Monday, May 22, 2017

Defense vs. Foreign Aid: The German Fight to 2%

Especially for the American ear, this sounds very reasonable;
Both defense and crisis prevention require greater German contributions. Right now, Germany spends barely 1.6 percent of its more than 3 billion euros annual economic output on diplomacy, defense, and development altogether. That is not good enough. The Bundeswehr needs more ships, transport aircraft, helicopters, medics, reconnaissance, and much more, and most of it is equally necessary for peace operations as well as for common defense through EU and NATO. It is not just about military capabilities, however. We also need to get better at helping Iraqis in the liberated areas to rebuild their lives, to restart their economy, and to reform their political order in such a way that Iraq will not be such easy prey for the next gang of militant demagogues that will follow the demise of the Islamic State. We also need to be able to invest in real conflict prevention, particularly through smart development and diplomacy, where the next big refugee crisis is most likely in the making: in the Sahel.

For all that, the German government needs more effective instruments of crisis prevention, stabilization, and peacebuilding. It all starts with foreign policy. As long as we cannot afford more than a single political officer in our embassies’ political “departments” in many potential crisis countries, a lack of strategy should not surprise us. Similarly, development cooperation has barely started to adapt to the specific challenges of violence and conflict. There are not enough police officers, judges, and prosecutors for even small numbers to deploy to training missions in foreign countries. What we really need, then, is not just a cash injection for the Bundeswehr but a strategic buildup of diplomacy, development, and defense as a whole – in the service of an overarching peace and security strategy within a common European framework.
In the USA we have parallel discussions - or at least used to until the left side of the natsec community lost their collective minds earlier this year in a spiraling case of Trump Derangement Syndrome and have difficulty talking about anything else - but we have to remember two things. 

As Philipp Rotmann over at GPPI reminds us, the Germans have an election, and they ... well ... are Germans;
The 2017 election season has barely begun, but foreign policy is already caught up in politics. It all started with President Trump’s demands for higher military spending and a rhetorical gaffe by Jens Spahn, a deputy minister of finance from Angela Merkel’s CDU party, who said the country should invest in arms instead of social services. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel responded during his SPD party’s recent conference by railing against a “spiral” of military buildup. The fans cheered. Double the defense budget more than 65 billion euros per year? Not a chance, Gabriel said, whatever declarations of intent NATO may have collectively issued. For his social-democratic audience, Gabriel played the 2-percent goal for defense spending against the equally unattained 0.7-percent goal for aid. “The other way around, I’d get it,” he roared. His party delegates celebrated. A touch of then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s successful mobilization against the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was in the air.

Both Gabriel and the SPD know full well that Germany’s armed forces, the Bundeswehr, urgently need to modernize. Already in 2014, responding to Putin’s aggression, conservatives and social-democrats agreed to reverse the longstanding downward trend in German defense budgets. Since 2015, that trend has been reversed, and the military now has more money than it can spend. Trump’s bluster makes it look as if German political leaders wimpishly followed orders from the worst-liked US president in remembered history. Trump wants to cut billions from diplomacy and development to build up the military, and Germany follows like a poodle?

That image will not work for any party in German elections, but just opposing the 2-percent goal is not good enough. We lack a modern vision for a European strategy for peace and security, one that spells out what Germany can do to help Europe become a strategic, preventative foreign policy actor. This would be a debate worth having during this electoral season. We will not get there if some ask for huge increases in military spending while others ritualistically counter with demands for more aid.

A quick look at the numbers: There are basically three “international” budgets – those of diplomacy, defense, and development. In 2017, a good 70 percent (37 billion euros) of those budgets are earmarked for the Bundeswehr. Were the CDU to prevail with its demand to meet the goal of 2 percent of GDP by 2024, the relative weight of the military would rise to almost 85 percent of Germany’s combined international budgets. The others would barely rise at all, according to the government’s mid-term financial planning, which CDU (and its sister party, CSU) and SPD jointly approved. In relative terms, the weight of foreign policy would decline from 10 to 6 percent, the weight of development aid from 16 to 10 percent. The relative significance of diplomacy, defense, and development would massively change, and the resulting message would be stark: Germany wants to be a military power again.
I hope the CDU can make the point, rightfully, that they started increasing defense spending before Trump became CINC. Reading their press and "thought leaders" quickly lets you know that any association with Trump is toxic - and that is becoming a headwind to Germany doing the right thing in the face of emerging security requirements.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Springtime for Russia? Useful Russian Talk on Midrats

To say that the profile of Russia since the American elections last fall has increased in the minds of Americans would be an understatement.

