Archive for March, 2011

Announcing the 137th Annual Meeting of the US Naval Institute:

More than ever we need you there, in person, at the meeting. I’m going and have registered – registration is free (but required) for USNI members. See you there.

w/r, SJS

P.S. Don’t forget to vote – while the Board of Directors may have stated the intent to “delay any change in the Institute’s mission statement whatever the outcome of the balloting”, balloting nonetheless continues and it is important we follow through to help establish the grounds for the forthcoming “wide-ranging and fully open debate led by the membership.” Vote here.

(cross-posted at

Posted by SteelJaw in Navy | 6 Comments

In Defense News, US Marine Colonel Mark Desens, CO of 26th MEU currently operating off the coast of Libya, had some very interesting and incisive comments regarding the need for the F-35B STOVL variant of the JSF.

Desens and others noted that the F-35B would be a vast improvement over the Harrier. Not only does it carry more weapons and fuel, its sensors allow it to target enemy air defenses and vacuum up intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data and feed it back to the fleet.

“When you look at the capabilities of the F-35B and how much it expands the tool box, that aircraft is going to push us way out in front of any future potential threats out there,” the colonel said.

Read the full article here.

But what really jumps out from Col Desens’ comments is the possibility that a smaller aircraft carrier with such a weapon as the F-35B could have efficacy as an alternative to the traditional supercarrier that has been the sole contestant in the US Navy’s aircraft carrier building arena since the commissioning of the Forrestals in the late 1950s.

More from Colonel Desens:

“It would be lovely to have an aircraft carrier here, but there are not enough to go round,” said Col. Mark Desens, the commander of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which operates the AV-8Bs aboard the Kearsarge. “What we do have is the opportunity to do a lot of things with this vessel, and we are accomplishing a tremendous return on investment with these six STOVL jets.”

He continues:

“With an AV-8B or an F-35B, you get an immediate ability to start impacting a wide range of things,” Desens said. “As you look down the road, the need for a STOVL jet sells itself, because you are not going to get more aircraft carriers. An F-35B costs a lot less than a carrier.”Desens noted that a STOVL jet can also move ashore with troops as they push farther away from the beachhead, landing and flying from far smaller patches of ground than regular fixed-wing planes.

“You have tremendous operational flexibility if you are going to do a projected land war, like Iraq and Afghanistan, where those jets were sea-based…”

The nuclear-powered Nimitz-class super-carrier has been the symbol of US Naval power and influence for nearly four decades. However, the price tag for such vessels will continue to rise. The first of its class USS Gerald R. Ford is projected to cost upwards of $10 billion. While the Nimitz-class is expected to soldier on for several more decades, operating costs of the 102,000-ton, 5,000-sailor behemoths will continue to be a serious concern in this era of fiscal austerity.

With each crisis anywhere on the globe that involves US interests, the question that is invariably posed is “where are the carriers?”; the latest instance being a mere two weeks ago off Libya. But, does every situation in which the question is asked have to be answered with a Carrier Battle Group built around a CVN? Is it necessary to bring the extremely high-end solution to low- and medium- threat problems? Is that now what we see with billion dollar warships chasing pirate skiffs off Somalia?

During the Second World War, smaller flattops provided air assets to amphibious assaults and other operations in what we now describe as the Littoral, such as is being conducted in Libya at present. There were myriad reasons for this, but the predominant was the desire not to risk the trump cards, the Fleet Carriers, in confined waters and within range of enemy land-based weapons systems, any more than necessary. One would think a 21st century corollary of that rule is still a good idea in today’s A2/AD environment, particularly as we look to the western Pacific.

With the building of the America (LHA-6) class of amphibs, it is possible that the Navy has itself a hull form that could be adapted for the role of smaller aircraft carrier. At 45,000 tons, 844 feet long, with a beam of 106 feet, the Americas will be very similar in dimension, though with a higher displacement, to the famous Essex-class carriers of World War II, one might hesitate to label such a “light carrier”. Perhaps, in a redux of previous nomenclature, the former term “attack carrier” (CVA) seems most descriptive. As General Amos, Marine Commandant, noted in January of this year in a speech to the Surface Navy Association, the America class LHA is already “maximized for aviation” already. So let’s take the next step of logic.

