In or at: that is the question

I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids—She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance.—She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.—As if anxious to prevent all pretensions of quarreling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her, she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenseless animal; and even when those weapons are shewn and extended for her defense, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal:—Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her.—Was I wrong, Sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America? ~ Ben Franklin

Since returning to the work force on a semi-fulltime basis, I have been somewhat remiss in monitoring on those sites I’ve added to my blogroll over time…this morning, in response to an item on the Small Wars Journal Blog on 4GW/5GW, I wanted to link to the work that Peter had done his The Strategist blog on a Cohorts of War model that was considerably more robust than William Lind’s flawed 4GW construct. I knew that Peter had stopped contributing to The Strategist when he departed for Vanuatu a couple of month s ago but I was surprised to find that I couldn’t get into it at all this morning (hopefully a minor glitch relating more to the server firewall at this end and not to any issues with Peter’s old blog).

Anyway, since the intention was there to revisit members of the blog roll, I continued to do so…Neptunus Lex has an interesting item on the symbolism of flags, It’s Been A Long Time, in which he describes the history of the First Jack, the first flag under which the US Navy fought in the War of Independence and one which was reinstated post-911.  He recounts Benjamin Franklin’s word on the reason behind the snake on the flag, Don’t Tread On Me, was an apt banner under which to go to war…and he concludes with the thought that “…It’s been a long time, but we are still at war. Outside my house the Jack is still flying...”

Lex’s statement “…we are still at war…” is interesting. I don’t think there is any doubt that most Americans see their nation as at war and when you’re at war, you behave a certain way. I still remember the day of 911, of waking for breakfast in the Mess at Waiouru to learn of a terrorist attack in America and not thinking too much of it until I turned on the TV just in time to see the first tower come down. The school I was working at had an instructor who’d just completed the staff course at Ft Leavenworth…he spoke of how this was another Pearl Harbor Day, where the America that was so concerned about casualties in peace support/OOTW like Bosnia and Somali and of being perceived as playing by international rules, would shift to a war-fighting stance and leave no stone unturned in its hunt for those responsible and those who supported or abetted them. Thus, then, an America at war will bear the  ‘blood and treasure’ cost of that war and stay the course to see it through to a conclusion.

What then of those nations that might only be in a war…this is a question that came up when I was lecturing at Massey University a couple of weeks ago and led into an interesting discussion…the bottom line was that a nation in war can opt out at any stage when it convinces itself that its national objectives have been met, are no longer being achieved or even when it simply can’t remember why it got involved in the first place. On the other hand, a nation at war has a greater commitment to seeing matters through to a conclusion, regardless of cost – or certainly where the cost is a lesser concern than resolution of the issue.

But in 21st Century informal war, even resolution of the issue becomes blurred – once upon a time, a war was ‘resolved’ when the opponent was defeated and the victors occupied their territory – how now (brown cow?) do we define victory when our opponents don’t actually occupy any ground worth seizing and the nation’s capital is already occupied by our (apparent) friends and allies. The phrase that always comes to my mind when I think of this is from that great military theorist, Princess Leia Organa “When you broke in here, did you have a plane for getting out?” Defining the conditions for victory can be tricky: Phase One of WW2 was all about restoring Polish sovereignty but, despite occupying Berlin in 1945 we didn’t actually achieve this until 1989 – and then without occupying Moscow…In Iraq (version 2 anyway), it was a relatively simple task to define, although somewhat bloodier and more expensive to achieve, but then Iraq had been a centrally-governed society before March 20 2003.

Afghanistan is a whole different ball game and we now see the coalition start to wobble as some nations simply pack their bags and leave, although doing it to the tune of The Animals’ We’ve Got To get Out Of This Place instead of Het Wilhelmus was probably a bit tacky….while others discover that amazingly, they are now actually closer to achieving their in-theatre endstates that they had realised and thus can commence transition to a steady state Afghan-led structure…and recently we have seen the resurgence of statistics ‘proving’ how well that transition programme is going, especially the training of the Afghan National Police and Army but numbers aren’t everything. In fact, in this arena, they may be meaningless, certainly without some form of qualitative measures to accompany them…some interesting viewpoints on endstates here:


Tomgram: Body Count Nation

The other enemy

What does the Military Endstate in Bamiyan look like?

One of the things that those who might only be in war should remember, and one which may drive those at war, is that by opting to intervene or interfere in someone else’s country, they accept a certain responsibility for their actions. As those in war nations slowly slip away, they should remember that the people of those countries have no such option to just walk away and that the last helicopter off the Embassy roof always leaves someone behind…

In other news

John Birmingham seeks new ideas to develop the America-less post-Wave environment…the way things are developing in the latest thread on this topic, the rest of the world will write itself off in petty score-settling and an almost vacant America will reassert itself by default…

The Lite version of the UK’s Joint CombatOperations Virtual Environment (JCOVE) simulation based on Bohemia’s uber-successful Virtual Battlefield System 2 is availbale for download (and has been for some time but I only just found it) through the JCOVE Lite forum – yes, you do have to register and then you do have to post a welcome post to a thread before the download link activates but it is well worth it…VBS2 is the de facto standard simulation across the Anglospheric nations, well, the land forces anyway and is a superior tool for SOP and TTP development, AO familiarisation and mission rehearsal and well worth a look from anyone in the training or capability development arena….

A ‘poor western to arab death ratio!’

Curzon @ Coming Anarchy recounts his adventures flying on local airlines around the Gulf…sounds like feigning sleep is the best option…and while on the topic of Curzon, I have yet to finish reading his biography. The reason that it is taking so long is not that it is hard work and difficult to read – if anything, exactly the opposite: although some of the content is quite dry, it is so well written that I find myself savouring it like a fine dessert…comparing it to more contemporary writing, I think that we have lost a lot in the fifty years since this book was published…

Also on Coming Anarchy, Younghusband reviews David Kilcullen’s The Accidental Guerrilla. He summarises:

For close readers of COIN and CT theory, I do not think this book will offer any new insight. Kilcullen’s contribution though is an excellent overview of the “social work with guns” theory of COIN, as well as a succinct presentation of the realist arguments for non-intervention and conservation of military power…The last few pages, where he presents his policy ideas, is really where practitioners can sink their teeth in. Lots of debating points there. For example:

    • develop a new lexicon to better describe the threat (rather than UW, COIN, irregular warfare etc)
    • discuss a new grand strategy (have an ARCADIA conference on terrorism)
    • balance capability (Why is DOD 210 times bigger than USAID and State?)
    • identify new “strategic services” (ie. a new OSS)
    • develop a capacity for strategic information warfare.

