'87 Sir

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

Thursday, January 28, 2010

More Great Books

Stephen Sears is one of my favorite Civil War historians. He has written four excellent books on the major battles in the East that should be additions to anyone's Civil War Library.

Gettysburg is probably his best book, although I must honestly say I haven't read Chancellorsville yet.  Gettysburg is THE best one volume history of the battle and is very readable for the novice, but sufficiently detailed to keep the Civil War historian engaged.

Haven't read this yet, but it's on the book shelf...in line....behind a lot of other books....

The first one of his books I read and I was hooked.  The missed opportunities for the Union to win the war on this day are tragic...to digress....much like Obama, McClellan was not as smart, or brave as he thought he was.  The Confederates fought off a force easily twice their size for most of the day...brilliant defensive generalship by Lee, Jackson and their subordinates.

A good history of a fairly forgotten series of battles.  The Seven Days saw the largest Confederate Army of the war in action and represents a few missed opportunities for both sides.

Overall, these books well researched, tightly written and excellent books for anyone getting started reading about the Civil War.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


No, this is not a recipe post.....although I do love bacon....hmmmm.

The folks at Small Wars Journal...one of my favorite websites on Contemporary Tactical and Strategic thought, has posted a fascinating link on the future of U.S. warfare.

Now, I expect the issues surrounding what becomes of American strategy (and its all important offspring, defense spending priorities) after the troops come home from Iraq and Afghanistan will be paramount as the 2010 QDR is completed.  I suspect the issues of hybrid warfare will more than likely become the successor to COIN.

As with anything, however, terminology will be important and how DoD defines hybrid warfare will have much to do with how the U.S. military begins to retool to deal with threats from enemies like Hizbullah.

Watching the food fight could be fun....

Sunday, January 24, 2010

More Book Reviews

Well, yes, it's another book review, but until the QDR (quadrennial defense review) is published, there's not likely to be a lot of meaty national security issues to comment on...I mean Obama's Homeland Security Plan may as well be written by Inspector Clouseau as Janet Napolitano.

Anyway, Max Hastings has written a pair of really outstanding books on the last years of World War II in Europe and the Pacific.  They are exceptionally well researched, written and cover previously untold portions of the war.  His book on Europe does an excellent job of telling the story of the end of Germany from both the Eastern and Western Front perspective and really shows how, in particular, the Germans fought with utter desperation to stop the Russian advance into their country.  When you read his chapters on the absolute rape, murder and plunder of Russian soldiers aganist German civilians you'll know why.  I don't think many people understand the depths of the hatred the Germans and Russians had for each other in World War II.

In his Pacific book, Hastings covers a theater of the war that has been really neglected, China, and it is easy to see why so much animosity still exists between Japan and other Asian nations even today.

Hastings gives his own take on the atomic bomb controversy and puts another nail into the coffin of the revisionist historians who think the dropping of the bomb wasn't necessary.  The Japanese were no more ready to surrender than the Germans were in 1945 before Hitler died and the Russians overran Berlin.  The margin of error for ending World War II without a bloody invasion of Japan was much closer than most people realize.

I highly recommend both books to anyone wanting to understand what was really the bloodiest era of World War II, the final two years of the war.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Outstanding Historical Fiction

I just finished the final book in Jeff Sharaa's trilogy on the European Theater of Operations in World War II.  Each book builds upon the work of the previous title, although not all of the characters carry through. 

Sharaa does an excellent job of showing the mud, cold, and terror that the common infantryman or paratrooper or tanker felt during combat.  I must say the middle book, The Steel Wave, was my favorite.  As the jacket comment says, his description of Omaha Beach rivals in print the opening scenes from Saving Private Ryan, one of my all time favorite war movies.
The last volume was good, but I think Shaara tried to cover too much time and storyline.  The book covers from the Battle of the Bulge to the German surrender and although Shaara tries to evenly convey the actions and thoughts of both the Germans and Americans, the scenes were a little disjointed for me.

