Archive for the 'Air Force' Category

It would seem that the word “solidarity” doesn’t mean what it used to.

Turkey, a long-time member of NATO, invoked Article 4 of the Charter, which calls for emergency consultation of all 28 member states, in response to the Syrian downing of an RF-4E reconnaissance aircraft. While not as serious as Article 5, which is invoked in the defense of a NATO ally that has been attacked, Article 4 has generally been seen as a preliminary to discuss options short of armed response. Turkey had threatened to invoke Article 4 back in April, when a cross-border incident in a refugee camp left five people, including two Turkish officials, dead.

From the meeting in Brussels, all Turkey got was the expected condemnation and the assurances of NATO togetherness. Turkey may have been expecting little else. Which is a good thing. In the case of Turkey and Syria, NATO is contemplating no such thing as armed intervention, or intervention of any kind. Not least of which because of Russia’s stance and Putin’s support for Syria’s embattled Assad, combined with the general and embarrassing lack of credible capability demonstrated by NATO in Libya last year.

Despite a WAPO article with some speculation that NATO would consider sidestepping the UN and a certain Russian veto for real action against Syria, the chances of such a sidestep are virtually nil. Turkey knows that, Russia and Syria (and Iran) do, too. Making invocation of Article 4 a symbolic gesture by Turkey toward an increasingly impotent NATO, whose only action was to “condemn in the strongest terms”. I am reminded of one of my favorite Daffy Duck lines. “I will do everything in my power to help you. Which will be nothing!” The rather unimpressive response to Turkey’s Article 4 declaration bodes ill for any NATO member that might possibly wish to invoke Article 5, particularly if Putin and Russia wait in the wings.

Visegrad Group, anyone?

 

 



Those were Adolf Hitler’s words in December of 1940, as he revealed to his senior Wehrmacht Field Marshals and Generals his plans for the invasion of the Soviet Union.

At a few minutes past 0300 on the morning of 22 June 1941, the rumble of 8,000 artillery pieces shook the western positions of the Red Army, all along the new borders of the Soviet Union. Simultaneously, more than 3,300 aircraft roared overhead on their way to attack Soviet airfields, troop concentrations, command posts, and artillery positions. The most fateful day of the Twentieth Century had begun.

In the west, the Wehrmacht of Hitler’s Third Reich consisted of 2.5 million men and more than 4,000 tanks comprising 180 divisions, organized into three massive Army Groups, which were poised to smash their ideological and political enemies, the Bolshevik dictatorship of Stalin’s Soviet Russia.

Opposing the German onslaught was more than 3 million soldiers of Stalin’s Red Army. Numerically superior to its German opponent in men, aircraft (4,000), and tanks (more than 7,000), the armies on the Soviet western boundary were nonetheless abysmally led and poorly trained. Still reeling from Stalin’s 1937-39 purges of most of its officer corps, and from the bloody humiliation of the disastrous “Winter War” with Finland in the winter of 1939-40, the Red Army was ill-prepared for war against a modern western foe.

The Wehrmacht, on the other hand, was a finely tuned weapon of mechanized warfare, having conquered Poland two years earlier, and overrun France in less than six weeks in 1940. Superbly trained and equipped with modern armor and the most advanced combat aircraft, the three German Army Groups shattered the Soviet forces opposite them. The Luftwaffe swept the Red Air Force, the VVS, from the skies and smashed it on the ground. By the end of the second day, more than 2,300 Soviet aircraft had been destroyed. The Red Army was already being shattered and destroyed piecemeal, in what would be the “great battles of encirclement” of that summer and autumn of 1941, from which few escaped death or captivity. The eradication of the VVS was nearly complete. Nearly. The Red Army almost bled to death. Almost. Yet, somehow, they held on.

Operation BARBAROSSA, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, more than any other, was Hitler’s war. It was the war of Mein Kampf, the war for Lebensraum in the East, whose purpose was to open the great steppes for colonization by the Aryan race. It was a war not just of conquest but of subjugation and annihilation, fought with a brutality that had not been seen in Europe since the Tatar conquests of seven centuries before. It was a war of unspeakable horror and unimaginable suffering, by soldier and civilian alike. Prisoners on both sides died by the millions, worked to death as slave labor, starved, or simply shot or hanged out of hand. But it was also a war of grim and fatalistic heroism on both sides. The German-Soviet conflict, when it ended in the rubble of Berlin nearly four years later, would take the lives of almost twenty-three million souls.