As readers will now from the work published here, these insights are nothing new although it is refreshing to see them in a mainstream publication. It’s unfortunate that the conceptual COIN effort in the US especially (most others are simply followers) is still largely fragmented and lies predominately in the domain of the information militia. The focus on the Iraqi insurgency in 2005-6 has caused the term COIN to be used interchangeably across the contemporary environment and that has caused many to apply inappropriate concepts, policies and doctrine to the issues they face. Our findings in 2007 were initially that the Marines had a better grip on the issue in developing the Countering the Irregular Threat (CIT) concept; and then that the UK encapsulated it even better with Countering Irregular Activity (CIA) which covers the broad spectrum of irregular (potentially destabilising) activities from all sources and causes, natural and man-made. The flip side of both CIT and CIA is the need for a comprehensive approach harnessing the appropriate and relevant instruments of national power including those on NGOs and commercial/corporate interests which usually fall outside the accepted definitions of NGO. These are all themes that we have been exploring in the series The New War.

Bears in the Air

QRA Scramble to Intercept Russian Blackjack_Aircraft MOD_45151233

Well…Blackjacks actually…in a timely reminder that there are more bad things out there than just some nutjob hiding in a cave inciting the masses with poor quality video…the Russian Bear is alive and well and still has aspirations of Empire, certainly under its current keeper…perhaps we ought not be so quick in cancelling programmes like F-22 and planning total reliance on a committee-designed one-size fits all hybrid like the F-35…wasn’t the last time we tried – and failed – at a ‘joint’ aircraft the infamous F-111 project that skewered the TSR.2, set back the Aussie strike programme by over a decade and saw a less-than-stellar combat debut in Vietnam…thank the maker for the F-4 Phantom that carried the resulting load for the better part of a decade.

And on the topic of potential threats, STRATFOR carries an item on Chinese speed wobbles as the US ramps up a comprehensive (or unified, if you went to that school) approach to a potential threat…like Japan, China has built an economy on a foundation of sand and hope and its starting to get wobbly…all the more reason to keep the F-22 fires stoked and warm up that A-10 production line (and do a naval variant this time round!)…on yes, and you might need some decent SPGs to replace the M109s that grandpappy used in Vietnam…and don’t be counting on your data links staying up all the time so have a think about leaving the seats in any new airfames you invest in for combat… Neptunus Lex also carries some comment on this article…

The top ten manly movies

John Birmingham has been busy…The Geek discusses what are the top ten manly movies…JB votes for these with my comments in red:

1. True Grit. (Yes, you must fill your hands with this sonofabitch). Absolutely!

2. Saving Pvt. Ryan. (Because war is hell good lookin’ on blu-ray wide screen). Nah!! Too much gratuitous violence in the beginning that adds nothing to the story and the meandering journey across France is just boring. Blackhawk Down delivers all the same messages better and is based on a true story.

3. Master and Commander. (Tips out Gladiator because nobody wears skirts). Agree re Master and Commander not Gladiator which I slot in below.

4. Casino Royale (the remake, and the manliest Bond flick EVAARRR!). Yep!

5. Treasure of the Sierra Madre. (Or any Bogart flick, except the ones with a love interest). Ummm…no…Bogey never quite did it for me…from this era I’d opt for The 39 Steps.

6. The Magnificent Seven. (Well duh. It is magnificent, you know). Yep!

7. The Dirty Dozen. (Or Kelly’s Heroes, if you prefer your war movies with a psychedelic twist). Or both…

8. Cool Hand Luke. (Because I say no man can eat fifty eggs). Hmmmm…whatever…ditch in favour of 633 Squadron, the best flying movie every made.

9. Raging Bull. (Or any movie about boxers or wrestlers. They’re all good.) Replace with Kelly’s Heroes.

10. 300. (Because this is Sparta). How come these guys get to wear skirts, JB? Replace with Gladiator.

Cheeseburger Gothic also hosts a nice piece of fan fiction from The Wave section of the Birmoverse.

Get it off!

Dean @ Travels with Shiloh has developed a new counter to female suicide bombers…I wonder if the cure might not be worse than the problem…?

In more serious news, he summarises a recent workshop at Princeton on Afghanistan – in terms of being out of AFG in 2011, I hope that someone is working on the chopper pad on top of the Embassy…I think we all must have slept through the lesson on COIN re the long haul – or maybe that lesson took place during the five year summer holidays in Iraq?

Where it all began

Peter has released a prologue to The Doomsday Machine…great to see a local lad doing so well at this authoring thingie…

I also like his comments re President Obama’s snub at Israel…but disagree on the credibility of commenting on a book one has not read…I used to be prone to making similar judgements especially on movies so missed Gladiator on the big screen and gave the first series of Dr Who a miss as well…that learned me!!

Who am I?

Portable Learner discusses ways and means of promoting oneself on LinkedIn, something that I have been wresting with recently as well. The options available are quite prescriptive and I don’t think that will change regardless of what’s on the list. Lists, I think, are an industrial age tools that we have yet to evolve away from and, like so much industrial age legacy material, they hold us back. I agree with Shanta that ‘internet’ is probably more descriptive of how one might think than its clinical definition might imply.

