Tuesday, August 22, 2017

We're taking the 2nd ausfahrt prior to the Friendship Bridge, it seems

President Obama outlined his policy towards Afghanistan in his disastrous December 2009 West Point speech that I covered here at the time. 

For the better part of eight years since I’ve outlined the absolutely wrong-headed nature of this approach to AFG; you can read some of that archive here. In four months less time than his predecessor, yesterday President Trump outlined his plan. A little of the pre-Obama concepts, but adjusted given the realities of today.

If, like me, you have style, substance, or personal reasons not to enjoy listening to President Trump speak, then ignore the video embedded below. Instead, read the transcript in full. Ignore the selective pull quotes, inaccurate opinionating, or bitter political posturing by his perma-opponents who would say Trump was wrong if he said puppy noses were cute – read it yourself.

I’ll bring out some pull quotes of interest in a moment, but here’s the Executive Summary: two of the best military minds of their generation, National Security Adviser McMaster and Secretary of Defense Mattis, helped develop a plan that they believe gives us a chance to salvage something in Afghanistan after seven years of dithering. Not a perfect plan, but a doable one. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and fully support it. The major reason is that it returns to something I have written about for well over a decade, Conditions Based Planning, and throws away what remains of the Obama Administration's bollocked-up Calendar Based Planning.

Read it all, but here are the significant points.
…nearly 16 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory. Nowhere is this more evident than with the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history, 17 years.

I share the American people’s frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money — and most importantly, lives — trying to rebuild countries in our own image instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations.

That is why shortly after my inauguration, I directed Secretary of Defense Mattis and my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia. My original instinct was to pull out. And historically, I like following my instincts.

But all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office,
Once you get behind the door, the perspective changes. Once you have some of the best minds in the country define the 2nd and 3rd order effects of a decision, you can quickly come to a different conclusion. That is one reason Obama never fully did what he wanted to do in his DEC 09 West Point speech, and this is why Trump is changing his mind too.
I arrived at three fundamental conclusion about America’s core interests in Afghanistan. First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives.

Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable. 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists.

A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists, including ISIS and Al Qaeda, would instantly fill just as happened before Sept. 11. And as we know, in 2011, America hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq. As a result, our hard-won gains slipped back into the hands of terrorist enemies. …

Third, and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense.
In some ways, we are roughly right where Osama wanted us – involved in a long term war on the ground in Afghanistan – but the circumstances are different than what he and we thought in 2001. 

It is also 2017 now. We are where we are. The key is how to make the best of it.

This is the most important part of the speech;
But to prosecute this war, we will learn from history. As a result of our comprehensive review, American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically in the following ways.

A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin or end military options.

We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on.
That is where Trump went Salamander. We are back to Conditions Based Planning – what military best practices tells us is the best path to success.
Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power — diplomatic, economic, and military — toward a successful outcome. Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But nobody knows if or when that will ever happen.
Did you get that? All the traditional levers of national power. This is not just a military way forward. We are also willing to come to accommodation with SOME of the Taliban elements. Good to open that door.
Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society and to achieve an everlasting peace. We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.
That is “no” to nation building as the conceit of the Bonn Agreement begat, and accepts that Afghanistan will have to order its affairs on Afghan terms. Not nice from our perspective, but what works for them.

Now for what I see as the largest risk in this new direction; the India card vs. Pakistan.
The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach in how to deal with Pakistan. We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.

It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order and to peace.

Another critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India, the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the United States. We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.
You can never have a more than 5-min conversation with a Pakistani officer without India coming up. Pakistan has always played both sides in AFG, so they've used up too much capital to stop us from pulling that card. India is a more natural ally for the USA anyway. This is a risky play, but probably the right one in the overall game. I wouldn't have recommended going that hard in the open, but not my job.

So, we have our next phase in Afghanistan. This is a good plan, and given everything, probably the best to be expected.

I’ve called during the time of calendar based dithering that we would probably be best to just go home and hope for the best. That was because with a calendar based plan, defeat is inevitable; it is only the timing and method that is in question. This plan gives of a chance to salvage something.

For those looking for End States, Objectives, Decisive Points, Criteria for Success, etc – this isn’t the venue for that. This speech gives us approximately the Commander’s Intent and Initiating Directive. The Operational Planners can build a plan off that, and are.

Monday, August 21, 2017

... and Now the McCain

Unless you went to bed last night early, you should be aware that we've had another collision in WESTPAC;
The destroyer John S. McCain arrived at Changi Naval Base in Singapore mid-afternoon Monday after a harrowing collision with a commercial tanker that has left 10 crew-members missing and five others wounded.

