'87 Sir

Thirty years of service ----USNA Class of 1987 '87 Sir

Friday, October 30, 2009

Virginia becomes the first chink in Obama's armor

Dang, it's getting more crowded under that Obama bus.  Now the Obamabots are gonna throw Creigh Deeds under the bus and make sure President Urkel does not take any heat.  Now I can't disagree with the notion that Deeds ran a feckless campaign, even with the supreme help of the Washington Post's hit piece on McDonnell's 20 year old term paper.  McDonnell has been running for Governor unopposed for two years and has built an incredible campaign.

And of course, embracing Obama today is probably not gonna sell well with Virginians outside of Richmond and Norfolk with their heavily minority populations.  The key to Virginia is Northern Virginia, and I think folks here are getting some buyer's remorse, especially when they figure out they are the "rich" that Urkel wants to tax to pay for everything.  (Are you listening Gerry Connolly? 'cause, you're next)

So, another one bites the dust to redeem the image of the Obamasseah.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Discussion on History: Amatuer or Professional?

A profession is defined as “a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation.” This was certainly true of the historical profession during the late 1800 and early 1900s as the university system began to spread and history acquired its own methodology and set of standards.  Instruction in historical research and writing became more academically rigorous, causing not only the decline of amateur writers but affecting how history was written, especially in the United States.  As academic history became more widespread, it assumed the basic form that continues today, particularly the emphasis on scholarly research, critical analysis of primary sources, and most importantly, the use of the thesis as a stepping-stone and “rite of passage” to becoming a full-fledged university professor.

 The debate about professional versus amateur historians also continues to this day.  While amateurs are no doubt looked down upon by some academic historians, the fact is that within their particular topic of interest, many amateurs, particularly correspondents, have written outstanding works, including Rick Atkinson, who won the Pulitzer Prize in History for An Army at Dawn in 2003.  The skills of research, collation of sources, critical thinking, and incisive writing take time and practice but are not confined to the historical profession.  The primary difference between amateurs and professionals is the intended audience.  Although I have read outstanding works by history professors, I have also read just as many sharp works by enthusiastic amateurs, particularly in the fields of military and political history.  In my opinion, academics often write truly scholarly, but dreadfully dry and boring articles for publication in peer-reviewed journals.  Amateurs want to sell books, so they write for a more general audience and try, sometimes with mixed results, to write outstanding narrative history that gets the “facts” right, but tells a story that Romantic historians would no doubt approve.  Although they were not PhDs, I would postulate that few American history professors could write history like Shelby Foote or David McCullough.

The continuing disputes about historical objectivity also seems a little baffling to me—the whole point of history should be to strive for the truth as best the sources can tell you.  When new sources are discovered, then the historical truth should change without invalidating the overall calling of the historian to seek objectivity. 

World War II history is a good example of this issue.  Almost all military history written about the European Theater had to be rewritten after the disclosure of the Ultra code-breaking program in the 1970s.  However, that didn’t necessarily mean that history written before knowledge of Ultra was useless or false, it merely didn’t tell the whole story.

The professionalization of history was necessary to bring some accepted standards and consistent methodology to the practice of history.  However, the amateur still has their place in the highly specialized and prolific writing of history today.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Navies and COIN Warfare

Just saw this article on navies in counterinsurgencies.  Small Wars Journal is one of my favorite web sites.  It will be fascinating to read about the riverine war in Iraq and the role of Coalition forces on the Iraqi oil terminals in the Persian Gulf.  And of course, someone will doubtless pen a story of their time in the Narmy, supplementing the many staff jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan.  {That's Navy guys assigned to an army staff and given small arms training, scary stuff...Navy guys with M-4s)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Thought For The Day

.... You ask, What is our policy? I will say; "It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy." You ask, What is our aim? I can answer with one word: Victory - victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.

Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)

Good advice from a true statesman and wartime leader to a sad empty-suit wannabe.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Today is the Anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, one of the most important battles of the Hundred Years War.   Of course since there were no women, Hispanics, lesbians, blacks or other oppressed minorities, not much is mentioned about this battle today, but it was a major turning point in European history.  And of course, it inspired one of my favorite motivational speeches of all time.

