Timeline Oman–What Comes After Sultan Qaboos?

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

 

January 10, 2020 marks the passing of Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, the man who led Oman, the “other” Arabic country, for the past fifty years. We say the “other” Arabic country because by the standards of the region, Oman is a peaceful and happy place to live, which is something we can seldom say about that oil-rich corner of the world we call the Middle East. To understand a little about why Oman is not living up to the standards of mayhem and human suffering that most observers take for granted in that part of the world, it’s worth taking a glance at Oman’s history. We’ll do that with a timeline.

 

Image by CIA, public domain

OMAN HISTORICAL TIMELINE

6000 BC

Fire pit evidence indicates that people have arrived in Oman and stayed long enough to make a fire and eat a meal.

 

5000 BC

Non-nomads build fishing villages on the coast of Oman.

 

4500 BC

Pottery is produced in Oman.

 

2500 BC

Omani miners smelt copper, and Omani merchants set up trade with Mesopotamian trade ships. Copper is worth stealing, so concurrent with copper production and trade, large fortress construction starts in Oman to protect both mining and coastal areas.

 

2500 BC – 1300 BC

Oman continues to export copper and increases its boat making and seafaring skills as its neighbors evolve imperial domains such as Samaria and Ur. The increased sea trade to and from the Arabian Gulf benefits Oman.

 

1300 BC

Oman enters its iron age. Trade and wealth increase at a slow, but consistent rate.

 

1000 BC

Oman builds extensive irrigation ditches and, in doing so, becomes more “urban” as villages are able to support higher populations and develop more specialized skills. The irrigation technology may have been obtained from Persian immigrants. Oman begins to produce incense in commercial quantities for export.

 

300 BC

Wealth continues to accumulate in Oman. A classical period begins and sees an increase in commerce and art.

 

150 BC

Triliths are produced with inscriptions that remain undeciphered. The three stone structures are built in the interior of Oman in the frankincense-producing areas.

 

700 AD

Sultan Qaboos Mosque, Moscat, Oman
Image from CanstockPhotos

Bedouin Arabs enter Oman in greater number and bring Islam. Omani scholar Abu al-Sha’tha Jabir ibn Zayd al-Zahrani al-Azdi develops a moderate form of Islam known as “Ibadiyah,” which remains popular in Oman today. The Ibadi Muslims decide that while the Imam enjoys a high degree of control over the people, the people may vote to elect the Imam of their choice. The followers are entitled to impeach an Imam any time they decide to by simply voting to impeach him.

This is a notion that remains repulsive to modern-day Wahabis in Saudi Arabia, Shia junta members in Iran, Taliban thugs in Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda and ISIS leaders, and despots of any flavor throughout the world.

This great scholar died in 711 AD, but his birth date is unknown. Thank you Jabir ibn Zayd al-Azid. Your influence is still felt today in Oman and in the Gulf. R.I.P.

 

1500 AD

Portugal becomes interested in the Gulf region and seeks to control trade throughout the area. Portugal uses amphibious tactics to attack, sack, and occasionally capture various ports in southern Arabia and in eastern Africa.

 

1508 AD

Afonso d’Albuquerque conquers the critical port city of Muscat on the coast of Oman.

 

1518 AD

In a well-executed campaign, Afonso captures Hormuz and throttles non-Portuguese trade through the Gulf of Arabia.

 

1650 AD

The Iberian Empire is busy throughout the world and is unable to reinforce Portuguese forces in Oman. The Portuguese are evicted, but they do not all leave. Many Omanis had established cordial relations with the Portuguese, and some of their descendants remain today as a distinct ethnic group in Oman. They are allowed to practice Christianity unmolested by the Islamic majority.

 

1700 AD

The Omani Sultanate is powerful enough to extend its reach and build a large fort on the island of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa. Oman becomes a major slave trading area.

Oman builds two distinct cultures. The inland Omanis are more conservative and isolationist, but continue to practice moderate Islam. The coastal Omanis develop a more international view and a more international culture. The differences in culture cause strife at times.

Oman gains a three hundred square mile colony in the Gwadar Peninsula in what is now modern day Pakistan. Gwadar prospers due to pearl diving and a particularly lucrative slave trade that sends Persian and Central Asian women to Arabia for high prices.

 

1815 AD

When Britain tires of Wahabi Arab pirates taking British East India Company ships, Oman and Egypt side with the British and conduct a successful campaign against the Wahabi pirates.

 

1834 AD

Oman has strong, friendly ties with the United States of America as well as Great Britain. President Andrew Jackson has special silver dollars minted for the Sultan of Oman.

 

1840 AD

The Sultan of Oman moves his seat of government to Old Fort in Zanzibar.

During the remainder of the 19th century, questions of dynastic succession and competition between Imams in the interior of Oman keep Oman busy and detract from trade profits.

 

1907 AD

Great Britain heavily influences Omani politics and forces Oman to end the practice of slavery. In the early decades of the 1900s, the more conservative interior Omanis gain a degree of autonomy from the less conservative government of Oman.

 

1954 AD

A new Imam comes to power in the interior of Oman and attempts to reject the central control of the Omani government. With the help of the British, Oman’s central government defeats the Imam in 1957.

In particular, the British Special Air Service made tremendous contributions in dealing with the rebels in the dry mountains of the interior. The Saudi government had clandestinely supported the rebels and continued to do so after their defeat. The Saudis and other Arab states did not abandon the unprofitable effort until the 1980s. Oman will likely not forget the Saudi support for the Islamic rebels for a long time.

 

1964 AD

Soviet-backed rebels operating out of South Yemen attempt to generate a communist rebellion in Oman. The communist rebels prove to be more adept at controlling their Soviet controllers than the controllers are at controlling their insurgents. The rebellion eventually dies in 1975.

 

1965 AD

Oil is discovered in Oman.

 

1967 AD

Oil production begins in Oman.

 

Sultan Qaboos of Oman, May 21, 2013
Image US State Dept., public domain

1970 AD

Qaboos bin Said Al Said conducts a bloodless coup against his father, Sultan Said bin Taimur.

Qaboos was educated in India and England. He was a graduate of Sandhurst Military Academy and, unlike Moammar Gadhafi, the Academy staff remembers Qaboos attending and graduating. Qaboos served in the British Army in a Scottish regiment and was posted to Germany for a year. After leaving the British Army, he continued his studies in England and traveled widely.

Qaboos introduces liberal reforms and forms a council to be elected by business leaders and prominent citizens.

1979 AD

Oman is the only government of an Islamic-majority nation that recognizes Anwar Sadat’s peace treaty with Israel.

 

1984 AD

Oman joins the new Gulf Cooperation Council, along with the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. The forming of the council is symbolic of the Gulf States deciding to bury their differences in favor of a united defense against Iranian military threats.

 

1986 AD

Oman’s first university opens. Emphasis is placed on science and on training teachers and nurses.

 

1990 AD

Sultan Qaboos announces a modern constitution which includes basic human rights for its citizens.

 

1996 AD

A census of Oman indicates a population of about two million.

 

2000 AD

Approximately 100,000 Omanis are allowed to participate in the selection of an 83-member council that will act as a “lower house” in a bicameral central government. Two women are elected. The Sultan selects the 48-member “upper house” and includes five women in the council.

 

2005 AD

An Omani court convicts thirty-one Islamic radicals of attempting a coup.

 

2012 AD

The history of Oman has resulted in a country that, while surrounded by anti-democratic governments and xenophobic cultures, has remained open to outsiders. Oman keeps cordial communications with Iran, and when Western governments wish to speak to the Iranian religious junta, they often do so through Omani diplomats. Western travelers have rarely encountered trouble in Oman. Islamic radicals are a small, shrinking minority and are not well-tolerated by the majority of the people or by the government. Oman makes no effort to stop anyone from practicing any religion. The minority Hindus and Catholics mix socially and professionally with their Islamic neighbors with no sign of segregation or hostilities. Neither the government nor the people of Oman have any interest in Islamic radicalism or any other fad in despotism.

At this point, Oman is a country trying to survive its radical neighbors while preparing itself for the loss of oil revenues that will occur in this decade. It is diversifying its economy. A major natural gas processing plant and port facility is being constructed with the help of British and American engineers. Since Sultan Qaboos came to power, education has grown rapidly, and literacy is at eighty-two percent and rising. Compared to Detroit and many other cities in the United States, these folks are Ivy League elitists.

Under Sultan Qaboos, Oman still had problems with unemployment, but protests were small, involving less than two hundred protesters. On one occasion, at least one protester was killed by a rubber bullet that struck him in the head. Qaboos responded by agreeing to more reforms and more jobs. The protesters in Oman under Qaboos were too few in number, and they did not appear to have any popular support.

