Archive for August, 2010

When Russia planted a flag on the Arctic Ocean seabed in August 2007, it was in part, political theater meant to cement its claim to the region’s vast natural resources (especially mineral). Of course, such action served as a shot across the bow of the other states bordering the region, leading, among other actions, to a 2008 joint Canadadian-Danish geologic study that supports Canada’s claim to the Lomonosov Ridge as a natural extension of the North American continent and as such, a significant portion of the Arctic seabed. While the five nations with competing claims have agreed to work under UNCLOS through the aegis of the Arctic Council (founded in 1996), there has been an increase in military presence (primarily Russian) in recent months and something of an information campaign as well.

All of this is pretext to an event in the South China Sea that occurred earlier this summer – but only recently announced:

A Chinese submarine planted a national flag deep on the floor of the South China Sea during a test dive last month to reinforce China’s territorial claim, the boat’s designer said yesterday.

The State Oceanic Administration and Ministry of Science and Technology jointly announced yesterday that a Chinese scientific submarine with three civilian crew members had explored unknown terrain at a depth of more than 3,700 metres at the heart of the South China Sea. Before resurfacing, they planted a Chinese flag on the ocean floor.

The motivation of such as pretty clear:

“We were inspired by the Russians, who put a flag on the floor of the North Pole with their MIR [deep sea submarine],” said Zhao, an engineer at the China Ship Scientific Research Centre, who designed the hull of the submarine. “It might provoke some countries, but we’ll be all right. The South China Sea belongs to China. Let’s see who dares to challenge that.”

Brave words indeed from an engineer associated with the project (but one presumes they would not have made it into circulation without the tacit approval of the Chinese government) – but it doesn’t end there. Being as how there was nowhere near the Chinese coast to test the deep sea submersible’s operating depth of up to 7,000 meters (greater than the Russian Mir and similar Western subs, as claimed by the Chinese maker), it was tested close to the Philippines:

“The closer to Philippines, the deeper the sea. We will put down national flags all the way until we reach their border,” Zhao said. “And then we will go beyond and aim for the Mariana Trench.”

Oh yes — and one other “small” item all the way at the end of the article:

The Sea Dragon needs the support of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, according to Zhao. “The navy has escorted all our previous missions and I think they will continue to do so,” he said. “The further we go, the more we need guns to protect ourselves.”

Which itself, brings to mind something we noted in an earlier post

The timing of the announcement and subsequent revelation in the open press (e.g., South China Morning Post – 27 August 2010 (registration/subscription may be required to read)) obviously follows on the heels of China’s assertion of sovereignty over the South China Sea. The rub of it is, however, that in so doing their goal of keeping the US marginalized and the other nations bordering the SCS divided becomes harder to obtain. The US has already stated that the competing clams over the resources in the sea and on the seabed of the SCS should be handled in a multi-lateral forum – one thinks something similar to the afore-mentioned Arctic Council, which would be anathema to the Chinese who, ironically enough, have obtained observer status on the Arctic Council. And that item, brings us back to the Arctic where China has asserted a right for access to the mineral wealth on par with the perimeter nations. Giving substance to the claim is a research station established in Norway and deployment of a Russian-built, nuclear-powered icebreaker on a semi-permanent basis.

So, here’s an observation — Russia has laid clam to a vast amount of the Arctic and may well end up with a majority share of said resources. Claim, however, is one thing, the ability to access and exploit another — and the current state of Russian industry and technology to exploit the mineral resources of the region is questionable. The US and Canada have the technological capability, but one wonders about the commitment of the US and the capacity of Canada – which leads us to look at a possible Russo-Chinese joint venture — hard currency for Russia from sales abroad of liquid and mineral resources and guaranteed access to same by a resource hungry China. All without any expectation of China stepping back from its increasingly aggressive posture in the SCS.

…things that make you go, hmmm…

Update; See also Eagle1 and ‘Phib posts this subject as well as this weekend’s blogtalk radio’s coverage of the same.

Baseball Player I Am Not.

