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A Low Visibility Force Multiplier – a recommendation

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

[by J. Scott Shipman]













A Low Visibility Force Multiplier, Assessing China’s Cruise Missile Ambitions, Dennis M. Gormley, Andrew S. Erickson, Jingdong Yuan

Through an interesting turn of events I was able to attend an event at the Center for a New American Security today where Dennis Gormley and Andrew Erickson discussed their new book, A Low Visibility Force Multiplier. A colleague with CIMSEC posted a link to a Wendell Minnick story in Defense News which led to the National Defense University pdf. I managed to read a large chunk last night/this morning—for a document that was written using open sources, the authors make a pretty compelling case that China’s Anti-ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM), the so-called “carrier killer” isn’t the only missile in the PLAN arsenal U.S. Navy planners need to factor in.

From the Executive Summary:


China has invested considerable resources both in acquiring foreign cruise missiles and technology and in developing its own indigenous cruise missile capabilities. These efforts are bearing fruit in the form of relatively advanced ASCMs and LACMs deployed on a wide range of older and modern air, ground, surface-ship, and sub-surface platforms.(9) To realize the full benefits, China will need additional investments in all the relevant enabling technologies and systems required to optimize cruise missile performance.(10) Shortcomings remain in intelligence support, command and control, platform stealth and survivability, and postattack damage assessment, all of which are critical to mission effectiveness.

ASCMs and LACMs have significantly improved PLA combat capabilities and are key components in Chinese efforts to develop A2/AD capabilities that increase the costs and risks for U.S. forces operating near China, including in a Taiwan contingency. China plans to employ cruise missiles in ways that exploit synergies with other strike systems, including using cruise missiles to degrade air defenses and command and control facilities to enable follow-on air strikes. Defenses and other responses to PRC cruise missile capabilities exist, but will require greater attention and a focused effort to develop technical countermeasures and effective operational responses.

The authors speculate that China has done the calculus and determined they can’t match us (or perhaps have no desire) in platforms, but rather are choosing a lower cost alternative: omassive missile barrages—so massive ship defense systems are overwhelmed. Numbers matter; as the great WayneP. Hughes, Jr. (CAPT, USN, Ret) points out in his seminal Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat, naval warfare is attrition warfare. With that in mind, this paragraph illustrates the gravity (emphasis added):

Cruise Missile Ratios

DOD transformation assumes that by shaping the nature of military competition in U.S. favor, or “overmatch,” rivals will continually lag in a demanding security environment. What if this is a false assumption? In other words, China may be choosing to com- pete in a traditional or conventional maritime environment in which transformed U.S. forces are structured and equipped in a significantly different way. As analyst Mark Stokes has reported, some Chinese believe that, due to the low cost of developing, deploying, and maintaining LACMs, cruise missiles possess a 9:1 cost advantage over the expense of defending against them. (103) The far more important—and difficult to estimate—ratio is that of PLA ASCMs to U.S. Navy defense systems. Numbers alone will not determine effectiveness; concept of operations and ability to employ cruise missiles effectively in actual operational conditions will be the true determinants of capability. Even without precise calculations, however, it appears that China’s increasing ASCM inventory has in- creasing potential to saturate U.S. Navy defenses. This is clearly the goal of China’s much heavier emphasis on cruise missiles, and it appears to be informed by an assumption that quantity can defeat quality. Saturation is an obvious tactic for China to use based on its capabilities and emphasis on defensive systems. PLAN ASCM weapon training, production, and delivery platform modernization continues to progress rapidly. Scenarios involving hostile engagement between PLAN and U.S. CSG forces could be quite costly to the latter due to the sheer volume of potential ASCM saturation attacks.

Dr. Erickson pointed out in today’s meeting that the Mark Stokes estimate may be an overstatement, but certainly illustrative of economics involved.

This is an important contribution and the challenges facing our Navy and Allies in the South China Sea/East China Sea lead me to conclude with hope that policy makers read and heed.

Strongest recommendation.