 

March 2013 AD

Sultan Qaboos announced pardons for thirty-two anti-government protestor organizers and activists who had been convicted in 2012.

 

May 19, 2014 AD

In a landmark case, Oman’s former commerce minister Muhammad bin Nasir Al-Khusaibi was convicted of corruption. He was sentenced to three years in prison and a one million dollar fine for receiving bribes for construction work on the new Muscat International Airport. Former Omani Undersecretary for Transport and Communication Mohammed Al-Amri was also convicted of corruption concerning the same airport construction fiasco. He was sentenced to prison for three years and fined $3.1 million. For government officials anywhere in the Arabian peninsula to be held accountable for corruption is highly unusual and a hopeful sign for Oman’s future.

August 10, 2016 AD

Three journalists of the private Omani national newspaper Azaman were arrested for publishing an article alleging inappropriate government pressure on judges. The government claimed that the allegations were false and slanderous. Critics saw it as evidence that Oman lacks anything approaching free speech for journalism. Government supporters claimed that the newspaper was engaged in anti-government propaganda on behalf of foreigners. The Western media ignored the case.

 

June 2017 AD

In the midst of Qatar’s continuing political conflict with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, Oman allowed Qatar to use Omani ports to transfer cargo, thus bypassing sea, land, and air transport restrictions imposed on Qatar by its neighboring Gulf States.

 

October 5, 2017

The Omani Supreme Court ruled against the Azaman newspaper and ordered it permanently closed.

 

October 25, 2017 AD

New members of the consultative Majlis Ash’shura were elected. Several women campaigned for office, but only one woman was selected.

 

2019 AD

The government of Oman spoke openly about financial problems caused by the continued low oil prices. Oman’s credit ratings declined.

 

January 10, 2020 AD

Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said passed away. Sultan Qaboos’s cousin Haitham bin Tariq Al Said was sworn in as the new Sultan of Oman.

 

January 11, 2020 AD

In his first address to Oman, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq announced that he intended to continue with Oman’s long tradition of peaceful and moderate foreign policy, and that he intends to develop new economic programs to help Oman out of its current economic difficulties. Tariq is Oxford educated and has a reputation for being moderate, honest, and exceptionally intelligent. He has two decades of experience in quiet diplomacy on behalf of Sultan Qaboos and is well respected by foreign policy experts around the world.

Sultan Haitham bin Tariq faces great challenges.

On Oman’s southwestern border, Iranian-backed terrorists are fighting a brutally violent war with a weak Saudi-backed Yemeni government. On their northwestern border, Oman’s neighbors in the United Arab Emirates are facing new internal opposition. Twenty miles from Oman’s northern-most islands, the radical Iranian government continues to support terror groups across the region. Tariq will have to continue to skillfully handle Oman’s foreign policy while improving Oman’s economy. For the moment, he has wide support from Omanis.

Tariq also has one very important ace up his sleeve.

Oman has a new and vast refinery and port facility at Duqm on the Indian Ocean. The port facilities are continuing to grow, and China and several Western logistics companies have signed agreements with Oman for access to the new port. The Duqm port is quite valuable, as it will allow China and Western countries to access Gulf oil and natural gas supplies without having to venture near Iran’s coast or pass through the Straits of Hormuz. At the same time, dry goods from the West can be offloaded in Duqm and continue overland to the Gulf States. Duqm is a rare instance where China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Europe all find themselves on the same side of an important development. While the United States is currently a net oil exporter, any development that reduces Iran’s ability to threaten the world’s oil trade is good news.

The sooner the massive new Duqm port can increase its cargo traffic, the sooner Tariq will be able to stabilize Oman’s economy. Holmes’s best guess is that Sultan Tariq will succeed in improving Oman’s economy and will keep Oman independent and moderate.

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Now on pre-sale!

SPYCRAFT: The Good, the Bad, & the Booty, Key Figures in Espionage

Hollywood has yet to produce either heroes or villains that can match the heights and depths of humanity. Who is more courageous than a one-legged woman, “the most dangerous spy in all of France,” operating in Nazi-occupied territory? Who is more extraordinary than a young man left for dead, not worth a Viet Cong bullet, who survives to hunt down terrorists for six more decades? Who is more heroic than a homeless child living in a cardboard box who grows up to be an iconic showgirl, an espionage legend, and a tireless humanitarian? And what villain is more malevolent than the traitor that lurks in our midst, walking our halls and eating at our tables, while helping our enemies murder our own and butcher thousands of innocents?

Join us as we explore the lives of these espionage elites and others who prove that “we’re only human” is not an excuse to fail, but a reason to succeed.

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Misbehaving Relatives? Spanking Santa to the Rescue!

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

The most stressful time of the year is upon us. Long lines, visiting relatives, and credit card bills that give bankers a warm, fuzzy feeling in their wallets. But fear not! Bayard & Holmes Holiday Survival is here to help you navigate this cauldron of tension without beating anyone bloody with a turkey leg.

A spook and a belly dancer. Not us. Image from The Man with the Golden Gun.

We, a pragmatic author/belly dancer and a spook who solves most of life’s problems with sex, C4, or hollow points, are clearing our schedules so that we can assist you with your holiday survival questions. In fact, we’ve had a few pleas for assistance already.

Sarah Broogenstegler in Research Pod 3, Antarctica, sent us this desperate missive.

Dear Bayard & Holmes:

My husband, Clyde, and I love the Holidays. Unfortunately, six years ago, after a ten-year stint in Joliet Prison for a Ponzi scheme that bankrupted twelve hospitals, Clyde’s Uncle Harry started showing up uninvited on Christmas Day. We tried to be charitable the first year, but he drank all of our alcohol and mouthwash and fell in the punch bowl. It splashed on the Christmas lights and shorted them out. The ensuing fire nearly burned down the house.

Clyde is a pacifist and made me sell my .45 Colt automatic years ago. Rather than reintroduce firearms into our lifestyle to deal with Uncle Harry, we relocated to Antarctica. Last week, though, we got a radio message that Harry had somehow acquired our GPS coordinates and was hitching a ride with Greenpeace activists to get down here for Christmas.

I’m in tears! Please help!

Bayard & Holmes:

Dry your eyes, Sarah. We’re sending a bottle of Spanish sherry and our Little Holiday Helper to you at this very moment.

While the rest of the nation wasted summer days fretting over politics or battling squash bugs in their gardens, our talented staff here at Bayard & Holmes created a tactical solution to the Uncle Harrys of the world. Today, we proudly unveil the new Bayard & Holmes Spanking Santa* and His Band of Merry Elves.

Spanking Santa and his Band are hand-picked, highly trained Allied combat veterans whose specialty is conflict resolution, and they are here to serve you. When Harry rings the doorbell on Research Pod 3, our Spanking Santa Team will arrive moments later, fully armed with state-of-the art wooden paddles and ready to give Harry the Over-the-Knee Session of his life.

Image from Dept. of Defense

Yes, yes, we know . . . Harry was unarmed and you did let him in voluntarily. Not a problem! Santa’s Merry Elves are experienced federal witnesses. Once they’ve entertained the Judge with their sworn testimony as to how Harry threatened your lives—they heard it themselves—Harry will be carted off to spend the Holidays visiting his old friends in Joliet Prison.

It’s win/win for everyone. Harry finally gets the stable family life that he has always craved, and you get to laugh all night about how Santa “took him to the woodshed” like he’s always deserved.

On the same line, Charlie from the Shetland Islands asks . . .

What about my brother, Filbert? He loves being spanked and often pays pricey women in London to do that for him. Wouldn’t a visit from Spanking Santa just make him show up more often?”

Bayard & Holmes:

An excellent question, Charlie. Our Spanking Santa Teams are well trained to spot any “patients” who might be enjoying the medicine a little bit too much. For those tough cases, our Spanking Santa Teams are authorized and prepared to administer electroshock therapy. Let us know if Filbert likes that too much, too, and we’ll recruit him as a test subject at our laboratories.

Then there was this slightly awkward question from “Kelly” with no last name or return address . . .

Hey, can you send Santa over to spank me?

Bayard & Holmes:

Well, Kelly, we don’t know if you are male or female or some combination thereof, but we’re afraid that if you’ve been well-behaved and simply enjoy this sort of thing, you’ll have to convince your significant other to take care of that. We hope you have fun and remember to play safe. Use a Nerf paddle. We have some at a great low price.

What survival issues are you struggling with this Holiday season? Remember. No question is out-of-bounds, but some of our answers might be!

*Spanking Santa Teams come fully equipped for all contingencies. Video cameras and DVD copies sold separately.