I also agree totally with her points re e-learning which is sliding back into industrial age slime instead of being the shining beckon of knowledge it once appeared to be. In order to “…design effective learn ing environments in a networked world…” we must sever the ties with industrial tools and focus on the information and it s nurturing and growth…This is one reason that I think that the US Navy may have ever so slightly lost it in merging its 2 (intel) and 6 (comms) branches into the Information Dominance Corps (IDC) – yes, for real!! I see a very real risk that the information under this structure will be overshadowed by the fears and rules of the technicians and we will lose that timely dissemination that we so desperately need…it maybe that the victims of this merger will see their op critical information become a commodity that is delivered IDC…In…Due…Course – a phrase straight from the repertoire of petty bureaucrats and mindless chair polishers…


To the stars…

@ The Geek, John Birmingham lashes the global warming denial crew i.e. the big business that stands to lose so much if unrestrained pollution and reliance on fossils (from under the ground and in office) continues unchecked. Money talks and twice as loud when Al Gore is the leader of the opposition. To paraphrase Barnesm’s comment “…this way of life is unsustainable, but after millions of years of evolution and hundreds of years of science and engineering the best we can come up with is “Ride bicycles everywhere, grow and eat only local vegetarian food and essentially go back to living like we did before the industrial revolution”. This is not how you build a star spanning civilisation…” Barnesm goes on to list some technologies that they think could advance both the global warming cause and that of general civilisation. You’ve got to admit, we have become a bit stagnant and stuck in the rut over the last two to three decades…a little too focussed on the now and not the future…if I was to classify myself (while still able to tell you stuff without self-terminating), it would probably be as more a technological utopiast than a ‘grow more veges’ sort of greenie…

At the Chief of Army’s Seminar at Massey last year (note that the Massey site has a ‘less is less‘ approach to pushing information out – hardly doing its bit to win the information battle) , Dr Adrian Macy, the NZ Ambassador for Climate Change,  spoke on New Zealand’s approach to global warming in the international arena. The question that only popped into my head on the drive home afterwards, and noting that this presentation was at a defence forum, was “At what stage might we need to start considering compelling compliance with global warming accords?” Perhaps the NZDF might consider what part it may play in actively saving the planet… After all, we do only have the one…

Had more to say but it’s a beautiful day outside already so I’ll be back later – off now to flea bomb the house, let the goats and sheep loose on the back garden (fitted, of course, with state of the art methane filters), spray more buttercup, and mow the front lawns…

Acts of Desperation

The WordPress Blog Stats page has a web part that displays what search terms have brought visitors to your blog. I couldn’t help but notice this one yesterday:  “leadership lessons from chicken run movie“. This can only be an act of true desperation, I thought…the whole idea of gleaning lessons on leadership or much else from movies, especially these over-rated voice-starred animations, is a bit dodgy from the start…even dodgier is the fact that some people think that cartoons like this help develop a sense of reality amongst their children…

Mr Birmingham gets angry

It’s not often I’d pull on my angry pants and launch a giant boot into the arse of the ABC. I’d be a bit like going an old lady who’d wandered into a cage wrestling death match at an ultimate fighting tournament by accident. But sometimes even old ladies need to feel the pain. And Aunty? I’M BRINGIN’ THE PAIN!

Over at The Geek JB goes ABC for trying to enslave book reviewing bloggers for free – he lists all the reasons why young bloggers should receive some form of incentive to review books online, and none, understandably in support of ABC. Like Havock in the comments, I also have some minor issues with the age discrimination issue raised although I think this may be a not so subtle attempt by ABC to tap a more naive (in their perception) segment of the blogspace…

If you haven’t tried it, book reviewing is bloody hard work: for me to review a book properly, keep notes and come up with a review more substantial than ‘it’s crap – burn it’, I’m looking at 3-5 days work – and I am a pretty fast reader. While I believe that the power of the Information Militia rests mainly in the unpaid intellectual horsepower that constitutes most of the current blogspace and forumville, I think that it is only right that commercial organisations that wish to tap this resource for their own gain, front up with at least a little of the crinkly stuff. JB also makes a very good point that even if the ‘pay’ is half a pittance, it then constitutes works and opens up a range of other benefits in terms of tax losses and claimable costs…perhaps…ABC, it probably doesn’t pay to aggravate the Information Militia lest they a. turn their attention to you and/or b. transform into that other form of militia – you know the one  with guns, pitchforks and torches…

And in the Birmoverse

Battles still rage on Cheeseburger Gothic over the why and how of an Uptimer President in 1952…feel free to climb into the fight…

And now the weather…

While the forecast today is for scattered showers with outbreaks of sun, a storm of another sort approaches…yep, the Twins are back for the weekend so hatch battening begin…

Resuming normal services

I, even if no one else has, have enjoyed my three days dedicated to the Birmoverse…however now it’s back to this time line, which does have as many cool toys but nor has it been liberally sprinkled with anthrax and radioactive dust…

Lay the old divisions to rest…

I got some more homework from my visit to the Air Power Development Centre last week…a copy of the latest RAF Air Power Review (Autumn 2009)…I see that each issue back to 2000 is available online so will have to add them to the library when I next visit broadband land. I’ve just read the first paper on the Future of British Air and Space Power by the current Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshall Sir Stephen Dalton and am looking forward to working through the remaining six items…I do like the way Sir Stephen thinks (I’m sure that he is very relieved to hear this!) but his views are still very air-centric and I believe that this is a lesson that has yet to be learned…just as we need to cast off any perception that there is such a thing as a solely military option to a problem and embrace this  Comprehensive  Approach  concept, we also MUST forget about any one service (or branch of service if you want to take it down a level) that has primacy over the others – there is just military power as a blend of capabilities from air, land, maritime, SF, etc operating under a broader Whole of Government/Comprehensive Approach construct. It’s easy to talk the talk and adopt the doctrine but less easy to shake off the blankie of the Fulda Gap and decades of interservice sparring and competition. This message is further borne out in this article from the UK (courtesy of The Strategist) as Defence chiefs square up for a bit of biffo over who needs the best toys

The thing that the Brits (especially) need to realise is that playing in the big kids world costs real money e.g. as per the example yesterday about the evacuation chain for a British casualty from Afghanistan. They bleated, cried and sniped at the US all through the Iraq War – til they bailed rather ignominiously – and realised that perhaps instead of dumping on the Yanks, they should have been following them around, notebooks at the ready, hanging off every word and taking copious notes…because…the Americans have it together…like it or not…warts and all…they have it together. and in comparing their treatment by the US to that of Portugal, they only insult the Portugese…I’m not specifically Brit-bashing as these lessons apply to some degree to all of us…the world has changed, certainly since 911, probably way earlier but we just didn’t really notice…

Clean your room!

