Archive for September, 2009

In response to recent reporting of suicide bombers stuffing exposives where the sun doesn’t shine, Dr. Mike Waller of has a gem entitled “How to Counter Al Qaeda’s butt-bombs.” Reprinted below in its entirety due to its non-politically correct nature:

Al Qaeda has flummoxed security experts with its new tactic of evading detection systems by hiding explosives and detonators inside the bodies of suicide bombers.

The method redefines what it is to be an “assassin.”

The new trick came to light last month in a Saudi palace when an Al Qaeda operative, claiming to want to surrender, exploded in a failed attempt to murder the Saudi prince in charge of counterterrorism operations. The terrorist stuffed a pound of explosives and a detonator up his behind (or perhaps one of his buddies did it for him) in order to foil bomb detectors.

What I’m about to propose is gross and disgusting and downright insensitive. But it’s culturally appropriate. And it’s a quick, inexpensive way to see if we can damage terrorist recruitment and neutralize this new and dangerous Al Qaeda murder tactic. So here goes.

Rather than get alarmed about lacking the technical means to detect such bomb smugglers, we should use Arab and Islamic (and generally universal, lowbrow, adolescent) cultural traits to make terrorists too ashamed and embarrassed to turn their bottoms into bombs. And to humiliate their supporters.

This tactic is begging for ridicule. Terrorists hate being ridiculed. Sexually repressed young men hate being ridiculed. Islamist extremists hate being ridiculed. Mockery stains their honor. Most terrorists are sexually repressed Islamist extremist young men.

Therefore, it’s time for the US and its allies, as well as the Saudis, to turn on the laughs by making fun of the butt-bombers. We can all think of ways to ridicule these weirdos in English – oh, the metaphors are just too plentiful and too crude to list here – and the Arabic language is likewise awash in backdoor humor. To say nothing of Pashto.

Let’s start making fun of Osama bin Laden and his butt-stuffing buddies in Al Qaeda, and see how long this terrorist fad lasts. (My money is on the US being too politically correct to give this a try, but I hope I’m wrong.)

Rather than fear these freaks, we should be mocking them. In every country, in every language. It’s perfect for the uber-homophobic, repressed, pseudopious culture in which the terrorists live. Let’s see how many macho young men really want to meet their fate with the world knowing this: That their last act of piety was packing their fanny full of phallic-shaped C-4 and having their buddy detonate them with a cell phone text message.

Let’s see how many virgins that buys them in the next life. And how many other Islamist extremist boys want to emulate him.

Bonus points: Al Qaeda is officially promoting the butt-bomber tactic in a new video it recently posted on the Internet. So we can pin this on Bin Laden personally, and take down his persona a notch or two with some good, old-fashioned locker-room laughs.

What say you gentle reader?

trnavaldiplomacyIt was a real honor for me to interview CDR. Jerry Hendrix about his new book, Theodore Roosevelt’s Naval Diplomacy: The U.S. Navy and the Birth of the American Century. CDR. Hendrix is a role model for all aspiring scholar-warriors being that he is one of a handful of USN line officers with PhDs. He is in great company: two other officers that hold PhDs are Adm. Jim Stavridis and the new U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander, Adm. Patrick Walsh.

Could you provide a short synopsis of the book?

Theodore Roosevelt’s Naval Diplomacy is my attempt to marry up twin historical themes of Rooseveltian history: TR as a Diplomat, and TR as a Navalist. In doing so I believe I arrive at a new understanding (at least new to me, and I have read about everything I can lay my hands on the topic) of Roosevelt’s key role in establishing the United States as the major power of the 20th Century. To illuminate his actions, I begin and end the book with an examination of the Great White Fleet, which many consider the ultimate example of his “Big Stick” diplomacy, but sandwich in between case studies of his handling of the Venezuelan Crisis of 1902-03, his role in Panama’s Independence Movement, the role of the naval services in the famous Perdicaris Affair of 1904, and why TR chose to hold the negotiations that ended the Russo-Japanese War at a Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine. In the end, I believe I shed new light on the sophisticated nature of Roosevelt’s diplomacy, the extent of his dependence upon the naval services, and do serious harm to the war-mongering, bellicose image that most people carry around of the first President Roosevelt.