Some of the most enduring images of the Eastern Front, and for the Soviets the Great Patriotic War, are of columns of Russian and German prisoners forlornly marching to their fates (the Russians seemingly always in the dust of the summer, the Germans in the bitter cold of winter). And of grainy images of executions and hangings by the German SS Einsatzgruppen, and far less publicized, of the execution of suspected Russian collaborators by field units of the NKVD, the terror apparatus of Stalin’s brutal regime.

There are lessons and cautions abundant in examining this titanic struggle. Cautions about underestimating one’s enemy, his will to fight for family and homeland. The Russian soldier, deemed racially inferior and incapable of waging modern war, proved individually tough, able to endure hardship and privation in startling measure. He was also fanatical in the defense, fierce in the attack, and bore a hatred of the “blue-eyed oaf” that would be carried across the borders of Prussia with terrible effect.

The Russian was also capable of producing simple but highly effective weaponry, and of mastering its employment. The T-34 and KV-1 tanks that began to appear in the autumn of 1941 were superior to any German design. Soviet aircraft began to close the technology gap with the Luftwaffe far faster than anticipated. Soviet artillery, superior to the Germans even in June of 1941, would dominate the battlefield as the Red Army’s “God of War”. All these would surprise and confound the German commanders who were told to expect an enemy of limited intellect and poor character.

There are also many myths and misconceptions surrounding the struggle between these oppressive dictatorships. Here are two:

  1.  The Wehrmacht was not capable of winning a short (ten-week) war against the Soviet Union.

Because the Germans did not win does not mean they were not capable of winning, or the Soviets capable of losing. Had the Ostheer kept its focus on Moscow as the main objective (the plan was to surround, not enter the city), and had Hoth’s Panzers been unleashed in the first week of August, rather than frittered away in other operations until October, the capture of the European capital of the Soviet Union was within its capabilities. Perhaps even more important than the purely political prize was the massive Soviet war industry that occupied the so-called “Moscow-Gorky Space”. Siberian forces did not begin to arrive to defend the city and its immediate area in significant numbers until late September, 1941. The capture of the Soviet war industry, which included the massive tank works at Gorky itself, and the aircraft engine factory at Kuibyshev, would have deprived the Soviet Union of its most valuable asset, the ability to replace the massive combat losses with more modern and capable equipment. Had those factories been destroyed or fallen into German hands, there would have been no MiG or Yak fighters, no Il-2 Sturmoviks, no PE-2s, or any of the other increasingly modern aircraft that would eventually sweep the Luftwaffe from the sky. There would have been no replacement divisions of T-34/76 and /85 tanks, no self-propelled guns, no artillery pieces to replace those lost in the massive battles or worn out in extensive combat. Without those factories and the hardware they produced, there would have been no rehabilitation of the VVS or of the Red Army into the juggernaut that crushed Army Group Vistula into bits and eventually subsume eastern Germany.

  1. The Soviet Union was capable of defeating Nazi Germany without Allied assistance.

While it is true that the Soviet Union bore the unquestioned preponderance of the weight of German arms (at various times, 80% of German combat power was employed in the East, and nearly 80% of all German losses were inflicted by the Soviets), and the suffering and casualties of the Soviet military and civilian population exceeded the rest of the Allies combined by a wide margin, Stalin’s Russia could not have won the war without Allied, and particularly American, assistance. While many are familiar with pictures of some of the 9,000 US and British tanks shipped to the Soviets under Lend-Lease, these represented only about 20% of Soviet tank production during the war. There is little question upon any examination, however, that there were two absolutely critical areas of direct assistance were the linchpins of the survival of the Soviet Union in the dark days of 1941-43, and their drive to ultimate victory in 1944-45. The first of these areas was in food production. The United States shipped more than seventeen MILLION tons of food, wheat and canned goods, to the Soviet Union whose agricultural bread basket was under German occupation. That food sustained the Red Army and Russian war industry workers when none other was available. Without it, the prospects for Soviet victory would have been slim indeed. The second item so critical to the Soviet war effort was the supply of more than half a million American trucks. Tough, six-wheel drive vehicles which carried logistical supplies from the rear areas to the front, and which mounted the famous 122mm Katyusha rocket launchers by the tens of thousands, allowed the Red Army to supply itself on the battlefield in the defensive struggles of 1942 and carried that Army to the great offensive drives that eventually smashed the German Ostheer. Those trucks represent more than 70% of total Soviet vehicle production, freeing their industries to produce the war weapons, tanks, artillery pieces, and armored vehicles that equipped the Red Army.