Neptunus Lex discusses obstacles to true democracy in Iraq – I think that it is high time that ALL of the Coalition of the Willing stand up and accept responsibility for the mess they created in Iraq. As I commented there, it was a decade before Germany and Japan were allowed to take off their democratic training wheels after World War 2 and that was without the internal divisions that tear at Iraq AND, in both cases, where THEY started ‘it’. ‘We’ started ‘it’ in Iraq and thus have a responsibility to see the clean-up through. Ironically Iraq under Saddam was less a threat to the world that Iraq as it is now post-intervention. Even more frustrating is that the US wrote the book(s) on COIN in FM 3-24 and then JP 3-24 but does not seem to have spent much time reading them:

Counterinsurgents Should Prepare for a Long-Term Commitment. Insurgencies    are    protracted    by    nature,    and    history demonstrates  that  they  often  last  for  years  or  even  decades. Thus, COIN normally demands considerable expenditures of time  and  resources,  especially  if  they  must  be  conducted simultaneously  with  conventional  operations  in  a  protracted war combining traditional and IW.

For some reason the WeRead app on Facebook keeps resetting my status on Accidental Guerrilla from ‘Read It’ to “Reading It’. In trying again to fix it once and for all (yes, I do tear my hair over minutiae, don’t I?), I noticed a review by ‘Sharif’, in particular, these words:

…Fits well into the perspective of Sir Edmund Hillary: “slowly and painfully we are seeing worldwide acceptance of the fact that the wealthier and more technologically advanced countries have a responsibility to help the underdeveloped ones, not only through a sense of charity, bu also because only in this way can we ever hope to see any permanent peace and security for ourselves.” Detail oriented, thorough and succinct. A must read to gain perspective of the challenges ahead…

Ultimately it’s all about stability. Countering Irregular Activities is a bit of a mouthful and Countering Destabilising Activities strays into double negativity – what they are is fact and in essence are stability operations conducted under the broad umbrella of the Comprehensive Approach. If you truly want stability, then go clean up your mess. If you truly want stability, follow the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in Haiti with a stability programme to address the real problems there – you could probably start by kicking out, or at least reining in, the cargo cult do-gooder NGOs. Even encourage Bill Clinton to run for President (of Haiti!!).

On NOT profiling

An interesting comment last night on the failing of profiling as a technique and discussing methods of identifying people at risk and potential threat – there is some food for thought on the Aggression Management website and I would be most interested to hear supporting and dissenting comments…

Flying fingers (all both of them!)

I have decided that it is well past time that I taught myself to touch type as even though fingers can rely fly now, then just don’t go fast enough and when I’m on a roll I tend to lose ideas because I can’t get them down fast enough. I’m dead keen on exploring open source software at the moment and so I am starting off with TypeFaster. Today is Day One and so far I can type words only using ‘f’ and ‘j’ at 28.6 words per minute…I’m also becoming quite partial to PDF XChange Viewer as a faster more powerful alternative to Adobe’s Reader: the free version allows commenting and comment export on PDF files without (so far as I can see) any watermarking or other promotional material to ‘encourage’ an upgrade to the Pro version.

It’s Only Paper

On Paper Modelers today there is a note that noted Hollywood special effects artist, Hilber Graf, has just died aged 54. He worked on The Abyss, and was also an author, screenwriter, paranormal investigator, Halloween haunted house creator and noted plastic/resin model builder. Some years ago he published an article on Paper Modelling “It’s Only Paper” that is a good intro to anyone considering having  a crack at this art form – and having seen some of the Paper Replika free-to-download models in Playing with Knives the other day, who wouldn’t want to try it in the privacy of their own home…?

What’s up with all this Birmoverse stuff?

Good question.

First up, is that John Birmingham has asked via Cheeseburger Gothic for thoughts on what a post-WW2 world might look like in the Axis of Time (AoT) universe, with especial interest in Great Britain. It is rare for an author to do this and I think that it provides JB an opportunity to add a real richness to his books in adopting this approach.

If you hadn’t figured it out already, I like his alt-history after buying World War 2.1 Weapons Of Choice while stuck in Changi Airport in 2005 on my way home from CLAW 1 – it was an act of desperation as it was the only book on the shelves that even remotely appealed. Over two years, I managed to seek and devour 2.2 and 2.3 and then was pleasantly surprised to find Without Warning in the Taupo  Whitcoulls mid-last year. I was less impressed to find on completing it that, it was Part One of another series – there was not a single clue on the cover to indicate this which really hacked me off. Normally I won’t buy a book in a series unless I know that the whole series is published AND available – a lesson learned from War Against the Chtorr and Janissaries.

In thinking about the questions posed and subsequent dialogue on Cheeseburger, I am finding that I am able to view our current environment through a slightly off-centre perspective. By considering those things that we might want to do in the AoT universe that we didn’t get right in the real world, it is possible to divine perhaps some relevance back this way. As an example, I proposed that, in dissolving the Empire, that Great Britain establish India as a strategically-influential region power from the beginning instead of letting it muddle its way there over the decades as has actually happened. My thought at the time, was that,by doing this, we might be able to head off much of the instability in the Pakistan/Afghan area for the AoT universe. Thinking about it later, this also ties in with my belief that we have the wrong force composition in Afghanistan and they what it really needs is for the regional powers, namely India and Iran (might as well accept it and stop the name-calling), to pick up the burden of maintaining regional stability. Some thoughts on greater Indian involvement here

It’s an example of one writer harnessing the horsepower of the Information Militia.