What are some of the lessons learned from Theodore Roosevelt’s Naval Diplomacy that are important today?

TR advocated for a semi-permanent, coherent foreign policy that can be passed from administration to administration, regardless of political party. I believe that this is something that our political leaders today are working to get back to. Also, TR demonstrated repeatedly a deft appreciation for the scalability of response that naval forces can provide to policy makers. If you want one ship’s worth of coercive diplomacy, that is all you have to show, if you need another, bring it from over the horizon, and if you need to land a ground force, you have Marines. This is a simple example, but TR knew where his fleet was at all times and could call upon it when he needed it. Lastly, TR came to understand that military power comes with limits. With naval power there is a growing tension the farther you attempt to project power landward. He came to understand this and applied his experience to limit his attempts at influencing events so that his military reach did not exceed his diplomatic grasp.

What were some of your more insightful resources?

The logbooks containing the ciphered and unciphered communications from the Secretary of the Navy to the fleet that are stored at the National Archives were fantastic. They really demonstrated how much day to day interest TR showed towards the Navy and Marine Corps. Also, his papers and Admiral of the Navy George Dewey’s papers at the Library of Congress were amazing in showing the minute by minute unfolding of events. L astly, there were some letters that the Dewey family donated to the Naval Archives at the Navy Yard that were instrumental in reaching a new understanding of some of the events.

Who should read Theodore Roosevelt’s Naval Diplomacy?

I am hesitant to say, but I think mid-grade naval officers would find it insightful and come to a new understanding of how the modern Navy came to be. Admiral Stavridis, who very generously reviewed the book, recommended that all national security professionals take a look at it, so I think I would just leave it at that.

What advice do you have for fellow line officers pursuing PHDs?

Learn to live on four hours of sleep a night! No, really, I enjoyed the challenge. I wrote most of my original doctoral dissertation at sea so that the effort would have a minimal impact on my family (beyond the research). I found this to be an ideal environment to just get into the material and crank out the words. The best advice, though, for people pursuing a PhD is to pick a dissertation topic that really fascinates you and you are confident that it will continue to fascinate you, because you are going to spend the next 3-7 years of your life focused on this topic. Most people who get to all-but-dissertation (ABD) status with their PhD and just cannot finish the product and get the degree, find themselves in this jam because they cannot maintain their interest and energy in the topic. I was fortunate in that I picked a topic that I still find interesting to this day.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Only that I think, given the increasing complexity of the world and the United States essential role in international stability, that it is increasingly important that naval professionals take to read, think, and write. Our profession and our nation depend upon it.

Posted by Jim Dolbow in Books | 4 Comments

At the recent 2009 Defense Forum sponsored by MOAA and USNI, Adm. Mike Mullen addressed an audience of governmental, for-profit and non-profit organizations caring for or providing some measure of support for injured servicemembers and their families. Also in the audience were medical professionals, academics and researchers that are studying how best to care for and support our injured troops. But, suffice it to say that, despite the dedication of everyone in the room, no one has figured out the right formula and glaring gaps still exist. Despite the fact that military medicine can provide world class battlefield care, hospital care and rehab care, it is still clear that outpatient care – especially the bureaucracy behind it – often fails our servicemembers, veterans and their families at their greatest time of need.

“How do we create a system across America that sustains their needs throughout their lives?” Admiral Mullen asked the audience somewhat rhetorically. He didn’t have an answer and he expressed his frustration at the slow pace inside the government to fix the acute problems and innovate the entire system so that a combination of DoD and the VA can do just that – take care of the needs of these servicemembers from the time they raise their hand to enlist until the death of their last dependent.

DoD and the VA cannot do it alone. Despite the fact that less than 1% of the U.S. population serves in the military today, this microcosm of our society needs the entire U.S. populace more than ever. The private sector – corporations, non-profit organizations and local and state government – needs to step up and raise their hand to augment the care and services currently provided by DoD and the VA to our wounded servicemembers, those who suffer from “unseen injuries” from their service in OEF and OIF. There are many organizations that have cropped up since 9-11 to “support the troops,” but most are very small, managed by volunteers and focused on tangible donations, i.e., care packages, quilts, homes, meals, transportation, etc. More highly efficient, well funded and professionally led organizations in the civilian sector are needed that can provide rapidly accessible and convenient services to the injured and their families. There are a few who are in the vanguard of this movement.