The Troubling Case of Eddie Gallagher

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

US Navy SEAL Trident
Image public domain

Effective November 30, 2019, Seal Team Seven member Chief Special Warfare Operator Eddie Gallagher retired from the US Navy after twenty years of service. Though Gallagher remains on Fleet Reserve status, it is highly unlikely that he will ever return to active duty. His career is over, but the impacts of his career will continue to reverberate through the US Navy, as well as the entire US military establishment. It would do the nation well for Gallagher’s career to reverberate through the broader US society, but it will likely soon be forgotten by the public.

Gallagher joined the US Navy in 1999. During his twenty years of service, he completed eight combat deployments that I know of. I write “that I know of” because SEAL teams often deploy on short-term missions that are not made public. However, at a minimum, we know that Gallagher completed eight documented tours of combat duty.

Many US Navy SEALs retire each year without their names ever being uttered by a media outlet. Young men enlist. Some volunteer for SEAL selection. Comparatively few complete the training. Those few then continue to train. Then they deploy and fight, and they either die or survive. The survivors then train some more, go to war again, etc. Some die or are permanently maimed. The fortunate ones survive this cycle of training and fighting in reasonably good health and retire. Their wives and children try to breathe a sigh of relief and adjust to a new life, but most of the country does not notice.

Gallagher, of course, was not your average US Navy SEAL. In 2018, he was charged with multiple criminal counts, including murder, two counts of attempted murder from two other separate incidents, and multiple counts of intimidating witnesses.

The media and the country took notice. Long before a court-martial could be convened or the details of the actual charges made public, opinions in and out of the military began to form. In many cases, the opinions were, and remain, passionate in the extreme. They range from “Gallagher should be hanged,” to “Gallagher is an American hero.”

Details of the case, along with imagined details of the case, have been thoroughly covered by the media, but there are some salient points worth reviewing.

Gallagher was accused of murdering a wounded, captured ISIS member in Iraq in 2017. He was accused of threatening witnesses who were fellow SEALs and of attempting to orchestrate a “blacklisting” of the witnesses by the SEAL community. He was accused of purposely shooting at civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gallagher also was charged with violating rules by posing for a picture of himself with the freshly-dead prisoner and sending that picture in a text to a friend. Interestingly, Gallagher’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Jacob “Jake” Portier, posed with Gallagher for the picture. That should tell us something about the command culture under which Gallagher was operating.

Did Eddie Gallagher commit some or all of these crimes? I wasn’t there, so I don’t know. There is much about the Gallagher case that we cannot determine with any certainty, as there are conflicting testimonies. What I do know is that he was acquitted by a US Navy court-martial panel of all the charges except for the picture-taking charge.

For the picture-taking charge, Gallagher received the maximum sentence of four months confinement. He was also reduced in rank from E-7 (Chief) to E-6 (Petty Officer First Class). The demotion mattered because it significantly reduced Gallagher’s Navy retirement payments. Since he had already served more than four months of confinement, he was released after his sentencing. On November 15, 2019, President Trump reinstated Gallagher to his rank of Chief Special Warfare Operator.

What I also know about the Gallagher case is that the US Navy overall and the US Navy judicial system in particular did a lousy job handling it. It is now evident that senior members of the judicial system and other senior Navy officers exerted unlawful command influence (“UCI”). Senior Navy officers were angry over “the incident.” Based on their statements, their anger stems from the fact that the Gallagher case was good press for the bad guys and bad press for the good guys. In the modern US military, generating bad press is a serious crime.

One glaring example of what the courts-martial system calls unlawful command influence seems to have been committed by now-retired Navy Judge Advocate Vice Admiral James W. Crawford.

I have not seen any mainstream media coverage concerning Vice Admiral Crawford. As far as I am able to determine at this point, Crawford’s interference in Gallagher’s case has not been investigated, but it was recognized by the court-martial panel. In a completely unrelated, but equally serious case, Crawford was found by a military appellate court to have committed UCI. Some members of the judicial system recommended that the US Navy delay Crawford’s retirement so that he could be prosecuted for that instance of UCI. The Navy chose to allow Crawford to retire without any further investigation. I mention Crawford’s demonstrable instance of UCI because it proves that he was, in fact, willing to commit UCI.

Other misconduct by the prosecution included interfering with Gallagher’s access to his attorney and not calling credible witnesses who were offering exculpatory testimony in Gallagher’s favor. In one instance, an Iraqi General was not allowed to testify on Gallagher’s behalf. The defense also alleges that a video showing the prisoner severely wounded and near death when he was brought into camp was taken into evidence and vanished while in the possession of the prosecution. The Navy also botched the case by waiting too long to investigate the charges.

Some of the allegations predate the alleged 2017 killing of the wounded prisoner. Gallagher’s command failed to escalate the case to the Navy judicial system. The case did not reach the Navy judicial system until after witnesses went outside of SEAL Team Seven’s chain of command. That aspect of the badly-handled case can’t be blamed on the judicial system. The delay of any investigation must be blamed on Gallagher’s chain of command.

In the US Navy, murder is a serious crime, but for many senior Navy officers, embarrassing the US Navy is a far more serious offense.

Senior Navy officers feel responsible for the well being of the US Navy and the reputation of a Navy that most of them genuinely love and honorably devote their lives to. Unfortunately, that love that they feel for their Navy can lead them at times to ignore allegations of misconduct. In other instances, they may act over zealously in the prosecution of anyone who they feel tarnishes the image of the US Navy.

This is not a uniquely American phenomenon.

The UK military is currently being accused of massive cover-ups of various war crimes by UK soldiers and Marines. Similar accusations have surfaced in France and Italy in recent years. The nature of those accusations would be a topic for another day, but we should recognize the universal nature of these issues. How an individual country responds to allegations of war crimes depends on the country. In many countries, they simply don’t matter. In the United Kingdom and the United States, they matter. We would do well as a nation to recognize and remember certain aspects of the Gallagher case. Exerting unlawful command influence is wrong and should no longer be tolerated. It can lead to the conviction of innocents or, when exposed, the exoneration of guilty parties. Neither of those helps our military or our foreign policy agendas.

Another aspect of the Gallagher case which is more difficult to clarify and has been almost completely ignored is the awkward and unwelcome question of Eddie Gallagher’s mental health.

Gallagher served for twenty years. For most of that time, his career was without controversy. When serious allegations about his conduct in combat began to surface 2015, he had already been in the Navy for sixteen years. If Gallagher is, indeed, a dangerous criminal as the Navy judicial system claimed, how did he serve without any serious incidents for sixteen years? How does a man serve effectively and honorably for sixteen years without incidence and then become a dangerous criminal?

We are left with two choices as to what we believe about Gallagher.

The first choice is to accept the court-martial result and assume that he was, indeed, innocent of all the charges except posing for the infamous picture. If that’s the case, then we should all be very worried about the terrible job that the Navy judicial system did with the Eddie Gallagher case. If, on the other hand, we wish to assume that Gallagher did indeed murder the wounded ISIS prisoner and/or previously purposely shoot unarmed civilians, then we need to ask how and why that happened. How does a long-standing, decorated member of the Navy SEALs end up doing such things, if, indeed, he did do them? The answer to that question goes way beyond Eddie Gallagher.

Collectively, as a nation, we are living in denial about some of the consequences of combat.

Combat, especially multiple deployments to war zones over long periods of time, can negatively impact an individual’s decision-making ability. In the case of Gallagher, he was undergoing treatment for brain trauma at the time he was arrested due to at least one concussion that he suffered in combat. Long before that treatment started, the Navy should have paid attention to the allegations that his behavior was radically changing. Chief Special Warfare Operators are a rare and valuable commodity, so it is always extremely tempting for commanders to overlook signs of combat fatigue, PTSD, etc., and return an experienced warrior back to combat rather than send him for effective treatment.

I am not a physician and have not read Gallagher’s medical records, so I cannot be certain that his health played any role in incidents which were alleged to have occurred during his last two deployments. However, this is certain: All branches of the US military have pressured military medical personnel to certify military personnel suffering from PTSD and other serious health disorders as fit for combat.

This issue predates the Gallagher case by many decades. In World War II, commanders routinely pressured military physicians to certify soldiers with serious health issues as “fit for combat.” The same thing occurred on a grand scale in Korea and Vietnam. The root of the problem extends far beyond the US military. Mental health and neurology lag behind the other branches of medicine. Mental and neurological patients remain stigmatized in most societies. No warrior would hesitate to point out to his comrade that he is bleeding or showing other symptoms of injury, unless it is a mental health injury. Then it becomes a very difficult subject.

If, as a country, we wish to continue the practice of ignoring the mental health issues of our fellow citizens who we send to fight our wars for us, then we should expect to hear about more incidents like the Eddie Gallagher case. It has happened before, and it will happen again. Whether or not mental health played a part in the Eddie Gallagher case, we should end the practice of ordering physicians to certify unhealthy warriors as fit for duty. For those who feel no sympathy for Eddie Gallagher and feel that he “got away with murder,” they have the military judicial system to blame for that.