It is the second major collision involving a U.S. Navy warship attached to U.S. 7th Fleet in recent months, following the June 17 collision involving the destroyer Fitzgerald off the coast of Japan, in which seven sailors died.

Four sailors with non-life threatening injuries were evacuated off the destroyer John S. McCain earlier to a hospital in Singapore Monday morning, according to 7th Fleet officials.
As we still wait for the details of what happened with the FITZ, and we need to wait for the results of MCCAIN as well, we really don't know if we keep rolling snake eyes in WESTPAC or if there is some common thread that is worth pulling.

If for no other reason than respect for the families of the dead and still missing, everyone should be careful with too much speculation - there is already a lot of that out there - but that shouldn't stop people from opening their minds to find out what is happening in their Navy.

Let's look at the major surface combatants forward deployed to Japan;

USS Antietam (CG 54)
USS Shiloh (CG 67)
USS Chancellorsville (CG 62)

USS Barry (DDG 52)
USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54)
USS John S. McCain (DDG 56)
USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62)
USS Stethem (DDG 63)
USS Benfold (DDG 65)
USS McCampbell (DDG 85)
USS Mustin (DDG 89)

Just this year:
- FEB, USS Antietam ran aground.
- JUN, USS Fitzgerald collided with a merchant off Japan.
- AUG, USS John S. McCain collided with a merchant off Singapore.

In May, San Diego based USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) ran over a S. Korean fishing vessel.

Our Navy is good at getting to the cause of these things. I hope that somewhere the chain of events that led to these four incidents are put up on the white-board dug in to.

I'm not a believer in this much "luck."

Friday, August 18, 2017

Fullbore Friday

There can be only one FbF today, nothing else comes close.

The supplemental preliminary inquiry into the collision involving the USS FITZGERALD (DDG 62) and the ACX CRYSTAL from 17 JUN of this year is out.

The report is dated 11 AUG 17. You can get it from the SECNAV's site here, or read the whole thing posted below.

I wanted to pull one extended quote from it for your review. It really got hold of me, as it drove something home about the sea that Sailors know, but others don't; there is no normal day at sea. You are always one moment away from water, fire, steam, or flying shards of metal.

It also shows that on every ship, on every watch, there are Sailors who will be capable of exceptional bravery and sacrifice - the opportunity to demonstrate that character just hasn't come up yet. 

Even at sleep, the sea waits for her time.
Evacuating Berthing 2

21. Of the 42 Sailors assigned to Berthing 2, at the time of collision, five were on watch and two were not aboard. Of the 35 remaining Sailors in Berthing 2, 28 escaped the flooding. Seven Sailors perished.

22. Some of the Sailors who survived the flooding in Berthing 2 described a loud noise at the time of impact. Other Berthing 2 Sailors felt an unusual movement of the ship or were thrown from their racks. Still other Berthing 2 Sailors did not realize what had happened and remained in their racks. Some of them remained asleep. Some Sailors reported hearing alarms after the collision, while others remember hearing nothing at all.

23. Seconds after impact, Sailors in Berthing 2 started yelling “Water on deck!” and “Get out!” One Sailor saw another knocked out of his rack by water. Others began waking up shipmates who had slept through the initial impact. At least one Sailor had to be pulled from his rack and into the water before he woke up. Senior Sailors checked for others that might still be in their

24. The occupants of Berthing 2 described a rapidly flooding space, estimating later that the space was nearly flooded within a span of 30 to 60 seconds. By the time the third Sailor to leave arrived at the ladder, the water was already waist deep. Debris, including mattresses, furniture, an exercise bicycle, and wall lockers, floated into the aisles between racks in Berthing 2, impeding Sailors’ ability to get down from their racks and their ability to exit the space. The ship’s 5 to 7 degree list to starboard increased the difficulty for Sailors crossing the space fromthe starboard side to the port side. Many of the Sailors recall that the battle lanterns were illuminated. Battle lanterns turn on when power to an electrical circuit is out or when turned on manually. The yellow boxes hanging from the ceiling in Figure 14 are battle lanterns.

