Friday, September 30, 2016

Fullbore Friday

I like well hidden history, especially those with good shoes.

There are many stories out there that we are only now hearing about ... and this is one. From
In May 1919, with World War I recently over but with the Russian Revolution turning into a full-scale "Red Terror," the head of MI6, Sir Mansfield Cumming, known as "C," had a desperate problem.

A British agent - Paul Dukes - had infiltrated spies into the Bolshevik government and made copies of top secret documents, but he was cut off in Petrograd (present-day St Petersburg).

Dukes, a 30-year-old concert pianist from Bridgwater, Somerset, was a master of disguise, hence his admiring soubriquets such as "The New Scarlet Pimpernel" and "The Man with A Hundred Faces."

The only MI6 agent ever to be knighted for his services in the field, Dukes was, as Ferguson writes: "The sort of spy we all wanted to be."

The Government in London desperately needed a personal briefing from him about the situation in Russia, as well as the documents in his possession. But how to get him out?

Cumming asked a 29-year-old naval lieutenant, Augustus "Gus" Agar, to undertake a seemingly suicidal mission to rescue him.
An expert in skippering high-speed Coastal Motor Boats (CMBs), Agar was asked to come up with a plan to cross into Russian territorial waters in the Gulf of Finland and spirit Dukes out of the country, before the Russian secret police, the Cheka, were able to capture him.

The task was awesome. The borders had been sealed and a succession of couriers who had tried to cross them had been captured; six were betrayed, tortured and shot in one fortnight alone. So a high-speed boat landing at a pre-arranged rendezvous on the coastline near Petrograd was planned instead.

CMBs were 40ft long, had a crew of three, carried two Lewis machine guns and a single torpedo. They had hydroplane hulls, hence their nickname "skimmers," but were made of plywood so were almost defenceless against enemy fire.

The fastest naval vessels afloat, they were ideal for slipping past the huge array of defences in the Gulf of Finland - except for the deafening noise they made when they reached their top speed of 45mph.

Protecting the sea approach to Petrograd was the forbidding island fortress of Kronstadt and its 15 forts - nine to the north, six to the south - with enough guns to halt any enemy fleet.

Furthermore, the forts were connected by a hidden breakwater that MI6 told Agar was only three feet under the surface and which, since CMBs drew 2ft 9in of water, meant that his two vessels would have only three inches to spare at normal speed.
Although the Gulf of Finland is 250 miles long, it is only 30 miles wide, and with gunboat patrols, floating and fixed mines, searchlights, submarines and seaplanes, it seemed impassable to any but the most intrepid sailor.

Cumming explained the mission to Agar in his office in Whitehall, and ordered him to choose only unmarried men with no immediate dependents for his seven-man team; Agar himself had been orphaned at the age of 12, and although he had a sweetheart they were not then engaged.

Cumming also warned Agar that in the event of capture he could expect no help, or even official recognition, from the British Government.

His unit would be in plain clothes, although Royal Navy uniforms and caps would be donned in the event of capture, to protect them from being shot as spies.
If the story sounds interesting, click the link above for an extended summary, or you can get the details in Operation Kronstadt: The True Story of Honor, Espionage, and the Rescue of Britain's Greatest Spy The Man with a Hundred Faces by Harry Ferguson.

Wouldn't it make a great movie ... if Hollywood still made movies of this type?

Wrong heroes, I guess.

Originally posted JUL10.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

On LCS: the Right Idea Waiting for the Right Leader

If you missed Jerry Hendrix's article at National Review on the 27th, read it all.

For the long time members of the Front Porch, there will be lots of nodding heads.

Here is all you need to see (and Nic, no need to re-post all the pics);
The Navy had planned to move toward a more robust, “upgunned” frigate in the future. The senators recommend that the Navy take this step as quickly as possible. In doing so, however, I believe that the Navy should not tie itself to the current platforms under production. Their designs have proven to be far too fragile for active sea service under rough conditions. Rather the Navy should look to other relatively cheap and reliable frigate designs, perhaps even foreign designs — such as the Italian and French Fremm class, or perhaps the Dutch Absalon class — for rapid introduction in U.S. shipyards. Given the proven stability of these designs and our nation’s desire that our allies and partners purchase some of our more expensive platforms, such as the Joint Strike Fighter, perhaps it would be a wise to show reciprocity and purchase foreign designs for construction in U.S. yards.
Exactly. It would show a lot of respect that we would do what we ask others to do as well. Oh, and look at NANSEN.

