Archive for the 'From our Archive' Category
This is a very brief review and recommendation for a book that I discovered recently. Admiral Wylie’s short Military Strategy (about 85 pages in the original edition) was published in 1967, but written in the mid-fifties while Wylie was “at sea in a single-screw low-speed amphibious cargo ship.” He remarked these ships were “not demanding of a captain’s attention as is, for instance, a destroyer.”My copy was published in 1989 by the Naval Institute Press as part of their Classics of Seapower series and has an excellent preface by John B. Hattendorf that will give those unfamiliar with Wylie’s life experience a good foundation. This copy also has a postscript written by Wylie “twenty years later” and three related essays published previously in Proceedings magazine.
Given Military Strategy’s brevity, I’ll resist the urge to provide long quotes. Wylie and an associate’s search for articulating the relevance of the navy in the never-ending budget battles brought them in contact with the famed mathematician John von Neumann of Princeton. Wylie used a paraphrase of von Neumann as a starting point: “With respect to strategy as a subject of study, its intellectual framework is not clearly outlined, and its vocabulary is almost nonexistent. These two primary tasks are badly in need of doing…” He sets out to do just that and does a nice job.
Wylie defines strategy as: “A plan of action designed in order to achieve some end; a purpose together with a system of measures for its accomplishment.” He discusses the military mind and strategy, and how often the military focuses on principles to the exclusion of real strategy. Wylie outlines methods of studying strategy that are simple and well thought-out. Wylie makes a compelling case for a general theory of strategy. He says: “A theory is simply an idea designed to account for actuality or to account for what the theorist thinks will come to pass in actuality. It is orderly rationalization of real or presumed patterns of events.” Further, he continually stresses the importance of assumptions being based in reality, and not wishful thinking or the last war/battle.
His chapter on existing theories is worth the price of the book. He provides a type of Cliff’s Notes overview of the four theories he sees as core: the maritime, the air, the continental, and the Maoist. Of the last, he masterfully lifted sections from Mao’s On Guerilla Warfare, Che Guevera on Guerilla Warfare, and Vo Ngugen Giap’s People’s War People’s Army. He observed of the later, “these books are not only theory, the portray a hard reality of contemporary warfare.” To our people in uniform, in particular, unfamiliar with these books, Wylie provides an accessible and informative introduction to the type of war being waged by Islamic jihadists and how they attempt shape the battle field.
He develops a brilliant point that destruction doesn’t necessarily translate into control, and that often destruction is driven more by emotion than strategy.
Wylie goes on to provide a general theory of strategy that, using his words, has “substance and validity, and practicality.” As Seydlitz89 said in a recent comment thread here: “Wylie is amazing. So many ideas in such a small book! He misread Clausewitz and overrated Liddell Hart – which are probably connected, but overall? He comes up with some very basic ideas about strategic theory which are ever sooooo useful. I’ve re-read his small book several times and always come up with something that either I’d forgotten or that I had missed earlier. Wylie’s basic approach to theory is as a practitioner, not as an academic, much like Clausewitz before him.”
Indeed, Wylie provides a nice scaffold for any type of strategy, military or business. For me his approach was refreshing in a genre where, more often than not, dogma and ego walk hand-in-hand. Time and again, he offers that his ideas may be wrong and encourages readers to think and wrestle with the concepts provided. Wylie writes in his postscript: “As far as I know, no one as ever paid attention to it [the book]. I don’t know whether this is because it is so clear and obviously valid that no one needs to, or because it is of no use at all. I suspect it could be the latter, but I really do not know.”
This little book comes with my highest recommendation. If you’re in uniform and just getting started with strategic concepts/thinking, this is an excellent place to start.
Interesting referenced titles:
Cross-posted on Zenpundit.com
On May 26, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Columbia University President Lee Bollinger signed an agreement aboard USS Iwo Jima “formalizing their intention to reinstate Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) programs at Columbia” after an absence of 40 years. The history between the Navy and Columbia dates back to at least the Jacksonian era.
