Jutland

jutlandA hundred years ago Tuesday, the British Grand Fleet fought the Imperial German High Seas fleet off the coast of Denmark.

It was a quite incredible battle, the largest sea battle involving steel ships until then, and one of the costliest with a combined casualty count of 8645 killed, 1181 wounded, and the loss of 25 ships (in tonnage most British). Tactically the British perhaps lost, but in hindsight, it was a victory on the scale of Trafalgar itself.

Why? Because the German fleet never sortied again. If they had successfully caused the disruption of the Grand Fleet, Britain would have been driven from the war, or starved, by the combination of the U-boats and the surface navy. Without Britain, and it’s corollary the non-entrance of the United States, the Germans simply win. This was the only day that Britain could have lost the war. In the century since Trafalgar the Royal Navy had perhaps grown a bit complacent, there were problems all through the fleet, the kind of things that creep in unnoticed in peacetime. But they didn’t lose. Like our Admiral Spruance at Midway, Jellicoe’s job was to “rock ’em and sock ’em, but don’t lose your shirt”. It might have been possible in both cases to have won more complete victories, but it would have exposed irreplaceable assets to avoidable risk, for little gain.

The First Sea Lord said recently in a speech at The Maritime Museum in London

In all the reams of Jutland related reading material that have passed across my desk in the last few days, one fact that caught my eye was that no fewer than 8 future First Sea Lords were serving with the Grand Fleet during the Battle of Jutland.

For you, that’s an interesting historical fact. But for me, just 2 months into my own tenure at First Sea Lord, it adds to the poignancy of this centenary, as I consider my responsibilities, both to the nation and to our sailors and marines today.

Undoubtedly the most striking characteristic of the Battle of Jutland is the sheer scale of loss.

Admirals and Ordinary Seaman perished alike.

Never before had either navy lost so men on a single day.

When the battle cruiser Invincible was torn apart by an explosion she took less than 90 seconds to sink, taking over 1000 men with her.

Losses on this scale are difficult to comprehend. Nothing in our modern experience compares.

So it is important that in this centenary year, the focus be on remembrance.

But museums are designed to start conversations and encourage questions; and this exhibition is an important opportunity to reflect on the wider significance of Jutland.

Wider significance
Terrible as the losses were, the stakes in 1916 could not have been higher.

Without command of the seas, Britain’s maritime trade, the lifeblood of the war effort, would be in danger and Britain herself would be left open to the risk of starvation or even invasion.

Admiral Jellicoe understood the enormity of his responsibility.

He knew that the superiority of the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet had to be protected at all costs.

And this was the strongest adversary that Britain had faced in a century. The long, calm lee of Trafalgar, as Andrew Gordon so poignantly captured it, was very much over.

Certainly the sudden and spectacular loss of several capital ships, with almost all hands, was disastrous.

There were serious questions about the performance of gunnery, signals, armour and shells.

And there was a profound debate over the balance between regulation and initiative in the culture of the Royal Navy.

As many of you know, historians, academics and naval officers still exchange broadsides on these issues today.

Perhaps, with the benefit of what we would today call better situational awareness, Jellicoe could have inflicted a crushing defeat worthy of Trafalgar.

But in repelling, rather than sinking, the German High Seas Fleet, he had done enough.

As painful and surprising as Britain’s losses had been, in truth, they did little to dent the Royal Navy’s superiority.

The very next day the Grand Fleet was back at sea and ready to do battle again, and within in a month the losses in ships had been made good.

The High Seas Fleet had failed to break the superiority of the Royal Navy and command of the sea remained with Britain.

Royal Navy today
Much has changed in a century.

But the fundamentals remain the same:

Britain is still an island nation and a global maritime trading power.

We are still dependent on the sea for security and prosperity and the nation still looks to the Royal Navy to protect its interests at home and around the world. […]

Conclusion
Over the next week, this centenary will be marked in Scapa Flow, in the Firth of Forth, in our dockyard towns and at sea off the coast of Denmark.

But it also right that that the Battle of Jutland is remembered in London too, alongside so many other reminders of our island story here in the National Maritime Museum.