An adaptation of that warship class, one dedicated to Naval and USMC STOVL aviation assets, one that does NOT have an amphibious mission, doesn’t require billeting for 1,700 Marines and their equipment, that doesn’t have a requirement for V-22 or attack helicopters as a part of its organic air component (but still capable of handling them if desired), a warship like that could prove exceedingly handy and valuable to a fleet which may be looking at a shortage of its heavyweights.

Of course, the obvious argument about efficiency of sorties is a consideration, but would a warship with a complement of STOVL fighters of the capabilities expected of the F-35B create a new baseline for measuring such efficiency of sortie generation? Would 60-65 aircraft still remain the minimum aircraft complement for efficient operation? I would love to see some projections using the F-35B to that end. The speed of the Americas might have to be enhanced, as the 22-knot capability may or may not be sufficient, but options may be available for more powerful propulsion systems to achieve desired speeds.

In addition, operating costs of such a ship would very likely be significantly less. A crew of 1,000-1,200 Officers and Sailors, with a suitably-sized air component is less than half that of the 4,500-5,000 complement of the Nimitz/Ford CVNs.

If the number of CVNs in commission shrinks to 9 or even 8 in the coming decade, which is a distinct possibility, we are left with a shortage of assets to cover a world-wide commitment. When the question is asked again, as it will be, “Where are the carriers?”, there are two answers that we should take great pains to avoid.

The first is “Rusting away in Philadelphia.”

The second is “Busy elsewhere, and not coming.”

A STOVL-dedicated CVA based on the America-class LHA may provide a cost-effective and combat capable alternative to the CVBG that may or may not be available when we need it. If we are to maintain a global power projection presence, as the Maritime Strategy asserts, the approach offered here deserves more scholarship than it has been given.


Piracy in Somalia

March 2011


Martin Murphy, a piracy expert at the Center for Foreign Policy Studies, believes that Somali pirates are the biggest threat to the peaceful use of the sea since the Second World War. These pirates have attacked as far south as Madagascar and as far west as India. He argues that the number of naval ships protecting commercial ships near Somalia is like four policemen patrolling an area the size of Texas.

What do we do? I don’t think putting armed personnel on commercial ships will reduce piracy. First, approximately 11% of the world’s shipping passes through the Gulf of Aden. Arming enough ships to make the pirates think twice before attacking would be extremely expensive. Second, this is the Wild West. No rules of engagement exist for when we can attack the pirates and who can attack them. Imagine the uproar if a private security contractor killed an innocent Somali fisherman whom he suspected of piracy. And no one knows what to do with the pirates captured on the High Seas (technically, a U.S. Navy ship captain can hang the pirate from the yardarm, though that’s not going to happen). Lastly, Somalia’s per capita G.D.P. is $600. Averaging about $5 million per ship taken provides a huge incentive for Somali pirates to continue pirating.

Currently, we only react to piracy after the pirates have taken a ship- like the Maersk Alabama incident or the recent kidnapping of an American couple sailing around the world. The only long term solution to Somali piracy is to restore Somalia’s economy and ensure Somalia has a stable government. After the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, the U.S. gave up on restoring the country. Dr. Murphy, the piracy expert, believes that Somali pirates have more sanctuary on land than any other pirates in modern times. Until a 2008 U.N. Resolution, the U.S. could not legally take the fight to the land. By encouraging legal industries like farming and fishing, the U.S. could reduce the number of Somalis who steal ships to merely to survive.

In conclusion, Somali pirates are not terrorists. They terrorize ships’ crews when they attack, and they kill civilians. But their motives for taking ships are purely mercenary. Terrorists, on the other hand, work to enact some type of religious or political change. Somalia may harbor Al-Qaeda cells because they are a failed state, not because the pirates want global jihad. The U.S. government does not list Somali pirates as terrorists; we should not fight them as such.

You know the scenario – the government troops fall back and consolidate, the rebels rush helter skelter after them along a long highway. How far can the rebel forces pursue before they run into a logistics problem? Food, shelter, ammo, petrol – where will these things come from to support a rebel “army” in the field.

Who is planning for rebel logistics and force sustainment?

See BBC News – Libya: Rebels pushed back by Col Gaddafi’s forces:

US President Barack Obama earlier said he did not rule out arming the rebels.

France and the US say they are sending envoys to the rebel-held city of Benghazi in the east to liaise with the interim administration there.

And see also Arming Libya rebels not allowed by UN resolutions, legal experts warn US:

The US is likely to be in breach of the UN security council’s arms embargo on Libya if it sends weapons to the rebels, experts in international law have warned.

