Archive for the 'Naval Institute' Category
Nearly twenty years ago, I first read the Qualifications of a Naval Officer, which was (at the time, apparently with a bit of inaccuracy) attributed to John Paul Jones.* As an 18-year-old, I found it interesting, cumbersome, romantic, and very hard to say quickly while “peas and carrots” was being shouted in my ear.
“It is by no means enough that an officer of the navy should be a capable mariner. He must be that, of course, but also a great deal more. He should be as well a gentleman of liberal education, refined manners, punctilious courtesy, and the nicest sense of personal honor. He should be the soul of tact, patience, justice, firmness, and charity. No meritorious act of a subordinate should escape his attention or be left to pass without its reward, even if the reward is only a word of approval. Conversely, he should not be blind to a single fault in any subordinate, though, at the same time, he should be quick and unfailing to distinguish error from malice, thoughtlessness from incompetency, and well-meant shortcoming from heedless or stupid blunder. In one word, every commander should keep constantly before him the great truth, that to be well obeyed, he must be perfectly esteemed.”
(from USNA’s Reef Points)
Recently I find myself thinking about it again…specifically, the middle of that third sentence, the part about refined manners and punctilious courtesy.
Election season grinds away, and dialogue in the media—especially on political matters—has (as usual) taken on ever-increasingly sharp and divisive tones. Print and online debate on many topics has begun to echo that trend. The internet, with comment forums and chat rooms that feature the safety of anonymity and the allure of a virtual open mike, feeds the beast. The most polite, civil article can attract an array of mean-spirited comments, with personal attacks leading the charge regardless of topic. And anyone who has taken a glance at the comments following news articles can attest to how rampant this form of “discussion” has become, where personal attacks and scornful dismissals stand in for real arguments and are considered actual debate. An entire area of research on the internet and so-called internet “trolls” studies why people act and speak to others this way and what it all means.
So what does this have to do with the naval services and the qualifications of a Naval Officer? The dismissive, disrespectful tone has bled over into apolitical professional discussions within the military, and has become a largely acceptable way to argue a point on military topics both in internet forums and journal commentary.
Way back in July, the Washington Post published an opinion piece by Robert J. Samuelson titled “Is the U.S. a land of liberty or equality?” tackling polarized discourse. While his writing largely addressed politics, his thoughts transfer well to professional and personal communication in general. One quote in particular stood out (I tried to take the liberal vs. conservative slant out to focus primarily on more general discourse):
“ Our national debates now transcend disputes over this or that spending program or tax and have become—in the minds of the combatants—a climactic struggle for the nature and soul of America…But in today’s politically poisoned climate, righteousness is at a premium and historical reality at a discount. Each side…behaves as if it has a monopoly on historical truth. The fear that the existence of their version of America is threatened sows discord and explains why love of country has become a double-edged sword, dividing us when it might unite.”
He’s got a good point. It’s easy to “win” an argument by painting others in broad, dismissive, and scornful strokes, and it’s more and more acceptable to try to do so in everyday discourse. But calling someone moronic, ignorant, or dangerous does not make them moronic, ignorant, or dangerous…and it has an alienating and cooling effect on true, meaningful debate. It has the added danger of the boy crying “wolf”: comparing someone to Hitler or using dramatic language reduces the power of those very words. And maybe one day we’ll need them.
It also does not make America—or the Navy and Marine Corps—better. People stop listening when they hear such a tone, so we win over no one and create echo chambers populated by those who think exactly like us. Instead of actually confronting problems and creating solutions, this further reinforces existing problems.
Nowhere is this truer than in the services, where we all start from a similar vantage point: many of us signed up because we feel a duty or calling to serve, we think it’s important, and we believe in this country with its faults and failures. Mutual respect, professional dialogue, and openness to true debate only strengthen the discussion. Not a single soul alive has a monopoly on intelligence and truth, so it’s a good thing that we all have different opinions and experiences, because the problems that we face as a nation and as a military will take all kinds of minds to confront and overcome.
It’s important to encourage debate and to discuss topics that cause concern, especially in today’s complex climate. But if the process of doing just that alienates everyone else, we’re defeated before we begin.
