Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Note to a Rump Admiralty

It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice.

Ye are a factious Admiralty, and enemies to all good fleet development.

Ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your Navy for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your Sailors for a few pieces of money.

Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess?

Ye have no more knowledge of history than my horse. A board of directors seat after retirement is your geedunk. Which of you have not bartered your conscience for good press? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the future Navy?

Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Nimitz’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices?

Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole fleet. You were deputed here by the nation to get grievances redressed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance.

Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this fleet; and which by Neptune’s help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do.

I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lineal number, to depart immediately out of this place.

Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.

In the name of Neptune, go!

Apologies to the Lord Protector.

If you want to know what all this Tom-foolery is about - head on over to USNIBlog.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Putting the Long War on the Map

Over 16 years in to The Long War, it is time for a SITREP.

Let's give a nod to Tom Engelhardt over at WiB,
More than a decade and a half after an American president spoke of 60 or more countries as potential targets, thanks to the invaluable work of a single dedicated group, the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, we finally have a visual representation of the true extent of the war on terror.


I never really liked the term "GWOT," as terrorism is a technique - but I understand why it was chosen. Simple really, as we couldn't say what it was really all about; a war on radical Sunni fundamentalist (Salafist in clunky shorthand) aggression.
A glance at the map tells you that the war on terror, an increasingly complex set of intertwined conflicts, is now a remarkably global phenomenon. It stretches from The Philippines through South Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and deep into West Africa where, only recently, four Green Berets died in an ambush in Niger.

No less stunning is the number of countries Washington’s war on terror has touched in some fashion. Once, of course, there was only one. Now, the Costs of War Project identifies no less than 76 countries, 39 percent of those on the planet, as involved in that global conflict.
Tom points to the highlights from the Cost of War project.

The numbers are staggering;
In a separate study, released in November 2017, the Costs of War Project estimated that the price tag on the war on terror, with some future expenses included, had already reached an astronomical $5.6 trillion.

Only recently, however, Pres. Donald Trump, now escalating those conflicts, tweeted an even more staggering figure. “After having foolishly spent $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is time to start rebuilding our country!”

This figure, too, seems to have come in some fashion from the Costs of War estimate that “future interest payments on borrowing for the wars will likely add more than $7.9 trillion to the national debt” by mid-century.

It couldn’t have been a rarer comment from an American politician, as in these years assessments of both the monetary and human costs of war have largely been left to small groups of scholars and activists. The war on terror has, in fact, spread in the fashion today’s map lays out with almost no serious debate in this country about its costs or results.
Here is one bit of info I'd love to see - more metrics.

For a start;
- What is the % of GDP over the last 16 years the USA spent on the war? How about GBR, DEU, FRA, JPN, AUS, ESP & CAN?
- What is the ratio to citizens killed by terrorists to the amount of money spent on the war?
- What is the ratio of military members killed fighting the war to civilians killed by Salafist terrorists?

Is this really a global war, or just our war? Are we achieving our goals, just mowing the grass, or creating a larger problem? Perhaps all three?

Hat tip Anna Jackman.

Monday, January 15, 2018

MLK Jr.; 1st Person Spoken Word

2/3 of what I have read and heard today has not been worthy of that great American patriot, Martin Luther King, Jr.

As with many historical characters, it is best to go with primary sources.

Arguably his most important speech is below, with the text.

Ignore how people are trying to shoehorn MLK Jr. in to their 2018 agenda. Just listen to the man.


Your 3rd Power Construct; Sharp Power

Have you been keeping track of the ongoing war in the INFO OPS arena going on in Texas the last few months?
As part of a broad effort to interfere in U.S. institutions, China tries to shape the discussion at American universities, stifle criticism and influence academic activity by offering funding, often through front organizations closely linked to Beijing.

Now that aspect of Beijing’s foreign influence campaign is beginning to face resistance from academics and lawmakers. A major battle in this nascent campus war played out over the past six months at the University of Texas in Austin.

After a long internal dispute, a high-level investigation and an intervention by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), the university last week rejected a proposal by the leader of its new China center to accept money from the China United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF). The Hong Kong-based foundation and its leader, Tung Chee-hwa, are closely linked to the branch of the Chinese Communist Party that manages influence operations abroad.
It is part of a larger Chinese operation - and you need to get up to speed on it.

We all know what hard-power is, and its gentler sister, soft-power. A rising China is going to make you learn and start to talk about another type of power, one that isn't new per se, but one they have a track record of working on harder than anyone else; sharp-power.