That system investigates and prosecutes thousands of cases each year, ranging from overdrawing a checking account to rape and murder. In my opinion, the military system does a better job than our civilian judicial system in most cases, but when unlawful command influence occurs, justice can quickly be perverted. The Eddie Gallagher case was clearly impacted by judicial misconduct on the part of prosecutors and commanding officers. It may have also been influenced by neurological health issues suffered by Eddie Gallagher which went untreated for too long. Our warriors deserve better, and the entire nation deserves better. We should demand better.

Politicians control our military, and we control our politicians. If we don’t like what happened in the Eddie Gallagher case, then we should demand change. Politicians will do whatever it takes to get enough votes. Whether or not the desired changes will occur depends on whether or not you and I speak up to our congressmen.

 

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Now on pre-sale at Amazon!

SPYCRAFT: The Good, the Bad, & the Booty

Key Figures in Espionage

Hollywood has yet to produce either heroes or villains that can match the heights and depths of humanity. Who is more courageous than a one-legged woman, “the most dangerous spy in all of France,” operating in Nazi-occupied territory? Who is more extraordinary than a young man left for dead, not worth a Viet Cong bullet, who survives to hunt down terrorists for six more decades? Who is more heroic than a homeless child living in a cardboard box who grows up to be an iconic showgirl, an espionage legend, and a tireless humanitarian? And what villain is more malevolent than the traitor that lurks in our midst, walking our halls and eating at our tables, while helping our enemies murder our own and butcher thousands of innocents?

Join us as we explore the lives of these espionage elites and others who prove that “we’re only human” is not an excuse to fail, but a reason to succeed.

Click on photo for link to Amazon Pre-sale.

 

 

 

France’s Strategic Vision — Planned Inadequacy

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Last week, the French government released its outline for future defense strategy and spending. The presentation made it clear that the Macron government wishes to cut its defense budget, concentrate on high-technology advancements, and reduce manpower. When questioned about the feasibility of the force reductions at a time when the French military seems to be busier than it has been in recent decades, a French military spokesman, on behalf of the French Ministry of Defense, stuck to a tightly-scripted play book.

Notably, he did not deny that the restructuring would be inadequate for France’s national security needs. Instead, in a rare instance of political honesty, he said that in the future, the French would rely on “more privileged countries like the UK and USA to provide the necessary manpower.”

French military parade on Bastille Day — soon to be outsourced?
Image US DOD, public domain

That statement was brief and seemed to slip right past the “privileged countries” that France says would have the privilege of sending their flesh and blood to defend France.

However, in spite of the lack of coverage by the US and UK media, it did not quite go completely unnoticed, as in, Piper and I noticed it. We get it. Everyone gets tired of adulting sometimes. These days, politicians commonly woo voters with promises of cradle-to-grave dependence on the “more privileged,” but it’s unusual that a country would actually admit that it expects cradle-to-grave dependence on other countries to provide its defense, so we believe it is worth examining France’s strategic vision more closely.

In a world controlled primarily by despotic nations that offer little freedom and little hope for the future, Western Europe matters. If France were surrounded by allies with more military power, then it would perhaps be less important that France is actively planning on a strategy of military inadequacy, as their neighbors could rush across the border to assist whenever needed. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. 

A country’s Gross Domestic Product (“GDP”) is a standard measure for arguing military spending by NATO member nations, and while this article does not pertain directly to the ongoing NATO debate, percent of GDP spent on defense gives us a legitimate measure. We can optimistically claim that France’s commitment to its national security is backed up by defense spending in the neighborhood of 2.3% of its GDP. However, their allegedly powerful neighbors in Germany only have a defense budget on the order of 1.4% GDP. To France’s southwest, the Spanish have risen from a laughable 0.8% GDP to a still-pathetic 1.2% GDP spending on defense. While a nation’s defense spending as a percent of GDP cannot tell us everything about the quality of its military, it does tell us what that particular nation’s commitment is to national and, in the case of Western European nations, international security.

That said, the numbers change depending on who you ask and who is doing the asking. I am using the numbers that seem to me to be most reliable, based on a combination of what each country most frequently admits and what third-party analysis by groups such as the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute provide. In any case, everyone’s estimates indicate that France’s closest neighbors are in no position to substantially reinforce them.

In the case of Germany, the government and defense industries are partnering closely in hopes of completing more lucrative foreign sales while ignoring the Germany military’s own desperate need for parts, new equipment, and maintenance.

For example, the German Navy has accepted responsibility for submarine patrols in the Baltic Sea—a critical commitment to NATO and Western security in this age of Putin Imperialism. Germany designed and built six submarines optimized for operations in the relatively shallow waters of the Baltic and it allocated suitable manpower. That in itself was no small expense, as skilled submarine crews are so difficult to recruit and train. Unfortunately, Germany did not maintain those submarines due to lack of dry dock time and insufficient parts production. As a result, if the German submarine forces had to put to sea tomorrow, they likely could not keep a single submarine at sea for more than ten days.

You heard correctly—the Germans famous for the U-boats now are not capable of keeping even one submarine operational at sea for more than a handful of days.

Stranded German U-boat 1921 — Who knew this would be the standard in 98 years?

So why didn’t Germany allocate adequate dry dock time and produce parts for the critical maintenance of its submarines?

Because German shipyards were occupied with rushing through construction of new submarines for Israel. That was good news for the Israeli Navy and for German industrial giants. It was bad news for the German submarine force, for NATO, and for Germany’s self-defense.

The German Luftwaffe is in better condition, but it is still not in adequate condition. Due to a shortage in maintenance budget and parts, an undisclosed number of Germany’s planes are not operational at this time. All air forces have planes down for maintenance on any given day, but in the case of the German Luftwaffe, the numbers are so dismal to German taxpayers and NATO partners that Merkel’s government prefers not to announce them.

As for Spain, its current government is claiming that it intends to increase defense spending substantially over the next six years to address its many shortfalls in equipment and operational abilities. Also, in the last two years, Spain has been more willing to provide Spanish personnel to counterterror operations around the world. Like France, Spain, too, maintains garrisons of elite forces in North Africa in locations such as Ceuta and Melilla. However, the Spanish military currently lacks both sufficient financial and popular support to fulfill its strategic vision. The lack of popular support leaves us wondering if its current and next governments will actually complete Spain’s defense rebuilding goals. What we do know, though, is that in its current state, Spain can only minimally contribute to the defense of Europe.  

So then, how about those “more privileged” countries? As far as I know, neither the United Kingdom nor the United States were consulted about France’s new strategy of planned inadequacy. In fact, I am quite certain that they were not consulted. For that matter, the Macron government did not even do much consulting with its own military leaders.  

The Macron government operates on the assumption that everything that the French military needs to know about military matters is what Macron tells it. French military leaders can either support the government’s positions and fantasies, or they can find new careers. Macron and his ministers do not wish to waste their time by listening to the military opinions of generals and admirals.   

It’s not difficult to guess how the current US administration will respond to France’s cute little plan to let Americans provide the French with manpower for their defense. I do not represent the opinions of the US government. I assume that the US administration will respond quietly.

How the UK government responds, though, is of no great consequence. The United Kingdom currently spends only 1.8% of GDP on defense—an even worse defense spending record than France. Also, the United Kingdom, similar to Germany, has currently failed to provide its Navy with the ships that it will need to complete its missions.

I respect the sailors of the UK Royal Navy. They are excellent, but they can’t perform miracles. They need the ships and manpower to complete the missions that the UK government claims that it wishes its navy to complete. Also, while the UK Royal Air Force is in a much better condition than the German Luftwaffe, it has suffered funding cuts to programs that the UK government considered essential. As a result, the Royal Air Force has fewer planes and drones than the UK government agreed that it needs. 

However, a closer look at France’s military systems does offer a somewhat brighter picture.

France has been successful in small antiterror operations in Africa, even with a low budget and poorly-performing helicopters. Lacking helicopters when operating far from any major bases in rugged and remote areas is no easy task. War is easier with adequate airborne resupply and close air support. Enemy strongholds are not particularly bothersome once an air force has been kind enough to drop the proper ordnance on their locations. Without those advantages of adequate helicopters and air support, a country like Chad is a much more daunting theater of operations. The French Army deserves credit for succeeding there, and the French government deserves credit for sending its army there.

France has made good use of two critical advantages in their operations in Africa. First, France has enough personnel overall to enable a system that includes large numbers of forces that specialize in geographic areas. That allows the French to better prepare and shape operations in hostile environments. Second, having forces specialized in geographic areas allows France to pursue a tactic of what we might call “vertical intelligence delivery.” That is to say that the private on patrol is almost as well-informed of all useful available intelligence in his area of operations as is the regimental commander. This greatly minimizes the chance of small patrols unwittingly drifting into ambushes. It also helps the soldiers to establish better relationships with the locals. Both of these advantages will be impacted with force reductions, which will make it more difficult for France to maintain this regional expertise.

