Archive for the 'Allies' Tag

image018This week gave another example why some concepts should give all navalists pause – things such as “1,000 Ship Navy,” “Cooperative Maritime Partnership,” or the rather curious hope a few years ago that the USN does not need frigates, but if we do, we can simply have our allies supply them.

When interesting yet repeatedly debunked theory drift towards policy, you have a problem.

Allies are good – yet most look best at peace and on paper. One must, however, be very careful. For every British ally in OIF, and RC(S), there are the Belgians at the Kabul airport, and the 3rd and 4th Romanian Armies covering the flanks of the German 6th Army.

Sure, you may get 40 Commando Royal Marines, but you might also get the Spanish part of the Franco-Spanish fleet at Traflagar.

War or even a warm peace is a different challenge with allies than peace. Review your ISAF allied ROE matrix, or the ROE for certain allied ships off the Horn of Africa for a reminder.

Beyond performance and national will, there is and issues of political risk. At the extremes, the Italians and Romanians, again same WWII, switched sides – heck the French switched sides twice.

This week we saw a more mild reminder that there is another uncomfortable fact about our allies. Almost all of them are high-functioning democratic governments. The people get a vote. As in our nation, sometimes that vote can quickly change policy.

Via AFP;

Canada’s prime minister-elect Justin Trudeau said Tuesday he told US President Barack Obama that Canadian fighter jets would withdraw from fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

“About an hour ago I spoke with President Obama,” Trudeau told a press conference.

While Canada remains “a strong member of the coalition against ISIL,” Trudeau said he made clear to the US leader “the commitments I have made around ending the combat mission.”

… Trudeau pledged to bring home the fighter jets and end its combat mission. But he vowed to keep military trainers in place.

Canada can be the best of allies at one point, such as the years of service they did around Kandahar before being one of the first relatively caveat-free allies to bolt for the door, but on a dime they can also decide to be the Elector of Bavaria in the middle of the fight and go home – or for that matter, the HMCS UGANDA off Okinawa.

There is a pattern here;

Presented to the RCN, the ship was commissioned HMCS Uganda on 21 Oct 1944, at Charleston, and in Nov 1944 returned to the U.K. for further modifications. She left in Jan 1945, for the Pacific … In Apr 1945 she joined Task Force 57 in the Okinawa area, and was thereafter principally employed in screening the Fleet’s aircraft carriers operating against Japanese airfields in the Ryukyu Islands.

After the fall of Germany, while Uganda was involved in operations with the US Navy’s Third Fleet that a directive came through from RCN Headquarters that Captain Mainguy poll the crew on whether they would volunteer for the Pacific War and eventually Operation Downfall, the codename for the invasion of the Home Islands. The crew of Uganda felt that they had volunteered for “hostilities only”, (i.e., hostilities against Nazi Germany) but now found themselves fighting a different enemy in a quite different part of the world. On 7 May 1945, the vote was held onboard Uganda and 605 crew out of 907 refused to volunteer for continuing operations against Japan.

As you plan – always watch your assumptions. If your plan relies on an ally, have branch plans that involve your own kit. If you don’t have your own kit because you thought you had ownership of your friend’s – well bad on you.

Against future irregular threats, cooperation is the name of the game. This is the message of a new Navy Vision [pdf] signed off by chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead in January. The Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower highlights the unique position of the US Navy to “leverage access to the maritime domain and cooperate with partner navies and security forces to dissuade, deter, and defeat irregular threats at sea and ashore”. Specifically, the Vision argues for confronting irregular challenges with:

  1. “Increased effectiveness in stabilizing and strengthening regions, by securing and leveraging the maritime domain, with and in support of national and international partners.”
  2. “Enhanced regional awareness of activities and dynamics to include a deeper understanding of ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic characteristics and norms.”
  3. “Increased regional partner capacity for maritime security and domain awareness.”
  4. “Expanded coordination and interoperability with joint, interagency, and international partners.”

These objectives are spot on and follow my own thinking. However, probably the most important point is buried in the middle of the paragraph on the last page:

“[The Vision] recognizes the value of presence, of “being there,” to maintain adequate levels of security and awareness across the maritime domain, and restrain the destabilizing activities of non-state actors”.

Discussions of grand strategy and national security so often devolve into debates over hard power. Yet, however unsexy, the most powerful weapon is most often found in allies and relationships. Using the US military to train Brazilian medics or rebuild Nicaraguan health clinics is not about humanitarianism, it is about making friends and making friends stronger. In the domain of irregular threats, knowing whom to call can be more powerful than any weapon system. Call it Rolodex power, and more than any other branch, the Navy’s got it.

Crossposted on Conflict Health.