In their December 17th edition, The Economist has two must-read articles on China and sharp power. Neither is behind the paywall, and I highly encourage you to read both in full here and here.

Let's look at the wave tops, starting with events in Australia;
Even if China does not seek to conquer foreign lands, many people fear that it seeks to conquer foreign minds.

Australia was the first to raise a red flag about China’s tactics. On December 5th allegations that China has been interfering in Australian politics, universities and publishing led the government to propose new laws to tackle “unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated” foreign efforts to influence lawmakers (see article). This week an Australian senator resigned over accusations that, as an opposition spokesman, he took money from China and argued its corner. Britain, Canada and New Zealand are also beginning to raise the alarm. On December 10th Germany accused China of trying to groom politicians and bureaucrats. And on December 13th Congress held hearings on China’s growing influence.

This behaviour has a name—“sharp power”, coined by the National Endowment for Democracy, a Washington-based foundation and think-tank. “Soft power” harnesses the allure of culture and values to add to a country’s strength; sharp power helps authoritarian regimes coerce and manipulate opinion abroad.
The Chinese are comfortable with corruption but don't quite seem to see how clunky it can be if you are trying to make corruption with Chinese characteristics work in Anglo-Saxon free press cultures;
China has a history of spying on its diaspora, but the subversion has spread. In Australia and New Zealand Chinese money is alleged to have bought influence in politics, with party donations or payments to individual politicians. This week’s complaint from German intelligence said that China was using the LinkedIn business network to ensnare politicians and government officials, by having people posing as recruiters and think-tankers and offering free trips.

Bullying has also taken on a new menace. Sometimes the message is blatant, as when China punished Norway economically for awarding a Nobel peace prize to a Chinese pro-democracy activist. More often, as when critics of China are not included in speaker line-ups at conferences, or academics avoid study of topics that China deems sensitive, individual cases seem small and the role of officials is hard to prove. But the effect can be grave. Western professors have been pressed to recant. Foreign researchers may lose access to Chinese archives. Policymakers may find that China experts in their own countries are too ill-informed to help them.
They also are not shy about putting the pressure on companies;
US hotel giant Marriott said it is in the process of sacking an employee for “wrongfully liking” a Twitter post by a group that supports independence for Tibet in its latest effort to calm a storm of criticism sparked by a company survey that referred to the Chinese region, and self-ruled Taiwan, as countries, Chinese state media reported.

Craig Smith, president and managing director of Asia-Pacific for Marriott International, made the announcement at a meeting with the China National Tourism Administration on Friday, Xinhua reported.

Wang Xiaofeng, deputy director of the administration, said listing Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as countries was an infringement of China’s territorial integrity and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.

He said the hotel group should learn from the experience and do all it can to minimise any negative impact.
If that doesn't give you pause, I'm not sure what will.

This kow-tow will only encourage China. Tibet is an occupied country. Taiwan is an independent nation. I wonder what official Chinese maps have to say about the Crimea?

Hong Kong and Macau are "special" zones - but I will give a nod to the Chinese on this detail. 

I like this little note. If you've been too Beltway focused, you may have forgot that the FBI has more important things to do than play DC power brokers ... in theory at least. They need to refocus extra effort here for starts.
Counter-intelligence, the law and an independent media are the best protection against subversion. All three need Chinese speakers who grasp the connection between politics and commerce in China. The Chinese Communist Party suppresses free expression, open debate and independent thought to cement its control. Merely shedding light on its sharp tactics—and shaming kowtowers—would go a long way towards blunting them.
As we are wont to say on the Front Porch, fear and shame are great motivators.

We'll need them, as this sharp-power effort is global;
China seems to have been busy in Europe, too. Germany’s spy agency this week accused it of using social media to contact 10,000 German citizens, including lawmakers and civil servants, in the hope of “gleaning information and recruiting sources”. There have been reports of Chinese agents trying to groom up-and-coming politicians from Britain, especially those with business links to the country. And on December 13th America started to learn of possible intervention, when the Congressional Executive Commission on China began hearings to look into Chinese attempts to win political sway.
Know your sharp-power moves when you see them;
China’s sharp power has three striking characteristics—it is pervasive, it breeds self-censorship and it is hard to nail down proof that it is the work of the Chinese state.

Sharp elbows

Start with its pervasiveness. Most governments and intelligence agencies ignored China’s manipulations because they believed that state surveillance and intervention were mainly directed at the country’s diaspora. They were mistaken. The target now seems to include the wider society.