As those who have read Jerry's work we've linked to here in the past, and when we've had him on Midrats, you know he is a big fleet numbers guy - and he ties this in as well;
What is critical is that we continue to refine our littoral combat ships right up to the moment that we are ready to cut the new frigates into production. We simply cannot afford, with a Navy hovering at 272 ships, to cease production of these ships for even a year. Despite our addiction to high-end capabilities, we have discovered in our moment of “accepted risk” that quantity has a quality all its own and that we need to continue investing in a larger, more effective Navy. As for the problems the current ships face, we must depend, with apologies to them, on the technical ingenuity of the Navy’s chiefs and petty officers to figure out how to make these ships more reliable in both the short and the long term. This is not the first time in the history of the Navy that they will have faced such challenges, but, regrettably, never have they faced so many at one time.
He is spot on.

All we need is for the right people to buy on to this idea so we can move forward.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

NSC is Playing Wordgames While China is Playing Rugby


If you had any question why the national security environment is such a mess in 2016 - this should help you understand the root cause;
The White House has barred Pentagon leaders from a key talking point when it comes to publicly describing the military challenges posed by China.

In February, Defense Secretary Ash Carter cited the "return to great power of competition" in the Asia-Pacific, "where China is rising."

Similarly, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson characterized China and Russia as rivals in this "great power competition" in his maritime strategy.

But a recent directive from the National Security Council ordered Pentagon leaders to strike out that phrase and find something less inflammatory, according to four officials familiar with the classified document, revealed here for the first time by Navy Times. Obama administration officials and some experts say "great power competition" inaccurately frames the U.S. and China as on a collision course...
Good googly moogly. Have these sweet little people issued a trigger warning to the delicate, easily offended Chinese?

I'll let Bryan do the spanking for me;
“Their explanation is an exercise in nuance and complexity, purposely chosen by the administration to provide maximum flexibility, to prevent them from committing to a real structural approach to the most important national security challenge of our time,” said Bryan McGrath, a naval expert and retired destroyer skipper.
In other words, it lets them practice faculty lounge name games while the real world it being shaped by adults in other nations run by serious people.

This is a unnecessary distraction and own-goal. This mixes up our messages, and for what?
Rumors of the directive also rankled some on Capitol Hill. During a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., asked Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford to comment.

“General Dunford, are we in great power competition with China?” Cotton asked, to which Dunford replied: “We are, senator.”

When Cotton asked Carter, the secretary replied: “We are. Absolutely right."
As mentioned earlier, this is all faculty lounge intellectual narcissism. Mixed in with it you can find the influences of the self-esteem movement, everyone gets a trophyism, mindless non-judgementalism, and national self-loathing.
“My view is that it's unhelpful to describe a very complex relationship in a simple phrase, regardless of whether it is positive or negative,” said Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Michael O’Hanlon, an influential security policy expert at the Brookings Institution, said that focusing solely on the positive or the negative aspects of the relationship isn’t good policy.

“To oversimplify in either direction is not only analytically inaccurate, but consequential for the tone and substance of the relationship,” he said. “The White House really does have it right, I strongly believe.”
Let's end this with Bryan's final points.
“This kind of lawyerly nuancing is not what the American people need,” said McGrath, who leads the consulting firm The FerryBridge Group. “They don’t need nationalism or jingoism, they need a restatement of the role the U.S. plays in the proper function, security and prosperity of the world. To actually contend in great power competition, you have to identify for the American people what is the problem. The problem with this administrations’ insistence in avoiding terms that the American people understand is it lacks clarity.

"What this means is we will spend at least the next 90 days with an administration that’s just trying to tread water.”
Whoever pushed this memo at the NSC should be the first people invited to find a position back in academia where they are less of a hazard to themselves and others.

