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.

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

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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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.

 

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

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.

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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

Real News: March 5 Mashup

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

Real News Mashup is a compilation of articles that I consider to be interesting, informative, or both. Please share articles of your own in the comments. Perhaps if we work together, we can remember that the world is bigger than the propaganda storm.

 

 

Things That Might Make You Want to Slap Someone

Why the US Supreme Court’s New Ruling on Excessive Fines is a Big Deal — German Lopez, Vox

Today’s Supreme Court rarely hands down a unanimous ruling. This is one of them.

 

“Dear Attorney General Barr”: Advice from Insiders — Sheryl Attkisson, The Hill

I found this list compiled by several lifelong veterans of the military and intelligence communities. They were asked the question, “What should be Attorney General Barr’s top priorities?” These are their answers. 

 

 

Saudis Prepare Trials of Detainees Identified as Women’s Rights Activists   Hesham Hajali, Reuters

In other words, Saudi women can now drive under limited conditions in Saudi Arabia, but those who fought for the right are now being prosecuted. And just to make sure none of the Saudi women forget they are still chattel in the Sharia Law kingdom . . .

 

Google, Siding with Saudi Arabia, Refuses to Remove Widely-Criticized Government App That Lets Men Track Women and Control Their Travels — Bill Bostock, Business Insider

 

US-Backed Forces Launch What Could Be the Last Major Battle Against ISIS in Syria Small Wars Journal, Articles by Liz Sly of The Washington Post and Gordon Lubold of The Wall Street Journal

 

Venezuela’s Suicide: Lessons from a Failed State — Moisés Naím and Francisco Toro, Foreign Affairs

Forty years ago, Venezuela had a thriving economy. Now, millions rush to escape the failed state. It took decades to get from Point A to Point B, and the journey has many lessons for the rest of us.

 

DIA Mole Ana Montes
FBI mug shot, public domain

 

Ana Montes Did Much Harm Spying for Cuba. Chances Are, You Haven’t Heard of Her. — Jim Popkin, The Washington Post  

 

China Is Building Soft Power In US Schools — Rachel Oswald, Roll Call

 

Smart Home Assistants, Like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod, Might Soon Report Their Owners to the Police for Breaking the Law — Charlie Nash, Breitbart

 

Now Facebook is Allowing Anyone to Look You Up Using Your Security Phone Number — Michael Grothaus, Fast Company   

Facebook does not allow anyone to opt out, but the article has instructions in the last paragraph to limit access to your phone number to “friends.”

 

Seeding Control to Big Agriculture — Gracy Olmstead, The American Conservative

In the Canada Has Lost Its Flaming Mind Department . . .

 

Defending Yourself Against a Home Invader Is Now a Criminal Offense in Canada — Lance D. Johnson, News Target

 

Police In Canada Are Tracking People’s “Negative” Behavior In a “Risk” Database — Nathan Munn, ViceI

“Information in the database includes whether a person uses drugs, has been the victim of an assault, or lives in a ‘negative neighborhood.'” . . . What’s next? A Citizenship Score? IMHO, a road to hell soundly paved with the good intentions of decent Canadians.

 

Stepping Back from the Edge . . .

From Bombers to Big Macs: Vietnam A Lesson In Reconciliation — Denis D. Gray and Hau Dinh, Associated Press

 

The Disease of More — Mark Manson, Mark Manson  

 

Meet the Skier Who Made the “Impossible” First Solo Descent of K2 — Aaron Teasdale, National Geographic

 

8 Etiquette Tips for Social Receptions at Conferences — Lenny Zeltser, Lenny Zeltser

 

 

A Message in a Bottle Washed Up on Padre island–57 Years Later  — Dan Soloman, Texas Monthly

 

And These are Just Fun . . .

 

Couple Who Served in WWII Together, Married Seven Decades, Pass Away on Same Day  Healthy Food House

 

Game of Thrones First Look: Inside the Brutal Battle to Make Season 8 — James Hibberd, Entertainment

 

Hadrian’s Wall Archeologists Discover Rude Grafitti and Pictures of Roman Quarrymen Who Built It — Patrick Sawer, The Telegraph

 

The funniest thing that happened this week, unless you are Russian. Watch as the Russian freighter Seaguard plows into this bridge in Busan, South Korea. . . . No injuries or deaths reported, so laugh away!

 

All the best to all of you for a week of avoiding the obvious obstacles.

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Rules of Engagement:

We want comments.

Thoughtful disagreement fosters intellectual growth for all of us. Civil Discourse is strictly enforced. That means you can say anything as long as you focus on the concepts and say it with respect, free of personal insults.

Bayard & Holmes reserve the right to remove comments for any reason.

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

 

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. Order now at Amazon and Kobo

 

 

Real News Mashup–January 24, 2019

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

News Finds is a compilation of articles that I consider to be interesting, informative, or both. Please feel free to share non-political articles of your own in the comments. Perhaps if we work together, we can combat the overwhelming propaganda we are bombarded with by mainstream media.

This post is a bit long, as I’ve been stacking up articles for a while.