We will never forget those who fought and died in the North Sea a century ago.

But in a conflict otherwise remembered principally for the trenches of the Western Front, Jutland also serves as a necessary reminder of the enduring significance of sea power to our defence and to our prosperity.

Thank you.

From the MOD. via Think Defence

The reason this battle is arguably comparable to Trafalgar is this: without Trafalgar, the British may not have had control of the sea, with all of its consequences through the nineteenth century. Jutland ensured that the English-speaking people would continue that control throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. If Jellicoe had lost, that control would have passed to Imperial Germany, at least in the Atlantic, and possibly Imperial Japan in the Pacific. there is no telling exactly how it would have ben different, but the world would be an entirely different place, without the Anglo-Saxons controlling the seas.

For me, it was as was said earlier by another First Sea Lord, the Earl St. Vincent, and has so often proved to be true.

I DO NOT SAY, MY LORDS, THAT THE FRENCH WILL NOT COME.

I SAY ONLY THEY WILL NOT COME BY SEA.

The citizen-soldier: Moral risk and the modern military

takenoticeAs we move into Memorial Day weekend, and for once it legitimately is that, we are going to start thinking about the soldier, the sailor, the airman and the marine. More than most, they have made us what we are, and conversely, we have made them both what they are, and an image of us, and moreover an image of us at our best. And because of that, they have become the best in the world, and the best ambassadors of the American people. They, all of them, the quick, the dead, the maimed, the conservative, the liberal, yes, the ones who protest, as well as those who support, make us better.

This is long, it is also, in my judgment worth reading, and likely rereading, and a good deal of contemplation. By Phil Klay, and from Brookings.

The rumor was he’d killed an Iraqi soldier with his bare hands. Or maybe bashed his head in with a radio. Something to that effect. Either way, during inspections at Officer Candidates School, the Marine Corps version of boot camp for officers, he was the Sergeant Instructor who asked the hardest, the craziest questions. No softballs. No, “Who’s the Old Man of the Marine Corps?” or “What’s your first general order?” The first time he paced down the squad bay, all of us at attention in front of our racks, he grilled the would-be infantry guys with, “Would it bother you, ordering men into an assault where you know some will die?” and the would-be pilots with, “Do you think you could drop a bomb on an enemy target, knowing you might also kill women and kids?”

When he got to me, down at the end, he unloaded one of his more involved hypotheticals. “All right candidate. Say you think there’s an insurgent in a house and you call in air support, but then when you walk through the rubble there’s no insurgents, just this dead Iraqi civilian with his brains spilling out of his head, his legs still twitching and a little Iraqi kid at his side asking you why his father won’t get up. So. What are you going to tell that Iraqi kid?”

Amid all the playacting of OCS—screaming “Kill!” with every movement during training exercises, singing cadences about how tough we are, about how much we relish violence—this felt like a valuable corrective. In his own way, that Sergeant Instructor was trying to clue us in to something few people give enough thought to when they sign up: joining the Marine Corps isn’t just about exposing yourself to the trials and risks of combat—it’s also about exposing yourself to moral risk.

I never had to explain to an Iraqi child that I’d killed his father. As a public affairs officer, working with the media and running an office of Marine journalists, I was never even in combat. And my service in Iraq was during a time when things seemed to be getting better. But that period was just one small part of the disastrous war I chose to have a stake in. “We all volunteered,” a friend of mine and a five-tour Marine veteran, Elliot Ackerman, said to me once. “I chose it and I kept choosing it. There’s a sort of sadness associated with that.”

As a former Marine, I’ve watched the unraveling of Iraq with a sense of grief, rage, and guilt. As an American citizen, I’ve felt the same, though when I try to trace the precise lines of responsibility of a civilian versus a veteran, I get all tangled up. The military ethicist Martin Cook claims there is an “implicit moral contract between the nation and its soldiers,” which seems straightforward, but as the mission of the military has morphed and changed, it’s hard to see what that contract consists of. A decade after I joined the Marines, I’m left wondering what obligations I incurred as a result of that choice, and what obligations I share with the rest of my country toward our wars and to the men and women who fight them. What, precisely, was the bargain that I struck when I raised my hand and swore to defend my country against all enemies, foreign and domestic?

