Archive for the 'Soft Power' Category
A few days ago I received an email from James Knochel at SendTheEnterprise.org. I had never heard of the group before. Their goal is to save the USS Enterprise from the scrapyard by converting it into a dedicated disaster response ship:
The Navy is planning to send the Enterprise on two 6-month cruises before throwing it away. They’ll have to cut it up to extract the nuclear reactors, so there’s no prospect for turning it into a museum. The Enterprise’s replacement, the USS Gerald R. Ford, is specifically designed to reduce operating costs. The Enterprise is just too expensive for the Navy to keep as an active warship.
Instead of throwing away a perfectly functional ship, we propose that the Enterprise be dedicated to disaster response.
This is a horrible idea. Enterprise is too big, too deep, too costly, and too old to be a viable dedicated humanitarian and disaster relief ship. The fundamental problem with Knochel’s idea is that it seems primarily interesting in finding a mission for the ship, rather than finding the right ship for the mission. In other words, it is about saving Enterprise, not saving people. If you are really interested in providing effective humanitarian relief, loading disaster response modules onto many ships would be a better choice.
However, given that it is clearly an original idea, I thought I would throw it out there to readers and see what your thoughts are.
Update: Here is a response from Knochel
“The genesis for my “Send the Enterprise” idea was in thinking about
ways to mitigate the environmental impact of BP’s Deepwater Horizon
Oil seeps into the world’s oceans every day. Bacteria in the ocean
waters use oxygen to eat this oil. But due to the massive amounts of
oil and natural gas that were being released from the blowout, all
available oxygen in the waters around the Macondo Prospect site was
My idea called for using “bubble fences” to get extra oxygen into the
water, thereby feeding the oil-consuming bacteria. This would require
a lot of energy, and I thought the U.S. Navy’s “portable” nuclear
reactors would be the ideal way to power this sort of infrastructure.
One of my early readers suggested that it’d be easier to pump warm,
oxygenated water to the depths required than air, which I eventually
realized was a good insight.
It’s not enough to have a good idea, they have to be properly marketed
too. In hindsight, Kevin Costner’s centrifuge was rather mediocre at
actually collecting oil, but his celebrity status got him attention
and million-dollar contracts.
I have neither celebrity nor attention, and good ideas don’t sell
themselves. To help with marketing, I titled my piece to piggyback on
to the mystique and legend of the Navy’s oldest nuclear powered ship:
Save the Gulf, Send the Enterprise.
In the process of researching that article, I learned about many of
the disasters that the Navy has responded to in recent years. After
BP’s well was finally plugged, my thoughts shifted towards future
disasters: the possibility of another offshore blowout, and the
certainty of future volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis
anywhere in the world.
“When Disaster Strikes, Send the Enterprise” gets a lot more attention
than “wouldn’t it be cool if the U.S. Navy had some ships that were
dedicated to disaster response?”
Perhaps you all are correct that amphibious ships are more appropriate
for HA/DR than retired aircraft carriers. Whatever the case, I’m
hoping that the Congress will appropriate some money to fully study
the prospect of dedicating ships to these purposes.
If this idea takes off, and you see the media talking about “sending
the Enterprise”, please remember it’s more a marketing strategy than
an effort to “save” a specific ship.
Thanks for all the feedback & ideas.
That night the earthquake struck Japan and we now have over 13 ships (including two aircraft carriers) and thousands of Marines and Sailors – some stationed in Japan and others redirected from their deployment – on station and assisting. The idea that we as a government and a military would ever “get out of the HA/DR business” is patently ludicrous…and our response to the earthquake is just one more data point proving so.
As if we somehow needed one. CNA did a study in 1990 of Navy humanitarian operations. Even a quick, non-statistical, review shows that at least once every year since the mid-1950s the Navy has been to one degree or another been involved in a humanitarian operation. Following the Navy response to the 2004 tsunami, USNS Mercy inaugurated a series of “Pacific Partnership” deployments that continue this year with USS Cleveland deploying to Tonga, Vanuatu, Timor-Leste, the Federated States of Micronesia and Papua-New Guinea. On the other side of the world ships have been involved in Southern Partnership Station and African Partnership Station, modeled after the Pacific Partnership missions. And, in every case the ship involved either had to take a military asset off station or out of rotation, or active duty and reserve personnel were called up to man Military Sealift Command ships.
But, last year the House Armed Services, combined with Navy obstinancy, gave me another idea.
