Archive for June, 2009

  The New PLAN: Aggressor Or Defender?

Posted by Chris van Avery on 30Jun09.

James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara of the Jamestown Foundation conducted a recent analysis of Chinese naval goals that’s worth reading and considering in full. In short, China appears to have a resurgent interest in the work of Mahan, but Beijing is clearly still digesting the details and trying to square Mahan’s theories with their developing strategic goals. Here are the key conclusions:

An Asymmetric Yet Mahanian PLAN

Even if China does interpret Mahan in warlike fashion, it need not construct a navy symmetrical to the U.S. Navy to achieve its maritime goals, such as upholding territorial claims around the Chinese nautical periphery, commanding East Asian seas and skies, and safeguarding distant sea lines of communication. Beijing could accept Mahan’s general logic of naval strategy while seeking to command vital sea areas with weaponry and methods quite different from anything Mahan foresaw. If the much-discussed anti-ship ballistic missile pans out, for instance, the PLA could hold U.S. Navy carrier strike groups at a distance. Medium-sized Chinese aircraft carriers could operate freely behind that defensive shield, sparing the PLAN the technical and doctrinal headaches associated with constructing big-deck carriers comparable to the U.S. Navy’s Nimitz or Ford classes. Beijing would fulfill its Mahanian goal of local sea control at a modest cost—an eminently sensible approach, and one that Mahan would have applauded. Thus, Western observers should avoid projecting their own assumptions onto Chinese strategic thinkers.

Strategic theory, then, gives Westerners an instrument to track China’s maritime rise, complementing more traditional techniques of net assessment. If Chinese scholars and seafarers continue ignoring the cooperative strands of Mahanian thought, mistaking his writings for (or misrepresenting them as) bloody-minded advocacy of naval battle, Chinese strategy will incline toward naval competition and conflict. On the other hand, a China whose leadership fully grasps the logic governing Mahanian theory may prove less contentious.

I, like many current thinkers, am unconvinced that the United States and China must out of necessity become strategic adversaries. Indeed, given the ever-expanding economic interdependency between our two nations, an adversarial relationship would likely benefit neither. However, the ambiguity in the relationship and China’s strategic goals remain the key problems. And of course, U.S. naval planning and force structure will and must continue to consider the PLAN a potential threat to access until the ambiguity is resolved.

  The Yankee Sailor, Decommissioned

Posted by Yankee Sailor on 30Jun09.

Son No. 2 asked me over the weekend if I was on vacation, and when I was going back to work. After my initial surprise wore off, I came to realize just how much time the Navy demanded over the last decade. After all, until a few weeks ago I had been on sea duty for the entirity of their memories (my oldest is approaching ten), and they know no other Navy.

I have also become keenly aware following my recent promotion into the ranks of the senior officer corps that I’m most likely much closer to the end of my naval career than the beginning, and most importantly it’s time to start preparing to move on to other things. And I have little desire for those other things to remain centered on the Navy.

Finally, as my oldest son approaches double digits in age I’ve become more concerned about preparing them to live in the world, and consequently about shaping that world and the broader politics and culture of America. Recent developments in Washington have just added fuel to that fire. I have sensed domestic enemies in our midst before, but they appear now to be in control and consolidating power.

As a result, I believe this blog has run its course; other projects are now more important and enduring.

This is not quite a farewell, however. I will continue to read and participate in the naval blogosphere because it still interests me, but my posting will be less frequent and limited to Information Dissemination and the USNI Blog .

  What Is Wrong With These People? [Updated]

Posted by Yankee Sailor on 24Jun09.

Say the words “political sex scandal” to see what names you can elicit and it becomes clear that extramarital affairs are one of the last true bastions of bipartisanship in American political life.

In reply, you’ll get names of high-profile figures like John Ensign, John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer and Bill Clinton. Now, add to that list, Mark Sanford . This one, though, is truly bizarre:

Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) admitted that he had conducted an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina who he had gone to visit over the last five days — during which time a massive media story developed over where he was and why.

“I have been unfaithful to my wife . . . I developed a relationship with what started as a dear dear friend,” said Sanford.

He said that he had met the woman, who he did not name, roughly eight years ago and that it had become romantic within the last year. He visited her three times during the past year, Sanford said, and noted that his wife, Jenny, had been aware of the affair for the past five months.

Sex is a problem the powerful have struggled with going back at least to the reign of King David. What puzzles me, though is when people who know they’re working in a job that generates enemies–and living under a microscope where the mere hint of an affair can make front page news–insist upon dabbling with another woman (or man).  How do they think they can possibly keep it a secret?

Never mind carrying on an affair that your wife knows about. In Argentina .

[Update] - A Columbia, SC, newspaper has e-mails between Sanford and his mistress that they’ve been holding onto since December . Was someone planning an election eve surprise, perchance?

  Revenge Of The Nerds

Posted by Yankee Sailor on 23Jun09.

Those pale, pocket-protectored denizens of military computer rooms throughout the world now have their own, big ticket command to guide the hive mind:

The US military on Tuesday announced a new “cyber command” designed to wage digital warfare and to bolster defenses against mounting threats to its computer networks.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates formally established the command — the country’s first — that would operate under US Strategic Command, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

The command will begin operating in October and be fully operational in October 2010, Whitman said.

The move reflects a shift in military strategy with “cyber dominance” now part of US war doctrine and comes amid growing alarm over the perceived threat posed by digital espionage coming from China, Russia and elsewhere.

There’s no word on whether Secretary Gates passed under an arch of sliderules during the announcement ceremony.

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