'87 Sir

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

Friday, July 30, 2010

Week in Review- NOT: Book Review-PANZER FORWARD

Okay, my week kind of got away from me so no snark...but at least I finished up a book I had been reading for a while.

Professor Dennis Showalter's Book- Hitler's Panzers - is...well...okay, it left me kinda flat.  First, the nitpicky stuff....HOW can you write a military history book, of any kind, with absolutely NO maps, illustrations, order of battle charts...nothing.  Wow, if you are not at least somewhat familiar with World War II and if you don't have a better than average understanding of war on the Eastern Front...hmm, you might find yourself bogged down.

Make no mistake, Professor Showalter writes a first-class narrative, offers some new insights to even a crusty old World War II reader like myself and does a good job to taking the reader through the zenith of Panzertruppen to the nadir of Germany's fall under the crush of Allied might. 

Which begs the question - did he really write for a general audience, or for military history buffs (argh, I hate that word) looking for a single-volume history of the Panzertruppen.  If the former, I would not recommend this work, it is too in the weeds for the casual reader of military history...for the latter, I almost needed to pull out my WWII atlas to recall the geographic sweep of the great tank battles on the Soviet stepps.

Of course nearly 3/4 of the book is devoted to the clash of armor in the east.  Now granted there weren't a lot of tank battles in Western Europe...but as Anthony Beevor points out in his excellent book of D-Day, reviewed by yours truly, the armored fighting around Caen was at least as intense as Kursk and involved nearly as many Panzer divisions.

The final gripe is that Professor Showalter offers absolutely no notes or bibliography....now this may be fine for a mass audience history (although I don't think so personally), but it sure isn't good for grognards such as myself that like to browse bibliographies for new books to buy!!!

Seriously, this was a decent book, but not really for the uninitiated who don't know a Tiger tank from a T-34..and sure don't know the variants of the Panzer Mk IV. Read it with your Panzer recce guide and atlas in hand and it is pretty good....otherwise, well the choice is yours.

Monday, July 26, 2010

One (or Two) for the Gipper

In his two volume set The Age of Reagan, author Steven Hayward chronicles the rise of Ronald Reagan from his electrifying speech at the 1964 Republican Presidential Convention to the end of his second term as President in 1989.  The first volume was a fascinating account of what he calls the "fall of the old liberal order" and this book (not for the faint or heart) offers a detailed account of the rise and fall of LBJ and his "Great Society" after his 1964 landslide victory over Barry Goldwater.

The book is part narrative history, part policy analysis and part political biography of Reagan and his career progression as he serves two terms and California governor.  Hayward sometimes goes into nauseating detail on the detrimental effects of  LBJ's social policies and his feckless handling of the Vietnam War.  There are some REALLY amazing parallels to another wayward socialist, our current President and his lackeys on Capital Hill who believe that more government, more regulation and more social spending will cure our ongoing recession and give everyone universal health care without bankrupting our country.

Hayward pulls no punches and his analysis of the 1976 Presidential Race where Reagan almost grabbed the nomination from Gerald Ford was very eye opening to me.  But destiny does indeed wait for the man and it likely took, as the wags say, a Jimmy Carter to bring out a Ronald Reagan.  Carter is an even bigger buffoon than LBJ, not that Hayward is kind to Nixon either, and there are definite parallels to Obama here too, particularly the complete disaster that was Carter's foreign policy.

So, the question is...who will be the Reagan to replace the Carterbama?  I must say I am not sold on any Republican yet...but there are some true believers out there...I have to think the bullpen is deep and practically anyone would be better than Carterbama....could an outsider Governor from a western frontier state rise again??? Time will tell.....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Continuing the debate...

WOW, this week the debate continues- The Federalist Papers continuing to examine the need for a strong United States to provide for the Common Defense and the Anti-Federalist Papers to bemoan the power of the Congress.