25. Sailors recall that after the initial shock, occupants lined up in a relatively calm and orderly manner to climb the port side ladder and exit through the port side watertight scuttle. Figure 14 provides an example of the route Sailors would have taken from their racks to the port side watertight scuttle on a ship of the same class as FITZGERALD. They moved along the blue floor and
turned left at the end to access the ladder. Figure 14 provides an example and sense of scale. Even though the Sailors were up to their necks in water by that point, they moved forward slowly and assisted each other. One Sailor reported that FC1 Rehm pushed him out from under a falling locker. Two of the Sailors who already escaped from the main part of Berthing 2 stayed at the bottom of
the ladder well (see Figure 8) in order to help their shipmates out of the berthing area.

26. The door to the Berthing 2 head (bathrooms and showers) was open and the flooding water dragged at least one person into this area. Exiting from the head during this flood of water was difficult and required climbing over debris.

27. As the last group of Sailors to escape through the port side watertight scuttle arrived at the bottom of the ladder, the water was up to their necks. The two Sailors who had been helping people from the bottom of the ladder were eventually forced to climb the ladder as water reached the very top of the Berthing 2 compartment. They continued to assist their shipmates as they climbed, but were eventually forced by the rising water to leave Berthing 2 through the watertight scuttle themselves. Before climbing the ladder, they looked through the water and did not see any other Sailors. Once through the watertight scuttle and completely out of the Berthing 2 space (on the landing outside Berthing 1) they continued to search, reaching into the dark water to try to find anyone they could. From the top of the ladder, these two Sailors were able to pull two other Sailors from the flooded compartment. Both of the rescued Sailors were completely underwater when they were pulled to safety.

28. The last Sailor to be pulled from Berthing 2 was in the bathroom at the time of the collision and a flood of water knocked him to the deck (floor). Lockers were floating past him and he scrambled across them towards the main berthing area. At one point he was pinned between the lockers and the ceiling of Berthing 2, but was able to reach for a pipe in the ceiling to pull himself free. He made his way to the only light he could see, which was coming from the port side watertight scuttle. He was swimming towards the watertight scuttle when he was pulled from the water, red-faced and with bloodshot eyes. He reported that when taking his final breath before being saved, he was already submerged and breathed in water.

29. After the last Sailor was pulled from Berthing 2, the two Sailors helping at the top of the port side watertight scuttle noticed water coming into the landing from Berthing 1. They remained in case any other Sailors came to the ladder. Again, one of the Sailors stuck his arms through the watertight scuttle and into the flooded space to try and find any other Sailors, even as
the area around him on the landing outside of Berthing 1 flooded. Berthing 1, with no watertight door between it and the landing, began to flood.

30. Another Sailor returned with a dogging wrench, a tool used to tighten the bolts, on the hatch to stave off flooding from the sides of the hatch. The three Sailors at the top of the ladder yelled into the water-filled space below in an attempt to determine if there was anyone still within Berthing 2. No shadows were seen moving and no response was given.

31. Water began shooting up and out of the watertight scuttle into the landing. Finding no other Sailors, they tried to close the watertight scuttle to stop the flood of water. The force of the water through the hatch prevented closing the watertight scuttle between Berthing 2 and Berthing 1. The scuttle was left partially open. They then climbed the ladder to the Main deck (one level
up from the Berthing 1 landing), and secured the hatch and scuttle between Berthing 1 and the Main deck. In total, 27 Sailors escaped Berthing 2 from the port side ladder.

32. One Sailor escaped via the starboard side of Berthing 2. After the collision, this Sailor tried to leave his rack, the top rack in the row nearest to the starboard access trunk, but inadvertently kicked someone, so he crawled back into his rack and waited until he thought everyone else would be out of the Berthing 2. When he jumped out of his rack a few seconds later, the water nearly reached his top bunk, already chest high and rising.

33. After leaving his rack, the Sailor struggled to reach the starboard egress point through the lounge area.

34. He moved through the lounge furniture and against the incoming sea. Someone said “go, go, go, it’s blocked,” but he was already underwater. He was losing his breath under the water but found a small pocket of air. After a few breaths in the small air pocket, he eventually took one final breath and swam. He lost consciousness at this time and does not remember how he escaped from Berthing 2, but he ultimately emerged from the flooding into Berthing 1, where he could stand to his feet and breathe. He climbed Berthing 1’s egress ladder, through Berthing 1’s open watertight scuttle and collapsed on the Main Deck. He was the only Sailor to escape
through the starboard egress point.

35. The flooding of Berthing 2 resulted in the deaths of seven FITZGERALD Sailors. The racks of these seven Sailors were located in Rows 3 and 4, the area closest to the starboard access trunk and egress point and directly in the path of the onrushing water, as depicted in Figure 15.

