Monday, February 27, 2017

Payambar-e Azam

Iran's annual exercises will be held in the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman, the Bab el-Mandab and northern parts of the Indian Ocean, to train in the fight against terrorism and piracy, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said, according to state media.

Millions of barrels of oil are transported daily to Europe, the United States and Asia through the Bab el-Mandab and the Strait of Hormuz, waterways that run along the coasts of Yemen and Iran.

Navy ships, submarines and helicopters will take part in the drills across an area of about 2 million square kilometers (772,000 square miles) and marines will showcase their skills along Iran's southeastern coast, the state news agency IRNA said.

The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet is based in the region and protects shipping lanes in the Gulf and nearby waters.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Deutschland Komen!

Gott Mit Uns!

Germany is to increase her army by 5,000 soldiers, the country's defence ministry has announced, bringing the total to 198,000 in 2024, at a time when US pressure is mounting on European NATO members to raise military spending.

“The German army faces demands like never before,” Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement, adding that the army had to be able to respond in an appropriate way to developments abroad and security concerns.

Germany, reluctant for decades after the Second World War to get involved in military missions abroad, has in the last few years become more active in supporting international deployments such as in Afghanistan, Mali and against Islamic State militants.

In January, Germany sent a battlegroup of more than 1,000 to Lithuania as part of a NATO mission to protect its eastern border with Russia in response to its annexation of Crimea and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. 

It will now dispatch a number of tanks and armoured vehicles to Lithuania to support its existing defence deployment in the country.

On top of the 5,000 extra soldiers, Germany will further add 1,000 civilians posts and about 500 reserves to its ranks at home.

The increase, long flagged by von der Leyen, comes at a time when 45 is pushing NATO members, especially from Europe, to raise their military spending

Thursday, February 23, 2017

It's The EU - Not NATO

NATO’s original mission was to contain Russia. But in this case, countries like Germany do not carry the primary burden.

That burden falls on Eastern Europe. But the minimal support needed to secure the region – a few first-rate divisions and air wings – is not available. The U.S. is recovering and perhaps preparing for another round of conflict in the Middle East, and the rest of Europe lacks the minimal capabilities needed for extended deployment a few hundred miles from home.

Therefore, NATO’s core strategy cannot be implemented.

Something that is well within the brief of NATO, and ought to be well within the ability of countries like German, is undoable. NATO solidarity on protecting Eastern Europe isn’t nearly as strong as it could be, and all the commitment in the world will not create anti-tank capabilities designed to make an unlikely Russian attack scenario impossible

From a strategic point of view and regardless of internal politics, Poland and Hungary, as examples, are indispensable for deterring the Russians. While NATO’s brief includes this deterrence, the EU retains the right to lecture and condemn both countries even in the face of the political disorder in the rest of Europe. In other words, Eastern European countries have one relationship with NATO and another relationship with the EU. So at a NATO meeting the Germans speak one way, and at an EU meeting they speak another way. And the coalition that would protect Germany from far-fetched events (in a time when the farfetched has become routine) can’t take form.

The United States is a key member of NATO, and the U.S. is trying to figure out NATO’s usefulness. The answer is far from clear. In the one area where NATO can be helpful and can act within its mission, European members’ behavior is both contradictory and primarily theoretical. They simply have not built a military for a mission even clearly within NATO’s purview. To the extent the Russians have the ability to increase their influence on their western frontier, their European adversaries are inadvertently providing the opening.

In the end, there is no NATO problem. There is a European problem. A European consensus on defense does not exist any more than a consensus on economics does. Being in an alliance so unstable that a region the alliance must protect is under attack by the EU is too complicated for the simple and unsophisticated Americans. The sophisticated Europeans in the end are proving too much for the United States.

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has laid down the price members must pay for NATO protection. The Europeans will assume it is just talk and continue as they were. Having opted out of collective responsibility in the Middle East, the Europeans are also opting out of collective responsibility in Europe. U.S. action in Europe will take place as needed, but it will not be constrained by the votes of those not incurring some of the risk.

This is not opinion, simply a rational analysis by the U.S.

Why submit to an organization that cannot share the risk?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Carrier Gap

This mismatch between what we ask of the Navy’s carrier force and what we provide it to get the job done is an old problem. The answers, too, are well known. Yet with the prospect of increased defense spending on the horizon, it’s even more important to set expectations about how fast the Navy can make its aircraft carrier fleet healthy again.

