Wednesday, November 27, 2013

ADIZzy in the East China Sea

Mildly interesting activity off the east coast of the People's Republic of China this week.

First, the PRC announced the creation of an expended "Air Defense Identification Zone" that covers a fairly large portion of the west side of the Pacific that lies between the PRC to the west, Taiwan (ROC) to the south, Japan to the northeast, and the Republic of Korea to the north:

Note the gray area; that's the overlap between the western edge of Japan's own claimed ADIZ (the black line on the left side of the gray area) and the east edge of the PRC's new ADIZ.

Why is this important?

Well, and ADIZ is, in effect, a milder form of "territorial waters", an assertion of sovereignty. The FAA defines it, in part, as "an area of airspace over land or water in which the ready identification, location, and control of civil aircraft is required in the interest of national security." The PRC is insisting that it has the right to enforce the ADIZ regulations, which include
"...flight plans, as well as radio and logo identification, of all aircraft operating in the zone. The state-run news agency, Xinhua, said if an aircraft did not supply its flight plan, “China’s armed forces will adopt emergency defensive measures.”" (NYT, 11/26/13)
.The United States responded by sending a pair of B-52 bombers through the ADIZ without doing so. The message to the PRC couldn't have been clearer; bite me, PRC, we consider this area international waters and don't recognize your effing ADIZ.

Analysis of this action here, here, and here. I think "This means woah!"? No.

But it is an intriguing bit of geopolitical gamesmanship from the PRC, for two reasons:

1. The territory involved includes the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and seems to be a likely part of a stepped-up assertion of sovereignty over those ocean rocks, during a period when the issue has become increasingly contentious, and

2. The way the Chinese claiming their new ADIZ rules work. Typically these zones affect aircraft en route to the polity claiming the ADIZ; that's how the U.S. zones work:

But the Chinese are saying that their ADIZ applies to ALL aircraft transiting this zone, not just aircraft inbound for the PRC. This is actually a pretty significant reach; it would be like the United States claiming the right to query and, if not satisfied, stop or even detain any vessels transiting within it's 100-mile limit. This would have the effect, if enforced, of challenging the traditional legal standard of "innocent passage"; " long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State. Such passage shall take place in conformity with this Convention and with other rules of international law." (UNCLOS, Section 3(A)(19).

Why is China doing this? Why now?

Good questions. I don't know; I suspect that a LOT of people aren't sure. In some ways the PRC is a riddle wrapped inside an enigma. Clearly someone is feeling cocky about the PRC's strength in the East China Sea. Who? Why? And to what purpose?

Again; all good questions and ones that it'd be nice to know the answer to.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Admiral JC Wylie's "Military Strategy" Revisited

There seems to be something of a JC Wylie revival going on over at Zenpundit . . .
I was involved in this a bit due to a couple of posts I made back at the end of 2010 . . . first concerning an analysis of Wylie's book and then a follow-up post on strategy in general.
While I can only applaud anyone considering taking Admiral Wylie up on his challenge of formulating a general theory of strategy, it is not a task to be taken on lightly. Historically there has been only one general theory in strategic theory, that of Clausewitz and that only became recognized slowly starting in the 1920s, that is almost a century after On War was first published.
A general theory of strategy would have to be able to encompass not only all types of operational approaches (such as air strategy, naval strategy, economic strategy during wartime), but also the various "arts of war" of the various epochs (such as ancient, Medieval, Napoleonic, 19th Century, early 20th Century, early 21st Century) . . . which gives an indication why there is only one today. Even what we have is not universally recognized as such and I am sure there are enough Clausewitzians of the military history persuasion who would argue against the existence of a general theory in On War, although Clausewitzian strategic theorists, like myself, would argue it to the bitter end . . .
Given this reality, why bother? Well, first off a general theory provides a great tool for military/political historical analysis, being in essence a sort of "language" which can be widely understood allowing for historical comparison. While, strategic theory is retrospective by nature, it can also provide a basic framework for strategic planning in terms of actual policy, but with the warning that is is not a recipe for success since the social complexity is simply too great and contingently based to provide an accurate means of prediction.
To finish off this short post, let me provide several guidelines as to what a general theory of strategy would require from a Clausewitzian perspective:
First, we are dealing with political collectives, not individuals. From this perspective, the goals or "strategy" of an individual would be tactics, at the most.
Second, the general theory would consist of a system of interlocking concepts which would be abstract enough to cover the immense variety and scope necessary, but with specific definitions accurate enough to avoid confusion, that is a good portion of the definitions would be Weberian ideal types. Between these concepts and definitions there would be unresolved/unresolvable "tensions", that is we are not dealing with synthesis as a result of the thesis and anti-thesis, but rather the contradictions (or tensions) between them remaining.
Third, something that would be useful in this regard would be a spectrum of political relations ranging from fraternal association on one end to existential enmity on other. Coercion for instance would span both sides of the threshold of violence someplace in the middle.
Fourth, and finally, the greatest obstacle to forming a general theory is "politics" or specifically in this case the political relations (and the various associated assumptions linked to them) of one's own political community at this point in time. The more complex the political relations, the more difficult agreeing on the specific and historical assumptions becomes.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The strong do what they can...

