“Back in the day” is a famous catch phrase, but sometimes it can be a good starting point. Last week it was announced that China is deploying an ocean floor surveillance network to track submarines that are transiting the South China Sea. For those of us who remember things like the Cold War, this is a mighty familiar idea that worked. During the 1950s, the United States developed and used a similar system known as SOSUS. It was the Sound Surveillance System, which started off in the Bahamas, and eventually spread throughout the Atlantic Ocean. This system proved to be a highly useful and viable way to track submarine movements throughout the Atlantic. In fact, it allowed us to track much of the Soviet Navy as it would poke around and patrol in our direction. (If you’ve read Tom Clancy, you are probably already familiar with this system, so I won’t go get into great detail, even if many of the workings are now declassified.) There is little doubt that from “Back in the Day” the Chinese Navy, or People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), have now come up with a pretty good “old” working idea. The real point of today is that, assuming their system works as well as our old one, then this could be a real headache for those who are going to have to deal with it in the future. I’m also pretty sure that our allies in Japan, the Philippines, and around the rest of the Pacific Rim, can’t be too happy about this new development. To me, this is a good indicator that China is finally getting very serious about its Navy, and their capability to engage in effective Anti-Submarine Warfare or (ASW). ~ Michael S. Pauley
Last week I ended with a posting that referred to the “Big Stick” diplomacy of Theodore Roosevelt. A footnote of this diplomacy was the dispatching of the “Great White Fleet” for its around the world trek. While it took several years to complete, these somewhat out of date ships, many harking back to the Spanish American War, were able to coal, re-provision, and show the world that combat power could be projected over distances that were unheard of prior to their 1907 cruise. Today, we still are projecting that power at sea, using different energy sources and with greater speed, but that is far from the end of the story. At the time of the Great White Fleet, Japan was already fresh from their victory over the Russians in the Russo-Japanese war. Ethnic confrontations between Japanese immigrants and citizens on our west coast were growing, and relations were becoming quite strained between our nations. Japan felt that because of the racial tensions and poor treatment of their own citizens, that the United States was becoming a problem on their Pacific Ocean. It was against this posturing that Theodore Roosevelt dispatched the fleet. While undertaking some social reform to resolve things here, the fleet was sent as a reminder to the Japanese that we could project our power, and weren’t afraid to do so in a pinch. It was from this showing of the stick, and the use of the domestic carrot, that the situation was defused. This lasted through the First World War, and on into the late 1930s. Something to ponder, as we move forward in our relations around the world. ~ Michael S. Pauley
I love hearing diplomats using words and phrases such as “economic sanctions.” Even if we assume they have teeth, which usually they don’t, there can be impacts from them. Again, as things unfold in the present, I have to look at a great example from the past. In the lead-up to World War II in the Pacific, economic sanctions were a major part of the foreign policy that was utilized in an effort to stem the Japanese expansionism throughout China and the rest of Asia. After Japan’s rather trumped-up invasion of China, the United States reacted with an ever increasing series of sanctions and aid packages. Given the isolationist bent of the population, the question of more hard-lined defensive measures was off the table. Hence, the use of money and trade influence, in an attempt to curb aggressive national behavior. To be sure, there was an impact. They ran the gamut from curbing business relations, embargos on steel, and the eventual “freezing of assets.” The impacts were real, and Japan was feeling them. So much so, that it may have hastened the inevitable at Pearl Harbor. (This latter point is still the subject of much debate among historians. Personally, I adhere to the notion that these economic efforts had more to do with the ‘when and how’, and not the ‘whether’ it would happen or not.)
