Archive for December, 2011
Any pretense of a hopeful outcome from the so-called “Arab Spring” is all but gone. The Guardian reported at the beginning of this month that the Islamists will be the wielders of power in Egypt, and their agenda is precisely what those who warned of their rise feared it would be.
Two once-banned Islamist groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Salaf Nour Party, appear to be the big winners of Egypt’s Parliamentary elections. Their plans for Egypt are abundantly clear, expressed in terms that should cause concern in the West, and already do in Israel.
Guided by a Saudi-inspired school of thought, Salafists have long shunned the concept of democracy, saying it allows man’s law to override God’s. But they decided to form parties and enter politics after the exit of Mubarak in February.
Salafi groups speak confidently about their ambition to turn Egypt into a state where personal freedoms, including freedom of speech, women’s dress and art, are constrained by sharia.
“In the land of Islam, I can’t let people decide what is permissible or what is prohibited. It’s God who gives the answers as to what is right and what is wrong,” Hamad said. “If God tells me you can drink whatever you want except for alcohol, you don’t leave the million things permitted and ask about the prohibited.”
While there are ideological differences between the Brotherhood and the Salafists, those differences are far narrower than those that exist between either of those groups and anyone else on Egypt’s political scene. Talk of any major rift that would prevent a coalition is wishful thinking, and similar assertions by leaders of the groups themselves are for public consumption and somewhat less than genuine. Interestingly, the Guardian article describes the Muslim Brotherhood as the more “moderate” of the two Islamist groups. This is the very same Muslim Brotherhood that openly admired Hitler’s Third Reich, and enthusiastically supported the Final Solution. Positions which, tellingly, they have never renounced.
Leader of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood Hamed Saeed’s words sound an unwelcome thunderclap in the ears of Western diplomats. Saeed declared last January that “unrest in Egypt will spread across the Mideast and Arabs will topple leaders allied with the United States.”
And so it has, and is not finished yet. There was nothing spontaneous about it. Western leaders, including our own, have been thoroughly outmaneuvered, as have any moderates who had hoped in those early days of the “Arab Spring” for a permanence of the new liberties they believed they’d won.
If the scenario rings eerily familiar, it should.
Well, I am now of the demographic that must submit their PTS package prior to reenlisting. As I am sure is the case with most Sailors, I don’t truly know if I can stay in or not. One can guess and wonder. But, until you know for a fact that you’re good to go, you might be going home and finding a new line of work.
But, we in the United States Navy are not the only Sailors who are facing such an uncertain future. Sailors of the Royal Navy–some 5,000 of them–will be sent home as well in the next four years. Sailors who have been trained, honed their skills and are willing to defend their Nations.
But, of the English speaking peoples of the World, one group is looking for able bodies – Australia.
[T]o find enough trained personnel to crew its submarines and the fleet of new warships now being built, the [Australian] navy is also recruiting from the US, Canada and New Zealand.
Unreal, but rather brilliant.
LT(jg) Toner, USN is a 2006 graduate of the US Merchant Marine Academy. He entered active duty service with the US Navy. He volunteered to serve in Afghanistan. He was killed in action on March 27, 2009 while challenging an attacker.
The following article appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of the US Merchant Marine Academy Alumni magazine, Kings Pointer:
Admiral Mullen Awards Silver Star to LT (jg) Francis L. Toner, USN’06
The nation’s top military officer presented, on September 23, 2011, a posthumous Silver Star to the widow of a heroic Navy officer who was killed in Afghanistan.
Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed the audience during the presentation ceremony of the Silver Star to Brooke Toner, wife of LT (jg) Francis L. Toner IV at the US Navy Memorial in Washington, DC, Sept. 23, 2011.
During a ceremony at the Navy Memorial here, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Admiral Mike Mullen told the hundreds of people in attendance that LT (jg) Francis L. Toner IV, USN ’06 faced death “tragically and heroically.”
Toner, 26, was deployed to Afghanistan with an embedded training team as garrison engineer mentor for the Afghan National Army’s 209th Corps at Forward Operating Base Shaheen, near Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.
He and three other officers were exercising, running around the camp’s perimeter on March 27, 2009, when an enemy fighter who had infiltrated the Afghan army attacked with a firearm. As Toner’s Silver Star citation recounts, “In seconds, officers were shot and lying wounded on the ground. The gunman proceeded to shoot one of the wounded officers. . . . Toner, unarmed, verbally challenged the insurgent and continued to advance until he was fatally wounded.” “I’ve been to enough [award presentations] and I’ve seen enough citations to know that he was basically walking straight into the enemy’s fire,” the chairman said of Toner’s actions. “We shouldn’t – and we won’t – ever, ever forget that service, that sacrifice,” the admiral added. “Because that is what makes us strong, as a military and as a nation.”
The chairman said today’s ceremony, attended largely by sailors in uniform, was particularly poignant for the Navy because Toner deployed as an individual augmentee, attached to an Army unit. “I started that [program] when I was [chief of naval operations],” the admiral said. Mullen said his experience in Vietnam and knowledge of ground operations made the decision to deploy individual sailors very simple.
