Archive for September, 2010

From the most senior officers to the most junior petty officer, the culture reveals itself in personal attitudes ranging from resignation to frustration to toleration. The downward spiral of the culture is seen throughout the ship, in the long standing acceptance of poor housekeeping, preservation, and corrosion control. Over time, the ignored standard becomes the new norm. Sailors watching their Commanding Officer, Department Head, Division Officer, and Chief Petty Officer step over running rust, peeling non-skid or severe structure damage long enough, associate this activity as the standard…While the severity of current culture climate may be debated, its decline cannot. If left unchecked, a declining culture can only generate a worsening level of surface force readiness. That said, it will take a long, hard pull to turn around attitudes that have developed over an extended period of time. It is the considered opinion of this Panel that we must vigorously reinforce recent efforts to clarify and instill standards aboard our ships.

The Balisle Report: Fleet Review Panel of Surface Force Readiness, Section 3.8: Culture

It is very interesting to me that Admiral John Harvey pushed for an independent Fleet Review Panel to evaluate Surface Force Readiness – after all, he must have known there would be harsh criticism in the report, and he also must have known that all of that criticism would be directed squarely in his direction to be fixed – as he is the Commander of Fleet Forces Command. What does it say about the Leadership culture of the Navy when a 4 star Admiral pushes for an independent review in order to insure change within the Navy? What does it tell us about the character of the Admiral himself?

The culture problem of relaxed standards does not appear to be limited to only the surface fleet. Christopher Brownfield has an article up on The Daily Beast that describes a similar culture of accepted lower standards within the submarine community.

During my on-board training, while I studied more than 70 hours per week, my fellow officers regularly warned me, “Don’t let knowledge stand in the way of your qualifications.” They urged me not to, “learn too much… just check the box and get qualified.” But when my exam arrived, it seemed impossibly difficult. I failed miserably, despite having made a very serious five-month long effort to pass.

My fellow officers were surprised by my failure, and wondered aloud why I hadn’t used the “study guide.” When my second exam arrived, so did the so-called study guide, which happened to be the answer key for the nuclear qualification exam I was taking. I was furious. Defiantly, I handed back the answer key to the proctor and proceeded to take the exam on my own. I failed again. My boss, the ship’s engineer officer, started to document my failures with formal counseling so that he could fire me.

The most competent junior officer on our ship ran to my rescue, confiding that none of the other officers had passed the exam legitimately; the exam was just an administrative check-off. “Swallow your pride,” he told me, and just get it done.

The ship’s engineer and executive officer didn’t believe me when I complained of the cheating, and swept my allegations under the rug. It took me five attempts before I finally passed the “basic” qualification exam. Unbeknownst to me, senior members of my crew even went so far as to falsify my exam scores in order to avoid unwanted attention from the headquarters. But strangely, the exam was anything but basic. The expectations on paper were astronomically high compared to the banal reality of how our ship actually worked.

The USS Hartford had many serious problems. Later that year, the ship ran itself aground off the coast of Italy, resulting in the firing of our captain and several senior officers. But sadly, the nuclear cheating scandal was not isolated to the Hartford. Two years later, when I began to teach at the Naval Submarine School in Connecticut, my colleagues whispered of cheating scandals aboard their own boats. Did it happen on the Scranton? What about the Seawolf? The results were not pretty. From our extensive whispered surveys, several other officers and I concluded that the vast majority of the fleet had some odious practice that resembled the cheating scandal I witnessed firsthand aboard the Hartford.

Thus far, the U.S. Navy has maintained a perfect nuclear safety record. But, having attained the senior supervisory certification of a ship’s nuclear engineer officer, I am deeply disturbed by what I consider to be a threat to the nuclear Navy’s integrity.

There will be several reactions to this story, but I want to highlight two. The first reaction will be from someone with a good understanding of naval power who reads the article in full to discover the author is a strategically ignorant fool. The entire world is having an awakening on the value of submarines to national security in the 21st century, and this guy is having trouble understanding the value of submarines to the worlds only superpower in 2010. When someone who wishes to be taken seriously as a national security analyst says “Unless Osama bin Laden commandeered a rubber raft with WMD, there was nothing of unique value that a submarine could provide.” you just ripped up your credibility card.

