The Bow Ramp

Monday, November 28, 2005

Privateers off the Port Bow

While perusing Strategy Page this afternoon, I came across this interesting little tidbit.  A few postings ago, I talked about the piracy situation and suggested some possible courses of action that could be taken against pirates.  One of the things that came to mind was the use of privateers.  However, I did not list this option in my post because I felt that the U.S. Government wouldn’t have the political nerve to use them, even if it was a reasonable and cost-effective option.  It did not occur to me that it might be done through a third-party state.  Certainly, no one inside Somalia is going to complain about the use of Mercenaries tm .
With sufficient oversight, privateers could provide a “good bang for your buck.”  As a privateer, you would be fighting mostly lightly equipped pirates.  You wouldn’t need a lot of very expensive infrastructure (i.e. Aircraft Carriers, cruise missiles, etc.) or years of specialized technical training for many of your personnel.  Hiring and equipping your force can be done fairly easily.  You could also quickly adjust your posture as necessary in response to changes in pirate tactics.  Needless to say, the Somali government (such as it is) is going to be a lot different to deal with than the U.S.  Bribery is a certainty, but a little cash in the right hands can probably get you from here to there a lot quicker than wading through a sea of red tape.  They are probably going to be a bit more results oriented than our own people as well.
Eaglespeak has more info here.  In the comments to that post, there was a link to this site where there was quite a spirited discussion about just what sort of company Topcat Marine Security is.  First thing I noticed was that Topcat’s web site sucked.  That said, I don’t care if they are a CIA front, a little guy trying to break into the Military Industrial Complex tm, or little green men in disguise.  I am willing to wait and see.  The price-tag is supposedly 50 million bucks.  Now, 50 mil is a lot of money to me, but is a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of stationing a few Navy ships off the coast.  If paying 50 million dollars to a contractor significantly reduces the incidence of piracy in the horn of Africa, then I consider it money well spent.  If it doesn’t work out, then it will be a cheap lesson learned.    

Update:  It sounds cool, so I’ll keep the wording above; but in reality these people wouldn’t actually be privateers in the old, original sense of the word.  Privateering was essentially state sponsored piracy.  In this case, the Topcat folks would be contracted law enforcement personnel.  The people they would be capturing/killing are criminals rather than legitimate mariners and in accordance with the press reports, the Somali government intends to operate within their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), rather than on the high seas (although I’m sure hot pursuit would be authorized.)

Testing Blogger MS Word Add-In

This is a test posting from Microsoft Word using the Blogger add-in I just downloaded.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

My New Masthead Photo

I finally located a half-way decent photo of my old boat, the LCU-1661, so I thought I'd swap the masthead photo.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Warfare for Dummies

This post is in response to a challenge by Johan Goldberg (here) , as brought to my attention by the denizens of Castle Argghhh! (here.)

Remember that poster from the '60s that proclaimed "War is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things"?

For decades, the far left has avoided the subject of war because it makes them uncomfortable. Because the thought of war is so abhorrent to them, they find it difficult to conceive that other people might actually want to start a war to promote their own goals (unless they are Republicans.) From personal observation, this unwillingness to address the subject rationally cripples any serious discussion of the GWOT with these folk. Because they are unprepared to discuss the nuts and bolts (logistics, tactics, strategy, etc.) of war, or the mindset of the warrior (honor, duty, courage, etc.), or any other serious aspect of waging war; they default to the war is evil and its all our fault for being imperialists argument.

I've always thought there should be something similar to the SAT tests for anyone wishing to run for public office. There would be no minimum passing grade, but candidates should be required to post their scores. I would happily extend the offer to political hacks and opinion journalists on a voluntary basis. Can you imagine listening to some wonk on TV expounding on how President Bush is bungling the conduct of the war while his lowest 20th percentile score on military theory is flashing on the screen. Yeah, yeah, I know--a guy can dream can't he.

I know you can't make the horse drink, but it would be really nice if some of the critics of the war would read Warfare for Dummies before opening their yap. Then they might have some slight concept of the term "total warfare." It could even dawn on them that they are just as much a part of the war effort as our servicemen in Iraq.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Why Piracy Pays

I guess I’ll join in the fray and discuss the whole pirate thing. Cdr. Salamander has already done a good job of summarizing the debate to date. Thanks Phibian.

Back in the 19th. Century, the Western nations (i.e. Colonial Powers) banded together and (mostly) eliminated the threat of piracy. They didn’t accomplish this by treating it as a law enforcement issue. They negotiated treaties that allowed any navy to apprehend, try and execute pirates whenever and wherever encountered. Most pirates lived in areas with little or no local government. Naval forces like as not would just blow away the village the pirates came from and let God sort out the guilty and the innocent. After a while, piracy just didn’t seem to be an attractive way to make a living.

Fast forward to today. The conditions that make piracy attractive to the locals are still in place (and in basically the same places.) Now though, the navies of the world can’t be so heavy handed. Suppose a U.S. Navy ship was transiting the Straits of Malacca and came to the aid of a merchantman that had been attacked. Apprehending the pirates would probably create an international incident as most of the Straits are in territorial waters belonging to the country that the pirates come from. Killing them outright would really tick off the locals. Additionally, the pirates have adopted technology. Remember the movie Blackhawk Down, where the locals were using cell phones to report our movements to the warlords? Today’s pirates are unlikely to operate far from land. They use speedboats, small arms, and RPGs to intimidate their unarmed victims. They will just stay at home if any military forces are nearby.

My suggestions?

