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Their own private Farnboroughs

Sunday, July 1st, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — one vivid memory, two breathtaking photos, one for war-watchers, one for poets ]
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There are very few days in my life where I know where I was, but on 6 September 1952, I was at the Farnborough Air Show, when John Derry‘s De Havilland 110 fell apart at Mach 1, the body of the aircraft falling safely away from the crowd, but one jet ploughing into the hillside I was perched on — literally, on my dad’s shoulders — a few dozen yards behind us.

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I was reminded of John Derry and his memorable death by this photo, captioned:

Military aircraft enthusiasts watch as a United States Air Force F-15 fighter jet travels at low altitude through the “Mach Loop” series of valleys near Dolgellau, Wales, on June 26, 2018. The Mach Loop valleys are regularly used by the military for operational low-flying training, which can take place as low as 250 feet (76 meters) from the nearest terrain. Oli Scarff / AFP / Getty

The aircraft, as shown above, is certainly striking — but no lesss striking at the tiny observers on the crest of the hillock, who no doubtt had an exhausting hike to get there, to see that remarkable aerial display. “Ooh, look!” These guys have their own private Farnboroughs — and thank God, nobody dies on this occasion.

I’m posting this here because I think the urge to see, I suppose one might call it the voyeuristic urge, is close cousin ttom the urge to game play. And game play, in military affairs, is a significant matter , from kriegspiel to the rcecently aborted exercises in S Korea.

Thoughts?

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OMG —

and I just can’t resist adding one more image from the same page where I found the one above — for its sheer drama:

https://cdn.theatlantic.com/assets/media/img/photo/2018/06/photos-of-the-week-3/w02_984690316/main_900.jpg?1530296833

The full moon rises behind burning moorland as a large wildfire sweeps across the moors between Dovestones and Buckton Vale in Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, on June 26, 2018, in Stalybridge, England. Anthony Devlin / Getty

Er, Wow!

New Book: Redefining the Modern Military by Finney & Mayfield

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

[Mark Safranski / “zen“]

Friend of ZP, Nathan K. Finney who with Tyrell O. Mayfield are among the co-founders of the excellent The Strategy Bridge blog, have edited an important compilation entitled Redefining the Modern Military: The Intersection of Profession and Ethics (due out October 2018). From Finney and Mayfield:

Major Nathan Finney (USA) and Lt Col Tyrell Mayfield are founding members of The Strategy Bridge, an online professional journal for national security, strategy, and military affairs. The Strategy Bridge is in its fourth year of publication and has since incorporated as a 501c3 Non-Profit. Multiple The Strategy Bridge articles have appeared in PME curriculum.

In 2015 The Strategy Bridge ran a series on Profession and Ethics. Nate and Ty took 12 of the articles and worked with the contributors to expand them to chapters, and then edited the work into a book. The book, entitled Redefining the Modern Military: The Intersection of Profession and Ethics, will be published by US Naval Institute Press with a release date of 15 October 2018.

Gen (Ret) Martin Dempsey wrote the forward for the book, and it has been endorsed by Gen McChrystal, Admiral Stavridis, RADM Peg Klein, USN (Ret) former Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Defense for Military Professionalism, LTG Robert Caslen, USMA Superintendent, MAJGEN Mick Ryan, Commander of the Australian Defence College, and others.

Summary:

This edited collection will expand upon and refine the ideas on the role of ethics and the profession in the 21st Century. The authors delve into whether Samuel Huntington and Morris Janowitz still ring true in the 21st century; whether training and continuing education play a role in defining a profession; and if there is a universal code of ethics required for the military as a profession.

Redefining the Modern Military is unique in how it treats the subject of ethics and the military profession, as well as the types of writers it brings on board to address this topic. The book puts a significant emphasis on individual agency for military professionalism as opposed to broad organizational or cultural change. Such a review of these topics is necessary because the process of serious, intellectual self-reflection is a requirement–especially in a profession that involves life and death of people and nations.

Pre-Order now here.

Vog and laze, MARFORPAC, Leilani Estates, and above all, Pele

Monday, May 28th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — language at the heart of worship where the earth erupts in Hawai’i ]
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Lava burns across a road in the Leilani Estates subdivision as an unidentified person takes pictures of the flow, Saturday, May 5, 2018 near Pahoa, Hawaii. Offerings of Hawaiian ti leaves, rocks and cans to the fire goddess Pele lie in the street in front of the lava. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

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Language! New words! Fresh realities!

Vog and laze are the first words to catch my eye:

Through the laze and vog, Kilauea is giving up some of its secrets.

Then there’s USPACOM and MARFORPAC:

The additional helicopter support from USPACOM and MARFORPAC provides the County of Hawaii and Hawaii’s Joint Task Force-50 tremendous capability

There’s a quiet, professional language of scientists and land management experts once we escape the immediacy of vog and laze — and which blends in easily with the alluring speech of realtors:

At present, Hawaii County Civil Defence officials say the “middle portion of the fissure system” in Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens is the most active.