But here is the problem. Just because the author appears to be strategically and tactically challenged on the merits of submarines, that strategic ignorance doesn’t disqualify the seriousness of the claims against the Navy made in the rest of the article – particularly when these claims are very similar to cultural problems that have been identified in other areas of the Navy. This article is written in a way that could easily lead to an Admiral dismissing the claims as ludicrous or impossible, but I would be very wary of any Admiral who did that.

It is a noteworthy and interesting irony that Christopher Brownfield is doing in this article what dmiral Harvey wants sailors doing as per his speech last week – demanding higher standards within their profession, and speaking out when those standards fail to meet the expectations of duty requirements. The submarine community doesn’t want to hear what this guy is saying, but if what he is saying is true – then whether you want to hear it or not is irrelevant.

This is my point. I encourage Secretary Gates, Secretary Mabus, and Undersecretary Work to pay attention to this. The reaction of Naval leadership to a story like this will reveal quite a bit about the character of the leaders in the US Navy today. Who is shooting off emails in anger, and who is rolling up their sleeves to get to the bottom of the claims being made? There is already plenty of evidence that a culture problem exists in the US Navy, and because the culture problems are widespread – the culture problems exists in the flag ranks too.

You don’t have to convince me that Christopher Brownfield is strategically shallow on the merits and value of submarines in the 21st century – but his remarkable ignorance in that regard does not disqualify the seriousness of the claims made in his article.

Posted by galrahn in Navy | 33 Comments

Looks like CDR Aboul-Enein’s new book has an Instalanche and an Austin Bay column.

Serious people need to be looking at Aboul-Enein’s work, I think.

U.S., Asean To Push Back Against China
The U.S. and its Asian allies are starting to push back at China’s growing assertiveness in the region, strengthening security ties and taking more robust positions in territorial disputes in the East and South China seas.

Israeli Official Says Strikes on ‘Bottlenecks’ Could Cripple Iran’s Nuke Program
Israel’s Warning Comes After Ahmadinejad’s Threat of ‘War Without Boundaries’. A top Israeli warned today that Iran’s vast nuclear program could be crippled for years with airstrikes on just a “few bottlenecks, important ones.”

Diplomats: Iran seeks seat on U.N. nuke agency board
Iran is seeking a seat on the decision-making board of the same U.N. nuclear agency probing its activities for evidence that Tehran may be interested in making atomic weapons, officials said Thursday.

Critical Questions on Iran
A confluence of events in the next few weeks again will put Iran at the top of the Obama administration’s foreign policy agenda and could shape its course in the months ahead.

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Ignore your instincts …

September 2010


It is easy to react at first blush at what you think you see. When you become used to thinking on a hair trigger about certain things – you can often miss the greater truth that is out there.

Why are we constantly reminded to think about the 2nd and 3rd order effect? Why are the most successful the ones what ask the most questions?

In the profession of arms – why is deception such a critical part of any operation? Why do we worry so much about camoflauge?

Simple – humans have a tendency to take things on first glance. They don’t look closer. They don’t focus and think in detail – or they can’t see because they focus on the wrong thing.

Take another look at the picture to the right. What, you may ask, is a picture of a grown man’s backside doing in such an august institution as USNIBlog? Simple.

To make you think. To remind you of a hero. To give example of focus, prioritization, and doing what needs to be done to make mission.

Scott Nichols Gallery is proud to present an exhibition of historic photographs by the late photojournalist Horace Bristol. Bristol’s photographs cover a broad sweep of 20th Century history and were published extensively by LIFE Magazine in the 1930’s. His poignant portraits of migrant farm workers in California’s Central Valley, in collaboration with John Steinbeck, later inspired the novel The Grapes of Wrath gaining him recognition as a prolific photographer of his time.

In 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Bristol joined an elite team of naval photographers under Edward Steichen documenting key naval battles, including the invasions of North Africa, Okinawa and Iwo Jima. When the war subsided he moved his family to Japan where he continued to photograph the devastation wrought by the war and set up his own Photo Agency, East-West, focusing on Pacific Rim countries in transition. He sold his photographs widely throughout South East Asia, Europe and the United States.