Back to John Paul Jones/Augustus C. Buell: he mentioned manners and courtesy right up there with honor. The services should not become as divided and polarized as the nation is, and given the tasks ahead of us for the foreseeable future, we cannot afford to be. We need voices out there…but we need them to be smart, honest, and respectful or they will get lost in the noise.
* The quotation actually comes from Augustus C. Buell (1900), who believed that this quote reflected was what John Paul Jones would have said, as later copies of Reef Points corrected.
The President of the United States visited the Pentagon yesterday to attend and speak at the Memorial Service for the victims of 9/11. Security was tight, but after a solemn service and a rather uneventful day, I departed work for home via the 5th corridor entrance. As I passed the 9/11 Memorial Chapel, which sits precisely at the point of impact for American Airlines Flight 77, I paused to reflect on what this place must have looked like 11 years ago and was thankful for how it looked now and the fact that nothing untoward had transpired on this 9/11 anniversary in our great country.
When I woke up this morning, I was deeply saddened by the news of the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya yesterday. Although I didn’t know how it happened, I did know that the United States had lost a great American, an accomplished diplomat and a courageous man. In my last job at U.S. SIXTH Fleet Headquarters, I served as Operations Officer for the Libya Campaign. I will never forget some of the “movers and shakers” that made things happen during Operation Odyssey Dawn and Operation Unified Protector. Three names in particular always come to mind: LTC Brian Linville, U.S. Army, Assistant Defense Attaché in Libya; Brigadier General Abdel Salam al-Hasi, a key member of the Libyan Opposition Forces who repeatedly risked his life during the campaign, and Chris Stevens, who as Special Envoy to the Libyan Trans-National Council was one of the first Americans on the ground.
All three of these men are heroes, but I will only pay homage to one of them today–Ambassador Chris Stevens. Chris and his small team of diplomats and volunteers from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) entered Benghazi not long after U.S. and NATO airpower had pushed Regime Forces out of the city and further south to the cities of Brega and Ajdabiya. It was then still a very dangerous and uncertain environment.
One of our roles in Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn was to provide a means to get Chris and his team out if they ran into trouble. There were several possible courses of action (COA) and means at our disposal. Each one carried with it associated risks. It was our job at JTF HQ to minimize those risks. For my part, I believed we were overlooking one big factor in our planning: A personal interaction with the guy we were going to have to extract. So, I arranged a phone call with Chris. There was a lot I wanted to discuss, but I knew he had his hands full. I just wanted to tell him one thing: “Chris, if you need us, the Navy and Marine Corps have got your back!”
It was a great conversation, much longer than I had anticipated. Chris was a wellspring of knowledge about what was going on. He was direct, candid and incredibly informed. When I hung up, I told VADM Harry Harris, then the Sixth Fleet Commander–”Boss, Chris Stevens is one phenomenal guy. Now I know why State sent him!”
Since no American military boots were allowed on the ground in Libya during the operation and since we were just massing Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets, we were starved for real time eyes-on-the-ground information about what was happening in the Transnational Council, in Benghazi and in the rest of the country. Chris was a virtual encyclopedia. I was struck by his upbeat tone and tenor and his calm and cool demeanor. He was under a lot of pressure and challenging deadlines to show American support for the Libyan people, provide an avenue and method for delivery of humanitarian supplies and establish a sound relationship with the Trans National Council. The odds were against his mission, but Chris was full of enthusiasm and hope for the Libyan people’s right to self-determination.
As number two man at our Embassy in Tripoli before the campaign, he was plugged in. He knew the turf and the terrain. He understood the people, the demographics and the tribal politics. He knew the importance of humanitarian aid and that speed mattered — being the first responder to the needs of the Libyan people was going to pay big dividends during the campaign. He helped clear up a number of important questions for us about conditions on the ground and how we might better do our job and carry out our charter inherent in the United Nations Security Council Resolution. Chris gave me better situational awareness than any of the intelligence reports I received and in the final analysis, I was buoyed by his spirit, hope and enthusiasm.
He made me want to work just a little bit harder. He made me want to be better at my job.