Leilani Estates — no doubt the brochures for the subdivision refer to homes there as desirable — and desirable, no doubt, they are..

And then there is Pele.

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Pele goddess of fire is the restless ever-presence of volcanism on the Hawaiian islands. The restless ever-presence of volcanism on the Hawaiian islands is Pele goddess of fire.

Say it how you will, scientific realities meet the goddess on the road. Madame Pele, beloved and feared, spits fiery plumes five miles high, speaks lightning, opens mouths in the earth, belches gases:

Laze contains tiny shards of volcanic glass and killed two people in Hawaii in 2000 after they ventured too close to the boiling acidic cloud.

The flickering tongues of Madame Pele lick out as she pleases:

Flying lava shattered a man’s leg while he was on the third-floor balcony of his home on rural Noni Farms Road.

There is no arguing.

And yet many living in Kilauea’s shadow welcome the eruption, express reverence for Pele and thank her — even when the lava destroys their home.

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Pele:

Fire like snow in a high wind in the Himalayas..

Fire like a river, singing and swinging its way home..

Pele like an artist’s flaming trail of paint between the trees..

The slightest touch of Pele — who dares forge a sword in such a furnace?

Pele.

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Great she is, or to put that another way, the volcanic activity we are now witnessing has a long history and immense potential for destruction — and creation:

The devastation is poised to continue, and experts have little clue as to when, and where, the current flood of lava will cease to flow. But the belief that Pele is both a destroyer and a creator has offered many locals some consolation. They see the goddess’s unpredictability as a fact of life that they not only accept and prepare for but also internalize and revere. The goddess of fire alone decides when she’ll morph from ka wahine ‘ai honua — the woman who devours the earth — into the shaper of sacred land. The myriad ho’okupu (offerings) found all over the Big Island, from Halema’uma’u crater to black-sand beaches to paved highway roads, attest to her grip on its residents.

And Madame Pele has grace in plenty to bestow when she so chooses:

Pele has given us the grace of quiet for today, but we don’t know what tomorrow may bring,” Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said at a community meeting Monday night..

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Giver of islands..

“My house was an offering for Pele,” said Monica Devlin, 71, a retired schoolteacher whose home was destroyed by a lava flow. “I’ve been in her backyard for 30 years,” she reflected, doing the math on when she moved here from Northern California. “In that time I learned that Pele created this island in all its stunning beauty. It’s an awe-inspiring process of destruction and creation and I was lucky to glimpse it.”

I offer flowers here in my written thoughts, considering her.

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Sources:

REVIEW: Commander of the Faithful by John Kiser

Friday, March 30th, 2018

[Mark Safranski / “zen‘]

Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader by John Kiser  

A while back, I received a copy of Commander of the Faithful from friend of ZP, Major Jim Gant who had been impressed with the book and urged me to read it. My antilibrary pile of books is substantial and it took a while to work my way towards it. I knew a little about Algerian colonial history from reading about the French Third Republic, the Foreign Legion and counterinsurgency literature but the name of Abd el-Kader was obscure to me.  The author, John W. Kiser, had also written a book on the martyred Monks of Tibhirine, a topic that had previously caught the eye of Charles Cameron and made a significant impression. Therefore, I settled in to read a biography of a long forgotten desert Arab chieftain.

What a marvelous book!

Kiser’s fast-moving tale is of a man who attempted to forge from unwieldy tribes and two unwilling empires, a new nation grounded in an enlightened Islam that transcended tribal customs ad corrupt legacies of Ottoman misrule while resisting encroachments of French imperial power. A Sufi marabout who was the son of a marabout, el Kader was the scholar who picked up the sword and whose call to jihad eschewed cruelty and held that piety and modernity were compatible aspirations for the feuding tribes of the Mahgreb. There are a number of themes or conflicts in Commander of the Faithful that will interest ZP readers;

el-Kader’s political effort to build a durable, modernizing, Islamic state and Mahgreb nation from feuding desert tribes and clans

Abd el-Kader struggled to unify disparate Arab tribes and subtribes through piety, generosity and coercion while integrating Turco-Arabs and Algerian Jews who had a place under the old Ottoman regime into his new order. Jews like the diplomat Judas Ben Duran and Christian French former military officers and priests became  el-Kader’s trusted advisers and intermediaries alongside Arab chieftains and Sufi marabouts.

el-Kader the insurgent strategist and battlefield tactician

As a military leader, Abd el-Kader demonstrated both a natural talent for cavalry tactics as well as the organizational skill to build a small, but well-disciplined regular infantry with modern rifles on the European model. It is noteworthy, that while Abd el-Kader suffered the occasional reverse (the worst at the hands of a wily Arab warlord loyal to the French) the French generals fighting him all came to grudgingly respect his bravery, honor and skill. Never defeated, Abd el-Kader made peace with the French and surrendered voluntarily; all of his former enemies, Generals Lamoriciere, Damaus, Bugeaud and Changarnier interceded on al-Kader’s behalf to prod the French government to keep its promises to the Amir, who had become a celebrity POW in a series of French chateaus.

el-Kader the Islamic modernizer and moral figure

The 19th century was a time of intellectual ferment in the Islamic world from Morocco to British India with the prime question being the repeated failures of Islamic authorities in the face of European imperialism of the modern West. El-Kader found different answers than did the Deobandis of India, the Wahhabis of Arabia, the later Mahdists of the Sudan, the followers of al-Afghani or the Young Turks who began turning toward secularism. Educated in the Sufi tradition, el-Kader’s vision of Islam, while devout and at times strict, encompassed a benevolent tolerance and respect for “the People of the Book” and general humanitarianism far in advance of the times that is absent in modern jihadism.