St. Crispen's Day Speech
William Shakespeare, 1599
                                  Enter the KING
         WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here      
        But one ten thousand of those men in England      
        That do no work to-day!      
        KING. What's he that wishes so?      
        My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;      
        If we are mark'd to die, we are enow      
        To do our country loss; and if to live,      
        The fewer men, the greater share of honour.      
        God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.      
        By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,      
        Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;      
        It yearns me not if men my garments wear;      
        Such outward things dwell not in my desires.      
        But if it be a sin to covet honour,      
        I am the most offending soul alive.      
        No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.      
        God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour      
        As one man more methinks would share from me      
        For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!      
        Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,      
        That he which hath no stomach to this fight,     
        Let him depart; his passport shall be made,      
        And crowns for convoy put into his purse;      
        We would not die in that man's company      
        That fears his fellowship to die with us.      
        This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.      
        He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,      
        Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,      
        And rouse him at the name of Crispian.      
        He that shall live this day, and see old age,      
        Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,      
        And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'      
        Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,      
        And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'      
        Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,      
        But he'll remember, with advantages,      
        What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,      
        Familiar in his mouth as household words-      
        Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,      
        Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-      
        Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.      
        This story shall the good man teach his son;      
        And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,      
        From this day to the ending of the world,      
        But we in it shall be remembered-     
        We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;      
        For he to-day that sheds his blood with me      
        Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,      
        This day shall gentle his condition;      
        And gentlemen in England now-a-bed      
        Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,      
        And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks     
        That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

New Report on Afghanistan

The continuing waffling on Afghanistan by President Urkel Obama is becoming almost criminal.  I can't figure this out, other than to assume that Urkel and his minions are deciding on a way to gracefully dump Afghanistan so they have more money for spending on votes.

The complete BS with the recent elections would seem to be their narrative on retreating.  I mean, hey, if a bunch of sheepherders can't buy votes like ACORN does, screw'em.  I mean seriously, Al Qaeda probably has very fair election for head suicide bomber, supervised by SEIU I'm sure.

The bigger point, of course is not Afghanistan, but Pakistan, where this disturbing news came out this week.  Punjabi Taliban threat growing

If the Pakistanis can not depend on their Punjabis, then we (the world) are in serious dog doo.  The prize here is not Afghanistan, which nobody gives a rat's patoootie about..Pakistan has 100 million people, nuclear weapons and a large and well equipped military.  If it falls into extremist Islamic control, the consequences would be BAD.  Forget Al Qaeda getting their hands on a few nukes, that's just another crisis not to waste, according to Rahm "Fishwrapper" Emanuel.  But the Indians will NEVER put up with that.  They know first hand what Pakistani sponsored terrorists are capable of doing.  What would Urkel do?  Good question..not one I want to know the answer too.
While Urkel decides on his next move in the REALLY important war on Fox News, here the latest assessment by the Center for a New American Security on Afghanistan.  I don't quite agree with the author's conclusion that the government can't fall, if Urkel has his way and starts pulling out troops so we don't support an "illegitmate" government, then anything is possible.

Remember, PAKISTAN, PAKISTAN...I know most of our recent high school and college graduates probably can't find it on a map, but they will!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Future War and the U.S. Army

As the U.S. military winds down six years of major combat in Iraq and shifts resources to salvage a seemingly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, the U.S. Army has begun to reexamine it strategic planning for the future.  The decisions made during this process will have long-term effects not only on current operations, but future doctrine, strategy, training and acquisitions.  Therefore, the decisions must be made carefully and with a longer-term focus than the current counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations.

As warfare or the threat of force is likely to remain a valuable tool for conducting international affairs, the Army must consider the types of threats it is likely to face.  These threats fall into three basic categories:  high-intensity conventional combat against a significant regional power (i.e., China or North Korea), continued global action against Al Qaeda and other counterterrorism actions, or a hybrid conflict where the Army may face a terrorist or insurgent group armed and equipped for conventional combat (i.e., Hizbullah).  Although each of these potential threats may be countered with similar tactical abilities at the small unit level, their operational and strategic challenges will pose a very different challenge for the Army as it is currently organized and equipped today.  Any military action by the United States in the next twenty years will also be greatly complicated by the expected proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capabilities to potential adversaries, particularly in the Persian Gulf and South Asia regions of the world.  Additional gray areas of international diplomacy where U.S. forces may be deployed against a failed state or even a full-fledged state sponsor of terrorism will present unique diplomatic and political challenges further complicating these military operations.  Combined with these potential threats is the high probability the U.S. military will find itself on a nuclear or chemical battlefield where the threat of regional powers armed with ballistic missiles equipped with WMD warheads will immensely complicate not only American strategy, but operations as the entire battlespace becomes threatened with attack.