Admiral Mullen recognized the efforts of USA Together, a non-profit that matches servicemembers with vetted organizations that can provide services – financial or in-kind. It quickly and simply connects military people who have an identified need with individuals or organizations who have services or goods to donate. It puts the needy and the service provider together with no third-party intervention or referrals.

Another good one is Give An Hour, a non profit founded in 2005 that has created a national network of mental health professionals who are providing free services to U.S. troops, veterans and their families – in the communities in which they live and work.

Another one is the state of Virginia, which is putting together a structure that includes a community service board with representation from all civilian organizations that can augment the VA. This is being initially funded with $1.7 million out of the state budget.

Another one is in the state of Illinois, where then-Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth fostered the establishment of 768 community-based outpatient clinics to allow access to care in remote areas of the state. She also awarded non-profits that were working directly with Illinois veterans with state grants of up to $100,000.

The military needs more of these. Admiral Mullen made it clear that he wants to see more collaboration between DoD, the VA and community-based organizations. This sounds like a call for public-private partnerships, a business model that has proven effective for DoD. They already partner with the private sector to build military housing and the Marine Corps museum in Quantico was built by a robust public-private partnership. But many DoD lawyers want all “non-federal entities” to be treated exactly the same to avoid an appearance of endorsement. However, this prohibits the kind of partnerships that create smart and measurable results. It was refreshing to hear the leader at the top of food chain recommending that DoD should find “the gold standard and join them – not compete – and spread the best practices.”

Good question posed last week in Jeff Withington’s “Counterinsurgency Leadership.” He writes, “is a good counterinsurgency leader automatically a good conventional war leader?”

My answer (“no, sometimes”) reflects my belief that, on the one hand, a leader should “never say never, never say always”, but is firmly rooted, on the other hand, in the great credence that leadership (from the board room to the war room) is leadership.

Certain leaders are best suited for certain tasks. Take Captain John Collins, a fellow platoon commander at Force. Collins embodies the fighter-leader. He’s smart, strong, and aggressive (and ugly). I love ‘Good-times-Johnny’ to death; I just don’t think he’d be as successful on the bridges of submarines as he was on the bridges of the Euphrates. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a professional, but I don’t think ramming your boat into an enemy sub at 20 knots is a preferred tactic. The hope would be he’d have an XO who would compliment him (and help him with his calculus homework) and maybe things wouldn’t be that bad.

But they would be that bad. Really, really bad. Collins was built to lead Marines, not mathletes. Johnny Collins on a dude tube? Submarines are expensive. (Collins breaks stuff.) Submarines have tiny spaces? (Collins barely fits in his office.) Math? (He writes his op-orders in the dirt with sticks.) A crew of super smart people? (Marine Corps “smart” is way different than Navy Nuclear Officer and Enlisted “smart”.) Patience? (I once saw him eat a Second Lieutenant who delayed one of his raids.) No, Collins wouldn’t do well on a submarine… not at all.

Let me re-attack.

In a conventional war key terrain must be seized and held and lines of battle advanced. In a counterinsurgency the people are the key terrain, security matters, not siege. Lines of battle must become transparent to a population that needs to get back to work. Both prove challenging environments for combat leaders in their own right. Both require men with the constitution for leading professional warriors. Sherman (a conventionally brilliant leader) wouldn’t have the patience for the task at hand in Afghanistan’s RC South. And I’m not sure Petraeus would have had the stomach to burn Atlanta. But this isn’t to say that a Sherman wouldn’t be an asset in the Panjshir valley, or Petraeus at Chancellorsville. Leadership is, after all, leadership…

No matter the case, things are very rarely “automatically so”…think about it using the most mysterious and dangerous practice of all time, dating women.

  1. If a woman looks good at the bar tonight, then she’ll automatically look good with mascara stained cheeks, poufy hair, and her contacts stuck to her eyes, tomorrow.
  2. If a woman tells you she’s not mad at you, then you’re automatically out of the doghouse.
  3. If a woman says you’re the best lover she’s ever had, then you’re automatically Don Juan.