Still, he gets the history right, tells a great story and does an accurate job on conveying the humanity of the war.  I understand his next series will be on the Pacific...can't wait.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Practical Application of Military History Part II

The first of these new historical writings, the official histories, clearly show their lineage in the Army’s “Green Books” and other official battle and campaign studies.  One significant difference in the methodology for these new histories is the extensive use of primary oral sourcing from participants in near-real time and the amount of documentary and electronic primary source material quickly available to dedicated teams of field historians.  Although not as voluminous as the history of World War II, the official histories of the Iraq War written so far, On Point and On Point II, still provide basic narrative, and a significant amount of analysis for official histories.  Although each volume also presents a great deal of minutia in trying to cover all branches of the Army and their contribution, the first two volumes exceed traditional official history by attempting to offer some unbiased critiques of Army operations and decisions through 2005.

The monographs prepared by the Army use a form of historiography not often seen in American history, comparative analysis.  Unlike the more narrative official histories, the monographs attempt to synthesize basic military principles and continuity in the search for “lessons learned” that can be applied to other strategic and tactical situations.  These monographs not only look at past experiences of the American military as a basis of comparison, they look at military situations encountered by other countries and how their armed forces either successfully or unsuccessfully dealt with a particular military or national security situation.  An excellent example is the book Breaking the Mold:  Tanks in the Cities which examines multiple scenarios involving both U.S. and foreign militaries and their successes and failures at utilizing tanks and heavy armored units in urban combat.

The other monograph or report provides a specific analysis on a topic of interest not only to soldiers in the field, but future historians trying to understand how and why the American military fought certain battles.  A notable instance of this blending of history and other social sciences is the report, Traditions, Changes, and Challenges: Military Operations and the Middle Eastern City which not only details the history of how both modern and “old” Arab cities developed, but how the influence of Arab tribal culture, especially the influence of Islam, affects urban geography and the daily activities of the civilian population living in these cities.  These various factors— urban, geographical, cultural, historical and societal can greatly impact military operations not only in the tactical sense, but also a far more strategic realm, as American troops need to be more aware of how their actions can be interpreted by the local populace when conducting counter-insurgency operations.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Practical Application of Military History Part I

The use of military history by the armed services, particularly the U.S. Army has seen a dramatic expansion since 2001.  The nearly constant campaigning in Iraq and Afghanistan has not only revived types of military history long dormant, it has created new types of historical writing by melding additional fields of study to provide practical “lessons learned” and historical case studies to assist military officers at both operational and command levels prepare for conflict in areas of the world not well understood by the U.S. military.  These new types of military history are being written not only by traditional military institutions such as the Army’s Center for Military History, but commands more specifically developed to study the practical aspects of warfare.  These organizations include the Combat Studies Institute and the Center for Army Lessons Learned, both part of the Army’s Combined Arms Center in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.  As a subordinate command of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, the Combined Arms Center has been at the forefront of several new trends and methodologies for producing military history in a contemporary setting.

The three main types of military history that have emerged from these disparate organizations include the new official histories of battles and campaigns, monographs that perform historical comparative analysis on related military issues, and monographs or reports that discuss and put into context historical topics that either directly affect or contribute to military operations in a completely new environment for American troops.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Strategy from 1700-1945: The Rise of Politics, Economics and General Staffs Part II