Grand causes

It was somewhat surprising (to me, anyway, and certainly to my parents) that I wound up in the Marines. I wasn’t from a military family. My father had served in the Peace Corps, my mother was working in international medical development. If you’d asked me what I wanted to do, post-college, I would have told you I wanted to become a career diplomat, like my maternal grandfather. I had no interest in going to war.

Operation Desert Storm was the first major world event to make an impression on me—though to my seven-year-old self the news coverage showing grainy videos of smart bombs unerringly finding their targets made those hits seem less a victory of soldiers than a triumph of technology. The murky, muddy conflicts in Mogadishu and the Balkans registered only vaguely. War, to my mind, meant World War II, or Vietnam. The first I thought of as an epic success, the second as a horrific failure, but both were conflicts capable of capturing the attention of our whole society. Not something struggling for air-time against a presidential sex scandal.

So I didn’t get my ideas about war from the news, from the wars actually being fought during my teenage years. I got my ideas from books.

My novels and my history books were sending very mixed signals. War was either pointless hell, or it was the shining example of American exceptionalism.

Reading novels like Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, or Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, I learned to see war as pointless suffering, absurdity, a spectacle of man’s inhumanity to man. Yet narrative nonfiction told me something different, particularly the narrative nonfiction about World War II, a genre really getting off the ground in the late-90s and early aughts. Perhaps this was a belated result of the Gulf War, during which the military seemed to have shaken off its post-Vietnam malaise and shown that, yes, goddamn it, we can win something, and win it good. Books like Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers and Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation went hand-in-hand with movies like Saving Private Ryan to present a vision of remarkable heroism in a world that desperately needed it.

via The citizen-soldier: Moral risk and the modern military | Brookings Institution

And so, this weekend, as taps once more rings over the land, and volleys sound across the land, it is time, I think for us to think about what we owe these warriors, living and dead, who created America, and have sustained her, and us, across the last 240 years. Because yes, we owe them care for their injuries, and to make them as whole as we can, and to honor their memory. But we owe them, in large measure also, our way of life.

 

Fmr. McDonald’s USA CEO: $35K Robots Cheaper Than Hiring at $15 Per Hour

English: A Quarter Pounder w/Cheese from McDonald's, as sold in the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Soon to be made by a robot near you!

Well, of course, it is. That’s simple common sense, and government can try, but the market wins every time. Look I wrote about this a bit over two years ago, here, and if anything has changed, it’s not for the better.

Here’s the takeaway quote for you:

“I was at the National Restaurant Show yesterday and if you look at the robotic devices that are coming into the restaurant industry — it’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who’s inefficient making $15 an hour bagging French fries — it’s nonsense and it’s very destructive and it’s inflationary and it’s going to cause a job loss across this country like you’re not going to believe,” said former McDonald’s (MCD) USA CEO Ed Rensi during an interview on the FOX Business Network’s Mornings with Maria.

He also said this, which is also true, although in truth we’d be better off if we simply left it to the market.

“I think we ought to have a multi-faceted wage program in this country. If you’re a high school kid, you ought to have a student wage. If you’re an entry level worker you ought to have a separate wage. The states ought to manage this because they know more [about] what’s going on the ground than anybody in Washington D.C.,” he said.

Here’s the link along with the warning that it’s got an autoplay video on it. It’s a good video, though.

via Fmr. McDonald’s USA CEO: $35K Robots Cheaper Than Hiring at $15 Per Hour | Fox Business

Look none of this is rocket science done with a slide rule, it’s simple common sense. I realize that politicians with common sense are an endangered species, but this will harm those who are already hurting the most, especially our minorities. Strange, I’m a conservative white guy, how come I care more about those young black guys than all the liberal Democrats (and Bernie Sanders) put together?

Why, Indeed?

 

What America’s Founders Could Teach The European Union

Like so many of us, I have trouble conceiving of a more astute set of political theorist than the American founders. That they built for the ages, and mostly rightly is evident in what we’ve accomplished. Any, and there are some, who dispute that have one of two problems, they know nothing of history, and like all such, if we let them, will condemn us to live it yet again, although differently, most are likely tending towards being Luddites, or they are simply delusional, and believe what they believe irrespective of overwhelming evidence. Or they have an ulterior motive, I suppose is possible.

