Archive for June, 2013
Benjamin “BJ” Armstrong, editor of our just-published 21st Century Mahan, is the 2013 recipient of the Navy League’s Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Literary Achievement, a highly prestigious award for an officer at the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
The Alfred Thayer Mahan Award is named for the famous naval theorist who, through his writing, provided vital stimulus and guidance to those who share in the defense of the nation. Presented since 1957, this award for literary achievement is awarded to a Navy officer, Marine Corps officer, enlisted service member, or civilian who has made a notable literary contribution that has advanced the knowledge of the importance of sea power in the United States. BJ follows in the footsteps of many notable Naval Institute authors…including ADM James G. Stavridis, USN, CAPT Henry (Jerry) H. Hendrix, USN, CAPT Edward L. Beach Jr., USN, VADM William P. Mack, USN, LtGen Victor Krulak, USMC, Dr. Jack Sweetman, LCDR Thomas J. Cutler, USN, Dr. John T. Mason Jr., Paul Stillwell, Col Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (Ret.), BGen Edwin H. Simmons, USMC (Ret.), Col John G. Miller, USMC (Ret.), and ADM James L. Holloway III, USN to name just a few.
LCDR “BJ” Armstrong is a Mahan enthusiast, for whom the award is named, and has published numerous posts about him in The Proceedings, Naval History Magazine, and on the USNI blog. He is also a recipient of the Naval HIstory and Heritage Command’s Samuel Eliot Morison Supplemental Scholarship, named after Rear Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison, USNR, an eminent naval and maritime historian and winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
Welcome to America’s Syria Policy, the China round. Having made the public announcement of support to the rebels, only two feasible policy options remain for the United States; these examples arise from two moments in history, existing together on a razor’s edge of success in a smorgasbord of disaster. We either take a page from the Kuomintang-Maoist balance during the invasion by Imperial Japan or from the footnotes of America’s opening of China in the 1970′s.
Beyond the Syrian Sub-Plot
To much of the leadership of the Maoists (CCP) and the Kuomintang (KMT), both members of the Second “United Front”, the invasion by Japan was merely a precarious backdrop to the continued struggle for the face of China’s independent future. In the words of their leadership:
“70 percent self-expansion, 20 percent temporization and 10 percent fighting the Japanese.”
“The Japanese are a disease of the skin, the communists are a disease of the heart.”
-Chiang Kai Shek
Even while the battle with Japan raged, Chiang-Kai Shek and Mao’s soldiers exchanged fire behind the lines of control. The conflict was partially a vessel by which the KMT and CCP collected foreign aid and built local influence/human resources for the final battle between the United Front’s membership. The limits of treachery within the Chinese alliance were often what each party felt able to get away with. China’s fate, not the rejection of an interloper, was the main prize.
The Syrian civil war has become such a major sub-plot; the two major parties, the Assad regime and the rebellion, are dominated by equally bad options: an extremist authoritarian backed by Hezbollah and Iran, and extremist Islamists backed by Al-Qaeda. Syria is beyond her “Libya Moment” when moderates and technocrats were still strong enough to out-influence extremist elements in stand-up combat with the regime. Like the KMT or CCP, the United States must now concentrate on the survival of what little faction of sanity exists within the war, as opposed to the war itself.
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Image: Russian made “Bastion” mobile shore-based missile complex (MSMC) with “Yakhont” unified supersonic homing anti-ship missile (ASM) from here. Components of this system have reportedly been provided to Syria, along with other weapons.
Advertising is funny; it doesn’t so much tell you about the company that pays for it – but that that company thinks motivates its customers.
In the Chrystal City Metro stop in DC you can see two view from the defense industry. Speaks for itself … which one do you think is more effective?
An implementation directive for Better Buying Power 2.0 was recently released by OSD (AT&L) Mr. Frank Kendall. Better Buying Power (BBP) 2.0 provides refined guidance to the acquisition community on how the Armed Services should approach meeting Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Carter’s guidance on ensuring affordability while increasing productivity. This effort will ultimately improve defense spending outcomes to deliver better value to the taxpayer and warfighter. I applaud what I have read in the memorandums and believe the DoD will be successful in time. However, as I have come to understand the Better Buying Power 2.0 initiative, I believe that I would be negligent if I did not bring up, what I consider to be, a basic flaw to making Better Buying Power 2.0 successful. That basic flaw is the DoD’s understanding and acceptance of risk associated with Better Buying Power 2.0. More importantly, a cultural change is required to enable BBP 2.0 to be successful. Personnel will have to be accept change in the acquisition process and the career uncertainty associated with increased risk associated with affordable, timely capability acquisition. The cultural change will require leadership backing, time, and support to be successful.