Confucius Institutes have turned sharper. Many cash-strapped universities have replaced their own language courses with curriculums led by the institutes. In some places the institutes have set up entirely new China-studies programmes. Though most do not actively push the party line, they often restrain debate about China by steering discussion away from sensitive subjects.
Remember the Red Dawn reboot?
For those already anxious about rising Chinese intervention, the news appeared to confirm their worst fears—and substantiate the academic’s argument, summed up in the volume’s subtitle, “How China is turning Australia into a Puppet State”.

It is not only publishers that are feeling China’s coercive powers. A French film festival this summer decided not to screen a Chinese feature that painted a dreary and bleak image of contemporary China. It cited “official pressures” from the Chinese authorities as the reason.
There is no reason to run to the fainting couches over this. We just need to keep an eye out for it, and to take action when we find it. The argument can be made that this is less a sign of aggression than of insecurity;
Will China’s sharp power prove a success? One of its aims is to prevent foreign-based Chinese from undermining the party at home. Under Xi Jinping’s autocratic leadership, the political environment has changed dramatically. For the first time since Mao Zedong’s era, it has a highly visible strongman in charge. He has crushed rivals and sown fear among officials high and low with a ruthless campaign against corruption. Human rights are trampled upon. China wants to be sure that the programme of control at home is not vulnerable to the lack of control abroad.
...
China’s sharp power poses a conundrum to Western policymakers. One danger is that policies designed to smooth over relations whip up anti-Chinese hysteria instead. Suspicions of China could run wild. Barriers to academic, economic and cultural co-operation with China could go up. Rather than learning to live with each other, China and the West might drift into sullen miscomprehension. The other concern is that policymakers play down the risks. If so, the public and politicians in the West may underestimate the threat from China’s rise. How do you strike the balance between self-protection and engagement? Just now, nobody is quite sure.
We also need to push back hard in the open not just against China, but against those entities and personalities that kow-tow.

Marriott Hotels
, I'm looking at you.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Fullbore Friday

There is an almost universal respect between navies and Sailors of all flags in both times of peace and war. The reason is that we all face the same enemies day in and day out - the sea and our equipment.

That is why you saw such a near universal rush to help the Argentinians in their search for their submarine, the ARA SAN JUAN.

Submariners - who I kid a fair bit about here - work in silence in exceptional circumstances; always one valve away from death. I spent a little more than a week underway on an SSN as a LT and that was enough for me.

This FbF, just a quick general note about the Fullbore Plan of the Day underway every submarine works under in general, and a nod to the crew of the SAN JUAN. Not much more I can say but to put up this brief summary of the recently released acoustic analysis.

Hat tip Chap and NavyLookout.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Rep. Whittman (R-VA) Goes Salamander

It has been almost 9-yrs since our Navy classified its INSURV and I'm still embarrassed we did such an institutionally cowardly act.

Time has shown that we were right about why we were classifying INSURV; it was because the Navy could not handle answering questions about why our Navy was being allowed to slowly degrade. As Chap said so well at that time;
...INSURV results have to be not only unclassified but public; only embarrassment will fix some problems. Classification, especially the insidious “unclassified but special” categories we invented after 9/11, can invite overcontrol of information, improper use and worse. Special places to go look at stuff invite special tweaking. Every boat I knew at one point took the exercise equipment out of the engine room for the inspection, then put it right back in afterward…and everyone knew it, and so did the inspectors. This example is silly, not dangerous; however, there are dangerous ones out there. What are they and how do we correct them?
At last, we seem to have some top-cover on The Hill;
House Armed Services Committee members Reps. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) talked to a room of Surface Warfare officers on proposed changes in how the Navy organizes its surface force, handles maintenance and certifications of its ships and thinks and speaks about its capabilities, ... he (Whittman) noted that Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) reports used to be unclassified and but have been classified for almost a decade. 
“During peacetime INSURVs should be declassified, and that makes sure there’s transparency there that we know what’s going on,” Wittman said. 
“That creates, again, that direction, that focus to make sure that maintenance is being done, maintenance availabilities aren’t being missed, material readiness is being maintained. All those things are critical.” 
“All of us have to look at this as an opportunity to really do some groundbreaking things in how the surface navy operates,” Wittman said. 
“It doesn’t hurt for us to get to points where we feel a little uncomfortable – in fact, I would argue we have to get to a point where we feel uncomfortable to make sure we are exploring all the different avenues that we have to explore.”
Excellent. Now, follow through on The Hill before the Democrats take power after the 2018 elections.

REFORGER; Now More Than Ever

You know you want a REFORGER. You know we need REFORGER.

I'm pondering over at USNIBlog.