The one exception might be the French Foreign Legion. The Legion is excellent, and it will remain viable in the foreseeable future, though it is limited in size, equipment, and logistic support and can only do so much with what it has.  

So how do we form a reasonable view of what the future of Western European defense spending and strategy will look like? Understanding the money and politics might clarify things a bit. Let us glance at a few European cases.

France claims that it is emphasizing high-tech equipment upgrades because that will allow it to operate a smaller, but equally effective, military force. There is perhaps some truth to this, but the more obvious reason is that France wants to focus on foreign military sales rather than its own defense. In particular, the French government intends to quietly keep French defense industries successful and profitable by supplying Mideast and African nations with military equipment. Those French companies would be happy to sell their wares to just about anyone, but they have been most successful in recent years with sales to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Helping to build other nations’ defense forces is more profitable than building their own. 

Italy is more direct about its intentions to market its ships and other military equipment to any buyers with cash.

The Italian defense corporations make no secret that they intend to complete as many foreign sales as possible, and that their product designs are emphasizing foreign sales as opposed to the needs of the Italian military. As for the Italian government’s defense strategy and planning, those are easy to understand on any given day, but one might not wish to put in even that minimal effort to do so, as tomorrow they will change again.

The German government currently feels that it is important to give the appearance of being highly restrained in foreign military sales.

German corporations attempt to be less public about their foreign marketing efforts than the Italians or the French. The reality is that German ships, tanks, guns, and the occasional Eurofighter are all for sale to those who have the cash. The buyers just need to reassure the Germans that the armaments will not be used to kill anyone, because the German government likes to maintain the illusion that munitions are to be used for peace, not for war.

The underlying assumption in Western Europe is that it is not currently under threat by any peer or near-peer forces.

In the case of France, it will continue to rely on the bedrock of Gaullist military thinking, which is to maintain a viable nuclear force to deter Putin, Kim, or anyone else from conducting all-out military operations against them. Young readers might find that approach strange and a bit simpleminded, but France, along with the United Kingdom, sees its nuclear weapons as a viable national security insurance. This Gaullist approach is as ingrained in French military planning as it is in UK, US, and Russian military planning. Western European countries overall, however, assume that terrorist attacks will continue, and they intend to maintain adequate military forces to deal with that threat.  

From the US and UK points of view, there would be no benefit in reacting too strongly to France’s “let the United States and United Kingdom defend us” strategy. The Macron government is speaking to its voters rather than addressing strategic realities.

The Yellow Vests are on the verge of storming the Bastille in their opposition to Macron, and Macron and his handlers have to invent something that sounds like good news to the French working class voters while pretending to give a damn about them. France and NATO have weathered worse storms than the Macron wind storm. They will survive Macron, as well.

In reality, the only thing new in France’s strategy statement is that it is actually admitting to what we already knew—that France is unwilling to carry the burden of its own defense and instead is willfully dependent on its allies. Prepare for the status quo to continue, but maybe don’t stand between Macron and the Yellow Vests.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

What do the main intelligence agencies do and where do they operate? How do they recruit personnel? What are real life honey pots and sleeper agents? What about truth serums and enhanced interrogations? And what are the most common foibles of popular spy fiction?

With the voice of over forty years experience in the Intelligence Community, Bayard & Holmes answer these questions and share information on espionage history, firearms of spycraft, tradecraft, and the personal challenges of the people behind the myths.

AMAZON

KOBO

SPYCRAFT: Essentials for Writers…Taking the Fiction Out of Fiction

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

Dear Readers and Fellow Writers . . . We are pleased to announce that our upcoming release, SPYCRAFT: ESSENTIALS FOR WRITERS, is now available on pre-sale at Amazon with a release date set for June 5.

 

What do the main intelligence agencies do and where do they operate? How do they recruit personnel? What are real life honey pots and sleeper agents? What about truth serums and enhanced interrogations? And what are the most common foibles of popular spy fiction?

 

With the voice of over forty years of experience in the Intelligence Community, Bayard & Holmes answer these questions and share information on espionage history, firearms of spycraft, tradecraft techniques, and the personalities and personal challenges of the men and women behind the myths.

 

Don’t be fooled by the title. This book is for anyone who wants to learn more about the inner workings of the Shadow World.

 

“As a writer, I’m always looking for those books that open my eyes to the shadowy ways the world truly works. I found just such a resource in the insightful, well-researched, and oftentimes humorous book by Bayard & Holmes, Spycraft: Essentials for Writers. For any author, this is the new bible for crafting stories of espionage. It’s also perfect for anyone who wants to know the lengths nations will go to keep or steal secrets and the methods they will use to do so. This is a bombshell of a book.”

—James Rollins, NYT bestseller of The Demon Crown

 

“Bayard and Holmes have done readers and writers of the espionage genre a great service. This tome illuminates the ‘inside baseball’ terminology we often see used, providing valuable context to the reader. Importantly, they do not just focus on the CIA, but go broader and cover some of the differences in other parts of the US Intelligence Community. From novices to experts, I suspect everyone will find something in this book that they did not know before.”

—Doug Patteson, Film Technical Advisor and Former CIA Officer

 

 

The USS Fitzgerald/ACX Crystal Collision – Questions & Conclusions

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

At approximately 2:20 a.m. local time on June 17, 2017 the US Navy Destroyer USS Fitzgerald suffered a collision with the Philippines-registered container ship ACX Crystal approximately 64 miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.

 

USS Fitzgerald at Yokosuka Naval Base
Image by US Navy employee, public domain

 

The 29,000-ton container ship suffered minor damage and was not impeded from continuing its journey to Tokyo. The 9,000-ton Arleigh Burke class USS Fitzgerald, on the other hand, suffered significant damage on her starboard side. Based on early reports, the USS Fitzgerald was in danger of sinking, and seven of her crew members lost their lives.

First and foremost, we extend our sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of the seven sailors who lost their lives.

This collision reminds us that there is no such thing as a “safe” deployment. Because of what those seven sailors suffered and what their families are now paying, decency demands that we be cautious in drawing conclusions about the causes of the collision.

Our US Navy, along with the broader US defense community, exists to ensure the sovereignty of the United States of America and the freedom and safety of her citizens.

Modern, extravagantly expensive and highly complicated Burke class destroyers play a critical role in that mission. These ships are an important and finite asset, and we currently have sixty-one of them in active service with fourteen more in various stages of design and building.

From my perspective, the loss of any service member always matters. Now, and at a time when only a small minority of eligible young Americans are willing to serve in our military, it is even more important for our military to do what it can to minimize personnel casualties.

In modern corporate America, workers are generally disposable and easily replaceable, but in the modern US military, qualified soldiers and sailors are a precious resource. The US military is in the business of war, and human losses are a grim, but somewhat unavoidable, result of war and war preparations. However, we must endeavor to not waste the lives of our service members due to inadequate equipment, doctrine, training, or leadership.

In an attempt to avoid similar calamities in the future, the US Navy and the US Coast Guard will each conduct thorough independent investigations of the collision.

The Navy will, in fact, conduct two parallel investigations. The Japanese Coast Guard is also conducting an investigation, and the Philippine government has, not surprisingly, announced that it, too, will conduct its own investigation. In addition, beyond all the official investigations, any number of intelligence services from a variety of nations will be searching for any unusual evidence relative to the collision.

All investigations of maritime calamities rely on constructing an accurate and detailed timeline of the events leading up to and subsequent to the impact. The communications logs, navigations logs, bridge recordings, and all physical evidence from the USS Fitzgerald and the ACX Crystal must be examined in detail. Also, all members of both crews must be questioned. The investigators have not had time to gather and examine all of the statements and evidence, and they have yet to offer any conclusions concerning the causes of the accident.

The fact that the professional investigators have yet to draw conclusions has not stopped the legions of not-professional armchair naval experts from reaching ironclad conclusions. The fact that those ironclad conclusions of the not-professionals seem to change by the hour does nothing to dissuade these folks from fervently and passionately espousing what they consider to be irrefutable fact.

Many Americans care a great deal about our Navy, our entire military, and our nation’s defense. That perhaps explains their need to have immediate answers as to whom or what caused the disaster. I salute their patriotism. For a democracy to survive, it requires the diligence of enough of its citizens to overcome apathy. However, I suggest to them that they remain flexible in their views until more evidence is available.

Some of the opinions being passionately expressed are, to say the least, a bit colorful. Most collisions at sea do not involve complex conspiracies or exotic causes, and a collision in a shipping route at night in busy waters is not altogether rare. This collision has our attention because it involved one of our valuable “Burkes,” and because seven sailors lost their lives.

