Thursday, March 28, 2013


Off to the races boys and girls . . . taking sabbatical. Not like I would have simply disappeared without having said anything . . . The times demand focus. Haven't been much in the mood/mode to post, and things have kinda turned nasty . . . on various fronts . . . which is too bad. So I'll be commenting on other blogs & forums, but neither posting nor commenting on this one. Although I will return and post. At some point in time, but it is difficult to say when. I'm sure that all my past posts and comments will stay up and be accessible. Private email is cool . . . Email me at if you wish to communicate. MilPub has been good to me, and I wish to be good to MilPub as well. But not right now. So to my fellow barkeeps, regulars, guests, friends and those who follow, Aufwiedersehen

Where are we going? And why are we in this handbasket?

Remember Sammy the Whiny Seal we talked about back in February?

Well, turns out that that Dark Nexus of infomercials, CNN, has brewed a tempest in...I don't know, something smaller and less significant than a teacup. A shotglass? (Probably appropriate, since the whole damn nonsense makes me want to drink heavily).

I won't bother you with the sissy-fight, something about which sailor put two rounds in Osama's ten-ring. Go read the article at the link, if you care.

But here's what bugs me. Back in the day we fought dangerous people. Seriously dangerous guys, people who controlled entire armies, fleets, scads of big ol' bombers loaded with torpedoes and five-hundred pound blobs of high explosive. Guys who could command the actions of millions of hard-core, well-trained, dangerous sons-of-bitches.

Well, it took millions of us, but we fought them, and won. And then went back to work, making cars, building houses, watching television, electing rubes and gomers, stealthily gettin' busy after the kids went to bed. Y'know, being regular civilians in a nation at peace.

We got over ourselves, is what I'm saying. We seem to have gotten over getting over ourselves, if this ridiculous nonsense over who actually put bullets in the World's Tallest Saudi is any indication. Faced with the saddest lot of raggedy-ass fundamentalist wannabees we have let ourselves become some sort of quasi-Star Wars Empire, farkling about all over the world, torturing and disappearing people, and letting folks who shouldn't be allowed to run a raffle directing our politics and military operations that most of us don't know - or, much care - about. We're at perpetual war, and yet, who gives a shit?

The guy who shot down the aircraft carrying ADM Isoroku Yamamoto, who could have wreaked more havoc in his sleep than Osama could have on his Best Day Ever,
"...joined the 449th Fighter Squadron in China, still flying P-38s. He claimed three further Japanese planes probably destroyed and damaged, but he was shot down on his 139th mission, bailing out near Kiukiang on April 29. He was rescued by Chinese civilians, who treated his injuries and escorted him to safety five weeks later. At the end of the war, Barber attained the rank of major and commanded one of America's first jet squadrons. He retired as a colonel in 1961."
Guy didn't get out with four years to run until retirement. He didn't get into a public pissing contest with CPT Lanphier, the other guy involved in the shootdown.

It was just another day at war. And when the war was over - which We the People WANTED it to be - we got on with the business of getting back to business.

Now, this. It's perfect; the entire business of this ridiculous "War on Terror" in a shotglass. Neverending. Inconclusive. Utterly meaningless. But chock-full of noisy, furious bullshit.

Who gives a shit who "killed bin Laden"? We soldiers were once taught that we were a team; that every one of us was important to completing the mission, from the chancre-mechanic that gave us our plague shot to the guy who drove the truck that took our Class V down to the port of embarkation, to the cooks who mermited our hot chow up to the firebase to the guy who pulled security while we slept.

And, yet, here we are; sitting at home listening to a couple of knuckleheads pissing down each others' legs about who shot some scruffy wog in a dirty house in butt-rump Pakistan. And CNN, which should have a pantsload of better things to talk about (How did Osama manage to sit around Abbotabad - described as location of "...the regimental headquarters for the Frontier Force Regiment, the Baloch Regiment and Pakistan Army Medical Corps and Kakul Military Academy..." - for years without our old pal Pakistan giving us the heads-up..?), that managed to pass the tenth anniversary of the Iraq Debacle without so much as a whimper of discontent that the montebanks, grifters, thugs, and stooges that lied us into that Mess-o-potamia (and comprehensively screwed what was going on in Afghanistan in the process) are still with us, nattering on Morning Joe and Meet the Press as if they weren't as complicit as Bob MacNamara in getting a bunch of Americans killed in somebody else's goddamn civil war.

