Farragut at New Orleans

David Glasgow Farragut had a problem; he’d been shelling the forts below New Orleans for a solid week, expending 15,000 shells. He was starting to shake some of his ships apart, and it seemed as if he was making no progress either.

For that matter, the war wasn’t going all that well, either, in that spring of 1862. Just a few days ago, Grant had been surprised at Shiloh Church, and while he recovered on the second day, the butcher’s bill was shocking. And as always, the accusations flew fast and furious that Grant had been drunk, and that Sherman was mad. Well maybe Grant was, he was never at his best when his wife, Julia, was not with him, and Uncle Billy had his moments, but they would come into their own, right now they were stifled by superior officers, Shiloh would begin to cure that.

In the east, McClellan was in the process of getting bogged down, both militarily and in the mud, on the Peninsula. Smartly executed, it was a plan that might well have taken Richmond, whether it would have ended the war is quite doubtful. But in any case, Pinkerton, who was his intelligence chief, exaggerated the forces arrayed against him, and ‘Mac’ wasn’t over bold, in any case. Part of that was because of his love of his troops, which they returned, he tended to forget his mission to safeguard them, which of course, made it worse. It would also have the strange outcome of Mac running against Lincoln in 1864, on a platform that the war had failed, although not saying that it lasted longer and was more deadly because of him.

Soon, R.E. Lee would replace Johnston who would be wounded commanding the Army of Northern Virginia, give orders to suppress General Pope’s army, thus setting in train the moves that would lead to ‘artillery hell’ or Antietam, and thus a very narrow window, which gave the President his opportunity to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

So, while there was some cause for optimism in Washington, you weren’t going to get it from the press. Farragut knew all this, of course, and it wasn’t likely to be career enhancing to go back down the Mississippi with his tail between his legs. He also had something new. Most or maybe all of his combatant ships were steam powered, he could go straight into the wind, for nearly the first time in history, a naval commander wasn’t dependent on the wind. And so he decided.

Yesterday, his squadron ran the batteries downstream from New Orleans, they took some damage, but they made it, and then scattered a makeshift flotilla, above the city. It took a considerable portion of guts because it looked like a very good way to sink the entire squadron. But you know, conventional thinking is often wrong.

And so, today, at noon, Admiral Farragut would step onto the levee at New Orleans, and soon there would be 10,000 Union troops in town. And the Confederates would lose for all time, the great port of the old southwest, not to mention that while they could still cross ship on the river (until Grant took Vicksburg, in about a year) it was closed to international trade. And that was one of the first blows that doomed the Confederacy. Today in 1862.

via It Takes Guts | Practically Historical

Ancient Laws, Modern Wars

Victor Davis Hanson reminds us of some ancient learning, and helps us apply it to the present day.

After eight years of withdrawal, what rules should the U.S. follow to effectively reassert itself in world affairs? The most dangerous moments in foreign affairs often come after a major power seeks to reassert its lost deterrence. The United States may be entering just such a perilous transitional period.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/446471/military-deterrence-trumps-leadership-abroad-principles-foreign-policy […]

1. Avoid making verbal threats that are not serious and backed up by force. After eight years of pseudo-red lines, step-over lines, deadlines, and “game changers,” American ultimatums without consequences have no currency and will only invite further aggression.
2. The unlikely is not impossible. Weaker powers can and do start wars. Japan in December 1941 attacked the world’s two largest navies based on the false impression that great powers which sought to avoid war did so because they were weak. That current American military power is overwhelming does not mean delusional nations will always agree that it is so — or that it will be used.
3. Big wars can start from small beginnings. No one thought an obscure Austrian archduke’s assassination in 1914 would lead to some 18 million dead by 1918. Consider any possible military engagement a precursor to far more. Have a backup plan — and another backup plan for the backup plan.
4. Do not confuse tactics with strategy. Successfully shooting down a rogue airplane, blowing up an incoming speedboat, or taking an ISIS-held Syrian city is not the same as finding a way to win and end a war. Strategic victory is time-consuming and usually involves drawing on economic, political, and cultural superiority as well as military success to ensure that a defeated opponent stays defeated — and agrees that further aggression is counterproductive.

