Putin Teetering

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Public pronouncements aren’t commensurate with the gravity of the Ukraine situation. They’ve gotten too informal, off-the-cuff and shallow.

Russia continues its missile barrage against Ukrainian cities. The Crimean bridge was daringly taken out, delivering Vladimir Putin a real blow, and within hours Ukraine was tauntingly unveiling a postage stamp depicting the ruined span. The Nord Stream pipeline has been sabotaged. Each side blames the other, but either way Europe is braced for a long dark winter. And both sides are either threatening or speculating aloud about the use of nuclear weapons.

This war isn’t progressing, it’s hurtling.

President Biden has taken to publicly comparing the current moment to the Cuban Missile Crisis. From reported remarks at a New York City Democratic fundraiser: “We have a direct threat of the use of the nuclear weapon if in fact things continue down the path they are going…. We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy.” Vladimir Putin is “not joking.”

If we’re facing Armageddon, that should be taking up all the president’s time. When JFK spoke it was in a studied, careful way, and to the entire nation.

What’s needed is a serious, weighty, textured document that reflects the gravity of the moment we’re in, a full Oval Office address that doesn’t emote but speaks rationally to a nation of thoughtful people. A big definitional statement. Where are we? Are we communicating with the Kremlin? How should the American people be thinking about all this?

China on the March

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Since rising to power a decade ago, Xi Jinping has unleashed an array of campaigns to help ensure that China would prevail in, or at least withstand, a confrontation with the West. He has bolstered China’s military, reorganized the economy and remade society around a more ideologically committed Communist Party.

Mr. Xi has made clear that his overarching goal is to restore China to what he believes is its rightful place as a global player and a peer of the U.S. As a consequence, he has come to see the possibility of a showdown with the West as increasingly likely, according to people familiar with his thinking. Now he stands on the edge of a third five-year term in power at a Communist Party conclave starting Sunday, in a break with a recent precedent of stepping aside after two terms. That will likely ensure that his vision, which is simultaneously assertive and defensive, will guide China for years to come.

His approach could be summed up in a favorite aphorism of Mao Zedong that Mr. Xi has invoked, warning against a lack of vigilance, according to people familiar with the matter: “Don’t fight unsure wars, and don’t fight unprepared battles.”

Politically, Mr. Xi has installed trusted lieutenants at every level of the ruling Communist Party and cracked down on opposition in places like Hong Kong and Xinjiang, to help shore up his authority and weed out foreign influences.

Militarily, Mr. Xi has reorganized the People’s Liberation Army, doubled its budget and begun work to enhance China’s nuclear arsenal. He has also launched a societywide campaign to promote toughness, punish denigration of the military and prevent young men from wasting time playing videogames. All are meant to ensure China is ready to engage in combat, if necessary, for the first time since 1979—especially if elections in the U.S. and Taiwan in 2024 result in leaders willing to embrace independence for the island, the reddest of red lines for Mr. Xi.

When Fiction Foretells the Future of Warfare

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by Samantha Bey

Last summer, retired naval aviator Captain George Galdorisi, had just released two anticipated books: AI at War: How Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning are Changing Naval Warfare (U.S. Naval Institute Press) and Fire and Ice (Braveship Books). Since both books – non-fiction and fiction, respectively – addressed the future of warfare, we decided to circle back a year later to see how the ideas he presented were playing out today.

The bottom line in AI at War, explained Galdorisi, is that “Our national, military and intelligence community efforts are synced up to leverage big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning to make our military weapons systems smarter and more effective and to also help our warfighters make better decisions faster than our adversaries.”

 

Read the entire article here! (PDF download)

Russia’s Invasion of the Ukraine

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has dominated international headlines for the last month – as well it should – and the suffering of the Ukrainian people impacts us all.

There has been more heat than light in attempting to understand the mind of Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, at least until now.