After Hillary Clinton said it would be legal to send arms to support the uprising, lawyers analysing the terms of the UN’s 26 February arms embargo said it would require a change in the terms for it not to breach international law.

“The embargo appears to cover everybody in the conflict which means you can’t supply arms to rebels,” said Philippe Sands QC, professor of international law at University College London.

His view was backed by other experts in international law who said they could not see how the US could legally justify sending arms into Libya under the current resolutions.

Lord knows we wouldn’t like to run afoul of UN resolutions.

…and by archive – we mean the ‘collective we’ archive. Part of the U.S. Naval Institute’s mission is to honor those who serve.

There are a number of staff, many contributors, and a whole bunch of members who served in Vietnam. And some, who actually didn’t come home that day – staying behind as Advisors, like those in Iraq and soon, Afghanistan. And those who never come home at all.

If you are anywhere near a Vietnam veteran today, physically – or virtually, welcome them home – or/and welcome home a current veteran.

From the U.S. Marines website:

By Pfc. Chelsea Flowers

On March 30, 1973 all U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam. Instead of receiving a welcome fitting for the sacrifice they made for this country, the majority of the returning troops were met with criticism and hostility.

Frustration. Anger. Disloyal. Unappreciated. All of these words could describe the possible feelings and thoughts that went through the minds of these individuals. Some of these troops were drafted, yet still fought and died for the lives of the men to their right and left, only to be diminished for their accomplishments upon their return.

Over nine million military personnel served during the Vietnam War. Of that number 58,156 lost their lives, while 303,704 were wounded in action.

Politics played a key role in the lack of respect that was due to these individuals. Back then those who were against the war did not support the troops like many do today. Now, government is taking an opportunity to return that respect to the troops.

The U.S. Senate passed a resolution on March 7, 2011, declaring March 30 “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.” The resolution currently awaits a decision by the House. This day will be recognized across the U.S. as a day of commemoration, a day to pay the proper respect to the veterans who sacrificed so much during the war.

Vietnam Veteran’s Day is a chance to repair the wrong done to these troops. The people of the United States can finally pay the respect due them.

Many cities and states have events planned for these veterans. Marines from Marine Corps Logistics Base in Barstow, Calif., have planned a ceremony honoring the Vietnam troops, followed by a parade through Fort Irwin. The base is also hosting a motorcycle ride in their honor.

We should all take this day to give our appreciation to our Vietnam veterans. Taking time out from our busy lives to give thanks for the sacrifices of those who we don’t know is a display of kindness and admiration that means so much to those who expect so little.

Thank you all for what you have done. Semper Fidelis.

“All it takes is all you’ve got.” ASM American

I’ve looked online, and I’ve asked both on Twitter and Facebook. No one seems to recall this ever happening before.

Two smaller Libyan crafts were fired upon by the A-10 using its 30mm GAU-8/ Avenger cannon, destroying one and forcing the other to be abandoned.

A P-3, USS BARRY and a USAF A-10 were all engaged against Libya Coast Guard craft yesterday. BARRY “provided situational awareness for the aircraft by managing the airspace and maintaining the maritime picture”. Amazing. BZ and well done to all the Sailors and Airmen involved in the fight yesterday.

UPDATE: They’re talking about this over at Galrahn’s place too.

UPDATE II: Everyone is talking about it, see CDR SALAMANDER’s place too

And does it without ever using the word…

From the Jackson MS Clarion-Ledger:

Poor education is a major threat to national security, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Thursday.

Three out of four young people between the ages of 18 and 24 in the United States cannot qualify to join the military,” Mabus told a meeting of The Clarion-Ledger editorial board. “You can’t join the military today without a high school diploma, yet one-third of the people in our country don’t finish high school. Others can’t join because of obesity or having a criminal record. We can’t remain a great country as long as that is the case. We’re on a very dangerous path if we keep going down that way.”

While CNO and CJCS sincerely talk diversity, and tend to mean “look like”, Secretary Mabus is hitting on the impediment to realizing a vision of a qualified military that “looks like” the country: most of those who enlistment and commissioning age are inelegible for one reason or another.

It’s easy, and dishonest, statistics to press for a Navy that looks the same as the Nation, while at the same time ignoring the realities of the whole population demographic.