via Military Deterrence & Trump’s Leadership Abroad: Principles for Foreign Policy | National Review Read the whole thing.™

There’s more there and they are all true, useful, and important. One that we Americans are very prone to is number four above. It’s always a problem, where is the dividing line. There is a murky area in there as well that some theorists coming after Clausewitz refer to as the ‘operational’. While I see their point, which is valid, these theories are already too complex, so it is best to do our best to maintain a sharp clear line.

If they are doing their job, the TLAM strike in Syria in Syria was strategic. It may or may not deter Hasan, although that is certainly desirable, but it depends on his calculus of survival. If he thinks he is more likely to survive by doing such things, he will. He is, after all, a man of weak morals, caught in a corner. He will do his best to survive, just as Saddam did.

But the point of that strike, which occurred while the President was having dinner with the Chinese Premier, was not Syria. It was Iran and North Korea, and it was notice to their sponsor states, Russia and China, that we were quite unhappy, and that the eagle just might scream in other parts of the world.

It’s important to realize that the United States, while it may be possible to destroy it, it can only be destroyed by what is essentially a nation level suicide-bombing, and only Russia (and maybe China) can do it. America’s only real enemies are internal. And that too has precedent, especially with Rome. Are we there? I don’t think so, but there are troubling signs.

My reading is that the first signs of decline are corruption, venality, and a deterioration of will. I do see these signs in abundance, and we would be wise to check our course. Or maybe we did, and that why we have Trump.

Unpredictability, and Stability

My friend, Dan Miller over A Sclerotic Goes to War notes that

Kim Jong-un has been deemed “crazy” because he is unpredictable. Trump is far from crazy, but can be unpredictable when he wants to be. China does not know what Trump might do about North Korean nukes and missiles, and that is a good thing.

It is, in fact, a very good thing. The article continues

NBC News is reporting that the possible moves include not only assassinating Kim Jong-un, but moving nukes back into South Korea for the first time since the end of the cold war.

The National Security Council has presented President Trump with options to respond to North Korea’s nuclear program — including putting American nukes in South Korea or killing dictator Kim Jong-un, multiple top-ranking intelligence and military officials told NBC News.

Both scenarios are part of an accelerated review of North Korea policy prepared in advance of President Donald Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week.

The White House hopes the Chinese will do more to influence Pyongyang through diplomacy and enhanced sanctions. But if that fails, and North Korea continues its development of nuclear weapons, there are other options on the table that would significantly alter U.S. policy.

Well, that’s a couple of options we wouldn’t have heard in the last eight years, when as that article states Obama’s policy was to, “speak softly and never even pick up the stick”.

According to The Washington Examiner, The Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson said

Chinese President Xi Jinping has agreed to boost cooperation with the U.S. on trying to persuade North Korea to abandon its pursuit of long-range nuclear weapons, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday.

In an off-camera briefing with reporters on the second and final day of President Trump’s summit with his Chinese counterpart, Tillerson said the two leaders recognized the imminent threat North Korea poses and agreed to respond accordingly.

That’s a good thing, as we talked about a bit last week. But you know, I know, even your crazy Aunt Madge knows, the Chinese don’t give any more of a damn about the crazy little man/boy and his Norks than they did last week. What’s changed? Their perception of what Uncle Sam may do about it. Specifically that we might actually do something.

Putting Nukes back in South Korea has to give them nightmares of the same magnitude that the Sovs putting them in Cuba did us a couple of generations ago. China has always wanted buffer areas. That why they came in against us in the Korean War, and they had telegraphed that they would. That is why we didn’t approach their border in Vietnam. It’s also why the western Europeans were so desirous of expanding NATO eastwards.