The new Naval Institute Press book “21st Century Mahan: Sound Military Conclusions for the Modern Era” was released over the weekend. It is available at our bookstore, as well as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Ebook editions will soon be available. But why should readers care “What would Alfred Thayer Mahan Do?” Over the last century a few folks have made some suggestions.
“Captain Mahan has done more than write a new book upon naval history. He has even done more than write the best book that has ever been written upon naval history, though he has done that likewise; for he has written a book which, to use a somewhat objectionable phrase, may be regarded as founding a new school of naval historical writing. … His books are not only remarkable because of the philosophic standpoint from which they are written, because of his grasp of the subject and familiarity with all the facts bearing upon it, great and small; but they are remarkable also for the beauty of their style and the skill with which he has subordinated the lesser to the main points of interest.” – Theodore Roosevelt.
“There is no doubt that Mahan laid the foundation for a theoretical understanding of navies as well as contributed to the rise of the U.S. Navy to great power status.” – John Hattendorf
“After his death in 1914 he gained renewed stature as the high priest of American navalism, whose strategic writings were its holy writ.” – Russell Weigley
“No other single person has so directly and profoundly influenced the theory of sea power and naval strategy as Alfred Thayer Mahan.” – Margaret Sprout
“It remains to be seen whether readers exist with the mind and will to accept [Mahan’s] guidance on what necessarily is an arduous intellectual and moral voyage into the realms of war and politics.” – Jon Sumida
“He asked his Navy and his nation some very difficult and pertinent questions, questions still relevant, questions each generation must ask and answer anew: What exactly is the nature of America’s ‘national interests’? How shall the U.S. Navy best be used as an ‘instrument of national policy’? What is the proper relationship between a nation’s sea power and its diplomatic objectives? What are the ‘moral’ dimensions of the employment of military force? How shall the U.S. ships and fleets be best armed, supplied, and deployed? How much navy is enough navy?” – Robert Seager II
As an introduction to Alfred Thayer Mahan, before you start reading “21st Century Mahan: Sound Military Conclusions for the Modern Era“, here at USNI Blog we offer the obituary and “In Memoriam” article published in Proceedings in January, 1915.
To very few has it been given so to influence the current of men’s thoughts as vitally to affect human development and even to shape the course of history itself. The dominance of the Aristotelian philosophy in the intellectual world of Europe endured for twenty centuries until .displaced by Bacon’s Novum Organum. In more recent times, the Social Contract of Jean Jacques Rousseau is admitted to have played no small part among the determining causes of the French Revolution. Without a Treitschke, Pan-Germanism would have remained a vague aspiration indulged in by a restricted circle of German thinkers. It is needless to multiply instances in which the ideas of one man have directed the current of events; the fact itself is too widely accepted to require demonstration. Among the number of those who have swayed their fellows, opened their eyes to a wider vision, pointed out the hazards in their path and the channel leading through those hazards to national or individual safety beyond, sober judgment must include that member of our own profession who, after an honorable career during which he shed a luster upon the American Navy of which all Americans are proud, none so much so as his brother officers, has recently departed from our midst leaving behind him a stainless record and a place unfilled and unfillable. It were well could we look for a second Mahan with his vast knowledge and accurate logic, but candor forbids us to expect. We are only permitted to hope-and in how many doubts that hope is shrouded-that as time goes on another may arise endowed with like passion for truth, like ability and the like gift of making clear and obvious what all have gazed upon without seeing.
Three natures were combined in this exceptional personality. First of all was the Christian gentleman, devout and earnest, giving daily, practical, outward expression to an inward conviction at once sincere and fundamental. His belief in Christ’s mission and in the world to come as revealed in Holy Writ was without shadow or question. Things earthly and material might not be what they seemed. Errare est humanum. Even so well poised a mind as his might be mistaken in its findings, but no possible chance of going astray existed or could exist in complete reliance on the promises of his Lord and Master to all those who truly follow Him. And follow Him Mahan did loyally throughout his years from youth to age. His abiding sense of duty, the keynote of his character, forbade a merely perfunctory compliance with ecclesiastical requirements and forced him to take active part in the management of the religious communities to which, from time to time and in various places, he belonged and to represent them at annual conventions of the Protestant Episcopal Church. For many years he was connected with its Board of Missions and with the Church Institute for Seamen. During a shorter period he was a member of the Church Institute and of the Church Mission for Help. All his charitable interests lay in the church through which alone, to the extent of his means, he sought to aid his fellow men. This devotion to his church was the manifestation of a faith which controlled every thought and every act of his life. All his serious undertakings, all his important letters even, were preceded by an appeal for Divine guidance. It is impossible to understand Mahan unless this mental attitude is recognized in its full power. Those ignorant of this side of his character may read his little book, “The Harvest Within,” and in the reading find profit to their own souls.