It was Abd el-Kader, in retirement in Damascus, who rallied his men to protect thousands of Christians from being massacred in a bloody pogrom (the 1860 Riots) organized by the Ottoman governor, Ahmed Pasha, using as his instrument two local Druze warlords who were angry about their conflict with the Maronite Christians of Mount Lebanon and Sunni Arabs and Kurds enraged about the Ottoman reforms that had ended the dhimmi status of the Maronite Christians. It was the Emir who faced down and chastised a howling mob as bad Muslims and evildoers and by his actions thousands of lives were spared. Already honored for his chivalrous treatment of prisoners and his banning of customary decapitation as barbarous, the 1860 Riots cemented Abd El-Kader’s reputation for humanitarianism and made him an international figure known from the cornfields of Iowa to the canals of St. Petersburg.

Kiser, who it must be said keeps the story moving throughout, is at pains to emphasize the exemplary moral character of Abd el-Kader. As Emir, he “walked the walk” and understood the connection between his personal asceticism, probity and generosity to his enemies and the poor and his political authority as Emir. When some Arab tribes betrayed Abd El-Kader in a battle against the French, consequently they were deeply shamed and ended up begging the Emir to be allowed to return to his service. On the occasions when harsh punishments had to be dealt out, Abd el-Kader meted them not as examples of his cruelty to be feared but as examples of justice to deter unacceptable crimes that he would swiftly punish.  This is operating at what the late strategist John Boyd called “the moral level of war”, allowing Abd el-Kader to attract the uncommitted, win over observers, rally his people and demoralize his opponents. Even in defeat, realizing the hopelessness of his position against the might of an industrializing great imperial power that was France. el-Kader retained the initiative, ending the war while he was still undefeated and on honorable terms.

In Commander of the Faithful, Kiser paints el-Kader in a romantic light, one that fits the mid 19th century when concepts of honor and chivalry still retained their currency on the battlefield and society, among the Europeans as much as the Emir’s doughty desert tribesmen (if there is any group that comes off poorly, it is the Turks, the dying Ottoman regime’s pashas and beys providing a corrupt and decadent contrast to el-Kader’s nascent Islamic state). The nobility of Abd el-Kader shines from Kiser’s text, both humble and heroic in a manner that rarely sees a 21st century analogue. It is both refreshing and at times, moving to read of men who could strive for the highest ethical standards while engaged in the hardest and most dangerous enterprise.

Strongly recommended.

 

Armed Robotic Systems A.K.A. “Killer Robots” [sic]

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

[Mark Safranski/ “zen”]

Dr. Robert Bunker emailed to alert me that the Strategic Studies Institute has released his monograph Armed Robotic Systems Emergence: Weapons Systems Life Cycles Analysis and New Strategic Realities. From the synopsis:

Armed robotic systems—drones and droids—now emerging on the battlefield portend new strategic realities not only for U.S. forces but also for our allies and future potential belligerents. Numerous questions of immediate warfighting importance come to mind with the fielding of these drones and droids that are viewed as still being in their experimental and entrepreneurial stage of development. By drawing upon historical weapons systems life cycles case studies, focusing on the early 9th through the mid-16th-century knight, the mid-19th through the later 20th-century battleship, and the early 20th through the early 21st-century tank, the monograph provides military historical context related to their emergence, and better allows both for questions related to warfighting to be addressed, and policy recommendations related to them to be initially provided.

Bunker correctly explains the degree to which this topic has already been overhyped and that Ai that could operate even at the level of “a trained animal” is at best a prospect for the near term future. To use an aerial analogy, autonomous combat droids today are not in the era of the fragile WWI biplane but really something closer to Orville and Wilbur Wright’s bicycle shop before Kitty Hawk. Bunker’s use of a historical, evolutionary framework for armed robotics is apt.

Nevertheless, the subject continues to captivate the media and our think tanks. Here for purposes of comparison was the 2014 CNAS report Prepare for Robotic Warfare by Robert Work, later Deputy Secretary of Defense under Presidents Obama and Trump, and CNAS VP Shawn Brimley. There are other similar studies to be found online. Driving this is the logical inevitability (which tech is far from catching up to) that robotic warfare systems, if done to economies of scale, would be effective force multipliers, especially for smaller powers or deep-pocketed private entities and insurgent groups.

Someday.


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