Wednesday, January 02, 2002


Is there yet a Ted Rall award for rote antiAmerican intellectual vacuousness? If so I nominate Sean Penn, for this:

I think that people like the Howard Sterns, the Bill O'Reillys and to a lesser degree the Bin Ladens of the world are making a horrible contribution" to society, says the 41-year-old star of "I Am Sam," who saves his most scathing remarks for the Fox News Channel host.

To a lesser degree?! Sure Stern is crude and O'Rielly can boorish, but how does one get to the conclusion that they are worse than the guy who hijacked a religion and calls for the death of all things western? I have watched and heard both Stern and O'Reilly and have yet to hear them call for their listeners to kill western women and children for their cause as has OBL in his tapes.

"I'd like to trade O'Reilly for Bin Laden," says Penn, calling "The No Spin Zone" author "an embraced pariah, that's what he is."

Huh? Sean Penn lives in a fantasy world. O'Rielly's veiws often run counter to the Hollywood party line and he has the stones to call the stars out when they have feet of clay (George Cloney call your agent). But Sean thinks Bill is worse than OBL. O'Reilly is making a big deal about getting the 911 donated money to affected families while OBL rejoices at those who were and tells those in his thrall to kill more. Am I missing something here? This is freaking outrageous. I may not agree with the likes of Fisk or Rall, but I would never equate their brand of ignorance/self loathing/stupidy with the evil of Hitler. Re the Prez:

"He doesn't provoke thought or challenge my head or my spirit," Penn says of the commander in chief. "I don't think he does the country's either."
I don't think provoking thought or challenging Penn's head or spirit is really part of the CINC's job description. Besides, I expect an original thought might die of loneliness and exposure in the harsh environment of Penn's addled noggin. As for the country, about 87% of us are happy with the work the Prez is doing to protect us from OBL and his ilk. We can get mental and spiritual stimulation elsewhere.

Update: Moira sez "phrases like "embraced pariah" hurt my head." So true, I guess we ought not expect a moron like Penn to recognize the oxymoronic.

Houston, we have a problem.
Earlier, I threatend to expound on how the weponization of space is the subtext of National Missile defense. The Road Map for National Security: Imperative for Change (AKA the Hart-Rudnman Report) recognizes the acute need to organize and safeguard U.S. Space assets. To that end, the authors of the report, the Commission on National Security/21st Century, recommend that the President establish and Interagency Working Group on Space (IWGS) at the National Security Council to coordinate the nation’s space policy. They further endorse increased protection of U.S. space assets and infrastructure (space architecture) and accelerated modernization of the nation’s space launch capabilities.

Historical Analog; The Importance of Free Communication: The great trade expansions, from mercantilism in the seventeenth century to globalism in the twenty-first century, were predicated on one thing: Free Communication of materiel and information. Similarly, the winners in most of the great power conflicts during this period were on the side best able to preserve this communication for itself while denying it to the enemy (Steve Den Beste discussed that here). Indeed, the United States may owe its existence in part to the French denial of seaborne succor to Cornwallis. In the past, communication was materiel intensive and was largely by sea. Accordingly, successful states not only expended treasure on military and diplomatic capital in order to ensure safe passage for their ships, they developed doctrine to ensure expenditures were effective . Still, big expensive Spanish galleons fell prey to cheaper and smaller pirate craft, often British, who exploited asymmetrical methodology like off-fighting, to defeat their larger and often more heavily armed quarry. (Off-fighting is the ability to engage an enemy ship from a range and bearing of one’s choosing rather slugging it out broadside to broadside. The English used this to great effect when they harried the Armada.)

Today, communication of data is arguably more critical than that of materiel. This is apparent when one looks at the premise from a C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computing, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) or even an economic standpoint. Other than cyberattack, which has been discussed thoroughly elsewhere, Global and internal communication of data is vulnerable to attacks on its infrastructure in and from space. It is a fact that the US military cannot undertake any military operation anywhere in the world without relying on systems in space. Imagine the recent action in Afghanistan sans GPS. Meanwhile, ecommerce of all types continues to grow apace and much of it depends on space based infrastructure. The lack of a coherent plan, articulated by National Command Authority, to protect and if necessary, replace these assets during crisis, is alarming.