The final victory of the Soviet Union is, however, a testament to the tough, fierce, and brave Russian soldier. His image, the hardened veteran soldier sitting atop a T-34 with PPSh in hand, scanning for a glimpse of the hated enemy, his mustard-colored quilt uniform covered with dust and snow, will endure for centuries in the collective consciousness of the Russian people.

The German invasion of the Soviet Union has never been comprehensively treated. The subject is far too large. It is too complex and incapable of being understood, except gradually, within the context of its salient events, and those of the rest of the world during and since. A thousand volume work on the subject would still require an explanation and a qualification that such a work was by no means all-inclusive. Yet, it remains one of the most compelling subjects for historians, social and military, because of the world-altering impact of the events themselves and their decades-long aftermath. The magnitude of the struggle defies modern understanding. As does the agony of the armies and the peoples locked in the grips of that mortal struggle.

And so it is likely to remain. And it began with the flash of cannon and the roar of engines, in the morning darkness, seventy-one years ago today.

(Cr0ss-posted at Bring the Heat, Bring the Stupid)



The news today carried the notice of the passing of actor Frank Cady, aged 96. Frank Cady was best known for playing shopkeep Sam Drucker on the 1960s sitcom “Green Acres”. Mr. Cady looked old then, which was more than 40 years ago. What strikes one who reads the cast list for “Green Acres” is the fact that actors who played three major characters, as well as the composer of the “Green Acres” theme song, were all veterans of World War II. (Warning: clicking on the link will cause that song to run through your head during important meetings and possibly religious services, so do so at your own risk. )

That composer was the late Vic Muzzy, who served in the United States Navy. Actor Alvy Moore, who played Hank Kimball, was a US Marine combat veteran in the South Pacific. And most notably, star Eddie Albert was a Navy salvage officer who experienced the terrible carnage on the beaches of Tarawa. He talked of his experiences in the 1993 History Channel documentary Death Tide at Tarawa. Moore passed away in 1997, Eddie Albert in 2005, and Muzzy in 2009. Frank Cady was the oldest and the longest-lived of them.

These stars are all gone now, as are most of the Hollywood veterans who put their careers on hold to serve our nation. Gone with them is their collective consciousness of service in wartime that made them so very different from those who act and produce what Hollywood makes and sells today. Not every change is for the better.

 

 



The lead ship of the magnificent Iowa-class battleships, the fastest and most advanced gun ships every to put to sea, has arrived at her new home, Berth 87 in San Pedro, opposite the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, itself newly renovated.

Iowa (BB-61) was saved from her Suisun Bay purgatory, and the cutting torch, and will be open for visitors on 7 July. The veteran of World War II and Korea was recommissioned in 1984, and suffered the tragic explosion in Turret 2 in 1989, which killed 47 sailors.

She now is the last of the four of her namesake class to be preserved, with New Jersey (BB-62) in Camden NJ, Wisconsin (BB-64 and Scott’s beloved Big Badger Boat!) in Norfolk, VA, and Missouri (BB-63) at Pearl Harbor, near Arizona (BB-39), forever in her watery depths at Berth F-7.

As a museum battleship, Iowa joins her sisters, and USS Massachusetts (BB-59) at Fall River MA, and USS Alabama (BB-60) in Mobile Bay, the two surviving South Dakotas, and the Grand Dame of US battlewagons, the venerable USS Texas (BB-35) at Galveston, TX. (Texas is the lone second-generation Dreadnought still extant, and saw service in both World Wars following her commissioning in 1914.)