If that doesn't say something about us, and something not very complimentary, I don't know what the hell it does.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Problem? What problem?

Robert Farley discusses the question of sea-lane control facing the delightfully named People's Liberation Army Navy.
"China faces a very basic set of maritime problems. The PRC draws its most important resources from across an ocean that it cannot control, and exports most of its finished goods to overseas partners who similarly lay beyond the reach of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Whether or not the PLAN can deter or defeat the U.S. Navy (USN) in China’s littoral, the organization’s true test lies in its ability to secure the PRC’s critical lines of communication."
I link to the article here not so much as a recommendation of Farley's analysis but as a conversation starter.

Much has been made recently of the U.S. "turn east"; renewed interest in and contemplation of the situation along the West Pacific littoral as well as curiosity over the PRC's intentions regarding her maritime "near abroad". Farley comes to what I would consider the "textbook" conclusion:
" skipping ahead the PLAN has left itself bereft of the kind of low cost, medium size platforms that can support sea control operations at a distance from home. The lack of these sea control platforms (or suitable alternatives) will leave the PLAN at a serious disadvantage when and if it needs to protect lines of communication in unfriendly environments. Liaoning can only operate in one place at a time, and only for a limited time period. The PLAN might have been better served by adopting the more evolutionary Soviet approach to naval aviation."
But I guess my question here would be; why would the PLAN really need much naval aviation at all?

The PRC, although more "maritime" today than at nearly any period in her history, is still largely a continental power. One of the reasons she has been so interested in central Asia is securing access to Afghan natural gas, Iranian and Pakistani oil, and similar petroleum resources in the former Soviet 'stans.

She also has to consider what her naval options are. To attempt to compete with the USN and its likely allies' naval airpower would require a 1914-Kriegsmarine-like naval race complete with a fairly significant aircraft and shipbuilding program. But what if, instead, the PLAN could concentrate in sinking the USN's carrier platforms? What if, instead, China concentrated on sea-denial, depending on deterrence to keep the enemy airstrikes away from its merchies? What if her submarine force became, in effect, the "escort carriers" of the US-China Pacific War, chasing off and sinking the US carriers much as the CVEs did the U-boats of 1944? And what, if anything, should the U.S. and the USN do about that?

(Mind you - the FIRST thought that occurs to me is "Don't get involved in a war with China", so there's that...)


(Oh, and as we know, the Taiwanese aren't worried. Because they have mastered Decepticon technology...)

Update 3/28: As a counter to the Farley piece, here's Jim Holmes over at The Diplomat arguing that the increased range of modern aircraft actually makes the expense and technical complexity of carrier aviation a greater liability than you'd think:
"First, if future combat aircraft boast ranges measured in thousands of miles, it's worth asking at what point navies can dispense with mobile airfields altogether. UCAVs could operate from strategically placed islands or landmasses abutting important theaters — in effect converting land into an unsinkable aircraft carrier. Persuading allies to host air bases that might expose them to attack could prove tricky. Still, it's worth asking what a world without carriers would look like."

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Springtime for Hitler

...over at GFT; the Battle that Never Was - Rhineland 1936.

C'mon Germans, go into your dance...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

We petty men

Tomorrow is the Tin Anniversary of the Third Gulf War.

I wish I had something to post better than Charlie Pierce, but I don't. So I will merely direct you to his scathing reminder that we petty men will - now and forever - creep between the broken legs of the statue in Firdos Square and peep about to find ourselves dishonorable graves.

The war may have killed thousands but completely spared the lives and even the public careers of the wretched, greedy, cowardly liars that summoned it from the depths of the Eblis of national fear, violence, and hubris. And we have chosen to accept that without demur. That is our shame. That is our crime; not that we committed the wrong but that we did not punish it when we saw that it was wrong.

The persistence of these Tin Gods in the public life of our nation is, and should be, a great enduring unbearable shame to us, all of us, us the We the People who were entrusted with the honor and truth of this nation. We have chosen to be a nation of Men rather than a nation of Law, chosen comfortable dishonor above painful rectitude, chosen the deaths of others rather than to sacrifice ourselves.