Outside the 24-hr news cycle, there have been significant developments in Russia internally and externally. From the Baltics, to nuclear weapons, to her growing influence in the Middle East following her involvement in the Syrian conflict.

What should people be focused on with regards to Russia on the global stage this year?

Returning as our resident Russian expert for the full hour the Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss this and more will be Dr. Dmirty Gorenburg, Senior Research Scientist at CNA, a non-profit think tank, and writer at the Russian Military Reform Blog.

Dr. Gorenburg conducts research on security issues in the former Soviet Union, Russian military reform, Russian foreign policy, ethnic politics and identity, and Russian regional politics. He is also the editor of the journal Problems of Post-Communism and a Fellow of the Truman National Security Project. From 2005 through 2010, he was the Executive Director of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, and from 2009 to 2016, the editor of the journal Russian Politics and Law.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Fullbore Friday

Ordinary men doing extraordinary deeds? I don't know.

Not much ordinary about Master Sergeant Ross, USA (Ret.) who recently passed at age 94.

WaPo did a nice obit;
On Oct. 30, 1944, Sgt. Ross’s company took heavy casualties from German forces, losing 55 of its 88 men. About 11:30 a.m., Sgt. Ross moved to a forward position, 10 yards beyond his company’s riflemen, and set up his light machine gun.

He was an open target for German marksmen and artillery fire, yet he held steady for five hours, carrying on what was virtually a one-man battle.

“His position seemed to be on fire,” a U.S. officer who witnessed the battle said afterward, “because of the explosions all around him.”

Wave after wave of German soldiers attacked Sgt. Ross’s position, yet he managed to repel successive counterattacks with well-aimed machine-gun fire.

At one point, he grabbed a rifle from a wounded soldier nearby and aimed it toward approaching enemy troops. The rifle was struck by a German bullet, rendering the gun useless, but Sgt. Ross was not hurt.

“I throwed that thing down,” Sgt. Ross told the website in 2013, “and I had that machine gun pouring.”

When his machine gun temporarily ran out of ammunition, Sgt. Ross refused to abandon his post.

“He merely shook his head,” William T. Wardell, a lieutenant in the unit, said in 1945.

With the few surviving U.S. riflemen reduced to fixing their bayonets for hand-to-hand combat, German troops crawled as close as four yards to Sgt. Ross’s machine-gun nest.

They were to toss grenades into his emplacement when he received a fresh supply of ammunition.

“He opened up as they swarmed him, firing short bursts,” Wardell said. “In less than a minute I saw 50 Germans fall dead or wounded around his machine gun. When the enemy turned and ran, corpses were piled high around the gun.”

Sgt. Ross “broke the assault single-handedly, and forced the Germans to withdraw,” according to his citation for the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest award for valor.

He killed or wounded at least 58 German soldiers and “saved the remnants of his company from destruction.”

He stayed by his gun through the night and next day, prepared for a possible return by enemy forces. After 36 hours, it was clear that the Germans had abandoned the field.

Sgt. Ross emerged from the battle unscathed.
Not the end of the story.
After the war, he worked for the Kentucky highway authority for a year or two before reenlisting in the Army. In 1950, after only nine days on the battlefield in the Korean War, Sgt. Ross was severely wounded in his legs by machine-gun fire. He remained in the Army until 1964.

He settled in DuPont, Wash., where he worked in a pickle factory and drove a van for a veterans hospital. He often attended veterans events and was one of 12 Medal of Honor recipients featured on postage stamps released in 2013.

His wife of more than 60 years, the former Monica Belford, died in 2011. They had six children. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

Sgt. Ross had few trappings of his wartime heroism, except for a commemorative Medal of Honor license plate that other motorists occasionally noticed in traffic.

“Sometimes people salute me,” he said.
That, my friends, is a man in full with a life well lived.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Diversity Thursday

You've heard me use the term, "Diversity Bullies" quite a few times over the decade or so we've been doing DivThu. That term is actually a nice term for these people because at their core they are totalitarians.

They hate and they destroy because they cannot defend their diktat in open discussion.

They are dangerous because they have so many in power cowering in a corner wetting themselves in fear that they might be denounced like some poor kulak in a Stalinist of Maoist show trail.

Here is a nice crisp example.

What does it take to force the resignation of a world renowned scholar from a top-shelf institution? Read it all of Jonathan Turley's article for the full background, but here is the email;
Sent: Monday, February 06, 2017 4:26 PM
To: Anathea Portier-Young
Cc: Divinity Regular Rank Faculty; Divinity Visiting Other Faculty
Subject: Re: Racial Equity Institute Phase I Training–March 4-5

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

I’m responding to Thea’s exhortation that we should attend the Racial Equity Institute Phase 1 Training scheduled for 4-5 March. In her message she made her ideological commitments clear. I’ll do the same, in the interests of free exchange.