The title of the picture is “PBY Blister Gunner, Rescue at Rabaul, 1944.”

Available in a few places on the web – here is the background.

(in the) December 2002 issue of B&W magazine, in an article about the man who took the picture, Horace Bristol; he was a member of a Navy unit of photographers, and thus ended up being on the plane the gunner was serving on, which was used to rescue people from Rabaul Bay (New Britain island, Papua New Guinea), when this occurred:

“…we got a call to pick up an airman who was down in the Bay. The Japanese were shooting at him from the island, and when they saw us they started shooting at us. The man who was shot down was temporarily blinded, so one of our crew stripped off his clothes and jumped in to bring him aboard. He couldn’t have swum very well wearing his boots and clothes. As soon as we could, we took off. We weren’t waiting around for anybody to put on formal clothes. We were being shot at and wanted to get the hell out of there. The naked man got back into his position at his gun in the blister of the plane.”

Oh, it was also put there because Mary needed a pick-me-up.

UPDATE: Though it doesn’t cover this period of the war, if you are interested in the PBY at war, USNI Press published a good book outlining the start of the war, In the Hands of Fate: The Story of Patrol Wing Ten, 8 December 1941 – 11 May 1942. That link will take you to the paperback. I’ve had the hardcover for years tucked away in the library. I couldn’t find one online, but if you are a book-snob like me and insist on getting a hardcover – if you get in touch with USNI Press, they might have one hidden somewhere. Good book.

Chinese premier threatens action against Japan
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao demanded the immediate release of a Chinese fishing boat captain, who has been held for two weeks, as Chinese-Japanese tension continued to rise.

Upping the Ante in China-Japan Clash
The escalating dispute between Beijing and Tokyo about Japan’s detention of a Chinese fishing boat captain is a challenge for Washington and raises concerns about Chinese maritime activities in the Asia Pacific, says CFR’s Sheila Smith.

China, Paint, Corner
China appears to have upped the ante a little more with its highest level intervention yet as Premier Wen Jiabao threatened ‘further’ action if the Chinese captain is not released immediately by Japanese authorities. One of the problems for China is that Japan is treating this as a legal, administrative issue that needs to be dealt with through due process. China, however, has made this into a political issue that would require political intervention in the justice system.

A summit of tensions in Pyongyang
While North Korea’s much-anticipated conference, which state media say will take place on September 28, could see the Dear Leader’s youngest son crowned as successor, it could also see a simmering conflict between the party and the military explode. The party has powerful players, but the Cheonan sinking is believed to have been masterminded by a general seeking an independent course.

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On July 28th, 2010 ADM John C. Harvey, Jr was asked about the culture problems discussed in the Balisle report, and ADM Harvey told Congress that he was directly accountable for it, and it was his responsibility to fix that problem. Cultural problems are hard to fix, but this is one way you address the challenge. This speech is remarkable – a lot to think about and discuss. Taken from here.

Remarks as written for ASNE Conference
ADM J.C. Harvey, Jr., U.S. Fleet Forces
Delivered 14 September 2010

Good morning. It’s a privilege to be here with you today to address a subject very near and dear to my heart.

For my remarks today, I would like to address the subject of fleet maintenance and modernization by taking you on a historical journey back to our navy’s roots. It would be impossible to cover all the major decisions and events that have gotten us where we are today regarding fleet maintenance and modernization, and so I will focus on one small, but extremely critical thread – the history of the naval engineer.

And the story of the naval engineer is a complex one: a story that evolved over 170 years and was shaped by politics, personnel policies, prejudices, constantly changing operational demands, and the unyielding advance of technology. Originally civilians under private contract with the navy, the need for a uniformed naval engineer was ushered in by a significant technological advancement – steam propulsion.

The advent and adoption of steam propulsion for navy warships, beginning with the USS Fulton in 1837, brought new skill requirements for navy officers. At first, navy met this requirement through continuing the practice of recruiting civilian engineers under private contract. But by 1841, as the navy built more steamships, new Secretary of the Navy Abel P. Upshur recognized the requirement for the navy to recruit, train, and retain naval officers able to not just design and build, but operate and maintain sophisticated machinery – skills that simply were not found to be in line officers at that time.