The HASC FY2011 Defense Authorization Report (which may never again see the light of day) Section 1024 states that the Secretary of the Navy shall retain the amphibious assault ships that the Navy shall keep Nassau (LHA-4) and Peleliu (LHA-5) in a commissioned and operational status until the delivery to the Navy of the new amphibious assault ships America (LHA-6) and LHA-7, respectively. Which idea, of course, the Navy wasn’t too fond of.
At the same time, Navy officials are pressing forward with a proof of concept study to man amphibious ships with merchant marine seamen and officers. Touted as readiness initiative for troubled classes of ships, critics look at the program as another misguided attempt to maintain ship numbers while cutting cost.
But, if Navy is willing to place volunteer civilians on combat ships…then why not reimagine the combat ship AND meet the HASC language AND provide ships that can meet the various partnership missions without impacting the rest of the fleet’s obligations?
Over the next six years Navy will retire two amphibious assault ships (LHA) and four amphibious transport docks (LPD). While not economical to refit or fully retain these ships, there is life left in them and with some alterations, they could remain in use – both as commissioned vessels (which add to the overall fleet number) and conduct critical missions over the next decade.
By retaining a Navy crew, completely removing the weapons systems, installing commercial satellite internet access, modifying the Marine berthing compartments and reconfiguring the well deck (or leaving it as is) – oh, and with a LOT of white paint – the Navy would have a platform capable of embarking 1,000 aid workers, teachers, policemen, medical personnel, and so on to move from country to country and teach, train, and help. Think of these ships as the ultimate in Joint – InterAgency – NGO power projection platform.
By having ships like this capable of rapidly embarking DHS and FEMA personnel to serve as a mobile command post after a hurricane, or to mirror the role of USNS Mercy after the tsunami or any of the other iconic relief actions, to include the one going on today in Japan, the Navy would have a tool – that is not armed with anything other than self defense weapons and frees up a front line combat capable unit – and, as trite as it sounds, be part of the “Global Force for Good”. It’s tough to look at something we do all the time, and think of it as a “lesser included mission”…maybe it’s time to put some dedicated resources behind the ever-present reality.
Somehow during his tenure as SOUTHCOM commander, current EUCOM commander and Supreme Allied Commander Europe Admiral James G. Stavridis, found time to pen a 292 page book on the United States’ relationship with Central America (except Mexico), South America, and the Caribbean. The book was just published by NDU press and is available for free on their website.
Stavridis’ book, Partnership For The Americas, is not your typical command memoir; rather it reads more like a manifesto on the potential of soft power in US-South relations. His main takeaway point: “We are all in this together”.
The book covers a range of topics, from counter-narcotics operations to innovation in the Department of Defense, but of particular interest to me is the Admiral’s chapter on health engagement. Specifically, the role he argues medical diplomacy can play in a combatant command:
“It may seem at first incongruous for a combatant command, even one which strives to be as interagency-oriented and forward-leaning as U.S. Southern Command, to be engaged in efforts to improve public health. And perhaps it is, particularly if that is how our engagement efforts are expressed or viewed. If, however, we restructure our strategic approach and message to convey that we subscribe to the understanding that “public health” plays a vitally important role in maintaining long-term stability, then we can restate our strategic objectives more along the lines of removing and/or reducing health issues as a potential factor to increased likelihood of conflict. Thus, our continuing commitment to engaging in what some have termed “medical diplomacy” becomes inherently synchronized with our previously stated strategic goals to promote security, enhance stability, and allow for economic prosperity.” (Stavridis 2010, 140)
This is not something you would expect to read from a man occupying the same office as Eisenhower and Ridgway. However, Stavridis is absolutely correct. While the core competency of the American military will always be combat operations, there are a growing number areas where United States interests and goodwill can best be secured through soft power, including health diplomacy. In an ideal world these tasks would be the responsibility of USAID and the Department of State, but, to adapt a phrase from former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: you advance US interests with the agencies you have, not the agencies you want. And if you can do so with hospital ships instead of gunboats, all the better.
Thirty years on, the lesson should still be clear. There is no such thing as “hard power” or “soft power”, or “smart power” . There is simply power. Power, judiciously and skilfully employed, with a will behind it that lends it credence to allies and gives pause to enemies and potential enemies.
Three decades ago this day, the 444-day national humiliation that was the Iran Hostage Crisis ended, minutes after the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan. For fifteen months, beginning in November of 1979, the United States endured the holding of 52 of its citizens as hostages to the Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iranian Revolution. As 500 “students” stormed the gates of the American Embassy in Teheran, the Marine Security Guard personnel were forbidden from defending themselves or their compound. One of those “students”, we know now, was none other than Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, current “President of the Islamic Republic”.