Sad thing is, Mrs. Clinton will probably keep a lot of them on.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Wars Over Water? Well, Here's Your 2016/17 Most Likely From an Unlikely Place

While we've been picking out belly-button over our shambolic election, history's other lines of operation are moving apace. Have you been briefed up on the Uri Attack of 18 SEP 16?
At least 18 soldiers were killed in a terror attack on an Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on September 18. All four terrorists, who attacked the camp, were killed.
The Indian Prime Minister is decided to play a card India has held deep in the deck.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi after a fiery speech in Kerala where he blamed Pakistan for exporting global terrorism has now called for a briefing on the Indus Waters Treaty.

PM Modi will meet relevant officials from various ministries today including External Affairs and Water Resources, top sources have told NDTV.

The Prime Minister, sources say, wants to discuss the pros and cons of taking action against Pakistan. This confirms that among the various options on the discussion table for India's response to the Uri attack, reconsidering the Indus Waters Treaty with Pakistan could be one.
One of the suggestions is to turn off the Indus river tap that waters much of Pakistan. It is perceived that the pressure could compel Pakistan to crackdown on non-state and state actors acting against India.
The Indus Waters Treaty was signed between Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan's president General Ayub Khan in 1960, after World Bank brokered negotiations that lasted almost a decade.

The Indus treaty withstood two full scale wars and tense India and Pakistan relations and experts are divided over the benefits of reneging on an international water sharing pact.
The Indus originates in China, and unlike India and Pakistan, it has not signed any international water sharing agreement. Should China decide to divert the Indus, India could lose as much as 36 per cent of river water.

Under the agreement, of the six rivers that flow westward in the sub-continent, India has full rights over three - Sutlej, Beas and Ravi - while Pakistan receives the waters of the other three - Jhelum, Chenab and Indus - almost unrestricted.
Two nations with nuclear weapons - the most modern of weapons - potentially in a fight over water - the most ancient of reasons to go to war.
Prime Minister Modi launched a blistering attack on Pakistan on Saturday, saying: “Whenever a terror attack takes place, it emerges either the terrorist set out from Pakistan, or after the attack, like Osama Bin Laden, took refuge there.”

Speaking at a public meeting in southern Indian city of Kozhikode, Modi said India would never forget the militant attack that killed 19 soldiers in an Army base in Kashmir’s Uri District. He also accepted an often-quoted Pakistani “challenge” (read Benazir Bhutto slogan) of a 1,000-year war, saying: “Your (Pakistani) rulers speak of fighting India for 1,000 years. Today, there is such as government in New Delhi that I am ready to accept your challenge.”

Modi ripped into his ‘one-time’ friend and Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif’s needling UN General Assembly speech and phony talks offer, stressing: “Today, I am speaking to the people of Pakistan directly. From the leaders who read speeches written by terrorists, the world can expect nothing. But I want to speak to the people of Pakistan directly. I want to remind Pakistan that your ancestors used to consider undivided India as their land before 1947 and worshipped it. And in their memory, I want to tell you something. The people of Pakistan please ask your leaders that you have Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and you cannot manage it. Bangladesh used to be yours and you couldn’t manage it. You cannot manage Gilgit, Baltistan, Pakhtun, Balochistan, Sindh and you are talking about Kashmir.”
As is evident from Modi’s address, India is well aware of Pakistan’s internal vulnerabilities and will not hesitate to capitalise on it, if necessary. By speaking of Bangladesh, the PM reminded the Pakistani political establishment of a wound it has not yet recovered from and what India was capable of.
Can we stay to the side as the world's largest democracy faces off against an Islamist terrorist safe haven?
China assured Pakistan of its support in the event of any “foreign aggression” and also backed Islamabad’s stance on the Kashmir dispute. Immediately after China vowed to help Pakistan in case of “aggression”, the US announced that it would upgrade military combat exercises with India. In a statement, the US Department of Defence said that it has awarded Boeing a USD 81 million contract to supply 22 Harpoon missile systems for the Indian Navy’s Shishumar class submarines.

A ‘great game’ is getting set to be played between India, Pakistan, Russia, China and the US, as a “tectonic geo-strategic shift” is taking place in Asia.
Speaking of the "Great Game" if you have not read Hopkirk's The Great Game - order it now.

Once you read it - order the rest of Hopkirk's books on Central Asia. You're a decade and a half late, but that's OK. History there isn't going anywhere. She may only be getting started.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Fullbore Friday

It can take decades, but eventually the truth comes out. If the stars align properly, then the truth will also be well known.

