intercept it. However, Dutch informants at Canton had also passed on false reports that Royal Navy warships were accompanying the convoy, reports that may have been deliberately placed by British authorities.
The convoy was an immensely valuable prize, its cargo of tea, silk and porcelain valued at over £8 million in contemporary values (the equivalent of £541,000,000 as of 2009). Also on board were 80 Chinese plants ordered by Sir Joseph Banks for the royal gardens and carried in a specially designed plant room.
The HEIC Select Committee in Canton had been very concerned for the safety of the unescorted convoy, and had debated delaying its departure. The various captains had been consulted, including Henry Meriton, who in his ship Exeter had captured a frigate during the Action of 4 August 1800, a disastrous French attack on a convoy of East Indiamen off Brazil. Meriton advised that the convoy was powerful enough in both appearance and reality to dissuade any attack. He was opposed by John Farquharson of Alfred, who considered that the crews of East Indiamen were so badly trained that they would be unable to mutually defend one another if faced with a determined enemy.
Eventually the Committee decided that it could delay the convoy no longer and awarded command to the most experienced captain, Commodore Nathaniel Dance in the East Indiaman Earl Camden, an officer of over 45 years service at sea.
Not perfect - not even good; but what does a leader do? Improvise, adapt - overcome.
Dance had been taken seriously ill at Bombay during the outward voyage, but had recovered in time to sail with the convoy. The fleet did not have any naval escorts, and though the East Indiamen were heavily armed for merchants, carrying nominal batteries of between 30 and 36 guns, they were no match for disciplined and professional naval forces. Not all of their listed armament was always carried, but to give the illusion of greater strength, fake gunports were often painted on the hulls, in the hope of distant observers mistaking them for 64-gun ships of the Royal Navy
...Maneuver and Deceive...
At dawn on 15 February, both the British and French forces raised their colours. Dance hoped to persuade Linois that his ships included some fully armed warships and he therefore ordered the brig Ganges and the four lead ships to hoist blue ensigns, while the rest of the convoy raised red ensigns. By the system of national flags then in use in British ships, this implied that the ships with blue ensigns were warships attached to the squadron of Admiral Rainier, while the others were merchant ships under their protection. Dance was unknowingly assisted by the information that had reached Linois at Batavia, which claimed that there were 23 merchant ships and the brig in the convoy. Dance had collected six additional ships during his journey, and the identity of these were unknown to the French, who assumed that at least some of the unidentified vessels must be warships, particularly as several vessels had been recently painted at Canton to resemble ships of the line.
At 09:00 Linois was still only observing the convoy, reluctant to attack until he could be sure of the nature of his opponents. Dance responded to the reprieve by reforming the line of battle into sailing formation to increase his convoy’s speed with the intention of reaching the Straits ahead of Linois.
With the convoy a less intimidating target, Linois began to slowly approach the British ships. By 13:00 it was clear that Linois's faster ships were in danger of isolating the rear of the convoy, and Dance ordered his lead ships to tack and come about, so that they would cross in front of the French squadron. The British successfully executed the manoeuvre, and at 13:15 Linois opened fire on the lead ship, Royal George, under the command of John Fam Timmins.
The Royal George and the next four ships in line, the Indiaman Ganges, Dance's Earl Camden, the Warley and the Alfred, all returned the fire, Ganges initially attacking the Royal George in error. Captain James Prendergrass in Hope, the next in line, was so eager to join the battle that he misjudged his speed and collided with Warley, the ships falling back as their crews worked to separate their rigging. Shots were then exchanged at long range for 43 minutes, neither side inflicting severe damage.