Many of the conspiracy theories popping up are influenced by several key factors.

First, the night was clear. Even on a clear night at sea, haze can impair and distort a helmsman’s or watch stander’s view, and judging the distance and speed of another ship at night is not as simple as it sounds. Even so, in this day and age, we all quite reasonably expect that any modern US Navy warship has adequate radar, sonar, transponder sensors, and adequate information processing systems to detect and note an approaching 29,000-ton freighter. It begs the question, how did the Fitzgerald and ACX Crystal not see each other in time to avoid a collision? In theory, only one of the ships’ crews would need to be aware of the other ship in time to avoid a disaster.

The second reason the public is suspicious is that the accident occurred near Japan, where China and/or North Korea might be able to easily influence events. I, too, am suspicious. In fact, I am justifiably suspicious of the North Koreans and the Chicoms every moment of every day. However, we must remember that suspicion is not, in itself, evidence.

Third, some early and not yet verified statements indicate that the ACX Crystal had her running lights and her navigation transponder off. At this point, my suspicion is that her transponder was on, but I may be wrong. I am not sure about her lights. If they were in fact off, then that may well have been a major contributing factor to the collision. We will have to wait for all the crewmen to be questioned and data logs from multiple sources to be examined before we know if those assertions are accurate.

A fourth factor that drives suspicions of foul play is the fact that as a container ship, sophisticated electronics warfare equipment capable of damaging or temporarily obstructing radar and radio systems could conceivably have been loaded on to the ACX Crystal without the knowledge of the captain or crew. Such equipment could have been activated remotely.

It’s important that for now we remember the critical difference between “could have been” and “was.”

At this point, I estimate that Communist China wants war with the United States even less than we want war with China. In spite of all the propaganda out of China, and in spite of her current efforts to expand her naval power, China remains at a strategic disadvantage in any potential war with the United States. North Korea has been, and remains, less rational in its decision making as compared to China, but the distances between “would do it” and “could do it” remain substantial for now.

One possible factor that many members of the public might not be aware of is the fact a US Navy warship might at times operate without its full suite of Aegis systems active.

Aegis is a powerful and brilliant radar tracking system, but the more powerful a radar system is, the more easily it can be detected by opponents. I have no information indicating that the USS Fitzgerald was on that night, or any night, operating in “quiet” mode. I am simply explaining that it is one possibility.

I understand the tremendous need for answers and explanations.

I feel the same way. I share your anger. I want to know why those sailors died, why our ship was damaged, and who or what is at fault. This sad event is important to me, because our national security is important to me, and because I consider all US military members to be my brothers and sisters. We share an oath that matters to me.

I know that this calamity is also important to many of you. We owe it to the lost sailors and to their families to find the real causes of the collision. I hope that as a country, we will not rely on emotion or conjecture, but rather wait for investigations to lead us to accurate conclusions, because as you read this, many other US Navy and allied ships and sailors are sailing in dangerous waters, and we need accurate information to prevent more loss of life and more damage to valuable ships.

 

 *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

 

 

Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, of Palmyra, VA

Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, of San Diego, CA

Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, of Oakville, CN

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, of Weslaco, TX

Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, of Chula Vista, CA

Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, of Halethorpe, MD

Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, of Elyria, OH

*

Our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of these fine sailors.

 

 

Duterte, Dating, & Diplomacy in the Nuclear Age

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Dating and Diplomacy in the Age of Nuclear Missiles…

Part ten million one of a seemingly infinite series.

Note: For the deepest emotional experience, please play “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics as you read this article.

Diplomacy is at times a bit like dating. We’ve all felt that thrilling infatuation. Sometimes it leads to a great night or weekend, or, if you’re very lucky, a few good decades. But in romance, as in foreign policy, some relationships start poorly and go to hell all too quickly. At least in those cases, when the first date is horrific, you have a chance to avoid a bad marriage with an abusive creep. Don’t pass on the chance.

 

Philippine Pres. Rodrigo "Rody" Duterte Image by Gvt. of the Philippines, public domain

Philippine Pres. Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte
Image by Gvt. of the Philippines, public domain

 

Many of our readers are now quite familiar with the challenges and problems facing the US and other nations in the South China Sea. The short description of those problems is “China.”

Many readers are also familiar with that colorful new celebrity on the world stage, Rodrigo “Rody” Roa Duterte. Normally, sensible people avoid weird-acting dudes called “Rody,” but this particular weird dude is now the leader of one of our key Asian allies, the Republic of the Philippines.

Most Americans and Westerners became aware of Rody this summer when, within a matter of a few weeks, he publicly called the US Ambassador to the Philippines a “gay son of a bitch” and then, for an encore, he called US President Obama “that son of a whore.” Foreign policy gurus the world over are all prompted to ask the same obvious question. I can answer that obvious question here and now. US Intelligence services have definitive evidence that, in spite of the strong similarities between them, Rody Duterte is not the long lost brother of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

Rody’s anti-American outbursts were prompted by the fact that the US government, in an underwhelming response to the alleged 3,000+ recent murders by Rody death squads, had suggested to him that he might please consider following the Philippines constitution when conducting his campaign against “crime, corruption, and drugs.”

The Philippines does indeed have serious problems with violent crime, corruption, and drug addiction. When Rody Duterte was the mayor of Davao City, he gained fame, and infamy, by conducting a violent campaign against criminals. Some questioned if, while killing drug dealers and drug addicts, he hadn’t accidentally murdered a few innocent Philippines citizens that happened to oppose his political career. Accidents do happen. In Davao City and Manila, they seem to happen a lot.

While Duterte has only recently become an annoying clown to Americans and Westerners, he’s been aggravating folks in the Philippines and neighboring states for a few years.

As Mayor of Davao City, when journalists questioned him about possible connections to extrajudicial death squads, he casually responded “Yeah, I am death squad.” Prior to being elected to the presidency of the Philippines, Duterte bragged to reporters that he would kill up to 100,000 criminals if elected President.

In May of 2015, New York-based Human Rights Watch accused Duterte of being involved in more than a thousand killings. It accused him of being what he said he was. In a television interview, Duterte responded by saying that the group should go ahead and file a complaint with the UN, and then he would show the world how stupid they are by killing them.

In 1989, a 36-year-old Australian lay minister named Jacqueline Hamill was held hostage, raped, had her throat slashed, and was shot during a prison riot in the Philippines. In April of 2016, during his Presidential campaign, Duterte, referred to the rape and murder of Jacqueline Hamill, saying, “I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing. But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a waste.” Yes, the mayor that he was referring to was himself. He thought he should have been the first to rape Jacqueline Hamill.

So what are the impacts to Rody’s ignorant and barbaric behavior?

It depends on whom we ask. During a recent social call on American Artist John Alexander, I asked him to describe Duterte. John described him as “A Post-Modernist Head Hunter.” That seemed reasonably artistic to me.

When asked what they thought of Rody Duterte, the Philippine people responded by electing him President. We should not ignore this obvious evidence of the Philippine people’s desperation concerning rampant crime and corruption in the Philippines.

For China, Rody had to seem like a wonderful opportunity.

A week before the September 6, 2016 Asian Summit in Laos, Rody dramatically warned China that it would “face a reckoning” for its aggression in the “Philippine Sea.” Then, a couple of days before the summit, he switched over to his Anti-American rhetoric, demanding that the US stay out of Philippine domestic policy. After returning from the summit, Rody seemed to have experienced a Chinese-style epiphany. Rody then said that the Philippines remained committed to a peaceful solution to the conflict in the South China Sea, and he urgently advised “the US to not escalate matters in the South China Sea.” The wording sounded like vintage Chinese diplomatic dogma.

So what caused the wild vacillation in Rody’s passionate political opinions?

The Chinese government does not believe in the “prayer and meditation method” of achieving epiphanies. They do believe in cash and ruthless pragmatism in the shameless pursuit of unrestrained self-interest when conducting diplomacy. I can only wonder what China might have whispered to Duterte during the Asian Summit in Laos.

For the current US administration and for any future US administration, Duterte adds to the complexity of dealing with China in the South China Sea.

The US obviously hopes to continue to help the Philippines build a credible defense capability. The US has pursued this goal by sending military aid, investing many millions of dollars in military base construction for the Philippine military, and sending military advisors in large numbers to the island nation. Those US military advisors are not happy with the Philippine government’s glib attitude concerning the casual murder of civilians in the Philippines. Duterte loves the American cash, free military equipment, and the advisors as long as the advisors don’t attempt to advise him to be civilized.

Any US President will have to worry about Rody Duterte’s wild behavior.

