Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Syrian Civil War: the Difference a Year Makes

Last week, the Assad government finally took control of their capital with the removal of the ISIS pocket around the Palestinian camp.

Amazing what can happen in a year. From Syria Civil War Map, two graphics that tell the story better and 5,000 words.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Sure boss, I can generate a letter ...

What does it look like when the military is told to "make it happen" for political ends, knows it isn't possible, but with a squinted eye and a bit of creative painting makes it look like they're following orders?

^^^ That is my optimistic view of the satire-proof letter from NAVSEA.

This is ... ambitious.

First thing I thought of was what we did to the SPRUANCE class when they were in their early 20s.

Second thing is ... how are we going to do this with the present operational tempo and expect funding for the next decade or so?

We can't, something will have to change.

Some of these ships are already not in the best shape - especially the cruisers. 

Something will have to change.

Is this realistic, or simply aspirational signaling to meet a tasker now, knowing that a few PCS cycles down the road other people will have to deal with it?

^^^ That is my pessimistic view of the letter.

Para 2 is the emergency hatch that pretty much negates the rest. See my opening to this post; that is where I'm putting my bet.

I don't know about you, but I feel slimy just reading this - but sometimes you have to do slimy things.

It is not an impressive document by any stretch of the imagination for anyone involved in it.

Not one of our Navy's best moments.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Fighting the Great War at Sea with Norman Friedman, on Midrats

As we approach the 100th Anniversary of the end of the First World War, it is good to reflect back on the impact of WWI on the growth of our modern navy, and the echoes it has to the present day.

For the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss this and related issues will be Dr. Norman Friedman. As a starting point of our discussion will be some of the perspective brought out in his 2014 book from Naval Institute Press, Fighting the Great War at Sea: Strategy, Tactics and Technology.

As described in the review at Amazon;
“While the overriding image of the First World War is of the bloody stalemate on the Western Front, the overall shape of the war arose out of its maritime character. It was essentially a struggle about access to worldwide resources, most clearly seen in Germany's desperate attempts to counter the American industrial threat, which ultimately drew the United States into the war.”
Dr. Friedman has had a long career in weapon and system analysis for the U.S. Navy, DOD, and industry. He has authored numerous histories of naval weapons and platforms with a concentration on the connection between policy, strategy, and technology. With over 40 published books, he also has lectured extensively and served as an adviser at the highest levels of government and think tanks.

His Fighting the Great War at Sea won the Lyman prize awarded by the North American Society of Oceanic Historians. He recently published a history of fleet air defense, Fighters Over The Fleet, and is about to publish a history of the British battle fleet during the Victorian era.

He received a Ph.D. in solid-state theoretical physics from Columbia University.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Fullbore Friday

Every day, in places almost no one knows about and fewer could place on a map, American servicemembers are partnered with allies and host nations trying to keep the spread of Islamic fundamentalism at bay.

A bit over six months ago, an event took place that broke above the background noise. It was a mission that, as things happen now and then, even with all our advantages, the enemy had a vote and won.

BZ to DOD and AFRICOM for putting out this official, unclassified briefing on the circumstances leading up to and during the ambush of US and Nigerien military personnel near the village of Tongo Tongo in October 2017.

The Long War will see more of this.

A lot has already been written about this mission and some are trying to use it to make this point and that. Not here. 

Almost everyone who served has been in tactical situations where if things when one way or another, in hindsight others in safe places could pick apart why you did or did not do this or that.

This had me thinking of a few things I was involved in.

Take a moment and ponder. You don't have to be a ground forces guy to learn from this.

Hat tip TheWarZone.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Are we watching the free previews in Ukraine

There is a steady drip of articles from the Army about what we are learning from the conflict in Ukraine?

Where is our Navy and Marine Corps?

I'm pondering over at USNIBlog.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Prepper Math

Don't worry, this isn't about to turn in to one of "those blogs" ... but this is too good to pass up as it folds together math, statistics, and an interesting take on a natsec issue that gets too little attention.

I'll let the author, BJ Campbell, set it up for you. For those who recall my still VERY valid "drums on the Rhine" post from a few years ago, you'll see why I like this.
I’m not a writer by trade. I’m a stormwater hydrologist, and in my opinion, a pretty good one. Hydrology is the science of tracking water as it moves through the water cycle, from ocean evaporation through cloud formation, precipitation, groundwater infiltration, runoff, evapotranspiration, riverine hydraulics, and the time series behavior of reservoirs. It is a deep and fascinating field, but one of its most relevant applications to our lives is delineating floodplain boundaries.