In his first annual report, Secretary of the Navy Upshur wrote, quote “the use of steam vessels, in war, will render necessary a different order of scientific knowledge from that which has heretofore been required. If our navy should be increased by the addition of any considerable number of steam-vessels, engineers will form an important class of naval officers. It will be necessary to assign to them an appropriate rank, and subject them to all the laws of the service. Great care should be used in the selection of them, because a great deal will depend upon their skill and competency; hence it is necessary that they should have the proof of their competency which an examination, conducted under their own rules, would afford.”
Close quote.

By 1842, naval engineers were incorporated into the navy’s staff corps – a decision which, very early on, created significant tension with the officers of the line.

In 1842, there were five communities that constituted the staff corps – chaplains, surgeons, navy constructors, paymasters, and engineers. Navy constructors didn’t go to sea and chaplains, surgeons, and paymasters certainly played very important roles, but their responsibilities were ancillary to the operations of the ship.

Naval engineers uniquely stood out from the rest of the staff corps – they were responsible for their ship’s motive power, and this responsibility raised issues over the locus of command authority and the engineers’ place within the shipboard chain-of-command and larger naval hierarchy.

As the demand for engineers increased, so did the tensions between the two officer communities. Prior to 1854, the navy had built an average of 1 steam ship per year; but between 1854 and 1859, the navy constructed an additional thirty steam ships and naval engineers soon outnumbered all other staff corps in numbers on active duty, second in total numbers to the line alone.

Over the next four decades, the navy would struggle with the unique responsibilities and requirements of the naval engineer. Through a series of laws and policy changes, the navy’s professional engineers would achieve “relative rank” to their line counterparts and equal pay; and the navy, responding to the shortage of qualified engineers generated by the civil war, would establish the first class of cadet engineers at the naval academy beginning in 1864.

Over the next twenty years, the contributions and responsibilities of naval engineers continued to increase as greater technological advancements became commonplace aboard navy warships.

The navy of wooden ships powered by wind and sails forty years earlier was quickly being replaced by iron clad ships powered by steam; ships completely reliant on mechanical power for most functions; with significant technological advancements on the horizon as shipboard electrical systems were conceived, developed, and brought aboard.

By the early 1890’s, it became virtually impossible to command a ship without having a fundamental understanding of its machinery.

Engineer in chief George Melville, quoting from the French navy’s journal La Marine Francais would write, “there is strife between the deck and the engineer officer. While the role of the former is growing less every day, that of the latter is constantly increasing in importance…this is the age of the engineer, and he will be the great factor in modern warfare, whether the contest be waged by land or by sea. The trained engineer is a combatant in naval warfare.”

This tension over place and privilege continued to grow until a compromise solution championed by then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt was adopted. The policy was an amalgamation of the engineer and the line. This amalgamation was signed into law by the 55th congress on 3 March 1899 and modified in 1916 to allow line officers to select engineering duty only when they had achieved the rank of lieutenant commander.

Over the next sixty years, the importance and responsibilities of naval engineers continued to grow. By the time World War II was won and the navy was focused on the cold war, naval engineers were the navy’s technical experts – responsible for designing, operating, maintaining, and modernizing navy’s technologically advanced fleet.

Ironically, just as the advent of steam power ushered in the age of the naval engineer, the next great leap, to shipboard nuclear propulsion, almost brought about its end. The incorporation of nuclear power into the navy – spearheaded by Admiral Rickover (an engineering duty officer of some note) reinvigorated the debate concerning the proper relationship between engineers and officers of the line.

Admiral Rickover summarized his position by stating, “the man of the future on whom we shall depend more and more is the technical expert. Today he is still subservient to non-technical leaders in government and industry, and his work is hampered and sometimes destroyed by men in whom is vested great power but who cannot understand the realities of the new, artificial, technological age. But the ‘verbal’ men are on the way out… We have taken cognizance of this demand for a different kind of man…”

Which pretty much explains the volcanic reaction ADM Rickover had when I, a naval academy political science major, walked into his office for my nuclear propulsion program interview. I was not the different kind of man ADM Rickover was looking for.