In spite of the development of military bureaucracies and the creation of standing operational plans, the role of strategic genius became even more important during the Modern Era. During this period strategic genius transitioned from the military to the political realm, particularly in the realm of grand strategy. Victory was no longer a certainty with a brilliant general leading a well-trained army. The new strategic genius had to manage the strategic square, marshalling the entire resources of his country and ensuring a proper balance of military means and political ends. In addition, the strategic genius now had to keep together fractious and often fragile coalitions and ensure that acceptable strategic goals were decided and executed by each alliance member.
The role of strategic genius in combining each of the three major areas considered- domestic and alliance politics, military staff work, and the mobilization of industry and finance can be seen in the differences between the United States and Germany in World War II. The case studies of the U.S. and Germany also show not only that the eight types of strategic mismatches listed by David Lee can be correlated into the classic discussion of ends, ways and means, but they are in fact, variations on balancing the strategic square. The interaction of political ends, military capability and strategic planning must be correctly aligned with material strength to successful conclude a war.
Politically, the United States clearly did a better job of balancing political objectives and military capabilities. Although the United States did not enter the war officially until 1941, strategic planning by the Army and Navy had begun before Pearl Harbor. The United States was able to quickly take its place in the Allied triumvirate and articulate clear political goals for its military to achieve- “unconditional surrender” of the Axis Powers. The strong political hand of President Roosevelt was needed to ensure the Army and Navy worked in harmony to coordinate their efforts with the limited resources available in 1942 and 1943. Based on the need to fight a two-front war, the Western Allies did an excellent job of setting intermediate goals such as Operation Torch that did not exceed their available military capabilities. Once American military power was expanded to its wartime height, the U.S. was able to lead simultaneous operations in both the European and Pacific Theaters by 1944 .
In contrast, Germany was never able to set realistic political goals commensurate with their available military capability and economic strength and could not muster a sound alliance able to coordinate any comprehensive war strategy, even for a fairly common purpose of fighting the Soviet Union.
As a result, the vaunted German General Staff never was able to create a military strategy to meet Hitler’s political goals because Germany never really had any articulated strategy other than the defeat of Britain, and when that proved unfeasible, the conquest of Russia. The entire German strategic ethos to seek Vernichtungsschlacht or a “battle of annihilation” to decisively defeat an enemy army proved a constantly elusive goal on the Russian Front, where the Red Army was constantly able to make good losses throughout the war. Hitler’s misguided mix of military and political goals in operational decisions showed many of the mistakes of Philip II of Spain, where Hitler would refuse to give ground for sound military reasons, such as an orderly retreat from Stalingrad to escape the Russian encirclement, because of a reluctance to give up an conquered territory.
An overemphasis on operational prowess and the failure to comprehend the influence of politics and economics on strategy and warfare led to disaster for Germany in two world wars, despite the tactical and operational abilities of the German Army. Strategy and warfare now required a new type of strategic genius that could master all aspects of strategic thought-military, political, diplomatic and economic.
Georges Clemenceau certainly summed up the changes to warfare and strategy during the Early Modern and Modern Period in his apocryphal saying that “War is too important to be left to the generals.”

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Where do gangs end and insurgencies begin?

Tom Ricks has an excellent post at his blog The Best Defense on gangs in the U.S. The national security implications of drugs, gangs, crime, insurgency and terrorism are not, I feel, well understood or appreciated by the U.S. military and intelligence community (outside Afghanistan, of course, where the opium trade is now assuming some strategic importance).

I completely agree with Ricks that Mexico is a huge and mostly ignored issue.  It is, by most accounts the 2nd most dangerous potential failed state for U.S. national security, after Pakistan, and only because Pakistan has nearly 100 nuclear weapons.

However, the potential for Mexico to become another Somalia on our Southern, mostly open border is a pretty horrifying potential.....

Monday, January 11, 2010

Strategy from 1700-1945: The Rise of Politics, Economics and General Staffs Part I