The answer to each of these makes more sense if you delete the word “automatically” and start using words like “sometimes”, “might be”, or “may” and end it with a statement of probability – like “probably so” or “probably not.”

  1. If a woman looks good at the bar tonight, then she’ll sometimes look good tomorrow. (Probably so.)
  2. If a woman tells you she’s not mad at you, then you might be out of the doghouse. (Probably not.)
  3. If a woman says you’re the best lover she’s ever had, then you may be Don Juan. (Probably you’re on drugs.)

Love, like leadership, works best when you’re the right man for the job. It can work just fine if you’re not, but it works best if you are. When you fall in love (when love is just right) it doesn’t matter what she looks like in the morning (she’ll be her most beautiful), it’s ok to be in the doghouse (you’ll apologize endlessly and not know what you’re apologizing for…and not care), and when she tells you you’re the best she’s ever had, you’ll actually believe her (because you’ll be in love and it’ll be true). And all this brings up a greater lesson on leadership…

Leadership is about listening. I learned that racing sail boats as a Midshipman. Sailing puts you outside of your comfort zone and forces you to make decisions under pressure, and act quickly and decisively. Sailing requires intellect and teamwork and heart. There is no greater leadership class at Annapolis than a day at sailing practice – and the Chesapeake is a rugged coliseum. Those daily practices and weekly regattas prepared our crews for races to Hamilton Bermuda, Marion Massachusetts, Portland Maine, and Portsmouth England. We trained hard, made mistakes, came to respect the sea with a religious reverence, and sailed fast. We endured hardship and carried on. Sailing fosters a matchless spirit of adventure and excitement that can only be replicated by the experiences we would later have in the cockpits of aircraft, in the engine rooms of ships of war, or on the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan.

During a race the skipper is like the platoon commander, section leader, or flight lead. His job is to win. He must also care for his crew and make tough decisions. Ultimately, the sailboat’s skipper (like the platoon commander) is responsible for everything the crew does or fails to do. It’s a heavy burden, but if you’ve ever met the crew we sail with, you know how worth it this is…

In my time as a sailor, I’ve noticed two methods of calling tactics. Some skippers observe all that goes on around him – the shifting winds, the opposition, his own crew – and makes a call: tack, jibe, come into the wind, fall off…

Other skippers observe these same conditions, and ask… “Portside, how’s the trim?” “Mastman, how’s the tension?” “Helmsman, what do you see?” He gets input for what each professional at that position is feeling – and demands this participation from each level – and then calls his tactics based on his determinations and the observations of his crew.

I prefer to lead a platoon by the second method. Each of my team leaders are highly trained professional operators bred to observe a situation and act; and each does so uniquely based on their personality, style and tactical approach. Each shooter has a distinct understanding of the battlespace he is operating in; I want to know what my boys are thinking, feeling, believing – so I call tactics as I used to do during a regatta: “Team 1, how’s my flank?” “Team 2, what are you seeing – any movement?” “Team 3, are you comfortable pushing forward 50 meters?” “All Teams, stand by…3—2—1—Execute. Execute. Execute.” And the sniper fires his shot and the breacher blows his breach, and the rifles move forward as they do so well and the house is taken down and the mission is accomplished. And all I had to do was let these professionals do their job. Leadership is easy when the crew knows how to sail fast…

But there’s always the question of those things outside of your control…like the wind and the weather and the storms and the sea…

To this end, the skipper has many competing responsibilities. The most important among them is fostering a culture of excellence. (You must control what you can control.) The bedrock of excellence at the small unit level depends upon (1) flexibility, (2) creativity, (3) commander’s intent, (4) enthusiasm, and (5) “combat velocity.” This foundation provides the mechanism to succeed (and survive) and allows your crew the ability to do their job – no matter the weather.