Iowa began her journey from the “Mothball Fleet” in Suisun Bay in October 2011, to Richmond CA to repair and restore, scrape and paint, and replace rotted teak decks that are the inevitable result of twenty years’ time at the mercy of the elements. She also received the sprucing befitting a lady whom will be in the public eye. From there, she passed under the Golden Gate one last time late in May, and arrived off Los Angeles on Friday.

Many thanks to all those folks whose pictures I used in this post.

******************************************************************

As Mr. Robert Evans points out, I am guilty of a most egregious omission. USS North Carolina (BB-55) is preserved beautifully in Wilmington NC. Shame on me for missing the “Showboat”. Especially since it was a favorite destination during my two tours at Lejeune!!!



First, congratulations to the graduates of the various programs offered by the Marine Corps University who were honored on 6 June. You are an impressive group, you mid-career Marines, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Army officers, along with the remarkable group of foreign military students from Afghanistan to Ukraine who were your classmates.

For those of you who could not attend this ceremony, part of the MCU is the Command and Staff College (CSC) which enrolls Marine/AF/Army majors and Navy/Coast Guard Lieutenant Commanders who have taken on the challenge of a military career.*

If not all future generals or admirals, these CSC grads will be part of that core around which forms the U.S. military. And, yes, I know that there are those other Command and Staff schools who also annually send a couple of hundred of graduates out into the field for field commands but I was at this graduation.

For the graduates, a career milestone has been checked off. The first PME has been fulfilled.

Of the 204 or so 2012 graduates of the CSC about 164 received Masters of Military Science degrees. Unknowing civilians may scoff at such a degree, noting its apparent lack of usefulness in their civilian world.

That civilian world misses the point.

You want your military to have read Clausewitz, to have walked the fields of Gettysburg, to have studied logistics and read John Boyd, because that is the world of the military professional.

You want that hard-charging young major or LtCol to draw on more than just personal experience when the nation’s defense is in his or her hands.

So, again, congratulations to the grads. And a further congratulations to the American people. You should take pride that in the service of your country are such amazing young people.

Second, let me talk about the graduation speech for the class of 2012. The Assistant Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps delivered it.

It was short as such things go, but a couple of things struck me. In the absence of a transcript, you will have to live with my recollection (and I was not taking notes).

General Dunford pointed out that for some time there were few changes in the way in which the Marines went to war. He noted that when he entered the Corps, he was issued the same “cold weather gear” that his father had used in the Korean War (“not like the gear my father used, but the same gear”) and that a platoon leader in Korea or Vietnam would not have had difficulty, if magically transported to the future, with the tactics first employed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He then noted in past few years that great changes have occurred in the ways of war. Changes such that a Marine who fought in Afghanistan 6 years ago would not find things the same – there had been such a rapid revolution in tactics and equipment that the American battlefield was off in a new direction. A platoon once responsible for a limited front, now has coverage of a vastly larger area. Better communications, better equipment, and (I assume) better Marines allow such an expansion of responsibility.

So, Lesson #1: “Things change”

Then the challenge – he had a couple of good yarns about things that seemed, well, “unnecessary” at the time they occurred. He spoke of an effort he led, as a young colonel, to assess the threat to and protection of various key national infrastructure assets – ports and bridges and highways and the like – which his boss did not really appreciate the need for, at least in early 2001.

He also spoke of a paper written by a young officer that addressed the threat of “improvised explosive devices (IEDs or roadside bombs)” and suggested a look at the South African response to such weapons. All of which ultimately led to the MRAP vehicle. The paper was written in 1996 by an officer taking a “what if?” look at things.

Things change. You never know exactly how, so you need to be flexible and ready.

So, Lesson 2: “Challenge the conventional thinking.”

We no longer line up in box formations and attack in broad fronts. The aircraft is not just used for spotting targets. Submarines are not interesting novelties. Anti-ballistic missile systems can work. OODA.

Revolutions in military affairs were not led by assuming things have to be as they have been.

 I don’t know how many of the graduates were listening to the speech.

I can’t remember a single line of any graduation speech I have ever heard because, well, I had other things on my mind. Like getting the heck out of there.

But, if they were listening they should have heard the warning order implied in the softly delivered speech, which I took to be:

We do not know what you will face in the future, We only know that you will need to use your education and experience to face those challenges that come your way. We have added to your tool kit and trust you to put those tools to good use.

