Current Affairs

Chattanooga

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First, thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of the Marines killed yesterday in the cowardly and despicable attack; to those wounded; and, to all the first responders who did not wait for backup but waded in and kept this from being so much worse than it could have been.  Please keep them all in your hearts, prayers, thoughts, or whatever it is that you do, and may the light shine down on all those left behind.  If you've ever been in it, you have some idea of what they now are going through. 

Second, huge thanks to the first responders.  Chattanooga (and to an extent Hamilton County) do things a bit different in terms of training and planned response, and it showed.  They did not wait, they moved in and "enthusiastically" engaged and "neutralized" the target.  This is how it is done.  It does take training, planning, and leadership.  From all I am hearing from people with knowledge of the department, they have it -- thank God.  Hope they keep it, as THIS is how it is done.  

Third, it is time and well past time to get rid of the idiotic, pantywaist, ill-considered (you get the drift) prohibition on our troops being armed.  There was a day (until fairly recently) when an officer (and even NCOs) were not in uniform and properly dressed without a sidearm.  They were expected to be so, to maintain order, and to defend themselves and others.  Having them armed is not a violation of Posse Comitatus, or an invitation to disorder.  I've heard one unconfirmed report that one person was able to retrieve a personally-owned firearm and return fire, and if so they deserve to be commended and not chewed-up and spit out by senior leadership as I fully expect.  There is a lot of data that clearly shows that any resistance prevents things from being worse.  Uncle Jimbo was/is on Fox and Friends discussing this topic this morning, and I look forward to him posting on the topic here.  

How many more of our troops must die on our soil in terrorist attacks -- and there have been quite a few though they are all lone-wolf criminal acts of workplace violence (/sarcasm) -- because of the Omega-level (they don't even rate beta male/female status) milquetoast obeisance to a thoroughly discredited trope? 

Sound off.  I can't say all I would like right now, as it would be rather intemperate.  It is a bit scary that Jimbo is the far more reasonable and articulate spokesperson right now... 

And, remember the fallen and those they leave behind.  Thank and encourage the first responders and the mindset shown by them, as such may be what saves us from far worse now and in the days ahead.  I consider the Chattanooga area a second home in many ways, and have many friends there.  If I leave the frozen (or at least currently soggy) North, it is one of the places I've seriously considered making my home.  The response shown by the first responders and the greater Community there are a reminder of why it would be a good place to live.  

NOTE:  My thanks to Gunny Popaditch for the image


Exclusive Interview - Former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren

The following interview and book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category on the right side bar.

Former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s latest book Ally is a riveting description of the relationship between Israel and the United States.  Readers get a behind the scenes look at how the Obama Administration has a one sided point of view. Through his numerous notes and direct insight he tells of the struggles Israel has had with the Obama Administration, especially regarding the Iranian nuclear deal.  He warns that Israel is in existential danger, that his only agenda is a reality check regarding this administration’s policies toward Israel. Blackfive.net interviewed him about his book and the Iranian nuclear deal.

He gave an exclusive to Blackfive.net, stating that he only tells those people “who come to work with me about this clip.  I ask them to watch it so that they will understand me.”  The clip (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImtrifoxW4c) is about the Battle of the Bulge with interviews from participants including Oren’s father, Lester Bornstein, a US Army Corps Engineer whose duty was to clear roads and build bridges during World War II.  Yet, in the Ardennes Forest in France on December 16, 1944, Lester along with his friend Jimmy Hill became infantrymen to help fend off the German advance, which had taken the American military off guard.  He and his friend bravely disabled the first German tank in line, forcing a halt in the advance. 

Oren, born in America, feels a kinship with America’s culture, principles, and spirit.  He remembers his father telling the family war stories and during his first combat mission in the war, Operation Peace for the Galilee, thought of his father’s experience, wondering “how I would conduct myself under fire.”

Throughout the book Oren emphasizes the closeness he feels with both America and Israel.  Yet, some in the media like Newsweek’s Jonathan Broder attempt to discredit him by writing, “The American-born Oren, who renounced his U.S. citizenship and now serves as a lawmaker in Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition, transforms from a measured historian into a breathless polemicist.” This is anything but the truth. Oren noted, “By Federal law any American who officially served a foreign county had to renounce their US Citizenship. My loyalties to the United States and the Jewish State are mutually validating.”