For almost two months, the United States Navy has operated without its required aircraft carrier in the Middle East and Europe. These continual carrier “presence gaps” should not surprise us; they represent a voluntary choice by a Navy asked to do too much with too little for too long. And while Pentagon leadership and combatant commanders have agreed for years that the Navy requires at least twelve carriers to keep three deployed at any one time, appropriators long ago failed to fund a carrier fleet of that size. Today, 45 and the  Congress have signaled their intent to repair the U.S. military, but no easy or quick fixes exist for America’s aircraft carrier fleet.

Reconstituting a healthy carrier force requires an understanding of the real problem, followed by several short-term actions and a generational commitment to America’s premier power projection force.

Continual carrier gaps result from a fundamental mismatch between what is asked of the Navy and the means provided to it by senior decision-makers and appropriators. The Navy stretched to meet its mission needs during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, and the situation has worsened as the natural maintenance delays that followed were exacerbated by inadequate funding after the 2011 Budget Control Act. To cope, the Navy pushed its sailors harder and harder, until its senior leadership could no longer endorse such a strategy. Absent new funding or a decrease in operational tempo, in 2014 the Navy delivered an ultimatum to senior decision-makers in the form of a second revised deployment schedule: suffer continual carrier gaps or break the force.

Late last year, the USS George H.W. Bush suffered significant maintenance delays, forcing the Pentagon to accept a carrier presence gap over the past two months rather than extend the deployment of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. Before that, the Eisenhower itself experienced unexpectedly long maintenance stemming from extended deployments, but the Pentagon extended the tour of the USS Harry S. Truman beyond the new deployment schedule’s seven-month limit to avoid a carrier presence gap. We should expect the next few carriers in the shipyard to suffer maintenance delays, too, given years of extended deployments and maintenance funding shortfalls. Worse yet, the planned commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) continues to be delayed, as often happens with first-of-class ships.

Policymakers could begin to mitigate the current problem by including margins of error in the carrier maintenance and deployment schedule, instead of setting impossible-to-meet expectations. While such a plan might change little on the ground, it would put an end to continued outrage and surprise when utterly foreseeable maintenance or construction delays occur. Combining political cover with an immediate infusion of funding would give the Navy a fighting chance to improve its maintenance planning process and complete long-deferred maintenance. Simultaneously, to ensure that the new USS Ford makes its first deployment as soon as possible, Secretary of Defense James Mattis could cancel the unwise full-ship shock trials. These options will relieve the immediate pressures facing the Navy in the next few years, but returning to a 12-carrier fleet will take more time.

New aircraft carrier construction can only accelerate so much; it is essentially too late to change the scheduled delivery of the Kennedy (CVN-79) in 2022 and Enterprise (CVN-80) in 2027. President Trump and Congress can compress future carrier construction from five to four years or slightly less — a worthy and cost-saving endeavor recommended by former seapower subcommittee chairman Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA). Even a four-year carrier construction pace would only provide minor relief, preventing the carrier fleet from dropping from 11 to 10 until a true 12-carrier Navy sails again in the early 2030s. Additionally, the Navy can mitigate the shortfall in naval strike capacity before then by accelerating procurement of a third aviation-focused America-class amphibious assault ship from 2024 to 2021.

Lastly, the Navy could change how it bases and uses carriers, both of which should be explored, despite their inherent difficulties. It could pursue a long-term expansion of basing carriers overseas, including in Japan or Australia. Such a plan mitigates carrier gaps, but requires extensive political and financial negotiations, plus placing a second carrier within range of long-range Chinese missiles (in the case of Japan). The Navy could also change the way it employs carriers by removing the current carrier presence requirement in favor of holding carriers back and deploying them in larger groups when their combat power is truly needed. Yet the presence mission has underpinned the nuclear aircraft carrier force since the Cold War, and changing that would require overcoming both service culture and the expectation among senior decision-makers that carriers will be immediately available to signal American resolve.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Iranian Balkanization?

The New York Times offers a telling snapshot of Ahvaz, a majority Arab Iranian city near the Iraqi border, where a growing protest movement has lately been shut down by security forces.


The biggest trend in politics for the last 150 years has been the break-up of multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic states into smaller and more homogenous units as people demand more control over their own lives. And Iran is one of the world’s most vulnerable states to this trend, with Azeris, Kurds, Balochs, and many other minority groups under the corrupt, heavy-handed and often not-very-effective rule of the mullahs.

