Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Pre-Thanksgiving Turkey Problem

Hopefully everyone is keeping at least a glancing eye on the developments around Mosul, especially the fact that Turkey has an outpost there. She isn't helping all that much, she rarely does, but she is there.
A dispute between Iraq and Turkey has emerged as a dramatic geopolitical sideshow to the complicated military campaign to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, from the Islamic State.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has insisted on a role in the battle for Mosul, trying to ramp up an involvement in Iraq that has already alarmed the Iraqi government.

“We have a historical responsibility in the region,” Mr. Erdogan said in a recent speech, drawing on his country’s history of empire and defeat, from Ottoman rule of the Middle East to its loss in World War I. “If we want to be both at the table and in the field, there is a reason.”

In response, the normally mild-mannered Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, warned last week of a military confrontation between Turkey and Iraq. If Turkish forces intervene in Mosul, he said, they will not “be in a picnic.”
Turkey has already angered the Iraqi government by keeping a unit of troops at a base in Bashiqa, an area of northern Iraq near Mosul and surrounded by Islamic State territory. For more than a year, the Turks have also been training Kurdish pesh merga forces and Sunni Arab fighters in Iraq, including a militia led by a former governor of Mosul, Atheel al-Nujaifi.

The Turkish military deployment, even just to train local forces, has been bitterly opposed by the Iraqi government, and Mr. Abadi has demanded that the troops leave.

Now that the battle for Mosul has started, Mr. Erdogan has given a number of incendiary speeches in which he has seemed to suggest that he is itching for the Turkish military to become directly involved in the fighting.
I want to show you two maps. First, the Turkish Republic as we know it;

There is another map that I've seen in a few places over the summer and fall. At first, I did a raised eyebrow eye-roll, but as I saw it more, just pursed my lips at seeing it. Even when one version or another showed up in newspapers, I dismissed it as standard issue populist chest thumping. Here, take a look;

Greece, Iraq, Syria (whoever you are), Armenia - call your office.

Now I want you to watch the video below. I'm not eye-rolling anymore, I'm watching a bit closer.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Ratings fiasco isn't a leadership or a Navy problem; it is a Mabus problem

Though I think they are on the right path in macro terms, in the details I have to non-concur with the NavyTimes editorial of 23 Oct;Navy's personnel policy fiasco is an important lesson for leaders;
The Navy’s recent decision to strip job titles from every sailor is a misstep of epic proportions – one that should serve as a stark lesson for leaders across all the services.

This fall, the Navy revealed it was suddenly removing all 91 of its enlisted ratings. This so-called “modernization” effort has been billed as a way to broaden training and career opportunities for sailors. It also satisfies the Navy’s desire to strip “man” from its titles, i.e. fire controlman, corpsman and seaman.

This move, thrust on the service by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus with the endorsement of Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and his former top enlisted adviser, was poorly conceived, researched and communicated to the fleet.

It’s been a total morale crusher, with thousands of sailors lobbying for an immediate reversal.

Unlike the other services, sailors have been identified by their job title and not just their rank. As one sailor noted, ratings have been part of Navy tradition since 1775. For sailors, it’s part of their identity – a badge of honor and a source of pride.

“Our sailors don’t understand it,” an E-9 told Navy Times about the change. “We don’t understand why this could not have been a two- to-three year, very gradual process that examined all of the effects from advancement to recruiting.”
This isn't a leadership failure, this is a leadership agenda. The SECNAV wanted this to happen, and happen this year, and it is. Part of leadership is following orders. In the USN chain of command, that goes to the SECNAV.

He gave a lawful order, one based on the most silly foundations of the 3rd Wave Feminism of today with a bit from the 1970s where he cut his intellectual teeth, as I covered on my previous post on the topic at USNIBlog.

This is all socio-political agenda in action. Nothing more than someone having power and using it for their own purposes. There is nothing modernizing in this move, but it does fit an agenda, the SECNAV's agenda.

I encourage you to go read the entire editorial and then come back. Better yet, read it twice. You can almost see where they wanted to pen a much stronger editorial, but backed off.
Future military leaders should use this as a case study. Avoid such fiascos at all costs. Challenge your superiors when they propose harebrained ideas. Make sure that sweeping change is done with careful forethought and proper execution.
How do they know that didn't happen? As a matter of fact, from what I have heard that is what happened ... but only to an extent. Warnings were giving, objections provided, but there is this simple fact; when the SECNAV gives you a lawful order, you have one of two options; you can execute that order as best as you can, or you can resign your position.

No one in a senior position decided this was worth resigning for.