The creation and execution of strategy in the Early Modern and Modern period was increasingly dominated by the influence of politicians on the making of military strategy and the development of a bureaucratic military staff system for the planning and conduct of warfare. Underlying both of these trends was the impact of rapidly changing military technology and the industrialization of warfare from 1700-1945, creating vast military forces run by strong nation-states that conducted military operations around the globe. The need to harness the total resources of a country-personnel, technical, industrial and financial, also changed the role of the strategic “genius” from the exclusive realm of the military commander able to win battlefield victories to the political leader that could muster the total effort of his country to create a realistic plan for victory in warfare. The new nature of warfare, particularly the rapid technological change in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was unforeseen by Clausewitz or Sun Tzu, but the essential ingredients for successful strategy remained unchanged through the four case studies reviewed-a careful balancing of ends and means, the need to closely tie political objectives with military capability and operational plans, and the careful balancing of the strategic triad, now expanded to the strategic square of Figure 1. The traditional Clausewitz triad must now be squared to show that the material influence on war became just as important as the will of the people or military genius. The need to match ends and means was even more important as mechanized militaries will not only required significantly more resources, but the technical capabilities of armies began to drive military strategies and battlefield operations.
The most important influence during this period was the role of domestic and international politics on the creation and execution of strategy. The need to not only man and equip military forces, but mobilize all aspects of society required far greater political skills than have been seen in previous case studies as nation-states have accumulated greater wealth and population to create military strength. As nationalism became a major force in world politics, particularly in Europe, the successful marshalling and controlling of the “will” of the people to sustain a major war became a significant political challenge for a government. The example of Imperial Germany and its desire to follow the Prussian example of avoiding a long war due to fears of social upheaval is a striking example of how internal political constraints can affect military strategy. The entire ethos of Prussian and, later German military strategy was to fight short, decisive wars to avoid putting too much strain on the social and economic fabric of the home front. When Prussia was successful, as it was in the Wars of German Unification, the military and political goals were well synchronized by the hand of Chancellor Bismarck. When the political and military goals were not synchronized in both World Wars, the German military was unable to achieve the ill-defined and overreaching goals of the Kaiser or Fuhrer.
The role of the political leadership became not only to set realistic political or diplomatic goals for the military to achieve and mobilize a country to provide the means to achieve them, but to question the assumptions and expectations of military planners. The potential for disconnect between political goals and military means, or the tacit acceptance of military operations simply for the purpose of military victory without a realistic political purpose could spell disaster for a nation’s war effort. The lessons of Germany and France in World War I show that politicians needed to be skeptical about their army General’s assumptions about both the relative power of their enemies and the own army’s operational capabilities.
Closely related to the rise in influence of domestic politics, was the new realm of international or coalition politics. As the scale and scope of warfare increased, countries increasingly sought allies to either supplement or strengthen their strategic position. This development meant that strategic planning moved from a matter of purely military self- interest to actually modifying a country’s strategic and operational plans to support an ally. The need to balance a country’s self-interests, internal political dynamics, and an ally’s expectations became a significant responsibility for a political leader.
The case studies on Britain and the United States in World War II demonstrate how political considerations sometimes override military plans for the sake of alliance politics. The debates between Roosevelt, Churchill and the Combined Chiefs of Staff on the “Germany First” decision, Operation Torch, the role of the Mediterranean Theater, and the timing of the invasion of France demonstrate how military strategies often change to meet the political needs of alliance partnerships. However, in spite these differences, the overall alliance goal of unconditional surrender never waivered, even if the ways and means to achieve this goal were often modified to meet changing circumstances.
Accompanying this rise in the power of nation-states, the Industrial Revolution allowed nations to create large conscript armies, global navies and massive air forces that required not only significant amounts of industrial capacity, but also the ability to control and sustain these forces across a much larger battle space. These massive armies and their rapidly evolving technologies in weapons, transport, and communications presented tremendous challenges to the military commanders which neither Clausewitz nor Sun Tzu had really considered the influence of technology on warfare. Although both philosophers of war considered supplying an army to be important contributor to victory, military technology had been fairly stable during the periods when they wrote their treatises.
However, economic and military power became inexorably intertwined as politicians and generals used diplomacy and warfare to advance both their country’s strategic position and economic strength through the Modern Era. A country’s politicians and generals now had to consider questions of a country’s economic strength and a military’s technological capabilities against likely adversaries when planning wartime strategy. The development of new technologies such as railroads, telegraphs, breech-loading artillery and repeating rifles made it possible to move, sustain, and control these armies across much greater distances and allowed militaries to completely change strategies and operations plans. The entire strategy of Germany in 1914 was built around railroads to quickly mobilize their army to defeat the French and turn east to fight Russia before it could completely mobilize. The direct link between strategic and economic purposes can be seen in Hitler’s strategy before 1939, designed principally to reclaim the Rhineland, Austria and Czechoslovakia to provide additional economic resources to continue fueling the Wehrmacht’s expansion.
In order to take advantage of these new technologies and control these massive new armies, standing military bureaucracies and General Staffs were developed during this period, since a single commander could no longer handle both the administrative minutiae and operational planning of military operations around the globe. In addition, as armies became larger and warfare moved onto a global stage, a country could no longer devise strategy and operational plans after a war began. The need to plan and build militaries now took years to complete and each country in the case studies developed nascent General Staffs and War Ministries or Departments to develop standing military plans to deal with a wide variety of threats. The interaction of both politics and economics was crucial with the military bureaucracies, in order to quickly and efficiently mobilize armies, transport them across vast national railroad networks, and execute military plans of increasing complexity. Unfortunately, this planning mindset could be taken to an unhealthy extreme. The German Schliffen plan of World War I was a highly complicated and intricate plan that violated a number of Clausewitz’s principles on the need for simplicity and the ability to adapt to the “friction” of war. Once this plan failed by December 1914, the German General Staff had no real alternative to fight a two-front war of attrition.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The next decade