Finally, I was struck by how he went out of his way to thank the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps for doing so much to plan for his safety and that of his team. Thankfully, we never had to execute those plans. Chris completed his mission and his mandate. The Libyan Campaign came to a close and the Libyan people earned the right to govern themselves. Free and fair elections took place a few months ago and moderates won the majority in government. Earlier this year, Chris was confirmed as U.S. Ambassador and returned to Libya. His selection was a “no brainer” to me, and I thought to myself, that guy is going to make a difference.
Now, he is dead… killed in the very city he helped set free. I regret that I never had the chance to meet him in person or shake his hand.
Ambassador Chris Stevens is the epitome of what Admiral Mike Mullen used to call “expeditionary government.” After 9/11, everything changed and although sending our military forces overseas was necessary, it was by no means sufficient. Along with those forces, on the front line and in the trenches, are members of so many other federal agencies–the ultimate force multiplier. Like Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and Marines, our State Department and other agencies are operating by our side on the tip of the spear and assuming similar risks. My hat is off to these men and women who sacrifice much for their country.
In the case of Ambassador Stevens, he made the ultimate sacrifice. I salute him. The next time I see someone from the Department of State, I will say, “Thank you for YOUR service!” I hope you will do the same.
James G. Foggo
The U.S. Naval Institute lost a good friend earlier this week with the passing of Rear Admiral Robert McNitt at age 97. Tall, slender, friendly and invariably gracious, the
admiral was the personification of the word “gentleman.” Long-time Naval Institute volunteer George Van served on board the destroyer Taylor (DDE-468) during the Korean War, when McNitt was the commanding officer. Van remembers his skipper as, “the finest naval officer I ever met.”
In the 1960s, then-Captain McNitt was a member of the Naval Institute’s board of control, which provided governance for the organization and also reviewed articles for publication in Proceedings.
McNitt was an experienced seaman, starting before he became a Naval Academy midshipman in 1934. He had a lifelong interest in sailing. Among his achievements was serving as a crew member during Newport-to-Bermuda yacht races in the late 1930s.
In 1996 the Naval Institute Press published his book Sailing at the Naval Academy: an Illustrated History.
Last Friday, I had the pleasure of attending a change of office ceremony for the Navy Chief of Information (CHINFO) in the “Sail Loft” of the Washington Navy Yard in Southeast Washington, D.C. It was a gala event, that paid tribute to the incredible work ethic, energy and achievements of RDML Denny Moynihan during his four and a half-years on the job. RDML Moynihan was relieved by RDML John Kirby, another super-charged officer who is highly regarded in the Navy and the Navy Public Affairs community for his support of Admiral Mike Mullen as Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff and most recently, as the military spokesman for Secretary Leon Panetta in OSD Public Affairs.
By nature of his position as CHINFO, which supports the Office of the Secretary of the Navy and the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, RDML Kirby will have a direct impact on the Navy and Navy programs and people every day. He has myriad responsibilities that he will want to prioritize, but in many cases, the 24 hour news cycle will modulate and modify his priorities as current events involving U.S. Naval Forces unfold around the globe. As CHINFO, he will be one of the most important architects of the Navy’s Strategic Communications strategy.
Accordingly, he may want to examine our current “brand.” In enterprise terms, Strategic Communicators employ the marketing strategy of “branding” to focus on the objectives achievable with the goods and services that the company can offer its clientele. For example, the American Marketing Association (AMA) definition of a “brand” is a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.”
Sounds very business-like doesn’t it? But, let’s agree that the Navy has achieved some incredible efficiencies by adapting industry best practices to streamline support to the warfighter-Lean Six Sigma for example. So it follows that we might embrace “branding” as a method of unifying our strategic message to a target audience.
Since I joined the Service, we’ve adopted many different brands, even before the term and the enterprise approach became popular. Do you recall:
“It’s Not Just a Job… It’s an Adventure!”
“Let the Journey Begin!”
“Navy, Accelerate Your Life!”
And our current brand. “Navy. A Global Force for Good!”