There’s more to excellence of course – love for the men you serve, the pride you and your team take in your profession, the collective desire to compete (and win), passion, integrity, and a good sense of humor, to name a few – but those things are less the mechanism for excellence, more the architecture. At war’s dangerous fault line – that dodgy place where strategy and tactics (and politics and human emotion and culture and God and everything else) collide – leadership’s “mechanism” matters most. A mechanism accomplishes the mission and keeps brave men alive. The architecture gets you back outside the wire tomorrow. And the next day, and the next day after that…

So let me start here, that leadership, excellent leadership, has two dimensions: near sightedness and far sightedness. Without each the crew’s vision blurs. Truly excellent leadership requires a commander surrender his ego and call tactics not “for his crew” but rather “with his crew.” This 20/20 approach is perhaps best understood as the trigger pullers’ ability to execute their mission (near sightedness), and the commander’s ability to communicate his desired priorities and capitalize on the momentum created by his operators or adjacent units and articulate the changing mission from higher (far sightedness).

Whether fighting a platoon of Marines, or leading a section of Sailors, “20/20 leadership” is a critical paradigm that respects command and control, the chain of command and the other intangibles men face in war (and in the sail boat), while affording our remarkable Sailors and Marines the latitude they require to perform excellently.

Flexibility is a two way street. The small unit commander must be given a certain degree of flexibility by his commander; the degree to which he achieves flexibility depends on the personality of that commander, the confidence that senior commander has with him (and his level of sobriety at the time in question), and the overall command climate.

Flexibility cannot be forced – it must be demonstrated. It is, above all, an ethos – an understanding that no plan will survive first contact, no order perfect, and no situation above Murphy’s unrelenting law: whatever can go wrong in bad times, will. Flexibility is not a personality type, it can be taught and rehearsed – and should be! Flexibility is the ability to rapidly observe, orient, decide, and act on the enemy (or against the problem at hand) as factors beyond your control change. Flexibility requires a union of what is at times a mutually exclusive near sighted and far sighted reality: that to seize this initiative we often have to release most control to our subordinates. When, where and why this happens is the great unknown; that is all a matter of risk, uncertainty and luck – all of these a hard and fast certainty for the junior commander.

Creativity is fostered, not taught. In the complex fight we are in today, faced (at times and as an example) with an enemy with a death wish, the small unit commander’s best resource are his junior Marines and Sailors. Let’s take as an example, an event that unfolds into kinetic warfare. A classical sort of contact in a less than classical sort of environment. Our advantage is that our men have street sense and toughness – an inherent understanding for what’s going on around them, a natural feel for the street and an internal barometer for the precipitation of violence and unrest that might soon unfold. Creativity hinges on the ability of these young men to “turn the chess board around” and think like their enemy. Giving our Marines a voice in our mission planning increases awareness and gives a plan rugged depth – they’ll fight like they know how: brutally and without impunity, like our enemy. The creativity these young men bring to the planning cycle has decisive effects that tend to cripple the enemy’s command and control – at least in the short term. Creativity is a vital tool of combat leadership for the small unit commander – bringing the trigger pullers in on the planning and war-gaming will add surprise to the offense and offer the command inventive ways of waging war and bringing violence to bear on a wicked enemy.

Commander’s intent is critical in small unit leadership because it expresses what you must accomplish, but does not dictate how it must be accomplished. An important distinction I think. The 20/20 leadership model emphasizes “C/I” as absolutely critical. The small unit commander must deliver a crystal clear task, purpose and end-state with all orders he gives. “Here’s what you are to do, here’s why I need you to do it, and here’s what I need it all to look like when you’re finished.” Notice the small unit commander must avoid dictating HOW the mission is to be accomplished; he must leave that aspect, as much as his senior commander and the situation permit, to his subordinate leaders. A coherent commander’s intent will assist execution acceleration and will allow for added creativity and flexibility to guarantee mission accomplishment.

Enthusiasm is a choice made daily and the small unit leader’s force multiplier. All else being equal, enthusiasm enhances training, personal and professional expectations and above all, when considering other factors (serious things such as duty), enthusiasm, in the every day execution of routine tasks, becomes a moral imperative. It is absolutely necessary to constantly echo to your marines and sailors: enthusiasm is a choice. For officers, enthusiasm is an obligation. Above all, create an environment that allows the marines and sailors you lead to be excited about what they do and for the big picture, remind yourself of the awesome responsibility you have to be a leader these men deserve.