“I knew the ground forces would bear the brunt, and every sailor I could get into the fight was going to relieve a soldier,” he said. The Navy and Air Force have had thousands of their members “in the sand” of Iraq and Afghanistan, Mullen said. “There are 12,000 there today, and that continues,” he said.
Rear Admiral Philip H. Greene, Jr., USMS ’78, Superintendent, US Merchant Marine Academy and several Cadet – Midshipman of the US Merchant Marine Academy, from which Toner graduated in 2006, were among those attending the ceremony.
“Welcome,” the chairman said to the midshipmen. “You’re our future, and this all happens faster than any of us know. And we appreciate that you would raise your hand and serve your country at this extraordinary time.”
Mullen said part of the speech he delivered at the Merchant Marine Academy two graduations ago focused on “that thread of Frankie Toner, who had graduated from there, who so many looked to for inspiration.”
Brooke Toner, who accepted her husband’s Silver Star, spoke during the ceremony and thanked everyone who attended.
“From the moment I got that knock on the door – which was the worst day of my life – I’ve been supported by my casualty assistance officer, by Admiral Mullen, by [Navy Rear Adm. Christopher J. Mossey, commander of Naval Facilities Engineering Command], by all of our friends who have wrapped their arms around our family to support us all,” she said.
Toner was born Sept. 26, 1982, in Panorama City, CA. He graduated from Westlake High School in 2001 and his family relocated to Narragansett, RI in 2002.
In the summer of 2002, Toner entered the US Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in marine engineering and shipyard management.
In May 2006, Toner was commissioned an ensign in the US Navy. He graduated from Navy Civil Engineer Corps Officer School in Port Hueneme, CA, September 2006, and was assigned to Pearl Harbor, HI.
He reported to Camp Mike Spann in Afghanistan in October 2008 for a one-year individual augmentee assignment.
Toner is survived by his wife, Brooke Toner; mother, Rebecca Toner; father, Francis Toner III; stepmother, Sharon; sister, Amanda; and brothers, John and Michael.
Toner was previously posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with valor. The Silver Star is the third highest combat military decoration. – Kings Pointer – Fall 2011
View video of the Presentation on YouTube here: ‘Adm. Mike Mullen Presents Silver Star Awarded to Lt. j.g. Francis L. Toner IV‘
(Photo found on his wife’s blog dedicated to her husband)
They’re not military drones. And the fleet isn’t a state navy. Sea Shepherd, the maritime environmental organization has announced that it is now using commercial drones. On Christmas Day, they launched a drone from on of their ships, the Steve Irwin, and found the Japanese whaling fleet.
Sea Shepherd is one of many non-governmental organizations and non-state actors operating on the global maritime commons. Understanding this organization’s operations, logistics, and tactics is one way of understanding how non-state actors might behave in the future. The use of commercial drones to augment their surveillance capabilities (currently mostly with the use of a helicopter) is yet another demonstration of Sea Shepherd’s innovative methods to improve their ability to engage with the Japanese whaling fleet.
Lieutenant Commander Claude Berube is the co-editor of Maritime Private Security: Market Responses to Piracy, Terrorism, and Waterborne Security Risks in the 21st Century (Routledge, February 2012). He is a frequent contributor to Naval Institute Proceedings and Naval History and currently serves on the USNI Editorial Board. The views expressed are his own and not those of the Department of the Navy.
I woke this morning to an email from a friend in Germany. It is the greatest holiday message I’ve received this season. Perhaps one of the greats of all time. I thought I’d share it with the Naval Institute family for a laugh…and then I’m going to send it all the lawyers I know. And then to all of my uber PC friends. Let the feeling hurting begin…
Gesendet: Freitag, 23. Dezember 2011 11:55
Betreff: Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year
Dear Clients, Partners, Kith and Kin,
I wish you and yours a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May 2012 be prosperous, successful and free of negative incidents.
And now, from me (“the wishor”) to you (“hereinafter called the wishee”):
Please accept without obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, politically correct, low stress, non- addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practised within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all… and a financially successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2012, but with due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures or sects, and having regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform or dietary preference of the wishee. By accepting this greeting you are bound by these terms that:-
* This greeting is subject to further clarification or withdrawal
* This greeting is freely transferable provided that no alteration shall be made to the original greeting and that the proprietary rights of the wishor are acknowledged.
* This greeting implies no promise by the wishor to actually implement any of the wishes.
* This greeting may not be enforceable in certain jurisdictions and/or the restrictions herein may not be binding upon certain wishees in certain jurisdictions and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wishor.
* This greeting is warranted to perform as reasonably may be expected within the usual application of good tidings, for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first.
* The wishor warrants this greeting only for the limited replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish the sole discretion of the wishor
* Any references in this greeting to “the Lord”, “Father Christmas”, “Our Saviour”, or any other festive figures, whether actual or fictitious, dead or alive, shall not imply any endorsement by or from them in respect of this greeting, and all proprietary rights in any referenced third party names and images are hereby acknowledged.