Admiral Rickover’s statement closely mirrored Secretary of the Navy Upshur’s sentiment 100 years earlier.

But, instead of looking to the EDO community as the solution, admiral Rickover drove the navy to focus instead on creating a new version of the line officer with the goal of reducing navy’s reliance on the EDO community and creating a much more technically-focused line officer. And in 1958, the Franke board, led by future Secretary of the Navy William Franke, took the first steps down that path by significantly reducing the size of the EDO community with the assumption that the line community would take up the technological load.

And they did, but over time, increasingly complex operational realities and new career path requirements resulting from Goldwater-Nichols and other changes to law and policy have caused the line community to search anew for the proper balance of expertise between the naval engineer and our line officers.

At stake is nothing less than how we will hold the line on maintaining standards of technological expertise and performance for our ships, submarines, and aircraft.

Now, after covering almost 170 years of navy history and personnel policy development in about 10 minutes, I only scratched the surface of this incredibly important and complex issue. So you may be asking yourself, “what is the point here?” “Why is the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces giving us a somewhat academic lecture on the development of the naval engineer?” Well, I have two reasons.

First, we sometimes forget why certain decisions were made and we often assume that – in our navy’s case – our organizations, processes, and policy represent the culmination of 234 years of lessons learned.

In reality, the organizations, policies and processes we have today are a representation of a snapshot in time…

A picture resulting from a set of serial decisions, each made in response to specific challenges at very specific times and a unique set of circumstances.

And so, as we add our own decisions in response to our own unique set of circumstances, we often lose sight of the history of what worked and what didn’t work, and why. We become consumed by the fierce urgency of now.

Which leads me to the second reason I took you on a brief tour of the history of the naval engineer – I believe we have lost sight of our roots and the reason why we established the professional engineer in the first place.

At one time in our history, rapidly advancing technology overwhelmed the line officer and we needed the naval engineer to re-balance the equation in our ships, to ensure we could fight our ships.

ADM Rickover’s efforts restored the balance in our ships, the balance we enjoy today, by forcing the development of a far more technically competent line officer, officers who can both operate and fight their ships.

Now, our primary challenge has shifted ashore – to the design, development, construction, testing and delivery of our ships and the sustainment of their hulls and installed engineering and combat systems over time.

And it is to overcome this challenge, which we have not done successfully in the past 10 years, that I call to our professional naval engineers to return to their roots and re-establish themselves as the keepers of the standards of technological excellence.

Naval engineers are our bulwarks against bad decisions. Just as the CHENG is the one who must tell the co the sometimes unwelcome news concerning the ship’s limitations – so must our program managers, regional maintenance commanders and shipyard commanding officers hold the standard, and if the standard is not achievable, let that fact be known and identify what must be done to meet the standard upon which the fleet depends.

I recently read the navy engineer journal’s “Story of Aegis” edition. It is a terrific read – highly educational and I recommend it to everyone here.

One of the articles in the journal was Rear Admiral Wayne E. Meyer’s reflection on what made the Aegis program so successful.

I won’t bore you with all of the details, but he attributes his success to two major characteristics. First – good governance, which included a very high degree of personal accountability. For 15 years, Admiral Meyer was the single accountable officer responsible for bringing Aegis from concept to implementation.

And PMS 400 was the single organization responsible for the Aegis program.

We no longer have an Admiral Meyer and PMS 400. Aegis was once a small island in a big fleet – now Aegis is the fleet. And as Aegis has grown, so have the number of organizations responsible for some piece of the Aegis pie. Which leaves us the question – “who is now responsible and accountable for the whole pie?”

Second, Admiral Meyer describes the importance of single minded dedication to the pursuit of technical excellence combined with being obstinate.

Admiral Meyer understood both the operational impacts and the burdens that would be placed on the backs of our sailors if he delivered a combat system that was not operationally effective, suitable, and reliable. And so Admiral Meyer refused to budge one iota from that standard of system performance, reliability, and effectiveness.