Today’s racial demographics are

The looked at statistics for the 2030 demographic of ethnic and racial makeup in the United States are

The most challenging area of meeting the goal of looks is within the officer corps – which has a higher standard for entry. The most immutable one is a college degree. Which brings two other relevant statistics to look at…today’s officer corps, and the number of degrees conferred annualy. 

 Number of degrees conferred 2007-2008:
White 71.8%
Black 9.8%
Hispanic 7.9%
Asian/PI 7.0%
American Indian/Native Alaskan .7%
Nonresident alien 2.8%

Navy Officer Corps FY 2008:

White 85.2%
Black 8.3%
Hispanic 5.9%
Asian 4.7%

Which places the officer corps overall at a 1% “deficit” for Blacks and a 2% “deficit” for Hispanics.

And, in order to be able to make up that deficit, there are two options – access Blacks and Hispanics with lower grade point averages than their white peers, and immediately place them at a disadvantage, or get colleges to more provide eligible graduates who meet the criteria for a commission. For Blacks, that comes out to 3,436 more college graduates (in order to make the 864 likley to be eligible, much less have the propensity to join). For Hispanics it would mean 4,320 more graduates. Out of 152,000 and 123,000 respectively – or a 2% increase in the overall number of black college graduates, and a 3.5% increase in Hispanic graduates.

I’ve not done the numbers of students by race who start, but never complete college…but you get the picture. Education is just one facet. Obesity. Mental and psychological problems. Drug use. All of those issues lead to a smaller population that is even capable of joining the force. And until those issues are addressed, we cannot, and will not – no matter how hard our recruiters work – have a force that looks like America.

Now, back to Secretary Mabus – he has not lobbied for or received a single award for Diversity that I can find – he never speaks about it, comments on it. Yet, in a single speech that never mentions the word once, he hits the nail on the head for what Navy needs in order to have a not just a force that looks like America – but a force that is capable of meeting the Navy’s statutory mission.

None of this is commentary on whether the optics of the force are a worthy goal or not…they are the goal that has been labled by CNO as our “number one priority”. However, in my rambling and disjointed way, I think we’d (the Navy, the government, parents, and our own selves) be far better served to work on the recommendations in this report than to seek awards and accolades.


A Legend Turns 100

March 2011


Imagine if you will, a formation of American soldiers chasing Pancho Villa into Mexico in 1916, or moving forward toward the enemy in France in 1918, carrying .69 caliber flintlock muskets or Simeon .54 caliber flintlock pistols. Or tomorrow over the skies of Helmand Province, a Bleriot monoplane chugging its way across the sky, barely making headway in a 30-knot wind. Or armored cruiser USS Olympia, dwarfed by even the smallest frigates, chugging black clouds of coal smoke as she tried to keep up with the Midway (CV-41) Carrier Battle Group as it makes its way to Desert Storm.

An absurd notion, surely, to expect a century-old weapon or weapon system to have any place on a modern battlefield. Yet, after a century of the most profound technological development in the history of mankind, one weapon does remain. That weapon is one is the iconic M1911 .45 automatic. Official nomenclature is the Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, M1911, but those who adore it know it as “the .45”, or “the 1911”.

The pistol design is the brainchild of the man the Belgian firm Fabrique Nationale called “the greatest gun designer who ever lived “, John Moses Browning. Browning gave America more than half its 20th Century small arms arsenal, as the inventor of the M1917 .30 caliber water-cooled machine gun, and its air-cooled descendant, the M1919 series, the latter of which which still soldiers on in .30-06 and .308 calibers in several of the world’s arsenals. The Browning Automatic Rifle, still the finest weapon of its type ever made, carries its inventor’s name. John Browning’s other icon, the M2 .50 caliber heavy machine gun, affectionately known as “Ma Deuce”, has yet to meet its equal in eight-plus decades of service. There are many other designs, shotguns and rifles, pistols and machine guns, which bear Browning’s stamp of genius, as well.

But today, it is an occasion to recognize what is simply the greatest handgun ever designed, the M1911. Its story has been told here before, but is worth the re-telling in part. The weapon remains a favorite in military, law enforcement, and with civilian shooters of all ages, despite newer and more advanced designs using high-capacity magazines and polymers in frame and slide. The M1911 in .45 caliber remains a favorite because of its ease of handling, reliability, accuracy, and power. Though replaced as the US sidearm beginning in the late 1980s by the 9mm Beretta P92 (which, ironically, has a pistol grip too large for smaller female service members and is being replaced in some services), the 1911 remains in service with a number of special forces units, and with USMC MARSOC units, among others.