It’s fun thinking about what-if, whether at the geo-strategic or micro-tech cool toys level; even more fun when there is a possibility that some of those ideas might actually be taken up into the storyline for the next book or form the basis for perhaps some fan fiction in the AoT universe. Nothing wrong with a bit of fun…

In other news…

Airmen from the 105th Airlift Wing's Logistic Squadron load cargo aboard a C-17 bound for Haiti early Saturday morning. (Photo: Tech Sgt. Michael O'Halloran, 105th Airlift Wing)

It’s also been a bit slow in the real world this week. Yes, lots of angsting over Haiti in just about every blog site on the planet with some interesting points being raised:

  • Humanitarian issues aside, at what point do we decide that it is simply just not worth it to keep saving these failed ‘nations’ from themselves? Here’s a couple of interesting threads from the Coming Anarchy side of the house:  The Latest Battlefield of the Monroe Doctrine and A Bit Of Realism Please? Our constant reinforcement of Third World cargo cults comes at a price and, sooner or later, it is going to become untenable unless we start to address the root issues. Step 1 would be to rein all these meddling NGOs that address the symptoms but actually only foster more suffereing in the long run…
    • Have a plan and impose control.
    • Blindly sending in supplies, aid, etc is a waste of time if the resources don’t exist ont he other end to do anything with them. Ditto for all the well-meaning dogooders who just want to arrive in Port-au-Prince to ‘help’.
    • If you are a ‘once-were’ nation, like the UK and France, then get with the programme and be thankful that someone is getting out there and filling the vacuum (and fixing the messes) left when you dumped your colonies. If you don’t like the new rules, then YOU rock up with the necessary capabilities and force structures to do the business. Here’s a subjective but interesting item on what a real power can bring to the party Do Americans Care About British Soldiers?
  • It’s funny how the US gets caned for even thinking about interfering in these rock show wannabe countries but then gets caned when something like this happens for allowing the country in question to decline to such a state in the first place. Same thing happened in Myanmar – why won’t the US make the government open up to accept aid? You really have to wonder sometimes why the US doesn’t just pack it all up and go home…?

The current operation in Haiti is a classic example of humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, stability operations and countering irregular activities – the earthquake could not be predicted and it is unrealistic to expect Haiti to construct quake-proofed buildings, so many of the current problems are unavoidable. However it will be interesting to see what follow-on activities are conducted to maintain stability in Haiti and address the core problems within the country.

Travels with Shiloh is running a series on the implications of MAJGEN Flynn’s paper on what’s wrong with intel – of course the shorter option to write might have been ‘what’s right with the intel world’ – while I don’t agree with all the points made, I think it is important that someone is raising them to get the discussion going…

The Information Militia

I’m coming to the conclusion that Michael Yon is a well-meaning but meddling journo who probably does need to slow down and consider his place in the universe. I like his website and think it is some great material – please check it out – as photojourno, he is very good and sends some very strong and often poignant messages. His Facebook page on the other hand is an example of the down side of the Information Militia – he is a guy who has, just this week, publicly bypassed the US military chain of command by inciting his fans to pressure CENTCOM and the Pentagon to release a Haitian-born officer in the US Army, current posted to Afghanistan, for duties in Haiti. Yes, sure, members of this officer’s family have died so there IS a compassionate case to be made and his cultural and language skills would definitely be employable BUT…BUT…do you not think that perhaps the DoD has its own processes to this to occur and that there might also be broader implications in releasing him from his current theatre? Michael Yon also posted an item critical of Starbucks and its relationships with the US military which was subsequently proven to be both incorrect and old news as covered in this story from 2004 – as HoaxSlayer points out, even when a retraction is released, it never gets the same degree of airtime as the original accusation.

Building the Birmoverse Deux

VJ-101 VTOL fighter in transitional flight (NB: transition with a small 't', thank you)