SECNAV decided that he would do what he wanted to do based in the advice from others and for reasons best known to him. There was not desire for this from the Fleet. There was no initiative from the uniformed leadership. He created this out of whole cloth which whatever gender-issues advisors he listens to. He wanted it done before he left, and it hoping that institutional inertia and a guard of PC Commissars he put in place will stop it from being overturned when he leaves.
It’s a shame that Mabus took away these time-honored titles so abruptly, marring what is expected to be his last months of service. He’s created a mess and handed it off to the next service secretary to deal with.
That isn't the only mess, but this is one that will stick out early for whoever replaces him.
The remedy to this fiasco is to reinstate these titles immediately and wait for the results of the career flexibility review, when officials will finally be able to answer the questions on sailors’ minds.
That isn't going to happen as long as Mabus has a hand on the lever of power. Get used to it.

This is all so sad and unnecessary. For a SECNAV who I once thought had so much promise to bring us to this sad, fevered spot with full uniformed leadership support is useful in this respect - it shows that there is a full-submissive compliance to civilian leadership. That is a great tradition this nation has, shame it is being abused for such a petty, personal, political reason.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite sayings. When you continue to decided that this issue or the other one is not a "hill worth dying on," eventually you find yourself surrounded, in a ravine, with your opponent owning all the high ground. 

That isn't a great place to start to fight, so why would anyone expect one? The only options is surrender or death.

Political death does not get one seats on Board of Directors, appointed to Commissions or Panels, or appointed to positions of influence in the civilian sector.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Fullbore Friday

I had to sit there nice and polite the other day as a colleague pontificated about the "new" threats of asymmetric warfare at sea ... etc ... etc.

It wasn't the place or time to go all Salamander on him, so I let it slide but a few things came right to mind.

Most think of asymmetric as being like the strike on the USS COLE (DDG-67), but that isn't what should keep you up at night. What should keep your mind sharp is the use of conventional weapons in an asymmetrical manner - what I define as providing the "Oh, yea?" to the "That won't happen ... they can't do that ... that can't be done ... we will have warning of such an attack ..." mindless statements towards threats. Perfect examples can be found just a couple of years ago with Israel vs. Hezbollah, but you know me ----- I like to dig a little further .....

You have a little 761-ton boat. You are only a LCDR.
Prien cursed at his mistake. But still the panic was not over, as the distance between the keel and the sandy surface of the sea bed began to drastically decrease. 2 metres... 1 metre... 0.50 metres... until there was the sound of the keel scraping against the bottom. Prien was undaunted, for there was no turning back now. He gave the order for both engines to be powered to full speed ahead. For a brief moment Prien feared the engines packing up, but Wessels had indeed done a fine job. The diesel motors roared loudly as the little boat pulled itself forward. After what seemed like an eternity, Maschinen-Hauptgefreiter Erwin Hölzer in the control room could finally report that there was clear water under the keel. Prien scanned the area once more and there were the three expected blockships. They were at the mouth of the Kirk Sound.
Did you just get relieved of command for running aground? No - you are heading into the enemy's most protected harbor, alone - to sink one of their 29,150-ton Battleships - because your enemy thinks it can't be done.

You are Lieutenant Commander Günther Prien, Commanding Officer of U-47 - and you are heading into Scapa Flow.

So Shipmate, where is our Scapa Flow? Conventional or unconventional to asymmetric. Oh, you know where it is. Its real easy to find - real easy.

This FbF first posted in 2008.
UPDATE: Hey, in this dramatization of the attack, I think you might recognize someone.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Hoss's Ending That Was Not to Be

If you have not kept up with the tragedy that is the story of General Cartwright, USMC (Ret.), head on over to USNIBlog and give my thoughts a ponder.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Japan; the Silent Big Man

Sticking for another day on WESTPAC, Kyle Mizokami over at TheNationalInterest has a good reminder that, small % of GDP on defense, Constitutional barriers, economic structural weaknesses, and demographic collapse do not stand in the way of a simple fact; Japan packs more punch per capita than anyone else in WESTPAC;
The best navy in Asia has a total of 114 warships and 45,800 volunteer personnel. It has a large fleet of fast, powerful destroyers, thoroughly modern diesel-electric attack submarines, and amphibious ships that can haul tanks and other ground forces. It can hunt submarines, square off against invasion fleets, and shoot down enemy ballistic missiles.
The main component of the MSDF are its fleet of forty-six destroyers and frigates—more than that those fielded by the United Kingdom and France combined.
The most powerful of Japan’s surface combatants are the Kongo class of guided-missile destroyers. The four ships—Kongo, Kirishima, Myoko and Chokai—are all named after battleships and cruisers of the Imperial Japanese Navy, a practice once generally avoided but becoming more popular as the memory of World War II fades.
It also provides a national ballistic-missile defense system for all of Japan—just two Kongos can protect most of the country.
Another formidable Japanese ship is the JS Izumo. At twenty-seven thousand tons fully loaded and more than eight hundred feet long, Izumo has a full-length flight deck, an island for controlling flight operations, aircraft elevators and a hangar that spans the length of the ship.