Still center of the burning world

Monday, May 19th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- a bookish Brit myself, I could easily see myself in either one of these pictures ]

One trouble with my DoubleQuotes format is that it conforms any images or texts to its own size: there are times when a larger font size in text — or a larger version of an image, allowing greater detail to be seen — would be preferable, as in the case of these two photos from the Blitz:



The first has been nicely described by Eileen A. Joy in her book-in-progress, Postcard from the Volcano: Beowulf, Memory, History:

Consider the well-known photograph taken of Holland House in London of September 1940, the morning after a German air raid had devastated the house, but had somehow left the library walls, with their shelves of neatly arranged books, mostly intact. This was the period of the Blitz, when the German Luftwaffe bombed London and other English cities continuously for months, hoping to make Britain vulnerable to a land invasion. Holland House, the remnants of which now form part of an open-air theater, was built in 1605 for Sir Walter Cope. It was one of the first "great houses" of Kensington, and during England’s Civil War it was occupied by Cromwell’s army.The photograph shows three men in bowler hats who appear quite comfortable, even calm, as they browse and select books from the tidy stacks, while all around them lie the bombed-out ruins of the house, its roof smashed to pieces, its charred beams exposed, ladders and chairs and other assorted pieces of furniture crushed under the rubble. But the browsers appear oblivious to the terrors of the night before and the chaos surrounding them on all sides. They are the very image of scholarly repose, of quiet study and reflective contemplation, and the symmetry of the books and shelves are the very picture of order in the midst of disorder. Outside, but also inside, lies a world on the brink of apocalypse, what Churchill called "the abyss of a new dark age" (Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War: Their Finest Hour [Boston, 1949], 2: 225-26).

The photograph provides an image of the fetishization of the text, or document, of the ways in which history attaches itself, not to the social disturbances and crises surrounding it on all sides, but to the ruins of the past, and even more so, to the orderly archive of the narratives of those ruins. In that austere repository of the bound volumes of fabula and historia — the library — the scholar seeks the world of lived human experience but encounters instead one of its chief symptoms — writing.

The second is one Zen just used as the header for his most recent Recommended Readings. The Atlanti, which appears to have done the requisite research, titles this image:

A boy sits amid the ruins of a London bookshop following an air raid on October 8, 1940, reading a book titled “The History of London.”


So, question:

Is it the love of books we see illustrated in these two photos — or British aplomb?


Recommended Reading

Monday, May 19th, 2014

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]

Top BillingThe War Nerd: Nigeria’s inevitable Mess 

….Most people don’t remember Biafra now, except as the second name of that spoken-word asshole Jello Biafra. It’s a shame; the Igbo deserve to have their heroic war remembered and honored. But like I said, nobody much cares about African casualties, and when they do, it’s always Africans as helpless victims—never, ever Africans as brave and well-organized armies. I’ve noticed that, over years of doing this column. When Africans are threatening to form a strong, united country, like the Igbo, the Tutsi or the Eritreans, they come in for some weirdly intense hate, and a lot of times it comes from the bloodiest bleeding hearts around. Creeps me out, actually, and I’m not easily crept.

MarketWatch -Too-big-to-fail battle between Larry Summers, Nassim Taleb 

….Summers, who served as Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton and more recently as an adviser to Barack Obama, took exception and charged that Taleb was being unrealistic about the difficulties identifying the institutions that pose systemic risk.

Summers told Taleb that he was for more capital, more liquidity, living wills for banks and procedures to wind them down. “What are you for?” he challenged.

“I’m for punishment,” Taleb replied.

 Dean Cheng – The Odd Couple: China and North Korea 

….By contrast, one of the worst case scenarios for Beijing would be a reunified Korean peninsula that was allied with both the United States and Japan. In that situation, the PRC would see itself being contained by three of the largest economies in Asia, adjacent to its territory and capable of wielding enormous military power. Certainly, the prospect of American forces being based in close proximity to Chinese territory, even if not in the former DPRK, would be concerning, if only due to the potential for intelligence collection. Moreover, the Chinese would likely see the steady expansion of NATO as presenting a malignant model for East Asia, with an American-led coalition steadily encroaching upon Chinese territory and jeopardizing the PRC’s ability to access the seas.

Cheng is my go-to guy on Chinese policy.

Christopher Ford -Confucian Rationalizations for One-Party Dictatorship 

….Today, the development of the new quasi-Confucian political discourse of a technocratically-guided but civilizationally-grounded national unity and strength receives support and encouragement from the very highest levels of the Party-State.  The regime and its propaganda apparatus have increasingly been using Confucian key words or notions, and stressing themes of “Chineseness” in political and international relations theory by picking up on elements that began to emerge after Confucius studies received the Party-State’s ideological imprimatur and encouragement in the mid-1980s.