When our generation is remembered it should be for that, and for that above all. Whatever good we have done, whatever kindnesses we may do, the crimes for which we hung the defeated leaders of Nazi Germany, the crime of making aggressive war, the "crimes against peace" of Nuremberg; the crimes of others that by our acceptance and indifference we have made our own, will remain with us always. Like the unquiet ghosts of the dead of Baghdad, Ramadi, and Basra, like the mournful fragments of the GIs flown home inside plastic sacks, and like the cries of the headscarved women, weeping for sons and fathers and lovers vanished in the morning mists that rise above the Tigris as the merciless dawn floods the watermeadows with light as red as blood.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Moderate Thinking

 --Broken Chains, anonymous 

Gonna pass me a brand new resolution 
Gonna fight me a one man revolution, someway 
Gonna start my rebellion today 
But here come the people in grey To take me away

 People in grey have gone and taken away 
My right to voice my complaint 
Her majesty's government 
have sent me a form
 I must complete it today 
--The People in Grey, The Kinks

 The only way to mobilize popular support 
for secret armies of resistance fighters during the war 
was to stage such dramatic acts of terrorism 
versus the German occupying forces 
--Winston Churchill, fr. Nihilist Monthly (Feb, 2012)

The stated United States' policy is to support moderates in the Syrian Civil War. What does this mean? Following are some questions regarding moderation in the Civil War business:
  • Does a moderate person engage in a Civil War?  
  • How does the State Department define "moderate"?
  • Why are we spending money encouraging Moderates in Syria, while Moderates in the states are becoming a vanishing breed?
  • What are we buying when we fund these Moderates?
  • What do we lose if we do nothing to support the Syrian revels?
  • Are the rebels legitimate?  
  • Do they represent the will of their people?  
  • Are the moderates foreign Jihadists?

Now for the money question:

Does anyone recall any revolution that was won by a moderate force?
"Moderate People of the World Unite" ... somehow that lacks the revolutionary zeal required by such a project.

Answer: Moderation is never the hallmark of a revolution.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Two Interesting Recent Books

 As a Life Member of the Naval War College Foundation, I not only get my copy of the quarterly Naval War College Review, but email announcement of the many seminars and activities the Foundation sponsors around the country.  Just about the time my cynicism meter is about to peg out at maximum, the NWCF sends me something that reassures me that, within the military, rational, independent thought has not been totally extinguished.  There are, particularly at the military staff and war colleges, those who look far beyond the party line and speak truth to power.  In short, evidence that dumbass policy has not driven off all the saner minds.

The NWCF offers a series of noon-time lectures by contemporary scholars about their most recent book.  The format has the author speaking for 40-45 minutes on the topic of their book and the facts leading to its publication, followed by a Q&A session. The most recent announcement for the next round of lectures included:

Thursday, April 4, 2013: Imperial Crossroads: The Great Powers and the Persian Gulf with editors Professors Jeffrey Macris and Saul Kelly. This is a study of the contest for control of the Gulf and its resources, with an emphasis on Portugal, Holland, Britain, and the United States. The historical perspective will enhance the readers' understanding of the geo-political development within the region.

Thursday, April 25, 2013: From Kabul to Baghdad and Back: The U.S. at War in Afghanistan and Iraq with Professor John Ballard.This book questions some of the fundamental assumptions affecting decisions regarding the prosecution of the Afghan war. It compares the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan from a national strategic perspective and questions several key operational decisions in the region. Dr. Ballard is the Dean of Faculty at the National War College.

With this wonderful "Wired Age", the books are available electronically, so easy peasy to get here on a small Aegean island!

Thus, the reading suggestions above for the crew.

And, on the lighter side, to show that we NWC guys are not totally stuffed shirts:

Thursday, May 9, 2013: The Aden Effect with Claude Berube. In this change of pace for an 8 Bells Lecture, we have a novel about murder, politics, sea power, and intrigue centering on the Middle East. Touted as bringing to the written page "the most interesting new hero since Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan," this should prove to be a worthwhile departure, both entertaining and educational. Claude Berube teaches at the U.S. Naval Academy and will be discussing the non-fiction themes that influenced the novel.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

My Little Droney; Simplicity is Magic!