Our national defense is- well – you and your band of brothers in arms.

Be flexible, be ready, be strong.

Because you never know.

 

 

*And FBI/DEA/BATF/DOS and others



Over at OpFor, old comrade LTCOL P asks some thought-provoking questions as he links to an article by AOLDefense’s Sydney Freedberg. The article covers the happenings at UNIFIED QUEST, the United States Army’s Title 10 Wargame being held at The Army War College at Carlisle Barracks.

Go there. Ponder his questions, and read the article. Well worth your time.

Damage to Port of Cherbourg

UNIFIED QUEST is usually a pretty illuminating event, a “futures game” which posits the incorporation of as-yet unfielded technology or force structure, and the effects of that technology or structure on tactics and doctrine. Occasional bits of self-delusion occur (tactical “offensive cyber” being launched at a Bn Commander’s say-so with a server dropped into a remote airfield comes to mind), but overall, the game is well conducted and has had (in my years of participation at least) a very sharp and aggressive “Red Team”. This year appears to be no different.

What stands out in the AOLDefense article, fairly leaps from the page, is this exchange:

“You needed ports, [the enemy] knew you needed ports,” he said. “They were ready for you.” While the US-led task force maneuvered elaborately by sea and air to deceive the enemy commanders where they would land, ultimately the coalition had no way to bring in the supplies its own forces needed, let alone humanitarian aid, without controlling a handful of major seaports. So the enemy commanders ignored the feints — their militiamen lacked the kind of mobile reserve force that would have been needed to try to counter them anyway — and simply dug in where they knew the US would eventually have to come to them.

“We had to go here; we’re very predictable,” sighed one US Army officer later in the briefing. The military has invested in the capability to bring forces ashore where there is no port — formally called JLOTS, Joint Logistics Over The Shore — but the Army and Navy together only have enough such assets to move supplies for one reinforced Army brigade, while the Marines can land another brigade-plus. That’s only a fraction of the force required in this scenario. While the the resulting dependence on established infrastructure — seaports, airfields, bases in friendly countries — is often thought of as a purely logistical problem, in this kind of conflict it can have bloody tactical consequences.

We have spent a decade and a half (or more) talking about seizure of ports as the cheap and easy alternative to landing over a beach. Time and again, the refrain that port seizure was the far preferable alternative to coming ashore at the surf line was drummed into our ears. “Ports are smart, beaches are dumb” was how one senior Navy Officer explained it, somewhat condescendingly. Problem is, seizing a port which is surrounded by built-up area, under the noses of an enemy that knows you need it and knows it is, in fact, your critical vulnerability, never was going to be as easy as those port seizure advocates assumed it would be. (I did happen to notice none of them ever seemed to be infantrymen.)

Urban combat is never easy in the best of circumstances, but becomes especially challenging when you have a limited ability to transition forces from afloat to ashore without securing the very objective you are fighting for. Even an unsophisticated and largely immobile adversary can defend effectively if he knows where you are going and why. Cherbourg was destroyed by second-rate German garrison troops in June of 1944, even as US forces drove into the Cotentin Peninsula. The loss of that port affected the Allied drive across Europe into 1945.

One other point worth mentioning: The aforementioned JLOTS is not a system that can be used in an assault echelon. The loading of the ships and craft are not according to the Commander of the Landing Force’s (CLF) Landing Plan. JLOTS is a national asset which requires a secure beach over which to transit. The brigade coming ashore isn’t doing so in fighting trim. Very effective for bringing in follow-on assets, but not for forcing an entry.

So once again the value of landing combat-ready forces over a beach is highlighted. As is the paucity of current capacity to do so, which includes the near non-existent Naval Gunfire capability of the United States Navy.

Kudos to the Red Team at UNIFIED QUEST. Their job is to poke holes through the invalid assumptions in Blue Forces’ planning and execution, and they have done so here in a major way. Our assumptions regarding port seizures are at the top of this year’s list.

With a “Strategic Pivot” toward the Pacific, let’s hope those who read the Lessons Learned from UQ 12 are paying attention.

 

 



Over at Information Dissemination, there is a very telling post of a Q&A with Mike Petters, President and CEO of Huntington Ingalls Industries. Cruise on over, it is well worth the read.