This New York Times article sheds a heretofore untold story on this ruthless leader

America’s Navy

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A great deal of ink has been spilled documenting the struggles the U.S. Navy deals with in attempting to fulfill its worldwide commitments with a dwindling number of ships.

Indeed, China now boasts a navy that is large than America’s, something that we unthinkable as recently as a decade ago.

I was recently drawn to a thoughtful article written by a former U.S. Navy officer who is now a U.S. Congressman. Here is how she began her article, “Look to the 1980s to Inform the Fleet of Today.”

When I was a naval officer, my ships always had a plan when we left port for where we were going, how we would get there, and what we would do when we arrived. While that remains true of individual ships in the Navy, it’s not true of the Navy as a whole today. The Navy lacks a comprehensive maritime strategy that defines what the Navy needs to do, how it needs to do it, the resources required, and how to manage risk if those resources aren’t available. The Navy had a strategy that did these things in the past. The maritime strategy of the 1980s articulated a clear vision for the Navy’s purpose and how Navy leaders planned to achieve it. The nation would be well-served by the Navy’s developing such a strategy again.

I entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1993 and was part of a new generation of officers who assumed the watch after the fall of the Soviet Union. We were the beneficiaries of a nation that had a clear and defensible maritime strategy, an administration that provided the vision, a Congress that funded it, and a Navy that executed it. Throughout my career, I deployed on both the Navy’s oldest and newest ships, but they were all designed for the Cold War against the Soviet Union.

Want more? Here is a link to the War on the Rocks article

Feeding the Artificial Intelligence App

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When people speak about cutting-edge technologies, the conversation typically goes to artificial intelligence and machine learning.
These are awesome technologies, but are of no use without the data that feeds them. And for the U.S. military, there is no cheap “digital exhaust” as there is in the commercial world, the data must be gathered, and sensors must do the heavy lifting.
In our article here, winner of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association 2021 Cyber Edge Writing Contest, we suggest ways that the U.S. DoD can reorient its thinking to be a needed emphasis on sensors and data.
https://www.afcea.org/content/ai-hype-ai-proof?utm_source=Informz&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Informz%20Email&_zs=Usj1d1&_zl=t2Kk7#

China at Sea

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In the late 1990s I had the honor of leading the United States delegation for military-to-military talks with the People’s Liberation Army, Navy (the PLAN).

Our group visited Chinese naval bases and back then, China’s navy was not much of a force. That has changed dramatically in the ensuing two decades.

That’s why I found a recent article, “China’s navy has more ships than the US. Does that matter?” so interesting. Here is how it begins:

Exactly if and when the increasing antagonism between United States and China will boil over into full-on conflict remains anybody’s guess.

But for now, one thing is as clear as the aqua-blue waters that lap up on the shores of China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea: Beijing’s naval fleet is larger than that of the U.S. Navy.
Citing the Office of Naval Intelligence, a Congressional Research Service report from March notes that the People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLAN, was slated to have 360 battle force ships by the end of 2020, dwarfing the U.S. fleet of 297 ships.

Such numbers are hard to pinpoint because the PLAN doesn’t release public reports on its future shipbuilding efforts like the U.S. Navy does. But according to the CRS, China is on pace to have 425 battle force ships by 2030. Sheer size and numbers carry a quality all their own, and a numerical advantage would be of benefit in a small battlespace like the Taiwan Strait, some China watchers say.

Still, others note that because the U.S. Navy has been doing this a lot longer than the growing Chinese force and is aided by the naval might of America’s allies in the region, the U.S. retains key advantages that extend beyond any mere hull tally.

Want more? You can read the rest of the piece here

China Rising

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Last month I reported on the Director of National Intelligence Council Global Trends report, looks far into the future to determine what threats the United States will need to deal with years hence. What this report – which represents the collective efforts of all the Nation’s intelligence agencies – highlights is the fact that China is America’s most worrisome adversary.