Defining the target audience is part of the discovery process in adopting a brand. Those in the Human Resources aspect of what we do tell me that the target audience is the quality young men and women that we recruit annually to join our Service. We want the best and brightest from the pool of eligible young Americans. With an all-volunteer force, opportunities to learn new skills and be assured of job security, although necessary, are not enough – you need an appealing tagline! Human Resource specialists tell me that our current brand sells well with the Millennial Generation. Those joining our ranks today want job skills and a career, but they also want to make a difference-to be a part of a global team that has a raison d’etre- i.e. to make the world a better place. Recruiting, however, is normally tied to the economy and right now, our recruiting and retention statistics are pretty good. That could all change in a heartbeat with a major change in our economy, so it makes sense to keep a regular drumbeat on the theme of recruiting. Our brand is intended to attract and retain the very best, our challenge is to identify the Navy as a choice worth considering in the minds of those choosing and the minds of those providing advice and counsel.
I wonder however, if new recruits are the only audience? Shouldn’t our brand also appeal to the American taxpayers and their direct representatives on Capitol Hill? To the teachers, counselors, parents and coaches—those figures America’s youth look to when trying to figure out their personal way ahead? The point is that the “brand” has to appeal to a broad audience, with different levels of experience and different perspectives. The challenge is to reach and appeal to this wide audience with a clear and concise message of who we are.
In the marketplace, brands appeal to consumers and stifle the competition. Consumers of our brand are the American people, who want a safe and secure environment with conflicts resolved far from our shores. Our competition in the market of national security could be a peer competitor, a downright enemy of the state, or worst case – apathy and the belief that national security is someone else’s job. So, how will our brand keep us moving forward and deter our adversaries? This is an important question, if in fact you subscribe to the theory that our brand has multiple target audiences. Could we or should we change our brand to send a different message or a message to a different audience. I don’t have a good answer to these questions, so I thought we might benefit from the wisdom of the crowd–hence the reason for this blogging effort?
The CNO has given us three simple tenets and only six words on which to base our day-to-day fulfillment of our duties: Warfighting First! Operate Forward! Be Ready! Does our brand convey these three tenets? Do we need more than one brand for more than one audience? Do we need a brand at all?
I always liked the poster of the Aircraft Carrier that you see in many Navy Facilities-”90,000 tons of diplomacy.” A picture is often worth a thousand words, but that picture combined with that caption conveys many things about our Navy and our great country. It champions our industrial base and the United States’ ability to construct and operate not one but eleven nuclear powered aircraft carriers. It illustrates our ability to operate from our sovereign territory—the flight deck of the carrier—anytime and anyplace where our national interests may be threatened or where a helping hand may be needed. It epitomizes our ability to take the fight to the enemy far away from our shores. Finally, it sends the message that when diplomacy or deterrence fails, standby! American resolve and wherewithal will be there, ready to act if called upon. Perhaps we should adopt a brand that does all that?
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Those of you who may have read the addresses which Admiral Knight delivered to various classes that were received and graduated during his term as president of the college, must have been struck not only by his complete grasp of the subject of the higher education of officers, and by his profound philosophical reflections, but also by his remarkable eloquence and by his peculiar and, for a naval officer, unusual ability in expressing his thoughts in clear, forcible and elegant phrase.
I know of no officer who is his equal in this respect, and this necessarily places his successor at a disadvantage. I shall therefore make no attempt to charm your ears by polished periods or demand your attention to abstract reflection, but shall confine my remarks principally to a plain recital of certain experiences in peace and in war, designed to illustrate by concrete examples some of the practical advantages of the application of War College principles and methods in general service. Whether or not these experiences will interest you will depend upon the value you may place upon them.
But in the first place let me state that it is with sincere regret that I have to apologize to the members of the graduating class, and also to the members of the staff, because of my many unavoidable absences from the college and the time-consuming occupations which have prevented my enjoying the more intimate association with them which I earnestly desired, and fully anticipated when I resumed my duties as president one year ago.
But, though I have not been able to take as active a part in the work of the college as I desired, and as I hope to take hereafter. I beg to assure the class that my interest in their studies has been none the less earnest, and that I thoroughly appreciate the spirit with which they have entered into their work and the assistance they have thereby rendered the college in its primary mission, which is the development of principles, and training in the application of these principles to practical situations.
The class now about to be graduated is not only the largest but, in some respects, the most distinguished that has ever taken the course at the college, certainly so in respect of the average rank and experience of its members; and they therefore have it the more in their power to promote the welfare of this institution, and consequently the welfare of the navy as a whole, by the influence which it will be their privilege and their duty to exert when they return to general service.