The ongoing situation can be said to have given birth to the 24-hour news cycle with ABC’s Nightline, and was a major milestone in the march toward modern television news coverage. But the situation was more than that. It was a world-wide display of American impotence, of our decline as a force in world affairs, which many of our adversaries declared (and some allies worried privately) at the time, was a signal of the end of America on the world stage. The failed April 1980 rescue attempt seemed to confirm an America and a US Military unable to protect its citizens and its interests overseas. Furious and fruitless negotiations by the Carter Administration with the Iranian “authorities” produced little but frustration, anger, and more humiliation at the hands of the people who held our citizens and called America the “Great Satan”.
The signing of the Algiers Accords on 19 January 1981 was pointed to as the nominal event that led to the release of the hostages, even though the accords themselves were never ratified (enacted by President Carter using an Executive Order), as the provisions contained in them would have proven intolerably humiliating under Congressional scrutiny. The Algiers Accords had virtually nothing to to do with the release of the 52 hostages. Mere minutes after the inauguration of a President who understood power and the value of the will to use it, the hostages were released.
One of the great political cartoons of the 20th Century was published nationwide this day, 30 years ago, drawn by the late Jeff MacNelly.
The 52 hostages, those still with us, will never forget the ordeal of captivity in Iran. Nor should we. Lest we forget the lesson. There is power, with all its subtleties and facets. And there is the will to use it. Soft, hard, smart, all of it a part of the whole, and used in infinite proportion and combination. It encompasses deterrence, and the refusal to negotiate with terrorists. And the value of a position of strength. We had a 444-day object lesson that ended thirty years ago today. It is one that we would always do well to heed. Lest this be interpreted as some kind of partisan piece, I would submit that the above lesson is one that FDR knew, as did Truman and Kennedy, and Clinton. The next President from either side of the aisle who forgets or ignores it, does so at his, and at our, peril.
From a Congressional Research Service report filed at the end of November:
LCS was designated by the Navy as a Level I survivability combatant ship, but neither design is expected to achieve the degree of shock hardening as required by the CDD [Capabilities Development Document]. Shock hardening (ability to sustain a level of operations following an underwater explosive attack) is required for all mission critical systems, as required by a Level 1 survivability requirement. Only a few selected subsystems will be shock hardened, supporting only mobility to evacuate a threat area following a design-level shock event. Accordingly, the full, traditional rigor of Navy-mandated ship shock trials is not achievable, due to the damage that would be sustained by the ship and its many non-shock-hardened subsystems.
The LCS LFT&E [Live Fire Test and Evaluation] program has been hampered by the Navy’s lack of credible modeling and simulation tools for assessing the vulnerabilities of ships constructed to primarily commercial standards (American Bureau of Shipping Naval Vessel Rules and High Speed Naval Craft Code), particularly aluminum and non-traditional hull forms. Legacy LFT&E models were not developed for these non-traditional factors, nor have they been accredited for such use. These knowledge gaps undermine the credibility of the modeling and simulation, and increase the amount of surrogate testing required for an adequate LFT&E program.
The LCS is not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat environment as evidenced by the limited shock hardened design and results of full scale testing of representative hull structures completed in December 2006.
The whole document is here. Read it and weep. H/T to sid.
So, we have a warship design that is not expected to fight and survive in the very environment in which it was produced to do so. Poorly-armed, poorly-protected, with an over-abundance of speed that will eat through a fuel supply in half a day.
Yet, the Navy leadership on whose watch this abomination was delivered is hypersensitive to criticism of either their performance or the LCS itself. That such a questionable and limited capability will cost taxpayers UNDER $500 million per copy is a seeming source of pride for them.
Warships remain the single most expensive combat system a nation can buy. Has been so since the beginnings of the iron warship. Those who run the United States Navy (not just NAVSEA) are entrusted with billions of this nation’s treasure. And this is the result. A half-billion dollar counter-drug and counter-piracy platform.
Combat in the littorals is characterized by fierce and unexpected engagements, from small and fast surface vessels, submarines, shore-based weapon systems, missiles, mines, and aircraft. Putting US Navy Officers and Sailors on a platform such as LCS borders on criminal. It is an act of sheer folly, or one of desperation.