In the Federalist #4John Jay continues to expound upon his previous note that the colonies were surrounded by enemies who threatened their commercial security as much as their physical.  Hmmm, 18th century trade war, anyone?  Therefore, the need to present a strong, united group of states was highly recommended to secure the liberty and peace of America.  
To wit:
"It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it" and "If they see that our national government is efficient and well administered, our trade prudently regulated, our militia properly organized and disciplined, our resources and finances discreetly managed, our credit re-established, our people free, contented, and united, they will be much more disposed to cultivate our friendship than provoke our resentment."

Hmmm, I wonder if anyone in the current Administration or Congress is listening?  The fact is, our forefathers remembered the saying "politics ends at the water's edge."  Of course all the Democrats are all in favor of this NOW, but remember those ol' pesky years 2001-2009.  Don't you think the Russians, Chinese, Iranians, Al Qaeda, etc watched as the Dems, libs, lefty moonbats and others constantly snipped at W, the Military and those poor misunderstood terrorists....

Anti-Federalist #4 is just as feisty as the author continues to warn about an Imperial Congress of fatcats who govern for themselves and not for the people, even to the point of lying, cheating and tyrannical government...To Wit:
"The object of every free government is the public good, and all lesser interests yield to it. That of every tyrannical government, is the happiness and aggrandisement of one, or a few, and to this the public felicity, and every other interest must submit."  AND, here's the money shot--"If then this government should not derive support from the good will of the people, it must be executed by force, or not executed at all; either case would lead to the total destruction of liberty."  
WOW, does that familiar?  Obamacare--you're gonna get it, no matter what...forget about lying about the costs, lying about abortion, cheating on the "tax increase" you get to pay, forget about keeping your doctor..the libs wanted, Obama demanded it...Pelosi delivered it.
Cap and Tax...comin' next....More stimulus to keep public worker unions afloat, using your tax dollars to pay for union pensions....gonna happen whether you like it or not, cause OBAMA and the Dems said so...sit down, shut up and pay your taxes serfs!

Yup, those ol' 18th century guys sure knew what was commin' huh?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Grouchy Historian’s Bookshelf.
In his new book on counterinsurgency (COIN), historian Mark Moyar, an instructor at the USMC University looks at counterinsurgency through the prism of leadership.  Moyar’s thesis, that leadership is the defining element in a successful COIN effort, not manpower, firepower or longevity. 
Using 9 different historical case studies, Moyar develops this theme by examining the detailed effects of leadership at both the strategic and tactical levels.  He chooses some typical conflicts, Vietnam, Malaya, Iraq and Afghanistan, but also goes off the beaten path, so to speak, by examining El Salvador in the 1980s and the American South after the Civil War. 
The Civil War case study was of particular interest to me, as this is an often forgotten and usually highly partisan period on American history that has, at least to my bookshelf’s knowledge, never been effectively chronicled.  Moyar makes an excellent cast that unrepentant Confederates were able to thwart the “Radical” Republicans from imposing their version of political restructuring from 1866-1876 and using classic insurgent techniques were not only able to regain political power for another 80 years, but, more importantly, take control of the history of the conflict.
The chapters on Iraq and Afghanistan are well done and point to the continuing issue American forces face-how to get a country just barely out of the 10 century culturally, socially and politically to act like a Jeffersonian democracy.  We took what we could get in Iraq, however imperfect it is, and will likely have to do the same in Afghanistan.
The book did leave me feeling a little empty in one respect.  Moyar does not address, in my opinion, the need for POLITICAL leadership at the national level.  The incremental approach of LBJ contributed to our ultimate failure in Vietnam, in may analysis.  If we had committed 100% to the war in 1965, a reasonably secure South Vietnam might have existed by 1970 if we had truly bombed North Vietnam back to the stone age, blockaded their ports and cut off their bridges to China.  In addition the Iraq surge would not have occurred without the very risky decision by George W to commit to the surge in spite of Congressional back-biting, some of it led by none other than Barry O hisself.
Overall, this is a good addition to a COIN bookshelf, and Moyar has clearly done his research, including a survey of current American commanders.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Week in Review

Busy week personally and news-wise.