 David Stockman-Why China Will Implode: Its A Monumental Building Aberration, Not An Economy


 …Occasionally a picture is worth a thousand words, and here’s one buried in a Financial Times story on China’s rapidly deteriorating housing market. It seems that during the two-year period 2011-2012, which was the peak of China’s much praised “aggressive” stimulus response to the Great Recession in the DM world, China consumed more cement than did the United States during the entire 20th century!

Agree with Stockman that this figure is astounding. Suspect that it is also fake and also suspect, on a more ominous note, that the Chinese government may not know what the real figure is either.

FORBES -Eyes Wide Shut to North Korea’s Terror Ties


Small Wars Journal Still Shortchanged 

WarCouncil.org -Not By Force Alone: Russian Strategic Surprise in Ukraine

Sensable Learning-Why Standards Cannot Measure Student Achievement: The Binary Bar of Proficiency 

WSJThe Closing of the Collegiate Mind 

Christianity TodayUnconventional Warfare 

SEEDEarly Warning Signs

Ultraculture -A Mexican Scientist Just Invented a ‘Telekinesis’ Helmet 


From Sebastian Junger, author of WAR and featured in RESTREPO

Korengal the Movie


Recommended Reading

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a "zen"]

Top Billing! Karen Peterson -Peterson: Soldier on trial because reporter kept digging 

People often ask where reporters get their story ideas.

 Carl Prine, investigative reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, learned of a story four years ago in a roundabout way. It turned into a blockbuster — and last week it led to a story in The News Tribune. Rather than having a byline on the TNT story, however, Prine was a subject, a witness testifying at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord preliminary hearing of Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Barbera. Barbera is accused of killing two unarmed boys during a reconnaissance mission in Iraq in 2007.

If not for Prine’s digging, Barbera would not have been sitting in a JBLM courtroom. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has the stories about it posted on its website at triblive.com/investigative/specialprojects/rulesofengagement.

 They tell how Prine was working on another national story in 2010 about the care of wounded soldiers when he met Ken Katter. Katter had recently left the Army, and his wife had posted online comments about the quality of his care. Prine read them and drove to Michigan to interview Katter. The fact that Prine was a former Marine, who also spent a year in Iraq with the Pennsylvania National Guard, gave Katter reason to trust him.

 It was past midnight, after the reporter had stopped asking questions and turned off his tape recorder, when Katter opened up about something else. An incident in Iraq continued to haunt him. He told Prine that one of his fellow soldiers on patrol had killed two unarmed Iraqi boys who were out simply herding their cattle. It was later reported that the boys were deaf and mute.

Prine would spend almost two years getting to the bottom of Katter’s story. He learned that the Army had investigated the shootings, and that Barbera had falsely reported he shot insurgents that day, not children. Investigators recommended charges. Instead, commanders gave Barbera a reprimand and a promotion. Driven to learn more, Prine criss-crossed the country to interview four other members of the Fort Bragg unit who witnessed the shootings….. 

Carl Prine is what journalists once were before they became courtiers. His Line of Departure blog was one of my regular reads.

Global Guerrillas - “White Privilege” as the Neutron Bomb of Moral Warfare 

The growing popularity of “check your privilege” and “white privilege” at Universities and in political debates is interesting.  

Why is it interesting? It’s not a force for progress or positive change, it’s a form of moral warfare.   That means it’s not a constructive remark that improves the debate, rather, it’s an attack that does damage the target.  However, it doesn’t damage the target directly.  Instead, the damage is done by weakening or breaking the moral bonds that allow the target to function in a social context.  

In other words, the attack disconnects the target from the moral support of others.  You can see that disconnection at work in how groups within the target group “white privilege” are fleeing from it, rather than rejecting the concept outright.  For example, I’ve seen “white male privilege” as a form of attack now.  I’ve also seen “white straight male privilege” being used.  This divisibility of the attack makes it the neutron bomb of moral warfare.  The kind of attack that’s meant to surgically remove a specific target group from the debate without doing damage to your own group.  [....]

Edward Luttwak – Weaken Putin with a Russian Brain Drain 

With Russia already suffering from capital flight amid economic sanctions and rising tensions over the Ukraine conflict, the U.S. has another option for ratcheting up financial pressure on the Putin regime: Start a brain drain too.

Call it an “anti-sanctions” approach. Blacklisting individuals and companies closely tied to Vladimir Putin is fine, but let’s also open America’s doors to Russia’s best and brightest. The instruments to do so are a pair of special U.S. visas that already exist—the O-1A and the EB-5.