While that sounds like a traditional aircraft carrier, Japan insists the ship is actually a “helicopter destroyer.” Izumo can’t carry fixed-wing fighter jets but it can carry up to fourteen helicopters. These helicopters and their missions can vary, from antisubmarine warfare to minesweeping to helicopter airmobile assault. This makes the Izumo a flexible platform capable of taking on a variety of tasks. A second ship of the class, Kaga, is currently under construction.
Recognize that name? Of course you do;
Kaga (加賀?) was an aircraft carrier built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and was named after the former Kaga Province in present-day Ishikawa Prefecture.
...After bombarding American forces on Midway Atoll, Kaga and three other IJN carriers were attacked by American aircraft from Midway and the carriers Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown. Dive bombers from Enterprise severely damaged Kaga; when it became obvious she could not be saved, she was scuttled by Japanese destroyers to prevent her from falling into enemy hands.
Spin and PR is one thing, but operational performance is another. Anyone who has worked with the Japanese military or been stationed in Japan know they are a serious naval power. For those that don't have first hand experience, I like this datapoint;
One final reason why Japan’s navy is the best in Asia? On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of northern Japan. Vice Admiral Hiromi Takashima, commandant of the Yokosuka Naval District, immediately assumed temporary command of the entire MSDF and ordered all available ships north to the earthquake zone. The first ship left just forty-five minutes after the earthquake. Another seventeen ships packed with relief supplies departed within eighteen hours, some with only partially recalled crews. This ability to rapidly sortie the fleet with virtually no notice was perhaps the true test of the MSDF’s professionalism and efficiency.

Monday, October 17, 2016

In the Philippines, Money Won't Buy You Love

What is Philippine President Duterte's motivation in his anti-Americanism and his drift towards China? I don't think it is economic or a reward for past behavior by the Chinese.

Via Trefor Moss at the WSJ;
Mr. Duterte’s gambit is strategically risky, Western diplomats in Manila and analysts said, as he puts his country’s alliance with the U.S. on the line to pursue an untested relationship with a government that Manila saw until very recently as its chief security threat.

“It’s a strange negotiating tactic,” said Gregory Poling of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a U.S. think tank. Mr. Duterte is “unilaterally abandoning the only leverage he has over Beijing—the U.S. security umbrella.”

An official at the U.S. Embassy in Manila said: “We will continue to honor our alliance commitments and treaty obligations and expect the Philippines to do the same.”

Zhang Baohui, a professor at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, said that for Beijing, “the strategic payoffs will be huge” if Manila pulls away from Washington, noting that Mr. Duterte is being honored with a full state visit.
There is a school of foreign aid thought that promises that if nothing else, our money buys us good will. As the chart shows, notsomuch in The Philippines.
The economic rationale behind Mr. Duterte’s Chinese strategy is understandable: He wants Chinese funding and technical expertise to build desperately needed infrastructure. Mr. Duterte has said he wants Beijing to build new railways on Luzon and Mindanao islands. He also said Beijing has offered him a 25-year loan on easy terms to fund arms purchases, although he gave no details and China hasn’t commented.

China has largely spurned the Philippines over the past few years, even as it pledged investments of tens of billions of dollars for other Asian countries as part of its “Belt and Road” regional infrastructure program.
Is he trying to play both sides? Perhaps.

Has he made the decision to try to get in the good graces with the dragon near by, as opposed to the fickle friend across the big water? Perhaps.

Having watched this guy for awhile, I'm not so sure that we need foreign policy hands to try to understand why - perhaps we need a forensic psychologist.

They guy has issues.
Mr. Duterte was elected on an anticrime platform, promising to extend nationwide the bloody campaign he waged against drug gangs as mayor of Davao City. For weeks he has lashed out with profanities at U.S. and other Western critics of his bloody campaign against suspected drug dealers, while also berating Washington for its supposed failures as an ally.

In Manila, diplomats privately expressed dismay and outrage at Mr. Duterte’s claim that billions in American and European aid amounted to mere “crumbs” that insulted the Filipino people, even as he heaped praise on China for its generosity in helping to build a single drug-rehabilitation center north of the capital.

While in Beijing, Mr. Duterte plans to visit “activities related to anti-drugs,” amid talks on bilateral cooperation in drug-control efforts, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Western officials noted that unlike Washington, Beijing won’t criticize Mr. Duterte’s human-rights record.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Fullbore Friday

So, don't think you can do what you are not trained for? Think a beat up old ship can't be put in harm's way? Can you really think "out of the box?" Can a ship run aground, over and over, and still get an award? How about a Presidential Unit Citation? How about a destroyer that captures an airfield?