Admiral Wayne Meyer and his team were true to his roots as a professional navy engineer – he never wandered, he never waffled. His example shines before us to this day – an enduring commitment to excellence. Now, I know many of you here today aren’t EDO ‘s. But that doesn’t matter – I believe my message applies to everyone here today. Whether you are an EDO , a government civilian, or a private contractor; whether you work at a shipyard, a regional maintenance center, or at a headquarters – we are all one team.

And so my message to you today reflects my expectations as a fleet commander for the maintenance and modernization of our ships – our foundation must be the absolute adherence to the time-tested standards of performance, reliability, and effectiveness.

We don’t need maintenance managers or system life-cycle managers – we need technically savvy, hard-nosed systems engineers who are absolutely committed to delivering excellence in design, development, construction, test and delivery.

I need you focused first and foremost on effectiveness – if it’s cheap, efficient, but doesn’t work – it does the fleet no good. The worst sin we commit is when a new system or platform is expensive and still doesn’t perform to specification and requires still more expensive fixes to get right.

You are the front line in the battle to maintain our standards, it all starts with you. I expect you to ensure our ships are built correctly, receive all the proper maintenance necessary to reach expected service life, and that the ships and their installed combat and engineering systems will perform to design specifications as long as our crews do their jobs underway correctly and conscientiously.

No matter what organization you’re in, and whatever “box” you’re in within that organization – and however the boxes are arranged linking you with other boxes or other organizations – straight lines, dotted lines, dashed lines, or imaginary lines – be obstinate! Never, never, never give way on our standards of excellence. And you know what they are…

The standards that have sustained our navy so well for so long – standards of technical rigor in design and performance, standards of uncompromising adherence to our maintenance plans and standards of professional performance in every aspect of your duties.

These are the standards this community brought to our navy in response to Secretary usher’s call to arms in 1841 – they are in your DNA.

Today, each of you must make the personal choice to go back to your roots, face today’s challenges head-on and take ownership of whatever actions are necessary to bring our design, development, construction, test, delivery and maintenance programs back to standard.

And you, each one of you, must consider yourself accountable, wherever you serve and whatever you do, to the fleet sailor to sustain those standards.

That accountability is non-negotiable and must drive your daily work just as it drove Admiral Meyer.

I fully understand how challenging this work will be given our current operational tempo and our navy’s growing fiscal challenges. It is truly varsity-level work. But then, I’m talking to the varsity, aren’t I?

Meeting and maintaining the standard, not giving way on the imperative of excellence, that has been the work of the naval engineer since 1837.

And it is the work you can do, it is the work you must do, and it is the work we will do, for it is the work upon which the future of our navy depends.

And so, my naval engineers, let’s get at it, with a vengeance.

Thank you.

More information here.

Posted by galrahn in Navy | 4 Comments

“Whenever the Enterprise roams in the traditional freedom of the seas, she is the sovereign of the United States, a mighty symbol of our determination to preserve liberty and justice and a clear sign of our nation’s ability to do so.” – ADM Arleigh Burke, 24 Sept 1960

This Friday (24 Sept) marks the 50th anniversary of USS Enterprise’s christening. The eighth ship to carry the name, she is slated for one more deployment, her 21st, before being retired in 2012 (sooner if CNO had his way). Since commissioning in 1961, some have figured that over a quarter of a million sailors and aviators have served aboard Big E — and I am proud to be counted amongst the number on both counts.

We now have over 3,000 signatures on the petition to name CVN-79 the next Enterprise and at month’s end, I will close out the petition in anticipation of delivering the signatures to SECNAV, CNO and Senator Webb (open to other suggestions as well). If you haven’t signed yet — please do so and pass the word as well. With 2011 being the 100th anniversary of US Naval Aviation, I think it would be fitting to announce the name of the next carrier as “Enterprise”.

China Tells U.S. To Stay Out Of Dispute Over South China Sea’s Sovereignty
China signaled for the U.S. to stay out of disputes over the South China Sea, three days before President Barack Obama is due to meet with regional leaders concerned over China’s territorial claims in the oil-and gas- rich waters. “China enjoys indisputable sovereign rights over the South China Sea islands and adjacent waters,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters today in Beijing. “We oppose the internationalization and expansion of the South China Sea dispute because it will only make the issue more complicated.”