Few have time to read the comprehensive Global Trends report, and that is why I found a summary by Julian Barnes so compelling. Here is how he begins:

China’s effort to expand its growing influence represents one of the largest threats to the United States, according to a major annual intelligence report released on Tuesday, which also warned of the broad national security challenges posed by Moscow and Beijing.

The report does not predict a military confrontation with either Russia or China, but it suggests that so-called gray-zone battles for power, which are meant to fall short of inciting all-out war, will intensify with intelligence operations, cyberattacks and global drives for influence.

The report predicts more tensions in the South China Sea, as Beijing continues to intimidate rivals in the region. It also predicts that China will press the government of Taiwan to move forward with unification and criticize efforts by the United States to bolster engagement with Taipei. But the report stopped short of predicting any kind of direct military conflict.

“We expect that friction will grow as Beijing steps up attempts to portray Taipei as internationally isolated and dependent on the mainland for economic prosperity, and as China continues to increase military activity around the island,” the report said.

Want more? Here is a link to the NYT article

Whither America?

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The world was changing dramatically before Covid-19 hit early last year, and the pandemic has accelerated those changes.

What does all this mean for how America deals with this changed world? I wonder about that subject, and that is why I enjoyed Andrew Bacevich’s review of two new books “Losing the Long Game” and “Isolationism.” Here is how his review, “Where Does American Foreign Policy Go From Here?” Here is how he begins:

LOSING THE LONG GAME

The False Promise of Regime Change in the Middle East

By Philip H. Gordon

ISOLATIONISM
A History of America’s Efforts to Shield Itself From the World

By Charles A. Kupchan

Having made a hash of things over the last several decades, our self-described Indispensable Nation is looking pretty dispensable, not to mention confused and adrift. So there is a pressing need to understand how things went wrong and how to make them right. Each in different ways, this is the task that Philip H. Gordon and Charles A. Kupchan set for themselves.

Want more? You can read the rest of the piece here

Taps

Tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day

If any of you have ever been to a military funeral in which taps was played; this brings out a new meaning of it.

Here is something every American should know. We in the United States have all heard the haunting song, “Taps” It’s the song that gives us the lump in our throats and usually tears in our eyes.

But, do you know the story behind the song? If not, I think you will be interested to find out about its humble beginnings.

Reportedly, it all began in 1862 during the Civil War, when Union Army Captain Robert Elli was with his men near Harrison’s Landing in Virginia. The Confederate Army was on the other side of the narrow strip of land.

During the night, Captain Elli heard the moans of a soldier who lay severely wounded on the field. Not knowing if it was a Union or Confederate soldier, the Captain decided to risk his life and bring the stricken man back for medical attention. Crawling on his stomach through the gunfire, the Captain reached the stricken soldier and began pulling him toward his encampment.
When the Captain finally reached his own lines, he discovered it was actually a Confederate soldier, but the soldier was dead.

The Captain lit a lantern and suddenly caught his breath and went numb with shock. In the dim light, he saw the face of the soldier. It was his own son. The boy had been studying music in the South when the war broke out. Without telling his father, the boy enlisted in the Confederate Army.

The following morning, heartbroken, the father asked permission of his superiors to give his son a full military burial, despite his enemy status. His request was only partially granted.
The Captain had asked if he could have a group of Army band members play a funeral dirge for his son at the funeral.

The request was turned down since the soldier was a Confederate.
But, out of respect for the father, they did say they could give him only one musician.
The Captain chose a bugler. He asked the bugler to play a series of musical notes he had found on a piece of paper in the pocket of the dead youth’s uniform.

This wish was granted.

The haunting melody, we now know as “Taps” used at military funerals was born.

The words are:

Day is done.

Gone the sun.

From the lakes

From the hills.

From the sky.

All is well.

Safely rest.

God is nigh.

I too have felt the chills while listening to “Taps” but I have never seen all the words to the song until now. I also never knew the story behind the song and I didn’t know if you had either so I thought I’d pass it along.

I now have an even deeper respect for the song than I did before.