On February 3, 1830, Columbia College President William Alexander Duer wrote to Commodore Isaac Chauncy – then in command of the Brooklyn Navy Yard – offering schooling at Columbia for local young naval officers under certain specified terms. Chauncey forwarded the suggestion to Secretary of the Navy John Branch: “This proposal is a liberal one, not more expensive than the navy yard schools…I certainly should prefer a Naval School, if Congress would authorize one.” He echoed this sentiment to Duer: This proposal seems to me to be liberal and fair, and I am sure that great good would result to the service by accepting it.” Chauncey recommended to Branch attaching a naval officer to the college for “superintending the young officers, and enforcing discipline.”
It’s unclear if any naval officers were non-matriculated students at Columbia that decade, but if President Duer made the recommendation to the Navy, perhaps it was because he had some familiarity with the organization.
Following is a summary from Christopher McKee’s A Gentlemanly and Honorable Profession: The Creation of the U.S. Naval Officer Corps, 1794-1815*:
Duer was the son of William Duer, a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Alexander Hamilton; his maternal grandfather was Revolutionary War General William Alexander (aka Lord Stirling.) Duer went bankrupt when his extensive private speculations collapsed and he died in debtor’s prison in May 1799. The younger Duer was “forced to abandon legal studies at the height of the Quasi-War with France to accept an appointment in the navy” and assigned to the frigate John Adams in the Caribbean On June 16, 1800, in Martinique, one of his fellow midshipman claimed Duer stabbed him in the thigh. Admonished by Lieutenant Francis Ellison, Duer again attempted to draw his dirk then struck Ellison and stated that he would murder him and others on the ship. He was ordered to stand trial by court martial.
Duer’s mother, Lady Catherine Duer appealed directly to President John Adams that her son be allowed to resign his commission rather than stand trial. Adams “urged [Secretary of the Navy] Stoddart to accept the resignation of ‘this unhappy youth,’ and threw most of the blame on [the frigate] Adams’s commander, Richard V. Morris, for not controlling the amount of wine consumed by the midshipmen’s mess at Dinner.” Duer returned to law school, practiced law, and became a politician and judge before becoming president of Columbia College.
LCDR Claude Berube is a member of the USNI Editorial Board and teaches at the U.S. Naval Academy. He is currently writing his doctoral dissertation about Andrew Jackson’s navy.
*This correspondence can be found at the National Archives, Center for Legislative Archives (House Committee on Naval Affairs, HR21A-D17.5).
*Duer/Chauncey Correspondence courtesy of Columbia University Archives
By popular vote, Naval Institute blog wins best Navy Blog from the military blogging conference sponsored by military.com and USAA.
This is entirely due to the guest bloggers who take time (unpaid) to share their voice on this blog and to those who participate in the comments to continue the dialogue…and to all of those who dare to read, think, speak, write, and blog…
…and by archive – we mean the ‘collective we’ archive. Part of the U.S. Naval Institute’s mission is to honor those who serve.
There are a number of staff, many contributors, and a whole bunch of members who served in Vietnam. And some, who actually didn’t come home that day – staying behind as Advisors, like those in Iraq and soon, Afghanistan. And those who never come home at all.
If you are anywhere near a Vietnam veteran today, physically – or virtually, welcome them home – or/and welcome home a current veteran.
By Pfc. Chelsea Flowers
On March 30, 1973 all U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam. Instead of receiving a welcome fitting for the sacrifice they made for this country, the majority of the returning troops were met with criticism and hostility.
Frustration. Anger. Disloyal. Unappreciated. All of these words could describe the possible feelings and thoughts that went through the minds of these individuals. Some of these troops were drafted, yet still fought and died for the lives of the men to their right and left, only to be diminished for their accomplishments upon their return.
Over nine million military personnel served during the Vietnam War. Of that number 58,156 lost their lives, while 303,704 were wounded in action.
Politics played a key role in the lack of respect that was due to these individuals. Back then those who were against the war did not support the troops like many do today. Now, government is taking an opportunity to return that respect to the troops.
The U.S. Senate passed a resolution on March 7, 2011, declaring March 30 “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.” The resolution currently awaits a decision by the House. This day will be recognized across the U.S. as a day of commemoration, a day to pay the proper respect to the veterans who sacrificed so much during the war.
Vietnam Veteran’s Day is a chance to repair the wrong done to these troops. The people of the United States can finally pay the respect due them.