The perfidy of UN military operation is well known. Sadly, there is also a history of needless sacrifice because of bureaucratic cowardice and a55 covering.

Well, this is a good news story. Too late for many who have now passed on - but better late than never.

Today, we look to the incredible story of one light infantry company from the Irish Army.

Yes, Irish Army;
FOR THE SURVIVING members of the UN’s 1961 A Company, last night’s Irish premiere of the film The Siege of Jadotville was not about Hollywood stars, massive budgets, or the backing of one of the movie industry’s most powerful production companies. 
It was about memories, and justice, and a chance for the world to see what happened when a contingent of 155 Irish troops were sent to the Congo on a peacekeeping mission that could have turned into a bloodbath.
The Siege of Jadotville, which gets a cinema release this weekend before moving to Netflix on 7 October, is set in 1961, when the United Nations intervened in the Katanga conflict in the African Congo. You have probably never heard of these men, or of the battle they fought – one which, facing improbable odds, they all survived – but a book by Declan Power first helped to tell their story .
It was aptly called The Siege at Jadotville: The Irish Army’s Forgotten Battle.
The men were forgotten, and as the film shows, deliberately so.
Quinn’s memories of his time at Jadotville are vivid. He’s told his family about when they ran out of water in the trenches, and were only allowed one spoon of the liquid each – and of the time he sucked the juice out of a tin of pineapple.
The men didn’t have enough food, ammunition or water for the siege, and yet they fought with all their might. At one stage, they were sent jerry cans of water – but they were petrol cans that hadn’t been cleaned out. Quinn – who was a mortar commander – shuddered at the memory.
Two video's that demand your time today.

First, the telling of the true story of the siege;

Second, the trailer.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Europe fractures in to familiar lines

If you want to test a system to find where its weak spots are, you have to stress it. Here in the USA, we like to grumble about 2016, but we have it easy - Europe's 2016 ... well ...

Europe, never change.
Members of the influential Visegrad group, which comprises of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, rejected migrant quotas and blasted the overbearing EU Commission with an incendiary ultimatum.
That's right; the unloved parts of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire; the Hungarians along with the West Slavic provinces of Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Galicia, - in whole or in parts - along with their West Slav brothers the Poles are pushing back on their softer brothers in Western Europe.

Was Brexit a catalyst? No, just part of the stew. The start of this new chapter of EU's problems was clear to all who wanted to see it; the invasion of hundreds of thousands of unemployable, unassimilable, unaccompanied military aged men from Muslim nations and chaotic sub-Saharan Africa.
The group represents a faction of nations which have become increasingly concerned by authoritarian Brussels, with Poland and Hungary both locked in bitter legal battles with the EU.

Their demands come after a separate clique of Mediterranean states, including France, Spain and Italy, formed their own interest group to counter the power wielded by Angela Merkel.
With France economically and culturally supine under Socialist leadership, already strong Germany has become the unchallenged power in Europe. It appears that German leadership has embraced it national self-loathing and decided to spread the misery around - and Europe is pushing back against the Germans just being, well, bossy Germans.

Parts of the old Warsaw Pact are focused mostly on the migrant issue, the Mediterranean nations mostly economic - but no one outside Brussels, Strasbourg and government officials who have a vested interest in good paying EU job prospect, are all that remain enthusiastic about the European project anymore.
"Recent terrorist attacks in Europe are proof that there is a new challenge which the EU must deal with - the growing terrorism and cross-border crime."

"The Visegrad Group countries point out that the efforts should be channelled to fully implement the already undertaken commitments aiming at strengthening security in Schengen area as well as the protection of EU's external borders."

Linked closely to security was the issue of migration, which is a key issue for a group of five countries which have been on the frontline of the escalating asylum chaos.

Their statement demanded: "Migration policy should be based on the principle of 'flexible solidarity'.
Finally the group addressed the problems with the single market - including the disastrous Euro project, admitting that the EU's popularity had taken a battering due to years of economic stagnation.

They wrote: "It is necessary to inform more effectively the public opinion about the positive outcomes of the Internal Market meanwhile improving the enforcement of its rules to eradicate intra-EU protectionism."
I don't think those who still believe in the EU dream will enjoy 2017 all that much.

Welcome to the party.