Like most American boys I spent the springs and summers of my youth playing baseball. I say “playing” but I think “showing up” does the description of my little league career more justice. I was arguably La Jolla Little League’s worst ballplayer of the late 1980s (possibly of the entire 1980s) and of the early 1990s (but hopefully not of the entire 1990s) matched in my anti-athleticism only by the unimaginable skilllessness possessed by one of my fellow bench-mates from the notorious season of ’89 who should remain unidentified, but won’t and whose name is Mark Bauman. Sorry Mark, I love you, but the record must so reflect…

For some reason recollections of youth baseball stick out more than any other memories from the time. I remember much from those simpler days. Ill-fitting baseball pants (more horse-jockey than major league). Size “youth-small” jock-straps (“youth small” were for 8 year olds and should have offended me at 10, but didn’t). Itchy socks (why the hell I insisted on Civil War-style wool socks, I’ll never know). A snug one-size-obviously-does-not-fit-all jersey (that would grip my soft and lumpy pre-teen body like a polyester saran wrap and should have embarrassed me, but, again, somehow didn’t). Cleats one or two sizes too big (mom always bought clothes for me like she was buying futures at the Chicago Commodities Exchange: “Don’t worry sweet-pea these are for you, and your younger brother!”[1]). We didn’t wear sunglasses (that’s what the glove was for) but having just the right batting glove was a big deal (an important life lesson: if you can’t be good, look good). And who could forget the classic ball-caps of the day? Those Bush I-era caps were unquestionably amazing. Synthetic-netted backs, adjustable plastic head fittings, and that massive billboard-puffy-painted styrofoam front advertising the neighborhood sponsor-de-jeur. Great hats.

I remember other things from my baseball years. Allergy attacks. Big League Chew. Uncomfortable carpools in wood-paneled station wagons. Chewing barbeque sunflower seeds, swallowing that sweet-salty pulp and nearly suffocating to death in right field. Pretty girls I didn’t know I wanted yet (but one day would) not-watching from the bleachers in short jean shorts. Chasing butterflies in the on-deck circle. Sitting on the bench not flirting with the pretty girls in short jean shorts. Leaving each game as clean as I arrived; and, most encompassing of all, being legendarily bad at the game of baseball and not being all too interested in getting any better.

So Why Play?

I played baseball because, like most all good red-blooded American kids, I innately understood that I had to. Somewhere deep down in that chunky little body of mine, there was a chunky little heart[2] that knew there was something that moved me about the game[3]. I think I was called to action by the legacy of what it all meant, by the sights and sounds of the game’s elegant arena, and other mystifying nuances of baseball magic that is the command of this great American pastime over a young man’s soul. And who among us can deny the intoxication of a cold fountain soda and an authentic ballpark super dog covered in mustard and ketchup on a hot summer day? No, I didn’t play baseball because I wanted to…I played baseball because I had to…

The Tribulations of Fatherhood & Baseball’s Life Lesson.

My dad was really the one that had it rough back then. Me? I didn’t know any better. But my poor father. All those game days he had to endure. Man. The sheer misery this former collegiate rugby player and Vietnam Vet certainly suffered watching his (slow, fat, talentless) son strike out at the plate, miss the ball out in the field, warm the bench (not flirt with hot chicks), choke on sunflower seeds, clear his throat violently and put his glove on his head. The terrible indignity! As if coming home three times from Vietnam wasn’t hard enough, now he had to sit stoically by in active support of weakness, next to other fathers whose offspring didn’t suck.[4]

But he was always there for me. Through all the discomfitures. Sitting in those wooden bleachers with that chipped green paint, cheering me on. Doing that very thankless fatherly task of supporting his son’s mediocrity[5]. All this was the tough part. My old man’s ability to maintain a physical presence beside his fellow men under such upsetting circumstances is a testament to the Martin commitment to never showing weakness…even in the face of our own weakness.

No, my dad never gave up; he continued to coach me along with valuable lessons in the game of baseball despite my proven inability to ever demonstrate either improvement or interest.

