Friday, December 02, 2016

Fullbore Friday

Your ships are worn out and patched together after months of fighting. Your Sailors are tired. You are in the middle of refueling and resupply well away from the enemy. On the mess decks, the crew is thinking about what can be done to pick up the crew for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Then you get a message;
On the day before Thanksgiving, American Admiral William “Bull” Halsey ordered Captain Arleigh “31-Knot” Burke ... to intercept the Japanese convoy.
When he received Halsey’s order, Burke was hundreds of miles away, taking on fuel at New Georgia Island. The destroyers that made up his small fleet — the Charles Ausburne (Burke’s ship), Claxton, Dyson, Converse, and Spence — had been in almost continuous battles for several months and were badly in need of maintenance.

Because of that, Burke’s ship was capable of only 31 knots, not its maximum speed of 38 knots. That resulted in a message from Admiral Halsey that gave Burke his nickname:
Burke and his task force sped north to try to find and destroy the Japanese task force. They found what they were looking for not long after midnight on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, 1943, when they encountered two of the Japanese destroyers, the Makinami and the Onami.
... Using their relatively new radar technology on the moonless, dark, overcast night, Burke’s squadron fired more than a dozen torpedoes and sank both ships, finishing off one of the Japanese destroyers with surface guns.

The chase was then on to catch the fleeing destroyer-transports. Burke’s task force caught up with the Yuguri, sinking it and damaging the Uzuki, although the Uzuki managed to escape with the last Japanese ship, the Amagiri. It was the Amagiri that had collided with PT-109, the boat skippered by Lt. John F. Kennedy, on August 1, 1943.

Trying to catch the fleeing Uzuki and the Amagiri, Burke went deep into Japanese-held territory — far beyond the reach of American air cover. With the onset of dawn and the possibility of massed attacks by Japanese aircraft, Burke wisely ended the chase and withdrew.
Not a single American sailor was killed. Gunfire from the Japanese destroyers had all missed. A Japanese torpedo that hit one of the American destroyers didn’t explode. A group of torpedoes fired by the Japanese exploded in the wakes of Burke’s destroyers after he had a gut feeling that he should change position. And when Destroyer Squadron 23 withdrew, not a single plane from the four Japanese airbases in the vicinity of Rabaul (58 bombers and 145 fighters) attacked the task force. It was either luck or a series of miracles or a combination of both.

Burke’s strategy and tactics, and the performance of his sailors, led to the Naval War College calling the Battle of Cape St. George “an almost perfect surface action.” Bull Halsey called it the “Trafalgar of the Pacific.” It ended the Tokyo Express, the Japanese naval convoys that were used to supply Japanese land forces and attack Allied military efforts in the Solomon Islands.
Can only make 80% of your max speed due to maintenance? OK. What is your weapons state? Fine? Good. You're good to go.

Thursday, December 01, 2016


An understatement of the year would be "this is great news;"
President-elect Donald Trump will nominate retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as his secretary of defense, he announced Thursday in Cincinnati at the beginning of his post-election tour.

"We are going to appoint 'Mad Dog' Mattis as our secretary of defense. But we're not announcing it until Monday so don't tell anybody," Trump said at his rally, adding later, "They say he's the closest thing to Gen. George Patton that we have and it's about time."
Mattis, 66, would join a Trump national security team that already includes retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser and Rep. Mike Pompeo as CIA director.
Allow me a little self-indulgence.

Regulars here and at Midrats know my feelings towards Mattis. In summary, I had the pleasure in serving with him on three occasions; once when he was a 1-star and we were both trying to figure things out in C5F AOR in the weeks after 911; once as a 3-star when he was MARCENT, and once as a 4-star when he was the commander of NATO's Allied Command Transformation. I've had the pleasure of talking with him (the first time I thought he was a USMC SNCO for about 30-seconds until I saw his star), briefing him, and watching him work with his Marines. I never saw someone who was such a natural leader that so quickly earned the trust and admiration of those around him. I was a minor player around him on every occasion, but in spit of that - he remembered my name every time we found ourselves face to face again, years apart and he talked to me like it was only yesterday. 

If he built that bond with me, I cannot imagine the feelings of those who served with him day in and day out - but I've heard plenty.

Our nation will be exceptionally well served in any position he finds himself in. All should be at peace with him heading to SECDEF. I am still in awe that he may be heading there, and I hold the greatest hope for his success. I am just slightly saddened that I won't have a 4th chance to work with him - but I will enjoy the opportunity of seeing him from afar.