As the Army continues to develop their strategy for conflicts beyond the current Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, there are also number of potential “wild cards” that could have an unforeseen and potentially significant effect on Army doctrine, training and strategy:

•            The rise of unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) systems, including potentially armed systems, could become a major force multiplier for combat operations, particularly in the urban environment.  The Army has experimented with these systems on a limited basis, but the planned procurements of major new UGV systems was cut from the FCS program.  As all branches of the military begin to integrate unmanned systems of all types into daily operations, the potential for UGVs to take over many of the more dangerous tasks such as disarming or destroying IEDs and potentially engaging enemy armored units, their potential is nearly limitless.  The Army will need to ensure that doctrine and strategy keeps pace with technology development, and their integration with soldiers in the field is handled in a concerted manner.

•            U.S. military forces have basically assumed that air and electronic dominance will be a fixture for future military operations.  But as computer and information technology proliferates and non-state forces such as Hizbullah develop more sophisticated capabilities, the U.S. military could very well find itself in a degraded environment where American dominance in C4ISRT can not be assured.  In addition, the potential for hostile countries to marry WMD with ballistic missiles would intensely complicate the air defense picture at a time when air defense assets are being downsized within the Army.  The ability of U.S. forces to fight dispersed combat in a degraded environment is likely to be a key component of future strategy and tactics.

The U.S. Army has just begun to address many of the issues needed to move into the 21st century and face a new serious of threats.  This effort will be complicated by the need to successfully conclude current operations while recapitalizing most of its combat equipment inventory.  The Army will need to carefully balance a set of fairly well defined threats and capabilities with entirely new kinds of asymmetrical threats from opponents able to exploit new technologies and political situations.  The potentially revolutionary technologies that could change the basic role of the soldier on the future battlefield should also be carefully considered as intelligent and autonomous robotic technologies assume some of the more hazardous tasks of combat. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Future of Warfare?

My professor for Contemporary Tactical Thought posed a very interesting question about the use of unmanned vehicles and whether the days of the fighter pilot were numbered. A very good question and here is my response.

The introduction and proliferation of unmanned vehicles has revolutionized much of how Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Targeting (ISRT) are conducted on the modern battlefield. The development of the unmanned aerial combat vehicle (UCAV) is likely to be as revolutionary to warfare as the airplane itself. Assuming that either remote or autonomous capabilities can be developed, it is highly likely that he UCAV will take over many of the more dangerous duties of air warfare, particularly “Wild Weasel” missions for the suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD). As loiter times and payloads are increased unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and UCAVs will likely become the weapon of choice for on-call close air support and targeting of selected high-value targets as is already happening in Pakistan.

As far as ground combat, unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) will also continue to handle particularly dangerous jobs, such as clearing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and scouting terrain during urban combat. The development of remote or autonomous controls will also give UGVs the potential to perform valuable perimeter security duties for installations.
However, there are certain missions that will still require boots on the ground. Only an infantryman on patrol can truly conduct successful counter-insurgency operations via interaction and intelligence gathering from the local population. Many special operations missions will continue to require highly-trained personnel able to make split-second decisions based on a fluid situation. Peacekeeping or peacemaking missions like the Balkans will also require boots on the ground, for a political statement if nothing else.

The Department of Defense FY2009–2034 Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap lays out a very ambitious agenda for integrating unmanned vehicles as force multipliers. There will likely be major changes to doctrine, strategy and tactics as the capabilities of these systems evolve and they become more ubiquitous on the battlefield. However, a lot more work must be done on autonomy, power systems, and payload capabilities before these vehicles assume a major tactical role.

It is probably not too much of a stretch however, to state that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter may be the last manned fighter plane the U.S. ever builds.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Two views of the future, each equally grim