...and thirty years ago, we sure as hell did.

And, like the annoying little kid in the Shake and Bake commercial, I helped.

For those nostalgic for the Eighties, The Great Communicator's Caribbean Triumph, or just farcical expeditionary extravaganzas, it's Grenada Month all November at Graphic Firing Table!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Open Thread

Gas attack at the Somme photo courtesy of the History Blog

Also meant to mention the 10,000 dead in Tacloban.  Wasn't that MacArhtur's HQ after the Leyte landing?  They also had trouble back then with flooding this time of year.  Nothing like this of course, which was a million times worse.  But most of the MacArthur's airfields were swamped and useless.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Guile and Valor

Just finished reading 'The Deceivers' about the art of deception in the 2nd world war.  Not the novels of the same name by Forsyth or Masters, but a well-researched nonfiction account.  Boring you say, as most everybody has heard about the phantom armies in Southeast Britain facing across the channel from the Pas de Calais and perhaps about the ‘man-who-never-was’.  But this book goes into the organized deception campaigns in the Chinese/Burma/India Theater, North Africa, Italy, the Eastern Front, and both the Central and Southwest Pacific Theaters also.  Very detailed and interesting.  The Americans and French learned it as well from the Brits.  The Soviets too but that part is not quite as detailed, due I am sure to unavailability of the appropriate Russian records to an American researcher.  

The author does not credit the British mastery of deception to any particular perfidiousness in the English character.  Interestingly he ascribes it to a 1900s era  British Colonel, G. F. R. Henderson, who was a dedicated student of the campaigns of Stonewall Jackson in the American Civil War.  Henderson was also an author and a Professor of Military Art at the British Staff College.and influenced generations of British officers with Stonewall’s systematic mystifying and misleading of his enemies.   Great generals of all nations have of course used ruses and feints since the beginning of warfare.  But the British genius was to make deception a separate staff section reporting directly to the commander or to his chief of staff and to codify it into their doctrine.  We Americans learned the game from them during the war and played it well at the time.  But unfortunately our staff system was more rigid so we added a layer between commander and the deception staff by assigning it as a tiny subsection of either G-2 or G-3.  And then in 1946 we promptly forgot about it and it and everything we had learned.

Admiral Hewitt in NW African waters and the western Med used it with his Beach Jumpers for mock amphibious landings to disguise the real intended beachhead.  The original idea came from Hollywood (Doug Fairbanks Jr) and they were later used in the Pacific.   

 Nimitz took to deception and used a notional invasion of the Kurile Islands from the Aleutians (termed Wedlock) to mask his intentions in the Marianas and later the Palaus.  That same deception plan also also benefited MacArthur at Leyte.  It worked as evidenced by the buildup of Japanese ground troops in the Kuriles from 14K in 43 to 64K in January 44 plus four air regiments were moved to Hokkaido in February 44 from southern Japan and from Manchuria.  Later Nimitz used a notional invasion of Formosa and mainland China coast (codenamed Bluebird) to disguise the largest amphibious assault of the Pacific – the Okinawan campaign.

MacArthur himself was a natural and used tactical deception brilliantly during the Hollandia campaign.  But for strategic deception requiring coordination with other theaters his imperious Chief of Staff, LtGen Sutherland, and his G-2 and G-3 did not take kindly to outside advice so lost many opportunities.  The Japanese were no slouches at deception themselves as witnessed by their outfoxing Halsey at Leyte.  But they entered that game too late and their efforts were to no avail.

Mountbatten used it extremely well in Burma, his prime practitioners being General Slim and also Peter Fleming,elder brother to Ian, the author of the James Bond novels, some even claim that Peter was a literary clone of 007.  General Stillwell did not like the concept of deception and would not allow it by his command.  His later replacement, Wedemeyer, used a notional drive to the coast of the South China Sea by a Chinese Army Group, reputedly led by Patton (?) so they could link up with Nimitz’s Bluebird ruse.

The book is not new, it was published nine years ago, so is relatively inexpensive but is well worth a look.  The author, Thaddeus Holt, is a former Deputy Under-Secretary of the Army.  He has also written articles on military history for MHQ, JMH and the NYTimes.  Good read but not for the faint of heart as it is 805 pages plus another 300 or so pages for the Appendices.  My only beef is that he seems to spend too much time on the personalities of the various deception staff officers and some of their arguments with each other.  Otherwise it is great reference work not just for deception but also for the real operations they were designed to protect with their <i>”bodyguard of lies”</i>.