He wrote in the book how his love for America is filled with gratitude. “From the time that all four of my grandparents arrived on Ellis Island, through the Great Depression, in which they raised my parents, and the farm-bound community in which I grew up, America held out the chance to excel. True, prejudice was prevalent, but so, too, was our ability to fight it. Unreservedly, I referred to Americans as ‘we.’ The United States and Israel, are both democracies, both freedom-loving, and similarly determined to defend their independence. One could be — in fact, should be — a Zionist as well as a patriotic American, because the two countries stood for identical ideals.” Except now Israel is being thrown under the bus with the Iranian nuclear deal.

Why do some in the press want to discredit Oren’s roots?  Possibly because the Ambassador is publicly warning that the Obama Administration is setting a dangerous precedent concerning the Iranian nuclear deal.  As Daniel Silva profoundly wrote in his latest book, The English Spy, “Now the president’s confronted with a world gone mad, and he doesn’t have a clue as to what to do about it.”

Oren noted to blackfive.net about another irrational period in history and compared it to the current situation; “Lets remember one infamous example, when the Nazis pursued their insane ends.  Even during the last days of World War II, as the Allied armies liberated Europe, they diverted precious military resources to exterminating Jews.  The Israeli position is that this Iranian regime is irrational. Unlike Israel, which is in Iran’s backyard, the US is not threatened by the proximity of national annihilation. This is about our survival as a people. It’s about our children and grandchildren. What may look like an academic debate here in America is for us in Israel a matter of life and death.”

Asked if he agrees with the quote from former CIA Director Michael Hayden, who said of Iran, “the enemy of our enemy is still our enemy,” Oren told blackfive.net, that Americans should not forget that Iran “wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, something they have been calling for the last thirty years.  Let’s not forget they also attempted to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC and assassinate the Saudi Ambassador. Iran and its terrorist groups have killed more Americans than any other terrorist group outside of Al Qaeda.  This does not even include those in the American military who were killed by Iran during the Iraq War.  They are not friends.”

But a true friend, an ally, is defined by Oren as assisting “in saving American lives on and off the battlefield. On an ideological level, an ally is a country that shares America’s values, reflects its founding spirit, and resonates with its people’s beliefs. And an ally stimulates the U.S. economy through trade, technological innovation, and job creation. The two countries I love need to unite on issues vital to both and yet they remain separated ideologically and even strategically. However, on issues of security, anybody in the Israeli military, in the intelligence community, will tell you that security relations between Israel and the United States are better now than probably any other time in the past.”

In the Middle East Israel is America’s staunchest ally. Even though the Obama Administration appears not to recognize this, Americans do. A recent Gallup Poll shows that two out of three Americans sympathize with Israel, with support for Israel in the United States rising, not declining.

Ambassador Oren wrote this book, Ally, to send a clear message, “A friend who stands by his friends on some issues but not others is, in Middle Eastern eyes, not really a friend. In a region famous for its unforgiving sun, any daylight is searing.” Ally is a must read, because it alerts people that Israel faces the greatest challenge they have faced since World War II.


July 4th

There is a lot I could say about the state of the Republic (note for the poorly educated, we are NOT a democracy), but I will skip it and play Gunny Mormon for a minute.  

"... Be careful out there!"  A line I loved in a tv show many years ago, and all the more important today.

First, the 4th is, IMO, one of the top holidays to bring out the amateurs (second only to St. Patrick's Day).  Watch out for idiots, and if handling fireworks or around those who are, please do listen for words to the effect of "hey y'all, watch this!" and react to protect oneself.  Please don't be the one to say it.  Keep an extra eye peeled when driving.  Me, I hope to watch fireworks from a comfortable distance where I can smoke a cigar or my pipe lounging in comfort away from crowds.  

Second, there is a lot of chatter about the potential for terrorism (workplace violence, random acts, etc. in the governmental parlance).  Honestly, I'm surprised we've not had more and would not be surprised.  Be prepared, protect yourself and your own, and do what you have to if anything does happen.  

Finally, enjoy.  The Great Experiment is in crisis (IMO), but is still creaking along.  Savor what there is, and take a moment to re-read some of the finest words on governance (and self-governance) ever written in my humble opinion.   They are the cornerstone of the Republic, with the Constitution being the foundation.  

Be prepared, but enjoy the holiday.  