These two works of fiction, both scary in their own right present two different and ominous views of the future that I fear Barrack Hussein Obama is potentially accelerating with his feckless, naive and utterly dangerous foreign policy.  In Tom Kratman's novel, set in the early 22nd Century, Europe has become a completely Muslim controlled continent, where the declining birthrates and lack of courage in defending their heritage and culture against an Islamic onslaught has rendered Christians in Europe an oppressed minority subject to Sharia law.  Kratman does not paint a pretty picture, with slavery of Christians (yes slavery, especially concubinage of Christian girls to pay taxes)  becoming commonplace as Europe stagnates into backwardness, just as most of the Middle East is now.  His novel also has a terrorist nuclear attack on America in the early 21st Century which turns America into an expansionist, overreacting Fascist state, ala George W Bush on steroids.  The novel itself is pretty workman like with a plot that's been done a thousand times, but the characters, background and setting of the story are what is truly scary.  Islam run unchecked will not be pleasant for non-believers.
Ralph Peters' novel is equally scary and a little preachy.  Peters is one of my favorite military commentators and is very much a grouchy historian.  His novel is set in a post-apocalyptic world where Israel has been destroyed by Iran, the U.S. and Europe have suffered nuclear terrorism and the U.S. and Europe revert to fascist states that persecute and essentially destroy their Muslim populations before embarking on a new "Crusade" to recover Jerusalem.  Peter's draws upon many of the themes of his early book, Wars of Blood and Faith, a pithy tome of his newspaper columns from the height of the Iraq War in 2006-2007.  Peters clearly thinks that Christians are at least as capable of religious killing as Muslims, a point I might disagree with, but if the U.S., Europe and Israel suffered nuclear attacks, who knows...there might be some glassy areas of the Middle East.  In any event Peters is also very skeptical of the U.S. military's dependency and assumption of technical superiority over future opponents and as a fictional account of how future war could happen when the electronic spectrum is so full that NOBODY'S high-tech toys works, this book is an excellent cautionary tale.  Could the U.S. military fight without GPS, SATCOM, air supremacy and against an opponent willing to die in great numbers?  Good questions for real life.
In any event, I highly recommend these two books, Kratman's especially as a fictional wakeup call for why we must absolutely WIN in Afghanistan and not surrender as I fear this Administration is getting ready to do.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Really good book w/ a warning

I have nearly finished Meyer's masterful narrative history of World War I and have really enjoyed it.

Meyer writes a fairly high level history of the war, not delving into the nitty-gritty of individual campaigns or battles, but telling a more comprehensive story about the war as a truly European War.
 Like most Americans who read WWI history, I tend to read about the Western Front, and lately about the American experience of the war.  Of course, much as in World War II, there was a much grander war being waged on the Eastern Front, and Meyer points out the tragic missteps, stupid blunders and outright bad luck that prevented the Russians from playing a more decisive role in the war, potentially preventing the tragedy of the Russian Revolution and Communism.

I think the biggest lesson of this book and the war in general was the sheer tragedy and waste of it all and how Europe, which seemed to be entering another Golden Age, descended into four years of unspeakable savagery.  The British Army had almost 20,000—yes that’s 20,000 dead the first day of the Somme Offensive in 1916, can you imagine the 2009 New York Times wrapping their brain around that??  The fact that the monarchs of Britain, Russia and Germany were all related didn’t stop them from killing millions (did you know that?  They were all sons or grandsons of Queen Victoria, ironic huh?)

So what does this mean today?  Just like people said in 1914-“Europe can’t go to war, they are too economically interdependent” or “Don’t worry any war will be short and decisive”..History can have a nasty way of repeating itself.  What do people say now? “Oh, the internet and global communications have made us one giant village” and “The U.S. and China or the U.S. and Russia could never go to war, what about the nukes?”

But consider this…what if terrorists sheltered and funded by Pakistan blew up another hotel in India, killing hundreds, or carried out multiple attacks that killed thousands.  India responds militarily and things spiral out of control, ala Serbia and Austria-Hungary 1914.  Maybe China, sensing an opportunity, backs Pakistan and moves troops to the China-Indian border, which has been under dispute for 50 years.  And, what if the unthinkable (at least to Western sensibilities) happens and Pakistan fires off a nuke…India responds, maybe against China too out of desperation and fear.  Where would the U.S. and Russia line up?  What about Iran and the other Muslim states? 

The potential for misstep would truly be catastrophic on a global state.  Forget the hopelessly lost, dazed and confused Administration of Barrack Obama, this would be a challenge for any U.S. President—although Obama truly scares me ‘cause I don’t think he could handle this.
So, if you can find a copy, enjoy Meyer’s book and keep thinking…we’re much to civilized to let this happen to us right?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The US Army-Not Ready for the GWOT.

      As the hijacked airliners hit their targets on September 11, 2001, the U.S. Army was in the midst of its biggest debate on doctrine, technology and future warfare since the end of the Vietnam War.

     The end of the Cold War, the stunning victory over Iraq in Operation Desert Storm, and numerous peacekeeping missions in the 1990s had, in many ways, set Army doctrine adrift, unsure if the next war would be an armored slugfest or a fight against Third World street militias.  Combined with a lack of a clear future threat, the Army was also undergoing a major technological shift and its implications on doctrine, strategy, and training was still not understood.  This left the Army unprepared for the multiple types of warfare it would face in Afghanistan and Iraq.