For his part, Rody seems thrilled at the prospect of taking advantage of the US desire to resist Chinese hegemony in the West Pacific. At the same time, he cozies up to China. Older Americans will recognize the similarity to the routine Cold War diplomatic dilemma. The US often showered cash and military equipment on pathetically bad despots in order to simply keep those countries from allying with the USSR.

My best guess is that this US administration and the next will try to deal with Duterte as best they can without being suckered into a spending competition with China.

The Philippine people have elected and tolerated Rody Duterte in the hope of reducing corruption, crime, and drugs in the Philippines. If Rody pulls that off, then the Philippines will have an opportunity to prosper, but if his brutal methods don’t create real results, then the Philippine people will tire of him and elect someone else.

Buying an ally with cash and free military equipment is never a sound basis for a reliable alliance. Buying that ally and only getting an enemy for your cash is worse. We in the US will have to dispassionately evaluate Rody Duterte and the Philippines and act accordingly. This is no time for the US to “lead with the check book.”

The F-16 Offer to India — India Might Refuse It, But Pakistan Can’t Ignore It

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

For the last few years, military and foreign policy aficionados around the world, not to mention very excited governments and corporate accountants, have been following the Indian government’s fighter procurement plans.

The process has been more dramatic and colorful than the average major defense purchase. Given the profit potential of any contract to supply modern fighters to the Indian Air Force (“IAF”), we would expect fierce competition from fighter jet manufacturers accompanied by massive propaganda campaigns from both government and corporate sources. We would not be disappointed.

 

UAE F-16 Block 60 Similar to F-16 Block 70 Offered to India Image public domain, wikimedia commons

UAE F-16 Block 60
Similar to F-16 Block 70 Offered to India
Image public domain, wikimedia commons

 

The technical aspects of the competition have been debated by millions of passionate aviation “experts.”

Unfortunately, most of those “experts” either have no experience in piloting or aerospace engineering, or they work for companies connected to the competition. My purpose in publishing this article is not to add to the technical and political debates. My hope is to consider some interesting geopolitical/geo-corporate questions that have arisen from the long and dramatic procurement process. My spellchecker is resisting the term “geocorporate,” but I fear that the time has come when the term is both fair and depressingly relevant.

The IAF wants a new fighter.

It wants a fighter that is better than their current hodgepodge mix of aircraft from a slew of countries and manufacturers. For both domestic and foreign political reasons, the IAF also wants guarantees of parts and weapons availability without interference from the governments where the aircraft is manufactured each time the political climate changes in those governments.

For domestic political reasons, the Indian government wants major technology transfer and local work cost offsets of 50%.

For those who are not acquainted with industry jargon, that means the Indian government wants the ability to use the same or similar technology to produce the same or similar products, and it wants half of the cost of production to be spent in India.

The serious competitors for India’s fighter deal were France’s Dassault Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, and Sweden’s Gripen. Other competitors offered their products but were, justifiably, seen as dark horses in the race for the huge contract.

US Boeing half-heartedly offered the F-18 Super Hornet, but perhaps did so with the hope of eventually convincing the IAF to consider them for use on future Indian carriers. The F-18 would not seem to be ideally suited for the IAF’s particular requirements.

US Lockheed Martin offered the F-16 C/D. Given the age of the airframe design and India’s desire for a massive technology transfer, it seemed unlikely that India would choose the F-16. It didn’t.

Russia straight-facedly tried to offer up everything in their inventory, along with a few things not actually in their inventory.

Given the IAF’s torturous troubles in dealing with Russian aircraft companies Mikoyan and Sukhoi on previously purchased fighters, there seemed little chance of the IAF choosing a fighter from Russia. The IAF has been sold too many lemons over India’s decades of purchasing Russian military equipment, and the Russians have refused to uphold warranty promises. Russia may have saved money in the short term by screwing India on these deals, but in the process, it pretty well lost a customer.

The IAF has been pleased with the performance of the Dassault Mirage 2000s that they previously purchased from France.

The Mirages have performed well for it. Also, when the rest of the West embargoed weapons sales to India in response to nuclear weapons tests or conflicts with Pakistan and China, France continued to supply weapons and parts to India. Naturally, India has remembered this. Likewise, the IAF is confident that unless it starts bombing the very best restaurants and art museums in Paris, Dassault will remain willing to take their cash.

Without even considering technical arguments, the Swedish Gripen relies on critical parts from other nations, making it unlikely. Getting those nations to agree to a Swedish export of their technologies to India was going to be about as easy as getting all of France to switch to a Swedish cuisine diet. If you’ve ever eaten in Sweden, you will recognize this proposition as absurd humor.

Note to Swedish people: I like you. You are lovely people. Most of your food sucks.

But back to fighter planes…

The Eurofighter Typhoon might have met the technical requirements set forth by the IAF, but India would be at the mercy of the governments of Germany, the UK, and Italy for parts and weapons if they ever tried to do something crazy with those Eurofighters like perhaps fight with anyone. The Eurofighter, like the Grippen was a bad political choice.

In January 2012, to nobody’s real surprise, the Indian Government announced that the Dassault Rafale had won the competition for the huge contract of 126 multirole fighters.

It was a slam dunk for Dassault. Almost. As my grandma told me, the devil’s in the details.

Dassault was anxious to deliver the Rafales. The IAF was anxious to receive them. I was not going to hold my breath waiting for the first Rafale to be delivered to the IAF.

The small matters of price and warranties remained to be settled. Dassault vacillated on the price as India pressed for more technology transfer.  The pricing started high, then got lower, then got higher again, then lower, etc. As the months and years passed, the first Rafale fighter was never delivered because the parties could never agree to details on price, warranty, and technology transfer. Unlike the average American tourist in Paris, the IAF was willing to argue about the bill.

Finally in March 2014, India and France announced that the first 18 aircraft would be delivered to India in flying condition – off the rack, so to speak – at a cost of $200 million + per fighter. Another 108 would be 70 percent built by HAL Corporation of India. The 18 seemed to me like a very high priced improbability, and building more with 70% construction by Hal in India struck me as more fanciful than home fusion generator trash disposal units.

In April of 2015, India indeed announced that the purchase had advanced to the long anticipated “Hell no, we won’t buy any” stage of the negotiations.  No cash, no new fighters, nothing.

And then Lockheed Martin slipped in and knocked on the back door with a very interesting proposal.

Lockheed Martin offered to move its entire production of F-16s to India if India would upgrade the order to the F-16 Block 70 model.

Instead of technology transfer debates, Lockheed Martin will let India build the fighters on a Lockheed Martin system installed for less than $30 Million per fighter.

And as grandma would say, again, the devil is in the details.

Lockheed Martin can propose all they want, but the US government will have to completely agree to all the details of any transfer of F-16 technologies and production to India.

Many US allies fly the F-16.

Some fly newer, recently-built versions and will be flying them for a long time. In fact, without any new orders, Lockheed Martin will be busy turning out F-16s for at least another year to satisfy current orders. Neither Lockheed Martin nor the US government wants to aggravate these allies by telling them to get their parts from India.

The Pakistan Air Force flies F-16s.

For Pakistan, which is in a state of perpetual low level war and near-war with India, hating India is central to its dogma. How many parts will India send to Pakistan? Maybe a few nylon seat covers and some cool looking decals. That’s about it. In effect, Lockheed Martin is telling the Pakistan government to piss off.

The Lockheed Martin offer is not officially coming from the US government.

If John Kerry visited Pakistan tomorrow, he would swear to them that he loves Pakistan, roots for the Pakistani national cricket team, loves Pakistani food, and that some of his best friends are Pakistanis. John would not believe any of it, and neither would anyone in Pakistan.

Though the Lockheed Martin proposal has not yet received US government approval, it’s hard to believe that the Lockheed Martin tail is wagging the US government dog.

The Lockheed Martin proposal to India represents a major shift in US foreign policy toward both India and Pakistan. Is the US finally accepting that Pakistan has never been and never will be anything like an ally? Are we offering a closer relationship to India?

My guess is that Lockheed Martin and India will not conclude the deal in its current form. At this point, the proposal can be withdrawn for any number of reasons, but the message to both India and Pakistan will stand. India might not take the Lockheed Martin offer seriously, but Pakistan must.

Turkey and The Little Coup That Couldn’t

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

One of the most pressing national security issues for the US and NATO is the recent coup disaster in Turkey. Along with the people of Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, NATO state citizens, Americans, and the Putin gang are all pondering the same questions. . . . What really happened in Turkey, and what does it mean for us?

 

Turkish No-Coup Protest Image by Pivox, wikimedia commons.

Turkish No-Coup Protest
Image by Pivox, wikimedia commons.

 

The coup attempt resembled another poorly directed episode from a comically bad Mexican telenovela. Much speculation and media frenzy has focused on the “who,” “what,” and “why” aspects of the coup.