Combat velocity is more than speed. Velocity is speed with direction. “Combat Velocity” is the speed of the small unit commander’s decision making cycle, or the speed of his maneuver, with a clear direction. Combat velocity recognizes that in the counter-insurgency fight speed is no longer enough. The small unit commander can and must affect the situation by bringing a degree of order to chaos in the form of combat velocity: facilitating speed and giving direction. Similarly, his subordinate leaders must give direction and foster the speed of the decision making cycles of his own subordinates. Tempo (speed over time) and velocity (speed and direction) must be combined in a near and far sighted sense, as a weapon in themselves.

In the end, 20/20 focus is a leadership model – a tool – that a small unit leader can explain to the men he leads (but must more importantly demonstrate). It is more than a compromise; it’s a strategy for teamwork, excellence, mission accomplishment and success. It reflects the reality that small unit leadership is all about having a clear vision for what’s in front of you, near and far. And respects the independence of nature and the wind and the weather, but celebrates the excellence of one’s own crew. If 20/20 vision is a standard that is daily trained to (flexibility, creativity, commander’s intent, enthusiasm, and velocity), initiative will be gained swiftly, battles will be fought with maximum violence and maximum control, races will be won from Newport to Bermuda and lives will be saved at that dangerous fault line where strategy and tactics collide and all that is left is for young leaders to decide: How should I call my own tactics?

Or better yet, how do I create a culture of excellence?

The answer to what brings men success in leadership with a wonderful platoon, I find, goes back to what brings men success in love with a wonderful woman…

Listen up…hope for the best, and remember things are rarely ever automatically so.

Today’s contribution is from LCDR George J. Walsh, USN-Ret., an SB2C Helldiver pilot with significant time and experience in the Pacific campaign post-Midway. George has been on a campaign to place the proper emphasis on the part of the sentence that runs “the dive bombers at Midway were successful, but only because…” and we are in full agreement. The whole concept of dive-bombing and the attendant success the US Navy enjoyed at Midway and elsewhere in the Pacific has tended to be glossed over or assumed away as the fortunate happenstance of other external factors. Nothing could be further from the truth. To underscore this view, the following perspective is provided by LCDR Walsh. – SJS

66sbdMany reasons have been offered to explain the success of the dive bomber squadrons in destroying all four of the Japanese aircraft carriers at the Battle of Midway on June 4th, 1942.

Some mythic reasons date from the Navy’s Communiqué #97 of July 14, 1942, the 1948 Bate’s Report issued by the Naval War College, the official history of Samuel Morison, and every historian since that time. Here are some of the reasons suggested:

1. The torpedo bombers drew all the Zeros down to sea level. It would take a Zero 7 minutes to climb from sea level to 15,000 feet.

2. The Japanese fleet had lost its cohesion as a result of the early attacks. The carriers were widely separated from one another and the ships of the screen, weakening anti-aircraft protection.

3. The Zero fighters ran out of ammunition downing the torpedo bombers. They carried only 60 rounds for their cannon and thirty seconds of ammunition for their machine guns.

4. Exposed torpedoes, bombs and fuel lines were left unprotected on the decks because of the confusion created by the attacks from Midway.

5. The Japanese carriers were not well constructed for defense with little armor and compartmenting. They had poor damage control making them easy prey for the dive bombers.

6. Japanese tacticians were more afraid of torpedoes than bombs and deployed their fighters accordingly.

7. The Japanese lookouts that should have spotted the high level dive bombers were distracted by the action at sea level fighting off the torpedo bombers.

8. The smoke created to foil the torpedo bombers’ attacks led the dive bombers to the Japanese carriers. Without the smoke from the torpedo defense the dive bombers would not have located the Japanese fleet.

While every historian has parroted one or more of these reasons, some of which are debatable, none has ever considered the features of dive bombing as a weapon system that would explain the decisive success of the dive bombers in snatching victory from defeat at the Battle of Midway. There has been more concern about finding some justification for the appalling losses of the Midway based airmen and the torpedo bombing crews in the uncoordinated attacks of that morning.

Read the rest of this entry »


Get Connected!!!