To determine a floodplain boundary, we first identify a “storm event” that concerns us. We use historical rainfall data and some statistical magic to calculate the worst storm event a place is likely to experience in a 100-year time span, probabilistically speaking, and we call that the “100-year storm.” There’s a push in the field to quit calling it that, because it confuses the muggles, so now we often say something like “the storm which has a 1% chance of happening in any given year.” Then we take that rainfall data, judiciously apply more math, and turn it into a flow rate in a river. Then we do hydraulics (more math) to determine how deep the river will have to be to carry that much water, and we draw a line on a map.

You should have seen this line, if you’ve ever bought a house near a floodplain. If you bought a house near a floodplain and were not shown this line, contact me professionally to ensure you didn’t make a terrible mistake.

We don’t buy houses in the floodplain if we can help it, because we are risk averse, even though the chance of it flooding in any given year is only 1%. Why? We will live in the house longer than one year. Over the 30-year life of a mortgage, the chance of the house flooding at least once vastly exceeds 1%, because every year is another roll of the dice. It’s not cumulative, though. The mathematics for back-calculating the odds is called a Bernoulli Process. Here’s what it looks like:
If you have trouble with the math, read the whole article and then come back, he covers it in words as well.

This is where it gets interesting.
Now let’s talk about a bigger, nastier disaster than a flood.
...we ... have good sources of data on when the group of people on the piece of dirt we currently call the USA attempt to overthrow the ruling government. It’s happened twice since colonization. The first one, the American Revolution, succeeded. The second one, the Civil War, failed. But they are both qualifying events. Now we can do math.
Have your attention?
Stepping through this, the average year for colony establishment is 1678, which is 340 years ago. Two qualifying events in 340 years is a 0.5882% annual chance of nationwide violent revolution against the ruling government. Do the same math as we did above with the floodplains, in precisely the same way, and we see a 37% chance that any American of average life expectancy will experience at least one nationwide violent revolution.

This is a bigger chance than your floodplain-bound home flooding during your mortgage.
But wait ... there's more;
Or we could look at a broader historical brush. Since the fall of Constantinople in 1453, there have been 465 sovereign nations which no longer exist, and that doesn’t even count colonies, secessionist states, or annexed countries. Even if we presume that half of these nation-state transitions were peaceful, which is probably a vast over-estimation, that’s still an average of one violent state transition every 2.43 years.

If we look at raw dialectic alone, we reach dismal conclusions. “Do you think the United States will exist forever and until the end of time?” Clearly any reasonable answer must be “no.” So at that point, we’re not talking “if,” but “when.” If you don’t believe my presumed probability, cook up your own, based on whatever givens and data pool you’d like, and plug it in. The equations are right up there. Steelman my argument in whatever way you like, and the answer will still probably scare you.
Thing is, in very recent memory we have an example of a relatively modern nation imploding.
In 2010, 8.5 million tourists visited Syria, accounting for 14% of their entire GDP. Eight years later, they have almost half a million dead citizens, and ten million more displaced into Europe. They didn’t see this coming, because if they did, they would have fled sooner. Nobody notices the signs of impending doom unless they’re looking carefully.
At least we don't have any warning signs, eh?
Pretend you’re someone with your eyes on the horizon. What would you be looking for, exactly? Increasing partisanship. Civil disorder. Coup rhetoric. A widening wealth gap. A further entrenching oligarchy. Dysfunctional governance. The rise of violent extremist ideologies such as Nazism and Communism. Violent street protests. People marching with masks and dressing like the Italian Blackshirts. Attempts at large scale political assassination. Any one of those might not necessarily be the canary in the coal mine, but all of them in aggregate might be alarming to someone with their eyes on the horizon. Someone with disproportionate faith in the state is naturally inclined to disregard these sorts of events as a cognitive bias, while someone with little faith in the state might take these signs to mean they should buy a few more boxes of ammunition.
I don't know about you, but I already have my bolt-hole ... I mean "hunting property" ... a couple of hours from the nearest big city and 30-min from the nearest interstate.

Sleep well!