So how is it that one of the most racist, divisive organizations in the U.S. today -yes, that's right the NAACP, can label the Tea Party racist?  Careful libs, your desperation is showing...the Dems are going to get their ass kicked in November, and calling white people racist for opposing this Administration's policies is going to backfire.  This is, without a doubt, the most pathetic charge the left uses when they are losing an argument based on facts or logic.  This Congress and Administration's economic policies have done more harm to minorities and ALL Americans than the Klan ever could and the Tea Party and George W. Bush are to blame?  Hmmm, doesn't pass the smell test.  The Democrats are FIRMLY in charge of DC and are gonna rise or FALLLLLLLL on one simple question a la Ronald Reagan "Are you better off than you were two years ago?"  If the answer to that is "NO", or "I don't feel I am.", then Nancy is gonna have to decorate a new office.

More interesting is the movement in Afghanistan, where it appears the U.S. is going to try a similar program to the wildly successful Sons of Iraq militia from the 2007 Surge.  How well it will work is anyone's guess, but at least we can get more Afghans into the fight...presumably on our side.

The most interesting news of the day comes from the The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), one of my favorite policy maker sites.  They have been developing a new concept called AirSea Battle to provide the 21st Century equivalent to the highly successful AirLand doctrine developed by the Army and Air Force after Vietnam.  It is still in the conceptual stage, but appears to be gaining some traction with the Air Force and Navy.  Here is their latest report.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

History Expounded Upon

The Third exchange of point and counterpoint don't seem to respond well.  It's almost as if our Founders were talking past each other.  Gee, never heard of politicians doing that huh?

In the Federalist #3 John Jay is addressing the very real national security issues facing the infant United States.  The British still controlled Canada and were stirring up trouble with the Indians in the Northwest Territories, which they weren't real happy about ceding to the former colonies.  In the south and along the Mississippi, the Spanish were also potential rivals and foes.  Jay argues that not only will a more united government make the people safer from foreign rivals, but ensure that only just reasons are used to wage war. An interesting juxtaposition for war, foreign policy and government, hmmm.

To quote:  "As to those just causes of war which proceed from direct and unlawful violence, it appears equally clear to me that one good national government affords vastly more security against dangers of that sort than can be derived from any other quarter."

In the Anti-Federalist #3 the author begins debating the issue of the new Congress- its makeup, how many representatives will be elected and how they will serve the people.  Amazingly enough, the same kinds of questions being asked today.

Two good quotes here:
"The well born, and highest orders in life, as they term themselves, will be ignorant of the sentiments of the midling class of citizens, strangers to their ability, wants, and difficulties, and void of sympathy, and fellow feeling. This branch of the legislature will not only be an imperfect representation, but there will be no security in so small a body, against bribery, and corruption..."


"...what security therefore can there be for the people, where their liberties and property are at the disposal of so few men? It will literally be a government in the hands of the few to oppress and plunder the many. You may conclude with a great degree of certainty, that it, like all others of a similar nature, will be managed by influence and corruption, and that the period is not far distant.."

So, the writers of the Anti-Federalist papers must have seen Nancy, Steny and the the gang coming huh?  They clearly had a healthy disdain for potential Congresscritters back then...what would the think of the pack of thieves and gadflies we have now?

Monday, July 12, 2010

In their book Counterinsurgency and Modern Warfare, editors Daniel Marston and Carter Malkasian examine the failures and successes of counterinsurgency campaigns in the 20st and 21st centuries. Through their selected case studies, the editors offer a wide range of military experiences, including the usually studied campaigns in Malaya and Vietnam but they also choose some unexpected campaigns off the usual COIN beaten path by examining Northern Ireland, Rhodesia and even German anti-partisan operations on the Easter Front in World War II.

Each essay is a standalone product from an acknowledged expert who not only offers the chronological and event highlights, but offers crucial observations and lessons learned. The essays on Northern Ireland and Rhodesia were particularly eye-opening for me.