36. After escaping Berthing 2, Sailors went to various locations. Some assembled on the mess decks to treat any injuries and pass out food and water. Others went to their General Quarters (GQ) stations to assist with damage control efforts. Another Sailor went to the bridge to help with medical assistance. One Sailor later took the helm and stood a 15-hour watch in aft steering after power was lost forward.
As a side note, BZ to the main author of this report. Through their exceptional writing and narrative style, they have brought great honor to those Sailors on the FITZGERALD who died, lived, saved others, and fought to keep their ship afloat that night and following days.

"In the finest traditions of the naval service" is almost a cliche, but these men and women proved it that day. Fullbore.

I believe it does great credit to our Navy and its culture that we make these reports open to the public. I hope we are able to learn and incorporate as many damage control lessons as possible from this unfortunate incident so that in the future, other lives and ships may be saved.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Diversity Thursday

After the events of the last week can we, at least for the moment, agree that there are few things as corrosive, divisive, and play to the worst tendencies in the human mind than to break people in to sectarian groups based on race, creed, color, and national origin?

Cannot we agree that doing so does nothing but promote division and conflict? That when you encourage one group to do it, you open the door for all groups?

Especially for organizations that require unity to succeed, there can be no more wrong-headed idea than to encourage division?

Well, we have a problem at the Naval War College. Of all places, it has been infected with the same disease as Mizzou and Evergreen State College.

It is time for the second shoe to drop after the NWC DivThu at the end of last month.

From the top of NWC there is the promotion of division. This is just another example.
From: Jeffrey Harley RADM NAVWARCOL <[REDACTED]@usnwc.edu>
Date: August 9, 2017 at 16:49:38 EDT
To: _NWC Staff and Faculty <[REDACTED]y@usnwc.edu>
Subject: All Female Faculty and Staff Call


I will be holding an all-female faculty and staff call on Thursday, 24 August, at 1200 in Spruance Auditorium. This is an opportunity for me to review recent College initiatives and some issues that have been identified.

I look forward to seeing all of our female faculty and staff at the call if you can make it!

jeff harley

Jeffrey Harley
Rear Admiral, USN
President, U.S. Naval War College
sipr: [REDACTED]@nwc.navy.smil.mil
Do we even need to cover the wrongheadedness of patronizingly putting your female Shipmates in some segregated "safe-space?" If there are things that need to be known involving College initiatives and issues, then everyone needs to be in on the conversation in order to address those issues and move forward on these initiatives.

Shame on everyone involved. Our Navy is better than this - and our Navy deserves better than this.

At a time when our nation needs examples of unity, the Navy should show the way forward, not be some socio-political plaything, retrograding back to segregation. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

March of the Zombie Transformationalists

Thought the Transformationalists and their habits would have drifted in to the shadows in shame given the bitter fruits of their labors?

Well, you'd be wrong. I'm pointing a light on their resurrection over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and behold.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Black Swan Tuesday: The China-Indonesian War of 20XX

If history tells us anything, it is that nations often find themselves in conflicts that aren't so much unimaginable, as unlikely. These wars develop out of the ether and quickly gain their own momentum.

History also teaches us that rising powers can be the most unpredictable when they get in to conflict. As with all human institutions, the international community can get used to certain patterns and rhythms. 

Falling powers in graceful decline are often given too much weight and attention, while the rising powers start to probe and affect structures, habits, and mechanisms in ways they never had before.

China is such a growing power. She has economic, historical, and ethnic grievances that have always been there, but for most of modern history she has been too weak to do anything about them.

Over at FP, Sebastian Strangio sets out a scenario for conflict China and Indonesia that had me nodding my head saying, "You know what, he's on to something."

Why Indonesia?
Indonesians of Chinese descent, who make up around 1.2 percent of the population and are traditionally one of the country’s most prosperous groups, dangerously vulnerable — and might magnify local tensions into international clashes.

In May 1998, when Indonesia’s dictator Suharto fell from power after 31 years, much of the popular anger was directed at Jakarta’s small but wealthy ethnic Chinese community. More than 1,000 people were killed in the riots, many of them Chinese; dozens of Chinese women and girls were raped. The Chinese were targeted on the assumption that they had grown fat from Suharto’s rule, even though many of the victims were small-scale traders.
As the author does again in his article, for years I have read Indonesian ethnic Chinese described as, "Indonesia's Jews" - and given the history of anti-Chinese pogroms, the comparison is not all that inaccurate.
“They are seen as a people apart,” he said, “and in their pursuit of commerce often become the victims of periodic bloodletting — pogroms, if you like.”