In any case, Europe has a problem. Britain is considering leaving the community. I have my opinion, as does Jess, on that, and we’ve shared them. But Europe itself seems to be floundering. Why is that? Do our founders have a few lessons for them? Why yes, I believe they do.

As a sort of lead in I want to share a joke that Oyiabrown shared recently.

Pythagoras’s theorem – 24 words. Lord’s Prayer – 66 words. Archimedes’s Principle – 67 words. 10 Commandments – 179 words. Gettysburg address – 286 words. U.S. Declaration of Independence – 1,300 words. U.S. Constitution with all 27 Amendments – 7,818 words.

EU regulations on the sale of cabbage – 26,911 words.

Think about that. If it takes almost 27K words to regulate cabbages… well you get the idea that maybe the EU is overfond of words, in 18 languages, no less, and may perhaps have a tendency to overregulate. And what are the regulatory costs of cabbage regulation anyway? In any case, a touching monument to the power of words, and the stifling of enterprise.

But to the main points.

Ask the American Founders

[…] Like Americans in the 1780s, European leaders today face an increasing security problem and a growing debt, but a lack of political power to solve it. The European Union has claimed in various stages to be a legitimate government, while few have taken its claims seriously. When the European Union is arbiter in a dispute or attempts to solve a problem, very few actually abide by the agreements made, if the agreements would solve the problem at all.

The larger the republic, the fewer factions exist, which thus preserves the liberty of its citizens.

The United States faced similar issues in the 1780s. In the “Federalist Papers,” Alexander Hamilton argued a federal constitution is necessary, because of the “unequivocal experience of the inefficiency of the subsisting federal government.” Like its contemporary European counterparts, Hamilton and many of his contemporaries thought the Articles of Confederation that held the United States together during the Revolutionary War were too weak to pay for the war debt and to provide for a strong defense against European empires.

The biggest problem the Framers faced was the issue of political factions in the federal government, comparable to “the curse of nationalism” EU officials try to cope with. Steeped in classical and Enlightenment political theory, the Framers knew factionalism eventually would destroy republics from within. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison argued in Federalist No. 9 and 10 that “a firm Union will be of the utmost moment to the peace and liberty of the States, as a barrier against domestic faction and insurrection.

[…]EU parliamentarian and former prime minster of Belgium Guy Verhofstadt argues in his latest book “De ziekte van Europa” (“The Disease of Europe”) that decision-making in the European Union is too slow to solve past, current, and future problems and that centralization based on a federal model is the cure for this disease.

But, unlike Verhofstadt and EU officials, the Framers of the Constitution understood the difficulty of creating a large political union. The Framers argued that the United States was suited for a strong union because it was a connected and relatively homogenous nation, geographically and in spirit. A federal government would function properly because of homogeneity of language, devotion to liberty, a common history, and because, as John Jay put it, the Americans sought a united government in the revolutionary war when “their habitations were in flames, [and] when many of their citizens were bleeding.”

Probably the only commonality all Europeans share is that its peoples strongly resisted unification for centuries and still refuse to unify. Elite unification projects, such as those of Charlemagne, Napoleon, Nazi Germany, and the current European Union, all ended in failure and, more importantly, death and destruction.

The European Union likes to take credit for the decades of peace in Europe after World War II, while it was obviously the protective umbrella of the United States and the NATO alliance that kept western Europe safe. In fact, contemporary social unrest in Europe can be attributed to European Union failures, such as an inadequate protection of its borders, disastrous fiscal policies, and unnecessary expansion.

via What America’s Founders Could Teach The European Union

This is an excellent article, that I think clearly shows why the Constitution worked to unify the United States, but any conceivable similar document has almost no chance in Europe. Do read the whole thing and think about it.

You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd

English: Number of self-identified Democrats v...