Some people are voicing concerns about the number of Generals picked so far by Trump. As a small (r) republican, in the back of my head I share that concern, but not with James Mattis.

Nope. Without question I would put the lives of my wife and children in his hands. Very few people on the planet pass that muster. That will do for SECDEF.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Finn Taps the West on the Shoulder and Whispers, "Friend, Dial it Back a Bit."

We move ABM systems to their border, they move nuke-capable SRBM to Kaliningrad. We encourage Ukraine, they invade Ukraine. We move small numbers of company sized maneuver forces in to the Baltic Republics, they reactivate and upgrade 3,000 MBT. We encourage the NATO Eastern Flank to increase spending on defense, Russia does the same.

We accuse them of trying to manipulate our elections and funding radical parties in West ... and so on.

This has been an interesting year when it comes to Russia in Europe.

As always when dealing with Russia, it is important to keep a few things in mind.
- She is not of the West. She is Russia.
- She holds grudges.
- She trust no one.
- She has an incredible ability to deal with hardship.
- She is a bit paranoid.
- She is very insecure.
- She is large.
- She has great potential.
- She is weaker than she thinks.
- She is stronger than she appears.
- Sometimes, she just likes to see the world burn.

You also do not need to tell the former Soviet Republics, former Warsaw Pact nations, or those who have been at war with Russia in the last century to respect her, they know all too well.

It is helpful to listen to those who have a record of success of getting along - at a respectful distance - with the Russians while still being independent. Of course, I'm talking about Finland. A survivor of the Cold War through a slightly embarrassing compromise; "Finlandization" was a soft-freedom - but it kept Finland free. She knows her former imperial master and neighbor Russia well, and we should listen to her.

Let's jump to today with a little note of caution from Finland's defense minister, Jussi Niinistö. First of all, know where he comes from. He is from the True Finns Party - one that is hard to place in the Left-Right spectrum in the American sense, and even the European one. It is a populist and nationalist-oriented political party that holds some left-wing economic policies, but some conservative social policies. The more you read about the True Finns, it almost seems like a Trumpist party without a Trump - but I could be wrong as my American lens cannot see their political system with much clarity. It opposes Finland's entry to the EU and NATO - so keep that in mind.

Niinistö is a military historian by trade and holds a position between an American Associate Professor and a Tenured Professor at university in Finland.

Here are some points he made recently that are worth pondering a bit.
"We naturally support detente. And we practice an active policy of stability," Niinisto said in an interview with Finnish MTV3 News. "We'd like to see the military situation calm down in the Baltic Sea, rather than escalate." 

... he said, there were no current threats against Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia.

Niinisto said he hadn't seen "any inclination among the Russian leadership to threaten" the small Nordic country. "In that sense Russia is not a threat to Finland."
I think that behind closed doors, Niinistö would have a few scenarios where that might not be true - but I think the tone he sets is helpful.

If you have a large and dangerous neighbor who is off her meds a bit, is paranoid, claustrophobic, and loves trash talking - perhaps a good approach is to just humor her, talk in soft terms, and as long as she stays on her yard - generally try not to provoke her.

Have the police on speed-dial, a good security system, flood lights in the yard on a motion sensor, a bat by the door, and a gun in your nightstand? I would do that too. Otherwise - maybe being a bit patronizing until she calms down is not that bad of an idea.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Aleppo Endgame

For months and today, the most humane thing "to do" about Aleppo is to convince the garrison to surrender to the Syrian Army. There is no longer a viable path to a "moderate opposition" to Assad. That option was lost years ago with this exchange;
With “respect to Syria,” said the president, the notion that arming the rebels would have made a difference has “always been a fantasy. This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards.”
Obama's view of the conflict from 2014 is well outlined below - in addition to the video at the "this exchange" hypertext above. Though this commentary is mostly about IRQ, the mindset applies to SYR as well.

That gave a clear signal that we were not going to do anything, and it let what "moderate" forces that were there know that if they wanted to fight Assad, they would need to look elsewhere for support. That somewhere was AQ and IS.

Sad thing is that Obama in many ways is correct in the above video ... if you are talking about domestic Western democratic politics. His advisors never were able to explain to him that this isn't how things work in the real world.