In Northern Ireland, the British ran a classic law enforcement type COIN effort where the military played very much a background role, minus the occasional action by the SAS, and they managed to successfully “criminalize” and insurgency and essentially delegitimize the IRA and force them into a political settlement.
In Rhodesia, the white government essentially fought the insurgency to a stand-still through very unconventional light infantry patrols and attacks by a military that literally operated on a shoe-string, but was forced to submit to the now crazed and lunatic Mugabe government by global political pressure.

Overall, this is a really excellent collection of essays for anyone wanting to discover the wide range of COIN operations and how different militaries have won or lost to insurgencies.  For the serious student of current military affairs, it is a needed addition to your book shelf.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Week In Review

Best News I've Heard All Week!

From Blackfive, one of my favorite sites.

Biggest Freakin Idiot of the Week...and his Enablers in Obama's Justice Department.  I personally luv being a cracker......

Remember how spit throwin' crazy the criminal liberal media got about Tea Partyer's supposedly spitting on Congresscritters going to screw us with Obamacare...how about this?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

History Expounded Upon

Now it starts getting interesting- Federalist and Anti-Federalist #2

In these papers, the authors begin to really debate the proper role of government and, most importantly for the former British colonies, how much power should the government have?

These slave-owning, misogynist white men were of course, singularly brilliant in their understanding of the hazards of government and how quickly well-meaning republics could become brutal tyrannies.  You see, unlike the mindless drivel and claptrap that passes for public education these days, these men were steeped in the classics and understood Latin and Greek, the Romans and Athenians.  Knowing history, which I of course always recommend, made them cautious about setting up a government that could take away their hard earned liberty.

If only the masses who are willing to trade their freedoms for a vaporous measure of "economic security and social justice" understand that only through liberty can people have these things.

Here are the quotes for this week:
From the Federalists:

"Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights in order to vest it with requisite powers. It is well worthy of consideration therefore, whether it would conduce more to the interest of the people of America that they should, to all general purposes, be one nation, under one federal government, or that they should divide themselves into separate confederacies, and give to the head of each the same kind of powers which they are advised to place in one national government."

And from the Anti-Federalists:

"This principle, which seems so evidently founded in the reason and nature of things, is confirmed by universal experience. Those who have governed, have been found in all ages ever active to enlarge their powers and abridge the public liberty."

Monday, July 5, 2010

Grouchy Historian's Book Shelf

Bing West and the War in Iraq.
One of the things I find fascinating to watch is the progression of viewpoints of books on the Iraq War.  There is a whole separate blog post here, but I can basically divide them into three categories:
1) We kicked Iraq's ass in less than three weeks (2003-2004)
2) The insurgency is going to bleed us dry (2005-2007)
3) We kicked the insurgents ass (2008-2010)

Retired Marine General Bing West has written three books on the Iraq War and all of them are excellent reads.  They basically cover each of the periods, although they cover a wide span of time and topics.

His first, The March Up, highlights the 1st Marine Divisions march up the east side of the Tigris and Euphrates while providing "support" to the main thrust by the Army's 3rd Infantry Division.  The book was written almost immediately after the war ended, and although it was good initial history, had a few anecdotes by West about his adventure following the Marines and is not long on the bigger picture of the challenges and issues the Marines faced during their three weeks of combat.  Of particular note is West's glossing over the fact that one of the Regimental Commanders, Colonel Joe Dowdy, was actually relieved of command by the 1st Marine Division Commander, MGEN James Matthis during the drive north.  West explains this as some sort of lateral move, probably trying to spare the Corps some post-war embarrassment.

The second book, No True Glory, was written right after the 2004 Battles of Fallujah and here West pulls no punches in pointing out the good, bad and ugly decisions up and down the American chain of command in handling the Sunni insurgency in the city.  His account of the run-up to final November offensive and the political and military preparations for the battle really place things in context.  West also places Fallujah into the wider context of the situation in Anbar Province through 2004, something that has not been well reported.  The battle narrative is also excellent and this remains today one of the better books written about Fallujah.

