'87 Sir

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

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Strategy from the bottom up

Although I love politics, especially arguing about politics with liberals...reading about political strategy is.......well..........rather boring.

SO, in the spirit of the at classic volume How to Read a Book, I decided to skim, yes, skim this portion of the book.

Yes, guilty...I couldn't take a couple hundred pages discussing socialist, anarchist, and communist political theory...shoot, I just turn on the news and I can see that. 

Dr. Freedman does an excellent job of surveying the primary theoreticians of political thought, or as he calls it "strategy from the bottom up".  The one section of the book I did find pretty interesting was the whole section on Saul Alinsky and his famous "Rules for Radicals."  That's right, the political mentor our own 44th President was mentioned in this book.  I have to say, honestly speaking that as a set of political principals these rules would make Machiavelli proud.  No one to worry about morality or ethics, ol' Saul pretty much just lays it out there:

The rules

  1. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have."
  2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people.”
  3. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.”
  4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
  5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
  6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
  7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”
  8. “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.”
  9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”
  10. "The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition."
  11. “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”
  12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.”
  13. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”
I mean seriously, they are outstanding strategic guidelines for the ruthless political destruction of your enemies and gaining and holding dictatorial power...no wonder modern liberals love them so much.  I could probably develop a blog post on every single one of them and how modern liberals are running rings around conservatives using these principals because...well, quite frankly they have no morals and will do whatever it takes to win.

But, my personal opinion aside, Dr. Freedman does an excellent job of chronicling the development of political theory from the 19th century to today...it just wasn't something that I felt I needed to plow through...just give me a good dose of Sun Tzu and ol' Niccolo and I am ready.

I hope the final section on business strategy is equally as well done as the previous sections....I am really looking forward to it....

Thursday, January 9, 2014

First brain break book of 2014

I love Larry Correia's Monster Hunter books...the same way I love bacon-wrapped shrimp.  He is becoming a publishing powerhouse, with three separate lines of books all getting ready to break into the all important hardback book market...which is a big deal according to my +1. 

However, I have to say I have not gotten into his Grimnoir Chronicles...maybe I will later.  But this series is really shaping up nicely as a collaborative venture between Larry and Mike Kupari.  This is the second volume in this series and was quickly consumed.  I liked the characters, the pacing, and the shoot'em up action.

Even better, the authors maddeningly have simultaneously maintained  a mystery, cliff-hanger, and sequel set up that already has me searching on Amazon for when the next book comes out...argh.

This provided an excellent break before I begin my big research push for the year that will hopefully see some substantive writing done on this blog.  Hey, this book is less than a couple of latte's, so pick it up and disappear into guns, mayhem, and mystery.  You won't regret it.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The future of conflict?

David Kilcullen has proven to be, in my opinion, one of the most thoughtful authors on counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism and 21st century conflict.  His primer on COIN and his tome on guerrillas and COIN are definitely books that any serious student of the topic should read.

With this new volume, he is now, as the title states, moving out of the mountains and into the cities and urban areas of the world to examine how conflict, war, insurgencies, crime---you name it, will evolve and challenge the "international order" of this new century.

He basically makes the case that as more of humanity becomes urban, connected, and lives on the littorals, that is where conflict is going to occur.  This might seem a big "DUH", but it's not a very comfortable fact to assimilate, and certainly not one that a conventional minded military wants to deal with.  Urban combat is something the military forces instinctively recoil from as it is messy, casualty-intensive, and in this day and age, fraught with potential for YouTube disasters.

Nonetheless, Kilcullen lays out a pretty irrefutable argument that conflicts occur where people are, and cities are going to be the the primary battlefield of the 21st century.   In addition, he lays out a very well constructed argument that as the mass migration of people into these urban areas overwhelms basic social services and government, cities and their outlying slums are going to become almost "feral", a term I actually first read in this Naval War College Essay from 2003.  But Kilcullen really picks up this theme and using social and urban science (two things that normally make me cringe), uses some compelling case studies to flesh out his thesis with real world examples.  Also drawing on his experience in Iraq during the Surge, he lays out many of the pitfalls that conventional police and military forces will face when dealing with these new security threats.