If it is true that the era of Sykes-Picot is coming to an end in the Middle East and that states like Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq are going to have their boundaries redrawn, it is hard to see how this process can be stopped at the Iran-Iraq border. The Iranian Kurds want independence, and many of Iran’s Arabs would gladly join with their Shi’a Arab brethren (and fellow tribesmen in many cases) across the boundary.

Iran’s own meddling has played a major role in the breakdown of order across the region and the enflamed identity politics now plunging country after country into terrible wars.

Can the mullahs play with fire and not be burned?

Monday, February 20, 2017

McMaster's Reading List

General grounding

There are several essential reads for professionals involved in military affairs:
Carl von Clausewitz, On War. The author uses a dialectical approach to understanding war without being prescriptive.

Michael Howard, War in European History. This book is excellent, as is anything by this author.

Elting Morison, Men, Machines, and Modern Times. The author discusses the limitations of emerging technologies-specifically, he argues that instead of taming our environment, technology has further complicated it.

Williamson Murray, The Making of Strategy: Rulers, States, and War. This book helps connect military action to strategy.

Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War. The Greek historian shows that the drivers of war-fear, honor, self-interest-haven’t changed over time.

Innovation and the world wars

Much has been written about World War I, World War II, and the interwar period-and about how these events changed the nature of war. The following are favorites:

Marc Bloch, Strange Defeat

Robert A. Doughty, The Breaking Point: Sedan and the Fall of France, 1940, and Pyrrhic Victory: French Strategy and Operations in the Great War

Timothy T. Lupfer, Dynamics of Doctrine: The Changes in German Tactical Doctrine During the First World War

Williamson Murray, Military Innovation in the Interwar Period

Memoirs and biographies

It is important to understand how leaders have adapted and thought about war and warfare across their careers. The Autobiography of General Ulysses S. Grant: Memoirs of the Civil War is perhaps the best war memoir ever written.

The following are some other significant titles:
Carlo D’Este, Patton: A Genius for War
David Fraser, Knight’s Cross: A Life of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
Matthew B. Ridgway, The Korean War

Selected histories of military campaigns

For selected histories of wars and military campaigns, the following are some of my favorites; I’ve also included recommendations on contemporary threats:

Ancient warfare

Donald Kagan, The Peloponnesian War

Seven Years’ War

Fred Anderson, Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766

The American military profession and the American Revolution

David Hackett Fischer, Washington’s Crossing

Don Higginbotham, George Washington and the American Military Tradition and The War of American Independence

Civil War

James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

Franco-Prussian War

Michael Howard, The Franco-Prussian War: The German Invasion of France 1870-1871

World War II

Rick Atkinson, An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943; The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944; and the forthcoming The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945

Gerhard Weinberg, A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II

Korean War

T. R. Fehrenbach, This Kind of War
David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War

Vietnam War

Eric Bergerud, Red Thunder, Tropic Lightning: The World of a Combat Division in Vietnam
Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway, We Were Soldiers Once . . . And Young: Ia Drang-The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam


Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor, Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq and The Endgame: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama


Peter Tomsen, The Wars of Afghanistan: Messianic Terrorism, Tribal Conflicts, and the Failures of Great Powers

Contemporary threats to international security

Peter Bergen, The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda

Victor Cha, The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future

David Crist, The Twilight War: The Secret History of America’s Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran

Bruce Riedel, Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of the Global Jihad

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Fleet In 2030

Three congressionally mandated studies outline what the Navy of 2030 could look like and present three very different takes on how the service could tackle its roles and responsibilities in the future.

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis (CSBA), MITRE Corporation and the Navy completed the studies that were required by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 and would feed into the service’s future fleet design, Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson told USNI in August.

“There will be an operating and warfighting component to that new fleet design, new ways of getting at sea control and some of those other things that it describes. Some of that work is being done now, we’re using the fleet in different ways as we build that readiness and deploy that readiness forward,” Richardson said.

The three studies differ from the Navy’s Force Structure Assessment, which the service released in December. The FSA was crafted to create an outlook for the service using current platforms while the architectures are more open ended and could include new platforms and strategic ideas.

Money Shot:

A vision of 160 large surface combatants, 72 attack submarines, 14 aircraft carriers and two guided-missile submarines.

In an attempt to reduce cost, the report recommends cutting LCS production to help pay for increased destroyer production, modifying the Ford-class carrier design or creating a conventional-powered carrier to reduce cost, scaling down the LX(R) amphibious dock landing ship replacement, and supplementing today’s nuclear-powered stealthy Virginia-class attack submarines with a less-expensive diesel sub to create a larger force for combatant commanders.