Ghost Fleet - A Review

Ghost Fleet.  PW Singer & August Cole, (2015). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. New York, NY: 404 pages

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 If you've ever wondered what an operationalized version of Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex” might look like, noted national security analysts Peter W. Singer and August Cole have a book just for you.  A true triad of military, bureaucrats, and corporations overthrows a long-running government to form an uneasy alliance to run a rather large country.  Singer and Cole throw us the first of many curves by teeing this up, not in the US, but China...or, as they now call themselves, "The Directorate."

 This first fiction effort by the duo delivers wide-ranging action at a frenetic pace. The story begins in outer space and, in mere moments, the action plunges far below the Pacific Ocean's surface.  Throughout the story, as venues change, the reader gasps for breath and delves back in as the action continues.  This is a Tom Clancy-esque thriller with most of the pieces one would expect:  people unexpectedly thrust into difficult situations; well-researched, accurate portrayals of current capabilities; imaginative exploration of new, emerging, or desired technology; as well as good old fashioned palace intrigue and political gamesmanship.  For those making the Clancy connection, you’ll find this book of the Red Storm Rising genre - a look at how a world war type scenario would likely go. 

   Ghost Fleet looks at how the "Pivot to Asia” could go - and it can go bad pretty fast.  It also plays on many of the fears that serious analysts ponder regarding military procurements, military readiness and other economic tradeoffs.

 Buoyed by the massive changes spurred by their recent revolution, the Directorate decides that it is time to achieve their "Manifest Destiny" in the Pacific.  A major energy discovery gives them the opportunity to challenge US supremacy in the Pacific and even take on the US militarily, with the tacit assistance of Russia.  What ensues is a massive and coordinated sneak attack that cripples US capabilities throughout the Pacific Rim, most notably in Hawaii.  The Directorate, now occupying US sovereign territory and positioned to prevent response either from space or across the vast ocean, looks to turn America into a third-rate client state.  To counter this the US decides to reactivate ships (and some aircraft) mothballed by the significant cuts that US politicians foisted upon itself.  This is the rebirth of the Ghost Fleet that gives this story its name.

 It also evokes a slightly different comparison: this is the Navy's version of "Team Yankee".  Team Yankee was a very popular "must read” in the late 1980s, especially popular with the mechanized/armor community of the Army.  It is about warfare at its base level, but with existential impact.  In this case, the crew of a one-of-a-kind ship – rejected by the Navy when cuts were made – is being brought back to life by a crew trying desperately to make it work in very trying circumstances – fights the battle of its life for a noble cause.

 Singer and Cole introduce a number of characters including a Navy Officer whose transition to retirement is rather violently interrupted; a Marine thrust into the role of guerilla; a Sun Tzu-quoting Chinese Admiral; and a seductive assassin.  The story explores the very tempestuous relationship between father and son bonded in a moment of crisis while wrestling with demons of the past.   The duo’s style offers some nice bonuses.  The reader gets a murder mystery. The idea of "privateers” in the 21st Century is presented.   For the geopolitical thinkers, Singer and Cole skewer a lot of the shibboleths of current alliances and ask “who will really ‘step up’ when the going gets tough?”  The authors present some very interesting ideas of what could happen and what could emerge if all the geopolitical knowns were to suddenly change. Rather than distract, these threads are woven into a complex but compelling story that is both provocative and frightening.

 What this book does do well - and in a scary way - is show how pervasive a wired world could be and what would happen if a major actor were to severely upset the proverbial apple cart. Among the discoveries in the opening salvos of The Directorate’s aggression are the vulnerability of so much of the electronics used both in military equipment as well as the networks that course through the US.

  Ghost Fleet explores the extent to which autonomous systems change life and warfare. .  Can we trust the electronics we buy from overseas? Do we depend too much on automatic, autonomous and “linked” systems in our basic and daily lives?  What if a major competitor played on those fears with ruthless precision and execution?   This will confirm the worst fears of the Luddite or conspiracy theorist.  Those that are on the fence about the impact of autonomous systems will likely find that this book tips them one way or the other. 

Two things that one would expect to find in such styled books are not found in this one.  One is probably the book’s only serious flaw. The story does not give time stamps and the reader may not realize that the scenario has advanced in time as it changes chapter.  Without this context, the reader may become confused on why or how things changed so fast within the story.

The other creative difference is a positive: there is very little discussion of the machinations of the American politicians.  Singer and Cole - in a choice very likely calculated to avoid the politics of the moment - do not really describe much, if anything about the moves, motives, or response of the President, or most of the National Security apparatus.  While the Secretary of Defense is omnipresent, no one else is - nor are there any real discussions on the national politics at play.  Some may be greatly disappointed by this while others may find it a welcome departure in the genre.