Japan Threatens Build Up Of Military Forces Amid Rising Tensions With China
Japan is threatening an almost 10 per cent increase in its ground defence forces in response to a growing diplomatic dispute with China. The defence ministry is reported to be exploring plans to expand the size of the Japan’s ground personnel by 13,000 troops – almost 10 per cent – as early as next year. The expansion would be the first in almost 40 years and come amid growing regional tensions, particularly in areas where China’s navy is increasingly active.

The Remilitarization of Beijing
In recent months—and especially since last December—China has pursued an increasingly assertive foreign policy. At the same time, Chinese flag officers and colonels have been making provocative comments in public on topics normally considered the exclusive responsibility of the country’s civilian officials. For instance, this March, Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo staked out a position on the Arctic that was at variance with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In addition, there’s been a spate of unusually hostile public comments from military officers, especially on their desire to engage in combat with America.

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The End of an Insurgency

September 2010


Ben Connable writes a fascinating piece for Foreign Affairs.

…insurgencies that involve more than one insurgent group generally last even longer and are more violent. Each group has its own constituency that has turned to fighting for its own reasons — each of which must be addressed to truly end the fighting. For example, three separate Angolan insurgent groups fought for independence from Portugal in the late 1960s. After the Portuguese colonial government collapsed in 1974, Angola became a battlefield among the insurgents; the fighting lasted into the 2000s. And at least 20 unique Iraqi insurgent groups fought U.S. forces in Iraq between 2003 and 2010. The insurgency there was especially bloody at its worst, and even today peace among all factions is far from assured.

Finally, insurgent groups that are voluntarily given sanctuary by another country win insurgencies — that is totally defeat the government they are fighting — twice as often as they lose. The value of haven is fairly self-evident: insurgents can use a secure space to train, organize, rest, refit, and, if necessary, hibernate. The loss of a haven, moreover, correlates strongly with defeat. Of those groups that had one and then lost it, only one in four went on to win its fight. This was certainly true for the Greek communist insurgents: after failing to seize control of Greece in the waning stages of World War II, the communists attempted to overthrow the Greek government. Until the middle of 1949, they enjoyed haven in Yugoslavia. Within one year of Yugoslavia closing its borders to the insurgents, the movement collapsed.

To read the rest of the article, go here.

Major Ben Connable was always a thoughtful, incisive, amazingly intelligent, and thoroughly brave Marine Officer who made his bones on multiple tours in Al Anbar Province during the absolute worst of the insurgency. We ignore his counsel at our own peril.

Global Governance: Vital But Impossible?
This morning, the Atlantic Council hosted the launch of Global Governance 2025, a report following a long collaboration with several partners. The fundamental takeaway is that, while cooperation between the United States and Europe is essential, it “is no longer enough to effectively manage global challenges.” Instead, key players from around the globe will need to develop new institutions to deal with the world’s problems. The report stresses that “formerly localized threats are no longer locally containable but are now potentially dangerous to global security and stability.” The listed challenges range from migration problems to resource scarcity to climate change to state collapse.

Japan urges calm after China severs contacts over fishermen’s detention
Japan urged China to remain calm and not inflame their diplomatic spat further Monday after Beijing severed high-level contacts and then called off a visit by Japanese youth over the detention of a Chinese fishing boat captain near disputed islands.

Japan FM Voices Concern On China Defense Spending
Japan’s new Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara on Sept. 17 voiced concern over the level of China’s defense spending, speaking hours after he was appointed and amid a tense territorial fight with China.

China’s maritime aggression should be wake-up call to Japan
The Sino-Japanese standoff over Japan’s detention of a Chinese trawler captain who acted aggressively towards the Japanese coast guard in waters near the disputed Senkaku islands is part of a larger pattern of Chinese assertiveness towards its neighbors over the past few years. This pattern includes renewed Chinese claims to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, Beijing’s increasingly forceful claims to sovereignty over the South China Sea, China’s effort to claim suzerainty over the Yellow Sea (where it sought to prevent recent U.S.-South Korean naval exercises), and a series of naval provocations directed at Japan.

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