An amazing service record for one of the greatest ever weapons of war. And it will be one hundred years old tomorrow. Though sometimes shortened or widened, or festooned with gadgets, rails, sights, and lights beyond description, the M1911 remains in essence little changed from the weapon officially adopted a century ago, 29 March 1911, as the Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, Model of 1911.

What ‘cha say I step a little out ahead of the President’s speech on Libya tonight? Why not?

Speaking a little over a week ago, President Obama repeated what we have heard over and over concerning the high level of American involvement in the Libyan campaign,

“We will provide the unique capabilities that we can bring to bear to stop the violence against civilians, including enabling our European allies and Arab partners to effectively enforce a no-fly zone,”

What are those “unique capabilities?” Most have focused on the tactical aspects, there is much more than that. Of course, no one has the satellite access, TLAM inventory, Heavy Bombers, or Tanker, or Heavy EW/ES like we do. That is part of our “unique capabilities” – but not the long-pole.

Why are USA capabilities “unique?” That answer is the simple: Western Europe has but a shadow of the military capability it once had. The long slide started with the Suez Crisis, and has culminated with the last gasps of the Western Welfare State’s economic foundations that today have drained defense budgets to absurd levels as a percentage of GDP – our traditional European allies simply cannot initiate and sustain intense expeditionary combat operations without us. Put peace keepers in small, steamy, quasi-failed former colonies in Africa? Sure. Sustained Joint-Combined combat operations without the USA – notsomuch.

Libya isn’t even a large country – though geographically large, its population of 6,419,925 is concentrated along the coastal road. In contrast, the European Union – which BTW has its own military structures – has a population of 501,259,800. Yes, Libya has 1.2% of the population of the European Union – yet the defense of European access to oil and secure maritime borders is being led by a North American (Canadian), and being fought air-to-ground mostly by other North Americans (USA). Yes, the EU is not NATO and NATO is not the EU – but as we know whose interests are primary of concern here; this works for me.

Let’s make it even more lopsided. Libya has a GDP of $62.36 billion. The EU has a combined GDP of $15.95 trillion. Let me adjust that for you; $15,950 billion. Yes, Libya has ~.4% of the EU’s GDP … yet the EU needs North American leaders, military forces, and borrowed money to defend its interests.

Ponder that a bit – I’ll come back to it.

Military power isn’t the most important “unique capability” of our nation. No, the most important are leadership and will. No other nation has the institutional ability to plan, organize, or lead a large scale Combined-Joint operation. That is the military side; the political side is that our allies are used to having our leadership and our top-cover when it comes to major military operations. Not only do we have the ability to bring the most to the fight, but regardless what political party is in power, we usually have the political ability to absorb the inevitable complaints, second guessing, gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes by the usual suspects that comes with military operations in the post-Vietnam era. Parliamentary systems such as those of our allies are not as sturdy as our system. These nations also have generations of leaders whose first instinct when it comes to major military actions is to look to Washington. Habits are what they are. They have become dependent – and for a variety of reasons we are happy with that.

I would like to lay down another marker before the President’s speech. As we discussed on Midrats yesterday with U.S. Naval War College Professor of Strategy, Thomas G. Mahnken, Ph.D., the Europeans have some realpolitik reasons for this conflict. The Libyan conflict is not about peace and democracy – though they make good talking points. If they were a concern, NATO jets would be flying over as many nations as their tankers could take them. No, this is about something much simpler. This is about the free flow of oil to Europe at market prices and trying to keep a lid on illegal immigration from Africa.

The fact that NATO is taking this mission is interesting as well. NATO has transformed – perhaps in ways not fully understood by many. In Libya, NATO is not defending the alliance from outside aggression as it was charted to do. It is not helping another alliance nation to prosecute those who attacked it, like ISAF is in AFG. No, NATO has signed up for something very different. Without any of its member nations being threatened, NATO is executing offensive operations beyond its borders supporting one side against another in a civil war. Quite the transformation.

As usual with NATO operations – this would not be possible without American forces and American money. Is it in the American interest?

From Sunday;

MR. GREGORY: Secretary Gates, is Libya in our vital interest as a country?

SEC. GATES: No. I don’t think it’s a vital interest for the United States, but we clearly have interests there, and it’s a part of the region which is a vital interest for the United States.