Where the rubber meets the road for me is that as the superpower sheriff, America must have guidelines. If you do something, and using chemical weapons is one of those things, America will act. But you will not know what America will do, it might call on the UN to sanction you, it might destroy an airfield or two, then again, it might take your country apart, and arrange a meeting with your god for you. You have no need to know what the sheriff will do. You just need to know that he will do something, and so it is in your best interest to not call attention to yourself by doing things that Sheriff Sam has said are not acceptable behavior. If you don’t, he’ll mostly leave you alone.

I also noticed that almost everybody thought that the Syrian strike was a good idea, except the usual suspects.

via Did the Syria strike push China toward action on North Korea? |

And speaking of the usual suspects, the headlines from Iranian FARS News (more or less official) are interesting.

* ‘Emergency’ Protests across US Demand ‘Hands off Syria’

* Swedish Medical Associations Says White Helmets Murdered Kids for Fake Gas Attack Videos

* Syrian Army Chief Visits Airbase Hit by US Missiles before Resumption of Operation

* Anti-War Group Protests against US Strike in Syria

* Russia: US Fails to Prove Existence of Chemical Weapons at Syrian Airfield

* Top Iranian, Russian Security Officials Discuss US Missile Strike on Syria

* Hezbollah Condemns US Blatant, Foolish Attack on Syria

* Russian Ground Force to Take Part in Anti-Terrorism Operation in Syria’s Hama

* Blustering Toward Armageddon: How Trump Is Upsetting China While Antagonizing Russia

* Top Iranian, Russian Security Officials Discuss US Missile Strike on Syria

* Arab Analyst: US Attack against Syria Not to Topple Assad

* Syrian Fighter Jets Restart Combat Flights over Terrorists’ Centers from Shayrat Airbase in Homs

Sounds a bit hysterical to me, and I suspect if they challenge another US vessel in international waters, it will get worse.

Sometimes we can be like Ransom Stoddard and bring our lawbooks, but sometimes we simply have to be Tom Doniphan, using the old ways to advance civilization. The key is doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right way. It’s also very helpful to keep the cards close to our chest so that only we know what we are going to do.

Big Stick, Swinging

USS Porter
Photo by: DDG-78

Well, events made me look pretty smart, yesterday, although in the wrong theater. Even as I was writing about taking the North Korean nuclear program apart, the USN was destroying a Syrian air base, that had been used to mount the latest chemical attack on his own civilians. Not surprisingly, I have no problem with that.

It was quite the strike, with upwards of 50 Tomahawk TLAMS launched from the USS Porter, and the USS Ross. The TLAM has about a 1000 lb payload, so it’s a serious weapon. I do read there were problems, and strike results weren’t that good. Mostly because it was necessary to notify Russia, before the strike, and air assets are, by definition, quite mobile. Still, our point was made.

Here’s the video from the Porter.

I do find it interesting that after the last eight years of do-nothingism, the strike was greeted with near unanimous approval, only, Russia, Iran, and Syria objecting. Actually, it’s likely that North Korea does as well, but perhaps it wasn’t the day of the week that the internet is turned on there.

There’s an old saying that a man is known by the enemies he makes. If so, being enemies with the lot mentioned above is hardly the worst thing that could happen to America.

Scott Johnson makes a few points, including that at his press conference with King Abdullah, when asked about the gas attack, the President said this.

It crossed a lot of lines for me. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal, people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line. Many, many lines.

There are a couple of messages in that, one there is a new sheriff in town, who is not amenable to such stuff, and secondly, he may just do something about it. And he did.

Scott also writes this,

[…]

2. Like President Reagan when he fired the striking air traffic controllers in 1981, President Trump sent several messages with the action taken last night. Here are three of them. The Obama era in American foreign policy is over. He doesn’t issue empty threats.

3. President Obama sought to tie the United States down in the world like the Lilliputians did Gulliver. Among the instruments employed by Obama to restrain the United States was the United Nations. President Trump gave the United Nations the opportunity to weigh in yesterday. When it failed to act, Trump proceeded. Again, the Obama era in foreign policy is over.