Al finally brings to light the official answer to the question Ron Paul should have asked:
"The White House responded to Paul's concerns Thursday, when Press Secretary Jay Carney read a letter Attorney General Eric Holder sent to Paul at the top of his daily briefing. "It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: 'Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?'" Carney read. "The answer to that question is no."
This does not appear to have penetrated the foot-thick skull of the man Chas Pierce likes to call "Senator Aqua Buddha"; his filibuster ran well into today for no more apparent reason than...well, because he's who he is and the Five Minute Rule still applies.

So the good news is that the rule of law still applies to the Land of the Free.

The bad news is that whether this is consolation to the survivors of these sorts of attacks we've been running in the less-paved portions of the world has not been determined.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Court of Drone Chamber

Frankly, I'm not sure what irks me more; the implication that the Attorney General of the United States considers that there is an "extraordinary circumstance" in which, without a declaration or war, without determining that you are in arms against the United States, but through secret evidence secretly reviewed that you or I may be executed without arrest, without charge, without trial, and without sentence, or the extraordinary slippery weasel-speak that said Attorney General uses to deliver this pronouncement.

Of course this would be an "extraordinary circumstance". That's the entire point. At present a U.S. citizen in Yemen or Pakistan accused of being an "al Qaeda leader" can - and has - been killed without legal recourse or any hope of pursuing such recourse. No, duh; his first fucking hint that he's on the Kill List is Mister Hellfire Missile sailing in through the bathroom window. We know that.

And the President of the United States has the absolute authority to kill without trial an American citizen in armed rebellion against the United States. There's a reason that the Army of the Potomac showed up at Antietam and not the Attorney General; the fucking Rebs were looking for trouble at the end of a Springfield and they found it in spades. That's what happens to rebels in arms. We know that, too

The question Paul was asking - and keep in mind that I yield to no one in my estimation of the Paulites as semianthropoid gomers and in this case, as Al points out in the comments, Paul's question was both intended as a "gotcha" and poorly phrased, to boot - was aimed directly at the gray area between the two.

Given that we don't seem to, either as a nation or as We the People, have problems with killing "them" over "there" but do have qualms about extrajudicial murder of "us" "here"...what happens if one of "us" "here" might - might - turn out to be one of "them" in the same way "they" are eligible for a missile-o-gram from Uncle Sugar? Not taken in arms. Not planting a bomb. Not in active combat. But accused by some unnamed informer of being a "person(s) he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons?"

For all that we have beavered away at our own protections under the law since 2001 it has always seemed to me that there is and should be a simple bright line defining the fundamental relations between a citizen of the United States and the U.S. government and between peace and war.

And that is, if that citizen is not openly in arms against that government, is located where the agents of conventional law enforcement may apprehend that person, and has not been convicted in open court of treason or proved beyond a reasonable doubt to be a rebel or an agent of a power at war with the United States, then that citizen has not forfeited the protections of the law. And if they wish to do harm to that citizen then it is incumbent on the U.S. government and its agents to do everything in their power to do that harm as they are required to do by the Constitution and federal statute.

And, if Holder and his department believe this to be true, then the answer to the question Paul should have asked is simple; No. No, I do not have the authority to summarily execute or otherwise do extrajudicial harm to this person, regardless of what "extraordinary circumstances" exist.

Instead, what Holder appears to be doing is doubling down on the precedent of Korematsu (a precedent that his own department had previously determined to be based on official error); that in times of danger the U.S. government is free to act in contravention of its own law, regardless of the fragility of the evidence (or the lack of evidence), to harm its own citizens.

Our government has done great harm to us citizens in times of crisis; indeed, one of the reasons that wars and emergencies are greatly to be feared is that they afford great opportunity for frightened or ambitious men to do great harm to the rule of law. But in the main our government has, upon reflection, been willing to admit that such harm WAS harm. Our courts have ruled against those actions, and later administrations have disavowed them.

This opinion appears to, instead, insist on the right to do such harm.

And whether it is done with a missile or with a knife, I cannot find that reassuring.

(h/t to Pierce for the original article and the link to the Holder document)

Sunday, March 3, 2013


I've been reading volume two, The Day of Battle, of Rick Atkinson's "Liberation Trilogy".