Some spillover from yesterday’s thread…

  • While SSTs and ballistic transports will make getting around that planet that much faster especially time spent in the worrisome skies over Europe and the UK, the airship will also make a come back. This will largely be in response to the increasing dangers of the sea lanes and will also reduce the need for massive harbours and maritime points of entry as airships will be able to deliver relatively large and bulky loads direct to the target location. Customs and Immigration will, of course, be tearing their hair…
  • What will happen with the Irish problem? With the Sovs posturing over half of Europe, like, more than the half they had the first time round, it is unlikely the Brits will have much tolerance for any bolshie Paddys. In any case, Ireland is too isolated for any meaningful insurgency to be conducted and it is likely that Eire would become part of Fortress Britain whether it really liked it or not. One impact this might have is that the Brits will no longer have the catalysts to develop their mastery of comprehensive approach Countering Irregular Activity and COIN. Then again, they have always played pretty fast and loose with the rules when playing the great game and managed to deal with most of Adolf’s spies and saboteurs in short order without much help from anyone. Perhaps, in revealing ahead of time, those like Philby and Co, the Brit public service will be purged and thus be similarly successful against Uncle Joe’s spies and saboteurs – which really makes the Irish question a non-issue.
  • I would like to see France used as a nuclear testing zone by everyone and for this to be encouraged.
  • In terms of nitty-gritty, technotoys I would like to see in service: after the TSR.2, the Rotodyne tops the list…let’s use them as feeders out to the floating airship terminals…
  • The quest for effective VTOL aircraft will continue with some urgency and aircraft like the VJ-101, P.1152, P. 1154 and XFV-12A will come into service as close range protection for naval platforms, including civilian vessels to fend off pirates and privateers (QE2 will have a hangar deck for two); and also because the much warmer Cold War (Cold War++) will again call into question the security of large concrete airbases.
  • At least one permanent space station will be developed in the 60s both to control the high ground and as an eventual stepping stone to the Moon and further. As I commented yesterday, all the biochemicals being sprayed with gay abandon around the planet in 1945 mean that we might want to be thinking of an Earth 2 – and we know now that wormholes are doable…
  • Also I do like the concept of Project Horizon that was raised yesterday in a comment by savO – not just because it aligns with my statements re a moonbase but because it has a high cool factor and introduces the potential for combat on the Moon.
  • Referring back to yesterday’s pic of the Vulcan in the Sound – I think that pic is actually in Milford Sound – I’m wondering if JB could slip in some sort of Vulcan low-level strike, basically what I’m after is 633 Squadron with Vulcans…
  • I’m also wondering if 21C technologies might not be focussed on alternate and clean (though why bother with all the NBC being used?) power sources so that the Middle East never gets the strangehold at the pumps that it enjoys now.
  • Israel, instead of stirring up the Arabs, and having decided to work and play nicely with them, conducts a very aggressive covert campaign against the Sovs to encourage the expatriation of Soviet Jews to Israel – alive. This becomes one of the major wild cards in the AoT post-war deck.
  • Is there a Marshall Plan? Yes, but focussed on the Middle East and North Africa as the new bastions against Soviet aggression. The Fertile Crescent become fertile again. Central Africa remains a shithole and pretty well plays out the same history as it has here.
  • With economies kickstarted by the Marshall Plan, a combination of Arab money and Israeli know-how widens the Suez Canal into a two lane facility. In 1956, Sov proxies from Greece and Turkey (yes, I know they hate each other but if we can have wormholes, we can have Greeks and Turks who get on) get a snotting when they try to seize the Canal to protect it as an ‘international asset’.
  • The Falklands War never gets a look in. By 1955, The Falklands Island have become the unsinkable fleet that holds Argentine and Chilean ambitions towards Antarctica in check – the Brits however do take the time to return all abandoned scrap metal to Argentina, just in case…
  • I don’t think McCarthyism will occur – what happened to Hoover pretty well sets the scene for what will happen to anyone else who gets out of control and surely amongst the Uptimer 21C lessons must be one relating to the folly of over-simplistic profiling; communist leaning ≠ Sov supporter or agent just like Islamic ≠ rabid nutjob terrorist…what there may be though because the Uptimer histories will have shown its effect, is the introduction of terror as a weapon a la what we see today.  Who might those terrorists be? Well, the both sides of the civil rights movement leaps out for a start; perhaps also some sort of movement kicking back against the Uptimers; the list so far is quite short as most of those who might feel that they were disadvantages in some way by the AoT version of WW2 are conveniently dead – I’m really leaning towards domestic than ‘transnational’ or external terrorists…
  • Maybe it is such as attack that thrusts Kohlhammer into the Presidency – he doesn’t need to be elected so long as he sits in the chain of succession as per Coppel’s 34 East or By Dawn’s Early Light (both stories where the chain of succession extends lower than the Vice-President)- maybe terrorists gatecrash a White House dinner party (we all know how easy that is now!) and Kohlhammer finds himself at the top of the food chain.
  • We’ve solved most of the worlds ills except for the Sovbloc – likely to be solved with a bright flash or flashes on the horizon – and South America – i think that South America may be where the global plot gets its tail twisted – there is little significant history on the continent so less in the way of 21C lessons to be applied in the AoT post-war era therefore we really have to take South America as it comes…
  • Will we move towards a standing force in support of the (toothless in our time) UN and will this perhaps be a relatively short leap towards a world government, certainly a good guy alliance government?
  • I think that we will see, in short order, a number of new inventions as smart people from the 1940s start to apply their new knowledge. RULE #1 – no wormhole experiments on Earth!! These new inventions will introduce some new life into the Uptimer story as well as more uncertainty as the timeline starts to deviate from what’s left of ‘our’ timeline as as technological edges start to smooth out.
  • I’d like to see the rather conventional Sovbloc versus US/UK plotline resolved and tossed out in short order and bring in a new story that takes us out of that comfort zone – what, I’m not sure. Maybe the Israel/Arab bloc might leap ahead in the application of Uptimer tech to new problems, make a breakthrough and become (again) a super-power…? Push the Uptimers into a situation where they really have to think rather than just succumb to the temptation to rehash Hackett’s The Third World War. What-if…the Judeo-Islamic Federation begins to dictate its values as the norm for global ethos and culture, just as we in the west tend to do to the Third World…?

Building the Birmoverse

Great thread over on Cheeseburger Gothic soliciting thoughts on what the world will look like after the war in the Axis of Time Birmoverse….even if I am a bit of a late starter…this is a great series, so a. have a think about tracking down the first trilogy and having a read and b. contributing some thoughts. I’m tossing my thoughts in here as I find it easier to add in links etc to sources…