The world is largely a place governed by the application of and threats of hard power. Outside the Western democracies, the world aligns more with the Russian world view than the Brussels world view.

Without any leadership from the USA, the fate of the Syrian opposition was firmly in the hands of what the Russians and Iranians could do to prop up Assad. The fate of Aleppo was, with each passing day, just a matter of time.

All the talk of "aid to civilians" was just virtue signaling. For thousands of years it has been known that there is no such thing as "aid to civilians" in a siege. The garrison feeds first. 

"Cease fire?" That is only useful to buy time to negotiate surrender. With the besieging forces having clear supply lines, the only thing left is the calendar. As my ancestors found out in Vicksburg, if there is no army on the way to help lift the siege, your fate is sealed.

So, Aleppo today in two maps. 

First, where things stand after the fall of eastern Aleppo:

Now, zoom in on the old city;

This is what an endgame looks like. With the citadel fallen, the rest is just clean up. We are close to or well in to the "no-quarter" phase of the fall of Aleppo if garrison doesn't surrender.

Was staying out of the Syrian conflict the right call? Yes, but perhaps not in the national credibility shredding "red line" way that we did it.

There is still time, now that Russia has helped Assad clean up his front lines, to work with the Russians to eliminate the Islamic State. 

PLAN SALAMANDER proposed over a ago still applies; use the Kurds as an anvil; Russia and Syria move from the west and north; USA and Iraqi forces move from the east and south. Iraqi forces stop at the IRQ-SYR border, let SYR and her allies do the ground work inside SYR while we do what we do best from the air and SOF. 

No. Quarter.

Best we can do? Keep the Turks out and help Kurds help themselves in the post-war settlement from a position of strength. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Fullbore Friday

For those must work today, we should pray for those who - for some reason - feel that they must dive in to shopping the day after Thanksgiving.

As such, we should have a FbF that has a bit of zing to it. 

I have always liked this story and the painting it tells - truth is always better than fiction.

If you so wish, do a little reading up on the history of the Zaporozhian Cossacks of Ukraine; but let's keep this FbF clean and to the point. 

As everyone is hip to "cultural sensitivity" let's try to get some insight in to the cultural foundation and references of the Ukrainian people (and the Russians too). This took place, roughly, in 1676. 100 years before our Declaration of Independence, and the same year we first recognized by proclamation the very American holiday of Thanksgiving. So, yea ... it works.

First of all, we have a letter from the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud IV. 
Sultan Mahmud IV to the Zaporozhian Cossacks:

As the Sultan; son of Muhammad; brother of the sun and moon; grandson and viceroy of God; ruler of the kingdoms of Macedonia, Babylon, Jerusalem, Upper and Lower Egypt; emperor of emperors; sovereign of sovereigns; extraordinary knight, never defeated; steadfast guardian of the tomb of Jesus Christ; trustee chosen by God Himself; the hope and comfort of Muslims; confounder and great defender of Christians -- I command you, the Zaporogian Cossacks, to submit to me voluntarily and without any resistance, and to desist from troubling me with your attacks.

--Turkish Sultan Mahmud IV
... and the Ukrainians pondered a response ...

... and then you have a bit of poetry (potty-mouth warning);
Zaporozhian Cossacks to the Turkish Sultan! 
O sultan, Turkish devil and damned devil's kith and kin, secretary to Lucifer himself. What the devil kind of knight are you, that can't slay a hedgehog with your naked arse? The devil excretes, and your army eats. You will not, you son of a bitch, make subjects of Christian sons; we've no fear of your army, by land and by sea we will battle with thee, fuck your mother. 
You Babylonian scullion, Macedonian wheelwright, brewer of Jerusalem, goat-fucker of Alexandria, swineherd of Greater and Lesser Egypt, pig of Armenia, Podolian thief, catamite of Tartary, hangman of Kamyanets, and fool of all the world and underworld, an idiot before God, grandson of the Serpent, and the crick in our dick. Pig's snout, mare's arse, slaughterhouse cur, unchristened brow, screw your own mother!

So the Zaporozhians declare, you lowlife. You won't even be herding pigs for the Christians. Now we'll conclude, for we don't know the date and don't own a calendar; the moon's in the sky, the year with the Lord, the day's the same over here as it is over there; for this kiss our arse!
Fullbore. An American would have simply said, "Nuts" - but we are a simple folk.

This FbF first posted MAR14.