This service will include many of the navy’s most important activities. Some of these will be in positions of command involving various degrees of responsibility for the success of the organizations and the personnel committed to your charge. It has been the object of the college not only to develop and define the principles of naval warfare, but to indicate the methods by which these principles may be applied with the maximum success. I have considered you, and would have you consider yourselves, hardheaded practical men who have been engaged for a year, not in purely academic speculations upon the theory of warfare, but in working out the best methods of increasing the fighting value of the navy as a whole. I am sure that you understand and believe that the teachings of the college are eminently practical, and that the service would be greatly benefited if all of our officers could take the course. As this is manifestly impracticable, it follows that if the whole commissioned personnel of the navy is ever to acquire a working knowledge of the principles and practice of naval warfare, it must be through the effort and influence of the college graduates exerted upon the personnel under their command.
It would, of course, be desirable if more or less systematic instruction and training could be given whenever circumstances permit, as is the case with the considerable personnel now immobilized in the Philadelphia navy yard. These conditions are, however, temporary and wholly exceptional, and it is recognized that such a War College extension would not be practicable in the active fleet to anything like the same degree.
We have lost a truly great one. Military Historian and analyst Sir John Keegan, OBE, has died at the age of 78.
The Telegraph announced the death of this nonpareil author and military historian. No serious student of the Profession of Arms should fail to read Keegan’s seminal work, The Face of Battle, nor many of his other numerous and superlative works, including The First World War, The Second World War, Six Armies at Normandy, and The Price of Admiralty.
Keegan’s genius in explaining the incomprehensible, warfare, at all its levels, was simply remarkable. His was a once-in-a-century intellect, and he shall be missed.
Russia has been increasing the reach of its navy in recent years, sending warships further afield as part of an effort to restore pride project power in a world dominated by the U.S. military.
That throws a wrench in our Maritime Strategy, it would seem. Or does it? What should our reaction be, militarily? And what, diplomatically? Should there be any?
It seems that USNS Rappahannock has fired on a small craft that ignored warnings and closed with her in the Persian Gulf. From the NBC News article:
The crew aboard the Navy ship sent out repeated warnings, including radio calls, flashing lights, lasers and ultimately warning shots from a 50-caliber machine gun. When the boat failed to heed the warnings, the crew was ordered to open fire with the 50-caliber gun.
It will be critically important that US civilian and military leadership emphasizes the above, and plasters images and accounts of USS Cole all over the news immediately and persistently for the next several weeks. We should be very proactive in letting the world know that there is a terror threat to US warships and auxiliaries posed by small craft, and any such vessel that ignores the warnings as were summarized above will be fired upon and destroyed.
We mustn’t begin the oh-so familiar course of meekly apologizing for having to kill those who threaten us. If we do, we will see many more actions such as this, likely designed to cause us to fit ourselves for ever-tighter handcuffs and more restrictive rules of engagement in combat on land and sea, which the enemy will use to increasing advantage to exploit his strengths and our weaknesses. On the contrary, we must be firm and aggressive with our reaction to the incident. Actions without strong narrative are subject to interpretation.
If the United States, and in particular the United States Navy, has any sense of true ‘strategic messaging”, we will let the rest of the world know that, should another small craft ignore similar warnings, it, too, will be fired upon. And any death or injury that results from such incidents is the responsibility of those who willfully ignore the warnings, and on those who likely have sent them.
This post is part of a group covering a Lockheed Martin media event for the F-35 Lightning II. For an analysis of the fighter’s potential as an unmanned aircraft, visit news.usni.org. For my discussion of the Joint Strike Fighter as an international acquisitions program, visit the NextWar blog at the Center for International Maritime Security.