With politics this year, all seems in flux, doesn’t it? The GOP is in Public disarray, and the Democrats aren’t all that far behind. Why is that so? I suspect we are seeing a major realignment in the parties, neither of the Washington establishments seem to have much in common with their voters anymore, and like Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself, cannot stand.” True then, true now.

So what’s going to happen? Nobody knows, but some people have enough guts to tell us what they see, although it is truly through a glass darkly. Here’s what Michael Lind sees.

For political observers, 2016 feels like an earthquake — a once-in-a-generation event that will remake American politics. The Republican party is fracturing around support for Donald Trump. An avowed socialist has made an insurgent challenge for the Democratic Party’s nomination. On left and right, it feels as though a new era is beginning.

And a new era is beginning, but not in the way most people think. Though this election feels like the beginning of a partisan realignment, it’s actually the end of one. The partisan coalitions that defined the Democratic and Republican parties for decades in the middle of the twentieth century broke apart long ago; over the past half century, their component voting blocs — ideological, demographic, economic, geographic, cultural — have reshuffled. The reassembling of new Democratic and Republican coalitions is nearly finished.

What we’re seeing this year is the beginning of a policy realignment, when those new partisan coalitions decide which ideas and beliefs they stand for — when, in essence, the party platforms catch up to the shift in party voters that has already happened. The type of conservatism long championed by the Republican Party was destined to fall as soon as a candidate came along who could rally its voters without being beholden to its donors, experts and pundits. The future is being built before our eyes, with far-reaching consequences for every facet of American politics.

The 2016 race is a sign that American politics is changing in profound and lasting ways; by the 2020s and 2030s, partisan platforms will have changed drastically. You may find yourself voting for a party you could never imagine supporting right now. What will that political future look like?

***

Today’s Republican Party is predominantly a Midwestern, white, working-class party with its geographic epicenter in the South and interior West. Today’s Democratic Party is a coalition of relatively upscale whites with racial and ethnic minorities, concentrated in an archipelago of densely populated blue cities.

In both parties, there’s a gap between the inherited orthodoxy of a decade or two ago and the real interests of today’s electoral coalition. And in both parties, that gap between voters and policies is being closed in favor of the voters — a slight transition in the case of Hillary Clinton, but a dramatic one in the case of Donald Trump.

During the Democratic primary, pundits who focused on the clash between Clinton and Sanders missed a story that illuminated this shift: The failure of Jim Webb’s brief campaign for the presidential nomination. Webb was the only candidate who represented the old-style Democratic Party of the mid-20th century — the party whose central appeal was among white Southerners and Northern white “ethnics.” Even during the “New Democrat” era of Bill Clinton, white working-class remnants of that coalition were still important in the party. But by 2016, Webb lacked a constituency, and he was out of place among the politicians seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, which included one lifelong socialist (Bernie Sanders) and two candidates who had been raised as Republicans (Hillary Clinton and, briefly, Lincoln Chafee).

On the Republican side, the exemplary living fossil was Jeb Bush. Like his brother, Jeb pushed a neo-Reaganite synthesis of support for a hawkish foreign policy, social conservatism, and cuts in middle-class entitlements to finance further tax cuts for the rich. From the Reagan era until recently, the GOP’s economic policies have been formulated by libertarians, whose views are at odds with those of most Republican voters. In March of this year, a Pew Research Center poll showed that 68 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters opposed future reductions in Social Security benefits — almost the same amount of support found among Democrats and Dem-leaning voters (73 percent). Republicans who supported Trump were even more opposed to Social Security benefit cuts, at 73 percent. And even among those who supported Kasich, 62 percent opposed cuts in Social Security benefits — even though Kasich, himself, is in favor of cutting entitlements.

As country-and-western Republicans have gradually replaced country-club Republicans, the gap between the party’s economic orthodoxy and the economic interests of white working-class voters in the GOP base has increased. House Republicans repeatedly have passed versions of Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which is based on cutting Social Security and replacing Medicare with vouchers.

via This Is What the Future of American Politics Looks Like – POLITICO Magazine

I don’t agree, or maybe I just don’t want to, with all he says, but I do think he’s on to something here. The gaps between base and party, on both sides, have simply become too big to bridge. Will it happen as he says? Probably not, bet he may well be at least partially right,and if we care about the future, we need to be thinking about this.