It is a pattern that dates to the beginning of Dutch rule in the 17th century, when Chinese merchants were granted a preferential role and helped develop Batavia (today’s Jakarta) into a flourishing entrepôt, prompting occasional eruptions of violence from other locals. These prejudices persisted after independence, and Chinese were singled out during the 1965-1966 anti-communist bloodshed that preceded Suharto’s takeover. At the time, they were seen as fifth-columnists for Communist China, then in the midst of exporting revolution throughout Southeast Asia. Since then, anti-Chinese rhetoric has tended to go hand in hand with paranoid imaginings of a renascent communism.
Though the Chinese reaction was muted in 1998, a far more powerful Beijing is unlikely to take such a hands-off position today. In 2006, when anti-Chinese violence tore through Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, Beijing responded immediately by evacuating 312 ethnic Chinese residents by air. The episode received extensive coverage in Chinese state media, which declared that “the government attaches great importance to the security and rights of the overseas Chinese.” Though it is hard to say just what Beijing’s reaction would be in Indonesia, Vatikiotis said that “there is every indication” that Beijing is watching closely, and would be “willing to do something to help its fellow Chinese.”
Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim nation, and is becoming more and more radicalized each year. The Chinese are mostly Christian. Combine ethic and religious differences in one package, and, well, history tells us much about that as well.

There is no land border between China & Indonesia. If China did want to do anything she would need a significant navy. That navy would need air-cover from carriers. 

Oh, and the SLOC from China to the south? They go right through the disputed South China Sea.

If you haven't already, you may want to catch up on a topic I covered back in Feb. of this year; the 500 Ship Navy ... the Chinese 500 Ship Navy.

We live in interesting times.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Neptune's Empty Throne

The slide down from denouement can be exhausting. 

It's been nine months after the surprise election where navalists regardless of their political leanings were suddenly juiced by a President Elect who ran on a 350 ship Navy. With time though, the adrenaline is leaving the blood, the keg is empty, and everyone is wandering around trying to find their favorite hat they let some girl wear about 3am.

Time to sober up.

It takes more than just the right people with the right desire to grow the fleet. There has to be the money, political sponsorship, and an effective process and structure to make it happen.

With the calm and light of time, the reality is setting in that things may be more difficult.

Over at War on the Rocks, Bryan McGrath back in 2014 had a bucket of cold reality for everyone to ponder then, and not that much has changed three years later.

To get to where we want to go, we may need to change the structure that is supposed to help get us there if and after the money shows up. What we have right now? It may support something, but building the effective fleet the nation requires may not be it. The names may have changed, but the process hasn't;
...whose job is it to describe the Navy we need, rather than the Navy we can afford? Is it Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert? Maybe in days gone by, but the Goldwater-Nichols Act did a fine job of removing any incentive for service chiefs to advocate for their own service’s particular contributions. Chiefs of Naval Operations of late tend to do their yeoman best to build and maintain navies that are affordable. Is it Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus? Perhaps, but any SECNAV who advocated for a Navy that exceeded the controls passed to it by the OSD Comptroller would find him or herself in hot water with the Secretary of Defense, if that person did not agree and could/would not provide top cover. Maybe then, it is the Secretary of Defense. A secretary with gravitas could sit down with the president and the Director of OMB and argue for greater resources for DoD, if he felt that the Navy we needed greatly exceeded the Navy we can afford.

The point of all of this is that we have created a system in which it is very difficult for any individual with authority to do or say anything effective to address the mismatch between the Navy this country needs and the Navy it currently claims to be able to afford. Worse yet, there are penalties to be paid for doing so. The one individual with the mandate to do so is the president, ....  
The U.S. Navy is to some extent, a victim of its own success. It consistently provides presidents with flexible options for response and it rarely has to say, “No, we cannot do that.” Unless a president comes into office with the idea that the nation must begin to prepare for the rigors of great power competition again, the Navy will appear sufficiently sized to meet the requirements of crisis response, for these are the requirements against which its size and capabilities are resourced. And since there is no bureaucratic incentive for anyone within the chain of command to advocate for such preparation in the absence of presidential leadership, we may unfortunately someday find ourselves with a navy we can afford, but not the one we need.
Is the new president and his team, pulled in all directions and yet to be fully staffed, really able to invest the time and political capital to push for a larger fleet? When you look at the rack-and-stack of what they must invest their time and effort in - from Korea to Syria - Iraq to Afghanistan - and more ... who will lead the push and get noticed above the ambient noise?