Many cities and states have events planned for these veterans. Marines from Marine Corps Logistics Base in Barstow, Calif., have planned a ceremony honoring the Vietnam troops, followed by a parade through Fort Irwin. The base is also hosting a motorcycle ride in their honor.
We should all take this day to give our appreciation to our Vietnam veterans. Taking time out from our busy lives to give thanks for the sacrifices of those who we don’t know is a display of kindness and admiration that means so much to those who expect so little.
Thank you all for what you have done. Semper Fidelis.
“All it takes is all you’ve got.” ASM American
Proceedings, May 1923, Volume 49, Number 5, Whole Number 243
When I was informed by Colonel Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, that I was to be invited to go to Boston and speak to this distinguished audience I must confess to experiencing a feeling of dismay such as I have rarely felt in the presence of much graver danger. This feeling was prompted not so much by my sense of inexperience in public speaking, or doubt of your kindly forbearance, as by the thought that while this would be a wonderful opportunity to present the case for the Navy to an audience whose influence might in the future prove a factor in determining the course of our naval policy, my failure to enlist your interest in the problems of the Navy would be a matter of abiding regret.
The reasons why you should stand firmly in support of the Navy are to me so obvious that I hope no eloquence of mine will be necessary to convince you, once you are in possession of the facts.
What I have to say to you is wholly from the national standpoint. That is the standpoint of the Navy. The Navy is not concerned with party politics. It exists only as an arm of the executive authority whether that authority be Democratic or Republican. We are not interested in the political rivalries of states, or districts, or counties, or municipalities. Of all those things the average voter knows a great deal more than I do. But when our average voter speaks of America as a nation and considers the rights, duties and interests of America as one of a family of nations, a family with many conflicting and discordant interests, his ignorance is apt to be alarming. I think you will agree with me when I say that but a small fraction of our citizens are qualified to cast an intelligent vote, on any international question, with any clear understanding of the issues involved. I fear that only a few hundred thousand out of our twenty odd million of voters are sufficiently informed to cast a vote that would conserve our national interests and yet the safety of our country must necessarily rest on the knowledge and intelligence of our electorate.
If popular government is not to fail, our voters cannot take up too soon the earnest study of their duties and responsibilities as citizens of America. Our country has become so vast and so diversified in its interests that those voters capable of taking a broad national view of our necessities are in danger of sharing the fate of the dodo. Yet statesmen can accomplish little without your support.
John J. Ingalls once defined a statesman as a successful politician who is dead. We need support for those good men in office who are earnestly striving to be statesmen while yet alive.
I know of no nobler mission for our newly enfranchised women than to start a crusade for better national citizenship, and I know of no better center for such a crusade than this splendid old city of Boston that has cradled so many of our national ideals.
But I am to speak to you of the Navy and surely the Navy’s interests are the country’s interests.
One of the principal reasons for the adoption of our Constitution was to provide for the common defense. Our fathers decided in their wisdom to provide one Army and one Navy to defend all the people in common, so the Navy belongs to the people as a whole. Each of you is a stockholder in this great organization. Its property is valued at over three billions of dollars. It is not only your right but your duty to share in its management.
Now why should a Navy exist at all? If we go back to first principles, in order to live and prosper we must have law and order. To have law and order, society must be organized and live under some system. As the world is still inhabited by all kinds of people, good, bad, and indifferent, and not as yet by God’s white angels, it is necessary that certain physical sanctions be provided to insure obedience to the law. Even the most primitive rural community has in addition to its law book and its justice of the peace, a constable. Now just as in our domestic relations we must have our federal, state, and municipal police, so in our international relations there must be provided an Army and Navy as a physical sanction of our international laws, conventions, treaties, and policies. Any other conclusion would involve an absurdity. For if, in dealing with each other in our most highly civilized communities we must still rely upon force to guarantee us our just rights, how can we expect to do without force and yet obtain justice from strangers whose interests are not our interests, and who quite naturally are seeking their own advantage? More than one statesman has said “our foreign policy is as strong as the Navy and no stronger.”