 

General Interest

 

Tony Mendez, “Argo” CIA Officer Who Smuggled US Hostages Out of Iran During Crisis, Dies at 78

A master of forgery and disguise, Tony Mendez was an outstanding professional and an outstanding human being. Rest in peace. #Respect

How the Media Convinces Us All the We’re Outraged — Even When No One Cares

Someone posted a video online of youngest senator Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez dancing. Social media exploded with outrage at the “conservative outrage” over her video. I noticed, though, that I didn’t actually see any of the conservative outrage that was the supposed source of all of this leftist outrage. Apparently, I’m not the only one who noticed.

Police Have No Duty to Protect You, Federal Court Confirms Yet Again

Something to keep in mind when considering personal security issues.

Davos Billionaires Keep Getting Richer

The world’s billionaires and their political minions are meeting in Davos, Switzerland this month.

My own observation:

In the past, the richest people were visible and had the responsibility of ruling nations. We called them kings and queens. Since democratic forms of government came along, the richest people have been able to outsource public appearances and the daily headaches of governing the masses to minions known as “world leaders.” We like to believe that media is above it all and holds these world leaders and their largely invisible billionaire backers accountable for their actions, but mainstream media is owned by those billionaire backers, so mainstream “news” reduced to agenda-driven propaganda.

And the rest of us? The handful* who own the world see us as the barnyard animals to be herded and juggled for their money-farming needs, i.e. “We need more cheap labor in Europe. Let’s get our minions there to push open immigration.” Sort of like, “We need more plow horses. We’ll introduce another twenty to the herd. It will take some time for the herd to adjust, but it will.”

Where in the past the owners of the world used religion to inspire the outrage necessary to get the mob going the right direction, now they use social buzzwords and politics.

Conspiracy? Not at all. Simply the organic alignment of personal interests.

*When I say handful, I mean handful. According to a recent report by Oxfam, only 26 people now own as much as 50% of the entire world’s poorest.

 

 

Military/Intelligence Articles

 

Defense Intelligence Agency (“DIA”) Chinese Military Power Report

An excellent report on Chinese Military Power published by the US Naval Institute.

Does the US Face an AI Ethics Gap? 

This article explores the Artificial Intelligence Ethics Gap in the Western world that impacts military defense. In other words, Communist China and other countries develop AI technologies in ways that are ethically prohibited in Western societies. Does this put Western societies at a disadvantage? It poses an interesting dilemma.

On Nobility and the CIA’s War in Afghanistan

Setting the record straight.

The US Intelligence Community Wants Disruptive Change as Long as It’s Not Disruptive

An excellent piece on how collecting facts without thought is like doing steps without dancing.

OSS Training in the National Parks and Service Abroad in WWII

A fairly intense downloadable book on the history of the OSS and its relationship with the National Parks.

 

Now let’s lighten up!

 

Man “Marries” Laptop, Sues for State Recognition and a Wedding Cake

Yes. Really. Can’t make this up.

Bring It On! New Taliban Video Shows Intense Training for New Cheer Squad Competition

Likely hilarious to anyone who has served in the US Armed Forces.

Photos from the Moon’s Far Side: China’s Chang’e 4 Lunar Landing in Pictures

First pictures from the dark side of the moon. *queues up Pink Floyd*

Florida Couple Run Over by Patrol Car While Lying in Road to Watch Lunar Eclipse

A Darwin Award near miss, for sure.

Natural Beauty of Wildlife Beneath the Waves Revealed in Stunning Pics

The word “stunning” is generally overused these days, but it applies in this instance.

 

The Tank Chair

 

 

 

All the best to all of you for a week of stunning beauty.

Piper

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Rules of Engagement:

  1. We love comments.
  2. Feel free to disagree with me and with each other in comments as long as arguments are rational and not things like “It scares me so it should be banned.” Thoughtful disagreement fosters intellectual growth for all of us.
  3. Civil Discourse is strictly enforced. That means you can say anything as long as you focus on the concepts and say it with respect, free of personal insults.
  4. No arguing or advocating for or against Trump or any other politician, no matter what your position. We are all inundated with too much of that already.
  5. Bayard & Holmes reserve the right to remove comments for any reason.

Espionage Info for Everyone — SPYCRAFT: Essentials

Bayard & Holmes

We are proud to announce the birth of our new book baby, SPYCRAFT: Essentials.

 

 

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.

Though crafted with advice and specific tips for writers, SPYCRAFT: Essentials is for anyone who wants to learn more about the inner workings of the Shadow World.

 

Now available on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo, and in print at Amazon.

 

“For any author, SPYCRAFT: Essentials 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
New York Times Bestselling Author of The Demon Crown

 

“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

 

“Bayard and Holmes have done the unprecedented: crafted a fully informative, while wholly unclassified, overview on American spycraft with a special focus on preparing novelists for realistic scene writing. That said, this little treasure should not be limited to writers. Because it delivers solid, valuable information as a comprehensive primer on how the Intelligence Community really operates, SPYCRAFT: Essentials is a must-read for all involved Americans.”

~ Rob DuBois
Retired US Navy SEAL and NSA Collector

 

“An instant classic. Detailed, insightful, and authentic, SPYCRAFT: Essentials for Writers is my go-to reference for all things espionage.”

~ Grant Blackwood
New York Times Bestselling Author of the Briggs Tanner series

 

“An essential addition to every thriller writer’s library. If you want to know how the Intelligence Community really works, read SPYCRAFT: Essentials and you’ll get it right every time. Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes know their stuff!”

~Diane Capri
Award Winning New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of the Hunt for Jack Reacher series

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.

 

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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

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