I exhort you not to attend this training. Don’t lay waste your time by doing so. It’ll be, I predict with confidence, intellectually flaccid: there’ll be bromides, clichés, and amen-corner rah-rahs in plenty. When (if) it gets beyond that, its illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies will show. Events of this sort are definitively anti-intellectual. (Re)trainings of intellectuals by bureaucrats and apparatchiks have a long and ignoble history; I hope you’ll keep that history in mind as you think about this instance.

We here at Duke Divinity have a mission. Such things as this training are at best a distraction from it and at worst inimical to it. Our mission is to thnk, read, write, and teach about the triune Lord of Christian confession. This is a hard thing. Each of us should be tense with the effort of it, thrumming like a tautly triple-woven steel thread with the work of it, consumed by the fire of it, ever eager for more of it. We have neither time nor resources to waste. This training is a waste. Please, ignore it. Keep your eyes on the prize.


Paul J. Griffiths
Warren Chair of Catholic Theology
Duke Divinity School
Some day people will look back at this era as a dark ages in academia, where institutions of higher learning were led by sniveling cowards willing to surrender all aspects of post-Enlightenment liberty just so they will be denounced last.

As for Professor Griffiths, he's a giant among ants.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part LXX

So, how do you like the sound of a 500 ship navy by 2030?

US Navy? No you silly goose ... the Chinese Navy. 

You'll find all the details over at USNIBlog.

Read that, and then take a moment to play around with a nice side-by-side comparison of the evolutionary developments seen in the 2nd Chinese CV. Good stuff here.

A final note; I remember the 90s, and I remember when the Chinese shell company towed away that rusting hulk that was the Varyag. LT Salamander and his gaggle mumbled at the time it was just plain stupid that we didn't buy it first to keep it out of Chinese hands ... but remember, that was the Clinton Administration. They were selling MIRV technology to the Chinese for goodness sake.

What did we know, right?


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Europe's Empty Crib

Clichés exist for a reason - there is a bit of truth to it.

One thing throughout history that is a positive force for most is trying to leave a better world to their children than the one left to them.

Having children, natural born or adopted - or even nephews and nieces - triggers an instinct to look beyond your own "now." In a very basic, lower brain stem drive to keep your DNA going, people make sacrifices. They expend efforts now that may not show positive results until after leave their mortal coil.

There are childless people who do sacrifice for the long-term good but they are part of a mix of people, and in that mix are some that do have some posterity in the game. It is a healthy mix of motivations.

Like any mix, you need to be sure that you don't have an imbalance. When you look at the leadership in Europe, there is something not quite right, and it has to do with their perspective. 

James McPherson makes a good point;
Emmanuel Macron founded a new party, and his election as France's president is said to herald the "revival of Europe." Interestingly, Macron has no children.

This is not that notable in itself. After all, George Washington had no biological children. But across the continent Macron wants to bind closer together, there's a stark pattern:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also has no children. British prime minister Theresa May has no children. Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni has no children. Holland's Mark Rutte has no children. Sweden's Stefan Loumlfven has no biological children. Luxembourg's Xavier Bettel has no children. Scotland's Nicola Sturgeon has no children. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, has no children.

This is too remarkable to ignore. While Macron is young—39 years old—the rest of Europe is being governed by childless Baby Boomers.
Demographics is destiny. The future belongs to those who show up. The children are our future, etc, etc, etc.

Imagine being at a table with nine of your professional "peers" - and none of you have any children at all. Would that strike you as odd? How would that shape your decisions?

Heck, I just did a quick survey of 9 of my peers off of the top of my head and came up with 19 children. 

Mix that in with what Tom Wolfe had to say about Baby Boomers;
Most people, historically, have not lived their lives as if thinking, "I have only one life to live." Instead they have lived as if they are living their ancestors' lives and their offspring's lives and perhaps their neighbors' lives as well. They have seen themselves as inseparable from the great tide of chromosomes of which they are created and which they pass on. The mere fact that you were only going to be here a short time and would be dead soon enough did not give you the license to try to climb out of the stream and change the natural order of things.
McPherson goes in to more detail that is well worth your time.

Monday, May 15, 2017

How Often Do Regrets Bring Action?

We all know a few givens in our Navy that we accept as part of the landscape. One is that the military justice system, as any human institution, is imperfect. It is only as fair and impartial as the people who hold the levers of power.

As we all wear the uniform - judge, jury, & defendant - we hope that in the end the right thing will be done for the right reasons.