Although cyberspace capabilities are a significant aspect of the storyline, this is not a book about “cyber war.”  If anything, this is may be the first real exploration of Demchakian "cybered conflict" in story form. Cybered Conflict is a construct provided by Naval War College professors Chris Demchak and Peter Dombrowski.  The premise is that the nature of conflict remains the same but that cyberspace capabilities add a new dimension.  They further purport that cyberspace is not a separate domain, per se, but is instead just another aspect of how humans interact and compete.  Cyberspace is itself not decisive but can certainly tip the scale in an existential conflict.  There are ample examples in this book on how this could occur. It is certain to ignite debate on the nature of “cyber war”.  

Thriller readers will find this a welcome addition to their collections.  Thinkers, advocates, policy wonks, geeks and nerds will all find something to chew on that will confirm or challenge their own biases.  Scheduled for a June release, this highly recommended story is a daring look at the fusion of traditional and modern warfare, delivered at "machine speed".  


New CJCS nominee Dunford - "Not a Cyber Expert"

President Obama has nominated current US Marine Corps Commandant General Joe "Fighting Joe" Dunford to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS).  As such he would be the President's top military advisor and would replace General Martin Dempsey.  The anecdotal reporting from multiple vectors is that General Dunford is the right pick and that the President should be lauded for this selection. #CreditWhereDue   

General Dunford's a "proven combat leader who had distinguished himself as commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan in 2013-2014 as foreign forces shifted responsibility for fighting the Taliban to Afghan troops. Dunford also commanded a Marine regiment early in the Iraq war."  h/t:  Washington Post

With all the big ideas that the JCS has to wrestle with, I found this article on Dunford a particularly odd take on the nomination.  In it, The Hill's Cory Bennett opines that the President opted for a "strategist" rather than a "cyber expert" to execute the recently published DOD Cyber Strategy.  Apparently, despite all his other qualifications, including being the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the cyber zealot class things SecDef Ashton Carter was selected for his cyber expertise.  (He was a physicist, not a computer guy, but what do I know?)  The article presents a view point that a number of recent DOD appointments were "cyber" focused.  (Umm, ok..)

President Obama’s pick to become the nation’s next top military officer, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., bucks a recent trend of cyber-focused appointments.

“He’s not a cyber expert,” said Peter Metzger, a former CIA intelligence officer and Marine who served with Dunford on four occasions. “But he doesn’t need to be.”
 
Cyber military specialists believe the Obama administration is seeking an operational expert and relationship builder, not a technological savant, to carry out Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s recently unveiled cyber vision.
 
“They went with a strategist,” said Chris Finan, a former military intelligence officer and adviser to the Obama administration on cybersecurity policy. “An operational artisan.”

I agree with Metzgar and Finian that there is a need for a "strategist" in the role of CJCS.  I am amused at the degree to which Bennett rates the Cyber Strategy on the Chairman's agenda. 

While cyberspace in  undoubtedly important, apparently Mr Bennett is unaware that there are two able four-stars (USSTRATCOM's Commander as well as Commander of USCYBERCOM/DirNSA) that are more than capable of focusing on the the implementation of the cyber strategy.  And, if one understands the strategy, every Service Chief and all of the other Combatant Commands will also be keenly focused on this, particularly in terms of policy and resourcing.   The Chairman has much larger fish to fry, including the "pivot to Asia" (however that manifests itself), the continuing struggles with ISIS/AQ et al, and Iran's territorial ambitions - as well as a shrinking force, an aging fleet, and a recalcitrant air power Service insisting on going their own way.  

Cyberspace is important, but it isn't the Chairman's biggest issue.


 

 


"The Wall", "The Shield", "The Team" -The Latest Batch of Commercials Take a Queue from the USMC

While I appreciate that the Marines stopped using lava monsters in their commercials long ago, they always tend to have the best ones.  Here's the latest USMC commercial...and, as usual, no mention of benefits, jobs, or college, only being a part of something greater than yourself..."The Wall":

 And here the Army talks about sports...or do they? "The Team":

And the Navy, after foundering on a Global Force for Good campaign, has also followed suit with "To get to you, they have to go through us...". Here is "The Shield":

So Air Force, it's been a year since the "Its what we do" commercial...what you got?!