But President Obama, who is not averse to using executive orders to shape legal matters more to his liking, could simply issue an executive order declaring that in the case of citizens of the Russian Federation, an advanced degree—a doctorate or its equivalent—would suffice for an O-1A visa. If O-1A visas were available to Russians on a large scale, the present outflow of talent from the country, already in the thousands, would likely become a flood. President Putin can ill afford the loss of talent, and the U.S. economy would benefit. If America presented such a visa offer, it would also neatly expose the false depiction of the U.S. as hostile to the Russian people—a theme of Mr. Putin’s recent speeches and of the entire Kremlin propaganda apparatus.

Daniel Hannan -Supposing him to be the gardener: Sam Gamgee, the Battle of the Somme and my Great Uncle Bill 

….There ought to be a special name for novels about the First World War in which the First World War doesn’t feature. I mean novels such as Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Risesand (except for two glancing references) F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Novels, in other words, in which the trenches are a constant, brooding, unacknowledged presence.

Tolkien was very clear that his books were not allegories. Still, his experiences as a lieutenant on the Western Front could hardly fail to suffuse them. The Dead Marshes, desolate, poisoned and filled with rotting corpses, “owe something to Northern France after the Battle of the Somme,” he later wrote. As for Mordor, pocked with holes resembling shell-craters, choked with foul vapours, void of every living thing except the columns and sentries of the enemy, no war diary contains a bleaker description of No Man’s Land:

Nothing lived, not even the leprous growths that feed on rottenness. The gasping pools were choked with ash and crawling muds, sickly white and grey, as if the mountains had vomited the filth of their entrails on the lands about.

The Bridge – (Rich Ganske) A Modern Airpower Theorist and (Crispin Burke) Resilience: the Obstacle is the Way 

Slightly East of New - Quantum entanglement, the arrow of time, and John Boyd?

Medical Express -Research shows strategic thinking strengthens intellectual capacity

WarCouncil.org – (Matt Cavanaugh) Mission Command is Not Enough

Foreign Affairs -Putin’s Brain 

I was watching reactionary crackpot Alexander Dugin long before it was cool. “National Bolshevism” also enjoyed a brief  1920′s  heyday after the Russian Civil War among White officers attempting to make peace with the Red victors and Russian intellectuals exiled to cafes in Berlin and Paris. It all came to a very bad end. This will as well.

Duck of Minerva (Charli Carpenter) - “Norm Anti-preneurship” and Russian Use of Autonomous Weapons

AFJ - Book excerpt: FIRE: How Fast, Inexpensive, Restrained, and Elegant Methods Ignite Innovation’ 

Aeon Magazine – The Unforgiven

David Brooks – Saving the System

Steve Sailer – Occam’s Butter Knife 

That’s it.


Shoma Choudhury talks to the CIA & Taliban, more or less

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- two talks from India's THiNK2013 conference, one about the Taliban and US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the other a tale of India / Pakistan Partition ]

Here, Indian journalist Shoma Choudhury interviews Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, one time Taliban ambassador to Pakistan and author of the book, My Life with the Taliban, and Robert Grenier, CIA station chief in Islamabad in 2001 and later Director of the Agency’s Counterterrorist Center, during the THiNK2013 conference held at the Grand Hyatt in Goa, in a session titled An Afghan Date: The CIA Talks To The Taliban on November 9th, 2013:

I haven’t found a reference to this event in the New York Times or Washington Post, and the video of the event has been viewed less than 1,250 times — so I hope that if any Zenpundit readers have in fact already viewed it, they will forgive me for posting it here. It seems to me to be a remarkable conversation, not least because of Choudhury’s skillful moderation.


I only know about this conversation because blog-friend Omar Ali pointed me to the video of a reading of Saadat Hasan Manto‘s account of Partition in his satirical short story, Toba Tek Singh at the same conference. The reader is the actor Naseeruddin Shah whom I admire enormously for his stunning performance as “the common man” in Neeraj Pandey‘s A Wednesday — the story is told as written in Manto’s Urdu, with a principal character who “mutters or shouts a mix of Punjabi, Urdu and English” — and most of an English language translation is provided for those like myself who need it, by means of projected background slides.

But that voice, Naseeruddin Shah’s voice!

You can read Toba Tek Singh in Frances Pritchett‘s translation here.


If these two presentations are anything to go by, the THiNK conference series may be what TED talks could and should have been…


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