Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Interesting position on Russia

The Cold War was primarily a standoff between two military powers.  The Soviet impact on, and involvement in, the world's economy was negligible.  Probably one of the major reasons the USSR collapsed.  It was Soviet military, and the resultant political power, that we wanted to keep in check.  We are now dealing with a new Russia, and that new Russia has become an economic player far greater than the old Soviet Union.  Now, when Russia rattles it's political saber, there are economic ramifications of concern.  Yet we still seem to be stuck in the Cold War mentality that Russia is always to be opposed.

This morning's Athens Newspaper, Ekathimerini, has a couple of interesting pieces about the Ukraine mess.  Of interest was their editorial, stating that a "stable and powerful Russia" is a key ingredient to global economic security.

An OpEd similarly addressed the situation, concluding with, "The world today has become a very complicated place, a place where there is no room left for experimentation, naivete or dogmatism."

Point is, we seem to be of the mentality that we have to have an "enemy" to be a real superpower.  We oppose terrorism, radical Islam, dictators, and our old foe, Russia.  But then, after opposing Assad, we learn that the "rebels fighting for democracy" include a strong ISIS element, and now, perhaps, Assad isn't so bad after all.  As far as Russia is concerned, well Putin was KGB, and perhaps new Russia is really the old Soviets after all, and didn't we have to stand up against them for decades?

Perhaps the fall back on blind ideology is simply part and parcel to being a power in decline?  Maybe we can't get beyond GWB's "If you are not with us, you are against us"?  Maybe it's time to learn to coexist with those who primarily are simply not against us, and replace dogmatism with pragmatism, even if it means we aren't be biggest player on the block.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Turkish Historical Society releases World War I archival photos

Interesting link from Hurriyet, a major Turkish Daily and reportedly the third most visited news website in Europe, probably due to the large number of immigrant Turks and Kurds in northern Europe.  In any case it shows a large digital album of 100 year-old photographs.

Unfortunately they are not captioned.  Photo #23 was particularly intriguing: six Turkish soldiers smiling at the camera next to a tent with an American flag hanging at the entrance. I am conjecturing that they are Turkish-American returnees.  New York and New England received many ethnic Turks from the Balkans and Cyprus prior to WW-1.

Photo #40!!!  Wow, that is a genuine old-school kanonisti.  My back hurts just looking at that guy.  Gallipoli probably and I bet that shell has either General Hamilton’s or Admiral de Robeck's name written on it in chalk.

Gallipoli is where Ataturk (Mustafa Kemal) made his bones.  His face is undoubtedly in a photo of  one of those groups of  officers.  A young Mulazim (Lieutenant) Tahsin Yazıcı was also at Gallipoli and may be in one of those pics.  35 years later he commanded the Turkish Brigade in Korea as part of the United Nations Command.

I used to associate Turkey during WW1 only with the Aussies at Gallipoli and Faisal’s Arab Revolt.  But wait, not so fast:  In eastern Turkey and the Caucasus the Ottomans fought battles at Ardahan, Sarikamish, Van, Koprukoy, Trabizon, Bitlis & Mus, Erzinca, Baku, Sardarapat, Kara-Killisse, and Bash-Arbaran.  Circassian and Kurdish cavalry, Azeris, Persians, and German advisers fought alongside peasant Anatolian infantry (some Kurds fought for the Russkies too, they were not a monolithic bloc).  The initial Russian advances (along with their Armenian and Assyrian allies) were most likely due to a priority Ottoman defense of Gallipoli.  The Turks fought and won the the Battle of Ctesiphon and the Siege of Kut in Iraq.  They beat Allenby in two of the three Battles of Gaza in Palestine but lost the third and the Battle of Megiddo. They stalemated the Brits in the Yemen.  Turkish Navy ships in addition to contributing to the allied defeat at Gallipoli accompanied battlecruiser SMS Goeben (redesignated TCG Yavuz) on raids to Russian ports in the Black Sea.

Good reads on the subject are by Professor Edward J Erickson, former US Army Field Artillery Officer, and is now a professor of military history.  He has written several books on Turkey and its history.

UPDATE:  I have been scolded, and rightfully so, for not mentioning five other WW1 Fronts in which Ottoman troops served:

Galicia where the 19th and 20th Turkish Divisions were hastily sent after Austro Hungarian Forces melted during the Brusilov Offensive.  The famous 19th Division had previously been commanded by Atataturk at Gallipoli.  They fought alongside the German 55th and 1st (Reserve) Bavarian Divisions. (Note – This area is now mostly the Western Ukraine)

Romania where the 15th and 25th Turkish Divisions fought under von Mackensen against both Romanian and Russian troops.

Macedonia where two more Turkish Divisions (50th and 46th) reinforced the Bulgarians and fought against an Anglo-French Expeditionary Force. (Note – The Turks arrived there to much cheering by Khosovars and Albanians.)

Libya where the Turks armed and advised the Senussi guerrilla war against the Italians and also invaded the British in Egypt.  They were reinforced with a single Turkish Infantry Battalion. (Note – The Senussis were a key anti-Gaddafi faction in the 2011 Libyan Civil War.)

Iraq/Persian border where a small Turkish detachment held off Russian attacks on Khanaqin. (Note - Khanaqin is just a short distance away from Jalawla where heavy fighting is going on today between Kurds and IS.) 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

ISIS Artillery???

Per news reports Navy F-18s took out a single artillery piece in the vicinity of Khazir that was firing at Peshmerga positions in Gwier.   But where are the other 51 M-198s mentioned in the article above: Syria? Mosul? or still at the military bases abandoned by the Iraqi Army?  Does IS even have enough working prime movers to tow those captured M-198s around?  Can IS use them effectively – other than as an inaccurate city bombardment terror weapon? 

Can they even emplace and lay these guns in properly?  Gun safety?  What about the cannoneer's battle cry of:  <i>’Shoot, Move, and Communicate’</i>?  I don’t see them doing that well?  Perhaps Tarkhan Batirashvili</a>, AKA Omar the Chechen, one of the ISIS leaders can live up to that.

He reportedly was in Georgian Army recon during the Russo-Georgian War and relayed Russian tank column coordinates to Georgian artillery.  But that was only a five day war so how much experience did he get calling in fire missions?  And how good is he as a trainer and teacher?


But the bigger question is can they keep them in good working order?  Guderian has been quoted as saying that: <i>"The engine of a Panzer is as much a weapon of war as the main-gun."</i>  That is also true for modern weapons and is a problem for IS.  It will not be a small job for a ragtag bunch of jihadis to keep those captured M198s shooting and maintained in good working order (to say nothing of the captured M-1 tanks).  I doubt if the former Baathists who support IS have enough competent technicians and mechanics to undo any operator foul-ups making the guns inoperative.   There is no way these captured weapons are as maintenance free as the AK-47s and RPGs the militants are used to.

I am no expert on M-198’s or on artillery in general.  I have never been a cannon cocker.  My only association was years ago as an intel weenie with a USMC arty regiment that used the old M-114 155mm howitzers.  Even those, unsophisticated as they were, required a lot of daily and weekly preventive maintenance.

At a minimum: bore and chamber cleaning, ditto or maybe doubly so for powder fouling in the breech.  The  recoil mechanism, elevating and traversing mechanisms, hydraulic surge brakes also as I recall.   Fire control (?) - the M-198s have much more sophisticated fire control optics and electronics than the M-114 ever did.  How well will they stand up to the Caliphates sand dunes?  How critical is periodic borescoping?

Any insights from 13X’s, 08’s or other cannoneers?