One such essential baseball lesson became an essential life lesson and was the most important and basic message of them all (more important than the lesson that instructs a father must stand behind the real-life embarrassment he knows he’s half responsible for)…this lesson was to keep your eye on the ball.[6]

A Story that Proves Valuable Life Lessons Aren’t Always True

Sometime during the summer season of 1990 I was traded by the coach of the blue team to the coach of the red team for a warm six pack of Miller Light, a September 1987 edition of Playboy and a Jimmy Buffett CD. I learned this in the summer of 1998, when I was dating the daughter of the coach of 1990’s yellow team. Somehow, even all these years later, this is more sad than funny. But besides my own management’s heartless dealings, another thing happened in the summer of 1990: I got my very first hit.

I’ll never forget the pageantry of that at bat. Walking up to the plate, digging in my cleats (they were bought just before the season of 1988, so they fit just fine), gripping the bat, and closing my eyes tightly as the pitcher released the ball. Next I remember slow motion and white light, some b-side arena rock song by Queen and feeling the pain ringing in my hands from the sweet connection of that leather-coated rubber and string with aluminum. The bat slung the ball deep into the outfield (it should have, I had the physique of a Tely-Tubby), I opened my eyes, smiled (probably even giggled) and trotted to first base.

What for every other kid in the ballpark that day should have been a stand-up triple, was, for this young braveheart, a very long single. And my very first hit. It was a great day. It was the day I learned that skill, hard work, training, dedication and adherence to the fundamentals and principles of the game required for superior performance and execution (principles like ‘keep your eye on the ball’) could all be overcome by (quite literally) blind luck.

Yes, that day I learned that sometimes shortcuts do work. I was so happy with myself I think I waved. I probably even bowed. And I tucked that little gem of a life lesson deep down beneath the delicate architecture of my own moral courage, should life’s later challenges once again require such blind-luck-swingings.

I’m not sure what my dad did after that hit – he probably told everyone in those bleachers that the kid that finally hit the ball was his son; which if I was my father, would have been news to all of them.

The very next play I was thrown out at second. And I struck out every other at bat that season.

Luck gets you only so far.

I never did learn how to follow a baseball from a pitcher’s hand to the face of my bat (or anything else about baseball really); but I also never forgot the importance of keeping your eye on the ball.

And this, the keeping your eye on the ball part, has everything to do with Afghanistan.

Keep Your Eye On the Ball

Our decision to authorize 30,000 more combat troops into Afghanistan was a wise one. Our decision to set a timetable for July 2011 withdrawal was not. With the effects of the approved surge still unknown (the last of the combat surge units don’t even finish arriving until the end of this month) we mustn’t set dates not associated with achievement.

If success in this war is indeed critical to our national security (it is), then we must let General Petraeus, and the rugged men and women in his charge, do their job.

The General’s approach to this war has been that “any troop withdrawal would depend on the situation on the ground” and last week responded to the President’s announcement explaining that the July date “is not the date when the American forces would begin an exodus.” Which is a good thing; and Vice President Biden later back-pedaled saying it would be a “transition.” All this is semantics.

Our message simply must be one of commitment to win a war we are in fact capable of winning. And as far as fighting a successful counter-insurgency and subsequent nation-building goes, it’s the Commander in Chief that should say so.

The President must do what the Bush Administration couldn’t do with the Iraq War: ask for the patience of the American people, make his case, stress our commitment to success there, enable the mechanisms that will provide for such a thing, assure Americans, Afghanis and NATO that together we will prevail in war, and then lead us in the winning of it.

And this will be no easy task. With 155 Americans lost in the past 3 months (the most violent in this war’s history), things are as violent as ever. We’ve got to keep in mind though the reason for the increase in casualties is related to the increase in offensive operations. And with 6 out of 10 Americans opposing the war, we’ve got to keep in mind why we went there in the first place.

It should also be pointed out that we already defeated the Taliban and al-Qaeda there once, soundly, in 2001/2002. We defeated them at Mazar-I Sharif, in Kabul and Kunduz, at Kandahar and Tora Bora. Then Iraq became our main effort, and they had 7 years to reconstitute, refit, and counter-attack. This a predictable strategic consequence of a country faced with a two-front war: a main effort is assigned, and one stalls at the expense of the other. But now our focus is back to Afghanistan, and so we must accordingly rededicate our commitment to make it a place that resists the influence of evil al-Qaedists.