In his recent editorial in the Washington Post, Naval Academy professor Dr. Bruce Fleming asserts that leadership is the “snake oil” for today’s military and that organizations — civilian and military alike — are infatuated with it as the antidote to all organizations’ problems. He has a point. Leadership training as the single answer rings hollow. As he also suggests, teaching leadership may be a futile exercise. But he is wrong to say that “there’s no proof [leadership] has any benefit at all — or for that matter, even exists.”
On the contrary, good leadership and the powerful culture that it engenders can make the difference between a solvent company and a profitable one. Jim Collins’ Good to Great book research found virtually all the companies that outperformed their industry peers in the marketplace for sustained periods of time had what Collins called “Level Five” leaders, executives who exhibit a rare combination of deep personal humility and intense resolve.
In a military organization, leadership can make the difference between life and death. Forty years ago, 591 prisoners of war returned home alive from North Vietnam after the longest period of wartime incarceration in our nation’s history. They remained unified in their resistance to their captors and unified in their adherence to a mission: Return with Honor. To this day, they have one of the lowest rates of PTSD of any group of combat veterans: a lifetime average of 4%. And their leaders, especially Vice Adm. James Stockdale, made the unquestionable difference.
Texas Rep. Sam Johnson, a former POW, recalls one hot summer night in 1967 when he shared a cell with Stockdale, the senior ranking officer of the group. They were trying to communicate with recent “shoot-downs,” other aviators whose planes had been recently shot down. As Mr. Johnson describes it, “They were scared, for good reason. We wanted to talk to them and make them know that there were other Americans around.” The communications system was the POWs’ lifeblood, but the risks for using it were high. When possible, the POWs assigned at least one man the task of “clearing,” or alerting other POWs of a guard’s impending approach.
“Jim would get on the floor and ‘clear’ and I’d get up on the concrete bunk and talk to [a new guy] down the back side out of the window. We happened to be on the back of the jail. We would tell him essentially how the cow eats the cabbage [how the things worked in the prison system] and, that ‘you’re going to be all right.’”
On this particular night, they were finally caught. “The guard and an officer came charging down the hall. Jim barely got up before the door opened. I’m standing there and the door pops open and here’s this little North Vietnamese guy wearing Air Force 2nd Lieutenant bars. Turns out he was a camp commander. He wasn’t a lieutenant – he was masquerading as one. Jim hauled off and decked him right there. Just knocked him down. And, I thought, ‘…We’re in deep serious now.’ And we were.”
Punishment was immediate and harsh. Mr. Johnson spent 72 days in leg stocks in a small cell with the windows boarded up. He quietly notes, “Jim got the worst punishment.”
Why did Stockdale intentionally assault the camp commander by punching him in the face? An irrational outburst of anger or violence was completely out of character for this Stanford-educated philosopher. He was noted around the camp for his towering intellect, not his emotional volatility.
Mr. Johnson pauses for a long moment before answering that question, choosing his words deliberately. “Frankly, I think he was protecting me. You know, that’s a characteristic of leadership.”
Stockdale exhibited several noteworthy characteristics of a great leader that day. He stayed focused on the POWs’ agreed-upon mission, he chose his battle carefully and — without fear of personal consequences — he sacrificed himself to protect those under him. He asked nothing of his followers that he would not first deliver himself. When pain was on the agenda, Stockdale didn’t delegate. He led.
Peter Fretwell and Taylor Baldwin Kiland are the co-authors of the new book, Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton: Six Characteristics of High-Performance Teams.
As this week’s addition to the USNI Blog series in the run up to the release of LCDR BJ Armstrong’s book “21st Century Mahan: Sound Military Conclusions for the Modern Era” we are republishing his article from the May issue of Proceedings. The call for sailors and Marines to become active participants in the debates of the 21st century has long been a rallying cry here at USNI. From Senior Chief Murphy’s “A Pseudo-Intellectual Wanna-be” in the March issue to the 2008 article “Read, Think, Write, and Publish” by ADM Jim Stavridis. While critical for the future of the Sea Services, it also applies to our brothers and sisters in arms, as illustrated by Jason Fritz at FP’s Best Defense Blog.