4. Trump acted with decisive force to achieve a limited objective. He could have gone further to remove more of Assad’s assets. If the goal was limited to deter Assad from doing what he did again, however, I think it highly likely that the mission was accomplished.

Yup.

Mollie Hemingway also wrote about the strike, saying this:

However, there is a national interest case for striking Syria this week that is easier to make than the case for full-fledged war with Syria, which requires much more discussion and for which congressional approval should be sought. Some would argue that congressional approval should have been sought even for the limited strikes, and a representative case was made here in 2013 when the issue last flared.

That Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used sarin gas against civilians is significant in multiple ways. Yes, al-Assad has been brutally killing people for years, but the use of chemical weapons is a violation of a treaty Syria has signed, and a violation of a norm that Americans have an interest in upholding.

I agree with her, the strike is fully justified, as a repeat would be. Ground operations may be, but they should be only considered after consulting Congress, and the people. Too many times have we gone off on operations without a clear idea of what our objectives are, let alone what a victory looks like. Even for the United States, military hardware, and especially our people are limited in number and should be husbanded, not expended in sideshows.

All in all, and exemplary operation. BZ to all hands.

Katie Hopkins, Canoe U, and John Paul Jones

Britain could use more, many  more, Katie Holmes. So could the United States. Case in point the US Naval Academy. Senator James Webb from Virginia wrote an article 38 years ago, and this happened last week. Hognose from Weaponsman

For the record, 38 years is more than double the amount of service the mean Academy graduate gives to the nation. And the Marine in question is still serving, albeit in a lesser capacity, as a United States Senator.

The individual in question was Jim Webb, United States Senator from Virginia, once (briefly: the high-strung Webb quit in a snit) Secretary of the Navy; once a bestselling novelist; and once, not long after graduation, a Marine platoon leader upon whom a grateful nation bestowed the Navy Cross, a decoration that used to be respected at the Academy. (Webb also has “lesser” decorations, including the Silver Star and two Purple Hearts). Unlike today’s Academy persons, Webb sought out combat, sought out the fight, and fought to win. It is the sort of person the Academy no longer respects.

Webb was to have been honored Friday as a “distinguished graduate” by the Naval Academy Alumni Association, but withdrew Tuesday evening: “I am being told that my presence at the ceremony would likely mar the otherwise celebratory nature of that special day. As a consequence, I find it necessary to decline the award.”

Better he should have spit in somebody’s eye — but once an officer and a gentleman, always an officer and a gentleman, one supposes.

At issue was a paper he wrote in 1979 objecting to the admission of women to the nation’s military academies on the even-then-unfashionable, but still-not-unreasonable, grounds that assignment of women to frontline combat roles is at best disruptive, and at worst dangerous. Perhaps lethally so.

No one talks about the changes that have come to the Academies since female integration. The cultural change is part of it. There is less direct and physical athletic competition, and more bureaucratic, social-climbing, and backstabbing competition. That suits the girls better. There is less focus on courage — as the Webb hecklers’ veto shows, it’s no longer a value — and more focus on careerism. That’s what the girls want. But even the curriculum has changed: the challenging, engineering-focused and math-heavy courses of yesteryear that provided a pressure all of their own have given way to touchy-feely verbal-games courses, because the girls all were channeling Math Is Hard Barbie. […]

The Navy cannot demonstrate that Webb was wrong. History, instead, seems determined to prove him right. But the new catechism of American public religion stands not upon a doctrine nor on an ideal, but a slogan: Diversity Is Our Vibrancy™. It’s the Mein Ehre Heißt Treue of a new orthodoxy that Shall Not Be Questioned. It’s institutionalized admiration for the Emperor’s New Clothes.

It’s careerism, institutionalized.

Go and read the whole thing at Canoe U: Twilight of the Naval Academy. And the next time you’re in Annapolis, go on over there, not many have seen John Paul John Jones weep, but I think he may well be.