General Petraeus’ strategy will focus on mapping the human terrain, engaging key leaders and mullahs, conducting precision strikes on principle enemy lieutenants, engaging the intelligence activities of neighboring countries, surging combat power to essential population areas to provide the blanket of security needed to reenergize the local political and economic machines, and mobilize the local police and national Army.

Another essential aspect of his strategy will be to reconcile with the Taliban, which was instrumental in Iraq’s turn. “It’s the case in a counter-insurgency that you must sit down with those who were once your enemy in order to achieve success,” General Petraeus said. “We sat down with many in Iraq who still had our blood on their hands – but this is how counter-insurgencies are waged and won. It is how things were done in Northern Ireland. It is how it was done in Iraq. It is how they are done with any counter-insurgency. And it is how we’ll have to do it here.”

Too much is at stake for us to leave Afghanistan prematurely. Al Qaeda will regain their former sanctuary they enjoyed during the anarchy of 1992-1996 and beyond, there will be heightened regional and global risks associated with the Pakistan-India-global-terrorism equation, and a battleground to continue to engage this evil transnational enemy will be surrendered.

As the Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano points out, “Fighting terrorists in South Asia is not easy. But it is a worthwhile effort that offers the promise of a more enduring peace and a safer world for our civilians and allies. Now is the time to vanquish al-Qaeda and its affiliates, not give them a second lease on life. Running away would end nothing. Indeed, it would be but the prelude to more 9-11 style misery.”

And this has everything to do with the virtue of the lessons of little league baseball.


A withdrawal in July of 2011 would perhaps bring us a moment of national calm; those of us in uniform would come home. The casualties would stop. The money that daily pours to our efforts there would be freed up for other use. But all this, should we not proceed with a conditions based approach, will not last for long.

Al-Qaeda will grow stronger. Attacks will increase world-wide and at home and we’ll find ourselves asking why we left Afghanistan before the job was done.

So what’s the solution? Aside from allowing General Petraeus to do his job; aside from mobilizing an economy deeply rich with natural resources to replace the opium trade; aside from daily killing al-Qaeda in place; aside from nation-building; aside from a calculated and aggressively waged counter-insurgency; aside from a national recognition (led by our President) that we are a nation at war – that this is not a war of choice, but a war of necessity – aside from all of this we must all remember that this is a war we simply cannot afford to lose.

If there’s one thing my experiences as La Jolla’s worst youth ballplayer (arguably of all time) taught me it’s that a lack of dedication and focus can really only get you to first base (and then only sometimes, and rarely gets you noticed by the pretty girls in the stands), and that it’s the commitment that counts.

In the case of war in Afghanistan there is no virtue in pursuing policy that amounts to the blind-luck-swingings of my youth. Here the most essential of little league baseball’s life lessons persists: that we don’t do this because we want to, we do this because we have to…

All the rest is just keeping our eye on the ball.

[1] Though I’m now completely traumatized by this, it’s hard to argue with such prudent logic.

[2] This makes more sense when drunk. And in between tears.

[3] Something obviously other than girls in short jean shorts. Which these days, is about all it takes.

[4] Sorry dad.

[5] I have since vowed to myself that if I’m in a similar situation with my own son, I must be present, but also wildly intoxicated.

[6] To this life lesson my dad would later add: “don’t get anyone pregnant” and, “don’t worry about that grade son, the world is run by C students.”

Via email comes news that the US Merchant Marine Academy has a new incoming Superintendent


RADM Philip Greene, Jr. ’78 Named 11th Superintendent of U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

KINGS POINT, N.Y. – U.S. Maritime Administrator David T. Matsuda announced today the selection of Rear Admiral Philip Greene, Jr. USN ’78 as 11th Superintendent of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point. Matsuda addressed the entire Regiment of Midshipmen, faculty and staff this afternoon on campus. Greene is scheduled to begin his term on Monday, August 30, 2010 .