Royal George had one man killed: a sailor named Hugh Watt, another man wounded, and suffered some damage to her hull. None of the other British ships or any of the French reported anything worse than superficial damage in the engagement.
At 14:00, Linois abandoned the action and ordered his squadron to haul away with the wind and sail eastwards, away from the convoy, under all sail. Determined to maintain the pretence of the presence of warships, Dance ordered the ships flying naval ensigns, including his flagship Earl Camden, to chase the French. None of the merchant ships could match the French speed, but an attempt at a chase would hopefully dissuade the French from returning.
For two hours, Dance's squadron followed Linois, Hope coming close to catching Aventurier but ultimately unable to overtake the brig. At 16:00, Dance decided to gather his scattered ships and return to his former heading rather than risk attack from other raiders or lose sight of his convoy in the darkness. By 20:00, the entire British convoy had anchored at the entrance to the Straits of Malacca. On 28 February the British ships of the line HMS Sceptre and HMS Albion joined them in the Strait and convoyed them safely to Saint Helena in the South Atlantic, from where the convoy returned to Britain without further incident.
The attitude and conduct of the French Admiral is telling as an example of how not to fight war at sea.
The French admiral later attempted to explain his conduct during the engagement:
The ships which had tacked rejoined those which were engaging us, and three of the engaging ships manoeuvred to double our rear, while the remainder of the fleet, crowding sail and bearing up, evinced an intention to surround us. By this manoeuvre the enemy would have rendered my situation very dangerous. The superiority of his force was ascertained, and I had no longer to deliberate on the part I should take to avoid the consequence of an unequal engagement: profiting by the smoke, I hauled up to port, and steering east-north-east, I increased by distance from the enemy, who continued the pursuit of the squadron for three hours, discharging at it several broadsides.
—Linois, quoted in translation in William James' The Naval History of Great Britain during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, Volume 3, 1827,
That is pathetic.

To end this FbF on a positive note - let's go back to Commodore Dance. Good leaders always are humble and thankful.

Placed, by the adventitious circumstances of seniority of service and absence of convoy, in the chief command of the fleet intrusted to my care, it has been my good fortune to have been enabled, by the firmness of those by whom I was supported, to perform my trust not only with fidelity, but without loss to my employers. Public opinion and public rewards have already far outrun my deserts; and I cannot but be sensible that the liberal spirit of my generous countrymen has measured what they are pleased to term their grateful sense of my conduct, rather by the particular utility of the exploit, than by any individual merit I can claim.
Class act.

This is a best of, in case you missed it in 2009.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Oh, There's LCS News? Go Get the Gibbets.

When is it time to beat up on LCS? Well, anytime.

Now that everyone is finally going Salamander, let's do a little paragraph by paragraph of kicking the handicapped. Why? Well ... what more can I say?
The US Navy's fight to buy 52 variants of its littoral combat ship (LCS) from two shipbuilders may have taken a fatal blow this week after the secretary of defense directed the service to cap its buy at 40 ships and pick only one supplier. The directive also orders the Navy to buy only one ship annually over the next four years, down from three per year.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a Dec. 14 memo to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, told the Navy to "reduce the planned LCS/FF procurement from 52 to 40, creating a 1-1-1-1-2 profile, for eight fewer ships in the FYDP, and then downselect to one variant by FY 2019."
I owe Ash Carter another beer. This isn't PLAN SALAMANDER, but this a compromise that I can live with. Fewer is better. He seems to understand sunk cost more than most. Good. It looks like we are going to do something more useful with the money.
Carter, in the Dec. 14 memo, directs the Navy to reallocate savings from the LCS/FF cuts to buy more F/A-18 and F-35 aircraft, more SM-6 surface-to-air missiles, and support Virginia Payload Module (VPM) development for future Virginia-class submarines.
Read all of Chris Cavas's article at DefenseNews - but now I'm going to rage a little against the machine, if you would be so kind to indulge me in a little self-serving preening as well;
The directive to cut the LCS comes in the face of strenuous Navy objections. The service has argued that building a ship takes much longer than ordering a new aircraft or missile.
Well Big Navy, this is your fault, Shipmate. You elected to create a "too big to fail" shipbuilding program that had no Plan-B when LCS proved what people started to say over a decade ago. You did that in order to meet you own selfish career goals - the needs of the warfighter be damned. You decided to throw more money and hard work of Sailors at a program that was known to be a failure by everyone you refused to listen to. No, scratch that - those you eliminated from the conversation. 