Feeding the World, Disrupting the Markets, That’s America, Too

Norman Borlaug should be one of the American heroes of the world. Instead, many revile him. Why?

Borlaug’s life was one of extraordinary paradoxes: A child of the Iowa prairie during the Great Depression who grew up on a dirt-poor farm, attended a one-room school and flunked the university entrance exam but went on to become one of most renowned plant breeders in history – and went on to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for averting malnutrition, famine and the premature death of hundreds of millions.  (That was at a time when the award meant more than political correctness.)

Borlaug introduced several revolutionary innovations.  First, he and his colleagues laboriously crossbred thousands of wheat varieties from around the world to produce some new ones with resistance to rust, a destructive plant pest; this raised yields 20% to 40%.

Second, he crafted so-called dwarf wheat varieties, which were smaller than the old shoulder-high varieties that bent in the wind and touched the ground (thereby becoming unharvestable); the new waist or knee-high dwarfs stayed erect and held up huge loads of grain.  The yields were boosted even further.

Third, he devised an ingenious technique called “shuttle breeding”– growing two successive plantings each year, instead of the usual one, in different regions of Mexico.  The availability of two test generations of wheat each year cut by half the years required for breeding new varieties.  Moreover, because the two regions possessed distinctly different climatic conditions, the resulting new early-maturing, rust-resistant varieties were broadly adapted to many latitudes, altitudes and soil types.  This wide adaptability, which flew in the face of agricultural orthodoxy, proved invaluable, and Mexican wheat yields skyrocketed.

Similar successes followed when the Mexican wheat varieties were planted in Pakistan and India, but only after Borlaug convinced politicians in those countries to change national policies in order to provide both improved seeds and the large amounts of fertilizer needed for wheat cultivation.

In his professional life, Borlaug, who died in 2009 at the age of 95, struggled against prodigious obstacles, including what he called the “constant pessimism and scare-mongering” of critics and skeptics who predicted that in spite of his efforts, mass starvation was inevitable and hundreds of millions would perish in Africa and Asia.  His work resulted not only in the construction of high-yielding varieties of wheat but also in new agronomic and management practices that transformed the ability of Mexico, India, Pakistan, China, and parts of South America to feed their populations.

How successful were Borlaug’s efforts?  From 1950 to 1992, the world’s grain output rose from 692 million tons produced on 1.70 billion acres of cropland to 1.9 billion tons on 1.73 billion acres of cropland — an extraordinary increase in yield per acre of more than 150 percent.   India is an excellent case in point.  In pre-Borlaug 1963, wheat grew there in sparse, irregular strands, was harvested by hand, and was susceptible to rust disease.  The maximum yield was 800 lb per acre.  By 1968, thanks to Borlaug’s varieties, the wheat grew densely packed, was resistant to rust, and the maximum yield had risen to 6000 lb per acre.

via Norman Borlaug: The Genius Behind The Green Revolution

Think about that for a while, Borlaug efforts saved the lives of nobody knows how many millions, who otherwise would have starved to death. The doomsayers who wrote about the population explosion in the sixties were (perhaps) correctly reading the trend lines. We were producing people we couldn’t feed. Until an Iowa farm boy came along.

And while they themselves don’t realize it, many in Europe, in those elites (for lack of a better term) and many who desire power for its own sake, would have rather those millions starved to death, than that a humble guy, and especially an American should find a way to feed them.

Yes it still goes on, Out here on the fruited plan, which 150 years ago was the Great Ameican Desert you used to be lucky to get 30-40 bushels of corn/acre, now 200 is average, using less water, less pesticide, less fuel, and not working the farmer to an early death.

The Biotechnology or BT, as it is referred to is exactly the same thing that plant breeders have always done, cross-pollinating plants, it’s just a much more elegant method, producing faster results.

And those results, are feeding the world, except where they are banned by narrow political interests, there poor people still starve.

Such is the way of man.

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