Greene, a two-time Outstanding Professional Achievement Award winner at the USMMA, is a Master Mariner and Flag Officer in the U.S. Navy. He has had a distinguished naval career including two ship commands, Post Graduate School , Naval War College , a Department Head tour at the U.S. Naval Academy and obtaining his unlimited masters license.

Greene, who will leave his current position as Director, Navy Irregular Warfare Office, becomes the third U.S. Merchant Marine Academy graduate to be named Superintendent. He joins RADM Thomas A. King ’42 (1980-1987) and RADM Paul L. Krinsky ’50 (1987-1993) as the only Kings Point graduates to oversee the institution.

In his current capacity at the Navy Irregular Warfare Office, Greene was tasked to develop new plans and strategies to combat the emerging dynamic styles of warfare. Under the newest Defense Department definition, “irregular warfare” considers any “indirect and asymmetric” tactics as well as conventional military and “other capacities” intended to “erode an adversary’s power, influence and will.”

From 2008-2009, Greene commanded the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa where he led operations to build regional security capacity and counter extremism in the Horn/East Africa. Prior to this assignment Greene served in Naples, Italy, as director for Policy, Resources & Strategy, U.S. Naval Forces Europe/Africa. (from Bio)

Greene relieves Dr. Shashi N. Kumar, who is serving his second term as Interim Superintendent. Dr Kumar will resume his full-time duties as the Academy’s Academic Dean. The U.S. Maritime Administration has yet to release an official Change of Command date.

Best wishes to RADM Greene in his new assignment!

Posted by FFry in Merchant Marine | 3 Comments

A Mind Puzzle

August 2010


Yesterday I attended the Homeland Security 2020: The Future of Defending the Homeland conference at the Heritage Foundation – which turned out to be very insightful. If you didn’t catch it on C-SPAN you can find a video of the panels here. During the second panel, Dr. Steve Bucci raised an interesting mind puzzle that I think is excellent for the kind of collaborative discussion one can usually finds in blog comments.

The scenario is straight forward – a large container ship still a few hundred miles off the US coast is believed to have a nuclear bomb. It is unclear, but all detection capabilities and intelligence suggests that one of the several hundred containers may have a nuclear bomb. How do you find out for sure? Where do you unload these containers so you can get to the one setting off sensors? Where do you send the ship? Are you going to sink a 70,000 ton bulk carrier because an imperfect detection system is giving you a suspicious reading, and intelligence is giving you a 50% probability that there could be a nuclear weapon on the ship?

Bottom line, nobody has any idea what we are going to do. It is one of many mind puzzles where the details that would constitute a real plan for dealing with deadly scenarios remain elusive.

The conversations at the Heritage event were very informative. The first panel put a great deal of intellectual energy into the global trade system and an examination of policy decisions to date that impact and influence our trade system. I highly suggest listening to Michael Barrett if you are not familiar with him. He is one of those young guys on this subject who has already developed an enormous resume – and will be a voice in this conversation for decades. The second panel was also very good – with Dr. Steve Bucci adding a bit of humor to the discussion.

I also thought VADM Terry Cross provided an interesting assessment of Deepwater.

Last Sunday, fellow USNIBlogg’r EagleOne and I had a little something for everyone on Midrats. If you missed it, head on over and download the archive and give it a listen.

Our guest for the first half of the hour was Douglas A. Macgregor Col. USA, (Ret), the author of USNI Press’s Warrior’s Rage: The Great Tank Battle of 73 Easting, and Transformation Under Fire: Revolutionizing How America Fights. We covered DESERT STORM, OIF, the influence of Counter Insurgency on today’s Army, and how the US Military may want to restructure in the future.

For the second half of the hour, we pivot and update a subject we last covered in Episode 7 this February. Our guest was retired Navy Reserve Commander Zoe Dunning, Board Co-Chair of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. We discuss the whole spectrum of the challenges of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, how the lobbying effort has evolved, and what hiccups there may be in a post DADT military.