Mr. Petters has been a panelist at several shipbuilding sessions at USNI West in the last several years, and always provides an invaluable and informed opinion on our nation’s ability to produce warships. His basic point is that shipbuilding is a “use it or lose it” proposition, a similar message to what he delivered at West 2012 and previous panel sessions. Also of note is his very pertinent assertion that shipbuilding, because of the complexity and long lead time to produce, must be anticipatory and not reactive.

History, as one might expect, bears out Mr. Petters’ assertion. The mighty United States Navy of 1944 and 45 had its origins long before the Japanese attack on the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Indeed, ten of the 24 Essex-class CVs had been ordered, and two laid down, prior to 7 December 1941. More than half of the 96 Benson/Gleaves DDs, and a number of the ubiquitous Fletchers, had been laid down by that date as well, as had a number of heavy and light cruisers, on the heels of the New Orleans-class CAs commissioned in the late 1930s. The three Yorktowns were brand new. The battleships North Carolina and Washington were nearing completion. The South Dakotas were laid down, and work was proceeding on all three. In short, when the demands of a two-ocean global war prompted the building of warships, auxiliaries, merchantmen, submarines, oilers, transports, and smaller vessels of all types, the United States had a running start.

Today, with just Huntington-Ingalls and General Dynamics, we are at a dead stop.

Mr. Petters also points to an immutable truth in all manufacturing, large and small; the great advantages of serial production. The interruption, the delay, the reduction of orders below the point of profitability have a cataclysmic effect on retaining a work force in sufficient numbers, and with the requisite long-lead skill sets that shipbuilding demands. Constant fiddling with the 30-year shipbuilding plan is a major problem for shipbuilders, and for their suppliers.

What is called for, he very rightly points out, is a long-range Navy strategy, one that is more than just bullet phrases with a thin and shrinking capability to accomplish even some of what that strategy calls for. From where I sit, I couldn’t agree more. In this year’s West 2012 Conference, I asked two questions of the Naval Officers on the shipbuilding panel. What is the size of the Navy required to execute the new Maritime Strategy? And what is the high-low mix? Both answers were largely the same. “We don’t know”.

For the sake of what is left of our shipbuilding capability, that answer is not acceptable. The security of the United States as a maritime nation depends on it.

As a historical aside, sixty-eight years ago today, preparations were being made for the landing of 130,000 men on a defended shore, from a force of more than a thousand ships, against a determined and skilled enemy. Power projection from the sea in a decisive battle. The landings I mention are those which were to be made on Saipan ten days later, on 15 June 1944.

Simultaneously, on the other side of the world this very night, half a million men were en route across the stormy and rain-swept English Channel, borne in 3,000 ships, to land on the coast of France and crack the walls of Festung Europa. D-Day, the invasion of occupied Europe, was about to begin.

Five years earlier, not one in ten of those ships which carried all those men and supplies, existed. We were, then, the “Arsenal of Democracy”, and our industrial might saved the world from German and Japanese tyranny. If we had to be so again, even on a much smaller scale, Mr. Petters’ question is a good one. “How long would it take?”

 

 



USCG photo by Seaman Ivan J. Barnes

Via ryanerickson.com

I honestly try not to dwell on the casualties of war. Not that I don’t have a heart; in fact, the exact opposite is true… I probably care too much. Nor have I given any serious thought to the wars beyond the current conflicts we’ve all watched unfold on the television since 2001.

However, this changed as of yesterday morning while I was listening to my wife try to explain to my daughters what a door gunner does; the job my father-in-law had as a helicopter mechanic in Vietnam. This came about when a vet walked past our van, which has a Virginia Coast Guard license plate, saying thank you for my service to which my wife and swiftly returned the thank you.

As we continued our day I continued thinking about what Memorial Day really was? Sure we know it’s the day we take pause and thank those who’ve given their lives for their country. Or perhaps it’s simply a three-day weekend for others. I’m guessing most outside of the military centric world of which I reside don’t give much thought as to why they are getting a three-day weekend. I don’t fault them though. The U.S. has fallen short on remembering our fallen. That, of course, is my own opinion.