The F-35 Lightning II, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, has seemed to be the third rail of defense acquisitions. The aircraft program’s costs and operational role have been thoroughly discussed both here and elsewhere. When USNI kindly offered me the opportunity to represent them at a Lockheed Martin event, I felt daunted by the volumes of ink spilled to date on the subject. But, I think the JSF program as suffered from polemic coverage and needs some measured commentary. I learned a lot and hope this knowledge serves as an antidote to the vitriol surrounding this aircraft:
- Whatever its costs and however well the F-35 does or does not fit American strategic and operational interests, nobody says it isn’t an impressive aircraft in its own right. This is a point worth saying out loud. At one point, we were shown infrared video from a test flight. We could see on the camera an outline of a Joint Strike Fighter on the tarmac – that was the place where the aircraft was parked 45 minutes before. The F-35 could sense the difference in solar heating of the runway caused by the aircraft’s shadow after that amount of time – incredible! While I think President Eisenhower’s statements on the military-industrial complex are worth heeding, America and its partners are pioneering impressive new technologies to increase our military capabilities. The bottom line: how can we best leverage the capabilities of the F-35 in a continually evolving threat environment? And how can we use technologies pioneered in this program to support other platforms? Answering these questions would allow the United States to recoup more of its significant investments in this program.
- Lockheed was open to discussing the different cost estimates of the program. I was expecting to have a certain figure placed in front of me. But Sam Grizzle, Lockheed’s Director of Communications for Aviation, admitted on the subject of costs that “other folks may come up with a different number.” This transparency impressed me. Further, Lockheed employed an interesting defense of the JSF program’s cost. We often compare the JSF to other acquisition programs in the present or to similar ones of the past. Essentially, they argued that you would have to compare the JSF program to whatever alternative DoD would have pursued (each service independently pursuing different strike fighters, for example). It’s difficult to prove a negative – so we ultimately can’t know whether a different program might have been a better alternative. I can think of many counter-arguments to this line of reasoning, but they only made my head hurt. Ultimately, people with differing views on the cost of the program will continue to circle each other in a rhetorical dogfight, but the aircraft is in production and so I think that discussion is moot for those in uniform. Our civilian government will make financial choices to meet our national priorities. A very interesting dialogue does remain, however, on how the aircraft will be employed, and this is where we as a community can contribute – Galrahn has some interesting thoughts on the JSF as a command and control platform and I wrote a piece on unmanned JSF’s for news.usni.org.
- Many have noted that the Navy’s F-35C has a single engine like all other variants – at first blush, this lack of redundancy would give me pause if I were alone over the ocean at night. But the F-35’s engine is shrouded as a stealth measure. I asked Lockheed officials whether this might mitigate foreign-object damage and increase the engine’s resiliency. They said, “That’s an interesting question.” I was surprised that they hadn’t studied this in detail. The bottom line: is the F-35’s single engine more reliable and survivable compared to past engines? Claiming that two engines are better because that’s how we’ve done it in the past is flawed reasoning. It’s also neglects our history, as many of the retired fighter pilots in the room reminded me. In 1958, the Navy was deciding between the single-engine Vought F8U-3 and the twin-engine McDonnell F4H. The safety record of twin versus single-engine airplanes was examined and determined to not be a deciding factor. The only twin-engine airplane at the time was the A3D Skywarrior, which had two engines because it was too big to be powered by only one. At 40,000 lbs. of thrust, the JSF doesn’t need two engines by this measure. Also, looked at from a different side, having two engines simply doubles the chance that one fails. There are control and stability issues on one engine and it’s unclear whether a dual-engined JSF could reasonably make a carrier landing on a single engine. Personally, I’d like to see more data – and anyone wanting to have a reasoned discussion of this issue should as well.
- I learned a lot about the international program, which I’ll cover extensively at the other blog I contribute to, CIMSEC’s NextWar blog.One interesting note: the event showed USNI’s influence in stark relief. Once the floor was open for questions, the first two focused on the Chief of Naval Operations’ recent Proceedings article “Payloads over Platforms.” These questions weren’t from me, but from bloggers from other venues. It was a moment that underscored how much the Naval Institute frames the discourse on maritime security.
Lockheed was reluctant to discuss the piece, at one point Lockheed’s Bob Rubino joked “CNO’s article? Didn’t see that…” Many have taken the CNO’s piece – especially his discussion on the limitations of stealth – as an indictment of the F-35 program. But if you read the piece closely, I think a better summary would be that stealth is important, but isn’t the sole determinant of a successful aircraft.
The Joint Strike Fighter inspires strong feelings in both supporters and detractors, and so it’s difficult to have a measured discussion of the program. What’s clear is that the Navy, the United States, and many allies and partners are counting on the program’s success. After today, any discussion of the program that isn’t constructive towards that end holds little interest for me.
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?