Don’t forget – if you want to make sure and never miss a Midrats – subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

On the right you will see the graph showing the numbers of ideas submitted to the Secretary of Defense’s INVEST Program. INVEST being the acronym for INovation for new Value, Efficiency and Savings Tomorrow. On AFN the commercials come on every hour, with the SECDEF talking about why we need new ideas, the importance to the average service member and so on.

As a Navy, we’re holding a respectable fourth place, considering the size difference between the various branches, and the amount of time the Air Force spends in their chairs (lol). But, together as the Navy and Marine Corps Team, we’re in a close second to the Army, having a combined number of submissions of 506 to the Army’s 528. I think we can do better, I think we need to as well.

Bottled water. It’s all you got to drink out here, and there are tons of it. One of the things you’re told when first handed a bottled water is how much they supposedly cost. I’ve heard claims of $2.75 a bottle to $2.00 a bottle. I, more or less, believe the cost estimates. Another thing you come to be told after a month or so in the ‘Stan is how much YOU cost for just having your boots on the ground–around $1,000,000 dollars for the year total ownership cost is the common number cited at the smoke pit.

That last figure was verified for me by the CSBA analysis of the FY 2011 budget (h/t CDR Sal). But, actually places how much I cost in FY10 at just below $2,000,000 dollars.

It’s hard, real hard to sit here and think about what I do for this war effort costing that much. I know I am not worth that much money spent. You could get a Master Chief Yeoman out here doing my job and they wouldn’t produce a product worth two million-ish for a years worth of work. The only person out here that I can justify that cost for are those actually putting rounds down range–the guys actually fighting this war. But, the kicker is, those guys actually winning this war don’t live as comfortably as I do. Those guys, more often than not, are in much more austere FOBs (Forward Operating Base) than I am in Kandahar.

I’ve submitted to the SECDEF that I could do my job just as well somewhere outside of Afghanistan than I can actually here in Afghanistan. I process awards for units who’s admin office is just across the street from me. Know how I get the work from them? Email. The only time I really see them face-to-face is when I am dropping off their completed awards or they are picking them up from me. Units at other FOBs, more often than not, I mail the awards to them. So… Why am I here again? Why do I actually need to be in Afghanistan sucking up two million dollars of the tax payers money?

The Solution. Take the real estate that is about to become vacant in Suffolk that has all the connectivity I could need to communicate with S/R/G/N/J/CJ-1s (yes, there are that many designations for offices like mine) here in Afghanistan. Put my work schedule in Suffolk to match Afghan local time. Make the unit in Suffolk joint so as to have a working knowledge of awards procedures for each branch, and process their awards there and mail them to the unit in Afghanistan, or to their home station to be awarded upon home coming. Maintain the Admin shops in Afghanistan (O-5 command and smaller) to be able to process spot awards, and keep me from costing so much! I won’t be earning Imminent Danger/Hostile Fire pay, I won’t be getting War Zone Tax Exclusion, I won’t be getting Hazardous Duty Pay, none of that; let alone the cost of giving me this funny looking Army uniform and gear. One less admin person out here is one more war fighter who could be out here.

So, that’s my idea–what I told the SECDEF. Why don’t you tell the Secretary your idea? For us REMFs (link not for the faint of heart) and POGs (Personnel Other than Grunt), that may just be the best way we can help win this war.

Yes, there are probably more important matters to discuss, but it is the weekend. So, take a second and watch the Marine Forces Reserve Band rock out in rural Mozambique.


The Piper is Gone

August 2010


The magnificent British author George McDonald Frazier (the Flashman series, Quartered Safe Out Here, The Complete McAuslan) once wrote of slovenly Private McAuslan that, despite all his many shortcomings, he had “followed the pipes at Alamein”.

To the men of the British First Special Services Brigade, those pipes belonged to Private Bill Millin, and he played them on Sword Beach on the morning of 6 June 1944, as the Allied Expeditionary Force landed on the Normandy Coast. Despite the regulations which forbid the playing of bagpipes in combat, Brigade Commander Lord Lovat asked Millin to play as an inspiration to the troops coming ashore.