I didn’t have to think too long though in terms of its meaning to Ryan. I didn’t lose any family members to the wars of past. I know of three family members who’ve fought in wars since World War II/Vietnam and they retuned. The combined U.S. deaths of these two wars alone was: 463,608. That equates to 463,608 people, and their families, I should be thanking for the safe return of two Grandfathers and a father-in-law. More so that is 463,608 people I should be thanking for the freedoms afforded to the people of the United States and other free nations of the era.

Memorial Day is not about the long weekend, nor the day itself. It’s about those who’ve died in battle to ensure you can live the way you do; to vote the way you do; to wake up knowing that you are in a free county- the way you do. I’m tempted to go on a rant as to how this county has seemingly given up on caring about those who’ve perished… but I won’t. Not today.

Monday, 28 May 2012 is Memorial Day. I’m not asking you to visit military grave sites to see the numbers yourself, nor am I asking you to go out and find a veteran who may have lost their best friend in battle. What I am asking, however, is that you and your family reflect for only a moment- whether in silence or discussion- as to what Memorial Day is and means. It doesn’t matter if you know someone who died or not… don’t let the reason for the day be lost on that fact that you don’t think it directly affects you today. Though you know it or not- it has.

To lean more about Memorial Day check out these links:



…is still very likely my enemy. The Associated Press, via WAPO, tells us that US intelligence sources think it likely that Al Qaeda is now in Syria, taking advantage of the strife. This little surmise should surprise nobody, and serve as yet another data point for the assertion that Al Qaeda is subsuming the “Arab Spring” and bringing rise to Islamists and Islamist-dominated governments across the Middle East and northern Africa.

A curious comment from SECDEF Leon Panetta:

“Frankly we need to continue to do everything we can to determine what kind of influence they’re trying to exert there,” Panetta said.

We do? After eleven years of war, and AQ migration to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, we need to determine what kind of influence they’re trying to assert? Seems we have a pretty good idea already. (Before the shrieks that MB is not AQ, those two organizations are tightly linked both philosophically and physically. The success of one is the success of the other.)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney informs:

“We do not believe this kind of attack that you saw in Damascus is representative of the opposition,” Carney said. “There are clearly extremist elements in Syria, as we have said all along, who are trying to take advantage of the chaos in that country — chaos brought about by Assad’s brutal assault on his own people.”

CJCS General Dempsey echoes Carney, in a Fox News piece:

“We do know that there have been extremist elements that are trying to make inroads in Syria,” he said. “That is to be distinct from the opposition. I’m not tying those together.”

But, as the Fox article asserts, sometimes the line between them is unclear. It will get increasingly blurred. The Al Nusrah Front is an Al Qaeda affiliate, merging with AQ similarly to how Al Shabaab in Somalia has done.

Perhaps at this juncture such attacks as the bombings in Damascus are not representative, but soon they will be. Al Qaeda will increase its influence and quickly push genuine opposition to Assad’s regime aside, and pave the way yet again for hard-line Islamists to firmly grip the levers of power. As they have done successfully in Egypt, and in Libya, and Tunisia, and are attempting in Yemen and Morocco.

Kudos to the Obama Administration for not rushing willy-nilly to provide weapons and support for the Syrian opposition. Even if they had started out as a viable counter to a repressive anti-Western dictatorship, the interjection (welcome or not, see: Al Shabaab) of Al Qaeda and the Islamic extremists into the vacuum of instability would quickly make such support an exceedingly ill-advised policy. +1

However, the President’s recent declaration of the demise of Al Qaeda and the end of the War on Terror (whatever one thinks of the name) is equally ill-advised, and does not reflect a realistic understanding of our enemies and their continued relevance in the Muslim world. At the very least, someone should have included a resilient, networked, and elusive enemy on the distribution list of the memo ending the GWOT. -1

In addition, there is the Administration’s abject refusal to name our enemies for what they are, Islamic Extremists, bent on the destruction of Israel and subjugation of the West. Recent publicity surrounding what was reported to be an anti-Islamic course of study by the Joint Forces Staff College will cause further reluctance to publicly identify our enemies, adding to the loss of focus and dissipation of the efforts to defeat an enemy that has vowed a multi-generational struggle against us. -2

 

 



In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta left little doubt as to whether the People’s Republic of China was assisting North Korea with their ballistic missile program. From the Reuters article:

“I’m sure there’s been some help coming from China. I don’t know, you know, the exact extent of that,” Panetta told members of the House Armed Services Committee when asked whether China had been supporting North Korea’s missile program through “trade and technology exchanges.”