The title? Here you go!

A Return to Cam Ranh Bay?

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A satellite image of the Cam Ranh Bay Naval Base in 2013. Credit DigitalGlobe, via Getty Images

Last week, Jane Perlez had an article in The New York Times speculating about the return of US Forces to Cam Ranh Bay, in Vietnam. It’s an interesting thought, and not nearly far-fetched as it sounds to ears that remember the sixties.

Firstly, it’s important to remember that nations usually don’t have friends, they have interests. But in the same way, that Great Britain is the United States’ friend, China is Vietnam’s enemy. It’s something that goes back a thousand years, and as always: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. In addition, we should remember that likely in the late forties, in a misguided intention to support imperial France, we threw away a potential ally in Ho Chi Minh, who had been known to quote the Declaration of Independence fervently. It wasn’t Truman’s finest hour.

And so led the way to a war, which we fought badly, and lost. Although I would say we lost in Washington, not on the field. But we lost. And so our relations have been rather sour for a long while. From the article.

Vietnam’s needs dovetail with those of the United States, which has been encouraging maritime states in Southeast Asia to better defend themselves, an effort partly aimed at keeping the United States from being dragged into a direct naval conflict with China.

The prospect of access to Cam Ranh Bay, where the Vietnamese have built a new international port, provides another enticement for lifting the ban.

An American presence there would allow United States forces to use the port on the western edge of the South China Sea, complementing American facilities in the Philippines on the sea’s eastern edge.

“If the United States can get regular access to Cam Ranh Bay, it would be very advantageous to maintaining the balance of power with China,” said Alexander L. Vuving, a Vietnam specialist at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu. “If something happens in the South China Sea, it takes a while for the U.S. to get there. China can get there more quickly.”

The Vietnamese, who shun alliances and forbid foreign bases, have made clear they would not entertain exclusive use of the facilities by the United States but would allow it to share the base with others. Singaporean and Japanese vessels this year were the first to use the facility.

via Why Might Vietnam Let U.S. Military Return? China. – The New York Times

That all makes sense to me, we’ve talked many times here about how important the area is. It sits on one of the major shipping lanes in the world, see also what we said here. Understand this, the US (and Royal) Navy’s ability to contest this area is exactly what led the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor, and Singapore. The same can happen with China.

Along the same lines, China is increasingly finding that its moves are being resisted, peacefully so far, but things are stirring, and alliances are shaking, another case in point: India. From Kevin Knodell.

1-3ti_mjeJQQO1j9TIsWsgSAWashington and New Delhi are getting a lot more serious about military-to-military ties. As the United States and India become more wary of an increasingly assertive China, the two countries are gradually edging closer together.

On May 16, American and Indian met for a “maritime security dialogue” in New Delhi. “The dialogue covered issues of mutual interest, including exchange of perspectives on maritime security development in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region as well as prospects for further strengthening cooperation between India and the United States in this regard,” stated an Indian Ministry of External Affairs press release.

Washington and New Delhi are also close to formalizing a historic military cooperation agreement hazily called the “Logistics Support Agreement” — or LSA. The agreement would allow the two militaries to use each other’s land, air and naval bases for resupplies, repairs and conducting operations.

American and Indian officials agreed to hold the summit during an April visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Despite regular meetings and joint military training, the United States and India are not allies in any formal sense. India was officially unaligned in the Cold War but kept close relations with the Soviet Union — and the United States backed arch-rival Pakistan.

But there is a slow yet historic realignment underway. First of all, the United States and India are both growing warier of China’s rise as a major regional military power. Second, the U.S.-Pakistani relationship has deteriorated during the course of America’s decade-and-a-half-long war in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Pakistan is the world’s top recipient of Chinese weapons.

via: Watch Out, China

So for all the silliness in Washington, we appear to be in some respects still acting properly as the world’s premier maritime power, ensuring the freedom of the seas for all, hopefully, some gestures will be enough, and likely they will if it’s obvious that gestures are not the only thing in the cupboard.

There’s a word for that. It’s called deterrence.

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