One of the least known parts of this time in history relates to Japan’s actions prior to their attack on Pearl Harbor. As the Japanese leadership was weighing their options about expansion, raw materials, and economics, the Imperial Japanese Army looked to the north, right on into that lovely garden spot known as Siberia. Russia and Japan had already fought a short, but quite intense, war in the early 1900s, with Japan gaining some territory in the Kuriles. Then after World War I, Japan was able to obtain a mandate over a number of former German colonies in the Pacific. (The classic example is the Japanese governance of the Bismark Islands after 1919.) With these holdings for the Japanese Empire to maintain, they went searching for “real estate” that actually held the necessary raw materials for their island Nation. This left them with one of two options. They could head north into Siberia, or south into Malaysia. The Imperial Navy liked the southern option, but since the Army held most of the power, the decision was made to try in the north. This attempt led to several clashes with Russian forces, and the Russians were able to drive back the Japanese with some serious casualties to the Japanese. It was a test, and it failed miserably for Japan. Armed with this failure by the Army, the Navy was then able to assert that heading south was the way to do it. Now for the United States, the rest is far better known history, which I won’t get into for now.
Suffice it to say, while the United States was smacking them with the old “check book” of economic warfare, the Russians were using cannons, boots on the ground, and sheer tenacity. You can decide which method actually worked, and which one only delayed the inevitable. It is from that lesson that I know that we can freeze the oil, steel, rubber, and assets of an aggressor, but unfortunately, against a determined enemy this can have a reverse effect in the long run. Regardless, to me the best response is one that contains both the carrot and the “big stick,” ala Theodore Roosevelt. Unfortunately, you can’t take away the stick; otherwise you will wind up like we did with Japan. So, can you stop a runaway train with a dollar bill? I don’t think you can, but you can decide for yourself. ~ Michael S. Pauley
I am so glad not to be living in one of the Baltic States. I do not make this statement lightly either. While each of them is beautiful in their own right, the shadow that now looms over them is large. So, why make this statement? Earlier this month, in Estonia, Russian activists staged a rally in Tallinn, to express solidarity with Crimea and eastern Ukraine. More of these protests were scheduled, and while turnout wasn’t huge, it was the kind of danger that causes one pause. This is very symptomatic of what I now think of as the “Ukrainian type” slow speed, low impact, invasion by Russia. To be sure, these tactics are being played out in several nations, not just on the Baltic. Georgia is seeing it too. Moldova is seeing it, and these tactics can be expected to continue throughout the former Soviet Satellite countries. In each case, national instability is being created from within, with the sole purpose of furthering the Russian strategy of splitting the former Soviet Satellite countries from the west. Right now, NATO is doing their best to bolster their presence in the Baltic, but again to reference history, such efforts take time. After years of neglecting their militaries, the NATO alliance relies heavily on the United States. This means that it is going to take some of these nations time to rebuild, and put a renewed emphasis on getting better ready to face what, at least for now, appears to be inevitable.
Ever pointing to history, it is probably worth remembering that Europe (and the United States) was in a financial crisis throughout the 1930s and into 1940. Stock markets crashed, depression set in, and it was a time for austerity. Europe (and to some extent, the United States), were forced to rely on Great Britain and France to hold the line as the “world’s policemen.” Having already fought the “War to end all Wars,” and with the fight for financial survival being paramount, almost all nations let their military forces stagnate, while they used that money to prop up their economies. This was a product of financial issues throughout Europe, but make no mistake, it was the 20th century version of the “peace dividend.” It was cheaper to let the myth that World War I was the war to end all wars, than it was to maintain a viable military force. Government social programs ran rampant, and not just in the United States with the advent of Social Security, the WPA, etc., but around the world. Meanwhile, in Germany and Japan, there was no “peace dividend.” It was about something else, a far more sinister adherence to the “old” view of Europe, and the need to expand and ensure their own survival, at least as they saw it.