While understandably unable to delve into details due to “sensitivity”, Secretary Panetta gave voice to the deep suspicions many have had since the beginning of China’s rise twenty years ago. It should be clear for all to see that China gains advantage by having a belligerent and nuclear-capable North Korea as a major thorn in the side of the United States in precisely the region that is the future focus of US Defense strategy, the Western Pacific.

The People’s Republic of China has consistently thwarted the efforts of the US and her allies to bring the DPRK under control China refused to condemn North Korea for the sinking of the ROK frigate Cheonan, which killed 46 ROK sailors. Nor did China offer any meaningful criticism for the shelling of Yeongpyong Island, which resulted in the deaths of two ROK Marines, other than an admonition not to “escalate”. When taken with the Chinese watering-down of UNSC sanctions against North Korea, continued military assistance, collaboration with DPRK in cyber attack efforts, ambivalence toward DPRK weapons and technology proliferation into the Middle East, and a blind eye to provocative border and SOF incursions into South Korea, these actions are indicators of China’s tacit approval of North Korea’s actions and posture.

There have been many who have sounded the warning klaxon. The issue has been addressed here, and the December 2011 Proceedings “Now Hear This” article by Defense analyst Joseph Bosco.

While China’s role in keeping the North Korean regime in power—and in the WMD business—is indisputable, analysts have offered unconvincing explanations of Chinese motives. U.S. experts have assured us that China shares our nuclear concerns but fears instability on the Korean peninsula. They accept China’s argument that even threatening to cut economic aid would collapse Kim Jong Il’s regime and trigger a refugee flow into China. But it has been clear for 60 years that the sole cause of instability between the Koreas has been Pyongyang’s own bizarre and dangerous behavior, despite substantial aid and concessions from accommodating South Korean governments. Yet China stands by its ally.

Indeed. Despite the consistent platitudes from Chinese diplomats and military officials of their willingness to be of assistance in “managing” North Korea, the reality is that China has very successfully played power politics in developing and maintaining North Korea’s military capabilities and belligerent posture. Chinese assistance to North Korea in developing a ballistic missile capability to carry a nuclear warhead well beyond the Korean peninsula is not a shocking aberration, but another in a long and consistent series of actions that cannot point reasonably to any other conclusion. North Korea will try again with the missile launch. And with Chinese assistance, they will eventually succeed.

The assertions to the contrary grow equally foolish-sounding, and detached from reality. One, in a rebuttal to the Bosco article, was that “The prospect of a better outcome lies not in blaming China but in working imaginatively with China and others to transform North Korea under new leadership”. Don’t you believe it. China has proven for decades they are more than willing to live with their recalcitrant southern neighbors, and the only “transformation” that Chinese leadership is interested in is making North Korea a more potent threat to the United States and its Western Pacific allies.

As has been said before, the time has long since come to recognize at the highest military and civilian levels of leadership in the United States that China is very far from being a benevolent ally, and even farther from sharing any kind of common interests or vision of either Asia and the Pacific Rim, or any other geographic region where they perceive their interests to lie. And this includes China’s subsidizing of the brutal, aggressive, repressive regime in North Korea.

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As if on cue, DPRK ratchets up the rhetoric. And this telling summation from MSNBC:

In Beijing, North Korea’s biggest ally, China’s top foreign policy official met Sunday with a North Korean delegation and expressed confidence in the country’s new young leader, Kim Jong Un.

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Seems the nuclear DPRK is no longer a hypothetical, if US estimates are correct. Which magnifies every last occurrence of Red China’s assistance to the Hermit Kingdom.

While below some comments express abhorrence of the spectre of a nuclear exchange, it is highly useful to remember that the People’s Republic of China and by proxy, her ally North Korea, do not necessarily share that view. I would caution the use of the term “well-reasoned” when framing the Korean peninsula in terms of American values and viewpoints. Which brings the argument back to that of being strong and capable enough with our conventional and nuclear arsenal to deter both countries from precisely the bellicosity that one has repeatedly threatened and the other has excused and minimized.

 



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