Private Millin’s bravery is immortalized in the 1962 film The Longest Day, with Leslie de Laspee performing the feat on celluloid.

The story is here.

Private Millin passed away on Wednesday in Devon, England, at the age of 88. Like the countless other heroes of his generation, he and his example will be missed.

Posted by UltimaRatioReg in History | 2 Comments

In the last week there has been a fair bit online like Chris’s post below about what is being done with the Navy-USMC team now, and elsewhere about what is coming to help with the humanitarian effort in Pakistan. Soft power is a popular topic.

The Department of Defense announced Aug. 13 the deployment of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (KSG ARG) and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26th MEU).

The combined Navy and Marine Corps team will leave later this month to bring significant heavy- and medium-lift aircraft and other assets to support flood relief efforts in Pakistan. The Kearsarge ARG/26th MEU’s capabilities will allow sailors and Marines to provide food, water, transportation, and other support, in partnership with the Pakistani military, to those in need.

The group is expected to arrive in the Arabian Sea in late September.

It will be at least six weeks, at the earliest, until initial effects are seen on the ground, so let’s speak to each other as adults.

This effort has everything to do about INFO OPS and STRATCOM, and little about a meaningful contribution to saving lives. That is fine – the argument can be made that this may save lives down the road through impact on the human terrain; but that is an argument, not a fact.

Some people will be helped – but within a standard deviation of the lives that the medical facilities, food, and supplies brought with the ARG could save if it helped on any standard day in Pakistan. Those who have been to AfPac know that even on a good day there is a humanitarian problem that needs what the USN-USMC can bring over the horizon.

Also remember that Pakistan is an incredibly poor country of ~175 million souls. For the rest of the life of our republic, every ARG/MEU deployment could go to the coast of Pakistan, and every day you could read, “... civilians from the town of XXXX are gathered inside a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter which has come to deliver humanitarian assistance and pick up victims …

A nation could go broke and a military worn out attempting to fix what cannot be fixed in any sustainable way by an ARG/MEU.

That stated, the ability to conduct humanitarian assistance has a long and honorable history in the US military and has its place. Taking six-weeks to help people suffering from water-born disease and lack of medical care is a long time to “help” save lives. Most who are in danger of dying now will be dead by the time the ARG/MEU gets there. On the extreme margins, we can help a few – but is that “our” job to save every soul in danger across the world? A Pakistani whose village is much better off than the homeless refugees of Darfur who are walking among the uncounted dead. Where, and at what cost-point, do you say, “enough.” When do the actions of a Republic start to look like the duties of an Empire?

If we are to do this, then we should do it better. More pre-positioned capabilities would be nice – so would strategic lift capable LTA assets (don’t laugh at Lighter-Than-Air when it comes to moving more tonnage than a C-17, faster than a ship, deliverable almost anywhere in a permissive environment). We don’t have that asset because like Command Ships, they aren’t sexy and therefor don’t get funded – so we have what we have.

There is a more fundamental question though. Do we want to be able to do this within means and capabilities – which is what we are doing now – or as a primary mission area? If you want to make it a PMA, then you will need to fund it. Cost it out and tell me what you will trade to be able to do this …. and then make the argument of the actual good you will derive from it.

Remember, at best – this helps the INFO OPS/Strategic Messaging efforts. We are talking about Pakistan. The delta in lives saved vs. the control sample is not that great. Just know that you are not doing “good” here – you are at best trying to buy good will – but really, how much good will?

The counter argument – and one made coldly – has two parts:
– This is like watering the desert. You can pour gallons on water on the desert – but if you don’t continue to do it on a regular basis, you soon end up where you started. No green shoots; just sand and lost money.
– How much good will did our efforts in Somalia in the early ’90s or the Pakistani earthquake half a decade ago accrue? How is that working for us?

It is not a mature intellectual exercise to do things with blood and treasure just to make ourselves feel good. Theory is just that – theory – without metrics to back it up. Given the spotty track record of these things in the last couple of decades – and in a period where we must learn to be careful with our funding – besides nice photo-ops and feeling good about ourselves, what are we getting for our effort?