After — notably — successfully being kept secret for some 48 hours, North Korea announced the death of Dear Leader Kim Jong Il, the country’s ruler for nearly two decades.
Kim’s death comes as North Korea was preparing for a live leadership transition in 2012, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim’s father and North Korea’s founding leader, Kim Il Sung, a transition that had been intended to avoid the three years of internal chaos the younger Kim faced after his father’s death in 1994. Kim Jong Il had delayed choosing a successor from among his sons to avoid allowing any one to build up their own support base independent of their father. His expected successor, son Kim Jong Un, was only designated as the heir apparent in 2010 after widespread rumors in 2009 and thus has had little experience and training to run North Korea and little time to solidify his own support base within the various North Korean leadership elements. Now, it is likely that Kim Jong Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, will rule behind the scenes as Kim Jong Un trains on the job. Like the transition from Kim Il Sung to Kim Jong Il, it is likely that North Korea will focus internally over the next few years as the country’s elite adjust to a new balance of power. In any transition, there are those who will gain and those who are likely to be disenfranchised, and this competition can lead to internal conflicts.
In the course of his nearly two decades of role, Kim Jong Il made it easy for the world to perceive him as unpredictable and crazy — irrational even. But entertaining idiosyncrasies and (not unjustified) accusations of starving and impoverishing his people can conceal a remarkable consistent foreign policy and deterrence strategy in which a poor, isolated country kept itself at the center of the international system with five of the world’s most powerful countries — the U.S., China, South Korea, Russia and Japan not only keeping North Korea high on their agenda, but repeatedly granting the regime concessions in exchange for ‘progress’ in negotiations that Pyongyang played like a fiddle.
Repeatedly we’ve seen the North attack the South with impunity. Even the shelling of Yeonpyeongdo island in 2010, where the South returned fire (though on pre-registered targets, not at the mobile batteries the counterbattery radar should have indicated), the military response was quickly followed by attempts by both Seoul and the international community to calm the situation. Those attempts to placate North Korea are only likely to continue for fear of exacerbating internal stability.
The immediate question is the status of the North Korean military. Kim Jong Un is officially the Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers Party of Korea and was recently made a four-star general, but he has no military experience. If the military remains committed to keeping the Kim family at the pinnacle of leadership, then things will likely hold, at least in the near term. There were no reports from South Korea that North Korea’s military had entered a state of heightened alert following Kim Jong Il’s death, suggesting that the military is on board with the transition for now. If that holds, the country likely will remain stable, if internally tense.
This more-rapid-than-intented but nevertheless prepared-for transition of power to a designated successor within the existing regime structure is not guaranteed to succeed but it has a reasonable chance of success. And the international community is likely to give the North a wide berth in the meantime for fear of exacerbating matters.
This year I attended the Army-Navy game for the first time since having graduated. I secured Club Level seating (or standing, as it were) to calm my post-traumatic-midshipman-memory-response; the promise of central heating, leather couches and reuniting with old shipmates over a steady flow of spirits seemed a more comfortable homecoming than braving the elements with the masses. One day I’ll be married with kids, I told myself as I completed my decadent, self-interested Club Level transaction, and then I’ll return to the cold. To the stands. To the game the way it was meant to be enjoyed…drunk on emotion and pride with my fellow Americans. And cold.
This morning a banner on the Naval Institute’s website caught my eye and took me to a preview of the must-watch documentary of the season. It will be airing this Wednesday, December 21st on Showtime. I recommend it to everyone who would like to know (or be reminded) why the Army-Navy game is indeed, a Game of Honor.
Nighttime in the maritime environment can range from a deep, bottomless black (typically for the first night trap after an extended inport period) to a riot of color and light in foreign ports. The combination of water, sky and light can make for compelling optics in the normal course of events, but come Christmas time, it assumes a special ambiance. One of our family’s traditions (when I wasn’t deployed) was to head down to the piers after Christmas Eve services to look at the ships’ holiday lighting. Not everyone has that opportunity (and given our current location, alas, neither do we) – so as a form of Christmas card from me to all of you, presented here are ‘Christmas Lights – Navy Style’
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Best wishes for a very Merry Christmas and peace and prosperity in the new year to come.
w/r, Steeljaw Scribe
It started after 911, something not seen for any significant duration since Vietnam – and sustained interest in military matters. As a result, we have seen an increase in the variety and number of places where you can find reporting on military matters.
From retired officers on the news networks using maps to explain the big picture, to new media, to expanded traditional coverage – a decade of war has brought a depth of knowledge that was almost non-existant in the last two decades of the last century.
With two wars and smaller skirmishes in the Long War taking place on a regular basis, the need and interest for information has kept knowledge of military history, strategy, tactics, equipment, and plans as an ongoing requirement in the media.
As the American military presence in the Iraqi war ends, Afghanistan scheduled to fade, and defense budgets contract – what is the state of the military focused media going forward?
To discuss the above and to review the major Navy and military topics of the year will be returning guest Phil Ewing, previously with Politico and Navy Times.