When the latest issue of Proceedings arrived in June 1906, Naval Institute members and the American people heard from a renowned global expert, a retired naval officer whose pen had been quiet for some months. His name was Alfred Thayer Mahan. His article, “Reflections, Historic and Other, Suggested by the Battle of the Japan Sea,” derived from the recent Russo-Japanese naval war lessons for U.S. fleet design and battleship construction. Just a few years away from Great Britain’s launch of HMS Dreadnought , which would revolutionize ship design by bringing speed together with an all-big-gun main battery, Mahan advocated for smaller and more numerous ships with mixed batteries of different calibers. As the leading naval expert, Mahan’s articles were voraciously read worldwide, and his analysis matched well with the “Big Navy” party line.
The U.S. Naval Institute, then as today, was a members’ organization. It didn’t exist for the sake of itself, but to share ideas and debate the future of the Sea Services. A naval arms race was developing in Europe; after the U.S. victory in the Spanish-American War, the nation stepped onto the global stage as a naval power. A year away from the Great White Fleet sailing around the world, the USNI members understood that their ideas, innovations, and wisdom mattered. Even though many considered Mahan the greatest living navalist and a strategic genius, he was not impervious to challenges from Naval Institute members.
In the December issue of Proceedings, a member responded to Mahan’s assertions. The article didn’t come from a civilian contractor who was building the next set of battleships, or from an academic expert who made his living advising politicians. The response came from an upstart lieutenant commander on staff duty in Washington, D.C. Then-Commander Mahan had once written him up for being disorderly at the Naval Academy as a first-class midshipman. Lieutenant Commander William Sims’ article “The Inherent Tactical Qualities of All-Big-Gun, One Calibre Battleships” dissected and refuted Mahan’s arguments. He argued that “if we are to remain a world power,” the large, fast, heavily gunned battleship was the future of naval warfare.
President Theodore Roosevelt read with great interest the exchange between the renowned, retired officer and the active-duty staff officer. The articles were republished in public-affairs magazines and entered into the record during debate on the floor of the Senate. The names of two great officers and naval thinkers make the story interesting, but it was the mission and membership of the Naval Institute that made it possible. The exchange didn’t happen in the pages of The Atlantic or Harper’s. It happened in Proceedings. Both men were USNI members and understood that ensuring the future of their Navy required discussion, debate, and participation of the membership.
In the case of battleship design, the lieutenant commander won the debate. After studying the response and new information about the Pacific battles, Mahan admitted that his argument didn’t stand up. Nevertheless, his expertise and experience as a retired naval officer-turned-civilian expert was central to the development of the future Fleet, as was his willingness to debate an upstart like Sims. The Royal Navy launched HMS Dreadnought before the United States could put its first large, fast, heavily gunned battleship to sea. But we weren’t far behind, because the ideas had already been debated in Proceedings.
In the first decade of the 1900s, the United States was fighting a counterinsurgency war in the Philippines. An Asian power, the Empire of Japan, was rising to become a major economic and military force, rapidly building up its navy. USNI members faced shifting alliances and adversaries, new technologies, tactical innovation, and globalized economics. These challenges should sound familiar today. We need the expertise and experience of our senior members to keep us from repeating past mistakes. We also require the exciting and innovative ideas of new, younger members, junior officers and enlisted personnel, to propel the discussion and debate forward.
The pages of Proceedings (and USNI Blog!) need your well-developed research, thoughtful articles, and best ideas to ensure that we continue the vital debate in the 21st century. To provide an independent forum to advance the professional, literary, and scientific understanding of sea power and national defense, we must first have those who dare to read, think, speak, and write. The U.S. Naval Institute is a members’ organization—help us continue the debate!
Join us Sunday at 5pm for Midrats “Episode 179: CIMCEC and the Marketplace of Ideas”:
In the best Western tradition, it is generally accepted that more ideas, and more discussion is better in working towards the best solution to any challenge – especially national security challenges.
One of the newer additions to the discussion are the writers at the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC)
Since they joined the conversation in force in 2012, what is their view of the state of vigorous debate in the maritime security arena? What do they see as the major issues no only on maintaining a healthy culture of “Creative Friction Without Confict” – and what do they see as the major subjects that naval thinkers need to concentrate on?
Our guest for the full hour will be Lieutenant Scott Cheney-Peters, USNR. Scott is a Surface Warfare Officer in the Navy Reserve and government civilian on the OPNAV staff at the Pentagon.
Scott is the former editor of Surface Warfare magazine and served aboard USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and USS Oak Hill (LSD-51).
In 2012 Scott founded the CIMSEC, a non-profit think tank/website/group focused on maritime security issues.
Scott is a graduate of Georgetown University and the U.S. Naval War College.
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