Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Future for the Blue Water Navy?

While the Navy continues to express confidence in aircraft carrier battle groups with all the supporting surface ships. Similarly, the Marine Corps continues to push for amphibious assault vehicles and equipment.  But are these preferences supported by technological, tactical and strategic trends?

The future appears to lie in the green coastal waters where littoral combat ships range and in the "black water" of the deep where submarines reign.  Cruise missiles and UAVs are powerful force multipliers that will diminish the effectiveness and necessity for large, expensive surface vessels. LCSs and submarines are both relatively small, but versatile are not only combat vessels, but useful for missions such as surveillance and SF operations.

A century ago battleships were the epitome of Naval power, World War Two saw them eclipsed by aircraft carriers as naval warfare became air warfare. There is evidence to suggest that in this century naval warfare will become black water submarine warfare.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Is Africa the Next Afghanistan?

The possibility of The United States expanding its Global War on Terror is not idle speculation it is happening. Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom has grabbed all the headlines, but years ago the Bush administration established an American military presence in central and east Africa. These troops, based out of places like Djibouti, have been training and advising weak democracies like Ethiopia and Kenya.

Jihadi Violence has been part of African history since Islamic armies first spread into North Africa in the 7th century.  Algeria, the Sudan and Somalia are only the most recent flare ups. So far, media accounts seem to indicate the military's COIN, advising and training missions have been going well, but they have also been growing as underscored by the creation of the new Africa Command at the end of the Bush administration.

Like fire fighters, the goal the U.S. troops in Africa is to help local governments damp down local militant Islamists before another Sudan or Somalia is created. Hopefully this long term commitment will prove to be a success and demonstrate that not all the battles we fight with the militant Islamists have to be large-scale endeavors like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Monday, September 13, 2010

New Dawn or Shining us on?

President Obama seems to want things a couple of ways when it comes to Operation Iraqi Freedom, now renamed Operation New Dawn. His narrative for years has been Bush policies failed, especially the surge and Iraq was spiraling out of control. Obama's Vice President Biden even advised the country be split into three mini-states. Now that they own Iraq they are rushing to take credit for the progress Bush's policies and as important his determination to stay and win instead of withdrawing prematurely as Obama wanted to do as a senator and candidate.

The Obama administration recently presided over the withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq as called for in the Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by the Bush administration. Obama keeps harping on his plan to have ALL troops out of Iraq sometime in 2011.  Does this mean regardless of conditions on the ground.  What about the 4000 American Special Forces troops "assisting and advising" Iraqi forces? They only get to help kill our enemies until the hour glass runs out? What kind of war-winning strategy is that?

Obama may discover in 2011 that al-Qaeda and its ilk are not on the same schedule and as al-Qaeda and the Taliban are fond of saying in Afghanistan, "you have the watches, but we have the time."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Secretary of Defense for a Day: 3 Items

What would you do if you were the Secretary of Defense for a day? This is the "thought experiment" I considered recently and these are the top three items I would put on the agenda:

1. There is too much duplication, expense and inefficiency among the four services. I would reorganize the branches by folding the Marine Corps into the Army and return the Air Force to its original condition as a Corps within the Army.

2. Refocus efforts into combat effectiveness. This does not always mean embracing the latest piece of technology. I would focus on ways to reduce the Army's tooth to tail ratio so tactical units like platoons and companies can operate independent of bases for up to weeks at a time.

3. I would put a stop to all of the silly uniform changes such as the Navy's weirdo bluish digital camouflage and the Air Force's digital tiger stripe uniforms. i.e. we're at war - pick one uniform!