  • The UK will revert back to a Battle of Britain frontline mentality i.e. a far higher rate of readiness than during the Cold War and a non-war that will be far hotter than the Cold War i.e. intercepts and shoot-downs, possibly much like the 67-73 War of Attrition in the Middle East.
  • The Sovs are much more likely to learn from our history or what’s left of it and plan on making their move for the rest of Europe early and there will be a lot more skirmishes, border incidents etc, again more like the Arab-Israel relationship in ‘our’ time.
  • Britain will give up the Empire but under far more controlled conditions: Singapore will be created immediately based upon the ethnic Chinese, ditto for Malaysia with the native Malays; India will become independent without much help from Mr Ghandi (so the movie will be much different too and possibly no longer Oscar material) and from the start be set up as a strong ally in the region a la AS and NZ in the Pacific; issues with tribes (i.e. we will get into advanced Gantism early) and borders will be sorted at the same time possibly along the same lines as the UAE  as per this item on Coming Anarchy. On similar lines, the handover from empire in the Gulf will be far more structured and only once a civil infrastructure a la India is well-embedded.
  • AS and NZ will be developed as regional allies to much the same level as Canada in terms of militaries, especially air and maritime forces, and NZ’s main focus will be patrolling/protecting the seaways and resources of the southern sea lanes and Antarctica before Argentina and Chile make a grab for them. I for one would like to see more RNZAF Vulcans (no, not the point eared type)
  • The convoy system will remain in vogue and the intensified Cold War will make the sea lanes operational environments to pressure the UK and other free world nations like AS and NZ that are dependent on shipping for trade and goods. Submarines may replace the nutcase terrorists like Baader-Meinhof etc. As mentioned in The Strategist today, there may well be an increase in private maritime forces to exploit this on both security and piracy/privateer sides of the house.
  • Just for shits and giggles and because I think he got a raw deal, MacArthur will be allowed to nuke the Yellow River if anyone looks even remotely sideways at crossing it.
  • Someone already mentioned the internet but via cable – Voice of America/Free Europe will beam out not just radio but information and TV streams into occupied Europe – two info war models spring to mind: one is Tom Clancy’s campaign against China in The Bear and the Dragon, and the other the UK Political Warfare Executive initiatives like Gustav Seigfied Eins, with more info on Wikipedia and an interesting paper here on Grey and Black Propaganda Against Nazi Germany. I remembering reading about this when I was about ten in a Reader’s Digest Condensed book, titled something like The House in Baker Street (Baker St being pretty much owned by the SOE during WW2)- I haven’t been able to find any references to this title via Google or Bing – I’d be much appreciated if anyone could put me on to either the full or abridged version as I’d love to reread it – the original have gone up in smoke many moons ago.
  • On the same lines, I think that we will see personal computing power (PCP) ramp up into the early fifties as the technology is made accessible through the uptimers – what we saw in the 90s will probably happen in the Birmoverse in the 50s. This will be both a byproduct and a deliberate policy to use information as a weapon both against the Soviets and also to mitigate the vulnerability of ignorance that enables the exploitation of people into proxy terrorists and fighters e.g. take the info war to the mullahs in the 50s – this approach will also be a major factor in decolonialisation.
  • The whole Vietnam thing will be headed off at the pass when the French get arbitrarily booted out of Indochina (with lots of parties and champagne and bugger-all tears from the locals), a US-based Constitution is adopted and President Ho Chi Minh leads Vietnam into an era of prosperity and progress (much like Lee Qwan Yew in Singapore) while becoming the region’s major foundation for stability against Chinese expansionism.
  • Ed Hillary still knocks the bugger off in 1953…and Queen Elisabeth II is crowned at the same time – but takes considerable steps to ensure that her children get better relationship counselling before being allowed to breed. The Queen Mother still lives on to 103 years old. Sir Ed sees that Nepal and Tibet become peaceful sanctuaries for eco-tourism while the UK realises the error of its ways and makes sure the Ghurkas get a fair shake decades earlier than in this timeline.
  • Winston Churchill doesn’t get booted out of office in 1945 by an ungrateful nation and remains Prime Minister until the late 50s when he hands over to someone way smarter than those who actually did the job between him and Maggie Thatcher.
  • JFK drops his (and his dad’s) political aspirations and gets into Hollywood, marries Grace Kelly and both go on to become Hollywood’s ‘royal’ family.
  • A peacekeeping force deploys into Palestine on the eve of the creation of the state of Israel in May 48 (Exodus never happens as the Brits are dicks about it this time around) – over the next 2-3 decades it oversees the successful blending of cultures and healing of wounds. Israel become a major technology centre ( a la Singapore), never needs to develop a major military capability (or submit its economy to one) – by 1980 the relationship of Jew and Muslim returns to the symbiotic one of a previous millenia.
  • The space race still occurs but a decade earlier with a man on the moon (one of the Mercury 7?) in 1959 – the Russians still can’t get it together in space without massive attrition in astronauts and hardware. Bombs in space are a reality a la Jeff Sutton‘s Bombs in Orbit Ace Publishing D-377 1959. Permanent bases are established on the moon by 1970 and the first landings on Mars happen by 1980. The UK is not a player in the space race other than to provide high calibre pilots due to its ongoing combat ops in the non-war with the Sovs.
  • Many British children and families are evacuated to the Dominions for education as Britain becomes a literal floating FOB against the Sovs. This is made more palatable by the SST network established by the late 50s (it took time to ramp up mass production of the high-tech metals necessary for mass supersonic flight) that reduces global travel times and also mitigates the maritime threats against shipping. Stratospheric ballistic travel become a reality in the 60s. Essentially the UK is someplace you work but you go on holiday anywhere else.
  • Due to its ongoing war footing, the mass immigration from the colonies never occurs and Britain remains essentially British – the Beatles and the Rolling Stones still kick off on schedule.
  • The B-49 is adopted by the RAF as the Vandal (sorry but I’m not giving this one up!) as its stealthy profile, along with the Vulcan and Victor, enables its to better operate in the air defence environments over Europe and the North Sea – the B-52 is too slab-sided and suffers too many losses. The TSR.2 also comes into service in the mid-50s as the F-111 concept is tossed out as the joke it always was + there will be no McNamaraism to foster its design anyway. McNamara himself goes on to become the head of the Tucker Motor Corporation.
  • Despite the early release of public CG software in the 50s, Gerry Anderson still starts out with SuperMarionation and Thunderbirds remains a mega-hit with children of all ages.
  • South Africa and Rhodesia remain members of the Commonwealth and over a period of decades transition from apartheid-based societies to successful blended cultures a la Singapore. Both nations form the bulwark of westernism against the Sovs in Southern Africa and win numerous wars against Sov-supported forces from Mozambique, Angola and Zambia a la Barrett Tillman’s The Sixth Battle and Larry Bond’s Vortex.  Nelson Mandela still becomes President but in the late 80s.
  • Britannia continues to rule the waves – the RN retains its full deck carriers and also expands the battleship fleet with more Vanguard class vessels – it remains the premier maritime force for littoral operations (a la lessons from the Med pre-Transition), whereas the US Navy rules in blue water ops.
  • The Sovs will be wise to the concept of containment but I still don’t think that they will be bright enough to do much about it as they have this habit of killing off all their best and brightest – while the steel-shod boot of terror may maintain its hold on Europe eventually this will weaken. Trite as it sounds I think that repressing its intellectual capabiltities will be sound the same eventual death knell for the Sovs in the Birmoverse as it did here in 1989.
  • Women will be empowered way earlier without having to ignite their undies (which we now know can get you locked up in Gitmo #2) – this will be one of the most significant long-term effects of the Transition, even more than the technological advances, and will spread like wild fire through all cultures. This notwithstanding, prominent bumpy bits on aircraft will still be known as ‘Sabrinas‘. Sometime in the fifties, either the British Prime Minister or the President should be a women – without wanting too many uptimers running the place, maybe Karen Halabi takes over from Churchill either by election or succession – this benign dictatorship thing seems to work quite well…and would a nation at war like Britain still is, really want to risk an election that might bring in the likes of MacMillan?
  • The All Blacks still only win the one Rugby World Cup but manage to hold the America’s Cup for three decades running as a bonus prize.