Since July, monsoon rains have caused heavy flooding in many areas of Pakistan. The United Nations estimates more than 20 million people are affected. In response the disaster, the United States has launched a civilian and military relief effort in the country. As part of that effort, US military fixed and rotary wing aircraft are ferrying people and supplies to and from the flood zone. Below are thirteen photos from that military response.

Please consider donating to the NGO flood relief effort here or elsewhere.

Caption: Amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu and amphibious transport dock ship USS Dubuque steam off the coast of Pakistan in the early stages of supporting the Pakistani government and military with heavy lift capabilities to bring relief to those affected in flooded regions of Pakistan. Peleliu and Dubuque are a part of Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Dunlap.

Caption: A forklift with bags of humanitarian assistance is loaded by Pakistani workers into a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter that has arrived to take over the flight role from the U.S. Army in the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the flood victims as part of the disaster recovery effort in Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, Pakistan, Aug. 13. Photo by Staff Sgt. Horace Murray.

Caption: Pakistani Air Force members help unload thousands of Halal meals from a U.S. Air Force C-130H at Peshawar, Pakistan, Aug. 1, 2010. The meals will go to Pakistanis affected by the floods that have devastated the region. The C-130H is assigned to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz.

Caption: Pakistani Air Force members help unload thousands of Halal meals from a U.S. Air Force C-130H at Peshawar, Pakistan, Aug. 1, 2010. The meals will go to Pakistanis affected by the floods that have devastated the region. The C-130H is assigned to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz.

Caption: Pakistan civilians from the town of Kalam are gathered inside a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter which has come to deliver humanitarian assistance and pick up victims of the flood, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (formerly North West Frontier province), Pakistan, Aug. 9, 2010. Photo by Staff Sgt. Horace Murray.

Caption: A member of the Pakistan military points in the direction to where the passengers from the U.S. Army Chinook helicopter need to go after being delivered to the town of Khwazakhela from the flooding, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (formerly North West Frontier province), Pakistan, Aug. 9, 2010. Photo by Staff Sgt. Horace Murray.

Caption: A Pakistani military member assists a man and child during the evacuation process to board a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter to the town of Khwazakhela, during the flood recovery effort in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, Aug. 11. Photo by Staff Sgt. Horace Murray.

Caption: Pakistan men from the town of Kalam form a chain to quickly unload a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter that has delivered humanitarian assistance and pick up victims of the flood, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (formerly North West Frontier province), Pakistan, Aug. 9, 2010. Photo by Staff Sgt. Horace Murray.

Caption: Pakistan men from the town of Kalam carry a bags of flour, while they unload a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter which has come to deliver humanitarian assistance and pick up victims of the flood, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (formerly North West Frontier province), Pakistan, Aug. 9, 2010. Photo by Staff Sgt. Horace Murray.

Caption: A little girl from who is evacuated from the town of Kalam wears a set of headphones to reduce the loud aircraft sound aboard a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter which has come to deliver humanitarian assistance and pick up victims of the flood, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (formerly North West Frontier province), Pakistan, Aug. 9, 2010. Photo by Staff Sgt. Horace Murray.

Caption: U.S. Army Sgt. Kristopher Perkins, a Chinook crew chief with Company B, Task Force Raptor, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, TF Falcon, holds a child in his lap after picking up 114 Pakistan victims during flood relief missions, Aug. 11, out of the Swat valley, Pakistan. Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Monica K. Smith.

Caption: A U.S. Army Chinook helicopter flies over the flood affected area in Pakistan on a return flight from delivering hummanitarin assistance and evacuating personnel to the town of Khwazakhela, as part of the flood recovery effort in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, Aug. 11. Photo by Staff Sgt. Horace Murray.

Caption: A Chinook helicopter waits at the end of the hangar holding supplies for disaster relief due to flooding, Ghazi base, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, Aug. 7. Photo by Staff Sgt. Horace Murray.

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