     When the Army was called out to conduct operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the current doctrine was not really suitable for the mission at hand.  Consequently, the Army was not ready for any of the three types of conflicts it would face.  In Afghanistan, the logistical requirements for conducting force projection would have been daunting.  Fortunately, there was a viable Afghan resistance force in the Northern Alliance and the Army was able to quickly adapt to the situation by deploying Special Forces in a classic low-intensity conflict scenario for special operations forces.  These highly trained troops were able to work with the Afghan resistance and provide targeting for close air support missions in support of these fighters.  Although a successful raid by a Ranger battalion was conducted during the early part of the war as a show of force, conventional Army forces played virtually no role in the initial overthrow of the Taliban.

     Iraq would be another matter and would ultimately show not only the limitations of the Army’s conventional warfighting strategy but the eventual need to rewrite the Army’s counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine and relearn many hard lessons from Vietnam that the Army had institutionally lost.  During the planning stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom during 2002, Central Command (CENTCOM), the American joint command charged with running both the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the Iraq invasion planning, tried to fall back to the tried and true planning scenario from Operation Desert Storm-weeks of a massive air campaign, followed up by an overwhelming multi-corps armored thrust into Iraq.  Unfortunately, the operational and strategic circumstances had changed and that plan was no longer feasible.  The additional armored corps that had been shipped from Germany to Saudi Arabia in 1990 no longer existed after the Clinton budget cuts, and CENTCOM now had available less than half the maneuver battalions available in Desert Storm.  The plan that eventually emerged was a significant change in operational thinking that involved more risk, but played to traditional American strengths of decentralized command and control combined with rapid maneuver.  However, even though the revised strategy of a simultaneous air-ground campaign proved successful, the extremely long flanks and exposed supply lines of the American forces, combined with bad weather, nearly brought the offensive to a halt after the first four or five days.  The two additional two divisions were required to reduce bypassed cities and root out Iraqi fedayeen irregular fighters that had been attacking supply convoys.  The initial phase of the Iraqi invasion revealed a fundamental flaw in American ground doctrine-there was no longer a “rear” area with a well defined forward edge of the battle area (FEBA).  Traditional combat support and combat service support units now had to be tracked and protected as an integral part of the maneuver force.  This fact would remain a critical factor in military operations throughout the entire Iraqi Campaign. 

     Once Baghdad fell, the biggest gap in Army doctrine and thinking became apparent and nearly led to the failure of the overall Iraqi campaign.  CENTCOM, and indeed the entire American military and foreign policy establishment, expected to transition from combat operations to another Balkans-type peacekeeping scenario, where U.S. troops and coalition allies would administer Iraq and conduct benign nation-building missions until an interim Iraqi government could be established.  The insurgency that erupted took American commanders on the ground by surprise and the Army had no suitable doctrine for conducting COIN operations in an urban environment.  Most of the MOOTW doctrine had assumed that some sort of cease-fire and negotiated peace was in place prior to a military presence and conducting ‘armed’ nation-building, particularly in an urban environment was not something the Army, or American military in general, was doctrinally prepared.  As a result, the Army carried out essentially search and destroy missions reminiscent of the Vietnam era, which achieved about the same results-plenty of dead insurgents and a sullen and hostile population.  Combined with an overall lack of understanding of the Sunni-Shia political struggle, this doctrine nearly lost the war by the summer of 2006.
     A complete revision of American COIN doctrine was undertaken by a joint Army-Marine Corps group led by senior officers from both services with extensive Iraq experience.  FM 3-24, published in December 2006, was a major component in the change of strategy from killing insurgents to protecting the Iraqi population that led to the success of the 2007 surge.
In addition to the changes to doctrine and training, the Army has also reconsidered the need for heavy armor and mechanized units.  The ability of both the Army and Marines to operate mechanized units in an urban environment successfully has called into question the wisdom of adapting a smaller, lighter force more vulnerable to the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used so heavily by insurgent fighters in Iraq.  Although the Army continues to integrate lighter units built around the Stryker wheeled armored vehicle, the days of the tank do not appear to be over yet.

The Army was clearly not prepared for the widely varied types of combat encountered from 2001-2009.  Although great strides have been made in addressing doctrinal and strategic shortfalls, the Army must again decide what the future land warfare environment will be and how to adapt.  As doctrine drives technology and vice versa, the lessons of nearly eight years of warfare have not been fully incorporated into the Army’s strategic thinking and the full influence of the Iraq and Afghanistan Campaigns on Army doctrine has yet to play out.