And in other news…

I’m still a bit bummed out after yesterday’s crash near Ohakea so nothing too stimulating this morning…

The Information Militia is on the march

Google is threatening to pull the pin from China because of government over-regulation and control – go the Information Militia!! More comment here on Coming Anarchy and Neptunus Lex…where Google stays or goes, the simple fact is that, sooner or later, unless it bombs itself back to the Stone Age or Cultural Revolution, the Chinese Old Guard is going to have to get with the programme and realise that time do indeed change – if they want to be player in the global game, they have to accept that not everything will go their way…of course, not that I particularly care: probably the best thing for China would be a total change of leadership and philosophy.

Teaching Green

I quite like the sustainability posts that Peter puts up on The Strategist and here is an item from paper model publisher, Fiddlers Green, with resources for school projects on wind turbines. Not only are wind turbines cool and green (even if they are white) but kids can get to build a model as part of the project.

New acquisitions

These don’t count under my NY resolution to not purchase any more models until I actually place a completed one on the shelf – not as simple as it sounds as I also need to build a shelf first. I ordered these from Orlik in Poland in October as part of my Christmas shopping plan – one was a gift, the others were ‘just to optimise the postage’. As it happened the package only arrived this week…containing….

There are two pages of plans, both equally cluttered but which seem to make sense if you stare at them long enough. Some of the detail around the turret and undercarriage construction is a little vague but hopefully I will be able to muddle through. I particularly like that this model has (for me) a more traditional frame than the normal monocoque style of paper model construction for aircraft so that it is possible to build up the skeleton and have the option of leaving some areas unskinned to show off interior detail without sacrificing anything in the way of strength. For the hassle of a couple of extra parts, I wish that more designers would do this i.e. allow aircraft construction to be more closer to the structure for the hull of a ship. The parts all look quite nice and logical although the standard RAF green/brown for the upper surfaces is very (too) dark and almost looks black from some angles. Some parts I will replace with other media mainly in the turret like the gun bodies and ammunition belts. The rest all looks good to go as is… (more here…)

I’ve already had a good look through the parts and plans which confirm that this should make a good little build in 1/72 to go with the rest of the fleet but as above, not a build that will kick off til at least mid-year. There don’t appear to be any great mysteries in construction but it would have been nice to have the full range of armament options listed in the history section of the instructions; and it is disappointing that the rockets for rocket launcher are not provided even though they are quite prominent pre-launch; nor is the 7.62mm AA MG provided. Easy enough to fix from the spares box…(more here…)

The plans look pretty straight forward and the only area where I anticipate a little pain so far is at the rear of the fuselage where there are no formers for support – I’m think I might make this area from foam and shape the skin over it in order to get a clean seam top and bottom. The fuselage skin is printed in a silvery ink that provides a nice effect (Orlik also has a metallic paper version available) – I don’t think it will scan and print well so I will have to use the actual parts and just make sure I get it right the first time (there is a first time for everything!!). I was a little disappointed that the gunbay interior for the XP-61E is not provided but the cockpit and gear bays appear to be nicely represented. Alternate fuselage parts and markings are provided to enable either the XP-61E long-range fighter or the F-15 Reporter versions to be assembled. I was inspired to buy this model by Bomarc’s PBJ build but am actually quite glad now that this model doesn’t have quite near the same degree of pain detail…(more here…)

Action in the Birmoverse

John Birmingham reports that the latest draft of After America has gone off to the publishers…

Thoughts while mowing

I was just mowing the lawns – a time when I can just flick on to auto-mow and just cogitate for a while – and a couple of phrases collided in my mind…the first was one by John Birmingham in one of his blog posts on writing, this one on where the idea for a book or story might come from. In this case, Without Warning is the result of JB enduring some fool prattling on about all of America’s failings…

…he screamed at me the world would be a much better place if we all just woke up one day and they were gone, just gone, every last American in the world. That dumb ass suggestion must have caught like a fish hook in my brain and kept nagging away for years until the idea of turning it into a novel finally occurred to me after a couple of months of frustrating negotiations to settle on the topic for a new trilogy after Axis of Time…

The quote that rear-ended these lines from JB is one I saw but didn’t really absorb from Neptunus Lex last week on Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in Oslo:

…I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world’s sole military superpower.

But the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions — not just treaties and declarations — that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest — because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity…

It struck me, as I mowed, that sometimes we should be careful what we wish for – it just might happen…I’ve met a lot of Americans and some of them were real dicks BUT in no greater proportion than those I have endured in Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the UK . As much as we might like to take a populist view of America’s ‘failure’ in Vietnam, I was struck by the attitude of the Vietnamese people when I was there some years ago: they despised the French with a true passion (understandable) but considered as America as well-intentioned but misguided “…came to our country with the best intentions but for the wrong reasons…

We’re all too happy to stand back and let America take the hits…til the Wehrmacht tosses a few warmers across the Channel, or the Imperial Navy steams south; the national daily prayer of France should be ‘Thank you, America’; as it should be in many ingrate European countries – can you say ‘Marshall Plan’?’ Can you say ‘thank God, someone else was able to sort Yugoslavia out’?. Even in our backyard, INTERFET may have been Aussie-led with a Kiwi 2IC but lets NOT forget Peleliu and her sister were there as well – just in case.

When has it ever hurt to simply say “thank you“?

PS. It’s worth reading the whole of the Neptunus Lex post on what it means to be a nation at war – we might need to know one day…