Finally, his third book, The Strongest Tribe, is meant to be a mini-campaign history of the entire Iraq conflict after the initial invasion, and is told from more of an operational and strategic point of view.  The time from April 2003 to fall 2006 goes by fairly quickly as West attempts to get into the nuts and bolts of the surge and the 2007 fighting.  It is a quick read and an excellent overview of someone just beginning to read about America's conflict in Iraq.

All of these books are good reads, although I would recommend The Strongest Tribe the most as a basic primer of the Iraq War.

Friday, July 2, 2010

This Week in Review

Well, it's Friday of a lonnnggg 4th of July weekend.  Time for the week in review.  I could pontificate on the ineptitude of the Obama Administration with the oil spill, the stupidity of Nancy Pelosi and economics, or the criminal coverup of the Justice Department and the New Black Panthers.
But in all cases, I would merely repeat the obvious.   November 2 is coming, baby, but not fast enough.  I would love to see Eric Holder in front of a Republican-led committee trying to explain why the hell he still has a job.

BUT, on to more interesting and important topics.  Over the next two weeks, we shall wander into one of my favorite realms of military analysis and look at hybrid warfare.  What is that, you ask?  Well, let's see.....

Warfare in the 21st century appears to be diverging significantly from traditional conventional combat waged by large mechanized forces of tanks, artillery, and infantry.  Recent experiences by the ground forces of Israel and the United States illustrate how new adversaries are developing innovations in tactics and strategy to negate traditional Western military superiority.
    This new type of warfare, labeled “hybrid warfare” by some analysts and defense pundits has created a great deal of uncertainty on the role of conventional military forces and the operational level of war.  Both U.S. and Israeli forces have encountered hybrid warfare and some observations and lessons learned will be made of their experiences and reactions to hybrid warfare opponents.
    In order to determine how or if hybrid war has changed the operational level of war, a reasonable definition and differentiation must be made from other types or generations of warfare.  Since the September 11 attacks, and particularly after the invasion and insurgency in Iraq, the concepts of asymmetric, compound and hybrid warfare have been confused and comingled.  The best definition of hybrid warfare combines elements of all of these modes of combat and expands the political use of violence beyond traditional military methods:  “Hybrid Wars incorporate a range of different modes of warfare including conventional capabilities, irregular tactics and formations, terrorist acts, including indiscriminate violence and coercion and criminal disorder.” Source
    Hybrid warfare is often confused with “Fourth-generation” warfare (4GW) which is primarily an insurgency/terrorism mode of war that evolved from the communist guerilla strategy and tactics of Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh.  4GW fighters have built upon these concepts of guerilla conflict to incorporate new technologies such as the internet and global media.  Hybrid warfare incorporates many of these 4GW tools into a larger construct that includes more conventionally trained and equipped forces and even a functioning legitimate political organization to tie all of these elements of political violence into a coherent and simultaneous strategic and operational plan.
Strategically, hybrid warfare exhibits the ultimate Clausewitzian trait of warfare as an instrument of policy and not merely an end to itself.  The very nature of the military mismatch between the opponents in a hybrid style of war means that the weaker side cannot achieve a strictly military victory and will aim for a political victory by attacking either their opponent’s will to resist, or, in this era of multi-national institutions and global information, defeating their opponent in the realm of public and international opinion.
As shown in figure 1 below, hybrid warfare is a definite step up from previous modes of insurgencies and terrorism.  Although hybrid combat may contain elements of these tactical and operational forms of warfare, the introduction of more sophisticated weapons, tactics and command and control offer additional military capabilities to the political strategy of the hybrid organization.  In addition, these hybrid units may be specifically organized, trained and equipped to overcome the traditional disparity in firepower with the opponents to non-traditional means.  The diagram below from the Rand Corporation's report Military Capabilities for Hybrid War: Insights from the Israel Defense Forces in Lebanon and Gaza shows this progression

More next week.....