Translating Knowledge into Victory: Just as Operational Plan Orange allowed Naval War College students to fight the Pacific War against Japan many times before the first torpedo fell into Pearl Harbor, futuristic war games are conducted throughout DOD many times each year, with space scenarios figuring ever more prominently. The extensive war gaming of Plan Orange is said to have successfully predicted every eventuality of the Pacific War with the exception of Kamikaze use and the atom bomb. It is important to note that predictions alone would not have been sufficient to adequately prepare the U.S. for the impending conflict with Japan. These war game based prognostications had to have some effect on the force planners during the inter-war years in order to prove valuable when the war started. In fact, it was the repeated and varied gaming of Plan Orange scenarios in Newport that not only opened the minds of senior leadership to the potential of carrier aviation, but also gave them insight into its character. Before the first Carrier Battle Group even sailed, operational planners were well familiar with the narrow and pulsed nature of carrier borne air strikes. Victory often went not to the more powerful force but to that which located its enemy and was able to strike first. This was a departure from the deterministic nature of the weight of broadside and frequency of fire calculations that dominated the simulation and planning of conflicts between naval surface forces within gun range. Though U.S. carrier based aviation did not hit its stride as an offensive force until the after Pearl Harbor, the beginning of the end of battleship dominance in naval warfare happened at the Naval War College long before Japan proved the point so spectacularly at Ford Island.

To date, simulations have already discovered many of the ways future conflicts will be affected by countries’ space architecture. Positioning of C4ISR satellites over a country may be viewed as a show of force or a hostile act. When battle is joined, it is often initiated by attempting to destroy the enemy’s space architecture, both in orbit and on the ground. The battle for space in simulations is usually “first and fast,” often resulting in the total destruction many space systems. Future warriors will need to anticipate the effect of losing their space based C4ISR or take steps to ensure its survivability. It is unlikely that in a future conflict with a peer or near peer competitor the U.S. will enjoy the same space dominance it did during the Gulf War and the recent action in Afghanistan unless steps are taken today to counteract or make contingencies for the threats that are already apparent. Just as the WWII planners used the lessons learned from Plan Orange to eventually defeat Japan, so should their contemporary counterparts use knowledge and information available today to ensure that the U.S. will prevail in future conflicts. More on that in later posts.

Tuesday, January 01, 2002

Doh II

Yikes! As many of you have kindly pointed out, it was Cornwallis, not Wellington, who ended up surrendering to Washington at Yorktown. I likely had the latter on the brain because of the filet filled puff pastries my wife was making for new year's. Still, that is embarassing, especially since I knew that and wrote at least one paper on that battle. At least I knew Comte de Gras. Thanks for catching it, and your continued indulgence. We are all editors now.

Monday, December 31, 2001

Steve Den Beste is so prolific, if you are away a couple of days some things get pushed off the page and into the archives before you see them. Here is a nice essay explaining western and now US dominance as a world power. His main point is that it is the superior ability to move men and materiel (and information) that distinguishes the powers that have dominated history.
After WWII, Eisenhower was asked what the key ingredients were that the US brought to the victory, and he listed four things: the Jeep, the two-and-a-half ton truck, the Liberty ship and the C-47 air transport. All of those are transportation. And that's no accident, because for the last three hundred years war has been won by logistics -- and so has peace. The United States has economically and politically dominated the last fifty years primarily because no-one is better at transportation and communication than we are.

Given my naval background this point was never lost on me. This country would not exist if Compte de Gras had not held off the British fleet sent to succor Cornwallis. Nothing moves more cargo further and faster than seaborne lines of communication (one definition of communication is in fact a system of routes for moving troops, supplies, and vehicles). Rail is the next closest but not always available. The ability of the US to sail anywhere with a CVBG or ARG can not be overvalued. There are tactical challenges like mines, subs and Silkworms to overcome, but at the end of the day, if we need to sail somewhere, we will. Being a pro trade liberal democracy, this is also a good deal for other lawful seafarer's. Piracy, while certainly not extinct, rarely if ever occurs within VHF range of a US Navy or Coast Guard ship. Every time I have transited the Straits of Mallaca, an area know to suffer occasionally from the depridations of pirates, other ships would make a point of hailing the "US Navy Warship" over the VHF, as a sort a pirate repellant.

Before I read Steve's post I was watching a segment on Leno where he and some stars went to entertain some troops deployed to support an airfield in some godforsaken desolate desert locale (Qatar, I suspect). Leno toured the mess hall and barracks and HQ. While the facilities were certainly spartan to a civilian, they were pretty much up to the American standard of living. A mess hall meant three hot squares a day. I pointed out to my wife that this is how wars are won. Dogfights and firefights look good on the big screen, but it is the unsexy logistic train that wins wars. Few if any countries other than the US can just deploy a fully functioning airbase in theatre in such short order. For that matter, a CVBG is effectively the same thing, it is just a matter of getting it on station, where it can remain, for all intents and purposes, indefinitely. If need be, ships and squadrons or for that matter, the entire CVBG can rotate in and out of theater, but that is transparent to the enemy. Bombs will continue to rain down.