The Past is Prologue: A Brief Survey of Proceedings Contributors from 1875-1919
There are many theories on the genesis of military innovation. One theorist, Vincent Davis, suggested in his 1967 work “The Politics of Innovation: Patterns in Navy Cases,” that the innovation advocate in the Navy is “usually an officer in the broad middle ranks.” If this is true, then the concepts which help the United States Navy and Marine Corps operate in the next maritime conflict may very well come from today’s junior officers. It’s why it’s important for those same mid-grade and junior officers to critique rather than criticize policies, programs, processes and platforms and articulate them respectfully in an appropriate forum. Who among those of us over forty would have predicted the respective roles of Youtube as political campaign game-changers, or Facebook and Twitter as a communication method during Iran’s Green Revolution in 2009 or the recent riots in Tunisia? Yet those who are half our age employed those tools daily as second-nature much as my generation grew up with a rotary phone and that seemingly musical necessity – the 8-track tape. Might some of our sailors have predicted the social media applications for military operations if they had written about them in a naval forum?
As a member of the U.S. Naval Institute for nearly twenty years and as a recent addition to its Editorial Board, I conducted a brief survey last month on the founding of USNI as a forum for understanding the country’s naval force to see what role, if any, our more junior officers had in writing for the magazine, building a dialogue on critical issues, and advancing concepts that would propel the U.S. Navy as a global power in the 20th century.
For this exercise, nearly 1,500 articles were tabulated from 1875 to 1919 by contributor rank and then sorted by decade. Civilians contributed a large number; these largely included civilians employed by the Navy as naval constructors or instructors at the Naval Academy.
The number of articles increased over the course of the first four decades (see Graph 1) due primarily to the increased frequency of publishing Proceedings as it developed from a quarterly, to a bimonthly, to a monthly journal. A brief drop in the number of articles during the 1890s was a result of longer articles, professional notes, and war reports, leaving less space for more articles.
Who wrote for Proceedings? The top group of contributors was, surprisingly, civilians with approximately 450 articles (see Graph 2). They were followed by lieutenants with nearly 350 articles. Combined, however, lieutenants and lieutenant commanders published 748 articles – half of all articles published in Proceedings. Interestingly, lieutenants and lieutenant commanders also accounted for most of the annual prize essay contests.
Among only officer contributors, junior officers led the way. More than half of all officer contributors were ensigns, lieutenant junior grades, and lieutenants. (see Chart 1) Among the mid-grade officers, the majority of contributors were lieutenant commanders. Admittedly, this was a period in the navy’s history when senior billets were rarer, resulting in older junior- to mid-grade officers.
The demographics changed throughout this time period (see Graph 3). During the first two decades of Proceedings, most officer contributors were O-3s and O-4s; absent were writers at the rank of commander and above. This changed dramatically from 1900-1909 not because senior officers suddenly participated, but because many were the same officers, such as Bradley Fiske, who had written for Proceedings at more junior ranks.
Some of the first authors for Proceedings from 1875 to 1889 were names later known for their naval contributions: Bradley Fiske, known for several inventions and prescient concepts, wrote at several ranks including as a Rear Admiral, later becoming President of the U.S. Naval Institute. During his tenure, the USNI secretary was a lieutenant commander who had first written for Proceedings as a lieutenant in 1909 and who eventually rose to the rank of Fleet Admiral, Ernest King. A subsequent secretary was Lieutenant Commander Isaac Kidd. Commander Alfred Thayer Mahan contributed an article on naval education in the 1870s. The 1880s witnessed articles by Lieutenant – later Rear Admiral – Reginald Rowan Belknap on the naval policy of the U.S., Lieutenant Richard Wainwright who later won the Medal of Honor.
While the time required to flesh out a concept may sometimes seem daunting in the face of long hours deployed or otherwise on duty, there are opportunities. For example, the Naval War College requires papers for its courses. Consider writing those papers not simply with the intent of getting a grade, but in the hope that it can be published (two of my NWC papers were published in Orbis and Vietnam Magazine while others were rejected, but it is possible.)