Kilcullen does an excellent analysis of how criminal gangs, terrorists or insurgents could operate and control terrain and populations in the feral cities and then lays out some of the real challenges that national governments, the international community and the US military may face if forced to conduct military or policing operations in these cities.  The 1993 Black Hawk Down incident is offered as an excellent case study of how even an elite military can get bogged down in one of these cities where everyone has an AK-47 or an RPG.

If you can wade through a lot of the social science and discussions of cities as living organisms, this is a MUST read for military officers, policy makers, and anyone interested in how conflict in the 21st century is likely to play out.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Cautionary Tale?

So, this was one of my books from last Christmas that I finally got to finish this Christmas...and I am glad I did.

Mr. Toll writes an at times rambling narrative of the first six months of the Pacific naval war, from Pearl Harbor to the Battle of Midway.  Although I felt a little bogged down at times in the the back story of the development of both the Japanese and American navies before the war, these chapters, particularly the Japanese "wartime" mindset and strategic thinking of Yamamoto and others, helps the reader really understand why the Imperial Japanese Navy was so wildly successful for the first six months of 1942.

One of the more interesting highlights of the book was the clear roles that Yamamoto and Nimitz had on their prospective fleets.  Yamamoto was gambler who had a very clear understanding of Japan's industrial and resource deficiencies versus the United States and actually tried to prevent the war he initiated at Pearl Harbor.  Nimitz was a very, very cool customer who was clearly the right man at the right time to resurrect the morale of the US Pacific Fleet and begin the long road that ended with the decisive victory at Midway. 

Another interesting fact the Mr. Toll spent a great deal of time on was the critical role intelligence, particularly the new art (or science) of signals intelligence or SIGINT played in turning the tide.  He makes a very compelling case that without the US Navy being able to read some of Japan's naval codes (but by no means everything), the Battles and Coral Sea and Midway would have likely had very different outcomes.  Good intelligence probably provided the equivalent of another carrier task force to Nimitz at Midway.

In addition, I thought this was an excellent cautionary tale for the US Navy as it prepares to face another potential Oriental adversary, China's People's Liberation Army Navy or PLAN for short.  Here are some interesting observations I made after reading and pondering this volume:
  • Don't let cultural or racial bias get in the way:  Both the Americans and British assumed a smug superiority over the "little yellow Jap" and got their butts kicked by weapons like the Japanese Zero fighter flown by highly trained and battle experienced adversaries.  Other Japanese weapons like the Long Lance torpedo and their superior tactics at night fighting would come as a real shock to Allied naval forces all the way through the Guadalcanal campaign.  The PLAN may not be as good as the USN, but the USN is probably not as good as it once was and it would be a mistake to underestimate them, especially in their home waters of the South or East China Seas.
  • Training and experience matter and new forms of warfare are HARD:  The Battle of the Coral Sea was basically a giant Charlie Foxtrot according to Toll--with both task forces sending airplanes after incorrectly identified ships, missing opportunities, and generally stumbling around in the first pure carrier task force duel in naval history.  Midway was another example of Clausewitz' dictum that Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult.  Operating and potentially fighting with a carrier task force at sea takes a lot of practice, trial and error, and unfortunately blood and sweat.  The PLAN has zero experience at this and, unlike technology, experience can't be stolen or bought from the west.  
  • Finally, leadership matters.  Nimitz, Halsey, and Spruance were probably three of the finest admirals in American history, and each of them played a vital role in rolling back the Japanese advance in 1942.  Although Yamamoto was a gifted admiral, probably Japan's finest, he was not served well by his subordinates, especially Nagumo.  Even though the USN was outgunned for six months, Nimitz took a risky opportunity to send out his three available carriers to strike at the Japanese, gain valuable experience for his sailors and flyers and generally let the American people know that all was not lost.  Sometimes military operations have to be done for political purposes, even though their military utility is minimal.  Even in the day of satellites, smart weapons, and unmanned aircraft, leadership matters.  Hopefully the Navy still has a Nimitz and Halsey out there.....
So, this was an excellent book for anyone wanting to understand how the USN could go from the shambles of Pearl Harbor to the triumph of Midway.  Even though the extensive background reading took some effort, it really helped in explaining the military "culture" of these two navies and why the events of those crucial first six months of the Pacific War played out as they did.