If anyone read or listened to SECDEF Gates earlier this month, this should not be a surprise. Hopefully tonight, the President will clarify this to the American people.

Even our Canadian friends are trying to figure out their nation’s reasons.

Why is Canada at war in Libya? You won’t get the answer from our elected leaders. They’re too busy fighting an election to explain it to us. You can’t count on the opposition parties to raise awkward questions, either. They have better things to do at a crucial time like this. Besides, it’s just a little war. It will be over soon, unless it isn’t. If all goes well, perhaps Canadians won’t notice that our political class has committed us to an open-ended military action in North Africa without a clue about what the mission is, who’s in charge, or how deep the quagmire might get.

The short answer is that Canada is in Libya because our allies are. But, ideologically, this is very much a made-in-Canada war – rooted in a doctrine that has been tirelessly promoted by foreign policy liberals such as Lloyd Axworthy and Bob Rae, and vigorously endorsed by some of Barack Obama’s closest advisers, especially Samantha Power at the National Security Council.

This doctrine is known as the “responsibility to protect” (R2P for short) and was endorsed by the United Nations in 2005. It mandates that the “international community” is morally obliged to defend people who are in danger of massive human-rights violations. It’s rooted in Western guilt over the failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda. R2P is the moral underpinning of the war in Libya, and it’s the reason why people such as Paul Martin, Roméo Dallaire, Mr. Rae and Mr. Axworthy have been so amazingly eager for us to rush into battle.

So have Ms. Power and her sister warriors Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State, and Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN. Together, these three convinced Mr. Obama of the urgent moral case for war in Libya. Ms. Power is the author of the enormously influential book A Problem from Hell, about Washington’s failure to prevent genocide in the 20th century. Her counterpart in France is the glamorous philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who flew to Benghazi, met the rebels, and persuaded French President Nicolas Sarkozy (who badly needs a boost in the polls) to back them.

R2P – another acronym that helps people avoid defining words, Is it what Mickey Kaus in The Daily Caller calls, “humanitarian imperialism.” Where do you stop? As we are in IRQ, AFG, and now Libya while our military budget starts to shrink and the Western sovereign debt crisis expands; I don’t know about you, but my war-card is about full.

With all the above swirling about as we wait for the President to speak on the subject – as I often try to do when things in the world get fuzzy – I go to the writings of great men. In this case, the Father of our Country; President George Washington.

On a regular basis, people need to read his farewell address in full – but this extended quote is worth pondering in some depth. The points he raise are as relevant today as they were then, perhaps more so.

The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The Nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the Government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The Government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times, it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of Nations has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite Nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite Nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the Nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained; and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens, (who devote themselves to the favorite nation,) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connexion as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.

Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient government, the period is not far off, when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality, we may at any time resolve upon, to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

What habits have we and the Europeans picked up since WWII and the Cold War? Do they apply in the second decade of the 2st Century? Is it in the American interest to have our children borrow money from the Chinese so we can send our armies though the earth searching for dragons to slay, to do the fighting for others who will not do it for themselves?

Hopefully, President Obama will help us all understand this a little better tonight.

As a side-note; if I can I’m going to liveblog the President’s Libya speech tonight at my homeblog so if you are so inclined; join me.

I was rather surprised to see that CDR Salamander took what I considered idle, but pointed comments to one of his posts here at USNI, and wrote a piece over at his place.

I was so new to the Navy when I first heard the term ‘1000 Ship Navy’, that I hardly knew my way from my berthing to my work center aboard SAN. I read all the blog postings about it back in 2007, but didn’t really pay too much attention to it. But, in seeing how my old Ship and others functioned in CTF 151 in 2009, how EUNAVFOR operates in the Indian Ocean, as well as the Indians, Russians, Chinese and others all in an ‘effort’ against piracy, I started to notice a similarity between the words I had read on the 1000 ship navy and what I saw seeing. With the assembled ships and aircraft from many NATO Nations as well as the aircraft from the UAE and Qatar, I am again seeing actions that mirror then CNO Mullen’s words.

Membership in this ‘navy’ is purely voluntary and would have no legal or encumbering ties. It would be a free-form, self-organizing network of maritime partners — good neighbors interested in using the power of the sea to unite, rather than to divide. The barriers for entry are low. Respect for sovereignty is high.

While adding the NATO dimension to operations off Libya, the notion of the fleet being ‘free-form, self-organizing’ is not exactly applicable, the rest of the quote is still rather accurate in terms of how hostilities began off Libya.