The lessons of littoral combat were learned and written in the blood and sacrifice by the thousands of our Sailors and Marines in the Solomons, New Guinea, the Admiralties, the Gilberts and Marshalls, off the beaches of Italy and France, the Philippines, and Okinawa. They are there for all to see, on the old pages of damage reports, battle reports, and combat histories written by survivors and shipmates.
The result of those lessons were classes of tough, powerful, fast, survivable units capable of dishing out and absorbing tremendous punishment. These lessons were reinforced in Korea, Vietnam, and the Falklands, where ships that did not possess those qualities paid dearly.
All of which makes the Littoral Combat Ship so inexplicable. Unable to do precisely what its name implies. Risking the vessel, the Sailors, and the mission.
The mission of the Navy is to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.
Not Diversity, not social experimentation, not being an Employer of Choice, and not far-flung Humanitarian Missions at the expense of combat readiness and forward presence. There will be screams of protest regarding that last sentence, to be sure. But none of those peripheral distractions mean a hill of beans if the US Navy cannot execute the words printed in bold above. When Navy leadership ignores those words, and fails to heed them, the result is the LCS, and an emperor with no clothes.
Littoral Combat Ship is not a part of a combat-ready Naval force capable of winning wars. Perhaps those who championed and continue to champion it shouldn’t be, either.
Craig Hooper and I have a new article on The Atlantic discussing the evacuation of US citizens off the Korean peninsula in the event of renewed hostilities. We argue that the difficulty of evacuating 140,000 US citizens and select foreign nationals might well require the US to ask China and its military for assistance:
Even under the best conditions, a mass evacuation is no easy task. In July 2006, as a battle brewed between Israel and Lebanon-based Hezbollah militants, the U.S. took nearly a month to evacuate 15,000 Americans. According to the Government Accountability Office, “nearly every aspect of State’s preparations for evacuation was overwhelmed”, by the challenge of running an evacuation under low-threat conditions in a balmy Mediterranean summer.
Evacuating a Korean war-zone would be far harder. And the U.S. would likely have no choice but to ask China for help.
Read the full article at The Atlantic.
Some VERY interesting details, some of which will likely be hard to prove. But if they are even true by half, the United States Government (and DoD) may want to reconsider how “secure” they consider their critical networks, and just how ready we are for a major cyber event.
From the Prosecutor’s proffer of charges:
The government’s evidence of the defendant’s guilt of the charged crimes, as well as uncharged criminal activity, demonstrates his position as an extremely sophisticated and dangerous computer hacker. At the time of the defendant’s arrest, Secret Service agents seized a heavily encrypted laptop computer that was in his possession. This computer contained a massive quantity of stolen financial account data and personal identifying information, including more than 400,000 credit card, debit card and bank account numbers, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1029 and 1028A (Counts One and Two).
In his post-arrest statement, the defendant admitted compromising the computer servers of a number of major financial institutions and companies. For example, the defendant admitted that he compromised a computer network of the Federal Reserve Bank (“FRB”) by exploiting a vulnerability he found within their secure system. The FRB in Cleveland, Ohio has confirmed that an FRB computer network was hacked in approximately June 2010, resulting in thousands of dollars in damages, affecting ten or more FRB computers, and forming the basis for Counts Three and Four.
The defendant’s seized computer also contains evidence of additional and very significant hacking activity. For example, the defendant possessed data illegally obtained from the computer network of FedComp, a data processor for various credit unions in the United States. By hacking into the FedComp system, the defendant had unauthorized access to the data of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York Federal Credit Union and the Mercer County New Jersey Teachers’ Federal Credit Union, among other victims. The defendant also admitted to compromising the computer networks of several major international banks and companies, and admitted earning money by finding and exploiting network vulnerabilities or trading and selling the information contained therein.
The defendant has not limited his criminal conduct to compromising financial institutions. The government has obtained evidence that his cybercrime activities extend to the national security sector. For example, in approximately August 2010, the defendant hacked into the secure computer system of a major Department of Defense contractor, which provides systems management for military transport and other highly sensitive military operations. These are but a few examples of the government’s evidence of the defendant’s criminal hacking activity targeting the United States’ financial and national security systems.
What was that part about a Defense Contractor and systems management for military transport systems?
Let me say it again. As for the “umbrella” DoD believes they are providing, it has to include myriad Defense Contractors, and everyone that touches those Contractors, and everyone they touch, and everyone who touches them, and in turn, everyone they touch….