Now I could probably go on and on about how their German/Japanese view of the world is probably the one that mattered. After all, if memory serves, their view is what dictated the turmoil in the world that would run almost the entire last half of that century. In the present, we are seeing this type of scenario play out again. The Russian Bear is awake, fresh from its hibernation period, and ready to start feeding again. As I’ve said before, despite our high-minded view of the global world politic, it is usually the lowest common denominator that will drive the train. Europe has been cutting their militaries, and as a result, the NATO alliance is weaker than it was during the Cold War. Meanwhile, the United States, fresh from over 12 years of conflict, is looking to cut the military as a means to “cull the budget.” If this doesn’t alarm you, then I suggest you take a long hard look at history. The real problem with peace dividends is that when you have to pay up later (and you WILL have to pay up later), the cost is always much higher in our most precious commodity, the lives of our best generations. ~ Michael S. Pauley
First let me apologize for being distracted last week. Sometimes life gets in the way, and last week was no exception. Now then, to today’s ranting post. Every now and then, I hate it when I’m right. Back on March 31, 2014, I did a posting about “How to take over a neighboring country without a shot.” Sadly, this is precisely the way it is unfolding, and with the April 17th Agreement reached among the parties in Geneva, the deal was struck. So, what is this deal? Right now it appears that Crimea is “under the bus,” and it may well be that the eastern part of Ukraine will be there very soon. As details leak out, the last few days have been interesting. For example, Ukraine is pulling ships, aircraft, and equipment out of Crimea. This means that Russia had to clear the shipping channels and give permission for the extraction of these things through both ground and air corridors. It was also announced by the Ukrainian Government in Kiev that there is now an October deadline to study the idea of holding a referendum to “decentralize” the government process to empower the individual “Regions.” Now you can’t fool me, this is a move towards meeting the Russian demand for federalization of various regions to facilitate the weakening of the Nation of Ukraine, and to strengthen the idea that these “regions” can then declare that they are independent. Once that happens, then like Crimea, they can ask to join the Russian Federation. I hate it when I’m right, since back on March 31, 2014, I predicted that this would be the model of things to come. History is a great teacher, and while Secretary Kerry didn’t declare “Peace in our time,” we still have an Agreement that offers no relief to those it impacts. ~ Michael S. Pauley
Thanks to intermittent internet, no pictures were posted yesterday. The internet had been 'balky', as my mother-in-law put it, for days but Sunday, no amount of re-booting could persuade the electronics to work together. Several phone calls to the local internet provider, including one where I got to talk to a real human (control your shock, please), 'pings' and data packages later, we finally got back on line and almost up to the promised speed. That meant having to depend on commercial media outlets for information, at least until my baseball game started. ~The Wife, Elise
Just a reminder to those in the area. Have fun for those of us unable to attend! For more info, see the link under 'Events'. ENJOY!
In my last posting on Monday, I alluded to the situation around the world, but refused to directly address it. While I would like to move on to the more mundane things closer to home, it just might be worth taking a minute and mentioning what is so unique about Japan’s latest stance. This past weekend, Japan’s Defense Minister announced that the Japanese Defense Forces, more specifically their Navy, have been ordered to intercept any missile launched by North Korea. There is little question that the Japanese Navy has the capability, skill, and training to make this a reality. What makes this truly unique to me is that it is a departure from the more pacifistic stance which the Japanese Government has taken since World War II. There has been a great deal of debate in Japan here of late, regarding their involvement around the world in operations related to piracy, drugs, etc., and now we’re hearing for the first time a specific order to take a more aggressive defense action against a foreign power. It is my opinion that the paradigm shift is beginning to gather a little speed in Japan, and it will be interesting to see how far they will step up their efforts over the next few years to address their regional role. Certainly, a growing Chinese Military presence in the region is part of the equation, while the disputed territory in the South China Sea is another part. Regardless, this will be one more thing to watch as we move forward in the Pacific Region. ~ Michael S. Pauley
The LA Times Festival of Books will be happening this weekend. Please visit The Author Solutions Book Gallery located in Booth 991. They Own the Night: The First Gomer Wars will be represented by Author Solutions/AuthorHouse. There is a link on the Events page (under 'Home' page) for more details. Pictures would be great! ~The Wife, Elise
Michael S. Pauley is a Navy brat and an old soldier who served in all three components of the United States Army. Living in Lexington, South Carolina, Michael is now a practicing attorney and member of the United States Naval Institute and the American Legion, Post 154, Tybee Island, Georgia.