You did it because you were more loyal to people than to service - and you created a command climate that demanded happy talk. In your arrogance, you did all you could do for your reasons, not the needs of the Navy decades after you started wallowing in the food trough in your post-Navy career in the belly of the beast you once defended your Sailors from. There is no reason why we don't have a different sub-6,000T class of warship under construction other than systemic and rewarded almost Ottoman levels of bureaucratic, ossified professional malpractice.
"It's unfortunate that we find ourselves in this situation, because the Navy needs both an increase in ship numbers and a bump in warfighting capability," the defense official said Dec. 16. "In this case there is no right or wrong answer."
What does that second part even mean? Sh1t or get off the pot. We don't just need numbers (however, the reason we have Commanders commanding warships of 100+/- has everything to do with CDR Command numbers so the surface community can make more CAPT) we need numbers that can do something besides feeding money into a corrupt military industrial complex. Making CDR Commands and creating as little bang for the most buck? Sure, LCS is C1 in those two Primary Mission Areas.
The Navy has long argued it needs ship numbers to keep up worldwide posture and presence. The fleet today stands at 272 ships, but the latest fleet plan shows a rise to 308 ships in the 2020s. The LCS fleet is a major component in keeping to that goal.
A single barely partially mission capable LCS cannot even conduct presence OPS without hundreds of support staff in foreign ports - and one LCS is about as imposing as a USCG medium endurance cutter; and has a worse paint job. It's posture is one of a tubercular asthmatic. It couldn't even fight against a WWII Q-Ship.
Two years ago, the Navy fought hard to fend off LCS cuts. Mabus personally made his case to Hagel to beat back acting defense under secretary Christine Fox's attempt to cut the program. Mabus saved the ships, but Hagel countered with a directive to develop a more heavily armed frigate version. The Navy is working through decisions of the frigate variant, and is expected to make some of those details public in the president's 2017 budget submission to Congress.
We should all have a small shrine to Christine Fox. The fact that she does not have Mabus's job should make us all weep for our collective loss.
The Pentagon's Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) also has repeatedly evaluated the program, often proposing alternative designs. At one point, CAPE reportedly favored a version of Norway's 5,400-ton Spanish-designed Fridtjof Nansen-class missile frigates fitted with a lightweight Aegis combat system.
Oh really, Nansen eh? Isn't that cute? That was called for first ... when was it? That is right, over eight years ago.
"In the last two months, the third deck has gone in two directions, generally to cut the program," said the Pentagon source, speaking of Carter's offices on the building's third floor.

"In the last year we went through a study to upgrade the ship, make it more capable. Now in CAPE some are arguing for a less-capable hull."
Additionally, the Pentagon source said, "the cuts will have industrial base impacts. And we are sending a message to Saudi, for example, of our confidence in the ship."
Of course we are. The message is clear. No one has any confidence in this ship. Why should they?

As for the industrial base? Well, sucks to be you. This was all foretold. Sure, I started pounding on this Little Crappy Ship in '05, but that was only after reading critiques by others written years earlier. Even at NPGS. 

Fix it as best as you can - but know where the blame is. Building ships that are death traps for our Sailors is not worth your Italian owned shipyard.
One political arena where the cuts are likely to quickly reverberate is in the presidential election. Most Republican candidates have cited a shrinking Navy is a critical need that needs to be addressed, and the factually-correct claim that "the Navy is the smallest since it's been since World War I" has become almost a mantra. A Democratic budget that reduces ship numbers is likely to become a lightning rod.
You are over thinking it. Done correctly - keeping LCS this long could easily be crafted as an albatross to wrap around the Democrat defense policy leadership - but that isn't what is important.

What do you want? Resources going to LCS that can't fight their way our of anything, or one DDG-51? For now, I'll take the DDG-51. Want something smaller and more affordable? PLAN SALAMANDER has been there for a very long time. The only thing getting in our way is hidebound thinking, bad programmatics, and worse egos.

It is all there. Follow the LCS tag - the posts started in Sept. 05 on LCS. If you don't have time for that, you can read this Executive Summary from almost three years ago, "OPTION 24" from 2.5 yrs ago, or "Beers With Don" from half a decade ago - though I'd start from the beginning.

Again, never before has so much money brought so little capability from so many ships. Overdue, but for now all praise SECDEF Carter. He saved us from having to buy, man, train, and equip another dozen+ of these embarrassing ships.