One other thing. It may be tricky for the Prosecution in a public trial to provide “proof” without revealing technical, intelligence, and HUMINT capabilities we don’t necessarily want the world to know. Even with multi-source “attribution”, finding the suspect took nearly a year. Which in terms of the damage that can be inflicted with such cyber exploits, might as well be a half-dozen millenia.
PLAN’s new purpose-built hospital ship, Peace Ark, spent last week anchored off Kenya’s coast while providing medical assistance to Kenyan citizens:
The crew, which leaves the port of Mombasa tomorrow, has been doing an average of six operations, 80 physical examinations, 110 dental check-ups, 35 CT scans, 200 DR examinations, 240 ultra sound cases and 170 heart check-ups per day.
The Peace Ark hospital has 428 medical and support staff. They include neurologists, surgeons, radiologists, dermatologists, biomedical engineers and psychologists.
Other facilities are a rescue helicopter, 32 medical departments including Chinese herbal medicine, 300 hospital beds and a wide range of diagnostic medical equipment.
The daily stats offer some insight into the medical assistance capacity of the new hospital ship, however that is not what interests me. What interests me is that PLAN first humanitarian assistance deployment is already scoring major public diplomacy victories for China. Need proof?
Today news of the Peace Ark’s visit to Kenya was posted on the popular social new website Reddit. Within four hours over 840 readers had voted up the story to the top page, where it currently remains. Another further 270 readers had commented on the story. The most popular comment? “When is it visiting the USA?”
While the mainstream media has turned its attention elsewhere, the US military’s disaster relief operation in flood-ravaged Pakistan continues. Despite the fact that the operation is winding down, 26 US military helicopters still remain in Pakistan with others based offshore. These aircraft have been part of a response that has airlifted more than 21,000 flood victims and delivered 15 million pounds of supplies since July. Below is the second in a series of photos of this operation in action.
Caption: A Marine Corps Super Stallion helicopter from VMM-266, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, flies in route to deliver relief supplies during humanitarian assistance operations in the southern province of Sindh, Pakistan. Photo by Capt. Paul Duncan.
Caption: U.S. Marines with the Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 Reinforced, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit unload food off a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter during flood relief operations in the Pano Aqil province, Pakistan, Oct. 11.
Caption: Pakistan civilians patiently wait as the U.S. Marines with the Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 Reinforced, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit unload food off a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter during flood relief operations in the Pano Aqil province, Pakistan, Oct. 11.
Caption: The 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron delivers aid and supplies to Skardu Airfield, Pakistan as well as transports internally displaced persons back to Chaklala Air Force Base, Pakistan aboard their C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, Sept. 24. Photo by Staff Sgt. Andy Kin.
This from The Associated Press a few minutes ago:
Gen. James Jones will resign as President Barack Obama’s national security adviser and will be replaced by Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, NBC News confirmed Friday.
The departure is not unexpected. Officials who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity said that Jones, whose resignation will be effective in two weeks, had planned from the start of his tenure to leave the position at about the two-year mark.
Obama is expected to make a formal announcement in the Rose Garden at 1 p.m. EDT.
Donilon, who said he was not interested in the position of chief of staff to the president, was widely believed to have his sights set on the post as National Security Adviser. Jones is also known to have recommended that General James Cartwright, the Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, be offered the job.
Jones was appointed to the top security position in January 2009. He previously served as Commandant of the Marine Corps from 1999-2003, the Commander of US and NATO forces in Europe, and as the State Department’s Special Envoy for Middle East Regional Security.
Though the article states that General Jones had planned to leave the post at the two-year mark, recent revelations of the internal discord between Jones and Administration officials and staffers make this move perhaps more significant than it would otherwise be. President Obama will see the departure of his Defense Secretary and his National Security Advisor perhaps within 90 days of each other. Marine General Cartwright would be an interesting choice, but may get along no better with Administration officials than did Jones.
But General Cartwright does indeed seem to encourage the unvarnished exchange of ideas, including using this-here blogging medium.
We shall see how this works out. And whether General Cartwright or any other choice will offer the President substantially different advice from what he has gotten up to now from his National Security Team. With the US engaged in two wars, a potential shoving match with China, the specter of a nuclear Iran and North Korea, and the always looming threat of terrorism on US soil, the President and the nation he is entrusted to lead needs it to work out well.
Without the words “acting” or “interim”, it is Tom Donilon as the new National Security Advisor. The dynamic between Defense Secretary Gates and Donilon, and between the Armed Services and Donilon, will bear watching.