Atkinson writes well and has done his research; his Army at Dawn was a good summary of the U.S. North Africa campaign. The second volume is equally comprehensive on the campaigns for Sicily and Italy. Makes for a terrible story; you have to wonder what the hell the Allied leaders were thinking ("soft underbelly"? My ass). It's popular history, yes, but well-drawn and (so far as I can tell) sound on the major events and controversies of the place and time.

But that's not really what I wanted to talk about. It's these guys:

You can't make your way around North Africa, Sicily, and Italy between 1942 and 1944 without stumbling over this outfit, perhaps one of the oddest in military history; an entire armored division owned by an air force.

The Hermann Göring armored division was probably the strangest end-member of the Nazi penchant for empire-building, internal as well as external. The capability of the German ground forces in WW2 - and even the most Allied-biased have to admit that on the tactical level the German armed forces were largely better at their work than pretty much any of their enemies - is fairly remarkable given the almost-Byzantine-level of complexity of the Wehrmacht. Alongside the Heer, the regular Army, you had a completely parallel Nazi Party army in the "armed" or Waffen SS.

And beside them, you had damn near an entire freaking air force army.

You could say that the German military of the Forties did it exactly backwards from the way the U.S. did it; in the U.S. of 1943 the air force belonged to the army. In Germany, the air force HAD an army; 22 Luftwaffe feldivisionen, or "Air Force Field Divisions" That's not even counting the fallschirmjäger; the eleven divisions of German paratroops came under Air Force command (as did everything else that flew than that the Reichsmarschall could get his pudgy fingers on).

But you can make kind of a case for the paratroops (the Soviet paras were part of their air force, and even the early U.S. Army experiments with airborne troops flirted with the notion of slotting them into the USAAF), and the feldivisionen were flat-out a mid-war expedient forced on the Wehrmacht by Der Dicke's political pull and greed for power.

But the Hermann Göring was a whole different critter; a created-from-the-treads-up armored division for the German air force.

And the other odd thing is that, like the paratroopers and very unlike the felddivisionen (which were disasters and probably killed more Germans that their enemies...) the HG turned out to be an excellent combat outfit. Several commentators such as Martin Blumenson have rated it among the best of the German WW2 armored formations. That's pretty high praise, given the competition.

But...I'm sorry; the whole idea is just fucking weird.

There are lots of things about the Nazi period in Germany that are fascinating in a horrible way. But there are some things about that period that are fascinating just because they're...odd. And the notion of an air force wanting their own tank division?

To me, that's just odd. I get it, I understand WHY Fatso wanted one - hard to be a soldier without understanding power bases and military empire-building - but letting him have one?


But perhaps I should be careful about name-calling other militaries; at least the Kriegsmarine resisted the impulse to voluntarily form it's own infantry brigade.

Go figure.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Care to name a soldier?

I had a fun experience the other day when I asked a through and through civilian friend to name any soldier besides myself that he knew of.  Apparently, ahead of Petraeus and McChrystal or SSG Romesha lies a Private by the name of Manning.  Sigh...

Honestly, Manning is one of the more infuriating things to come out of the War on Terror.  A martyr against the machine, who wasn't one.  An enemy of the state who is isn't one.  A 'hero' who got coffee for probably asshole intel officers in Iraq, got bored and fucked up big time.  It goes well with a war that will 'soon end' but never actually end.  An Army that was already integrated but now is even 'more so.'  And a society that has never been safer, but also never been more afraid.

Please let me know when I've worn out this diatribe, but it just really irritates me to death when we as a nation have a discussion about the military without mentioning that yes, we are still at war.  And no, supporting Bradley Manning doesn't help end the war or do anything of any value except keep an idiot kid out of jail for the rest of his life.

I'm confident that Manning will get the book thrown at him, but within eight years he'll be pardoned.  I'm sure that shortly, the military will start churning out stories about green initiatives that are actually restoring the environment in war torn areas.  Something to keep liberals happy while the war continues.  Just think!  If we invade Syria, we can actually reduce green house gasses!!!

There's hell to pay for this sort of behavior.  And the cost isn't being distributed at all.  The question for me in these sorts of areas is and always has been how long can this last?  And when the music stops, how do I get a chair?