Sunday, 25 March 2012

What Australian naval power?

Interesting thoughts on Australia's position at The Diplomat.

A more specific question re capability:
Riley Clendo (Facebook):What are the needs of Australia’s navy going forward? Do you feel it needs to develop anti-ship missiles to keep up with other nations in Asia? Do you feel it should base its strategic thinking on China's growing capabilities? What type of vessels and capabilities should Australia invest in?Culturally, the Royal Australian Navy is an heir to the Anglo-American tradition of sea-power: sea-control dependent on ever larger surface combatants remains the dominant – and, in my view, unfortunate – organizational preference. Bizarrely, at a time when Chinese submarine warfare and anti-ship missiles are improving at a rate out of proportion to Western forces’ ability to defend against them, Australia is undertaking a major upgrade of its surface fleet, with plans for three Air-Warfare Destroyers, two massive LHD amphibious assault vessels and a new fleet of over-sized frigates – all of which will require the Royal Australian Navy to concentrate its personnel rather than improving redundancy by dispersing them on a greater number of smaller, more stealthy platforms.
Canberra would, in my view, be far better served by emulating key aspects of China’s own sea-denial strategy, which blurs strategically defensive objectives with an offensive war-fighting doctrine to clear rival navies out of designated areas. That would mean using disruptive technologies to exploit Australia’s geographical advantages in ways that raise the costs and risks to hostile forces seeking to project air or land power in the vicinity of Australia’s air and maritime approaches or in the approaches to the archipelago to its north.
The basic ingredients, among other things, would involve: plenty of land-based air-power; a large, robust submarine fleet; advanced mine-warfare capabilities; a constellation of satellite, maritime surveillance aircraft and land-based radar; and, to the extent surface combatants remain secure and cost-effective, a fleet of Fast Attack Craft armed with high-speed anti-ship missiles.
Of course, a coherent force structure such as this would require a considerable increase in Australian defence expenditure. It would also demand a major overhaul of the administrative foundations of Australian defense policy, which is a quite parlous state at present. So, although it’s very important, I’m not holding my breath.
Raoul Heinrichs is Sir Arthur Tange Scholar at the Strategic and Defense Studies Centre, ANU, an editor at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, and Deputy Editor of Pnyx.

My own view is that some surface control is necessary: the ability to control the surface around RAMSI-style missions, for example, without depending on the United States. Just spend the money and have the option and maintain the tradition and maintain the broadness of capability for the day we wish we had it. But the point about sea denial and submarines is well made.

The pendulum may be swinging towards China's land-to-sea missiles, but that will not last forever and does not diminish the need for sea power projection capability. What it does is create a need to modify doctrine to take into account the current reality.

Let's be optimistic: we are still a regional power and want to be able to smack all other players down at will, not just maintain the ability to smack down attackers only.

Value of night operations

Quote by General Allen on night ops:

This last year we had about 2,200 night operations. Of those 2,200 or so night operations, in 90 percent of them we didn't fire a shot. On more than 50 percent of them, we got the targeted individual, and in 30 percent more we got the next associate of that individual as well...
In all of those night operations ... after 9,200 night operations, 27 -- 27 -- people were killed or wounded in night operations. That would argue for the power of night operations preserving life and reducing civilian casualties... 

H/t: Tom Ricks

Friday, 23 March 2012

Lesson #9: Better "planning" may not be the answer

...better plans don't guarantee success, because trying to do "statebuilding" in a deeply divided society is an immense challenge, and opportunities to screw it up are legion. As Minxin Pei and Sara Kasper of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace concluded fromtheir study of past attempts of "nation-building," "few national understakings are as complex, costly, and time-consuming as reconstructing the governing institutions of foreign societies."
For example, having more troops on the ground might have prevented the collapse of order, but the U.S. army could not have kept a sufficiently large force (350,000 or more) in Iraq for very long. Morever, an even larger U.S. presence might have increased Iraqi resentment and produced an insurgency anyway. Similarly, critics now believe the decision to disband the Iraqi army and launch an extensive de-Bathification process was a mistake, but trying to keep the army intact and leaving former Bathists in charge might easily have triggered a Shi'ite uprising instead. Lastly, state-building in countries that we don't understand is inherently uncertain, because it is impossible to know exante which potential leaders are reliable or competent or how politics will evolve once the population starts participating directly. We won't know enough to play "kingmaker," and we are likely to end up having to prop up leaders whose agendas are different from ours.
In short, as Benjamin Friedman, Harvey Sapolsky, and Christopher Preble argue here, better tools or tactics are probably not enough to make ambitious nation-building programs are smart approach.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

A northern Uganda reading list

Another great source from The Blattman on the Lord's Resistance Army, along with a report from the ICG and what Obama's doing about it..