Sunday, December 30, 2001

More good stuff on the rise of blogs here at The Blogical Suspects. William Quick may be new to the game, but he has come in strong:
The most intelligent group I've ever officially been associated with was the student body at my boarding school, The Hill School. I had classmates like Tobias Wolfe and Oliver Stone, to name a couple. One day, after a bonehead play on the intramural football fields, our coach gathered us together and screamed, "For a bunch of assholes who are supposed to have an average IQ of 138, you guys sure can be fucking idiots!"

I'm betting a 138 IQ wouldn't even get you in the door of this blogger community. The people who publish the blogs I read all seem to be scary bright. It's a shame I can't say the same about the national punditocracy I also read and watch.

Flattery will get you everywhere (via Dawson who, BTW, has also discovered Claire Berlinski's Loose Lips which I just finished enjoying in one sitting. The old goat has even posted her pic and is running a sort of tease campaign for her).

It's and honor just to be nominated...

Ken Goldstein over at the Illuminated Donkey has a nice round up of what he considers to be some of the best warblog posts of the year. I was flattered to find on of mine humble screeds in such good company. This passage sums up a lot of my thinking re the whole blog phenom:
Last night I had a conversation where it occurred to me just how completely and permanently my news-gathering habits have changed over the past few months. I find it difficult to watch network news or read the big newspapers, and certainly don't expect too much more from them besides surface information or straight video. Obviously the events since September 11 have been the catalysts for growth, but the effects and benefits of the revolution will be felt for many years. Where can I learn more about Second Amendment issues, for example: by listening to another ten-minute facile Sunday morning roundtable discussion or by reading the detailed back-and-forth between the team at Libertarian Samizdata and Brian Linse? Hell, I subscribe to about a dozen magazines, and most of them don't produce as much interesting content in a whole year as Steven Den Beste does every single day (The Economist excluded, of course). I can go on for hours like this, but I'd rather just get back to reading some more, and working on my own little addition to the world of content.

Check it out, there is probably some good stuff you missed linked there.

I've been meaning to take the Pittsburgh Post Gazette to task for this little bit of twisted logic, the gist of which is that Bush's campaign warnings of an increasingly hollow (ala post Viet Nam) American Military force have been proven wrong by our success in Afghanistan. I am edified to see that other bloggers have already taken up the standard, notably Bryan Preston of the consistently on the mark (since he agrees with me so often) Junkyard Blog:

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE SAYS THAT SINCE WE'RE WINNING THE WAR, Bush's election claims that the military is hollow areexploded. Which means, at least by implication, that Bush was either uninformed or intentionally lying in making those claims. Not so fast. I was in Clinton's military until 1997, working as an Air Force journalist. I can say first-hand that the force, during the Clinton years, was fast on the decline. Units, including mine, found it increasingly difficult to get spare parts for aging and damaged equipment due to budget cuts. Morale was dribbling away, as were the first-termers. I was a first-termer myself, and low morale (plus a screaming economy) played a role in my own exit. Training budgets were declining, and the airfleet was aging (still is).

Move the POV to inside the skin of the ship and those comments echo my experiences in the regular Navy. We used to fight for skilcraft ball points and post it notes in one of my ships. Don't even get me started on how deployed ships were constantly cannabalizing ships in port to meet operational requirements. My experience with Special Forces is consistent with Bryan's assessment. From my time in Naval Special Warfare (I was not a SEAL, just the training officer and later XO of a school staffed by SEALs, Seabees and Fleet guys), I know first hand that those units recieved funding comensurate with their taskings. Everyone bitches about not having enough funding, but Naval Special Warfare always gave its people the tools to do their job. Meanwhile, in the regular forces more and more aircraft were becoming hanger queens and ships were operating with overworked crews and in substandard material conditions. I was out 300 days one year. That should not be the norm in peacetime and goes a long way toward explaining much of the hemmoraging of experienced mid level officers and petty officers from the Navy in the late nineties. That we did as well as we did recently can be attributed to the fact that our people are used to working with what they have, that the strategy of using proxy fighters has been well executed, funding for the war effort is robust, and the enemy are not much more than AK-47 armed Afghan goatherds and dissaffected Arab youths. As evidenced by the fact that many of our regular forces (with the exception of the always flexible USN/USMC team) have been sitting on the sidelines in this one, there is still much to be done to optimize the American defense establishment for 21st century threats. If anything, recent events have proved President Bush's campaign assessment of the status of our armed forces correct. We are fortunate that our leadership was able to accomplich so much, so fast, given how ill suited much of our defense structure is for today's conflicts.