Was every article superior, every concept groundbreaking from 1875 to 1919? Perhaps, perhaps not, but at least they got the dialogue started on important issues to our Navy and Marine Corps. As it should be today. Just as it is important that the wisdom of today’s leadership foster the dialogue and provide guidance for more junior personnel, it is equally important that junior and mid-grade officers and sailors to see the Navy, Marine Corps and the world around them, to identify trends, recognize emerging challenges, and to challenge the status quo itself respectfully, logically, and in an articulate and persuasive manner. Just as they did at the end of the 19th century.
Lieutenant Commander Claude Berube, USNR is a member of the USNI Editorial Board and frequent contributor to Proceedings and Naval History. He teaches at the U.S. Naval Academy. The opinions expressed are his own and not those of the Department of the Navy.
The words today from China regarding North Korea’s act of war should come as a surprise to nobody. Anyone watching with an objective eye could see the direction in which appeals for condemnation from The People’s Republic of China were heading.
Sure, there was some speculation on the “delicate” position China was put in by North Korea’s actions. How North Korea threatened “regional stability” and “economic prosperity”, both of which were China’s REAL interests. How China could not “read the Pyongyang tea leaves”, and was as in the dark as the West regarding Kim Jong-Il’s intentions, or that of his designated successor, Kim Jong -Un. How the threat of “masses of North Korean refugees” streaming across the North Korea-China border would spur China to action.
Believe none of it.
Red China is a master of power politics, a game most of the West, America included, seems not only to have lost any taste for, but of late all but refuses to admit exists in the international realm. President Obama yesterday used strong words to condemn the actions of the North Koreans, and pledged US support for South Korea against any aggression from the North. He also appealed strongly to China to keep their renegade neighbors to the south reigned in. So far, as in each and every other instance of the last decade, including the sinking of a ROK Navy frigate this past Spring (with the loss of 46 sailors), China’s response has not substantively altered. Once again, intransigence regarding their North Korean allies.
This, from Bloomberg:
President Barack Obama’s call for China to put more pressure on North Korea to stop military attacks on South Korea may go unheeded in Beijing, where officials refuse to pin any blame on their ally, analysts say.
Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak called for China to use its influence to control North Korea’s behavior, following yesterday’s deadly artillery salvo. Four people were killed and 20 wounded, mostly soldiers, when Northern forces shelled the island of Yeonpyeong in the first attack of its kind since the 1950-1953 civil war.
“China thinks the most important and urgent goal right now is to make sure there won’t be any escalation of the conflict, rather than finding out who’s responsible,” said Yang Xiyu, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, a group attached to China’s foreign ministry.
The statement, particularly the insistence on limiting escalation rather than “finding who’s responsible”, is almost verbatim what was said at the time of the North Korean torpedoing of the ROK frigate Cheonan. (This, after our Secretary of State presented indisputable proof to Chinese leadership, a major thumb in the eye of US policy makers.)
As has been said often before, North Korea is as China allows and encourages North Korea to be. Rationalization otherwise is foolish, and reflects a dangerously naive optimism that The People’s Republic of China feels compelled to follow the same rules as does the United States and her allies when executing her diplomacy. It is worth stating again:
Under China’s benevolent protection, Kim Jong Il and his father before him, have done the following:
- Developed a nuclear capability
- Tested several weapons in 2006 and 2009
- Advanced ICBM ranges and capabilities
- Defied international pressure to desist in those nuclear programs
- Executed several SOF border incursions into South Korea
- Supplied arms to Hezbollah and Hamas through their Iranian proxy
- Shipped (and attempted to ship) likely nuclear and other WMD components to the Middle East
- Engaged, almost certainly with China’s technical assistance, in a cyber attack against the United States and South Korea
- Is likely involved heavily in counterfeit and narcotics trades
- Torpedoed and sank a ROK warship in international waters, killing 46 ROK sailors
- Fired artillery into South Korean territory without provocation, killing four ROK service members and wounding two dozen civilians
China deliberately thwarted the enforcement of UNSC 1718 and 1874, effectively removing any meaningful teeth from what might have been significant international action. Elsewhere, China has become increasingly bellicose, leveraging herself into advantage across the spectrum of diplomatic actions. China’s aggressive stance on the Spratley Islands dispute has alarmed her neighbors and Western leaders. The PLA Navy is expanding, with shipbuilding capability expanding even faster. China has posited, and then begun perfecting, cyber disruption of US economic, military, and critical infrastructure networks. China continues to leverage US debt to economic advantage. China is securing world energy sources in Iran, Africa, Indonesia, and elsewhere for her consumption alone, to the exclusion of other nations.