September 2009


That is with USNI’s Social Media Presence:




While you are at, check out USNI’s re-designed website here.


It’s Happening!

September 2009


SecNav, CNO: Women should serve on subs.

On a sidenote, I have my nuclear power interview 6OCT.

There were two interesting stories out in the last week involving Iran and the fight against pirates.

First, we have Iran’s statement that the best way to protect merchant shipping against pirates is to arm the ships:

Iran backs guns on ships – ARMED forces placed aboard merchant ships would be the cheapest and most effective way to deter pirates, an Iranian shipping leader said today.

Mohammad Souri, chairman of National Iranian Tanker, told the International Union of Marine Insurance conference in Bruges: “Having armed forces on board would be the cheapest way to counter piracy in the short term.”

He explained: “If a pirate thinks his life is in danger, he will try and escape the vessel. But insurers are reluctant to support their use on board.”

Multinational forces have included the use of more than 34 warships, helicopters and long-range patrolling aircraft from 16 different nations, he pointed out – all of which runs up huge expenses. But forces on the targeted ships would close down attacks much quicker, he suggested. As an average hijacking episode lasts two months, owners now face long-term fuel, equipment and charter costs – not to mention legal fees and ransoms.

As for his own fleet, Souri reported a dozen piracy attacks on vessels carrying about 2M barrels of crude.

About 30 of the company’s tankers have installed attack-delaying barbed wire, and all entrances are locked. – Fairplay Homepage

I have argued before that it makes the most sense to arm the ships since it is the ships that are the targets. (See link below)

The second article notes just where the Iranians are getting their armed guards:

EX-ROYAL Marines are being routinely deployed as anti-piracy forces onboard fully laden large Iranian oil tankers now under regular attack from heavily armed pirates off the Gulf of Aden. – Lloyd’s List, Former Royal Marines hired to protect Iranian tankers

The Iranians have interestingly stuck to using foreign teams and more interestingly with Brits, who I bet had to think twice before taking the job given Iran’s recent treatment of their fellow countrymen. This probably has more to do with issues related to where the vessels are trading (my guess is Europe) than with a lack of trained personnel in Iran.

Iran has decided to embark professionals onboard. I still think there is a case for training merchant mariners to defend their own vessel. After all, at some point, these armed-guards disembark and surely pirates will migrate to where they are not around.

Just today comes word that Pirates were thwarted by armed guards just long enough for Naval forces to come to the rescue.

“When pirates see the frigate, they usually abort,” said Cyrus Mody from IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre. HMAS Toowoomba responded to an emergency call from Bockstiegel’s MPP BBC Portugal (3,490dwt, built 2001) on Sunday night.

Nick Davis, speaking for Gulf of Aden Group Transits, told Fairplay today that it had posted an armed Yemeni navy team on the German general cargo ship, which opened fire, causing the pirates to flee while the crew called for help. – Fairplay

Did the armed guards prevent another hijacking? It is impossible to know for sure. However, they were there to defend the ship when the anti-pirate patrols were not.

Armed Merchant Ship Crews Will Not Escalate The Pirate Problem

Posted by Fred Fry.

Posted by FFry in Maritime Security | 1 Comment
Tags: ,

Wow! I just got back from Marine Corps University’s event “Counterinsurgency Leadership in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Beyond.” While I don’t have time to fully relate the awesome experience as I have to finish The Ugly American, write on Roman philosophy, and prepare for a Naval Weapon Systems exam, I wanted to leave readers with one question. Is a good counterinsurgency leader also automatically a good conventional war leader? This is the claim asserted by Mark Moyar, author of Question of Command. It seems a little too sweeping to me.; then again, COIN leaders are expected to have all the same competencies with the addition of flexibility as well as political and social skills.

Is there a problem with defining “good” COIN officers as super soldiers or is this level of proficency (in nearly everything) just the reality of counterinsurgency operations ?

Also, there were several USNI blog readers in attendance. It was great to meet you all in person!


And What Are Those Top 3 Problems?

September 2009


Popular Mechanics has a post describing what they see as the method Air Force is using to fix its three biggest problems. I wonder what that article would look like if the word Navy were put in there.

(via Reynolds)

Posted by Chap in Air Force | No Comments
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