Along the lines of the saying, "Ship, Shipmate, Self" we know that often we have to put ourselves, or others in the service, second to the mission. This mindset, by accident or intention, can and is abused. It should apply to the operational side of the house. Going to sea to do the nations bidding, etc. Like the abuse of "personal loyalty to the commander" it can be used at inappropriate times by the wrong people for the wrong reasons. It is rare, but it happens and you have to keep an eye out for such possible instances.  

When it comes to putting the "ship" and mission first, who decides what the "mission" is? Was it a necessary sacrifice, and when does it become a waste of human life or a career for base or selfish reasons that have questionable operational gains?

When do we tilt towards our Sailors vs. the service? What is motivating our decisions? The mission, justice, or something else?

It is a gift when answers are clear in black and white. More often than not, you are somewhere in between.

Nowhere is this quandary so acute than for those in command. I know of no one who has had significant positions of responsibility who does not, in one way or another, live under a shadow of regret for one decision or another. It is just one of the things that comes with the job.

Different people deal with regret in different ways. Those on the far end of the sociopathic scale have no regrets, others on the far end of the empathetic scale are haunted day and night by regret and the ghosts it brings with it.

Most just live with it. What you don't see as often is the exceptional act of moral courage to try to take action on a regret while there is still some time to do something about it and make amends in some way.

It is easy if that act goes along with the flow of the zeitgeist or popular opinion at the now - but what if your actions to address your regret go in the face of all currents? If it goes against your own self interest?

All weekend I have been thinking about Rowan Scarborough's article that came out Friday. I'd like to know more, but right now we should be of two minds; one of admiration to RADM Patrick J. Lorge, USN (Ret.) for taking action on a regret, and second an unsettled rage at the apparent politicization of our criminal justice system.

Any criminal record is a life changing event - but being convicted of sexual assault marks you more than anything but murder or rape.

You better get it right.

I'll let you read the full article for the details, but ... wow ...
A retired admiral is accusing the highest levels of the Navy legal corps at the Pentagon of improperly interfering in the case of a decorated Navy SEAL convicted of sexual assault. 
Retired Rear Adm. Patrick J. Lorge charges in a May 5 signed affidavit that the then-judge advocate general of the Navy and her deputy tried to persuade him not to exonerate the sailor because it would be bad public relations for the Navy and hurt Mr. Lorge’s career. 
The extraordinary charges from Mr. Lorge go to the very top of the Navy legal system and throw into question whether a sailor can get a fair trial in the politically charged atmosphere of military sex assault cases.
Mr. Lorge’s May 5 affidavit says he served as convening authority overseeing Chief Barry’s court-marital. A military judge — Capt. Bethany L. Payton-O’Brien — convicted Chief Barry in October 2014 of a sexual assault charge and sentenced him to a dishonorable discharge and three years in prison. Mr. Lorge reviewed the verdict in 2015 during the clemency phase.

Mr. Lorge said he came to believe that there was insufficient evidence to convict and wanted to overturn the verdict. His staff judge advocate advisers tried to talk him out of it. Failing, they then brought in the Navy’s powerhouse admirals to talk him out of it.

Vice Adm. Nanette DeRenzi, then judge advocate general of the Navy, talked to him in his office.

“She conveyed the importance that the convening authorities held and how tenuous the ability of an operational commander to act as a covering authority had become, especially in findings or sentences in sexual assault cases due to the intense pressure on the military at the time,” Mr. Lorge recalls. “She mentioned that every three or four months military commanders were making court-martial decisions that got questioned by Congress and other political and military leaders, including the president. This conversation reinforced my perception of the political pressures the Navy faced at the time.”

He then spoke by telephone with Vice Adm. James Crawford III, then Adm. DeRenzi’s deputy and the current judge advocate general of the Navy.

He did not recall the specifics, but a defense attorney who was apparently present said Adm. Crawford told Mr. Lorge that overturning the conviction would end Mr. Lorge’s career.

Mr. Lorge retired later that year, as scheduled.
This is powerful action on regret.
“Upon my review of the record of trial from this case, I did not find that the government proved the allegation against Senior Chief Barry beyond a reasonable doubt,” Mr. Lorge wrote. “Absent the pressures described above, I would have disapproved the findings in this case.”

In a direct message to the appellate judges, Mr. Lorge said: “On a personal note, I would ask you to forgive my failure in leadership and right the wrong that I committed in this case against Senior Chief Barry; ensure justice prevails and when doubt exists, allow a man to remain innocent.”
Again, read it all.

You may also recognize the name DeRenzi. We've seen her here before.