USS Dallas (DD-199), tell us all about it.

On 25 October she cleared Norfolk to rendezvous with TP 34 bound for the invasion landings on North Africa. Dallas was to carry a U.S. Army Raider battalion, and land them up the narrow, shallow, obstructed river to take a strategic airport near Port Lyautey, French Morocco. On 10 November she began her run up the Oued Sebou under the masterful guidance of Rene Malavergne, a civilian pilot who was to be the first foreign civilian to receive the Navy Cross. Under fire by cannon and small arms during the entire run, she plowed her way through mud and shallow water, narrowly missing the many sunken ships and other obstructions, and sliced through a cable crossing the river, to land her troops safely just off the airport. Her brilliant success in completing this mission with its many unexpected complications won her the Presidential Unit Citation.
That is the airfield on the right. Oh, and they fought the French the whole way.
On the night of 9-10 November a tactical innovation involving the Navy raised American spirits. On the Sebou River the destroyer-transport Dallas pushed aside a barricade and sneaked upstream with a raider detachment to spearhead the assault on the airfield. As the night wore on, some colonial units gave up the fight, but Foreign Legion units continued to resist. Several companies of the 1st and 3d Battalion Landing Teams made progress, though slow, toward the airfield.

In bypassing a French machine-gun position, three companies of the 1st Team became disoriented and unintentionally provided some comic relief to a difficult night. At 0430 the companies reached a building they thought housed the airfield garrison. Intent on maintaining surprise, the troops crept up to doors and windows, weapons at the ready. Bursting in, the embarrassed Americans discovered they had captured a French cafe. Some 75 patrons put down wine glasses and surrendered. Patrols rounded up about 100 more prisoners in the area.

At daylight on 10 November the 1st Team mounted a new drive, this time with tanks, and by 1045 reached the west side of the airfield. On the river the Dallas passed a gauntlet of artillery fire and debarked the raiders on the east side of the airfield. American troops now occupied three sides of their objective.

Serious opposition still came from the Mehdia fortress. Although naval gunfire had silenced the larger batteries earlier, machine-gun and rifle fire continued. Navy dive bombers were called in, and after only one bombing run the garrison quit. After claiming the fort and gathering prisoners, the 2d Battalion Landing Team moved on to close the ring around the airport. By nightfall the American victory was assured' and the local French commander requested a parlay with General Truscott. At 0400 on 11 November a cease-fire went into effect, the terms of which brought all GOALPOST objectives under American control.
Yes Virginia, we had to fight against the French before we would fight with them in WWII. One other thing, when looking up the Dallas, I noticed one of her then Junior Officers on that day who is buried at Arlington, Randall T. Boyd, Jr., CDR USN. Just for reference - what a career and life he had.
Commander Boyd saw combat as a naval artillery officer during World War II and as a pilot during the Korean War. He was awarded a Silver Star for his exploits during World War II and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his activities during the Korean War.

Born in Hingham, Massachusetts, and raised in Weymouth, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1941. He also earned a master's degree in aeronautical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

On November 10, 1942, he was artillery officer aboard the destroyer Dallas when it made a treacherous 10-mile run up the Sebou River to land an Army Ranger detachment to capture Port Lyautey Airport during the assault and occupation of French Morocco.

According to the citation for the Silver Star he was awarded for the engagement, he displayed "remarkable courage under heavy hostile fire during the perilous journey" and "played a large part in providing protective gunfire for our Army Ranger troops and controlled and directed the fire of the ship so efficiently that hostile shore batteries were silenced before they were able to inflict any damage on the Dallas."

After World War II, he trained as a pilot in Pensacola, Florida, then served in the Korean War.

The first citation for his Flying Cross described him as "a skilled airman and cool leader in the face of hostile opposition."

According to the citation, he was flying a mission over Korea on October 12, 1950, "when enemy shore batteries attacked US mine sweepers with intense fire.

"Commander Boyd spotted hostile targets, took them under fire and held them down while the vessels escaped from the area. Braving heavy fire sent up from the ground, he controlled naval gunfire and vectored carrier-based aircraft to the enemy positions."

After the Korean War, he was commanding officer of Naval Patrol Squadron 34, and later was second in command at the Naval Base in Rota, Spain.

After retiring from the Navy, he was an engineer at MIT's Draper Laboratory, where he worked on the Gemini and Apollo space programs, and a senior engineer at Brown and Root Inc. in Houston, where he oversaw shipbuilding projects.
Ship and man. Benchmark both.

UPDATE: BTW - here is a modern day pic of the river they took that DD up at night. Ballsy? Yep.

This FbF first posted in 2007.