The “who” depends on whom you ask.

Some Westerners are certain that Putin quietly sponsored the coup. I am always happy to blame dastardly schemes on Putin and his thugs. However, while in many cases “Putin” is the right answer, in this case I don’t think it is.

I have two reasons for not blaming Putin.

The first is that although the Erdogan government in Turkey is suspected of helping Islamic terrorists in Russia, and although Erdogan wants Syria for himself rather than for the Russians or Iranians, Putin does not take him very seriously as a threat.

Putin does not like the Erdogan Circus, and he sees Erdogan as an ineffective and inept clown. If Erdogan were to be replaced, then nearly any Turk would be a more formidable opponent. Erdogan is an effective conqueror, but he’s only effective at conquering Turkey. Beyond Turkish borders, Erdogan is a run-of-the-mill inept political hack. Putin would not wish to spin the dice for a new leader in Turkey. There are scenarios that we could imagine where Russia would hand pick a successor to Erdogan, but that would involve risky gambling that Putin does not find necessary.

The second reason for doubting that there are Russian weasels at the bottom of the Turkish coup disaster is that the Russians are better at running a coup than the coup organizers were in Turkey.

Other folks are certain that the CIA is behind the coup attempt.

It is not. Lots of folks are certain that the CIA gives orders to Obama. It doesn’t, and neither Obama nor the CIA would wish to throw Turkey into instability or civil war by instigating a coup.

Like the Putin gang, the US has enough reasons to be disgusted with Erdogan. He has stabbed the US in the back on more than one occasion, and he is a one way “ally” for NATO. Erdogan’s NATO motto is, “All for Erdogan, and to hell with you guys.” The US and NATO could easily conduct better relations with almost any randomly selected Turkish citizen over the age of twelve.

The problem is that the CIA and the State Department are very aware that Erdogan has spent over a decade crushing opposition and making himself coup-resistant by using the tried-and-true “Stalin purging” method of government. Any coup in Turkey could easily have ended up looking like another Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lansing, etc. The US wants a Turkey that is stable enough to allow the US to operate from bases in that country. It’s easier and a little cheaper to bomb ISIS idiots from bases in Turkey rather than having to conduct all operations from further afield.

The second reason why you can be certain that the US did not organize a coup attempt in Turkey is that, like the Russians, the CIA is better at it.

The CIA is not big on the “find ten thousand co-conspirators” method of coup organizing. Any coup attempt involving so many conspirators will always have a security problem, and that makes success less likely.

Personally, I would never conduct a coup, but theoretically speaking, if my evil twin were to throw a coup, I am certain that he would use the “dispose to depose” method. I know. It’s so old fashioned and makes for dull reading, but it’s way more effective than the silly modern “tell him he’s deposed, and maybe he’ll let us depose him” method.

All in all, it’s sad that a nation like Turkey, with such a proud tradition of quick and effective military coups, ended up with such a half-assed coup. It’s damned embarrassing for the international coup fraternity.

As for the “who,” the Western media is fascinated with the question of how much Fethullah Gulen was involved in organizing the failed coup.

 

 

Gulen was Erdogan’s ally until he realized that Erdogan was perfectly capable of jumping in bed with jihadis – which Erdogan did. Since the two men parted ways, they have been opponents. Erdogan targeted and marginalized Gulen’s friends and supporters within Turkey, but Gulen remains popular with the people. In spite of that remaining popularity, the coup organizers did not need Gulen or his supporters to get the ball rolling because Erdogan has done such a good job inciting a coup against himself by just being Erdogan.

The remaining question of “who” is not all that important. The “what” ended up being damned sloppy, and the “why” is the easiest part of this shallow mystery.

Erdogan is a creep, and lots of folks in and out of Turkey wish that he would vanish. No news there. Hating Erdogan is more popular than playing Pokémon in Turkey.

This leaves us all with the more important question, “Now what?”

Unfortunately, the answers are as ugly as they usually are when one asks a Mid-Eastern region question.

I know that a lot of folks on the Middle Eastern teams at the CIA will be aghast at my willingness to simplify the Turkish picture. But let’s compare it for a moment to a Kandinsky painting. Is another gallon of spilled house paint or a gallon less of spilled house paint really going to improve the picture? It is ugly, and it will remain ugly. It hurts to look at it, and it will still hurt tomorrow. Just like a Kandinsky painting, if you think about it at night, you won’t sleep.

As we all know, and as any reasonable soul would predict, Erdogan is using the coup flop to conduct his biggest Stalinist purge ever.

He’s enjoying it. His poor wife is probably happy that he finally found something that helps his marital life better than all those blue pills that he tried. (Word on the street is that it’s been a long time since Erdogan has been able to bring this much enthusiasm to his home life.) Unfortunately, along with her husband, she and Erdogan’s unfortunate mistresses are the only ones seeing any “up tick” from this lousy coup.

Erdogan will continue to scream at the US and make all sorts of demands.

 

Recep Tayyip Erdogan & Barack Obama Image by State Dept., public domain.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan & Barack Obama
Image by State Dept., public domain.

 

Secretary of State John Kerry will continue to fuss over his hair and try to look like a male model when he gets off the plane in Turkey. Kerry will make his regular meaningless statements when dealing with Turkey. The President (this one or the next) will look “deeply concerned” and not do much.

Europe will continue to respond with another frightening “Euro-frown,” and Turkey will continue to not care.

The good news for the West is that even a dope like Erdogan knows that in the final analysis, since he lives next to Iraq, Syria and Russia, and we don’t, he can only push his snotty temper tantrums so far.

Erdogan has always wanted a bigger, more powerful military to make him more relevant. Despots hate being laughed at when they make threats. He has planned for and tried to finance that better military, and he fantasizes about an indigenous 5th generation fighter for Turkey. It won’t happen under an Erdogan government.

Unfortunately for Turkey, Erdogan has always been more effective at destroying his own military than destroying his foreign enemies. If Erdogan had a campaign slogan to share with the US audience, it would be “don’t hope for any change.” The future of Turkey, Turkish-NATO relations, and Turkish-US relations will continue to look a lot like the last ten years, just slightly worse.

Ben MacIntyre’s DOUBLE CROSS: The True Story of the D-Day Spies

Bayard & Holmes

~  Jay Holmes

DOUBLE CROSS, by writer-at-large and associate editor of the Times of London Ben MacIntyre, addresses one of the more complex and important intelligence operations of World War Two. It explains how the UK’s MI-5 Counter Intelligence division quite effectively turned and managed German spies in an attempt to deceive Germany about the Allied plans for the invasion of Western Europe in 1944.

 

Double Cross The True Story of the D-Day Spies Ben MacIntyre Paperback Cover

 

In DOUBLE CROSS, McIntyre manages to present personalities from both sides of that terrible war in very human form.

He demonstrates how imperfect people from diverse backgrounds working for MI-5 shared that one essential quality that any effective intelligence person must have. They shared a genuine commitment to their mission. In this case, their mission was to help defeat Nazi Germany. By most traditional standards, the agents would not appear to be “cut from the right cloth.” In some instances their handlers committed blunders in dealing with them. The book clearly shows the reasons why each of them might have failed miserably, as well as why they didn’t.

The first thing about this book that jumps out is its readability.

Great Britain’s operation for running double agents involved many people and many details. The details can be tedious to consider, but without considering enough of them, these operations can’t be reasonably understood. MacIntyre has done a brilliant job of presenting enough details without making the book read like a boring bureaucratic report. I envy his ability to present such a complex and important piece of history in such a readable form.

Good history writers do good research—lots of it—and Ben MacIntyre certainly did his. But he did something else as well. He very skillfully analyzed the collected data and produced an accurate and clear interpretation of the facts. I’ve never met Ben MacIntyre, but if he was never a spook, he should have been one. For us.

I had previously read and enjoyed a couple of MacIntyre’s books, but so far, this must be his masterpiece.

I have no hesitation in giving this book a Five Star rating on the Five Star scale. It’s not a movie but I can’t help but assign our Bayard and Holmes “.44-Magnum” rating because I so rarely get to use that top assessment. Anyone with interest in World War Two or the world of intelligence operations, or who simply likes good action stories, should absolutely read this book. It’s purely a great book.

Bravo to Ben MacIntyre for staying awake and on course through so many hours of work reading thousands of pages of documents to get to the critical facts. Well done!

You can find DOUBLE CROSS, along with MacIntyre’s other books, at Ben MacIntyre: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle.

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Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney. Her writing partner, Jay Holmes, is an anonymous senior member of the intelligence community and a field veteran from the Cold War through the current Global War on Terror.

Together, they are the bestselling authors of the international spy thriller, THE SPY BRIDE, now available on kindle and in paperback at Amazon and on nook and paperback at Barnes & Noble.

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