A. Encourage merchant ships to engage civilian protective services. There are any number of companies that can provide armed riders, or security training for shippers.
B. Negotiate a free hand for our military forces (and those of other countries) with countries where piracy is prevalent. Make it plain that failure to negotiate a reasonable agreement means we may do things unilaterally anyway.
C. Q ships! Man up various rust-buckets, yachts, dhows, etc. with our folks and let the pirates come to us. Place our military personnel aboard legitimate shipping.
D. Shoot to kill. Take no prisoners.

There is no point in making an effort against piracy unless politically, our government can get behind treating pirates like, well, pirates.

Somehow I don’t see THAT happening.

UPDATE I no sooner finish this and start digging into the comments at Chap's site and see that Lex and I had both come up with the same idea (Q ships.)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Veterans Day Parade 2005, Albany, OR

I attended the Veterans Day parade in Albany, Oregon this morning. The rain thankfully decided to hold off until after the parade finished (hey, this is Oregon -- we expect rain.)

This year the parade was somewhat smaller than usual as much of the Oregon National Guard was at some evolution over in Idaho. Even so, it took about two hours for everyone to march past my spot. Once again I was slightly embarrassed whenever people came up to thank me for my service -- especially when one individual who is currently serving had just broken ranks to step over and shake my hand.

And now for the fun stuff -- pictures and movies! Click on the captions for full-sized photos.

Ya gotta have pipers at a military parade.

Next comes the first of what must have been 25 or 30 colorguards.

Lots of marching bands too.

Here are the Masons with a really large U.S. flag.

These guys are the Governor's Mounted Guard.

Another color guard.

Unfortunately, I was spacing out and didn't get the Engineer vehicles until after they had passed. They were quite a hit with the kids. Yes, that is the Albany Armory building across the street.

Freshly returned from the sandpit.

These guys were having fun turning the tables on the crowd.

There were about three military prep schools marching. Here is one of them.

Another High School band. This one from Canby, OR.

Here is a vintage Deuce and a Half.

Can't forget the Coast Guard.

This is a movie. Click on the link below to view the clip. Quicktime required.

I just love the sound of the pipes.

Here are some more movies of vintage military vehicles. Click on the links below to view the clips.

The first one is a WW I truck with Doughboys escorting. The second vehicle is a WW II tank with GIs escorting.

Now a movie of a half track.

I'm getting old! I used to know the name of this particular amphibious vehicle, darn it.

This last vehicle is from MY time. A Marine gamma goat. I once had the not-so-distinct honor of drowning about a dozen of those things in the surf.
UPDATE Alert reader Ernie (see comments) has pointed out - that thing is actually a "Mule" not a gamma-goat. (74 wiping egg from face.)

And finally, the Middies of the Oregon State NROTC unit.

Thanks to The Mudville Gazette and Castle Argghhh! for the open posts.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Mapes, Rather and Selective Memory

I was listening to Fox News on the satellite radio earlier this evening as Bill O'Reilly was interviewing Mary Mapes. Mapes was, of course, trying to defend herself and was spewing words like mad. As is usual on talk shows, there wasn't much in the way of actual facts being bandied about. One particular comment she made, however, did set me off. When asked by O'Reilly if she believed the President was lying when he told O'Reilly that he had not used any influence to get into the TANG, she said that she believed that GWB was the victim of "selective memory."

That one comment brought me back to a year ago when this whole incident was fresh and in the public eye. The first time I looked at the supposed memos was just a short time after buckhead had made his initial comments and before Charles Johnson had made his comparison with a default Word document. It took me all of about one second to conclude that the document was a modern forgery. Why were buckhead and I (and a million other people) able to so quickly spot that it was bogus? Because we grew up in the World Before Computers. I couldn't tell you how many thousands of pages of official military correspondence I've typed on manual typewriters. It wasn't just the improper formatting and incorrect terminology that first popped out at me (that took a few seconds extra to sink in.) It was the total look and feel of the document that screamed word processor. Now I am not the only geezer that has made comments of this nature, but I don't recall any one else saying this: Dan Rather is another one of us oldsters. The man was a newspaper editor and print reporter when I was still in elementary school. He too has to have pounded out thousands upon thousands of pages on a manual typewriter. While Mary Mapes is much younger, she is still old enough to remember what manually typewritten pages look like. Mary and Dan. I may not be rich and/or famous, but I am not stupid.

I have no proof. I can only tell you that in my opinion these two "journalists" are lying through their teeth when they say they believe those documents were genuine. Or, perhaps, they are just the victims of "selective memory."

Thanks to The Mudville Gazette for the open post.

Happy Birthday, Green Machine!

This morning I am live-blogging from the Marine Corps birthday ceremony at the NROTC facility at Oregon State University. The crowd is still gathering for a 1200 kickoff.

Yeah, I'm a squid, but I've spent many years in the company of Marines and have fond feelings for them. As you can tell from my bannerhead, I used to "deliver" Leathernecks for a living.

Waiting for things to begin

Later..... It was a good event and helped to remind me why I chose to serve all those years. There were Marines in attendance from WW II through to OIF. Thats a little over twenty five percent of the entire history of the Corps sitting in one room!

This is also a day to think about the two most important Marines in my life. My brother Randy (Recon, all the way) and my dearly departed mother-in-law Norma (one of the original WMs) who is undoubtedly keeping things squared away in Fiddler's Green until the rest of us arrive.

The cake went fast
(This was the second sheet. The first one with the fancy decorations went too fast for me to grab a picture.)

[Posted with hblogger 2.0]