The United States will face a number of challenges as the future war paradigm changes in next decade of the 21st century. The need to deal with an increasing number of nations with nuclear weapons, particularly hostile or unstable nations such as Iran, North Korea and Pakistan will be the most dangerous challenge for the U.S. and our allies to face. The potential for a nuclear armed Iran to become the number one state sponsor of organizations such as Hezbollah or Hamas while hiding behind a nuclear arsenal capable or reaching Israel and the major Middle Eastern oilfields will the be the defining paradigm change, should it come to pass. The instability of Pakistan and the potential for its nuclear arsenal to pass into the hands of an Islamic regime openly supportive of the Taliban, with the potential to cut most of the supply lines to American and NATO forces would be equally disastrous. Although these are worst-case scenarios, they have the potential to complete change the balance of power in one of the most important regions of the world and threaten not only American military and diplomatic, but economic interests as well.
The other major shift for at least the next Administration is the balance of risk the U.S. can tolerate in the world. Given the current military situation in Iraq and Afghanistan and the need to rebuild American military capability after 6 years of continuous combat, the military options available to the next Administration will likely be more limited. This means that areas such as the Sudan, Colombia and perhaps the Horn of Africa may not receive the attention required because U.S. forces are stretched thin.
Finally, the U.S. will need to reengage allies and organizations to the greatest extent possible. Although NATO and the UN have not provided the support desired by the U.S. on all occasions, the need for allies and coalitions will be vital as the U.S. seeks to prioritize the use of American military power.
The first half of the 21st century will be a period of great challenge as the U.S. seeks to win the GWOT, rebuild our military capability and reengage the world community in seeking stability and security for the most troubled spots on the globe.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cracks Me Up

David Brooks, the resident "moderate" Obama-loving columnist at the New York Time CRACKS ME UP.  This guy is the poster child of Rockefeller Republican buffoonery. 

His latest column, busting on the Tea Partyers, has a particularly happy line:

"The tea party movement is a large, fractious confederation of Americans who are defined by what they are against. They are against the concentrated power of the educated class."

I love how the Eastern Manhattan elites..of all political persuasions, assume a mentally superior air to the rest of us unwashed masses that don't live on the Upper East Side, Hollywood, or Capitol Hill.

I of course, would be happy to place my academic chops, life experiences, military service and commons sense in a fair and balanced debate with this bozo.  Ivy League educations clearly aren't worth the money anymore.....

Here's more of his goodness:

"The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise. The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting."

NEWS FLASH BOZO, Global Warming is FAKED!  Seriously, isn't scientific inquiry important?  The science settled? I don't think so.

Abortion rights, well there's that pesky NATURAL LAW thing that ruled Western Civilization until the DISASTER of the 60's and the Warren Court happened.

And...those pesky gun rights...yea that darn CONSTITUTION, yep that document by those dead white slave holders....only worked for 200 years until those same disastrous 60's.

This moron is what was wrong with the so called "moderates" in the Republican Party...you are either conservative or a Democrat...moderates are just liberals too cowardly to admit they lean left.

The Tea Party is indeed skeptical about Obama and his minions for the simple reason that they can do MATH.  Billions and Trillions of unfunded social spending, ridiculous bailouts of the auto companies (and unions), bottomless funding of Fannie and Freddie to subsidize mortgages for folks who can't pay them.  Combined with utter weakness and appeasement to our enemies abroad.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist (a club Brooks definitely is not in) to figure out what's going wrong with America...the Tea Partyers get it, some Republicans get it...even a few Democrats...but obviously the editorial staff at the NYT doesn't....

But, hey, they're the EDUCATED CLASS.....bahhhh, as my father would say:  "They don't know their ass from a hole in the ground"

Sunday, January 3, 2010

More New Revelations about FDR, patron saint of modern liberal progressivism

Wow, this snowball just keeps growing.....

FDR kept deadly disease hidden for years

I previously blooged about this...but now it's really interesting...it would appear that FDR KNOWINGLY covered up his illness, so that he could SAVE the country during World War II.  Obviously his ego was as big as most liberals...they are indispensable....what drivel.  With the completely competent JCS military team in charge, all the President needed to do was back them up, referee their egos and get out of the way.

What does appear true now is that the unneeded suffering of Eastern Europe could have been prevented if a more forceful President had stood with Winston Churchill against Soviet aggression...after all the Soviets were not 10 feet tall in 1945, the Red Army mostly ate American food, used American trucks and would have quickly melted away against the air power of the USAAF and RAF, no matter how many tanks they had.

FDR appears to have committed gross negligence in not grooming a successor in 1944....although Henry Wallace  clearly would not have been the guy....