To start, I do not think the term 1,000 ship navy is the right term to use. That name itself is antithetical to Admiral Mullen’s words in that he said,”Respect for sovereignty is high.” After all, a Navy is defined as “the whole body of warships and auxiliaries belonging to a country or ruler”. Where as the definition of fleet, “the largest organized unit of naval ships grouped for tactical or other purposes”. What Admiral Mullen was proposing was never a navy, it was a fleet at best.

Alliances of any form, or even just bilateral security agreements between nations are a difficult thing. The ever changing political calculus of each government involved is something that can defy the abilities of even the best statesmen in holding an alliance together. A situation that would warrant the vast array of nations to muster the strength to find enough common ground in bringing their combined maritime forces to constitute a single navy (or fleet) is on par with the World Wars–not a possible reality that is likely enough to warrant such an initiative to become the cornerstone of US Naval Operations.

More well put would be the notion of a Complex Adaptive Fleet (CAF) [note: I called it a Complex Adaptive System Fleet, in the comments. But, The term I use here is less of a mouthful.]. I call it complex, because of the myriad of different Standard Operating Procedures that each ship brings to the fleet. I use the term Adaptive, because the fleet is being joined based on the demands of the specific operation. The number of hulls made available to the fleet, as well as the number of nations contributing to the fleet are not the point, so there is no reason to reference any numbers in the terminology for such a fleet. The marketing, design and grandeur placed on the 1,000 ship navy is what made the initiative a nonstarter.

At the highest levels of World Navies is where this initiative was espoused. But, it is from the highest levels of national power where such an initiative has to be started and implemented, as it has been off the coasts of Libya and Somalia. What the then CNO was looking to do was only a Naval matter in a secondary sense. Primarily, what the initiative looks to do, is increase the amount of cooperation at the highest levels of government, and it is there that the most amount of work is needed to improve our ability to operate in such a manner. We already practice the skills needed to operate in a fleet such as a CAF, we do so by war games with allied and friendly nations and in personnel exchanges. The only place where such an initiative such as a CAF would have a noticeable impact on doctrine is at the level of government where people don’t wear uniforms any more.

At this point I should be clear. For the US Navy today, in terms of power projection or in terms of war at sea a la WWII we do not truly require any allies. However, putting holes in ships and Tomahawks on land isn’t all there is to war fighting. Hell, there isn’t even much fighting to war fighting at sea any more (that is not to say that such a reality can’t change in a heartbeat). The ‘everything else’ in war fighting has to be included. The reality is that for any conflict at sea we are likely to see we will need something like a UN Security Council Resolution. I will also say that the current operations off of Libya set a precedent that Mediterranean operations will demand NATO involvement. The causes of this reality are not so much the waning power of the US, as much as it is stronger regional powers (stronger politically, if not militarily). Isn’t warfare just the continuation of politics? If so, then how we operate in conflict must be in accordance with the political realities of where we are operating — which means allies and partners are required. Which means the banalities of an alliance are as necessary to put up with, work through and make the best of, as the Sun in Kandahar was for me a few months back.

By stating all of this, I do not mean to say that clear objectives are not required for operations. Or that a logical unified command structure is no longer a necessity. What I am stating here is nothing more than the political realities I’ve found in nearly every operation the United States has been engaged in since… Well, most of my life. Again, I do not feel that the US Navy or most other navies have much they need to change in terms of doctrine, not yet at least. On the part of the Navy, I view this as a continuation of the resistance to joint operations a few decades back. But, at the higher civilian levels, I do think there is much work to be done. Where as we have certain tripwires that trigger different responses aboard ships, we also need well defined tripwires geo-politically which trigger certain steps in any escalation of force against a common threat that nations face. As we in the military have preplanned courses of action against potential enemies, we need more planning at the political level between sovereign governments, so that operational caveats are not done in such an ad hoc and clumsy manor when operations should have started days/weeks ago. A notion such as the CAF does not lend itself well to anything beyond what we are seeing today in Libya or Somalia. It is a methodology best suited for sudden turns of events that demand quick action by nations and, as such shouldn’t be considered for anything outside of low intensity conflicts.

None of it would be easy to work out, nor do I have complete faith that such arrangements can be pulled off politically. But, as I said, the only think I think I am doing here is pointing out what I’ve seen as a reality, and offering how to do what we’ve already been doing, better.

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