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.
Statements from the Pentagon over the recent exchange of artillery fire are that “nobody wants a war”, or words expressing similar sentiment. But someone certainly seems to desire war. The firing of aimed artillery for more than an hour at military and civilian targets inside another country is not an accident. Whether China is directly involved or is a highly interested benefactor of a proxy North Korea is immaterial. Be he agent, or be he principle, Ahab tells us. If we recall what Clausewitz stated two centuries ago, that war is a continuation of politics, with an admixture of other means, then perhaps we may well perceive China’s actions and inaction vis a vis North Korea as some of those other means. China could resolve the situation with North Korea very quickly. They choose not to. They understand that a North Korea as a thorn in the side of the US is in their interest. Whether we quite understand that or not.
As the Western Allies must have realized to their horror and shame in the Summer of 1939, when Hitler’s words toward Poland turned ever more harsh and confrontational, war comes whether you want it or not, and whether you are ready for it or not.
We had better be ready.
(H/T to Lex for the Cheonan damage link.)
In case you didn’t know, yesterday was our Birthday!
Read what Rear Admiral Bradley A. Fiske had to say about the Naval Institute in Proceedings, Vol. 45 No. 192, February 1919:
Without some such stimulus as the Institute, the navy would be less like a profession and more like a trade; we would be less like artists, and more like artisans; we would become too practical and narrow; we would have no broad vision of the navy as a whole.
Each one of us would regard his own special task as the only thing that concerned him, and would lose that sympathetic touch with his brother officers which all of us now enjoy.
The Naval Institute is a club at once social and professional, which is not restricted to any club-house on any avenue in any city, but which spreads over all the oceans to all of our ships and stations, down even into the depths of the sea where our submarines lie, and ten thousand feet into the air where our aeroplanes fly. It is the embodiment of the thought of the navy. It is the unofficial custodian of the navy’s professional hopes and fears. It looks ahead into the future, and back into the past, and keeps track of the happenings of the present. More at our sister blog
Marines may not believe they have a bone in the fight to save the ex-USS Olympia (C-6). But they do–the vessel’s experience in the closing days of World War I helped push the Navy to think harder about expeditionary logistics:
In May 1918, two months after Russia withdrew from the war, 55 Americans from the cruiser Olympia (CA-15) joined British forces in occupying Murmansk and Archangel to guard stockpiles of arms and ammunition shipped there for the czarist army. For most of their time in northern Russia, Olympia crewmen lived on reduced rations of “two little slices of bread, . . . one spoon of stew, and one cup of coffee” per day. Despite the almost monthly arrival of supply ships, soldiers of the North Russian Expeditionary Force who reinforced men of the Olympia resorted at times to stealing food from British troops, who were far better supplied-perhaps because Britain had a long history of expeditionary warfare and thus developed the infrastructure needed to sustain it.
The experience of the Olympia’s Marines, coupled with the equally rough time the Brooklyn (CA-3) Marine detachment had in Vladivostok, helped put expeditionary logistics on the Navy’s radar screen.
At a time when the DOD is contemplating a major shift in the Marine Corps’ expeditionary capabilities, it might be wise to start remembering the teething pains America’s Marines endured back in the days when the nation didn’t appreciate the nuances of expeditionary warfare.
(Quote is taken from James C. Bradford’s Feb 2006 Naval History article, “The missing link: Expeditionary logistics.)
Radioman 3rd Class Harry Ferrier discusses his role in the Battle of Midway, Torpedo Squadron 8 as the turning point in his life
Remembering the Battle of Midway is a four-part series spanning from the Doolittle Raid, to the significance of the Battle of Coral Sea and ending with the Battle of Midway. In each segment of this four-part series, you will hear from the historical and pivotal participants from this time period, such as Gen. James Doolittle and other memorable figures, and present-day historians who will examine the significance of these three events in naval, army and air force history. From U.S. Naval Institute Oral History Program.
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